Author Archives: Rex Beanland

Analyzing An Urban Landscape Photo

I recently did a painting for a FaceBook 5 day painting challenge.  It was a very new and exciting subject and I learned a lot from doing it.  This little video clip illustrates the process I went through to paint it.  It was all about visualizing it in a new way before I started to paint.  I hope you enjoy it.


Rex Beanland, Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown), watercolour, 17 x 11

Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown)
17 x 11

This is the painting and here is the video.

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Little Challenges That Help Us Grow As Artists

I recently under took one of the 5 day painting challenges that spring up on Facebook from time to time.  The idea is to post a painting a day for 5 days and get other artists involved by nominating them.  In the past I haven’t been interested in participating but when a friend from Digby, Nova Scotia nominated me I thought it would be interesting to participate.  What sold me was the thought I had that I wanted at least 3 of the 5 paintings to be brand new and done in 2 hours or less.  It turns out that I did 4 ‘one day’ paintings.

I had been in a period where I was thinking a lot about painting but not actually doing too much so the motivation to just produce was also a big factor.

Anyway the way I approached it was I went through about 3 years of photos and just chose anyone that caught my interest and put them in a separate folder.  Then I looked at just these ones and took the first one that spoke to me as the subject for the day.  Three of these were city scales which is my usual subject and one was a figure which was a stretch.

The interesting part was that I didn’t have the time to fully plan the painting out as I normally would.  I had to make up my approach very quickly.  I basically figured each one out as I went along.  There was a definite feeling of ‘I sure hope this works out’ which is just another name for fear.  My self imposed timeline didn’t allow me to waste time on this fear thing and I just did it.  Here are the 4 paintings that I did.

Rex Beanland, Stephen Ave & Centre St, watercolour, 11 x 14

Stephen Ave & Centre St
11 x 14


Rex Beanland, Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown), watercolour, 17 x 11

Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown)
17 x 11

Rex Beanland, Misty Downtown, watercolour, 12 x 12

Misty Downtown
12 x 12

Rex Beanland, Girl In The Sun, watercolour, 12 x 12

Girl In The Sun
12 x 12


















































The Stephen Ave painting was very much my usual fare but each of the other 3 was a different type of painting for me and I learned lots from doing them.

I think it was the fact that I couldn’t really think too much about what I was doing and just had to concentrate on doing it that pushed me.  I felt very pleased with each of the results. The experience also kick started my creativity and I felt considerably more confident and motivated to keep on painting as a result.

I also suggested that my wife Susan take on the same challenge and she  experienced very similar results.  It’s one little trick or technique that we can use from time to time to prime the pump as it were.

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Prairie Sunset (And Using The Magic Eraser)

This post is both to show my latest painting and also to explain a little bit about a product called Magic Eraser produced by Mr Clean.

The painting is based on a scene from Glen Eagle Casino.  I’m really pleased with it.  In fact I love it.  For years I have had the goal of making my paintings clean and simple and this is one of the few times where I feel that I have been successful.  I love the subtle yellows in the snow  and the wonderful graphic element of the tire tracks.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset, watercolour, 11 x 20

Prairie Sunset
watercolour, 11 x 20











It was based on this photo.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset








My intention was always to add that large, dark, triangular cloud but when I did I realized that it was a mistake.  It took away from the beautiful, subtle light that I had managed to capture.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset Version 1









I felt that I needed to take the cloud out.  I used a product called Mr Clean Magic Eraser which is basically a white sponge.

magic eraser








This product contains no chemicals and it does take your painting pretty much back to the white of the paper.  I think it’s just it’s abrasive quality that removes the paint.  It is a very neat product and very effective.  I did notice that there is a tendency for the paper, after using this product, to take paint a little differently.  I think that the sponge actually removes some of the surface sizing and so when you paint over an area that has been erased you need to make sure that your brush isn’t too wet.  When it is too wet the paint tends to just spread out a little uncontrollably.  It’s a bit difficult to have sharp edges.  I found that it was better to use washes with more pigment and less water then it seemed to be OK.

