Pages

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.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Do you know where your paintings are?

Its the end of the year. Starting to think about getting on top of paperwork - annual files, preparing for taxes etc. And this year I need to catch up on 5 months of organization of my paintings. Cathy and I have been traveling/painting for almost 5 months this year and I have let my records slip. I also HATE doing this stuff.  I have tried numerous approaches to organizing my paintings from file cards, to my own spread sheet to three different commercial databases designed for artists.

I have about ( if my records were up to date I could give you the exact number ) 60 pieces in galleries - some with frames, some not. I have had two art fairs each displaying about 30 pieces this year - and I like to keep track so that I don't repeat the same paintings. Now I have a bunch in Daily Paintworks and need to keep track of which ones are there, etc. etc.

One of many reports
Last year I stumbled upon Flick,  an Aussie product from  Arawak. It is inexpensive ( $29.95 US)and easy to use. I quite like it - at least compared to the more complex systems I have  tried. It organizes paintings in a variety of ways and produces reports by a variety of criteria .

Because I got so far behind I needed to generate a spreadsheet of all my paintings in the database so I knew which I had yet to add. Simple to do and really helped.

Spreadsheet report 
I don't use the full power of Flick. I use it strictly to inventory my work. There is a good system for managing email lists, buyers, prices, gallery commissions etc. But I have other systems I prefer for those.

In an attempt to not get so far behind, I have moved my database to the cloud system I use (Dropbox) and put a copy on my laptop (no extra charge). Now I can access my data from home or from our RV while travelling and keep up to date.   No more excuses - other than I'd rather be painting.

Its worth taking a look at this one if you are in the market.Good new is that you can get the full version on trial to see if it suits your needs.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Re-sending Post on Colour Shapers





My apologies for re sending this blog post. The one sent this morning did not transfer to syndication on Facebook and I am re sending in modified form to see if I can fix the problem. 




Following my last post, Starting Norman, I have had questions about the flat rubber colour shapers that I use for painting with acrylics.  These are stiff rubber blades that can be purchased from one up to four inches wide. They work to lift paint from the canvas or to apply it - like a painting knife.  

I begin by making the drawing using either a Sharpie pen (black only will not bleed) or a black china marker. Then I apply a mix of a dark transparent colour with lots of medium and a bit of water over the entire canvas. Then quickly, as there is limited time before it dries, I use the scraper to remove the  paint selectively  to develop a three value pattern. Working quickly, there is enough time to develop a painting with a fairly intricate design, such as the totems shown in the photo. By holding the blade on edge, the paint can be almost lifted off - other than the stain ( light value) . By holding it on its side less paint is removed (mid value). Then leaving areas with the paint untouched (dark value) I have a three value pattern. When necessary I can pick up more of the mixture and add to the darks or recreate shapes for another scrape off. It allows me to consider my shapes and forces me to simplify and abstract the content. I have then a three value pattern with the under-painting at the value of each area. With some paintings, once this first layer is dry, I add another layer of the transparent mixture, often a warm over an earlier cool, or a compliment  to the earlier colour and selectively leave or remove. It becomes an interesting and playful pattern on which to begin. 

The process gets me engaged with the painting, forces me to simplify, organizes my value pattern  and helps to loosen me up. It has become a form of warm up exercise  and I enjoy doing it. This is only one of many approaches I make to beginning an acrylic painting. I  particularly like using this approach on  the lager pieces. 

To work, the scraper must be clean. No paint on the edge or on the sides - which acts like a plastic splint preventing the rubber from bending freely. 

Three sizes I use





The shapers I use are from Royal Sovereign and can be purchased at most large artist supply stores. They are not cheap but will last. Many painters have the small pointed ones - but these larger flats will do what the small ones do and so much more.  I use them for creating a perfect line. I use them for small pick outs . I create foreground grasses by lifting off a dark over-painting from a lighter under-painting. So many more uses. Fast and fun.


 

Using Colour Shapers


Colour Shaper Painting Tool, Wide Flat, Firm, 2 inchFollowing my last post, Starting Norman, I have had questions about the flat rubber colour shapers that I use for painting with acrylics.  These are stiff rubber blades that can be purchased from one up to four inches wide. They work to lift paint from the canvas or to apply it - like a painting knife.  

