Seasonal corvids

I decided to paint a crow this weekend for a few reasons. Firstly, I am working on a secret commission or three that I cannot share. And it is so close to Halloween I really needed to paint a corvid!

Stepping Out by Helen Shideler

Here is the thing

We have many crows in our yard. They watch us when we BBQ. They sit on the power lines and look at us. They watch us when we are on our deck in case we may be eating. They watch us when we are eating. One crow in particular, this is pretty cool… keeps one eye on us. When we look up it does this spy thing and tries to look nonchalant, inconspicuous - incognito. Should we dare drop a tidbit the routine gets really amusing. It will look away. Watches. Then when we look away, it will fly down so casually, steal the bite away. It’s a game we play.

Crow Crow Crow

Sometimes we feed them. Because it is hard not to. I stand in the back driveway and call crow, crow, crow. Then they nonchalantly appear and wait until we turn our backs to come in for the tidbits. Again, it’s a game we play.

Habit forming

I paint corvids. Every chance I get. Below is a collage of a few of them. There are many more and a few not shown are award winners.

Crow Collage by Helen Shideler

Until next time, Happy Halloween

Swirls and Ripples Poured Painting

Swirls and Ripples is a poured painting of the koi fish we once had in our pond.  They were always delightful and entertaining.  Some of the fish had individual personalities, well sort of.  Really it was the biggest who would surface first for the food offering.

Swirls and Ripples poured painting by Helen Shideler

I really enjoy the process of producing a poured painting.  You really need to start with a fairly good drawing as the lines and details will soon get lost in the masking compound and puddling paint.

WIP Swirls and Ripples by Helen Shideler

After i have the drawing where you want it, you carefully start to apply the mask to the places where you want to preserve the whites.  Once dry, I will typically spray the painting with a good mist of water before I apply the paint.  Sometimes I will pour on only one colour at a time.  But I do like the way the paint mixes wet in wet.  I make that decision based on the image and what I am looking to accomplish with the pour.

WIP Swirls and Ripples

And after a few pours it starts to look like this

WIP Swirls and Ripples

Helpful hint

Use a rubber cement pick up rubber to remove the masking compound.  Makes a huge difference.

With the masking compound removed the under painting is complete.  TIme to refresh some of the colours, add in some brushwork to sharpen the details and then sign it!

WIP Swirls and Ripples

Can we slow down summer please

Well, it is hard for me to believe that yet another Studio Tour has come and gone. Time is moving a little too quickly this year.  How can we slow down summer?

I love the meets and greets that come with participating in the tour.  So many nice people coming through and all interested in art.  How amazing is that?  A number of people are "followers" of my work.  This is so encouraging and humbling at the same time.  Life is good.

With all the preparation for the tour I fell behind a bit with my painting - but I did manage to complete the three small oils (8x10") I was working on. Time to start another before I lose the momentum.

Walk in the Park by Helen Shideler

"Walk in the Park" is a fun 8"x8" oil of a strutting crow.  This little guy proved to be very popular.  I guess what I saw in him others saw as well.  He could have been homed five times this weekend! I find it amazing how many people love crows and ravens.  I know I certainly do but thought is was an artsy thing.

King of the Castle by Helen Shideler

"King of the Castle" this gull really felt he owned the place.  He was perched up so proudly on this concrete post with a view of the nearby restaurant and the sea.  He was talking it all in.  Ever watchful for that morsel that would be presented should someone dare to drop a bite.  I was leaning on the fence taking photos of some cormorants when I noticed him.  He did not seem to care how close I was and truly, it took awhile before I even realized that he was there - my husband had to point him out.

Plein Air Pretties by Helen Shideler

The first day at the PACE Plein Air Conference April in San Diego, people has not had a chance yet to mix and mingle.  There were all kinds of plein air painters milling about in the hotel lobby. These two caught my attention.  I thought they looked so interesting looking at their walking map of the area. I knew I would be painting them.  Plein Air painters are always interesting to people watch!

Painting of a Dragonfly on the Fence

Dragonflies  

We have a backyard pond complete with a waterfall and lily pads.  And dragonflies are frequent  visitors.  Frequent but they do not rest for long. Almost never long enough for me to run and get may camera and get back down the stairs.  And my camera is by the door when I am home!  Another missed opportunity.

 On the Fence 

On the Fence 

But I have gotten lucky a few times

One summer a dragonfly landed on my friend Jackie’s belly. And  I had my camera right there.  I just had to convince her not to swoosh him away until I got the photos.   The photos were really over exposed as her top was white but, as an artist, I am pretty good at improvising.  That painting is shown at the bottom of this post.

At a visit to M Mills to see the flocks of migratory sea birds I was so surprised by number of dragonflies. So many varieties. So many really big ones. So big.  And hovering doing the helicopter flight thing.  I spent the entire day there trying to get a great photo of one and you know?  They are super  fast.  Just as soon as I would have the camera on the ready they were gone.  Every single time.

On a recent trip to Arizona as I was strolling down a path in the 100 degree sunshine (melting) when I spied a dragonfly resting on a fence right beside me.  Actually resting.  My camera was actually around my neck.  So,  I got some pretty cool photos.  The result is show below in “On the Fence”.  This is a 9”x12” acrylic on Ampersand Claybord.

I know you have heard me talk about Claybord previously  

I have a love hate relationship with it.  Almost always the acrylic paint does not behave as I expect it to making for some stressful moments and multiple do overs.  What I love about it is that when you mess it up you are able to scrub off most of the paint and start over.  What I hate about it is (and all acrylic paint for that matter) is that the layers of paint have to be completely dry between the layers or the bottom paint will lift off.  Uncool.  This is particularly bad on Claybord.

