Friday, 14 October 2016

In the Footsteps of the Voyageurs

Last week we paddled the French River from end to end in seven days.  They were, for me, long days.  We were up with the sun and landed on our campsite with about two or less hours of sunlight left.  This meant that there was little time for painting however I did manage a few mediocre paintings. I will post more about the paintings later but for now here are some quick sketches that I did in my journal along the way.  All are 5" X 8" watercolour wash and ink in a Moleskine book.

This is our first day on Lake Nippissing.  We ended up turning back because the waves were breaking over the bow of one of the canoes.

This was painted during a lunch break on the Lower French River.
 This is a cabin on Girondine Point which is in Georgian Bay between the French River and Killarney.  The cabin is open to anyone who needs shelter.  We didn't at the time but we checked it out anyway.  A very cool building.
 This was painted during lunch on Hen Island in Georgian Bay.  The small islands in the picture are called the Chicken Islands.  It is one of the most breathtaking views that I have ever seen.
 This was painted from our campsite in Collins Inlet.  Apparently the channel is full of yachts in the summer but in October we had it to ourselves.

These last three were painted at our take out point at Chikanishing.  I had a three hour wait while the other guys went to retrieve our vehicles.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Is it watercolour?

While I was painting this a passerby asked how I could use watercolour on a paper palette.  I wasn't.  I am playing around trying to find a system that will work for me on the French River trip. I wondered if I could use acrylic paint like watercolour and I think that with practice I could.  I have read that there will be adhesion issues if I dilute the acrylic paint this much so we will see.

It was a perfect day to paint.  It was about 24 C but I was in the shade and there was a cool breeze coming off the lake.  This is small (9 X 12) but a comfortable canoe trip size and gessoed watercolour paper so very light.  It was painted in about an hour and a half with many disruptions which can be troublesome when working with acrylic paint on a warm breezy day.

I had fun painting this which is a first with acrylic paint but that is probably because I was using my very comfortable watercolour techniques.  I have some issues with the finished painting but it was fun, I learned a lot and I think this method may work.  Now up to my studio to work on a portrait commission.  Now that is work.

Monday, 5 September 2016

What a Great Day

Painting today was fantastic for so many reasons.  We were at Sam Lawrence Park overlooking Hamilton.  It didn't look inviting because it was very hot in the sun and the city below us was engulfed in haze.  I found a spot in the shade and marvelled at the dappled sun shining on some very large sycamore trees with the very distant escarpment and a couple of large buildings as a backdrop.

Nathan, one of my sons, has invited me to paddle the French River with him and some of his friends in October.  The deal is that I am exempt from chores provided I paint.  Acrylic paint is much more practical than oils on a canoe trip so my goal is to become proficient in them in three weeks. Right!  I have only painted a handful of acrylic paintings, all disasters, and that was enough to teach me the learning curve is very steep.

This painting is an acrylic painting and I am excited about it.  It isn't one of my best paintings but it is by far my best acrylic painting.  I learned a lot about working with plastic paint today but I also learned that I may become very fond of them with time.  The techniques are very different than either oils or watercolours but they are very flexible and correctable. I now feel that the learning curve may not be as steep or as high as I previously thought.

Bring on the French River.  I am almost ready.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Why Is It So Dark

Because I need to get an umbrella?

This painting like many others looked bright and light when I painted it however as soon as I brought it indoors it died.  I know better than to paint with my board and my palette in full sunlight.  Painting in the shade helps drop the intensity of the light on my work making it closer to what would be found indoors.  Some locations, such as this one, require that I stand in full sunlight when I work so an umbrella would help.

In reality the clouds were big and fluffy and not nearly so menacing looking.  As usual there are some things that I like about this piece and some not so much but I did learn a lot while painting it so all is good.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


The Monday Painters were at Fieldcote Musuem in Ancaster yesterday.  I have painted here many times but never successfully.  It is visually very busy with a Tudor home surrounded by trees and gardens.  I didn't much feel like painting however it was a coolish (25 C) day with a light breeze and I was here so I dug in.

These Black Eyed Susans' brilliant yellow petals glowed against the dark shadows under the shrubs.  I rarely paint florals however this seemed to be the less complicated of the subjects or so I thought until I started painting the petals.  The very distinct odour of skunk wafting by every once in a while did not help my concentration.  I rushed this painting so that I could get packed up and gone and all things considered I am very happy with it.

