Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Paintings 1

June was all about paintings.  I got about 25 paintings done through almost-daily practice, mostly landscape, mostly from photos I've taken on my travels over the years.  It was a good exercise, I'm kind of sorry I stalled out right after Art Walk.  Neil left for his conference, there was a heat wave that made working in the studio unpleasant and I spent a week in the basement among some of the greasiest dust bunnies I've ever encountered.  The next couple of paintings went particularly poorly.  It's enough to stall anyone.

While I'm trying to get back to the studio I'll be working on pencil crayon stuff, comics and sketches.  In the meantime I might as well show off the fruits of my labours.  All acrylic on hardboard.

Evening Sail.  From a photo I took on Vancouver Island a few years ago.  Sold at Art Walk to a nice lady who is displaying my art in her tea shop right now.

Farm Shack.  From a photo I took last year near Sherwood Park.

Chair Garden.  From a photo I took in Montreal a few years ago.

Montserrat.  From my Barcelona photo set.  I quite like the textural look one gets on rocks by applying paint with a palette knife.

Above the Badlands.  I quite like this one.  Not sure anyone else did, but I don't care.  I snapped a bunch of photos from the car on our Drumheller/Waterton trip.  Love those Alberta fields!

This was a good learning experience and I should really continue it.  I'm not sure I learned a whole lot more about painting, but I sure learned a lot about choosing a subject!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I get bored of the things I do quite often.  I think that's what prevents me from getting ahead with a lot of my projects, I work on everything for a few weeks, it doesn't get a response and then I run off after something else.  Here's a few uncategorized pictures I've managed to finish this year.

Orchids in ballpoint pen:

This was a fun little picture.  I like working in ballpoint, it has a quality you don't get out of any other kind of pen.

Orcish Cook:

A couple years ago The Art Order had a challenge to design either an orcish shaman or cook.  And who can resist drawing horrible orc cooks?  I tossed this sketch off and forgot about it.  Last year I dragged it out and got 90% of it done before I was interrupted by a job.  This year I finally got it done!

I snapped some photos of this downy woodpecker at Smith Crossing last fall:

The contrast between the red dogwood branches and the duller gray branches made me want to play around with a limited ink palette.

Then I worked on a children's illustration.  This one is titled "Survival"

I'm painting now so I won't be doing more of these for a bit.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Vancouver Island Sketches

In May we went to visit family on Vancouver Island.

Here's a sketch from Vancouver Airport.  The island terminal is pretty tiny, and the planes are all propellor planes.  I said that if the flight took more than 15 minutes I'd be disappointed, and it took 13.

Once on the island I found it hard to get out and sketch.  When you're there with someone it's rather boring for them to sit around for hours.  We did a lot of hiking and birdwatching, but I did manage to get a few things done.

Here are some little sailboats at the Nanaimo Yacht Club.

This was painted on a hike around Englishman River Falls near Qualicum Beach.  I did a quick sketch of the falls.  The day was overcast and the birding wasn't all that great.  Apparently I had a Steller's iay hopping in a tree over my head the whole time.  I get a lot of blue jays in my yard so I was keen to see the Steller's but they just weren't cooperating.  I got a bare glimpse of the one above me just before it flew away.

But at least I got some kind of painting out of the deal.

I set aside a bit more time for sketching in downtown Nanaimo.  I got both these buildings on the same day.  It was tough.  I was bitten by ants.  Don't sit too close to an anthill while sketching, kids.

I got a chance to sketch a few people, too.  A couple at Penny's Palapa in Nanaimo, and a few people in Victoria.  We didn't spend very much time in Victoria.  We meant to do more than we did, but we didn't realize that Tofino was so far from Nanaimo and that all the activities we were planning for required more preparation.

Oh well, we go back to see family every couple of years, next time we'll hit the west end of the island and do some canoeing.  In the meantime I did do a ton of birdwatching and we saw some very neat species that I never would have noticed otherwise.  Also, turtles!  It has been a dream of mine to see pond turtles ever since I started hiking, and now I have.  We saw a whole row of them sunning themselves on logs.

Next time my run-down on Art Walk and paintings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Woof.  It's been a while!  One gets busy and goes on vacation and the garden starts sprouting and before you know it it's mid-June.  As always I go out with the local Urban Sketchers on the first Saturday of every month.  It's nice to chat with other artists and get to draw somewhere where I don't usually draw.

The weather finally warmed up in April so we were able to start sketching outside.  Our first trip out was to Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton.

The Art Gallery of Alberta:

What a weird building this is.  It makes me thing of the time that I had to design a building for an illustration and I scribbled random shapes until they looked futuristic.  The client liked it.  I think this is how they design buildings now.  (Of course my random shapes did not have to stand up and not fall on people so I am not going to knock the difficulties of actually making one of these things.  I'm just knocking the concept process.)

A guy having coffee with his friend in the square.  His friend kept moving, though, so I had to leave it at this guy.

 City Market is always a good bet for drawing:

 A singer and a vendor.  The singer was really good!

The girl I sketched on the LRT.  The guy was a friend of one of the sketchers and he had such a great face that I was requested to draw him.

That was it for April.  I sketched a couple things from life in between.  I want to finish that dang sketchbook so that I can start a new journal book.

This was a hare we caught napping in our yard.

We named it Loafcake for a number of reasons.  If it seems like it's listing to one side, that's because it was.  I'm astonished it didn't fall over.

My shoes, for Everday Matters Challenge #1:

These may be the coolest shoes that I own.  They remind me of my mom, who had great taste in shoes.

