Thursday, 26 November 2015

What was I thinking.

I volunteered to do a demo in the hallway at the Art Gallery of Burlington during the Christmas Show and Sale.  The idea being to let the public see an artist at work. 

I have only done a handful of portraits in oils and since I am no longer allowed to use my walnut oil based M Graham paints in the gallery I purchased four tubes of Winsor and Newton oil paint (Anders Zorn palette).  Unfortunately I mistakenly picked up a tube of very cool transparent yellow instead of a nice warm cad yellow.  I always do portraits from a sitting model but since there wasn't room I decided to do a portrait of a friend from a very bad black and white photo so that I wouldn't be tempted to become a slave to the two dimensional photograph.  After all I know what this friend should look like.  I kind of forgot that this experiment would be done while answering questions and chatting with dozens of people walking by me in the hallway.

The portrait is terrible but it was a fun experiment.  I chopped off the back of his head and I made his ear much bigger than it really is but with those issues fixed and a warmer yellow this wouldn't be all that bad.

On a brighter note I am happy with the next two portraits.  I have been offered the chance to do a solo show in St James Church in April and Debbie thinks that I should hang my sketches.  I certainly have enough of them so I think that I may do that.  Etienne and Joanette were as usual great models so these were just plain fun to do.

I do need to work on my photographic skills too.  These are about 20" by 16" and look much better in real life.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

What a day!

The normal highs for this time of year are 8 C if we are lucky.  Today it was 23 C and sunny.  I painted for two hours in a tee shirt and then came home and fell asleep in a lawn chair in our yard.  To top it off I have a painting that I actually kind of like.

This is looking downstream from one of the bridges in Lowville Park.  Most of the leaves are on the ground but there were some oak trees making a perfect backdrop for an old maple with no leaves.  The oaks reflected off the water in the still part of the creek turned the water a very rich brown.  There was just enough of a breeze to create movement in the dry leaves. 

I love my job but on days like this I feel especially blessed.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Cassandra is fun

I almost didn't go to the sketch group today but I had to drop a painting off for the Art Gallery of Burlington "Small is Beautiful" show so I decided to stay for the sketch group.  Why is it that when I am not really in the mood that I do some of my best work.  I have sketched Cassandra many times but today I think that I got my best likeness yet. Maybe I should only paint when I am looking for other things to do.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hidden Valley again

Yesterday was another perfect day to paint.  A clear blue sky and warm enough to paint comfortably without gloves.  The fall colour is well past its peak but the colour that is left stands out against the grey background and the orangish yellow leaves were brilliant against the bright blue sky.  I should have made the sky more blue however I wanted a smooth even hue for the cloudless sky and was concerned that I would end up with too much texture if I went back in.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Bernie again

Bernie has posed many times for our Wednesday morning sketch group and he is always fun to sketch.  He is a wonderful old gentleman who has a really craggy face and always looks miserable. One would think that getting a likeness of a face with this much character would be easier than a plain face that looks like everyone else but I don't find that to be the case.  If you have a person with a very average face all you have to do is get the shapes relatively right and it looks like them.  It looks like a lot of other people too but it looks like them.  With a face like Bernie's you have to get all the odd shapes and nooks and crannies correct or it looks nothing like him. 

I like this sketch but it doesn't look like Bernie or at least it doesn't look the way I feel Bernie should look.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Great Day to be Canadian

Yesterday was as close to a perfect day as it gets.  I went out and voted in the morning, painted in shirtsleeves in the sunny afternoon, had a wonderful turkey supper with Debbie, watched the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals and then watched the very divisive Conservative party get removed from power. I love being Canadian.

About a dozen of us gathered at Hidden Valley Park in Burlington to paint fall colours.  The colour was past its peak and not all that impressive however it was sunny and very warm so a great October day to paint.  This pine tree seemed to be dancing in the park and I thought that it could be a very dramatic composition.

I always start a painting by putting a thin layer of a mood setting colour (in this case cadmium red light mixed with transparent iron oxide) on my board using oil paint.  I then wipe out the highlights and add some darks to get a sense form.  This under painting usually gets almost completely covered with more paint however in this case when the painting was complete except for the sky four different artists (all of whom I respect) came by and told me that they loved the sky so guess what. No blue sky.

