sandy cove trail

Back in May the Bearded Dude and I packed the car and took a road trip to Vancouver Island. It seems to be our spring ritual to head to the west coast for a dose of early spring blooms and fragrant ocean air. Also, I was teaching a two day mixed media workshop at the Coast Collective Studio in Colwood. 

 Before we we got to Victoria we spent a few days in the resort municipality of Harrison Hotsprings on the mainland. 

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We hiked the Sandy Cove Trail while we were there; a very narrow, eroded path that led through some old growth forest and a very lush fern filled meadow and down to a secluded little public beach. This painting is based off a photo I took of the fern-filled meadow: 

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This is one of two paintings I made during the workshop that I taught in Colwood. The first piece sold, and I had forgotten to photograph this piece for my archive and just noticed that today when I was updating my website and Facebook page.

sandy cove trail, harrison hotsprings BC, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), $450 + GST, 2017 

sandy cove trail, harrison hotsprings BC, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), $450 + GST, 2017 

If you've never been to the town of Harrison Hotsprings, you should check it out. In the off season it's a sleepy little lakeside resort town nestled in a quiet and picturesque valley. The public hotsprings are indoors and you can get a daily rate so you can traipse in and out of the pool as you please. On a recent antiquing adventure in Kitscotty, I came across several old postcards from Harrison Hotsprings. I'm not certain of the era, but I thought the interior shot of the original public pool might make an interesting painting in the very near future. 

You never know where the creative trail might lead...

hungover

Everything is unpacked from Artwalk in Edmonton this past weekend. Laundry is done. Dog nails are trimmed. The house is vacuumed. I am a bit of a zombie, but it's OK. There really isn't anything to accomplish in the next few days, thankfully. I am in full Artwalk hangover mode. In truth, I am probably still hungover from this past spring of relocating from Edmonton to Vermilion, and all the planning that entailed, prepping for a group show and delivering the pieces to Akokiniskway Gallery in Rosebud, working in our new garden, getting the new house settled, setting up a studio in the new place only to move it two weeks later from a small upstairs bedroom to the more appropriately sized basement shop, teaching a workshop in Victoria and then another one at Leduc Composite High School and then taking a trip to Saskatchewan to go camping and partake in a kite festival. Now I'm gearing up for the groupshow opening on Saturday (an all day, two part affair) and then two days of painting in Bluerock Gallery in Black Diamond. Then home again. Details on events happening this weekend are in the 'exhibits' section of this website.

 

It's been a whirlwind of constant adventure these past few months.   

a sketch of the lupines and peonies that populate our wonderful new garden! 

a sketch of the lupines and peonies that populate our wonderful new garden! 

Oh yea, we moved. We left Edmonton and FINALLY headed east...just not as far east as we planned. The short version is that Vermilion ended up checking all the little ticky-boxes of major reasons why we wanted to leave Edmonton and move to the east coast...with the exception of it not  being the east coast. But it's alright. We love it here. We may yet make the east coast our home, but for now we are happy and content and way more fucking chill.

an afternoon at the Windscape Kite Festival (swift current, SK), mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST, 2017 

an afternoon at the Windscape Kite Festival (swift current, SK), mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), $2270 + GST, 2017 

a blur of trees from a moving car driving through new brunswick, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2017

a blur of trees from a moving car driving through new brunswick, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $1010 + GST, 2017

These are a few of the pieces I had with me at Artwalk last weekend. They can still be viewed in their own gallery (artwalk 2017) on this website and on my Facebook page until early next week. Then they will be dispersed among the various galleries that carry my work.

 

I'm taking the summer off from teaching, but I will be teaching some workshops at The Paint Spot    again in the fall. Registration isn't open yet, but as soon as it is, I will post the links in the 'exhibits' section and on my Facebook page. I'll keep you in the loop, don't worry.

 

I hope your summer is off to an amazing start. Behave yourselves! 

 

the art of practice

My new make work project this week has been practicing my portraiture in watercolour and adding other media such as soft pencil crayons and paint marker. It's gotten very silly very quickly. I didn't see the point in painting serious portraits, so I worked from goofy photos instead, and the results have been quite amusing.

self portrait, pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

self portrait, pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

the bearded dude  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

the bearded dude  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

dorian  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

dorian  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

morley, pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

morley, pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

anniversary number five  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

anniversary number five  , pen, watercolour, soft pencil crayons and acrylic paint marker on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), 2017

Happy Saturday! 

forgotten edmonton

 

We live in an old house. The oldest house I have lived in was a lovely two story sandstone brick house on 5th street southeast in Medicine Hat when I was in grade 11. I think it was built in 1890 or very early 1900's, I can't remember. But it was old! The floor was tilted and the walls had plaster spackle on them, and someone at one point decided it would be cool to have close to 25 large mirrors throughout the house, including two mirrored walls opposite each other in the upstairs bathroom that looked creepy as fuck when you were having a bath. Just you and a zillion naked duplicates of yerself disappearing off in the distance in either direction, all taking a bath. How relaxing!

