Saturday, 29 March 2014

I have so much more to say about Costa Rica still. Perhaps it will have to wait til another year. So this will be my last installment-for now! I may re-visit this wonderful experience from time to time.
On our last day on the Osa, we were treated to a visit to Iguana Lodge, just outside Puerto Jimenez. What a colourful entrance to the resort. Right on the beach, we had access to a large pool, the ocean, 2 large yoga platforms, wonderful plants everywhere, and a large Casa Grande with a gorgeous kitchen, full of colourful tiles, bowls of food, so much to eat, and paint!
For anyone who  knows me, no writing on any of these experiences is complete without talking about,... FOOD.
So here is where we thank Angus. Our personal chef. I had taken pics at our wonderful house on the OSA, where Angus and two helpers Joe and ............ would prepare the meals for all us women. On the Osa, the kitchen was totally open to the living areas. So we got to watch everything being prepared at Sundowners. All the food was not only prepared with care, but set out in stunning fashion, with freash flowers strewn everywhere. 
My favorite dinner-scratch made falafels with Raita. We ate very healthy on this trip.

Flowers that enhance the table colour? really,...

Homemade porridge and fresh Papaya, Pineapple, Watermelon, and Mango and much more to go with the excellent Costa Rican coffee every morning,...

Angus, would you just stop loving what you do so much?

Right now, I am reminding everyone that I'll be at the Kevin Dodds Art Gallery Opening tomorrow and Sunday afternoons, for their grand opening. I'll be taking registration for my upcoming pastel workshop there, and be around to answer any questions or talk with anyone who wants to talk. Many other artists will be on hand as well. Please join us!

Bye for now!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Lifes' got me!

Sorry everyone, I have bowed out recently, after doing such a good job of posting regularily. Life has a way of taking over from time to time. I'm nearing the end of cleaning and de-cluttering my house for sale.
In the meantime, I have only a bit of time for art these days. With that small amount of time, I decided to stick to drawing, until more time frees up. If you can only do one thing, draw. It keeps your drawing, composition skills going, as well as sparking you imagination and creativity. Besides, you draw, every time you pick up a brush.
Here's a recent portrait I did in Conte pencil. I enjoyed going back in for more depth and textures in the hair, and shadows. This was a really lovely model, with a sweet disposition. Rare to find a model half smiling, Mona Lisa style. It gives a different look to the cheeks, and a nice subtle suggestion.
This piece was also done in Conte Pencil, using a little bit if Sanguine in the warm shadowed areas, indicating reflected light. I wanted to detail to fade as you cross the page right to left. Yes, she was tall and skinny. The work was in all the hair! 
Working when I can, the last Cots Rica post is coming up!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Palm Trees, and an ode to Martine

Lipstick Palm, at our house that we rented,  El Tumbo de las Olas on the Golfo Dulce

I am not done with Costa Rica yet!! I have been trying to make this as chronological as possible, but I just have to talk a bit about our travel day through the mountains, to the Osa. We had our day planned, travelling along the coastal highway. It would provide us with great ocean views and start a whole new feel to the trip. However, there was a mix up with the driver, and we ended up taking the Americana Highway, the main highway through the center of the country. So our scenic stops were gone! But Martine, in her usual fashion allowed this to not sway her one bit. As soon as we knew we were on a  different route, she picked up the microphone at the front of the bus and does, what Martine does: Espouse her love and encyclopedic knowledge of Costa Rica, and specifically, the agricultural region we drove through, as well as many interesting facts about the indigenous people of this area.
Martine never ceases to amaze me. Where did I find this woman?! How did I get so lucky? Martine speaks three languages-English, French and Spanish, very fluently. She also has so much passion for Costa Rica, something I really respect and appreciate.
So on this day, driving through pineapple and coffee plantations, Palm tree farms, small authentic towns, and yes, we still had a few great vistas as well, we learned many interesting facts about Costa Rica:

Pineapple, is the #1 export of Costa Rica

The sugarloaf Pineapple, is very common here, but doesn't get exported. It has white flesh, and is the pineapple the Costa Ricans eat, and is considered the sweetest pineapple you can get.

