Plein Air Painting Adventures

I have just released six new plein or painting sketches for the November 1-10, 2019 “Paintings of the Salish Sea” solo show. What adventures are are captured in these brushstrokes! Would you like to wander through just a few of the summer plein air adventures with me? Let’s do it!

Yes, you are seeing correctly. I used my new e-bike to transport my plein air gear to the painting location in Miners Bay in Mayne Island.

E-bike transportation to plein air paint on Mayne Island

And this small 8 x10 inch acrylic painting sketch is one of the new works released.

Miners Bay Mayne Island study by Terrill Welch

This is the start and what might be next? What an evening this was with an 11 x 14 inch walnut oil on linen board. Though released over the summer, this work is also in the current show.

The evening sunset eventually influenced both the subject and the canvas to such an extent that it was difficult to see the work until the next morning…

Then there was the evening that I painted in the shadows using a light for assistance.

The results made the effort worthwhile and the little light is now part of my toolkit.

Cotton Park Evening study by Terrill Welch

Oh why not! How about just one more? I hike in about 30 minutes with all of my plein air gear in a backpack to paint at Saint John’s Point on Mayne Island. An old stump became my painting table beside the easel.

I used a larger 12 x 16 inch gessobord since I knew it was going to be an effort just to get to the location to paint.

Definitely worth it, don’t you think?

Arbutus Tree Morning St John’s Point study by Terrill Welch

There are many more adventures to share of course but we will need to save them for another time. These plein air painting sketches and the other new works released for this next November show can be viewed in detail on my website at https://terrillwelchartist.com/2019/10/28/paintings-of-the-salish-sea/

Enjoy and all the best, as always! Terrill 🙂

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Lost in the Light Edith Point Mayne Island work in progress

The day delivered breadth and inspiring beauty as so often happens on my walks. I came home with a much clearer mind and a lighter heart than when I left. Just how I like it! 🙂

Now to render those same fingers of light and sea onto a canvas. This particular Sunday in the Terrill Welch Gallery was quieter than usual so I set up on the little patio to paint.

Just a few paint marks on the yellow ground should get us started.

Then the blocking in begins.

I keep painting but it is slow going and pretty soon the day is over and I need to bring the work into the gallery and close up shop.

The very next day, I move the wet painting to the home studio and continue working on it there. Finally! The blocking in process is complete. This might be it for today… the 24 x 30 inch walnut oil on canvas landscape painting is covered in wet paint indicating its major elements. Though things are still rather fluid, I have a fairly good idea where all bits are located. Now comes my favourite part of finding all the light and shadows. But this might be tomorrow’s work. I still have the brushes out though so anything is possible. 😉

Steady goes it as patches of light and shadow move across the landscape. There is still a ways to go before the first hints of light shift the forms into place. But for now a break.

Done! Well, maybe resting. Nope it is done!… I suppose you don’t need to listen to me arguing with myself 😉

Now for some distance so it is easier to see what we have here.

Ah well, it really was only resting. I have made a few minor changes to address a small visual tangent. If you know what such a thing is, see if you can find the change I made.

“Lost in the Light Edith Point Mayne Island” by Terrill Welch
24 x 30 inch walnut oil on canvas

The edges are now painted and drying. A hanging wire must still be added, a final photograph taken and the work added to the inventory program. But almost there!

When was the last time you had a tangent – visual or otherwise? 😉

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To Return To My Trees

There is a Welsh phrase (not a “Welch” phrase) “dod yn ôl at fy nghoed”, meaning “to return to a balanced state of mind” or the literal translation is “to return to my trees“. This, as you know, is something that I do often. But sometimes, I even surprise myself with how powerful the pull of trees can be. Take this latest tree. I walked out onto this huge expanse of hard sand and then headed directly across to where there was this amazing old fir tree whose growth seems to have split the sandstone, its top is blown off, and its roots getting salted with every winter storm. I could not easily capture its grandness in one image so I pieced a few together and relied mostly on a short video for painting references. After all the little plein air paintings, this is my first studio painting from Hornby Island. Well, let’s see what we have shall we? 

I could have used a 60 x 40 inch canvas for this painting but I resisted and decided instead to see if a smaller 36 x 24 inch could communicate the power of this tree.

We have a start as I gather up the branches lost against the westerly afternoon light of sun and sky.

