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Showing posts from 2013

Mexico is full! Join me in Croatia

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Well, the title says it all.  We had a flurry of sign ups for Mexico - they coincided with flurries of snow here in Canada - and the retreat is now running a waiting list.  I'm excited to teach at the Casa Buena Art Retreat again this February and like the idea of going as an old hand.


If you missed out on Mexico, there's still an opportunity to join me for some painting in the sunshine this spring.
There are some sign ups for the retreat that I'm teaching in Croatia from April 29 to May 8th, but I have room for you!  I hope you'll join me for a fantastic week on the island of Korcula.  It's a fairy tale kind of place in the Adriatic Sea that proclaims itself the birthplace of Marco Polo. There are plenty of reasons not to believe this claim apparently, but it's a romantic aspiration and, when you see the pictures of this historic island, you can imagine it's true.

We'll have a week of painting, excursions, and great food and wine on this beautiful …

A personal challenge painting

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This painting was a step out of my comfort zone and, in many ways, a painting to learn from

I've been noticing that I don't feel comfortable with yellow; it doesn't disappear off my palette very quickly, and I don't own any yellow still life objects.  Or I didn't own any until I saw this gorgeous, iridescent candy dish in a thrift shop.  It issued a challenge to me, and I bought it.

The yellow was a joy to work with for its exuberance and boldness.  I admit that there isn't much pure yellow other than in the thick highlight, but there's the illusion of lots of yellow in the muted, purple-influenced dish, and I sprinkled the colour throughout the painting in greyed form so that it didn't feel isolated.

Another thing that I'm uncomfortable with - as are many painters - is placing the focal point in the middle of a composition.  Any composition book will tell you that's a bad idea, so I've avoided it.  But painters should question authority, …

Dealing with shadows

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I start all of my paintings by roughing in the darks and trying to connect as many of them as I can.  The colour I use for this step is unrelated to the actual local colour of the subject and is usually an earthy dark. So a turquoise object will begin with an earth-coloured drawing and shadow.

The next thing I do is place pieces of local colour throughout the painting, setting up the colour scheme for that composition.  That's when the turquoise, blue, flesh tones, and background colour appear.

But the trickiest step is deciding on the colour - if any - that will go over that initial dark.  Part of the decision making is logical: warm light, cool shadows; or cool light, warm shadows.  Which still leaves a lot of questions.  Do I make the cool shadow green, blue or blue-purple based?  Is the warm shadow red, orange, or red-purple? And if that's not enough to think about, I have to remember that temperature is relative: a green shadow can appear cool or warm depending on its …

A return to still life

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With the onset of winter, I've been thinking less of beach scenes and have been setting up still life scenes in the studio again.

Sergei Bongart said that "if you can paint still life, you can paint anything."  It's true.  There's no better training ground for eyes and hand than an unmoving group of objects under unchanging light.  Peaches don't get tired, need breaks, or get paid, so I'm free to make use of them until they start to sag with age.  In the meantime, they're a treasure trove of colour, shape and value to explore and relate to the other objects on the table.

This painting has a lot of cool neutrals which make the more intense peach colour sing in comparison.  My goal was to avoid using harsh, high chroma mixtures and making the most of greyed mixtures - something that seems to be a preoccupation with me at the moment.

I also wanted to leave some line work in this painting.  The mingling of 2 dimensional drawing lines and the illusion o…

Portrait Demo Friday November 15

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I hope you'll join me for a 3 hour, start-to-finish portrait demo at the Calgary School of Art on Friday, November 15 from 6 - 9pm.  There will be wine, cheese and loads of information.  
My model will be posed under dramatic, coloured light which will allow me to show the ways in which the temperature of light alters the local colour of objects. We see this effect every time we look at a person on a sunny day or in the artificial light of an interior.  Colours are constantly in flux, showing us different aspects of their character with every change in the light that falls on them -which can be confusing!
So I'll tackle the complexity of the colour of light while I demonstrate the aspects of portraiture: from accurate proportion to how to paint individual features such as eyes and the ever-tricky mouth (noses pretty much just take care of themselves, as you'll find out).  
To register, please contact the Calgary School of Art.

Commission #4

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The last one!  I'm sorry to see the end of this process.  I had a great time figuring out each of the children's paintings from the personality descriptions supplied by their grandmother.

This 12 year old couldn't relax in front of the camera.  His grandmother sent me 3 disks of images and he was mugging in most every shot, and if he wasn't doing that, then the angle, lighting or some other aspect of the photo made it a poor reference.

