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Good studio practice ~ advice for the developing artist, Part 1

I wanted to take a few moments to write a series of thorough but brief posts sharing some principles, attitudes and habits that can be useful for the developing artist. Some of what I will say in this series will not be new to all of you, of course, but may be helpful for some beginners and maybe even remind some seasoned painters of some good habits they may still be struggling with. Also, this is not intended to be an article exposing grand secrets of studio work, but is meant to assist beginning artists in building a sound foundation and offer things to consider when approaching your work and the environment you create it in.

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The Country Life

Sunflowers, 18 x 20, oil on linen, 2013 copyright © Mark Reeder

This arrangement of sunflowers in an old milk jug on an old table I found is a relatively normal occurance around here. Taking a break from working in the garden, I usually like to put something like this together to bring a little beauty inside. It may not be considered by many to be a manly thing to do but thankfully I’m pretty secure in myself.:)

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An afternoon in the country

Every once in a while I tear myself away from the studio and go out for a walk without my plein air easel. I actually go out for a walk just for the sake of the fresh air, the exercise, to hear the wind blow though the trees and feel the sun on my face.

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Studio in the woods

This painting is of the front door of my studio and gallery Spring Lake Studios. I painted most of this outside and finished it up indoors. I have painted this building a few times but this is the first one that I feel accomplished what I was looking to capture.

I love plein air painting but I am also very much a studio painter. It’s an interesting process and journey discovering all the different ways to paint and  be inspired. I find that much of my plein air works  are the beginnings of  paintings that I end up finishing in the studio. Starting a painting on location or working from studies or sketches done from life gives you invaluable information.  Photos alone always seem to be lacking some vitality, not to mention accuracy in tone and colour.

My studio and gallery is a special place for me, it was once the studio and gallery of my grandfather William Kratzer who was a landscape painter here for more than 30 years. Although we rarely painted together he showed me it was possible to make a living as a painter and that it was a viable occupation. That is a really big deal when you are in the early stages developing yourself as an artist in a world that doesn’t always consider it a ‘real’ job. I will always thank him for that.

Renovating this studio space over the last few years has been a labour of love and I am working to have it ready to open for spring 2012. Stay tuned for announcements of upcoming workshops at the studio and at some great locations in the neighbourhood for some painting en plein air.

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What’s new in the studio.

“Sexy Rexy” is a type of rose. Not too many roses do that well this far north but this species, now in it’s second year in my garden, seems to be growing very nicely. I think part of the reason why I love gardening so much is that opportunity to use freshly cut flowers as a subject for painting.

“Sexy Rexy in a jam jar” is one of many smaller works I have near completion so I will be posting some more very soon.

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New Drawing

My love for art is rooted in my love for drawing. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting at a table drawing something, anything. There was never any pressure for me in ‘getting it right’. I just felt at home in the process. Of course I did also feel a sense of accomplishment when I managed to draw something that looked like the subject I was studying.

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Build your own plein air easel.

This is a project that I have been looking forward to completing for some time now. I am very happy to have this finished and look forward to getting out and putting it to use.

The outside dimensions are 12 x 16 inches and it was built with 1/4 inch plywood with 3/4 inch ripped pieces of pine, but you could use hardwood as well.

The palette is plexi glass that I happened to have. I would like to change this to glass when this one gets too difficult to clean. Underneath I have a piece of linen toned to a neutral grey. Since I like to paint on toned grounds this allows me to mix on the colour/tone that I will be painting on.

I built this entire easel with scrap materials that were left over from other projects, including the stain and clear coat. The only thing I purchased for this was something called a t nut, which is what allows me to fasten the easel to a camera tripod.

The side hinge was the only piece of hardware I had difficulty in sourcing. So much so that I built my own using  two metal L brackets that I bent straight in a vice and with a hammer. Along with some washers, lock washers, two bolts, nuts and a wing nut to tighten and hold it in position, everything works perfectly.

