Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tapestry - A Collaborative Effort

This is a little fun piece.  When I began playing with acrylic a few weeks ago I was once again practicing colour mixing by making swatches of colour.  (I can't believe how many fun and creative works I've done that began as simple colour swatches.  I think it is because when I'm doing colour swatches I'm only concerned with the colour and my actual brush stroke is completely spontaneous.  Then when I look at the shape of the swatch I start to see all sorts of possibilities in the shape.)  Anyway, this was some acrylic colours splashed on a paper.  My wife, Susan, as she often does takes these little practices or knock offs and goes over them with marker.  Many of them are brought to a new life by her application of ink.  This was one that she turned into a real work of art with a story of it's own.

Acrylic & Ink

14" X  2"

For information contact me at this link.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Still In The Shed

Someone asked what is wood shedding.  It's actually a term from the jazz world where players retreated to some space and just worked non stop on their playing.  It's a period of intense learning.  I've heard that the great Charlie Parker in one of his first forays into playing with a band was so embarrassed when the band kept changing keys.  He had learned everything in just one key.  Anyway, he turned his frustration into motivation to take a year or so to just practice and learn all about his instrument.  He emerged a much more confident and fully formed musician.  My recent emphasis has been similar though not as prolonged.  For the last 3 weeks I've put the watercolour away and just practiced everything I could think of in  acrylic.  I'm now starting to understand it more and  I feel the beginning of a feeling of confidence.

This image is another of Yarnell's atmospheric paintings.  I love that misty background.  It's too early to say the word but I could see how this acrylic thing could become 'fun' down the road.  Confidence grows by having more techniques under my belt and being able to think more concretely about how to proceed with a painting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Channelling Yarnell

I've been reading one of Jerry Yarnell's many books.  He is a TV & DVD teacher who really simplifies acrylic painting to fit into his TV episodes but he has a lot of interesting techniques.  This is a version of one of his images.  It's done in an opaque style.  Applying the acrylic paint was fairly enjoyable this time and by the second day of working on it I was starting to feel comfortable.  I think of everything I've read in the last week the thought that stays with me is not to  think of acrylic as a form of watercolour.  It's a different medium and requires different thinking.  I realize that when I have tried acrylic in the past I kept looking to match the wonderful blending of colours, wet in wet, that you get with watercolour.  Acrylic isn't as much fun at least not for me , yet.  Another very interesting thing I'm experiencing is using the same colour theory I've worked on in watercolour and transposing it to opaque acrylic.  Colour mixing is a different feel when working with acrylic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills

This portrait of King Tut's burial mask is again a sample for the people taking Basic Drawing Skills.  I really enjoy the graphic nature of this portrait with all the details of the head dress framing the face and leading the eye into the subject.  There are a number of changes I made to the reference material in order to make it a better work of art.  I've downplayed the value of the entire image around the edges.  This serves to lead the eye right into the picture.  I've also changed the value of the reference material to create the greatest contrast (centre of interest) at the eyes.  Again this is done to draw the eye of the viewer to the eyes which are the most important area.  Also in this portrait they aren't shadows as much as they are reflections since the original is made of gold.  This is noted particularly with the dark bands reflected onto the cheeks.  This image is a suggestion for one way to approach the shading.

Double click the image to see a larger version.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills

This drawing is one of the introductory activities in my Basic Drawing Skills class.  It's a way to practice the proportion of the face.  After the drawing is done the second part of the assignment involves shading it.  I've posted this image just to offer one way to do the shading.  I've left the shading fairly simple so the strokes are clearly visible.  In general I'm using strokes that follow the contour of the face.  There was no smudging used in this picture.  If this was a real portrait I would take the shading to a more finished level by applying more layers.  For most of my life I used the smudging technique which  produces a beautiful soft look.  I now use this modified cross hatching method mainly because it's faster.  It's also a lot of fun getting into the quick rhythm of applying the strokes.  I guess ultimately it feels  a lot like the process of painting but using a pencil.

If you double click the image you'll see an enlarged version where the shading strokes are more visible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Still In The Wood Shed

I'm working my way through some books on acrylic painting.  I've come across an artist William Hook who I was unfamiliar with but  I find his opaque approach to acrylic to be very interesting.  This image is one of his that I just love.  I'm trying to work out how he painted it.  This is just the barest approximation of his painting.  Coming from watercolour which, for me, has the most enjoyable process for applying paint, I'm struggling with the plastic feeling of the acrylic.  But as I step back I can just see some of the potential that this image holds.  I believe that if I just commit to doing it that I'll be able to reach a level of satisfaction and possibly even fun with opaque acrylic.  I do notice how important the areas of neutral tone are to make the colourful sections really stand out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wood Sheddin'

