Category Archives: Art Blog

Plein Air In Toronto

I just got back from my annual visit to Toronto for the AGM of the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour.  It was a great trip.  I grew up in Toronto but I’ve come to appreciate it a lot more in the past few years.  I love the energy, the buildings and the life on the streets.  Not sure I could live there with the nightmarish traffic but great to visit.

This time I spent most of my time visiting with family and it was really wonderful to connect with my brother and his wife as well as all the nephews and nieces.

I only had one day to get out and paint and it was a lovely day.  For some reason I wanted to paint a harbour view.  I’ve  always enjoyed looking down on Hamilton Harbour from the Burlington Sky Way but of course you can’t paint from there.  I went looking for the next best thing and I  found this view from the Burlington side of the harbour.  The buildings with their lovely reddish brown colour where the sun hit them and all the mass of dark shadows just spoke to me and I finished this painting on location.  It was a lovely couple of hours. I painted it inside the car.

Technically speaking it was a very easy painting to do.  The mass of dark shadows instantly unified and connected everything  so it was very easy to see the big shapes and not get caught up in details.  First of all I painted all the buildings in the reddish brown that you see on the roof tops.  Then I painted the dark shadows in one go.  White gouache created the smoke.

Rex Beanland, Hamilton Harbour, watercolour, 9 x 12

Hamilton Harbour











10 minutes past this location I was under the Burlington Sky Way which is a very impressive structure when you’re looking up.  Right beside it is the old Burlington Lift Bridge which most people might not even know exists.  It actually lifted right up to the top while I was painting it.

Rex Beanland, Burlington Lift Bridge, watercolour, 9 x 12

Burlington Lift Bridge










When I flew out the next day I had a couple of hours of waiting at the airport.  I had my handy little travel palette and did this little study of the airport.  The challenge with this was that the only brush I had was the tiny one that comes with the palette.  Very hard to get any kind of wash.  I’m including it here just because my wife told me that I had to.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Airport, watercolour, 8 x 8

Toronto Airport











Painting on location, especially when it’s a lovely sunny day with the radio on is certainly one of life’s greatest  pleasures.


Here are a few random photos from the trip.

Rex Beanland, Downtown Toronto

Downtown Toronto

Rex Beanland, Streetsville House

Streetsville House

Rex Beanland, Under The Burlington Sky Way

Under The Burlington Sky Way


Workshop For Fraser Valley Artists, Surrey BC

I had the great pleasure of doing a 3 day workshop for the Fraser Valley Artists in Surrey BC, April 1-3.  It was an urban landscape workshop.  Most participants were relatively new to this subject matter. That’s actually an advantage because I like to start off by practicing and playing with some of the urban landscape elements.

I find every workshop is different and has it’s own flavour. This workshop was a little different in that the participants were by and large very accomplished artists.  That required me to go a little further in terms of my demos.  However, I find that it is nearly  always beneficial to go a little past my comfort zone and that was the case this time.

Demo 1

I like to get the people painting as soon as possible so we started practicing how to paint figures and cars the first morning and them I demoed in the afternoon.  The class wanted to see me complete as much of the painting as possible in class so I didn’t get to work on it that night in the hotel (which I love doing). It’s based on a view of St Mary’s Church in Calgary.  In the reference photo the street is lined with banners but I’ve grown tired of painting banners so I changed them to palm trees.  This is that demo at the end of the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Demo 1 end of workshop

Demo 1 end of workshop

















When I got home I finished it off like this.  I felt that it need something in the sky to solidify that area and I love the trolley lines of Vancouver so they were added.


Rex Beanland, St Mary's (Surrey Workshop), watercolour, 21 x 14

Demo 1 final















It’s been said that it’s better to leave a painting a bit underworked rather than a bit overworked and I did overwork it somewhat but I still like it.


Demo 2

The second demo was a brand new painting for me.  I just love this particular grouping of cars and I was determined to down play the buildings in order to serve the story happening in the foreground.  This is how it looked at the end of the workshop.  I like the framing device of having darker figure shapes at each side of the painting.

