Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Time Lapse Palette Knife Impressionist Oil Painting Demo - Abstract Land...

Painting demonstration, speeded up from "Fun With Knives" workshop.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Oil Painting of Cat - Time Lapse - Alla Prima Colour

This painting started as a demo for a workshop. You may be surprised at how I started this one, as I use a very colourful, transparent underpainting.

To get the drawing done quickly, using a grid over your photographic reference is helpful. There are a couple of apps available free to use for both IOS and Android. The two apps I use on my Iphone are Grid# and PaintingGrid.

Duplicate the grid on your painting support - I used a small brush and paint to lightly indicate the lines.

Once you start painting, do not be afraid to lose your drawing. To keep your edges varied, try and overshoot your shapes and then use negative painting to correct things. Paint in and out of shapes.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Painting White Hydrangeas in Oil Without Solvents - See all the Stages!

A few weeks ago, I taught a workshop on painting hydrangeas. I could not have chosen a more difficult image to demonstrate!

The reference I used was a stock photo. I try to use these in my workshops, so that students can show or sell their work if they wish. On sites like and the photographer has given permission for their images to be used either free or at low cost. When doing my own non-class work, I always use my own photos.

I recommend starting out by putting a VERY thin layer of walnut oil on your support. I neglected to do this step during this demo, which made my life a lot harder when it came to getting paint spread out evenly on the canvas in the underpainting stage.

I used a 16" x 16" gallery wrap stretched canvas as my support. To apply the thin film of oil, I sprinkled a few drops with my palette knife onto the surface and then spread with the palette knife and followed by rubbing with a small cloth rag. After that, I used a palette knife to apply dabs of paint, which I then also spread around with a cloth, sometimes one colour, sometimes several as in this case. Paper towels are not a good choice as they leave bits of lint in your paint film.

Why do I do this method? Well, I do not wish to use toxic solvents such as odourless mineral spirits for health reasons. Just because it is odourless does not mean it is benign. Mineral spirits is an easy way to start a painting, but so is this, it is just a new way of doing things, but well worth it in my opinion.

After I massed in part of the painting with transparent colours, then adding the thicker, opaque paint at the end. I did not have time to do the entire painting as it is rather large for a demo, being 16 x 16 inches square.

See the initial steps of the process below. 

If you have any questions, please let me know and I will try and help!

First lay-in of transparent colours, starting with Indian Yellow spread thinly with a cotton rag

I put in the thick, creamy white paint of the flower in light to gauge my values, but scraped it out afterward to continue
Starting to put in background and two more flower heads plus leaves in shadow and light and another flower head sketched in upper right

Starting to put back the thick, light paint and some detail in the shadows

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Water Lilies - See The Painting in Progress!

November 1, 2018
UPDATE: Here is the next layer of this painting on the top - basically I just added thick light areas to the petals, so there is more definition. Still thinking about what else, if anything, needs to be done....

I am realizing that I really enjoy starting projects more than finishing them. At the beginning of a painting, it is all loose and splashy and fun - then things start to get more serious and the decisions become harder and I lose interest. How about you? Are you a starter or a finisher?

With this painting of water lilies, I used too much medium and it got really difficult to get the values I needed at the end, especially the highlights. So, I smoothed out the texture (you can see it is a little blurry) and let it dry. Now, I need to go back in and add those highlights and thick paint. I like to leave things a big abstract and painterly so the painting is not just about the subject but about the texture and paint quality.

Painting the Realistic Landscape

If you are wondering how this one turned out, please see the top image. 

I lightened the sky, greyed out the distant shrubberies and lightened the shadows a bit to be more airy. I also moved the top of the tree further from the edge and made the silhouette more random. I also added brilliant light green over the yellow of the ground in light. 

