breakers

July 22, 2015

The depicting of waves in watercolour is particularly challenging when one has decided on being a ‘purist’ by refraining from both opaque white and masking fluid.  Personally speaking, masking fluid has become so offensive in terms of smell (its natural thinner, in case anyone wonders, is ammonia, which is why it smells so awful–but a little ammonia will indeed thin thickened masking fluid, if stirred in slowly), and damaging brushes (even when dipping them in soapy water first), and causing the hardest of edges when removed, that it’s rarely a choice for me.  It does make for quite lovely snow squalls when flicked from a stiff toothbrush, I must say–and great fun, too.

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‘Third Beach, Vancouver’, watercolour, painted on location, 35.5cm x 23cm (14″ x 9″), Arches Hot Press 140lb. Paper

Breaking waves challenge any student of watercolour (and every single person working in this medium will forever be a student) because of having to leave paper white for crest foam, swash, and the receding backwash effects.  This, coupled with understanding which part of the wave receives more or less pigment, not to mention the change of pigmentation if backwash is curling up and drawing in sand at the same time, comes the added realisation that sky is being reflected off top surfaces the further from shore one looks.

There truly is nothing for it but to get right into the actual physics of spilling, surging, plunging, and collapsing breakers, each of which exhibits its own characteristic properties–ones our eyes are very accustomed to and therefore recognize in a flash when viewing surf–properties a viewer expects to be reproduced in paintings (if the painting is trying to conform to the challenges of representational art, that is).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave  Drawing each of these examples over and over again makes wave action less of a mystery and eventually becomes familiar and far less challenging.  However, a single line of waves is always backed by more, multiplying the visual dynamics, adding to the confusion of having to depict row upon row of breakers.  Where does foam end and the gathering wave behind it start?  For this, it is very instructive to carefully observe photographs and again draw over and over how this actually does look.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave)  Only then, personally speaking, do I find painting on location not as daunting, for stopped action is easier to analyze than sitting in front of actual pounding surf.

Painting water is a dedicated pursuit all of its own.  There is a painting friend of mine who includes water in every single piece he does because he is dedicated to the depiction of water, whether in the form of rain, surf, river, lake, stream, waterfall, because in each case there is a lifetime’s worth of challenge.

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…..carabao

July 11, 2015

MY PARTNER RAUL is from The Philippines, and we’ve been together now 12 years, married (with my sister officiating) in 2008.  We met online in 2003, and a month later I flew to Manila where he met me at Aquino International Airport.  My sponsorship of him as my ‘conjugal partner’ brought him here in 2007, and Raul is now an LPN, whose specialty area is Geriatrics.

The small Barangay of San Jose, Plaridel, Bulacan, features rice fields whose rhythms set the tone for the annual life cycle of villagers and livestock, including the stolid and dependable beast of burden, the Carabao.

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“Bulacan Dawn”, watercolour, 43cm x 74cm (17″ x 29″), Arches Cold Press Paper 140 lb

Water buffaloes are well adapted to a hot and humid climate. Water availability is of high importance in hot climates since they need wallows, rivers or splashing water in order to reduce the heat load and thermal stress. They thrive on many aquatic plants and in time of flood will graze submerged, raising their heads above the water and carrying quantities of edible plants. They eat reeds, giant reeds, bulrush, sedges, water hyacinth and marsh grasses. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carabao)

There is something so completely humbling about how humans are graced with the educational presence of massively-strong animals whose disposition is nonetheless docile, coupled with a willingness to be put to work with little being asked in return.  My three stays in The Philippines of some 6 weeks each, allowed me to learn from the perfect symbiosis of rice worker and carabao, whose calm partnership in the tending of the greenest of green fields was both reassuring and a powerful living metaphor.


			

painting pickles

May 7, 2015

CAMPING ALONE along the Oregon Coast–that fantastically alive strip of ocean wonders–provided many outdoor painting pickles. . . .

PICKLE #1–mosquitoes and bugs.  Surely some art restoration expert somewhere has discovered kamikaze mosquitoes embedded in the impasto of Impressionist art.  French curses likely filled the air, Claude spending as much time squashing bugs as trying to capture the light.  Imagine the fog of mosquitoes waiting for him up beside those water lilies;

PICKLE #2–the wind.  Big, dramatic, vividly-alive ocean waves are that size because of the wind.  The wind along the Oregon Coast is permanent and robust.  It carries away notebooks, sketch pads, laptop easels, flimsy plastic pallets, kolinsky brushes, art pencils, and tissues.  And, as one panics, dashing after them, fresh water rinse containers are spilled (of course, the nearest fresh water source is at the damn parking lot bathroom), and then (naturally) there goes the lawn chair, too–end over end, heading towards the box kite-flying couple smirking at the Mr. Bean imitation.  Everything rescued, finally sitting, easel anchored with one determined hand, brush swishing about in the water jar, a sudden gust throws sand over everything, and the stupid tilley hat Christmas present (guaranteed to age a person 20 yrs, whether 25 or 55) is seen sailing out towards the surf, the wind carrying away the muttered sounds of ‘good riddance’ along with it.

