Photographing a painting

Posted in: Photographing Artwork | 5

Wearing all the hats, as an artist, can be a challenge, but there are benefits. One of them is, I have learned to work around my limitations when documenting my paintings. My main concern is colour; representing colour as accurately as possible.

In a pinch, if I colour-correct in photoshop, I can photograph my work in bad lighting and still come out with a relatively decent document. It would be nice to just take excellent photos right out of the box, and save a lot of time and hassle.

I take the original painting home to my desktop computer and compare my digital image to the real thing as I colour-correct.

This is an example of a photograph that I took and worked with:

Photographed in mixed lighting –some daylight and some daylight overhead fluorescents — without a flash, underexposed, and needing to be cropped and sized, this was a typically good candidate to work with. It was selected out of a batch of shots that were taken on a variety of colour and white-balance settings.

This process works relatively well, if I have all the time on earth, and have the original painting beside me when I’m colour-correcting. However, in this case, in order to meet a deadline, this painting flew out the door without my completing the corrections.

In this scenario, I was relying on my memory of the painting to adjust the colour. The liability, my worry, was that the photograph could end up looking better than the original painting. Obviously, it is not a good thing if an art buyer finds that the painting is not as exciting in real life as it was when they saw it online.

If the photograph looks better than the painting, the benefit, for me, is that I have done research that will make me a better painter. And I realize that this is a great way to work on paintings. I have also learned that photo documenting my work needs to be taken more seriously. Although I have learned a great deal, it is a task that I am looking forward to paying someone else to do.

As an aside, it was said of Jack Shadbolt that if you gave him back a painting to be repaired, when he was done with it, you were returned an entirely different painting.

This painting was juried and accepted into the North Vancouver Art Rental at Cityscape Community Artspace. It will be shown in the Art Rental Show in January 2018, along with one more of my landscapes. It was shown previously at the Parker Art Salon 2017, but I have repainted it since.

landscape painting of clouds over water

“Cloud Mirror” oil on canvas  9″x12″

Watercolour #4 The Ruckle house kitchen

Posted in: Watercolour | 7

This watercolour is the one that I find most interesting so far.
I am enjoying the dark brown flatness of that cut-out shape.
I like the design element of it, and the way it acts as a transition between two images, as well as
the contrast it provides.

I am interested in the way the glass that I was looking through created fragments of the outdoor scene
onto the images of the dark interior.

The structure of the chair and window, and the space that they occupy, anchor the rest of the image.
The rectangle of the window in all the watercolours so far has been my starting point.

It seems to me that there are many possibilities in these images for stories.

This is a tiny painting, only 5 x 7 inches. I feel cramped by the size restriction that I set for myself.
Maybe I’ll change that. Not sure yet.

Visiting The Ruckle Farmhouse

Posted in: Inspiration | 4
Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island

 

We camped for a week on Salt Spring Island where I was inspired by peering into the windows of the old Ruckle farmhouse.
Because it’s all locked up, the interior can only be seen through the windows, and my camera recorded the reflections on the old glass panels. On some of the photos the light bounced off the dust spots on the glass and created an interesting raindrop effect.

I’m looking forward to making some artwork based on these images — 179 photos in all.

Journal Sketch

Posted in: Sketches | 3

I was looking at a photo of a bird skeleton in a book, “a North American species that lived some 60 million years ago”. This bird was seven feet tall, flightless, and a carnivore, with a head the size of a donkey. Yikes!
I started wondering what it might look like with it’s skin on. Also was wondering what it used that beak for. Definitely breaking things open. Yikes again!
My drawing is on the fanciful side, but I had fun imagining things.
My version isn’t very ferocious-looking. Mine lives in tall grass and eats hard-shelled reptiles. I also gave it a beard which acts as a bib to keep it’s dinner from ruining it’s pretty green neck.

The reference book is called “The Life and Lore of the Bird: In Nature, Art, Myth, and Literature” by Edward A. Armstrong

Small Art Exhibition

Posted in: Parker Art Salon 2017 | 2

This little, 8×6 inch, oil on birch panel is titled “Looking Back”.
I spent a good part of today scanning the original painting,
color-correcting in Photoshop, wiring, framing, and delivering it.
It will be on display in the Parker Art Salon, Small Art Fundraiser Exhibition, priced at $200.–.
This year 50% of sales will be donated to Anxiety Disorders Association of BC (Anxiety BC).

 

The changing journal cover

Posted in: animated gifs., Visual Journal | 2

I found a white feather on the street the other day, in the middle of the sidewalk, while coming home with groceries.
It felt synchronistic, because I saw the hint of a white feather in the paint of a painting I was working on in the studio, and I wanted to paint it in, using a real feather for reference.
So this morning I added a drawing to my journal cover. The cover is getting all smudgy and used.
The colour in this gif is more accurate to the real cover, except that the dark green spiky-things look black.
I’m really enjoying making the gifs as much as the drawings.
The challenge of the drawings is to be unhesitating about following the next step, without worrying about how it’s all going to come out, and to work on it as long as there are signals to add something else, without concern for adding too much. It’s kind of like using something up.

Visual Journal

Posted in: Visual Journal | 5

Red ballpoint pen and black sharpie, on the cover of my latest journal.
I buy the lined Moleskin paperbacks. I like the ones with the coloured covers (pale pink, purple and yellow).

I like to explore variations on mandalas, and just let them unfold without planning.

