Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Lesson Learned

I painted my Christmas cards this year instead of printing a selection of my wintery paintings which is what I have done in the past. I don't send out a lot of cards so it didn't take too long and I thought I could probably do the same again next year. So, I recently bought some card stock with envelopes. Unfortunately, I placed my order with out reading the product information carefully.

I was very disappointed when I received my package and opened it up. The paper just was not the quality that I am used to working on. It may be alright for many purposes but it is not wonderful for watercolor painting. I actually think the cards look better in these photos than they do in person.

With such a different paper I find I have to plan my painting more carefully because once the paint is down it doesn't move. I can't lift color or blend to any degree.

I definitely have a challenge ahead of me as I work to learn how to use this card stock. And, I have definitely learned a lesson about reading more carefully before buying something new. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Always Learning

Whether I am taking workshops or teaching beginners I feel that I am always learning. Sometimes the lesson is something old revisited, sometimes something new that I am not sure what to do with, but always useful even if you have to wait for inspiration.

A project that I always get my students to try is drawing an upside-down picture - something they can't recognize so they can only try to reproduce what they see with no preconceptions.
 Try something like this yourself if you have never done it before - or even if you have! I got this idea from a class I took many years ago when I lived in Edmonton.

Something else I use with my students is Alphabet Art. I developed this when students were having trouble with basic shapes - the old 'I can't draw a circle' excuse.

Although the letters are adjusted they are recognizable. Try this exercise too and see what you can come up with. More pictures done this way can be found on my Facebook page

Today I picked up the painted papers I did at a workshop with local artist Win Dinn (see last entry for contact info). These papers will be used in some of my mixed media art but I plan to keep some until next spring when I take 'Painted Paper 102'.

Wonderful colors which are making my mind spin and my imagination soar. These papers are made with mulberry paper and as they needed to dry before I could bring them home I thought I would try some different papers at home. Rice paper - it looked and felt like the mulberry (or so I thought), Artist's tissue paper - flimsy, it will probably rip, Parchment paper - hmm -let's see. Well, the first two worked reasonably well, the third not at all. BUT, I learned something didn't I?

Mostly Blue
 Here is the mixed media piece I did using the painted rice paper, some cheese cloth I used to mop up left over paint and a 'skin' I made last year. Color and fun - What more could one ask for?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Catching up

As it has been quite some time since my last post, I have a fair bit of catching up to do. I managed to get a few of my mixed media pieces finished in time to include one in the Art Club's Fall show.

Feathers & Flowers
I started this piece at a workshop last February with local artist Win Dinn It took some time before I decided what to do with the start but I am very happy with the end result.

As I look through my list of completed art I am surprised (as always) by how much I have done. I number my paintings and since the middle of August I have gone from 670 to 709. I have done some acrylics:

Sunset Forest

Cypress Swamp

I have done some watercolors

Shadowed Stream

Old Barn in Autumn

And, I have painted on fabric with dyes at a workshop with another local artist Eileen Gidman. You can check out her work at

Poplars in Fall
And finally, I have done a number of small (3 x 5) watercolors thinking they would make great Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers. To see more of these 'Little Gifts' check out the album on my Facebook page -

Winter Grove

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Painting on People

Yesterday, Friday August 17, I spent the afternoon as a volunteer at the Kraft Foods, TSN and Therapeutic Riding Society Celebration. I didn't do any hard work or running around - I just sat and painted on people's arms, legs or sometimes faces.

In the morning I painted something like this on my arm thinking I would need something to draw attention to what I was doing. Was I ever wrong! My first subjects where two kids that I invited in to be painted on - after them I didn't stop.

 Although I had my camera with me, I never found time to take any photos, so today I did a few of the most popular subjects on my own arm.
 The flying unicorn and the Spiderman where a hit with the little girls and boys while the youngest preferred the rainbow and the turtle.

 For the teens I mostly did the Monster. Kids had been asking if I could do a monster and I replied that I didn't have a reference (thinking of some kind of ghoul) - then one of them showed me his cap and the logo stitched on it. Who knew? The logo is actually lime but many of the kids preferred to pick their own colors.
 Another popular painting popular with the teens was the snake, either wrapped around the arm or crawling up it. One boy requested the Dodge Ram logo from his cap - now that was a challenge.

As I said, I was busy from the time I got to the Rec. Center till it was time to pack up. I didn't have time to eat and barely had time to drink. But I had fun, the kids for the most part were great and they all seemed to like their paintings.
Best of all I got to play with my newest art toys. The Neocolor II Watersoluble colour wax pastels are just great for painting on skin (much better than my first body art paints). They are quick and easy with little mess; they don't take up much room and are easy to cart around.  I will be doing this again but I hope next time that I will get paid.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Painting with Friends

Yesterday two friends came out and we spent most of the day painting with oils. It was a challenge! Carrie and I hadn't painted with oils since last summer and it was Lori's first time to use them. I paint using the Bob Ross method and the large brushes are almost alien to Lori.

