A Call to the Curious

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22 July 2008

A Brief Biography: Michael Kluckner

Michael Kluckner is a Canadian writer and artist living in Katoomba, Australia. He has written a cycle of books over the course of 20 years detailing Vancouver and Canadian history, heritage, and culture. In 2007 he uprooted and began painting and chronicling a new landscape in Australia. He works in an array of different styles: Oils, watercolors, pencil sketches, woodcuts, and of course written word.

Michael began travel painting in a tour of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean in the winter of '92 - '93. Since then he has toured through Canada, the Pacific Coast States in the USA, Tasmania, Guadalajara, Turkey, Greece, Crete, and Germany with his paints and sketchbooks. He has an inordinary penchant for Volkswagen autos when traveling but makes ample use of his time walking and hiking the landscapes he records.

Below are a few questions Michael was kind enough to answer about his recent travels.

16 July 2008

Q&A on recent trips with Michael Kluckner

1) Where was your last trip? Where are you going next?

The most recent trip that will lead to a web article on my Travel page, and maybe something in print later on, was to the Thompson River canyon in southern British Columbia in late May, 2008. I had an opportunity to do a raft trip down the river with the people at the Kumsheen Resort, but regardless I wanted to go back there to paint. It is such a challenging place, and although I first went there with a sketchbook in '93 I still don't feel I've got it right. The next trip? Brittany, with a nostalgic side trip to the Basque region of Spain, in September, where I first travelled when I was 20.

2) What is the longest trip you've taken? What trip do you feel was the most successful?

The longest trip was 3 months over the winter of '92-3 in the south of France and Italy. Probably the most successful one was in October-November of 2005 to Turkey, Crete, Greece and, finally, Heidelberg. There's a link to it on my travel page (above). There was an element almost of map-making in some of the pictures I did there, especially the pencil drawings, and pictures of people began to creep in again.

3) How many mediums do you take when you travel? Oils, watercolors, pastels, etc.?

I take a hand-made watercolour sketchbook, usually 10 x 11 inches (one-sixth of an Imperial sheet), a Moleskine book for pencil drawing, and a very small box of watercolours with one squirrel-mop brush and a spray bottle. We travel with carry-on bags so there's not a lot of room and I hate heavy stuff anyway. I don't "paint for the gallery" when I'm travelling -- the sketchbook itself, and digital files of the images suitable for publication, are the final use as far as I'm concerned.

4) What is the most resounding difference for you between working in open air and working in studio?

You get control indoors, especially of the moisture level of the paper, in return for which you have to remember the way the light danced when you were outside. So this little detail of a Heidelberg watercolour: the paper has to be just wet enough to blur the brushstrokes without losing them altogether. It's very difficult to achieve that outside, sitting on the ground on the edge of a trail in the sunshine, and maintain the moisture level so you get a consistency across the image. Yet it's not a bad combination: starting a picture outside to get the proportions and shadows and basic colours, then finishing it inside where the vagaries of memory force you to simplify.

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