Showing posts from October, 2009

Artists' Models Online

Sometimes there's a pose that I want to paint but I don't have a model or one of my own reference photos to refer to.  If I want to know just how a leg would bend in a certain seated pose or how a torso twists and affects the shoulder alignment, I can go to a few websites to find out.  shows computer generated figures in action sequence poses.  The figures are, unfortunately, under flat light so this isn't useful for discovering shadows but some of the poses are useful.  I like the dancer series.  shows real people - not all nude or perfectly toned, which is nice - in a huge variety of poses.  Also good is that the poses are photographed in rotation so that you can view them from all angles.  As well, some of the shots are done with more dramatic lighting so that the form is clearly modelled.  The drawback is that you have to pay $5.99 to download the images that you want. is a very c…

Vive la Difference!

I recently photographed the still life paintings produced by some of my students at the Calgary School of Art.  They were all working from one of two set ups of jars of jam and apples and that's where the similarity ends. 
As you can see, each artist brought a very personal style to the subject and made it her own.  Though everyone used the same limited palette - Cad. yellow pale/light, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, vermillion hue, ultramarine blue and titanium white - and began in the same manner with a purplish grisaille, not one painting resembles another. 
Personal aesthetics take over pretty fast when you start a painting.  One artist likes pure, clear colours, another person prefers to gray down all but the focal point area in her painting; one artist uses a few large marks, another uses lots of small marks.  Both accomplish the same thing: they filter the reality of what they see through their own consciousness and give us a glimpse of they way that they see the world.…

October 31 Workshop Fast and Focused Landscapes in Oil

I'm teaching a new workshop at the Calgary School of Art this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm!  We'll be focusing on finding the essence of a landscape and distilling it to make a strong, dynamic painting.  Students will be bringing their own photo references to work from and I'll walk them through the steps from picture to painting.  Workshops are always high energy and lots of fun and I'm looking forward to this one.

There's still room for more students so please call Lisa at 403 287 -7448


A lunch!  Never paint hungry.
Also bring a variety of small and large (size 4 to 12) brushes, a sketchbook and pencil, and 4 landscape photos.  We'll provide the paint and a canvas.   In this class, you'll finish an 11 x 14 painting.  Speedy painters might do two!

"The First Quality that is Needed is Audacity"

I read an interview with Roz Savage, an amazing woman who has rowed(!) across the Atlantic Ocean and is set to row the Pacific in a few months.  She said that she had been living the good life in London - husband, big house, good job, sports car - but she was discontent.
One day she wrote 2 obituaries for herself: one that could be written if she continued to lead the life that she was living at the time, and another obit that reflected a totally different, exciting and ideal life.  She compared the two and realized how far from her ideal life she was.  In a move that not many could make, she left everything behind and pursued her ideal life.  Now, years later, she is happier than ever: a single,  homeless, jobless ocean-rowing soul.  Clearly, as my students pointed out, a childless woman.
However, reading this interview had a huge effect on me and it's still percolating.  One of the first things that I did after I read it was grab the painting that I thought I'd completed and s…

Recycling a Failed Painting

Sometimes I paint over an unsuccessful (okay: failed) painting when I feel the urge to experiment. 
The canvas can't be wrecked anymore and somehow that takes the pressure off and frees me to paint in a relaxed and loose way.  The paintings don't always work out but when they do it's because of this playful and low-pressure approach.
This series shows the original canvas - a smeared-off still life of some jars of jam - and it's transformation into a floral. 
I find it's easier if you rotate the work from its original orientation so that there isn't an established top and bottom to the piece when you start.  It's not a blank slate but it's interesting tone and colour which allows you to paint over it in a surprisingly free way.
When you do this in acrylic, it's a simple matter of just applying fresh paint, but it's different in the world of oils.  You have to either paint over a very old, dry work (a year of more), or know the "leanness&q…

Art Visions 2009 Awards

I just got back from Kelowna, BC where I attended the FCA Art Visions 2009 Exhibition awards.  This is a juried show which is held in 3 local galleries: Gallery 421, Hambleton Art Gallery and Turtle Island Art Gallery.
85 works were juried in out of more than 200 submissions and my "Galiano Girl" got the gold medal and a prize of $2009.   She now hangs in Gallery 421, an elegant space in Kelowna's Rotary Arts Centre.
The evening opening was fun and exciting with an opening address by Mayor Sharon Shepherd and the presentation of awards followed by a chance to tour all three galleries, drink great Okanagan wine and chat with artists and art lovers alike.  I'm pictured receiving my award from presenter Jim Laing.
The entire exhibition is online at and it's worth a look.

Speed Painting

I only had about 11/2 hours to paint today before I went to teach my course at the Calgary School of Art so I took the opportunity to try a fast and loose portrait.
Instead of working long and hard for the exact colour that I was after, I approximated it, focusing on getting a colour to the right temperature in comparison to the temperature of the colour next to it and also focusing on hitting the correct value.  For example, the cheeks are a warm colour and the chin and forehead are predominately cool: the eye socket area is darker and cooler than the nose; and the right side of the face is warmer than the left which had natural, cool light falling on it.
Like the portrait in the previous post, this one was done from a low-contrast photo.  The child's face was creamy and monotonously-pale against a warm, reddish wall and a dark blue scarf.  It could easily have become too flat and graphic so I exaggerated the few value changes that I observed in the face in order to create dimens…

Something Wrong with the Mouth

John Singer Sargent is reported to have said that, "a portrait is a painting in which there is something wrong with the mouth."
I recently finished a portrait of my son and found myself agreeing with John in a big way. One stroke of paint was enough to make my handsome son look smug or chubby or simple minded. I was worried about the state that he'd find it in when he got home from school. I didn't want to scar him for life.
This was my third attempt at the picture. I'd taken some photos of him which had nice colours but very flat, direct light so there were no shadows on his fair skin. He looked like a creamy oval with eyes, nostrils and mouth. Not much to work with there! I had to exaggerate the tiny value changes that I observed and play up the warm and cool parts of his face to create variety and modelling. Around his cheeks and up toward his eyes, his complexion is warm and rosy but around his mouth, chin and forehead, his skin is cooler and paler. …