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Miles Constable

Abstraction to the Power of 5

Abstract to the Power of 5, VASA's show for August, features abstract works by five artists; Connie Osgood, Karin-Ann Bosma, Kristine McGuinty, Miles Constable, and Pat Wagensveld in the Abstract genre.

5 Takes on Abstraction

Palms on Perron

January Palm, 40 x 30 Inches 2011 Frank van Veen

Visual Arts Studio Association of St Albert invites you to their Perron Street Studio to soak up the atmosphere of the palms.

Miles Constable


I was born and lived my early years in southern Saskatchewan with frequent sojourns to the farming districts of that province and to the southern Okanagan Valley. My formative experiences were with a very large extended, largely rural family, although I have lived in cities all of my life. Regina, Toronto, Edmonton, St. Albert.

I “grew up” in Regina: although I’m not sure if I have ever grown up. I had a much older male mentor (really it wasn’t physical), who sparked in me the love of nature and science. So with a life-changing opportunity (I had to follow my parents to Toronto as I was broke after high school) I studied biology at York University in Toronto and then (as I wasn’t ready for real life) a diploma program at NAIT in Edmonton. From there I fell into a great career with Environment Canada doing what most biology students would give their teeth for: protecting our environment. However, all good things come to an end and I am transitioning into my 2nd career as an artist.

I have always been interested in art, taking classes in sketching and art history, visiting galleries and, being a federal employee, the National Gallery in Ottawa. After a long gestational period wherein I sketched, studied art history and read about visual art, I signed up for an oil painting course in 2003. With successful results I went on to exploring what I wanted to do as a budding artist. It was a great way to get over my fear of colour and paint. I learned about how paint behaves on a canvas, how to move it, or not; how to blend it.

Being a Canadian interested in art pushed me towards the landscape styles of the Group of Seven so I made several landscape paintings in oils from photos and then from life sketches. I dabbled in portraiture and still-life, too, but I wanted a more immediate method of personal expression and so enrolled in a two-day workshop in abstract expressionist techniques. We used free techniques (anything goes) to get paint onto a canvas in a way that can express your feelings and inner consciousness, and discussed the creative thought processes that go into a completely unstructured painting. This gave me the impetus to do it myself. Grab a palette knife, paint scraper, brush or whatever, and put paint to canvas. Bang it around to move the paint, layer upon layer, scrape, scratch and reveal what is below.

Excitement, movement, action!

New approaches required new materials and I embraced acrylics for their wonderful abilities to layer, dry fast, and display brilliant colours. I quickly discovered that not only is bigger better, but so is thicker. I now include texture media, silk-threaded paper and even leaves in many paintings. Again, anything goes!

Being an environmentalist and artist I have been very interested in how to study and express the human-built environment. That environment in which most of us live our lives: our cities.

I find painting in abstract and non-representational genres to be very challenging and liberating at the same time. You can paint anything you want, in any way that you want, with any medium. This should be easy, but if you take the time to consider what you want the painting to express, and how to express it, then it can be very challenging. Try putting your emotions on a canvas. You have to learn how to “not think” and to allow your sub-conscious more freedom. Very tough, introspective stuff!

I am still, and probably always will be, in a learning mode with the abstract genres of painting.

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