Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Drought #2

 I worked most of the day on my second abstract - trying to make it look like rain while still being abstract. Futile and frustrating..

So I tried a new approach - wiping pretty much all the original out using the same colours - blue, red and yellow. Only the moon/sun remains.

It kind of looks like a forest fire . It might also represent the Liberal win over the Conservatives and NDP - though who the yellow represents I don't know - maybe the people who didn't vote.  I think it might be finished. I'm calling it Drought #2.

For comparison here is Drought #1.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Second lesson with Dennis Brown

Here are the two paintings I did at the class today. They were inspired by the beautiful yellow maples and dark firs in Cathedral Grove - I just used yellow and blue. They are both a bit messy for my taste - experiments really. For the first one I used a couple of borrowed tools - a small spatula and a toothed scraping tool - to get the effects. For the second one I sloshed on the paint then stopped most of the dripping by doing some neat brush strokes. Can you see the orange dot? I won't do anything to them for a while - there is something fresh about them that can never be recaptured once it is painted over.  I might try to do something similar on a larger canvas once I get my own tools - a bit of light purple might be nice.

Here's a close up of the first one with more yellow showing. I like it better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Abstracts

 I decided to make a change to the abstract painting I started with Dennis Brown - which I wrote about in an earlier post. I had wanted this painting to be about the drought in the gulf islands this summer and hope that still works.. I thought the blue panel on the right side of the first version was odd - really unsettling - and I didn't like the 'waterfall" that had appeared to the right of the red jelly fish -  so I made both bits yellow-orange and put in a swirly dark bit which balances the left side. The painting looks pretty organized now - still abstract of course - but not blurred and free like Dennis' paintings. It sort of makes me think of the ferry terminal or Luke's planet in the first Star Wars movie. I made some interesting scratches on parts of it but you can't see them in this photo. On Thursday I have my next class with Dennis and will take it along for new ideas.

This is the picture I "mined" from my first painting. I wanted it to be about dreams of rain. It was very fun to paint because I  was painting on top on one of my gessoed-out painting and when I scraped what now seems to be the sky I got some really interesting marks. They don't really show in this photo. I also left the drips this time and rubbed some of the wet red paint off so that the yellow shows through. Elspeth says she likes it so I'm leaving it for now and taking it to my class on Thursday.

The strange thing about these two paintings is that when I set up the camp beds in my studio for the our weekend visitors - the colours of the duvets totally coordinated with these two paintings. It was quite splendid.  I think my next abstract is going to feature dark green with bright golden yellow - like the maples and firs in Cathedral Grove on the way to Tofino. . I might try it tonight. I might mine something out of "Young Pines Long Gone."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New website

Mike convinced me that I need to have a website that is solely devoted to paintings. I think this is a great idea and have spent many days revising my original www.chucklingchimes.ca website and creating my new www.pennygrantpaintings website.

 Here is photo of me that appears on both website. It was taken a couple years ago - but I like it alot and hope I still look that way. Maybe I will try to do a self-portrait from it.

Hmmm.... portraits and abstracts might be my future. sounds pretty wonderful to me.  Especially with all this glum news about the election.

On to abstracts - a whole new world

I have decided to try to paint abstract acrylic paintings. I had got really hung up on three fairly big paintings that were underway for months. One was my painting of the gorgeous view from Mount Washington as the moon rose and the sun set. I loved that painting - so when I submitted to a NAC show and it was not accepted I was annoyed. However, when I went to the show I could see it was really not in the running. It was super pretty but not at all edgy like the other paintings there..

Another painting was of Cottle Lake with a huge  yellow sky and water. I wanted it to tell a story about climate change, drought and forest fires - but it was not working. I could not figure out what to do next.

The third was a tobogganing picture with lots of evergreens and snow. I could not get going on it - maybe because I didn't take the photo.  I no longer liked it and was daunted at the thought of painting all those huge trees.

One of the the artists at the NAC show was Dennis Brown. He is a fantastic abstract artist and paints the most enormous paintings. (Sorry I don't have link  but just look him up under "Dennis Brown artist Ladysmith.") I talked to him and found he is teaching a 3 part course in Ladysmith this fall. I took the first class. It was so hard - I had to start seeing and thinking in a new way - but I was pretty happy with the painting I started.  I later worked on it at home and this is how it looks now:

Pretty fantastic don't you think? It is about drought in the gulf islands - which we experienced this summer.It was so hot and dry in the islands and here in Nanaimo. The parts of the painting are quite ambiguous and I'm not sure what they are. Maybe the moon, the sun, boat masts, a line of gulf islands in the distance, a dry hay field, a lily, a red lion jellyfish, and a waterfall? I also think it looks like traffic - maybe boat traffic going through Dodd Narrows.The yellow came from my Cottle Lake painting and the red outline from Awesome. My next class is next week and we are going to learn about texture.

