WIP Mystic Blues

So here it is.  Usually when I conceptualize a painting, I "see" it in a particular medium - be it watercolour, oil or acrylics.  But this blue hydrangea behaved differently for me and said you need to do it all.  I have completed it in watercolour and acrylics.  And now in oil...

Bluetiful Bloom by Shideler.jpeg

Patience pill anyone?

The watercolor version to me is traditional and stands on its own.  When I completed it I stepped back and felt is was good.....but wondered what would it look like in acrylics? Hmmm... and so I began a rather epic adventure in blue.

Saying that acrylic paint is vibrant is almost an understatement.  They fact that this paint cures and the colours deepen for a few days after they are applied adds to a bit of a mystery about them.  

And then there is buttery oil paint. Omigoodness I am in love with oil paint!  The colours remain true as they dry making them a bit more predictable than watercolurs or acrylics. And you can play with them.  And blend until your hearts content. I have so much to learn!


Tender Blues in acrylic

A vibrant rendition of the blue hydrangea.  VIsitors to my studio stop in their tracks - I love the reaction.  It is a bit showy.  Both bold and modern. The blue shades are more intense - almost on the deep thalo shade.  Love saying that it is contemporary and fun. 36"x36" and I admit a nail biter to work on. Each painting session I was able to complete one flower in the bloom.  Acrylic paint dries so fast that blending is a real challenge. Did you say challenge? Apparently complexity and details are my key motivators.  No kidding??????

amethyst shades of blue by shideler

Amethyst Shades of Blue in watercolours

More traditional and ethereal, highly detailed and a softer version from the acrylic.  It's funny but I remember painting every single petal.  Making sure the shades and values were spot on in order to create the depth and suggest the volume of the bloom.  I played with the pigment and tested before I applied paint to the work.  This version was a true labour of love.  Did I mention I love watercolours.  They speak my language. And I feel confident with this medium.  So many years of working with it has taught me how it will behave in various conditions -  and I can predict it.  It is very natural and comfortable for me.

home and back at it

I returned home from Calgary Thursday night. Happy to be home, but so missing my wonderful  family there.  Every day we connected with Jenn in Vancouver and shared baby photos sigh... and since I have been home I have been very busy.


Farmers Market

This painting has so many wonderful memories for me.  First of all, I love the translucent quality of tomatoes. When I look at them I always imagine how I would paint them.  The turquoise of the baskets set off the yellows and reds, and hit almost all of my favourite colours (I have so very many). I knew as I was taking the many reference photos that the heritage tomatoes would be a painting.

The biggest decision was to be watercolour, acrylic or oils. And right now I am so loving painting with oils,  There is more freedom for me - does not have to be quite as meticulous as watercolour to be effective.  I can still "sculpt" with the paint - the buttery texture of oil paint is so addictive, so sensuous and the colours so pure!

My daughter is a BC based food blogger known as Foodess.  I love that I can be sure that every visit will include a trip to many of the farmers markets.  This is her happy place. And I love to watch the people, especially the children.  But it is the colours and the smells that truly captivate me.  

SIde Stepping.jpeg

Side Stepping

When I returned home I somehow was driven to continue with the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  I felt compelled to get back at it.  Side Stepping is a fun painting of a raven and is the inspiration for a large painting I will do later in the year.  


Besties at the Beach

Last summer we had a Hall family reunion on Prince Edward Island.  It was an amazing week with family, great food and the beaches.  Two different beaches each day.  I was in complete heaven!

The beach is one of my sacred places.  My soul longs for sunny, warm days and the salt air.  I think having been born in Cape Breton had a lot to do with this and then the move to Red Head outside of Saint John, NB reinforced it. Salt air is in my soul and I think a bit of salt water is in my blood.  I crave the beach!

Everything I see while at the beach is a painting in my mind. These two lovelies walking down the beach caught my eye.  I actually think that they may be sisters.  Fun painting.

Until next time, may you have a most wonderful week!


Early wrap to this years challenge

Although this challenge is still on-going, I am quite done for this year. I managed to complete 17 paintings since it began, but you see a surprise early arrival had me packing up my bags and flying off to Calgary!  My beautiful new grandson Henry was born a few weeks early!  And so I said to heck with the challenge and hopped on the first available flight. 

