Author Archives: Rex Beanland

2 Reasons That Plein Air Painting Is So Important

Many, if not most, accomplished painters extol the virtues of painting on location (plein air).  I agree wholeheartedly.  Lately I’ve been interested in identifying some reasons to back up my belief.  This post will illustrate 2 of the most important reasons.

Reason #1:  Capture The Essence Of A Subject Quickly
When you paint on location you need to paint quickly and decisively.  There isn’t time to get bogged down in detail.  So you need to create shapes that capture the essence of a subject without a lot of fuss. One common subject is trees.  Plein air painting has taught me how to quickly create shapes that read as trees.  Creative brush work is one way to do this.

Here is how I hold the brush to quickly suggest a mass of trees.

Rex Beanland, overhand grip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This overhand grip allows me to drag the brush on it’s side and it instantly creates a ragged, crinkly edge that reads just like the outline of trees.

Rex Beanland, brush technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another way of using the brush is to mush it into the palette to make the hairs splay out.

Rex Beanland, Mushing the brush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By using all the sides of the brush and even pushing against the hairs you can create some  interesting marks that read as foliage.

Rex Beanland, Mushed Brush in use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is particularly useful for occasions when you have some branches breaking into the frame.

Rex Beanland, foliage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reason #2:  Simplify The Subject Into Basic  Shapes

In almost any plein air experience there is far too much detail and we need to simplify it to just capture the essence.

Here is a photo from my last trip to Kensington Market in Toronto.  I love the wonderful colour of all the vests and clothing.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market (detail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be impossible to paint all this detail so I found a way to simplify it down to a few simple washes.  It still captures completely the feeling I had which was simply bright colour surrounded by lovely darks.

Rex Beanland, simplify shapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me this says all I want to say about this section of the painting.

Conclusion
These are just 2 or the reasons that plein air painting helps us grow as artists. By practicing these skills we can’t help but progress and progress rather quickly. It has been an essential part of my artistic journey and I encourage you to get outside and experience it for yourself.

By the way, this detail is from my new DVD which will be available in about 6 months.  If you are interested in seeing a little more about this painting and the filming process check out this recent post.

 

Filming My New DVD

I’m really pleased to announce that I have just finished shooting my first DVD.  It is untitled at this point but I’m leaning toward Urban Landscape – Fast and loose.

We have for 10 years produced art instruction DVD’s for other artists but are now concentrating on my own art instruction.  We had to create a totally new work flow since I was now on the other side of the camera.  We did it with 3 unmanned cameras and Susan hand holding a camera right over my shoulder.  This allowed us to get great shots.  We filmed over 5 days and it was a lot of fun, very stress free.  It felt great when we finished.  We were both feeling proud and satisfied.

It will probably be 6 months before we have copies but it is in the works.  Stay tuned and I’ll announce when copies are available.

In the meantime you can see a short preview of just one of the elements in the video at this link.

Here are a few stills from the set.

Rex Beanland, filming DVD stills

On The Set

Rex Beanland, filming DVD stills

On The Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rex Beanland, filming DVD stills

Gotcha!

 

Here is the demo I did on the video.  It’s from one of my favourite locations, Kensington Market in Toronto.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 14 x 21

Kensington Market
14 x 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m very proud of this entire effort I know it will be a great teaching tool for all watercolour artists.  It’s packed with great tips and techniques.  You’ll definitely want to get a copy of this when available.

Here is a short excerpt from the DVD.

A Second Look

I recently had occasion to take a second look at some of my work.  Two paintings really caught my attention.  They are both from approximately 2 years ago and they had been on a wall that is reserved for finished paintings that I’m not sure what to do with. This time they spoke to me very clearly and they are both now in frames.

Interestingly they are both plein air (on location) paintings.  They remind me again that there is something special that happens because of  the immediacy of plein air painting, something that seems to transcend normal thinking.

The first painting is a location on Madeline Island, in Lake Superior.  I was there 2 years ago to attend a workshop with my hero Joseph Zbukvic.  We had a full day before he arrived so I went painting on the island.  This spot called the Indian Cemetery honours the original inhabitants of the island.  It is now mostly run down and over grown but has a special feel to it. It is a world removed from the busy marina that is right beside it.  When I looked at this painting this week it completely captured, for me, the feeling I had that day and the spirit of the place.

