On the fourth day of the 2012 Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) workshop on Salt Spring Island, our group was with Stephen Quiller [see my introductory post about this workshop]. Our location was at a private farm, on the coast, a couple of kilometers south of Ganges [see map]. This was another location that offered some subject matter to suit everyone’s tastes – there was the farm, with trees, chickens, road and fences and nearby, ocean-side fields and beaches.
Stephen Quiller is a water-media artist, not making a big distinction between water color , acrylic and gouache media. He is very comfortable with and knowledgeable about all. Quiller is noted for his work with color and has a number of products and books relating to his Quiller color wheel. In fact, having studied his books, was how his name popped out for me, amongst the four workshop instructors. One of the key lessons from Quiller related to his efforts in identifying color complement pairs amongst the many hues of colors available today. By mixing these pairs one is able to obtain some very nice clear greys, or neutral tones. Interestingly as he was unable to find a perfect complement to cadmium yellow light, he had his own created – Quiller Violet.
As in the days that we spent with the other workshop instructors, the format was to have a demo/talk first thing in the morning and then the participants would disperse over the area to work on their own and then we would gather again just after lunch for another demo. On this day we also got together for a group critique at the end of the day.
The demonstration started off with a description of Quiller’s color theory and then he got into working on a piece – an abstracted depiction of the landscape in front of him (using acrylics). Quiller\s approach was to start with thin, transparent washes and work his way to applications of opaque paint. Before starting the actual painting Quiller asked that any questions be saved until the end so as not to disrupt his process. I expected him to be in the “zone” and therefore completely silent during his painting process but while he was clearly in the zone, there was one side of him that was still giving a very useful running commentary of what he was doing and thinking.
Having so many possibilities for paintings around this location, it was difficult to choose. I hiked down the shaded path from the farm area to a large grassy spit which featured a greeny bay at low tide on one side and the open water and a rocky beach on the other. On the land was a large grassy field bordered by some trees sporting dramatic autumn colors.
The field/tree scene won out for me so I set up my pochade box in the shade looking out over this scene and got to work. I was experimenting with my process again on this day – still trying to find the best way to use acrylics for this plein air work. I learned on the previous days that my paints were just drying out too quickly on the palette – even when I used the Sta-Wet palette with a wet sponge underneath.
This day I tried pre-mixing my tube colors with heavy gloss gel to slow the drying time and also to give me a thicker paint, which I prefer for the impasto style. I stored these premixed colors in little plastic cups with lids, which were great for ensuring that the left over paint could be saved for my next session. I still used the Sta-Wet palette as my surface for mixing (and saving) other colors.
It was a good day with Stephen Quiller. the information on his color theories was good but largely review. there were a couple of things that he said that while not new or revolutionary, really stuck with me during that day and I’m still thinking about them.
- “See the stroke – put it down” is what he said. These are simple words, a simple concept but oh so important so as not to muck about in one’s painting and thereby destroy the freshness and expressiveness of the image.
- “Always finish your paintings”. There is a tendency to give up on hopeless cases, canvases that you just know can’t be saved. Quiller said that the last 15% of a painting can be very hard – but very beneficial. Keep working on the problems and you will learn something and probably something that will help prevent you from making the same mistake again!
Today, 2012 April 12 is the opening of the 2nd Twitter Art Exhibit for charity in Moss Norway. this event, organized by painter David Sandum will run for the next couple of months in the Library in Moss (about 100 Km south of Oslo). The works, all post card size paintings and coming from around the world, will be sold off to raise funds for the local Women’s Crisis Centre. Over 300 paintings, from more than 30 countries were sent to David for this event. Like the first event in November 2010, the artists participating are known to David ( @DavidSandumArt ) through Twitter.
This is the work that I donated to the event:
This work was a bit unusual for me in a couple of ways. Firstly, the size is considerably smaller than I normally work and second it was not done with the media that I typically use. It is primarily a watercolor painting but also employing a bit of ink and gouache. I used watercolor sticks, for the most part applying the color with a small brush. The painting is based on a photo that I had taken in January of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, not far from where I live.
