Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Art Blog Has Moved!

My new art blog is up and thriving on my own web site  I'm also pleased to announce that I have live, free videos of art instruction on my site.  Click here to go directly to

Friday, March 18, 2011

Grey Owl

I'm really excited by this portrait.  It's the first portrait I've ever done in the opaque acrylic style.  It was a culmination of all the stuff I've been reading and practicing so just to have it work out was a big moment.  I think the main thing is that I had a process clearly in mind and just went at it one step at a time.  I'm including the first stage which was where  the difference in the opaque  approach was really evident.  No more thinking in a watercolour manner and building things up and preserving the whites.  I just got the whole surface covered in various darks.  After that it was just a matter of refining it.

Grey Owl
acrylic on paper
8.5" X 11"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grey Owl

Again today while the class worked on their self portrait I had time to do this  portrait of Grey Owl.  I liked the value pattern of this photo.  I'm studying portraits in acrylic at the moment and I like the strong contrasts in this photo so I think it may work well in acrylic. This week we had a discussion about the changes in  fashion portraiture.  Frequently, today models are photographed with very flat, even lighting which may emphasize the perfection of their skin (after a few touch ups) but it definitely lacks character.  I've studied the portraits from Vogue and other fashion magazines and in the past the lighting was used to accentuate the character of the model.  I recently saw the cover of a fashion magazine that featured the top 20 models of the year and they were indistinguishable right down to their pouty look.  This portrait of Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) has lots of character.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sheila's Friend's Granddaughter

While the Basic Drawing Skills class was working on their self portraits tonight I did this portrait of Sheila's friend's grand daughter.  I haven't done children before and this was a fun one.  A very cute photo.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Figure Doodling

This is a copy of an image from the Serge Hollerbach book.  I've really enjoyed studying his approach to acrylic painting.  He does these little doodles all the time, in ink, pencil or acrylic.  It's just about playing with the medium.  I completely enjoyed laying on the opaque layers of paint.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Figure Doodling

I have done head and figure doodles for years.  They are often very fresh and interesting drawings but I have never done anything with them.  I've decided to try to realize them in acrylic.  This was a little drawing I did yesterday at the Kingsland Farmer's Market.  It's a great practice to do these studies in a situation like that because people keep moving and you need to draw quickly and make effective use of memory.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Composing In Acrylic

I've enjoyed reading Serge Hollerbach's book Composing In Acrylic.  It's a very different style from anything I've done but it definitely got me thinking differently about acrylic.  He emphasizes big shapes, fairly simple but definite brushwork and working quickly.  This painting started with a little study  exploring the use  of pure colours surrounded by neutrals (see post February 20, 2011).  This makes the pure colours 'sing'.  From that little study through an organic process came the idea of the street scene.  Adding some simple figures gave the whole image a story.  This painting was both fun and a learning experience.

Verona Street
18" X 18"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Currie Barracks

I'll be sorry when the Currie Barracks area is redeveloped and I'm in the process of documenting some of it.  This is my third small plein air sketch that I've done and the second one of Currie Barracks.  It was overcast again and there was not a lot of contrast.  This particular subject also had little contrast which I took as a challenge to create some movement in the image when there isn't really a lot going on.  I was definitely trying to focus on the big shapes and I think the design is OK.  Still it was fun to give it a shot.

Currie Barracks
6" X 8"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills - Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker was someone who blazed like a shooting star for a time and while he was at the top of his form he  changed the face of jazz music and had an impact world wide.  Unfortunately, he was heavily fueled by heroin and died way too young because of his addiction.  This image seems to portray the focus and passion that he brought to his music.  In the Basic Drawing Skills class this is the last of our 6 portraits and it is, I feel, a fitting end.  The improvement and development of the drawing skills of the students has been inspirational to see.  One of the skills that seems to take longer to develop is value, having a full range of values from light to very dark.  This portrait is all about value with extensive areas that are basically black juxtaposed with areas of white.  It makes for a dramatic portrait and forces all of us to push our concept of dark to a new level.  I think one of the reasons for our reluctance to go really dark is that a dark stroke can't be taken back.  It's a bold and definitive mark that is unequivocal.  Often our comfort level is with lighter less assertive marks that we can change and modify or simply take back.  Not so with these bold values.  So this portrait challenges us in a slightly new direction and since everyone has demonstrated such high levels of drawing ability it's neat to face this particular challenge.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Currie Barracks

