Creating a great work of art, begins long before the physical act of painting.

Artwork is defined as the production of artistic work, such as painting or sculpture, but the work behind making an artwork begins long before the physical production. I just returned from a nine day journey across Western Canada, from Prairies to Salish Sea. The last time I spent a significant amount of time exploring Canada was in 2016, working up to solo exhibitions of my work in 2017. At that time I was fortunate enough to explore the Northwest Territories, BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. As this pandemic year of 2020 has us quarantined to our homes and socially distancing from other humans for the Spring, the recent opening up of the provinces to travel put me in a position to take off and recharge my batteries. On this tour rather than spend time with different art friends in each province, I joined forces with a friend from film-making days. The last time we worked together was way back in 1994 on a live feed satellite TV series for the Royal BC Museum, called SAFARI. With Mrs. Rogers now retired from the film industry and working as a photographer and photojournalist, and with me working as a full-time self-representing visual artist; now is the perfect time to re-connect on a epic journey across Western Canada.

Mid-July we boarded a Westjet flight in Victoria BC and flew into Brandon , Manitoba. Over the course of the next nine days we would make our way across the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. We plotted a course that would take us through some of the most stunningly unique landscapes Canada has to offer. This journey did not come without challenges, as in the year of COVID-19 our attention to details must be sharp, in order to stay healthy. As we boarded our 6am flight from Victoria, we prepared ourselves with masks, hand sanitizer and a pep talk. From the moment we entered the airport, to the moment we arrived at our destination, we were encouraged by our flight crew and the cleanliness of the plane. On the flight there were a variety moods witnessed by flight crew and fellow passengers, the air was tense but also positive. A young woman boarded the plane with baby and multiple bags, she was visibly upset and those around her, even in this pandemic year, were offering comfort and help with baggage. With sun up and mostly clear skies we settled in to enjoy the summer views of the rocky mountains, and the prairie crops of canola yellow, flax blue and early wheat green.

Rocky Mountains photo aerial black and white

Landing in Brandon we were met with muggy heat and drowned canola fields from the recent flooding, which means LOTS of bugs that like to dine on human flesh and blood. The skies were overcast shades of payne’s grey against canola yellow and cutouts of sky blue, the light was changing rapidly, the perfect set-up for two artists with Nikon camera’s in tow. Nature was busy painting and we were busy capturing.

westjet flight over prairie fields of canola

With three days in Brandon to pick up and pack a car, say a quick hello, and explore a few sites our choices were diverse, giving us a broad overview of the Wheat City. Beginning in Gladstone, we then branched out to Souris, Oak Island, Griswold and the canola and wheat fields around the city. With the wheat still green, the canola neon yellow against dramatic skies of blue to grey; it was a feast for a painter’s and photographers eyes.

photo of canola and rainbow in Brandon Manitoba

Canadian Artist Brandy Saturley in Brandon Manitoba

Day 4 we set out to Saskatchewan. Stops included; Indian Head, Moose Jaw, and Swift Current. My first time in this prairie province, I was romanced by the vast fields and skies that go on forever. Canola yellow, early wheat green, big sky and flax flower blues. A feast for a painter’s eyes, and information for future palettes.

Saskatchewan barn and fields

Saskatchewan roadside fields of flax blue and canola yellow

Day 5 we were off to Alberta. Stops included Medicine Hat, Bow Island & Waterton Lakes. Now we are getting hilly as we head into the mountains, not so flat and many more people to be found heading into Waterton.

travelling by bike through Alberta - Brandy Saturley

reflections off motorcycle helmet

Day 6 found us Waterton Lakes bound, this was the BIG stop on the tour, tucked in for two nights to explore the flora and fauna of the area, hike a mountain and take a boat tour of Waterton Lake, crossing over the border momentarily into the USA.

Waterton Lakes National Park July 2020 Summer tourism

Day 8 we hit Creston and explored the old town.

Creston BC heritage buildings

Tivoli theatre Creston BC

Day 9 Osoyoos met us with heat, Indigenous lands, abundant orchards and vineyards, and desert-like vistas.

Spotted Lake Osoyoos BC

Spotted Lake Osoyoos BC July 2020

Fernandes Farms Osoyoos - BC fruit season

Day 10 homeward bound on BC Ferries vessel, Coastal Celebration from Tswassen terminal to Swartz Bay terminal.

Penny Rogers Photography and Writing - Canadian Photojournalist

Brandy Saturley Canadian Artist - Painting and Photography

Duelling Nikons - D750 and D810

While the tour is over, the work is just beginning. For Penny Rogers it will be editing, cataloguing, writing and posting photos to Getty Images. For me it will be downloading, editing and compiling photos, followed by sketching out ideas, developing colour schemes or palettes, mixing paints, and then painting. Later on process videos and recorded video from the landscapes and trip will follow. While on this tour I was posting daily to my Instagram page – hashtag for this trip is #gowestroadtrip2020 . More to come!

This is the WORK behind the making of artwork. Whether it be film, video, writing, photography, or painting. This process takes time, and the payoff? Something original, one-of-a-kind, this is something enduring and worth investing in, something that will be enjoyed and exist for generations to come.

Sincerely Yours,

Brandy Saturley

The photos in this story were shot by Brandy Saturley on iPhone and Nikon D810, Both photographers were shooting using Nikon cameras D750 and D810 – full portfolio of both photographers will be available to view in the coming months.

