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 22 August 2012

And its off to Watts Atelier!

This morning Cathy and I head into the US and to Watts Atelier in Encinitas CA. While Cathy is enjoying the beaches of Oceaside I will be taking 6 days of intensive review with Jeff Watts painting portrait and figurative from life. Classes start at 10 AM go to dinner time, then the model remains until 10 PM. So long days. 

Why do I bother?  I spent 6 months at Watts in 2007 and did a similar workshop there two years ago.  its expensive, tiring, takes 3 days to get there and my art sales are predominantly plein air and studio landscapes. I am a different painter today as compared to even two years ago. Its like re-reading the same art book and finding so much "new stuff" as your skills progress. How am I different - I think my craft has improved ( paint handling, drawing) but mostly my confidence and artistic risk taking has increased. And I know what I want to get out of the workshop this time - I am not just going for the ride. 

My goal is to improve my ability to abstract the figure and portrait work . I am reasonably capable of producing a resemblance to my reference - but who cares. I have little interest in doing many commercial portraits - my interest is in creating  interesting pieces using the figure/ facial features as the basis. 

I want to be able to think of painting the figure/face as I do a landscape now. With the landscape I use my reference (photo or plein air) to get me started. As early as possible I work without the reference to try to make the work "stand on its own" - something interesting and maybe unique. So I need to be able to see accurately and record what I need ( use what I see) and have the knowledge then to apply to the work ( use what I know) to make it strong and then use my imagination to make it interesting (use creative instincts). 

Up to now in painting both figure and faces I hold fairly tight to my reference - that's how we learn , so its been OK - but only up to a point. Now its time to push beyond what I have been doing and use the figure and face to make work of interest. 

Take a look at some of the great masters, particularly Russian-Americans like Fechin and Sergei Bongart. In addition to Jeff Watts, existing artists I admire David Shelvino, Kevin Beilfuss, Carolyn Anderson,  Arnie Westerman  and the late Neil Boyle - to name just a few. What they do with the figure and face and how they make interesting compositions around them.  Many have DVDs and Utube videos to get an idea of how they work. 

So my goal is to relax and play and try to get the feel of plein air work in these figure/face paintings. If I succeed it will just be the beginning - takes many years of experimentation to see the change. 

After the 6 days with Jeff I will go onto the Weekend with the Masters in San Diego. To relax I will take three days of plein air: one with Joe McGurl and two with Ken Auster. 

Wednesday 8 August 2012


Busy time of year for me so I have not been keeping up with my posts. Home for two more weeks then off to Watts Atelier and the Weekend with the Masters in San Diego. Will post about the exercises I am doing to try to get back to oils and to figurative work. But for now I just want to mention a new surface I am trying and quite liking.

Arches Oil Paper

I have never painted on paper - either acrylics or oils. Then I came across a U Tube video demonstrating the use of Arches oil paper - apparently it is quite new. So I purchased a few sheets ( about $8 each for full sheets) and have been trying it. I like it. 

I have tried it "neat" - as it comes, with black gesso and with clear acrylic mat medium. All have a different effect and all are fun to work with. I have glued it without difficult to doorskin. 

My interest is in having something easy and cheap to do quick colour sketches with - on their  own or to test out harmonies etc before beginning a larger piece.

I have two animal commissions to do so thought I would play first on the paper. Both are 8x10. The bear is done on the paper "neat". It is WS oils and I used a lot of Dorlands Wax medium to make it thick and juicy - lot of palette knife work. No problems and drying seems slightly ahead of normal - but it has been warm here lately so hard to tell.

The cat above was done on the paper treated with black gesso. Can get the nice dry brush effect I like over black gesso and enjoyed  doing the sketch. Think it may be worth going back to to see if I can make a  make a fun 6x6. 

Google Arches Oil Paper and lots of information, including Utube demos will come up.

Will try it with acrylics next.