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 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.


  1. You will find your way back and be better for it ( as if your work isn't great already!). I remember my first Brian Atyeo workshop...I couldn't paint or concentrate for weeks. I was so full of self doubt. I am soon doing my 4th workshop with him. But the difference now is, I do my own painting and he helps me see things in a different light. I have learned so much from him.

    I am positive you will workout all your other issues, looks to me like you have all the answers...don't pressure yourself, enjoy! Love your work!

  2. Thanks for sharing that ,Brian, and reminding me to trust the process and remember the training.

    1. Thanks Tom. Great to see how well you are doing and how much you enjoy it. Cheers.

  3. Brian are you coming back to the Coast this winter. Would still love to get together for a day. Was in Village Gallery yesterday and admired all your paintings there, they are fabulous.

  4. Great post, Brian, excellent lessons for all of us! And the paintings are gorgeous, it will be interesting to figure out what it is that you are seeking in them because they looks fantastic to me.

    1. Thanks. Guess that is really the problem -not sure what I am "seeking". I guess it would be satisfaction. It will be back. Love to watch how your work is evolving.

  5. Acrylic Paintings is one of the best way for artist to express their feelings. This paintings are pretty great.


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