…. mackerel sky

January 29, 2016

There is an Old English saying about weather which goes:  “Mackerel scales and mare’s tails make tall ships carry low sails”.  ‘Mackerel scales’ refers to Altocumulus clouds which (to some) resemble the markings on the sides of mackerel.  ‘Mare’s tails’ refers to Cirrus uncinus clouds which–according to the saying–must, like mackerel scales, indicate strong winds, though the two types wouldn’t likely appear together in the same sky.



The subject is taken from a view of the British Columbia coast, beaten down by the effects of storm after storm.  Having lived on Vancouver Island at one point, the weather forecast for the most northerly tip seemed to nearly always call for wind and rain which made me thankful we lived on the most southerly end.  We received quite enough rain as it was.  However, seldom was it ever a pelting, all-out soaking torrent–which made local people say to tourists complaining about the constant drizzle, “Yes, but it’s a dry rain.”

This was painted on treated illustration board.


…. Tranquille Creek Gorge

January 21, 2016

The watercolour video demonstrations of David Dunlop are challenging and yet simple.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgtg-Adql1Y&index=6&list=PLtEJwQmsB7SvVg8C4J2c4LDijerH7SSKF (I tried to embed the video itself in this post, but WordPress thought otherwise).  But here is the blurb describing it….”Emmy Award winning David Dunlop takes you to his Connecticut studio to demonstrate a two minute watercolor, used as preparation for an oil sketch or to explore ideas“.

Mr. Dunlop is an artist/teacher from Connecticut, whose manner when teaching is inspiring and animated.  He is a great follower of descriptive, energetic Masters like J.M.W. Turner and Winslow Homer, and seeks to employ their methods, while demonstrating their techniques.

The video cited above challenges painters to do two to three minute painting sketches, which convey the movement and mood and spirit of the subject, without stopping to think and rework.  In an effort to ‘do’ and not think, the subject chosen here is a favourite–a place about 20 minutes from our house–called Tranquille Creek Gorge.




Mr. Dunlop’s videos are quite dynamic and aimed more at oil painters a bit more than watercolourists, but full of very encouraging lessons because of the force of his optimistic personality and sense of fun.  They are well worth watching, for those who enjoy painting as a means of expression.


….composition exercise 2

January 17, 2016

Continuing on with an attempt to test out the compositional dictum known as ‘the rule of thirds’, which was conceived and named by John Thomas Smith in 1797 :

“. . .  Analogous to this “Rule of thirds”, (if I may be allowed so to call it) I have presumed to think that, in connecting or in breaking the various lines of a picture, it would likewise be a good rule to do it, in general, by a similar scheme of proportion; for example, in a design of landscape, to determine the sky at about two-thirds ; or else at about one-third, so that the material objects might occupy the other two : Again, two thirds of one element, (as of water) to one third of another element (as of land); and then both together to make but one third of the picture, of which the two other thirds should go for the sky and aerial perspectives. . . “

To illustrate its basics…..

ruke of thirds

Once again, this is the drawing I did initially, to put this into practice….


And this is the first go at painting the scene….


And now today, here is the progress so far, attempting to locate some visual interest at each of the four intersections within the piece, the barn being the first and the pine being the second and the creekbed being the third…..


The darkest darks and greatest contrast will remain with the barn, for that is the intended focus for the picture, when completed.

The ‘rule of thirds’, as stated above, holds that generally two-thirds of a landscape be devoted to the sky, with one-third given to the land below (the sky being such a vast and dominant feature).  In this case two-thirds is dedicated to the land and a very high horizon means that the one third is devoted to the sky area.








….composition exercises

January 13, 2016

AS CONFESSED BEFORE in entries, composition is an area which has always been challenging.  It took a long long time to finally understand that there was/is nothing accomplished in drawing exactly what is right there before the eyes.  For years this slavish devotion to depicting only what was there, out of respect for Mother Nature, I suppose–that to vary from it, is to somehow be disingenuous or false–was an inhibiting notion.

THE FACT IS, our eyes are the way they are and trying to let Mother Nature be the determiner of what ends up being painted only serves to confuse the way we are hard-wired to confront two dimensional art.

THE PRINCIPLE OF THIRDS — divvying-up the paper into thirds and using intersections as places to provide visual interest — works.  It works and will always work because the human eye gravitates to proscribed areas of interest, simply because we are human.  Our eyes will instantly grab onto places in a painting which compositionally are compelling–and the principle of thirds, as elementary as it may seem, works for that reason.

TO THAT END, this drawing was done to put the idea into action and cement the basic principles which for years weren’t followed….


YOU WILL NOTE how an effort was made to use the four intersections for highlighting something to grab the eye.

THE PAINTING ITSELF is underway and its progress will be followed until there’s either a finish, or a disaster (smile) …..








Draw A Bird Day

January 8, 2016

THE INSPIRATION for posting today came from ‘Method Two Madness’ https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/robins-draw-a-bird-day/ and . . . ‘Myr’s Bites’ https://myrsbytes.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/draw-a-bird-day-january/



LATELY the task has been one of writing — what is now termed ‘short fiction’, so the painting part of daily expression has (in keeping with today’s theme) taken flight.

ALSO, the New Year’s resolution is to clean out the storage room and attack every single drawer in the kitchen and finally rearrange in some sort of good order, the bedroom closet.

A productive 2016 to all who read this! ….your posts are always full of interest and creativity.


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