Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Savage Winter, last plein air painting in 2009

This is my last plein air painting for 2009. I did this one at Scottsdale Farm in a four hour session, and added finishing touched in the studio after thawing out.

My style has been changing for a few months now, and this painting marks a pivotal stage in that change. It is a slower way of painting with several layers and a lot of texture. The process is not deliberate or studied it is very spontanious, but require more work and focus. The texture and the feeling that I get when I look and work on my painting in this style is invigorating. It represents my own voice and my style.

Savage Winter, Oil on artist canvas board 8"x10"

I tried very hard to match the colours in the photograph and the video, but there are so many subtle colours here and they are being averaged by the cameras.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009, some thoughts.

What a year it has been! I will limit my comments here to art of course, but it has been eventful across the board.

It started of with my work shifting from Watercolours to Acrylics and then on to Oils. As much as I love watercolours and as comfortable as I am with them (I have been painting in watercolours for more years than I care to share here), they were starting to feel limiting and with the kids growing, and a move to a new house where I had a cell space to call a studio, I felt I was ready to try something new.

At first, Acrylics seemed a natural step in the opaque media direction. It is water based and it seemed at first easy to handle. After months of struggling with the medium to make it act “like Oils”, I finally raised the white flag and moved on to Oils. Acrylics are beautiful don’t get me wrong, but each medium has its character and one should not assume that any medium can replace another. It took me a few months to control the Oil paints, and I am by no means a master at it yet, but I am getting there and I can finally say that I have found my voice in oil paint recently. I have not given up on Acrylics though. I will continue to use them in a different direction that I hope to start showing here soon. As to Watercolours, there is no way I can abandon them of course. I can still remember my first watercolour box at age 6 or 7. It was a metal box with many pans of magnificent colours. It had a goofy cartoon design on the front, but it was a very important thing for me. I spent many hours painting with it. I will always feel at home with my Aquarelles, but I love my Oils and Acrylics as well.

It is funny, but it took me some time to get over the feeling that as an artist I had to be medium specific. I have no idea where that notion came from, but it is prevalent in art circles at least in North America. One is a Watercolourist or an Acrylic painter or an Oil painter. Last week I was painting with a friend and he told me a story about his first encounter with his mentor. His mentor asked him one question: Do you want to be a painter or do you want to be an artist? Yes, there is a difference. Being an artist is a state of mind. You could make art with cloth, chalk, and even sand if you had to. Many artists do. The medium is your tool not your religion. Mastering the tool allows you to express complex ideas and feelings. I think this is where most "painters" fail to grasp the liberating nature of working with multiple media. Moving freely between media does not harm your skills or slow down your learning in any way. Just like knowing several languages can help you think differently because you can grasp something more than words when you absorb a language, so with art media; your study and exploration of multiple media heightens your awareness of each medium's powers and limitations.

So next year, I will work with every medium I can get my hands on. Oil pastels, (not pastels because they affect my asthma), charcoal, coloured pencils, conte, pen and ink, the lowly HB pencil; you name it, I will hope to use it. I may meander along the way a bit longer while doing that. I will not be on a super (insert a medium here) highway to success, but that’s OK. There is a poem that I have carried with me for over 30 years now. I like to think I am living by its words. I will share it with you here and wish you a magnificent 2010.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
Hope that the road is a long one,
Filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
You’ll never come across them on your way
As long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
Emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
Unless you carry them within your soul,
Unless your soul sets them up before you.

Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
When—with what pleasure, with what joy—
You first put in to harbours new to your eyes;
May you stop at Phoenician trading posts
And there acquire fine goods:
Mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
And heady perfumes of every kind:
As many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
So you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
To reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
That you drop anchor at the island an old man,
Rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
Not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
Without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
You’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

River Bend

This will be the last one with the greens of summer for a while. I am ready for the winter and snow in my painting, but I just wanted to fit in one more of the credit in the summer this year. I did this one in my studio and recorded it live on USTREAM. If you where up early this morning, you could have joined me and watched live with coffee in hand while I painted away. It might have put you right back to sleep though LOL.

