Saturday, 31 December 2011

Painterly Pears

Pears a l'Orange  
More pears. But more painterly this time. I added some pastel (lines) on top of the watercolour (once dry) just to loosen things up even more. I find it a challenge to paint small (this is approximately 11" x 6") and loosely using this medium. Any smaller and the image gets tighter. I think this style is more me.
Have a safe and Happy New Years - and all the best in 2012.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Questions for You - Please Help with the Muse!

I have a question for you. What do you think about painting numerous versions of basically the same subject-form, but varying the colour palette and thus mood, in each? Certainly many artists have done this in the past - think Monet and his haystacks, not to mention Rouen Cathedral. I am struggling with this and would love your input. 
The Muse (36" x 60") SOLD
One of the great advantages of having a cottage in the Haliburton (Ontario) area is the proximity to the Haliburton School of the Arts - a summer program of week long courses providing instruction in every conceivable art subject and medium at a variety of levels. 
One of the outstanding instructors there is an artist by the name of John Leonard. I have taken several of his courses over the years and benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom. During one such intensive course on abstraction I painted The Muse. Prior to the workshop I had often doodled extravagant and exaggerated figures, but had never felt confident that they were worth painting on canvas, let alone painted large. The workshop and teacher gave me permission to play and those experiences led to the inception of this figure painting. In fact, it was one of those paintings that probably would not have happened without the workshop, and when it did I was thrilled. I love the curvilinear female shapes, value contrast, brushwork and superimposed linear marks. The figure continues to speak to me - reminding me to reduce, simplify, and exaggerate the elements in appropriate ways. 

Since then I have wanted to paint a similar sized 'companion' for my original Muse and have tried, but none have satisfied me like the first. This fall I decided instead, to paint additional versions of the first Muse, and the results are below. As you can see I maintained the overall pose, figure shape, and suggestion of flowers at the right, but changed the colouring so that one is predominantly red and the other blue. they reduce the impact or originality of the first painting, by looking like copies? Maybe they are not finished? Perhaps I need to go back into each, and be less concerned with the original design, and start a new 'conversation'. What do you think? I would LOVE to hear any suggestions. Thanks for stopping by!

Southern Muse (36" x 60")

Muse with The Blues  (36" x 60")

Friday, 23 December 2011

Cheeky Pears

I found a wonderfully shaped little pear last summer and did seven small (8 x8") paintings (acrylic on canvas) depicting it from slightly different angles. I still have two of these paintings (below) and they remain for sale. I hope that you like the series title - meant to be both descriptive and suggestively amusing. 

Have a wonderful seasonal holiday - I am taking an 'art break' to cook, feast and enjoy time and holiday cheer with my family over the next 3 days! Hope you do too.
Cheeky Pear #6
Cheeky Pear #5

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Pearotica I  sold  (30x40")
My fascination with pears began about eight years ago, when in the grocery store one day I found one that had definite 'glutes'. I bought that particular pear and it inspired the first painting in my on-going series called Pearotica. Since then I have been on the lookout for similarly distinctive pears and once in a while I find one. Once purchased and admired by my family for its curves and painting potential (and warned not to eat it) I photograph it religiously, and then the painting fun begins. Here are the first 3 works in this series. All of these paintings are relatively large - so they make quite a statement once on the wall. And create some amusement as well.

    Pearotica II  sold  (24x30")
Pearotica III  sold  (24x24")


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Day 5 - Pear finale

Red Pear Green Pear
This is today's effort at daily painting - a little red and green for the season. Cheerio!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Day 4 - Pears to Paint and Eat

Another little watercolour painting featuring one of my favorite subjects, pears. 
Wondering what more I could write, I decided to find out something about pears. Did you know that this delicious and lovely shaped little fruit has a long history? Apparently the cultivation of pears can be traced back 3000 years in western Asia. Homer called them a "gift of the gods" in his epic, The Odyssey, and they were a luxury item at the court of Louis XIV. Early colonists brought pears to America, and they were introduced into California and Mexico by missionaries who planted them in their mission gardens.
Interestingly, they did not have the soft juicy flesh that we enjoy today until the 18th century. It was during this time that a lot of attention was given to the cultivation and breeding of pears, and many varieties were developed that featured pears' distinctive buttery texture and sweet taste. And they are really good for you too!
I think a pear dessert is required this week. One that disappears quickly in my house is a tarte aux poires, a French-styled pie with a buttery pastry crust, sliced pears and chocolate drizzled over the top. Sounds good doesn't it.  Maybe I could paint it before we eat it. Enjoy your day.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Day 3 - Pears

Late Afternoon Pears
Another go-to or default subject for me is pears. I love eating and cooking with them, and I love their various little shapes. I set up these two with a lamp at the side, and thus created the long shadows. However, when you turn the painting so that it's vertical, it looks like the pears have legs. Or they are sitting in a pair of jeans. Or maybe it's just weird. My husband thinks the latter. Which way do you think it should go? I think the view affects the title, so I have two different ones as you can see.

