Thursday, March 26, 2015

Life drawing

Years ago I would attend a life drawing class weekly, but with work and altered scheduled, there just was not time to do so or sessions were not available when I was.  

Now that I'm not tied to a 9 - 5 job anymore, the world of life drawing has reopened and this week I attended two sessions, one with a clothed model the other unclothed.   I forgot how good it is to draw from life in a group setting.  The slight movements and changes in pose, light changes and atmosphere all contribute to the challenge.  From one minute poses to more substantial 30 minute poses, it was good to flex that muscle again.

One minute sketches

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Messy or Organized?

There is a theory which states that disorder promotes creativity.

From LifeHacker:
Recently, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that people with a messy desk were more prone to creativity and risk taking, while people at cleaner desks tended to follow strict rules and were less likely to try new things or take risks. Dr. Vohs and her co-authors conclude in the study, "Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights."
There are many proponents of disorder leading to creativity, like A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh: “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”

Or Albert Einstein:  “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind,” he said, “then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

There is the opposite of course in being too organized.  The person who spends all their time reading books about art technique, buying supplies and organizing papers or paints in alphabetical order can be at risk of becoming frozen by process and never actually creating art.  Of course, I do like order, but when it comes to my studio, disorder often reigns.  There  are paints all over the place, pencils, pens, palette knife, watercolour sets, containers of water, name it.  But I know just where everything is!  And I know its close to hand when an idea strikes.  Finding the perfect balance between mess and organization is a fine line to not let one overtake the other.

Its a bit like doing ironing for me.  I don't mind ironing, but the thought of getting out the iron, setting up the board, hauling the basket of clothes to the utility room, ironing, folding, putting away, etc. makes me procrastinate.   Its similar when all my painting or drawing tools are put away neatly.   I may want to paint something, but the thought of finding the colours, setting up the palette, priming the canvas, etc. etc. can sometimes make me put it off. 

I think I could happily create in a four foot space with everything at hand.  I believe that is what keeps my studio in disorder - the ability to just "do" at a moment's notice without having to think much about it.  So is that lazy or creative?  If other creatives before me and within my peer groups accept that and acknowledge that they do the same, I'm happy with it.  Unfortunately, society loves to label those who do not conform to certain standards. Two-thirds of people feel guilty about their messiness.  Half judge others who they see as disorganized or messy. Which is why not many people ever get to see inside my working studio.

The sketch at the top of this post shows what was in front of me on the table that houses my computer in my studio on  March 21st.  Believe me, you don't want to see what's behind me.  The contents haven't changed much in a day, aside from moving some tools around for use.

Okay, confession time.  Are you organized or messy?  I promise I won't judge.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

When oranges came in...

5" x 7" oil on panel

 “When oranges came in, a curious proceeding was gone through. Miss Jenkyns did not like to cut the fruit, for, as she observed, the juice all ran out nobody knew where, sucking [only I think she used some more recondite word] was in fact the only way of enjoying oranges; but then there was the unpleasant association with a ceremony frequently gone through by little babies; and so, after dessert, in orange season, Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty used to rise up, possess themselves each of an orange in silence, and withdraw to the privacy of their own rooms to indulge in sucking oranges.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford 

Globe - SOLD
7" x 9"   Oil on panel

I just like the colour orange.  I can't help it.

In the winter, when light is low and snow continues to make a presence, oranges make me think of sun and warmth and light.  So I keep painting them.  And people keep wanting them.   The painting at the top of this post, Single, is the newest offering.

Peeled  - SOLD
6" x 6"   Oil on panel

Friday, March 13, 2015

Into the Light OttLite Easel Lamp Review

Artists are painters of light and shade. Without light, contrasts in values can’t exist, colours can’t be judged and form is weak.

In the ideal world artists’ studios all have north facing windows with natural light flooding in during the day. You wish, right?? Few of us live in an ideal world and we need to artificially boost our ability to judge light and colour values in the studio.  Whether painting under less than ideal conditions, such as grey days, short daylight hours or needing to paint at night or under constant artificial light, every artist looks for a solution to provide a daylight equivalent in their studio.

