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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been a long time since I have posted a new painting, but I do have a bunch to share with you, it’s just going to take a little while to get to them all.
This painting was inspired by a photo shoot I did in my late grandfather’s garden. The tree with the ladder was actually in the overgrown lot next to his. I love the contrast of the man-made object with the wildness of the foliage. An attempt was obviously made to tame it at some point, but Nature always wins, because time is on her side.
I enjoyed painting this, and the more I look at it, the more layers of meaning I discover. The beauty of art is often in what is implied.
I welcome your comments. This painting is currently in my studio & so available directly through me. If it speaks to you, drop me a line … I offer very flexible payment terms, so that you can get the art you want.
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!
Recently, I have been taking a look back at some of the work I did in my early 20’s. I am closing in on my 40th birthday, so I thought it would be fun to do a countdown, I’ve been posting a painting a day on my Facebook page, as the cover image.
The paintings featured in this blog post are from the series I did in my last year of my BA in Art at McMaster University in Hamilton. When I exhibited the series at Gallery on the 4th, Hamilton Public Library, I named it “Caribbean Imagery”. It was my first solo exhibition in Canada.
Nicole was a Trinidadian girl I met in Psychology 101 at McMaster, she was one of my bridesmaids. I actually had her put on my blue wrap & took reference photos of her against the white door of my room in the student house I was living in. Then I just made up the background.
Not long after I did this painting, the shoreline was wiped out by a hurricane, and some of the residents had to be relocated. Many people commented to me that I had recorded a piece of history, and this painting was one of my most popular of the series.
The collector who bought it had a large collection, but said that this one always drew comments from visitors, and when he relocated to the United States, he took it with him. We happened to meet a couple years ago & he showed me a photo of it hanging over his fireplace, next to it was a painting by my high school art teacher, Sir Dunstan St. Omer.
This painting was included in our graduating exhibition at McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton in 1997. It was placed on a feature wall which was painted the same yellow as the buildings in painting.
This was the first painting of the series, one of my favourites, so I’ve held on to it.
I apologize for the quality of the images, I did get professional slides made of the series, but I still haven’t scanned those slides in directly, so I’m not sure but these could be scans of photos of the slides, or worse yet scans of photos I took myself. Regardless, they are darker than the original paintings.
I knew when I was painting “Coalpot” that I’d made a breakthrough in my work. This series is why I graduated from my program with Honours. Up until that time I was just full-filling requirements on my assignments, trying to get good marks. This series was more personal.
Also, up until this series I worked in a variety of media, but I only did one oil painting that year, I realized that acrylics suited me best. I could get brighter colours, which suited my tropical subject better, and I could work 12-16 hours straight on the same painting because I didn’t have to wait for it to dry. Then the next day I would do writing assignments, classes & household stuff … basically everything except paint. So that by the time I got back to my painting I was refreshed. I have always worked best this way. But I’ve never had as perfect a set-up as that last year of school where I shared a large studio on campus with a handful of other students, and had no other responsibilities but to do my best work.
This painting was bought by someone working in the St. Lucia Consulate in Toronto, and the Prime Minister of St. Lucia saw it hanging there & asked for me to contact him about , etc. etc. I am not sure who owns it right now … but I believe it was resold in St. Lucia.
The men are playing dominos on their lunch break. The man with the hat has passed away, but he was the father of the man in the painting further down in this post, called “Friends”.
When I was choosing what I would paint for the year, it occurred to me that I may be marrying my boyfriend, and that would mean I’d have to stay in Canada. This series was me exploring the question of what St. Lucia meant to me. I worked on 2 paintings at a time, one figurative and one landscape, and by the end of the year one of the things I’d learned was that I was happiest paintings landscape, especially foliage. You can see in Vivian I was experimenting with how abstract I could paint foliage & have the painting still read as realistic. This was the basis of my next series, Jungle Rhythms.
Her dress was always my favourite part of this painting, but when I painted the flowering bush I really tasted the freedom possible when painting foliage. Up close it’s dabs of colour, but further back they come together to form an image.
These were people I worked with in the summer, they weren’t a couple – he walked by when I was taking the photo of her & just made himself at home. I thought it made for a great composition though. It also says so much about how laid back West Indians can be, even at work.
Each work of art, even if I’ve just had it for a short time, has a story … or a history, made up of several little interesting stories. One story that sticks with this painting for me, is its “adoption” story. I took it in to Arts Etc. Gallery Shop & Art Rental, in the Burlington Art Center (now the Art Gallery of Burlington), and someone rented it for 3 months, then another 3 months before returning it.
At some point I brought it back to my studio, where it sat while I travelled in Europe. Six months later, I got a call from the gallery – the man who had rented it for his office (a city planner) wanted to know if it was still available to buy. At that point I was either in my last trimester or had a newborn, regardless, the painting was still sitting in the studio.
