Paint, paint, paint.

Blomidon December, 2011

In mid December we travelled over to The Minas Basin off the Bay of Fundy for a day of hiking and painting. It was a bitterly cold day, overcast with low cloud and passing showers and flurries. What a beautiful day to paint and I have the luxury of working from the car which on days like this doubles as a mobile studio.

When I move out from the studio I intend to work very quickly. I respond to shape and tone clues in an attempt to capture some aspect of the experience I am immersed in. I work over the entire surface making notes that will define the framework of the work, the air and temperature influencing my view.

Poppies Bloom

When the poppies bloom they sure make a showing. I can watch and draw as the plant unfurls itself towards the sun. It seems like such a luxury to have the time to record a version of this experience. I watch plants bloom in the garden and recorded the process using acrylic paint which makes things happen very fast in the painting world of lines and tones and planes.

Garden at Dusk

Close at hand and only a few steps from the back door is a world of fleeting moments, a dreamscape composed of colour and shape patterns. Sounds and scents blend and weave through the space and the only constant is change. As a painter working on a two dimensional surface the challenge of rendering this vision is huge and one that both attracts and compels me to offer my version of this subject matter

Getting Started

I love working in the yard and creating images directly from the subject.
Our garden is a source of many images over the years. On this beautiful morning the Irises were blooming and caught my eye as soon as I walked into the yard. Having canvas ready to go as time and weather allow makes the start easy. All other materials get stored in a bag which is, for the most part, ready to go.  The bag is as light as possible.  This day once I set up and started things worked really well. It would be nice if things always happened this way.

Martenique Beach

We walked down the length of the beach on the inside of the dunes. A deer had been on the beach just ahead of us but swam across the channel to avoid contact. We sat on the beach and took the opportunity to paint and have a picnic.  
As the longest beach in Nova Scotia there is no end when you go looking for things to paint. The weather is constantly changing stirring the ocean and moving the sand. On one occasion we walked a few kilometers along the shore and near the end of the dunes discovered that the sea had pushed a whole through during a winter storm. Tonnes of sand were moved aside and we stood in awe of the result.


On the far side of the train tracks is a brook that runs through the woods. Blue flag Iris bloom along the shore in the spring and provide great sites for painting. The iris paintings belong to a group that is loosley called "Ground Cover" that had beginnings with the ferns in the backyard.
With the iris and other plants that have filled canvas, I think it is the shear number of contrasts that draw me in. Colours and textures, shapes and sounds.


Rubbing and rolling developed out of lithographic press work while I studied at NSCAD. 
It was a time of incredible optimism and experimentation. 

The renderings of common household items were almost instant with this process and as such became relevant with other contemporary film and digital media. 

Three dimensional space was captured on two dimensional canvas in ways that I could previously not even imagine.

Coming and Going

Halifax Harbour near the south end of the penninsula is a very busy place. Ships loading and unloading everything imaginable. The cargo of a continent.

I have been visiting this shoreline and making paintings along the way for quite some time. The sketches are on small boards which are easy to work on in these locations. Each trip brings a new view with ships moving around the clock.

As an artist I am drawn to the changing patterns, the perspective and the sheer scale of this massive enterprise.


The brook on the far side of the tracks has proved to be a great spot to paint. It is close to home and can be reached in a few minutes as the weather allows. This time the air was chilled as the days were short and time critical as night approached. Working as quickly as possible and wet on wet as the paint was not drying I finally approached the edge of landscape as rubbing.

I had begun making rubbings during college studies. At the time I had been making intaglio and lithographic prints while reading art history and seemed to see nineteenth and twentieth centuries artists locked in an epic battle with one another for the eyes of the public. Each group pushing the efforts of the last, documenting the rush to the future through paint.
Common representations were changing. Everything about painting came into question. Subject, colour and paint application as well as the picture plane were questioned and shattered right along with the world itself. Painters gave themselves the ability to see all sides of an object or idea at once.
The confussion of events and the idea of layers of colour and form on a two dimensional surface united for me in rubbings. I likened the speed and process that revealed the image to very modern and ancient ideas all at once. It seemed like a perfect fit for me and I wanted to translate the final effect to the landscape image.

Amythest Cove

Late last summer we spent the afternoon on the beach. I was able to make this sketch of the cliffs we had just climbed down. I think they go straight up about 300 feet so the ropes that are in place are a great help down and up. We hit the tide just right and spent the afternoon listening to the water rush by.