Category Archives: Art Blog

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!


Experimental Watercolour Workshop

I recently had the opportunity to teach a fun workshop at a location that I really love – The Leighton Centre.

It has been a while since I taught this particular workshop and once again I came to appreciate how much fun it can be and yet how many useful watercolour techniques are involved.

It was a great group of participants and we formed a very supportive and enthusiastic group.  

The three main activities were a fun way to do figures, a painting of Haystack Rock and a painting of a pond near Cameron Lake in Waterton Park.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop, Class with Haystack Paintings
Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Class with Cameron Pond paintings

As I mentioned it’s always the people that make the workshop!

These are just a few shots from the workshop.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop, Students
Rex Beanland, Leighton Experimental Workshop, 4 Students

Thanks to everyone for a great workshop.

Painting Trip To Slave Lake

Last week Susan and I took an RV trip to Slave Lake (Lessor Slave Lake to be precise).  Even though we were much closer to the wildfire at High Level the air was clear and it was sunny and warm.  It was a pleasure and very satisfying to have a week devoted to painting.  I spent many evenings sitting on the beach and painting.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Here are some of the plein air paintings I completed.

Sunset Paintings

It was a great opportunity to practice sunset paintings.  I waited about an hour each evening to capture that moment when the sun just touched the trees.


Sunset Over Slave Lake

This one of a similar subject was from our night at Thunder Lake.  I love the setting sun and the clouds but I realized when I got it home how much it needs something in the foreground.

Rex Beanland, Sunset Over Thunder Lake, watercolour, 9 x 12
Sunset Over Thunder Lake

Two other day time paintings from Slave Lake

Rex Beanland, Slave Lake, watercolour, 9 x 12
Slave Lake
Rex Beanland, Slave Lake Walkabout, watercolour, 9 x 12
Slave Lake Walkabout

On the drive home we encountered rain for the first time and this scene is from Rocky Mountain House.

Rex Beanland, A Rainy Day In Rocky Mountain House, watercolour, 9 x 9
A Rainy Day In Rocky Mountain House

It was a great trip which we both enjoyed very much . . . and it’s really nice to get some new subject matter for future paintings.

Challenging Yourself In Art

A few years ago I made the decision to focus more on national and international exhibitions.  I did this because I wanted to challenge myself to improve as an artist and I wanted to see how I would fare in the wider world.

The positive side of this is the pleasure and motivation that comes from acceptance in these type of shows.  The down side is ‘get ready for rejection’ which as I think about it can also be positive as we strive to do better.

Anyway, with all this in mind I submitted to the Thompson, Nicola, Shushwap Chapter of the Federation Of Canadian Artists National Open Show.

I was thrilled that my painting, Jasper Ave, received the 3rd place award by the jurors.


 Rex Beanland, Jasper Ave, watercolour, 11 x 14
Jasper Ave

Also my painting, All Quiet In Gibson’s Harbour, won 1st place in the People’s Choice Award.

Rex Beanland, All Quiet In Gibsons Harbour, watercolour, 24 x 18
All Quiet In Gibson’s Harbour

I actually drove to Kamloops to pick up my paintings and had the pleasure of meeting the Chapter President, Mairi Budreau, and to personally receive my award.


On an unrelated front I was just in Toronto for the AGM of the Canadian Society Of Painters In Water Colour and I was very surprised to receive the President’s Award by outgoing President, Rayne Tunley.  It was for outstanding contributions and leadership.  I felt quite humble.

Rex Beanland, Presidents Award

I feel so grateful for being on this journey as a full time artist and for all the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of meeting.

The Power Of Play

Lately when I meet fellow artists and they ask ‘what have you been up to’ I’ve started saying that the past few months have been an period of dedicated play. I’ve put my more ‘serious’ work aside and I’ve just tried new things. Very little of the prep work I usually do. No thumbnails, colour studies, no value studies just jump right in – mostly with photos but also some plein air work. I’ve called it by a few names such as plein air in the studio etc but what it really is is just play.

I’m posting some of the results. Some of these paintings are successful as paintings some are not but I learned from each of them. I don’t know about the wisdom of posting paintings that may not be successful. However as learning experiences they were all very successful so I’m going to do it anyway.

This one was a lot of fun. It’s exactly the look I was going for – very loose. I have always been attracted to the lines of the steps.

Rex Beanland, Olympic Plaza, watercolour, 9 x 12
Olympic Plaza

This one was an attempt to capture a mass of foliage.

