kids these days

Lately my Instagram feed has been chock full of pictures of my friend’s kids commemorating their first days of school. Some of the pictures are posed and some are rather candid shots of meltdowns or the prevailing attitude at the moment the photo was taken. Either way, they are entertaining to look at. It reminds me of photos of me at various ages. Some photos make me roll my eyes or cringe at what I was wearing or what my hair and glasses looked like. Some make me laugh because I remember the moments leading up to when the photo was taken and maybe even what happened afterward. Either way, shudder or giggle, it’s neat to look back on those moments and have these photos to help spark memories and remind us of our past selves and our shenanigans.

But I think what is cooler than capturing these moments on our phones or cameras is drawing them! This is a smattering of illustrations I’ve made over the past few months of my friend’s little kids being themselves and doing their thing unabashedly. My hope is that when they are older they will take these drawings with them and hang them in the places where they live and it will make them smile and jog their memories about those days when they were shorter and not weighted down with the concerns and image-consciousness we become bogged down with as we journey into adulthood. Here’s to these kids not caring about what others think and plugging away at being their best, most adventurous little selves! Wacky outfits and all!

I really love working from photos that are very candid, and with kids that is usually the case. It makes for a more interesting drawing (in my opinion). Special thanks to my friends who take great photos of their kids, let me draw them and then let me share the finished product here and on social media.

portrait of ollie and his parents,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

portrait of ollie and his parents, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

the day morley picked her outfit and ran with it,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

the day morley picked her outfit and ran with it, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

dorian and the really great socks,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

dorian and the really great socks, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

unicorns really DO exist!,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

unicorns really DO exist!, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

morley and elwood,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

morley and elwood, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

toby learns his vowels,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

toby learns his vowels, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

ellie masters the high bar,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

ellie masters the high bar, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

what’s the catch of the day?,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”,  2019

what’s the catch of the day?, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8” x 8”, 2019

Portraiture is not something I do very often, but I really do enjoy it. If these drawings or this post inspire you to get one of your candid shots of your kids or some important kids in your life illustrated by me, send me an email and I will send you a price list. How neat would it be to be a kid and get a drawing of yourself doing one of your favorite activities?! Also a great way to make parents cry if that is your jam. Just saying! You’ll be the favorite friend/ relative/ fake or real aunt or uncle.

You can email me at info@justinasmith.com and put ‘illustrated portrait price list’ in the subject line.

the haida canoe

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We didn’t plan our visit to Haida Gwaii down to the minute. Besides booking our ferry to and from the island, we didn’t make any really set plans for where we wanted to go and for how long. Most of our trips are like that. It leaves more room for surprises and spontaneity. In the evenings at our campsite on North Beach, we’d visit with our camp neighbors and share a communal meal while we shared stories of what we got up to that day. Our new friend Colin mentioned he had gone to see the Haida Canoe which was just a little further down the road from where Jay and I had stopped to hike the Golden Spruce trail. Colin said it was worth seeing so we decided to check it out on our way to our next camping spot. I’m so glad we did!

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It was a sight that brought to mind so many questions. How old is it? When was it started? Why was it abandoned?

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Being a person who paints for a living, I got thinking about the time it took to wander through the dense forest to find the perfect tree for the project, much like I spend time wandering places and taking photos of things I may want to paint later in the studio. Then once you find that image, or in this case the perfect tree, the time and energy needed to spent cutting it down and clearing an area in the woods so you can move around the felled tree and begin carving at it to reveal the canoe inside. How long did it take the artisans to commute from their residence to this area? How long did they want to spend carving each day? How many were involved in this particular canoe building project?

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I made a small sketch of the canoe on site in my sketchbook and decided I’d like to try a larger version on paper. I will tackle this again in acrylic, from a few perspectives I think.

haida canoe,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 12” x 16”, $240 + GST,  2019

haida canoe, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 12” x 16”, $240 + GST, 2019

This drawing is available for purchase in my Etsy shop.

the chinese zodiac series

In a continual effort to keep things interesting within my painting practice and to challenge myself with new subject matter, I like to compile lists of things I haven’t painted yet. When we went to Vancouver back in April, we visited the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. On the ground just before the gate to get into the public (admission free) part of the garden, there was a wonderful circular mosaic of the Chinese zodiac. I don’t know a ton about the Chinese zodiac. The little bit of knowledge I’ve gleaned has been from the write-ups on paper place mats that adorn the tables of various western Chinese food establishments that speckle the province. I looked up a few sources on line and I liked how it listed personality traits, lucky colors and numbers and compatible zodiac signs for romance and friendship. It kind of sounded like a dating profile of sorts, or a resume… something you’d post online to help source some additional community in your life. And when I saw the list of the animals represented in the Chinese zodiac I thought it was just the kind of thing that would be fun to turn into a series of animal portraits.

According to myth, the Jade Emperor threw a party a while ago and as the animals arrived, their order of arrival determined their order in the zodiac. I’ve posted them in their order with the years of birth and a few of their positive personality traits. The background colors were determined by their list of lucky colors, and I based what they were wearing on the first job or activity that popped into my mind after reading about their character traits.

These pieces are available in my Etsy shop.

the rat,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the rat, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Rats are clever and can think on-the-fly. They are very successful but are content with a quiet life.

the ox,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the ox, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Oxen are the hardworking folk behind the scenes. They are smart and dependable and don’t fish for praise.

the tiger,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the tiger, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Tigers are plucky and love a good challenge. They also tend to be very busy.

the rabbit,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the rabbit, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Rabbits are kind and very serious. Their quiet personality doesn’t widely advertise their confidence. They treat others as they would like to be treated.

the (komodo) dragon,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the (komodo) dragon, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Dragons are independent but they do need to feel and be shown love and support from their community.

the snake,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the snake, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Snakes live very much inside their own head, but when they love, the love with their head and heart.

the horse,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the horse, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Horses are very free-spirited and need space.

the goat,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the goat, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Goats are very loving and put others first, even if it’s not in their best interest to do so.

the monkey,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the monkey, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Monkeys are carefree but driven. They will work hard to make their desires a reality.

the rooster,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

the rooster, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

Years born: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

Roosters project fierce independence and strength but need the acceptance and validation from their community.

the dog,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the dog, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

Dogs are reliable, honest and loyal. They make the most dependable friend and partner.

the pig,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the pig, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2019

Years born: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Pigs have a lovely personality and have a knack for living a ‘blessed’ life.

