Isolation and Landscape

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Lost Horizon
landscape,oil on paper, painting, prairie landscape, impressionist, colour, texture, horizon line, sky, space,atmospheric, weather, vastness, rural community, formalist, clouds , prairie landscape, sky, field, impressionist landscape, horizons, space, land, oil painting on paper, clouds, prairie sky,

Terry Fenton has provided us with the prairie landscapes Lost Horizon and Beyond, two works which are representational, but not within the  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (  of photo-realism (in which an artist tries to make a  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. (  of a thing look like a photograph of that thing). These works give us an impression of the landscape (and in that way could be called  impressionistImpressionism is a movement in painting in which importance was placed on depicting momentary shifts in light and colour, giving an impression of a scene rather than a detailed account.  works), and make special use 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. (  and  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  to convey what it is like to be in a prairie landscape. Notice that while Fenton's paintings are very different from Art McKay's landscape featured in the Isolation and Landscape theme on the ARTSask website, they have the low prairie horizon in common, with at least 75 percent of the image being taken up by the sky.


This vast emptiness of sky is what makes these works of Fenton’s similar to McKay's work Southern Landscape (seen here), and yet these works seem to be based more on feeling. By using both vibrant and muted colours, Fenton has captured what is both attractive and ever-changing about the landscape on the prairies. Also, the buildings in his landscapes are small, and there are only a few of them. This would suggest that he sees people, and the large houses and farms they build, as miniature when compared to the vast and dominating prairie sky.

start quoteOriginally I used the camera as a sketching tool, a 'digital sketchbook' to be used for my oil paintings. However, I've since used it increasingly to record places that I wouldn't (and couldn't) paint: some images don't seem appropriate for painting.end quote -- Terry Fenton

In Saskatchewan, we tend to define ourselves by our prairie sky.  Our provincial slogan, "Land of the Living Skies," is a prime example.  But that same sky, and the ever-receding horizon line, what novelist W. O. Mitchell described as “… the lowest common denominator of earth and sky”, can make one feel powerless and insignificant. To some, that may be frightening and to others it may be comforting. In either case, Fenton's paintings remind us that while we form communities and cities, we are also very much alone in the vastness of land and space.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • What are some words that could be used to characterize Saskatchewan's skies? Can some of these characteristics be opposite to each other?
  • How are the skies pictured in these paintings different? Does looking at the sky in Lost Horizon make you feel differently than looking at the sky in Beyond?
Studio Activity
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  • Will your landscape have buildings in it?
  • Will your buildings be small and far away like in the Fenton paintings presented here, or close up and important to the picture?
  • Will your sky have large, threatening clouds or soft, gentle ones, or almost none at all?
  • You could also use torn newspaper, leaving the colour to the imagination of the viewer, as McKay did
  • Prepare small piles of newspaper bits and pieces showing a wide range of values from whites, to palest greys, to darkest black.
  • paper
  • cloth
  • wire
  • string
  • ribbon

Amos, Robert.  'Big Sky Country.'  Victoria Times Colonist, March 15, 2002.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 25, 2008 from:

Fenton, Terry. Documentary Photographs. undated. Retrieved from the Internet on March 22, 2009.

Fenton, Terry. En Plein Air.  undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on March 22, 2009.


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