….cedar waxwing

April 23, 2016

As a kid, having to enter the annual Science Fairs in Jr. High–the ones where invited experts walked around with clipboards trying to find possible prize winners–I had exhibits which were often concerned with birds–songbirds, usually–their migration patterns and predators, and fun facts.

I never won a prize.  That usually went to kids who electrocuted themselves voluntarily in order to prove water and wires don’t mix–or the kids who cross fertilized seeds and created vegetative freaks.

The shortlist I had then in the 50s (living in upper New York State) was to see any kind of Bunting (they looked outrageously colourful), our State Bird the American Bluebird (which I never did see, and still haven’t), any kind of Tanager, and of course, any kind of Waxwing.

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“Berry Picking”

Cedar Waxwing, 4″ x 6″, watercolour, Saunders Waterford Hot Press 140# Paper

 

Having lived now in seven different Canadian locations, from coast to coast, I’ve been able to photograph a Western Tanager in our front garden, a pair of Mountain Bluebirds (astonishingly blue), and a group of Cedar Waxwings which descended on our Red Maple branches and began dismantling a Robin’s nest, rather than having to bother scavenging their own material.

The Waxwings were much smaller than expected, and every bit as fascinating as I’d hoped.  Their ‘bandit’s mask’ gives them an allure other birds lack, and their interesting ‘song’ and penchant for travelling about in flocks makes them worth having to wait 60 years to see them.

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…..Keeping Watch

April 7, 2016

Our little Gallery in the small city of Kamloops, B. C.’s historic Courthouse (1911) has a Featured Artist offering every month and May will be my month to put on a display of recent miniatures.  So now it is a matter of working towards having a good showing.

Raven Watch

“Keeping Watch”

watercolour on Saunders Hot Press #140 lb paper, 4″ x 6″

I can’t quite explain why it is that depictions of Ravens sell so well, but they do.  So it is a pleasure to be able to comply and feed the need, so to speak.  They are indeed a very symbolic and ancient bird whose fame is heralded in many countries and cultural legends concerning them abound.

Out taking photographs of them this week, I came across a pair whose size was truly astonishing and whose throaty calls echoed off the nearby boulders and across the wide Thompson River.  Once that is accomplished, it is a matter of trying to place them in a scene which has definite mood and emotional impact.

….draw a bird day

March 8, 2016

Teresa Robeson reminded me of ‘bird day’ (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/4736591/posts/949345080#comments) with her striking rendition of an exotic Araripe Manakin from Brazil.

Here is a far more humble (don’t tell it that!) species, but at least I’m doing my birdy duty this Tuesday morning…..

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1.5″ x 2″ on Arches Hot Press 140# Paper

I saw my first one two weeks ago–around the third week of February–which is so early for this region, it is nuts.  When they get here, they go for Mountain Ash berries and other withering, over-wintered types of fruit, until their usual fare of insects and worms become accessible.  They are in breeding mode preoccupied with all their parental preparations.

…. 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.

 

 

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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…..

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

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

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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…..

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….snow

November 25, 2015

We received about 12cm overnight and now everything’s white, with temperatures starting to drop to around -10C (16F) under strong winds.

The birds are in the branches of the large Red Maple just beyond our big front window–at the four hanging feeders and suet cakes.  We get mostly goldfinches and house finches, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, flickers, clark’s nutcrackers, pine siskins, ring-necked doves, occasional pileated and downy woodpeckers, grosbeaks, stellar’s jays, magpies, ravens, white-crowned sparrows, and when it gets really cold the sweetly-blushing redpolls come down from the Arctic (but not likely until January or so).

Occasionally we see a Northern Pygmy Owl which swoops in on the dining lot, lighting on a branch like a handful of fluff with alarming eyes and causes the rest to take off like an explosion. They are one of a few daylight-hunting owls, and for two or three days following, the feeders remain untouched, the memory of that fist-sized, feathered-danger keeping everyone away.

In honour of the occasion — the advent of real Winter — a wintry watercolour, not unlike what the countryside looks like presently.  The subject no doubt wishes the wind were less than it is….

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….but imagine the pleasures of fireplace and toddies once he gets back.

