Five Ottawa artists on winter
There are probably as many responses to winter as there are variations in the shape of snowflakes. We asked five Ottawa artists to pick a favourite among their own renderings of winter and tell us a bit about each.
“Hillside” by Philip Craig
The art: Philip Craig spotted this scene while hiking on the hill behind the village of Wakefield where some of his family is from (his grandfather drove the Wakefield train). The medium is oil paint on canvas.
The story: “I think it’s my strongest winter painting. I like the direction of the light, the shadows that are cast, the way the sun hits further up the leaves. And it sold right off the bat, and that doesn’t hurt either. I painted it from a photo I took. I used a wide-angle lens and that has a way of bending the trees in. That, and the way the light draws you in, I like that. My lines are generally not vertical; I have a left-leaning bias, but it’s not political.
“I love the winter. We come to the cottage, I walk the dog, we cross-country ski and snowshoe.” philipcraig.ca
“Icebound” by David Lidbetter
The art: David Lidbetter lives in Gatineau and frequently walks along the Ottawa River, looking for interesting scenes. This one, rendered in oil on canvas, shows an uninhabited island in the river.
The story: “I like to spend time outdoors. It probably goes back to growing up in a large family and our parents pushing us outside all the time. This painting really represents a lot of what I do: the feeling of isolation, solitude, silence, mystery. It has a lot of design elements such as bold lines and abstract spaces, open spaces. In the winter, you get blues and violets and pinks that allow an artist free rein to express what they feel.
“Oil paint gives a (chance) to play with texture. You can just use a glaze for thin ice on water or heavy texture for snow on rocks.” dlidbetter.com
“The Lockmaster’s House” by Gordon Beck
The art: Gordon Beck says he approached The Lockmaster’s House at Nicholson’s Locks (sometimes written Nicholson’s lock) on the Rideau Canal as he does when photographing any building or scene: like a portraitist with a clear vision and a sense of empathy. He used a large-format camera.
The story: “The light plus the snow, white on white, made it look like a French abstract painting. I used a telephoto lens to focus on the house and record the foreground as more of a blur. The light is diffused by the falling snow; it rendered the scene in opaque translucence. That’s the magic of photography: you press the shutter, and then the thing is gone forever. You come back in 10 minutes, and the light has changed. In a digital world of filters, apps and programs such as Photoshop and Photo
Elements, I remain firmly old school; I reject post-processing trickery. I joke that this image is as pure as driven snow.” fromheretoinfinity.net
“Untitled” by David Barbour
The art: Shot using film in a large-format camera, the photograph shows Nepean Point behind the National Gallery of Canada. Visible on the right is Roxy Paine’s snaky sculpture, One Hundred Foot Line. The shot is part of Home, David Barbour’s series of landscapes from Canadian locations where he’s lived.
The story: “I primarily shoot landscapes in the winter because I prefer the starkness of winter for black and white. Snow becomes a natural reflector; it fills in spots that in the spring or summer are just empty dark spots. Every year I go out in Ottawa at night and look for something that interests me. I had seen this spot lit up. I’d walked by it time and time again, and thought, ‘There’s a picture here.’ It’s beautiful in a very simple way. I like the play of the light and the way the entire hill goes from quite light to dark. The sculpture is the little bit of surprise in the picture. You say, ‘What the hell is that?’ I think people walking up the hill say the same thing. It makes it kind of unique.” davidbarbour.com
“Winter Sucks”, diorama by Patti Normand
The art: The snow, trees and figure are made from model railroad materials. Patti Normand’s miniatures — hilarious, often in a dark way — present tiny, natural worlds that at first seem safe and cosy, but then reveal a different reality.
The story: “I wanted an idyllic winter scene so you look at it and you say, ‘Oh, the trees and the snow are so pretty.’ And when you see the legs sticking out, it’s a bit of a surprise. The diorama is tiny. The figure is maybe three-quarters of an inch, and the whole thing is three or four inches across. That’s what makes it funny — at first you miss the detail because it’s so tiny.
“Winter is hard. It’s nice when it starts out, we’re all happy at Christmas. But then at some point you’re looking at the snowbanks and saying, ‘Oh, this sucks!’ I like viewers to have their own answer about why this person’s in a snowbank. For me, it’s despair: ‘I’m just going to throw myself in’.” pattinormand.com.