The first house I lived in when I moved to Edmonton seven years ago was knocked down after I moved out. The lot was purchased as an infill project. I haven't been by to see it, but it's odd to think that it doesn't exist anymore. My studio there looked out into the front yard, which was substantial as the house was situated at the very back of the lot from the street. There was a wonderful flowering crabapple tree, a nice bed of lilly-of-the-valley planted between the walkway at the side of the house and the fence, and a good crop of tiger lilies lining the front of the house. It had a partly excavated basement with a dirt crawl space, and a steep set of stairs to get down to do laundry. It was tiny and drafty, but cozy as well.  

Our current place was built in about the 50's. The floor isn't slanted but the doorways are arched. It has a dining room just off the living room and kitchen (and is the space my studio occupies), wooden doors, door frames and cupboards and plaster walls that make hanging pictures without a drill, unpleasant. I like living in older houses, with all their quirks and weird history. I've lived in a few brand new places, and it's just not the same.

But sometimes these old places are costly to upgrade or fix, or are too far gone to do anything with and so they get knocked down and something new gets built in it's place. I understand this is the natural progression of things, but it's still a little sad, especially when you see some of the things that get put in their place. WTF?!  Is what I think about half the time when I see some of these infill projects. Some of them are nice, but the majority of them have multiple levels. Lots of stairs. Is no one taking into account the aging population that might not want to, or can't get up all those stairs comfortably? What ever happened to a nice thousand-or-so square foot one level house? I get the reason for the multiple levels; smaller footprint for a larger dwelling divided by three levels, but it does make me wonder about how a lot of these places will hamper some people's ability to downsize and relocate to more established, walkable, neighbourhoods with a major obstacle like too many fucking stairs to climb.

Anyhow, this is not a post to rail against infill or gentrification. I was headed to the farmer's market a few weeks ago, and along 81 ave where there is free angle parking, some properties there were rezoned and demolished to make way for a new condo development. An old church, a small pay parking lot and two old houses have been engulfed by this project. I don't think anyone had been living in the houses for some time. My favourite one was the blue one with the striped awnings. It's gone now. There is just a hole in the ground behind a temporary orange wire construction fence with a flashy sign depicting the young and trendy folks who may occupy this new development once it's complete.

The little blue house quickly became a part of Edmonton we forgot about.  

So I painted a picture of that little sentinel, so it doesn't get forgotten  completely.  

forgotten edmonton: blue house on 81 ave knocked down for a new condo development, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2017

forgotten edmonton: blue house on 81 ave knocked down for a new condo development, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2017

a trip to the muttart conservatory

Spring! It's here whether it snows and catches you on a walk in sandals, or the sun comes out and suddenly you are wondering why you left the house with a coat and not your damn sunglasses. It's unpredictable, it's uncomfortable, it's fleeting, it's bipolar and highly non-committal. But it's here, spreading it's feverish ways throughout the population like a bad head cold in a day care. Hooray!! 

But it is also springtime in Alberta, which means we are a few weeks away from puttering about in our annual beds. The tulips and other bulbous growers aren't poking their green tenderness from the ground quite yet and I really wanted to draw some green, growing things. So my friend Robin and I headed to the Muttart Conservatory last Saturday, for an afternoon of drawing.

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This sketchbook along with about 11 others will be on display at the Naess Gallery  in the Paint Spot beginning this Saturday and there is an opening reception for the show from 2 - 4:30. The show is up until the end of the month. Along with my sketchbooks will be a collection of instax photos I have used for reference material, the drawings I made from my road trip to Toronto last fall, and a few new paintings. Hopefully you can make it out to see the show.

Happy Spring!

from nova scotia

Seaside in winter! What a glorious, freezing cold place to be. Our trip back in January to Nova Scotia feels like it was eons ago. It has been a real joy looking at those photos and putting them to canvas these past few weeks. 

january sunset, peggy's cove, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2017

january sunset, peggy's cove, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), SOLD, 2017

As per usual, I trail behind the BD on our trips. I'm always stopping to take photos or peer at something. His purpose was singular in this moment; to go and stand by the Atlantic and let its sounds and smells wash over him as he stood quietly observing.

capturing frozen moments on evangeline beach, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1350 + GST, 2017

capturing frozen moments on evangeline beach, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1350 + GST, 2017

We could hear the ocean when we got out of the car, which is pretty amazing because the wind was quite strong and the tide was out very far. The beach was encrusted in ice and we could see how high the water would be coming up later thanks to the ice encrusted metal stairway that lead down to the beach. It was too treacherous (and cold!) for walking on, so we snapped photos from where we could and tried to see if we could spot the tiny tides on the horizon. 

january evening, peggy's cove, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), $300 + GST, 2017

january evening, peggy's cove, mixed media on canvas, 14x14(in), $300 + GST, 2017

