Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cottle Lake

I am working on another painting now. It is of Cottle Lake - a small lake in Linley Valley in Nanaimo. I am carrying on with my yellow sky theme and am putting in a suggestion of an arbutus - even though arbutus trees don't grow on the shore of the lake - only on the rock bluffs above the lake.

Here is a photo of a photo of Cottle Lake taken a couple years ago. It is a lovely sunny early spring day - no leaves on the alders yet. We used to walk up to Cottle Lake all the time. However, the lake is now part of a city park and dogs have to be on leash so there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to go there anymore.
Here is an unusual painting by Emily Carr. She calls it "Happiness." I think it is a pine tree against the golden light of ...what? Sunrise? Sunset? Summer sun? Whatever it is, I love the golden colour. Also the brush strokes and the tree trunk with its branches. I am  planning to use this colour scheme in my Cottle Lake picture. It's very helpful to know what colours I can use to paint the the trees and reflections while keeping the yellow and ochre sky. The pale turquoise is very appealing.

I have finally finished taking my biaxin prescription for my sinus infection and deafness. It gave me a stomach ache plus nausea and even dizziness and did not improve my asthma - but I'm not deaf anymore thank goodness.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rocks and grass

Today i worked on the rocks and lower part of the trunk. It's getting there.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 4 - some branches added

I worked for a couple of days adding in the arbutus branches. Arbutuses are very strange trees. Not only do they loose their red bark and yellow leaves all summer long, but they can be more than half dead and still keep growing. They also have unusual branching patterns - which can result in a series of interesting curves at the end of branches. They never seem to grow symmetrically - always reaching for the sunlight.

In this painting I am trying to show all these things. I am intentionally having a lot of blank yellow sky on the right to emphasize how asymmetrical this tree is - as it leans toward the water. However, the sun is past noon and the light is now coming from the right side. I'm wondering about the anchored sailboat. I think it adds a lot complexity to the painting and sort of restores the sense of balance.  My next idea is to darken the roots of the grass and put some rocks in the ground below the tree to try to stabilize it a bit.

The other interesting thing about arbutuses is that always grow with fir trees - often entwined with each other. I call them arby and firby! In this painting, there is no nearby fir tree - but the trees on the other side of the inlet are firs. I am almost tempted to paint a few fir bows on the right hand side - as appear in the photo - but am reluctant to mess up the tippy design.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I painted today too. Mike went diving.

Here is my arbutus on Wallace Island painting with a new colour for the sky - yellow. Why so yellow? I was watching a Great Course on the Impressionists. The instructor mentioned that, when Monet painted a very orange sky with a tomato red sun, a discriminating critic commented that at last the impressionists had got over their passion for blue and were painting things their real colours..

I have been using an awful lot of blue paint since I started painting again in 2010. Surely I've learned something.  The sky in my inspirational photo is not yellow - more sort of pink - but I think yellow has potential. I hope it will give the sense of what a very bright summer day it was.

Website Updated

Just a quick blog-note to say that I have updated the painting part of the website.

It got really mixed up because  I have worked on several of my paintings after I put them on the website and even after I made note cards with them. Version control! It doesn't just happen at work!

Here are the two main culprits:

Anyway I think everything is up to date now and I am promising myself not to put anything up on the website or make any cards until I am sure a painting is done. AND - I won't revise a painting after I have made a card of it.

Now I'm going to update my note cards. A friend actually said he would like to buy some some! This is so exciting! His interest is what motivated me to sort this all out. Maybe I'll start showing paintings in the NAC show cases again and even try selling postcards at the NAC Gallery. A lot of hardworking members are very disenchanted with the Board - but maybe that doesn't really matter.

I currently have only one painting on display. It is "Jessica" and it is at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Theatre. I was hoping to have a look at it  when we went to the symphony last night. We sere sitting in the second row and enjoying the music when - darn it - I had a big coughing fit (sinusitis). I couldn't stop coughing. Mike and I  ran out of the theatre - phlegm flying. My throat stayed tickley despite a lot of coughing in the bathroom so I didn't go back in. After the intermission, Mike got our coats and we came home and watched "A Touch of Frost." I really have to get something done about this darn sinusitis. I am pretty deaf (otitis media) too - but I could hear the music even though I can hardly hear people's voices. This turned out longer than I thought....

