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 practice 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 is 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

Sea and Shore – a beginning

The soft grey of morning is still settling out of my physical being as I lift the large 36 X 48 inch canvas onto the easel. Cascading light and colour roll with the waves over the shapes gathering across my inner landscape. The endless beating of sea and shore vibrates through the heartwood of an old hanging arbutus swinging above the sculptured shore. But alas, there is only whiteness reflection back at me…

I only have an hour before I must be down in the village. Can I do something with this?

“Only if you promise to remember to go open the gallery on time!” I mutter, as I squeeze the cadmium yellow and red oil paint onto a clean palette.

Those lines!  This light!

I remember my smallness…

as I looked up into the tangle of trunks.

The quick painterly notes start to multiply on the canvas…

Sweeping curves round above seal-shaped forms below.

Light and shadow intertwine in a symphonic melody.

Waves and ferry wake are fierce dance partners, bending the spine of the sandstone in its embrace.

I am standing.

I have stood painting this small 11 x 14 inch study below…

And now, on the big canvas, I am 25 steps further to the right, closer to sea. I must start again. I must hunch down and grasp all-that-was and all-that-will-be, swing it high over my head then spiral it down, until it is rooted deep into the earth, with confidence, in each brushstroke.

But this is yet to come. For now, I must wash the one-inch flat hog hair brush, take off my weathered carmine paint-splattered apron, remove any wild run-away cadmium red or yellow streaks on my face and head to the gallery.

Oh but there is more! So much more!

I must wait. We must wait. And remember, it is only paint and a canvas. 😉

What, may I ask, are YOU waiting for?

PART 2 “Sea and Shore – Building Up Paint” is now posted 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

A Short Pause During the Incompleteness of Painting

Yes, it is my first blog post of 2018. The last I wrote specifically for Creative Potager was December 21, 2017. I have been waiting for some kind of clarity or direction that I wanted to take us next. None has surfaced. Instead, I woke this morning with a desire to assess, summarize and begin again to just write notes to you as needed. A painter’s life seems to be like that. There are these short pauses during an overall incompleteness of painting, organizing, showing, and shipping paintings to new homes. Writing posts and sharing often comes in fits and starts and then ebbs away for a bit. I have learned to trust this process and let it be what it is.

The light of a resting catches a surface.

The brushes seem to linger over a canvas and then it is moved and another takes its place. The work continues for a bit and then it too is moved and yet another is set on the easel.

One brush mark after another, a new shiny wet painting begins to appear.

This morning, with its steady rain, I am feeling a little push around by the twenty paintings ready to packed up for travel to a solo exhibition a day’s drive away on next Tuesday. Then there are the two large canvases that have come to the home studio after being completed in the winter studio at the gallery. They seem to be standing at the edges of my life wondering where they are going to go.

At the moment I have no answer for them. But we will get there. They are designated for a show about trees in May. The reason they have come home of course is there is the two artist exhibition “Earth & Water: A Conversation on Edge” with Elena Maslova-Levin that will open April 13th. I am still waiting impatiently for eight of her paintings to find their way to the island. They have traveled promptly from California and then been held up between Richmond and Nanaimo for better than a week. I have cleared the gallery, put up posters around the island and done everything I can think of to open up the energy flow for their arrival. Now we wait… some more.

This 16 x 20 inch oil on canvas “Evening View Over Navy Channel” commissioned painting is ready for travel to the United States now that the new special shipping boxes has arrived.

I am also critically low on small 8 x 10 inch painting sketches as we head into the busy season. I have one left. Just one.

Then there are painting lessons to prepare and present each week to eager and dedicated students.

My husband is making his breakfast and we confirm that we will go to figure drawing in the evening. It is his area of interest but it is also good for a landscape painter to practice this kind of unforgiving drawing. And it is something we can do together with others, a date night of sorts. 😉

Easter weekend is coming up and if the weather is decent my daughter and two grandsons plan on coming to camp in the local campground and visit.

My parents have three calves on the ground already this spring in rural north central British Columbia and dad has a snow fence built as it has been a long deep snow winter up there. They are in their eighties and still farming. I phone on Saturday mornings to catch up and visit. I have to phone early or I miss catching them in the house. Rural farm life is like that.

But right this very moment, I must get the six-inch thick bundle of receipts and invoices to the city and handed over to the accountant so that our income tax will be filed on time.

As you can see, there are a whole series of projects at various stages of incompleteness between new works needed, finished works, exhibitions coming up and work to be shipped and so on. There are also various relationships that are important to me that I must make room for between the demands of a painter. But I am still here, sipping my morning coffee, listening to the rain on the tin roof and smiling into the possibilities of today. This is not a small thing. I have lost several friends, some of them fellow painters, before their 70th birthday’s this year. I will be sixty years old this summer and I know that each day I wake and then settle into the soft quite of the evening is a gift.  I assess, revisit and conclude  – I am doing what I must do as a painter and a teacher of painting. I am doing what I need to do as a partner, mother, grandmother and daughter. I am doing what I love to do in the process of being in all areas of my life. I have no desire to change a thing. It is a good feeling.