The village of Peggy's Cove was pretty dark when we arrived just as the sun was sinking beneath the sea. We missed the best part of the sunset, but it the lighting was still good for a few minutes of picture taking. Some of the buildings along the cove were hard to spot between snow covered rocks and piled drifts. The dwindling light of early winter evenings bathes everything in a muted purplish-grey, washing out the bright colours of the some of the houses.

january evening, peggy's cove II, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), SOLD, 2017

january evening, peggy's cove II, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), SOLD, 2017

My fingers were cold and my phone had died (because it hates being cold) when we started leaving Peggy's Cove to make our way back to Dartmouth. We hadn't even driven two hundred feet before the BD pulled over to get a shot of some lobster traps gently bathed in the glow of streetlights, with that gorgeous sky as the backdrop. I loved this photo from the moment he showed me, and was very excited to commit it to canvas. It's probably my most colourful winter scene to date. 

Happy Wednesday. 

tulips

It's Saturday, and part of my routine on Saturday is to head to the Old Strathcona Farmer's market and pick up the groceries for the week. While I'm there, I treat myself to a small bouquet of flowers. Right now they have fresh cut tulips, little potted daffodils and potted primulas. I think I'll switch it up next week and grab one of the latter, but today, these gorgeous red tulips grabbed my attention so I went for those. 

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tulips, pen, watercolour & soft pencil crayons on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2017 and FREE SHIPPING if you are outside of Edmonton!

tulips, pen, watercolour & soft pencil crayons on cold pressed paper, 8x8(in), $80 + GST, 2017 and FREE SHIPPING if you are outside of Edmonton!

They aren't always for drawing but they do make a delightful subject matter. I like how the soft pencil crayons interacts with the watercolour. The pencil crayons will be easy to add to my travel sketch kit, and they aren't as messy in transit or on paper as pastels can be, so it'll be an easy addition.

I hope your weekend is full of little indulgences too!

mountain forms

Even though it's been over a week since our frigid day trip to Jasper Natinal Park to do some drawing, mountain shapes are still showing up on canvases in my studio. I haven't painted a lot of mountain scenes, so it's a nice change of subject matter. To be honest, painting a mountain scene is kind of intimidating to me. Surely such an epic landscape deserves more attention to detail, more reverence, more time spent staring at them in awe and getting their shapes just right on the canvas?

Or I could just get over it and try my hand at playing around with their interesting lines. Like any unfamiliar subject matter, I have built mountains up in my head to be something reserved for other people to paint. Well, that's dumb. I want to paint mountains too! 

So I did. 

mountain form I, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain form I, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain for II, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain for II, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain form III, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain form III, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain form IV, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

mountain form IV, mixed media on canvas, 10x10(in), $150 + GST, 2017

This series of panels was worked on simultaneously. It's kind of a mash-up of a few different photographs I took for reference. I chose the ones with the most interesting lines, highlights and shadows. It is not a continuous piece of a specific mountains range; it's more of a made-up landscape collage. Mountains are very complicated and rather than getting hung up on getting their shapes absolutely correct, I focused on fluidity of the line I was making and the shapes of some of the larger area of negative space (like snow or a swath of trees). I applied paint to all four of them at the same time to keep the colour consistent. It was a fun exercise to get me comfortable with drawing and painting mountains. So much so that I started two more mountain themed paintings.

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All of these pieces will be making their way into my show at the   High Level Diner later  this week. 

a workshop in Victoria in May!

Is it May yet? Not that I want the days to pass by that quickly, but I am scheduled to teach a workshop in Victoria (well, Colwood actually) in May. It's a two day acrylic mixed media painting workshop, akin to the weekend workshop I taught here in Edmonton at the Paint Spot back in December.

This is not a beginner painting class. This is a class for participants who are familiar with painting with acrylic. You don't have to be familiar with acrylic mediums, or collage or anything like that. I won't be addressing painting technique so much as how to augment your existing painting practice with the addition of brightly colored patterned papers, textured and tinted tissue papers, and acrylic ink. I'll lead you through my painting process when I tackle a landscape. We'll be breaking up the painting process into more specified layers like so:

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1. base tone, outline and first paper layer

I like to tone my canvases with Golden Liquid Acrylic in Red Oxide. It makes the lighter colors pop, and I like how it peeks through the darker colors. I then use Golden Liquid Acrylic in Carbon Black to draw my outline onto the red base. Next, I decide where I want the patterned papers to go. I like to put these down first to emphasize color or texture of a certain area in the painting.

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2. color blocking

This is the actual painting step. Now that the subject matter has been drawn onto the canvas, I add color to the entire thing, carefully painting around the patterned paper pieces I laid down in the first step.

