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.

Monday 24 December 2012

The Very Best of the Season

My very best wishes for you and your families over this Holiday Season. 

What are your plans for the Holidays? 

It been a very busy fall for me and I am feeling a bit painted-out. I think I am going to take a break, get a good ebook , that has nothing to do with art, and crash a bit. And of course, ski. 

My best guess is that the crash will last until Boxing Day - then, or whenever it strikes me,  I  will  set down my new learning goals for the next year. Maybe even identify a workshop or two. 

What ever your plans, enjoy. 

Whats new?  Spent some time using Arches Oil Paper to do small and quick colour sketches in acrylics - to work out composition and colour choices. Fast, easy and cheap. Something that I think I will continue to use before making the big commitment to linen.  Working out colours for snow can be challenging. 

Again, all the best. 

Thursday 13 December 2012


Daily Paint Works has just released my second ArtByte Tutorial: My Studio - Water Mixable Oils. It is free to view. 

If interested in my approach to working with water mixable oils visit Daily Paint Works ArtByte Tutorials

Wednesday 12 December 2012


Its been a while. Have some oil efforts in portraiture to share - but not yet. This weekend I just needed to get back to acrylics and loosen up. Needed an easy project - its Christmas after all. 

Fell onto some old images of young ski racers from the Collingwood area  of Ontario. One in particular showed the kids bunched together with interesting shapes and colours - and fun body dynamics. So I thought I would give it a try. And its been a while since I shared my approach to starting many of my acrylics so here it is again. 

I begin by planning my drawing on paper. Then I draw onto the canvas using water soluble coloured pencil. Once happy, I then draw in with black China Marker, spray with water and wash down the water soluble pencil.  I neglected to photo this step so I have added an image from another painting being developed.

You can see the red pencil marks and the black China Marker. The canvas has been sprayed with water and the pencil is washing off. Quick wipe with paper towel and its gone. Have my final drawing to work with.

I then build my value underpainting. In this case I used Golden Liquid Payne's Gray ( never used Payne's Gray before but quite liked it - a deep dark unsaturated blue black). Again did not take a photo so image below is of a liquid transparent, medium and the colour shaper used to create the value plan.

In the next image you can see the canvas covered and where I have dragged the shaper on its side to pull  the paint off generally and more specifically to make the lift off deeper (see figure on rt)  by pulling down on the edge. By this stage I have also added additional paint left over in my pools on the palette and applied them with the shaper. I also have "tested" by adding an opque cerulean blue. 

Now spots of colour and moving towards final fill in. 

I keep adjusting my drawing as I go. I use white China Marker to make corrections on the dry paint.

Not happy with the original drawing of one of the hands. Was too low.

White China Marker used to redraw.

Race Day -  acrylic 24x24 on canvas

That was fun and I liked the outcome. So dug up more photos and tried again.  This time I started on a gray canvas. Did the first Payes Gray application and pick out one half of the canvas at a time - because of the complexity and the fact that it dries so fast. Can still see some red on the right where I adjusted the drawing again.

So finished - but not happy. Liked the composition of the first best - good strong grouping, good colour harmony, strong mother colour etc. Did not like the openness between the figures. Was going to add another , then decided to try something different - a big blue black spot - a black lab. This time I drew in with chalk because I knew I would not cover the drawing completely and the chalk can be wiped off after - the China Marker is only used when you KNOW you will completely cover the marks.

Then added "snow" have used a variety of things to apply snow like effects before. Recently purchased a  new tool from Liquatex and it works great. Much more control of size of spots and location. So used the Liquatex tool to splatter then a very light pull with paper towel to create direction to snow - light blizzard-like conditions.

You Had a Great Run! - Acrylic 24x24 

Then did one more from another image - 20x30 this time.

I'm Going for Hot Chocolate    Acrylic 20x30 

Simplistic, almost silly, paintings but easy and fun to do and have had very positive response to them. Shipped same day to White Dog Gallery in Whistler.

Monday 19 November 2012

My First Daily Paint Works Art Byte Tutorial

I was very pleased to be asked to participate in the Daily Paint Works ArtByte tutorial program. ArtBytes  are  low cost/ free quickie tutorials on a variety of subjects presented by Daily Paint Works artists. They are a recent addition to DPW and have already become quite popular.

My first  Art Byte describes my acrylic studio and my set up. It is free for viewing. I will follow that up with my set up for working acrylic plein air, for studio and plein air water-mixable oils. These will all be free to view. I will see how these go and if I think there is enough interest I will get into my approach to working with these mediums.

If you are interested please hit the ArtByte logo on the sidebar.

As for what else I am doing - still working away at improving my comfort with portraiture and figurative work. Will up date shortly.

Sunday 4 November 2012


I enjoy life drawing sessions. I am not a great fan of long poses but I love the quickies - from 2 minutes to 15 or so. Capturing those fast poses I find really helps me in drawing in general - simplification, triangulation, quick value studies etc. The benefits for me I think are best seen when working plein air . Plein air is "shooting from the hip " painting and requires quick observation and recording. 

Examples of quick line drawings on news paper  using pencil or markers - one to ten minutes. 

I have little patience for long poses so when poses over 30 minutes are held I generally make multiple interpretations of the same position using different tools and trying to simplify more with each statement

I said in an earlier post that my learning for the next few months would focus on oils and on figurative and portraiture - a follow up to my workshop at the Watts Atelier. I was pleased that I was able to attend another life drawing series in conjunction with that learning. 

