24 June 2016

The Chipmunk

As I was making up small test batches of homemade casein paint, I realized that I had a lot of earth toned pigments. What to paint that's brown? How about a cute little chipmunk? As I was painting the fur, I was reminded of the many excellent tutorials on YouTube by wildlife artist, Jason Morgan. Yet while there were similarities in technique, there certainly were differences, since Jason often paints tigers. 
This particular painting, unlike the other casein paintings I have done, is in fact an emulsion. It is an oil and water hybrid, with the easy handling and quick drying characteristics of a water-based paint. 

16 June 2016


My dad was telling me about his recent reminiscences of time spent in northern BC, and of how he remembered the profusion of wildflowers that grow there. I thought to myself how a painting of those flowers would make a nice little Father's Day gift. So I duly got busy and painted this incredible field of fireweed. But just as I was giving him the little 5 x 8 piece, a realization hit me that it wasn't fireweed, that he was missing, but rather Indian paint brush. I had painted the wrong flower! We had a good laugh over that one. Oh well. His birthday is next month.
Here I am continuing my adventures with casein paint. I've actually taken things to the next level by making my own. Milk and acid and alkali and water and pigment and you have casein paint. Not that hard to do. Really. This paint is so versatile.

9 June 2016


Just when I was considering what I would paint next, I got an email from Carole, an artist friend with a change of address notice. They were downsizing to an apartment with a view of the water in Naniamo, BC. I looked up the area, and found this image, near to where they will be living. This is a small painting, about 7 inches square, done on paper in that exciting 6,000 year old 'new' paint medium, casein.
About a week earlier, I got inspired to find out all that I could about the media. If you look online, you will find that there is not too much out there, but what there is is fascinating. I was getting hooked.

30 May 2016

Ocean Park

After more than half my life inland and far away, I've returned to the Pacific coast. Home is where you're from, and now I'm home. Ocean Park is on the western tip of the Semiahmoo peninsula, a quiet gem near White Rock, between the US border and Vancouver. Views like this are common, and are shared with bald eagles. 
Yet another water based media, this was painted opaquely as well as transparently using casein.  Pronounced kay-seen, it is a pigmented binder, or glue, made from a protein found in milk. Binder plus pigment equals paint. Ten years ago, I did a painting of the infamous kitten, George Michael, looking out our window. As a generally overlooked paint, it has great potential.

27 May 2016


Our next door neighbour, Lynn, set out these sweet primroses at the end of their driveway in early spring. It was a sign of the riot of spring color to follow. And as a harbinger of good things to come, it needed to be painted. Continuing my attempts in gouache, I now wanted to paint something with more complexity and detail, and this was just the thing. I've learned that gouache responds well to my favorite 300 lb watercolor paper, which helps me achieve what I want. As well, a new firm small brush enabled me to capture the crinkly texture of the leaves and all the little details that I like to include. I must say, I do like gouache, and its got it's place.

21 May 2016

Salt and Pepper

Within the world of watercolor artists, there is a dogma among many that black pigment should not be used. The idea behind this is that black deadens colors, and that more lively darks are better mixed from deeply pigmented colors, such as dark red and green. There is truth to this, and I use that method often myself. Yet many esteemed artists use paints such as sepia (brown mixed with black), or indigo (blue mixed with black). In this painting of our salt and pepper shakers, I used both. It seemed to me that they would be just the thing to convey the pewter like finish on the shakers. And I think that they were. Conclusion: Used carefully, black has it's place. After all, Renoir called it the "queen of colors". Incidentally, the cloth the salt and pepper are sitting on is a rag table mat that I wove back in my floor loom hand weaving days. 

18 May 2016


In 2013, I began to experiment with gouache, an opaque cousin to transparent watercolor. I had done a horse and a small landscape, and then moved on. Earlier this year, I started a daffodil painting in watercolor, introduced a bit of gouache into the piece, and then carried right on to completion with gouache, since it was such fun to work with. It was time to further explore this often overlooked medium. Working with different kinds of paints, with all their various quirks and considerations, is to me similar to learning and speaking in different languages. All are expressive, but say things differently. I find that when working opaquely, I don't push for as high a degree of realism as I do with watercolors. It is interesting too, in a way, to sit back (so to speak) and watch my own style emerge.

