Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Morgan Reading

Oil on Board   9 x 12

Morgan sat for a group of us in Jay Senetchko's studio. His well defined features made capturing the likeness somewhat easier. Too late, I noticed trouble with the way I positioned his image on the board, kind of crunched up in the top right corner. I wanted his head to the left and up a bit, but not that extreme. I'll do that better next time, I swear.

This is the last portrait I'll paint for awhile as I am heading to South Africa with my husband, Ian, to visit his family. I'll take my sketchbook and camera, but no paints.

If you want to keep track of me while I'm on my trip, visit my new photo journal South Africa Days. More pictures, less words.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Reflections for My Biggest Fan

Oil on canvas 8 x 10
My sister, Debbie, generally gushes over my paintings much to my enjoyment. This one is for her to hang in her newly painted blue bathroom. I enjoyed capturing those reflections on the vase.

I have an idea that the sea shell and vase might look intriguing sitting on the counter somewhere near the painting. I'll try it out when I visit Debbie in Okotoks this week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tarnished Pot, Blushing Apple, Drying Lemon Redux

Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 6
On this journey of learning to paint, I have accumulated many paintings in various stages of success. Stacked in my studio closet, they await judgement in the half-way house between the garbage and the gallery.

This morning, I pulled them out, looking for any gems worth signing and varnishing. The rest will be tossed or painted over.

My old Tarnished Pot painting, first posted in January 2010, didn't deserve to stay but I couldn't give up on it either. (You can see the original below.) Something about it always annoyed me but I couldn't say exactly what. Today, I realized that the background was wrong. With nothing to lose and piles of wet paint already on my pallet, I attacked the painting with abandon.

The only changes I made were to the background and foreground. Removing the horizon lines gave the composition a stronger sense of resolve. The brighter colours in the fruit and the crispness of the objects are due to improvement in my ability to photograph my work.

Original  Version: blurry photo, washed out colours, split background.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Naomie - Oil on Board 9 x 12
Most Monday mornings, I kick off the week with a painting session at Basic Inquiry , an artist-run life drawing society in Vancouver, BC. I love the atmosphere of the group, a dozen or so artists all in deep concentration, trying our best to produce a good result. Some are drawing with charcoal, pencil or pastel, some paint with watercolours. A few of us work in oils. The studio provides easels and drawing horses and we circle round the model, who sits in the same pose for three hours. We do let her take breaks.

The time flies by and three hours is a short time to paint a portrait. I consider this a sketch. Next Monday, we have the same model, same pose, so I'll have a chance to fine tune things, the lights and darks and the shape of the eyes, to start with. I find noses particularly difficult and will be scouring books for painted images in a similar pose to get some hints. A couple of the other artists asked me for advice today (Yes!) which made me feel darn good.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Portrait of a Fellow Artist

Deep in Thought
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 12

I've been painting figures and faces lately with nothing finished to show you, until now. This is a big day for me: my first painted portrait that is good enough to post. I feel great about having achieved a likeness.

I painted this in the studio of artist and teacher, Jay Senetchko who gave me direction along the way to keep me on-track. The model was fellow artist, Chad Krowchuk who sat calmly while seven or eight of us strived to capture him on canvas.

Lessons I learned from Jay this time round:

  • If the model's eyes are cast off in one direction like Chad's are here, leave more space on the canvas in the direction he is looking.
  • Simplify. Once the initial drawing is complete, block in the shapes of the face and hands in only two skin tones, then go back in with more tones to give more definition.
  • A bit of colour placed in close proximity will activate other bits of the same colour nearby. For example, the blueish tinge in the shadow on Chad's hand, nearest his face - that blueish tinge draws out the blue in his eye. (I've known to apply principle when buying accessories to decorate a room, but never thought to transfer the knowledge to painting.)
I tried the technique of glazing. After the initial three hour session with the model, I let the painting dry completely, then I painted a very thin coat of reddish-orange over the entire canvas. During the second session, I worked back into the cooler colours, blues, grays, and greens.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tangerine Peppers

Oil on Panel 6 x 6

These lively fellas came from a nearby Kin's Market. I bought a bag of four gorgeous peppers in four brilliant hues for a ridiculously low price. 'Twas an artist's delight. My dilemma was this: should I roast them or should I paint them? Decision made.

