Monthly Archives: January 2012

Thoughts On Using Darks

I just discovered a new watercolourist whose work I find so exciting.  His name is Thomas Schaller (  He is a master of the dramatic composition and also a master of dark values.  I found his work particularly interesting because I still struggle with the dark values.  I struggle in that I use too much of the darkest values and the problem with that is there is no where to go once you’ve laid down an intense dark.  In Schaller’s work I get the sense of a lot of darks but he actually varies the value so that there is less of the darkest value.  You perceive that it’s darker than it is.  This idea really came to mind from the painting I posted a couple of days ago.  It’s a great idea but it’s just too much dark.  In order to better understand darks and to develop a more subtle use of darks I copied one of Schaller’s paintings, a scene under a bridge in New York City.  This was a wonderful way to understand how he is doing it.  What I learned from this exercise is to say more with less.

I’m posting the painting I did that I feel over uses the darks and my version of Schaller’s painting which has a more restrained use of darks.

Determining Value In Plein Air Painting

I’m very pleased to be at the point where I’m starting to understand this value thing in a plein air situation.  It’s a case of when you’re ready your ears open to the message.  I’m hearing so much now in books and DVD’s to squint and analyze the value pattern that you’re actually seeing.  Then make the artistic determination of how to organize that value pattern to best get across your message.

I was just at the Second Cup at Signal Hill.  It’s not a particularly scenic location but I just zeroed in on the value pattern and all of a sudden I saw the scene in a slightly new way.  I did a quick thumbnail and it was easy to identify the values when I’m working with pencil.  When I tried the same thing with paint in my sketch book it took considerably more thought to capture the same value pattern when I was working with colour.  So I had to go over the darker sections a few times which takes away from the spontaneity of the colour but at least I got the correct value in the end.  So what was going on in my mind during this quick little study was invaluable.

The top image was a very quick version I did in the studio.

Under A Bridge Darkly

This is a scene that we passed coming home from Edmonton on Highway 2.  I really like the framing device of the dark railway bridge above and the landscape through it.  I’m using a strong mixture of cad orange and cad red light to try to capture the bright rusty orange of the setting sun.  I like this painting though some aspects of it still need some refining.

Happy New Year

These images were from a fun little activity that my wife, Susan, and I did last night.  It began with just squirting paint on the paper and then we switched paintings with each other did a little more then switched again.  So at no point, especially in the beginning, did we really know what we were doing and that was the most interesting aspect of the activity.  What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  The answer is you do something.  Just put another mark on the paper and so on until the image starts to identify itself.  Susan, in particular, found it frustrating at first because she wanted to know what she was supposed to do.  But by just keeping at it in the end something emerges.

Downtown Calgary, Plein Air

Rex Beanland, Downtown Plein Air, watercolour, 9 x 12













This is the view from one of the only free parking spots that is close to the downtown area.  It’s part of the redevelopment zone for the Calgary Stampede so I imagine it will be gone at some point.

In any case it affords a neat view of the office buildings in the downtown core.

I quite like the smoke effect.  It was done using Chinese White.  In my plein air painting I find I use Chinese White a lot more because I can’t afford to take the time to paint around shapes.  I need to concentrate on the composition and value pattern and trying to make my washes interesting.