I definitely didn't over think this one.  I didn't think much at all.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Moon River

Moon Bay to be more precise.  We are just back from six very hot days living out of our canoe in Moon Bay which is the mouth of the Moon River leading into Georgian Bay. It was a fantastic trip with family and friends but after paddling, in the heat, to a new site each day I was too exhausted to paint much.

This first painting is the only acrylic that I painted.  I need a lot more practice with acrylic paint.  The heat had the painting drying very quickly on my palette and forming thick globs on my painting. I am happy with parts of this and not so happy with most of it.  I need to learn to paint with acrylic paint instead of trying to use them as if I am using oils.

These next images are of watercolour sketches done in my journal. These are never meant to be great paintings but rather sketches forming a pictorial record of our trip.  When I sit and sketch a scene or activity I see much more than if I quickly look through a viewfinder and snap a picture.  These are done quickly and are a lot of fun to do.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Easy Never Works

Why is it easy never works for me?  Yesterday was a great day to be out painting.  It wasn't too hot but the sun was shining so the lighting was perfect.  It was an absolutely perfect day to be outside painting.  No stresses whatsoever.  What happens?

This painting is mediocre at best.  I see a lot of issues with it.  It seems that I need to be distracted to paint well.  If there are no bugs, or wind, or hot sun, or snow I tend to overthink what I am doing and try for perfection and that always ends in disaster.

We leave Thursday on a canoe trip and I am going to try acrylics again.  That should be distracting enough.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hidden Valley in the Heat

Wow was it hot out there.  Only six of us showed up to paint in the heat by the creek in Hidden Valley. When I set up I was surrounded by trees with a good canopy but what I didn't realize until the clouds parted was that I was directly under an opening in the trees.  When the sun came out I started to cook and my oil paint became very soft and slippery.

This is 16" X 12" and I painted it in about an hour and a half.  That is very quick even for me but by the time I finished I was soaked in sweat and exhausted. The sun kept coming and going as the clouds swept by so I at times had to pause and wait to see where the light was hitting.

Despite the discomfort and challenges it was great to be out painting. This was painted with transparent red iron oxide, phthalo blue, Hansa yellow and both zinc and titanium white. The limited palette makes it much easier to work fast.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

3rd Annual Monday Painters Show

I paint with an amazing group of "plein air" artists.  We meet Monday afternoons all year to paint at various outdoor locations around the western tip of Lake Ontario.  The third annual show is now hanging at the Dundas Museum and Archives.  This show has works by seventeen of the Monday Painters and all pieces were painted outside on location. I am honoured to be a part of this group and am awestruck by the quality of the work on display.

Our opening reception is Thursday July 28 from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, Everyone is welcome.

Hanging concurrently with our show, in the museum, is an awesome show titled "Impressions: 500 Years of Printmaking.  The museum has gathered together an impressive collection of prints by many very well known masters.  It starts with 500 year old woodcuts and ends with contemporary local artists.  It is a must see for anyone interested in the development of printmaking.

Admission to both shows is free however the museum does appreciate donations.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


I finally managed to get out of bed early enough to go to the Wednesday Sketch Group. Etienne was our model and as usual he sat perfectly still.  He makes it almost too easy.

I love doing watercolour portraits but I do so few these days that every one is a relearning experience. I struggled with this one but it was fun just the same.  It isn't a great likeness but that's okay.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

From the escarpment at Night

We spent about five hours looking and painting from the top of the Niagara Escarpment in Dundas last night.  In that time span it went form very windy and cloudy to very dark so the light and sky was totaly different every few minutes.

 This first painting was painted while holding my easel to keep it upright.  The wind was about 40 kilometers per hour and the very low clouds felt like they were swirling around us. We were praying that they wouldn't open up and soak us.  This is looking towards Hamilton from the top of Clara's Climb in Dundas.  I elected to focus on the clouds and leave the city out.The dark spots are dirt and debris blown onto the painting.  I will remove them when the painting dries.

Last night was my second ever attempt at a nocturne.  The first was last week and was an absolute disaster but I had fun last night and while there is still a very long way to go I am pretty happy with the result.  It was painted with two purposefully dim clip on flashlights which helped preserve my night vision however night vision is mostly black and white so I had no idea what colours I had down until I got it home. I should have put more colour into the sky.

I may do more nocturnes because it was a wonderful challenge. The glass of Shawn and Ed's darker lager between paintings may have helped.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

For the Last Time

We returned to Cedar Haven Farm for the last time, for a while anyway.  I had another good evening here.  It was hot and I was in the swamp so the black flies were a bit horrendous but I managed to relax into these paintings.

