Category Archives: Painting

Plein Air Aftermath

After the Mothers Day paint in I didn’t do any art for a week, until today. This afternoon I went out to a national historic site, Fort Rodd Hill, and sketched in the warm sun for two hours. The painting board was 12″ x 16″ and I spent about 2 hours, which means I covered 96 sq. in. per hour. At the Mothers Day paint in event I worked on a 9″ x 12″ board for about 4 hours, covering 27 sq. in. per hour. So today I worked 3.55 times faster than last week, and I think the result was as good or better. They say ‘haste makes waste’ but I say sometimes it doesn’t pay to work too slowly. Procrastination also has benefits, too.

Fisgard Light from Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria

Fisgard Light from Fort Rodd Hill, Victoria – 96 sq in/hr

Mothers Day - 27 sq in/hr

Mothers Day – 27 sq in/hr

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Plein Air Mothers Day Paint In

the final warm up sketch

the final warm up sketch

I got one good sketching day in last week before the big day Sunday, Mothers Day. I sat in a glade of trees on the grounds of the oldest school in the Province of BC – the Academy of the Sisters of St. Ann. The sister came here via Cape Horn to found schools and also the first hospital, which was across the street from the grounds of the school. The city has surrounded the grounds on three sides but the south side gives onto the park. Now it’s an oasis even more than ever, as huge modern towers full of condos and hotel rooms have sprouted up all over. As I finished up an old fellow suddenly appeared on the rock wall in front of me, puffing on a smoke – then I quickly sketched him in and he was gone. I think the human interest makes the sketch.

Today was the paint in, and we arrived early and got a good start. We didn’t stray very far from the starting point, finding a quiet parking lot where we spent four peaceful but intense hours doing our artwork. Before I finished I decided the sketch needed human interest, so I added a street person pushing a shopping cart across the parking lot. Then we started to clean up, and I no sooner stood up from my stool than a street person came along pushing a shopping cart. It’s a common enough sight, but I was still blown away by this happening right after I made up just such a person, as if the painting had summoned them from wherever they were going and compelled them to cross in front of us just as in the sketch.

Victoria City Hall from the parking lot across the street

Victoria City Hall from the parking lot across the street

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Plein Air Countdown T-8

Yesterday I hit the road again, this time with my watercolour box in the pack. When I arrived at my destination, known only to my subconscious until I got there and looking out at the scene declared this to be the spot, I decided to use the watercolours, seeing as how I had them with me. This sounds like logic working here, but I assure you it wasn’t, simply randomness. Anyway, I settled down on my collapsible stool with the paint box on my lap, having dispensed with the tripod stand as being too much equipment, and proceeded to do two sketches. They are contiguous, the clue being the scrawny tree in each. The cruise ship season has begun, and there was an immense boat across the water at the dock. I’ll probably never set foot on one of these things, but they do make for good sketch subject matter.

seaview sketch 1

seaview sketch 1

seaview sketch 2

seaview sketch 2

A word on my paints: I’ve tried every available watercolour paint medium, from tubes to pans, and I have to say the best I’ve found is a fairly cheap German set of 24 round pans, called Angora. This set is half the price of the cheapest 12 half pan box of Cotman paints, which my testing proves are certainly no better paint. They cover well enough, and it’s easy to mix and blend colour right on the paint pods themselves. When some paints in the previous set ran out it was cheaper to buy an entire new box than try to fill the spaces with paint from tubes. The price of three tubes of watercolour paint is equal to this box of 24 colours.

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Plein Air Countdown T-10

Fountain Lake - Beacon Hill Park - Victoria

Fountain Lake – Beacon Hill Park – Victoria

Yesterday’s outing produce this sketch of Fountain Lake in Beacon Hill Park. The lake was built in 1888 before the park was designed by Scottish landscape architect Blair. I find the abundance of green tones a huge challenge, obviously!

I was also prompted to pull out my Brother 750TR after reading about poet Les Murray and his very similar machine on oz.typewriter. But oz also had a post about typewriters used in the Fuhrer bunker, notably Adlers. I pulled out the Brother and gave it a short workout on the bench to see if there was ink left in the ribbon. Good enough. I carried it up stairs. Then I went to the living room and saw my Adler Tippa behind the couch. Which one to use? I set up the Adler on the table, fed in a piece of 9×12 sketch paper, the closest thing at hand, and just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Maybe the Brother tomorrow.

another morning

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Plein Air Countdown T-11

Home Made Camera Obscura

I’ve been thinking about how to improve my perspective – the sketches, not my life, but maybe both..hmmm. In the shop I found the old windshield I made for my long gone Kawasaki 1000 – a thin piece of lexan that I removed when I sold the bike and put the factory windshield back on it. I taped a 9×12 inch frame on it and using a Sharpie pen and one eye I traced what I saw on the table. Then I traced that with sketch paper. Next up, a sheet of carbon paper, and a 9×12 piece of cheapo practice canvas. Another tracing – it was like the ancient past of my life, always tracing things before the days of CAD drawing made architects have to work ten times faster just to keep in the same place. After that it was a mere case of applying paint. Well, the perspective was fairly real. I’m also experimenting with “Golden – Open” acrylic paint, which dries much slower than regular acrylic. It was good to be able to use up all the paint on the palette before it dried.

