Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Different Opinions

The blog has nothing to do with the above painting- it is there because it is one that I did at the October figure painting workshop. It was mostly done in about three hours from a model - and then re-visited part of the final day when we went back to look at our work and decided what needed adjustment. The background is entirely from the imagination as there were actually other painters standing at their easels. I used it to emphasize where the main source of light was and to work in harmony with the colours of the model and her clothing.
     What has been interesting me lately has been the attention paid to Lawren Harris because of the exhibition of his works, arranged by actor and collector Steve Martin, in Los Angeles. Also, the record-breaking sale price of one of his paintings attracted much press.  I was interested to see Russell Smith writing in the Globe and Mail that he personally does not like Harris' work at all. "I find his stylized, glowing, bulbous glacier-scapes to look a lot like children's-book illustration. Very good children's-book illustration, sure- pair them up with a nice story about a dog and a seal and you'd get yourself a Caldecott Medal." I thought that was quite funny.  Nobody wrote in demanding Smith's head - which was interesting in itself as so many of us grew up with the silk screen prints of Group of Seven works in school hallways. Apparently this silk-screen proliferation of Canadian landscape was part of the government drumming up Canadian patriotism for World War II.  I also grew up seeing originals in the Vancouver Art Gallery when I attended Saturday Morning Art Classes there.  On a personal level, I like some of Harris' earlier works best - street scenes mainly.  The mountains tend to be a little bleak for my choice- maybe a little too stylized. Again, however, it is personal choice and the Group of Seven will probably always have a special appeal for most Canadians. We each should feel free to assess how we really feel and respond to the paintings - which isn't easy when the legends are so much a part of our experience in Canada.
     I'm reading - in bits because there is so much to it- "Portraits- John Berger on Artists", edited by Tom Overton. John Berger is one of the world's most celebrated art writers and the book is composed of many of his reviews and other writings.  He wrote a review of a show of Henry Moore's sculptures in which he said, among other things " a life-size "King and Queen", with crowns like jug handles to their heads, bodies that are scooped out, winded, and smacked flat like kippers..." Then he recalls in a piece written later,  "Moore's  work was uneven. He produced, in my opinion, his weakest sculptures during the period when his work was most in demand and most critically unquestioned. I remember that towards the end of the fifties, when I had the temerity to write critically about his latest work, I very nearly lost my job on the "New Statesman". I was considered a national traitor!"                            -and so we see that it is not easy to take a fresh look at venerated art. The other side to that, of course, is that when certain art gets the spotlight, collectors want it for the signature- and, often, how much it cost. Art and the art market are two different things.                                

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Happy Holidays

This is a very short blog but I just wanted to show the entire painting of which just a slice was shown on my December newsletter - so here it is- the house off Commercial Drive done on a plein-aire day. If anyone is nt on my newsletter list and wants to be, e-mail me at lorainewellman@shaw.ca . It is just a short e-mail with a picture every month and usually a notice of upcoming art events.- cheers!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Plein-aire after the fact....

The top painting was as done "on the spot" in Hycroft gardens. The bottom is the same painting after setting it aside and coming back to it in the studio. I darkened the darks and made the colour richer, made the light behind the arbour even lighter and enriched the colours of the hydrangeas. I think it all results in a more appealing painting.  With acrylics, even after much experience and awareness, it is  sometimes a bit of a challenge to get the lights light enough as acrylic does darken on drying. I also think it makes a difference when the painting is viewed indoors, out of the bright natural light- it seems easier then to judge the tonal values. I've been going over - and I hope, improving, a few other paintings done this summer. One or two I was ready to trash until I sat down with them again. Second thoughts are sometimes good ones!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trying something new

On the theory that not much is going to happen to any of them, I like to try different things on our Friday "Long Pose" days. We are a smaller group than Wednesday evenings - so there is more room. For this pose with Amanda, I first drew her in charcoal on watercolour paper. Then I did a wash of red acrylic paint and used a dryer to get it dry. This is where more space helped as I moved from where I was drawing to a table to use a blow dryer. Then I painted over everything with acrylic ground for pastels - using a foam brush, not a good painting brush as it is fairly gritty. Then back to the blow dryer. Then I worked with regular pastels but I found it easier to keep it loose. This was partly because of the way I had started fairly quickly to draw in the pose and the wash of paint gave it all a rougher look. Even the way the "ground"accepted the pastels was a bit different. I quite like the results but I have no major plans for it. As a pastel, it would have to be framed and glassed and it is a full sheet of watercolour paper  so that would be fairly expensive. I will probably show it at next year's DoorsOpen - but I think it is just going into the cupboard in the meantime. Wednesday night's long pose will just be on pastel paper as I won't be able to have the room for this - but I definitely intend to try this somewhat "mixed media" approach again. I haven't tried this before and haven't seen it done in actuality - but I did see this method on a website so I got the acrylic ground for pastels - which I hadn't know existed- and gave it a go.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Finally finished!

