October 13, 2017

If You Would Just Hold Still!

"Temperate Paradise" !2X9" oil on mounted canvas

I have had a wonderful summer of painting outdoors - from ocean islands to golden aspen covered hills, hidden creeks and white sand beaches.  What a grand adventure.

I wanted to show you this recent plein air study from my trip up into the Great Bear Rainforest in July.
Shorelines, wet sand, moving water....these are things I am endeavouring to learn to paint well en plein air, and they
are difficult because they are always moving.   It is both daunting and delicious.

Not long ago, I had a student in a plein air class taking pictures of the landscape with her Ipad and then, standing at her easel,  she disregarded the landscape before her and started painting from the image on her Ipad.  When I questioned her on her choice, she said she was doing it this way because "It is so much easier".  Well, I couldn't argue with that logic.

What she was missing was the experience of being in the place.  She was painting a moment frozen in time rather than the living, breathing, moving thing before her.   "You need to learn to embrace the technology" she commented after I  had questioned her.   Of course, I was thinking the opposite - "you need to let go of the technology and just be right here, right now".

I find it hard often to part with these studies ( of course I do, as making sales is making a living)  because they are a journal, a diary, a record of an experience.  When I view them, I remember everything about the day... who I was with, the sounds of the seabirds and ocean, the sunburn on my sandaled feet, the scents floating on the air.  I even remember what specifically I struggled with on the canvas, as well as where I triumphed.    It transports me, and if I do an especially good job I have the opportunity to perhaps transport the viewer as well, to a place they have been, and we share the experience together.

Plein air season in Canada is drawing to a close, but I have soaked up the summer, and feel expanded, full, satisfied.  In returning to studio painting for the winter, all of these studies will serve to inform my larger works.  There are also surprises in how my skill sets have increased after all the painting from life.   I embrace the technology to share these experiences with you, fellow painters!

Before I sign off, I wanted to let you all know that I will be conducting a studio class where students will work on their own pieces at their own pace with personalized coaching from me.  Here is the info:

Title:  Studio Thursdays
Location:  Gallery 204, Langley BC
Dates:  November 2,9,16,23,30 and Dec 7
Price: $350 
Time: Thursday afternoons from 12:00 noon till 4 pm

Please email me if you are interested at gayemadams@gmail.com.  


June 12, 2017

Raising the Bar

plein air study, Chilliwack 8X10" oil on mounted canvas

I am teaching plein air workshops quite frequently these days, and loving it.

The feedback I get from students is that painting on location takes everything they've got - energy, concentration, determination bringing all the skill sets they possess.  So why do something that is so hard?
Well, that is the very reason to do it.

I know that I am throwing students into the deep end of the pool, but I also know that that is where the greatest learning is.  Without challenge, muscles don't get stronger.   Everything that you don't know about painting becomes glaringly obvious when you are painting from life, and that can be uncomfortable.  But growth most often is uncomfortable.

I started working en plein air at the same time I returned to painting small daily paintings and working live from the model.  I felt, after a career spanning several decades, that I was no longer progressing as a painter, or at least that my growth had slowed down, so I raised the bar for myself by creating a greater challenge.  I believe it has very noticeably increased my skills.  Studio work seems to be easier as a result.   Here's what has shifted for me since I have started working more from life:

          1.  My concentration has increased
          2.  My eyes are better trained - I see value and color relationships quickly and easily
          3.  Design skill have improved remarkably
          4.  Greater authenticity in my studio work - deficiencies in photo references are often remedied by knowledge gained from observation from life.

In addition, I have had some amazing experiences.  Being still and in one spot for a day allows you to become a part of the landscape, waves lapping, birch trees whispering, birds singing.   One time I actually had a small bird come and briefly perch on the end of my brush!

If you want some plein air coaching, I have a workshop coming up in here in the Fraser Valley.  Particulars are as follows:

Location: Langley and surrounding area
Cost: $350
Dates: July 6,7,8 and 9
Contact: gayemadams@gmail.com
Phone 250-804-5295

Come on out and share a time of learning and adventure.  If you are new to painting on location, no worries....I'll make sure you learn what you need to get rolling.   It would be my joy to share the adventure with you.

Happy painting,


January 16, 2017

The Importance of Nuance

Cold Day, Warm Light, oil on canvas, 9X12"

 Oh my great gosh was it cold out this day!    My fingers were freezing and I only got to take one shot before my phone said "no more - too cold to function".   I was cross country skiing in -23, and I was finding it too cold to function also.  You guessed it - this was NOT painted plein air.  Too cold, not just for me, but for the oil paint which becomes tar-like in these kinds of temperatures!  The reference was taken up Hudson Bay Mountain in beautiful Smithers BC where I am currently visiting my good friend Poppy.

