Showing posts from 2014

Economy of colour and bountiful colour

This painting was all about colour and colour temperature.  I wanted to see just how far I could push the warm lights and cool shadows before the skin seemed unbelievable and bizarre.

Maybe I've got a high tolerance for odd, but I still haven't hit the limit.  There's pure green in her cheek, and blue in her arm, but I still have an overall belief in the skin as caucasian and not alien.

In her difficult but fascinating book "Vision and Art: the biology of seeing", Margaret Livingstone pointed out that putting colour at the edges of objects can convince viewers' brains that the entire objects are that colour.  She used a red roof in a Cezanne painting to show this.  Though the roof was mostly ochres and neutrals, the red perimeter of the roof shape influenced the entire interior space and made it look like the whole roof was red.   Cezanne used this a lot, and here's an example:

In "Young Model", the warm orange colours in the top surface of h…

Arches oil paper

I've been playing around with Arches oil paper lately and am really enjoying the surface.
Like watercolour paper, there's a wonderful bright whiteness to it which glows through the paint and adds vibrance to the colours.

Another nice quality of the paper is the feeling of irregularity in its surface texture.  Unlike the monotony of machine-woven canvas, there's a nostalgic, random look to the surface that integrates beautifully with the brushstrokes.  It's also easy to build a rich, painterly surface on it; the layers adhere well and it's easy to get to impasto paint quickly from a scruffy start.  I think that will make it really useful for plein air studies and figure sketches.

I'm still not sure how I'll mount this stuff, though.  I experimented by adhering a sheet to a panel in the heat press, using BEVA film as the adhesive.  This is my method for mounting linen to panel, but it didn't work for the Arches paper.  The application of heat changed t…

The beauty of speed

We've had a lovely model in my class for the past few weeks and she surprised us by arriving in her wedding dress.  It was a great choice because it added grace and interest to each of her poses as well as forcing students to deal with a large expanse of white. For a touch of hill-billy chic, she accessorized with cowboy boots.

This painting was one of the 20 minute warm ups that we do at the start of each model class.  It really helps my students loosen up and approach the subsequent long pose with greater focus.  In 20 minutes, you can only think of big shapes, major values, and large gestures; the rest is impossible and, as we repeatedly discover, unnecessary.  We are always delighted by the fresh vigour of these painted sketches when we put them against the wall for a critique and just to admire.

There were a lot of elegant, refined paintings that came out of these weeks with our model, but my heart is still with the dazzling sketches that preceded them.

Colourful Shadows

This subject sparked my imagination though the girl in my photo reference was no more than a graceful silhouette as she headed for the water.  The key was to make the most of her shadowy shape and not get too caught up in the brilliantly-illuminated air mattress.

I started by deciding on a temperature for the light.  It would be cool, so that I could push the warmth of her body to extremes.  I washed in a tone across the figure using oranges and ochres before beginning to model her form with purples and greens.  That way, the foundational warmth would influence all subsequent colours and temperatures.  Over those initial statements, I layered broken colour in both warm and cool.  She couldn't be just warm, or she felt too much like an illustration: lacking depth and complexity.  So she has hot oranges and cooler alizarin-based colours as well as greens and lavenders in her body.

I had to keep her highlights simple and not too dominant or they stole attention from the shadows; ou…


Purple Life Vest 30 x 30
There's no way to avoid being influenced by other artists, and, honestly, I don't understand why people would even want to avoid it.  There are only so many novel ideas to be dredged out of the head of a person who spends all of her working days by herself in a studio.  A little creative boost from other artists is something that I welcome.  
This painting was the direct result of receiving the exhibition catalogue of David Prentice's last, and final show at the John Davies Gallery in the UK.  Prentice died this year leaving behind a legacy of gorgeous landscape paintings that are richly coloured and beautifully designed. And they have an unabashed quantity of pink in them.  
Pink has always seemed like a dangerously frivolous colour and I'd never considered using it before, but Prentice's work changed that.  It turns out that pink is an uplifting, and lively colour and it's awfully fun to use.  Pink says warmth.
So I used it liberally…

