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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.

Friday, 28 June 2013

How I Spent My Spring Vacation


Escarpment View  Acrylic 16x20

Cathy and I have been in Ontario for May and June visiting friends and family and enjoying our grand children. I have tried to spend a part of each morning working in a small make-shift studio - basically a plein air set up. I also spent a lot of time sketching with pen and pad.

In spite of the limitations of my "little studio" I met some gallery commitments and then played for the past six weeks with a variety of different approaches using small panels- mostly 11x14. I spent the most time working on black gessoed boards and roughed-in using the Montana Acrylic markers . Once the plan was in place I rubbed in a transparent - in the case below Diox Purple to create a dark but coloured undercoat.


Some of the acrylic pieces - most done on black gesso as above.



In the past week I got out my water mixable oils for the first time since November.  These were all 8x10 or 6x8  and also on black gesso. 




I think every workshop leader and instructor I have had over the years  has encouraged drawing - as much and as often as possible. I have known this and have drawn all along but the longer I paint the more time I am spending drawing and I am finally convinced of its benefit. 

For my purposes drawing is about improving observation, thinking about design choices  and recording in a format useful for future reference. Its not about making a pretty picture. I have been taught to use charcoal, a variety of pencils, many makes and shapes of markers and  on sketch pads from large to small, cheap to expensive. Every instructor has his or her own preference. 

Over this past two months I think I have finally settled on what I enjoy and what works for my needs: a fine Sharpie Pen on a 5x7 inch coil bound pad. The combination is cheap, portable and easy.  I like the easy glide of the pen and am becoming increasingly comfortable using it for quick sketches. The trick is learning the "language" of communicating values through cross hatching . 

I have been making larger landscape sketches and many small thumb nails, Some of the paintings above were made from those ink sketches and no other reference. That's a great exercise.  


I also had great fun sketching during my granddaughters soccer games and my grandsons baseball games. I made up to five pages of quick sketches of kids on the move during each of many games. Useful as a gesture exercise for plein air work.  Click on the pages to enlarge. 



That's it from Ontario. On the road tomorrow heading back to Vancouver Island in our RV.

All the best. 





Phil Starke - a free and interesting ebook

Aspens in Winter  by Phil Starke

Probably like most of you  I have a love- hate relationship with social media and the world of art blogs. Hate - in that I hate the time I give it: love - in that I love the contacts and little gems I find.

I thought I should share a gem. I recently became aware of the work of American landscape and figurative painter Phil Starke. I was very drawn to the strength of his work and was surprised that I did not know of him. He teaches in a variety of formats from workshops to on-line mentoring and is now on my list of workshops-to-take.

But this post is not about his work but about an opportunity he offers. If you LIKE  his Facebook Page  you can request a download  at no cost  of his ebook : What I Learned from the Masters.  It is a large pdf file (850,000 KB) and takes a while to download. In addition to text it contains video and audio clips.



He presents the bio and critiques paintings from many of the great painters of the early 20th century:
John Carlson, Carl Peters, Oscar Berninghaus, Sam Hyde Harris,Aldro Hibbard, William Wendt, Mary Cassett, Frank Tenney Johnson, Willard Metcalf, Emile Gruppe, Alfred Sisley, and Hanson Puthuff.

I was aware of most of these artists and have books on many, but I really enjoyed this presentation and format.

You might consider it as well.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Another Good Read




Continuing  with re-reading some of my favorite art books while travelling away from Comox.

I also ordered two new Andrew Loomis  books that I just finished reading for the first time: Creative Illustration and Successful Drawing. I have previously read his Drawing the Head and Hands and Figure Drawing for All its Worth  , both of which I found a worthwhile read.

Loomis was one of Americans more respected illustrators. His books were first published in the 1940s and his originals fetch a big price. All four have been re- released and sell for about $30 each. Great value.

I was concerned that Creative Illustration might not apply to my interest in landscape and figurative drawing and painting. Boy, was I wrong. This is an excellent book that should be on most artist shelves. Loomis does a great job describing line, form, composition, perspective and an outstanding job on working with values - for  creating tone and shape.

A particularly interesting chapter describes how the great American illustrator Howard Pyle organized his values – pushing his subjects into light, dark, and two mid-tones (mid tone light and mid tone dark) and the difficulty particularly in assigning to the mid tones.  Just cannot re- read enough any good description on organizing values – and this is one of the best.

The book includes excellent examples that remind me a bit of the examples in Edgar Payne’s great book on composition- Composition of Outdoor Painting.




The other book, Successful Drawing, I found to have limited interest for me. Good sections specific to drawing and probably worth the investment early in an artists development.