Thursday, December 29, 2016

Looking backwards-

Nearing the end of the year, it is interesting to look back on the year's programs and production. Plein air painting worked well with the weather cooperating on most days. Our "substitute" studio Tuesdays for the winter has seen other work completed and lots of useful comments shared. Every other Friday for a "long pose" has been a great supplement to Wednesday night regular Life Drawing. This pastel was done one Friday and I will have more to post as my photography is not up to date. I'm not sure if I will continue my "mixed media" approach for long pose as we may be in a smaller room for the next session. I've appreciated the greater space with out smaller group as I've needed table space for the painting, blow-drying and pastel ground application as well as the "donkey" to sit on while working with pastels. I may have to work with something that can be contained to a smaller space... but then that can be good too as it is challenging to work in different ways. The drawing above was done in three colours of Conte' on brown paper for a change of pace. I did quite a bit of painting in my home studio  this year- and not all of them are photographed either. I've also noted that quite a few need wiring as well - not my favourite job but the cats aren't volunteering to do it. I'm in the process of shifting my display around since I brought home the paintings from the View Gallery. Keeping a record by photographing paintings and mounting them in a display portfolio is another task that takes time. I don't record all the Life Drawings and they don't all get kept either, but I have been posting most of the Long Poses on my Pinterest folio - to give them a life beyond being piled up in a cupboard. We already have all the dates booked for Long Poses and the studio booked until we go outside in the good (we hope!) weather. It looks like 2017 will be a busy year.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Artist's Brain

      I just read an interesting article on the artist's brain. Rebecca Chamberlain, KU Leuven, Belgium was reporting on a study to see if artists brains are structurally different.  Using a scanning method- vaxel-based morphometry, it was found that there was more grey matter in the region of the brain used in visual imagery. It was also found that hose better at drawing had more grey and white matter in the cerebellum and in the related supplementary motor area involved in fine muscle control. Studies also showed that more work at drawing resulted in better work - so there is certainly something to the "10,000 hours" idea. However, the "right brain,left brain" idea didn't seem to hold true as improvement showed on both sides of the brain.
     I still think, however, that there is value to be had in going through the exercises in "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" - maybe especially if a person has been away from it for awhile and needs to power-up the creative workings. Most artists feel that Life Drawing is like playing scales - it keeps the skills up even if a lot of what is produced ends up in the recycling bin.... well, we don't want to be buried in overwhelming piles of paper! For our Long Poses every other Friday, I have been taking a mixed-media approach - drawing first in charcoal on watercolour paper, giving that a wash of acrylic,  drying that, and then applying acrylic medium for pastels (to give the paper "tooth"), drying it again and then completing the work in pastel. It is an interesting approach and I'm still exploring the possibilities.
    I'm  interested in light effects and I hope to do more city night scenes . "Five-fifteen". above. is the first one- based on a black and white newspaper photo - but I now have more references and will get at this idea after Christmas. I'm certainly well-past my 10,000 hours but there is always something new to try, some different ideas and approaches to play with, and some skills to keep up. There is lots to keep an artist's brain busy.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Men in Hats show up at Gateway

Above - Marvin Skelton with painting "A window on the past" - the Steves' house as it was in 1920. , then Jennifer Heine is on the ladder with her painting of Harold Steves on the wall and John Beatty's farmyard to the left of it with Gordon Borgfjord. Bottom- Jennifer leans precariously with Larry Tillyer's painting of the farmhouse and David McHolm's "Buttercup" waiting to be hung. I'll post my painting later. The show runs at Gateway through December - great performances on all month but you can also go to see the paintings when the box office is open and get admission during the day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Walter Foster -mentor from my past

I recently received a new publication from Walter Foster publications. Pen&Ink is the first in a planned  Artistry series which will focus on various fine art mediums.  The name Walter Foster is very familiar to me as I still have my very first art book on how to draw children top, above. A friend of the family gave this to me when I was also a child in order to help my drawing of people. It is well-worn and certainly helped back then. Now Walter Foster Publications is producing a new series of books that should be of great help to artists.  This first book focuses on pen and ink  and, after a basic introduction to tools, materials and techniques features four different artists with different techniques and styles. Desarae Lee also uses water colour washes and collage material. M.Ramos is a Brazilian artist who uses stippling (along with a magnifying glass!) to create detail  such as cats' fur and the smoke and steam of a locomotive. Loui Jover is from Australia and works in mixed media. He uses vintage book pages as  his drawing surface and creates very interesting effects. I especially liked his city scene as the book pages added another dimension to the work. I was amazed by the work of Samuel Silva who is now based in London and works in ballpoint pens.  Yes, ordinary ball-point pens to produce startlingly realistic work such as the bird shown above!  Needless to say, this is very time-consuming but the book does show it all in detail. Illustrations are excellent and inspiring. It seems like Walter Foster -or his descendants - is carrying on as an aid to artists.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Surely 11 million means painting is not dead!

