Who Are You? Show at Red Head Gallery for Nuit Blanche 2017

I’m delighted to be part of Red Head Gallery‘s Nuit Blanche exhibit this year, called Who Are You?

There are two pieces, part of a series I have planned called “The Cinderella Stories.” Here’s the artist’s statement I provided to the gallery:

“The Cinderella Stories” is a series that explores the mythology, culture and experience of corporate capitalism through my personal lens of a female participant. 

After I left a corporate career in 2001, I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my beliefs about myself and about the world of business. Art was a natural way for me to tackle working through these thoughts and emotions. This work started as individual artist trading cards, created by laminating a set of casino playing cards with old book pages, then collaging and painting on them, while preserving meaningful words.

Mounting them together in the form of ‘quilts’ provided a feminine form to contrast with the comments on corporate capitalism embedded in the small pieces. The addition of objects of personal significance provides a dimensional and archival quality to the pieces. The links evoke for me the need for personal armor in the organizational context.

Each of these quilts is conceived of as a chapter in a book that charts the indoctrination and path to enlightenment of the artist.

The “Who Are You” exhibition is the first time these very personal pieces have been shown in public. They were created over a period of time, then mounted together as you see here.

The Cinderella Stories Chapter 5: I am Enlightened – Copyright 2006 Susan G Abbott, All Rights Reserved

Mounting these artist trading cards was a tricky process. I created this form, which I call a “quilt” because of the way pieces are assembled.

I no longer use the casino playing cards as a substrate, because they warp easily, even after being laminated. So now I use heavy watercolor paper as the starting point. The images collaged onto the cards come from a wide variety of sources, including my own photographs and rubber stamps I have created.

I do love making these, but have gotten away from them in recent years. In part because I was not sure I would ever be able to show them. When I saw the opportunity with Red Head Gallery, it seemed like a perfect fit. So I may now be inspired to do a few more in the series.

Thanks for stopping by!





Watching the sunsets from on Lake Nipissing

We usually think of watching the sunset looking west, directly into the setting sun.  I often find that the most interesting light is in the clouds somewhere else.  I got to experience this on my recent trip to Lake Nipissing, where my cabin faced East.

As our campfire was crackling, we would sit and watch the lake. On this night, the reflections of the setting sun in the eastern sky clouds was spectacular. Few cameras can capture these colors as well as the human eye, but I did take a couple of photos as reminders.

One of the things that interested me were the highlights close to the horizon, and the way the reflected sunset broke around the island.

This painting is based on almost the same viewpoint as the painting titled Twilight from Memquisit, which is a painting of the pre-dawn twilight.

The next morning, with hot coffee firmly in hand, I started to figure out how to create this painting of brilliant colors in the fading light.


After dark: painting the twilight on Lake Nipissing

While I was staying at Memquisit Lodge, I painted two “sunset” paintings. Well, not quite … permit me to explain.

This one was actually the twilight before dawn. I got up quite early one morning, and looked out to a beautiful scene. The sky was clear, there was no rain, a crisp, cool morning was about to arrive. I quickly put on a warm jacket, grabbed my phone, and dashed out to snap a few photos.

It was quite chilly, and still dark, so I hopped back to bed, already thinking about the painting I wanted to create.

As you can see from my preparatory sketch, I snapped the photos at 5:46 AM — not even the fishers were out then!

You might wonder why I do a preparatory sketch when I have taken photos? Well, several reasons. First, the photos are never as nuanced as what the human eye can see. Especially in low light conditions, our eyes experience much more.

Another reason is that I am creating a painting, not reproducing a photograph. The painting will likely be somewhat different than the actual scene — I am simplifying some things, emphasizing other things, reducing complexity, showing you my ideas.

The dark sky is not all one color. Nor is the dark water. I love painting the gradations of the values, and adjusting the scene to capture my impression of it.  The challenge with a painting like this is making the darks DARK enough, but not generally black.There is a beautiful mixture you can buy from paint suppliers called Payne’s grey, which is a mixture of blue and black, and I used that quite a bit in my mixtures for this painting.

