Tag Archives: abstract painting

Welcome to my Peacock Garden

Peacock garden, 24"x36", acrylic on canvas, © 2015 Donna Grandin
Peacock garden, 24″x36″, acrylic on canvas, © 2015 Donna Grandin

I love the mysterious, magical quality of this painting. It started out as a follow-up to “Fernscape 2”, and was supposed to only have ferns in it, but it just wasn’t quite working. So I put it aside for a week while I worked on something else, and when I returned to it, peacock feathers started appearing.

A few of the paintings I worked on last year had this Night Garden feel to them. For example, “Choices” and “Behind the garden gate”. 

You are not imagining it, my art has become darker over the last couple years. For so long my attitude was that I just wanted to paint upbeat, joyful images to increase the beauty in this world, and not dwell on negativity, which would just be feeding it.

At the time, that meant bright, vibrant, “sunny” colours … sometimes I literally painted on yellow canvases.

But the times we live in have a dark undertone, and I am not immune to it. As artists, it is not just our nature, but our job to FEEL, and to be a channel – through our art – to make others FEEL.

And a big part of that is in being honest, and open. To be sensitive to our surroundings. To be vulnerable. That is how we make art that people can truly connect with … because they recognize the truth in it.

Yes, there are people – artists and non-artists – who will manipulate. And there are times when the price of being honest is high, but I think for an artist especially, the price of remaining “on brand” is even higher.

I am thinking of Robin Williams… or rather the idea of him, someone who brought joy and laughter to so many people, people who had no clue of the darkness he was going through.

And what does this have to do with the painting?

Well, I’ve often thought of the Caribbean landscape as being a metaphor for life … the bright sunlight creates long dark shadows.

On one hand there are the vibrant, happy hibiscus flowers that I have painted so often before – reminiscent or maybe even symbolic of lazy days by the pool of some tropical resort. Some days I just need to paint hibiscuses.

But life has more nuance to it.

The thing that grips me, that I discovered when I painted my Jungle Rhythms series years ago, where I played with the organic shapes and visual rhythm of tropical foliage, was an abstract sense of “growth”, the cycle of life, being swept up in something that is bigger than oneself.

It is that spiritual connection you feel when you are mindful in a natural setting.

And there is so much life in the shadows.

So much beauty.

Not the kind of bold, in your face beauty of a close-up of a detailed realistic painting of a flower, but the overarching flow and harmony of an impressionistic landscape, semi-abstract, or abstract painting.

The interesting thing about blogging, is that there is a flow to it too. Some weeks or months I only get on to post about upcoming events, and it is all about the facts.

And other times, when I get into a daily posting habit, my reserve wears away, the words slip by faster and faster, from a trickle to a flood. And all sorts of flotsam and jetsam is dragged along with it.

There isn’t time to edit and polish. I upload an image of a painting, and I begin typing this “stream of consciousness”.

I hope that you find it entertaining if not insightful, but if you have read thus far, you are certainly in the minority as most people these days seem to just skim through to look at the images.

So, thank you for joining me today, for this walk amoung the ferns in my head.

Two more days till Art in the Park Oakville! I’m getting excited now.

Chorus Line – wip pics & painting notes

Chorus Line WIP

Here are some work-in-progress images of today’s painting, Chorus Line. I’ve been asked about my process for this peacock feather-inspired series, and I think this collage sums it up.

As a painter, especially one who has a background in painting realism, the appeal of abstraction is the spontaneity of it. You have to surrender to the flow, live in the moment & really listen to your intuition. Depending on the artist, this can either be therapeutic, or terrifying!

Quite frankly, this method of pushing & pulling paint, building the image up in layers, is actually my natural way of working.

Except for rare occasions when the project calls for it, I prefer not to start with a precise drawing, but to lay in blocks of colour as I establish the composition. Then I refine & refine … and the longer I hang on to my reference photos, the more realistic the painting will be in the end.

peacock feather abstract painting
Chorus line, 16″x20″, acrylic on canvas, © 2015 Donna Grandin. $700.