I narrowed it down to a few photos and this is the one that his family thought was most like the boy: vigorous and colourful.  They didn't mind that his face wasn't visible so I'm betting that a huge part of his personality is conveyed through movement.

Because he's long and lean, I felt that I needed to balance his slight body with some robust paint. There's a lot of chunky brush and palette knife work in this painting.  I emphasized the movement of the jump by avoiding too many hard edges and by weaving backgrou…

Commissioned painting #4

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John Singer Sargent said that "A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth" and this commission proved him right.  (He was probably always right about painting matters).

The reference photos for this were inspiring because they had such gorgeous, warm light.  I particularly loved the orange reflected light under the boy's jaw.  This painting is an amalgamation of 3 references: one for the face, one for the lunging torso area and one for the arm position.  The arm position was correct in a photo that had his hand clutching a rock.  It's not a problem to lose the rock, but the figure was backlit instead of front lit: the shadow and light were reversed, making his face dark and surrounding him with rim light. I liked the action of that pose, however, so I used the face from a more static image of the boy standing in the water.  Together, they made an image that caught my imagination.

Once the references had been sorted out in my mind, I kept all 3 of …

Analysing a simple painting with Photoshop

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A couple of weeks ago I hired a model without another painter in the studio to share the cost - my usual practise.  Being able to ask for poses with no regard for anyone else's sight line or preferences was very freeing and I really learned a lot.

This is a pose that I've wanted to paint for some time and when my model showed up with an ultramarine blue dress and navy tights, it seemed perfect.  The continuation of colour through the body to the feet create a graceful, unbroken passage that's simple and descriptive with no need for further development to make that area make sense.

To see what I mean, have a look at this Photoshopped change.

I've brushed a similar colour to the arms over the leg area and I find that it makes the leg look much less finished than it did when it was the same colour as the dress.  I'd feel an obligation to at least suggest some toes or an ankle to help the viewer understand that now-prominent area.  Notice, too, how the graceful line …

Commission number 2

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This was a challenge.  It's the second of the 4 commissioned paintings that I'm working on, all from the client's photos.

The photos were excellent, overall, but there are always things that I'd rather see.  The images of this young girl were varied: in some she was contemplative and elegant (like the young woman that she soon will be), standing in waist-high ocean and swirling her arms gently through the still water. The light in those photos was gorgeous: warm and glowing.

Then there were the photos that showed her splashing and vibrant like a boisterous girl.  The light in these shots was cool, shadowless and colourless.  It didn't enhance the subject matter at all.

But the decision had to go to the splash imagery because her grandmother described this girl as outgoing, dramatic and fearless.  The gentle swirling just didn't fit.

So I had to inject colour where I saw none and still keep a likeness.  I took the colour scheme from a copy of a Sorolla pain…

Change your palette and change your paintings

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"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment." Monet.
I've never met an artist who is content with the state of his or her work.  Like me, they're always tinkering, tweaking and trying new things in an effort to realize their vision for what their art should look like.  

Over the past couple of months, colour has been my focus.  I dropped ultramarine blue from my palette for a while feeling that it had control of me, not the other way around.  It's back on the palette now but in its absence I learned an appreciation for cerulean, a blue of lighter value that leans more towards yellow whereas ultramarine leans red. Cerulean is a natural for pairing with yellow ochre but is overwhelmed and made garish with the cad. yellows, so the loss of ultramarine ultimately led to yellow ochre becoming much more important in my work; proving once again that nothing happens in a vacuum and everything sets off a chain of events - many of which can't be predicted in advanc…

Commissions

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This is the first of 4 commissioned paintings that I'm doing for the same client.  She has 4 grandchildren that she wants to see depicted at their happiest: at the beach.

From a CD of images of all of the children and a written description of each, it's my job to create paintings that both look like the kids and also represent their personalities.  The client asked not for exact portraits, but more for a sense of who these children; the likenesses were to be left loose and unforced.

This little girl was easy.  Her grandmother said that she is very "girl": feminine and delicate, and that she loves the water.  There were some shots of her in a swimsuit, frolicking with her siblings, but there was a delicacy in the photo reference for this shot that seemed appropriate given the description of the 2 year old. As well, the intensity with which she was dabbing at her own reflection and the fascinating cool, grey light made that photo my immediate choice.

