Sunday 14 December 2014

Art and Christmas

Like most people I am usually pretty busy at this time of year but I have always taken time to paint original Christmas cards for my children and grandkids.
Christmas Card 2009
Sometimes I like the card so much that for the next year I get a number made to sell.
Sometimes the cards are based on a painting I have done but most of the time they are right out of my imagination.

The cards might be a complicated scene or just an expression of a winter bursting with color.

This year I was so busy crocheting Christmas ornaments to sell locally at Christmas fairs and through a local 'Buy & Sell" on Facebook that I forgot all about doing cards and ending up sending each of my kids one of the mass produced cards.

As always, I got carried away and just kept making more and more. Some designs have sold out but I will still have enough left to sell again next Christmas. I really enjoyed making the ornaments and changing the patterns so that many of them are unique.
I particularly like these little angels and ending up making a wreath so I could display one, as well as some of the other ornaments.
 While I broke tradition by not sending my kids personal cards I did send them each a snowflake with the mass produced card - I hope that satisfies the personal element!

I imagine the next few week will be busier still so ....


Tuesday 9 December 2014

A Look at my Process

Last Thursday I decided to enter a painting in the Creston Valley Bird Fest's "Festival Art Piece" competition. The image of the winning art piece will be used for posters, on the cover of the programs and other promotion material and the painting itself will be (I believe) auctioned off.

I thought I would use my work on the painting to show a bit of my process.
First, I look through my files to find a suitable reference photo. I have 3 files of bird pictures culled from magazine, calendars, my own photos and even some of my own paintings and drawings.
Next, I look through my file of pictures of the Creston Valley to find a proper background for my chosen subject. BTW, it is really hard to take photos of photos  - they are too shiny!
The next step is a drawing on newsprint to get my composition determined. I ended up doubling the size of the bird in the reference so I used graphs and tracing paper then transferred the enlarged picture on to my newsprint. Once I was happy with the composition I transferred it to my watercolour paper.
I never remember to buy proper masking film so I use strips of over-lapping masking tape to mask out the areas I want saved. I transfer the image onto the tape using my home-made transfer paper.

I use an exacto knife to cut carefully around my drawing and very carefully peel it off the support making sure to work from the right side so the tape stays together.
I attach the tape/mask image to my watercolour paper and used some masking fluid where the tape didn't cover. You will notice that the cattail under the tape has been painted.  I was half way into the painting when I realized my process would be a good subject for this blog so I back-tracked a bit to show the whole process.
Once I had the bulk of the background finished I removed the masking and worked on the fine details until I was happy with the finished piece.
Nest Builder

The bird is a Marsh Wren gathering cattail fluff for the nest and the background is a scene from the Creston Valley Wildlife Area. The painting is 14 x 18 and I think it would work well as a poster for the Bird Fest - it will  be interesting to see what They think!

Thursday 27 November 2014

Sharing Knowledge

I started painting in 1997 and within the year I was displaying my work at markets and art shows. Every display there were viewers saying things like ' I've always wanted to paint' or 'I wish I could...' So, in 2000, I started teaching Beginner Art to share an activity that gave me so much pleasure and to spread the wonder of art.

I wanted to give people the chance to explore a few different media without spending lots of money only to find out that  - for instance, they hated watercolor painting. The classes were an 'introduction' to the different media and students where welcome to continue with more classes after the basics were done.

basic shapes example
We started with pencil; working with basic shapes to draw everything from landscapes to teapots to cows. Students learned about light source, shading, composition and perspective - all things they would need whatever medium they chose.

Autumn Splendor
Next was watercolor! Students learned color mixing - on paper and palette, negative painting, tonal values in perspective, flat and gradated washes and so much more.

Wild Tulips
We moved on to acrylics and students worked on paper, canvas, fabric and wood. I wanted to show the versatility of the medium as well as the different techniques needed for different surfaces.

For my group classes I also taught the basics of charcoal, pastel and pen & ink but I found that most students wanted COLOR so I decided to stick with pencil, watercolor and acrylic.

I have been lucky over the years that a number of the paintings I started in demonstrations turn out good enough to frame and sell - even the ones I paint up-side-down.
Home in the Country

Or the ones where I am learning along with the student - lol
Let it Snow
And then there are the subjects that take me back to my first year of painting when so many of my paintings were of flowers.
Little Pansies
I mostly teach private classes now as I like working one on one with the students but I do offer workshops in my area for interested groups. Check my web page for information about workshops -

Whether I am teaching one person or a number, I really enjoy sharing what I know and seeing the eyes light up when a student holds up a finished work and it looks GOOD!

Thursday 13 November 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

Last winter I was playing around a bit with Oriental style brush painting and this year I am going to work at it even more. Practice, practice, practice and more practice because I am finding it a lot more complicated than seems.

First there is the paper!

There is Masa, Mulberry, Awagami Fine Art Paper and a couple that I don't have names for because the paper was given to me. It is all rice paper but each one is different! How do you know which is best?

Then there are the brushes and the books! So many to choose from - Chinese, Japanese, fat brush , thin brush! At least I don't have to worry about the inks too as I just use my watercolours.

 Now is just a matter of practising! So many different strokes to learn. Then there is loading the brush with more that one colour or tone - not too wet or too dry  because the paper just soaks it up!
Fortunately, every once in a while a practise piece turns out pretty decent so I am encouraged to continue with my studies.

