June is butterflies, flowers, shade, and one relaxed dog

"The love of a dog is a pure thing.  He gives you a trust which is total.  You must not betray it." ~ Michel Houellebecq, a French poet and novelist. 

Mixed media portrait of Havanese on 12 x12 gallery wrapped canvas

“An afternoon in the shade”.  12 x 12 gallery-wrapped canvas, mixed media painting of Chico, my 12 year old Havanese.

Chico, our Havanese, has been with us since he was a puppy and has always been an easy-going, laid back kind of dog.

When he is happy to see us, he bounces around, and I swear, has a big grin on his face.  Most times though, he is quite content to lie quietly on a comfortable cushion and watch household activities.

I decided to paint him outdoors for this portrait.  After all, we are almost into summer here in Canada, and just like his human family, he loves the cool grass on his paws and the shady areas of the yard.

Below is the original photo used as inspiration for the whimsical portrait I painted of him.

photo of Havanese

The photo is a bit dark and not quite focused but hey, I work with what I have!  Chico is sitting on his favourite brown blanket on our red sofa.  He claimed that blanket as his own not long after he was sick and we used it to keep him warm.  It has been put away for the summer.

You can tell that I was aiming for a fanciful, soft portrait of our little puppy, as I often call him.  And in keeping with the puppy theme, I have made him look a little pudgier than he is in real life.

Although he barks at anyone who dares come to our door, he is the gentlest, friendliest little dog one could ever want.

What personality trait of your dog is most endearing?

How to recycle and reuse failed art work

Digitally reworked portrait

Vandalize might be a strong word but believe me, it accurately describes the feeling I have after a few bad days in my art room.

Wrecking, ruining, destroying are all acts of vandalism.

In the above photo, the face had been overworked and I hated it. I still do. The urge to vandalize art that isn't working is very powerful. I have heard of a group of artists who meet once a year to party and rip up their ugliest art. Seems like a good enough excuse for some kind of celebration!

But a friend once told me that trashing art is not an option as there are many ways that a piece might be saved. Sometimes, an ugly duckling can be transformed into a somewhat decent swan especially with all the apps that are available to rework art.

With this advice in mind, I added the quotation over the digitally reworked painting; she is presentable and ready for publishing.

watercolour experiments

In this pair, I experimented with saran wrap, gauze, salt, and watercolours.

scary stage of watercolour painting

Is she in the scary stage and I need to push through to discover the beautiful swan?

Or is she overworked and beyond saving? Maybe she needs to be beautified in an app?

What will happen if I start adding acrylics? Or maybe I add clear gesso and try a mix of watercolour and acrylics?

I could even chop the whole thing up and make paper beads.

Another possibility is to let my granddaughter paint over the disaster. She is surprised when I tell her she can do whatever she wants over the portrait. She spends hours pencilling in details, and then painting or collaging over my work.

As you can see, nothing is ever thrown out until the paper is scrubbed to a hole. (Hence the state of my art room as I type this!)

And that's not an exaggeration. Some paintings are just that difficult to bring to a satisfying end and quitting at this early stage is not an option.

Both watercolour portraits are still sitting on the desk waiting for a decision.

I would love to hear about your ideas for saving art that isn't working for you. I surely can't be the only one with art hidden in dark corners waiting for some type of transformation.

It’s all about the background – Progress report 2

"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties. " ~ Gail Sheehy, American author and journalist.

working from this photograph

There are so few certainties when I start each painting.

Uncertainties are many as I continue to work on a large canvas featuring my granddaughter as ballerina and using this grainy photograph as my inspiration.

The flowers I had "tested" on each side of the canvas have been removed after I received emails from friends and subscribers when I requested feedback. The consensus was almost unanimous so I painted over them.

Another uncertainty had to do with the background which couldn't remain black even though it is very dark in the photograph.

A friend suggested that I examine some of Degas' ballerinas for ideas. I found two of his paintings with backgrounds including what looked to me like alizarin crimson, raw sienna, burnt umber, yellow ochre, and I think these colours work better than stark black.