the haida gwaii sketches

This was my second visit to Haida Gwaii. My first visit was back in 2009 and was a pretty magical experience. This time it was even more so, and we were better prepared for the wet weather we encountered. It was our slowest paced adventure to date as well as our most social trip. We struck up a conversation with a couple strolling past us on the beach in Tlell where we spent the day reading, sketching and basking in the sun with the pups. It was closer to evening then and we invited them to come and share our little beach fire as they said they intended to start one later on at a different spot. They invited us to stay with them at their house in Prince Rupert on our way back, and we did. They were marvelous hosts and are now new friends. Our camp neighbors at Agate Beach were equally wonderful. The one gentleman camping by himself with his dog was generous in loaning his gear and showing Jason how and where to go crabbing. The neighbors on the other side of him were a family of four and another dog. Their kids would wander over and show us their beach plunder from the day, and the little girl would tell us stories about what her and her little brother got up to. The parents also wandered by for periodic visits and eventually we wandered over to their campsite so share beers and talk by the fire. Then two more joined our group; avid fisherman with a wealth of knowledge about living in the bush. Pretty soon we were pooling groceries, catches of the day, cooking utensils and camp stoves to make and share communal meals. On our last evening at Agate Beach, the day was too wet to start fires at any of our campsites so we took over the drying shack where there was a wood burning stove, picnic tables and four walls to keep the heat in. Three more were added to our group that night and we had one final communal meal and visit before parts of the party continued on in the morning to a new spot, ourselves included. We exchanged contact info with some folks but not everyone. It was really special to have these more intimate and prolonged encounters with strangers. It caught us all by surprise. Our third camping spot was much the same. A few of our growing party from Agate beach wound up down in Kagan Bay. More stragglers were added and introduced, folks they had met from other adventures somewhere else on the island or on the ferry ride there. More new friends were made. More groceries and cooking resources were pooled and more communal meals created and shared with a growing group. Graham Island, the northern Island of Haida Gwaii is pretty big but there is only one main road on it. There are a fair number of logging roads, but most of the area is not accessible by vehicle. You go on foot or by watercraft of some kind. We kept running into various camp mates while out walking, taking photos, getting groceries or doing laundry. It was like we moved there and kept bumping into our neighbors. It was the strangest and most comforting thing at the same time.

The wifi is spotty in Haida Gwaii so I took it as an opportunity to unplug for a bit. I took loads of photos and made a lot of drawings (I filled the sketchbook I started during my trip to Quebec back in June for my solo show there!) but didn’t get around to making any oil sketches. I made a few non-sketchbook sketches as well. One I gave as a thank you to our friends and hosts in Prince Rupert for their wonderful hospitality during our stay there, one was purchased by one of our Agate Beach camp neighbors because it was our shared view from our campsites, and one is listed in my Etsy shop.

I could go on about our trip, share more photos and stories about what we got up to when they were there, but the sketches, photos and journal entries in my sketchbook already tell those stories and tell them in, or shortly after the experiences happen. I’ve posted all the sketches from this trip in the order they are found in the physical sketchbook. It was a special trip to a beautiful place and I hope you enjoy riffling through my sketches.

i love how fat a sketchbook gets once its filled with. this is mostly due to the photos i intersperse with the sketches and the small collection of memorabilia and photos that i didn’t stick to a page but still want to keep with the sketchbook that are tucked into the handy pocket on the inside back cover.

i love how fat a sketchbook gets once its filled with. this is mostly due to the photos i intersperse with the sketches and the small collection of memorabilia and photos that i didn’t stick to a page but still want to keep with the sketchbook that are tucked into the handy pocket on the inside back cover.

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detail of moss covered tree sketch

detail of moss covered tree sketch

detail of beach sketch

detail of beach sketch

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detail of fire on the beach sketch

detail of fire on the beach sketch

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detail of pebble sketch

detail of pebble sketch

detail of driftwood sketch

detail of driftwood sketch

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detail of spirit lake sketch

detail of spirit lake sketch

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detail of tow hill sketch

detail of tow hill sketch

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detail of agate beach tree sketch

detail of agate beach tree sketch

detail of second page of agate beach tree sketch

detail of second page of agate beach tree sketch

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detail of kagan bay sunset sketch

detail of kagan bay sunset sketch

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detail of carved mask sketch

detail of carved mask sketch

detail of balance rock sketch

detail of balance rock sketch

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detail of fire sketch

detail of fire sketch

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detail of puddle reflection sketch

detail of puddle reflection sketch

detail of hot spring sketch

detail of hot spring sketch

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tiny landscape show

Now for my second show of the busy summer months! This show is located inside the Stone’s Throw Cafe in Blairmore, Alberta. That is one of the small towns in the area known as the Crowsnest Pass for those who have never heard of it. It is a gorgeous area of our province with lots of good hiking, fishing and camping spots. If you see a painting in this post that you are keen to own and you can’t make it down to the cafe to purchase it in person, please contact the Crowsnest Pass Public Art Gallery and they will be happy to help you with your acquisition. I am not handling any sales from this show because I live 7 hours north of the Crowsnest Pass area. That is why I am passing-the-buck as it were.

This collection of pieces comes from a smattering of photos taken on various explorations in Alberta and BC over the past year. I love painting on smaller canvases because it allows me to get through a lot of subject matter quicker. I have so many photos I want to paint from and painting small helps me put a dent in that ever-growing pile of subject matter that lives in my laptop.

This collection of pieces will be hanging in the Stone’s Throw Cafe from June 30 - August 26. Whatever pieces are left will be distributed amongst the galleries that represent me and my Etsy shop. I hope you enjoy meandering through this series of paintings and that they help you revisit good memories and/or inspire plans for a road trip.

Happy Summer!

sunset along the yellowhead,  mixed media on canvas, 14” x 14”,  SOLD ,  2019

sunset along the yellowhead, mixed media on canvas, 14” x 14”, SOLD, 2019

a light waltz,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

a light waltz, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

a light waltz II,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

a light waltz II, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc III,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”,  SOLD ,  2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc III, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, SOLD, 2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc II,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”,  SOLD ,  2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc II, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, SOLD, 2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

golden hour at telegraph cove, bc, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

a colorful winter evening, vermilion ab,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

a colorful winter evening, vermilion ab, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

hell’s gate, bc,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”,  SOLD ,  2019

hell’s gate, bc, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, SOLD, 2019

old stump & golden foliage,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

old stump & golden foliage, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

may evening on the road to the farm,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

may evening on the road to the farm, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

mackerel sky, winter,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

mackerel sky, winter, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

sunflowers under the bird feeder,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

sunflowers under the bird feeder, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

rosy cirrocumulus,  mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST,  2019

rosy cirrocumulus, mixed media on canvas, 10” x 10”, $200 + GST, 2019

in good company,  mixed media on company, 12” x 12”,  SOLD ,  2019

in good company, mixed media on company, 12” x 12”, SOLD, 2019

stratocumulus II,  mixed media on canvas, 16” x 16”, $510 + GST,  2019

stratocumulus II, mixed media on canvas, 16” x 16”, $510 + GST, 2019

the mistahiya valley with the battle river winding lazily through it,  mixed media on canvas, 16” x 16”, $510 + GST,  2019

the mistahiya valley with the battle river winding lazily through it, mixed media on canvas, 16” x 16”, $510 + GST, 2019

stratocumulus,  mixed media on canvas, 14” x 14”,  SOLD ,  2019

stratocumulus, mixed media on canvas, 14” x 14”, SOLD, 2019

fermata

Fermata:

  • a pause of unspecified length on a note of rest.

I can be a bit of a ‘rules’ person. If you tell me that a task I am unfamiliar with needs to be done within certain parameters, I’ll work diligently within those confines until I become more comfortable with the tools and the process. Since that is how my brain typically works, it’s probably to my benefit that I was never brave enough to apply to art school. If I am overwhelmed with too much technical information, I find difficulty in starting things. I don’t know the official rules of composition and I haven’t read much into color theory for these very reasons. I’d rather create unhampered by rules and theories, learn from my mistakes and approach others whose work is achieving an effect that catches my eye and ask them how they did that.

