Friday, May 20, 2016

Cloudy with a chance of rain

 Cloudy with a Chance of Rain
oils on canvas panel 6" x 6"
Available through Etsy - $65 + $5 shipping within North America ($10 to UK)

Its heading towards the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada. Yes Canada still celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday, bless her. She was born on May 24, 1819. Its also called the May 24th weekend or just the May long weekend.

Its the first official holiday of summer where people head to the woods or cabins for camping and boating. The weather can be unpredictable of course and it can be scorching sun, showers, torrential rain or we could have flurries. Its what makes Newfoundlanders a hardy bunch.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Waiting for Spring - a video tutorial

 Waiting for Spring
6" x 8" oil on panel
Available from my Etsy store - $70 + $5 shipping

I've been testing my video making skills, making a tutorial on painting a terracotta pot.  I learn something new with each video that I make and am far from perfect, but enjoy the process and the learning.

You can have a look at the tutorial in the YouTube video below and see more on my YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Proportional dividers

For people starting out in drawing who aren't confident in their drawing skills, there are several ways of transferring a subject onto a piece of paper.  Tracing, projecting, gridding are all used in varying degrees and a proportional divider is another option.


This is a simple tool that  provides accuracy for drawing and can be used to increase or decrease size. It can also be used as a check for measurement after freehand drawing if something doesn't look quite right.

Once the scale size is decided on, the central screw can be fixed in place. The closer to the smaller end of the divider that the screw is placed, the larger the proportion of the drawing will be and vice versa.  This setting should not be changed during measurements for the drawing. The small ends of the divider are used to measure the height or width of the subject.  The larger end is used against the drawing surface and small dots or lines are made to indicate the measurement.  These measurements are made throughout the drawing, depending on the number of objects in the piece.

Of course, the usual plumb lines for proportion and measurement are needed to ensure objects align as required.  Angles are usually determined by confirming an angle with a pencil then moving that same angle to the drawing.  Where points intersect will be the measurement test and can be adjusted as needed.

If drawing from life, it is crucial that your view point never changes and that your arm is locked at the elbow for each measurement.  If either of these change, the drawing will be not be accurate.  If using a photograph or drawing from a computer or tablet screen, you can measure direct from the image, scaling up or down as required.  Note if you use a computer screen: make sure that the photograph size is not enlarged or reduced if you draw over several sessions.

While tools can make life easier in setting up drawings, they shouldn't be relied on for daily use and can never replace the hand/eye drawing skills that develop over time.  It is well worth learning to use the classical techniques for drawing, proportion and measurement and use tools such as the proportional divider for complex pieces or to check for accuracy in line placement in freehand drawing.

The divider I used here is from Accurasee in the USA and can be ordered online.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring cleaning artist tools

Petty Harbour II and St. John's Harbour

No, these are not the tools that you make art with however, indirectly you do, as they are an integral part of what you create. They are the written tools that are essential to every artist who is involved in presenting art publicly.  An artist statement, an art resume and a biography are the documents that most galleries, juried exhibitions or competitions ask to accompany image submission.

The artist statement
This needs to be updated at least annually, more if you're very active in the art world.  The one that seems to provide the most headaches is the artist statement.  Basically, it is a short explanation of the thought or meaning behind the art that the viewer is seeing.  It can be full of "art speak" which the video below pokes fun at so well, proving just how confusing and pointless it is to over explain in terms that aren't clear.  Thankfully, the trend now is usually more towards simple explanations of what, why and how you create what you do.  A couple of paragraphs at best works well, as no one will stand there and read for 20 minutes. The statement and/or biography are often placed next to your work in a gallery or show.

If your style and medium never change, it makes life easier to create and tweak artist statements, but artists evolve over time, special events, themes or requests happen and for those a different artist statement is needed.

The art resume
An art resume is a replica of a work resume, but all art related. There should be no reference to a position outside the art industry on this document unless it is linked closely with the art world - i.e. if you were a gallery curator, museum collector, etc.  Education, training, exhibitions, grants, etc., are all listed.  Art resumes can take up a dozen pages or more which are fine for your own records, but most organizations who want to see that document are looking for information on recent work and activities and restrict submission to three pages.  Less is more.  If you go for overkill and send in a dozen pages, you'll likely end up in the bin.

The artist biography
A biography is similar to an artist statement, only you're talking about yourself.  It consists of a couple of paragraphs that sum up your artistic background, involvement and activity and provide a snapshot for those wanting a quick overview of the artist.

