General plein air aritcles

michael king plein air Westham Island Herb Farm

The Stories We Can Tell

The longer one paints outside the more stories one seems to collect. We all have at least one.

Most encounters are no more than a few seconds with a bystander taking the time to come over and ask if they can take a look. This is usually followed by either a pleasant conversation or them jokingly asking where the numbers on the canvas are. Either way it is one of the challenges to taking your art outside.

michael king plein air Westham Island Herb FarmMy newest story, is from just this Monday, June 2, 2014. I was painting at Westham Island Herb Farm in Ladner with a friend of mine, Mary Ann Burrows. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and we found an old abandoned truck in the farmers field after asking permission to paint on-site.

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lee valley brush washer

Brush Washing Container

I was never one to spend big bucks for something simple. I just want things to work well for a fair price.

I came across my current brush washing container in an art store in Hamilton, Ontario a few summers back. It is a dream and at $25, I thought it was a steal.

It is mid sized, holds a good amount of mineral spirits (500ml), has a wide mouth (3″) and locks up tight! Having a good seal is essential since I just throw it in my backpack when going painting. Last thing I need is a leak in my car or while hiking in.

Enough of the back story. The other day my Lee Valley catalogue showed up; I just love looking through these. It was the garden supplement and I almost tossed it into the recycle bin but then decided to have a look through.

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Whistler Plein Air Workshop

Notes from the intrepid plein air painter in Whistler, BC.
by Sheree Jones

The Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) hosted it’s annual Plein Air Workshop in Whistler this September. This is a six day event with four instructors, 50 students and a number of our well known signature members joining in to paint along, do demos and share in the fun and laughter. There were four teams of about twelve students, four instructors and four locations. Each team painted with a different instructor each day. The fifth day was for everyone to paint out with their new found friends wherever they wished.

I was on the “Green Team” lead by Andrea Moore, an acrylic painter from Whistler. On the first day we all headed up the mountain by gondola to breathtaking views of the higher peaks. On the top, our first instructor Camille Przewodek battled swirling clouds weaving in and out of elusive peaks. As a true colourist, her demo in oils was an incredible feat of deft brushwork and colour mixing. Braving the cold mountain air and challenging visibility, the team worked through the day with true plein air grit and determination.

On the second day we were at North Arm Farm, an organic produce farm in Pemberton. There, spread out on sweeping fields of grass and rows of growing produce we stood at the base of towering blue mountains. Michael Workman was our instructor, and his demo in oils, of his direct and indirect painting style was mesmerizing. He was truly generous in sharing his knowledge and showing his techniques. This day was much warmer, and everyone began to relax a little and get to know each other a bit more.

Day three dawned sunny and warm, and we gathered in one of the town squares to work with our Canadian instructor Brent Lynch. Brent is a very funny and affable fellow. His demo was peppered with anecdotes and hilarious plein air “war stories”. Some of us tried to nestle our easels into corners and behind foliage, to avoid the gaze and queries of passersby. Some of us stood out in the open sun, so engrossed in our work, that we forgot to put on sunscreen. There were some pink faces that evening, but all in all, it was another challenging, yet worthwhile day of painting.

Day four brought us to Green Lake, with our instructor Michael Reardon. Michael is an incredible watercolourist from California. His demo was truly inspiring, even for those of us painting in oil. He spent an enormous amount of time encouraging each one of us throughout the day. The steel turquoise water of the lake, and stunning backdrop of glacial mountains gave everyone a grand view to paint.

Beautiful View

Day five, everyone had a chance to take advantage of our free lift passes, and head up the mountain to paint or capture the views with their cameras one last time. Many new found friends grouped together to have lunch or coffee and share in the week’s stories. That afternoon we all gathered to show and sell our works and to share in the telling of our tales from “out in the field”. It was incredible to have over sixty painters in one room, from all levels of experience and diversity of style. It was really quite intoxicating. The evening ended with a gala dinner that topped off the week perfectly.

The beauty of Whistler is the small town feel, and I would bump into fellow hardy plein air painters everywhere I went throughout the week. The best part of this event was the opportunity to meet and paint with so many like minded individuals. The whole experience had me come away with new found techniques and new ways to “see”. My new found friends and peers are now a part of my larger “tribe”, a word often used by Brent Lynch.

Hats off to Susie Cipolla for her major part in the organizing of this event. And hats off to her tireless team of volunteers for their unbridled enthusiasm, and their fearless ability to lend a hand at any moment.

The Federation of Canadian Artists has, once again made their annual plein air workshop a super success.

In a valley

Photos courtesy of: Olga Rybalko, Susie Cipolla, Lainey Benson, Charlotte Mougeot and Sheree Jones


Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge :: 2013 :: Langley

One again I participated in the Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge in Langley. I arrived at about 9:30 and there was already a line up to get your 8×10″ canvas and be officially counted.

