Painting Spring

Something happened yesterday on the official first day of a late west coast spring. At the end of last week I was still in my contemplative winter mental attire. My grey, northern, rain forest interior is filled with homemade soup warmth, maybe a touch red-wine melancholy, smoothed over with by woolen thoughtfulness and a sparkle from a waterproof jacket garnish. It is a savory mix best served hot. During this time I often explore the underbelly of my daily life both in painting and in words. But the garment of winter fell free as easily as the first night of hearing the frogs in the pond in the valley below. Consequently, I had something intricate and dense simmering about the language of painting for this post. But it is not to be, at least not for this week. The joyous zealous brushstrokes of spring are here. Who can ponder at a time like this!?

So I dug through the archives and have chosen seven springtime paintings or painting sketches representing a variety of locations I have been over the past four years. There is a spring work to enjoy for each day of week. Happy spring!

Spring in Tuscany 20 x 30 cm acrylic sketch on canvas board and a rare painting where I have overtly included the painter in this Florence, Italy countryside.

Prints available HERE.

Villeneuve lez Avignon France 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas with its layers of memories and visible history.

Original painting available HERE.

Fremont Hills California Early Spring 18 x 24 inch walnut oil on canvas. Painted from a plein air day of reference material with a colleague and friend, Lena Levin.  We were just talking last week about how our paintings were so different even though we were standing almost right beside each other.

Original painting available HERE.

Cherry Blossoms Mayne Island Japanese Garden 20 x 24 inch oil on canvas. The gardens are a divine place to be in spring and a local year-around treasure.

Original painting available HERE.

Sea and Sun Cox Bay Tofino BC 24 x 48 inch oil on canvas. Know as our real west coast, spring is the time that the sun breaks through the winter rains and spirits are lifted as high as the rollers coming in from the open sea.

Original painting available HERE.

Rolling Spring Storms Rocky Point PEI 20 x 40 inch walnut oil on canvas. Bit of weather out there today, someone will likely comment. Collars of light jackets will be turned up and tightened at the neck but the smiles, they tell us one thing – spring!

Original painting available HERE.

Blooming Point PEI 8 x 10 inch acrylic plein air sketch on gessobord. Spring comes a little later to Prince Edward Island. So on this particular year we had two springs! The first on the west coast Canada and then a most lovely second on the east coast.

Prints available HERE.

Now that we have been to Florence Italy and Avignon France in Europe, Fremont California in the United States, Mayne Island and Tofino on the southwest coast of Canada and finally to Prince Edward Island on the East coast of Canada, what about you?

Is it spring yet where you are?

And yes, I am publishing a day early this week. Why not, it is spring after all.

© 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

What a Difference a Day Makes arriving in Charlottetown Prince Edward Island

It is 2:30 am when the taxi dropped us off into the quiet dark of Water Street. We have arrived in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island from Victoria, British Columbia after making two connections – one in Vancouver and one in Toronto. The key was right where it was suppose to be along with a note from our hosts. We slipped into our small well-appointed circa 1857 house apartment. I send a quick note to our emergency contact that we were safely at our destination and it is lights out. This lasted until 5:30 am when I awoke to the beginnings of an east coast day. I toss and turn for an hour and then give up. There is nothing to do but get out there and join the rising sun! I head around the corner and down a small hill and I am at Confederation Landing.

Lower Water Street Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3040

The upside down world of the harbour seems most fitting.

upside down world in the harbour Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3044

There is a stunning art installation that will keep me coming back many times.

Art instilation at Conferdartion Landing by Terrill Welch IMG_3029

There is frost on the boardwalk.

Frost on boardwalk Confederation Landing by Terrill Welch IMG_3023

Pussy willows just budding out.

pussy willows in morning sun PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3034

Crocuses coming up under the shrubs.

Crocuses morning sun by Terrill Welch IMG_3026

All these wonderful signs of early spring! Little did I take to heart just how early a sign of spring it really was.

After a solo breakfast at a place down the street recommended by the city worker near the landing, I make my way over to the long boardwalk of Victoria Park. David is much more sensible and is peacefully getting a goodnight or rather day’s sleep.

boardwalk Victoria Park Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3047

Around the corner an old farm sits disappearing even with its well-worked fields.

all but gone PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3070

I see my first small lighthouse and smile. It has been a good morning.

