Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Storyteller

 The Storyteller
20" x 20"  
oil on canvas
 “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. 
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” An old Native American proverb

I love weathered, rugged wooden boats.  There's always a dozen stories at least in the chipped paint, the barnacles and rust.  A modern fibreglass boat, while often elegant and streamlined, never is quite the storyteller that a well-worn vessel is.

This piece is just about finished.  I let a piece sit on an old easel in the far corner of the studio where it catches my eye for a week or two and lets me know if any changes are required.  Sometimes a touch up of a line or a colour enhancement take place, but rarely major changes.

While standing back from a painting every 20 minutes or so is very useful, give yourself even more space to really see a piece.  Standing back further from a painting, depending on its size and situation gives a different impression of the piece than the "nose to painting" view.  I know everyone (mostly artists) usually leans in closer to see detail, but especially in looser paintings, the detail is very abstract and only when you are at a distance will things jump into focus.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Heart Harvest

 Heart Harvest
3" x 4" on ginwashi paper

I don't do a lot of printmaking, but I do thoroughly enjoy creating both relief prints and etching.  The whole process, from design, to inking, making paper choices and the final reveal as the paper is lifted off the block or plate is intriguing to me.

I created this little print with spring in mind. Of course here that will be a long way off yet, but I'm optimistic that with the unusually warm winter we're having that spring may be a treat and not a misery of fog and dampness.

I'm not a fan or "Hallmark" holidays, which I always consider Valentine's Day to be, but if you do celebrate, this print could just fit the bill for the love of your life, or for a treat for yourself.  A little bird pulling hearts, almost like worms, out of the ground, letting the wind scatter and share them to spread the love, is my thoughts behind it.  And we all know that there's no harm in spreading some love around the world these days if you happen to watch the news.

I hand printed these in black or red in on ginwashi paper and have provided an option for personalizing a print with colour and words.

You can see the details of the prints in my Etsy shop.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Untitled boat

 30" x 40"  oil on canvas

“The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections are your guides–valuable, objective, non-judgmental guides to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.” ~David Bayle
Some paintings take longer than others to produce and you never know when you start how the process will unfold.  A painting may almost fall off the knife or I may have to paint and scrape and repaint ad infinitum until that moment arrives when it starts to come together.

Working through what seems like a horrible session only to see that glimmer of recognition of the vision that you originally had. Its oh so easy to give up and try something easier, but there is no learning in that.  Speed and ease should be removed from everyone's vocabulary when painting.  Yes there will be times when both are there, but there will be more times when they are not.

This boat took a fair bit of working and reworking to get it to where I wanted it to go.  I accept that not everything in the creation of art is easy and that's a major step in forward movement.  Instead of abandoning a piece that isn't working as I want it to, I look at why it isn't working and fix those mistakes. Isn't that true of most of life and how to make it more pleasant?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thickening acrylic paints

As promised, here's a short video on thickening acrylic paint to use in palette knife techniques.  I have another step by step video on using the thickened paints to demonstrate and am in the process of editing and making it available soon.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Workshop demos

 Orange Slice demo
5" x 7"
Oil on multimedia paper

The teaching adage of  "See One. Do One. Teach One" applies to art workshops as well as any kind of learning.  So aside from explanation of practical technique, participants need to also see how paintings are constructed and then get some practice putting that information into paint application.  Whether they go on to teach one only the future can tell.

I do demonstrations of paintings and drawings at every workshop, some more finished than others, depending on how much time is available due to class size.  I used to be terrified standing up there with expectant eyes on me, waiting for perfection.  But now, I take it in stride, but of course, things don't always go to plan and perfection is rare.

I'm teaching some workshops for Anna Templeton Centre in the city centre.  Its a lovely old (1849) building that used to be The Bank of British North America originally. Full of creaks and quirks befitting its age, it houses arts, crafts and design classes and is a wonderful space to work in. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Art journalling

Art journalling is a current trend over the last couple of years, turning into big business in some aspects.  Its not fine art, but it explores creativity, colour exploration and drawing skills and encourages non-artists to dip a toe into the world of art.  I've never been a big one for journalling, but always enjoyed sketching.  On impulse I bought a new Moleskine notebook last weekend.  I had used these quite a lot a few years ago and loved the creamy, wax-like paper surface.  Perhaps I should have bought the sketchbook instead of the notebook, as the paper in the notebook is flimsier than the sketchbook and pen marks do show through to the other side, so I will be using one side only unless I decide to coat the pages with gesso if I want a double page.

I'm an abuser of sketchbooks and the Moleskine will be no different.  It just may get a bit more abuse in terms of media and additions to pages.  I don't view sketchbooks or journals as precious and "mistakes" should be embraced and shown as part of the process.  Not everything will be fit for consumption, but some will be catalysts for paintings and further exploration.

Journals are a way to escape, be creative, work out ideas and release inner thoughts.  An entry can take as little or as much time as you have available and become a colourful way of recording your view on the world.  You don't need to be an artist to keep an art journal, but any time spent creating can only be beneficial if you're heading down that creative road.

I'm going to try to do something in the journal each day until its filled, then see where I go from there.  I have several sketch books for general drawing but the journal will be a little different, a little more personal.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Drawing tips for success

 Tea Bag
charcoal and white pastel on Canson paper

There is such a rush with some beginning artists to want to have a finished piece completed in such a short time.  Unfortunately, that usually isn't the case and frustration bubbles up when it doesn't look as anticipated.

Drawing consists of a number of stages that need to follow in order for the drawing to be successful.

1.  Decide on the size of your drawing so that it fits on the paper.
Running out of space on a page is a common problem for beginners.  By marking boundaries for the top,  bottom and sides of the space you want the drawing to reside in, eliminates this problem.
2.  Measure the size of the objects so they are in proportion.
Each subject has a specific height and width in the picture and establishing a basic unit of measurement provides the tool to ensure the the object is in proportion and ensures it is in proportion to other objects in the reference.

3.  Block in the basic geometric shapes that you see in the subject.
 All objects, when brought down to a basic shape, are made up from geometric shapes:  circle, square, rectangle, triangle or cylinder.  Look closely at your subject and establish the broadest shapes.

4.  Start to define shapes more accurately.
Once basic shapes are in place, its time to start refining those shapes to reflect the subject more accurately.  Use an H pencil and light pressure for all construction lines, so they can be easily erased or incorporated into the drawing.

5.  Block in values.
Establish light, dark and mid values.  These provide the form to the subject.  Value mapping is drawing the shapes of values and provide a guide for adding values to your drawing.

6.  Refine values.
Mid values are the most difficult for beginning artists to see.  These are the ranges between very dark and very light and can have several values between the two extremes.  Careful observation is crucial to see and understand the subtle value changes in a subject.

7.  Add detail. 
Jumping in with detail or highlights too soon in a drawing gives you a false sense that the piece is finished.  Sharp details of light and dark and highlights should be the very last thing you add to a drawing.  If added too soon, it's almost guaranteed that you will draw over them.  Again and again and again before the drawing is complete.

8.  Be patient. 
A drawing takes as long as a drawing takes.  There is no prize for finishing quickly.  Build the drawing slowly, step by step.   80% of time should be spent looking at the subject, 20% drawing.  Observation is so important to achieve work you are happy with.
9.  Practice.
Along with observation, practice is the most valuable method of becoming proficient at drawing.  No amount of art materials, reading art instruction books, watching DVDs, admiring other drawings, or taking workshops will give you the skills that practice will.   Without practicing drawing skills, progress will be minimal and diminish over time.

Practice.  Every day. Even when you don't want to.