Michael King oil painter

Line up


For some an 8×10″ canvas is a good size and was actually the size I started painting on, but now after working much larger, 8×10″ seems so small, postage stamp size almost.  I understand the rational to provide the 8×10″ size, but for next year I hope they can bump it up to at least an 11×14″ canvas.

I had previously scouted out my area before so I wasn’t in a rush to get out the door and explore. As I left Opus, I chatted with a few artists I knew, then walked to my car to gather my gear. From there I took a two minute walk across the street to the Langley library, on the corner of Douglas Crescent and 204th, to my subject for the day, a sculpture of two men portaging with a canoe. I was lucky to have a large flower pot next to me for my umbrella to stick into and keep my work area dry. Below was my setup for the day.

I usually try to paint a plein air piece in an hour or so, but since it was a cloudy day with light rain and I didn’t have to worry about chasing the light or watching any shadows change, I decided to take my time.  At about 45 minutes in you can see the stage I was at.

Michael King oil painting

45 minute mark


Just after I took this picture a group of young adults came by and politely asked if I would mind if they smoked some weed in the alcove I was painting in. Who says the younger generation isn’t polite?  :)  I said, “Sure, no problem.” and continued to paint. You just never know what is going to happen when you’re painting outside.

One thing about cloudy days is it is brighter than you think. Although I was focused on the sculpture, I was adding my own background to the painting as the urban scene didn’t interest me. I filled the background in with a stream, a row of rocks with trees further back. Outside, the contrast between the subject and the background seemed decent enough and I called it quits about two hours in. Seeing the piece hanging in the store however, the values looked too close for comfort and everything melded into each other. Lesson number one learned… Push the values.

Michael King oil painting

Complete Work with Palette


After dropping off my painting at Opus, I went down to Sendall Gardens where my friend Denise Maxwell was just finishing up painting. We walked into the park and came across a large cache of artist painting. One group was very prepared and brought a large tent with them. Very smart. Another was tucked underneath an arbour, one nested into a forest of trees and some others tucked under the boughs of a cedar.

The story that emerged was hearing of one lady who was painting in water soluble oils and was devastated when the rain started to wash away her painting. When Denise and I had reached the far corner of the garden she was setting up a second time, ready to repaint what she had. However, all the artists in the immediate area thought the piece she originally painted, with the drips and water spots, had turned out very well and that she should enter it the way it was. As you can see below it was a nice piece that captured the mood and weather of the day. As we were leaving for a late lunch, we hoped she would enter the piece she had.

The washed out painting

The washed out painting


Returning to Opus at about 3:45 all the pieces were hung up and on display. Talking with the staff, there were over 100 artists preregistered, 85 signed in at the beginning of the day, with only 65 paintings returned. One being the painting that was soaked.

The kids paintings were whimsical, cute and brought a smile to my face. The pieces ranged from elegant to impressionistic with some being in a class of their own. Below are the 65 entries to Langley store.

The jurying was completed by Murray Phillips, Dianna Ponting and Bob McMurray with the winners being:

1st: Kim Stepney

2nd: Kendra Yoshizawa

3rd: Rosie Fyfe

Honourable Mention: Shane Molina (last year’s 1st place in Langley), Bryan Coombes (last year’s 2nd place in Langley)

The third place winner was the lady from the park with the washed out painting. That just made a great end to a long day. Congratulations!!

That is lesson number two of the day… Be objective of your work and don’t get invested when painting outdoors, you might just end up with a winner.

Kudos to Opus for organizing another Outdoor Challenge and I hope to be participating again next year.

Lynn Canyon Group

One Sunday Last Summer

by Sheree Jones

As a plein air painter and a resident of the North Shore here in Vancouver, BC, I am constantly reminded of the unbelievable beauty of what I call “my backyard”. “One Sunday last summer” is an example of one of my adventures. I head out the door early, to paint in Lynn Canyon near my house.

As it’s a Sunday, I am here to worship Mother Nature. It’s early enough for me to find the perfect location, nestled alongside the river. There is no one near me but avid hikers and dog walkers eager to be on their way. I find a cool spot and begin my composition. I anticipate the rising sun deep into the gorge as I work. I am soothed by the sound of the river rushing between the rocks, and I remind myself just what a lucky girl I am.

During my three hour study, many dogs come down to the river beside me, to slake their thirst and cool off. After this study, I am ready to start a new work, facing in another direction. It’s just after 11am. This place is truly magical, and it feels like my own personal slice of heaven.

My new vantage point and new painting starts out pretty well. Slowly curious onlookers begin to peer over my shoulder, one at a time. Suddenly it’s 12 noon in my beloved slice of heaven. It seems that my “solitary profession” ( to quote Scott L. Christensen) is not quite so solitary. Can you spot my easel among 12 of my new found friends? I guess I picked everyone else’s slice of heaven too.