One of my favorite painting trips each year is to the Sunshine Coast which is just north of Vancouver, BC. In past years while I was still working full time as a chef, a couple of weeks away from the grind of cooking was an opportunity to sketch quietly by the lake or in the woods. Now that I am working full time as an artist I guess I can say that this is a chance to get away from my studio and just paint.
The sketches and paintings shown below were all painted on location with the exception of the watercolor of the cedar tree which was done in my studio. Over the years I have done a lot of sketches up at this cabin and these pictures are just a small sample of the last twenty three years. For me this place has given me a lot of inspiration and the opportunity to experiment with my art work.
Pencil sketch behind the main cabin.
Banjo in the water at Pat Lake
Cedar Tree, 15 in. x 11 in.
This week I wanted to share with you some of my recent paintings and sketches from the forests here on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. I find that I paint in different styles depending on the subject matter and where I am.
If I am on the road and sketching in a city with lots of people around my working style will be more about line work and simple watercolor washes. The private side of my self is saying “This is great!, I love this, but lets get this done quickly and get out of here”. When I am out in a forest or any place in nature where there are less people I tend to work in a slower more methodical way.
Producing art by its very nature is a solitary process and for me I can settle down into a longer working session with less distractions and delve deeper into the subject matter when I am out in nature.
The picture of Salal bushes in the forest at the top of this post I spent all afternoon painting. It is very easy to get lost in the moment and do this.
Douglas Fir tree on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor
Lightining Strike on Mt. Seymour, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor
Along The Varley Trail, Lynn Headwaters Park, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor study.
Salal bushes on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor painting
My out door studio.
I thought that this week I would take a break from posting about my journey around the world in 2013. In real time I am working on new watercolor paintings everyday. I decided to enter into another on line challenge about painting weeds in their outdoor location. Painting outdoors is a very different experience compared to studio work.
In the studio I have the luxury of stopping whenever I need to. I can use a hairdryer to dry my watercolor painting and most important I have a comfortable chair. The biggest advantage to painting in the studio is that you can control every aspect and stage of the painting with in reason.
This painting challenge on face book is hosted by James Gurney, author, illustrator and an exceptionally talented artist. His out door painting studies are an inspiration to many artists at different stages in their development. To see his blog and the Weed Painting Challenge you can go to http://www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com and look for weed painting challenge in the index.
The title of my picture is Persicaria and Driftwood and was painted by the Fraser River in Richmond, BC. just a few miles from home.
Persicaria Maculosa, Watercolor and pencil
My painting gear beside the Fraser River.
Woodland Cemetery, North Vancouver, BC
Painting in a cemetery in North Vancouver, BC.
Yesterday I painted a cemetery scene in watercolour in North Vancouver.BC. I was painting this picture in response to an on-line challenge by James Gurney, who is a great plein aire artist, author and illustrator. He is hosting a challenge to paint a cemetery in a restricted palette. See his blog http://www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com and look for Graveyard Challenge, October in the index.
Painting with limited colours forces you to work a little harder to mix your colours and the result is a more harmonious painting. If you normally have 15 or so colours available to paint with it is easy to end up with a painting that lacks harmony when you start adding colours all over the place.
It is also more difficult to get contrast and deep colours when you are only using three colours to mix. The colours I used for this painting were cobalt blue, cadmium red and aureolin yellow. I found this a great exercise for painting and will practise this more often. I also appreciate painting something I would not normally consider. On line painting challenges are a great way to get out of your comfort zone. Thanks for that James!
Sometimes I find that the best way to find a good subject to paint in the woods is to walk off the trail a few hundred feet and just stop and sit down. Trying to find the perfect scene seldom works for me. There is always something interesting to paint if I take the time to slow down and really look at what is around me in the forest.
On a recent hike to Mt. Seymour near Deep Cove, BC. I was looking for a stream to paint that would be cascading down through the woods. Normally this would be easy enough to find as there are dozens of streams in this area, but it has been a dry summer and so I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. Ok; time for plan “B”.
Plan “B” in this situation for me is to just walk off the trail, sit down and start painting. It sounds ridiculous but it works. Finding subject matter to paint can be really difficult if you over think it. The water colour study I did that day I also made into a studio version. I do this just to explore my visual ideas with out time restraints and mosquitos. The painting below is the field study.
The weather has been great for getting out on location and so I have been hiking and painting in several locations on Mt. Seymour. The trails can be a little rough and so it’s helpful to take your time. On my last two day trips to Mt. Seymour I managed to get temporarily lost one day and the next trip I sprained my ankle on the way home. The trails here definitely demand respect.
The trail to Goldie Lake from the upper parking lot is short and relatively easy and made for a great day. The lake is a little low on water but still beautiful. The watercolour painting that I started here I finished at home in my studio.
For the last couple of months I have been painting on location on the north shore of Vancouver, BC. I enjoy getting out of my studio and capturing first impressions of the streams, trees, and mountains.
Some of these plein aire sketches were used to create studio paintings but I find that for me, painting outdoors is a great way to learn and improvise. Time and weather force you to keep the paintings simple. Most of the time I work outdoors using the easel that’s in the photograph of Lynn Creek.
I have included a few more examples of recent plein aire paintings.