Posts Tagged ‘artist’

“Phases” Residency: Meet Christine Fitzgerald

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve chosen Ottawa photographer Christine Fitzgerald for our “Phases” residency, starting this weekend. Her work is a unique type of photography that’s perfectly suited to work around Algonquin Park!

From Christine’s bio…
Christine Fitzgerald is an award-winning fine art photographer from Ottawa, Canada. Christine has always been captivated by nature.  Her fascination began in her childhood growing up in a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada, and has never abated. Much of her work deals with the fragile relationship between humans and nature, and the tension that this relationship inevitably creates. Her images are produced intuitively using digital and vintage cameras, often integrating historical and modern photographic tools and processes.

You can see more of Christine’s work here. She’ll spend next week at the Algonquin staff cabin at Found lake, right next to the Algonquin Art Centre. During that time, she’ll work on site-specific photography in the park, hailing back to photographic techniques used in the days of the Group of Seven.
She’ll also be conducting two artist-demos, one at the Art Centre and one at the Algonquin Visitor Centre. She’ll be with us at the gallery on Sunday the 16th and at the Visitor Centre on Saturday the 22nd, both days from 11–3. It’ll be a great chance to take a look at her process, her vintage cameras, and to see her at work, so if you’re in the park to take in the fall colours next week, stop in!

We can’t wait to see Christine at work!

Andrea Ross: Rough Around the Edges

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

As September rolls on and the leaves start to change, we’re  heading into our last solo-show of the season: Andrea Ross’ Rough Around the Edges.

Andrea and her piece, “Shake it Down to Earth”

Andrea has always had a profound connection with Ontario’s natural places. As a child, her family had a cottage on Skeleton Lake in Muskoka. As she grew older, she ventured farther and farther into the seclusion of the outdoors, canoeing extensively in Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park. She feels very at home among the rocks, trees, and waters Ontario, and they dominate her paintings.

“Above Hogan Lake”

Andrea often depicts the places where trees cling to rocks and stone merges with water, the boundaries between elements of the landscape as we identify them. Often, she poises these tenuous landscapes on the cusp of day and night, or at the delicate balance between one season and the next. If you’ve ever rounded out a day of paddling in Algonquin by watching the evening light play across the rocks and trees, you’ll feel right at home with Andrea’s paintings…

“Hornbeam Lake Portage”

The fuzzy edges between day and night, summer and fall, water and forest make up the raw material for Rough Around the Edges. It’s a fitting end to this season’s exhibition, Metamorphosis. We’ve explored natural processes, environmental change, and cycles of growth and decay throughout the summer, so finishing the season with Andrea’s liminal landscapes feels like a perfect end to the exhibition. We can’t wait for you to see her work in person!

“Rugged Island”

You can take in “Rough Around the Edges” at the Algonquin Art Centre from September 15th to October 22nd. You can find us at Km. 20 along the Highway 60 corridor, and we’re open every day from 9—5.

Daniel St-Amant: Convergence

Monday, August 15th, 2016

We’re very excited to be hosting our artist, former residency-holder, and good friend Daniel St-Amant for his solo-show, Convergence!

You might remember that last October, Daniel spent a week at Algonquin Provincial Park’s Clarke Lake Cabin. He used that time to gather specimen and natural materials like mud and leaf-litter, to take in the inspiration of the park, and to plan large-scale artworks. His days were spent working on his craft, and at night he got to hear the howling Algonquin wolves.

In the past, Daniel used his signature technique—laying canvasses on the road to pick up the impression of passing cars’ tire-tread, the painting wildlife—to signify the way nature is often closed in and crowded out by human intervention. He would place animals within the confines of human encroachment. But since his time in the wild, his style has moved in a different direction…

Works in progress for the show!

Lately, rather than using human elements as structures of confinement, Daniel allows his wildlife to grow out of the mixed environment of urban and natural materials. It’s a hopeful message about the convergence between the human and animal worlds, and the ways that their interaction can be healthy. It’s an evolution and a progression, conjured up from the melding of very tangible materials from the real world, incorporated into artistic creativity. Daniel has perfectly expressed the spirit of this season’s overarching theme, Metamorphosis.

Join us from now untilSeptember 15th to see these completed pieces and reflect on Convergence in person!

