Category Archives: Art Blog

A Demonstration For The Toronto Watercolour Society

As part of my trip to Toronto for a workshop  I was also asked to do a demo for the first meeting of the year for the Toronto Watercolour Society.  This was a real honour for me and it was also the largest group that I have ever demoed for.  It made me feel very special to be miked up and to have my demo projected onto a large screen behind me.  

Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex & the crowd Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex focus Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Rex and the crowd





























I had plans to finish the demo during the hour and a half I had available but I only got half of it done.  When I got home I completed the painting and videotaped the process.  I’m posting that here so that any who are interested can see my process through to completion.

First, here is the painting as it was at the  end of the demo.

Rex Beanland, Chargin' Phase 1, watercolour, 21 x 14













Here is the video of how I finished the painting.





And here is the final version.

Rex Beanland, TWS Demo - Chargin'









Workshop For The Toronto Watercolour Society

I had the privilege of teaching a workshop for the Toronto Watercolour Society.  I would like to thank Eleanor Lowden, the president of the TWS and Carolyne Pascoe, the workshop co-ordinator for giving me this opportunity.  It was especially enjoyable for me because I love Toronto and also as a watercolourist it’s a treat to be with a group of people who share my love of this special medium.

The workshop was a wonderful experience.  I just love watching the process as a group of individuals come together into a single group supporting and encouraging each other.  For me that is one of the more important indicators of a good workshop.  So thank you to everyone for a great workshop.

Historical Note

The workshop was held at the Assembly Hall on Lakeshore Blvd.  It was originally part of a mental health hospital opened in 1888. It was closed in 1979 when the government wanted to change the model of institutionalizing patients with mental health issue.  There are a few of the original buildings left and they are extremely attractive from the outside.  Inside they have been completely modernized and some of them are part of Humber College.  The  Assembly Hall is owned by the city and is mainly a rental space with an art focus.  There is an extremely moving tribute to the original hospital using the words of the patients themselves located just outside the Assembly Hall.

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - Class Photo










The Workshop

Once again there was a wide range of abilities and levels of experience.  I must admit that I  enjoy this particular challenge.  It is so gratifying to be able to support and encourage those with less experience and it’s also great to see how the more advance painters take my process and make it their own.  It’s also very helpful for the class to see all these different approaches to a subject.  I’ve always maintained that participants in a workshop can learn a great deal from each other.

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - People watch

Rex Beanland, TWS Workshop - Rex & the mirror



















I did 2 demos during the workshop.  This one is a real favourite of mine.  It’s from a part of Toronto that I always visit, Kensington Market.  It’s such a jumble of vibrant life.  I love the fact that the photo I used was one of the few that needed very few changes because it was such a great composition right out of the camera.  It was also an excuse to have some fun with colour.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market, watercolour, 14 x 21

Kensington Market










The other demo which I call Toronto Works was a general introduction to my urban landscape process.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Works, watercolour, 21 x 14

Toronto Works















Video Clip

I thought I had finished Toronto Works  in the class but when I got it home I noticed a couple of changes that I wanted to make.  I thought I would do a short video clip to illustrate these changes.  Watercolour’s reputation is that it is a very challenging medium and it’s hard to make changes.  Certainly with oil and acrylic it’s possible to scrape out or white out sections and just redo them but it is also very possible to make changes even very dramatic changes to a painting.  While the changes I made to this one are not dramatic I hope that watercolourists will find comfort in the  fact that change is possible.



A Concluding Word

This past month with this workshop in Toronto followed immediately by a week in Nelson,  BC and then a mini-workshop at the Leighton Centre in Calgary has been the most intense month of my teaching career.  It has been an experience that has challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone and from which I have grown.  I am very grateful to be in this place at this time of my life.

I just want to end with the comment of one of the participants:

“Thanks Rex, it was a very good Workshop. I learnt a lot and it’s because of all the hard work that you put into making the workshop such a success.  Well done!



Workshop for the West Kootney Chapter of the FCA

Last week I had a fabulous experience travelling to beautiful Nelson, BC to teach a  landscape watercolour workshop for the West Kootney Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists.  The workshop was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding experience.  The town of Nelson is beautiful and contains an almost endless series of interesting buildings.   It happened to be very warm and sunny while we were there which makes any place look it’s best.  Nelson is a very artistic town with many very, VERY steep hills!