Here are some views of the finally finished three panels for the hospital. Each one is 3 feet by 4 feet and the top photos shows most of it - couldn't quite get back properly to get it all fully in. I call it "An Artist's Richmond" - and - as you see- it is not  total reality - lots of omissions, exaggerations, and general fun. I wanted to make a set of paintings that would be fun to view and would take a person's mind off stressful thoughts. It has been a real challenge to research and paint - and very time-consuming since there are so many details with tiny brushes on such large canvases. Why the dots? They are there to make it magical and to make it clear that is not a realistic map. In the second picture above, there is the fishing pier and I thought it would be fun to have a cat fishing too. There are lots of artists painting all over - and you will see that they are all wearing green aprons such as the Men in Hats plein-aire group wear. A lot of suburbia has been left out - and where it was needed  for spacing, there are large bird portraits of the various species found in Richmond.The third picture above is of the slide at the new children's playground - with a Yellowhead blackbird looking in from the sharing farm next door and garlic ready for the festival. The last picture above has the West Dyke with Scotch Pond, a birdwatcher, Harold Steve's house and his belted cattle, a Redwing blackbird and his less brilliantly plumed mate, the eagle tree, the bush where the little owls were - and the snow geese- no room for the Snowy Owls who are over on Sea Island. - but the English Sparrows and a tiger swallowtail butterfly are nearby. - so this is some of it - and I'll probably post more photos in the next blog.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October Art News

Here is the rest of the pastel I used on October 2015 Art News. Any guesses what Helene was holding? I no longer remember- it may have been a little camera.  I used this image as I haven't yet photographed what I did in the workshop taken at the beginning of the month- which was painting the clothed figure. I like this pastel because it captures Helene's playful spirit as she poses in her aunt's hat from the 1940's.
I'm currently getting organized for GuessWho? which we will be holding on November 7th at the Pioneer Church, South Arm United at #3 and Steveston Highway -from 10 am to 3pm with viewing only for the first 15 minutes. All paintings  are 10x10 on thick canvases so they can be hung to make a nice grouping.  I  will have three paintings in this sale and they are all different - so I wonder if you will recognize my work???  All paintings sell for $100 each - some are by high-school students so you may be buying the next BIG NAME - and some are by current big names whose work sells into the thousands. You may be making a good investment- although I feel that if you really enjoy a painting, you have your return on your investment right there. The nicest things I've had said to me are when a person tells me how much they are enjoying something I painted and sold some time previously. It is a great chance to do your Christmas shopping out of the rush and end up with individual one-of-a-kind gifts.  Of course, you might just fall int love with your purchase and end up gifting yourself!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Creativ Magazine

I have a new issue of the magazine Creativ. You can find it at Chapters, select International News locations and McNally Robinson - which is not in Vancouver. The front and back covers, above, show the free-thinking approach. The front cover is even slightly molded- while the back has the back view of the panda! Inside there is some of the most beautiful photography you will see anywhere and lots of inspiring pieces about people who asked "what if ?" and came up with something definitely out of the ordinary. There is: a French photographer who reimagined superheroes in the style of old Flemish paintings, fashion forward pants that come with the stories behind the block prints, a  surprisingly beautiful hand-cut sculpture of a bacterium, an unusual story about a physicist who says "Science is the journey of human intention; it is the process of risking it all for the chance of expanding what it means to be human", eco-playgrounds, an amazing painting of Manhattan - and that's not all. Both inspiring and thought-provoking, this tribute to creativity is a good one for artists and all creative thinkers to ponder. Hopefully, we can all rise to new levels of creativity.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

-from September Newsletter

     I just posted this painting on my September newsletter . It is called "Love for Three Oranges" but there wasn't room for the oranges in the newsletter space - so here they are. I first heard that music when I was at Art School and the title has stayed with me. I thought it would be a good warm painting for a fall newsletter. If anyone reading this doesn't get my newsletter (very short, a picture each time) just e-mail me at lorainewellman@shaw.ca and I will add you to my list.                               The main news on my newsletter is that the Grand Prix of Art Steveston is this Saturday. There will be around 100 painters painting all around Steveston and Britannia Heritage Shipyards. The tricky thing is, until we pull a slip of paper with the location, we have no idea just where we will be painting. Then we have three hours to complete a painting which will be turned in for judging. I hope I get an interesting location that is different from where I have been before.
    Plein aire painting started just before the time of the Impressionists. Before then, paint had to be ground and mixed as it was to be used - strictly an indoor job. Then paints became available ready to use in tubes. Of course, the artist still adds a  mixer-medium. For oils, it used to be turpentine and an oil- probably linseed. This is a bit smelly and probably a bit toxic but one whiff does remind me of Art School ! Now oil painters use a different non-toxic, non-smelly medium. Some oils are now even compatible with water. Acrylic paints, mixed with polymer plastic instead of oil, became available around 1940 and have proven their durability. The actual colours - or pigments- are the same in both oils and acrylics - and, for that matter, pastels and watercolours. Acrylics have the advantage of being  a material than can be cleaned up with water.  They maintain their  flexibility so paintings don't crack. They also dry fast - and the artist keeps brushes in water because of this. Drying fast has both advantages and disadvantages. Now, mediums have been developed to slow down the drying so it is not awkwardly fast in the outdoors. I will be using a retarder gel when I am painting in the Grand Prix. It slows down drying enough to give better control for softer edges where I want them. Another advantage to acrylics is that the finished painting needs no varnishing and can even be wiped off. I recommend them for kitchen paintings especially. Needless to say, artists have great discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of oils, acrylics, watercolours and pastels. My feeling is that artists usually find the medium that appeals to them the most and with which they are most comfortable. My personal choice is acrylics - a modern paint for a modern world.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Being part of a "scenius"

