Cubby’s little face was delightful to paint. Being asked to capture his sweet and expressive face filled my heart with so many feels. So happy to have been asked to paint him..

Cubby by Helen Shideler

Capturing his expression

As usual I start with the face - usually the eyes. But, this time i started with Cubby’s tongue and mouth. I figured that I had to get that just right before I went to far. Then I started to paint his nose. Noses are almost always in the middle of my paint progress - hmmm, also the middle of the face. Then I moved onto his expressive eyes.

Those curls

Ok, I love painting dogs. Especially doggies with long or curly fur. This is where the painting is fun and quite a bit looser. The face has to be right - but the fun can be handled with an approach that is a bit more free. And did I mention fun.

Rainbow bridge

Cubbie has recently joined his sister Callie over the rainbow bridge. I am honoured to have been asked to capture their likeness for the owners.

Loving this season


There are so many magical, wonderful things to love about the Christmas season. All the new memories created and moments so precious. I am ever so grateful that what I do often contributes to creating wonderful memories for others in the form of creating cherished memories with Christmas commissions! I have been blessed with the opportunity to paint a few this year.

Ceilidh by Helen Shideler

We all love our fur babies so much. The opportunity to capture in paint such a special love for a family is so rewarding for me. This series was a gift for the whole family. The painting above is 12” x 12” and the two below are 6” x 6”.

Mulder and Lyndsay

Mulder & Lyndsay

I always love to be a part of a secret plan, especially when they have been planned and dreamt of for awhile. I love the thought process that people go through before they commission someone to do a painting.

When they share their story with me - I want to be able to “Wow” them with the finished painting. And of course, I also love to hear the story of their reaction to a most thoughtful gift - this my friends is why I paint commissions.

Reaction “we made her cry” in a nice way of course!

Wishing you all the very best of this holiday season. May 2019 be the best year ever for us all!

Until next time


On plein air painting and weed whackers

So many lessons learned. 

So many of them this very weekend! 

Lesson 2

I thought I was clever setting up to paint on the pergola under the grape vines that have all been pollinated - which means the teeny tiny little flowers are ready to shed, especially on this windy day.  Lesson? Teeny, tiny little flowers stick to oil paintings and to wet oil paint on the palette! Oh dear!

Lesson 3 and a product review

I have a mixture of water mixable oil paint from three different makers.  It was today I realized that the paint that seemed tooth-pasty, gloppy and hard to mix was made by one particular brand. Before I realized it was one brand, I was pretty sure I was about to revert back to traditional oils.  Still think I may.  But the brand in question is Holbein Duo.  Never again.  Love my Cobra paints. Face palm

Lesson 4

Once completing a couple of little, juicy oils, I decided to place them on our rock wall to aid in the drying process.  Only I did not tell my husband.  But I did hear him outside with the weed whacker. Only I did not hear him on time. Lesson? It is possible to pick of little bits of grass and whacked weeds with an exacto knife and a fine rubber tipped thingy.  Especially if you have lots of time on your hands. Sigh! Head shake!

Backyard painting series by Shideler

Painting Callie, a fun commission

I am always so happy and honoured to be a part of a secret project.  In this case painting this sweet little doggie intended as a surprise gift for someone special.  Painting dogs makes me happy and I so love the reaction of the doggie owners. Feeling blessed!

Callie by Helen Shideler

Lesson 5

This is for my husband.  Move the glass top coffee table before you start to build something heavy.  Cha Ching! Another $120 please! Rats!!! Second one this year!

In a jam, strawberry that is

Lesson 1


So yesterday I decided it was time to make two batches of strawberry jam at the same time.  I was home alone at the time.  Not that is really relevant  - until it was.  I had sterilized the bottles.  Measured out the 7 cups of sugar.  Squeezed the lemons.  Hulled and tried to mash the berries.  Well now, the berries were fresh and firm and had a different idea.  Every time I went in the the masher the berries would slip and jump out of the bowl.  Big mess happening.  Meanwhile I was boiling the lids and covers.

Finally remember that I have a blender.  Excellent mashing tool.  Finally get everything boiling on the stove.  Phone rings.  Why I thought I needed to answer it is beyond me.  Water starts to boil over.  Felling like I am getting anxious.  Two batches on the stove now.  Hands are shaking.  Wait, did I eat anything since my very early breakfast?  Scooping the syrupy, sticky strawberry mixture into bottle and over my oven mitts. Just because. And the second batch comes to a boil.  The jars were scalding hot and I choose to move them with by bare hands.

It is almost a miracle that I got through this endeavour without getting scalded.

Product review

Jack Richeson panels - the stupid paper wrapper they put over a portion of the panel leaves a paint resistant film!  WHY?   They seem to work fine with acrylics though.

Now looking for linen or birch panels for plein air painting.




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

So much to paint so little time

I am seriously restless

I think I have a huge case of spring fever once again.  Working away on two traditional watercolours  paintings "Cascading Blooms" the climbing rose and "TBD" rhodo.  Oh and a rather large landscape commission in acrylic that I cannot share with you yet (this is torment).  And all the while dreaming of Arizona and the PACE (Plein Air Conference & Expo) in Tucson this April. I have already started my what-to-pack list.

