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.

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. 

Saturday 13 October 2012

Sisters and More Sisters

One of the more interesting series I have done is based on the Three Sisters - the iconic mountains in the Rockies above Canmore Alberta. I am represented by Avens Gallery in Canmore and, as a result, have visited the region numerous times in the past few years gathering reference material. We stay in an RV park right at the base  of the " Sisters" on the edge of town.  So I have seen it spring and fall, early, mid day and at sunset. It makes the most dramatic changes of any subject I think I have ever seen and gives one the freedom to invent knowing that anything is possible with this subject. 

I have painted it plein air from our RV window  and from the window of the RV laundry room at  -8 C last April. Plein air again in the early fall. 

Acrylic 9x12 plein air from RV window

Acrylic 11x14 plein air from RV laundry room window

And I have made numerous small and large paintings using varying views of the mountains and changing the foreground from my imagination to vary the result - painting what could be more than what is. I guess that is artistic license. 

Acrylic 12x16

Oil 6x8

Oil plein air 8x10 

Acrylic 24x26

Acrylic 24x36

Acrylic 18x24

RV park view 

RV Park in Canmore 

I have other subjects that have worked well for me in a similar fashion - holding some reference fairly accurate - what would be the centre of interest and usually found in the title - and then using a variety of foregrounds from my imagination and photos to vary the outcome.  Makes for fun and fast paintings and is great learning. 

Thursday 11 October 2012


I spent the past weekend in Whistler. Canadian Thanksgiving and a beautiful place to spend it. Weather perfect.

My art plan for the weekend was to do a one-day acrylic demo in the White Dog Studio Gallery and to do as much plein air as my wife would allow.  So I decided to put my self to the test – of time.  I often get the chance to do quick studies – an hour or less – but usually feel that it is not worth the effort so I generally don't bother. So I decided that for the weekend  any plein air would be ONE HOUR MAX – from set up to take down – oil or acrylic.  A test of me and the efficiency of my setups.

Acrylic Demo White Dog Gallery Studio.

White Dog is a new gallery in Whistler and I am very pleased to be represented there. It is full of energy and represents artists I am proud to hang alongside.

I did two acrylic demos – total time 3 hours.  I keep coming back to time taken because I really want to push myself  to improve my efficiency.  I can always add finishing touches as required later.

Initial lay in 12x16 on acrylic primed linen

Got a bit carried away with colour - again

Second demo set up on Coulter Art Box Standard Size with StaWet palette on left holding heavy viscosity paint , glass palette in middle for mixing, Golden and Liquitex fluid acrylics on right

Plein Air Sketchs

I painted three mornings and one midday.  

Each morning I was at the site just after sun up – about 7:30, the mornings were beautiful with no wind and a clear sky – but COLD – from 3to 5 C. I “ suffer” from Raynauds Syndrome– a nuisance disorder that causes me to not be able to use my hands in cold weather so I was worried – but gloved up and it worked OK because there was no wind – another reason to push myself for time.

Oil set up ; mid size Coulter Art box, 6x8 acrylic primed linen 

Started with good intentions of a careful sketch

Cold got the best of me and I grabbed my palette knife and went wild 

Two Green Lake Mornings 

First morning oil - WS 

The hour went from almost dark to intense early light - a real challenge to hold onto 

Again grabbed the palette knife to finish up quickly 

Second day acrylics. Because it was COLD the acrylics were not drying to I started two and staggered them hoping that time would let them dry - but no luck. And I HATE working with acrylics that are not drying quickly as I am a layer painter. So  the day was a challenge and the sketches showed it. Total time for the two was 1.5 hrs. I was so cold I could not have finished them on site. 

Quick outline using blue china marker on linen

Previous acrylic underpainting 

Juggling two 

The mid day was in Whistler Village, my wife and daughter wanted to continue to hit the stores and I had had enough so said they gave me a hour to meet them back at the car. So by the time I got to the site – a beautiful fall stream – I had only 40 minutes to setup, paint and clean up. Normally I would not have bothered but  I really wanted to test myself again.  
This one I really enjoyed. The mid day was warm and the site beautiful.

Oil on acrylic primed linen - bit of palette knife in the foreground 8x10

A great weekend and it was fun to push myself - product suffers but all a part of progressing. I am VERY happy with the Coulter Art Box systems for both the oil and acrylics - fast setup and easy to work with.