White flag – painting timelapse #13

white flag
Waving the white flag     Scroll down to see timelapse #13

White flag

I surrender, but the “white flag” does not mean I’ve given up.

Last night when I painted,  I felt very frustrated with having the camera on me. 

So far,  I’ve been trying to angle the camera, and myself, in such a way that hopefully the viewer could see what I was painting. It is an ergonomic nightmare.  My neck, back, arms all end up sore after a few hours of painting that way.

And still, it has been increasingly difficult to keep myself out of the shot. Beyond vanity, my concern is that I am at a point in the painting that I need to spend some time very close to the canvas, as I add detail. Which means if I ignore the camera, there may be long periods of just my back.

At the same time, I am also at the point where I need to be constantly backing up to look at the painting as a whole, then going in to make adjustments to value etc.

Who you are is how you paint

The way I paint is not efficient, I would not teach someone to paint this way. When I have a colour on my brush, I use it up, wherever I can on the canvas, before cleaning the brush and changing colour. Call me cheap.

And maybe also impatient. I’ve never been the kind of artist that uses small brushes and starts in one corner of the canvas working a little section until is is complete, and moving on until the whole canvas is done. Sure, it would make for an awesome timelapse video. But that is very much against my personality.

My method is more a frenzy of colour, followed by hours and hours of small adjustments, pushing and pulling until I’ve hopefully tidied up the embarrassing bits.

Re-reading that, I have to laugh at myself. Why do I feel compelled to write this stuff, and even crazier, share it with the …. umm … millions who read my blog? And I compare the tone of my writing, to a male artist friend who tags his art on instagram #acrylicgenius #artinovator. Ah, to be a male artist.

Anyway, getting back to my frustration. My studio space is crowded right now, and having the camera on a tripod directly behind me is literally cramping my style.

So these are the excuses I’m offering up to explain the white flag.

The video below might illustrate my confusion, I was adding in detail, but I wasn’t close enough to get what I wanted, and kept getting the stroke, or the colour wrong. So I went to bed.

Twenty four hours later I’m writing this blog post, to say this might be the last time-lapse this month.  Unlucky #13.


It is Valentine’s day – or it was when I started writing this – and I was reminded that self-love, self-care is a very important part of finding balance in everyday life. 

 The 30 in 30 challenge was necessary, a defibrillator for my artistic practice. I was spending more and more time on volunteer activities, and less and less on creating art, and on my business.

The first couple of days were hard because I had to miss certain events so that I could paint, blog etc.  But from the first day, my painting mojo was back.

And a week and a half into it, my priorities had already shifted. I didn’t really mind the other things that were falling away/behind while I focused on the 30 in 30.


In the last few days though, I’ve realized that the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Now I’m failing in other areas of my life. Not sleeping enough, reverting back to bad eating habits. Not getting exercise. Not connecting with family & friends, trying to help the kids with homework and paint/blog at the same time.

Even my to do list for the volunteer work, & my actual business, were stagnating. And we’re not even going to talk about the housework.

Valentine’s Day

So this is how I spent Valentine’s Day –  I hoisted my white flag. Then I napped for 3 hours once the kids were off to school -I’d only slept for 3-4 hours before waking them up. I tidied up a bit, caught up on a bit of computer work & errands, went to my first yoga class in a long, long time. Exchanged gifts with hubby. Helped my youngest study for a science test, wrote this blog.

I have a bunch more things to take care of, so I may not end up painting tomorrow either. But I will reorganize the studio a bit to make more space for me to move about when working on this bigger (4’wide) painting.

On being an artist and a mom

We have a 4 day weekend coming up, and it would be easy to sit at my easel, and computer each day. But then the Mom guilt would kick in. Experience tells me that 50% of the rest of my family would then spend the whole time on their electronics.

My youngest would spend 50 % of his time on x-box gaming with his school friends who are at their houses, and 50% in my studio asking what he can eat next, and reading his dream journal to me, showing me the latest video he’s made using his artwork, or skits he’s acted out, & new cool apps etc. etc.

And I’ll have to wear my headphones because he’ll be watching Good Mythical Morning, or Nerdy Nummies without headphones while he’s making video game characters out of polymer clay. Yeah, I love it.

