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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tuesday Morning at the Ramirez Market

"Entrada, Ramirez Market"
9x12 in. oil on panel

I did this Tuesday morning but just added the people today from memory. I always plan to jot in some folks on location but I almost never get around to it. I spent the whole morning trying to "set the scene" for the people. This time I thought I had it just the way I wanted but it was long past early morning when I started it and I was pretty exhausted. So I left the figures for today and actually very much enjoyed dropping them into the scene. I like the final result a lot - those barrels really are that bright "pea green". It was a great morning at the market with almost perfect weather for painting. We'll have to go back and do it again soon.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Plaza Reforma, Guanajuato

"Plaza Reforma"
12x16 ins. oil on panel
(you can refer to the March 1st entry to see how this one looked the first day)
This one was started on Thursday during our workshop outing to the city of Guanajuato. I didn't get a lot done that first go because I spent much of the morning driving around and around the underground roadway system of this fair city. I had planned to park the car in the lot we always park in but to my great surprise they had torn the street up and I had no choice but to go underground. I wouldn't say I was exactly "panicked" but It took me half the morning to figure a way out of that pickle.I finally arrived in the plaza to find most hadn't chosen their subject yet anyway.

There were lots of people coming and going  but I decided the scene had enough in it without the introduction of Homo Sapiens. I would however, like to know who it is that lurks behind those fancy windows on the second floor. I simplified the display of potted plants and bird cages to a considerable degree and still ................. I'm sure you get the idea. Elena (not visible low and hidden behind the hedge on the right) zoomed in and did a beautiful study of those windows and their ornamentation. There are a million scenes to paint in Guanajuato and we plan to devote a week to the project when Donna's classes slow up a bit. We usually go to the beach in April to relax but this time we'll tour the country and paint - can't wait!

And I just remembered that I worked on this one too last week but forgot to take it's photo. So, here it is. I added a few figures and did a little touch up work here and there. This one was also posted in it's raw form March 1st.
 "Church Yard"  9x12 in. oil on panel

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fountain in the Park

"Fountain in the Park"
9x12 in. oil on panel

I demoed this for one of the students last week on an optional painting afternoon in the Jardin Principal. It was a lot rougher originally so I worked it over some today. I thought it deserved more careful consideration and now I'm pretty happy with it. I kind of wish it was much bigger and I would people it but for a small painting I had better let it go. Even so, I don't think I'm going to achieve the 112 finished paintings quota again this month .................................or any time soon and yes, you're right -I'm not even going to try.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Morning Shoeshine

"Morning Shoeshine"
10"x10" oil on panel

We went out with the Monday Plein Air Group this morning and settled on the north west corner of the Jardin Principal. I knew the shoe shine guy would appear at some point so I parked near where he works and started setting the scene for his arrival. He came but didn't have a single customer for the first hour or so. I was expecting some cowboy to arrive and was waiting impatiently for him when of a sudden this young kid in a yellow shirt climbs up on the shoeshine chair! Well, no cowboy hat to paint today, I thought ........but interesting nonetheless - so I squeezed out a fresh yellow gob of paint and went to work. I didn't quite resolve all the figures in the background but I decided to leave it as is - nice and fresh. 
And below:  John and I painting this morning on the northwest corner of the Jardin - centro San Miguel. I'm surprised there aren't a lot of onlookers in this photo that Donna took because every time I looked around there were at least 3 people watching intently and lots of people coming and going up and down the steps. The lady that takes your blood pressure sat down beside me for about an hour and managed to haul in a few customers from her perch on the jardin wall. She and her clients were very nice and smiley - she suggested we paint over in the city of Guanajuato some time as it's muy bonito. It was a great morning. The temperature was just right and lots of shade from the laurels to keep us out of that strong Mexican sun.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February Workshop Notes

The Workshop Attendees
Back: Tom Otro, Elena, Donna, Suzi, Heather, Patty, Jacky, Tom D.
Front: Agneta, Mimi, Yvonne, Sandy, Joel
We had another great group this year! We had a good time, perfect warm weather and some even swear they learned something. We covered Color and Perspective on the first day and then put it all to practice during the week. We did a trip to nearby Guanajuato on Thursday which everyone seemed to enjoy. Some have suggested doing a week there next year -we just may do that!

All my paintings below are unfinished - done in about 2 hours for demonstration purposes.
I think I'll work on some of them in the coming week and post again when done.

 9x12 in. Jardin fountain scene
9x12 in. Churchyard demo

 12x16 in. Group Demo. at the "Parroquia" church

12 x16 in. Plaza Reforma, demo Guanajuato

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Una Tarde Tranquilo

"Una Tarde Tranquilo"
12x16 ins. oil on panel

This was started in the Jardin  (just across from our gallery) on Monday afternoon about Siesta time. I had the color and design worked out that afternoon but in my opinion the scene deserved a lot more "finish", so I worked on it during this week. It was quite a challenge from start to finish but I enjoyed the task immensely. Luc joined me on the park bench I'd already laid claim to and we had a great time discussing everything from general ethics to the federal reserve. I find it more than a little distracting to deal with heavy issues like that when doing plein air but in this case I'd already made a lot of decisions before he arrived so it sort of worked a way. All in all it was a memorable afternoon. We had a lot of grinning people watching us as the work progressed. They probably thought we were making "artist talk" - I can't help but wonder if they'd still be grinning if they knew what we were talking about.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Monday Morning in the Jardin

"Early Monday Morning"
9x12  oil

It's always nice and quiet in the Jardin Principal on a Monday morning. Donna's group picked a very nice scene out on the perimeter but there was no shade and it seemed like if I joined them it would create a bit of a bottleneck between a set of benches and the Jardin wall. So I chose a nice spot in the shade and really enjoyed putting this one together.

Yes, it was fun but as you can see in this photo taken by Sylvia Brenner, I was more than a bit chilly. The students out in the sun were all melting and here I was working on a case of mild hypothermia. This has happened every plein air session this month. I try to find a place in the shade which is fine strategy for 10 months of the year but in winter if a breeze comes up you can end up miserably cold. This year it has been especially cool here in S. Miguel. It still struggles up into the 20's (celcius) every afternoon but goes to near freezing over night. However, Spring is about 4 weeks away and I guess we'll soon be complaining about the heat! ................... at least our paint won't be going stiff on the palette - hate that!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2 nu 4 u

9x12 in. oil

We finally had a nice fairly warm morning on Monday and 4 of us painted up on the Parroquia grounds. I've painted the church once or twice before so I turned my back on that worthy subject and found the above to be an interesting challenge. I'm not sure anybody else will like it but I do there!
In the afternoon Luc, Donna and I met up again and did another one - this time on the other side of the Parroquia fence, facing the Jardin. C BELOW

9x12 in. oil

All in all it was a very nice, full day of painting shared with a small but very enthusiastic group. A lot of regulars have returned for the winter lately so I expect the plein air sessions are going to get more crowded but I'm looking forward to it. It's always interesting to see what everyone else is doing.