Sunday, 23 October 2011

Autumn Birch Walk

Strangely I started this composition in oil pastel last fall and didn’t finish it since I didn’t like the paper; I also found that I didn’t find oil pastel suitable for landscape painting since the colours aren’t subtle enough. I had put it down and forgot all about it until I took a minute to look through my reference images for autumn themed paintings, and decided to use the old reference for a new soft pastel.

The colours don’t seem to be as bright this year, probably due to the dry summer, so I decided to tone the colours down in this one and make is more impressionistic. It seems that every landscape artist needs to attempt birch trees since they have such lovely bark although they aren’t my personal favorite. I hope that I managed to create a bit of depth in this painting which is something that can be difficult to do with woodland compositions; I also focused on conveying life energy and movement by using the pastel marks to create harmony with an almost musical quality.

I also used the white Wallis Professional paper which is indeed wonderful but not a toothy as the Belgium Mist and neither is as thick making it more likely to tear if you aren’t careful when removing the tape from the edges. 

Autumn Birch Walk   12x18"   Soft Pastel on Wallis Paper
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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Curry's Art Auction for Dystonia

I’m happy to announce that I have two pastel landscape paintings that have been included in Curry’s Charitable Art Auction benefiting Dystonia to be held at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on October 25, 2011.

Springtime Reflected

Late Afternoon Along the Grand River

The whole story can be read here:–art-auction-celebrates-100-years

You can see the other excellent artists who have been selected here:

As well as the online art gallery:

Lakeside Sunset

Living near Lake Erie has given me an appreciation of the beauty and sometimes violet nature of the lake, but it’s always been the sunsets that are the most dramatic. For some reason I never seem to have the camera with me at the right moment so when I saw a friend post a picture of a sunset along the lake on her Facebook page, I just had to ask her if I could use it. Thank you Tracy!

I also tried a new surface with the Colorfix Supertooth paper and like it well enough since it allows for a couple more layers of pastel and it has a much softer texture; however, it doesn't go as far as Wallis Paper. Pastels include the usual Unisons and Ludwigs and the under drawing was done using Faber-Castell pastel pencils. I also used a few of the very warm colors in the Ludwig Plen Air set to make those shadows in the foreground vibrate. I probably took the greatest amount of time trying to recreate that dramatic sky leaving me to wonder why something as soft and simple looking as a sky can be so complicated. This must be the smallest pastel work that I’ve done yet and have to say that it’s great to have a piece that I actually like that isn’t so large and didn’t take so many hours to complete.

Lakeside Sunset, 9x11"
Soft Pastel on Colorfix Supertooth Paper
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Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Green Walk

I think it’s funny how artists always say that it’s bad to use too much green in landscape paintings and yet green is one of Nature’s dominate colors;  seemingly, the color of life. It’s is also one of my favorites (perhaps it’s the gardener in me) therefore I decided to break with conventional wisdom and paint a landscape using green as the dominate theme. Sometimes you just need to do things the way you want since art begins with the artists and it is an expression of those artistic desires. I worked from a picture that I had taken near the Grand River in late spring before the terribly dry summer really kicked in so perhaps this is an expression of what summer needed to be instead of what we got. 

I used Terry Ludwig and Unison Pastel on Wallis Belgium Mist paper.

The Green Walk Soft Pastel on Wallis 12x18”
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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Stepping into Woodland Light

This painting is taken pretty much directly from a photo taken by a Flickr artist of a place in Wales, UK called Hafod Forest. Normally photographs need a good deal of improvements and several runs through a sketch book before I start the final work but this picture was one of those rare perfect compositions or at least it seemed to have the near magical qualities that I was looking for. I like to capture a certain presence or perhaps an awareness of place in my work, and it’s not at all common to see on such type of  subject and photographer come together in one place.  

This is also the largest work that I’ve done in pastel since first picking them up again. I do like working in the larger format since it allows for more detail and larger paintings are more noticeable. The portal or pathway between the two trees was the primary element that attracted me to the picture, but when reinterpreting the subject I found that it was necessary to be careful and avoid segmenting the composition too much so I decided to soften the lines and integrate the objects together to create more unity. 

I also finally decided to try Colorfix primer after reading all the wonderful reviews for it and felt a little let down after trying it on Canson’s Multimedia sketchbook paper then primed a Canson Art Board and was much happier with that surface. I used my usual Ludwig/Unison combination of pastels and after several hours of work, I am fairly happy with the result. 

