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 15 September 2018

Marc Grand Bois Workshop - My Review

There is a boldness and freshness about Marc's work that I have admired. His compositions and his methods for working with acrylics are unique. I was very please when an opportunity to attend one of his workshops became available. The workshop was held in Bracebridge at the Muskoka Arts & Crafts Inc. - a very nice facility. 

The format for the workshop was a bit unusual. Marc did a plein air demo each morning of about 2 hrs, then back to the studio where we painted. Marc is most comfortable working on location - and I would have enjoyed spending my painting time on location with him - but others were not prepared for plein air - and the course description did not indicate it.  Still the afternoon sessions were good with lots of time given by Marc to each participant. 

Marc prefers sitting to work. He has much younger knees than mine.

Mark worked on masonite treated with coats of latex house primer - which he prefers over gesso as the surface is smoother and he feels his paint flows better. His initial plan is sketched using a rigger with a acrylics.  He uses no mediums and seldom sprays his palette. He puts out small amounts of paint as needed and works on a disposable palette paper.  He works with a limited palette working with two pairs of compliments making cool and warm grays. 

He works from back to front. Once his plan is made he quickly builds under layer using a large soft brush. He layers until he gets the feeling he wants then switches to a rigger brush which he uses extensively throughout the painting.  All his final stroke are with the rigger using paint that is quite thick adding texture and character. 

His demos were excellent. Really fun to watch his process. He is able to add comment and answer questions as he works. His teaching in the afternoon was excellent as well - he is gentle and patient but critically honest as needed.  I appreciated the suggestions he had for me. 

Marc's work is full of energy. I love what he does with the rigger - wondering what it might do to add final physical energy to mine.  I made four starts trying to add some of Marc's energy - but unable to control my love for colour. 

I enjoyed this workshop and spending time with Marc. I rate his knowledge and skill as excellent. His teaching style  as well. I recommend his workshops.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Ken DeWaard Workshop - my review

I have admired the work of Ken DeWaard, of Hope Maine, for a couple of years. I admire the clean shapes , his management of values and overall design. He has a knack of outlining areas in a mid value line that is quite unique and I find really interesting - even his portraits. When a workshop was announced at a time of year that worked for me I took it.

Examples of Kens work

The workshop was held by Coastal Maine Workshops in Rockland Maine. I took a David Curtis workshop with them last year and the overall experience was excellent. The indoor facilities are good, they have a dedicated workshop assistant assigned to help the instructor and students, and the painting locations, both harbours, rural and urban are excellent. . Very nice folks to deal with.

I generally rate an instructor on the following : competence, enthusiasm, a joy for teaching , a sincere wanting to help students , and pleasant to spend time with. I rate Ken highly on all. Ken is a good instructor, he sincerely wants to help his students and he is a great guy to spend a week with. He worked hard on our behalf.

Ken works on a neutral toned canvas. He makes his design using vine charcoal. He starts by placing the lightest light and darkest darks keeping them in the area of the centre of interest. He quickly lays in his first best guess for values in each large area. He next moves to add detail to each value mass .  A strong plein air sketch in an hour.

Kens palette is unique - at least to me.  His warms include  two yellows, trans red iron oxide, cad red lt and a cool red. His cools include ultramarine blue, prussian blue and ivory black. He puts out two titanium white - one to be used for warms and one for cools. New to me was how he used his ivory black. I pretty much stick to using it with yellows for natural greens. Ken often neutralized bright colours making them very strong darks - eg. adding to cad red to produce a very deep dark mauve.  I played with this during the week and produced some interesting colour combinations.

We painted harbours, farm buildings and wonderful older homes. Ken worked hard to ensure everyone got adequate supervision. I made about 18 starts over the week -a good number being  wipe outs. His suggestions and encouragement I expect to  affect my work in oils - and maybe acrylics.

To sum  up, Ken is a very strong teacher and a nice guy to spend time with . I highly recommend his workshops .

Monday 25 June 2018

There is no need to waste acrylic paint!

A question that went unanswered in my recent Plein Air  Workshop was about the issue of wasting paint ( and $$) . I am critical of those in my classes that do not have an adequate palette with space for both holding paint and for mixing. Also of those that put out minuscule amounts of paint or put out one colour at a time - as they think the painting needs.


Everyone has a system. My system is to have both a holding and a mixing area. I hold my paint in the small Masterson Sta Wet palette without paper when doing plein air. I take from there and mix on a neutral gray glass surface. Paint , if kept moist, lasts for weeks in the Sta Wet.

Small Sta-Wet on Coulter Art Box system 

In my studio I hold my paints in the large, 12x16 Sta Wet palette and take from there to mix on glass .

