Friday, January 31, 2014

Portrait Society of America Conference April 24-27, 2014

I am so excited to attend "The Art of the Portrait" annual conference of The Portrait Society of America this year. It is being held in Reston, Virginia at the Hyatt Regency Reston on April 24-27, 2014.

This is such a great opportunity to see many of the top portrait artists in the world demonstrate and share their knowledge. It is going to be great to see some amazing paintings plus get inspired to continue my own path of growth as an painter. There is also a small trade show for supplies at discounted rates and books too. If you have not been to all the wonderful galleries in nearby Washington, D.C. then that is a must-do activity on the Sunday after the conference ends.

If you like to create portraits, I'd love to see you there as well! It is a pretty short drive from Toronto, but this year I am going to fly down on Porter airlines. As a side note, Porter is the most awesome way to fly from Toronto. Instead of the insanity of Pearson Airport with 3 hour waits for customs (last time I took a trip out of Pearson I almost missed my flight) you get to relax with a free snack and cappuccino! Even better, my firstborn is going to tag along to keep me company.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reilly or Mattelson Palette vs. Colourist Oil Painting

I recently received this comment from "anonymous":
I found your blog while searching for the Mattelson pallette. Thanks for posting it. I noticed this painting was done using Reilly or Mattelson technique. Yet your other paintings are done in a colorist impressionistic manner. My question is can you start a portrait with the earth colors and then bring it up in chroma? Or should you decide on one or another approach before you start the painting? You seem to use both approaches.
Hi there, anonymous! Thanks for stopping by.

For this recent portrait, the palette is not exactly from Reilly or Mattelson (although you are right that it has been an influence on some of my methods) as I have added a few extra colours and do not pre-mix the strings of colour. Although I think it is an excellent approach, I personally find it too tedious and time consuming to mix up all those values. By the time I am done, I am too exhausted to paint. Also, I can never seem able to keep track of all the brushes and end up using a dark value brush for a light value, not to mention having to wash all those brushes at the end (which is why I sometimes paint solely with a palette knife)! It just doesn't work for me so I just mix values and colours as I go along.

My subject in this case posed in a north light studio. For reference, I use a colour study I painted from life and however many live sittings I can finagle, plus photographs. I do use a variety of approaches, depending on the subject. I tend to use the underpainting approach for indoor portraits, since the chroma (especially in human flesh) is naturally subdued. It is all about the light.

When painting out of doors (and for still life indoors) I usually use more of a colourist approach. I will sometimes use a "wet" underpainting, using various colours, not necessarily raw umber. Sometimes I use the Cape method of patches of bright colours, starting with a palette knife. Also, when doing alla prima portraits I do not use an underpainting and my palette would include more colours since it is necessary to get the final effect in one session. I don't think that high chroma is necessarily desirable throughout a painting, especially a portrait - greys are important so that the touches of chroma can stand out, although outdoors under the sun you will have more brilliance and less greys.

I am showing this painting as a work in progress and the stage you commented on needs more colour, it is still at an underpainting stage, so you will see more life in her cheeks soon.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sargent Student in Paris - James Coutts Michie

As I mentioned previously, this painting was created by James Coutts Michie, a fellow art student with John Singer Sargent of Carolus-Duran's Paris studio.

Unfortunately, this used to be a much larger painting. Someone in the family, at some point, decided to cut it down to better suit their modern decor, so now it measures 24 x 18.

I will post a close-up of the features soon.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Work in Progress - Color!

24x18 oil on linen

Palette for today consisted of:

Flake White (Michael Harding - with Linseed Oil)
Venetian Red (Michael Harding)
Ultramarine Blue (Winsor & Newton)
Burnt Sienna (Winsor & Newton)
Indian Red (Old Holland)
Yellow Ochre (Michael Harding)
Yellow Ochre Pale (Winsor & Newton)
Ivory Black (Michael Harding)

Friday, January 03, 2014

Underpainting for Oil Portrait

24x18 Raw Umber Underpainting

The support is Claessens 13 oil primed linen which I stretched myself. The underpainting is a general impression and there are lots of corrections to make once I get started with color tomorrow. I used a wipe-out technique. This process involves oiling the canvas with cold-pressed linseed oil (you have to be careful to use just the right amount) and then brush on raw umber mixed with some oil and turpentine plus a touch of clove oil. I then use an old t-shirt to wipe out the lights.

