Friday, February 27, 2009

wings over the rockies

red-breasted nuthatch

Coming soon: bird drawings. I have recently learned that there are a lot of birding festivals in spring, and I have been invited to produce some artwork for the Wings Over the Rockies event in the Columbia Valley this upcoming May. This little 4" Nuthatch drawing is the first in what will be a set of four small drawings of small birds. I'm not sure yet what I'll do for the larger work of larger birds. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

art from rudy's web browser

  • drawing program for the double arm amputee (no, it's not mouth painting)
  • paintings for the severely distractible
  • sculpture for the politically-correct environmentalist with an inflated sense of purpose
NOTE * Don't blame Rudy for the captions. I'm an equal opportunity offender.

Monday, February 23, 2009

weekend photos

edge of chinatownguitar shop 1

lucky red

Saturday, February 21, 2009

winter morning unfolds

I don't often paint from other peoples' photos. It's less to do with artistic integrity (and all those !?#!*! rules I mentioned in an earlier post) and more to do with the fact that I like to compose my landscape photos much like I do my paintings, so the viewfinder is as much a tool for me as a paintbrush. Occasionally someone else's photography strikes my fancy, though, and I can 'see' my own interpretation in it, though even then I find that I always make changes to better suit my evil cosmic plan.

The painting I posted yesterday was one of those. I saw the photo quite by chance on another blog that I don't normally visit and asked the photographer for permission to use it. After a long winter I was feeling like I could do the subject matter justice, though I knew I needed to lower the horizon line and move the foreground trees around to create a more dynamic composition. Early on in the process, though, I felt like I'd made a mistake. It seemed that trying to apply my high-contrast, graphic landscape style to the soft focus, pastel tones and flat landscape of Richmond Park in London was more of a challenge than I'd bargained for, and using such a strong hue as an underpainting colour a mistake when using an unfamiliar colour palette. But, without obstacles comes no learning, so I kept at it. Here's how the bottom third of the painting looked initially:

I wasn't satisfied with the way the depth-of-field was shaping up, though, so I darkened the woods and copses a bit:

The last part was easier, though blending acrylic paint with no retarder of any kind meant I had to work fast to get the gradations working:

Still I wasn't satisfied. The blue strip looked like a river rather than a different part of the meadows, so after consulting my adviser, I decided to go with it and play up the look of a frozen river with more tonal gradations. I also added detail to the foreground trees on the left and some shadows to the fluffy bush-like trees in the upper right. In the end (see below) I'm pretty happy with it as I discovered that I didn't need to alter my style radically to create a very different sort of landscape from the kind I'm used to.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Winter Morning 16" x 20"

When I opened my email this morning I first received Robert Genn's Twice-Weekly Letter, entitled 'The Art Instinct', and then the weekly
Illustration Friday, whose theme this week is 'instinct'. Weird. Bob's letter is all about the relationship between the preference for landscapes and the need to hunt for food:

The reason so many people in so many cultures prefer a landscape painting to other art is that in the Pleistocene and earlier times, pastoral images were part of finding something to eat. So suggests philosophy professor Denis Dutton in
The Art Instinct.

Coincidentally, this morning I photographed this 'pastoral image' that I completed yesterday (more on the process later). All of a sudden I have the instinctive urge to post it for
Illustration Friday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

happy valentine's day

Friday, February 13, 2009

wondering and enjoying

I was inspired by Heather's recent post to do something similar. I'm afraid to use bullets, though, after my last post. It looks OK to me in an updated version of Firefox on a pc, but does it look weird to you?

I'm wondering about the value of continuing my Small Art blog with no effort at (or plans for) marketing. I posted this yesterday anyway, but since I'm averaging only three hits a day how will I ever actually sell anything?

I'm enjoying Adam's newly-discovered passion for drama as he works on final rehearsals for his school's production of Romeo and Juliet next week. (I'm not enjoying sitting in a car in winter, waiting for the loosely-interpreted end of each rehearsal, though.)

