24 December 2007

Jersey Remembered

I was asked to paint another portrait of Jersey, this time from a photo of her standing in a field. I hadn't done a landscape, which really is what this would be, in a long time, so that would be a challenging change. Also, Tim and Melissa requested that it be done very large, to go over their mantle. Twenty-two inches by 30 inches seemed like a lot of paper after working for so long on an 8"x10" surface.

I wanted to convey the sense of bigness of the sky and field, and yet not loose Jersey in the landscape, since, after all, this was a painting about her. She will be remembered here in this harvest time field near the family cottage on Lake Huron.

6 December 2007


Mark and Robin adopted this regal Belgian Shepherd cross from the London SPCA when Cassie and Hayley were very young. True to his shepherd calling, he faithfully watched over the children, keeping them safe by cottage lake or backyard pool. A loyal companion for fourteen years, the family will miss him this Christmas.

27 November 2007

Chocolate Chunk

At 89 pounds, Chunky is one big chunk of chocolate lab. Labrador Retreivers come in three colours: yellow, black, and brown, which is known officially as chocolate. Jan and her family in Ingersoll really have their hands full with this very active and large one year old.
Lighting does interesting things to a solid colour, and I found it facinating to work with such suprisingly rich colour and shade variations.

7 November 2007


I have always had a fondness for a good old fashioned 'farm dog'. Perhaps this was due to the many stories my mom told of the great dog they had on their farm during the depression. Although I did not meet Jersey, it is clear that she was this kind of dog. She and her brother had been abandoned as pups and found wandering in the country. Janet's family adopted this noble collie shepherd cross and had many happy years with her.

23 October 2007


When Mark John and Nanette got Sambuca as a kitten, they had no idea how large she would become. Long and lean, she is one of the largest short hair cats their vet has ever seen. Although rather shy, she is no stranger to the comforts of a cozy bed. With this painting, it was important to capture the many colours reflected in her jet black fur: blue, red, purple and green.

10 October 2007


At my first studio tour exhibit, I was offered a commission to paint Deborah and Don's cocker spaniel. Gone, but certainly not forgotten, Bluejay's silky fur was so black that it had beautiful blue highlights. I enlarged a small portion of a good snapshot of Bluejay, and completed the painting by working quickly and steadily over the next couple of days . As it would happen, only hours after completion, I was emailed a much clearer image of him with the suggestion that this photo might be easier to work from. Deborah was very surprised that I had already tackled and completed my assignment. We arranged a time in the following week to get together. Meanwhile, I wondered how the painting would have turned out if I had worked from the second image. Finally, a couple of days before they arrived, I decided to give it a try. I think they were surprised to be offered a choice between two paintings. After some consideration, they chose the second one. Which one would you have chosen?

14 September 2007


Montana, or Tana, is a Golden Retreiver owned by a Lisa, good friend of mine. I chose this pose to paint due to the sweet, alert expression that she had. Like most of her breed, she has proven to be a great family pet. Here was one time that she didn't have her favorite chew toy in her mouth!

5 September 2007


This painting was done in memory of Dave and Esther's sweet cocker spainel poodle cross, Mitsy. Right from the start, she was a good fit for the family. She was a young adult when they got her, and she proved how bright she was on their first walk together, when she knew exactly which house was their's going home. She was a very special friend to their son, Paul.

30 August 2007

The National Service Dog

A few years ago, while at a freeway service center, I noticed someone with a puppy at the food court. This puppy, although small, was wearing a jacket such as those worn by working guide dogs. I learned that this puppy was in training; becoming familiar with many indoor public locations in preparation for the full time training he would receive from professionals before becoming a full fledged service dog. The puppy raiser would only have the dog for just over a year, and several months later would be invited to attend it's graduation and meet the dog's new owner. I made a mental note at the time that puppy raising was something that I would like to do.