I read years later that the man had taken a position in Thunder Bay, and I always thought that was a curious thing … a Carnival painting in a very northern part of Canada. Then again, I never met the collector, maybe that painting was a way for him to stay connected to/express his roots. That’s just a part of the story that will remain a mystery to me. I might create the paintings, but when I let them go, they take on lives of their own.
It is so strange for me to look at this painting, and realize that the little boy in it is probably about 20yrs old himself now! I actually photographed the two of them at a beach party, watching as our friends played an informal game of cricket, and the background is a view of Pigeon Island causeway in St. Lucia.
This is a large painting, and there is quite the story that goes along with the tear on the bottom right corner (not seen here). However, I’ll save that story for when you visit my home studio & see it in person!
Meanwhile, please follow my countdown retrospective on Facebook, until my birthday on July 8th.
Although I was just doing this for my own amusement – and hopefully yours- I actually did hear from someone who wants to add one of these paintings to her collection. A few of them hang in my house, and a few in my parents’ house in St. Lucia. They are signed with my maiden name, Donna Gomez, and a couple as Donna G. because I thought I was being clever. There were a couple other paintings in the series, but they aren’t available anyway. If you see something you want, let me know.
It seems that whenever I let my heart take the lead, instead of my head, I do my best work. I have said for years that what I love to paint the most is foliage, and my artist statement always mentions organic shapes & patterns, and mood created with dramatic lighting and vivid colour, but not all of my paintings hit the nail on the head the way this one does.
Painting technique can be learned, but finding one’s own unique artistic voice/style has no predictable timeline, no guarantee. Some artists are lucky to discover it right away, but I personally think that that is the case when they already have strong opinions, and a clear idea of who they are – OR, they have someone nurturing and mentoring their progress.
Some artists, especially those working on commission, may never discover their own voice, because they are essentially allowing themselves to be a channel for their client’s voice. I am not saying that there is a right & a wrong, or even a finality about this decision. Making a living as an artist takes as much creativity as the artwork itself.
It is possible however to do good paintings, that do nothing to move you down your own artistic path. I suppose I am talking here not of art as a commodity, but as a spiritual practice or art therapy. A creative process like painting can be a vehicle for personal growth, if the artist is mindful. Like writing “morning pages” (google Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way if you don’t know what I’m talking about), the painter can sometimes gain clarity & insight by being in the moment.
Painting pushes everyday worries out of my head because it is like slipping into a stream of constant decision making. When I stop, it is a struggle to keep my head above water, which is why I try to have a couple paintings on the go at any one time.
Canvases as mental life-rafts, I might be pushing the metaphor a little. Then again, I have heard authors say that writing a certain book saved their life, either due to the toxicity they were able to release, or to the positive energy it brought into their lives.
The arts are how we connect to the rest of humanity, even our most desperate times. And it isn’t just a benefit for those of us creating. The general public may not be able to relate to my story of being moved to tears as I stood in front of a gigantic Sorolla painting in the D’Orsay Museum in Paris, but we have all laughed and cried because of a movie, we have all felt the grip on our hearts as music dragged us up and down through an emotional roller coaster.
In fact, the chances of a viewer being deeply moved by a painting is partly dependent on personal taste, partly due to the sum of their life experience – the more experiences the more points of reference they have to connect with the work – and above all it has to do with how truly open they are to being in the moment, to contemplate, to feel, to trust in their honest reaction to the work. Appreciation for the arts is a gift we give ourselves, and others. It is a portal to receiving and sharing joy, peace, truth and a sense of belonging.
As promised, my first weekly “painting in a day”. This one is based on a path at Pigeon Island National Park, in St. Lucia. Not far from the site I painted in “Nature Walk, during the 30 in 30 Challenge last month.
The flowers of the Flamboyant (Royal Poinciana) trees fall along the path, the red a temporary contrast to all the green. I’ve made it wider here though, it’s really just a simple trail, where the grass has been trampled down in time by people taking a shortcut up and down the slope.
As is often the case with a path you’ve never taken before, only the next few steps are visible – you can’t see what awaits you at the top. It is an uphill climb, so it will take some effort, but with the right attitude, it could also be a lot of fun!
This is the last painting of the challenge, a photo I’ve wanted to paint for a long time, I think it has a narrative quality to it. I could dispel the mystery right now by giving the location, but I’m curious to see who will recognize it. Let me know, in the comments below!
Technically this painting was completed before midnight, but I waited to photograph it this morning. I really should have picked a simpler image so that I could get done faster, but I was drawn to this one, and I’d rather paint something that intrigues me than something easy.
This is another painting that I could see myself doing again, larger. It would be completely different of course, since each brushstroke I make and each colour I mix is in the moment, but the general structure would be the same. Then again, there are so many things to paint – each day brings new inspiration if you’re open to it. So I probably won’t circle back.