Anyway, you can see that the cloud is completely gone.

Next I added the lamp posts.  If you look closely you’ll see that the lights on the far left pole display these uncontrollable edges.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset (Poles)







After looking at this version I felt that the 2 poles on the left were a little too close to the centre so I used the magic eraser again and took them out and moved them over about an inch.  The final version is at the top of this post.  It’s very difficult to notice that it has been fixed.  So this product is a very neat addition to the watercolourist’s tool kit.  It’s best to not have to use it but if you do it certainly works.

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Evolution Of A Painting

I have been an interested observer of the steps  in my art career.  At first, and for a long time,  I was concerned with copying a photo or nature. The closer I could come to depicting the subject exactly the more successful I felt.   It took a number of years before I was comfortable with the idea that I could edit my subject, move things around, eliminate or add things.  This year I experienced a new twist on that theme as I consciously took the original idea and developed it over time.  I call this the evolution of a painting.

This short video clip illustrates this process.


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Art Society Of Strathcona County Workshop

I just taught a workshop for the Art Society Of Strathcona County (ASSC) in Sherwood Park.  It was a fabulous experience and I was treated like royalty.  I would like to thank everyone involved for inviting me and also for looking after me during the weekend.  I was very excited to teach this workshop because I love teaching but also because I have been greatly inspired since my experience this summer as illustrated in the past 3 posts.

The participants were a very friendly and enthusiastic group and from a teacher’s point of view you can’t ask for more than that.  I have been impressed by the way that the ASSC is supported by the local government.  The city has given them control of this wonderful facility, the Red Barn, as a permanent art centre.  It’s great to see art groups supported in this manner.

Everyone worked really hard over the 2 days as we covered a lot and did a lot of painting.

Here are some photos from the workshop. Many thanks to Faye for taking the photos.

Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Rex discussing something









Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Explaining ‘Eye Level’
















Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County Workshop

Demonstrating  perspective










Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Painting The First Wash












Here are the 2 demos I did.  This first painting is another version of my painting St Mary’s which is inspired by a Calgary street scene.  In this version I wanted to make the scene even more monumental and I also wanted it to have a bit of a feeling of Gotham.  I’m really happy how it worked out.

Rex Beanland, Calgary Gothic, watercolour, 15 x 18

Calgary Gothic
15 x 18
















In terms of critiquing it, I’m very happy with everything.  There are a few minor changes I would make if I did it again, mainly in terms of straightening a few building edges and next time I would make the building in the background (which is based on St Mary’s Church) a little narrower so that it would appear to be a bit further back.  The big change I did make to it had to do with the 2 large figures on the left.  They, along with the other main figure were too short and dumpy.  So I enlarged the  figures on the left and  had them go out of the frame.  Much better.

Demo #2 was a version of the porch in the  Officers House from the ex military base in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia.  I did this painting originally as a demo for the Watercolour Symposium held there about a month ago.


Rex Beanland, The Porch In Summer, watercolour, 14 x 17

The Porch In Summer
15 x 18














I really like the sense of warm light inside the porch.  Your eye is very much attracted to this centre of interest.  In terms of changes I would make next time I think I would make the part of the main building that shows at the left edge  a little smaller or a little less defined.  The main change I did make once I got home  has to do with the foreground shadow.  During the demo it ended up a little light so I went over it again when I got home and then it was a little too dark.  So I had to wash  some of it out. I don’t like to correct paintings but in this case it is better with this adjustment.  I really like the bright reds in the flowers, the sparkle on the water and the entire tree.

Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

The Class Of 2015














So it was a great weekend in all respects and it was a pleasure to meet everyone.

