Saturday, October 13, 2018

The power of critiques

Conch Shell
16 x 12

This week I connected separately with two artists to talk about their art for a solid hour.  They were the first of the online critiques that artists have booked with me, and the process worked well thanks to the wonders of technology.

The first crit was done over the phone at the artist's request.  From 10 images that I'd received, I altered 5 in Procreate, and we discussed the altered images one by one, as well as discussing the body of work as a whole.

It's powerful to be able to show an artist ways to strengthen her work rather than rely on inadequate, vague words.  Instead of telling her to simplify or soften an area, I can actually show her what it would look like if she did so, without ever touching the actual painting. 

The second critique was face-to-face thanks to the miracle of video chatting.  I use Jitsi, an open-source, video conferencing service that doesn't track conversations, advertise to participants, or come with those annoying spammers who want to connect.  It allowed us to see each other, but also to share my screen during the call so that I could make alternate changes to the ones I'd already done, talking the artist through them while she watched on her screen at home.

In both critiques, I was amazed by how quickly the time went.  The hour flew as we talked about art: our common obsession. We had meaningful discussions about the painters' artistic goals, strengths, weaknesses, and concrete ways to address them.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to talk with thoughtful artists, no matter where they live, and I give thanks for the Internet.  It connects us with our tribe.

If you're interested in learning more about my critiques, have a look at my website, and get in touch.

Happy painting!



Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall can be a time for growth!

I thought I'd do a round up of news and events for readers who don't yet subscribe to my email news.
So here's what's going on in my autumn:



I'm taking some time off of teaching weekly classes this year to focus on my studio and to do some travelling.   The latter includes 2 weeks in London and Paris during which I intend to see as much art as humanly possible!  If the Eiffel Tower happens to be in my line of sight as I walk to a museum or gallery, that's a bonus.

In the meantime, I'm offering private in-person and online instructional critiques: 

I've found that there's an uncomfortable, often discouraging time in artists' lives between learning how to paint, and finding their personal style and genre - their artistic path. Artists can stall on this plateau for a long time, feeling that they're not progressing, but knowing that the answer is not a long-term class. I can help you out of this stalled state.

I'm now offering private critiquing online or in my Calgary studio for painters who want an honest eye, and concrete illustrations and suggestions for how to move forward in their artistic practises.  For information on process and pricing, please see my website.


New Gallery Representation!  


I've added a new gallery to the list of those that show my work, and I'm thrilled!
LePrince Fine Art now represents me in beautiful Charleston, SC.  Hurricane Florence had me worried when she blasted into the coast a few days after my work went up on the walls, but Charleston was lucky, and so was I.  Check it out if you're in the area.

Super good article!


Painters' health and safety has always been a priority for me, and I was given an opportunity to reach a very broad audience in August.  Artsy magazine commissioned me to write an article outlining both the hazards, and the easy safety measures that artists can take to keep themselves healthy in their studios.  I'm biased, but I still think that every painter should read this, and send it to their painting buddies!

Subscribing to receive my blog in your inbox:

If you'd like to have my rather sporadic blog appear in your inbox, don't forget to enter your email in the little "Follow by Email" box on the left.  I promise to write more!

Happy painting!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Using technology to solve a painting - and a blog glitch

Peonies Full Blown
30 x 30
**Yes: a Blogger blog again.  My explanation is at the end.

Paint on, paint off is often how my work proceeds. I make a choice, smack on the paint with great conviction, and then doubt or loathe the result.  Then I scrape it off, think for a long time, and try it again.
"Peonies Full Blown" involved a lot less manual labour than usual because I tried out my changes on my Ipad in Procreate.  Like an intuitive Photoshop, Procreate allows all sorts of manipulations: drawing, painting, moving elements around... it might make dinner but I'm still learning it.

A couple of weeks ago, I impulsively cut a bunch of peonies at the height of perfection, stapled some linen to a board, and dashed to get the image painted before the flowers lost their charms.  It was speed painting, and I blame that for my lack of forethought about what would surround the blooms.  

I ended up with this, and then I got stuck:

But this time, instead of trying out ideas on the painting, I took a picture of it, and popped it into Procreate. Then I tried out some ideas:

This harmonized with the ground shadows, and worked nicely to create recession behind the flowers. Lacked oomph.

Added line and a movement of pink within the middle section took the focus off the main event: my peonies. This felt like a decor piece.

Getting closer, but the blue felt too overt and chromatic. I liked the spotlighting of the flowers, though.


And one step back. This was just wrong.

Back to dark, but the black was too warm.
Just right!

With this one, I felt I'd found the solution. It has lots of drama, and respects the fact that it's about a very specific bunch of peonies. The background enhances the flowers, but doesn't compete with them.

With the decision made, I went into the studio, loaded a house painting-sized brush with ivory black mixed with a touch of ultramarine blue, and slapped it on. It was finished in 5 minutes and harmonized with the freshness of the rest of the piece.

I was pleased and a bit surprised by how well this process worked, and I'll definitely do it again with the next problematic piece.