I still have a bit of adjusting to do on the background, but I am much happier with the changes I have made.

the background on acrylic painting of ballerina

While the background dried, I returned to the ballerina.

Her face is partly shaded in the photo. The next steps will involve trying various skin tone recipes. The light on the ballerina is tricky. Her forehead and nose are in the light, but her neck and chest and the rest of her face are dark. Somehow, I have to find skin tones that will match the rest of her body and not be too far out of the colour range that we see on her arms and legs.

Rather than trying the recipes on canvas, this time I will use watercolour paper. I feel a lot of trial and error about to happen.

....And probably a few more uncertainties too!

Doubts set in on big canvas painting – progress report 1

"If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends) "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death." ~ Steven Pressfield, "The War of Art".

another painting session begins

I wonder if any artist ever feels totally confident? Surely there must be times when the stars properly align, when everything goes smoothly, and the painting is just right?

Being cocky about one's work is just plain obnoxious. But so is excessive self-deprecation. Doubts are just a normal part of growth in any field.

I admit that I have doubts on this large 30 X60 canvas, the largest I have ever undertaken to paint. However, the big surface is a pleasure to work on and allows for large brush strokes and therefore, freedom of movement, and I think more large projects might be in my future.

Since my last post, I have been diligently working on the stage, the central figure, and testing flowers that will break up the horizontal line which is the stage.

The doubts that have set in so far?

I didn't like the roses and I attempted another type of flower although I wouldn't be able to identify it. I first painted it soft pink, (too pale), then added orange (too brash), and white, (a little better), and finally, in the last photo, which is where I left the painting yesterday, I covered it with a white wash.

starting here today

The unidentified flower on the right hand side still needs refinement. I might keep the core part (bud like area) and delete the rest.

The mystery flower is less traditional than roses, and in my mind, a better match for the painting. Let me know what you think. Do you prefer the roses on the left side? The unidentified flower on the right? Maybe you have another suggestion?

I suspect that I have to try other designs. I will leave that for later in the process. Sometimes, procrastination is a good thing!

My next task is to start painting the background. I think this will be another struggle as I try to find a substitute for black (Payne's Grey maybe?). I don't want the colour to be uniform so that will entail more experimentation and of course, more doubts.

Yesterday, I concentrated my efforts on the ballerina adding flesh tones to the limbs and face and working the colours in the dress to suggest folds.

The figure on this canvas is so large that I can allow myself to move from one area of the body to another without smudging any wet paint. I suppose that could be one advantage of working on such a big piece.

This is where I stopped yesterday (see below).

today's progress on large canvas acrylic painting

I am pleased with the ballerina so far, and I really like the stage, the skin tones, and the way her white filmy dress turned out.

I remain optimistic about continuing to work on this canvas. Doubts are present but they are not crippling me. The work continues and I will keep you posted!

A big blank canvas is always daunting

"Unless you put yourself on the line and give it your best shot, you'll never know what you could achieve." ~ Paula Radcliffe, marathon world record holder from Great Britain.

 Daunting big blank canvas 30 x 60

There are no guarantees in art. Each stroke of paint, each mark might result in disaster of colour or proportion or conversely, it could improve the work and bring about greater beauty. Artists speak of many trashed paintings on the road to their one successful painting. And so I understand what it means to be putting "yourself on the line."

Growth (or achievements) in any endeavour can only occur if one is willing to accept challenges and be on that line.

All winter, this 30 x 60 canvas has been waiting outside the art room. The canvas is too big for any of the easels I own so I will work on it propped up on the table in my art room.

For a few years, I have had something in mind for this canvas so last summer, I gave it a base coat of black acrylic paint thinking I would work on it over the winter.

Filling a canvas that size is daunting. As time went along, other projects kept me busy and I procrastinated starting work on this large surface. And thank goodness I did because I was recently inspired by a photo I found of my oldest granddaughter at her dance show.

She is the subject to be painted on the canvas.