I kind of like it.  What do you think? 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

We painted at Kerncliff Park in Burlington on Thursday.  It is one of my favourite painting locations at any time but in the fall it is especially grand.  The colour in this old quarry is magnificent and I have failed at every attempt to paint it.  This one is my best to date probably because it is so much fun to let the colourist in me loose.

I spent the week before Thanksgiving paddling in Algonquin Park with my son Nathan and five of his friends.  The very generous deal was that I was exempt from chores provided I painted.  I again failed rather miserably with acrylic paint but I am getting a better feel for how it works so I will keep at it.  You can play with oils but acrylics dry way too fast for my liking.  I used some retarder this time and that helped.  This is the best of the three completed paintings.

I did a few watercolour sketches along the way and this one is of  our mascot "Trojan" who is a rubber chicken that showed up in the oddest places during the trip.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival.

The Highlands East Plein Air Arts Festival ran from September 10 to the 13.  We painted for three days, attended a great bbq and then had a show and sale on the closing Sunday.  Eleven artists attended this year which is very disappointing but I am sure that it will grow.  We had a blast painting at wonderful locations and socializing with locals and other artists. About a dozen paintings sold which is fantastic for a festival in its second year.

We went to paint the Irondale church but when we got there it was encased in scafholding with most of the paint stripped off the front.  The sunlight was coming just over the top of the trees causing the steeple to glow so I decided on a macro.  I think that it worked and I am very happy with this painting.

The painting right is of Gooderham Lake from the "Old Parish Place"  It was a huge treed property that is being protected by its owners.  The only downside was that it is heavily treed and I was in very dark shade painting this.  I could make out the values but colour was mostly guesswork.

This painting was painted at Greenmantle Farm which is home to a rare mineral called fluorrichterite.  It is also a property that is being protected by its very friendly owners and they go an extra mile.  They lead eco tours on their property.

This last painting was painted at Centre Lake.  It is favourite location and I have painted this scene numerous times.  This was our third day painting and I was exhausted but I can't think of a better location to finish three intense days of painting.

A weekend like this is definitely good for the soul.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Manorun Farm

The Monday Painters were invited to spend two Monday afternoons on Manorun Organic Farm in Copetown.  This is an organic co-op and a great example of sustainable farming.  They are a family farm with interns helping and learning.  Everyone was smiling and friendly.  Add to that the fact that I could paint here every day for a month and not run out of subject matter and I was as happy as a farm pig in its pen.

They had a big and very old silo that I think was made from ceramic blocks.  We didn't go in it but one of the interns is calling it home.  I became a bit fixated on it because it was so unusual and ended up painting it both weeks.  This first painting was done from very close to the car in the shade of a huge willow tree.

I discovered that if I hiked down the farm lane a bit, climbed a rather steep embankment and avoided the electric fence I could stand in knee deep grass and get a view of the entrance to the silo/guest house.  I lost my coffee mug in the grass somewhere but it was rather worth it.

One would think that being inspired would make things easier however I find that it often means I get frustrated and overwork my painting.  There is simply too much pressure to get it right. That happened with both of these to a certain extent.  I am happy with both of them more because of the wonderful memories than because they are great paintings. 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Love this weather

I have been painting lots but not posting much.  Here are a couple of my latest efforts.

This first painting was painted from the top of Rattlesnake Point.  It was a fantastic day with fish scale clouds and no haze.  Perfect for this kind of vista.  I have never painted here before but I will be back.  My goal with this painting was to capture the perspective.  We are a long way up and can see forever.

I have been sketching more.  These watercolour and ink sketches are just plain fun to do.  The first one is of an artist friend at one of our paint outs.  The second one is of the Rails End Gallery in Haliburton.  I had two paintings in an invitational plein air show there and Debbie and I drove up there to retrieve them. Nothing breaks up seven hours on the road like half an hour sketching.

Debbie and I are driving to British Columbia this summer so I can see some paintings and a ton of sketches in my future.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Yeah! I have a camera again.