These will, at first, contrast hard against the expanses of the dark trunk… until I get the reflected light from the sea and sky to the east involved.

I can now sense where the tree is in space as we look way up from the beach floor under our feet. From here, the blocking in process continues until the canvas is covered in wet oil paint.

Now, the real work begins! I build up the paint from both the lightest lights to the darkest dark and everything in between. I desperately what to keep the strength, power and movement of time and space that is already on the canvas. This is essential. I seek the most minimalist of details that all lead towards this one intention and will guide every mark I make from here forward. (Don’t hold your breath though as it will take another few hours and we don’t need any readers passing out in anticipation 😉

I take a long break, plan what we will have for supper, feeling pleasantly pleased with myself that I remembered that we would need to eat. This phenomenon doesn’t always happen when I am in the middle of a larger painting. Sometimes, when I am holding several brushes and standing before a canvas I forget such domestic requirements… until the natural light fades in my painting space. I continue painting…

Now it is late. I have lost my light and I’m too tired to walk up the stairs to the loft studio and get the studio lamp. Besides, I see some rather tricky changes I want to make that will require scraping a bit of paint and starting over. I must stop. This is it for today.

In the morning, with my body stiff and slightly sore from the hours before the canvas the day before, I begin again. As usual, sleep seems to find solutions that a tired painter would struggle with if attempted without it. The last stretch goes easily and each mark of paint finds its proper place.

The painting has come to “resting”. It still needs a final photograph and the edges painted but the majority of work is done!

I am calling this 36 x 24 inch, walnut oil on canvas, painting “Standing Below the Old Fir at Tribune Bay” but it could just as easily be called “Lost Against the Light”.

Let’s step back so you can get a wee bit of distance from it…

The work is still drying and had its edges painted so it will be a bit before I release it. I am thinking, maybe for the show that opens in July at the gallery, unless someone lays claim to it before then.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this behind the scenes development of a new work. In addition, if you are interested, at about the 18 second mark in this next video from Hornby Island, there is a segment that shows this tree in its environment.

Well, that is about it I think.

What are you losing against the light?

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All In One Reef Bay Mayne Island oil painting in progress

The winds had howled for days. It was the second storm in just a few weeks and though not as bad as the first we were still without out power for 36 hours. As the storm edged its way back from our shores I headed for the shores and gathered several images for later painting references. The breaking light was stunning and the waves were still smashing up against the rocks with gusto.

Now it is time to pull out a large 36 x 48 inch canvas for the first in what will likely be a handful of seascapes…

I often use no ground with these large wave painting because I want to take full advantage of the white of the canvas.

There is only one place to begin and it is to start adding paint.

Brushstroke after brushstroke the Canadian west coast seascape starts to develop.

Eventually the work is blocked-in and it is time to wash the brushes for today.

This morning saw me back in the gallery winter studio, brush in hand, palette knife at the ready to continue the work to a point of “resting”.

ALL IN ONE, REEF BAY, MAYNE ISLAND “resting”  36 x 48 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch

I will leave it for a few days now as I begin working on yet another canvas. Maybe a smaller one this time. Once I am satisfied that it is done and the canvas has dried to the touch, a final photograph will be take and the work will be release.

For now though, this is a wrap! All the best of a fine Sunday to you!

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Among The Trees Oil Painting in Progress

The last day of December 2018 is still being lit by a low hanging sun. Yet, the break in heavy rains seem to create a resounding call to the top of the ridge at Mount Parke on Mayne Island in British Columbia, Canada. I was on my way back along the Halliday Ridge trail when I stopped to search for a way around the flooded path. The light grabbed me. I sank low and hoped for the best as the shutter clicked on my 7+ Iphone camera. References. I need painting references! I pulled out my big camera as well but instinctively knew that the difficult light may well be best captured by the phone camera – and it was.

Weeks later, back in the gallery’s winter studio I choose a 40 x 30 inch canvas and brush in a few lines to guide the development of an underpainting.

I just need a few lines to find my way into the landscape. Then I start to add in the bright warm and a few cool colours for the underpainting.

From here, I leave the canvas to dry and continue developing the painting beside this one which you have already seen in an earlier post. Sometimes, I added a few dark and light patches left over from my other canvas. But mostly I wait.

Until the day comes when it is time!

I can feel the painting is there. All I need to do is follow the light from the background to the foreground of the canvas. And so the work to build up the paint begins!