     In "Show Your Work", Austin Kleon says that one of the most destructive myths about creativity is that only the lone genius is going to be able to achieve good  creative work. He then states, "There's  a healthier way of thinking about creativity that the musician Brian Eno refers to as "scenius". Under this model, great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals- artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers- who make up an "ecology of talent". If you look back closely at history, many of the people who we think of as lone geniuses were actually part of "a whole scene of pople who were supporting each other, looking at each other's work, copying from each other, stealing ideas and contributing ideas." Scenius doesn't take away from the achievements of those great individuals; it just acknowledges that good work isn't created in a vacuum, and that creativity is always, in some sense, a collaboration, the result of a mind connected to other minds."
     With "Men in Hats", we have a scenius. During the summer, we are painting outdoors and then, in the winter, meet in a studio to  do more painting. Definitely, there is a scenius effect as we encourage each other. The above painting was done this past Wednesday at Hycroft where we have an exhibition. As part of our contract, we were invited to paint on the lawn so that members attending the BBQ could stroll around for a look during the social hour. We set up around 2 pm and left when the actual BBQ started at 6. The painting was my effort. You see the full scene in the photo below it with another of the group, David McHolm, painting and also showing other work. You will note that I eliminated the building across the street as I felt it didn't contribute anything to the painting. The challenge was getting the hydrangeas to look like hydrangeas and not random blobs! I feel that being part of this group has helped me on my "absorbing errand". In fact, in "An Absorbing Errand" by Janna Malamud Smith, that I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, she states "We need to work alone; we need to have privacy- sometimes a lot of it-.... but we also need to be stirred up, stimulated and challenged by others, especially others who share our interests and with whom we feel some modicum of mutual respect."
     UWC club members who viewed us painting commented that it was interesting to see everyone doing something different. This is part of the fun of the group - we each take a different view and a different approach when we are out painting. Sometimes what we do succeeds - and sometimes we kick ourselves for not choosing a different spot or different angle - and sometimes we are in total awe at what another painter produced - but it all adds up to keeping the creative juices flowing as we take our own paths - but with the support of others.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I picked this more "domestic"painting  to show here as I've been thinking about time allotment, the demands of housekeeping and so on. I was reading about Louise Bourgeois and thinking that she was definitely an artist to admire. She worked at her art her whole life, even when she went through a period of very little recognition and carried on working right up to the day she died - in her nineties. Her home in New York has been preserved as she left it. It is obvious that art was her priority. I'm sure she would never give a thought to how to keep a stainless steel sink shining  and she obviously was not concerned about de-cluttering. Maybe modern women artists try to do too much in too many directions and live up to others standards. We need to keep telling ourselves that Martha Stewart has a whole staff! Instead of making a charming centrepiece of recycled and re-coloured glass jars as per Martha, Louise make a high stack of gift boxes of cookies, topped it with a gift of liquor and let that just stand in her living room.  When her husband died, she got rid of the stove and just cooked on a two-burner hotplate. Presumably, that was to simplify things as well as free up more space when she wanted to work in the kitchen. Maybe we all should think about Louise and what she accomplished- her "Mother" giant spider statue has been replicated in several places around the globe, for one thing- and try to tip the balance in favour of art over housework.

Friday, August 7, 2015

An Absorbing Errand

---out again to Life Drawing the other night- I didn't do this one then but I thought I'd post it since I haven't photographed the latest one yet. I especially like the way I've captured the nose on this model ---and I liked the lighting. Lighting can be a bit difficult when there is one main light on the model - but you might not be sitting in the best position when there is a roomful of other artists. Still, there is the continual challenge of trying to do good work. I'm currently re-reading "An Absorbing Errand -How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery" by Janna Malamud Smith. She makes a number of good points  about getting started, sticking with it and overcoming obstacles - so I may very well comment on a few points in further blogs. In explaining what an absorbing errand is,  she states " An absorbing errand is the agreement to undertake and sustain a compelling practice of your own, an effort at mastery that requires time and focus. It is an adventure with many perils. Yet, in return, you gain a window seat, forward motion, and a landscape made new."  I also love a quote from Lee Hammond "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. That's why they call it artWORK."   I guess what a lot of us hope is that some of our "work" will last and give pleasure after we are no longer here. William James said "The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it". - Certainly true in his case, but even if that level of achievement and recognition is not reached, the journey- the absorbing errand- can still be worth pursuing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Painting in the Park

When I was a young teenager, I had summer painting lessons in Stanley Park with Peter Aspell. I went downtown on the interurban tram. Since it kept very regular time, it was possible for my friend to get on the same tram at 57th, further along the line. We could have paid (I think a nickel) to transfer to a bus that would have taken us to the entrance to the park, but we usually walked so we could spend that "saved" money on "love comics". We did some oil painting on paper that we treated with gelatine and painted "plein  air" with Peter, who was a well-known painter.  Part of my early art experiences.  All this was before the more organized "Painting in the Park" classes organized by community centres. 
Yesterday, the Men in Hats met at Minoru Chapel for our Tuesday painting session. Several worked in oils or acrylics but I decided to keep it simple and just practice my drawing with a pen and ink drawing. I then added watercolour pencils to it and dampened the paper with pens that hold water in the cartridges. So, it was just a practice session with no outstanding results but a nice time out with friends that resulted in this piece. I need it for a reference for a project I am working on so it will prove useful. So, a different medium and a non-instructional session - but there I am  more than a few years along - still "painting in the park".