If I’m feeling bold and confident, I ditch the reference photos earlier, and let the painting take me on a journey of discovery. I love ending up somewhere I could never have predicted … it’s in those exciting moments where you’re off the map – when you take on great risk (like when I glazed quinacridone violet over phalo green in the center image above) – that amazing, new things show up on the canvas.

There’s a painter’s high that happens when you paint intuitively, and it works out … that feeling of  achievement, of having CREATED something original.

With realism, there is a smug satisfaction from having developed the skills to be able to translate a 3D image or even just a concept, into a 2D painting, using your brushes & paint. The longer you work at it, the better an illusionist you become.

But with abstraction, the lines of reality that you were clinging to to control the chaos, are no longer there … the safety net is gone, the boundries are gone … you can go anywhere!

The elements & principles of design remain the same, so if you have a firm grip on them, you can go back & forth between realism and abstraction at will, or by whimsy.

They are after all, just the alphabet of this language of painting … not the message.

I may not bring this painting to Art in the Park Oakville, I worked on my booth layout yesterday & this one did not make it in.

However, if you’re interested in it, let me know, I can always bring it along.















Peacock abstraction triptych -3, 30 paintings in 30 days, #20

Peacock abstraction triptych- 3, 6"x6", acrylic on canvas
Peacock abstraction triptych- 3, 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

This is the third canvas in the peacock feather-inspired abstract triptych. And here are the canvases all together …

Peacock triptych - combination 2

and another combination …

Vertical combination of Peacock Abstraction triptych

Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, I had to quickly take them with my phone before I left the house. I am traveling with my brother and his wife, visiting family. I brought my paints, so that I can keep up with the challenge.

This is the final photo of the whole triptych:

Peacock abstraction triptych, 6"x18", acrylic on canvas, ©2014 Donna Grandin
Peacock abstraction triptych, 6″x18″, acrylic on canvas, ©2014 Donna Grandin





Peacock abstraction triptyck – 2, 30 paintings in 30 days, #19


Peacock abstraction triptych -2, 6"x6", acrylic on canvas
Peacock abstraction triptych -2, 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas

The second part of this triptych is abstracted, so right now it is all about movement and colour. I painted all 3 canvases at once, as if they were all one continuous image. Tomorrow when I post the third, I will also post a photo of what they look like together.

I was up late tidying my studio last night, in preparation for the interview. It was very casual, one videographer/interviewer, but I used it as motivation to tackle the chaos that was piling up in my studio.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the interview, but Kune will be using the footage he is taking of several Cultural Makers in Burlington ON to compile a quick promotional video that will be introduced by our Mayor at the Culture Days event I am participating in next Friday, in front of Burlington City Hall.

If you are in the area, save the date, I will be doing an acrylic painting demonstration from noon till it gets too dark to see! There will be bands, & other performances, as well as other arts and culture booths to check out.

 This is the final triptych:

Peacock abstraction triptych, 6"x18", acrylic on canvas, ©2014 Donna Grandin
Peacock abstraction triptych, 6″x18″, acrylic on canvas, ©2014 Donna Grandin


Peacock feathers 2 – 30 paintings in 30 days, #16

Peacock feathers 2, 6"x6", acrylic on canvas, © 2014 Donna Grandin. Sold
Peacock feathers 2, 6″x6″, acrylic on canvas, © 2014 Donna Grandin. SOLD

This peacock feather themed abstraction is based more on yesterday’s painting than on reality, so it’s even looser. And the third painting – which I will post tomorrow – is even more so. I think they look better in person, especially when viewed together.

At this point, I have painted ahead … I’m really having fun running with this theme. I will probably stick with it for a while, there are so many variations I want to try out. That’s all I’ll say for now, but stay tuned!


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