Welcome to my Studio
There are many sources available that describe and teach art techniques in all of the artistic medias. Rather than repeat information that is readily available, it is my intention to present topics that I feel are equal to or more important than the ability to develop good painting techniques. Instead, I would like to discuss other aspects important to a developing painter such as composition principles, painting from nature toward abstraction, painting from abstraction toward nature, and I may throw in some mixed media technique discussions. I hope you will participate in the discussions by posting your comments. Thanks for dropping by.
Visit my website www.davidreeves.ca for a complete view of my work. (All Content Copyright © David Reeves.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reflecting on Surplus Lighthouses

There is no doubt in my mind, and to anyone touched by the beauty of the world’s maritime locations, that lighthouses are iconic structures of which their mere presence draw millions of visitors every year.  To me they are almost mythical structures giving us a glimpse into the past.  As in many other aspects of our lives technology has taken its tole on lighthouses.  Here is the opening paragraph from a Canadian government website regarding declaring approximately 1000 lighthouses “surplus”.

“On May 27, 2010, Fisheries and Oceans Canada declared approximately 480 active lighthouses and approximately 490 inactive lighthouses across Canada surplus to its needs. Under the new Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, these properties can be transferred to new owners wishing to take advantage of their heritage designation or tourism potential.”

You can read the details from the Website and also see a list by province of the active and inactive surplus lighthouse here.  Among the list of active lighthouses in my province of New Brunswick which are declared surplus are some real tourist icons.  A photo of Swallowtail lighthouse on Grand Manan Island has often been used as the front cover of the provincial tourist brochures and it is now surplus.  Other well known NB lighthouses close to where I live are:  Quaco, Oak Point, Point Lepreau and Partridge Island.

It appears that the goal of all of this is to hand off the ownership and care of these historical marine buildings to private groups.  At least they are making the offer rather than tearing them down immediately.  I know there are a few interested groups in my region that are attempting to preserve these structures.

The point of all this is that information like the above is often the stimulus for subject ideas to paint rather than an initial visual stimulus.  In the case of the lighthouses, I had already painted a couple of earlier watercolours in which my interest was to create unique lighthouse images, having felt that these are generally over-painted subjects.  How many photos and paintings of Peggy’s Cove lighthouse can one appreciate in their life?

So my earlier efforts revolved around portraying views of lighthouses as they would appear reflected in water surfaces.  Here are the two watercolour paintings from these efforts.


The first painting above is called “Surfacing”, 30” x 22”, watercolour.  It was entered into the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour annual Open Water exhibit in 2004 and I was lucky enough to get it accepted and then doubly lucky to be awarded the H.K. Holbein Award for Innovation in Watercolour.  

Lighthouse Metamorphosis

The second painting is called “Lighthouse Metamorphosis – the Riders”, 21.5” x 20”, watercolour.  It was a further metamorphosis of the idea in Surfacing using the same lighthouse subject.  The resulting image reminded me of a surrealistic view of a horse back rider but with all the visual nuances of the lighthouse still in the image.  It was sold at a CSPWC exhibit in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the fall of 2010.

If you are still with me, the surplus lighthouses idea sparked a third painting in this series which I completed in January 2011.  I wanted to portray the idea of the great loss which would occur if these lighthouse were to pass from our landscape.  So, the visual concept was the lighthouses being swept out to sea.  Here is the result, “Reflecting on Surplus Lighthouses”, 22” x 30”, watercolour.  It has not been exhibited as yet and is for sale.

Reflecting on Surplus Lighthouses

So I hope this gives something of an insight into one avenue that may be explored when looking for interesting subject matter.  Keep your eyes and ears open for topics of interest in current events.  Passages from books, poetry, newspapers, even magazines can spark a creative concept unique to your own way of expressing yourself.  Don’t let these ideas pass – keep a notebook to jot them down for posterity.

Until next posting – I value your comments and would be happy to discuss any posting further.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Studio Lighting

Well it has been way too long since my last posting.  A faithful viewer sent me an e-mail wondering if I was still walking the earth so I suddenly realized there were readers out there and I have not held up my end.  The only excuse I have is that it has been a very busy year and so posting has taken the back seat - no more!  Thanks Mitchell for your encouraging words and interesting discussions!

I see in the last post I had intended to talk about studio lighting next.  Not perhaps a very exciting topic but important for those that spend much time painting in a studio situation.  And I do love my studio - it is a place of sanctuary away from the rest of the world where I do what I want to do.

Most writing on the topic of studio lighting will say that north facing window light is ideal as it gives a good source of natural light during the day without the effects of direct sunlight on your work.  Obviously this is not always available depending on your studio circumstances.  In my case we built a double car garage attached to our house about 10 years ago and chose a design that included an upstairs room with dormers built into the roof that I could use as a studio.   Since our house faces south, I have one main wall in the studio with the dormers facing south and the other wall with built in skylights facing north.  One of these skylights is the opening type with a screen so it also helps to provide cross-ventialtion in the summer months.  So I get a mixture of south and north light which provides for a good source of diffuse lighting during most days.

It is still necessary to supplement the natural lighting most days (we get fog sometimes here on the east coast) and so I have multiple sources of electric lighting.  My main source for watercolour work on the drafting table or the rolling cart is a "daylight" lamp.  This can been seen sitting on my drafting table at the right side edge in the picture in my previous posting and also in the third photo below.  This is about all I need for close-up work like watercolour painting.  It uses a 20W daylight spiral bulb which is equivalent to a 100W incandescent bulb but produces a very natural light.  I have noticed that similar bulbs are now available at hardware stores as well as for fluorescent lights.  These day light bulbs are a great improvement over the cool white fluorescents or the yellow incandescents as they do not bias the colours you are painting.

Aside from the daylight lamp I have 2 overhead fluorescent fixtures each controlled by separate switches and also in the centre of the room an overhead fan/light combination which admittedly produces an incandescent yellow tone but it mostly gets washed out by all the other light sources.  Overall this lighting set up gives me enough flexibility that I can adapt to most conditions through the year.

Here's a few photos to accompany the descriptions.  If you have any other lighting solutions I'd be interested in hearing about them.  Thanks for viewing.

One of the studio dormers looking south
An opening skylight facing north

My Daylight lamp with storage in the base

The view from the other studio skylight looking north across the Kennebecasis River.