To Return To My Trees

There is a Welsh phrase (not a “Welch” phrase) “dod yn ôl at fy nghoed”, meaning “to return to a balanced state of mind” or the literal translation is “to return to my trees“. This, as you know, is something that I do often. But sometimes, I even surprise myself with how powerful the pull of trees can be. Take this latest tree. I walked out onto this huge expanse of hard sand and then headed directly across to where there was this amazing old fir tree whose growth seems to have split the sandstone, its top is blown off, and its roots getting salted with every winter storm. I could not easily capture its grandness in one image so I pieced a few together and relied mostly on a short video for painting references. After all the little plein air paintings, this is my first studio painting from Hornby Island. Well, let’s see what we have shall we? 

I could have used a 60 x 40 inch canvas for this painting but I resisted and decided instead to see if a smaller 36 x 24 inch could communicate the power of this tree.

We have a start as I gather up the branches lost against the westerly afternoon light of sun and sky.

These will, at first, contrast hard against the expanses of the dark trunk… until I get the reflected light from the sea and sky to the east involved.

I can now sense where the tree is in space as we look way up from the beach floor under our feet. From here, the blocking in process continues until the canvas is covered in wet oil paint.

Now, the real work begins! I build up the paint from both the lightest lights to the darkest dark and everything in between. I desperately what to keep the strength, power and movement of time and space that is already on the canvas. This is essential. I seek the most minimalist of details that all lead towards this one intention and will guide every mark I make from here forward. (Don’t hold your breath though as it will take another few hours and we don’t need any readers passing out in anticipation 😉

I take a long break, plan what we will have for supper, feeling pleasantly pleased with myself that I remembered that we would need to eat. This phenomenon doesn’t always happen when I am in the middle of a larger painting. Sometimes, when I am holding several brushes and standing before a canvas I forget such domestic requirements… until the natural light fades in my painting space. I continue painting…

Now it is late. I have lost my light and I’m too tired to walk up the stairs to the loft studio and get the studio lamp. Besides, I see some rather tricky changes I want to make that will require scraping a bit of paint and starting over. I must stop. This is it for today.

In the morning, with my body stiff and slightly sore from the hours before the canvas the day before, I begin again. As usual, sleep seems to find solutions that a tired painter would struggle with if attempted without it. The last stretch goes easily and each mark of paint finds its proper place.

The painting has come to “resting”. It still needs a final photograph and the edges painted but the majority of work is done!

I am calling this 36 x 24 inch, walnut oil on canvas, painting “Standing Below the Old Fir at Tribune Bay” but it could just as easily be called “Lost Against the Light”.

Let’s step back so you can get a wee bit of distance from it…

The work is still drying and had its edges painted so it will be a bit before I release it. I am thinking, maybe for the show that opens in July at the gallery, unless someone lays claim to it before then.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this behind the scenes development of a new work. In addition, if you are interested, at about the 18 second mark in this next video from Hornby Island, there is a segment that shows this tree in its environment.

Well, that is about it I think.

What are you losing against the light?

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All In One Reef Bay Mayne Island oil painting in progress

The winds had howled for days. It was the second storm in just a few weeks and though not as bad as the first we were still without out power for 36 hours. As the storm edged its way back from our shores I headed for the shores and gathered several images for later painting references. The breaking light was stunning and the waves were still smashing up against the rocks with gusto.

Now it is time to pull out a large 36 x 48 inch canvas for the first in what will likely be a handful of seascapes…

I often use no ground with these large wave painting because I want to take full advantage of the white of the canvas.

There is only one place to begin and it is to start adding paint.

Brushstroke after brushstroke the Canadian west coast seascape starts to develop.

Eventually the work is blocked-in and it is time to wash the brushes for today.

This morning saw me back in the gallery winter studio, brush in hand, palette knife at the ready to continue the work to a point of “resting”.

ALL IN ONE, REEF BAY, MAYNE ISLAND “resting”  36 x 48 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch

I will leave it for a few days now as I begin working on yet another canvas. Maybe a smaller one this time. Once I am satisfied that it is done and the canvas has dried to the touch, a final photograph will be take and the work will be release.

