Friday, November 27, 2015

Glass fishing floats

Norway was the first country to start production and use of glass fishing floats around 1840 where glass floats were on gill nets in the cod fishery and then adopted by Japan in the 1940s. Glass fishing floats aren't seen much anymore and ones available for sale range in price depending on the colour. I have friends in the antique business with a whole window full of them that are just beautiful when the light comes through.

I've done this small study in watercolour in a sketchbook to help me decide if I want to invest time (and patience) to create a full sized painting in oils.   There is a lot of detail and this is just a crop of the whole reference that I would use.

Studies really are the key to working out decisions on composition, colour and technique to avoid painting half way through a large piece and deciding nothing is working.

I'm looking carefully at the subtle changes in value and hue that painting glass presents and thinking how I can translate that into oils using just a palette knife.

I think another study is in order using oils and a knife before I make a final decision.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Brigus South

 Brigus South
24" x 30" on canvas

Fishing sheds, stages, twine lofts...every structure that loads fish, dries fish, is a set off point or a home port or a refuge to mend nets or meet with "the boys" for a few beers and a chat, have different names in Newfoundland.

Like many fishing related structures in the province many are not in use with the decline of the fishery, so they sit there, with nature adding and detracting from their character.

I found these fishing sheds/stages in Brigus South, a tiny community nestled on a small inlet harbour at the foot of tall rocky cliffs.  Weather and time is taking its toll on what must have been points of activity when the fishery was in its heyday.  Now they sit and await their fate.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Flanders Field

 Flanders Field - SOLD
oil on panel

The poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for war dead in Canada, the countries of the British Commonwealth, and the United States. November 11th known as Remembrance Day in Canada is a holiday, honouring the more than 100,000 Canadians who died in war.  On that day, and many other days, I think of those soldiers who have served, those who have sacrificed and those who have died so that we have the freedom we experience today.

For the last few years I haved painted a poppy to honour those who have gone before, including my great uncle, killed in World War I, the most brutal of wars. He died aged 22 and his body was never found.

  Gordon Clarence Bastow
1894 - 1916

This year, the poppy is called "Flanders Field".  The original poem was written by a Canadian military doctor Major John McCrae.  As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for a killed comrade because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Brigus South WIP

Detail from Brigus South
Work in Progress
Oil on stretched canvas, 24"x 30"

This small section above is a crop of a new painting that I am working on or some older fishing sheds and stages in Brigus South.  They look like they've seen better days, which makes them all the more appealing to me.  There's nothing duller than a bright, shiny paint finish to me.  I like the character that age brings to the table.

Its funny how paintings evolve from the initial concept through to finish.   I believe most artists have similar stages they pass through in completing a painting, even if the style or medium varies.  And like all paintings, there are sections that are more appealing than others to paint.

For me it buoys.  I love painting buoys.  I don't know if its the shape, the colours, the values, but its like having the cherry on the top of the dessert to get  to paint them.  Sometimes, I even make the buoy the subject as in this one.

6" x 6"
Available on Etsy  $60 + $5 shipping

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Show me the easy way

 Night Watch - SOLD
5" x 7" oil on panel

“Skills aren’t enough on their own. Emotion has to come through. But when you’ve got the various skills sewn up, that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.” (Zoe Benbow) 

There is a belief from some people who want to set off on their own art journey is that there are shortcuts to success.  I hate to burst bubbles, but the only way to acheive success is through good old fashioned hard work.

The process of repetition provides familiarity with using tools, making marks, judging proportion, mixing colour and creating values.  We all start out as horrible artists.  I know I did.  My first efforts were worthy only of destruction, though some kind people kept some of them.  And well they did, as they become a marker to show beginnings and measure progress.

Where did the concept of "easy" come from?  Experienced artists make drawing and painting look effortless, but that thought must be tempered with understanding just how many hours and years of work it took to instill those "effortless" skills into producing art.

Is the concept of easy a by-product of the society we live in, where everything is rushed, where busyness becomes a badge of importance, and time is limited to 3 or 5 minute snippets of attention before your brain/eyes/hands are sidetracked?

To draw or paint well takes discipline and alone time.  Robert Genn put it well in an interview saying something to the effect of a learning artist should be sent to their room - for six months or a year.  After concentrating completely on art for that period of time, then results will start to be seen.   Five minutes a day will help, but making time to dedicate to learning and practicing techniques is really the only way to become proficient.

Skills that are worth learning and that take time to learn are hard won.  Drawing, colour theory, composition, values and abstraction take time and practice to understand and become fluent with. There is a lot of unskilled art being made in the world. That can have its own appeal and provide joy to some, no doubt.  But not knowing and not taking the time to know the specifics of different mediums and how to apply them only ensures that after awhile all that art starts to look the same.

Knowing the rules is important before you can break the rules.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Siren  16" x 20" 
  As I rearrange my studio for what is hoped the last time (though I know it won't be), I came across a watercolour on Arches board of a big pink flower.  I don't know what the reference was, its too long ago to remember. There was also the challenge of some masking fluid still on the upper left petal and was near impossible to remove after being there for so long.  So I removed as  much as I could and worked with the resulting texture that was left.

Original painting

Being inbetween paintings I thought I'd play around with colour and see if I could liven it up a bit.  I kept adding washes of colour and dropping other colours into the wet wash, letting them mingle. I hadn't used watercolour on a larger scale for a long time and enjoyed remembering how the medium worked its magic.

Colour wash progress

Looking back at it now I know I added too many layers, desaturating the colours too much and losing the freshness of the medium.  The colours are not as pure or fresh as I'd like, but overall it works. I think I'll stick with oils and keep the watercolours for my sketches! It may never be saleable, but it will brighten up a corner of the studio.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Spice Girls

 The Spice Girls
9 x 12 oil on masonite

I've run a few palette knife workshops lately and then spent time catching up with myself in terms of creating my own paintings and dealing administrative work.  Admin seems to really take time if you let it slide, so I try to do a little every day so it doesn't become overwhelming.

One of the workshops I taught was an external one held at Anna Templeton Centre in the heart of St. John's.  The centre is housed in an old historic building that concentrates on providing creative opportunities from painting to jewelry making within the city.  I'll also be teaching there this winter from January to March. You can check out their full range of Winter Workshops.

These peperonchino peppers that were grown in our own greenhouse were my choice.  I'd painted them before in watercolour and wanted to see how they translated into oils.  The watercolour study was done without an under drawing, something I very rarely do.  But careful planning and study before putting down paint is the way to go if you don't have a guideline.  And patience.  Watercolourists must have the patience of saints and discipline not to mess with colour once its on the support otherwise the colours are muddied and results disappointing.  Its the same in palette knife painting, put down a stroke and leave it, don't go back and pat at it.  That is a recipe for mud too.

My second annual Painting Christmas palette knife workshop is filling up fast.  This is a fun way to start the season by creating a couple of small seasonal palette knife paintings and enjoy a delicious home cooked festive lunch. The fireplace will be going and the tree will be up. All that's needed is you on December 6th.   Registration is available online.