This beautiful young woman looks a lot like her great grandmother, who had her portrait painted by James Coutts Michie, a Scottish painter who was a fellow class mate of John Singer Sargent, with both having Carolus-Duran as their teacher in Paris.

I will post a photo of the painting by Coutts Michie later so you can see the resemblance. Also, please come back to check on the progress of this piece I am working on!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Genius Artist John Singer Sargent on how to avoid false accents in your paintings . . .

Sargent on painting - how to avoid false accents:

"You must classify the values. If you begin with the middle-tone and work up from it towards the darks - so that you deal last with your highest lights and darkest darks - you avoid false accents. That's what Carolus taught me. And Franz Hals - it's hard to find anyone who knew more about oil-paint than Franz Hals - and that was his procedure. Of course a sketch different. You don't mind false accents there."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Article Published in Journal of Portrait Society of America, Volume XIV

Article on Mary Cassatt on Page 4 and 5
I just got this in the mail - there seems to be a delay in receiving these journals up here in Canada, so those of you living in the U.S. may have had it for some time.

When I have time to find and hook up my scanner, I will post the text of the article here. I moved both house and studio recently and still can't find half my stuff!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Studio Incamminati Palette

Palette as Abstract Art
The pictured method of palette maintenance would drive me bonkers - I have to clean off my palette almost every night! The "pile it up" style of palette layout comes, I think, directly from the top at Studio Incamminati and those who decide to just let the paint build up say they can still dig into these towers of hardened paint and find useable, liquid gold in there somewhere. This palette belongs to one of the top instructors at the school and he gave his permission for me to photograph it.

The palette of colors used at Studio Incamminati generally consists of more than 20 colors, (click here for an example from the supply list for a winter program) which are laid out in the same order every time. And, no, you don't have to be this messy about it!

The provenance for this extended palette of colors comes from Henry Hensche, who was a mentor to Nelson Shanks, the founder of Studio Incamminati.  Nelson Shanks traveled to Provincetown and The Cape School to study how to enhance his ability to see color, following in the footsteps of the Impressionists, such as Monet. This atelier is unique in that, in addition to the requisite charcoal drawing and cast paintings, artists study color combined with tonalism! Graduates have all the tools necessary to go ahead and be truly creative with their concepts and ideas. Their work has both the sculptural form and shimmering color of a marriage of classical training and Impressionist color.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Studio Incamminati - 2 week Advanced Portrait and Figure Workshop

During this initial stage, the gesture and what they call a "grisaille" drawing are established using a wipe-out technique. All paintings are done on a Golden Acrylic Grey No. 6 toned canvas. My canvas looks brown here because we did a whole series of one minute poses and then rubbed them out. This was a longer pose.

This is the second stage of the painting, where a general tone for the light areas is applied.
My 2 week Advanced Portrait and Figure Workshop was an intensive bootcamp for figurative painters. I wish I had a photograph of the very first stage of this pose, which consisted of a gesture drawing with Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Umber. Following that, a procedure of wipe out and drawing, which is shown in the first picture above, establishes the drawing. I really loved this way of starting a painting because is it so flexible - you are able to capture the spontaneity and freedom of the gesture and then start making corrections as you refine the drawing enough to nail the pose.

The second picture above shows the stage where light is separated from shadow and a darker general skin tone is applied to those areas and then lighter values go on top.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Too many blogs!

In the process of trying to simplify my life, I have finally turned my attention to my numerous blogs. My intention in the beginning was to compartmentalize things into categories. I think this idea fits into the "seemed like a good idea at the time" category. I have come to the realization for quite some time now that I can't maintain all these blogs in the manner they deserve.

