Work Life In Progress

A great big sign at the entrance of the driveway may accurately read: PROCEED WITH CAUTION WORK LIFE IN PROGRESS. Not that this is a bad thing. The alternative is much less appealing.

It is just means that the question usually asked about how are things going will be answered by –  “Oh, round and round!”

Or – “Busier than a painter with three brushes in her hand.”

Neither of which tell us much at all.

So a better question might be – “Terrill can you tell us one thing that pleases you today?”

Yes I can. I have a new painting roughed in on the easel that I am going to muse about while I drink my morning coffee. Let me show you….

The canvas is 12 x 24 inches and started with a yellow ground and a few marks to guide the scale of the composition.

The spring morning sky brightens all in its path including the green firs on the hill across the way. Song birds sing, grass grows and an eagle cries somewhere in the distance across the pass.

First leaves are soft and translucent in the warm light as the blues of sea catch my breath and swing it skyward and back again. How many mornings has the Springwater Lodge, the oldest continuously operating hotel in British Columbia, seen like this one?

There is the scent of fresh coffee filling the loft with a hint of linseed oil underneath. I decide to leave the studio lamps off for just a little longer. But I will sort out the angles of lines, the relationships between objects and the spaces in between later today – one brushstroke at a time.

Update: Now as the end of the day nears and the work has come to “resting” all shiny and wet on the canvas…

Early Spring Morning at the Miners Bay “resting” 12 x 24 inch oil on canvas

How about you? Can you tell us one thing that pleases you today?

Note: “The Beauty of Oils Class of 2017 Art Show” was a wonderful success. All the pieces are falling into place for the Art! Vancouver Fair at the end of May and the background material for advertising has been sent in for the six week solo show opening June 30th 3-5 pm in the afternoon. Next will be a focus on getting the last of the edges painted on the selected work for the solo show.

© 2017 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

The Beauty of Oils Class of 2017 Art Show

I have a surprise for us today but first, a little context is helpful.

In my experience most people think they have a pretty good idea what it takes to paint an oil painting of a subject from life. Most may even feel that if they had the time and desire they could dash off a Monet without too much trouble. I mean really! Look at what can be done during paint and drink night at the neighbourhood pub! However, if people have tried to paint, and found it harder than they thought, then they wrongly assume it is because they have no talent. Yes, some talent is useful but it is only about 20% of the equation to render a pleasing result. Few people consider that to become a skilled painter it takes hours and years of practice. You, my dear readers, are a small portion of art viewers who are well-informed on at least my painting process from your years of following Creative Potager. You are a knowledgeable exception to the average citizen. Most individuals have little idea about the range of skills development and study required beyond putting paint on a brush and applying it to a canvas. If they did, I would never be asked – how long did it take you to paint that? Well, none of this can be said about the four students that have completed the twelve session studio intensive oil painting class at the beginning of February. They know intimately what it takes to render an oil painting of a subject from life.

Some of these artists held their first brush in my three session pilot oil painting class a year earlier and then went on to take the eight session fall skills development oil painting class. Another artist started in the fall with previous drawing and basic painting skills in acrylic paints. Yet another painted in water colours and wanted to learn how to use oils. All painters still have painted less than 20 oil paintings in their life. All have been learning my long-hand process of solving painting problems on their own with instructional support from the very beginning of choosing their own composition, sketching and taking photographs of their ideas, making notes about their subject, observing different natural light condition, learning how to mix the colours they wanted, preparing a ground or underpainting, and painting wet-in-wet. They have painted from their own reference photograph and painting sketches in the studio classroom. They have braved the elements and painted en plein air. They have learned a method that will allow them to tackle painting any variety of subjects from everyday life. Then they went on to prepare their work to be “show ready” with painted edges or frames, titles, inventory numbers and so on. Now it is time to show the results! Each artist has six beautiful works to hang for viewing on Saturday, May 13th at the Mayne Island Community Centre between 3:00 – 7:00 pm.

Let’s briefly allow each painter to introduce themselves and share a sampling of their work so you can see what I am all excited about.

Glenda King – Living on Mayne Island allows me to have many possible beautiful compositions, whether it be a seascape, landscape or wildlife & birds. I have left my focus open until I find what my passion is….right now I am enjoying all that I have done & hope that you enjoy it also. The paintings I have done have come from my own photography or plein air, the latter being the preferred way to paint for this style.

