Monet: A Bridge to Modernity

Claude Monet - The Highway Bridge under repair

Claude Monet, The Highway Bridge under repair, 1872

The featured special exhibition, Monet: A Bridge to Modernity is currently open at the National Gallery. It’s a focused exhibition of 12 Monet paintings,10 of which were painted over a few short years in the 1870’s, each featuring a bridge over the Seine in Argenteuil, now a suburb of Paris.

As much as “bridging to modernism”, I find it shows a working artist exploring a motif in his new locale. As a painter, I’m interested in the feel of plein-air and studio work. Monet undoubtedly started all of these works plein-air and then perhaps worked on them afterwords. Some breath of the urgency to complete on site. Others feel calmer, unhurried and more studio-finished. It’s an engaging slice of the artist working, just on the cusp of Impressionism.

It’s nice that the exhibition is part of the general gallery admission charge and perhaps the gallery could make a bit more of this fact – some folk seemed surprised that there was not an additional fee. That said, an exhibition built around 12 paintings is going to be quite compact, even with video and period photographs adding context.
Pont Argenteuil Monet 1

Claude Monet, Pont d’Argenteuil, circa 1874

Whilst you’re at the gallery, amble over to the International Galleries on the second floor for four more Monets in the permanent collection –  room C213!

Mona Lisa smiles…

Mona Lisa combo

That elusive smile…

I’ve long been fascinated by the way images resolve differently, up close and at distance. This was a theme of last year’s exhibition, the Descendants, where my segmented and pixelized images worked differently from various viewpoints.

Part of the intrigue of portraits generally is that how you look at them makes a difference: lighting, distance and viewpoint all have an effect. Last year I found that my pixelized images looked quite surprising when viewed from the side. It was a revelation.

Researchers have now applied the same sort of intrigue to the Mona Lisa’s smile. Apparently Lisa smiles more when you look at her obliquely or blur the image. When you engage with a straightforward stare, many folks find that her smile “disappears”. An example of how focus affects perception: too direct an image and you can’t see the woods for the trees. The elusive Mona Lisa Smile: read more about the study

I thought it might be interesting to see if I could coax some of my portraits to change expression in a similar way. I didn’t find any hidden smiles. What I did find is that the expression changed – the aggregation of space forming a new image or at least an altered perception. A hidden expression.

I think the researchers may have missed something: For me, a smile emanates from the eyes and blurring slightly narrows the gaze and creates a more sympathetic feeling. It’s said that you smile with your eyes. What do you think?!

Carolyn smiles...

Carolyn smiles…

Plein-air painting at Fairbairn House…

"August at Fairnbairn House" 14"x11", Watercolour and ink

“August at Fairbairn House” 14″x11″, Watercolour and ink

Our two plein air courses in Wakefield started at Fairbairn House: both Museum and Tourist Information Center – directly across the road from Wakefield’s famous covered bridge. The program included a tour of the museum, for those who could tear themselves away from the scenery that is…. easier the second week as weather was a tad damp.

Gimme Shelter!

Gimme Shelter!

Mara and her team at Fairbairn House made us very welcome. In appreciation, I presented an original watercolour sketch. In a couple of weeks, on the 30th of August, Fairbairn House is having their tenth anniversary party. France and I are planning to go and we hope to see you there! Fairbairn House and its environs are well worth a visit – don’t forget your sketch book. Check out the details at

Presenting my watercolour to Mara at Fairbairn House

Presenting my watercolour to Mara at Fairbairn House

You can also now find some pictures from our Wakefield sessions in the Workshop Galleries section of this blog: 4th to 6th August course and 11th to 13th August course, and on my (finally updated!) Facebook page.


Instructors’ Exhibitions at the Ottawa School of Art…


Opening soon - Instructors Exhibitions at the OSA

Opening soon – Instructors’ Exhibitions at the OSA

It’s already August and August means…the annual Instructors’ Exhibitions at the Ottawa School of Art!….happening downtown and at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans.

These exhibitions offer an opportunity for students and community alike to experience the caliber and wide variety of media, techniques and styles of art being taught at the school. The shows are on through August in both locations – here are the details for both campuses:

Downtown (35 George St.): the exhibition will take place from August 6th to September 6th. The opening vernissage will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Thursday August 6th.

In Orleans, (Shenkman Arts Centre) the exhibition will take place from August 7th to September 6th. A “Meet the Artists” event will be held from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Sunday August 23rd. On this date, all of the Shenkman galleries are having coordinated events.

For additional details and opening times check out the OSA website.

This year, I’ve been enjoying watercolour and decided to exhibit a selection of recent portraits at both locations.

Here’s a preview of the works that I’ve submitted. You’re sure to see most of these, however I don’t know which will be hanging. That’s up to the curator and typically one piece per instructor hangs in the busier downtown exhibition space.

I hope to see you at one of the events!

Study one - Watercolour 13¨x13¨ 2015

Study One – Watercolour 13¨x 13¨ 2015

Study two - Watercolour 15¨x12¨ 2015

Study Two – Watercolour 15¨x 12¨ 2015

Isobel - Watercolour 15¨x12¨ 2013

Isobel – Watercolour 15¨x 12¨ 2013

Janine - Watercolour 22¨x15¨ 2015

Janine – Watercolour 22¨x 15¨ 2015

Carla - Watercolour 22¨x15¨ 2015

Carla – Watercolour 22¨x 15¨ 2015

Howard - Watercolour 22¨x15¨ 2015

Howard – Watercolour 22¨x 15¨ 2015

Six pieces reflecting my continuing enthusiasm for capturing personality….the way only watercolour can!

David Talks with Liana Voia in Orleans:click here.


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!