…. Robin miniature 2

February 12, 2016

It has been an unsettlingly warm Winter here in interior British Columbia, with Spring bulbs actually starting to poke up through the ground.  Unsettling, because being only mid-Winter, we might well suddenly get one of those Arctic inflows and see temps plunge to -20C, which would effectively ruin what shouldn’t have already begun sprouting, including fruit trees.

It wouldn’t be surprising at all to actually see Robins returning in February, when their normal return isn’t until mid-March.  Being such avid worm-hunters, I have wondered at their early returns here, particularly as to what they find to eat.  The answer is the Mountain Ash berry and other lingering berries.  The danger, apparently, is eating ones which have fermented, thereby becoming naturally alcoholic and responsible for killing birds who eat too many.

This miniature is of the British/European Robin, which doesn’t reside in Canada.  But English Robin miniatures are snapped up in our Gallery simply because they have established such a rich literary following, and also appeal to Canadian emigres.

The difficulty painting a bird the painter has never seen–and therefore isn’t familiar with–means it may not be true to how the bird actually looks.  However, this particular bird has so frequently been depicted in book illustrations and greeting cards, that its persona lives beyond its ‘real life’ comings and goings.  So here in Canada, getting the English Robin ‘right’ isn’t as stringent a matter as getting the Canadian Robin right–a bird everyone is familiar with, and therefore has to be flawlessly rendered.

They seem so very sweet.

 

It has become ‘belated everything’ for me lately…so why not this as well.

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2.5″ x 3.75″ watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140#

We’ve come to know this as the English Robin (at least here in Canada), though I see it referred to elsewhere as the European Robin (which of course no Brit would ever go for).

Here are some (possibly) little-known tidbits about it: “. . . The distinctive orange breast of both sexes contributed to the European robin’s original name of redbreast (orange as the name of a colour was unknown in English until the sixteenth century, by which time the fruit of that name had been introduced). In the fifteenth century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as robin redbreast, which was eventually shortened to robin. As a given name, Robin was originally a diminutive of Robert . . . ”  [ Lack, D. (1950). Robin Redbreast. Oxford: Oxford, Clarendon Press. p. 44]

Personally, I have never seen this bird except depicted and written about in stories like “The Secret Garden”.  But whenever I paint a miniature of them, it is purchased very quickly, and usually by a homesick, transplanted member of a country ‘across the pond’.  It would be a treat to see them in their natural setting.

…. 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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

….a little nuts

November 20, 2015

Quite some months ago I asked Jackie of ‘Lost In Thought Photos’ (https://lostinthotphotos.wordpress.com/) for permission to do a miniature based on her wonderful photograph of a little tree squirrel.

Jackie very kindly agreed and emailed me back a very fine image of what –based on its colouration– appears to be a Fox Squirrel, which, even the most hardened rodent defamer would have to be a little nuts not to admit is cute.

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Here’s how they are described in Wikipedia:  “. . . Fox squirrels are strictly diurnal, non-territorial, and spend more of their time on the ground than most other tree squirrels. They are still, however, agile climbers. They construct two types of homes called ‘dreys’, depending on the season. Summer dreys are often little more than platforms of sticks high in the branches of trees, while winter dens are usually hollowed out of tree trunks by a succession of occupants over as many as 30 years. Cohabitation of these dens is not uncommon, particularly among breeding pairs. . . ”

Besides their cuteness, it is charming that they are non-territorial, and have been known to share their homes.  That is certainly not true for a great many squirrels, who seem to busy themselves hurling insults and chasing rivals all day long.

Hunting for frames is fun, losing myself in one or some of our ten or so 2nd hand stores, and recently resulted in this very nice (likely faux) leather 5″ x 7″ one for $.75.  It allows this little painting to sell for $35.

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Our little Gallery keeps 20% commission. So many thanks to Jackie at https://lostinthotphotos.wordpress.com/ !

 

…..downtown

October 31, 2015

Growing up in the 50s, we lived in a treed suburb of Rochester, New York (home of Eastman Kodak, Bausch and Lomb), but my father was a Pastor of a poor, post-WWII German refugee, inner city Church next to the Greyhound bus depot.  My fascination with the grittier side of Rochester’s downtown must have come from how much more interesting it was compared with the staid predictability of houses and lawns and more houses and more lawns where we lived.