The time has come to settle in with paintbrushes over a period of two days. The hours of standing before the canvas moving back and then forward again were long and yet pleasant. Brushstroke after brushstroke the landscape trail through the trees begins to surround the viewer.

Working forward past the mid-ground, I find that the most of the reds, oranges and yellows of the underpainting have been replaced with greens, golds and violets.

I know where I am! I am among the trees. Tired but unrelenting, I continue. At one point I ask for a second and third set of eyes to wander over the canvas to see what still needs to unfolded, be discovered and revealed. Then I walk away, coming back the next day and the next to search for sparkle, mystery and lost edges. Finally, my eyes travel over the canvas with joy and ease. I am there again at the edge of the pool of water deep in the forest. Just me, the trees and the sun.

From my journal notes:

“Long sashaying switchbacks with winter run off springs near the bottom obscuring dry footing on the trails. As a gentle wind calls through golden green tree tops I surmise that this is the only low angled sun this north western slope might see today.”

WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES “resting” by Terrill Welch
40 x 30 inch oil on canvas

The work still needs to dry, have the edges painted, and a final photograph. But for now, it will sit under the watchful corner of my eye to see if there is anything else that it wants.

What you don’t know is that, on the day I captured this incredible light for this painting, I had fallen. Hard. I was visiting with a friend at the top of the ridge. I said my good-bye and as I half turned and waved while walking away, my feet flew out from underneath me on wet rocks and moss on the trail. At first, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to stand. Once up, I cautiously took a few steps and within minutes knew I would be sore but that I could hike out. My ribs ached for days afterward and I will likely end up with a scar on my knee which was stiff and swollen for the next week. But when I saw this scene before me on my way back, not long after having slowly trekked down the steep back of the ridge, I just knew! I knew that no matter how bruised both my body and dignity were from my tumble, this was worth it! This one moment of incredible beauty was all worth it!

I will add a link here when the painting has had its final photo shoot and is released, but for now, thank you for coming on this painting adventure with me!

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Sailing Through The Trees – almost a finish

So close! Almost! Or maybe even done! Yes, you guessed right. The latest 30 x 40 inch canvas of Sailing Through The Trees is “resting”. But, before we go to the end, maybe you would like to see a short video of part of the process along the way? Yes? I thought so.

And so it went, for several days, until I came close to the finish line. Then, I swore! A couple of times! Which didn’t help at all, in case you are wondering. Back to the folder of video and photograph references for the umpteenth time. Then down to the actual location, looking, searching, feeling and taking more photographs. Back to the winter studio, pick up brush and apply paint. Three more trees are added. Other trees are moved around a bit forward or back. Specific branches are added and so on. Finally, the painting shifted and came together as a completed work with all the harmony and mystery that was intended…. well, except for “resting” but I doubt it will change much from here. Lets start with a few details and work our way up to the finished painting.

We have the all important house…

We have the equally important sea…

and the lofty trees crowning the complete vista….

Now for the grand entrance, switching to the big camera, here is Sailing Through The Trees “resting” 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas still shiny and wet…

The painting will be set aside to dry and I will look at it over my shoulder while I continue working on the next painting. If, as time passes, I notice something that I just can’t resist changing, then there will be a flick of a brush loaded with paint in the appropriate spot. Most likely though, it will dry to the touch and be laid on its back to have the edges painted.

So, no more swearing as I look upon this beautiful day beside the sea where it would be a dream to live!

What are you almost ready to call done!?

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Rubbing Shoulders with Art Ghosts

Down this historic alley in Victoria, British Columbia, there is a door to my past. Yesterday, I strolled along on a quiet January Monday rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of time. 

 

Fan-Tan-Alley-Victoria-BC-by-Terrill-Welch

Sure enough, the name of my favourite art teacher is still on the door of his old studio. For a moment, the door opens in my mind. 

We shuffle up the steep steps with our portfolios, arrange ourselves elbow to elbow on the easels provided. We take off layers and visit companionably while we wait for the model. I search the room to see if I can discern what this brilliant teacher has been painting this week. The room is crowded but organized for working. There is the scent of charcoal dust, oil paint, wax and old brick building. Warm lights shine on the platform in the middle of the room and the space heater glows. Then, just as the model takes her first short pose and the teacher gives us his instructions in brief, often unfinished, sentences… the image fades. 

