Category Archives: Art Blog

Transparent Watercolour Portrait Workshop

Another great weekend at the Leighton Centre for my Transparent Watercolour Portrait Workshop.  I really love spending a weekend with a group of people who are eager to learn. This was a group like that . . . plus there aren’t many places as beautiful as the Leighton Centre.

One thing that I continue to learn is how useful and enjoyable it is to do little practices before getting down to the serious business of doing a complete painting.  It’s liberating as well as so very useful to practice the various skills separately before putting them together in a painting.  

Here is the first little practice we did.  It’s easy to create this very attractive painting but it includes some valuable skills in particular the ability to soften edges.

Rex Beanland, students' bridesmaids, watercolour










The next little practice incorporates all the skills that go into the full portrait but in a small, easier study.

Rex Beanland, Student samples

Eye samples














This is the demo I did as it was at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Quizzical at end of workshop, watercolour, 18 x 14

Quizzical at end of workshop














When I got it home I felt that the extra hair on the left was too much so my trusty toothbrush took care of that.  

Rex Beanland, Quizzical. watercolour, 18 x 14
















It was definitely a fun weekend and once again made me realize how much I enjoy teaching.  The experience is also made better when you have a great group like this one.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo, Portrait Workshop

Class Photo

Leading Edge Workshop In Winnipeg

I was really pleased to be asked to do a watercolour workshop for Leading Edge Art Workshops.  The workshop was in Winnipeg.  I lived in Winnipeg for many years so it was a great opportunity to visit the city.  The workshop was fabulous.  The participants were very talented artists and extremely eager to learn which is a very exciting combination.

I was very pleased with what we accomplished.  The quality of the work was great as can be seen in these photos.  These are all works in progress.

Rex Beanland, Leading Edge Workshop

Class Paintings 1









Rex Beanland, Leading Edge Workshop

Class Paintings 2










The class wanted to keep moving forward with new content so I didn’t finish my demos during the workshop but I was asked to  take photos of the various stages as I worked on the paintings at home.

Kensington Market

This is a view from my favourite painting location, Kensington Market in Toronto.  One of my current interests is a perspective looking down so I particularly like this subject.

Here is the painting as it was at the end of the workshop. 

Rex Beanland, Another Look At Kensington, watercolour, 14 x 21

At End Of Workshop











Second stage . . .

Rex Beanland, Another Look At Kensington, watercolour, 14 x 21

2nd wash












Third stage . . .

Rex Beanland, Another Look At Kensington, watercolour, 14 x 21

3rd wash












Final stage . . .

Rex Beanland, Another Look At Kensington, watercolour, 14 x 21

Kensington Final












Jasper Ave

My second demo was a scene of Jasper Ave in Edmonton.  I love the arrangement of cars. I’ve been doing a lot of sunset themed paintings lately so I added a sunset to this scene.  Here is the painting at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

At End Of Workshop












Stage 2 . . . adding the rest of the cars

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

2nd wash












Stage 3 . . .  adding some darks

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

3rd wash












Stage 4 . . . left side

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

4th wash












Stage 5 . . . I really wasn’t happy with the left side of the painting, so, using masking tape and a toothbrush I lifted out the entire problem area.

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

Lifting Out












Final Version . . .

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 14 x 21

Jasper Ave












Again it was a great workshop and thanks to everyone for their participation.

Rex Beanland, Leading Edge Workshop

Class Photo











I always ask participants to send me photos of their completed painting and one enthusiastic soul sent me theirs.  It has a lovely ghost like look. Well done. 

Rex Beanland, Leading Edge Workshop

Student Sample




Creating Luminous Washes In Watercolour

This is a neat little video that I deals with a super important aspect of watercolour namely how to create exciting and luminous washes.  

How To Create Interesting and Luminous Washes In Watercolour from Rex Beanland on Vimeo.

This video was included in my latest newsletter.  I try to include one or two short interesting videos per issue.  If you would like to receive the newsletter please contact me.


Studio Plein Air Painting

This post is about a little practice I’ve been doing a lot of lately.  It’s like plein air (on location) painting except it’s done in the studio.  

Sometimes after I’ve been doing a lot of ‘official’ painting I want to paint but I just want to have some fun. So I search all my photos for one that speaks to me and without any preliminary work – no thumbnails, no practice, no pondering I just quickly sketch the subject and jump right in.  I always work small sitting in front of the computer not at my painting table.  

