By Steve Gow. April 30, 2018.
Featured Artist: Elizabeth Christie
Elizabeth Christie is an artist based out of Kelowna, British Columbia, who specializes in acrylic and oil “en plein air” paintings.
“En plein air” or “in the open air” means painting outdoors to capture the true essence of a natural landscape. By painting outdoors, Elizabeth has the liberty to express what she sees and feels through her own interpretation and emotion. This style provides a freedom that is not fully available to the studio artist who paints a landscape from memory or photograph. The natural elements and ever-shifting light present challenges to Elizabeth, but they also allow her to channel all of her sensory perception into her works of art. The natural beauty of a landscape, the changing light, smells, temperature, sounds, the comfort (or lack thereof) presented by the weather: all of these things surround Elizabeth and are channeled into her paintings through the lens of her perception, interpretation and emotion. She is a conduit through which the natural world is interpreted, and the result is truly remarkable.
Take, for example, Elizabeth’s work entitled “Black Knight Mountain”, pictured above. The bright colours and yellow hues of tall grass in the far-ground evoke a sense of the warm and arid climate of the Okanagan Valley. One can almost hear the dreamy drone of crickets in the grasses and feel the sun beaming down. The foreground is dominated by a large shadow, perhaps from a passing cloud which provides a welcome but brief respite from the hot sun. The painting is illustrative of Elizabeth’s aptitude in conveying a sense of motion and change in her works. The viewer is invited to feel as though the wind will slowly blow the clouds into new shapes and the shadows cast across the mountain will shift and open up cold areas of its rocky surface to the warm light.
“The challenge I face is the ever-changing light which I try to capture with my impressionist landscapes. I allow myself the freedom of expressing what I see through my own interpretation and emotion, sometimes bordering on abstraction as I paint the skies, the wind, and the movement of the landscape. I hope the viewer will experience this when they see my work.”
Elizabeth has a talent for capturing the serene beauty of forest valleys and water features. Her emphasis on movement and nature is again apparent in “Similkameen Valley”, pictured above. The viewer is invited to look at the reflections in the river, imagine the trees softly blowing in the wind and watch as the fall leaves gently touch down in the water, making ripples as they are carried away by the current. Plein air painting has a long history of conservationism. It was impressionistic plein air paintings of magnificent North-American landscapes that allowed the conservationist John Muir to raise public awareness about how unchecked forestry activities were destroying these natural settings. The paintings raised public awareness and resulted in action to preserve the natural environment. When viewing “Similkameen Valley” it is not hard to see how such a painting could stir up the resolve to take action to preserve nature.
Elizabeth invites viewers on an emotional journey through her magnificent depictions of natural landscapes. You can see her full portfolio here.