Thank you Claire for sharing this lovely place and for allowing me to use your picture. You can find the original photo at Claire’s blog Here. Also you can find more information about the Hafod Estate Here.

Stepping Into Woodland Light 16x20" Pastel on Primed Board
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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Old River Tree

It's been awhile since my last post I see...guess this means that it  has been summer break time...or at least that's my excuse. However, I've been busy at the pastel easel and have completed some new work including this one.

We decided to stop along the Grand River in Cayuga, Ontario on our way back from delivering some work to the gallery, so I took the opportunity to snap a few shots of the river for reference images. I loved how the gnarled willow tree was growing over the river like an old woman stretching after waking from a long nap. The bark was deeply creviced and the leaves and branches allowed the light to travel through creating a lace-like appearance. The sky was partly overcast lending a silvery appearance to the still waters of the Grand which is something I hope that I’ve managed to capture in this painting.

I used mostly Ludwig’s with a few Unison’s on Belgium Mist Wallis paper. For the darker tree trunk and branches I  used the lovely warm brown pastel BE#6 that came with the Unisons Landscape Set of 72, it is the most wonderful rich velvety brown a pastel artist could ever want.

The Old River Tree, Soft pastel on Wallis, 12x18"
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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Redwood's Watefall

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love trees, the more majestic they are the better and it’s hard to come across a tree with more presence than a redwood. I few years ago we planted a dawn redwood in our backyard hoping to one day have a tree similar to the mighty redwoods out west. The first tree didn’t make it since a cat used the trunk as a scratching post thereby killing it. We planted another in its place which is growing along nicely. I found a few pictures of the second dawn redwood on my computer and I was inspired to paint a mature redwood forest and I searched through several reference photos’ before finding a few to use. So this painting was completed in memory of the beautiful young dawn redwood that just wasn’t to be.  

You can also read more about Metasequoia glyptostroboides from Michael A. Dirr’s book Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia  Here

My painting:

Redwood's Waterfall, Oil on Canvas, 18x26"
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I tried to capture a sense of dampness and heaviness in the painting and perhaps a feeling of things lurking around the corner as is if the creatures of the forest have been frightened away by the viewer’s sudden appearance.  I’ve started the painting a couple months ago with the mass planning and compositional block-in before beginning to lay in the first layer of colour in. I then set it down for a few weeks and completed a few pastel paintings since they come along much more quickly than my oil paintings. When I returned to this work it was time to begin layering in the foliage and textures of the tree bark followed by the surface layers of the water and reflections. After looking at the work for a couple days, I made a couple changes in the focal area and layered in more cerulean blue to help capture the viewer’s interest, or at least cerulean blue always gets mine, I think it is one of the most beautiful colors an artist can have on their palette and it’s wonderful for mixing good clear earthy greens, especially when combined with yellow ochre.

I’m never completely happy with anything I paint, however, this one seems to have a certain presence about it that doesn’t always happen so I guess this one gets a passing grade or perhaps I’m just hard to please.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Late Afternoon at the Grand River

Another trip to the Grand River with my camera and several less than impressive photo’s later and I managed to get something I could crop into submission to create a somewhat decent reference photo. 

The original picture:

Grand River

The cropped version:

Grand River, Cropped

And my final pastel painting. I changed the basic shapes of the shrubs to make them more abstract and simplified the trees so it was a little less busy. I also moved the shore line to make the line more interesting and musical.  Once happy with the layout, I sketched the landscape in with hard pastels/pencils then blocked in the basic masses, followed by the more time consuming details.  My materials included Faber-Castell Pastel Pencils, Nu-Pastels (hard), Unison and Terry Ludwig Soft Pastels on Wallis paper which has become my favorite pastel surface. 

Late Afternoon at the Grand River 12x18" Pastel on Sanded Paper

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Grand River Gallery

I wanted to share my latest bit of news, I have been accepted into my first gallery since picking up the art again. The Grand River Gallery is located in Caledonia, Southern Ontario, Canada, and is a lovely place to enjoy viewing beautiful work by several talented local artists. The owner, Rene Ariens accepted my pastel Woodland Path and my orchid portrait Lady Rothschild as part of his collection for the next few months. Be sure to drop by the gallery if you're in the area.