Sunday, July 19, 2015

July and "summer doldrums"

     Here is the painting from the Finn Slough show - just because I hadn't posted it before. I have been out with "Men in Hats" but mostly just working in pen and ink and watercolour pencils. Last week, we were out in Burnaby and I went to have a look at the Burnaby Village Museum and the old carousel. The carousel is 103 years old and is now under cover, inside. When it was first there, it was outside ... a bit better for photography, perhaps. I did take a few photos and I may work them into something during the winter but there was no way to set up and paint on site.... so nothing new to show. The carousel used to be out at the PNE  so it is the one I rode on back in my youth. Interestingly, they have given in a new hardwood floor. The wood came from the old B.C. Women's prison gymnasium. An odd combination. Does the wood hold memories? I also wonder what tales the horses of the merry-go-round could tell.
    We went to look at one of the old buildings which was a log cabin where a family of three had lived. There was a loft where maybe the child slept - although the heat would have been from the stove in the downstairs. A galvanized tub hung on the wall for the Saturday night bath. We were talking about that at lunch-time and decided that it was traditional here for the mother to go first but, apparently in other cultures, she may be the last!  When I was in art school, one exam painting was of a model in a bathtub. We were raised up above the model area so we could all look down. It was like something from an Impressionist painting- green-tinted tub, bouquet of lilacs, Persian-style carpet. There was actual water in the tub....not sure what that did to the model's skin after a few hours! The young fellows in the class were quick to volunteer to top up the water with hotter water every now and then. It would be fun to have an old tub now for Life Drawing on occasion - but I think we'd just let the model sit in it dry. Then again, our storage is very limited so we have very few props- and no way to be raised up on risers. Ah, life was fun then.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hycroft show continues

     My "Spices" painting is another one currently showing at Hycroft - shown above and then shown hanging in the hall-gallery with the Rudbeckias, "Ready for the Run" and "Sandpiper Time". Although it is a private club  (for women graduates of universities around the world) and not generally open to the public, you can arrange to see the show by phoning the office at 604-731-4661.
     The reception was well-attended and very nicely done with it all taking place out on the terrace on a beautiful warm evening.
     Right now, the Men in Hats are out plein air painting every Tuesday. There is some really nice work being done - but not by me right now. I haven't really "clicked" on anything. One time I was not happy with my acrylics drying up so quickly - so I just played with pen and ink and watercolour pencils last time. The results were not great! Still- there is the need to persevere and try to accomplish something worthwhile. It is nice just to be out with the group, talk art over lunch, and be in the fresh air. We are fortunate to have such a number of places where we can go to paint.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hycroft show-

Today we hung the Men in Hats show for the summer at Hycroft. This is one of mine in the show. It is Rudbeckias II.   Tomorrow, Tuesday the 23rd, we have the reception from 6:30 to 9:00pm and. besides our very nice show, it will be a chance to tour this grand old mansion. Hycroft was built in 1911 by a retired military man - a General, I think- McRae. McRae made his fortune in concrete as a lot of building was going on in those early days in Vancouver.  The house is mainly of conrete and has great concrete pillars  to the house as well as the terrace. Stairways and fencing and arbour in the gardens are also concrete. The gardens were even larger in those pre-income tax days but the coach house and the gardens around the house remain. Some of the property on the east side was sold and then the house was given to become a nursing home for injured military after World War II. Then it wasn't needed for that any more and the University Women's Club of Vancouver decided it would be a wonderful clubhouse. However, women were not allowed to have mortgages in their own names so the club raised the money to pay cash for the property. (was it $35,000 or $45,000?). Since then, they have restored it- although all the wonderful old wood and fireplaces, tiled atrium and so on were pretty well intact- and it is now a grand old mansion that is a wonderful clubhouse and popular place to rent for a wedding. Our paintings hang in the upper hallway.  How nice that this piece of Vancouver's history remains.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


There is much to be said about creativity and the liberal arts these days. On the one hand, we are told that it is the liberal arts that boosts creativity - and ultimately productivity (if you want to think in only dollars and cents). On the other hand, high school students are told to go into STEM  courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) if they want to end up with a job as well as a university degree. Well, we have had Einstein telling us that imagination is important and many successful businessmen stating that it was the liberal arts that broadened their thinking and led to their success. Two things have crossed my path lately that add to what is  definitely my own bias in favour of liberal arts. Creativ.com is producing a magazine that is the most beautiful magazine I've seen. It features stunning photography, stimulating ideas and impressive art work. In the two issues I've seen, I was especially impressed with the cut paper work of Maude White, wonderful cartoon building-size murals by Millo in Turin, and paintings by Asa Kucherevskaya (Ukraine), Leonid Afremov (Mexico), and Jeremy Mann of California, USA. While Creativ does have a website, there is something special about holding this glossy magazine in your hands. Alas, the low Canadian dollar makes the magazine a bit pricey this side of the 49th. I've also been reading "A Teacher's Tale" by Joe Gilliland who had more than 50 years teaching at the college level- a career he basically stumbled upon by taking university classes (aided by the GI bill)  with no clear goal in mind. His love of reading and thinking about the ideas presented in books is given in much thought-provoking detail in the 600 pages of this memoir. He argues that Science isn't enough. "Science requires the imagination that questions the absolutist's certitudes and math is the tool with which the certitudes are tested." His round-about route to his life's work is inspiring. He states "Success in life is not determined by the wealth one accumulates in his or her search for a calling, for a life's work. Success relies on satisfaction in the pursuit of happiness and education is one of the keys to that feeling of success and that earned happiness." If you are a reader, you will really enjoy this book - and probably end up with an arm's length list of more books to read!  "Cherchez le Chat" - the above painting was planned as a creative approach to a presentation of my red lilies. They are impressively tall plants and I wanted to convey the "jungle in Richmond" feeling about them. This led to thinking about Henri Rousseau who created jungle paintings by going no further than a conservatory. Obviously, my painting needed an animal - and what better than a prowling black cat? The cat is better seen in real life than in a photograph, but I'm sure you can figure out where he is. Although Digby doesn't have a proper tail, the painted cat does.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

