Author Archives: Rex Beanland

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.

Urban Landscape At Swinton’s

It was a great workshop at Swinton’s Art Supplies this past weekend.  The makeup of the class was primarily beginning or returning watercolourists as well as a number of oil and acrylic painters trying out watercolour.

It was a very successful workshop. As one participant commented I worked them hard but the quality of the work they produced shows that it was all very worthwhile.  Learning and growth do take some effort.

I’ve said for quite a while that the success of a workshop, for me, is primarily judged by what the students get out of it.  I’m finding more and more that what they get out of it comes out in the paintings that they produce.  In this workshop in spite of the challenge inherent in each painting the quality of all paintings was very high.  In other words the class average was really good.  That gives me a lot of satisfaction.

I did 2 demos both of which I finished up at home.

The first is what I call St Stephen because the main subject seems to rule the street which happens to be Stephen Ave.

Rex Beanland, St Stephen, watercolour 15 x 20

St Stephen













The second demo was a fairly new image for me.  It is a great teaching image with lots of colour and value opportunities.  It’s called Granville Street.

Rex Beanland, Granville Street, watercolour, 15 x 20

Granville Street













All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend.  Here is the class at work.

Rex Beanland, The Class At Work

The Class At Work










And here is the class photo.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo

Class Photo










I was unable to get a shot of everyone’s painting and no one finished but I did manage to get a couple of examples of  the  work in progress.  These examples are very representative  and show how well the  lesson on value was put into action.


Rex Beanland, Student Sample

Student Sample











Rex Beanland, Student Work, Swinton Workshop










I always get participants to fill out an evaluation form and a couple of comments were very gratifying.  One student said, “I love how you explain your intention of how you compose the painting and the changes you made to the reference photo”

I also needed to ask everyone to do a drawing that included perspective which traditionally is very hard for some people.  I prepared this image that I thought would help and the feedback I got was that it was very helpful.


Rex Beanland, Perspective In Action

Perspective In Action










I also include in all my workshops little mini lessons on people, cars, value etc and another comment made me glad that I do that. “The warm up with drawing/painting cars and people was very helpful”.

Just for your interest I’m including the video she is referring to.

A number of people were asking so just to remind everyone that my next workshop is a brand new one for me – Transparent Watercolour Portraits at the
Leighton Centre
June 27 – 28,


The Kootenay’s Hidden Gem: A Workshop In Kimberley

I had the real pleasure of doing a workshop in Kimberley last weekend.  I was sworn to secrecy (jokingly) not to reveal how interesting a town Kimberley is but really is a gem.  It has a population of about 6700 and is located about 20 minutes north of the the main highway which goes through Cranbrook.  Originally a mining town it still maintains a very strong German cultural heritage in the buildings and names.  It also has a unique feel to it.  It’s a little bit less regimented in the layout and houses then a place like Calgary and it seems like a place where people can also feel very comfortable.

This is example of the backyard that one resident created.

Rex Beanland, Roland's yard

Rex Beanland, Rolands yard detail

Also it is positively inspiring in that, due to the efforts of many people, they have a wonderful, thriving arts centre, Kimberley Arts at Centre 64.  It houses a theatre, a wonderful art gallery, and a dance studio/classroom.  It seems to be a thriving enterprise.  What a facility!

Rex Beanland, Kimberley Arts at Centre 64

The workshop itself was wonderful.  For the past few years I always say each workshop is wonderful  because they always are but there were a couple of ways that this one was different.  We had participants covering the full range of experience from complete beginner to advanced yet I think this workshop had the best level of success that I have experienced.   The quality of everyone’s paintings was striking.  In fact for the first time I photographed everyone’s painting to include in this post.

One of the most interesting and satisfying part of a workshop is the show and tell where we look at everyone’s painting and comment.  In general the artist tends to devalue their work and the others tend to be super positive so it’s so helpful to get out of our mind for a bit and see our work from other’s point of view.  Artists tend to be so  kind with each other in situations like this.

Show & Tell

Show & Tell

Here are all the examples of the main demo.