The painting is …

Portrait Workshop November 15 and 16

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I'm looking forward to teaching another portraiture demo and workshop at the Calgary School of Art on November 15 and 16.

Mine will be one of the first Friday night, 3 hour demos held at the school and it should be fun to paint and mingle over the wine and cheese on offer during the breaks.  Kathy and the gang at the school always put on a great spread.  The demo is open to anyone who wants to attend, whether you're taking the Saturday workshop or not.

Because it's a long demo, I'll be able to show and explain my process for painting a portrait from start to finish: something that I can't do in just a one-day workshop.  I tried this format in the spring and it worked like a charm.  People who were in the workshop the next day came in with a clear understanding of the process involved and just needed some small refresher demos throughout the day.  We accomplished a lot that day.

If you're interested in registering for the demo and workshop or for the demo alon…

Accepted: Scottsdale Salon of Fine Arts

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Scottsdale, Arizona is full of wonderful galleries, but Legacy Gallery is one of my favourites.  So I'm thrilled to have been accepted into the 3rd Annual Scottsdale Salon of Fine Arts which will be held at Legacy from November 7 to December 31.

"Summer's Child" was one of 100 pieces accepted out of 1200 submissions.  I thought for a long time about whether or not to submit it because of the size of the painting - framing and shipping become more complex and expensive with size - but then I thought "what the heck" and entered it anyway. Big has its benefits: it makes a statement.

I'm glad that I took a chance!


Ignat Ignatov: Putting Art to Work

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Last winter I was fortunate enough to attend Ignat Ignatov's portraiture workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona, and to get to know him as a person as well as an artist.  A remark that he made about no longer feeling comfortable eating meat since he'd adopted a little, street dog (because how different is a cow or a pig from my dog? - to paraphrase), stuck with me as showing real decency and a willingness to look at the big picture.

So it was no surprise to see that he's taken on a project to help the many dogs on death row in LA's animal shelters.  Overcrowding is such a problem there that over 200 animals are killed each day in Los Angeles shelters.  I have to say that again: 200 EACH DAY. 
Ignat is auctioning paintings like the one above on his Facebook page to raise money for the animals' care, and encouraging potential adoptive families to come forward to get these poor souls into homes where they belong.  
Erik, the little guy in the painting, didn't live to s…

Painting a Concept

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I've started this painting a lot of times and never found a satisfactory way to make it show what I want: movement.  Finally, I realized that I'd have to deviate pretty far from realism to show such an abstraction. So I looked to a master of dancers in motion: Degas.

What I've always loved about Degas' work is the fearless way that he simplified people into dynamic shapes and colours.  His figures are flatter than life, but seem more alive than many of the works of high realism that were popular in his time.  The use of lines in his paintings also appealed to me.  It's hard to slip those into a more literal image so I enjoyed this natural opportunity to use a strong, dark line.

The robe in my photos was green but the complimentary colour scheme of red and green seemed too harsh so I replaced it with a field of bluish patches and dynamic brushwork. In the figure I focused on colour rather than form; trying to capture the many fleeting hues that passed over the mode…

Oil Painting from the Ground Up Workshop, and Regular Class Begins

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I'm jumping into the new teaching season at the Calgary School of Art this month with a workshop and my regular Tuesday class.  On Sept. 10th my regular 12 week class begins.  We'll concentrate on landscapes, both studio and plein air and end with  figurative painting.  **I had an unexpected opening this week, so if you're interested in joining this class, let me know**

Then, on September 28th, I'll be teaching "Oil Painting from the Ground Up", a foundations workshop that's designed for both beginners and experienced painters.

My focus for this workshop will be on the technical heart of oil painting.  We've got some new oil mediums available to us at the school this year, and we'll explore a few of them and learn how to build a technically-sound and visually-rich oil painting in the process.  

This will be fun day for experimenting with mark making, palette knife and brush techniques and creative colour choices.

You can read all about the works…

Coarse linen and textural paint

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Flat shadows and dimensional lights: words I try to paint by.  It's not always easy because there's so much interesting and subtle detail in the shadow areas - gentle temperature changes which suggest the form - but when I give in to my oc impulses and depict them, I end up with a mixed message of a painting; one in which my goal isn't clear: am I most interested in the lit or the shadow side?

In this painting I kept the shadows to warm, thin scumbles and really laid it on thick in the lights.
You can see just how thick in this detail:

Like cake frosting, oil paint can be trowelled on in luscious layers, and it seems a shame when a painting doesn't show some of that natural, sculptural quality.