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3. tissue layer and self-leveling gel application

This is a quick, easy and very interesting way to add subtle texture or interest to larger areas of negative space in your painting (like the sky, a road, the side of a building, a giant shrubbery or green space, etc.) Since the tissues are quite transparent, especially once a gel medium is applied to them to essentially paste them to the canvas, you can create some quiet or really bold effects, depending on the color of the tissue and the paint color behind it. You can cover a large area in tissue or cut-to-fit into smaller areas, drawing the eye to those spots and making them 'pop' a bit more in the viewer's eye. Once the tissue is on and the gel medium used to adhere it to the canvas is dry, we coat the entire piece in a thin layer of self-leveling gel. This smooths out the overall surface of the painting for drawing on details with ink. This is especially important if you plan on drawing some details on top of the tissue paper. The fibrous nature of the paper will cause the ink to bleed unless it's coated, making your line more unpredictable.

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4. inking in final details

Now that the gel is dry, this is when I like to draw in details I didn't feel like painting in, or were perhaps too delicate for me to paint in. I also like to add spatter to my paintings, to add color or shadow to an area or help break up a really flat space. If there are power lines in my reference photo, I usually use ink to draw them in at the end. The ink lines are very delicate and thin, but surprisingly eye-catching.

If this sounds like something you might be interested, you can visit the Coast Collective website to register* and obtain the supply list. If this is not your jam, but you know of someone who would be interested, please direct them to this post!

*Please note we'll be completing one 16x16 inch landscape painting. It mistakenly says we will be completing an urbanscape as well. Sadly no, but if there is a good turnout for this workshop, there might be a reprise!

 

better out than in

Do you ever get those weird bursts of energy, where you just need to shake your entire body, or you get that odd shiver that runs up and down your spine? Or have you witnessed your dog just start tearing around the yard without being chased, or seen them start chasing their tail at top speed one way, only to pause momentarily and then counter it by chasing their tail just as fast in the opposite direction? I witnessed a similar thing last night having dinner with my family. My little niece and nephew, my nephew especially demonstrates this ability, probably because he's getting close to four. He can go from being relatively calm and coherent, and then suddenly he turns into a tiny crazy person, running around, flailing every available body part in the air as he tears through the house in one direction and then another, miraculously not taking himself out with a wall or a chair or an unsuspecting standing adult (usually). Just as fast as these spells can come on, they stop, and he'll calmly begin playing again or telling someone a story in his limited, but extremely expressive vocabulary.  

I have a sketchbook for just such a thing. Not for running around like a crazy person from a standstill, but for those kind of creative energy bursts; when you just need to make marks and smash colours together for no real reason other than need.  

I started the morning drawing in my 'regular' sketchbook, the one that contains drawings that actually look like things, but then I wanted to make another drawing in the same theme, but just the marks and colours. 

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It started with a glance outside of my kitchen window while I was making tea. The deep blue wash all over everything as the sun crept up looked really neat, and the tree shape peeking over the roof of the house across the alley way looked like a good thing to draw. Then I took my tea and headed to the living room, and the trees in the front yard framed by the awning, curtains and bright snowy patch of the front lawn across the street looked like another good thing to draw.

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I'm trying to mix more media in my sketches. The backyard one has some nice blue pencil crayon marks in the sky, and I used my grey scale markers in the front yard drawing to establish the trunks, branches and distant trees.

Then I got thinking about Robin and my visit to the Ice Castle over at Hawrelak Park on Sunday.  

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And when one sketch is a good time, two is obviously a damn party! 

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Of course, once the party gets started, you wanna keep the good times rolling. Since I was enjoying this theme, I suddenly got a hankering merely to focus on the textures and colours of the myriad of icicles that make up the ice castle. The bellies of the structure are a deep blue. I thought only water from glaciers in mountains lakes and glacier fed rivers close to their source could be that colour! Nope. Happily that is not the case. 

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This drawing so far is comprised of acrylic paint and chalk pastel. I'm not sure if it's finished yet, but I am digging its depth and texture. I've come to the conclusion that I really prefer my drawings to look like things, but I do have a good time just letting loose and making marks, stacking them on top of each other and seeing how the different media react and relate to each other. It's my version of art therapy I guess.

Better out and on paper than keeping all that nervous, frenetic mark-making energy in. It's liable to curl the heck outta your hair or something.

a quick visit to Jasper

Last week my friend Robin and I got up early and went to Jasper for the day to do some drawing. It was just after the cold snap, a few days of minus-thirty-with-the-windchill type days, but was forecasted to warm up later that day. It did, but the wind through the valley where we did most of our drawing was brutally cold and difficult to take pictures in. Thankfully the sun was out and the roadside pullouts were clear of snow and ice, so we were able to park in the sunshine and draw safely and comfortably in my car.

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Due to limited space and time during our little day trip, I waited to colour these in in the studio at home.

The wind wasn't too bad in the trees, so we did get some good photos when we pulled off at the air field, and when we visited the upper part of Maligne Canyon. 

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I tried out the monochromatic instax film on my classic mini. It shoots really nice, and makes the photos look like something you pilfered from the archives. I'm thinking of ways to translate these wonderful images into black & white acrylic paintings.

