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I managed to forget to post about it. This summer, I was commissioned to paint a portrait of a couple for their wedding, featuring them as hobbits. I wasn't too sure what I was getting myself into at first, however it turned out to be a really fun and creative painting to work on! I wanted to wait to post about it in case the couple would somehow find it as it was a surprise wedding gift.

Veronica and Juan the Hobbits16"x20" watercolour on Fabriano watercolour paper, created July 2016, signed and dated on painting and in margin. This is a commissioned piece for a couple who are hobbit fans.Veronica and Juan are the couple pictured as hobbits leaving their hobbit home on a sunny afternoon for a walk. A quiet brook, lush greenery, lavender flowers, round red mushrooms, surrounds their home meanwhile other hobbit homes are visible in the distance. They are hand in hand, happy in each other's company. ~2016 SOLD

There is also a time lapse video of the whole painting. It's a little hard to see as I moved into my new home studio area and my camera setup has changed. I will have to figure out a better angle for the future. The image is 16"x20". A little bit of a challenge painting a landscape and fitting a portrait into it, plus a fantasy one at that with varying proportions: hobbits being very short and needing to appear small in scale to their home, the surrounding landscape, and looking proportionate while perspective progresses forward.

Oh, and very appropriately: I marathoned all of the Lord of the Rings series this Christmas season, extended director's cut. Accomplishment unlocked?

I've got to admit, I lost track of all the different projects I have on the go. It's one of my problems... picking up endless new projects. There's not quite enough time in the day or energy in my body to sustain everything I want to be making. Let's see... I have about 3 different knitting projects, 1 crochet, 3 paintings, and at the same time, I am trying to do things like turn my artwork into greeting cards. Yes, this is my new idea. It's not really a new idea, as in I always wanted to do it for as long as I remember and I just didn't know the logistics around it.

Well, I have my own online storefront, I print the cards, and I do all the shipping - so no third-party is taking advantage of my art, as some of you like to put it. One of my greatest pet peeves is the cards you get at the pharmacy from one of the greeting card monoliths... They're expensive , they're pretty tacky, the jokes are usually offensive or lame, and they are usually not even nice quality. This really is my sales pitch, because I'm just plainly not happy with the options. Of course, if I go to a gift boutique, there tends to be art cards that are nice; ultimately, this is where I'd like to see mine: small, local shops selling them. If anyone has any advice on this besides going in the shops, asking cold and green, I would love to hear your suggestions.

I've printed many cards already, and I am very happy with the quality overall - they do look like my preview images. The insides are blank because it's too complicated to make cards with different messages, so there are faint lines to guide your writing instead.

Here are two sets I already have extra stock of that are ready for immediate shipping: The Greenhouse Mixed Set & The Calm Acrylics Mixed Set. I also sell the cards individually, or as single image sets.

Slumbering Greeting Card
Ballerina Greeting Card

They're packaged in plastic sleeves and I decorate them like parcels with yarn and ribbon.

What else have I been doing? Christmas is becoming a busy season for me in art... I did my first ever caricature. It's probably not something I'm going to get into, and was more of a helpful thing I wanted to do for the person commissioning it. The pencil drawing was already finished, and I had to paint the colours in and ink it. I don't know the artist who did the original pencils, though it was signed, "Halifax Waterfront" and I'm pretty sure I saw a caricature artist there while walking through at one point. Here it is, if you want to see it - I'm not going to include it as part of my portfolio unless I do more like it.

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This year, I think one of my unstated goals was to avoid using the computer as much as possible while it was summer. Of course, when I have video work that makes it necessary to be on one, it can't be helped...however, if you're familiar with what winter is like in Montreal, there is really not much reason why I should be staring in a glowing box in a dark room during the nice part of the year. It won't be long before the sun sets barely after 3 PM and 30 minutes will be long enough to get a frost bite. So, I haven't posted anything I painted since intentionally and have an array of images lined up.

I've been focusing on painting outdoors. I've had a few commissions and small "indoor only" projects. My dream now is to acquire an outdoor easel for acrylic or oil painting, because watercolour is fun, but watercolour has its limitations in what can be accomplished in a short period of time outdoors and I really prefer painting on-location instead of through a photograph. Half the time, I am waiting for the paper to dry or fighting the fact I cannot revive the white of the paper. Watercolour continues to fascinate me as a medium that requires both great restraint and spontaneity.

Here are two paintings created in the downtown Montreal area. Below, a painting of The Hudson Bay Company store from across an adjacent park, where street vendors sell jewelry, ice cream, maple syrup souvenirs and treats. It was one of the first warm days of summer when I was able to relax outdoors with my partner. Many people were at the park having an ice cream. The painting itself was a challenge.

A photo posted by Justin (@justintomchuk) on

The Bay9"x12", watercolour on 140lb watercolour paper. Observational sketch on-location of The Bay store from across the street in a park full of street vendors in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. ~2016

When you're painting something like a building with many similar windows, you see the details you skip over quick into the process. My intention is to never get something down to a T; the real challenge is trying to keep pace with the changes in the scene, the water drying, the sun in your eyes and reflections off different surfaces. This painting was done over 2-3 hours, and it was still fairly early in the year with a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius, so the angle of the sunlight changed plenty and I was forced to abandon certain details. I wish I had more time, yet I was pretty tired and hungry too. My strategy for scenes like this is to get down the light in general shapes as fast as possible, because the details in the buildings won't disappear and the exactness of the people doesn't matter. It's an impression of an event, a slice of time. It's hard for me to accept being this loose and using large, organic shapes. I spent 4 years living in a small apartment with a small work space, and that has tremendously influenced my work flow - all my work has become restrained to a size smaller than 11"x14" and absorbed in detail.