Off-Season Artists: Andrea Ross

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

With the off-season drawing to a close, we’re at the VERY LAST Off-Season Artists post! If you haven’t been reading along, that’s when Alex, the man who considers refreshing his web page as refreshing as the spring breeze after a long winter, interviews our artists and unpacks their process.
In this installment, we speak with impressionist landscape painter Andrea Ross!

Andrea Ross and her piece “Shake It Down to Earth

So first off, where are you from? What was your experience of the Canadian landscape growing up?
I was born in Oakville and growing up my family cottaged on Skeleton Lake. I did many canoe trips in the Georgian Bay, Port Severn, and Algonquin areas, so rocks, water, and trees are fully engrained in my enjoyment of the outdoors.

“Benjamin Shoreline”

I notice that in your work you tend toward auburn and muted pinks and golds, with a quality of light that seems a lot like the evening just a little before sunset. There’s a very peaceful quality to your paintings! What attracts you to that aesthetic?
I love the evening time just before the sun goes down when the air is still, the light’s low and at a right angle to the landscape, and the shadows are long. Colours become deeper and much less bleached out by the light. It’s a time when I like to venture out in my canoe or Kayak.

How about your influences? What artists would you say inspire you most?
I very much admire the work of Ottawa artist Philip Craig. Earlier I studied work by Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt as well as the Group of Seven—specifically MacDonald, Thompson, and Jackson).
My mentor, my aunt Eila Ross had a career as a medical artist and I completed a degree in Fine Art at the University of Guelph, concentrating on drawing with the thought that I would go into medical Art. After graduating Guelph, I decided that was enough school for me, so I took a different route and created art for pleasure.

“Hypnotic”

I understand that you’ve done a lot of work in pastels. That seems like a very different medium. How has that influenced the way you paint?
My first love was drawing and with the pastel medium—you can draw with pure colour. I have learned much about colour through my pastel paintings. My goal when switching to oils was to make them look like pastels yet do away with the framing that a pastel requires. I also wanted to work larger, and that’s difficult when you have to frame under glass.

“Sailor’s Rest”

There’s a really neat contrast between your land and trees and your water. There are these bold, broad strokes on the land and a real luminosity in the water. I’d love to hear about how you developed that style!
Generally, I work from drawing with paint to working up the shapes in the design, then creating the form in each major shape and finally working out the details in the focus area. Building the colour from dark to light and intensifying any areas I want the viewer to focus on. There is definitely a process with each painting which I try to follow. Sometimes this process is amazingly fast and in other paintings I slowly work through problem areas.
Sometimes to develop certain feelings I use a specific stroke and change the size and shape of brush.

“Good Footings”

In terms of your subjects, we see a lot of familiar views in your paintings from around Algonquin and the Muskokas. What would you say is your favourite spot in the outdoors?
Without a doubt, my favourite spot is right where I live on Skeleton Lake, but I do love Algonquin Park and am extremely happy to be able to get to the park within an hour and enjoy this fantastic, natural, unspoiled area.

And last but not least, what’s something we might not know about you?
I am a very keen 470 sailor and love to listen to classical music, especially when I paint.

“Hut Hike”

And that’s that for our Off-Season Artists series this year! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as we’ve enjoyed writing.
Now we’re hard at work getting everything ready for the new season, starting June 1st. Stay posted for updates and info about our artists and the activities we’ll be putting on this year. We can’t wait to see you!

Off-Season Artists: Rich Baker

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

It’s here! Another post in our Off-Season Artists series, in which Alex, the guy who draws a fiery crucible full of molten data out of the web-furnace with his bare hands, interviews our favourite artists for your winter reading pleasure!
This time around, he speaks to one of
 our most fun and eclectic artists, sculptor Rich Baker

First off, it’s nice to speak with a southwestern Ontario boy with a love of the outdoors, not unlike myself! Can you tell me a little bit about growing up, and the process of finding your place in the artistic world?
I was born in Grimsby Ontario and enjoyed most of my teenage years living at the base of the escarpment in Winona. I spent a good deal of my childhood exploring that Escarpment. School, much to my parents’ dismay, was never a priority for me. My mind would always be wandering, to past and planned adventures of the outdoors: hiking, cycling, walking the orchards that surrounded my home with my trusted BB gun, anything but paying attention to the task at hand… school. This is where my addiction to the outdoors and wildlife was founded. Growing up, music was always around our family. My parents met while my dad was a musician in a band. I think my mom was a groupie… she would never have admitted to that, though! The professional music phase of my life didn’t start until I was in my late twenties. I like “left turns” in life, so I packed up everything and went on the road, playing for well over 13 years. Shortly after meeting my wife Jenn, I decided it was time to put the road behind me and get serious with music and try my hand at writing songs. As far as the music industry in Canada was back then, I was one of the fortunate ones. Landing some number ones, top fives and top twenties on the country music charts. It fuelled my artistic cravings for some time. But nothing remains the same… thankfully.