Rex Beanland, Demo 2 end of workshop

Demo 2 end of workshop











This is the demo as far as I’ve taken it.  It’s still only  about 75% finished but I like it so much that I want to live with it for a while in order to see what it needs.

Rex Beanland, Empire Cars, watercolour, 14 x 21

Demo 2 final









Demo 3

We only had half a day for the third demo so I didn’t get much finished.  I find the perspective of this image to be very interesting even though the distortion is an artifact caused by the nature of a camera lens.

Rex Beanland, Demo 3 end of workshop

Demo 3 end of workshop














(I have made a video clip analyzing this painting that you might find useful).  It’s actually quite a simple painting even though it looks hard.  Here is the final version.


Rex Beanland, Eighth Ave Place, watercolour, 14 x 11

Demo 3 final














I was very impressed with all the paintings produced by the group and I managed to get photos of a couple of examples.  These are also not complete but show a strong grasp of all the ideas that we covered.

Rex Beanland, Student sample Wendy

Wendy Mould

Rex Beanland, Student sample Audrey

Audrey Bakewell























The Class

The artists who attended the workshop were a very friendly, very accomplished and very enthusiastic group.   There was a lot of laughter.   I have come to find that when a workshop works well I’m always inspired to paint more and that was my experience with this weekend.  Here are some shots of the class.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Surrey Workshop

Class Photo

Rex Beanland, The class at play

The class at play

















Rex Beanland, Rex demos

Rex demos












I would like to thank the Fraser Valley Artists for the invitation.

If you would like to see one of the participants take on the workshop visit Wendy Mould’s blog.

What Do You Do When You Love Urban Landscape . . . But Want New Challenges

I have been doing almost exclusively urban landscape paintings in watercolour for the past 5 years and it has been fabulously fulfilling.  During this time I began learning about and  developing a technique to deal with buildings and cars.  I wanted a simple process that would allow me to capture my impression of a scene quickly and loosely.  I also developed a simple process for creating shapes that read as figures and always included them in the paintings.  Lately I’ve become more and more drawn to the figures themselves and their stories. This seems to be where urban landscape is leading me.  I love to try to capture those fleeting and spontaneous expressions that mark special moments.  Usually it’s necessary to work from photos exactly because the expressions are so fleeting.

When we were in Boston 3 years ago Susan used her video camera to take candid shots of people.  Many of them capture just this kind of moment.  This one was a girl sitting by the pond and just soaking in the rays of the afternoon sun.  It was mid November but there were still some fall colours on the trees.  This day was a shirt sleeve kind of day.  I’m working on a studio painting and this is one of the studies I’ve done to practice getting the water.  I was really pleased with the result and I’m excited to get to work on the piece.

Rex Beanland, Pondering Study, watercolour, 9 x 14











On Another Note . . .

Plein Air In Sicamous

I just got back from a 5 day trip to Kelowna and I spent the last 2 days doing plein air painting in both Sicamous and Golden.  I stayed one night in both places and each day I went out in the daytime and sketched various scenes.  Then I would go right back to the hotel and do a colour version.  These were 3 that I thought worked out well.

Rex Beanland, Sicamous, Cabin, watercolour, 9 x 12

Sicamous, Cabin, 9 x 12

Rex Beanland, Sicamous, Under The Bridge, watercolour 9 x 12

Sicamous, Under The Bridge, 9 x 12

Rex Beanland, Sicamous Husky, watercolour, 9 x 12

Sicamous, Husky, 9 x 12






The Art Of Heavy Equipment

I’m in the process of revising my artist’s statement after viewing a business coaching video by Simon Sinek.  It inspired me to say that I paint urban landscapes because ‘I’m fascinated by people’.  So my urban landscape paintings are as much about the people as the buildings.  When looked at this way any activity that people engage in is equally of interest.  I say this as a way to explain my fascination with some types of heavy equipment.

I did a painting a few years ago that received some recognition and it continues to be a favourite of mine.  It’s called Construction Season, Calgary and it shows a work crew ripping up the road to replace the water main.  I just caught it when the dust from cutting concrete completely obliterated the end of our street.