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RV’ing Around Nova Scotia

Rex Beanland, Lunenburg Campground

Lunenburg Campground

As mentioned in a recent post, I taught at the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour Symposium near Digby,  Nova Scotia earlier this month.  As soon as the symposium was over my wife, Susan, and I rented an RV and took a week to travel from Digby along the coast to Yarmouth and then along the south shore to Halifax.

I have to admit that it took a couple of days to get used to living in an RV.  This one was a 2016, 28′ and pretty darn comfortable but still you’re living in very close quarters.  After that initial period, however,  we just loved it.  Great to stop wherever you want and you’ve got your home right with you.  I remember the first day when we stopped at Digby Harbour. I felt just like a tourist until I remembered we had lawn chairs and 15 minutes later were sitting in comfy chairs having coffee with a view of the harbour.  We stopped at quite a few neat spots and did a lot of painting.  I was hoping to do 2 paintings a day but we often didn’t get started until almost noon and then we tried to get a place to stay before supper so I was happy to have the painting opportunities that I had.


This first painting is Digby Harbour.  We were parked just beside that truck on the far right.

Rex Beanland, Digby Harbour, watercolour, 11 x 15

Digby Harbour











This second painting was one I did at our campground at Lunenburg but it’s a painting of the fanciest house at the  Annapolis Basin Conference Centre where the symposium was.  I assume that it was originally the commander’s house.  The conference centre is a semi retired military base.

Rex Beanland, Officer's House, watercolour, 11 x 15

Officer’s House










This next one is a favourite of mine.  It’s the Superstore in Yarmouth painted from the Walmart parking lot. (Guess where we stayed?)

Rex Beanland, Superstore Yarmouth, watercolour, 11 x 15

Superstore Yarmouth









This painting of Indian Harbour is looking at the back of the Clifty Cove Motel.  About 25 years ago my mother and I travelled around the Maritimes and we stayed in that motel.  I paid homage to her with the figure in green.

Rex Beanland, Indian Harbour, watercolour, 11 x 15

Indian Harbour











Here are some other photographs from our trip.  Nova Scotia is a great place to visit.  The people are very friendly, very generous and love to talk.  Some of the locations and scenery along the south shore are fabulous.  I know  it’s a cliche but Peggy’s Cove is so picturesque and captivating that it almost defies belief.

Rex Beanland, Digby Harbour

Digby Harbour

Rex Beanland, Digby


Rex Beanland, Digby Fogg

Digby Fogg
























Spending the night just outside Yarmouth with 2 friends from the symposium.  Thanks, Dan & Susan.

Rex Beanland, At Dan & Susan's

At Dan & Susan’s

Gary McFarland

Nova Scotia Village
photo by Gary McFarland









Rex Beanland, Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove










Rex Beanland, The Rocks At Peggy's Cove

The Rocks At Peggy’s Cove










Rex Beanland, Lighthouse At Peggy's Cove

Lighthouse At Peggy’s Cove

















If you get this far you deserve a medal but here is a final painting that isn’t from Nova Scotia but it’s also a recent favourite of mine.  Its from our trip to Boston 3 years ago to see the John Singer Sargent Watercolour Exhibition.

Rex Beanland, Woman & Child, Boston Common, watercolour, 11 x 15

Woman & Child, Boston Common

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Workshop With Joseph Zbukvic

Rex Beanland, Joseph Zbukvic & Rex Walk

Joseph Zbukvic & Rex Walk

In September I had the unbelievable experience of taking a workshop with my absolute hero in watercolour, Joseph Zbukvic.  He is an Australian and for me he is the best watercolourist in the world – an absolute master of the medium.  The  workshop was held at the Madeline Island School Of The Arts on Madeline Island which is an island in Lake Superior.  It’s part of the Apostle Islands which are in the state of Wisconsin.

