Please click on paintings to view larger.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nancy Crookston Workshop

8x10" workshop study

Learning from the master - Nancy giving a helping hand

Just spent 3 days at a Nancy Crookston workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a fabulous painter and a total sweetheart! She studied with Sergei Bongart (a Russian master who you should really check out if you haven't seen his work) over a 4 year period when she was learning to paint, and the classical rules of painting he taught her have stayed with her as some of the most valuable lessons of her career.

The main thrust of her teaching was color, and the importance of seeing it correctly in relationship to it's surroundings. How the same 'red' becomes warmer/cooler - lighter/darker depending on what it is next to.  That, and that the key to a strong painting is to determine the correct colour, value and temperature, block these in in large abstract masses, begin modeling and further refining these 3 things, and then finish with the "calligraphy of light and dark accents".

Of course there was lots more, but this was the big important stuff, and she LOVES to lose edges so we got to see a lot of that in action which was awesome.

Also got in 3 days of plein air work pre-workshop and got to check out the Oil Painters of America National show which was outstanding. All in all a great trip, and am now leaving this hot, sunny desert to fly into Calgary where there is a severe winter storm warning in effect. Hmmmm...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Diving into the Deep End

"Lemon Study" original oil 6x6"

This will be my last still life post for a while as I have a new and different project on the go. I've been feeling a desire lately to do something that requires discipline, commitment and single minded focus - and will hopefully advance my painting skills. On April 9th, I began a quest to paint 100 plein air paintings in 100 days. Not one a day necessarily, but 100 in a 100 day period.  I've chosen plein air because that is where I feel my painting will most benefit at this time, 100 paintings because I'm fairly certain that's a good number to figure out some things I haven't yet, and 100 in a 100 because I like the ring of it.

So far it has been immensely challenging, and wonderful to spend so much time out in the mountains painting. If you are interested in following as these paintings come to life, please check back or enter your email at the right (if you're not already subscribed to my blog) to be notified as they are posted. I will begin posting them one a day starting on May 1st.

Leaving tomorrow for Scottsdale, AZ to do a few days of plein air in the desert and take a 3 day Nancy Crookston workshop. I have wanted to study with Nancy for some time now, so I'm really looking forward to the trip!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


"Peruvian Treasure" original oil 6x6"

(For purchase info click here)

I've been thinking lately about something I once learned that changed my outlook on this game of becoming a better painter. I'm sure I will find many like-minded souls when I say that sometimes it feels like I just keep on painting with no great sense of improvement in my work. It can be very discouraging at times, but a few years ago I read something that cleared a lot of this crazy thinking up. The REASON it sometimes feels I am making no forward progress isn't that I'm not - it's how I'm thinking about it.

If you are like me, you are always looking ahead, at the kind of painter you want to be, and no matter how good you get, you will always want to get better. When I look back however, even just a couple of years,  the picture is very different. Looking this way, it is so clear that I am always making progress. Instead of comparing my work to where I want to get to with it, especially on down days, I try to compare it to where I have come from, which never fails to encourage me and inspire me to tackle the next challenge. Whether I win a particular round or not - in the end it's all progress forward.

Just like walking down a long (lifetime long) road, one never gets to the horizon, because it just keeps unfolding ahead of you, not a fixed point to arrive at, but instead a lofty goal to keep aiming for.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


"Lake Oesa" original oil 6x6"

Lake Oesa (Yoho Provincial Park, British Columbia) is one of my favorite alpine lakes, it has wonderful swings and sways of strata flanking it that I strive to capture each time I paint it.

On the subject of discipline - it can be very tricky business for an artist, because there are so many areas where it's required.  I often feel that I am not disciplined enough, but this is mostly when I think that the time I spend actually painting is the only time I'm working. The rather long list of other jobs that are a part of this business somehow don't seem to count. It's like some part of me feels that all real artists do is paint, and get someone else to do all the other stuff for them. Any takers? :-)

But back to the point, the discipline I'm talking about is in perfecting my craft, and I do feel I don't spend  enough time doing this. This feeling has been rearing it's particular ugly head a lot lately as I have been watching more and more really competent, talented artists showing up on Facebook. (If you're afraid of FB, you should really consider jumping in, as a networking tool for artists it's great. Like blogging only different, with a much vaster reach). Some of these artists are doing exquisite work, so inspiring to observe (and deflating, but that's about the dangerous game of comparison,  a topic for another day). Today is about discipline, and these guys have me motivated to really raise my bar.

I'm cooking up a project which I will post once I have sorted out the details, but it is going to involve tremendous discipline, tons of exercise swinging a brush, and a chance for my collectors to acquire small original landscapes at a really good price for a very limited time. It will also include an invitation for artists to join in the challenge, if you dare.

In the meantime, please check out some of these fabulous artists' work, it's well worth the time spent:
Marc Hanson
Vince Giarrano
Suchitra Bhosle
Logan Hagege

On another note, Jean Sullivan sent me a link to this TED talk on genius by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's entertaining and interesting, about 20 minutes long.