Initial measurements on 30 by 60 canvas

As I have never worked on such a large surface, it was important to get the correct proportions right from the beginning. Out came the ruler followed by a sheet rock T square. Head, torso, legs, were all measured out before any paint was applied.

initial sketch on 30 by 60 blank canvas

At this point, my greatest concern is whether or not I have left too much blank space around her. I have to leave room for the stage at the bottom and that might change the look of the piece once it is added to the canvas.

Here she is with her body partly gessoed and roses lightly sketched on one side. I will be testing different flowers and deciding the type and colours that will be most suitable before proceeding too far along.

I like the idea of breaking up the stage and not having it run from one edge to the other. I have a possible title for the painting and the flowers on the sides would work with it.

underpainting for large canvas

Painting is putting myself on the line, and blogging is doubly so. Sharing the work that I attempt or that I complete and writing about it is always a bit of a risk. After all, both are lonely activities that I pursue in my art room each day and then publishing a post allows everyone to see my vulnerabilities.

Those of you who get to the end of my posts, (thank you so much for your understanding) or who have been in contact with me on social media sites or elsewhere, realize that I am not always happy with the outcome. However, I must let go and move on.

Each challenge, each decision is part of the journey I have undertaken in the last two years. Putting myself on the line means that I will give it my best try, and accept that where I am today as an artist is not where I will be tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

What challenges have you accepted lately? How have you "put yourself on the line"?

The request was for a “real mermaid”!

This post is a little different than usual.

When my five year old granddaughter was told she could decorate her prop surfboard for the dance competition season which starts soon, we were surprised that contrary to the other girls who were mostly painting flowers on their boards, she wanted a "real" mermaid. There was lots of emphasis on REAL!

Now I ask you, what exactly is a real mermaid? After much questioning and probing, her mother sent me some ideas to consider for this challenge.

I had never painted on hard foam before, but the board came pre-primed. This was a blessing because the acrylic craft paint which is already quite gritty compared to more expensive artist paints, adhered really well to the board.

 foam "surfboard" prop of mermaid for dance show

After the mermaid was painted, I wanted to add a ballerina in the bubble she is holding, as though the mermaid wished to be a ballerina. That was the story I told my oldest granddaughter who helped me base coat the board during her winter break.

Below is the bubble with the ballerina and my oldest granddaughter who loves anything to do with art, helping me paint the prop.

close up of ballerina in bubble
keeping her busy

I saw youngest granddaughter's first dance show this past Saturday. It was a very cute number with summer music and twenty or so girls dancing and "surfing" on their boards.

Unfortunately, the audience never got to see all the work everyone put into painting the surfboard props. They were flat on the ground or quickly stashed away.

It was a disappointment as an opportunity was missed for a very awesome display of beautiful surf boards with colourful summery art to go along with the dancing and the music. I did get a quick glimpse of some sparkly Hawaiian flowers on one board before it was whisked away.

In the end, youngest granddaughter was very happy with her "real mermaid" board, and that is all that counts.

Saving Grace

"I would like to be remembered as someone who accomplished useful deeds, and who was a kind and loving person. I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude and who did her best to help others." ~ Grace Kelly.

acrylic portrait of Grace Kelly

"Saving Grace" , 11" X 15" acrylic on Canson XL watercolour paper.

After too many hours to count (ok, about 13) and countless adjustments, a little dab of colour here, smudging there, touching up in another spot, repeat over and over again, I am ready to walk away from this one and call her done.

Although I did not push through to the end with the palette knife and the application of more paint, I am satisfied that I tried something new.

Mine is a rather tame version of this week's complete lesson. No wild dashes and dabs, no long strokes pulled out of the paint.

I saved Grace in the knick of time.

Beneath a snowy blanket, earth lies sleeping

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-- the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." Andrew Wyeth, American artist who died in 2009.

Snowbound, 9x12 acrylic on wrapped gallery canvas

"Snowbound", 9x12 " acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas.

Well, all I have to say is that I tried to paint the northern lights in the night sky.

In the city, we never get to see aurora borealis, but back home, in northern Ontario, the northern lights often put on quite a show.

I could not help but think of home while painting this scene.

