Saturday, 27 December 2014

Happy Holidays

I think that I am going through withdrawal again.  I haven't held a paintbrush in over two weeks because of a nasty cold, poor weather and then Christmas.  I did have a great Christmas with family and friends and am healthy again so I am itching to get out painting.

This is a painting of our youngest grandson Max and the gift that I was working on.  I painted this as a demo during the Art Gallery of Burlington Christmas show and sale.  I was working in the hallway and at least a couple of hundred people watched and/or chatted with me at various times.  I wasn't at all happy with it but I lightened and blued the dark green background, warmed up his sweater a bit and softened some edges.  I am very happy with it now and am thinking that it is time that I did more portraits in oils.

We are thinking of heading up to Paudash Lake for New Years and I can't wait to get out painting up there again.

Monday, 8 December 2014

I Love my Job

Creativity for me is so unpredictable. Today was 4 C and cloudy and on top of that I was painting an urban scene which is not one of my favourite things to do.  All that should have conspired against me but I ended up having a good day.

This is not one of my best paintings however it is probably the first urban scene that I have ever been close to happy with.  Picone's grocery store in Dundas is getting ready to celebrate its hundredth anniversary and it has been in the same family the whole time.  I have often thought of painting it and I will likely do it again at some point.

This took me three hours and at the end my fingers were so cold and stiff that I could hardly control the brush.  It is usually tough to decide when a painting is finished but winter makes it easier.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

I am Delighted

Tuesday was a great day.  It was about -2 C and cloudy.  It was the last Catherine Gibbon class this semester and since Debbie and I live about a hundred metres from the park I invited everyone back for an after class social.  It was delightful doing the critique with wine in hand.

This is my painting.  It is another of the many black willows down in Warren Park.  The light was very flat and I wanted to capture the visually warm feeling on a cold day.  I am not sure how I feel about this painting.  It is one that I will have to look at for a while to decide.

Now for the reason that I am delighted.  I had four paintings hanging in the Ontario Plein Air Society annual show in the Project Gallery in the art district on Queen Street East in Toronto.  Twenty-eight very accomplished artists were showing well over a hundred pieces and I was proud to be included.  Eight or so paintings sold and when I went to pick up my paintings yesterday I was delighted to discover a red dot beside one of mine.

This is "Coming This Way" the painting that sold.  We were camping in Wilberforce and the forecast was for severe thunderstorms and gale force winds.  This was painted in a hurry with an eye to the sky.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Gone South

It was about 2 C and very windy today but eight of us braved the elements to paint at Princess Point again.  It was one of those days where the light was constantly changing and the wind was rattling my board around but it was great to be out there with brush in hand,  It always is.

I noticed this bird box framed by the willow and sticking up out of the weeds and grasses last week but it was too exposed and windy to paint them.  It was even colder and windier this week but I was determined to paint them.  I am not sure if I am happy with this or not.  I will have to look at it for a while.

Next week we are supposed to be in downtown Dundas.  I really struggle with buildings and I am rarely successful but I love a challenge.  Especially in locations with lots of pedestrian traffic. Not!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Of Trees and People

Catherine Gibbon has me thinking more and more about developing a vision to direct my work.  She also suggested that I find a place that I have a strong attachment to and start painting there regularly.  I have been pondering both.  Last week our class painted in Warren Park which is right at the end of our street and was a childhood haunt. I had an epiphany.  I have many fond memories of that park and I love trees with all their distinctive personalities so why not do a series of paintings of trees in Warren Park.

This painting was painted Monday at Princess Point.  It was pouring rain when we got there and only three of us stuck around.  The rain did stop and we even got moments of sunshine which lit up this sycamore tree in front of a very dark and angry sky.  If I had used my brush strokes to show the contours of the ground this would have been much better.

This tree was a huge old willow painted in Catherine's class on Tuesday.  It was very cool in hue and the background was very warm.  I struggled to make this work to no avail and actually scraped off more paint than I put on this board.  I realized with this painting that I need to paint portraits of trees and not just trees.  I hear Catherine saying "Don't paint a tree.  Paint that tree."

