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Author Archives: Rex Beanland
I was thrilled to hear last week that I my application for signature status with the Federation Of Canadian Artists was successful. AFCA which means associate member of the FCA. I took a couple of years to get all the required elements for the application so it is quite a big deal. As an artist who toils away in solitude in the studio it’s important for me to be able to step back and see my work in the context of other artists and signature status is one way of doing that. It means some excellent artists have viewed my work and given it the big thumbs up.
The other big event in my art journey also came fairly recently. I was asked by the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour to be a principle instructor at their annual watercolour symposium. This year it will be held Sept 28 – Oct 3 in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia. I love teaching watercolour and I have done it for a number of years but this to me is a step up. The list of previous instructors at this prestigious event includes many of the best watercolour artists from across Canada. It’s definitely an honour and a real motivation to keep going.
Finally, when I got back from my workshop in Edmonton, I had an email from the Saanich Peninsula Arts and Crafts Society (SPAC) in Sidney, B.C. asking me to do a workshop there in Oct 2016. I have long dreamed of being able to travel across the country as a watercolour teacher and it seems that that dream is now coming true. In 2014 their workshop instructors were Alvaro Castagnet and John Salminen. Alvaro is one of my 2 main heroes in watercolour and Salminen is someone who produces work that I am in awe of. I certainly don’t put myself in their category (yet) but I know by the feedback I get from people at all my workshops that I have something to offer and I love to connect and help all the people I meet in workshops. So I am completely thrilled by all these events, humbled by the opportunities and grateful for this journey that I’m walking.
I thought I would brighten up this post by adding an assortment of recent studies that I have done. Interestingly after having so much success with my urban landscape paintings culminating in receiving my AFCA I took some time to ponder – what next? Right away I started doing this studies mostly based on a beautiful sunny day I spent on Stephan Ave a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued by the light and also by seeing the figures in a new way, more intimate way. Figures are an important feature of all my urban landscape paintings but nearly always they are just figures standing around. Now I’m much more interested in having the figures tell a story just by their positions or motions. I think this is a nudge that has come from somewhere to show me what direction to move in. I think I’ll listen to this voice.
I did an urban landscape workshop for the St Albert Painters’ Guild on Saturday. That was my first time to St Albert and I was very impressed. Lovely city, nice buildings and a beautiful location for the workshop. It was held in the big civic/library/courthouse complex. The main floor has a number of lovely, bright studios on the main floor. We were located in the painting studio. What I liked in particular is that the entire set up gave the impression that St Albert really values and supports the arts. As an artist you love to see that.
Anyway, once again, I made the decision to do more of the little practice studies that participants seem to get so much out of and to de-emphasize the actual main demo. So I just got the demo started when we ran out of time. I let everyone know that I would finish it at home and either photograph all the stages or do a short video. As you can see I did a video.
First I just wanted to show some photos of the day. It’s so interesting how excited people get when they see how easy it is to paint figures when you don’t treat it as a drawing exercise but instead let the mark the brush makes create the figure. It relieves all the stress to just push the hairs of the brush into the paper and see what happens. Often you get marks that are full of character and interest. That is clearly illustrated by these 2 samples done by some of the participants.
In the top image the figure right in the middle just oozes character and attitude.
In the bottom image the figure in the middle just reminds me of the student I always dreaded showing up in my grade 5 home room. I knew he was going to be trouble.
Here are some photos of the group in action. Just outside the windows is a lovely river and park.
Our formal class photo.
And this is the video detailing how I finished the painting.
Just because of a great question from one of the participants I’m including the photo that this scene was based on.
Thanks so much to everyone for an excellent workshop.
On Wednesday March 4, I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the CCPS. This is a great group to work with. Lots of members present, very enthusiastic and very appreciative. They always make me feel extremely welcome.
These first 2 photos show the group watching. When a group is this focused it’s very motivating for the artist.
It’s nice also when there is a mirror so that I can paint in my normal position with the board on a slight incline. When I demo on an easel with the paper almost vertical it’s much harder to control the dripping.
