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

 

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

Conversations between Trees Recorded in a Large Painting

The earth turns and the sun comes up. The earth turns again and the sun goes down. This is one simple measure of a day. What time will it be tomorrow morning when the first light reaches the eastern side of the island? At about what time this evening will it be too dark to safely take the compost down the stairs and under the trees at the edge of yard without a flashlight? When will the snowdrops start to bloom on the southwest side of the house?  What difference does a day make, or even a few hours? These questions are possibly best answered by trees. At least, this is what I am musing about today as I continue my inner travels.

Last week I shared with you a large 60 x 40 inch canvas with a red ground. Now, on this most difficult week of racial profiling immigration orders in the United States and terrorist killings of Muslim worshipers allegedly by a white male in Canada, I shall take you through the development of this large painting to the point where it is resting.

(In the beginning a few painted lines guide the compositions on large canvas.)

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I mention these two disturbing horrific North America events because I believe no painter can control their brushstrokes against the influences from within their daily lives. I am no exception. I frequently use my painting to process of everyday life with conscious deliberate acknowledgement.

(Getting somewhere on the  large canvas.)

terrill-welch-working-on-large-canvas-by-david-colussi-img_9344

But my end results do not often depict this struggle to make sense out of senseless acts. Instead, the canvases frequently conclude with a clear message of hope, possibility and resilience. I believe this is because our interconnectedness is the greatest gift that the landscape continues to offer me.

(Blocked in with major decisions made about large composition.)

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I did have it in mind to simplify this painting and leave out the young fir tree on the bottom right and the old fir tree on the left. But the storytelling arbutus tree was having none of it. These trees need each other to create harmony and balance in their ecosystem and for that same reason they are needed in this composition. It would be a mistake to think that this ancient storytelling arbutus tree has survived on its own.

Of course, I am not the first painter, nor will I be the last, who studies the trees. A week ago, I purchased an amazing book of new sketches discovered to be by the hand of one of my mentors, Vincent Van Gogh. The sketches have remained hidden for 120 years and have created all sorts of scholarly disputes and discussions about their authenticity since the book was published in November 2016. The author, Bogomila Wesh-Ovcharov, is a Canadian art historian and specialist in Van Gogh. She is also a good writer. The book, with its 65 actual-size sketches, makes for tantalizing study.

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One of the sketches in this book of four people in an olive grove has particularly captured my attention.

for-study-purposes-sketch-by-van-gogh-photograph-by-terrill-welch-january-24-2017-img_9241

I am specifically reminded how in the past our daily work would often take us out into a forest or a grove of trees. Currently for me, this connection is my daily walks or plein air painting to gather reference material for larger landscape canvases. But the relatively recent changes to urban living means my experience is a much more rare. In 1800, only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 1900, almost 14 percent were urbanites. In 1950, 30 percent of the world’s population resided in urban centers.  At times, in some locations this is still a routine practice. But for most of the 82 percent of urbanites in North America and 54 percent in the world, it is history, leaving large segments of our populations with no direct experience of their relationship between trees, and the landscape. These are the many individuals I believe who may have lost their ability to see the moon. Their lack of awareness, appreciation and understanding about our interconnectedness to trees, the sky, the sea and the land leaves them blind to the moon. For many our natural elements and our dependency on them for our well-being is an abstract concept, rather than an intake of breath with a thank you to a tree. For these individuals the moon is no longer there. I am guessing that with this loss comes another lost, the loss of knowledge about our interdependency and interconnectedness not only to trees but also to each other. In these conditions greed, fear and hatred can take root in the fertile ground of disconnect.

This is why I paint this grand storytelling arbutus tree on a large canvas in my home studio. I am hoping that, when a viewer sees this finished painting, they will remember and experience their connectedness to all things in our natural world. They will again be able to see the moon, the tree and each other with kindness and appreciation. This is my wish anyway. It may be a naive and foolish wish but I must try. And no I do not think a daily walk in the woods will cure all the ills of human short-comings. I do believe it can do no harm and that it has a chance of allowing us to reconnect with our own goodness and act with care and compassion in the face of hatred and greed.

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The painting is not quite finished but it is close. Another couple of sessions with my brush and paints will see it complete. Here is where the painting is at this week.

Resting “Storytelling Arbutus Tree Bennett Bay Mayne Island BC” 60 x 40 inch oil on canvas.

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The next time we see this storytelling arbutus tree painting it will be released in a post on the website. But for now, we can enjoy our interconnectedness to it and all that is. We have in this an opportunity to build our resilience, to gather our energies in the face of possibly some of the most difficult times in recent history in Canada and the United States.

This what I heard from the trees this week.