Rex Beanland, Indian Cemetery, watercolour, 10 x 14

Indian Cemetery  (10 x 14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This next one is from our front yard.  We have 2 large pine trees that had dense foliage right down to the ground.  My wife, Susan, carved a lovely little sanctuary between the 2 trees.  It’s lovely and cool in the summer and feels completely separate from the road which is a mere 10 feet away.  Again this is a plein air painting that  captures the feeling  this place has for me.

Rex Beanland, Summer Sanctuary, 9 x 12

Summer Sanctuary (9 x 12)

When I took this second look at these paintings I though that even though they are both small  they are works that I’m very proud of and they define for me the reason that I paint.

I have and hope to continue to produce more complex and more considered works but I am not sure that they will surpass the feeling I get from these 2 paintings.

 

Painting In Drumheller

For the 2 last days of November I took a little painting trip.  On these occasional trips I’ve usually gone to the mountains but to be honest, the charm of the mountains is more and more eluding me so I headed the other way.  I thought of Drumheller because the Badlands are in some ways about as far as you can get from the mountains.

I love these painting trips because my focus is completely on painting from the time I wake up until I go to bed.  It’s a special state of mind that I get into.

I stopped just outside Drumheller at  Horseshoe Canyon which is a very special landscape completely hidden from the nearby highway.  This great hole just opens up as you walk up to the edge.  There are walking paths through it but this time I just stayed at the top because I was carrying all my painting equipment.

Here are some views of the canyon and the badlands.

Rex Beanland, Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon

Rex Beanland, Badlands

Badlands

Rex Beanland, Horseshoe Canyon 2

Horseshoe Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely sunny day.  It appeared quite warm from inside the car but when I set up to paint my hands were freezing within 5 minutes and my water froze fairly quickly.  I  did start a painting before I   realized that the water was going to freeze. The wash on the paper also froze soon after applying it and when I warmed the painting up in the car it all ran and made a total mess.  However, I  got enough information to imprint what I wanted to do with this subject.

 

 

 

I did these 2 paintings that night back in my room from using photos.

Rex Beanland, Horseshoe Canyon 2, watercolour, 12 x 16

Horseshoe Canyon 2

Rex Beanland, Horseshoe Canyon 1, watercolour, 9 x12

Horseshoe Canyon 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day I spent most of the day in Rosebud doing a couple more paintings. Rosebud is a little village that is pretty much completely taken over by the Rosebud School Of The Arts, a school for actors and theatre people.  It was a much colder and overcast day.

Rex Beanland, Rosebud

Rosebud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a plein air painting of one of the houses.  It’s an unusually friendly village and everyone who passed by waved and made me feel very welcome.

Rex Beanland, Rosebud Alley, watercolour 9 x 12

Rosebud Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to Drumheller I stopped and did this painting en plein air.  This is the highway just as it starts it’s descent into Drumheller.

Rex Beanland, Down To Drumheller, watercolour, 12 x 16

Down To Drumheller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned I’d never painted the badlands before so I’m very pleased with these works.  What  I found so useful was to use a similar approach to the one I studied at the Ted Nuttall workshop I attended in August.  For a more detailed look at his style check out my blog entry.  His approach utilizes lot of very deliberate and considered marks with a very liberal use of softening of the edges to give a lost and found feel.  It’s very time consuming but the resulting works are we’ll worth it.

Lately I’ve had a major shift in my work process to emphasize this Ted Nuttall inspired process.  I’m really enjoying it and the paintings that I’m producing are certainly fun but it’s a big change from the way I’ve painted for the past few years.  Lots of detailed observation and the careful build up of transparent layers.  For me, however, I can’t stay away from the immediacy of plein air painting for too long.  It keeps me fresh and keeps me thinking on my feet.  So it was a treat to have this couple of days to reconnect directly with the landscape.