  We have been discussing the importance of nuance in painting, and this piece seems like a good study in that, so I thought I would share our discussion with you.

The ability to see and to paint nuance in visual art,  is developed over many many hours of practice.   It comes after all the "big" information, like the placement of large shapes, drawing,  and value and color relationships in the large areas.  It  often makes the difference between a mediocre result and a much stronger result.

  In a painting like the small study above, the small distinctions between values and colors that are close together are pivotal in creating a strong sense of light.   Here, a slight bump towards violet, or gold, or blue to describe the relationships in the shadows and the light was important to translate; also the changes from soft edges to slightly harder edges were key.

Bounced light has to have a value that keeps it in the shadow family, although sometimes just barely.  It changes temperature every time it changes plane.  Edges get slightly softer in the shadows as they move away from the object that is casting them.  Little things, important things.  I love doing little studies to explore the possibilities and sharpen my perceptions.

In only a few weeks  I leave the frozen north and journey to the sunny climes of Santa Barbara, CA.  If you want to come painting with me in a warmer climate, please email me and I will send the details.   The sun is warm, the beaches and bluffs are stunning and the instruction should be ok too, lol.  I have four spots left as of today.

What:  Plein Air Painting in Santa Barbara
Price: $300 US for four days
Dates:  Feb 11,12, and 18,19 with a bonus paint out day Feb 15.
Contact: gayemadams@gmail.com

November 6, 2016

Keep it Simple !

My Croatia tour was wonderful!  The weather, the people, the students - I had an amazing time.  And painting wise, it was a target rich environment.

This little study was done on sight in Orevic, a small coastal village in Croatia.  We tumbled off the Korcula ferry and painted in this small village on two separate days.  Figures in paintings are not my typical subject matter, but the sun was very warm, so we sought out shady spots, and this is what presented.

I have always found it quite fascinating, this process of editing down when plein air painting.  Less IS always more.  To paint everything is not possible, but if you edit down to the essential elements, the eye and the human brain seems to take great delight in figuring out the details for themselves.

In a previous blog entitled "The Devil is in the Details"  I discussed this concept of editing down, particularly on location, because of having a very limited amount of time to paint.  In this quick study you can see how detail is suggested as opposed to being rendered literally.  Big shapes are accurate, small shapes are limited and abstracted - and it reads.

As fall sets in, my memories are taking me back to those sun - drenched shores, and painting adventures that included cappucinos, more than a few cold beers, and the company of some wonderful painters.  I'll post a few sunny paintings in the weeks to come to help keep you warm. :)

Meanwhile, back in Canada, I will be doing a warm, indoor painting workshop entitled "Oils, Fast and Fresh".  It will be all about making light filled paintings indoors, painting wet in wet oils.  The information is below:

What:  Oils Fast and Fresh
Where:  Gallery 204, Langley BC
When:  Dec 2,3, and 4th
Cost: $275
Class limit: 12
contact: gayemadams@gmail.com
cell: 250-804-5295

Paint on pilgrims!

August 10, 2016

Capturing the Light

This is my most recent studio piece, a 30X40" oil of a scene captured in the Great Bear Rain Forest, northern BC. I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk to you  creating the illusion of light.

I often hear this question from students:  "Why can't  I get the light into my paintings?".  It is what many artists yearn for and often find baffling.  There is this wonderful alchemy that can created by the juxtaposition of paint mixtures on canvas that can create the amazing illusion of light.

 I have good news and bad news for those of you that pose this question.  The good news is that capturing the illusion of light in your paintings is really pretty simple.  The bad news is that simple does not mean easy.

Light dances, bounces and leaps.  It is the most ephemeral of elements in the landscape. It describes form, atmosphere, and surface within the structure of your painting.  Here's the simple part:  get the color, value, and temperature relationships right, and you have captured the light.  Viola.  Presto.  Abracadabra.

Here's the part that is not easy:  you have to get them VERY right.  Comparing the relationships between these elements and transferring those observations on to your canvas takes a good eye (which comes from practice)  and a great deal of focus.  If  the tonal value is not quite right, it won't read.  If color temperature is off, you will miss the mark also.

  Painting well takes as much effort and concentration as your best chess game.  If you want to get better at it,  you must bring your "A" game level of effort and concentration to your painting sessions.  And practice....a lot.  There is no way to escape the easel hours required.

  Hold the results lightly; if you get it wrong,  your eye will tell you.  Try to articulate what it is you got wrong and repaint  rather than indulging in self-deprecation which is a luxury you can't afford.  It will drain you of your mojo.

Pay attention to what you are seeing and what you are doing,  and the Force shall be with you. Always.