Rex Beanland, Construction Season, Construction Season, Calgary, watercolour, 18 x 24

Construction Season, Calgary
18 x 24















Recently, as chronicled in a previous post, I completed a FaceBook 5 Day Challenge and one painting that didn’t get done during that week was again on my favourite piece of heavy equipment.  I’m not even sure what this machine is called but it is by far my favourite.  If I ever drove heavy equipment it would be this one.  I like the shape, love the tires and appreciate it’s power, manoeuvrability and versatility.  Anyway, I liked these 2 machines and the way they seemed to be engaged in a chase, so the title: Cat Chase.


Rex Beanland, Cat Chase, watercolour, 18 x 24

Cat Chase
18 x 24




Analyzing An Urban Landscape Photo

I recently did a painting for a FaceBook 5 day painting challenge.  It was a very new and exciting subject and I learned a lot from doing it.  This little video clip illustrates the process I went through to paint it.  It was all about visualizing it in a new way before I started to paint.  I hope you enjoy it.


Rex Beanland, Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown), watercolour, 17 x 11

Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown)
17 x 11

This is the painting and here is the video.

Little Challenges That Help Us Grow As Artists

I recently under took one of the 5 day painting challenges that spring up on Facebook from time to time.  The idea is to post a painting a day for 5 days and get other artists involved by nominating them.  In the past I haven’t been interested in participating but when a friend from Digby, Nova Scotia nominated me I thought it would be interesting to participate.  What sold me was the thought I had that I wanted at least 3 of the 5 paintings to be brand new and done in 2 hours or less.  It turns out that I did 4 ‘one day’ paintings.

I had been in a period where I was thinking a lot about painting but not actually doing too much so the motivation to just produce was also a big factor.

Anyway the way I approached it was I went through about 3 years of photos and just chose anyone that caught my interest and put them in a separate folder.  Then I looked at just these ones and took the first one that spoke to me as the subject for the day.  Three of these were city scales which is my usual subject and one was a figure which was a stretch.

The interesting part was that I didn’t have the time to fully plan the painting out as I normally would.  I had to make up my approach very quickly.  I basically figured each one out as I went along.  There was a definite feeling of ‘I sure hope this works out’ which is just another name for fear.  My self imposed timeline didn’t allow me to waste time on this fear thing and I just did it.  Here are the 4 paintings that I did.

Rex Beanland, Stephen Ave & Centre St, watercolour, 11 x 14

Stephen Ave & Centre St
11 x 14


Rex Beanland, Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown), watercolour, 17 x 11

Pushing Up (Construction Season, Downtown)
17 x 11

Rex Beanland, Misty Downtown, watercolour, 12 x 12

Misty Downtown
12 x 12

Rex Beanland, Girl In The Sun, watercolour, 12 x 12

Girl In The Sun
12 x 12


















































The Stephen Ave painting was very much my usual fare but each of the other 3 was a different type of painting for me and I learned lots from doing them.

I think it was the fact that I couldn’t really think too much about what I was doing and just had to concentrate on doing it that pushed me.  I felt very pleased with each of the results. The experience also kick started my creativity and I felt considerably more confident and motivated to keep on painting as a result.

I also suggested that my wife Susan take on the same challenge and she  experienced very similar results.  It’s one little trick or technique that we can use from time to time to prime the pump as it were.

Prairie Sunset (And Using The Magic Eraser)

This post is both to show my latest painting and also to explain a little bit about a product called Magic Eraser produced by Mr Clean.

The painting is based on a scene from Glen Eagle Casino.  I’m really pleased with it.  In fact I love it.  For years I have had the goal of making my paintings clean and simple and this is one of the few times where I feel that I have been successful.  I love the subtle yellows in the snow  and the wonderful graphic element of the tire tracks.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset, watercolour, 11 x 20

Prairie Sunset
watercolour, 11 x 20











It was based on this photo.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset








My intention was always to add that large, dark, triangular cloud but when I did I realized that it was a mistake.  It took away from the beautiful, subtle light that I had managed to capture.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset Version 1









I felt that I needed to take the cloud out.  I used a product called Mr Clean Magic Eraser which is basically a white sponge.

magic eraser








This product contains no chemicals and it does take your painting pretty much back to the white of the paper.  I think it’s just it’s abrasive quality that removes the paint.  It is a very neat product and very effective.  I did notice that there is a tendency for the paper, after using this product, to take paint a little differently.  I think that the sponge actually removes some of the surface sizing and so when you paint over an area that has been erased you need to make sure that your brush isn’t too wet.  When it is too wet the paint tends to just spread out a little uncontrollably.  It’s a bit difficult to have sharp edges.  I found that it was better to use washes with more pigment and less water then it seemed to be OK.