But come Monday night when the eldest wants to stay up crazy hours to complete homework, I’ll also be regretting not pushing to get us all out of the house, socializing, being active. 


 When I started the 30 in 30 I was not trying to create a painting every day, or to sell more paintings, or become a daily painter. I just wanted to re-activate my painting mojo, and build some momentum as I start a new series of paintings. And to try making time-lapse videos.

I feel that that ball is back in the air now. And the real goal is balance.

The 30 in 30 is a great accountability tool, but you have to make it work for you. It is important to know when to shift, adjust, pivot, to wave the white flag etc.

So, I’m going to follow my intuition, but I’m not going to make any promises about when next I’m going to post, what I might post etc. 


I will say that “Journey to Self” is a self-portrait, even though I am not the figure in it.

It is the starting point of a body of work which for now, I will call FLOW. And turning the camera off will give me the freedom I need to explore and develop this work.

Subscribe to Blue Roots Art Studio News if you want to get glimpses of my new art, shows, and creative insights etc.


Incense – painting timelapse #12

Incense to create the mood .                             Scroll down to see timelapse #12


Sandalwood, patchouli, bergamot, jasmine, frangipani… incense can be a fun way to set the mood for creative work.

I stocked up a few years ago when I visited Primitive Designs in Port Hope with a friend, and every now and then I remember I have them. 

You choose scents that you enjoy, but I think really it is the deliberate choice you make when you pick one and light it up, that leads to the benefits.

 It is a signal to your brain that you are ready to relax, to take care of yourself, to be in tune with your senses, to be IN the moment, to meditate, to be open to insight, to create.

I think we can condition ourselves to get into that mindset – and gain those benefits faster – by lighting incense whenever we are about to start a painting session.

It’s my hypothesis anyway.

I might try to test it out, starting by  burning incense at the start of each painting session so that I begin to correlate the two.

The truth is, I’d like to get to my easel earlier in the day but I’ve always been a night owl, doing most of my creative work at night.

So, it might just be going against the tide.

Work Flow

I discovered my perfect work flow in University – alternating painting days with non-painting days.

That way I could fully immerse myself in long hours of painting without feeling guilty about other things. I might still have had a couple classes to attend, but then I’d go right back to the large studio I shared with 5-7 other art students. While they were around I’d enjoy their company, feedback on my work etc. Basically, charging up my batteries.

Then in the afternoon, most of them would go home, and I’d really settle down to work. Even if I was painting on and off all day, this was when I got the bulk of my painting done. I’d walk across campus to my student house between 1 & 4am, knowing that I could sleep in. 

After lunch the next day, I’d  I catch up on all my non-painting activities. In those days it was school assignments, socializing, and grocery shopping.

These days, as a responsible adult and parent, the non-painting activities are an every day thing. The household chores and the business activities (not to mention volunteer work) have multiplied.

And I have not-so-little-anymore people who depend on me. Who will wander into the studio to talk about their school day, to ask for homework help, to ask “what can I eat now?”.

So, I have to work harder to balance it all.

Hence the need for incense, and yoga, and the Journey to Self.

Sorry for the quality of these timelapse videos. I just can’t figure out how to do them and cut myself out entirely.

I wish I had a camera that attached to my glasses, so you could almost get a look of the work in progress THROUGH MY EYES!

Do you burn incense, if so, which scents do you enjoy most? And do you associate specific activities with specific scents?

Tease – painting timelapse #11

Painting Tease
Tease. So you’ll keep coming back to see the finished painting.                                                              Scroll down to see timelapse #11.


Yes,  I’m being such a tease, showing you parts of the canvas in these wip photos. Partly it’s because this painting could take me 2 weeks to do, and it would get boring if I didn’t try to show you something different each day. 

And partly it’s because I’m hoping for a big reveal once the painting is done. I hope the photographer who took the original photograph, Dani Devaux, will like the finished painting. But this is not a commission, so I could still interpret it how I want.

For example, so far I have not been concerned with catching the likeness of the model. And I’m thinking of having her eyes closed in the painting, though they were open in the photograph.

I think the closed eyes suits the peaceful environment and meditative pose.

My addiction

Late start today, even though I slept well, had a good breakfast. It’s due to my addiction. I just couldn’t shake myself free, and get down to work.