Since I was doing a painting with figures I invited some members to come up and try their hand at creating a figure using the brush with no drawing. People are often a little intimidated by doing figures but when they see how easy it is they love it.
This is the painting at the end of the demo . . .
. . . and this is the painting after I finished it in the studio.
Interestingly when I got the painting home I didn’t like the fact that the tent on the left was much shorter than the 2 figures beside it. It didn’t really make sense. It was like the figures were walking right into it. I hadn’t noticed this when I did the drawing. To fix this I used a toothbrush and some tape to lift out almost another inch and a half at the bottom of the tent including the metal pillar. With a toothbrush you can lift out paint and get back to almost white paper. If you look closely about even with the middle of the metal pillar you can still see the original bottom of the tent. Using the same process I cut about 1/2″ off the legs of the woman beside the tent. Now it has a much more logical feel. Many people say that watercolours can’t be changed but I think this shows that you can, in fact, make major changes.
Thanks to CCPS for the opportunity to demo and thanks to Jackolynn Coughlin for taking the photos.
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the Calgary chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists. It’s a excellent group that really encourages and inspires members’ growth.
I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time so I chose a landscape that can be done quickly using my favourite 3 wash method. I’ve been using this method in nearly all my urban landscapes over the past 2-1/2 years. It involves a first wash of yellow ochre that covers the entire sheet of paper. The second wash is where you add all the light, mid and dark values (in other words virtually the entire painting). Then in the third wash you add both the darkest darks and also the lightest lights using white gouache.
There are of course many different approaches to watercolour but this is the one I’ve used almost exclusively for all my urban landscape paintings of the past 3 years.
Here is the painting that I did. About 60% of it was done during the demo.
Many thanks Sheila Schaetzle for taking the following photos.
We have just produced our latest DVD, Inspired Watercolour with Brent Laycock. I am, of course, completely biased but I am extremely proud to have been involved in this project. Brent is an excellent acrylic painter but I like to think that his soul is heavily invested in watercolour and this is the DVD that I had hoped that he would make. It was such a pleasure editing it because I learned so much from it. It is packed with tips and techniques but what I really like is how Brent so generously shares his thinking process. As my wife, Susan, said over and over, he comes across as a charming man.
We will have copies of the disc available within 2 days and I can highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in watercolour.
I taught an urban landscape workshop for the Calgary Sketch Club this past Sunday. It was a wonderful experience. In planning the workshop I felt that it would be most useful to the participants to focus a lot of time on some of the crucial basic aspects of watercolour such as value even if this meant there would be less time available for the main demo. So we studied value a bit and then did a fun painting that just plays with value. In order to make up for not finishing the main demo painting during the workshop I thought I would finish it at home and take photos of the process. I hoped that this might be the best use of time and enable everyone to get the most out of the workshop. I’ll wait for the feedback to gauge the effectiveness of this.
Anyway I’m posting here the aforementioned photos.
Exercise 1: Value
This is a study that uses very light wet in wet washes for the sky and then a massive amount of very dark washes for the buildings. I think you’ll never be afraid of making dark strokes after doing this painting. Anyway, this is the painting, as far as I took it in the workshop.
And this is the finished painting. I love to add those little sparkles of cad red light and cobalt teal. I also did some lifting out of the dark foreground to create a little colour and value contrast. Doing this painting is an excellent learning opportunity.
Exercise 2: Urban Landscape
This is the photo I chose for the main demo. It’s a photo I took about a year ago and I’ve looked at it many times and it’s never spoken to me. This time however I noticed St Mary’s church at the end of the street and I thought that it was an interesting shape. I also liked the colourful building on the left and I really enjoy these views down a street with tall building on either side. So it contained a lot of the elements I look for but there are some big problems with it. After studying it I came to identify 2 main problems. The first is that the very interesting shape of the church is way to small and secondly, and most importantly, the huge negative space (sky) between the buildings is much too large. It seems to push the buildings apart.
So, as I usually do, I made a quick little thumbnail and all of a sudden the photo excited me.
The drawing that I did in the workshop closely follows the thumbnail.