I went out again today, even though it's freezing.  I'm becoming interested in doing some thing to remember the Currie Barracks area before it's all redeveloped.  This is the entrance to the building that faces the parade square.  It was a snowy overcast day so there weren't strong contrasts.  My goal was to capture that pale light.  Unfortunately, for the second day in a row I forgot to take white with me so I had to sketch it and then rush home to try to paint it while the image was fresh in my mind. 

Totally aside from the quality of the painting I'm enjoying this small format 6" X 8" and doing these very quick plein air studies.  It's teaching me lots about the acrylic medium.

In fact, I'm thinking of celebrating the launch of my completely updated web site "", in a few weeks,  by doing a regular series of these small daily paintings.  Some people I know have done 100 paintings in 100 days.  I don't know that I can be that consistent but I like the idea of doing perhaps 30 in 30.  I'll announce it in this blog when it's going to happen.

Currie Barracks
6" X 8"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Plein Air in Glenmore Park

This was a fun piece.  The book I'm reading at the moment suggests concentrating on the big shapes and get them down quickly.  This was a little plein air sketch done this afternoon in North Glenmore Park.  This is the first time I've worked in opaque acrylic plein air but I found it a lot of fun.

Washroom At Glenmore Park
acrylic on canvas board
6" X 8"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sunset On The Elbow Pt2

This is an image I began a while ago.  This was an early attempt at acrylic.  The colour in the cliff was originally done in acrylic but in a  watercolour approach and I liked it.  I ran into trouble reconciling  the watercolour-like section with the more opaque sections.  I'm just reading a book by Serge Hollerbach an artist that also began as a watercolourist but switched to acrylic.  He recommends that while you can use acrylic in a watercolour manner it's greatest benefits come from using it in an opaque way.  I'm quite interested in following that advice so this picture was redone opaquely.  I used the fan brush and some techniques from Hollerbach's book to get the blended sky.  It's a much more dramatic picture now.

Sunset On The Elbow Pt2
16" X 20"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills - Girl With A Pearl Earring

I've been reading about Vermeer a bit lately and my respect for him has grown considerably.  Apparently, his output for his life is about 40 paintings.  He disappeared from public awareness for a couple of hundred years after his death and was "rediscovered" only in the late 1800's. He is now considered by many to be one of the top hand full of artists for all time.  This, of course, is one of his most famous images and is a most beautiful painting.  This image is a reference for students in my Basic Drawing Skills course.  To see samples of the students work please visit the class blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Those Swatches Again

Once again what began as just practicing colour mixing lead to what I feel is an interesting painting. I think fairly soon I'm going to listen to what this approach is trying to tell me.

This time I was just making bright colour swatches to illustrate how much more effective the brights are when surrounded by neutrals.  This just makes the bright colours sing.  When I added the dark neutrals certain shapes began appearing and before I knew it there was a story.

It's Not Good News
14" X 12"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christmas In The Country

This image is a farm we passed just going up to Big White in Kelowna.  I choose a very long and lean format to emphasize the small human habitation up against the very large presence of nature.  This is part of my on going efforts to gain comfort with acrylic and I'm finding that I like using it as watercolour, at least in the early stages of the painting.  In this image I was pleased with the watercolour-y way that parts of the trees came out.  I also enjoy the colour scheme.  This is the first acrylic painting that I have done by just playing around similar to what often happens with watercolour, so I'm very pleased with it because of the process.

Christmas In The Country
16" X 7"

For information on this or any other painting contact me.