Colour schemes

It's easy to get caught up in the wonders of the colour selection at the art supply store, but I find that my favourite paintings are the ones with the least number of colours in them.  I also know that I have a real preference for looking at paintings that have an overall green or blue bias with smaller hits of warm colour.  I didn't actually put this into words for myself until I visited the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia last year and found myself gravitating invariably to the paintings with cool colour schemes such as Van Gogh's "The Postman" .  Unlike earthy, natural schemes, these artificial, stylized colour harmonies have amazing visual vibrations.  "The Postman" was hung in a little out -of-the-way corner of a room filled with Renoirs and Cezannes, but it still managed to dominate the space.

So, while I don't often set out to impose a colour scheme on my work - I find that to be an artificial process that feels too rational for such an …

Keep it simple

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!

In the moment

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 o…

Painting studies

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 get…

Portrait Demo

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 m…

Layers upon layers

This painting has been on and off the easel all summer as I tried to make it convey a mood and a sense of the airy, carefree day at the beach during which I took the photo reference.

The woman in the photo seemed almost monumental as she surveyed the water.  Her body is not magazine perfect, but it's strong and she stood unselfconsciously, drawing my eyes in a way that none of the skinny 20 year olds on the beach could.

There's a lot of complexity and layering in this piece which is unlike my typical alla prima method. Using Liquin (not my usual medium, but useful for its quick dry, tough coat) and thin layers which I was exposed to in the Alex Kanevsky workshop last winter,  I didn't hesitate to go over and over passages with a variety of colours until they felt rich and interesting enough for my liking.  The painting gave my summer a nice sense of continuity: I always had something unfinished to put on the easel.

Now that it's done (at least, I think it's done…

Make it Glow Workshop

I'll be teaching a new workshop devoted entirely to colour on November 1 at the Calgary School of Art.   I hope you'll be able to join me; it promises to be a day of hard work, exploration, revelation, and FUN!

Here's the scoop:

It's all about colour in this intensive, one-day, painting workshop. Join me for a day that includes both the structure of established colour theory, and the excitement of intuitive approaches to colour.

With simple still life objects as your subjects, you'll learn how to mix and apply colour for maximum effect. You'll explore colour mixing, temperature and value, and learn how to layer multiple colours to create exciting visual vibrations - not mud!

If you've ever wondered how to make your paint glow, this workshop is for you.
Please contact the Calgary School of Art to register.

Choosing a colour scheme

"How did you choose those colours" is something I'm often asked, and I struggle with the answer each time. It seems to me that colour choice is only partially conscious and deliberate - generally for the first 10% of the painting - and then colour and all other choices become reactions to those first few marks. One thing leads to another.

That's why the first marks are always the hardest.  I spend a lot of time studying my reference, live or photographic, for ideas about the initial toning colour, the colour of the drawing/block-in, and any elements that will be singled out for special colours notes (in this case, that was the bum).

This painting was done from a photo and the colours were very cool and neutral overall, mostly yellow greys with the warmer flesh tones being orangey-red.  The reference suffered from lack of contrast and colour variety with the background drape being almost the same colour as the majority of the torso.  So I stood in front of the white…

Layering and abstraction

An experiment in abstraction and layers, this painting pleases me.

I use a lot of construction lines when I begin a figure painting; they help me to place the figure and get decent proportion and they also make the big, empty canvas feel less like virgin territory and more like a painting.  In this piece, I decided to leave and emphasize those initial marks.  I liked the way they broke up the space and emphasized the triangular nature of the child's pose.

The layers were applied over several sessions, each one a translucent mixture of greyed colour, often complementary to the one beneath it.  When each area had achieved a sense of complexity and depth from this application method, the overall effect was one of subtle and luminous neutrals.  I liked it, but I also really like colour, so then it was time to revisit the painting and selectively add hits of colour, creating the life and spark that satisfied me.

