After a week of torrential rain, the sun shone blissfully for us on Saturday morning as 10 intrepid painters arrived at the Nurtury to capture the autumn leaves at their peak and to share with Janice Poltrick Donato - our resident artist - her passion for painting with oil. Some of us had dabbled in the world of art before. Some of us had never even held a paintbrush beyond elementary school. No matter...By the end of these 2 sumptuous away days (with sleepover option) Janice had helped us to link back into a love of painting or discover that love for the first time.
After a brief philosophical exploration of the notion of the risk-taking, enjoyment-seeking 'amateur painter' - an idea that became a thread over the course of our 2 days together - we headed off to the Nurtury's brand new art studio. There, Janice introduced us to the techniques of gessoing our canvases and framing our chosen autumn landscape.
Kim quickly got the hang of framing, making us think that our next painting weekend should be devoted to portraiture! Before long we were putting those first tenuous charcoal lines on our gessoed boards...An experience that for Kathy, anyway, marked the beginning of a great new adventure.
Nature's astounding oranges, yellows and reds made our choice of colour palette easy. Having prepared our palettes and selected our brushes we were off!
It wasn't long before Bernice was delighting in the fine art of globbing, gooping and scraping.
For their part, sisters Pina and Maria chose crimsons to match their jackets (!) and proceeded to 'paint the Nurtury red'.
Over 'autumn inspired' meals enjoyed between painting sessions, we pursued the question of whether, when painting, it is the final oeuvre that counts or the process of getting there. Jacynthe, for example, set as her weekend goal the task of taking greater risks with her painting and going outside her comfort zone. By adopting a 'critics be damned' approach, she was able to break free and produce, by the end of her stay at the Nurtury, a joyfully flamboyant medley of blue, yellow and orange. We decided that focusing on the bodily pleasures and sensitivities that accompany the application of paint to canvas helped us to care less about the judgment of others and to get the most out of our painting experience.
One of the great things about a painting experience like this is that you get the chance to escape off on your own to commune with nature and to explore your inner creativity. But equally, when the day is over and you feel like sharing your new insights with others, there is a ready-made artist colony waiting fireside so that you can draw up a chair and swap stories and experiences. Rita, qui a fait le trajet de Maniwaki à Lakefield pour trouver le temps et la tranquilité pour se perdre dans son art, etait également content de parler d'art entre sessions - en partageant avec nous ses réflections sur la différence entre la peinture en studio avec un photographe comme référence (qui est son habitude) et la peinture en plein air. This special combination of solitude and sociality was brought home to us in the evening after dinner when we watched an NFB film about a group of Montreal-based female painters in the 1920s and 30s who were devoted primarily to their art, but who needed the support and inspiration of each other to make their way in a predominantly male art world. This group included Prudence Heward, Ann Savage and Sarah Robertson...Each one an accomplished and innovative artist in her time and yet, like so many women in art, barely recognized today. Maybe our inimitable Rose is ahead of her time in her transformation of a lower Laurentian landscape into a great big casserole of peas!
By Sunday afternoon we all had something to show for our weekend. There was even a communal painting that each of us spent 10 minutes working on - yet another attempt to challenge the conventions surrounding the individual 'authored' oeuvre and the often paralyzing kinds of judgment that go with it. So, we held an impromptu vernissage in the studio where, celebratory kir royale in hand, we each presented our works - some still in progress, some completed - and spoke about what we had learned about ourselves as painters.
We are thankful to Carole who graciously donated her vibrant painting of the beautiful autumn colours reflected in our lake to wine women and philosophy. It will have a special place on the walls of the Nurtury.
For those of you who took your paintings with you, we hope that they will have a special place in your home and heart. On that note, please please please send us your photos of your finished works and of the weekend more generally...For example, we spent a lot of quality time at the dinner table and it would be nice to add these moments to our blog.
Our heartfelt thanks go out to Janice for nudging us along as artists. You not only have the artist's eye. You also have the teacherly touch. You gave each of us a new-found confidence in our abilities, and you taught us so much about painting. We can't wait to do it all again. For those of you whose interest has been piqued, make sure to look out for Janice's annual summer artist's retreat at the Nurtury.
And to Rita, Jacynthe, Carole, Bernice, Kathy, Kim, Rose, Pina and Maria - what a wonderful experience this was for us and we thank you all for making it such a pleasure to host you at the Nurtury.