And of course, as a Mom I also had the meals, laundry, helping kids with h.w. etc. sprinkled into the mix.

My addiction? Binge-watching everything on Netflix. To the point where Netflix could blackmail me by threatening to share my watch history with the world, because it’s so extensive, so eclectic.

In fact the other day I had to wonder if Netflix was throwing me some shade.  It recommended a category, based on my recent viewing habits, called “Soapy International Dramas for Hopeless Romantics”!

I’ve always enjoyed watching foreign films, in the original language, but with English subtitles. I understand just enough French and Spanish to realize that a lot can be lost in translation. Low budget movies that have been dubbed into English are the worst. 

I like to listen to the actors speaking in their own voices, to hear the tone and nuance. It is like a ladder to a window into another world, where I can experience the lifestyle of people who walk in wildly different shoes than mine. From the comfort of my own couch.

Last year I watched a few Turkish romantic drama series, and a strange thing started to happen. The Turkish responses for certain situations would come into my head, before I could answer in English – simple things like thank you, good night!

Anyway, I’ve also watched various shows and movies from India, Malaysia, Korea, Iceland as well as British, Scottish, Irish etc

When I was younger I used to love to curl up with a big book, the bigger the better because it lasted longer.

And it’s the same thing with watching a series, the characters become very familiar. And it’s like having company in the studio.

That’s how it works with shows in English. The problem is, you can’t watch a show with subtitles and paint at the same time.

So far during this challenge, I’ve been listening to podcasts while I paint. It was working great, but then this morning I was watching a Korean series and I just didn’t want to stop.

Eventually I compromised and put on a movie in English, and watched that while I painted. By the time it was over, I was deep into the painting, so I was able to carry on with nothing else playing in the background.

My plan for this week is to go to the library and pick up an audio book or two to try out.

Yeah, yeah, I know. First world studio problems.

On the easel – timelapse #10

On the easel
On the easel – journey                        Scroll down to see timelapse #10


A view of my easel set up at the end of today’s painting session.

Painting progress is slow, I’ve been working at the easel for much shorter bursts than normal. I’m feeling tired & worn out, need to take better care of myself. 

Anyway, the underpainting is almost complete, and I think it’s coming along ok.

Still loving the composition, which is all due to the photographer, Dani Devaux.

Thanks so much to those of you who have been following along as I do this 30 in 30 challenge.  So happy to be one third of the way done.


I think I’m experiencing a bit of burnout at this point. And that’s to do with the blogging, social media etc, not the actual painting.

It just takes up so much time each day. And I’ve been delaying after painting, and then writing & trying to post just before midnight.

Then going back in to finish writing the post, after I’ve posted the link on the official 30 in 30 blog.

Posting so late means that when the link gets shared to social media, it isn’t getting as much engagement as it should.

I was going to get ahead of the game today & record another painting timelapse after dinner, but I got caught up looking at YouTube timelapse videos.

Ok. One account in particular. And I think that after this challenge, I might do what she does, and post one timelapse video for each painting I do.

Maybe as a special bonus to my Blue Roots Art Studio News subscribers. Who actually haven’t heard from me in months. 

Now, how do I make it up to them?

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, why not go to the Menu and check out my flower, landscape & acrylic paintings?

And please share, so that more people get to see my art!

Painting timelapse #9 – brushes

brushes Bristle brushes         Scroll down to see timelapse #9

Bristle brushes

Usually synthetic brushes are recommended for use with acrylic paints. But a person’s art is a sum of the myriad of choices they make along the way, from materials, to equipment, to technique etc. 

The combination of these things can be quite unique for an artist, it’s like their artistic fingerprint. It’s how you can pick out one artist’s work from the rest. Their style.

For many years I have found that cheap hog’s hair, or bristle brushes are the best choice for the way I work.

I do a lot of scumbling – applying paint with a dry brush – because I like to apply paint in layers to make the surface more interesting.

The technique is too hard on synthetic brushes, they quickly lose their ability to hold a point/edge.

The natural bristle brushes wear down, but they still hold together quite well. I’ve found I have different uses for them as they go through the various stages of being worn down.


