“View through the red ginger lilies”
I love this long, narrow horizontal format, I will be doing more of those in the future. I have only painted ginger lilies a few times, usually red, but they also come in pink and white.
While I was in St. Lucia, I took this painting, and several others in to The Inner Gallery. So, if you are local, ask Rachael or Chartal to see my new work. And if not, you can find contact information on the Facebook page, they ship worldwide.
I have wandered the grounds taking hundreds, probably thousands of photographs, and done a couple paintings from them before, but I could easily do a whole show based on this location.
The Pink Plantation House Restaurant
I did not actually get there on this trip, so I thought I’d share a few photographs taken on previous visits to St. Lucia.
Michelle has probably the best set-up I can imagine for an artist, her whimsical paintings on canvas, ceramics and textiles are very popular, and her creative side gets to be inspired by this beautiful, lush setting, while her family background in running a restaurant helps to balance out the business side.
My mom, “Fancy Nancy” always wears bright, colourful prints which reflect her cheerful disposition.
Blue Monkey Cafe
Alison – Michelle’s sister – started up The Pink Plantation House Restaurant with her, but now she has her very own cafe in a very central location in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. I only saw her briefly this trip, but she gave me a little something for my “sweet tooth”.
I took the fudge back to Canada to share with my boys, but from the first bite I knew they were out of luck. The texture, the taste, it was really good fudge.
The boys were happy with the tamarind balls, guava cheese and coloured coconut balls that their granny sent for them, and I did not mention the fudge at all. But I will have to get them some next time I am in St. Lucia.
Things have been moving fast recently, so fast that in the last few days, I’ve found myself having many simultaneous conversations by e-mail, Facebook messenger, and Whatsapp! Anyway, the big news is that I will be making a short trip to St. Lucia very soon, and this painting party is one of the exciting things I have planned…
Over the years, I have had a few offers to “teach” at these Paint & Sip type of events that have been popping up at bars and restaurants etc. all over the place.
So far, I’ve declined on the basis that the way I paint takes a relatively long time – generally a week or two, not 4 months like a friend I sometimes paint with! Though to be fair I do get 90% of the painting done in the first 10% of the time. That last 10% though, is what makes me a professional artist.
Then the opportunity arose to teach a class at Island Mix in St. Lucia, and I struggled for a whole day trying to figure out how to put 20 years of experience and knowledge about painting, into a 3 hour session, for a mix of beginners and intermediate painters.
I have given art lessons before, privately or to groups of up to 4 artists, but not with the expectation of a finished painting in 3 hours.
Finally it hit me, my peacock series would be perfect for this. It is fun, the process can be broken down into simple steps, and each person would be able to create their own unique image.
That part is important to me. I want to encourage people to trust their intuition, to make their own creative choices, to not just have fun with the process, but to be pleasantly surprised at the art they have made.
That is the whole reason my peacock feather-inspired series was born. It is the Yin to the Yang of my more realistic paintings.
I love starting each painting, not knowing what it is going to look like in the end. It allows me to live in the moment, be spontaneous, try things, to listen to my inner voice, trust in my abilities.
Not every painting is a winner. Sometimes the risks I take with a colour or a pattern do not work out, but not only do I still learn from those choices, sometimes magic happens! When a painting sings, and I know it would never have existed if I did not veer out of the boundries set by realism, then I feel the pride of creation.
I am really looking forward to sharing my techniques with this painting party, and seeing how each person, regardless of their level of artistic experience, uses them to express their individuality!
Join my Peacock Painting Party
– Display your Creative side!
What I really enjoyed about painting this Peacock series is that while all the artworks are tied to a central motif (peacock feathers), each one – as someone remarked on Facebook today – is so “different and unique”.
It’s like jumping off a rock into a river … you can keep returning to the same rock, but the water keeps flowing so the conditions are never exactly the same twice.
Each painting is a result of similar, but slightly different circumstances … I might stand at the same easel, with the same paints and brushes, but now I have the experience of another painting behind me, and whatever happens to me before I come to the easel – or even while I am at it – affects my thoughts and moods, so that I am never exactly the same twice.
