Saturday, January 04, 2014

Skin palette

When I paint portraits, people sometimes ask what colours I use.  I don't have a specific formula that I can provide, as it depends so much on the complexion of the individual.  Most skin tones that I create are varying mixes of red, yellow, blue and white.  I know that doesn't help if you're looking for specifics in terms of colour names and brands, but those colour choices change depending on the subject and what colours I have available.

For this portrait of my granddaughter I'm using cadmium red, yellow ochre and cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet,and titanium white. Brands are a mix of Utrecht, Kama Pigments and Winsor & Newton. I've added a small amount of Gamblin Radiant Turquoise and Radiant Red as well as Asphaltum in the darker shadows.

Each artist has her own favourite colour mixes and convenience colours in tubes that are to 'go to' when skin tones are needed.  As my grand daughter is so pale, I may add a glaze to the shadow side once the oils are dry to give some warmth and depth.  Of all the faces to paint, the ones that provide me with the most challenges are childrens faces.  A child's head shape and softer facial features take subtle value changes to create form and accurate representation.  Lots of measuring for accuracy is needed to keep a likeness.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Seven minus five

kiora 2 sm

My grand daughter will be seven years old this month.  I don’t know how that happened as only a moment ago she was a baby.  Time definitely seems to speed up as I age, so I thought I’d better get a move on and paint this portrait of her before she grows up or I can’t remember how to paint.

I took a photo of her when she was around two years old.  Fresh from the bath and anxious to get her hands on my camera.  The light was just right and the look was perfect.  But the painting sat in my head over time with a few half hearted attempts to do justice to it that never quite worked out.

Now, on the edge of her turning seven, I wanted to try once again.  After the bustle of Christmas and the adventure of New Year’s, life can settle into a degree of normality or at least be quieter for awhile.  This little side painting is a good diversion and a break from larger boats, water and palette knives.

Kiora working drawing sml

Its in progress and the top image is the result of two evenings’ work.  Her colouring is very pale with blonde hair so getting the correct skin tone that keeps that northern European complexion but not making her look like a ghost or a frozen child is the challenge.

I love her hands most in this I think.  Its as if she was feeling the camera in them before it was there, fingers touching, anticipating. I’m still working on refining shapes and blocking in colour before I start working on the values more.  I like the process of creating a portrait and watching a face emerge from nothing.  Its magical, frustrating, challenging and rewarding all at once.

kiora 1 sm

Its in oil on 11 x 14 gessoed masonite board.  I love the slight texture that the gesso gives when applied with a nap roller.  In fact, it would likely make a good pastel surface too.  As always, I start with a detailed drawing.  This was done on tracing paper, so I could make adjustments as needed, then transferred to the board.  Then I start mixing colour and seeing what works, adjusting as I go.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014 plans


green boat 2 sm

Hitchhiker – 30 x 40 - oil on canvas – in progress

I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year.  I never plan personal fitness or health goals.  They just happen along the way and putting them down in writing seems to ensure that they’ll disappear into thin air before the month of January ends.

For my art business, I make goals, a bit like a business plan in fact.  By creating measurable objectives, it becomes the only way I can evaluate my progress when I review at the end of the year.

As is always the case, I bite off more than I can chew.  I don’t let this worry me, because distraction and lateral movement can open doors to  more interesting opportunities.  A set of objectives or business plan is never set in stone.   Yes, you have the general ideas for direction but you have to be flexible as well.

However, having said that, I want to make my goals simple to allow me time to really concentrate on them and perform well.

So what will I do in 2014?


Sea Memories

Sea Memories 8” x 16” oil

Boats and water and fish

These subjects will predominate my work and I will continue painting on a large scale and using a palette knife to produce another series of paintings based on this theme.

I have a couple of projects in the works that I can’t say much about right now as they hinge on funding and partnerships and we all know where those two are involved, unravelling can occur!


2014 workshops poster sml

Online Workshops

Yes, I know, I’m hauling that one out again.  But I’m better prepared now to put this into motion.  With my studio classroom workshops firmly in place, I have the elements of several workshops, I just need to spend time creating video to go along with them.  Drawing and Painting Water are two I have in mind right now.

When they are available, I’ll have them listed on my Workshop page through my website.




Communication tends to be brief these days, reduced to “Likes” on Facebook or 140 characters on Twitter. Of course I’ll still be on social networks and would love you to add me as a friend or visit my artist page.

I know I have reduced the number of blog posts in the last year to about one a week and I know readership and interaction dwindles because of it.  I want to change that by increasing the number of blog posts I produce to at least two, preferably three a week. I will also be refreshing my blog logo and theme. Its been stagnant too long and needs a facelift.

I am guilty of not commenting as much as I could on other blogging artists posts, so I will dedicate time each week to do so, as well as seeking out and supporting new artists.

