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.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bird #2

Yellow Hornbill
Oil on Board 8" x 8 "

Another South African bird today, officially called a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill.

The painting is based on a photo I took in Kruger National Park. This bird was about a foot long from tip of the beak to the end of the tail. He made me think of Zazu, the yellow hornbill in the musical The Lion King. 

What felt like 15 minutes of painting was really about two hours, an indication of my joyful concentration. Along with the blue starling I painted on Wednesday, the hornbill made a cameo appearance in my video: Three Minute Tour of Kruger Park.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Full of Colour

Little Blue Starling
Oil on board 6 x 6

How exhilarating to be using colour again. I attended a Carol Marine painting workshop in Red Deer Alberta last week and scooped up buckets of information. Carol is one proficient painter and a great teacher. The painting is based on a photo I took in South Africa last year.  Starlings in Canada pale in comparison to Little Blue, at least any that I've seen in our western provinces.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SA Link

Nadine visited us from South Africa in the spring - her first trip to Canada. I had her sit by the window so I could take a few photos to practice my portraits.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Best Model Ever

Pencil on Paper, 11" x 14"

Nicky is the calmest model I've had the pleasure of working with. She sat for hours at a time, as still as a yogi and she seemed to emanate a simliar centred peacefulness. I started this drawing in the portrait class that I attended at James Picard's studio in late May and finished it at home, using a reference photo. I'm also working on a painting of Nicky that I started the same day. The painting, equally calm, is sitting for hours on my easel waiting for attention.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Heading in the Right Direction

Dave Near the Window
Pencil on paper, 9" x 9"

This is Dave. Well, it is kind of Dave. A close likeness, though I do see wonky things in my drawing. For the love of pete, this is my best today and my paper simply won't take anymore erasing. I've worn it thin in spots. When the pose is not quite straight ahead, there is the slightest difference in distance between the features on the left side vs. the right side.

But I do see improvement in my drawing skills. Hence the title of my post: I am heading in the right direction.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Over the Shoulder Look

Pencil on paper, 10" x 12"

This young woman is made up of features from several people. She looks oddly familiar to me - I suppose that I got to know her as I was drawing her. Since I created her, I had the honour of naming her, too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Heads Up

Pencil on paper
11" x 14"

This is Ellen, one of my daughters. I"m happy about getting closer to a likeness. And I figured out how to add a slide show to my blog. You probably noticed ... over on the left side of the screen.

Most of my drawings and paintings that I posted in the past couple of years are in the slide show.To stop on any picture, hover your mouse over it. Controls will appear onscreen to stop, go forward or back.

To view any picture in a larger size, click on it. A new window will open with a full size picture and access to the entire gallery on Google Picasa. Thanks for looking.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Thumbs Up

Drawing from my Sketchbook

Lately, I've been drawing when I need a break from my writing routine. And on Tuesday nights I attend a life drawing session. I'm hesitant to post those drawings, as they might seem unsuitable if taken out of context. For the non-artists reading this - the models in life drawing are nude. Posting bare naked body parts online. Could be dodgy.

Drawing the models hands and feet seems to challenge me so I'm practicing in my sketchbook. This upbeat pose that I've posted makes me smile each time I see it. I've had my sketchbook propped open on this page and sitting nearby me for the past couple of days. Each time I see the encouraging hand signal, I giggle. So far, it keeps surprising me. Two days of surprise. I'm like a gold fish, forgetting that I've already seen that part of my fish bowl. Oh, the little joys of life.

PS.I'm writing fulltime now, having shrugged off the mantle of a nine to five routine. Drawing fills in the gaps when my writing brain needs a break. Painting will be back on the radar once the first round of the book is off to the editor. Happy, happy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thanks for the Input

Ice Crystals on the Inner Surface of the Window Pane
Yellowknife, North West Territories

Based on your feedback, I realize that I may have come across as a touch desperate in my last posting. I admit, I was floundering. But I want you to know I am OK and that your responses helped me. 

I received suggestions and encouragement by email, in person, and seemingly transmitted by cosmic rays from the universe. Thank you everyone, I appreciate each word you wrote and spoke to me. And, like an ice jam breaking in spring thaw, the river of creativity is again flowing.

Some of Your Tips 
  • Take things one day at a time
  • Put the problem out to the universe (maybe I did by blogging about it)
  • Go back to your outline
  • Interview additional people
  • Take a break, the words will come when the time is right
  • Use index cards to make a visual, movable plan, like a mind-map
  • Visit the original source of inspiration - person or place

The hot tips that thawed the jam for me: an I-can-do-it attitude adjustment, a visual map and making a plan for more interviews. By the way, I can tolerate ice jams and cold, as proven by my photo on the right, which I took in Yellowknife on a beyond-cold January afternoon. But I really do prefer the warmth.

What a boost to know you are all rooting for me. That truly warmed me.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Coming at You

Forward Motion

Hope you are not tired of elephants. I found out more about the ears... those funny ridges that I thought were cartilage are actually veins. I guess those of you living in Africa already knew that. Elephants' ears have a profusion of veins. When they flap their ears, the blood running through the veins is air-cooled by several degrees, even more if the ears are wet. As the cooled blood flows back into the head and the rest of the body, it helps the huge beast stay cool in the hot African sun.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Study of an African Bush Elephant

Stepping Away from the Pack

The drawings that I've posted lately are studies based on my own photos. My aim of these straight-forward renderings is to hone both my drawing and my observation skills.  

Last August, I had the gift of watching a herd of elephants at their watering hole in Kruger National Park. In  that hour or so, I took many photos and I learned a lot about their behaviour. But only when I started drawing one - that is slowly, carefully observing and recording the details - did I notice wonderful bits that I had missed before: the wrinkly skin and the way it pulls taut over the hip bone, the prominent ridges on the edge of each large flapping ear, and how the brow bone protrudes above the beady little eye. 

Next time I see an elephant in person, so to speak, I won't miss those wonderful details because I've come to know them through drawing. And that delights me.

One last thing... the photo below shows the herd as they drank together. The lone elephant (above) had just stepped away from this thirsty bunch (below). Maybe she had enough water or maybe she just needed some alone time.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Magic Glasses on the High-Line

Anna in the Highline Tunnel
Pencil on paper, 8 x 10

This profile drawing of my older daughter, Anna, is based on a photo taken by my younger daughter. The three of us were standing on a tunnel-like path that went under part of a building. Long rays of light streamed in from the end of the tunnel and lit Anna from behind creating a strange reflection on her glasses.

The pathway is part of the High Line, a park built upon an old elevated rail bed in Lower Manhattan. The morning was unusually warm for October and we paused in the shade of the 'tunnel' section to cool off.

The "Tunnel" Under the Building

You can see the 'tunnel' under the building in this photo. If you look closely, on the right, you can also see my daughters sitting on benches made of railway ties. Within minutes, a New Yorker hones in with a pickup line. I happen to be crouched behind some tall grasses with my camera seeking a perfect artistic shot and instead, like a spy-mother, I record this moment. The New Yorker leaves before I get over to the benches.