Monica Burrow
Original Art from BC and Beyond

Blog - A Palette of Ideas - on being an artist

(posted on 30 Jun 2017)

On the eve of the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation I have completed a commission for a landscape from Utah. The family is a cross border one, she a canadian and he an american with canadian citizenship. I don't know how they choose between the BC and the Utah scenery. They are both so tempting to paint!

In this latest piece, "Wasatch Sunset", (which can be seen in the Gallery The Desert)  it's about the sky and the clouds at sunset. I have always been incredibly inspired by clouds, and have found them to be a fascinating subject. The sky and the light, or lack of, in the clouds is often what draws me to consider taking a reference photo or stopping to marvel over something that later ends up as a painting. Clouds can be very useful to me in terms of composition, to draw and direct the eye. Sometimes the sky is subordinate when the rest of the composition dominates.

I find it worthwhile observing the sky when I am out in various seasons and weather conditions. I find successful skies often don't need to be laboured over. Some of my best results come from the loosest of brush strokes, with colours mixing right on the brush.

A big attraction of cloud formations is the subtlety and variety of the colours one sees. Creating complex colour sometimes involves painting an area of barely mixed colour several times, each time letting part of what was underneath show through. I think colour is better when not laid down as a premixed solid area. Although my goal is to move toward simplifying more and more as i grow as an artist, I need to ensure that areas of colour remain interesting and varied.

As a Girl Guide I learned a lot from my wartime pilot Dad when I asked him for help with my Weather badge. More than I anticipated actually. It became a full lecture, but the information was so interesting. I wish that in addition to studying the water cycle etc., that elementary school children could learn what the various cloud types can inform about the weather so that one wouldn't need a smart phone in order to decide whether it is prudent to try a plein air day or stay in the studio!

I once had a pair of prescription sunglasses where the tint on the lenses changed over time in such a subtle way that I didn't really notice. What I did notice was that I could see such dimension in clouds, that those with me couldn't see. They were extraordinarily beautiful.

For some time I thought that I was developing an artist's eye, that I was learning to see things on a different level after years of careful observation of the landscape around me. It wasn't until I went to renew my prescription that I learned that the mid grey tint had changed in one lens to a slight rose while the other gray had a slight green tinge. I had a pair of irreplaceable 3D glasses! No wonder my reference photos couldn't hold a candle to what I saw with the sunglasses.

So filter or no filter, I keep my eye on the sky in my landscapes. Sometimes they serve my purpose and sometimes they are the purpose.