     No, this is not the 11 million dollar painting - but one I recently "fixed". I was one of my dream cities series - cities you imagine visiting - until you get there and it is too hot, too cold, too crowded, too polluted - or your feet hurt! I imagined Angkor Wat as a place of serenity but, as the original painting stood, it didn't quite come off .  Some others in the series had that magical feeling but I was going to just paint over this until after a lecture on colour and simultaneous contrast  I went over the painting with glazes to recreate some of the mood I had been striving for. This is part of the struggle of painting- getting the mood right . All of us in our group are serious in our struggles. Not that we don't have fun- but it is serious work.
     But uplifting news was found in the fact that Lawren Harris' "Mountain Forms" painting sold for 11 million at a recent auction and set a record for a new high for Canadian painting. This is good news as it shows Canadian art can hold its own on the world art scene and that paintings are still highly valued.
     However, our local public gallery has decided , without any public input, that they are a "contemporary" art gallery with an "educational" outlook.  Paintings, apparently, are things that can be shown in a commercial gallery but not within their walls. I would think that about 75% of the local population would like to see paintings - at least some of the time. Most people do not have the space or set-up to allow for installations and video presentations but would be happy to have a painting they enjoy on a wall. Contemporary architecture and interior designs show paintings used to complete the setting. Ignoring painting seems a bit elitist to me. It also ignores centuries of art history.  I would bet that 300 years from now, people will still travel to Paris to see Monet's waterlilies and Amsterdam to see the "Night Watch" but I doubt they will go to London because of Tracy Eminem's unmade bed. In fact that bed may well have been thrown out by then. I must admit that I laughed when I read about an installation that got swept up as debris by new cleaning staff!  Many of the "stars" of today's art world - even Lawren Harris, the Group of Seven, and Emily Carr - got much of their early recognition from  open shows in public galleries. Local public galleries need to support local artists by at least occasionally giving exhibition opportunities. A few years ago, before the change in "mandate", I had the opportunity to show "Local Landscapes" and it was well-received. I think that part of an educational program should include showing what is produced in painting today- of all genres and mediums, not just what is deemed "contemporary". Contemporary should mean current and not indicate a particular style.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Long Pose Fun

Here's one that is unlikely to sell - but it was fun to do. Last Friday we had a "long pose" session and had Ginny dress up as a bag lady. In fact, I think I'll call my piece "It's in the Bag"! I was working again with mixed media. On watercolour paper, I drew in black conte' crayon and then did a wash - using red, yellow and blue - Pyrole Red, Hansa Yellow and Ultramarine Blue, to be precise. Then I used a blow-dryer to dry it (we keep one in out cupboard at the art centre)  and then I  put acrylic gel for pastels over it. This is a gritty gel that dries to a surface that will hold the pastels. Then, after another session with the blow-dryer,  I worked in pastels to finish it. I think Ginny was a bit amused by the various results of her pose. We've told her that next time we should have her come as a society lady for an opposite effect. At any rate, it made for a fun session.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Above is my 10x10 that sold at GuessWho? and also a photo of people figuring out what painting they wanted .
    My sailboat was mostly painted with a small palette knife as there were smaller details on it but I didn't want it to get "bitty" with using a small brush - and I also wanted the paint to be reasonably thick. I think you can really see that it is along the coast because of the way the land slopes up. It is one of the coastal islands with the typical  rocky shore and growth of evergreens.It has gone to a good home.  It was interesting working on the reflections- very different with the darker colours than when I worked on reflections on a sunny day in Steveston for Once Upon a Reflection (on April 1st blog)  I also put in, for GuessWho?,  the one I did in the Ladner GrandPrix but I think it has much more limited appeal so it didn't sell. I think I will paint over it.
    The sale did fairly well but not as well as last year - so there won't be quite as much money raised for the Food Bank, unfortunately.  I think people are unsettled and concerned over the US Elections., so we will have to see how the sale goes next year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Beginning of November

     Here is the full image of my waterfall painting that I just put on my November newsletter. It is 40  by 30 and was an interesting challenge to paint in order to get the waterfall to really *flow* and capture the way light is up in the West Coast mountains. You have to work to get the rocks right so the flow is realistic. I started this one with quite big brushes to get the energy and action flowing. It was a lot of time and work but also fun - so now I'm painting another waterfall. The latest one is just a small roadside waterfall - a reminder that you don't necessarily have to go hiking to enjoy a touch of nature.
     Nature and many other subjects will be found on 10x10 paintings at our annual one-day anonymous art sale GuessWho?. All the paintings are on gallery-thick canvas and all sell for $100 each. $50 goes to the artist and the balance goes to Richmond Food Bank. Many artists are members of Richmond Artist Guild but there are also well-known professional artists, members of Western Canada Taiwanese Artist Society and  high-school students --- hey! you might buy the next BigName artist!  GuessWho? is this Saturday, November 5th from 10 am to 3pm at the Pioneer Church at South Arm United. A brief viewing period first, then when the whistle blows, buyers can take their choice. It is a bit exciting at the beginning but there are over 150 paintings and a good selection even later on.It is a great way to start an art collection. I have a wall of 10x10s - my "friends wall"- of paintings by artist friends. I used narrow wood strips on the wall so the paintings rest evenly and can be moved around. Some are GuessWho? paintings and some have been purchased - or traded for- otherwise. My "wall" is now going to extend a bit around the corner. It is something I enjoy every time I walk into my computer room. At only a $100 you can have the enjoyment of original art and also support a good cause.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

