The tight squeeze between Dent Island and Little Dent Island form these narrows that make up part of Canoe Pass Rapids. At peak tides the water flows through like a river. This view’s emphasis is on the quality of light breaking through the clouds. But even at slack tide the water still flows forming great reflecting patterns. Six hours by slow boat from Campbell River, B.C., this area is remote and spectacular!
This Diptych is a view looking back up a small spit of land in Pirate’s Cove on Decourcy Island, one of the many small Gulf Islands in south western B.C.
This evening scene is a view in Pacific Rim Natioal Park, near Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. View at Madrona Gallery, Victoria, BC
I have ambivalent feelings when finishing a painting. In some ways I’m glad to see the back of it, but a lot of my energy blood sweat & tears have gone into it and it’s a part of me. Most often, I never see them again and that makes me just a tiny bit sad. I suppose the consolation is knowing the piece is going to a place where it will be appreciated…maybe even loved.
My easel is basically a sheet of plywood hinged to a sawhorse, with the ingenious addition of two legs of a tripod that allows it to be articulated from flat to almost 90 degrees and anywhere in between. This makes the easel extremely versatile and helps a lot when I’m adding glazes of diluted paint as in this photo.
Working on a piece this big (36×48) can be a little overwhelming at times. I will often crop down to certain parts of the painting, to zero in on them so to speak in order keep me on track. This is easily done with L – shaped pieces of cardboard as in this photo
Getting there… a million details to refine!
A close up of the foreground. After several glazes of various darkish coloured paint, I start to paint details over top. This technique gives the work a certain richness and depth.
I don’t know if this happens to other artists, but I (almost) always experience an unpleasant let down in the middle of a painting. Particularly on a piece as big as this one that can take weeks to finish. I’ve come to refer to this awful time as the mid painting doldrums; days of work go by and there seems to be little if any progress (which is why I haven’t posted lately). It’s at this time I also begin to question whether this is such a great idea for a painting after all. Experience has taught me this is just a product of working on the same thing for a long time: it’s easy to lose your perspective and second guess yourself. Experience has also taught me to hang in there and remain true to your vision, things WILL get better. Just around the corner the painting starts to come together and starts looking really sharp, just the way I pictured it in my head. I can hardly wait……
This is were that colour study helps a lot. This gives me an idea of how much of what colour I’ll need where.
My usual setup is a couple of palettes, brushes, palette knives, razor blades, hair dryer, and two water cans (always gotta have clean water).
Now it’s a matter adding colour to each section. I know it sounds easy but it’s not…trust me!
For each section of the painting such as the sky, water, foreground, etc., I’ll have a separate palette. For example, on the palette at the top of this picture I’ve mixed up a blue for the sky . Along with that, I’ve added some Cobalt blue, red and white to give me all the variation I need to modulate the sky from light to dark. On the second palette I’ve mixed a warm and cool grey that will be the base of the cloud structure.
I use the same technique as with the under painting, just with colour now. I’m continuously tweaking and refining the elements of the painting.
Another palette, this one is for the foreground. Because acrylic paint dries so fast, a little trick I’ve learned is to cover my palettes with cling wrap. The paint will remain wet for days, even weeks.
Now comes the time to add colour.
Each picture in this gallery has a caption to explain what going on. Although the painting is coming along this part of the process seems to drag on. Days will go by and it seems that your making no progress – it can get a bit depressing. I call it the mid paining doldrums; you just have to suck it up and work through it.
For ease and speed, I’m using black and white gesso.
I always use my extendo-brush, which is simply a paint brush taped to a foot long piece of wooden dowel.
The benefit of the “wand” is that you can be far enough away from the painting that you can see the painting as a whole which makes it easier to keep everything in perspective.
Once the tree, which is an important element in this piece, is roughed in, I’ll trace it out on a piece of tracing paper.
In order to understand the clouds in the background, it’s easier to paint over the tree than fiddle around with trying to paint around it.
This where that tracing overlay comes in handy. Roughing the tree back in is easy and acurate.
I continue to refine the drawing. This is a fun part of the painting; I work quickly and instinctively – this part feels like the most spontaneous and creative part of the process.
This looks a bit like a Franz Kline to me…
Good enough. In a short period of time I’ve gone from a blank board to a finished cartoon.
Now comes the time to start the painting in earnest. My prefered technique is to do a relatively finished under drawing. I call it an under drawing out of habit, but it’s really an under painting. I’m not too fussy about what I use for this – usually I use whatever paint I have left over from the previous painting – as long as I have a dark tone and a light one. In the case of this piece, I’m using black and white gesso.
The object here is to rough in the major elements of the composition, then fine tune them until there’s no more guess work about what goes where. To do this I use a combination of sketches and studies I’ve done and photo reference I’ve taken of the scene.
When I’m done this stage, I have a highly resolved under painting or “cartoon”. And now it’s ready for the next step: adding colour.