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Paintings of Icebergs That Capture the Spirit of the Landscape

At the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, in the Photography wing of the museum you will find some gems. One such gem is a photo of two men resting near an iceberg during the Terra Nova Expedition to Anatarctica, led by Robert Falcon Scott. The photograph by Herbet Ponting was taken in 1910 and makes me think of Lawren Harris and Rockwell Kent iceberg paintings. Painters, explorers and photographers have been drawn to these glacial giants for hundreds of years. Paintings of icebergs will always reflect more than the ethereal beauty of these essential landscapes, for what they capture is more than just a landscape, they capture something that gives and sustains life itself.

iconic iceberg photos

Capturing the spirit of the landscape, transcendental and other worldly. These original acrylic paintings collage together landscapes, people, nature, shapes and vivid colours. Weaving new visual stories on canvas that have a distinctly Canadian pop art style. I have been drawn to the works of Lawren Harris from his Group of Seven period, but also love how he evolved his work into more abstract realms with the Transcendental Painting Group. When it comes to colour play, I often think of ‘Squares with Concentric Circles’ by Kandinsky. maybe this is where the circles are coming from in my recent work.

lawren harris paintings

When I decide on what I am painting, I begin with a central character. Whether that character is a mountain, a moose, or a human matters not, I’m looking for a starting point to my visual story on canvas. These days I rely heavily on intuition to guide me, and even I discover things within my work years down the road, that I did not see when I was creating the piece. I think this is what makes great art, the ability to see new things in the work for years to come. With the heat rising here this summer, and little to no sign of icebergs off Twillingate, Newfoundland, known for it’s famous ‘Iceberg Alley’, I felt compelled to tell a visual tale about icebergs. My contemporary take on landscape paintings of icebergs. Beginning with a painting that features a woman in a bikini, between two icebergs. A polar bear seems to be flying as he leaps from iceberg to iceberg. This is, ‘When Polar Bears Fly’.

spirit landscapes paintings

The second painting about icebergs features a trifecta of bergs, three sisters of ice on the ocean. A woman in a tilley-esque hat, and red coat, scans the horizon for bergs as they continue to evade her view. This is, ‘Looking for The Bergs’.

iceberg paintings

These paintings of icebergs are the two most recent in a body of work that captures the ‘spirit of the landscape’ – these paintings offer visual stories of the landscapes that inspired the art. Here you will find paintings with iconic Canadian imagery such as mountains, oceans and icebergs; set against vivid and playful backgrounds that are sometimes otherworldly. These original acrylic paintings collage together landscapes, people, nature, shapes and vivid colours. Weaving new visual stories on canvas that have a distinctly Canadian pop art style, the vision of a Canadian artist known as the ‘Iconic Canuck’.

Brandy Saturley Canadian Artist

Watch behind the scenes video of these paintings in process, a peek inside this iconic Canadian Artist’s studio.

Paintings of mountains: beyond the Group of Seven

I remember the first time I saw a painting of a mountain, I was about four and it was hanging on our wall. It was a painting by my grandmother, a minimalist palette of blues to grey and white. Heavy oils and palette knife scratches. Then a decade later I had my first experience with paintings of mountains by Group of Seven founder, Lawren Harris, these were much softer looking mountains, they had a modern feel.

Mountain paintings with people

Even though I could appreciate these Canadian landscapes, I had not yet fallen in love with the mountains. Perhaps growing up on an island, where beaches, ocean, and rainforests were my backyard, I never really thought about mountains much.

I recall my first time putting on skis and taking a bus to visit the only ski area on our island, Mount Washington was further North than my hometown of Victoria. Still not a mountain lover, those slopes had my attention as I was first learning to ski down hills.

Even family trips through the mountains from BC to Alberta were lost on me, maybe it was the fighting with my sister, and the weird things my Dad would do and say, not unlike the National Lampoon Vacation films.

It really wasn’t until about 2010 that I really fell for the mountains. Driving from BC to Alberta to deliver paintings to a gallery in Canmore. In winter, these mountains take on a whole new persona, draped in glistening blankets of shiny ice and snow, with the odd bit of rock peaking its way through, these mountains now became animalistic. These mountains were watching me, as I was staring into their folds of shadow and light. It’s as if these mountains were people, and I wanted to paint their portraits. So, I began to paint the character of the mountains and I began to add humans, sometimes staring, and often having silent conversations with these behemoths of the landscape.

Fast forward to my most recent painting, again I have positioned people in the landscape, with the mountain looking on, because sometimes we see mountains and sometimes they see us.

This is ‘The Kiss’ (love in the Rockies)

Mountain paintings

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

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.