The door reappears. Solid. Closed as a tomb entrance to a treasure buried in a past life. 

Glenn Howarth 1946 – 2009 

Glenn Howarth taught seminars and courses at art schools and universities across Canada after he graduated from UVic’s Visual Arts program. In 1987, he began the Victoria Drawing Academy in his studio in Fan Tan Alley. Howarth participated in both group and solo shows across the country and represented Canada at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1982 and at Expo 86. (UVic legacy gallery)

I am so ever grateful to have taken several classes with him in the early 2000s. He refined my understanding of what happens between our subject, our bodies as the artist and that of the viewer in profound ways that I am still exploring. 

What might YOU be waiting and preparing for at the same time?

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Sailing Through The Trees – a start

The curved deck and angular presence hints mysteriously as it sails through the trees. I have walked all angles, from the expanse of lawn, to ground zero, where the building towers steep above me. After musing over several possibilities, I settle on this view.  There are curves of arbutus held tightly among the straight firs, all cradled by a high shore path. And of course, there is the sea. This is the view that intrigues and keeps me coming back for a second, third and even fifth time.

House In the trees beside the sea by Terrill Welch

Except there is one problem. I want the late afternoon light kissing the face of my subject and this is a painting problem that will require some resolve or speculation. Likely it will take both.  In January, the later afternoon light doesn’t reach this far. The sun slips behind a slight hill before it can make it around to this northwesterly cove. I am stuck. I am left waiting for the earth to turn itself into a longer day. What to do?

Well, I could just wait… but the canvas size has been decided… and I shall head to the city to pick the 30 x 40 inch surface tomorrow afternoon and I do so want to get started. I have ideas for this work! The brushes are splashing paint around so violently  in my head that a shipwreck might occur if I don’t begin. So then, a painter must start with what she has.

I had planned to dive right in, using only my 30 or so photography references from three different shoots, for this painting. But in light of the slowly-turning-earth towards longer days and a higher sun stretching farther westward, I decide a painting sketch to study composition and imagined light effects is in order after all.

painting alla prima study sketch by Terrill Welch

The work is raw, rough and full of exploration as I imagine where the light is going to be – eventually.  Yet, it is enough to hold my initial ideas – at least until I can get an underpainting on the large canvas anyway. The small study is my “notes to self” and the brushes are now temporarily quiet in their jars.  We have successfully avoided becoming marooned on a sandbar during the violent seas of my imagination. Hopefully, it is clear sailing, with just the right breeze of suggestion, from here to our destination.

House in the Trees Study – 8 x 10 inch acrylic sketch by Terrill Welch

Acrylic-Study-for-Sailing-Through-The-Trees-by-Terrill-Welch

It truly is not much of a reference but I believe it will be enough to contemplate while I work up an underpainting next week. Then I will go back each week and see how the sun is doing as it labors to set  a little farther west each day. I might be asking too much of myself to wait for it. We will see. Maybe by the time the work is blocked in, the sun will be ready? Here is hoping!

What might YOU be waiting and preparing for at the same time?

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Sea and Shore – Strong Finish

As a painter, I must “hold space” for a work from the first moments of standing before my subject, gathering information and feeling my way into the painting, right up until the final brushstroke that says – done! It is not a linear process but rather a series of sparse markers that move in and out of my awareness. The large “Sea and Shore” landscape oil painting is a good example of this.

Yes, there are methods and tools, that are picked up and put down as needed, but much of the work of painting is done without what we understand as “knowing.” For me, it is more of an exploration or a trying out of things until something “seems and feels right”.

How do you DO that!? This is a question that is frequently asked in relation to viewers finding themselves inside one of my paintings – such as smelling the sea or feeling the warmth of the sun on their back. So, I will try to explain….

At this point, the process of painting is kind of like driving a race car for me. You know  how you don’t usually need to think about driving to the corner store unless there is something really unusual, like a fallen tree on the road or you have sprained your wrist and you must be careful when you are shifting gears? When we have been driving for years, we can usually just navigate to where we want to go and not think too much about steering, breaking, obeying the speed limit or putting on our turn signal and such. We have become accustom to monitoring all the various aspects of  being able to drive successfully from one place to another. Well, painting wet-into-wet is a little like developing the skills of an endurance race car driver. One must plan ahead, be quick, precise, accurate and have extensive training while practicing regularly… and the painting still might crash and burn! The painter must be courageous, step into the risk of failure, and use her split-second decision-making skills to save the painting and possibly even herself. And when it works, then it is magic! Then you can hear the waves, smell the sea or feel the breeze coming across the landscape.