Well - my three problem paintings are now completely gone forever. I gessoed them out so i could start afresh. I have started one which is "mined" from the first one. As Tim says, the sky's the limit so we'll see what happens. (PS -  Dennis is the guy who unleashed Jim and his wonderful semi-abstracts and portraits.)

The kid with the nail and awesome - done

Here is the finished painting of Charlie. I tried to make it impressionistic by having the light definitely coming from the left and lighting up his hair, etc. I am calling it "The Kid with the Nail" - even though it would be more obvious to call The Kid with the Hammer. I am pretty happy with the grassy background and the fence. When Charlie saw it asked. " Why is there a hole in the fence?"  Well - it's to show that he is not trapped in his backyard - there are other worlds out there for him to explore.

And here is what I am sure is the final version of "Awesome." I painted this picture day after day to try to get it to look the way Henry looked at the end of Kindergarten. My problem had been that the initial drawing was inaccurate and it took many many tries to finally get things correct.  I had made the background red. Then decided red was not a happy colour so changed to golden yellow but left I the red as an outline to make the figure pop. His eyes may still be a bit too big - but I am finally happy with it. they are done and on my website.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I am using a photo of Charlie taken from Instagram. He looks very cute but also determined - a fellow with a big hammer ready to build something.

The first challenge is that the photo is taken from above and his image is quite  foreshortened. For example his feet are small  compared to his head anyway - because he is only 4 years old - but they are smaller  because of the angle.  I want this to look OK.

The second challenge is the background.  How should I do it. Very simplified but how simplified?

The third challenge is to make it look like him. Actually that is the hardest.

No - the hardest is to make a picture he will like and that will be fun for everyone to look at.

Here comes Charlie

I have started to paint Charlie.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Quiller colours

Jim also introduced me to Stephen Quiller's color wheel. Quiller is a painter and teacher who lives in Colorado. The colours he uses are all beautiful and bright and his paintings are all really lovely. I think his colours are very suitable for the Gulf Islands in the summer - particulalry this very hot, dry endlessly blue summer.

I decided to use Quillers colours to do another very small painting of Merriweather and Skol in Oyster Cove. I first made the quiller color wheel based on a DVD Jim loaned me.  Each of the colours is paired opposite its complementary colour and if you blend them together you get the same shade of grey. The wheel doesn't show what you get when you mix colours beside each other together - but probably a colour in between.

I don't have his violet but didn't want to use violet anyway as it had ruined my previous painting. I decided to use pthallo blue and pthallo turquois for the sky, ultramarine for the hills and dark section of the water, pthallo green for the trees on the islands, and cadmium yellow for the log boom. I  used touches of payne's grey and no red at all.

I thought I would do the mast and jibs first but ended up with the boats the wrong size and in the wrong place. So I redid my drawing starting with the hulls and going up into the masts, etc. I used the rule of thirds for placement of the boats - it does make a pleasing composition. As I painted I began to realize that the sky was too intensely blue - a lovely colour but overwhelming. I  now think that on a sunny day the sky is always lighter in shade than the water - even if the water is sparkling or white-capped. So I added a lot more white to the sky. Boats are always tricky because they have to be correctly drawn - but I have done enough of them to know what to watch for. Besides the mast and jibs, the reflection of the water on the hulls and the reflection of the hulls in the water need to be done right. Here is my tiny 8x10 picture using the limited Quiller colours - no reds at all. Very serene.

Now it is time to get on with something much bigger. Maybe the winter tobogan painting I started way back in January. Maybe a portrait of Charlie on Instagram in his carpentry outfit. It will be tricky because it is looking down on him and I need the original photo from Josie - since Instagram doesn't give much information.

Painting "en plein air" - boating style

Jim got me painting again.

Mike and I spent 3 nights anchored with Jim and Pat in Oyster Cove across from Ladysmith. Jim had brought several little 8x10 canvasses and some paints which he shared with me. For 3 afternoons we sat in the cockpit of either Merriweather or Skol and painted what we saw around us. Afterwards we had an art show and looked at what we had done. It was so much fun and such a great learning experience.

Here is the first one - a painting of trees, shore and water. I used a quite large brush but it has lots of light and movement. I was pretty happy with it and glad to be back painting.

Here is the third one - painted with a tiny brush but still in an impressionist style. It is the floats at Ladysmith - behind the white propane tank breakwater. I only used 3 colours plus white - a turquoise, a yellow and alizerin crimson. The sky turned out to be the best part. The log boom looked fairly recognizable.

