So many artists that I have talked to have expressed their difficulty in creating art while the pandemic rages around the world. At the beginning, it was like the creative world stopped and held its breath. I was no exception.
As we all adjust to the “new normal”, I find that my ability to paint and be creative comes and goes. But that is normal. When life is busy, there is no energy left over for painting. I like to think of it as a bottle of milk. Not the homogenized version of today but the one we used to get in a glass bottle, with both the skim milk and the cream.
Every day, we get a new bottle of milk. That is the energy we have available for the day. As we go about our daily lives, we use up the milk.
Now, the skim milk we can use for lots of things – cooking, errands, socializing, and walking the dog. But to be creative, we need the cream. When you have cream available, you can draw, paint and be creative. But when all you have available is the skim milk, you can’t. When life gets too busy or too stressful, it uses up all the cream and nothing is left for art.
But as things quiet down in your life, more of the cream is available and we start to create again!
So, if you find yourself not doing much art these days, don’t despair. That feeling will pass and you will paint again.
I love to paint but as most of you know, I am also a computer geek. So when these two things come together, what you get is this! Here is a short video (about 36 seconds) of the development of a recent painting "Intimate", 20" x 20" done in acrylic with some tissue paper collage along the way.
For a description of the development of the painting, click on the link below.
So, earlier in June, I posted a blog about Problem Solving Tools. I needed to improve the foreground of the painting I was working on of the view from Knox Mountain here in Kelowna, BC.
I thought I would show you how the painting turned out!
Here is "Over the Edge", 16" x 20", done in acrylic.
I have found over the years that almost every painting, no matter how much thought and planning has gone into its design before starting, goes through a phase which requires problem solving.
Perhaps the overall design is solid and the issue exists in what to do with a corner or other section of the painting. Whatever it is, if you don’t solve it in a way that supports the rest of the painting and your original intention, the painting will be, at best, a second-rate work.
My current landscape is suffering from a boring foreground. The reference was taken a few years ago up at Knox Mountain in Kelowna. They keep the park pretty tidy! I was drawn to the view because of the branches in the trees and how the shapes they made moved across the top part of the painting.
I used a couple of thumbnails to work out the best structure. Removing the small tree in the middle and replacing it with some trees on the left will allow the viewer to look through the scene to the lake and mountains. You will see some faint lines from a Harmonic Armature that I used to assist with the design.
I started working on this painting over a year ago and abandoned it although at the time, I wasn’t sure why. I started back with it recently after finishing some other paintings. I realized that although the thumbnail is really interesting, when I put it on an 18x24 canvas there just seemed like a lot of empty, uninteresting space in the foreground.
When I have an area of a painting that I find distressing, I will paint it out with a light value colour suggested by the painting. No picking away at it! Just block it out. But in this case, I needed to come up with a bit of a plan before tackling it again.
For this, I find tracing paper an excellent tool. I marked in the positions of the tree trunks and then attached the tracing paper to a white drawing board. I then went through references from the same area and, using ideas from several, sketched in boulders, grasses, shadows and bushes putting them together in a way to make sense with the existing elements and lighting.
When I put the tracing paper back over the bottom of the painting, I was very pleased with the way it integrated into the painting, providing interest and support without taking over. I am now looking forward to working on it and will post it when it is finished!
I am very pleased to be doing a demonstration at OPUS on Saturday, November 24th at 10 am and 1 pm. I will be demonstrating how I start with a loose underpainting such as this one:
And then develop it in layers with both negative and positive painting, transparent and opaque paint, into the finished image:
I will be starting with a PowerPoint presentation. For those of you who are interested, here is a copy of the presentation and notes.
After getting back from our annual fishing trip and letting the dust settle, I found an image I wanted to paint. The photo reference is from 2009 and I keep going back to it. For some reason it interests me. It was the end of October and after a bit of snow had fallen and mostly melted.
The image as it is, is a bit complex and busy. So, I did a thumbnail of it, simplifying the trees.
I liked that design so I transferred the drawing and got the underpainting started. After a few layers of underpainting, I started to paint the sky in negatively.
At this point, I wanted to look at the painting and decide where it needed to go next. But looking at the painting itself doesn’t always allow the analytical side of your brain to work best. And this painting is too large to hold up to a mirror. So, I photographed the painting and brought the image up on my monitor. It is very helpful to see the painting on the monitor. It allows your brain to see it in a different context - almost like you have never seen it before. I made note of a number of changes I needed to make. I am starting to see where the streak of light is coming in. It is almost time to paint that! I am also seeing an X in the middle ground birches that has to go!
I got some work done on it but life intervened and progress was slow. The paint on the Sta-wet palette was starting to deteriorate. I finally had to throw out the paint, paper and sponge. I take pride in getting a good 3 months out of a sponge but when you just let the paint sit and not open the palette for days and days, such is the result.
I felt better getting fresh paint out and made some nice progress on the painting. I did quite a bit of work introducing cool greens on the left and develop that foliage. I also did some work on the foreground. There are little things here and there that I made a list of.
The final result is at the top of the blog. Here is a slide show with the various stages of development:
Just recently, I taught a two-day workshop on taking your painting to the next level. I had a great group of participants and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
This workshop was targeted to painters who have become comfortable doing what they do but who would like to take their art a bit further. In my experience, this generally requires more focus on design and composition and being pickier about what you choose to paint. You want to choose something that you are excited about. The passion will show.
On the first day, we discussed composition and looked at some tools to explore the subject more completely before starting a painting. I am talking about thumbnails, value studies and notans. I had some reference photos handy on my computer, picked one that struck me in the moment and created the following thumbnail as a demonstration of picking about 4 values and blocking in shapes in those values.
Choosing a good format (what size and proportion of canvas) figured extensively into the discussion. Multiple thumbnails allow you to experiment with different proportioned sizes and to choose the one that works best.
Later, we took a promising thumbnail and did a notan (just black and white) to simplify the design even further and to see if any issues needed to be addressed. The top notan was a bit busy and was too even (50% white and 50% black). The lower notan assumed a high key painting (over all lighter) and gave me a more interesting design.
When getting organized for the workshop, I had planned to use a different reference for a painting demonstration but I was not excited about it. As the day wore on, I became even less excited about it. A value study demonstration really showed the weaknesses of the reference. But the reference, thumbnail and notan that I had done as demos that morning did grab my interest. So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go with that as my demo painting.
The demo painting went well. I did a quick underpainting on day 1 and on day 2, demonstrated how to correct value issues and also various painting techniques. Here is the painting (finished after the end of the workshop):
Once I finished the painting, I was curious to see if my painting reflected the composition I had worked out in the thumbnail and notan. I used Photoshop Elements to change my finished painting into 4 values and 2 values:
This painting may or may not be an award winner but I think it is a very solid effort. And it clearly demonstrates the connection between good planning and good painting!
November 26th I will be doing two presentations at OPUS Kelowna on Mastering Perspective in Your Landscape Painting. I will also be doing this presentation at OPUS Victoria in March and at OPUS North Vancouver and OPUS Langley in April.
Here is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation I will be giving (fully annotated!). Saves taking all those notes! Enjoy!
So this is the painting that started life as three separate demos. The topic was Negative Painting for Positive Results and I used this tree as the subject for several of the demos.
When fellow artist Carney Oudendag brought some of her paintings to my studio to be photographed, she suggested that I could combine these three into one large painting.
I was delighted with the idea because I didn't feel that any one of them stood up as individual paintings. Together, they make one great tree!
It took me some time to complete the triptych as other things kept getting in the way but I am very happy with the way this turned out.
Thanks again, Carney, for the Best Idea I Never Had!
So, this is the story of the best idea I never had!
