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'Getting people comfortable painting outdoors': Federation of Canadian Artists hosts Calgary workshop


The Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) is teaching Calgarians about plein air painting as part of a three-day workshop that sees participants travel to several scenic locations.

Plein air painting, sometimes called en plein air, sees artists head outdoors.

"There's just no time to not concentrate," said Gaye Adams, a professional painter and teacher for the FCA.

"You're just in it, so it's very immersive, very meditative, very difficult, and you have to keep your wits about you, because you don't have time for corrective painting – to go back over and over and over again."

Adams says she the aim of the workshop is to get participants comfortable with working outdoors instead of painting in controlled environments like their studios.

On Wednesday, day three of the workshop, she took students to the Leighton Art Centre southwest of Calgary.

"We've got beautiful aerial perspective, we've got a beautiful sightline of trees," she said.

"To get the light into their paintings, and to get the feeling of the place, to get a sketch that when they look at it, it'll take them back to this moment in time."

The FCA is a national organization with close to 3,000 members, 168 of which make up the Calgary chapter.

"Our goal is to be advocates for the visual arts," said executive director Kristian Clarke. "To provide educational opportunities and to provide training at different levels."

Clarke says the foundation is the oldest organization devoted to visual arts and education in Canada.

"It's been around since the 1940s, and was founded by some pretty amazing, prominent Canadian visual arts legends," he said.

"People like Emily Carr, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer. I mean, these are all household names., and it has survived as an artist-operated-and-run organization."

Clarke says the foundation operates a gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C., where members sell their work through 24 different showings annually.

He says people who are interested in buying visual art have access to it, and that helps the foundation function through those sales of members' works.

"We really are a place where people can develop their technical expertise," he said.

"We also offer some amazing professional development opportunities where artists learn about the nuts and bolts of how to build your brand, how to work with social media, how to market yourself and try to get those elusive sales so that you can support your practice."

Amanda Maglis-Long, Calgary chapter president, signed up for the workshop because she typically paints in her home studio.

"This is the first time I've tried plein air painting," she said. "It is so hard."

"Learning about mixing paints from a limited palette, trying to find the light out on the horizon, it's ridiculously hard."

Brenda Pearson paints for fun, and says it's a hobby she started after retiring.

Pearson enjoys the outdoors and the challenges that come with painting out in the open.

"I've taken a workshop from Gaye before," she said.

"I like the way she teaches, and she's passionate about it, so it's hard not to get excited when you're out here with somebody like that."

Cindy Zampa also started painting in retirement, but says she has never tried working outdoors because she uses acrylic paint that doesn't do well out in the open.

"This workshop has opened my eyes to the value of doing it outdoors," she said.

"I've gained some experience now and learned so much about color mixing on site, matching the color but out here, the light changes so much and you need to commit so it's fast, it's working quickly making decisions quickly, it's responding to the changing environment."

Adams says her goal in the workshop is to expose the participants to different styles and challenge them to work outside of their comfort zone.

"I started plein air painting maybe 20 years ago," she aid.

"At first I hated it, because it was just so hard, and now I'm hooked, and so my fond hope is that my students get hooked too, because these are some of my best memories of my lifetime is out painting."

Learn more about the workshops and foundation here. Top Stories

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