Wednesday, 14 December 2016

I've never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music,............

It all started with Gaudi.
 He was my inspiration going to Barcelona. Sagrada Familia was the priority, and it did not disappoint. Gaudi was a devout Catholic. He wanted this church to be a spiritual experience for anyone who entered. I've never seen anything like it. Some of his other buildings, with curvacious walls in light stone reminded me of Douglas Cardinal, our own Canadian genius architect. 

Interior view of the ceiling inside Sagrada Familia, Gaudis' crowning piece of architecture.


Ciutadella Park reminds me of the Tuilleries in Paris. Very stately beautiful park. Barcelona is walkable, with exciting things to see and do at every turn.

When you don't have time to paint it, photo it for later reference. A nice walk through the University of Barcelona.

Arco de Triumfo de Barcelona. Stately, huge and different, but just as gorgeous as the other one.

We enjoyed flying as a group to Palma, Mallorca. Here's the view from the plane of the Tramuntana Mountains, which became our cloud and sun covered friends every morning as we collaborated with the great outdoors. 


This retreat center was very well designed, equipped, a pleasure to enjoy for our week of painting.

Here's some captures of Le Serrania by my students:

One of the very old out buildings on the property. Cypress trees everywhere!

After the rain, the walk to everyones' rooms, kind of like adobe. 

Nice welcoming to the front entrance. Beautiful stone and plants everywhere. Someone has put a lot of time into some artful gardening here. 

Liz has captured those curvy lively tress on the property. 

St. Vincent, the photo
I couldn't write this post without one picture of the incredible BLUE of the Mediterranean. This was out first painting location, St Vincent. 

St. Vincent, the painting
Although I usually teach pastel, anyone is welcome to use any medium they like on my trips, and it isn't unusual to have a watercolourist or two in the group. No problem!

Some nice renditions (last 2) of same scene, St. Vincent

The Mountains of Mallorca were SO incredibly deep, layered and just beautiful. Awe inspiring. The Meditarranean is just beyond the last layer of mountains. 

These incredible rock formations got bigger and bigger as they got to the coast. No shortage of spectacular coastal scenery here!

We visited Cap Formentor on the windiest of days. However, I think it's always windy here, and not a great painting locale for practical reasons (wind!!!!), but what scenery! Lots of pics!!

Here's Miriam finding a great spot to paint near Coves de Campanet. Note the nice light/shade set up here. 

The results. 

Victor is inspired and writing away after Wendy divulges her latest poem. Wendy is my poet is residence on many of my trips.  

Betty mid-creation. practical, with apron and hat. 

Liz, getting her thumbnails down pat, and multi-tasking as she also soaks up the sun.

Barb, hard at work. Gorgeous scenery in the background, and everywhere you looked!

Who could forget the Paella demonstration, or eating it! Absolutely delicious. 

One day we hiked up this hill opposite the town of Pollensa, and had many breathtaking views to paint. If I ever get the chance to go back, I'll definitely plan to spend a whole day up there, with 365 degrees view of the surrounding area.  This photo is just one viewpoint of many.

Imaginative use of colour on these old, old stone buildings. 

Barb has perfectly captured the day, the light.

Pastel by Ferraro, from Coves de Campanet. Cypress trees abundance abound. 

Janet paints one of many grand doors, seeking the texture of different surfaces. Also painted at Coves de Campanet. 

A very breezy day by the sea, the usual suspects. Thank you to everyone who came on this wonderful trip. Also thank you once again to Angus and Tania of Chirriposa Retreats, who planned, lead, cooked, drove and just generally took such good care of us. 

Where next? Costa Rica January 28- February 5th, and then back to Tuscany in August of 2017 with Angus and Tania!! Stay tuned for more information on this. 
Check it out here:

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!