End of October

It hardly seems possible that we are at the end of October already and that our GuessWho? sale will be THIS SATURDAY!   I have been busy organizing for it - I think there will be more paintings than ever - and the quality is outstanding. We have lots of people returning from previous years but here is the information if you haven't attended before.  All the paintings are 10x10 and are on gallery-thick canvas. All sell for $100 each - a tremendous bargain. The trick is that you don't know the artist until you buy as the signatures are on the back (or covered). Some people recognize certain artists styles and will buy on that basis, but the important thing is that the purchaser likes the painting - so - really, is who painted it all that important? It could even be a lesson in finding out what you do like without being influenced by a signature. I can think of many well-known artists who painted some real masterpieces - and also some pretty bad stuff. Most of us do some serious weeding from time to time. You have to be willing to take some risks to grow - but not all the risks are successful, especially at first. So, a lot of tossing takes place and most artists damage the work in some way so that it is not possible for it to be "rescued". - but I digress- The point of this sale is to find what *you* like. $50 goes to the artist - who - at that price- is making a donation too - and the balance goes to Richmond Food Bank . So you get something you like and help support a charity too. The date is November 5th, the time is from 10 to 3pm and the venue is the Pioneer Church at #3 and Steveston Highway. The sale starts at 10 but there will be about 15 minutes for viewing before then- then we blow a whistle and you can snatch the painting that caught your eye.Many paintings re by members of Richmond Artists Guild but we also have well-known local artists like Chris Charlebois and Leo Hu as well as high-school students (the next Picasso?)Since they are they same size, they are nice to collect for a gallery wall.
     The pastel above is from our small-group Friday long-pose (and is not part of GuessWho?) I had planned a mixed-media approach and found I'd forgotten the acrylic pastel gel I needed - and I also didn't have the heavier paper for straight pastels. So, I used a lighter weight pastel paper from a pad  and decided to just make the best of it. In the end, I was fairly pleased with how I had captured Amanda.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Frida Kahlo at Home

I've just finished reading "Frida Kahlo at Home" by Suzanne Barbezat. What a good read!... and so well illustrated.  There are archival photographs- remember the scene in the movie where the family portrait is being taken and Frida dressed as a male? Well, the actual photograph is in the book. There are several reproduction of paintings with complete explanations. Some  have been frequently reproduced but there are some lesser-known works.  I liked the self-portrait with curly hair! While I have see "The Two Fridas",  the other one on the same page, "The Suicide of Dorothy Hale ", was new to me. Apparently it was  in storage for thirty years. I didn't know she had only painted 200 in her lifetime - another fact I picked up.  I saw an exhibit of Frida's work along with that of Emily Carr and Georgia O'Keefe. All stand on their own merit as artists but all are also of particular interest to women artists  who find it interesting to see how other women artists managed their lives. An article  about Frida appeared in the Detroit News in February 1933 and is reproduced in this book. The author acknowledged  Frida's talent but the headline was typical of how women were viewed - "Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art" and Frida is shown painting in a frilly apron.  While Frida's life is fully written up, there is a focus on the Blue House- such a major part of Frida's life-  with photos of interior and exterior. The one above is of the courtyard with  some of Diego's pre-Columbian artifacts displayed. If you can't get to visit the Blue House, which is now a museum, the book is a must... and if you are fortunate enough to visit the museum, you might just treasure this even more.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Time to get back inside

This is one of the last paintings done on our Men in Hats Tuesday plein-aire sessions. It is good practice to go out to an agreed upon spot and then have a limited amount of time to paint. Of course, within the location, we  each choose exactly where to be and what to paint. This can be a bit of challenge sometimes. I thought I would enjoy the totem poles when we went to Stanley Park but they just didn't speak to me and I ended up doing some ink sketches instead of painting.  Sometimes it takes a bit of looking around to find an appealing subject. We all have different ideas of what we like so it is good to have different locations. This time, the destination was 57th and the Boulevard, I decided I liked the way the light hit the window - and the reflections. However, while it was sunny and the sun was on the window, I ended up sitting in the shade with a bit of wind. Fortunately, there was a nearby coffee shop and I warmed up with a hot chocolate. Painting outdoors, for our group,  has pretty well ground to a halt until May - and we are having studio sessions on Tuesdays instead. Some people are finishing up paintings that were started - but not fully completed - in an outdoor session. The practice of painting outdoors started around the time of the Impressionists. The then-new availability of paints in tubes made paints more readily portable. Before that, paints had to be ground and mixed with oil, a rather cumbersome set-up to cart out to a field.  Not to mention that an assistant would be needed to do the  grinding of pigments and mixing while the artist painted. Now, most of us have folding easels and stools and something with wheels to help transport paint box, easel and palette.... and lots of paints all in tubes. - and a handy coffee shop is always a bonus!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Viewed in a different setting

     Here is  a view of the installation in the View Gallery. It is interesting to see the difference a change in surroundings makes to the paintings, My "Bleeding Hearts" painting especially seemed quite different as I hadn't seen it against a light wall before.  That was an interesting challenge to paint. I have a nice clump that comes up every year so close observation was not a problem. The green was the problem! In the garden, the actual green of the foliage looks good and a nice contrast - fresh and bright. However, translated into pigment, the pink and the green fought to the point where it was almost garish. I kept the pinks pretty well as Nature had them but I had to subdue the greens. In the painting, the greens look quite "natural" but there was a lot of adjustment and glazing to get the colours to work in harmony.
     The Gallery is in the church lobby which has been redone with a wooden floor instead  of carpet - which adds a nice shine to the place!  Barb Bowen does a great hanging job and the adjustable lights really set off the paintings. I felt like I was getting  freshly acquainted with the paintings in their new temporary home.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Artist Statements

