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!