The wisdom of Kiff Holland

As I’ve finished the remaining bookshelves in the train room, I’ve been going through the boxes of books that first moved out to the garage when I started renovating the basement in 2012. What a treat to find so many old friends waiting patiently for me after all these years!

Sadly there isn’t room for everyone. Some will have to find new homes, including an old notebook and sketchbook that I took to France with me in 2005. That year, I had an opportunity to attend a three-week painting course in Montaigut le Blanc, near Clermont Ferrand. The course was delivered by Vancouver artist, Kiff Holland, whose work I had come to admire at Harrison Galleries when we first moved back here.

Now, Kiff is South African, and blessed with that delightful antipodean frankness. For the first few days, I studiously scribbled down his references to pthalo blue and naples yellow, but then I found that the real gold was in his less pedagogical polemic. So, I started scribbling that down instead. Here they will take much less space; some of them are even relevant for railway modelling:

  • “The most important things in art are light, shade, shadow, and reflected light. Look for reflected light, and add it if it isn’t there.”
  • “The less head movement, the better the drawing.”
  • “If you want to be a good painter, grab the back of the brush and learn to control it, and don’t drink too much when you’re young.”
  • “At some point, too much theory gets in the way of a good painting.”
  • “You’re full of energy when you start a painting, so paint the most important part first.”
  • “If you’re getting ‘finagly,’ move somewhere else.” (‘Finagly’ meant to be caught in the details.)
  • “In case of doubt, use a bigger brush.”
  • “Don’t get hung up on detail too early.”
  • “The more real you get, the less emotion there is attached to the painting.”

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