I also like to remain flexible so that I can try out new ideas – they don’t always work out, and in fact the painting often goes through ugly stages, but as Anne, of 337 Sketch Gallery once said to me “You, will keep working at it, until it does work out”.
As a younger painter, I always felt I was doing something wrong … theoretically I knew of a faster, simpler way to get an image down on the canvas, but I just could not bring myself to go that way, no matter how many times I tried … I always ended up taking the long way around.
Finally, after years of painting, and having a certain amount of success, I realized that I’d been slowing myself down, fighting against my natural process.
Even up to a few years ago, when the Burlington Fine Arts Association had John Leonard (established artist & teacher, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, ON ) visit to do a critique of member paintings, and he was very complimentary about my work (tropical florals), I still couldn’t resist bringing up the issue with him. His response was “Just keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working!”
When I accepted my own way of working, instead of trying to fix it, I realized that the very things that I saw as my challenges, were what made my art interesting, because of the specific solutions I had developed to accommodate those challenges.
Our personal style, lies in our imperfections! I mean no-one goes around saying “Van Gogh could have been such a great artist, if he’d just have learned to draw more accurately!”
Eyecatcher is my painting for today. I think it is the kind of image that is fun to sit and contemplate … there are all sorts of possible interpretations. What’s yours?
If this painting looks a little familiar, it’s because it has evolved over the last year … it started as a demonstration, at a live painting event.
You can read about it in this earlier blog post, where I even created a video to show the process thus far! The initial inspiration was a peacock feather mask that I’d bought 10 years earlier, in combination with the live music … it was the first time I painted at a public event like this (Culture Days), and the energy was awesome.
In fact I had so much fun at Culture Days, I’m doing it again Sept 26 & 27 this year. More on that in another post.
Although there was so much I loved about this painting, it just never felt quite finished … that could be because I’m accustomed to working a week to several weeks on a painting, so several hours of painting didn’t seem enough. And partly because although I’d designed the “eyes” as if they were notes on a music sheet, I just didn’t like the way they created a single line , pulling the viewers’s eye across the image and out.
I called the painting “In the flow” originally … and for some reason, it just seemed to remain in flux, there was always something more to do to it, so in between other paintings, I’d keep going back to it.
Eventually, in a new space, I decided to work on it to completion, and what emerged is this painting … “Flow”. In this version I really played on the aquatic tendencies of the original, and I’m quite happy with the result.
I will be bringing it to Art in the Park Oakville on Aug 3, my booth is #143, and I hope you’ll be able to come out and see it in person!
In 2009 I started painting a series simply called Hibiscus & Banana, and it all started with a close-up of a red hibiscus flower.
The image came to mind immediately when I tried to select a flower that represented St. Lucia to me personally.
Technically, and culturally, the rose and the marguerite are the National flowers of St. Lucia. However, they were not as abundant, and did not have as much of a visual impact on me.
In fact, the association may persist for me because my family has always grown hibiscus bushes in the garden, so I saw them every day as a child. However, they also grew profusely around the island in those days.
Here is my artist statement from an exhibition a few years ago …
Hibiscus, Bananas ‘n More
Summer 2009, I went home to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia in search of reference material for my latest series of acrylic paintings. I wanted to focus on what I felt were two of the most iconic images of St. Lucian plant-life … the banana tree and the hibiscus flower. As a child, the banana industry drove the local economy, and although tourism has upstaged it, the island is still covered in banana trees – farmed, wild and decorative. Islanders take pride in being able to eat off of the land, and most properties boast a variety of fruit trees. On the other hand, the hibiscus flowers were harder to find. In recent years many plants, including the one at the end of my parents’ porch, were lost to the pink mealybug, and drought. The best specimens I found were on the grounds of hotels and restaurants. In 2010, I travelled to both St. Lucia and Trinidad, and have since expanded the series to include croton and flamboyant images.
I paint living plants interacting with their environment, sun shining through the leaves, wind blowing the petals, other plants in the background adding contrast. I try to express the atmosphere, a specific moment in time, and my feelings about the place. Although my paintings are representational, my actual focus is on the abstract rhythms of Nature. I play with the organic shapes and vibrant colours to create uplifting and engaging images. I paint because I love the creative process, however it is my hope that the finished paintings bring joy and beauty into our everyday lives.
