Friday, December 31, 2010

Mountain Meld

This image is from our recent visit to Big White Ski Resort at Kelowna. The chalet looked right across a valley to these hills. My attempt here was to meld the sky and the distant hills. As much as I enjoyed the very wet in wet approach used here the painting ended up much too dark overall. As per usual we turn to mixed media and bring in the opaque mediums to add lights over some of that dark. In this case I used gouache. I was enjoying the rhythm of the gouache marks and they are starting to lighten it up. I think it may need even more lightening but for now I'll just live with.

15" x 22"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Contrast And Mood

I was talking to a well know painter from BC and she said that if the sun isn't shining she won't even go out to paint. She is looking entirely for the bright contrast that you get with full sun and that's the only mood she is interested in painting. I think all painters are in love with the interplay of light, shadow and colour that comes with lots of light. I certainly enjoy that as well but I do notice that often I'm attracted to more subdued scenes with less vivid contrast and a more tranquil mood. I remember once painting at Sunshine Meadows with a group of very experienced painters and I was taken by the interplay between a foreground group of trees against a background of a wall of green trees. I asked one painter how she would do the scene and she said she wouldn't because there was so little contrast. She wanted the blue sky against mountains and dark trees. My painting actually didn't work out but I believe it could have if I had been more patient and more confident. Anyway, I think a lot can be learned from the more subtle interplay of values and colours in low light conditions. This is all by way of explanation why I was attracted to these cloud studies from BearsPaw. I look at these as doing my homework, really trying to see the differences of value and colour.

For information about these or any other paintings contact me at this link.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I've lately become very aware of how much I need the insights of others to see my work more accurately. I tend to be too dismissive, thinking things like, "It was only a practice", or, "It doesn't say what I wanted it too". Sometimes these thoughts lead me to miss what's actually in front of me. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and I am, therefore, trying to be less judgmental. This image is an example. I saw it as just another study of this waterfall in Waterton Lakes Park and was ready to dismiss it. I'm now trying to give it it's own due and I have to admit that it has a certain energy that I like.

16" x 12"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Low Clouds Over Mountains

This is the view from our chalet at Big White Ski Resort. In the morning there was a beautiful sunrise then as the day progressed the clouds descended until almost the entire mountain range was obscured. This particular image is when the clouds were just starting to cover things. The details and colours are all muted. I really had fun painting this and at first I called it one of my sloppy paintings. Now, I don't think the word sloppy is appropriate (even though I enjoy being sloppy at times) it's really a painting that was done very wet in wet. I tried to get in some colour notes but again they are muted. I like the feel of this painting very much.

12" x 9"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Chalets At Night

I took these photos at night of the scene used in the previous post. I didn't have a tripod so some of them have focus issues but I like the colours and values of them. It's an interesting exercise to try to paint night scenes. It's a different arrangement of values and the different thinking needed to pull off a night scene help us to see ordinary scenes in a new way.

These images are from the Chalets at Big White, Kelowna.

Chalets At Big White

Just returned from a family event at Big White, the ski hill at Kelowna. This is the afternoon view from our bedroom. After a day of skiing it felt good to stay at home and paint. There is actually a solid row of Chalets and I tried to pick out just 2 to give the feel of the road leading up from our place. All the colours were done intuitively but I tried to be faithful to the values of the actual scene.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quick Sketch Portraits

Today was the final day of my Basic Drawing Skills fall class. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. While the students were working on their final self portrait I had some time and did these quick studies. One is a portrait of my mother sunning herself and the other is the daughter of one of the students. Since I've been working so much on portraits lately I'm kind of in the zone and it was a lot of fun to just jump in and do these studies. I find that one's ability to judge proportion, and to accurately draw the features, like everything else, improves with practice.

To see the students' self portraits take a look at the class blog.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snowy Morning In Bear's Paw 2

I liked much about the painting from the last post. I loved the colours and the wet in wet technique. I had a problem with the composition, however. The lower part of the painting seemed unresolved. I felt cropping might help but instead I redesigned the image. This one, I feel, has a much stronger underlying structure with the 3 bands (the sky, the house & trees, and the foreground) forming a stronger composition. Now, I am just deciding what I thing about all the stuff going on in the foreground.

Just on another note, we had a very enjoyable visit with Sharon Williams the other day. It was so refreshing to really get into and knock about some ideas about art. Very inspiring. More please.

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snowy Morning In Bear's Paw

I've been reading a book on photography and the author emphasized often how important it is to capture the light in the early morning or evening. I set off for Bear's Paw at 5:30 this morning not really realizing that it doesn't get light until quite a bit later (try almost 8 am). I also ignored the fact that overcast days have quite an effect on the light. Anyway, I was there early, I waited and I did this picture which captured that overcast, snowy atmosphere. In spite of all it was an enjoyable experience.

