Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winterizing The Plein Air Gear

We finally have snow,  which means that the winter plein air season can finally start up here. I am getting ready for a trip to Algonquin park for a few days of winter painting soon. So it is time for me to winterize my gear.
Winterizing the pochade is one of the essential rituals of the season. I love working on a glass palette in the summer, but glass is not a good idea in winter at all. Glass and metal are out of my gear in winter. They conduct the cold too readily and when you are out in the snow, that can make your paints harder to work and your painting experience shorter and less enjoyable.
So off comes the glass (notice the nice value setup below the glass. I will miss that), and on comes a fresh piece of plywood.
1 3
Next I season the plywood with oil and later with leftover paints in several layers:
There are times though when painting while standing in the elements is just not possible. Its not really the cold, One can dress up for that. Its the wind or the snow that drives you back. In cases like that, it is a great idea to paint from the comfort of the car. For that I have a simple setup that consists of a steering wheel easel and a passenger seat  tray that holds my open pochade (used as a palette), brushed, tools and of course the turp can.
I actually have a can screwed into the tray and I simply slot my portable turp canister into it (where the coffee cup is now) . It is much safer that way. I don’t get any tipping accidents. Speaking of accidents, this whole setup is placed over a large drop cloth that covers everything from steering wheel to seats. It is too easy to get oil paint on the interior and i just don’t want that.
Here is a quick look at the back of the steering wheel easel. I keep it very simple because I don’t use the setup much, but it works very well and the simple clip on the top is all you need to hold a panel in place while you work on it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Outdoor Winter painting

Winter has always been a time when I have enjoyed outdoor painting. Mind you it is not always easy to paint outdoors in winter. Sometimes you have to retreat to the comfort of the car to paint from behind the wheel. For that I have devised a steering wheel easel that I don’t leave without. It is always better to be out in the open though, but sometimes it is just not possible.

First Thaw, Oil on panel, 8”x10”

You may think that the temperature is the deterrent. It isn’t. I have painted in –25C with not much difficulty. The temperature is not the issue. Wind though is a killer. A still cold crisp day is a blessing. But any sustained wind will test even the hardiest of winter outdoor painters.


It has been a mild winter so far with not much snow down here in the GTA, but I hope to making up for that soon. I am heading to Algonquin park in the second week of January for a few days of winter painting. That should be a lot of fun! I will be staying in the town of Whitney – minutes from the park’s east gate.

Being outdoors in winter is knowing how to dress for the occasion. I hope to post a full description of my winter gear soon. When you are out there and comfortable, there is whole world of colour and harmony to discover and enjoy painting. But comfort and safety are key to a successful outing. No use loosing a finger or an ear to get a painting done… I am no Van Gogh Smile

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Art Installations… Art?

Have you been keeping track of the latest mishaps in installation art around the world?

It seems that the almighty Damien Hirst had one more twist in his on-going saga with Cartrain, a teenage collage artist. Damien had ripped a concept of incrusting a skull with diamonds from his friend John Lekay who in 1993 made a skull incrusted with crystals. Damien’s “For The Love Of God” sculpture was made in 2007. When Cartrain made a collage of the diamond encrusted skull, Mr. Hirst was able to confiscate the work by bullying the kid’s gallery owner to release the collage to him or face legal action.

The kid recently retaliated by going to Tate where an installation by Mr. Hirst called Pharmacy was on display. Part of the display was a box of HB pencils which the young Cartrain swiped and subsequently put a note of ransom for in exchange for his collage. Hirst then sent Scotland Yard after the kid and they charged him with swiping the pencils. The value of the pencils somehow became half a Million British Pounds because they were in the installation!! Yes folks I can’t make this up. The 17 year old kid was charged with swiping a box of HB pencils that somehow ballooned in price from a few dollars to half a million British Pounds. Hirst also claims that his installation was irreparably harmed by the removal of the HB pencils. Oh my! The installation is worth 10 Million British Pounds!!! I say the kid was in his right to artistically express himself in a performance art as a parody of the installation no?

