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.
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?
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!
“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.
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.
I am so excited about my upcoming exhibition at Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia. We will be hanging the show in the lobby Tues morning, and I will be painting on location for all 3 days, and talking with guests.
A small selection of my original acrylic paintings, and greeting cards, are now available from the Windjammer gift shop, Island Gifts.
I have only been to Windjammer once before, but it is a beautiful location, and I look forward to sharing some photos of my trip to St. Lucia on Instagram.
Of course this was a much slimmer version of me. I won’t be sporting a swimsuit this time. But I will be taking photos of the beautiful tropical flowers, gathering inspiration for new art.
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!
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.
Yesterday I taught my first art class in St. Lucia, and it was lots of fun. It almost wasn’t though. I woke up in the morning to the sound of wind & rain (a tropical system coming through), and an e-mail that had me calling around to change the venue a few hours before the start time.
As I expected, a few people weren’t able to make it after all, but those who did seemed to have a good time. We started out on the porch – at a private residence in Cap Estate. I had asked everyone to bring in a drawing, that way I could see where they were at, and what they were interested in. We transferred the drawings to canvas & then went inside for me to demonstrate some techniques, and talk about the characteristics of acrylic paints.
While we were inside, the rain began again, so we decided to clear the table I was demonstrating at so that everyone could just sit there to paint.
Everyone came to the class with a different level of art experience, but that didn’t matter. Some were surprised at what they were able to produce. We didn’t have time to finish the paintings, even though we went over-time, but I wasn’t aiming for that. I was more interested in them learning some techniques in class, that they can use later.
At the next class we will address these paintings again – some of the artists plan on working on them further at home – then we will be starting something new.
I will be sending out an e-mail, to let them know what to bring in for the next class.
IF you would like to join us, Or if you would like to get on my e-mail list for Art Classes in St. Lucia with Donna for updates about other classes that may be added now or in the future, please e-mail email@example.com
Thanks to Maria, Leathon, Courtney, & Nancy for a great first class. I look forward to our next adventure!
Tomorrow, I turn 40 years old. To celebrate that milestone, I have been taking a look back at some of my early work and posting them as the cover image on my Facebook page. Most of the paintings in the collage above are from 1998, and were inspired by a trip to St. Lucia where my husband & I had our second wedding in as many years.
I painted most of them sitting cross-legged on the couch in our one-bedroom apartment. Others I painted in my friend’s apartment in Toronto when I went to hang out sometimes during the week. The smaller size of the paintings (compared to the 36″x48″ paintings in the Caribbean Imagery series) made it easy to work anywhere, even when I had to lug it all on the Go train.
I first showed these in a solo exhibition at the Atrium Gallery in the Henderson Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a successful series in every way.
The Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens in St. Lucia was a big inspiration here, I love exploring that place with a camera. There are trees hundreds of years old, tall & covered in vines, creating a canopy. A huge assortment of exotic plants, flowers & leaves … my favourite things. I wanted to share the exhileration I feel in this type of environment.
If I didn’t have young kids, I would love to do a residency there, every day I would set my easel up in front of another plant or view to paint.
Actually, that reminds me of my big news – I am going to be in St. Lucia this summer, and I plan on doing some small paintings on location!
I will post them here first and then share the link on Facebook. So, if you’d like to see them first, don’t forget to subscribe to blog updates via e-mail!
The plaid design in this painting is not arbitrary, in the sense that any St. Lucian will read it as Madras, a component of the National Dress of St. Lucia. October is Creole Heritage month, and many patriots like to dress up in Madras (from the traditional full outfits to the more modern use of the fabric in accessories like ties, belts, earrings or handbags) for the Jounen Kwéyol celebrations. Especially in the last decade, the fabric has become a symbol of National pride.
In 2000, I did a few paintings which I refer to collectively as my Madras series, however they were created one by one in between my other projects as I tried out different concepts incorporating the pattern. My favourite of these experiments is the heliconia on the top right of the image below. I liked the semi-abstract effect of the broad bands of colour against the tropical vegetation, and always intended to return to this theme one day.
Then recently someone challenged me to do a new version of Madras Banana (first image in the collage below). She liked the way I painted the Madras border around the banana tree with some of the leaves overlapping, but was also a fan of the raindrops in my hibiscus painting, “Precious gems”.
I started with a simple pencil thumbnail sketch, then primed the canvas with golden ochre acrylic paint. Next I took a look at a swatch of Madras fabric that I purchased in St. Lucia many years ago, to choose the colours for the border.
Over the last 2 decades I’ve taken many photos of tropical vegetation, so it took a while to search through my digital files for reference photos, but I settled on the one in the photo collage above. Then I proceeded to lay in the general composition based on a combination of my thumbnail & the photo. Once I blocked in the general areas of colour, the image started taking shape. Unlike the original painting, which was a more distant view, in this painting I placed a banana leaf in the foreground, so that I could add the raindrops.
The painting evolved slowly, I would think I was done, but then something would not feel quite right, so I would come back & work some more on it. That’s how it goes sometimes, painting is a dialogue … you may think you need to make just one little change, but when you step back to look at what you’ve done – that little change may affect the way you see other parts of the painting – and now you may discover you have a few MORE little changes to make!
This painting is currently available for International Shipping – in a mailing tube – from my studio in Burlington, Canada. Or for local pick-up or delivery. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419