17 May 2016

Blue Iris

A few blocks from our home, there is a ditch between a road and someone's fence. And there, from this lowly location, grew a handful of blue bearded irises. I don't know how they got there, but they were largely overlooked as cars raced past. Determined to do something about that, I returned later with my camera, and found myself eventually right in the ditch (it was dry) and even getting honked at. Nonetheless, I got what I was after, and this is the result. 

5 May 2016

Cherry Tomatoes

I usually like to paint in bright, clear, vibrant colors. Here I was after something fresh that would just about pop off the wall. Sometimes an urge for color like this is like a food craving. But what to paint? This is an example of working with what you've got around the house, and before long I had my composition set up and shot. Complete with that wonderfully rumpled tablecloth. Ironing it would have taken away so much of the intriguing texture. This painting took longer than usual to complete, due to the many layers of glazes applied, and to the intricacy of the cut glass.

20 April 2016

The Heron at Crescent Beach

Last fall, I was at Crescent Beach, near White Rock BC, and captured an image of this heron as the sun was setting. I took it on my smart phone, and from there it went to Instagram in the requisite square format. It was one of those rare right place at the right time photos, and I especially liked it. It made sense to paint it. This is done in acrylic, my first attempt in that medium. Acrylic is a very popular water based paint, but because of it's handling characteristics, I suspected that I wouldn't like it, and hadn't been in a hurry to try it. An art store's closeout sale finally compelled me to buy a small acrylic set. I can't say that painting in this medium was for me a terrible experience, but it was at least a learning one. I did it on 140 lb watercolor paper, and was amazed to find that by the time the painting was finished, the paper had become plasticized, like a vinyl coated tablecloth. 

19 April 2016


We have a number of neighbours on our street who are exceptional gardeners. I, on the other hand, would rather paint flowers than tend them. As mentioned in the previous entry, Kathleen is a great gardener, and these are her daffodils. I started this painting in watercolor, but part way along, I decided to experiment with gouache, which is closely related to watercolor, but is opaque rather than transparent. This means that it is easier to work with, as mistakes can be covered, and its possible to change your mind and alter your course as you go. You sure can't do that with watercolor! I've heard it said that gouache is fun, and it is. Note to self: paint in gouache more often.

5 April 2016


Kathleen is our neighbour, and although she has a dog now, years ago she had this beautiful cat, Mitzi. She is a fantastic gardener, and must miss the pond that she had at her previous home. This painting is a tribute to Mitzi, and to that lovely garden hideaway in Vancouver.

20 March 2016

Ice Cream

As I was working on the Lemonade painting, I was also putting the finishing touches on a painting that I had started years ago. I'm not sure why it had not been finished, other than it had become a victim of one too many moves, and had for a while gotten lost in the shuffle. Working on the piece reminded me of the hot, humid tourist season in the little town of Bayfield, Ontario, where I had some of my work in a gallery. 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Life gave us lemons, you might say, in March of 2014. My husband, Art, sustained an injury during a cross town move which led to quadriplegia. He was hospitalized for five months, during which time I sold the home we had just bought, bought a new place in a different city, and completed the move with the help of movers. I stayed with my dad, and visited the hospital nearly every day. Although some artists work out their emotions through painting, for me, it was not a time to paint. I toyed with the idea briefly, of painting wistful nerve endings trying to reconnect, but I had nothing to give. Anyway the contents of my studio were packed away in boxes, like the rest of our stuff, waiting for the start of the 'new normal'. Sometime during the two years when I didn't paint anything at all, I envisioned the composition for the above painting. I knew that whenever I was ready to get back into it, that I would have to paint that first. It is an important piece for me, and very personal. I believe that life is a test; that there are reasons things happen, as horrible as they may be. As God gives me strength, I choose to make lemonade. 