Sneaking away during the sermon, I’d scout out the alleyways of crumbling late 19th century brick tenements with their fascinating tangle of iron fire escapes doubling as fasteners for clotheslines, festooned with gingham tablecloths and sheets and jeans.  Labyrinths of back-doored kitchens, cooks smoking, observing me in my too-small Sunday navy suit, an out-of-place kid trying to look nonchalant and part of the scene.

Luckily for me, Kamloops has that kind of feel.  It is a railroad hub, cow ranchers beyond that–a labourer’s city–begun in 1812 as an outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and has enough Western wear and roughness that some citizens feel our downtown still lacks class.  By ‘class’ they mean there aren’t enough designer boutiques and specialty shops.

This is the start of a painting of downtown from behind one of the old hotels. . . .

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Downtown Kamloops, B. C. Canada

The intention here is to make this a Christmasy, snowy subject, and its progress will be followed as the days go by.

“. . . The Harry Potter series borrowed ancient Celtic views towards the European Mountain Ash also called the Rowan Tree. The Celts and other people of early British Isles thought the tree had magical properties. Its powers were to protect you from witchcraft, one of two reasons why it is also called Witchwood. The other reason is a pucker at the end of the fruit reminds some of a pentagram which is associated with witchery.”

“As one might think, animals also know the mountain ashes as food. It is a favored browse of moose and white-tailed deer. Bears, fishers and martens like it as well as snowshoe hares, squirrels, small woodland rodents, the ruffed grouse, ptarmigans, sharp-tailed grouse, blue grouse, American robins, thrushes, waxwings, and jays. . . ”  http://www.eattheweeds.com/mountain-ash-rowan/

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“American Blue Jays and Mountain Ash”, watercolour on Arches Hot Press 140# Paper, original available for purchase $85US (unframed, excluding postal charges), 5.5″ x 11.5″

From Canadian Author Sarah B. Hood [http://www.sarahbhood.com/]

“. . . A couple of years ago I made the wonderful discovery that the common ornamental tree I know as Mountain Ash is the fabled rowan tree, revered in the mythology of northern lands for its protective and divinatory properties. I was told about it by the mother of a friend who also informed me that rowan jelly is the traditional accompaniment to twelfth-cake in the Christmas season.

I have since looked at many different recipes for rowan berry jelly, and note that most of them advise one not to make jelly until the berries have been frozen (either on the tree or in the freezer), since this makes them sweeter. Apparently raw mountain ash berries can be toxic (I remember my father complaining that they were so acidic that they could eat holes in cars), but heat and freezing both change the chemical structure of the acids they contain.

Here’s a recipe that I’ve used. It came to a lovely set and a great colour, like rosé wine. The taste is something like a cross between grapefruit peels and cranberries: bitter, but tasty.”

Rowan Berry Jelly Recipe
Makes about 3 cups

  • About 4 cups of berries which have been frozen (unfrozen berries are very bitter)
  • About 1 cup of water
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • About 1½ cups of natural pectin from apples (You can substitute commercial pectin, but you’ll have to change the quantity of sugar according to their instruction for a similar recipe such as grape jelly.)
  • About 3 cups of sugar
Day One
  1. Rinse berries and remove stray leaves, stems and shriveled berries
  2. Barely cover them with water and heat them to the boiling point, then cover and simmer until they have completely dissolved. You can use a potato masher to reduce them to a pea soup-like mush, as pictured below.
  3. Strain through a jelly bag. Hang the bag overnight to catch all the liquid, but do not squeeze the bag.

Day Two
  1. Use a turkey baster or pour carefully to extract the rowan berry juice without any sediment that may have collected. It should come to about 1½ cups (top up with extra apple juice if necessary).
  2. In a wide, deep non-reactive pot, combine rowan berry juice, apple pectin, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil. It may be rather scummy, so skim if you like.
  3. When it reaches the setting point, ladle into jars and process for ten minutes.
  4. Label and date the jars, and refrigerate any jars that don’t seal.

One Jay we do not have in the West is the Blue Jay.  The ‘why’ of this is puzzling simply because the weather and climate here rather mirror that of Eastern Provinces and States (minus the humidity, thank heaven).

