Sunday, July 24, 2016

Salt Spring Relaxation

I could dwell on the fact that it's been more than 4 years since I last posted to this blog, but instead, I'd rather tell you how great it is to be back. Since my last post, life has had other priorities, those related to health, fitness, and marathoning (and the related run blog), career pursuits, and other items that were somewhat all consuming of my time and energy. Finding myself on a new path today, I have a lot of spare time this summer. I decided to take advantage of this and make a bit of a summer bucket list, or as I prefer to call it, a list of summer goals. My list involves getting back in touch with my more creative pursuits as well as exploring places in British Columbia I haven't yet explored.

This list of goals included finishing at least one canvas, acknowledging this as one of my more important goals, knowing it had been years since I've painted. I could go on about my reasons, or excuses rather, for not painting. I have come to realize that I just have to suck it up and paint despite my tight living quarters, and find creative reasons to do so. Whether it's taking down some of my paintings that are currently on my walls and placing them in storage to hang newly created work in their place, painting for artist's calls to community gallery exhibitions, or to give as gifts to family and friends. I can't let space be a barrier to my creation. Someday it will be realistic for me to live in a bigger home, but until then, I should not stifle my creative instinct. It is much too important to me being me.

Knowing one of my other goals this summer was BC exploration, my husband, Cam, and I planned a getaway to Salt Spring Island. Believe it or not, as someone born and raised in BC, I had never been to a Gulf Island, and certainly not to this one. Cam, growing up in Victoria, had been to Salt Spring as it's easily accessible from there. He knew that I would not only love it at Salt Spring, but that it would inspire my inner artist. And it sure did. I loved seeing all the artist studios, the artisan market, and noticed that the beautiful and varied landscape on this lush island offers much inspiration to the many artists that call Salt Spring home. It's no wonder they chose to make it home.

I had already made plans for a painting to go on one of the bedroom walls. It was to replace an image already up. But this journey to Salt Spring inspired a new idea that took over my previous idea. It wasn't intentional, but it's likely no coincidence I chose the image that I did, one framed perfectly by trees, to go next to these two paintings on my walls that also have large trees as their frame: Here are the other two paintings, Date at Beacon Hill Park (left - inspiring image from Victoria, BC) and Autumn at Porteau Cove (right - inspiring image from Porteau Cove, near Squamish, BC).

The photo I took that inspired my newest painting was taken at Salt Spring Island, during a short hike that Cam and I took from our campsite at Ruckle National Park to the Heritage Farm. Our goals on this camping trip were simple - relaxation, time together, and exploration. This walk accomplished that, as it was a gentle walk with many stops for photography. After seeing the hundred or so photos from the trip, this one was chosen for my painting: an image of two sheep relaxing and grazing at the farm. I thought the lush green colours, the trees framing the image so perfectly like my other paintings above, the relaxing feeling it evokes, and the fact it was taken during this summer, a summer of reconnecting with my creative side, made it perfect. It would complement the other paintings, one an autumn image and the other a spring image, offering a contrasting season. But it would also serve as a reminder to stay connected. I knew it would also please Cam, if I painted something from this trip we took together and to show my appreciation of his constant and gentle encouragement for me to create something artistic again. Here's the photo I chose:

Heritage Farm, Ruckle National Park, Salt Spring Island, BC
I'm never one to copy a photo exactly, detailing my work to make it as realistic as possible. My style is to be realistic enough so you know what you're looking at, but I like bold colours and texture to shine through and to evoke feeling.  I used this photo quite closely as a guide to painting. The challenge of this image here are the many layers you must peel away in order to effectively show its depth. In behind the field the sheep are grazing on is a farm house. Behind that are fields, and behind that, mountains. Trees also line and layer throughout the image. I took some photos on my painting journey to demonstrate my process and the layers I had to work with:


I painted the sky to start, then began layering mountains and a base colour for the fields to be painted on.

Then I began the big project of the farm house. This was much much more time consuming than I expected it to be. It required much layering to capture all the buildings, the trees scattered in between, and fence that surrounded everything. I used conte crayons to sketch in guidance lines to make painting easier, as the conte is much more easily wiped off. One I was happy with my sketching, I could go in more permanently with the paint brush.


Getting in the front fence was a major milestone to this section of the painting. It's truly where the tedious building layers and lines ended (i.e., I don't like painting with precision) and the messy painting fun began! Now I had the pleasure of adding in the colourful parts, blending colours, adding each tree one at a time, layering their branches and leaves over each other, the field in the foreground, layering colour over colour, the cute little sheep, etc. This process all took place in one uninterrupted session of pure joy, inspiration, and desire to see the canvas through to completion.


But I wasn't done here. I wasn't far from the end but I was tired and knew a day of separation from the image would mean I can come back to it with a fresh perspective. The sheep were simply roughed in, and they needed to be completed. But I also always like to go over the painting on its final day and touch up areas where my paint brush may have wavered, or to tone up where colour isn't as vibrant as it should be. And I also had some fun with my palette knife, cutting colour into the field in the foreground, adding texture, and defining individual blades of grass where I felt like it. Once I was done this, I let it dry and finished it with a coat of gloss to give it a fresh off the easel look and to bring the colours out. Here's the final product - as you can see, much more bold in colour and more an interpretation of the inspiring image, rather than a copy. 

Salt Spring Relaxation - © Zahida Jaffer, 2016

I am rather pleased with this work. What do you think?

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