I begin by making the drawing using either a Sharpie pen (black only will not bleed) or a black china marker. Then I apply a mix of a dark transparent colour with lots of medium and a bit of water over the entire canvas. Then quickly, as there is limited time before it dries, I use the scraper to remove the  paint selectively  to develop a three value pattern. Working quickly, there is enough time to develop a painting with a fairly intricate design, such as the totems shown in the photo. By holding the blade on edge, the paint can be almost lifted off - other than the stain ( light value) . By holding it on its side less paint is removed (mid value). Then leaving areas with the paint untouched (dark value) I have a three value pattern. When necessary I can pick up more of the mixture and add to the darks or recreate shapes for another scrape off. It allows me to consider my shapes and forces me to simplify and abstract the content. I have then a three value pattern with the under-painting at the value of each area. With some paintings, once this first layer is dry, I add another layer of the transparent mixture, often a warm over an earlier cool, or a compliment  to the earlier colour and selectively leave or remove. It becomes an interesting and playful pattern on which to begin. 

The process gets me engaged with the painting, forces me to simplify, organizes my value pattern  and helps to loosen me up. It has become a form of warm up exercise  and I enjoy doing it. This is only one of many approaches I make to beginning an acrylic painting. I  particularly like using this approach on  the lager pieces. 

To work, the scraper must be clean. No paint on the edge or on the sides - which acts like a plastic splint preventing the rubber from bending freely. 

Three sizes I use
The shapers I use are from Royal Sovereign and can be purchased at most large artist supply stores. They are not cheap but will last. Many painters have the small pointed ones - but these larger flats will do what the small ones do and so much more.  I use them for creating a perfect line. I use them for small pick outs . I create foreground grasses by lifting off a dark over-painting from a lighter under-painting. So many more uses. Fast and fun. 


Quinacridone Violet with gloss medium

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Starting Norman

Beginning a painting can, in many ways, be the most difficult part of the process. Yet the start, beginning with an accurate and interesting drawing,  is critical to the success of most representational pieces and without it we are often slogging up hill to a poor finish. There are as many approaches to starting as there are painting techniques. I seem to have landed on an approach that is different from others I am aware of working in acrylics. Thought I would share one example. 



I met Norman two days ago - he's a Clyde-cross owned by the local Riding For the Disabled Program. A group of us had the opportunity to sketch and photograph him. One photo with him on the lunge showed the power in Norman and made me want to play with some ideas. He brought back memories of one of my  own horses from a different life. After a few sketches I decided to try  a large painting in acrylics - 30x40 ".  I wanted the feeling of the gentle power that Norman displayed to us. 


Using the photo reference I placed Norman on the canvas using red water-soluble pencil. Once I got to where I thought the position and proportions were close  I committed to my drawing using a black China Marker. I find black China Markers to be ideal for  drawing below both acrylic and oil paints - both cover it really well. The downside is that you are stuck with it - no easy removal. But I make my first sketch with it fairly light until I am sure. Then I water down the canvas and wash off the water-soluble pencil and consider my drawing. 




In this case, changes were still required. I have two choices - use the China Marker applied heavier for the corrections or go darker - using a Sharpie pen black. I have worked with Sharpie below acrylic for years. It hides very well below layers of dark transparent but is a bit of a challenge below opaques which don't cover nearly as well - but it can be done with persistence. The Sharpie is a much cleaner and darker mark than the China Marker so the final sketch is easily identified. 




Now  I am committed. I now mix up my under-painting. In this case, quinacradone violet mixed with medium and a bit of water. Using a large, 6 in brush ( the new Liquatex brushes are great)  I quickly cover the canvas quite dark. Then using a wide rubber colour shaper I scrape off the violet trying to create three  values; light, mid-tone and dark. This is done fast and crude - there is only a couple of minutes of working time. But it  gives a crude value pattern to begin to work from and a final chance to check my shapes and drawing. It also forces simplification and abstraction to a degree which is something I am wanting.  Seeing still some refinement required in the drawing I make final corrections using a white china marker - and we are (exhausted but)  ready to go. Feeling the need to warm the under-painting I rub in some Indian Yellow fairly randomly. 
























The start continues, now refining the shapes using acrylics. First the darks are filled in with dark transparents - a mix of warms and cools. I can use the shaper here as well to refine. Then the fun begins. Using the opaques feels like the illusion jumps off the canvas - you can feel the three dimensionality (is there such a word?) starting. Finally cutting around some of the shapes, the limbs etc,  and then it reaches what I would call the end of the start.


























