Friday, September 28, 2012

Virtual Paintout in Zealand

(click on image to enlarge)

Højbro Plads, Copenhagen
Watercolour and CP
©2012 Charlene Brown

This month, The Virtual Paintout is in Zealand, part of Denmark that includes the city of Copenhagen.  Zealand is lovely, with lots of picturesque vistas… Here is a link to the view shown here.  Try manoeuvring around a bit in Google Streetview, and I’m sure you’ll agree.  
But is it ever flat!  I hope the Virtual Paintout finds itself in some mountains sometime soon…

Monday, September 24, 2012

Painting plein air in the Bugaboos III

Cobalt Lake
©2012 Charlene Brown

My last full day in the Bugaboos was my best plein air painting day ever! After an hour of sketching and a picnic lunch in a flower-filled meadow beside a snowbank-encrusted pond, we descended to a ridge above spectacular Cobalt Lake.
Sara Genn got us off to an inspiring start with a demo on capturing the spirit of a place in 20-minutes... First she covered the canvas completely with a richly-hued under-painting of Sara-colours; then she carved out the craggy cliffs and cols with a super-energized blizzard of titanium white. (As you can see in the second picture below, when she tossed it to one side and began another, her first demo was inspected by an oddly colour-matched caterpillar)
Then we each painted as fast as we could for 20 (well, actually 30) minutes, and produced this array of captured spirits – shown laid out for a totally uncritical crit.
Only then did we begin, and in most cases almost finish, our serious paintings. What a day! 


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Painting plein air in the Bugaboos II

Tamarack Glen
Watercolour and marker
©2012 Charlene Brown

In my eagerness to tell you about the helicopter drop-offs, I left out some numbers I hope you’ll find as impressive as we all did at the time… There are five spires in the Bugaboos that top out at more that 3000 meters.  The first day we were dropped off at glacier level, about 2600 meters, with winds gusting to … well not much actually, but at just a few degrees above freezing, any breeze is an icy blast, and those of us who weren’t wearing our storm gear just about froze. One of my fellow-painters, shivering violently commented:

Tim from Denver:  I think I’ve just discovered how Pointillism was invented!

So, the next day we were dropped off in Tamarack Glen, a lovely plateau at an elevation of only 2300 meters.  But it rained, just a little…

Liz Wiltzen, our other instructor (and guide) has painted and hiked in these mountains under even more bracing conditions. Once she got us to our position beside one of the tarns, she pulled her toque over her ears, poured everyone a nice cup of tea (I am not making this up!) and did a brilliant demo of 10-shape, 50-brushstroke painting. I think the 50 brushstroke limitation is a useful concept only for oil and acrylic painters, who can scrumble one fully-loaded stroke all over the place, but I decided to apply the 10-shape paradigm to my watercolour painting, after seeing how well Liz’s boldly-stated demo turned out… Unfortunately, the numbing cold dulled my boldness somewhat and I proceeded to block out the 110-shape jumble on the left, instead. 

Many people already know that Robert Genn is amazing... but here's a picture for those who require proof.  He is starting his third demo of the day on the underside of a board that he has slanted to keep the rain off the paint!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Painting plein air in the Bugaboos

Pigeon Spire and the Howser Towers over the Vowell Glacier
Watercolour and gouache
©2012 Charlene Brown

I’ve just returned from the ultimate plein air workshop – heli-paintingwith Robert Genn in the Bugaboos!
This is one of the paintings I started the first day.  Note the word ‘started’… Robert suggests that when you’re dropped off (note the term ‘dropped off’ as I’ll be going on about that at some length) in a spectacular spot such as this, you capture the ambiance, the lights and darks, and general awesomeness of the place as quickly and spontaneously as you can, then put your painting aside before you start puttering. He himself started as many as six paintings every day. 

In the format of my on-going Drama of Painting Plein Air, his actual words, when he saw the painting as it looks below, were:

Robert Genn: You must abandon this immediately.

It has taken me almost two weeks to see this with ‘fresh eyes’ and add the shadows and extra clouds that appeared later in the afternoon.

Now, about being dropped off by a helicopter… On the bus from Banff to the heliport in the Columbia Valley, the procedure was explained to us.   At first, I thought they were kidding, but no, this is really how it is done…   When you set down on some windswept, not-particularly-level ridge, the helicopter doesn’t actually stop, and they don’t want anyone near the ends of the rotor. So, as soon as you’re out the door, you crouch down no more than two meters from the runners, covering your head and holding all your stuff down until the helicopter is gone, and the prop-wash and the racket give way to silence. Then you straighten up as smoothly as possible, brush yourself off, and try not to think about assuming that crouched position again (with your eyes closed) while the helicopter lands beside you when it comes to pick you up.