The land is rugged and beautiful with myriad pristine lakes and vast forests. I was inspired by my memory of skating and snowmobiling on frozen lakes and rivers.

The fresh smell of the woods, the cold crisp air, the crunch of the crusty snow near the shore all add to the enjoyment of an evening spent outdoors.

Snowdrifts and sea spray are not so different, right?

SPOONDRIFT - (n), a showery sprinkling of sea-water or fine spray swept from the tops of the waves. (Origin: Old English).

The Caribbean at sunrise - acrylic on canvas 24 x 48

Snowdrifts I know very well, and there have been many of those around our driveway in the last month or so.

Snowdrift, (n). a deep bank of fine, powdery snow (much like that sea spray) heaped up in one spot by the wind, with underlying possible crusts of ice and frozen dirty slush. Might look pretty on the surface, but is a bugger to get rid of as the wind keeps whipping snowflakes in all directions (more sea spray...ok, I know it's a bit of a stretch but please humour me!). Snowdrifts are the cause of much discussion after a particularly nasty winter storm as Canadians outdo each other in claiming to have the deepest snowdrifts in their backyards or driveways.

Can you tell that winter has set in for good in Ottawa, and in central/eastern Canada?

I need to feel a spoondrift, and soon!

Spoondrift is a new word I must try next time I visit the Caribbean.

"Did you feel the spoondrift against your face on that last wave?"

"That spoondrift should be bottled and brought back home for my parched, wintry skin."

"Leave your sunglasses with me. There is too much spoondrift today in the sea."

As I painted the seascape in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my mind was at the beach while the snowsdrifts deepened and the snowblower was put to good use.

seascape in its new location
seascape in new location

(Serenity Beach, acrylic on 24 x48 stretched canvas. The painting is hanging on the wall in its new home.)

taking photo of beach on snowy day

Here is hubby holding the painting on a blustery day recently. I was trying to take a photo before the painting left for good with its new owner.

The day was too dark to get a good shot not to mention all the snowflakes swirling around.

As you can tell, I do not have the special lighting and photographic gadgets to shoot my art work nor do I have a special easel for large works of art. Hubby becomes a substitute easel in such circumstances.

Below, the next day was sunny and I managed to take the photos I needed.

taking photo of seascape on sunny day

As I write this in the first few days of 2017, I know that I only need to paint a summery beach scene to escape the snow piling up in soft mounds around the house.

What forms of escapism help you deal with a long, cold winter?

Cheers everyone!

TBT – A very traditional Christmas includes virtual friends

"Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening..."

~ A Winter Wonderland.

Folk art painting - An After-Christmas Visit

("An After-Christmas visit". Acrylic on canvas. )

This is probably my oldest art on canvas. An attempt at naive folk art, this scene was a tole painting project in the mid- 1990s.

I keep this painting because it reminds me of the fun I had with two good friends in class while learning new art techniques.

As we near Christmas, I think of friends who have walked with me on life's road.

There are certainly many types of friends, aren't there?

The best friends are always present in good times and in bad. They are anchors when life is a choppy sea.

Some friends I have never met in person, but because of shared interests, we have come to know each other through emails and messages. The virtual world allows the meeting of the minds with people who live half a world away.

Christmas wishes from Greece
gifts from Australia

Other friends are only a phone call away and can be counted on for advice and a listening ear.

Some friends have stayed in touch on a very regular basis while others send Christmas greetings the old-fashioned way with a letter outlining the passing of time and the major events that touched them during the year.

To all my friends near and far, I wish you a magical, joyous Christmas.

Why is art easier on some days than on others?

"One of the most important things I've learned (about art) is progress is not linear." - Alison Beere, cartoonist artist.

 A Satisfied Smile - Acrylic on Watercolour paper

("A Satisfied Smile" - acrylic on 9X12 smooth Canson Bristol paper). A special thanks to my friend (and subscriber) Linda H. for suggesting the title.

Why is art a battle on one day and not the next?

Some paintings are difficult to get right from the beginning while other works seem to appear out of nowhere. Yes, sometimes, not often, it is THAT easy.

