Friday, 28 October 2016

October Happenings: plein air in Ottawa and Toronto

This October was a whirlwind of teaching painting on location. October is the optimal month, with colours ablaze, and so much LIFE happening. Plus, let's face it, it's the end of the comfortable outside weather. In fact, I just made it indoors in the nick of time.

                                          Plein air, Ottawa Valley Style

The advantage of working out lear my studio is that I know all the good spots around here. Even with this great swamp, there is so much to choose from to paint! Water, reflections, the turning trees, grasses any, or all of the above. Abundance!

I know. It's just a few trees. But trees seem to allude everyone. Yes, there's a lot of detail. But one must cut through and ask the most basic of questions: what is the length vs. the width of this basic shape. Make a thumbnail in proportion, and you have a plan for a painting. These were a stand of trees right in front of the Carp library. 

This is a barn on Upper Dwyer, that I have painted before. On the opposite side of the road is a great field, providing challenges with it's crop patterns and one point perspective. But the mystery of this barn and so different from many, many angles. I love buildings like this, the evidence of it's history, it's purpose, the life it had/has. 

Once warmed up, I love painting these little guys, in between helping my students. I REALLY encourage not to be afraid of colour, and to play there. Case in point, with this deep turquoise paper. Another 10 minutes piece, after a week of warming up. 

The camaraderie of like minded nature loving artists. Some people just have to stand!

Thanks to Suzie for taking this quick pic. I'm glad she did, as I lost this little piece. Notice the lay of the land in the background, reflecting what is happening in the pastel painting. I'm working on a tan coloured paper, and a limited palette. Once warmed up, these little pieces take me about 10 or 15 minutes. 


Every time I teach at the JEH MacDonald House, I get a little nostalgic, and do a lot of thinking about JEH. He is one of, if not my favourite of the group of 7. Why? Because he completely and fully answered the questions all artist ask themselves. That would be to meet every curiosity that comes, and answer that curiosity in a visual format, with paint. What I mean is that JEH was very adventurous and would try anything, giving his work much scope, and sense of dynamics. The dynamics of Canada and the ever-changing, ever-varied landscape. 

I painted this a few years ago while explaining that if you paint by value, you can then use any colour at all. This is JEH's house, from the side, and in orange.

One of my students, finding his true way to his own authentic way of seeing the world. 

OK, I know the image is dark, but what a scene! The vibrancy of the pastel box, the light and shadow in the background, and a stunning image on the easel. 

The finished piece, in a better light. Yes, I have some amazing students!

Another winning piece. Thumbnail and pastel, working on my fave colour, heliotrope. Composition, values established. The rest is now easy and a pleasurable walk down colour choice. 

In pastel, we layer, from dark to light. The layers are in, and it is done. Another amazing student piece. 

And when it's raining and blustery, still life inside. Note the light on the pomegranate. 

I encourage loose, and simple compositions, so students can "play" with colour. Which is the reason we are in this medium, no?

Another other-worldly piece, based on reality right at JEH. This is a true piece of art. The artist has put himself into the art. Art, is something INSIDE of YOU!

Haven't we all had this idea? Paint the window, and don't forget the lights surrounding it. Play and fun. I relate. 

OOOOH. Look at that light! I am totally buying into that light. You must have a consistent sense of light throughout your painting. 

It is such a pleasure to teach, and observe all the wonderful quality ideas my students come up with for paintings. All paintings begin as an idea in your imagination. I encourage taking the time to ponder: what do YOU want to say in your art? What images get you the most excited? Get those ideas lined up, and reflect the richness of your life.
As I prepare to take my next group painting in Spain in just a few days, I'd like to thank all my plein air painters. Why? Because it's the most challenging, courageous type of art to make, where one must lean on their drawing and composing skills,  and believe in the power of their imagination and spontoneity. NO EASY TASK! It takes guts to paint like this, and a willingness to take risk, in order to receive freshness.
Thank you students, Toronto, Ottawa, Costa Rica, Italy, France and Spain!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Haliburton 2016

Haliburton 2016

From my High on Halliburton series,....pastel, 5" X 8"

I finally have the time to write a bit about my Halliburton experience, 2016. It was a great week, a very big class, teaching two levels at once. First, I'd like to thank all my very patient and understanding students, who allowed me to float back and forth between beginner and advanced. If it wasn't for the fortunate collective karma of this group, I certainly wouldn't have been able to manage quite so well. What an amazing talented group I had this year.

