Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Painting to a Theme for an Art Show

I had the honour of being invited to show at our local art gallery during their Winter Festival of the Arts Show. It was open to local artists and 92 submitted works in many different styles, mediums and sizes.

I had difficulty deciding what to paint. As a landscape painter you'd think "growth" would be a natural stimulation but getting to the right image was a bit of a struggle especially since I wanted to do a bigger painting. I actually started 3 works, all bigger than what I ended up with but in the end I went back to my smaller works to see if I could get an idea. I settled on one I did last year but I wanted to get more mood into it.

Spring on St. Joe's by Warren Peterson 8" x 12"
"Spring on St. Joe's" was done as a stand-alone painting. It depicts a scene that I saw while driving down a country road near or cottage on St. Joseph Island in northern Ontario. It's full of lush forests and mature hardwood trees framed by local farms and maple syrup production.

 I see a lot of mystery in these woods and every Spring they come back to life providing a safe haven for the local wildlife including many White Tail Deer that live on this large island on Lake Huron.

I wanted to paint an image that was seductive, full of the new undergrowth that seems like a sea of green.
I also wanted a painting that would invite you into my wilderness world where a short walk in the bush could get you lost for days if you're not careful.

My final work, called " A New Year" is a culmination of the sights, sounds, smells and wilderness "quiet" that one gets while out in real Nature, not some groomed park. I want to temp you to take that walk into the bush to see what's beyond the tree line in the distance. Look up and you may be able to see the tops of these large Maples. More importantly look down to see all the new life that springs up each year. Some of these may become new trees that in a hundred years' time other artists may marvel at and paint for future generations.

"A New Year" by Warren Peterson 36" x 48" 
Here I am next to it during the opening reception at the show.

"A New Year" at the Art Gallery of Algoma, Jan 9-18, 2014

Monday, 18 November 2013

Introduction to Acrylic Landscape Painting
with Warren Peterson

A new workshop to be held at the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada.

I'm very excited about this opportunity to share my mistakes....and successful methods, on landscape painting in acrylics! 

I never had the luxury of taking formal painting classes and I am almost entirely self taught. That said I really enjoy meeting new people - budding artists - who want to learn and are enthusiastic about slopping some paint around to make a realistic image of a landscape. The whole point is to have fun, learn the basics and set yourself on a path of life-long learning! These sessions are geared towards beginner - intermediate skilled painters. Spaces are limited so sign up early!

Six week session 
$135 Art Gallery members/$150 non members

Wednesdays 7 pm - 9 pm
Session 1: January 15 – February 19

Session 2: February 24 – April 2

"Intimate Encounter" by Warren Peterson 12" x 16" 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Painting Winter's Wonderland

We get a lot of snow!

I live in northern Ontario Canada where Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes, empties into Lake Huron. Lake Superior has over 80,000 sq. miles of water surface and is up to 2,000 ft. deep in places. It's always very cold water, rarely freezes totally over and has a great impact on our weather. The cold north winds kicks up tremendous storms and in the winter they contribute to "lake effect snowfalls" where we get , what we call, a good dumping. One year it snowed for 3 days straight dropping almost 5 feet of snow on our city.

As a Canadian you tend to get use to Winter but I also hate the bitter cold so a lot of my winter painting is studio work. I do like painting winter scenes though and want to share two recent works with you. 

The first one is called "Just a Dusting". It's a bit of a tongue-in-cheek saying up here when one of those good snowfalls happen and we just laugh it off as a "dusting". Mother Nature has a way of bringing out the humour in us! Here the storm has just passed, the sky is clearing and the new snow sparkles in the cold air.  
"Just a Dusting" by Warren Peterson 16" x 20"  
This second one is called " A Quiet Day". The time just after a snowfall it can be very quiet. No wind, the sun peaking out and maybe a Chickadee or Blue Jay calling out as they hunt for food. This painting is a more intimate scene with a large rock face looming up in the background, over looking the lake that is just beginning to freeze over and has a light coating of snow in places. Such scenes are common here, offering you that feeling of wonder and awe that goes with nature's beauty!

"A Quiet Day" by Warren Peterson 8" x 10" 
More of these will be coming so so stay in touch by subscribing to my blog.

You can also see recent work on my Facebook page, Warren Peterson Fine Art, or connect via my web site

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Drawing Inspiration - From Thumbnail Sketch to a Landscape Painting

Using thumbnail drawings to work out an idea.

I've been thinking about this blog for a while now as is evident from the time since my last one.

We've all heard about the importance of drawing skills but sometimes you just have to doodle to get to an idea for a painting or to work out a suitable composition before you commit paint to canvas. Now doodle, in this case, is more correctly named thumbnail sketch. I use this term since it is one that I was taught in my advertising and graphic design days as a way to work through many creative ideas in the least amount of time.