Anyway, here is a 5min accelerated video of the painting process. At one point my internet signal faded in the studio and I lost about half an hour of painting, but I think it is OK.

River Bend, Oil on canvas board, 4"x6"

Saturday, December 05, 2009

2010 Calendar

The 2010 Calendar is now ready to order. It holds 12 of my recent works in full colour and will hopefully fill your year with joy :)

Please go here to purchase one or a few! Oh, and please spread the word if you can. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Live feed From My Studio

In my on-again off-again experimentation with technology and the arts, I have started a live video feed from my studio. The plan is to turn it on every time I am in the studio so you can join in if you wish to. We can even chat while I am there... well sort of. That might not be practical if I am concentrating ;). I tested it yesterday and it works well. The first thing I need to do though is clean up the studio. It is a mess.

How does it work? Actually it is very simple. If you look at my blog, you will find the USTREAM window in the top right hand corner. When the feed is live, you will be able to click on it and join me. I will try to save some worth while sessions that you can review when the feed is off air.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Barn, Late Afternoon

Late fall is a special time for sunsets. Up here in Canada, the sun is low on the horizon and the warm orange glow turns everything in shadow to hues of purple, violet and lovely blues. By now, the fireworks of autumn leaves is a memory. It is a time when local colours are erased away. Atmosphere is all that remains and the sun, clouds and sky paint the landscape as they please. The more I paint the more I realize that there are no local colours or that even if there are, they don't really matter. There is just atmosphere, light and shadows. Each one of these defines the other in a dance from day-break to sunset.

Barn, Late Afternoon, Oil on canvas board, 4"x6"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Morning On The Cabot Heights

I wish I could say I know the Canadian Maritimes as I would like to as an artist. Someday, I would like a grant to spend a summer painting the area. I think it would be a dream. But then where would I spend the most time? Newfoundland? PEI? Cape Breton Island? I have had the good luck to visit Cape Breton Island about a year ago. I spent a day on the Cabot Trail going around the island. It is a magnificent place with views around every bend and changes from moment to moment. One minute you are at sea level gazing at a salt marsh that you could paint for days and with every subtle change of the light and the next minute you are on top of a towering cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean miles below. But a day is not enough for a place like that. Still I have kept a few images in my mind and my note book from the day trip. Here is one that I just translated into colour.

Morning On The Cabot Heights, Oil on canvas board, 4"x5"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Escarpment Summer

A late look at the escarpment before the snow starts flying. This is a small one that I did this week. While I promised myself that I would paint mostly larger works this year, I am fond of these small bijou size works. They are easy to do out doors and softer on the pocket of would be collectors!

Escarpment, Summer Day. Oil on canvas board, 4"x5"

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rapids revisited (Oil and Acrylics)

A few months ago, I painted a small 6x4 of rapids in acrylics (Below). To be fair to the Acrylics medium, I was going through a colour identity crisis. I was having a hard time foreseeing what the colours would dry as with the shift in acrylics.

Rapids, Acrylic on canvas board

Last week I pulled it off the shelf and decided to use liven up the colours using oil paints this time (below). As you can see the difference is amazing. I know artists are passionate about their mediums and I know a lot of acrylic painters are going to be upset with me for this post. I am sure I could have livened the colours up using acrylics just as well as oils, but frankly the fact that oil colours dry with the same colours as the ones you place on the canvas allows you to be the master of the painting as opposed to trying to forecast what paints will do and how they will shift your work when they dry.

Rapids Oil over Acrylics, 4x6 canvas board

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yes, it is fall

Happy Thanksgiving everyone... well Canadians at least ;)

Small Field In Fall, Oil on canvas, 8"x10"
Up here, fall is in its full glory... and miserable, cold, wet, and windy as well. We all want Autumn to be a colourful Indian Summer of course, but given the real summer that we had (wet, cold, and windy), why should we expect anything better for this season. *sigh*
Anyway, I decided some time last summer not to wait any more on nature for permission to paint. With layers on, and a deep breath, I spent the last two mornings out in the cold with my paints and brushes. Saturday was not too bad actually. Cool, but you could easily spend the day outdoors. Yesterday, on the other hand was hell. The wind just didn't stop and it was COLD. Football weather cold I mean.
Still, I managed to turn out these two. These took a couple of hours each, and I reserve the right to tweak them in the studio. I have not signed them yet. Small Field, was done on Sunday in the cold. Credit From Streetsville was done Saturday. There are subtle colours in the sky in both of these that I am not sure shows through in the photos.

