Friday, December 29, 2006

Lemon Tea and Chocolates (Take 2)

OK based on a suggestion by a fellow Canadian artist (Asel Syzdykova ), I have added some highlights to parts of the painting. I think it does a lot to complete it. Let me know what you think.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lost in Nova Scotia

Someone posted this to a group I belong to. I think it is funny!

Two American tourists were driving through Nova Scotia. As they were approaching Shubenacadie (shoe-been-aack-id-dee), they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town's name. They argued back and forth until they stopped for lunch. As they stood at the counter, one tourist asked the waitress: "Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us? Would you please pronounce where we are... Ver-r-ry slo-o-owly?"

The waitress leaned over the counter and said, "Tiiimmmmm Hoorrrrttoooonnns"!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

SketchCrawl December 9, 2006

December 9, 2006. My first SketchCrawl is behind me. It was not a successful one. The day started with me stepping out to a temperature of -11 with the windchill. Not exactly outdoor weather. As soon as I got in my car, I thought back to an article I had been meaning to read about an artist who paints in Antarctica. Boy I sure could have used a few hints today on how to do it.

Anyway, after stopping at Tim Horton for a large-double-cream I decided to go to an urban scene in Streetsville and paint their. It took me no longer than 4 minutes outside the car to realize that it was not going to happen. The cold wind was blowing and not only my fingertips, but my paints as well were freezing. I decided to retreat to the relative warmth of the car. There I realized another miscalculation. Urban scenes from a car all look alike. An oblique building in sharp perspective and cars parked in front. Not exactly what I had in mind. Off to Port Credit. A place I have always gone to in the summer for strolls and sketching. Alas, from the car, you couldn't see much that was inspiring.

This was getting discouraging. I was not interested today in painting indoor scenes and that negated the idea of ducking into a coffee-shop and doing my sketching there. In retrospect, I should have. Anyway. Up to the north of the 401, and into farm country I went. I was determined to do something today that I could be proud of. I finally managed to park the car in the drive way of an orchard and to paint just three quick sketches. None of these are to write home about. Nothing good comes after 2 hours of frustrated running around. The paint was still crystallizing in the cold metal pallet, my fingers were still freezing (I had to open the car window to really see the colors outside, but oh well. Sketchcrawl in midwinter Canada? Naaaa, not again.
So anyway here are my failed attempts:

This is perhaps my best attempt today. It was my last and I had warmed up a bit. Funny how painting is like jogging. You really need to warm up before you can do a good run.

Ya, I agree. I have done better work on moving buses no less. *sigh*. Wait the rest are even worse!


I was trying my water-brushes with this one. I might as well have been painting underwater. Hehe. The water was cold and heavy and I had to squeeze the brush for it to flow. When I squeezed, well. the water flowed alright!

Ok last one. This was the first one I did at the Orchard from the top of the driveway. Not good. Seriously I shouldn't be posting these. They do nothing good for my reputation as an artist, but I was part of something today and I was happy to do it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oranges using Signature Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are not a medium that has caught on too much among serious artists. Perhaps that is because most of the pencils out there are not artist quality. The pigments are not clearly indicated and their lightfastness is questionable at the very least.

Derwent has a line of pencils that are lightfast and artist quality. They are called Signature. They come in Watercolor and regular pencils. I used those to make this little painting of oranges in a plate.

If you enjoy quality pencils or are an artist wanting to try out good quality watercolor pencils, I urge you to hurry and get some of these Signature pencils. Why hurry? No I am not doing a hard sell for Derwent. The fact is if you live in North America, you will notice that every art store has them on clearance or sale. Why? Because the distributor in North America has decided to discontinue providing them to us.

So get them while you can. I will be writing a full feature about the Derwent watercolor pencil line soon with a focus on these Signature watercolor pencils. Maybe if we all lobby hard, the distributors will relent.

For those of you living abroad and are thinking: "Oh well, North America is not us." Think again. If North America discontinues the line, there is very little chance that the line will thrive elsewhere and still be profitable for the company.

Stay tuned for the article coming soon.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sketch- Across the street in the rain

It is a rainy day today. The sky is dark and the lights are on indoors. It seems that the GTA has switched weather with Vancouver and I don't particularly like that.

It's almost December and we have not seen a sprinkle of snow yet. Meanwhile it looks like a winter-wonderland in Vancouver. Can you believe that?

Anyway. The houses across the street from us never inspired me much before, but the dark wet day left a nice bright reflection on the muddy pathway between the houses and I just felt like catching the view.

