I went out this Sunday when it was completely overcast and a bit snowy. I ended up in Springbank and came upon this particular scene. I love the atmospheric effect of the low visibility caused by snow and low light conditions. Things seem to melt into the distance. I brought my plein air painting kit but unfortunately, I had forgotten my palette so I did a fairly detailed sketch and came home and did the top version. I like it but I felt that the scene required an even narrower format so I then I did version 2.
Snowy Day In Springbank 1
23 X 12
Snowy Day In Springbank 2
23 X 7.5
This week we spent an afternoon around the Leighton Centre. It’s a fairly large format (18″ X 24″) for me. I’ve been doing a lot of painting related to my teaching lately and it’s all been in small format paintings mostly 9″ X 12″. So it was a bit of a challenge yet I was working to a deadline so I just had to get on with it. There are some neat watercolour effects in it such as the bushes especially with the calligraphic strokes. Also the negative painting under the deck created some nice grasses. I also like the deck and the grass in front. On the side of what I would like to change I think I would lighten the shadow over the front.
This painting is the one my wife, Susan, did. She chose to look in a different direction and captured a very nice subject. I like her confident use of colour. For both of us plein air painting is about the experience of being there, the sights, the sounds and the painting is about collecting information not creating a masterpiece. There’s nothing like it
These images came from our trip out to the Leighton Centre the other day. On the way back my wife and I took one of the side roads and just picked a spot to stop where we could pull to the side of the road and then we tried to find what subjects were there. I enjoy the challenge of trying to make something out of whatever is available.
The bottom image is the plein air sketch that I did. I think it made the most of the particular scene. When I got home I noticed right away that there was an issue with the values. Not enough value contrast. Also I tried to include too much of what was actually there just because it was there. When I looked at it the next day I made some changes to the composition to try to get to the essence of the subject. The top image is the one I did in the studio the next day. As always plein air painting is always a great learning experience.
For me plein air painting is about the experience of being there, the sights, the sounds and about collecting information. For me it’s not about a beautiful finished painting. There’s nothing like it.
The top image is the result of my interest in the work of Nita Engle. She is an American watercolourist famous for using experimental techniques to create realistic effects in watercolour. I love the work she does and the effects she is able to get by throwing paint, using special tools and really playing with the water. She also has a way of stretching the paper that ensures that it won’t buckle at all. My one hesitation with her process is her extensive use of mask. In some paintings she ends up covering almost half the paper with mask and on large works that is a lot of mask. She also takes ages to finish a painting because of all the steps involved and the drying time between stages. In this image I followed her process entirely including stretching the paper and masking out all the snow and all the highlights in the background. Doing it this way does free you up to get more spontaneous mixing in the water and the background. This was my first attempt at using her process completely. I used an image that I’ve painted many times: the creek right at the top of Elbow Falls. I learned lots by doing it and enjoyed the attempt. The painting has some good points but overall it’s not very successful. I think I’m at my best when I paint very directly and feed off being in the moment and I get lost when I have to wait overnight to let various sections dry. Also and for me, most importantly, when using mask I get locked into the shapes I mask out before I’ve even started painting. This process doesn’t allow the chance to respond to what happens as the paint is applied.
The bottom image above is a similar scene but it was done completely in a direct manner. In this one rather than masking out the trees I lifted them out of the wet wash. I could lift them where I felt they needed to be according to what I had already painted. I added the light streaks on the ground that pass behind the trees after the painting was finished using gouache. Using this process I can add the lights where the painting needs them rather than where I thought they should go before even beginning the painting. As one of my art heros, Stephen Quiller, says frequently, ‘listen to the painting’. It will tell you what it needs.
Overall this is just part of the art journey. Explore, experiment and then keep what works for you and discard the rest. That’s what makes this such a fascinating journey for me.
I’m not sure what category this painting fits in. I was just playing with a photo I took of a pond along the Sibbald Trail. I was also trying to keep painting rather than to let things dry. I also used a little scrapper to dig in to the paper. I put the final result in the category that says, ‘interesting’.
This is the plein air sketch I did the other day. It’s the front of the same building that I’ve done 3 times already. I like this view and think it has compositional strengths. I always wonder about having a big tree right in front of the building but that’s the beauty of these sketches. The are a relatively quick way to find out if something works or doesn’t. The other issue that I wonder about is the value pattern. In this image I’m directing your eye to the side with the white paper and the colourful shadows but the drawing sets up the front to be the star of the show.
I think some more practice will help me resolve these issues.
I’ve really enjoyed working on these paintings from Currie Barracks. It seems like it’s becoming a bit of a series.
This has always been one of my favourite buildings. I believe it was originally an officer’s quarters. Now it is the home of some business. There are actually 3 of these officer’s quarters.
Again I like the shadow and the colours in the shadow. Unfortunately, I felt I had to go over it twice. The first time it just seemed too light. I prefer this value but with watercolour you lose something important when ever you re-do a wash. The hallmark freshness and spontaneity of watercolour requires we get the right value in the first wash.
Another challenge was to get the right composition. This one is OK but there is an issue with the tree on the left. I think it would be a stronger composition if it was cropped closer to the centre of the tree. Seeing little bits of background through the branches on the left edge don’t add anything and in fact probably detract from the composition.
This is version 3 of this particular building at Currie Barracks. It’s actually the sales office for all the new development of the area. The development that will probably at some point be the end of all these lovely original buildings.
This painting has some interesting points but I think I may have gone a little too far. I was interested in trying to make the blue to red large shadow even more dramatic so I began with a full strength wash of ultramarine blue. I did this on dry paper and I think that was the issue. When I added the red to the shadow it didn’t blend as much as I hoped. I think if I had pre-wet it the colours would have blended in a more natural way.
I also think that I might have gone a little heavy in the use of red in the roof. It’s a little bright for a peripheral area.
Mostly this image is what it is and I think I’ll leave it at that.
This is actually an older painting. It’s an image that I’ve always liked. The original photo that I took is an example of photograph that to my eyes didn’t need any changes. It seemed to have a great composition just as it is. The painting has evolved quite a bit over time. Particularly in the foreground. The smaller puddles in the photograph have become a little river. I’m still not sure about the foreground in terms of whether it’s too busy. The painting is about following that line to get to the buildings. This foreground, much as I like it may be too much and tend to stop the eye from moving forward.
This painting had been out of mind for quite a while and it was nice to revisit it.