Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Painting Algoma 2020 2nd annual Canadian Master Class in Plein Air Painting

I think the photo says it all. OMG. Colour!!

Painting Algoma 2020 In mid-September 2020, I took 10 adventurous and courageous students to follow in the footsteps of the group of 7, and see what they saw, when "THEY" painted Canada. It's been a dream unleashed, and I can't wait to see more of what "they" saw. I'd like to thank my intrepid students for their enthusiasm and dedication to do this, in a very unsettled time. We got lucky with Covid, as our time frame co-incided with nice weather and came before the 2nd. It was a perfect pocket of fortune. Sorry, we didn't have nice weather, we had exceptionally beautiful warm weather, with maybe one or two licks of rain, and I mean licks. 

The North Channel, La Cloche. A magic dawn, just outside our cabin. 

 Our trip has several layers to it. First of all, we were following the places the group of seven painted frequently, in the La Cloche area, and Mitchipicoten, just outside of Wawa, Ontario. Without a doubt, the highlight for me and many others, was the drive between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. Lake Superior Provincial Park. Wow. This is Ontario? OMG. So dynamic! I cant believe I have aged to a certain vintage and not seen Ontario, in my own country. Oh yeah-One more lucky, the leaves were in full throttle of change, bold reds and oranges, all the way to Wawa, where the forest becomes boreal, with greens, and golds only. 

 Let's start at the beginning. We met up in Sudbury, a town also have never been visted by me. Our hotel was almost right across the road from the Art Gallery of Sudbury. Most of us made it over there to see locally made artwork, before heading off on Sept. 17nth for our first destination, the La Cloche area. This is about one hour southwest of Sudbury. 


Jon and Kerry Butler and myself, standing on a bit of rock, where the group of 7 painted over 250 paintings in any given direction. That's Frood and Cranberry Lake behind us.

 We decided to start the whole tour off with a very exciting bang, by meeting up on Willisville Mountain. Myself, my students, with Jon and Kerry Butler. 

Here are a couple of examples of his work, obvious keen knowledge of where the poet- trees exist. These are both from the La Cloche area. 

I feel especially lucky to have Jon speak to our group. Not only is he an excellent photographer and knowledgable about the whole area, he had extensive knowledge about where the group of seven painted, locally. In fact, the first thing we did was follow him, scrambling up a huge piece of white granite, to view the notch between Frood and Cranberry Lake. 


Our first day and first time being together as a group, scrambling to this remote rock, were the "group" painted many times. 

Bonnie knocks one out of the park.

I was astounded to learn in his lecture from the rock, that more than 250 paintings had been done by the group, from this rock- it bears repeating! Just astonishing. Jon and his wife Kerry were more than hospitable and I thanked them with the golden elixir, my homemade raspberry liqueur. Once we had our bearings and found out all of Jons'  group of 7 facts, we were left on the rock to paint, in any direction. It was a clear, bright day and in fact got downright hot out there. We stayed all afternoon, shooting pictures, making thumbnail sketches and paintings, in pastel, pen and ink, and watercolour. 

 Our day was toasted off with Champagne and cake because hey! we just have go to celebrate, whenever we can. Being around other people during covid seemed a joyous occasion enough. 

                                          Day 2 -- Boat tour, Cranberry lake, hiking to Grace Lake 

 Day 2 took us back to Willisville, where we were boat-taxied through Frood lake (much painted by the group 7) into Cranberry lake. We mosied by Carmichaels' cottage, still owned by his descendants, and onto the end of Cranberry, all of us taking pictures wildly. At the end of Cranberry, was a portage trail, which we took, all the way to Grace Lake (painted much by the group of 7), inside the boundaries of Killarney Provincial Park. 

                                      Just a weird growth on tree in dense forest during our hike. 

Quintessential group of 7 Pines and Island

Our reward for hiking in to Grace Lake, a la group of 7

We spent most of the day painting in that magical landscape, and magical it was. I enjoyed mid ground Islands, huge vistas of red covered mountains far away, and close ups of light and detail on trees, bushes. The weather, spectacular. 

Margot, soaking in

 Trish working it out in pen and ink. 

Gorgeous pen and ink illumination by Trish

                           Another gift on the boat trip back. Was this colour real? Stay tuned on this one,...