Lighthouse near Brighton Rd Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3071

I go back to the apartment, fall into bed and sleep for another couple of hours. Our host and his daughter knock to welcome us and we have a great visit about this and that and everything. My paint supplies hadn’t yet arrived at his office. Our luggage will be coming later today as it wasn’t able to keep up with us yesterday – just ordinary friendly chit-chat in that warm PEI kind of way.

Once they leave, I started poking at David to get up so we can more easily get into eastern time.

We go for lunch at Terre Rouge and I have the best seafood chowder -ever! David decides on baked mac and cheese. I eat his salad. We each have a glass of wine. Even though this is breakfast for David, it is three o’clock in the afternoon. Have I ever said that we travel well and even better together?

Note: If you are planning a summer visit and think you might like to try Terre Rouge, a reservation was made while we were there for July 19th for two. I asked the server if this was common and she said anyone who had been to Charlottetown during the high-tourist summer months knew to make reservations ahead of time. So there you go, decide where you would like to eat in July and make the booking for the occasion at the end of April. No problem.

After a wander around the old town area we decide to go back to the boardwalk in Victoria Park. The beautiful large old dames along the shore are in perfect afternoon light.

white dames along the shore Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3084

We decide to sit in the late day sun on a freshly varnished bench in this highly polished city. A woman walks by and says “Nice to not be sitting in snowbanks isn’t it?”

I agreed and let her know that we didn’t see snowbanks last winter as we were from the southwest coast of Canada. This lead to a lengthy exchange which let us know, among other things, that the first cruise-ship arrives on May 2nd. This explains why there was a whole hive of city workers scrubbing and cleaning away the leftover remnants of winter.

After the woman walked on, David turns to me and comments “you have 32 new friends and you haven’t even been in Charlottetown 24 hours!”

He may be over-estimating, slightly, the number of people we have spoken with since arriving but not by much. Everyone we meet seems to take their role as a city ambassador seriously. They are proud of their island and their city. When we ask, many people tell us they have lived here their whole lives.

As a way of explanation, people give a soft shrug and say something like “it is a good place with good people, no need to really go any place else.”

There is only one other place we have visited in recent years that can match PEI for warmth and friendliness. This a small community on the outskirts of Florence in Italy. This kind of generosity of spirit and kindness is not something one should ever take lightly. We crawl into bed that night already feeling settled and at home. Tomorrow will be another day and what a day it is….

The bright sun and light-sweater-wearing of the day before are lost behind drifting snowflakes and just below freezing temperatures.

snow covered boardwalk Charlottetown late April PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3107

There is a white blanket on the boardwalk and the harbour is slow to wake.

Harbour morning late April Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3099

The air is crisp and refreshing and the crocuses look to me as crocuses should, their beauty always most accentuated when wrapped in snow.

crocuses dusted with late snowfall Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3102

I see a break in the cloud cover to the north.

light dusting of snow April 28th Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3114

I am thinking the snow flurries won’t last as I admire the conte-red of the sandstone lining the Charlottetown harbour.

conte red sandstone lines harbour Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3109

But I am wrong. It is snowing again as I head back down our street and it continues off and on for the rest of the day.

Water Street early morning April 28th by Terrill Welch IMG_3122

Like any seasoned traveling artist, I know a window of opportunity when I see one. We gather ourselves up to go and get groceries for the next couple of days. I always love organizing a kitchen with the things we appreciate.

shopping day Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3125

There are little black-cap birds using the bird house outside the window and neither they nor us really mind the snow at all. I make chicken stew with PEI potatoes for supper, along with a side of salad greens smothered in delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar from “Liquid Gold – tasting bar and all things olive” and artisan buns from Breadworks, difficult to find but so worth it! I served a Prince Edward Island medium dry Gamay Noir from Matos Winery & Distillery for a perfect pairing – a beautifully light-bodied red that should satisfy right into warmer weather.

By just before sunset the skies clear and I meander off to Victoria Park for a stroll. The grand ladies along the shore are looking extra fine this evening.

Last Light April 28 3016 Charlottetown PEI by Terrill Welch IMG_3163

Tomorrow will be Friday and I promise myself that I will sleep late and I do.