I set a time limit of 60 – 90 minutes and work out everything on the fly.  There are always surprises that happen.  Each painting seems to include subjects or effects that I’ve never tried before and I don’t have time to think and plan I just do, in one sitting.  They aren’t always great paintings but they are always fun and I find that I learn quite a bit each time.  It’s always a surprise when I finish them and put them on the wall.  Usually I’m quite pleased.  The goal would be that some of them might end up as ‘serious’ paintings.

Here are 4 recent examples.

Rex Beanland, Looking Down On Kensington, waterecolour, 9 x 12

Looking Down On Kensington








This one did work out really well and I’m very happy with it.  I plan to use this as a teaching painting in my next workshop in Winnipeg for Leading Edge Workshops.

Rex Beanland, 2 Cars Kensington Market, watercolour, 9 x 12

2 Cars, Kensington Market









This image from my favourite location, Kensington Market is a painting that I’ve wanted to do for over a year just because of the bright yellow and red cab.










A practice for a large painting I’m doing for an up coming show.

Rex Beanland, Church, Yale, BC, watercolour, 9 x 12

Church, Yale BC










A scene from a very neat, eclectic town on the old TransCanada Highway in BC called Yale.

This little painting practice is just a fun activity that keeps me thinking painting but is relaxing and spontaneous and also does yield a number of benefits.  Very much like plein air painting but done in the comfort of the studio.  Something you might want to consider.

A Neat Little Practice

Fairly frequently, in the evening when I don’t want to work on an ‘official’ painting.  I will set up in front of the computer and just randomly go through my photos.  I choose the first one that strikes my interest and without any preparation at all I’ll just set a time limit of an hour to an hour and a half and just paint spontaneously.  It’s often very freeing and it’s always a good learning experience even though the painting doesn’t always work out. 

This is one of those practices.  I’ve become interested in views looking down so this one struck my fancy.  Here is the photo.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market









Here is the painting. It took an hour and a half and in this case I’m very pleased with the result.  It’s almost completely a value study and because the values are right the painting works.  You can see that most of the detail was left out but the light is great.  The only change I would make is to add more figures and create a more interesting centre of interest.  The values of the shadows on the building do guide your eye down to the bottom of the painting so that is a great spot to add more of a story.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 11 x14

Kensington Market












In any case this is a very neat little practice idea to add interest and variety to your painting process.

Painting Edmonton

Last weekend I was in Edmonton to visit a friend and I took the opportunity to do a couple of days of painting.  It was a fabulous experience because once again I got ‘into the zone’ and I was painting with enthusiasm and purpose.

I always look at these experiences as opportunities to gather reference material and to try out various ideas.  The last think I worry about is whether the painting is successful.  Whether it is or not doesn’t have to affect what I learn from the experience.

In that spirit I thought I would show the 5 paintings I did and do a bit of a critique of each one.  Some people might find it helpful.

Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 11 x 14

Jasper Ave










I really like this one especially because of the drawing.  Love the cars and the guy in the front.  The issue with this painting is that I wanted it to be warm and it’s in that frustrating place of being about 50% warm and 50% cool.  I plan to do this again and I’ll make sure it’s predominately warm.


Rex Beanland, View From The Hotel, watercolour, 11 x 14

View From The Hotel











Great sky with the smoke.  The foreground needs more purpose.


Rex Beanland, Sunny Day In Ponoka 2, watercolour, 11 x 14

Sunny Day In Ponoka 2










Nice but the dark wash on the right is a little muddy which is to be expected since I went over it 3 times.  Rule #1 Try to get the right colour and value first time


Rex Beanland, Elbow River, watercolour, 11 x 14

Elbow River











The only painting that didn’t work out.  Two problems: 1) the tree is poorly drawn and 2) again is it warm or cool?  I wanted cool with just some of the warms showing through.  The biggest issue is that for some reason I did the background trees warm and that was a error that I couldn’t recover from.  They should have been cool.

Rex Beanland, Sunny Day In Ponoka, watercolour, 11 x 14

Sunny Day In Ponoka











I love this one.  Everything worked out.  It’s definitely a cool painting but the small hits of warm colour really spice it up.  This is a keeper.  By the way, it’s the first time I’ve ever been to  Ponoka.

Just to sum it up I love these short intense little painting trips.  There’s nothing like having such a singular focus to inspire us and our painting.