What happened to the second one? Well I decided to fix it when I got home - by adding the 2 boats from a photo Mike had taken. It turned out way to purple and the log boom is puzzling but I kind of liked the boats.

When we got home, Mike and I went out and bought 40 little canvases for future attempts.


Hard to believe - but the only painting I did between January and May was to redo my pictures of Henry and my arbutus on Wallace Island and to work on banners in April.

Why? Partly because I got sick again. I didn't realize it - but I was gradually going down down down. It started with deafness and post nasal drip and ended up with me on a big burst of predniszone at the end of May plus a warning not to let it get out of hand again. Same old thing - I adapted and thought what I was experiencing was normal.

Here are the banners:
They are Rob and Josie surfing - though Rob looks a bit like Curious George.  This picture was at taken the windup dinner. The banners are hanging outside the back entrance of the Dorchest4er Best Western quite near the Bastion.

Here's my beautiful arbutus - final version - in the Port Theatre in 2015.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Portrait of Rob

I stopped doing my tobogganing painting - trees are hard and the painting is large. I started a new portrait on Jan 19 and finished it - I'm pretty sure it's finished - today, Jan 23. It is of Rob - from a great photo taken of him a couple of years ago.

Here is the pencil drawing. I did it by dividing the photos and canvas into squares - to help get the proportions accurate. As you can see, the nose is way to short. It looks more like Pete than Rob.

 The end of the first day of painting. Definitely has a Rob-like look . The neck is scarey.

 I wanted to have a meaningful background so tried to put in a exterior of the the Fort McMurray Airport from the McFarlane Green website. It didn't seem to be working. I didn't know what to do about the grass on each side (because I don't think there ended up being any grass) and I was pretty sure the red walls were actually natural wood.

I changed the background to the interior of the airport near one of the gates - looking out at the prairie through big windows. I also adapted this image from the McFarlane Green website. I think it makes a much better background. Pretty geometric. I softened the shadows and highlights on the face a bit. The photo is a little paler than the real thing because of the lighting. I think it really looks like Rob. I hope he likes it.

So this portrait took less than half as long to do as the one of Henry. Both atr fonr on 20x24 inch panels but Rob is just head and shoulders while Henry is the top half of his body. The paint is not thick as the first portrai because I had a  more accurate drawing to work from. The skin colours are more yellowish. Henry is more pink.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


I have just started a new snow picture. I am taking it from a photo of Henry tobogganing at Silver Star in the Okanagan at Christmas time. I like this subject because it goes with my Mount Washing picture - but is actually a lot harder  because it has so many trees. But I'm eager to give it a try.

I started yesterday with a quick sketch. I know the sky isn't pink to the top. That will come later.

 Today I added some pale yellow to try to define where the snow is on the branches.

Then tried to darken the dark parts of the trees where there is no snow. 

I'm pretty happy with my drawing so far. The tree in the middle is a bit odd but it's just because it's being pressed down by the snow. As far as accuracy goes, it's not a demanding as a portrait. But trees are tricky - they can't just be faked. In fact when you are painting a real object or scene, you can't fake it. You have to be free and you still have to be careful.  I am just using acrylics and water .

I am basing my style on an early painting by Lauren Harris - well not really - just hoping to make the shapes of the trees and snow on the trees look a bit like his. 

He doesn't have any strange misshapen trees in his painting. That's what I love about Lauren Harris - everything is always perfect.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I just had the most fun week painting a portrait of one of my grandsons - Henry. I was inspired to try portrait painting again by my friend and fellow new artist, Jim. Jim has been painting up a storm for the past year and showed me some portraits he has been doing. Very cool! I thought - I did a portrait of my mom in 2012 - Maybe I should see if I can do one in acrylics.

I started with a photo I had taken last June - at school on Grandparents Day

On January 6, I made a sketch which I hoped had the right proportions and shape. It turned out that the arms were too small - but I think that is because the head kept getting larger than my plan.

I then roughed in the colours. Exciting. Light is going to come in from the right back.

 I got a little over enthusiastic with the colours. I honestly didn't know what colours to use.

And finally finished it on January 12. I ended up using white, chrome red, yellow orchre, burnt umber, payne's grey and viridian for the skin, viridian and paynes grey, yellow and orange for the tee shrit and chrome green and yellow for the background.
The eyes were my biggest challenge - they were always too big. Several times I tried to make them smaller - but in the end they turned out bigger than I intended - but that's OK. He looks like Henry and is full of charm and personality! What a great week! Now I have 3 more grandsons to try out my portrait skills on.

In March 2015 I decided to redo this picture.  I liked it a lot but it didn't look like Henry. Mainly the face was too wide. I worked for several days and redid a lot of it. it still doesn't look Henry but it's a lot better anatomically but lacks the devilish gleam in his too far apart eyes.