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!
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.
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.
Because Inuvik is built on permafrost water & sewage services must be above ground.
When the sun was out everything was transformed.
Laverna, owner of the Smitty’s B & B, where I stayed was a real help during my stay and became a friend.
This field was totally dry the day before. A major storm brought the ocean right into town.
Pingos are hills that are formed by ice heaving up. They are a very well know landscape feature in this area.
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.
On my last night Laverna and her granddaughter, Hanna drove me around. We went up to the DEW Station and I took some photos.
It was a fabulous trip!
In my next post I’ll be showing the paintings that I did on the trip.
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.
The only painting I got to do was in the beautiful town of Beverley from a coffee shop.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Two other day time paintings from Slave Lake
On the drive home we encountered rain for the first time and this scene is from 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.
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.
Also my painting, All Quiet In Gibson’s Harbour, won 1st place in the People’s Choice Award.
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.
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.
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.
This one was an attempt to capture a mass of foliage.
In preparation for my workshop in Lethbridge I wanted to try to make something of this downtown building. This is just a literal interpretation.
With this one I wanted to make it a more personal statement.
This one was to put it all together. Watercolour is so good a recording a rainy day that I used that theme.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now 7 years later and a lot of miles on the brush I revisited the subject and this is what I came up with.
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.
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?