Fast forward and jump a few miles east to the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund, Germany where a cleaning lady cleaned a bucket that was part of an installation art that seemingly cause £690,000 damage to the bucket. You see the bucket was supposed to be dirty. The artwork in question was a Martin Kippenberger installation entitled 'When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling'. Again I am not making this up. I simply don’t have the imagination or the boldness to value crap at that high a price!

Now do me a favour and watch this Youtube video of a TED presentation. Interesting commentary on installation art and the state of art today eh? Tell you what, I am with the cleaning lady too. But what I most want to know is who values these installations? How do they value them? And who in God’s name is paying for this crap???

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Traverse In Blue Minor

I was recently asked by a friend and collector to paint a small work with a Scanblue theme. I love blues. They are so rich and varied and moody. After a moment’s hesitation (a commission is a tough thing to do well and keep everyone happy), I said yes.

I started by asking my friend to help me define the colours that she wanted. I was looking for a mood and a general idea of what colours interested her. There are so many blues and so many variations that you could fill many pages with swatches of blue. I sent her a swatch of blues and a few accent colours and she chose the ones that she liked.

Once that was done, I had to marry the colours to a theme.

concept01Many themes came to mind Sea scape? Winter snow scene? Or my favourite: Rain? I did a few sketches and them sent her a scan of a rough pencil sketch of a rainy urban scene. This would form the theme of the painting. The details would have to build their way in the work itself.


Work in progress:

wiptraverseinblueminor wip2traverseinblueminor


TraverseInBlueMinorsmlSo here is the final work after a few weeks of letting it brew in my mind. It took me three sessions to complete this one.

The Mood: Its a cold rainy afternoon. You are heading home from work or shopping. The crowds on the street are starting to get thicker. At the crossing, the cars come to a slow stop. You can hear the swish of the water on the tires and you can hear the humming of the idling engines.

I love the mystery of a rainy day. Something about the umbrellas and the hushed crowds attracts me to it like a cup of warm coffee. So… What do you think? Does it take you there?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Going On a Bounce–Evening @ Bus Stop

This is a bit of a departure for me from the usual landscape works that I love doing to an abstraction of an urban moment. I loved doing it and I am still on a high just looking at it. It may look like my cat did it, but honestly, it was a thrill just letting go.
Bus Stop
Evening @ Bus Stop, Ink and Watercolour on paper, 5”x7” (NFS Yet enjoying it too much)
I call it Evening @ Bus Stop. I wonder what you think of it?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Painting In The Rain

Earlier this summer I spent a rainy morning at Glamour Lake in the Haliburton Highlands in Ontario.

I woke up to a thick fog with a faint drizzle. Most people would have called it a day and made other plans, but I felt it was a nice challenge and a change from the pervasive greens of summer. So I headed out towards Glamour Lake hoping that the fog would not burn off too quickly and that I would capture its effect when I got there.

45457788The fog stayed and the drizzle turned to a heavy downpour. After thinking things through for a couple of minutes, I decided to rig up the back of my Santa Fe so I could paint in shelter. I opened the hatch and rigged my umbrella to the end of it for extra cover. I then set up my pochade took a deep breath and started working.

As I mixed the colours and tried to get as close as possible to the feel of the day, I realized that I could probably work on multiple scenes at the same time. If the weather was not changing, the colours and shadows if any, were not changing either and that would allow me to do much more.

Highlands East-20110729-00043So I prepped three panels and focused on what I was trying to accomplish. The scene in front of me was moody and full of subtlety. A small wooded island in the middle of a vast lake in the poring rain. I could have done a diptych and to be honest that is what I had in mind at first, but in the middle of the creative process, I decided to let loose and paint what I felt was the most compelling view at the moment.