Arch Cape, Oregon a

PICKLE #3…..time and tides.  Outdoor painting (forget this en plein air crap–it’s called painting outdoors) isn’t done in studio time.  It’s done in real live time.  The tides never stay put.  So the grand, thundering waves are either constantly retreating as the scene is being depicted, or–this is nabob of stubbornness–they are approaching at an erratic, yet ever-constant rate, until the-I’m-staying-put painter sees his supplies (pallet, paint box, little stool, brushes, tubes, you name it) suddenly sucked out into the collapsing surf of an unannounced, really big wave–a REALLY BIG WAVE–which is about to be followed by another.

PICKLE #4…..no supplies left…..

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cliffs near Newport Beach, Oregon

….. and sketching is suddenly the preferred medium….*sigh*… and geriatric Charlie Brown decides to go find some fish and chips–and a local art supply store.

…..and maybe a therapist.  or a bar.

THE FEDERATION OF CANADIAN ARTISTS had its beginnings in 1941, and had as its goal the unified representation of all Provinces through one organization.  Canada’s premier artists, The Group of Seven, were instrumental in organizing The FCA, with A. Y. Jackson as the Ontario head, and Lawren Harris in charge of the West Coast region.

TODAY THE FCA has become largely a Western Canadian organization with most of its activity within the Province of British Columbia.  The hub is Vancouver [www.artists.ca] with regional Chapters throughout B. C. and Southern  Alberta.  The Thompson Nicola Shuswap Chapter (which I am a member of) has been hosting two Annual Art Shows for many years, with the 2015 National Show being mounted this coming Wednesday, April 8th.

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THE NATIONAL SHOW is open to any qualifying FCA member, but submissions for jurying are limited to 3.  Digital images of a member’s work are submitted to Vancouver and juried by three Signature Artists who use a point system to arrive at which pieces will be accepted and which will be declined.  Of the 130+ digital entries, only 85 pieces are selected for inclusion into this National Show.

MY OWN SUBMISSIONS (two) have been juried, one being accepted–

‘Approaching Storm, Sechelt’, 25cm x 35.5cm (10.5″ x 14″), Watercolour on board

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It is considered an achievement simply to get into this Art Show, while Opening Night, Friday the 10th, will be the occasion when $2800.00 in Prizes are awarded by another set of Jurors for those paintings which stand out as the best of The Best.  Only once has a piece of mine ever been awarded a prize.

SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE FEDERATION have these paintings being considered for The SFCA Prize, with only one receiving top honours.

SFCA 13

 

SFCA 6

 

SFCA 3

 

SFCA 5

 

SFCA 4

 

NEARLY ALL THE WORK submitted by artists for these Shows is rendered in acrylics or oils, with some pastel, and a few watercolours, and fewer still graphite drawings. Watercolour, generally, is not the preferred medium of most painters. It is considered difficult and problematic because of its demands and limtations.

 

Painting progression 5

March 16, 2015

THE FINISHED piece–“Abandoned Schoolhouse, Pritchard”.  The rocks needed darkening and definition.  Pines were added.  Spattering of snow was used to unify the whole and add a feeling of movement.

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Painting progression 4

March 15, 2015

MORE TREES needed adding.  The suggestion of rocky outcrop is introduced.  The aging building is blocked in.  Shadowing completes this phase…..

 

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Painting progression 3

March 14, 2015

THE MOON and schoolhouse roof were masked, then a wash applied in the sky areas.

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Once done, a decision was made to next eliminate the horse, it becoming an unintended focal point if left in. (A lone horse standing at night in front of an abandoned school in bitter cold would be incongruous).

Painting Progression 2

March 13, 2015

TREES are painted in very dark and the watercolour pigment tempered a bit in order to have it resist being completely taken away by an overlay of secondary wash.

 

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THERE WAS an old schoolhouse in the Township of Pritchard, British Columbia, just down the road from my friend Shiela. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was kept on a corner of field by a rancher who had attended it, hoping someday someone would see to its restoration.  Eventually it was torn down, but not before I was able to photograph it.  And I have painted it several times, choosing to situate it where I please….

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This is the initial drawing.  Because the rancher kept horses, I decided to position one for sake of interest.  The paper is Arches Cold Press 140 lb., stretched stapled and taped onto gater board, approx. 15 x 20 in.

 

‘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.

 

 

Winter Horses

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.

 

 

"School Yard Pasture"

 

 

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.