What interests me this time and the reason for this post  is not line drawing but to take my water mixable oils and to do fast sketches using a variety of brushes to increase my confidence in drawing with oils - direct painting. I did a few of these quick studies a year ago and found them helpful. 

 This week I tried it again and again found it very helpful, particularly working with the different brushes,  that I have decided to continue to use the oils at future life drawing classes. The one thing I found in common with all of  these was that I felt most confident when working on a dark ground. In most cases on black gesso. The two above were done on linen - 8x10 and 6x10 . Two below were done on Terraskin ( I mentioned earlier my love for working on this product with oils)  treated with black gesso the other on clear gesso primed linen - all 8x10. All quick studies. 

I worked with a limited palette - yellow ochre, vermillion, ultramarine blue and ivory black - basically the Zorn palette - and simply tried to block in and play a bit with values and colour temperature. It was trying  the suggestive brushwork and a variety of brushes that seems to be most helpful for my learning.  

Nice thing about the WM oils is that I am not bothering anyone else in the room. 


I paint a lot - normally over 300 pieces a year. I am represented by half a dozen galleries, enter shows regularly and display art in a number of locations. I hate working with records and numbers and resent the time they take. But as my works pile up and I grow commercially I know that I need organization - so I struggle along and try to stay on top of things. 

For the past few years I have been working with an Australian product  called Flick. It is quite good and I recommend it. I have placed my database (file holding my records) in Dropbox ( a cloud storage system) that lets me access my records from my desktop, from my laptop while traveling and from my tablet  as needed. System works well as long as I stay on top of it. But I often let it slip and it piles up to the point that I can't face it. 

I subscribe to the blog of Lori McNee. In  a recent post she recommended a new software program for artists that she was instrumental in testing called Artwork Archive .  This is a cloud based program that you access on line. I took advantage of their free trial period and liked it - a lot. It is much simpler and more intuitive than Flick - but not as complete. But complete enough for me. All I want is a record of each piece, including image, where it is located, its price, when sold etc. I need to be able to keep track of my gallery holdings and be able to print out gallery records etc. This one works well. You can also export to Excel and print out records that way.  Price is good as well. I have taken the Masters - which gives me unlimited number of images. If you order via the Lori McNee blog there is 20% off for the first year - cost about $60 which I think is reasonable if it helps me to get control of my life.

Take a look. 

Saturday 27 October 2012

The End of Colour

Summer is over. Fall colours are here ( as much as they can be on the West Coast). Now those colours are pretty much over. So I snuck out as much as I could this past week and banged off a number of small pieces. Now its rain rain rain - and the colours are on the  ground. Glad I went out.

Worked mostly in ws oils on either linen or on Terra Skin. 

9x12 Linen with acrylic/mat medium under colour drawing with 6B graphite 

Took it home and added a few punches of colour with palette knife - better or worse???

8x10 linen with magenta acrylic colour

Started to rain so fast sketch - ws oils are not rain-friendly

Added points of colour at home using palette knife 

And at another location. 

6x8 oil on linen 

 9x12 oil on linen

And then did some on Terra Skin coated with gray gesso 

ws oil on Terra Skin - palette knife painting

9x12 oil on Terra Skin 

9x12 oil on Terra Skin 

Saturday 20 October 2012

Back to play!

Gallery commitments and commissions done for a while.  So its back to play and, hopefully, to learning. Its been over a month since I returned from Watts Atelier and Weekend with the Masters. Normally, after an intense workshop I spend weeks playing with what I was exposed to. This time I had other commitments and have almost forgotten what we did. So I need some time for ME and to try to recover what I was shown. 

I said when I went to Watts that my interest in figurative/portraiture is not to make more accurate paintings but to give myself more confidence to relax doing these subjects and to play with them like I do with landscapes - the goal is not to be correct/accurate  but to make the work interesting. So now I hope to protect time to be inventive and experimental for much of the next few months with the focus on people and people in landscapes. 

So to start I thought I would play with a self portrait and see if I could come up with a likeness but with some punch.

I thought I would start with a bold brush block-in of values and a bit of colour temperature   Normally I would keep going - but I decided to just to the block-in then let it sit for a few days and come back and decide on the next step. 

9x12 ws oil on clear acrylic primed linen initial drawing with graphite 

value  pattern with some temperature within values

done with synthetic brushes Rosemary Ivory 1/2 and 1.25 in
That was fun so I pushed ahead and tried something more involved. First I did a quick preliminary sketch  in oil on Arches Oil Paper from a photo given to me by friends Ron and Sandi Ulmi from their trip to Nepal. 

Decided that the image was worth playing with so would do like I did with my portrait above - a fast and bold block-in of values and colour temperature, let it sit for a few days, then come back to it.  Initial sketch with WS pencil then graphite on 12x16 linen. For fun I decided to glaze with Golden Magenta in matt medium to create the mid value. Then block-in with the same two large angular brushes. 

Some of the graphite (6B) smudged using the acrylic medium - but no real problem

Block in almost done - photo reference hanging beside

So let this dry and then decide how far to take it. Can be thinking of correcting drawing, playing with temperature and values to move planes forward and back and edges. But this is not for me about "rules" or doing what is expected - but trying something different - its about making something interesting  that I feel good about. So we will have to wait and see where it goes. 

Have to admit I love working with large angular flats and brights and working on this linen - just grabs the paint off the brush and begs for more. 

A fun day.