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I'm planning a few more drawing adventures in the next few weeks; one to the Muttart Conservatory and another to the Devonian Gardens. It'll be nice to spend some time drawing amongst green, growing things. 

how deep in the valley

I was born in Edmonton, but I spent twenty-six-ish years growing up in Red Deer, about an hour and a half south of Edmonton (if you are not familiar with Alberta). My favourite thing about Red Deer was the fantastic trail system in the river valley and I knew it by heart. I cycled, walked and ran those trails so much that I knew how to bypass most of the residential streets and major roadways to get to where I needed to go. Before I left Red Deer and moved to Edmonton (with a brief four month stint in Lethbridge first), I was renting a most adorable basement suite in my favourite neighbourhood (Waskasoo). It was a quick ten minute bike ride down the road and across the bridge to my full time job, and a ten minute walk down the bike path with my first golden retriever (Gershwin) to my second job at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre on the weekends. My job there was to man the information desk, handout maps, sometimes run children's programs on the weekend and be the key holder for various community groups that had meetings there during the evenings after regular operating hours. I spent my days there painting in my watercolour sketchbook, and chatting with people who had walked through the bird sanctuary about trail conditions and bird sightings. It was the fucking best! When I had enough of the city and people, I would get Gershwin and meander down the trail by the river or lace up my running shoes and run up the bike trail that climbed a steep hill behind a farm just beside 67th street before all the land was annexed and turned into suburbia. It didn't really feel like living in a city because I knew all the places and paths to go to avoid it.

 

Edmonton also has a lovely river valley trail system too, and I would love to be able to tell you that I have gotten to know it as well, but that would be a lie. I have gotten to know parts of it well. I was too busy with finding a new job and then promoting my artwork to take the time to get to know it better when I first moved here. Nearly 7 years later, I am getting  back into the habit of really exploring the river valley and all of the lovely parks here in Edmonton.

Sometimes I am a slow fucking learner. 

One of our favourite parks is the Terwillegar dog park. It's gorgeous in winter, and has handy river access in the summer so the dogs can mud bog on the trail, rinse off in the river and repeat this cycle at least 9 times before we get back to the car. Like any place I frequent or grow particularly fond of, eventually I bring out my camera or phone and start taking photos of my favourite parts to paint. I've shared some of these paintings on other blog posts already, but since I just completed a few more these past few weeks that are currently hanging in my show at the High Level Diner  , I wanted to see them grouped together in the order that I painted them. My painting style morphs a little bit every year, so it's neat to see the progression from 2014 to now. 

a sunny day at the terwillegar dog park, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), SOLD, 2014

a sunny day at the terwillegar dog park, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), SOLD, 2014

terwillegar dog park II, mixed media on canvas, 20x24(in), SOLD, 2014

terwillegar dog park II, mixed media on canvas, 20x24(in), SOLD, 2014

the four o'clock shadow, mixed media on canvas, 30x40(in), SOLD, 2015

the four o'clock shadow, mixed media on canvas, 30x40(in), SOLD, 2015

how the light gets in, mixed media on canvas, 16x16, SOLD, 2016

how the light gets in, mixed media on canvas, 16x16, SOLD, 2016

steeper than it looks, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2016

steeper than it looks, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2016

 the last little bit of daylight, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2016 

 the last little bit of daylight, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2016 

the country of the trees, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), SOLD, 2016

the country of the trees, mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), SOLD, 2016

sunlight in the meadow, mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), SOLD, 2017 

sunlight in the meadow, mixed media on canvas, 36x36(in), SOLD, 2017 

a quieter path in the terwillegar dog park, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2017

a quieter path in the terwillegar dog park, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), SOLD, 2017

sunlight on the hill, mixed media on canvas, 24x24, SOLD, 2017

sunlight on the hill, mixed media on canvas, 24x24, SOLD, 2017

It's so good to explore where you live. It can serve as both a respite and an infinite source of creative inspiration. We need these reminders, or we get whiny and complacent about our surroundings. Or at least I do. 

I've also painted two (maybe three?) autumn scenes, but the purpose of this post was to view all the winter ones in the same place. 

a little bit of chaos

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There is a lot going on in this piece, but it's a green, vibrant and somehow restful piece. Maybe because it's a painting about a garden? Maybe because the walled gardens I got to visit in Scotland last summer were all green, vibrant and peaceful places to visit, and that feeling carries over for me into this piece.

a little bit of chaos (walled garden, castle culzean, scotland), mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1350 + GST, 2017

a little bit of chaos (walled garden, castle culzean, scotland), mixed media on canvas, 30x30(in), $1350 + GST, 2017

It's one of 14 or 15 pieces hanging in my show at the High Level Diner   from now until April 2nd. If you are in the Edmonton area between now and then, I hope you get a chance to grab a bite to eat and look at the paintings. 

