In 2010 I painted & exhibited a series of acrylic paintings I called Hibiscus ‘n Banana. Every now & then I return to paint another hibiscus. Instead of trying to paint the most perfect flower, I’m like a portrait painter striving to pull out what is unique in each subject. The beauty is in the variations.
Thanks to my cousin, Patrice Esper for letting me use her photo of a an orange hibiscus as reference for the painting. I very rarely paint from someone else’s photos, but the lighting on the hibiscus was so beautiful. I started to paint it in my head as soon as I saw it.
In the interim
There were many months between the start and finish of this painting, and between this post and my last. A variety of projects & distractions took me away, and the truth is, I’m not sure if it’s worth the time to blog anymore. I’ve been posting work-in-progress photos on Instagram, as well as other things that inspire me, and this “micro-blogging” is much more immediate, less time-consuming.
This summer I took the family to St. Lucia for a month, and it was an epic trip – first time my parents, my brother & his wife, my husband & our boys, and even my mother-in-law were in the same country at the same time. So we crammed as much into that trip as we could, and some of the highlights were climbing Gros Piton, Carnival, seeing an octopus while snorkeling, volcanic mud bath, and standing under a waterfall, hanging out with family & friends, having a pop-up art sale at The Inner Gallery. Then I did a 2 day side-trip to Barbados to deliver paintings to Gallery of Caribbean Art for CariFestArt, an exhibition of artists from 11 Caribbean islands, a fringe event of Carifesta.
I also took many wonderful reference photos, and I’m looking forward to painting some of them for a solo show (more on that another day).
I have 2 events happening in Burlington this Sat. So it’s going to be a busy day. First I’ll be setting up an art installation at Burlington Central Library on New Street, then I’ll be heading to Be Yoga and Wellness at Fairview & Walkers.
There I will be setting up a table with small paintings (some never been shown before) & greeting cards, and fellow artist Heather Horton will be painting live. Both of us have art on display on the walls of Be Yoga as part of an on-going display (we switch out the paintings now and then).
Then at 1pm I’ll pack up and head back to the library. I hope to be there from 1:30-4pm for the rest of the Lost in Books event. Then it’ll be time to pack up.
I hope you will get a chance to see my installation, called Night Garden … you’ll have to use a flashlight, to see my paintings on the stage. It’s quite an interesting effect, best experienced in person.
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!
Summer is over, but there are still a few water lilies lingering in ponds here and there. “Pink water lily” is a shot of colour, a bit of cheer as we head into what promises to be a long winter. And since it has been a while since I blogged, I thought I would write about some alternative spaces to hang original art.
Originally I had this painting in mind for someone specific, I thought they wanted a close up of a water lily, but it turned out it was too bold, too bright to go with my other paintings in their collection. So, now it is available for someone new.
And this got me thinking about the places where people hang original art.
Alternate places to hang original art
Where do you hang your original art? In your office, your cottage, your home? In the front foyer, at the top of the stairs, above the bed, the dining room table and the inevitable couch?
How about in the eat-in kitchen, or the she-shed?
This summer I had the nice surprise of discovering one of my small paintings in the powder room of a collector and friend. Of course, I am not recommending anyone hang original, valuable art in their washroom. The steam from the shower could ruin it over time.
However, I think few of us think of using the powder room as a mini-gallery.
My friend Bridie is an artist, and like many artists, over the years she has collected a few small paintings that she has fallen in love with. Some she acquired in a show of support for a fellow artist, others she may have received as gifts.
However, as an artist herself, wall space is a premium. Home is the one place you are always guaranteed a solo exhibition!
Powder room exhibition
Recently, I popped in for a cup of tea and a chat, and as I went to use the powder room before leaving, I discovered Bridie’s solution.
She hangs a few of the small paintings on the walls of the powder room, rotating and refreshing her selection every now and then.