It’s an old painting–6 years–and approximately 8″ x 10″ on my favoured Arches Aquarelle Hot Press 140# paper.  It took approximately 30 years to finally discover the right paper, having gone through all the choices of surface, weight, paper-maker (brand), and so on.  Were it to be done again, the figure would be altered some, as there’s something anatomically odd about it.

….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.

 

 

…..downtown, phase 2

November 9, 2015

The Plaza Hotel (completed in 1928) is a five story Spanish Colonial Revival building in downtown Kamloops BC, Canada. It is listed as a cultural heritage site in the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

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As is so often the case when seeking out subjects for painting, the postcard view isn’t usually very interesting.

The photo used for reference for this watercolour was taken from the rear alley of The Plaza.

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In view is the old Fire Hall tower, with belfry, 73 ft, built in 1935 at a cost of $24,500, when Kamloops had a population of approximately 6,000 (population today is about 100,000).  It remains a distinctive landmark.

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The decision to cast the subject in Winter has to do with wanting to bring some drama to the scene due to there being an overly abundant amount of sky.  Pigeons have also been added to give more visual interest.

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Because the hotel is a very light orange, (which gives off a bit of a pink cast in late afternoon), the sky is a wash of quin red, quin yellow and ultramarine blue in order to help incorporate the tones of the building into the rest of the painting.  So quin red and quin yellow will be used as the shade of the hotel as the painting progresses.

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.

heatwave relief

June 24, 2015

IT IS BARELY PAST the first day of Summer and temperatures here in Southern British Columbia, Canada, are scheduled to climb to 40C (104F) and stay there.  It is feared the heat and drought affecting California is heading North,  Along with such heat, thunderstorm probabilities rise, and they become fire starters. By August there’ll be what weather reports term ‘local smoke’–a haze hanging over everything–accompanied by the sound of helicopters and planes working to douse flames in affected regions close by.

My favourite month is November.  It is both an exciting and contemplative month–exciting because any day, any moment I might step out to feel those fortifying winds suddenly becoming the first snow squall.  Contemplative, because the fog rising from the closeby Thompson River mixes with wood stove breathings and the last of the leathery oak leaves falling to join the others, invites thoughts on things ethereal and eternal.

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“Logging along Jamieson Creek Road”, watercolour, 20cm x 25cm, (8″ x 10″) Arches Hot Press 140 lb Paper, unsold

As a child, there was nothing more beautiful than what I called ‘purple snow’–that snow which signalled to us that we’d best take only one more turn sledding down Dead Man’s Hill (many years prior, legend had it, a man went down its twists and turns standing on his sled and smacked into a maple–back in the old days, when men apparently went sledding).  Purple snow meant dinner.  Purple snow meant finally discovering just how cold our digits actually were– thawing under a running cold faucet–pins and needles hot pink cold.

And even now, there is nothing to me more beautiful than purple snow.  On this 40C second day of Summer, all I can say is, Lord get us through to November.

on display

June 22, 2015

THE OLD COURTHOUSE GALLERY CO-OP and Gift Shop got its start in 2007.  The Courthouse itself is a Kamloops, B. C., landmark, built in 1909.

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photo: Okanagan Art Review.com

A superb and intact example of the Edwardian Baroque style, its interior demonstrates an Arts and Crafts sensibility.

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Mainly symmetrical, the building features an elaborate central entry, prominent parapet gables and a corner square-domed tower. It was constructed primarily of local brick, British Columbia stone such as granite, limestone and slate, and wood from local lumber mills. The choice of materials symbolized a commitment to the use of quality British Columbia products, a source of pride in this provincial building. An exceptional level of design and craftsmanship is evident throughout the building. It is one of the most accomplished designs of prominent architects Dalton & Eveleigh, and the stained glass came from the studio of Charles Bloomfield. (source: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=12791)

Our Artists’ Co-op now consists of sixteen local artists, whose work is on display within one of the rooms of the original Courthouse.  We are a group made up of several potters, glassmakers, jewelry makers, painters, two photographers, one dollmaker, and one weaver.  I am currently the President.

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Every month we schedule one or two of us to be the Featured Artists who occupy a special area just inside the entrance.

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We are open five days a week, all year round, and our biggest event is called Christmas At The Courthouse where we invite and jury in arts and fine crafts vendors to sell their wares throughout the entire building . . .

