Sunday, September 30, 2012

Medium and Marks

Summer Dress
16 x 12
Paint straight out of the tube is usually just a smidge too thick and toothpaste-like to move easily across the canvas.  And that's where the fun and games of oil paint mediums begin.

There is a staggering range of paint-additive possibilities.  Painters can choose from: solvents, oils, alkyds, wax, chalk dust, commercially-made mediums such as Liquin and maroger medium, varnishes, driers, egg white (I read that on a site once) and much more.  

While I tend to keep it simple and use only walnut oil or a 50/50 mixture of oil and mineral spirits, I do, occasionally yearn to achieve a new type of brush mark, so I experiment with other mediums.  In my studio are the nearly-full containers of many such experiments.  

This painting was made using a 50/50 mix of stand oil and mineral spirits.  Stand oil is a traditional medium  made from heat-treating linseed oil.  It flows thick and slow like molasses and creates a shiny, enamel-like surface if used alone.  By cutting it with mineral spirits, it's possible to speed up the brush strokes that you can achieve with this oil, but they are still pretty slow and mannered.  And that's not a bad thing.  

I like the expressive, juicy marks that this painting has.  Brush strokes end differently than with a fast-flowing medium like walnut oil; they are thick at the end, not thin and broken.  Layering is also different as the pressure needed to release the paint from the brush is firmer than with walnut and so it replaces more of the underpainting as it goes on.  There is greater coverage and fewer open, broken marks when working wet-in-wet.  I kept the palette of this piece very limited in order to showcase the marks more than anything else; I was that pleased with them.  

Still, I won't use this medium very often, especially not on large pieces because it slows me down too much.  My hand wants to race like the hare, and stand oil is the tortoise of the paint medium world.  

Happy painting!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Bootcamp" Portrait Workshop October 26

Floral Shawl
14 x 11
Last weekend I taught a workshop about painting portraits from photos at the Calgary School of Art.  There was a full house and we had a great - and busy - day.  A painter in my class suggested that it should be called "Bootcamp" Portrait Painting so that people would know they were going to work hard!  I like the sound of that.

Because the workshop had a waiting list, I'm offering it again on Friday, October 26 from 10 to 4.

We'll work from photos that the workshoppers bring in using a step-by-step approach.  I'll demo each step using a photo that I bring in, and the class will repeat it using their own photos.

The focus of the day will be on creating believable, 3 dimensional faces from the flatness of a photographic image.  Most painters have struggled with this one, and I've got some strategies to help overcome the problems.

The cost for the day is $100 and it's suitable for both oil and acrylic painters.

If you're in town and would like to join us at bootcamp, please register through the school at: 403-287-7448.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bee Series Continued

Queen of the Bees
14 x 11
This bizarrely-long summer has kept my garden growing and the bees busy.  Seeing big, slow honey bees  in the heads of my sunflowers every morning, waiting for the sun to warm them enough to move and begin collecting nectar has also kept me busy with paintings.

This is another painting in the bee series.  It's painted on gessoed paper and incorporates gold leaf.  Because gold leaf sticks to anything with even the tiniest bit of oil in it, I placed it first in an abstract doodle, keeping the image of the woman in mind but not drawing her in.  Then I sealed the surface with dilute Galkyd medium and painted over it when everything was dry.

My next bee painting is a large one, well underway, and I'm going to attempt the leafing over dry paint.  Probably not a sensible idea, but I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Enjoy the bee weather!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mexico Workshop

I invite you to join me for a fabulous week of painting, sunshine and warm hospitality in Mexico this winter.  I'll be teaching a comprehensive workshop at the beautiful Casa Buena Art Retreat in the Mexican back country near old Port San Blas, Nayarit, (80 miles north of Puerto Vallarta) from February 20 to 27, 2013.

The workshop will cover all aspects of plein air and figure painting from making effective colour choices to developing strong compositions and expressive brushstrokes.  And there is no end to the colourful subjects that we'll paint: a busy marketplace, the lush. untouched jungle, a lovely woman in traditional dress and more.  Every day I'll demonstrate and offer individual instruction and feedback.

This workshop is suitable for acrylic and oil painters of any level, beginner to advanced.

While we're busy creating art, Jane and Dallas, our friendly hosts at Casa Buena, will be working to create a memorable experience.  Their beautiful retreat is filled with colour, art, comfort and great food.  You can check out pictures of the retreat on their website:

For more information and registration, please contact Jane at: , phone in Canada: 1.403 560.0894 or contact me.

I hope to meet you there.

Happy painting!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Inspiring Fruit

Peaches and Ginger Jar
20 x 16
I didn't know what to paint the other day.  My photos seemed stale, no model was booked and I wasn't energetic enough to drive anywhere for plein air.  I debated giving painting a miss and tackling the garden clean up.  Luckily, the fruit bowl held some inspiration and the garden is still a mess.

The peaches that I'd bought at the farmers' market were gorgeous to look at - though dry to taste - and I liked the way they looked with the complementary greenish-grey of the ginger jar, a gift from my mom.  The fabric in the back was a silky, purple dress with a wonderful, long tie, a thrift shop find.  I like using that arrangement as a way to lead the eye into the focal area and also as a sort of lasso to enclose the light.  The whole thing was set up on an old white bed sheet and lit with a flood light.

After I'd done all that thinking and arranging, I'd forgotten all about the half hearted way that my studio day began and was excited to start putting on the paint.

This set up actually sparked another painting, in progress now, so I won't be faced with the "what will I paint today?" dilemma for a while.  Thank goodness for the fruit bowl.