     This is "Towards the Meadow" - one of the paintings I'm showing in the View Gallery at Fraserview Church, opening this Sunday. Church service is at 10:30 or you can come after at 12 and I can see you then. There is a coffee bar in the lobby. I had to write a Statement for the show. This is always a bit difficult to do. I know of one artist who said "Why should an artist have to write a Statement - nobody asks a novelist to do an illustration about his book!"
     I thought I would keep it simple- so here it is: " My paintings are about enjoying a time and place by capturing the moment . Light and colour are important elements of my art. I like working in acrylics because of the layering qualities.  "Home" paintings are mostly flowers because a garden is part of the enjoyment of home. "Afar" paintings bring the enchantment of experiencing a different environment."
      Maybe it is too simple - here is a statement from an art competition "The repeated blocks in my work function as confrontational and generative forms that both obstruct and actively construct the space of the painting." or "Painting is a physical and mental process that allows me to deconstruct the subject matter that I am addressing." - and "I am exploring the relationship of heritage and progress in the local context, while engaging with paint itself: its qualities, limits and history."
     The question is - do words make the painting? I think they sometimes do -at least with price and prestige. I would just like viewers to relate to the paintings themselves. We'll see if anyone has anything to say about the Artist's Statement.

Friday, September 9, 2016

He still likes it!

Here is Barbara - he is a male but was given that name because he is such a diva. I thought he was lovely with his colouring and his fluffy coat as he sat by a window in his home. Apparently he likes the painting as he often sleeps by it. He is getting older  but still has a commanding air. It isn't always easy to please a sitter. I think the mental image we have of ourselves is often a few years out of date- so the current reality can be a bit of a shock. There is also a certain tendency to project oneself into every painting- so it depends on whether the artist's style and projection works well with the subject or not. At least animals don't complain to the artist!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Water-soluble wax crayons

This was done recently at Life Drawing - just concentrating more on James' face and arm and just using one colour of crayon. Well, I've finished that sketchbook now - and posted a few on Pinterest. Now I am drawing just in pen and ink for the next few sessions. I find it a challenge to switch into drawing with different mediums- a way to shake it up and bring some variety. But even without changing, Life Drawing is always an interesting challenge. With the water-soluble Caran d'Ache crayons,  I usually just do the drawing "dry" and then wash it with water later on. It is an interesting mix of the linear with the coloured wash. After this  new series in ink - which includes doing some small ones on cream coloured paper- I may try some quick water-colour wash "drawings". I'm posting the small ones onto a cupboard door in my studio - just for a different display.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunday in Steveston

This is what I painted on Sunday the 21st in Steveston - just outside Prickly Pear with its red door and flower pots. After my Tuesday struggle with a very small canvas (posted on Facebook) , I was smarter and also kept the subject simple. I had lots of comments and one passer-by even tweeted it.  Lots of nice people and lots of people I knew. Then Mark Glavina  awarded it a prize and I even have a buyer for it! This was part of Mark's Phoenix Art Workshop Customer Appreciation Day. It was fun to be able to pick where to paint instead of being assigned a spot like in the Grand Prix.  Now I need to think of a title for it. = something better than "Red Door"!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sigmund and cats-

Just did this page for my sketchbook, I looked up images of Sigmund - he was definitely a collar and tie guy - and suits in those days usually came with a matching vest, I just thought it would be fun to put this in my sketchbook when I found that, yes, he actually said this!  Sigmund was the grandfather of the painter Lucien Freud who did such great portrait paintings. Gordon Smith, a former teacher of mine, felt that Lucien Freud was the greatest living painter in Britain - that was said when Lucien WAS still alive, of course. This was drawn in ink, colured with pencil crayons and a blender.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Latest Life Drawing

The pastel paper is a sort of smokey mauve colour - I think it is called "Twilight" or something like that. I drew lightly with a white Conte' crayon to work out proportions. This is actually the second drawing as the other - on the other side, I didn't like the results. Then I couldn't locate an eraser so  I just turned it over. Shortly after, I found *four* erasers - they had become so grubby from the pastels that they weren't recognizable. So now I have cleaned them up a bit - threw one out - and have them in their own little plastic "snack pack" to keep them cleaner. Of course, kneaded erases don't last forever anyway. Then I worked mostly with soft pastels - a little pan pastel in the lower left- and pastel pencils in a linear way- especially on the face. We do a "long pose" every two months and they are  mostly draped figures. Nice to have a longer time to get into it - and to work in colour.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Summer's Gift"

     This is one I actually painted quickly - in less than one day. Maybe I got my speed up in the GrandPrix! I was also feeling pressure because the flowers are just not lasting very well these days. I have a large sunflower painting on the go - worked most of one day and evening on it before there was major drooping. Of course, I also took some pictures and I'll need them to finish.  The sunflowers have now gone on to make their contribution to the compost box. I think flowers have more life in a painting when they are painted from life.
     Last blog I was writing about blue - and here I am with a painting that has almost no blue in it. The background is Paynes Grey and white with just a touch of French Ultramarine. This is not the historical Ultramarine but rather a modern replacement. In 1824, an industrial society in France offered a prize for any chemist who could discover how to manufacture an artificial Ultramarine. Four years later, the French colour maker J.-B Guimet developed the winning recipe. French Ultramarine quickly became a core colour for artists, who appreciated its cheapness. Today, it is still a basic blue. I often use it in shadow mixes because it is transparent. Prussian Blue is one of my favourites for water- especially for reflections.It was the first colour to be made artificially and was produced accidentally in 1704 by a paint maker in Berlin. Cobalt Blue was created in 1802 by a French chemist called Thenard. Made from cobalt aluminate, it took over from Smalt. It works nicely in acrylic for our  local summer skies.  Cerulean Blue was also developed in 1802 by a German scientist Hopfner by heating cobalt and tin oxides. This is a great colour for watercolour skies but not transparent in acrylics. Phthalo Blue was synthesized from copper phthalocyanine in the early 1930's. It is a deep intense blue and is often used instead of Prussian Blue. I think you have to be a bit careful with it to keep it from looking too strong and artificial. Indanthrene Blue is similar to Indigo and is available from some manufacturers and another substitute for Prussian. One interesting thing is that hues can vary from one manufacturer to another and from one medium to another. Artists tend to develop favourites and it is one of the reasons an artist's work develops a recognizable "look". It is interesting to think of the history behind the colours we squeeze out on our palettes.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A New Blue

