Author Archives: Rex Beanland

Experimental Watercolour Workshop

I had a lovely experience at the Leighton Centre this weekend with my Experimental Watercolour Workshop.  The weather was really nice with the fall colours on display.  I’m always reminded how neat it is to be at the Leighton Centre.  It is so close to the city but you feel like you’re in another world.

The workshop was very successful and I was really pleased with everyone’s work.  The goal of all the paintings was to use the elements of the scenes to create a painting that has a story and some mystery.  Using these experimental techniques is fun and also allows us to let the water play.

Here is my first demo.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Final Demo 1













And this is my second demo.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Final Demo 2












In both paintings I wanted to create a real nice light path to lead your eye into it.

Just for the benefit of those who attended here is demo #2 as it was at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre Experimental Watercolour Workshop












I wanted to show in particular a couple of techniques that I didn’t cover during the workshop.  This first one is how to reclaim whites.  I used masking tape to define these 2 shapes and then aggressively used a toothbrush to get back to almost white paper.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Detail showing lifting out





In this one I’m showing how a little Chinese White mixed with viridian and yellow adds depth and life to an area that was quite dark.  You can see that one edge of these shapes is hard and the other edge is softened with water.  It’s a beautiful effect that suggests light coming from behind the trees.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Detail showing opaque colour



















I also wanted to show the students’ work even though none of these are finished but even at this stage you get a strong sense of the ‘story’ of each painting.  They really draw you in.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop


Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop










Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop










Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop








Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop









Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop









Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop









Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop










Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop








Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Work In Progress








Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Using a twig









A great workshop and a great bunch of people!

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop

Class Photo













A few days after the workshop I got a note from one of the participants that I really appreciated.

Thanks so much Rex, I learnt a ton and can’t wait to get practicing the techniques some more! 

The Key To Learning To Draw

I am presently teaching private drawing lessons. I am again reminded of the almost unbelievable power of the book ‘Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain‘ by Betty Edwards.  For me it’s the bible of drawing and I’ve never seen anyone fail to improve absolutely dramatically  if they are willing to put in a little effort.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand why this book is so powerful and I think it’s simply because it takes the natural drawing ability that everyone has and exercises it just like a muscle until it’s really strong.

The theory doesn’t matter at all however – it’s the results that count and the results are really something.  There are of course individual differences in drawing ability but it’s very common for people to go from saying ‘I can’t even  draw stick figures to drawing sensitive, life like, captivating portraits.

It’s been a while since I last taught this class so it’s a real treat to revisit it.

Here are my demos of the first 2 drawings that we did.

Rex Beanland, Harry Potter, graphite

Harry Potter


















Rex Beanland, Emma Watson, graphite

Emma Watson


















Here are the drawings of my student Honor.

Rex Beanland, student Honor drawing, Emma Watson

Emma Watson

Rex Beanland, student Honor drawing, Harry Potter

Harry Potter

Rex Beanland, student Honor drawing, Pre Test

Pre Test









































Demo For The Group

I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the The Group, one of Calgary’s thriving art communities.  The demo I did is a painting I have done before but this time I was trying to make it a little less tight, a little more impressionistic.  I wanted some of the buildings to be less straight etc.  I like it but I realize how much further I could have taken this idea of getting really loose and having some fun.  Next time.

Rex Beanland, Demo for The Group, watercolour, 20 x 15

Letting Go
















Rex Beanland, Group Demo, Rex and wash

Rex Beanland, Group Demo, Rex Talks

Rex Beanland, Group Demo, Rex looking cool








Rex Beanland, Group Demo, Big Laughs

Experimental Watercolour

In the past year I have been getting involved more and more with what I call Experimental Watercolour.  That is a bit of an intimidating title that really means approaching watercolour in a little bit of a different way.

Specifically I identify 2 main differences with traditional watercolour.  One is to be more intentional and playful with the water.  Tilting the board all around to let the water/paint flow and letting it create exciting and very organic blends and special effects.  Also spraying the paper before and during the painting process to get shapes to explode outwards and create exciting edges.