A couple of years later, my son and I attended an open house for Guide Dogs in Oakville, and learned more about this facinating service. Demonstrations were given to show what these fully trained dogs were capable of doing to assist their owner, be they blind, deaf, or quadraplegic. At the time, we did not have a suitable home for puppy raising, and so it remained a dream.

And then, a series of connected events occured over the summer; the dog show in July got me thinking of dogs again, a chance meeting with a guide dog owner in early August informed me of another service dog school which was closer to home, and wouldn't you know it, their annual open house was to be held the following weekend. Of course we went, and two days later we had our seven week old service puppy. Zephyr. A Labrador/Golden Retreiver cross. Cute, smart, and teething. And not house broken. We suddenly had our hands full.

The National Service Dog organization trains dogs to work with children with autism. Their dogs have been very successful in helping keep these children safe, as well as calming them, which allows them to focus in class, and to better interact with others. As a puppy raiser, I see that Zephyr gets out to lots of public venues, and experiences a wide range of things. I take him to obedience class taught through the organization, and follow up with daily practice. And for a little over a year, he is with us to enjoy. And paint. This painting was done from a picture taken the first day we got him.

8 August 2007


A "doorstep baby", Madison and her littermates were found at the door of Woodstock's Wellington Animal Hospital when they were only two weeks old. The dedicated veterinary staff worked around the clock to keep these vulnerable kittens alive. Eventually Madison made her way to Barb, where she joined two other cats to become one of the "girls". Madison's rather aloof stare is emphasized by her beautiful natural eye liner markings.

This was my first commission, and the challenge here was to work with a very small portion of a snapshot. While not an easy task, I learned that it could be done.

31 July 2007

The Dog in the Basket

As soon as I saw it, I loved the reference image that this painting is based on. The rich colors and dramatic lighting were inspiring. It is amazing how certain lighting can transform an otherwise ordinary scene into something worthy of a closer look, as if to underscore the beauty of creation.

26 July 2007

The Dog Days of Summer

Another day, another dog. This is a Norweigan Elkhound, which is something between a German Shepard and a Samoyed, or perhaps like a small Malamute. I had seen several of them competing at the Woodstock dog show. They looked as though they could have pulled a dog sled. The challenge here was to paint a kind of fur which is wooly and thick, with hairs that are often light with dark tips. This was a diffent type of dog, and I wanted to learn to paint as many types as I could.

24 July 2007

The Jack Russell Terrier

Sometimes Jack Russells lie still, but not often. An interesting effect happened with this painting. Up close, as of course it was as I worked on it, the image was somewhat indistinct. Certainly I could tell what it was, but there was a slight blurring to it. But what a surprise I got when I first viewed him from the usual critique spot at the end of the hall. Visually, this little guy just popped right out from so far away. Even this painting seemed to contain the explosive energy of the Jack Russel breed.

Don't Fence Me In

It is with good reason that Golden Retreivers are such popular dogs. Smart, loyal, gentle with kids. I think this lonely pup must be missing his family. As with the spaniel, I wasn't about to paint in every blade of grass. Its really about the dog anyway, and not about the grass, and so I improvised an impressionist approach.

23 July 2007

The Orange Tabby

I was on a roll by this time, having painted four portraits in as many days. After the weekend, since there was still no computer, I carried right on. On this second week, I gave myself the challenge of one portrait per twenty four hours.

This was a particularily beautiful cat, and like so many cats, he looks as though he knows it.

20 July 2007

A Cat in the Spotlight

I was having lots of fun with the dogs, but I was ready for a cat. For most of my life I have owned one cat or another. For my first 18 years there was Snookey, and later Lucy, Amy, Bobbie, Bruno, Heidi, Clara and Bess. Some remained for years, and were special friends, others were mothers and kittens fostered through the SPCA. Most were named, but some passed through nameless. Currently there is Orville, as seen in an earlier post, and his mother Friskey, my special favorite.

