Friday, July 6, 2018

Annora Brown: Mistress with watercolour

Annora Brown
Joyce Sasse - When we look closely at Annora Brown’s landscape paintings we see how masterfully she planned her design techniques and use of colour and light to express what she wanted to say.

I’m appreciative of Mountain View artist Anne McClelland who shared insightful clues at a Waterton Wildflower Festival 2018 workshop and helped us look at the quality of Annora’s paintings.

Brown often worked with watercolour and casein on paper to record how a particular scene spoke to her and through her. She mastered the use of casein (a milk protein), which gave the paints an opaque quality whereby she could add light tints over darker segments.

The painting titled Saint Martin’s Anglican Church for example shows how the artist used multiple degrees of blue, white and yellow to capture the essence of this isolated log sanctuary in its prairie setting. Feel how the cloud-shadow touches the back corner of the church roof. See how the lines indicated by the surrounding grass and flowers invite your attention. The church, which is now located in Calgary’s Heritage Park, has withstood many challenges. Was this a statement about Annora’s faith?

We were reminded that the Wind-Blown Tree at Lee’s Lake still stands more than fifty years after Annora painted it. She might have thought this to be a self-portrait – there to stay, bent by the harsh westerly wind but never broken! Consider the rich contrast of colours, again made possible by the use of casein and combinations of colours from the opposite sides of the colour wheel.

Both these paintings, along with the watercolour titled Waterton Lakes, Alberta are part of the Glenbow Collection. Here, with casein and layers of water paint, Annora featured Citadel Peak (located in Glacier Park but visible from Waterton). Her bold, linear lines indicate the agelessness of these rock thrusts. Our eyes are drawn from one quadrant of the work to another. With all her landscapes, she carefully planned her approach to give a definite sense of location, season and the hour she chose in portraying the scene. Does the “greenness” of the lake suggest how essential water is as a source of life in these mountains? Are there other clues that suggest a forest fire had scorched the upper autumn-hewed slopes?

McClelland pointed to the fact Annora did this same scene in oil paints. Viewing it, we can imagine how rapidly she worked with her palette knife, then added quick brush strokes suggesting a few flowers in the foreground.

The Robin, again done in watercolour with casein, suggests the defiant toughness of this particular red-breasted song-bird who survived a spring snowstorm. The private collector who proudly shares this painting has made it known this was a personal favorite of Annora’s. This is the artist’s quiet way of showing she well understood what it meant to remain vital and show dignity in spite of life’s threatening blows.

How might other artists understand what Annora is trying to say through her paintings?

Images of the above-named paintings can be seen on the website (Galt Gallery Exhibit).

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