Category Archives: Art Blog

Transparent Watercolour Portraits

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.

Rex Beanland, Mary Ellen, watercolour, 12 x 15
Rex Beanland, Mary Ellen 2, watercolour, 12 x 15

Why Bother With Plein Air Painting? (Painting On Location)

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

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.


Rex Beanland, Bragg Creek 2, watercolour, 9 x 12
Bragg Creek

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.

Rex Beanland, Bragg Creek Trees, watercolour, 9 x 12
Bragg Creek Trees

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.

Rex Beanland, Claire, watercolour, 9 x 12

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.  

It just can’t be beat!

Dale Laitinen Workshop

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.

Here are the 2 paintings I did.  Both are my version of his demos.  The are both half sheets.   I’m very pleased with these paintings and with what I learned in the workshop.  He was brought here by the Calgary Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists.

Rex Beanland, Waterfall, Laitenin Workshop, watercolour, 22 x 15
Rex Beanland, Sentinel Dome, Laitenin Workshop, watercolour, 22 x 15
Sentinel Dome, Yosemite

Landscape Workshop At The Leighton Centre

The Leighton Centre is one of my favourite locations for a workshop.  The view is beautiful and there is such a feeling of being out in the country even though it’s just outside Calgary.

This workshop was a treat for me because for the first time I taught what, for me, were 2 new paintings.  We also got a chance to really play with colour.

A wonderful group!

The theme for the weekend was the colour red.  First we did a painting of a Red Barn.

The Red Barn
Student work in progress.
Student work in progress.
Great success!

The second demo was a red mountain scene.

Red Mountain
Student work in progress.
Student work in progress.

I was very pleased with the quality of everyone’s work.  It’s so neat to see those luminous and inviting washes.  

Class at work.

A great weekend, a great group in a great location!

Swinton’s Urban Landscape Workshop

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’.

Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019
Swinton’s 2019
Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019
Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019

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.

Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019
Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019

This is the demo that I did.

Rex Beanland, Piazza San Marco

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.  

Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019
Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019

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.

Rex Beanland, Swinton Workshop 2019

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!

Experimental Watercolour With The Hat Art Club

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.

Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
The Hat Art Club
This group has a fabulous facility in a building that serves the public and the Medicine Hat College.
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop

The first demo 

The first demo was a painting of Haystack Rock.

Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop, watercolour, 18 x 12
Demo #1 Haystack Rock
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
An Impressive Wall

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.

Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop
Demo #2 Cameron Pond )
Rex Beanland, The Hat Art Club Workshop, Cameron Pond, watercolour, 20 x 15
Cameron Pond – the final version

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.

Strathcona Art Club Workshop

Last week I had one of the most intense weeks I’ve ever had in my teaching career.  2 2-day workshops in Medicine Hat a one day break and a 2-day workshop in Calgary.  Fabulous but intense!

The Strathcona Art Club is a group where everyone knows everyone else really well.  They were a very welcoming group and made me feel very much at home.  We had a great time.

Photos From The Workshop

Class Photo

I did 2 demos, one of Piazza San Marco and the second one a painting of Jasper Ave.

Piazza San Marco
Jasper Ave
(I finished this painting at home)

I think I pushed many of them a little out of their comfort zone but the quality of the paintings seems to validate that approach.


A real fun group!

Reflections On Tuktoyaktuk

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

Rex Beanland, Sasha, watercolour, 11 x 15

In Inuvik I was joined at a restaurant by 7 women who were out celebrating.  Karin was one of them.

Rex Beanland, Karin, Inuvik, watercolour, 11 x 15

Laverna was the owner of the fabulous B & B where I stayed.  We became good friends.

Rex Beanland, Laverna, watercolour, 11 x 15

Landscapes & Urban Landscapes

One of my favourite paintings was this one of a couple of houses in Tuk.

Rex Beanland, Satellite City, watercolour, 11 x 15
Satellite City

Another was a view from my B & B.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk Reflections, watercolour, 11 x 15
Tuktoyaktuk Reflections

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.

Rex Beanland, Summer Day, Tuktoyaktuk, watercolour, 11 x 15
Summer Day Tuktoyaktuk

Approximately 2 days later we had a severe Arctic Storm.


Rex Beanland, Arctic Storm, Tuktoyaktuk, watercolour, 11 x 15
Arctic Storm, Tuktoyaktuk

I found a number of scenes in Tuk really reminded me of the Maritimes and the fishing villages.  This was one of those.

Rex Beanland, Life On The Water, watercolour, 11 x 15
Life On The Water

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.