21" X 10.5"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coming Down From The High Country (Study)

Another idea from our trip to Waterton National Park. We along with about 10 other cars waited for an hour because we heard that the elk would be crossing this field to their night range.

Watercolour & Casein
12" X 4"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lake Of The Woods Plein Air

The view just a few metres away from Orihel's cabin. This painting was done as a live demo. I was inspired by a technique that I picked up at Stephen Quiller's workshop. The 5 green trees in the front row were completely lifted out from the painted background. I'm always impressed by how clean the colour can be even though the background was originally a dark wash. It's necessary to lift out while the background paint is still very wet. Quite a sloppy technique but I like the feel especially the reflections in the water.

19" X 14"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Orihel's Place

This is a painting from my Lake of the Woods Series. We spend a couple of weeks a year at our cabin there. This plein air painting was done on the first day after all the crowds of people had left. It was painted from the Orihel's dock and half way through the rain came which had quite an effect on the painting.

17" X 14"

Collection of A. Fogg

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cowboy Trail

From our recent trip down Highway 22. I loved the way the road recedes into the mountains.

14" X 10"

For information on this or any other painting contact me at this link.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snowy Morning In Springbank

A scene from early this morning. Very simple, atmospheric.

11" X 4"

For information on this or any other painting contact me.

Weaselhead with Snow

I am a believer that you don't need to go too far to find inspiration when you paint en plein air. It also helps me to think of these 'on location' experiences as information-gathering sessions rather than trying to produce a 'masterpiece'. This way I can relax and just throw the paint around.

This image was a quick reaction to the view from the parking lot overlooking the Weaselhead on 37th St. I feel that it is a companion piece to "A Snowy Morning In Springbank".

9" X 4"

For information on this painting or any others please send me an email at this link.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bow Valley Still Life

On a recent painting trip in Banff National Park, we spent a morning along the Bow Valley Parkway. We stopped for a picnic lunch and this was the scene I kept staring at as we ate.

11" X 9"
For information on this or any other painting contact me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cameron Falls

From our recent trip to Waterton Park, this falls is just off the road to Cameron Lake. I was much influenced by the photo I took with a long exposure time.

10" X 8"
For information on this or any other painting contact me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Banff Connections

This is my first attempt at using oil paint. Originally this was a watercolour but as often happens it needed some adjustments and I decided to modify it with oil. As much as I love watercolour I appreciate the ability to add lights over the darks with an opaque medium. I'd always been interested in oil but was turned off by odour issues. For this work I used walnut oil and found that there weren't any odours in my studio. I guess that by eliminating the turpentine or paint thinners it is possible to enjoy a good work environment. I had tried some odourless thinner before but it was far from odourless. Anyway, the way that oil paint can be pushed around was neat and if it is possible to keep fresh air in the studio I'll certainly try it again.

Banff Connections
Watercolour & Oil
16" X 20"

For any further information please contact me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bow Valley Expressions

I was intrigued by this scene on the Bow Valley Parkway during a recent painting trip to the Banff/Kananaskis area. I must admit I had in mind some of the Group of Seven's paintings of burnt out areas.

Bow Valley Sevenths
7" X 7"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills -Horse Portrait

A particularly attractive composition. Very interesting to try a different type of portrait.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills - Humphrey Bogart

By the time I did this, our last portrait, I was well into the groove and it came together quickly. I think this one, of all the portraits I did for the class, most closely combines accuracy with expression.

One of the many benefits I derive from teaching Basic Drawing Skills is that I get to put some concentrated effort into drawing and drawing really is at the heart of all art. As mentioned in a much earlier post, I am an experimenter and I have to put in a lot of effort to explore, learn and progress and this class is a major dose of that effort.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills - Audrey Hepburn

This is my second attempt at this beautiful image. This time I was much more in tune with the image and not so concerned with accuracy. As a result the picture is a better likeness and has a fresher sense.

The quality of the students drawings was outstanding on this portrait. To view their work visit the Basic Drawing Skills class blog.

Basic Drawing Skills - live, in class demos

I have become captivated by this image of Audrey Hepburn. Her class, and humanity seem to shine through. I'm also very interested in the fact that these two drawings I did, very quickly, live in class on the overhead, both seem to capture her personality whereas, the official version I did in the studio (in the next post) has completely missed her personality. I think there is a bit of a message in that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills

This image of actress Helen Menken was done for my drawing class. Because the students in the class are progressing so quickly we now take accuracy for granted and are working on expressing the feeling of the portrait. This particular image speaks to me of quiet contemplation. I'm also experimenting more with a cross hatching approach rather than my normal method of smudging the graphite for shading. I started trying this in order to speed up the process and am finding now that I really enjoy the more direct nature of cross hatching.