What about you? How are you?

© 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

Winter Solstice Reflections

Still congested with a winter cold, I rest against the soft light of the shortest day of the year. Having canceled any interruptions, I am free to climb under the warmth of the down duvet on the day bed in the loft studio – to think about not much at all. Ideas and thoughts drift, rollover and crumble into yet smaller fragments. An older small painting surfaces and clings to the edges of fickle concentration.

And then the end of a poem by Mary Oliver…

thank you
old daintiest,
dark wreckage,
coins of the sea
in my pockets
and plenty for the gulls
and the wind still pounding
and the sea still streaming in like a mother wild with gifts –
in this world I am as rich
as I need to be.

~ from “Winter” p. 52-53 in New And Selected Poems Volume One, 1992, Beacon Press.

The oil painting is “Receding Tide Reef Bay” 9 X 12 inches and is one of a very few small oil on canvas I have left.

Happy Winter Solstice! May we embrace the quiet light of the shortest day of year for the gift that it is.

What are your reflections about winter solstice today?

 

© 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

A Quieter Time

For much of the year,  I thrive on a creative rhythm of quick short inhales with repeated exhales of joy and possibility in our ordinary day. Blogs are posted weekly. Classes are taught spring and fall. Solo art shows are proposed and curated. Requested application deadlines are met for the following year. I take us on hikes, painting trips, studio views of work in progress and this year into the new gallery. Then it is November. The days are short. Winter storms arrive. My internal rhythm shifts. The inhales are longer, deeper and the exhales reveal little to outside world until early spring. This is my restorative time. Social media posts become sparse. I always announce that I am taking a break during this time. I am not though. Not really.

Road to Everyday – 36 X 24 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch (available)

What I am doing is diving deep into my own creative well and wandering the trails, reading books, visiting with friends and neighbours and, with few interruptions, covering canvases with paint! This time of year I need this just as the rest of the year there is a steady flow of engagement outward. I know and trust we will all be better for it. Or, at least I will.

So, just so you know, posts of all sorts will be unscheduled from now until early in the new year. They will still happen but on my internal whim rather than a schedule.

What does your winter schedule look like?

© 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

 

Happy International Artist Day 2017

Started in 2004  on Pablo Picasso’s birthday, October 25th,  by my fellow Canadian painter, Chris MacClure, in White Rock, British Columbia, today is International Artist Day! What is this day all about?

“To celebrate the contribution all artists make to society by promoting and raising their credibility and visibility locally and around the world.” Mandate on Official International Artist Day Website

Tell us, what artists would you like to celebrate today?

© 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

Red Poppy Serenity Oil Painting

The red poppy oil painting “Serenity by the Sea”

is from a specific day at the end of May in the year 2017 on the island of Galiano off the Southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada.

The mist turns to a light drizzle as I sit on a low chair looking out past the cedars to yet other islands across the sea. What can possibly cut through these west coast greys? Then I remembered.

Earlier in the day I had seen large red poppies growing in the garden near the water.

“I wonder!?” I said to myself.

Slipping on a raincoat and garden clogs I stuffed my way-too-large iphone in my hip pocket and my big camera with its rain cover over my shoulder. It is about 5:00 am and the sun is still high enough in the west to push its way through the low clouds, providing a noticeable filtered light. But it is not enough to keep the warm greys using the big camera. Those gorgeous greys were running into the blues. But the iPhone 7 plus seems to get the idea. I gather several references images with both devices and find one that I particularly like.

Six days later, I am back in the studio and have mulled the idea over long enough to pull out a canvas and get started. The method is straightforward.

Start with a ground that will pull on those muted tones and make a few modest marks to guide the composition.

Establish the relationship between the sky and the light reflecting off the water.

Drop the darks unceremoniously into place.

Leave the red ones for last and keep the brushstrokes simple, clean and decisive.

Work in the highlights, stems and texture of the lower foliage, using a painting knife as needed. Then stand back, one last time, and ensure there is a humming kind harmony of emotion and aliveness to the work.

Yes, I think we are there!

Serenity by the Sea “resting” 18 x 14 oil on canvas

As usual, the painting needs to rest and dry before it is considered finished. I intended this work to be a composition study for a larger painting. However, I may have said all I need to say in this one. Painting the subject larger won’t make for a better painting. It will just be bigger. Yet, I am not completely sure if I want to give up on splashing large amounts of red around on huge surface though. I shall think about it for a while and see. In the mean time…

What bright spots have cut through your grey moments of late?

