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 29 January 2012

Three Starts for Whistler

Early Start Blackcomb Mt 30x20
Just back from a week in Whistler. Great skiing. Amazing wonderland of winter scenes. 

Came home excited to put brush to canvas and play with a few images while I still had Whistler "feelings" in my head.

 I wanted to use acrylics as I am far more playful and inventive using them and that was what I was wanting. But for the past 6 weeks I have been painting in oils trying to get myself ready for the Carol Marine workshop in February. So I wanted to make a couple of starts using different approaches to get some comfort back in using my acrylics.

I chose four images and decided on three different approaches.  

For the first I used a photo of Blackcomb Mt as the main focus of the painting and used a photo of a local stream as my foreground . I used a white canvas (30x20) and placed my sketch using a black China Marker. I did my under-painting using two transparents with medium (Green Gold and Quin Magenta - both Golden Liquids). Then I decided ( no real plan here - just experimenting) once dry, to add Pthalo Blue-Green Golden Liquid to shape the darks.  I shaped the mountain and foreground snow using opaques . Back and forth  etc etc. playing with values and temperatures. Finished the start by raising the value of the sky and playing with warms and cools. 

Across the Valley 18x24

The second I used an 18x24 canvas treated with gesso coloured with left over paint. I shaped the darks using transparents - Diox Purple with Quin Burnt Orange and a bit of Ultramarine Blue - all Golden liquids. Then tested colour and value for foreground snow then shaped the back ground using opques.I let the warm canvas show through randomly in several spots to create a bit of a mother colour. 

Mid Day Shadows 16x20

The third was done on black gesso 16x20. I used white China Marker for the sketch and used dark transparents almost the value of the back to add colour and temperature variation in the dark spots - mostly Diox Purple, Quin Burnt Orange and Transparent Red Iron Oxide - then began shaping things using opaques. I let the back show through in random dark locations. 

So three different approaches to three starts. Now I set them aside and consider each for a few days to decide what they need - either ideas to finish  (make them more interesting and attractive ) or to the junk pile. 

Pretty good days work!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

More thick and juicy practice!

Being primarily an acrylic painter I continue to feel the need to play with small oil sketches trying to get comfortable just laying down one stroke at a time and leaving it thick and juicy. I am hoping it will help to prepare me for my Carol Marine workshop in three weeks.

So I thought I would share one more - from my initial drawing to the final product. In this case it took about 45 minutes - kept fumbling with the drawing.

Panel is 6x8" Terraskin glued on to 1/8 " door-skin and treated with black gesso warmed with red acrylic (see how I prepare at bottom of post). Initial drawing is water soluble pencil. I can easily wipe off and correct. Once I am happy I have used yellow China Marker for final sketch then spray down with water and remove white pencil.

Now trying to lay in the paint one spot at a time and trying to avoid blending - just side by side or overtop. 
Final product - it is what it is!

Preparing panels - for small pieces I use TerraSkin or linen or canvas glued on door-skin. I increasingly like working on dark surface for these small panels - not sure why but I do. In this case I use black gesso mixed with a bit of quinacradone red to warm it. I often add an acrylic to the gesso to give it colour. I use a small cheap disposable foam roller to apply and it gives a nice even surface with some "tooth". I do not like painting on smooth surface - I like SOME tooth. 

 I cover the roller with a small disposable glove and it keeps moist and usable for many days. 

Saturday 14 January 2012

Don't throw out that paint!

With Soltek clipped on 

I had a visitor to the studio today. I showed her my set up and we got to discussing a number of practical things. One of the things she asked was how much paint did I waste. The answer  was   - nearly none. The methods I use were new to her so I thought I might share them.

I often refer to the fact that I have had the good fortune to study with many fine artists. And that if there is something they had recommended in common that it would be foolish not to think it worth paying attention to. One such thing was - putting out lots of paint. In my first few years I often scrimped on paint and, as my instructors said would happen, in the midst of a painting I often made do with what was there instead of stopping to reload. The results spoke for themselves. Now, whether oils or acrylics I put out lots of paint and have developed strategies that work for me to avoid wasting what I don't use.