I began painting pieces for this show with no fixed theme in mind. I didn’t want the stress that can come with adhering to a theme while creating a body of work. I set out just to paint whatever came to mind and see what themes or common threads emerged from the paintings. I was also randomly reading up on musical terms, and I came across the term fermata. To my mind, the thread that connects them all reminded me a little of music. Small sections in a larger composition that one doesn’t really think about. Not necessarily the notes themselves, but the pauses between the notes. That space. Music is fluid like memory. When asked about a trip you went on, impressive views immediately come to mind. The vistas! When you reached the top of a peak on a hike and saw the vista rolling away from you in every direction. Or a lit up city from an airplane window on a clear night as you are landing. We easily forget about the smaller moments in between our departure and that vista we are seeking. These paintings aim to capture those kind of fluid transitory moments in memory, or pauses of unspecified length. If these paintings were part of a musical score, some of them would be definitive, long pauses (one of the bigger paintings) or a series of notes played quickly with short pauses between (some of the smaller works).

As the viewer you can pause and enjoy the experience of fermata for as little or long as you like, as you would meandering through your own memories or while listening to a favorite bit of music.

Below are all the images that are included in the show at Galerie du Vieux Saint-Jean.

sawback prescribed burn area, bow valley parkway, banff national park, ab,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

sawback prescribed burn area, bow valley parkway, banff national park, ab, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

an obstructed view of the bow valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park, ab,  mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST,  2019

an obstructed view of the bow valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park, ab, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST, 2019

megura at night, tokyo, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in),  SOLD ,  2019

megura at night, tokyo, japan, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), SOLD, 2019

a kyoto street at night, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2019

a kyoto street at night, japan, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2019

shibuya crossing, tokyo, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2019

shibuya crossing, tokyo, japan, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2019

this is not the sea, it’s lake diefenbaker, sk,  mixed media on canvas, 20x10(in), $800 + GST,  2019

this is not the sea, it’s lake diefenbaker, sk, mixed media on canvas, 20x10(in), $800 + GST, 2019

canoeing on falcon lake, mb,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in),  SOLD ,  2019

canoeing on falcon lake, mb, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), SOLD, 2019

plum blossom, japan,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

plum blossom, japan, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

bere point, sointula bc II,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

bere point, sointula bc II, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

fermata II,  mixed media on canvas, 18x36(in),  SOLD ,  2019

fermata II, mixed media on canvas, 18x36(in), SOLD, 2019

the bare bones, sointula bc,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in),  SOLD ,  2019

the bare bones, sointula bc, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), SOLD, 2019

the bare bones II, sointula bc,  mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

the bare bones II, sointula bc, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

sunset on lake diefenbaker, sk,  mixed media on canvas, 18x36(in), $1300 + GST,  2019

sunset on lake diefenbaker, sk, mixed media on canvas, 18x36(in), $1300 + GST, 2019

aspen & understory,  acrylic on canvas, 18x36(in), $1300 + GST,  2019

aspen & understory, acrylic on canvas, 18x36(in), $1300 + GST, 2019

canopy & reflection, vandusen botanical garden, vancouver bc,  acrylic on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

canopy & reflection, vandusen botanical garden, vancouver bc, acrylic on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

forest interior, vancouver bc,  acrylic on canvas, 16x16(in), $510 + GST,  2019

forest interior, vancouver bc, acrylic on canvas, 16x16(in), $510 + GST, 2019

sweeping cedars, vandusen botanical garden, vancouver bc,  acrylic on canvas, 16x16(in), $510 + GST,  2019

sweeping cedars, vandusen botanical garden, vancouver bc, acrylic on canvas, 16x16(in), $510 + GST, 2019

wooden bridge at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical chinese garden, vancouver bc,  acrylic on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST,  2019

wooden bridge at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical chinese garden, vancouver bc, acrylic on canvas, 20x20(in), $800 + GST, 2019

canyon I, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2019

canyon I, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2019

canyon II, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2019

canyon II, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2019

canyon III, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2019

canyon III, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2019

creek drawing I,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2019

creek drawing I, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2019

creek drawing II,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2019

creek drawing II, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2019

icefall, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2019

icefall, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2019

the old couple

I’m thinking about the sound the sea makes as it laps over the pebbly beaches of the west coast; it sounds a bit like laughter and a bit like clapping to me. Like the water is tickling the pebbles as it washes over them, or has told them a good joke in passing. I’m also thinking about the sounds the ravens make in the deep forests that line these beaches. Their vocabulary is quite expansive and interesting. The chortling noises they make are what really gets me. Those more gentle sounds that seem like they are trying to get some word rolled around their tongue and can’t quite manage, so it comes out more music than word. I’m also thinking about how calm the sea can be in the inlets and straits, and how readily it mirrors the mood of the sky above it. That’s a couple that has been married a long time, the sea and the sky. They know things about each other that no one else does. There is a pleasant smugness a couple can exude with knowledge like that. There is also a melancholy, deep and abiding that can come with that long relationship. One part can get stormy and soon the other part will get caught up in it, but when one begins to calm, the calmness begins seeping into the other.

Then there are the bones between the two. The piles of old trees and bits of structure smoothed by the physical emotions between the two and bleached by them until they are a lovely silvery-lavender color. I like wandering beaches like these. I like seeing evidence of the stormier moods of the sea and sky creating a wall of driftwood like they are trying to keep the trees from creeping into the water. I also enjoy seeing evidence of human involvement; tidy little fire pits and lean-tos built to protect visitors from the rapidly changing moods of the sea and sky. When my friend Robin and I visited Bere Point last fall, we caught the old couple on a good day.

bere point, sointula bc II,  mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST,  2019

bere point, sointula bc II, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST, 2019

Sometimes I find it difficult to draw and paint in places like these. I’d rather look, explore, take photos and soak it in. On occasion when I have been by the sea, I simply could not sketch because the couple were fighting or just being raucous. Too much wind and wet is not conducive for sketching outside.

Today is the BD and my 7th wedding anniversary. This painting reminds me of candid photos taken of us. A little bit of calm, a lot of color and some remnants of attitude.

this is not the sea

As much fun as it can be to revisit your own memories and youthful haunts, I also enjoy witnessing those moments when your friend’s do it. Last summer we took a trip to Saskatchewan with some friends. One of them grew up in the area near Elbow Saskatchewan, and was recounting tales of past shenanigans and showing us some of the spots where him and his buddies used to hang out. Six of us (four adults and two kids) piled into his van one morning and we took a drive to the Quapelle Damn on Lake Diefenbaker. Then he spied an unmarked truck trail that ran parallel to the lake through some tall grass and trees. We took this ‘road’ just to see where it lead, trespassing be damned! The trail soon petered out into even taller grass so he spied an open patch he could turn the vehicle around in, but then someone had to pee so we got out of the vehicle to see if there was anything to see. We found a well worn foot path through the grass and down the dune to a very lovely beach below.

It was a very blustery July day; the kind where a toque and mitts and a slightly warmer layer would have been a welcome addition to help buffet the wind. Once you went down the path the dune acted as a windbreak, so it was pleasant to sit in it’s shadow with your back to it, toes in the sand, facing the tumultuous waters of Lake Diefenbaker. The sun tried to shine but there were too many clouds darting across its path to bring any warmth to the day. I wandered away from the group and took a walk back towards the dam we crossed in the vehicle, combing the beach for any interesting tidbits the wind might have helped the lake give up. I found some interesting stones, some coral-shaped formations made out of the sand and scattered all over the beach, some spent shotgun shells, feathers, but not much else. When I wandered as far as I wanted and turned around to head back, I was greeted with this sight:

this is not the sea; it’s lake diefenbaker, SK,  mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST,  2019

this is not the sea; it’s lake diefenbaker, SK, mixed media on canvas, 20” x 20”, $800 + GST, 2019

Between the low ceiling of clouds overhead threatening rain at any moment, the wind making white-caps on the long stretch of pale beach, I was really confused for a moment as to where I was. There were gulls fighting the gale above us, shouting into the wind with their efforts. You could hear the water lapping loudly on the shore to the right and to the left tall grasses were dancing frantically in the wind on top of the dune. It could have been the ocean! For a moment I was transported back to Weymouth in England, or West Mabou Beach in Cape Breton. The only detail missing was the tang of salt in the air! It was incredible. The previous day Jason and I spent basking in the sun on the opposite side of the lake. The water was calm and fairly warm, the sky mostly clear and you knew were definitely in the prairies. You could hear the native birds and the bugs and all the summery prairie sounds, but on this day the roar of the wind and water drowned all other sound out. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were seaside, not in southwestern Saskatchewan.