For anyone who is unaware of and maybe a little curious about my other work, please click on the links below:

My non-portrait paintings
Information for artists
Pet Portraits

Photographs of Paris
Photographs of Prague

Holistic lifestyle information (my other gig is nutrition)

I think I am going to consolidate all the multiple art blogs into one under my name (the portraiture site) so if you are interested in updates, please click on the link at upper right of this screen to receive emails.

I will probably leave the original sites as an archive, perhaps re-posting some of the entries in future at this location.

Thanks for your interest and happy painting!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

View from the air enroute to Philadelphia
I arrived home this past Saturday after an intense two weeks in Philadelphia studying at Studio Incamminati. Painting the figure and portrait for two weeks solid, as well as attending lectures, demos and a wonderful dinner at the home of Nelson and Leona Shanks was a memorable experience. The teachers at Studio Incamminati are very helpful and consistent yet each had different ideas and knowledge to impart.

Right now I am deeply immersed in another workshop, one that I signed up for two years ago since this instructor is so popular and in demand, so no time for blogging until next week. Stay tuned for more information on the Studio Incamminati method of painting.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Scholarship for Studio Incamminati!

I have some very exciting news - tomorrow I am traveling to Philadelphia for a couple of weeks of intensive life painting!

I received a scholarship to attend an Advanced Portrait and Figure workshop at Studio Incamminati (Nelson Shank's atelier) starting on Monday. The lead instructor is Stephen Early. There will also be a bunch of extra presentations, lectures and demonstrations by other artists.

I am really interested in learning more about how to merge tonalist volume with wonderful color. The impressionists focused on color, but if you were to look at one of, for example, Monet's paintings in black and white you will not see a lot of volume and structure since his work is all about light and color. Most classical ateliers are more focused on tonalism than color, so Studio Incamminati is rather unique in that it includes color. I have also studied with Cedric and Joanette Egeli,(who, along with Nelson Shanks, were both former students of Henry Hensche) both on the beach in Provincetown and at their month long winter workshop.They are both exceptional artists and I am grateful to have learned from them as well.

My approach to continuing education has been to regularly take workshops. I find I always learn something new and crucial from every experience and I am so thankful to the talented artists that wholeheartedly share their knowledge and skills.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Perette - study from life

A closer look at my study of Perette's profile.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Perette - Profile in Oil

Perette was a very interesting model who is also a writer and techie - my son was very impressed to read that she developed UNIX kernel components as he is an avid user of Linux.

Photo Credit: Loree Harpole

Marisa - Painting in Progress

This lovely young model is an artist who designs the most delightful brass jewellery!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Painting Sidelined by Family Responsibilities

I have had a difficult fall and winter. First, my elderly parents needed help due to a sudden health crisis. I traveled across the country to British Columbia to assist with moving them out of their home of 40 years. This involved sorting through decades of accumulated stuff and then trying to organize what was left into a very small space.

I had only been home a couple of months and starting to try and catch up on things when, sadly, my dad suffered a fall and after a few days, slipped into a coma and passed away soon after. He was 91 years old. It doesn't help that I have probably bitten off more than I can chew by going back to school and studying nutrition part-time as well as painting full-time.

I am sure some of you have lost a parent and know that it is an emotional minefield. I hope to navigate myself out of this funk and end up back in the studio soon.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to contact me and express their condolences. I do appreciate it greatly.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Robert Genn in the Bugaboos

I thought I would show something I started and have yet to finish. Here is the venerable Mr. Robert Genn in mid-lecture. I was fortunate to be included in his Bugaboo heli-painting adventure in September 2010. He is a really great guy and something of a sage when it comes to painting and life.

I liked the unusual light effect here. Hopefully posting this will motivate me to finally get the portrait completed - I can see all sorts of things that need tweaking!