     There is a new blue in the world. It was accidentally discovered by Oregon State University researchers who were testing compounds for uses in electronics. The pigment ha been named YInMn Blue after its three elements - Yttrium, Indium and Manganese. The mixture was brown but turned to a brilliant blue in the heat of a furnace - an entirely new pigment.  Because of the rare elements, it will sell around $1000 per kilogram - so, although it can be mixed into paints and plastics, it is doubtful that it will be lavished on canvases in paintings. It has some other interesting  aspects - it absorbs UV light and resists high temperatures so it could be used for cooling roofs.
     This is not the first pricey blue. Artists of the Renaissance's Ultramarine (which means " from beyond the sea") came from a gemstone called lapis lazuli which was more expensive than gold. Ancient Egyptians had a blue that was made from azurite, a copper carbonate mineral. This was still used by 15th century Renaissance artists , sometimes as an underpainting for the more costly Ultramarine. Artists' contracts often specified that Ultramarine  was not to be substituted by the cheaper azurite as it was to denote the patron's status and wealth.
    Woad was used in northern Europe ever since the ancient Britons used it to dye their faces blue to strike fear into Julius Caesar's invading army.  Artist monks used woad to illuminate the Book of Kells in the eight century. Then Indigo was imported from India and it was 30 times stronger than woad. It became available to painters who sometimes used it to underpaint azurite to give it more depth and warm its effect.
     Smalt was a deep blue colour produced from cobalt oxide that replaced azurite. It was used widely from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century . J.M.W. Turner (1775-1850) was said to use great quantities of "smalts of various intensities".
     Artists nowadays are fortunate to have a choice of blues available- as I did in the above plein air painting "From the Balcony" .
     There will be more on blues - my main reference for this is Simon Jenning's "Artists Color Manual" from Chronicle Books.

Monday, July 18, 2016

GrandPrix Delta

     Here is the 10 x10 (inches- and, no, I have no idea why canvases here are still in inches) that I painted in slightly less than 3 hours during the GrandPrix Delta, held in Ladner. Just like in real estate - it is location, location, location, but this is the luck of the draw and I got looking across a road under reconstruction to the Museum. I understand it was the old municipal hall. The totem pole is an authentic one and it is currently rotting. According to First Nations, totem poles should be allowed to return to the earth. Ladner has to decide whether to leave the totem where it is and let it be , or move it elsewhere to let it rot.  I did cut down the height of the tree which would have gone far off the top, but there wasn't much I could do about the flagpole- leaving it out didn't seem quite right. The figure was invented - to bring the viewer's eye back into the painting. I am reasonably pleased with what I did. If I had my choice of any place, I would have picked a colourful store front or a boat down by the river. The latter, boat, reflections and all was what the first place prize winner got to paint - a beautiful painting but also a great location. However, it was fun and we had the owner of Hill's shoe store - two doors down- being very helpful. She even supplied a tray of cookies that could be offered to passers-by. I found a couple of chocolate chip cookies really helped with the painting- especially as it had been an early start to the day and paint time was from 10 am to 1pm - so a later lunch. If construction had not been going on, there were plans to have a couple of antique cars parked on the street. That, of course, would have made an entirely different painting possible. The challenge, of course, is to do what you can with what you get in a situation like this. Going out and picking your own spot is a whole other story.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Salmon Festival on horizon

     Rapidly approaching is July 1st, Canada Day and the Steveston Salmon Festival. I will be in it this year, sharing a booth with Margreth Fry. Quite a few other Richmond artists will be there so we hope that people do come inside to see the Art show. I don't think I'm taking this one of "Baskets" for sale but I thought it looked summery.
     Following on from the last blog - I forgot to give the actual name of the the political cartoonist who took his pseudonym from the Russian word- karandash- for pencil. Emmanuel Poire' was born in Moscow and became a Paris illustrator. The Swiss pencil company Caran d'Ache is named after him and the logo is a stylized version of his signature.
     Now that we are into better painting weather, Men in Hats are back outdoors painting. There is a different challenge in painting on the spot - apart from the weather which can be challenge enough.It can be difficult to focus on what seems to capture the mood of the location. Then the light changes, boats, cars and people move. Yet, for all the difficulties , there are a lot of benefits - learning to find the focus, trying to capture the mood, compensate for light changes- and get something fresh. There is certainly an intensity felt in the paintings that is just not there in a photograph. We often take a reference photo in case we want the small outdoor painting to also become a larger studio piece. It is only by looking at the painting that I get a real feel for what interested me. Too often the photo is "ho-hum". So then the new challenge starts - how to translate the "hey this was a neat place!" feeling into a larger piece done over a longer period of time. Nobody said it was easy - that's why it is called artWORK.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Caran d'Ache