Credit From Streetsville, Oil on canvas, 8"x10"

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Farmland Fall, Halton, ON

Farmland Fall, 8x10, Oil on canvas board

I went out early today. Everyone was fast asleep, and I needed to get some fresh air and put my mind into auto pilot. I get my best thinking done when I am out painting alone and today was no exception. I picked up an Extra large double C at Tim Horton's and headed North. This scene was perfectly placed close to a large shoulder on the road, so I stopped and waited for sunrise. I watched the sky change and the land go from gray to colours. I then spent around two hours working on this one.
I have to start limiting the time I spend on works en plein air. For starters, winter is on its way and I won't be spending a day out there leisurely painting away. Winter is a plein air guerrilla operation. In and out. I did that well last winter, but this summer has been one of long days spent in nature. I have to readjust fast, or suffer as the snow starts blowing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2009 Goals update

It is amazing what happens when you set goals. I have not looked at this post since January, but the fact that I posted my goals back then for the year was enough to get me started on the. So here is a check with three months to go in the year:

Art Goals for 2009:

I will join a local art society
There are two in Mississauga that I would like to be part of: Visual Arts Mississauga and Mississauga Art Council.

NOT YET. I am not sure which one to join really.

I will focus on working en plein air and join or create a local Plein air group
I am waiting for Plein Air Canada to get their act together and open activities, but I am not sure what they have in mind. From their site I believe they are a group artists who do plein air work, but they seem to be focused on their own workshops. If they don't plan to create not-for-profit plein air activities, I may have to start my own group. At any event, I would much prefer a small local group to a national group. I will wait until the spring and make a decision.

DONE. Spent most of the summer out there despite the rain. Created OPAS and it is building nicely

I will participate in at least two art competitions
I am not sure which ones I will submit works to, but I will participate in two without fail.
DONE. I even won an award!

I will paint bigger
While small paintings are easier from a time commitment perspective for me, they are not helping me grow. I will still do small works, but I will aim to not buy anymore canvases or pads that are smaller than 8x10 - except for sketchpads of course. When my supply of small canvases and pads (4x5; ACEOs; 4x6 and 5x7) are finished, I will refrain from buying any more in those sizes.
DONE. Nothing less than an 8x10 this year really.

I will give at least one plein air workshop this year
This will not be related to the plein air group. The group - if I have to create it - will be strictly for active plein air artists and will be support and activity driven.

NOT YET. Just lack of time really.

I will mentor Children in art, starting with my kids
My kids are natural artists... or so I think. Ha! I will work with them to expand their creative reach and help them explore painting. I will also do that with other kids through my wife's art project if I am called on.
DONE. My kids, but I need to do more.

I will help my wife kick start her art project
Sometimes it is hard for me to not jump in and take control especially when it is something that concerns someone I love, but my goal this year is to be supportive and helpful, not driving and influencing.
~ Well I am trying!
Not too bad so far. Hope to do more ;)

Monday, September 07, 2009

How to Build a Pochade Box For Plein Air Painting II

Following numerous requests from readers, I have put together a detailed plan for building a beautiful pochade box. The plan will guide you to build a 15.5”x12.5”x2.5” pochade and an accompanying wet panel carrier – The pochade can carry a single 11”x14” wet panel.

I plan to add dividers shortly, to allow you to carry several size panels and not be limited to 11”x14” size. The dividers will be for the pochade and the wet panel carriers and will allow you to carry 5”x7”, 6”x8” and 8”x10” panels. If there is a need for 9”x11” dividers or any other size, I can make that as well. Please let me know. I can also scale the size down if there is a desire. I just need to hear your feedback.