You can see that the fabric weave on this piece is very visible.  I'm experimenting with a coarse linen that's meant for large-scale work.  It's thick and heavy, and I like the way it resists buckling during stretching, but I bought it for its obvious texture, figu…

The Many Nameless Colours

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This portrait came out of a recent 3 hour session with a model in my studio.  Jenny has gorgeous, English rose skin: creamy, and lightly peach tinted, and she wore a palette of neutrals that harmonized with it.

To avoid overwhelming all of the delicate tints of the arrangement, I put her in front of my favourite drapery, a cool, blue/green/grey, slightly shiny material that seems to hold every colour of cool end of the spectrum depending on the lighting conditions and the surrounding colours.  It's mid toned, like everything that Jenny was wearing.

This could have been a frustrating set up with nothing of substance to hang on to: no easy-to-name colours, no big values, none of the stuff that helps you get a handle on a subject, but it wasn't.  I totally enjoyed it.

After laying in a basic drawing and the dark of the hair, I nailed the part that seemed to me to be the key to the whole piece: the little area of light-struck skin on the right, next to the same-valued but cool…

Oceanside Art Gallery; a New Venture

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One of the nicest things to come out of the Arabella article has been a new gallery for me.

Oceanside Art Gallery in Qualicum Beach, BC is a young gallery owned by a couple with a lot of gallery and curatorial experience.  Heather Tillmar Brown and her husband Steve, spotted my paintings in the magazine and invited me to show in their new space.


I joined them with pleasure, and it turns out to have been a smart move: they sold 2 paintings on the day that they arrived.

Thanks, Heather and Steve! I can tell that this will be a great relationship.

Painters are a Community

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Artists work alone every day, connected by phone or email to society, but mostly, they're disconnected.  That's why it's both incredibly gratifying and super weird to be placed into the public eye.  Or at least the art-magazine-buying public's eye.

The feature of my work in Arabella magazine has brought many good things: people asking my galleries for my work, an invitation to join a new gallery (more on this in its own blog post), and connections - both old and new.

I've been inundated with emails from both people that I know and those that I don't, congratulating me on my work and on the article.  Most of the emails have been from artists, and the generosity of the notes has been amazing.

Whoever said that the art world is cut throat and competitive, missed something. It's also a community and I'm happy to belong to it.  We work alone, but we're still together.

Happy painting and thanks!

Mexican Art Retreat February 25 - March 4

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This is the retreat where I'll be teaching a week-long painting workshop  from February 25 - March 4.  
Casa Buena is a Canadian-owned, magical place, filled with mosaics, Mexican pottery and tiles, flowers and jungle plants and the sound of the surf.  I was there last February and am thoroughly smitten.   We'll be painting a variety of subjects beginning with a still life demo in the evening of arrival.   The following day will be devoted to still life and, after that, we'll branch out into landscape painting.  Our final subject will be portraiture and we'll have a local model sitting for us.  
Three subjects in a week sounds like a lot, but they're actually all related.  I use the same logical approach whether I'm painting a person, a landscape or a bowl of fruit.  Once you learn the method, you can paint anything.
Our focus will be the same for each as well: composition, simplification, massing, glowing colour, and expressive brushwork.  
I'll do a demo …

Donations for Alberta Flood Relief

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These 2 little paintings are my donations to the Alberta Flood Rose Project, a fundraising project which has the contributions of hundreds of Alberta artists. 
Each of the donated artworks will depict Alberta's provincial flower, the wild rose, and will be mounted in a large grid with 80 or 100 others.  The resulting colourful, group work will be auctioned off to raise money for the Red Cross' ongoing relief efforts in Alberta's flood areas. 
All of those different styles depicting the same subject will make a spectacular display for a home or office.  I hope the bidding is brisk!







The scene as it is, not as you think it is

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I took my trusty pochade box to Kelowna BC recently when I was there to teach a workshop for the Okanagan chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists and to visit family.   The workshop was a success with lots of good portraits painted by the artists who attended, and, wonderfully, I also managed to find the time for an afternoon of plein air painting.  
This little creek was tumbling down right beside a back road, screened by trees so that you'd never guess it was there.  
What struck me was the amount of colour in the water as it tumbled down over rocks and into a calmer stretch of the creek.  I saw an overall ochery-green hue with a lot of lavender in the shadows.  Where the water frothed over rocks, it took on a cool, yellowish tint.  The sheltering foliage cast its colour into the water as did the bits of sky that managed to peek through the
branches overhead. 
 I didn't see these colours all at once; it took a lot of looking and thinking to figure out what my eyes were …

Arabella Magazine Feature

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I can't wait for this issue of Arabella magazine to hit the stores this week.  My work is profiled in their "Artists to Collect" section with lots of great images and an interview.

