Good Morning En Plein Air

What does an artist do on the morning after $2.5 trillion evaporates from global stock markets? Paint of course and not just any painting but en plein air by the sea.

It is 8:30 am. The morning is as gray unsettled as the global economy. It really didn’t hold much promise and looked like the bottom was going to fall out of the sky any second.

The only bright spot are these pink roses at the side of the lighthouse building.

The rocks down below me catch my interest but I have come to paint the sea.

Hopeful that the sun will recover its golden glow before noon. I set to work.

I stop infrequently. There will be no process photographs but I do catch a sailboat heading across Georgia Strait.

(this image may be purchased here.)

You can still see it in the distance as I leave aside the first 12 X 12 inch canvas to rest.

(this image may be purchased here.)

The sky starts to clear as I set up for the next 10 X 10 inch canvas. I wonder what time it is? Hum, ten o’clock. Let’s see what we can do.

Again I work steadily as the light and colours change faster than my brush can make a mark on the canvas. The sun is so bright I have a hard time seeing my work and have an even harder time capturing a photograph for you.

It is not finished but it has the energy of the moment and can be completed once this first work has dried.

I am getting tired but I want to do one more painting on my small 8 X 8 inch canvas. It is now just after 11:00 am.

(this image may be purchased here.)

The strokes seem to slip onto the small canvas effortlessly.

Oh my! It is now 12:30 am and I am ravenous! Time to pack up three very wet unfinished oil paintings and head for home.

This past week’s financial upheaval is not a surprise. In fact it has been a long time coming for those of us paying attention. More than ever we need to build on our resiliency, our connection to community and set a course directed by what is essential in our lives at this moment. A morning painting was my perfect answer. This is how I fortify my strength and clarity for whatever may be next.


Sprout question: How are you creatively going to weather our global financial storm?


© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at

Salish Sea 3 original oil painting by Terrill Welch

From start to finish a painting often has many pauses. Salish Sea 3 is a prime example as this small 8 X 10 inch seascape oil painting took two weeks from start to finish – mostly “resting.”

I begin as usual by working the underpainting.

In this series of paintings I have been inspired to paint the sky first and work into the picture from this vantage point. This isn’t a usual approach from me but it is what has been happening for the past two paintings. So we will go with it.

Next I start building up the blues.

As I continue to work a context is created for the painting to begin to breathe on its own.

Sorry about the bad photograph. I was having trouble with some glare from the light coming through the window of  the studio. Note to self: holding a painting and photographing it is not a useful strategy to resolve glare.

I begin to find my way into the painting – it is like running your hands over your bedding in the half-light of early dawn. You know where you are but there isn’t enough light to see beyond a few vague familiar shadows.

This is most often the place I pause. There is an excitement that rises from my bones and spreads up to the hairs on top of my head. I watch and wait sometimes only for a moment, sometimes stopping for tea and sometimes stopping until the paint dries. Today it was only long enough for tea. I wanted to work in the waves wet on wet.

Now it is time for a rest. It is a rest that last for nine days. I puzzle and muse. I move the painting around to different locations. I sleep on it. I glower at it. The painting is “okay… I guess” but it doesn’t have the SNAP I would like it to have. Finally, I decide what it is and what I need to do. A couple of small changes really. I will leave you to discover them if you choose. Or you can simply enjoy the finished work.

Salish Sea 3,  8 X 10 inch cotton canvas  original oil painting by Terrill Welch.

This painting will be shown as part of solo summer exhibition opening at the end of June. If you are interested in purchasing in advance of the show please contact me directly via email at tawelch AT shaw DOT ca . The price of this work is $280 Canadian unframed.

As for my other intentions, I started another underpainting but the taxes and tune up for Miss Prissy had to be rescheduled for next week. As my father would say “it’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

But this is far too light-hearted as I pause for a moment send light to Japan and all areas experiencing the impact of the 8.9 quake and tsunami. This post was written before I heard the news last night on twitter about an hour after the earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan.

Sprout question: Where might your creativity need a pause?

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

New original oil painting THE VIEW

This painting shall be a bit of a surprise I suspect. As I mentioned on Monday, I have only one 15 minute sketch of a figure, a few passages from The Underpainter by Jane Urquahart and an image for a painting that wouldn’t leave me along.

I set up my palette and haphazardly mix a couple of colours in the usual loose Terrill Welch fashion.

You may have noticed before, I do not usually sketch in my paintings but prefer to use an underpainting to guide the development of my work. However, I did put in just a view pencil lines on this 24 X 18 inch canvas for this one.

A few quick strokes with a large brush as the story begins to unfold…

“Still it moved me, this wildness, and so I drew Sara standing by windows, looking out towards the frantic lake, the hectic sky. I drew her stillness in the face of torn clouds and rain – I wanted that contrast. Also, I was attracted by the muted light that came into a room when the sun is buried under blankets of heavy clouds, the soft-blue tinge in lends to the skin.” (p,167)

Using my sketch as reference I create the composition – not standing as in the story but sitting and unlike the sketch, she is leaning slightly out a window. Neither the story, nor the sketch is a perfect fit. I am on my own with mostly the image of the woman in my mind’s eye for guidance.