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Happy Sunday. 

not another 'instagram worthy' photo

Social media is great; this is not a rant against it. This is especially not  a rant against Instagram. I love it, and overuse it daily to look at stuff and post my own stuff. I am a chronic 'over-sharer' and that is just the way it is. The thing that frustrates me about things like Instagram is that it can make people feel like their photos are not good enough. It's not the right perspective, something is off-centred or there is keystoning happening because of the tiny phone lense and you weren't able to stand far enough away from what you were taking a picture of, to prevent it. The scenery wasn't 'epic' enough or someone stepped into the frame just as you were about to take the perfect shot and now there are loads of people and the moment has passed so why bother? 

Clients get like that sometimes when choosing photos for me to paint for them. Sometimes I get messages like 'I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities, and these photos don't do (blankety-balnk place/person/thing) justice. I don't know if this is good enough to paint.' Don't get me wrong, I fall into this trap too, with things I photograph to paint and things I post to my own IG feed. But then I make myself stop and answer one question:

  'Justina, do  you  think this is cool?' 

And if that answer is yes, then I post it or paint it.  

Thankfully I am constantly reminded that it's not the perfect photo, or 'Instagram worthy' photo that makes an interesting painting. It's the quirky, keystoned, slightly blurred, poorly lit ones that seem to work best, at least for my style of painting. But judging by the myriad of subject matter that many of the artists I admire, both dead and posting to IG, I am not alone in this vein of thinking.

It doesn't need to be perfect  , it needs to be interesting. 

I think this applies to photos, paintings, drawings, pottery, writing, singing, cooking, interior decorating, make-up, fashion and all manner of other creative endeavours which are very numerous.  

I ripped out so many sketchbook pages as a teenager because one line, ONE line, in a drawing wasn't perfect. Drawing was so stressful. I hated it! It was not something I enjoyed doing, but I was so determined to get good, to make things look super realistic, so I kept at it, kept stressing, kept ripping pages out and getting mad. When I started looking at more art, I began to realize the artists and works that I admired most, weren't after realism. Their lines were loose, the shapes were not perfect, but you could tell what they were, the colours were interesting but not realistic. It looked like the people who created some of these pieces I was looking at were having fun. I was not having any fun. So maybe perfection in drawing didn't matter. So what if my pencil sketches looked nothing like Michelangelo's? Who cares if the winter scene I painted in watercolour wasn't an exact replica of what I saw? The more important questions are:

Did I have fun painting/drawing this? 

Do I like how it looks overall?   

I figure if you can answer yes to both of those, then whatever you made was a success, so keep at it or move onto the next thing. Start a new thing, and strive to answer yes to those two questions, and then start another thing, and so on. 

Perhaps this is the slackers approach to making art. Or perhaps I think this way because I didn't go to art school, so I don't know much about technique or the hard and fast rules of composition and colour theory. I figure these are questions you answer yourself, everyday, while making stuff. Just you and your project. Supposedly the most celebrated artists knew these 'rules' and then spent the rest of their careers breaking them. So what happens if you never learned them in the first place, if you actually give zero fucks  and just go ahead and    do it  ?

This is a very long-winded preamble to a commission I finished last week that I really love. It was from a blurry photo my cousin sent me of a street scene on a rainy night, either taken from a moving vehicle or while walking, I'm not certain. I first looked at the photo and nearly emailed her back asking for a crisper image if she had one, and then I looked again and saw things I really liked about the photo. The light reflections on the wet pavement, the light trails of moving vehicles in front of the buildings, and the black human shape with what appears to be an umbrella obscuring the rest of the shining lights in the foreground to the left. 

cabaret, mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), commission, 2017

cabaret, mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), commission, 2017

A crisper image would have probably still led to an interesting painting, but this was a good challenge and (another) reminder to myself that making art (for me) is not about achieving  perfection, it's about making images interesting. It's one of the main reasons I started adding paper and ink to my painting process. I wanted to increase the possibilities of making my paintings interesting to work on and look at.

I hope this helps or encourages someone. HappyThursday. 

 

sea stuff

We went, we explored, we drank copious amounts of local beer, cider and wine, indulged in fresh seafood, had a very blustery morning  beach walk, took a quick detour to New Brunswick to visit a good friend, attempted to see the Hopewell Rocks on the way back to Dartmouth but ran out of daylight, ate octopus for the first time (and fucking  loved   it!), snuggled a baby, ate some huge croissants and drank plenty of road coffees. 

And all I have to show for it are these few sketches and instax photos. 

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It wasn't laziness that led to so few drawings and instax photos. Between all the exploring we did and blustery winter weather on the coast, there was not a ton of opportunity to draw things and it was a bit too cold and wet most of the time to safely use my little camera.

 

It was a lovely trip. We looked at a variety of areas we could potentially live in, chatted with locals and learned a lot. We're very excited at the prospect of making Nova Scotia our home province sometime this year. We aren't sure exactly when, but I'll keep you posted.