For information on the Basic Drawing Skills class contact me.

To see the students' work visit the Basic Drawing Skills Blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Elbow River Colours

The same bold colour approach applied to a scene we came upon while hiking along the Elbow River.

Watercolour 9" X 12"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Let There Be Colour

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time looking at Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon's DVD and her bold use of colour. The sun hitting the hedge in our front yard seemed tailor made for a bold use of colour as the sun sparkled in the yellows and reds of the hedge. I like the feel as if someone has just been sitting in the chair and has briefly left the frame.

Watercolour 20" x 13.5"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills

This image was a true pleasure to do. I wanted to try drawing on a toned background and letting the toned background be the mid values so I only needed to add the dark values and then the white highlights. It was done on a pastel paper with a pronounced circular texture. The entire drawing tool only about 45 minutes 30 of which were for the drawing. The shading was fast and easy and when I added the white charcoal it just came to life. I was literally blown away by this process and will definitely be trying this again.

I've started a new blog dedicated to my drawing class, Basic Drawing Skills. Check out the students work at this link.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills

Our second portrait was of Don Knots from his days on the Andy Griffiths show. I was very surprised that some of the younger people even knew him, though he also was on some more modern shows like Three's Company. Anyway, for this portrait I enjoyed the surface used which was matt board. There is a very definite texture which allows some of the white board to show through. I used a different shading style just because I didn't have the time to do my usual smoother smudging technique. I've used a cross hatching style which was much faster to do. It's a little more muscular than smudging. These two approaches to shading with graphite are very different but each is equally effective, it's all about finding which approach you enjoy more or perhaps it's best to know both so you can use the most appropriate one for the particular drawing you are doing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills

I'm posting this portrait of King Tut again because I've added a new layer of shading and I think that it has a greater depth. For artists who are beginning in their study of value (shading) it's useful to see it as a process. I did the initial layer of shading based on my first impression. A few days later when I came back to it I was able to see a greater and more subtle range of values in the shading. This drawing is the result of that process. I can continue to come back to it and add even more layers of depth. It's useful to keep in mind, however, that more and more doesn't necessarily make it a better drawing. It's all about what you want to say. For example quick, spontaneous drawings often carry more feeling and spontaneity even if they are not as 'finished'. In this class it's about discovering how you want to interpret your subjects, no one way is always right.

Just for those who are interested, in total to date, I've put in about 40 minutes to draw the picture and about 90 minutes for the shading.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Those of us who originate from eastern Canada often lament the lack of bright reds in Alberta's fall colours. There are actually quite a few red accents in the fall colours here but they are mainly in hedges, bushes and minor characters. I've become increasingly aware of them this year. This is a view from our front yard.

I did a colour study, en plein air, and then came right in and did a studio version. I like the freshness and rhythm of the image. I love plein air painting. I particularly enjoy it when it's right at my door step like in this case.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Basic Drawing Skills

This portrait of King Tut was done in graphite on watercolour paper. The texture of this paper allows a lot of light speckles to shine through creating a pleasing effect. I made a conscious effort to direct the eye of the viewer to Tut's eyes. So I have down played the darks of the head dress at the bottom and the false beard in order to direct attention to the eyes. I have also made the darks of the head dress that are above the eye, darker as they move into the picture. Again I'm trying to direct the viewer's eye.

I created the darks by adding more layers of lightly applied graphite rather than by pressing harder with the pencil. I find that creating darks this way gives them much more subtlety and life. Pressing too hard will damage the surface of the paper and gives a very flat dark. This particular portrait with it's wonderful design elements and strong value contrast would make a lovely painting. I certainly plan to try this at some point.

P.S. I would love to have some comments. Just click on the 'comments' link below this post. Another window will open and chose 'Comment as > anonymous', write your comment, then click 'post comment' and that's all there is to it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Understanding Acrylic with Brent Laycock

My wife and I have a video production company, WhitePine Productions. We are very proud to produce the finest art instruction videos in Western Canada. Our latest video is Understanding Acrylics with Brent Laycock. Brent is one of Canada's most original landscape painters. His vibrant and deeply personal work is instantly recognizable and he has received the highest possible national recognition . Contact us for more information or to order copies of Brent's DVD.

Collaboration With Jean Pederson

I've just completed collaborating with Jean Pederson on her excellent Farm Fragments Installation at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. I was there for the opening on Sunday, Sept 19. The exhibition includes paintings, collages, installations and objects illustrating life on the farm going back over 100 years. I created a video that complemented Jean's vision. It was an enjoyable challenge to combine images of abandoned farms with interviews of people who grew up on these farms. The audio track also included many nature sounds that I recorded. It was a very creative project that allowed me to stretch out videographically, so to speak.

