Author Archives: Rex Beanland

Learning By Copying The Masters

Since forever it has been the practice of aspiring artists to copy the works of the masters.  Most of the masters began this way.  It’s a very direct way to get in touch with the very best ideas and practices.

A few years ago when I discovered my 2 watercolour heroes, Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet I bought all their DVD’s.  It was eye opening for me at the time to watch them paint but I knew that watching someone paint doesn’t mean that you have truly learned their technique.  I needed to take their inspiration to a higher level so I started practicing most of their demos.   I called it my university of watercolour and posted some of the results.  You can see those posts  here and here.

Anyway,  I recently went back to college and copied some more of Castagnet’s newer works.  Again I was blown away by his mastery of watercolour.  His sense of composition and value is amazing and he creates paintings that are immediate and powerful.  I could have looked at these paintings for a long time, loved them and still not really have learned what they had to offer until I tried them.

So here are my copies of 3 of his paintings.

Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet painting















Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet









Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet painting












I’m truly in awe of his talent and it was so useful to practice these paintings.  What I  find particularly amazing is how much he changes the actual subject to create these dramatic masterpieces.  When I’ve seen his reference photos they have the basic elements of the painting but the drama and impact is coming out of his mind.  Thank goodness that the artistic journey lasts a lifetime because I think it will take me a long time  to be able to do the same thing.

Needless to say that I would highly recommend this practice to all aspiring artists if you want to take your painting to a new level quickly.

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New Works

For the past 4 or 5 years I have painted mostly cityscapes.  My approach to these paintings has generally been plein air based.  I’ve tried to capture my impression of the subject quickly.  It’s been more about creating a story  than about detail or an accurate copy of the subject.  I’ve loved it and it has been an extremely rewarding journey.  I still love nothing more than being on location and just getting into the zone.  Total concentration on the scene before me.

But as we know, change is an essential part of the art journey and lately I have found that my focus is changing.  I’m planning my paintings more and also delving more into the detail.  I’m also becoming much more interested in the figures that I’ve always included in my urban landscapes but featuring them as subjects unto themselves.

Two recent works illustrate this.

Rex Beanland, The Pit, Vancouver, watercolour, 16 x 20

The Pit, Vancouver
watercolour, 16 x 20




This is a painting of some construction in Vancouver.  It’s a view from the Granville Bridge (you can see the railing of the bridge at the right side of the painting.  I just love the composition and the contrast of the dark side of the excavation and the light of the rest of it.  This was a fun painting to do.

Rex Beanland, The Pit, detail

The Pit, detail









This detail from the painting was a section that I particularly enjoyed.  It’s a nice little abstract just by itself.

Another painting that I’m very happy with is this one of a woman with her dogs.  It’s from a photo that my wife took when we were in Boston a few years ago.  I love the sense of contemplation and companionship.  It’s one of those intimate moments that I’m always searching for.

Rex Beanland, Woman & Dogs: A Moment Of Reflection, watercolour, 16 x 20

Woman & Dogs: A Moment Of Reflection
watercolour, 16 x 20















As much as I like the to be in my comfort zone and developing a series or a theme I also know that I benefit perhaps even more by stretching and exploring new areas.  This is what I feel is happening now.

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The Importance Of ‘The Wash’ In Watercolour

Watercolour at it’s best is know for an amazing luminosity and sense of light.  This is achieved by creating luminous washes.  I define the wash as the time from the moment you first put paint on paper until it’s completely dry.  During this time you can drop in other colours, add darker values, lift out colour, spray with water and in general play around with it.  When it’s dry the wash is finished.  At this point you can only add darker values over it.

In my teaching experience  mastering ‘the wash’  is a major challenge for beginners.  Usually this occurs because the painter doesn’t have enough water/colour in the brush and  before they finish a stroke across the paper they are already creating dry brush.  Once the wash is mastered, however it leads to outstanding, glowing paintings.

What brought this all to mind is a detail from a new painting I’m working on.  It’s a very evocative scene captured by my wife, Susan, when we were in Boston.  It shows a  moment of contemplation with a woman and her 4 dogs.

This is just the one main dog.  I painted this dog in one wash.  I kept the wash alive for about 10 minutes by continually dropping in colours wet in wet.  I also played with value.  Anyway, after it dried I thought this is just about perfect.  It seems to me that I can almost feel the fur.

Rex Beanland, example of a first wash (detail), watercolour

Example of a first wash














What a wonderful 10 minutes that was!

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The Next Step In Urban Landscape

I’ve been painting primarily urban landscape for the past 4 years and it’s been a wonderful journey. Recently my focus has evolved to focus more on the people. To take them from one element of the street scene to the star of the show.  I’m partially fascinated by those fleeting moments when people’s body language and facial expression reveal some special moment or thought.

Technically speaking when the size and importance of the figures is increased it becomes a new challenge to capture skin tones and also to do clothing.