5 February 2014

As Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, as seen in the lower painting in a self-portrait, was a celebrated and very successful portrait artist. She made a name for herself painting royalty in the 18th and early 19th centuries, Marie Antoinette in particular. In spite of her success, her life was not easy, and her autobiography makes for very interesting reading. I have a fascination for the social history of those times. What was daily life really like? We get just a glimpse of it in novels such as the ones by Jane Austen, and in many contemporary autobiographies. Yet what was common for the ones living in those times would not have been written, even though it would have been extraordinary reading for us.  
I wanted to put myself into a classic portrait, as I had done for others, and was considering who's portrait it would be, when I discovered a book in the library about Vigee Le Brun. Female artists were not common in her time, and her story is compelling, especially for me as an artist. She painted a number of self-portraits, so finding one that she did at an age close to mine became the perfect fit. 
So now that I have read about her life and painted her work, I really can't say that I know what it would have been like to be in her place, but at least I have an idea of what I would have looked like to be in her place. Fascinating stuff for sure. 

24 January 2014

Annie With a Pearl Earring

In this classic portrait, I have painted my daughter, Annie, into Jan (Johannes) Vermeer's masterful work, Girl With a Pearl Earring. The original was done in oils, but I have done it in watercolor. To see this painting as a work in progress throughout its many stages, see my Facebook Page, from January 14 to 23. I am looking forward to doing more classic portraits, and sometimes my mind races thinking up the possibilities.

4 January 2014

Chiko and Tina

This is the second commission I donated to the Chilliwack SPCA at their annual Paws For a Cause event. It was awarded to Roz Miller for her successful fundraising efforts last year for this worthy cause . Her chihuahua and dachshund, both rescues, posed beautifully for Roz's excellent reference photo, making this portrait a special joy to paint. I really like the high contrast lighting, and the contrasting brilliance on white and black fur. To see this painting in its earlier stages as a work in progress, and Roz receiving this award, see my Facebook Page entries dated from January 7 to January 13. 

10 December 2013

The Classic Portrait

Do you admire someone from history? Is there an era that you would like to see yourself in? If you went to a costume party, who would you go as? Recently I got inspired to try painting portraits with a historical twist by putting contemporary people, portrait commissions, into fascinating settings. I love to paint what I see and capture the details, so  it was a thrill to copy the work of an old master into a modern portrait. I see it as a way to honor the original artist, and as a way for my modern subject to honor someone from history. Take Art, my husband, for example. He has a special admiration for Reformation theologian and scholar William Tyndale (1494 - 1536). He chose to be painted into this black and white portrait painted by an unknown artist in the 1530s as a way to pay homage to a great man. Can you see yourself in a classic painting?

15 November 2013


Every September, the SPCA in B.C. holds its annual main fund raising event, the popular walkathon Paws for a Cause. While significant funds are raised this way, other volunteer SPCA advocates are busy on their own raising awareness and considerable revenue throughout the year. I was asked by Chilliwack SPCA manager, Ivanna Ferris, if I would donate pet portrait gift certificates as part of the annual award package to this area's two top fundraisers, to be presented at Paws for a Cause. It was, therefore, a privilege to help honor Juanita with this portrait of her sweet little Schatzy. Thank you SPCA for the important work you do, and thank you Juanita and others for helping make this possible.

30 October 2013

Garden Tour

Every year in June the Rotary Club of Chilliwack puts on a garden tour featuring especially amazing yards and gardens of area residents. I had a great time getting photo references of roses and all manner of fabulous garden views from about a dozen or so very different gardens. Now I can paint summer gardens all year long if I like. This landscape is taken from a very special property high atop Chilliwack Mountain overlooking the Fraser River. The painting is small for this much detail, only 8x10", and was my second attempt at gouache. It has been such a long time since I painted an outdoor scene, and I was surprised by how similar it looks in style to my watercolour landscapes. This time I painted on cold pressed watercolour paper which I found to be easier to work on than the smooth surfaced mat board that I used on the gouache horse.