Earth Science and Art

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Wheat Fields and Coulee (Near Indian Head)
space, female perspective, prairie sky, landscape painting, oil painting, painting en plein air, artist palette, car as art studio, painting in bad weather, painting outdoors, size of artwork, painting in one sitting, topography of the land, painting swathed fields, wheat field, repetition, line, prairie light, joy in landscape painting, composition, horizon line, perspective, mood in painting, Saskatchewan, rural, seasons,spring, fall
description

“I like Saskatchewan,” Pawson once told an interviewer. “The space. The great big sky… The land is so old and strong and has withstood such extremes, yet it is still here and still beautiful. It makes you feel so small and unimportant, because it will be here long after you are gone.” (Hryniuk, 1988)

Pawson loved a long day in the great outdoors and she always painted on site without the aid of photography. She would load her red 1961 Volkswagen Beetle “Jake” and head out into the countryside. Often she and one of her lifetime friends, Dorothy Martin, would go on  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  day trips; painting out in the elements on nice days and inside the car using the dashboard for support in disagreeable weather. Consequently, Pawson’s paintings were never much larger than she could easily handle in that small space. They were usually finished in one sitting.

Wheat Fields and Coulee (Near Indian Head) was painted on one such outing. Pawson drove east of Regina and found her inspiration for this painting near the small town of Indian Head, Saskatchewan. The rolling and folding land formations of this area caught her eye. The season was unmistakably fall as Pawson’s  paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  contains the ochre colours of the ripe prairie wheat field.

start quote...with it's icy grip on spring, suddenly bursting into life, and summer and autumn growing under the blazing sun with a golden beauty. All this creates an excitement and stimulation for an artist - an optimism and a joy. You must work, work - try to capture this life, this joy.end quote
-- Ruth Pawson

Wheat Fields and Coulee suggests a warm fall day with the fragrant aroma of the ripe grain in the air. A sense of movement, so apparent in much of Pawson’s work, is evident here through her use of the curving lines and the repetition in the rows of  swathedA line of grass or grain cut and thrown together by the scythe in mowing or cradling. The whole sweep of a scythe, or the whole breadth from which grass or grain is cut by a scythe or a machine, in mowing or cradling; as, to cut a wide swath. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  grain and stooks. There are no signs of human beings beyond the signs of harvest-time they have left behind on the landscape.

Pawson was especially interested in the landscapes and colours of spring and fall. ”The seasons following relentlessly from frigid winter,” Pawson says, “with its icy grip on spring, suddenly bursting into life, and summer and autumn growing under the blazing sun with a golden beauty. All this creates an excitement and stimulation for an artist, an optimism and a joy. You must work, work - try to capture this life, this joy.” (Pawson, 1975)

Like many artists, Pawson sought to capture this special, joyful quality in her work. The challenge of this task captivated her and inspired her to seek to achieve it in her paintings for over four decades.

A review of a major  retrospectiveAn exhibition of work by a senior artist representing all the stages of the artist’s career.  of Pawson’s work, held at the Dunlop Art Gallery in 1992, summed up her career and her painting in this way: “Where others see a flat and featureless dust bowl, Ruth Pawson celebrates in her paintings the generous domain of sky and the nuances of prairie light and atmosphere. Her paintings reveal a sensibility finely tuned to the variety of subtle topography.” (Author unknown, 1992)

additional resources Things to Think About
Online Activity
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Learn about drawing in the  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of Constable using pencil of pen and  inkLiquid or paste media containing pigment(s) and used for writing, pen and brush drawing, and printing. Writing inks, even blacks, are rarely sufficiently permanent to be used for art purposes. Black drawing ink, known as India ink in the United States, is especially made for use in permanent works. When it dries it is water resistant, enabling it to be gone over with a wash or watercolour. Also available is a water-soluble drawing ink; though otherwise permanent, it is capable of being washed away with water, and may be preferred to water-resistant ink for certain work. Chinese ink is similar to India ink, although various minor ingredients are added to enhance its brilliancy, range of tone, and working qualities. Most colored drawing inks are not permanent; those made with permanent pigments are usually labeled with names of pigment ingredients rather than the names of hues. Printing ink is actually more closely related to paints than to the pen and brush inks. (Artlex.com)  at ArtisanCam:

Work with an interactive landscape game at Carmine’s Landscape Adventure at: 

 

Studio Activity

Painting outdoors (en plein air)

“I am overwhelmed by the miracle of it all,” Ruth Pawson said about  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  outdoors.  “When I am out painting, I feel I’m very close to creation, to the centre of what the whole world is about.” (Hryniuk, 1988)

Painting outdoors or - ‘en plein air’ painting - was made popular during the time of the Impressionists. Artists wanted to capture the light and the  atmosphereThe portion of air in any locality, or affected by a special physical or sanitary condition; as, the atmosphere of the room; a moist or noxious atmosphere. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary).  Also, the gaseous envelope surrounding the earth; the air. The dominant mood or emotional tone of a work of art, as of a play or novel: the chilly atmosphere of a ghost story.   of a place, rather than just a  pictorialOf or pertaining to pictures; illustrated by pictures; forming pictures; representing with the clearness of a picture; as, a pictorial dictionary; a pictorial imagination. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  image that could now be easily captured by the camera, following the invention of photography. 