A couple of days ago, fellow artist Carney Oudendag brought some of her paintings to my studio to be photographed. I met Carney at last year’s Lake Country Art Walk in one of those 15-minute Paint Off’s. As I was processing her images on my computer, we were chatting about this year’s upcoming Art Walk and about doing demos for OPUS and other art organizations. I mentioned that I had a stack of unfinished demo paintings.
While she was waiting for me to finish, Carney started to look through my stack of rejects. “These are really quite good – for demo paintings” she says in a bright cheery voice. While I was trying to figure out how to process that, she brings three out. They are each pretty much of the same section of the same tree.
I quite like these three but felt they didn’t stand up as individual paintings. When I demo, I like to have the same image in different stages of development so I can demonstrate a wider range of techniques but individually – I didn’t know if they are all that interesting.
Then Carney did an amazing thing!
She stacked up the three paintings one above the other and declared “look, a triptych!”
I was dumbfounded. I had never thought of doing that. And what was really amazing was how well the three paintings fit together to make a quite impressive larger painting. Obviously, it needs some work to pull it all together but the potential is there.
As artists, we tend to work in isolation, painting away by ourselves in our studios. But this is what can happen when two creative minds meet!
So, I have two questions for you:
As you are likely aware, Opus has a great program called "Visiting Artist Demos" where they bring in artists like myself to do a presentation and demonstration of various topics. I enjoy attending these demos - I love to watch people paint!
I have participated in the Opus Kelowna program and am now pleased to be taking my "show" on the road. I will be doing presentations and demos of "Negative Painting for Positive Results" at the following Opus locations:
Opus Victoria - Saturday, March 25th 11:30 - 1:30 and 2:30 - 4:30
Opus Langley - Saturday, April 22nd 10:30 - 12:30 and 2:00 - 4:00
Opus North Vancouver - Sunday, April 23rd 11:00 - 1:00
Opus Granville Island - Saturday, July 29th 11:00 am - 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
If you are interested in attending, call the Opus location to reserve a spot. Below are the slide presentation and supply list.
On November 20, I will be doing a Visiting Artist Demonstration at Opus in Kelowna. I am really looking forward to this as it is on one of my favourite topics.
Negative Painting for Positive Results
Art Walk 2016 was a huge success! Thank you to Sharon McCoubrey and her team of volunteers who put on such an amazing show every year.
This year I got to participate in one of the Paint Off events which provide 3 artists with 15 minutes to create a painting from a still life display of train related items. The paint was really flying! Lucky members of the audience get to walk away with a masterpiece! This is my painting from this year.
My booth was in the Memorial Hall this year. It is considerably quieter than the Large Gym and with a smaller number of artists, there was a nice sense of camaraderie. I made some new friends!
For those of you that didn't make it to the show, here is what my display looked like.
I was thrilled this year, to have 5 of my paintings selected for the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Art Gallery!
Two acrylics and three Ink Resist paintings will be on display at the Art Gallery from July 8 to July 17. If you are attending the Stampede, please drop by and take a look.
I attended the Stir'Up event on July 6 which is an invitation only preview of all the art. What a show!
Having been a Monty Python fan in years gone by, this phrase was the first to come to mind when I decided to write a blog about my most recent exploration. The work produced couldn’t be more “completely different” than the work that came before it and yet, somehow, it is still completely “me”.
Last October, I attended a workshop with Suzanne Northcott. I wanted to explore different ways of applying paint. I learned so much from Suzanne during the workshop; I reread my notes at least once a month.
After the workshop, I set out to explore transparent paint application and produced a couple of landscapes I was pleased with. One of them “The Clan” has been accepted along with 4 other paintings into the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Art Show. Click here to see the blog on the creative process behind "The Clan".
Thinking about what kind of subjects would be interesting to explore with transparent paint, water came to mind. I have some photo references of spawning Kokanee salmon so decided to give those a try.