Rex Beanland, Shady Path Toronto, watercolour 8 x 10
Shady Path Toronto

In preparation for my workshop in Lethbridge I wanted to try to make something of this downtown building. This is just a literal interpretation.

Rex Beanland, Lethbridge, watercolour, 9 x 12

With this one I wanted to make it a more personal statement.

Lethbridge Fantasy

This one was to put it all together. Watercolour is so good a recording a rainy day that I used that theme.

Rex Beanland, Rainy Day In Lethbridge, watercolour, 9 x 12
Rainy Day In Lethbridge

This is a return to probably my favourite location, Kensington Market in Toronto. I love the ramshackle nature of the place. Very human, very interesting. This one I am very happy with and intend to do a larger studio version.

Rex Beanland, Kensington Market , watercolour, 9 x 12
Kensington Market

I’m intrigued by this wall and really wanted to work it into a painting so I literally copied the photo. Nice idea but not successful. Major confusion around ‘what’s the painting about’. Is it the girl catching the sun or the colourful poster. Trying to make both important doesn’t work.

Rex Beanland, Girl In Kensington Market, watercolour 9 x 13
Girl In Kensington Market

A very well known artist I know said that the human eye can’t really imagine what something will look like without actually seeing it. So by doing this I could see that as much as I love the girl and the wall I have to make a choice. Can’t have the two stars competing.

So let’s focus on the girl. I like that and I like the wall now but the structure on the left is probably too busy. Again it takes away from the star of the show – the girl.

Rex Beanland, Girl Kensington Market, watercolour, 9 x 5
Girl Kensington Market

Just a few steps away from the previous painting I caught this girl on the phone. Her rich, reddish brown skin was captivating. The dark really brings her out. It’s getting hard to take photos of people without the ubiquitous cell phone.

Rex Beanland, Girl On Phone Kensington Market, watercolour, 9 x 5
Girl On Phone Kensington Market

So what is the power of play.

For me it’s exciting, quick and very focused. But above all it’s a wonderful way to explore new themes, new techniques and to learn and grow as an artist.

Miles On The Brush

One truism from the world of art is the saying that success is defined by ‘miles on the brush’ meaning how much have you painted. There is certainly a place for natural ability but that pales in comparison to the power of just doing it – a lot.

I find these paintings to illustrate what happens when we just keep on our journey.

These paintings are all based on Charing Cross in London, England. We visited there about 8 years ago.

This first painting was the first time I tackled the subject. It was painted in 2012. It was a real breakthrough for me at the time. In fact it was one of t he paintings I used to be juried into the Canadian Society Of Painters In Watercolour. All in all a big deal and it was the best I could do at that time.

Charing Cross (The Original)

Now 7 years later and a lot of miles on the brush I revisited the subject and this is what I came up with.

Rex Beanland, Charing Cross, watercolour, 9 x 12
Charing Cross

For me the fascinating insight here was that in the first painting your eyes go to the sun lit top of the building. In this second version your eyes go to the centre of interest the people and the cars. This is where the story is and therefore this second painting is much more successful. It’s the best I can do today. It’ll be interesting to see what it will look like in another 7 years.

So, if there is a lesson it’s – keep painting, keep learning – miles on the brush.

Rex Beanland, Charing Cross 2, watercolour, 8 x 6
Charing Cross 2

Just for fun here is another version done recently. A slightly different feel. It’s interesting for me to ask myself which one works best?

Taking Another Look

I had a very interesting experience yesterday. My practice is to take any painting that I’m not happy with and put it in a pile. Then I reuse the back of these paintings. I pulled out this one yesterday and was just about to cut it up when I took a second look at it.

Rex Beanland, A Moment Of Reflection, watercolour, 18 x 24

I did this painting 4 years ago and submitted it to a big show and it was not accepted so I considered it unsuccessful. I hadn’t looked at it in a long time but yesterday when I saw it I thought that the centre of interest was actually quite interesting. So I cropped it down to the essentials and it became a very different painting.

Rex Beanland, A Moment Of Reflection, watercolour, 11 x 20
A Moment Of Reflection

I now look at it as a very successful painting.

This experience has reinforced two things. 1) It’s important to ask yourself ‘what is the painting about’. In this case it’s about the story of the lady and her dogs and all the rest of the background and foreground didn’t really add much to it. Secondly, we need to be open minded when we look at our work. Maybe we’re missing what’s right in front of our eyes. Very valuable lessons!