And I do have a few more on the easel waiting for my return.

2018 painting challenge by Shideler.jpg

This is the fifth time that I have participated in a 30 Day Challenge.  You can see my previous efforts here. With each challenge I like  to have a goal, something to learn - that I work towards. I feel pretty good about what I accomplished with my approach this year. I had decided to only work in oil.  It is a medium that I have been exploring for awhile now and think I have come to an understanding how to work with it. At least how I think that I want to work with it.

Grisaille how cool a word is that?

What I know to be true, at least for me, is that I do like to plan my work and have a grisaille underpainting prior to adding colour.  Not all subjects require this step.  But for me with the way my mind works, it makes the colour application make more sense.  You see I like to work with thin, transparent glazes.  Slowly building up the colours before I add in strategically placed thicker juicy paint.  Oh, did I just expose the watercolourist in me?  This is funny now that I have said it!  Old habits die hard.

And then there is Alla Prima

Painting alla prima (in one session) made sense for a few of the paintings - working really well with the mussel shells.  In fairness, I have painted so many mussel shells over the years that I could probably paint them in my sleep - they are a subject that I know so well. 

Honestly, I would have approached he painting with the sweet little sparrow differently knowing what I think I know now.  I think I would have felt better painting this one if I had taken the time to do an underpainting.  Because the bird was included as part of the landscape and not painted as a central subject, the background and leaves felt like busy work.  I was not as satisfied with the end result as I would like to have been.  It works, but I had a different vision of it in mind.

Helpful hint 

You have to get over your, um my... need to go back in and add in more detail.  In one sitting means just that. It is so hard to resist. But, in my mind - there really is no rules.  Rules are self imposed and made to be modified and ignored when convenient. 

Lessons learned

The other, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that applying many layers of paint over each other, without a few days dry time will create muddy colours.  I learned a new use for my pallet knife. Scraping.  Yep.  I had to remove areas on a few of the painting in order to re-apply the right colour intensity.

Until next time, cheers





Week 3 of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

I have learned so much with this challenge.  It was not enough to commit to a painting a day - I felt the need to add a layer of complexity by adding in a medium that I feel that I am just beginning to understand.  I am an oil painter that needs to allow for dry time for glazing.  Alla prima is really maybe not my thing - but feel i have been successful with my attempt.

Week 3 30 day challenge by Helen Shideler

Day 11 - Lunch on the Bar

The photo does not do this painting justine.  The feathers on the bird are quire detailed.  What I am finding is that it is difficult to photograph wet oils.  The light catches the thicker paint and the blackish tones look like a hole - but in person - you do not see that effect.  Here's whats funny - I counted the plover last week - oops

Day 14 - Watchful

Yeah, I may have missed  a day or two or three.  LIfe happens.  I love this gull and for the most part, the painting turned out exactly as I envisioned.  I did have to go back in a couple of day later to enhance the values.  It was fun to paint and I may also paint his brother

Day 15 - Stepping Stones

 was born in Cape Breton, very close to a beach. as long as I can remember I love shore birds. They give me a sense of peace and joy. Colours are a bit off in this photo but you get the idea

Day 16 - Home on the Beach

You can sure tell it is February and I am longing for warm summer days at the beach. These birds make me so happy 

Day 17 - Crusty Crustacean

No shortage of inspiration from the sea. Happy to be more than halfway through the challenge, my larger work on my shiny new easel is starting to call out to me. 

Day 18 - Young Cormorant

Yeah, I have a thing for beach birds. I was so taken with the posture of this young bird. It’s all in the attitude. The reference photo was taken last summer at Rockwood Park in Saint John.  This is an amazing location to photograph birds and some of the prettiest landscapes in New Brunswick!

Phoebe by Helen Shideler

Day 19 - Phoebe

This will be my last offering for the 30 day challenge. Also - this is the first attempt at a furry face in oils.  I like it!!!

The challenges is getting cut a  short by the early arrival of a beautiful new grandson.  I am off to Calgary without paints and computer.  I cannot wait to get my lips on his little belly!!  sigh!!!

