News / On the Easel

  • Just Paint

    I can't recommend enough visiting the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, for any Visual Artist, especially if they need some sort of boost to lift their painting spirits. Most Artists will tell you that there are peaks and valleys for us all. No two years are the same, there are ups and downs. We all have them. Seeing in person the Masterworks of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Degas, The Group of Seven, O'Keeffe, Dali, etc., makes the hair on my arms stand straight up. Those paintings have incredible presence. Taking your time to admire Masterpieces up close in detail, the brush strokes, the layers of paint, surely will make any Artist want to run to their easel. I'm sure it's also hard for most Artists to choose a favourite from what hangs on that beautiful building's walls, but for me it's not hard, it's Robert Harris. I was introduced to his paintings at a young age by my Dad at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Robert Harris showed me that a painter from my small town could make it as an Artist. You could create art that would be revered forever, and it made me dream of one day maybe being an Artist myself. I just love his style, and so many of his works, but I think "A Meeting of the School Trustees" holds a special place for some reason. Maybe it's because it hangs along side all of those other Masters. I don't know, that's what great art does.

    I looked for it room after room, until I turned a corner, and there it was. This is the second time I have seen it in person, and I've admired it in books for years. It makes me feel as though I'm walking into that room, and one of the figures is about to move. It's an intense energy. The size was shocking again, it's larger than I remembered. This was the first time I've seen the masterpiece since it was freshly restored two years ago. The treatment was performed by a fellow Islander NGC Assistant Conservator of Paintings, Tasia Bulger, and she did an incredible job. The removal of the thick, discoloured varnish layer, restoring the overall colours and tones of the work as it would have appeared 134 years ago.

    Varnish removal also revealed an inscription on the slate, which hasn't been visible since it's last restoration in 1923.
    It reads: “ool Trustees” (likely “School Trustees”) “Meeting” and “day next.” I just love those kind of details.  


     2019 marks 100 years since we lost Robert Harris, but his legacy will live on forever in his work. I truly hope there are young Artists still being inspired to paint by him in another 100 years, as I was 45 years ago as a boy, and I was again last week. His aura is still all around his work. Artist or not, if you visit The National Gallery, or your local Gallery, and really take a good look at any of the Masters, it will lift your spirits too. Harris faced his challenges as well in the 1870's in the Art world, but he kept on painting. I cannot wait to stretch some linen, to mix and move some paint, to create something new, and create my best work. Thanks to The National Gallery of Canada and Robert Harris, I'm rising to the easel out of that valley, and I can't wait to see what's on the other side. 

  • Painting it Green in the Gardens

    The majority of Artists at this weekend's PEI Visual Arts Festival at the P.E.I. Preserve Company's beautiful gardens I'm sure will be working with acrylic paints. It just makes sense for drying time, cost and versatility. They just dry so fast, you can layer colours so quickly. They're what you would call "more practical". Painting en plein air in a nature lovers dream, beside the Butterfly House, you want to leave the smallest footprint through there as you can. The goal being to leave nothing under your feet. Ensuring the critters, fish, birds, butterflies and bees remain as healthy as when we found 'em.

     Did you know that Artist's acrylic paints have really only been around since the mid-fifties? Unlike oil paints, which are made with oils from a sustainable plant, and are coloured with natural pigments of rocks and plants etc., (with some companies still using the exact recipies from 100's of years ago) acrylic's are usually 100% synthetic. A huge drawback to using acrylics is their environmental impact, they are a petroleum plastic product after all. However, there are things that can be done to lessen the impact on our eco system, and water tables. Firstly, read the labels of your paint, and choose the best eco friendly and/or nontoxic supplies. There are some companies that offer a little more environmentally friendly paint to begin with, like Wyland Ecological Acrylics or Golden Open Acrylics

    The farther the colour is away from white, the more chemicals that have been added. Darker colours can contain more than 10,000 chemicals including-formaldehyde, ammonia, glycols, mercury, gum arabic, you get the idea right? So, never dump your dirty water on the ground, or wash your brushes in the sink. Also, never, ever pour your dirty water down the sink. Not only will the plastic eventually clog your pipes, it can also get into your water supply, into the soil and ingested by nearby plants and animals. Not following proper disposal methods could poison your garden, your yard, your pets, and even yourself! I use a container to dump my dirty water into, and put high on the shelf. Uncovered the water will dissipate, and it will turn into a solid, making it much easier to dispose of.  

