Aug 27, 2015

Do You Have Tension in the Workplace?


A little Tension can be good.
I don't mean an all out battle, although there are plenty of those in the studio.  You know, you start the picture feeling excited and happy with great plans then suddenly everything changes.  The values don't work, colours fall apart and what happened to that great composition?  Those battles are always there.

But Tension is a different thing!

It is more a sense of suspense. The feeling of being stretched or straining against something. A sense of movement and excitement.
Tension is sometime you need!

Check out the swans enjoying a bit of sun and preening themselves.  Drying off from the rain.  Swans are about purity, grace and beauty.  There is a sense of calmness to them.  A picture of swans becomes a relaxing massage: soothing, soft and silky. As a Wildlife Artists, designing compositions with animals can be a challenge.  Often you can only catch the animals when they are relaxing, grazing or sleeping.  Not facing death defying challenges.  The results can end up being a nice picture but lacking that sense of excitement.  That tension.

On the River - detail 

So . . . 
Bring on the tension!

On the River - Watercolour - 9 x 15

Adding the stump, brings on the excitement.  Your eye still runs over to the swans. Yes, they do make interesting shapes and don't you love their colours.  Their silhouette are very powerful with the water but wait,  What is that beside them? Your eye is drawn to the darken roots of the tree they are standing on.  It has a good look around the roots but then takes a slide. The light on the trunk catches the eye and slides it s along the trunk and back to the swans. The circle begins again. Makes for quite a lot of visual tension. 

I saw this pair of Trumpeter Swans on one of my trips last fall to Riefel Bird Sanctuary.  It was a cloudy, dreary wet day.  ( Okay, I did push the values a bit to bring on the sun. But really, they had had enough rain and I felt they needed to feel the warm sun.)  They had been feeding in the marsh and were a bit muddy as well.  Trumpeter Swans are one of our winter visitors, stopping here to rest on their migratory trip.  Some will even stay all winter when we have a mild one. 

So when next you are in the studio: 
Fight your battles but get some tension in your pictures. 

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Have a good day, 

Aug 20, 2015

Inspiration for only 10 Dollars?!


It's your Chocolate Fix.

You can't really say it is a necessity but without Chocolate . . .
Well you really don't want to go there!

Inspiration does not come in a fancy wrapper. You can't run down to the corner store and get some. So finding it and keeping it can be hard.

A sure fire way to get inspired is to try something new. Step out of your studio.  Look at new things. Meet new people. Lots of neat little art events are happening in communities everywhere and they are full of inspiration.  I was involved with a great event last weekend at Kilby Historic Site, Harrison Mills - a 3 day Plein Air Festival. Only $10 to participate.

 Inspiration was Everywhere!!

Farm animals were the first thing that really caught my eye.  Many were happy to 'sit still' so you could grab a sketch.

Others like these pigs were not quite as obliging.  I did the next best thing - photographed them for future work!!

It wasn't just the farm animals that caught my eye, the old barns and machinery was crying out to all of us.

But the big Challenge was Jake. 
For the Festival, Kilby had a model dressed in period clothing and set up with the old apple press.  

Setting up the Apple Press

Taking a Break
Jake was very patient and sat for us as we carefully worked  away.  He was new to the modelling thing and yet having 6 women carefully studying and painting him didn't phase him a bit. 

Inspiration flows from the subjects but there was even more. 
The company of other artists. 

Wondering the grounds, taking a break, having lunch and working - there was always another artist not too far away.  Ideas and stories were flying and laughter was in the air.  I met many new artists as well as caught up with a few friends.  Checking out everyone's 'set up' and their work was so much fun.  Some created a single masterpiece while others completed several pictures during the event. 

Not all was a bed of roses.  

Don't forget, this was a Plein Air Festival. Everything is outside. 
We did have a few problems.  Well, they weren't that big.  

When the lightening flashed and the thunder rolled it didn't really rain.  We only had a smattering of drops.  Kilby had several portable tents which we quickly moved into place and kept on working. Of course this included a heavy dose of laughter as things were jostled into place. We were lucky, the real rain didn't happen until we went home.