African Palms grow everywhere, and are the tree that Palm oil is made from. Unfortunately, they yield a high rate of return for growers here, so many people do grow this tree for Palm oil production. Not only is this oil produced here, but the valuable rain forest is cut down in order to plant the African Palm. So that is the first huge problem with Palm Oil production. The second thing is that Palm Oil is not healthy to ingest, and is often put into cheap foods, so the poorest people are the ones most likely to eat foods with this in it. 

We passed through Buenos Aires, Boruca, and down around the north coast of the Golfo Dulce to Porte Jimenez. We joked that Porte Jimenez in like a frontier town of the old west. They sell everything a tourist might want, and it is the last town before heading out into nature, getting far away from the crowds now. Our house that we rented is just an house or so from Porte Jimenez, down the kind of rutted roads Costa Rica is known for. But once you get there, close to the beach surrounded by jungle, flowers, Monkeys and other wildlife, it's a bit of heaven, unique, and a a real step away from your every day life. 
It is here in Matapalo that we burrowed ourselves. This Lipstcik palm, is obviously named for the vivid colour of it's central stem, and is Martines' favorite Palm tree. Ode to you, dear friend!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Colour Choices and choosing ground colour

 On the weekend, I posted two recent portrait studies. Thank you for all the response. It gave me an idea to do a post, talking about pastel vs. other mediums, but also, the impact of working on coloured grounds. Many, many times, I get asked:  what colour paper should I use for my pastel? Answer: There is no one right answer. There are only different effects you create through colour choice. Then we spend time looking at an image, and taking out different coloured papers, and talking about how this affects your pallette in general, and how this addition would impact the piece you are intending to make.
The correct answer, lies in what your initial intention with the painting is. If you want drama, you might go black. If you want light and airy, you might go for a very light yellow. If you want space in a landscape, you may go for any shade of blue. There are many possibilities, each one creating an effect, a feeling. It's all about what you want to express, and how you want to express yourself. Yes, theory is involved. All my workshops are carefully planned to afford the student the opportunity to see theory, and make decisions based on that, but also to feel, through intuition. That inexplicable,...I don't know, I just love green. Personal choice, that leads to individuality.
Which is actually, a very important point, and leads to the quintessential question asked by all artists?

Who are you? What do you want to say?

Andrea, portrait study, pastel

Andrea, oil

The answer can lie in every decision and choice we make, defining ourselves through what seems like the simplest of choices, or the most complex.
I am experimenting as widely as I can these days. The pastel was done on a dark warm red, and you may find it's quite a bit more sombre than the oil. That's because the red dictates a darker value. If I want the painting lighter, I've got to inject more light values. This paper doesn't have good tooth, and I like the idea of the lights that are there, to be an important part of the composition. The light areas don't take up a lot of room, which is good for the compositions' drama, and I just like that red staying where it is. So I'm leaving it.
In the Oil, I drew Andrea first, then laid down a base of yellow, red, blue and green. flat. Let it dry, then at the next session with the model, I started to expand my pallette. I'm trying to work with as pure as possible a pallette, and keep the colours limited, mixing for variations. Notice how much more contrast and light, like a breath in, there is in the oil. Which one is better is not the question. Which one creates the effect I am after, and,... Do I like it, is it pleasing to me. You must paint only what is pleasing to you, or risk losing your motivation and passion in pleasing others.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Monkey town on the Osa