As annoying as this bird can be, the sheer pleasure it appears to take in creating continuous drama — the screeching cry it passes off as ‘song’ turns the lovely silence of a Sunday morning into a birdie alarm clock — makes the Blue Jay an attention receiver (like that kid you always remember from Grade 4).

And….the Blue Jay–like most Jays–is beautiful.

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Their blue, black and white colouration is as dramatic as the Blue Jay personality.  They have the ability to turn any bird feeder situation into a Three Stooges food fight.  And for all these reasons, make a great subject for painting.

A favourite natural food in Winter is the Mountain Ash berry.

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These trees are in abundance here in Southern British Columbia, and grow very large, and are responsible for allowing the N. American Robin to return very early–often at the end of February–sustaining them until the ground becomes warm enough for pursuing worms.

Choosing both Blue Jays and Mountain Ash in Winter makes for great contrast in colour, and a lively composition for painting.

Now we’ll just have to see how it all turns out….

….depicting snowy pines

October 22, 2015

Snow-laden firs and pines aren’t the easiest of subjects for depicting in watercolour–(at least not for this painter).  The challenge comes in first understanding the effect snow has on branches, for, obviously, there is snow and then there is snow–each snowfall having its own unique effect.  That crystalline, hardened seizing of tender branches by icy snow pulls them heavily towards the ground, while sub-zero powdered flurries creates a mere dusting of needles–each presenting technical challenges.

Of course, the problem is one of always having to paint around the white of the paper allowing it to ‘be’ the snow in watercolour.  Given that opaque white can’t be used, a light dusting on pine needles becomes really quite a bit more difficult than painting the after-effects of a full-blown blizzard.  Leaving minute dots of paper surrounding green needles is a recipe for madness in my book.  Give me a snow-stormed pine any day of the week in its place.

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Figuring out just where branches are on a given variety of pine, fir, balsam, cedar or spruce is key to understanding where snow will sit when on them.  So it seems crucial that any study be limited to particular species, (in the above case, cedar) — otherwise, a painter of representational art will be in danger of ending up with a kind of ‘marshmellowed’, generic evergreen most often seen on Hallmark Christmas cards.

Truly, each variety of coniferous tree accepts snow in its own unique way.  A blue spruce, for example, with its stiff, jutting branches, is much more able to bear the weight of snow than the red cedar in the above study, whose branches are prone to drooping and bending.

This study was done on leftover piece of plain white matt board, using a chopped-up small fan brush to go after the greens, then a more pointed, conventional brush to soften the hard edges and provide shadowed depth to the snow.  The branches aren’t quite correct.  Once snow is included, it changes perception to such a degree, I have trouble understanding where it goes and branches fall.

The beauty of our being blessed with so many evergreens to choose from comes in knowing that each one offers the student of watercolour great and intriguing challenges, especially when brimming with that wonderful adornment–snow.

inspiration galore!

July 6, 2015

THERE ARE TODAY few watercolourists with the mastery, control, spontaneity and lyrical grace of Joseph Zbukvic, an Australian painter who emigrated from Zagreb in 1970, and took up watercolour in his adopted country.

He is among a handful of true masters of classical watercolour technique, due to an ability to transform veritably any subject into visual poetic language.

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Adroit and seemingly effortless whether out on location or in the studio, Joseph Zbukvic’s handling and style builds on a foundation of an accurate, yet freely-rendered underdrawing, the suggestion of detail, a flawless sense of both composition and values, sparing yet daring choices, brought off with efficiency and dashed-off finishing touches of highlighting contrast.

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H20  COLOR, 9/3/01, 5:26 PM,  8C, 8000x6290 (0+1730), 100%, low contrast 8,  1/20 s, R74.5, G49.4, B62.1

flags and awnings 28 x 16.5

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This calibre of painting keeps any student of the medium of watercolour inspired and wanting to stretch and keep striving.  It is a wonderful thing to see how high the watercolour bar can be set!

http://www.josephzbukvic.com/

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

showstoppers

May 22, 2015

SOME BIRDS ARE JUST LOOKERS.  Here in the Southern Interior of British Columbia we have a few worthy of stopping traffic.