I saved the most intense chroma for the lower left quadrant: the bucke…

Simple,strong, and wrong

This little figurine is a teaching tool; not for my students, but for me.  She`s a replica of Degas` `Little 14 year old dancer` and she`s caused me no end of mischief as I`ve struggled to interpret her in simple terms despite her complexity. The fewer marks that I make, the happier I am with a painting, and this figure invites me to overwork every time.

Yesterday was no exception as I found myself rendering the folds of her dress and the features of her tiny face.  Luckily, I managed to avoid the usual pitfalls by switching to a larger brush and simplifying everything that I could.  The multiple folds became 3 or 4 large ones and her face, thanks to the clumsy inaccuracy of the brush, became a suggestion without being precious.

My biggest struggle was with the legs which I`d slapped on with confidence in an almost-correct position. They weren`t right, but they were `good`.  Robert Genn in his blog `The Painter`s Keys`once referred to it as `wrong and strong`, and it caused a real …

Limited palette

This study was done in a limited palette of perylene black, cad yellow deep and alizarin permanent plus titanium white.  Unlike the Zorn palette (yellow ochre, vermillion, ivory black and white), this palette uses high chroma versions of black, yellow and red.  The black, though it has a definite green bias, acts as a blue.

Our brains like complimentary colours and will create them for us given a bit of encouragement.  The orange in the sand and on the boy's torso and cheek are enough to allow the viewer to interpret the black and white mixture as blue, the compliment of orange.  If an actual blue were placed into this picture it would relegate this mixture to plain old cool grey.  Here's a piece of paint cropped inexpertly from the child's hoe.  Out of context, it looks less like something that you'd call blue, although, if asked to mix it, you'd probably start with a blue and diminish its chroma with complimentary orange and some white.

Limited palette work shar…

Sept 20 Painting the Figure from Life workshop

I"ll be teaching a 1-day, figurative workshop at the Calgary School of Art on Saturday, September 20 and I hope you'll join me.  Here's what it's all about:

To the painters who have told me they "can't even draw a stick man", this workshop is for you. To the artists whose figures look wooden, this workshop is for you. To the landscape painters who have always wanted to try painting people, this workshop is for you. To the figurative painters who want to loosen up, this workshop is for you.
Join me for a thrilling and engrossing day of life painting that holds something for every painter.  We'll work from a clothed model and tackle several poses so you'll get lots of practise in turning paint on canvas into a graceful, believable figure. 
-I'll teach you how to achieve proper proportion without preliminary drawing and how to suggest the hands and face without becoming precious. 
-You'll learn to capture a gesture with boldness and confidenc…

International Artist Magazine article

It doesn't get any cooler than this!  At least for me.
I'm on the cover of the August/Sept. edition of International Artist and there's an article and step-by-step inside that details how I created a still life painting.

The article is warts and all: the stuff that worked and the time that I had to go back and do some major repainting.  Those step-by-steps that show a painting progressing smoothly and logically from the first mark to the last make me suspicious.  Who really does that?  And is that even desirable?

If you can exactly predict the outcome of a painting when you begin, is there any thrill of discovery?Have you taken risks and stretched your abilities to see if something new and exciting would come of it?  I haven't; I know that.  So I do frequent major repaints.

The magazine is for sale in Chapters and other major outlets if you'd like a copy.

Happy painting!

Experiments in colour and surface

Garden Pansies
6 x 8
Oil on linen on board

Sometimes a small painting can teach me so much more than a large one.  These little paintings are life studies of some flowers from my garden, and each was done as an experiment with a very clear aim.

The pansies were an exploration of colour.  I wanted to create the illusion that the flowers were brilliant and luminous.  This is something that nature does effortlessly in even the smallest form like a leaf or an insect, but artists can labour lifetimes to imitate. There are no pigments that actually glow or are as richly coloured as a pansy (or a dandelion for that matter); my paints are just ground minerals, metals, and organic matter mixed with oil.  They are, essentially, mud.  So I had to rely on all of the artists' tricks that I knew.

Though the flowers were very warm in temperature, I couldn't create that warmth without introducing cools into them, creating a vibration and enhancing the illusion of brilliance.  I chose to use…

To varnish or not to varnish

This is one of 4 paintings going to Tutt Art Gallery in Kelowna, BC next week and it caused me no end of doubts and concerns; not in the painting, but in the finishing.