I rise at 8:45 am to make coffee, a cheese sandwich, apple slices and carrots. My paints arrived yesterday afternoon and it is going to be a painting day! I check the temperature and it is plus six with sunshine. I head back to the harbour close to home. Then I run back and get my heavy wool sweater. The wind is picking up to a brisk clip. I decide it is still doable but need to use my big camera as a weight hung from the bottom of the easel to keep it from blowing over. I persevere. There are only a few other people out this morning in a city that seems to walk almost as much as drive. It is cold. My hands become stiff. I must focus hard to work the brushes and keep my teeth from chattering. Then I drift into that space that painters do and the quick sketch seemed to complete itself.

Plein Air painting Confederation Landing Charlottetown by Terrill Welch iphone

I am happy with it. The light here has a sharp edge that bites with harsh contempt for the camera long before midday. This is only our third day in Charlottetown. There are new colour harmonies to rendered and I am pleased to be back at work after taking time out for the actual travel and to get orientated in our new surroundings. I am looking forward to the weeks ahead as our second spring of this year unfolds before us. Welcome to Prince Edward Island, Canada dear readers!

 

What are you looking forward to this spring?

 

© 2016 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

California One north from Half Moon Bay

Someplace as we left Fremont California for Half Moon Bay driving on one freeway and  merging on the right into another, the GPS said – exit left in 1.5 km. I looked at the eight lanes of traffic to my left, took a deep breath and calmly, with a firm grip on the steering, instructed our Red Rosie Outback to start moving. To her credit she stepped up on her toe-points and gracefully made her way across the mid-morning traffic as if she had been doing it all her life. Must have been all the deer she was used to watching for on the sides of our Mayne Island roads in British Columbia. We had decided to take the California One north until it connected to Highway 101. We had been warned that it was slow, windy, car-sick inducing and had great views. It was the latter that made it irresistible.

California coast from Muir Beach overlook south with San Francisco in the distance.

California coast from Muir Beach overlook south by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 022

Though there were impressive moments before this, we didn’t stop along the shoreline until reaching the Muir Beach Overlook.

looking down Muir Beach Overlook California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 027

The California One is gorgeous but one must keep driving or it would take weeks to complete this section instead of two days.

The first night on California One we stayed at the Valley Ford Hotel in the middle of cow country.

We didn't ride in on a horse but Valley Ford Hotel likely would have accepted us if we did by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 042

The hotel is more like a quaint bed and breakfast these days without the breakfast. But it’s 1864 establishment and history is most evident. We had purchased local cheese and some bread and bananas for breakfast. Coffee was available with filtered water even.  So all was just as it should be.

Besides the old barn directly behind the grocery store…

barn in Valley Ford California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 036

and the country commuter car…

ranching country by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 034

there was something else that told us before any other factor that we were in serious cow country. Can you guess what it is? Nope, not the dead skunk in the middle of the road that I narrowly missed. Nope, not the cattle guards either. Yes, you got it – the unmistakable aroma of cow manure. But even so, it sure was a beautiful stretch of road.

California one evening light Valley Ford California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 087

The next morning we continued on galloping up, down and around the ribbon of highway on the ruffled neckline of the Pacific coast. At times, the narrow road has all the excitement of a slow roller coaster.

California One and the sea by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 123

When we would round a corner and see nothing but the narrow curve of the highway and the blue of the sea and sky I really did need to mutter to myself – stay the course Terrill, people drive this road everyday without mishap.

slowly winding along the California one by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 127

We did stop occasionally just to enjoy the view. One of these was at Duncan’s Cove.

Duncan's Cove California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 109

The other was to eat our packed lunch at Point Arena Lighthouse.

Point Arena Lighthouse California coast by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 138

But mostly, we drove and pulled over frequently to let locals go zipping by on their way to destination that was far more urgent than ours.

We have a two night stop at Howard Creek Ranch Inn, mile 80.49 on California one.