Another difference is trying to find ways to apply the paint to the paper other than using the brush in a traditional manner.  This can involve throwing or splattering the paint on to the paper, dropping colours in wet in wet as well as using unusual tools such as twigs, homemade stamps and a palette knife.  You can also apply and lift off paint with Kleenex or paper towel.  I’m finding the possibilities endless and I’m just scratching the surface.

Experimental To Realistic

My goal with experimental watercolour is to create realistic paintings that make the viewer  wonder ‘how was that done’. Sometimes I may do the entire painting in an experimental approach, other times I will do just some sections experimentally. But I’m finding that I’m learning so many things that I can apply to any painting and any style.

Here are some examples:

Rex Beanland, Glenmore Tree, watercolour, 9 x 12

Glenmore Tree






This painting based very loosely on  a tree in Glenmore Park was an opportunity to make really dark  shapes like the trunk and then hit them with the spray bottle.  The paint rushes into  the spray and creates some very interesting and organic edges.



Why  Experimental Watercolour

This approach is particularly useful for complex subjects such as this little pond in Waterton Lakes Park.  Doing all these trees realistically would be a huge task and it’s not a very attractive background.  In the experimental approach I ask myself how could I get the feel of this place without directly painting every tree.

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond

Cameron Pond










I really like this  version because it expresses my idea of the photo but it has a completely personal take on it.

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond 2, watercolour 20 x 15

Cameron Pond


















Creating  Realistic  Paintings

As I mentioned the goal is always to create a realistic painting but to do it differently.  Last year when I taught in Nelson, BC I got to do a day of plein air painting (on location).  It was a beautiful sunny day and this building which was a court house really stood out.

Here is the plein air painting I did.

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

Nelson Court House Plein Air









A very nice painting.  What intrigued after I finished it was think about a different way to paint the ivy that would be more experimental.

What I came up with was basically throwing the paint  at the paper and then spritzing it to get the paint to run while preserving bits of the white paper.

I’m very happy with this.  There is a great feel to the building and it seems to glow. Interestingly I had this painting for sale at Art In The Garden 2017.  It didn’t sell but someone called me 3 weeks later and said that he just had to have it.  It is now sold.

Rex Beanland, Nelson Court House Experimental, watercolour, 12 x 18

Nelson Court House Experimental











Using A Twig

Another experimental technique that is a lot of fun and extremely  effective is to use a twig to paint tree branches.  The twig sort of twitches and jumps and ends up creating a line that looks exactly like a branch.

Here is an example:

Rex Beanland, Using A Twig, watercolour

Using A Twig








And here is a detail from a recent painting where I used this technique.

Rex Beanland, Detail from Majestic Shore - using twigs to create branches, watercolour

Detail from Majestic Shore – using twigs to create branches













As I thing and practice this approach more and more I’m coming to believe that it’s not actually the techniques that are important it’s the mindset of thinking ‘how else could I do this’.  

Anyway, it you are interested I will be  teaching an Experimental Watercolour workshop at the Leighton Centre, Oct 14 -15, 2017.  It’s going to be fun and as always you’ll come away with a treasure chest of new ideas.

To register contact The Leighton Centre or
phone:  403-931-3633








Wow! Watercolour Symposium Calgary

Our fabulous watercolour symposium presented by the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour just happened Aug 19 – 24.  According to the feedback it was a fabulous experience! People were thrilled with how much they learned, how much fun they had and how beneficial it was to be pushed out of their comfort zones. It was an intense 5 day event but as one participant put it “it was the highlight of my summer”.

One comment many people had was how much fun it was to meet and connect with other artists.  This can be seen in these 2 shots from registration night.

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017


Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Camaraderie 2






Another feature that was much appreciated was the range of styles and subject matter from still lifes, portraits, landscape, abstract and urban landscape through fabric and plein air.  Here are some shots that give a taste of the event.

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Portrait Painting

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Fabric Painting

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Still Life

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Plein Air Painting

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Mixed Media

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Class Photo

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Plein Air Part 2

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Urban Landscape






























There were also activities each evening including live figure painting.

