Hello, I'm Darren Umbsaar. Here's a little bit about me...
I am a 25-year-old, self-taught painter, born and raised in Calgary, AB. I only began making a practice of painting back in high school in 2012, and even then my work ethic was far from diligent (maybe a handful of paintings per year). I steadily painted on the side throughout my time at university. In June 2018 I graduated with a BSc. in Geology from the U of C, a discipline which has helped me both understand and paint the mountains with greater confidence. I am currently working towards my MSc. in Geology at the U of C with a focus on mineralogy.
Living close to the Canadian Rockies continually drives my passion for activities such as hiking, scrambling, skiing, painting, and landscape photography. Through both painting and photography, I strive to capture the grandeur and wonder of the Canadian Rockies; from vibrant winter sunrises, to late afternoon sun in the alpine---there are endless combinations of light and colour to explore in the ever-changing realms of the mountains. I often prefer to use large-scale canvases to create realistic to impressionistic landscape scenes, many of which are based on places I have personally visited, photographed, and connected with. Aside from the classic "iconic" views in the mountain parks, I tend to also try and paint locations that don't see as much attention--places that are harder to access, like obscure lakes or mountain summits. I consider it a form of documentation and personal appreciation of those lesser-known spots. If Moraine Lake gets to be painted 10,000 times, why can't the view from Mount Niles get some recognition?
In my opinion, in the end a great painting isn't about how closely it resembles a photograph, but rather about how the painting stirs a person inside. That being said, I like to achieve a strong resemblance to the real world in my paintings, as I believe people connect strongly to what they have seen or experienced in nature, and if you can bring that out through a painting it is incredibly powerful. For me, art has definitely been a wordless outlet to express joy and love of nature that can't really be expressed in photography or writing or any other creative method that I've tried. When I go on a hike up a mountain, or discover a new lake, I feel an urge not just to photograph it, but to somehow render it in my own manner, to capture it and convey it with paint. It's become something of an addiction. I believe all artists feel this way. An irresistible gravitational pull towards creating...
A couple of my all-time favourite contemporary artists who expertly ride the line between impression and reality, are Denis Gorodnichy and Bato Dugarzhapov. I know my style is far from their styles, but I just love the moods they can achieve with such bold and seemingly "messy" strokes. Do yourself a favour and look them up! They are masters of light and colour, and have inspired me to no end. Of course, like many artists, I also strongly admire old masters, namely John Singer Sargent; the apparent effortlessness of his bold brushwork combined with immaculate tones and colours is just phenomenal. Two other artists that I strongly admire and who, in fact, have generously given me personal feedback and encouragement are Charlie Easton and the late Hubert Nanzer--both exceptional mountain artists whose works have inspired me greatly.
I have also gained some valuable conceptual insight into painting techniques from several online sources, especially YouTube. One of my favourite YouTube channels is "Draw Mix Paint" by Mark Carder. Mark is a master at his craft in both being a painter and a teacher. He conveys not just the methods but also the attitudes and perspectives that you need to adopt in order to paint realism effectively. His emphasis is on value and "colour-checking" especially, as well as maintaining a level of abstraction (even in realism!) so that once you step back and view the painting from several meters away, the whole thing comes together. And that's something that I am striving to incorporate into my own work more recently--the painting doesn't need to be hyper realistic when viewed up close, but rather it's about how it "appears" when you step back and let that added distance fill in the gaps of the imagination. Also, I am indebted to Andrew Tischler, an amazing New Zealand based realist oil painter, who's landscape paintings have been a huge source of inspiration. Not only are his paintings inspiring, but his YouTube tutorials have been the primary source for me in learning how to paint with oils.
Painting is one of those activities that will be endlessly fulfilling, because the more you paint the more you realize you have more the learn and more to improve on. Painting has been an evolving skill. I keep asking myself, "What is my style?" which is a challenge to answer, as I find joy in cycling from periods of realism to somewhat more impressionistic methods. I find it hard to settle on one way of painting. Too detailed and it becomes monotonous, too loose and it becomes messy and thoughtless. It's a constant struggle at the easel--leaning in and out, gauging the values, sliding the paint around, and trying to capture a glimpse of the power and light that only nature can possess. But, I still try nonetheless, and therein lies the thrill of painting.
All I can say is I'm going to be a painter no matter what for the rest of my life, and I will always be trying to improve and to bring an extra bit of beauty to the world.
Thanks for reading!
Upcoming Shows and Exhibitions
2021 - March or April (dates unconfirmed) Acclaimed Fine Art
Crescent Heights Community Association 1101 2 St NW, Calgary, AB T2M 2V7
Past Shows and Exhibitions
2016 - October - Calyx Distinctive Arts (show/sale)
2017 - April - Calyx Distinctive Arts
2017 - October - Calyx Distinctive Arts
2018 - April - Calyx Distinctive Arts
2018 - October - Calyx Distinctive Arts
2019 - April - Calyx Distinctive Arts
2019 - June - cSpace Summer Exhibition
2019 - June - Renfrew Baptist Church Flea Market
2019 - October Calyx Distinctive Arts
2020 - October Beacon Original Art
2020 - October 31- Nov 1 Acclaimed Fine Art