Thank you for following along

Cheers - and spring is almost just around the corner



Week 2 of the 30 Day Challenge

Still keeping up with the challenge having completed 11 paintings in 11 days.  I am having so much fun with all of these.  Mussel shells and corvids are some of my long time favourite things to paint.  I think I may have a few more ravens in my system.  Thinking I am going to venture into watercolours this coming week. 

Week 2 2018 Shideler.jpeg

Day 6 - Fundy Blues I

It almost always comes back to mussel shells for me. I have  previously painted them as poured watercolours in a full sheet format.  Three different versions.  And honestly, there were three of my all time favourite poured painting. And I have painted them as large acrylics. So now in oil.  I am thinking there will be a rather large oil in my future as well.

Day 7 - Fundy Blues II

Mussels officially became a series. I love all the variations of the colours and frankly, they literally are a taste of home. The shape is organic so they are forgiving.  Gotta love that!

Day 8 - Fundy Blues III

Funny how we can change our minds.  I now think three may be enough in this series.  I really see this becoming a huge oil painting. 

Day 9 - Front and Center

Well, I fell a day behind on Friday. We had plans in the evening but I knew I could get caught up this weekend.  Really enjoying this series - fun and strong birds. Intriguing intelligence. Love them

The wet paint captures more light than there is on the painting but it is close.

Day 10 - Check that out

And with this fella, I am caught up! His curiosity is certainly showing, head swung over his shoulder. What do you suppose he sees? 

Day 11 - Lunch on the Bar

I have to admit, I am finding the challenge challenging!  It is all about oil paint.  Normally I work on a piece over a week or two.  Taking time to allow the paint to dry a bit between sessions.  This allows for glazing and layering the paint without risk of making mud! 

When I started the challenge I promised myself that I will not go back into a painting. When it’s done it’s done right? Nope, not this time. I think I want to add darker watery tones after a few days drying.



Here we go again

I joined the 30 Paintings in 30 Day Challenge once again.  It is actually my fourth time participating.  I sort of tell myself when ever I commit to it - it is a huge commitment and the other larger pieces I am working on get neglected for awhile.  But the sense of accomplishment that I get from doing it is well worth the effort.

Week 1 30 paintings in 30 days Shideler

So far...

So far all of these are oil on panels.  The square ones are on cradled panel, the 10 x 8" are on flat panel and will require frames.  I am really unsure how long I will stay with the oils as I prefer to allow for a fews days of drying time and then go back in with the finishing glazes and bring out the detail.

Day 1 - Vantage Point

That's the crow in the centre.  I took a series of photos of this crow at Rockwood Park in Saint John.  He wasn't bothered by my being there, but her certainly kept one eye on me most of the time.  I am quite happy with this painting and composition.  The moss and lichens on the tree really intrigue me.  I may have to do a similar piece only larger.

Day 2 - Sitting Sweetly

That's the chickadee posing on the branch.  I loved every moment working on this one.  I always stop to watch the antics of these special little birds.  And heaven knows, I have certainly painted lots of them.

Day 3 - Having Fun

This is my grandson playing in the water.  In the photo his expression is one of pure joy.  SOmehow in my efforts to paint him, his expression went from one of joy to the water is cold!  Ok, I may never attempt to paint a face that tiny again.  With a face, there is little opportunity to mess up. Painting a face this small, well there is every opportunity to mess up just a slight movement of the brush can wreck it.  Also, if you go back in the paint blurs and gets muddy.  No fun at all. Photo credit to his Dada.  I normally only paint from my own photos unless it is for a commission or in this case, I could not resist

Day 4 - Sweet Surprise

That is the very green painting with the song sparrow.  True to fashion, I went down the path of trying to get too much detail in a small painting.  This took forever.  Even when I tried to paint think and juicy - it still took way too long. I have to rethink my approach!  He is a rather sweet little bird sitting in my apple tree.

Day 5 - Proud

That is the raven up there with his chest all held high and fluffed up.  Ok, I confess, I have a thing for painting corvids.  Not that that is a secret or anything.  I paint many each year - much like chickadees.  I love how he is standing so tall and proud, a little look of "go ahead, make my day". I always start with the eye and then move onto the beak/bill.  If I get the head right the painting works

Until next week - cheers. Oh, I am open for suggestions on what to paint for this challenge.  Feel free to offer requests of what you like to see me paint - I may just get to it!

