Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Government Wharf - finishing off

The Government Wharf
24" x 24"  oil on wood panel

I've concentrated on putting in the final details for this piece and its sitting in the corner of my studio waiting for any tweaks and drying.  When I sign off on it, it goes to the other studio for its "glamour" shot.  There its set straight on an easel and lit well or, if the day fits, put in good daylight for photographing.

I shoot final images in RAW to ensure I capture as much detail and colour as possible.  The result are high resolution files of about 10 or 12 mp.  If I want to reproduce any of the images, the highest quality is required to be able to reproduce in larger sizes.
“The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child” ~David Bayles

Friday, April 21, 2017

End of palette paintings

At the end of larger paintings there's usually paint left on the palette.  To put it to good use, I create small paintings of whatever subject appeals to me.  My internal "rule" is that I can only add white to what is left on the palette.

With the most current painting finished, I created these two little oil sketches and primed canvas paper.  The apple and a couple of turnips (also known as swede in the UK and rutabaga in the USA). I used a more graphic style for these with bright colours and solid forms, still using a palette knife.

How do you use leftover paint?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Trinity Water study

Trinity Water study
11" x 14" oil on cradled wood panel

I'm finding myself drawn more and more to scenes of rocks and water.  The waters around the province are pristine and crystal clear, making it easy to see to the bottom in shallow areas.  The movement of the water and reflections in the water as well as the colours in the rocks are a magnet to me.

This study is in preparation for a large painting of the same scene.  That is in the wings waiting its turn on the easel.  And my courage to work that detail on a large scale.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Iceberg season again

Pack ice and icebergs are making an early appearance this year and on Easter Sunday I took a drive down the coast to Ferryland to see a large berg grounded just offshore.  There were quite a few people dotting the hill overlooking the sea and the wind off the water was so cold that I didn't stay long.

I went further up the coast for an alternate angle and explored the little town of Aquaforte where I found a few boats for my reference collection, along with some further shots of the iceberg.

Icebergs and pack ice aren't something that I've painted very often.  The bergs are majestic and do have appeal but for some reason I haven't gotten around to them.  I'll have to rectify that in the very near future.

Meanwhile, if you're on an iceberg hunting quest, you can find their location on the Iceberg Map.  Its predicted to be a bumper iceberg season in 2017.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Government Wharf - progress

The Government Wharf in progress
24" x 24" oil on wood panel
                  Little drops of water wear down big stones. (Russian proverb)
I'm working my way across this painting of an algae covered wharf and love creating the colour changes.  Once across the palings and reflections, I can start on some details that provide the texture.

Working through complex paintings, its easy to mentally shut down and convince yourself to give up. Keeping that vision in your head and working methodically through the less interesting parts to reach detailing is crucial in creating art.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Age and beauty

The Ice Maiden
24" x 36" - oil on cradled wooden panel

There are so many contradictions in humans with respect to age.  We love old objects, but want the newest ones.  We love old cars, but won't take time to restore them to their glory.  We love old people but don't want to be one.

I'm a proponent of embracing aging as well as respecting and admiring the past.  There is so much we can learn from what has gone before, both in physical and intellectual areas.

Sketch for Wooden Boats series 2015

I love old boats. I love seeing how they were constructed and admiring the handwork (and hardwork) that went into them.  It is somewhat sad to see them sitting, derelict on a shoreline but I enjoy capturing them in that moment as an almost historic homage to what has gone before.

I have watched this boat decline and disappear over years until this year when it was removed and is likely kindling for someone's fire.  I am glad to have had the privilege of sketching and painting it and keeping its memory alive.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sketching from virtual life

Giraffe resting I

UPDATE:  Giraffe calf born 11:25am Newfoundland time Saturday April 15th.  Gender: male.

If you haven't heard of April the expectant giraffe by now, you're one of few.  She's a captive bred giraffe housed in the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY.  Her enclosure is on a live feed on Youtube and if lucky you may be able to catch the birth of her 4th calf in the very near future.

I won't say I'm addicted, more curious perhaps, but I do check in most evenings to see how she's getting on.   Apparently giraffes need between 30 to 120 minutes of sleep a day, so its rare to see them napping.  The other night I was looking at the live cam feed as she folded her impossibly long legs underneath her to rest.  A resting animal is a perfect sketching opportunity and as I'd never sketched a giraffe before I thought I'd try.

Giraffe resting II

She changed position once more, almost cat like, curled around herself with her head on her hind leg. It was like a complex yoga position and didn't look comfortable, but she stayed there for about 5 minutes giving me another chance to do a quick sketch.

