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The Ladies’ View at the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor

October 21, 2016


This is my watercolor of the Ladies’ View. (Half sheet, 15×22″, on 140lb Fabriano, painted in studio).

This is a well-known spot in Ireland, overlooking a series of small lakes leading into the Killarney National Park. As the story goes, Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting arrived at the top of the pass and declared it the best view in Ireland. Maybe they were simply done with the harrowing mountain roads. This was as far from Muckross House as anyone wanted to go:)


Beautiful as it is, there are certainly great spots all over the five peninsulas – most popular being the Iveragh Peninsula (the Ring of Kerry). But to be honest, every high spot has a view, every coast has cliffs, and every valley has misty mountains. The best view in the southwest of Ireland is wherever you’re standing at the golden hour.


I did this quick sketch on location but I don’t really feel it’s a successful piece. We only had a narrow gap between rain, and I got too fixated on the lakes, and somehow lost the sense of scale.

On our return I decided to redo my field sketch in the studio, and it’s a good thing – as it has been accepted in the 2016 Open Water exhibition of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor, which opened last night at the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto.

I’m pleased to say, The Ladies’ View has won me the 2016 S.J. Sloan Award, and – (this just in!) – I’ve been elected to lifetime membership in the CSPWC – which is a rather nice bit of encouragement.

I consider myself a beginner when it comes to studio pieces. I haven’t really done that much work at home, being more of a plein air painter. But this is something I’ve been interested in taking more seriously.


Here are a few of the other pieces, done back home in Montreal. These are all warmups for the Ladies’ View. There’s a common theme here – which is, going back for the sketches that I couldn’t get on the spot. Some, like this one, I simply ran out time. The fog closed in and this view across the inlet vanished.


Or, in this case, we were perched dangerously on a curve in the road, looking at the mist rolling down onto a little harbor town, The clouds were moving so fast, and I was a little paranoid about delaying our drive and ending up still on the mountain after dark. So I didn’t sketch on the spot -but I knew I’d be returning to this image.

I rather like the 9×12″ sketch above.  It has a lot of dynamic brushwork. But here below is a half sheet, attempting to do a better rendition.


I think the difference between the smaller sketch and this 15×22″ version illustrates exactly where I’m ‘stuck’ with watercolor right now.

You can get very used to the behavior of pigments at a certain size, and on your favorite paper. I have an instinctive feel for how fast to work and how much a given pigment will float. When I scale up, I think I lose that freshness, that ‘untouched’ manipulation that I get from watery blooms and pulling edges.

This is just a temporary problem I’m sure:) Anyone who knows me can guess my feeling about this challenge.

All I need to do is paint 100 half sheets, then a 100 full sheets and I should have learned what I need to along the way :)


Given how these recent experiments turned out, I have a few things on my list to try next, starting with larger brushes. I have some large (1 and 2″) flats that I’ve been wanting to try out. I intend to try mixing in jars, and pouring paint, and doing more work with atomizers. I’m determined to grow the size of my studio paintings, without losing the spontaneity of the watercolor.

This last one here is a great composition found by accident while walking across an un-named field.  I’m very happy with this piece – but I feel like I’m looking at the same size of brushstroke as I use on a miniature, simply propagated over a larger sheet. My self-critique is – that is too many strokes! It is in danger of feeling over worked. Watercolor should have an element of controlled accident. I never want it to become labored.

But anyway – we’ll see what happens with these theories soonish. For  now, we’re off to Toronto to see the show! If you know anyone in the area, here’s the details:


I just want to also say – it’s neat to see my Urban Sketching co-conspirator Shari Blaukopf’s painting used for the Open Water announcement :) (Well, the sky anyway). Congrats to her for also making it into the show! It’s kind of fun to have both of us in there at the same time.


33 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2016 9:12 AM

    Just beautiful. And congratulations! :)

  2. Louise Boyer permalink
    October 21, 2016 9:18 AM

    Hi Marc, wow, it will always AMAZE me to see how you manage to capture such complex scenes. We fell we are there really! So happy you won! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janet lee permalink
    October 21, 2016 9:30 AM

    Congratulations! It is worthy of many prizes. Love seeing your thinking and planning and how you will get there. Thanks for sharing

  4. October 21, 2016 9:58 AM

    I’m awe struck and face filled with ear-to-ear grin that you consider yourself “a beginner”.
    No, Sir…..I’m the beginner…hands down. You? Not so much!

  5. Dottie permalink
    October 21, 2016 9:58 AM

    I love your work and am so glad you get to be in the show. You have given me fond memories of Ireland. The only thing I’m missing are the rock walls. Thanks for teaching us and for sharing.

  6. October 21, 2016 10:16 AM

    Congratulations Marc! The movement in your painting is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story and process with us. I am very grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting you and your wife, for the first time, at the show. Sheri’s painting was a delight to see as well. Two of my favourite urban sketchers in the show. How great is that!!!! It is a wonderful show and if you are in Toronto it is worth the visit. Cheers….Barbara

    • October 21, 2016 10:18 AM

      Was awesome to meet another Sketcher there! Hope to find a chance to go sketching in TO sometime :)

  7. October 21, 2016 10:54 AM

    Marc these are great. I’m glad the Canadian Watercolor Society has shown such good sense and taste. It must be the Luck O’ The Irish. Fair play to you – makes me want to go and paint where you were too.

    • October 21, 2016 9:32 PM

      Still thankful we went to Ireland, was tremendous to spend time travelling. All thanks to you!