This constant struggle is a mystery to me.

I had the background for "Satisfied Smile" previously painted with leftover paint from a brayer I was trying to clean after experimenting with my gelli plate.

Was this painting easier for me because I didn't have to grapple with colour and pattern? Was I more relaxed on that day?

I don't know for sure. As I said earlier, it's a mystery.

Contrary to other paintings, there never was a moment where all the doubts set in.

Was it the Christmas music blaring from the radio that made the portrait come to life much quicker than usual? Was it the creamy paper that might be easier to work on than a canvas?

All are plausible explanations.

But isn't the very nature of art one of exploration, of uncertainty? To practise art is to commit to a continuous experiment.

The fact that progress in art can never be linear might just be its most alluring, enticing quality.

What I learned from trying out a new technique

"Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be." Khalil Gibran

watercolour acrylic portrait

I just got back from my European vacation and I could hardly wait to immerse myself in this series of online lessons by the very talented Lauren Rudolph.

The idea is to get acrylic paints to the consistency of watercolours, or almost, and then use them to paint portraits on watercolour paper.

Why not just use watercolours?

Well, some artists are already heavily invested in acrylics and buying good quality watercolours is just not an option. If you have checked the prices of art supplies, you will know why artists might prefer to invest and work mainly in one medium.

I have also seen comments from artists on social media saying that they do not want to ever go back to watercolour painting because the medium is just too unpredictable, too difficult to handle.

I found out that the best part about painting with acrylics is that they can be painted over and over and over again and the results can be very astonishingly beautiful whereas I haven't been able to do that with watercolours without the paper starting to give up on me. But then, as you know, I am not a school taught artist so maybe the problem was with my technique all along.

Nonetheless, I am very happy with everything I have learned in this short online workshop with Lauren Rudolph.

monochromatic portrait in watered down acrylics

What is the "take-away" from these lessons?

1. When the portrait is ugly at the beginning, one must calm the inner voice that screams to quit while ahead. Perseverance almost always pays off. The ugly portrait can be redeemed and this is just a normal part of the process.

2. It's ok for splotches and lines to show here and there. I have this compulsion to make everything smooth but I think letting the different layers show through is actually visually interesting. So the technique is teaching me to let go of blending and keeping everything smooth. ( I can always just my apps to create that smooth look). I think it will be helpful for me when I use watercolours as well. So everything I have learned in this course is useful not only with acrylics but also with watercolours.

3. Just because I can find lots of faults with my paintings doesn't mean I haven't learned some very interesting and useful techniques. For example, mixing colours to achieve various skin tones was one of the lessons I learned that I have had difficulty with in the past. Of course, I still need to work on this aspect; however, I am further along than I was when I started these lessons.

app version of watered down acrylic portrait

In this portrait, I uploaded the original painting into some of my favourite apps to create a smooth look.

WIP - collage and watered acrylics

Finally, I have several portraits that are now WIP.

I am not sure what modifications I will make to the above portrait but I feel like she is not yet finished. It will be an experiment.

After all, I am advancing toward what will be in my art journey.

Cheers everyone!

And then there were four…in a series that is.

"If necessity is the mother of invention, curiosity is the father. After all, you cannot produce something interesting if you are not interested in something. Outputs need inputs." ~ Will Gompertz, Think Like an Artist.

Acrylic portrait. "She painted her room in roses."

"She painted her room in roses."

By now, you must know that I love painting faces, particularly female faces.

This is the first painting in a series of four small canvases following Regina Lord's style of painting. Have a look at her colourful, uplifting work here:  http://www.creativekismet.com

Acrylic portrait "He doesn't want his picture taken."

"He doesn't want his picture taken."

I very rarely paint men because they tend to look like women.

This young man is all man. Obviously, he just came in from the cold, and someone decided to take his picture before he could warm up. See the red tip of his nose and his pink cheeks?

Or maybe he is very shy and would rather hide, but he really has nowhere to go and he is far too polite to refuse the request for the photo.

Notice that he is looking to the side rather than directly at the camera? Who could be taking his picture?