It's a great honour.

I hope you'll pick up an issue at Chapters, Barnes & Noble or get it online

Painting Light and Colour

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This is another painting in which my goal was to achieve a very specific effect.  In this case it was the effect of skin influenced by many different sources of colourful light: the sun at the child's back, the light of the sparkling water bouncing up onto his face; the dappled foliage reflecting into his skin; and the t-shirt adding some cool, blue notes and the shadow cast along his entire front.  Although I only had a photo that I took last year to work from, I could mine it for enough clues about colour choices that I had a starting point.  Then it was a matter of painting boldly: exaggerating some of those colours and layering them juicily together to create a vibrant and varied gray in the flesh tones.

I could add a lot of different colours as long as I kept the overall value the same in the shadow and kept consistent temperatures: cool in the shadow; warm in the light.  I know there is red in the "cool" shadow and the highlight on the boys neck has a hint of coo…

What a Painting Says

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We've experienced catastrophic flooding in my city and other southern Alberta communities over the past week so my wading paintings have taken on a new psychology for me.  Ironically, the Google image for the day of the flood was of a family in a swell of water, the waves washing over them as they stared out of the screen at us.  It was supposed to be cheery but felt sinister as I listened to the sirens and bullhorns of the police evacuating homes near mine.

Viewers bring a lot to images, creating a story that's informed by their own experiences.  I often wonder what the collectors of my work see in the children that I've painted.  Do they remind them of their children, or their own childhoods?  Are they a memory or a wish?

I saw this woman on an overcast day at the beach last a few years ago.  She stood in the water while her kids ran in and out, ignored by her.  There was something pensive and separate about her (or so it seemed to me) and I'd meant to paint her f…

Paintings Shipped to BC Galleries

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These are just a few of the paintings that I recently sent to Rendezvous Art Gallery in Vancouver and Tutt Art Gallery in Kelowna.

I love painting, but I'm not big on packing and shipping, so I send large amounts when I do put a shipment together.  It takes most of a day to wrap, make boxes and secure each painting against damage and the clean up of little bits of cardboard and styrofoam makes me weary just thinking about it. But it's a wonderful feeling when the paintings are gone, the studio shelves are bare, and I can envision new work filling it up again.

If you're in Vancouver or Kelowna, I hope you'll stop in and check out the galleries.




Learn from the Master

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I've been enjoying the summer sun and warm light and it's really influenced my choice of subjects in the studio.  A long-time favourite of mine is children in water because the mood of these paintings is so uplifting, and the light bouncing around the figures and off of the water are such a challenge.  I don't always succeed, but that only seems to make me want to try harder next time.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to copy a Sorolla painting from a wonderful book by Blanca Pons Sorolla, his great granddaughter.  I figure there's no better education in the effect of light on the figure in water than to copy the work of a man who was mastered it.

Reproductions are always suspect; you never know if the printed version of a painting (or the Internet one, for that matter) actually matches what you'd see in real life, but I figured that if I liked the reproduction, it didn't really matter how true to life it was.

So here are the most important things that I learn…

Painting Retreat in Mexico 2014

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I'm going back to Mexico in February to teach another painting workshop at the Casa Buena Art Retreat.  It was amazing last year: the light, the sun, the people and the chance to stand on a beach and paint in February.  I have to do it again!

Casa Buena is located on the western coast of Mexico in the Nayarit region.  We land in Puerta Vallarta where our hosts pick us up.  From that moment until they drop us off at the airport a week later, everything is taken care of: meals, accommodation, and excursions.  All we have to do is paint and enjoy.

I'll be teaching plein air, portraiture/figurative and still life this year.  That sounds like a lot, but it's actually not.  My method is the same for any subject and my aims are too: intelligent use of colour, designing the shapes, and applying paint in a logical, decisive way.  Workshoppers will hear me say the same things whether I'm discussing the landscape, the figure or a piece of Mexican pottery that we're using in…

Painting Metal

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Painting metal, like painting skin, seems to intimidate students but it's actually pretty easy and I think it's a lot of fun. I enjoyed the challenge of rendering the reflections and distortions across the surface of this brass pot because it was an exercise in simplification and colour modification.