The reference photo I am using for this painting, is from an amazing St. Lucian photographer, Dani Devaux.

I have followed Dani on social media for years, her photos are beautiful, professional, and I especially love her portraits outdoors in the lush St. Lucian landscape.

Then a few months ago she posted an image that fit in well with a theme I wanted to explore in my art. So I asked for her permission to paint from her photo, and she ended up sending me two that I loved.

Right away I transferred the images to canvases, but then I had to wait until I was ready to begin the series.

It is a pleasure to be working from such great photography.

Check out Dani’s website www.danidevaux.com.

Subscribe to my blog so that you can see the rest of my 30 painting timelapse videos in 30 days challenge.

Equipment for painting timelapse #8

timelapse equipment
Timelapse equipment         Scroll down to see timelapse video #8

Current equipment set-up

On the left is the progress I made today on my new painting, Journey to Self.  On the right is the equipment I used to create the painting timelapse video below. Yes, I have upgraded from the selfie stick on duct taped to the filing cabinet.

Facebook friend and Burlington photographer/painter, Janet Jardine was kind enough to bring her setup to an event to show me a better solution.

All I had to do was unscrew the part that holds my iphone, off of the selfie stick, and then screw it on to the top of the tripod I use for my slr camera.

This combination is so much steadier, and more flexible than the selfie stick alone, and now I’m not tied to my previous Macgyvered scenario. 


However, this painting is larger than the last, and I spent more than an hour (and several wardrobe changes) trying out different positions to place the tripod to give the best view of the canvas, while cutting myself out as much as possible.

The studio ended up in a state of disarray, as I moved stuff out of the way. I did record a video as I spun slowly in a circle, documenting the chaos. I do weird things like that.

The video  may never be seen by anyone else. Ten years from now I could come across it and feel nostalgic for,  “that time when I was painting that painting that was the turning point in my artistic development/career etc.”.  Who knows?

There are sure to be more variations in equipment, and positions as I continue on this journey. My house is in constant flux depending on my activities, and every year, to my husband’s bewilderment, more personal space gets lost to business space.

The Art Life

Art is my life, my life is art … and apparently that extends to my family. 

As an aside, I told my elder son a story today of the first day I brought him home from the hospital.

At some point when we were alone I placed the swaddled  baby on the carpet, in our bedroom of our first house, right in front of my large, professional easel. 

That easel – seen  in the photo above – was bought with the money earned from my first painting commission. I was a new art grad, and had no idea how I was going to earn a living with my painting.

Instinctively I knew that this heavy duty easel would be a physical reminder of my commitment to myself as an artist, regardless of what was happening in my life.

The baby was placed symbolically in front of that alter, at which I’ve sacrificed my own life, and his at times.

Then I took a photograph, to commemorate my commitment to my greatest masterpiece.

Yes, it was the beginning of an epic struggle.

I’m so happy to be getting positive feedback on these blog posts, it’s always amazing to find out that people are reading, watching, relating to and enjoying what I’m putting out there into the world.

Fun Fact: Tomorrow’s post will mean I’ve written three times as many posts this year, as last year!

It just shows, you shouldn’t wait for time, or inspiration to create, just create and then you will be inspired to make more time to create.


One of the comments that caught my eye, was on yesterday’s blog post, from an artist in Quebec who subscribed when we did the 30 in 30  painting challenge in 2014!

Martine Paquet wrote

Donna, your timelapses are jewel ! Such a great idea for the challenge…So fun to look over your shoulder while you are painting!

 So sweet. Thank you Martine.

However, it did occur to me when I watched today’s timelapse, that I must be crazy to be posting it before the painting is resolved.

I often jump headlong into paintings in a frenzy of colour, run into difficulties with drawing in the middle stage, and eventually abandoning the whole fiasco. At the end of 2017, I painted over 8 such “starts”.  That felt cathartic. It might be my new end-of-year ritual. 

Now there’s going to be video evidence of my “unusual” way of working. I have different ways of starting paintings – I can think of 4 or 5 right now. By the time I’m done with them though, you can tell it’s the same artist’s work.

Each painting is a reaction to the one that came before, so if the last one was small, tight and realistic, the next could be large, loose and abstract.

