The Small Town and Its Tempestuous Sky

Artist Linda Craddock

Our art editor, Cynthia Close, recently spoke with Linda Craddock, featured artist in Issue #2. Here’s what she had to say about her journey as an artist and the influence of landscape as metaphor.

 

When did you first realize you were an artist? 

Lions jumped out at me from plywood-grained doors at age three. I discovered that violet and dark blue mixed together looked like a belly dancer’s veil sometime after that. By 1959, I was babysat by the movie theatre Friday nights and Saturdays. I breathed in drama and cinematography, reenacted the highlights in my friend’s basement.

As a preteen, I had my own camera, a typewriter, record player and remarkably, a portable tape recorder. By high school, I ignored biology and chemistry and dove into English and art. At 18, I left my small hometown to attend a 4-year diploma program at the Alberta College of Art. Later, I went on to university for a BFA in drawing and an MFA in photography.

 

You are very articulate in your use of words to describe the meaning of and motivation behind the production of your work. I have found that many visual artists are less capable working outside the realm of visual expression.What role, if any, does reading and writing play in the realization of your work? 

After receiving my MFA, I moved to Vancouver Island. I sold my Hasselblad camera and wrote random abstract thoughts, dreams and visions for maybe five years, influenced by Jungian psychology. I joined a couple of writing groups and tried my hand at short fiction before picking up a paintbrush. I then studied colour theory, painted maybe 60 abstract works on paper. I mixed those same translucent colors of my childhood, draping the violet and blue dancer’s veil over a chaotic universe.

After a time, I sold my property and moved to a small gulf island where for another 7 years, I developed my painting skills. I painted figurative works, self-portraits, family and for relief, west coast landscape. All the while, I heard the voices of my ancestors who had immigrated to the prairie at the turn of the century. By 2003, I was called home to the prairie.

I continue writing, and have studied most recently with the Alberta Playwrights Network, where I developed and am still working on a play called, “The Dead Relative Series.” A play lies somewhere in-between writing and painting with its visual and auditory bent.

 

The paintings are very evocative. Can you describe your technique?

With the series, “Hometown Dreams” I collaged my photographs on 12 wood panels at a time and worked on all 12 concurrently, painting over the photos with as many as 20 layers of oil color and oil glaze. The content/meaning of each panel emerges over a period of several weeks, maybe months. The slow technique lends itself to contemplation, emotion and ultimately, acceptance or resolve.

 

Your images seem both to describe a specific place, while being universal. What inspires you about a certain landscape to make it subject matter for a painting?

Out of the personal arrives the universal. The “Hometown Dream” series contains visual remnants of a small prairie community as I experienced it in the 1950’s on. I recall single peaked-roof homes, the old metal water tower, railroad tracks, motels. Cars cruising along Main Street. An old woman crossing the highway.

As a child, I watched as the blizzard sky drifted snow across the prairie roads. No buses, no school. I slid along the icy road, my open coat the sail. A summer storm brought dark tornado-like cloud formations. Lightning. Late summer hail pummeled the grain fields and ruined the harvest. Most remarkably, one time the aurora borealis hung over the town with such a display I thought I’d gone mad. The prairie sky was otherwise gentle, a vast blue dome that eased into night with remarkable sunsets.

The small town and its tempestuous sky pushed itself into my consciousness as a metaphor of power and of change. Perhaps the notion of landscape as metaphor is uniquely Canadian.

 

What artists have influenced your work?

I have been influenced more by historical photography and cinema in terms of content. In art school, I was taught Formalist theory that continues to lend my autobiographical imagery a structural backbone. I have had no particular mentor.

 

Do you have any future exhibitions planned?  

Sections of the “Hometown Dreams” series continue to travel to public venues. My work will be in the Leighton Centre near Calgary in July 2015.

I have a new series of larger paintings that use more of the figure in urban landscape. More ghosts of the past. A fire at the Texaco garage circa 1959. A woman in a plaid dress, purse in hand floating over a mountainous landscape without the gondola. People loading into and then out of a greyhound bus on Banff Avenue. I have no idea where the paintings will be shown.

 

How can people buy your original work? 

My work can be viewed or purchased directly through my studio.

www.lindacraddock.ca

email: craddock@shaw.ca

Linda Craddock

A professional artist for nearly 40 years, Linda Craddock’s work has been collected by the Canadian Contemporary Museum of Photography, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and Art Gallery of Alberta. Her work has been exhibited internationally, nationally, and regionally both in public and commercial venues.

Craddock’s discipline involves the history, landscape, and experience of the prairie and mountain regions of Alberta. Always autobiographical, her work often utilizes mixed-media approach that incorporates drawing, oil and photographic imagery. Linda graduated both from the Alberta College of Art and Design and the University of Calgary, where she earned an MFA. More of her work can be viewed at www.lindacraddock.ca.

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