Friday, September 23, 2011

New Workshop at Calgary School of Art

There are still a few spots left in an oil painting workshop that I'll be teaching at the Calgary School of Art on October 29th.  The workshop is titled:  "Loosen Up Your Oil Paintings".

Many painters who sign up to be my students do so because they want to paint in a looser, more spontaneous way, but they don't know how to accomplish that on their own.  This workshop looks at all of the ways that paintings can be made looser and bolder from edge treatment, to colour choices, brushwork, and more.

It will be a fun day with lots of experimentation and hard work!  If you're interested in signing up, please contact the Calgary School of Art.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Painting with a Purpose

Calendula Bouquet
16 x 12

My classes at the Calgary School of Art started again this week.  Once again I'm teaching Painting from Life. We are going to start with still life, floral and, finally, figures.  I like to have a plan for the 12 weeks; something that ties every lesson together. This session will be all about "painting with a goal".

This summer I began to set myself goals for every painting that I did. This seems a bit over the top on the surface, but it served me really well at a time when I was a bit stuck - okay, really stuck. I was indecisive in the studio, not sure of the point of the paintings that I was doing. They all seemed to be covering the same ground in much the same way.  I was spinning my wheels and it wasn't a good feeling.

So I decided that each painting had to have a single, clear goal. Several still lifes were done as explorations of backlighting; it's effect on the colour of objects and their edges. The beach scenes were done to teach me how to paint water. I rubbed off a lot of paint on the way to learning that lesson. And the floral above was an experiment in colour and how little of it I could use while still creating the illusion of colourfulness. Every colour in this piece is greyed down and the lights on the orange flowers are actually greys and light greens. Yet it reads as a colourful painting with bright orange flowers. The key to this one was colour temperature changes.

By setting a goal for each painting, I forced myself to figure out how to meet that goal. And in this way I forced myself to learn new things about painting, and, ultimately, to improve. I hope that my students find this practise as valuable as I did.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Texture and Abstraction in a Painting

Polka Dot Bikini
21 x 24

In an effort to prolong summer, I've been busy painting beach scenes. They have also offered a chance to work on texture and abstraction in paintings. The water in this piece was done in several stages, starting with a warm, orange tone and lots of splattering and dripping. My medium for these drips was 50/50 oil and odourless mineral spirits. While I prefer the look of watercolour-like drips that you can get from using just solvent in the paint, this doesn't make a strong paint film and I don't do it.

Then I used pure colour without white to lay different warm colours into the water and the figure. Finally, after that had dried, I went back in and added the light effects. I modified the figure with the cool blues of the reflected water and sky, and I dropped blue sky onto the warm colours of the lake. Then I could work on the sun-drenched colours of the girl's skin in the light. This is my favourite part and is very easy to overdo. I love to lay the paint on thickly to get the right value and an interesting texture in those areas.

I debated the level of completion of the face but finally decided that I didn't want the viewer to get caught up in that part of the painting. The important part of the scene was the light and colour, not the specific child, so I kept her features out of it and just suggested a bone structure.

This method of working is not natural for me: I'm usually a wet-on-wet painter, but I enjoyed it. It was nice to be able to lay colour cleanly on top of dry paint. I'll be doing more of these layered pieces to see where it takes me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tutt Art Galleries, Kelowna, BC

Pink Pail 
12 x 16

Every year I go to Kelowna, BC to visit family and get some blasting sunshine.  And every year I pay a visit to Tutt Art Galleries to check out the latest works by H.E. Kuchein, Min Ma, Brent Lynch and other excellent artists.  So it is with great pleasure that I can now say that my paintings are hanging in Tutt alongside these painters' works.

The gallery is carrying a new series that I've been working on this summer and one that I'm pleased with.  I spent the summer teaching myself how to paint water in a way that showed its sparkle, depth and variety.  It was a long and often frustrating process and I wiped off much more than I kept.  Then, something clicked and I felt like I was achieving what I was after.  The secret was simple: lots of paint and lots of colour.  I also make sure to use both warm and cool colours in the water; this makes a believable effect in a way that just using different blues and greens can't.

Then I incorporated figures - my favorite subject - into the water and felt that I was onto something that made me happy.  My debt is to Sorolla and Potthast in these scenes of children, sunshine and water, and the series is a natural for a part of the country that is famous for its beach culture.

If you're passing through the Okanagan Valley, I hope you'll stop in and check it out for yourself!