19 July 2007

The Terrier

This, I believe, is a Cairn terrier, like Toto in the Wizard of Oz. I wanted the challenge of painting unruly curly fur. I called him the 'Purple Terrier' for a while because initially he had a very strong purple background. Backgrounds can be tricky. They play a supporting role and must enhance and not compete with the subject. I usually try to link the background with the subject by adding color from one area into the other. The trick is not to overdo it. This little guy patiently sat at the end of the hall, while I would view him from a distance every so often to discover correctable imbalances. I think he looks happier now.

18 July 2007

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

There is an interesting history behind the name of this little spaniel. I had to do the research to find out what it was. It seems that this breed was recreated about 80 years ago, based on written evidence and as seen depicted in paintings that were hundreds of years old. The English King Charles was a fancier, and one is nearly always seen with him in royal portraits.

17 July 2007

The Sheltie

It was at this time that my computer suddenly died, and for the next two weeks I found I had plenty of time to paint. I was suprised by how much I was depending on a computer, and how much of my time was taken on it.

While waiting for repairs, I gave myself the assignment of painting as many dogs and cats as I could, in order to develop my skill in painting pets. I printed a stack of reference photos from Wet Canvas using another computer, and dove in.

I would like to have painted Sheila, the sheltie I once owned, but due to computer technical difficulties, I relied on the images that were available to me. The funny thing about dog breeds is that each dog can look so like the next and yet be so different. This certainly was not Sheila, and yet this dog reminded me of her in many ways. They have such an intelligent yet sensitive gaze. Sheila was the only dog I ever had; I may one day have another.

14 July 2007

The Dog Show

When the large annual dog show came to Woodstock in the middle of July, it got me thinking. Could I find a local market in pet portraiture? Perhaps not as grand a goal for an emerging artist as some, but I sensed that this might be a good niche to develop. First, however, I had to see if I liked painting dogs. Turning once again to the Wet Canvas reference library, I found an excellent example of one of my favorite breeds, the Labrador Retreiver.

There is something gratifying about painting a living thing. A flower, while living, may be beautiful, but an animal has a character and personality.

6 July 2007

The Knave of Hearts

When Ian stayed with us in May while recovering from knee surgery, he brought along the now grown kitten, George Michael. I had painted him in casein during the Christmas holidays as seen in an earlier post. On this visit he was gradually allowed to discover the great outdoors. So making up for lost time spent as an indoor cat, he spent as much of his time as possible amongst the foliage and flowers that became his jungle. He stalked birds, climed trees and ran the length of the yard for the sheer freedom of it. He even squeezed through the fence a few times to explore the uncharted reaches of suburbia. After a while we got used to his comings and goings.

It came as a suprise, then, while taking pictures of my bleeding hearts for yet another floral painting, that Georgie's little face would appear in one of the photos. He really is just as impudent as he looks. Of the paintings that I have done, this is probably my favorite.

It marked, as well, a turning point for me. It would be the last painting of flowers that I would do for some time. That inquisitive little face lead me in a new direction.

30 June 2007

Coffee and Donut

This coffee break still life was constructed by another fine workshop instructor, John, alias Watercolourlover. At Wet Canvas, some artists are known better by their online nickname then by their real name. This was one of the reasons why meeting them in real life was so very interesting. Painting can be a lonely occupation, and yet many artists enjoy working in the company of others. We shared artistic tips and techniques, jokes, chocolate truffles, horseshoes (sort of), a pot luck , a barbeque, and a campfire, complete with a sing along. Many had eagerly looked forward to this event since Gail, or Strawberrywine, announced in January that she would be hosting this third annual 'Meet'.

When I look at this painting, finished after returning home, and the one of the loon, I am reminded of that great weekend. It was a very special time.

26 June 2007

Wet Canvas Reunion

For three days in late June, members of the Wet Canvas watercolor group met together at Sutton, Ontario, on Lake Simcoe. They had come from as far away as Vancouver, San Francisco, Nebraska and Indiana. Four even came from England for this event. Some knew each other well; many were meeting for the first time. Char, who led the macro floral tutorial was there, as was Judy, another student from that tutorial. I was fortunate to be among them. We socialized, but we also painted together in a couple of workshops. This loon was started in a workshop led by Shelley, a highly respected artist from Burlington, which I finished after returning home. It was nothing short of fascinating to paint and be among so many fine artists.

