Sunday, December 30, 2018

Love Song to Spring Creek

For 24 years I have been in love with Canmore’s Spring Creek.  With it’s incredible views, ice slabs, beavers, muskrats, coyotes, eagles, elk, deer, weasels, dippers, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, bluejays, bears, herons, frost flowers, wild roses, red wing blackbirds, mallards, wood ducks, and (single) porcupine, I am pretty sure it loves me back.  I’ve been compelled to paint it so many times, with children playing, or celebrating the many moods of the landscape.

This month I have greatly enjoyed focusing on my favorite aspect of the creek, winter slabs of ice and snow, creating 3 larger pieces, all oil on canvas, gallery wrap.  They will all be consigned to the Fallen Leaf Gallery.

“Spring Morning, Canmore” 30 x 30”

“The Morning News” 20 x40”

“Spring Thaw, Canmore” 12 x 36”

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Classes and New Paintings

Now that artsPlace  has published its Winter calendar, I can share the links to the two classes I will be instructing.  I use my two most recent paintings to demonstrate what we will be learning.

“Landscape Fundamentals”  Saturday, March 9.   Beginner and intermediate painters in oils and acrylics will consider  composition, color and how to create a convincing illusion of light and atmosphere.

 This painting is so fresh it’s actually still wet. 12 x 36“ oil on canvas gallery wrap.    

“Watercolor and Ink Sketching”.  February 16 - An afternoon of sketching fun.
One of nine little framed sketches I just consigned to the Fallen Leaf Gallery

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sketching in watercolor (or gouache) and ink

For the past five years  I have been sketching in watercolor and ink as a lightweight and fun way to record travel and adventures.  It is deeply enjoyable to pause and really absorb the splendour you came to see, especially with other painting/sketching friends.  The resulting sketch books have become cherished personal momentos.

Excellent painting pal Sharon Lynn Williams  and I were on the Opabin Plateau this September.  For the first sketch I was huddled down on a big rock with my Sunbrella propped beside me to block the icy wind.  After exploring the upper plateau for a while, we set up on a high promontory to paint again.  I was aiming to capture the cool cloudy moodiness broken by patches of brilliant sunlight.

In the studio, I have been increasingly absorbed in this format (3.5 x 5.5”.)  The studio sketches are less about an accurate description of atmosphere and more about designing a pretty little peice for gallery sales or reproductions.  However, they still provide much scope for play, experiment and amusement.  I particularly enjoy the energy and action of the pen.  Sharon suggested I try gouache, and I find it punchier and more easily reworkable than watercolor. If I need more intense color, I will boost a little passage with alcohol inks.

Monday, February 20, 2012


"Whatever its form, drawing transforms perception and thought into image and teaches how to think with our eyes."  - Kit White "101 Things to Learn in Art School."

Learning to draw is something almost everyone can do.  It just takes practice and focus.  Speed up your progress by taking lessons, or reading a book.  I recommend "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards.  Drawing is not just a tool for laying out your design, it's the key to a giant candy store of creative possibility.

To the left is a recent portrait commission in HB graphite stick, approximately 8 x 12".

This is "Sweet Tooth,"  one of a series of 5 scraperboards (scratchboards) I completed in 2006/07.  Scraperboards involve etching away the black to reveal  the lights, instead of using your tool to shade in the darks.  This might seem tricky, but it comes quite naturally, as human vision is programed to follow the lights in in any scene.

These precise technical kinds of drawings can be demanding exercises, but they really do enhance your perceptual skills.  "Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable"  -Twyla Tharp "The Creative Habit."  They also improve your powers of concentration, not just for drawing, but globally. "People seem to concentrate best when the demands on them are greater than usual."  - Daniel Coleman, "Emotional Intelligence."

This is my favorite kind of drawing; the quick sketch just for practice, for fun, to preserve the moment.  For 5 or 10 minutes I was doing nothing but enjoying the sight of our daughter taking a break after our climb. 

Happy painting.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


One fine summer day I was invited to teach a lesson on sketching horses at the local riding club.   This ended up being pretty funny, actually, as horses don't stand still to be sketched.  (Go figure.)  But we drew furiously and had a good time.  Never having been to riding club before, I was struck by the very serene atmosphere, by the beauty of the setting and the horses themselves.

As soon as I got home I got painting these two little canvases, back to back.  These are my first horse paintings, and they were such a pleasure to paint.  It's a lucky thing when you can soak up your inspiration and start painting it out immediately, with your visual memory fresh and your enthusiasm high.

Happy Painting
"Riding Club Sketch #2" oil on canvas 6 x 8" $300 framed
"Riding Club Sketch #1 oil on canvas 6 x 8" sold

  • Photo courtesy Toni Owen

Saturday, January 14, 2012


January is the start of a whole new year of painting!  I have a new exhibition to prepare and a new blog.  In the spirit of new beginnings, this first  blog is about starting a new painting.
If I’m painting from a digital photo, I crop the photo in iphoto to the same aspect ratio as the canvas size I’ve chosen.  For a figure like this one I may create two versions of the photo, one with the figure ideally sized and placed, and one with more background to edit and arrange.  These photos are then displayed on a screen: a laptop, digital photo frame, ipad, etc.  The monitor is the photo display that distorts the visual qualities of the original scene the least. 

Sketching on the canvas is next.  If the drawing is complex, I’ll print out the first photo, grid it into 4 and quarter the canvas.  I’ll use the grid to sketch the figure(s) and then compose the background freely around it.  

Lacking all the techno-tools, you can achieve the same composition with a series of pencil sketches and a 4x6 photo.  It just takes a lot longer.  But don’t skip the planning stage.  Your constructive and creative flow will be roadblocked later in the painting every time you have to figure out and fix your design error.                                                                                    

"Ignoring the primary design is the biggest time and material wasting mistake you will make as an artist.”  (Mike Svob, “Painting Redhot Landscapes that Sell.)

Shown:  "Water Play" oil on canvas 12 x 9" sold

Happy Painting