the finished sketch

the finished sketch

Here’s how I did it. First the old windshield with tape. Then propping it on the edge of the table I outlined the scene with the black marker. The main difficulty here is holding the lexan up. Some kind of stand would be good for field use.

lexan with ink sketch

lexan with ink sketch

Then the ink sketch was traced onto tracing paper.

trace of a tracing

trace of a tracing

Then the paper tracing was traced onto the canvas support with carbon paper.

tracing onto the painting support (canvas) with carbon paper

tracing onto the painting support (canvas) with carbon paper

Then on with the painting. I taped the cheapo canvas sheet onto a plastic backing with double sided scotch tape.

painting taped to a plastic signboard backing

painting taped to a plastic signboard backing

Of course this sort of “camera obscura” works well at 9×12 and smaller. For larger works you’d need a really big piece of lexan!

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Plein Air Countdown T-12

old church on a corner

old church on a corner

Yesterday I got out for an hour or two again with my paint box, and drove around in search of a site where I could set up and paint a suitable scene. I saw this old church in need of repair, parked the van and walked up and down the street looking for the right angle. There were some good places but I felt too exposed setting up there so I settled on the corner just because it seemed like a neutral place where nobody might stare at me from their front window. Having left it too late, as usual, I only had an hour so I rushed the sketch and it was terribly bad. I went home disgusted with my effort, but with a photo of the scene for reference. Later on I did a better sketch, after having first laid the whole thing out in pencil this time.

sketch 2

sketch 2

Sketch 2 was technically better but it didn’t do anything for me, so I decided to rework sketch 1. It needed a story, so I created one. I think this proves that when you have fun and relax a bit, better results follow.

sketch 1 - reworked with a story added

sketch 1 – reworked with a story added

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Plein Air Countdown T-18

Centennial Square, Victoria BC

Centennial Square, Victoria BC

Mothers Day is the annual outdoor painting challenge, in which I am entered once again. The first year I did well and amazed myself by getting 3rd prize. Last year I sucked big time. This time round I’m training hard. I’ve fine tuned my kit and today went out to scope some locations and practice my chops. (Maybe that’s just a guitar player metaphor, but since this is Nathanguitars that’s permissible here, since I make the rules.)

In any case it was windy and cold everywhere I wandered, so I ended up under cover and out of the wind downtown in the main square. It was getting late by this time, so I had 45 minutes to do something. In a way that’s good practice, because with a lot of art endeavours too much time means overthinking and overworking. This time I barely had time to cover the whole 9×12 inches before I had to go. This year they are handing out 9×12 canvas or paper for the event, so that’s what I’m practicing on. This one was done on a piece of loose canvas from a roll, which is cheap and easy to store. I read recently that Renoir did this… so what the heck?

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Happy New Year 2015

get it by typing

get it by typing

1-Photograph (1)

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On the Road

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Harris Beach, Oregon coast

Summer behind us here, with two weeks vacation to spend we set off on Highway 101, down the Pacific Coast, bound for California. Like all trips, this one was a perfect opportunity to do some sketching and scour the thrift and antique shops for cool stuff (typewriters and old cameras). 101 is a marvelous road, full of stupefying vistas, interesting towns and endless campgrounds.

After 2 weeks of browsing, it was on the last day of the trip that I discovered two typewriters that I could afford. The poem was typed on the one in the picture. The typewriter came with the previous owner’s name on it. A Google search revealed that she died over 10 years ago, but her husband only died last year. So I surmise that the typewriter was disposed of by estate sale, hence ending up in an antique mall.

My first trip down 101 was about 25 years ago, and I thought it wasn’t very interesting. At the time I was fresh from the east coast and had been hoping to see a lot of quaint east coast villages. Now, many trips along the route behind me, I see it differently – an amazingly interesting and varied route. I can hardly imagine that there is another single highway of its length that offers so many beautiful landscapes and scenes as this one does. However, I have heard tell that US Highway 20, which happens to start at the intersection with 101 in Newport, Oregon, is a likely competitor. One day…1-sk004

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Manzanita trees, Napa

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Skytram at Sterling Wines

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Typewriter from Astoria, Oregon

 

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The Huns are Back

We could use a laugh around here today… this is a storyline I’ve been using for my kids bedtime stories going on 30 years. This one is new, I wrote it for our annual camping trip. This is the first time I’ve illustrated a story.1-IMGP2158

