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!
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!
Recently I went to Frootogo Farm in Waterdown to pick fresh Ontario apples. It has become a family tradition ever since we had kids, to visit a nearby farm in the fall. There is just something so cute about photographing toddlers surrounded by bright orange pumpkins bigger than they are! And it is a great way to visually mark time, as the kids in the photos get bigger each year.
Springridge and Frootogo are the two local farms that we have been to most often, but for apple picking we have to go to the latter. And that is where I got the reference photos for this painting.
I participated in Culture Days Burlington on Oct 1st, 2016, in Civic Square which is just in front of the Burlington City Hall. This year I was one of the artists selected to perform for an honorarium. I was not part of the Art Market, in that I did not have items for sale, but instead I painted live.
This photo shows the painting in progress, near the end of the event. I painted for 3 hours, my hope was that I would have it finished in time to do a silent auction, and that I would donate the proceeds to the Arts and Culture Council of Burlington, but I was still painting when some of the artists were packing away their booths.
I am happy with how much I got done in that short time, but instead of leaving it as a study, I decided to refine and complete it in my studio over the next week.
Painting with a live audience is not as scary as you might expect it to be, because quite frankly the nature of painting on a deadline is that you have to be in the moment as you focus on the immediate painting decisions. When people come up and talk to you, or there is live music and hustle and bustle around you, it all adds to the vibe – the energy that you absorb unconsciously, and then reflect in the art.
When you paint intuitively, you slip into a creative zone, and that crowds out any self-doubt about whether you will be able to pull off a good painting. Or worries that people will be seeing your painting as it goes through the inevitable ugly stages. In fact, people generally come up to you with positive things to say.
Every time I am hired to paint live, it is a memorable event for me, and for the audience who gets to see my painting process in person. So far, the feedback has been very positive, so I look forward to doing it again!
Years ago, I was at the Toronto Zoo with my kids, when we crossed paths with a party of rowdy peacocks. They were rule-breakers, living on the edge, and the Zoo was their turf.
I’m sure this guy was the leader, who became internet-famous when he escaped from the zoo last year & spent days touring Toronto rooftops, inspiring at least one viral video before returning to tell his tale to fellow zoo inhabitants, starting with the bison.
Why did he return, you ask?
I could say there was a pretty peahen he had to get back to, but a brief Goggle search put me straight. A mature peacock with a train full of fabulous feathers is more likely to have a harem.
And in fact, younger peacocks like this one tend to hang around with other peacocks. Birds of a feather flocking together, caught up in their own good looks.
The peahen on the other hand, sits on its eggs (usually 3-5) for about 28 days, and forms a community with other peahens as they raise the peachicks together, teaching them how to find food etc.
So, the peafowl I painted in Peacock Pair, are more likely to be siblings. Once again, reality bites. I was all set to write a tale of star-crossed peacock lovers who ran away together, determined to mate for life. Truth is, our fine-feathered friend, the Peacock is more of a narcissist, and a polygamist.
Art in the Park Oakville
See the original painting – Peacock Pair – in person at Art in the Park Oakville on Mon, Aug 1. 10-5pm, and tell me which version of the story you prefer. I will be in booth #143.
There will be more than 175 booths showcasing artists and artisans who work in a variety of media, as well as a licensed food court. The venue is also beautiful, Bronte Heritage Waterfront Park is right on the lake at the foot of Bronte Rd.
If you are over 12yrs, there is a $5. cover which will go towards the Oakville Art Society, which has been putting on this well-organized art fair since 1965.
There is something so alluring about water lilies, floating flowers, I think it’s because they’re both obvious and mysterious at the same time.
Most of us don’t have water lilies growing in our gardens, they are not a part of our everyday lives, so it is a delight to spot them – in a pond in a Provincial Park, on a friend’s property, or at a hotel or restaurant.
In this case, my reference photos were taken in the Hendrie Gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, ON.
By “obvious” I mean predictable, the petals follow a certain pattern. They’re big, brightly coloured, beautiful, but if you’re photographing them, one fully bloomed flower looks much the same as the next.
I think it is because they have stiff petals, so they generally stay in place, unlike the paper-thin petals of hibiscus flowers, which flutter in the wind, or rest uncomfortably when crowded by leaves and branches. There is a serene, time-less beauty about water lilies, whereas hibiscus flowers are active, unpredictable in the slightest breeze – striking one pose after the other, and like paparazzi I click and click in a frenzy. The same flower can yield numerous compositions, invoke a variety of moods for me to paint.