NOT BEING MUCH OF A PHOTOGRAPHER–a person who snaps pictures, really–I can only share my photos of some of our local showstoppers, the first being a …..

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Western Tanager in the front garden

Tanagers come here to nest, as do many songbirds

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Spring, 2011

ANOTHER LOOKER OF A BIRD is the …..

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Pileated Woodpecker, January, 2011

AND A GREAT FAVOURITE OF MINE IS a. . . .

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Mountain Bluebird, Summer, 2012

THE MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD is found here in our abundant grasslands, and are encouraged to remain by our local people building and mounting birdhouses meant especially for them.  And truly there are no blues quite as brilliantly displayed as on a male Mountain Bluebird, who, while I was snapping away and adjusting my lense, remained surprisingly still and unperturbed, as though enjoying (and deserving) the attention.

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Male Mountain Bluebird, Kamloops, B. C., 2012

RECENTLY I WAS ASKED TO PROVIDE A MINIATURE of a Male Northern Cardinal, a bird not found in Western Canada.  Having to rely on images not my own, and hoping the result would do justice to the actual bird itself . . . .

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Northern Cardinal’ watercolour, arches hot press paper      9cm x 6cm (2.5″ x 3.5″)

IT IS BEING SENT OFF TO a patron in New York City, where I believe a Northern Cardinal might be seen gracing the beautiful environs of New York’s Central Park.

painting night

May 18, 2015

THERE IS A FASCINATION surrounding night, when all is cloaked in darkness and the earth dons a mysterious manteau.

WE SEE, and yet we don’t.  Depicting night is a painting fascination because I personally do not have a firm visual anamnesis of what exactly night ‘looks like’.

FOR EXAMPLE, is the moon really white–or silvery?  Or is it, rather, lemony–or perhaps, blue?

A NUMBER OF RENOWNED NORTH AMERICAN PAINTERS made the depiction of night their signature subject.  Some, like the famous Western painter, Remington, chose to depict moonlight as a bit of each, including even at times, degrees of green….

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IT IS SOMEWHAT OF A MYSTERY as to what our eyes truly see, in terms of chromaticity, when looking at night, and particularly, moonlight.  Painting night offers an enjoyable challenge: convincing viewers that what has been painted corresponds to their personal, nightly experience.

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Up Late’,  watercolour, Arches Hot Press Paper, “14×18”, (sold)

THIS IS ANOTHER heritage home in Kamloops, known locally as Fort House, because it was built on land originally used as a Fort by The Hudson Bay Company when Kamloops was established in 1812.  At present, this early 20th century farmhouse is a rather rundown rooming house.

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).

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.

Cornelia

May 9, 2015

AT OUR RECENT FEDERATION OF CANADIAN ARTISTS ART SHOW, I kept coming back to look at a piece by the Vancouver painter Ali Sepahi.  (www.sepahigallery.com)

BECAUSE OF RECENT KINDNESSES SENT MY WAY by people requesting commissions, I had enough moola burning a hole in my pocket to be able look at his painting with acquisitional eyes.

BUYING ARTWORK is a wonderful delight that I don’t give in to unless someone is buying one/some of mine.  And I am not beyond bargaining.  If I only have X-number of dollars from a recent sale, that is all I have to spend (a necessary and self-imposed rule).

IF I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY from having sold something of mine–and the painter I’m negotiating with can’t meet my bottom line–I have to walk away.  And that is sometimes very very difficult to do.  Usually, however, an arrangement is able to be made–but has to be done once an art show or exhibit has closed, and–of course–the painting outlasted the event and went unsold.

THIS PAINTING WAS ENTITLED ‘Grandma’.  Not being greatly enamoured with that choice (after all, I don’t exactly enjoy being looked at by onlookers as ‘Grandpa’), I researched female names and after dithering a long time decided the work was to be re-christened ‘Cornelia’.  That’s because I don’t know any Cornelias.  [I was going to name her ‘Beatrice’, but I already know a Beatrice, and it wouldn’t do — insights into my slightly OCD brain.]