 By his time we're pretty exhausted, so Day 3 saw us painting around our cabins, painting the north Channel, pretty colours of maples in change, and whitefish falls, truly beautiful. I learned so much about the group of 7 on this trip, I am amazed, and hope to get to know Killarney better. 

Close to the finished painting, oil, 11X 14 by Ferraro

 Art Gallery of Algoma , Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario

Here we are at Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, being given our own special show of group of 7 artwork, from executive director Jasmina Jovanovic and her assistant, Ky. 

Here is Ky, public engagement officer for the Art Gallery of Algoma, showing us the back of a painting! They have 2 such paintings at the gallery. 

We had quite a treat and I'd like to thank Jasmina Jovanovic, executive Director of the Art Gallery of Algoma, for producing a special exhibit just for our group, on the works they have of the group of 7. We got to see works, up close and unframed (no touching!) as well as hear all about these works and the group of 7 in this area both from Jasmina and Ky. One thing I learned there, is that the group often painted two images, one on either side of the small panels they took on location. The Art Gallery of Algoma had two of them, which we got to see. I also got to see just what kind of an excellent technician Carmichael was, in smaller pieces, done with a very small brush, patience and impeccable precision. 

                            Driving through Lake superior Provincial Park, was absolutely amazing. 

Sorry about the fuzzy, check out the colour! 

One on many beautiful waterfalls

Many waterfalls, camping areas, views of  Lake Superior, and spectacular vistas of hills bordering on Mountains,  in vivid fall colours. It was hard to keep eyes on the road. (Once our tour was over, I spent an entire day travelling back through the park, hiking, taking pics and doing some sketching.) It was truly breathtaking. 

                                                                Wawa and Mitchipokoten 

Rock Island Lodge, the view
View from the rocks on our very private coastline at Rock Island Lodge. We had the whole place to ourselves, to paint, and get together to share our work. This was the more open and windy side. Many excellent shots of Lake superior were had. 

Margot, having fun with rocks and water 

Rock Island Lodge, a protected little alcove for socializing

The beach on the other side at the lodge. Nice composition by Hilary.  

A lovely fire our last night, before getting dark and stargazing

Did I mention the gorgeous sunset over Lake Superior? Pastel, by Carole. 

                 My personal view upon waking each morning, with or without ethereal morning fog. 

Did someone say morning fog (?) by Jacques. An artist observes and finds a way to speak his own language regardless of the setting. Many variations were done, this is only 1of many. 

 This leg of the trip, we learned quite a lot from our next presenter, Johanna Rowe. She's a local historian, who is writing a book on A.Y,Jackson and his meanderings in Mitchipicoten. 

We saw the cottage AY owned with a few friends, right on the north shore of Lake Superior. Once there, it's quite obvious where he got his inspiration from -- many, many paintings done on this small beach. 

AY Jacksons' beach

There are many waterfalls still in this area, and many of us got to paint silver falls (below, bottom), very close to where we were staying. 

High Falls, just south of Wawa, Ontario

Sweet and small, Silver falls. I could have painted this from many perspectives. 
Not enough time!

Margaret Stalker has been practicing her compositon and drawing skills. Look at this gem. 

Blueberry fields turned a gorgeous red.

                          Someone was bound to do it, variations on red. Colour Harmony! By Patricia 

 Fields and fields of blueberry bushes changing to red here everywhere, making for some very unusual palettes and subject matter.

In the Footsteps of the Group of 7-By Jim and Sue Waddington

Jim and Sue Waddington are Art historians, and avid canoeists. They started a journey of canoeing and finding the spots the group of 7 painted many years ago, and have discovered so many of the locations that they decided to write this excellent reference book. 

Many of us brought this book with us, and could see for ourselves what the group of 7 painted, as nothing has moved after all these years! It was astounding. 

What really impressed me is seeing a scene painted many years, decades earlier, that is very accurate to what is still,..actually there. It gave me a new found appreciation for the draftmanship of the group of 7. I find graphic artists make a seemless transformation over to fine art. Much design practise can serve your fine art side. The views I saw in general all reminded me constantly of group of 7 paintings. I can see how excellent designing skill helps makes the most of what is actually there. For example, the black spruce trees that are typical of Algoma. The group would use these as a design element that "anchored" paintings ,texture, cushioning values and colours, generally providing fullness to these natural scenes. In my own teaching, especially plein air, I often instruct to take objects out if they don't serve your composition. It was obvious from observing the scene of one famous painting after another, that the group did not do that. They painted everything in, but found excellent compositions to work from with accuracy. 