For now though, this is a wrap! All the best of a fine Sunday to you!

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Sailing Through The Trees – a start

The curved deck and angular presence hints mysteriously as it sails through the trees. I have walked all angles, from the expanse of lawn, to ground zero, where the building towers steep above me. After musing over several possibilities, I settle on this view.  There are curves of arbutus held tightly among the straight firs, all cradled by a high shore path. And of course, there is the sea. This is the view that intrigues and keeps me coming back for a second, third and even fifth time.

House In the trees beside the sea by Terrill Welch

Except there is one problem. I want the late afternoon light kissing the face of my subject and this is a painting problem that will require some resolve or speculation. Likely it will take both.  In January, the later afternoon light doesn’t reach this far. The sun slips behind a slight hill before it can make it around to this northwesterly cove. I am stuck. I am left waiting for the earth to turn itself into a longer day. What to do?

Well, I could just wait… but the canvas size has been decided… and I shall head to the city to pick the 30 x 40 inch surface tomorrow afternoon and I do so want to get started. I have ideas for this work! The brushes are splashing paint around so violently  in my head that a shipwreck might occur if I don’t begin. So then, a painter must start with what she has.

I had planned to dive right in, using only my 30 or so photography references from three different shoots, for this painting. But in light of the slowly-turning-earth towards longer days and a higher sun stretching farther westward, I decide a painting sketch to study composition and imagined light effects is in order after all.

painting alla prima study sketch by Terrill Welch

The work is raw, rough and full of exploration as I imagine where the light is going to be – eventually.  Yet, it is enough to hold my initial ideas – at least until I can get an underpainting on the large canvas anyway. The small study is my “notes to self” and the brushes are now temporarily quiet in their jars.  We have successfully avoided becoming marooned on a sandbar during the violent seas of my imagination. Hopefully, it is clear sailing, with just the right breeze of suggestion, from here to our destination.

House in the Trees Study – 8 x 10 inch acrylic sketch by Terrill Welch

Acrylic-Study-for-Sailing-Through-The-Trees-by-Terrill-Welch

It truly is not much of a reference but I believe it will be enough to contemplate while I work up an underpainting next week. Then I will go back each week and see how the sun is doing as it labors to set  a little farther west each day. I might be asking too much of myself to wait for it. We will see. Maybe by the time the work is blocked in, the sun will be ready? Here is hoping!

What might YOU be waiting and preparing for at the same time?

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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 its 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

Achival record or mindfulness practice: painting the southwest coast of Canada

Am I archiving our southwest coast of Canada in my paintings?

The very idea has my hands go clammy and a coolness run from tailbone up to the very crown of my head. What a strange assumption I at first thought! But then it came up a couple of more times. But the concept is no longer presented as a question.

“You are creating archival records of these beautiful trees and seascapes!”

Northeasterly Morning Strait of Georgia Mayne Island BC 20 x 40 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch

It is a concerning accusation, at least by definition…

“In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value.” (Wikipedia)

I am more than a bit squeamish about the idea that my paintings might be considered historical evidence collected to preserve something that no longer exists. I have held higher hopes than this for the influence of these works! I have had no intention of creating historical records with my brush. Instead, I have wanted to create a desire to preserve and protect the land, the sea and our humanity that knowingly or unknowingly rely on them. I want to strengthen our direct relationship and connection with our natural environment, pure and yet not so simple it seems.

Have I failed if the paintings, even before I am dead, even before this fragile environment is damaged beyond repair, are being considered as important historical archival documents?

As our Canadian federal government agrees to buy an obsolete, yet-to-be-built twinning pipeline from big oil stakeholders for a whopping 4.5 billion of taxpayer dollars while the Provinces and First Nations head for the courts, I am going to go paint!

I am going to drive to my location in my 2012 Subaru Outback with my water-mixable, vegetable oil, paints that use no solvents. Yes, as you can see, I find this sustainability and transition to clean energy complicated. Yet, I trust we will get there or parish trying. (These are the only two options really.)