Coincidentally, I just read the most recent letter on Robert Genn's website, "The Painters Keys" , and was gobsmacked by his tale of getting a call from a broker who told him to bring over any old painting and he would be presented with a cheque for $60,000. Wow. Hmm, wonder if that guy could use a portrait of Mr. Genn as well?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Blogtalk Radio - Artists Helping Artists

I am excited to announce that this blog was one of five randomly chosen to be critiqued by fabulous artists and radio show hosts Leslie Saeta and Dreama Tolle Perry Linkof Artists Helping Artists.

I hope they can give me some advice about how to deal with and maybe amalgamate the plethora of blogs I write - this blog about my portraiture, my blog for other paintings: Painting Color and Light, my blog for other artists: Thinking About Painting, my travelogues: Prague Idyll and Paris Sojourn and my eco-lifestyle/food blog: Creative Lifeskills. I also have an abandoned blog for posting my sketchbook pages: Sketchbook by Laurel.

I obtained a domain name,, where I was planning to put everything except the portraiture, but I am guessing that maybe that is not focused enough.

Anyhow, be sure to tune in to the show today at noon, eastern standard time, or download it afterward if you miss it - should be fun!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Beautiful Keely, wearing a fur stole belonging to Joanette Egeli.

I still need to finish the earrings and add the necklace, and a few more subtle changes here and there.


Liz, a very attractive woman, and mother to Lauren, was a pleasure to paint.


Lovely Lauren - a gorgeous young woman! I still have a few changes to make, but this is almost finished.

I was also privileged to do a portrait of her very good looking mother, Liz, seen in the next post. They both like to wear black!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It was a pleasure painting this lovely young woman mainly from life sittings. She is an artist herself, a dancer and has a sweet, sunny disposition. As a senior in high school, she is looking forward to a bright future, whatever path she chooses to take.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I think I still need to make a few tiny adjustments to this portrait, but I think I have captured this very appealing young man.

*Update - tweaks have been completed!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Plein Air Today Published My Photo From Bugaboo Trip!

Not this photo - this is a shot of me on our last day out in the helicopter, at Cobalt Lake. The published photo (found here, among other photos of plein air painters going to extremes) shows our helicopter perched beside a mountain top lake, waiting for us to finish our plein air paintings.

If you dropped by because you were looking for more photos of the trip, go to my other painting site and scroll back a bit!

I was painting in the wind, the snow, the sleet and the rain while struggling with an umbrella with one hand and holding my brush (and occasionally trying to keep my tripod holding my painting setup from blowing over) with the other hand but I loved every minute - what an adventure!

For fellow artists, I also have a blog with information for painters, so check it out!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Molly - Pet Portrait

I debated whether to post this painting on my portraiture blog or my blog for all my other painting subjects. I do consider this a portrait as it captures a unique individual who just happens to be a dog.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Article on Berthe Morisot

For those who belong to The Portrait Society of America, check out my article on Berthe Morisot in the 2010-4th quarter Art of the Portrait Journal. I find her story inspiring, as she managed to combine a husband, a child and a career in a time when professional activities by an upper class woman were frowned upon, to say the least. Her mentor, Manet, once said it was a shame she was a woman and her contemporaries called her the "quintessential" impressionist.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Monochromatic Underpainting

I am going to keep this as an example of this method of starting a painting and start afresh on another canvas. I may not even do an underpainting for the actual piece! Living dangerously is fun sometimes. I usually work in at least a few layers anyhow, it just seems to take me that long to get to where I want to be.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frank J. Reilly wash-in method

I prefer to call this method a "wipeout" because it better describes how you do it and because it sounds more fun!

I plan to keep this as an example of this method of starting a painting and use the color study I also did from life (which I really don't want to share as it is pretty wonky, being done in an hour or so) to create a full color painting.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Star Portraits

I just returned from a fabulous plein air painting adventure - traveling by helicopter in the Bugaboo mountains!

That is the good news - the kind of disappointing news is that I got a call from Star Portraits (a television show featuring 3 artists painting a celebrity) asking if I could participate in the show, but the dates were the same as my trip.

Even though I won't be one of the artists painting this season, be sure to check out this fantastic show. Some of the celebrities that will be painted are: David Suzuki, Jeanne Beker, Tanya Kim, Gordon Pinsent and Jim Cuddy.