I varnished the pieces, as I always do, in preparation for shipping and then realized that they no longer appealed to me.  The colours had darkened and the background had flattened to the same plane as the figure, losing all sense of atmosphere.  It looked dull and dim.  But, hey, at least it was shiny.

I took the paintings to the framer who wraps and ships my work, but ended up picking them all up again before she could pack them up.  I just couldn't live with the change and no longer felt good about the paintings.

Luckily, the varnish that I use, Gamvar, is removable, so I could strip them all back to their original, luminous state with some odourless mineral spirits and clean rags.  I can't tell you how much better I felt, though a bit transgressive as well.  Who doesn't varnish?  It felt like I was …

Federation of Canadian Artists portrait workshop

Sometimes demos need a little tweaking and this painting is no exception.  I painted it in Kelowna last week for a workshop hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists Central Okanagan Chapter.

I found the model challenging because, unlike the pale faces that I get in Calgary models, he had an even tan.  There were no obvious cool colours in the usual places and his skin was a darker value than I'm used to in a Caucasian. Luckily, the man's beard and mustache area could read as cool so I bumped them into an obvious green to act as foils for the generally warm composition.

I think the painting was successful given the time constraints of a demo, but, when I got home, I felt that the jaw on the right looked puffy and the ear too large. As well, the background - a black drape that I'd swathed across the shelving behind him - was too light in value, stopping the face from popping as it should.  Darkening the drape acted to lighten and enhance the face and to emphasize the …

Plein air two ways

Recently, my students and I spent our final class day in a nearby wetland area, enjoying the sound of the birds and the sparkle on the water.

The day started ominously, and I was wondering if we could endure the cold wind and brooding skies for the full day, but this is Calgary, and weather changes.  By lunch, we'd peeled off our jackets and were basking in the sunshine.

The first painting that I did was a palette knife painting demo using a 4" triangular knife (why use a little tool when you can use a large one?)  The painting has some brushwork because there's no sense in being dogmatic about things, but most of it is knife work.

I toned the panel with red to start, hoping it would inject some much-needed warmth into the grey scene as well as modify all of the blues and greens towards greyer hues.  I'd intended to cover most of this underpainting, but found that I loved the broken marks that the knife made as I spread local colour over it, so I left a bunch of it…

Banning cadmium in artist paints

Reading Katherine Tyrrell's excellent blog "Making a Mark" on Monday, I discovered that there;s a proposal in front of the EU to ban the use of cadmiums in artists' paints in Europe.  While I use cadmiums and love them for their intensity and opacity, I think this may be a good thing.  In my experience teaching classes and workshops to all levels of painters from beginners to professionals, I've found a scary lack of understanding about the toxicity of the pigments that they're using.  From holding brushes in their mouths, to washing paint down the drain, painters are doing crazy and dangerous things every day in the privacy of their studios.  It's not intentional and most of them are appalled to discover that they're polluters; the information just isn't out there.

Cadmium, cobalt, titanium, and many other pigments are toxic - regardless of whether they're bound in oil or acrylic bases (or watercolour, for that matter) - and have to be consi…

Sun and sand and paint

I never get tired of watching kids playing in water. They seem so completely engaged.  Probably, they look as engaged on the X Box at home, but not nearly so picturesque.

Water and sunlight are a joy because they give me an opportunity to bounce reflected colour around the figure: saturating the shadows with warm purples, reds and delicate greens.  The photo references for these figures show the shadows as near black, but I knew that couldn't be right.  With such intense sunlight bouncing around the scene, I'd see a higher-key shadow and plenty of colour, so the photos were useful for gesture alone.  In fact, I worked mainly from black and white, overexposed versions of the photos so that I wouldn't get sucked into believing their lies.  If I were a very fast, on-location sketcher, that would have been the best resource of all.

These paintings are available at Oceanside Art Gallery in Qualicum Beach, BC.  If you're playing in the sun and sea near the gallery, I hope…

How long did that take you to paint?