     Here are a few recent life drawings- this first is two five-minute poses from our rotation pose, the next two are 20-minute poses and the last is 35 minutes. All are drawn with Caran d'Ache watersoluble wax crayons. The last book I filled at Life Drawing was black and white on grey paper so I figured it was time for a switch into colour. Draw dry, take a brush to wet the drawing and it all blends in but can still retain a bit of the linear look of drawing.
     As you know from previous blogs,  I've been looking into the history of pencils and drawing materials so I researched the Caran d'Ache line. This line has over 100 years of history as  the factory was set up in Geneva in 1915 using graphite found in the Swiss mountains. Around the same time, there was an illustrator in Paris who became very famous. He took the pen name (or should we say "pencil name"?) of Caran d'Ache from the Russian word for pencil. And, just to make this even more of an international mix-up, the Russia word comes from a Turkish root "kanco tash" which refers to black stone. Nine years after starting, the Swiss company took the name of the illustrator and used a stylized version of his signature as their logo. I'm assuming the illustrator was paid for this.
     Caran d'Ache makes a full line of pencils, pens and drawing materials. Their pens are renowned for  being especially beautiful. For the 100year anniversary, Caran d'Ache created a clever design of a ballpoint pen that looks like a pencil. Unfortunately, I don't have one but I do enjoy the Caran d'Ache
materials that I do have.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Full Mountain View

Here is the "full square" (10"x 10") of the mountain view painting that is one of two choices for my free draw for DoorsOpen. It is a reminder of why we are so fortunate to live in this west coast landscape. We have beautiful scenery from mountains to sea - and even the cities can be scenic. DoorsOpen is this weekend - June 4th and 5th from 10am to 4pm - lots of sites  throughout Richmond as well as my area- where there are three of us artists close together. I've been hanging paintings and setting up easels to get ready. I still have a few paintings to wire and I'll put out some sketchbooks for people to view. Come and have a cookie and browse!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The other painting...

     This is "Gary's Woods" which is the other painting going to Shanghai. It was inspired by my cousin's wooded property. Harder to see online in a smaller size, the painting itself has red leaves from autumn still poking through the snow and floating on the almost-frozen water - to bring a welcome touch of colour to this serene landscape.
     Back here in Richmond, I am getting ready for DoorsOpen - June 4th and 5th. I have a couple of smaller snow scenes but now, with this Shanghai show, the rest of my snow series have gone.
I'm beginning to think I will have to travel a bit farther afield to see any more snowy landscapes, It has been a few winters now since there was any "paintable" snow around here.
     Currently, of course, the garden is in full bloom with more subject matter than I can immediately handle. Sketchbook and photographs are coming to the rescue and reference material is being saved for winter studio painting. Plants seem to be blooming earlier but also finishing up earlier. The columbines have mostly gone to seed already. The pink peonies are over but the white ones are now out . I wonder why they didn't  bloom together?  I'm not sure that peonies appeal as individual subjects on their own - I think I'd like them in a  bouquet - but then I'd have to pick them and I hate picking peonies as they never last indoors.  Maybe later if any are available, I'll see if I can buy a bouquet  - right now I seem to be busy enough with already painted paintings, setting them up for DoorsOpen,

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shanghai and Sketching

     Here is "Winter Pond" that has gone of to be in an exhibit in Shanghai. This view was a few years ago - now I find myself wondering if - with climate change- it will ever happen again. As it was, it was one of those "miracle" days when, instead of snow being followed by grey skies and rain, we got snow and then a few crisp sunny days. Sturgeon Banks, just beyond the dyke, was a beautiful sight with sunshine on bulrushes making a great contrast to the shadows and highlights of the snow. It was a great day to be out. I can relive the day when I see the painting - or even a photo of the painting since it now seems the painting is destined to live elsewhere.
     The Travel section of the weekend Globe and Mail runs a series of first-person stories from the road. This week, features "The pencil is mightier than the flash" by David Gillett on the joys of sketching. He tells about sketching in Oxford and notes, "Even now, five years later, I can flip open to these pages and smell the clematis that wound around the solid columns, hear laughter and the crack of a croquet ball on the lawn behind us, see the radius of the Palladian arches, feel the warmth of the May morning sun as it fluttered through the dappled leaves of Oxford. One look at the sketch and it all comes back to life."  This is so true- it is nice to have photos but sketches somehow penetrate the memory much deeper so that all the senses bring their parts to the remembrance. Apparently some art museums- such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam  are now encouraging deeper looking by providing sketching materials so that visitors will pause and sketch to greater enjoyment than snapping a photo and quickly moving on. I've been out sketching columbines in the garden for a future painting. Somehow, drawing helps you see more.  I think I will have to get back to even more frequent sketching.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bleeding Hearts

Here is the "full square" of the newsletter painting. It is 24 x 24 and was an interesting challenge. At one point I was crouched down in the middle of the garden trying to get the right angle on the hanging bleeding hearts. I wanted to do them in the early stages when not all the hearts are fully out. Another challenge was to do a painting that is red and green and not have it garish. In reality, the brighter green looks great but in a painting it becomes a bit too much of a hit in the eye- so I toned down the greens somewhat.  I wanted the complementary colours to be complimentary too! I also had to tone down the splashes of brighter light coming through the plant. The problem with painting garden plants is,  unless one is wealthy enough to have a full-time gardener, the garden still has to be cared for - not just "painted". There is weeding, staking, trimming and lots of other tasks. Still, with painting from one's own plants, there is no doubt but that it is an original in every way. So far, the title is just "Bleeding Hearts"  but I might think about something else. Usually, I tend to be pretty straight-forward with titles. I think going Latin and calling it "Dicentra spectabilis"would be a bit pretentious- although I like the "spectabilis" part because I did think it was spectacular.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Lanterns" in Taiwan

