Undesignated Direction

Which way up?  A painting with subject matter like this could go any which way.  Which do you prefer?  By the time this post goes up, the painting will be finished but the way up will still be up in the air…


This way looks airy and draws attention to the grouping of three in a row.

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No, this doesn’t work. None of them look right side up necessarily, but this one looks upside down for sure.

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I don’t like the movement in this one. Some kind of shuffling dance jerking to the right.  On the bright side, the flower on the left looks quite striking.

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This is right side up according to the original plan. It has the advantage of the light being at the top and all those shadowy stalks moving upwards.


Painting Expedition

Wind.  Rain.  Just really cold.  Welcome to painting in the great Alberta outdoors!  Still, it must be done.  This is really good for bulking up one’s artistic know how.  The thrill of painting in the elements is unmatched by any studio experience.  The paint and paper and water doing uncharacteristic things builds patience, technical skill, and the acceptance of mistakes…  sigh.  The practice is what makes it perfect.  This is our first plein air expedition of 2019.


Painting at a local pond along the highway and railway tracks, there isn’t much to choose from as far as subject matter goes.  The train was colourful and horizontal.  Judy managed to fit the historic NAR building in as well.  Actually, just now there is quite a dirt pile around the building, which is still under construction, so we have both made the dirt browns a little nicer than they are.  Both Carolyn’s and Judy’s sketches are done in pen, then painted with Cass watercolourcolours.


It always helps to have a critic.  Once the camera started coming out Pip took off for a walk around the pond.  Spying a muskrat, he jumped in the water up to his belly and enjoyed himself very much.

Working on Values

At our weekend watercolour course, we led the students through a lot of information about values and contrast.  We began with pencil thumbnail sketches, studying photos and imagining how light sources could move or change to enhance an image.  Then we moved into the painting, following through in colour all the thoughts about light and dark.

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Above is Judy’s value sketch of a small waterfall, brightly lit by the summer sun.  Her painting is below.  The snow study was done by a student.IMG_1599

Carolyn’s winter building was chosen to show the use of warm and cold colours as well as primary, secondary and complimentary colours.

Here are more examples of value studies, all student work except Carolyn’s painting on the right:IMG_1601.jpg

Value Studies

On a recent watercolour weekend course, Judy and Carolyn focused on values.  It doesn’t matter what colour you paint a subject so much as it matters that you get the values right.  Using red filters, we can see any image as a monochrome value study.  Here’s the reverse: a colour painting turned black and white to check the values.

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We also talked about colour, particularly using complimentary colours.  A lot of people wondered about the vermillion, but it works next to the blues!