© 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

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 Active 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 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 Painter’s Notion of Noticing

The need and desire to summarize and dismiss information is a necessary skill for survival, comfort and freedom. Yet, the development of repeating and overlapping patterns of knowing is often my least helpful skill when painting. However, noticing repeating patterns within a specific subject and within its context is a useful skill to the painter. This second skill gets me into the overreaching and granular similarities, differences and unique aspects of my composition. In contrast, it is the layers of “knowing” the painter has for a subject that sometimes can be challenging. So though these approaches to seeing are related they are not the same. The layers of knowing collected from past observation tend to filter and distort what is actually before us. This is where trees become straight, flower petals similar in shape or skies become blue in such a way that the immediate experience of the subject fades into something quite cliché or overly familiar. In this situation the painter has lost awareness of the subject itself in favour of everything that they already think they know about it. For example, let’s look at the photograph below. Do you see these specific daffodils or do you see these specific daffodils through the filters of all the daffodils you have ever seen before?

The filters might include the daffodils in the painting above. Or possibly the daffodils you have on your own table. Or maybe even the crepe paper replica you made in your first years of school. You may like daffodils or you may have no relationship with them at all. You may be distracted from the daffodils completely and be more focused on the painting sketch of the Japanese Garden which then reminds you of a trip you once took to Japan. Thus your proposed focus on daffodils is subsumed in favour of the painting sketch. Or the yellow colour of the daffodils may remind you of a spring outfit your mother once sewed for you to wear for a spring pageant.  Yes, filters are diverse, insistent and can get messy.

I hope by now you can see how easily the painter can get tripped up and lost in repeating patterns of what they know instead of noticing repeating patterns and uniqueness in the specific subject before them. If you have also had the good fortune to be in a painting class, you might remember how differently each painter’s result becomes while viewing the same subject. As a fellow artist and friend was remarking yesterday – we are sometimes in awe as to what happens to create these differences. So the next question is of course what can we do to address this issue of filters that keep us from experiencing the subject that is directly before us? Here are three activities we can do both to increase our awareness during the process of painting and also to be more present in life in general.

First, sit and observe your subject and do nothing else for 10 – 15 minutes. In the beginning you may need to set a timer so as to keep your attention on the subject for what often seems to be – too long! At first you will want to keep your focus to the point where it passes through a point of boredom. With practice you will become familiar with a kind of internal click where your filters start to fall away. Overtime this “click” happens more quickly until you are able to do it at will. This shift is a little different for everyone but frequently you start to distinguish more variation in the sounds around you. Maybe you start to notice distinctive smells – some you can name and many others you cannot. Sometimes colour saturation and contrasts become more distinguishable. You start to notice variations and see colours you hadn’t noticed before. You begin to discern differences in shapes and textures and so on. After 10 -15 minutes of doing nothing but noticing our whole system becomes curious and we start saying to ourselves – this is important. What is it that we have here? When we become curious and we notice even more!

Secondly, write, draw, paint or do all three to capture what you have now noticed. Or if that feels too structured just create large shapes of colour that represent what you seem to be experiencing. At this stage the gathering of information should be free flowing or raw data about your experience of the subject. The purpose of the activity is to just get the information gathered in some form and if you can, get it gathered before your reductive skills can make sense out of it or begin naming it.

Thirdly, once you have recorded your own personal raw data on paper, in any form that works for you, again sit and notice. This time, look for repeating patterns and how various aspects of your subject relate to one another. Look for clues about the spaces between various elements. What is there? What is dominant and what is supportive? What sings to every cell in your body? What is changing? What is temporarily constant? What feelings are present? The process is not about finding words for an answer but just noticing. In many ways it is noticing without needing to “know” or without attachment.

Now, after these three activities are completed, you are ready to begin translating your subject into a painting language with some confidence that your filters will, for the most part, leave your subject revealed to the way you are experiencing it – on this specific day, at this specific time. If you find you are faltering or become unsure, repeat these activities again and yet again and as often as necessary to remain present to your subject.

You may remember having had this kind experience before when traveling to a new location that is very different to the one you call “home.” Or when you find yourself in a place where the people around you are speaking a different language. Or there has been a storm that took the power out and so on. These three activities I am suggesting, though more gentle, are designed to take you to this same kind of observation and sensory alertness. They are not new or revolutionary but rather old and tried methods to gain awareness. I am willing to argue, based on my own lengthy experience, that anyone, not just a painter, can gain a richness or vibrancy of experience through these practices.

 

What subject would you like to use these three practice exercises to experience more fully this week?

 

I suggest that you are unlikely to feel like “the moon is no longer there” after having applied these three activities to your subject. Let me know if you find this is so.

There is also a new round-up post on the TerrillWelchArtist.com website featuring five new painting releases, noting three recent sales and mentioning two shows coming up for May and July. If you choose, grab your beverage of choice and drop on over for a Canadian landscape painting experience HERE.

© 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