The covers get added to, whenever I feel the urge to relax with it.

 

Illustration for Robbie Vergara

Posted in: Illustration | 3

Robbie came up with a great new concept for his latest shirt design. I helped to make it happen by creating the graphic image he needed to realize it.

The design celebrates and pays tribute to the genius of the late David Bowie by merging the iconic lightning bolt from the cover of Aladdin Sane with this graphic representation of Michelangelo’s David.

The name of the screen printed shirt design is “David”.

 

 

Repainted “Sisters”

Posted in: Painting | 4

If a painting hangs around my studio any length of time, it tends to get more paint put on it.

I had a grade 9 art teacher who told me I was “a hound for punishment”. She was referring to my tendency to not leave well enough alone and to obsess over my work.

The painting on the left titled “Sisters” didn’t sell when I showed it at The Parker Art Salon in April. I over-painted it and sold it at The Culture Crawl last weekend. It is now out in the world looking much like the image on the right.

Which one do you prefer?

dcowan_sisters-1and2-approx-4x6-copy

Big Draw Vancouver

Posted in: The Big Draw Vancouver | 0

The 2016 Big Draw Festival, world’s biggest drawing event, happens annually on October 1.

I am participating in this celebration of drawing, by facilitating a free drop-in drawing activity at The Britannia Drawing Jam.

The activity I’m offering is based on one of The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, developed in the 60’s by psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance. The Incomplete Figure test challenges a person to make a drawing from a given linear shape.

Using my partner and my son as guinea pigs, I gave them the Torrance Incomplete Figure test, with the help of some sticky notes, and while sipping smoothies at our local sidewalk cafe (Best smoothies!).

torrance-incomplete-figure-test-2

Of course, artists knew about this process long before Torrance.

This activity is doodle and game-oriented and draws out the inner-magination.
In my version, we give each other the challenge by making up our own marks.

And for anyone who wants to come to my table and do their own thing, on this day of celebrating the joy of drawing, I say,  “More power to you!”

Creativity is our birthright.

Check out the city-wide Vancouver Big Draw events.

 

 

Drawing on Hornby Island

Posted in: Plein Air | 4

Little Tribune Bay

If not for my new beach umbrella, I would have been burnt to a crisp.

I was happy to have the drink holders on the arms of my chair. They worked beautifully for holding my pencils.

It’s so satisfying to immerse myself in visual perception, just looking and collaborating with the limitations of the chosen medium to create a document of that experience.

Wow! A successful Salon

Posted in: Parker Art Salon 2016 | 4

I’m almost back to normal after the amazing Parker Art Salon weekend where I exhibited my Wings Series. I’m so happy that most of them flew away to new homes.
These pieces are acrylic paintings on birch cradled panels and are 6 x 8 inches in size. Titles marked with an asterisk are sold.

Before the show opened, I did a tour of the halls and took some photos of the artwork. Some of my personal favourites were: our assembled mural, of course;
Parker Art Salon assembled mural projectDavid Robinson‘s sculpture — a larger-than-life-size figure made of cardboard (yes. cardboard!) and installed over a stairwell —  is another fine addition to David’s signature oeuvre of finely balanced muscular tension;
over life-size male figure made of cardboard, anatomically realistic, and balancing himself on a chair tipped on it's hind legs
Val Nelson‘s masterly ‘loose’ brushwork describing, with oil on canvas, the plastic colour combinations and perspective of an urban construction-site as landscape;

installation shot approx. 6' square oil painting of construction site looking down into deep space made for underground
The cones, that connect conceptually to Val’s subject matter, had a real function — “Wet Paint!”

and Eve Leader‘s waxy, earth-toned, delicate meditations, in oil on mylar, that are at once sensuous and thought provoking.
Eve-Leader-at-Parker-Art-Salon
Check out more of my photo tour (I was not able to capture it all), and the Georgia Straight online newspaper where, along with a photo tour of the halls at Parker Street, my partner and I are shown setting up my paintings for display.

 

 

Parker Art Salon Mural

Posted in: Parker Art Salon mural | 0

The Parker Art Salon artists are creating a mural for our upcoming show.
I was happy to see that the image chosen for the mural is a Manet painting, because Manet had a genius that I admire.
I got to choose my piece of the puzzle and knew right away that I wanted the square with the two faces.

Each ten inch birch panel will be painted by a different artist, in their own style and colour palette.
I am so excited to see it all assembled.

I’m documenting my progress so I can make another animated gif.

Process

Posted in: animated gifs. | 0
Portal: 1939 (detail) acrylic on canvas

My first attempt at an animated gif, to give you an idea of my painting process.
Each layer in the sequence represents about four hours painting time.
This painting is part of an in progress series, inspired by the life of my father.

Painting on Granville Island

Posted in: Plein Air | 0
painting an older blue and yellow boat
Photo: Terry Sawatzky

The perfect day for the Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge. Five hours went by in the blink of an eye. I got a sunburn, even though I was painting in dappled shade. I forgot my sunscreen.

I am not a seasoned plein air painter. I usually paint in the studio. For me it’s not about creating a plein air masterpiece, though that would be entirely welcome. It’s about the whole package: the experience of painting outdoors, the unexpected, the equipment, the looking and working to somehow wrestle the world onto a 9×12 inch panel, the concentration, the people who may come and go, and the way the life of that day is somehow embedded in the results, no matter what state the piece may be in when you take it away.