Spring Scentsation

Spring Scentsation is a relatively large oil painting of a soft and fragrant while lilac that grows on our property line in the back yard.  There is quite a story getting the painting to this point.

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Inspiration is everywhere

A few years back when visiting my daughter, we went for many walks around her area in Vancouver.   It seemed to me that almost every property we walked by had a tree line border framing in their yard.  They were really well designed.  Tall trees with shrubs at their base.  There really was no need for weeding as the growth from the shrubs kept them in check.  Everything grows uber big in Vancouver and very fast!

I was inspired.  When I got home I let mentioned by big idea to my husband,  whose pride and joy is the lawn – that I was proposing for us to dig up a lot of the lawn and create a lovely tree line.  Took some convincing.  But we did it.  

The only problem is the deer

One thing that I really wanted to grow is a white lilac.  We planted it in the tree line, quite close to our neighbour’s gigantic apply tree (that we secretly prune back every chance we get - so our plants will get enough light).  It was so lovely.  That spring the blossoms opened up and my heart sang…for one night.  Bambi and her entourage came through in the darkness and ate every single blossom.  

Once again, we declared war! Our lovely white lilac now resides in a chicken wire cage that is tall enough to foil the appetites of those garden marauders! It will remain a caged specimen until it grows large enough that the deer’s munching will not cause it any real harm. Likely three more years.

Point of all this is to say -  I love white lilacs. Most of this effort over the past few years, was to be able to paint it!

And paint it I have.  This piece took an inordinate amount of time.  I usually paint the background last.  But this time I went in way sooner than I think I should have.  It was ok. Only ok.  I knew that and had to brave up to go back in and modify it.  And so I did.  And it was decidedly better.  Only better.  Not quite pulling up a bit of drama like I was hoping for.  I continued working on the florets while I contemplated shredding or burning it.

Lessons learned

Third times a charm.  Yes, I went back in a third time and repainted the entire background again! Obviously, the previous layers influence the top layer, with the green remaining in the same hue, but this time I am happy with the results.  Note to self – wait to paint the background until you are sure you know the results you want to achieve. 

To give you an idea of the size (48 x 30”)

Helen Shideler with Spring Scentsation


Summer Update and Spring Scentsation

It never fails to amaze me how incredibly fast summer comes and goes.  And how little painting I  actually accomplish from the first of August to the middle of September.  When the sun is out I am out.  Revelling!  This year we have had an amazing amount of family visiting - and we took the time to cherish each moment knowing how fast it goes. 

Fast, except maybe for the work on this painting "Spring Scentsation".  Yes, I finally came up with a name that is sticking. And I think it is finally about the halfway mark.

white lilac painting Spring Scentsation by Helen Shideler

Often I start projects without really knowing what I am doing. I do have a plan but am unsure if it the right one. But I go with it!  And I promise, I am learning.  I tinted the canvas all over because I do not like those little white holes (misses) that may appear as I apply the first few layers of paint.  Adding to the changes to my approach, I painted a foundation layer to the background first.  At about the halfway mark, i got brave enough to figure out how to approach and modify the background.  That work in now done - however, I will be going back in to deepen and glaze the area around the bloom.

With my next painting I will be changing my approach once again. 

Rational thinking?

This is a large painting - 30 x 48" and I think it may be a new favourite size.  Honestly, I do not think smaller works take less time - just that your "mistakes" may be less obvious as they are smaller?   Is that rational thinking?

Summertime at our house

Always includes as much family as possible, good food and friends whenever possible. This year was no exception. Our house was coming apart at the seams. Joyful sounds. Good meals. And grandchildren that fill the house!

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On the Fence

crow painting On the Fence by Helen Shideler

I did manage to get another crow painting in. This little 10 x 8” oil is a study for a much larger painting in the future - I got caught up a bit too much in the details for a painting of this size. Must remember to simplify going forward.
 

Next post will be from beautiful BC

until next time may your days be colourful

Another wonderful week

It's always a wonderful week when one sells not one but two paintings!! So happy! So grateful.  Life is good.  Mystic Blues sold at the RNS Art Show & Sale this weekend and so did...

