Artist of The Month

Mick Desmarais displays his first-place oil painting Sabino Canyon Autumn Splendor.

Mick Desmarais displays his first-place oil painting Sabino Canyon Autumn Splendor.

Mick Desmarais – Playing with light and shadows

LaVerne Kyriss

“I’ve always enjoyed drawing,” recollected SaddleBrooke artist Mick Desmarais. “I drew illustrations for pamphlets, flyers and advertisements while in school and the Air Force. I particularly like landscapes with streets, buildings, cars and people. This helps me not only get a sketch down on canvas, but also in preparing that initial study of where the light and shadows are.”

Desmarais said landscapes are his favorite subject. He usually starts from a photo he’s taken. “The challenge is to create a scene that makes people want to be in that spot, looking at what I’m portraying in the painting. I’m seeking to create an atmosphere and am drawn to the impressionist style — somewhat loose — capturing the play of light and shadows on the scene. I’m looking for something that pops and draws the viewer into the scene.”

“If you study the great Impressionists, you’ll notice that a white house isn’t painted white,” he explained. “Maybe it’s got areas of several shades of yellow, reflecting a bright sunny morning, or maybe it’s got more blue or green on one side because it’s shaded by a tree. The shaded areas are greyed out, but they still have lots of color. The style is vibrant and lively and results in an impression, not an exact representation of the scene.”

To create these layers of color, Desmarais uses a simple palette of no more than 10 to 12 colors, mixing every shade he needs from three warm primaries, three cool primaries, white and a couple of other favorites. He relies on the approach outlined in the Quiller Wheel to mix colors. “I never save my palette so each time I paint, my colors might be slightly different,” he said. “I think that gives richer tonality and depth to the work.” He uses water-based oils almost exclusively, praising the easy clean up and avoiding the smell of turpentine in his laundry room/home studio.

“I regularly participate in the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild-hosted open studio in the Topaz Room at HOA Two on Monday mornings. I enjoy the camaraderie and the support of working among other artists,” he said. “We have different abilities and interests and we share ideas and approaches back and forth. I paint relatively fast, so I’m generally finished in a week or two with only two or three hours at home in addition to my studio time.”

Desmarais said he throws down the dark colors first. “I use my cool colors for distant objects, switching to warmer colors for closer-in objects. This gives a sense of depth,” he explained. He encourages beginning artists to learn about color mixing and perspective and to keep at it even when they aren’t totally happy with the outcome. “Don’t give up — just keep working on your style. It will emerge over time,” he encouraged.

Desmarais’ recent work, Sabino Canyon Autumn Splendor, won first place among work presented by members at the Guild’s May meeting.