Thursday, November 11, 2010

Robert Genn and The Painter's Keys

Robert Genn painting on location. His caption for this photo reads, "I didn't like the look of that Toyota over there so I left it out."

Robert Genn is a Canadian plein air landscape painter who works in acrylics, lives in British Columbia, and travels throughout the world painting.

Twice a week he sends out a thoughtful email newsletter, a letter musing on something to do with art, the act of painting, the process of creativity, the business side of art, or life as it applies to art and artists generally. Artists from all over the world respond, and he posts some of the responses, with artwork, on his newsletter's website,

Robert Genn's painting in process, beginning with the big shapes

In his post, Light and Shade, Genn writes about painting boats on location, thoughtfully explaining and demonstrating his process. He blocks in "general shapes and patterns early on, while keeping only a partial eye on the eventual lay of the light. In other words, the strongest light areas go in at about the half-way stage of the painting." Notice how he is thinking in terms of the big shapes? He's not concerned with details, even the details of light and shadow, as he begins.

Robert Genn's painting, the next step – addressing the negative shapes

Then he sharpens things up by painting the negative shapes, seen clearly in the sky. Notice how he uses the sky to shape the masts and railings of the boats? You can see the photos online above his post "The divided self," from October 29, 2010.
Robert Genn's painting in process, through to framing

His final steps, as he puts it, are "strengthening design, heightening colours, gradating sky," and finally, "Get it stopped and think about it in a frame."

You can enjoy Robert Genn's newsletters twice a week, too, as I have for a good bit over ten years now, by subscribing at his website at

You can also watch short time-lapse videos of him taking a painting from start to finish, on YouTube, at (Notice how he uses a glaze of phthalo blue rubbed across the whole painting, as a mother color, to bring everything into color harmony?)

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