Monthly Archives: June 2011

Winner Of Painting

I recently ran a contest in conjunction with my video clips.  Anyone who commented on one of the videos was entered into a draw for a painting.  The response was absolutely great, much more than I expected.  The winner was Laurie McDonald.  Here she is pictured receiving her painting.

New Video Lesson

This is the image I produced in my latest video instruction clip.  The video is available at this link This is very loosely based on a scene from Cameron Lake in Waterton Park.  I’ve posted a number of images of it.  It’s really an opportunity to try to put to use as many as possible of the new, experimental techniques that I’ve been learning.  I’m still working to integrate them into my process and what I like the most so far is that it makes me step back a little with regard to control.  Over half of this picture was painted with out using a brush in the conventional way at all.  It’s freeing me up from little over worked brush strokes that I sometimes (like frequently) use.  This image was done with a very limited palette using mostly cad yellow medium, cad red light and thalo turquoise.  There are also trace amounts of quinacridone rose and dioxyzine purple.  This gives it a colour unity and overall colour scheme that I like.  It’s probably too busy but for now I’ll just live with that.

Plein Air Again

This is a little study I did yesterday at a wetland just off 22x.  It was a wonderful morning.  We were there by 7:30 am and spent 3 hours just caught up in all the bird life that lives in this wetland. It’s almost like watching a movie as the various species go about their lives (very loudly as it happens).  We also saw a muskrat building a den in the base of a clump of trees.

I was taken by this image of the base of some trees as they entered the water.  It was a world of shadows removed from the sunlight.

Plein Air

I just spent a very pleasant day plein air painting with Sharon Williams and Jan Chalupnicek.  We were just one intersection west of 37th St and 22x.  It was a beautiful spot with a large wet land and a great deal of bird life squawking amongst the bull rushes.  All that and the mountains in the background.

One of the challenges with plein air painting is simplifying the scene and making any changes necessary to create a well composed painting.  I find that developing this ability is an on going process.  An example of this in practice is the image of the pond and the mountains.  The white tops of the mountains stand out clearly but the lower half of the mountains is a dark band of the foothills.  These foot hill shapes were actually quite dull and added nothing to the painting.  I recognize that now but in the moment I thought it was necessary to depict them.  Next time I would do something different with them such as: leave them out, dramatically change their colour or anything that will make them more interesting.

The image of the sky was just a fun painting that I did quickly just before I left.  It was all about playing with the dramatic dark clouds.

Icy Stream

This is a winter wonderland type scene that we encountered just off the TransCanada Hwy just east of Revelstoke.  It was a spectacular glimpse of a world encased in hoar frost.  I’ve loved the photo for a long time but this is my first attempt to paint it.  What I have discovered is that I need some watercolour technique that would represent the frost covered bushes.  It’s too delicate a shape to be satisfactorily rendered using a brush.  I tried here to use a pouring type technique which was somewhat successful.  Also the subtle value shifts  that are so common in this image need, paradoxically, require more attention than broader value contrasts.

Plein Air Griffiths Woods

I was wandering around the bush at Griffith Woods and came upon this scene.  I did a quick sketch on location and did this study from that sketch as soon as I got back to the studio.  It really captures the feeling of the place for me.  I wanted the background to recede and to be very muted in order to make the mid ground stand out.  I think that worked rather well.  The actual spot was a multitude of greens so I tried to recognize any other colours that were present and emphasize them so I added some pale reds and oranges.  I’m particularly happy with the masses of grass in the foreground.  In the past I’ve tried various approaches to capture a large shape that is  actually a mass of individual blades of grass.  This approach was similar to how to represent hair.  We know that a head of hair is made up of thousands of individual strands but in painting it we need to show the big shapes and to just hint at the detail of individual hairs. In this image the detail of these grasses is mostly evident in the edges where the grass meets the water.

Griffith Woods
14″ X 12″

Lake Reflections

This image is pure practice of some new ways to approach watercolour.  It was done in stages with drying time between them.  It also involved using mask which I have talked about in a number of previous posts.  It think I went a little far in amount and value of the colours I used to describe the main mass of the land in the mid ground. I’m not sure about the use of thalo turquoise in the water but I love the smoothness and reflections in the water.  I used my trusty toothbrush to lift out that bright area in the mid ground trees just near the centre.  That gave a new sense of light to the trees which helped the composition tremendously.  I also like the second strip of land and the faint cerulean hill between this and the sky.  This subject matter is something I’m very familiar with from our cabin on Lake Of The Woods.  Again this summer I will be spending 3 weeks down there and I look forward to interpreting this ubiquitous landscape with new eyes.

For information on this or any other painting contact me.

Plein Air

On Friday I went plein air painting in Fish Creek Park.  I love to paint on location but I’m not wild about travelling long distances so I generally stay pretty close to home and it was nice to go a little further and visit an area that I’m not too familiar with, Fish Creek.  I was very excited to try to put to use some of the new techniques I have been exploring lately.  I was immediately faced with 2 of my main plein air challenges.  The first being that search for the perfect composition.   I love being amongst all the trees and the rushing creek but it’s almost overwhelming to identify a ‘scene’ to paint.  Knowing that there is hardly ever a ready made perfect composition, I looked for a view that offered a lot of contrast.  I found a view across the creek with a rocky shore mostly in shadow but with a couple of paths of light created by the morning sun.  Behind this foreground was a  patch of very bright green, sunlit grass, then a band of the blazing white Bow River and a far shore of muted blues and greens with just hints of detail.  I thought this was a good scene.  The next challenge was to simplify the profusion of trees I was seeing in the fore, mid and background.  A quick sketch helped me make a bit of sense of the whole thing.  This is the image that resulted.  As I look at it I think I could have simplified and organized the trees even more to create a more focused composition.  I used my more experimental approach to create the texture of the foreground which was just a mass of largish rocks.  I like that.  I also like the light path that leads the eye into the composition.  I chose to leave out the creek.

When I got home I thought I could improve the composition and did a second version which I think improved the design of the trees but I’m not sure it actually improved the painting.  This shows, once again, that something special is often imparted to a painting done on location: a spontaneity or feeling that just seems to happen and is so hard to capture in the studio.

Cameron Pond Two

This is my second version of a scene from Cameron Lake in Waterton Park.  I really like the sense of light that emanates from the background.  The vertical reflections in the water create a very serene mood.  I used some of the more experimental watercolour techniques that I’ve been playing with lately.  The painting really came to life when I added the very dark trees in the foreground.  I didn’t use black but a very rich mixture of Quin Magenta and thalo turquoise.  I also applied these darks with a palette knife.  Most of the smaller branches were actually painted using an 8″ twig off the tree in our front yard.  I dipped it in paint and then held it right at the end and let it twitch around and it creates a fairly lifelike branch.

Cameron Pond 2
watercolour 9″ X 12″