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“What I capture in spite of myself, interests me more than my own ideas.”

~ Pablo Picasso

I have been thinking a lot lately about intuition and art, and how I have become more aware of how much I access the subliminal mind to communicate, where words fail to flow freely from my mouth. While I am of the belief that “inspiration is for amateurs” (Chuck Close) and it is true that “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” (Pablo Picasso) and that you must show up, every day, be disciplined in your practice, and work even when you don’t feel like working. Every so often we need to birth an ugly baby, and “after a while the muse shows up.” (Isabelle Allande)

Over the past couple decades I have seen foreshadowing in my work, through painting places I had not yet traveled. It could be intuition or it could be attraction. Perhaps because I am meditating so much on the subject or place, the place becomes burned into my subliminal mind. I find myself travelling there, long after I have painted it. I believe that many painters who paint representational works do so because they are painting what surrounds them, they are painting their everyday and they are painting local. This may be why many artists paint local landscapes, urban scenes and still life found in their backyard. They are hyper focused on what surrounds them, and are perhaps looking for inspiration.

stag canada Canadian artist Brandy Saturley

When I was a teenager I used to tear out photos from magazines, I loved the images created by teams of people looking to sell products, enhance a story, and strike a chord. I had a subscription to the International newspaper and would read and collect stories from other countries. I was endlessly fascinated in all that was not in my backyard, in rural Vancouver Island. I wanted to learn anything and everything, didn’t matter what; I was open for learning, experimenting and exploring.

All the places I have painted, I came to explore after the first time painting them, as if I were painting the journey to come. The sentiment from Van Gogh captures the essence of this best; “I dream my painting and I paint my dream”.  I remember one of my first landscapes, painted with canvasses lying on the floor, I planned a diptych that would stretch across two canvasses. The landscape was of Painted Hills Oregon, a place I had never been, but had seen many stunning photos of over the years. Years after I painted and sold the piece, I did a road trip through central Washington and Oregon, ending up at this otherworldly location that takes you back in time, literally. The first time I painted Mexico, was a year before I would travel there, it was on my mind. The same happened with Maui, as I read books about American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her time spent painting in Maui. Through the subliminal my brain was focusing on these places, my hand was painting them, and later on my body was moving me to these locations, to witness them long after I had painted them into narratives on canvas. There were never any plans, only focus, which lead to plans, which lead to packing bags, camera and sketchbooks; heading towards these destinations. I am painting these places that I have held in my dreams.

diptych painting painted hills Oregon

With my ‘Canadianisms’ series, which encompasses Canadian culture, symbolism and landscape; I too began with painting these stories before gaining first hand knowledge and experience with many of these things. Through reading, watching and seeing; I came to absorb the ideas of these places as presented by others before me, then filtering them through my mind adding my voice to the chorus of knowledge. I am painting these stories that I have lived in my dreams.

inside Canadian artist Brandy Saturley's art studio

Over the past few months, under the global pandemic haze of COVID-19, I have found myself land locked and focusing more on circles and human connection. Whether it is our Vancouver Island ‘bubble’ or our interest in keeping others out, Vancouver Islanders were born for this and in some ways happy for a renewed and concentrated interest in focusing on their own backyard, literally. My paintings of the last few months encompass relationships, romance, passion and isolation. The conversations I am having are more intense, and everyone seems to be dropping the mask, figuratively, and wanting to share the emotional experiences, fears, hopes and dreams for the future.

covid-19 painting modern art

As I continue on, I am going back to photos and writing from these trips of the past couple decades. I am examining them under a new lens, in a world where things are changing rapidly and there is a need for the comforts of the past. As I prepare to launch my third virtual exhibition, in the past three months, I am looking to celebrate a decade of telling stories of Canada on canvas, and produce a new piece which will touch on the current consciousness of my country.

Sincerely Yours,

Brandy Saturley

Portrait of A Landscape: re-framing traditional landscape painting in Canada

Being a Canadian artist means you grow up with the images of Canada as painted by the Group of Seven. 

Whether the landscapes, forests and farms of southern Ontario as painted by A.J. Casson, or  A.Y. Jackson’s Georgian Bay, the grandeur of the rocky mountains as imagined by Lawren Harris, or the raw beauty and Autumn hues of Algonquin park as depicted by the People’s artist, Tom Thomson. The Group of Seven burnished the idea of the Canadian landscape onto our brains, seeping deep into our hearts. I was always drawn to the icy blue palette, idealized forms and light captured in the paintings of Lawren Harris. I was always particularly drawn to his paintings of mountains.

landscape painting in canada

Mountain Forms, 1926, Lawren Harris

As a Canadian painter looking to create my own distinct artist voice on canvas I began to study the works of the world renowned American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Lake George New York, 1926, Georgia O’Keeffe

Famous for her depictions of New Mexico landscapes and still life of flowers and skulls, I began to find similarities between the mountain paintings of Harris and the landscape paintings of O’Keeffe. Both with their precisionist style, idealized forms, and feminine palettes; my affinity for the works of these two painters is leading me down a new path of re-framing the Canadian landscape in painting.