Complete with rubber boots to cross the creek it is a little peace of sixties heaven coming from the rubble of much older roots. We are in a large room on the main floor of the carriage house – the Walden. As I sit at the desk looking out onto the courtyard this morning, I can hear the morning birds, a chatty rooster and the surf which is telling me the tide is in. Breakfast is in an hour at 9:00 am and we will walk one-at-a-time across the bridge that swings over the creek to the farm-house where I have already spotted wood smoke churning up from the chimney of the cook stove and the living room fireplace. When we checked in it was at the farmhouse and then we drove back to the quiet highway and came a cross the bridge then back down a long winding driveway, complete with a deer bounding across the field, coming to a parking place next to the large carriage house. Howard Creek is definitely a defining feature of the property and daily life.  The woodwork is an aesthetic gem in the big building and was done by the owner in what appears to have taken years and is an ongoing process. Terracotta tile floors with bits of blue and Spanish design around the bed finish our room off with comfortable warmth. The bathroom has a large open European style shower and there are patchwork curtains at the end of the bed for privacy and shelter from the morning light. I can hear little bells and looking up there is a herd of goats and sheep coming down the road towards the farm-house. Good morning world!

I have already taken my camera for an impressive walk late in the  afternoon yesterday

hazy California coast mile 80.49 by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 239

and again at sunset.

California coastal sunset by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 439

Today after breakfast, I hope to do some painting sketches as it looks like another fine day here on the coast.  And with my coffee cup empty, so another day begins on our coastal trip. With my painting gear on my shoulder, rubber boots on my feet I head out and cross the creek near the shore.

Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 570

The blue-green of the sea is mesmerizing. I just stand there for the longest time.

blue green of the California Pacific by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 681

Eventually the surf connecting with the shore forces my camera up.

surf connecting at Howard Creek by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 736

I begin an hour-long reference shoot of these favourite rocks

favourite rocks at Howard Creek beach by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 790

along with the rest of the shoreline.

surf at 80.49 California by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 744

Words cannot explain my full-body of emotions and the rhythmic vibration of the surf in my being. Eventually, I gather enough inner calm to decide where to do a painting sketch. I am unsure of the tides direction so the decision seemed obvious enough. I went up to the lookout.

setting up to plein air paint on beach at Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 887

Removing rubber boots and socks I set up to work. People come and go behind me with little attention necessary on my part. About 45 minutes later, I call it done.

calling it done morning plein air painting sketch at mile 80.49 California one by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 935

The light has of course already changed and the sea is now slightly washed out in the mid-day light but I am happy with the results of the sketch.

plein air painting on beach at Howard Creek Ranch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 907

About this point a young boy of around ten years old comments behind me – great job! I turn to look into this earnest face filled with appreciation. He goes on to explain that his art teacher had asked them to paint like Monet and that it was really hard but I had done it perfectly. The fact that he absolutely meant every word that he said and that he somehow had an intuitive understanding based on his own experience as to what was involved in creating this small painting sketch, immediately established a kinship. We chatted for a while about patches of colour and moving light. His sister and father watched and listened with more curiosity than real interest. I wonder if this young lad will someday become a full-time painter? One never knows who tomorrow’s artists are among us do we?

“morning on beach at Mile 80.49 California one” 9 x 12 inch acrylic plein air painting sketch

morning on beach at Mile 80.49 California one 9 x 12 inch acrylic plein air painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2015_03_04 924

So, if you are afraid of heights, or if you truly do get car-sick or frustrated with slow travel then this is not the highway for you. Other than that, I would say do it! I do believe that this section of the California One has become one of my favourite road.

We are home again now and there are large canvases in the waiting in the loft studio to explore more of my experiences. But for the moment, this is enough, more than enough.

 

What is one of your own favourite stretches of highway?

 

 

© 2015 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

Why Paint a Landscape of Avignon France?

 

Fingers pressed to lips and on tiptoes I invite you to quietly join me in the loft studio this morning. You see, I don’t believe that my page full of “to do” items including paintings to be shipped to their new homes and time management will exactly approve of this diversion. But if we keep it quiet, maybe no one will notice us. So come on up. It is a little early so we will need to turn on the studio lamp.

