A gift of words, written by yet another, sometimes awakens an awareness of a kindred space where our heart live...
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (September 27, 1962)
Silent Spring is an environment science book documenting the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. In the winter months of the same year as I was born, Carson's friend, Olga Owens Huckins, sent Carson a copy of the letter she had written to the Boston Herald describing the death of birds around her property resulting from the aerial spraying of DDT to kill mosquitoes. According to Wikipedia, this letter prompted Carson to study the environmental problems caused by chemical pesticides. In this case, the words of this Scientist, a photographer, and a landscape painter to share a moment of understanding beyond time and geographical differences.
In these months and weeks since the beginning of the pandemic, I have often heard about how my paintings and writing, that are steeped in our natural west coast environment, offer hope and comfort and strength. I am told about how the work reflects a place where our heart lives. Possibly this is because it true to me. Nature is where I gather myself together for whatever is next. Nature is where I settle into solitude, filled with wonder and possibly. Nature is where I take my anger, frustration and grief, releasing it slowly as I step carefully over and around the roots of trees and soak up the rhythms of the sea. Nature is where challenges are balanced against a much grander perspective and can’t help but shrink and resolve themselves in the process. This issue of A Brush With Life will focus on taking us past adversity and our fears into possibilities.
Lost and Found Light A Hundred Times
Plein air painting is all about the light and how patches of colour hint at the form and structure of objects that we then construct in our mental visual field at a slow walk or sitting on a stump or standing with a paintbrush in our hand making marks on a surface. These quick (and sometimes not so quick) paintings sketches offer far more to me than I can easily articulate. My outer world and worries seem to vanish and a complete and rich inner world opens up to the landscape before me. I do capture photography references like this as well.
However, it is the painting process that imprints these moments using permanent marker on a long scroll in my long-term memory. These small painting sketches hold the sounds of waves, the call of an eagle or the scent of the wild nodding onions softly crushed into the moss under my feet as I work. This abundance of sensory information is captured within the brushstrokes and then released and restored again under my review later for possibly a larger work. These are the exposed mysteries in an ordinary day. I can’t help myself! My skin tingles with awareness just telling you about the experience.
With these two painting sketches, the photography reference above and this one below (plus others), there is a large painting or three lurking in there somewhere!
When I am painting and my most compelling work appears, there is no attachment to a final result. Instead, there is confidence in muscle memory; there is enough study and experience enough to let go, to be curious and embrace the unexpected. This is my practice of painting. If I show up and do the work, day after day, year upon year, in this open way, things happen on that painting surface as my brushes move paint from the palette. The practice of painting offers endless discovery as do the paintings themselves. With a painting, each viewer, in the act of viewing, creates the painting again. If you notice, in English, the act of “painting” and “painting” the object are the same word. Like our human form, a painting is “endlessly becoming” and “endlessly is” as is the whole universe.
What Has Sold
This past two weeks has been much like the two weeks before and work has been heading off to various art collectors around the country. Two of these have been commissions. This first one with a fabulous story will stay on Mayne Island part-time...
and the other, below, has already left Saskatchewan. On another grey, misty west coast day in June three years after the first poppies painting was completed, a long time friend commented “The red poppies were my very favourite. I regret not having bought the painting before it sold.”
It was such a moody day and I too loved these poppies beside the sea and jumped at the chance to offer to do a commission and revisit them again with my brushes.
She said “yes” and now this new work is off to its forever home.
In addition, these two painting sketches from our spring and fall trips to Hornby Island last year have found a home together in recognition of a special celebration.
Finally, there is this painter’s painting sketch that is on its way to Ontario to a very special home as well.
In The Arbutus Room
This past Sunday the Terrill Welch Gallery was a hive of activity. I was in to pack away two painting sketches that had sold that morning. A contractor came to add a deadbolt to the gallery door and take the sign and sign frame home for installing. Two of the represented artists, Glenda King and Jody Waldie, came by to add the long-awaited-for floating frames to the narrower 3/4 inch edged canvases.
Everything was finished with 10 minutes to spare before a gallery guest with an appointment arrived to view both rooms! Ta-da!
The floating frames look great and add that slight definition to each painting. They also go well with my small plein air painting sketches that have also been added to this show. This room now has over 20 original paintings and it feels like we should introduce the Arbutus Room to you all over again! For now just one corner will do 😉.
Where Our Heart Lives Online Show
This first painting sketch is a new release and the others are works currently available that strongly emulate the other three represented artists’ heart connection and mine to our natural environment in a this special insider online show for you.
Early morning painting on a grey morning with a brisk wind and the muddy Fraser River washing the sea. Cotton Park, Mayne Island, British Columbia
To stand quiet and alone with these arbutus trees during a late summer morning is to find the spirit of the place, resting next to my bones with the slow bea...
An arbutus that weathers everything as it lives on the edge and appears to just be hanging on. Currently represented by the Terrill Welch Gallery. Please c...
This Arbutus tree, like many, had so many curves and twists to it. Such a lovely early spring day with the sun shining, adding warmth and light. Current...
Walking through the West Coast forest this patch of sunlight bouncing off the trees was the perfect place to set up my easel. Currently represented by t...
Making our way to the point of a rocky coast line. What will greet us around the corner on this day? Currently represented by the Terrill Welch Gallery. ...