In the middle left of the painting are two figures off in the distance. That is Jason (the Bearded Dude or BD) and our friend Steve, who grew up in the area and was showing us around.

This is not the sea, but for a few mesmerizing moments that day, it really could’ve been!


an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur moutain

Sometimes I like to revisit places or experiences from my childhood to see if they are still as cool (or lame) as I remembered them. Memory is a funny, rather fluid thing. Two people can share the same memory and tell a very different story from it. Maybe you were going through a tough time when you visited a zoo for the first time, and that tainted the experience somehow. On the flip side, perhaps a restaurant you tried out on a first date was really great… but that was because you were excited about the date, and it turns out the restaurant wasn’t that amazing afterall. Or in this case, I think I amalgamated a few childhood memories into one memory. I thought I remembered visiting Banff one time as a kid and riding up the gondola to see what was at the top. Perhaps this did happen but a lot changes in thirty-some odd years. Anyhow I remembered the view and overall experience being alright but not too interesting. I remembered a small building at the top with a cafeteria in it and a bit of a walking trail outside. I also remember it being windy and a lot colder than it was when we got out of the car. When we were down in Calgary visiting friends a few weeks ago, we decided to spend a day in the mountains and take a ride on the gondola to revisit our memories, of it. The experience totally exceeded how I remembered it as a kid. The ride was really quiet and smooth and very steep. Myself and our friend Jordan are not a huge fan of heights, so when Jay threatened to make the thing start swinging we both glared at him a bit, and maybe held onto to the seats with white knuckles. The building at the top was very fancy, with lots of neat exhibits about the park and the history of the gondola. There were two restaurants and a gift shop and a patio at the top with a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. There was also an extensive wooden walk way which took you along the ridge over to Sanson’s Peak where the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station is located. The views were amazing and of course I took a lot of pictures. This was definitely not what I remembered. It was way cooler! I just put the finishing touches on a painting I made from my favorite photo from that little adventure.

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I really like this photo for a few reasons. One: I like how the trees are slightly obstructing the sprawling view of the valley below. It reminds me of how many trees flanked the boardwalk, making it a slightly forested, mountain top walk. Two: I love the pink flagging tape tied to the trees and the hint of yellow from some random bit of equipment on the bottom left just peeking out of the snow. Also, the ‘no feeding the mountain sheep’ sign on the right. And three: I like to share what I saw with viewers of my work. In instances like this it’s so easy to get a great photo because of where you are. How can you possibly take a bad photo on top of a mountain, barring pocket photos and getting your thumb in the way of your lens in each shot and not noticing right away for some reason? And it’s going to be the exact same photo everyone else has. In this photo I really like how the behind the trees there is this empty space pulling your eye toward the horizon and down into the valley; like you are about to fly off the mountain top. It helps provide a little more interest to the context of the photo and the painting I think.

So here’s the painting and then a few detail shots of it so you can see some of the papers I used.

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park   mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST,  2019

an obstructed view of the bow river valley from the top of sulphur mountain, banff national park

mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1800 + GST, 2019

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I’ve been using some new blues in my palette the last few months. The sky is a mix of cerulean blue chromium + phthalo blue + titanium white. It kind of glows like neon which is very fitting for the sky in this painting as it was a very clear day and the sky’s color was almost other-worldly to my eyes.

There was a fair bit of construction going on around the main building at the top. I think these particular trees were flagged for eventual cutting. I liked the pop of bright pink they provided in an otherwise very blue-and-white landscape. That is also why I left in the sign on the right and bit of yellow peeking out of the snow on the bottom left of the painting. I find these details both endearing and interesting and I don’t think it takes away from the view, it just adds a little something else. This is how I saw that particular view on that particular day, and this is how I would like to remember it. I figured I’d title it as I saw it as well, because not every painting needs a poetic title. Sometimes just the facts will do.

where i have been

With the lengthening daylight hours of March I can feel my wanderlust starting to rub the sleep from it’s eyes and begin gently moving it’s limbs in anticipation of adventures to come. I’ve really enjoyed this winter, even with the polar vortex which made the average temperature of February around -30 out here. I’ve read a lot of books, napped a lot and done yoga every day. I’ve tried new recipes and skipped in the basement because it was too cold to do so outside. I’ve added new paint colors and mixes to my palette. I’ve also been going through photos of my past travels; distant and more recent, near and far. It’s funny how you forget how much you can do in the course of a year or two. Sometimes I wonder why I took certain photos, and other times I scroll past something and it grabs my attention and demands to be put onto canvas now.


As the summer approaches and I continue preparing for a two solo shows (check the ‘show & tell’ section of this site for details) and Whyte Ave Artwalk, I’m letting the whims of memory take me where they will. I’m not very good at sticking with themes for shows as I inevitably get distracted with new ideas, so rather than pressure myself unnecessarily to stick to some rigid subject format, I’m just going with the flow. In January I was revisiting my trip to Vancouver Island in the fall, and now I’m currently stuck in the snowy woods and mountain vistas of Banff National Park. I added the two latest interpretations of our snowy mountain adventure from last month to my Etsy shop this evening.

louise creek, lake louise, banff national park,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

louise creek, lake louise, banff national park, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

backlit, johnston canyon, banff national park,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST,  2019

backlit, johnston canyon, banff national park, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $290 + GST, 2019

As I write this I have 3 new outlines of Japan committed to canvas in the studio as a way to celebrate the one year anniversary of that amazing adventure. I’m thinking about their gardens. And the gardens I saw in Scotland. And MY garden. And the Yukon, as we head back there in July. Oh, and then Ontario because I get to go on a month long road trip there and back to paint and sketch in September with my friend Robin. See what I mean? The only thread that all these places have in common is where I have been.

So, here we go…

the vermilion postcard project

Growing up, it used to annoy me when my friends would grumble about Red Deer. A lot of them couldn’t wait to leave, because anywhere must be cooler or more fun than the place where you grew up. That place was so not cool. I liked Red Deer. What was wrong with it? Eventually I ended up moving away, but it wasn’t because I was desperate to leave. Then I was in Edmonton, life happened, I met my husband and we were making plans to move again, this time across the country. We planned for a long while to move out to the east coast and put down roots in Nova Scotia. We were tired of Edmonton. Tired of the traffic and the pace. We loved the slower pace of the east coast, loved the proximity to the ocean and that it was very different from Edmonton. We fell into the same trap that kids I went to high school had fallen into. “Anywhere is cooler than here.”

Our move to the east coast didn’t pan out for a lot of reasons. We chatted about it and decided we still wanted to leave Edmonton for something a little smaller, a little slower in pace and less expensive. The BD had already been working in Vermilion for a few years, so we decided to see what our options were for renting or buying in Vermilion. It fit all our criteria; a smaller community, close enough to visit friends and family in Edmonton, quieter and cheaper. We found a house we liked and could afford and so we put an offer on it and voila! We were moving east, though not as far east as we originally thought.