Thanks for following along!





Feeling productive and happy

It has been a very productive week.  First my beautiful new RIcheson Santa Fe II Easel arrived.  It is even more special than I hoped it would be! Kind of makes me forget how frustrated I was when my previous easel had broken. My wallet it much lighter but I am very happy able to paint  large again. I completed "Tender Blues".  This was sure a long time in the painting.

Tender Blues by Helen Shideler

Tender Blues fresh off the easel

How do you know when a painting is completed?  Quite often you look up and can not see any place left to put paint.  Literally this was how it worked for me with this one. So the new easel is quite the asset.  There is a shelf on the easel where my brushes, water and palette are placed right in front of me.  No twisting and turning every 20 seconds or so.  I cannot believe the difference it made even with my concentration just to have eyes forward.  

I was literally working away and realized there was no place left for me at add paint. I love it when that happens.  I signed it and stepped back. I'll look at it for a few days to make sure I am happy with it before it gets varnished.  This is a large painting 30" x 30" on gallery wrapped canvas.  I painted the edges black - makes quite a difference and does not require a frame.  I like the clean, contemporary look. 

WIP Market Fresh by Helen Shideler

New beginnings

I wasted no time getting a new painting started.  This is a large oil that I have started to block in.  I am approaching this one slightly differently than I usually do.  Typically I would have done a grayscale underpainting and over painted with colours.  You know, I really just felt like slopping paint around.  I love the buttery texture of oil paint and wanted to have some fun with it.  This is still an underpainting and will require a number of layers to bring it to life.  But I am loving the way it is starting to develop.  This may be a fingers crossed scenario....

WIP Special Occasion by Helen Shideler

Two to pour

I also drew out two watercolors that I intend to pour.  Have the first masking on one of them.  This trio is sitting on a platter that I was gifted for Christmas. It has images of lobsters on it - this will make for an interesting pouring exercise.  But hey, I am up for the challenge.  And if I really mess it up, you will never see it.  


Kinda sort of busy

Ah, the holidays.  They have taken their toll on my productivity.  But, in fairness I always know I may not get as much done as I hoped.  Often I have more ambition than time. And family and friend come first.  Tender Blues is a large painting. With a whole lot of little florets that seem to be taking more time than usual.  This is my impatience showing I fear.

WIP Tender Blues by Helen Shideler

A couple of things 

My acrylic paints are acting funny and not in a charming way.  A couple of things are going on.  First, my heat source.  The mini split operates with a fan to distribute the heated air.  The heated air dries the paint out so fast on my pallett. No amount of spritzing it will water seems to help.  It is drying out way to fast.  Second, well they paint is going funky in the tubes.  It seems to be thickening up and gloppy - like toothpaste.  I do not know what is making it do this - but I really do not like it.  The texture of the paint will not apply smooth and there is certainly no blending ability.  What the heck?

Anyone else experiencing this problem?  And it is not limited to any brand in particular,  Hmm, I think it is time to get serious with oils.

My daughter Katie was supposed to fly home on Friday -you know the day after the storm.  YOu can imagine what happened.  Flights delayed everywhere and some cancelled creating a backlog of weary travellers.  From mechanical failures and get this, the plane would not start this morning from the cold! Delays.  Cancellations.  On the up side, we got to spend more time with her. Maybe tomorrow she will be able to fly out.

Pet portraits

I have also been working on a few commissions.  I am able to share this one with you now.  Meet "Murphy" a portrait of a very expressive labradoodle.  So much fun to paint this guy.  HIs owners were surprised by this thoughtful gift and very happy with it!  Gotta love that! And I will be delivering another one tonight. Gotta love that as well.

Murphy pet portrait by Helen Shideler

My poor easel

Still broken.  My husband managed to get it back together enough that I can use it.  The crank awkwardly still cranks.  (he missed putting one of the ball bearings back in but we will not tell) But it is stable enough that I can use it.  Unable to easily raise and lower it.  But it is usable while I wait for my shiny new, incredible easel motors towards me.  EEEEEEEEEE so excited.