With all the gorgeous west coast landscapes to paint you might wonder why I would travel half way around the world to paint a landscapes in France. The truth is I wanted the tension of a shorter, but still substantial, span of time. We might say that North America offers this with its more recent European occupation. However, what I experience on the southwest coast of Canada is thousands of years evident in the landscape and then the present interruption of humankind. Most buildings and such on the west coast still standing are less than two hundred years old. Yes, aboriginal people have been here for a few thousand years but they have left few footprints on the landscape. Europe and France in particular are different. We can still see evidence for easily over 600 years in one gaze looking across the Rhone River in Avignon France. This is somehow important to me as I intuit the tension in a landscape. We live in environmentally parlous times of exponentially climate change. In 2012 about half the world’s population lived in urban areas and this percentage is expected to continue to increase – quickly. the result is that our agrarian sensibilities and relationships to our natural surrounding on the whole are weak. For those populations that survive the next few hundred years, I believe this must become a strength. Yet, as we abstract our way through internal and external elements of our human creations, the natural landscape appears to hold little interest other than a thing of beauty and a place of recreation. This objectification of our natural surroundings places us and it at great risk through our false sense of possession or proprietary combined with ever-decreasing regard and understanding of the lines of tension and intersection of our relationship. These are my musings anyway and is the backdrop for my most resent painting MORNING BY PONT D’ AVIGNON (24 x 36 inch oil on canvas)   and its cousin below of the same size which is still in its underpainting state with bits of masking tap marking lines of intersection and tension.

 

compositional tension in Villeneuve lez Avignon France 24 x 36 inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2014_07_07 005

Judging from the plein air acrylic painting sketch I did, once the painting is completed these tensions will be mostly felt rather than seen (though now that I have so explicitly shown them to you, I am sure you will notice them more readily.) I anticipate that our eyes will keep roaming the scene searching for something until it unravels these tensions to the mind’s satisfaction. My desire is that we will know that it is more than a beautiful view, someplace to gaze,  to sit, to stroll or to sail. I want us to  intuitively sense the strength and fragility of this landscape – after all there are hundreds of years of human intersection with the environment visible in this painting and my intention is to inviting us to take the time for such an exploration.  Our west coast of Canada has a much harder time offering this same invitation. It is much more immediate, wild and possibly even too forgiving of our ignorance – until possibly it is too late. So I have called on a morning in Avignon France with her abandon bridge across the Rhone to give us a hand.

I know! Here you thought I was on vacation and this was all about just painting another pretty picture.  It could be I suppose. But I intend to instill such strength and tension in my brushstrokes that you will stay long enough to get past the beauty and to the substance behind this work. The act of painting is a spiritual exercise, a meditation, a recital of a poem and possibly even a practice of prayer. The subject in this case, in most cases, has to do with our fragile, temporary and continued existence.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must do a wee bit of painting before that  “to do” list comes charging up the stairs and demands to know where I have been.

 

What invitations are you accepting to strengthen your relationship to our natural environment?

 

© 2014 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

Painting from the White Room in Aix en Provence

Sometimes two means three and this is often the case with counting the floors is to a walk-up apartment in France. The ground floor with its entrance and coffee bar is frequently not considered the first floor. So up and then up again we go to our one room plus bathroom apartment in Aix en Provence that is a soft egg-white with two large opening shutter-clad windows to the streets – busy streets even though it is single-lane and heavy with foot traffic. Oh, did I mention motorcycles – lots and lots of motorcycles. But we grew to love this simple, clean and sparsely decorated space particularly after visiting the art museums and walking through the outdoor market. The lack of stimulus in this room gave our overloaded sensory systems a chance to rest.

On our first evening, exhausted from travel, we went to bed early and fell asleep even with the street noises thumping, banging, drumming, hollering and honking in the background. At 5:45 am I awoke to the smell of fresh croissants coming out of the oven in the café below us while safety-clad men with leaf-blowers bellowed ahead of two street cleaning machines with a group of twenty-something year olds staggered past munching large hamburgers and yelling in drunken good-natured French to each other. To add to the commotion there are these funny blackbird-like birds that sound like our flickers slapping out their good-morning song against this background of foreign confusion assaulting my sleepy senses. This is Aix en Provence, the cleanest streets anywhere and a cacophony of sounds and colours.

From the vantage point of this room I often stood and observed the interactions and comings and goings of locals and tourists as they passed on the street below. It was a delicious bird-like view where few looked up and noticed my prying inquires.

window to Le Forbin by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 012

One afternoon while David was taking a long nap I set up my makeshift easel by the open window,

window of possibility by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 029

pulled out some paint

daubs of paint by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 046

and gave it my best effort to capture the full richness of this city.

plein air window in Aix en Provence by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 062

I am happy with the results. The movement and vitality feels like Aix to me with its young university students mixed liberally with business people, city maintains workers and tourists.