The ink I use is a mixture of two Skrip writing inks. A basic black and a yellow. The mixture gives a very deep and rich sepia color. I don't know what I am going to do when my mixture runs out. I hope I can recreate it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My take on the Altoid box pallet

UPDATE: It seems that the people at Home Depot rarely know what they have as products. I have received many emails saying that they don't carry shelf edging. NOT TRUE! The do. They are usually kept in black piping that is hug from the bottom of the wood section in the shelf isle. For your convenience, I stole a bar code so you can print it and take it with you and ask them to scan it and maybe that will alert them to the FACT that they have it!! Here it is:

In preparation for the 12th Sketchcrawl which takes place on December 9, I have made this pocket size pallet. There are many takes on how to make this pallet. Please see here and here. Mine is a bit more elaborate, but I injoyed doing it and want to share the method with my readers:
You will need an Altoid box or a similar box with an attached lid. Empty the box from the mints (don't eat them all you will get sick!) and clean it well.
The first thing I did to my empty Altoid box was to paint the inner lid enamel white and the outer lid enamel black. The inner lid white enamel color was for a functional purpose. It will serve as a good mixing ground. The outer lid enamel color was for fun and to imitate my favorate Winsor and Newton box. These enamel paints take some time to dry so count on leaving each coat a full 2 days to rest and harden.

In the meanwhile, go to your hardware store and buy a length of Shelf Edging (3/4"), a peal and stick white tile and a box of staple gun staples. You will not need the staple gun. I will tell you why soon.

Measure the inside of the box carefully and cut a piece of the tile to fit in the box. These tiles are made of a soft material that you can cut with scissors easily.

Now cut two lengths of the shelf edging that are a tad bit shorter than the box length. These shelf edgings are plastic and you will need a sharp knife to score them and then bend them to cut. Believe it or not, I suspect that the 3/4 size shelf edging was made to hold full and half pans in place. They are the perfect fit!

Now drill or punch tiny holes in the edging and the tile piece together. You will be threading the staples through these holes and folding them on the back of the tile to hold the edging in place. You can't use a staple gun for this. There isn't one strong enough to go through the plastic of the edging and the tile. Once you have the holes done, thread the staples in and tighten from the back to hold the edging snugly in place on the tile piece. No, glue will not do. You need the strength of the staples to allow for some movement without getting the edging dislodged.

Now place the tile piece with the edging on it in the Altoid box and put your pans or half pans in the edging. Like I said, it holds the pans and half pans very well. You can place up to Ten half pans in the box this way. You will also have room in the middle for shortened brushes and a golf pencil. The edging allows you to replace the half pans very easily depending on your mood or the destination. I hope you enjoy making this project.
If you have any questions post them here, I will try to help.
Since I posted this Altoids box "how to", I have added a flat plastic mixing tray to the box. I have also worked on a smaller version of the Altoids box here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Value Mate

I am sure I saw this or something like it in a book somewhere so I am not claiming it as an original idea, but I think it is a good idea and I want to share it with you. It is what I will call a ValueMate. A tool used to help you determine the values in your desired painting subject.

How to make a ValueMate:

Go to your local hardware or home paint store. Once there, look for a color swatch with "black" as the darkest color on it. These usually come in five, six or seven gradations from the dark to a light value. I prefer to use a six graded swatch just to keep things simple. These swatches (or at least the ones I have found) don't have pure white in them. That is something you will have to keep in mind when you are using them. Anything that registers off the value swatch is simply white.

Now take the swatch and use a hole puncher to punch a hole in each of the value grades. make the hole on the side of the swatch so you can locate the parts of the subject when you are using the ValueMate

How to use a ValueMate:

Simply hold the ValueMate at arms-length up to the subject you are trying to paint or draw and try to match the elements of the image to one of the values. You do that by squinting and viewing the elements through the holes you have punched. squinting makes the colors in the subject turn to gray. Now move your ValueMate up and down until you find the value grade in the swatch that matches the value of the element in the image/scene. Make notes as you do this across the plain of the subject and your work will be much enhanced.... I hope.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

10 minute sketches

I have always focused on gesture and impressions in my sketches. Today I was challenged to draw the kids, so I did. I think for quick 10 minute sketches these are not bad at all.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Autumn leaves....

The Autumn leaves, drift through my window...The autumn leaves, all red and gold. La la la laaaaaa. hm hm hm hmm hmmmm.