The OttLite Easel Lamp may be that solution.

Often studio lighting is overhead or through spotlights as we manipulate space and set up to avoid working in our own shadow, or put up with yellowish incandescent or other less than ideal light quality. OttLite has created an easel lamp that clamps on to a variety of easel sizes and provides even daylight direct onto your support.

The Easel Lamp – specifications
Max. Height: 26.5"
Min. Height: 10"
Clamp Width: 6.5" (clamp opening adjusts from .32” to 2” widths)
Weight: 3.97 lbs
Bulb included. Rated to last up to 10,000 hours (Replacement bulb type B)

Where to buy
OttLite easel lamps are available at art supply and specialty lighting stores across North America.  You can find stockists on the OttLite website.

Ease of Assembly
The clamp has generous proportions and fits .32" - 2" mast width
For anything to work for me, assembly has to be simple.  If something comes with a 25 page instruction book and 16 bags of screws and bolts, I’m doomed from the start.  OttLite has ensured that there is minimal assembly required and I had the attachment on the easel in moments, slotted the lamp into the clamped base, plugged it into a wall socket and I was ready to draw, all in less than 5 minutes.

Clamp to the front or side of your easel
There are no tiny moving parts.  This makes adjustment and placement quick and easy.  The clamp is screwed onto the easel mast and locked into place with a lever.  The lamp is slotted into the clamp, and its done. Plug the lamp into a power source and you’re ready to go. Really, its that simple!

Tighten the clamp to fit with the dial, then pull the lever forward to lock into position

Insert the lamp into the clamp, place the power cord into an outlet
The on/off switch is located on the underside of the lamp with a large enough switch to avoid fumbling to make the connection.  With just two pieces, moving the lamp from one easel to another is quick and easy.

Light Quality
My painting Coastal, lit by diffused natural light from a north facing window; the second photo of the painting is lit with an Ottlite Easel lamp. These photos are not edited and were taken with a Canon Rebel XS SLR camera. As you can see there is very little difference, if any, in the light quality

Natural north light

OttLite easel lamp
The lamp performs well under low light conditions and as a supplement to overhead light sources.
Under artificial daylight fluorescent tubes in the studio the first image shows the colour range.

Overhead daylight fluorescent lighting source

Daylight fluorescent overhead lighting with OttLite Easel Lamp as supplement.
OttLite Easel Lamp as the only lighting source in a dark room.

I found the light quality is excellent, giving cool daylight reproduction without glare and true to life colour representation whether as a supplement to natural or overhead lighting or on its own.  There are subtle variances in colour values more than hues between lighting conditions but not enough to cause a significant and unexpected shift when viewed between lighting conditions.

As few artists have, a: north facing windows or b: unlimited daytime hours to paint, this easel lamp can make a huge difference by creating a constant, dependable light source that is accessible whenever required regardless of external variables.

Easel Compatibility

I tried this lamp on a wooden easel with a single mast that has a width of 1.25” x 1” and an aluminum easel with a 1” x .5” wide mast. The lamp looked a little top heavy on the lighter weight easel, but there was no movement in the easel to cause instability from the additional weight.

A smaller easel lamp for portable or lighter weight easels would be a welcome addition to this line of lighting to balance the easel size.  For a studio easel however, the Easel Lamp provides ample light coverage without the ends of a painting or drawing being in shadow.  The flexible goose neck of the lamp allows one hand adjustment to direct the light just where its needed.

Win an OttLite Easel Lamp!
Here’s the chance to win your own lamp through the generosity of OttLite.

To enter the draw for an easel lamp, leave your name and email (your email will not be public) through the Inlinkz widget below.  On April 1st, a winning name from will be drawn from entries received and the winner notified by email.

Sorry, entries are accepted only from continental USA and Canada.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Winter Sunshine

 Morning Sun - Sold
6" x 6"
oil on panel

On a cold snowy day, a delivery of sunshine arrived via an anonymous donor.  Three beautiful Bird of Paradise flowers were trudged through the snow and ice with a note saying it hoped they would bring inspiration for a painting.