Three Little Fishes

Favourite Flower
 I think all artists continue to learn and practise new things although many of us always continue to prefer a favourite. But, we often approach the old with a new freshness just because we tried something new.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Paper Towels and Other Things

This afternoon I read a blog post by a Google+ friend Sheila Delgado - and it got me thinking about how I use paper towels.

I use paper towels to blot, lift, mop, dry brushes, wipe my palette, sometimes to create a textured look and a number of other things as well. I have a pile of half or quarter sheets ready by my hand whenever I paint. When painting in watercolour these used papers go right into the trash because the colours are usually washed out but when I paint in acrylics - WOW

A great range of colours: some soft but most bright enough to jump off the page.

Painted paper towel coated with gloss medium for strength and some 'flowers' made with medium coated paper towel. Lots of fun!

And, of course painted paper towel can be use in mixed media.

Circles - 6 x 12 mixed media
 Painted mat board, painted paper towel, painted cheesecloth and some "leather" on gallery wrap canvas
Paper Flowers in Purple - 7 x 9 mixed media

Paper towel flowers and leaves with coloured pipe cleaner on painted mat board

 I learned these uses of paper towel from a local artist Win Dinn (see more here - Win is an expert at trying different things to create interesting effects - like cheesecloth and dryer sheets!

painted cheesecloth and painted dryer sheets

One of these days I will get back to playing with my paper towels and mixed media - so much to do and so little time!

Thursday 9 October 2014

And one idea leads to another and another...

I took a card making class last winter at The Bamboo Room near Bonners Ferry, Idaho  - Since then ideas have been knocking around in my head, just gelling and gathering strength.

 My first idea was to use a crocheted Christmas wreath as a frame. I added a photo of my granddaughter and  a couple of other things I had around. Not bad, BUT...

           I needed some designs, so I made some stamps, (these are just a sample)

            I painted and stamped some paper in sizes that would work for cards,

I crocheted more mini frames and then, flowers, leaves, stars, butterflies, hearts and a number of other things that came to mind.

 And then I put some of these things together in kits for other people to make cards or to use in scrapbooks and journals.

 In some cases, instead of the mini frames, I added an original pen & ink drawing on watercolour paper to be coloured or painted .

Although I hope that these items will sell (they are available from my Etsy shop - ) 
I enjoyed making them and will probably continue to design my own stamps and crochet patterns and to put together more kits.

So, as you can see, one idea led to another and another and another but it is okay because the joy is in the creating and ideas are always welcome!

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Preparing for Art Shows

During the last two weeks of February I was busy getting some of my paintings ready for an art display at our local Chamber of Commerce. I am sharing the space with 4 other artists but I still needed around 14 pieces to hang.

The first step is to go through some of my unframed work to see if anything strikes me as 'right' for this exhibit. Once I have a selection of paintings I need to find frames and choose mats that compliment the artwork.
I always do my own matting and framing as it helps keep the cost down, for me and for customers.

I don't have a fancy framing set-up but it does the job. One neat thing is the little gizmo in the left photo - the pale blue and Plexiglas item. Although it is hard to see there are holes beside the black squiggles on the Plexiglas. The item is used for marking the 'border' on the mat before cutting . The holes go up by 1/4 " and the device is reversible so I can quickly mark standard mat sizes from 1 1/2 to 4 1/4 inches - a real time saver that my husband made for me.

 I am lucky to have a nice large table where I can work at one end while a work-in-progress takes up the other end.
 I clean glass, put frames together, seal the backs of canvases, add wires and labels to the backs of all of my paintings and, finally, figure out what price to put on the display cards.

Rocks & Icicles
Full Moon

  Here are a few of the paintings I have on display  until the end of April.
Marsh Autumn


 This year I will be exhibiting my paintings in a number of shows with other artists. I try to have something different for every display so I will be  doing the whole preparing thing over again at the end of April and again at the end of June.

 I guess I had better get busy and do some more painting!

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Good Causes

Every artist I know has been asked at one time or another to donate a piece of art to some worthy cause. With so many 'causes' now-a-days it is not unusual to be approached a number of times a year.

Mist on the Water - Art Trot
Over the years I have donated over 12 of my original paintings. Some were small, some were large but I was happy to support the different causes. I think that Art Trot has been the recipient of most of my donations in the last few years. It is a very good cause in the small community of Creston BC: fund-raising for the Therapeutic Riding Society which sponsors horse riding for the physically and mentally challenged.

Slim Pickin's - Art Trot
 Unfortunately, I am becoming disenchanted with the whole donation scene. Most of the artists who donate are trying to SELL their paintings - how can we compete with silent auctions where a painting with a suggested minimum bid of $200.00 ends up with a high bid of $40.00. Also, last year the Art Trot started accepting re-gifted items for their auctions. This year I was surprised to see a painting of mine that was donated to the Creston Art Club for their last Annual Fall Show and Sale door prize, on display at the Art Trot. Okay, the painting raised money for two different causes but, somehow, I still felt insulted.

Garden Bouquet - Art Club
 Like others, I have heard all the hype: it's for a good cause, think of the exposure, you have plenty of paintings, well, it's just a hobby etc. etc. How many plumbers or electricians get asked to donate?  Don't artists work as hard (and have as many expenses) as plumbers or lawyers?

Reaching Out - We Imagine Peace (FB)
 I don't even want to know how much (or how little) my paintings have earned for the various causes because I have seen how low the bids have been. I could probably rant more about this situation but right now the question is, do I continue to support these worthy causes while undermining my value as an artist? I am thinking more and more that a cash donation is the route I am going to follow in the future.