The show airs on Bravo!, beginning on September 11, 2010, Saturdays at 8 pm with repeat viewings on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Tune in and enjoy a celebration of portraiture - that's reality TV I can get into!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Preparatory Sketch

There was a lot of glare so my teenage subject is squinting a little, even though he is sitting in the shade.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oil Sketch

I did this sketch while my young model watched a movie, about an hour and a half. I don't think he held the same position for more than a few seconds!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Portraits of Canadian Olympic Athletes on Display at John B. Aird Gallery

My portrait of past Olympic Gold Medal winner Donovan Bailey will be on view at The John Aird Gallery in Toronto, Ontario from March 2-26, 2010, along with many other portraits of Canadian Olympic Athletes.

The gallery, located at 900 Bay Street, is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm.

There will be an opening reception on Thursday, March 4 from 6pm to 8pm, so please come join us in celebrating the accomplishments of the athletes and how they have been portrayed.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Donovan Bailey Portrait - Detail

Here are the hands and the bling - the secret to painting jewelery is to not spell everything out. Human vision is selective - in other words we focus on one thing and everything else is peripheral. Leaving something to the imagination of the viewer makes the painting more interesting and truly realistic, something photography is unable to accomplish.

Donovan Bailey Portrait - Detail

Since this is such a large painting, I thought I would post a couple of details. I always want to get up close and put my nose next to paintings to see the brushwork and examine how the artist made the piece, so here is a close up of Mr. Bailey's head for anyone else who is interested in examining it more closely.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Portrait of Donovan Bailey, Olympic Gold Medalist

This painting was designed to bring attention to the head - the value of the background was lowered and the collar of his shirt on our left (the lightest value mass) brings attention to the face. The suit was the darkest value mass. His hands and cuffs, which can steal the show if you are not careful, are muted in comparison to the head/collar. The watch and ring are represented by an economical number of brushstrokes. I eliminated a lot of bottles of liquor that were sitting behind him, to simplify the design. I didn't paint every wrinkle in his suit, just the ones that showed action.

I had to use photographic references for this painting, since I was only given a grand total of 15 minutes with Mr. Bailey, but I used all the knowledge I have gained in working from life to create the piece. This is definitely not just a painted copy of a photograph.

I also researched Mr. Bailey and read everything I could find written about him, in order to get a handle on his personality and current interests. With this information and what I learned from my initial meeting with him (when he viewed my portfolio) I felt like I had a pretty good sense of the man.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Monochrome Block In for Donovan Bailey Portrait

In this monochromatic sketch on my linen canvas, I have mapped out the values for the finished painting.

As mentioned in the previous post, I did a wipe out after an initial rough sketch to get to this point in the process.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Initial Sketch for painting of Donovan Bailey at the Spoke Club

Here is the full size sketch of Donovan Bailey, done on a couple of large sheets of 24x36 newsprint taped together.

Making a sketch allows me to get the drawing right and then move the piece of paper (to position of the figure) around the canvas to see what works best for my composition.

Since I have to work from photographic reference material for this piece, I don't have the luxury of life sittings and the freedom to just start painting with my subject right there in front of me, full size, to compare. Therefore, the information I have in a small photograph on my computer screen must be blown up to a life size image.

An easy way to transfer a large sketch like this to the painting support is to oil the surface slightly, brush on paint mixed with a little medium, lay the drawing on top and draw over your lines. Afterward, I use a rag to wipe out the lights and add some details in darker paint and to produce a massed block in of the composition.

It is important to keep in mind that this is a general guide for placement and I do not try to stay within the lines when painting!

Once the monochrome painting is dry, it is easy to maintain the planned notan (value pattern) and not go off track from the initial idea.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


This young woman is so gorgeous, I felt compelled to capture her beauty.

