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Author Archives: Rex Beanland
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.
I just spent a fabulous weekend teaching a workshop for the Calgary Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists. I’ve always appreciated the many members of the FCA who are striving to grow as an artist. It made the workshop a joy to teach.
We did a couple of neat watercolour practice paintings. They both explored value and ‘the wash’ . This is a collection of the works produced.
The second practice is mostly about creating a really dark value and lots of it. The one huge benefit of this exercise is that it catapults you right out of your the comfort zone in terms of creating bold values
One of my demos was how to create a crowd scene. I liked the painting when I did it and when I got home I worked on it a little and I like even more.
The demo I did was based on this photo which I’ve had for over a year and it had never caught my attention.
For some reason when I was planning for this workshop I looked at it again and saw something very different. It’s a view from downtown Calgary.
This is the painting I did as the main demo. This was the second workshop in a row in which I’ve done a painting that I’ve never done before so it made the process of doing it more exciting. I got about 70% of it done in the workshop and finished it off in the studio.
I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to show my urban landscape paintings in Edmonton. It really was the culmination and summation of the past couple of years. This short video clip gives a little glimpse of the show.
I am very excited by this new opportunity that has presented itself to me. That is the opportunity to share my video lessons to a wider audience on line. I have my own video production company and we have produced a number of art instruction DVD’s for other artists. I have also used it to produce my own video lessons for my classes. Now I have the opportunity to combine and expand my interests by, in a sense, teaching through the video lessons. My intention is that the videos be a little more of a stand alone instructional tool with higher production values. At present my videos have been taken by ArtClick.tv and I am most grateful to them for this.
The first video I have produced in this new endeavour is a cityscape from my recent time spent in Edmonton.
Here is a preview of the video lesson.
There is a very enthusiastic group of plein air painters that meet at least once a week to paint on location. I have painted with them on occasion and it’s always a most enjoyable experience. Last Friday, Oct 3, a call went out that CTV wanted to do a human interest piece on this group and more bodies would be welcome.
Susan, my wife, and I went along. I’ve passed the boat launch many times but never been in so I was very surprised to end up in this beautiful little gorge with large rock cliffs on 3 sides and a bit of a rocky beach on the other side. The Elbow River cuts right through it. It was a little cool but after a while the sun came out and it was transformed into a beautiful warm spot. The feeling of being enclosed by the cliffs lent it an unusual air.
I have painted on location many, many times in the past couple of years and I always enjoy it a great deal but this time, for some reason was special. I looked for a long time at the various possible subjects until one just jumped out at me. The colour was mostly a dark grey with accents of orange in the rock so I knew that I would mostly be using Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. There was a bit of early snow.
Feeling very comfortable that I had a plan of attack firmly in mind I
began painting with total abandon. The only analogy I can use is that my brush ‘danced’ on the paper. I felt completely free and in the moment. It was like I was just the vehicle that enabled this painting to come into being. The paint was flying and as you can see it was dripping all over the place. The painting is very accurate to the actual scene but I think it has a tremendous energy. But for me it’s really the fact that it’s a record of a wonderful, almost spiritual moment.
Winter Sun, Calgary was accepted into XI International Watercolor Biennial in Mexico at the Alfredo Guati Rojo National Watercolor Museum.
Construction Season, Calgary is based on a scene at the end of our street when city crews were installing a new water line. The man leaning into it is cutting a huge concrete structure and the dust and smoke completely obliterated the trees and house. I did a small plein air study then did this in the studio. I used white gouache extensively for all the dust. I wasn’t sure what to make of this painting for quite a while because of it’s unusual subject matter. Over the year that it hung on my wall I came to like it more and more and finally submitted it to the Federation Gallery in Vancouver for the Scenes of Western Canada show. I felt the subject matter particularly appropriate for that show. It felt very satisfying to have them accept it. I think there is a immediacy to it that I like and of course I love the heavy machinery.
I gave 2 workshops in Edmonton last weekend. They were sponsored by The Paint Spot a great art store, gallery and studio just off Whyte Ave. I have to thank Kim and her staff for making me feel so welcome. They are big supporters of Canadian and Albertan artists.
There were 2 classes both very enthusiastic about learning more about watercolour. It’s always a wonderful experience to be in a room like that.
The first day I did a demo of one of my favourite scenes from Calgary, the Stephan Ave Mall. It’s a good example of the monumental style street scene and has great shapes and composition.
This painting is all about value, the colour is completely secondary. But if you have a good composition and a good value then the painting will be successful. As a friend of mine said: Colour gets the glory but value does the work.
On the second day I did something I’ve never done before which is do a demo that I hadn’t practiced. This time I went in cold and that made it a very interesting experience. There was extra focus when I began the painting. But it did allow me to demonstrate the process I go through before I start a new painting. I always do a thumbnail value study in pencil. I find this practice very important. Since I’ve been doing this I notice the quality and especially the consistency of my paintings improved dramatically.
This is the demo I did on the second day. It’s a view down Jasper Ave. My main thought process was to see and paint the buildings on the left side as a single shape. I think it’s very successful. I really like the sense of light. I plan to do this painting again as a demonstration for my new distributor ArtClick.tv. Next time I do it I would like to improve the sky and also change the composition a little to bring the building on the right a little closer to the edge. Bringing that building right out of the frame at the bottom was the biggest change I made after the workshop when I got back in my studio.
Anyway it was great to meet everyone and it was a lot of fun. I look forward to returning.