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Showing posts from July, 2014

Sept 20 Painting the Figure from Life workshop

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…