 

habitual

I've developed habits over the years, as we do. The most current and notable one I am trying to modify is whispering 'there!' to things, after I complete tasks on my to-do list, or finishing drawing something or complete blocking in the colour on a piece. Now I roll my eyes at myself right after I say it.

Task complete. There! (eye roll)

Perfect. Now I have two silly behaviours to modify. Sometimes I chew the skin around my fingernails, not the actual fingernails. It's a nervous habit. I get anxious and pick at the skin, and left unchecked it can become a raw mess. I've gotten better with that one. I always seem to start with my thumbs, so sometimes I make a fist around my thumbs to stop myself. It's a habit that manifests itself with good or bad stress. Our bodies can't always tell the difference. But I am aware of it, and can stop it as soon as I begin or feel the need to want to begin.

 

One of my weird creative habits is the starting of projects right before a trip. Usually only one project. Sometimes I like to finish it, but usually I just start one, a painting, and then once the outline is on the canvas, I'm satisfied and can clean up the studio and think about packing for the trip. I've realized why I do this now. I thought it was a nervous thing, anxiety/excitement about visiting a new place, being away from home and my usual routine, but it's to help me get back into routine afterward. Coming home after a trip with a bunch of new drawings and ideas can be quite overwhelming. Having something to work on in the studio, particularly something not  related to the trip, helps me get back into a working groove. It makes the transition from adventure to working less stressful for me.

Today I took it a step further. I began two new projects. 

top: 24x24 inches, bottom: 36x36 inches

top: 24x24 inches, bottom: 36x36 inches

the reference photos, with swapped placement.  both of these photos were taken at the Terwillegar dog park here in Edmonton on a really cold day. the light was amazing. the numb toes and fingers, not so much.

the reference photos, with swapped placement.  both of these photos were taken at the Terwillegar dog park here in Edmonton on a really cold day. the light was amazing. the numb toes and fingers, not so much.

I might get the first paper and gel layer on today, but now that the outlines are drawn into the canvas, I feel more relaxed. The slacking off and trip prep can begin comfortably now. 

If you visit this website frequently, you might notice a few new galleries. A '2017' gallery, and one specifically for petraits that I've painted. 

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One of the clients's that picked up her petrait commission from me this past weekend, emailed me this photo of her dog Jackson posing in front of his petrait.  

jackson, mixed media on canvas, 14x18(in), commission, 2017

jackson, mixed media on canvas, 14x18(in), commission, 2017

Now to indulge in the other pre-trip habits, like house cleaning and travel journal kit assemblage. Happy Monday. 

waiting for the queen car

I am not a fan of living in a big city, but there are things I really enjoy about visiting them, like riding the street car and subway when I visit Toronto. Maybe it's the convenient central location of my aunt's apartment to the subway and street car terminal, or maybe it's because I'm just a visitor and not a resident, but I find it very easy to get around Toronto. I've only driven in Toronto once, because I had my car with me back in October. Usually we walk or take public transit. Taking the streetcar is my favourite, especially to the AGO. Passing through the old neighbourhoods and seeing all the shops crammed together; it's a real assault on the senses, visually. So many textures, colours, advertisements in a variety of languages, and such wonderful murals and graffiti. It's overwhelming but enjoyable for a short period of time. During my visit back in October, Uncle Patrick and I spent an afternoon looking for interesting graffiti for me to photograph. I absently snapped a photo of all the overhanging lines the streetcar needs to operate while we were waiting for the queen car, and when I looked at it later, I saw I had also photographed a bystander and her shadow immediately in the foreground. In the midst of such a busy corner, it was interesting to capture this fleeting moment of stillness between traffic lights.

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waiting for the queen car (toronto), mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), $290 + GST, 2017

waiting for the queen car (toronto), mixed media on canvas, 12x16(in), $290 + GST, 2017

lanigan, saskatchewan

Thank God that's over with. I don't mean Christmas. We cancelled Christmas because we all took turns having the flu or something. Mom texted us the morning of Christmas Eve saying that dinner was off because they were unwell, and later that day I began feeling like shit and then plans for the next day were soon cancelled and Christmas was reduced to (many!!) bathroom trips and time spent convalescing in bed, surrounded by sleepy dogs while the BD played all my favourite Christmas movies until eyelids got too heavy and my stomach calmed down enough for me to sleep. My insides are still wary about what goes down the pipe, but I don't feel like a newly run-over frozen bag of dog crap being picked at by magpies, so that's a plus! It's the little things. And what goes in isn't coming out at a surprising velocity with little-to-no warning, so I'm in the studio, taking it slow, but already I am tired and feel a nap coming on.

Thank goodness we were merely guests invited to things and not the bloody hosts! 