Look at the light on the rocks. Really feeling the reflections too. Thanks to Bev for this one. 

                              WIP, Frood Lake Magic, oil by Ferraro, I'm working a large oil of it now.

Capturing the movement of water. magical. Vivid splashing water. Thanks Betty!

 AS with all my trips, there was a multitude of different subjects and different scenes to paint. I find it frustrating in turning off and rejecting subject matter I'm not going to use.  We only painted such a small bit of what we saw. Time was limited. The fall colours are such a spectacular time of year, but only lasts such a short time. But it was truly a wonderful time, shared by likeminded artists. 
We were from all over Ontario, as far east as Ottawa, and as far west as Guelph, Ontario as well. Thank you to the hardy, positive individuals who made this trip such a success. 
I look forward to Post Covid time, more travels, and marvelling at the miracle of nature, through art.  
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and happy painting to everyone. 

Monday, 1 June 2020

The skinny on the BIG: Before Version of my latest BIG project.

                         The BIGNESS of the Exterior-2015 Ridge road W., Shanty Bay, Ontario

I've owned it since December.  Didn't even start doing anything until February. Meandered around the project in March. Got going in April. Moved in in May. Am I done? Not by a long shot. I've only just begun!

You may be asking if Margaret fell off the face of the earth. I've had very little presence on social media since my mom died. I bought this property just outside of Barrie in November. Before Covid changed all out lives, I began a huge project of renovating this very dated property consisting of a 3 bedroom house and another building I plan to turn into a studio/gallery. I have a vision, and hope I can make it really as spectacular as my dreams visualize for me.

What? A home and a gallery. You may be asking if Margaret fell of the face of the earth. I've had very little presence on social media since my mom died. I bought this property just outside of Barrie in November. Before Covid changed all out lives, I began a huge project of renovating this very dated property consisting of a 3 bedroom house and another building I plan to turn into a studio/gallery. I have a vision, and hope I can make it really as spectacular as my dreams visualize for me.
Where? Shanty Bay, Ontario.
Why? A girls' gotta live somewhere. it's very close to why 11, so easy from Toronto. lots of trees, charming neighbourhood, proximity to a large body of water. A place to live. A place to paint.
When? vaguely, owned since December, but moved in May.
How? Waiting, and luck.

ok. The obvious question. Why does the front face of your house not have windows? I suspect the previous owners wanted privacy from the busy road. not sure. Apparently the building used ot be a butcher shop.

The before version of the back of the house. really charming back yard, surrounded by big tall Pine trees. Lauren Harris pines, grandiose, gorgeous. There's a circular garden bed that's quite lovely and surprising me every day as new miracles pop up.

This is definitely the before. all wall to wall carpet: now gone. Fireplace workable? Nope. Not doing that anymore. Plans to change to a gas insert, yet to be done.

This area wins the award for most potential, the possibility to go from the most dramatically  overgrown and slummy, to spectacular, classy and gorgeous. The spectacular is still to come, but if you visit, you'll see it right away.

At long, long last. Dare I say it? My own studio Gallery. 350 square feet on each of two levels. WIP.

On a lovely May day, sun, gardens, grand pines, the back of my studio gallery.

This is my proof to you, of the before version of my house. I have many pics of the inside, but there are already a lot here. If you want to see therefore pics of the inside, let me know and I will add. Since ownership and through the winter, I've been working on making the inside livable, hoping to be done inside as the weather got nicer. Basically though, I have my work cut out for me. The place is semi-livable. Then, I turned to the other building: I am hoping in a week or so, i'll be moving my painting gear and many paintings into the studio. working on it now!
Stay tuned.

Friday, 10 January 2020


Plein Air Painting last summer, Pointe au Baril,  Georgian Bay

 Last September, I hosted a week of plein air painting at a Georgian Bay cottage, near Pointe au Baril, Ontario, about 40 km. from Parry Sound. 12 students and myself for one glorious week.

