Saturday, August 27, 2016

Acrylics and palette knives

Hay Bales at Sunset
12" x 12"  acrylic on canvas

I have a love/hate relationship with acrylic paint.  I love it because it dries quickly and I hate it because it dries quickly.

I have experimented previously in using acrylics with a palette knife and have found that right out of the tube, no matter if its a "heavy body" acrylic paint or not, it just doesn't have the body that I am comfortable with to produce a good textured surface.  I use Liquitex Thickening Gel to thicken the paint, but it doesn't feel quite right to me.  Not yet.  Or perhaps I am simply used to the buttery feel of oil paints and their slow drying qualities.

You can see the effects of the gel in a video I made in January.

Having said that, this piece is just off the easel and I am happy with the result, but it took a bit of persuading to get it to where I wanted. What I do like about acrylics is the ability to overpaint without much wait time due to their quick drying nature.  The slight darkening in colour after drying makes for tweaking after the fact or remembering to use a lighter value when painting, whereas oils don't change their hue on drying.

The jury is still out for me, but I'll continue to use them when the mood takes me. The colour and form is fine, application doesn't thrill me as they dry too fast, but perhaps I'm simply used to oils and their natural disposition towards palette knife work. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Patriot

 The Patriot
30" x 40"
oil on canvas

The tricolour flag  that is commonly used to unofficially represent the "republic" of Newfoundland is also known as the pink white and green (PWG). It has been stated in various sources that the triclour represented the island of Newfoundland for some 200 years. However Newfoundland was never a republic, and the PWG was never an official  flag. Its representation of independence is based more on the thoughts around  post-Confederation and the stand against it. The history behind the PWG is not ancient history as many think.  The flag's origins are sketchy and there seems to be no solid historical support for it, but it is seen frequently on clothing, bags and many souvenir items and now, a boat.

You can read more about the history of the PWG on the NL Heritage site.

I found this boat moored off shore in Bay Roberts and also met the owner by pure coincidence.  The result was this painting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


12" x 24"
oil on panel, framed

Available through Peter Lewis Gallery

On July 16th, I spent the afternoon painting at the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador.  With my connection to boats, what better place to demonstrate a boat painting than this museum and I was delighted to accept their invitation for the 3rd year.  Surrounded by traditional, hand built wooden boats of all kinds, I swear the atmosphere helps the painting flow.

Painting progress shots at the museum

I chose this little punt to demonstrate with a palette knife and, between conversations with visitors, had about three quarters of it laid in by the end of the afternoon and added finishing layers and details in my studio.  Painting in public is a great way to talk about your work and share some of the techniques and process.  I brought a couple of finished paintings so people could see them and their texture close up.  Impressionism is a unique technique that really shows its impact when viewed from 8 - 10 feet away, an appropriate viewing distance for most paintings.  Up close, the painting becomes almost abstract with sections of colour laid down one against the other in a mosaic that magically comes together when you step back.

Painting in public, for me, doesn't hold a fear factor.  In fact, I love explaining the process to people, and even letting them try their hand at palette knife painting.  People are genuinely interested and I find that if you are engaged with your work and comfortable with your medium, that comfort level translates into trust and approachability and wins out over any sense of discomfort that could arise.

Yes, of course, interruptions can disrupt the flow of painting, but those breaks are welcome, not intrusive in this situation.  I can see if I was working in the open air and had a definite goal in mind for a painting, a string of questions could be frustrating, but in this situation, I see my role as that of educator and demonstrator.

If you've never tried working in public, do.  People are a lot more interested and supportive than you think they will be.  And its a great way to show your work to the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Paint, scrape, repeat.

“I’ve always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labours it has cost me.” (Henri Matisse)
I seem to be scraping a lot of paint lately, which is a good thing.

Realizing my mistakes, adjusting to meet my vision and not settling for "okay" pushes me to find solutions and really think about what I'm putting down in paint.  Yes, the painting I'm working on looked superficially good, but inside I know I can do much better, so I push myself even when I don't want to redo something.  And I'm always glad that I spend the extra work time rather than settling for a mediocre piece that could have a detrimental effect to my reputation if let loose on the world.