I just got the catalog today as Annie Tsai is back in town from Taiwan. The catalog is from the 2016 Group Exhibition of Artists from North America. The exhibition took place in the National Taiwan Arts Education Centre. Now it is touring to other locations   in Taiwan for three months. My painting "Lanterns" was one of two of mine shown in this exhibition and I just found out it has sold ! The farthest back lantern is a camping lantern, then there is the miner's lantern that I have painted a few times before and since - and then the "lanterns" plant. It is interesting to think that a painting with  my Dad's old lantern has now found a new home far away.This painting is 20 x 16 - on canvas and painted with acrylic.
And this is one I painted at the beginning of this year. It is 20 x 10.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rocanini show and pencils and war...

     "The Old Camera" is one of my paintings on show at Rocanini Coffee Shop in Steveston. It was painted from a model who is wearing my yellow leather gloves. I thought about calling it "The Yellow Gloves". The gloves were bought in Paris over 50 years ago. Nowadays they mostly stay in a drawer but back then, gloves were worn more frequently. They are beautifully made with an interesting cut-out and braided join at the wrist.
     The show will be on until June 1st and has paintings by Bonita Ruttkay, Margreth Fry, Penny Talbot and me. My "White Bouquet" is there too. If you are in Steveston, drop in to have a look.
     With gloves from Paris, it might be a suitable time to continue with more pencil history. Conte' is a name familiar to artists as we often draw with conte' crayons - a form of harder pastel - but there is a real person behind the name. Nicolas-Jacques Conte' was an officer in Napoleon's army. Britain's naval blockade prevented the import of pencils from Cumberland. In 1795, Conte' invented a combination of clay and graphite for a cost-effective pencil. They could be made in degrees of hardness- something we accept as a "given" now, but it wasn't always so. So, a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars was that France manufactured its own pencils. Then conte' sticks were developed with using iron oxide, carbon black and titanium dioxide, clay and a binder to produce sticks in black, white, grey, and shades of red-brown.  These mix better on paper than any other hard pastels and have become a staple for many artists. The square profile makes for a more drawing style where soft pastels yield bolder strokes for a more painterly style. Georges Seurat used conte' to produce many of his studies. It is easy to find black, white, grey and shades of sanguine in most art stores but Conte' also used to make a full range of  colours. I have some I am guarding carefully as I haven't seen any in years. I remember seeing a whole stand of a hundred or more different colours in Conte' in an art store in Europe.  How I wish I had *that* in my studio!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I was persuaded to do a painting for the Finn Slough show although I was feeling I had nothing more to contribute - so then I got inspiration to do the "Eva" in another view because "Eva" will be the subject of the Friday night talk - so here she is!  Eva has an interesting  history and has been donated to the Finn Slough Society. Usually moored in the Slough, she also appears at events such as the Maritime Festival. Naturally, I included her in my triptych for the hospital. I also did a bit of Finn Slough too  on the triptych but I took artistic liberty and turned the houses the other way around so they could be seen. As an artist, you can even move trees!  I thought it would be different to use autumn tones in this painting. This is a small painting - only 10 inches square  (easy to find room for)   It is acrylic on "gallery" canvas - which means it has deeper edges.  It doesn't need framing and looks a bit sculptural with the deep edges. I have a collection of 10 by 10's by friends that make a grouping by sitting on thin ledges --- just the width of the canvas edges so too narrow to call a shelf. It makes a nice grouping and will get added to. 10 by 10 is the size we use for our GuessWho? show and sale. (Next GuessWho? November 5th!) The Finn Slough show opens tomorrow- Thursday and runs to Sunday afternoon with the talk and the reception being on Friday night - in the Performance Hall in the Cultural Centre.

Friday, April 1, 2016

"Once Upon a Reflection"

Here is the full view of the painting I just sent out on my April Newsletter. It is 36"x36" and is currently hanging with 14 other paintings by 14 other members of Richmond Artists Guild in the upper lobby of Gateway Theatre. They can be seen- until June 1st - during office hours as well as before and after performances.  I called this "Once Upon a Reflection" because this is the boat used in "Once Upon a Time"- the TV series shot in Steveston.  I like reflections anyway - and this was both interesting and bright. The sunny day and reflected blue sky helped as the Fraser River is not blue, in itself.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Drawing on red pastel paper

     This is last night's "long pose"  - which is about 2 hours as there is set-up time, always a bit of an adjustment to make with lighting, and then breaks for the model, then clean-up time- so a three-hour period is not three hours of drawing. The evening gown was a sort of iridescent silver grey with a lovely shimmer. However, when I applied grey pastel, it looked greenish. I think that was because of the red paper. The grey took the complementary colour. I had to combat that by using some lavender pastel first and also using pure black and white as well as greys. Still, it was interesting working on the red paper as it made the set-up more dramatic and gave a good underlying warmth to the skin. I might consider making a painting of this and I do have a reference photo as well- but the skin tones and light on the dress show so much better in the pastel!

