….the silt bluffs

November 22, 2015

An area east of Kamloops, B. C., follows the South Thompson River which flows between dramatic limestone cliffs originally formed (it is estimated) 270 million years ago.

Among those cliffs is a gully–a waterworn ravine known as ‘the silt bluffs’, featuring very distinctive rock formations which have the look and feel of something out of a Western movie.

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Massive geological formations such as these require some form of treatment by a painter in order to adequately convey their uniqueness and grandeur.  This watercolour attempts to do that by purposely choosing to paint directly into the sun.

This part of our landscape gets quite literally baked by heat at midday, so when painting outdoors it is important to get it done quickly.

 

 

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….November

November 14, 2015

It is the most blessed of months heralding the muted pallet–the toned-down greens, beefed-up greys, complex browns, accents of burnt orange, titian–trees simply/complexly themselves, displaying their line, frost-kissed leaves flashing their last colour, refusing dismissal.

Wonderous November--leaf-whipping, mini-cyclones, clouds suddenly letting forth face-lashing first flakes on towards frost-spongy earth–days framed by late mornings and early evenings, one’s home truly one’s castle, warming against the elements.

wells gray November a

Showboats gone, one paddles purposefully, keeping warm, the lapping sounds musical, deep-throated rooks ricocheting their call round rocky bends echoing, bouncing off glassy surfaces, wood-smoky mists rising.

Banished is the garish, overly-festooned–any and all too-muchness falling away to let be what simply is…..

November

Winter’s cusp

Summer’s compliment

Spring’s concealer

hot

August 24, 2015

This has been one. hot. summer.  Right now smoke from fires burning on the Washington State/Canada border is blowing up our way due to Southwest winds.  It’s an acrid, doused campfire smell and hazy even when just looking across the street.

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‘The Silt Bluffs, Kamloops’, watercolour on Hot Press #140 Arches, 19cm x 24cm, (7.5″ x 9.5″) sold

Oh yeah.  I’m done.  Bring me a nice serving of September.

first tries

July 20, 2015

At age thirteen, in 1960, there was a book at the public library on ‘how to paint’ in watercolour.  In those years we lived in Rochester, New York (the home of Eastman Kodak and famous for its Lilac Festival), and ‘art class’ had been a favourite because of Miss Wright.

Miss Wright (Cecile) had a long wooden table covered in Mason jars filled with tempera paint of what seemed to be every colour known to humankind.  There were those wooden medical tongue depressors in each jar for stirring, and the rank smell of that paint probably still resides somewhere on our persons.  In the back room she had dozens of file folders filled with magazine clippings of any subject we wished to study in order to do our work–trees, flowers, mountains, old people, young people, dogs, cats, chipmunks, birds and on and on and on.

There was no real structure to that 45 min. period, insofar as we simply went to the back room and retrieved whichever folder was of interest that day and put on our smocks (my father’s old shirt), dribbled our paint selections onto an old plate and went to town.  Miss Wright was strict and had her long greying hair wound round tightly atop her nobly-held head, through which she always thrust her pencil.  She was strict about a few things, including making sure that if a street lamp or person or fence post were in front of a tree branch, we had to be sure to make the rest of the branch extend beyond the object (“otherwise it looks like the lamp post chopped it off!”, she’d say, grabbing our brush and doing it herself. “See??”).

To this day I have always followed this advice.  No lamp posts ever chop off branches.

In the ‘how to paint’ book were step-by-step instructions of how to do a finished painting, complete with step-by-step illustrations.  All I had available were those paints in round pans housed in a black metal rectangle of a box, which every child in America at some point found thrust into a Christmas stocking (not what the book recommended).

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watercolour study, some kind of spiral-pad watercolour paper, 18cm x 28cm (7″ x 11″)

Beginning with the drawing (not as difficult a subject as the others available), the first task was the sky.  It was an absolute fascination discovering how a wetted area would feather into sort-of ‘instant’ clouds.  That alone had me sold.  Learning from the author that more distant objects required less paint and more water was very helpful.  And so was adding more detail as the paper dried, saving the finest detail for when it had dried completely.

And the most helpful thing was learning that a single Kleenex solved a lot of problems. What it didn’t teach me was when it was a good time to stop fussing and ‘perfecting’ (another word for ‘ruining’), which I’ve still not quite managed to learn.

mountain pine

June 20, 2015

In January 2011, a Pacific ponderosa pine in the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon was measured with a laser to be 268.35 ft (81.79 m) high. This is now the tallest known pine. The previous tallest known pine was a sugar pine.

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 Ponderosa Pine photo by Jason Sturner

The needles are harvested by First Nations and other local artisans, then washed and woven into Ponderosa Pine needle baskets . . .