There were a full range of participants in the workshop, from the complete beginner to advanced.  That makes for a very interesting class and I think everyone benefits from both going over the basics and also getting to see more advanced approaches to the subject.

Rex Beanland, Class Photo

Class Photo



I’ve started to use my projector in all my workshops.  What an awesome teaching tool.

Rex Beanland, Rex Teaches 2

Rex Teaches 2










I had an experience that I’ve never had before.  Richard wrote a poem for me which he read to the class.

Rex Beanland, Rex Richard

















Thank you so much to Sheila who billeted us.  What a generous and welcoming host.  Thank you so much!


Rex Beanland, Sheila





















I did 3 demos during the 3 day workshop.

The first was an experimental landscape approach to Cameron Pond (in Waterton Lakes)

Rex Beanland, Cameron Pond, watercolour, 20 x 14

Cameron Pond





















On the second day I did a version of a plein air painting from our recent trip to Toronto.  It’s really a value study in green with an added figure.  I did some extensive changing of the painting after I got home especially the big bright tree on the left.  It was too much like a round ball or a lollipop.  I used dark valued washes to cover it over and create a new edge.  You can see the original edge of it by the shape of the darks  around it.

Rex Beanland, Toronto Pond, watercolour, 21 x 14

Toronto Pond





















On the last day I did a style of painting that I’ve never tried before.  The goal was to try and keep  it very simple and ethereal.  It was sure a lot of fun to do.  It’s a scene we saw the day before the workshop when Susan and I spent a day driving around the Slocan Valley.


Rex Beanland,Slocan Valley, watercolour, 14 x 21

Slocan Valley
















After the workshop we took the next day to do some plein air painting in downtown Nelson.  There are so many subjects to choose from.

Here are the 2 paintings I got done.

Rex Beanland, Nelson Court House, watercolour, 9 x 12

Nelson Court House










Rex Beanland, Nelson Street Corner, watercolour, 9 x 12

Nelson Street Corner















Thanks to Alison and the West Kootney Chapter for inviting me and for treating Susan and me so well.  It was much appreciated.

Finally a comment  from one of the participants.

Everyone really enjoyed your class – you had challenges with such a range of abilities, and managed to reach everyone at the place they were at.

Alberta Culture Days at the Leighton Centre

I taught a couple of fun, little workshops at the Leighton Centre, Sunday Oct 2, for the Alberta Culture Days.  I was asked to work on my own subject and do a couple of short hands on activities with the visitors.  It turned out to be much more fun than that as I did 2 little mini-workshops, one in the morning one in the afternoon.  It was a lot of fun as people who had never painted or at least not much, tried their hand and watercolour.  A fun time was had by all and everyone left with a neat little painting.

This was the Leighton Centre’s most successful Culture Day.  I think that that was in part due to the hands-on nature of the demo/workshops.  My friend, Sharon Williams, also did a very popular introduction to Encaustic painting.  The ASA also had talks at the end of each day, Saturday and Sunday.

Be sure to check it out next September.

Rex Beanland, Rex teaches, Alberta Culture Days, Leighton Centre

Rex Teaches For Alberta Culture Days

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Morning, Alberta Culture Days

Class Photo Morning

Rex Beanland, Class Laughs, Alberta Culture Days

Class Laughs

Rex Beanland, Class Photo Afternoon, Alberta Culture Days

Class Photo Afternoon

Portraits From Ted Nuttall Workshop

These are the 3 portraits that I started during the Ted Nuttall Workshop that I reported on in the previous post.  I really like them.  They represent a new style and approach for me so I’m just getting comfortable with it  but it just resonates very deeply with me.

Rex Beanland, Paranoia, watercolour, 14 x 21












I was inspired by this guy’s look of paranoia.  He was a small figure in the background of a photograph and I liked his look but the quality of the image was very poor so I had to make up quite a bit of it.  One thing I’ve learned is that to do portraits from photographs a good quality photo is essential.

Rex Beanland, Looking Back, watercolour, 14 x 21

Looking Back











This portrait captured the look I was going for.  What I’m drawn to in portrait work is to capture a moment in time.  A moment when the subject is unaware of being observed and is caught up in some feeling.