But Inspiration needs More.  
Good Food and Creative Atmosphere. There was lots of that and very close by. The Kilby Cafe, right on site, has a great lunch and of course my favourite, pie.  On Sunday, we had a wonderful roast beef luncheon, (I only had the half order and that was enough for me) prize awards and lots more time to gab with artists.  And the Staff was wonderful.  They really made us all feel welcomed and our talents appreciated.  (Having your ego stroked can really help your creativity!)  A special thank you to Meghan, Marian and Jo-anne for keeping things together. 

If you missed this event don't worry.
 Kilby is open daily through to Sept 7 and weekends to Dec 6.  Inspiration is waiting there for you.  For you city folk the chance to spend time in a rural setting is priceless.  If you are driving out from Vancouver, I love to leave the freeway at Abbotsford, cross the Fraser River and travel from Mission through the farmland on the old Lougheed Highway (No. 7).  The slough at Deroche is great for eagle sighting in the fall but offers wonderful views the rest of the year. 

My Plein Air days are not over yet, I still have one more painting trip up on the Shuswap Lakes and a 3 Day Plein Air Festival at Gibsons in September.  You know I will have lots of material from that to keep me busy all winter in my studio.  The rains and snow may fall this winter but I will be warm and inspired inside!!

So get out there, Get Inspired.

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Have a good day,

Aug 16, 2015

OMG!! This is a Razzle Dazzle Triple Chocolate Brownie


You know the feeling.

You take that bit of the Triple Chocolate Brownie, you feel the soft gooey center, surrounded with luscious dark chocolate. But there is a hint of something else!  It makes everything sooooooo good.

Sometimes that happens in the studio and it is so exciting. You start to work, things are perking.  The colours are blending nicely, strokes going on well.  A great baking session is happening. You know you have another Triple Chocolate Brownie on the way.  

Then you step back and look. Things are Really Good.  You can feel it. This picture is special; this is a Razzle Dazzle Triple Chocolate Brownie!
GENTLE - 12 X 16 - Graphite

Want to make a Razzle Dazzle Triple Chocolate Brownie?  You have done it before but somehow it doesnt always happen. And that is alright.  Not every picture will reach the Razzle Dazzle level but Triple Chocolate Brownies are nothing to laugh at.  They are wonderful.   However to make something new things have to change. Try a different colour, brush, subject, or place, doesnt have to be big.  Just give things a shake. 

For Gentle, the change was the paper.  It isnt paper.  It is a drawing film.  But man does it change things up.  The texture, the blending, the crosshatching, they all have a different touch.  The contrast between them is exciting. 

Okay, I know it is my grandson again but who could resist the subject.  I caught this candid shot of him with our neighbour's cat, Alvin. He is a friendly cat and went over to say hi to Liam.  Liam just reached down, gave him a gentle touch and then the two of them moved on. A gentle moment.

I know you want to know all about working with this film.  I talked about it a bit when I tried coloured pencil on it.  (see my March 2015 Post - How to have fun with Colour Theory  The coloured pencil worked great.  Vivid, clean marks.  It also allowed blending of colours.  When I saw that I knew I had to try graphite.  While we were camping I gave it a go.

Here is the scoop:

Working with graphite on the film was very easy when I wanted dark marks.  I could easily blend and build my dark tones.  Problems occurred when I was searching for the soft tones. I tried harder and harder pencils as I could not get my touch soft enough.  (That has never been a problem for me.  Usually it is my darks I can't get dark enough!) I was finally using a 6Hpencil to work on his shorts to get the lighter values. 

The skin tones were another story!!  No pencil for them.  I used a blender and a soft paintbrush to get the soft subtle tones. A toddler's face, can have no hard edges. You know what happens, an instant Old Man.  That was a challenge!!  Even with a blender.  I found I used the paintbrush to put graphite on but also to take it off and smooth it out.  It definitely made the difference!! 

Erasing can be deceiving.  Yes, it comes off.  No, you will never get back to clear. But its very hard to control.  It takes pressure to remove a mark so more comes off than you want. Reworking becomes the name of the game.

Did I like it? Totally.
I loved the way I can create that beautiful contrast in the texture.  Not only does my cat come alive but my little person does too.  ( you probably looked at the person first but I do love my animals)   I am sure once I work with it more I will work out the kinks.

