Friday, July 25, 2014

Cambridge Favourite

Cambridge Favourite
12" x 12" oil on panel

Available from Daily Paintworks  $250 shipping included

Living in a short season climate, growing fruit and vegetables can be a challenge.  But strawberries always come up trumps and there are usually some appearing in the garden each summer.  Their flavour is so intense when freshly picked and sun warmed.

This variety, Cambridge Favourite, is a classic and good for northern climates, always cropping reliably.  This was gathered early one morning, beating the birds to the harvest, then sliced to reveal the inner workings before painting.  The aroma of fresh strawberries made it difficult to paint instead of eat, but I confess, I had a few on the side to eat for inspiration.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Trinity Punt
I'm making some inroads into my series of 15 wooden boat paintings that I'm producing with an art grant that I was lucky enough to receive this year.  The challenge is finding wooden boats as they're becoming scarcer as people switch to fibreglass which doesn't require the same level of maintenance and weighs much less than wood.

However, with diligent searching, many miles of travelling into coves and bays and tickles and a LOT of photosgraphs and sketches, I'm getting material together and have the first painting completed and the second on the easel which is two thirds complete.  I am working towards a solo exhibit in the spring of 2015 at Peter Lewis Gallery and want to hold my cards fairly close to my chest before the exhibition. I'll show sections of paintings that I'm working on but  not the completed pieces.  They will be revealed at the exhibit.

Of course, its always difficult to be reserved in terms of art sharing, as so much is shared online in so many ways.  So I ask for patience and I will share what I can, when I can.  These large pieces will likely fill my easel non stop over the next six months or more but there will be other paintings as relief from the large work.  But you  may see glimpses of pieces in progress like this peek through the studio classroom window at dusk of the first painting in the series.

I'll be working on a book of sketches that will accompany the boat paintings and will share some of those as they are produced.  I don't know which will make the final cut but as I do studies and sketches of most paintings as well as in the field, there will be enough to share freely.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


12" x 24"  Oil on canvas

I've done the evitable mistake that seems to be an annual event with me.  I erased a group of reference images, some of which were important to future work, from my computer while organizing images into groups. In my flurry of efficiency I emptied the Recycle Bin too.  Of course I would do that right away instead of waiting weeks or months with no chance of salvation.  Sigh.

Like most artists I put off the work that I least enjoy, until it becomes necessary to organize just so I can find things.  That includes my studio as well as my electronic world.  But I did it and no one died (aside from a bit of my brain!) so I will bite the bullet this time and hook into an a more advanced backup system for my computer.  I have an external hard drive that is nearly at capacity and still don't add all the information I should on a regular basis.  I have a 64GB memory stick where I store important current files that I use frequently, but live in fear that I'll lose it. 

I'm sure I'm not alone in my lack of organizing and storage.  Come on, you can confess.  We all do it - or more to the point, don't do it. Human nature is to procrastinate until an event pushes action.  Old dogs can still learn new tricks and I've learned mine.  It just takes awhile.  Then there is the discussion around external hard drive or offline/cloud  based storage.  The pros and cons of both are discussed here.

So now which online site to choose?  It seems most are in the USA, which is ok, although I'd prefer a Canadian company, but the ones I have sourced seem geared more towards large business instead of smaller clients.  Going US means it becomes pricier with the currency exchange rate being what it is right now.

How do you store your computer data?  External hard drive or online storage?  What is your favourite online storage site?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Traffic Box Art

In March I submitted a design to Clean St.John's for their Traffic Box Art program.  This program is designed to help reduce graffiti and beautify the city.  This is the 3rd year of the program and annually 8 artists' designs are chosen to be painted on traffic boxes at intersections around the city.

I was lucky enough to have my design chosen for this year and over the last couple of days have painted my assigned box.  The city will apply a protective covering then it should be there til the box is replaced or damaged.   The box is located at the intersection of MacDonald Drive and Portugal Cove Road - a busy and noisy environment to paint in. Here's a 'before' image of the traffic box at a quieter moment.

I had lots of support from drivers and walkers on the design and even a couple of painting job offers :).  The weather was hot, hot, hot and windy with the latex paint drying almost as soon as it hit the hot metal of the box.  The first day was truly unbelievable wind and I was covered in paint, creating a whole new set of dedicated painting clothes as the wind whipped the paint off the roller or brush.  Combine that with too much sun and a nasty fly bite on my forehead, I was a mess on all levels.