I haven't posted in over a month because I didn't have a camera and images from my phone are terrible.  That was corrected with the purchase of a battery charger for my camera.  I have been busy painting up a storm but I am so far behind in my documentation that I may never get caught up.  Here are a few of my recent attempts.

These first two were painted at my parents home on Paudash Lake. The horizontal painting is the view from the front yard and the vertical is the view from the back yard.

 I love painting skies despite the fact that they extremely challenging. Painting outside means dealing with constantly changing light however usually your subject is relatively static.  Clouds on the other hand are constantly moving and the more interesting they are the faster they move.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of painting what you think clouds should look like rather than looking at them and painting the way they actually appear at that given moment in time.
This last painting was painted in Crooks Hollow at the site of the original dam.  It was on a very damp and humid evening. This is one of my favourite places to spend time working because it is so peaceful.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sometimes Not So Much.

Yesterday was a great day.  Leah was the model for our Wednesday sketch group and she is great to work with.  This is another 12" X 18" pastel pencil sketch done in about an hour and a half.  It was fun to do and Debbie thinks that I should do a solo show of my sketches but I am a bit bummed out because I would have preferred to use my oils.  I was told that because the Art Gallery of Burlington is a nut free environment I cannot use my walnut oil based paints.  If I want to do portraits in oils I will have to either change from the M Graham paints that I love or find another group that I can paint with.

Tuesday was one of the not so great days. I was painting a great scene in Catherine Gibbon's landscape class.  The sky was an even grey, then it broke up and then there was blue sky and then great clouds and then grey and then blue sky. The light kept changing very fast and I made the common mistake of chasing the light which made for a very over worked painting.  Then all hell broke loose.  The sky got very dark with roiling clouds.  It started to pour rain but I wasn't concerned because I was after all using oils.  A huge gust of wind came up and plastered my painting, still attached to my easel, to my chest.  When I pulled it free and was carrying it to my car it came free of the easel and dropped face down in  some fresh loam.  I think that mother nature was sending me a message.

It was suggested that I sign and frame my coat.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Dramatic Sky

The Monday painters were supposed to paint at Copetown Marsh today but the weather forecast wasn't good and the sky looked very threatening. I live about ten minutes away so I decided to give it a try.  Only three of us showed up.  It started to rain but not hard enough to bother my oils so I kept painting.  The light was very subdued and the sky was very dramatic so I was in my glory. I am not happy with the foreground in this and the bushes on the hill are a bit too large but overall I am very pleased.  The rain was falling the clouds were roiling and the red winged blackbirds were singing away.

I was humming along with them.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Happy Dance Time

Stormy Paradise shown here was accepted into the Burlington Fine Arts Association Annual Juried Show.  The Association has many many fine artists and only thirty three pieces were selected so I am very honoured that one of them is mine.

What is really exciting is the fact that I feel that I have been really struggling of late and I was not at all happy with the painting that was accepted but I felt it was the best of what I have done in a while.  Maybe I am just totally losing perspective when it comes to my own art.

Here are my last two landscapes painted at La Salle Park.  The first is the pavilion as seen from the bottom of the hill and the second caught my attention because the two trees appeared to be embracing with their two little progeny standing under and protected by them.  I appologize for the poor images but since I have no working camera they were taken with my iPhone.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Busy Times

What a fantastic week it has been.  I decided to get more involved with the Dundas Valley School of Art's annual auction.  I spent four days with a fantastic group of volunteers hanging about 1500 pieces of art by over a hundred artists.  It was hard work but a great experience.  I also acted as a room monitor for four hours and chatted with many of the patrons wandering through.  I am only sorry that I didn't get more involved years ago.

We went to the live auction Saturday night and the school was jammed.  Debbie bought a ceramic serving plate and I bought a wonder little painting of Desjardins canal painted by Ann Kelly Walsh.

I had two paintings in the silent auction.  I sold one of the two and in hindsight the second was not one of my best paintings and probably shouldn't have been submitted in the first place.  The one that sold is shown here.  It is always sad to say goodbye to a painting because they are all snapshots of my life and there are many memories wrapped up in each and every one.

