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.

Social Climber poured watercolour

Poured watercolour of a clematis.  I just had to call this painting Social Climber as there are so many blossoms growing over top of one another.  So many rich shades of blues, pinks and purples.

Social Climber poured watercolour by Helen Shideler

When to say when

There are times when I am unsure to call a painting complete or not.  I find this challenges me more with poured watercolours than traditional painting styles. The paint stains the paper quite heavily when you pour, often creating sharper edges than you can tell during the process.  It is harder to edit the painting while balancing the tone and maintaining transparency of colour. 

When I remove the masking compound, I think the underpainting looks washed out as the mask holds pigment on top.  When you take off the mask this layer of pigment is also removed.  Was never intended to stay, but it is usually quite bold. You sure miss it when it has been removed.

I use my reserved paint from the pouring process to go back in and enhance the underpainting.  This one is a bit different in that I did not pour green just applied a bit with my brush.

Step away from the painting

FIrst is knowing when to say when.  Put the brushes down.  Step away from the painting.   And, really poured watercolours need to be viewed from across the room.  You see the illusion better and not each individual mask or paint application.  All kidding aside,  the further back you are the more dimensional the work appears to be! Pretty cool actually.

A few steps of my painting process in slideshow below

Click to scroll through

This clematis grows in my sister-in-law Teri's magical garden in PEI.  

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.

WIP Magenta Magic.jpg

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. 

Sunshine and Shadows by Helen Shideler.jpeg

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

WIP Sunshine & Shadows by Helen Shideler.jpeg

The underpainting revealed

FB6BAE87-BE5C-4596-8B4B-EA21D8DF9C92.jpg

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.

 

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

Amethyst Shades of Blue completed

Being curious means more work

After what seems like an eternity, I have finally completed one of the blue hydrangea paintings! You may remember awhile back I decided to challenge myself to paint the same subject in two mediums. Why, you ask? Because I had an interesting moment of indecisiveness. And I was curious. Normally I know exactly what I want to do, accomplish with a painting.  With the blue hydrangea I was pretty sure it would work best in watercolour.  No wait in acrylic... no wait - what about oils?

Amethyst Shades of Blue by Helen Shideler

It takes two

While working on two different versions of the same subject in two different mediums was an interesting exercise, I found I was growing eager to actually complete one of them.  At first I thought the watercolour painting was the medium to accomplish what I envisioned.  I absolutely love the medium.  It's versatility.  It's depth and the ability to blend in softness.  Love it. And am pretty happy with the result.

More to follow in a few weeks on the acrylic version and why I love painting it as well.

WIP Blue hydrangea in watercolour by Helen Shideler

A bit of trouble in the studio

IMG_0318.JPG

This crow can wait

Ok, so I squeezed out all of my paint for this session.  Got out my water mixable medium and proceeded to paint. So freaking weird. The paint was not mixing right. Was not sticking to the surface and "pulled " away, almost receding. I tried and I tried to make it work.  There is a lesson learned folks. Always. Always keep your acrylics separated from your oils.  Just one colour can ruin your day. In this case white.

Doh!!!!!

WIP Amethyst Blues Update 3

Amethyst Blues

I realized that showing a little corner of this painting at a time would not show the full picture of the work in progress (WIP).  This is a rather large painting 30"x30" and the progress feels slow to me. Showing the whole canvas will give you a better idea of the scale and detail. So many shades of blue.

I normally loosely draw my subject and refine it as I go. Interestingly enough, I really think if I spent more time on the initial drawing it may be a bit quicker.  But I am always too impatient and want to dive in.  I try to adjust my approach.  But, you know, after all these years, i guess it is my approach.

WIP Amethyst Blues by Helen Shideler

The humour of Mother Nature

I am sitting on my deck writing this blog post.  One leg in the beautiful sun and one leg in the rain. Literally!  Mother Nature is not quite sure what to serve up today. I must go look for the rainbow.  I am certain there must be one. This is quite freaky, really! 

I have been away much of the summer, as a result, I have not had a lot of time in the studio.  Lets be honest, if the sun is out...I am out.  So being away is really an excuse.  I was so happy to get back at it albeit a little discombobulated.  Smooth was not on my agenda for the day. 

This is how I roll

Lets face it - i am a born klutz. Everything I touched I either dropped or misplaced.  My particular favourite mis-adventure was my brush cleaner.  It is some kind of thick oily soap. So as I was getting ready to clean my favourite Rosemary brush, my elbow hit the open bottle of the soapy stuff. Well it went flying. Upside down.  Which means I had an oily, soapy trail across the floor, over the garbage can and on the counter.  Not a bad word did I say.

What I will say is that it took me 20 minutes to clean it all up.  I hope to heavens I got it all and no one slips on it (most likely me).

fullsizeoutput_4cc3.jpeg

Monthly crow paintings

Awhile back I decided to start an 8"x10" oil painting each week. Just because.  I am actually thinking of taking oils with me to Santa Fe next April and I want to be practiced up .  I decided that one of the painting should be a crow, another should be "Beachy People" and the other two up to whatever I feel like in the moment.  With this plan, the pressure of coming up with ideas diminished somewhat.