Adding the necklace was fun! You can really go wrong with jewellery if you try to paint it with a lot of detail, just a few fine strokes and a couple of highlights and you are done. Examining some of Sargent's work in this regard is always illuminating.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anton - Young Canadian Opera Singer

I love painting from life, but in an ideal world I would have at least 6 hours (and preferably much more than that) rather than a mere 2 hours or so (of actual painting time) to achieve an alla prima painting. I think that is why a lot of artists choose to draw in this situation because you have time to get the drawing right or work on color - try to do both and you are doomed!

Even the top portrait painters in the world often don't nail the likeness right away. That is what I remind myself so I don't sink into despair and burn down my studio.

I started this painting with a wipe-out and achieved an image that looked somewhat like this handsome young man, but everything was just a little off. Group situations are tough, because you have to squeeze in wherever there is a spot and sometimes you are quite a distance away. I won't even get into my eyesight - I don't want to be classified as a complaining curmudgeon, although I think I am rapidly approaching that status. Just when you start to know what the heck you are doing you start losing your faculties.

I also decided to cool the background, so instead of a warm brown it is now a mauvey grey, which brings forward the warm skin tones of my subject.

So, I ended up reworking the likeness from a photograph after the fact, but something still was not right. I lined up my computer screen with the painting and, from a distance, finally saw that I had his eyes too close together and now, voila, after about 6 hours or work, here is Anton.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Portrait Society of America - Cecilia Beaux Forum Mentoring Program

Recently I received some great news - I have been chosen to participate in a mentoring program, which is a project of the Cecilia Beaux Forum, a subgroup of The Portrait Society of America.

The program was developed to support the aesthetic and technical growth of female figurative artists. The program starts on October 1 and will last 9 months.

I am very excited about this opportunity!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Painting from Life - Portrait Society of Canada open studio session

This young man, Anton, is an opera singer.

He has quite a distinguished air, even at his young age and it was fun painting his portrait!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Make Your Own Painting Box

For any fellow painters out there, here is a shot of one of my pochade boxes, used for plein air work.

If you would like more information about how to make one yourself, go to my other painting blog (for non-portrait work) for instructions and more photographs:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Now that I have some paintings ready to post, my computer, along with all my photographs is out of service.

The AC adapter cord started making a weird buzzing noise and emitting an unusual smell. Not good.

We ordered a replacement last week, and it arrived early, but it turned out that Dell sent the wrong part. Arranging to send it back was a snap. However, it took 2 hours on the phone with Dell, getting transferred at least 15 times, to finally order the right one (I hope) so if all goes well the correct one will arrive next week.

I am seriously considering crossing Dell off my list when I next shop for a new computer. Dell may be saving all kinds of money by outsourcing work overseas, but the customer service was horrendous.

When we were able to speak to a person who was actually in Canada (at about the one hour mark) she said there was nothing she could do and that she herself had been transferred several times trying to help us fix the problem.

Until then, I guess I better get back in the studio and get some work done!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Not So Simple Life

Obviously, I have not posted here recently. We hope to be simplifying and downsizing soon, so I have been preoccupied with getting things sorted out. I have been painting portraits though and hopefully will get around to posting some of them soon!

Friday, December 05, 2008


I had to repaint much of this today after looking at it for a long time and finally realizing where I had gone wrong. Sometimes it takes a lot of looking to really see where the problem lies!

I neutralized the background and lowered the shoulders a bit to give a more elegant appearance to the portrait.

Adding the necklace was fun! You can really go wrong with jewellery if you try to paint it with a lot of detail, just a few fine strokes and a couple of highlights and you are done. Examining some of Sargent's work in this regard is always illuminating.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My 15 Seconds of Fame

In my quest to become not just a good portrait painter, but a well rounded artist, I have been doing quite a bit of plein air painting. I was recently photographed by a reporter and I made the front page!

Click here and scroll down to October 13, 2008 post to see the brief newspaper article and picture!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yet another work in progress . . .

All of these paintings were started from sittings.

I am making a few adjustments to the likeness after the fact but trying to maintain the freshness from the initial painting session.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This is looking much more like my subject, but I can still see lots of changes I need to make!