I tried to think of the principles of landscape painting which are that the sky is always the lightest mass (unless it is a sunny beach), the ground is next in value and the trees and upright masses (such as mountains) are darker in value. Things get more bluish and greyer as they go back in space. Although I liked the bright colour in Version #1, I think it has a more realistic feel now, what do you think?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Landscape WIP - sky needs to be lighter, ground greener

Here is yet another start that awaits my final decisions. I know already that the sky needs to be lighter...I will add some white, perhaps clouds, especially in the lower half of the sky.

The bright yellow ground is actually a limey green, but I struggled with it being bright enough so ended up wiping it out and leaving the transparent Indian Yellow underpainting.

Nature has such a wider array of values than we have in paint that it is always a challenge to compress those values into a narrower range.

I am not sure the texture in the front works either - any opinions?

I could add some detail in the shrubberies in the back, but not sure I should - the star of this is the big tree, so best not to confuse things.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Large Loose Floral in Acrylic WIP

I am still working on this one. I started big, bold and splashy and now I am stymied. I always had in mind to layer a lot of different colours, especially in the background.

I utilized a lot of tools and textures in this painting - bubble wrap, drips, spatulas, spray bottles and more!

My reference was actually a stock photo with a white background so I have in mind to layer white over all the blue as I am not sure about the blue background. I think a lighter value would be more effective. What do you think? Please let me know if you have an opinion as I am frozen with indecision on this one.

It is a large painting of roses and tulips on a gallery wrap canvas - 42" x 42"

A closer look

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Acrylic Floral Hydrangea Landscape 24x24 Gallery Wrap - On the Beach

This was another demo in acrylic in my "Large and Loose Florals" class. This one is not quite as big as some we did, it is 24 x 24 inches on a gallery wrap canvas. I struggle a bit with acrylics since the colours are not as subtle as oils and softening edges is trickier. You need to be paint very quickly and loosely to not have the hard edges typical of acrylic paintings unless you to a lot of layers of paint.

I think what attracted me to this subject is, well, first of all I love hydrangeas! They are so fluffy and gorgeous in pinks and blues with pretty leaves too. I also liked the aqua blue of the lake behind, I take every opportunity possible to use that colour. And, I also love painting glass and water, so the jar was fun too.

The trees and shrubberies in the background had to be softened and muted and glazed with a milky blue to push them back. There was a lot of painting in and out of those trees as well, so they didn't look cut out and pasted on.

I am not sure I am done with this one. I need to even out the table, for instance, but you get to see the work in progress.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Pink Tulips in Acrylic - Work in Progress - See All the Steps!

Pink Tulips - 16 x 16 Acrylic on Canvas
As long as a painting remains in my custody it is never finished. This one started out as another class demo and it was painted in 4 layers - a block-in, then the basic shapes and then some details.

I plan to change the foreground as my plan was always to have this underpainting peeking through a creamy white colour. So, by the time I complete the painting it will have taken at least 5 layers of paint.

What do you think? Would you paint the foreground white? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Initial Block-In

Locating the main shapes

Adding some detail and refining the drawing
Painting almost done....just need to add white to foreground!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Painting Big and Loose!

Pink Roses - 42 x 42 inches Acrylic on Canvas
 This past spring I decided on a change of pace by teaching a class all about painting large in acrylic instead of small in oils. I strongly believe a great way to improve your work quickly is to paint every day and small pieces fit better into this paradigm. However, I also believe it is good to shake things up by doing something different and experimenting on a regular basis as well.

This is one of the paintings I started in class as a demo. I find acrylics challenging due to their propensity to create hard edges, so you really have to work fast and splashy, in an abstract fashion. I ended up doing at least 3 or 4 layers of paint on this one, having fun with various textures, using a spray bottle, bubble wrap, cardboard and a spatula, letting the paint fly and drip.

Fun to see the scale in a room!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

September Means a 30 Day Painting Challenge!

No. 1: Calendula Bouquet - 9 x 12 Oil on Belgian Linen

It is now September 1st and time to get back to work. Every fall, Leslie Saeta hosts a 30 day painting challenge. She says it isn't cheating to paint ahead, so since I haven't done that recently, I am going to take the opportunity to post a number of pieces that have not made their way onto this blog yet, while I also get back in the studio. I will be working on some large paintings, so may post their progress as well.

