Please click on paintings to view larger.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Different Strokes Portrait Challenge"

Karin Jurick's at it again, she has presented 180 keen artists with her second portrait challenge. Both times I have participated I have found it to be a very interesting experience painting an anonymous person, one you have never seen and know nothing about. In each case I have found that for the first few hours I am focused on shapes, drawing, trying to get things accurate. But as the person begins to unfold on the canvas, I start to notice the tiniest subtleties of expression that show their character, and as I am nearing the end, I feel a real sense of who this person is.

The biggest challenge with this portrait was that I didn't realize until very near the end that I had made the distance from her chin to her eye too short. There was a strong temptation to try and fix this by making some minor adjustments, but then I remembered something I had read about John Singer Sargent. "He never attempted to repaint one eye or to raise or lower it, for he held that the construction of a head prepared the place for the eye, and if it was wrongly placed, the understructure was wrong, and he ruthlessly scraped and repainted the head from the beginning." 

As I contemplated the options, this rang very true. For the purpose of this exercise I couldn't justify the time, but it certainly impressed upon me the need to step back and assess all of the relationships on the canvas more often during the painting process, and I will remember this in the future. 

See all the portraits here:

Note: January 9th, 2010 
I have been in touch with the woman I painted, her name is Prabha Narayanan and she lives in India! How cool is that? You can view her work here:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fine Art Online Competition "Fav 15%" selection

"City Lunch" (9x12"- Oil on Linen) was selected as one of the "Favorite 15%" of entries in October's Fine Art Online Competition.  To see the other chosen entries follow this link:

The greatest challenge in this piece was all the wrought iron window grates and the shadows they cast. (This was also what compelled me to paint the scene). I am working a lot these days with trying to paint straight lines in a way that feels painterly rather than mechanical. Figuring out how to vary the shape of them and soften edges here and there required a lot of focused intention. It is amazing how much easier (and less interesting) it is to paint perfectly straight lines.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Time Travelers" - 9"x12"

This is the latest "Different Strokes" challenge, and is hands down one of the most difficult things I have ever painted. Incredible foreshortening challenge, I had to tell myself over and over "these are not 'people', they are simply shapes. Not a head, an arm, a leg, a foot - simply shapes." As long as I could keep my focus there, I was able to get the proportions right, but as soon as I decided I was painting a nose or a chin, it felt like I was being thrown out to sea with nothing to hang on to.

What a valuable reminder this painting was that we are never painting "things", we are painting value, shape, colour, edges, and in the end - if we succeed, we have created the impression of a thing.

It was a tremendous challenge, SO valuable for working on drawing skills, the challenge is up until November 18th and I highly recommend any artist taking it on, it will truly stretch you! You can find it here: 
Don't forget to have fun with it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Website/Email back in action!

Just a quick note to announce my website and email are up and running again - yay!!

And here's a sneak peak of one of my daily paintings, most of which will be posted on my (not yet published) Daily Painting Blog very soon!

Please email me here: if you want to be notified when the Daily Painting blog is up and running.

Note: January 10th, 2010
This painting has now been posted on my ebay auction site. You can link to it by viewing the January 10th blog entry "Daily Painting LAUNCH!" above.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Invermere Workshop

I just got home from teaching a two day workshop in Invermere, BC. The above paintings are two demos I did, the first one in 15 minutes and the second in 20 minutes. There were 14 very keen students which was great because we were doing speed painting, which is not for the faint of heart. We were painting poses ranging from 30 seconds to no more than 20 minutes, and wiping 90% of them off when the buzzer went.

I learned this teaching technique from Kim English (an American painter who's work is exquisite). The idea is to get to what's important, to capture the essence of the subject without getting caught up in detail. One learns to see what is essential very quickly. I find as I am  blocking in a 15 minute pose, I am constantly noting what is of greatest interest in my subject so as my time winds down I will be able to prioritize what I want to include. The difference between this approach and a finished studio piece where there is infinite time to ponder these things is that the pressure of time running out really helps push the symbol oriented, judgmental left  brain out of the equation.

It is a very difficult approach for some students to embrace, the resistance seems to come mostly from our natural tendency to be result rather than process oriented. Especially in painting, we seem to want all of our time spent to end in a finished piece we can hang on the wall. This is compounded when one gets paid for those pieces, but it can be quite freeing to embrace the idea that a lot of our time spent should be working on skills with NO immediate end result expected, just faith that the work we are doing now will help us shine brighter when it counts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fine Art Online Competition Finalist

One of my watercolours - "Among Friends" (14"x 21") - was just selected as a September finalist  in the Fine Art Views Painting Competition. The judge was Keiko Tanabe, an extremely talented watercolorist, so it was quite an honor to have this piece chosen. If you are a painter and you don't know of this competition, you should definitely check it out, it is attracting a wide range of painters from those just starting out to some of the finest artists painting today. Reasonable entry fee and some cash prizes, as well of course as the opportunity for exposure. They post all the entries online each month, so there is also the chance to check out lots of interesting art as the entries filter in.