If you don't have an exotic animal close by to observe from life, a virtual view is just as good. Testing sketching skills with moving animals whether from life or a camera provides the same results.

Check the cam and see if the calf has arrived yet.  She was showing signs of something happening last night, so you never know.  Next, sketching a baby giraffe!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


White Knight
24" x 36"  oil on canvas

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” “There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”

Chiaroscuro is Italian and roughly translated, means light and dark. It originally described a type of drawing on medium-dark paper where the artist created both darker areas with ink and lighter areas with white paint.  Very similar to drawing on the toned papers that are available today.

Supper at Emmaus - 1601
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Caravaggio, with his intense dark backgrounds in paintings in the 16th century really brought chiaroscuro to a new height with an almost spotlight effect on his figures.  Chiaroscuro adds drama to a painting with focal points being flooded with a light source and the edges of objects melting into the same value as the background, making you look closely to define one from the other.

You can see just how large this painting "Supper at Emmaus" is, with its almost lifesized figures  and see more of his work, style and life in the video below from the National Gallery where the painting is housed.  The video is 30 minutes long but well worth your time if you're interested in the master artists.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A room with a view

All Roads Lead to the Sea
40" x 40"

It can be difficult for collectors to visualize what a painting would look like in situ.  An online image always looks different when viewed from the appropriate distance and more vivid when viewed in person.

Pickeyes Cove
24" x 36"

I occasionally use a free program called WallApp that lets me place some of my paintings in a room setting. The paintings are not accurately to scale, I simply eyeball what I think size would be compared to the furniture.  But they provide an added view for a collector that may make up their mind about purchasing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Government Wharf - WIP

The Government Wharf - WIP
24" x 24"

In Newfoundland there are two types of wharves.  A private wharf, usually called a "stage" is made of thin trees stripped of branches and some planed wood.  They're found all over the province and show a variety of building skills and supplies - and are in a variety of repair and disrepair depending on the health of the fishery in that area.

Garden Cove fishing stage - colour study

The other type of wharf is the government wharf, built with federal funding.  These are traditional, sturdy wharves that are usually associated with an active fishing community, built of preserved lumber and well maintained for the most part.  When I was working on my gyotaku project and asked about boats in communities, I was always directed to "the government wharf", where fishermen often landed their catch.

Petty Harbour II
30" x 40"  Peter Lewis Gallery

I have painted a lot of boats with a lot of wharves around them and love the colours that are found from the values of wood sitting in water, algae found on the wood and reflections that disturb the water of a still harbour.  This government wharf, located in Trinity, seemed to be a good choice as it fit all the criteria I wanted.  I gessoed the wood panel and drew the structure in charcoal, using a yardstick to measure the gaps to ensure there was uniformity.

Updates will be posted as I progress.

This folk song - On the Government Wharf - sums up the loss of the fishery and its impact on a community.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Painting water

Winter Ditch
4" x 36" oil on panel

Water is one of those subjects that can strike fear into some artists.  "It's too difficult."  "I could never do that". are phrases I have heard many times.  And for less experienced artists, its true.  When you first look at a scene, your eye takes in the varying values, colours, forms, and light.  The scene seems enormous and daunting.

So how do you make it more approachable?

When choosing a subject, I use a viewfinder to limit the area I'm looking at and make a good composition that fits the shape of the canvas or paper I'm using.  If using a camera, you're pretty much doing the same thing by honing in on an area or scene, with the advantage that you can have multiple views and choose from them later.

I make a small thumbnail drawing of what I want to paint.  If it has the right shape, correct amount of dark, mid and light values and I like it.  I go on to creating a colour study.  The colour study helps me confirm my palette and colours and set the final seal of approval on deciding if I'll go larger.

What colour is water?  It is every colour.  It reflects everything around it, in it, under it and above it, depending on the light level its seen in.  Sunny days give strong reflections of the world, overcast days have diffused light so colours and values must be adjusted accordingly.

I use a split primary palette of a warm and cool version of blue, red and yellow, along with white and an earth colour.  I occasionally add another colour, depending on what I believe the painting needs.

Starting with an under drawing to guide placement, I build slowly, as with any painting.  When something seems difficult, the mind really is saying that it will take more time than usual to complete and this is very true.  As with any difficult task, working through a little at a time is the way to success.  Its very much like a puzzle; finding the right colour, value and stroke to make everything fall into place.  And most importantly, painting what you see.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

All Roads Lead to the Sea

All Roads Lead to the Sea
40" x 40" - oil on canvas
Contact the artist for purchase details

“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.” 
― Rachel CarsonThe Sea Around Us

Saturday, April 08, 2017

10 minute painting exercise

10 minute apples

In workshops I offer students opportunities to expand their knowledge, improve their painting techniques and learn new ways of seeing what is in front of them.