 

Have you found a storytelling tree near where you live? If so, what is it telling you?

 

© 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

Springwater Lodge en Plein Air

There is a  seductive pleasure about painting out in the open or en plein air. The weather forecast is rather a mixed bag of cloud and sun. I wonder if we should chance it? What it doesn’t say is that it is heavy breaking cloud which is delicious light.

Active Pass breaking cloud cover by Terrill Welch 2013_04_14 023

Oh, why not. The worst that will happen is we get a little wet. I trundle my French Box easel, camera bag which also has my iPad inside and another bag of painting gear down to the beach in Miners Bay. Let’s see if we can get a wee bit of a shared experience here…

At least there is sun on the far shore of Galiano Island.

Galiano Island in the sun with storm clouds behind by Terrill Welch 2013_04_14 048

But I am still leaning towards painting the Springwater Lodge as my subject.

It is only about 6 degrees Celsius . or 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit. My fingers and the paint are both stiff. As the birds sing and the waves keep me company that brush starts to work its magic.

Beginning of Spring at the Springwater Lodge plein air by Terrill Welch 2013_04_14 076

This is it for images of works-in-progress on site for this painting. Darn if that big old cloud behind me didn’t get stuck on the cliff as it came over. Big fat drops have me running with the painting, my camera and iPad for cover. Good thing the painting was mostly done! Here is a shot of the more-or-less finished painting taken back at the studio.

SPRING AT THE SPRINGWATER LODGE MAYNE ISLAND 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas plein air

Update April 19, 2013: This painting has SOLD to an art collector in Alberta, Canada.

Spring at the Springwater Lodge Mayne Island resting 11 x 14 inch oil on canvas plein air by Terrill Welch 2013_04_14 154

Established in 1892 the Springwater Lodge is situated above Miners Bay in Active Pass, on Mayne Island. The Springwater Lodge is the oldest continuously operated hotel in British Columbia. During the Fraser River and the Caribou gold rush, the lodge was a favourite stopover for miners.

reference: http://www.springwaterlodge.com/history.htm

Keeping your responses family-friendly, what is your favourite Sunday seductive creative pleasure?

© 2013 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

ALONE BY THE SEA original oil painting by Terrill Welch

Don’t even ask what I was supposed to be doing this Friday because whatever it was it isn’t done. Instead, I worked on this new 20 x 20 inch oil on canvas painting that is of East Point on Saturna Island and one of Canada’s newest national parks. I took some artistic license and made the building slightly taller than it is in real live. Other than that the scene would be most recognizable to anyone who had walked out to the end of the point during a low tide and then looked back towards land.

This painting is in answer to a request by an admirer of my paintings. She asked if I could paint something with bright colours and maybe more contrast. We exchanged several posts as I remarked on how my subject – the southwest coast of Canada, is often quiet and the contrasts subtle. But I accepted her request as a challenge and asked that she leave it with me. I have been wanting to paint this particular scene for a while and I thought it would be a perfect with its deep shadows under the bank and in the crevices of the sandstone. It was a good painting problem and I greatly enjoyed saying one of artist Gabriel Boray pieces of painting advice over and over as I worked – exaggerate,  exaggerate exaggerate! This led to a whole other internal dialogue about my propensity to understate. So when all the tensions, struggles and musings had finished playing themselves out on the canvas this is what I am left with. Oh I might play a little with it yet but mostly I think it is ready to be set aside to rest. Enjoy!

UPDATE June 10, 2012: I played with the painting more than just a little based on the following feedback from colleague and artist Lena Levin

In your painting, the building looks a bit like a child drawing. I think it fits, in a way, — in that it kind of conveys your feeling of it sticking out, as though a man has been childishly modifying the nature, which looks mature and much more solid and eternal.

But just in case this look wasn’t intentional and you want to change it, it is due mainly to distortion of perspective (horizontals of the building don’t converge on the horizon line) and, as far as I can see from the photo, the lack of variation in the red of the roof (also probably the fact that two planes of the building are of the same value, as though it’s flat).

I did want the building to enhance that feeling of temporary tension between human habitation and the landscape. However, I also wanted the building to be somewhat believable. So I went back in this morning and made some minor adjustments which then led to a few other changes leaving us with what I hope is now the final painting. The building now looks much more like the actual building on this historic site. My thanks goes out to the Lena for her critical observation.

I also had a nice surprise this week. One of my small paintings “Morning” sold at the Green House Bar and Grill. I hadn’t even had a chance to show it to you yet.  However, I am going to do a separate post showing just the small paintings and will include it with these.

SPROUT: When was the last time you were glad your Friday went sideways?

© 2012 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com