Article from The
Peace Arch News (Oct. 14, 2000) courtesy of the publisher
Three-artist show takes bold approach
The three artists gathered at White Rock Gallery for an afternoon
chat about their upcoming show share some common ground.
All changed career directions because of a passion for painting,
and all have acquired impressive credentials.
Niels Petersen was, until the mid-'90s, a reporter for The
Peace Arch News -- then made the jump to painting full time.
Netherlands-born Ed Loenen taught art and French in high
school, but left full-time teaching in 1992 to pursue his "first
Michael O'Toole studied architectural design at BCIT and
even worked for several architectural firms in Toronto, before surrendering
to his "all-consuming passion" for painting.
All three have exhibited alone and in collective shows -- including
the Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery in Vancouver (both Loenen and
Petersen have been granted associate status within the Federation). [Gallery
note: Michael O'Toole also holds associate status.]
Petersen has shared shows with both Loenen (Brushspokes I and II)
and O'Toole (with Ruth Sawatzky).
All three are noted for their bold and vivid approach to colour --
Loenen in oils featuring urban scenes; Petersen in paintings featuring
both urban and natural landscapes; and O'Toole in sea scenes,
architectural studies, many inspired by his travels in the Mediterranean.
They're all pushing colour to the limit in this show, featuring all
new paintings, they promise.
Add to this the fact Petersen and O'Toole have indulged in friendly
sparring since they were six or seven years old, and you have the
ingredients for a … well, lively discussion, moderated by the courteous,
"Do you mind if we throw colours at your?" O'Toole said
(fortunately speaking figuratively) as a prelude to an exchange in which
the artists, as artists will, debate the merits of specific paint colours.
For instance Petersen extols the virtues of cobalt violet light for
imbuing a scene with a late afternoon quality (albeit in sparing use, at
$27 per tube).
"The effect," he said, "is subtle but
They're all agreed, he added, that "lemon yellow sucks."
"I love Thalo green for cool reflective light," O'Toole
offers. "It's a mainstay."
"A mainstay?" Petersen fires. "Get out!"
Cobalt blue is even more controversial, it seems, with Petersen
holding it is a "namby pamby colour" and O'Toole maintaining
it's the "meat and potatoes of blue."
"What do you think about David Langevin's article on colour,
about not mixing colours," Loenen ventures.
"I respect it," O'Toole cautiously offered.
Before I gained the impression a brawl was about to break out,
Petersen (whom I know to be fond of playing Devil's Advocate) assured me
"Mike and I have known each other since Grade 2."
"When we were at school, Niels was the artist and I was
focused into architecture," O'Toole said.
"I drew a lot in elementary school and high school,"
"Did you draw in class?" O'Toole asked. Loenen admitted
"But I sat close to the teachers, and they always looked past
me," he said.
Of the three, Loenen has possibly the most radical approach to
"I've been studying it since 1982. I've really been
concentrating on the tension between red and green and what happens
"I have glasses of double black glass and I put them on to
check the values--sometimes I'll paint a whole painting with the glasses
on, once my palette is finished. It frees me to discover whole new triads
"I think the strength of colour comes out in the middle
values," O'Toole said.
"That's the subject matter of what I do. That's the true sense
of an artist -- the application of colours in the middle values, not the
lights and darks.
"Would you agree with that Niels?"
Petersen admitted he hadn't been paying that close attention to
what O'Toole was saying.
"I was thinking about what colour meant to me," he said.
"Yeah, that's about right," O'Toole offered.
"I like to exaggerate things," Petersen said.
"Non-artists may look at presumably grey clouds or a blue sea,
but if you really look into what seem to be ordinary colours, these other
colours come out."
Petersen and O'Toole agree the colours of the reference photos they
use are totally unsatisfactory--a good thing, freeing them to take an
entirely personal approach to the colours of the scene based on their own
"Regular folks may not know about colours," O'Toole said.
"But they know what they like. They'll see the subtleties,
they'll focus in on that. They may not articulate why they like it, but
the subtleties will focus their eye to move across the colour and value
A sensitivity to colour becomes irresistible, Loenen said.
"I was at the dentist's office the other day, looking at their
magazine of motorcycles. They have wonderful colours for motorcycles now,
fabulous iridescent shades. There was on picture that I sneaked out of the
magazine--they had this red light behind a green motorcycle.
"I took it home. I was totally taken with that. That's how
colour can be so exciting to me."
He counts himself an admirer of the way Cezanne modelled his
subjects with progressions from warm to cool colours.
"Mercie beaucoup, M. Cezanne," he said -- noting,
however, although the French master's works are a "feast of
colour" his own life was dour and devoid of love.
But then, this is the continuing anomaly of the artist's daily life
and struggle to achieve something on canvas.
"It's always a struggle," Petersen said.
"I never know how a painting is going to end up -- it's almost
as if it takes on a life of it's own.
"It's like having a conversation with the painting -- a colour