The painting was about simplification because there were many more marks in the reflection than I put into the painting.  The most important thing to keep sight of was that I was trying to create a believable form, and the more reflections in the metal, the more the form broke apart and became hard to read as solid.  So I sacrificed some of the interesting little reflections in order that the pot felt like a single, rounded object.  By editing for the fewest, big shapes that I could, this became easy.  I could depict the surface as, essentially, a dark top and light bottom part with the reflection of the little square dish and a couple of the pearl onions in the middle.  Although…

Summer Colour

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Summer's here - or at least it's stopped snowing - and I'm looking back at some of the photos that I took at the beach last year.

This pose wouldn't usually strike my fancy because it's just one long vertical, devoid of interesting negative spaces, but the slight curve to the body and the answering reflection below the boy intrigued me, as did the challenge of painting the gauze of the net.

I pushed the colour of the boy's skin in the shadows, making it a very intense red-orange and that set the tone for the rest of the painting, allowing me to mix lots of vibrant colour in the water.

It's an optimistic painting: a return to the outdoors and the warmth of the sun after a really long winter.
Am I tempting fate?


Pigment Brands

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This is a limited palette painting - sort of.  I used the Zorn palette of yellow ochre, cad red light, ivory black and titanium white, but I added transparent red oxide without which I find it hard to start a painting.  It's the colour that I use to draw the initial composition and, with the addition of ultramarine blue, the initial shadow colour.

I've been experimenting with burnt sienna in the hopes that it would give me more robust coverage, but that proved a false road.   Transparent paints tend to be more powerful tinters than opaque or semi opaque pigments, and I found I was using a lot of burnt sienna in an attempt to replicate the strength of trans. red oxide.  It it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I use a variety of brands even within this limited palette because there's a surprising amount of colour variation even in something as simple as yellow ochre.   So my limited palette contains 3 different brands: M. Graham, Winsor Newton, and Lefranc and Bourgeois.

Dealing with Warm and Cool Colour

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I'm taking a break from still life in the studio for a while and mining some old photos for paintings.  If I go too long without painting a person, I get antsy and don't feel like I'm doing my best work.

This comes from a model painting session in which I achieved absolutely nothing, nada, bupkis (I was a bit frustrated; can you tell?) but got some great photos when our model walked through a series of graceful dance moves at the end of the session.

The challenge here was to create rich and varied dark skin colours and to capture the effect of light on them.
While most of the illumination was from north-facing windows and a couple of skylights, I'd added a warm, halogen flood light to create shadows.  The resulting warm/cool effect was beautiful, but tricky.

The solution was to use alizarin as my main red in the cool side and add a lot of cad red light and cad yellow deep into the flood-lit side.  As well, because the model's skin is already a warm colour, I cou…

A Successful Portrait Workshop

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The portrait demo and workshop went off without a hitch - to my great relief.

This is the piece that I did in the 3 hour demo on Friday.  I confess to tweaking the background and adjusting a few edges when I got it home, but I was happy with the level of completion that I managed to get.  Also nice was the fact that I got some really luscious paint on the canvas.  My goal was to demonstrate wet-in-wet layering, something that requires that you put ever-thicker layers on top of each other and which can certainly get out of control if you're not on your toes.

The audience was knowledgeable and had some great questions about the process and materials and I think seeing the full portrait evolve was really helpful for the workshop the next day.  It was nice for the students to have the full 6 hours to paint and I enjoyed the low-key start to the day.  All that I had to do was remind the group about the way to start and stop them for short tutorials throughout the day.  It was a far …

Finding Still Life Objects

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This composition came about because I bought the low sodium pickles instead of regular.  For the first time ever, my pickles got mouldy in the fridge, turning them into painting subjects, not food.

Knowing that one of my largest objects would be green, I chose a complimentary piece of red fabric to place behind it and linked this dark fabric to the foreground by sprinkling in some red pearl onions.  This created a nice circular composition and broke up the expanse of white tablecloth.  I find small, nondescript objects really useful in still life set ups and put dried leaves, petals, onions and other little things in wherever I need to link the major elements, break up space, or create a path for the eye.  They're versatile little workers.

Sliced bread is something that I've been wanting to use for a long time.  I love its value range from the dark, warm crust to the near-white interior.  Its silhouette is wonderfully interesting as well, full of irregular bumps and crevices…