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.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

My Time in Isolation

I know, it has been two years since I last posted.  Probably nobody out there anymore. Just the same, I thought I would share what I have been doing in isolation over the past weeks.

I seem to have a bit more time on my hands now. We are still in Courtenay BC, our winter home. Normally we would be on our way to Collingwood Ontario where we spend our summers. We take our RV and I paint along the way - and often have a workshop booked somewhere. This year we don't know when things will open up and we will be able to travel.

Initially, it was a real shock. All my galleries closed and all my workshops for the entire year cancelled. The same for all of you probably.

Really disappointing was the cancellation and then rescheduling of the Plein Air Convention, initially for Denver in May and now Santa Fe in August. I was an invited presenter for the conference, helping to organize the first acrylic stream of learning. Now it looks like even Santa Fe in August might be threatened.  Also I was invited to participate in the Door County Plein Air competition in July  in Wisconsin which has also been cancelled. I was looking forward to the Publishers Invitational Paint the Adirondacks in June, which has not been cancelled as yet but I doubt that it will go ahead.
So lots of disappointments but still nothing compared to what so many are going through.

So once I got over my disappointment and settled into a routine I started to enjoy this isolation thing. No pressure - no gallery commitments, no workshop commitments. Time to play and learn. Each morning I am doing quick portraits in water-mixable oils and most afternoons I go out and do some plein air sketches ( weather here has been great). Two areas I wanted to spend more time on for years. So that has been good and I can feel a growth of confidence.

For the plein air I am alternating between acrylics and oils trying to finally decide which is more suited to me. On my acrylic days, I am alternating between Golden Open ( slow dry) and regular acrylics. I will share what I have decided in a future post. My goal in plein air is to improve my confidence particularly in doing building and other man made things and interpreting them in a stylized, almost whimsical, way.

It has been years since I played with portraiture. My  interest is to interpret these in a style that shows bold brushwork with a reasonable representation of the reference photo. Forgot how hard this was but after having done about 3 dozen now I am starting to relax and interpret more than copy. Hoping to do a few more.

I have also been spending time daily just absorbing work from others via zoom, on line video learning, DVDs, some great blogs, etc. I have subscribed to New Masters Academy New Masters Academy, to Sentient Academy , to Watts Atelier each with both learnings in landscape and portraiture.

I am also trying to make myself more comfortable with social media - strengthening my presence. I have joined Lori McNees Fine Art Tips and 2020 Club for that purpose.

Finally, I have been asked to do an on-line learning demo for a group from Ottawa .  Trying to get comfortable using Zoom and setting up my studio to make this work.

So isolation it is (almost was)  - but unproductive and without some fun and learning it has not been.

Love to hear how you have spent your time. Hopefully, it was not all negative .

Promise ( hoping) not to be so bad at blogging again.

Cheers and stay well.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Marc Grand Bois Workshop - My Review

There is a boldness and freshness about Marc's work that I have admired. His compositions and his methods for working with acrylics are unique. I was very please when an opportunity to attend one of his workshops became available. The workshop was held in Bracebridge at the Muskoka Arts & Crafts Inc. - a very nice facility. 

The format for the workshop was a bit unusual. Marc did a plein air demo each morning of about 2 hrs, then back to the studio where we painted. Marc is most comfortable working on location - and I would have enjoyed spending my painting time on location with him - but others were not prepared for plein air - and the course description did not indicate it.  Still the afternoon sessions were good with lots of time given by Marc to each participant. 

Marc prefers sitting to work. He has much younger knees than mine.

Mark worked on masonite treated with coats of latex house primer - which he prefers over gesso as the surface is smoother and he feels his paint flows better. His initial plan is sketched using a rigger with a acrylics.  He uses no mediums and seldom sprays his palette. He puts out small amounts of paint as needed and works on a disposable palette paper.  He works with a limited palette working with two pairs of compliments making cool and warm grays. 

He works from back to front. Once his plan is made he quickly builds under layer using a large soft brush. He layers until he gets the feeling he wants then switches to a rigger brush which he uses extensively throughout the painting.  All his final stroke are with the rigger using paint that is quite thick adding texture and character. 

His demos were excellent. Really fun to watch his process. He is able to add comment and answer questions as he works. His teaching in the afternoon was excellent as well - he is gentle and patient but critically honest as needed.  I appreciated the suggestions he had for me. 

Marc's work is full of energy. I love what he does with the rigger - wondering what it might do to add final physical energy to mine.  I made four starts trying to add some of Marc's energy - but unable to control my love for colour. 

I enjoyed this workshop and spending time with Marc. I rate his knowledge and skill as excellent. His teaching style  as well. I recommend his workshops.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Ken DeWaard Workshop - my review

I have admired the work of Ken DeWaard, of Hope Maine, for a couple of years. I admire the clean shapes , his management of values and overall design. He has a knack of outlining areas in a mid value line that is quite unique and I find really interesting - even his portraits. When a workshop was announced at a time of year that worked for me I took it.

Examples of Kens work

The workshop was held by Coastal Maine Workshops in Rockland Maine. I took a David Curtis workshop with them last year and the overall experience was excellent. The indoor facilities are good, they have a dedicated workshop assistant assigned to help the instructor and students, and the painting locations, both harbours, rural and urban are excellent. . Very nice folks to deal with.

I generally rate an instructor on the following : competence, enthusiasm, a joy for teaching , a sincere wanting to help students , and pleasant to spend time with. I rate Ken highly on all. Ken is a good instructor, he sincerely wants to help his students and he is a great guy to spend a week with. He worked hard on our behalf.