Pears With Pants

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Day 2 - Bikini Babes

Bikini Babes  10"x7"  SOLD
I found this little watercolour in my studio yesterday. I started it last summer, and decided that this
daily- painting-thing was the perfect opportunity to complete it - so that is what I worked on yesterday. It felt really good to start painting again after my 2 week hiatus. Now I am wondering how I will get my Christmas shopping done because I have started three little pear paintings, and they are calling to me.
Are you ready for the holiday season?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Daily Painting Begins Today!

Here is my first daily painting - based on a photo of our daughter. Like all parents I have numerous photo albums and digital files full of images documenting her life at every stage, over the last twenty years and they have been a wonderful source of material when needing to paint. She is one of my go-to subjects. 
Here are a few more paintings done over the years featuring said daughter.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, 16 December 2011

My Studio

Many thanks to all of you who were able to come to my Studio Show and Sale last weekend. I am sure that the paintings you purchased have found good homes and I look forward to visiting them (and you of course) some day!
The preparation for the show and the season has taken away from my 'painting time' - and just to make life really interesting, we found a condo that suited our needs - and bought it yesterday. So life will become even more hectic in the next five weeks as packing up our house (where we have lived for twenty-five years) becomes the priority.  The first thing I have to tackle is this - my third floor studio. Where would you start?????? I know as soon as I get in there I will want to start working. And as I can't imagine not painting again until February (and the move) - maybe it's a good time to work small, and try a water colour 'painting-a-day'!!!!  Sounds good to me - look for one tomorrow. Have a wonderful day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Redstone River Recollect

In previous posts I have mentioned that I spend the summer months in Haliburton. We have a small cottage on a large island on Redstone Lake, a beautiful pristine lake that is clean, deep and utterly rejuvenating. Driving to and from the boat landing we pass the Redstone River which connects our lake with Eagle Lake next door. Though this river is really not much more than a stream as it is shallow and its' width varies throughout the season, I am always fascinated by how it curves and meanders towards the road.  It is one of my favourite views in Haliburton and each time I see it, we have to stop the car so I can take more pictures of it.
I have painted this river several times now as I am inspired with each new photo and of course the changes that appear with each new season. I just finished the latest variation on this theme four days ago and here it is:
A Summer Day on the Redstone River    24" x 30"   SOLD
Here is a slightly different view I started last spring, and finally finished in September. I love the different palette temperatures - how the warm yellows, oranges and pinks suggest a summer afternoon in the painting above while the acidic yellow greens suggest a spring morning in the painting below.

Almost There   24" x 36"  SOLD
During a workshop I conducted this fall for SOYRA (the Society of York Region Artists) on how to use soft pastel with acrylic paints, I used this subject for my demonstration. I actually did two versions, both much more stylized and looser (and smaller) than the larger paintings above. 

River Encore I    16" x 20"

River Encore II     16" x 20"
And the last one I want to include in this collection is a landscape I included in one of my first posts, and my first painting based on this subject:

August Afternoon on the Redstone River    30"x30" sold
I love this subject and I am sure I will work on it again. What do you think about using the same subject again and again?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem  30"x30" acrylic  SOLD
This landscape, completed about 3 weeks ago, is part of the on-going series of paintings featuring wetlands in the Haliburton Highlands (part of Ontario cottage country). Below is the photograph I took from the car window while driving east along highway 118 on which this particular work is based. Can you locate the landscape detail in the photo that I enlarged and focused on in this work?

I painted an earlier version of this composition last spring that I am not going to show you. It was one of those paintings that started out well, but went downhill, as I continued to paint. Soon after it was finished and hanging on my kitchen wall (and therefore getting lots of critical attention from me and my ever helpful husband) I realized that it was not going to last. So it was with some trepidation that I decide to try to paint this view one more time. I am glad I did as I am quite happy with this version. The blue tonality of the work helps to suggest (but not specify) the season/the time of day, and a sense of peacefulness  - hence the title. 
Have a great weekend!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Painting Animals

Red Dog Boat Dog sold
Molly in Dreamland  sold
Occasionally I paint animals. The inspiration for these two paintings was 'Molly' our 9 year old black lab who loves to ride in the bow of our motor boat going back and forth from our island cottage in Haliburton ( a cottage area in Ontario). The inspiration for the pose came from this photo (or one like it).
As for depicting her red - well Molly, who is a wonderful dog, has a lot of 'attitude', so the colour seemed appropriate.  