The website: Grand River Gallery

Woodland Path, 2011
Paphiopedilum Lady Rothschild, 2010

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Springtime Along the Grand

One of those ideal spring days arrived and I had the opportunity to take several photographs of the Grand River here in Southern Ontario. After sorting through my less than wonderful assortment of pictures I decided to settle on one in particular showing the bridge and a few buildings along the opposite shore.  I played around with the composition and finally decided that I didn’t want any man-made structures involved so this doesn’t act as a correct interpretation of the local, but I prefer my work to have little or no presence of human habitation.  However, mostly I just liked the simplified version, the bridge and buildings just made things too busy. 

The original image: 

Grand River, Dunnville,ON
 My Interpretation:

Springtime Along the Grand, Pastel on Wallis, 12x18"
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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

River Sunrise

With the arrival of the nice spring weather I decided that it was time to go for a drive along the Grand River here in Dunnville, and felt inspired to recreate a few scenes based on my love for this area. I’ve lived in this small rural community since I was five years old. When I picked up art again nearly two years ago, l wanted to paint the river but didn’t get to the job right away due to the many distractions of new found artistic inspiration. Sometimes a person just needs to slow down and enjoy what they have right under their nose. There are many tributaries that lead into the Grand along with large expanses of valuable marshland which provides a home to many of our wonderful Carolinian species. Living close as I do to the river I have the good fortune to see many of the birds and plants that are indigenous to this area and hope that I’ve captured a sense of these things without literally including them in the painting.

My interpretation of my reference photo, which looked like very early spring, involves warming things up a little, hopefully without losing the overall calming atmosphere on the river and wetlands. I also didn’t want to add as much detail to this painting, preferring the smoother and blended techniques to communicate the peaceful scene.

River Sunrise,Soft Pastel on Wallis, 12x18"
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Monday, 16 May 2011

Springtime Reflected

Somehow this painting started out as an autumn scene and transformed itself into a spring scene, not sure how that happened, perhaps it had something to do with the arrival of season after a very long winter. 

I worked on a new surface wanting to experiment with something a little different and I do like how the colors are more brilliant and striking then on the colored surfaces. I had started another pastel on an Ampersand Pastelbord and ended up washing it off and repriming it with several layers of Golden Fine Pumice Gel.  Another time I would use a coarse ground for soft pastel since this would allow for more layers of the pastel and it would be more agreeable with my soft Ludwig’s.

The trees and shrubs remind me of forsythia, purple smoke brushes and apple or pear trees in bloom, which are species I saw frequently in the horticulture business. I also used the beautiful Unison turquoise pastels in the sky along with a very pale and cooler Ludwig turquoise in the water. The colors in water should always be cooler than those on land, one of the ways you can separate land from water. 

Springtime Reflected   12x16"   Pastel on Pastelbord

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Mourning Dove Above

I know that this isn't exactly about art but I just had to share.

I went to visit my neighbour's to discover that they had a new pet nesting on top of their enclosed arbour. I was told to stand exactly below the arch and look up and too my surpirse there was a very wide set of eye's staring back at me. So I ran home to get my new camera hoping to get a good shot and was rewarded with the following picture:

Isn't she the cutest? The same neighbour has a pair of cardinals nesting in their backyard as well. Later they will probably bring their young over to eat at my feeders as everyone else does. It's a very busy spring around my place.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Northern Marshland

There are so many layers of pastel in this painting, I think I lost track after the 6th layer so this one seems to be about the tapestry of colour and texture that can be seen in the late summer months here in Ontario. I used Unison and a Terry Ludwig Pastels on Belgium Mist Wallis paper. 

I usually start with a reference photo that has at least 70% of the composition in place and make a few pencil studies before starting and this one was no different then usual except I found myself over simplifying. After looking at it for a couple days I decided to extend the height of the grasses in the foreground so that they are obscuring the main water-way with what I hope is a more pleasing result.

I have a new toy called a Canon Rebel XS EOS which takes much better pictures then my old Canon Powershot but I think that I still need better lighting to get ideal photos. Art work must be the most difficult thing a person can photograph, but it’s all a learning process. 

Northern Marshland, Soft Pastel on Wallis 12x16"
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Sunday, 1 May 2011

A Portrait of Angraecum sesquipedale AKA Star of Bethlehem Orchid

This is my first attempt at creating a floral portrait using soft pastels and I hope that it didn’t go too badly considering that the pastel will smudge so much more easily than coloured pencil, but it does move along so much more quickly. The smudging and correcting wouldn’t normally bother me with painting landscapes, but seems to be much more noticeable when it comes to creating the more detailed subjects, as is the case with flowers. Ah the adventures of learning a new medium.

