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 just doing it - Go to your room!

I have had the good fortune to take instruction from outstanding artists in Canada and the USA. I continue to work on my own development ( Going to MY room!) . I share, through this blog and workshops, what I have learned and what others have shared with me.

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.

Sunday 27 November 2011

New Art Book: Color and Light

I am a workshop groupie and a lover of art books - both the "how to" and the books on artists and their work. 

As I progress in my learning I find that many of the books I purchase end up being the same old stuff repackaged. Others bring a new light or approach to learning. These are keepers.

This week I received three new books; two Andrew Loomis books on figure drawing (which I think will be keepers) and the book Color and Light by James Gurney which is definitely a keeper. 

I have been aware of Colour and Light for a while and read other  positive comments, but I have been turned off by the cover. The author is , of course, the creator of Dinotropia - neat stuff but not the direction I am taking in my learning. So with the cover illustration I thought that would be the intent of the book. Not so. It is a fresh approach to looking at light and colour from an artist that makes wonderful plein air sketches and uses his knowledge to create works of fantasy that read. 

Its one I will be keeping and recommending. 

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Getting Ready for Carole Marine

One of my "heroes" is the Oregon (now) painter Carole Marine  ( . Her ability to put down accurate individual  spots of colour that build to a small interesting piece that reads is quite amazing. I am booked to take a workshop with her in February. Basically, I am an acrylic painter but I do enjoy playing with oils (water soluble) for small pieces, in the studio and plein air. I want to improve my skill to mix and lay down a spot of colour and then leave it and mix and put the correct value and temperature relationship in the spot next to it - and so on.

To get the best bang for my buck in her workshop I have decided to spend at least a few hours each week trying just that - doing exercises of selecting simple subjects and and trying to " lay and leave". Put down a spot of colour and not  blend. Place the next one beside it and so on, to build the piece -  then for corrections lay down spots on top of the others (tiling as I was taught at Watts Atelier) but avoid any blending. These are great exercises that I think will help me in both my acrylics and oils to more accurately mix and create interesting pieces that read. Also, part of the intent is efficiency so I plan to limit the time spent and then just stop.

So here's my first attempt.  Image in my TV as reference; surface black gessoed TerraSkin taped on board 6x8"; drawing using white China Marker; paint watersoluble oil with a bit of linseed. Time after drawing limit 30 minutes. I decided to stick with the head to start as I have not done any oil or portrait pieces in quite a while.

Next I decided to tackle the full image and limit my time to 45 minutes after drawing. Surface is black gesso on canvas board. Backgrounds just a mix of all colours used in the painting trying to hold the value but play with temperature.

I like the effect of playing on black gesso for small pieces.

So much for the first attempt. Lets hope I progress over the next two months.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Where Am I on the Learning Curve?

I never thought about the steps in the journey to becoming an artist until I purchased the DVD Nuts and Bolts by American artist Quang Ho.  It's a wonderful DVD for artists of any medium - loaded with his personal philosophies as well as solid foundation information.  But having mentioned the DVD, before I continue  I should give my definition of "artist". I am most comfortable describing myself as a painter - a "want to be artist"- although the term artist is what people seem to want to use, so I do as well. But  I really feel that artist status is what I am hoping to achieve, but achieving that "status" must be assigned to me by others.  I  hope eventually to create representational pieces that are interesting and unique - the artist.  So, that said, let's get back to Quang Ho - and I paraphrase his words freely.

He breaks the learning into Level One, Level Two and Level Three - simplistically (being an old ski instructor) it somewhat lines up with Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.  The Level One " artist" is trying to learn the skills required to work with their chosen medium. They paint , as they must, to try to reproduce as accurately as possible, the reference they are using. They see objects as objects ( as tree, as rock) and paint them as they see or think they  see ( we all have fixed ideas - sky as blue, grass as green etc. ) those objects.  It's what one must do to achieve skill and confidence with the medium and tools.  Many will stay at that Level because it satisfies their reason for painting and they lack the interest or resources ( particularly time)  to change- and that's great.  They enjoy their painting - they say its "relaxing".

But with time, those wanting to advance will begin to question.  They consider the ideas of others, try new approaches and supplies ( different brushes, surfaces, etc.) . It is a period of experimentation - an essential ingredient to growth.  They learn to simplify, to now see the objects as simple spots of colour ( correct hue, value and saturation) that are applied in relationship to spots around them and that add up to the illusion of the object in its environment. They thirst for learning  the fundamentals - study colour, composition, etc.  They swing through periods of emotional highs and lows and often think art is not for them.  They make a lot of bad paintings often not realizing that the bad ones are probably helping them to grow more than the "successes" because they have tried something new. They are in Level Two . Painting is no longer fun and relaxing but a serious challenge - and challenge is what sucks one in and  makes it worth doing.