When I lead a group on location, we are usually in that location for 3 hours. This means some time looking for good vantage points, advising each student one on one, before setting up to do something quickly myself.  Then I have to finish quickly as well, so I have time to meet everyone once again, one on one, closer to the end of their paintings, to discuss and critique. I get one hour, basically, to create whatever I can get down. This has contributed to a very hurried style, which has good and bad points. 

Having an entire week to explore vantage points and ideas for paintings was quite a luxury, and I took full advantage. 

One of the first things we did when we got to the cottage, and everyone was settled in, was to meet, with only an adjustable viewfinder in hand. As is my style, I like to walk around and give an open commentary on ideas for paintings as the scenes come to me. Developing ideas, is how to grow into your concept of composition. Developing ideas is all about the thumbnail.

For those of you not familiar with that term, a thumbnail is a small drawing, a visual explanation of the essential, initial idea you have, for a painting. Once completed,  this little drawing advises artists as to the potential of your idea as a painting. 

In walking around our new environment, we not only gain new and deeper appreciation of nature around us, but new ideas pop up, old ideas deepen and become more complex. Time (in this case a week, instead of 3 hours) gives us this opportunity, as all our ideas get to stretch out over days ahead. 

With this thought process in mind, after about 24 hours on site, I chose what I thought was a composition with great potential. My subject matter was very typical, reminding me that I have to make the subject my own, in order for it to be original. I also wanted the piece to reflect the fact that I did have time to deepen my ideas, the details, to sink into the luxury of that.



Observing different qualities of light over a 24 hour period. I decided to use the last photo, for a consistent sense of light, and the one above, for more information about light and shadow on the island itself. 

Observing the light on my subject over 24 hours was very interesting, offering a multitude of compositional possibilities. In the case of the Island, the area with the most variation based on light, would be the water. The island itself would stay on a similar value range. I'm arranging my ideas. 
So, after many thumbnails, and no painting, I chose one scene, and did my thumbnail.

I'd describe it as a generic thumbnail, a beginning of the thought process. Next, I thought a lot about colour. This is where pastel differs from other mediums.  As pastellists, we visualize our palette with the underlying ground colour. I'm referring to the colour of paper we are choosing, or underpainting executed, and how that ground interacts with your palette. In order to visualize this, we need to rely on our visual ability in tandem with our imagination.

At this point my mind wants to mix colours, and get a general feel established. However, since I have a whole week here, I slow down, and observe my subject as often as I want, asking what if?, in as many ways as I can entertain. This is documented with as many thumbnails, or photos as I want. In fact, by waiting, I have the advantage of observing light on my subject from many different points, creating many different effects. Which one best expresses what I want to say about this scene?

The line drawing, working out proportions both positive and negative space. 

I created a thumbnail, that was only a line drawing. In it, I have chosen the proportions of my picture plane, and how the picture plane will be split, without assigning value. by keeping the plan open, I can observe different qualities of light, and assign value after this is chosen. No values or details until the time of day and specific light is chosen.  

Observing the light on my subject over 24 hours was very interesting, offering a multitude of compositional possibilities. In the case of the Island, the area with the most variation based on light, would be the water. The island itself would stay on a similar value range. I'm arranging my ideas. 

I could have chosen a very still scene on the water, where the reflection of the island was basically the same value as the island itself.  Or, a time of day where the reflection was so minimal, that more light came into the scene, with the water being a significantly lighter value.

The full value drawing, light, medium and dark.

However, I chose the scene of early morning, where the light infused the Island with value variations from the right, enhancing both island and water. This scene also offers us the waves as they wrap around the island, in varying values. This was the scene to me with the most interest. Now I am ready to assign value to my thumbnail to get a complete visual explanation of what my painting will look like without colour. Objects, lights and dark, placement. By working slowly through each step, I have time to continue working with my imagination, getting ideas of what to change, what to tweak, and what colours best express me.  

I noted the time of day, and started working on my ideas about ground colour, and palette. The following day, I was out at the location with plenty of time before the optimum light affect would occur. I set up my pastels, and my board. No one can predict the configuration of clouds (how different that is from yesterday!), and how this will affect light, but it's as good as we're going to get.


                       Alisons' island, 8" X 20", pastel on raspberry coloured Fabriano pastel paper. 

With the sun low in the sky, we have more time with consistent light as the light effect from the sun on my subjects moves slower. The higher the sun is in the sky, the faster the light moves. We have to be as ready as we can. My plan is done, proportions chosen, size (8"h X 20"w), ground colour chosen, and line drawing applied to my pastel paper.