In late January I completed a small painting of a bird of paradise blossom from an image I had.  These flowers aren't frequent visitors to this part of the world, especially in winter, so to see them in person is quite wonderful.  They are brilliant, tropical colours but have an air of prehistoric plant life to them with sturdy stems and solid flowers.


I found the anonymous culprit, my blogger friend Gary Everest  (Gary L. Everest Paintings).  We had talked about the blossoms after I had painted one and I had assigned him a mission to find a BOP plant to photograph for me in real life, as he and his lovely wife Michele live in Hawaii. Well he went one better and sent me the real thing!  I shall  paint and draw and photograph this plant to death before it expires!  Gary, thank you, you're the best!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Changing paths

On Friday I stepped down from my full time job and am taking on the role of full time artist.  Its not been a simple decision and there has been a lot of planning for lifestyle and financial changes that has gone into making this bold move.

Its interesting to note people's reactions to the move.  Many think that I'm retiring and others believe that 'artist' means I will have lots of free time and can do what I want all day, paint when I want and what I want and generally have a good time.  Its that same old belief that rears its head when asked what you do for a living and when you say "artist" the response is something along the lines of "Great, and what do you really do for a job?" 

Where does the idea come from that creating art is easier and less credible than any other job on the planet? The job of an artist is no different than any other job in terms of responsibilities. You have to get up, go to the studio and paint - whether you want to or not. The difference is that you work for yourself, not for someone else.  That ups the responsibility because only you are accountable for making it succeed.  Only you are responsible for ensuring cash flow, visibility, branding, marketing, production - every department.   And only you are responsible for its success or failure.

So if I lounge around all day and do whatever I want, I'm ensuring the failure of my art business.  If I work hard and follow my art business plan, it still may fail, but I will know that there were factors outside my control that contributed to its failure.

There are incentives to succeed both internally and externally.  They are the best motivation to succeed.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Eat the biggest frog first

 Rock Harbour
12" x 36"  oil on canvas

We all have sections of paintings that we don't enjoy doing as much as other parts.  And it can show if you're not careful.

The exquisite detail that is heaped on a focal point can tend to drift away when a vast background is staring back at us. There is a tendency to not pay as much attention to those parts that don't excite as much.  And yes, some areas can be a bit tedious, but they are equally as important as the main subject.  It's instantly apparent in some paintings where boredom set and where over attention was given to a focal object.  Its like seeing two paintings in one that are competing with each other.

What's the solution for disenchantment?

  1. Eat the biggest frog first.  Everything else after that is easy.   Tackle the largest surface area first and work your way down to the part you enjoy painting most.  Human nature gravitates towards the thing that provides the most pleasure and avoidance of what does not.  Its not always easy to create this way, as a painting that is built as a whole is easier to produce than one that is in sections. But, if your frog is big and ugly, you'd better start by eating that one first.
  2. Perserverance.  Equal attention must be given to all areas so that they become a cohesive unit.  While your left brain starts the argument with your right brain for abandoning what is perceived as not as interesting, its important to tune out that argument and concentrate on what is in front of you.
  3. Observation.  When we aren't as interested in something, we skim over detail.  We miss the subtle colours and nuances of values.  We don't visualize the whole image, only the part we like most.  In doing so, we dilute the impact of the painting.
  4. Never Settle for Good Enough.   How many times have I seen the "good enough" paintings??  You know the ones.   The subject is refined in detail but the background is weak and insipid.  The artist has lost interest in building the elements and at some point, usually when boredom sets in, says "That's good enough.  But is it?  Good enough for that moment in time, but never good enough for public display or a sale.  And inside the artist's head, they know it isn't good enough.  Not for them.  Not for anyone.  There is always a finish line in a painting.  Make sure you cross that line and don't let mediocre work be presented to the world. 
  5. Rewards.  When working on a section that doesn't thrill, its good to flit back and forth between it and the main subject, adding detail, tweaking, comparing.  It gives your brain a reward.  "Yes, I can work on what I like for a while."  You do need the discipline to return to the frog again however.
What's my biggest frog?  Grass and rocks.  Yep, those ones in the Rock Harbour painting.  All 10 million of them.  One by one by one...