Serenity 8 x 10 inch oil on canvas plein air – SOLD

Miners Bay Lookout 18 x 14 inch oil on canvas – AVAILABLE

Elspeth Westby – My focus has been to learn how to use the oils (I chose to use walnut oils by M. Graham and Co.), the different brushes and tools and become comfortable with an easel with the hope of doing “en plein air” painting. I really enjoy spending time observing my environment and long to paint it. To my surprise and delight, I love the oils and seem to be managing landscapes!

Springwater on Active Pass 11 x 14 inch walnut oil on canvas panel plein air – AVAILABLE

Plum Blossoms (Japanese Garden) 14 x 11 walnut oil on canvas panel – NFS

Katherine Cox Stevenson – I paint to more deeply align my soul with nature. From a young age, I craved living life from my heart. Instead due to life circumstances I lived my life from my head – I even have a PhD to prove it. I live on Mayne Island for two main reasons: the abundance of exquisite nature and sense of community. I am now becoming part of the arts communities, a rich and enlightening experience. Being able to stand in awe of the nature scene in front of me and with color, brushes, and strokes I can interpret it for the canvas. My hope for the viewers of my paintings is that they can pause and experience a moment of deep inner peace and perhaps a magical moment of connecting nature with their souls.

An Afternoon by the Sea Shore 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas – AVAILABLE

Time to Reflect 14 x 18 inch oil on canvas – AVAILABLE

Jody Waldie – After two years as a full time resident of Mayne Island I am still in awe of its natural beauty. Through my learning process as a new painter I strive to experiment and discover how to represent this beauty of nature through the use of colour and light with oil paint media. I purposefully chose to focus on colour and light to allow myself to step away from the contrived images that excess attention to detail was bringing to my painting. I am drawn to the rawness of nature and strive to capture this through my painting.

Spring at the Gardens oil on canvas 12 x 16 inch oil on canvas plein air – AVAILABLE

Pause and Gaze on Harmon Hill oil on canvas 20 x 16 inch oil on canvas  – AVAILABLE

As you can see, each artist even at these early stages of learning a new process and medium has a distinctive unique painting fingerprint. Now how exciting is that!? Hopefully over the next couple of years we can bring them back for further cameo appearances and you can see where their discipline and skill development has taken them. If you see a work you would like to purchase or if you would like to know more about a specific painter just send me an email at tawelch@shaw.ca and I will be happy to connect you up with the artist.

For now I ask all four painters to take a bow as we shout, whistle, cheer and applaud their accomplishments.

Note: If you would like to learn oil painting or the process of painting wet-in-wet both using studio reference materials or en plein air you can send me a note at this same email shared above and I will add you to my contact list for future offerings. These classes may also include three-day weekend plein air workshops over the summer in both acrylic and oil – if there is enough interest and I can find the time.

What are you spending hours and years learning to master?

© 2017 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

High Desert Dawn revisited

Pungent sage brush rustles with a family of wild turkeys as the heavy clouds lift up from the horizon. It is morning, early morning. Low hills glisten with the dampness of departing rains. Why not revisit? After all, it has been five years has it not?

I pick up my brush and begin reworking the canvas. After an hour or so of stepping back and forth, it seems to be coming along.

The morning light sliced through the heavy storm clouds over the high desert in Orville Washington.

High Desert Dawn – 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas

I am happier with it now I think. Those variations of blues make the photo editing program cross-eyed. You will just have to believe me when I say it is much nicer in person.  Details and purchase information is available in the on online gallery HERE.

Mostly, this week has been a time of catching up and preparing for the next show which is Art!Vancouver Fair, May 25 – 28, 2017 at the Vancouver Conference Centre, East 999 Canada Place. I am showing my paintings with three other Canadian artists in 30 feet of booth space sponsored by Artists in Canada. I would love to see you there and your friends too for that matter 😉 The details regarding advance tickets and such are on the website HERE.

Other than that it has been long walks sometimes in sun and sometimes in rain.Spring is here. Taxes were done on time. Life is good.

What are you enjoying most about your week so far?

© 2017 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

Standing with the Sea Painting from Life

“I don’t know how she does it, but Terrill’s paintings make me feel the rush of being there, of being part of it,” comments Anita Lewis, who shared on Google Plus the following completed painting.

I wish I had an adequate answer for Anita. The truth is I am not exactly sure. I can tell you that the landscape painter must have the courage to stand in the moment with as much raw, unfiltered honesty as possible. In this case, I am standing with the sea.

At first this standing is about the grey that shifts continuously in rolling spring storms. It is about a tide that seems to neither want to come in or go out as I set up the easel.