Pelvis with Distance, 1943, Georgia O’Keeffe

landscape painting in canada

North Shore Lake Superior, 1926, Lawren Harris

A landscape as it is, is something to be appreciated, perhaps captured on camera, but nature is perfection and it has never been my interest to paint the landscape as it appears. I am drawn to the details found within the landscape, the story of the landscape is what interests me most, and it is the story I endeavor to tell on canvas. Our connection to the Earth and to nature, this is something I feel in my bones and want to express on canvas.

reframinglandscapepainting

With this new series of paintings inspired by the landscape I am taking distinct elements of the landscape, symbols of the land and nature that surrounds and re-framing the elements on canvas, in portrait orientation.

landscape painting canada

I began 2018 having just returned home form a trip to Maui, Hawaii where I enjoyed the rainforest, landscapes and tracing Georgia O’Keeffe’s footsteps on the island. The first painting of 2018 is an homage to O’Keeffe and inspired by Maui and the Iao Valley.

reframing landscape painting

I guess you could say I am building contemporary portraits of the landscape, and I am excited to see what comes next.

Sincerely Yours,

Brandy Saturley

A good book and a little bubbly to pass the time on this Maui bound flight.

Georgia O’ Keeffe’s Hawaii – Making Art in Magical Maui

About six years ago after my first trip to explore the landscapes and flora of Maui, I discovered a book written by Maria Ausherman from interviews with Patricia Jennings, about world famous painter, and one of my favorites, Georgia O’Keeffe. The book,  Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii  , focuses on three month’s in 1939 when O’Keeffe visited Hawaii including Maui, as guest of the Dole Pineapple company as they had commissioned her to paint an image for their advertising campaign. The book had been sitting on my desk and I had yet to crack it open, and with a December trip planned to the island paradise, I decided to pack the book up and read it on the plane on my seven hour flight to the island. It was the best way to begin this second journey and set me up for re-tracing O’Keeffe’s footsteps in Hana and the I’ao Valley areas of the island.

Helicona in Hana, Hawaii – photo by Brandy Saturley December 2017

The book is told from the perspective of a 12 year old girl by the name of Patricia Jennings who had served as O’Keeffe’s personal guide while in Maui in 1939. “Less than three years after O’Keeffe’s visit, Pearl Harbour was attacked. The world suddenly changed and Jennings memories of her time guiding O’Keeffe on Maui sustained her through this difficult period in US History. As long as we keep our stories, friendships, and our art, we will not lose the joy of being alive.” (excerpt from the book, April 2011 NYC)

The story is an entertaining and vivid recollection from the perspective of a child and a famous artist, known for her sometimes difficult nature. Jennings spent 10 days with O’Keeffe and from this experience bloomed, much like O’Keeffe’s flower paintings. Jennings credits her time with the artist as schooling in becoming a more confident girl and woman.

Coming off the plane in Kahalui and breathing in the plumeria laced air, I was ready to let the sentiments and recollections in the book, lead me to the places that inspired more than twenty paintings, including the final piece for Dole.

Beginning with the flowers, I was on the lookout for the Heliconia, which appears on the cover of the book. The flower is flamingo-like in it’s colours and shapes. There are many varieties of this flower, all beautiful, unusual and substantial. I found this particular flower in Hana, on Maui. Hana is located at the eastern end of the island of Maui and is one of the most isolated communities in the state. It is reached mainly via the Hana Highway, a long and winding, 52-mile-long (84 km) highway along Maui’s north shore.  The charm of Hana is the fact that little has changed over the last 20 years. Untouched by the major developments of the other side of the island, the Hana community has managed to perpetuate the small town atmosphere, Hawaiian culture and most of all, its natural scenic beauty. Unspoiled, serene and mystical; Hana is truly Maui’s last authentic Hawaiian place. Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in 500-800 AD and built the Pi’i-lani Heiau temple – the largest in the state of Hawaii.

Lava Bridge in Hana, Hawaii

I then ventured to the rugged lava created coastline exploring one of the area’s red sand beaches, which offers a view of a lava bridge, famously painted by O’Keeffe. It is a significant structure that offers a keyhole view from from a distance. O’Keeffe also painted many of the valleys and waterfalls in the area, most found along the Hana Highway through short hikes from the roadside.

Waterfalls in Hana, from Maui Air helicopter vantage point – Brandy Saturley, 2017

Thanks to Maui Air I was able to get up and achieve an overhead perspective of the many valleys and waterfalls in the area, inducing the one’s that inspired O’Keeffe. From 50ft to 400ft and more, these waterfalls and turquoise pools against emerald green lushness, sets your soul at ease. Breathing in the eucalyptus and the tropical flowers sends you into a foggy headed trance, you find yourself in a place you never want to leave.

I’ao Valley and Needle | Brandy Saturley, 2017

After soaking up the beautiful coast and rainforest of Hana I was excited to explore the I’ao Valley. An emerald and lime green valley in Wailuku and including the West Mountains and volcano. Perhaps the most lush and most green place on Earth. The mountains change throughout the day as their wrinkles or valleys light up as the low hanging clouds pass by revealing their beauty, but only a little at a time.

For Georgia O’Keeffe and Lawren Harris | study for a painting Brandy Saturley, 2017

This trip offered numerous opportunities to soak in the lush colours & shapes and the intoxicating sounds and smells. From eucalyptus to plumeria blossoms, from salty air, to sand – Maui puts you in a trance that you do not wish to leave. I spent a few days at a condo in Kihei sketching on my lush garden patio, listening to birds and watching plumeria blossoms dropping daily to my feet. Breathing in Maui and breathing out my expression of this cinematic place on my sketch pad and canvas. As with any adventure, I am looking forward to seeing what this trip produces in my art. The sketch shown here, which is a study for a future painting, is titled; for Georgia & Lawren – two of my favorite painters and both icons of symbolic landscape painting. Aloha from paradise and thank you Georgia O’Keeffe, Patricia Jennings and Maria Ausherman for the inspiration. What if Georgia O’Keeffe and Lawren Harris met and made art together? A question to answer in my next post.