Tag Archives: watercolour techniques

Zoom Demonstration!

On Thursday, Nov 19, 2020 I did my first zoom demonstration for the Calgary Sketch Club.  It was a fairly stressful process simply because I got a new, powerful piece of hardware that I hoped would make the experience better for the viewers.  I worked beautifully.

Here is the painting as it was when I finished the demo (1 1/2 hours).


I spent about another hour in the studio and this is the final version.

I’m really happy with the painting and I’m over the moon with the process.  I think I can use this technology to continue my teaching in this most challenging of times.

What’s Your Story?

I try to make sure that I include play as an important part of my painting process.  This  is where I just try things to see what they look like.  I find I learn a lot in these ‘fun’ times.  This painting is a beautiful case in point.

This is a painting of the Empire Building in Edmonton.  This painting just uses the basic shape of the buildings as they actually are.  I wanted to see if I could completely change the lighting to go with this extreme sunrise theme. I also wanted to see if the building were interesting enough shapes. The painting turned out absolutely fine, but nothing special.

Rex Beanland, Empire Building, Edmonton 1, watercolour, 11 x 15

I thought both the sunrise theme and the shapes of the buildings were fine but then why isn’t it very interesting. The thing that jumped out was that the buildings in the background are as detailed as the closer buildings.  This gets the eye wandering down to the background too much.  I asked myself what is my story?  Where do I want your eye to go?  For me the story is the life on the street in the front so in this painting there are too many distractions.   

So I redid it with the clear intention to push the background buildings further back and keep the detail only in the closest buildings.


Rex Beanland, Empire Building, Edmonton, watercolour, 11 x 15

In this version your eye is definitely drawn more to the foreground.  It’s a more focused and comfortable visual experience.  

Lesson learned!

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.

Thoughts On The Painting Process

The top image is the result of my interest in the work of Nita Engle.  She is an American watercolourist famous for using experimental techniques to create realistic effects in  watercolour.  I love the work she does and the effects she is able to get by throwing paint, using special tools and really playing with the water.   She also has a way of stretching the paper that ensures that it won’t buckle at all.  My one hesitation with her process is her extensive use of mask.  In some paintings she ends up covering almost half the paper with mask and on large works that is a lot of mask.  She also takes ages to finish a painting because of all the steps involved and the drying time between stages.   In this image I followed her process entirely including stretching the paper and masking out all the snow and all the highlights in the background.  Doing it this way does free you up to get more spontaneous mixing in the water and the background.  This was my first attempt at using her process completely.  I used an image that I’ve painted many times: the creek right at the top of Elbow Falls.  I learned lots by doing it and enjoyed the attempt.  The painting has some good points but overall it’s not very successful.  I think I’m at my best when I paint very directly and  feed off being in the moment and I get lost when I have to wait overnight to let various sections dry.  Also and for me, most importantly, when using mask I get locked into the shapes I mask out before I’ve even started painting.  This process doesn’t allow the chance to respond to what happens as the paint is applied.

The bottom image above is a similar scene but it was done completely in a direct manner.  In this one rather than masking out the trees I lifted them out of the wet wash. I could lift them where I felt they needed to be according to what I had already painted.   I  added the light streaks on the ground that pass behind the trees after the painting was finished using gouache.  Using this process I can add the lights where the painting needs them rather than where I thought they should go before even beginning the painting.  As one of my art heros, Stephen Quiller, says frequently, ‘listen to the painting’.  It will tell you what it needs.

Overall this is just part of the art journey.  Explore, experiment and then  keep what works for you and discard the rest.  That’s what makes this such a fascinating journey for me.