You can view and download my working documents on my website at

The elevator pitch
This is a sentence or three that sums up what you do if someone asks and you have a brief period of time to tell them - like on an elevator ride.  If you don't have your pitch made, its time to consider it.  Think of adjectives that describe what you do; what your strengths are or what do you sell or make.  What makes you unique?  You're create a visual image in words for your audience so they can "see" what you do.  It helps to have business cards as well as an image or two available to show, especially as mobile phones are so common these days, you can easily pop an image or two of your best work on there to have available.

What's my elevator pitch?   

 I am impressionist painter, creating textural paintings of boats and water in oils using only a palette knife.  I also teach classic drawing and painting techniques.

What is your elevator pitch?  Do you have an art resume, biography and artist statement that tell more about you and your work?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sailor's Delight

 Sailor's Delight
6" x 8"  oil on panel

How often we look to the skies to predict the weather and it often seems a much better predictor than the meteorologist reports that we are bombarded with daily.

This was a demo from a recent workshop for an introduction to palette knife painting.  The colour mixing and shapes are simplified and the sky forgiving in terms of shapes, making it a perfect subject for individuals testing the technique for the first time.

There are few colours that fit the need straight out of the tube.  They nearly always need a boost from another colour to adjust value or create the correct hue.  The use complementary colours and addition of colours that are unorthodox but the right value, add interest to the work.  Try throwing in a streak of a complementary colour, just a little, to give more oomph, you'll be amazing how it makes a painting sit up and demand viewer attention.

Thursday, April 07, 2016


 24" x 36"
 oil on masonite
$1700 + HST
Available direct from the artist

I've been busy creating and finalizing pieces for upcoming exhibitions.  Spring and summer are always crazy times for artists and coming out of the cocoon of winter is always a shock in terms of just how much work must be done.

But there is worth in deadlines, even if we complain about them.

Deadlines provide incentives to produce work and goals to aim for.  They push you to explore boundaries and experiment with new ideas. Without deadlines whether external or self imposed, I can wander around like a lost puppy or procrastinate until a deadline is lost.  Then I kick myself for wasting time or not paying attention.

Embrace deadlines and impose them on yourself regularly and see your production soar.   How to meet yoru deadlines?  You need to do a little planning and setting your own deadlines to meet a production time.

Here are some tips to help

  • Understand exactly what the deadline is.  June 25?  Ok, but 9am, 3pm or midnight on that date?  
  • Can you really meet this deadline?  There's no point in rushing work and not producing your best.  Consider carefully if trying for a deadline will make you crazy, make you create sloppy work or look unprofessional before you say yes.
  • Set you own goals within the time frame.  You can't produce everything in one day and deliver.  Set goals for yourself at daily or weekly intervals leading up to the final deadline.
  • Give yourself wiggle room.  Life happens and its beyond our control, so add some extra prep/work time for the project so that if the worst happens, you still have available time before the deadline.
  • Be prepared to do the work.  If you procrastinate or mess up, be prepared to do an all nighter or work extra hours to make up for lost time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Jelly is probably considered old fashioned now and not sophisticated for children or adults to consume.  I remember it with fondness from childhood and my own children's childhood as a treat.  Jelly and its more elegant, but less tasty cousin, blancmange.  Either one wasn't served in just any old bowl, it had to be in a jelly mould which came in all sizes and shapes.  I recall a glass rabbit mould which I loved but it must have gotten broken somewhere in the passing of time.

I found this old pressed glass mould in a cupboard when clearing my mother's house.  I remember it being my grandmother's, who lived with us, and it held many a sweet treat.  In the 60s jellied salads became the rage.  They weren't healthy but got vegetables into reluctant children.  I recall one made with pineapple and grated carrot in lemon jelly and another with lime jelly and green peas.  I know...yuck right?  See here for some "interesting" salads that were made with jelly.

The bubble topped jelly mould was common and made anywhere from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Seeing the contents layered through the glass made the eating more interesting perhaps.

Now as for drawing glass, its one of those perceived difficulties.  Its all about light and shade and picking out the specific areas of each as well as those subtle variances of mid tone with bright shots of white highlights that made it work.  Observation is key for glass, but very achievable if you take your time.  This is a  quick sketch in my Moleskine with a few wonky angles as I didn't measure, but I see it appearing as a larger charcoal piece in the future.