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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.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Time for a change



Its been a long winter of painting mostly large acrylic landscapes. I needed a change. So, for the week prior to our driving back to Ontario I got out my water mixable oils for the first time in well over a year and decided to try my hand at portraiture again. But this time I wanted to be loose, to almost paint the face like a landscape - large brushes, bold strokes, and fast intuitive painting. Most of my earlier portraits are too highly rendered for my taste today. They lacked "energy".

I started with a generic female face.


Then decided to try my hand, once again, at some family portraits - but not feel the need to be "correct" - still hoping for a resemblance.


Made initial sketches with water mixable pencils then finalized using acrylic markers. Began with a wash of acrylic quin. crimson and shaded in dark areas.



 All painting was done with large firm angular brushes (brights) - Opus Legatto and Rosemary synthetics. All done 8x10. Target was to complete from first drawing to finish of one hour. Most went overtime. All were done in one sitting. The sketch below, of my grandson, was the first, done the fastest and my favorite of the group.



My daughter in law and grand daughter under warm night lights - very abstracted. 12x12




I made another 6 pieces. Not great portraiture but great fun and nice to do some risk taking to see what would happen. Starting to feel comfortable working with oils again.

To answer an earlier question I use water mixable oils for the easy soap and water clean up - I don't have health concerns. I use it with water or odorless mineral spirits. I like Winsor Neuton Artisan Quick Dry medium.

Tomorrow, off to Ontario in our RV. Will be doing a painting demo on Sunday May 8 at Avens Gallery, Canmore, Alberta.

Cheers.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A good exercise for landscape painters



There are lots of reasons to get out and paint on location. One is to learn how much your camera "lies" to you.

A good exercise is to make a sketch of relative shapes and sizes and take a photo from the same location. Then compare both - notice the distortion, particularly in distant shapes. Benefit - it gives the need/freedom in the studio to read into what photos are giving and to manage to the benefit of the painting.





In this case I did a simple quick sketch of shapes and relative values ( thats the D MD ML and Light on the sketch). I tried to be accurate in representing each shape: buildings, trees, lane, etc. Then I took photos from the same location and same height as my eye - the same eye I used to make the sketch.

Notice the difference. Camera pushes background back.

I used the sketch to make a quick plan on 12x12 linen board using an acrylic marker. Painting water-mixable oils. Made wash  using aliz crimson. Then did a simple quick block-in of the relative shapes and values using a large firm brush. Left the shapes flat and just focused on relative values.  Needed to extend the darks over the building to enhance the lights.









Result is a bit of an Edward Hopper flat-shape look to things ( I wish).

Been getting out of control again with my acrylics. All commitments met so have decided to tighten up accuracy, while still trying to be "me"  for the next few weeks working on "correctness" with simple architectural and figurative scenes in oils.

A fun hour.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Next best thing to plein air painting




For a variety of reasons I am finding it more difficult to be able to commit the time needed for making plein air paintings . Recently I have tried more sketching on location. Quick sketches take only a short time and still gets one involved with the great outdoors. It involves all that plein air painting does - except the painting. The planning, compositonal choices, simplification, value plan etc are still required. The thinking and decision-making are no different. And best of  all it doesn't require my ever-patient wife to hang about for a few hours.

A few month ago I " invested" in a new start-up Kick-starter campaign - the Nomad Art Satchel .  It arrived last week and I took it on our RV trip to Tofino. The satchel can hold all one needs, but I have other sketching kits that can as well. The two advantages the Nomad has is that it has a plate for attaching to a tripod and a shoulder strap that makes it possible to stand and sketch.

I expect it will get a lot of use. The sketches combined with photos should make good reference for studio works.

Nomad opens with pad side and storage side







Images from Nomal web page








Monday, 25 January 2016

Starting a new week




I tend to paint in batches. Today, as on most Mondays, I often set up a group of large pieces to work on during the week. This week its' west coast pieces for a west coast gallery. As well as working on those new pieces during the week I will be bringing other recent pieces back in as needed for refining.

I begin by selecting images, then cropping and modifying by computer ( ACDSee Ultimate Pro 9) . To make the approach I am using this week work I need to select images with a clear foreground, mid ground and background. I will be starting with foreground then shaping it with mid ground and that with back ground.