So I pop it in a frame and hang it along with some other works I am critiquing and decide what to do next. This is a large painting for me and I will probably not rush the next stage. Need to thoughtfully consider my next moves.  








 
So I think it has been a good morning. All in all I am pleased with the drawing and think the start has potential - as long as I don't screw it up from this point.  

Monday, 5 December 2011

Two New Workshops Announced



I have had the good fortune to have taken many excellent workshops in Canada and the USA - plein air, studio landscape and portrait/figurative.  Some are simple "paint like me" workshops which are fun and helpful to a point. I benefited much more from those workshops that focused on the fundamentals, particularly on how to simplify and plan your painting, on constructing effective compositions and other fundamentals like creating effective form from light and shadow. They gave me real take-home help. 


Workshops to me are not about making paintings but about making progress. 


The best plein air workshops I attended were from Barry John Raybould (Virtual Art Academy), Jennifer McChristian and Robert Watts. Each focused on fundamental principles, on developing good habits that helped in planning and simplifying. Each had an indoor component - from one to three days - to insure that when one did go on-location they had a better chance of success. 


PREPARING FOR PLEIN AIR


February 25, 26      Qualicum Bay, B.C.   $275



Painting plein air is exciting but very difficult. The most successful plein air painters insure their success through careful planning and having an understanding of the elements of composition before going on location. They use equipment and supplies that work.

This workshop will be two days INDOORS. The first day will focus on equipment and supplies in oils and acrylics, on the elements of composition,  on using Notan and thumbnails to design and simplify, and using pencil and pad to create effective and interesting  compositional choices from a series of projected images.  The second day will be totally hands-on planning and decision-making from projected images then creating small "plein air"  paintings - simulating the challenges of working on location.


The principles taught will be useful to improve studio as well as plein air paintings. 

To  register, contact Susan Schaefer, Island ArtsMagazine go to Online Store. 


LANDSCAPE WORKSHOP


Recent Comox Workshop Pearl Ellis 
April 16-20   The Old School House   Qualicum Beach B.C.  


Designed for painters with some experience/knowledge and for intermediate painters looking for a grounding/refresher in the fundamentals of planning and executing a successful landscape painting. 


For an outline of the five day program visit my website and go to workshops. 
Each morning from Monday to Thursday we will have a presentation/discussion on topics: colour, value, shape and form, perspective, accurate observations and composition. Each afternoon I will do a demo and we will work on exercises to reinforce the topic of the day. The final day will be just painting - using the principles we discussed during the week to  manage our reference, value sketches, making strong compositions etc. 


To Register contact the Old School House  






Friday, 2 December 2011

More Spots of Colour

Continuing with my winter goal of working with small pieces, laying down one spot of colour, leaving and laying the correct spot (hue, saturation, value and temperature) next to it with no mixing- and with the hope of creating a small illusion that reads as intended. And to increase the pressure - putting a time limit on each to prevent me from overworking them.

I am really enjoying doing these.  All are water-soluble oils and the surfaces vary - another part of my experimenting with these. All are gessoed with white ( with some pigment added for colouring)  or black gesso using a small foam roller to create a uniform surface with some tooth.

Up to this point my preference for working with oils has been linen but I continue to be really pleased with the  Terra Skin but need the gesso added  to reduce the slick surface and to give it some tooth.
Has anyone tried the TerraSkin with water paints?

To see the brushwork in more definition go to Daily PaintWorks and find my work then open the pieces and view using their magnifier system. Really neat!

First Snow  9x12
Oil on masonite board on black gesso 

Flower Lady 6x8
Oil on Linen on gesso coloured dark red 
Drawn with white China Marker on linen treated with gesso coloured with acrylic pigment
Go for it !  6x8
Oil on TerraSkin on black gesso

 
Jamie Time  6x8
Oil on Terra Skin on black gesso 
Hey, I'm Open!    6X8
Oil on Terra Skin  on black gesso
Drawing ( top) using red water soluble pencil to establish placement
  and do final drawing with white China Marker then  spray with water and wipe off red drawing
( China marker not affected by water)
On Terra Skin with black gesso 





Sunday, 27 November 2011

New Art Book: Color and Light

I am a workshop groupie and a lover of art books - both the "how to" and the books on artists and their work. 


As I progress in my learning I find that many of the books I purchase end up being the same old stuff repackaged. Others bring a new light or approach to learning. These are keepers.


