"I always felt something about the land"
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Douglas Edwards paints landscapes like a master with a sometimes broad command of the dramatic and sometimes with a fine subtle allure that draws the viewer into the canvas.
His more dramatic skyscapes have a Tumeresque quality to them in his ability to capture both the majestic qualities of nature and its raw impact thanks to his capturing of atmospheric qualities and his fine sense of composition.
Born in 1954, Edwards says that he paints because it is by now a primal urge and that he has been drawn to landscapes because of a sense of connection to it.
“I've always felt something about the land, it's a good way to express your feelings about nature and the way you feel. I do landscapes, but love skies”
Some of his skies are pure drama that can make you gasp in appreciation and some them are more toned down and mysteriously alluring, slowly and beautifully drawing you in.
Painting for Edwards is all about light, “For me light is what painting is, Light hitting objects and creating the illusion of three dimensions and time and space.”
Edwards first connected with nature when his parents bought a farm in Creemore, about an hour north of Toronto.
He studied fine arts at the Ontario College of Arts and then spent a year in Florence doing off campus studies, graduating in 1979. When he came back he found that he was suffering from an identity crisis about his vocation. He took time off to ponder his future and worked at a variety of odd jobs from stacking boxes to pumping gasoline, to support himself.Finally the urge to paint began to reassert itself and Edwards took a job as a sidewalk artist doing portraits in pastels of passersby at Canada's Wonderland. Then he started picking up the odd commissions here and there, until finally he gained gallery representation.
By 2003 things had come full circle and he returned to Florence as one of the 31 Canadian artists out of the 891 internationally invited to exhibit at the International Bienniale Exhibition of Contemporary Art
It was while he studied in Florence that Edwards first started painting landscapes. Before then his work had been what his courses at The Ontario College of Art demanded, classical portraiture and the human figure. He felt liberated, free to express himself.
To begin with Edwards painted in a more realistic, conservative fashion than he does now. Today he is in the process of emerging from an impressionistic period, one in which he was under the influence of colour. Tomorrow, who can say?
While Edwards has never been fond of labels, categories or classifications, he will allow that sometimes his work has an impressionistic edge to it and this ties in with his preoccupation with light.
“I'd say my style is in constant evolution. I would consider myself an Impressionist because that is just trying to capture a mood or a feeling.”
As for being called a traditionalist, as he has, it's a label that he finds doesn't work.
“I'm not crazy about that label, traditionalist, I find that it is a little restricting because
I also like to experiment. And there are times in my career when I have experimented more and I think T am going through one of those periods now.”
Edwards says that he is trying different colours and different types of brush strokes at the moment. “I'm leaving the paint more unfinished, there's more background showing through and that tends to give me more expression.”
Edwards lives in Toronto where he has a studio in a converted garage with a north facing skylight to give the kind of constant light that allows him to paint what he sees in his mind rather than the atmospheric influences of the moment. He also has a place in Creemore which he uses as a base for his expeditions in the Ontario countryside searching for subjects.
He will work from sketches to preserve the colour and the compositional forms that first inspried him and sometimes from photographs and the he starts to transform those sketches into the finished painting.
He starts by applying a brown coloured gesso which he then shellacs to increase surface mobility. “I tone the canvas a medium brown which tends to help warm up the painting. Landscapes are often a mixture of very cool colours, green, yellow and blue. It's a good compliment to those colours.”
Then he blocks out the painting and lays on a finishing detail. He paints with oils on canvas almost exclusively. He likes oils because he finds acrylics too still and oils are anything but still. It is almost as if Edwards loves oils because they are lyrical and that may be one of the ways to describe his paintings.
Edwards uses large formats, up to 48x72 inches to convey his love of the land and his love of the light and his ability to marry and transform the two.
His work has the ability to transfix the viewer with an emotional attachment summoned up by his sympathetic capture of the elements, form and colour.
The nature Edwards paints is infinitely renewable and beckons the viewer to join in the contemplation of its lush summer vistas and spectacular skies.
There is a spiritual aspect to his work in the way that he reveals the beauty of being.
In his painting, nature is there to be revealed in all her glory and that revelation uplifts us all.
His subjects are scenes we have all seen on walks down country roads.
They are the half-remembered postcards of summers spent on the farm in the rolling hills surrounding Toronto.
They become part of our identity through their dramatic ability to make us remember to seize the day and remember to dwell in the serenity of what nature has to offer. Through focusing on the local, Edwards work has become universal.
His colour work is superb and uses complimentary and colour opposites to drive the viewer into the clarity of his forms and masses. He paints places we want to be. He shows us vistas that we can relate to and want to remember. He invokes an emotional response and in doing so creates a sense of wonder that takes us to a better place and time by revealing the state of grace that nature exists in.
He wants us to see through our dirty windows and experience a feeling, an emotion or a sense of belonging with a soulful clarity and he succeeds.
Edwards taught art at a community college for several years and says that he might do so again. It was a beneficial experience. “I'm painting full time now, I enjoyed teaching and I might get back to it. The big thing I found is that I probably learned more than I taught because I tend to prepare and it solidified things for me. When you actually talk about something it gives the thing you talk about another dimension.”
Mornings aren't good for Edwards. He prefers to work in the afternoons although if he is feeling inspired he will work late into the evenings. While Edwards doesn't like labels or categories because of the restrictions they imply, it is clear that is work belongs somewhere in a classical corners because of the realism inherent in his work. In some ways it is simple, you sympathize with it and its identity strikes you to your core because it is a place you know.
Even if you have never been there, it is a place you know because his good enough to make you recognize it as a place you know because he is engaged in the business of painting realities, man's connection to nature.And he does so with a beauty that makes his work succeed.
Taken as a whole his subjects matter is a place we should all go to because we need to be reminded of where we are from and where we are going. With his present work, Edwards is once again experimenting. “Going, where is my style going? It's a constant evolution, but lately I have been going a little more, maybe the word is abstract, a little more Expressionist.”
Wherever Edwards goes it will be to a place that we all enjoy and wish we could have seen too.
Douglas Edwards' paintings are held in corporate and private collections across Canada and abroad. His international reputation is on the upswing. In Toronto he is represented by Hollander-York and Westmount Gallery, In Kleinburg by Canadian Heritage, by Buckingham Fine Arts in Uxbridge, Ontario and also by Gibson Fine Art Calgary.