A Special Season – Christmas in Bath

View of Westgate St, Bath

View of Westgate St, Bath, December 2014

In my youth, I took Westgate Street for granted. Located in my home town of Bath (UK), it was part of my psyche when growing up.

Decades later, I received a calendar of Bath scenes, both new and old, including a B&W photo of this particular street, circa 1930. This image then found it’s way into my course materials as a reference for exercises on perspective. It may appear familiar to some of you as it has been included in many of my lessons on this intriguing subject!

The main thrust of my approach by the way, is that perspective needn’t be perfect, just plausible. So put away your rulers and try it freehand.

This new photo was taken in Bath just a few days ago, showing everyone scurrying about, getting ready for Christmas. Amidst multifarious preparations, this idyllic area of England was still too warm for a sleigh ride, nevertheless beautifully compensated by this nostalgic horse and carriage as well as the spirit of the season.

France and I send our very best wishes for a Joyful Christmas Season.

One of my demonstration paintings, loosely based on Westgate St., 16x20 in, Oil on canvas

One of my demonstration perspectives, loosely based on Westgate St., 16×20 in, Oil on canvas

The year that was!

13.0924_AE-16crscaledTwo years into this blog concludes a very active 2013!

A major development was the launch of “Break-a-Brush! Workshops” in February. After running 16 successful Saturday sessions, France and I are once again looking forward to our 2014 program. Thanks again to everyone who participated and also to those who gave us such great positive input for the 2014 program. You’ve validated our efforts!

DSC07498The highlight of the plein-air sessions this year was definitely our sortie to Rockcliffe outlook. with a maximum temperature of about 5 degrees and rain. The frigid conditions didn’t stop our intrepid group of die-harders! Congratulations all.

DSC07633Teaching a couple of Art Summer Camps kept me on my toes again this year, especially when I was asked “post modern” questions by 9 year olds interested in the nature of abstraction and whether randomness constitutes art.

DSC08328scaleWhat of my own art? I’m often asked how painting and teaching mesh and I’m pleased to say this all works out very nicely for me. Working with other artists enhances my own work in the scheme of my practice. I must admit I have a good deal more “work-in-progress” than finished pieces but then as Eugene Delacroix effectively said “paintings finish themselves in the corner of the studio”.

France and I would like to wish you all Seasons Greetings and the very best for the new year.

Here’s to 2014!

David & France




On portraits in profile


There’s something about the profile that is set apart from other forms of portrait. The indirect gaze, away to the left or right; the ancient form, seen on coins, stamps, tapestries, fresco’s. Less about personality, more about status and a recording for posterity, value and respect. Photographs can’t capture this- frustratingly, they end up leaving it to you to resolve the profile.

A line needs to be selected, drawn. Drawn with care and careful observation.

I think this is a reason we’re so intrigued by the profile, it’s that pure expression of line work, not nearly so prevalent in other portraits: particularly mine where I favour some indirect modelling. At it’s essence, a profile is pure contour.

When I lead drawing sessions, I invoke that careful, contiguous line drawing, “contour drawing”, as a valuable exercise in observation and pacing. Drawing slowly and deliberately, this is the best way to resolve the profile. Even after some investigative sketching, it’s clear that a slow hand resolves the final image. Some artists like it, some less so, but it’s always useful. For me, its a stimulating contrast to some of my other methods, and I value the results.

Here are a few of my profile studies:


With this life study I started with a loose wash, drawing and painting into the still damp paper


Canada Day Resolutions

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

Happy Canada Day!

These last few months have been especially busy and invigorating: launching Break-a-Brush Workshops with my spouse France,  teaching at the Ottawa School of Art and developing my own painting projects. Oh, and let’s not forget that weather-eventful plein-air painting series!

I have a few ideas that I would like to share on this blog, but alas, as of yet, have not had a chance to. So I will put a stake in the ground and mention a few things that you will hear more of from me over the next couple of months:

I will certainly be talking about portraits as I have a few of these to share. I’ll also be musing more about painting from paintings, that is, using previous works as reference for new work: a direction my art is taking. I also plan to cover some ideas on methods that I would like to bring into focus, along with some noteworthy painting problems and pitfalls.

I’m very much looking forward to adding more content on this blog: Should you have any burning ideas or nifty suggestions be sure to let me know!

That was the year that was…

I started this blog at the beginning of the year, well actually it was February before I posted anything. This was probably the most diverse year for me in my evolving art practice: a major exhibition,  commissions, children’s summer camps, a business creativity workshop plus my regular teaching commitments at the OSA, both downtown and Orléans – oh, and a plein air painting course. I did manage some painting for myself too.

I’ve never been super organized ahead of the holiday season, and admire those who get their greeting cards off well in advance, especially those who design and produce their own. There was one year, way back, when I was studying engineering and a keen motorcyclist, where I hand drew some Christmas cards. I scoured my old files in vain to find an example, and so recently recreated this Christmas memory.

My very best wishes to you for the season and the year ahead.