“We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.”
In January 2003 I decided to experiment with watercolours. With a solid background in high school art concepts I concentrated mainly on my early art education; art elements and principals, composition, perspective, sketching and art history. Intrigued by watercolour paintings, a book by Jack Reid, one of Canada’s best known landscape artists, entitled “Watercolor Basics – Lets Get Started” was the catalyst to get me started.
THE THOUGHT PROCESS ….
Focusing on landscapes, I am attracted by settings created by nature’s elements – sun, wind, water, ice and snow. I composes the scenes of my choice, first through my camera lens and later in my studio, working layer by layer, using the elements of design – line, space, shape, colour, texture and form. I also like to explore the effects of weather on architecture, at home or during my travels. Always looking at new techniques and subject matter I continue to experiment with the elements, both natural and artistic.
NUTS AND BOLTS …
Working almost exclusively on Arches 300 cold press watercolour paper, I glaze and layer to create realistic yet atmospheric representations. Preferring Winsor and Newton or Holbien watercolours, I start with the primary colours, along with the earth tones, mixing the secondary colours on my palette or paper as I paint. I mix my blacks, and leave the white of my paper where needed. Working in transparent layers, I combine several techniques to create my artwork. Wet-in-wet, dry brush, splattering and sponging all assist in creating the textured details that make my artwork come to life.
I have experimented on watercolour canvas, an innovative 100% cotton artist canvas for water-based paints (see “Old Homestead” in Gallery 2). It delivers a unique look that can only be captured on canvas.
Another alternative to traditional art paper is an exciting paper called Yupo. A synthetic paper, made of 100% polypropylene, this extraordinary paper has a non-absorbent surface causing the pigments to have a mind of their own. Colours mix randomly with each other and create intriguing textures as they dry. The pigments applied to the ultra bright white sheet retain their true clarity and brilliance while the translucent sheet allows for special layered effects (see the “Jack Pine of Killarney” and “Algonquin Birches” in Gallery 1). A fun paper that helps me relax and become less focused on details, and to enjoy the process of creating. Paintings done on Yupo have been sprayed with a special archival coating to prevent the colour from washing off.
BUILDING BLOCKS ….
Starting with several photos of my subject matter, I can spend minutes, hours or possibly days working out the composition and values by drawing thumb nail sketches. I am a firm believer of working through the sketching process, by hand. Occasionally I will grid my work, but find the best way to get an accurate rendition of my subject is to sketch the artwork at a smaller size. By measuring the dimensions of my watercolour paper in inches and then drawing the same rectangle in my sketchbook in centimeters, I keep the scale consistent. This gives me a smaller shape to work with and I find it easier to work out the details. Once my composition is complete, I transfer the sketch to my watercolour paper and I am ready to start painting.
I paint intuitively, without spending a lot of time contemplating colours, or techniques. Occasionally, before beginning a painting, I browse through my many books for inspiration, sometimes finding ideas for a new technique to try. Always aware of my lightest lights, I leave those sections white for as long as necessary. I occasionally use masking fluid to save my whites. My palette of colours rarely change, as I work with the colours and brands that I have become the most comfortable with over the years.