There is a certain charm to painting out in the elements but it also has its drawbacks. The wind and the rain can wreak havoc with the image itself, while the constantly changing light and weather conditions can totally change the palette and tones right while you are there trying to record them.

  • Prepare to paint outdoors by having all the necessities ready for a day outdoors. Don’t forget a bottle of water, stool or a pillow, a board for drawing, a hat/cap and sunscreen and quite possibly some insect repellent.
  • Enjoy the great outdoors while working on your painting.

For more information on ‘en plein air’ painting see En plein air at Wikipedia

For information on how to deal with problems associated with painting outdoors see Plein Air Painting:  Taking Your Paints Outside

Brush stroke in painting

Ruth Pawson studied under A.Y. Jackson, a member of the Group of Seven, Canada’s famous  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)  painters. She learned a lot about her  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of painting by studying with him. Look up the Group of Seven and A.Y. Jackson in particular. Notice how these artists use their brush strokes to add  rhythmPrinciple of design where elements are repeated to create the illusion of movement. There are five kinds of rhythm: random, regular, alternating, progressive and flowing.  and movement to their paintings.

Here are some links to get you started:

Go to Cybermuse to learn more about Canadian landscapes and paintings.

View George Seurat’s paintings at:

 
Notice how Seurat placed dots of colour on his  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (Artlex.com)  and how the colours placed beside each other optically blend. This is much like the dots of  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  that blend together to create the image on your television or video game screen.

  • Study how artists allow their brushstrokes to show in their paintings.  Notice how they often let the paint blend right on the canvas
  • Experiment with different brushes and brush strokes to achieve different results.
  • Try bringing a landscape to life by using a variety of brushstrokes and textured patterns.

Learn about brushstroke  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   as it applies to  watercolourAny paint that uses water as a solvent. Paintings done with this medium are known as watercolours. What carries the pigment in watercolour (called its medium, vehicle, or base) is gum arabic. An exception to this rule is water miscible oil paints, which employ water as their solvent, but are actually oil paints. Colours are usually applied and spread with brushes, but other tools can also used. The most common techniques for applying watercolour are called wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, along with the dry brush techniques dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Colours can be removed while still wet, to various degrees by blotting. Most watercolour painting is done on paper, but other absorbent grounds can also be employed. The papers most favored by those who paint with watercolour is white, very thick, with high rag content, and has some tooth. (Artlex.com)   paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  at Fountain Studio.

Learn more about a  varietyPrinciple of design concerned with difference or contrasts.  of  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  techniques, including brushstrokes, at Zest-it.

Watch the following video from VideoJug on using brush strokes: 



Aerial perspective

Aerial  perspectiveA method used to create the illusion of space on a two-dimensional surface. It can be created by overlapping, placement, detail, colour, converging lines and size. See HandPrint.com (http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/perspect3.html and http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/perspect4.html) for some examples.  is used in  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  to suggest distance. As things recede into the distance they become less defined and their  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)   intensityBrightness or dullness of a colour. Intensity can be reduced by adding the colour's complement.  is reduced. Look at the yellows and the greens in Pawson’s  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  and determine how she has suggested the sense of depth in her painting

  • Look at paintings where depth is an important factor. Discover how the artist has created this effect.
  • Take a look at images, to consider the evolution of perspective in Western Art
Science Behind the Art

By:  David Boschman, J.D. Mollard and Associates Limited

The formation of this  couleeA stream. A stream of lava. Also, in the western United States, the bed of a stream, even if dry, when deep and having inclined sides; distinguished from a ca–on, which has precipitous sides. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  near Indian Head was initiated about 11,000 years ago by glacial  meltwaterWater released by the melting of ice and snow, including that of glaciers.  running over and eroding the clay-rich glacial lake sediments.  Today, these small, dry valleys continue to erode and are common in southern Saskatchewan, often draining runoff through ravines and ultimately into large glacial meltwater valleys.

The term ‘coulee’ originates from the French verb ‘couler’, meaning ‘to flow’ in reference to the formation of a coulee by flowing water.

As with many valleys and coulees in the prairies, the sunny, north side of this coulee is too dry to support any vegetation larger than prairie grasses, while the shaded south side retains enough moisture to support the growth of trees and bushes. 

The satellite image below shows several large ravines north of Indian Head. Surface runoff and rainfall from the upland flows down smaller coulees that drain into the ravines, which in turn carry the flow to the Qu’Appelle Valley.

The satellite image was created by combining a 17 May 2007 SPOT-5 10-m panchromatic image and a 26 July 2000 LandSat 30-m true  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  composite image.

Ruth Pawson

References

Author unknown.  ‘Season by Season: The Work of Ruth Pawson.’  At the Library, Regina, Oct. 1992.

Beatty, Greg.  ‘In her own style.’  The Regina Leader Post, March 12, 1992.

Essar, Gary.  Tisdale ‘51 - Interview with Ruth Pawson.  Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, May, 1980.

Hryniuk, Margaret.  ‘Well-travelled painter still loves Prairies.’  Regina Sun, September 18, 1988.

Morgan, Wayne.  Ruth Pawson.  Exhibition catalogue.  Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1975.

Pawson, Ruth.  ‘Ruth Discusses Her Work.’  from a letter dated February 18, 1975.

Pilon, Bernard.  ‘The prairie rolls for Ruth Pawson.’  The Regina Leader Post, November 27, 1992.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning