John David Anderson
BAG Members Attend ‘En Plein Air’ Workshop
On June 7th and 8th, Trisch Pemberton and I attended a workshop hosted by The Bayfield Centre for the Arts. On Day 1 we gathered at Clan Gregor Park. It was a cold blustery day under overcast skies, and those of us dressed for summer were not entirely enthusiastic to be painting outdoors. We were greeted by John David Anderson, Canadian contemporary impressionist, who was clad in a down jacket and toque, grinning in anticipation of a day painting in the fresh air.
We huddled, trying to get out of the wind which was whipping up Howard Street from Lake Huron, as John explained his Three Rules of Plein Air:
Rule 1. Construction of Values: which means using highlights and shadows to create emphasis, perspective, depth, and contrast. John introduced ‘blocking’ when starting a painting. Blocking means to paint large shapes as opposed to a tree or a house.
Rule 2. Edge Control: John spent a long time discussing edges. Although I had heard them mentioned in tutorials, I didn’t understand their importance in a composition. There are three types of edges: hard, soft and lost. They help to direct attention, show depth and depict the play of light. John looks at a composition thinking about when he can set up a lost edge. He said, “Lost edges give a composition a sense of mystery and painterliness.”
Rule 3. Colour Temperature: refers to warm and cool colours as found on the colour wheel. Colour temperature can create depth, mood and movement. Warm colours appear to come forward and cool colours appear to recede. All colours can be warm or cool. Even blue can be warm if it leans toward red on the colour wheel.
Rule 3b. The 30-foot Rule: Use values to create depth and contrast then step back to see if it makes sense. If the values aren’t right – fix them. When it looks right from 30 feet, add details. Look at it again from 20 feet, then again from 10 feet. If it looks right from 10 feet you’re done.
John reviewed colour mixing with a limited palette. A limited palette means choosing the smallest number of pigments that are required to create a range of colours that will achieve the effect you want. He was using Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Yellow Light, White and Black. Using a limited palette can make your colour selection easier and make your artwork come together seamlessly.
With the theory lesson complete, John focused on the front view of Brandon’s Hardware. I was taken by surprise when he scrubbed a layer of Alizarin Crimson, completely covering his canvass. It was a mess, paint in every direction. Then he swiped on a grey-ish colour representing the roofline and the porch. He blocked in big crude shapes with a thick, dark, sludge colour. It would eventually become trees and background but at that point served to outline the front of the building: negative painting. He talked as he worked, explaining his thought process. “Get the dark values down then the mid-values. Don’t both with details.” He explained how he paints shapes not things: windows were simple rectangles. Laughing he said, “Paint like you’re wealthy – use LOTS of paint!”.
When the demonstration was over, we scattered into the sunshine along Main Street eager to practise what we had just learned. I was anxious that I only had 2 ½ hours to complete my first painting. Trying to copy John’s style and referring to my notes, I tried colour blocking with my watercolours. No preliminary drawing: just go for it! Not my most polished work but lots of good learning. John circulated offering advise and encouragement. We lunched on site and soon started our second paintings, later meeting at Clan Gregor to show our work. John offered praise and suggestions for improvement for each painting. My work was unfinished, but I appreciated having it critiqued by a professional.
On Day 2 we met at the marina and once again John talked us through his thought process as he painted. He explained when painting en plein air you must focus on simplicity, clarity and repetition. Speaking softly John said, “Putting a painting together is an emotion that I feel and see. Paint the experience of the place.” and “It is the story of light. We are all organically connected in this place by the light.”
I was the only watercolourist in the group and some of the techniques used when painting with oils and acrylics did not apply, but I gave over myself to the sunshine and the place and the pleasure of putting paint on paper. I am looking forward to many more days of painting en plein air.
- Mary Wilson
Helmut is one of our artist guild members. He is a skilled carpenter, who enjoys creating and designing his own picture frames. On May 12, 2023 he presented to a number of BAG members how to construct different frames such as free floating and shadow box frames. He makes it all so easy with simple solutions. Stay tuned for a workshop sometime in the Fall presented by Helm to make your own frame.