 I am submitting two paintings to the Burlington Fine art Association annual juried show.  I would love to have a painting in this show again this year.

I am off to paint this afternoon.  It is a warm fall day and sunny with cloudy periods so it should be perfect.

Monday, 30 March 2015

It Has Been a Struggle

I wouldn't say that it has been a disaster but I have been struggling of late.  I am not so sure that what I am doing is bad so much as I just want for it to be much better.

Seven of us went out to the Royal Botanical Gardens to paint today.  It was 8 C with billowing clouds and sunny intervals when I left home.  By the time I got to the parking lot it was a solid grey and spitting a bit but it did seem to be breaking up.  An hour into my painting and it had dropped to 4 C and was pouring.  I didn't bring gloves so my hands were freezing and turning blue from the cold rain,  This painting is looking out over still frozen Coote's Paradise and perfectly matches how I felt when I was finished.

Last Wednesday Cassandra modeled for our sketch group.  She is always fun to paint and this day was no exception.  She came dressed as a clown and we all struggled with her eyes.  The black makeup made it hard to capture the form of her eyeball and brow.  I struggled with that for so long that I never did get this completed but I think that it works.  It was painted with the Anders Zorn palette and a touch of cobalt blue,

This third painting was done two weeks ago in Ancaster along the rail trail. It is a lone tree in Golf Links Park.  It was another very grey day.  Oh what I would give for a chance to paint on a warm sunny spring day with some light and shadow.  It has not been a great winter for painting outside in any medium.

Despite the struggles I still love my job.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

What a Day!

I watched Brian Smith do a portrait drawing demo that took about an hour and a half and I became hooked on drawing portraits in the classic style.  I have posted a few of them.  Today I went to a full day workshop with Brian where we were painting a portrait using the Anders Zorn pallet which consists of yellow ocher, cadmium red medium, Payne's grey and titanium white.

What a trip.  He also insisted we paint at least 16" X 20" which is larger than anything that I have done before.  I had a blast.  The three pigment palette greatly simplified things.  I have tried it before with some success but having Brian pushing me to put more colour into my shadows and simplify my highlights was an epiphany.  I have had instructors tell me to cool the shadows going away etc. but in this case cooling the shadows meant adding Payne's grey. Simple. This is not a perfect painting by any means but Brian declared it the best likeness and I learned so much doing it.

When I got home Debbie had a salmon filet and red peppers for me to play with.  Grilled salmon and burnt red pepper sauce.  What a perfect finish to a perfect day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

What a Trip!

Yesterday was the perfect spring painting day.  It was about 7 C with clear blue skies and a very warm sun.  I painted hatless and with my coat open most of the time.  To top it all off we were back in Kerncliff Quarry and there was still lots of snow on the ground.

I was excited to get painting and got a great start.  Then it all went south.  I struggled to paint then scraped it all off then painted again and then scraped it all off again and again.  I finally gave up and decided to play.  I borrowed a palette knife (mine is MIA) and started scraping and then painting and shaping with it.  I am not sure what I think about this finished painting however I sure did have fun once I pulled out the palette knife.  The more I look at the painting the more I like it and it sure was an interesting trip.

Do I really want to head down another rabbit hole?

My adorable wife Debbie suggested that I crop it and now I am excited
about it.  As usual I tried to put too much into the painting and the trees competed with the stone cliff which competed with the snow covered boardwalk.  Now it is all about the boardwalk.
Thanks Dear.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Last Class

Today was the last portrait class and I was there for both the morning and afternoon session.  Kim is a wonderful model and a pleasure to paint.

I debated continuing with last week's painting of Kim or starting a new one and since I had about five hours I decided to start fresh.  She has fantastic colouring and I ended up with her way too washed out but I am very happy with the outcome.  The background is just the under painting but since the yellow ocher is in her skin and hair it works so I just left it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

I Feel Great

What a fantastic afternoon.  It was about -2 C with sunny periods and we were in Kerncliff Quarry.  The wind was a bit brutal but I was outside painting and comfortable.

