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Month: November 2021

The House: Framing the First Floor

The House: Framing the First Floor

This post is a bit long, so feel free to skim through it. I wanted to get a record of the framing before they start building the roof, so it’s not intended to be entertaining.

It’s been several weeks of framing and the crew is just about ready to start building the roof over the first floor. It’s been a lot of fussy work as they prepare the steel beams to take the framing, build the walls and then set them all up. As well, the weather has been a mixed bag. We had two days of the atmospheric river that caused major flooding around Hope and Abbotsford, but then it got sunny and mild, practically t-shirt weather. The bluff seems to handle large amounts of rain without too much pooling or any erosion. The ground seems very porous and where there was a bit of pooling, we will be able to handle it by putting in French drains and keeping the water away from the house.

Now that the walls are up, it’s much easier to tell how big the rooms will be and what kind of views we’ll have when the house is finished. The combination of the two parts of the house stretches out much more than I ever anticipated when we were working with the architect. When they build the roof that connects all three components of the building the true scope of the house will be more obvious. But for the time-being, I’m a little gob-smacked.

The Entry

The front door and entry hallway into the house will have a large 16′ window against the North wall (last picture above). The entry way will include a long bench/reading nook beside the front door and an 8′ desk. The front door will be mostly glass, so you’ll have a great view down the hallway, out the door and along the front of the art studio. The plan is to plant a Blue Spruce at the end of this view.

The Media Room

Turning left at the end of the hallway will take you to the media room. Mitch has big plans for a really big flat-screen TV, a powerful sound system and lots of comfy chairs. Since this room has eight feet of sliding doors, we’ll probably need to get some good curtains. This room will also serve as a backup guest bedroom.

The Pantry and Mudroom

Turning right at the end of the hallway will first take you into the pantry room and the second door will take you into the mudroom. This is the back-door into the house off the car port. This L-shaped room will also serve as the laundry room, freezer, and storage room. It’s also the room where boots will be flung off, coats will be strewn.

The Big Room

The entry of the big room is just to the left of the front door. This room serves as kitchen, dining room and living room and is all about the views across the Salish Sea. The first photo above gives you a taste of this view. Both the South side and most of the East side of this room are going to be either sliding doors or big windows. The sliding doors to the South and the East, will create a smooth transition from indoor living to outdoor living. We’ve also added an eight foot sliding window to the East wall of the kitchen. This will open up the kitchen to the outdoor dining area and serve as a big pass through window when eating outdoors. You can see the big kitchen window in the last picture above where Mitch is pretending that he’s just finished cooking a big dinner and is ready to hand the platter of food out the window. Go chef Mitch!

The Art Studio

The art studio is now fully framed and they will start putting the roof on next week. Now that the structure is up, this part of the building feels like a little stand alone house. The loft is going to make a comfortable 8.5’x12′ bedroom with the stairs up to the loft against the tall wall on the North side of the room. This room has been designed to maximize the North light for the art studio area, but there will also be a sitting area in front of the big picture window just beside a small fireplace against the East wall. From this room there is a hallway that goes past the bathroom (we are planning to install a steam shower here – perfect to warm up after a long winter beach walk). At the end of this hallway is another large room that was originally intended to be Mitch’s office, but is now going to function as a TV room and spare bedroom.

This part of the house should also function if we have a power interruption. The fireplace in the art studio will heat up the rooms and because the stove in the art studio is propane, we should be able to cook in the Art Studio kitchen, even without electricity. So, if there is a big power outage, we can move into the art studio and live comfortably while we wait for the power to return.

Fixing a problem painting.

Fixing a problem painting.

acrylic art, acrylic painting, horse painting, horse art, winter art

Winter Freedom.  Painted April 2020, modified November 2021.  18″ x 24″. Acrylic on Canvas.

One of the cool things about painting with Acrylic is how almost any mistake can be corrected.  Back at the beginning of the pandemic, I tackled a very challenging painting of a white horse running through a snowy field in winter.  Horses have always been a tough subject matter for me.  Having grown up on a ranch with a dozen horses, I was very familiar with how they looked, so any discrepancies jump out and the painting or drawing just seems “wrong”.  I also wanted to challenge myself with a painting of a horse in motion, using a very muted palette.  This painting delivered on all three fronts.

The original painting worked well enough, but something didn’t seem right.  The longer I looked at the painting, the more I realized that there was a problem with the horse’s head, particularly the location of the eye.  