I felt that I need a change so on Wednesday I took my watercolours to the sketch group.  The model was Melissa with her three month old daughter Ellie.  She was looking down with a look of pure adoration and I wanted to capture that feeling.  It has been quite a while since I painted a portrait in watercolour and I wasn't very successful but it was fun I plan on using them more when we have portrait models.  Yes the baby's head is much bigger that I made it.

I was always concerned that I would paint too much and burn out but the opposite is proving to be true. I have become addicted to painting.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

It's Woolies Time

Four of us painted outside today.  Oh what fun.  It was -10 C with a gusting wind that drove the temperature with the wind chill to -23 C.  My oil paints got thicker and thicker until they finally froze solid enough that I could no longer work with them.  This will be my third winter painting outside with oil paints and this is the first time ever that I  couldn't paint.

This is what my palette looked like while I was working.  The problem may have been more the blowing snow mixing with the paint than the actual cold.  When I could work it the paint was more like wet sand than paint.

This is my painting on my easel.  It is far from finished but it is as far as I could go with it and there is so much snow mixed in with the paint that it will be a mess when it thaws.  I would love to carry this farther and especially darken and grey the tree which is way to brown but the whole thing is far to unstable to even think about it.

This is the view that I was attempting.  It is just outside an artist friends back door so I was tempted to duck inside but it is better to just get used to the cold.

It sounds as if it was a miserable experience but I had a blast.  I was outside surrounded with snow holding a paintbrush.  I still love my job.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

What a Fall

Most of the reds and oranges are long gone but the yellows and golds just keep hanging on.  We didn't have much of a summer but this fall is fantastic for those of us who paint outside.

Monday we were at La Salle Park and I forgot my non darkening glasses so I struggled with the colour and values in this one.  I tried a new method of painting and rubbing out and I am sure it will work quite well with practice.  I thinned the paint too much when I started the sky so it is a bit muddy but I will keep working this way because it is fun and different.

Tuesday we went to Tew's Falls and the Spencer Gorge for Catherine Gibbon's class.  It was very windy and started raining a bit towards the end.  I am not at all happy with this painting. I couldn't decide on a good composition and instead of sorting it out I just started painting.  I know better than to start a painting with important issues unresolved.  A long narrow board would have been better too.

I was at Princess Point at eight thirty this morning and glad that I was.  It was very damp and misty and about 6 C but the view was to die for.  There was still some colour in the distant hills and Coote's Paradise was like glass so everything was reflected in it.  I kept the horizon low so that I could keep the damp hazy feel to the painting and I think that it worked okay.  I would rather the sky was a bit warmer but other than that and the lollipop trees on the left I am very happy with this.  I can and may fix those in my studio.

I was always concerned that if I started painting too much it would become work and I would lose interest in it but the exact opposite seems to be happening.  The more that I get out and paint the more I want to get out.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Quantity 6 - Quality 1

I have had a busy week.  I painted Monday (1 painting), Tuesday (3) Wednesday (1) and Thursday (1).  Unfortunately I struggled with all of them and I am only really happy with one.

We were at La Salle Park on Monday and I elected to paint the birches behind the sailing school building.  This turned out all wrong because I started off with the birch trunks too fat and and the building too big.  I also couldn't decide what to do about the white building behind the white trunks,  I almost didn't post this but it is all part of the process.

Catherine Gibbon's class on Tuesday was in a very inspiring location. I was there from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon and struggled the whole time.  This is the best of my three paintings and I don't like it.  I used violet for the sky and the trees to set off the yellow of the leaves however I made it much too purple. Why is it the more inspired I am the more I struggle?

Wednesday was the sketch group and it is just plain fun.  This is Udo.  He sniffled and chewed gum the whole time that he posed but for me that is no big deal.  He is a character and fun to paint.