The background of this painting is a really good bad example of this  

Blending is particularly challenging especially on the base coats.  Once you have your base coat down it does get easier to work with.  The smooth surface allows for highly detailed paint application.  Love this.  Then I had to draw the dragonfly on the painted layer.  This is nerve wracking as you really do not want to erase on paint or have to correct your drawing with paint (although this works really well trust me).

This painting is scheduled to hung in the upcoming shaw at the Saint John Arts Centre "Stained Glass Revisited" in September

Jackie's Dragon by Helen Shideler

 

 

 

Don't Butter Me Up

Buddy here is an interesting crab.  He is really big and barnacled and maybe tough and old!  So big in fact that the crows and seagulls thought better of going after him.  They were very much interested but he was too big for them to figure out how to tackle.  He was very aware they were nearby.  Not sure how crabs hear but for sure they can see.

From what I have observed throughout my entire beach combing experiences, crabs are really on this planet as a food source.  So many things (especially birds) want to eat them.  Hence “Don’t Butter Me up” was painted.

Don't Butter Me Up by Helen Shideler

When I was taking the photos I really did try not to get disturb it, although I really wanted the up-close shots.  I had a long lens and squatted with my nose almost on the ground.  At one point it did turn away – that is when I figured that I may be bugging him.  So I left him alone.  However, during our encounter I did get to take many exciting reference photos.  Then I got even more on the way back from our walk.

I was just full of ideas of what I would be able to create after my successful day of shooting.  Originally I thought I was going to crop the photo and focus in on the “face” then I decided that the whole critter was really to interesting and decide I had to paint it barnacles and all. 

I also thought I would paint him super huge – then I thought better of it and went with 11 x 14”. I thought it may be  really creepy to see a crab oversize in realism - at least for me.  That may be the stuff bad dreams are made of.  There may be a painterly version in my future.

During the September 30 Paintings in 30 Day Challenge, I painted “Out in the Open” 8 x 10”.

Not On the Menu

Both of these are painted on Ampersand Gessobord, a really slick surface (official description “the fine tooth of this surface is delicate enough for fluid strokes and fine detail” and works with acrylics or oils.  I love this product as it allows me to achieve clear and crisp details that are challenging on canvas – particularly on smaller paintings.

Did You Say Walk? Hmmm?

My fur grand-doggy never fails to amuse me.  Oliver is with-a-doubt-about-it one of the most expressive doggies I have ever met! He is handsome.  Silly.  Sometimes annoying and always entertaining. Did I mention expressive?

When he is trying to make a point he will simply, and intently stare at you.  Each stare has a specific meaning.  And if you dare venture to say anything close to what he is hoping for - he tilts his head and stares into your eyes.  So words like walk, beach, supper, breakfast, food, car, or outside have real meaning to Oliver. 

The degree of head tilt absolutely matched the message he is trying to convey.

Did You Say Walk?

The image has a bit of contrast distortion - unsure why - the painting is smoother.  

Another Oliver quirk - he loves muffins! See, a doggie after my own heart!

 

Day 19 - In Flight

I am really enjoying painting these birds in flight for this project.   I have to admit, with this one I was tempted to add in some detail in the sky... but I recovered and stayed with my original plan to keep it more contemporary.   I have a plan to do a grouping of flying birds, only larger - cannot wait to get started on that one.

In Flight

My Day 19  painting for this event is called “In Flight”.  I really like the contemporary realism presentation when painting on Claybord and leaving the background white.  The subject really stands out as intended. 

This is a 6"x6" acrylic on the always challenging Clayboard 1.25" deep cradled panel.   

Available on my website by clicking HERE  for $80.

You can check out this project by visiting here -

Day 18 - Flight Path

I just happened to have two of these little cradled clapboard panels - perfect for companion crow paintings.   I love how you can see the movement of its wings.  These small paintings are quite difficult to paint - you use a size 1 or 0 brush for the fine details.  Requires a steady had and almost no breathing!

Flight Path

My Day 18  painting for this event is called “Flight Path”.  I really like the contemporary realism presentation when painting on Claybord and leaving the background white.  The subject really stands out as intended. 

This is a 6"x6" acrylic on the always challenging Clayboard cradled panel.   

Available on my website by clicking HERE  for $75.

You can check out this project by visiting here -

Day 17 - Flight

Again with New River Beach.  While respectfully stalking sandpipers we came across a number of crows who proved to be very entertaining.  I got caught up with the fact they will allow you to get within ten feet of them and then take off running or on the wing.  Lots of great reference material!

Flight

My Day 17  painting for this event is called “Flight”.  Although a small painting , it really stands out with the colours of the crow against the white background.

This is a 6"x6" acrylic on the always challenging Clayboard cradled panel.   

Available on my website by clicking HERE  for $75.

You can check out this project by visiting here -

Day 15 - Out in the Open

On Labour Day my husband and I had a chance to spend some time at New River Beach in New Brunswick.  This is one of our favourite places on the planet.  When the tide is out , you can saunter on the beautiful sand seemingly forever.  

This particular day, we were treated to sandpipers, the ever present seagulls, a feeding cormorant and this crab.  He was pretty confident sitting out in the open among the seagulls.  The gulls were very interested in him. Circling around and squawking. At the end of the day - this guy was just too large for them to tackle.  He has been around for awhile - see the barnacles.  I do not think I have ever seen barnacles on a crab before!

Out in the Open

My Day 15  painting for this event is called “Out in the Open”.  This painting actually took me two nights to paint!  I was trying to avoid the carry over with this challenge - but I like the detail...so the work takes time!

This is a 9 x 12" acrylic on Gessoboard.   

Available on my website by clicking HERE  for $250.

You can check out this project by visiting here -