Category Archives: Art Blog

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!’










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.