My new Coulter Art Box 

Guerilla box and palette with oils 
For oils it is simple: I separate my holding palette from my mixing palette. I use a smaller plastic palette onto which I squeeze my paints. That palette sits alongside my mixing palette (normally glass) and I simply take from my holding palette as needed. Using oils I have tried to premix most of my colours, particularly plein air, so it works well taking with the palette knife  and placing onto the mixing surface. At the end of the day, I cover the holding palette and place it in the freezer until needed. Works well and paints stay usable for a considerable time.  The two most common holding palettes I use are the 5x7 and 8x11 palettes from Guerilla Painter and the 8x7 " palette from Masterson Art Products.  Both have lids

9x12 Guerrilla Backpackerâ„¢ Covered Palette Tray
Easy L with palette attached with velcro
For mixed paint on my mixing palette I scrape off at the end of the day and place that MUD onto my holding palette and use as required the next day - often adding another colour to change the direction of the hue and value as required. Rarely is anything wasted.

When using acrylics I also have a  holding palette and a mixing palette whether plein air or studio. For plein air I use the same Masterson Sta-Wet palette as above but add the sponge and paper to keep the paints moist. I generally squeeze my tube colours onto that palette (mostly opaques). My transparents are generally liquids and I squeeze them onto the mixing palette as needed.

Using the Alla Prima System with acrylics
For studio acrylics its the same thing just on a larger scale. I hold my tube paints in a Sta-Wet 12x16 and mix on a large glass surface.  

So with acrylics, the paints stay active in the Sta-Wet for many days to weeks and I use most of what I put out. When I need to change the Sta-Wet and there is paint left over I have two uses: I either use it to apply (adding either mat or gloss medium)  to the surface of a group of pre-made panels creating an under-painting for future use or I store it.  I normally have up to 20 or more small jars with acrylic paint in pre-mixed grays that I commonly use - sky mixes, typical warm grass colours etc etc. I paint the top of the jar with whats inside and then know the colour and final value I will get and have a value reference point from which to work back from often modifying the temperature while holding the value as required. So the old paint is placed into these containers. White added as required to adjust value and staining colours added to change the hue, complements added to modify the saturation etc etc - the paint lasts pretty much indefinetly as with normal jared acrylics if managed correctly.

My studio palette setup  for acrylics

I'm sure there are as many solutions to saving paint as there are artists. This is what works for me.

Oh, and I don't want to hear anything about the number of plein air systems I have - get enough of that at home !

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Panda and Still Life Setup

Water Sol oils on linen mounted on door skin 
If you subscribe to the Oregon artist  Carol Marine's blog  you will know that she has just purchased a new heavy duty  easel to support her small still life set up and lights. She also mentioned in the post that at her artists friend James Coulter on his blog showed his still life set up (by the way I have just purchased one of his plein air setups and   think I am going to enjoy it - more about plein air set ups in a future post) .  Both set ups are quite substantial and would certainly do the trick. 

Over a year ago, when I saw  a post of how Carol had set up her first still life box I decided to make one but but took a slightly different approach. I did not want any more equipment on the floor taking up space or something to trip over. I had a old  TV wall mount that wasn't being used and decided to build my  box with that in mind. As you can see it is made of plywood (had some old pieces around),  has a closed back,  one closed side, one half side and an open front. It swings so I can expose my subjects to natural light from the window or easily change the angle for viewing differently. Unlike the newer generation of TV mounts this older one does not go up or down. So to change the height of my subject I simply put a small pail in the box and cover with drapes. I use one large light and have 4 small lights each with different coloured bulbs.

Home Depot Stand
If you prefer a floor mount, Home Depot sells a stand that can extend to 46 inches, is light and portable and only $49.95. I  put a small plywood platform on it and use it outside on my balcony in different light. 

Different approaches - similar result. 

I don't use the setup as much as I should. It is excellent for small still life exercises - working on shaping form etc. Had a fun day yesterday playing with a small panda that my wife brought back from China 20 years ago. Unfortunately, my drawing has made him more a teddy bear than a panda. 

Panda in progress 

Examples of more traditional still life and setup