I’m going to create a collage of the 30 paintings, that will be in another post later today.
One of the things I love about tropical landscape is its resilience. Even with drastic weather – drought and hurricanes – Nature persists, it finds another way to exist. If a big tree comes down, it lets light in for smaller plants to flourish.
On one hand you have beautifully manicured lawns and flower gardens, which take regular maintenance to upkeep or else the wild will take over! On the other hand, left to itself, it turns into a big tangle of bushes, trees and flowers that are strangled by vine and bloom anyway! There is a intensity about this lush vegetation, the sunlit leaves and bright colourful flowers scream with optimism, with a great gusto for life.
The landscape endures natural and man-made changes, and outlives us all. You can stand under a coconut tree and look out at the seascape, and the view, the feeling of the gentle breeze on your face, the sun on your skin and the sand between your toes is the same that someone would have experienced hundreds of years ago. Being in Nature makes you realize how small we are, how insignificant in the flow of time, and it gives you perspective.
This painting is based on photos I took in an elderly friend’s garden, when I visited the island many months after she had passed. The aging house had been left to rot away, she didn’t have family or means, and only minimum maintenance was done in her later years. New owners had plans to level the building to the ground and build something new and big in its place. Her beautiful and bountiful garden was left untouched, except for neighbours and passersby picking fruit off the trees. The roses, ginger lilies, bird of paradise flowers etc. that she used to make bouquets as gifts for friends were strangled in vine.
It was sad, and yet so beautiful.
I took so many photos that day, and then on subsequent trips. Later, I did the same thing with my Grandfather’s garden, I was drawn to it. As an avid horticulturalist he had some amazing things in there, and although it has not been completely neglected, little by little the magic slipped away.
At one point I was going to do a series of paintings based on this theme, but I guess I got busy with some project, followed by another project and it’s just been sitting waiting for me.
I feel as deeply about this idea for a series as I do about the one yesterday. And although the theme/sentiment is different, the paintings seem to go together. I think it has to do with the personification of the flowers. I’ve always maintained that I’m not just painting a flower, the image usually has more meaning to me that that … which is sometimes reflected in the title.
Hmm. The cogs are turning … time to figure out what I’m going to paint for Day 30!
I only discovered the “Sexy pink” heliconia a few years ago on a trip to Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens in Soufriere, St. Lucia. I love coming across a plant/flower that I’ve never seen before, and this one is such a beauty. I have painted the more popular red & yellow version before but that was years ago, it might be time to do another.
The funny thing for me about this flower was that it was a Canadian landscaper guy who introduced it to me in St. Lucia (seeing as I’m a St. Lucian who lives in Canada). He was working to repair damage in the botanical gardens after Hurricane Tomas devastated the island in 2010. Many of the beautiful, tall, old trees had fallen, which is sad … but it’s also part of the cycle of life. With breaks in the canopy, certain plants are able to receive more light and a new dynamic occurs in the gardens.
I was actually photographing on private property attached to the gardens – arranged by my gallerist in St. Lucia – when we met. I told him I paint from my photos, and he told me I had to photograph this beautiful flower that was in a hidden part of the garden. My mother jumped out of the car to join us, she works sometimes in her friend’s flower shop on the island and wanted to see this exotic flower. We walked along the driveway to get to where it was growing along the hillside. It was partially hidden by some foliage, so he had to hold me steady half-way up the incline, among big leafy plants, so that I could get the shot that inspired this painting.
Later, in the actual gardens, I did come across a few other Sexy Pink heliconias. They were the highlight of an otherwise wonderful trip, and whenever I see that flower I think of the adventure and thrill of discovery.
This is a view from Fort Rodney at Pigeon Island National Park in St. Lucia. I grew up very close to this location, and I often do this hike when I go back to visit my parents. Long before it became a National Park it was a popular place to go for a “beach picnic” with family and friends.
We would hang out all day at the beach, in and out of the water (and in my case, reading under a coconut tree). While the adults sat around drinking rum and playing cards or dominos, the kids would go exploring. The look-out point at the highest part of the island just had an old, shaky ladder in those days and it was quite scary climbing up or down, but the reward at the top was a fantastic view. Which is why there are also a couple of old cannons up there.
I encourage you to read this article about Pigeon island, it has some very exciting history of the place which includes pirates, battles (St. Lucia changed hands between the French and English 14 times) and even a period when the island was owned by an English actress (my Mom and her friends remember having to row a boat out there to go to parties). That was before they dredged up the sand and created the causeway joining the island to the main land.
The more I think of it, the more stories I have about this place. I even went there to take pictures on my wedding day. The red roofs you see in the painting are those of Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, which attests to the beauty of the location as well as to its popularity.
If you’re ever visiting St. Lucia, I recommend Pigeon Island National Park as a great place to spend the day, or even a couple of hours.
BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419