So bookmark my blog, Illustrated Life, you’ll be reading more in 2014!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking into the dark corners


I’ve been looking back over 2013 and celebrating successes, but I also know that there are areas that weren’t so successful.  We tend to push our failures to the back out of sight sometimes, instead of really analysing them for what they are and understanding what lessons we can take from them that will help us perform better in the future.

There is an expectation that each piece of work we start with will become a keeper. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.  There are a combination of factors that come together to create something that ‘works’ and that combination is rarely the same twice.

Its a combination of human and environmental factors that make a painting become a pleasing object.  Technical ability, energy or fatigue, silence or interruptions, emotional state of mind, quality of tools, subject matter, and available time all contribute to how well a piece turns out.

Artists beat themselves up regularly over outcomes without really looking at why something did not work and how to change it.   Its the same with any venture in art.  We see an outcome and despair over its failure, but often chalk it up to experience instead of seeing how we can learn from that or do it differently in the future to secure success.
So while I look back over 2013 I hope I learn from mistakes as well as celebrate in the successes.  I made a number of goals at the end of 2012 and its interesting to look back and see what I matched or missed.

From this date a year ago, my dreams were:

Produce a new body of work
I did produce a series of boats and water people  paintings and pushed into more palette knife painting on a larger scale, even venturing into fluorescent colours.

Bright Red

Representation by a new gallery
 gallery 1 sm

I applied and was accepted by Peter Lewis Gallery in downtown St. John’s, participating in two group exhibitions there in July and November.

Deliver an online workshop
workshops 2013 poster1

I didn’t deliver an online workshop but I did offer a series of workshops at my home studio in the fall of 2013 which were successful and all fully booked.

Update my gyotaku book to include more technical information
Sea Jewels 2

This did not happen.  My focus moved more towards painting, though gyotaku still featured in my work in 2013 and will continue to do so with a gyotaku workshop planned for the summer of 2014.

Produce a minimum of three short information videos and ebooks
Online cover 2 sml

I did produce a book on palette knife painting “Introduction to Palette Knife Painting which is available through Amazon in hard copy or Kindle editions.

I produced several video tutorials on  colour mixing that I put on my Youtube channel, along with several other tutorials.  Unfortunately, due to an individual taking advantage of my work, I had to make the tutorials private and available to workshop participants only.  They will be enhanced and made available for a fee or through subscription in the future.

Create a series of reproductions of gyotaku prints
I didn’t get around to doing this and will push it into 2014 for completion.

Experience an art retreat
While I had access to art retreats on the island, time became the challenge this year with visitors, work load and getting an elderly parent into a care facility.  Having said that, I seem to produce my own retreats of sorts by immersing myself into blocks of time regularly for art production and experimentation.  Retreats don't have to be in another place, you can do them at home.

Produce a minimum of three significant drawings in dry media
Breakfast at Cora's sm
I completed only one drawing.  However, getting back into teaching drawing fires up enthusiasm to continue this goal.  The necessity to draw to prepare for classes and demos is also an incentive!

Other projects
Fishy Bits prints
12 months

In 2013 I completed a series of twelve original relief prints of fish found in the waters around Newfoundland and Labrador.  This fueled an Indiegogo project, as I wanted to purchase a printing press to complete the series and continue to develop my printmaking muscle.

bottlejack press

Unfortunately, I didn’t reach my goal for funding, but I did create my own printing press using a bottlejack press that works beautifully and continued to print the remainder of the pieces in the series.

thanks you

Five of the prints from this series were used in the December “Harvest” issue of Highbrau Magazine.

Sketch A Day in March

george st 2 sm

In March I threw out a challenge for others to join me in sketching daily and posting the results on my blog page.  It was a challenge some days to get a sketch done and posted online but I and a number of others managed.  The results can be seen here.

I have progressed in areas and pulled back in others, trying to balance my wants and needs with what is necessary and what fulfils my artistic abilities.  There are always ideas swirling in my head that are stored or written down for the future.  Already, I have plans in progress that lead me into 2014 and I know there will be more areas that will unfold and time passes.

I will be making goals for 2014, but as with all plans, they should be elastic enough to let me be side tracked into areas that pull my interest and offer opportunity.

Lunch & Learn - mini art consultations

I firmly believe that part of the artist code of ethics should be one of sharing knowledge. There are a lot of questions out there and I get asked quite a few, some technical, some about marketing, some regarding the business of art.

The "advice over lunch" concept is one that I use frequently in my business and wanted to extend that opportunity to artists, but online instead of  in person.  In a busy world, one on one conversations are the best way of transferring information.

So I created Let's Do Lunch - an opportunity for artists or collectors to ask questions from the simple to the complex and get practical answers, based on realistic pricing that fits everyone's budget.

Happy New Year!