Posted in Art, Event Review, New thinking

AI in Plein Air Art

pleinAirArtists
My goal at the recent Art Impact AI workshop held in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, was to see how AI (Artificial Intelligence) might play a role in plein air art. The workshop was headed by Valentine Goddard and Jerrold McGrath.

The participant numbers were of a convenient size that we could delve into the subject matter at some depth. What struck me first was the diversity of backgrounds in attendance — from wood sculptor to theatre-savvy software developer, from cellular biologist to explorers of biologic/geologic forms, from filmmaker to former art director. But we all had the creative artistic mind and AI interest in common.

I learned all sorts of AI concepts such as Neural Networks, Machine Learning, CV, and Deep Learning, and dominant AI values such as transparency, fairness, accountability, and more. We were shown a book entitled Neural Networks for Babies by Fernie and Kaiser. We played games to immerse ourselves in the mechanism of AI thinking. “Finding the Criminal” game taught us about the significance of algorithm development, application, confidence, bias, and use/abuse. That type of game, upon later discussions with filmmaker Kimberly Smith from Canning, could have implications in his Movie Games project.

So, how does AI apply to my plein air art world? In the short term, I do not see AI having immediate impact. I do see where AI has the potential for the visual artist; playing a role in my art, down the road, as mentor, coach, teacher and critic. I do not see AI in art as something to be feared. I see AI as something to augment the creative learning process and development of the human artist — where AI and human collaborate.

In plein air art that AI augmentation also includes the process of seeing and interpreting the geography that surrounds us as an artist.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Participants in the Art Impact AI Dartmouth workshop, for their lively and insightful discussions.
Valentine Goddard and Jerrold McGrath for heading the Art Impact AI workshop.

REFERENCES

Neural Networks for Babies, by Chris Ferrie and Dr Sarah Kaiser,  Sourcebooks, March 2019
Movie Games, by Kimberly Smith

Posted in Art, Nature, Opinion

Behold Cape Breton

Anne and I recently spent a week travelling through picturesque Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, taking in the popular sites, such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, and discovering some underrated nooks and crannies.

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Fish Hatchery on the  Northeast Margaree River, watercolour by Edward Wedler

We couldn’t help but notice the various ways people move through and note the landscape. As artists, we spent several hours documenting specific sites en plein air — Anne with her oils and me with my watercolours. Spending time at each location lets us absorb the landscape with all our senses. Our recall for detail is heightened.

20190919_110952_2While painting Pillar Rock from Presqu-île, near the southern part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we noted dozens of visitors come for a few minutes to snap photos then move on. Did they see the otters swim the nearby pond? Did they note how the sun lit up the rocky shoreline as it rose above Jerome mountain? Did they hear the high-pitched piping notes of the eagle?

appleMapVehicleAt the other extreme, we were greeted several times by the “Apple Map vehicle” taking rapid-fire snapshots of the landscape as it motored throughout the Cape Breton Highlands. We were surprised to see it in the small northern community of White Point. It had a different purpose — to engorge its databanks with a future, retrievable, online, photo and map record of the region.

Whether painting, hiking, photographing, video-recording or “apple-mapping” we all move through the landscape at different rates and with different pursuits in mind. How do you move through the landscape? How much do you absorb from your travels? What record do you log and keep?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Anne Wedler for being my supportive, painting buddy. All those Cape Breton visitors we met attached to their iPhones and smartphones.

 

 

Posted in Art, New thinking

Mapping Plein Air Paint-outs

As an artist, I experimented with Google mapping tools to view the geographic distribution of paint-out sites for the Plain Air Artists Annapolis Valley (PAAAV) and Plein Air Artists HRM (PAAHRM) 2019 season. Members of PAAAV and PAAHRM are artists of all levels, from beginner to professional; painting in oils, acrylics, watercolours, pastels, ink, graphite, and other media. Fifty-two sites are mapped.

Your feedback is welcome. (Click on the map’s top left icon to activate ALL sites — PAAAV and PAAHRM  )icon_PAAmap Click on any numbered site to see details of when paint-out is/was scheduled.

Posted in Art, Nature, New thinking

Viewing vs Interpreting the Landscape

Last fall, I drove through New Brunswick on my way to/from Québec and Ontario with my wife, Anne. The roads have improved immeasurably from a couple of decades ago, so we actually had time to savour the landscape and talk about what we saw. As we travelled, I noticed something strange about our conversation.