Thursday was a better day.  We were at Princess Point shortly after eight and the sun was just coming up over the hill when we got there.  When I started this everything was in shadow except the tops of the poplars and they were brilliant. I am happy with this one.  I think I captured the feel of a bright but chilly fall morning.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fall in the Quarry

Yesterday we had a wonderful model for the sketch group.  I produced a reasonably good portrait with my burnt sienna and white pastel pencils but I decided to add some colour.  I got out my pastels and everything went south in a hurry.  I am using the excuse that I only have landscape colours but the fact remains it became the worst portrait that I have painted in quite some time.  Needless to say I am not posting it.

Today on the other hand was a good day.  We were in Kerncliff Quarry.  It was 16 C, the sun was
shining and there was still enough colour to add some contrast to the warm greys in the rock face.  My board was fully sunlit while I was working on this and the glare from my paint was so severe that  I had to move to the side to see the colour.  Even then I was looking at it in full sunlight so I had no idea what the colours would look like when I brought it inside. I think that I got lucky.  I am quite pleased with this.

I see a shade umbrella in my future.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I Love this time of year.

I am going to start by reminding everyone to get out to see Catherine Gibbon's show at Gallery on the Bay.  Here is a sample of her work in the show but it really needs to be seen full size and in real life to appreciate all the subtle colour variations.  Show details can be found in my previous post.

Schedules can be a problem.  Especially when your are trying to paint fall colours.  The Monday Painters schedule is set in December and sometimes, like today, we end up at a location at less than optimal time.  The colour in the Dundas Valley is incredible right now however when we went down Valley Inn Rd in Burlington everything was green.  The day had a definite fall feel to it but the colours just weren't there.  I tried to get the feeling of the season without powerful colour and I think that I managed it.  I managed to finish just before the rain started.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are back down to Cameron's Pond.  I can't wait.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Exciting Times

First off I have to say that Catherine Gibbon who is my plein air instructor/mentor has an amazing show on right now at Gallery on the Bay in Hamilton until November 16th.  The works are all nocturnes and are all absolutely brilliant.  She is in my mind Canada's premier pastelist.  I cannot image anyone, no mater their taste in art, not being blown away by this exibition.  I have always wanted to own one of Catherine's paintings but figured there was no way that I could talk Debbie into spending that much money on artwork.  Debbie came to me at Catherine's opening reception said "I want that painting." and pointed to my favourite. YAHOO!

I haven't had time to paint since Tuesday.   The colour is incredible this year and it is at it's peak here so I needed to get out and get to work.  I didn't have much time so I went out the front door and painted this tree which is in our side yard. Yes it is that bright.

I plan on getting out painting every day this week so hopefully the colour will stick around for a while.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Painting in the Rain

I found another reason to love my oils.  It drizzled off and on while we were painting in Catherine Gibbon's class yesterday and those using pastels, acrylics or watercolours had to scramble to cover their work every time that it started to rain.  I just kept merrily painting away.

We were on a forested property hidden away at the end of a very narrow gravel road.  There was a pond  with a small cabin tucked away in a grove of mostly beech trees with a few maples here and there.  I could probably come down here and paint every day for a month and still have lots left to inspire me.  This is Cameron's Pond - 12" X 16" oil on gessoed hardboard.  I am excited about this one because I think that I actually captured the scene in front of me and the feel of the day.

I can't wait to get back here next week.

Monday, 13 October 2014

October Paddle and Paint

Debbie and I paddled and portaged in to Byers Lake in Algonquin Park last Tuesday and back out on Saturday.  It was rainy, wet and cool the whole week but we had a fantastic time anyway.  Just the two of us with the whole lake to ourselves for most of the week.  There is a 1470 meter portage with lots of moose muck followed by a 660 meter portage with a big hill to get in to the lake so anyone we did see was looking for solitude so it was very peaceful. This is an unretouched photo taken from our campsite,

My plan was to spend the three days on the campsite learning how to paint with acrylics.  It was rainy wet and cool so all I managed was three paintings.  That wasn't enough to get very good with them but it was enough to learn that I will enjoy taking them on future canoe trips.  All paintings are 8" X 10" acrylic on gessoed watercolour paper and all were painted while sitting on our campsite.