Here is another image from Dorchester Park off Peel Street, a park I like to visit when I'm downtown, in Montreal. I love this painting! I think it turned out great. It's the perfect amount of detail and looseness. I began experimenting with bleeding inks while sketching outside, and I think I like the effect. Rather than having hard, rigid lines, it blends in and adds texture and imperfections. Sorting out the shapes of branches and tufts of leaves was another challenge. From what I remember, it gave me a decent headache, which I think was worth the result. The park visitors spent just enough time on benches to be captured in the painting, and fortunately didn't notice they were being painted. Sometimes that's awkward. What I also love is the contrast between the leaf green and pink background; this was not accurate to what I saw - I chose to change the colours because I knew it'd work.

Dorchester Park Tree in May9"x12", watercolour on 140lb watercolour paper. Observational painting of a specific entanglement of trees in Dorchester Park, off Peel Street in Montreal. Several groups of people occupied the benches just long enough to be painted. ~2016

There are some beautiful moments and textures in this painting, which are preserved by it being painted in minimal amount of strokes.

Overall, I forced myself to not pencil in every line, every shape accurately. It's much harder to paint without lines for guides, and it produces a different result. I will post more paintings soon, hopefully continue to paint outdoors throughout autumn as well. I will be participating in Inktober, and if you're interested in following along in real time, you'll see my posts on Instagram or Facebook. Inktober is a daily art challenge, where you draw with ink for every day of October. Artists, crafty people, really anyone can participate - all you need is a pen.

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To save ruining a surprise, I had to wait to post about my latest commission until the birthday passed. It was really hard. Taking the tape off the edges, seeing the final painting with crisp, white borders... it was very hard not to post it instantly. Now that the painting is out of my hands, the excitement died down... kind of like a break-up. One sad aspect of commissioned work is I don't really get to spend much time with the image afterwards, and I would argue one of the most important things an artist can do is reflect on their work after completing it. Definitely interested in doing more work like this in the future! This is exactly what I want to be doing.

It's also been ages since I've painted a large watercolour - 18"x24" or 45cm by 60cm - so I was even more excited about that. I'm not really sure why I've stopped painting large since there is nothing preventing me from doing it, and maybe I will just start tackling larger paintings. I've been under the impression people are only in a place to buy small works of art for the time being, I suppose. Larger paintings have always been my stronger suit too, as I'm not one for finessing lines and I prefer the natural grittiness, scratches, paint blots, and bleeding that happens when using something as unruly as ink and watercolour.

So here it is! Have a gander. Below, I will discuss the process and there is a 4K ultra HD time lapse video for those of you who own the right apparatus to play such files. If not, it's still HD and I filmed it with out actual camera this time...not my smartphone, so it is very nice to watch.

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Artist and PaintingKarolina with the finished painting (Welding in the Fantastic Sea). Watch the time lapse of this painting.

One day, I will get a better photo of this painting, but here is a in a frame shortly after being unwrapped. How would you feel to receive a surprise painting for your birthday? They loved it, and it's been a few months and we're all still talking about it. I imagine it will keep coming up in conversation in the future too. As I keep saying, this is really what makes me happy to be an artist. The exhibitions, the fairs and features, that's all good for my CV... but this is what it's about.

The Process

As the gift recipient creates dive-welding suits, my job was to create an exciting image incorporating that as the subject matter. I created several compositional sketches, choosing the one that felt most architectural and dynamic. It was a challenge to create a sense of space and depth in an image that is eternal murky water, as well to design a composition which allowed for a variety of shape, size, and detail. It couldn't feel flat.

I intentionally leave out detail in my sketches to only focus on the overall composition. On the side, I researched and sketched various marine life and the natural workplace of a diver-welder. Once I transfer the composition to the watercolour paper, these sketches are used to fill in the necessary detail. Then, the painting begins. In this case, I choose not to do a colour study beforehand, as I was going to stick to the natural colours of the creatures. I feel there is a decent contrast between grays and blues and the saturated, warm yellows, oranges, and reds of the fish. The basic colour scheme underlying this painting is blue/red/yellow.

It's not all flying colours... What I didn't realize was that Arches paper doesn't really grab much of anything, so when I applied masking fluid to pencil while I worked the water, it lifted most of it off when I removed it. I love using masking fluid, but it's got its problems. It's annoying having to redraw your entire painting, but things like that happen. Arches paper also doesn't soak up pigment quite to the degree I prefer, as I paint fast, so that is why you will see me going over a colour multiple times in the video to get it to where I want. I would say it's a paper for watercolourists who prefer to work slowly in layers, which is not me... I maybe use 3 layers to build up a form and that's it. Final touches on this painting are clean up of the edges, printing and signing a certificate, and then packaging (which is not shown in the video). If you enjoy the video, please share it. It helps me plenty, as the Internet hates self-promoting by artists and is ever more-so a needle in a haystack environment. I hope you enjoyed it!

Welding in the Fantasic Sea24"x18", watercolour on Arches 300lb watercolour paper. ~2016 A diver welds repairs onto a rig, which is covered by coral, sponges, starfish, and crabs. Colourful fish swim around him cascading air bubbles through the water. The ocean is deep with darkness, but full of vitality and life. The piece is based on photographic references of real organisms, however the composition is entirely fictional fantasy. SOLD.