ocean study

August 22, 2015

For many years I lived in Vancouver, B. C., which is considered one of the top 3 ‘most livable’ cities in the world.  One of its best features is being surrounded by water on three sides.  On one occasion I was painting a view from Locarno, one of the many beaches, and was suddenly overcome by a summer storm.  It seemed to descend out of nowhere.

As I was not going to escape getting soaked, I soldiered-on and managed to get as much as I could onto paper without the deluge completely washing away everything while working.

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‘ocean study Locarno Beach‘, Vancouver, 13cm x 18cm (5″ x 7″)

Fortunately I had some sort of makeshift shelter–even so, rain splattered onto the painting as I worked.

Painting on location has its rewards as well as its hazards.  In those years, I wouldn’t paint at all unless it was outdoors. I was something of a purist, and felt watercolour was meant to be done on location–its immediacy and qualities almost demand it being put to use that way. But bad knees are what they are, and now I almost can’t imagine having to go do that again–which is really a shame.  Working from photographs is not my idea of what watercolour should be about.

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Touted often as being the most difficult of mediums, and sometimes even as ‘the medium of mediums’, not everyone holds watercolour in such honour.  Indeed, oils are deemed the zenith of painting mediums.

‘Blowing the horn’ about watercolour as the ‘medium of mediums’ is a bit rich, perhaps.  That is, until one tries to master its elusive qualities and discovers how the more it is controlled, the less it is allowed to be what it is: a medium set free by water.

Perhaps no greater example of the power of watercolour allowed to find its own way through minimum control is by the hand of its greatest advocate, J. M. W. Turner.

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‘Incident At The London Parliament’ 1834

“If I could find anything blacker than black, I’d use it” is a quote which highlights Turner’s love for the power of contrast, which is what watercolour achieves spectacularly when the snow white of the paper is allowed to breathe while then bordered by the darkest dark.

'Duddon Sands' circa 1825-32 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/D25226

‘Duddon Sands’ circa 1825-32 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Joseph Mallord William Turner is sometimes referred to as ‘the father of the abstract’.   It is possibly due to the apparent pleasure he took in allowing the medium to run wild, catching it back at just the right moment to indicate location.

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a Venetian watercolour, ‘Untitled’, JMW Turner

Somewhere there is a story about how Turner was very guarded over letting anyone watch him work.  But at some sort of gathering Turner asked a young boy if he wanted a picture of something he liked.  The boy asked for a Spanish Galleon, and the artist took him into his studio, and not too long afterwards the boy immerged with a small and perfect depiction of a great ship in tossing waves.

Grilled by others about how the master had gone about producing it, the boy dazzled them in claiming Turner was very fast–almost phrenetic–using one unusually long fingernail to rather frantically scrape and tear at the paper for crests and foam of storm-thrown waves.

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 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 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.

 

THE OLD SCHOOLHOUSE is once again the subject……

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THIS TIME around, a horse was to be included, which meant it could not be a nocturnal scene, as that would be an odd addition to a night painting.  The choice was made to have only a single horse, even though horses are most often seen in pairs or groups, being a social animal…..

 

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THE DECISION over depicting a single horse was selected as adding to the feeling of isolation: a lone horse beside an abandoned school in a lonely, forgotten field in the dead of winter……

“FROZEN IN TIME”  

watercolour, 12″ x 15″, 140 lb. Arches Cold Press Paper, Kamloops Courthouse Gallery, Kamloops, British Columbia   http://www.kamloopscourthousegallery.ca

 

 

 

 

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.

North of Clearwater

January 9, 2012

The official website of the newly-created (2007) District of Clearwater reads:  ” . . . Located in the heart of British Columbia and Wells Gray Country, Clearwater, B.C.,  is the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park and is surrounded by the Trophy Mountains, Raft Peak, Grizzly Peak and Dunn Peak.  This rural community is truly a place for all seasons. . . ”

They aren’t bragging.  I encourage you to go to ‘www.districtofclearwater.com’ and see the gorgeous photos for yourself.

Kamloops–where I live–is about an hour’s drive South of Clearwater.  The Interior of British Columbia is highly mountainous and sudden storms and weather systems are normal when living in higher elevations.  One half of the sky can be as blue as sapphire, but just behind me things will be ominous and threatening.

This painting–now in a private collection–attempts to capture the spirit ‘North of Clearwater’ . . .

'North of Clearwater'

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