What is really nice about this plan is that it utilizes off-the-shelf items from your hardware store and the minimum of tools to build. You do not need to be good at carpentry to finish this versatile and professional looking pochade.

The main reason that I built mine and why I am making the plans available is that I am a heavy user of my pochade. I can’t think of spending over $500 on one and use and abuse it as I do. I want one that is rugged and slick at the same time; one that can withstand my abuse without looking like a tank.

I have been building and planning pochades for over 7 years now. They have become successively more versatile and easier to build. This one is the best. I hope you will agree.

To order your plans ($2.99) please click here

Since I posted my video on how to make a cigar box into a painting box for plein air painting, I have had many people email me to ask about the pochade that I featured at the end of the video. I finally took some time this weekend and taped this video about building a full fledged pochade box. It was easier for me to tape and edit this video than to build detailed plans and post them on the Internet. I hope that once you see this video you will be able to build your own pochade box. They are not hard to build really. What took the most time for me was working through the problems and finding ways around them. With this video, you should have very few problems left to work around.

See previous video installment on this topic here:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tom Thomson and The Group Of Seven

I headed to the McMichael gallery just north of Toronto to visit their collection of Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven paintings. Like most Canadians, I am very familiar with some of their works since they form a back drop, and influence so much, of 20th and 21st century Canadian art.

Yellow Sunset, 1916

After spending the better part of the morning absorbing the Group of Seven exhibit, I went back and revisited the works of Tom Thomson, spending a few more hours in detail study of his plein air works. I was completely under his spell. The economy of his brush work and his mastery of colour and design were exquisite. I learned so much looking at his 8.5"x10.5" works. I got so engrossed in them that I did not notice the gallery guard who was looking alarmingly at me because I was so close to the works. She finally came by to let me know that I was welcome to take notes but I would have to use a pencil rather than my pen. Oh that! OK. I switched... She felt better. Seriously though I do understand. You don't want an accident with ink on these delicate works. I couldn't forgive myself if that happened.

Lake in Autumn, 1916

Tom Thomson (Not Thompson) was an avid outdoors man. He was also a draftsman by profession. He spent his summers up north in Algonquin park and supplemented his stay up there by working as a guide. He introduced the Group of Seven to Algonquin and although he died before they were to form their group, he was, in many ways, their inspiration. His career as a plein air artist was very short, but between 1912 and 1917 he built a huge collection of panel paintings. These were small 8.5"x10.5" plywood panels painted using a hand held cigar box or pochade box. Tom never primed his panels. He actually used the colour of the wood to advantage. He placed his colour thick and with a certain hand. His plains were clear and his vertical and horizontal strokes are masterly.

Evening, Canoe Lake, 1915

Tom died on Canoe Lake in the park in a canoe accident. His short career leaves everyone wondering what he would have accomplished had he stayed with us a while longer.

I will be revisiting the McMichael again and again to study Tom's work and when I am done with him, I will move on to Arthur Lismer.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Plein Air in Port Dover

Yesterday I packed my gear and headed to Port Dover. Port Dover is a small town on the shore of lake Erie. The sky looked grim and gray, but by now I have grown defiant of weekend weather. We have been going through a miserable summer (Call it monsoon season) in Ontario, and if you enjoy plein air painting you have to find a way around it or else change your stripes.

The storm hit as I exited Hwy 403 on to Hwy 6. It came hard and heavy, but I pressed on. I have come to realize that the heavier the summer storm, the shorter lived it is. Although at some point I was doubting my beliefs, by the time I crossed the Port Dover bridge and headed down Walker Street, the clouds had broken up and the sun was shining.

I stopped for a quick lunch and scouted the beach for the best view. There is so much to paint in Port Dover, that I probably will spend a few sojourns going there to do it justice. I decided to paint the cliffs to the west looking towards Turkey Pont. I set up my gear on the pear, took in the scene and started painting.