    I also wipe my brush on my towel, before I rinse it. Recycled towels work great, (I buy packs at our local thrift store) instead of rolls of paper towels. Save a tree too man, we all have to breathe.  
    I also try to reduce quantity and mix just enough colour that I'll need, avoiding leftovers. If you do end up with a a lot of paint leftover, maybe use it for an under painting on a new piece. A layer of parchment paper underneath your paints will help keep them wet, and extend their life and workability. You can also use a spray bottle, and mist over your palette from time to time. There are also palettes with lids, to prolong mixtures when not in use. For your supports always choose linen or hemp over commercial cotton if you can. If they were good enough for the Masters, they should work for us. Masonite is also awesome because unlike other composite wood panels made using formaldehyde-based resins to bind fibers, Masonite is steamed together using natural ingredients only. 

    Acrylic paints definitely have helped create more art all over the word in the last 60 years. It brings in more kids to create Art as well. Every Artist was once an amateur and finds their calling somewhere. They are more likely to do that if its easy, and affordable for them. So it's a great thing. It is just so much more convenient for most people than oils. The important thing is to just keep on painting, the world definitely needs more Art. But that doesn't mean we can't do what we can to lessen our environmental footprint creating it. Every little bit we can do to help preserve clean water for our wildlife and our next generation helps, and it starts with you.


  • The Lonely Painter

    "Oh I am a lonely painter. I live in a box of paints.  I'm frightened by the devil,
    and I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid."
                                                                                                - Joni Mitchell

    I know the life of an artist requires lots of hours of being on your own. The way I paint it does anyhow. Twelve hour days at the easel is not for everyone. I am so lucky to have Jeanette as a partner who also requires a lot of time to make her art as well. We understand it. It can be lonely in a way. I usually like to listen to music when I paint. Over the years I have realized the faster the music, the faster I paint. So I'll play loud bands for most of the layout, and base colours, and generally acoustic for detail work. I first remember hearing the music of Neil Young in 1977 over the Christmas holidays. It was my friends older brother who had just got the album "Decade". I looked at a 3 record set for the first time in my life, and thought, "Look at all these songs! This must be all this guy does." I was blown away that he rocked it with the best of them with his band Crazy Horse, and he had beautiful slow music too. I was ten, and I've loved his music ever since. So in those long days in the studio I spend quite a bit of time with Neil. His style usually blends perfectly to the environment. I felt like painting a scene I envisioned of Neil's journey leaving Canada to make it in L.A. with Bruce Palmer 50 years ago in that old hearse. I don't think any images of that trip exist, so I sketched out a scene in my head, and created one. Hanging with Neil and Bruce and Mort II these past few weeks has been awesome, and I wasn't lonely one bit.

    The original sketch 03/18/2016 

    More Images

  • I Hear Her Calling Me

     I hear her calling me. It's usually in just a normal voice. Sometimes it's soft whispering. But, sometimes it's loud, almost screaming. Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes on bright sunny day dog walks. I hear my empty easel calling me. I see images coming to life in my head. I see little scenes, usually interlaced by me changing the easel height, mixing colours, and cleaning brushes. Sometimes it's dark images that visit me, like shipwrecks at sea, or of grand trees being cut down, or funerals of people gone way too soon. Dramatic visions. But mostly they're of happy, peaceful scenes that make me feel good in a certain way. Ones that I like to stay in for a while and just hang out while creating them. Ones I can re-visit years later and have fond memories of, and have friends visit it with me too. Soon I will catch my escaping days. I am closing in on it everyday. I know I'll hear those calls more frequently until I do. Until I return to her, and we can talk. It will come soon, it's just not time. I don't know what the subject or what those paintings will be yet. I'll happily paint whatever it is she calls for. I look forward to that day of clamping a blank canvas on my easel again. I look forward to the day when she and I both will no longer feel so empty.  



Added to cart