We did a second painting  on the last afternoon which is from the ‘Experimental Watercolour’ genre.  It really amounts to playing with water and seeing what happens. Most of my paintings are carefully planned out and time consuming so it’s very relaxing  to completely break with that process and just have some fun.  Here are some examples of works in progress.


So thanks to the Arts Centre for inviting me and thanks to everyone for making it such an enjoyable and rewarding workshop.

Rex Beanland, the class normal

Society Of Canadian Artists, New Member

I was very pleased to find out yesterday that I have just been juried into the Society Of Canadian Artists.  It is a national art society that represents some of Canada’s finest artists.  I was very motivated to become a member for 2 reasons: 1) it has a truly national presence and 2) it offers the opportunity to be involved with a lot of great artists in high quality national shows.

I’m particularly happy because when I received my notification of acceptance they included some of the comments from the juror’s and they were extremely complementary and referred to some things that I truly take pride in such as having the painting tell a story and competence with the watercolour medium.

Here are the images that I submitted.  They are all paintings from the past 3 years and it was a neat opportunity to reflect back on the past 3 years.

Rex Beanland, Winter Sun, Inglewood, watercolour, 20 x 16

Winter Sun, Inglewood

Rex Beanland, Residential Shadows, Old Strathcona, watercolour, 12 x 15

Residential Shadows, Old Strathcona

Rex Beanland, Conversation Interrupted, Kensington Market, watercolour, 20 x 30

Conversation Interrupted, Kensington Market

Rex Beanland, Early Morning, Welcome To Calgary, watercolour, 18 x 18

Early Morning, Welcome To Calgary

Rex Beanland, Construction Season Downtown, watercolour, 12 x 21

Construction Season Downtown

Rex Beanland, 8th and Centre, watercolour, 15 x 20

8th and Centre

Rex Beanland, Stampede City, watercolour, 24 x 30

Stampede City

Rex Beanland, In The Pit: The Conversation, watercolour, 14 x 21

In The Pit: The Conversation

Rex Beanland, Construction Season, Vancouver, watercolour, 14 x 21

Construction Season, Vancouver

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 14 x 21

Kensington Market

The Expressive Use Of Colour

This new painting represents a real break through for me.  This post is all about explaining why it’s a break through.

First here is the original photo from our trip to Vancouver, April 2016.

Rex Beanland, Granville Street

The Original Photo











At first it didn’t speak to me except for the nice contrast between the darks and the sun lit pavement.  Recently I was looking at it and I saw it completely differently.  First I thought I could improve the composition.  Take out the guy with the walker and bring that girl right at the left edge into a more prominent place.  Here is what that looks like.

Rex Beanland, Granville Street

Granville Street Final Composition












The real break through came just a week ago when I started to see a real story here.  Specifically I started to see that fabulous arrangement of the buses and cars.  I clearly saw it as one shape.  This lead me to think about taking this complex shape of all the vehicles and making it the real dark element.  Then all the other darks surrounding this main shape could be lightened and down played.  Here is a photo that shows what that would look like.


Rex Beanland, Granville Street

The Final Version













Now to my eye this is a far more compelling story.  It draws your eye right in and makes the sun lit street even brighter.  Now I had the image to paint.  For some reason I just felt that I wanted to do it as virtually a monochromatic painting using cobalt blue.  I’m calling that the expressive use of colour because it does add a unique flavour to the painting and increases the sense of light.

Here is the final painting which I just finished today.

Rex Beanland, Granville Street, 19 x 23, watercolour

Granville Street
















I’m very pleased with it because I think it has a great sense of light, a compelling centre of interest and a nice story to tell.  In fact it represents a major break through for me.

Can’t wait to go through some of the other photos from that trip!


Rex Beanland, Granville Street with masking film

Just for those who like minutia here is a shot of the beginning of the painting.  You can see that I covered the entire bottom with masking film.  I’m usually a fairly messy painter so this allowed me to keep the foreground extremely clean.


Demo For FCA ‘All Things Spring Show’

I had the pleasure of doing a demo for the Calgary Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists.  I really enjoy painting in front of people so it was a great day.  The afternoon, when I was painting, went by so quickly.  Win Win.