His workshops around the world always sell out 12 – 18 months in advance and by the time I found out about this workshop it was likewise full.  I put my name on the waiting list and 1 year later, long after I’d forgotten about it I got a call that a space opened up and I jumped at it.  It was an interesting experience because I didn’t take his workshop to learn his technique. I have  all of his DVD’s and I have studied them extensively.  In fact I’ve done about half of all the demos on them.  I posted about this a few years ago and I still consider studying him and Alvaro Castagnet to be  my university of watercolour.  I learned so much from copying their demos.  Since I wasn’t really looking for his technique I went to be inspired and challenged and to grow as a painter.  I received far more than I expected.

One other factor about Joseph is that he is also a master teacher.  As a retired school teacher I am a keen observer of the teaching techniques of various workshop instructors.  I have discovered that many of the best painters are not necessarily the best teachers.  By in large their approach is, watch me paint and get what you can from it. I don’t know if Joseph ever taught school  but he is a master of teaching  technique. Using humour and repetition and by having developed some wonderfully insightful concepts he made sure that everyone ‘got’ what he was teaching.  Everyone left there knowing “Mr Bead” and “Tea, coffee, milk, cream and butter”.  I use his ideas all the time in my own workshops and students just love them.  I always make a point of saying that they are his ideas much as I wish I had thought of them.

Anyway, what I got from the workshop was a way of thinking about watercolour.  Watching him do his sketches and see how he instinctively choose just the key elements of the subject was inspiring.  To hear him verbalize his thought process as he approaches a subject gave me all sorts of insights.  But most of all I was given the gift of inspiration.  I left the workshop with my confidence brimming, ready to tackle anything.

As I said he is my #1 hero so I could go on at length but suffice it to say that this was the experience of a lifetime.

Rex Beanland, Joseph Zbukvic & Rex

Joseph Zbukvic & Rex














Joseph did 2 demos a day and here are my versions of them.

Rex Beanland, Rockport Harbour 2 , watercolour, 15 x 11

Rockport Harbour









Rex Beanland, Wet Day In Rockport , watercolour, 15 x 11

Wet Day In Rockport












Rex Beanland, Aussie Landscape, watercolour, 11 x 15

Aussie Landscape

Rex Beanland, Dry Dock, watercolour, 11 x 15

Dry Dock

Rex Beanland, Rockport Harbour 2, watercolour, 11 x 15

Rockport Harbour 2

Rex Beanland, Vienna, watercolour, 11 x 15





































I also did a couple of plein air paintings the day before the workshop started.  The first one is of the Indian Cemetery in La Pointe, the small town on the island.  It’s a very old and run down but represents some of the early history of the island.

Rex Beanland, Indian Cemetery, watercolour, 11 x 15

Indian Cemetery








Even though Madeline Island is just a few miles off the main land it does have it’s own way of life.  The people there are  independent, friendly and very individualistic.  This next painting is of a very popular local landmark, The Burnt Down Cafe.  I think this is, in fact, it’s history.  The first place burnt down and now it’s a very interesting mix of canvas and plywood.


Rex Beanland, Burnt Down Cafe, watercolour, 11 x 15

Burnt Down Cafe












Finally the location of the workshops, Madeline Island School Of The Arts.  It’s a very nice place with all the buildings located right together.  They run various workshops from painting to writing and crafts and they bring in a lot of top names.  They also do a super job making you feel  welcome. Great staff.  There is accommodation and meals on the campus though there are also other places to stay and eat on the island.  Madeline Island is the largest in a series of 22 islands collectively called the Apostle Islands.   There are whole bunch of  fascinating geological rock formations, great hiking and what I always find interesting, the rusting remains of early settlement on the islands.  Today only Madeline is inhabited.

Here are a few shots of the Madeline Island School Of The Arts.

Rex Beanland, Dining Room

Dining Room

Rex Beanland, The Farm House

The Farm House

Rex Beanland, Accommodation


Rex Beanland, Workshop Building

Workshop Building






























A memorable experience!