Cliffs at Port Dover, Oil on canvas board, 8"x10"

Painting on a pear where weekend walkers are bound to stop and comment is not for the shy or insecure. I stopped counting at 24, but I must have had twice as much people stop by and comment. All were of course very nice and polite. There was a gentleman who wanted to talk about the Group of Seven and get my opinion on their works, but I very gently convinced him to read more about them. At about 4:30pm, I was satisfied with what I had on the canvas, I carried my gear and headed back to the car. On the way, I saw a magnificent view deep into the harbor looking back towards the bridge that leads into Port Dover. It was too late to start another oil painting, but I went back to the car, dropped my gear and took my watercolours out. I had not done a watercolour in a while and no time was like the present I thought.

Port Dover Bridge, sketch, watercolour on 140lb paper, 5"x7"

I bought a bottle of water (I didn't have any left and didn't plan on painting in watercolours), and settled on a bench and painted a quick sketch of the view. I was glad I didn't have my camera with me. Normally, I would have taken a shot of the view and skipped sketching it, but the sketch helped me resolve a few issues with the scene that will come in handy when I go back and paint it in oil.

I am running out of weekends where I can spend the whole day painting outdoors, but Port Dover will get another visit soon I am sure. It was a great day at a great place to paint.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A painting marathon in Wilberforce, ON

This long weekend I was among around 60 artists who enjoyed three days of painting and fun in and around Wilberforce in the Highlands in Ontario. We were participating in the first annual "A brush with the Highlands". An event that was very well planned and executed by a devoted group of artists from the area.

Day 1 Friday:

The drive to Wilberforce was long but leisurely. I enjoyed the scenery along the way and stopped for a fish and chips lunch at a stand next to a stream in the highlands. I arrived at the property of Daryl Sands and Tracey Lee Green in the late afternoon. I pitched my tent and went up to meet everyone who was roughing it and staying in a tent or trailer. The evening was wonderful. Drinks, guitar, and all around good fun. Sleeping in the tent was weird. I had not slept in a tent since I was a boyscout many many moons ago. [Note: Thank god for Deet!]

Day 2 Saturday:

I woke up at 5am with day break. I got out of the tent and walked down to the lake to wash up. The morning mist was breath taking as I walked towards the water. I managed to wash my face and throw a bit of water on my head when I noticed that I was being eaten up alive. I had walked into a veritable mosquito breakfast trap. I managed a quick retreat and was greeted by my neighbour camper Ron Murdoch. Ron is a wonderful man who owns the Spruce Bog Studio and the Northart's Art Gallery in Dwight, Ontario. He invited me to a great breakfast of fresh eggs and bacon and we talked about were we wanted to go on the first day of painting. Eventually 4 of us headed to the outskirts of Algonquin Park. Nothing really inspiring here unless if we wanted to go into the park which would have been a longer drive and we were not prepared for that. We headed back. 2 of us decided to stop along the way and the other two got lost and drove for miles in the wrong direction. Eventually We made it back to camp and decided to paint close to home to avoid wasting any more time. [Note: Having driven over 3 hrs to get to Wilberforce, why did I have to find the furthest spot to go to on the first day?]. I did two paintings on Saturday. I climbed down from a bridge and settled near to the river. There I painted one view and then turned to the other side of the bridge and did a loose watercolour before evening. A shower later and back to the festive mood around a camp fire. This time with a great dinner, wine and fellowship of lovely people all around.

Brigadoon, 9"x12" Oil on canvas board

Day 3 Sunday:

A bunch of us headed to a close by property called Brigadoon. A scenic property with a lake and river enclosed in it. It used to be a girl's camp site, but eventually was abandoned and the owner is hoping to turn it to an art hub. I interrupted my first painting as he took me on a tour of the property and we agreed to talk again. Along the way, I learned that Gerry Wigg was a successful insurance man and we spent some time talking about the business. By noon I had finished the first painting and after a break for lunch, I started another one on the same property that took me to late afternoon in a leisurely pace. The evening was much tamer with only the hardy folks around. After being warned that a family of bears was close by, I decided to skip sleeping in the tent (Basically a blind trap) and slept instead in the car.

