Monday, January 12, 2015

Al Lado del Jardin

Al Lado del Jardin 12" x 16" oil on panel

   Started this sitting on the west wall of the Jardin Principal for a couple of hours. I'm pretty happy with it, although the camera has kind of enhanced the yellows beyond what they are in the painting, so I'm cringing a bit as I look now at the photo. Oh well, you get the idea...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Colouring on Montes de Oca

"Calle Montes de Oca"
12 x 16 ins. oil on panel

I started this one in the street and finished up in the studio today. I've been sacrificing gospel true value relations for greater colour saturation, lately. I like the direction and wish I'd gone that way about 30 years ago! But I suppose I had to do the other thing first - right to the end of the line. I had a very strong, you could say "scientific" desire to understand the phenom of seeing, right from when I was a young child.  This is fun though. And it's tricky, because you can lose control of the light pretty fast, if you're not really, really careful. You've got to still understand, and be very aware of the interaction of the actual tonal values in the scene...and then do some serious tweaking.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Colour on calle Recreo

"Colour on calle Recreo"
12 x 16 ins. oil on panel

There are lots of colourful little scenes like this one in San Miguel de Allende. The trick is to find a safe spot to paint them from! The sidewalk here was about 2 feet wide with lots of pedestrian traffic, and cars parked on the narrow street beside it. I didn't want to block the busy sidewalk so I located on the street, at the edge of the sidewalk, after a car miraculously pulled out.  So, I painted happily for a couple of hours, feeling a little guilty that I was taking up about a fifth of a potential parking spot, struggled a bit with those exact tints; at first erring a little on the saturation as opposed to glare side, - all in all having a very enjoyable afternoon. No one seemed to find me "in their way". In fact most seemed very appreciative, indeed. Just when I'd gotten well used to the idea, this Mexican lady pulled up in her rather nice car, to a dead stop in front of me, put it in park, and started haranguing me at the top of her lungs. It normally takes a lot to get a Mexican upset. This one must have been having a muy malo dia. She repeated half a dozen times over, that the spot I had my easel on was for coches solamente and I had no business being there. I tried to be nice, but as the traffic backed up behind her we were facing an increasingly serious traffic jamb. I finally dismissed her with a "get moving" in Espanol and she just about went ballistic - I thought she was going to exit the car and come after me swinging. The long lineup was honking by this time, so I guess she finally thought a retreat was in order and with some final cussing hanging in the air, wisely fled the scene. I started cleaning up just about then -the spell having been more or less broken.
As I say, there are lots of great pictures to be made, but it's hard to find a good vantage point from which to paint on the street. Dan Rueffert used to park his half ton truck on the street, and paint from the box on the back...not a bad idea. If I was not moving to the coast soon, I would give that solution the consideration it deserves. Of course, that way you'd be taking up a FULL parking spot - ah...the guilt!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


"Calle Aldama"
14 x 18 ins.
oil on panel

I don't like painting under pressure. I don't like deadlines, don't like competitions – don't even like commissions much.  All the same, there was lots of pressure on calle Aldama Monday afternoon! It was a combined plein air session/photo shoot and the subject was not our choice for a quick study. Galleries West magazine is doing a piece on Canadian artists in San Miguel de Allende, and their excellent photographer, Bob Barros, liked the above scene; as he said, "it tells the whole story, perfectly". He was right, of course, but we were hoping for something a little less challenging... the pressure and all, you understand. On top of it all, we were kindly asked to do larger "canvases" as they would show better in the pics. – maybe 16 x 20 in. We knew we were in trouble as soon as we heard the plan! 
  So, we arrived an hour early and desperately tried to get as accurate a sketch as we could, down, before the shoot would begin at 3 pm. This was "trial by fire" in the worst sense, but to our surprise, once we got into it, it was at least half fun and we were pretty much lost in our work when the crew arrived. I don't have any pics yet of the paintings in process, unfortunately. What you see above is not the state it was in when the shoot finally ended after dark! There was no way I could handle all that information in 3 hours. As the afternoon wore on, the light kept getting better and better and I couldn't resist chasing that around...natch! I think Donna ( her painting below ) did much better at simplifying her composition, right from the start, and holding to that. Anyway, we were both quite exhausted when we finally stumbled to the car and stowed our gear, well after dark.

 Donna Dickson
 untitled (so far)
12 x 16 ins.
oil on panel

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New painting – still warm...

