May 6, 2012
This little painting (6″ x 7.5″) is of Jamieson Creek, which is not even ten minutes drive from our front door. This is a desert-like region, featuring its own local cacti (which I discovered by way of my hand), and is called The Sunshine Capital of Canada. Water, while not scarce, has usage restrictions and homes are now being installed with water meters.
So to have the Jamieson splashing over and around rocks and fallen timbers is a great joy. It is the epitome of the ‘laughing brook’ of literature, and compliments the broad, slow-moving Thompson Rivers which run through town. Were it not for our rivers, Kamloops would be uninhabitable. Right now the creek and rivers are swelling from the melt-off of mountain snows. Kamloops itself is some 4,000 ft in elevation, the mountain snows are up that much higher, and June is when the river level is at its peak.
This painting was on the wall no longer than ten minutes before it was sold. My colleague in art, Lynda Jones, thought it complimented her pottery so well she went with her impulses. And that made my day.
February 7, 2012
Though I’ve certainly seen this done many times on websites and in books, I’ve never taken photos of a painting of mine as it progresses from a drawing to a finished piece. Whether it proves interesting or useful is anyone’s guess, but here goes . . .
I sought out written permission from the Irish Photographer Joseph Hogan to use his images to create watercolours. This is necessary whenever an artist chooses to make use of another artist’s image(s). I have paintings which I’ve done from photos I’ve found on the internet but won’t post them here (nor sell them) because I’ve yet to go about getting explicit permission to use the original image.
In any case, here is the image I am using for a painting entitled “Winter Barn“. . . .
The first step is for me to choose the right kind of paper. It took me about ten years to discover ‘my’ paper–the one that receives my style of painting the best. (And there are honking bunches of types of paper out there beckoning watercolourists.) For this particular subject I chose Arches 140 lb. Cold Press Paper, because it has a creamy hue and just a bit of tooth to it. My other preferred paper is Arches 140 lb. Hot Press Paper which is smooth as glass (which is what I used for ‘Winter Horses’, for example). Both papers receive the paint in a different way.
I first decided to change this photo into a night scene. For me it is important to establish a definite and personal mood, to embody the photograph–use it to draw out from me what I feel when I see it–let my mind take me back to similar scenes in time’s past.
When we lived in Granville, New York, we lived in the Baptist Parsonage (my father was a Pastor) and it was a 19th Century house with the original horse barn for our garage. Sitting at its open back door, I remember looking at the host of stars while sneaking a Marlboro, and wondering what my life was going to involve. (And, lo and behold, it involved a prolonged effort to finally give up those deliciously-sinful Marlboros). But I sat there rain or shine or snow–usually at night–and thought my thoughts and enjoyed just being me instead of a Pastor’s son.
Back to the task at hand—I made a detailed drawing of the barn, used a prescription medicine container to draw a moon, then used masking fluid to mask out the moon, the window, and several fruit trees I decided belonged on a hill not in the photo.
Once that was done, I gave a preliminary wash to the night sky using Payne’s grey.
The next stage was to define the sky with a second, and darker wash. This is occasionally referred to as ‘glazing’ by my partners in crime but I just call it a second wash. I also decided to remove the masked moon and trees by rubbing off the rubbery masking, and then began defining the fruit trees by using Sepia mixed with Payne’s Grey and some Burnt Umber using a fan brush to give the feeling of many branches against a moonlit night.
I also used a small rigger brush to create more defined trees within the grove . . .
As you can see, I also added shadows using Payne’s Grey and Thalo Blue. I want to convey the impression that they are growing on a hillside. And now it is time to begin the initial washes over the wood of the barn. The red in the photograph is not the red of my memory. I want the red of the barn in Granville, and not the red of Joseph Hogan’s barn photo.