The other aspect in this design that was difficult to decide on was how to keep the panel I would be painting on in place. I was considering fabricating my own hardware as I did with the side hinge until I came across Jim Serrett’s site Pochade Box Paintings. In his post on How to build your own Pochade Box , where he goes into great detail (and I highly recommend reviewing this post) he show’s how he used a small bungee cord through slots to hold the panel in place. I thought that was brilliant. It works great, it’s inexpensive, lightweight and you can tie a quick knot in it for smaller panels.  Many thanks to Jim Serrett.

I first saw this design at Open Box M and just loved it. If you are looking at purchasing a plein air easel instead of building your own I would take a look at the Open Box M site as well as another great easel design  at Alla Prima Pochade. They have a wonderful design as well.

Here are some more images of the easel to give you a better look at it and to help show you how it was built. If you have any questions about it feel free to post them or message me.

Happy Monday!

With an unfinished panel to show how it’s held in place.
and from the back, showing the bungee cord.
3/4 inch piece of plywood where the t nut is installed.
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Recent portrait: The girl without the pearl earring

I finished this painting a while ago and  today I made the time to photograph it. The sitter is my wife, who has modeled for me for numerous paintings.

The title “The girl without the pearl earring” came from a conversation my wife and I were having while I was part way through the painting. I had mentioned to her how I like portraits showing the head turned, looking over the shoulder, like this one. My wife said it reminded her of Vermeer’s “Girl with the pearl earring”, a painting I had reproduced before. “That’s it,” I said, “only this is The Girl without the pearl earring.”  She laughed and agreed and the name stuck. It’s a fitting title, considering my love for 17th century Dutch painting. It also fits because of my lack of interest in decoration of any kind. So the fact that she is not wearing a pearl earring makes a statement, however unintentional.

after Vermeer

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Solo show in Huntsville, Ontario

Earlier this year I was invited to be the first featured artist in a series of exhibitions at The Framing Place & Gallery in Huntsville, Ontario. I stop in there often to see their great selection of frames. They are affiliated with the Algonquin Art Centre which is another great place to see some amazing art when traveling through Algonquin Park. Participating in this series offered a great opportunity to introduce my work to the surrounding area. Since I moved up here from Toronto in 2006, I have spent most of my time nestled away in the studio working away on portrait commissions and expanding my portfolio (as well as renovating the studio and gallery space). I haven’t had the time to get involved with anything in Muskoka and I saw this as a perfect place to showcase some of my landscapes as well as a mixture of other subjects, including some portraits and still life paintings. If you are anywhere near Huntsville from April 22 to May 19 stop in and take a look!

1-33 King William St., Huntsville ON P1H  2L4
705-789-3205   1-800-863-0066   e: info@framingplace.net   algonquinartcentre.com

This is a Rembrandt reproduction I completed not too long ago. It is one of my favourites by the Master. I decided to leave it as part of the show displayed with some fantastic Dutch and Italian style frames. Here is a preview.

I hope all of you had a great Easter weekend!
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New cityscape, fresh off the easel.

When I lived in Toronto I didn’t really drive all that much. When I had to go somewhere I would usually travel the city by subway, which is always interesting. I also walked a lot. I loved walking through the city, and I would usually take short cuts through alley ways and side streets. I found these routes much more interesting than the facades of main streets with their ‘fake fronts’. By taking such detours you could see and walk through the character of the city as well as part of it’s history. It also gives you an opportunity to see some graffiti art along the way.

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Rapids on the Oxtongue river.

This is another riverscape from a series that I have been working on. There is quite a long stretch of this river not far from my home and I always enjoy taking the opportunity to go for a walk down by the water.

Landscapes are still new for me but I am becoming more inspired every time I finish a painting like this. It was quite daunting at the beginning branching out from my comfort zone of painting portraits and still life, and the odd urban scape, to a place where I could combine my love of nature with painting.

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