FROM THE WHITE ROOM IN AIX EN PROVENCE

25 X 35 cm acrylic painting sketch on archival 185lb paper

From the White Room Aix en Provence 25 x 35 cm acrylic painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 069

(Art Prints are available in my Redbubble Storefront HERE)

 If you were to sleep above a busy street on what city street corner would you like it to be?

© 2014 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

 

Aix en Provence with Cezanne and photographer Mme Miceli Brigitte on the Painters Ground

I rose only sort-of-early in a French city that overlaps its evening and day crowds. It is Aix en Provence at 7:45 am and I am headed up to the Painters’ Ground with my small painting box, tripod and camera.  The morning is pleasant and, though the walk takes about an hour, I enjoy the climb out of the old city center and into the more tranquil edges of the city. As I walk, I stop to rest on a bench just before the street reaches Paul Cezanne’s historic studio. But it is much too early to visit. Maybe we will stop in on our way back.

While I am climbing I am thinking about what it must have been like for Cezanne as a painter. What might he have been thinking about as he climbed this hill in the 1880’s? This was a time when he had separated himself from the ideas of impressionism. It was a time when Cezanne was working mostly on his own, developing a unique painting language that would later become a key plank and supporting strut in a bridge that eventually lead towards abstract painting. We often think of Matisse and Picasso in this regard but there are others that came later like Diebenkorn, an American expressionist and figurative painter, who also sites the influence of Cezanne. We could spend the whole of our climb discussing the relationships and the strengths and weaknesses of focusing on light, colour, form, realism and abstraction in the painting process. But we won’t. Let’s just say that Cezanne added some powerful and unique painting language to these conversations.

The street becomes quieter as I continue to climb and turn around meandering bends that lead me higher up the hill. I spot Cezanne’s mountain at an opening and stop to give it my full attention. Though a prominent outcrop on the horizon, in some ways it doesn’t really look like much. What was it that had him paint this landscape of the Sainte-Victoire mountain more than 87 times?

I keep walking until I see a sign on my right pointing across the road to the left indicating a trail to the Painters’ Ground. The path is rough-laid stones and though uneven, it is not difficult. I suspect that these are a newish addition – maybe to keep the ground from wearing away as admirers and painters such as myself trek up and down repeatedly. According to the little pocket-size walking tour brochure I picked up at the tourist office, “Cezanne’s most famous pictures were painted from this marvellous vantage point on Chemin de la Marguerite on the Lauves hill.”

Slightly flushed with the climb and excitement, I stop almost at the top and turn. This is it. This is the spot. There are places on this earth where the ground hums with a heartbeat of stillness, an energy that settles and becomes observable on the inhale and exhale of a breath. This spot is one of those places. This is what I believe brought Cezanne here to paint again and again. It was a place where he could work uninterrupted on his painting problems and the mountain became a convenient tool to this end. Oh, who knows if this is true or not. We both know I just made it up on the spot but I believe it could be true so I take a few reference images.

May morning on the Painter Ground by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 092

Then I go about the task of attaching my small painting box to the top of my camera tripod and maneuvering the tools around in the less than ideal conditions of facing the direct morning light. Just as I am about to start to apply paint to canvas an elderly couple wave and come down from the very top of the hill to greet me. We quickly establish that it was going to be a dramatic signing and gesturing conversation with bits of French and English Language thrown in for good measure. Believe me, this approach is often extremely effective when human-beings are determined to have a conversation that just MUST be had. The woman searches her pockets for her phone and made a long face. The fellow asked why she wants her phone and she said, for a photo. I thought she just wanted to be able to remember who I was so I reached into the top of my camera case and pulled out a business card. Her face lit up like halogen bulb but it wasn’t at my business card. It was because of my camera. With unrestrained enthusiasm she asks if she can use my camera to take photographs of me. What could I say? Yes, of course. I set the camera on automatic, put the cord over her head and, as best I can, indicate that it is ready to go and where it is she needs to press the shutter. She nodded repeatedly, pulled the camera down where she could see the dials and started turning them.

Well, my face must have given me away because the fellow said – its okay (hand up in the calming position). She is a professional.