I'm wondering about the value of spending $1400 on a new transmission for Greg's 1993 Nissan Quest when there are so many good deals out there right now. (I think we need a Honda Fit but they're not old enough to get a used one in North America yet and we can't afford to buy new or even slightly used.)

I'm enjoying this recent dry, bright weather. Last week I stepped out into my street at about 6 pm and got this shot down the hill. Who knew the industrial part of the river could look so scenic?

I'm wondering why insignificant crises (e.g. the breakdown of elderly automobiles or a child failing a class) create such anxiety but very real crises (e.g. wildfires and floods in Australia, famine and disease and government corruption in Africa) create so much calm and such heroic behaviour. Human nature stumps me sometimes.

I'm enjoying Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

I'm wondering why people who read dogs well are often so lousy at reading people. Jesse is a very manly little dog and with that studly alphaness around other dogs (no, he's not neutered yet and it's not my call) comes training issues. Assuming all service dog puppy raisers are nincompoops and answering very real concerns with "they're all like that" and "don't let him get away with anything" is not helping the puppy raiser (yes, me) or the dog.

I'm still enjoying lolcats and loldogs every day. I always know where to go to lift my spirits when they're at a low ebb (like right now).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

studio update

  • These are two of four pieces going up to Effusion Gallery's Elements show starting on Saturday.
  • Then, in March, a couple of my paintings will be at Sopa Fine Arts' U8 exhibition in Kelowna.
  • Locally, my work will be featured at North Delta's Gallery North in May. (Thanks to Barbara's jet-setting ways a space opened up.)
  • I will be jurying artSpacific, Delta's annual open-invitation juried exhibition to be held in May at the Firehall Centre for the Arts, 11489 84th Avenue, North Delta.

Friday, February 06, 2009

more art outside the box

Want to know more? Click on the photos.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

never say never

I'm not a purist. I respect artists (and others) who faithfully adhere to rigid principles of integrity because they have drawn a distinct line in the sand and are clear about their reasons for the existence of that line. Not me. You'll never hear me lecturing about never using an eraser when drawing, never working from photos, never using pure black or mixing with white, never using a projector or, heaven forbid, Photoshop. Ever notice how proper rules of conduct in the art world always contain the word never?

Breaking the rules is the surest way I know to make breakthroughs and expand creativity. Nobody ever invented something new by listening to those who whined, "But it's always been done this way!" Certainly Damien Hirst didn't get to where he is by toeing the line. He even employs others to do all his creative gruntwork and I, for one, applaud his audacity (and his bank account).

The big brou-ha-ha these days is the controversy over artists who have giclee (digital inkjet) prints made of photos and then paint directly over top, like a paint-by-number, creating hyper realistic art. Or is it art? A few days ago I did my own little experimentation with a similar idea. During our endless fog this winter I photographed a lot of trees and saw that by altering a particularly two-dimensional 'capture' in Photoshop with the cutout tool, I could create an interesting graphic image. (It's the first image in this post.) Next thing I knew I wanted to paint it, so I made a black and white laser print and adhered it to an 8" x 10" wood panel. When it was dry I sealed the panel with acrylic matte gel medium. Then I painted this over the top:

And it was fun! There was an almost zen-like zoning out that was required for me to stick to the script, but I was still able to use a number of the techniques I usually use when painting landscapes, plus experiment with colour as much as I wanted. Is it cheating or just a different road to the same destination? I finished a long way from where I started that day, freezing me arse off in the cold with my camera.

I pondered this question with my artist friend, John, and he pointed out to me that Maxfield Parrish "...literally pasted photographs of his models straight to the canvas and painted right over them. The illusion was wonderful, an early attempt at modern super realism." So much for my own attempts at innovation. Parrish took the idea and ran with it whereas I'm just learning to walk. I've heard that you should never run before you walk, though, so what now?