Trying Van Gogh’s Perspective Frame

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!

IMG_1622.jpg

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.IMG_1630.jpg

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.

Advertisements

Photos from Tekarra Lodge

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.

Horseshoe Lake

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:

DSCF3885

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.DSCF3834

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!DSCF3858

A Good Match

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!

DSCF3208

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!

Impromptu Plein Air

Judy and Carolyn went painting outside!  It was a lovely morning so we took the opportunity to gather a few supplies and set up in the wild lands of… the school grounds.  But, as you can see, there is an exceptional view from the school.  You may also notice that we didn’t exactly paint what we saw!

Here’s Judy’s:IMG_0666

Painting in glaring sun makes it difficult to see contrasts, and on a cloudless day, there aren’t many shadows to help.  Using isolated spots of bright colour and establishing a clear background, foreground, and mid ground can strengthen an outdoor landscape a lot.  Judy exaggerated the aerial perspective and checkerboard pattern, and she zoomed herself half a kilometer closer to the foreground trees.

The pain of outdoor painting is that things change so fast: the light, the clouds, the shadows.  The joy of it is that you still have the artists’ license to change what you see.  Call it capturing a mood or impression, or call it being smart and using tried and true techniques that give results in any conditions; outdoor painting is not like indoor painting!

Here’s Carolyn’s:

IMG_0664

This painting is all about isolating the shapes.  Painting outdoors, the sun dries paint and paper very quickly.  You have to work on small spots, or mix a big puddle of one colour and fill in an area quickly.  Finding strong shapes helps to make each element clear to the artist’s mind and the viewer’s eye (because nature is messy) and it’s also a way to avoid getting heavy masses of colour, especially greens.  Simplicity equals serenity.

Below is another painting, done from a memory of the old railway snow fence as seen from the highway.  It’s all in this view, just far away.  Carolyn wanted to contrast the yellow canola with some purple – the low, dark cloud we’ve seen often this summer, just not on this particular day.

IMG_0665

It was a successful couple of hours!  Maybe we’ll be on to a new site on another morning.

Kleskun Hills

DSCF3154

Judy’s plein air painting of Kleskun Hills was done from the top of a hill overlooking the park.  She hauled art supplies up the trail and sat out in the elements until she’d captured the view, like a dedicated painter should.

The Kleskun Hills, an unusual outcropping of badlands,  melds with the usual northern Alberta landscape.  The tiny ecosystem of sandy soil and desert-like plants survives despite visitors climbing all over the hills.  In days past, there were organized fossil hunting picnics for the locals, who would park at the base of the hills.  Now the site is better known for the campground, picnic site and museum.