Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Oil Paints or Watercolors?

Jean asked on my Facebook page: I love your work, i can't decide if I like the oils or the watercolors best.  How do you decide which medium to use when you paint a scene?

Thank you Jean for making me think about this. Good question!
I am blessed to be able to paint in both media. A lot of artists limit themselves to one or the other. I think it is a shame to do that. As a matter of fact I also love working with Pastels, Conte, Ink and any other medium I can get my hands on.

In his landmark book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964, Marshall McLuhan proposes that a medium itself should be the focus. He said that a medium plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. He wasn’t talking about paint media, but he might as well have been.

Each of these media has a personality and a spirit that  is totally different from the other and must be approached in a radically different way. The obvious example is how you work oil paint dark to light and watercolors lights to dark of course, but that is only on the most obvious level. The way each medium acts and reacts to brush strokes, the way the colors are laid and how they function once they are on the surface is hugely different as well. Mostly though, each of them has a distinct character that must be respected if you hope for them to work with you in expressing something on a surface.

I have painted several scenes in both mediums at different times and the results are hugely different. You can have the same composition, the same color scheme, the same size painting, but the medium will impose its presence in a work and you have to respect that and work with it. The results are amazing. Like great poetry spoken in different languages, the music is individual and never repetitive.

Admittedly, some scenes lend themselves more to one medium or another. That is not to say you can’t paint a scene in both or either, it is just that your style and the scene beckon to one or the other medium.
Here is my latest Watercolor, and below it is an oil of a similar scene (not exactly but somehow similar). Most people use watercolors very faintly. I don’t like that. I charge my colors fully and let their personalities come out. I try very hard not to fuss with them once they are on the paper and that gives them vibrancy and life.

In The August Sun, Watercolor 14”x10”

The oil is admittedly more moody in this scene, and the colors are meant to be more subdued than the watercolor above, but the high grass/ brush is in both. Anyway…

Forgotten Fields, Oil on panel 10”x8”

All to say, I am so lucky to be able to paint in more than one medium. In art schools you don’t specialize in one medium and there is a good reason for that. The more color languages you can speak, the better! I hope this answers the question in some way.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


In your mind, does solitude equate with sadness, loneliness and depression? Or does it equate with contemplation, meditation and peace? There is no right and wrong answer. It is all a matter of personality and habit.

Most artists I know love solitude – thrive in it even. But most are also extroverts who enjoy company immensely.

Still I have to say that the creative mood is one that snuggles best with Solitude. I love the quiet moments of still meditation. They fill me with vision and the urge to paint. And there is nothing better than solitude in nature.

Enjoy this watercolor. I sure enjoyed painting it. It has been on my mind for a while coming in visions and filling the corners of my days. It is finally born, and I hand it to you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Canoeing Grace Lake

There is nothing that says Canada more than a canoe trip in the highlands of Ontario. Yes you may not be too far from civilization but when you paddle the quiet waters and meandering rivers to open lakes that swallow you in their grandeur, you can feel the place of man in nature. small. humble.

Canoeing Grace Lake, oil on panel 8”x10”

I did this oil painting from a shore just off Grace Lake. The channel I was on connects Dark Lake with Grace Lake close to Wilberforce. An amazing area to lose the city in you and get in touch with your primal self. The area was shadowed and dark, but I managed to see color and add as much as I could while staying true to the scene. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


Every once in a while, I like to give away a small work of art to the great people who follow my posts/tweets/blog etc.
I am giving away this 4"x6" oil painting at the end of August to a lucky social network booster who will help me increase my following online.
  • If you are on Twitter, RT my SUMMER ART GIVEAWAY post and friend me @artzanbarrage
  • If you are on Facebook, like my page and share my SUMMER ART GIVEAWAY post at
    Artist Zan Barrage
It's that simple :) Help me for a chance to own an original work of art for free this summer!!