Archive for March 2012

Monday Night Art Class: The North Bowl of Revelstoke

March 26, 2012

Having just come back from vacation, I’m still in ski mode, and decided to paint one of my favorite photos from my trip:

Here’s what I ended up with tonight:

The first thing I did was the sky.   A wet wash of cadmium yellow, violet (phtalo purple) and cerulean blue.

Then I did the mountains, starting with the dark shadows of snow.   Again, with violet, cerulean blue, and maybe a touch of ultramarine and/or Paynes grey.

Then I started the rocks, starting with the larger ones as frames of reference, and painting the smaller ones around them.   They’re almost all the same dark shade.   I get my “black” from a mix of Van Dyke brown and Payne’s Grey.   I deliberately mixed up the rocks so they have random dark brown/black shades.

Whenever I got bored with the rocks, I worked on the foreground, adding layers of purple/blue and gradually making it darker.

Then I would add the final dark snow shadows on the mountain, and then lift some of the foreground out to lighten the color and add some texture to it.

I did a lot of lifting and re-painting the foreground.  If you want to do this, it’s important to have a rugged strong sheet of watercolor paper that can take kind of treatment.

I recommend the 300-lb Arches.   It’s “bullet-proof”, you can use it and abuse it, and it doesn’t buckle or degrade.   Not like the cheap watercolor paper I see a lot of beginners use.

Of course, it’s 12 bucks a sheet and when I tell this to people they say  “Oooh, that’s expensive!“.

(Oh, for crying out loud.)    You can cut a sheet into four, and make four paintings like the one I did here.

That’s 3 bucks for an evenings’ worth of entertainment.  I think most people can afford that.

Boggles my mind, why people will invest so much time into a hobby like watercolors, but they’ll scrimp and save a few bucks on sub-par art supplies that will only frustrate them.    But I digress here.

As a final touch to my painting,  I added a hint of cadmium yellow/yellow ochre to the white highlights to warm up the paining.    Using artist licence, I added a skier (a small blob) to the foreground in the middle/right, to give a sense of depth.

The one thing I’m not crazy about is the bottom right hand corner.   In the photo, this section is featureless.   I tried to make it interesting by lifting some of the paint and adding some shadows.  But I’m not sure if I like what I’ve done here.

If you notice, the painting is a lot more “warmer” (i.e. purple/yellow) than the original.    Part of the reason for this, is that I did the painting based on a print-out from a laser printer on plain Xerox paper.   The true winter white/bluish colors weren’t accurately reproduced, and this is all I had to go by.

Next time, I’ll print this out on photo paper instead.

Overall, I give myself a B-Plus on this one.

I’m not displeased, but I know I can do better.

Call this one a “study”.

I want to re-do it in the near future.


Squeezing in One More Ski Trip

March 24, 2012

Earlier this week, I did another quick trip out West on my air miles to ski at Revelstoke.

I was there for one day last year, and it blew my mind away.  I knew I had to come back.  So I did.

Last year, it was foggy and I didn’t get to see the Rocky Mountains very much.

This time, I had a blue-bird sky on the first day and finally got to see what the place looked like.





Vertigo is one of my favorite runs.   It’s a small bowl on the upper half of the mountain.  It represents only a tiny fraction of the whole ski hill, but it’s still 2-3 times bigger than most ski resorts down East.





The best part about skiing out West are the back-bowls.    It’s just all open snow, and you can pick your own line down the hill, and gradually make your way down into the trees again.


This, to me, is like dying and going to heaven.




The other great thing about big mountains is that you can make it as hard as you want.

Down East, you’re limited to the most difficult double-black diamond run on the trail map.

Here, the most difficult run is limited to your own stupidity (i.e. how much you’re willing to put yourself at risk).

And if you wipe out, it’s not just a matter of falling and spraining your ankle.

There are cliffs, and risks of avalanches.   If you take the wrong turn or do something stupid, you could DIE.

Here’s one of the steeper runs I took, and I was reasonably proud of myself for doing it.

But that was nothing compared to these guys…

Check it out:   the two black dots on top of the peak are skiers, and the other black dot to their bottom left is another skier going down.

ne thing to  this type of extreme skiing on video…it’s another to see it in real time, where ther’s a real risk of someone dying.

