March 7, 2018

Edit Down - Waaaaaay Down.

6x8" plein air study, Leadbetter Beach, February 2018

This is a plein air study that I recently did on my trip to SoCal.  As many of you know, I do a yearly painting junket to Santa Barbara, and this piece was painted at the end of the day, and is only 6X8".  It was a busy day at the beach, yoga practioners were doing their thing, as were surfers, dog walkers, sand castle builders, etc.  The view I had started to paint facing the opposite direction was the more obvious painting subject, beautiful sunlit cliffs up against the sea.   I spent most of the morning on the first painting, but this quick study turned out better by far.  Ironically,  I  had not even considered painting this direction when I first arrived on location.

 I did not have a clear idea how to tackle this subject,  so I started with the big decisions- the division of space on my canvas.  Next, I laid in the basic values and colors, which I completed in about 15 to twenty minutes, isolating and checking I had the big relationships down with accuracy.   Lastly, the small shapes, the "grace notes" to add some interest and scale and to direct the eye. I pushed in  a few palm trees that were actually just outside my view, to add a horizontal dark to anchor the composition, and it worked.  I do love to exercise artistic license.  It makes all sorts of things possible.

I love these small studies because they either go very right or very wrong in a big hurry.  The small format forces you to pay attention to only the important elements, there is no getting lost in minutiae.  Oil paint is too thick to make teensy weensy exacting shapes - unless you want to make yourself a little crazy.  Far easier to keep it simple and save yourself the aggravation in my opinion.

Less is always more.

In closing, I have a few things I want to share with you:  I am in the West Fine Art Show coming up this weekend.  Here is the basic info in case you are in the area and want to show up and say hello (I would love to see you!)

Location:  Yorkson Middle School, 20686-84 Ave, Langley
Dates:  March 10 and 11, 10:00 till 5:00

Also, I have  ONLY THREE MORE SPOTS  in my upcoming atelier workshop.  Go to the link below for info on that workshop, or any of the others that are coming up, including my July plein air workshop.

My September tour to Croatia is filling nicely, still room for a few more there.  For info on the trip go here: and also check out the link above.

Happy painting everyone!!!!

February 2, 2018

Doing Your Own Thing

Alpen Glow, 24X30", oil on canvas

Today I have posted an image that you may have already seen if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook.  I thought about painting this image for about a decade before it actually got birthed, and when I set brush to canvas, it almost painted itself.

Why did it take me so long to get to it?  Well, I wasn't sure I knew how to do the subject matter justice.  I used a photo reference from the Lake Ohara area that I had taken over a decade ago, but lacked the confidence to tackle.  By the time I did get to painting it, I had more tools in my belt as an oil painter.  I had become better at manipulating the paint, allowing me to handle the diversity of edges and nuance of color I needed in order to do this piece justice. 

So often as artists, our vision exceeds our grasp.  We don't even know what we don't know.  Given enough time and practice, the solutions do eventually appear, but it is a long learning curve.

So, if you have a painting (or two or three or four even) that you are wanting some input or feedback on, I have an offering for you:  this April I am starting a studio class that is geared at helping painters work on pieces that they are not sure how to tackle or resolve, in a friendly, informal, and intimate setting.  Over ten weeks, students will attend eight classes (I will be holding all ten classes so that students can miss one or two and still make all eight classes that they have paid for).  The idea is to mentor students individually on their own projects to lend suggestions and guidance that will shorten the learning curve while students work on subject matter and in a format that most appeals to them.   Lord knows I don't have all the answers, but I guarantee I'll have some ideas for you to consider.

 In addition, I will  do some demo work by bringing to class what I currently have on my studio easel.  I'll show you mine and you can show me yours....

The class is suitable for all skill levels and all mediums, so go to my site for the details:  and look under workshops.  Classes will be held Thursday afternoons from 1:30 till 4:30 in Fort Langley and the cost will be $425 for eight sessions.  The class will be capped at 12.  Our location is a lovely bright room right on the river front.

Let me know if you are interested by emailing me:

I am preparing for my annual Santa Barbara getaway, and shall post next from there.  Looking forward to escaping the rain and painting on some beaches...such a rough life.

Until then, happy painting!


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  


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
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.