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Watercolour Symposium, Cornwallis, Nova Scotia

I had the honour of being an instructor at the annual Watercolour Symposium presented by the Canadian Society Of Painters in Watercolour.  It was held in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia a tiny town just outside Digby.  For me it was a fabulous experience.  I taught a different workshop on 4 separate days.  The students in the symposium were an enthusiastic group of people who were completely motivated to paint and learn.  Also since every one stays right on location and eats together it was a wonderful social event.  I found that everyone was so friendly and there was a real sense of common purpose that developed over the week.  I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who is interested in watercolour. There is something special about getting up every day with one purpose – to paint and to do this surrounded by people who are all there for the same reason.

As a teacher I found this experience to be the high point of my teaching career.  I love dealing with the students.  It is extremely rewarding to see the light bulb turn on as people gain new knowledge or techniques.  It’s intense but also intensely rewarding.

I taught 2 workshops: Figures In The Urban Landscape and Figures In Action, each workshop twice.  I did a different demo for each of the 4 workshops.  Here are the 4 paintings that I demonstrated.

Rex Beanland, Winter Sun, Inglewood watercolour, 11 x 15

Winter Sun, Inglewood











Rex Beanland, St Mary's, watercolour, 15 x 20

St Mary’s













Rex Beanland, Construction Season, Downtown, watercolour, 13 x 20

Construction Season, Downtown







Rex Beanland, The Porch In Summer, watercolour, 15 x 20

The Porch In Summer












The symposium was held at the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre which is a former military base updated into a conference centre.  It was neat to have the accommodation, dining hall and the classrooms all within about 100 m of each other.  I’m including some shots of the location to give a feeling for the event and, I hope, to encourage people to consider attending next year.

Rex Beanland, Registration Building

Registration Building









Rex Beanland, Up To The Dining Room

Up To The Dining Room












Rex Beanland, The Classroom Building

The Classroom Building










Rex Beanland, The Dining Room

The Dining Room










Rex Beanland, Sunset Over The Bay 2

Sunset Over The Bay 2










Rex Beanland, From The Conference Centre

From The Conference Centre










I would like to thank the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour for inviting me, to all those who put in the hard work of organizing it, and all those great, enthusiastic people who attended and made it such a special experience.

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Experimental Watercolour Part 1

Rex Beanland, green blob, watercolour



I will be teaching my Experimental Watercolour workshop next month at Kensington Art Supply & Instruction.

I’m very excited by this workshop because it covers a lot of important watercolour techniques that  are often overlooked.  Most watercolour workshops teach colour – colour theory, colour mixing, colour choices, characteristics of various colours etc.  The aspect that is often left out is the ‘water’ part of watercolour.  This workshop is mostly about water.  Creative ways to use it and  how to allow it to create it’s own spontaneous effects.  As they often say watercolour will do the painting for you if you allow it.  This workshop helps you discover ways to let water  create it’s own special effects.


Rex Beanland, wet trench, watercolour







This short video clip illustrates a few of these techniques.

The workshop is available in 2 formats for your convenience.  Oct 24-25 is a 2 full day workshop.  Also there is the option of 4 Monday evening classes, Nov 2, 9, 16 & 23.

Contact Nancy Lynn Hughes for details or to register.

Contact me for details about the workshop.


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How To Simplify A Subject Into It’s Basic Shapes.

One of the essential skills for successful painting is the ability to look at the complexity of a subject whether it be a landscape or a city scene and to simplify it by seeing it as a collection of shapes.  The more we can simplify these shapes and connect little shapes into bigger ones the easier painting becomes.  This little video illustrates the process with a subject from downtown Calgary.


This is another painting that I did as part of my preparation for my workshops at the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour Annual Symposium in Nova Scotia.

I’m really pleased with the sense of light and the figures but what made it much easier was to see it as it’s 3 basic shapes:  1) the background (a loose darker shape), 2) the water with a strong shadow over it and 3) the light foreground.


Rex Beanland, Woman & Child, Boston Common, watercolour, 9 x 12

Woman & Child, Boston Common

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