I believe something is happening in my painting journey because the last painting trip I took was also extremely successful.  For me as for many representational artists we need to get back to the real source (nature not photos) frequently to continue to improve.

Night Painting

Painting watercolour at night is an exciting experience.  The main difference from day time painting is that the paper takes a very, very, long time to dry so you need to use a direct approach.  The name given to this style is alla prima (first go).  In alla prima painting you need to get the right value first time, apply it and leave it.  There is no chance to put an underpainting and then to let this dry.  The second really important thing is that you need to have a good, consistent light source.  I’ve done it under public lighting in supermarket parking lot which worked fine.  I’ve also seen artists wear a head lamp.

One of the neat things about night time painting especially if you’re not used to it is that it makes you paint in a different manner. For me I always start a painting  with an underpainting.  At night I can’t do this so I  have to use a different approach – alla prima.  This forces me to think in a new way.

This first painting is of the Airbnb guest house we stayed in at South River, ON.  South River is one of the gateways to Alquonquin Park.  We were there for my nephew’s wedding.  I was really pleased that I got most of the values the first time.  I just had to adjust the 2 dark roofs.

Rex Beanland, Algonquin Guest House, South River, watercolour, 14 x 18

Algonquin Guest House, South River











This second painting was done in the parking lot of a local supermarket.  It was tremendously fun to do.  The paint was dripping and flowing and it was an exhilarating  40 minutes.

Rex Beanland, Late Night At The Liquor Store, watercolour, 11 x 20

Late Night At The Liquor Store










This final painting was a nocturnal demo I did at the CSPWC Symposium, August 2017.  This is one that gave me a lot of trouble because I tried to begin with a underpainting and it took a long time to dry.  Also, I thought I was close enough to the lamp post but after a while it got so dark that  I couldn’t tell one colour from another so I had to finish it the  next day.

Rex Beanland, Heritage Hall At Night, watercolour, 16 x 12

Heritage Hall At Night















If you’ve never tried night painting give it a shot.  It’s a lot of fun and makes us paint differently.

Urban Landscape Workshop At Swinton’s

Doug Swinton of Swintons Art Supplies  is doing something very right when it comes to workshops.  This is the second workshop I’ve done there and both have sold out.  I really appreciate that.

Anyway, it was a great workshop.  I love working with a group of people that have chosen to  do watercolour and this was a really good group.  I always like it when we manage to develop a strong group  identity and that happened in this workshop.

There were many participants who were either pretty new to watercolour or even some who had never painted.  I like this mix because it gives a relevant reason to go over basics and also  I believe that with the right instruction beginners can progress very quickly.  I think that this happened in this workshop because their was real  success in producing fresh watercolour washes which is not an easy thing to  do.

Another big challenge in this workshop was that I asked everyone to  create their own ‘story’ by creating their own arrangement of cars and figures and again I think this was very successful.

Here is my first demo which is a view of the Bow Building from 9th Ave.  When I looked at it at home all of a sudden I saw the story I had created very spontaneously.  So  the title is ‘Conga Line Down 9th Ave’.

Rex Beanland, Conga Line On 9th Ave, watercolour, 20 x 15

Conga Line On 9th Ave













Changing A Watercolour

I  made a very big change when I got my painting home.  The building on the right was the same colour and as dark as the building on the left.  It made for a very dreary painting.  So I used a tooth brush to completely lift out the right hand building.  Here is how that looked.  I then changed the colour to red.  This helped a lot in making it a more enjoyable  painting.

Rex Beanland, Workshop Student Work, watercolour

Workshop demo with building lifted out









One of the little practices that we did over the weekend was how to shade the skin of a more realistic figure.  I really liked the way that the abstract background made this painting come to life.

Rex Beanland, Bridesmaid Ponders,transparent watercolour, 12 x 14

Bridesmaid Ponders














Here is the second demo  that I did.  It’s a great subject from Kensington  Market in Toronto.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 15 x 20

Kensington Market










Here are various student samples of the first demo.  I had a camera malfunction for one sample and one other one was still a work  in progress so I haven’t included them.

Here is a neat little student example of what I call my 1 stroke figure method.

Rex Beanland, Workshop Student Work, watercolour

Student Figure












I am so grateful that at this point in my artistic journey I am teaching a lot of workshops.  I find teaching extremely enjoyable and also extremely satisfying.  It’s a true pleasure to help people grow and learn in their own artistic journey.  A great workshop!