Satisfied that she had the camera set the way she wanted it, Mme Miceli Brigitte directed me to start painting. What does a painter with a professional photographer at her disposal, up on the Painters Ground, in Aix en Provence, facing Cezanne’s mountain do with such an instruction? There is only one thing that can be done. I pick up the brush and go to work.

In the Zone on Painters Ground by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 102

While I painted, the photographer moved around making satisfying and comforting comments in French that told me that she was having as good a time as I was. Among a few others, there was this moment…

Terrill Welch plein air on Painters Ground by Mme Miceli Brigitte  2014_05_18 103

and then this one…

taking on Cezanne's Mountain by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 107

and finally this one, which is likely one of my favourite photographs of me.

Plein Air pinting in Aix en Provence by Mme Miceli Brigitte 2014_05_18 109

It is a favourite because at this point I had relaxed and was able to focus on my painting. I was aware of the photographer but she had lulled me into a place of comfort with her soft voice and slow deliberate movements. She had become part of my work rather than an entity capturing it. She was deeply inside my painting space which is something only I usually get to experience. The man was standing back a little, quiet and waiting in an unhurried kind of way. I had stopped noticing him all together. It was a beautiful moment at 9:08 am on May 18, 2014 between three individuals up on a hill with the most important language of all in common between them – the language of appreciation and respect.

The photographer hands me back my camera and both of them encourage me to keep a close eye on it and tuck it under the easel so that it doesn’t get stolen. I make a promise to comply. I have the good sense to ask the photographer to write down her name and address so I can send her a copy of the photographs. We say our good-byes and they continue on with their morning walk and I finish up the painting in the few minutes that I have left before I need to pack up and start back down the hill and into town.

plein air of Cezanne's Mountain 25 x 35 cm acrylic painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 123

We can take a quick snoop into Cezanne’s Studio garden. Do you want to?

The Garden at Cezanne's Studio by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 160

Yes, I did go into Cezanne’s studio where no photographs are allowed. There is the dutiful splash of open turpentine for authenticity.  However, on this day anyway,  I do believe the painter was still up on the Painters’ Ground where we met the photographer this morning. But not to disappoint, one of most intriguing features of Cezanne’s studio is the opening he had built into the wall to bring large paintings in and out of the studio. I climbed all the way back up in the early evening to get an outside view of this for you…

Evening outside Cezanne's Studio by Terrill Welch 2014_05_20 012

and another photograph of Sainte-Victoire mountain.

Sainte Victoire Aix en Provence by Terrill Welch 2014_05_20 024

Generally, I like to work in the morning but this spot would be most interesting in the afternoon and early evening. Yes, I am sure I saw a quick glimpse of Cezanne heading down the path by some tall bushes with his painting gear resting heavily on the shoulder of his weary frame that had  put in a long day’s work figuring and painting slowly and methodically.

CEZANNE’S MOUNTAIN – 25 x 35 cm, 20 minute acrylic plein air painting sketch

Cezanne's Mountain 25 x 35 cm 20 minute acrylic plein air painting sketch by Terrill Welch 2014_05_18 139

(Art Prints are available in my Redbubble storefront HERE)

 

When was the last time you were totally blow away by the positive serendipity of a series events?

 

© 2014 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

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Olive Tree en plein air

On occasion a painter is mesmerized by a subject. In this case, I have fell under the spell of a particular olive tree in the Tuscan hillsides of Florence Italy. I have added it to two previous paintings – once because it was actually there and the second time because I wanted it to be there. This morning I made a third attempt. It is our last day in Florence and the only chance I will have to set up directly in view of this prized olive tree.

olive tree in progress 2 25 x 35 cm acrylic on 185 lb coldpress archival paperby Terrill Welch 2014_05_06 038

I rough in an underpainting and settle in to work. Oh how my brush lacks the life of the moving light! I struggle with the acrylic painting, my limited ability to interpret what I experience so fully in front of this tree and the landscape that holds. The haze is heavier than I am used to on the west coast. The colours are richer and fuller in this May midday sun. I want to give up. I want to sit on the ground and toss the brushes in the air in defeat. But I don’t. I take a deep breath and I keep working. This painting will hardly be able to be called a sketch. It is already long past my self imposed 60 minute limit for a painting sketch. I care not for this limitation today. I am determined.

