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.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

More Large Stiff Brushes with WM Oils on Burnt Umber

Continuing to experiment with smaller oils sketches using stiff Legato brights in large sizes: 1 1/2, 1 and 1/2 inch. Working with WM oils and odorless solvent on linen or canvas mounted on 1/8 inch doorskin and treated with Liquatex Burnt Umber Gesso - sizes 8x10 to 11x14. I have been experimenting with this combination off and on for a couple of weeks and really starting to feel comfortable and confident.

What I am enjoying is the combination forces simplification and abstraction . I also like the angular strong brushstrokes. The stiff brushes mix the oils thinly for the first layers - something I have had a problem with - and can be used to lay on thicker oils on later layers.

I have found that opaque oils, particularly titanium white, does not cover the dark underpainting as easily as the acrylic does.

Monday, 30 March 2015

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Sketching from Square One... to Trafalgar Square

Sitting in our RV in Tofino. Two days of pouring rain. No painting done.
But it gave me a chance to read a new book recommended, if I remember correctly,  by the blog of Kathleen Dunphy.

I have many books on drawing, many of them good and recommended by others, but this one has moved to the top of my list as a book on the basics of drawing - particularly for painters. It focuses on the foundation skills: composition, drawing (measuring, proportions, perspective), value and edges. Its how to use drawing effectively for planning your paintings.

The book can be purchased from Amazon, but nice to order it directly from the author :

Friday, 27 March 2015

New Acrylic Workshop - Coast Collective, Victoria.

New acrylic workshop scheduled at Coast Collective, Victoria. For details: Coast Collective 

Acrylic Landscape Painting with Brian Buckrell

Acrylic Landscape Painting with Brian Buckrell
Instructor: Brian Buckrell
Date: October 31 - November 1, 2015
Time: Saturday & Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Class Cost: $250.00 plus GST
Class Code: 1015-BB-AW
Registration Deadline: Oct 27, 2015
This workshop is designed to expose students to three different approaches to starting and developing acrylic landscape paintings.  Students will be provided reference for a coastal landscape, a seascape and a mountain scape. We will work together to plan, design and develop each painting as far as time permits. Each will be started using a different approach:  
  1. by creating a value under-painting using dark transparent paint; 
  2. beginning on a dark or black ground; and
  3. beginning on a brightly toned canvas. 
Emphasis will be on planning, design, working with values and colour, critiquing our work, and finally making the paintings "stand on their own", free of reference. 

The workshop is for serious beginners, with experience in working with acrylics, to intermediate painters wanting to try different approaches.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Play Day - Oils on Burnt Umber and Large Legatto Brush

Spent the last two months on large acrylic pieces. Feeling burned out and needing a change and some fun. I spent a lot of that time using Liquatex Burnt Umber gesso as the dark underpainting and used a line of brushes new to me:  Legatto brushes from Opus Framing and Art Supplies in Vancouver. I liked working with the both in acrylics.

Next week we are off to Tofino for some plein air time so I thought I should start playing with oils again for the first time this year - expecting to paint with both acrylics and oils ( water mixable). I decided I would try them on surfaces treated with the burnt umber gesso and use the large 1 1/2 inch Legatto bright brush and try to "bang in" colour shapes quickly and bold. The Legatto is quite stiff and holds an edge. It spreads paint thinly or can apply almost like a palette knife. I tried the combination on course linen, canvas and  gessoed MDF board.

I layed in a rough sketch using a dark red acrylic marker. Each of the pieces was completed using only the large stiff bright Legatto brush. Each needs further  refinement but I was pleased with how the brush handled the oils and once again I enjoyed working on the dark underpainting. Each subject was used in a painting I had done recently in acrylics so I painted from memory and imagination. Total time just over 3 hours.  Sizes 8x10 , 11x14 and 12x12.

I will let them sit for a few days, then revisit and reconsider.

Legatto brush 1 1/2 inch bright

Red acrylic marker sketch on burnt umber on canvas and colour shapes begun
That was a fun morning and I think useful as a different and efficient way for quick starts. The brush makes very angular lines which can be left ( I kind of like them) or modified with continued work.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


I have often painted oil and acrylics on black gesso grounds. Particularly on small pieces I enjoy working out from "the darkness". Almost feels like sculpting.

Was about to order more black gesso when Opus Framing and Art Supplies (Vancouver) put Liquatex Burnt Umber Gesso on a greatly reduced price. So I thought I would give it a try and would use it on enough starts to really get the feel for it.  All are acrylics, mostly 11x14 on linen or cotton canvas.