I've decided to take some time to just play, practice and experiment with acrylic. Over the years  I've done a number of paintings in acrylic and some very nice ones but I've never been master of acrylic technique like I have with watercolour.  In fact it's often been a love / hate relationship.  Sometimes acrylic is a lot of fun and other times I'm really fighting the paint.  I've just taken a whole bunch of books on acrylic out of the library and I'm doing some practices from examples I see in them. One thought that I've read in a couple of books is that it's best not to look at acrylic like watercolour or oil and not to try to mimic your techniques in those media with your technique in acrylic.  In other words learn what acrylic does best for you.  These images are my first studies.  The only rule I was following was to have little or no water on the brush.  So this is paint straight out of the tube with some mixing and some white. Coming from a watercolour background working opaquely like this is still something I'm still getting used to.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Return Of The Blob People

This image was just the result of playing around.  I'm going  to concentrate for a while on painting with  casein and in this case I was just trying to explore mixing darks with a palette of  some green, ultramarine blue, yellow, cobalt blue and cerulean blue.  I would make a mix of some combination trying to make it as rich a dark as possible then I made swatches of the various mixtures on paper.  When I looked, one of these swatches looked a bit like a person so I then played with that idea and turned each of them into a person.  The purer, brighter colours that I painted between these darks just started to sing when surrounded by the neutrals.  It was a lot of fun and the first time I've done anything solely with casein.  I usually use it as an addiction to my acrylic paintings.  The title refers to a much earlier post with a painting called The Blob People.

14" x  4"

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Cottages, BC

This studio version of an earlier post is a painting that came together very quickly.  I like the strength of the blue orange colours.  I was also very pleased with the mountains.  I like the way they definitely stay in the background but they do have a nice feel to them as objects in their own right.

18" X 24"

For information on this painting contact me at this link.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Cottages, BC (Study)

On the way home from our Christmas trip to Kelowna we passed these cottages just south of Sicamous.  I loved the orange trees against the winter landscape.  It's also another chance to do reflections in watercolour which is where the medium is at it's best.  I like the casualness of this piece.

12" x  8"

For information about this or any other painting contact me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Make It About What It's About

An idea I heard at the Stephen Quiller workshop I took 2 summers ago was, 'make the painting about what it's about'.  To me, this meant, identify the main idea of the painting and emphasize that.  A few days ago I posted an image, Cascade.  When I lived with that image I came to realize that the main idea was the interplay of the colourful tree and the more muted background.  A lot of the original image, particularly the left side of the painting wasn't really adding anything to the painting.  This cropped version of that image is, I feel, much stronger.

For information about this or any other painting contact me.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Morning Mountains (Studio Version)

I'm very pleased with the colour harmony in this picture.  The dark brownish colour is a mixture of cad red light and either permanent green light or viridian.  It makes a lovely brownish hue and certainly makes the cad red light of the mountains stand out even more.  It also guarantees that there will be harmony between the mountains and the trees.  I started a few months ago working with a much more limited palette, basically a warm and cool of each primary with a few extra colours.  This forces me to mix colours and it's in the mixing that I'm learning what each colour is about.  This approach to colour is the basis of my new class Basic Drawing Skills Pt 2: Colour.  It's all about mastering your palette and with too many choices it's very hard to learn the properties of any particular colour.

Morning Mountains
18" x  24"

For information on this or any other painting contact me.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cascade (Studio Version)

This is a studio version of this mountain scene from just outside Banff.  It's a motif I quite enjoy and I think there may be some more versions in the future.  I like the monumentality of it.  I think the composition may need a little further refinement.  I'm really excited about the possibilities of mixing watercolour and gouache.  I love the spontaneity of watercolour and then having the potential to add some lights over the darks with gouache is very freeing.

watercolour & gouache
18" x   18"

For information about this or any other painting contact me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Morning Mountains

This is a view is see fairly frequently as I take my morning walk along 37th St. I love the pink in the mountains. Yesterday, when I saw them I quickly came home, got the camera, took a picture and did this study. Each time I walk into the studio and see it it takes me right back to that morning. The pink I used was a combination of cad red light with a little titanium white watercolour which is an opaque pigment. I washed this pink over various areas of the painting. The brownish colour is my new favourite mix: red & green. A wash of blue covered the snow.

11" x 5 1/2"

For information on this or any other painting please contact me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back Alley Series

This image is from a series on back alleys that I did during the big snow fall we had a couple of winters ago. I just up dated it recently. I like the two wet tire tracks that lead right up the painting to the couple at the top. They were a left over from my romantic period. This painting was updated with a much bolder use of colour. I enjoy cityscapes and I particularly like scenes with a different point of view. In this image it's the juxtaposition of Calgary's rich public face and then the other side of Calgary.

Calgary, Looking Up
14" x 11"

For information on this or any other painting contact me right here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


This image is one that I am developing for my new art class called Basic Drawing Skills Pt2: Colour. I was attracted to the composition and the sense of majesty. I've analyzed it to have a full range of values. Value 1, the lightest, is the entire snow covered highest block of mountains. Value 2 is the next shape down, the larger darker rock band plus the lowest and closest rock face at the bottom of the page. The tree line on that lower rock face is a value 3. Then the lone tree is the value 4 ie the darkest and most intense colours. I helped me to just keep those values in mind. I tried to add other colours to the Value 1 shape but I kept saying, "It has to stay a very light value".

I really getting excited to actually start teaching this class in the spring.

9" x 9"

For information about this or any other painting contact me here.