13 June 2007

Red Rose

There is just something about roses. I was drawn back to them again and again. If the rose is the classic flower, then the red rose is the most classic of all flowers. I had to paint one to add to my rose collection. Here was another of those tricky macro compositions where the view is so close that no background or greenery shows. The eye is attracted to strong contrasts, and I used them here to keep the work interesting. But too much of a thing is......too much, and I glazed over this painting repeatedly to reduce the stark 'posterized' effect that was first created.

I find it amazing that there were actually nine different pigments used in this one red rose:

three reds, two pinks, a blue, and three greens.

12 June 2007


I am a great one for saving scraps. I get it from my mother, who grew up during the depression and therefore was a better scrap saver than me. But watercolor paper is not cheap, so surely something could be done with my growing accumulation of bits and pieces trimmed from larger works.

I'm not sure how many 2.5"x4" paintings I had paper saved for, but it certainly was a lot. It was high time that I tried a miniature painting.
This was similar to the hydrangea in that the composition would be vital, as would be the lighting, to avoid a boring painting. However, even if I failed and it was boring, because it was so small, it would only be a little boring........

I got out my smallest brushes and went to work. It reminded me of knitting a baby sweater. Because the stiches, or in this case brush strokes, were proportionately so small, the miniature took just as long to complete as a larger work. In the end, I felt as if I didn't have that much to show for all the work that went into it. If your monitor is like mine, what you see will actually be larger than the original.

But I was pleased with the result, so I guess I could say that it was at least a small success.

7 June 2007

Peach Rose

Peach is my favorite color of rose. I particularily like the Peace rose, or Chicago Peace. Peach roses were a theme in our wedding. I wanted to make sure that while I was painting flowers, I would do a peach rose. Working as usual from the Wet Canvas reference image library, I chose one with an abundance of opened petals. It reminds me of a ruffled Victorian gown with lavish petticoats.

24 May 2007


Meanwhile, there were more flowers to paint. I had been considering for some time how I might manage a macro of a clustered flower, such as a hydrangea. Here, without a contrasting background, the challenge would be keep the composition from having wallpaper sameness. Getting a good composition through careful cropping of the original image was half the battle.

This one took me three weeks to complete, as I was attending to my son who stayed with us while recovering from knee surgery. See the earlier post of Ian skateboarding........

3 May 2007

The Winamac

My dad's love of tug boats can be traced back to one boat: the Winamac. It was owned and run by my dad's Uncle Baird and crewed in part by another uncle, Laddie. When my dad was very young, he went on family picnicing excursions on this boat, and was told by Baird that when he reached twelve he could come out alone and help the crew. His uncle kept his promise, and for most of his teen years, my dad was a frequent 'guest crewman' on the Winamac. His hopes of more permanent work with his uncle didn't materialize and my dad turned to accounting instead of an adventurous life at sea.

Recently, my dad found online a photo he had never seen before of the Winamac, taken just after she had been sold by Baird in about 1950. She was just as my dad remembered her - before being sold a few more times and finally sunk in the 1970s. Although the photo was rather blurry and faded, I knew I had to paint it. This was no ordinary tug after all, this was the Winamac.

25 April 2007

Primary Colors

Just as I was starting this dalhia, I came across another Wet Canvas tutorial, lead by JJ in Australia. In it students were confined to using just three primary colors in their painting. I realised that the dalhia would qualify, and so was able to join in this tutorial as well.

It is surprising just how much can be done with such a limited palette. But then after all, the standard printing process uses only the three primaries plus black. The trick for the artist is in choosing which of each three colors to use. For example should it be a cherry red or a rust red, or one of dozens of other reds. And should that red that is chosen be matched with a caribbean sea blue or a navy blue? Lemon yellow or buttercup or mustard or ochre?