Anyway, you can see that the cloud is completely gone.

Next I added the lamp posts.  If you look closely you’ll see that the lights on the far left pole display these uncontrollable edges.

Rex Beanland, Prairie Sunset (Poles)







After looking at this version I felt that the 2 poles on the left were a little too close to the centre so I used the magic eraser again and took them out and moved them over about an inch.  The final version is at the top of this post.  It’s very difficult to notice that it has been fixed.  So this product is a very neat addition to the watercolourist’s tool kit.  It’s best to not have to use it but if you do it certainly works.

Evolution Of A Painting

I have been an interested observer of the steps  in my art career.  At first, and for a long time,  I was concerned with copying a photo or nature. The closer I could come to depicting the subject exactly the more successful I felt.   It took a number of years before I was comfortable with the idea that I could edit my subject, move things around, eliminate or add things.  This year I experienced a new twist on that theme as I consciously took the original idea and developed it over time.  I call this the evolution of a painting.

This short video clip illustrates this process.


Art Society Of Strathcona County Workshop

I just taught a workshop for the Art Society Of Strathcona County (ASSC) in Sherwood Park.  It was a fabulous experience and I was treated like royalty.  I would like to thank everyone involved for inviting me and also for looking after me during the weekend.  I was very excited to teach this workshop because I love teaching but also because I have been greatly inspired since my experience this summer as illustrated in the past 3 posts.

The participants were a very friendly and enthusiastic group and from a teacher’s point of view you can’t ask for more than that.  I have been impressed by the way that the ASSC is supported by the local government.  The city has given them control of this wonderful facility, the Red Barn, as a permanent art centre.  It’s great to see art groups supported in this manner.

Everyone worked really hard over the 2 days as we covered a lot and did a lot of painting.

Here are some photos from the workshop. Many thanks to Faye for taking the photos.

Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Rex discussing something









Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Explaining ‘Eye Level’
















Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County Workshop

Demonstrating  perspective










Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

Painting The First Wash












Here are the 2 demos I did.  This first painting is another version of my painting St Mary’s which is inspired by a Calgary street scene.  In this version I wanted to make the scene even more monumental and I also wanted it to have a bit of a feeling of Gotham.  I’m really happy how it worked out.

Rex Beanland, Calgary Gothic, watercolour, 15 x 18

Calgary Gothic
15 x 18
















In terms of critiquing it, I’m very happy with everything.  There are a few minor changes I would make if I did it again, mainly in terms of straightening a few building edges and next time I would make the building in the background (which is based on St Mary’s Church) a little narrower so that it would appear to be a bit further back.  The big change I did make to it had to do with the 2 large figures on the left.  They, along with the other main figure were too short and dumpy.  So I enlarged the  figures on the left and  had them go out of the frame.  Much better.

Demo #2 was a version of the porch in the  Officers House from the ex military base in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia.  I did this painting originally as a demo for the Watercolour Symposium held there about a month ago.


Rex Beanland, The Porch In Summer, watercolour, 14 x 17

The Porch In Summer
15 x 18














I really like the sense of warm light inside the porch.  Your eye is very much attracted to this centre of interest.  In terms of changes I would make next time I think I would make the part of the main building that shows at the left edge  a little smaller or a little less defined.  The main change I did make once I got home  has to do with the foreground shadow.  During the demo it ended up a little light so I went over it again when I got home and then it was a little too dark.  So I had to wash  some of it out. I don’t like to correct paintings but in this case it is better with this adjustment.  I really like the bright reds in the flowers, the sparkle on the water and the entire tree.

Rex Beanland, Art Society Of Strathcona County

The Class Of 2015














So it was a great weekend in all respects and it was a pleasure to meet everyone.