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.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Back to Black!

Nothing to do with music of the sadly departed singer Amy Winehouse.

I am reading Betty Edward's book Colour:  A Course in Mastering the Art of Colors.   This is an excellent book, an introduction to working in colour for new painters and a good  refresher for those with experience. Lots of good exercises for the new painter. Very well thought out.

But what struck me is her support for the use of black. Probably the colour that illicits the strongest opinions on it use. I would guess that half of my instructors included it on their palettes and the other half were evangelically against using it. She presents good reasoned arguments on its use to dull colours, to create very useful greens and browns. You can't get darker than black so it is great for those dark accent areas particularly  -  but you need to  spice the black up by adding mixtures such as magentas,  blues, greens etc to move it from the flat back to  create more interesting darks.  

The argument I have heard against it is that you simply don't need it - you can mix great darks - ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, dark reds and dark greens etc. That's true. But that is still no reason not to include it - THERE ARE NO RULES. I particularly like its convenience in plein air work when I am under time pressure - I can more often get to the grayed colour  of a particular value going through the black route. I NEVER use black unmodified - its just too flat. 

For me, I stick with ivory black - it is transparent and less " potent" that the opaque backs. In addition to its use in mixing  I often include it in acrylics glazes - thinned greatly with medium and water and often modifying it with a touch of colour ( thalo blue green as an example). Used with caution it is great for dropping the overall value and saturation of some areas of a painting or the entire painting. Need to follow up the down glazing by making some of the areas pop with more colour and value variation by using a variety of opaques.  

Just for fun, if you suffer from black phobia, try adding a small bit of ivory black to some of your reds and oranges to move them to browns. Try mixing greens with a variety of different yellows. Try dropping the value and saturation of colours by adding just a touch of black. Not too scary !

Saturday 17 March 2012

Saved From The Dark!

I love working in acrylics. I have become comfortable and somewhat confident that I can work through the bad stages in most of my paintings and come out OK - at least OK enough for my stage of learning. I have confidence that I can  make changes and test new ideas and get immediate feedback - because of the fast drying time. I like experimenting with different paints - in acrylics that means different viscosity and manufacturers with specific claims. Some claim slower drying times etc. and I will post my opinions about these in a future post.

My biggest issue with acrylics is not drying time - but that they dry darker. This is not an issue in most cases - I can cope. I have jars of premixed colours of known drying values ( painted on their lids) and as most of what I do in acrylics are land and sea scapes I can live with a degree of inaccuracy.  But every once in a while I  become really frustrated that the final product dries darker than I expected. 

Winsor & Newton's new Artist's Acrylic paints boasts that they dry without value change. So I decided to give them a try. I purchased about 20 tubes of colours - a mix of lights (mostly opaques ) and darks ( mostly transparents) and put them to the test. I mixed a small pile of colour on a Stay Wet palette. I painted a round spot of colour on a gesso treated canvas board and dried it with a hair dryer. Took  photo 1 below. Then painted one stoke of fresh wet paint from the piles onto and out from the round colour spot and immediately took  photo 2. The wet and dry were of the exact same colour and value - I could not detect a difference live or in photo. 

Dry Paint 

Wet Paint stoke added to dry paint

WYSIWYG   What Ya See Is What Ya Get

I have used the product off and on since and am content in the belief that there is no value change. This has potential advantage for tight work - portraiture etc. 

Anyone else found the same or different? 

Monday 12 March 2012

Great Little Gadget!

Manfrotto on Easy L 

Getting back into the plein air mode. Just off a Preparing for Plein Air Workshop and with the weather starting to improve I am getting itchy to get out and at it. One little gadget that I wanted to share that has been very useful to me but I rarely (like never) see others using. 

I cannot encourage too strongly, particularly in plein air,  making small value sketches to establish your plan before you get out your paints. Sometimes half a dozen sketches before you have what you want to work with: size of fore, mid and background; value dominance, etc. The trick then is to stick with that plan once the painting begins - and not get distracted back to the scene where you are in danger of chasing shadows, cloud shapes etc. To make that work you need a convenient way to have your reference sketch there for you. 

The best I have found is the Manfrotto Double Spring Clip. They seem expensive but are well constructed. I have a half dozen - one in each kit and two in the studio - I  have never had a problem so I think they are good value. I got mine from Judson Plein air. Good company with good service. 

The sketch pads I use are Strathmore Drawing 4x6 inches. 

Something to consider. 

On Soltek easel. 

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Join Me! Blog Talk Radio - Artists Helping Artists

I have just been invited to be one of the guest artists on this week's Artists Helping Artists on Blog Talk Radio - Thursday morning from 9-10.  I am pleased and honored.  The topic  is Late Bloomers - apparently that's me. 

More about this week's show in a bit - but if you are not familiar with Artists Helping Artists you probably should be. 

Artists Helping Artists  airs each week. It is hosted by two energetic and highly skilled artists Leslie Saeta and Dreama Tolle Perry. The show focuses on the business side of art but also has informative and fun interviews with highly successful artists - recent examples include Robert Genn,  Carol Marine and Jennifer Christian - I mention those three as examples of artist who I have taken workshops from and who are wonderfully open , sharing what they know. 

How did I got into Artists Helping Artists? Before the end of last year I decided that I would give on-line marketing and self promotion a try. We are moving from British Columbia and all my Vancouver Island art contacts, and returning to Ontario where are sons and grandchildren live. I was hoping that on line profile might be useful in " starting over". But I did not know quite where to turn for help. I had tried Facebook a few years prior and felt it was just not for me. I had heard about their radio show and took a look at the many programs available for listening ( each week's  program is stored and cataloged). Their programs and their own energetic self confidence helped me to get into it all - Facebook, Linked in, Daily Paintworks, Twitter and to start blogging. For better or for worse I have taken the plunge and so far it has been rewarding and a real learning experience.

So if you are not aware of Artists Helping Artists I strongly encourage you to take a look at the long list of topics. It is so easy. I listen in my studio, use my tablet when working outside, when waiting for the ferry, etc. 

You can look it up on Facebook and Like it - to keep current with new  shows. 

As for the show this week, if you are interested in listening in, simply follow this link Artists Helping Artists Thursday March 8. 

Scheduled Air Date: Thursday, March 8, 9:00 am PST, 12:00 noon EST.
"Late Bloomers ... Starting Your Art Career When the Kids are Grown"
Join artist and marketing expert Leslie Saeta as she highlights ways to sell your art on-line. On today’s show Leslie is joined by AHA March co-host Kathy Cousart. Join Leslie and Kathy as they share their personal "late bloomer" stories and interview artists Pam Holnback and Brian Buckrell. On today’s show we will discuss how many artists have become very successful, after the kids are grown!
To access the show,