Monkey Town on the OSA, pastel, Costa Rica 2014
The house that we rented on the OSA was just incredible. Facing the Gulfo D'Olce, in inlet, we avoided the rip tides and constant roar of the ocean that you would hear, facing the ocean. Also, the water was much calmer, yet the current was strong enough! The morning after we arrived, I was up early looking for things to paint, and was joined by Barb (from Almonte), one of my students, for a walk. We kind of got mesmerized by Monkeys in the Canopy of this forested area, with large open parts in the underbelly. We stayed for a long time, watching these wild and crazy guys screaming at each other as they swung around sooooo freely, hooting, hollering and having a grand old time. Just beyond the far line of trees in my painting, is the ocean. Very close. I love the memory of this morning, every time I take a look. The painting is called, Monkey Town. 
Another student, Diane Gourdeau from Montreal, is an excellent photographer. See below for some amazing pics of our family in the OSA. They entertained us day and night, were so loud, yet we were all seduced by them, and sorry to leave these tail hiking, high flying screamers behind. Really magic!!
 Living very close by and let us know constantly. Quite the free entertainment. 
Having a momentary sit

The whole gang hangs out with us

Whah? I'm giving myself a manicure

The white faced Cappucine, looks like a wise old man!

These monkeys were real daredevils as they jumped from one tree to another with abandon

How about a sloth to finish off!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rainforest Jungle: The ultimate green plein air conundrum

Sit a While, Costa Rica, 2014
I decided to start the 2nd leg of our Costa Rican journey with the last seating area painting. I did this piece as a demo for my students. 
First of all, whenever I teach plein air, my take on dealing not only with green, but with noise, wind and weather, or any distracting stimulation is to know how to compose. Yep, that's your anti-dote. It's the one thing that will get you over that psychological hump of can I ? or Do I really want to? 
Many find plein air daunting, and I find it to be one of the most challenging ways of making art,  but one that will give back freshness, and qualities of freedom you can't get any other way. 
To know good composition in the moment, is to know what to do 1st, 2nd, 3rd. It also gives you the knowledge of  how and what to concentrate on, in your moment of choice, between distraction and creating with focus. 
This piece was done on a piece of Canson mi-tientes, a dark warm green. On it, I used only yellow red and blue to delineate between value areas- light, medium and dark. Once the values were established, I expanded the pallette. All the pieces you see on my blog done on location, are done in one hour or less. They have a rougher look to them, but I like the looseness. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Saying good bye to Montana Azul

One of my memories of Montana Azul in the Chirripo Mountains of central Costa Rica, is getting up early to paint these quiet scenes of morning light, and the very hospitable way either Angus or the staff there, were always ready with coffee for me, even when I arrived,...before 6 am! That's all I need, my art supplies, and coffee. Pretty content.
So here is another seating area, and not the last one, but the last for the mountains. This piece is done on Art Spectrum sanded paper. I used the texture of the paper to enhance the stubbled surface of the adobe structure. I think this piece says a lot about the best of Costa Rica. The bright intense colours on the pillows, suggests the rich cultural heritage here, and I left the background very non-descript, yet green. Yep,nature is valued here, and it is every where. Now mind you, on my trips, we are mostly going to places that are typical, so you can get the feeling for the country. We are not at all for "touristy" sites, but searching for astounding natural beauty. It's everywhere.
Stay tuned for my next entry on Costa Rica: Our trip through central Costa Rica to the OSA.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Mini Slimbox is here! Great for pastel storage and travel

The new pastel Slimbox Mini

 As you slide it open, there's a plastic protective cover, with foam on the inside, facing the pastels.
The box comes with dividers, to organize your pastels as you want. 

This is the set of 120 Unison half sticks, to give you an idea of what you can fit in here.
Original slimbox is a little larger

My friend and fellow pastellist Suzanne Godbout from Montreal has designed this nifty travel box for pastels. Many of you have been buying the larger version from her. This is a new and smaller product. Of course it's perfect for me, travelling with pastels. 
It is designed as a lightweight travel box. Note that there is a dent in the
divider at the far right so you can insert a pencil, brush, etc.
You can use the mini (as well as the regular Slimbox like on the photo) with the
Dakota wooden easel and it holds well either open or closed. Note that 
in one of the boxes, is the Unison 120 half
sticks directly with the cardboard box foam (cut a ½ in. all around,cute !)  The original slimbox is 17" X 21" X 1.25" and sells for $125.00 + shipping. The new Mini slim box as above, sells for just $50.00 + shipping. To find out more or order your own, contact Suzanne at