Rex Beanland, Girl Ponders, watercolour 14 x 21

Girl Ponders











This one would be my favourite.  I think it’s the technically the cleanest of the 3.  I also like the way the drips from the background wash seemed to form a picket fence so I went with that look and it’s very appropriate.

The challenge for me in doing this work is that it’s a very intuitive process.  Trying a mark here and a mark there.  It’s a very worthwhile challenge because it forces me to slow down and do a lot more thinking which is always helpful.  It also forces me to concentrate of lots of light layers to build up the form.

Another challenge is  what to do with the backgrounds.  Each of these works has a background build up by applying successive layers of light washes which creates a neutral grey.  Then just a suggestion of some object or shape gives the background a focus.  I remember  Ted saying that he had no formula for the backgrounds and he it was always a challenge for him to create the background.  I know exactly what he means.

The other factor in this approach is that good reference material is a necessity so I’m spending more time with the camera now.

The biggest take away for me from this new experience is that I love it and I will be continuing to pursue portraits in the future.

Ted Nuttall Workshop

Last week Susan and I travelled to the Madeline Island School of Art (MISA) to take a workshop. MISA is located on Madeline Island, the largest and only inhabited island in the Apostle Island chain.  They are in the Wisconsin section of Lake Superior. They are a very fascinating and beautiful destination.

The workshop was with Ted Nuttall who is an amazing watercolour portraitist.  He appears frequently in The Watercolour Magazine.  He has been on the cover 3 times.  He has also won numerous awards in many of the biggest exhibitions including the American Watercolor Society which is the biggest of the big.

This image is very representative of his style.



Ted Nuttall Workshop






Sloppy Dots


Ted is definitely an  intuitive painter. He paints very deliberately, with a lot of thought.  He  employs a style of using many light transparent layers to build up the feeling of depth.  He also adds an element of energy and excitement to his paintings by the use of what he calls ‘Sloppy Dots’.  Sloppy dots are really just little blobs of colour. They are fascinating in that up close they appear to be very busy and haphazard but when viewed further back they just blend into the portrait. All you notice is that the portrait is a little more interesting and involving..

You can see an example of this approach in this detail of an eye.

Ted Nuttall Workshop








The challenge of putting this approach into practice is that it’s hard to give a recipe on how to use it.  It’s hard to say ‘just do this or that’ when it’s such an intuitive process.

Here is another example of sloppy dots creating hair.

Ted Nuttall Workshop







What I found during the workshop is that when you just loosen up and give it a try  it’s actually much easier then I would have expected.  At least to do my version of it.


I went to  MISA last year to take a workshop with my hero Joseph Zbukvic.  They bring in a lot of big name instructors. They run 3 different workshops every week so it’s a very busy place.  They have quilting, photography and writing workshops as well as all types of painting.  It’s not inexpensive but they do treat you royally.  It’s also a neat experience to be on an island even if you’re just a 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Here is a shot of the MISA campus.










Here is the inside of our studio showing some of the class.  It’s in the top of that barn like structure in the centre of the photo above.

Ted Nuttall Workshop








I found this workshop to be extremely interesting and useful.  Part of the reason I that I feel I got so much out of it is that  I had already been experimenting with portraits a little bit.  So I had already been thinking about and practicing some of the challenges of doing portraits.

One of my big lessons was to lighten up on value.  Here is a perfect example.  This is one of Ted’s reference photos.


Ted Nuttall Workshop








Before this workshop I would have focused so much on the dark suit and the dark hat and I would have painted them as strong darks.  Now, here is Ted’s rendition.  I find it so interesting to imagine the thought process he uses to go from this photo to this light and lively painting.  It’s a challenge to me to try to assimilate this lesson but I’m finding it an exciting challenge.

Ted Nuttall Workshop















The other big take-away for me is the challenge of using some of these sloppy dots and unusual colour accents in my own work.  I will  be posting the paintings I began during the workshop soon but it’s a much slower process than I am used to so it’s taking it’s time . . . and that’s just fine.

Ted had some other original paintings and some giclees at the workshop and one of the original paintings completely captivated me.  I liked them all but this one went way beyond liking.  The painting isn’t quite finished but we have ordered a giclee as soon as it’s finished. The original sells for $4500.00.   I’ll be proud to have this painting in our home.