The exhibition continues at the Red Deer Museum and will, hopefully, be travelling to other locations in Canada. If you are in the area definitely stop by to view it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Plein Air Lake Of The Woods

I just got back from an incredible time at our cabin on Lake of the Woods. I had just a couple of days to do some plein air painting. This was one of the pieces I finished, a view just beside our cabin. I enjoyed the interplay of the dark rocks and reflections with the very subdued water. I also tried to paint the rocks with out resorting to my usual habit of mixing ultramarine blue and burnt sienna to make the grays that were every where in the rocks. Instead I mixed quinacridone rose and thalo green to get what I thought was a very attractive gray. This mix was further modified in places with some yellow and in other places with some blue. I was very pleased with the value range and the composition and as always plein air paintings just seem to acquire a greater feeling of spontaneity and directness.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time For A Break

I'm posting this older image because I'm coming to appreciate it more and more. With watercolour, the first wash is the best opportunity to get luminance and freshness into a painting. I enjoy the fresh feeling that I get from this image.

I'm also using this image to give me a chance to pause. I will be away from any computer for a few weeks.
Until I get back
may the force be with you.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dealing With Darks

What I enjoyed about this studio version of a plein air sketch of the Vermillion Lakes at Banff is the richness and variety of values and colours in the dark shape of the distant trees. There was a freedom in the application of paint in this area. I also enjoy the sense of light entering from the right especially in the grassy area between the water and the darker green trees. The darks in a painting really make the lights stand out. Paintings start to find their voice when there is a full range of values.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Converging On Banff

This is the studio version of the previous plein air study. It's tidier than the plein air study but that doesn't necessarily mean it's better. Having said that I feel that it works very well both compositionally and in terms of the colour. As a friend said, "(It) is nice and fresh."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Banff Plein Air

I took a painting trip to Banff yesterday and it was just wonderful. It took me back to my last period of intense plein air painting when I went out every morning and did a 2 hour painting and then another 2 hour painting in the afternoon. In Banff I did this painting in about 1 and a half hours in the morning. I had visited this spot and taken photos a month ago. I'd even worked out a value study but to be there plein air and to be in the moment is something special.

As I drove away I noticed this second scene about 40 metres from the first one. I felt compelled to stop and do a second painting. The feeling of immediacy when painting on location can't be duplicated in the studio. It was just a rapid fire process: observe, make a decision and apply paint.
After this experience I avoided asking myself the obvious question - why don't I do this more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


This is the third in a series of large format irises. In this one I wanted a light back ground with the value contrasts in the flower itself. The original background was done in watercolour and got too dark. I used acrylic to white out the entire background and do a new one in acrylic. So this painting is a true mixed media, half watercolour and half acrylic and I'm very pleased with the painting. I think they get along well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Value Study

Lately, I've started painting in acrylic again. I'm interested in exploring using acrylic in a watercolour style since I love the effect of paint and water but also want the ability of adding lights over darks and acrylic seems like it might fit in with this approach very nicely. I'm also being very consistent in doing preparatory work for each new painting and this is a value study of a scene of a little creek just on the edge of the Banff town site. This is the next image I want to tackle.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Case For Experimenters

I've just read another very interesting book by Malcolm Gladwell. He writes of everyday events and processes and makes us look at them in a very different way. The piece I just read was comparing different styles that painters can follow. He points out the example of Pablo Picasso who burst on the scene at about age 20, as a fully formed new voice. His new vision captured the public imagination immediately and he experienced financial and critical acclaim right away. He also did some of his best work early on. Gladwell contrasts this with the group that he calls 'experimenters'. These artists, and his example is Paul Cezanne, take years and years of experimenting and struggle before they finally clarify their vision and achieve their own voice. This analogy caught my attention because I am definitely an experimenter. I have to play with ideas and seemingly take many detours and deadends before I finally achieve the ability to say what I want with my own voice. This is one reason I'm enjoying revisiting some of my earlier paintings. Since I originally did them I've studied lots, practiced lots, made lots of mistakes and figured some things out. But through it all there has been progress and I see things now that I wasn't ready to see earlier. This painting from the Lake Of The Woods is a perfect example. The only thing that remains from the original is the main rock. The beauty of Gladwell's observations is that though very different neither approach is 'better' or more valid than the other they are just different. We just need to stay true to our own journey and that way we can't lose.

Central United

I've always really liked this image of downtown Calgary from a different perspective. This began as a fairly tepid painting then was left for over a year. Inspired by the class I've just completed I did a major reworking, feeling much freer. As a result of this it is beginning to develop it's own story.

If you want any information about any of the paintings or would like to purchase one please contact me at this link.