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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.

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