May's Sketchout was at  Jackson Power Gallery, where one of our sketchers had an exhibition.  It was quite interesting.  She does encaustic, primarily, and transfers photographs that she has found in the provincial archives onto various materials.  This exhibition was about pioneer women and included excerpts from letters that they had written to friends and relatives.  They were often very isolated and lived in very primitive conditions.  It was very cool to experience a bit of history.

This was a clothesline strung with photographs transferred onto cloth.  The objects beneath were related to pioneer women's life somehow -- there were broken teacups, surgical instruments, medicine bottles and dried bean pods.  Fans made the cloth flutter and the objects tinkle.

This was an industrial building seen from the window of the gallery.  (It was kind of a nasty day for sketching outdoors.)

This lamp was part of another, related exhibit by another artist.  He had recreated his grandmother's parlour using old family furniture.  It was a tiny room and there were four or five sketchers crammed into it at any one time since it had both knickknacks and comfy chairs.

"Lamp" was the second challenge for Everyday Matters, though, so I had to come back and draw it.

Later in the month I got a chance to sketch this girl on the LRT.  I love finding neat people to draw on the train.  I wish I rode it more often.

And that's it for the last couple months of sketching.  Next up some miscalleneous art, and then my sketches from Vancouver Island and then a boatload of paintings.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sketch Dailies

It's painting season!  I've spent the last couple of weeks making some larger oil paintings (18x24", which is huge for me) for a May 30th exhibition deadline.  I'm going on vacation on some unspecified date between then and now so I don't have much time to finish these guys.  Luckily one is almost done and looks FABULOUS.  But there's not much point posting it before it's done, so that will have to wait.

In the meantime I've been "warming up" (by which I mean "dicking around") with sketches.  There's a Twitter group called Sketch Dailies with posts a daily sketch topic and people draw it and it's a fun way to spend an hour or two when one is tired of work-drawing.  Here's some of the sketches and topics I've done in the last month or two, in no particular order:


The Invisible Man:

The Loch Ness Monster:

Favourite Muppet (the Swedish Chef):

Modern Samurai:
The Cookie Monster:


Anyway.  These short little activities help keep me creative and don't take up much time.  They're a great thing to get into if one is suffering from any sort of creative "block".  Just be careful about getting too wrapped up in the popularity contest aspect, nothing hurts creativity quite so much like feeling underappreciated.

Next time, Sketchcrawl sketches and then hopefully I'll have paintings to show off.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great Project Rundown

Everybody occasionally runs dry of ideas.  I used to bump around the house looking for and rejecting ideas when I was younger, but that was before the internet.  With the net around there's really no reason to have a day without drawing.  Whatever kind of art you're into, chances are good that there's a group or activity or competition for it.  Here are some of my favourite sites to keep the momentum going:

Illustration Friday - weekly illustration topic
Daily Spitpaint - daily speed-painting exercise.  You have 30 minutes to create a painting based on the daily topic or topics.
Sketch Dailies - weekday illustration topic, usually fan art.  Lots of fun!
Inktober - 31 days of ink sketches in October.  Missed October?  I'm sure Inkuary works just as well.  Or any other month!
100 Themes - one hundred ideas on which to base a picture
Random Animal Generator - randomly generates two animals for you to mix together


Hourly Comics Day - February 1st.  Original site is now gone since John Campbell has gone pear-shaped, but the event is alive and well on Tumblr.
24 Hour Comic Day - make a 24-page comic in 24 hours.  I have done the lazy people version, where the pages are really, really small.  Your local comic shop may have an event so you can do this with other people!  Alternative for people who like sleep - do a 12 hour version.

Sketching From Life:

Urban Sketchers - get outside and sketch from life.  There are Urban Sketchers groups in many major cities, and if you can't find one you can start your own.  I joined my local group in late 2012 and have met some very friendly and social artists of all skill levels.  The Urban Sketchers have a very active and inspiring group on Flickr as well.
Sketchcrawl - every 2 or 3 months people from around the world go on a great life sketching marathon and then share their work online
Everyday Matters - a great long list of ordinary objects you can draw when you don't know what to draw

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Fairyland Project

A few weeks ago I got some books out of the library and one of them was Catherynne Valente's latest installment of the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  Catherynne Valente uses such rich language and her descriptions are so imaginative that I wanted to do some illustrations based on the book. 

In fact, I thought, why not do a chapter illustration for every chapter in the novel?  Which I promptly set out to do.

As of now, I have all 21 chapters thumbnailed, have moved onto the roughs for about five of them, and have finished three.  I think I'll post these in sets of three, as and when I finish them.  They don't take all that long to make, individually speaking, but I have other projects on the go and occasionally one of these will stall a bit as I try to deal with a difficult part.

I'm hoping to avoid spoilers for the book, mostly.  You won't learn who cut the moon in two (or why) from me!  Those of us who read the first two books will see September reunited with some friends but that's not much of a surprise to anyone.  What would a Fairyland book be without a wyverary?

But hopefully I'll get some practice in and people will be intrigued by the book and the whole thing should be good fun for all.

Anyway -- here are the first three chapter illustrations of Fairyland 3.

Chapter 1
September Looks at the Moon:

Chapter 2
Boomer and Beatrice:

Chapter 3
The Blue Wind:

So far I'm enjoying playing with real ink again and reviewing my compositions.  I'm starting to idly plan what other books I'd like to do.  I have a small supply of kids' books I never quite got rid of.  Classics like The Witches and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Neverending Story.  The more I think the more books I'd love to illustrate!

Oh well, I'll just keep going with this and see where it takes me.  Maybe the next book I illustrate will be one I wrote myself. :)