One of the questions that I get asked often is "how long did that take you to paint".  It always leaves me feeling a bit panicked: do I tell the truth and say I did it in an afternoon, giving the impression of virtuosity, but also, potentially, that the piece is an insignificant trifle, or do I tell the other truth and say that I slaved over it over days and weeks, tweaking and revisiting, scraping and restating? Does that simply make me seem inept? Why are they asking, anyway?  Are they trying to calculate my income per hour or is it the honest curiosity of a fellow painter, trying to figure out every aspect of another painter's method?  I tend to think it's the latter.  We're all curious about how other painters achieve their results and, for non painters, they want to know what our days in the studio look like.  BBC even has a series called "What Do Artists Do All Day?" which is fascinating and addictive.

I walk across the yard to my studio every mo…

2 spots left in Painting the Portrait from Life workshop June 28/29

My son's graduation photos came in the mail this week.  "Complimentarily retouched" to perfection, his skin as smooth as a Ken doll's, it struck me that he looked like so many awful painted portraits that I've seen. The Photoshopping tech had created an even, unrelieved surface where, in life, there are tiny colour, temperature and value changes, maybe even a blemish or two. With a complete lack of understanding for how a human face works, the well-meaning fixer had dehumanized my boy, making him fit to play a robot in a futuristic movie. Or to be on the cover of a glossy magazine with all the other retouched humans.
I've seen portraits that look the same. Slaved over for days and weeks, the faces in these paintings never ring true: the parts are all there, but, with our instinctive understanding for what comprises a face, we won't be fooled. The face doesn't live.
Which is why every portrait artist should spend some time working from a live …

The painting and the study

The reference for these paintings was an unpromising photo in which the child was far from me and blurry.  The day was overcast and, other than the gesture, there was nothing that interested me.  But I did really like the gesture, so I did a couple of thumbnails and this small colour study to see if I could make anything of it.

When I enlarged the boy on my screen, I found a few clues about colour: there was a suggestion of blue sky reflecting in the top of his chest.  That became my anchor.  Next, I had to decide if I was going to use a cool light and warmer shadows or the reverse.  So that the blue chest would stand out, I chose to paint his body in warm greenish ochres and make the highlights generally cool (ish).  These divisions aren't cut and dried and you'll see a lot of cool in the torso and warms in the highlights, but you have to start somewhere and that was my thinking process at that moment.

I also wanted to avoid a sense of specificity.  The boy is meant to be…

The depth of the moment

Children at play are every bit as serious and focused as artists at work.  Their games are intense, meaningful and thrilling, a fact that you can see in their eloquent gestures.

This little boy was, as always, a blurry figure off in the distance in one of my beach photos.  There was something pensive in his stance that looked as if he were pondering deeper things than the rest of us.  What he did next would not be frivolous fun, though it might look that way to casual observers.  He was planning serious pursuits.

I wanted to capture that moment of thought, and to give a sense of the timelessness of children's play.  I found it easiest to do this by taking him out of a believable landscape and creating a world of light, colour and energy around him; a heightened reality that suggested water, sand and sky, but wasn't tied to these specifics. By merging his figure with this environment, I hoped to amplify the pensive gesture that drew me to paint him in the first place.

That s…

Figure in motion

Another child on the beach painting: this one came, as so many do, from a small figure far in the distance in one of the many photos that randomly snap while I'm sitting on the sand.  Invariably, the figures that I like are the ones that are far away and blurry, not the ones that are focused and close up.  That would be too easy.

This little girl looked like she was on a mission: intent and determined.  The photo was generally monochromatic because she had blond hair and her suit was overexposed, and I knocked around the idea of painting this entirely in variations on ochre, but I decided to try to get more colour into it.  The first element I placed with any gusto was her hair, making it blue black.  That helped me to gauge the value of the shadows on her body and allowed me to place the fairly intense colours of her bathing suit.