This is not one of my best paintings but considering that I forgot my glasses and painted this without them I am pretty happy with it.  It was one of those days where the light just kept on changing.  I told a passerby that if she stuck around long enough the sky would look like my painting.  During the brief moments when the sun came out the snow just glowed as did I.  This was done with four pigments.  I probably should have added more colour but it was a grey kind of day.

I love my job.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What a Winter!

I love painting outside when there is snow and this winter is driving me to distraction.  All this snow for so long and it is too cold to paint outdoors.  I switched to oils because watercolours froze and this winter it has been so cold that oil paint gets to be about the consistency of play-do.

The up side is that I am spending more time working on portraits.  Last week in class I did a pastel sketch of Kim so this week I took my oils.  I have been struggling with pigment selection and getting the forms correct so I decided to work the same way as I do for landscapes.  I toned the whole panel with yellow ocher and then added some darks and rubbed off the lights until I had a decent value study.  I then started adding colour.  This still has a long way to go but I am excited about the start.  The background, her hair, eyebrows shirt etc. are all still the under painting.

I need to get outside.  I am actually debating painting the view from my studio window.  Yikes!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Another good day

We had a wonderful model for our sketch group today.  Zoe is the granddaughter of an artist friend and she did a great job of posing for us.  She is a talented young lady who writes and sings her own songs.  She posed with her guitar which caused some artists a lot of grief but since I only do head and shoulder portraits is wasn't an issue for me.  There are a couple of problems with this and the digital image isn't great but Zoe was a pleasure to do.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I need to get painting

What a winter.  All this glorious snow and I have either been too sick or it has been too cold to stand at my easel.  We just spent three days in Ottawa and it was -25 almost the whole time.  I was looking forward to painting in the Ottawa area but needless to say I didn't.

I have been struggling with portraits in oils so for Katherine's class today I decided to take my pastel pencils and sketch.  Kim is a great model with wonderful features and it was a treat to just relax and draw.  I am happy with this.  I kept it loose and managed a decent likeness.  Next Tuesday I plan on staying for both the morning and afternoon sessions to do the same pose in oils.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

There is no Rhyme

Nor reason.

 I am still struggling with my muse.  On Monday I played with Anders Zorn's limited palette and did a quick sketch that I was quite pleased with.  Yesterday I excitedly took that same palette to a portrait class and froze up.  It was a horrendous struggle for three hours.  Today I felt a little skittish as I arrived at our sketch group.  Kelly is a wonderful model but I had a terrible start with my pastel pencils. After much erasing and fiddling I managed to turn it around and finished with a sketch that I quite like.

A good start seems to be the kiss of death for me.

Monday, 26 January 2015


This is me playing around.  It is a "selfie" my way.  I registered for Brian Smith's workshop in March and I was intrigued by the Anders Zorn palette that he uses for the workshop.  I started with a neutral grey panel and used only three colours plus white for the painting.  I was using a small mirror and I was only fooling around so I didn't draw at all.  I just started painting shapes and I ended up here about twenty minutes later.  I will definitely play with this palette some more.

It isn't perfect but it sure was fun.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Bernie was the model for today's sketch group.  I always enjoy painting him because he has a lot of character in his face and he sits dead still.  This first head and shoulder took me a bit over an hour to complete.  I don't seem to be getting much better at these but I am happy with it because I am getting to this stage much more quickly.

This second three quarter view was done in under an hour.  I was already pretty tired from the first drawing so I am pleased with this one too.  My drawing skills are definitely improving with these sessions.

If I am using pastel pencils am I drawing or painting?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Where Does the Muse Go

After painting up north I was really revved up and eager to get painting.  At least I thought that I was.  It has been one long struggle ever since we got home.  Nothing has worked and I am too embarrassed to post any of it.

Yesterday I went out with the Monday painters because I was committed but I didn't expect it to go well.  I think that it did go quite well but I got too cold to finish this painting.  The pathway needs work, the snow is too light and I didn't get to the roofs which are much too dark and flat but I was working loose and free which is a great improvement.

Today was week two in a portrait class.  I am having fun with oils and I
think that this is finished after 5 hours of work. Jeff is a great model and Katherine McDonald is a great instructor.  I need to sort out a portrait palette because I am struggling with flesh tones with my landscape pigments.