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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)

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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

wee glimpses

May 26, 2015

PAINTING OUTDOORS has a way of getting a person to make judgment calls quickly, and in our area it is quite simply the heat of the day.

KAMLOOPS, B.C., IS UNIQUE IN THAT its mountainous hillsides are grass-covered with considerable sagebrush but little tree growth to the 900m level, creating what is known as an inverted tree line.

IN MOST PLACES TREES WON’T GROW above a certain level due to the lack of precipitation, but in Kamloops, they won’t grow below a certain level due to the lack of precipitation.  We are known as The Sunshine Capitol of Canada, receiving over 2,000 hours of sun annually.

IOW, IT IS HOT.  And since sun and heat are our landscape’s signature features, painting a local watercolour outdoors demands sitting right the heck out there.

THAT IS WHY IT MAKES GREAT SENSE to me to choose to do this by way of painting miniatures.

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‘A Kamloops August’, watercolour, 6.35cm x 8.90cm (2.5″ x 3.5″), Arches Hot Press 140 lb. paper

MINIATURES demand quick thinking and choosing the elemental–the scene’s compositional essences–getting them down efficiently and thoughtfully, though, at the same time, quickly.

A GOOD MINIATURE can serve as the template for a much larger, studio piece.  And good miniatures stand up very well all by themselves.  This particular one has been accepted into two different juried Federation of Canadian Artists Shows, including the annual ‘Small, Smaller, Smallest’.  It was, in that show, the very smallest of the lot.  And that made me very happy!

composition woes….

May 3, 2015

MY GREATEST CHALLENGE when painting anything is composition.  For years I felt I was being a ‘purist’, insisting that I always paint on location, never in a studio setting.  And once at the location, I convinced myself that if a tree was in that spot, then that was how it needed to be depicted.

IT WAS ALL DUE TO my tendency to early-on stop referring to the subject in front of me and become more and more involved in what was happening on paper, to the point where I may as well have not been on location at all.  So in an effort at self-discipline, I decided that not only should I paint what things actually look like, I shouldn’t muck around with how and where ‘mother nature’ placed them.

THE SILLY THING WAS, I ended up choosing a composition by default because of course, I couldn’t paint everything my eyes saw in front of me.  And more often than not, it was not a good composition.  So now, not only do I go to some lengths to study the skill of creating an interesting arrangement, I realise it is the painter’s task to take what ‘mother nature’ provides and make art out of that.  Fences do need to be repositioned, as do trees and hills and clouds.

SO NOW I MAKE thumbnail studies first on matt board before beginning anything . . .

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THE OBJECTIVE is to provide a focal point, a visual way in towards it, then additional visual interest so the eye has more to discover by wandering beyond the subject itself.  These thumbnails are exploring the use of a compositional figure ‘Z’ shape to lead the eye of the viewer.

 

 

 

THE COMMON RAVEN is amply represented in British Columbia and enjoys the distinction of co-existing with people for thousands of years, to the point where–in Haida Nation tradition–the Raven has god-like qualities.  It was the Raven which released the Sun from its little box–made the stars and moon–and even brought people out of the earth in order to populate a party being thrown.  But in traditional stories Raven doesn’t actually create (make things out of nothing), so much as steal, exchange, rearrange and redistribute and generally push things around into new combinations.  If that isn’t humanlike, I don’t know what is, lol.

 

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“Spring Thaw”

watercolour on art board, 20 cm x 28 cm (8″ x 11″), sold

In Kamloops it is against the law to feed them, as well as crows.  A buyer of my work named Joan pours bags of cat kibble into her elaborate and large cement bird baths in the Winter and revels in their continuous, noisy presence.  The neighbours?  not so much.  When they report her, she just pays the fine and keeps at it.

ARTIST TRADING CARDS aka ART CARD EDITIONS AND ORIGINALS are popularly known as ACEOs. ACEOs are the size of baseball cards–65mm x 89mm (2.5″ x 3.5″) and are purchased and then traded and sold the way sports cards are.  The ACEO movement originated in Switzerland in the 90s but grew in popularity through eBay, where art cards are now sold and bought on a 24hr basis.