I had promised this painting as a gift to a friend last year, but the pandemic kept it stored safely in my art studio in Vancouver for the last year and a half. While I was back in Vancouver, I spent a few days last week fixing the problem.  The series of closeup pictures above, shows the progression from the “problem” to the end “solution”.  In addition to correcting the location of the eye, I also corrected a few other problems (I could tell that my technique has changed over the last year and a half).  I tried for a better blending of paint, chose a warmer white where the light was reflecting off the ground onto the horse’s coat and reduced the contrast between the shadows and the lights. It’s not a perfect painting, but I think it’s been improved and I feel good about handing it over to my friend. 

Painting Waves: Sunset on Savary

Painting Waves: Sunset on Savary

Landscape, Acrylic Art, Acrylic Landscape, Acrylic Sunset.

Summer Sunset on Savary Island. Painted November 2021.  24”x24” Acrylic on Canvas

Every few paintings, I have a total failure and no matter how much tweaking, I can’t salvage it.  Eventually I cover it with white gesso and start a new painting over the old one.  I’ve noticed that these new paintings are generally more successful than the old one.  I’d like to think that the canvas is happy to be given a second chance and actively cooperating in the rejuvenation process.  Or maybe I am more relaxed because the canvas is no longer pristine.  After all, anything I produce will likely be better than what was there before.  

A few summer’s back, while visiting Powell River, we decided to take an over-night trip to Savary Island. It’s about a forty minute drive from Powell River to the town of Lund where you catch the daily boat over to Savary Island.  This island is known for its long sandy beaches and is dotted with a large number of summer cabins.  It’s both rustic and somewhat quirky.  I would recommend a visit (even if it’s just for the day).  We were tenting on a friend’s property and had the time to do some exploring.  Later in the evening, we went for a walk on the North-Western side of the island, which afforded some spectacular sunset views.  

I wanted to focus on painting waves, so I chose a reference photo that really highlighted the waves with light from the setting sun.  At this time of day, the waves were inky black with the brightest of highlights.  I reasoned that these strong value differences would make painting the waves easier.  What I didn’t anticipate was how my painting would swerve towards some very expressionistic clouds.  Between the trippy clouds and an intense palette, I didn’t end up with the painting that I had intended.  As a novice painter, I’ve learned that sometimes the paint goes where the paint wants.  Someday, I might try this painting again with a more subdued palette and more impressionistic clouds, but for now, I’m ready to move onto my next painting.   

Back to painting, after a long dry spell.

Back to painting, after a long dry spell.

Stella,  Acrylic on Canvas, 12”x12”, October 2021.

We’ve been living on the Bluff since the start of May, sleeping in the Love Shack, cooking meals in the outdoor kitchen, and relaxing in the covered solarium.  It’s been magical watching the humpback whales breaching in the strait at sunset, while hummingbirds chase each other around the feeding stations.  Overall, it’s been a long hot summer, full of construction dust, heat domes and a constant parade of visitors. 

It would have been the perfect opportunity to practice some Plein Aire painting, but for some reason, I never managed to pick up a brush or apply paint to canvas for six whole months.  I did spend quite a bit of time drawing interiors of the new house as we were busy working out final design decisions.  This was necessary as the builders needed our input before they completed the foundation.  However, I could also feel the tectonic pressures growing inside without any creative outlet for release.  I knew once we moved inside in the Fall, completing a painting would be one of my first priorities.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to paint, until I received a message from our next-door neighbours in Vancouver.  Their beloved dog Stella had passed away.  Stella was a beautiful border collie, with a delicate, sensitive nature.  She reminded me of many of the ranch dogs we had growing up and we were definitely buddies. I have taken many pictures of her over the years – always with the intention of making a painting.

As usual, I started by doing a value sketch to work out the areas of light and dark.  I decided to try a somewhat abstracted portrait and used a reference photo that showed Stella standing guard on the neighbours porch where she could watch over her domain which was most of the South side of East 8th avenue. I wanted to reflect the amount of joy that Stella had brought to everyone on the block, so I chose a palette of bright colourful hues – Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow, Orange and Red, Teal, and Titanium White.  I felt a little clumsy painting this pet portrait. I wanted it to be both recognizable and still portray some of my feelings, so I went for an impressionistic style. After a six month hiatus, I struggled with my technique. I think it’s going to take a few paintings to get back into my stride.

Although I was quite sad that she was gone, I didn’t want this portrait to have an air of melancholy.  To do Stella justice, I wanted the painting to be bright and energetic.  Initially, I chose a rich orange background to make the predominantly blue central figure stand out and vibrate with some of the energy I always felt around that sweet dog, but the background hue was so intense that it took over. I ended up trying a few different versions of the background: