Showing posts from March, 2012

Painting Things that Move - A Lot

Yesterday was a great, if windy day, and I took my trusty pochade box out to see if there were any signs of Spring.  There was plenty of mud and the tree buds are beginning to swell.  

I also saw a busy stable along a country road and decided to stop in and introduce myself.  The owner kindly agreed to let me paint on the property and I spent a few pleasant and productive hours painting and chatting with horses and their people.

I think I had the courage to take on the challenge of painting horses from life for a couple of reasons: first, I've been doing 20 minute model sketches in my classes for the past couple of weeks and have had to come up with a strategy for my students and me to use for such quick work; and second, I spent my childhood filling the margins of school work with galloping horses and papering my walls with equine drawings, and the understanding of horse anatomy that I acquired back then has stayed with me.

The first thing I did was to mix the colours that I&#…

More about goals in Plein Air

This is another of the Bragg Creek plein air paintings from a couple of weeks ago.  The wind had picked up by the time we found this view, and it was blowing into my face.  But I couldn't resist the soft grey mass of the trees contrasting with the dense, dark conifers on the hillside behind them.  The sky had a heavy, expectant look and a wonderful path of light, cool colour through it.  Creative license allowed me to boost the slightly greenish colour of that path and tie it in with the trees.

I set two goals for this painting when I started: highlighting the abstract quality of the landscape and keeping the shapes large and simple.  The foreground tree needed more detail so that it would appear nearer the viewer, but I tried to keep detail, especially dark accents, out of the middle and far plane.

This painting almost had a little figure at a French easel down where the light streaked across the snow-Bobbi had set up and was painting facing me- but, when I tried it, the whole…

Plein Air and Goals

The weather was perfect on Friday morning so I went out painting in Kananaskis with fellow paint- obsessive, Bobbi Dunlop.  We set up at Elbow Falls, ignored them, and painted the river.  Actually, we’d intended to paint the waterfalls but the path to the viewing area was roped off  because of the amount of ice on it.  It didn’t matter.  The river was glorious.
Over the past two weeks, I’d made a list of do’s and don’ts for plein air painting to help me avoid the common pitfall: overworking what should be fresh and swift.  Among other things, I’d vowed to leave the darks as simple, largely-transparent passages; to place the focal point quickly, before the light changed; and to use big brushes till the end. 
I’ve talked before about the benefit of having a goal for each painting, and that list making reminded me to follow my own advice.  Sometimes, in the excitement of starting a new piece and deciding on technical issues like colour, composition, and brushwork, it’s easy to forget t…

New Spring Session of Painting from Life Course

This week I announced the Spring session of my Painting from Life course and it's different from the courses that I've taught in the past.  In this course, we'll focus on the figure, working from models in the studio, and on the landscape, working plein air - or "en plein air" as those in the know say!
Two factors made me choose this challenging format for the course: my increased competence in plein air work, and the unusually warm winter that we've been having.  Both have seen me getting out much more often and I thought it would be nice to take my classes out to experience the same fun that I do.  
My goal is to teach students how to nail values and colours right away, before the light changes and their original vision is lost.  This isn't how we'd normally work in the studio from a still life, or even from a model.  There we'd have 3 leisurely hours to lay in a pattern of darks, develop midtones and the knock in the showy lights, chatting as …

Experiments in the Paint Surface

This has been a season of experimentation for me.  I've explored different ways to make marks and apply paint and tried out different surfaces on which to put the paint.  I've also been working at creating more variety and texture in the surfaces of my paintings.  To that end, I bought some Rosemary and Co. mongoose-hair brushes and an inspiring selection of palette knives.

It may seem like a lot of variables to play with but the challenge kept me motivated during the long winter.

"Driftwood", despite it's small size, contains most of what I've been mulling over for the past few months.  There are strong, visible brushmarks but also areas of abstract, layered colour in which the brush is not evident.  I'm particularly happy with the almost 3-D effect of the blue over the yellow-ish ground colour.   There's an illusion of depth that seems to suit the subject of water.

The support is a smooth, oil-primed linen, something that I've been on-again a…