I’m working on this small portrait using only two colours (ultramarine blue and burnt sienna) and titanium white. It’s 6×6″ so I’m doing a lot of small brush work, really enjoying capturing the wonderful light across her face.

Portrait (in process June 15, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6"
Portrait (in process June 15, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 6 x 6″

Ferns: Layers, Details, and Complexity

I’ve been taking photos around the house and in the backyard, thinking that I might use them for paintings.

I chose one of the ferns behind our house for this painting. It’s been a challenge! I have often thought “this is an ugly beast”.

It is a difficult image compared to the two paintings of birds that I did recently. There are less areas of contrast, less obvious depth, and it has lots of extremely detailed shapes rather than simpler forms.

But now the piece is starting to take shape. Here are some in-process shots of the piece, still in the works:

Ferns (in process, May 22, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20"
Ferns (in process, May 22, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20″


Ferns (in process, June 4, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20"

Ferns (in process, June 4, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20″

Ferns (in process, June 11, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20"
Ferns (in process, June 11, 2015), acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20″




It’s done!

Robins (2015), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11″
Robins (2015), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11″

I added a few finishing touches to the feathers in the nest, the red and orange in the beak, and some definition of the closest bird’s head, and pushed the second and third robins into the background. Now I think it’s done.

It’s Time to Paint!

I’m taking another art class at the Guelph School of Art – Open Studio with Jessica Masters – and it’s fantastic. Jessica and I have been talking a lot about colour. All facets of the topic:

  • Using temperature to play with depth
  • Colour mixing basics (I need this!)
  • Ways to bring a painting past the 95% mark: using unifying colours, punching up  contrast, and using warm and cool colours to enhance adjacent colours

Here is an in-process shot of what I’ve been working on:

Robins painting in process
Robins (2015), acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11″


Rabbits and Dancing Bears

Here are four drawings that I did today.

These friendly forest creatures were fun to draw – I think it’s in their nature. But also, these guys have been a part of my mother’s house for years and so they really remind me of home and it’s nice to meditate on their form, line and character.

Owl in Black Ink

Last night I did some exploratory drawings of a barred owl, using pencil and black ink applied by brush.

At first glance, the shape of the owl is very simple. So simple, that it’s a bit of a challenge to get it down.

When I look at the details, there is so much complexity in the feathers and the branches and leaves behind the bird. That part was really fun: choosing and playing with the black marks that slowly begin to give the drawing it’s character.

Here are my first couple charcoal sketches (photos were taken today in the sun – clearly!):




Some quick searching ink drawings:





In one of my last drawings of the evening I did a pencil sketch under the ink to block in the shapes and composition.


Developing a Practice

I’ve decided to look into ideas for building routine, practice, familiarity, and skill when it comes to drawing. Maybe a little practical thinking is good for the artist!

I have been drawing (to greater and lesser extent) for at least 25 years and have noticed a real slow down when there was no structure guiding me. I think it’s a common challenge that students face after graduation, or when the art class is over.

Some kind of exercise and routine is essential for me developing a work practice, and it needs to be frequent, if not daily.

I read a reflection of the value of contour drawing as a warm-up exercise, by Marvin Bartel of Goshen College in Indiana. Contour drawing – with pencil moving slow as an ant – can be done regularly to build confidence and skill, even at a young age. These kind of exercises feel like home.

Here is a short excerpt from Bartel’s writing:

When first and second graders learn observation skills, they are less apt to have a crisis of confidence in the third grade when they begin to recognize the crudeness of their own work. Unfortunately, many children and adults have never been taught this simple secret of learning to draw. Many still think that drawing is an inborn talent rather than a skill that has been learned by practice.

Here is one of my blind contour drawings:

Blind contour drawing of dancing bears
Dancing bears

Flowing Ink, Chicory and Gesso

Last night was the first class of From Drawing To Painting with Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka at the Guelph School of Art.

It felt good to be in the presence of Grazyna. Creativity and understanding of art is radiating from her, in her words as she led the class, and in the art work that she chose to show us at the start of the evening.

We started off using black ink, gesso and a brown mid-tone made from chicory on paper. I stayed in the medium for the first drawing which I posted here. For the next few drawings I resorted to drawing from memory rather than the apple that Grazyna brought in. Needless to say, the apple and the light shining off it and giving it shape and colour was more inspiring than my memory.


Drawing Water Ways

Over the last week or so, I made five portraits for Water Ways, a video by Sarah Anderson.

The drawings were based on photos that we found through social media, aside from the pic of Nii Addico taken by photographer Marjorie Clayton. And I took the photo of Hailing. The drawings were done using 2H pencil on paper.

This was a nice project for many reasons. One of which is that these sketches helped me to get back into drawing, re-familiarize myself with my eyes. It was also an opportunity to work with Sarah (my wife), and with my brother-in-law Chris Henschel who edited and animated the video.