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Author Archives: Rex Beanland
I have a show coming up in Edmonton at the Naess Gallery from the end of August to the end of September 2014. This show will feature cityscapes. In order to get Edmonton subjects I have been painting in Edmonton twice in the past month. I was there last week for 4 days and it was a fabulous time.
The first reason that it was so positive is that it was the first time I have ever painted on a busy sidewalk, smack in the middle of downtown in any city. I was a little apprehensive but it turned out to be a great experience. Many people stopped and everyone was extremely positive.
The second reason I enjoyed was the actual paintings I did. I’m very happy with the results. I have long been a proponent of plein air (on location) painting but I continually discover new joys in doing it. In fact I recently came across a quote that sums it up nicely for me: “Plein air painting gives us the improvisational spirit, something that an artist may not get in a comfortable studio. By planting your feet on the ground, you feel the power of “earth energy” and a new-found honesty. Plein air strokes take on pioneer wisdom. While challenging, even daunting, the new complexity tests your ability to think things out.”
These are the 3 paintings I did on location.
This painting of the Hotel MacDonald was started at 5:45 in the morning. The sun was just rising and that orange glow caught part of the building. 10 minutes later the light completely changed so I kept this particular view in my mind. I enjoyed the challenge of integrating the darker shape of the trees. I was lucky to find this little unused door way where I could keep out of the way of the pedestrian traffic.
In the afternoon I moved down Jasper Ave and was quite inspired by this scene.
The next day I moved to Whyte Ave and found the shape of the historic Dominion Hotel building very attractive. The sidewalk was very crowded since this was the first day of ‘Art Walk’.
I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring this year, in part because of the long, long winter that we have had. I continue to paint on location 2 – 3 times a week and a fact of on location painting in the springtime is ubiquitous presence of green. I have heard many times over the years that green is one of the more challenging colours to paint. I believe that one reason for the particular challenge of this colour is that it is so pervasive in our landscape and also because nature displays an almost limitless variety of greens. I doubt if any other colour in the landscape comes in so many varieties. It is intimidating to not only get colour perspective with green i.e. having it recede into the distance but also to harness what can be an overwhelming variety of green.
This spring I seem to have been doing a lot of plein air painting that involves this green challenge. It has been a fascinating experience to try to make sense of it all.
The challenge really began when I volunteered to do a demo for the clothesline sale at the Leighton Centre in early June. Previously, I have used some photo that I’ve been working on as my subject for the demo. This year I wanted the challenge of painting the actual landscape of the Leighton Centre, and the landscape at the Leighton Centre involves a lot of green. The images that follow show some of the paintings and studies that I have done this spring that have a large amount of green in them. I love this type of on-going challenge and I have learned a great deal from my experiments with green.
This first image is a little study I did the week before the Clothesline Sale to get familiar with the subject.
This is a studio painting based on a view of the foothills near the Leighton Centre.
This is a plein air study done in late May during our visit to south western Ontario.
This study was done on location at a little park right in the centre of Calgary. I quite like it because it’s not obvious what it’s all about at first glance.
This final plein air study was done in Edmonton in mid June. I have a show coming up in Edmonton at the end of August so I spent a few days there getting reference material. This is the area of Old Strathcona just off Whyte Ave. I loved the thick canopy of trees. I’m not sure what type of tree they are but they so remind me of Winnipeg. So different from the trees of Calgary.
Whatever comes of all this work with the colour green it has been a fascinating journey and I feel so much more confident in my handling of the colour. This is particularly useful because as I mentioned at the top of this post, the world is absolutely alive with greens particularly in the spring.
I’m having so much fun painting with this little hand held palette that I thought I would share a bit about it. The palette is made by Winsor & Newton and costs about $50.
The entire palette measures 5.5″ x 4″ and it’s 1-1/2″ deep.
The palette has 3 retractable mixing trays, 12 pans for paint, a water container (including 2 little cups), and a small brush.
The beautiful thing about this palette is the incredible convenience of being able to create a small study so easily and so quickly. One hand holds all the things necessary to paint. The only extra concern is a place to put the sketch book. I usually end up just putting it on my knee.