Ted Nuttall Workshop





















Both Susan and I really connected with Ted.   He is a very gentle and generous guy.  We  are the same age and we appear to  like a lot of the same music so it was fun to meet and get to know him a little.

Ted Nuttall Workshop









Ted Nuttall Workshop












Thanks for the great experience!






Leighton Centre Workshop

I taught a 2 day workshop at the Leighton Centre this past weekend.  It was a wonderful experience.  I have been thinking a lot about my painting and my art career lately and a lot of the ideas I have been working on seem to have become integrated in my working method. From theory to practice. One way that I notice this is in the 2 demos I did.  I think  that they are the best demos I have ever done in a workshop setting.  When I teach I look at my demos as tools to aid my teaching.  This is very good for the students.  The flip side of that is, however, that I pay less attention to the demos as works of art and more as examples to teach.  This time there was a much better balance. I also feel that I was successful in achieving my goals for the workshop which were to go beyond just trying to copy a subject and instead to really express a vision.  To tell the story that inspired the painting.  This was the closest I’ve ever come to reaching that lofty ideal.

Technically speaking I was exhausted at the end of each day because it was very intense and I think I also worked everyone pretty hard.  One sign of a good workshop for me is when the students do a lot of painting.  This workshop was over at 4 pm and on Saturday people were still painting at 4:30 pm and on Sunday we painted right until 4.  I’ve taken many workshops and this is not always the case.

Day 1

The first day was an urban landscape theme.  I based it on this photo of a wet day in Toronto.  The photo was taken by my friend Brian Hindle.

Wet Day In Toronto

Wet Day In Toronto











This is such a made-for-watercolour photo.  The wet street with lots of reflections and the wonderful shape of the building.  This subject spoke to me of mood and mystery and I really wanted to focus on the drama suggested by the 2 vehicles right in the centre so I ignored much of the detail and focused on my vision, the story I wanted to tell.  Here is the thumbnail sketch that I created to express my take on this subject.  You can see that all the detail is subordinated to the overall goal.

Rex Beanland, Wet Day In Toronto thumbnail sketch

Wet Day In Toronto thumbnail








This is my demo of this subject.  I got just over half of it done in class and then I finished it at home.  I had forgotten to leave the bright shape on the right so I did a lot of scrubbing out with a toothbrush in my studio.  This actually made the painting even more interesting.

Rex Beanland, A Wet Day In Toronto, watercolour, 14 x 18

A Wet Day In Toronto
watercolour, 14 x 18











A friend of mine and an excellent painter, Brent Laycock, said on one of his DVD’s that a good painting should have little sections within it that speak all by themselves and I feel that, in this case there are a couple of magical little paintings within the big painting .  Here they are:

Rex Beanland, A Wet Day In Toronto detail

Detail 2










Rex Beanland, A Wet Day In Toronto detail

Detail 1










Day 2

On the second day of the workshop the subject was ‘the figure’.  This is the demo I did.  The original photo taken by my wife, Susan, was drenched in a story of this girl sitting by the pond with her thoughts drifting off.  I call the painting Pondering both because she is by a pond and because she is pondering.

Rex Beanland, Pondering, watercolour,14 x 18

watercolour, 14 x 18












This painting particularly in the jean jacket employs a style that I don’t use a lot, namely lots of layering.  I did 4 light washes to create the texture of the jacket and then a couple more washes to add the dark parts.  If I was doing this at home I could easily have done 8 – 10 washes to get even more texture before adding the darks.  Very time consuming but also very effective.  Also interesting was the use of a 1″ flat brush to create the ripples in the pond.

Finally some shots from the class. Thanks again to everyone for being part of this great experience.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre Workshop

Leighton Educational Centre

Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre WorkshopRex Beanland, Leighton Centre Workshop














Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre Workshop










Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre Workshop

Rex teaches (the look)

Rex Beanland, Leighton Centre Workshop

Class Photo

Learning By Copying The Masters

Since forever it has been the practice of aspiring artists to copy the works of the masters.  Most of the masters began this way.  It’s a very direct way to get in touch with the very best ideas and practices.