And here are a few other dog portraits I have done....

My other favourite model is our daughter. But I will show you those paintings another day.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Abstracting Figures

Three Posers  sold
Last Friday morning my friend Elisabeth and I painted together. She lives on one of the barrier islands on the west coast of Florida (off the Gulf of Mexico), and I have the good fortune to spend time in the same locale in November and the winter months. Elisabeth is a very talented painter of beautiful landscapes.  Our painting challenge was to 'play and experiment', do something different and complete what we started in one hour.

Sitting on the Edge
Sometimes the hardest part of painting is deciding what to do. My sketchbooks are full of images and plans for all sorts of paintings. I love drawing the human figure and often attend open life drawing studio sessions. During these sessions I usually start out drawing the figure quite accurately, however I inevitably start to distort proportions and exaggerate line and so have a collection of abstracted expressive figure drawings that sometimes find their way into larger paintings. I have included some of these works above, at the left and below right.

Seated Goddess

The day before our Friday painting date I had been looking at these drawings and did the small painting below. I love to accentuate the hips and contrapposto stance - giving the figure lots of attitude. A modern day Venus and so I am calling her Venus of Longbeach.

Venus of Longbeach  12"x16"
The last painting I will show you is the one I completed in the hour with Elisabeth. I had made a very simple thumbnail in my sketchbook of this pose, loosely based on the  The Bather of Valpincon by Ingres, but of course exaggerated. I was really drawn to how the shape of the figure filled the rectangular 'frame of reference' and decided to see what would happen with paint.

I began by painting the figure and then added the orange in the top right area around the figure and really liked that. Then I darkened the area below the ledge on which she is seated for some value contrast. I felt that the upper left quadrant needed more than just colour and so I added a palm branch (part of the Florida scenery) and sort of attached it to her through colour. Looking at it a day later it appeared to me that the figure was engaged in a common activity here and anywhere there is water: sitting at the beach watching the sun set (orange) over the water (blue below). And so it's called Island Sunset.

Island Sunset  18"x24"

Monday, 28 November 2011

Edge Loss Continues

Harmony in Blue and Green  30"x48"  SOLD
I completed this large still life soon after Edge Play, my first foray into the world of 'defocus and blur' in painting. While that was still a goal here, I found it difficult to limit my palette and reduce and simplify detail. (I love colour and I just had to go with my instinct as I painted, rather than be a slave to any formula.) It was easier in certain areas of the painting to blend the colour of the object into the background colour, or just soften the edge of an object through blurring. I do like how the wall at the right blends with the tree scene through the window at the left and then down into the table top. I also really like the intense colouring in some of the objects. Can you see the pastel lines suggesting some topical detail in the flowers? I do like drawing back into a painted area. I think it keeps me from getting too tight.
Peonies and Pears     24"x24"  SOLD
Here is another still life painted soon after Harmony. Again I have softened some object edges and the interior wall blends into window scene outside at the right, through colour. But again, the painting is more detailed than Edge Play.  
What do you like better? The more abstract nature of Edge Play or the more natural look of Harmony and Peonies?


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lost and Found Edges

Edge Play  24"x 20" sold
This is a recent still life in which I wanted to 'play with edges' (hence the title) and the relationahip between 'figure and ground'. I began with a fairly straightforward drawing of the objects using black acrylic paint, and then as I painted, limited my palette to blues, yellows and greens, with a bit of red and orange for contrast.
I had been thinking about something Robert Genn (of the Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter) had written  in A Free Chapter of "The Painter's Keys"  about making "lists or you use: plans, directions, techniques" when painting and then gives a sample recipe list. Among the many important ideas is defocus: "Paintings that are equally sharp and focused are boring. When we work from life, our eyes dart around the subject, focusing on each item, and this creates a problem. Real life is different....Your paintings will pick up life if subjects you wish to feature are sharper, and secondary elements softer". Then he goes on and suggests that by blurring some subjects and areas in your paintings you can "Create mystery and paucity. Paucity means smallness of number or quantity. In art it means the minimal expression needed to convey the form or idea." He talks about reinforcing negative space areas and suggests lost and found edges: "Evaporate some things and let the viewer's eye behold some mystery and excitement."
I began to look for those ideas (defocus, blur, lost & found edges) in the work of other artists and immediately thought of Henri Matisse. In his painting The Blue Window you see a collection of still life objects arranged on a rectangular surface in the lower third of the composition. Behind this is a window through which you can see a highly stylized voluptuous tree, some hills and sky with one lone cloud. All other parts are painted in varying shades of blue so that the distinction between table surface, interior wall, and outdoor three dimensional space is blurred, creating a wonderful play between figure and ground, reality and illusion. You can see similar ideas at work in The Red Studio and Harmony in Red as well.