Plein Air (On Location) Painting In BC

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver to pick up a painting from the Federation Gallery.  I decided to turn it into a painting/camping  trip so I took 7 days to go to Vancouver and back.  I camped in my van and dedicated each day to painting.  I did 9 paintings and it was one of the most satisfying and productive plein air experiences I have had.

One thing that I really concentrated on was composition.  When we paint on location one challenge is that any subject we see is usually surrounded by so much extra stuff that we can become distracted and try to include too much.  Simplification is the answer.  For most of the paintings I was able to identify the subject and then visualize on my piece of paper where I wanted the subject to be and how large I wanted it to be.  So I started by placing my subject and only added extra details that served my subject.

The first 2 paintings were from the Takakkaw Falls Campground just near the Alberta/BC border.

Rex Beanland, Mountains At Takakkaw Falls Campground 1, watercolour, 8 x 10

Mountains At Takakkaw Falls Campground 1

Rex Beanland, Mountains At Takakkaw Falls Campground 2, watercolour, 9 x 12

Mountains At Takakkaw Falls Campground 2






















I was particularly happy with the foreground trees.  I don’t paint a lot of these so I haven’t really mastered a technique.  I thought that these ones turned out very nicely.

Moving along, just before Salmon Arm, I stopped at a little rest area and did these two pieces.

Rex Beanland, Salmon Arm Still Life, watercolour, 9 x 12

Salmon Arm Still Life











This second painting was one of the first times I’ve used masking fluid in a plein air situation.

Rex Beanland, Salmon Arm Fall Colours, watercolour, 9 x 12

Salmon Arm Fall Colours













In Hope, BC I was looking for a waterfalls that I read about when I passed this little side road that had beautiful bits of bright sunlight hitting all the yellow and orange leaves.  There were 5 or 6 very interesting buildings, very old and all boarded up.  This one was nestled right under a massive rock face and was completely in shadow except for some of the leaves in the foreground.  This was one that was a challenge to leave out the details.  It was such a fascinating and evocative sight to see this old homestead almost buried in the rock face. I wanted to include so much of the background but it didn’t serve the subject so I had to leave it out.  Again I used a little mask to preserve the light yellow leaves.

Rex Beanland, Honestead At Hope BC, watercolour, 9 x 12

Homestead At Hope













On the way back I took the old Trans Canada Highway instead of the Coquihalla Highway.  I stopped at Lytton and this subject caught my attention right away.

Rex Beanland, Lytton BC, watercolour, 9 x 12

Lytton, BC













From Lytton I took another even less used road that hugged the very impressive Fraser River.  I stopped at Lillooet and did this painting.  It was a challenge because of the really dark shapes right in the foreground.  This is one I plan to try again to try to capture the majesty and power of the Fraser River. Just as a note of interest the structures made of poles at the bottom right are, I believe, Indian summer fishing camps.  The area had a lot of them.

Rex Beanland, Fraser River At Lillooet, watercolour, 9 x 12

Fraser River At Lillooet












So all in all it was a great trip that inspired me greatly.  It was particularly neat that my focus each day was strictly on painting.  I look forward to having more of these experiences.

Squirt Bottle Paintings

These 3 little studies were all painted primarily using metal tipped squirt bottles.  This is a little experiment to see what these bottles are capable of.  Each bottle  had a different colour mix.  There was also one bottle containing just water and finally the big spray bottle.

Rex Beanland, Squirt Bottles,

Metal tip squirt bottles















I had no idea what I was going to paint.  I just began by squirting the colours on paper and then modifying the paint by spraying it with water.

I let this dry and then I used a combination of squirting and regular painting to develop the darks. Here are 3 little practices I did.

Rex Beanland, Squirt Bottle 2, watercolour, 9 x 12

Rex Beanland, Squirt Bottle 3, watercolour, 8 x 12





Rex Beanland, Squirt Bottle 1, watercolour, 4 x 10





Squirt bottles are great for creating random, organic shapes such as all the whites areas.  These paintings were done about 75% with the squirt bottles.

This next painting had about 30% squirt bottle mainly for the background and middle ground.

Rex Beanland, Squirt Bottle 4, watercolour, 8 x 10










The main point of using this ‘experimental’ technique is just that it gives you a different way to look at painting.  In it’s proper place it can add some interest and originality to a painting.

I think it’s called ‘letting go!’