I really like this strutting fella.  He wa strutting through our lawn towards a piece of bread I tossed to him.  He was both focused and watchful. Not completely sure it is finished .....

WIP Amethyst Blues and the Summer Sunshine Factor

The interesting thing about summer is when the sun is out, I am out.  It is not possible for me to stay indoors and so work in the studio s-l-o-w-s down and is often neglected.  Such is the case with Amethyst Blues.  This painting has been on the easel for far too long.  This morning it talked to me and I dove in.

WIP AMethyst Blues by Helen Shideler

The summer sunshine factor

I find that when I am working in acrylic, I really need an extended period of time to paint. Waste not want not (paint I mean). Summer is often fickle and this year, we have been starved for heat and sunshine. So when Mr. Golden Sun is shining I am so stir crazy that I have to go out.  The summer factor really digs into my studio time. Ah, the choices we have to make.

Watercolours allow you to grab an hour or two whenever you feel like it.  Acrylic not so much.  Time has to be scheduled and planned.

Feeling joy while on vacation

One of of my favourite memories as a little girl was waking up from a nap with the warmth of  sun shining on me and the sensation of the cooling breeze flowing in. The curtain would be dancing in the breeze and I literally thought it was heaven. The scent of the salt air  The memory of this is still heaven to me.

I got to relive this memory once again while on vacation in PEI

We were still living in Cape Breton. Our little house was close to the shore.  I was laying on my bed. Just awaking from my nap. It was sunny and warm outside. My window was wide open and the breeze was blowing my light curtain across my bed. I felt so safe and so content as I lie there basking in the sensation and scent.  Confession, I tried to take as many naps as possible this trip.

The summer sunshine factor 

And a wonderful family reunion! Note: the person jumping is a stranger -I just love the freedom of the moment.

 

 

Beautiful Bermuda and some other stuff

We are vacationing in Bermuda with family for a few very special reasons.  Announcing a new grand daughter expected in December and an engagement. Life is good!  

We were able to spend several hours each day just floating in the pool. When was the last time you were able to do that? Sigh..... Actually here it is a necessity to get relief from the heat and humidity. But that sounds like complaining and I certainly do not want to do that. ever so grateful for this experience.

Evening view from balcony. 

IMG_0058.JPG

A bit of time to paint

Between the heat, humidity and gentle rain I did manage to get some paintings done.  Interesting though, the paint dried out immediately and the paper stayed moist.  Who doesn't love a challenge...eh?

 

 

IMG_0124.JPG

A bit of a challenge with the internethere, this will be a short post. I delivered this commission this week. It was a birthday surprise and went over very well.

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Niko. 10"x8" acrylic on gessoboard

Time to catch up

This weekend was all about plein air painting in Hampton at the John Peters Humphrey Bloomin Artists event.  This really is a catch up post.  I have been working on a few secret commissions and am unable to share...yet.

I packed up my car.  Easel? Check! Snacks? Check!  Oh wait, pencils, clamps, paper towel holder? Left on the chair in my studio.  Not a pencil or pen to be had. Then the talking to myself began. What will I do with out a pencil I asked?  I answered any plein air painter worth their salt can do this with out a pencil. And this is pretty much how Saturday went.  I forgot to drink enough water wound up wilted by early afternoon as a result.

Saturday, July 15th

The first painting "Hampton Marsh" I was trying to not be a meal for all the black flies.  Nasty little distractions.  I just had to suck it up and paint on.  For the second painting, the painter on the dock left and I grabbed his spot.  There was enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away.  And enough of a breeze that I thought it was going to rain.  It got quite cool.  And I had to work fast and furiously.

Hampton Marsh by Helen Shideler
The Junction by Helen Shideler

Sunday, July 16th

Pansy Patch by Helen Shideler

In the crazy heat of the day, I spent way too long on this painting.  High humidity.  Hot, did I mention how hot it was?

I really love pansies. This little flower has so much personality and comes in so many colour variations and sizes. 

As I was happily painting away, I became increasingly aware of a particular nearby hornet. It seemed to be determined to investigate the exact spot I was standing on.  I backed away, hoping it would leave.  No. It kept investigating whatever it was investigating.  

Finally it flew off.  Really, I had a vision of it flying up my pant leg.  Not a pleasant vision.  I have a story about me and stinging things in my clothing. May not share, at least not yet!

 

And then there was this

I could not resist painting my grandson Theo.  "just wading 10"x8" oil on panel

JUst Wading by Helen Shideler

And this

I was contacted about the little oil painting on the right - but it was already sold.  From that inquiry, I received a commission to paint it again in acrylic with a few modifications.  The painting was fun so I agreed.  Can you spot the changes?

Double Take by Helen Shideler