For the emerging sunlight, the challenge is to make the lights LIGHT enough, but not the same light as full daylight.

Once I was up and had a hot coffee in hand, this painting came together quickly. I set my easel up on the rocks outside the cabin, and by mid-afternoon, the painting was close to finished.

Those late August days can have quite cool nights when you are in the near north, like the Lake Nipissing area. Often you will see the mist rise from the water in the morning.

I was very pleased with this piece, which captures that beautiful time of day we call twilight, when the day is not yet here, and some of the mystery and the magic of the night remains.

Painting the marshes on Lake Nipissing

While staying at Memquisit Lodge on Lake Nipissing this summer, I decided to paint the marsh close to our cabin.

I love these marshes — they are home to a lot of wildlife, and if you pay attention, you will often see a Great Blue Heron.

They are a very challenging subject to paint.

The water in a marsh is usually quite a dark green, in part because there are many weeds just below the surface, as well as algae and so forth. On this day, the sky was quite overcast, making for a rather dark painting.

Although waves tend to disappear in a marsh because the weeds protect it, any little breeze will make the water riffle.

The water lilies are beautiful, as is the pickerel weed (that’s the blue flower) and the other marsh plants. I did see a Great Blue Heron here one day, and also the head of a large turtle, and a number of frogs. Beneath the surface there are many fingerling fish.

I think they are beautiful, which is a good thing, because the Canadian Shield landscape has many marshes!

Painting Lake Nipissing from Memquisit Lodge

I had two glorious weeks in a small cabin at Memquisit Lodge on Lake Nipissing this summer. We were situated at the end of a rocky outcropping, with a marsh on one side and the lovely West Bay of Lake Nipissing on the other.

We did a little bit of hiking, explored the towns nearby on the days with poor weather, and had a campfire almost every night.  Many nights the sky was clear, even though the evenings were cold, and the stars were magnificent. We also paddled around the nearby islands and bays.

Needless to say, I painted most days. The lake itself is beautiful, and surprisingly calm for such a large lake. Probably because we were in the relatively sheltered West Bay area, where there are many islands.

This first painting was based on impressions, and some hastily taken photos from my phone, while we were kayaking along. I love the rocks of the Canadian Shield, and never tire of painting them.



Below Ritchie Falls, Spring – making a painting

One of my favorite places in Haliburton is Ritchie Falls, a small waterfall park where you can scramble among the rocks and trees. Looking up at the falls or down at the swirling water below the falls are both very pleasurable activities, especially on a hot day.

Lots of people use the spot for picnics, and even swimming. And with so many great places to set up on the rocks, in some shade, it is also a popular spot for plein air painting.

I took several pictures there in the spring, and made some charcoal sketches from them.  This one had a design and value structure I liked a lot, so I also sketched some possible colors for the painting.

I was focusing on the value structure in the scene, reducing the complexity of the environment to big shapes, with a combination of hard and soft edges. The brushwork is lively, expressive of a moment in time with bright light in some places, deep shadow in others, and constant changes of wind, leaves, and water.

I was very pleased with this painting, which is currently hanging in my home, but will be included in some fall shows in the local area. I don’t expect I will have it long, and will be sorry to see this one find a new home.

Thanks for stopping by.

Scotts Dam Road in Spring

I spent two weeks this spring working in a shared studio in Haliburton, at the art school there. A wonderful and inspiring time spent with other advanced artists, it was just heavenly.

A good friend, also an artist, had invited me to stay at her home in the area. One rainy Saturday, I roamed around the county taking pictures.

There is a wonderful little country road leading to Scott’s Dam that had a large number of trilliums blooming at the side of the road. That was the inspiration for this painting.

The trilliums started out looking like a flower, but as I kept working the painting, I ultimately decided to paint them out and simply leave the suggestion of the white amid the dark emerging greenery, and deep shade of the trees.

