GO TO YOUR ROOM ! I borrowed this phrase from the recently deceased Canadian painter Robert Genn who believed that there is only so much we can learn about how to paint from the many fine instructors and resources available today. The true learning comes from going off on our own and doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I am now focusing on my own development ( Going to MY room!) and sharing what I have learned and continue to learn. I created this blog primarily for those attending my workshops to keep in touch and to further share as we grow together. If others are interested in following that would be great.

Enjoy the journey.

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Thick yellow spot laid on then use shaper to draw out edge and lift out to let underpainting through

Wow, had lot of questions about colour shapers: what are they, where do you get them, can I just use my kitchen spreader????

Colour shapers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are rubber - and you can buy rigid (generally black rubber)  or more malleable  (generally mid value gray). The come from fine tipped to a blade up to 5 inches.

My most useful are 2 and 3 inches. These will do everything that the pointy ended ones do and so much more. For me the pointy ones are next to useless in comparison and they cost almost as much.

I use them to apply paint and to pick out. I will often slap on spot of thick colour then pick out "twiggs or grassed " -see top image. Apply thick paint in a rock area then shape the rock with the shaper - see the base magenta showing through the purple rocks above .

Maybe hard to understand, but in the above detail shows multiple layers picked out showing the one below. Each MUST BE DRY.   You can see the green-black added over the lighter greens then shapes and the small holes created.  Then the small green tree on the bottom added over the black green tree and the small lines lifted to create the illusion of stems etc. Also those straight lines coming out from the green black are added using the shaper - just gently lifting paint and banging it in place.

And this above I do a LOT. Creating a value underpainting using transparent liquid acrylic - if you enlarge the image you can see where paint was added with the shaper and where it was lofted off - back and forth, back and forth.

Great for applying sweeping strokes on water and waves.

The shaper MUST be clean - front and sides. Then you get a nice clean stroke.

Where to buy: in Canada Opus, Curies  and most other have or can get. If you are near me on Vancouver Island, Bonnie at  Qualicum Art Supply as brought them in for my workshops. In the US almost all the major suppliers have them. Big range in prices.
This is what you want!

Most people seem to have these - very limited use.

Princeton has a new line of rigid and malleable tools - useful but not the same. 

Other "found in the kitchen" shapers will not give you the untility  of the commercial ones.  But you probably need to try each to see the difference.

Hope that helps. Got to get to the gym.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


I don't know how it started but I generally use a colour shaper , from 1 inch to 5 inches, for adding and removing paint during the early block in stage. I have not shown it's use recently so I thought I would share this attempt. I use it with transparent liquid acrylics ( preference for me is Golden) to layer in a value underpainting of either a mono colour or include the colours that will be used in most large shapes as I did with this piece.

There is something about the physicalness of swiping on and removing as needed that gets me into the feeling of the painting. I think it forces  abstraction  and helps me to avoid over-representation in my work. I particularly like using it when I want a degree of randomness and colour and when I will use opaques to carve out shapes negatively - as in the case of the rocks and trees in this piece.

But mostly I just enjoy it- it gets me in the mood and into my painting.

The initial sketch was done using water soluble pencils followed by acrylic markers once I was happy with my plan.
Initial value sketch - pencil on paper  - to light, mid light, mid dark and dark 

Multiple layers of transparents, dark at the base and warmer for the trees

Green gold wash over entire piece

Beginning to shape trees using pre mixed opaque - thinly over yellow underpainting 

Set up
Examples of colour shapers used

Almost finished shaping sky and water

Autumn Passage   Acrylic on Canvas 24x36

So now into a frame and sit with it for a few days to see what it needs.

Friday, 24 October 2014

New Acrylic Workshop Announced for Campbell River Art Gallery

New acrylic two day workshop to be held March 7/8 at the Campbell River Art Gallery on Vancouver Island. The program is designed for serious beginners to intermediate artists wishing to explore the great potential in the acrylic medium.

Clip from the Campbell River Art Gallery Website. 
We will focus on techniques and equipment useful to acrylic painters, on different approaches to beginning an acrylic painting  and the use of different types of acrylic paints and mediums.

I will be doing demos and a few paint-along-with-me drills. There will be exercises to practice. On the Sunday afternoon participants will work on their own painting employing many of the techniques demonstrated.

Participants will receive my recommended reading list, a supply list and my outline Steps for Making a Landscape Painting. 

To register contact the Campbell River Art Gallery.

