Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Self-Isolation Blues........and Reds and Quite a Lot of Yellow

 In early October, facing Fall cold symptoms, I was compelled to self-isolate, and schedule a Covid test.

I faced this somewhat disheartening development the way I do so many others, by painting my fool head off.  I decided to create 10 sketches in 10 days of self-isolation.  The idea was to paint watercolor and ink sketches to celebrate the wonderful hiking season we had enjoyed so much.  The first few days went as planned:

Sentinel Pass 3.75 x 5.75” wc and pen

Sentinel Pass (from the other side once we scrambled over) 3.75” x 5.75” wc and ink

Kooteney River (on the way to Floe Lake)
3.75 x 5.75” wc and ink

Then thngs went a little sideways. I was painting  in the studio 4-6 hours a day and then painting the sketches at home in the evening......

The Giant Steps 5.75 x 3.75”wc and ink

Then I thought, “well I can paint small oils in a day, let’s do that!”  

Sentinel Pass 12x12” oil on panel - sold

That piece was such a fun little treat to create I wanted to paint another small oil.  I was supposed to be working on a portrait of a dog, but I was not getting it so I painted this over it:  

Paradise Valley 11x14” oil on canvas
Mostly done in one day

The next day I started what I thought was a dynamic 16 x 12” oil of the Giant Steps, but I went around and around and was never really satisfied with that one, so you don’t get to see it.  Instead:

Paradise Valley 3.75 x 5.75” wc and ink 

Emerald Basin 3.75 x 5.75” wc and ink

 And yes, I finished the dog!  The client is very pleased with the portrait.

11 x14” oil on panel

So the10in10 painting project only added up to 9.  It was a productive time in the studio, though, and my test was negative so I’ll count my blessings and keep painting my fool head off.

Happy creating everyone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Pandemic Posies

 In mid-March, anticipating the lockdown, I moved my studio to our spare bedroom at home.  I painted 4 hours a day every day for 8 weeks, grateful for purpose and distraction every day.  I had only completed two florals previously but decided a series of bright colorful florals would be cheering.  

Four can be seen at the Fallen Leaf gallery, and three can be seen by appointment with myself.

I returned to my regular studio on Canada Day, and shifted focus back to landscape.  The May-Sept hiking season was glorious and chock full of inspiring new sites.  I will share the new works as they are created!

Morning Rose 12x12” oil and cold wax on canvas gallery wrap
Fallen Leaf Gallery 

Iris - 12x12” oil on panel - sold

Pansies 30x30” oil on canvas gallery wrap 
 Fallen Leaf Gallery

Irises 30x15” oil on canvas gallery wrap 
Fallen Leaf Gallery

Hollyhocks 36x24” oil on canvas gallery wrap 

Peony 36x36” oil on canvas gallery wrap 
Fallen Leaf Gallery 

Hibiscus 30x24” oil on canvas gallery wrap 

Peony 24x24” oil on canvas gallery wrap

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Love Song to Spring Creek

For 24 years I have been in love with Canmore’s Spring Creek.  With it’s incredible views, ice slabs, beavers, muskrats, coyotes, eagles, elk, deer, weasels, dippers, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, bluejays, bears, herons, frost flowers, wild roses, red wing blackbirds, mallards, wood ducks, and (single) porcupine, I am pretty sure it loves me back.  I’ve been compelled to paint it so many times, with children playing, or celebrating the many moods of the landscape.

This month I have greatly enjoyed focusing on my favorite aspect of the creek, winter slabs of ice and snow, creating 3 larger pieces, all oil on canvas, gallery wrap.  They will all be consigned to the Fallen Leaf Gallery.

“Spring Morning, Canmore” 30 x 30”

“The Morning News” 20 x40”

“Spring Thaw, Canmore” 12 x 36”

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Classes and New Paintings

Now that artsPlace  has published its Winter calendar, I can share the links to the two classes I will be instructing.  I use my two most recent paintings to demonstrate what we will be learning.

“Landscape Fundamentals”  Saturday, March 9.   Beginner and intermediate painters in oils and acrylics will consider  composition, color and how to create a convincing illusion of light and atmosphere.

 This painting is so fresh it’s actually still wet. 12 x 36“ oil on canvas gallery wrap.    

“Watercolor and Ink Sketching”.  February 16 - An afternoon of sketching fun.
One of nine little framed sketches I just consigned to the Fallen Leaf Gallery

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sketching in watercolor (or gouache) and ink

For the past five years  I have been sketching in watercolor and ink as a lightweight and fun way to record travel and adventures.  It is deeply enjoyable to pause and really absorb the splendour you came to see, especially with other painting/sketching friends.  The resulting sketch books have become cherished personal momentos.

Excellent painting pal Sharon Lynn Williams  and I were on the Opabin Plateau this September.  For the first sketch I was huddled down on a big rock with my Sunbrella propped beside me to block the icy wind.  After exploring the upper plateau for a while, we set up on a high promontory to paint again.  I was aiming to capture the cool cloudy moodiness broken by patches of brilliant sunlight.

In the studio, I have been increasingly absorbed in this format (3.5 x 5.5”.)  The studio sketches are less about an accurate description of atmosphere and more about designing a pretty little peice for gallery sales or reproductions.  However, they still provide much scope for play, experiment and amusement.  I particularly enjoy the energy and action of the pen.  Sharon suggested I try gouache, and I find it punchier and more easily reworkable than watercolor. If I need more intense color, I will boost a little passage with alcohol inks.

Monday, February 20, 2012


"Whatever its form, drawing transforms perception and thought into image and teaches how to think with our eyes."  - Kit White "101 Things to Learn in Art School."

Learning to draw is something almost everyone can do.  It just takes practice and focus.  Speed up your progress by taking lessons, or reading a book.  I recommend "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards.  Drawing is not just a tool for laying out your design, it's the key to a giant candy store of creative possibility.

To the left is a recent portrait commission in HB graphite stick, approximately 8 x 12".

This is "Sweet Tooth,"  one of a series of 5 scraperboards (scratchboards) I completed in 2006/07.  Scraperboards involve etching away the black to reveal  the lights, instead of using your tool to shade in the darks.  This might seem tricky, but it comes quite naturally, as human vision is programed to follow the lights in in any scene.

These precise technical kinds of drawings can be demanding exercises, but they really do enhance your perceptual skills.  "Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable"  -Twyla Tharp "The Creative Habit."  They also improve your powers of concentration, not just for drawing, but globally. "People seem to concentrate best when the demands on them are greater than usual."  - Daniel Coleman, "Emotional Intelligence."

This is my favorite kind of drawing; the quick sketch just for practice, for fun, to preserve the moment.  For 5 or 10 minutes I was doing nothing but enjoying the sight of our daughter taking a break after our climb. 

Happy painting.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


One fine summer day I was invited to teach a lesson on sketching horses at the local riding club.   This ended up being pretty funny, actually, as horses don't stand still to be sketched.  (Go figure.)  But we drew furiously and had a good time.  Never having been to riding club before, I was struck by the very serene atmosphere, by the beauty of the setting and the horses themselves.

As soon as I got home I got painting these two little canvases, back to back.  These are my first horse paintings, and they were such a pleasure to paint.  It's a lucky thing when you can soak up your inspiration and start painting it out immediately, with your visual memory fresh and your enthusiasm high.

Happy Painting
"Riding Club Sketch #2" oil on canvas 6 x 8" $300 framed
"Riding Club Sketch #1 oil on canvas 6 x 8" sold

  • Photo courtesy Toni Owen