Helen with Mystic Blues

..."On Watch",  painting of a raven keeping a watchful eye on me - while sitting on top of the coolest rock formation I have ever painted. 

The good news continues

Earlier in the week I received an email about my "Magenta Magic" poured painting.

Congratulations
We are pleased to inform you that from 320 paintings submitted from 32 countries worldwide, our Jurors, Anne McCartney CSPWC, AWS, TWSA; Peter Marsh CSPWC, OSA, SCA, TWS; and Rainbow Tse have selected the painting on the labels below as a finalist for the IWS Canada & CSPWC/SCPA’s “A Symphony in Watercolour” Exhibition

This is all so very cool. The universe really does send back good karma when you live with the spirit of giving.  I recently donated a large painting to the IWK Ladies Auxiliary for their Kremese Art Show and Sale next weekend.  And also a bunch of cards to an environmental group for a fundraiser.  And then there is that ginormous window I am painting for ProKids.  Not that I have give to get back other than the feeling that I have done something good.

As an artist,  you have to be selective on how/what you give, how often you give and decide whether or not the cause is near and dear to you - we are asked for donations a lot.  I  have a few favourites that I donate to each year.   

Shideler paintings

New work in progress

A yet to be named poured watercolour.  It still has a long way to go.  The slideshow below takes it through the ugly duckling stage to the point where I have removed the masking compound.  I hope the magic happens in the next step of the process. 

Click through to see the progression so far

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...

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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!

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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??????

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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.

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

 

 

 

WIP Amethyst Blues

Earlier in the year, I set out to paint my blue hydrangea in both watercolour and also in acrylics.  Amethyst Blues is the acrylic version.  And it is seemingly taking forever.

WIP Amethyst Blues by Helen Shideler

Honestly, I do not know what I was thinking

Painting the same image twice?? What on earth was I thinking??? This is a rather large painting 30"x30" and I have finally spanned the paint to both side edges.  This feels like quite the accomplishment.  Now, not all the petals in that span are complete but they do have colour on them.  It's interesting, but I find working with acrylic paint more challenging than watercolour.  I can't explain it.  But I find acrylic can be stressful.

The good news? It is really starting to take shape. And another observation?  No matter what medium I work in it is recognizable as my style.  I think it is all about the detail work and colour intensity.

Self doubt for a good reason

I always have more than one painting on the go. Because I love the effect of the pouring process, I have been trying to work out in my head how to replicate or emulate the poured painting process that I use in watercolour in acrylics.  I thought about this at great length. I even dreamt about it.  And then i decided to go in.  After the first pour.  I thought this is pretty ridiculous. Why not just paint it?  

I set it aside and thought what can I lose with one more pour.  Somewhat determined I went through another painstaking masking application. When I started to pour the next layer, well it started to lift and run.  You see the first layer of paint was applied pretty thin.  With acrylics if the paint is not applied thick enough on the base layer it will lift.  Crap. So I let it dry.  Then I decided to apply the paint with a big brush.  Better.  But I came back to my original thought...just paint it.  Forget about the masking compound.

WIP Helen Shideler

And yet again I wondered what I am doing

I removed the masking compound - some of the paint came off with it.  I like that you can see it is the gates at the entrance to the Loyalist Burial Ground in the winter.  I think I "see" this subject as a rich, juicy oil painting.  Not a washed out acrylic.

Lesson Learned

I think the universe was trying to tell me something.  The very first article I read today was "5 unusual habits to keep you growing artistically" by Christopher Gallego. Really good read suggesting things like "Paint some crap" and "do the impossible" such as paint huge and get out of your comfort zone.  Pretty much checked off a few of the boxes with this experiment.  Happy I tried.  I will be gessoing over this one soon and will have a pristine new blank canvas!

 

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Country Garden Favourite

Country Garden Favourite is a traditionally painted watercolour of hollyhocks

Hollyhocks and mallow were a couple of my mothers favourite flowers. And I guess, seeing them through her eyes as a child helped me to gain an appreciation for them as well. I always associate them with an old fashioned country garden.  I truly love these blooms for their beauty and the nostalgia.  No wonder I love to paint them.

