Saturday, March 31, 2012


6" x 12"
 oil on stretched canvas

Remember the little boat I was having problems with a few weeks ago?   Giving my arm a rest from the large painting I'm working on, I pulled this one out and figured I'd tackle it with a palette knife.

I really do love the feel of paint using a palette knife, its very different than brush feel of paint and results are strong and direct and can be put down quickly without quite as much of the thought process as there is in a more detailed painting.

This is painted in oils 6" x 12" on a stretched canvas.  Its a new brand of canvas, made in Canada and the quality seems very good.  I'm testing out a few new supports over time and while they can be similar in many ways, some surface just seem to accept paint more easily and smoothly than others.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lone Survivor

 Lone Survivor
4 x 6",   oil on canvas panel

The clean up of an oil palette in preparation for a new painting evolved into this painting with a palette knife.

Its similar to Abandoned in the Garden, with a few new colours introduced into it.  The hot yellow and green give a different feel to it.  The last survivor in the garden, screaming for attention from a bee to ensure its legacy.  The colours are very saturated in this piece and that is part of the appeal.  Pure and strong without being muted. 

You can purchase this little survivor on Daily Paintworks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tragedy of Commons

 The Tragedy of Commons
5 x 7", oil, canvas panel

2012 is the 20th anniversary of the cod moratorium in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The impact on culture and life has been dramatic in the province with the withdrawal of what was once a livelihood for many people who worked on the ocean.  The moratorium in 1992 marked the largest industrial closure in Canadian history. Overnight 35,000 people became unemployed.

The tragedy of commons  is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen.  This was very much the case with the fishery in the province.  What is in the individual's best interest is not always in the best interest of a society at whole.

Wikipedia sums it up:
In the case of Newfoundland and the Northern Cod fishery this meant that from the perspective of the individual participating in the fishing industry, maximizing their catch was in their best interest; however when the government failed to intervene – due largely to the highly sensitive nature of the political discourse created by the expansive group of stakeholders – the ecosystem was brought past its threshold and collapsed, leaving everyone worse-off.  When the government was finally galvanized to action, it was too late. The 1992 moratorium was initially meant to last two years, with the hopes that the Northern Cod population would recover, and along with it, the fishery. Unfortunately, the damage done to Newfoundland’s coastal ecosystem was indelible, and even after sixteen years, the Northern Cod population has failed to rebound and the Cod Fishery remains closed.
During the summer of 2011, a study was announced to show that recovery of East Coast cod stocks around Nova Scotia showed promises of recovery, despite earlier thoughts of complete collapse. It was found that initial stages of recovery began around 2005, though more time and studies were needed to study the long-term stability of the stock increase. In addition in 2010 a study by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization found that stocks near Newfoundland & Labrador had recovered by 69% though that number only compared to 10% of the original size.

I started playing around with some paint left on my palette and this little cod swam out of the red water, a worried expression on his face. And well he should be worried, his existence is in danger.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Revising the artist statement

I'm reworking my artist statement to reflect what has evolved in my work over the last couple of years.  Artist statements, while a necessary evil, are usually the last thing an artist wants to create.  They have a reputation for being useless pieces of fiction, written only for galleries and collectors who don't understand them, but want the writing on the wall, quite literally, to become part of the aura of the artist.

My artist statement tries to be factual, brief and written in terminology that helps the viewer have a better understanding of why I paint what I paint.  Its never easy to put into words something emotional and often something that even I, as the artist, don't  have a firm grasp on the 'why' of.  

As I drove home today, I glanced at a bank high above me on the highway.  It was early spring dulled brown with just the lip of dried grass poking over the cliff edge and a fallen tree lying across the summit.  In my mind,  a sepia drawing flooded in along with detail of the rough grass, strewn rock and dead tree.  To most people passing by, it was boring, and not worth a second glance.  The artist statement challenge is getting across to the viewer, my vision of how something such as that dull piece of land can turn into art and why it inspires me.

Back to my artist statement.  Its swerved from being tightly focused then broader, then more focused and now back to broadening once more.  I think this is quite normal, as for each exhibition and focus a new statement needs to accompany the art to help the viewer see the artist's vision.   Now my focus, while broader than gyotaku and even water has a common denominator of reflections.   I analysed why I was drawn to the fish and the water and marbles, glass, etc.  Its the play of light back from a surface.  Its reflections.  Coming to that realization was  through an brain storming exercise where I wrote down everything that I liked about subjects, other paintings that drew me in, colour, landscape...almost like a storyboard of images, colour and ideas that helped me focus and drill down to what I was really thinking about in my art.   Now to put it into words.

A little pre-used canvas, a little left over paint on the palette and ideas of reflections in my head  created this 5 x 7 in oil of a marble.   Simple and without overthinking, this took about 30 minutes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Secret Formulas

Between bouts with a large painting, my break becomes smaller pieces. And with an exhibition looming in May I wanted to create a few newer paintings.  This piece also serves as good practice for an upcoming workshop that I'll be delivering next weekend on painting water.

As I paint, I go through steps in my head to be able to explain how it is created.  Its never as simple to explain in words  how paintings come out at the end of a brush than it is to actually paint them.  And doing so while painting sets up a battle between right and left brain functions.  One side always loses or at least gets lost for awhile and its usually the left side.

Artists who teach are often expected to have secret formulas that provide others with all the ingredients of a successful painting.  And individuals believe that by purchasing the same paint, brushes, canvas, etc., etc. that becomes part of the formula for success. I wish it were that simple.  All I can provide is technical information in getting paint onto a surface and tips on learning how to observe.  The rest is down to the desire of the individual to practice, to learn to observe what is really there and to ensure they develop their own style, not a copy of mine.

For those still interested in knowing what my watery combinations are in oils, I can share that with you, but you'll have to do your homework and paint many gallons of water.   I use a mix of paint from different manufacturers from Daniel Smith, Richeson, Old Holland, LeFranc and Winsor & Newton.  I have a couple of favourite colours that turn up on each water-related palette as standards.   Richeson The Shiva Series Ice Blue; Old Holland, Caribbean Blue;  Daniel Smith Indigo, Cobalt Teal Blue, and Manganese Blue,  Maimeri Classico, Cerulean Blue.  Titianium white is a standard and I usually have Winsor & Newton large tubes on hand as they're available locally.  A new paint I've introduced is from Kama Pigments, Cold Grey Deep, perfect for the north Atlantic.

I use varying colour mixes from these and other colours that I introduce, depending on the water and the setting, reflections, etc. The turquoise so commonly seen I create from Cobalt Teal blue or use a combination of Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Yellow light and a touch of white.  Either work well for light shining through water in certain wave conditions.

For acrylics, its a similar palette that I'll share in another post.