Acrylic portrait - "A caged bird."

"A caged bird."

"A caged bird" is my favourite of the four paintings.

After I had painted the background, the white lines reminded me of prison bars. The vines with the flowers make the background seem less stark.

So which one is the caged bird?

Acrylic portrait - Windblown hair

"Windblown hair."

Of the four in this series, "Windblown hair" is the one I like the least.

After I photographed her, I brought her back to my art room where I really messed her up. Of course, I exaggerate. She is redeemable, but I just don't feel like working on her AGAIN.

Hubby, who is always supportive, says she is just fine the way she is in the photograph.

As I was not happy with her, I uploaded her into Procreate and made changes and then played with filters in various apps while watching tv one night. I like this version below best because of the raindrops that seem appropriate with the painting.

"Windblown hair" in apps

I am not sure whether or not I saved any time in painting four in a series. I am such a slow painter that it might not have made any difference at all.

The process is worth repeating if only to give me that illusion that I am accomplishing more than I really am.

Besides, in painting several in a series, I can always rationalize that even if one is not to my liking, I still have a few more that are.

I imagine that once I find techniques and styles that I like and make them my own, working in a series will indeed save me time and I will be as productive as many of my artist friends.

Until then, each step, each experiment is part of that long road that I have taken in becoming an artist.

Output doesn't always match input.

Acrylic portraits - four in a series

Canadian Thanksgiving – better than the American holiday

"When Canadians talk about their Thanksgiving, the word "quieter" comes up a lot. You can start to think that they see their Thanksgiving something like Christmas morning among the Whos down in Whoville, calmly sharing the true spirit of the day without all the hoopla." - Pete Wells, "For Canadians, Thanksgiving is a 'Quieter' Affair in October". (The New York Times, October 4, 2016).

Canada goose painted on maple leaf

The food section of the New York Times recently featured an article about our Canadian Thanksgiving. It must have been a slow day for the revered paper to turn its eyes northward and ponder the significance of Thanksgiving in Canada. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/05/dining/canadian-thanksgiving-food.html )

The writer acknowledges a "total innocence about Canadian Thanksgiving" in the USA.

Wells does make an effort to find out why food magazines never "touched a second Thanksgiving". He blames the lack of interest on... "turkey fatigue".

When Canadian Thanksgiving is mentioned in America, (and I doubt it really is ever mentioned), the "first reaction is typically laughter". Mr. Wells admits that Americans do not pay attention to our holiday.

Is this news to anyone living north of the 49th parallel? Hardly.

In reality, it is symptomatic of a much greater issue, one that is, from time to time, discussed among Canadians.

Most Americans know much less about their neighbours to the north than we know about them.

If you have ever visited the USA and hungrily searched for a morsel of Canadian news while you were there, you experienced that big gaping void on all the American news channels.

Not so in Canada where on any given night, we see whatever scandal is brewing, the heated debates, as well as the vagaries of the weather, and subsequent destruction south of the border to give only a few examples.

The article ends with the words of ex-pats who describe their families as "deeply, boringly Canadian". Apparently, the best thing about Canadian Thanksgiving is the different kinds of corn. Oh, and the dinner rolls.

We "wanted to get in on the fun" an American actor states as a reason Canadians have Thanksgiving dinner.

fall scene painted on maple leaf

Today, on a holiday Monday, we can feel grateful that:

There will be no Black Friday pandemonium and riots in our Canadian cities. There will be no Macy's parade, another celebration of consumerism. There will be no overspending on credit to take advantage of holiday sales.

There will be no long line-ups of passengers with short fuses waiting to board overbooked flights. Traffic will not be heavier than usual on our highways.

This may be a generalization, but as a Canadian, there is very little of the American holiday that I feel we should emulate.

So yes, we will enjoy peaceful walks admiring the splendid fall colours, we will play boisterous board games with family or friends, maybe watch a movie before or after dinner.

Similar to our American friends, our dinner tonight (or last night for some of us) might be turkey, but it could just as well be hot dogs and french fries at a roadside stand on the way home from a blissful weekend at the cottage.