I have to say, you’re certainly one of the most eclectic artists we’ve had at the Art Centre. Artist, musician, sculptor… that’s quite a roster! The only common denominator seems to be creativity. It seems that you’ve settled pretty comfortably into metalwork these days.What made you decide to focus the bulk of your attention in that direction?
I’ll be perfectly honest: metal sculpture is a bit of an anomaly. I’ve had training in welding, but this art medium… it’s a complete fluke. I believe some of the best things in life come to us that way. For me, I believe that each piece I do is a story, something I’ve seen or witnessed, experienced first hand, or heard of in the news. To me, it’s quite similar to songwriting. Rather than putting pen to paper on what I have in my mind, I hammer it out in steel… country music gone Heavy Metal, so to speak!

“Clear Cut View”

Within metalworking, you have a huge focus on animals and birds. What attracts you to wildlife?
As I mentioned in the beginning, the outdoors has always drawn me in. If I’m not in my shop working, then I’m outdoors, hiking, exploring, and trying my best not to fall into the swampy areas that surround our home. If I’m not outside, as my wife Jenn will attest, I’m staring out the window or pacing the floor dreaming about getting out there. Out here, we reside in an area that is at the base of a wonderful lake and conservation area. I’m extremely fortunate to view an amazing amount of wildlife right from my yard. Deer, wild turkey, fox, coyotes, incredible majestic wolves, and, of course, numerous birds of prey. The birds of prey have always drawn me in, probably because of my love for flying. They soar over my house and call out to one another as I watch from below until my neck gets sore. Bald Eagles, Osprey, Red Tail Hawks and Falcons, they are all truly incredible to witness on a daily basis. Each time I see the different wildlife, it’s an inspiration in it’s truest form, right in front of me. I know I’m spoiled.

Now, you’re speaking to someone who spends most of his time dealing with paintings. Sculpture is a bit of a mystery to me! I’d love it if you’d take us through your process a bit. How does a piece go from inspiration to idea to structure to sculpture? What are the challenges along the way?
I am a very visual person. Each time I see something that captures my attention, the first thing that’s going through my mind is,”how can I make that.” Usually, I’ll toss the idea around in my head for a while. Then I’ll tack up as many pictures as I can of the subject in my shop, surrounding myself with the creature, living with it for a bit. Pictures work best in lieu of bringing the actual animal into my shop… I don’t believe they’d sit still long enough. I’ve discovered that I have the ability to look at a subject and figure out the anatomy. Where this ability comes from, is part of the magic of what I do. I don’t mean to sound evasive or vague about the process, but I just start cutting metal. As I’ve often explained, it’s as if my eyes are just watching (front row seat if you will) what my hands are doing, and it comes together. For each piece of the subject, I hand cut, hammer into the shape and then weld in place. I usually start with the nose (or beak) of the creature to get the proper sizing. This alone could be up to 10 individual pieces, carefully placed together. I then work my way back from there. I see and look for the finite details in everything I do; I am not an abstract artist by any means. This is always a challenge to me, to make metal look, well, not like metal. My goal is always to create the illusion, that the closer you get to one of my pieces, the more details you will see, as if you’re right up close and personal to the animal. That is what I strive for.

“Phase Blaster”

Apart from your wildlife pieces, I notice that in the industrial pieces you have a tendency toward the use of found objects. That must be a very different process from your scratch built wildlife sculptures. Can you talk a little bit about what goes into making one of these fantastical objects?
These works, at times “Steampunkish,” allow me to use a different side of my brain. It’s like a puzzle to me. My wife and I enjoy spending time at auctions and junk yards, and it’s there that we find those unique and interesting components that inspire and become, well, anything. It usually starts with one certain piece. From that I’ll add to it, sometimes taking weeks, even months, to complete a vision. Usually, the hardest part is to know when it’s done, since the subject matter that I’m putting together is quite often fictitious. Making these type of works gives my mind and my hands a bit of a break. They aren’t very labour intensive on my hands; no cutting or pounding is usually required. I love ‘em.