In May we’ll have lived here for two years already. Time flies!

I spend a lot of time walking around town with the dogs. We have our favorite routes and I’ve made a few paintings of some of my favorite houses and other spots around town. But I got thinking that the really cool places in the world have postcards made of them, so you can send them to your friends and show them where you were or are, and how great it is. That thought inspired my Vermilion Postcard Project.

This is the first installment of 5 drawings in this series. It’s not about the history of Vermilion, although I would like to touch on that later. The drawings I have made are of places around town that I pass by almost daily, that have caught my eye and stuck in my brain. These are some of the physical places I really like in this small town. The original illustrations are available in my shop for purchase. I am getting them printed onto postcards and will be selling them in a pack of 5 in my Etsty shop once they arrive. If you live in or pass through Vermilion, you’ll also be able to purchase the postcards at The Red Brick which is a fabulous cafe and health food store on the main street.

ventura motel, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

ventura motel, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

view of vermilion river from pare drive, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

view of vermilion river from pare drive, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

shirley’s, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

shirley’s, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

1950’s bungalow, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

1950’s bungalow, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

the standard, vermilion AB,  mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST,  2019

the standard, vermilion AB, mixed media on hot pressed paper, 7x10 inches, $100 + GST, 2019

All the ‘cool’ places have postcards. I think Vermilion is cool, and soon there will be postcards to prove it!







what's in store

In an effort to make it a little simpler for people to figure out what paintings are where and who you need to contact to inquire about them, I will be changing the organization of my website a little. If you frequent this site or my Facebook page often, you may have noticed the addition of a ‘store’ (this website) or ‘shop now’ button (Facebook page) near the top of the page. This is because I have opened an Etsy shop and that will be the primary place to purchase my work directly from my studio (me). I thought this might be an easier way for people to find out what I have on hand for sale and to have a variety of payment options to choose from instead of just e-transfer or trusting me with your credit card number over the phone. The payment methods used within Etsy are secure and it will let you know if something is in stock or not. I think it’ll be a little simpler for everyone in the long run.

The ‘available’ gallery on this site then will be so you can view paintings I have for sale in the 5 galleries across the country that represent my work. You are welcome to purchase them of course, but you’ll have to contact the gallery listed with the details of the painting.

My Christmas cards and other limited edition printed paper goods will be for sale on Etsy too. I posted these two small pieces to my shop earlier today:

after the falls, rearguard falls, BC,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST,  2018

after the falls, rearguard falls, BC, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST, 2018

sunset, maligne lake, jasper national park,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST,  2018

sunset, maligne lake, jasper national park, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $200 + GST, 2018

Once a painting has sold, it will appear in the gallery with the year corresponding to when it was painted. I hope this helps make perusing my site and figuring out what is where a little easier for you. Happy shopping!

My sketchbook journaling class next Sunday (November 18th) in Edmonton is full, but there are still spots in my acrylic mixed media workshop (November 16th & 17th). For details and to register click here.


christmas cards of 2018

When I was a kid and got busy drawing, sometimes I would create a narrative in my head as I was making the drawing. Occasionally I would tell the story of the drawing out loud as I was drawing. Oh yea, I was that kid. The one drawing and talking audibly to themselves. I’ve since learned to keep the narration as my inner monologue, especially when out drawing in a public place. The story that forms can help inspire the drawing or series of drawings I’m working on. This was the case with this year’s Christmas card designs. I wanted to make the theme cats because last year it was dogs, but what about cats? Since anthropomorphizing animals seems to be my jam, I got thinking about things I like and dislike about Christmas.

Christmas parties.

Not all Christmas parties, mind you. I’ve worked for a lot of small businesses over the years and the Christmas parties have been pretty great. Good food, excellent beverages, games, dressing up, visiting with co-workers you may not get to see all the time. But then there are those moments that get captured on camera, shared on social media and giggled about for years afterward. ‘Remember that time that ________ came dressed up as ______ at the Christmas Party?! OMG!!

So I created 5 different characters in my head and on paper to capture and celebrate these awkward festive moments.

The overly happy and photogenic Santa.

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We all know that one; the one who looks amazing in anything, is always smiling and is super happy all the time. The one that can be mid sentence and flash the most dazzling smile for a quick photo without missing a beat in their damn story. The one with the perfect teeth and fantastic hair? Yea. That one.

Then we have Santa’s not-so-happy little helper.

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You know the one; agrees to help even though he really isn’t into parties and rarely makes appearances at these things…and then gets roped into wearing the damn outfit and probably have to be someone’s designated driver or stay after the party and help clean up the mess he didn’t want to be there making. Also isn’t a fan of the camera but is photographed because he’s there and looks so cute. Poor dude.

Next; the front-camera-selfie failure.

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Maybe she grabbed your phone by accident, or someone else’s phone. Maybe she’s been drinking or multitasking and suddenly there is that digital shutter sound ‘kachunk!’ and, oh. Dang. Now there is a derpy photo of her with many unknown chins and silly set of fuzzy antlers on her head staring at you. Sigh.

My personal favorite; the cookie-licker!

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’If I lick it, it’s mine!’ is definitely a rule I’ve loosely thrown about in my own life. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and am not good with sharing at times, or maybe because I’ve had friends take a ‘bite’ of something only to scarf half the thing they were merely trying, or perhaps because I have some friends who are germ-o-phobes and it’s just fun to lick the cookie they just took or the rim of the glass they are drinking from just to see their face. Sometimes it works for staking your claim on baked goods or beverage containers, and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, I still find the concept funny.

Lastly we have the dreaded mistletoe.

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People watching at a party can be fun. There he is, off in the corner, sipping quietly and contentedly watching the holiday shenanigans from a safe distance. Then there is a gentle tap on his shoulder. He looks around and the shoulder-tapper points up. Dammit!

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The cards are now available for purchase. I sent off some to Bluerock Gallery today, and some will be available at Sweet Jolie in Edmonton for their holiday event on November 30th. I’m still waiting to see if Transcend Coffee will be carrying them again at the Ritchie and Garneau cafes. I should know about that next week sometime. Otherwise you can purchase them from me in my new Etsy shop, which I set up for such a purpose. The cards are blank inside with my logo and website on the back and they each come brown craft paper envelopes. The physical venues will be selling the cards individually but I am selling them in sets of 5 in my Etsy shop.