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(photos: PineGardenBaskets, Etsy)

The mountain pine beetle is just over six millimetres long (about the size of a grain of rice). But the tiny forest insect has infested huge areas of mature pine around the interior of British Columbia, causing colossal amounts of damage on B.C. forests.

The beetle likes mature pine and mild weather. Because B.C. has more old pine than ever before, and has had several consecutive mild winters, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded to epidemic levels.  (source + photo: Government of British Columbia)

INTERIOR BC A061_536

Here in Kamloops, B. C., even pines growing in people’s yards get ravaged–as much as in our great forests.  It is a helpless feeling, yet more and more innovative products are being developed from pine beetle timber.

Below is the Richmond, B. C., Olympic Skating Oval, totally made from pine beetle-killed timber.  The wood has retained all the pine beetle bores and markings, and has been acclaimed as a ‘truly majestic work of art and design’.

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photo: Architectural Review

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‘Mountain Pine’, (study), watercolour, 15cm x 36cm, 6″ x 14″, Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, unsold

tranquille creek gorge

June 3, 2015

ANCIENT FLOWS OF LAVA have left our regional landscape (Kamloops, B. C.) with dramatic canyons, a single lane dirt road skirting the edges.

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‘Tranquille Creek Gorge’, watercolour 23cm x 41cm (9″x16″) Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, sold

MY PAINTING FRIEND MAX drove me through this arid landscape, only 10 minutes outside a city of nearly 100,000.  Every so often she’d tell me of cars which had not been successful at executing a snowy, icy, tricky piece of road only to careen down the sides.  At one place, the car was still there, making me both dizzy and almost nauseous, leaning over to see its rusting bulk caught between broken pines and rock.

‘MY GOD, WHERE WERE THEY HEADED?’ I’d asked.  ‘Home, of course’, Max pointed ahead.  And there was a small grouping of houses not far from the road, some fencing in horses or livestock–one had alpacas–and looking semi-deserted, though that was far from the case. Dogs barked at Max’s pickup as we threaded through and headed into yet more wilderness. ‘They take this road to Kamloops and back?’ — it seemed to my chicken, urban-minded guardedness a scary place to build one’s home.  ‘Only for shopping, or a night on the town’, Max said.  ‘Which is why someone sometimes doesn’t make it home–especially in the Winter.’

geology and art

May 31, 2015

ACCORDING TO GEOLOGIC FINDINGS, Kamloops, B. C., has limestone which dates back 270 million years.  The earth itself is estimated to be some 4.5 billion years old.  So the rock and sediment of Kamloops is relatively young in comparison, which is due to it having once been part of the ancient Pacific Ocean floor.  Fossils in the area show ancient ocean plankton.

THE DOMINANT AND STRIKING, ANCIENT, WORN-DOWN MOUNTAINS within City Limits are the remains of ancient volcanic activity, and are remarkably bare of trees, gaining beauty from sunrises and sunsets, moonlight, and an annual ‘greening’, when the rains of Spring bring out the new leaves of Sagebrush and native grasses.

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‘Signature Mountains of Kamloops, B. C.’, watercolour on Arches Hot Press Paper 140 lb., R. Foster Collection

mountain storm

May 24, 2015

MOUNTAIN STORMS ALWAYS COME WITH high winds and occasionally with hail, and here in Kamloops, British Columbia, are often felt in one part of the city and not in others. Being a city of roughly 90,000, built around, about, and on top of mountainous terrain, the overall elevation is about 350 meters (1,125 ft).  There can be terrible flashes and crashes and gusts–much huffing and puffing–with the promised deluge itself being delivered everywhere else but on our crispy, thirsty yard and gardens.

'Mountain Storm'

‘Summer Storm’ 

watercolour, 30cm x 23cm, (12″ x 9″), Arches Cold Press 140 lb. paper,

G.W. Weisser Collection

THE SOUTHERN INTERIOR  of British Columbia is a desert-like landscape, plunging steeply into geologically-unique valleys that include rattlesnakes, a ground-creeping variety of prickly pear cactus, sagebrush, and tumbleweed.

I ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED the local cacti by casually placing my hand on top of one in our backyard shortly after we’d moved to our current home.

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local prickly-pear cactus

OUR BACKYARD as such, is mostly mountain ridge, covered in these low-lying cacti, sagebrush, and outcropping of rock.

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Local terrain

RUNNING UP AND DOWN OUR RIDGE are flocks of Chukar Partridges–a bird which belongs in ‘Roadrunner’ cartoons.  Their name is derived from their ‘chuk-chuk-chuk-CHUK-CHUK-CHUKCHUKCHUKCHUK!!!’ call (who needs an alarm clock?).  Below is a not-very-good photo of one (they are always on the run, making my camera skills not up to the task)….