Highlands East-20110729-00047The result were these three works below. Mind you I have to be fair and say that in one of them, Mina -  my camping cat companion who travelled on the summer camping trip -  was a contributing artist. She sat on one of the wet panels and rearranged my composition. When I tried to “save” it, I realized that the way she reshaped the negative space was much better than the way I did it, so I accepted her contribution and continued working on the panel as she had modified it!!

PouringOnGlamourlake1a  PouringOnGlamourlake2a  PouringOnGlamourlake3a

These three would work well together on a warm coloured wall I think. In fact a deep red or burnt sienna wall would really make them stand out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

You are Cyber-Invited!

I just finished putting the final touches on my online exhibition. I hope you will like it. The initial feedback from the previews has been great.

The concept is a bit of a leap in to science fiction really. It is a cyber exhibition made to look and feel like  the real thing. To enjoy it in the best way, close your email and any other pages on your computer, put on some good music, grab a glass of white or red and click on the link below. I will be in the chat room at the end of the hall (cyber hall) waiting to answer any questions between 7pm and 10pm on Sunday. I will also be giving away around 15 works to visitors who share a link on Facebook. I hope you will be one of the ones receiving one of the gifts.

See you there!

The link will go live at 6:55PM!


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Plein Air Painting Challenge–Unionville

Today I participated in the Ontario Plein Air Society Unionville Plein Air challenge. This one my first. I had organized and ushered the one OPAS had last month at the JEH Macdonald house so I couldn’t really participate.
This one was a real treat. The Varley Art Gallery as well as the city of Markham and the Markham Art Council worked with us to make a superb event. We all got together at around 11am for registration and hit the road at 12pm. We had two hours to come back with a framed painting and display it on the grounds of the Varley Art Gallery. Here is my meek effort:
Unionville, Oil on panel 8"x10"

Shipping & Framing Options
We all had a great time and what a crowd showed up!! Hundreds of people viewed the works in progress and finished on display. We all  had the pleasure of enjoying a heck of a fall day in Unionville.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creative Opinions Wanted

My third online exhibition is fast approaching ((October 16 is the online opening)) So I am in the process of planning the web pages and perfecting the colour matching on images. I want to give you the best possible experience online and come as close as possible to a real-life opening as we can get while at the same time being in the comfort of our own homes/Wi-Fi place.


I need your help.

  • What would you like to see?
  • How would you like the art to be displayed?
  • What would you like the experience to be?
  • What are your pet peeves that I should avoid?
  • I am planning on doing live chat to answer your questions or discuss some of the works. What else can I do to make this a live experience?

All comments are welcome here or on Facebook. Let’s blur the line between live and web. We can do it!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reflecting on Dead Computers

Last month we bid one of our computers at home good bye. Actually it is still sitting there. We haven’t yet figure out what to do with its body, but it is dead.

Today while driving home, I was listening to TED Talks, two in particular (see below) and it really got me thinking about our dead friend.

If you care to join me on this mind trip, please listen to these brief talks and read below after:

So after listening to these two great minds my humble one went wondering back to our computer. Was it alive? Is it dead? Did it LIVE? I am not a scientist and can’t delve into the areas that these two fine brains mastered, but on a more philosophical level, If the experience of life is a series of memories and experiences that we go through and share, what is it that lived in that box? If the existence of something can be defined by its opposite – light is defined by darkness, life by death – what do we say when something stops functioning? Something that has memory something that shared your thoughts, your exploration your pictures and your family? That witnessed your children grow and kept memories of them deep in its heart? This thing that remembered what you did yesterday and asked you if you wanted to go there again, or saved and sometime – all too humanly – lost some of your memories? If life is defined by needs or growth, what do we call this thing that told you when it was low on juice or daily asked you to update its programs and vulnerably asked you to please check if it is sick or has a virus?