The painting is an entry in the Daily PaintWorks challenge Color of the Year - Tangerine Tango.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Friend I Didn't Know I Had

Oil on Canvas, 6 x 8

An online acquaintance, fellow painter, Darla commented on my blog today, kindly remarking on my absence and complimenting me. I was touched and encouraged to post again. Thank you, Darla.

Today's painting is an entry to the Daily PaintWorks White on White Challenge.

My painting activities this year have been primarily figures and faces. Nothing worthy of posting. I wipe off most of my efforts at the end of each three hour session with the model. I'm making progress, but you won't be seeing those for awhile.

PS  Have at me with all your egg jokes.  (Please. I could use a few new ones.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Brush in Coachella Valley

Oil on canvas 
9 x 12

In early December, I travelled to Indio, California at the gracious invitation of friends. For a week, I used their home as a base and toured the Coachella Valley in my rented Ford Focus, the trunk packed full with my paint box, easel and supplies.

On my last day, local plein air artist, Elaine Matthews, kindly guided me on a hike in the Coachella Valley Nature Preserve to McCallum Pond. She shared her local knowledge as we walked and chatted. Afterwards, I stayed on alone and searched for a view to paint.

Today's posting is based on the field study I painted while standing under the giant palms of the nature preserve. The air was warm and the trees sheltered me from the gusty winds as I looked out over the desert brush to the nearby canyons and the distant blue layers of the San Jacinto Mountains. I could hear only the wind high in the palms and occasional falling branches. In two hours, just two people passed by. It was a magical afternoon - I felt safe, happy and completely engaged in my painting.

Season's Greetings to all and best wishes a peaceful and fulfilling New Year. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Toaster

Oil on Canvas 6 x 6

I setup my easel in the kitchen for this painting and observed the toaster in it's natural environment, crumbs and all. Artistic license was taken to leave out the crumbs.

Painting reflected images requires focus. I must concentrate on painting what I really do see and not on what I think I see. The fun comes at the end when a wonky reflection suddenly makes sense on the canvas! 

My Toaster is on auction at Daily Paintworks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet and Sour

Sweet and Sour
Oil on Canvas Panel
8 x 6

I had a laugh with my daughters this weekend about this painting. They asked what kind of drink it was, both thinking it was a fruity cocktail, the kind you might serve on a hot summer day. But really it is water turned pink by a few drops of food colouring and darkened further by the raspberries sitting in it overnight.

I am now selling a few of my small paintings at Daily Paintworks.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Propogating Philodendrons

Oil on Board
8 x 10

The Sailor Jerry rum bottle is fulfilling more than one useful purpose since I rescued it while I was out for a walk. Not only is it the star of my painting, but also, it is a home for philodendron cuttings from a plant that Ellen gave me. I learned a lot doing this painting, including how to spell philodendron (it is NOT a philoden-drum).

I had trouble making the beer bottle appear to sit down. It looks like it is almost floating. Then I noticed that it appears to be floating in the still life setup too. Perhaps the illusion is caused by the unusual location of the shadow of the leaf in front of the bottle, which could be interpreted as the shadow of the bottle. I just may experiment with removing that shadow. Comments and tips from fellow artists or others are welcome.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Not a Rum Bottle

Oil on Canvas
6" x 8"

The small brown teapot was left behind when my oldest daughter moved out a few years back. It has never held tea (or rum) but seems happy holding the last of the brown-eyed susans. I had a few requests for the hula rum bottle that I wrote about in my last post. I am painting it so stay tuned!  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Oil on Canvas
6 x 8

I've taken to carrying a plastic bag and small pair of scissors in my pocket when heading out for my neighbourhood walk, just in case I see something suitable to go into a still life setup. Starting off at a brisk pace and focused on getting cardio benefits, I can soon be distracted by some gem of nature, like berries or ferns. So, I will slow down to clip off bits of  plants and flowers and drop them in my bag. Not so natural, but still intriguing was one of my finds yesterday, an empty rum bottle, 92 proof, with a hula girl on the label. The small (375 ml), flat bottle is what we used to call a mickey - a Canadian term, perhaps out of use now. I wonder what a current term is for those little flat bottles. Any ideas out there? 