There were about 30 of us watching these lunatics.   You’re kind of speechless, because you can’t believe at how stupid/brave they are.   This is how skiers kill themselves.

You’d feel bad if they got hurt, but on the other hand, they’re skiing out of bounds and nobody’s putting a gun to their head making them do this.

If you look closely here, you can see the tracks where the first skier went down.

You don’t know whether you want to congratulate him and buy him a beer, or smack  him upside the head, and call him “shit-for-brains”.

I know if my Dad (Mr. Official Ski Instructor) were still alive, he’d do the latter.

Either way, that’s some damned impressive skiing.


On the 2nd day, Friar’s Mom was on the road at 6:00 AM and drove 2 hours to meet me.  We had a great ski day together.

On one run, Friar’s Mom wanted to “explore”.   We ended up bushwhacking through a snow-board trail between the trees, dodging branches and trying not to get poked in the face.

I’ve bragged about this before, but I’m going to say it again:  I don’t know too many 71-year-old Grandmas who can ski like this.


While I was there, they also had rescue dogs,who were being trained to find avalanche victims.

The would get on the chairlift with their handlers and ski down the hill right beside them.

The dogs just LOVED this, as they’d run down the hill at full ballistic speed.

I mean.. look:  how happy do you think this critter is?

On a scale of ten, I’d say ELEVEN.


Now, of course, the weather was not always great.    And it changed by the minute.

Day three started off like this:

The top (and best part) of the mountain was closed because of high wind, and things didnt’ look great.   But within 30 minutes, it cleared up and everything opened up again.

I hiked the traverse on top to get to the back bowls, and suffice to say it was pretty windy.

I could barely see the skiers ahead of me,  and their tracks were almost filled with fresh snow again by the time I caught up to where they were.

I felt somewhat safe, though, because there was a steady stream of skiers doing the same thing.   I wouldn’t dare do this alone, under these conditions.

I like this photo of a random snow-boarder who was coming up behind me.   I find the angle of the hill interesting.

Things calmed down considerably once I got to the other side.    And I skied in half-tracked fluffy powder until the lifts closed.





That was it.  Three days of intense skiing.   But I certainly got my money’s worth.

Junior Bear did too, as he made some friends in downtown Revelstoke.

The Last Good Snow

March 14, 2012

This last Sunday was incredibly warm for March…plus 11 C (or about 52F).

I had a great day skiing, but it was a bittersweet moment.

Because I knew it was the beginning of the end.

While the trails appeared to be intact…


..and the lakes were still frozen…

…gone was the fluffy powdery snow from early winter.   Now replaced with sloppy mashed potatoes.

The snow was melting fast, and deteriorating by the hour.

Already, most of it had disappeared from the valley below.


Yup.  With record high temperatures, this was probably the last good weekend for cross country skiing.

If we’re lucky we might squeeze another week or so,  but best part of the winter has gone.

And I”m not quite ready to see it go, dammit.

So I sadly said goodbye to my beloved trails, until probably next year.

The one consolation, though, is that trout season opens in 6 weeks.

Monday Night Art Class: Apocalyptic Squirrel

March 12, 2012

Some days when you paint,  you can’t do any wrong.

The pigments and water seem to literally dance on the sheet.

The brilliant colors blend and merge exactly as you want them to…it’s a magical feeling.

And at the end of the day, you have a satisfied feeling,  like a cat that’s caught the canary, that you’ve pulled off another great painting.

Today wasn’t one of those days.

My first attempt was to paint this scene:

I started the sky, and then had to go to the car to look for something.

When I came back, I found something had inadvertently touched the still-wet sky and had left some marks.


This is beyond repair.   You can’t fix this.

Some people might say “Oh, Friar, that’s nothing.  Nobody will notice that.”

But the point is…I’LL KNOW.

And anyone looking at the painting, will zoom on on these white blemishes, and that’s the only thing they’ll notice.

So I decide to cut my losses, and quit while I’m ahead.

But not without adding some editorial comments of my own.


There was still an hour left to the class, so I decided to start another “easy’ painting.

Unfortunately, I messed up the full moon.   The masking compound didn’t cover the area properly, and the moon was lopsided.

And, again, there was  nothing I could do to fix this.

So I added some more editorial comments.

And for good measure, I include a giant mutant squirrel wreaking havoc in the woods.

I call him “Chuk-Tor”.