So why am I back to Blogger after a mere 1 post away, on my new FASO blog?  It's because the FASO blog only allows people to subscribe to my blog via RSS feed, whereas this blog allows email subscribing.  Many of you have already added yourself to my blog list but putting your email address into the box on the right side of this page, and I'd hoped it would be that simple on the new site.  It's not.  So, I'll keep this going until some wonderful programmer puts an email widget on the FASO blog.  Thanks for reading here, there, or anywhere! 

Happy painting!


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New website and moving the blog!

Building the new site, one image at a time.  Ugh!

I prefer my laptop to my phone, and never look at art on the tiny screen, which turns out to have been a mistake - one that I've been making for years. 

Last week I looked at my website on a phone and gagged.  It looked awful: creaky, manual scroll, cropped titles, absent information: all stuff that didn't show on the laptop screen for which it was clearly optimized.  So the past few days have seen me stuck at the kitchen table, populating a new FASO website.  Painstaking, boring work, but worth it.   I logged 11 live chats with the online help person over the course of 1 day and am sure they groaned aloud in the office when they saw my name pop up AGAIN.  But they were unfailingly helpful, which certainly made my day easier.

I'm taking advantage of the fact that they have an integrated blog page to move from Blogger, as well.  Isn't it a good thing to put all your eggs in one basket?  Actually, I think my blog will have a much greater reach on FASO and that's a nice thought.  I'll leave the blog archive here on Blogger, but all new posts will be on my FASO site.

Marketing is the last thing that any painter wants to be doing, and so I haven't really been doing it - at least not with any regularity.  Most of my days are spent happily applying paint, exploring new techniques, and turning a blind eye to business stuff.  I yearn for an agent. 

Anyway, I'm taking myself in hand and spending some much-needed time at the computer.  Wish me patience.

In the meantime, have a look at my lovely new site that works as it should, and please subscribe to my blog at the same time.

Happy painting!



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Explorations using still life

Bread and Bowl
16 x 20
oil on linen

It ain't over till it's over. 

This still life captured my interest: the lighting, the composition, and the objects.  Every day when I walked into the studio and saw it, I had the urge to paint it again.  So I did - 4 times. I figure it's not excessive if I'm still having fun.  When the thought another painting of bread makes me want to lie down with a cool cloth on my face, then it's excessive.

The first one was painted on fairly smooth linen which, in my experience, doesn't take a lot of paint before feeling and looking a bit heavy and tired.  So I minimized the number of layers, working on colour and composition more than on building the texture of the paint. 


Bread and Bowl 2
14 x 18
Oil on Baltic birch
The next 3 were painted on birch panels which can take as much paint as I want to add.  Each painting explored a different aspect of the subject and the medium.  I also changed out the bowl for something with some chroma.

#2 was started on a wet wash of ivory black mixed with 50/50 linseed and mineral spirits.  I've been using black a lot lately, finding that I enjoy the resulting coolness of the work, and the complex, rich greens that I can make with it and my cadmium yellows. 

By working into the wash while it was wet, I neutralized and contaminated all of the other colours and layers with black.  This allowed me to work with high chroma colours while knocking them all down a bit.  It also harmonized the whole piece since the black acted like a mother colour, appearing in every other mixture on the panel. 

Bread and Bowl 3
16 x 20
Oil and cold wax on Baltic birch
#3 took a different turn as I emphasized texture, building thick, broken layers with the addition of cold wax medium into the paint.  I continued to use a bit of the 50/50 mixture, but each brush or knife load of paint also had a small amount of wax in it.  A little bit goes a very long way, making the paint more matte and translucent.  It also resists a flowing approach to the painting, making crisp edges, and interesting broken marks.  What I enjoy about wax is its natural ability to create complex, visible layers.  In fact, it makes a smooth, flat application of paint almost impossible to achieve. 
Bread and Bowl 4
Oil on Baltic birch
With number 4 I felt I knew the subject inside out, and was verging on tired of it.  Still, I thought I'd do a last, quick one with different lighting and a different medium.  I also compressed the value range to lighten the shadows overall, and work colour and temperature rather than tone as I had with the previous 3.

I backlit the subject and focused on seeing all of the elements in shadow as a single, simple mass.  Within that mass, I found colour changes but minimal value changes - that kept the eye focused on the bowl with its glowing piece of light-struck green. 

My medium was 50/50 stand oil and mineral spirits, generously added to the paint to create a juicy mixture.  It flowed off the brush, but, because stand oil is so thick, it naturally encourages me to pick up larger volumes of paint when working wet-in-wet than I would if using a thinner oil. 

This has minimal layering though I did mingle warm and cool layers of colour in the shadows to achieve a glowing, airy look. 

It was cool cloth time after this last one, but I felt I had thoroughly explored the subject and, to some extent, my medium.  It was time well spent.


If you're interested in studying with me, there are still some spots available in my Umbria workshop in September.  We'll have many and varied subjects, from still life to figure, and will bring both a rigorous, and thoughtful approach to bear on them.  And we'll enjoy being in Umbria!

For more information, please see the Winslow Art Center Travel Workshops.

Happy painting!