Monday, 6 October 2014

From plein air sketch to studio commission

Pleased to have been  commissioned to make a  painting in Collingwood. The request was for the view from the top of Blue Mountain down to the town and to the grain silos - the  town icon. Its a scene I have painted many times but only in the spring and winter.

 The client wanted a splash of fall colour and the Collingwood scene from above.

Pencil sketch on linen. Final draw in using acrylic markers

WM oils nearing finish   11x14 on linen
For the commission I decided to create an oil and an acrylic. Each with a different foreground.

Oil on linen 14x18  
Acrylic on linen 14x18
The client chose the oil.  Wonderful couple to work with making doing a commission a joy.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Along the Road to Ontario

In mid August Cathy and I left Comox for Ontario to spend 6 weeks with our family there. We took our RV, headed into Washington State and did the Cascades region, which we had not seen before. Then up into Southern BC and across Canada to Ontario. The trip was easy (for a change), uncomplicated by bad weather or problems of any type.

We really enjoy our 24 ft unit - e bikes on the back.

In Saskatoon we enjoyed the hospitality of painter and photographer Delee Grant and her husband Larry. 
I packed an acrylic kit to use in our rented condo on arrival and an oil kit for plein air along the way. I decided NOT to pack my acrylic plein air kit - to force me to work with the oils and not have my more comfortable acrylics to fall back on when I got frustrated. Goal was to experiment with new and  different brushes on different surfaces - linen or smooth gessoed MDF board. 

I made about 20 small pieces along the way, all needing "tweeking".  Below I have shared a few. 

 I am pleased to have been asked to do a workshop with the Marsh Street Painters in Clarsburg while I am here. Looking forward to that.

Will try to keep in touch - grand-kids permitting.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Post workshop practice

first lay-in 6x6 oil on board 

Having just returned from the Susan Lyon/Scott Burdick workhop I needed to find time to play with some of the concepts. My main concern from the workshop was that it was clear that I was not identifying my values as well as I could. So I needed to play with small quick sketches to practice while I still had things in my head .... and SQUINT harder and longer  and carefully survey the reference to clearly identify value shapes. .

First few quickies. Each under an hour.

Smile on Black  WM oil on board 6x6

The Outdoors Man   WM oil on Linen 6x8

Beauty on Black  WM oil on Board 6x8

Great practice and fun to do. Keep trying.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Honored to be included in editorial in South West Art Magazine, August

I was honored that South West Art Magazine, August 2014, chose to include my work along with seven other artist in a section on new Contemporary Landscape Painters.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Susan Lyon and Scott Burdick Workshop - My Review


 Last week I attended a six day workshop at Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio in Langely WA on Whidbey Island. This was my second workshop at the Studio and once again it was very well organized and the venue was well laid out with lots of room. They do a great job and I recommend them for workshops. I took our RV and parked in the fairground where the workshop took place - $15 a night - can't beat that.

We had three days each from Susan and Scott.

Each day they began with a new model, new lighting set up and new approach to starting the portrait. Each demo was about 2 1/2 hrs. Each afternoon we painted the same models for 3 hours.
Six days of full morning demos is a lot and can be hard to take - but not with these two instructors. Each day was filled with learning and suggestions and most participants , including me , were pretty much on the edge of their seats the whole time. This couple is so skilled at their craft , so full of knowledge and so willing to share it that you don't want to miss a minute. It was fun to learn of their painting adventures and their own journeys learning to paint.

And they are so different in their approaches that we got to see technique from two entirely different painters. I saw her as a prima ballerina and him as a cowboy - and it made it really fun to watch and compare.

Susan began with a thin wash sketching in the darks
Then adding the lights 

Notice the palette management - neat as a pin

Second day Susan sketched in darks with thin wash
Almost finished - gorgeous piece - the head is only about 4 in high

Susans third started with blocking in the lights

Then the darks 

and almost finished

Scotts first began with a bold block in of the lights

Then adding the darks

Almost finished - notice the palette management 

Second day was a vine charcoal drawing to start

Then the value patterns

Almost finished

Third day was drawn in with transparent paint

Amazing handling of thick paint 

Power paint added

Demo final - what an amazing piece it was

And one of my attempts:

11x14 on linen

And finally another of mine :

But this one I had to buy - one of Scotts prior demos

I was very pleased to be able to add a Scott Burdick to my growing collection. Wish I had one of Susans as well - but the budget only goes so far. 

In summary, it was an excellent workshop. Continuous delivery of information and demonstrations of outstanding skill. And the six days were made fun by the warm and sharing personalities of them both. 

Highly recommend them - and they don't do many workshops. 

Now got to get practicing so I don't loose it.