When I zoom in on a water lily (like any other flower), there is a heady hunt for the perfect photo where the bloom fills the frame, and the image is crisp. Whether or not the photo will inspire a painting, there is pleasure in the capture.
The thing about water lilies though, is that they are floating flowers. Often they are hard to get close to, unless you’re willing to wade into the pond, and depending on the quality of the camera – or skill of the photographer – that perfect macro photo can be quite elusive.
Once I was photographing a friend’s garden, and seeing my interest, and wearing the right get-up for it, she did go in and pick a white flower for me. We set it up in a bowl of water in the kitchen and I was delighted to be able to get as close as I wanted to, to examine the details, and photograph from any angle.
That was more than a decade ago, and I have yet to do a painting from that photo shoot. I realized that a huge part of the allure of the water lily for me as a painter, is the opportunity to also paint the pond reflections. With the flower, I feel constrained by the predictable contours, but reflections are an invitation to play.
Painting Water Lilies
I have always preferred to paint flowers in situ (so that the environment they have been growing in adds context) rather than isolate them – for example, painting them with a black background. The goal of that style of painting seems to be to paint the ideal version of that flower, or a stereotype, whereas even when I paint a flower realistically (which I’m less and less inclined to do), I tend to let loose in the background.
In fact, I’m probably drawn to confusing, messy backdrops. And it’s not just the pull of abstraction, it’s because I think the imperfections and idiosyncrasies are what help to convey individuality, and therefore authenticity. When I paint a single flower, I approach it as a portrait of that flower.
As you can see by this painting, Floating Flowers, I’m not really going for accuracy in terms of the details, but I’m trying to capture a mood, convey a feeling that the viewer may recognize, and appreciate.
So far, I have not painted a close up of a water lily, instead I’ve chosen to step back a bit, and include some lily pads. Often lily pads are much more chaotic than the water lilies they surround … they’re ripped, overlap each other or curl at the edges. This adds variety & character to a composition.
There really are endless possibilities, even if an artist stuck to one subject, like water lilies. So far I’ve been painting them in the middle ground, with a loose style, but I’ve had a student do a close up of the flower and render it in a much tighter, traditional way. And of course when most people think of water lilies and art, they think of Monet’s big, gestural Impressionist landscapes.
I have not painted a landscape with a pond yet; on a regular sized canvas, the water lilies would just be dots. However as I write, I am getting excited to try a close up of a water lily, but painted in a semi-realistic style, using patterning. The eye loves a mystery, and the artist loves a challenge.
The trees are awakening here in the north, every day there are new buds opening, spring flowers and green leaves carrying the promise of sunny days ahead.
As we shrug off the grey cloak of winter, moods lift, plans are made and the purging begins. Time to let go of the old, useless, ugly clutter in our lives, air out the dark, musty corners and give everything a deep clean.
Change is in the air, it is the time preparations are made for new beginnings and fresh starts. Moving into a new house, starting a new school, new job or new weight loss program. Spring babies. Birth and rebirth.
Spring cleaning is accompanied by other spring chores, which may include re-decorating.
We invite happiness in, by surrounding ourselves with beauty, inspiration, and meaningful objects. Potted tulips, Grandma’s cake stand, art that speaks to us.
Many people switch out dark coloured linens, tableware, cushion covers etc., for lighter ones. Some even switch out the artwork. Paintings are taken down and packed away carefully, other paintings are brought out and unpacked, and old favourites are hung with pleasure.
Sometimes though, a painting no longer “works” in the space, no longer represents who we are; our interests or ambitions.
It could even be that you have just fallen out of love with it, maybe it was cool when you were younger, but now it is embarrassing, or just plain boring.
Was it an ugly gift from a mother-in-law you no longer have to please? Rip it up, throw it into a cathartic bonfire, or sell it and buy art that you like!
Did you inherit paintings from a relative whose style feels old-fashioned, and yet you feel obliged to hang them in your house? Sometimes people tell me, I love your work, but I already have all these paintings from my husband’s late grandfather … in a box in the basement.
Maybe you’re sitting on a gold mine. The other extreme is that the art might actually be in bad condition, essentially trash.
Life is short. Give yourself permission to sell, gift or store art that you do not truly want to display. Maybe your kids or grand-kids will appreciate it more than you do.