It is about enduring the dreariest gulf islands spring since the beginning of weather records. This has followed on a winter that saw snow on the west coast during most months.

I have come to realize that we are likely to miss out on are usual warm days of spring this year. Now my endurance is settling on an early summer. But at the moment rain is coming. It is time to pack up and leave with the 22 x 28 inch canvas roughly blocked in using walnut oil paints.

The next day it rains a steady drizzle. No plein air painting is going to be possible. I sigh and move on to other tasks. The following day seems like it may be promising. But it isn’t. As the painting class and I huddle under a gazebo in the national park near the painting location, they get a good chortle. The sun is shining through the rain but it isn’t going to be enough to break the spell and let us plein air paint. We retreat to the Mayne Island Community Centre and I provide tutorial examples while answering various painting problems posed by the students. The day is salvaged through our collective flexibility.

It is a long day which becomes even longer that evening when I learn that a long-time friend has lost his gallant 20 or-so-year battle with cancer. We had spoken only a few short weeks earlier. He had basically called to say good-bye. At the time he commented that he wasn’t sure if the cancer would get him or if his heart would fail first from an unrelated issue. In the celebration of life notice his family has asked that donations be made to the Heart and Stroke foundation instead of bringing flowers. I am assuming this might be a clue to how his question was answered.

From the time we could barely call ourselves teenagers, through our wild years, into young adults, on into our mature years and finally to becoming grandparents – we never lost sight of being friends. Even if years sometimes passed without so much as a phone call, there was no question – we were friends. Though I will miss him, I cannot help thinking he suffered more than his share to remain with us as long as he did. He fulfilled one of his greatest wishes and saw his children grown and had time to enjoy his grandchildren. He knew great love and what deep caring really means through his relationship with his partner. His life was fully lived around what I feel matters most – love, family, friends, frank honesty and hard work.

The next morning has offered up the promised sun. I am standing before a grey-scale roughed in painting with a heavy heart, squinting into the sky blues. Yes, I definitely will miss him. I look across the Strait of Georgia which seems to widen with every glance. I put up the sunshade to keep my canvas neutral.

I work diligently as if without skin and bone protecting the most vulnerable parts of my being. I listen to the sea as it rolls waves forward with each passing boat and ferry. The moments are filled with frequent commas from song birds that are occasionally punctuated more heavily by seagulls and eagles. The sea lions roll up to the surface with their unmistakable breathing raising the hairs above my pinched shoulder blades. I am consumed by salt air, spring grass and exposed seaweed. The breeze lifts the branches of the fir trees behind me and the escaping sun warms my back in brief fragmented caresses. What blue? What blue do I need most? I mix and layer and release the colours onto the canvas within the rhythms of the sea, the rhythms of life…. and the rhythms of our immediate and pending death. Finally the brushes still.

I take the painting back to studio. After letting it rest for a bit, I add a few more brush marks over the afternoon and a few more the next day before calling it done.

The painting was only five days from start to finish. Yet, the world, my world, is forever changed. I am reminded of a line from a poem “The Speed of Darkness” by Muriel Rukeyser – The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

A final photograph is still needed of course but this one will do for today.

So the “how does she do it” remains a mystery in some ways, even from me – hidden in unedited, intuitive renderings of experiences from life onto a canvas.

When was the last time you stood by the sea and asked it to share with you its greatest mystery?

© 2017 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

Where Despair Meets Hope in Steps

Drowning in despair about our dissolving humanity on a particular day in early April, I made myself a promise – I shall post this note and go for a long walk and listen to the spring birds. I shall breathe in time with the waves on the sea. I shall inhale the scent of the blossoms on the breeze. I shall run my hands along the length of the arbutus tree. Then I shall paint. This is what a landscape painter does.

This is the beginning for Where Despair Meets Hope Edith Point – 22 x 28 inch oil on canvas landscape painting.

Several canvases are already prepared with grounds. I decide on the red one. Neither large nor medium and certainly not small, this canvas seems to be the right size for sitting with despair. I choose a simple yet powerful landscape that begins with a lengthy walk through the trees and along the ocean. On this day, the fog is thick and I am smothered in a muted grey for most of the hike. But just as I come out on Edith Point, the heavy mist moved out to sea and golden light covers the old fir tree and the edge of the cliff. In this briefest of shifts, my spirits soar and catch a patch of blue sky before coming back down the disfigured tree, thereby encompassing a lasting sense of hope.