Canadian Artist Collaborations Inspired by Famous Art Collaborations in History

Group of Seven at table

There I was, a young artist beginning art college, excited about all the possibilities of art and romanced by the stories of famous artists’ lives and artists of the past. As a Canadian artist the most famous artist group is perhaps the Group of Seven, created and led by Canadian landscape painter, Lawren Harris. Assembling a number of Canadian painters into a group or club, Harris managed to direct the aesthetic of the group and create the ‘aesthetic of the North, the aesthetic of Canada’. Though not truly a collaboration, the group did create an outcome of a group effort, much like a collaboration achieves.

Andy Warhol Basquiat Collaboration

Back to that art history class. Art history classes begin with the ancient, European Art, which mystifies and romanticizes the artist life. Ancient art and specifically paintings were based on technique, craftsmanship and knowledge. Fast forward to the 1950’s and early 60’s of the New York City art world, a movement which challenged the traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture. This movement included many artist collaborations, which saw artist’s paint together and even on the same canvas, imagine two artists painting in opposite, yet complimentary styles, on the same canvas. Inconceivable!

Most famous is perhaps the collaborative pop art meets street art paintings of Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, where a famous Warhol took a less famous Basquiat under his wing and painted together on the same canvas in his studio. Even though some critics didn’t appreciate Basquiat and Warhol‘s relationship — some claiming that Basquiat was a fame-hungry leech trying to ride on Warhol’s reputation while others stating that Warhol was an opportunist who was using Basquiat’s talent for his own ends, the truth seems to show that the relationship was genuine, if fraught with frustrations.  Whether intentionally exploitative of Warhol or not, it is true that the young Basquiat felt deeply for the man, and created masterpieces with his idol.

Douglas Coupland Vancouver Art GalleryFast forward to artists in Canada in the 20th century, and one in particular, Douglas Coupland. For his major solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014, ‘everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything’. Often incorporating everyday materials and objects such as plastic lids, children’s toys, pencils and books, Coupland’s work and installations require a collaborative effort with everyday people, asking them to participate through collecting and sending him items to include in his pop culture creations.

Collaborative art is an interesting phenomenon, I mean we are artists, we are very independent with singular signature visions of what we want to create, so how can visual artists collaborate? If you look at the musicians, collaboration is important in their process and often better when one or more are together, such as the case with Lennon and McCartney and the Beatles. Collaboration made these artists better and stronger as they riffed off each other and pushed each other forward. Prior to the establishment of formal artistic training schools, the close bond between artists was often forged in the studio or the gallery. The sense of camaraderie – as well as competition – between artists presented opportunity for them to learn, and steal, from one another – collaboration can create better art through outcomes you cannot control.

So what is collaboration in terms of art? is it teamwork? The key difference between teamwork and collaboration is that in teamwork, a group of people perform their individual roles to contribute to the achievement of a goal whereas in collaboration, all individuals are partners that share work as well as ideas and insights to achieve a common objective.

In the footsteps of past artist collaborations and famous artist collaborators I came to create two collaborations in art. The first began in 2014, shortly after I visited the Douglas Coupland exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The People of Canada Portrait Project, a collaborative portrait painting project, between myself and everyday Canadians. Through photos submitted by Canadians, I paint portraits based on the stories they share with me about their lives as Canadians.

For the project, I used social media and the internet as a tool for connecting to a diverse audience of subjects. I never know what photo will grab my attention and you never know what the backstory will be, but the photo has to ‘grab’ me, I have to be invested in the subjects I will paint. The original images selected as reference points for portraits are displayed in a stream on the project’s website (Peopleofcanada.ca). Through interviews, process photos, and short films the original subjects of the photographs become part of the project’s archive, material for future excavation into how people define themselves as Canadian. By choosing their own photographs, my subjects participate in their own self-representation. Yet they also cede control as I invent a landscape intended to amplify the relationship between the people and landscapes depicted.

As this Canadian portrait project continues to grow and evolve, the project guidelines I set forth in the beginning have also evolved, because of the collaborative experience.

The second collaboration I am currently working on, is inspired by the tradition of landscape painting in Canada, and the Group of Seven. In 2017, I began collaborating with anotherCanadian artist collaboration Canadian painter, based in Calgary, Alberta. The idea: paint mountain peaks on the provincial border of Alberta and British Columbia (the border that divides us as artists) Painting mountains on the continental divide, the painting begins in one artists’ studio in Calgary, and the painting is completed in the other artists’ studio in Victoria.  Inspired by famous collaborations of art history past, such as Warhol and Basquiat, Johns and Rauschenberg, and Rivera & Kahlo – this was going to be interesting as in our case we live 1059KM apart, a 13 hour drive and a ferry boat. Each painting rendered in brushstrokes from each artist. Each painting a collaborative effort and celebration of two styles, creating a new language, expressing a combined love of the Rockies. Beyond the borders of the paintings, and beyond the borders that divide two provinces that have been locked into a political battle over a pipeline. Moving us beyond the borders of our differences, and bringing us together, over art. In honour of Group of Seven luminary, Lawren Harris, we selected a name under which to paint, and the Mountain Forms Collective is born.

The art of collaboration is truly one that requires patience, an openness to learning no matter your level of experience and expertise (leave your ego at the door) respect of your collaborators, working as a team to achieve something bigger than yourself, the creation of a new community in which to grow and propagate your ideas and the unique experience of creating something important, together. For if it is important to you, it is important to make it heard in any way you can conceive!

Sincerely Yours,

Brandy Saturley