The challenge with something this size is the brush. It’s a very small brush that doesn’t carry a lot of water so it requires extra attention when deciding how to create your washes. It is definitely a challenge to master it but like everything with a little practice you learn how to work with the brush. With this palette and a good watercolour sketchbook (this one is 5.5″ x 8″) you have a complete painting set up but it easily fits into a small bag.
I use mine whenever I want to do a little painting but have neither the time nor the energy to work on anything larger. I can pull it out and get something painted usually within 20 minutes. As you can see from the paintings below I often have it when I go shopping. Perhaps because there are few expectations of creating a masterpiece it seems particularly easy to relax and just play around. I consider the paintings I do with this set up to be more about collecting information than being great paintings. Inspite of that I find that they can have a charm all of their own.
For representational painters, in particular, the practice of collecting information on location is just about essential and this little hand held palette is a great tool to help in this practice.
I taught a fabulous 3 day workshop this past weekend at Kensington Art Supplies & Instruction. It was a fabulous workshop because of the participants – a wonderful group of enthusiastic and talented painters.
Two of the main concepts we covered were value and also understanding and working with water. On Friday we basically played all day working on a very, very, wet landscape. It was interesting since no one was very familiar with this approach that we were all at the same level (no matter how experienced we were). I’m including samples of those paintings below.
Some comments from the workshop
“I got exactly what I wanted from this workshop, Rex – from the concrete skills such as brush technique, wash applications and the importance of value”
“Rex has a unique ability to build on what each student accomplished. A delightful class”
“I loved Rex’s class because it really took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to try new techniques and methods.”
I’m very excited by my new workshop, Watercolour BootCamp. It’s a comprehensive and easy to understand approach to watercolour painting. It will definitely take your watercolour painting to the next level.
It’s being offered Friday – Sunday, April 11 – 13 at Kensington Art Supplies & Instruction.
If you’re interested contact Nancy Lynn Hughes at Kensington Art 403-863-4261
or contact me. 403-685-5812
One of my mentors in the art world recently made a statement that no matter what we paint we’re always painting the light. It took me a bit to figure out what that really meant. I believe he meant that no matter what we paint we are always painting that subject in a particular light condition.
I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately, especially in the light of a comment I have heard 2 very well known artists make recently. They both said that if they go out either to paint or to take photographs and there is not bright sun they pack everything up and go home and wait for a day when there is sun. I understand the allure of sunshine. It gives wonderful shadows that are so important to many paintings. The sun also brings out the brightest and purest colours so naturally paintings depicting sunlight are very popular with clients and art lovers.
However, sunshine is only one form of ‘light’ and overcast days, foggy days, night times are all just other forms of light. They are not the absence of light. These other light conditions also have a charm and drama all of their own.
I have chosen some paintings that illustrate other light conditions.
Misty Morning In Shelbourne was done one misty morning in Shelbourne, Ontario. It was a lovely foggy morning and my wife and I sat in the car for 90 minutes while we each recored our own version of the subject. This painting obviously is subdued in colour and values but it still has a charm and is very evocative of that particular morning.
I have just started doing night scenes and I have fallen under their spell. The rich blackness of the night sky sets off all the lights even more dramatically. Mississagua City Hall was done on location just before Christmas 2013. The city hall building is surrounded by office buildings and condos and I liked the way the Chinese White impressionistically captures a sense of all those lighted windows in the background.
Early Morning At The Beaver Pond was one of a series of paintings I did when I took Sharon Williams 24 week watercolour class a few years ago. I used this same subject matter for a couple of practices on using complementary colours. I used Thalo Blue and Cad Scarlett to do a cool version and a warm version. After doing them I wondered what that pond would look like in the very early morning. So this was strictly a mind exercise but I found it extremely enjoyable. The early morning light reduces both contrast and colour saturation but the sense of story is, to my mind, almost increased. There is a strong sense of mystery.
Late Night At The Liquor Store is still a particular favourite of mine. A large part of my connection with it is that I painted it plein air one night at about 10:30 in the parking lot of a large supermarket. I set up under one of their large parking lot lights. I was intrigued by the light pouring out of the store and the hope that seemed to emanate from it. A dangerous hope to be sure but a great painting experience and I get drawn in to the story every time I look at it.