The underpainting is complete. I need to let the painting rest and set up. If you look carefully you can see that the figure is clearly looking left as in the sketch and as I intended.

“The next day the storm had finally worn itself out. The sky was a piercing shade of blue, and not a tree, not a leaf was moving. But the upheaval in the lake, the thunderous noise, was worse than ever; the water inkier, the whitecaps whiter…. In the middle of the morning – there was sunlight now, coaxing an impression of pastel colours from under her skin – Sara leaned her forehead against the glass of the window and said, “I can’t do this I can’t stand her any more.” (p. 169)

I start to build up the image. The colours are harsh and seem like they will never come together. I am tired. I have been painting for a long while. I didn’t notice at this point but she is starting to come alive on the canvas and has turned her head slightly to the right.

“I put my brush down on the ledge of the easel. “All right, we’ll take a break then, “I said, though nothing in wanted to stop.

“No, it’s not that…” she said. “I can’t look at the lake any more. I can’t bear it.”

I stared silently at her familiar back. I never thought about what Sara would be doing while she was posing. I was interested in anything that belonged to her in the immediate vicinity, felt that knowledge of the objects around her would enrich my drawings and paintings. But while I was working I believed that the gesture I ha prescribed was absolute; her pose, my line, the contour of her shoulder working its way into the composition on the page. I believed that I was drawing – deliberately drawing space around me so completely there would be no other impressions possible beyond the impression I controlled.” (p. 170)

I am happy with how far I have come with the painting. But you can now see that she has turned her head completely and is looking out at the view on the right. Who am I to argue? Not that it would have done much good I am sure. This is one refined and determined woman.

“There full days of staring at a seething lake, larger and wilder than some oceans, a man seated behind you concentrating on the seventh vertebra of your spine or the blue veins at the back of your knees, the dispassionate scratch of the pencil reproducing the creases in you flesh. What did I know of that?” (p.170)

My body aches with the fatigue of painting. My mind plays with that of the woman I am painting. “Who are you?” I ask. But she does not answer. I listen to her essence as it slips between me and the canvas. Finally, I can do no more. I must leave it until morning.

“It would be years before I could admit that although I wanted every detail of her in my painting – her body, her ancestry, her landscape, her house – wanted the kind of intimacy that involved not just the rendering of her physical being but also the smell of her skin and hair, the way she moved around her kitchen, the sounds at the back of her throat when she made love, I would have preferred not to have been known by her at all.” (p.170)

I wake a five a.m. anxious for daily light. I write, I tweet and I fuss until there is enough light to paint. I switch my white paint out from the faster drying titanium to zinc. I review my blue paint. I fix my mind’s eye on the light and the reflected light. The room is lit by another window we can’t see. And there is the light from the sky and sea which we know is there but we only know this through the muscles of her back as she sighs into each wave and each bit of breeze coming off the water. The day goes on like this – one brush stroke over another. Then without warning, the painting is finished.

Oh, there are still a few things, possibly, to tidy up. But, for the most part, it is done.

I put down my brushes. I search THE VIEW.  Have I allowed her to know me?

Note: all excerpts in bold quotes are from The Underpainter (1998 paperback edition) by Jane Urquhart.

And THE VIEW is not for sale at this time.

Sprout question: Can you tell us about something your muse aches create?

NEWS FLASH: Knock me over with a feather! I have just discovered that I am on this international list of 21 Artist to watch in 2011 published by Skinny Artist.

© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Waiting to be Invited

There is a part of creativity that is about showing up prepared. That means setting up your writing station and putting bum-to-chair. Or pulling out a canvas and placing it on the easel. Then putting a brush in your hand at a regularly scheduled time to paint. Or it means putting your camera bag on your shoulder and heading out everyday to take the photograph that is there to be taken. Each of us practicing our creative craft will engage in some form of preparation. If you are a musician or a dancer or a woodcarver you will know exactly what to do to show up prepared.

After doing a few warm up exercises, I find there is a second part to most creative processes. This is waiting to be invited. There is a pause or suspension of expectation or a kind of taut readiness. Mind, body and spirit seem to align and, there it is – the invitation. We know intuitively exactly what we need to do next. We proceed.

This is my intention for the week ahead. I have a half-finished painting and few canvases of various sizes that I picked up last week. I am going to set aside the time each day, be prepared, do my warm up exercises, stilling my mind and wait to be invited.

This is what happened when I took these two photographs at the Japanese garden on Friday morning. As the rain came down, I visited with a friend who is moving away. We were sitting on a sheltered bench. I had taken my camera even though the day was heavily clouded and didn’t show much promise.

First, this invite was extended to me.

And then this one.


I remembered my manners and said “thank you.”


And here are a couple of things you may find inspiring:


Last Tuesday, we slipped into Victoria B.C. and attended the IMAX theatre for the most impressive Van Gogh brush with Genius . Well worth seeing if you ever get the chance. Thank you Sherwin, from Shower Wisdom, for making such a compelling recommendation in your comment to last Monday’s post.