Carrie got started first and before too long she was turning her canvas and asking "What do you think?" Both Lori and I thought "WOW"

While Carrie was moving right along, Lori and I moved at a slower pace. I had had Lori watch a Bob Ross DVD to familiarize herself with the process but he makes it seem so much easier than it is. I did a similar picture so I would be able to demonstrate on my canvas.
Lori's painting

For a first attempt, Lori's painting turned out very well. She is already wondering how oil will work on rock which is her normal painting surface. You can see Lori's work on Facebook at

Ice Cold

I am pleased that my painting turned out as well as it did as I had a number of interruptions while I was working. The Bob Ross method of oil painting may be less detailed than traditional oil painting but it is definitely quicker and it is fun.


While Lori and I were working away on our larger paintings, Carrie finished her first and did another one. Fast and furious (very much Carrie's style) this one is the opposite of her first and is only loosely based on a photo.

Although some paintings require solitude and concentration, it is lots of fun to paint with friends. You can bounce ideas around, help each other with techniques or loan materials. But, the biggest benefit is the encouragement we give each other. And it is important to remember the Bob Ross saying 'There are no mistakes in painting - just happy accidents"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A New Challenge

I think that an artist needs to try new things. In order to grow in our craft and to keep our art fresh, we have to stretch our artistic muscles. It doesn't matter if what you try works or if you plan to ever do the same thing again, just the doing will teach you something.

Since I started my Facebook pages I have seen a number of pieces of art that have inspired me.

Little Girl & Umbrella
 Although I have done similar negative paintings in the past I have usually worked with what I saw in the background. For this painting, I superimposed the image on the mottled background using both negative and positive work, adding color where it was needed. Only the flowers in the foreground are picked out of the colors of the background.

This painting is only mildly reminiscent of Patricia Allingham Carlson's art but seeing her wonderful paintings moved me to try to see what I could do.

Fluid Movement
Another artist from Facebook whose art has got my fingers itching, is Tanner Pruess. His painting with fluid acrylics are a wonder of freedom and movement with colors mingling or pushing each other around.

Yesterday I had some liquid acrylics left over from another project so guess what I tried? I must admit that I had no idea what I was doing. I simply poured the paint, sometimes overlapping, sometimes just beside each other. Then I picked my canvas up and twisted it this way and that. I added a few more drops of black and white and did more twisting. When I liked what I had, I stopped - this was hard as I have a tendency to overwork things. Today, once the paint was dry I decided it needed a touch of glitter so I added some smudges of gold paint. I'm please - what do you think?

There are so many things in the world that can give us that new challenge that helps keep us fresh.

I was recently re-organizing a cupboard in my studio and found an old book of my Grandfather's, "Ornamental Designs and Illustrations'.  My Grandfather was an engraver and I assume that he used this book as a reference. It has a wide variety of illustrations and I am starting at the beginning.

Here are copies of the two
pages I have worked from. I find the work very time consuming and hard on the eyes - I know why my Grandfather used a magnifying eyeglass ( I don't really know what it was I just remember he used something when he was engraving).

My first two attempts were done free hand with a .005 micron pigma pen.

They are a fair bit larger than the examples in the book and they are a little rough but I though they were decent for a first attempt.
I have decided I will need to use a magnifying glass the next time I try something this small.

Today at Art Club I tried something a little larger and I drew the designs in pencil first. I would never have believed how difficult it is to draw curling leaves.

Once I had the drawings done I went over them with the pen. The pen is easier to work with - it sort of flows.

I am happy with all of my recent challenges. Some I will use again, but all of them have filled me with the enthusiasm to get into my studio and create.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Are We Finished?

I think one of the hardest things an artist has to decide is when a painting is finished. So often we keep fiddling with a piece until we lose the freshness and life the painting would have had if we had left well enough alone.

My student, Annie, and I have 'finished' our paintings of the Big Rock. Except for  fifteen minutes when I started the painting and a few hints and tips after at Art Club, Annie pretty much painted on her own and so did I.

Annie's Rock

Although we worked from the same reference photo, our print-outs were slightly different colors. Thus our paintings are different too.

Notice that Annie's rock is truer to the actual shape of the original while mine is elongated. I did mine quickly then adjusted it the following week and I was not concerned with duplicating the photo.

Unless you are doing portraits or commissioned work where accuracy is important, it is acceptable to change your work  - it is called 'artistic license'.

reference photo
My Rock

Without consultation, both of us left out the tree branches on the left. I don't know about Annie but I felt they were just a distraction. It was hard to tell from the photo the color of the grasses in the foreground and we both opted for a green tone.

So! Are we finished? I think I am, but Annie mentioned that she might do a bit of 'tweeking' when we get together next. We will see what happens when I see her painting in person but I think she might be finished too.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Decision to Make

I have decided to enter one of my paintings in a juried art show at Kimberley's Centre 64. I have to figure out what to exhibit and it is a problem because I really don't 'get' the jury process. I did not understand at all why the winners at the last juried show I attended were picked. I thought the 1st prize painting was awful.

 However, nothing ventured etc...

I have tentatively chosen three paintings. 'Evolving' is an acrylic with  five sections depicting evolution from primordial ooze to a vague man-like form. It might be the best choice for a show called -
"Arts on the Edge"

Full Moon

  The next piece, 'Full Moon' is one of my favorites - which right there makes me think I shouldn't enter it as any painting I have liked in juried shows has never won. It is a watercolor started with the pour technique and ending with some detail in the mill and the bridge.

Broken Trellis

My third choice is 'Broken Trellis'. Again, this is a watercolor but I used a number of different techniques: masking with tape and masking fluid, pouring on paint and blowing thru a straw, negative and positive painting and using stencils. It is different but is it 'Art on the Edge'?

I don't know how many people look at this blog but I hope some of you will help me make this decision. Anyone, with experience in adjudicated exhibitions or not, might have a better idea than I do of which painting to choose.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Different Strokes

Unless one is trying to forge a painting, all artists' work will look different although some will follow techniques so closely that you can often tell whose style they are working in. A number of years ago I took a workshop with Joyce Kamakura (I think the spelling is right) and during the critiquing she commented to one of the students that she 'needed to find her own voice' instead of adhering to the style of Zoltan Szabo. We all look at things differently and we apply paint differently - we live by different strokes.

My student, Annie, finished her painting of the waterfall and sent me a photo. Here are our finished paintings together.

My painting
Annie's Painting

 I did my painting on 140lb watercolor paper and Annie used a stretched canvas which makes some difference to applying paint but very little to the end product. Although both paintings include the same elements and are obviously of the same scene, they reflect a different style. My middle ground is less detailed than Annie's and my foreground larger although still somewhat loose. Annie's evergreens have a very distinct flavor while I have to watch that mine are not like a groomed 'Christmas tree". My colors are a bit brighter and not as true to the reference photo as Annie's colors are. The bottom line? Both of us are pleased with our own painting - actually I am pleased with Annie's too because at one point she talked about painting it over - I'm so glad she didn't

BTW - have a look at the frame on Annie's painting. Her husband made it out of a tree (branch or trunk) so it is rounded and still has the bark on it. A perfect compliment to the painting.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Finishing one and Starting another

My student joined me today for a private lesson. It is nice - fewer distractions and more time. Annie still has a bit more to do on her painting of the waterfall but I think mine is finished.

Waterfall in Oregon
It is not really too much different than my last post as I was happy to just add a few touches and to clean up the leaf-less trees.

When I give private lessons I try to work on whatever my student needs most like trees, mist, perspective or foregrounds. Most of the time the student supplies a photo of our subject which is great because it expands my world with sights I have not seen before.

Today we started on our next piece - a photo from Australia.

Big Rock

On the left is the photo and on the right my 'start'. Annie wanted to see how I started a painting while she took notes. She was somewhat dismayed that I didn't take time to draw the subject before I started to paint. It depends on the subject but I don't usually draw my subjects anymore when painting in acrylics. Annie is going to try it my way on this one. It will be fun to see how it goes.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

What to display

I have spend part of today figuring out what art to display at the Artistic Visions Summer Art Market. It is a difficult job. I want to show  a variety of my work but I have to consider that a number of the people visiting the market will be tourists - tourists with limited space and possibly limited funds. That seems to indicate art that travels well like watercolors matted and bagged. On the other hand, people like to be able to take their purchase home and just hang it on the wall. I guess a combination is my best bet.

Now to subject matter!

Under the Skimmerhorn

Of course I want a number of local scenes. I have heard that tourists like to take home sights from their holidays and valley residents might like to have a familiar picture for their homes. That's two potential buyer types.

In Storage

Next I think should be nostalgia. Art that might evoke memories or dreams of a different time - some might say simpler but I like indoor plumbing. Nostalgia can include simple flowers like Columbine and Daisies or a scene that reminds one of camping trips in the mountains or at the lake. H'mm I have to think what I have that fits.

Which Way Up?

Finally, I think I will aim for fun. Bright, bold and colorful - paintings (and wall-hangings) that make people smile or just feel cheerful because of the colors. Thanks to the mixed media course I took with local artist Win Dinn, I have a number of pieces that fit this category.

Now that I have my guidelines figured out I can start my selection and hope there is room for everything I pick. Maybe, if lots of art sells I will be able to to display everything over the summer - wouldn't that be a miracle!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Getting ready for summer

Since early last winter I have been thinking and planning for this summer's Artistic Visions Summer Art Market. Attending marketing and grant workshops, starting Facebook pages, filling out grant applications and worrying have occupied a lot of my time. Now the time is almost here. The Summer Art Market will start on June 29 at the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Centre.

Decorative Bowl by Dora O'Brien

Bark Carving by Harry Miller

Creston Lights by Jeff Banman
 At this time, 14 artists will be displaying their art at the Market. We will have pottery, photography, carving, some jewelry, rock paintings, quilt hangings and, of course, the more traditional paintings.

Some of the art will be prints or Giclee(?) prints but most will be originals.
Snowbound by Val van der Poel

There will be paintings just matted and bagged - to make for easier traveling - but most of the art will be ready to hang on your wall when you get home.

And, just so you know, there will be art to fit most pocket-books and tastes. Come and see us at the Visitor Centre and maybe take something home with you.