My usual practice in cityscapes is to do a first light wash that covers the entire paper except for selected whites in the centre of interest.
This next photo shows the painting approximately the way I left it at the end of the demo.
When I got home I worked on the left side of the painting and added more value to the figures and cars. I like that the buildings on the left have a cleaner, lighter feel to them. I must also admit that I love the reflections coming towards the viewer.
The next stage involved darkening the shadow on the building centre-left and playing with some colour on the lower building and adding some details like the light poles.
In this stage I modified the figures. I used some white gouache mixed with cobalt blue for the main figure on the left. Since the painting was overall lighter than I usually do I made the 2 main figures darker. I also added two vague trees between the mid ground buildings and the background church. These really connected the painting front to back.
In the final stage I had a good critique from my wife and I realized that I like the configuration of the light poles better in the thumbnail than in the painting so I lifted out a bit and found this arrangement more satisfactory even though the smaller one comes a little too close to the church. The pole with banners on the left seemed to tie things together nicely. My wife pointed out that having all the colour on the left and a rather dark, sombre building on the right didn’t work so I lifted out a bit and added a bit of opaque paint to let some light into the right hand building. A bit of dry brush here and there sort of finished things off, at least for now.
I’m very happy with the result. In fact, for some reason when I worked on this painting at home I just seemed to have a different approach to it. I’ve done many cityscapes in the past couple of years and I have developed a certain style that I use. This painting was done with a cleaner, lighter touch. I’m not sure where that came from but I like it and it certainly added to my enjoyment of this painting.
Again, many thanks to the Sketch Club for this opportunity and thanks especially to the participants who made it such a great experience. I love being in a room where there is enthusiasm, openness, and a desire to learn and try new things.
As a well known artist said, ‘No matter what you’re painting, you’re painting the light’. More and more I am coming to believe that. What interests me about this idea of painting the light is how different artists interpret it. A very accomplished artist that I know said to me that when she goes out to paint if there isn’t bright sun light and strong shadows she turns around and goes home and waits for the sunshine to return. Now, paintings that feature strong contrast between sun light and those marvellous dark shadows are often instantly appealing and certainly commercially more successful. However, the truth is that no matter what the conditions are there is always light. Night time, over cast days, rainy days, mornings, mid day, evenings all have their own light. It’s just different light.
I’m always impressed by the watercolour painting of Alvaro Castagnet who will paint in any condition and can always produce a wonderful, lively painting. On one of his DVD’s he paints a Paris scene on a rainy, cloudy day and the painting is completely captivating.
I mention all this because I find it interesting and challenging to try to capture the light in whatever form it comes. I set a goal this week to go out every morning just to see what I could make of the light, whatever it was. I went about 2 blocks from my house to a place with a nice view over 37th Street and the T’suu Tina reserve. This morning when I went there it was very early, and very overcast. The sun was just coming up but since it was so overcast there were no real shadows, not a lot of contrast and much subdued colour. Since my goal was just to record the light that I saw I did a painting anyway just trying to capture the feel of that kind of morning.
This is the view I was painting.
And this is the painting I did.
The whole point of this exercise was not to create a bright vibrant painting but just to capture what I saw.
We may identify strong contrast between light and dark and vibrant colour as being more attractive or appealing but to an artist any light condition can be worthy of capturing. It’s all just a chance to experience life and light as it is. Life is made more worthwhile by having variety and we can learn much from coming to appreciate that variety.
This painting is the one I did yesterday in the same location with again no sun but it is made more ‘appealing’ by the beautiful yellow of the morning sky.
This final painting was done about a month ago, again in the same location but this time it was foggy, creating a beautiful looseness to the background.
Any judgment about which painting is better is of secondary interest. For me the most important factor is that I had a lot of fun doing them and in each case I learned something – and that is enough.
I recently taught a workshop for the Federation Of Canadian Artists. It was a fabulous workshop and you can read about it and see some photos from it by clicking here. I decided to donate the painting to the group. They use it as a fundraiser for the food bank. A very worthwhile cause. This is the finished painting.
These 3 photos are from the meeting of the FCA where I donated the painting.