Way back in March, I attended a workshop by Canadian painter Robert Strickland. I like to attend at least one or two workshops every year with painters that I think can teach me something new. I almost always come away with new insights or ideas to pursue and a refreshed urgency to get into the studio and create.

I love how he simplifies complex flowers into their essentials. The flower on the left was painted  and re-painted several times by me. I was thinking it was looking pretty good, but every time, he came by, he wiped out all my detail! It is all about the form and capturing that first, then adding select touches to give the particular flower character.

Friday evening, we had a lecture, entitled "The Language of Paint" that talked about fundamentals of drawing, value and color) and then on Saturday and Sunday we painted from life with several people gathered around each vase of flowers. 

For those who would like to know, Robert uses very expensive panels as his support (Raymar oil primed belgian linen) and his palette consists of:

Titanium White
Cremnitz (lead) White 

Cadmium Lemon
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Orange (optional) 

Cadmium Red
Permanent Rose (optional) 

Alizarin Crimson
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Viridian – Rembrandt
Transparent Oxide Red – Rembrandt

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Silk Plants Direct: Decor, Events & Painting Still Life Flowers!

 I recently was made aware of a great resource for anyone who loves gorgeous decorative silk flowers and green plants so wanted to share!

I have a preference for white flowers and love peonies (which last a very short time in real life), roses and hydrangeas, but this company has every colour and type of flower you can think of, plus shrubberies and other green plants as well.
Isn't this gorgeous? I think it would be great in a still life arrangement!

Such a pretty bouquet, love the purple hydrangea mixed with the white roses and peony

Silk Plants Direct sells bulk amounts of silk flowers and faux green plants at discounted prices. If you need decorative flowers for an event, such as a wedding, this is a very cost effective way to make things pretty! They have single flowers, bushes, bouquets and arrangements in containers.

Another gorgeous bouquet - great for a wedding or table arrangement

Fresh flowers are gorgeous, but they don't last very long and so are expensive to have around at all times.

For artists, the other benefit of silk over real is that they don't move so make great, everlasting still life setups. You could position some of these arrangements in many different environments to create paintings without worrying about the design and shapes changing hour by hour as happens with real flowers.
More pretty peonies

* I was offered product in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Oil Sketch - Fitness at Hippocrates Health Institute

Every morning when I head to the gym at Hippocrates Health Institute (where I am taking a course) I admire this lush floral vine over the doorway.

I did some of the vine with a palette knife, which adds some texture.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Life is Bowl of Cherries

7x7 inches, oil on canvas panel
I have drawings and paintings stacked up  at home, waiting to be photographed and posted, but here is my latest effort, a quick oil sketch that was a lot of fun to do.

I am currently doing a class in Florida, related to my other profession in the area of nutrition and health.

It has been heavenly to escape winter this year since it was a particularly brutal one in my area of the world.

I have managed to fit in a few painting sessions despite the busy schedule here.

If I could eat cherries every day, I would, but sadly we have to wait all year to enjoy them around early July. Something to look forward to after this long winter!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Daily Painting: Frequent Practice is Essential for Mastery

Don't let anything get in the way of your daily art practice!
As a born perfectionist and over thinker, I am not really a huge "doer" when compared to some people. Despite being a quick start, I tend to avoid finishing projects in favour of a shiny new project or idea. Also, my preferred method is to mull things over until I feel like I have everything figured out in order to to avoid nasty mistakes. 

Malcolm Gladwell talked about the need for 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. Some disagree with that number and I would say that it is important to have a lot of focused practice, not just putting in the hours. That may involve taking classes, reading books, watching demos and working on specific tasks to improve where you are weak. Plein air outdoor painting, for instance is a great challenge to take on that will help you quickly nail values and colour in your work. Working from life in the studio is a valuable practice as well, for many of the same reasons, but a little easier since you can control your lighting.

