Among The Trees Oil Painting in Progress

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

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

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

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

Until the day comes when it is time!

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

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

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

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

From my journal notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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Sea and Shore – Strong Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2018 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

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

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

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

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