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Showing posts from March, 2010

Down to the River

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Lately, fishing has figured prominently into my life and art as my teenage son has taken up fly fishing with a passion. 
I'm grateful that he's chosen such a picturesque hobby.  There's something wonderful about watching a fisherman wading and casting, wading and casting, all afternoon in the sparkling water.  It's also a good challenge to my ability as a speedy painter; the boy doesn't stay in one place for very long. 
Last week we spent a sunny afternoon at the Bow River pursuing our separate goals.  He didn't catch a fish but I did manage this small sketch.  It's a bare-bones version of my usual style: there is very little underpainting and I didn't even have time to tone the canvas.  The sky, unlike my usual complexly-layered affairs, is just blue on white canvas. 
My son moved to a different site during the painting so I only had him as a model for 20 minutes.  I think that was for the best.  If he'd been there longer, I'd probably have…

Bring on the Light

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One thing that I'm slowly learning is that you really can't go too light when you place your highlights in a painting. 
No matter how light they look on the day that you apply them, they'll invariably have settled in nicely within 2 or 3 days and you'll be glad that you pushed the value as much as you did.
Sometimes I apply my lightest light very early but just in one small spot.  This acts as a reminder of where I'm going as I work and helps me to get all of the values on the canvas much more efficiently.  Without it, it's easy to keep messing around in the mid values for far too long.  The little spot likely won't remain in the finished piece, or it'll have changed shape, but it's useful during the painting process.
I also like to put the lights in thickly and with texture.  I try to adhere to the traditional ideal of thin transparent darks and heavy, opaque lights.  The change in paint consistency across the surface of the finished painting is …

Models and Artists

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Emily and two of the students of the life painting workshop that I taught last weekend.
I've taught two life painting classes this week at the Calgary School of Art and found them to be great experiences.  My models were both able to hold a pose and to use their bodies with intelligence, showing interesting views to all of the painters in the room.  A few years ago, I had the misfortune to draw a young woman who stood in stiff, symmetrical poses (picture frozen jumping jacks and something approximating a fence post) and have, as a result, become very appreciative of good models.

Modeling is a strange and wonderful thing for a person to do for an artist.  The model puts him or herself at your disposal and allows you the rare luxury of staring at another human being for hours at a time.   We all like to look at other people but seldom get an opportunity to do it.  Infants let you stare and strangers sleeping in planes are fair game, but conscious adults are unnerved at being studied,…

Getting Outside

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"Hint of Spring"  16 x 20 We're having a wonderful respite in the winter. ( I'm no dummy and I know it's not done.  This is Calgary, after all.)  So this week I went out plein air painting near the river.
Painters always tell you that photos don't capture the true colours of a scene; that they flatten and kill the shadows and distort values.  Well... they're right.  
Much as I hate to leave the warmth of the house and shlep all of my gear to a site which doesn't have so much as an outhouse nearby, I have to admit that it does make for a better, more sensitive interpretation of the landscape than a photo does.
The other advantage to painting outside is, surprisingly, the cold and discomfort.  It forces you to strip down the scene to its essentials and paint efficiently.  I studied the scene for a long time, figuring out what it was that I liked about it.  I decided it was the reflective ribbon of the creek winding its way into the river.  I also loved the …