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.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Landscape Fundamentals Workshop - What I learned

Just finished four days conducting a workshop Fundamentals for Landscape Painters at the Gibsons Art Center in Gibsons B.C. Designed for what I call "serious beginner' and intermediate painters wanting a refresher in the fundamental principles of building strong landscape paintings. I take learning the fundamental principles seriously : colour, values, shape and form, perspective, observation, composition and self critique .  Creativity follows. Students are sent a set of notes for reading in advance of the class - making sure we all on a "level playing field" in our theoretical knowledge.

I start each day reviewing the essential elements of each the sections. We normally follow that with a series of exercises related to the section - colour mixing, mixing values, controlling saturation etc. Then I demo and students spend the rest of the day working on their own pieces under supervision. Of course we also cover equipment, supplies, and the other basics and discuss practical questions. I have followed this format for several  4 or 5 day workshops and things have gone reasonably well and I have received positive feedback.

I planned the same format for this workshop. It was a mixed group; from a very experienced painter ( but new to acylics) to a nice mix of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm. The challenge helping 15 people working on different subjects and with different painting goals takes a lot of time - which one does not have most days. So  at the end of day one I decided to change my format. For the next two days my demo was conducted as a " paint - with - me" format. We discussed the reference together, created value plans together with pencil and pad and worked set by step together through the painting. And as I paint " indirectly" with acrylics  it enabled the students to try each step along with me; stroke, glaze, scumble etc. . We took the paintings into the normal state of chaos then worked through and out of it together. The response was very encouraging - the results surprised me.  With every one  following me step by step and from the same reference we had 15 unique and quite wonderful pieces. I was delighted and I think many of the group were as well - I think they even surprised themselves at what they accomplished. So the group wanted to repeat the process the next day, this time building on a black gesso support. And again the results surprised me, and interesting, once again,  they each had a unique style which was similar to the day before - their own artistic personalities showing through. I think the two most satisfying workshop days for me in a long time.

The final day students painted on their own with supervision. The timidity, even fear, that was evident day one with many was gone.  Happy instructor.

I plan to build other workshops on that " follow me" approach.

Quick Demos used

Just some examples - notice the wonderful unique results

I also learned I have to be clearer and stronger about equipment in my supply list. Some in the class were working with only small brushes and had little variety - mostly brights 1/2  inch or less. It really limits them and the kind of marks they can make and the work that results.

" It creeps in with insidious ease when using a too-small or same-size brush throughout, and when over-rendering, over-detailing, over-focusing or hanging onto things."  Sara Genn

The palettes were the other issue. My recommendation was Stay Wet Palette for holding paint and  glass for mixing.  Many worked on disposable palette paper. I am OK that but it needs to be used as indicated - disposable. Some used the same piece over and over. Even on glass if its not clean and fresh paint is mixed over dried paint, the lower dried paint with be re-activated and affect the colour and bring dried chunks into the new mix. Learning to mix well on a clean surface is critical. Trying to make transparent glazes from a palette that has opaque paint on it is impossible. Squeezing out small dobs of paint as needed instead of having a full palette squeezed out and ready to mix from. Equipment is critical - bring the right stuff or its almost not worth showing up - its just that important.

Next workshops, each three days,  Coast Collective, Victoria, in February and in Pemberton in March.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Brian Atyeo Workshop

Brian Atyeo Demo - piano player

Its been a busy summer. We sold our Comox home, purchased a home in Courtenay, just a few km away, and a summer home in Collingwood Ontario. We have moved  into Courtenay, have gotten settled in and built a new studio and work area. In September we head back to Ontario for a few months to furnish our home - and make a small studio there. In the middle of all the confusion Cathy and I took the RV to Alberta where I took a five day workshop with the great east-coast acrylic painter Brian Atyeo.

I have admired the inventive nature of Brian's work and was pleased to be able to attend. The workshop was held at River Rock Studio near Cochrane. The facilities were excellent and owners very hospitable. The workshop is advertised as advanced and all the students were accomplished artists many who had taken one of his workshops before.

Not quite sure how to describe our week. Never taken a workshop like it. Brian is an outstanding inventive  artist that makes his acrylics spin . and he spent the week making my head spin. He is the most indirect painter I have ever seen , layer over layer, opaques over transparent, multiple layers of glazes . He seems to spend as much time thinning and removing paint with his paper towels as he does apply it.  And he uses soft brushes :  hogs hairs, and softer synthetic acrylics, and large inexpensive brushes from Lee Valley .

I can't begin to describe Brian's demos so I have just added a grouping of images for two of them. You can enlarge by clicking on them He starts with a big loose value idea, then colourful washes then starts to shape with opaques, layer after layer, just when you think it might be done, he glazes down again introducing a new colour, then back to the opaques to  carve shapes. Exhausting to watch .

Poor photo but great end to the demo

Brian is a passionate fan of jazz and is well know for his jazz abstracts

Brians paintings are generally simple subjects completed in a complex indirect, multi layered approach making the final piece unique and interesting.
He is an excellent instructor and I highly recommend his workshop for a different and more complex approach to working with acrylics.

The first paintings we did were to be done as we normally paint. I used my normal approach and firm angular acrylic brushes. A fast lay-in from memory of a previous Whistler painting 24x24. Brian encouraged me to change to softer brushes and be looser in my approach and focus more on value and less on colour. So thats how I spent the week - large pieces, starting with bold loose value plan, shapes, layers of glazes and shapes carved by opaques.

At the end of the week after days of Brian's encouragement my approach to the same subject yielded a softer product toned with multiple glazes

So we headed home to pack and arrange our move. Any painting I did was trying to work with the recommendations Brian gave me. I found my time very frustrating - post workshop blues as I described in an earlier post. I found the changes difficult but persevered and think I have added useful new skills to my tool kit .  Gradually the " me" in my work started to return but modified and hopefully strengthened by Brian's ideas. Some of my pieces during that period: softer brushes, multiple glazes, opaque application and wipe off to the underpainting, and patience patience patience.

Tomorrow I am off to Gibson BC to begin a four day workshop on the Fundamentals for Acrylic Landscape Painters. Looking forward to that. 

Next BC workshops  will be in Victoria in February and Pemberton in March. I have just scheduled a four day plein air workshop in Collingwood Ontario for next June. Details will be on my website.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Rescheduled October Workshop Coastal Collective

We recently purchased a summer home in Collingwood Ontario. Thats where our sons and their families live. We are looking forward to taking possession of it. Unfortunately, we cannot take possession until mid fall. So it is necessary  to postpone the workshop scheduled for late October at Coast Collective in Victoria. The workshop will now be held February 20/21.

The workshop is already well subscribed so I feel badly making the change. I hope most will be able to reschedule and join me in February.

Approaches to Acrylic Landscape Paintings 

Next schedule:  Coastal Collective   February 20/21 2016

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 umber 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.

Hopefully you will go home with three good "starts" to which you can add finishig touches

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.