24 x 20 ins.
oil on canvas

I've done this subject a few times over the years, but never in this way. I was in search of a nice scene to paint plein air, and happened upon these two who had already found their quarry. For once I had remembered my camera and took a few shots of them shooting the old, rusty gas pump, a dearly beloved relic in a town renown for it's abundance of significant, historical landmarks. That pump used to service the whole town when there were only a few dozen coches. In it's afterlife, it's now being "photographed to death" like everything else in this unique little jewel of antiquity. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

 "Under the Quebrada Bridge"  24 x 36 ins. oil
Since my trouble started with allergies, I've been experimenting with removing all use of solvents when painting in the studio. I used to be overly reliant on odorless turps. I think I've finally got some control over the situation and will again be doing larger work. We are also going to move to the coast at Rincon de Guayabitos (north of Puerto Vallarta) mid April. The air is a lot cleaner there with higher humidity, which I think may help my condition. We've been over there twice in the last month looking for rentals, and I've felt a lot better while there, feeling worse on my return to S.M. It's going to be quite an "uprooting" as we're pretty ensconced here in San Miguel, but we've found a perfect studio location overlooking the bay, beach and islands, high above Guayabitos on a headland - a very awe-inspiring perch! We love painting the sea, boats, clouds, mountains, etc., - this place has it all. Our plan is to return to S.M. in the summer months when it's hottest on the coast and more humid here. That way Donna can keep more in touch with her local students.They weren't too happy to hear she was leaving but they will always be welcome at our new location.We'll have to see how it goes...

"Donna Painting at ten ten pie"  9 x 12 ins. oil

Monday, September 15, 2014

Long Time No Blog

I haven't submitted anything to this blog in a long time - it's high time I explained what's going on:

Since about the beginning of the year I've not been feeling all that well. In the late spring it got worse and by early summer I was a bit of a mess. I finally went to a specialist and discovered that: 1 I'm allergic to Solvents;  2  I'm allergic to Mesquite trees;  3  I'm allergic to Jacaranda trees;  and a few other minor things.

So, this being the case, I've reluctantly dropped oil painting; at least in-studio oil painting. I'm currently thinking about taking up watercolour again (it's been about 30 years), and am actively experimenting with acrylics. I still plan to paint plein air but I'll have to select locations that are out of range of some of these deadly trees! A few months ago I was painting with a group down by the lake here in San Miguel. We selected a place under the shade of some broad mesquites. After a couple of hours I had a severe headache, trouble breathing, and ear drums popping and fluttering for no reason at all. I could hardly speak. That was the episode that drove me to the Doc. I tried it again a week or so later, but still was too close to the infernal arboles. I'll have to be especially careful when they're in flower.
 I'm on anti-histamine injections (self administered - ugh) and the doctor promises I will be all better some day. I have no idea where this came from because I seemed to be fine with the said flora in the past. Anyway, that's how it is, and I will post something, most likely water based, in the near future.

For the present, here's something interesting:

"Title Lost to All Concerned"

A Mr. Frost sent me this photo of a painting signed (a little clumsily) Tom Dickson. He's been trying to track down the history of the oil painting and the arteest responsible. He knew it had been in the family for at least 40 years but had not a lot of knowledge about it's history, other than his father had purchased it, way back when.
What happened was this:  I was about 13 years old as I recall and my father and I had both put paintings in an amateur exhibition, in downtown Toronto. A mister Frost was interested in the one of mine and commissioned me to do another, " JUST LIKE IT. "  I think it was the 2nd commission of my life, and I was already wary of commissions. Even so, I imprudently, decided to exercise a little artistic license - I drastically changed to another scene - it was still very Swiss (the calendar I had used as inspiration for both pieces was cover to cover yodeling Swiss) mountains, mist, bright sunshine and all, but it bore little resemblance to the composition that had inspired my collector to place the order. It took some time to complete. It was more challenging than  the other - probably about 4 times as difficult - but finally, one night it was ready, dry and varnished, and we, (dad and I), went on delivery. Mr. Frost wasn't happy. He didn't like it! I couldn't blame him - it wasn't what he had ordered. I was embarrassed and disposed to leave with the painting when Mr. Frost relented and with obvious reluctance handed over the fifty bucks. We parted on none too friendly terms. I was the least agitated. My father was a guy who required a lot to get him upset, so I was surprised to see how annoyed he was. I think dad may have been under the delusion that I deserved more credit than I did. He was an amateur painter himself and seemed to think everything I painted was wonderful. I appreciated his support (still do) but I could certainly empathize with the collector, burned over the lost 50, and who knows how many weeks wasted in anticipation. Dad didn't want to see my feelings hurt after putting so much effort into the thing. I, on the other hand, knew I'd stepped over the line and wasn't surprised at some dissatisfaction in the air. I learned a lot about commissions that night.

Years passed. Years and years ... about 54, if I'm not too far off the mark. I never give much thought as to what has become of most of what I painted in my teens, but this one would surface in my consciousness from time to time. A business deal gone sour - emotions had run high that dark night. I had assumed for most of those 54 years that the disappointing work had ended up in an attic, closet, municipal waste dump, or something. I often wondered whether the painting was half decently executed and had any merit aside from the bad fit at "point of sale". 

Well, you can imagine my relief when after all this time, the current Mr. Frost informed me that the painting resides on the "best wall" in their dining room. "All's well that ends well". Now, I can sleep easy.