The work is roughed in with a bit of Naples yellow to guide my brushes forward. I decide to work from the outer edges inward until the tree reveals itself and I can no longer avoid its edges.

I work on the point of the cliff, conscious of how it turns slightly towards the south. There is no room to think or worry or fuss. I am fully focused on the quickly changing light of the late morning. I can feel the dampness in my hair and coolness on one side of my face and the soft sun warming the other. My hands and heart guide the brushes across the canvas, as if I am really there.

The room darkens under the skylights as heavy rains pound down on the tin roof. I slip up to the loft and grab one of the studio lamps. I hardly notice that I have put my brush down. I pick it up again and, almost in a trance, continue to work.

Touching lightly, I place various greens into the foreground. I can feel my helplessness shrink like the stones with a rising tide on the bottom right of the canvas. My disillusionment with the larger world is replaced with confidence about the specifics of this moment – I can do this one thing.

As I continue to paint, the fir tree can no longer be avoided. I add the tree’s shadow side and start on the branches.

I reach for where the sun is touching. I am reminded of the winter’s high winds and heavy rains as I circle the gnarled and bent branches. I am reminded of long dry spells during the late summer where the moisture cannot be held in the sandstone rocks. I can feel my nose tighten against dearth of moisture while grasses crinkle under foot as I place in the dead branches on the bottom left of the thick tree trunk. I am reminded how this old fir tree has endured and gained elegance and strength through its trials. It is perfect in its imperfection.

Darkness is gathering in the corners of the room. My hips and knees are telling me that we have been standing at the easel for many hours. I must leave this work now, until tomorrow.

Rising early, I flick on the studio lamps. I put on my painting apron. I continue. Eventually, I stop to make coffee and a late breakfast. Sometime during the morning my husband has woken and made his own eggs and toast. He has closed the door to his office so as not to disturb me. He may have even spoken to me. I doubt that I answered. Living with a painter one learns not to be offended by such moments. Like me, he has learned to trust the process. He knows that eventually I will say – come have a look and see what you think…

I tell him how I wanted to be able to feel the breeze off the water in the branches and how they needed to be reaching to greet the sun and how the shade is cool in this golden light, cool enough to want your wool sweater. He replies – it is gorgeous! Privately he is crossing his fingers hoping that his remark will lead us out the door to find some supper. I am not fooled.

Well, it is resting I say.

In this case the “resting” must last for a week before I can make the final adjustments during a demonstration for an oil painting class I am teaching. But I do believe it is now done. I do believe in this place where despair meets hope, we can understand that nothing lasts. With this truth, firmly rooted on the edge of the cliff, I shall continue to walk and paint and breathe – until I can no longer, however long that is.

For now, I present to you Where Despair Meets Hope Edith Point – 22 x 28 inch oil on canvas

 

Where does despair meet with hope in your life?

 

© 2017 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

 

One Large Painting Delivered and Hung

The car is loaded with one large 60 x 36 inch framed painting for delivery and two small bags clothes for a three day weekend trip. We catch the morning ferry and upon filling the gas tank in Ladner B.C., we head cross country up the Fraser Valley and then over the mountain summits. There is snow on the sides of the highway but the roads remain bare with only occasional light rain. There are willows deepening in crimson reds and poplars with softening off-white yellowish bark as our late spring begins to warm enough for the tree sap to start to flow. Creeks and rivers are high and winter waterfalls still tumble-down in an endless flow that will eventually lead to the Strait we have just crossed at the beginning of our journey. Rock faces and mountain peaks are mostly still white. Then we come back down to where fruit trees are beginning to bloom and the grass is starting to grow. Stopping for a late lunch and to again get gas for the car, we call my sister to say we will be there in time for supper.

There is a plan in place for tomorrow’s hanging of the painting in a tall stairwell. My brother-in-law has arranged to be free for the day and has a ten foot step-ladder tied on top of his truck. That evening we talk about the logistics. We examine the hanging hardware and gather up a level and towels to go under the ladder. I already have a big thick measuring tape and a hammer in my toolkit.

The next morning my sister drives my car and I become the co-pilot putting the exact address into the GPS when we get closer to our destination. The drive is a little over one bathroom break away. With the large painting taking up the back of the car with the seats down, there is only room for two people. My husband David is riding with my brother-in-law in the second vehicle. My sister and I catch up and visit companionably as we go through towns and small communities along the lakes. With many turns and twists and climbs we eventually reach the art collector’s home.