While we were in town we went to a couple of art galleries. At the new Madrona Gallery we saw a 3 X 4 foot acrylic painting by Karel Doruyler of a mature, dense west coast forest. His skill with light is outstanding. The work we saw was Thoughts of Summer. Doruyler has developed a heavily textured approach so that the tree trunks are significantly raised off the surface of the painting. Doruyler has been painting professionally for 40 years and is now 70 years old. His work leaves me with such a sense of possibility for my own continued development as an artist.


All the best in your creative endeavors!


Sprout question: Where are you showing up prepared to be invited?


© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada


Where Line and Paint meet with Jerry Shawback

Jerry Shawback is the most dedicated artist I know. His daily practice can rack up 500 sketches a week. Add to this his paintings, and we have ourselves a full-time talented artist. His line drawings capture depth and powerful expression with the strength of their minimalism. His self-portrait paintings always leave me craving to know more. As I flip through his flickr site I often ask “who is this artist – really?”

Then sometime over the summer, I notice something different happening in Jerry’s paintings. Lines familiar to me in his drawings started to appear in his paintings. I was hooked. I kept slipping back and spying from just off the side of the screen to see what he would do next. Finally, I mustered up my courage and asked if I could interview him for a dedicated feature here on Creative Potager. To my delight he said yes. So get your favourite cup of something warm and pull up a chair….

Born in small town Streator Illinois about 80 miles outside Chicago, Jerry lived in town but there was also a family farm. After the divorce of his parents when he was eight years old until he was sixteen, South Florida was home. This was followed by some time in North San Diego country where he completed high school.

Los Angeles is the only long-term love Jerry shared with me and the city has been his adult home since college though he spends a chunk of time in Nevada where he has few distractions and gets most of his painting done these days.

Jerry Shawback’s art:

Q. What is your training and background?

A. I went to Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, a division of the new school for social research and studies communication design and illustration. Otis had a great foundation year program where all the students from different disciplines all took the same classes giving everyone a solid understanding of the basics of art as well as forming relationships between the different departments.

Q. Is there any particular aspect of your formal training which is fundamental to your current creative process?

A. Only one class in art school really stands out. History of graphic design was a brutal course. In 3 hours there were 200 slides and continuous lecturing. The following class there was a test on one of the slides. We covered the entire history of design and how it related to the broader world of art. When I got out of art school is when I really started focusing on my drawing. I found some great workshops and spent most of my available time drawing.

Q. I am curious about what got your thinking about drawing with paint? Do you remember what got you thinking about this?

A. There can be a disconnect between painting and drawing. I see it in the work of artists all the time. There are some artists whose finished pieces I find lifeless and uninteresting but when I can find an oil sketch or rough drawing it is just delightfully.

I went to the national Gallery in washington DC and saw several pieces by Toulouse-Lautrec. These oil on cardboard drawings, of women in various stages of undress are, for me, one the most thrilling experience viewing art I have ever had.  The Lucian Freud show which brought me back to painting again after a long hiatus would be another. I may do up to 500 drawings in a week in many different styles. This allows for experimentation and results in some very spontaneous work.

Q. How did they end up separate in the first place?

A. Unfortunately I think they have always been separate for me and what I am working on now is trying to integrate the two.

Q. What process or guides do you use in choosing your colours when painting.

A. Painting a color and drawing the colors I see with line are very different things.

I never put a color on the canvas that I do not think is wonderful on its own. That does not guarantee that it will work with the other colors on the painting. But it is a good start. I enjoy the process of mixing colors almost as much as I like making the marks with them.

Q. What has life taught you about your creative work?

A. All of our experiences good or bad make us who we are and, if we are open to it, will come out in our work. Art, just like any other kind of work, requires effort and discipline and is not something that just happens on a whim.

Q. I often experience a sense of loss or sadness edging into your work. Can you tell us a little about this?

A. We often hold our emotions just below the surface in a very quiet way. This is revealed when we are less guarded. I try to capture this. I think every one has a certain amount of sadness and loss as well as joy and hopefulness. If you are sincere as an artist, it comes out in your work. I work with the human form so it may seem more obvious but this would show if I was painting landscapes as well.

Jerry Shawback’s plans:

Q. What is next?

A. Continuing to learn and grow as an artist.

Q. Five years from now?

A. It would be nice to be involved with a gallery who could market my work a year out and the most difficult thing would be getting the work done in time for the shows.

Q. Ten years from now?

A. It would be great to have an exhibit / workshop space so I could have an environment for developing artists to show as well access to space to work.  I have come across so many terrific artists that could benefit from somewhere to work in a group environment  with other artists on occasion as well as show their work.

Thank you Jerry. It is always a pleasure to have you here on Creative Potager.

Jerry Shawback’s Sprout question: What two things are you working to integrate in your art or life?

Pssst! dear readers, to do your own spying on Jerry Shawback in the corners of cyberspace, you can find him:

On flickr at

And at

And you can  follow him on twitter at


© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada