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.

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



Paintings are happy in their new homes

I delivered two more of The Highway series paintings to the new owners yesterday, and both were so pleased, it made my day.

One has a new home overlooking Bronte Bay near Oakville, and is thrilled to have Pelee in Blue to hang as soon as she moves in. She’s starting a new chapter in her life, and something about this long path into the horizon captured her heart (as it did mine!)

© Susan G Abbott - Pelee in Blue

Pelee in Blue, 20 x 20″, acrylic on canvas

Pelee in Blue was the larger painting, made from this small study, which was purchased by another artist I admire. For her, the smaller painting has a freshness and energy that she valued. Dropping off the work at her home yesterday, it was wonderful to have a tour of her other paintings; she owns many wonderful pieces. And I was proud to have my piece taking its place in her home.

© Susan G Abbott - Pelee Study

Pelee Study, 12 x 12″ Acrylic on Canvas

A collector is scheduled to come by to see the latest work, and so I have a selection of pieces I think she will like all ready in my little sun room. Are the paintings happy to be there, instead of stored away in shelves? That is a whimsical idea, but I like it. Surely objects want to be useful and loved, just as we do.

A friend asked me why I would paint the same subject multiple times. More on that in the next post.


Inspiration for Paintings in The Highway Series

© 2017 Susan G Abbott - Below Ritchie Falls, Spring

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Below Ritchie Falls, Spring | Acrylic on canvas | 20 x 24 ins | $350 | 2017

People are asking me what inspired the works in The Highway series of paintings. That’s easy to explain in one way — it is the view of the countryside I can see from the passenger window of our car as we drive to various destinations when we travel in Ontario.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos from the car, putting my camera or phone up through the sunroof. (Not while driving!)  The horizon line you see in a car is invariably slanted, and this is starting to show up in my paintings.

When I was working en plein air (fancy artist term meaning outdoor painting) I was often right at the edge of a highway, because there is nowhere else if the forest is thick. Take Algonquin Park, for example — most of the time you are parked just off Highway 60, the main corridor through the park, painting something that is visible from the highway.

I did do some growing up in the prairies, and lived in Calgary for many years, so that landscape is always present in my imagination. And some of the works have that sense of spaciousness of the prairies, such as Big Sky, shown below. But they were still based on the Ontario countryside.

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All the inspirations are Ontario countryside with one exception, which was purely from my imagination, the diptych Avery Beach.  It is actually based on remembering English Bay in Vancouver. But it is called Avery Beach because I was studying the work of Milton Avery at the time, so the title is a tribute to that influence.

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From an artistic point of view, I am exploring the ways of capturing a sense of space, and the interplay of colors, while simplifying the landscape.

Some of my artistic inspirations are the works of people like these amazing artists:


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