 

 

A Demonstration For The Toronto Watercolour Society

As part of my trip to Toronto for a workshop  I was also asked to do a demo for the first meeting of the year for the Toronto Watercolour Society.  This was a real honour for me and it was also the largest group that I have ever demoed for.  It made me feel very special to be miked up and to have my demo projected onto a large screen behind me.  

Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex & the crowd Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex focus Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex and the crowd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had plans to finish the demo during the hour and a half I had available but I only got half of it done.  When I got home I completed the painting and videotaped the process.  I’m posting that here so that any who are interested can see my process through to completion.

First, here is the painting as it was at the  end of the demo.

Rex Beanland, Chargin' Phase 1, watercolour, 21 x 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the video of how I finished the painting.

 

 

 

 

And here is the final version.

Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Chargin'

Chargin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop For The Toronto Watercolour Society

I had the privilege of teaching a workshop for the Toronto Watercolour Society.  I would like to thank Eleanor Lowden, the president of the TWS and Carolyne Pascoe, the workshop co-ordinator for giving me this opportunity.  It was especially enjoyable for me because I love Toronto and also as a watercolourist it’s a treat to be with a group of people who share my love of this special medium.

The workshop was a wonderful experience.  I just love watching the process as a group of individuals come together into a single group supporting and encouraging each other.  For me that is one of the more important indicators of a good workshop.  So thank you to everyone for a great workshop.

Historical Note

The workshop was held at the Assembly Hall on Lakeshore Blvd.  It was originally part of a mental health hospital opened in 1888. It was closed in 1979 when the government wanted to change the model of institutionalizing patients with mental health issue.  There are a few of the original buildings left and they are extremely attractive from the outside.  Inside they have been completely modernized and some of them are part of Humber College.  The  Assembly Hall is owned by the city and is mainly a rental space with an art focus.  There is an extremely moving tribute to the original hospital using the words of the patients themselves located just outside the Assembly Hall.

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - Class Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Workshop

Once again there was a wide range of abilities and levels of experience.  I must admit that I  enjoy this particular challenge.  It is so gratifying to be able to support and encourage those with less experience and it’s also great to see how the more advance painters take my process and make it their own.  It’s also very helpful for the class to see all these different approaches to a subject.  I’ve always maintained that participants in a workshop can learn a great deal from each other.

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - People watch

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - Rex & the mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demos

I did 2 demos during the workshop.  This one is a real favourite of mine.  It’s from a part of Toronto that I always visit, Kensington Market.  It’s such a jumble of vibrant life.  I love the fact that the photo I used was one of the few that needed very few changes because it was such a great composition right out of the camera.  It was also an excuse to have some fun with colour.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 14 x 21

Kensington Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other demo which I call Toronto Works was a general introduction to my urban landscape process.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Works, watercolour, 21 x 14

Toronto Works

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video Clip

I thought I had finished Toronto Works  in the class but when I got it home I noticed a couple of changes that I wanted to make.  I thought I would do a short video clip to illustrate these changes.  Watercolour’s reputation is that it is a very challenging medium and it’s hard to make changes.  Certainly with oil and acrylic it’s possible to scrape out or white out sections and just redo them but it is also very possible to make changes even very dramatic changes to a painting.  While the changes I made to this one are not dramatic I hope that watercolourists will find comfort in the  fact that change is possible.

 

 

A Concluding Word

This past month with this workshop in Toronto followed immediately by a week in Nelson,  BC and then a mini-workshop at the Leighton Centre in Calgary has been the most intense month of my teaching career.  It has been an experience that has challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone and from which I have grown.  I am very grateful to be in this place at this time of my life.

I just want to end with the comment of one of the participants:

“Thanks Rex, it was a very good Workshop. I learnt a lot and it’s because of all the hard work that you put into making the workshop such a success.  Well done!

 

 

Workshop for the West Kootney Chapter of the FCA

Last week I had a fabulous experience travelling to beautiful Nelson, BC to teach a  landscape watercolour workshop for the West Kootney Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists.  The workshop was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience.  The town of Nelson is beautiful and contains an almost endless series of interesting buildings.   It happened to be very warm and sunny while we were there which makes any place look it’s best.  Nelson is a very artistic town with many very, VERY steep hills!