“Screech Owl”

You also seem like a guy who likes to have a good laugh and some fun with his art. How does that sense of play enter into it?
I do like creating things that make people smile. I don’t consider myself a “serious subject matter” artist. I’m not trying to shock someone into seeing a point of view on anything. If someone laughs at, or with, something I’ve made, then I’ve gotten their attention, and as an artist in today’s “quick” world, I believe that’s a good thing.Today’s society is filled with a lot of painful, trying circumstances. I for one would not like to contribute to that. Art should make one smile; humour to me goes hand in hand with that.

And last but not least, what’s something fun we might not know about you?
I am a fishing fanatic, plain and simple. I was even fortunate enough to spend almost two years as a fishing guide along the Trent River system. I didn’t even mind if no one was booked for the day. That would just mean more fishing time for me!

“River Bank Bounty”

So that’s that for our friend Rich Baker! It was an absolute pleasure speaking with him…
Check back in soon for our next Off-Season Artists!

Off-Season Artists: Joseph Koensgen

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

It’s that time again! Here’s our next edition of Off-Season Artists! That’s where Alex, who takes flight on majestic wings of Wifi, spends a little time talking to our favourite creators.
In this instalment,  he interviews painter, photographer, hiker, and conservationist, Joseph Koensgen.
Enjoy! 

So Joseph, I’d love to hear a little bit about what life was like growing up. Did you live in the Winnipeg area all your life? When did your fascination with the outdoors begin?
Yes, I have lived in the Winnipeg area my whole life. I grew up just outside of Winnipeg where there were many forests and fields close by. I was always an outdoors kid, wanting to explore, and I was just generally interested in being in nature. I always had a love of animals and any chance I could get to try and see some I would, with most of my observations coming from backyard birds at the birdfeeder. I also had the great fortune of many family trips to Riding Mountain National Park, a place I still frequent. This gem in Manitoba played a huge part in my love of nature as its untouched landscape inspired me then, and still does today.

I believe it! Part of that affinity for the outdoors seem to stem from a tremendous love for hiking. I’m guessing that came about when you were younger as well. Your Instagram is full of images of big-sky Manitoba from a natural, isolated vantage point. Where are your favourite places to hike? And aside from providing visual subjects for your painting, how does being out in nature contribute to your art?
I absolutely love to hike. Getting out into nature with a good trail and a camera is one of my favourite things to do, and my Instagram feed would give a pretty good glimpse of what I like to do and where I like to go. My favourite places to hike in Manitoba are Riding Mountain National Park and Whiteshell Provincial Park. A little closer to home would be Bird’s Hill Provincial Park, a smaller but equally enjoyable place to hike. Each season in these places offers something different with the pinnacle of colour and inspiration being the fall. Being in these places and getting inspired by a scene is what goes into my art. Seeing it and feeling it means I am able to put those things, as best I can, into my art. I’ve noticed that my best work comes from something directly inspired by an experience rather than something I’ve pieced together from multiple locations. Not to say that I can’t be inspired by many things, but a rewarding feeling is being patient enough to capture a scene as it happens, and translate that into a piece of art. There is always a range of emotions I experience when this happens and it’s a delight to see it come out in my art.

This set of passions also must tie into your work as a naturalist and conservationist. Can you tell me a bit about your background there? What led you down that path? What kind of work do you do in those fields?
It was a fairly recent addition to my passion as a nature artist. As I had grown in my interest and skill as a nature artist, I began to read and learn more about the concerns and conservation issues all around me. I then joined an organization called Artists for Conservation in 2013, which was doing something that I wanted to do myselfuse art as an avenue to raise awareness and money for the conservation of the natural world. And since then I have been involved in their annual shows and have used my art and sales for just that. I have also submitted art for the Ducks Unlimited Canada National Art Portfolio, which sells prints to raise money for wetland conservation. I have had the honour of being selected in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. This has been a wonderful experience, and I will continue to submit work, as well as work with other conservation organizations.