Friday, October 18, 2013

Arbutus Painting

Here is my arbutus painting. I started it last year and did nothing to it for months. Now my asthma is stabilized I'm doing a bit everyday- improving the design and working on the colour - but not worrying about both things at once. Next thing - I need to do something to the rocks at the bottom left - so it stops feeling as if this very sturdy but half-dead  tree is about to fall into the water. I have worked on the grass but it needs redoing - once the paint has dried enough.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


It's odd but it's finished. "Young Pines Long gone!" Thanks Miss Carr!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Young pines long gone

So this is what the fuss was all about - a very strange painting but totally consistent with what I have been doing over the past couple of years. It is inspired by Emily Carr's "Young Pines" but not much like it. It kind of shows the connection between the trees and the rest of the universe.

I painted it without using solvents (only linseed oil) and thought I felt fine. Now I have a sore throat and chest. Is it an allergy? Is the painting any good? I like the idea and I think the top right hand part is very cool. I'll see how I feel tomorrow.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Nearly October! What next?

Here it is the last day of September 2013. Big problems for the US with their debt ceiling. Little problem for me - I now seem to be allergic to turpenoid. I had just developed a new mode of oil painting based on my studies of Emily Carr's luminous glowing paintings and was getting really excited about doing a lot of paintings that way. Now I realize I have to make a change.

Years ago I used real turpentine for painting. When I started painting again a few of years ago, I decided to use turpenoid because it is odorless. For 2 years I never thought twice about the turpenoid. It never seemed to affect my asthma and it worked quite well. But my asthma has been quite bad for almost a year now. It started with a virus last November. By June my symptoms were getting out of hand. In July, my peak flow had deteriorated from my normal high of 410 to a low of 120. I was so out of breath that I could hardly walk down the dock or climb the ramp at mid-tide.

After visits to the respirologist, sinus specialist, asthma education clinic, and three courses of prednisone, I  finally understand that, although my asthma starts with a virus, it is exacerbated by various allergins.  I now seem to be allergic to chemicals in polyfilla, varethane, deisel fumes, and, sad to say, something I use in oil painting - I think it is the turpenoid. I get a sore throat, sinus pain and increased effusion in my eustachian tubes. I haven't noticed it exacerbate my asthma - but I can't take that chance.

So I have put my wet oil painting in Mike's workshop and locked up the turpenoid. I have also done some research on painting with acrylics and painting solvent-free with oils. There is a chance that I will not be allergic to either of those painting methods. Tomorrow I will try painting solvent-free by thinning my paints with linseed oil and cleaning my brushes with soap and water. If this doesn't work - I'll give acrylics a go and switch from "following in the footsteps of Carr" to doing  more "Norval Moriseau-like" work.  I love his colours and shapes - so it could be great!

As the saying goes - "when one door closes another door opens."  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Blue

Here is the back side of my "Great Blue" banner. It's a painting of a great blue heron. There are lots of herons in the waters around Nanaimo - including downtown. So I think it fits the theme "Creative Cities."

I am showing the back first because the back side, which faced the mall, shows the colours as they will appear in daylight outside.

Here is the front side of "Great Blue" - with my signature. You can see how different the colours look - even though the actual paint was the same on both sides. It is quite hard to paint when the colours look so sdifferent!

This banner is much smaller than my "Dee-licious" and "Dee-licious Too" banners. In fact it is a kid-sized banner - painted by an adult - me - because not enough schools painted banners this year..

I completed it in 2 days of really hard work - plus my design day. I think it looks pretty good - but a little too cartoonish. Mike says it looks electric (as in static)! Poor bird - with its feathers all poking out. They were supposed to be graceful!  If I had more time I would do more creative things with the black outlining - to give it more of a Norval Morriseau look. It will be hung somewhere downtown by the end of June.

BTW, I am wearing my James Cook University hoodie .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another banner

The Banner Festival is now doing another set of banners - mainly small ones for the waterfront and other parts of downtown. The 6 week time allotted for the program's first set of banners was based on the requirements of a grant that they didn't even get. So now they are open for 2 more weeks of banner painting.

