I'm a plein air painter living in Victoria, British Columbia. I paint regularly with the Al Frescoes, a Victoria group of plein air artists who paint outside every Friday morning. I am an Active Member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. I've taken painting courses at the Vancouver Island School of Art, the Victoria College of Art, and the Ottawa College of Art. I have had splendid teachers, most notably, Deborah Tilby, Todd Lambeth, and Jeremy Herndl.
Why I paint...
I find great inspiration in what I see in nature – the natural environment, the built environment, and human nature. My perceptions are inescapably personal and subjective and yet I want to connect with people through paintings that look authentic and are engaging. My paintings are an emotional response to what I see and feel, not an objective reporting of what is there.
My task is to discover and bring to canvas thousands of effects in nature that can be achieved through light, colour, and shape. Nature is complicated and I must simplify it in natural ways that make sense to me and will resonate with others. For me, my most basic point of departure is to know why I am painting a particular composition. What is the essence I want to capture and convey? Knowing the why, whether in specific or general terms, helps me in formulating an overall plan, however sketchy, and to make adjustments, calculated and spontaneous, as I go along.
How I paint...
I paint with oil paints and I work with a limited palette of 8 colours. I enjoy the magic of discovering the multiplicity of colours that emerge on my palette. I am learning that mixing colours is the critical link between seeing and discerning a particular colour in nature and applying it by brush to the canvas in the right spot with the right shape. I am increasingly questioning myself: is the hue right, the value right; is it too dark or too light, too intense or too dull, or too warm or too cool. As I answer the questions I make incremental adjustments. The limited palette also helps me to simplify and better understand the complexity of colour, leading to more harmonious paintings of contrasts and complementarities.
Where I paint...
I like to work from real subjects. I want to be there to experience and absorb the scene – its light, its mood, its temperature, humidity and winds, its personality, and how I feel about it. More often than not ‘being there’ is being out of doors. I love being outside absorbing the effects of light in nature. I paint small plein air field sketches which provide an important departure point for undertaking larger paintings in my studio. Compared to being exposed to continuously ‘changing elements’ in plein air the studio gives me greater control with its constant light and stable conditions. However, for me plein air sketches are critical because they are personal and if they are good, reflect what I saw and felt, what I wanted to capture, or came to discover I should capture.
Gordon Smith, the great Canadian landscape painter, says he is ‘a thousand painters deep’ and with his vast experience – still painting every day at age 94 -- he takes what he needs and leaves the rest. I take my pool of influences from my teachers, the great plein air painters-- the Impressionists and the Group of Seven -- and many others, but in the end, when eye comes to scene and brush to paint and then to canvas, it is about how I see the world and how I wish to express it to others. With experience and reflection I am deepening my pool.
The great thing about painting is the freedom and responsibility it provides me – the unique opportunity to find the inspiration in what I see, to establish the discipline and constraints to apply my skills to a blank canvas, and to share a purpose and meaning with others. For me painting is a personal endeavour and a social responsibility.