I use a 10 minute exercise which cuts down on "fiddling" time.  Seeking detail at the beginning of a painting is a common trait in beginners, but is never successful.  They end up painting the same thing over and over and over as they adjust and readjust their work.  Seeing larger shapes and making quick decisions without thinking about detail helps the brain/eye/hand think like a painter.  Everything starts with the largest and most basic shape, then detail slowly emerges as you refine the drawing or painting.

Divide a small canvas into four (or six or more) squares. Using an apple (in this instance), paint it for 10 minutes then stop.  Rearrange the apple's position and paint it again for 10 minutes.  Keep doing this for as many times as you have squares on your canvas.  The first painting will be...different...and that's ok.  The last one and you'll be getting the hang of making quick decisions on colour, placement and value.

Try it and let me know your thoughts on the exercise.

Friday, April 07, 2017


 Origami Boats

Procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished. It is the practice of doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, or carrying out less urgent tasks instead of more urgent ones, thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.

Procrastination comes with all sorts of labels around it to justify its existence and the slow the inevitable - the performance of an impending task.  I'll do it tomorrow or next week.  I'd rather draw this now instead of the commission. I'll just watch this next episode and then start painting.  Etc., etc., etc.   I know, because I do it all the time and if I am not careful a day can be wasted and no meaningful art is created.  This can cause stress and increase deadline pressures and make my job as an artist not as pleasant.

Procrastination is about time management.  We all have the same 24 hour period to fit activities, meals, exercise, recreation, sleeping, etc. into.  What we make room for shows its level of importance in our life.  And how disciplined we are in sticking to a time allotment, once we truly want to do something makes a big difference.

Procrastination in art students tells me a lot about how serious they are about learning.  If homework was "forgotten" or they were "too busy" to practice guides me in understanding whether they want to remain hobbyists or take art to a more accomplished level.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Sea ice & bears

Iced In - SOLD

Pouch Cove harbour

An early spring storm with northeasterly winds brought pack ice close to shore and with it a few polar bears.  Where I live, we got the ice, but not the bears, they were further north.  

Bauline Harbour

I always feel sorry for the bears, as they're usually disoriented and hungry.  People get too curious and too close and it becomes a dangerous situation.  The bears if too close for comfort, are usually tranquilized and airlifted back north.  Sometimes it ends badly for the bear if it endangers human life.

You can see some photos of bears on the Bonavista Peninsula this week here and here.  And video footage here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Oil sketching on kraft paper

I love persimmons.

Their colour, form and of course taste, are wonderful.  Not being native to Newfoundland, they are a treat that I occasionally find and the need to paint them always takes priority over eating.

I've been trying heavy kraft packaging paper for drawing and painting and find it works beautifully for oil sketches, with no seepage of oil or buckling.  Now I'm no purist for supports when it comes to drawing or painting. I'll use whatever comes to hand to capture my idea.  If my support is a disaster or success, its all part of the learning process.

Sometimes its the journey that teaches you a lot about the destination.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Out of sight, out of mind?

Early spring road - a study

The blog has slipped my mind over the last 6 weeks.  No, to be honest, it hasn't slipped my mind, I haven't had time or interest to post.  There, I said it.  I truly don't know if I have more to say or share or if social media and its short clips of information has taken over from a longer post.  Blog readership and engagement is limited and I feel as if I'm talking to myself most of the time.  Do other bloggers feel similarly about the health of blogs generally?  I'd love to read your input.

After my last post in February, I got sick.  A cold led to flu which led to pneumonia in March, so creativity was abandoned. I have not felt so sick before in my life and will be first in line for a flu shot in the fall. My absence in the studio wasn't for lack of interest, but simply because I was too sick to make it to the studio and do anything productive.  I completed the February Sketch challenge by some miracle, but that was more likely that it didn't take a lot of effort daily and sketching is second nature to me.  So lounging on the sofa, I sketched and napped and let nature take its course.

After I was feeling better,  I headed to the studio with a vengance, trying to make up for lost time in painting production.  The summer season will be here before we know and I need both small and large pieces.  I've been in heads down mode, including putting workshops on hold to allow me time to really concentrate.  And its worked.  I've created a number of paintings and am just putting the finishing strokes on a 40" x 40" piece.

My "word" for 2017 was FOCUS.  It has served me well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


When I lived in the UK, there was a large corn field where I walked daily with the dogs and the children.  Every walk uncovered fossils on the ground that we'd pick up and bring home.  They were mostly extinct ammonite species from the Triassic/Jurassic period and most were left behind when I moved back to Canada.

