Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Hybrid Painting

 Winter Sun
6" x 8"  oil on panel

Its been quite awhile since I painted using a brush.  A palette knife is my usual tool for painting these days and has been for about six or seven years.

I was asked to give a private class in painting in oils with a brush.  I did hesitate, but painting is painting and the principles are the same, so I went ahead with it.  It was an odd feeling, using a brush again, both uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time.  I advocate that anything that pushes you outside your comfort zone is a good thing and always teaches you something.

My student did beautifully with her piece and I liked, but not loved mine.  It was simply different from what I was used to producing.  Coverage wasn't as thick, application wasn't as quick and at this point in my art life, a brush felt more clumsy than natural.

Brush painting - Winter Sun

This image above is where I ended with my demo in the class and I confess that I switched back to a palette knife to complete the piece that evening.

Will I use a brush again?  Absolutely, but not frequently. I still use brushes in glazing and with acrylics and watercolour, but for regular day to day use, they just don't seem to fit my style anymore. I have moved on  and am firmly entrenched in the world of knives.

What is it about brush or knife strokes that appeals to you?  Why do you use the tools that you do?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Last exhibition of the year

 Sunny Side Up - SOLD
24" x 24"

I'll be taking part in my last exhibition of 2016 this weekend.  I'll be in the company of four other artists and am happy to share three new boat paintings in the show including the one above and shown in the exhibition flyer.   I found this little punt tied up at the wharf at Quidi Vidi late this summer and the colour and light were irresistable.

The opening is from 2 - 4 on Saturday December 10th at Peter Lewis Gallery, 5 Church Hill, St. John's, NL.  I'd love to meet you there if you in the downtown area and tell you more about the boats I have in the show.  The exhibit will run until December 24th.

Sunday, December 04, 2016


 Jolly - SOLD
8" x 10"  oil on panel

Its zooming towards Christmas and looking more and more festive every day with lights and decorations.  I have a few decorations and lights inside the house and on the entrance way of the drive, mostly because I've be doing my Painting Christmas workshops this weekend.  I've run back to back workshops with two demos in each one.

Funnily enough everyone wanted to paint the same pieces both days.  There is a lot of benefit in revisiting the same subject not just twice but many times.  Each piece will look different, even in the same medium.  And it was the same for both days of me painting the same subject.  The paintings are similar but the forms are slightly different and the colour choices varied.

Duplicity offers opportunity so I made one of the demos available. This lovely red cardinal is not a bird that resides in Newfoundland, which is likely why it is so appealing.  That bright shot of colour against a dull winter backdrop is always appealing and seasonal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Prevailing Wind

 Prevailing Wind
12" x 12" oil on canvas

November has flashed by with a lot of projects, paintings, teaching and events under my belt.  Its good to be busy and even in the lean times, as the economy here is proving this year, keeping moving forward is essential.

To streamline services, I've moved sales that were on external sites, such as Etsy, to my website under an e-commerce page.  I've categorized available paintings, studio reproductions and tweaked the site to make navigation cleaner. 

In 2017, I'll be moving my workshop registrations to my website as well.  Sales and registrations are secure and simple to use, using PayPal as the vehicle for payment which allows all credit cards to be used without having to have an account with the service.

You can visit my revised website and store at  Have a look around and let me know if there is something out of place or missing or if you have any issues navigating or viewing pages.

My 2017 Boat Calendars are available and make perfect Christmas and hostess gifts at just $20 + $5 shipping within North America. Click here for details or to order.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Remembrance Day

Acrylic on multi media paper - 4.5" x 7"

On August 14, 1945, it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.

As a young adult, my mother kept a diary from 1943 to 1945 that reflected her world in St. John's during the war, interspersed with personal thoughts.

On Armistice or Remembrance Day today as we look back and give thanks and respect for those who took part in world wars and other conflicts, I thought I'd share two pages of history leading up to the event 70 years ago through the eyes of a then 21 year old.

Please click to enlarge an image for reading.

 Page 1

Page 2

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Black Friday Weekend Sale

I've been in head down working mode for the last few weeks as I worked in the studio, did a plein air event in a storm, taught workshops and made some changes to my website to pull everything together under one roof.

I'm closing my Etsy store over the next couple of days and have opened a storefront on my website.  Etsy has changed its search features over the last year and visibility has slowed, so it was time to make some changes.   The Store is open now and I'm populating it with available paintings and prints.  It is categorized for easy searching and direct sales. In 2017 I will also pull away from my external workshop registration site and make registration available through my website as well.