Non-artists sometimes think that abstract painting must be quite easy. My own experience has been that it is much more challenging than painting in a naturalistic or realistic manner. I very much enjoy abstract art, but do not often finish something quite this removed from the original inspiration.

I hope you enjoy it too. Thanks for stopping by.

Clouds on Tamarack Lake

A few years ago I stayed at a lovely cottage lodge on Tamarack Lake. I really liked the little island that could be easily seen from our cottage, and created a plein air painting while I was there. I was never totally happy with the painting, and decided to tackle it again from a fresh start.

To refresh my memory of the lodge, I pulled out my own photos, and also looked through the wonderful gallery of images on the lodge site.  Reiner Arnold and Barbara Kraus, the proprietors, are also professional photographers.

Freshly inspired, I reinterpreted the scene according to my own ideas of the place. The island is still there, perhaps a little more distant than in real life, so that the clouds can take on a bigger role.

I actually painted this a couple of times this year, in different styles, but this is the one I like best. The variations in the blue of the water, the pinks and oranges in the clouds, and the haziness in the sky are all effects I was working to achieve.

This painting is currently hanging in my home, but I will be showing it in the next few months at local group shows in Toronto.

Thanks for stopping by!



Why paint something more than once?

© Susan G Abbott - Looking South From Pelee

I have painted this scene from the southern tip of Pelee Island three times so far, but could be quite happy painting it again. A guest at my opening reception asked me why.

It’s simple really — there is no one best way to paint any given subject matter, whether it is a person or a landscape or even a concept for an abstract piece. The shapes of the geometry, the possibilities offered for simplifying and changing the colors and values, and just the simple beauty of the curves are all very appealing for me in this scene.http://www.philamuseum.org/

Many great artists have painted a given subject many times. Monet painted his garden and water-lilies about 250 times. Cezanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire some 60 times. Here’s one example, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1902-1904 Paul Cézanne, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Here’s another example of the same subject, painted several years earlier, from the Courtauld Gallery.

Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine, c. 1887, (The Courtauld Gallery, London)

By working with a familiar subject, he would have been able to try many different approaches to the subject — different brushwork, different color selections, different levels of abstraction. Over time, he pulled away from impressionistic approaches of capturing the moment, and became more studied in his approach. Cezanne was greatly influential on other painters of his time and now, although he was not tremendously successful in his own time.





Hot days in the Kawarthas

© 2017 Susan G Abbott - Hot Wind in Kawarthas

Hot Wind in Kawarthas | Acrylic on wood panel | 18 x 18 ins | $225 | 2017

Driving home from the Haliburton region, there’s a little diner by the lake in a tiny place called Cameron.

It’s in the Kawartha Lakes district, which is part of the Trent-Severn canal system, so you can take a boat from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario. At one time this would have been used for commercial shipping, but now it is primarily a route for pleasure boats.

There’s a small deck, a docking area for the little marina where the houseboats stop on their travels. I love the marshy edge of the lake, and this odd tree that is bent over by the wind and looks oddly tropical. This day in August was very hot, with the kind of humid overcast that creates a lot of glare and haze. It’s not really clear and its not really cloudy. You just know there is going to be a thunderstorm by late afternoon on a day like this.

Far too hot to be outside on the little deck, we sat inside the diner for our fish and chips. I had a lovely chat with the server who was very interested to learn more about my art, and has done some painting herself.

Only a short stop, then we bought some cold drinks, and headed back out to the main highway. Once back home and ensconced on our own little deck, sure enough, there was a thunderstorm. Something we can enjoy from a safe and dry spot.

This piece is currently hanging in my home, until it finds a new home. Here’s a little picture of what is looks like in my hallway. You can see the cradle mounting for these panels sets them off the wall nicely, even if there is no frame.

painting of tree and water with colorful sky

Hot Wind in Kawarthas installed view | Acrylic on wood panel | 18 x 18 ins | $225 | 2017