That’s all for meow.

christmas in the country

I know, right? Major faux-pas using the ‘c’ word so early in November. But it is November and from my view currently there is fresh snow on the ground and a wintry nip to the air. It also happens to be the first day for Christmas in the Country at the Leighton Art Center near Millarville. I have a bin there with 14 pieces in it. The set up for this particular show is one of a rummage sale, but for art. All participants were instructed to bring a clear plastic bin of a certain size, and up to 15 unframed works to be sleeved and labeled for easy identification at time of purchase. The perfect opportunity to put some of my small works on paper, oil sketches and smaller acrylic paintings together for sale. Below is a visual catalogue of the works I have for sale there for the next two weekends.

winter garden with wren house II,  mixed media on wood panel, 16x16(in), $450 + GST,  2018

winter garden with wren house II, mixed media on wood panel, 16x16(in), $450 + GST, 2018

This painting came from a photo I took of my garden last January. I waited too long, eased into laziness by our mild autumn weather the previous October. November came and like a switch the weather got cold, the snow came and stayed, and the garden did not get cleaned up until spring. It did make for good creative fodder for painting and drawing though, so it was still kind of a ‘win’.

the garden piano, mells UK,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in),  SOLD ,  2018

the garden piano, mells UK, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), SOLD, 2018

A lovely weather piano that sits at the back of the Walled Garden at Mells, in Mells, Somerset over in the UK. I can’t remember what the other wooden structure is to the left, but there is something very beautiful and kind of lonely about this piano spending it’s retirement years in a walled garden in the English countryside. The Walled Garden at Mells is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. You can have tea outside at one of the many tables scattered throughout the garden, and if the weather is wet, there is a seating area inside a greenhouse where you can sip underneath a growing tangled ceiling of grape vines. The whole setup is rather magical, and part of it warranted a painting to commemorate it.

a clear july day, lac la biche, AB,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST,  2018

a clear july day, lac la biche, AB, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST, 2018

Back in July we made our first visit to Lac La Biche and camped on the island campground there. I had no idea Alberta had any island campgrounds. There were quite a few walking trails snaking around the forest and along the shore of the island. This particular beach had lovely sand and some benches for sitting. It was a very hot day and the flies were horrendous. A typical summer in northern parts of Canada, really.

early spring, vermilion provincial park, AB,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

early spring, vermilion provincial park, AB, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

In the winter the wonderful wooded trails of the provincial park here in Vermilion are strictly for cross-country skiers. But in the warmer months, it is a dog walking, trail running, berry picking, rowing haven. The tender leaves of spring and long tree shadows are what prompted me to paint this little piece. That light green canopy and dark trees shadows making neat patterns on the fresh spring grass is just the nicest memory of spring time around here.

our backyard, january evening,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

our backyard, january evening, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

Our neighbors have a bright light at the back of their garage and it casts the most interesting light patterns on the snow at night.

early october snowfall I,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST,  2018

early october snowfall I, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $175 + GST, 2018

I missed the first and second snowfalls that happened in September while I was away on either coast. I happened to be home for the third which was a pretty substantial one. We got about 30cm of it! Painting snowy scenes is one of my favorite things to paint. The shapes, shadows and light play on snow are so fun to capture in paint, paper and ink. I love the way the snow changes the shape of the tree in this little painting.

early october snowfall II,  mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in),  SOLD ,  2018

early october snowfall II, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), SOLD, 2018

gordon leslie conservation area, AB,  oil on mansonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

gordon leslie conservation area, AB, oil on mansonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

The Bearded Dude and I spent a fine day last month pheasant hunting (him) and sketching (me). I like the way the light plays on the rolling hills around here. The foreground can be in complete shadow while off in the distance a hillside can become an illuminated beacon of gold as the sun escapes the cloud ceiling. The effect is very fleeting and quite marvelous.

autumn garden,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

autumn garden, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

The wild tangle of growth that was the garden shortly before I started cleaning it up for the winter. So many interesting colors and textures to the dormant foliage.

bere point, malcolm island, BC,  oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST,  2018

bere point, malcolm island, BC, oil on masonite, 9x12(in), $150 + GST, 2018

My friend Robin and I spent a lovely few hours sitting on huge drift wood logs pushed up onto the shallow, pebbly beach of Bere Point sketching with our oil paints. The sky above us was pretty clear, but over the water and above the mountains near the horizon, it looked like a storm was brewing, or wet weather at the very least.

prickly pear I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

prickly pear I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

prickly pear II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

prickly pear II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

sand dune I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in),  SOLD ,  2018

sand dune I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), SOLD, 2018

sand dune II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

These last four drawings were inspired by a walk on an active sand dune near Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan. There was so much prickly pear in bloom along the sandy path leading to the dune, and the dune itself was quite impressive and very hot when the sun came out. The ripples created in the sand by the wind are so fascinating, not to mention the shape of the dune itself and how quickly it can change due to weather or tricks of the light. These four drawings were done from memory, not long after we got back from our visit.

If you haven’t made a trip to the Leighton Center before, I encourage you to. For one, the drive is lovely and the history of the house is interesting as well, not to mention the artwork housed inside the house. The list of artists that have bins of work in this show is a long one. There will be something for every art lover on your list, to be sure. Go out and explore!

views of 'the six'

Its been over a year now since we moved from Edmonton, a city of over a million people, to Vermilion, a small town of just over 4000 residents. A lot has changed since we moved here. We finally have a decent coffee shop, for one. Much of the empty storefronts that lined the main street have slowly blossomed into new and flourishing small businesses. An institution on the main street called ‘Craig’s’ shut down last year after over 100 years of business, but the building it occupied has been renovated and divided into smaller spaces and other shops have moved in as a result. We got a new mural on the side of the Benjamin Moore paint store. Slowly I am getting to know some of the residents and business owners as I venture out to run errands, drop paintings off at the post office, pick up groceries, grab coffee and see what new temptations await me in a few of my favorite stores. I confess, I don’t get out much. I spend the majority of my time working in my basement in the studio. A neighbor across the street who works at the post office remarked that she sees me more at the post office than she does on our street. Some of the residents know me because they see me walking the dogs and taking random photos of things with my phone. The pace here is great. You can do a grocery run near the supper hour and there isn’t a huge line-up at the till or trouble finding parking. You don’t have to pay for parking at all here! The biggest traffic problem we have is when all directions of the four-way stop are occupied and folks are trying to graciously wave you through instead of adhering to the right-of-way policy that normally governs a four-way stop. And occasionally two vehicles will stop in the middle of the street while the occupants chat through rolled down windows about how the day is going, and you have to go around or honk gently to remind them to keep moving.

I don’t think I can ever live in a large city again. The noise? The traffic? All those damn lights at night? I can stand on my back deck and see stars and northern lights! This evening on our dog walk a huge flock of snow geese flew over us as we walked through the baseball park. We couldn’t see these things from our noisy backyard in Edmonton. This is not a rant against cities. Living in a small town has made me appreciate cities in a different way. I love to visit them, enjoy their offerings, and then head back to the quiet rolling hills and wide streets of small town life.

One city in particular I love visiting is Toronto. T-dot. The six. I just sent a small batch of Toronto themed paintings to Canvas Gallery in Toronto. These paintings are chalk full of pleasant memories for me. I thought I’d share some of them.

the pond, high park, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST,  2018

the pond, high park, TO, mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST, 2018

High Park! I love this park and it’s a short walk from my Aunt Margie’s apartment on Bloor. When I go and visit her and my Uncle Patrick we go for at least one amble through this park. Usually we take the path that runs through the off-leash area because Margie knows how much I miss my dogs when I am away. The photo that this painting was inspired from was from I think my second visit to this park. There are a few ponds in there. I can’t remember which pond this one is…. maybe closer to the Japanese garden? Anyhow, I do remember I arrived fresh off the subway from the airport, dropped off my bag in my room in her flat and off we went for a much needed walk. It was a gorgeous autumn day. I sure as hell didn’t need the coat I brought. The lighting was perfect; low and golden and hitting the autumn leaves at just the right angle, making very satisfying patterns on the pathway, and then I saw this! It reminded me of a Monet painting. I had no idea how I would paint it at the time, but I figured if I got the photo my brain would work out the ‘how’ when the time came. And it did.

casa coffee, kensington market, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

casa coffee, kensington market, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