Day 4 Monday:

I didn't tell you that on day one we each entered three art works in a juried show and sale. Monday was the show. We took our time breaking down our camp, taking pictures in the area for future reference and paintings and just resting in general. At 10am we went to Town and walked through the exhibit. The show started at 11:00 and at noon the results of the juried show were announced. I was shocked when my name was announced as the winner of The Hawk River Log Award. That placed me in fourth place among a hoard of excellent works. I was so proud and bewildered. Moi? A winner? heheee! What a way to end a fantastic long weekend.

I bid farewell to good friends and headed back home through a long but traffic free route stopping many times on the road for photos. I got home late that night laden with many works and many more in mind to paint as well. A brush with the Highlands was a great success and the Hosts were delightful and full of generosity and love for art and fellow artists. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pent up Humanity - please spread it

This video touched me deeply and I felt I had to share it with everyone. Please watch it. As you do, shed the cynic in you, and release your pent up humanity.

Please spread this. The world needs more hugs. Much more hugs. My challenge to you all: Can we go viral on this one? Can we spread hugs like nature spreads H1N1? Imagine. Now do it. Please.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lowville Park

Ask anyone in Ontario and they will tell you we are not having a great summer.

The old adage:
Q= What comes after two days of rain?
A= Monday
is working perfectly here.

So when the weather man said this was going to be another rainy Saturday, I was not going to roll over and play dead any more. Today was the Ontario Plein Air Society had a paint out at Lowville park and I was not going to miss it. We ended up being only three brave souls today, but the skies obliged. After a brief shower, the clouds broke open and the sun came shining through. The day was excellent. Not too hot - not too cold. I spent the whole day at the park and did this one:

This park is so attractive it sucks you in to paint it. I have painted here before and will undoubtedly come back. The creek snakes through the park and every corner is another painting waiting to be put on canvas. I took my time, with many breaks and enjoyed the glorious day. I started at about 10:30am and did get back home until 4:00pm. Despite a few interruptions (including the nice gentleman who agreed to take some shots of me painting), I was able to focus on painting en plein air.

Lowville Park, Oil on canvas board, 9"x12"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Plein Air Oil Setup and Gear

See video on how to build this pochade here:

I have been asked to share my plein air setup and gear several times now, so I thought I would post a few pictures of my setup with some explanation. What you see below is my pochade setup. The whole kit fits perfectly into my backpack and is light enough to walk with for those out of the way spots.

I built this pochade to fit my Mijello Artelier Peel-off Palette. I like this palette so much, I have one for acrylics and one for oils. My acrylics stay wet for weeks in this palette and of course the oils are fresh for weeks as well. I am not sure about the peel off idea. It doesn't work for me, but that is a minor issue. I can always scrape my dry paint off.

The palette fits perfectly inside the pochade when open and sits snugly in the back when closed. This saves me space in the backpack.

The gear that I carry for painting is listed in the first image above. One thing that is not listed and that I find I really need is a bubble leveler. I really like to have my painting level so I can avoid a tipped horizon line. Aside from a folding chair and an umbrella, there is nothing else I need to paint.

When it comes to carrying my wet panels (paintings), the carrier below (I built it today) is a must have if you are painting in oils. It took me less than an hour to build this carrier using a miter saw, wood stapler and a screw driver. It holds up to seven panels for those long trips that I hope to go on soon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Credit from the Village Bridge Done

I am really enjoying working with Oils. None of the urgency that watercolours and acrylics force on you because they dry so fast. This is really a contemplative medium with perhaps more nuance and contemplation than spontaneity and speed. Mind you, I like both ends of the spectrum and will continue to enjoy my watercolours, but something about oils is deliciously captivating.

Anyway, here is the finished painting from Wednesday. I spent the afternoon working on it through a headache but I am very pleased with how it turned out. I hope you agree.