This is my first ever acrylic painting.  It isn't a great one and I struggled to understand just how to use the medium but for a first attempt I was exhilarated.  I forgot to pack a rigger so my smallest brush was a #4 flat which made painting branches a chore.  I tried sticks and pine needles but nothing seemed to work.  With oils I would have just scratched them out.

This is the second painting and the worst of the three.  I got too cocky and totally blew it but a lot was learned.  Mostly I learned not to forget a rigger.

This is my third painting and I am excited about it.  It was fun to paint and it turned out pretty well.  I had the background shore too warm and bright so the painting had no depth.  I loved that with acrylics, as with watercolour, I could put a thin wash over the area to push it back.

The second best part of it all was that I could throw the finished paintings in a bag and not worry about them getting ruined on the trip out.  The absolute best part was that Debbie and I have started paddling in October again.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Grey Day

It was a very grey day today and most of my friends were complaining about the lack of light however I love these moody days.  It was about 18 C with no rain so it was a very comfortable day to be out.  The lack of light meant that the colour variations were very subtle and very challenging to get right.

Desjardins Canal was dredged through Coote's Paradise and then dug the rest of the way to Dundas so that boats could get from Lake Ontario all the way inland to the town.  This meant that Dundas was a thriving mill town until the boats started getting too big to come in the canal and the Harbour in Hamilton was built.

This is my attempt to capture the dull mood of the day.  My perspective is a bit off on the left but all in all I am very happy with this.  I arrived an hour late so I painted quickly which seems to work better for me.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Third and Final Post Today

I apologize for posting so much on one day but I have been painting a lot and this is my first chance to get caught up.

We were back at Meyers Apple Orchards again today.  I love these harshly pruned apple trees so I decided to redo one that I painted last year to see what if any difference a year would make.  I did not go back and look at the first version and I wasn't even sure that it was the same tree until I got home and checked.

The painting on the left is the one that I painted yesterday and the one on the right is from a year ago.  They are of the exact same tree on the same sort of day.  The branches pointing up on last years were pruned off this year.

I enjoy constructive criticism so any thoughts?

There is much to be learned here.  There are some things that I like better in each of them so I will have to do this one again.  Maybe a large studio version derived from the two sketches.  It is about time for me to start working on larger pieces.

Culture Days

This past weekend Burlington had a very active Culture Days celebration going on.  I painted outside the city hall on Friday with the Burlington Fine Art Association and at Spencer Smith Park on Saturday and Sunday with the Monday Painters.  My painting on Friday was a disaster because it was very busy and I didn't see much that inspired me in any way.

My painting from Saturday is on the right.  I am very pleased with it because it was a very hot but gorgeous day weather wise so the park was full of people.  We were right on the breakwater and everyone wanted to talk to the artists.  Chatting with passersby can be a lot of fun but it makes it hard to stay focused on the work at hand.

This is my painting from Sunday.  It was even hotter so I found some shade under a tree beside Helen Griffiths.  It was very hazy when we started but it steadily cleared while we were in the process of attempting to capture the scene.  The top of the bridge was above the haze so the sun gleamed off the metalwork.  I elected to zoom in on the bridge while Helen kept it off in the distance.  Hers captures the misty feel much better than mine and the addition of the boats adds to the story. A good lesson learned.

Catherine Gibbon's class again.

I decided it was about time that I registered in Catherine's class again.  I have been painting a lot and my technique and therefore style have changed somewhat so I wanted to get some feedback from her.  After the first class I told her that I wanted stronger criticism and she replied that she couldn't help me much with technique but that she would help me develop a vision.  I am taking that as a compliment.

Here is my painting from that first class a week ago today.   I painted the same scene two years ago in watercolour and it was a disaster so I am very pleased with this.

I was looking forward to going back there today but alas it is raining off and on and very damp in between so class was cancelled.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I Love These Trees

Last year at Meyers Apple Farm I did a painting of an apple tree that I was very happy with and I was excited to be going  back there yesterday.  In at least one of their orchards Meyers prune the tops off the apple trees so that all apples produced can be reached from the ground.  It makes for some very freaky looking trees because all the top of the tree is branches reaching down and all the leaves are close to the ground.