I decided I would like to put into practice what I learned from my first two banners - good design, good colours, don't sweat the small stuff, and not too much time wasted on shading. I'm now signed up to paint a Great Blue Heron which are fairly common in Nanaimo. Here is the design:

Great Blue Herons have very long loose feathers on their breasts and upper wings - so I made the image very wispy. The drawing is pretty well anatomically correct - but stylized. The colours will be: a pale blue background with green-blue in the foreground, light blue-grey upper wing section and darker blue-grey lower wing section, pale yellowish-orange neck and breast, bright yellow beak, black cap and green eye. The reeds will also be green - to pick up the green eye. There will be no shading but the outline will be in strong black - the way it is drawn.

It took me a long time to get the design right. I will paint on Monday and Tuesday. I hope the colours turn out OK. I am calling it "Great Blue" so it will mainly have a blue look.

Banners on Display

The Nanaimo Banner Festival put up all the banners last week - just before the Victoria Day weekend.

My banners are on a light pole on Commercial in downtown Nanaimo - just across from the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library. I think they look great and - since I was executive director of the VIRL for 10 years - I love the location ! I never actually worked in Harbourfront - but I often went there for meetings and so on. I wonder if anyone at the Library will notice my name on the banners and, if they do, if anyone still remembers me.

I learned a lot just looking at the banners that I had watched people working on. I realized that the details get lost when the banners are way up high. It is most important to focus on a good design and good colours. Don't sweat the small stuff and don't get carried away with shading. NEVER try to shade more than two colours (e.g. turquoise to blue or yellow to orange is as far as you should go).

Don't the banners look great against the trees!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dee-licious too

Boyed up by my success with "Dee-licious" I went home and drew the design for "Dee-licious too." The idea and the title, thought up by Brenda, was clever - a tulip pot with one large tulip blossom and a bunch of stalks. But looking back, I realize I didn't think carefully enough about the background. I just thought I would do a sort of soft glow around the tulip blossom.

Big mistake! House paints don't actually work that way. You can't get from orange to purples in a nice smooth way. Here is "Dee-licious too"  through the window, after one day of painting. I took a photo so that I could work on it at home to improve the design.

Here is the new design. The halo around the blossom is replaced with the same turquoise, blue and purple  that is on the first banner.(BTW, I did this by using "Paint" software to touch up my photo.)

Big mistake! When I started to make the changes on the actual banner, Brenda told me that I could not add that much paint. Too much paint and the banner might crack.  Darn it! A horrid design or a cracked banner?

Here is St Tulip, the "martyr en la jardin" at the end of day 3.Darn halo!

Here it is today - the end of day 4. I still do not like the halo. If only I had made the background either blueish or yellowish. Either colour would have worked - but not both. .

Tomorrow will be my last painting day. All I have left to do is outline the blossom, paint the bottom part black (where the Nanaimo Art Gallery Logo will go) and check for any unpainted areas. I am pleased with the outlining so far - but a bit uncertain about how to outline the petals.  I think the best thing will just be to go around the  whole blossom and not try to distinguish the petals even a tiny bit. I'll do thicker lines around the bottom of the flower and leave it at that.

I realize the lesson I was supposed to learn from banner painting was "do it and let it go". That is a good lesson for a person like me who keeps hoping for a "happy accident" to make her paintings really zing. The other lesson I learned was that I need to create an initial design that will actually work with the medium. Next year, if I do another banner, no shading! I'll go for the true Norval Morriseau stained glass window look. Maybe, in the meantime, I'll try working with acrylics on a regular canvas ...

Dee-licious - done

Here is how my first banner, called "Dee-licious" turned out. I was really happy with it. The design and choice of colours really worked. Lots of people talked to me about the deer eating their tulips - so the story worked too.

The hardest part was shading the background from turquoise through blue to purple - but the space was broken up by tulips - so not too hard. The other hard part was doing the black lines around everything. Some of the banner makers seem not to want to put black outlining on their banners. In contrast, I knew black outlining would really add to the design. But it was hard to do it neatly. My hands were not completely steady and the banner material moved away when I pressed on it. I eventually realized that the lines would not be perfect and did the best I could.From a distance it looks great.