This image is a crop of the block in of a painting of a drying cod that I'm working on.  The initial stages were fine, then I overworked it. Scraping back the paint, all except the top couple of inches - and in palette knife painting this is a big sacrifice of paint - provides me with a gift in return.  The removal of the paint leaves stains of diluted colour in exposed canvas as well as shapes in the background and shows me that I should change my palette to a higher key to harmonize the piece more effectively.

Taking a leap of faith and reworking as needed is a big part of the painting process for every artist. Revealing the underbelly of a painting is necessary sometimes, to reach the vision that only the artist can see.

Read some words of advice on reworking paintings by Robert Genn in The Painter's Keys.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Spirits Sheltered

Its exhibition season in the summer here and the last couple of weeks have been busy, along with regular painting, private teaching and just life in general. 

On July 9th, I attended the opening of Spirits Sheltered at Salmonier Nature Park.  I participated in this exhibition with other instructors of Anna Templeton CentreSalmonier Nature Park is a provincial wildlife rehabilitation center where visitors can hike a 3 km boardwalk trail and view wildlife along the way.

I explored new avenues in this exhibit as boats and water, my usual style, weren't appropriate. I put two pieces into the exhibit.  The first a palette knife painting depicting the dense tree coverage throughout the park which is home to so many animals.  The light coming through the trees is what caught my eye and the quiet of the woods, inspiring the title, "The Cathedral".

The Cathedral
14" x 18"    oil on canvas

The second piece is a relief print of a cross cut tree stump.  There was a fair bit of work and learning that went into the piece both in prep and after the printing.  I added colour with watercolour pigments and the final touch was gold leaf.  The wood is a Balsam Fir, known locally as Var.  A process shot of the printing as its pulled off the wood is shown in the poster for the exhibition.  More of these prints will be available soon.  I'm waiting for an order of Japanese papers to arrive and Canada Post keeps threatening strike action.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Where The Light Gets In
Multimedia on Japanese paper   8" x 10"

The title of Where The Light Gets In was inspired by the Leonard Cohen song of the same name.

Multimedia on Japanese paper   8" x 10"

Funds raised from this exhibition help support Anna Templeton Centre, Salmonier Nature Park and the artists.  There is a wide range of styles and interpretations of "Spirits Sheltered" and the exhibit runs until October 7th, so lots of time to visit, walk the trails and see the exhibit yourself.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Divine Sarah

 The Divine Sarah
12" x 12"  oil on canvas

Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.

Nothing shouts summer more than a big, blowsy pink peony.   They are beautiful, but a terrible design, being so top heavy.  Just at their peak, a wind or rain storm comes along and leaves them tattered on the ground.

This pale pink variety grows in my garden and is named after Sarah Bernhardt the famous actress of the late 1800s, early 1900s.  Sarah was known as "The Divine Sarah" and once called the most famous actress of all time.  Known for her melodramatic acting and wild lifestyle, she was memorable.  I think she would approve of this painting.

Now a little treat, a clip of The Divine Sarah in action.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

On Cue

 On Cue
8" x 8"  oil on panel

I didn't spend time in pool halls in my youth for a couple of reasons. One, because they weren't something that interested me and two, I'd be major trouble at home if I was found in one.  That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy pushing balls around on a table, whether the game is called pool, billiards or snooker. (I never did understand the differences between the names or perhaps they're simply geographical.  Maybe someone can tell me.)

But I do love drawing and painting spheres.  They are deceptively simple looking, but in reality very complex.  Painting  light and shadow to create believable roundness takes observation and patience.  Creating curved shapes with a straight edged knife is easier than you think and more about considering edges and not making them tight and hard.

I added a speeded up 8 minute film of the painting of this cue ball. You can see the build of paint layers and perhaps some of my ever changing thought process as I progress through the piece. There is no sound.  I will be making a longer (slower) version of the video available soon at low cost that will walk viewers through the colours, techniques and decisions made during the painting.

The original painting is available in my Etsy store.