Cheers for now




This time of year

This special time of year

Now that the main holiday is behind us, I can finally sit with a cup of ginger green tea and regroup - for the next wave that is.  This Christmas was quieter that usual with most of our family unable to be here.  We still put up the biggest tree we could find and lit the house up beautifully.  And, as I sit here writing this post, we have family travelling from afar to see us. Ringing in the New Year will be full of family fun.

Somehow I was better prepared for the holidays this year.  I had my list of shopping prepared.  Actually dedicated one day two days to shop.  Had our packages ready to be mailed with enough time for them to reach there destination - except for Bermuda- but who knew about their postal service - the package is still not there!  Rest of the gifts were wrapped with plenty of time to spare.  All-in-all I felt really good about my holiday preparedness.  

WIP Tender Blue by Helen Shideler

Then there is my painting

Commissions looked after on time. Hoped to finally complete the painting of the blue hydrangea.  Planned to have a good start on planning ideas for my blog and maybe even start a newsletter. Not entirely sure how I let this part of my life and planning get away from me.  These is still 4 days left in December for me to pull this off right?  Along with hosting a baby shower day after tomorrow! And playing with two grandkids! Right? Oh yes, and another commission due the first week of January.  No stress. 

Planning travel

Rather, planning time to plan to travel. And 2018 will require a lot of planning and juggling. So looking forward to all these exciting experiences. A new grand baby in March,  a wedding in Africa in December, plein air conference in Santa Fe in April, annual late August visit to Vancouver with my daughter and her wonderful family. I am so grateful we have the opportunity and means to go where we plan to go this coming year.

Setting intentions

I am planning to set my intentions and goals for 2018. I really love to do this. I put in a lot of time thinking this through and being intentional with what I focus on.  Hmmm, is that why we call them intentions? I write them down at the back of my journal.  The really important intentions may be written down multiple times.  Over and over and then reread multiple times during the year.  Helps me to stay focused on my goals and dreams. 

Keeping grounded

Of of my intentions for a long time was to participate in a drum making workshop. The stars lined up for me this year and I was able to join in a Grandmother Spirit drum making session at Lifestyles Health and Fitness in Hampton.  I totally loved this experience.  The cultural and spiritual journey was exactly what I needed in my life to remember to try to be grounded.  Being “busy" is not good for us.  This workshop helped me to remember to be focused, to be thankful, to be joyful and to be in the moment.  The journey is then celebrated during full moon drumming circles.  

Life is good  

Wishing you and yours the most wonderful of holidays and may your new year be full of happiness and blessings.


On Watch

It is that time of year when I feel like I disappear.  I have secret commissions that I am working on and of course, am unable to share.  I can share my most recent acrylic painting of a crow - On Watch

Observation Perch by Helen Shideler

From how do I do this - to I got this

When travelling around Arizona last year, I happened upon this crow perched on a rock framed by two tree trunks.  I knew instantly that I planned on painting this scene.  I took a few reference photos... until my subject flew away.   Only the tree trunks that  drew me in felt like brackets and I decided the painting would be stronger without them.

Rocks make me think.  Sometimes too much.  I found I was fretting over them and then realized, jeepers I can do this  and instantly I knew how to approach them.  I know eh? Although I had to take a drive to Michael's Art Supplies first.

All in the technique

I purchased a little bag of sea sponges and formed the underpainting with various shades of grays.  Once I had the rock blocked in, I could see lichen shapes emerging.  I then added shadows to lift the lichens and highlights to make them convincing.  And oh what fun, the subtle shades of mauve, blues and greens brought  the rock to life - so to speak.  

It's healthy to be nervous

I think it is healthy to be nervous when painting.  It really makes you think before you apply paint. And I believe nervous anticipation...preoccupation, obsession, makes you pull from different places and come up with approaches you may not have thought of otherwise. 

My dang easel

And in the middle of everything like deadlines, my dang easel came crashing down once again.  I love that stupid crank easel but i think it is in line to be replaced.  This is the third time it came crashing down sending the ball bearings heaven knows where.  This time the little housing for the ball bearings dented.  I am investigating replacement parts.  But am feeling uncertain. The place where I purchased it did not instill any confidence - fingers crossed.

missing ball bearings

Notice the missing ball bearings? Any recommendations for a good studio easel?