Thursday, 27 February 2014

Bienvenido Exotica 2013
This was my first seating area that I painted. It seems to have become a theme. Often I think about adding a figure, but, for some reason, the remnants or suggestion of people is more interesting than putting a figure in. In this way, the viewer can invite themselves to have a sit. 
On last years plein air trip to Costa Rica, we stayed at a lovely place on the wild edge of civilization, Carate, Costa Rica. We stayed within walking distance of the Corcovado National park, where wildlife abounds like nowhere else. Carate is on the pacific side, very south, on the most southern peninsula of Costa Rica, the Osa. Many serious photographers and freedom seeking hippy types come here for the extreme environment, extreme heat, extreme wildlife, extreme surfing, extreme wild. In Contrast, we painters sat quietly. We did capture some wild colour, wild flowers and plants, among other things. 
This sleepy nook is in the entrance to the Casa Grande at Finca Exotica. If you sat here, you'd be looking down on a severe drop through the extreme greenery of jungle, and beyond that, the ocean. You never forget the ocean is right there, because it never stops roaring, 24/7. The whole country has quite a presence, the ocean, flowers, extreme plants, beauty everywhere.
The other one thing I'll remember about Finca (besides snoozing in the beautiful handmade hammocks), is coming down to the Casa Grande for dinner, after a hard day at the office (painting) and having a drink, while sitting back in big chairs, to watch the stars sparkle down on us all. In the company of  fellow artists, is there any more I could ask for? 
It's a hard job, but someones' got to do it. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

In the stillness,......

Morning Slivers, Costa Rica, 2014
Looks like I have a series on my hands. I've been painting these little seating areas since my last trip to Costa, in 2013. I have a background in textiles, and enjoy the juxtaposition of intense bright colours of the cushions, in contrast to the mixed and somewhat neutralized tones of the wall, topped off with a sliver of light, creating it's own gradual change in light. Love creating that effect!
In this pic, I also have the light, just outside of the Casa Grande, creating an overall sense of light. You must consider the whole picture plane, when planning a painting. That's why I am so big on the thumbnail. It helps you plan, and anticipate any potential problems in the composition, before you even start painting. I'm loving these adobe like structures that say hey!--Why does a wall have to be straight, even and perfect. Let's be curvy when you least expect it. In the Casa Grande at Montana Azul all these edges are asymmetrical, and very pleasing to the eye.
Another thing I love to do in pastel is play warm and cool colours off each other. Here, I think the deep orange colour in the wall is giving a sense of heat, while all the blues neutralize it to some extent, which allows the orange a more subtle say, no shouting here.
Any paintings you see here from my trips are all painted in an hour or less. You get a few things from this. There is a bit of an unfinished look, yes, but also a freshness you just can't get out of deliberate and intense studio pieces. Figured that out about plein air, years ago.
I did a search of my blog, and can't find the original seating area with sun (2013), so I will post them in the next few days. I think there are three like this one.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Lofty perspectives

This is the view uphill from our retreat in the central mountains of Costa Rica. Every night we got to watch the sunset on this neverending series of edges, moving further and further into lighter values as they recede. We all enjoyed the one prominent tree, silhouetted against further mountains. You can't see it, but from where I am, there is a lovely garden right below me. There are many Royal Palm trees here. The Royal, is tall, and fans out each palm like fingers of a hand.
In my painting of same, I focused on undulating value & colours of each layer of mountain, and how it was affected by light. Like everywhere else I go, I have many more compositions I would have loved to try.
My view here is just a little back from the photo, allowing you to see some of those Royal Palms. I had fun playing with value, and colour in the background, playing between some deep cherry colours, and other cool pinks, and a series of Turquoise to blues, and lighter tints of those two colours. That's the thing about pastel. In pastel, we mix right on the page. By layering many colours, you build a beautiful luminosity you can't replicate in any other medium. Because the refraction of light between layers makes for a magic effect, only available to you in pastel. Love that! 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Flowers in the mountains of Costa Rica--main subject, or supportive role?

                 I'm still at Montana Azul. All the pics you have seen here were done on site, in less than an hour for the most part. Sometimes quite a bit less than that.
                 The overpowering effect of the deep, rich colours of the mountains, tops cloaked in clouds, or sunshine. There were literally so many flowers at Montana Azul, that I started doing small studies of each little miracle. I ran out of time though. Maybe that goal will continue on throughout the year. There was just so many engaging sights that grabbed me for painting.
                 The other thing that has frustrated me is the Welcome plant. If you've been following me, you'll know that I painted this last year. There are literally SO many shades of red, pink, and purple that I found a real challenge to replicate. This is something that I usually have no problem with.
                 Another thing about all these flowers is painting them with some detail, so you can see how they are constructed as above,......or, then there are hoards of bushes, and actual trees with profusions of flowers, all providing different and specific challenges about how much details to put into your rendering. Like a figure in the foreground, mid ground, or background. So many possibilities, it's hard to choose which way to go sometimes.
                  I'm hoping some of my students will send me some pics of their work and I'll post them here too. Come on you guys, I know you are reading this. Send me your work!!


Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Abundance and miracle of Costa Rica

Instead of talking endlessly about the little miracles called "flowers" of Costa Rica, and instead of editing and leaving out so many, I thought what better way to tell you about Costa Rica, but in image. Sharing the "abundance" of that. However, I did leave out sooooo many.

This bouquet was set to welcome me to my home in the jungle, at Montana Azul. Beautiful. The orangy-red flower is the flower of the ginger plant. Who would have guessed. Complex, and sumptuous colour.

In every bathroom, you will find the toilet paper origami seen here, with a lovely little flower tucked in its' sleeve. Sweet!

This plant reminds me of Jack in the Pulpit that you would see in Canada. These lovelies hung like hippie beads that you had to walk through in order to enter the Casa Grande.

The next several photos are from our tour in the Mountains, of a gorgeous flower garden. We were lead by a very knowledgeable gardener. Always great to have expert information.

This was a veritable wall of flowers just on the road near our retreat. I'll be painting this at some point. 

Another garden tour, this Queen stood alone. 

Better look at the Ginger plant flower.

Profusion, abundance, a sea of purples and reds. MMMMmmmmm.

The Welcome plant is very welcoming. I am drawn, yet having trouble really replicating the multitude of reds and purples here.

The Halyconia is probably the most prominent and prolific flower in Costa Rica. It comes in many different colours, slightly different shapes and sizes as well. 
Being in Costa Rica can be an overwhelming experience. Abundance, paradise, magical, these are all appropriate words to describe this country. And I have barely got started yet! There are so many other things to tell you about. Please stay tuned. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Tide is Turning

I'd like to thank two of my students from Costa Rica, 2014 for these fabulous photos. The first one is the coati mundi that visited us regularily, or rather whenever there were worthwhile food scraps to be had. He was about the same size and shape as a racoon, and just as tenacious. 
Coati Mundi at Montana Azul, our home in the central Costa Rica Chirripo mountains. Thanks to Diane Gourdeau of Montreal for this photo.

I can't tell you what kind of bird this is, but this is who the coati mundi is stealing from! The poor birds all had to fly away whenever he/she mounted the food post. Lot of free entertainment.  Thanks to Barb Dickson of Almonte for this photo.

This was a quicky that I'm not totally happy with. My intention was to capture the light coming into the Casa Grande at Montana Azul, but also to not the grandeur of the proportions of this very high entrance way. There was something graceful, almost majestic about the way the curtain hung, so long,..the the light on the curtains , and reflected on the floor was lovely. This was very close to the food perch that attracted so much wildlife. 
After all the winter weather we've experienced since we came back, it's very easy to day dream about being back there, in the perfect 75-ish degree weather that happens in this mountainous area.
All the staff at this resort were super friendly, flowers abounding everywhere. 
I would like to say that Montana Azul is a special place. This is a retreat center that has been financed by people from all over the world, who have a special interest in projects of a spiritual nature. The place exists for retreat of a spiritual nature, but also acts as a healing house for local youth, serving to make their lives better. We felt priviledged to be welcomed to stay at this sacred place, complete with a meditation garden and buddha statues everywhere, as well as many other symbols of other spiritual philosophies. Montana Azul welcomes all spiritual groups on retreat, from around the world. We were the first art group they had hosted. 
Stay tuned, my next post will be about the special feeling at Montana Azul. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I Lost a Month!!

My apologies to those who've been waiting to hear about my last trip to Costa Rica. So much is going on, I don't know where to begin. Expect a lot of posts for the next while,....

Let's start with Costa Rica 2014
Here we are! Our trip started in San Jose, when we boarded a bus to head into the mountains of central Costa Rica. Our destination was the Chirripo Mountains. On our inaugural drive, up, we drove through the cloud forest, saw amazing vistas, plant life, and started to experience the local culture through food, people, driving through towns and stunning countryside. 
This photo above was taken at our first resort, Montana Azul, very near the Chirripo National reserve. This building, called Casa Grande (big house), was where we ate our meals, did a  lot of artwork, and sat around the fire in the evening. The building is typical of the area, though we marvelled at the roof, the structure made of Bamboo, and covered with local grasses-How was this made and attached? It's  literally so high, it would represent several stories of any building. The sheer size was mesmorizing.
This building was about half way up one side of a mountain. Here we all are, students, Martine, Angus and Tania too. A happy group- in 75 degrees F weather, every day. You can't see it here, but the building is surrounded by flowers everywhere. There's a perch nearby where the staff place all the leftover fruit skins, etc., and then you can observe the wildlife come to fight over it. It's meant for birds, but one day a Coati-Mundi (looks like a racoon, and is just as determined as Canadian ones!) decided the scraps belonged to him. It was the first of many entertainments by wildlife, and the cameras were a clicking!
Red Spread, 2014
  Being a morning person, I'd get up early every morning, and soak in the quiet, paint, and enjoy some excellent Costa Rican coffee, made by our very own chef for the whole trip, Angus. I love doing this, as it's great to get one painting a day under your belt, before everything else starts to happen. This view, facing south-east, and I can remember my seat and the coffee, while I face this painting waiting to happen. If you wait for just the right moment, there's a point in the morning, when the sun just comes over the top of the mountain, and shines some steep rays over the edge.  There's nothing like the freshness of that morning light. I love associating a wonderful feel for the environment with an idea for a painting. 
Off to a good start!