Author Archives: Rex Beanland

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.

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.

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



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


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














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.