Although I have gone on to paint other imagery, every now and then I find myself returning to this motif. I just took a look at my records and out of the last 100 paintings I’ve done (not including small daily paintings), about 1/5th of them feature hibiscus flowers!
The interesting thing about hibiscus flowers is that I encounter them here in Canada all the time too … they can be found year-round in green-houses, or as potted house-plants, and in the warmer weather they are available as large flowering plants from anywhere that sell plants (even grocery stores!). And that’s just the traditional hibiscus, not counting the hardier varieties that are now available in colder climates.
I think the allure of the hibiscus flower is partly due to the bright colour … certainly that cheerful red is why I have been painting hibiscuses lately, as a weapon to combat the winter blues!
Subconsciously, I think we are also drawn to hibiscus flowers, like so many birds and insects, because of the erotic design. The generous petals open wide like out-flung limbs promising an embrace, but really are just there to draw attention to the pistil, to play their part in the survival of the species.
For all their glorious beauty, hibiscus blooms only last a day or two, and are delicate, which is why they do not show up as often in tropical bouquets.
In fact, hibiscus flowers are a common choice for tattoos, especially in women, symbolizing delicate beauty, fragility, as well as love, passion, and a laid back life-style.
I mentioned in my statement earlier, finding hibiscus flowers growing mostly at hotels and restaurants. That is because even during the dry season when the general public will hold off on watering their flowering plants, these businesses have to try to keep them alive. They help create “atmosphere”, and it is not just that they are decorative and make the place more attractive to patrons.
It also has to do with the connotation of rest and relaxation, “fun in the sun”, and everything else positive the world thinks of when they think of a tropical vacation.
Images of pretty girls with hibiscus flowers in their hair (which is only ever done when posing for a photograph), or as part of a pool-side scene with umbrella-drinks and lounge chairs.
I have painted hibiscuses in a range of colours – pinks, yellows, oranges, reds, and white, and I think of them as portraits. I try to paint the individual flower, or grouping of flowers, with its unique environment, rather than a generic, formulaic version.
While there may be stylistic similarities tying all my hibiscus paintings together, there are so many different kinds of hibiscus plants, and so many ways to present them – varying the positions, backgrounds, lighting, stage in cycle of life, painting techniques and media etc. – that I am sure I will return to this motif time and time again, and I will find something new to explore each time.
You can find some more of my hibiscus paintings here.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is a little something I’ve been working on, to show my appreciation to those who support me in this love affair I have with painting.
Hot off the easel … ok, on the easel right now. This painting, and a few others that I’ve been working on since my last post, will go to the photographer soon, then I’ll post the official photographs when he gives them to me.
As you can see, I’ve continued exploring the blue patterning that started out in my fernscapes and peacock abstractions. I’m having fun trying out different ways to incorporate it in my painting. In this case I started out just placing random strokes of blue, but quickly saw the potential for a floral pattern and so took it in that direction.
This is the first time the background is so separate from the rest of the image, but I’m enjoying the boldness of this painting, it’s strong, cheerful and romantic.
If you have fallen in love with this painting, and want to bring it home to live with you, be the first to contact me about it at email@example.com.
Here is another painting I forgot to write about, I completed it just in time for the Art in Action Studio Tour. It’s another large painting – 4’x4′ – so far this one and Gemma’s Rose have just sat in my studio while I went about creating more paintings. I will have to see about getting them out into the public eye soon … but right now I have a number of other irons in the fire.
In The thinking place, you can see I was exploring the use of dashes of colour, like I used in my peacock paintings. There is just something playful about the juxtaposition of whimsical pattern with a realistic scene, that makes me happy.
I love the peacefulness of this scene, such a great place to sit and contemplate, either the real location, or just facing the painting. I think it reminds you to slow down, take the time to enjoy Nature, stare at the clouds, the ripples in the water, the beautiful flowers.
Let me know if you’d like to try this painting out in your house to see how it transforms your space. If you live nearby, I can bring a selection of paintings for you to choose from. With a small business like mine (one short individual wearing lots of hats), you are guaranteed the personal touch!