Monday, 17 July 2017

The Clearing

The Clearing
30" x 40"  - acrylic on canvas - $600
I started this painting last December and finished it in April, after several starts and stops and time away from it. 
It is loosely based on several photo ideas of 'trees in woods'. I wanted to work with a vertical format and liked the idea of creating a sense of space through a series of receding diagonal lines, and distant trees. Once I started the painting I liked the basic composition but could not quite figure out the trees and how to depict them in a way I was happy with.  Here are some stages.....

At this point I was fairly frustrated and thought that perhaps eliminating some areas or at least making them less distinct might be interesting, so that is what I did.
Unfortunately, I continued to obliterate, went too far and then simply lost anything to work with. Turned the canvas to the wall and ignored it for several weeks.
I hung onto the photos however, then played with ideas, and a few weeks ago decided to try once again. My goal at that point was to be bold, keep the brushwork active, and not to refine or overpaint. I also chose a predominantly green-yellow-purple palette, one that I don't often work with, but really like. In this way the final painting came together fairly quickly, and I think quite successfully too. And it only took four months to paint! 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Summer Woods

Summer Woods
30" x 40"  - acrylic on canvas - $700
Since the beginning of July I have been living in my 'cabin in the woods on a lake' in the wilds of Haliburton County, about 3 hours north of Toronto. The weather had been mostly unseasonal, unfortunately, but at least it has not interfered with painting. I started this canvas a few weeks ago and it evolved slowly in terms of composition, palette and brushwork to its final form. And I am finally, very happy with it.  The overall colours and especially the yellows, pinks, and reds are actually a little brighter than what you see here and the background purples (on right) are slightly greyer and lighter in value. I tried my best to correct these on photoshop, and this is about the best I can do. 
The sun is shining today and no rain is predicted for at least 24 hours, so I think I will put aside the brushes today and venture forth to the dock and water and do battle with the biting flies. Have a great weekend, wherever you may be.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Ochre Quarry Abstracts

Abstract Ochre I
14" x 15" - acrylic on canvas paper - $35

Abstract Ochre II
14" x 17" - acrylic on canvas paper - $35
These are plein air works, inspired by the visual sensation of being surrounded by a forest of trees in an abandoned ochre quarry, (situated in the Luberon Valley in Provence) in June. I have painted there before and have done studio paintings based on some of my photos. This, however was the first time I really threw the paint, and tried to interpret what I saw in a less literal fashion. I was pleasantly surprised with the results and hope to bring some of this new found energy into future work.
Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what I saw.....unfortunately the light that morning was quite flat, so the ochre colour was a little on the dull side.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Olive Tree 'Variations' at Oppede le Vieux

Oppede le Vieux  is a beautiful village, slightly off the beaten tourist track, and for that reason alone makes an ideal spot in which to paint. There is a wonderful olive grove below the main part of the village, and that's where I sat for several hours in June, painting one of my favourite subjects. Here are two variations on the theme, with earlier stages too. 
Olive Trees at Oppede le Vieux
14" x 17", acrylic on canvas paper - $75
an earlier stage

Oppede Olive Abstract
14" x 17" - acrylic on canvas - $75
an earlier stage

Monday, 3 July 2017

Painting the Broom near the Falaise de Madeleine (Lioux, Provence)

Broom and Falaise
12" x 14" - acrylic on canvas paper - $75
The tiny village of Lioux is situated in the Luberon Regional Nature Park. The surrounding countryside is beautiful  and dominated by a huge cliff, called the Falaise de Madeleine.  This imposing grey limestone cliff is a over 700 meters long and more than 100 meters high, and literally towers over the village beside it. The views of the cliff from a distance, however, are quite magnificent and that's where we went to paint, earlier in June. Once there I spent the first half hour wandering, taking photos and of course sourcing the perfect view to paint.  

The lavender had not yet bloomed, but the yellow broom was glorious and finally led me to a spot sitting under an apricot tree in an orchard across a small lane looking at this view....

And....if you want to SEE me painting (for about 5 seconds!) go here and click on this photo....

A great painting morning - and best of all - I have lots more material to work from, and wonderful memories of time and place.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

St. Saturnin les Apt - Two 'Plein-Air' Views and their Progressive Stages

Last September I painted this scene, but from the other direction. Because the scene combined landscape 'elements' I like (interesting tree shapes, bushes, a road, a small building, and sky) I decided to paint it again when back there in June, but looking the other way down the lane. Below are the stages, from drawing to finished painting. 

Stage 1 - drawing the scene - liking the level of detail and loose scribbly lines.
Stage 2 - scrubbing in the dark values, not worrying about losing lines and details; liking the notan-like composition 
Stage 3 - adding more colour and middle values; liking the white bits still visible
Stage 4 - have added a lot more green, mixed and straight from the tube, starting to work on refining areas. 
Stage 5 - more colour, more refinement, more painting. 

