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 31 March 2014

Blown away in Jerome AZ

Cathy and I spent a day in Jerome. We were there a number of years ago and got there by mistake pulling a large fifth wheel - a bit scary. So we decided to take another look with our little motor home.

What an interesting and unusual place at 5200 ft - a "living ghost town". Great old buildings full of colour and character. What stuck me was the great opportunity to work on linear perspective.

I just could not resist making a plein air start - chose acrylic .  Made a few thumbnails and sketched out with acrylic marker on linen board 11x14 - then glazed over with transparent red oxide - having seen a lot in the buildings. Started to block in and the wind came up from the valley with a heavy gust and sand filled my sta wet palette and my face. Held onto my equipment for a few more minutes and then gave up.

Probably just as well as I broke one of my cardinal rules for plein air - pick a battle you can win (from Robert Watts, Watts Atelier). In this case I chose a very complex subject , on a wind day and a busy street. I would have got more out of it by just sketching and playing with perspective. But nothing lost- learning form the losers.

Jerome is an amazing array of small streets and old buildings that would make a great study in complex perspective drawing.

Photos don't do it justice.   Now off to Sedona

Friday 28 March 2014

William Hook Workshop at Scottsdale Artists School

Just finished the five day William Hook acrylic workshop for advanced painters. The venue was the Scottsdale Artists School. What a great venue. Beautiful facility in the heart of Scottsdale with a strong list of workshops and weekly classes.

I have tried to take this workshop for the past few years but always had conflicts. Reason for my interest is the way he works with acrylics - direct and simple using only tube paints and one large brush. So different from my indirect approach of underpainting, working in layers, glazing, using liquids etc. I am also attracted to his colour choices and his eye for composition. 

Hook ( as he is called) makes all his small pieces, including plein air, on 12 x12 Fredrix Canvas Boards. He works on white canvas. His paints are Liquatex. His palette is limited. He mixes on a white metal or plastic tray. He literally used one brush the entire week - an synthetic White Dalcon brush - about 1 inch bright (but longer than the average bright I use)  - made by Grumbacker (no longer available).  Very impressive to watch him work the brush from broad to fine strokes. The final product was very painterly - giving the impression of oil paintings.  

Like me he does not try to put down the finished spots of colour but works towards it is by multiple layering and very visible brush strokes. 

Over the five days  he made four demos limited to about one hour each - then over the week spent a bit more time making finishes. 

Bright brush working on flat

Brush on edge

Liquatex selection 

His four 12x12 demos - without finishing touches
Each day we produced a piece from the demo he did then painted from our own references for the rest of the day. My goal was to work as he did - direct with large brush and heavy paint. Many of the references I used before but wanted to try this approach for the workshop. It took a while but I quite enjoyed this simpler more direct approach. Like him I tried to limit my pieces to about a hour - I did 16 in total. A few might be worth spending more time on. In all cases I was happy with the outcome considering this different approach.  Each is either 11x14 or 12x16 on linen.

The workshop was as described. The 11 participants were the most accomplished of any group I had painted with. There was no discussion of fundamentals - it was about working with acrylics - his approach: high viscosity paint, water, no medium, one brush. 

Hook is a very easy fellow to spend a week with, He is pleasant and generous with his time. He spent the day moving between each of us offering helpful hands-on tips. 

This is the twenty second year in a row that he has given this workshop at Scottsdale - quite amazing. Participants were from all across the US and three from Canada. What was really unusual and a real credit to him was that four had taken his workshop one or more times previously. 

Cathy and I hit the road tomorrow. Plan is to spend time in northern Arizona then up through Utah and hopefully get to try his approach plein air. Expect to be back in Comox for my May 3/4 Preparing for Plein Air workshop. 


Sunday 23 March 2014

Waiting for William Hook

Memory play - 8x10 WM oil on Gesso Hardboard

Six days on the road and we arrived in Scottsdale yesterday. Went to the Scottsdale Artists School to take a look. First impression - very impressive. And the lady on the desk told us about a small  RV park only 1 km away. So we could leave the RV there, Cathy can stay comfortable and I can walk to the workshop. Bingo!

Did a walkabout last night. We are right near the middle of town. Fun and interesting with lots of shops and galleries to visit. Dropped into a few high-end galleries and found they hung much the same art as we see in many other locations - Jackson Hole etc. Technically very strong work from high end artists at big prices but most have a "sameness" to them. Certainly a few that stood out and attracted my eye but they were the exception and the ones that worked for me were not the narrative pieces that told the stories of the West. My favs were bold, impressionistic that made a simple statement with strong colour and values.  Obviously just my opinion as many of the ones that did not work for me had red dots.

Have a day to kill waiting for the workshop. Spent about 90 minutes making three quick starts in oil on panel 8x10 from memory. No place to sketch plein air from the park and too darn hot even if there was.  Fun to create from memory. May be worth returning to them once dry.

Photos were taken in direct sunlight so a bit burned out and exaggerated.

Also, I was asked how I carry my wet panels while travelling. I have tried many systems but the one I use now and like come from Judsons Plein air. Reasonably priced and very well constructed. Have 6x8, 8x10, 11x14 and 12x16.

hiding from the Arizona sun under the umbrella 

Judson Plein Air box 8x10 solid construction 

Will keep you posted about the workshop to start tomorrow.


Friday 14 March 2014

Heading to Scottsdale and William Hook

Late Day Sun   - Acrylic 24x24

Finished a painting demo at the Nanaimo FCA. All obligations met. RV is packed and tomorrow Cathy and head south to the Scottsdale Artist School and a five day acrylic workshop with   William Hook. 

He normally only gives one workshop a year and it is geared towards the more experienced artist. I have been trying to attend for a number of years but life has always gotten in the way.

So why a Hook workshop? I have admired his strong compositions and use of bold colour. He is a layering painter leaving spots of colour/brush strokes for a bold confident look. He works only in heavy body acrylics - Liquatex exclusively and uses mainly Bright brushes - different from the way I work. So, as much as anything I take it "just in case" - in case he can offer something that will advance my progress.

We will take three weeks heading back home, travelling through northern Arizona and southern Utah. Have both my oil and acrylic plein air kits and hope to make lots of small starts.

Will post my view of this workshop and our travels.


Tuesday 4 March 2014

Four Day Fundamentals Workshop - Done!

Digital value and shape Demo 

Another  four day workshop on  the Fundamentals for Landscape Painters is over . Had a great group of keen painters in oils and acrylics. These folks were on site an hour before it was scheduled to start and I almost had to throw them out most nights. And they worked hard. Each received an extensive set of notes in advance and it was apparent that they had done their homework. Makes the class go much smoother if they come in prepared. 

We had fun and learned a lot together. 

A few days before the workshop I purchased the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1- 2014 edition. Have never tried digital sketching but was hoping it would be useful for my own work and especially for teaching. Using Sketchbook Pro for Galaxy I demonstrated creating simple shapes of distinct value and colour - an approach to simplification. With a little practice I think it is going to be a great addition.

Small demo of negative painting and creating texture
Big thanks to my wife, Cathy, for having the group back to our home for dinner - and for dropping off my lunches. 

Have a demo next week in Nanaimo and a two day Introduction to Plein Air  workshop May3/4.