Monday, 10 December 2012

The Painting Process

I like to have several paintings in the works at once - in case I get stuck on one - I then have another to turn to. Currently I am switching back and forth between a small still life of apples, a larger (30 x 24) still life with flowers and a Provencal landscape. I try to paint most days and in between those sessions eyeball the canvases and allow my subconscious to do some of the 'work'.

The larger still life has gone through numerous transformations. I started with a ground of lemon yellow blotches and then drew on the objects - a vase of lillies, lemons on a plate and a pitcher. I intentionally mixed up the perspective as I really wanted more of an abstracted composition in which I would play with edges by allowing them to overlap, dissolve and reappear. Not as easy as it sounds.

At this stage I really like the lemons on the plate and the lillies  but not the overall arrangement. After many days of thought, I began to remove objects slowly, painting over almost everything with French ultramarine. Then I played with a table edge and background, then added the ghost image of a chair. The colour of the lilles was the hardest things to deal with. The originals were yellow, then I made them pink. 

I added some ghost lily lines with pastel, darkened the background, changed the pattern on the vase, and added more colour in the flower petals. The photo of version #5 above is not as dark as the painting actually is, despite the adjustments I have tried to make. It's actually darker in value, with an almost an inky purple mixed into the blue where you just see blue at the right and in the upper portion of the canvas. My husband thinks it's too dark. I however am actually liking it the more I look at it, as long as the room lighting is sufficient and you can see the depth of colour!
I will continue to ponder this one, tweak some areas and see what happens. Any thoughts?????

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Plein Air Painting

Florida Landscape
12" x12"  acrylic on canvas
I spent Tuesday morning plein air painting with my friend Elisabeth. We had received permission to paint on a beautiful property with lots of interesting views. I started with a quick value sketch, then jumped into the painting using a palette restricted to blues, greens and yellows (did I say that I am in Florida right now?) After an hour things had progressed well. Then I began to try and fix a few things and that led to more fixing and I realized I had lost what I had liked. Back in the studio I decided to play with everything - colour, composition, and reality - and this is the result. I think it's mostly done. What do you think?

Sunday, 2 December 2012


10" x10"  acrylic on canvas
I have painted many flowers - usually large and quite realistic. This is a smallish canvas and my first rose, but not my last.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Colour Blue

Where's Your Ball?
10" x 10"  acrylic on canvas SOLD

I painted this small canvas today for the DPW weekly challenge. The idea was to paint a blue object - however I couldn't find one that I wanted to use, but I did have this great picture of Molly our labrador. The photo was taken at a point when someone was asking her a question - and she was really trying to understand those human words.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Another Lily Pond Painting

Pond Reflections
24" x 24"  acrylic on canvas SOLD
I am beginning to understand why Monet found his lily pond at Giverny so interesting that he painted it numerous times. After completing a smaller canvas with this subject I wanted to paint another - and this is the result. My goals were to paint more loosely, lose some edges and use colour boldly. I am quite pleased with the final work and particularly like the the dark rich colours of the water.  Of course the next question is - will I paint another?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Sur la Route, Encore
10" x 10"  - acrylic on canvas SOLD
I love winding roads with tall, stately trees that grow along the sides with foliage that and creates a canopy above. This petit paysage is based on one of many photos I took while driving with my friend Josiane, near Nimes, in July. I did an earlier version in watercolour and wanted to try it in acrylic. I find foliage very challenging, regardless of the medium and hold my breath until it's done.
Big breath...ahhh!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Water lillies and lily ponds

The Lily Pond
16 x 16"  -  acrylic on canvas SOLD
When I was in Provence last July I visited the bambouseraie, an exotic bamboo park near Nimes. There was an aquatic garden with carp and lillies and I took lots of photos. I have been looking at those photos all fall and finally decided to try a painting. Of course when one thinks of painting water lillies one thinks of Monet and the gorgeous canvases he painted in his 70s, while living in Giverny. They really are quite breathtaking and one feels almost ridiculous trying to paint such things. But one has to try - so I did - and here it is.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Molly's Ball

My Ball
10" x 8" acrylic on canvas
Molly the labrador - she's actually black and beautiful - 
but her human wanted to have some fun with colour. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Seeing Red, finished.

