This month we welcome Scott Smith to Motion Gallery as a featured artist in our November show. In this collection we are introduced to Cathedral Grove, an old growth forest on Vancouver Island. This is an ongoing series titled “Walk through Cathedral Grove” five of which are on exhibit this month.
Cathedral Grove is a rare and endangered remnant of an ancient Douglas fir ecosystem on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The biggest trees in the Grove are about eight hundred years old and measure 250 feet in height, and 29 feet circumference. They are the survivors of a forest fire that ravaged the area some three hundred years ago.
For a number of years he and his wife lived approximately half an hour away from Cathedral Grove in the beach town of Parksville, on the fourth floor overlooking the beach. “We would pour a mug of coffee and it was still hot for the walk on the beach.”
Scott tells us that “Walking through the trails between the giant trees, both standing and downed, is a breathtaking experience. I have been inspired to paint this ecosystem partly because of the red earth and the lush green. The brilliant greens are said to be unrealistic by many artists who have not experienced them first hand. I have read artists claiming that deep, brilliant greens are unrealistic and should not be attempted. This ancient forest casts an inspiration on anyone breathing the musty moist air of Cathedral Grove in the springtime.
For those experiencing it in its raw boldness, they will be impacted with the sense and wonder of humanity’s smallness. “So the inspiration to paint these five paintings was to attempt to capture a ‘Walk through Cathedral Grove’ and the feeling, in some small part of being there.”
His process begins with a graduated wash of colour. Most often a wide use of thin and thick painting are combined to enhance the feeling of depth through reflection of light. Impasto and knife work are well suited to bark on old growth that can be measured in inches in Cathedral Grove. “Much of what I do may be considered unorthodox” he says. An example of this would be black impasto for recessed bark and painting with lots of green.
“I stretch my own canvas on stretcher bars I buy in bulk. This allows me to create whatever size and shape I am inspired to undertake while the inspiration is fresh. Often the size or shape of the canvas is my first bump in motivation. A seven foot roll of canvas hung from my basement ceiling dispenses the foundation easily to be cut to any and many sizes.”
The size of many of Scott’s works are intended to help a viewer imagine that they could be looking out a window into a big back forested yard.
“I have never painted anything smaller than eighteen by twenty four inches but I often paint large works with the smallest of brushes. I know this is another faux-pas for some. Most often I free hand from a photograph or on occasion straight out of my imagination. Again I know, this will undermine realism. Many painters use a graph or charcoal to sketch out a concept on canvas whereas I have only used a grid pattern once because I was painting the eight foot Cathedral grove in a small room and could not stand back far enough to gain perspective.”
Finding oil paint to be marvellous to bend with great finesse, he admits that touching a black gessoed canvas wrongly is unforgiving and dictates a redirection in his plan for a painting. On occasion, such as is true with the ‘Nurse Tree’ in this exhibition, the reverse of the painting has a painting on it. This concept of a hidden painting intrigues him, and when this happens, it remains the private revelation of the owner to share as they wish.
Scott admits he is an artist that paints outside the lines. Two artists who have impacted him the most have been Robert Bateman and Bob Ross. “Much to the chagrin of most art students, and artists for that matter, would be Bob Ross’s success and influence in art. His manner and humility, is wonderful. I find his style refreshing and accessible, and not the least of which is happy and encouraging. As artists we would be lucky and elated to have had as many people purchase and enjoy both our art and creative expression. And of course one could only dream of emulating the least of Robert Bateman’s brilliance.”
With regards to the ongoing journey learning to share the “joy of painting” to quote Bob Ross’s core value, colouring outside the lines is serving Scott well. As a purist and romantic he believes it is first a great aspiration to create and share true to self expression with those who can embrace both the method and intent of the work.
Currently engaged in photography, oil painting and experimenting with sculpting foam. Scott tells us another medium he has thoroughly enjoyed was sculpting in metal, and will likely return to working in three dimensional metal in the future.
He is drawn to painting maple leafs on black gesso for his next series. “One of my all time favourite paintings was a bright flame coloured maple leaf thirty six by thirty six inches square on black gesso that sold at an auction. I would love to replace it and/or share it with someone else.”
Scott’s paintings and photography can be viewed and purchased on his website.