This week I received three new books; two Andrew Loomis books on figure drawing (which I think will be keepers) and the book Color and Light by James Gurney which is definitely a keeper. 


I have been aware of Colour and Light for a while and read other  positive comments, but I have been turned off by the cover. The author is , of course, the creator of Dinotropia - neat stuff but not the direction I am taking in my learning. So with the cover illustration I thought that would be the intent of the book. Not so. It is a fresh approach to looking at light and colour from an artist that makes wonderful plein air sketches and uses his knowledge to create works of fantasy that read. 


Its one I will be keeping and recommending. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Getting Ready for Carole Marine

One of my "heroes" is the Oregon (now) painter Carole Marine  (carolmarine.blogspot.com) . Her ability to put down accurate individual  spots of colour that build to a small interesting piece that reads is quite amazing. I am booked to take a workshop with her in February. Basically, I am an acrylic painter but I do enjoy playing with oils (water soluble) for small pieces, in the studio and plein air. I want to improve my skill to mix and lay down a spot of colour and then leave it and mix and put the correct value and temperature relationship in the spot next to it - and so on.

To get the best bang for my buck in her workshop I have decided to spend at least a few hours each week trying just that - doing exercises of selecting simple subjects and and trying to " lay and leave". Put down a spot of colour and not  blend. Place the next one beside it and so on, to build the piece -  then for corrections lay down spots on top of the others (tiling as I was taught at Watts Atelier) but avoid any blending. These are great exercises that I think will help me in both my acrylics and oils to more accurately mix and create interesting pieces that read. Also, part of the intent is efficiency so I plan to limit the time spent and then just stop.

So here's my first attempt.  Image in my TV as reference; surface black gessoed TerraSkin taped on board 6x8"; drawing using white China Marker; paint watersoluble oil with a bit of linseed. Time after drawing limit 30 minutes. I decided to stick with the head to start as I have not done any oil or portrait pieces in quite a while.

Next I decided to tackle the full image and limit my time to 45 minutes after drawing. Surface is black gesso on canvas board. Backgrounds just a mix of all colours used in the painting trying to hold the value but play with temperature.




I like the effect of playing on black gesso for small pieces.

So much for the first attempt. Lets hope I progress over the next two months.



Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Where Am I on the Learning Curve?



I never thought about the steps in the journey to becoming an artist until I purchased the DVD Nuts and Bolts by American artist Quang Ho.  It's a wonderful DVD for artists of any medium - loaded with his personal philosophies as well as solid foundation information.  But having mentioned the DVD, before I continue  I should give my definition of "artist". I am most comfortable describing myself as a painter - a "want to be artist"- although the term artist is what people seem to want to use, so I do as well. But  I really feel that artist status is what I am hoping to achieve, but achieving that "status" must be assigned to me by others.  I  hope eventually to create representational pieces that are interesting and unique - the artist.  So, that said, let's get back to Quang Ho - and I paraphrase his words freely.

He breaks the learning into Level One, Level Two and Level Three - simplistically (being an old ski instructor) it somewhat lines up with Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.  The Level One " artist" is trying to learn the skills required to work with their chosen medium. They paint , as they must, to try to reproduce as accurately as possible, the reference they are using. They see objects as objects ( as tree, as rock) and paint them as they see or think they  see ( we all have fixed ideas - sky as blue, grass as green etc. ) those objects.  It's what one must do to achieve skill and confidence with the medium and tools.  Many will stay at that Level because it satisfies their reason for painting and they lack the interest or resources ( particularly time)  to change- and that's great.  They enjoy their painting - they say its "relaxing".

But with time, those wanting to advance will begin to question.  They consider the ideas of others, try new approaches and supplies ( different brushes, surfaces, etc.) . It is a period of experimentation - an essential ingredient to growth.  They learn to simplify, to now see the objects as simple spots of colour ( correct hue, value and saturation) that are applied in relationship to spots around them and that add up to the illusion of the object in its environment. They thirst for learning  the fundamentals - study colour, composition, etc.  They swing through periods of emotional highs and lows and often think art is not for them.  They make a lot of bad paintings often not realizing that the bad ones are probably helping them to grow more than the "successes" because they have tried something new. They are in Level Two . Painting is no longer fun and relaxing but a serious challenge - and challenge is what sucks one in and  makes it worth doing.