It was cool (14C) and a bit breezy with a gray sky filled with thick clouds but still a great day to paint.  I wasn't very happy with this painting but friends kept telling me what they liked about it and it was all the things that I had trouble with so I will have to think about this one for a while.  I like it but I am not excited about it.

I an heading off to Catherine Gibbon's landscape class in about an hour and maybe she can help me with some of the techniques that I am struggling with.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


It has been almost three weeks since I worked from a model and it felt good to be back in the Burlington Fine Arts Association studio with pastel in hand again.  Etienne is a great model and a joy to sketch.

This is not one of my best but I am happy with it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Burlington Fine Art Association Juried Show

I am excited to be able to say that this painting was accepted into the BFAA juried show.  A lot of very talented artists submit works and I did not expect to be accepted.  I only decided on the day of submissions to even try.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival

This year was the start up year for what is to be an annual event.  There were only 14 artists registered at The Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival this year but we all had a fantastic time and it has far too much potential not to grow quickly into a huge success.  The Haliburton Highlands has some of the best painting sites anywhere and there are lots of choices for local accommodations.  A number of us all camped together so it was four days of painting all day and talking painting all evening.

This was my first of six paintings produced at the festival.  Four huge horses came to the gate and totally blocked our view of the barn and hill but when they realized that we didn't have treats for them they wandered off.  The farmer who owned the barn came and gave us a tour.  There was a 1968 Porsche and a Ski Doo of about the same vintage in the barn.

I am pretty happy with this one.

There were sever thunderstorm and possible tornado warnings for the area so we rushed to Glamor Lake to get some painting done before they hit.  We could occasionally hear thunder off in the distance so this was painted in a bit of a rush.  It received lots of positive feedback but I am still not sure if I like it.  I may darken the highlights on the rocks a bit and see if that helps.

This third painting is of Centre Lake which is about five minutes from my parents house.  I have painted it a few times in watercolour and I was excited at the prospect of painting it in oils during the festival.

I am really happy with the result

I can't wait until next year.  I had a blast this year and it can only get better.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Today was a Wonderful Challenge

About eight of us met up at Dyment's Farm Market again today.  It was cloudy, windy, threatening rain and at times sunny.  The clouds were moving so fast that the forms and lighting changed about every ten seconds.  On the brief occasions when the sun came out the field glowed a warm golden colour.

At first I tried chasing the light with this.  I put paint on and scraped it off again over and over until I finally decided to just take a mental snapshot and paint what I remembered.  I am really happy with this.  Excited considering the conditions.  The wind blew my easel over at one point but my palette landed right side up and I managed to catch my painting without too much damage.

I am headed to Wilberforce, Ontario on Wednesday for the Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival.  At least a dozen artist friends are camping out together so we will be painting all day and socializing and talking art all evening for four days.  Hopefully there will be lots of other artists in town for the festival too.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Today was a Good Day

Monday not so much.  We were at Fieldcote Museum on Monday and I tried for the second very unsuccessful time to paint the front of the Tudor style building.  I don't think that I have ever done a painting with dappled light that I have been happy with.  I loved my underpainting but it went steadily downhill from there.  I am too embarrassed to post it and that doesn't happen often.

The sketch group today was just the opposite.  Brandon is a wonderful young model and it is a pleasure to sketch him.  I painted him a year ago in oils and this time I used my pastel pencils which are way more fun.  I have included a very grainy photo taken with my iPhone so you can decide if you think that I managed a likeness.

Monday, 25 August 2014

McMichael Challenge

Yesterday about twenty artists gathered at the McMichael Gallery for a painting competition.  We were given about four hours to complete a painting and then they were judged and prizes given out.  I didn't win any prizes but I didn't expect to so I am good with that.  There were some amazing artists there.  It was a challenging day to paint because it was mostly cloudy but the sun would pop out for a few seconds here and there.

This was my first painting.  It took me close to three hours which is a long time for me.  I loved the scene except for the tree on the left hanging over the Humber River.  I knew that tree was going to cause me grief and it did.  I scraped it off three times.  I should have done a few thumbnails before painting to get it resolved early.  This is a bit overworked but I am happy with it.

