Our Peace Valley Guest Ranch Watercolour Retreat was fantastic! What was forecast to be a wet, cloudy weekend was in fact hot, sunny, and interspersed with some spectacular clouds and atmospheric fog. We thoroughly enjoyed the place, the people, the trail rides and the meals. Getting some half decent paintings was a bonus!
Here are Carolyn’s efforts from three days at the Ranch (not including dozens of photos):
Judy was recently off on a camping trip to BC. This is a plein air painting she did while there, showing the Kiskatinaw River far below. All those greens! This is a challenge for painters in all media!
I recycled a loom, a nine by twelve wood frame with nails all around, into a facsimile of Vincent van Gogh’s perspective frame. All it takes is four strings, strung from corner to corner and in a cross across the middle so that the large rectangle is divided into four smaller rectangles and four triangles. It has a centre line both horizontal and verticle, and the exact middle is indicated where all the strings cross each other. A basic guideline to help arrange the composition of a scene, and also to give lines of perspective.
Van Gogh practiced with his a lot, crediting it for helping his perspective immensely. These days, with phone screen photos and print outs, it’s easy to draw these lines right over a photo, mapping it out or even using a program to crop an image to your liking. However, it is still wonderful practice to draw or paint right on site, where nature or a street full of buildings can be confusing to put on paper. Van Gogh’s frame is easy to prop up, literally framing the scene as you like it, cropping out the excess space in your field of vision. It’s a great feeling to realize that you can condense all that information and focus only on what pleases you, and then you realize that, even within that frame, you are allowed to take out more of what you don’t find necessary to the feeling or message of the image. You are the artist!
Here’s my scene from a local picnic site. The photo shows the view as I could see it through the frame (without strings). Lot’s of trees, branches, leaves!
Below is a quick sketch. My frame doesn’t have legs yet so I had to hunch down on the picnic bench, adjusting my eyes to the frame rather than the way it’s supposed to work. My guide lines are faintly visible criss crossing roughly through the middle.
This frame helped quite a bit! I usually find that my drawings from photos are better than those done en plein air. That could be lack of practice, but I think I’ll practice a lot more with a nifty drawing frame to help me see the world.
Artists with Watercolour in Jasper stay at Tekarra Lodge just outside of the town of Jasper, Alberta. It is a beautiful location for an artists’ base: there’s a restaurant, cabins, second floor studio, animals wandering around, but most of all a beautiful landscape just a few footsteps from each building. Here is the Athabasca River, bathed in evening sunshine.
Our first destination with Watercolour in Jasper was Horseshoe Lake, an unusual lake with three or four completely different perspectives. The introduction to the lake is one arm of the horseshoe that is shallow and rocky, a creek that disappears underground. Walk clockwise around the inside of the shoe and you come across this fantastic canal-like squeeze:
Continue to follow the lake as it doubles back on itself to see Mount Kerkeslin dominating an entirely different view. Fewer people make it to this part of the lake.
Here’s Carolyn’s painting set up. It was cold: barely above zero when we arrived but warming up to 13 degrees Celsius by the time we left. It was possible to take off the ski pants and even a coat or two. What a thrill to be on location, in the elements, with 14 other watercolourists!
At first I thought my painting looked a bit green and maybe a little gloomy. Then I set it up for a direct comparison… hmm. Pretty close!
If you look carefully through the raindrops you might be able to see the wedding arch on the grass. Fake flowers (not melted in the rain) on the steps of a couple of ladders and a plank between them made a simple and, as it turned out, very hardy decoration. I do hope the wedding was over though!