Rex Beanland, CSPWC Symposium, Aug 2017

Live Figure Painting










I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  It was extremely exhausting but also extremely rewarding. I did a different demo for each of my 4 classes and got most of it done in class and completed it at night.  I’m really happy with all of them.  I think they were great teaching tools.

Rex Beanland, St. Mary's, watercolour,15 x 20

St Mary’s

















Rex Beanland, Stampede City, watercolour, 15 x 20

Stampede City










Rex Beanland, Winter Sun, Inglewood, watercolour, 15 x 20

Winter Sun, Inglewood

















Rex Beanland, Kensington Market Colour, watercolour, 15 x 20

Kensington Marke









I also bravely volunteered to do a nocturnal which was quite nerve racking but turned out quite nicely.  This is one of the old buildings that SAIT has wisely preserved and incorporated right in with the new buildings.  This is where the registration was held.

Rex Beanland, Nocturnal Painting Of Heritage Hall, watercolour, 12 x 16

Nocturnal Painting Of Heritage Hall














The CSPWC holds a symposium every year in some part of Canada and it remains an experience not to be missed.  The next one will be in Ontario.  Info is available on the site.

An Experimental Approach To Realistic Landscape

I have spent quite a lot of time lately studying and practicing experimental watercolour techniques.  In particular I’ve looked at the style of Nita Engle who is a stunning watercolourist.  She lives near one of the Great Lakes on the American side and her subjects are very similar to the landscape around Kenora where we have spent a lot of time.

Here is a painting I did in her style.  I just love it!  There are many different experimental techniques used so  it’s hard to describe them adequately but they sure work.

Rex Beanland, Majestic Shore, watercolour, 10 x 16

Majestic Shore












I’ve also been thinking a lot about the benefits of exploring experimental techniques for all watercolourists.   I’m finding that one of the main benefits is to take these techniques and use them in your own particular style. They will help you paint more expressively.

Here is a plein air painting I did tonight on a beautiful Saturday evening just about half way to Langdon on Glenmore.  It sure captures my impression. There is a very convenient place to pull off right at the water’s edge.  The only problem is that the other side of the pond is very far away.

Rex Beanland, Glenmore Pond, watercolour, 10 x 16, plein air

Glenmore Pond










Rex Beanland, Glenmore Pond Close, watercolour, 8 x 11

Glenmore Pond Close











Speaking of experimental techniques I want to mention my upcoming  Experimental Watercolour Workshop at the Leighton Centre, Oct 14 – 15, 2017.  I’m very biased but I think it’s essential training for any watercolourist.

Experimental Watercolour Workshop

I just taught a Experimental Watercolour Workshop in Kenora.  This was a special experience for me because of my connection with Kenora.  About 20 years ago I taught for 2 years for Shoal Lake Band 40 just about 50 km west of Kenora.  My wife Susan also lived in Kenora for about 10 years.  We have also had a cabin on Lake of the Woods near Kenora for many years.  Our cabin just sold so we have no idea when we will be back in this beautiful area.  There was in a real sense saying goodbye to the region.

Anyway, back to experimental watercolour.

The experimental approach is about playing with water and applying paint in a ways other than the traditional use of the brush.  It’s particularly useful for capturing a sense of very complicated, intricate subjects that would require a very time consuming  photorealistic approach.

The medium of water is so much more crucial to watercolourists than the relationship between oil and acrylic painters and their particular mediums.  For this reason I believe  very strongly that all watercolourists should explore some of the tools and techniques used in an experimental approach.

I’m offering this workshop again in October at the Leighton Centre in Calgary so I’ll be posting more detail later.

Anyway, here is the first demo I did.  I’m also putting the painting as it was at the end of the workshop at the bottom of the post so you can see the final touches I added.  I have done this painting before but this was the first time I had actually gone back to the original photo so it is quite different in feel from my previous version

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond 2, watercolour 20 x 15

Cameron Pond














This is the second demo I did.  It’s a view I had from my motel in Nelson this spring.  I happened to be up at 3 am and this is what I saw.  Lovely light and strong value contrast.