On February 8, 2023, BAG invited one of its members to share their knowledge about painting with watercolours. The group was welcomed by countless watercolours that Kathy had completed with artists online since the pandemic. Some of the artists include Fabio Cembranelli, Cindy Briggs and Kevin Chapman. Many of these artists focus on teaching tint values, such as neutral tints. Each shared their own individual style. Kathy enjoys the watercolour process. She loves architectural realism. She never uses just one colour at a time but rather creates her own colour recipes.
Kathy talked about the three main types of watercolour papers; hot, cold and rough press. For beginners, it is suggested to use rough or cold press. These papers are more absorbent and have a nice ridged/textured look and feel. They come in different weights. The 140lb weighted cold paper is the most popular. Kathy also briefly discussed the paints and brushes that are available. In particular, she focussed on her favourite watercolour brushes, that being the rigger and a mop brush made from synthetic fibres. The rigger allows the artists to create fine lines and to sploosh. The mop brush holds lots of water, offers the right amount of stiffness for drawing fine lines and easily snaps back into its shape. It gives the artist the ability to create many different brush strokes. She also discussed with the group the pros and cons of pre-stretching and taping paper, as to using sheetlets.
Fabio Cembranelli loves working with synthetic brushes and teaches the art of “Glazing,” a wet and dry technique. He applies one layer of paint on top of another while wiping off excessive paint to create depth and shadowing. Brush strokes are short and organic in nature. Often the brush lightly strokes the paper, and water is applied, which creates movement. It is almost like the paint and brush are free dancing.
The group was given the opportunity to practice Fabio’s watercolour “Glazing” technique. Many of the members attending expressed their appreciation to Kathy for rekindling their interest in watercolours.
“A good watercolour brush should do at least one fundamental thing: hold water well. Ones made of synthetic hair do a fine job, but those with natural hairs have much better liquid-holding capacity.” Artnews.com
Laura Dirk is an abstract expressionist artist based in London, Ontario, Canada. Her style incorporates vivid line and colour to portray the energy of life in landscape, figurative and floral works. Working primarily in acrylic using a combination of eclectic illustration, representational and abstracted concepts. Laura creates unique marks with a variety of tools. Laura attended the University of Guelph studying Fine Art in the early 80's. Upon graduation Laura pursued a career in Information Technology. She recently returned to her artistic roots after 30 years. In addition to acrylic medium Laura creates graphic designs for her own line of golf wear GolfGirlzbyLauraDirk. Laura is an active juried member of the Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA), an FCA Toronto Chapter member and artist volunteer for the Bayfield Centre for the Arts. Her work can be viewed at FCA exhibitions in Vancouver BC and a variety of venues in London, Ontario, Follow @lauradirkartist on Instagram or visit ldirkartist.wordpress.com
December 14, 2022 - Workshop
Laura Dirk inspired the Bayfield Artist Guild members on Wednesday December 14, 2022. Laura, a former member of BAG, continues to pursue her love for the abstract. Laura considers herself as an "unorthodox painter". She is interested in the "mishmash of things". Her work is influenced by representational components and the simplification of our real world. Her multi-medium work is emotional, thought provoking and current with world issues.
Laura's focus is often big sky, wind and water. Her vertical and horizontal lines express the energy and tension of the relationship between nature and human interaction. Much of her work reflects hope and light through the use of her colours.
Laura briefly described how she works with her mediums. "I want my art to look like paint, but if you really look there is so much more." She encouraged our fellow artists to use more diverse and creative tools to create motion and emotion. She encouraged those with "art block" to be organic with the material and the process.
Though Laura continues to paint on canvas, much of her current work has evolved during the pandemic. Laura offers digitally created wearable clothing that can be purchased on-line. Her colourful wearable art is printed on multi functioning sports wear, casual jackets and dresses. All are made to order and hand sewn in Montreal, Canada.
To learn more about Laura and her work, please go to her website lkirkartist.wordpress.com or contact her directly at email@example.com