You can visit the Store by clicking here.

In cleaning up the studio, I unearthed a number of paintings from pre-palette knife days as well as current pieces.  I will be offering them for sale in a Black Friday Weekend Art Sale from November 24 - 27.  If you are a mailing list subscriber, you will have a 24 hour pre-sale viewing and be able to purchase pieces before it goes public.  You can join my mailing list through the link on the right side of this page and receive the Studio News once a month with occasional emails about special events.

If anyone thinks the life of a professional artist is easy, I'd invite them to spend a week with me in the studio and the business world of art.  But I wouldn't change it for anything as I do what I love and am only accountable to me.

Studio painting seemed elusive for the last few weeks with visitors, teaching, and a plein air event that I took part in on October 22nd.  Unfortunately on that day, the tail end of a hurricane was forecast.  So while the morning looked dry, we took a chance.  I was on Signal Hill in St. John's, overlooking George's Pond and the Burma Road Trail.  I arrived around 8am hoping the weather would hold and while it stayed dry, the wind picked up and it was a challenge keeping the easel and canvas from toppling over (which it did several times).  It was tied down and weighted with my backpack but that just didn't seem to do the trick.

I managed about 2.5 hours of work outside before the cold affected my hands and I was shivering.  After a cup of coffee to warm up I retreated to the warmth of the gallery to continue to work on the piece.   On October 29th, the pieces were exhibited at Peter Lewis Gallery and are available there for sale.  Next time, let's hope its a summer event!

Monday, October 10, 2016


Maple Pumpkin - SOLD
Today is the official Thanksgiving holiday in Canada and I have lots to be thankful for in my life.  Family, health, a roof over my head, clothing to wear, food on the table and a stable country to live in.

I have lots of other things to be thankful for, but the basics are the most important to me.  Often, people seem to think that physical objects bring the happiness they need.  While lovely things do bring pleasure, the pleasure is fleeting and if everything but the basics were removed, life would still be good.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and treasure what you love most.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Creating titles for paintings

 Scarlet River - SOLD
30" x 40" oil on canvas

Finding a title for a painting can go one of two ways.

1.  The title flows, almost intuitively and fits the painting.
It can be an idea that's been floating around in my head for awhile or an emotional connection to something that the painting represents that will provide the title for the piece.  Sometimes its even a song that I'm listening to while painting the piece as was the case in this one. "Sitting in the Morning Sun" was inspired by the Otis Redding song "(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay".

Sitting in the Morning Sun    12" x 12"  oil on canvas - SOLD

2.  The painting resists being titled as if its life depended on remaining anonymous.
So what do I do in this case? I start analyzing elements of the painting that can trigger reaction in a viewer.  It may be colour, or location.  Sometimes the most obvious and the simplest things become part of the title.

If that doesn't work, I start doing some research on other paintings with similar subjects to see what their titles are.  Its amazing how many paintings of a subject have the same name.

Sea Breeze - Sold
24" x 24"  oil on panel, custom framed

My final trump card is the thesaurus.  I put in words that reflect aspects of the painting then see what results come up.  Its quite a good way of looking at alternate wording or may trigger other thoughts about the piece.

Throwing a piece out for public input on titles can provide results that can be worked with, but as the public don't have the same connection and insight to how the painting was created and what inspired it, suggestions may be based on common visuals only.  i.e.  black dog, red boat, etc.  And while these can be good titles, try doing an online search of "black dog paintings" and see how many have the same name.

Creating a title that is meaningful to the artist and the viewer can be a challenge.  Leaving a title as a number is a final resort but makes cataloguing very difficult for the artist, gallery and doesn't provide information that inspires viewers or helps them create their own story about the painting.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Cemetery sketching


Sketching is always high on my list of priorities and is pretty much a habit with me.  Subject matter varies to whatever is at hand or sometimes I get an idea in my head and have to go with it.  Last weekend the weather was beautiful, cool but sunny and perfect for a wander in my favourite cemetery to do some sketching.  The sculpture found in older cemeteries is often ornate and makes beautiful subjects for drawing.  Most of the individuals with large sculpures on their gravesite were likely from wealthier families.  Likely then, as nowadays, monuments were expensive.  There can be a marked difference almost next to each other in the cemetery of an ornate sculpture next to a simple wooden cross.