This is just my intuitive way of working, but I have to admit to a nervous chuckle when I watched the timelapse.

My painting hand is like a hummingbird with ADHD, dancing to the beat of its own drum.

I read that line out to my husband. It seems like the kind of thing someone might put on my gravestone.

Anyway, hopefully you’ll return tomorrow to see what happens next on this journey!

Journey to self – timelapse #7

Journey to self                Scroll down to see timelapse #7

Journey to Self

New painting in progress this morning. Reference photo is from my favourite St. Lucian photographer, I’ll talk more about that when the painting is further along. I don’t really want to talk much about it yet, except to say that the title is Journey to self.

I was done with the timelapse early this morning, but for some reason I really, really procrastinated in writing this blog post.

The peony painting from yesterday is not done, but I usually start something new before going back to finish the first. That’s how I keep the momentum going.

In fact, I got photos to create two paintings based on my friend’s photography, three months ago! But I had big plans with trying a new technique, which involved me taking a laser cutting 101 workshop at the local library.

Timelapse #7

I’m glad to have finally started this painting, but I have to say that things got out of hand pretty quickly.

I aimed the camera at the figure in the painting, intending to just work on her.  Which is opposite to the norm of going from large masses to smaller details. My reason for doing that is that I was planning to use custom stencils to create patterns in the landscape, later on. 

But as I went along, I got into a bit of a frenzy, moving to bigger and bigger brushes and working larger and larger areas of the canvas, some of which were out of view .

Also, I had started working with a new staywet palette for this painting, but when I needed a pink, I decided to open up the peony palette. Before I knew it I was like a crazy person mixing colours in a palette on either side of me!

Looks like I’m getting my painting mojo back.


The vote is in

Oh, and the consensus on the peony painting timelapse from yesterday, was to keep the sides green. In fact, EVERYONE voted for green instead of black. I’m happy with that. 

Edges – peony painting timelapse #6

edges of peony painting
Painting the edges    Scroll down to see timelapse #6.


Should I keep the edges of the painting green, or go with my normal black? I am literally racing the clock right now.

All I had time to do tonight was paint the edges of the peony painting when I got home from our Art & Culture Council’s first AGM.  I’m determined not to fail at my challenge!

My goal is to post a new timelapse video on my blog before midnight each night. Then post the link on the 30 in 30 blog.  See, I told you this accountability thing works.

Anyway, I might change the colour of the edges, I’m leaning towards the green, but am uncertain since I’m so used to seeing them black. I started using black so that the painting would look clean, tidy, and all the paintings in an exhibition would be consistent.

Also, with the more modern gallery wrap – thicker profile canvas – many people just hang the paintings straight on the wall and don’t get them framed. Or when they do, they frame with a black floating frame, and the black sides seem to work well with that.

Authentic edges?

However, I have noticed more and more artists leaving the edges bare.  And I think that is in reaction to the proliferation of gallery wrapped canvas prints.

This way you can see the “artist’s hand”, as in, you get some insight into the process, the layering, the drips, things planned and unplanned. Maybe even into the artist’s personality and motivation. It is about authenticity.

I always thought it was the artist being lazy, messy.  I would take the time to clean the sides of my paintings, maybe even wrapping the image around the edges.

Then one day I had someone walk right past my booth at an International Art Fair because she thought I was exhibiting photographs.  When she realized they were just realistic paintings of flowers and foliage, she came back for a closer look.

I did all realism back then, and I’d put a lot of time & care into each work, even finishing them off with a high gloss varnish.

These days the idea of splashing paint around and getting messy, and leaving the work messy and immediate, holds a lot of appeal.

Green or Black?

Let me know in the comments, which way you would vote – stay green, or change to black?

Then return tomorrow night to see what I decide!

Now I need to go wash the green paint off of my hands. But at least I got into my pj’s when I came home. All you can see in the video is my grey sweater, you can’t tell that it is covered in paint. And that I’m wearing red fleece pants with white polar bears.

Then I can crawl straight into bed, and start it all again at too early o-clock in the morning. Otherwise know as 6:30am, when my alarm goes off to wake the teenagers up for school.

