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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 August 2015

Landscape Fundamentals Workshop - What I learned



Just finished four days conducting a workshop Fundamentals for Landscape Painters at the Gibsons Art Center in Gibsons B.C. Designed for what I call "serious beginner' and intermediate painters wanting a refresher in the fundamental principles of building strong landscape paintings. I take learning the fundamental principles seriously : colour, values, shape and form, perspective, observation, composition and self critique .  Creativity follows. Students are sent a set of notes for reading in advance of the class - making sure we all on a "level playing field" in our theoretical knowledge.

I start each day reviewing the essential elements of each the sections. We normally follow that with a series of exercises related to the section - colour mixing, mixing values, controlling saturation etc. Then I demo and students spend the rest of the day working on their own pieces under supervision. Of course we also cover equipment, supplies, and the other basics and discuss practical questions. I have followed this format for several  4 or 5 day workshops and things have gone reasonably well and I have received positive feedback.

I planned the same format for this workshop. It was a mixed group; from a very experienced painter ( but new to acylics) to a nice mix of experience with lots of energy and enthusiasm. The challenge helping 15 people working on different subjects and with different painting goals takes a lot of time - which one does not have most days. So  at the end of day one I decided to change my format. For the next two days my demo was conducted as a " paint - with - me" format. We discussed the reference together, created value plans together with pencil and pad and worked set by step together through the painting. And as I paint " indirectly" with acrylics  it enabled the students to try each step along with me; stroke, glaze, scumble etc. . We took the paintings into the normal state of chaos then worked through and out of it together. The response was very encouraging - the results surprised me.  With every one  following me step by step and from the same reference we had 15 unique and quite wonderful pieces. I was delighted and I think many of the group were as well - I think they even surprised themselves at what they accomplished. So the group wanted to repeat the process the next day, this time building on a black gesso support. And again the results surprised me, and interesting, once again,  they each had a unique style which was similar to the day before - their own artistic personalities showing through. I think the two most satisfying workshop days for me in a long time.

The final day students painted on their own with supervision. The timidity, even fear, that was evident day one with many was gone.  Happy instructor.

I plan to build other workshops on that " follow me" approach.

Quick Demos used


Just some examples - notice the wonderful unique results

I also learned I have to be clearer and stronger about equipment in my supply list. Some in the class were working with only small brushes and had little variety - mostly brights 1/2  inch or less. It really limits them and the kind of marks they can make and the work that results.

" It creeps in with insidious ease when using a too-small or same-size brush throughout, and when over-rendering, over-detailing, over-focusing or hanging onto things."  Sara Genn

The palettes were the other issue. My recommendation was Stay Wet Palette for holding paint and  glass for mixing.  Many worked on disposable palette paper. I am OK that but it needs to be used as indicated - disposable. Some used the same piece over and over. Even on glass if its not clean and fresh paint is mixed over dried paint, the lower dried paint with be re-activated and affect the colour and bring dried chunks into the new mix. Learning to mix well on a clean surface is critical. Trying to make transparent glazes from a palette that has opaque paint on it is impossible. Squeezing out small dobs of paint as needed instead of having a full palette squeezed out and ready to mix from. Equipment is critical - bring the right stuff or its almost not worth showing up - its just that important.


Next workshops, each three days,  Coast Collective, Victoria, in February and in Pemberton in March.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Brian Atyeo Workshop

Brian Atyeo Demo - piano player

Its been a busy summer. We sold our Comox home, purchased a home in Courtenay, just a few km away, and a summer home in Collingwood Ontario. We have moved  into Courtenay, have gotten settled in and built a new studio and work area. In September we head back to Ontario for a few months to furnish our home - and make a small studio there. In the middle of all the confusion Cathy and I took the RV to Alberta where I took a five day workshop with the great east-coast acrylic painter Brian Atyeo.

I have admired the inventive nature of Brian's work and was pleased to be able to attend. The workshop was held at River Rock Studio near Cochrane. The facilities were excellent and owners very hospitable. The workshop is advertised as advanced and all the students were accomplished artists many who had taken one of his workshops before.

Not quite sure how to describe our week. Never taken a workshop like it. Brian is an outstanding inventive  artist that makes his acrylics spin . and he spent the week making my head spin. He is the most indirect painter I have ever seen , layer over layer, opaques over transparent, multiple layers of glazes . He seems to spend as much time thinning and removing paint with his paper towels as he does apply it.  And he uses soft brushes :  hogs hairs, and softer synthetic acrylics, and large inexpensive brushes from Lee Valley .

I can't begin to describe Brian's demos so I have just added a grouping of images for two of them. You can enlarge by clicking on them He starts with a big loose value idea, then colourful washes then starts to shape with opaques, layer after layer, just when you think it might be done, he glazes down again introducing a new colour, then back to the opaques to  carve shapes. Exhausting to watch .



Poor photo but great end to the demo


Brian is a passionate fan of jazz and is well know for his jazz abstracts



Brians paintings are generally simple subjects completed in a complex indirect, multi layered approach making the final piece unique and interesting.
He is an excellent instructor and I highly recommend his workshop for a different and more complex approach to working with acrylics.

The first paintings we did were to be done as we normally paint. I used my normal approach and firm angular acrylic brushes. A fast lay-in from memory of a previous Whistler painting 24x24. Brian encouraged me to change to softer brushes and be looser in my approach and focus more on value and less on colour. So thats how I spent the week - large pieces, starting with bold loose value plan, shapes, layers of glazes and shapes carved by opaques.


At the end of the week after days of Brian's encouragement my approach to the same subject yielded a softer product toned with multiple glazes




So we headed home to pack and arrange our move. Any painting I did was trying to work with the recommendations Brian gave me. I found my time very frustrating - post workshop blues as I described in an earlier post. I found the changes difficult but persevered and think I have added useful new skills to my tool kit .  Gradually the " me" in my work started to return but modified and hopefully strengthened by Brian's ideas. Some of my pieces during that period: softer brushes, multiple glazes, opaque application and wipe off to the underpainting, and patience patience patience.




Tomorrow I am off to Gibson BC to begin a four day workshop on the Fundamentals for Acrylic Landscape Painters. Looking forward to that. 

Next BC workshops  will be in Victoria in February and Pemberton in March. I have just scheduled a four day plein air workshop in Collingwood Ontario for next June. Details will be on my website.