The Credit from the Village Bridge, Oil on primed masonite board, 8"x10"

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Credit River from the Village Bridge

I braved the threatening clouds today and headed out to paint en plein air. No group this time. Just a lone wolf on the hunt for a scene to paint. I ended up just north of the 401 on the bridge entering the Credit Village. The bridge, obviously over looks the Credit river (my theme for the year I guess!) is narrow, but I managed to find a spot away from the cars and the bikes. I didn't have much time and it actually rained a bit on me but not enough to soak the umbrella. The river is much wider than I chose to paint it. I was mostly interested in the shadows and the aerial perspective so I chose to make the river narrower. Call it artistic license! There is a lot of glare in the photo which basically washes the colours away. I will take another picture later.

The painting is not yet finished. I still need to tweak it a bit but I thought I would share it with you anyway.
The Credit River From The Village Bridge, Oil on primed masonite board, 8"x10"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Red Barn

Sometimes it is nice to see a painting in progress. It sort of feels like a sport to see it develop. I didn't video tape this one in progress, but I did take some shots with it at various stages. The top one is the finished painting and it moves backwards as you go down to the third.

This is not a plein air. I did it in the studio and in no more than 20 minute intervals over two weeks. I just didn't have time to do more. I hope you enjoy it!
Red Barn, Acrylic on canvas board, 6"x8"

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Credit River

The credit river runs through Mississauga where I live. The banks of the river as it winds through Mississauga, have been turned into nature reserves and park land. This network of nature in the middle of suburban life has become my favored subject for painting in the last few months.

Last weekend, I revisited the Credit just under the Burnhamthorpe bridge and settled down to do this painting. The day was ideal. Not too hot, not too cold and the wind was just enough to keep the bugs away, but not hard enough to dry my acrylic paints. It took me 2 1/2 hrs to make this 8"x10" acrylic on canvas.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Nature of Satan

First let me address anyone who is reading this with a literal perspective: Don't. I am no particularly interested in a religious sermon about the Devil. I am more interested in the nature of the literary as opposed to the literal Satan. The Satan as manifested in art and literature from the Divine texts to modern cinema.

It all started while listening to a podcast lecture by Paul Stevens on Milton's Satan. I would encourage you to listen to it. It is well worth the time. I had not thought about Paradise Lost since 1984 when, on earning my MA in English Literature I promptly put it away and turned to Finance and business for further study and to earn a living. Satan, you see, had been a favorite subject of mine in my youth. As much as I feared him as a boy growing up, I engaged him in my early teens through Uriah Heep to overcome these fears and identified with him as a rebel and tragic hero as a late teen and young man in the middle of a religious war where God - as manifested by the deeds of his many fervent servants - was indistinguishable from Satan. The last time I met Satan at an intellectual level, he was seducing Leopold Bloom on the streets of Dublin. Don't misunderstand me, evil has been most prevalent in the past two decades. But the Literary Satan has been absent from my life for a long time. I never watched any of the gratuitous "B" movies or read any of the epic books that may have touched on him recently except perhaps for Harry Potter of course.

With that in mind, I thought that I would engage you in sharing your views of Literary Satan. What role did/does he play in your life? What is your opinion of him? Is he a tragic romantic rebel hero as I came to know him? Or is he something else? What, in your mind is the meaning of the archetypal Satan.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My Take on Building a Pochade or Cigar Box

Following numerous requests from readers, I have put together a detailed plan for building a beautiful pochade box. The plan will guide you to build a 15.5”x12.5”x2.5” pochade and an accompanying wet panel carrier – The pochade can carry a single 11”x14” wet panel.

I plan to add dividers shortly, to allow you to carry several size panels and not be limited to 11”x14” size. The dividers will be for the pochade and the wet panel carriers and will allow you to carry 5”x7”, 6”x8” and 8”x10” panels. If there is a need for 9”x11” dividers or any other size, I can make that as well. Please let me know. I can also scale the size down if there is a desire. I just need to hear your feedback.

What is really nice about this plan is that it utilizes off-the-shelf items from your hardware store and the minimum of tools to build. You do not need to be good at carpentry to finish this versatile and professional looking pochade.