With more time and lots and lots of miles of canvas, study and thoughtful critique of their work and the work of others they enter the Third Level -  they  become an artist. They are confident with the skills required for their craft. They become tools to express with.  Painting becomes intuitive. They self-critique accurately . They know who they are and what they want to express. They express themselves, their world and their personality in their work. They have their style (their signature if you will) and it is correct ( their work reads) , interesting and unique. They are few and far between.

I never thought about my learning or tried to explain some of the challenges and frustrations I faced until I placed myself into this learning context. So, where am I now?  Probably somewhere in Level Two - still learning and experimenting, still highs and lows  - but every now and again I think I have produced a piece that is intuitive, quickly done, with no corrections and am content to call it finished - no matter what anyone else thinks of it.  What a high!  At other times I grade my work as Level One or early level Two and know how much I still need to grow.

This concept of the Levels of Learning  helped me to understand what I have been going through these past eight years, and that it is simply part of the ride,   and I think it helps me when I work with others ( empathy I guess).  

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Getting Stoned

When I was back in Ontario this summer I attended a demo by artist John Anderson (artist and manager of Curry's Art Store in Barrie) . The demo was oil on TerraSkin. Never heard of TerraSkin and needed to try it. So I purchased a few sheets - and loved it.

TerraSkin is a paper made from Lime Stone (Getting Stoned - sorry). It sells in large sheets like watercolour paper. The surface is slick and grabs both oil and acrylic with an unusual feel - hard to describe. I cut, taped onto boards and began to play - mostly plein air - in oil and acrylics. I was soon experimenting with gesso on the paper to give it more tooth. Then started working with black gesso on it and loved it for small pieces. I have been using it for quick studies (life drawing session) and small still life. For plein air it packs so easily it is joy to work with. It glues as nicely as canvas or linen onto board with PVA glue (Elmers White Glue).

I dropped into Island Blue yesterday ( Victoria) to get more and was told it was not selling. This product definitively has a place and so lack of sales has to be lack of recognition of its value in the art community.
I wonder how it would take to watercolours.

Take a look at their web page www.terraskin.com 



Images are oil ( my grand children's cat) on black gesso  and two acrylic plein air sketches on plain Terra Skin  - all 6x8





Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Art Fairs - Island Arts Expo

Winner of one of my paintings
Audrey Campbell, from Bowser
Cathy hamming it up with artist
Sharon Stone
 during a quiet moment


This past weekend Cathy and I attended the Island Arts Expo in Qualicum Bay – two days displaying pieces of my  work with about 20 other juried artists.  These are great opportunities to show our work to a large and varied audience and to observe their  response – both individual pieces and your work collectively. I consider these Trade Shows – as much or more for making people aware of your work than for selling. I usually have had a number of after-show sales and commissions from people not aware of my work and wanting something specific.  With the move to more direct sale of art these art fairs need to be considered as a useful part of our marketing.

For this event there were also artist workshop/demonstrations. I did a demo called One Approach to Starting an Acrylic Painting - as getting a good start is the most important part of a making a painting. It was well attended and fun to do. 

Next weekend I begin a workshop in Comox - four Saturdays. I would like to share some of my thoughts on workshops in my next few posts 

Still trying to get the hang of this Facebook and Blog stuff. Be patient - I will learn. 

Saturday, 5 November 2011






Hi.  I am calling my Blog  Go to your room !  I am borrowing this term from the prominent Canadian painter and writer Robert Genn, who believes, as I do, that there is only so much you can get from resources available about learning to paint. That  the true learning is up to you  and you need to go off and do it - Go to your room.  So this Blog will include my thoughts and suggestions on learning to paint. I did not begin until my 60th birthday and have had a wonderful and fairly unique learning experience since then ( then being 8 years ago).  I have had the opportunity and resources available to study with some great artists in Canada and the US. They shared openly with me. Now its my turn. We will see how it goes.



I include the photo of myself with my wife Cathy because of all the resources I have needed to learn it has been the encouragement and freedom she has given me that has made it possible and fun.

This is a test of my first attempt at a Blog. Today I have started this Blog, joined Facebook and Daily Paintworks. Going to take me some time to get into them and have them working. Please visit again. Lots more to come ( I hope).

In the meantime, for more information about me and to view my work, please visit   My Web site

It would also be great if you would visit my new FaceBook page
and hit LIKE if it interests you.

Brian Buckrell Artist Facebook Page

Cheers.