“Frost”

Moving on to your art, I notice a real visual unity in each painting. It’s something about the way you bring together your tones and compositions to make the wildlife one with their surrounding landscape. It really does remind me of encountering wildlife on a hike. It’s always an amazing moment, but without the accentuation or fanfare that some painters might add to their wildlife subjects. How did you arrive at that style?
When I was young, I wasand still amvery inspired by one of the great wildlife painters, Robert Bateman. I studied his work when I was young and well into high school. After taking a long break, I found myself wanting to do art again. I bought a camera and started up again, working from my pictures. I usually try and depict the animal the way I’ve seen it, in its natural setting without getting too lost into how I think it would act or behave. And the experience of seeing these animals is something I’m striving to recreate at the easel. Of course, I’m also interested in a pleasing composition, but I’ve hopefully steered clear of anthropomorphizing my subject too much. But there is a certain look to my art that I am going for. I like colour harmony and pleasing shapes and motions in my paintings. I like to keep the realism to a point to where you could say, “I’ve seen something like that!” I love hearing that, because if my art brings someone back to somewhere or something they’ve experienced, then I know I’ve captured it well.

“Calm”

In terms of wildlife, birds seem to be your most enduring subject. What makes them such a favourite of yours?
It started from a young age. I had always been interested in animals, and birds were very accessible because I could sit at the window and watch them come to the backyard bird feeder. It was a fantastic venture for a kid interested in nature. I would love to see what types of birds would show up and at what time of year. As well as researching what types of things would get uncommon species out in front of my camera. As I got older my affinity for birds remained, and I have been able to see more and more types of birds as my travels have expanded and the digital age of cameras has made it easy to capture. 

I notice that in your paintings—even when they’re a sweeping mountain image like “Across the Valley,” which I love!—you often seem to be working from a high angle or zoomed in close. It’s often a creature framed by the ground or foliage around them, without extending the composition upwards into the sky. Is that the focused photographer in you? The naturalist’s scrutiny?

“Across the Valley”

By the way, while we’re speaking of “Across the Valley,” where did that painting originate? It looks like parts of the Yukon to me.
I would say that is more the focused photographer in me. I do want to accurately portray the settings I choose, so the naturalist in me pays attention to that, but my art is heavily influenced by my eye as a photographer. Although, recently I have been inspired to expand my paintings into some more large and sweeping compositions that include skies and mountains. Mostly because of a recent trip to the Yukon, as you accurately noticed about one of the first paintings I did from that trip, “Across the Valley”. The Yukon was one of the most amazing natural wilderness areas I’ve been to. Huge mountains, large sweeping valleys, and thousands of kilometers of untouched forest. Truly the nature lover’s playground. Even though I have yet to really get many pieces out from that trip thus far, I’ve got a great number of ideas that include these huge skies. I hope to expand my work in that way for a few pieces as I think it’s good to continually change things up and be inspired by different landscapes. It’s also a good thing to keep oneself challenged by new and engaging ideas that at first glance, seem tough to recreate with paint, but would be very rewarding as a finished painting. 

I couldn’t agree more about the Yukon. If the word “epic” were a location, that’d be it! But just to finish up: just for fun, what’s something we might not know about you?
I have been playing the guitar for about 15 years. I started when I was a teenager and just kept it going from there. What I like to play is blues guitar. I’ve always enjoyed blues music and the great expression that can be done when playing a blues guitar solo. I don’t play as often as I used to, but I still enjoy it just as much.

 

 So that’s Joseph Koensgen! It was a pleasure to get to know him…
We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another interview, so stay posted, art lovers!

Perennial Threshold Artist in Residence!

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve selected an artist for our Spring 2016 residency, Perennial Threshold.! Friends of Algonquin Art Centre and lovers of all things art and nature… meet Sarah Carlson!

Sarah’s an artist from the GTA with a BFA from York University and a close relationship with the outdoors. She’s explored the backcountry in every way you can imagine, from cycling and paddling to hiking and scaling rock walls!
Her work straddles a number of different media including painting, printmaking, repurposed objects, and collage, while combining seemingly disparate techniques like representative portraiture and geometric abstraction. Just now she’s fascinated by mystical encounters between the realms of the human and the wild. Her work treats themes of growth, decay, symbiosis, and regeneration. You can see why she’s a perfect fit for Perennial Threshold!
Just take a look at this composite piece, “Canmore Caribou.”

From March 11th to the 21st, our partners at Algonquin Provincial Park have provided Sarah lodgings at their Clarke Lake cabin. She’ll be able to use that as a base of operations for her explorations, art-making, and the much needed time in the wild that every naturist-creator needs.
Sarah will also be leading activities and demonstrations at the Visitor Centre at various points throughout the week and they’re open to the public. So stay posted for exact dates and times.
In the meantime, congratulations to Sarah. We can’t wait to see what you get up to in this beautiful part of Ontario!