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local Chukar Partridge

NEARBY US is a very geologically-dramatic area called The Tranquille Creek Gorge.

Lower Tranqulle River

PAINTING THIS TERRAIN ON LOCATION has to be done rather quickly (depending on the time of day), as temperatures can go up to 40C and the sun is relentless due to the lack of trees, and thus, shade….

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watercolour sketch, tranquille creek

COMING HERE FROM THE WET AND RAINY B. C. COAST, it has taken me years to come to fully appreciate the beauty of an arid area such as ours.  But now that my eyes are open to the subtlety, I wouldn’t return to all that green for anything in the world.  I’m happy in the depth of our browns (smile).

conveying mood

May 14, 2015

THE HERITAGE HOMES in our city of Kamloops were built at the turn of the 20th Century and are really rather distinctive, reflecting a very decided Victorian panache.  Here are a couple which have been perfectly maintained….

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PAINTING-WISE, the more interesting homes are, for me, the ones which have been given up for rooming houses, and therefore rather neglected….

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‘Columbia Street Noel’, 7″x12″, watercolour, (sold)

THE OBJECTIVE is to successfully convey a particular mood to the viewer–in this case, a certain melancholy–a fragile attempt at dressing-up a once-proud home in the midst of frigid temperatures and icy snow.

The buyer of this painting saw it in the Gallery and exclaimed that her parents had had this house built, and immediately claimed it for her own.  It suddenly made me wish I hadn’t been quite so accurate about painting in the worn and shabby details.

tortured brushes

May 12, 2015

THE BEST BRUSHES–in my wacked estimation–is a dollar store packet in the crafts section,  next to those garish tubes of glitter and such.  The second those poor things get home, they undergo an Edward Scissorhands attack that is not pretty.

brushes, trees for Cornel

SECOND-HAND STORES also usually have some wonderful, pathetic-looking excuses for brushes, pretty much being handed out for free.

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VERY FEW BRUSHES I own get to keep their original shape except ones sized 0, 00, 000, and 0000. For some additional fine work, a nib pen loaded with watercolour does well also.  But for large areas, chopped-up, hippie-freak brushes are like, tubular, man.

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FORGET SABLE–even squirrel is too refined–woodchuck, maybe–and those synthetic sponges on handles used to paint walls with are good, too.

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‘Mountain Mists’, 20cm x 28cm, Arches hot press 140 lb paper

THE TRUE ENJOYMENT OF PAINTING comes when viewing how another painter’s personal and unique need for self-expression realises itself in ways personal and unique.  Interaction with the subject demands an approach which only the painter her/himself knows is right.

Silt Bluffs

April 26, 2015

THE KAMLOOPS REGION is a geological wonder.  50 million years ago, volcanoes erupted and volcanic ash and lava covered the land, and their record is preserved in fossil beds throughout the area. Ancient rivers carved the landscape, forming the modern valleys of the Thompson Rivers and, during the Ice Ages, ice sheets carved the valleys and rounded the plateaus and mountains in the Kamloops area.  (sourced from ‘Tourism Kamloops’ website)

THIS PAINTING is of a local geological formation called The Silt Bluffs.  In the height of summer they are baked by a 40C sun, and are the home of rattlesnakes and cacti . . . and Ravens.

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“The Silt Bluffs”

23cm x 30.5cm (9″ x 12″), watercolour, 140 lb. Arches Hot Press Paper, sold

Local Mountains 2

April 9, 2015

THIS COMPLETED PAINTING of the mountains in our Kamloops area was in need of cropping in order to strengthen the composition . . .

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THE PAINTING WAS REDUCED IN SIZE down to this as the completed painting .. .

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THE CHOPPED OFF parts of cropped work can successfully be made into bookmarks, I’ve found, and then be sold for around $2 ea in our little co-op Gallery (www.kamloopscourthousegallery.ca).  Waste not, want not, lol!

 

Local Mountains

April 8, 2015

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A decision has to be made as to whether this painting ‘holds up’, composition-wise.  It succeeds in conveying the misty atmospheric conditions of winter in the mountains.  But the composition is troubling me.

D Day for me is May 1st.  That is when Lynda Jones and I are teaming up to be The Featured Artists at The Old Courthouse Gallery here in Kamloops.  Lynda is a rare and amazing potter who specializes in highly burnished smoke-fired pieces and counts among her collectors the former U. S. President Clinton.

Here is the fantastic poster she has designed:

PAIR' A LLs E-POSTER MAY 2012 Courthouse Gallery

The Local Cliffs subject I’ve been doing studies of has finally been completed as a work I’m satisfied enough to allow to be matted and framed.