  8. October 21, 2016 10:57 AM

    Marc, thank you for sharing your experience in going larger. This is my exact problem also .
    Your probably right about practicing hundreds of times, but I think you are closer than that !
    Your already on your way …

  9. Marian Janzen permalink
    October 21, 2016 11:02 AM

    Wonderful to see the initial photo and the progression to studio pieces.
    I live on the prairies in Canada where we have “huge” dramatic skies and I understand the challenge of scale vs a certain size of brush.
    I fight this same fight in acrylic and I also have “a hundred to go”.

  10. Annie permalink
    October 21, 2016 11:08 AM

    Oh, my, what a gorgeous place and the paintings are so exciting. Want to go there right now!!

  11. October 21, 2016 12:06 PM

    Marc, you have such a way with landscapes. I envy that as it is my worst subject. I agree with everything said above. These are wonderful. The skies are so dynamic. Always look forward to your posts.

    Congrats to you and to Shari.

  12. October 21, 2016 12:23 PM


  13. mhagan5068 permalink
    October 21, 2016 12:39 PM

    Congrats on the well-deserved honor. Your blog and posts remain a highlight with the insights and honest self-talk. When I feel something is overworked of mine at least I know remedies because of your honest assessments of yourself. Keep sharing, Marc.

  14. Margaret Horak permalink
    October 21, 2016 1:34 PM

    First off, congratulations on your prize-winning piece! It’s easy to see why it was picked. And second of all, it’s weird that I’ve been contemplating going larger, too. I’ve mulled over the size brushes to use, and how to mix the paint. In fact, I’m psyching myself up to try a full sheet painting today. And after reading your blog, I feel a little more confident about trying it. Good luck to you! Although, I think all your work is just gorgeous! You and Shari are “rock stars”!

  15. Pam Cunningham permalink
    October 21, 2016 1:45 PM

    Excellent news…have been following your Blog for some time.. All of your time a
    and effort is really paying off as your style evolves. congrats!

  16. October 21, 2016 1:58 PM

    Big Congrats on going Big!!! It is a beautiful piece – I’ll bet it looks amazing on the wall :) I am also so interested in how you decided to use your reference material.. particularly photos – I find I work entirely different ways on site or at home, and I love them both, but I’m always trying new ways to use the photo refs I gather. Large monitor? Printing out? Gridding up? Zooming in? Even cut-out elements…I’ve tried them all and I’m always curious about other artist’s process! Especially when it turns out so well!

    • October 21, 2016 3:15 PM

      Hey Sheryl – good question. So, I have fairly large monitors, as I do digital art in my day job. So I can put the reference up there, raise my standing desk to easel height, then step back so the subject is similar to what it looks like in the real distance. I’ve been trying to make indoor painting feel the same as out. Using all the same tools as well. I think there’s merit in that, except for the issues with size :) Maybe i need to do some full sheets outdoors too to compare the difference :)

      • October 21, 2016 9:22 PM

        Thank you, Mark – – it is a complicated thought/technique process, and I too am going to spend happy hours figuring it out – a worthy challenge I believe! I think it is a blend of skills, and crosses disciplines.. Peggy MacNamara is a big inspiration to me, but when I naively tried something like this, I couldn’t get the control I wanted… if I only use photos, I miss the immediacy of the experience. I want both, and I think I can do it, but I have to become comfortable with many pieces of process. Haha all that on a mobility scoot too! :) Interesting times!

  17. Mayela Lameda-Lyver permalink
    October 21, 2016 4:18 PM

    Congratulations on your recent accomplishment. I think all your paintings large and small are beautiful. I enjoy seeing your creations and dreaming that one day I could do something as nice as what you paint.

  18. Robert Freeman permalink
    October 21, 2016 4:21 PM

    Congrat’s Marc !

    You do such great work and you’re so open with sharing your experience and knowledge with others.
    I really enjoyed the workshop in Savannah.
    I had the best time !
    I have so much to learn but you were so encouraging.
    A million thanks and again, congratulations on your award !
    It couldn’t have been given to a nicer or more talented guy !

    Robert Freeman

  19. Tony U permalink
    October 22, 2016 8:12 AM

    Congratulations on the acceptance and the award Marc. A few months ago in Galway you showed us three different techniques / styles, all of them inspiring ….. and now you’re winning prizes with a newly developed fourth one. Hope the acclaim doesn’t mean you’ll be quitting urban sketching any time soon! Best, Tony

    • October 22, 2016 9:43 AM

      Hey Tony! Well, always something cooking in the background :) Im always doing five different things at the same time :)

  20. October 22, 2016 9:40 AM

    Your paintings are divine and convey a sense of being right there with you. Interesting on scaling up. Im just reading my new ebook by Ed Whitney and he used a 2″ flat for a large part of work.

  21. Margaret Hunt permalink
    October 22, 2016 8:49 PM

    Congratulations I know you are thrilled!!!

  22. joantav permalink
    October 22, 2016 9:17 PM

    Congratulations!! How exciting for you. I loved “Ladies View” when I was in Ireland but didn’t sketch or paint there. It was cloudy, drizzly, and windy…not quite ideal conditions…and my husband was waiting.

  23. October 23, 2016 5:54 PM

    Congrats Marc!! I’m here in TO and I plan to see the show next week. Wish I’d met you Thursday night but the cold and rain kept me away. Gorgeous painting. Can’t wait to see it live!! Happy Painting.
    Nora MacPhail

  24. robin permalink
    October 24, 2016 10:48 AM

    These large pieces are so beautiful. Congratulations!

  25. Gina Bisaillon permalink
    October 24, 2016 2:34 PM

    Congratulations on a well-deserved award!

  26. Polly Purpose permalink
    October 27, 2016 12:06 PM

    These are sensational!

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