So . . . 
Change things up.  
Get your  Razzle Dazzle Triple Chocolate Brownie underway.

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Have a good day,

Aug 6, 2015

Beware: 5 Health Hazards of Plein Air Painting!!!


Yes I know, You think I am crazy!

What could possibly be bad about Plein Air Painting??

Fresh clean air

 relaxing atmosphere

away from the hustle and bustle of life

Being "At One with Nature" !!
I am tucked in close to the cliffs, out of the wind but note that foot!!
I have just got back from a 3 weeks trip, painting up a storm: 
on the beach
 in the forest
 on the bluffs
 painting everywhere!!

However, You will be amazed at the Hazards!!

Part of the problem I think is that artists are crazy people.  As artists you get all excited at some of the goofiest things: the light falling on the water; waves pounding on the beach; the tall, old growth firs standing quietly on the trail.  You grab your gear, set up and start to work.  Your family knows you are lost for hours, maybe even days!! 

But are you prepared??

1.    Sunburns - (Probably the first thing you would think of) Even if you start in the shade the light will change and sooner or later you are in the sun.  I am usually pretty careful: hat, long sleeves, shady spot but watch out for your feet. I was working away and quickly shifting when my work was in the sun but who thinks of your feet!  My sandal feet got burnt!!

I was lucky when I worked on this forest scene - no mosquitoes!!  
2.    Bug Bites - I am more a spring to fall Plein Air painter so the bugs are out when I am out!! You never know when those guys will get you.  Again, those sandaled feet, sitting on a log and painting; who knew there were such things as sand fleas!!  Later, Sitting on the rocks, surf is pounding in, painting a lighthouse.  Medium breeze off the water so no bugs right?  Well, except for the few hiding behind my ears out of the wind!! Let me tell you, their bite meant business!!

3.    Eye Strain - This is an issue - Sunglasses or no Sunglasses?  I am in the sunglasses camp.  When I paint, I am usually there for hours and the glare off the paper and the scenery can be brutal. Yes, I do agree that sunglasses change your colour perspective a bit.  Definitely not the time to have those rose coloured glasses.  I find if I start the picture with sunglasses it is better to finish it with them.  That way the colours are consistent!!

Yes that is Rusty sitting on my lap.  This weekend he turns 19.  He still likes to curl up and keep me company when I paint.  However, he sleeps for more than 1.5 hours now!!  We were both in trouble!!

4.    Muscle Strain - So easy to do!!  You find your spot, set up and you are away!!  Who pays attention to time!  You are in The Moment!!  Hours can fly by and you haven't really moved.  Your arms, back and feet can scream their head off but you know what it's like.  "I will just finish this spot, then break, wait, I need to darken that spot, okay, no that line is too sharp . . ." 
I have been lucky.  My dog Rusty, paints with me.  Either on my lap if I am sitting or at my feet.  He has a 1.5 hr limit and then he says we need to stretch.  He is soooooo right!!
Easy to forget time here!!
5.     Heat Stroke/Frost Bite/Dehydration - Again this is so easy to do!!  Remember, we are in The Moment!!! Am I thirsty? Cold? Hot? Who thinks of these things when the light is changing!! The excitement of moving in on a picture is all you feel.  Then suddenly you are done, you step back to admire your work and OMG!!!  "I am cooking and I haven't had a drink for hours!!"  Like I said, part of the problem is Artists are crazy people!!

      Of course there are more hazards: bear bits, cougar attacks, . . .  When Rusty got restless and wanted to go I realized the coyotes were vvvvvvvery close!
  (Actually I realized they had been making a noise for some time, I just hadn't really paid any attention)   We got out of there very quickly!! 
Douglas Firs on the Trail - 5 x 7 - Ink

BUT despite the hazards the adventure is worth it!!

Spending time observing and painting life is and experience like no other.  Every picture definitely has a story!!
Rough Waters - 3 x 7 - Watercolour

Head out and paint but remember, like any outdoor adventure you need to be prepared!!
Tell me about some of your adventures.
Have a great day,

See Lots more info on my  Plein Air Page