I go and introduce myself and take care of the necessary paperwork and hand over a small gift of my latest coffee table art book As We Breathe. The painting is carefully lifted out of the back of the car and taken into the house to be unpacked. The ladder is brought in and set into place. We measure, discuss, and measure again or rather my brother-in-law does. You see, he is 6’ 2” tall. The ladder is 10 feet tall and the painting needs to be hung about 13 feet up from the landing on the stairs.

The hanging hardware with each hook rated for 75 lbs is in place. We move the ladder out from the wall until the outside leg is just on the edge of the landing. Now for the 20-or-so pound framed painting! I ask David to get down under the ladder on the far side. I carry the painting down the first set of stairs and bring it to other side. My brother-in-law reaches it from the top. David has it from the right side in front of the ladder. My sister gives us directions as we just barely have enough room to bring the painting around the front of the ladder without bumping either the wall or the ladder. We now have the painting situated between the wall and ladder. We lift up… and up again. My brother-in-law needs to move further up onto the second from the top step on the ladder. I have to climb the two steps up from the bottom and David reaches as far as he can. My sister steps on the ladder and braces to make sure it stays stable and the art collector reaches across the railing at the top right to help balance the painting. One side of the wire is hook. Then the other side is hooked. But wait a minute! The first side has come off and has to be hooked again. I am still stretching my 5’ 3 ¾ inches as far as I can to hold up my side of the bottom of the painting. We fight back a collective giggle. We instinctively know, this would not end well if we lose focus. Finally! It is hung!

The level is passed up the ladder and placed on top of the painting. All but one of us stands back at the top of the stairs and we stare at the painting. My brother-in-law taps and tips as we shake our collective heads. No. A little more up on the left. Too far! A little more to the right.  But after a few tries, all eyes and the level bubble agree, the painting is squared and centred to its world. Phewfff!

Now, would you like to see? Of course you would. I knew you would. So I asked if it was okay to take photographs.

Seaside Mayne Island, 60 x 36 inch oil on canvas, hanging in its new home.

And one from the side because this painting can be seen from various angles in the open concept layout of this lovely home.

So next time someone asks you how many people it takes to hang a painting, the best answer is likely – it depends…. but definitely bring the small car vacuum to whisk away the dust from the ladder!

What was your last adventure where you had to enlisted the help of family and/or friends?

Note: If you love the painting process posts, be sure to stop by next week because there is a new painting on the easel and I should be ready to share images from the start to the finish. Here is a little teaser…

 

© 2017 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

 

Temporary Custodian – Painter

As I break through the constraints of winter into longer days with budding plum blossoms,

cracking open with the magnolia blooms,

I am reminded of a subtext,

an endless reaching for a finish which, whenever it comes, will of course be too soon.

“Searching for Colour Active Pass” 8 x 10 inch plein air acrylic on gessobord

I am but a temporary custodian of these renderings we call paintings.

“Early Spring Dinner Bay” 8 x 10 inch plein air acrylic sketch

Letting go….

a bow of gratitude for the lessons learned in their creations.

 

What lessons are you learning as a temporary custodian?

 

© 2017 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

Painting Spring

Something happened yesterday on the official first day of a late west coast spring. At the end of last week I was still in my contemplative winter mental attire. My grey, northern, rain forest interior is filled with homemade soup warmth, maybe a touch red-wine melancholy, smoothed over with by woolen thoughtfulness and a sparkle from a waterproof jacket garnish. It is a savory mix best served hot. During this time I often explore the underbelly of my daily life both in painting and in words. But the garment of winter fell free as easily as the first night of hearing the frogs in the pond in the valley below. Consequently, I had something intricate and dense simmering about the language of painting for this post. But it is not to be, at least not for this week. The joyous zealous brushstrokes of spring are here. Who can ponder at a time like this!?

So I dug through the archives and have chosen seven springtime paintings or painting sketches representing a variety of locations I have been over the past four years. There is a spring work to enjoy for each day of week. Happy spring!

Spring in Tuscany 20 x 30 cm acrylic sketch on canvas board and a rare painting where I have overtly included the painter in this Florence, Italy countryside.

Prints available HERE.

Villeneuve lez Avignon France 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas with its layers of memories and visible history.

Original painting available HERE.

Fremont Hills California Early Spring 18 x 24 inch walnut oil on canvas. Painted from a plein air day of reference material with a colleague and friend, Lena Levin.  We were just talking last week about how our paintings were so different even though we were standing almost right beside each other.

Original painting available HERE.