By the way, I dropped the ball and missed my domain name renewal date 2 days ago, so my website and email are out of commission until God knows when (very hard to get a clear answer on that). I am working on keeping the wheels moving - check back here if you would like to know when it is up and running again.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Denman Tidepool" 8"x10"

This plein air piece was a great challenge, kinda like doing a still life outdoors. I loved the mussels and anemones nestled together, and the kelp drifting back and forth in the shallow water casting shadows on the wall of the pool. Too much fun!

As promised, here are the two great tips I got from Robert Genn last month on Vancouver Island. The first one was offered up mid-day, as I was finally getting around to putting my first stroke on my canvas. He looked up at me from his pile of 2 and 1/2 paintings in progress and said, "It's about time you stopped fooling around  and got to work." When I remarked that I needed all of that 2+ hours to get inspired, he said, "No, you don't. You need to arrive at your spot, find a comfortable place to set up, and start painting. Inspiration will come".  I tried this in the following days and found he was often right.

Valuable tip # 2: He suggested that wandering around looking through the viewfinder of a camera for the perfect composition while painting on location could actually be detrimental to one's process. It could in fact even be mistaken for procrastination. His approach is to look around at the elements in the place that inspire him, these trees, that aerial perspective, the logs to the right on the beach, a certain pattern of clouds in the sky, how the light was when he arrived - and pull what moves him into his painting, instead of expecting all those elements to be laid out perfectly in front of him waiting to be painted. This is much trickier as it involves great design skills (which he has in spades). It also has a ring of truth to it, and is definitely something to shoot for.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Berry Point" 6"x8"

Just returned home from Denman Island. What a remarkable place Vancouver Island is - such raw, wild energy mixed with moments of incredible peace and stillness. I painted little I liked on this past trip, but much that fed my soul. I know it will show itself in time...

This was a painting I did while still on Gabriola Island that I was quite happy with. It was the middle painting on a day that I was determined to do 3 paintings (the other two were not so hot). I was captivated by the sky and warmed up from my first piece, set up a little 6x8 panel and dove in. It was finished in about 45 minutes, just enough time to get the message down without working it to death. Why can't I do this everytime???

I also had the pleasure of spending a day painting with Robert Genn while on the trip, and he taught me two very valuable things which I will share in my next post.

Gaye Adams and Sarah Kidner assessing a work in progress - Denman Island, BC.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Berry Point, Gabriola Island, BC

Spent the last week on a plein air painting retreat with the Federation of Canadian Artists, on Gabriola Island, BC. Sarah Kidner, Gaye Adams and I are now off to Denman and Hornby Islands for another week of plein air. Will post more about the trip and some paintings from it when I get home at the end of September. The weather has been fabulous, and I have fallen in love with the west coast all over again!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Moraine Lake" (study)

This 8"x6" painting was done on location at Moraine Lake (in the Canadian Rockies). My friend Melissa Gann was visiting from Atlanta, GA for 3 weeks this summer, and we did quite a tour of local painting spots while she was here. It's always great motivation having a painting companion to ramble around the outdoors with!

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Nectarine Study"

This 6"x8" study of nectarines was done last week at a 5 day Carol Marine workshop. It was an outstanding week, Carol is a very thorough, knowledgable and competent teacher, and I gained a wealth of new inspiration and ideas throughout the week. Can't recommend it enough, if you have a chance to study with her it is well worth the time and money.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Summer Storm"

This little 6x8" painting was done from the back of my car (squished in with my good friend and fellow artist Gaye Adams) in the middle of a wild thunderstorm, lightning flashing, thunder cracking, hail bouncing off our feet and palettes that were not quite protected by the open hatchback. This piece was done in about 45 minutes, amazing how fast you paint with the energy of a storm driving you! By far one of the most exciting plein air experiences I have ever had.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"La Paz-Bolivia"

This painting is 24"x36". I initially did a 12"x16" study in order to see if I could try to keep some areas loose. I find this often helps if I plan to paint a larger image, though I still always get tighter on the big pieces.

What drew me to this subject was the soft, muted tones of the distant buildings, and that was the part of the painting I had the most fun with. I am reasonably pleased with the looseness of the people and the buildings, which I simplified quite a bit relative to the source photo. Getting looser is an ongoing challenge, and I strive for it in every painting I do. So hard to relinquish the illusion of control that painting "between the lines" gives.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Tackled this still life recently without being dragged kicking and screaming, which was quite a remarkable thing. A friend bought me these lovely gladiolas, and as I observed them over a few days, I was captivated by the soft, beautiful tones of white that kept subtly shifting as the light in the room changed. This painting was done from life in my kitchen.

The biggest challenge here was to suggest the bouquet rather than getting caught up in rendering each flower. That and getting thick paint on, amazing how difficult that I always find this. In the end I really enjoyed playing with this piece. Think it would be fun to paint it larger sometime.