So with that great success behind me, I agreed to do a second banner to go with it on the same lamp post.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14 - Making a Banner

On Thursday I went to see my mentor, Penny Maday. She is so encouraging. One thing she suggested  was to make a banner for the Nanaimo Festival of Banners (sponsored by the Nanaimo Art Gallery).

The theme for the 2013 banners is "Creative City." Penny said the nice thing about doing a banner is that you do it and you let it go. No fiddling around after to "fix it,"  I wasn't sure I actually wanted to make a banner and "let it go," because it will hang somewhere in Nanaimo for the whole summer.What if it needs fixing?

Nonetheless, Mike and I went up to the Nanaimo North Mall where an empty store has been set up for banner painting. What a fabulous place. Banners were strung up on about 20 large frames and people of all ages were painting their banners. For the really big banners, people were standing on stools to reach the top. The colours were gorgeous and the paintings were terrific. I learned that to make a banner, you  first make a 4x8 cartoon for the banner. Then the people running the festival copy the image onto banner material. After that you paint it with acrylic house paint.  I got an entry form and started to think about a subject.

In the end I decided to do a banner of a deer eating tulips. I think this subject represents lots of things about "creative cities" -  gardeners' attempting to make a lovely garden,  deer attempting to find something to eat, and the city council attempting to sort out the inevitable conflict!

On Saturday, I found some photos of deer on the internet and made a drawing. Then I spent the rest of the day trying to fit the deer and some tulips into a 4x8 space. Eventually I had a drawing that I liked. I coloured it in a few different ways and ended up with this:

I think it is cute and cheery and tells a story. The black tulip was a late addition and will be valentine's red in the final version  I'm booked for painting next Thursday and Friday. I'll make a post next weekend about how this  goes!

My oldest grandson has made banners where he lives. I hope, if reads this, that he will give me some useful banner-making advice!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nanaimo Boat Basin - May 2012

I think I have finished this painting, started last year, of the Nanaimo Boat Basin .

At first I thought this painting would be of Nanaimo's Port Theatre - and the theatre is there. However, the boats have now become the real focus - with the theatre in the middle background and Mount Benson clearly in the distance - bringing it all together. 

Last week I changed some of the colours  from a lot of pink and orange to a more blue-pink-grey look. I think it works much better because even on the brightest spring day, Nanaimo never really looks orange. After all - iti was the pink of the cherry blossoms against the green of the theatre windows which first attracted me - and there they are - picked up by the pink bumpers on the old trollers and reflections in the water. Quite nicely composed I think. A bit effervescent - on purpose.

Political statement - I am calling it May 2012 because the Boat Basin is going to be completely rebuilt by a private company and I don't suppose it will look this way next spring.

Artistic license - I added 2 cherry trees and simplified the parkade, etc. to right of the theatre. Also - kayak is totally fabricated - but I think it works.

I am hoping to have a consultation with my mentor and then put this painting in the Port Theatre on April 16.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First steps for arbutus on Wallace Island

For the past 3 days I have been working quite boldly on my arbutus on Wallace Island painting.

My hope is that I will be able to take some of the techniques used by Emily Carr in her 1930s beach and sky paintings and adapt them to my style.  I want the painting to be more abstract than anything I have done lately. And I want there to be a radiance everywhere suggesting not only a brilliant summer day in the Gulf Islands but also the connections between everything in the painting - trees, water, rocks, sky.

This is technically tricky for me - because I have a bad habit of trying to get a feeling, then having to make corrections because the drawing is wrong, then getting very detailed and never completely recapturing the initial feeling. I am working in short bursts with a largish brush and hoping to stay "fresh.".

Here is the picture just after I started it last fall. I had been careful to draw the main branches in quite accurately from the photos. It sat like that for a couple of months while I worked on other paitings.

Here it is today (Feb 8). There is a lot more paint on it and it is pretty swirley. If you think the rocks are wrong - I agree and actually removed a couple at the top after I took the photo - so the cliff looks a bit better than this shows.

Here is a detail - the sky with some nice bold swirls.

Another detail - the trees on the other side of the bay against the sky and their reflection in the water.