I make thumbnail sketches using pencil and pad then transfer a crude plan on canvas using acrylic markers . I sketch the group together.



The approach I  am using for these pieces is based on the references I have selected. I want a serendipitous outcome. Of course, not all pieces are started this loosely.

I make undercolour choices for each and begin a very crude value plan normally scrubbing in dark transparent colours and removing and adding as needed using a large rubber shaper. In the one below, 20x30,  I began laying in the yellows and orange on the white canvas before I crudely banged in the darks. Always adding a mix of colour into the dark value - just happenstance.




The one below is 18x36 on umber treated gesso.  Its a bit more of a trick adding the colours into the value shapes - but just bang in what colours might work on the trees and background.




The next is 24x36 .  If you enlarge the image you can see where the dark green/red values is brushed in then the shaper use to create crude tree shapes and thinning and thickening the paint/value.






I then begin to shape the foreground using opques adding to the crude value plan. All this is done quickly and loosely hoping for an uncertain but interesting outcome. With time and patience I know now that I could bring each piece back to looking almost like the original reference - but that is no longer my intent or interest. The reference is merely the starting point. From this stage on now I no longer consider the original reference image  - just trying to make each piece stand alone as something interesting.





Above you can see my work area. On the left a Staywet palette holding my tube paints. On the back left a selection of Golden liquids (mostly dark transparents) and on the glass mixing palette you can see jars of opaque grays of different colour and value I mix from left over paints etc.

So thats a pretty good morning and a fairly good start on the two pieces. I will carve the shapes into the third tomorrow. Then come back in and start refining each.

I am now comfortable making such rough starts full of happenstance but working towards a crude value plan. From this point things start to slow down and get serious.. So I will work with these during the week. In addition I will pull into the studio pieces begun in previous weeks to make adjustments and tweeks as needed. My new studio is large and is beside a large family room that we really don't use so I can hang many recent paintings - works in progress - where I can consider and make changes for a few weeks as required. This is new for me and I think is going to help refine my final produce.


So I start crude and fast - but trying to focus on value then finish slowly and more carefully spending many days coming back to each piece refining. In most cases the final product is tweeked greatly changed over a period of two weeks.  If needed, I photo, look at the value plan in black and white or upload into Sketchbook Pro and rearrange shapes etc as needed. I am moving more and more from pencil and pad to the computer for answering questions.

Hardest part of it all - selecting the theme and images to work with . Once started its just play until its done.

Hope your having a good week too.

Friday, 27 November 2015

I was asked why I pre-colour the canvas.



To further explain the post from yesterday. I was asked about why I chose to  pre-colour the canvas red or blue . Couple of reasons: I don't like painting on a white canvas. It is either coloured with paint or coated with dark gesso - just a personal preference.  I also like the serendipity of outcome - the happenstance of letting some of the under painting show through - creating harmony or a "mother colour".  It takes a bit of practice at the beginning  but with time  is not done with a lot of forethought . You can take the same image and totally change the outcome starting on a different base colour - warm or cool or black etc. It adds a fun element to quick studies like these.


Here the canvas was coloured red . You can see where it  behind the blue distant hills. Makes no sense - but its kind of fun. I glazed over the bottom and  some of the tree area with transparent diox purple then you can see where I removed it while still wet using a rubber shaper from parts of the "rock shapes" at the bottom and some of the tree area then shaped those areas with opaque paint - result is a dulled red but still holds the harmony. You can also see where some of the red can be seen through the clouds by wiping off some of the opaque with a paper towel.



This piece has a similar theme but is built on a phthalo blue base. The distant hills, the core of the rocks and some limbs of the trees have remained untouched but shaped by the opaque around it. You can see where I left some of the tree limbs blue - again makes no sense but I kind of like it.




Here you can see the red ground remaining to be part of the tree limbs, in the sky and again on the rocks where I glazed with transparent burnt orange and removed in areas with the rubber shaper.

These are quick studies with little planning or  second guessing. They are simple, almost naive little pieces but are really fun to do and great for getting the juice flowing. Might look good under a Christmas tree.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Small West Coast Pieces - more exercises



Back in BC. Starting to work in the new studio there. Got some gallery pieces and commissions to get done. But needed to work my way back into it. So, once again, I spent the past few days working on small pieces - 8x10 up to 12x12. Fun chance to play. Half were built on an under painting of red , the rest on pthalo blue green . Did 25 in total .   Really recommend it as a way to work through things. 