Cherry Blossoms Mayne Island Japanese Garden 20 x 24 inch oil on canvas. The gardens are a divine place to be in spring and a local year-around treasure.

Original painting available HERE.

Sea and Sun Cox Bay Tofino BC 24 x 48 inch oil on canvas. Know as our real west coast, spring is the time that the sun breaks through the winter rains and spirits are lifted as high as the rollers coming in from the open sea.

Original painting available HERE.

Rolling Spring Storms Rocky Point PEI 20 x 40 inch walnut oil on canvas. Bit of weather out there today, someone will likely comment. Collars of light jackets will be turned up and tightened at the neck but the smiles, they tell us one thing – spring!

Original painting available HERE.

Blooming Point PEI 8 x 10 inch acrylic plein air sketch on gessobord. Spring comes a little later to Prince Edward Island. So on this particular year we had two springs! The first on the west coast Canada and then a most lovely second on the east coast.

Prints available HERE.

Now that we have been to Florence Italy and Avignon France in Europe, Fremont California in the United States, Mayne Island and Tofino on the southwest coast of Canada and finally to Prince Edward Island on the East coast of Canada, what about you?

Is it spring yet where you are?

And yes, I am publishing a day early this week. Why not, it is spring after all.

© 2017 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

Death by Insignificance – Contemporary Landscape Easel Painter

Six inches of wet whiteness filled our long driveway. At its end there is a narrow trail down the middle of the secondary road, with mounds of molded heavy snowballs guarding each side of the single lane made by the plow truck. I power the Outback down the first part of the driveway so as to glide up and over the crest of the steep hill on the secondary road that follows. Now, if I don’t meet anyone until I get to the main road, all will be good. All is indeed good.

Reaching the Japanese garden on the other side of our small island, I notice that the snow has stopped temporarily in the -1 degree Celsius early March wintry weather. I gather a few photographs for a friend and then settle into painting after setting up my French Box easel in the bamboo shelter on the east side of the gardens. I paint feverishly for an hour. It starts to rain and then rain and snow as I am finishing up. My toes are cold from damp wool socks from when I stepped in a puddle getting out of the car. By all accounts the midday light is bleak, the weather miserable and I am thoroughly chilled. But the work is done. I feel like an explorer exhilarated by having clawed my way over a mountain to a new and promising land.

This 11 x 14 inch walnut oil sketch on a panel board is a series of half-finished sentences in a shorthand painting language that provides rough reminders for a later more thoughtful and larger painting.

Early March Snow Japanese Garden Mayne Island BC

Why do I bother I ask myself. Painting as a representational art form offers nothing new to a world that craves discovery and sensational entertainment. Easel painting has been declared dead as art with predictable frequency for the past 150 years. Yet, here I am – painting. Here you are following my adventures, saving the work to your phones, ipads and laptops and even buying a few finished works now and again. The latest of my art books As We Breathe may even grace your coffee table. So why? What is it about these representational landscape paintings and quick painting sketches that repeatedly hold your attention?

My landscape paintings are of everyday moments. They are ordinary easel paintings and the techniques are familiar contemporary impressionists’ renderings. There is nothing new or sensational or entertaining in my. In art history, the subject of landscapes has always been just a little vulgar and unrefined and uninteresting for the tastes of highbrow fine art galleries and juried exhibitions. So right from the start with my choice of subject, the work is placed at the fringes. Eugène Delacroix’s landscape paintings were painted for his own private pleasure and were only sold after his death. Delacroix was a renowned history painter but it is his landscapes that recently discovered and I most enjoy. The impressionist and post-impressionist painters used the immediacy of landscapes to render light and shadow and then to later reintroduce the importance of form before this painting approach gave way to cubism and abstraction. Though a lot of credit is given to the major breakthrough of these painters, it was only towards the end of these impressionist and post-impressionist movements that any of these artists saw what might be considered success. Some were already dead by the time recognition of their efforts, such as Van Gogh whose hard-working sister-in-law was able to successfully promote his work after his death. The history of Canadian Modernism in art exemplifies the landscape paintings of Tom Thomson, Group of Seven, Emily Carr and the Beaver Hall Group in what is touted to Canadians as a uniquely Canadian art approach. But how globally unimportant these works actually are to world art movements is obvious when reviewing a rather extensive European and North America History of Art Timeline. Canadian art is not mentioned – landscape or otherwise.