DoorsOpen 2015

I just sent out my newsletter with this one- "Not Just Daisies" on it as I will be showing this on Saturday for DoorsOpen. It is a fun, bright floral based on flowers seen at a Community Garden here in Richmond. I'm busy organizing paintings - while discovering some escaped me and are not wired - so pause has to take place so they can be attended to. It is fun, of a sort, to pull out a lot of paintings and set them up so you see them in a new way. All this work requires a pause in actual painting production and today's rain has cancelled the pleinaire expedition, causing a pause in that too. Still, a slight pause can be a good thing as reflection certainly has a place in painting. It is working for me because I am about to embark on a new project, not ready for announcement yet. Ideas are in the brewing stages -writing down ideas, doing some very rough sketches, collecting references and so on. I'll start on some more sketches after DoorsOpen to work out compositions and then move forward on something that will be a bit different. Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From the last workshop

A few weeks ago I took a very worthwhile one-day workshop from Ingrid Christensen on painting the clothed figure. After a demo by Ingrid we had just over 10 minutes to do a 10x8 monochromatically. The idea was to work with raw umber, blocking in the directionals and then getting the silhouette. Then using raw umber and ultramarine blue, to note in the darkest areas, followed with some white for highlights. This was my result.
Then with another 10x8, we had just over half an hour to try one adding colour - and this time we should select just part of the figure. We started with raw umber, the silhouette and darks but did not add the white. Then we mixed colours and added them to create skin tones and shadows and complete what we could in the time available
Then we had about two and  half hours to work slightly larger and use the same method on a full figure study. I found working this quickly made the paintings more expressive and the limited palette did produce some good skin tones. I intend to work more in this approach.
I took these quick studies to a recent talk I did for some Seniors...partly to show some current work and also to show that art is something a person continues to work on- always looking to get better. Workshops can be useful -not because you want to duplicate the work, but because you want to try new methods and work out what adaptation of them works for you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Back to the outdoors..

     "Bunkhouse Shadows" was the first painting I did in last years season of outdoor painting.  I was looking  out at some moored boats but the angle didn't especially appeal. The recommendation for outdoor painting is to look in all directions - so, when I looked behind me, I liked the look of the shadows cast on the bunkhouse at Britannia Shipyards.  We have started up our pleinaire sessions again this year.  I was out in Ladner last week but the painting is not totally finished. We didn't want to get stuck in the tunnel line-up, so left in good time - but also, the harbour boat I wanted to have in the painting was buzzing up and down the river so I'll have to finish it from a photo I took - ah, the challenges of outdoor painting ... and then there was the fish-boat that pulled up to the dock, exactly where I was painting. It was loading up for a trip to Alaska so there was an impressive amount of groceries going on board and I had to move in order to see anything else. Well, if I don't get to the painting in the near future, I can just print off the photo and have it for our indoor winter sessions.
     I was reading Alyson Stanfield's posting this week. She is the author of "I'd Rather be in the Studio"and also conducts workshops on art marketing. This time she was commenting on people who wonder if we should be doing things like painting when the world is in such a mess. She said "Making art makes you whole and allows you to contribute to the world from a healthier position". It certainly does feel great to be out with a pleasant group where everyone is doing his/her own thing. Even having an uncompleted painting- like mine this week- feels pretty good. I was enjoying the wonderful hodge-podge of a building across the river with its assortment of colours and materials, the shadows under the pilings, reflections in the water  and the fresh greens of new growth. It definitely needs the  boat to complete the composition was it was a good beginning to this year's outdoor sessions.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ready for upcoming show-

     I've got this one, called "Sandpiper Time, Britannia" for the show Richmond Artists Guild will be having May 6 to 10 in the performance hall at the Art Centre. I will also be showing the one - on a previous blog- of the fish-boat with the net being wound onto it as well as the one used on my last newsletter - so a local water scene theme for me this time around. The poppies will be going down to Rocanini for May through June 29.
      Tomorrow, the paintings will come down from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery as the last indoor Farmers market is held. We will, no doubt, be back again at a future date.
     Exhibition space is always a problem for artists, especially when there is not a real community gallery. We used to have biannual shows in Richmond Art Gallery as well as a preview showing for Artists Among Us - which was a precursor to DoorsOpen. Now the Gallery is only interested in so-called "contemporary" art- which is an interesting definition in itself. However, impressionistic and realistic art still lives and is produced and enjoyed by many.
     Ian Roberts in his book "Creative Authenticity" has comments to make about so-called "contemporary art". This is one book I keep returning to even 'though it is not an instruction book. It is a book that makes you think about the path you are taking with your work. Ian states that a work of art has to communicate something. "It reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw- "Just because no one understands you, doesn't mean you're an artist" Much contemporary art is very self-absorbed. It may have been fascinating for the artist to create, but it doesn't have the necessary hook to engage the viewer. We're left outside a private loop, perplexed."
      I'm hoping this one leaves no-one perplexed - but then it is not "Contemporary". This painting was the view from the Seine Net loft at Britannia Shipyards near the end of September. I wanted to capture the mood of the place and the feeling of history with all the pilings left from buildings or wharves of the past. I used thick gel to build up the texture of the pilings so they stand out from their reflections in the river. There is something almost magical about the light on the boats and all the reflections. Sandpipers, on their annual visit sit, carefully spaced, along a floating log while one perches on a piling.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Show opening this Saturday

Come on out this Saturday to the opening of the first show at Ink&Easel Gallery, 12431 No. 2 Road, Richmond - Saturday April 18 from 7 to 9 pm.  I'll be there and so will the other artists in the show. Since the space is also used for classes, there will be paintings on show on Saturday that will be taken down afterwards. We are hoping for a good turn-out.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

painting shown in full...