Meanwhile, there is affordable, original art available all around you.
Spring into action, or go at a leisurely pace, but choose art that excites you, that moves you, that fits into your life at this very moment.
This painting was painted for an exhibition on Spring Flowers at Gallery  Burlington, which is over now. The gallery is in a wonderful location, right next to the Royal Botanical Gardens. I look forward to exhibiting there again.
I am not sure if to call this an orange or peach ixora, but next to red, it is probably the most popular colour of ixora flowers I’ve seen in St. Lucia. The colour (in combination with the inevitable greens and blues) just seems to convey a sunny, bright, happy mood.
There is also a yellow version, and pink – but that is a simplification, the range is even wider, with shades of each hue. There are a number of varieties available in the Tropics, it is quite common, often used in hedges.
If you live in the Caribbean, you probably have them growing somewhere in your garden, and if you’ve ever vacationed in the Caribbean, you’ve probably got a cluster of these tiny flowers somewhere in your photos (maybe in your pool-side selfie!).
I’ve only painted this subject once before, and in fact I love the painting (Red Ixora) so much, I’ve kept it as my profile photo on my Facebook page for …. more than 2 years (Whaaat?)!
Anyway, I posted a WIP detail of this small painting on Instagram some time back, but this is the first time I’m sharing the whole thing. It would make a lovely Mother’s Day gift for someone.
Mother’s Day celebrations
I am also finishing up another floral painting, for a Spring exhibition at Gallery2Art in Burlington Canada. I will deliver it tomorrow, and it will be up for their Mother’s Day Tea on May 7th.
And in St. Lucia, I have several paintings in the Arts Village May 2-4 which is part of the 25th annual St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
Wherever you are, I hope you will have a Happy (art-filled) Mother’s Day!
I do not paint portraits very often, but this portrait commission came about so organically, I just went with the flow.
At Easter dinner on the family farm, my mother-in-law mentioned that she was looking for something for a particular wall in the newly painted eat-in kitchen.
She pointed to some decorative plates hanging on the wall, one in particular, and wondered if I could paint the girl in a hat, to go with her new theme.
As a professional artist, I did not want to be copying another artist’s image, so I said sure, we could just put a hat on Ellie (the only grand-daughter there at the time), and I can photograph her.
Two minutes later, I turned around to see her trying hats on my niece, Ellie Mae. I knew right away it had to be this hat. But it was all moving so fast.
My mother-in-law is a woman of action, she promptly placed Ellie on the edge of an armchair in the living room, and looked up at me.
There was light flooding in from the large window on the right, but also through a frosted window in the door on the left. It would be tricky to photograph. And my good camera was at home.
Still, timing is everything. So I borrowed my sister-in-law’s camera, and before long I had at least 3 strong contenders. It was difficult to tell, on the small screen, so I just crossed my fingers that they were clear enough to give me the detail I’d need to paint a portrait.
It just all came together so well, from the plates she had shown me, I knew my mother-in-law wanted an innocent young girl with a big hat and flowing hair. Ellie was the right age, with the right hair, and she was right there!
When I e-mailed my mother-in-law the image of the painting for her approval, she responded “Wow… really like it Donna. Love the eyes especially, and the look overall is eye catching and fresh … she looks like she could talk to me. Very happy with it!”
I delivered the painting last weekend, and it looked great against the red-orange wall. My mother-in-law was thrilled with the portrait, and I hope the rest of the family will be too.
We held the Peacock Painting Party at Island Mix on Sat 12th March, and it was a great experience. Ten lovely ladies created their own unique paintings, inspired by peacock feathers.
I was so happy to see how they were able to apply my techniques, but add their own personal flair to each design.
Interestingly, some of the paintings had similarities – though, none of them looked like my demo painting. The greatest similarities were between family members, whether or not they sat together. Hmm.
As artist, blogger, bee-keeper, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Cultural Development Foundation, fellow St. Lucian Finola put it on Facebook; “Took big Sis with all her jet lag, to art class… Here are our two peacock paintings. Not bad Huh? Hard to tell who’s the pilot n who’s the artist!!! “
Venue for the Peacock Painting Party
I am getting ahead of myself, first, here is a 48 second video I took just before everyone arrived, to give you a sense of how idyllic the waterfront setting is at Island Mix.