When the young technician – like the young Doctor – says the hard drive is fried and that the “motherboard” is dead. That you can revive but the quality of its life will not be the same. You unplug it and the electrical impulses that made it think are silent. Will we not be there as well some day? When you take it home and place it in the corner not yet ready to say good bye to it but knowing that it will never again share your moments the way it did. Was it alive? If not, why not?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Studio Idea

I have been painting up a storm in the past few weeks, but I have decided to keep most of the works away from the public view so that you can enjoy them all in my online exhibition in October.

So this blog has been silent for a while, and I thought I would share an idea that has made a lot of difference for me in my studio.

You see, my studio is tiny. A little corner room in the basement. Lighting is an issue especially since I am accustomed to working under outdoor light, but what is really important to me is to see my work  6-8 feet from the surface. 20110903_1946That is how the work will be viewed on a wall so I must be able to see it from that distance while painting.

What I have done is to set up two mirrors one to the side of my home-made easel and one in the back about 5 feet away. I angled the mirrors so that when I am painting, I can look to the side of the easel and see the work without having to step away. I have even gotten into the habit of painting while looking in the mirror.

The photograph shows the image in the mirror much smaller that it really is when painting. Oh, and I am sorry about the mess Surprised smile

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Two exhibitions back to back

Sorry I have not been writing lately, but I am preparing for two exhibitions back to back.

The first is our OPAS (Ontario Plein Air Society) annual show

The second is my 3rd online show with an interactive opening night and hourly art gifts for visitors!!

You don't want to miss either.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Art Camping VI

Today was the last day of pure plein air for the week. The TRIBE (frequenters of The Brush With The Highlands) came in on Thursday and the event started on Friday. Tomorrow is the juried show and 40 of us are painting a mammoth plein air all together.
Tonight is camp fire night with singing and celebrating going on to the wee hours of the morning. It is ouir way of celebrating the summer event and spending time with palette friends.
I am ready to go home. I ended up with about 10 show-able pieces and the same number of duds :). That is actually a very good average. Although most artists won't tell you, we don't bat much better than the average baseball player.
I made a lot of new friends and spent some quality time with my camping cat Mina. We will both be happy to be in our comfy bed tomorrow though.
Doing around 20 paintings in a week has been exhausting but the growth has been tremendous! I will clean up the works in the next couple of weeks and have a cyber-show for you all to enjoy with me.
Thanks you for following my adventure with Mina. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Friday, July 29, 2011

Art Camping V

I headed out at dawn to glamour lake today there was a heavy fog over the lake and then the rain came. After a few days of green it was such a joy to get moody and airy atmosphere.

I set up right on the lake and got to work like a mad-man. I was painting three at the same time. Even Mina got into the act. She stood on one of them and edited it nicely for me! When I finished fixing it, it was even better than before. I guess that one must be noted as a joint effort!

The rain stopped around mid-day and the day turnerd beautiful. I did one more of the lake, then I jumped in for a swim.

I came back to camp for a small rest then I headed out for a hike and painted another one from a bridge near by.

5 in all today! That is my record.

Enjoy your art
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Art Camping IV

Today I didn't have the chance to paint because I was giving a workshop to a few wonderful girls about the age of my daughters. I miss them a lot. I missed them especially today as I was working with the girls on painting a near by lake.

I ended up being out bargained by one of the girls. I gave her my demo painting and had to pay her $5.00 for her's!! But I think it was an outing they will not soon forget.

I love teaching kids. There is something about the way they see that is magical and we sadly loose that as we grow older.

Off to Glamor lake tomorrow for a full day of painting. I hope to have something to show for it. Stay tuned and...

Enjoy your art!

Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Art Camping III

Last night I was invited by paint at Glen and Debbie Sheeney's property. Glen offered to take me to the top of the ridge on his estate and promised a great view.

So this morning I drove the short distance to their property and took my minimal gear for the trek. It was well worth it. The view was out of this world. The lake below and the hills beyond formed a magnificent view. Later Glen took me on a tour and we walked through thick woods until we got to an enormous white pine that towered over the fields.

Mina - my camping cat- was content to spend the time in the car enjoying the gentle breeze from the screened windows.