If you have kids and you want to collect leave with them this season, there is a neat way to preserve the leaves from crumbling and fading away. Submerge the leaves in a solution of glycerin and water. Yes the regular glycerin you have in your medicine cabinet. Mix one part glycerin to two parts water and place it in a flat pan. Now submerge the leaves in a single layer in the mixture. Make sure the leaves stay submerged by weighing them down, but try to use something that is unobtrusive to weigh them down with. You want the leaves to absorb the liquid. Leave them submerged for a few days so that they absorb enough of the mixture and become soft and pliable. Remove them and wipe with a soft cloth. The leaves will remain soft and pliable for a very long time. Enjoy!

Color Swatches

I wanted to try out some of my colors a bit this morning. I started by putting a bit of color in my pallets for mixing and then figured out that the better way to do this is to use two brushes. Put one color on each brush and then feed one brush from the other with every stroke. Works much better. Unfortunately, I only realized that 2/3 of the way through.
Still trying to figure out the Quind. Magenta as a color. It is very beautiful, but now I need to throw a saddle on it and it is bucking!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The power of squinting

I am working with a few friends on value studies and pushing our values to extremes. It just occurred to me that many may not know how to discover value in a scene so here is my method.
Because our eyes work like a camera on automatic meter reading, we tend to average value from the full visual field. We should, therefore, start by limiting our visual field to the subject we are trying to draw or paint. This is true even if you are looking at a computer screen or if you are looking at a lit image in a darkened room. My method of limiting the visual field is to forming my hand into a fist while keeping a hole to see through (sort of like we used to do when we were young to imitate a pirate's Monocular). This also acts as a means to frame the image you are studying and help you compose it better. Once you have limited your visual field and composed your image, you will want to squint until the colors of the objects you see fade to gray shadows. This is your value study. Capture it in a small sketch and you will have a much better handle on your subject when painting.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Live Model x2

Yesterday I was able to go to another live model session. When I got there (late) I realized just how tired I was. It was probably not a good idea to have gone, but since I was there I decided to make the best of it. Here are the results:
Heather is a big lady, but she pauses very well. I used a Lyra water-soluble graphite for drawing and Cdm Yellow, Cdm Red and Winsor Blue for washes. I did the top sketch with pen of course.

At the Japanese Garden

Hidden in the middle of Mississauga is a jewel of a park. A Japanese garden so peaceful and serene it is a pleasure to walk through...and sketch in. I think the three youths didn't like me being there. They probably wanted to smoke or something. So I just finished my sketch and let them be.

I took the bus the other day

I never thought that public transportation would be so rich with sketching subjects, but here it is. I could spend days doing this!

Of course you have to work fast and the bus does tend to want to participate in your strokes, but for the fare? I can live with that.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Live Model Session

Tonight I went to my first live model session. I had no idea what to expect. Of course I expected the college art students (the goatee, funny hat and starving artist look) I got that, but the thrill of drawing and painting from a live model was exceptional.
The sessions were short at first and then got longer. Here are the results. The ones below were from the longer sessions where I could have the luxury of adding watercolors. All in all I am very satisfied with the experience and hope to repeat it again soon.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Color II (Ivory black)

More black and guess what? Although it doesn't show very well here, Ivory Black mixes well and gives a nice color so throw away the old taboos and try it!

Color I

Today I decided to explore the boundaries of green. Tube green is harsh and unnatural. I find it very jarring, but when mixed with its complement (red) it is subdued a bit and produces excellent natural colors that you can find in nature. The colors mixed here are (Greens: Phth. Green W&N/ Perm. Green Maimeri Bleu / Cadmium Green Maimeri Bleu) all mixed with Englsih Red Maimeri Bleu.

I also tried using Ivory black (a no-no in watercolors among the purists) but here, mixed with Perm. Alz. Crim. It gives a delicate black to gray and a subdued shadowy purple. Black is much maligned, but if you use it WITH color, it is rich and a much more natural color than Paynes Gray or neutral tint.

Next I will mix Black with the browns to see the effect. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Back in July I had a chance to run into this famous lady in Vancouver, British Colombia. Do you recognize her?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Lebanon does not deserve to go through war again. After the people of that small country spent years working hard to rebuild their land, brick by brick, in less than 5 days it has been destroyed again and many have died. The sins of the few have been quenched by the tears and blood of the many. Such a sad sad thing to see. This painting reflects the better days of Lebanon. Tranquil afternoons and fog tipped mountains. Here is to you Lebanon, you will rise again.