Alberta artist Glen Collin talks about his passion about painting Alberta landscape, prairie art, including grain elevators, vintage farm equipment and old farm buildings.
To splash a brush full of color onto a fresh canvas is truly a joyful event. I experienced this for the first time as a small child when an uncle showed me how to mix Reds and Yellows to create a sunset. I covered the walls with many sunsets painted on buckled up pieces of paper and decided then that I wanted to be an Artist. Now many years later it is still exciting to squeeze out tubes of oil paint on to a palette and express it onto the canvas. There is more to it today of course, I paint to explain and clarify impressions that I have of the world around me. This visual interpretation helps me to understand and appreciate. The brushwork is a physical process and the subject is the emotional content. My art tends to be upbeat and cheerful. I try to look for the positives in life.
Perhaps that early lesson on mixing colors is still having an influence. Large early morning skies or colorful late evening light is still characteristic of my present work. One cannot live in southern Alberta without being affected by our immense prairie landscape. I find it a challenge to interpret the network of fields rolling up into the foothills and distant mountains. Prairie architecture is also prevalent in my work in the form of old Farm Buildings and towering Grain Elevators. Growing up in northern Alberta, Canada we lived a short distance from the Grain Elevators, Train Station, and the steel Bridge over the mighty Peace River. It made a stark impression when the local Elevator caught fire and burned to the ground. We watched it all from our living room window. Our playground was the old wood Train Station and Train Trestle near our Home. At the time Northern Alberta Rail, Steam engines were still in use. From our home we could hear the shunting Trains building up steam then puffing out of town, across the bridge, to power up the steep grade on the far side of the river. It wasn’t the same when they switched over to Diesel Engines.
Painting “en Plein Air” with a back pack easel is my preferred method. I paint, sketch and take photos for later reference back in the studio. I sometimes return to the site several times to get the right information. I like to observe the way light moves across the landscape casting cloud shadows over the fields. Raking Light in the morning and evening creates a fleeting glow on the scenery, it is important to take a moment and enjoy it. I try to use painterly brushwork to bring attention to the important elements in a scene.
I also enjoy painting people and equipment at work. There is something intrinsically interesting about our daily struggle to make a living. Although not always pretty, work sites are fascinating to watch and observe. No doubt you have been by a construction site and have noticed there are always bystanders watching the progress. I think my illustrations of Construction Equipment, Farm Machinery, Pipelines and Oil Rigs, is an extension of this fascination. It is a natural curiosity to observe and record these events.
I enjoy historical subjects and try to reflect a heroic vision of the struggle our parents and grandparents went through. When I paint an old farmhouse it is not just an abandoned building. It is someone’s home, a place of beginnings and endings that we can only imagine. A Grain Elevator is a reminder of a disappearing lifestyle. An old Church is a symbol of deep faith, depth of character, and unbending will. I really enjoy exploring old locations, such as the historical Dunvegan area steeped with western history. As our parent’s struggles end with the last elevator, a new struggle begins. This will be the struggle of our own generation. What new symbols will represent us to our children?
In the future I would like to explore these new symbols in my work. I believe the role of an artist is to be an observer, to interpret and record the present and past. I would like to create a body of compelling Artworks that will be a reflection of our time and that will have meaning to our children.
Most of all being involved with fine art has taught me to appreciate life. It has developed my sense of observation, my appreciation for colors and textures. A simple walk through the yard brings new inspiration. This is an acquired gift of observation that comes from taking up a brush loaded with a splash of color.