If you want a scientific study to prove the conjecture that producing more work is better than trying to just complete one masterpiece, this quote from the book, Art and Fear, is enlightening:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
The more paintings you have done, the more experience you have gained and as you progress you will find that quality springs from quantity. The more often you create, the better you become at your chosen vocation. Fortunately, over time I have managed to put in a lot of hours and a lot of study, despite myself and can now see the value in having a consistent, regular art practice with focused attention to areas that need work. 

Creating art on a daily basis can be a real life challenge for many of us, whether it is kids, a necessary job that pays the bills, health problems that cause endless appointments or family responsibilities that get in the way. Many of these are an ongoing struggle for me, so I empathize with others who may have even more challenging circumstances. So, how can we possibly have a daily art practice?

One of the best ways to improve quickly and feel more comfortable is to work small - in this way you can incorporate all the elements of a bigger painting - composition, colour, value, texture, big shapes and, most importantly, confidence! Then you can go on to apply the lessons learned to larger pieces.

All this is not to say that there is no value in "book learning" or studying the work of master painters, but there is no substitute for the daily grind of going to your room (as the late Robert Genn recommended) and doing your work.

* photo obviously not mine - can't find the origin to credit, so if anyone knows, please let me know!

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Charcoal Portrait Drawing Young Girl - How to Loosen Up Your Drawing!

If you want to loosen up your drawing, I would highly recommend vine charcoal and a reckless disregard for detail when you begin - as you proceed you can tighten up some areas (which is kind of necessary for portraiture) so the person is recognizable but try to see in masses of light and shadow, look for shapes, not features.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Sport - Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 Challenge September 2017

It is once again September, and that means the 30 in 30 Challenge for Artists Helping Artists has begun.

This time, knowing myself, I am just going to post when I can, as I have a very busy couple of months ahead with teaching and a solo show coming up. I will be working on various projects, some of which will be impossible to complete in a day. So, I may be sharing some works in progress.

We all have our own inherent style, similar to our handwriting, but for many of us, that tends to evolve into a looser version once we become more comfortable with how to paint. I know from working with dozens of master artists that there is no "one way" to do things. I also know that the fastest route to artistic growth is a daily practice that includes drawing and painting.

I finally finished this painting of a cute puppy named Sport, who lives with Leslie Saeta, the founder of the above-mentioned challenge as well as the online radio show, "Artists Helping Artists".  Don't you just love those big puppy paws?

I have made sure to incorporate value massing in this painting so the dog stands out. If you squint at the painting you will see that everything in the background is a darker value. I blurred out that background as well so that the eye won't focus too much on those details.

If you are interested in joining me in a daily art practice, at any point this month, click on the link above and sign up!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Charcoal Sketches from Life with Academy of Realist Art

 I recently had a fun experience doing charcoal sketches from life in the booth for The Academy of Realist Art during a street festival in the Junction, Toronto, Ontario.

I managed to get a photo of two of my subjects. These are quick sketches done in 20-30 minutes and the most important thing is to make people recognizable. I love doing these, it is fun to capture people and make them happy while offering something anyone can afford.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I always feel a little frustrated I do not have more time to refine the work but I am happy to get the chance to work from life.

One of these was done after the fact from a photo due to the subject being to little to hold a pose. For this sort of event, that is always an alternative! I may have spent a little more time on it.....

Working in Academy of Realist Art Booth during Junction Street Fair

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Daily Painting Habit: Day 21 of 21 - Charcoal Portrait Sketch #2

This will be charcoal portrait sketch #2 for 2017 and officially the end of my 21-day challenge (mostly painting and some drawing) that took WAY longer.

I am astonished that artists consistently do these 30-day challenges every six months (usually led by Leslie Saeta) and keep up! It is just not in my DNA to pronounce anything finished until I am happy with it and that often takes some time. I am okay with that.

That doesn't mean I will stop doing these small paintings and sketches. I strongly believe that creating on a daily basis is great for artistic growth, so my plan is to be in the studio on a daily basis, whether that is to create a small sketch or painting or working on larger pieces.