PRINCE RHINESTONE AND THE HUN

By Donald J. Nathan
©2014
When Prince Rhinestone returned home after some years of fighting Huns, he had grown several inches, and needed new armour.
He paid a visit to his armourer, Sir Breakwind, to be fitted for a new suit, along with a matching sword. When he walked into the workshop, however, he was surprised to find that Sir Breakwind had gone out of business, and found himself smack in the middle of an auction sale.
“I say,” said Prince Rhinestone to no one in particular, “I say, what is going on? Where is Sir Breakwind and why isn’t he here? I want a new suit, and a matching sword!”
There were chuckles from the crowd and Prince Rhinestone looked around vexedly.
“Sold for thirty seven shillings to the man in the green pants,” said the auctioneer, slamming his gavel with a bang.
A short man came waddling up from the back of the room to the clerk and pulled out some coins from his purse. He dropped them on the desk, picked up a box of chain mail and turned to leave. Prince Rhinestone followed him out the door and hurried to catch up.
“Excuse me my good sir,” he said, tapping the man on the shoulder, “would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly is going on here?”
The man looked up at the Prince.
“Sir Breakwind, he’s gone out of business, your Highness. It’s a shame I say, but what can be done I asks you, Sir? It’s that new cheap imported armor what done it. Old Breakwind, he couldn’t compete with it, no Sir. Shame I say, damned shame.”
“Thank you my good man,” said Rhinestone, bowing ever so slightly, “and where does one find this new armor I pray?”
The man nodded his head to the side – “down that street, and round the corner in Highcastle, that new shopping street.”
“Never heard of such a thing,” said Rhinestone, walking away.
On his way down the street he noticed that many old shops he’d once frequented were gone, boarded up, with For Rent signs nailed to the doors. In all his life he’d never seen such a thing, and he was sorely puzzled.
When Rhinestone turned the corner onto Highcastle Lane his puzzlement turned to surprise to see a great crowd milling around. There were great heaping piles of goods for sale, and posters with words like “New and Improved”, or “Price Reduction”.
But there were no shopkeepers to be seen, only clerks sitting at desks taking money from people lined up with armfuls of goods. Noticing a large sign hanging from the ceiling with the word “WEAPONRY”, the prince worked his way through the crowds. There a young boy was arranging maces in a neat pile.
“Where is the armourer?” asked the prince.
The boy looked at him with a vacant stare.
“The what?” he replied.
“Never mind,” said Rhinestone, picking up a mace and swinging it around. “How much does this cost?”
“One shilling,” said the boy, “but if you buy one you can get another for half price.”
Rhinestone frowned. “Why would I need two?”
“I dunno,” said the boy, “everyone buys two.”
Rhinestone pulled out a shilling and handed it to the boy.
“I’ll just take one, thank you.”
“You have to pay the clerk,” said the boy, pointing to the lineup.
Rhinestone pulled out another penny from his purse and gave it to the boy.
“Here, you go pay for me,” he said, and turned to go.
“You can’t do that here,” said the boy, handing back the money, “you have to pay the clerk, that’s how it’s done.”
Rhinestone took his money and walked to the back of the line that said “EXPRESS – MAXIMUM FIFTY ITEMS”. An hour later he paid for his new mace and walked out of the store onto the street.
As he turned the corner an armed and dangerous looking Hun appeared right in front of him. He was huge, with great big blue eyes and a hooked nose.
“Take that,” said Prince Rhinestone, smashing the Hun with his new mace.
The mace gave a great clang, bounced off the Hun’s head and snapped in half. The Hun glared at Rhinestone for a moment and began to laugh.
“I bet you that was a cheap imported mace,” he roared.
Rhinestone looked at the broken handle of the mace in his hand, and nodded.
“Yes it was,” he said, disgustedly, “buy one and get a second one for half price.”
“You should have bought a second one, you fool,” said the Hun taking a swipe at Rhinestone with his sword.
Expecting such a response Prince Rhinestone ducked, but the Hun’s sword cut the head off an innocent bystander who had been hurrying by. It was the man who’d bought the box of chain mail. Rhinestone picked up the chain mail from the box and held it up to show the Hun.
“If he’d only been wearing this it might have saved him,” said Rhinestone.
“Serves him right,” said the Hun, “the world is going for shite with all this cheap imported crap.”
“That’s a good sharp sword,” said Rhinestone, “where did you get it?”
“Japanese,” said the Hun. “Took it from a dead Samurai. I’ve beheaded hundreds with this and it’s still sharp.”
“Thanks for the tip,” said Prince Rhinestone, “but I think I’ll stick to my sword. It’s Italian.”
“Hmmph,” the Hun grunted, “didn’t help those Romans, but too bad about that fellow. I don’t usually do that.”
“Hey, no hard feelings,” said Rhinestone. “Let’s go have a beer, my treat – what do you like?”
“If it’s cold I’ll drink it,” said the Hun. “Can you get a good Hefeweizen in this town?

THE END

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