As you may guess, the intention for a work must be clear, and yet held lightly, as I pick up the brushes and proceeds into the unexpected. The unknowns can parallelize painters or have them work safely so that they make no mistakes or only use approaches that are already familiar. The results when this happens are often dismal. To successfully paint a vibrant work, using all of our sensory information, that then comes alive on a canvas, means being willing to risk – everything! I must confront what is raw and uncomfortable within myself before the inner beauty of the landscape can become visible on the canvas. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy wins or formulas. But there are practices, intentions and mark-making that will start us out in the right direction. From there, we must be willing to step beyond what we already know. Painters must be ready to figuratively die on a canvas before the painting can fully live.

That said, and out of the way, let’s have a look and see what happened with “Sea and Shore” since the last post. Sometimes it is easier to see in black and white.

Sometimes, we just want to look at the work from a different angle.  Yes, it was dinner on the deck for several days while the painted edges are left to dry. 😉

Sometimes, we just want to explore and trace the lines of movement. Though I was visually aware of my composition choice and I had knowingly chose the structure of the spiral, it was only after the painting was completed that I roughly traced it out over top of an image – revealing one of its secrets.

Then comes the final test. The painting is hung on the gallery wall for the viewer to scrutinize and ponder.

The painting must now stand on its own. It is separated from the painter and has its own relationships to build, its own stories to tell and its own journeys to take. The painter, after all, is only a temporary custodian once the work is completed. The painter’s efforts tend to dissolve somehow once the work is seen through the eyes of the viewer. It is the viewer who is now in first-relationship with the work – not, the painter. If there is a connection at all, after this, to the painter, it is only by curiosity and the invitation of the viewer. Maybe we can understand it better this way – the painting itself believes it was born of its own freewill and is unaware of the painter, the paint, the brush marks, the canvas or even its supporting frame. It is not that the painting is unappreciative of its reason for existing, it is just that the painting has know way of knowing. The painting just trusts that it has always existed. Therefore, the painter has a sacred obligation to never break this trust by inserting themselves prominently into the work – because if they do, the magic of the painting might be broken. The work itself must always lead.

The large “Sea and Shore” landscape painting hangs for one-day-only in the gallery before it is scooped up by an art collector.

SOLD! Sea and Shore – 36 x 48 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch.

And there it goes…. off on an adventure of its own, hopefully keeping its magic for several hundred years to come.

Thank you for sharing its journey into the world that has been captured in these three recent posts.

What risks do you take so that your creations can fully live?

PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.

PART 2 “Sea and Shore – Building Up Paint” can be viewed HERE.

© 2018 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

Sea and Shore – building up paint

Building up paint on a large canvas, after the underpainting is completed and dry, takes big brushes, time and daring or as my friend Elena Maslova-Levin says in quoting Rainer Maria Rilke – to go through the experience of seeing all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further“. *

But eventually the shapes start to appear and the painting starts to come alive.

The most challenging aspect is to stay in the energy of the original conversation with my subject. I have the painting sketch. I have the reference images and I even have a couple of video clips. But at some point I must let whatever has stuck guide me and just paint. I am at the “just paint” stage.

The only thing that can be done now – it is to simply start…

I make slight adjustments to the composition as I go…

My arm and shoulder begin to feel the strain of reaching. I keep painting!

And painting!

And painting some more.

Now it is time to build on the tensions, the life blood of the place, while adding in the dancing light of this moment with its deep history of conversations between sea and shore. Can I do it? Will the painting soon be breathing on its own?

Well, we shall have to wait and see. We are not there yet… but soon!

What was the last long, exhilarating journey YOU have taken? 

* quote is from the introduction for the catalogue book CONVERSATIONS ON EDGE written and edited by Elena Maslova-Levin for the two artist show with Terrill Welch on Mayne Island during the spring of 2018. The book can be previewed and ordered HERE.

PART 1 “Sea and Shore – A beginning” can be viewed HERE.

Part 3 “Sea and Shore – Strong Finish” can be viewed HERE.

© 2018 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com