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Different Pencil Name

     A lot of pencil companies are named after people -such as Faber-Castell, Dixon and Conte'- while others may take place names like Cumberland, but one manufacturer has a different name altogether- Koh-i-noor. I've used the pencils - even have a lovely big set of coloured pencils, but I didn't think too much about the name until I got into this whole research on pencil names (see previous posts). Koh-i-noor is the name, from Persian for "Mountain of Light" of the famous large colourless diamond that is now part of the British Crown Jewels. The pencil company was founded in Vienna around 1790 by Joseph Hardtmudth. Variations in spelling of his last name appear on pencils today. In 1848, he relocated to Ceske-Budejoivice in the Czech Republic where the company remains a private company to this day.
      The diamond's story began back in the 13th century when it was found in India and after changing hands many times,  ended in the possession of Queen Victoria after the British conquered the Punjab region in 1849. Following a fairly perilous sea voyage, the diamond arrived in London and became the "got-to-see" item in the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park, London in 1851. Jostling crowds complained that it didn't really sparkle as sunlight was not really catching it.  Prince Albert was also unhappy with the dull irregular gem and in 1852 had it cut down from 186 carats to 105.6 carats. Some size loss was because of the discovery of flaws, but after 38 days of cutting, the diamond emerged 42 percent lighter in a dazzling, oval-cut brilliant.  It was worn in a brooch by Queen Victoria. After her death, it was set into a crown for Queen Alexandra and is now in the Queen Mother's crown on display with the other Crown Jewels. There is still some dispute about the real ownership but Britain claims legal ownership under the Treaty of Lahore.
     Obviously the diamond would have received a lot of attention  around the time of the Exhibition and the re-cutting so it must have been around this time that the Czech pencil company adopted the name. Interestingly, Koh-i-noor  was the first pencil company to paint their pencils yellow- a colour now quite common for pencils. The photos above are of an art supply store in Cesky Krumlov in the Czech republic. The doors of most shops are double-doors for security. Then,when the outer doors are opened for business, wonderful decorations are often shown. This art store features interesting sculptures that combine fingers and paint-tubes. And, yes, they also sold Koh-i-noor pencils.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Skin on Skin

I couldn't resist that title as this is a Life Drawing- 20 minutes - done on Terra-skin, the "paper" that isn't really paper. It is actually ground stone mixed with some kind of a resin. It is a very smooth surface and not as absorbent as regular paper. I did the drawing of the model, Virginia, with "Ink Black" Derwent Inktense pencil, using it dry. Then I used a water-holding brush to wet the lines and produce the wash. Then I added the more intense shadow as the surface was still somewhat damp. This is the first time I have used this paper for life drawing and I thought the Inktense pencil worked well in the limited time frame--- so now I am anxious to try it again.  I bought some Terra-skin some time ago but hadn't used it much- but then I thought it could work well with the Inktense pencil because you don't lose any of the intensity of it sinking into paper. The surface is very durable and apparently it is possible to scratch onto the drawing or painting medium but not  disturb the surface of the the "paper" itself. It is always interesting to try the challenge of different materials and I can certainly see the value in further explorations of this method- and possibly others on this surface.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Latest Life Drawing

This is the latest life drawing. I just put it on my Pinterest board of life drawings. We had Amanda on Friday and I decided to work my mixed-media approach again. I did the initial drawing with black conte' crayon on watercolour paper and then did a wash of thinned acrylic quinacrodine  red, used a blow dryer to dry it and then applied acrylic ground for pastels. Blow-dryer again and then it had a nice gritty surface for pastels, so I finished it in soft pastels. It is a bit looser way of working than working directly in the pastels on pastel paper and I think it gives it more body. I'd rather work on paper than try to paint on canvas in the same time period, which was basically 2 hours. Also- easier to store - but it could be framed as a finished piece.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"An Artist's Richmond"

     I was in the Richmond Hospital the other day and managed to get a photo of the three-panel painting I did for the Hospital Foundation. It is hanging in the waiting area for Diagnostic Imaging - so take a look when you are passing by.  The "dots" are to make it more magical. There are lots of silly things to make it fun to look at and to take people's minds off any stress they may be experiencing. I was talking to a couple of hospital employees and they had picked up on some of the fun things - the cats shopping for fish in Steveston and all those bunny ears in the shrubbery at Minoru, for example.
    Another bit of pencil history... the Eagle company was founded in 1856 in New York by the Berolzheimer family. In 1969, it became part of the Berol Corporation.  Eagle made pencils especially for Thomas Edison  - three inches long and with a softer graphite than normal.
     "Berol" is another name very familiar to artists. It is interesting to find people and stories behind the names we see printed on our pencils and other artist's tools.  Following on the idea of Derwent's  coloured pencils of 1938, P.G. Hooley invented Powdered Color in 1952 and then sold to Eagle. We know these great coloured pencils as Prismacolor now.  In 1989,  Berol also bought Osmiroid International, started by James Perry in 1824. Osmiroid drawing pens are another popular artist's tool.
     Prismacolor has a really interesting website with samples of artist's works and hints for using coloured pencils. The easy spread of information is a great boon for artists today.
     Studio work continues as various  events are around the corner - Richmond Artists Guild show will open in the upper lobby of Gateway on April 1st and run until June 1st, the Finn Slough Show is from April 7th to 10th in the Performance Hall, Richmond Art Centre, and a four-woman painting show, "Four by Four", will be showing at Rocanini Coffee Shop in Steveston from April 18th to June 1st. I have work in all of these - as well as two paintings currently over in Taiwan on exhibit in the National Taiwan Art Education Center. Then there is DoorsOpen June 4th and 5th- so much activity in the art world.