Burnt Umber ground - drawing with acrylic markers

Filling large value shapes

Carving negative spaces

Almost finished 24x24

Sketch and early shapes

Almost finished 11x14 - details needed on figures

I really liked working on the warmer dark ground - as compared to the black. Each piece has a greater or lesser amount showing through and the warmth of the umber seems preferable to the cool black. 

Enough small starts of different colour themes to feel comfortable working on this warm dark ground 

So now I want to try working with it on larger pieces. 

Friday, 23 January 2015


There are a few spots remaining in the two day workshop: Mastering the Power in Acrylics.

Brian Buckrell WORKSHOP 
Campbell River Art Gallery 
March 7,8


Acrylic is the most versatile of the painting mediums. This two day workshop will cover the types of acrylic paints and mediums and painting techniques used to take advantage of the full potential in acrylics. The first day and a half will be demonstrations and group  exercises. The final afternoon participants will use the techniques in developing their own paintings.

 Participants will receive a recommended reading list, a supply list and my outline Thoughts on Making a Landscape Painting. Designed for the serious beginner and the intermediate level painter wanting a review.

Cost: $285 / Gallery members: $275
For information or to register contact: 
Campbell River Art Gallery  (250) 287-2261

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My month with the Watts Atelier On-line Courses

If you follow my Facebook page you will know I have been out of commission for the past month. Knee replacement - resulting from an old rugby injury almost 50 years ago.  

So to fill the time I loaded up on new books and prepared to not be painting for the month.  Didn't take long until that got stale.

Recently I had been considering the Watts Atelier on-line courses but felt I did not want the expense or commitment. But then this seemed like a good time and a good way to kill the time. And for a reason I cannot understand I seem to keep needing to play with portraiture and figurative painting every once in a while. So I took a look. 

There are a growing number of on-line learning opportunities. For most you pay by the course or by a monthly fee giving access  to a selection of videos.  The Watts approach is different: $200 per month but with full access to a growing selection of programs each with many courses. Pay extra and you get personal mentoring from one of their excellent instructors - or Jeff himself. Initially that seemed expensive and I hesitated. I wanted to be able to buy a course, download and view at my leisure. But once I took a look and knowing I had an open month ahead of me I decided to register for one month to give it a try. And I was glad I did.  The program is excellent and growing in scope. It is designed as a complete learning experience. If I wanted to it would take me from basic drawing skills through to many different approaches to portraiture and figure painting - all done very well. It is comprehensive. In addition to the excellent videos there are very good pdf notes to download with each section.

I spent 6 months at the Atelier , near San Diego, a number of years ago. It was great but very expensive. This would have been a reasonable alternative.

While my initial interest was in playing with portraiture again, the landscape program also impressed me. Jeff Watts dad, Robert has two courses on design, one in particular on Composition and Staging, that are excellent. He is a great teacher - as is Jeff. So I watched and re-watched some of the videos then at week two was able to drag my butt down to the studio. Set up a small oil work space and painted seated (which normally I hate doing) for a few hours each day. And I did as many of the exercises as I could. I re-kindled my love- hate relationship with portraiture. Love to be able to be good at it but hate the commitment it takes. But just the exercises working on tight control, no matter the subject, are good for me - as my landscapes seem be becoming more serendipitous the more I paint.

Excellent quality videos

Portraiture has three phases each with about a dozen courses - and more to come

A few of the courses in Phase II portraiture
Videos show the palette and reference 
Excellent reference material to work with 

pdf notes 

Robert Watts  Composition and Staging course - excellent 

Its been four weeks since my surgery, I am doing well. Most days painting at least 4-5 hours and all of it has been playing with the Watts programs. My interest is in trying to capture a bit of a likeness but more importantly  to make it interesting using colour, brush strokes and texture. I made dozens of exercise 6x8s and a few 8x10. 

My set up. Videos on left and using printed pdf for reference. 

A few 8x10 examples. Notice the heavy texture on a few done with acrylic molding paste - just playing 

So am I now any closer to being a portrait painter? No, never going to happen. Its something you need to do every day if you are ever going to be good. But I have enjoyed it and it has helped move me forward. 

My plan is to finish this first month, get back to my acrylics, then at some point re join for a month as new courses are added. 

Summary: excellent programs, well planned and taught, quality format, good value. 

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.