Finally a very recent painting. This is one of my favourite scenes at the moment from 9th Ave in Inglewood looking to the Bow Building and the downtown office towers. It was an overcast day with some light striking the one yellowish building in the centre. Because there was no strong sun light where I was situated and therefore no strong shadows I was better able to notice the yellowish slushy snow and wetness on the road. I played that yellow up and exaggerated a lot of the other colour. I think it created a very attractive and effective painting.
I’ve been thinking about this issue of painting light a lot lately and what I’m suggesting is that if you are in love with the effects of sunshine (and who isn’t) that you might also enjoy trying out other light conditions. There is a tremendous amount to be gained from studying and experimenting in these other areas. Even if the paintings fall outside the realm of mass appeal the benefits gained from stretching out into new areas will be well worth it. And sometimes the story and evocative nature of these paintings may out shine some works that feature bright sun shine.
I just received this notice in my inbox today. I had no idea that it had won but needless to say I was blown away.
On Wednesday, Jan 22, I did a demonstration for the Calgary Community Painters Society. This is the first time I had met this group and they were delightful, very enthusiastic and interested. The type of audience that you enjoy painting for.
This picture is a view from Inglewood, looking at the Bow Building. I think that the Bow Building like the Calgary Tower are icons of Calgary and this view from Inglewood shows the Bow to good advantage.
The process I used for this painting is what I call the 3 wash method. The first wash is basically the sky colours spread over the entire painting except for a few highlights in the centre of interest. Wash #2 involves all the mid tones (nearly the entire painting) Wash #3 is the final details, highlights and little bits and pieces.
I like to do paintings like this quickly, just capturing my impression of the scene so I try for large, clean washes. In order to keep the washes fresh I choose not to cut around too many shapes and instead add Chinese White or white gouache at the end to create highlights. I always include figures which I feel help to create a story. One member asked why they would be wandering all over the street in the middle of the traffic. The answer is that they wouldn’t be there (at least not for long). However, as well as adding that story element they also add a certain tension to the painting with helps make it entertaining.
It was a very enjoyable evening. I finished the painting up at home and I estimate it took about 2-1/2 hours in total.
In the style of painting that I enjoy which is representational watercolour it is essential to paint on location as often as possible (en plein air is the official term). I’ve always enjoyed plein air painting but I have to admit that I haven’t always enjoyed a lot of success with it. It’s only in the last year or so when I’ve started to consistently come home with interesting paintings. I have noticed 2 stages of development that I had to go through to reach the point where I usually succeed when painting on location.
Stage 1 in plein air painting is when you can go out and consistently come back with a successful painting. In order to do this I’ve found that 2 things are essential: 1) the ability to create a successful composition and 2) the ability to create an effective value pattern. To create a successful composition requires many decisions in terms of leaving things out, moving shapes around, and especially simplifying things. Almost never can you just copy what is in front of you. An effective value pattern is the arrangement of lights and darks that will lead the eye on an interesting journey through the painting.
Once you are consistently able to produce a ‘successful’ painting the next stage is to be able to create a painting that shows your own personal vision. This is where your painting starts to tell a story or evoke a feeling. It’s not copying nature it’s using nature to tell your story. This stage requires a whole other set of skills. The most important is that you need to be able to pre visualize or see in your mind what you want the painting to look like. Responding to the moment and responding to what’s happening on the paper are of course some of most enjoyable aspects of painting but it is important to start out with a fairly clear direction that you want to go in. A successful stage 2 painting needs to have washes that are fresh and lively and this can only happen if you get the right colour and value in the first wash and that only happens when you have an idea of what colour and value you want.
What’s The Point Of All This
The 3 plein air paintings above which were done very recently are ones that I feel do have a consistent vision and successfully tell a story. Glendale Community Centre is a challenging perspective as the building and rink are down at the bottom of a little valley. This painting very accurately follows the value pattern of this partially sunny day.
Winter Sun, Inglewood plays with the colours of the scene to create a strong centre of interest. Every wash was done in one go except for the 3 large shadows of the 2 groups of figures and the central car. I had to add a second wash to them. So the painting is clean, colourful and I hope very inviting.
In Downtown, Winter Sun I again played with the colours to create a more interesting journey through the composition.
