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.

Friday 27 November 2015

I was asked why I pre-colour the canvas.

To further explain the post from yesterday. I was asked about why I chose to  pre-colour the canvas red or blue . Couple of reasons: I don't like painting on a white canvas. It is either coloured with paint or coated with dark gesso - just a personal preference.  I also like the serendipity of outcome - the happenstance of letting some of the under painting show through - creating harmony or a "mother colour".  It takes a bit of practice at the beginning  but with time  is not done with a lot of forethought . You can take the same image and totally change the outcome starting on a different base colour - warm or cool or black etc. It adds a fun element to quick studies like these.

Here the canvas was coloured red . You can see where it  behind the blue distant hills. Makes no sense - but its kind of fun. I glazed over the bottom and  some of the tree area with transparent diox purple then you can see where I removed it while still wet using a rubber shaper from parts of the "rock shapes" at the bottom and some of the tree area then shaped those areas with opaque paint - result is a dulled red but still holds the harmony. You can also see where some of the red can be seen through the clouds by wiping off some of the opaque with a paper towel.

This piece has a similar theme but is built on a phthalo blue base. The distant hills, the core of the rocks and some limbs of the trees have remained untouched but shaped by the opaque around it. You can see where I left some of the tree limbs blue - again makes no sense but I kind of like it.

Here you can see the red ground remaining to be part of the tree limbs, in the sky and again on the rocks where I glazed with transparent burnt orange and removed in areas with the rubber shaper.

These are quick studies with little planning or  second guessing. They are simple, almost naive little pieces but are really fun to do and great for getting the juice flowing. Might look good under a Christmas tree.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Small West Coast Pieces - more exercises

Back in BC. Starting to work in the new studio there. Got some gallery pieces and commissions to get done. But needed to work my way back into it. So, once again, I spent the past few days working on small pieces - 8x10 up to 12x12. Fun chance to play. Half were built on an under painting of red , the rest on pthalo blue green . Did 25 in total .   Really recommend it as a way to work through things. 

Black gessoed edges drying

Saturday 14 November 2015

Paint small... paint many!

Had enough of struggling with large paintings for a while. Need  some play time.

Took three small canvases and one imaginary image and approached each with a different underpainting and included that underpainting colour through out the painting  - bit of a 'mother colour' effect. Laid the underpainting on and while wet used the rubber shaper to pick out and create a crude value plan. Dried, then blocked in the darks using the underpainting colour in a dark value then punched with opaque of the same colour family. Used compliments in opaque for punch.

Total time just under 90 minutes.

Pthalo Blue Green underpainting 8x10

Pthalo Turquoise underpainting 8x10

Magenta underpainting 10x10

Useful exercise and fun.

Friday 6 November 2015

Finding my way back

In my last post I shared my difficulty getting my " Mojo working" - after a summer with little painting and following a Brian Atyeo workshop that really shook me up .

This past week I have been working through my issues. Its many of the same issues that have caused me difficulty before. Basically,  I have not been following my own workshop advise.

1. Time pressure. We are in Ontario for just a few more weeks. The Galleries that have asked to represent me need product. I don't handle painting , particularly larger pieces, well under pressure. I paint fast - but but only up to a point. The final stages of critique and correction can go on for days. But I need to view the painting on a regular basis, and under different lighting, in order to find those corrections,  big or small,  that would strengthen the work - or to decide that it is a "junker". That has not been happening in our small condo.

2. Drop the reference. I am feeling a bit intimidated painting in this new region. I don't have a good grasp of  or a feeling for the place - something that often only comes by painting the local scenes plein air. Painting on location forces decision making and encourages inventiveness that can be brought back to the studio.  So I have been following my reference photos far too long in the painting process - painting in fear of failure. Once the large value shapes are placed and a few details in I should be dropping the reference and becoming inventive and only returning to the reference if there is a particular area of concern that needs to be close to correct.

3. Advanced planning. I normally make sketches varying the composition - playing with ideas. I use pencils and markers focusing on values of the large shapes.I often take the reference image and "play with it" digitally - particularly changing values of different areas - such as opening up dark shadows. I have not taken the time for selecting references or planning my compositions adequately.

4. Critiquing. I normally stop after a few hours or when I reached a point of not knowing how to proceed and critique the work. I set the piece aside for a day or two, still  keeping it in view, normally in our TV/reading room. Often short glances will help me find new ideas.   If nothing comes to mind but I am still not happy it can stay "on view" for many days . In this small condo I don't have space for viewing large pieces - and at a suitable distance.

5. Tools. The first thing I do is take a quick photo with my cell phone ( Samsung S6) , send it to my cloud ( Dropbox) then pull it down to my laptop to manipulate.  I begin by converting to black and white to see if the large shapes are unique and distinct ( I use ACDSee - Ultimate 8) . This step I do routinely, particularly for large pieces. If needed I can select shapes and move them to test new ideas. In some cases I use Sketchbook Pro to manipulate the image, changing values or colours or draw in new shapes.  Nice thing is that I can do all this while watching TV in the evening (love British dramas on PBS).

 viewing outside where I can get away from them 30x48 and 36x36s

B and W to compare value shapes- normally done individually

Pulling an image of the painting  into Sketchbook Pro to play with

6. Making corrections.  Corrections can be anything from small tweeking to something more extensive. I normally make the adjustments then return the piece to the viewing area to consider those changes.  If I am not sure what is needed - but I know something is not working, yet I think the piece has potential, I often do a complete glaze over using a transparent warm or cool - from transparent red iron oxide, to pthalo blues or quin violets, even Ivory black. It creates a harmony, levels out value differences and becomes a new start point from which to follow by bringing in the opaques and redefining areas. I do this a lot.

While I am still having difficulties I have stopped painting under time pressure and getting back on track with  critique and corrections. And it is bringing back a level of satisfaction I was missing earlier. Acrylic is a medium allowing "commit and correct" to be used to full advantage.  Some days I feel that I am "in the zone" and a painting seems to flow from the brushes - start to finish in one sitting. Hoping that will return soon.