Monday, June 27, 2011

Plein Air Day in Bayfield

Saturday I travelled down to Bayfield, Ontario- a quaint little village tucked away on the shore of Lake Huron.

JMR Gallery was having it's annual Plein Air Day for all plein air painters

JMR is a wonderful gallery and Judy Roth is a huge supporter of Plein Air and has themed days all summer. Check out her site for more info.

What an amazing little village- so much to paint. Rambling old Victorian summer cottages perched on cliff tops. Quiet tree lined streets and a main street that is like Niagara on the Lake without the art directed 'Disney' feel.

I went down to the shore where it was blowing a 50 knot gale at least- but I huddled near the dunes and did a 12x12 oil called 'Windblown- Huron Shore' that I entered in JMR's 'Square Foot' show coming up July 8.

I'm going back next week to do an entry piece for her upcoming ' Loving Bayfield' Show that opens July 22.It's open to all painters as long as it's the Bayfield area obviously.

And it's just an hour from me in Stratford!

Friday, April 9, 2010


I did this quick little 10x12study last Spring on the dock waiting to cross over to the Quebec side to old fishing camp at the base of that mountain in the right hand distance.
I was honored to have it win first place in the inaugural juried Ontario Plein Air Festival 'Brush With the Highlands' north of Toronto last August.
The plein air festival is happening again this summer and promises to be bigger and better than last year- so stay tuned for more details later in the Spring.

Words To Paint By

I'm sure a lot of us welcome getting Robert Genn's 'The Painter's Keys'.

This week's edition has a terrific letter that Robert calls 'a classic'.
The writer-painter Charles Philip Brooks runs a teaching studio in North Carolina. He focuses on the American Tonalist and Impressionist schools of painting.
Words to paint by for sure....

"Letter to the Student of Painting"

"Your day contains a great measure of freedom. Your responsibility as a painter is here within the walls of the studio and in the setting of the landscape. You have the opportunity to exercise genuine mastery at every step, and it is in this spirit of grand possibility that I hope you will reflect on the advice made plain here.

Do not grieve too long for the troubles of the outside world. There is important work to be done here. We can best express our care for all others by attending to our work well.

Allow yourself the peace of purpose and the knowledge that to make another attempt with the brush is a noble thing. If you accept the discipline of the truest principles of art, then yours is the reward of an unbroken line of tradition.

Therefore, you may earnestly free your mind of all heartaches, sadness, and transitory despairs. Creation is above these things.

Your vocation is as real and as true as any other. Those who denounce the artist as idle manifest a deep ignorance of the nature of art. Have faith that the civilized will somewhere, at some time, value your well-wrought works. It is a miracle that the world keeps its havens for art and yet it does. Know that to create art is to do a necessary piece of work. The most noble pleasures and measureless joys result from such endeavors. True art is undeniable and it is a gift for all humanity.

The threefold responsibility of the artist is: to creation, to individual talent, and to humanity. For creation - the whole of nature - we must cultivate prayerful awe. This is our source of work and our refuge as well. We should seek harmony with nature. For the individual talent - long hours and years of steady industry hope to find our abilities fulfilled, our minds, hearts, and hands put to valuable service. In this way, we maintain the sanctity of art. Lastly, we make to humanity a willing gift of all we do. Our control over the material world lasts only a lingering moment and it takes a generous soul to build the ambition of a lifetime and then to hand it over in trust to the future.

Painting requires the bravery of solitude. Painting requires disciplined labor. To be a painter is to search the world with a benevolent eye for every subtle beauty that the infinite world offers.

Here is the opportunity to give your honest effort and to add in any small way to the legacy of art. Cultivate patience in your heart and you will improve. Learn to see well and your hand will become sure.

No pain or doubt can invade the honest soul engaged in the communion of creation. We artists must love the world with our deepest selves and forgive it at every turn.

To paint even a little passage with a measure of quality is to achieve a life's triumph.

Spend your days wisely with the best thoughts and works of those who have walked the road before you. Search their paths, their timeless inspirations, and the lineage of their genius. Learn your craft well and your talent will mature into its full possibility. Keep an obedient heart before nature. She is the master above all other masters. Nature is the concrete manifestation of all that remains true and sublime. Let us always be thankful for her abundance and hopeful that we might approach her in our art. Nature will renew every generation of painters, ready to illuminate the minds of those who practice the art with what is calm, rational, beautiful, sublime, and eternal.

Such is the purity of your vocation. Treat every moment before the easel as a quick and tender opportunity. Invest your most noble self. Give your most noble self. To be a painter is to enjoy a precious state of life." (Charles Philip Brooks)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My feeble efforts on ' Winter's Last Light' pale next to this painter-Kim English of Pine, Colorado.

Look at this 7x12 sketch he did called 'Grant Street'.
Absolute mastery of colour and composition. And I'll bet he knocked it off in 30 minutes.
The total essence of plein air and why we all do it right?
Look at those colourful grays. I try and try and still can't even come close.
And a couple of nicks of his brush defines the hard edges of that distant steeple.

In my humble opinion Kim comes very very close to Sargent's handling of light ,colour and surface handling of his paint.

I had the honour and pleasure of doing a week's workshop with Kim at the Donner Art Workshops Ranch outside Taos New Mexico a few years back.
To watch this guy work made me feel like a piker and want to toss my kit.

Looking back at my notes, here's a few jewels of plein air wisdom he dropped on us
I hope they can help you as it did me:

-Spend time up front mixing all your colours first getting the correct colour and value-then paint.....not the other way around where we dive in waste time a musching paint around
-Keep the piles of colour on your palette squeaky clean- don't let other colours get in and muddy them
-always base the temperature of your colour on the light-not the shadow
-Remember you're painting 2 pictures- the object and your illusion of the object
-Paint shapes of things-not things..and make those shapes interesting to look at

Kim is a great teacher-quiet, patient and totally focussed on painting the light we see around us everyday.
Go to his web site and galleries that handle his work if you want to see , in my opinion at least, one of the top 10 painters of light working in North America today.


Today is the first day of Spring.
So I thought I'd say goodbye to winter with my first post.

I'll try regularly to post my work, painting trips I take, thoughts(mine and others) about plein air painting , and hopefully some learning for both of us about the craft and experience of painting itself.

This is a quick 10x12 oil sketch I did out of my studio window of my backyard after a heavy snowfall.(The only really heavy one we've had this winter in Toronto)!
Most of the time these quick sketches, for me at least, end up a dismal failure but on this one luck was on my side.
Let me say first off that I believe when you do a painting, you need to think it through first - as though you're making a movie and ask yourself-"what is this painting ABOUT"? And "Who are the main actors? "
I decided this painting wasn't about the trees, it wasn't about the shed and it wasn't about the snow- it was about the late winter afternoon's golden glow of LIGHT.
The fence, the trees, the snow and the shed are the main supporting actors.

I'm pretty happy(I'm never totally happy with my work) with the late winter afternoon feel of the raking light and the play of warm and cool that I saw.
It's not finished yet- I want to define the light on the left side of the foreground tree above the fence better , define the housing background behind my neighbour's tool shed and nick in the hard slivers of intense light that were peeking through the spaces between the fence boards-helping give the painting the rich golden glow I was after.

To help you, I've posted the digital shot as I saw the scene and a computer manipulated colour enhanced version so you can see my process.(I flipped the computer enhanced shot into gray scale on my laptop so I could get see those elusive values better).Remember, your digital shots, while far better at capturing the detail in scene much better than the film cameras, don't give you the colour subtleties in the shadow areas-just the shadow shapes.

More to come!