I’m very pleased with all these plein air paintings because I think that they use the elements of the scene as a starting point to create an interesting and effective painting.
If I were to summarize what I have found most useful in this particular journey it is to take as much time as needed before applying any paint to get a clear vision of where I want to go. There will always be ups and downs but when I do the necessary work before I begin painting I find that it almost always works out well.
P.S. I don’t normally want to diminish my paintings but just in case you are interested in a further illustration of the stages of plein air paintings take a look at this previous post . It illustrates what I feel are a couple of successful stage 1 paintings. Pleasant enough, definitely accurate but lacking a vision. They were in effect nice copies of some buildings and structures in Ogden Yards.
We went to Boston , November 12, to see the John Singer Sargent Watercolour Exhibition at the Boston Museum Of Fine Art. I will be reporting on the exhibition itself soon but this post is just about the city and the bits of Massachusetts that we saw. This was our first visit to Boston and we were captivated by the city. To say that it is steeped in the history of the US particularly the early revolutionary days is an understatement. We stayed in the historic area of north downtown. This is the steeple of the Old North Church which was about 20 metres from our B & B. They hung the lanterns in this steeple that fateful night 238 years ago to warn about the approach of the British (1 if they were coming by sea, 2 if they came by land). This is the message that Paul Revere raced all night to deliver. His house is just a few blocks away.
This neighbourhood is all narrow streets and tall narrow row houses. Very difficult to drive a car there. Parking in the neighbourhood – forget it but a great place to walk.
Some nice coffee shops and a late night grocery store.
We stayed in a B & B on the 4th floor of one of these old buildings.
Here is the view from our bedroom. You can just see the steeple of the Old North Church. Most of these places got virtually no direct sun.
This is the street corner right in front of the Old North Church.
Below is a look up one of the side streets. Very typical of this area.
It was very interesting to watch the big garbage truck negotiate these streets. They don’t use garbage cans just put the bags right on the sidewalk.
Even though we were there between Nov 12 – 19 as you can see from this view of the Boston Public Garden there were still the vestiges of the fall colour.
I did a little painting of this bridge. This lady came and sat by me and watched a bit. She also asked to do a drawing in my sketch book.
This is my painting. It was such a beautiful day.
After 3 days in Boston we rented a car and drove around Massachusetts a bit. The first stop we made was in Carlisle about 40 miles from Boston. Like many towns in New England the cemetery features prominently. I liked these stone walls that are everywhere. They made me think a lot about Robert Frost who, in his poetry, referred to them and many other sights of New England.
This is my painting of the main intersection in Carlisle.
It turned out that we would drive for less than an hour and then we’d stop and paint for a couple of hours. It was neat with Susan and I both sitting in the car and painting different scenes.
The top image is a very typical New England house from Forge Village.
The house on the hill was up a back alley in a town whose name I can’t remember, possible Eastham.
This rock pile, again with the stone wall, was somewhere near Cape Cod.
We made a wonderful connection with some people who live on Cape Cod and we were able to spend 2 nights with them and to spend one entire day and night exploring Cape Cod. Fortunately, we were in the off season. I now understand why it is so packed with tourists in the summer. To describe the highway that travels the length of the Cape, as picturesque simply doesn’t do it justice. Beautiful houses, beautiful scenery. We travelled right to the northern tip of the Cape which ends in the town of Provincetown. It’s special geographic location possibly has lead to it’s rather special character. It seemed like a world unto itself. It also is packed in the summer season. It has become a predominantly gay town and I understand it can get very alternative in the summer.
We stayed in a lovely hotel, The Bradford House & Hotel, that was decorated very richly in an almost Edwardian style.
This is Susan painting by lamplight.
Inspired by the light I tried to capture the moment.
This is an impression of the Provincetown Harbour. There is a long history of fishing here which still carries on even though the numbers of people fishing is declining.
This is the main street in Provincetown. Very colourful, very walkable, very scenic.
This is my painting of this scene. The weather was so pleasant that I sat on the steps of a store to paint this. Just after I finished the painting it started to pour rain and never stopped for the rest of the day.
All in all it was a fabulous trip and I wouldn’t mind revisiting there some day.