My first Salmon painting was a bit of a fight between chroma and value. I would glaze to increase chroma but that would darken the area. Using veils to lighten the area lost the chroma. I resolved the painting to a reasonable compromise. I discovered that molding paste is highly absorbent – when paint is applied over top, no matter how thinly, it absorbs enough that the area goes dark.
I started another Salmon painting with more limited use of molding paste. I put thin washes of mostly fluid and high flow acrylics (Opus Fluid Paynes Gray and Opus Fluid Yellow Ochre). You can really see the difference of where the molding paste is.
I built the painting up with washes of fluid acrylics. When an area got too dark or too busy, I used white applied with one of the Catalyst tools (like a spatula) to lighten it up or quiet it down. I was very pleased with the result.
I decided to continue to pursue this subject matter and process to see where it leads. This time I started from scratch - no photo reference. I did a couple of sketches and pulled out a couple of large canvases. I played with some of my fluid acrylics to come up with a colour scheme (Golden Fluid Transparent Red Iron Oxide, Opus Fluid Phthalo Turquoise and Winsor Newton Alizarin Crimson and Naphthol Red for the salmon).
Again, I started with molding paste and then applied the fluid acrylics thinly in shapes that suggested rocks below the surface of the water. I added large stokes of white applied with the Catalyst tool to suggest the movement of the water and reflections. The final results are semi-abstract: there are fish in there but the rocks and water are not painted as much as felt.
I am very pleased with these two paintings and am imagining other subjects that could be suggested in a similar way. Stay tuned!
I find as I progress along the journey of making art, my creative process undergoes changes as I absorb information, attend shows and participate in workshops. I find it useful to periodically record how I went about creating a particular painting. Here is the story about how I created "The Clan", a 36" x 18" acrylic on canvas that I just completed.
I saw this group of trees while Bill and I were out getting firewood. I sketched a similar group that was across the road while we were there and took numerous photo references. I worked out the concept on a thumbnail sketch and decided to make more transitions in the background to avoid a line going across the middle of the canvas. I decided to go with a format of 36 by 18 to really emphasize the tall thin nature of the trees.
I put on an underpainting of reasonably thick paint (not just a diluted stain) so that any areas that did not need further coats would have a reasonable quality of surface. I put on the underpainting in sections so that I could spray, scrape and move the paint around to get some texture. As I was developing the image, a strong diagonal from upper left towards the lower right appeared. I left this and accentuated it in later layers. I painted two gradations for the background hills to provide atmosphere and depth and another two for the middle and foreground trees.
Then I painted in the trunks of the trees paying attention to the spacing of the trunks and the thickness, working on maintaining variation. I also referred to the reference photos and picked up interesting twists and turns in the trunks.
I started to work around the painting, adding some transparent and translucent layers to the foliage and to the background. I worked in sections so that I had the time to spray, wipe, scrape, etc to soften transitions and develop texture that suggested the subject matter. I painted in the dark green of the fir trees on the sides but the contrast was too harsh so I sprayed with water and wiped a bit to soften it. That worked very well to push them behind the aspens.
I also worked on the light on the trunks, painting the darker middle, a duller, reflected light on the right sides and a brighter, direct light on the left. I started to suggest more branches.
At some point I took some very diluted sky colour and splattered it around the painting. Later I glazed over some of the splatters to muted them without losing them.
I added some texture to the foreground using paint mixed with gel medium and applying it with a painting knife. When that was dry, I dry brushed colour over it to give the suggestion of grasses and brush.
After evaluating it for a while, I decided that the value of the trunks and the background were too close so I lightened the trunks and reworked the direct and reflected light. There was a nice diagonal happening with the twists of the trunks so I hit them with some extra light in key places.
I repainted the top right corner sky. It was too light and too busy so I went with an ultramarine blue thickened with some gel. The colour was a beautiful complement to the foliage’s yellows and oranges. I painted a limited number of sky holes and ratty edges to the foliage, trying to repress my urge to play with the patterns too much. I also applied some transparent stains of purple and green in parts of the foliage to give a sense of the light coming from the left.