My goal with this piece was to capture her in as few marks as possible and to make each of those marks very descriptive.  I sacrificed modelling thro…

Rendezvous Art Gallery Opening Tomorrow

This is one of the pieces in the "Seasons" exhibition at Rendezvous Art Gallery.  The jug was a wedding present to my parents and, knowing that I love it, my mother recently gave it to me.  It's become a favourite model in my still life work.

You can see "Wedding Gift" and many more new pieces at tomorrow's opening in Vancouver.  I'll be there and I hope you'll join me for a wonderful evening of art, wine, snacks, and art talk.

Rendezvous Gallery show, Vancouver, BC

I shipped my paintings to Vancouver this week for a group show that I'm part of in Rendezvous Art Gallery. The show's theme is "Seasons" and I didn't send a single snow scene; that's a season that I've had enough of. I sent a lot of still life pieces and some beach scenes. 
The show opens on May 10 and I'm flying to Vancouver to have some wine, see some art and mingle with like-minded people.  I hope you'll be able to join me. 
Happy painting!

Planning with Thumbnails

I've finally accepted the importance of the thumbnail in my painting process.  I fought it for years, mainly because the little charcoal drawings that I produced didn't seem to have any relationship to the world of paint and colour. So while I attempted them over the years, I never felt thumbnails to be particularly helpful to my work.

But recently I've begun to paint tiny thumbnails in black and white before launching into a full colour version, and it's been a revelation.  Thumbnails in paint correlate perfectly to the colour paintings - they already are paintings - and so they become what they should always have been: maps to the finished works.

You can see the process that I go through in these images. Using a photo that I took at the beach last summer, I wanted to separate the girls and their inflatable rings from what was a chaotic mess of people and beach toys.  I needed to edit and organize a composition.

My first step was, in fact, to use charcoal to visuali…

New Gallery Opening in Portland, Maine

I've dropped off the blogger map for a while because of a silly amount of travel: teaching in Mexico, learning in Philadelphia, and teaching two workshops for the Federation of Canadian Artists in Vancouver; all within 6 weeks.  It's not conducive to painting, but it sure has been fun.  But I'm settled back into my studio now and I won't come out for a good long time.

There are exciting things on the horizon for me, one of the biggest of which is the opening of the Roux and Cyr International Fine Art Gallery in Portland, Maine.  I was honoured to be invited to join the roster of artists from around the world whose work will hang in this gorgeous new space.  Thanks to Google maps street view, and pictures sent by artist and owner, Susan Roux, I've seen the 3000 square foot gallery from the inside and out.  Hopefully, someday I'll see it in person (when I decide to venture out of my studio again).
The grand opening of the gallery is May 24.  If you live in the …

Alex Kanevsky master class

Last weekend I was one of 16 lucky painters enrolled in Alex Kanevsky's master class at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia.  I was there with the help of an "artist opportunity grant" from the Calgary Arts Development Authority.  CADA defines opportunity as a "unique experience that clearly contributes to meaningful professional growth and development", and I can say with certainty that this qualified.

Like many of the artists there, I wasn't sure about what to expect from the structure of the weekend.  I wondered what we could learn in 2 days from a man whose works are famous for the number of layers and months that go into producing them.  I needn't have worried: it wasn't about technique; the weekend was all about how to be an artist.  Never once mentioning market forces or galleries, Alex talked eloquently and at length about the practises and thought processes that will lead to the creation of meaningful, honest works.

We di…

Mexico Retreat

I got back from Mexico last night after a wonderful week of teaching at the Casa Buena retreat. 

 The workshop was busy and very productive though we all wished that we could stay and paint longer.  10 painters joined me from both sides of Canada for a jam-packed week of painting and excursions.  We visited (and financially supported) a terrific market, painted on the beach, and laughed over great food and drinks every evening.

 We tackled the big three: still life, landscape and portrait/figure; applying the same method to each of them. While my method was new to many of the painters, they all became proficient in it by the end of the retreat and I hope it will be something that enhances their own practises in the future.  As with every workshop, there were painting lessons that I learned from the students that I'll be thinking about and incorporating in my work.

Our focus was on composition and big shapes so every painting started as a small, simple thumbnail in 3 values The pa…