I just sent out my newsletter with a detail of this painting on it. ---detail because of the shape of the available space. So - here is the whole thing. It is a fairly small painting- 18" x12". I put the net stencils on the painting because the boat was "Ready for the Run", which was starting the next day, and would be using a net to catch fish. It was a way to get a little creative  and have fun with the subject. I just had this painting down at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in a display with other members of Richmond Artists Guild. Our last display, for a bit, is this month - winding up on the 26th and the last  indoor Farmers Market- but May and June we are back in Rocanini Coffee Shop with flowers and gardens as the theme. Putting down the measurements of this painting made me think about the fact that paintings and frames are still measured in inches here. I wonder if that is because of our closeness to the USA?  For those of my generation, it is easier to think in inches anyway - but it must be confusing to young people. Also, when I sold fabric designs to US magazines, all the measurements were in inches, not metric - so I must confess I have never really adapted and I have to think twice when measurements are metric. When measuring for one's own purposes, it doesn't matter what scale one uses anyway. Sometimes, for an artist, it is just comparing measurements on a pencil held at arms-length- as in "from this angle, how long is the leg compared to the torso?".

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Naked Truth

The naked truth seems to be that we are a nation of prudes when it comes to nude paintings. There is a Canada Council Art Bank in Canada  that has bought and stored more than 17,000 contemporary paintings by Canadian artists. Federally funded, these paintings are then loaned out to government departments and corporate offices for minimal rental fees. It is estimated that 500 of these paintings are nudes. These paintings remain in storage and are virtually un-rentable.  Most of them have never been seen. Now, however, the Kitchener, Ontario museum  now called THEMUSEUM  is displaying 120 of them for a 12 week show called "Getting  Naked". Interestingly enough, very few of the paintings are even printed in magazine or newspaper reviews - what I have seen makes me inclined to say "so what?"David Buchan has done a parodic update of Paul Peel's "After the Bath" and there are a couple of almost emaciated nudes by Fred Ross that are variations on the reveries of Balthus. Nothing startling there.  It is surprising, in this day and age that nudes are so forbidden in art displays. Our artist guild is not allowed to display any of the results of our Life Drawing in the Cultural Centre. We are told that there is an uproar and people even contact the mayor over such things.I think this shows how distorted our values are when young kids know the names of characters in pornographic cartoons and can see disgusting violence and torture on TV shows, yet a pastel like the one above that shows the beauty of a the human body is considered obscene. In the midst of all this, our Life Drawing group continues. Apparently, a number of years ago there was some protest about its very existence and a presentation on the value and tradition of life drawing had to be given to the powers that be. Life drawing is an ever-new drawing challenge. If a person paints a tree and it is not exactly like the tree in front of them or even distorted, it is still recognizable as a tree. But a head out of proportion to the body, an arm too long - and it is immediately clear that the drawing is "off".  Add in the challenges of foreshortening - which simply means perspective as related to the body- when a foot close to the artist is larger than one further away, for example, and it is clear that "getting it right" is bound to keep up drawing skills. One of the reasons I usually work in pastels for our long poses is because it takes less space to pile drawings on paper than paintings on canvas. The "unrentables" of the Art Bank aren't the only nudes that rarely see the light of day. Maybe "Getting Naked" will change things.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Paintings at the Cannery

We changed paintings at Gulf of Georgia Cannery again last week so I took this one in. The reference photo was taken from the water (obviously!) when a group of us had the opportunity to go out on the River Queen last summer. It was a day or two before the season opened and all the boats were getting organized. This one was loading on the purse seine net, an interesting operation. There actually was another boat just in behind so I had to consult multiple photos to separate out the two - especially the top structures- mast, radar and so on. The fishery does fly the Canadian flag but it would have been at the very right-hand edge of the painting so it got edited out. This was a fair challenge to paint but I wanted to do it because it is so very "west coast" and shows Steveston in full action. Farmers Markets continue at the Cannery and the next one is this Sunday, March 15th. There is free admission so you can shop the Market and then tour the Cannery exhibits . There are guides explaining the exhibits but the whole thing is really well-done on its own too. You can pick up audio devices (cleverly done with fish cans) to hear explanations, pull out drawers of supplemental information and see various exhibits- about the canning process, fishing industry and even labour problems!  As a big part of our history, it is really worthwhile to see - and good to be able to see it without paying admission. Richmond Artists Guild display is a ways down - not immediately back of the Market where they set up a lot of heaters.  So, it is cooler down there but we do have members there on Market days - so do drop by.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Poppies revisited

This is one of my newer experiments ... just playing around. Because of a presentation by Nicoletta Baumeister and a painting display by William Watt, I was thinking about stripes. This *was* a straightforward painting of California poppies until I decided to add another element to it. So, out with the masking paint and adding Sap Green and Prussian Blue. Then, when the tape was off, it needed some lines to carry over some of the stripes- plus some more added collage dots. Then I offset some of the petals on the stripes and painted them in a periwinkle blue - as the complementary. I think there is an added layer of interest - not just an added layer of paint. I have plans for more California poppies and more stripes in a slightly different way. I'm not sure where I am going with this - but art is always an interesting journey.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Searching for Beauty

