Showing posts from June, 2014

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 …