With more time and lots and lots of miles of canvas, study and thoughtful critique of their work and the work of others they enter the Third Level -  they  become an artist. They are confident with the skills required for their craft. They become tools to express with.  Painting becomes intuitive. They self-critique accurately . They know who they are and what they want to express. They express themselves, their world and their personality in their work. They have their style (their signature if you will) and it is correct ( their work reads) , interesting and unique. They are few and far between.

I never thought about my learning or tried to explain some of the challenges and frustrations I faced until I placed myself into this learning context. So, where am I now?  Probably somewhere in Level Two - still learning and experimenting, still highs and lows  - but every now and again I think I have produced a piece that is intuitive, quickly done, with no corrections and am content to call it finished - no matter what anyone else thinks of it.  What a high!  At other times I grade my work as Level One or early level Two and know how much I still need to grow.

This concept of the Levels of Learning  helped me to understand what I have been going through these past eight years, and that it is simply part of the ride,   and I think it helps me when I work with others ( empathy I guess).  

Thursday 10 November 2011

Getting Stoned

When I was back in Ontario this summer I attended a demo by artist John Anderson (artist and manager of Curry's Art Store in Barrie) . The demo was oil on TerraSkin. Never heard of TerraSkin and needed to try it. So I purchased a few sheets - and loved it.

TerraSkin is a paper made from Lime Stone (Getting Stoned - sorry). It sells in large sheets like watercolour paper. The surface is slick and grabs both oil and acrylic with an unusual feel - hard to describe. I cut, taped onto boards and began to play - mostly plein air - in oil and acrylics. I was soon experimenting with gesso on the paper to give it more tooth. Then started working with black gesso on it and loved it for small pieces. I have been using it for quick studies (life drawing session) and small still life. For plein air it packs so easily it is joy to work with. It glues as nicely as canvas or linen onto board with PVA glue (Elmers White Glue).

I dropped into Island Blue yesterday ( Victoria) to get more and was told it was not selling. This product definitively has a place and so lack of sales has to be lack of recognition of its value in the art community.
I wonder how it would take to watercolours.

Take a look at their web page 

Images are oil ( my grand children's cat) on black gesso  and two acrylic plein air sketches on plain Terra Skin  - all 6x8

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Art Fairs - Island Arts Expo

Winner of one of my paintings
Audrey Campbell, from Bowser
Cathy hamming it up with artist
Sharon Stone
 during a quiet moment

This past weekend Cathy and I attended the Island Arts Expo in Qualicum Bay – two days displaying pieces of my  work with about 20 other juried artists.  These are great opportunities to show our work to a large and varied audience and to observe their  response – both individual pieces and your work collectively. I consider these Trade Shows – as much or more for making people aware of your work than for selling. I usually have had a number of after-show sales and commissions from people not aware of my work and wanting something specific.  With the move to more direct sale of art these art fairs need to be considered as a useful part of our marketing.

For this event there were also artist workshop/demonstrations. I did a demo called One Approach to Starting an Acrylic Painting - as getting a good start is the most important part of a making a painting. It was well attended and fun to do. 

Next weekend I begin a workshop in Comox - four Saturdays. I would like to share some of my thoughts on workshops in my next few posts 

Still trying to get the hang of this Facebook and Blog stuff. Be patient - I will learn. 

Saturday 5 November 2011

Hi.  I am calling my Blog  Go to your room !  I am borrowing this term from the prominent Canadian painter and writer Robert Genn, who believes, as I do, that there is only so much you can get from resources available about learning to paint. That  the true learning is up to you  and you need to go off and do it - Go to your room.  So this Blog will include my thoughts and suggestions on learning to paint. I did not begin until my 60th birthday and have had a wonderful and fairly unique learning experience since then ( then being 8 years ago).  I have had the opportunity and resources available to study with some great artists in Canada and the US. They shared openly with me. Now its my turn. We will see how it goes.

I include the photo of myself with my wife Cathy because of all the resources I have needed to learn it has been the encouragement and freedom she has given me that has made it possible and fun.

This is a test of my first attempt at a Blog. Today I have started this Blog, joined Facebook and Daily Paintworks. Going to take me some time to get into them and have them working. Please visit again. Lots more to come ( I hope).

In the meantime, for more information about me and to view my work, please visit   My Web site

It would also be great if you would visit my new FaceBook page
and hit LIKE if it interests you.

Brian Buckrell Artist Facebook Page