So I ask again – why? Why do I bother? Why do you bother to view, save images and purchase my work over and over again? What is it that makes you want to feel the sun on your back, the splash of the sea or the wind blowing through your hair as you look at these simple, insignificant, quiet almost meditative landscape paintings? After all, you just need to step outside into nature and notice these moments for yourselves. Possible, though you have stopped noticing as North Korea, U.S.A., Japan, South Korea and China posture on the brink of yet another war on our small planet. Or maybe you read about several famines expected in the next six month that could kill 20 million people? Or possibly you will be impacted by the U.S.A. travel ban or changes in the health care act? Or is it Brexit that is about to separate you from a country you have called home for many years? Under these circumstances, possibly mundane nature moments drift over your sensory apparatus without even a ripple of recognition – until you view one of my landscape paintings. Then you are reminded and even comforted by the work’s ordinariness. I suspect this because it is what you tell me in comments on social media and during studio visits. So it is not a wild guess but rather a plausible hypothesis. This, on some levels, is a good thing. It means there is no immediate danger by your natural surroundings. You do not need to notice the moving light or rising tide or buds on the plum trees. Basically it is safe not to notice the natural landscapes as they change around you. Your energy is free to contemplate other pressing matters.

So why might you notice and use precious minutes of your valuable time viewing these irrelevant landscape paintings? I believe the answer is as simple and uncomplicated as the paintings themselves. These hand-rendered easel paintings speak to our sensory experiences and memories. These paintings help to remind the viewer that they are alive and that this life, their life, is precious, unique and valuable. At least that is my intention and it is something you so often confirm when viewing the results.

There is the potential for this landscape painting language to be vital, fresh, and unique. These landscape easel paintings attempt to capture the essence of a particular time on a specific day. Similar to a snowflake, or a fingerprint, no two brushstrokes of an immediate moment are ever exactly the same. For an art culture, a micro-culture in a larger herd of humanity, that is obsessed with originality and progress, the immediacy of a changing landscape subject and the painter’s individual brushstrokes guarantee uniqueness (please note I am not implying that “quality” and “uniqueness” are the same thing). It would seem reasonable then that landscapes would be the highest most esteemed subject. However, such that “uniqueness” is the strength of landscape paintings, so is “uniqueness” its weakness. Value is most often created by rareness or scarcity. There is nothing rare about the landscape. Further, it is a given that it will always be changing so change is of no more interest than the ticking of a clock. It is a naked fact, that beyond our pleasure from the landscape’s sensory triggers, my paintings are of little of interest and of even less importance to ART with capital letters. For these easel paintings to become significant their subjects, the landscape, would need to become threatened or disappear. Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, or the potential a rupture in the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the next 50 years are not yet enough to declare any kind of rareness. Only once the landscape can no longer be experienced directly and no more painting of it can ever be painted, then there is a possibility, if the paintings were to survive, that they would become important or significant to art movements and human history.

On this note then, I wish for death by insignificance! Whether it is a quick painting sketch like the one above or a more thoughtful work that has been months in the making below, there is something ridiculously freeing in having the paintings overlooked – not by you of course, or by the equivalent of a small city-size of others who follow my work. But overlooked by an abstract subjective notion about what is important contemporary art.

Winter Late Afternoon Georgina Point Mayne Island BC 18 x 24 inch walnut oil on canvas

I can assure you that any description of an important contemporary artist does not include a middle-aged woman living off the southwest coast of Canada who paints the natural world around her. Nope! Her work is of no particular worth in this current context….. and, let’s hope this remains so for the sake of us all!

Besides it leaves you and I to enjoy our time by the sea, in the Japanese Gardens or along the trails under the arbutus trees without the clambering crowds. I kinda like the joy and freedom of this landscape easel painting perspective. It is fortifying, generous, kind and, for the most part, devoid of trolls.  I find it is good and simple way to live in a competitive, chaotic, globally connected world.

Happy International Women’s Day! As and independent artist with a small business, I have my red apron on in solidarity and I shall spare you the details about inequality in the Arts. Maybe another time. Though if you found the fate of landscape painters bleak, we should wait a while. 😉

What do you think? Do I have the answer to the “why” about right?

If you care to browse, new work has been released in my online gallery HERE.

What do you value that has no generalized worth in contemporary society?