 I was walking a path on the edge of the marsh looking for a pool to paint when I noticed the brilliant green of the field made all the greener by the fact that I was in the shadows of the cedars.  My goal tonight was to really look at the scene and to leave my strokes once put down.  I have been overworking things of late and I wanted to break out of that rut.  This painting is 8" X 10" and it took close to two hours to paint but I like it a lot.

I still had some time left so I quickly found a pool of water in the marsh and set to work.  The lack of available time kept me from getting fussy and overworking this one.  This painting is 16" X 12" and it took less than half an hour to paint.  I kind of like it.

I am getting excited about my work again.  It feels good.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Return to Cedar Haven

We are painting six evenings at Cedar Haven Farm.  Tuesday night I had Tree Swallows buzzing me and a Baltimore Oriole serenading me as I worked.  I love this place. I decided to retry the cyan, magenta and yellow colour wheel and like the results.

This is my first painting.  It is 12" X 9 " and was fun.  The sky was amazing but changing quickly so I tried to capture the fish scale and mares tail clouds.  I like this.  It was fun and only took about half an hour.

This painting was done next.  It is 16" X 12" so a bit larger.  The sun was beginning to set and the colour just starting to rise.  I was running out of time so I guessed at where the sunset was going and managed to get close.  The CMY colour wheel is all transparent pigments so the paintings glow and it is impossible to get mud.  This was painted with anthraquinone blue, quin magenta, hansa yellow and titanium white. I am not sure if I like the painting but I love the colour and it does look much better in real life.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Low Light Painting

I am taking Catherine Gibbon's Low Light Outdoor Landscape class again for inspiration.  This is a good class for me because it gets me out painting in the evenings when the light is warm and the shadows long. It is also challenging because the light is changing so very fast.

Tuesday was a chilly and very dull grey early spring evening so there were no shadows and very little colour. I didn't want a dull grey painting so I decided to work with a limited palette based on two complimentary colours a red violet and a yellow. This painting is 11" X 14".
This second painting is the same location but using a different but still limited palette. This one is 9" X 12". I think that I managed to get the feel of the evening with both of these and the limited palettes made it much more relaxing and fun.

I am excited about painting again and even got up early enough to pack up my watercolours and head to Burlington for the sketch group yesterday morning.  I was glad that I did because Vivian is always a joy to paint.  It is fun to be using my watercolours again.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Feeling Good Again

I have been very busy of late and am playing catch up again.  This was painted Monday at the top of King Road in Burlington. The location has a fantastic view looking off the top of the escarpment over Burlington to Burlington Bay and beyond.  Others were jockeying for positions where they could look out with no trees in the way however I elected to back up about thirty feet from the cliff face so that there were trees in the foreground.  I had fun painting this and am excited.  Not perfect but much better than most of late so I am a very happy artist.

I should add that the diagonal line across the water is actually the Skyway bridge.  It should be lighter and bluer but I missed that.  Oh well.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

I Think I'm Back

It has been really easy to let ballroom dancing, gardening and even painting the inside of the house from top to bottom replace my art.   I have been avoiding painting because I have been working the same way over and over but somehow hoping for a better result.  I was getting very frustrated and finally gave up.

Last night in the first class of Catherine Gibbon's low light landscape course I decided to go back to basics and the more intense colour that I love so much.  I also decided there would be no fiddling.  As the strokes went down they would stay untouched.  I didn't end up with even a close to perfect painting but I am really excited about this because it was for the most part fun.

I can't wait to paint again.

Friday, 4 March 2016

It's Happy Dance Time again.

Where has the time gone.  I have been caught up in other things and haven't painted in over a month and now I am scrambling to find paintings to put into five different group shows.

Today I submitted a painting to the Art Gallery of Burlington's annual juried show.  I am really excited to say that this painting painted during the Wilberforce Plein Air Arts Festival last September was accepted.  That is three years in a row that I have managed to get paintings juried in and I am a bit concerned because my head seems to be swelling.

It is especially exciting because I am up against most of the best artists in Burlington and area and I believe that mine was the only plein air piece accepted.  The others are all studio pieces and therefore much more refined.

The other big benefit is that I am now motivated to dump everything and get painting.  It is time to satisfy my cravings.  Bring on the paint.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Wednesdays sketch group was very crowded this week.  There was at least a couple of dozen artists all vying for a decent spot in front of the model.  I got there early so I did get a good view however I couldn't get back from my work to see it at a distance.

Leah is a wonderful model and a joy to paint.