May can have clouds, perfect to show off new greenery on an iconic arbutus tree at Lighthouse Park. The incoming tide brings change to the beach below the t...
This boat house is used twice a year, it’s tucked in a safe spot in Miners Bay. I’m sure it has many stories to tell of the boating antics that have gone on...
And to conclude the show, let’s close with Hope For A New Day which can be purchased but is currently being held in reserved as part of an international competition that may or may not go ahead. I can provide more details if you are interested.
During these extraordinary times, we desperately appreciate a sunrise over the sea and hope for a new day. This work is painted from my own reference materia...
Opinion Piece - How I Find Time to Paint
I read a humorous article recently about excuses for not painting. The article offered a great chuckle, especially for those of us that wake up thinking about painting and then paint, while other things must wait until we have the majority of a new idea blocked in before we can step away from the easel. I wrote a slight variation to this response in reply. My approach likely applies to just about anything we really want to do or feel we “must” do....
Frankly, I tend to organize all life activities around my painting and gallery needs, even a pandemic. I moved the studio work back to the great room from my gallery’s winter studio when we received “stay at home” direction. I ordered more supplies online when I couldn’t go get them myself. I increased my social media presence to cover off what would have been in person sales in the now closed gallery. I expected a huge drop in productivity and art sales. I mean how was I going to paint and do all that sanitizing and cook all of our meals with no housecleaning support while looking after all of our other needs because my husband has cognitive disabilities due to a severe stroke? On top of this, I had already rented an additional room for the gallery in January and it needed top-to-bottom renovations. Plus, I had committed to three other emerging artists to share the west coast landscape focus on these new gallery room walls. I had to do the ground work or behind-the-scene training with them so they would be ready to show their paintings and we could synchronize a smooth gallery experience for the viewer. It all sounds impossible even as I write this. But, here we are in the first week of July.
The housecleaner is back! (She is the only person we opened our bubble up to receive and her bubble only extends to us.) I am still cooking 80% of our meals from scratch and we haven’t starved or developed scurvy. In fact, we are eating better than ever. The new gallery room renovations are completed and the first show with the new emerging artists and myself is hung. A new solo exhibition of my own work is also hung in the main gallery room. I am now receiving in person and online gallery visitors again by appointment.
And… I have already completed and released 25 new works and 20 works in my inventory have sold with two new paintings on reserve for a competition. Depending on the sizes I generally complete and release 30 - 40 works a year. So this is a excellent start to the year. Finally, revue and sales at the end of the second quarter are very close to that of the whole of the previous year and slightly above the year before that. Admittedly, luck was on my side. I already had a solid online presence for showing, marketing and selling my work and I already knew how to work hard and strategically in adverse situations, as if my life depended on it… and in this case it does.
My one piece of advice to want-a-be artists is to paint first. This forces everything else including partners, children, grandchildren, friends, grocery shopping, gardening, waiting for more art supplies to arrive and so on, to fall into the places and time between your painting practice. If you feel unable to paint, go gather references or put work in the inventory for release or put up an old favourite painting to talk about in your social media timeline. Do any small or large thing that keeps you thinking and acting like a painter until a bigger window of time and opportunity opens up. You are the only person that can take your painting seriously. Your painting practice and art career deserve your vision and persistence and ultimate success. In case you are wondering, I am not in the epicentre of the international art world. I live on a small island on the southwest coast of Canada. I do not have several prominent galleries representing my work. However, I do have a vision and the drive to see it through no matter what. Adversity is often the fuel for breakthrough opportunities. Be on the lookout for these scarce and rare gems of possibilities. They are always there. We just need to notice them and then act.
These things are not easy. They are often extremely hard. You will breakdown and cry in frustration. You will feel foolish at times for believing in your mission. You will be scared of failure or success or both. You will need to ask for help from others and trust that they will follow through and then be ready to come up with a plan B when they fail to deliver. But you can do it, against all odds, I promise you can do it. Just put out the paints, pick up the brushes and paint as often as you can, before doing anything else.
Of course, in these unprecedented times, everything can still go sideways and fall apart in some grand way. However, I will go to sleep confident that I have done my best. I will know I didn’t scrimp on effort and risk taking and this is the best any of us can do.
Now I am off to paint. All the best to you at the easel today!
Regional Southern Gulf Islands Online Show
Join me in congratulating Glenda King, Jody Waldie and Jennifer Peers on their paintings, along with many other artists, that are selected for "Arts on the Islands" Regional Exhibition 2020. I was unable to participate this year as my work was committed elsewhere. However, I look forward to another time.
Learn more about this regional art show and view the work online at the link below.
The Southern Gulf Islands Arts Council is pleased to present this exhibition of work by artists from the island communities of Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Saturna. The exhibition includes drawings, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, textiles, collage, multimedia and more. We hope you'll enjoy the exhibition.
Featured in BC’s Guide to Arts and Culture
In this edition of the Digest, we celebrate several incredible BC artists working en plein air; creating art in the moment, directly within nature. They represent the artistic form of unplugging: of connecting to our natural world in a deeply meaningful way that breathes life through canvas.
Until Next Time
May your feet step off the pavement onto a path along nature’s floor that excites all your sensory capacities. We, at the Terrill Welch Gallery, wish you well in living your best life as you explore where your heart lives.
Canadian landscape painter, Terrill Welch, exposes the mystery in an ordinary day, reminding us that there is only one moment – this one.