Only one painting today but it was a great experience. Tomorrow I am giving a plein air workshop to a few young ones so that should be fun as well!

Enjoy your art!
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Art Camping II

Both Mina (my cat) and I are still adjusting to camping. It all went well most of the night.
This morning we headed out to Loon Lake. I painted the lake on my way home last year in pouring rain. Today the sky was threatening but we managed to do this one before the rain came.
In the afternoon I went to Barns farm and did a sacrificial one. It will go in the camp fire this weekend.
When I got back I decided to move my camping site and get closer to Daryl and Tracey's house. Reason? The outhouse is closer and its an open but shady spot so the mosquitoes will be less than they were in the wooded spot I was in before.
More tomorrow.
Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

Monday, July 25, 2011

Art Camping

Day 1:

It finally rained today and the heat wave has broken. Just in time for the camping trip to begin.

I arrived in Wilberforce around noon with my cat Mina - my companion on the trip this summer. I pitched the tent and took her on a walk around our spot. She ate some grass and then had some food and water. I took a nap after the long drive and woke up to write this post.

I am not sure if I will paint today, but the week is just starting. A bear was spotted recently on the property so while the tent is up, sleeping will be in the hatch of the suv. The pads and sleeping bag fit nicely and Mina likes it better anyway.

More tomorrow!

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Private Island Plein Air

Yesterday a member of OPAS invited us to paint on her private island in the Muskokas. Rose Island is a lot-sized rock on Kahshe Lake just north of Orillia, ON.  The views from the Island were just magnificent. You can make a painting from almost every angle along the shore.

While I missed the morning light because of the late arrival to the lake, and also the evening light because I didn’t want to over stay my welcome, I managed these two paintings with what ever light I was given.

The first one was towards mid-day and the light was flat, but I was able to give a feel for the distance I think. The area is known for its crop of rocky islands and evergreen pines. The smell of pines on the island was so beautiful. It reminded me of my childhood days in the mountains of Lebanon.

Small Island on Khashe Lake 500
Small Island, Kahshe Lake, oil on panel, 8”x10”

The second was towards the mid-late afternoon and I decided to zero in on a corner of the scene and accentuate the light. Notwithstanding the buzz of the annoying sea-doos, the lake was so peaceful. A real spiritual experience with loons calling in the background just for good measure.

Kahshe Lake, Towards Oak Road 500
Towards The Mainland, Kahshe Lake, , oil on panel, 8”x10”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Farm Road Down

Trees have a lot of character! You know how you sometimes look at dogs and can picture a human face to their look? Trees are like that, but they assume a whole body look. So when I look at trees sometimes they either make me happy or they make me sombre. This one was definitely on the happy side. Stuck at the tight edge of the road it had the feel of someone who is avoiding being splashed by the mud on the driveway!

This is the second painting I did at Scotsdale Farm last weekend.

Farm Road Down, oil on panel, 8”x10” Plein air.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Up The Hill–plein air painting at Scotsdale Farm

Summer is finally here. The tentative spring yellow-greens have turned darker and richer and the fields have moved to the yellows and reds around the farms and hills. It is glorious and hot and muggy and oh so sweet. I love it!

This is the season for all day painting. Out in the fields or better yet closer to running water where you can dip in to wash away the heat and refresh your soul.

I was out all day last Saturday at Scotsdale Farm, one of my all time favourite sites to paint. It is a heritage site that has been left to go back to nature and the themes here are endless. I did three paintings that I hope to share with you in time. Here is the first one that I did in the morning.


Up The Hill, Oil on Primed Panel, 8”x10” $300

I am really happy with the abstraction in this one. The economy of brush strokes and the dancing shapes really bring out the feelings and spirit of the day.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Catching up! A couple of paintings

I have been busy between work on the one hand and taking advantage of the reasonable weather we are having lately to paint. I went to centre Island two weekends ago and did an 8x10 plein air of the lagoon dock there. Then last weekend I went to Paris Ontario for to capture some of the feel for this nice small town, but alas the artwork was a dud… it happens!