I need to hearken back to grade nine art class.  We did a painting that looked like the inside of a lava lamp as an exercise in painting rounded forms. When I painted Leah I was attempting to copy the shapes of the shadows without thinking about the actual form that was creating the shadow.  If I had been thinking of the form I would have realized one cheek is higher than the other and one eyelid is fuller than the other.  At least I now have a warm skin tone that I am happy with so onward and upward.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Horses and a Barn

Today was a fun day to paint.  It was about 2 C and mostly sunny with some wispy clouds so not at all cold.  We painted at Debbie Carson's farm just outside Dundas. The property has horses, a big red barn and a view of the Dundas peak none of which I painted.  I painted a scene looking off the back of the hill mostly because everyone else was painting the obvious.

I am excited about this painting mostly because it was fun.  I felt that I was always painting with the same palette and it was getting rather formulaic and stale so I switched back to the cyan, magenta, yellow colour wheel to get me thinking about what I am doing.  I may stick with this for a while because the colours are much more transparent, less prone to mud and very intense.   It will take some practice to tame these pigments but I had a great time working with them. Now to figure out a way to get the very intense Thalo blue off my nose.

Thursday, 21 January 2016


I managed to get to the sketch group for the first time since November.  I was getting ready to go when I realized that I didn't have any pastel paper so I took my watercolours.  I was more than a bit nervous because I haven't done a watercolour portrait in years and there are at least twenty very good artists in this group.

Mary was an excellent model and a pleasure to paint.  I captured her likeness however she isn't quite so purple even with the reflections from her outfit.  I am okay with this since it has been so long however I really do need to remember what my portrait palette was.  I had forgotten how much fun it is to work with watercolours and I may stick with them for portraits.

I also did a little work on the painting form Monday.  When the ice crystals
melted it left a very ugly grainy texture so I smoothed that out.  I also softened the foreground tree a bit and removed some of the ragged brushwork.  It is better but I am still not happy with it.  I love the background but the tree still bugs me.

Monday, 18 January 2016

A Great Day to Be Outside

But not such a great day to paint.  About half a dozen of us decided to brave the -10 C temperatures and 60 Kph winds to paint at Princess Point.  I managed to find a wonderful view of the high level bridge with the snow swirling across Coote's Paradise and a great tree in the forground.  About five minutes in it started to snow.  Boy did it snow.

The scenes around us were amazing but the snow piled up fast.  I went and spoke to Gloria for about two minutes and when I walked back to my palette it was buried and I had to blow the snow off to see my paints. We likely would have packed up and left except it was such a great day to be outside.

This painting is horrendous because the snow flakes turned into large crystals and mixed with the paint.  The paint takes on the consistency of play-do and it would rather stay on the brush than adhere to the icy board. The whole painting has a rather gravely finish. Fine lines are out of the question.  It is quite simply a frustrating but funny exercise in futility.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


I didn't have much time to paint today but I decided to use it to repair two paintings.  I have found that a wonderful way to paint and to learn at the same time is to take old rejects and play with them.

This firs painting was painted on a cold December day and it was the second to last painting that I painted.  Like the last one it too fell over and was damaged.  I wasn't concerned at the time because I didn't like the painting.  It had the sun hitting the top section of the castle but no highlight on the lower floor.  It was the way it was in reality but in the painting it looked wrong.  I added the highlight to the bottom and like it a lot more.

This is the painting from yesterday mostly repaired.  I eliminated most of the scratches and smudges and removed the big chunks of debris.  The smaller pieces will brush off once the painting is dried.  I look at this painting and I am happy with it and the next time I look at it I think reject pile.  I will have to look at it for a while.

I need to spend more time painting in my studio.  Most of what I don't like about these paintings is the sloppy brushwork, mostly from the cold.

Monday, 11 January 2016


I am embarrassed to say that I am not even sure when the last time was that I held a paint brush.  It was at Dundurn Castle in early December.  The good news is that I went out and painted with the Monday Painters today and I am re-inspired.  Not a day goes by that I don't think a lot about my art and painting but that is meaningless if I don't pick up a brush and actually paint.  I am going to attempt to do a painting a day for at least a month. Most will be watercolour and ink sketches but I need to paint.

Today went great until disaster struck.  I was happy with my painting but ill prepared for the cold and got too numb to continue.  That was at first a good thing because the painting was done and it was time to stop.  Unfortunately while I was chatting with other equally cold artists a gust of wind came up and blew my easel over.  My painting ended up sliding face down on a gravel path.  I may attempt to repair it in my studio tomorrow when my fingers have thawed.

I do love painting this time of year but I need to remember to eat a high energy breakfast and to put on my snuggies and heavy socks in non tight fitting boots.