Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rendezvous Gallery show, Vancouver, BC

16 x 12
Showing in Rendezvous Art Gallery
I shipped my paintings to Vancouver this week for a group show that I'm part of in Rendezvous Art Gallery. The show's theme is "Seasons" and I didn't send a single snow scene; that's a season that I've had enough of. I sent a lot of still life pieces and some beach scenes. 

The show opens on May 10 and I'm flying to Vancouver to have some wine, see some art and mingle with like-minded people.  I hope you'll be able to join me. 

Happy painting!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Planning with Thumbnails

Inflatable Rings
11 x 14
I've finally accepted the importance of the thumbnail in my painting process.  I fought it for years, mainly because the little charcoal drawings that I produced didn't seem to have any relationship to the world of paint and colour. So while I attempted them over the years, I never felt thumbnails to be particularly helpful to my work.

But recently I've begun to paint tiny thumbnails in black and white before launching into a full colour version, and it's been a revelation.  Thumbnails in paint correlate perfectly to the colour paintings - they already are paintings - and so they become what they should always have been: maps to the finished works.

reference photo
You can see the process that I go through in these images. Using a photo that I took at the beach last summer, I wanted to separate the girls and their inflatable rings from what was a chaotic mess of people and beach toys.  I needed to edit and organize a composition.

My first step was, in fact, to use charcoal to visualize the main movements of the painting.  The girls became swooping lines of certain heights; I figured out the shore line (which meant I knew the division of space between water and land) and I indicated the people in the water on the left.  This step took 1 minute.
placing figures with charcoal

Next, using black and white paint, I made a tiny, abstract painting that determined the values - light, mid, and dark - of those elements.  In the process, I discovered that I didn't like the shoreline, so I altered its course.
What I'm looking for at this stage is variety in the shapes, both positive and negative, and effective use of values.  So, if I'm trying to emphasize the light surface of the inflatables, I ensure that they are silhouetted against a mid or dark value which will make them visually dramatic.  If I didn't do this editing step and launched straight into the
black and white paint
painting, I would copy what I saw in the photo and end up with a light ring against light sand.  I'd lose the opportunity for drama.

When the thumbnail makes an appealing abstract composition with variety in value and shape, I can start the painting.  It's a simple matter then of making sure that the values of the colours that I mix for each area correspond to the values that I'd determined in my thumbnail; individual colours don't matter as much as their value.

Like an outline for an essay, these thumbnails direct the painting and become a more meaningful reference than the photo reference itself.  I glance at the photo for colour clues, but it's the thumbnail that tells me if the composition will work in the first place; and no amount of interesting colour or brushwork can save a painting that has a poor composition.

If you don't already do them, I recommend you give these painted thumbnails a try.  They solve a lot of problems before you ever touch colour, and liberate you to paint freely and with assurance once you do.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Gallery Opening in Portland, Maine

Teal Bikini
30 x 30
I've dropped off the blogger map for a while because of a silly amount of travel: teaching in Mexico, learning in Philadelphia, and teaching two workshops for the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver; all within 6 weeks.  It's not conducive to painting, but it sure has been fun.  But I'm settled back into my studio now and I won't come out for a good long time.

There are exciting things on the horizon for me, one of the biggest of which is the opening of the Roux and Cyr International Fine Art Gallery in Portland, Maine.  I was honoured to be invited to join the roster of artists from around the world whose work will hang in this gorgeous new space.  Thanks to Google maps street view, and pictures sent by artist and owner, Susan Roux, I've seen the 3000 square foot gallery from the inside and out.  Hopefully, someday I'll see it in person (when I decide to venture out of my studio again).
The grand opening of the gallery is May 24.  If you live in the area or are travelling through, I hope you'll stop in and check out the work and say hi to Susan for me.