This first painting was one I did as part of my FaceBook 5 day challenge.  I love the sense of bright sunlight.  I also had a lot of fun creating a background that ignored the buildings that were actually there and just played with watercolour.

Rex Beanland, Girl In The Sun, watercolour, 11 x 10

Girl In The Sun
11 x 10










This new painting was from our trip to Boston where my wife, Susan, caught this girl enjoying a quiet moment basking in the sun.  I am very happy with the layering that I used to paint her vest.  I also used Granulating Medium to create a bit of an effect in the tree at the bottom.

Rex Beanland, Pondering, watercolour, 16 x 20

16 x 20








This final painting also from Susan’s photo caught a girl in a bright pink dress feeding some ducks in the same pond.

Rex Beanland, Girl & Colourful Water, watercolour, 16 x 20

Girl & Colourful Water
16 x 20









I’m very excited by this evolution of my painting and I look forward to continuing this direction.









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Plein Air In Toronto

I just got back from my annual visit to Toronto for the AGM of the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour.  It was a great trip.  I grew up in Toronto but I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more in the past few years.  I love the energy, the buildings and the life on the streets.  Not sure I could live there with the nightmarish traffic but great to visit.

This time I spent most of my time visiting with family and it was really wonderful to connect with my brother and his wife as well as all the nephews and nieces.

I only had one day to get out and paint and it was a lovely day.  For some reason I wanted to paint a harbour view.  I’ve  always enjoyed looking down on Hamilton Harbour from the Burlington Sky Way but of course you can’t paint from there.  I went looking for the next best thing and I  found this view from the Burlington side of the harbour.  The buildings with their lovely reddish brown colour where the sun hit them and all the mass of dark shadows just spoke to me and I finished this painting on location.  It was a lovely couple of hours. I painted it inside the car.

Technically speaking it was a very easy painting to do.  The mass of dark shadows instantly unified and connected everything  so it was very easy to see the big shapes and not get caught up in details.  First of all I painted all the buildings in the reddish brown that you see on the roof tops.  Then I painted the dark shadows in one go.  White gouache created the smoke.

Rex Beanland, Hamilton Harbour, watercolour, 9 x 12

Hamilton Harbour











10 minutes past this location I was under the Burlington Sky Way which is a very impressive structure when you’re looking up.  Right beside it is the old Burlington Lift Bridge which most people might not even know exists.  It actually lifted right up to the top while I was painting it.

Rex Beanland, Burlington Lift Bridge, watercolour, 9 x 12

Burlington Lift Bridge










When I flew out the next day I had a couple of hours of waiting at the airport.  I had my handy little travel palette and did this little study of the airport.  The challenge with this was that the only brush I had was the tiny one that comes with the palette.  Very hard to get any kind of wash.  I’m including it here just because my wife told me that I had to.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Airport, watercolour, 8 x 8

Toronto Airport











Painting on location, especially when it’s a lovely sunny day with the radio on is certainly one of life’s greatest  pleasures.


Here are a few random photos from the trip.

Rex Beanland, Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

Rex Beanland, Streetsville House

Streetsville House

Rex Beanland, Under The Burlington Sky Way

Under The Burlington Sky Way


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Workshop For Fraser Valley Artists, Surrey BC

I had the great pleasure of doing a 3 day workshop for the Fraser Valley Artists in Surrey BC, April 1-3.  It was an urban landscape workshop.  Most participants were relatively new to this subject matter. That’s actually an advantage because I like to start off by practicing and playing with some of the urban landscape elements.

I find every workshop is different and has it’s own flavour. This workshop was a little different in that the participants were by and large very accomplished artists.  That required me to go a little further in terms of my demos.  However, I find that it is nearly  always beneficial to go a little past my comfort zone and that was the case this time.

Demo 1

I like to get the people painting as soon as possible so we started practicing how to paint figures and cars the first morning and them I demoed in the afternoon.  The class wanted to see me complete as much of the painting as possible in class so I didn’t get to work on it that night in the hotel (which I love doing). It’s based on a view of St Mary’s Church in Calgary.  In the reference photo the street is lined with banners but I’ve grown tired of painting banners so I changed them to palm trees.  This is that demo at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Demo 1 end of workshop

Demo 1 end of workshop

















When I got home I finished it off like this.  I felt that it need something in the sky to solidify that area and I love the trolley lines of Vancouver so they were added.


Rex Beanland, St Mary's (Surrey Workshop), watercolour, 21 x 14

Demo 1 final















It’s been said that it’s better to leave a painting a bit underworked rather than a bit overworked and I did overwork it somewhat but I still like it.


Demo 2

The second demo was a brand new painting for me.  I just love this particular grouping of cars and I was determined to down play the buildings in order to serve the story happening in the foreground.  This is how it looked at the end of the workshop.  I like the framing device of having darker figure shapes at each side of the painting.

Rex Beanland, Demo 2 end of workshop

Demo 2 end of workshop











This is the demo as far as I’ve taken it.  It’s still only  about 75% finished but I like it so much that I want to live with it for a while in order to see what it needs.