The simple shape is appealing and the colours that come from age and earth add to the appeal.  Using granulating watercolours in Lunar Black and Lunar Blue (a combination of Lunar Black and Pthalo Blue), they are perfect additions for creating texture and age.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Floral Tea

Floral Tea - SOLD
6" x 8" oil on panel

The forecast for Valentine's Day is a blizzard and a lot of snow.  I'm sure that will put the damper on those restaurant dinners that may be planned and perhaps dining at home will be in order, provided you remember to get the supplies at the stores.  And if the power stays on.  However, love always finds a way, storm or no storm.

While I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day and have zero expectation, it tends to pass by unnoticed for the most part for me.  But when there's a chance to put some seasonal red in a painting that just may be the token of affection for someone in your life (or perhaps self appreciation) I'm all for it, especially in the depths of winter when we need all the encouragement we can muster that spring isn't too far away.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 06, 2017

The art of not giving up

 Pick Eyes Cove
24" x 36"  oil on canvas

Every drawing or painting is created using a process that starts with the basic shapes and transitions through progressively more complex layers until completion.  There is no magic solution that speeds up the process.  Buying the paint brands or tools that a successful artist uses won't speed up the process.  Reading how to books or watching endless DVDs on technique won't speed up the process.   It takes time, patience and lots of practice.

During that transition between stages, its difficult to keep the vision in your head for the original outcome and the frustration of how long it takes or how difficult it becomes can overpower the artist and they give up long before the turning point is reached that brings the painting to completion.

Details become more interesting than the hard work of background, colour and value.  Wanting to see the finished product becomes more enticing than working your way through the weeds.

"Its about the journey, not the destination." is true as you learn so much along the way.  Persistence and patiences are key.  Allowing yourself to make mistakes and understanding how to fix them, and knowing that it IS a process that is not quick, but that will end up at the destination if you allow it sufficient time.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

February Sketch Challenge

I started a February Sketch Challenge to encourage others to kick start their sketching and drawing skills.  As an art teacher, I would say that the biggest challenge my students have is their limited ability to draw. (the other is colour theory) People jump into painting without having a good skeleton for the piece and spend time and effort trying to correct in on the canvas, often ending up frustrated.


The challenge is to draw something every day during February.  All levels of expertise are welcome and its a private Facebook group that keeps out trolls and negativity or turn it into a brag fest for proficient artists.  Its not too late to join and whether you sketch once a day or once a week, every sketch counts on the journey to become skilled in observing and drawing.

Visit the group and send a request to join.  We'd love to see you there.

Friday, February 03, 2017

American Red 242

 American Red 242
11 x 14"  oil on cradled wood panel

I love the character of old wooden boats, especially those that show their age.  Its the same with people.  Shiny, perfect anything, outside a newborn baby seems artificial in some ways.  Its as if the truth is being hidden from view.

With boats, a shiny coat of paint masks the knocks and marks of time and journeys which make its stories even more interesting. Pretending that life hasn't happened diminishes their value in my eyes.

American Red 242 is the name of a Newfoundland Heritage paint.  This colour has been used on boats and doors and fences since before I have had memory.  My mother's door and fence were this colour; my grandmother's door and fence were this colour.  Perhaps it doesn't fade quickly.  And judging by the boat in the painting, it is holding some colour despite the weathering.

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year Opportunities

At the start of a new year, we review what's gone before and plan for the future.  I hope your past was all you hoped for and that 2017 is even better.  For those struggling, as well all do from time to time, take a deep breath and look for something - anything - that brings pleasure in your life, no matter how small.  And know that tomorrow brings new beginnings.

New years brings new opportunities for change, self improvement and exposure to new things.  Aside from the usual resolutions that fly out the window mid January, its worth really looking inwards to see what you want to change, learn or be. Changes can be free for the taking.

Kick start your art skills by joining my February Sketch Challenge Facebook group.  All skill levels can join in and all mediums and there is no pressure to perform daily.  Do what you can, when you can and you'll see your drawing skills soar by the end of the month.  Click here to join.

Cloudy With a Chance of Rain

And check out my January Clearance Sale of small paintings.  All originals, mostly oils and all just $40 each.  Whatever is left at the end of the month gets re-purposed, painted over or burned.  Click here to see what's available.

I've posted my list of 2017 workshops with a range of drawing and palette knife painting classes from beginner to more advanced.  Details, supply lists and registration are all on my website.  Click here to read more.  If you enter 2017WORKSHOP at checkout you'll receive 10% off any workshop.