Summer 2013 ~ Visit to McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg 'Painting Canada' exhibition with Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.
It was the most exciting exhibition I've ever seen.... Well, almost as exciting as Monet in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
There was lots of paint in directional strokes using bright, contrasting colours, and emphasizing light and shadow. They put in very little detail but suggest lots; the trees hardly have branches, just a smear of colour, yet detail appears like magic. The shading is intense- very vivid blue or purple and often with just a touch of turquoise.
Most of the paintings are small but a few were impressively large. I’m use to seeing them in much smaller scale, such as prints and/or calendars, so it’s surprising and impressive when they’re so much larger than expected, like Montreal River by J.E.H. McDonald. It's huge, has lots of directional strokes, and is very colourful. I wanted to 'ooh' and 'awe' when I saw it.
A few things I always notice about their work...
a) Vividness of colour.
Using as example ~ Tom Thomson's Larry Dickson’s Cabin, 1917. The water is very deep indigo blue yet the sky is light and soft.
b) Lack of detail
Using as example ~ 'The Fire Ranger' by Johnson. The clouds are simply shaped, are shaded with single directional strokes on the bottom and minimally worked ….
c) Directional brush work
Using as example ~ A.Y. Jackson 'Winter, Charlevoiz County', 1932. The foreground, mid sectional and distance hills are all very clearly worked with directional strokes…..
I always like to pick one favourite painting in an exhibition, which was almost impossible with this collection, but if I could take one home, it would be The Little Falls by McDonald. It was the first time I'd seen it anywhere and, although it was small in size, it was mighty with impact.
October gold by Carmichael
Path Behind Mowat Lodge by Tom Thomson (love the contrast!)
Sand Lake By Harris (good example of minimal detail)
Woodland Waterfall by Tom Thomson
When I started painting I became obsessed with ‘examining’ artwork. If you have a desire to paint, you should visit galleries and study the work of artists you admire. It's also important to simply observe; if you’re interested in landscape painting, study the landscape you want to paint. Pay attention to colour values and shapes. (Ex. How the tree tops appear in the distance or how the clouds recede, as they approach the horizon line). I found it helped develop my artistic skill to consciously observe the landscape and study experienced masters. By enjoying and examining the work of artists I admire I learn lessons from them, and what better teacher can there be then a revered artist?
I hope to returned to McMichael this fall to see what's new.
I also wanted to mention a gallery I discovered in Port Carling called 'Ryan Fine Art Gallery'. It was a great gallery and introduced me to my new favourite artist Christine Nadeau from Quebec. The staff was friendly and informative and made the visit even more enjoyable. It's a 'must see' gallery if you're ever out Port Carling way .