Anyhow, I finally finished this piece I started on before the Grinch winched my insides. It's from a lovely series of photos taken by the BD on his way back to Alberta from our adventure at Falcon Lake, Manitoba back in October.  

sundown, lanigan saskatchewan II, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), $385 + GST, 2016

sundown, lanigan saskatchewan II, mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in), $385 + GST, 2016

sundown, lanigan saskatchewan, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $865 + GST, 2016

sundown, lanigan saskatchewan, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), $865 + GST, 2016

The second one I finished a few weeks ago. This could be the extent of my productivity today, friends. But it's already more than the past four days combined.

Merry Boxing Week. Don't get trampled. 

the palm house

The paintings I have been working on the past week or so are definitely a review of the this year's adventures. I'm not into making a 'Best of Blankety-Blank-Blank of 2016' because that shit annoys the hell out of me. It's one of the (growing list of) things that really grates on my nerves about this time of year. That and crowded malls and how people forget how to operate the signal lights on their car, or that 60km/hr is not a suitable speed for a parking lot, or that texting and driving is still not supposed to be happening at this time of year. (Wait, this is the case year round, only it's exacerbated because everyone is racing toward the same two day deadline to get all of the things!!) It's stressful right now, leaving home. I went to the post office yesterday morning at ten o'clock and the ladies working there looked like they could have used something strong and fermented in their coffee already. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why I keep returning to the Palm House in the studio.

The Palm House was in a series of smaller green houses at the Kibble Palace Gardens in Glasgow, and it was my absolute favourite. The park was pretty busy the day I visited it, even though it had been raining. The main greenhouse, the actual 'palace' was quiet when I sat down and started drawing, and was soon filled to bursting with shrieking children racing about and parents who had quite forgotten they belonged to them, and so let them continue to race about, testing the maximum decibel of their tiny lungs, much to the chagrin of myself and quite a lot of other visitors who were having a wonderfully serene walk around the mezzanine until their arrival. 

It was so quiet in the palm house, probably because it too was nearly filled to bursting with palms of various size and variety. Unfortunately there were no benches inside, or I would have contentedly hid there, away from the crowds, sketching at leisure. I have completed two acrylic paintings of this magical place to date, and am very near completing a third. 

the palm house, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), 2016, available at Canvas Gallery   in Toronto

the palm house, mixed media on canvas, 24x24(in), 2016, available at Canvas Gallery   in Toronto

the palm house with small visitors, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), 2016, available at Canvas Gallery    in Toronto

the palm house with small visitors, mixed media on canvas, 20x20(in), 2016, available at Canvas Gallery    in Toronto

angled detail of the newest piece, to show off the subtle texture and colour of the tissue papers used for the glass walls and some of the foliage.

angled detail of the newest piece, to show off the subtle texture and colour of the tissue papers used for the glass walls and some of the foliage.

unfinished version of 'the palm house with smaller palms', mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in) 

unfinished version of 'the palm house with smaller palms', mixed media on canvas, 16x16(in) 

I'm not sure where this one is headed when finished. Maybe it will hang in the cafe for a bit or make it's way out to Charlottetown along with a few others I am working on. So much greenery and so much blissful quiet. I hope you can find a bit of both in this hectic season.  

 

dog walk thoughts

My iphone is getting on in years and hates the cold. Really, it prefers temps warmer than 12 degrees otherwise it just goes black, so it's no use taking it with me on a winter walk anymore. It would rather hibernate, stupid thing. It lights up imediatwly when it's in they house and plugged in. It's almost a landline. Perhaps in the new year, it's time for a new phone, only I hate getting to know a new gadget, but I do love how fast they are when you flit between apps. I'll talk myself into getting a new one, but not just yet. 

In this warm winter week just before the longest night of the year, our long walks in the woods have been particularly fine. We finally made it to the new foot bridge at the Terwillegar dog park yesterday, and what a site the river was! And me with no camera. Hmph! When I got home, I started drawing the wonderful shapes of the ice near the embankment under the bridge. The colours and the shapes were so delicate.

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I had an idea to make a series of drawings and attach the reference photo to the drawing as a sort of journal entry about our walks by the river for the next few days. I'm not sure how many drawings it will amount to.  

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Yesterday's walk was overcast and warm, but today's was bright and windy. Everything out of the shadow of trees was flooded in strong, golden december sunshine. It was quite intense.  

kosher salt slowly dissolvng into the yellow wash.

kosher salt slowly dissolvng into the yellow wash.

Because of the sun and a few days of warmer temps, quite a wide channel has opened up on the North Saskatchewan, painting a deep blue stripe in the midst of the pale lace patterns that rest on top of the surface.

i accidentally caught myself in the shot.  

i accidentally caught myself in the shot.  

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I only had four shots left in my instax mini. I should have brought along more, but the limitations can make you put more thought into what you want to capture on a particular walk. 

 

When these drawings are finished, I will add them to my 'works on paper' gallery. 

 

The BD sent in his application for a job in Halifax last week, and today he learned he has an interview next month, so we head to Halifax for 9 days in January. Holy shit!