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.
I did a demonstration at the Leighton Centre on Saturday June 1 for their annual Clothesline Sale. It is always a very enjoyable event. Lots of people, lots going on, and a chance to catch up with friends and fellow artists. After the rain yesterday, today was beautiful. Sunny all day. Unfortunately, as you can see I forgot to take a hat and I don’t do well in the full sun so I’m paying for it tonight. But it was a great day. I enjoyed the day and I’m very pleased with the painting. It’s of the Barley Mill at Eau Claire.
As I heard someone say recently, the real subject of a painting like this is not the objects, the people etc but it’s the light and this painting I think has a very strong sense of that wonderful yellow light.
I also enjoyed having nearly all the figures work as lights against a darker background. Lately I had fallen into a bit of a trap of always trying to make the figures very dark. However when you have a dark figure against a dark background there is no contrast and it’s boring or muddy. So I like the fact that the figures are all lighter than the background. The lightness of the figures in this painting was achieved by mixing in a little white gouache with cobalt or ultramarine blue.
The Day The Twins Came To Visit watercolour, 14 x 7
I’ve always been a big proponent of the benefits of playing with paint. It’s often surprising how much you can learn from it. This painting is an example.
I’ve always found this building very interesting. It is right beside the Lougheed House. The other day I wanted to do a little painting but wasn’t interested in doing a detailed drawing and all the other ‘stuff’ that goes into a formal painting. I had a long and narrow piece of paper at hand and just for fun I thought I would try to paint this house. Because I had to fit the house into this unusual format I couldn’t worry about being accurate and I painted that way. With very little pre-thought I just began throwing paint around. It was half an hour of pure fun. When doing something like this there is absolutely no pressure. It’s all about just playing. I was just reacting to what the paint was doing on the paper. Also because I didn’t really care if it worked out or not as soon as I got an idea I just did it. For example the house, because it was a very light value and there weren’t a lot of shadows didn’t really stand out as much as I wanted so I thought ‘let’s see what it looks like if I exaggerate the darks on both sides’. From the photo you can see that there was actually a very dark house beside it which helped.
That feeling of being in the moment and not worrying at all whether it would be successful freed me up to just have fun. From all this playing I realized how much I want to have the same feeling of fun in my ‘serious’ painting.
The title came from the 2 figures on the left. I put my usual blob of orange for the faces but the background was wet so the paint spread out and it began to look like a couple of wild afro-type hair styles. So those 2 blobs evolved into the twins.
I think the spontaneity of the process shows in the final painting.
I have been doing many on-location studies of scenes in Calgary over the winter and spring. It has been a wonderful learning experience. The main lessons I have learned from this process are:
Before I begin painting I need to plan the entire painting process including getting the composition, the colour family, value pattern and what story do I want to tell.
Using a viewfinder really helps to simplify the composition. So much needs to be left out. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Choose an overall colour scheme before I start don’t try to recreate the actual colours.
Decide on the value pattern that helps tell the story.
Decide on what story I want to tell.
Even though this takes a bit of time, the painting always goes more quickly and effectively if I do all of this.
This process is all very new for me. I normally just do a quick sketch and then start throwing paint.
The interesting thing about all these paintings is that the actual scene in each case (with the possible exception of the Dog Park and Tivoli) is not particularly attractive and each one except the dog walk was done on an overcast day. Also the figures were all from my imagination.
I posted a painting a few days ago. It’s a copy of a Joseph Zbukvic painting. This particular image is a cropped section of the original painting showing just the centre of interest. It’s just one of those happy accidents that the pattern of lights and darks in this image is so effective and attractive. This section alone makes a lovely and successful composition.
This is definitely a one off. Again it was an old pencil value sketch that I did a few years ago. I was just in the mood to try something different so I thought I would try to turn that value sketch into a colour study.
I like the opaque marks of cad red light and cad orange.