These considerations, and others such as paint brand, lightfastness, staining /non-staining characteristics, transparant vs granular etc, meant in just a few years of experimentation, I had acquired just over 100 tubes of paint. I tried to determine which were my twenty-two favorites in order to have the best paints fit my painting pallette. In the end, I could not do it and therefore invented and built my own pallette which would hold 96 pigments. It consisted of dollar store daily vitamin organizers and a tempered glass cutting board from WalMart. Total cost: $10. Don't, however, ask me what those 100 tubes of paint cost...........

18 April 2007


After all that color, I needed to paint something delicate. It was the time of year for daffodils anyway. I was trying different sizes and shapes, and felt that this would make a good square format. The challenge was not to let the flower's center become a boring bull's eye.

12 April 2007

Char's Sunflower

It was finally time for me to tackle the second lesson in the macro tutorial: the vibrant sunflower. Char taught us using her own example, that really exagerating or even changing the original colors can lead to a more dynamic painting. I hesitated at first, wanting to stay true to realism, yet I found that if handled carefully, what she suggested really was good advice. There is Artistic Licence after all.

9 April 2007

Spring Season of Painting

Starting with the poppy in the beginning of March, nearly all I painted that spring was flowers. Was I a floral painter? I was beginning to think that I was. Perhaps it was spring fever after so long a winter. I stumbled upon the Wet Canvas online floral tutorial at just the right time to develop my floral painting skills. I painted one after another, and with every painting I learned something new. The students of the tutorial had by this time formed something of a club. To stay within the mandate of the 'thread', our postings had to relate to the topic of macro florals. Here were fellow artists ready to offer helpful critiques and suggestions, something too good to miss. And so I contributed as many florals as I could paint, learning more of the painting process, and of Wet Canvas as well.

Thank you to all my macro floral painting pals for the many things that you taught me.

8 April 2007

Brown Eyed Susan

White petals are interesting to paint, because in watercolor white paint is not used. What really is painted are the shadows that give the white object visual substance. Ah, but then what color are the shadows? That is the job of the artist to determine, and then perhaps, to embellish. This crisp white little flower had a lot of blue in it. The painting also has an extra feature: my fingerprint accidentally got on the lower right petal. That's one of the things about watercolor. There is not much you can do about that sort of thing. Oh well. Gives it character, maybe?

7 April 2007


With it's rich luscious colors, this camelia was just begging to be painted. It took many layers of glazed pigment to build up the flower's beautiful richness.

5 April 2007

Oma's Orchids

Being from a low german Mennonite back ground, my mother-in-law is known as Oma to her grandchildren. Mennonites are famed as good farmers, and Art's mom certainly has a green thumb when it comes to her plants. The sun was shining through the nearly transparent blossoms of the orchid on the sunny Easter day we visited.

Instead of the usual matting and framing of watercolors, I tried a new technique. This painting was mounted on a three dimensional wooden panel, and protected with a spray varnish. I used opaque casein paint along the sides to complete the painting. This is a great option for buyers who might not otherwise consider a watercolor painting.

4 April 2007

Yellow Lilies

Color is a great thing to play with, especially when the rules are learned. For example, blue is opposite yellow on the color wheel. I wanted these yellow lilies to jump off the page, and so by painting a very strong blue behind them, this effect can be acheived.

3 April 2007

Blessing and Celebration

My friends Kyle and Beth Bultman in Rochester NY are classical violinists. They have taught music at the college level and run a summer string camp. Kyle has begun a network linking Christian artists and musicians. They also compose classical music. Beth's composition "Blessing and Celebration" was to be published in sheet music form, and I was asked to paint something to illustrate the publication. They loved the idea of my doing a floral, so as I listened to their excellent demo CD, I considered what I would paint.