     I'm currently re-reading one of my favourite inspirational art books--"Creative Authenticity- 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen your Artistic Vision"- by Ian Roberts. The first principle si Searching for Beauty. Ian says the book is not for those who would like to create but are too timid to get started- it is "a book for people who are in the thick of the creative struggle." He says "interestingly, we have come to the point in the contemporary art world where beauty is suspect as an aim in art." He goes on to explain that he doesn't mean pretty or sweet and that a great, powerful, beautiful painting - Goya's "The Third of May 1808" can also be horrifying. It is moving.
      I love where Ian trashes  "the technology of the media  as the vehicle of art, in which the means of communication alone is considered relevant, even devoid of any content". He talks of videos that go on and on leading nowhere. That reminded me of one I saw recently -  in an art gallery--it was as if it was termed "artistic" because it was lousy photography with no point.
     "Life cannot be lived well without standards . Art, as a part of our life, would obviously seem to benefit from standards as well...... I think new standards of meaningfulness in art are resurfacing. Which is where authenticity comes in. Standards that are transformative, that will last, will have to come from a deep, quiet harbor of spirit if they are to anchor us today."
      This book is one that makes an artist question the process and really think about directions and what the artist is trying to express. We all need to  work on our own growth and our authenticity so that our work will matter.
     The drawing is a pastel of Yui in a casual kimono. I tried to capture her beauty and grace. This was a long pose at Life Drawing and is posted in on Pinterest on my Life Drawing folio. I like life drawing because it is always a challenge to capture the beauty of the human figure - even when not necessarily what modern conventions would call "beauty." There is a beautiful person within  and I want to be "authentic" in showing that. I'm currently trying to move in a slightly different direction in some work. This piece is more conventionally realistic  than some things I am trying -although I elongated her a little bit to stress the quiet elegance.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The 1950's era Shopping Mall Nesting Dolls

I've been working away on these for ages and finally got them all done and varnished. the idea is that they are store owners from a shopping mall, circa 1950's. They were painted from a set of blanks that were made in Russia. I gessoed the blanks and painted them in acrylics. The outside one has an added hat,nose, eyebrows and mustache as well as an arm extension and hands to hold sausages. The others  have to fit inside each other, so are all just painted.
Mac of Mac's Meats is the outside doll and wears what used to be the traditional butcher's straw hat and striped apron. He holds sausages which were made from acrylic molding paste.
The second doll is George of Super Save Grocery. He stands beside a display of sale-priced tomato soup and holds organic carrots from a bushel basket. Obviously a man ahead of his time featuring organic produce ! - but, besides a bin of apples, he also has a bin of candy bars.
The third doll is Betty of Betty's Bakery. She wears a gingham dress and a pink apron with a large bow at the back. She has quilted oven mitts on her hands and displays a tray of cupcakes and a chocolate cake with cherries on it. On the other side, she has a tiered display of cookies.
The final four smaller dolls are: Joe of Joe's Hardware. He is carrying a hammer  and displays a variety of goods such as grass seed and bone meal, a broom and shovel, nails, screws and caulking. A practical man ready to help out with advice, he is dressed practically in a plaid shirt and blue jeans.  Next is Pat of Pat's Pharmacy,  looking professional in her white jacket while carrying a prescription in one hand and shampoo in the other. On the other side there is a display of toothpaste as well as one of magazines. Then next is Amy of Amy's Pet Foods, bird cage in hand while one cat is on her shoulder and another is also gazing at the food dish. A large bag of dog food is on the other side. Last is Barbara of Barbara's Beauty Salon - holding scissors and shampoo while a display of nail polish is on the other side. She is smartly dressed in black and displays her gorgeously coloured tresses.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Separation of art from daily life-

     I was re-reading "The View From the Studio Door" by Ted Orland. He certainly makes some important points. "Artists today work in the face of some very large problems. These are the big ones:
              ART plays no clear role in our culture
              ARTISTS have little direct contact with their audience
              ART MAKING is indulged, but rarely rewarded"
Later he says "Step outside the arts community, and the separation of art from daily life is so complete that many people rarely give even a passing thought to the value of art in their lives."
     I think, alas, that he is probably right.  It is hard to know how to keep presenting art to make people realize its importance. Politicians like to talk up the arts - and then give main support to sports! I think one thing that would help is free admission to art galleries. There is a fairly hefty fee for Vancouver Art Gallery and I now hear that it  costs $20 to go to the Ontario Art Gallery -plus $25 more if you want to see the  current featured exhibit of Basquiat! Not too many people are going to take the family to that. In London, the National Gallery is free. It would certainly help encourage people to take a look at the offerings if they weren't charged for entering.
     In the meantime, our art community in Richmond keeps trying to make a difference. This "Afternoon Class" painting was one of a ballet series I did. I liked the sun gleaming on the polished floors and the contrast of the instructor in black while almost all the students are in pastels. Too bad the instructor did not have a big stick and then it would have been like Degas' painting with the instructor. It has now been framed and will be going to Richmond Hospital to bring a little  more art  on the walls. We try.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