So instead I will share an 8x10 oil pastel that I did at home!

Here are the two works!

Lagoon Dock Centre Island Toronto

Lagoon Dock Centre Island Toronto, Plein air Oil on Panel 8”x10”


Meadows, Oil pastel on panel, 8”x10”

I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Art Newsletter–Art Winner for June!

As promised, I am giving away an artwork every month to subscribers to my Art Newsletter. June’s winner is: Cheryl Dodds Keegan!! Congratulations Cheryl! Give me a call and we will arrange delivery of the below painting.

If you haven’t subscribed to receive my art newsletter yet please do so here:

You will automatically be subscribed to win. You will – of course – receive my art newsletter. Here is an example from last month.


If you are already subscribed, please consider liking this post or inviting your friends who may enjoy art to subscribe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am sorry? What??

This blog post is in response to an article in the June 3 issue of the wall Street Journal entitled:  The Art Assembly Line. (please read the article if you wish).

Artists – Real Artists – around the world, have been stoically absorbing the gutting out of art among the elite experimenters and marketing  gurus who call themselves art critics, connoisseurs and of course gallery owners and dealers. These intruders have infested the hallowed halls of art for over a century now. First advocating and marketing deformations of genuine and genius abstract art and now moving further to selling the virtues of factory art. And guess what? They will get away with it.

Remember the art slave factories of China that churn hundreds of hand made copies of classics a day? Remember how that was frowned upon and considered plagiarism and outright theft? You can still buy those at every decoration store from IKEA to Home Outfitters. Artists have sort of accepted this anomaly and moved on. We sort of made peace with the  idea that there will be people who want to hang a fake Monet on their wall even if it is a knock off, rather than hang a poster of a Monet. Of course the poster would show an image of the true details and work while the fake is an inferior rendition of the work, but to some people that does not matter. They want a canvas on the wall and they will never figure out the difference because they will never go to see a real Monet.

As horrible as the idea of a Chinese slave painter is, what is happening now is even more outrageous. While the slave paintings are relegated to the home d├ęcor stores, these new ghost paintings are actually being peddled by art dealers and galleries. Listen to this:

[Mr. Gorlizki lives in New York City. The paintings are done by seven artists who work for him in Jaipur, India. "I prefer not to be involved in actually painting," says Mr. Gorlizki, who adds that it would take him 20 years to develop the skills of his chief Indian painter, Riyaz Uddin. "It liberates me not being encumbered by the technical proficiency," he says.]

Say what? What exactly is Mr. Gorlizki? A Paris Hilton of the art world? He is essentially commissioning art in the slums of India and stamping his name on it! The spin doctors then come in and do their magic and make this work part of his “genius” and sell the works for over $10,000!!

Thank God there are still galleries and art lovers who refuse to swallow this as art. But we must all be vigilant so that the likes of Gorlizki do not become the norm in art.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Beaver Dam, Watercolour on paper

The weekend turned better than expected especially after the deluge of Saturday. It really looked like it was going to be a washed out weekend. But Sunday was a blast and Monday (I had the day off) was summer at its best
Too bad that I had chores to do and wanted to stay close to the family. I could have gone for a quick plein air either day, but its ok. Summer is just beginning up here.
This afternoon while everyone was busy doing their thing I decided to do a small watercolour just for the fun of it. Since I started working in oils a couple of years ago, my watercolours have been mostly collecting dust except for the odd small work. I hope to do more of them this summer. They are really fun for me.
beaver dam500
Beaver Dam, Watercolour on Montreal hand made paper, 7”x9”. $85.00

I did this one from a reference photo I took a couple of years ago in the Haliburton Highlands. Beaver Dams are all over the place up here. That is why we have the beaver on our nickle! They are ubiquitous. To some they are pests, to others they are the ultimate engineers!