Peony timelapse #5 – tools

Peony painting and tools of the trade , (scroll down to view timelapse video #5)

Tools of the trade

These are my “everyday tools ” – brushes, heavy duty paper towels (found in automotive aisle at Canadian Tire), spray bottle with water to keep my acrylics paints wet. My staywet palette is in the corner with a red cover to keep the moisture in.

Uncharacteristically, by the end of this session I had 5 brushes with paint on them. I was working fast because I still had a lot I wanted to do, but I knew I had to stop. Today was just one of those busy days.

In the last hour of painting I was talking to the kids when they came home from school, took the dinner out of the oven etc, but you can’t tell that all of that was going on when you watch the video. I think it was about 4 hours, condensed into 20 seconds.

I started painting late today because I was working on the computer all morning, updating documents & adding them to the Arts Council’s website, responding to e-mail and social media – both theirs and mine.

When I stopped painting tonight, I posted the timelapse to Instagram & YouTube, ate dinner, did groceries, put away groceries & laundry & now I’m trying to write this post & share on the 30 in 30 before midnight. But that’s the only reason there are a bunch of brushes in the water. Usually I only use one at a time. And I would not leave them soaking in the water because it’s not good for the brushes.

I was going to talk more about the other tools we use, because I don’t think most people envision painters with drills, hammers, wire cutters etc.

But I’ll leave that for another day.

Tweak, tweak, tweak

Ok, so it’s taking longer than I hoped, in terms of how many days/painting sessions. Each day I estimate it’ll take two more days. Though it’s normal for me to take 3 days to a week on a painting this size depending on the amount of detail.

The rush I’m feeling is really because I’m sure people are tired of seeing this painting all over my social media channels at this point.

So, I’m not posting everywhere now. The truth is that these sessions are two to three times shorter than normal, but I’m very focused,  and I’m standing and walking back and forth the whole time. So by the end of the session I’m wiped out!

Tomorrow I’ll have to remember to wear my fitbit.

Ok, stay tuned for tomorrow’s timelapse. In the meantime, you could also check out some of my other paintings.


Palette and timelapse of peony painting progress

peony palette
Pink peony palette

Peony palette

My staywet palette is starting to look like an abstract version of the peony I’m painting.

I mostly use heavy body acrylics with it, rather than fluid, otherwise the water in the palette soaks through the sponge and through the porous paper to dissolve the paints even further. Eventually the paints become transparent like watercolour paints, which would be fine if I were working on paper instead of canvas.

The danger really is that if the paints get too waterlogged they will flow, and the colours could get corrupted, and even slip down the sides and get on the sponge.

If they then harden in the sponge when it dries, they will of course form non-porous plastic, which means areas of your sponge won’t adhere to the wet palette paper, resulting in air pockets, and your paints drying out, rendering the the whole system useless.

I do use some fluid paints with it, but strategically. For example, sometimes it is just easier to drip some fluid titanium white in to mix a tint.

Okay, okay, now the non-painters reading this are starting to glaze over (hee hee).

Push and Pull

Timelapse #4 of 30

This middle stage of the painting is the part that makes me question my sanity. This is where I have to dig deep to continue past the hard bits, as compared to the beginning which has the energy of a fresh start, of inspiration. Or the end stage where I’m loosely adding flourishes, and have a growing sense of accomplishment and awe at the magic of creation.

Assuming you’ve got the drawing sorted out already, the push pull stage is all about tweaking the colours, values and edges. So the changes are probably too subtle to catch in the timelapse, but I can get quite obsessed with  … perfection?

I take photos of the progress because some of the changes I make don’t work out, so I walk them back.

This is where you can become a slave to your photographic references. And I have to remind myself that any realism in my work is a by-product of my way of working, but it is not my goal.

The goal is to do work that moves me, and the viewer.

And sometimes what makes me really love a painting, is just an unexpected or pleasing combination of colours,  virtuoso brushstroke, or what is left out (semi-abstraction, or enigmatic subject matter).

Hmm. Maybe I need print that up and place it next to my easel so I remember, next time I’m spinning my wheels to get a passage just right!

When I paint more frequently, and have 2 – 3 paintings on the go at a time,  the momentum gives me more confidence, and I can move through the middle stage much, much faster.

If you want to just see the timelapse videos, I usually upload them to my YouTube channel first.





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BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419