The main reason that I built mine and why I am making the plans available is that I am a heavy user of my pochade. I can’t think of spending over $500 on one and use and abuse it as I do. I want one that is rugged and slick at the same time; one that can withstand my abuse without looking like a tank.

I have been building and planning pochades for over 7 years now. They have become successively more versatile and easier to build. This one is the best. I hope you will agree.

I was meaning to build a full tutorial on how to build a pochade box. I may still do that, but in the meantime this should be a good short tutorial that some will find useful. Please share your thoughts here or on YouTube.

See next video installment on this topic here:

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Just a 6"x4" Acrylic for today. I am enjoying taping these while I work on them. It is teaching me a lot about how I work.

I really enjoyed doing this one. I mixed some modeling paste with the colours and had a bit of trouble with it at first. I am not sure if you can see it, but the texture on this one is exactly what I am looking for. I was getting disappointed with acrylics because I couldn't preserve the brush work and texture. These just seemed to melt away as the paint dried. Now, with the modeling paste, the texture is there to stay. I like it a lot.


Rapids, 6"x4" acrylics on canvas board.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Couple Today

Riverbend, 8x10 Acrylic on Board.
Just a couple of paints to share with you today. The first, Riverbend, was started a few weeks ago as a plein air. It was windy and my paints game me such a hard time. I have been working on it since but only on weekends and here it is finally done.
Snow On The Farm, 2.5x3.5 Acrylic on Canvas

The second, Snow On The Farm, is just a quick small one that I was experimenting with. It was done with a palette Knife.



For years I have worked in Watercolour. I used to belong to a large movement in art that worships a specific medium; Partisan of Watercolour or Acrylics or Pastels or Oils. I have been on a journey of exploration since last June, and so far it has been a painfully enriching experience. In the process, I have lost my feeling of mastery of watercolours, reached a point where I see my incompetence in Acrylics, same with pastels (oil) and I haven't even begun to destroy my self confidence by using oil paints... But I will. I may actually pull back from all paint all together and pick up the lowly charcoal and pencil again. Back to the start. Back to art.

I want to believe that what I am going through is a natural phase in the growth of an artist. (If you have gone through this I would love to hear from you). A phase where you feel that you have had enough dabbling with art, following the noise, and now you are about to dig deep, turn inside and go through the painful process of metamorphoses. The cocooning phase (not a restful one by any means) may take some time. It will be painful. It will test self confidence and belief, but, in the words of Arthur C Clark, 2001 a Space Odyssey: "Something is going to happen. Something wonderful is going to happen"... I hope.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving on from Acrylics

After trying very hard to use acrylics, I am giving up. I don't know who convinced me that it can be used like oil. That should have been my first hint. "Like oil" does not sound like it is. And frankly, I gave it all I could and Acrylic is not oil... and it is not watercolours either. Just a step in between and will take many more years for it to amount to a medium that can work indoors and out.

I wasted almost a year trying to make acrylics act "Like oils" and THEY DON'T. I give up. I will use what ever supply I still have for impasto studio work and start transitioning to oils asap. For anyone about to attempt what I have done for a year. Don't. Work with a real medium and forget the plastics. They dry too fast, are pasty and sticky if you use mediums, dry far from the wet colours and all around need more work than I care to give them. I need a medium that works with me, not one that I need to pamper.

I have been using watercolours for several years and know how to work with a tough medium, but acrylics are not tough. They are an ongoing experiment. Maybe when the experiment is done and the results are published, it will be time to revisit them. For now, I will forego open and closed and high viscosity and mediums and retarders and go with watercolours and oils.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Lone Tree

I finally figured out how to speed up the video so that you don't nod off while watching the paint dry LOL. I hope you enjoy this one. These 3.5x2.5 are a great way to stretch before painting.
If you like the video please rate it on You Tube. Thanks!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

South on 8th and Derry

I did this one late this afternoon. I had just enough time (45min) to do this 6"x4" before I had to rush back home and take my daughter to dance class.
South on 8th and Derry, Acrylic on Canvas Board 4"x6"