WIP Poured Painting Demo Piece by Shideler

Does this ever happen to you

When out of the blue I started thinking about poured watercolour paintings. Ok, not really out of the blue..I have to have a painting in progress to take to my talk at the Saint John Art Club meeting on March 24th.  But I have so much inspiration! I honestly do not know where to start. I love my creative life and love that sometimes I am on inspiration overload and cannot seem to finish anything and then almost cannot start something new because I cannot choose...but have many paintings progressing.

WIP Secret Commission by Helen Shideler


I have an image in my mind of a series of seascapes hanging on one wall in a show.  It's my around-to-it.  Thinking that I may kick start that series I decided do a seascape as part of my poured painting demo.  H: pouring paint does not create soft edges.  Helpful hint: Clouds and water are soft and free-er with no hard edges.  Unsure how this one is going to develop - I have my fingers crossed. The salvation is it could always become a mixed media painting.  I always maintain there is nothing you cannot fix with acrylic paint (except maybe an oil painting).

WIP Poured Painting Demo piece by Helen Shideler

Doubting myself

And then I started another for the demo.  My just-in-case painting.  My backup plan so to speak. A safer subject.  Once drawn out I realized this would be a real cool full sheet poured painting. Maybe for another day. 

Commissioned Portraits Delivered

Oliver is Super by Helen Shideler"Oliver is Super" is a painting of Oliver at 18 months old.  He is so cute - he is an absolute clone of his daddy.  The painting below is a younger Oliver.  Both paintings are 11 x 14" and are in acrylic on canvas. Portrait by Helen Shideler Young OliverThis painting is "Baby Oliver" and was painted from his parents favourite baby photo of him.  The photo that I worked from was taken with their phone as was not quite clear.  I was able to sharpen the image as I painted it.




Christmas Commission Baby Boy

Portrait by Helen Shideler Young Oliver I am on a roll with my Christmas Commissions of a baby.  This is the first off the two.  Initially I had hoped to paint this in oil but I ran out of time largely due to my procrastination and of the amount of travelling I have done this fall.  I really do work best under pressure.  And the pressure is sure on.

The image below includes the photo reference provided by my client.  The colours are distorted by the interior lights.  I find it amazing how much colour distortion there is when shooting inside.  Interesting enough, the photo adobe is a little "cooler" than the painting really is.  And I shot it outdoors on a highly overcast day.

Portrait by Helen Shideler

This is the first of the two paintings I am doing of this child.  The photo below shows the painting in progress.  It is about three quarters complete.  I still have a lot of work to do with his hair and the skin tones.

Portrait by Helen Shideler Oliver is Super



Christmas Commissions Two Portraits

Shideler-Commission 1 Shideler Commission 2 I have finally begun painting these two commissions of a very cute and special little boy.  The photos were taken at two different ages.  I drew them out about six weeks ago and “studied” them.  Really, this fall has been exceptionally busy with travel and visitors.  I even took them to Vancouver in hopes of starting the painting there (nothing happened, I never even touched a brush, I was so distracted by my wonderful grandson).

Then to top it all off, I have been extremely distracted by ravens.  And I really did study the drawings by looking at them a lot, thinking about them and wondering when if ever I would have the chance to start painting.

Back to the ravens. Well, I drew out two ¼ sheet and one ½ sheet variations of ravens from the series of photographs I took in Yellowstone this past September.  One painting is completed (Call of the Raven) and the other two are well underway. They are calling out to me.  Helen come paint.  Forget you have five commissions.  Just paint us.   You know you waaannnt to.  You want to sketch out the large raven you want to paint in oil once you get through these three.

With Christmas being only…oh next month, I finally got at it. My strategy with these two is completely different form my usual. I decided to work on the background and clothing first.  No reason.  I just wanted to.  Ah, who am I kidding? I am still procrastinating. I am doing the easy bits up front and building up to the faces.

Wish me luck.  Time is marching on very quickly.  I promised to deliver these the first week-end in December .  They need some time get where they need to be on time for Christmas.  Eeeeeks

Two Times Two

Helen Shideler - Brothers Commission DSC03590_newCommission time.  I was asked to do a portrait of two brothers twice.   This created a challenge for me.  I wanted them to be the same yet different.  Then I had to decide if they should be in watercolour, oil or acrylic. I went with oil and tried out my M.Graham oils -love them.

Being “new again” to oil paint I found this particularly tricky – how to keep them clean and not get the paint all over my hands and thus, all over the paintings.  I was moderately successful. And where I was messy, well you just paint over the mess.  And repeat as necessary and it was necessary!

My original approach was to paint one then start the other.  I was not too far into the process when I realized, ummm nope, that is not going to work for me.  Have to do them both at the same time.  Easier on my head and less wasted paint.

The interesting thing is the likeness is good. But they look slightly different.  The older brother in one painting looks more like him now and the other painting is a good match from the photo reference.  But the photo is a few years old.  Apparently I somewhat aged him appropriately.

Bottom line my client is happy and so am I!


Clandestine Christmas Commission Part 2

Shideler-painting of yellow labFresh off the easel!

Pretty happy with this gal. There was an interesting lesson in this one.  Yellow dogs are not yellow – no matter what you brain tells you!  I started with an under painting of unbleached white with a touch of ochre and I mean a touch! Well, the yellow tint dominated and was hard to paint over and was just not right.  Once I switched to the burnt sienna and white, I started to “agree” with the color.  Now, there are most definitely yellowish goldish & dark  caramel highlights, but this particular doggie is predominately white-ish with beige undertones.