© 2017 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

Organizing Fleeting Glances Into Painterly Consciousness

Darting, constructing, deconstructing, organizing and reorganizing patches of colour based on brief glances as the lens of my eyes send focused light to my retinas which then sends electrical impulses via the optical nerve, in an upside down image, to my brain is the first parts of seeing. After turning the images from both eyes covering the areas from my darting glances right-side up and placing them in some kind of recognizable pattern, under the influence of surrounding sound, tactile sensation, smell and memory I can SEE. I trust this visual reference to be tentatively true until such time as new information is provided. As I write this explanation, I reach out, without thinking or even really focusing my attention, and pick it up my coffee cup without hesitation and take a sip. My mind remembered exactly where the cup was placed, how far it is from my body and my glance tells me it is still there, sitting next to the two books that have been on the desk for months and on top of a few papers. My brain did not need to think about the cup, the books or the papers. It could “see” at a glance that the image it had already stored for reference was still relevant. This same process happens over and over all day long. These are the sensory clues that allow my brain to protect and engage my physical being in the world around me when primarily relying on the use of sight.

I am fascinated by this mystery of seeing and how we construct tentative realities as we go about the process of living an ordinary everyday life as a seeing person. But what happens when we see something that is so puzzling or intense that we have no immediate way to recognize what we are seeing or any reliable references to be able to categorize it? I describe these moments as – every cell in my body becomes focused on making sense out of all the information that is available to me. We all have these moments. These are the moments where you hear better, smell better, sense the temperature of the day, the direction of the breeze and the colours and shapes of everything are more vivid. These heightened sensory moments can be induced by fear, pain or pleasure. Or drugs I suppose, but I am most concerned with our natural interaction with the world around us. These temporary moments of sensory intensity are the places I most desire to capture when painting. I want to capture a landscape as if we are seeing it for the first time and need all our awareness to make sense out of what you are seeing. As you might guess this is not an easy task.

First, I must use every bit of conscious information I can discern, combined with all of my intuition and unconscious strength, when I set brush to canvas. Second, in our current overly stimulating daily lives gaining anyone’s interest in the resulting landscape painting is an almost impossible task. We so often will only see trees,

11. Plum Blossoms Japanese Garden 20 x 16 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2016-03-09 IMG_9315

and more trees.

arbutus-on-mt-parke-12-x-16-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-terrill-welch-reworked-dec-11-2016-img_9103

There will be an ocean,

catching-waves-at-georgina-point-mayne-island-bc-30-x-40-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-canadian-artist-terrill-welch-sept-20-2016-img_0760

and more ocean,

blooming-point-pei-a-meditation-on-world-peace-40-x-60-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-canadian-artist-terrill-welch-august-10-2016-img_9055

and even more ocean!

sea-and-sun-cox-bay-tofino-bc-24-x-48-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-terrill-welch-july-15-2016-img_7138

Our brains say to self – been there, done that, moving on. For many of us then, we can no longer experience our natural world in its fullness – neither in a painting nor in real life. A wave

on-the-rocks-in-tofino-24-x-30-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-terrill-welch-2016-03-30-img_2079

is just a wave.

last-view-chesterman-beach-tofino-tsunami-30-x-40-inch-oil-on-canvas-by-terrill-welch-july-15-2016-img_7167

Our brains and our memory tell us that we have no real need to know. In this situation, the metaphorical moon is no longer there. The moon becomes identifiable by a collected set of irrelevant references, unrelated to our safety, our well-being or our need for engagement with our ordinary everyday life. There is no blame. There is no fault. It is just us humans sorting out what we most currently need and what is most important to our tentative truth.

So it is a fair question then to ask – why do I bother? Why do I turn my home into a painting studio

great-room-studio-space-by-terrill-welch-img_1735

and spend the majority of each day following the light across vast landscapes

impact-on-the-reef-by-terrill-welch-img_1372

through intimate views of trees

woods-after-the-snow-by-terrill-welch-img_1759

and over the edges of clouds?

winter-morning-sky-mayne-island-bc-img_1803

What is it about this driving practice of observation that gets me up early, clambering over slippery rocks, kneeling in the cold water, standing barefoot on the deck in the snow or sitting shivering waiting for the moon to rise? What is it that keeps me standing at the easel for hours without noticing the strain in my lower back until I lay down to sleep at night? What is it that keeps my brush moving across the canvas recording these fleeting remembrances of sensory information when, possible, the work is irrelevant to anyone but me? I am not sure I can fully answer these questions to either of our satisfaction. However, I can still see the moon and it is magnificent!

Mayne Island Blue Moon rise July 31 2015 by Terrill Welch 2015_07_31 170

What full sensory memory of our natural world do you most often revisit in your mind’s eye?

 

© 2017 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