Rex Beanland, Goodbye Tuktoyaktuk, watercolour, 11 x 15
Goodbye Tuktoyaktuk

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!

A Trip To The End Of The Road

I just got home from 10 days in Canada’s arctic including 6 days in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.  It’s 148 km north of Inuvik and since 2017 is accessible by road.

Something called me to go as far north as the road went hoping that it would be a special experience and it was.  One thing I noticed is that by going to the extremes of climate, geography, culture etc I learned new things about the middle ie my life in Calgary.  Specifically the things that stuck out included 24 hours of daylight.  It was a challenge to go to bed when at midnight it’s still completely light out, kids are playing in the playground and life is just going on.  Standing on the edge of the Arctic Ocean and realizing that I’m at the top  of the world.

Another thing that I learned  is that in the Arctic you can not survive on your own.  You have to be connected to everyone else.  There are times you will need their help and there are times you need to help them.  In the city we can live with the illusion that we can get by on our own.

In the north you also learn some new lessons about letting go.  The prices in the stores are 2 to 3 times more expensive than in the city but if you need it you just have to buy it.  My favourite example was tomatoes 2 lbs for $17.99.  Also if you can’t get it in the store then you can’t get it.  It has to be shipped in which takes time and money. 

Finally  for people who love their connectivity in my week in Tuk I was never able to connect to the internet.  I finally gave up.  Phone service was great but not internet.  Other people told me that they use it but I was never able to access it.  It turned out that I was quite happy to stay unconnected.


I flew from Calgary to Inuvik.

Rex Beanland, Inuvik
Downtown Inuvik with Igloo Church (in background)

A great initiative in the Arctic is the creation of community greenhouses to help bring fresh produce to the Arctic. The largest is in Inuvik in a converted hockey rink.  People can rent individual plots and some is grown for a market.

Rex Beanland, Inuvik
Inuvik Community Greenhouse

Because Inuvik is built on permafrost water & sewage services must be above ground.

Rex Beanland, Inuvik
Above ground water & sewage


Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Houses on the Arctic Ocean
Some of the scenes of buildings on the water always reminded me of Nova Scotia.
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
House Reflections
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
A Peaceful M

When the sun was out everything was transformed.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
House In Shadow
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
House Shadows
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Houses In Tuk
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Satellite City
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Visitor Info Centre: Stacey Sasha

Laverna, owner of the Smitty’s B & B, where I stayed was a real help during my stay and became a friend.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Distant Early Warning (DEW) Station
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Arctic Storm
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Flooding in town (Arctic Storm)

This field was totally dry the day before.  A major storm brought the ocean right into town.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk

Pingos are hills that are formed by ice heaving up.  They are a very well know landscape feature in this area.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Car Top Tent

This car top tent is an extremely sturdy and comfortable solution for travelling with a small car.  The ladder is a structural element that gives it a lot strength.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Made It!

On my last night Laverna and her granddaughter, Hanna drove me around.  We went up to the DEW Station and I took some photos.

Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Looking over the Arctic Ocean
Rex Beanland, Tuktoyaktuk
Goodbye Tuktoyaktuk
Rex & Laverna
It was a fabulous trip!


In my next post I’ll be showing the paintings that I did on the trip.

Sketching In England

Last week I was  able to attend the funeral in England of a long time friend.  I was actually born in England though I have only lived there about 5 years in my life.  Still the country, the landscape, the people and especially the architecture always calls to me.  

I had hoped to take the opportunity to do a lot of painting but it just wasn’t possible.  However, I did manage to find some time to do some sketching.  This really reinforced the power of sketching.  It is intense observing and a great preparation for future paintings.  I found those moments when I could get away and take 30 – 60 minutes just to sketch quite magical.

In cafes or at the train station or just getting off the main road and taking in some the historical buildings there are so many opportunities to sketch and that time spent engaged is so very rewarding.

Here are some of the sketches it did.

Rex Beanland, Worthing From The Train Station
Worthing, from the train station
Rex Beanland, Worthing Coffee Shop
Worthing Coffee Shop
Rex Beanland, Worthing Coffee Shop 2
Worthing Coffee Shop 2
Rex Beanland, Holme On Spalding Moor
Holme On Spalding Moor
Rex Beanland, Gransmoor
Rex Beanland, St John Of Beverley Church, Harpham, Detail
St John Of Beverley Church, Harpham, Detail

The only painting I got to do was in the beautiful town of Beverley from a coffee shop.

Rex Beanland, Beverley

It is a truism that if you sketch a place you will remember so much more of that place than you will from any photo.  When I look at these sketches I can re-experience the sights, the sounds, the light and the feelings.  Wonderful!