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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills - Profile #2

This second profile is of a woman who seems to possess a great deal of happiness and wholesomeness.  I found that this profile with her looking down presented a significant challenge.  I really enjoy the fact that because of the sequential build up of skills that we have experienced this portrait was just another challenge and everyone handled it very calmly.  It's the first portrait where the area of greatest contrast is not the eyes.  This forces the viewer to go first to the highlight on the cheek and then carry on to the eyes.  The flowers in the hair add interest and a secondary centre of interest.  The hair is also a change to just let go and create some rhythm and excitement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Woman In Profile

This portrait began as a pencil sketch for my Basic Drawing Skills class.  I just didn't feel like shading the entire background in with pencil so I threw some watercolour on it.  I liked that but then the pencil work seemed a little overwhelmed by the paint so I painted right over all the pencil shading.  I really liked that but unfortunately I had just done it on regular paper so I redid it on watercolour paper.  This is that image.  Two things that interested me were to have the greatest contrast (light against dark) not on the eyes but on the cheek.  The second was to create some interesting rhythm in the hair.  After I had painted the hair I did some calligraphic strokes with white gouache.  I like the energy but I'm still deciding if those white strokes are too strong and overpower the actual subject.  The beauty of following through on ideas that come to me (like the white strokes) is that now I can live with them and the painting will reveal if they are too much.

Happy Thoughts
8.5" X 11"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Coming Down From The High Country

I've been working on this image for a while.  It came from our trip last Oct to Waterton National Park.  We were advised to 'be at the flats' at 6 pm because they thought the elk would be coming down from the mountains to their resting area.  We, along with quite a few others waited and did see some elk.   The painting  began with a really fast, wet  acrylic wash which established all the shapes and values.  All the rest of the time has been working completely opaquely and trying to refine that initial wash.  The only reference was a small colour study in my sketch book so I had to invent the shapes in the mountains.  I'm finding that I enjoy the watercolour approach to acrylic a lot and that I haven't yet found the same comfort level when working acrylic opaquely.

Coming Down From The High Country
30" X 12"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills - William Haines

William Haines was an actor from silent movie era.  This is our first profile.  Profiles are a little more challenging because the symmetry that makes a frontal portrait easy is missing in profile.  I like the value pattern on this profile with the highlights along the edge of the forehead, nose, lower lip and chin.  Getting the shape of a nose in profile is often difficult.  Sometimes it helps to use the concept of  'negative space' to get the right shape for the facial features.  The lighting of this portrait is very engaging.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Acrylic As Watercolour

I'm still painting exclusively in acrylic but this image seemed to call for a watercolour type approach.  The image was from our trip to Kelowna at Christmas time.  Just between Revelstoke and Golden we turned off the highway and went down this back road into a real winter wonderland.  These trees covered in hoar frost were an exciting image and I thought a very wet in wet underpainting would be the way to capture the frosty tree shapes.  I feel that this particular technique was fairly effective in capturing the feeling I was going for.  This is a study that I intend to lead to a larger studio painting.

12" X 8"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spontaneous Mark Making

I've mentioned before that I've found it a very creative experience to just start making marks on the paper without any preplanning or preliminary drawing. The only artist I know that does this consistently is Brent Laycock.  Interestingly his work has a look that is unlike almost anyone else.  For me this spontaneity comes when I'm practicing mixing colours and just putting swatches on the paper to see the colour .  Because I'm focused on something else (the colour mixtures) the marks themselves are completely spontaneous.  This image was done that way.  This is only the second image I've done  using just casein.  I began with random swatches which became the 3 groups of people.  Everything else was just playing around those marks and it ended up as a middle eastern image.  Unfortunately, I did over work the image a bit but it was still fun and definitely different for me.


12" X 10"

For information contact me at this link.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Basic Drawing Skills - Sylvia Sidney

I have to admit that I hadn't heard of Sylvia Sidney.  She was a actress in the late 1920's and 1930's.  She worked a lot with Alfred Hitchcock.  She often played the penniless girl.  She certainly has a bit of that look to her.  But quite intriguing anyway.  Again this drawing is a example  of one way of doing this portrait for the people in the Basic Drawing Skills class.  I'm enjoying the shading style that I'm using.  I look at the shading as  painting with a pencil.  I generally do an underpainting with a light layer of shading and then I go in and add a second, third layer to create the darks.  I think one reason that she has this vulnerable look is that her eyes are wider apart than the 'normal'.  The challenge here was the hair mostly because it was so difficult to see in the reference material.  I've erased some highlights to create a little interest in their.  If I were to take more time I would work mostly on the hair.  I love the right eyebrow (her left).  I used the kneadable eraser to blot out a bit of the eye brow which lines up with a highlight just below it and gives a neat effect of light hitting there.  I feel that I did capture her vulnerability.