I participated in a wonderful art event the past weekend in Rosebud, Alberta. Rosebud is a little hamlet that is almost totally dedicated to the arts. We’ve visited Rosebud many times to go the theatre but this is the first time I have actually stayed there, if just for a weekend. It felt great to be a temporary resident of Rosebud. I even participated in the drum circle and got to perform a couple of songs. I camped there and the sense of peace and quiet especially at night was wonderful.
Anyway, this is one painting I did. It’s based on my plein air study. It’s a view from the top of the valley looking down on Rosebud. I been drawn to this view for a number of years but I was never sure how to paint it. This style is something completely new for me which makes this painting super exciting.
This next image is a view of the ‘downtown’. Again I’ve looked at this scene many times and it never really spoke to me. This time I had a bit of time to kill and I wanted to try something so I just started with a little pencil sketch and all of a sudden I thought there was some potential. This really showed me that anything can be turned into a good subject. It’s all about the eye of the beholder. So don’t keep looking for the perfect scene. Work with what you have and turn that into a great painting. This is a plein air study.
It was a great time and many thanks to all the organizers who made me and all the other participating artists feel so welcome.
I had the pleasure of offering my first in-person workshop in 16 months. It was for the Gibsons School of the Arts. They do a fabulous job of presenting quality art workshops every summer. They are a very vibrant and friendly group.
The participants in the workshop were also an especially great group to work with.
The Paintings Piazza del Popolo
The first demo was of the Piazza del Popolo. It’s a great subject that teaches so many useful watercolour skills. We took a lot of time learning how to create a mass of background figures.
I’m including a detail of these figures. They tend to look unfinished when you look at them up close but from a distance they magically become figures.
Another thing that I use frequently in urban landscape painting is what I call ‘ghost figures’. They are figures in the foreground that are there to draw you in to the painting. I particularly like the way that their lower half sort of disappears.
The participants’ examples.
The last demo we did was a scene from Granville St in Vancouver. We didn’t have time to finish it but you can see that everyone is well on their way.
Boats At Gibsons
We also did a painting of boats at Gibsons. This was a challenging painting but as you can see from our Wall Of Fame it was also well done.
The workshops are now being held in the High Beam Dreams which I believe was originally a church. A great space.
Here are the paintings I did. I finished them off at home.
I just love teaching art so it was a wonderful experience being in Gibsons. Many thanks to everyone who participated for making it such a great experience. Thanks also to Dee for being my excellent assistant!
Plein Air Painting
After the workshop Susan and I spent a week meandering to the end of the Coastal Highway (about 150 km). I did a few plein air paintings which I super enjoyed. I remember so much more of a location when I paint it then I ever do from a photograph. It’s the greatest way to visit new locations.
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.
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.
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.
In this version your eye is definitely drawn more to the foreground. It’s a more focused and comfortable visual experience.
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.