Saturday, August 18, 2012


Today the art group that I am part of met to do some monotype printmaking.  Its good to get together and see how everyone approaches a technique and subject and to learn from successes and failures.

I was tired today and I think that impacted on how I approached the printing.  While I enjoyed the process, I couldn't seem to create anything that was a 'keeper'.  Not that I expect everything that I do to make the grade, and often it doesn't. Like many techniques, the more you practice, the better you become, the less mistakes and more successes.

I used several plexiglass printing plates as well as a gel plate.  The use of oil based inks allowed me time to work on drawing into the plate with tools, cotton swabs and tissues and this print of a river was one of the first pieces I tried today and about the only one that is worth showing.

I had worked on a series of "hidden" rivers in the city a couple of years ago and this was one of them, fairly close to where I work. Small streams that wind through the city on their way to ocean are often overlooked by the public who walk and drive past them daily.

The print is 8" x 10" on Iwara Japanese paper using prussian blue oil based Caligo ink.

Friday, August 17, 2012


 The process of seeing the world through a sheen of wax has inspired me and I'm bubbling over with ideas of things I want to try, both large and small with this technique.

I found an old experimental gyotaku piece I'd done a couple of years ago which reminded me of a fossilized piece. It was a highly textured surface with a print of a smelt on the surface before additional gesso and sand had been added.  Additional texture had been added by pressing spinal column bones of fish into the surface, leaving trails of spikes across the surface. The wax gives a wonderful new dimension to paintings and prints like this, diffusing the light and swirling coloured wax over the surface,still allowing the shapes beneath to show through.  I still don't know which way up the final piece will be.  Logically, perhaps, this should be how it sits, however, a vertical format works well for it too, as well as flipping it horizontally. 

I think this may have merit to try a larger gyotaku piece with, embedding the print into the surface.  I have some more encaustic wax and damar crystal on its way so that I can make my own as well as use commercially prepared wax. That way I can ensure I have the colours I want for the pieces I have in mind.

Meanwhile this piece  6" x 12" shows the range of colour and depth that can be achieved with encaustic wax over other mediums.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Floating around

 This is the first paint I've put to canvas in about two weeks and I've missed it.

This boat is part of a demo for an upcoming online workshop on painting water that I'll offer later in the fall.  There's a lot of work to go into the workshop yet and I hope I can meet the deadline I've imposed.  If not, I'll simply push it forward a couple of weeks.

Here's a short excerpt where I try to paint and talk at the same time.  That is so difficult.  I'm sure it comes with practice, but I find one or the other takes precedence, leaving its partner in limbo.

Tonight is the loosely blocked in form of the boat.  I may alter the palette for the darker sections of water.  I used Moonglow, a Daniel Smith oil paint, simply because it was new and I wanted to try it, but its a bit to purple/grey for this piece I think. The experimentation and finding the right palette to ensure success for those following is crucial.  Although any palette of colours could be used, I have my own favourites, one being Manganese Blue.  Its a perfect blue, reflecting sky in the Atlantic I believe. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The working tools

I never lose my fascination for drawing or my need to encourage others to envelop this most basic form of art.   Without strength in drawing, the ability to create is compromised I believe.  To see the concentration on classic technique being lost in some art schools in favour of conceptual art and freedom of expression is worrisome.  The need for knowledge on how to construct shapes, understand values and colours and how to apply paints to surfaces will always be there.  Avoiding the those skill development tools is denying or holding back potential for creation.

Sketchbooks are my working tools. I keep a sketchbook near to try out ideas and compositions and as with most paintings, a drawing is the first step.  This fish I found in a market in Saint John.  I think its a gar, but perhaps someone can correct me.  If I hadn't been on holiday, I would have bought it and printed it!  Instead I had to confine myself to sketching.

Of course water or creatures that live in it are never far from my thoughts, so these, done with a water soluble pencil and wash provide the basis for painting.  I use a sketchbook as way of recording colour as well as shapes.  The notes serve as reminders of specific areas of colour that I want to remember when transferring the sketch to a painting.  I take photos too, but the sketch gives a stronger impression of what I see and feel at the time, such as the one below. 

Tools for creating art are what you make them do for you.  Supports can vary from the most primitive to the most elaborate as can mediums and tools to make marks with.  One is no better than the other, although a degree of snob appeal for branding is present in some artists, no different than there is in clothing that people like to showcase as status symbols. Tools don't 'cheat', they provide shortcuts to lessen the amount of time tedious work takes to complete.  I can't be persuaded that just because an artist lived 200 or 400 years ago that they wouldn't have jumped at the chance to shorten the time it took to enlarge a drawing or use a reference photo instead of freezing themselves in the cold and rain trying to duplicate the exact weather and light conditions for a scene.

Each person has different tools and varying needs, as well as ability.  How important are your tools and the process of creating through technique as well as expression?

Sunday, August 12, 2012


There are some pieces that take a lot of coaxing to get out of their shell and this has been one of them.

It started out as a multimedia abstract, fairly straight forward, but with a vision in my head of what I wanted the final piece to look like.  I wanted it to seem multidimensional, layered, as if I could see through it as if looking down into clear water.

I ordered cold wax but it didn't seem to do quite what I wanted, or maybe I didn't really give it enough of a chance to prove its talents.  I have pots of beeswax that I use when I create lotions and creams as well as using it and paraffin wax for batik, and thought they might provide the depth I was looking for.

Then I visited a new local art store which carry KAMA pigment products and I picked up a couple of encaustic paints.  Using small amounts of these diluted with my own beeswax, I created layers and fused them with a heat gun found in the barn.  The process becomes a little addictive and its difficult to know where to stop with it, the temptation to continue to add layers is so tempting.

I bought a small muffin tin to experiment with some of my own mixes of colour for additional encaustic work as I'd like to try another piece to go with this.  The fumes with melted wax can be a bit overpowering so good ventilation is needed, either an open window or an extraction fan system.

Meanwhile, I'm calling Fissure complete and apart from buffing it to a shine, it will be ready for a new home.  This is an 8 x 16 piece on canvas panel.