 Learning how to overlay one colour on top of another, mixing right on your paper, one element that makes pastel different from any other medium. 

The first two days of my 5 day Intro to Pastel starts out a little heavy on the information side of things. It's a lot of standing up and continually talking for me, and quite a bit of letting go, sinking into colour, and self discovery, exposure to many pastel paintings and developing taste in terms of application techniques.
While this is going on in the beginner side, my intermediate students are 1) reviewing application techniques but using them in small studies, 2) reviewing their inventory of pastels and their personal arrangements of such 3) making 2 painting of the same image, one with a very limited palette where you ahem to mix all the colours right on the page, and another of the same image, using an expanded palette. then we compare the two and decide which process allows for the most creativity, which one was most enjoyed. No right or wrong, just different ways of doing things, and choices.

Independent study, this one particularily about hard and soft definitions, when to define and when to suggest.  

By the third day of this 5 day workshop, everyone is working independently, so although it's still quite busy, it gives me more room to address everyones' needs, beginner or intermediate.

The following 7 images are examples of copies my students did during the week. I don't condone copying other peoples' work when you can't come up with you own ideas. This point of this is to keenly be able to analyze how a pastel painting was constructed, replicate the same strokes/techniques, mixing of colours, and good compositions.

It's a very positive exercise, which gives students can see their own potential.

I ask students to pick out at least 5 images they like, and I talk to them one on one about their taste, what techniques they'd use, and whether the piece in well within their drawing ability. 

We spend much time together as a group now, discussing a broad subject: what king of pastel paper, and what colour to use as you ground. Many students came up to me at the end of this day and said how much they learnt from slowing down into the process of planning their work out. No rushing allowed! Fall in love, with what you are doing. 

Once the pics are chosen, grounds (paper choice) ready, we analyze the palette and techniques used. This piece above is an excellent example of replicating effective contrasting techniques. 

I hope this student doesn't mind, but she blew my mind! At 84, this student showed unending energy. patient and well drafted drawing, and an accurate account of how the colour was put down on this piece. Excellent!

This student wasn't confident about her ability to draw, but with just a few directives, she easily had the horse in proportion ready for detail. 

My intermediate students made underpaintings,with more planned out images from their own stores. This one was done with pumice and brush marks showing. The wonderful thing about working with Underpainting is the capture of colour on colour. I so loved watching the piece evolve as the pastel covered this gorgeous underpainted palette. 

This piece was done on board, with a gesso/pumice/pastel underpainting. The texture that came out was superb, and added so much interest to a simple, yet powerful subject. 

Thanks again to everyone who took my class this year, it was an absolute pleasure. Stay tuned for announcements about teaching in the Toronto area in October-something that was discussed in class. 
Happy last days of summer everyone!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Dog Days of Summer,..........

Hey! Hello out there. It seems like such a long time since I wrote anything out there. In these dogs days of summer, I have just now come to a place where I can write something.

Pastel, The Painting Medium: Studies in Underpainting

This was a piece I have had in mind for quite a while. Theunderpainting is acrylic. I started out with more pure colour, purples, greens and blues in the middle, and shades of yellow around the main shape. I have a vision of what the finished palette will be. But the layering involved is a trial, observe, stand back process. Hopefully it will look very different when I am done. I was too busy teaching to work on this piece in class, but it is slowly taking shape this week. 

The first two weeks of July were very busy here. Week #1-Pastel, the painting medium: Studies in Underpainting. Every time I teach this class, I tell my students I wish we had a month. I do my best to cover not just the basics, but give as broad a base as possible to the choices you can make within Underpainting. The theory can get a little,…complicated. But like all creatives, we learn to just go with the flow.

One of my students pondering her next move. Working with an underpainting is like doing a puzzle. You put the pieces in you know, and then see what might happen next.

One of the more untraditional approaches to Underpainting, this students work in the middle of process has some pastel down, the foreground red has yet to be worked. This piece was a gradated two tone underpainting, working out perfectly in this piece.  

Many times, someone will come up to me and ask me if compliments are the way to go in an underpainting. This based on seeing this as an example in some instructional magazine or online.The truth is that colour contrasts many ways, and anything is a possibility. So this is how I try to approach it. 

I like to show pieces worked just a bit.  Enough to get an idea of the imagery, but with a lot of the underpainting still showing. The constant question is, how much do I cover up? Covering up the underpainting as the piece develops is half the fun. 

This piece is more finished. However, you can still see the red underpainting, and how it has an important function in the sky. The texture is amazing. 