There were a full range of participants in the workshop, from the complete beginner to advanced.  That makes for a very interesting class and I think everyone benefits from both going over the basics and also getting to see more advanced approaches to the subject.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo

Class Photo

 

 

I’ve started to use my projector in all my workshops.  What an awesome teaching tool.

Rex Beanland, Rex Teaches 2

Rex Teaches 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had an experience that I’ve never had before.  Richard wrote a poem for me which he read to the class.

Rex Beanland, Rex Richard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Sheila who billeted us.  What a generous and welcoming host.  Thank you so much!

 

Rex Beanland, Sheila

Sheila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demos

I did 3 demos during the 3 day workshop.

The first was an experimental landscape approach to Cameron Pond (in Waterton Lakes)

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond, watercolour, 20 x 14

Cameron Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the second day I did a version of a plein air painting from our recent trip to Toronto.  It’s really a value study in green with an added figure.  I did some extensive changing of the painting after I got home especially the big bright tree on the left.  It was too much like a round ball or a lollipop.  I used dark valued washes to cover it over and create a new edge.  You can see the original edge of it by the shape of the darks  around it.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Pond, watercolour, 21 x 14

Toronto Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last day I did a style of painting that I’ve never tried before.  The goal was to try and keep  it very simple and ethereal.  It was sure a lot of fun to do.  It’s a scene we saw the day before the workshop when Susan and I spent a day driving around the Slocan Valley.

 

Rex Beanland,Slocan Valley, watercolour, 14 x 21

Slocan Valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the workshop we took the next day to do some plein air painting in downtown Nelson.  There are so many subjects to choose from.

Here are the 2 paintings I got done.

Rex Beanland, Nelson Court House, watercolour, 9 x 12

Nelson Court House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rex Beanland, Nelson Street Corner, watercolour, 9 x 12

Nelson Street Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Alison and the West Kootney Chapter for inviting me and for treating Susan and me so well.  It was much appreciated.

Finally a comment  from one of the participants.

Everyone really enjoyed your class – you had challenges with such a range of abilities, and managed to reach everyone at the place they were at.

Alberta Culture Days at the Leighton Centre

I taught a couple of fun, little workshops at the Leighton Centre, Sunday Oct 2, for the Alberta Culture Days.  I was asked to work on my own subject and do a couple of short hands on activities with the visitors.  It turned out to be much more fun than that as I did 2 little mini-workshops, one in the morning one in the afternoon.  It was a lot of fun as people who had never painted or at least not much, tried their hand and watercolour.  A fun time was had by all and everyone left with a neat little painting.

This was the Leighton Centre’s most successful Culture Day.  I think that that was in part due to the hands-on nature of the demo/workshops.  My friend, Sharon Williams, also did a very popular introduction to Encaustic painting.  The ASA also had talks at the end of each day, Saturday and Sunday.

Be sure to check it out next September.

Rex Beanland, Rex teaches, Alberta Culture Days, Leighton Centre

Rex Teaches For Alberta Culture Days

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Morning, Alberta Culture Days

Class Photo Morning

Rex Beanland, Class Laughs, Alberta Culture Days

Class Laughs

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Afternoon, Alberta Culture Days

Class Photo Afternoon

Portraits From Ted Nuttall Workshop

These are the 3 portraits that I started during the Ted Nuttall Workshop that I reported on in the previous post.  I really like them.  They represent a new style and approach for me so I’m just getting comfortable with it  but it just resonates very deeply with me.

Rex Beanland, Paranoia, watercolour, 14 x 21

Paranoia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was inspired by this guy’s look of paranoia.  He was a small figure in the background of a photograph and I liked his look but the quality of the image was very poor so I had to make up quite a bit of it.  One thing I’ve learned is that to do portraits from photographs a good quality photo is essential.

Rex Beanland, Looking Back, watercolour, 14 x 21

Looking Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This portrait captured the look I was going for.  What I’m drawn to in portrait work is to capture a moment in time.  A moment when the subject is unaware of being observed and is caught up in some feeling.

Rex Beanland, Girl Ponders, watercolour 14 x 21

Girl Ponders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one would be my favourite.  I think it’s the technically the cleanest of the 3.  I also like the way the drips from the background wash seemed to form a picket fence so I went with that look and it’s very appropriate.

