Striking Visitor

Almost always when I am working on a painting the title just comes to me. They literally name themselves. This painting was no exception however, I did’t feel right about using it. It took me a long time to come up with Striking Visitor. Yet, that is exactly the type of title I wanted. Draws attention to the pileated woodpecker and sound a bit regal or impressive. When you are fortunate enough to see one - it is is a big deal. They stop you in your tracks.

Striking Visitor by Helen Shideler

The winding painting process

This painting was a long time in the making. I started it. Paused to work on a large commission (that I am still unable to share). Paused to go to Vancouver to welcome our newest grandson Miles Rigel Pallian and of course, visit with the whole family. True love.

Then my other daughter and family moved home from Calgary. This includes grandson Henry! And so painting was not on my list of priorities for a little while. Happiness.

I started with a paynes grey underpainting in acrylic. Then worked to develop the painting in oils. There are actually three layers of oil paint on this one. At one point I thought I had completed it. Stood back and decided to redevelop the background from the cool blues to add in the greens. I was quite apprehensive at first, but with the first brushstroke with green, not only was I committed - but knew it was exactly what the painting needed.

Pileated Woodpeckers have a unicorn horn?

Part of the painting process includes stepping back and evaluating the piece. From one direction the painting looked fine. When i caught a glimpse with my peripheral vision from the left - it was a completely different story. There was this branch that ran parallel to the white marking on his face creating the the shape of well, a unicorn horn. Usually I catch that sort of distraction earlier and do not include it.

Back to the studio to paint it out. This was interesting - as soon as I touched the canvas with the greens, the painting popped. It was so the right thing to do.

This painting is available on this site by

Click here

And the other name you ask?

It went like Red Headed P…….. in a Big Ash Tree

I bet you are laughing. So many people suggested with same name. Well without the big ash tree part. But still!!!

Click through the slideshow to see the process:



Midnight Shadow

Painting birds is like therapy for me. Especially when I am working on a few secret commissions that require so much thinking and planning and thinking. You get the idea! Maybe it’s because I have painted so many….

Midnight Shadow by Helen Shideler.jpeg

Wing and a prayer

I had a vision for how I wanted this painting to look. It was really about getting the dramatic background in without overpowering the raven. I had to step back many times with this to do a sanity check. Will I be able to pull it off? So today, after I signed it - I set it on the easel to my left and started to work on another piece. I caught this guy out of the corner of my eye and winked at it. Involuntarily. I actually winked at it. Then I looked around to make sure no one else saw me. Then I laughed out loud at my silliness! I think I met my objective.

Why corvids you may ask?

I have a complete fascination with them. They are as intelligent as they are somewhat intrusive. They have a social system and work collaboratively. Also they have long memories. And apparently they are trying to fish the goldfish in our pond. Not kidding. They are trying to figure it out. One in particular sits on a rock at the edge of the pond and watches. One eye on the fish at all times. And it is self aware to know it is sneaky as I get a funny look before it flies off with one caw. Like busted. Did I mention they are iridescent? Maybe that is the subconscious reason I love to paint them.

Until next time, cheers

Mourning Glow

Hey everyone. It has been so long since I have been able to complete a painting. Happy I finally completed Mourning Glow. Not so happy my studio is still torn apart for so long.

Mourning Glow by Helen Shideler

Mourning Doves

My husband and I look at mourning doves with two lenses. They are peaceful birds, quite elegant in their own right and with a beautiful mournful song. I love how they seem to glow when the sun starts to rise and shines on their fronts. Pretty sure they face into the sun to welcome the morning light! Wouldn’t you?

The other lens is less flattering. They are bird seed hogs and well, they mess where ever they want - which is usually on our deck furniture. Yuck! Placing them squarely in the pigeon category!

But I love that they roost in our trees so close to our house. I recently completed another painting of a trio of Mourning Doves roosting in our apple tree - Moody Mourning - Blog post click here

Moody Mourning by Helen Shideler

The colours of their feathers

Mourning doves have a most interesting pallette. A hint of blue, taupe, gold and mushroom tones. Quite lovely to work with. You can see the colour variations played out in these two paintings captured in very different lighting conditions. They can be elegantly monochromatic and then dramatic when the sun shines directly on them.

Mourning Glow is available here

My poor studio

Still looks like this! Torn apart with no real end in site. The kitchen counter works but the lighting is not really great for painting. Soon, I hope soon.

Hopefully I will not be as long with my next painting

Moody Mourning

Moody Mourning oil painting fresh off the easel. This painting was an interesting journey as I decided to take a different approach with my painting process. I created a detailed underpainting with Paynes Grey in acrylics and then painted with oils over it.

Moody Mourning by Helen Shideler

It was an interesting process for me. Often I will do a loose underpainting with thin oils and then paint the detail. This is the first time I worked in almost full detail. And I have to admit when I first started to apply the oils, I was pretty uncertain.

Lessons Learned

Uncertain because of the atmosphere I was trying to capture and the quality of the colours. No thin transparent washes would work with the subdued colours. Need white. This made the paint quite opaque and almost completely covered my original efforts. At first I started to thin it down so I could still see and work with my underpainting, Then I went in as usual - painting each feather individually. The underpainting exercise was still very valuable as I really knew my subject and helped to guide my painting.

My approach with the branches was a bit different as I was able to keep the paint a bit more transparent as to let underpainting work.

Moody Mourning by Helen Shideler

Bit of a rough week

We had a crazy winter storm come a couple off weeks ago. The storm followed a previous storm that dumped a lot of hail and then freezing rain. Then it flash froze. A few days later a second storm came through bringing crazy heavy rain. Resulting from all this was some unfortunate damage to my studio. We had to move everything out of there and rip up the flooring etc. I am afraid it may be awhile before we can get it taken care of and put it back together. Really unsure what this will do to may painting - Everything is in boxes and I am unsure what is where - eeks.

Fingers crossed

Until next time, cheers