Finally the brushes still. I have no idea what is on the canvas really. I lost conscious track way back when the last long narrow tree was brushed into the distance. So let’s have a look together…

 

plein air painting of olive tree  25 x 35 cm acrylic on 185 lb coldpress archival paperby Terrill Welch 2014_05_06 045

Well, it isn’t what I had imagined. Nor does it fully capture my intention. But it will have to do because no further brushstroke is asking to be added. This is it. Finished.

OLIVE TREE 25 x 35 cm on 185 lb coldpress archival paper

olive tree in25 x 35 cm acrylic plein air on 185 lb coldpress archival paperby Terrill Welch 2014_05_06 052

(Art prints available in my Redbubble storefront HERE)

 

I have no question for us today… what one would you like to ask?

 

Now I really must go and pack or we shall be in a flurry tomorrow morning.

 

© 2014 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

Is it Venezia or Venice to you?

We traveled by train from Basel Switzerland through Austria and down the northeast part of Italy to Venezia or Venice. Being an English speaking Canadian I think of Venice rather than Venezia but the later sounds so pretty it seems a shame not to use it. I do have a blog post in the wings for Basel Switzerland. However, we are taking a short introductory walk around the Cannaregio area of Venice late this morning so I thought I would take you with us.

We are staying on quiet calla Gallion not far from the first bridge near the train station. In retracing our steps back towards the station, there is a chance for us to take in that postcard view of Canal Grande from Porte degli Scalzi.

Canal Grande from Porte degli Scalzi Venezia Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_14 026

Stepping down off the bridge we will turn away from the train station and take the Rio Tera Lista Di Spagna and have a look along the Canal Cannaregio.

Canal Cannaregio Venezia Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_14 028

Yes, this part is still fairly busy but it quickly becomes quiet as we wander into the Cannaregio area. I lose interest in canals for more mundane observations. I love laundry hanging on lines. Laundry in canals.

Cannaregio Venezia Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_14 046

Laundry with a view.

Secchiere Venezia Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_14 061

Laundry with a colour theme.

Shades of red Venice Italy by Terrill Welch 2014_04_14 088

Well, that is about it. The sun is too high for good viewing and it is time to return to our rooftop apartment for a wee snack and a nap.

 

Oh! Is it Venezia or Venice to you?

 

© 2014 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 Brush with Europe – an artist’s rendering coming soon

Merci, grazie, gracias, Thank you! A Brush with Europe blogging category begins for this artist who has planned a three month trip by not planning much at all. Right now the best indicator of what is going on inside my head looks something like this…

A Brush with Europe by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 108

There is a poem in Leonard Cohen Book of Longing p. 46 that adequatly captures my misgivings and doubts.

The Moon

The moon is outside

I saw the great uncomplicated thing

when I went to take a like just now.

I should have looked at it longer.

I am a poor lover of the moon.

I see it all at once and that’s it

for me and the moon.

My fear is that I don’t want to be a poor lover of Paris, Venice, Florence and Barcelona. But right now three months in Europe seems too short to accomplish anything more. I am reading, watching videos, talking to people and learning as much as I can in advance. However, this just seems to increase my doubts rather than relieve them. What to do?

Well, anytime I feel like I am in over my head, which I am confident is a reasonable description of my current situation, I slow down and eat some greens.

Winter Salad by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 054

Winter in a northern climate is not the easiest time to create a summer like salad but it can be done. Then with the addition of a good handful of pecans and a couple of warm hard-boiled eggs I a ready to go to work.

Salad with pecans and eggs by Terrill Welch 2014_02_03 081

First things first – revise the travel planning list. Ah yes – return tickets from Vancouver to London and medical insurance, suitcase, RFID blocker money belt, and plugin adapters are purchased. Next, sign up for AirBnB and arrange for a caretaker house sitter. See? Not so hard. Non capisco? Mi dispiace…

What is your first response when you are in over your head?

Note: I will be starting a new blogging category for this trip called “A Brush with Europe.” I thought about setting up a separate blog but that just seemed more trouble than it was worth. Since I will be doing painting sketches, photography and writing as we travel by train from London to Venice then on to Florence, the Cote D’ Azur and Barcelona (beginning in April until near the end of June) this in-progress blog should work just fine. Besides you all know how to find me here and this way I won’t be lonely 🙂

 

© 2014 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