Gettysburg

January 28, 2012

Gettysburg.  The very name sends all manner of emotion through my heart and out the other side.

I began studying this famous American Civil War Battle (July 1,2,3, 1863) some twenty years ago and then in 2001 I simply bought a plane ticket and up and went there to see the place for myself.  My sister and brother-in-law met me in Syracuse, New York, and drove me down to Southern Pennsylvania to spend five days absorbing the importance of those hallowed forests and fields.

I’m no fan of war, believe me.  But having been born an American yet having now lived more than half my life as a Canadian, I study the differences between the two countries.  Both British Colonies, the one revolted over taxes and the other still has The British Monarch as its Head of State.  One couldn’t find the means to end slavery peacefully, while the other saw it dissolved once and for all under Britain’s 1834 Slavery Abolition Act.

Having studied in detail The Battle of Gettysburg, and while there in June of 2001, I brought along my paints and did on-the-spot watercolour sketches of the most poignantly-historic locations among those now-peaceful fields.

 

 

'The Copse Of Trees -- Gettysburg'

 

 

On July 3rd, 1863, on a stiflingly-hot afternoon, after two entire hours of constant cannon bombardment of the Yankee position on Cemetery Ridge, General Robert E. Lee ordered a massive charge across a mile-wide expanse of field.  This was the concluding, and most desperate action of the horrific three days as tens of thousands Southern troops marched shoulder-to-shoulder into the deadly cannonading of Northern forces.

They were instructed to aim for an inconspicuous, yet noticeable ‘copse of trees’, dead centre in the Union Line.  Only one hundred or so made that destination, the more than 20,000 others suffering an indescribable onslaught of cannon and massed rifle fire.

After painting this little painting, I solemnly walked the distance to those trees.  It was a sobering, awful, respectfully-difficult-yet-important mile-long journey through the wind-blown grasses of a place now very hushed and calm.  I’ve never been quite the same before, or since.

What an enormous difference between two neighbouring countries, all due to differing attitudes to being deemed ‘Colonists’.

 

 

 

 

Rainy Day Study I

January 23, 2012

Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the largest in British Columbia (over 62,500 hectares;1 hectare=2.47 acres) and features the pristine Alouette Lake. It also has three campgrounds and hiking trails through extremely rugged terrain.  Vegetation is typical of the coastal western Hemlock forest of BC and the mountainous backcountry is not only rugged but has–almost annually–proven fatal to the unprepared.  Those who go off are cautioned to understand what they’re getting themselves into.

Normally, Alouette Lake looks just like this . . .

Alouette Lake, Golden Ears Provincial Park (courtesy of Parks B. C.)

But the day I attempted to paint this scene, it started out very foggy, then changed to drizzle, then showed some promise of clearing-up.  I was in the camping area that was the most primitive, and of course only when I decided to begin painting did it actually start to full-out pour.  By then I was so into it that I had to keep going, even though drops were falling directly onto my work-in-progress (though I did have a make-shift tarp).  But to this day, this is one of my most favourite paintings because even though it has its distortions, I didn’t give in and stayed until I finished it . . .

'Alouette Lake Study'

I can still smell the coleman stove coffee and feel the warmth of the mug against my numb fingers as I celebrated by putting my brushes away–and swearing I’d never paint another #%$#!@# watercolour again in my life.

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'

Third Beach

January 19, 2012

Ten percent larger than New York’s Central Park, is Vancouver’s Stanley Park–1001 acres of enormous cedars, Totems, hidden pathways, creeks, ponds, ocean views, as well an amphitheatre and The Vancouver Aquarium.  It was named after Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada in 1888 (and also the person who donated the famous Stanley Cup for the emerging hockey teams of the day to compete for).  Lord Stanley became the first Governor General to visit British Columbia when the Park was being dedicated.

This painting was done on location within the Park while sitting on one of the many available sand-encased logs.  The spot is known simply as Third Beach, and looks out towards a very distant (not always visible–and not in this painting) Vancouver Island.

'Third Beach, Vancouver'

It took most of the day, and while there a baby seal washed up on shore.  Being tied down to all my spread-out gear, I called out to those closest.  Mobile phones weren’t as prevalent then as now, and it took the gathering crowd quite a while before attendants from The Vancouver Aquarium came to rescue the little guy. They have an adoption program which results in a release later on after the animals have matured.

High Country

January 9, 2012

Within the Kamloops city limits lies The Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area,  dedicated to preserving native grasslands and the sweeping vistas of this special region.  Old time ranching and a culture of horses and cattle survives.

This is a region of British Columbia with wide open spaces, with sagebrush and cactus and Ponderosa Pines.  It’s a land of Eagles, Hawks, Owls and Ospreys.  Through it winds the North and South Thompson Rivers and above their winding, watery ribbons is high country.

'High Country"

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