I try to time my visits to Toronto to include a weekend. Saturday morning we get up at the crack of dawn, dress, stumble down the stairs, pile into Margie’s car and head for the St. Lawrence Market for coffee and croissants in the basement. We meet up with a whole group of people and it differs slightly every time. Uncle Patrick usually buys the first round of coffees while the rest of us doff our coats and bags to claim seats and wander into the pastry area to choose a nice flaky breakfast. We go early so we can get parking and seats at coffee, and leave before the rest of Toronto comes to do their weekend shopping. By the time the crowds are thick upstairs, our group has downed at least two cups of coffee, maybe more pastry than we should, and are making our good-byes. Then up the stairs, back to the car and off to Kensington Market for coffee stop number two. Or at least, we used to have coffee stop number two. Casa Coffee doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a new cafe. The outside has been redone. It’s all shiny and new with a shiny, new proprietor. The historical grime has been renovated away. I painted this to commemorate our forgotten spot. Like a lot of interesting but run-down areas, Kensington is going through its gentrification phase. Out with the old, in with the new and more expensive. Out with the character and community and in with… well, that remains to be seen now doesn’t it?

old houses, kensington market, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

old houses, kensington market, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

The Group of Seven are still a major source of inspiration for my subject matter. When I first started looking at their paintings, particularly the early work of Lawren Harris, I was so puzzled why he made the houses look like they were being stretched toward the top of the canvas. I didn’t get it until I went to Toronto for the first time and saw some of the old neighborhoods. That’s why he painted them like that, because that is what they are like! Tall and skinny. The bright colors and graffiti that cover them in Kensington Market are absolute eye candy. This row of houses is not far from where Casa Coffee used to be. I hope to God they don’t get knocked down so that stupidly tall and overpriced condos can be built.

late afternoon, dundas street W, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST,  2018

late afternoon, dundas street W, TO, mixed media on canvas, 18x18(in), $570 + GST, 2018

The other stop we always make when I come to visit is to the Art Gallery of Ontario or the AGO. I have probably spent more time than is healthy visiting and revisiting the works of the Group of Seven they have on display in their permanent collection. I love getting up close to their paintings to see the texture of the paint on the canvas. It’s so thick!! The Galleria Italia is a favorite spot to have a quiet coffee. The wall of windows has a stellar view of the row of old houses-turned-tiny-galleries across the street from the main entrance. This painting shows some of the houses from the viewpoint of the street as the low November sun illuminates the rooftops in the late afternoon. I snapped the photo I painted this from coming out of the gallery to catch the street car back to Margie’s apartment. One can’t miss 5pm cocktails at Uncle Patrick’s before dinner when one is in town for a visit!

sunset on bloor, TO,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

sunset on bloor, TO, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

This view is perhaps my favorite thing about visiting Toronto. It’s the view from my aunt’s apartment, painted using a very blurry reference photo from my Instax Mini camera. I was experimenting with the ‘B’ mode where you can hold a long exposure in minimal light with no flash. It worked pretty well, but what attracted me most about the photo was the color it captured; those pinks and purples. The movement of the taillights on the bottom right was an added bonus to be sure. A piece capturing the evening rush hour and the beautiful rosy light everything is bathed in.

I head back for my second visit of the year in December and am really looking forward to it. I’ll be visiting my usual haunts and hopefully creating some new ones. Toronto is a huge city but feels very homey to me, thanks in part to the friends I’ve made there and the places I keep going back to. These are some of my favorite views of ‘The Six’. I hope you enjoy them as well.




what was the question?

I've been asked many times how I decide what to paint, and my answer usually something like 'it seemed like a good idea at the time' or 'I've never painted {insert random subject matter here} before, so I thought I'd give it a try.'

I've figured out in the last few months I like to paint things to answer a question.

How would I go about painting this?

Last summer was our first summer in our house in Vermilion. We didn't know what to expect from the garden so we didn't plant a lot of flowers, but one of the best things we did do was plant sweetpeas in the narrow bed that runs along two sides of the perimeter of our deck in the backyard. We ended up with a sweetpea hedge by the time August rolled around. I harvested fragrant bouquets every few days and filled the house with their gorgeous smell. They flourished like mad and I was sad to pull them out in the fall. I made a few sketches of them and took some photos with the intent to put them to canvas, but as I looked through my reference photos I was struck by the difficulty of the task I lay out for myself. So I put it aside and worked on many other things.

Spring rolls around again and naturally we wanted an encore of the sweetpea spectacle of the previous summer, so we planted them by the deck again, again they flourished like mad and became a fragrant, tangled hedge around our deck, and again I was inspired to paint a picture of them, and again I was struggling with where to start on that.

Sweetpeas are a rather shapeless flower. Their foliage is a mess of leaves and a maze of thick stems weaving themselves carelessly between the leaves and whatever it is they happen to be climbing up. Their fragrance to me is the most defining thing about them, besides their delicate curly-cue like tendrils that wrap themselves around things and hold on for dear life. How the heck do you paint that? How do you organize the wall of foliage and some nondescript flowers shapes into a painting?

I don't have the answer, but I did come up with a answer.

sweetpeas,  mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST,  2018

sweetpeas, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2018

I guess this one really is half painting, half drawing. I kept the paper bits to the beefy stems and the flower petals to help those stand out a bit more from the wall of foliage that makes up the other 3/4 of the painting. The foliage at the base of the painting was drawn with acrylic ink. It's a pretty interesting answer to my question.

 

the garden piano

'The Secret Garden' was and is still one of my favorite stories. I'm still in love with the idea of happening upon a forgotten garden where you need a key to get in, a place safe from unwanted visitors or strangers. A special place for you and your thoughts or you and your closest friends, hidden away from the bustle and noise of the world. Somewhere you can slow down and listen to birds while you watch things grow. The studio is kind of like that, if I'm sensible and shut off the email and put the phone away so I can work uninterrupted. Our garden can be very much like that unless our neighbor's across the alley decide to give their jackhammer or tablesaw a thorough workout. For the most part though, our home here is a safe haven for us to dream, plant things, relax, tune everything else out and watch plants and ideas grow.

But visiting a real walled garden that can actually be locked up?! I'm not afraid to admit that at 37 years old, that kind of shit is still cool to me. Especially when said garden is owned by a friend. Last September the BD and I visited the Walled Garden at Mells in the small village of Mells in Somerset, England. I shared my sketches from that trip in a post here in my online journal, but I hadn't made any acrylic paintings from the garden yet. The garden has a little cafe in it and a wood fired pizza oven, indoor and outdoor seating, and a marvelous view from the terrace of a picturesque green space where some very curious cows like to spend as much time gawking at folks have tea as the folks having tea like to gawk at the cows. There are some grape vines for wine, and some apple trees for cider-making, and if you venture to the back of the garden through a very old archway shrouded by ivy, you will happen upon the garden piano which rests against the stone wall by the back entrance.

It was a working piano at some point, but it has lived outside in the elements for I don't know how long. When I last chatted with my friend about it, she said it is ready to fall apart at any moment. I'm sure some music lovers reading this might cringe at the thought of a lovely upright piano being left outside to be a side table for the odd potted plant, but what else do you do with these things when they don't work anymore and no one wants them? There are so many things we enjoyed about the Walled Garden at Mells, but that plant piano still stands out in my memory as one of the neatest things I've seen. And because it probably won't be there when I'm finally able to go back for another visit, I thought it would be good to capture it on canvas, so someone else with a secret love for the reclusive and romantic notions of a private garden with such an odd and interesting treasure tucked in a corner might also enjoy it.

