Category Archives: Art Blog

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.

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