The positives were many.
  • I created a large piece of art that I likely would not have normalled tackled, the box being taller than I am!
  • I completed the piece in about 9.5 hours in pretty extreme conditions of high winds and heat.
  • I pushed my colour theory using a limited palette of latex external house paints.  
  • I connected with a section of the public that may never have seen my art otherwise.
  • I brightened a place in St. John's that I hope will make drivers and walkers smile when they see the box.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

You are cracked

Some days its good just to play and that's what I was doing when I had some time to myself.  This was the result.

It was inspired by a section of a book about creating imaginary creatures out of sidewalk cracks.  Remember I told you it was play. :)  The book is called Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals by Carla Sonheim. Anyway, in this chapter the gist is that you find a complex crack in a sidewalk or path, photograph it, make several copies of the image, then find all the shapes you can within the crack and gesso around them.  Its quite interesting to see just how many shapes you can find, especially if you keep turning the paper to view from all angles.  Try it for yourself with this tutorial - Blob Hunting.

In the crack I used, a dog seemed to be the dominant shape that I saw so I figured I'd go with that theme.  I used pen and ink to create the shape outline, then watercolour and more pen to complete it.  There was no plan which is the beauty of playing.  The unknown result is part of the appeal.

Of course the name "Cracky" Dog immediately sprang to mind for a couple of reasons.  One, because the piece was inspired by cracks in the sidewalk and two, because "cracky" is the Newfoundland name for a small, noisy mongrel.  It seems a common phrase in Atlantic Canada and I've heard endless times.  Usually reserved for those little "purse dogs" who bark constantly at everything and everyone - also known as "ankle biters". :)

Its a fun thing to do and pushes creativity without pressure.  So next time you're walking on a sidewalk (I live in the country so I have to go to town to get sidewalks), grab a shot of some cracked pavement and see what you can create with the shapes.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Boat hunting

I've taken a couple of weeks holiday and have been using my time searching for boats, planning paintings and generally working like crazy on the art side of my life.  Funny how we think of holidays as relaxation - seems that's not on the cards for me much, but I do fit in some lounging time to sit with my coffee or wine in a chair in the garden.

I travelled all over the Burin Peninsula for three days, searching every cove and harbour for wooden boats.  Armed with a tireless driver and knowledgeable navigator, boats were found but it did take some looking. The trend is towards fibreglass boats instead of the traditional wooden boats and I can understand the change, as it makes fishing easier with low maintenance and lightweight structures.  But the lines and shapes of a handmade wooden boat are things of beauty and its sad that they are becoming harder and harder to find.

The boat that is reknowned in this region is the Grandy Dory, a large sturdy  fishing boat used for generations of inshore fishermen.  It proved very difficult to find one in the water, but finally on a day that was pouring with rain, one turned up. 

I am creating working sketches to go along with the paintings for my wooden boat series.  I'm using pen and wash to create the sketches, along with notes and additional information about location and boats that will be included in a small book about the paintings.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Sketching is the exercise for artists.  It keeps eye/hand coordination sharp and drawing skills intact.  Like anything that you wish to become proficient at, it takes practice.  Daily practice. Its easy to say there is no time to sketch, but I disagree.  There is always time.  However we choose to use it becomes the issue.

I choose anytime, any place.  Here was my vantage point for the top sketch.  A trailer was left in the meadow and it made a comfy platform from which to sketch in the sun.

One of the portions of my current art grant project is the production of a book of sketches on the boats that I will be painting.  I don't think I would have ever ventured down such a path if my sketching and drawing skills weren't polished enough to consider it worthwhile.

Tomorrow I head to the Burin Peninsula in hunt for some traditional boats specific to that region.  Hopefully, I'll find a Grandy dory in its birthplace, Garnish.  Between sketches and photographs I hope to have some material for a couple of paintings.  There's a French influence on the Peninsula, which is made up of numerous small towns and is the gateway to the French islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon.

These sketches are in a Stilman & Birn Alpha Series 9" x 6" sketchbook, using pen & ink with watercolour wash.