I used the Fineline nibs and some of the High Flow Acrylics to add fine branches to the trees. Some of the lines, I modified with a small brush to widen and merge with the trunks.
The last thing I did was modify the foliage that was on the left coming down into the foreground and I added some dots here and there of leaves.
So on my last post, I tackled a spring painting with a different palette than I have been using. I added some new colours to my palette (mainly in the yellow and red family) and purposely left out some of my “go-to” colours. I showed you the reference photo and my initial underpainting.
So here is an update. Welcome to the scary stage.
Did you think “established” painters don’t go through the scary stage? Well, lots of them do, including me – on a regular basis. Especially those that are willing to step outside their comfort zone or try something new. I have enough experience now to just push through it.
Here is where I am at now:
I encountered the following six steps in the creative process online somewhere:
Here was my painting at Step3:
The colours weren't working in the background and I was fighting with the underpainting instead of embracing it.
I have several more days of work left to bring everything together and get to step 6 but I am confident I will get there. I will keep you updated!
It was just about two months ago that I put away my acrylic sta-wet palette. I had been painting fall trees and even snow scenes all winter with lots of yellow ochre, quinacridone gold, burnt sienna and sap green.
Since then, my husband and I travelled to The Pas, Manitoba where we fished for over a month at Cormorant Lake. I got to experience spring all over again as spring in BC had been very early and was all done by the time we left. The colours in Northern Manitoba this year were very vivid due to the clear air and sunny skies. I painted various parts of Cormorant Lake and Frog Creek in watercolours in vivid yellow greens and the crimsons of the red willows.
Now that I am back in my studio in Kelowna, I want to hold on to those colours of spring for just a little longer. I selected a photo reference I had taken in April of the pond behind the Father Pandosy Mission and got a 24” x 24” canvas ready.
But when I went to lay out my paints on a nice fresh palette, I realized that my “go to” favourites just weren’t going to work for what I had envisioned. I paused, pulled out my pastels and played around with some spring colours to get some ideas. Then I squeezed paint out on my palette, using several tubes that have been unopened for some time (a pair of nutcrackers were required to get the caps off) and leaving some of my standard colours in the paint box:
For the underpainting I wanted to keep the colours light – more of a stain, really and to get a sense of that burst of new growth. It will take me a couple of weeks to finish the painting. I will write another post when I am done!
When I first heard that the Federation of Canadian Artists was holding its first ever Digital Exhibition (for works created digitally), I thought that would be perfect fit for my technical side and my creative side. A creative spark was born!
I made several attempts to create something with Photoshop, a program I use extensively to crop, combine and alter photographs prior to painting them. But the attempts I made to create an image by selectively cropping and combining photos fell flat and the painting tools just didn’t work for me. The creative spark dwindled to a small ember. The deadline was looming and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
But the idea stuck with me and I spend some surfing time browsing software that would allow you to paint directly on the computer. I found a program I liked called ArtRage and downloaded the demo. Over the next week or so, I played with the demo, experimenting with the various tools and figuring out how to get the colours I wanted out of the colour picker (where is Burnt Sienna anyway?).
Then I got some news that fanned the small ember back into a spark! The deadline for the show had been extended! I purchased ArtRage and got to work. A day and a half later, I had my first digital painting.
I submitted the finished image to the show and was accepted. Success! But wait – that meant I had to get it printed and mounted on canvas. Got that done and sent the painting in to the FCA Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver.
I was very pleased just to have met the challenge and combined my computer skills with my artistic side. So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear that my effort won an Award of Excellence in the show!
Thanks to the FCA for recognizing this new medium and holding a show to display what can be done with it.
The Okanagan provides inspiration wherever you look. I enjoy both painting on location and working in my studio. For more information contact me at email@example.com