Studio large Sta Wet beside glass mixing area

If and when the paints in my palette are starting to dry, its getting too messy,  or I am just not going to be using them I scrape off the paint and place into a jar with a air-tight lid .  When mixed they usually create a gray of some value. I adjust the value with titanium white ( usually fluid) then leave or change the grey to a hue normally using Goldens Fluids with their high pigment content. I then put some on the lid so I know what the dried colour and value will be .

Palette scrapings mixed together

mixed produces a grey that is adjusted for value with white

then adjusted for hue as needed 

I can have up to 12 to 20 jars at anyone time each with a known hue and value. These are invaluable for areas like skies that I have to create negatively and often have to come back into to correct. No mixing needed - I have a jar with the colour and value required.  Has made my large acrylic pieces so my easier and NO WASTE.

When the jars empty there is always a bit on the bottom and sides . Let that air dry then soak in water a few days and that will peel out as a  piece of colored plastic leaving a clean jar.

Soaking in water 
Polymer plastic lifts out after soaking to leave a clean jar

I paint half the year in BC and half in Ontario. The jars are thus unused for up to 6 months. If I have done a good job of cleaning the tops to create a good seal the paint is still usable.

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Dominik Modlinski Workshop - My Review

I write this from Tofino on a very wet and windy day.

I spent the weekend at Dominik' Modlinski's  mark-making and concept development workshop. I have been an admirer of his work and his energy for many years and was pleased to finally be able to spend some time with him. I take workshops for many reasons -  in this case it was his colour sense, his unique compositions and to experience his approach to teaching. 

The workshop was  a small-group workshop  conducted at his home studio in Nanaimo. The small number of participants and being in his home studio was another reason I was interested. He and his wife made their home available making it a warm, friendly and relaxed environment - good for learning.

It did not take long to appreciate the degree of Dominik's enthusiasm for art, for teaching art and for the life he has created for himself around art. He was very open and willing to share ..

I was not sure what I was getting into in this "mark making" workshop. But I love challenging myself to see where others ideas can affect my work. 

After a discussion on techniques in mark making we began by laying a template of five  5x7 formats on large sheets of news prints. Then using a mix of tools (charcoal, acrylic makers, conte etc) make fast impressionistic designs of shape and value in each of the 5x7s .  We hung the sheets on the wall, discussed first impressions and impact of each from our own and the other participants and chose one being strongest from the first 15. Then, based on that concept, built another 10, then chose the most interesting, and then built on that - etc etc  - you get this idea - big overview then focus, and focus more etc. This was difficult for me .  I could not get landscape and tree shapes out of my concepts. After getting beaten up a few times I finally started to free myself from the influence of my existing work. And on and on. Then finally after a full day of this, which I found very challenging, I was to choose one concept with the plan of translating it in large format and colour the next day. 

After an interesting discussion on how he manages colours it became clear how intuitive my approach to colour has become and how my work would benefit from time spent more thoughtfully about planning my colour schemes  - as he does. 

We spent Sunday developing the selected concept in larger format in colour. I chose to use acrylics. I made three  16x20  - built on a transparent background then back and fourth with transparents and opagues.  Not a  tree or a landscape/seascape to be seen. Trying to free myself up and just play and develop the original concept. 

Showing us some of his plein air sketches

One of my early sheets - trees, trees, trees

A much later sheet moving away from trees

My final selection on news print

Dominik with one of his demos

An interesting discussion on colour management

My chosen concept sketched on 16x20 canvas
My three quickie acrylic concept pieces 16x20 - NO TREES
This was an interesting and challenging weekend. No telling if it will affect the work I enjoy doing. I was quite impressed with Dominik - his  knowledge and skill, his enthusiasm to teach and  willingness to share. The concept of the small group in his home studio was good. I am hoping to return to help put more thoughtfulness into my intuitive approach to colour. The workshop  was very good value.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

A Few Weeks of Portrait Play

A few weeks ago I posted that I needed to " get back to basics" for some me time. I said I was going to do colour charts and spend time making impressionistic "portraits".

How did I do? Well, while the colour chats are a great idea they were too laborious - I am too old to be that bored.  I should have done them 10 years ago. Maybe next year.

But the quickie portraits I love doing. Did  a few each day.  Most done in a hour or less. A few a bit more. All done alla prima .. All 6x8 on a variety of surfaces and using a variety of brushes - all part of the play. All using water mixable oils.

Some are family. The rest are copies: a few from Sargent, a few from Fechin , one from Liberace ( from his DVD), one from Ruskin.  Great exercise in drawing, in values and colour mixing.