Rex Beanland, Empire Cars, watercolour, 14 x 21

Demo 2 final









Demo 3

We only had half a day for the third demo so I didn’t get much finished.  I find the perspective of this image to be very interesting even though the distortion is an artifact caused by the nature of a camera lens.

Rex Beanland, Demo 3 end of workshop

Demo 3 end of workshop














(I have made a video clip analyzing this painting that you might find useful).  It’s actually quite a simple painting even though it looks hard.  Here is the final version.


Rex Beanland, Eighth Ave Place, watercolour, 14 x 11

Demo 3 final














I was very impressed with all the paintings produced by the group and I managed to get photos of a couple of examples.  These are also not complete but show a strong grasp of all the ideas that we covered.

Rex Beanland, Student sample Wendy

Wendy Mould

Rex Beanland, Student sample Audrey

Audrey Bakewell























The Class

The artists who attended the workshop were a very friendly, very accomplished and very enthusiastic group.   There was a lot of laughter.   I have come to find that when a workshop works well I’m always inspired to paint more and that was my experience with this weekend.  Here are some shots of the class.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Surrey Workshop

Class Photo

Rex Beanland, The class at play

The class at play

















Rex Beanland, Rex demos

Rex demos












I would like to thank the Fraser Valley Artists for the invitation.

If you would like to see one of the participants take on the workshop visit Wendy Mould’s blog.

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A Simply Method For Drawing & Painting Cars

I made this 10 minute video for my upcoming workshop in Surrey April 1 – 3.  It illustrates a really simple way to draw and paint cars.  They are such a neat shape that really draw the viewer’s eye.  Watch this clip and you’ll be doing cars yourself very soon.

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What Do You Do When You Love Urban Landscape . . . But Want New Challenges

I have been doing almost exclusively urban landscape paintings in watercolour for the past 5 years and it has been fabulously fulfilling.  During this time I began learning about and  developing a technique to deal with buildings and cars.  I wanted a simple process that would allow me to capture my impression of a scene quickly and loosely.  I also developed a simple process for creating shapes that read as figures and always included them in the paintings.  Lately I’ve become more and more drawn to the figures themselves and their stories. This seems to be where urban landscape is leading me.  I love to try to capture those fleeting and spontaneous expressions that mark special moments.  Usually it’s necessary to work from photos exactly because the expressions are so fleeting.

When we were in Boston 3 years ago Susan used her video camera to take candid shots of people.  Many of them capture just this kind of moment.  This one was a girl sitting by the pond and just soaking in the rays of the afternoon sun.  It was mid November but there were still some fall colours on the trees.  This day was a shirt sleeve kind of day.  I’m working on a studio painting and this is one of the studies I’ve done to practice getting the water.  I was really pleased with the result and I’m excited to get to work on the piece.

Rex Beanland, Pondering Study, watercolour, 9 x 14











On Another Note . . .

Plein Air In Sicamous

I just got back from a 5 day trip to Kelowna and I spent the last 2 days doing plein air painting in both Sicamous and Golden.  I stayed one night in both places and each day I went out in the daytime and sketched various scenes.  Then I would go right back to the hotel and do a colour version.  These were 3 that I thought worked out well.

Rex Beanland, Sicamous, Cabin, watercolour, 9 x 12

Sicamous, Cabin, 9 x 12

Rex Beanland, Sicamous, Under The Bridge, watercolour 9 x 12

Sicamous, Under The Bridge, 9 x 12

Rex Beanland, Sicamous Husky, watercolour, 9 x 12

Sicamous, Husky, 9 x 12






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The Art Of Heavy Equipment

I’m in the process of revising my artist’s statement after viewing a business coaching video by Simon Sinek.  It inspired me to say that I paint urban landscapes because ‘I’m fascinated by people’.  So my urban landscape paintings are as much about the people as the buildings.  When looked at this way any activity that people engage in is equally of interest.  I say this as a way to explain my fascination with some types of heavy equipment.

I did a painting a few years ago that received some recognition and it continues to be a favourite of mine.  It’s called Construction Season, Calgary and it shows a work crew ripping up the road to replace the water main.  I just caught it when the dust from cutting concrete completely obliterated the end of our street.

Rex Beanland, Construction Season, Construction Season, Calgary, watercolour, 18 x 24

Construction Season, Calgary
18 x 24















Recently, as chronicled in a previous post, I completed a FaceBook 5 Day Challenge and one painting that didn’t get done during that week was again on my favourite piece of heavy equipment.  I’m not even sure what this machine is called but it is by far my favourite.  If I ever drove heavy equipment it would be this one.  I like the shape, love the tires and appreciate it’s power, manoeuvrability and versatility.  Anyway, I liked these 2 machines and the way they seemed to be engaged in a chase, so the title: Cat Chase.


Rex Beanland, Cat Chase, watercolour, 18 x 24

Cat Chase
18 x 24




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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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