 

Off-Season Artists: David Grieve

Friday, February 5th, 2016

It’s our next Off-Season Artists post! In this series Alex, the guy who feels right at home among both keystrokes and brush-strokes, helps you ride out the long winter season by talking to some of our favourite artists.
This time, he’s speaking with David Grieve, a southwestern Ontario artist with a talent for creating landscapes out of his unique oil painting technique.

So first off, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, originally? I understand that your mother was also an artist. I imagine a lot of your early artistic exposure comes from your experiences with her. What kind of art did she make, and how did the beginning of your artistic interest take shape?
I was born and raised in Brantford, Ontario.  When I was young, my mother encouraged me to draw and paint.  My sister and I were able to accompany her to her studio in the summer.  While there we had the chance to work with oils on canvas alongside the adult artists.  I took it for granted at the time but realize now that not many 8-year-olds have the opportunity to paint with oils.  As a result, I found myself at ease with the medium years later when I was studying fine art at the University of Guelph.
Looking back on my experience at school, I was always interested in art.  I recall being scolded in grade one for skipping my desk work to spend more time at the easel.  I’ve always been drawn to the artistic elements across subject areas in school.  Even something like drawing the cells in biology class was an artistic experience for me.

“After Harvest 2″

One thing that stands out in your work is the fact that it deals with Southwestern Ontario. That’s a very different environment from a lot of the Canadian landscape art we’re used to seeing—northern forests, the Rockies, big rainforest pines out west…
What attracts you most to the landscape of Southwestern Ontario?
It is appealing, to me, looking for beauty where you live.  The natural environment in Southwestern Ontario is a part of my daily life. Where I live, I am surrounded by beautiful rolling hills of corn and beans as well as trees that have lived here for many years.
The change in environment has an impact on me. It’s easier to breathe.  I am saddened however by the high rate of urban sprawl that is taking place in Southwestern Ontario.  Where I used to see fields and open spaces while driving along Hwy 403, it’s now being replaced by shopping centres and parking lots.  I feel that it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the importance of the beauty in nature.


“Breathe”

I’ve definitely noticed that as well. Once it seemed like a Toronto problem, but you can see it across the board, even reaching up toward the Muskokas! Slowing that down is going to be crucial over time.
Speaking of the trees you mentioned, some of my personal favourites among your work are when you capture them standing alone against the sky. That’s such a characteristically rural image, with strong associations of home and melancholy for a lot of people. And I feel like your heavy, distinctive swathes of paint are the perfect method for it! How did you develop that unique method of painting? Were there any influences that pointed you in that direction?
I have always been interested in thick paint.  Whenever I visit a gallery, I inevitably end up spending the most time in front of paintings that are ‘thick.’  When I was in university, I was lucky enough to go to New York with some of my friends.  There was a large exhibit of Lucian Freud works. I loved how thick and expressive they were.  I am also influenced by how loose and expressive works like Monet’s lily pads are.  It was a special opportunity to be able to stand in front of them during my visit to New York.
I feel that there is a parallel between myself and the lone trees that I paint.  I am similar to the solitary trees when I am alone painting in my studio.  I enjoy this solitude and find it peaceful.

“Cold Front”

Another aspect of your painting and one that’s made especially interesting by your technique is the way your big skies aren’t just a backdrop to your pieces, but performers in their own right. They’ve got rich textures and an uncharacteristic sense of depth. I’d love to hear about how you imagine the dynamic between foreground and background in your work, and if it’s a challenge to bring out so much liveliness in the sky, something that so many artists relegate to a place of secondary importance.
When a storm rolls in, and you get to witness it while out in the countryside, it stirs something inside of you.  Excitement, danger, beauty and drama.  I love trying to convey that energy and excitement in my skies.

I gather that you tend to work from photographs when you’re painting scenes from southwestern Ontario, but I also know you’ve got a cabin in the Kawarthas where you and the family like to spend some time. That must be a great platform for getting closer to the natural landscape, and for a change of tone. How does your artistic practice differ when you’re up at the cabin? What’s that experience like as a change of pace?
Spending time in the Kawarthas has changed me and my work. Having a place to go has been fantastic.  Since I work from home, sometimes it feels like I am always at work, so it’s simply nice to get away.  The drive north offers me the opportunity to observe nature and the changes that take place in the fields and trees across all four seasons.
Spending more time on the water has been wonderful.  I think about the lake a lot and the beauty around it.  There are times when the sun shines just so on the lake and surrounding islands that it feels awe-inspiring.  The open skies around that lake also offer dramatic views.  Whether it’s a summer sunset or storm clouds rolling in, the image is often breathtaking.
I do work from photos, and I’m now taking many at the lake. It took me a little while before I started to paint images from the KawarthasI was getting to know it.  The landscape there now feels like it’s a part of me and my life, which allows me to recreate it on canvas.