This drawing was a challenge due to most of the face being in shadow.

You always have to subdue everything in the shadows no matter how bright it seems when you look at that area, so I darkened the white of his eye in shadow more than I initially thought it should be. Black in light is lighter than white in shadow. There is a definite distinction between light and shadow and values do are not shared on either side!

When I was doing this, I thought of Sargent's charcoal portrait drawings that I have had the pleasure of viewing. A lot of them have a dark mass behind the light side of the face. I think it lends some drama.

In retrospect, I think I should have done this on toned paper with white chalk highlights - hey, maybe I will still do that!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Daily Painting Habit: Day 20 of 21 - Charcoal Portrait Sketch

Austin with Shouldice
So, I am back, finally. Despite my lack of posting, I have been producing some work, including a lot of preparatory stuff for some large pieces I am planning.

Over the past few months, life has gotten in the way of art a bit. I have been dealing with a few ongoing health challenges that have prevented me from doing as much as I would have liked. I might write more about that at another time, or maybe not - we are all dealing with one thing or another and I don't want to be a bore.

For now, here is my latest work of art, a charcoal sketch. Charcoal is a rather messy medium and not for those who want a lot of control but it is also fun and easy to manipulate for a painterly, massed in type of drawing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Collage of Some January Oil Paintings - 30 in 30 is over!

Some of my January 2017 Paintings - Doggie still WIP!

Leslie Saeta always concludes her 30 in 30 Challenge with a collage of all of her paintings. It is pretty impresive to go look at all the artists who actually did complete 30 paintings in 30 days. I have included some of my favourites from this month in my own little collage pictured above.

I still have a few more paintings to finish in order complete my own personal 21-Day Painting Challenge. I am not going to feel guilty about doing it in a lot more than 21 days though!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Daily Painting Habit - Day 19 of 21 - Sport: Work In Progress!

10 x 8 inches - Oil on Archival Panel - "SPORT"
So, nearing the end of this challenge, I am realizing that I am constitutionally not cut out for completing a painting, even a small one, in a day. I need time to ponder and figure out if I am 100% happy. That is how I feel about this one, which is finished, yet I am not sure I won't revisit some tiny details once it is dry.

This cute puppy, like all babies, was a bit of a challenge. It is very easy to age the young of any species. I am going to let this dry and hit it again soon, especially with regard to brightening up some highlights, warming up the background just a touch and some other small details, but the bones are there.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 18 of 21 - Sunflowers on Lake

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Sunflowers on Lake

More work on this little painting of sunflowers. I have been feeling kind of pressured to get a painting done every day, but my intention was really just to do some art every day. When I rush, I tend to make mistakes that end up taking me 3 times as long to correct. So, it is better to just relax and enjoy the process.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 17 of 21 - Transparent Block-In of Sunflowers

Transparent Block-In of Shapes

It seems I am not cut out for this "painting a day" gig. Today, I spent most of my painting time fixing a whole bunch of minor things that bugged me on the painting I did yesterday (which basically still looks exactly the same to anyone but me).

 As a result, I just barely got started on this one of some sunflowers. This is the first stage with basic drawing and transparent block-in. And, because I am ADD, I also started a watercolour that I have been procrastinating on for about a year.

The completed Sunflower painting will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 16 of 21 - Pink Peonies

6 x 6 inches - Oil on Canvas - Pink Peonies

I prefer a brushy, painterly style, so I think this is finished. Peonies are so beautiful and lush.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Daily Painting Habit - Day 15 of 21 - Work in Progress - Pink Peonies

WIP - Transparent Underpainting

WIP - Starting to add more colour and correct shapes
So, today was pretty busy in my non-art life, so I just got started on this little painting of some pink peonies. I am always interested in seeing how a painting is made, so I hope you are too!

What attracted me to this subject was actually more the reflections in the glass jar, although peonies are my favourite flower!

Hopefully, tomorrow I will have time to finish this one.