The next several illustrations show the development of the barn–the attention paid to the stonework, the window, the planks, the grasses and shadows. This takes me hours, and is somewhat distressing (in a I-just-want-a-Marlboro kind of way) because again, this is taking a photo of an anonymous barn in the daylight and changing it into a personal painting of a memory-laden place where my teenage self got lost in imagining futures (a different one every time I went out there–but all of them grand). In other words, there’s no blueprint to follow and it needs to look authentic, yet I have no scene before me to guide my brush–I must let the painting tell me where to go next . . .
Finally, it took several days to stew over how to find the guts to put in the barn’s frosty shadows. I say ‘guts’ because with watercolour, there’s no turning back–once darks are laid in, they’re there to stay. (At any point along the way, an ill-advised decision has many a time consigned my work to the ‘not good enough’ heap.) And I chose to use a sponge and Payne’s Grey mixed with Thalo Blue to provide a texture-like effect to the snow covered grasses in front of the barn.
I then spattered Payne’s Grey over the wooden parts of the barn and over the fruit trees. I also spattered Yellow Ochre onto the stonework, and used it to sponge-in more grasses. Selective spattering adds the feeling of age to the barn, and more depth to the trees.
To finally convey the effect of a moonlit Wintery night, I spattered Opaque White over the whole to give the feel of a fine powder of snow falling gently onto the scene.
This may yet prove to be the final rendering of this subject–but then again, I may still stand back and feel it’s missing the mark (which I do feel it is, but can’t quite figure out how) and get in there and muck around some more. I actually do think I may spatter a bit more snow into the air . . . .
I’ve enjoyed sharing this process with you. More than that, I have come to appreciate with increasing affection and encouragement your own artistic endeavours. You all spur me on, and make me happy that I’ve chosen watercolour as my medium to share as I take heart in your photos, pottery, paintings, drawings, computer art, and poetry.
Thank you for being my friends.
February 1, 2012
The Old Schoolhouse in Pritchard on Duck Range Road was torn down last summer. It was in a farmer’s field–a farmer who’d gone to it as a child–and though he wanted to see it restored and taken over by the community, no one stepped forward to do so.
For years his horses used the school yard as their private pasture. Rain or shine–snow or sleet–anyone driving by would see them, the pair of steeds only momentarily looking up before resuming their grazing.
Finally, after numerous appeals to various groups to assume responsibility for the Old School, the farmer reluctantly went about making sure it didn’t collapse and possibly cause an accident. Someone told me it only took a couple of hours for it to be reduced to a pile of boards and beams. If one drives by now, the only thing left standing are the horses.
January 25, 2012
Watercolour has its limitations and its unique requirements. About the biggest challenge is the understanding that anything white in a watercolour is the paper left blank. So white clouds are achieved by painting blue around them. Whitecapped waves are accomplished by painting the dark part of the wave and leaving the paper white for the crest. The same goes for snow, of course, and really anything at all that’s white.
The famous British painter, J. M. W. Turner (23 April 1775 – 19 December 1851) is widely regarded as the artist who took watercolour to its pinnacle–who forced it to be considered a serious medium, alongside oil (though even today watercolour is not treated with the same gravitas as oil). His work is nothing short of astonishing. And apparently he often achieved some of his whites by ripping at the paper with a long fingernail.
My training was such that the use of opaque white was absolutely forbidden. It was considered a breaking of the most important ‘rule’ of watercolour: that only the white of the paper (called ‘reserved white’) was acceptable in a pure, transparent watercolour.
I have, though, been talked into letting myself experiment with a limited usage of opaque white. A great many watercolourists use it, though sparingly.
The following picture was my first attempt at using a bit of opaque white in the branches of the trees. The clouds, grasses, snow, and other whites were achieved by reserved whites (leaving the paper blank) and/or scratching out with a knife (my fingernails aren’t nearly long enough).
January 17, 2012
About the scariest thing in my younger days was our basement, which featured a gigantic coal-fed furnace complete with horrifying facial qualities. The grill was its mouth, and I went down there only to fling my soggy snowsuit over one of its tentacle arms in order to then put on a freshly-dried suit. Once done, I’d try not to peek at the flames licking at the hideous mouth as I raced back out into the snowball fight du jour.