In this workshop, we paint many underpaintings in the morning, and everyone pastels independently in the afternoon. By the end of the week, you have created several art pieces, but you also leave with many extra pieces for future use.  

Here's a more traditional approach to Underpainting. It's a monochromatic underpainting, laying out the plan for the whole picture plan: light, medium and dark. This piece is a good example of how a monochromatic underpainting provides a unifying quality to the whole piece, as you can see the burnt sienna in every part of the image.  

Acrylics: Thick and Creamy

Layer #1: a gradated underpainting using 2 colours, blue to orange. Tape is used as resist. Layer #2: Orange to blue, but the opposite way. 
This piece is not finished. Anything can now painted on top. 

The second week I was teaching my Intro to Acrylics workshop. I love the projects in this workshop. So much fun! And such a nice group of students!

The simple resist of masking tape. Who would have thought it would be so easy!

The way this workshop is set up is that some of the products are included in the price of the class. This is because acrylics, probably more than any other media, has so many different products associated with it. When a student who doesn’t know much about product goes to the art supply store to get their acrylic supplies, I can understand being completely overwhelmed. 
So I get students to just buy the absolute basics, things they are most likely to use again, and I provide the rest. That way, you are not spending big bucks on a  whole lot of specialty items you will never use again. Who says artists aren’t practical!

I call this project wet on wet. We paint right on a freshly gessoed and very wet surface. The paint slips and slides around. You can't control it. You must work with it. 

Acrylic is such a great medium, with much forgiveness built in to it’s make up. If you don’t like something, it’s fairly easy to paint right over top of anything.
It does take a bit of experience to know how it works, and to have some control over what I call paint quality. 
Acrylic is very transparent. Layering is necessary. We also get a lot of experience managing brushes, maximizing their use, manipulating edges, adjusting values through layering. 
Much to learn.
Thank you to my two full classes. I couldn’t have fit one more person in. 
What else have I been up to? A little plein air with my peeps, and some top secret art as well! Stay tuned,........

Happy summer everyone, Margaret

Friday, 13 May 2016

La deuxieme renaissance de la vendeuse des fleurs

While in Tuscany last year, I checked my Facebook one day, and saw that Ottawa artist  Pina Rennick had posted a photo of this wonderful sculpture. She was on vacation in Paris. Co-incidentally, I was  just ending my Tuscany trip and travelling shortly to Paris, to visit my friend Hana, whom many of you have seen in my paintings. I immediately e-mailed Pina to find out where she was (the flower seller), and got her location easily-Montmartre Cemetery, only a short walk from Hanas' apartment. How lucky! 
Thank you Pina!!
This was the first week of November, and there were golden maple leaves everywhere. I sat down and did some sketches, and took many photos. Passerbys gave odd  looks, as if it's weird to be sitting in a cemetery drawing these gorgeous mausoleums and sculptures. What?,  I say. 
When I first saw this sculpture I had an immediate hit to the heart,  she touched me. Her forlorn-ness, her grace, and her beauty. She intrigued me, and I felt compelled to know more about her life. That's the thing about history though. Will we ever know as much we'd like? Mystery will remain, regardless of how much I find out. 
I had to know more, and I knew instantly that this would turn into a painting for me.  

Gustave Guillaumets' flower seller, 
It didn't take much research time to find out all sorts of interesting information about this girl. The sculpture is the gravestone of artists Gustave Guillaumet, 1840-87. Noted: many charcoal sketches, in many public museums. In the last few years I have done many charcoal drawing/portraits, etc. 
Guillaume attended the Ecole national superieure des beaux Arts - Paris, and in 1860, applied for a scholarship to study at the academy of France in Rome. but was turned down. Instead, Gustave travelled to Algeria to paint. He would return to southern Algeria 10 more times, fascinated with the desert people and their way of  life. As soon as I heard Algeria, it immediately explained the clothing of the girl. At first I had though middle-eastern, but Algeria? OK.

The sculpture itself is credited to Louis Ernest Barrias, a contemporary of Gustaves, who studied at the same school. Where the story gets interesting, is upon Gustaves death, his wife commissioned Louis, to create a sculpture for Gustaves' tombstone using the study of  a young girl from Bou Sadda, Algeria, (see Gustaves' sketch just above) as inspiration. 
As a little gossipy aside, Gustave left his wife of many years, and his son, and moved in with his mistress who was many years his senior. A few weeks into living together, after an argument, Gustave shot himself in the lower regions, but didn't kill himself! He contacted his wife, and he returned home, dying some weeks later of complications to do with his wound. Still, his wife honoured him with this tombstone - an elegant beautiful sculpture created by a contemporary colleague of Gustaves', inspired by the sketch of the flower seller. 