“Sister Sunset”

Speaking of being up at the cabin, what’s your favourite thing to do when you’re out in nature? What kind of environment do you find most fulfilling or inspiring?
It would be difficult for me to find anything better in life than paddling a canoe on a warm, calm day with my family.  The peacefulness of being on the water and the soothing sound of the paddles propelling us forward gives me great joy.

And last but not least, what’s something interesting that we might not know about you?
I love fishing. Whether it’s fishing from the boat during the summer or drilling a hole in the ice during the winter, I enjoy being outdoors.  The added thrill of catching a beautiful bass or a giant muskie makes it that much more enjoyable.

So that’s David Grieve! We love gazing into his large-scale canvasses and getting lost in those bands of colour.
Check back soon for our next Off-Season Artists! 

 

Off-Season Artists: Lori Dunn

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

It’s the new year, and we’ve got a new edition of Off-Season Artists! This is the series where Alex, the guy we send hurtling into 2016 at the speed of a broadband connection, interviews our artists for some off-season inspiration.
This time, it’s Lori Dunn, scratchboard artist, zoologist, and wonderful fusion of creator-naturalist.
Enjoy!

So for those of our readers who don’t know you, the path to where you are now has been pretty remarkable. You grew up an artistic kid, but then went into sciences, eventually becoming a zookeeper. Then it was back into art, and a very challenging artistic practice at that! I’d love to hear about what took you into the sciences in the first place, and then to take the plunge back into art.
As a child I constantly immersed myself in nature, especially small creatures that I could easily observe. I read nature books, watched  nature programs, and felt more of a connection to wildlife than people. Growing up in a military family, we were always moving, and so keeping friendships was difficult. I think this just made my interest in animals stronger as there was always a field or some woods to explore no matter where we lived. I had artistic talent at a young age, and of course my parents and teachers wanted to see me go down the artistic path. I was too absorbed in the biodiversity around me though… I wanted to learn everything I could about animals. When it came time to consider post-secondary education, there was no question in my mind to continue this path of learning. After obtaining an honors degree in zoology, I then proceeded to work with captive exotics in the zookeeping profession. During all of this time I was always sketching animals. I took a few drawing courses, but mostly it was a hobby. I drew animals that interested me and worked mainly in pen and ink and colored pencil. After 15 years as a zookeeper there was not enough learning going on and the job was getting stagnant and political. My passion was waning… and I knew I didn’t want that to happen. I left the zoo and decided to allow my knowledge and experience to guide me into the world of wildlife art.

I have to say, your two parallel areas of expertise seem to merge perfectly in your work. What does your work as a scientist bring to your artistic practice? And on the other hand, how has your artistry increased your engagement with wildlife?
Studying wildlife academically, in the field and in a captive setting, has allowed me a better understanding of species’ anatomy and behaviour. This is naturally going to translate into a more accurate representation of an animal. I can look at many photos of animals and know if something is “off,”  for instance if it is dehydrated, over or under weight, going through seasonal changes in appearance, or is simply not in peak physical condition. This allows me to zero in on the best image to use as my reference photo and depict the animal as it should be, or at least how I want it to be. My study as a zoologist has also given me a greater appreciation for the tiniest of details that define an animal’s appearance—the way the scales on a snake change shape and appearance along the body, or how the tiny facial hairs and wrinkles on a gorilla define the individual. As a wildlife artist, knowledge of your subject is crucial to allowing the viewer feel intimately connected with that animal through your thoughtful representation. In contrast, as an artist interested in wildlife, I find myself not just engaged in observation and learning with regards to anatomy, habitat and behaviour, but also looking at the light, the setting, the position of the animal… anything that would make for a unique capture of that species and moment in an artwork. Because I work in a monochromatic medium, lighting of my subjects is critically important to give depth to the piece. Ironically, I often find myself out in the field seeing everything in terms of light and shadow rather than colour. And while most photographers want a cloudy day to increase color saturation of their subject, I am the opposite—give me the harsh light and shadow! This is what makes a better black and white artwork!