Finished:  St. Sat Back Street 
14" x 16" - acrylic on canvas paper 
I am happy with the finished painting, but I have to say that I liked some of the earlier stages more. There is something about their 'incompleteness' that suggests spontaneity, or maybe just the potential for artful decision-making. Something to keep in mind while painting in the future, both plein-air and in the studio!!!

I did have a little more time that morning and because I felt the need to not be so careful or controlled, I started another painting of the same view. I think you can see or feel the sense of energy I had in the initial drawing below. 
Then I kept painting.....and then it was lunch! Yeah.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Tree Paintings from Provence.....

I know that I paint a lot of trees - single trees and groups and forests of trees.....and here is the proof that they are a favourite subject, even when travelling......
Big Tree Behind LesB
14" x 12" - acrylic on canvas paper - $75
I have painted this 'big' tree before because I love the dappled sunlight and distant trees behind the main event.

Bonnieux Trees
17" x 12" - acrylic on canvas paper - $75
Another scene I have painted in other years, but in this the two very different trees take the limelight.

Below the Village of Murs
14" x 14" - acrylic on canvas paper - $75
I walked down from the village and found a big tree to sit under, looked across the field and painted this one. 

In the Distance
15" x 14" - acrylic on paper - $75
If you look at the horizon line on the left in the painting Below the Village of Murs (above this one) you will see two small trees in the distance - which became the subject in this small painting, directly above.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Travelling and Painting

I have been travelling in France during the last month and did some painting there as well. I am finally over my jet lag, have organized my house and studio and am starting to think about new paintings inspired by the thousand or so photos I took while away. I'll begin, however, with some posts of my plein air work done most recently in Provence, with Arts in Provence. 
This is a view looking up from the road that leads to the small village of Joucas, in the Luberon Valley and very close to where we stay at Les Bassacs. Over the 2.5 hours there I worked on two small paintings. The first was done on a small wood panel with an ochre ground. 

Joucas Vines 1
11" x 14" - acrylic on wood panel - $75
The second was done on heavy paper designed for acrylic paint, and executed mostly with a palette knife.

Joucas Vines II
11" x 15" - acrylic on archival paper - $75

Back in the studio I worked on another painting using some photos I took that morning, looking in the other direction. All in all, a good start.

Leaving Joucas
11" x 15" - acrylic on canvas paper - $75

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Roadside Attraction II

Roadside Attraction II
16"x 20"  - acrylic on canvas paper - $150
I seem to have an artistic 'season disconnect' as we head into spring. For whatever reason I am finding inspiration in some photos I took last fall when the colours were at their height in Ontario. I am sure I will catch up soon to spring, but in the meantime here is a second painting based on one of those photos from last September. This too was largely painted with a palette knife but the textural creating larger, flatter areas of colour. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Roadside Attraction I - Autumn Foliage

Roadside Attraction I
16.5" x 22"  - acrylic on canvas paper  - $150
Lately I have become enamoured with 'mark making' while I paint, and have become more experimental in making a wider variety of them in my work. Painting with a brush is still a joy, but recently I have been using a palette knife as well. In this painting I began with the brush, but as paint layers were built up, the knife work created such wonderful texture, suggesting foliage, that I left it more intact than usual. 
The composition (and hence title), and even the colour palette was inspired by a photo I took last October when the autumn colours were at their most intense. It was a beautiful season.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Landscape Prism

Landscape Prism
24" x 30" - acrylic & oil on canvas - $400
I finished this painting last April, but with other things happening I did not have a chance to post it. It evolved out of another painting based on a similar landscape design that featured 'foreground trees in front of a body of water, with a distant shore in the background'. I worked on both of them at the same time, but this one took an entirely different path. Below are the first three stages.

At this point I started attending a Master Class with painter Tom Stephens at the Sarasota Art Centre. The idea was that you would bring your current work and paint in a collegial environment and receive critical feedback- in other words - coaching. As someone who paints alone I was feeling in need of some peer review, so I signed up. This is the painting I took with me to the group on the first day, six weeks ago. Among Tom's comments was the important advice that you just have to dig in and push the paint around to see what happens next. It was the same advice I would have (and have) given to students, so I did, mostly going with my intuition. 
The result was a simplification of the design into fewer, larger and more interesting shapes, and the toning down of some colour areas with some neutral greys. The surface of the painting became more nuanced, layered and interesting. Eventually all the areas were resolved, with the final touches of oil paint, applied liked icing on the cake. It was not how I imagined the painting would look in the beginning, but I was very pleased in the end.