A few years ago when I discovered my 2 watercolour heroes, Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet I bought all their DVD’s.  It was eye opening for me at the time to watch them paint but I knew that watching someone paint doesn’t mean that you have truly learned their technique.  I needed to take their inspiration to a higher level so I started practicing most of their demos.   I called it my university of watercolour and posted some of the results.  You can see those posts  here and here.

Anyway,  I recently went back to college and copied some more of Castagnet’s newer works.  Again I was blown away by his mastery of watercolour.  His sense of composition and value is amazing and he creates paintings that are immediate and powerful.  I could have looked at these paintings for a long time, loved them and still not really have learned what they had to offer until I tried them.

So here are my copies of 3 of his paintings.

Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet painting















Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet









Rex Beanland, copy of Alvaro Castagnet painting












I’m truly in awe of his talent and it was so useful to practice these paintings.  What I  find particularly amazing is how much he changes the actual subject to create these dramatic masterpieces.  When I’ve seen his reference photos they have the basic elements of the painting but the drama and impact is coming out of his mind.  Thank goodness that the artistic journey lasts a lifetime because I think it will take me a long time  to be able to do the same thing.

Needless to say that I would highly recommend this practice to all aspiring artists if you want to take your painting to a new level quickly.

New Works

For the past 4 or 5 years I have painted mostly cityscapes.  My approach to these paintings has generally been plein air based.  I’ve tried to capture my impression of the subject quickly.  It’s been more about creating a story  than about detail or an accurate copy of the subject.  I’ve loved it and it has been an extremely rewarding journey.  I still love nothing more than being on location and just getting into the zone.  Total concentration on the scene before me.

But as we know, change is an essential part of the art journey and lately I have found that my focus is changing.  I’m planning my paintings more and also delving more into the detail.  I’m also becoming much more interested in the figures that I’ve always included in my urban landscapes but featuring them as subjects unto themselves.

Two recent works illustrate this.

Rex Beanland, The Pit, Vancouver, watercolour, 16 x 20

The Pit, Vancouver
watercolour, 16 x 20




This is a painting of some construction in Vancouver.  It’s a view from the Granville Bridge (you can see the railing of the bridge at the right side of the painting.  I just love the composition and the contrast of the dark side of the excavation and the light of the rest of it.  This was a fun painting to do.

Rex Beanland, The Pit, detail

The Pit, detail









This detail from the painting was a section that I particularly enjoyed.  It’s a nice little abstract just by itself.

Another painting that I’m very happy with is this one of a woman with her dogs.  It’s from a photo that my wife took when we were in Boston a few years ago.  I love the sense of contemplation and companionship.  It’s one of those intimate moments that I’m always searching for.

Rex Beanland, Woman & Dogs: A Moment Of Reflection, watercolour, 16 x 20

Woman & Dogs: A Moment Of Reflection
watercolour, 16 x 20















As much as I like the to be in my comfort zone and developing a series or a theme I also know that I benefit perhaps even more by stretching and exploring new areas.  This is what I feel is happening now.

The Importance Of ‘The Wash’ In Watercolour

Watercolour at it’s best is know for an amazing luminosity and sense of light.  This is achieved by creating luminous washes.  I define the wash as the time from the moment you first put paint on paper until it’s completely dry.  During this time you can drop in other colours, add darker values, lift out colour, spray with water and in general play around with it.  When it’s dry the wash is finished.  At this point you can only add darker values over it.

In my teaching experience  mastering ‘the wash’  is a major challenge for beginners.  Usually this occurs because the painter doesn’t have enough water/colour in the brush and  before they finish a stroke across the paper they are already creating dry brush.  Once the wash is mastered, however it leads to outstanding, glowing paintings.

What brought this all to mind is a detail from a new painting I’m working on.  It’s a very evocative scene captured by my wife, Susan, when we were in Boston.  It shows a  moment of contemplation with a woman and her 4 dogs.

This is just the one main dog.  I painted this dog in one wash.  I kept the wash alive for about 10 minutes by continually dropping in colours wet in wet.  I also played with value.  Anyway, after it dried I thought this is just about perfect.  It seems to me that I can almost feel the fur.

Rex Beanland, example of a first wash (detail), watercolour

Example of a first wash














What a wonderful 10 minutes that was!