Seeing Red
20" x 16" acrylic on canvas
Last week I posted the 'start' of this painting and yesterday I finished it. I was really excited about the intensely saturated colours, the pastel lines and the overall energy of the work - and I did not want to lose that. However after a week of looking at the canvas I decided I could control my need to tidy things up, and added some more paint in certain areas, actually toning down the red underpainting, just a bit.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

At the End of a Perfect Nova Scotia Day

At the End of a Perfect Nova Scotia Day
16" x 32"
acrylic on canvas

I had the good fortune to spend some time with my sister and gregarious MacDonald relations last August on the north shore in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, where many of them grew up. We talked and laughed, ate and drank lots of wine, visited old homes and cottages, saw whales from a fishing boat, gathered oysters and mussels and had a wonderful time.

This painting is based on a photo I took from the 'Bluff' looking towards Roys Island, at one of the cousin's cottages. It was a lovely summer evening, about 6:30, the tide was out, and the light and setting were beautiful. I was particularly intrigued with the arrangement of the shapes of the tidal flats and their colours - which I have slightly intensified here. It was such a peaceful spot and moment!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Seeing Red

This landscape is based on a photo I took a few weeks ago when on a late morning walk with the dog at Rockwood Conservation area, near Guelph (Ontario!).  I have painted this view before but in a more traditional way that I was not, ultimately, happy with. This time I decided to be much more painterly, experimental and spontaneous, and have more fun.

Rockwood Conservation area
What is more fun than a cad red ground? Especially on a rainy day. On that I sketched in the landscape forms with some titanium white. Then I applied lighter values of the local colours, everywhere, quickly but not throughly, allowing lots of the red ground to show through. I really liked how the red seemed to 'glow' under some of the lighter colours, in the creek and sky. After that I added graphic lines with pastels, drawing around and re-defining the landform shapes, as well as adding detail within those shapes.  Liking what I had done thus far (and not wanting to lose it) I decided to stop and give myself some study time.  I have been looking at it for a few days now, and have to say that I really like this painting in all its graphic sketchy colourful spontaneity.
The big question is - how close is this painting to completion?
What do you think?
Stay tuned.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Redstone River, Haliburton
36" x 48"
acrylic on canvas SOLD
I started this painting a year ago. At the time I was trying to sell my house. 
What was I thinking???
Fortunately the house sold in a timely manner, and eventually all our stuff was moved. 
Last week, I retrieved this from the pile of canvases (the incompletes, the maybes, and the rejects) and decided that it was time to jump back in and finish it. 
I am very pleased with the final version, especially the palette, and painterly qualities.

I am quite familiar with this view as I see it almost daily throughout the summer in Haliburton. 
I love seeing how it changes from spring through summer and fall, and have painted several versions of it. It's always a good challenge. 

August Afternoon on Redstone River
Almost There
Autumn Day

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Memory, Time, and Place

Memory, Time and Place
24" x 30"
acrylic on canvas

This is for sale - contact me for price if interested.
The visual reference for this painting was a photo I took in British Columbia a few years ago. It's a very ordinary view of some trees along a road, shot from the car window.

The challenge was to paint something 'atmospheric', using only the basic layout of the landscape elements in the photo. I started by roughing in the shapes of the land, trees and road, painting quickly using a big brush and lots of paint. 

Because I wanted to establish the values at the start, I decided to use only coloured grays, i.e. black and white mixtures, with a little purple, blue, and yellow thrown in to jazz them up. 

As I was still in the joyful 'play' stage, I added some pastel lines for emphasis. And as often happens,  I really liked what had happened on the canvas in a very short time - particularly the strong, uninhibited graphic quality, sense of spontaneity and palette - but it also did not feel like a finished painting.

