Gone to the Birds

I joined in a challenge to paint 30 Paintings in 30 Days.  The first week quickly became about painting chickadees!

I knew the challenge was coming up so between Christmas and New Years I braved the elements to attempt to get as many photographs as possible.  I stood out on our deck for hours.  Freezing my fingers off while waiting for the perfect photo opportunity.  Interesting enough, it did not take me too long to figure out that these feathers cherubs are much faster than I.  I managed to get many empty feeder shots. And a few with the snow flying as the little cuties flew off the feeder.  

A Discovery 

After about three days of obsessive photographing and freezing I discovered that my Canon camera with my long lens can shoot through the glass at my kitchen window. Well now.  No more freezing.  Interesting enough only the long lens can do it.  Go figure.  So about 500 photos later, I have enough reference material to keep me painting for 90 days!  Loving it.

Oh Yeah

The first painting I did for the challenge was of a white husky appropriately named "Lily".


These painting are available on my web site.  You can get there from here by clicking on AVAILABLE WORK on the top menu on this site and going to artwork portfolio.

Lessons Learned

Due to the inclement and cold temperatures, I decided to use LIquitex acrylic varnish.  They recommend for best results that you first apply a thin (and they mean it) coat of gloss then apply a thin layer of matte. This is great product for work with backgrounds.  Not so much for leaving      the lovely white backgrounds of Gessobord or Clapboard unpainted.  No mater how careful your are you get a bit of frustrating streaking.  

RECOMMENDATION: If you are leaving much of the surface unpainted, you are much better off to use an archival spray varnish.




Create a Little Magic Every Day


I recently read a blog post that offered words of wisdom for artists.  The first piece of advice that I identified with was to journal as you paint.  The thoughts and ideas you compile become foundational and inspiration for blog posts.  I like this!

The second is to alway shave a notebook close by to capture your ideas as they happen.  Well, I tried this and was completely surprised how quickly the ideas started to flow.  So glad I had a little notebook close by!

This is my new special journal...


My Adventure

Painting is an adventure for me.  I never quite know what direction it is going to take me in.  Sure I always have a bit of a roadmap, but it is the surprises that I am presented with that often lead to my best work.

A few years ago I had a concept stuck in my head.  And I really could not define it.  I just felt it. And am definitely moving in that direction.  I know it is a different path that I will be taking.

Two years ago in Jackson Hole WY, I discovered the art of Andrew Denman and was completely blown away.  He was painting backgrounds in the etherial way I had in my head.  And he was doing it! I am hoping to capture a similar depth in watercolour, minus masking and definitely no sanding.  Now Andrew's work is leaning more towards abstraction than I intend to go, but I love his work and am completely fascinated with it.  

I intend to experiment with negative painting in 2016 over pouring paint.  I may still be trapped a bit in the world of masking for awhile while I figure all this out, but I hope to achieve the concepts still in my mind without it. 

About a year ago an artist friend mentioned to me that my work is reminding her more and more of Denman's.  Momentarily flattered, then I was taken aback.  I am not trying to emulate his style although I am completely fascinated with it.  I live the flavour and intention of expressing the background of a painting in a surprising way.

My New Fascination

My new fascinations is around negative painting.  I have been exploring poured paintings for a number of years.  There is always something to learn with this technique.  It is darn difficult and challenging ad that is why I love it.  Just not completely in love with the sharp edges created with masking compound.  I am looking to achieve a softer feeling while maintaining the impressive degree of depth possible with pouring.  


I am hoping that in 2016 I will be able to move the bar to a higher standard in  my experimental work by exploring and learning about negative painting.  I just have to learn to think backwards.  Piece of cake right?

Happy New Year all.

Thank you for your continued interest and support, and oh yes - your continued investment in collecting original art (and mine too please).

My Process to Start a New Painting

Other than starting out with a serious dose of procrastination - there are many stages to the painting process. Mine typically goes like this:

Inspiration is always first.  It may take on many forms. Whether it is the softness of a petal or the play of light and shadow or an intriguing detail that just speaks to you.  Something has caught your eye.  Made you stop and look at it a little deeper. Then you make a decision.  I must paint that.  In whatever way you perceive it to be.  You make so many decisions at this point, size, orientation, medium to technique.  I seldom have to look for something to paint – I am always three paintings or more ahead in my mind.  So much to do!

Getting started.  The dreaded white canvas or paper.  Where to put the first mark.  To be honest, the subject generally provides me with most of these answers including where to put the first mark.  And it is seldom upper left hand corner.  Often I like to start with the focal point and build out.  If I have any reservation at all, I start with some very rough thumbnail composition sketches. 

Into the deep end.  This stage is so exciting.  Applying the paint.  Yumm!  Intriguing.  Exciting.  Maybe I need to research more.  No no no – back to work! Focus Helen focus!  And sometimes the commitment is overwhelming.  I like detail remember?

The ugly duckling.  Somewhere as I near the halfway point, I start to overanalyze the work and second guess myself. And wonder what the heck I was thinking.  I call this the ugly duckling stage.  I decide to take a break and let it rest.  How long is anyone’s guess. I certainly never know. And I have accepted this stage as part of my process.

Fresh start.  At this point I start another painting.  Decide what colours I would like to work with, peruse all my reference materials and make a decision as what to start next.  If I am working in a series as I often do,  I can skip this stage as I would have made the decision eons ago what would be included in the series.  Anyway, this is where I start the next piece. I will take this painting to the ugly duckling stage and then let it rest.  This is the perfect time to pick the first painting back up – or another one.

Picking it back up.  I check out the work I have “let rest” at the halfway point.  Decide which work I feel re-inspired by and visualize completing. With renewed energy and excitement I dive in once again.  I can see it – I can almost taste it.  

Over the finish line.  Once I bring a painting to completion or near completion I sign it. Then I spend a fair bit of time assessing the overall work.  Do I need to balance the colours anywhere?  Have I captured the right level contrast? Have I accomplished what I set out to do?  Does the ……  

Photograph it and post and blog about it and be done with it!