Country Garden Favourite hollyhock painting by Helen Shideler

They bring me back to Cape Breton

Good memories.  Salty air. Sunshine.  Wonderful memories of a place that was truly wonderful to be a child in. There is another flower that takes me back there  as well - wild blue flax.  This past summer, I saw it growing in PEI.  I was so happy to see them.  The colour is amazing.

 Speaking of blue

I knew when I started this painting that I wanted to paint the background as sky blue, rather than the background in my reference photos.  The background in the photos was rather dull and I wanted this painting to be crisp and to feel like a warm summer's day.  For fun I googled "Blue Sky” colour.  This really cool page came up in Wikipedia.  So many shades of blue.  So many shades of sky.  

Originally my plan was to do this painting as a poured watercolour.  I changed my mind for a few reasons.  One I was running out of masking compound and two, I wanted to keep the petals delicate and soft.  Pouring can give you hard edges.  There is a way around that, but it requires applying the mask on damp paper.  And maybe three, I often like to draw as I go.  When you pour it is much easier to have your drawing mapped out.  It is really easy to get lost without a careful rendering.

Hope you enjoy this painting as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Magenta Magic

Magenta Magic

is a poured watercolour painting of colour rich hollyhocks. Every time I do a poured watercolour I learn something new. Or re-learn something over and over.  When you remove the masking compound, it changes the colours beneath it.  For some reason the colours dull down.  So weird.  I would have said it was just yellow.  But no, it is that way with most colours. And I really do know this and yet keep getting surprised by it. And that is why I call pouring process underpainting.  Although the finishing brushwork is minimal.

Magenta Magic by Helen Shideler

Magenta or fuschia?

That is the question of the day. These two colours are often used interchangeably and incorrectly. Magenta is somewhat redder and fuscia is more on the wine-ish side.  Just like the plant it is names after. The interesting thing is that when I was trying to photograph this painting, it would change colour depending on the sun shade factor.  In the sun it was fuschia.  No doubt.  But away from direct sun it is definitely magenta.  Had me fascinated and quite dissatisfied with my photography efforts and the effects of warm and cool lighting.

Fun fact.  The same colours go into the mixing of magenta and fuschia 

Work in progress

Below illustrated just a few of the steps in this process.  There are many more steps involved.  But this will give you a sense of how it progresses.  What I think I like most about this process is really two things.  The first is that it gets me into the studio every day.  But mostly it is how dimensional the completed painting is. They quite literally pop off the paper! From a distance they appear quite photographic and yet up close you can see the "legs", dribbles and splatters of the paint.  

I always have to tell my husband to stand back about ten feet.  He is one of my trusted advisors to the question is it done yet.  He will get up close for his inspection and i know the dribbles confuse him.  He'll point them out and I say they are supposed to be there.   HE says oh with a really confused expression.

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Sunshine and Shadows floral painting

This sunshine filled floral painting makes me happy.  It's funny, whenever I think I am finished a painting I will often have self doubt.  That was the case with this one.  I decided to set it aside for awhile and went upstairs to start supper.  When I went back into the studio it stopped me in my tracks.  It was as luminous as I had hoped to capture! And the yellows so sunny. 

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Poured or sprayed paintings

I approached this painting slightly differently by spraying the paint onto the wet surface.  I actually thought that it may be less messy. Boy, was I wrong.  The coloured mist went everywhere. All over my drafting table, the floor and my hands were unbelievable!  I went pack to pouring quite quickly.  The colour saturation seemed to be diffused as well - not at all the look I was going for.  I may say the spray bottles for a misty day painting another time.

Getting the gunk off

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The underpainting revealed

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When you remove the masking compound you also remove a certain amount of the paint you applied.  Sometimes the underpainting is filled with drama at the reveal stage.  Most of the time you have to go back in with some strategic brushwork to make the painting come alive.  Once the centre of the flowers were painting in it really started to take shape.  

Yellow is an interesting colour to pour.  It behaves differently than expected.  Or maybe if was because it was the layer of paint that I sprayed on?  The luminous quality I was trying to achieve was flat.  Some very quick brushwork brought it back to life.

Helpful hint

I use a rubber cement pick up to remove the mask picture to the side.  Shown in the wrapper, before use and after use.