Gustave was an artist, who was inspired by the young girl of Bou Sadda. She experienced her first renaissance from Louis, who raised her arms, and threw flowers on Gustaves' grave. Then I found inspiration from Louis' interpretation, and she lives once more, in her second renaissance, as per the title of my painting. The title is french, in honour of where the gravestone exists, in the Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, France.

And now for a little on the process used to create my painting. 
First of all,  I started with a full sheet of WC paper, and drew out the flower seller in charcoal. I couldn't wait to get to her tilted head and face. The gravestone itself, I wanted a little off centre, so as to not have a symmetrical composition. There was much detail in the background, which I would simplify to just a few trees. 

The line drawing, decisions on relationship of gravestone to sculpture to negative space. Love drawing hands and face.

Starting to add in value, charcoal and black pastel.

On the way to a full traditional monochromatic study. 

Without the complete detail, but enough of a block in of the light, medium and darks. I am ready to underpaint/overpaint. First, I use Lascaux permanent fixative, and let dry.  

Before I underpainted, a lot of imagination and thought went into what will remain in pastel, on top of the underpainting. What kind of an effect am I trying to achieve and how can the right underpainting help build depth and the desired contrast, that will enhance the effect I am trying to achieve? These are my thoughts on all underpainted surfaces. 
In this particular case, I knew I wanted a warm underpinned colour in the sky area, as the predominant finished surface would be quite cool. 

And now, I start with pastel. I found yellow maple leaves were everywhere, and the colour was a great hit of pure hue contrast with the mostly very cool and lower key palette. Also, as the painting is titled "renaissance", I decided the flowers in her hands should have some colour, adding to the harmony of the pallette, and bringing her flowers, somewhat back to life.  

As I move through the layering of the pastel, the colours and values are adjusted in smaller and smaller increments. 

In finding my voice as an artist, every once in a while, you have a moment. As it was with this piece, where the grace and elegance of this young girl encapsulates the feeling of what I would like to bring to my viewers. Peace and beauty. Elegance, my deep love for drawing, with an understated sense of colour. 
Thank you for listening. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Another Amazing Venue on the OSA,...and MARTINE!!!

Hello everyone,

                              My amazing partner in everything CostaRica is Ottawa native, Martine Racette. Martine went on vacation to Costa Rica 10 years ago and never came back!! She fell in love with the country, and is a veritable encyclopedia of information. From the animals and plants, to rainforest, politics and economy, Martine knows it all. She exudes so much love and enthusiasm for what she does, one cannot help but be affected.

The famous Duo, M&M, Martine and Margaret
Explosives in action

                               Martine is now managing Laguna Vista, an eight villa resort,  dotting the hillside leading down to the Ocean.  My group enjoyed getting to know our surroundings at the resort, by painting anywhere, having sunset drinks at each others decks looking over the Pacific, doing Yoga around an absolutely spectacular pool, or simply taking our stools to any location that provided a good composition for painting.

Room with a view,...Lagoon, and ocean view from all our decks. 

Best pool ever. We enjoyed cooling down in here and looking up at the stars every night before bed. But the best part of this is the sharing and support of being around other artists. 

Each villa graced with plunge pools to keep you cool in the jungle rainforest. Used whenever you want. Cooling, and lovely.

One of my students using a view finder to create your picture plane

                               Our Casa Grande provided us with some artifacts to paint, flowers of course, but also great vistas of the rainforest, long views of beach meeting ocean, meeting sky and many combinations therein. I did our first demo there, using local fruit and colourful placemats. I find this a great place to start because what we drew was very easy to draw, allowing us to utilize our time with more focus on pastel application techniques, and colour. I found individuals personal statements through colour came out loud and clear. Whether you are an experienced pro or a beginner, we have all been discriminating, and developing our own personal taste in colour all our lives. It is no wonder that it comes out when we truly have enough time to relax and play.

                               The local fruits that we celebrated are so beautiful too- limes (green on the outside, and a beautiful orange on the inside), pineapples, watermelon, papaya and mangos. We ate them in the morning (SOOO fresh and delicious) then painted them in the afternoon. Our paintings were already saying "Costa Rica". We're having fun, and painting becomes a pleasure, because we paint with no fear, and no judgement. That's what I teach, and where we are headed for at least.