Connie Connally

Landscape to Abstraction: How Does It Happen?

Lupine and Poppies 4" x 9" Gouache on Arches Board

Lupine and Poppies 4" x 9" Gouache on Arches Board

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward, you can remove all traces of reality.
— Pablo Picasso

Many of the paintings I have created for our Rose Compass exhibition are small abstractions. I am venturing into the same places as the rest of our group, but my response to these wilderness encounters goes through a different process. How does it happen?? My process includes observation, memory and invention. Let me explain:

First, as I venture into these wild places, I am open to the sounds and the smell of the place. I feel the power of the color and unique shapes carved out over time. I strive for the totality of the experience. I will use these memories back in the studio layering my direct response to the landscape with my inner landscapes of invention and imagination. My painted surfaces now have their own life; they do not mimic nature, they transcend nature. 

Red Rock Reflections 3" x 3" Gouache on Arches Board

Red Rock Reflections 3" x 3" Gouache on Arches Board

Inspired by her memories of her feelings...
— Joan Mitchell
Super Bloom II 3.5" x 3.5" Gouache on Arches Board

Super Bloom II 3.5" x 3.5" Gouache on Arches Board

My process is very much inspired by the great abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell who was "inspired by her memories of her feelings..."  Mitchell had a certain affinity for her beautiful sunflowers which she had planted on her two acre estate in Vetheuil, France (a small town just north of Paris near Claude Monet's home in Giverny.) 

Like Mitchell's love for flowers, the wildflowers of the Santa Ynez Watershed inspired me. I depicted the wild and colorful Lupine and Poppies during the March super bloom on Mt. Figueroa.

I also portrayed the wild California Sunflower that blanketed many spring fields along the Santa Ynez River. And, after the many fires of 2017, I painted the Poodle Dog Bush that chases in after the fires. But don't let the beautiful purple blooms invite your touch, it will produce blisters and swelling more severe than poison oak or poison ivy!  

 

After the Rains - California Sunflowers 5" x 15.5" Gouache on Yupo

After the Rains - California Sunflowers 5" x 15.5" Gouache on Yupo

After the Fires - Poodle Dog Bush 5" x 15.5" Gouache on Yupo

After the Fires - Poodle Dog Bush 5" x 15.5" Gouache on Yupo

It’s a Wild Life out there!

Wilderness Encounters - the birds and beasts of the Santa Ynez Watershed.

Part of our exploration of A River’s Journey is discovering the animals that make their home in the Santa Ynez watershed. And, the mission of the Wildling Museum of art & nature where our exhibition will be featured starting in February 2018, is to inspire our community and visitors to enjoy, value and conserve that wildlife and natural areas through art. With that in mind, I have chosen to portray the birds and beasts of the Santa Ynez watershed. It is an important and authentic part of the story to be told about the river.

As the Rose Compass group has gone out to remote locations, we sometimes catch glimpses of the wildlife scampering out of sight or perhaps claw marks left by a big momma bear sharpening her claws. You know she was just there, but happy you did not run into her!!

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So, how do you paint a bear that’s not really there???

‍Well, it takes a great deal of research. Much like a novelist researches the details of an environment to paint a picture for her reading audience, a painter does exactly the same thing. I created a drawing of a bear that feels like a California black bear splashing down Alder Creek. The details are important. For example, the grizzlies and brown bears have not been in this area for years and without research I could have easily made the mistake of portraying the wrong bear. It is important to note the black bears’ distinctive traits: notice the taller, more pointed ears, the rump higher than her head and no hump behind her ears. I know she has short curled claws even though they are not shown in the painting. The depicted image of my bear is an invention from my research. So, that’s how you paint a bear without having to stare it down in the woods.

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Below are several of the menagerie I have spotted on our Rose Compass adventures. I will post new beasts as we explore more of our Santa Ynez watershed throughout the coming months:

The Bobcat is named for its short, bobbed tail. It is yellow with brown spots, smallest of the Lynx genus. They stalk their prey with a short chase or pounce and kill with their sharp, retractable claws. They look for rabbits, rodents, birds and even insects, but can also bring down a deer.

The Bobcat is named for its short, bobbed tail. It is yellow with brown spots, smallest of the Lynx genus. They stalk their prey with a short chase or pounce and kill with their sharp, retractable claws. They look for rabbits, rodents, birds and even insects, but can also bring down a deer.

California Spotted Owl are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and hunting at night. They perch and pounce from their foraging site; waiting patiently for their prey to saunter by before pouncing.

California Spotted Owl are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and hunting at night. They perch and pounce from their foraging site; waiting patiently for their prey to saunter by before pouncing.

The Brown Pelican has an oversized bill, sinuous neck and big, dark body. On the Pacific Coast, their skin on their throats is red during breeding season. I have spotted them on the Pacific Flyway at the mouth of the ocean as well as around and in the inland lakes and reservoirs.

The Brown Pelican has an oversized bill, sinuous neck and big, dark body. On the Pacific Coast, their skin on their throats is red during breeding season. I have spotted them on the Pacific Flyway at the mouth of the ocean as well as around and in the inland lakes and reservoirs.

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Coyotes were deified by ancient tribes, including the Chumash Indians. They live and survive by their intellect that has allowed them to adapt to civilization and its many food sources.

Coyotes were deified by ancient tribes, including the Chumash Indians. They live and survive by their intellect that has allowed them to adapt to civilization and its many food sources.

Ospreys are fantastic fishers; diving to the water’s surface from 30 to 100 feet up plucking their catch with their curved claws. They orient the fish headfirst to ease wind resistance during long flights.

Ospreys are fantastic fishers; diving to the water’s surface from 30 to 100 feet up plucking their catch with their curved claws. They orient the fish headfirst to ease wind resistance during long flights.

A group of Turkey Vultures is called a “Venue”. Vultures circling up on thermals of hot air are called a “Kettle”. Their heads have no feathers so the carrion (dead meat) (UGH!) does not stick to their skin.

A group of Turkey Vultures is called a “Venue”. Vultures circling up on thermals of hot air are called a “Kettle”. Their heads have no feathers so the carrion (dead meat) (UGH!) does not stick to their skin.

Western Grebes are fish-eating water birds that breed on inland lakes like Lake Cachuma. These elegant black and white birds with long necks will neck-bob in rhythm during mating, dancing across the surface of the water in perfect synchronization. After chicks hatch, the babies ride on a parent’s back…sometimes as many as four chicks at a time.

Western Grebes are fish-eating water birds that breed on inland lakes like Lake Cachuma. These elegant black and white birds with long necks will neck-bob in rhythm during mating, dancing across the surface of the water in perfect synchronization. After chicks hatch, the babies ride on a parent’s back…sometimes as many as four chicks at a time.

The snowy plover breeds on the sandy coastlines around Surf Beach in Lompoc. The beaches are closed from March 1 to September 30 annually to ensure no one disturbs their nesting grounds.

The snowy plover breeds on the sandy coastlines around Surf Beach in Lompoc. The beaches are closed from March 1 to September 30 annually to ensure no one disturbs their nesting grounds.

Double Crested Cormorant sports a Nuptial Crest during breeding season.

Double Crested Cormorant sports a Nuptial Crest during breeding season.