I am going it go paint, not as an act of creating a historical record but as a meditation, an act of mindfulness in appreciation of what is.

Therefore, I beg of you – experience these paintings as reminders of what we need to protect rather than coveted records of something that will likely disappear, through oil spills, through climate change, through our collective lack of regard! A painting is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the real thing – in comparison to you experiencing the ordinary moments in an ordinary day somewhere on the southwest coast of Canada. This I am sure of!

Summer Lowtide Morning 16 x 20 inch oil on canvas plein air by Terrill Welch Aug 17 2017 IMG_0461

May the Salish sea breeze ruffle your hair as starfish wink in the low tide, speckled with seagulls, seals, leaping orcas and children playing in the pools of warm water while grandparents watch from under the shade of an old arbutus tree.

We can do this hard thing! In this I believe.

What about 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

 

Red Yellow and Blue for You

Autumn flashes her best colours across our small island during these last few weeks. Now that it is the first of November, I feel I must gather this late season gold together for safe keeping during the winter rains which will surely come soon.

There has been a plein air painting day in the Japanese Gardens.

There has been a morning walk by sea before an anticipated storm.

Best of all though, there has been time to just be and watch the leaves drift down from my favourite maple tree….

Ah yes! October, so many pleasant gifts you have given!

What October Gold are you tucking away?

© 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

Figuring Out What Appears Impossible

You know the old saying “She comes from hardy stock”? Apparently, before 1200 “hardy” was attributed to boldness and daring in battle. In this sense I have never had to look far to find examples of boldness and daring, though “the battle” was one of ordinary everyday living rather than war. Let me share a photograph I took this fall when I was up at my parents’ farm in rural British Columbia.

Now, it is not a very exciting photograph and possibly not even very interesting. There is the farm dog  and rows upon rows of covered round bales of hay. But, if you look closely, there is a smallish man who on a good day stands about 5’5″ and weighs about 145 lbs made up of sinewy muscle. He is on no medication and is closer to his 81st birthday than his 80th. These hay bales got here with one tractor, haying equipment and this one man. Though getting the fields planted, cut, baled and stacked for the 30 head of cattle is enough of a job, it is not the most dangerous of strategic tasks in the plan. That label belongs to getting the hay covered with those huge tarps. What he must do is put the tarp on the forks of the tracker and lift it up to the top of the stack. Then he gets off the tractor and scrambles up a ladder to get himself up on the last top narrow shelf. From there, he is able to situate the tarp so he can unroll it over the haystack. The tarp is heavy and awkward. If it slides off, or the wind catches it and blows it off, he has to start over again. But, feeling most pleased with himself, he has developed a way of folding the tarp so that its own weight will unfold it into place as he steadily opens it across the top of haystack. There isn’t much to hang onto so the work must be done with caution and dexterity. I helped him a couple of years ago and then, with the help of my daughter, got him a climbing harness and rope that he could anchor to the tractor for this part of the job. But it didn’t work. This would require two people. One on the tractor moving it along and one unfolding the tarp. So back to plan “A” he goes.

Now he didn’t just one day decide to climb along the top of a haystack at 80 years old. This man was a hand feller of trees for much of his young adulthood – and a good one. This is a job not only requires quick thinking and the physical ability of an athlete but also being able to anticipate and plan ahead. In fact, your life depends on these abilities. Later on, he operated a line skidder and so on. He has never stopped asking flexibility and strength from his body. I see him crawling under equipment and up the sides and then down again and I still get tired just watching. On top of all this, my parents still grow a huge garden and beef. They spend about half the year being able to say that their dinner was “0” distance from farm to table. So, over all with no smoking and very little drinking,  he has done the maximum to keep his health.

Is this life hard? Is it difficult? Is it a worry should he get hurt or fall? Yes, to all three. However, the quality of living is of high value. If you suggested maybe he should be thinking about selling the farm and moving to an apartment in town, he would ask with a shrug “Then what would I do!?”

I feel the same way about painting!

This man is great at figuring out how to do what appears impossible. How about you?

 

What have you recently figured out that at first appeared impossible?

 

© 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