Monthly Archives: May 2011

Creating Light Without Masking

As I’ve mentioned I’m working my way through and excellent book by Nita Engle on experimental watercolour techniques.  I love the effects she gets.  My one reservation is her extensive use of masking fluid.  I dislike using it because it ruins brushes, leaves very hard edges and it limits the painting to what was drawn and masked out.  It precludes the ability to go with what’s happening on the paper and restricts you to that original vision.  I guess I’m just not a fan.  Anyway I wanted to see if I could capture a similar sense of light without any masking.  This image is the result.  What I enjoyed about it was pushing that first overall wash as far as I could before I let it dry.  This was basically finished the first time by monitoring the wetness of the paper and adding darker, sharper edged shapes as the paper dried.  I’m not sure about the hard edged lighter reflection in the water.  I really liked it at first but now I’m still deciding.

Forest Lights
4″ X 9″

Reflections Of Quiller

I’m giving a workshop to the Redwood Painters next week.  The theme of the workshop is Quillerisms.   Stephen Quiller  was my first artistic inspiration.  I loved his use of colour, his subject matter and his style. Two years ago I took a workshop with him in his studio in Creede, Colorado.  It was an incredible experience.  Anyway, I very much appreciate being able to revisit that experience and to work on it 2 years down the road.  This image is my version of his first demo to us.  A scene with aspen.  I knew he was well known for his paintings of aspen and I was interested to see how he did it.  I was very surprised when he flooded the entire sheet of paper with a beautiful mix of yellows, oranges, blues and violets.  He lifted out extensively and created big shapes that were almost back to white paper and used these to create the colourful aspen.  I had never seen anyone use this extensive lifting out as such a integral part of his painting process.  The benefit to working this way is that when you do the background wash you only have to concentrate on it.  You don’t have worry about painting around shapes or using masking fluid. The challenge  is that you lose that sparkle of pure white paper.  Quiller solved this by adding gouache at the end to bring back some lights.

This image was done in his style, using the same process including adding gouache at the end.  I am very pleased with it because it has a great sense of unity to it.  I like the colours and I like the way that you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at.  You have to move around it a bit to get what’s going on.

More Experimental Watercolour Techniques

I recently mentioned a book by Nita Engle that I’m studying at the moment.  It is a more experimental approach to watercolour.  This image uses one of the techniques she has in the book.  For this image I cut some matte board with a razor blade to create a semi abstract pine tree shape.  I then printed it randomly on the paper and used my spray bottle to encourage the top of the trees to bleed upwards.  I used primarily thalo turquoise and quinacridone rose.  I did it over a couple of days and after the second day the image just came alive.  Totally out of my comfort zone but extremely enjoyable.

8″ X 5″

An Experimental Bouquet

I’m reading a book on experimental techniques in watercolour by Nita Engle.  I’m finding her approach fascinating.  She uses some techniques that are more commonly seen in a mixed medium approach but she primarily uses the water in ways that take her work to another level.  Her approach to a painting begins with about half an hour in which she is just playing with the water, throwing paint, spraying it out etc.  Then she lets it dry and very carefully completes the painting in a more traditional way, integrating this wild beginning into her vision.   I’ve just discovered her book, ‘How To Make A Watercolor Paint Itself: Experimental Techniques For Achieving Realistic Effects’ at the right time because I also want to take my watercolour painting in a more spontaneous direction.  I’m practicing some of her techniques.  This image just began as yellow and red wash that had quite and interesting abstract pattern.  I lived with this for a few days and began to see some leaves in it.  I took a couple more days to further develop this  concept.   I wanted it to be very light and colourful but it was made more colourful by adding the thalo turquoise background in a negative painting manner.  I’ve submitted this image for the Clothesline Sale at the Leighton Centre next Sunday.


11″ X 4 “

Courageous Watercolour With Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon

This is the latest video from our company, WhitePine Productions.  In it, Eleanor shares her secrets for creating her extremely popular, vibrant, and unique watercolours.  She also shows how she is able to frame her watercolour paintings without glass.  This is a must see for all watercolour painters since it expands our understanding of the limits of watercolour painting.

Visit our site WhitePine Videos to see previews of all our DVD’s and for ordering information.  Feel free to contact us directly for more information or for ordering.  In Calgary be sure to call us to save on shipping charges.


Revisiting With Gouache

I used to consider using gouache in a watercolour process was for fixing mistakes or correcting sections.  I always found that the result unsatisfactory.  I’ve since learned that if you want to mix watercolour and gouache the gouache must be an integral part of the painting.  Let it’s particular qualities work for you.  With gouache, because it’s  an opaque medium, light reflects off the surface of the paint not off the surface of the paper as happens with transparent watercolour.   So it has it’s own look and if you want it to look like watercolour you’ll be disappointed.  But if you accept it for what it is then you open yourself up to a new world of beauty and possibilities.   It can bring new light to a watercolour painting as you now can add lights over darks.  But to work it has to integrated throughout the painting not just in one isolated spot.  This image was a straight watercolour and I liked it but it wasn’t a wow painting.  I’ve reworked it with gouache and feel that it has a more dramatic and focused impact.

Cascade Moutain
watercolour & gouache
12″ X 12″

Courageous Watercolour With Eleanor Lowden Pidgeon


This is a preview clip for our latest art instructional video.  It shows how Eleanor, one of Calgary’s most popular artists achieves her unique, bold, bright and beautiful colour.   As a bonus she demonstrates how she waxes her paintings so they can be framed without glass.  She also demonstrates how she mounts her paper on gatorboard.  Loaded with excellent content and featuring the quality technical values you can expect in all WhitePine Videos.

Along with my wife, Susan, we have a video production company, WhitePine Productions.  We are being to focus our productions more and more on art instructional videos since it combines our love of video and art.

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Iris Alternate Take

While preparing for my recent demo at Cactus Art I did a number of small studies.  This was one of them and I’ve come to like it.  That mass on the lower left which has been unresolved in most versions is still that way but I like the spontaneous nature of the washes in that area.

Portrait – Take Two

For my Mastering Colour class I just completed a portrait of Grey Owl.  (available on the video clips page)   That portrait was created by teasing the face out of a dark, blue background.  I wanted to demonstrate another portrait that used more life like colours.  Because I also want to video tape the painting of this portrait and put it on the web site Art Instruction Blog, I chose an image from one of my own photographs.  I chose to work with a self portrait which I had previously painted in the class I took with Sharon Williams.  I felt a certain comfort level with it since I had painted this image before.  But as it goes in painting, the piece took a different direction very early in the process.  It had a much stronger value pattern than the first version.  (See above).  Since the face had this greater value range I felt that the background needed to be stronger also. This has made it into a very different take than the first version  but I feel that it works.  I’m reminded, once again, of the words of Stephen Quiller – Listen to the painting! For better or worse that’s what I did with this piece.