It is indeed a quieter, more subdued Thanksgiving.

And I am so thankful for that.

Want to doodle? No need to buy colouring books!

Autumn nurtures the creative spirit.

Red and white doodles on maple leaf

I would like to think that fall, more than winter, is Canada's season. And October, is arguably the most beautiful month of the year.

The cooling breezes of October are a welcome relief from the sweltering, humid summer we have had this year in eastern Canada. We are ready for the apples and pumpkins that will be made into pies and muffins, ready for family gatherings at Thanksgiving, and all the other rituals associated with fall.

The leaves that have fallen to the ground are easy pickings for art. Last year, I painted leaves and made cards that I gave as gifts to friends and to a blog subscriber.  Giving Thanks...and a gift for one of my subscribers.

I also collected and pressed leaves in an old flower press.

Gold doodles on maple leaf

I had forgotten about those leaves until I saw the press a few weeks ago, and opened it to find these little treasures ready to be used.  

Another distraction!

I have never attempted doodles on leaves, and this was a welcome diversion from the portraits I was struggling to paint.

blue doodles on maple leaf

Here is what you will need if you want to paint a few leaves or if you would like to try this with your children or grandchildren:

- acrylic craft paint or acrylic ink. Acrylic craft paint is available in most dollar stores. Gold and sepia are very attractive on leaves but children will probably choose more vivid colours such as Christmas red, or pumpkin orange.

- cheap brushes also from the local dollar store. Smaller brushes are best to fill in little spaces; however, for young children, bigger brushes will be easier to handle.

- old clothes to wear while painting. Acrylic will stain if it gets on clothes.

- newspapers or drop sheets to protect the surface while you are painting.

- water

The leaves should be pressed for a few weeks before they are used. Pressing makes the leaves less waxy and the paint adheres better to the leaf. If you don't have time to press, you might try using a layer of clear gesso which can be bought at a craft supply store. The gesso will seal the leaf and create a bit of a gritty texture which is perfect for the acrylic doodles.

gold doodles on maple leaf

Children could get involved too. Make sure their clothes are well covered though. I found out that acrylic paint doesn't come off clothes once it has set in.

gold leaf transformed in apps

A painted leaf can be made more appealing by softening some of the more obvious little splotches here and there within any number of apps. Try uploading the leaf and test the app's different features after you have finished painting it. (see above)

There are many free apps that will allow you to experiment with various "looks".

Glaze is a good start as it is easy to use and has some free features.  You will be amazed at the transformation to your leaf achieved by playing with this app.

If you do paint leaves this fall, upload them and send them to me at louiseaprimeau@gmail.com. Sharing is part of the spirit of giving thanks isn't it? I will publish your leaves in an upcoming post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A new approach: painting in a series

working in a series - acrylics

While most artists can get something finished each day, it takes me up to a week or more sometimes to finish one of the acrylic or mixed media portraits that I have posted on this blog.

Easily distracted by the supplies in my art room, I want to try everything all at once, and I usually have several projects on the go, not all art related either.

Lately my fingers have been itching to knit something. I blame it on the cooler weather.

Sometimes I am too finicky and I keep playing with the piece until there are many layers of acrylic on the canvas. Through it all, I am still "doing it for the process".

I am learning along the way and all experiments, no matter how much they might slow me down, are all worth the time it takes to finish them.

This week, I decided that working in a series of small canvases might make me more productive.

After all, I am using the same colours and techniques on all four canvases which should speed up the process, right? Well, that is my hope.

the first stage in a series of acrylic paintings

The small canvases are all prepared in much the same way with slight colour variations.

A face emerges from the series of acrylic portraits

One of the canvases is brought further along in the process as I experiment with paints and brush sizes.

Three left in the series of acrylic portraits

And now, there are three to be worked on in a somewhat similar way.

Stages of progression in portrait series

The series is getting closer to completion. I don't say that I will always work this way but painting in a series is worth it because:

- it is satisfying as more is accomplished in less time. The colours are selected and used in each painting in the series. No new colours are introduced until possibly the very end (I haven't really finished any of the portraits in the series so I don't know what will happen in the last stage).