I liked the basic composition of this work and had also done this version in oil pastel:
I you would like to know more about the 2nd Twitter Art Exhibit, see photos and an upcoming video of it, be sure to follow David Sandum’s blog.
This is my account of Day 2 (Tuesday July 12) of the Colour in the Landscape course offered by Red Deer College as part of their 2011 Series program.
I arrived early to the classroom on this day and immediately went to the room next door where we were set up with studio easels. My plan was to work in the studio from my field sketches – painting in acrylics. The first step was to lay out my acrylics, palette and other paintng supplies. I didn’t have time to start painting that morning but I was ready to get down to work later in the day
Again we started the day with a quick critique of the previous day’s paintings (but I hadn’t gotten further than a few pen and marker sketches). We then had a slide presentation by instructor from instructor Dave More and a few words about the types of contrast. By tenish we got the maps for the daytrip and headed out. This day we went to historic Markerville, a 25 minute drive southwest of Red Deer.
Markerville [map] is a tiny hamlet that historically was the site of a significant settlement for Icelandic settlers. It also featured a regional creamery and was the regional supply center. Today it is a quaint, little community , with a creamery museum and cafe, set on a small river with picturesque surrounding fields and landscapes. Of course we were there for the landscapes (and ice cream).
Upon arrival, our group soon spread out, some choosing village buildings or gardens to paint, others picking scenes with the river, fields or barns. I chose to spend the first hour or so just walking around with my camera, scouting out scenes to sketch later and capturing some reference photos.
After having a huge and delicious double ice cream cone, I settled in on a bench, offering me a view of the river and fields to the southeast of Markerville.
One of my goals for the days was to try out different sketching media. I first dug out my watercolor sticks and after drawing in the scene in ink, I rubbed in the watercolor stick both dry and set. I also used a watercolor brush to blend in the colors and to apply some details. The result wasn’t great but I was satisfied to give it a try. Next, I changed my viewpoint a bit and dug out my colored Conte sticks. Again I started with an ink drawing but then used the Conte for color and value. Once the basic colors were laid-in I used water and brush for blending.
After these sketches I drove back to the College. I intended to get down to painting in the studio that evening but by the time I got there I found the door locked. Fortunately though that freed me up to take-in a professional development seminar put on by Sharon Moore-Foster of the VAAA ( and who was also a figurative sculpting instructor that week).
See Part 1 in my blog for the story of the first day and for links to related information.
I paint with oils and acrylics and have used many other media. I have however never really tried one of the most common and popular media – watercolor. Today that changed. I did up five sketches in watercolor. I wasn’t using the common forms of watercolor – in pans or tubes. What I worked with are water color sticks (from Daniel Smith).
These are the results of today’s efforts (keep in mind that I’m new to the media and these are quick sketches, not finished works)
I experimented with a few different techniques. In the first sketch I started with an ink drawing before adding the color. From the second sketch on I did basic drawing with a pencil, even shading with the pencil to establish a bit of value toning.
I also tried different ways of applying the watercolor: drawing with a dry stick and later brushing with water, drawing with a wet stick and pulling color off the stick with a wet brush and then painting on to paper in a traditional fashion.
These first three sketches were done in a standard sketch book, probably about 80lb paper. The size of each image was around 5×7 inches (13 by 18 cm) . My last two sketches were a little larger and done on130 lb paper (more suitable for water media).
The landscapes I used for these sketches are from a series of photos I took last July while on a drive along the coast, north of San Francisco. I plan to develop a series of paintings from these landscapes but the point of this exercise was primarily to get familiar with the media rather than work out compositions and color schemes.
I don’t expect watercolor to become a dominant media for me (but never say never). What I like about these watercolor sticks is their portability. If I can develop an ability to handle them to create the way I want to, they will be ideal to take with me while traveling. I’m thinking they would be great to pack along while cycle touring.