Black gessoed edges drying





Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paint small... paint many!



Had enough of struggling with large paintings for a while. Need  some play time.

Took three small canvases and one imaginary image and approached each with a different underpainting and included that underpainting colour through out the painting  - bit of a 'mother colour' effect. Laid the underpainting on and while wet used the rubber shaper to pick out and create a crude value plan. Dried, then blocked in the darks using the underpainting colour in a dark value then punched with opaque of the same colour family. Used compliments in opaque for punch.

Total time just under 90 minutes.


Pthalo Blue Green underpainting 8x10

Pthalo Turquoise underpainting 8x10

Magenta underpainting 10x10

Useful exercise and fun.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Finding my way back


In my last post I shared my difficulty getting my " Mojo working" - after a summer with little painting and following a Brian Atyeo workshop that really shook me up .

This past week I have been working through my issues. Its many of the same issues that have caused me difficulty before. Basically,  I have not been following my own workshop advise.

1. Time pressure. We are in Ontario for just a few more weeks. The Galleries that have asked to represent me need product. I don't handle painting , particularly larger pieces, well under pressure. I paint fast - but but only up to a point. The final stages of critique and correction can go on for days. But I need to view the painting on a regular basis, and under different lighting, in order to find those corrections,  big or small,  that would strengthen the work - or to decide that it is a "junker". That has not been happening in our small condo.

2. Drop the reference. I am feeling a bit intimidated painting in this new region. I don't have a good grasp of  or a feeling for the place - something that often only comes by painting the local scenes plein air. Painting on location forces decision making and encourages inventiveness that can be brought back to the studio.  So I have been following my reference photos far too long in the painting process - painting in fear of failure. Once the large value shapes are placed and a few details in I should be dropping the reference and becoming inventive and only returning to the reference if there is a particular area of concern that needs to be close to correct.

3. Advanced planning. I normally make sketches varying the composition - playing with ideas. I use pencils and markers focusing on values of the large shapes.I often take the reference image and "play with it" digitally - particularly changing values of different areas - such as opening up dark shadows. I have not taken the time for selecting references or planning my compositions adequately.




4. Critiquing. I normally stop after a few hours or when I reached a point of not knowing how to proceed and critique the work. I set the piece aside for a day or two, still  keeping it in view, normally in our TV/reading room. Often short glances will help me find new ideas.   If nothing comes to mind but I am still not happy it can stay "on view" for many days . In this small condo I don't have space for viewing large pieces - and at a suitable distance.

5. Tools. The first thing I do is take a quick photo with my cell phone ( Samsung S6) , send it to my cloud ( Dropbox) then pull it down to my laptop to manipulate.  I begin by converting to black and white to see if the large shapes are unique and distinct ( I use ACDSee - Ultimate 8) . This step I do routinely, particularly for large pieces. If needed I can select shapes and move them to test new ideas. In some cases I use Sketchbook Pro to manipulate the image, changing values or colours or draw in new shapes.  Nice thing is that I can do all this while watching TV in the evening (love British dramas on PBS).

 viewing outside where I can get away from them 30x48 and 36x36s

B and W to compare value shapes- normally done individually

Pulling an image of the painting  into Sketchbook Pro to play with

6. Making corrections.  Corrections can be anything from small tweeking to something more extensive. I normally make the adjustments then return the piece to the viewing area to consider those changes.  If I am not sure what is needed - but I know something is not working, yet I think the piece has potential, I often do a complete glaze over using a transparent warm or cool - from transparent red iron oxide, to pthalo blues or quin violets, even Ivory black. It creates a harmony, levels out value differences and becomes a new start point from which to follow by bringing in the opaques and redefining areas. I do this a lot.

While I am still having difficulties I have stopped painting under time pressure and getting back on track with  critique and corrections. And it is bringing back a level of satisfaction I was missing earlier. Acrylic is a medium allowing "commit and correct" to be used to full advantage.  Some days I feel that I am "in the zone" and a painting seems to flow from the brushes - start to finish in one sitting. Hoping that will return soon.