The fuschias in this painting represent both of the concepts of the title. Viewed normally, the fuschias are pouring forth as blessings desending from Heaven. Some of the blessings are in full bloom, and some are as buds, yet to come. View the painting upside down, and now the flowers appear as swirling dancers with arms lifted in joyful praise.

29 March 2007

Annie's Rose

My daughter Annie and step sister Val were moving to a new apartment. I offered to paint Annie a macro floral for the living room, and she gave me several photo reference options to choose from. I chose this rose, and cropped the photo to really get into the heart of this glowing flower. This time, for a challenge, I would go as big as I could. Watercolor paper comes in 22"x30" sheets, and this was how I painted it. It nearly covered my entire drafting table, and it took one whole day just to paint in the veins. It was while painting this rose that I added 'bigger brushes' to my shopping wish list.

22 March 2007

Yellow Rose

There were two projects in CharM's macro tutorial, the second one being a sunflower. While others in the online class moved on to paint Char's richly colored version of the sunflower, I chose instead to paint this delicate rose. Part of the sunflower lesson was to discover how to darken yellow when in shadow. How do you make yellow darker anyway? Yellow cannot get very dark on its own, and adding black would only dull it. Artists' trick: add orange or green. Consider this the next time you look into the depths of a yellow rose.

20 March 2007

The Macro Floral Tutorial

As I explored the WetCanvas! website, I discovered that someone simply called CharM was conducting an online tutorial on painting a close up of a peony in the format known as macro. I had done a bit of that already, and was eager to learn more. The class was well underway when I joined in, so I had some catching up to do. Through sharing questions, struggles and progresses, eventially about twelve artists from all over the place completed their own version of this peony. Thanks, Char.

2 March 2007

Watercolor Canvas

There is a fairly new product available to watercolor painters which enables them to apply watercolor paint to canvas. Although expensive, this would be worth a try. I new technique was required, as the paint handled much differently on the poorly absorbing woven surface. I found that I required a looser style, and moved the work in progress from the drafting board to my rarely used easle. As with the pinecones, this poppy was an image from WetCanvas' Image Reference Library, or IRL. Many more would follow.

24 February 2007


Another reminder of my trip to BC. I especially liked experimenting with the wood grain.

23 February 2007


We have two cats, and Orville is the one who will dissapear when company comes. Dozing in a sunbeam with a full stomach is his idea of bliss. This little painting was done with a limited pallete of only two colors.

14 February 2007

Wrong Side of the Tracks

My friend Maureen and her large family had a beautiful fifteen acre farm along the Thompson River in BC. They accessed their land by crossing a major rail line. Eventually track expanded and the rail company forced my friend and their neighbours off their properties. They were paid for the land but not for their homes. It would be up to the home owners to sell and move their buildings, intact or for scrap; if left the rail company would tear them down. This was my friend's dream home, only about ten years old. I think I painted this as a way for me to mourn their loss.

6 February 2007


Elaine is my sister, and this was from a photo taken at a dimly lit restaurant. The lighting intrigued me, and I was curious to see how difficult it would be to paint an image that wasn't brightly lit. I did run into some difficulties, but leaned some good lessons. I'd like to frame it with an oval mat, to eliminate the awkward parts. This was painted around her birthday in January.

31 January 2007

Pine Cone 2

The two individual pine cone paintings were matted and framed together, something I hadn't tried before.

Pine Cone 1

The pine cones were done to hang on the wall at my husband's new clinic, Everygreen Therapy. About this time, while running some Google searches for casein, I came across artist's web site, WetCanvas!.com. Here were thousands of artists from around the world freely offering their assistance and comraderie to one another. What an important site, since so many artists, including myself, work in isolation. That, plus a vast copywrite free photo reference library enticed me to join. A nickname was required, so I called myself "Lightseeker". I seek light in every painting, and I seek the creator of light who is "the way, the truth and the Light".

I found the photo references I needed for the pine cones on the WetCanvas! free reference image library; photos donated for this use by other artists. It was a new year, and I was taking a new direction.