Plein-air and studio…Part 2

Two recent plein-air studies

Two recent plein-air studies

My last post “Plein-air and studio…” included these recent plein-air studies, both of which returned to the studio for some finishing.

To get a sketch going, you sometimes have to be quick – before life moves on! In the first study – the relaxing cyclists – I was taken in, partly because they had rented those nice new green bikes that we see around the region nowadays. I could only glance at the scene from my park bench and getting out my paints might have put the subjects on the spot.The second scene was sketched from my parked car, on a day where France and I were doing a round of errands. The drama of the tree at the top of the rise along with a visiting pick-up truck caught my attention and I had just enough time to sketch. Then it was onward to the next stop!

Thanks for the positive comments on the last post. In the studio, my habit is to paint standing, often holding the sketch book in one hand and brush in the other. I did not have the dexterity to add detail which was probably a good thing!  I hardly used my reference photos at all.

Parc Jacques Cartier, 11 July 2015

Parc Jacques Cartier, 11 July 2015

Cimetière St-Francois De Sales, Gatineau, 13 July 2015

Cimetière St-Francois De Sales, Gatineau, 13 July 2015


Join us in Wakefield this August for one of our plein-air and studio drawing and painting courses. Details are found on the courses page of my website!

Plein-air and studio…

Parc Jacques Cartier, 11 July 2015

Parc Jacques Cartier, 11 July 2015

For one reason or another, it’s been a bit of a slow start to my plein-air work this year. Things only shaped up in July after the finish of the Spring Term at the Ottawa School of Art. So far, I’ve managed 4 little sketches going out and about, exploring the environs.

I’m not a plein-air purist and from time-to-time finish-up works in the studio. For me, the most important part is to make a substantial start in-situ.  Having acquired the eye for a scene, a little follow-on work is fine – as long as I keep the approach fresh. I invariably take a reference photo, although very rarely making much use of it, if at all. Finishing the picture is the thing, not adding more detail!

This said, the pieces I’ve finished on site invariably rank among my very favorites. They feel of the time and place……

Two of these recent studies were completed on the spot, the other 2 ended up back in the studio. Can you tell which? Let me know and perhaps why!

I’ll publish the answers in a few days!

Parc Lac Leamy, 16 July, 2015

Parc Lac Leamy, 16 July 2015

Cimatrie St-Francois De Sales, Gatineau, 13 July 2015

Cimetière St-Francois De Sales, Gatineau, 13 July 2015

Masson Flee Market, 16 June 2015

Looking south from the Masson Flea Market, 16 June 2015


Join us in Wakefield this August for one of our plein-air and studio drawing and painting courses. Details are found on the courses page of my website!

Capturing the Summer Landscape!


Plein-air painting at Hogs Back Falls, 14 June 2013

Plein-air painting at Hogs Back Falls, 14 June 2013

Welcome to Summer!

France and I are pleased to announce that from the 4th to 6th August, we are holding a 3-day course in nearby Wakefield, Quebec:

Develop your landscape drawing and painting confidence! This course will cover sound practices as they apply to both plein-air and studio endeavours. What to paint on location – should I sketch or use water media? How might I best use reference photos? Who hasn’t returned to the studio from a sketching expedition and thought, what now? During three fun-filled days, we will cover painting and sketching on location and return to the studio to create spectacular finished works.

I often get people asking me how to handle the logistics of all that painting paraphernalia, water supply and clean up. It can seem a bit off putting and more of a chore than a challenge. To get started, it’s a good idea to keep things pretty simple: small studies or sketches, without too much a need for equipment. Enjoy the outdoors first and the painting and painting kit will naturally follow……why not start with dry media!

Each day will include a session at a scenic location and a demonstration on how I approach plein-air work. I will also review some practical information on composition and technique which I invariably find useful. Studio techniques will equally be covered with an emphasis on developing works from plein-air studies in conjunction with photo references. Participants will be encouraged to pursue their medium of choice and individual coaching will be provided.

When: 4th to 6th August, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
Where: Outdoors and at the new purpose built Wakefield Center
Cost: $225.00

Reserve by email to or via Paypal

With the new section of highway 5 now open, beautiful Wakefield is only 20 minutes from downtown – tarry and enjoy all that Wakefield has to offer.

A memorable summer of painting awaits!

Happiness is a violin-playing goat!


Marc Chagall in Paris, 1921

At first glance, the art of Marc Chagall may seem a bit out there, surreal, even otherworldly. That’s basically how I felt, until a doorway opened for me upon listening to a short exchange in the well-known movie, “Notting Hill”. Whilst discussing Chagall’s painting “La Mariée”:

William (Hugh Grant) comments: “With a goat playing the violin.”

Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) replies: “Yes – happiness isn’t happiness without a violin-playing goat.”

“La Mariée” provides an example of a triumphant  visual portrayal of emotion. What might a visual representation of happiness possibly look like? How could it be made to appear in visual art? For some, its form might be this beguiling and unforgettable work.

Marrying figure with the purest colour, movement and rhythm, Chagall’s unique vision inspires and moves. He returned a powerful figurative motif to contemporary art: dreaming, remembering, relating- Chagall’s instinctive approach to his subjects transports us into his world. We respond intuitively to visual cues such as colour, value and texture and these unforgettable images convey more than form, they have depth of feeling. For me, Chagall’s paintings are as good a representation of joy and happiness as anything possibly can be.

Art is that marvelous vehicle which often conveys us to a place where we can reconnect with our own happiness – and when we do, others invariably share it’s effect.

Thank you Marc!

Opening 28 May at the National Gallery: Daphnis & Chloé, a major exhibition of Chagall prints.

Whatever your style, join us on May 30th for a day inspired by Chagall’s legacy – details on the courses page of David’s website.


Finishing Touches…

It's always good to start with value!

It’s always good to start with value!

For most of the last term, I carried around a quick demonstration study. I originally did this to show the start of a portrait and I’d use it periodically to remind students that it’s always good to begin with value.

This study started with a mid-tone wash in burnt sienna, dulled with a bit of ultramarine blue. I followed this with a darker mix using the same two colours – but more potent and perhaps a touch bluer.

And there it sat for months, until I recently decided to finish it.

The foundation of the original blocking is still very evident through the screens of some warm tones (alizarin crimson and Hansa yellow) and cool accents (cobalt blue), applied judiciously.

Studies can be a good opportunity to go expressive with hair and experiment a bit…..well, it’s a study and should be spontaneous!

The finished study, 15"x15", watercolour and charcoal

The finished study, 15″x15″, watercolour and charcoal