When I finished my first painting I turned and discovered Debbie, my wife, sitting reading in a patch of sunlight.  All the colours were very warm and I have had fun painting with just purple and yellow so I pulled them out and did this painting in about twenty minutes.

Both paintings are 12" X 16" oil on hardboard.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Why I don't touch them up in my studio

It was an exceptional morning to paint and only three of us came out.  When we started at 9:00 AM it was a bit foggy with heavy clouds but every once in a while the sun would peak through and light up the fields.  Some of the trees are starting to turn yellow and the golden rod and clover are blooming full force so there is lots of colour if we look for it.

I painted this in about two hours and I was very happy with it. I am getting better at using oils for my underpainting. This time I underpainted with Ultramarine Blue.  As we painted the fog disappeared and the blue of the sky began to poke through.  More and more we had the bright sun lighting up the field.

When I got it home and looked at it with fresh eyes I decided that I didn't like the dark section of the lower sky in the centre.  It seemed to kill the depth in the sky.  I went up to may studio to make the change.  It still didn't look right so I thought maybe if I softened the background trees a bit more it would help.  Oopsie!  Now the whole painting has lost its strength and it is looking very overworked.

This is better but I didn't match that wonderful dark green that I had before and the sky had better depth when it was darker.  Hmmmmm.

I am going to leave this for now.  I may work on it again or I may not.  Can it be saved?

Friday, 15 August 2014

After a Retouch

I was pretty happy with the way Monday's painting turned out however I saw some things that I thought could be improved.  This painting was just an experiment and not one that I would put up for sale so I decided to play with it.  In the process I learned a few things.  It is indeed hard for me to mentally go back to where I was when I first painted it.  I thought that the sky needed darkening at the top to give it more depth and I was right.  I was also right in my decision to cool the far escarpment again to give it more depth.  The field did indeed need to have more golden glow and less purple but glazing with opaque colours does not work very well.

The fact that I cannot get the freshness in my studio that comes so easily outdoors was strongly reinforced.  I find painting outdoors joyful even when I fail but painting in my studio is drudgery for the most part.  I need to spend more time in my studio to increase my comfort zone there.

All in all it was a lesson well learned.  I like the composition of the touched up version better but I did lose a lot of the freshness.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Still Playing

We gathered at Dyments Market at the top of Sydenham Rd. to paint today.  It was a fantastic day to paint.  When we got there the sky was clear blue and created amazing lighting on the warm yellow fields with the escarpment across the valley as the very distant background.  The clouds began to slowly roll in almost as soon as we started painting and kept coming until the sky was stormy and grey.  Everyone had a very different sky depending on when they happened to paint it.

I decided that with a stormy sky and the warm yellow in the fields it would be a perfect time to take another stab at using the purple and yellow primaries to paint.  This painting was done with a warm purple and a warm yellow with just a little ultramarine blue to get dark shadows.  And of course white.  I had fun with this but I may play with it a little tomorrow.  Looking at it with a fresh mind I see that the top of the sky should be darker, the fields should be more yellow and the distant hills should be cooler.  Yellow in the clouds should be less intense and everything could be softened a bit.  I am excited about this though.  It may be good to create a painting with the primaries and then add some other hues to make it a bit more realistic.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Day at the Beach

Has it really been almost three weeks since I used my oils?  I spent a busy week getting ready for our canoe trip and then paddled for five awesome days.  When we got home we were exhausted and had house chores to get caught up on.

Today six of us met on Burlington Beach to paint.  It is a fantastic place to relax and stare out over the water but I find it rather uninspiring to paint.  Lots of sand, water and very distant vistas. I decided to paint the beach and the lift bridge towers leaving out all the ugly hydro towers.    This was painted with blue and orange with just enough yellow to make a green.  I maybe should have left out the yellow and used blue and orange to make a muted green for the trees.

It was wonderful weather wise.  The lake was calm and it would have been quite hot except for a cool breeze off the water.