Friday, June 28, 2013

What a Painting Says

Wading Woman
24 x 20
We've experienced catastrophic flooding in my city and other southern Alberta communities over the past week so my wading paintings have taken on a new psychology for me.  Ironically, the Google image for the day of the flood was of a family in a swell of water, the waves washing over them as they stared out of the screen at us.  It was supposed to be cheery but felt sinister as I listened to the sirens and bullhorns of the police evacuating homes near mine.

Viewers bring a lot to images, creating a story that's informed by their own experiences.  I often wonder what the collectors of my work see in the children that I've painted.  Do they remind them of their children, or their own childhoods?  Are they a memory or a wish?

I saw this woman on an overcast day at the beach last a few years ago.  She stood in the water while her kids ran in and out, ignored by her.  There was something pensive and separate about her (or so it seemed to me) and I'd meant to paint her for a long time.  The mystery of her personality seemed suited to a broken, ambiguous surrounding and I worked at keeping her both isolated and intermingled with her environment.

I hope she's thinking happy thoughts.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paintings Shipped to BC Galleries

16 x 12

White Linen
10 x 8

Minnows There
24 x 12

These are just a few of the paintings that I recently sent to Rendezvous Art Gallery in Vancouver and Tutt Art Gallery in Kelowna.

16 x 12
I love painting, but I'm not big on packing and shipping, so I send large amounts when I do put a shipment together.  It takes most of a day to wrap, make boxes and secure each painting against damage and the clean up of little bits of cardboard and styrofoam makes me weary just thinking about it. But it's a wonderful feeling when the paintings are gone, the studio shelves are bare, and I can envision new work filling it up again.

If you're in Vancouver or Kelowna, I hope you'll stop in and check out the galleries.

Pearl Onions and Peonies
24 x 12

Summer Explorer
36 x 36

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Learn from the Master

After Sorolla
8 x 10

I've been enjoying the summer sun and warm light and it's really influenced my choice of subjects in the studio.  A long-time favourite of mine is children in water because the mood of these paintings is so uplifting, and the light bouncing around the figures and off of the water are such a challenge.  I don't always succeed, but that only seems to make me want to try harder next time.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to copy a Sorolla painting from a wonderful book by Blanca Pons Sorolla, his great granddaughter.  I figure there's no better education in the effect of light on the figure in water than to copy the work of a man who was mastered it.

Reproductions are always suspect; you never know if the printed version of a painting (or the Internet one, for that matter) actually matches what you'd see in real life, but I figured that if I liked the reproduction, it didn't really matter how true to life it was.

So here are the most important things that I learned:

- keep the shadows high key.  Despite the fact that it's a sunny day and there are lots of cast shadows, the feeling of powerful illumination is greater if the shadows stay light.  That makes the viewer believe that there is a lot of bouncing, reflected light.  Try it: paint a figure with a broad range of values from very dark in the shadows to very light on the light-struck planes and compare it to one in which you don't hit those real darks.  You'll find there's an airy luminous feeling to the latter sketch.

- put a lot of warmth in the water.  This works in this particular scene because of the close up, top view of the shore line.  What we're seeing is the sand under the water as well as the reflected blue sky on the tops of waves.  It wouldn't work if the water you were depicting was off in the distance.  Then you'd only see the colour of the reflected sky.

- keep it colourful but not straight from the tube.  Like flowers under the bright sun, the colours on the children's skin and the little girl's dress are rich and warm, but I was surprised by how little pure colour I needed to recreate the painting.  There are no modern colours like magentas or pthalos in this painting; it's mostly made up of cad red light, ultramarine, yellow ochre and a touch of cad yellow light in the hat.  All of the mixtures are grayed out but they still manage to sing because the colour temperatures are carefully observed.

- Sorolla could really paint!

This exercise was inspiring and I feel like it launched me toward some exciting new paintings.  I'll post them when the appear.

Happy painting!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Painting Retreat in Mexico 2014

I'm going back to Mexico in February to teach another painting workshop at the Casa Buena Art Retreat.  It was amazing last year: the light, the sun, the people and the chance to stand on a beach and paint in February.  I have to do it again!

Casa Buena is located on the western coast of Mexico in the Nayarit region.  We land in Puerta Vallarta where our hosts pick us up.  From that moment until they drop us off at the airport a week later, everything is taken care of: meals, accommodation, and excursions.  All we have to do is paint and enjoy.

I'll be teaching plein air, portraiture/figurative and still life this year.  That sounds like a lot, but it's actually not.  My method is the same for any subject and my aims are too: intelligent use of colour, designing the shapes, and applying paint in a logical, decisive way.  Workshoppers will hear me say the same things whether I'm discussing the landscape, the figure or a piece of Mexican pottery that we're using in a still life set up, and, by the end of the week, they'll have a strong methodology that will serve them for any subject that they choose to paint.

I hope you'll join me for this adventure.

If you'd like more information or to register, please contact me or Jane at the Casa Buena Art Retreat.