February begins

Here is the full painting of Bob that I used for the February newsletter. This is acrylic on canvas and was a studio painting painted from the pastel done from life, aided with two reference photos. I used the pastel for the January newsletter. Some people call pastels "pastel paintings", but I think of them as drawings as I leave a fair bit of the coloured paper uncovered.  The acrylic painting is much more solid because the whole canvas is covered in paint. The pastel is on the blog for December 14th
    Today is the first Sunday in February and there will be some special clown services in some churches - one takes place in Hackney, London. Usually, it is dedicated to Joseph Grimaldi - the outside nesting doll in my last post. Who knew?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Historical Clown nesting doll set

This is a set of nesting dolls I made in 1993 by painting on a blank set.  The first Sunday in February, coming up in a few days, is the traditional time for a church service with clowns in some locations. While there is some "clowning", it is also a memorial service for clowns who have died the previous year. One service is held in Hackney, London.
The largest doll in this set represents Joseph Grimaldi,  Dec.18,1778- May 31, 1837, considered the godfather of clowns.  Offering comic relief during the Napoleonic Wars,  he expanded the role of "Clown" in English pantomimes and created a lot of the physical humour we associate with clowning. He satirized contemporary British life and made comic mockery of fashion absurdities - which sounds a lot like today's stand-up comics. It seems he may have invented the modern-day male haircut as well as a penchant for unusual hair colouring.
The next clown represents Jean-Gaspard Debureau ( 1796-1846) who took the traditional white-faced clown, Pierrot, from Comedie-Italienne to greater fame. A white-faced clown is a sad clown and Pierrot loses Columbine to Harlequin. Jean-Gaspard changed the usual tall white hat to a black skull-cap. He helped create a lot of interest in clowns in general and with Pierrot in particular with artists of the time - including Cezanne.
Coco is an English clown made famous by Nicolai Poliakoff (1900-1974). Coco was an "auguste" which is a type of clown who is supposed to be a bit stupid and always gets teased and has buckets of water thrown over him and custard pies slapped on his face. Coco had a serious side to his fooling around, however, and toured schools promoting road safety. That walking stick he carries is a Bolesha Beacon used at school crossings. He was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his work.
The next clown is Tom Eller as Harlequin. I believe he was an American clown and there is a poster of him that often appears on E-bay.  However, I have lost my notes as to why I selected him (hey it was 1993, I've forgotten!) - but he must have been in a book of clowns at the time. The colours are what his costume was - although we often think of Harlequin in brighter shades.
The smallest one is Lou Jacobs (jan1, 1903- Sept 13, 1992) the Famous American clown from Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey. He appeared with such well-known clowns as Emmett Kelly but later as an instructor at Clown College helped make the transition to modern clowning. An Auguste clown, he popularized the clown car and was originator of the rubber ball nose. He was also the first living person to have his portrait on an American stamp.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Playing around-

This is a painting that I did of the tall (seven feet!) red lilies growing in my back garden. I was thinking of Rousseau and his paintings from the conservatory - some with jungle animals. To enhance the idea, there is a little  black cat face peeking out in the bottom - you can just make out the eyes and the tail is to the left - but it doesn't show as well in a photograph. At any rate - it is sort of a "Richmond jungle" painting. Sometimes it is fun to play and sneak something unexpected or not too immediately obvious into a painting. I did a Granville Island one quite awhile ago that has since gone on to another home. There is a dog just disappearing around the back of one building - but no-one has ever commented on that! Right now I'm taking a break from the serious fish-boat painting that was quite a challenge. I'll post it in a bit. I'm working on a 10x10 for next November for GuessWho? I had fun when I did "22 Owls" for GuessWho? a couple of years ago, so now I'm doing a lot of black cats in a "Black Cat Neighbourhood " and it is fun. I need to use some small brushes to paint the little faces looking out of windows. Picasso said it took a lot to get back to seeing like a child again. I don't know if I've got there, but I'm having fun playing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More thoughts on the "unheralded"

     I like to read the essays in the weekday Globe and Mail. Today's was called "A brush with Mr.Williams" and was about a painting that caught the author's eye in a second-hand store. Although it was signed, no information could be found about the artist until some fifteen years later, presumably with the expansion of content on the internet, a detailed obituary was located. The artist, Norman Davies Williams had trained in England and emigrated to Brandon in 1948. the obituary writer noted . "He worked for the joy of working while his wife, Doone, brought home the pay cheque- an arrangement precisely as they both wanted it." Apparently he never entered competitions or exhibited. The art director of the local gallery wrote to the essayist, "Unfortunately, it is the sad life of an artist that talent doesn't always mean a living wage or long lasting fame.   I always remind people that an artwork is valuable if it speaks to you in some way, regardless of its fame or value."
     There are a lot of good artists around today that are not widely recognized but whose works would bring pleasure if they hung in a home.  Maybe some will become the subjects of future "Unheralded Artists" books - or have someone scrambling to find more about the artist of a work they have just found. But we would love to see more action for living artists. We were talking the other day about the need to have people realize that paintings make great gifts and that many can be found with just a little looking. People don't even have to wait for exhibits or  open studios- checking on a site like Richmond Artists Guild produces a lot of names to follow up. Most artists are only too happy to give a private viewing and the collector can find the painting that truly does speak to him or her.
     The painting  above, "The Old Conservatory" is a painting I did awhile back. Some people totally loved it, others, not. I liked the mood and the fact that you don't notice the old lady quietly reading the paper and enjoying the peace of the freshly watered conservatory. Richmond Hospital is doing some redecorating and was interested in some paintings . On a hunch, I included this one in an assortment. The Director of the Foundation really liked this one and said, "This  painting is so serene and beautiful. We would love to find a home for it in the hospital and create a calming environment for patients and their loved ones." I delivered it today so it is one more painting out into the world.