As many, many people have observed these are unprecedented times. I’m very grateful that the majority of my daily routines have not changed too much. I used to spend most days in the studio and now I’m doing the same thing but spending even more time. I’ve been more productive than usual.
I have really been drawn to portraits lately. It has been so much fun to do this. Some are finished studio works but most of them are sketches. What wonderful practice!
These are a sample of the portraits that I have done recently.
I’ll be thrilled when the world goes back to normal but in the meantime I’m very grateful for being an artist and being able to pursue my passion in spite of what’s happening out there.
For the past 10 years I have focused on urban landscape. Over that time the figures in the paintings became more and more important. So this interest in portraits is a natural outcome of that process.
I’m trying to develop a process that is fairly quick, a little impressionistic and that captures the character of the subject. Like anything if one keeps practicing one will eventually get there. These are 2 studies.
I find that when I do portraits I really do feel a personal connection with the subject. I love this process.
I have written a number of times about the benefits of plein air painting and I’ve recently been reminded of them.
Here are 3 previous posts https://rexbeanland.com/artblog/plein-air-paintings-from-trip-to-whitehorse/ https://rexbeanland.com/artblog/studio-plein-air/ https://rexbeanland.com/artblog/why-is-plein-air-painting-so-important-part-1/
I find that when I get to involved with photographs I eventually get pretty stale and the paintings show it. I reached this stage recently as the winter months keep me in the studio working from photos.
But fortunately we have been cross country skiing at Bragg Creek a lot and since my wife Susan, is a much better skier than me I have about an hour after my ski waiting for her and this is prime time for a little plein air sketching. Plein air means painting outside on location.
In terms of the benefits of plein air painting what stands out in these studies is that each subject really has some challenges. The challenges are things that are in the scene that I don’t have a lot of experience with but I have to figure out, quickly, some way to represent them. There’s a definite time limit and so there is no time to waste. I take my best shot and get on with it.
The two challenges in this painting were the subtle undulations of the snow in the foreground and the large mass of trees in the background. To capture the feel that there were a lot of trees back there I just took a brush charged with water and quickly washed it over the entire top of the painting and voila! it gives the impression there is something going on back there.
The challenge in this painting was how to quickly get the feel of all the foliage which was really one shape but with lots of variations in colour and value. I thought briefly of trying to paint each shape separately but that was way to time consuming so I just made one wash of the lighter green and as it dried kept adding darker greens. It completely captured the feel of the scene for me.
This last one was done while I was attending a zoom meeting. That’s a video app where you can see all the participants. This woman was great because she seemed very tired but held this basic pose for quite a while so I was able to complete the entire thing in about 40 minutes.
So Why Bother With Plein Air?
The main thing I remember was the excitement I felt to get out of the studio and deal directly with the subjects. It invigorates my mind and I find myself making decisions quickly and decisively.
Plus it’s a lot of fun and time just flies. I also have a great record of each experience. They remind me of the moment far better than a photo would. And finally I learned a lot from each one of them.
For the past few years I have been focused on my workshops so it was a real treat to take a workshop with another artist. Dale Laitinen is a California artist who works mostly in watercolour. I love his paintings.
His approach uses large sheets of watercolour paper and big, flat brushes. Since this is quite different from my style I was very pleased to add some of his ideas to my own painting.
What a great workshop it was at Swinton’s Sept 21 – 22. Doug is so good at promoting his workshops. It is always sold out.
This group of watercolour enthusiasts ranged from no experience to very experienced but everyone was excited to try new things and as one participant said ‘to be pushed out of my comfort zone’.
Demo #1 Piazza San Marco
This first demo was an exercise in creating a fast, impressionistic interpretation of ornate European architecture plus the use of eye level to create a realistic crowd.
This is the demo that I did.
Demo #2 A Wet Day In Paris
The second demo was an almost monochromatic study in value. The point was to create a strong centre of interest and the feeling of a rainy day in Paris.
This is my demo at the end of the workshop. It needed much more value plus I notice the 2 ghost figures in the left and right foreground. Together they seemed a little gimicky so I was going to just keep the original one on the left and eliminate the one on the right. When I examined it more closely I noticed that the one on the right which was created with just a couple of brush strokes and a serendipitous paint drip absolutely captured a person on a bicycle. I just couldn’t ruin that little bit of watercolour magic so I eliminated the one on the left instead.
This is my final version that I finished at home. I also really like those bold brush strokes of cobalt teal in the main figure.
It was a wonderful workshop that really inspired me. Thanks to everyone who participated!
I had the pleasure of giving a workshop to the Hat Art Club of Medicine Hat. It was a great group, very enthusiastic, very friendly and very talented.
The first demo
The first demo was a painting of Haystack Rock.
Demo #2 Cameron Pond
We were very short of time on the second day so we didn’t get near to finishing the painting. I forgot to take a photo when I got my demo home but this is it with a bit more work done in my studio.
One of the greatest pleasures of teaching workshops is meeting all wonderful people come out to the workshop. It’s always a great to work with a group that is interested in watercolour. It was a wonderful experience with The Hat Art Club.
In my previous post I showed some of the photos I took during my recent visit to Tuktoyaktuk. It was a trip of a life time in a number of ways. It was my most productive plein air painting experience I’ve ever had. Here are some of the paintings I completed in Tuk.
Sasha was a girl who worked at the Visitor Information Centre
In Inuvik I was joined at a restaurant by 7 women who were out celebrating. Karin was one of them.
Laverna was the owner of the fabulous B & B where I stayed. We became good friends.
Landscapes & Urban Landscapes
One of my favourite paintings was this one of a couple of houses in Tuk.
Another was a view from my B & B.
One of my favourite subjects was the DEW Station (Distant Early Warning). It’s an unmanned station that monitors all activities in the skies to detect and dangerous activity.
This first one was on a beautiful sunny day.
Approximately 2 days later we had a severe Arctic Storm.
I found a number of scenes in Tuk really reminded me of the Maritimes and the fishing villages. This was one of those.
On my last evening Laverna and her granddaughter, Hanna, took me for a drive up to the DEW Station where we looked down on the town. This final painting seemed to be my farewell to a wonderful place, great people and a fabulous experience.
I’m still pondering exactly what drew me to Tuk. For now all I can say is that I’m so grateful for having gone there. And as for the future . . . who knows!