North Superior Coast and Killarney Pines


I have been working through some sketches lately to arrive at 5 or 6 pictures that I can work up into large canvases. The first 2 have been on my easel for the last couple of days. I have taken some photos to show a bit of the process of how I work them up.

North Superior Coast

superior 1

Here is the under painted 30 x 40 canvas. I prefer to work with wet on wet. The colours are applied on a wet warm coloured ground. As a fall scene, little chips of this ground that show through should add to the overall warmth. Here I am building the mid tones and the shadows. There will be a lot of green in the darkened foreground – in the underpainting I am working in purples to make the green more luminous when they are overpainted.

superior 2

The colour is built up evenly across the whole canvas – balance is important so I am not focusing on one specific area – just working evenly across the whole picture.

superior 3

And getting close to the final picture – a few more touches and it will be completed.

Killarney Pines

killarney pines2

One of the most interesting places I have canoed is Killarney Park – the white stone there is really striking – it takes on the colour of the surrounding light. That’s the thinking behind this image – the sketch is high contrast – bright sky with almost sillohetted pines and rock. But the rock (being almost) white also takes on the colour of the sky.

killarney pines 1

The under painting begins for the 40 X 30 version – composition is important with a simple bold images like this so if I get it right in the sketch, I want to maintain it for the larger canvas – a grid is used to scale up the sketch to ensure the balance is similar. I have added in a few more trees at the larger size – to providing more visual interest.

killarney pines2

Here is the final painting – the white rocks are reflecting the blue of the sky – the pines almost seem to be surrounded by water – but they are at the top of Silver Peak – the highest mountain in Killarney.

sketching up a larger painting

north of superior

There are a number of larger paintings that have been requested. So today I am doing some sketching to find 2or 3 that will make good large pictures. A number of things are worked out at 8X10. Composition, colour, tone. And ultimately I can see if this is something I want to enlarge.

The sketch above dark trees in foreground, and a glimmer of light on the hills behind should enlarge well.

birches on river

Birches on a river in winter.

thin pines

small islands filled with stunted pines – this is pretty dark and a bit graphic looking.


the steamers coming out of Gravenhurst – I think this could be a great paining with a little adjustment in composition.

The top and bottom sketches are good candidates for 30 x 40, but I will continue to cast around for some more ideas.

Another discovery at the National Gallery


A couple of weeks ago, we went to the National Gallery in Ottawa. This place is a real gem. I have been to some of the best art museums in NA and Europe. And my experience at the National is always the best. Mainly because of the G of 7 collection. I love the impressionists but I feel a deeper connection to the Groups work.

The thing I find with spending a few hours looking at pictures is I tend to go back to the familiar time and again. And when I look, I am looking very closely – how did the artist create this contrast, how did he/she get this colour so luminous? I am looking inside the picture for technique. But I often get lost there and don’t appreciate some of the work I am less familiar with.

On this trip I discovered Suzar Coté –
Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté (April 6, 1869 – January 29, 1937) was a Canadian painter and sculptor. He was born in Arthabaska, Quebec in 1869. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris with Léon Bonnat during the 1890s. After his return to Quebec in 1908, he produced many impressionist paintings of the Quebec landscape, as well as portraits, nudes, historical paintings and later sculptures.
Suzor-Coté became paralyzed in 1927 and later died at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1937.

The paintings in the National are spectacular and technically very good. I was lucky enough to buy a book of his work in the gallery on sale. It was a really good deal $20.00 for a $70.00 book. Filled with great reproductions of his work – pictures, sculpture and drawings – it will make a great edition to my collection of art books. I collect art books and mine are all well used and covered in smears of paint. I do often reference them as I paint.

If you are a fan of the true impressionists have a look at the work of Suzor Coté.

The Art Spirit


“It is harder to see than it is to express. The whole value of art rests in the artist’s ability to see well into what is before him.” Robert Henri.

As I get a bit older I begin to realize that I am more then ever compelled by the challenge of painting pictures. The trick is to see the picture before it is painted. Often this picture is clear, composition, colour, tone, even brush strokes. All in place – you just sit and do it. Other times it is a struggle – the vision is not as clear as it could have been and in getting it down the flaws appear. Here is when the challenge takes place, you start exploring, changing and revisioning the painting – hopefully with success.

I have started this diary of painting because as I talk to people who like my work they are interested in the process – where did the vision come from, where is the scene or model, how long did it take?

In retrospect, it is often hard to describe. And time does pass. As I am painting almost everyday, and my painting appear in galleries months later the original vision and the picture usually become disconnected.

My hope is that if I can describe the pictures as I do them it will form a record to those who buy to understand how and when these pictures came to be.

I can’t promise to show all that I do or provide exhaustive information as I am a painter and would rather paint then write but I will do my best.


This weekend I was at my brother and sister inlaw’s cottage and did a couple of 8×10 sketches Sunday morning he first was a winter scene from a photo of a red painted barn in a snowy landscape – a very graphic composition with bright blue shadows on the snow. The tiny red farm provides a touch of detail and interest.

purple swamp

The other sketch is a small island in a swampy area of Chemong lake. The back lit scene is painted in very warm colours with the tall thin trees reflecting in the water in the foreground.

algoma large

I have been working on a big canvas 30 X 40 for the last couple of weeks – I have wanted to do a large iconic image of the fall in Ontario – I have always been a Group of 7 fan and wanted to do something from the Algoma area. This image I developed from a group of photographs to create a painting with depth and drama. I am almost finished here, just a few more touches and it will be done. I also did a small sketch of the scene to figure out the composition and colour. I will be donating that one to an auction later this month.