The challenge for me in doing this work is that it’s a very intuitive process.  Trying a mark here and a mark there.  It’s a very worthwhile challenge because it forces me to slow down and do a lot more thinking which is always helpful.  It also forces me to concentrate of lots of light layers to build up the form.

Another challenge is  what to do with the backgrounds.  Each of these works has a background build up by applying successive layers of light washes which creates a neutral grey.  Then just a suggestion of some object or shape gives the background a focus.  I remember  Ted saying that he had no formula for the backgrounds and he it was always a challenge for him to create the background.  I know exactly what he means.

The other factor in this approach is that good reference material is a necessity so I’m spending more time with the camera now.

The biggest take away for me from this new experience is that I love it and I will be continuing to pursue portraits in the future.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

Last week Susan and I travelled to the Madeline Island School of Art (MISA) to take a workshop. MISA is located on Madeline Island, the largest and only inhabited island in the Apostle Island chain.  They are in the Wisconsin section of Lake Superior. They are a very fascinating and beautiful destination.

The workshop was with Ted Nuttall who is an amazing watercolour portraitist.  He appears frequently in The Watercolour Magazine.  He has been on the cover 3 times.  He has also won numerous awards in many of the biggest exhibitions including the American Watercolor Society which is the biggest of the big.

This image is very representative of his style.

 

 

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

Sloppy Dots

 

Ted is definitely an  intuitive painter. He paints very deliberately, with a lot of thought.  He  employs a style of using many light transparent layers to build up the feeling of depth.  He also adds an element of energy and excitement to his paintings by the use of what he calls ‘Sloppy Dots’.  Sloppy dots are really just little blobs of colour. They are fascinating in that up close they appear to be very busy and haphazard but when viewed further back they just blend into the portrait. All you notice is that the portrait is a little more interesting and involving..

You can see an example of this approach in this detail of an eye.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge of putting this approach into practice is that it’s hard to give a recipe on how to use it.  It’s hard to say ‘just do this or that’ when it’s such an intuitive process.

Here is another example of sloppy dots creating hair.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I found during the workshop is that when you just loosen up and give it a try  it’s actually much easier then I would have expected.  At least to do my version of it.

MISA

I went to  MISA last year to take a workshop with my hero Joseph Zbukvic.  They bring in a lot of big name instructors. They run 3 different workshops every week so it’s a very busy place.  They have quilting, photography and writing workshops as well as all types of painting.  It’s not inexpensive but they do treat you royally.  It’s also a neat experience to be on an island even if you’re just a 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Here is a shot of the MISA campus.

misa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the inside of our studio showing some of the class.  It’s in the top of that barn like structure in the centre of the photo above.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take–Aways

I found this workshop to be extremely interesting and useful.  Part of the reason I that I feel I got so much out of it is that  I had already been experimenting with portraits a little bit.  So I had already been thinking about and practicing some of the challenges of doing portraits.

One of my big lessons was to lighten up on value.  Here is a perfect example.  This is one of Ted’s reference photos.

 

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before this workshop I would have focused so much on the dark suit and the dark hat and I would have painted them as strong darks.  Now, here is Ted’s rendition.  I find it so interesting to imagine the thought process he uses to go from this photo to this light and lively painting.  It’s a challenge to me to try to assimilate this lesson but I’m finding it an exciting challenge.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other big take-away for me is the challenge of using some of these sloppy dots and unusual colour accents in my own work.  I will  be posting the paintings I began during the workshop soon but it’s a much slower process than I am used to so it’s taking it’s time . . . and that’s just fine.

Ted had some other original paintings and some giclees at the workshop and one of the original paintings completely captivated me.  I liked them all but this one went way beyond liking.  The painting isn’t quite finished but we have ordered a giclee as soon as it’s finished. The original sells for $4500.00.   I’ll be proud to have this painting in our home.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Susan and I really connected with Ted.   He is a very gentle and generous guy.  We  are the same age and we appear to  like a lot of the same music so it was fun to meet and get to know him a little.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ted Nuttall Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the great experience!