They require precision and are very enjoyable to do.  But then, who wouldn’t be fascinated by the challenge of painting tiny things (smile).  The subject matter can be chosen by the purchaser, and the painting done accordingly.

 

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“Logged-In”, 25.5 cm x 35.5 cm (10″ x 14″),  Watercolour on Arches 140 lb Hot Press paper, (donated to Kamloops Art Gallery Annual Art Auction)

THE SUBJECT MATTER  comes from this photo, very quickly taken when we’d stopped the car on the dirt road running through The Dewdrop Valley (just outside the city limits of Kamloops) after I’d yelled, ‘Cows!’

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This grouping was described to me by my friend Max as a perfect example of a bull and his harem–and the ‘harem’ got nervous and didn’t remain in place very long once I began snapping pictures.  The bull couldn’t have cared less what I was up to, and just lay there chewing.

The very prominent tree in the painting is placed to provide focus.  Rather than leave in the barbed wire fence (in front of them), a natural enclosure is placed behind to sneak a storyline into the scene (the best grass lies out of reach)—that, and taking out the wire fence gives a more natural feel to the setting.

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 IN THIS GRASS RICH region, cattle roam all over boulder-strewn and mountainous terrain throughout the Spring and Summer.  They are finally rounded up on horseback in classic cowboy style in the Autumn.  Because of this, the beef from Kamloops is renowned for its organic, grass fed superior flavour and quality.

THE PAPER IN USE HERE  is a very smooth-surfaced one called Hot Press (140 lb.) by the French Company, Arches (a very old watercolour paper maker).  Hot Press paper has virtually no surface texture at all and is slightly cream-toned.  When papers are this smooth, the paint initially floats on top before being absorbed.  This floating quality creates effects a rough surfaced paper can’t deliver.

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So Hot Press paper looks and feels pretty much like dollar store poster paper–smooth, shiny, and about the same thickness.  And because it is not a heavy paper, and because it is so smooth, Hot Press watercolour paper cannot take a lot of scrubbing out if mistakes are made.  The painter needs to be rather confident about the strength and amount of pigment to use before putting brush to paper.  So because I am always a bit tentative when beginning to paint something as challenging as an animal, I gain confidence by always having a scrap piece of watercolour paper handy to try things out on first.  Once I see how to do it on a scrap piece of paper, then I have confidence to do the same thing on the painting itself. 

It needs to be stressed that Arches paper is superb and bears absolutely no comparison to poster paper when paint is applied to it.  The weight (140 lb) is how thick the paper is.  300 lb. paper is very thick and therefore can take a lot more scrubbing and multiple washes, without losing luminosity.  The downside is that 300 lb. watercolour paper is quite a bit more expensive.  And when I work on very expensive paper, I am too aware of its cost.  That makes me somewhat nervous about possibly ruining the painting.  So I usually choose 140 lb. paper because if it gets ruined, I am not that concerned, and so therefore approach the painting with more boldness which gives a better result.

 

THE DEWDROP VALLEY is a local site and part of a much larger area near Tranquille River and the Tranquille River Gorge.  In essence, the Dewdrop is really rocky, hilly, grass-and-tree- covered pasture for cows and cattle during the Spring and Summer months.  The Kamloops Thompson Nicola Shuswap Region is no-nonsense cowboy rancher country, complete with serious Rodeos and horse and rider cattle round-ups in the Autumn.

This is the first of recording daily progress towards completing a watercolour depicting a typical scene in The Dewdrop Valley . . . . 

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ON DISPLAY are a fine collection of tortured brushes.  Some are from dollar stores or second hand bargain stores, and as soon as they get into the spare bedroom cum studio they’re cut up with scissors.  None of them cost more than $2, and who knows what they’re made of–Moose? Sasquatch hair, perhaps.  Each, however, is priceless.

 

 

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.

New bird miniatures

April 6, 2015

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The image sizes here are approximately 5cm x 8cm (2″ x 3″).  I use a pair of rather strong magnifying glasses when working this small–the kind you find on display at pharmacies (around here they’re referred to as ‘cheaters’).  So when working on a tiny miniature they are an enormous help, until I turn to go check on something in the kitchen and walk into the wall, lol.

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