Angraecum sesquipedale helped support Darwin’s theory that if nature would produce a plant with the super long nectary such the case with sesquipedale, then there would need to be a pollinator that could reach inside to retrieve the nectar. You can read more about the history of this orchid at Wikipedia Angraecum sesquipedale. And another link from Jay’s Orchid Encyclopedia for those who might be interested in growing this orchid, it is amazingly easy to cultivate.

The reference photo was taken from my own plant when it bloomed over the Christmas holidays and it is this Mid-winter flowering cycle which gives it the common name of the Star of Bethlehem. 

Star of Bethlehem Orchid, Pastel on Ampersand Board 11x14"
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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Snowfall on Evergreens

The planning and original block-in for this painting started way back in January, but due to an illness that is taking longer to recover from, I couldn’t finish it until early April. I tried working on it on the good days but found that I kept losing my focus and changing things so this one turned out way differently than the original plan. I guess that’s what the artistic journey is all about. Don’t know why oil painting has to be more challenging when you not feeling well, thank goodness for soft pastels.

Snowfall on Evergreens Oil on Canvas 18x24"\
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Thursday, 14 April 2011

First Two Works with Soft Pastels

After growing tired of using those scratchy hard pastels I decided to try the softer varieties and after much research about the health hazards and a good deal of colour and value comparisons I ordered Unison and Terry Ludwig landscape sets. The Unison's are as wonderful as expected and the Ludwig's are even better if you like their soft fluffy texture. I'm finding that the harder Unison pastels work better under the softer variety since they can lift the super soft pigment right off. 

I also tried the Belgium Mist Wallis paper and the Ampersand Pastelbord and love both surfaces for entirely different reasons. Wallis is a super toothy sand paper that can take ridiculous amounts of pastel which does appeal to the oil painter within. The Pastelbord on the other hand is far more akin to drawing on paper with a little more tooth and I think it would work very nicely for oil pastel and pencil art if you really like to layer those colours. However, it works wonderfully for soft pastel as well but it won't take as many layers and neither does it faithfully hold onto the pastel making far more likely to smudge. 

I also love working on a hard surface so I will mount a sanded paper on foamboard or some kind of non-warping surface and try Richard McKinley’s wet-underpainting technique. This should also make framing much easier since I can bypass that dreaded matboard thing and all the related gadgets.

  Here is my first soft pastel on Wallis:
 Spring Creek 12x18" Pastel on Wallis 

And my first pastel on Pastelbord:

Woodland Garden Path 11x14" Pastel on Board

Friday, 8 April 2011

My First Post

Blogging is a whole new experience for me so I hardly know where to begin. Since this is all about my art work and artistic journey, then it seems fitting to show you some of my work that I completed prior to the blog.

I began painting in oils a little over a year ago after a 13 year hiatus from painting; needless to say, I was a little rusty. Much to my amazement, I did remember how to use a paint brush, must have been muscle memory. However, those first 10 paintings didn't turn out so well, due to inferior student grade materials, and a general lack of compositional know-how. Things are improving though after a good deal of research and help from the people at Wet Canvas and much personal trial & error.

I have also been learning a good deal about landscape painting from the online classes by the award winning Canadian landscape painter Johannes Vloothuis who can be found at:  Without Johannes instruction, I think my artistic development wouldn't be getting very far at all. Nevertheless, I still have far to go in regards to landscape painting.
I also like to draw and paint plants such as orchids and lilies and have been working with coloured pencil, hard pastel and pastel pencils. Unfortunately, I find that I need to put down the pencils since they are difficult to use due to a painful shoulder. So now I am beginning to paint with soft pastels such as Unisons and Terry Ludwigs, and so far they seem to be much easier to work with. More about that it my next post.

Here are some examples of artwork that I have completed:

Phag Bouley Bay hard pastel on paper 11x15

Paph Michael Koopowitz coloured pencil on paper 11x15

Paph Lady Rothschild coloured pencil on paper 11x14

Yellow OT Lilies Coloured Pencil on paper 11x14

Pink Lily coloured pencil on paper 11x14

Maple Rooted hard pastel on paper 11x15

Forest Spirits hard pastel on paper 15x23

Towards the Green oil pastel on paper 12x18
Two Willows Oil on Canvas 16x20