Thanks to Nadia Jabour, of Island Mix, for this opportunity. We were having so much fun painting, that when we neared the 3 hour mark, Nadia offered to order in pizza for us, and so we were able to keep going for another hour.
The day before the workshop was rainy, and I was worried the rain would blow in on us while we painted, but we had a beautiful sunny morning for our peacock painting party.
In fact it was so bright when we took our group photo at the end, that the details of the paintings are hard to make out. Next time I will try to photograph some of the individual paintings.
Meanwhile, artist, jeweller and art teacher, Alcina Nolley, sent me a clear image of her painting to share in this post.
And can I say how lovely it was to have such a diverse set of artists for my first group painting session? The age range was about 60 years, from a teen to a retired art teacher.
Some of these ladies were new to acrylic painting, others have graphic art backgrounds, or paint on fabric and glass etc, and sell their products – one of them even had a painting of hers sell in the shop area while she was taking the workshop!
I knew a few like Kim, whose daughter had attended my semi-private art lessons the last time I was in St. Lucia – this time they both came. However, many of them I really only know through social media. And there were a couple new faces.
However, St. Lucia is a small island, so we ALL had mutual friends and many of the ladies knew each other very well, so it was a fun group.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and based on the success of this event, I plan to book another workshop when next in St. Lucia.
There are several people who have expressed an interest, they are just scattered about – St. Lucia, Burlington, Cobourg, even Texas!
If you would like to attend a Peacock Painting Party, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will let you know if/when I am planning something in your area.
Also, more of my peacock feather-inspired abstract paintings can be seen here.
Valentine’s day is on its way, and again this year I’ve painted a whimsical heart-themed painting … or two. It is fun to add to my collection of images with hearts each year, eventually I will have enough for a nice collage.
I had the idea of using two peacock feathers to create the heart, but the first painting I did came out looking less like a heart and more like a whimsical owl!
So, I painted another one … adjusting the angle a little, and got more of a heart shape this time.
I have been working on several small peacock feather inspired abstracts, and as much as I am excited to share them with you, I think I am going to wait until I have a whole batch done before I reveal.
That way I can work on several paintings at one time, and come back later to tweak if necessary.
Also, I often photograph small work myself, outdoors, but it is tricky this time of year. Don’t ask.
So, I am going to concentrate on producing new art for the Spring market.
And I am filling out applications … so far I can confirm that I will be back at Art in the Park Oakville at the beginning of August, and I will have 2 paintings in the next show at McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton.
I was hoping to get through a handful of applications this week, but I’ll be lucky if I get through two.
I pretty much have two bodies of work right now … on one extreme I have realistic tropical florals, and on the other I have the peacock-feather inspired abstracts, but somewhere in the middle they overlap … the “sky-holes” became “dashes”. The difficulty lies in finding ways to group them together, depending on the show I am applying to – sometimes the available pieces blend well, and sometimes they don’t.
If it will only be a few pieces, I select within one theme. I find myself however re-writing my artist statement to suit. And of course I’ve had to update my biography, and my CV … all while keeping within certain parameters. Each application has a different set of rules; you write a 200 word Bio for one, and for the next you need to cut it down to 100 words, or one sentence (for the brochure).
Image resolution, and size can vary a lot too … another time suck. And all the images and accompanying paperwork have to fit into a 2 MB e-mail. No wait, this one wants it on a CD. That means it has to be done in time to stick it in the mail or else I’ll be driving up ten minutes before the midnight deadline, through a snow-storm, to drop in their mailbox … again.
The process has gotten easier over the years, with practice … though I still need to improve my “systems”. Some artists just seem to whip these applications off. I probably take everything a little too seriously, trying to follow all the rules.
A juror once told me that an artist we knew had submitted a 20 page CV, but she still got in because they didn’t look at the CV’s anyway. Meanwhile, I always try to cut it down to 2 or 3 pages, which means finding new ways to summarize every year, hopefully replacing minor show listings with more impressive ones.
Ok, I apologize to those of you who may have clicked on this link to look at paintings about love, maybe read some mushy words about love. Somehow this post turned out to be nothing like that. That’s how I roll. I post a new painting, I start typing, and whatever is on my mind ends up on the screen. Sometimes I can keep writing until I make a full circle back to the painting, and connect a thread that runs through it all. This isn’t one of those times.
Time to take my son to gymnastics. Life of an artist/mom.
BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419