- the same techniques are used for each canvas and hopefully perfected with each portrait.

- unity in all paintings is achieved and that in itself is a wonderful thing to see. A friend suggested that I might even have found my own illusive "style" in this series.

So the work continues. Stay tuned. And if you have any tips or tricks to get more paintings done, please let me know.

Wicked Odile the impostor, and her evil plan

"Not all fairy tales have a happy ending." ~ my hubby quoting someone else I am sure.

He will most certainly be surprised when he sees I have quoted him! (evil laughter). I searched to find the origins of this quotation but so many people have used it in one way or another that I couldn't correctly attribute it to anyone specifically.

I had writer's block for this post. I rewrote the introductory paragraphs twice. I probably sighed once too many times. Hubby was reading his novel across from me at the kitchen table, and he decided to see if he could help me. (that's just the way he is!) More than likely, he may have wanted to speed the process of writing this post so we could get out early on the bike paths with our granddaughter.

When I paint, I usually have a story in mind. In the last post, a brain worm just wouldn't let go and the song helped me to WRITE the story. But the story has never been painted on canvas: this was going to be my challenge.

After I had painted the figure on the left, I thought of the ballet Swan Lake, the contrast between black and white, and the evil woman who tried to disguise herself to fool a prince.

I wanted to paint the impostor Odile in confrontation with Odette, the true swan queen.

Odette the true swan queen confronting her impostor in Swan Lake. Acrylic on canvas.

Siegfried, the prince in Swan Lake, is a flawed character. His mother wants him to marry a suitable lady of the court, but he wants to marry for love. Mama has some control issues to be sure; however, she may have had good reason to direct her boy to the right woman given the tragic ending to this story.

Had he listened to his one true love and waited until midnight, she would have been transformed from a swan into his dream girl. But no! He let his impulsive nature take over and he married Odile, the sorcerer's daughter who was made to look enticing like Odette.

As Siegfried is about to marry Odile, the swan queen Odette is seen in the window, frantically trying to get the attention of her prince who is blissfully unaware that it isn't even midnight, and that he is being duped into marriage by an impostor. Definitely not a man exercising good judgment.

I wonder what I must have thought long ago of Siegfried who is outwitted by the wicked Odile and her devious father. Rereading the story as an adult, Siegfried now comes across as a weak, unappealing man in comparison to every other character in Swan Lake.

In my painting, the true swan queen wears the golden crown. She is holding a piece of ribbon from Odile's wedding crown made of flowers with golden centres. Odette appears menacing with her outstretched wings, but as a swan, there is nothing she can do to stop the wedding.

I still have The Splendour Book of Ballet written Shirley Goulden (now a vintage book). This enchanting storybook arrived in the mail for me shortly after it was published and printed in Milan, Italy, in 1962, and I remember being very excited as a child to open the parcel and examine its contents.

How many times as the years went by have I looked at this book? I drew the characters when I was a teenager. Much much later, I found the book and took it out when my granddaughter was old enough to appreciate the lovely illustrations.

My godmother sent me this treasure of a book. Growing up in a very small town in northern Ontario, I had never seen a ballet. The images in the book are still magical to this day.

Maraja, (1946-1983) the Italian illustrator, skilfully illustrated the movements of the dancers in the most poignant moments of this classical ballet. (www.libicomaraja.it)

And so, as Swan Lake ends, Odette is dying because "her heart, so full of love, had burst with anguish, and she could no longer live. When Siegfried discovered this he wanted to die too."

Much like Romeo and Juliet, Siegfried follows his love and dies. He jumps into the lake with Odette and "the waters closed gently over their heads as the serene glow of dawn touched the tips of the trees. The storm was over."

And much like many other tragedies, "those who truly love can never be parted. Siegfried and Odette would stand together, in spirit, then and for always, by the quiet waters of Swan Lake."

This story proves that hubby was right and not all fairy tales have a happy ending. A simple lesson helped to get me out of my writer's block. Once again, my husband saves the day!