Wednesday, April 28, 2010


While on a painting trip some time ago in Canada, I rose before dawn and cycled a few miles along the Fraser river then sat watching the new day being born. In the peaceful halflight, morning mist slowly crept in from the East at times totally surrounding me in its whiteness. As the sun breached the horizon, light began to fill the sky with soft pastel tones of red and orange. It was amazing sitting there and watching all this unfold - a totally captivating experience. Shapes appeared then disappeared into the mist and as the field in front of me cleared I could see to the distant mountains with everything in between wreathed in mist. All this was happening so fast that there was no time to paint but I held what I had seen in my memory for later when I could do a few studies. This painting is one of a series that I started many months ago and is probably the last. Although I learnt a lot while painting them, I think that I didn't quite get the feeling that I was after. Perhaps I'll re-visit this area in the near future and manage a better job next time around. Mist near Lower Hamilton is an oil on canvas, size 8" X 18".

Saturday, April 17, 2010


One of the many benefits from having a career as an artist is being able to take a break from time to time and go for a walk. I'm fortunate to live next to a nature reserve and walking there is one of my favorite things to do. I often pass the same way so as to act as an observer noticing the subtle changing of the seasons throughout the year. One evening in early Winter, I noticed a subtle glow of golden light along the horizon and decided that this was enough of a starting point for a painting. The overcast sky gradually gave way to clearing in the west and although the sunset wasn't particularly spectacular, it was quite moving all the same. The evening light illuminated the scene in a subtle way so I used a darker line of trees to help focus on the horizon line keeping the foreground simple to help lead your eye into the painting.
I have painted this simple theme quite a few time already and am sure that I'll do more like this expanding on the experience - most of my work does seem to follow in a series. These paintings probably mean a lot more to me than the viewer and bring back powerful feelings of how deeply I was moved by what I saw and felt on my evening walks. This oil is 12" X 16".

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Finally here is the finished painting! It certainly took much longer that I had thought and is somewhat different from the image I had in mind when I first began thinking about doing another window in the barn series. This is often the case with quite a lot of my work when a painting tends to take on a life of it's own. Since I'm not copying directly from one source, changes do occur and are actually welcomed! Along with the much darker tones seen here, you'll probably also notice a significant color shift to that of the previous image in the demonstration. After careful review, I decided that the cooler grey at the bottom of the painting wasn't really working the way that I had hoped. So this was overlaid with washes of Sepia warming up those areas slightly as well as darkening them. I found (once again) that the finished painting was difficult to photograph accurately even though I tried a few different lighting situations. The contrast between the lights and darks is somewhat exaggerated here as in reality the bottles aren't so well defined and sit further into the painting. Uploading on Blogger always seems to darken the image too so it's actually a bit lighter than shown here. I wanted a slightly off-balance composition for this one so included part of the window to the right. I wanted you to feel that there is a lot more going on outside the picture plane that can't be seen. I worked hard to get an aged feel to the painting as along with the quality of the light, this was one of the primary motivations for doing this one. Size is 22" X 15".

Friday, April 9, 2010


Here the overall tone of the painting is finally getting to where I want it to be. I'll still be finishing up with a few darker washes on the bottom and a more graduated wash at the very top but at least I'm happy with the painting so far. It helped when I began adding some of the details especially finishing off the spider web above the window and working on the bottles and other details on the shelf below. Some work has also been done to the posts adding texture and in some cases, wood grain. I'll be trying to make the final image look quite old and somewhat neglected which was the feeling I had when walking around the farm. My grandfather's barn looked a lot like this one inside so this was the feeling I tried to capture and I wish I could go back to those times running around as a kid - I'm sure there would be endless painting possibilities!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'm slowly building up more washes here but it is certainly looking a bit messy at this point! I know that I'll be able to get it back but work has slowed dramatically as I have got to the point (yet again) where I'm not sure what to do next. Usually I save the details until the end of the painting process after I have got the basic shapes and tones in place. Now though, being indecisive I start to work on some of the details thinking that if I can get one part of the painting working again, then the rest is sure to follow. If I were just working from a photo, this painting would be so much easier easy but I don't work that way. I always try to get more into my work than what my reference materials show - often it helps to take the work back to the source and work directly from life. This is the main reason that I struggle with so many of my paintings as I'm often trying to create more of a feeling than an actual representation of a place.
After adding details to the spider webs at the tops of the windows and texture to the frames and posts, I feel a little better about the painting so will get to yet some more washes hoping to deepen the tones to where I want them.


After a few more washes, the painting has now taken on a ghostly quality. I have graduated these washes as I wanted the top to be warmer in tone that the bottom (which will also be quite a bit darker). I painted around the three bottles in the center of the painting as these have some subtle highlights that look difficult to capture so I'll probably finish the surrounding areas then work on them last. I'm still a long way off at this point in so far as getting to the correct overall tone of the piece but it is getting there! Right now it is still very bright which is not what I want but on the other hand, I have to be careful not to go too dark. I can scrub off some paint with a stiff brush but prefer to arrive at the correct tones gradually. So far I have been using a very neutral palette of warm and slightly cooler greys. As I mentioned before, there won't be much color in this one!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


As mentioned before, I have been working lately at a nearby farm and the latest work is another window but this time from the other end of the barn where the light is slightly cooler. This is mainly down to the fact that this area is where the cows were milked so the walls had been painted white. Over the years this color had faded somewhat to a dusty grey that takes on a warmer tone from reflected sunlight but cooler near the ground where only subdued light falls. This painting will be a slight departure for me in that I'm planning on doing this one almost monochromematic. It's a little scary in that I'm not sure how it will turn out and since I'll be putting in many hours on this one, I hope I won't feel that the time was wasted. Anyway, after a somewhat simplified drawing, I laid in a slightly warm color over the whole sheet of watercolor paper then stapled the sheet to a board. When this had dried I went in with a grey wash of Neutral Tint and then fed a bit of Sepia the bottom area before it had dried. A usual, I painted around the lightest areas taking care with the window as I wanted this to be basically undisturbed and the first wash would set the tone of the window panes. Being very dusty they only let in a somewhat subdued light and although it was sunny outside, not much could be seen through them. Next I'll be getting to some of the darker washes that will hopefully set the overall tone.

Friday, April 2, 2010


After a long and cold winter, I was once again very happy to get outside to do some painting. Back at the farm, I saw this arrangement of buildings from down the hill and liked the shapes and patterns made by the lights and darks. I completed it in just over 1 1/2 hours but the best part was being out on a warm day enjoying the early springtime. Since completing this one, I have been back a few times working on other paintings and putting the finishing touches to 'Chains' seen in my last blog. I'm certainly not finished with the series of paintings that will be done on and around this farm and at the moment am just finishing up another window painting done from inside the main barn. I'll be posting that one next.