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Ali Sepahi, oil on canvas, 61cm x 46cm (24″ x 18″), painted using a colour shaper

THIS WORK IS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING in my book.  The brevity of line, sparse delineation, those slight indicators of head tilt, clutch of serviette, careful reach towards drinking glass–oh my, oh my, but this is GOOD.  And crowning it all is the floral panache of a hat chosen to show that underneath it is no ordinary person willing to be defined by age or the brittleness of what our ripening years dish out.

FOR TEN YEARS my profession was that of Clergy–Presbyterian–and prior to that, my experience of memorable people in the manner of this painting, was due to my having been born ‘a child of the Manse’.  The ‘Cornelias’ I have been privileged to know, and yes, love, from my childhood onward, have been many.  Observing each one, discreetly attending to her carefully chosen paper plate of chicken salad–sitting apart from the younger ones at wedding receptions–finding that place under a large oak at the Sunday School picnic–not wanting to be obvious, while wearing a hat which was anything but humdrum, I knew before long I would be making my way towards her.  And she was always gracious in welcoming me–whether I was 8, or whether, wearing full collar, I was approaching as her Cleric–ready to amuse me with wry observations, regale me with stories of memorable wedding disasters, charm me in a smilingly-hushed voice, all the while allowing her milky-blue eyes to convey her longing that I not yet go visit someone else, and leave her–once again–all alone.

IT MAKES MY OWN EYES WELL UP EVEN YET, how  the Cornelias of this world have unexpectedly nurtured my needy heart time and time again.  And it will be an honour and a privilege to find her–this Cornelia–a treasured place on the dining room wall, even as we observe yet another floral-hatted Mother’s Day Sunday.

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.

 

 

 

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

name that bird . . .

April 25, 2015

SOME LONG WHILE AGO now (years)–through this blog–I received a request by email from a blogger to complete a miniature of a bird, which I did, and sent off to his/her satisfaction, receiving back in the mail remuneration.

THE DIFFICULTY FOR ME in this moment is that I still have the image of that little bird painting the way it looked when I was working on it . . . here it is . . . not a very sharp photo. .

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. . . BUT MY PROBLEM in displaying it here, is that I no longer have a clue what kind of bird it is.  All I can recall is that it is a species from a tropical region, and probably in the Central Americas. It is not a bird I have myself ever seen with my own eyes, so it lacks my personal experience, and therefore lacks a place in my memory bank . . . so . . . I’m asking . . .

DO YOU KNOW THE NAME of this bird?

the stuff of watercolour

April 22, 2015

 

 

 

WATERCOLOUR is simply a mixture of pigment (ground-up minerals: organic and synthetic) held in a semi-solid form by a binder (usually gum arabic).  In days of yore (not that long ago)–this was sold in little square cubes, called pans or cakes.  The pans are ‘activated’ by adding a drop of water to them, causing the gum arabic to dissolve enough for the pigment to loosen and adhere to the brush tip.

TODAY IT IS DIFFICULT (for me) to find the pans, which have only pigment and a touch of gum arabic in them.  Today everything is sold in tubes.  This isn’t because tubes are so superior.  No.  It is because the painter gets stuff like water, glycerin, corn syrup, and who-knows-what-else, and only then, some pigment. . . 

 

 

 

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I HAVE PANS (winsor newton) which are 40 years old and just as good and useable as ever.

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DO YOU THINK my pallets are messy?  Have a gander at the pallet of one of the most renowned watercolourists, ever–Winslow Homer . . . 

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FROM THIS MESS he painted this . . .

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“Boys In A Dory”, Prouts Neck, Maine, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Winslow Homer, 1873, 25cm x 35cm, watercolour on paper

The only comparison which has any remote bearing is the messiness of our pallets.  Other than that, watercolour painters of my calibre only stand in awe of his eternal greatness. 

BEFORE YOU GO, do have a look at another of Winslow Homer’s delicious watercolours . . .

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“Shore and Surf, Nassau”, Winslow Homer, 38cm x 54cm, 1899, Metropolitan Museum of Art

WOW. This man did not paint over top of washes (except to strengthen the intent of the line) allowing the whiteness of the paper to pass through, dazzling the eye.  And adding even more punch, Winslow Homer did not shrink from placing great and deep darks right beside the lightest lights, thus heightening the power of the contrast.  What a master.  Wow.

 

 

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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