Rex Beanland, Night Light, watercolour, 12 x 16

Night Light











Finally here are the 2 painting as they were at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond After Workshop, watercolour, 20 x 15

Cameron Pond After Workshop














Rex Beanland, Night Light After Workshop, watercolour, 12 x 16

Night Light After Workshop









It was a really enjoyable workshop and a fine farewell to Kenora (at least for the present).  And many thanks to Irene McCuaig at Inglenook Art Studio for allowing me to see another side of Kenora – the artistic side.

Transparent Watercolour Portraits

It was a fabulous workshop at the Leighton Centre last weekend.  This particular  group of people was excellent – enthusiastic, friendly, great sense of humour (meaning they laughed at all my jokes) and very interested in learning.  For me it was also a very special workshop because this was the first time I’ve offered it.  I did a lot of getting ready for the workshop and I was very happy with the results.

My process for doing these  transparent portraits is: 1) do the skin tone underpainting, 2) add the features and 3) model the form.  The beauty of this process is that it’s very simple and clear cut.  Of course once you get the basics of the portrait you still have to use your artistic skill to make it into a good picture.

Anyway, I did 2 demos both of which I finished off at home. Here is Saturday’s . . .

Rex Beanland, Demo 1, Transparent Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Demo #1










. . . and Sunday’s

Rex Beanland, Demo 2, Transparent Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Demo #2














I also did one practice before the workshop to just illustrate the first 2 steps of my process i.e. the underpainting and adding the features.  It’s interesting to see it at this stage.


Rex Beanland, Demo Practice, Transparent Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre













We had a great time in the class and it’s always a neat experience to spend the weekend at the Leighton Centre.  It was sunny on and off but either way the surroundings and the view are really quite spectacular.  It was so easy to forget about the city and just enjoy being in the country for a day.

Here are some class photos:

Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Class Photo with paintings

Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Class Photo

















My wife, Susan, also took the workshop because she has some art obligations coming up and she wanted to get a kick start for her own painting.

Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre










As a former public school teacher I have learned that the success of a workshop is not how good my paintings are but what the students are able to do with what they learn. And there was a lot of learning.

I want to share the student samples.  It’s a big job to do a full portrait and no one completely finished so I’ve cropped each example just to show some parts that had been done.


Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample










Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample










Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample










Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample











Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample











Rex Beanland, Portrait Workshop, Leighton Centre

Student Sample







At the end of the weekend I was exhausted but in a very satisfying way.  It really was a pleasure to be there.

Next Workshop At The Leighton Centre

Just for those who may be interested.  My next workshop at the Leighton Centre is in October.  It’s an Experimental Watercolour Workshop (aka Playing with water).  Details will be available shortly on the Leighton Centre Website.


Portraits Galore At The Clothesline Sale

This past weekend was the annual Clothesline Sale at the Leighton Centre.  As has become my routine I did a demo on both days.  As always it was a very enjoyable experience.

This year my focus was promoting my up coming workshop on Transparent Watercolour Portraits.

What made it particularly interesting is because it completely shook up my thinking about these transparent portraits.  I thought they had to be done by means of a slow deliberate build up of transparent layers.  However, since I was painting in front of people I had to make decisions quickly and on the fly.  What I learned is simply that I can work quickly and still get  great portraits.  I thought we would only get parts of one portrait done during the workshop.  Now the goal has changed completely.

This first image is a practice a did at home to get familiar with one of my subjects. 

Rex Beanland, Shelby close, watercolour, 9 x 9

Shelby Close Up












On Saturday I finished this full portrait of Shelby.

Rex Beanland, Shelby, watercolour, 15 x 20


















Rex Beanland, Shelby & The Painting

Shelby & Her Painrting












On Sunday I had the opportunity to work on another portrait. This was a very interesting portrait to do because it was the first portrait of a man that I had done.  Also I did no preparation before working on it on-location. I completed 60% of it on site and finished it in the studio.


Rex Beanland, Guy Pondering, Watercolour, 14 x 21

Guy Pondering












All in all it was a great experience and once again the weather was beautiful except for the occasional gusts of wind that did manage to topple my easel, water and painting once.