“Muskoka Morning”

Speaking of your art… tell me a bit about scratchboard! It seems like an excruciatingly difficult medium, but your results are just incredible. What took you down that road? Are you, in fact, a glutton for punishment?
(Just kidding.)
But seriously, what appeals to you about the medium? Did you discover it when you were young or was it a bit of a revelation once you decided to plunge back into the artist’s life?

Scratchboard is a process of direct engraving on a board coated with white kaolin clay, then black ink is applied over top of the clay. A sharp instrument is used to etch into the surface to reveal the white of the clay, thus producing a black and white engraving. Tones in between black and white are achieved through the pressure used in etching (ie. how deep you go into the clay layer ), as well as how much black ink is removed. Given that I was a pencil artist for many years with a penchant for super-detail, it wasn’t surprising that when I discovered some scratchboard work online I wanted to try it out. Something about using such a sharp instrument like an X-ACTO blade was intriguing, plus I have always loved black and white art. Discovering just how much detail you can get in this medium was indeed a revelation to me. I was hooked, threw the pencils aside, and delved in. I am self-taught—just practised  over and over until I was happy with the results. It seemed to come naturally to me but this is not the norm. Most people find it an exceptionally challenging and difficult medium to master. It’s ironic that you ask if I am a glutton for punishment! This is one of the most asked questions I get at my art shows. People will ask “am I insane?” or “how do I have the patience for this?” My answer is that I don’t think of it in negative terms… yes it is a very time consuming and difficult medium, but I love doing it. Patience and/or insanity don’t really factor in. As someone who is an over-thinker, being able to zone out, shut off my brain and spend hours on end stippling or cross-hatching a 2-inch square piece of the board is a good thing. The music goes on, and I check out for a while—it clears my head and allows me to focus on something other than day to day stuff!


I love your commitment to education, since arts-communication is such a big part of our overall cultural language. Similar to the way your zoological career informs your art and vice-versa, do you find that communicating for education has been an asset in your artistic thinking? And how about the opposite? What does the artistic impulse contribute to your ability to communicate for education?

After leaving the zoo and delving into art, I suddenly realized the potential there was to educate others about the species that were portrayed in my works. Art reaches people on a visual and emotional level. Combining my artistic talent and passion for nature and wildlife allowed me the opportunity to really say what I wanted. I was not restricted in any way… and in this sense I really started to think about my subjects and the message behind the artwork. I didn’t want someone buying a piece of mine without learning something about that animal. I decided to include a thoughtful writeup on my website along with many of my works, bringing conservation issues to light. Not every piece has this, as I didn’t want to appear overly intense, but it is something that is especially important to me as I continue in this field. At my art shows, if I find people really connecting to a particular animal, I will often engage them in conversation about their own observations of wildlife. I still have a huge drive to learn and have learned quite a lot from talking to other artists and patrons. The desire to learn and the desire to educate go hand in hand.

Here’s a bit of a softball question for you, since it’s not every day I get to chat with a real live zoologist… What’s your absolute favourite animal, and why?
That is a really difficult question to ask a zoologist!
[laughs]
I am someone who finds even the most microscopic of organisms incredible! Throughout my zoological career, however, my favorite group of animals has been reptiles, specifically snakes. I spend countless hours in the wild searching for them. Snakes are notoriously difficult to find. They leave no tracks, have no scent, spend most of the time remaining hidden in tight enclosed spaces… you can’t bait them and you can’t sit on a boardwalk and watch them fly overhead. Finding snakes in the wild requires lots of hiking and bushwhacking, a bit of knowledge of good habitat and a whole lot of luck. It’s a neverending quest, but the reward is an adrenaline rush and an absolutely overwhelming sense of satisfaction at finding one of the most misunderstood and maligned creatures on the planet. So my favorite animal? The very next snake I find!

“Sidelight”

And last but not least, what’s something interesting we might not know about you?
Well… artistically speaking, you and your readers will be the first to know that I would like to delve into doing some “macro” wildlife art. My interest in tiny creatures knows no bounds! I’d love to start doing some really close up artworks of smaller wildlife forms. Picture for example, the compound eyes of a dragonfly blown up to appear almost alien-like, or a close up view of a jumping spider, showing every tiny hair… yes, I have big (or small!) plans…
[laughs]

“Night Stalker”

On that beautiful—and kind of alarming!—note, we leave Lori Dunn. It’s been a pleasure speaking with her, and we’ll be back with another edition of Off-Season Artists soon!


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