Today's painting title is from the often-covered folk song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? written by Pete Seeger. My link takes you to Johnny Rivers' great version.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Autumn Brown-eyed Susans

Oil on Canvas  6"x 6"

On Monday, when I showed my never-misses-a-beat hubby, Ian, the Pass the Salt painting, he pointed out that I've painted that salt shaker/tomato combination before.

"I know," I said, barely concealing a childish whine.

"Give me something new," he said.

As he turned back to his laptop, I rolled my eyes ever so slightly. In the moment of such an interchange, it is hard to say your partner is right, but that afternoon, I visited a consignment store to search for new still life objects.

This chubby copper vase appealed to me and on my next morning walk, I picked a few stems from the last stand of "brown-eyed susans". That was my mom's name for rudbeckia and I thought of her while I painted them. She still likes flowers despite losing a grasp on reality due to her Alzheimer's disease.

Thanks, Ian for being honest with your reactions to my paintings. I promise to never roll my eyes at you again. (Fingers crossed behind my back).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pass the Salt, Please

Oil on Canvas
6 x 6

Perhaps you've noticed - I'm getting back into the swing of still life paintings by working on almost-daily small format pieces. This salt shaker has special meaning for me as it comes from North Mart in Iqaluit where my oldest daughter, Anna, lives, far away from Vancouver. Another place far away is Romania. What's the connection there? Well, my blog statistics show that I had 56 viewers from Romania last week! I haven't been able to figure out why yet. Maybe a Romanian blogger posted a link to my blog.

Greetings to all you Romanians and other world citizens reading this. Enjoy the last week of October. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Big Apple

Oil on Canvas Board
6 x 8

A short note today. Composition and ellipses were both my focus on this one. I enjoyed painting the cast shadows of the fruit and the reflections in the blue jar. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Debbie's Deceptively Cheery Apples

Oil on Board, 6 x 8

This week, I've been painting simple still lifes in the makeshift studio that I set up at my sister's house. Debbie's guest room has a perfect north facing window that allows me to paint in natural light, without spotlights or overheads. The crab apple tree, laden with dozens of the yellow-green beauties, is right outside that window. The apples look cheery and inviting, but they are far too sour to eat.

A tip of the hat to accomplished artist Carol Marine, whose influence shows clearly in this painting.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Power to the People

Oil on Wood Panel
6 x 8"

The raised fist has been a symbol for many causes throughout history, often standing for human rights of the oppressed. I started this painting as something playful - thinking of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors, but the image took on a more powerful feeling. As I was considering a title for the finished piece, the first thing that came to mind was John Lennon's song, Power to the People.

This week, I am delighted to be the host of a painters' challenge on the Daily Paintworks website. My raised fist formed the basis of The Hand Challenge. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Looking for More Fries

Oil on Wooden Panel
8" x 8"

The seagull is based on a reference photo I took at Granville Island, Vancouver.  Ah, warm memories of summer. The gulls on the wharf are not one bit embarrassed to swipe your lunch right out of your hands, then walk around proudly like this one with his white chest puffed towards the brilliant sun, as if to say "You didn't need those fries anyway, lady."

Sunday, September 25, 2011


9 x 12
Pencil on Paper
This is Mike, brother of Ian, my better half. The brothers do look alike. I strove to achieve a likeness of Mike without overworking the drawing.

