Saturday, October 25, 2014

Keep it simple

Brothers
8 x 10
This is a little piece that says exactly as what I want it to, and no more.  It's a poem, not a novel.

My intention was to capture light and avoid getting too literal about the environment around the boys. It doesn't really matter where the shoreline is; what matters is giving a sense of water, sand, sunshine and the excitement of being young on a summer's day.

I hope it brings back memories.

Happy painting!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In the moment

Present
16 x 20
I'm still digesting the information that I gleaned from Alex Kanevsky's masterclass workshop last winter.  How great is that?

Something that he reiterated many times was that an artist should never place paint unless he or she has a clear intention (even if that intention only extends to the next mark), and is totally engaged and interested.

These sound like self-evident instructions, but it's amazing how often I catch myself just filling up canvas in order to get to the edge.  I'm not committed or fascinated; I'm just "blocking in the background" or "modelling the forms".  And sometimes I'm thinking about other things while I do it, or chatting to a friend on my headset, or listening to an audio book.  As every aspiring Buddhist or meditator knows: it's not easy being present.

So in this painting I worked at being present and focused throughout the entire piece.  If I found myself uninterested in developing a certain area, or unsure of how to proceed, I stopped and moved to another passage.  If I became unfocused or tired, I stopped immediately and took a break.  What I found was that I enjoyed every minute of the painting, and was interested and engaged throughout. It was both a more tiring, and more rewarding way to approach a painting.

Kanevsky said that if you're bored while you paint an area, your viewers will be equally bored when they look at that area.  I'll have to post that on the easel.

Happy painting!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Painting studies

An Afternoon at the Beach
8 x 10

Red Suit
8 x 10
Autumn is in full colour, but I'm still thinking of summertime in my studio.  (If I avoid the windows and just look out the skylights, I can fool myself quite nicely.)

I've been doing a lot of small paintings, thinking that they might make interesting larger works down the road.  While these stand on their own and look great in plein air frames, the thought of how I could make them into something big and multi layered makes them into much more important to me than their size suggests.

Ken Howard in his wonderful book "A Personal Perspective" said that he doesn't feel like he's really painting "unless there's a six-foot canvas on the easel".  I've been working up to that size and finally feel like I've got the stamina and ideas to fill one.  At the moment, there's a 48 x 62" on the studio wall - a beach scene - that has had me thinking and layering since the end of June.  It's still not ready to show to anyone, but it is getting richer and more interesting with each alteration.

I think this is a natural progression for many painters: once they are fast and proficient at a certain size or style of painting, they throw a challenge in their paths to keep themselves motivated and struggling.  Nothing is so dull as "proficiency".  It's much more interesting to see someone take risks,

So these little paintings are the seeds of my next challenge, and I'm excited to see how they germinate and grow.

Happy painting!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Portrait Demo

Portrait demo
18 x 14
Last night I did one of the most intense and wonderful things: a portrait demo in front of a lot of people.

I was invited to demo for the Calgary Community Painters, a group that shows regularly and also focuses on education for their members.  It's a knowledgeable crowd so that adds nicely to the pressure.  My model, a painter herself, is lovely inside and out, and has gorgeous, peachy skin tones. She was a delight to paint.

It seems counter intuitive, but I do some of my best painting under pressure and scrutiny.  In my studio I distract myself with book tapes, phone calls on my headset, mental menu planning, letting the dog in and out and telling him to stop barking (repeatedly and uselessly - both the telling and the barking)... and on and on.  But in a demo, I'm only painting and talking about each mark and thought about that painting.  I talk a lot, but it's all about the paint.  This is being "present" or being in the zone, and it's addictive.

This morning I wondered how I can bring that presence and focus into my studio more often.  Hiring models becomes expensive so I do it as a treat for myself, but I'm looking for something that carries the same intensity.  Or for free models.

I've decided that a time limit will be part of the solution so I'm going to try that today and see what that feels like.  If you've got any suggestions, I'd be pleased to hear them.

Happy painting!