Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pastel, Plein air painting in Mountains and at the Beach-- Costa Rica this January

It hardly seems like it's been almost a year since our first trip to Costa Rica. We had so many new experiences painting in new territory.
This year, Martine and I decided to do things a little differently. Partly because I want to know the country better, and have many new things to paint. I've been painting mountains a little bit the last few years. The Cinque Terre in 2012, and on hiking trips to the Adirondacks-not with a group I am teaching, but just when I've been there hiking. .
I've been outfitting my hatchback with easel and art materials, and can pull up anywhere I see fit and make a little piece. Even if it's raining, I just huddle in the under the hatch.
So I am getting some experience there under my belt, and look forward to the very lush hillsides of Costa Ricas Mountains.
We'll spend 4 days there, then hop over to the Osa, this time we're renting a house with our own chef, and it's on the Gulfo Dulce, so we don't have to worry about rip tides. Here's a place to see loads of animals in their natural habitat. Last year we took a boat tour, and saw literally hundreds of dolphins. We also swam amongst many gorgeous tropical fish. Now there's different subject matter for you!

   If you are interested in joining Martine and I in Costa Rica this Winter, Jan. 10-19/2014 check it out at:


Here's some samples of my work from Costa Rica from last winter,....enjoy,.......remember less than an hour for each piece this is plein air....

 This is called the Welcome Plant, and is the most beautiful shades of red. I tried to capture the rich reds, and not sure I really got them. Love red though!

 This painting was done as part of our sunset challenge. We'd go to this hill right on the ocean, about 30 minutes before the sun set. We'd set up our compositions, then observe the changing colours as the red orb travelled to the other side. Quite a show. I was more transfixed here on the light on this ordinary weed, and it's gorgeous reach out to that orb. The sky and water merged in a lovely smudge of pastel colours.

 I thought this piece would be good to include for those stymied by a sea of green. You have to be creative, use your imagination, contrast light and colour, and stay away from that pesky detail. I get mys students to focus on compositional elements instead of getting caught up in detail or distractions. 

 This is a round room, at the entrance to Casa Grande, at Finca Exotica. My first stroll into the dining area, I knew I wanted to capture the light on these cushions. Isn't it inviting?

I've already mentioned getting creative. In this piece, I played with composition, a variety of rich and intense colours, and kind of a different dimension of picture plane. Experimenting with unusual picture planes can make for dynamics within your painting. I enjoyed all the different fruits in the southern hemisphere.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Back Home from France

         Good bye to 25 + weather and sun every day, good bye to meals made and only time to paint and teach. We did it again. Another bunch of plein air painters came to France with me this October. This trip, we seemed to be painting all the time, so great! Whether we were in town or out in the countryside, there's always something beautiful to paint. In fact, once I get warmed up, I see paintings absolutely everywhere. This can also be frustrating, when energy levels can't keep pace with. I can become a painting machine once I'm warmed up, then generally fall flat on my face from fatigue. Sound familiar anyone?
             The failing colours here in Canada didn't have me down this year, as I knew France would be behind schedule. However, with the exception of Ivy, turning bright red, the colours were barely coming on when we left. So I have already hatched a plan in my head-to paint the fall colours here til October is overm then hightail it over to France for November. I'm sure south of France November beats grey and cold Canada November, hands down. Another year, I will do this.

Chasing Shadows 

October layers in Fraysinnet


                                                              Souillac Lazy afternoon

Ivy Glory

        For "Chasing Shadows", a bunch of us were driving into the valley, trying to find the perfect angle of low sun for vivacious shadow work, late in the afternoon. We did find them, then I chose to do this scene anyways, though there are no shadows. It's a 5 minute drive to Fraysinnet, our retreat. Paintings, everywhere you turn. "October layers in Freysinnet" is the backyard of Le Vieux Couvent. I kept adjusting my stance just so I could get all the bits of colour that accented this scene. "Souillac, lazy afternoon", was by the river in the quaint little town of Souillac. The Ochres in these trees had me pulling out this vibrant pink--purple pastel paper to paint on and boy -- did it give me colour harmony! Ivy Glory is the eastern stone wall of Le Vieux Couvent, with the Ivy in all it's glory that I had talked about. Time to get out all reds, burgundys, purples. Mmmmmm.
         All these paintings took around an hour more or less. I look at plein air painting like training, like life drawing. You put yourself in an unknown environment, and you must act in the moment. Very free, spontaneous thoughts and choices always lead to freshness in your work. That's been my experience.  it's also risky and much more challenging than studio work. I am not complaining!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Back to Fraysinnet, France

Who knew, back in August of 2008, that I'd be trekking back to Le Vieux Couvent, so many times! Tomorrow we leave again, for a 10 day painting trip with my students. I've been painting the turning colours here as much as possible the last few weeks. In Fraysinnet, the colours are just starting to turn, so we'll be doing it all over again. One of the things I love about this trip, is being away from my house and usual responsibilities. To wake up every day, and your only objective is to paint! I have so much more energy, and can get excited about the gorgeous countryside around this art retreat, that I seem to continue to love and go back to. Corrine Campbell, owner of this retreat, has been hard at work renovating. Every time we go, there's some new improvement, and the place is really lovely. I can't wait to see what changes are in store for us. Also, I have never painted in France in the Autumn, so I'm open to this new experience as well.
      The only thing I'm worried about are my students. This group is largely made up of the group I took to Tuscany last year, where I wam-boosled them with a trivia quiz, based on art history and facts from the website of our retreat there. They weren't entirely impressed, and "roasted" me the next night, with their own trivia quiz. I have something similar in store for them this time, so Game-On! Girls!! 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Thanks Bonnie, for the photos. The first two photos are from our grand lunch at the Arts and Letters Club. A fabulous meal. In the third photo, curator Scott James shows us the Symbol for the Club, designed by none other than JEH MacDonald. It's a ship, representing our journeys into creative endeavours. And finally, just outside JEH MacDonalds' House, not quite the whole hang, but many of us there. Great time, thanks everyone, Margaret