Tulips, Pears and Peaches
With Matisse's paintings and Robert's ideas in mind I started painting my still life. My 'normal' artistic approach with this kind of subject is to draw the objects accurately in a credible three dimensional space. Once I have claimed the image as mine on the canvas, I follow my intuition in how I paint and the colours I use. The two paintings at the left are more typical of my style.

Really Big Pears 
My goals in Edge Play were to blur the lines between object and background, find and lose edges, and ultimately play with space and illusion. I loved the painting process - the internal decision making as to which edge to lose by blending the object's colour with the background colour, and which edge and therefore object to maintain and focus on. At the same time of course, there was the need to keep design principles in mind -  location of focal point, rhythm, harmony etc. Probably the biggest challenge was to just let some objects be a weird (even for me) colour - and here I am thinking about the daffodil leaves, vase, and pears.  I am very happy with the painting and see it as the first in a new series in which I will continue to explore lost and found edges.
What do you think?

Friday, 25 November 2011

One Photo - Two Paintings

A couple of years ago I was visiting friends in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. One day we drove to Comox and along the way I snapped photos of the landscape, through the car window.  Of course none of the photos were great, nor could I really capture the magnificence of what I saw, but that has never stopped me from trying!
One of the photos inspired two very different paintings, as you will see below. The photo reference is above, and the first of the two paintings is below.
Road to Comox 30" x 40" sold
I worked on this Road to Comox  for several months, really not sure what I was doing. At that point I had not painted many (any) landscapes (too much green, too many leaves!). I had been working with Japanese coloured and textured washi (and other) collage papers at the time and decided to add some of the paper in the rock area of the composition. Once I started adding paper onto the canvas, I just kept going, especially in the leaf area of the trees. At the same time I painted over top of the paper......until the work was finished. I was delighted with the completed painting, a highly stylized landscape with a richly textured, colourful surface. 

But.....the story continues! Sometiomes I just can't get an old image out of my mind, even though there are so many new ones competing for attention. (Is this what Monet thought when painting haystacks and cathedral facades?) Often I don't even realize that the image is there, just percolating away. Last week, inspiration took hold, and this was the very different result.

BC Back Road  30" x 40" SOLD
You will see that this painting  is closer in form to the original photo, but I have, as usual, taken liberties with the colour and overall interpretation. No collage paper additions here, but there is lots of pastel mixed in with the acrylic paint. You may be able to see some of the lines, especially in the lower/central green and purple area. The finished painting is presently sitting on my mantel and therefore under constant scrutiny - and I am loving it.  Again the surface is rich and visually textured, with lots of drama in the silhouetted trees .but relieved by the back light.  What do you think?
Do you ever revisit subjects, compsitions, or familiar images and re-interpret them? 
Have a great day.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Crazy Schedule

I'm back! Getting this blog off the ground has been a long process, and as you may have noticed, not very regular, yet. My only excuse is that life has been hectic in the last few months - getting our home of 26 years ready to sell - and now it is sold and we are planning the 'next steps'. And I just started two new painting series - one which features the same abstract figure, and the other, still life objects,  that for a lack of a better description, 'fade in and out' on the surface. More to come on these later.
Now, back to the landscapes of last summer. I really like them - hope you do too.

Spring Light   30"x30"
Wetlands  24"x30" 

Hot Day in July  30"x36" SOLD

Seeing Red  18"x24"

Blue Marsh  24"x30"

At the End of the Day  20" x 24"

Hopefully you can see the pastel lines on the surface of the paintings. I started using soft pastel over acrylic, and throughout the painting process in the first landscape series, but this summer this technique really began to dominate, and helped me to stay loose. And I finally discovered a great, non toxic, completely natural fixative spray fixative called SpectraFix.   
What do think?