I already knew that she hung art in there, I always enjoyed stopping in to look at the little treasures, but it was only when one of my own popped up that I realized she changed up the art. And I wondered how many other artists had been in there and discovered their art on display? How many other people looked forward to a trip to her powder room when they came for a visit?
Just think of it. What a great opportunity to curate your own mini-exhibition for your friends and family!
Can you think of any other unusual places or alternate spaces where you could hang original art?
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.
Recently I was invited by Oakville artist Derik Hawley to display some of my paintings in a group art exhibition at Be Yoga & Wellness in Burlington. I thought it was a great idea, especially when I realized it was at Fairview & Walker’s Line, only a 4min drive from my house!
The nature of the space & format of the show, gave me the opportunity to exhibit a wide variety of subjects – florals, peacock feather-inspired abstracts, and some never-before exhibited experimental abstracts.
The painting above – Enduring, 30″x60″ – was the first thing I painted for 2016, an experiment in abstraction. It sat in a corner of my studio (waiting for me to figure out what to do with it) until I jumped on this chance to show it. As it turns out, I’ve been told by the manager that it is the piece that gets the most comments & compliments!
There is also another abstract painting of mine in the same room, but I’ll leave it for you to discover on your own. It has been hanging in my house since I painted it in 2012, the result of a long, cathartic painting session. Again, although it is an interesting painting, it did not fit into my regular body of work, so I kept it to myself. However, I could not get over the co-incidence that the only text in the painting is “Be” (the title of the painting is “Just be”), and the name of the yoga studio is Be Yoga! So I brought it along on a whim, and it turned out to be a good call.
The other Artists
Derik is showing some of his lovely digital images in a variety of sizes. I think they mostly start out as photographs he has taken, but then he manipulates them through computer programs, and the resulting abstract images are mesmerizing. They remind me of stained glass, and kaleidoscopes.
There are also some beautiful black & white images from Oakville photographer Bill Smith. And I saw a wonderful painting of a swimmer in a pool – with an emphasis on light creating patterns on the water- that artist Heather Horton dropped off, it’s probably hanging by now.
I’d like to thank Be Yoga & Wellness for showing local art, and manager Kelly Foster and artist Derik Hawley for inviting me to be a part of this ongoing group art exhibition.
If you’re in the area, please drop in during regular open hours and take a look! The address is 4031 Fairview St., Unit 103.
All art is available – see labels for details, and purchases may be made through the front desk.
Rose Mallow Hibiscus is another Spring Flower painting. It is nice to paint local Ontario flowers in season, even though my main interest is in Tropical foliage & flowers.
Before the Grand Opening, I made a couple trips to the new Rock Garden at the RBG in Burlington, to gather inspiration for the main event, where I painted live.
The first day I went, I paid for the guided tour, and then went around with my camera, trying to zero in on a subject for my painting. One plant I thought was interesting, was the Rose Mallow Hibiscus – mainly because from a distance (before reading the name) I thought the flowers looked like pink marshmallows on skewers!
Also, I’ve painted many hibiscus flowers before, but never would have guessed this was a hibiscus, though I do see the resemblance to Rose of Sharon flowers, and I know they are also in the hibiscus family.
Anyway, I started this painting some time ago, holding it as a back-up in case my painting for the big event didn’t work out. As it turned out, by the time I went to the Rock Garden for Luna, the flowers had dried up and most of them had faded away or fallen already. Thankfully, it did not matter, as I ended up doing a plein air painting for Luna.
I think this painting probably ended up quite whimsical because I was envisioning an magical evening in an enchanted garden. There is no underestimating the power of suggestion, in art – this is where we get to go beyond photography (or at least my level of photography), and just play with our own interpretations.
If you are interested in “Rose Mallow Hibiscus”, e-mail me, otherwise, I will exhibit it in Art in the Park Oakville, Aug 1st.
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!
BLUE ROOTS ART STUDIO – acrylic paintings of Caribbean & Canadian landscape, flowers & foliage. Burlington, ON, Canada. 905-639-3419