We increasingly saw the landscape as artists.

mixPaintsThe sky wasn’t just overcast or sunny. The sky was a mix of Burnt Sienna with a touch of French Ultramarine Blue or was a variegated wash from Cerulean Blue to Cadmium Yellow. We were not just engulfed in fall foliage of colours. Hills became brushstrokes of Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Gold (I love that colour) and Prussian Blue.

foreMidBackgroundWe divided the landscape into zones (foregrounds, mid-grounds, and backgrounds) and described how we would paint aerial perspective, “treat edges” and change tonal contrasts, to give a sense of distance.

POIMany times we would identify a focal point in the landscape (almost with “eye-spy-with-my-little-eye enthusiasm) and would suggest ways to direct viewers’ eyes to that point. Would it be the slope of the hills, the line of our winding road, edges of forest stands or the illumination of light breaking through the clouds? How would our favourite artists, or The Group Of Seven treat that focal point?

IMG_6235pairAs we drove, we unpacked our landscape NOT in terms of “things” (such as houses, fence rows, barns, silos or cows) but in terms of shape, line, colour, patterns, gradation and composition. We became exhilarated, as artists, to not only view the landscape but to offer ways to interpret the landscape — whether it be as a realist, impressionist or abstract artist — in oils, acrylics, watercolours or inks.

Anne and I enjoyed kilometres (miles) of child-like revelations and “aha” moments on what could have been just an ordinary road trip through New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario (although the scenery was spectacular). We did not just see the landscape. We interpreted the landscape.047_BlueBarnsBaieStPaul_Sep17_90dpi

Great to be an artist!

LINKS:
Edward Wedler website: www.dootdootdaddy.blogspot.com
Anne Wedler website: www.annewedlerart.wordpress.com

 

sealevelInstallationPOSTSCRIPT:
Bob Maher brought to my attention an article where art and science meet to bring the issue of rising sea levels to the public’s attention in dramatic fashion (that helps connect my left brain and right brain).
LINK:  https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2019/03/lines-hebrides/

Posted in Art

Artists’ view of the landscape.

Unlike photographers, geographers or geologists, landscape artists see their world as collections of lines, contours, shapes, colours, light and shadows. Identifying features is secondary.

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“Annapolis River at Tupperville, Nova Scotia” (watercolour by Edward Wedler)

A geographer tries to make sense of the landscape,  looking at relationships between features to explain where things are, how they came to be, how they evolve and change over time, and how they interact with us. A geologist examines the makeup of landscape to understand how it formed over millennia and how it may change in future. They want to understand how the landscape works. A photographer captures the visual character of a landscape under different lighting and weather conditions at a particular point in time on photosensitive material.

The “en plein air artist” paints on location, mostly outdoors. Each artist pulls out their materials and tools and begins to work quickly. It’s like speed dating with light and shadow. The artist will look for one or two focal points. They will look at distant, mid-ground and foreground features to figure out what to highlight and what to suppress. Often they will add to or remove elements from the scene for aesthetic/design reasons. Their view of the landscape is an interpretation perhaps in oils, watercolours, acrylics, pastels, pen and ink, or graphite. The plein air artist also seeks to elicit an emotional response to the art of their immediate environment. I consider the geography of the plein air artist as the geography of perception.

The Annapolis Valley Plein Air Art group, to which I belong, paints landscapes throughout our area — towns, farmlands, and coastal waterways. Each week we assemble at a different “paint-out” site. At the one site, some will paint details of rocks in a stream bed. Some will paint tourists enjoying the sunshine on benches along a path. Some will paint distant hills framed by woodlots. The landscape becomes a collection of deeply personal, visual expressions and no two paintings or sketches are the same.

What can we learn from interpreting the landscape through artists’ eyes? One of my mentors, Vlad Yeliseyev, is often heard to “rant” to plein air artists, “Don’t paint a photograph. Paint a story.” Local Digby artist, Poppy Balser states in her profile “Watercolour is the perfect medium for me to capture the atmosphere and light of my local environment.” In his book “Interpreting the Landscape in Watercolor”, Don Andrews illustrates the magic of linking light, shadow and colour”. For me one artist may see a tree as blue, nestled in the cold shadows. Another may see the same tree as olive green, absorbing scant rays of sunshine peaking through breaks in the clouds.

Unlike the photographer, geographer, or geologist, the artist is the landscape’s chorister; composing a visual libretto.