These details might make good paintings in their own right because the composition in both of them is more interesting.

The colours are not completely accurate in the photos because it is February and not very bright inside even with the lights on - so I had to use a flash. If you think the bark is too orange - that would be true. You might also think the whole thing is a bit cartoonish - in the modern sense of the word (Batman not Michelangelo's drawings). I think it is - but I knd of like it. This is only a second layer of oil paint and very turpetiny - so a long way to go.

This is the only painting I have going right now - I better find another subject. It's always better to have several paintings going at once when you're using oils. Otherwise, you end up making mud instead of letting the paint dry. Maybe... I'll do new paintings of sections of the big painting. Could be very cool!

Theatre, Trollers and Kayak Done (I think)

In early February, 2013, I worked on some of the details of this painting - mainly the kayak and the gill netter on the right - plus the railings and the ramp. They now represent what would actually be seen more accurately. I think that fixing those parts made the whole picture seem more consistent and finished.

I never did do anything with the little bit of building at the base of the Coast Bastion Hotel. I'm pretending I'm Cezanne - who always left a bit of bare canvas to remind people his work was a painting.

The water reflections are the only really abstract part of the painting.  I like them.

I think the picture might lack atmospheric perspective. Nothing seems far away. This could be mentally annoying. However, there are lots of horizontal, vertical and zig zag lines for the eye to follow around the painting - so you don't have to get stuck in the puzzle.Also, the colours in the actual painting are less intensely blue than in the photo - so the mountain doesn't seem so close.

I think this painting is done.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jan 25 - Theatre, etc done?

Once again I think I may have finished my painting of the Nanaimo Harbourfront Theatre, Trollers and Cherry Blossoms.

  Here it is Jan 23. the main change I had made at that point was to simplify the sky and make it much lighter - white almost with just a hint of grey at the top. I think  this worked out quite well - the mottled sky of the previous version was not so good. I had also put more detail into the orange kayak.

This is today's version. I actually spent all afternoon working on it. the problem I had identified before I stared was the big grey patch at the bottom of the left hand side. I just hadn't bothered to paint anything there and it looked odd. Today I worked really hard on the wibbly reflections in the water - especially in the bare patch - but also making the reflection under the troller in the forefront much greener - even though the theatre windows are not above. I also reduced the saturation of the blue water at the very bottom of the picture - although you can't really see the difference in the photos. You can see that I lightened the troller on the other side of the dock and also "cleaned up" the other boats. I know the cherry trees still seem to leap out in the photo - but I don't see them like that in the painting - probably because I didn't touch the cherry trees today  so they are not on my mind. To me the pinks are more like a < sign.

I haven't done anything to the edges of the painting which I think I should do before I can say I am absolutely finished - but I can't do that until the painting dries - which will be a few days.

Tomorrow - on to the arbutus. I also need to do some more work  on the website. Anita sent me a ton of pictures to put up and I have some other ideas that I think will make the website more interactive. We're supposed to go live by February - so I'll be at my computer a lot for the next couple of days.

One other thing - I have to say how much I am loving singing. Today, while I was painting, I had the Getting Higher Choir music on really loud and sang almost the whole time I was painting. Fun!

I guess I'll call my picture "Nanaimo Boat Basin - Spring."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Theatre, Fishboats and Cherry Blossoms

I have been working for the past 2 days on my painting of the Nanaimo Harbourfront Theatre with the Boat Basin and fish boats  in the foreground.

When I first started this painting, I was most interested in portraying the stunning contrast between the turquoise-green theatre windows and the flowering pink cherry trees in front of them. The trees are actually across the street on the Boat Basin side of the street but, from my vantage point on Cameron Island, the trees look as if they are in front of the theatre. There are also a lot of fish boats and a big yacht at the docks in the Boat Basin and they also appear to be in front of the theatre. I hadn't really noticed that most of the boats had big round fluorescent pink fenders that are  even pinker than the cherries. But as I moved along with my painting I thought they would  add a lovely extra touch of pink and move the eye around.

for a while, I though maybe the picture was more about the boats than the theatre - but now I realize that the trees stand out like unrealistic bits of cotton candy - pretty much dead centre - hmm...They are the focal point because of where they are placed with the main troller and the dock pretty much pointing at them like arrows.."Here we are - aren't we cute!"

