29 December 2008

Pink Iris

Overall, 2008 had been a slow year for painting. As the year drew to a close, I finally finished this beautiful iris that had been started many months before during the studio tour. It sat, propped up on my drafting table, calling out to me to come and paint. It was nearly complete, but I knew it needed something more. At last, I darkened the background, and the petals burst forth in colorful triumph.

22 December 2008

Luke's Hope

My daughter Annie, see blog entry November 20 2005, met Luke a year after that portrait was done. Two years later, on a snowy stroll through Niagara-On-the-Lake, they became engaged.
By the end of that uncharacteristicly overwhelming week, Luke had also bought the home that they will share after the big day in August.
Luke is a great guy and perfect for Annie, but what to get a son-in-law-to-be for Christmas?

A house that was new in 1904, is now new again. New with the hope of a couple beginning a life together. New with the anticipation of family and friends and music and laughter and life. A house with a heritage, now a home with a future.

His gift was a painting of that hope.

30 November 2008

The Workshop

I had been asked to give a one day instructional workshop to members of the Brant Visual Artists' Guild to be held in St George. There would be between 15 and 20 intermediate level adult watercolour students in attendance, all of them strangers. Although challenged by the offer, as this would be my first workshop, I felt confident that I could do it since I have always liked to teach.

The topic would be pet portraiture. I broke down the steps taken to paint the Zephyr portrait (shown in the previous post) and would use this painting as my main teaching example. But a couple of days before the event, it occurred to me that some students might prefer to paint a cat instead of a dog. I quickly decided to add a kitten photo from a royalty free website. This was fortunate, since the kitten was the preferred choice of many. I have noticed that artists and cats (and avid readers) often go together.

I have heard that the definition of an expert is a person in the room that knows more about a subject than anyone else. Here I was showing others what I had learned, and being treated as an expert on the topic............ Who, me?!......... Perhaps I had more to offer on that topic than the others, but 'expert' is a relative concept. So often I hear teachers say that they learn so much from their students, and it is true. We all learn from each other, and there is still so much to learn. I was just showing what I had acquired up to this point on my artistic journey.

And it was a thrill.
Thanks Pam, and members of the BVAG.

20 November 2008

Oh Zephyr!

Our time raising Zephyr for the National Service Dogs was quickly coming to an end. (See the blog post of Aug 30 2007). We had trained and nurtured him for nearly a year and a half, and he thought of himself as part of the family. We nearly did as well, but we held on to the belief that his was a more noble future. Knowing that we would only have him for a few more weeks, I took him out for a photo shoot. As usual, he happily obliged, and this portrait is the result.

There had been the usual puppy mishaps, the inevitable slipper chewing, the house training accidents and the like. But as he grew, we discovered that he was becoming a very strong dog, and was generally more excitable than his peers. Great strength combined with over excitability are not traits sought after for service dogs, and we became concerned. Sure enough, only two weeks into his four month professional training, we were informed that Zephyr had been "released from the program". Did we want to keep him? We could cover the cost that he had incurred to the service organization, such as vet fees, and he would be ours. Or we could pass him along to another group, and with little hesitation, we agreed that he should be given another try. For the second time, we said our good-byes as he went off to school, this time the Lions Club Guide Dogs of Canada. We had hopes that with the chance of training for one of their four categories of service (seeing, hearing, physical, and seizure) he would soon find his place.
I always said that Zephyr was a 'boomerang' dog due to his great ability to retrieve, but I hadn't expected that to also mean that he would keep on bouncing back to us. We were informed that he did not have the right stuff for Guide Dogs either. Better, perhaps, but still short of the mark.

As I write this in March 2009, Zephyr is on his third try. His retrieving skills may be his salvation, since, based on his enthusiasm and tenacity in ball retrieval, he easily passed the qualification trials for yet another school. He is now training with the Canada Border Services Agency to become a 'sniffer' dog of contraband goods. I am optimistic about this match...we'll see.............................

29 October 2008

Katie and Raffles

After the studio tour, I slipped once again into a season without painting. First came the simultaneous training at two new part time jobs, then an illness, surgery and slow recovery. My dad suggested I paint while convalescing, but I just wasn't up for it. Although not physically demanding, painting takes mental energy, something like a chess game. Watching old movies was more my speed. Finally, in the fall, after a couple of trips away, I was ready for a fresh start.

A co-worker had seen my blog, and asked me to paint her aunt's two cats. This would be my first double portrait. Intended as a gift for Christmas, I had plenty of time to work on it, which was great because my time now had become so limited.

Katie, the tortoise shell, and the "marmalade" Raffles, are not friendly towards each other. Their posing together was not likely to happen, and to complicate it further, Robyn had to slip the reference photos to me without detection from her aunt, this being a surprise gift. It was a new challenge for me to coordinate the scale of the two images, crop and arrange the subjects into a unified piece.

I was struck by how similar these two cats were with our own, Friskey and Orville, shown in the photo.

4 May 2008

Oxford County Studio Tour 2008

The idea of a studio tour is that visitors may observe a number of artists working or displaying their art within their own studio. Brochures are distributed showing which artist may be found where, within a specific region. Most tours last for a couple of days, usually over a weekend, and groups of artistically minded friends often travel together for a fun day's outing.
I moved my drafting table to the main floor and was able to work on a painting while visitors looked over my works. My living room had temporarily become my very own art gallery. It was a challenging and exciting adventure, and I'll be doing it again April 4 & 5 2009.

20 April 2008


This macro floral was painted in my usual way. I then mounted it onto a wooden panel and trimed the paper edges. The one inch panel sides were painted in casein, an opaque artist's paint. When dry, the whole thing was sprayed multiple times with a clear matte protective finish. In this way a watercolor painting may be hung without glass. It gives the painting a bold presence, resembling a work done in oil or acrylic.


This one was a lot of fun. After painting numerous fur bearing animals, it was time to give feathers a try. I found an image that had potential, but I wasn't satisfied with how the birds were distributed on their perch. I printed out the image anyway, and then literally cut and pasted until I had my eureka moment and was satisfied with the composition. I especially love the colors of these birds. This painting is a lenghty 30" long.

Potted Amaryllis

The soft backlighting from the window is effective in this composition to highlight the delicate beauty of transperant petals. I am not much of a gardener myself; I would much rather paint a flower, than attempt to keep one alive!

Pink Lily

I really love it when a painting turns out realistically. It's one of the thrills I get when painting. As a realism painter, it is a goal that I strive for. I knew I was onto something with this beautiful lily when, as I painted, the photo illusion began to fool even me. This painting will be published in the Oxford Studio Tour 2009 brochure.


This was not the first poppy I had painted, the other one had been done experimentally on watercolor canvas. This was done conventionally on 300 lb watercolor paper, as I nearly always use. Multiple glazes of pigment were used to bring out the flower's depth and vibrancy.


Sometimes I get the feeling that every artist at some point paints peppers. The colors are so saturated and reflective. Their shapes are interesting and composition potential is far reaching. So why not give it a try? This painting is quite small; not quite 5" x 8".


With April came a flurry of painting activity as I anticipated being a part of the first annual Oxford County Studio Tour, held the first weekend in May. I had been pursuing other interests since Christmas, and consequently spent much of April catching up. I really liked working on this sunset, building up layer after layer of warm colours to intensify the deep glow. I was thrilled to see it sold on the first day of the tour.