Seeing Photos In A New Way

I’m fascinated by the changes that we, as artists, undergo as we keep on our artistic journey. We continually discover new things. Lately, I feel something new is happening with regard to using photos.

Like most people I started out years ago trying to copy photos. A successful painting was one that looked like the photo. Over time I learned that it’s OK to move things around, eliminate things, and add things if it makes it a better painting.

As the journey continues I have learned that there are more changes that I can make. New ways that can make the painting even more personal. It’s about seeing the photo as a means to express myself. What do I want to say with this subject? It’s about me painting what excites me and feeling free to manipulate everything to that end.

Putting The Principle Into Action

This photo is a case in point. I’ve always liked the pattern of darks and lights as well as the overall composition. I took this photo 3 years ago but recently I decided that I wanted to try to paint it.

Rex Beanland, The LRT (Light Rapid Transit, Calgary)
The LRT (Light Rapid Transit, Calgary)

This is my first value sketch that I did in preparation for doing a small painting. What jumped out at me when I looked at it was that it’s so totally literal. I tried to capture that complicated structure over the train with all the detail I see. I also got caught up in much of the background detail.

Rex Beanland, The LRT, First Go, watercolour, 7 x 6
The LRT, First Go

Then I asked myself what excited me about this painting. It was the contrast between the structure and the light of the train. This little study captured that so much more effectively.

Rex Beanland, LRT Lively, 5 x 4
LRT Lively

Putting these ideas together in a little more refined study I came up with this.

Rex Beanland, LRT, Calgary, watercolour, 10 x 15
LRT, Calgary

Another Example

Another related example is this photo I took of the ATB building on 8th Ave. This building has some fairly interesting architectural features such as a dome and even though I don’t find the composition interesting I thought there was some potential and I would give it a shot.

For me the struggle was to see this building not as the subject but as a backdrop to tell an interesting story.

Rex Beanland, ATB Study, watercolour, 8 x 9
ATB Study

This is a small 8″ x 9″ study does that for me. The building is a supporting player to the main story of the people.

As I mentioned at the top of this post I’m just noticing that this ability to take a photo and create something personal and meaningful is starting to happen more and more. I can’t help but notice that at the same time I’m becoming increasingly excited by painting. Go figure!

Landscape Workshop At The Leighton Centre

It was a real treat last weekend to teach a workshop at the Leighton Centre.  First of all the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny but with the clear smell of autumn from the fallen leaves and grasses.  Secondly it was a chance I don’t often have to teach landscape painting.  I really do enjoy landscape painting it’s just that my urban landscape work has eclipsed it over the past number of years.

Anyway, it was a great workshop and once again I am so impressed what beginners (as many of them were) are able to produce if when given the tools.

The Demos

The first demo is a really neat painting.  It uses a very direct painting approach.  Get the shape, colour and value and paint it in directly.

Again I’m posting it as it was at the end of the workshop and the finished version.  I’m very happy with this one.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Demo at end of workshop









A few finishing touches and some figures give it an interesting story.

Rex Beanland, Country View, watercolour, 15 x 20

Country View











This painting has some significant colour notes and here are some in-progress photos.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Barn in process 1









Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Barn in process 2









Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Barn in process









I just received this finished version of the barn from one of the participants.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Lucie’s Barn


The Second Demo

This demo is more  my normal process with an underpainting that covers the entire paper and then adding the mid and dark values.  It’s a process that actually makes the painting go surprisingly quickly.

Here are the 2 versions.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Demo at the end of the workshop









Again some darks and shadows and the addition of a very important element – the overhanging tree which adds another dimension.

Rex Beanland, Foothills & Buffalo, watercolour, 15 x 20

Foothills & Buffalo











I just received one of the participant’s finished version of the foothills.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Landscape Workshop, 2018

Janice’s Foothills










It was a lovely weekend with a great bunch of painters!  Thanks to everyone.

Rex Beanland, Leighton Workshop 2018

Class Photo













A Little Extra

I far prefer the foothills to the mountains so  I continue to explore different ways to paint them.  I took a photo on the way out to the workshop to illustrate a little of the patterns that occur in the foothills.  In the early morning light in late October everything had an orange/brown tint.  This is my first run at capturing that look.  I used the same technique as the demo done in the workshop.  I think this is a direction well worth pursuing.

Rex Beanland, Another View Of The Foothills, watercolour, 9 x 12

Another View Of The Foothills