I've stopped working on this picture because I think it may be finished. It is not as neatly covered in paint as most of my recent paintings. For example the kayak on the right float is really scribbly. I had to make it up - because there was no kayak in the photo and it doesn't look very accurate. But  - I think that might be a positive. It is certainly "looser" than other carefully finished paintings like Swy-a-lana Lagoon Bridge. Loosenes is what I hoped to learn from my studies of Emily Carr's Shoreline and Above the Gravel Pit. Maybe it worked.

Anyway, I have put two photos of the painting  up on this blog - so that I can think about it. Strangely, I think the colour reproduction of the digital image is a bit more saturated than the actual painting - especially the ultramarine blue of the water in the foreground. You can see my slightly "fixed" photos below. I tried to make the colours closer to the actual picture - but did not quite succeed in either case. Probably the second one is most accurate - though the bright blue astounds me and the sky looks strangely mottled..

I know that a lot of the work of painting is looking and thinking - so I will look and think to see if it is done. Also ask my mentor Penny Maday what she thinks!

Next time - on to my arbutus tree on Wallace Island. Even though I started it in 2012 - I am going to call it my first 2013 painting and will try to do it in my new "movement" style.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19 - Website Updated

Here I am revising some of my paintings in December. I'm almost ready to get back to painting again. .

I spent the whole of yesterday updating the painting section of

First I took photos of  the 8 paintings I have worked on since I last updated the page. This meant moving lights and paintings around to try to get them adequately lit. Then I had to sort through all pictures I had taken of each painting to find what seemed to be the best one.

Then, because I could not shoot them straight no matter how hard I tried (I know I should have used a tripod for my camera) I had to open them in my Serif software, level them and then crop them. I also had to fix them for exposure and colour - to make look as close to the actual paintings as possible. Then I had to export them as jpgs - Serif makes the spp's which won't work. OK - now I had good jpg pictures of all 8 paintings.

Next I had to compress the size of the photos so that they would upload quickly when viewed on my website. This is not necessary on Blogger which seems to reduce the images to a manageable size automatically. But before I put them into Coffee Cup html files, I had to change the image size..

Meanwhile, of course, I had to create and revise the relevant html files in Coffee Cup. I decided to create 2 new files.
  • The first one was for my Emily Carr inspired paintings (plus my portrait of my mother, Jessica who loved Emily Carr). I decided to call these pictures "Footsteps of Carr" and am very keen to get painting more in that style - so swirley and full of movement.
  • The second one was "Notecards." Why "Notecards"? Well, some of the cards I have already made were actually from versions of paintings BEFORE I revised them in December - so I thought I ought to show them in that version.  Also, I thought maybe someone would like the cards - so decided I would give some away to people who asked and charge for others.
I also updated the "Paintings" page to link to the new pages. And I revised "Nanaimo Naturally"  to show the revised paintings of  "Path to Ammonite Falls," "Big Leaf Maple," "Chip Barges off Gabriola," and "Swy-a-lana Lagoon - Fall." Plus I added "Swy-a-lana Bridge at twilight."

All this webwork may seem a bit strange - when I actually could have been painting. But I wanted to get everything up to date on my website in case anyone wanted to see what I have been doing.

So now I am ready to get on with painting again. I'm going to finish my painting of the Port Theatre and Fishboats in my old Nanaimo Naturally style.. I'm going to try to get some new Emily Carr swirleyness into my big arbutus painting. I wonder if I can do it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013 already

My goodness. It is almost 6 weeks since I wrote in my blog. I did quite a lot of painting in early December - including finishing up my 2 Emily Carr- inspired paintings - with glorious skies and wonderful structure! I love them and will put them up soon.

Then along came Christmas - pretty busy and mostly fun - but I got 2 nasty cuts on my arm - from our dog"s extra long claws - didn't hurt much but made me feel vulnerable.  I could not paint.

 I did however work long and hard on revising the Canadian Clan Grant - Online. What a fun job!  It's not quite ready for viewing - but I've promised to have it ready by February. .