"Cinnamon Ridge Signal" 7.5" x 9", Arches 140 lb. Cold Press Paper

One thing I’ve learned through doing it, is that this small size of 7.5″ x 9″ is very pleasing for me.  It is large enough to include a good amount of detailing, and small enough to get finished in a timely way.

And now it is on to getting painting #2 for the show done before our May 1st opening.  Thank you for your previous comments which helped me in producing the final result!

About ten minutes from our house is  ‘Cinnamon Ridge’.  These are cliffs with very distinctive geologic caves and ‘hoodoos’ caused by wind erosion.  Though not around at the time (I was but a gleam in my parents’ eye) 50 million years ago, the Kamloops region of British Columbia (from the Native word Tk’emlups–‘where rivers meet’) was the source of great volcanic activity, and formed the seafloor of the ancestral Pacific Ocean.

Not far from Cinnamon Ridge is a loose shale shelf where my friends go to collect fossils.  These fossils indeed prove this area which is so very dry, was once water-covered.

I’ve now done two studies of Cinnamon Ridge (so named because of its rich colour).  The first is a small watercolour sketch about 4″ x 8″

 

'Cinnamon Ridge' watercolour sketch

 

The second is a more detailed and focused piece around 8.5″ x 12″.  It has some issues as far as values go (it’s a bit too light and lacking in contrast), as well as a composition issue having to do with the train signal being much too far to the left.

 

'Cinnamon Ridge' Study II

 

And here is the photo both studies are based on:

 

reference photo of Cinnamon Ridge

 

The final painting must be ready for hanging on May 1st.  So I am now about to do Study III, which will hopefully end up graduating from being a study to being worthy of mat and frame.

Painting is much like cooking.  Too little salt is as much a turn-off as too much.  Getting things just right wasn’t just a problem for Goldilocks.

 

‘The Silt Bluffs II’

February 26, 2012

The landscape of Kamloops, British Columbia, (native word meaning ‘dividing of waters’–the Thompson River divides mid-city to create the North and South Thompson), varies remarkably.

Think of a city at 1132 ft. elevation with homes built in terraced-layers down one mountainside and up another, all finding bottom along the broad Thompson River which attracted the attention of The Hudson Bay Company in 1811.  Since then Kamloops has become a train hub, a location for gold prospectors seeking their fortunes, and more recently a centre for the forest industry.

It is arid here.  Summers are hot and dry, and rain is an event.  Winters are cold, windy, with average amounts of snow, and a major spot for skiers and snowboarders at the highest elevations.  When I walk the dog at 5 a.m., I always hear owls and sometimes coyotes, and occasionally spot a few deer searching for something in the yards below the mountain ridge we hug up against.  I’ve also come across black bear in the car port, and seen the evidence of moose.

This painting is of what’s locally referred to as The Silt Bluffs.  They feature hoodoos, free-standing rock formations caused by wind erosion.

 

'The Silt Bluffs', 5" x 7" Original and signed Watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140 lb. Paper, $100.00 black-matted & framed in gold

 

 

The most prevalent raptors in our area are the Red-Tailed Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagles, Osprey, and Turkey Vultures.

 

 

Mount Peter

January 21, 2012

To look up the face of Mount Peter– (the sibling of the larger Mount Paul), the signature mountains overlooking our city of Kamloops, B. C.–is to look upon the core of a mountain. These are mountains so ancient, all that remains are the inner cores–their souls.  Time and erosion have scarred and left them displaying a beauty it takes the eye a while to appreciate.

The roads about their base feature yellow diamond warning signs cautioning drivers to watch for Big Horn Sheep.

Big Horn Sheep (courtesy Wikimedia)

As a watercolourist, it took me a good two years before I attempted the challenge.  They are unusual subjects, and not easily rendered.  It was wise for me to wait, simply because I was so accustomed to the forested peaks of the Coastal Mountains that I regarded these as ugly. Until they finally become beautiful to the newly-arrived, these ancient and weather worn heights are probably best not attempted at all by art enthusiasts like me.

'Peter's Face'

Schoolhouse Dreams

January 21, 2012

My mother taught one room school in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, in the ’30s.  There was such an age difference between herself and her sister that my Aunt ended up being her student.  When my mother had no choice but to keep her after school for talking back, that was the beginning of a lifelong distance between them.  They got along–don’t get me wrong–but they weren’t ever the best of friends.

The notion of a one room school has always been appealing to me, personally.  I would have bloomed in such a setting, and benefited from having both older and younger learning their lessons in the same room at the same time–(though probably not if the teacher had been my mother).

This painting, entitled ‘Schoolhouse Memories’ is based on a dream I had not long ago, of heading towards a building like this, in a setting like this, on a warm day at dawn, yet never reaching the front door.

'Schoolhouse Memories'

It was in the Federation of Canadian Artists’ Open Show in April of 2010.

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