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, 19 July 2016

My approach to the McMichael Gallery Invitational Plein Air Competition

I was honored to be invited to participate in the 50th Anniversary Plein Air competition at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario. For those that don't know, the McMichael Gallery is the iconic Canadian gallery housing the works of the Group of Seven and Tom Tompson and other notable Canadian artists. It was the Gallery that had a big influence on me a decade ago where the work and the lifestyle of those artists excited my interest in painting.

This was a two day competion with the awards being made on the second day . I was only able to attend the first day - grandson baseball game the second day. So I decided I was not going to submit for the competion - just enjoy the day and meet some Ontario artists.

I set up in view of the Gallery entrace. Paintings had to be on 16x20, 11x14 or 8x10.  I arrived early. Strong cast shadows created opportunity for strong light and dark contrast and feeder lines showing direction towards the focal point - the strong building roof line.  I made a series of sketches and value thumb nails. I sketched out my plan using pencil on two 11x14 linen boards . Once happy I firmed the sketch using black acrylic marker. I made one verticle and one horizontal.  I thought the horizontal was strongest so I used the same approach to draw the sketch on the 16x20 horizontal.

I then used liquid acrylics to create a warm underpainting - making each panel different - allowing happenstance to affect each outcome.  I then painted each trying to make each a bit unique.

Total time about two hours. I then poped them in frames ( others seemed suprised that I carried old frames with me when doing plein air) set them on a bench  and considered each.  Had lunch and spent an hour walking around chatting with other artists.

The underpainting on the winning 16x20

The first block in on the 16x20 before final changes

I returned. Took each painting into a shaded area and away from the reference view. I now wanted to know what each required to strengthem them - to make them stand alone as a stronger piece.  Most required strengthening the darks - to increase the value contrast at the building roof line.  And I was done.

Took all back to the car and got ready to return home. I had no interest in submitting them for the competion. One of the artists and a new friend, Karin Fidew, enouraged me to submit them. So I applied an isolation coat in the back of my van and submitted them.  I forgot to photo the final painting and have not returned to the Gallery to do so.

I was amazed and very pleased to learn the next day that my 16x20 was awarded first place. The painting will be framed and hang in the Gallery until November - great honour.

The take home, with acrylics, you are able to work on more than one panel at a time to work out your issues. Take a different format and approach for each. Work on one, put it down to dry, work on the next and so forth. In my experience it has enabled one to stand out. And it really does not add much more time to do and allows you to work out your mistakes and consider other options.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Two quick windy day sketches

It was a beautiful morning near the Niagara Escarpment, Collingwood, but VERY windy. Was hoping to spend the morning - but the wind got to me so did two quick sketches - water mixable oils on linen board 11x14.

Friday, 27 May 2016

ANSWER TO QUESTION: What am I using to hold my brushes

Following the last post I was asked by a couple of followers about the system I use to hold my brushes. My system is Art Box and Panels. You can purchase a brush holder with the system - a simple PVC tube that works well. For me, it was too small. So I purchased larger PVC piping, put caps on top and bottom pieces and a joiner piece to make the holder and attached with a bit of Gorilla Glue .

I drilled holes for air drying of brushes. At the appropriate height I made a double hold that will slide over a screw attached to the back corner of the palette.

The base with the brushes attaches to one side. The top holds my maul stick, straight edge, palette knives and rubber shapers and attaches to the other side. Very happy. Cheap and simple.

The other one I like is the hanging brush holder available from Guerilla Painter.
This shows it hanging from my Soltek easel.

And finally, I had two Artwork Essentials systems that I also liked and they have a really good brush holder .

Hope this helps.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

When there is nothing of interest to paint from the RV site.....

Cathy and I traveled in our RV from our Comox Valley home on Vancouver Island to Collingwood Ontario where we spend the summers.  We try to arrive at the next RV park so there is enough time for a quick sketch or plein air painting. Often as not there is just nothing of interest to paint, so I travel with a large selection of photos and refer to them. I haven't posted about my acrylic plein air set up in a while, so I thought I would combine the two.

We had a free no-travel day in Oliver BC with friends. Nothing excited me to paint and it was raining on and off. So I put out the RV awning get my photos and set up to paint.

I have owned or tried most plein air set ups. Because I paint standing and am fairly tall, I have stopped using pochade boxes - where the separation of the palette surface and the panel is very tight.  In stead I prefer a separate palette and panel holder. I now use the Art Box and Panel  and have one set for oils and one for acrylics. Simple, inexpensive and work well for me.

I hold my paint on a Masterton Stay Wet plastic palette - without paper and sponge. I mix on grayed-glass.

I use a plastic recycle box to carry my supplies strapped to a folding folding cart. A plastic board can be used to create a work table for holding supplies. I no longer back pack in to places to paint - body part problems.

I spent most of the rainy day making 12x16 sketches on linen glued to 1/8 door skin. This day, each was given an underpainting of quincradone violet. Thumbnail sketches were made to create the rough design. The sketch was transferred to the panel using acrylic marker. Each sketch took about an hour. We are now in Ontario where, when I get a chance, I will decide if any are keepers, frame and consider each and what need to be done next.

In spite of the rain, it was a fun day.

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.


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