Plein air painter offers some tips

Art workshops this weekend, hosted by Susan Schaefer of Island Arts Magazine

Samples of guest artist Judy Pedder’s work at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply.

If you are wanting to tap into your artistic side, but need a bit of motivation, you may want to sign up for one of the many workshops being offered by Island Arts Magazine.

This weekend two workshops are being hosted by Susan Schaefer of Young At Art Studios in Qualicum Beach. The artist, who publishes Island Arts Magazine, has been promoting Vancouver Island and West Coast artists by presenting workshops, exhibitions and articles on everything art in her magazine.

The first of her many workshops planned for 2012 are being held Saturday and Sunday, February 25 and 26 at the Lighthouse Community Centre in Qualicum Bay. The workshops are designed to bring outside expertise to the area’s already talented artists and this weekend they have lined up well known artists Brian Buckrell and Judi Pedder from Comox for separate parallel workshops. Down the road there will be workshops with instructors from Tofino and the Lower Mainland.

Buckrell will do a two day workshop on preparing for Plein Air, though the class will be in indoors for comfort.

Participants will learn about painting outdoors and the unique preparations that can entail, from someone with plenty of experience doing it.

Buckrell is an award winning plein air and studio painter working in oils and acrylics. He has studied with some of the best plein air painters in Canada and the U.S. and enjoys sharing what he has been learned.

And while many an artist will tell you they’ve been honing their craft for decades, that is not the case for Buckrell.  Generally artists acknowledge that they started fairly young and slowly worked their way into galleries, eventually winning awards and notoriety.

Not so for Buckrell. In fact his experience has been quite the opposite. The former university professor from Ontario was 60 years old when he first picked up a sketching pencil in a course he was taken to by his wife.

Buckrell and his wife Cathy have been residing in Comox since 2001.  Back in his Ontario days, Buckrell was also an active outdoorsman, a ski instructor and kayak coach. He was excited about the move to Comox to continue his outdoor pursuits, but ran into some health issues. Painting, he said, was a wonderful friend to him during a couple of difficult years, solidifying his love for the art form.

Buckrell’s vivid and captivating paintings have secured him  Best in Show as well as Awards of Excellence at Federation of Canadian Artists (FCA) Juried shows. He has won first place in The Old School House’s (TOSH) Grand Prix d’Art contest in Qualicum Beach twice, and was awarded Signature Status (AFCA) by the FCA.

Buckrell said learning to paint is as much about discipline and ambition as anything else.  As for plain air painting, for the first few years, the style is more about planning and developing good habits than it is about applying the paint. Most new to plein air painting become overwhelmed and the best plein air painters ensure their success by having the knowledge and planning skills needed before going on location. This results in proper selection of subject, effective preparation and strong compositions and makes for a lot more stress-free fun.

Buckerell’s workshop will be two days indoors Feb. 25 and 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants will display and discuss equipment and supplies in oils and acrylics. A presentation will be given on the key elements of planning and composition for plein air and then students will create a variety of simple and effective compositional choices from large projected images. The end of the first day and the entire second day will simulate working on location: planning, selection, simplification and making effective compositions from projected images then creating small plein air paintings in either oils or acrylics.

A one day workshop on Saturday, Feb. 25, 9 am to 4 p.m. on preparing and painting on masa paper will be conducted by Judi Pedder.  She said masa paper is quite thin and is used a lot in Chinese brush work but she said it can provide texture to artwork that everybody notices.

“It is becoming popular.  The technique is hard to explain without seeing it.  A lot of people will paint flowers and then ask what am I going to do with the background?  If you use masa paper, especially for florals it gives you an interesting background and texture,” Pedder stated.

Pedder, who has mastered the technique, has taught many of the workshops and her hands-on course will have students working with water colours on the special paper to create a unique batik look that adds interest to any subject matter. She recently released a DVD on the unique process as well as a booklet but said the workshop provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn in a classroom setting because courses on the technique are not offered anywhere else.  She said she will show students the process from start to finish.

“I will show examples of some of my work and explain the difference in how I painted them because there are differences,” she admitted.

Pedder said she will also provide some canvases already treated with masa that are dry and ready to paint on. She said what is nice about masa is you don’t have to pay for matting and framing, the canvases are easy to ship and carry around and the colours can be strong.

Pedder has many accolades to her name, one of which is being the past president of the Comox Valley Chapter of the FCA. Some of her work is currently being exhibited at The Gallery at Qualicum Art Supply located at 102 – 206 First Avenue in Qualicum Beach.

To register for any of the workshops call 250-757-8003 or register online under the ‘Workshops’ tab at


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