Ken works on a neutral toned canvas. He makes his design using vine charcoal. He starts by placing the lightest light and darkest darks keeping them in the area of the centre of interest. He quickly lays in his first best guess for values in each large area. He next moves to add detail to each value mass .  A strong plein air sketch in an hour.

Kens palette is unique - at least to me.  His warms include  two yellows, trans red iron oxide, cad red lt and a cool red. His cools include ultramarine blue, prussian blue and ivory black. He puts out two titanium white - one to be used for warms and one for cools. New to me was how he used his ivory black. I pretty much stick to using it with yellows for natural greens. Ken often neutralized bright colours making them very strong darks - eg. adding to cad red to produce a very deep dark mauve.  I played with this during the week and produced some interesting colour combinations.

We painted harbours, farm buildings and wonderful older homes. Ken worked hard to ensure everyone got adequate supervision. I made about 18 starts over the week -a good number being  wipe outs. His suggestions and encouragement I expect to  affect my work in oils - and maybe acrylics.

To sum  up, Ken is a very strong teacher and a nice guy to spend time with . I highly recommend his workshops .

Monday, 25 June 2018

There is no need to waste acrylic paint!

A question that went unanswered in my recent Plein Air  Workshop was about the issue of wasting paint ( and $$) . I am critical of those in my classes that do not have an adequate palette with space for both holding paint and for mixing. Also of those that put out minuscule amounts of paint or put out one colour at a time - as they think the painting needs.


Everyone has a system. My system is to have both a holding and a mixing area. I hold my paint in the small Masterson Sta Wet palette without paper when doing plein air. I take from there and mix on a neutral gray glass surface. Paint , if kept moist, lasts for weeks in the Sta Wet.

Small Sta-Wet on Coulter Art Box system 

In my studio I hold my paints in the large, 12x16 Sta Wet palette and take from there to mix on glass .

Studio large Sta Wet beside glass mixing area

If and when the paints in my palette are starting to dry, its getting too messy,  or I am just not going to be using them I scrape off the paint and place into a jar with a air-tight lid .  When mixed they usually create a gray of some value. I adjust the value with titanium white ( usually fluid) then leave or change the grey to a hue normally using Goldens Fluids with their high pigment content. I then put some on the lid so I know what the dried colour and value will be .

Palette scrapings mixed together

mixed produces a grey that is adjusted for value with white

then adjusted for hue as needed 

I can have up to 12 to 20 jars at anyone time each with a known hue and value. These are invaluable for areas like skies that I have to create negatively and often have to come back into to correct. No mixing needed - I have a jar with the colour and value required.  Has made my large acrylic pieces so my easier and NO WASTE.

When the jars empty there is always a bit on the bottom and sides . Let that air dry then soak in water a few days and that will peel out as a  piece of colored plastic leaving a clean jar.

Soaking in water 
Polymer plastic lifts out after soaking to leave a clean jar

I paint half the year in BC and half in Ontario. The jars are thus unused for up to 6 months. If I have done a good job of cleaning the tops to create a good seal the paint is still usable.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Dominik Modlinski Workshop - My Review

I write this from Tofino on a very wet and windy day.

I spent the weekend at Dominik' Modlinski's  mark-making and concept development workshop. I have been an admirer of his work and his energy for many years and was pleased to finally be able to spend some time with him. I take workshops for many reasons -  in this case it was his colour sense, his unique compositions and to experience his approach to teaching. 

The workshop was  a small-group workshop  conducted at his home studio in Nanaimo. The small number of participants and being in his home studio was another reason I was interested. He and his wife made their home available making it a warm, friendly and relaxed environment - good for learning.

It did not take long to appreciate the degree of Dominik's enthusiasm for art, for teaching art and for the life he has created for himself around art. He was very open and willing to share ..

I was not sure what I was getting into in this "mark making" workshop. But I love challenging myself to see where others ideas can affect my work. 

After a discussion on techniques in mark making we began by laying a template of five  5x7 formats on large sheets of news prints. Then using a mix of tools (charcoal, acrylic makers, conte etc) make fast impressionistic designs of shape and value in each of the 5x7s .  We hung the sheets on the wall, discussed first impressions and impact of each from our own and the other participants and chose one being strongest from the first 15. Then, based on that concept, built another 10, then chose the most interesting, and then built on that - etc etc  - you get this idea - big overview then focus, and focus more etc. This was difficult for me .  I could not get landscape and tree shapes out of my concepts. After getting beaten up a few times I finally started to free myself from the influence of my existing work. And on and on. Then finally after a full day of this, which I found very challenging, I was to choose one concept with the plan of translating it in large format and colour the next day. 

After an interesting discussion on how he manages colours it became clear how intuitive my approach to colour has become and how my work would benefit from time spent more thoughtfully about planning my colour schemes  - as he does. 

We spent Sunday developing the selected concept in larger format in colour. I chose to use acrylics. I made three  16x20  - built on a transparent background then back and fourth with transparents and opagues.  Not a  tree or a landscape/seascape to be seen. Trying to free myself up and just play and develop the original concept. 

Showing us some of his plein air sketches

One of my early sheets - trees, trees, trees

A much later sheet moving away from trees

My final selection on news print

Dominik with one of his demos

An interesting discussion on colour management

My chosen concept sketched on 16x20 canvas
My three quickie acrylic concept pieces 16x20 - NO TREES
This was an interesting and challenging weekend. No telling if it will affect the work I enjoy doing. I was quite impressed with Dominik - his  knowledge and skill, his enthusiasm to teach and  willingness to share. The concept of the small group in his home studio was good. I am hoping to return to help put more thoughtfulness into my intuitive approach to colour. The workshop  was very good value.