Over time, weather takes its toll and taller objects and finials crack off and are propped up the main element as in this very ornate monument.  Trees in the cemetery grow of course and encroach on grave enclosures and sculpture, pushing some of them over into the grass.

In this cemetery, graves of very young babies, children and young adults are common. With deaths in the 1800s, it was obvious that many illnesses or relatively minor accidents that we consider non-life threatening today were deadly as it was an era that existed without antibiotics.  Measles, mumps, influenza, scarlet fever, infections from minor wounds all took their toll in young children and adults alike.

I sketched on site using a new fountain pen that I didn't realize had water soluble ink in it.  Until I added water to my drawing back in the studio.  Still, I like the effect but will remember its reactive properties for next time.  And to read the label before I buy something!

Sketching baby graves is poignant but a stark reminder that despite the problems of the current world, we have a lot to be grateful for in the medical field.  In this Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, we have much to be thankful for, including antibiotics!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Surf & Turf

Surf & Turf

To farmers, hay making is an important task.  The result feeds animals during the winter and there always seems to be a fine line between sun and rain on the appointed day to cut and bale hay.  Left in the field, occasionally the weather goes against man and harvests can be delayed or lost.

This is a sideline from my usual boats, as I wanted a change of subject.  And driving past fields of hay bales, the inspiration was ever present.  From the idyllic sunset over traditional hay bales in a previous post, to the disastrous heavy rainfall after haymaking, these companion pieces show the romance and reality of farm life.

This was painted with acrylics using a palette knife.  This piece is 12" x 12" on canvas and available in my online store.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Win a mini original gyotaku

There's just one day left before I announce the winner of this mini gyotaku piece on September 1st.  Its a wee piece measuring about 2.5" x 3.5" inches on handmade Indian paper.  The original capelin was printed direct onto the paper and then enhanced with watercolours.  These fish spawn annually on the beaches in Newfoundland and are one of my favourite fish to paint and print.

You still have time to win this, all you have to do is be subscribed to my mailing list. I send out my Studio News once a month and occasional emails for special events or offers, so you're never bombarded with email.  

Sign up for the mailing list is easy

Good luck on the draw!

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


 Drifter - SOLD
12" x 24"
oil on panel, framed

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 - SOLD
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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Seven boats

I've just realized that I didn't share the paintings from my recent group exhibition.  Time got away with me as deadlines for other paintings and projects are looming.  This exhibition was different in that it was a transition from my usual larger gallery pieces.  There were six 12" x 12" and one 24"x 24" in oils available.

The opening on June 10th was busy and fun with lots of people and conversation and a sale for me which is always nice.  The exhibition came down on June 20th, but my pieces are still available at Peter Lewis Gallery and another sold today.

If you're in downtown St. John's, drop in and see the pieces in person as well as art from a variety of local artists.  And if you're not near, you can see a short virtual view of the exhibition on Peter Lewis Gallery Facebook page.

Directionally Challenged - Sold
Wine glasses started to accumulate on the mantel on opening night

Sitting in the Morning Sun - Sold
 A red dot is always nice at an opening

 Left to Right:   The Channel; Off the Collar (sold) ; Veiled (Sold): Tidal Pools (sold)

 Right side painting: Lobster Red - Sold

 Photograph:  Peter Lewis Gallery

Monday, June 20, 2016

All That Glitters

 All That Glitters  -  SOLD
11.5 x 14 graphite on paper

Its been awhile since I did a "real" drawing.  I do lots of sketching and always forget how much I enjoy really getting into a solid drawing until I do one again.  Classical drawing was my background and, as with every artist, we move laterally over time into other areas.  Painting and printmaking sidelined me from drawing as much as once did, so its a pleasure to complete this piece.


I did a study a few weeks ago for this piece in a Moleskine sketchbook, then decided to proceed with the drawing.  Yes, all that water was a little tedious at times, but its part and parcel of making the whole piece work.  Abandonment is the trademark for those who choose it when the going gets tough.  Or boring.

I used Strathmore Windpower paper for this.  The jury is still out on whether or not I really like this paper.  It has a medium grade which was perhaps a little grainy for this drawing, but seems fairly resilient and receptive to pulling out highlights with a kneaded eraser without causing damage.  I used Blackwing 602 and Staedtler 2B and 4B pencils to complete the piece with many, many, many light layers to build values.  Pressure is key to building layers of graphite before you reach saturation point.  The lighter the pressure, the more layers you can achieve and the further back you hold the pencil, the less chance you have of pressing hard and destroying the surface.