Tied for second in the scary department was the black-and-white-filmed 1951 classic “A Christmas Carol” starring Alistair Sim, (whose facial qualities were probably borrowed by the designer of the furnace grill). It was back then a relatively new movie and always gave me recurring nightmares.
I happened to be taking a few snapshots when the older of my two Great Nephews was watching that very same 1951 “A Christmas Carol’ in 2006. Up till then he wasn’t allowed to see it (which restriction I wish my own parents had imposed on me), so this was his very first glimpse at Jacob Marley screaming his way through Scrooge’s bed chamber walls.
His Aunt and Uncle are obviously ‘Christmas Carol’ vets, regarding the shrieking spirit as ‘just an undigested bit of beef’.
This painting was juried into one of The Federation of Canadian Artists’ Open Shows a couple of years ago. The words ‘Open Show’ indicates that the show is open to all qualifying artists across Canada.
January 8, 2012
It has been quietly thrilling to once again become reaquainted with the four seasons. Vancouver–my city for over twelve years–effectively enjoys a very prolonged Spring and a very prolonged Autumn. Indeed, on rare occasions there are days of snow, and days of oppressive heat, but they remain rare.
Moving to the Interior–specifically to Kamloops–in December of 2007, was a sudden re-introduction into what Winter truly is all about. The day of our move turned into the biggest blizzard I’ve ever experienced, then or since. Driving up the Coquihalla Highway was treacherously risky, its two lanes effectively reduced to a cow path. And from that moment on, I have learned to love all over again the unique characteristics of each of the Four Seasons, for Kamloops is surrounded by a wonderful and distinctly different landscape which has captivated my artistic spirit!
Above all, it is Winter which I’ve come to revel in the most. . . .
January 4, 2012
I was raised in Rochester, New York, and then later on the New York / Vermont border. At some point we had occasion to visit the town of Saranac Lake, New York, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics and much earlier in its history was one of North America’s best known tuberculosis sanatorium locales. Patients went there to receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air.
Kamloops, British Columbia, my present home, was also chosen as a prime location for a TB sanatorium and it was located just outside the city limits at Tranquille, B. C., beside Kamloops Lake. The air here is dry, without even a hint of humidity in the Summer and bracingly-cold in the Winter.
I loved staying in Saranac Lake that one week in January. The lake itself was completely frozen over, with a fresh layer of snow and a blindingly-bright sun.
January 3, 2012
Not far from Kamloops is the lovely rural town of Pritchard. On Duck Range Road was an old one room schoolhouse that was ‘adopted’ by a local farmer who had attended it as a boy and hoped some community-minded group would see to its preservation and restoration.
Unfortunately, that never happened and in the summer of 2011, it was finally knocked down. Although this painting takes some liberties over the school’s original setting, the rendering of the building itself is true to the way it looked. It was hung in The Federation of Canadian Artist’s Open Show in The Old Kamloops Courthouse, and was a favourite in a fund-raising draw for The Federation.
January 3, 2012
Kamloops (a native word meaning ‘the joining of two rivers’) has evolved from an c1812 outpost of The Hudson’s Bay Company and an early Railroad and Gold Rush centre into the largest city in the Thompson-Nicola Region of British Columbia’s Interior.
One of our most distinctive houses situated near the North Thompson River, was built in 1907 for a farmer, Archie Davis, who had purchased land originally belonging to Fort Kamloops. It sits at the corner of Fortune Drive and Fort Avenue, and is simply referred to as ‘Fort House’. No longer in the Davis family, its acreage has been reduced to a lot-sized yard, and its classic box design has been altered so that now it is a rooming house with various entries and stairs added.
Wanting to depict it as it once was, this painting imagines a moonlit night with one lone window indicating activity, perhaps Archie Davis preparing to get up–pre-dawn–to attend to his animals and daily chores. It was purchased almost as soon as it was displayed, by a young couple who have a fondness for this familiar Kamloops landmark.