Even before the optimum time is upon me, I can still establish value in a lightly-layered way. Meaning I am applying a light pressure layer of pastel, everywhere on my picture plane. A complete plan, for the entire painting. Now I have my composition established, values established. I am palette ready, as soon as the optimum light time period comes on. 

This is when I work quickly to get as much information down as quickly as I can. I've been very well organized, so my time is spent with the most important parts of the painting first. I'm focussed on the largest areas first, working deliberately from largest ares to smallest, and from dark to light. Once I am in the painting, and concentrating, time travels much quicker than my usual perceptions. By the time the sun is too high to be accurate any more, I have everything established that is most important in the painting.

Now I put the painting away, and don't look at it for a while. this will give me a fresh eye, and more objectivity about what is working, what needs tweaking and what needs completion. I move onto other projects.

I go back the next day for those tweaks, very conscious not to overwork the spontaneity established from working on locations. when done, the piece is placed somewhere I can see it, with the express intention of not working on it for some time. I find my impression of a piece can change without doing anything to it. Just observing, over time. 

At the end of our week, the owners of the cottage came back for a final meet up to discuss how it all went. Dennis and Alison Kolody had been very accommodating to us, we all felt very appreciative to their efforts to make this a wonderful experience for us all. They in turn were quite interested in what had been created. I showed them my work, about 10 pieces in total.
They quickly zeroed in on the Island piece I just described, because whether you are trained in composition or not, people gravitate to good composition. It was the obviously best piece in the bunch. or so I thought, and they concurred. 
Dennis and Alison then commissioned me to make a large oil painting, based on this piece. Group of seven people! In my years of plein air painting, I had often thought of the group, what would they have done if pastel had been available to them like it  is now? Would all those 8X10's been pastel, instead of oil?
Regardless, this is a great way to work. Do your on location piece in pastel, allowing for quick spontaneous work, then followed up by larger work in oil, either also on location, or later in studio, with thumbnail, pastel colour study, photos, and notes. 

So, onto the next phase, creating the piece in oil, at home.


The first thing I did was to stretch a canvas in the exact same proportions as the pastel piece. The client wanted a piece that spanned 5', so I applied some math, and found that my pastel, if 5 feet wide, would be exactly 24" in height. So my newly stretched canvas was 24" X 60". 

Next, I replicated the ground colour of the pastel, but with a little variation. I underpainted, in oil, varying the colour and value just slightly, so there'd be more contrast in the water, (foreground of the painting). A little darker on top, a little lighter on the bottom. A little more raspberry on top (cooler), a little lighter, but more intense pink (warmer) at the bottom.


Feeling pretty comfortable with a piece of vine charcoal, I drew out the division of space in vine charcoal, drawing in the island, and keeping large open areas that will be painted in gradations, allowing for some painterly freedom.

My imagination is always creating the painting for me, before I execute each stage. 

The easel was set up in my back yard, which I love. First, I'm outside, where I belong. Second, I can stand very far back from the easel, offering me great perspective on the effects of every single step I take. 

It's now time for oil, which I work exactly as I do in pastel. I'm working dark to light, first in light layers, to make sure I am happy with my composition, adjusting anything i don't like, as I go. Dark to light, but also largest spaces to smallest. Once the second layer is done, because I've done so much prep work, I am well off into the painting.


Neutralizing for a more sophisticated palette, adjusting values to make the painting work, not necessarily going after the realistic colour. doing what works for what I want to say. 

Standing back a lot allows me great objectivity as to what's next, and how fast I am developing the painting. Sometimes the oil needs to dry before working on it more, so I am slowed down but waiting for it to dry. I look at it like it's a good thing, allowing for more objectivity, better decisions. Also, it's easy to get going and want to finish something in one go. However, I find after painting for 3 hours straight, I am fatigued enough to not necessarily be making the best critical decisions. Waiting to the next day is best.


Once I get to the point where I'm almost done, I  put the painting aside for a while. More thinking, less execution. Careful decisions. More drying, and time away, in order to have a fresh eye for finishing touches. 

Over the years, I would say I re-work pieces less and less at the end. Allowing imagination to draw conclusions for the viewers. It's more fun that way.  My choice.

The Happy clients. thank you Kolodys'!