I have often experienced this situation and recalled a recent post-letter  (Sept. 4/2012 - 'Flushing the Rolodex') from Robert Genn that was all about great painting starts and why or how they lose their initial energy because of noodling. Robert wrote:

"How many times have we watched our first courageous strokes deteriorate into a cluttered mess that looks like the work of fussy ne'er-do-wells. This happens for several reasons and they're mostly psychological. You can go a long way toward fixing the problem by first lying down on your couch. 

You need to know that when you begin you're generally in "big-brush-layout" mode. Feeling yourself in the safe zone of "just starting," your painterly confidence temporarily triumphs over your natural human tendency to refine. 

In short order, all of this changes. When you see your start is not bad, a sort of guilt kicks in and tells you it can't be all that easy. This is when you start to compulsively add material, that is, you begin to give too much."

Great advice, as always. I tried to follow it and though the painting changed, I think it evolved appropriately. It now feels finished, and hopefully not overworked. I have to say that I (still) love the composition and the colours - together evoking a very restful and contemplative scene, that does exist, but is also a memory of another time and place.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Market Day at Apt in Provence

Market Day at Apt
18" x 16"  
acrylic on canvas

I started this painting last summer just after returning from Provence. If you have ever been to a market in the south of France you will know how wonderful they are. Busy, colourful and full of food, produce and wonderful things. I wanted to buy everything I saw - particularly the food - but restrained myself - and took pictures instead.

Though I made a good start on the painting in July, I reached a point where I had to take some time to think about it. As you can see it's a busy painting composed of many specific shapes, particularly in the lower half of the canvas, and I really wanted it to look right. Drawing the tent shapes from the photo was a challenge, as was painting them. I returned to this on the weekend and finished it today. I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I think the strong colours and repeating tent shapes in the foreground convey a sense of the market activity, while the colous of the building, tree foliage and sky suggest clear summer morning light.

And here are some of my photos from that and other markets I visited on my trip. Enjoy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

French Field

French Field
10" x 10" acrylic on canvas

I have three larger paintings on the go - two that I started in the summer and one that I started last week. I need contemplation time before I finish them - but I also need to paint - and this small work was the result. It's based on a photo I took from the car - and is another one of those quintessential 'south of France' scenes. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Back in the Studio - finally!

Provence Farm
10" x 10" acrylic on canvas

It has been a busy fall and there has not been a lot of time for painting. I finally got down to business this past week and started a large landscape, which I am ruminating on - and did some smaller works too. This is the first of the latter - a quintessential provencal scene with a garden row of lavender, olive trees and red-roofed buildings - all bathed in glorious sunlight. I can almost hear the cicadas!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Sketchbook Drawings

We have been in Budapest for several days now - walking and enjoying this beautiful city on the Danube. I have been squeezing in some drawing time whenever I can - some are done on the spot, and some have been done from photos. Colour was added later. You can probably tell which is which based on the style. Tomorrow we head back to Berlin and then home.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Art in Vienna

We spent a few days in Vienna and of course saw some paintings by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoshka. Also saw lots of good graffiti art, on the embankment walls facing the Danube canal.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Prague People

On our last full day in this beautiful city I sat at an outdoor cafe on the old town square and drew the people around me. I drew very quickly and tried to act like I wasn't really drawing them. It was fun and felt great! To be drawing that is. I added the color back at the apartment.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

In Prague

Prague is a visually beautiful city. The architecture is amazingly varied stylistically and in wonderful condition. Take a look!


My only excuse for not painting and posting has that I have been busy traveling. Not such a hardship I know, but it takes time and energy. We were in Berlin for a few days, being tourists and saw some art - liked these paintings by Manet and Renoir, and this sculpture by Kathe Kollowitz.
So nice to see the 'real' works - both paintings are quite large and it was great to get close and see the brush strokes. The sculpture is a memorial to those who died in WW2, and it's solitary location in a building with one room where it's lit by the light (or rain or snow) falling on it, adds to the emotional weight of the piece.