I'm working with harder pencils. For non-drawers, harder pencils make lighter marks and can be erased more easily. Solves the problem of wearing through my paper with too much erasing.

(Some problems getting a good photo of this one. The paper is actually true white, not sepia toned.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Watching the World Whiz By

Richelle on the Train
Pencil on Paper
8 x 10

My friend Richelle recently moved  toWashington DC of all places. Within a week of her arrival there, she lived through an earthquake and a hurricane! I miss her dearly and I thought about her while I drew her portrait. The drawing is based on a reference photo I took last December when we rode the Amtrak to Seattle to see the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It is a moment in time that I remember fondly.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dancer Three

Another inspiring dancer. Incredibly self-possessed. Her name is Margaret.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Second Dancer

This is Heather. I love her pose, the tilt of her head and the strong position of her shoulders and arms. Drawing hands is a challenge. I wore out the paper on this one trying to get her right hand correct, with her index finger pointing back. Time for me to use better paper that allows me to work longer.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Pencil on Paper 8 x 10

This summer, I was invited to sit in on a dance class by Linda Arkelian, dancer, instructor and ball of energetic enthusiasm. Linda organizes "Bringing Artists Together" events at the Drive Dance Centre on Commercial Drive, Vancouver and she is a joy to work with. She buzzes with excitement.

I drew the dancers and snapped photos for three hours as I observed her classes - ballet, pointe and contemporary. I came away standing up taller, head up, shoulders back and inspired to create images of the dancers, self-possessed, controlled and beautiful. 

PS After posting this drawing, I learned her name is Joylyn.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Shake a Paw

My Friend Max
11 x 14  Oil on Canvas

Daily walks and talks with my sister's dog, Max have bonded us like never before. He knows I'm a sucker for his big brown eyes and he begs me to walk him each morning. He navigates the yard and fields despite his blindness and arthritis. He continues to fetch a ball (golf balls, no less) using his other senses to find them. May I have the same determination and enthusiasm as my body ages.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back in Alberta

Evening Skies Over Barley Fields
Oil on board, 8 x 10

I am back in Okotoks visiting my sister and painting. Albertans and former Albertans (like me) are enjoying a lusciously green summer here courtesy of the almost daily summer storms. Farmers need heat and sun for the crops to ripen. I will paint them whatever colour they are.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cat Who Lives Under the Bed

Oil on Board
6 x 8"

Roxie is our shy cat who won't come out from under the bed when visitors are in the house. Some have doubted that she exists, but here is proof. The skittish thing is small and sweet and I love her dearly.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Where Did That Slice Come From?

Oil on Canvas
8" x 6"

Back to painting basic still life setups and using lots of colour: cadmium red, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, ultramarine blue and pthalo blue. The background colour was tough to nail on this one. Is it teal or turquoise? Whatever I call it, I think I'll avoid it as a background in the future.  Enjoy your weekend. Thunder and lightening here at the moment. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Jessica Listening
Pencil on paper 9 x 12

Jessica, a fearless painter, was my fellow student in a recent workshop. The atmosphere in the room was peaceful and inpiring as we listened. The light streamed into our classroom from two large windows.  Thanks again to Carol Marine for her superb instruction.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

White Shepherd Dog

Pencil on paper 8 x 10

Way back last September (I confess), I offered to paint a picture of Max, the family dog belonging to my sister and brother-in-law. It was offered as a birthday gift. I forgot to tell my sister that I meant her 2011 birthday.

Max is an old-timer White Shepherd. He is blind, has arthritis in his hips and despite the fact that he sheds his thick white fur in clumps, he is allowed to roam around inside the house. If we humans move a piece of furniture, Max bumps into it the first time, but immediately learns to avoid a second collision. His head is as high as the kitchen counter and when I look at him straight on, I think of the big bad wolf. But, he is a gentle soul and he likes nothing more than a good scratch with a little conversation or a story at bedtime. I care about Max like he is my doggie-nephew and I am sure he likes me as his human-aunt.

This drawing is in preparation for the painting of Max.