I sometimes paint landscapes from memory but in order to stimulate a final composition I work out the idea in my sketchbook within very small squares. This scan from my sketchbook show the start:

Thumbnail Sketch for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

As you can see I divided up the page into a number of squares and started to place landscape elements in a number of variations. Funny thing here is how close I came to my final idea at this stage. Come back to this picture later to see which one made it through!

As I work out these ideas I am always trying different placements, horizons and scale within the composition:

Thumbnail Sketches for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

You can see in the image above how I tried out different types of trees, right or left placement and how much background I wanted to reveal. I knew I wanted a Fall painting and I also knew that in order to create depth the background hills needed to take on a larger roll while the foreground trees led the viewer into the picture.

Thumbnail Sketches for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson
Here you can see that I strayed from my original composition as I tried out a broad vista view ( top right and middle left thumbnails) but quickly moved back. All through this process I am looking at each element's position on the picture plain and its scale in relation to the foreground, mid ground and background. I also keep an eye on their relation to the edges of the "canvas". These thumbnails took about 20 minutes to do.

Once I got my general idea down I work out a scale drawing with the major landscape elements giving careful attention to the overall composition. I'm not worried about representing the trees etc. in a realistic manner as this is not meant to be a fine drawing of the scene. Here's the thumbnail worked up into a 8 1/2" x 11" drawing:

Drawing for Golden Hills by Warren Peterson

Now I usually draw Pine trees a little more realistic than what you see here but my main concern was their placement against the background and the left edge of the canvas. I transferred this composition to the canvas and got to work on Golden Hills:

Golden Hills by Warren Peterson -  18" x 24" acrylic on canvas

As I worked through the final painting I felt that bare rock in the foreground was too stark so I added some new growth to illustrate renewal in contrast to the dead tree truck overhanging the water on the island.

Working out painting or any other idea through thumbnail sketches is an efficient use of time and materials and is a great way to stimulate new ideas or to explore a theme.

I have a painting demonstration on my web site that shows you how I take the rough outline on the canvas to a final painting. It's a quick read so come by and click on the Demonstration tab at my web site.

Here's the link: 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Painting on Commission

Be true to yourself...and your client!

I like to think of myself as being a pretty flexible artist and business person. Being married for 35 years has taught me to be accommodating, compromising and a good listener although she may argue a bit with the last point!

Listening to your current and potential customers, whether through social media, at shows, via emails or face-to-face is an all-important skill that I learned from my sales and marketing management days. You can't go wrong being a good listener. After all over 70% of effective selling is listening... to what your customers want and need... not giving them what they want to hear!

I am a small business person first and an artist second. Many would argue that we artists need not worry about the "business" since sales will come if our art is good...and accepted. Well that may happen but nothing is sold without a maker and a buyer getting together to close a deal. 

My product, the art, is unique to me in that I made it! Think of it! We create, find a market, communicate its availability and our product (hopefully) sells. Nothing could be better!

I get asked from time to time if I will create a painting from reference that is not mine but holds special meaning to the potential client. Firstly I ask if it is their own reference photo. If not I usually ( unless I have something similar) pass. I also can go to the site, do plein air sketches and take my own reference shots.

One recent commission happened by chance. A Facebook friend saw one of my posts about a new painting I did and inquired if it was for sale. Unfortunately it had just sold but I offered to paint a similar, not the exact, scene as a commission. I sent the reference shot off and it was accepted with my caveat that I can take creative license which was agreed along with the 50% down payment. They loved the sky reflections and the ripples in the water. The dramatic sunrise was inspiring for them. It was to be a Christmas present. I listened.

I completed the painting in about 2 weeks and since it was for a local collector I hand delivered it to their home and even helped with suggestions, as asked during negotiations, on its placement in the home. The client was thrilled with it and after a leisurely coffee together I made my way home with the final payment. 

Funny thing happened that evening. My client couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to her husband so she gave it to him that night!  I like to think that she was really happy and excited about the painting! So was he!!

Here's the painting:

"One Summer Day" by Warren Peterson. 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas
I've learned a lot of lessons in my 40 some odd years of painting, selling and marketing but the key one has always been that there is nothing like a happy customer. 

Remember that the best advertising is Word Of Mouth, so be true to yourself as a business person and artist while being true to your customers. You can't go wrong with this lesson.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Visual Feast

Renewing your faith in colour

Fall is the time of year where we, as artists, renew our faith in colour and just let it out - loud and bold!

I use this time of year to reflect on why Fall is important to me as an artist - great scenes with strong light, high drama and cool, clean crisp air with that distinct smell of fallen leaves. Nothing better than walking down the path in the woods shuffling the leaves under your shoes!

Here's a new Fall painting. I was driving home from our cottage on Lake Superior when I saw this passing storm and the sunlit hills. It left an indelible mark on my memory, just like the smell of fallen leaves!

After the Storm by Warren Peterson 12" x 12"