This first pic is the painting at the end of the show.

Rex Beanland, Painting At End Of Show, watercolour, 12 x 18

Painting At End Of Show











I got to finish it at home right after the show.  It’s fun to be able to get in the studio and just focus on  the painting with no distractions.

Rex Beanland, On The Hill, watercolour, 12 x 18

On The Hill












I like it because it’s pretty much what I was trying to do.  The one thing I would like to have a second chance at, is the shadows across the road.

A number of people I talked to today said that they thought watercolour was really hard to change.  If you look at these 2 detail pix you can see how I was able to make big changes to the picture.

Rex Beanland, On The Hill Detail, watercolour,

On The Hill Detail















In this detail from the painting at the end of the show there are 2 problems.

  1. the car in the back looks like it’s sticking out at a weird angle and

2.   the guy in front is lost, dark against dark.
















In this detail from the final painting you can see how I solved both problems.

  1. I used a toothbrush to lift out the right side of the car and painted it to define the car differently.
  2. I used white gouache mixed with a few watercolour pigments to turn the guy into a light figure.  Because sometimes when I do this the gouache layer gets a little boring  I scratched out with my fingernail a few lines that add some energy to the figure.

If you’ve read this far I would like to thank you and also to mention that I am teaching a
2 Day Urban Landscape Workshop at Swinton’s  May 27 – 28.

I’ve also just contracted to teach an 8 week basic watercolour class at McKenzie Town Council.  It’s Tuesdays, 12 – 3 pm starting April 11.  As a promo for the class I’m doing a free demo in the same building on Saturday March 25, 10 am – noon.  Contact the
co-ordinator for information or to register.

Softening Edges

All watercolourists are familiar with the idea of softening edges.  This means to paint a shape and then touch the edge with a wet brush to encourage the edge to ‘bleed’ a bit.  It’s a lovely effect and can add a lot of magic to a painting.

Since my workshop last fall with Ted Nuttall I now use this technique far more frequently. It has become a front line tool.  I am continuing to find new places to use it and I continue to marvel at the way it can elevate a painting.

Here are three examples to illustrate what softening an edge looks like.  The effect will vary according to how wet the shape is and how much water is used to bleed the edge.

Rex Beanland, watercolour, softening edges







Rex Beanland, watercolour, softening edgesRex Beanland, watercolour, softening edges














Using Softening When Painting An Eye

Here is the type of softening I’m talking about in a practical application.  These 2 paintings of an eye are basically identical.  In the first one there is no softening of the edges.  It looks like an eye and it is fairly colourful but it is also pretty lifeless.

Rex Beanland, watercolour, softening edges

Eye with no softening













Here is the same eye done again but many of the edges were softened as soon as they were applied.  I think it’s fairly clear that this eye has far more character and is far more inviting for the viewer.  It just draws you in so much more effectively and the only difference is the softening.

Rex Beanland, watercolour, softening edges

Eye with softening













 Softening The Edges In Action

Recently I took a picture of a snow drift in our backyard and it was tailor made for practicing softening the edges.  Here is the painting.

Rex Beanland, Snow Study, watercolour, 9 x 12

Snow Stud





Softening the edges is a simple tool but extremely effective.  Two little comments are 1) that it does take a bit of practice to get it right (but just a little) and 2) when used extensively such as in this snow study it can take  more time to finish the painting than with a direct method.  In portraits it can take a lot more time.

Upcoming Workshop At The Leighton Centre

Just for interest I will be teaching a workshop at the Leighton Centre this June on watercolour portraits and we will be looking at this idea of softening the edges extensively. If you are interested contact me for the details.

Swinton’s Friday Night Demos

I had the pleasure of doing a 2 hour demo at Swinton’s Art Supplies last Friday night.  It’s a real fun occasion as the price includes great wine and snacks.  It was wonderful to be in a room full of watercolour enthusiasts.  I was also very happy with the painting that I did.

Thanks to Susan for taking the photos and the video

Rex Beanland, Swinton's demo








Rex Beanland
















Friday Night Demo At Swinton’s from Rex Beanland on Vimeo.