A friend of mine, Vince Fowler, is ex-military and a huge supporter of the veterans food bank. He hates to see anyone who has fought for his country need to worry about having enough to eat. He recently had a fundraiser for the Veterans Food Bank and this is the painting I donated for the silent auction. This was my first attempt at acrylic in probably 3 years. It’s obviously very different from watercolour but it was still fun to do.
It always feels good to give back and I was pleased to be able to so.
I have always enjoyed plein air (on location) painting even when I was not very good at it. I can remember time after time when I would enjoy the experience of being outside but be too embarrassed by the quality of my work even to show it to people. Gradually I started doing it more and more frequently and as my painting skills in general progressed my plein air experiences also progressed. A big step was when I started to take time before I started painting to just sit, look at the subject and do some planning. My pre-planning came to be about 3 things. Composition, value and why did I want to paint this particular subject, what spoke to me.
Like so many things in life it wasn’t just the effort I put into plein air painting that made things go better. It was more about the fact that as I worked more and in a more focused way on my painting in general I was able to bring more to the plein air experience.
I have gone out the past 2 Sundays and I’ve been very happy with the results. I’m starting to ‘get it’. I find now that my pre-planning goes so much more efficiently and effectively. I find a subject that speaks to me and then I am able to come up with an effective composition that best suits the subject. Finally I continue to look at the subject until I can visualize a value pattern that will help tell the story that I want to tell.
This first of these 2 recent paintings was a view from 37th St looking over the Weaselhead. It was a snowy day with lots of snow in the air so there was a sharp drop off as objects receded into the background. I wanted the sense of mystery that that type of light creates. I also wanted an image that I could use for a birthday card for my wife. What was particularly liberating for me was to use purer colours to represent the darks. Normally I would use a dark value of a gray. I find the darker blue stroke in the foreground works as a dark value but is also much more colourful than I have become used to. Also the stronger values that the main 3 trees needed is handled more colourfully.
This second painting looking over the eastern edge of Discovery Ridge is also more colourful than my norm. In this one because I had a pretty good idea what I was going for value-wise I was much freer in my brushwork.
These final 2 paintings are recent plein air studies that also were very much the result of being ‘in the zone’. In each case by studying the subject and not painting until something spoke to me and I had a clear idea of where I wanted to go. As a result I was able to paint very quickly and the finished painting has some of that spirit in it.
So to summarize where my plein air journey is at the moment I’m finding that the best way for me to work is to simply look at the subject until I discover what is it about this subject that really speaks to me. Then I keep looking until I can visualize how to arrange the elements to create an effective composition and finally I visualize how I want to arrange the value patterns to create the effect I want. Then when I start painting I feel a tremendous sense of freedom to just play with the paint because I have a good understanding of what I want to do in each section of the painting. The final gift I’m discovering recently is that when I want mid and darker values I don’t need to always fall back to a dark gray but I can use purer colours that intrinsically are the desired value.
The bottom line is, however, that it just continues to be more and more fun to paint on location. In fact for my style I notice a certain staleness starts to creep in when I work too much in the studio from photographs. I need the inspiration of being in front of the live subject to really let go.
While I was in Edmonton getting ready for my show and workshop at the Paint Spot. I visited my niece who is the activities co-ordinator at Churchill Manor, a high end retirement facility. She asked me to do a demo for the residents and being a natural ham I accepted. It was absolutely impromptu. I just love ‘performing’ in front of a group like this that is just looking for some pleasant diversion in their day though some had actually done some art in their time. Since it was so low key I decided I would get them involved by demonstrating a simple way to do a figure and then cajoling people into coming up and giving it a try. It turned out to be completely fun activity. There was much chatter and laughter and I think everyone had a good time. By the end of the demo the number of residents watching was equal to what they often get for a performing entertainer so I felt good about that. Here are some shots from the event.
I think that probably the most important take away from this event, even more important than the feeling of a job well done is the sense of using my abilities to help other people. This facility is very nice, comfortable and well equipped but I feel that most people at this time of life are looking to be acknowledged and this was a very positive opportunity to have some fun and celebrate the people who participated.