You just never know who is reading stuff like this and what they might be really looking for, right?

the garden piano,  mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST,  2018

the garden piano, mixed media on canvas, 12x12(in), $250 + GST, 2018

arid

How quickly I've forgotten the cool temperatures of last week as I type this out on the couch in front of the fake breeze provided by our little oscillating fan. It's hot and dry outside and in. My jeans are folded up and being purposefully avoided in their drawer. I'm constantly sticky. Ah, summer.

FML.

I don't mind these conditions if I impose them on myself voluntarily. Like when we were camping near Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan a few weeks ago and decided to go for a hike in the sand dunes. That particular hike was very hot and dry, and also really beautiful. There was so much interesting vegetation along the path leading to the head of the dune; migrating aspen forest, alpine like ground cover, and cactus!

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So of course, I decided to make some drawings from memory of these gorgeous, flowering little pointy gems.

prickly pear I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in)The, $80 + GST,  2018

prickly pear I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in)The, $80 + GST, 2018

prickly pear II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

prickly pear II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

The sand dunes (or dune, rather) was pretty spectacular. There were small islands of trees and foliage dotting the head and the incline leading up to the head of the dune. The dune itself was heavily ringed with foliage; the edges of a slowly dying aspen forest and the fresh growth of small prairie shrubs and bunch grasses. The sand was soft and fine and got into everything as sand does.

the sandy path leading to the edge of the active dune.

the sandy path leading to the edge of the active dune.

making my way up the 'path' to the head of the dune. this photo does not show clearly how steep the sandy climb actually was.

making my way up the 'path' to the head of the dune. this photo does not show clearly how steep the sandy climb actually was.

I had brought my sketchbook with me and made some drawings in it while we were there. The shapes, colors and textures of this area were firmly stuck in my mind a week or so later when I was manning my tented space at the Whyte Avenue Artwalk, so I busied myself trying to capture these things from memory. The textures in the sand made by the wind were especially mesmerizing, thus the many repetitive lines in the dune drawings.

sand dune I,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune I, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

sand dune II,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST,  2018

sand dune II, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2018

At one point during our visit the clouds mirrored the textures in the sand perfectly. I haven't made that drawing yet, but I will. I'm definitely not done with this sand dune as subject matter, there are just some other projects I need to turn my attention to first. Until then, I thought I would share my impressions so far. It seemed especially fitting in this heat. Life imitating art and all that, right?

Stay cool and hydrated, friends.

These drawings are unframed and ship easily. Shipping is $6 on these as they can be sent as an oversized letter. 

iris

We came across her like anyone would when you move to a new street in a new town in a new-to-you part of the province; unannounced. She just showed up one morning in her smart green jacket with the sleek lines, her small finger tips reaching up toward the warm spring sunshine in our backyard. She is a quiet visitor. Not much of an eater but a fairly heavy drinker. She listens patiently to my tuneless humming while I work around her. She doesn't get shy when I break out my paints and paper and stare at her intently, trying to capture the delicate features of her face. She just stands quietly in the middle of the garden, the birds gleaning edible treasures under her delicate skirts, the bees hovering around her beautiful, pale face. Then as quickly (or seemingly) as she showed up, she disappears leaving behind her lovely green jacket. She's very trusting to leave such a lovely frock for me to care for until she comes back next spring. She doesn't seem the least bit concerned I'm going to wreck it or lose it. Kind of like leaving a post-it note on a door or mirror that says 'be right back'. Her visits are too short, but highly anticipated now. It's always nice to see iris in the garden.

yellow iris,  mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1575 + GST,  2018

yellow iris, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1575 + GST, 2018

I know I said I wasn't sharing any new work until Whyte Avenue Artwalk next month, but then the large painting of the umbrellas hanging over the shopping street in Bath sold, so I am bringing this painting to fill the now empty wall at Under The High Wheel in Edmonton this weekend. I snipped the last of the spent blooms from our yellow iris this morning. It was kind of sad, but their glorious memory lives on.

Until her next visit...

 

the art of memory

Memory is such a tricky thing. Take a place, for example. I moved from Red Deer to Edmonton back in 2009. The Red Deer I remember growing up and living in is very different from the Red Deer that it is now. Its grown and changed and so have I. If I were to compare my memory of Red Deer with, say, someone who was born in the 50's and grew up there, it would be different again. Maybe they had a good or bad experience living there. Maybe it was a transition period in their lives, so they feel kind of neutral about it. I went to high school with loads of people who couldn't wait to get the heck out of town and live somewhere more interesting, only to move back years later because they decided it was a nice place to raise a family, or it was familiar to them after being away in foreign places for so long, or a variety of other reasons. They've remembered it differently or reconciled their feelings about it to their memories or made the decision to move back based on external factors like a job or family.

Memory fluctuates. It isn't static. It can be selective either by choice or conditioning of some sort. You can lose memories or regain them. Sometimes they creep up on us in our sleep or when we are going about daily tasks. Every once in a while in a grocery store I get a waft of a certain candy, I'm not sure which and for a brief moment I'm transported back to this very distinct memory I have as a small child and a hallway apartment and my Knight Rider car that I could sit in and move about our space with my feet. Certain songs can come on if I have my Itunes library on shuffle and suddenly I am lying in bed in the middle of a thunderstorm at a drama camp, chatting with my roommate and watching the storm from our bedroom window.

Most of my work is about memories. I take a lot of photos when I am out and about, conscious that these are things I may paint or draw one day. All of my photos and paintings from Japan are now memories. The BD bought some incense sticks at one of the many shrines we visited there, and when I sit on the couch in the morning with my dogs, wrapped up in the beautiful red silk kimono I purchased on that trip, I can see with my mind's eye the large brass basin filled with sand with tiny tendrils of smoke curling from it from all the incense offerings that visitors made.

Then there are the commissions I get. The request to paint other people's memories. Sometimes the photos I receive when I take on a commission are accompanied with a long back story, to help give me context for the painting I'm creating. Sometimes there is little explanation. I'm good with either. At the end of the day, I rely on the visual reference provided for me. I wasn't there. I didn't know that dog, or visit that country, or know that person. Even if I had been there, I might have remembered it differently. It's such a tricky thing, memory.

I try not to get too stuck on these kinds of questions or the backstories. I try to let my focus be more immediate, more physical. How that line intersects with this line, getting the lighting right, or maybe making the colors a bit more interesting for the painting. This is not to say I don't appreciate the thought and emotion put into the explanations that come with some of the photos, but at the end of the day, memory is kind of like water: it fills the space in the shape and size provided for it, can easily change shape and color depending on the mood of the 'viewer' and is never looked upon in the same way by one person, let alone an audience comprised of multiple witnesses.

Even so, beautiful images can still be cultivated if you try. I made these watercolor illustrations back in May based off the childhood photos that the client sent me. I was flooded with all sorts of similar memories of my own as I worked on these; autumns spent playing in the leaves with my cousins in the front yard of my Grandma's house, or summer days on a blanket, lying on my stomach reading a book for most of the day, or the footprints I left in the cement pad right in front of the back steps of my grandparents house when we helped build their brick patio! Me in pigtails and little shorts operating (or trying to!) a rake that was twice my height at the time.

untitled,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in),  2018

untitled, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in), 2018

untitled,  mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in),  2018

untitled, mixed media on cold pressed paper, 9x12(in), 2018

There are some stories you don't need to be privy to in order to have the joy and lightness of certain memories shine through your work, whether they are your memories or not. That's what I love about these two illustrations. You can feel the warmth, joy and nostalgia radiating through. Like it did. As it should.