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

Nut Case

Once upon a rainy day this Eastern Grey Squirrel was perched on our deck railing under our bird feeders. Happy and proud. Perching just for me. Earlier we had decided we wanted to feed the blue jays…but the squirrels had a different idea.

Nut Case by Helen Shideler.jpeg

Omigoodness the melie

Blue jays tend to loudly announce their arrival. Shrieking in their arrival. The are squirrels aggressively willing to defend their stash. There were a number of interesting clashes of wit and will that provided us with endless entertainment.

This fella was perched just for me. At least that is my story and I am sticking with it!

Concrete dust and other distractions

The painting started to come together well at the beginning. What happened next, was not the fault of the painting. We had contractors in to start the remediation for the water problem we incurred. We installed an internal drainage system with a sump pump. But the concrete dust in combination with the gyprock dust is unbelievably relentless. Clean it up today and tomorrow it is back with a vengeance. Not exactly conducive to oil painting. Soon… it will all be ok (sigh)

Work in progress

WIP Nut Case by Helen Shideler

Next… on the easel

IMG_2381.JPG



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



Footloose

Can you find your pair?

Footloose or that Barefoot Feeling is a large acrylic (30 x 36”) on canvas.

This was a wonderful family day at the beach. The sand was too deep to walk in so you had to kick off your shoes to get anywhere. I loved the natural groupings of the various family shoe piles.

That summertime feeling

This painting made me profoundly happy to paint. The shoes presented an interesting perspective and I’ll admit that at first I wondered what I was getting myself into. I thought about it a bit and then decided to approach the shapes much like I do when painting a flower. I kid you not, this perspective has helped me solve how to paint may different subjects. Even portraits! By associating it with something I know it took my fear and apprehension away. Seriously and thankfully.

I started with the purple crocs, then went on to paint the redish sandals beside them. I giggled all the way through them. They gave me so much joy to paint. Apparently I really needed a break from white lilacs!

What I am most happy with is that some of the shoes look like you could slide your feet right into them. Sigh…. I love that barefoot feeling!

Oh the grass

The sand was pretty quick to layer in and pretty much had to be in place as a foundation for the grass. Oh the grass! This painting was certainly thought provoking. I really had to think this through as I was not up for painting every single individual blade. In the foreground it was necessary but as the painting moved away from the front there was an opportunity to suggest the shapes and colours. Then bring the detail up in a few to give the illusion of depth.

to give you an idea of the scale of the painting

to give you an idea of the scale of the painting

I can still feel the sun from this day.

Soon I will share another post from our South African vacation. I think you’ll like the photos of the elephants and penguins.

Cheers

Seasonal corvids

I decided to paint a crow this weekend for a few reasons. Firstly, I am working on a secret commission or three that I cannot share. And it is so close to Halloween I really needed to paint a corvid!

Stepping Out by Helen Shideler

Here is the thing

We have many crows in our yard. They watch us when we BBQ. They sit on the power lines and look at us. They watch us when we are on our deck in case we may be eating. They watch us when we are eating. One crow in particular, this is pretty cool… keeps one eye on us. When we look up it does this spy thing and tries to look nonchalant, inconspicuous - incognito. Should we dare drop a tidbit the routine gets really amusing. It will look away. Watches. Then when we look away, it will fly down so casually, steal the bite away. It’s a game we play.

Crow Crow Crow

Sometimes we feed them. Because it is hard not to. I stand in the back driveway and call crow, crow, crow. Then they nonchalantly appear and wait until we turn our backs to come in for the tidbits. Again, it’s a game we play.

Habit forming

I paint corvids. Every chance I get. Below is a collage of a few of them. There are many more and a few not shown are award winners.

Crow Collage by Helen Shideler

Until next time, Happy Halloween

On Watch

It is that time of year when I feel like I disappear.  I have secret commissions that I am working on and of course, am unable to share.  I can share my most recent acrylic painting of a crow - On Watch

Observation Perch by Helen Shideler

From how do I do this - to I got this

When travelling around Arizona last year, I happened upon this crow perched on a rock framed by two tree trunks.  I knew instantly that I planned on painting this scene.  I took a few reference photos... until my subject flew away.   Only the tree trunks that  drew me in felt like brackets and I decided the painting would be stronger without them.

Rocks make me think.  Sometimes too much.  I found I was fretting over them and then realized, jeepers I can do this  and instantly I knew how to approach them.  I know eh? Although I had to take a drive to Michael's Art Supplies first.

All in the technique

I purchased a little bag of sea sponges and formed the underpainting with various shades of grays.  Once I had the rock blocked in, I could see lichen shapes emerging.  I then added shadows to lift the lichens and highlights to make them convincing.  And oh what fun, the subtle shades of mauve, blues and greens brought  the rock to life - so to speak.  

It's healthy to be nervous

I think it is healthy to be nervous when painting.  It really makes you think before you apply paint. And I believe nervous anticipation...preoccupation, obsession, makes you pull from different places and come up with approaches you may not have thought of otherwise. 

My dang easel

And in the middle of everything like deadlines, my dang easel came crashing down once again.  I love that stupid crank easel but i think it is in line to be replaced.  This is the third time it came crashing down sending the ball bearings heaven knows where.  This time the little housing for the ball bearings dented.  I am investigating replacement parts.  But am feeling uncertain. The place where I purchased it did not instill any confidence - fingers crossed.

missing ball bearings

Notice the missing ball bearings? Any recommendations for a good studio easel?

 

 

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

Update 6 Amethyst Shades of Blue and some other stuff

Trusting my intuition

I had set this painting aside for a little while while I was finishing off some smaller works for the recent studio tour. I must have picked it up three or four times this week - and then set it back down. You see, I know how complex the background is in the reference photos and wanted to be sure how I was going to tackle it.  I finally convinced myself to just get started and trust my intuition and go with it.   Glad I picked it back up.  I am still somewhat fearful as I know the amount of time and effort required to complete it.  Did I mention I have a deadline of June 30th?

WIP Amethyst Shades of Blue by Helen Shideler

Rain rain go away...

It has been raining everyday this week.  Beautiful steady, falling straight down,  soaking rain.  And when it was not soaking rain, well it was torrential rain.   Thankfully the temperature was somewhat tropical.  The gardens are so lush and beautiful in appreciation.  The planters, well that is another story of - soggy petunias. By the time we are able to mow the lawn again it will likely be a foot deep.  No sign of the rain stopping anytime soon.  

Helen's garden

New supplies means new work

I receive the gesso board panels I ordered this week.  Now I am able to get to the two commissions I have and also start another of my somewhat weekly oil painting.  Funny how much I love receiving a new shipment of art supplies.  Does not have to be anything really exciting or new. Just art supplies.  I always imagine what I am going to do with them all.  I imagine series of work.  Almost always.

WIP Helen Shideler

Eden Energy Medicine

This weekend I attended an Eden Energy Medicine (EEM) workshop with Sue Hooper.  I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed the experience.  Sue is an amazing and gracious instructor. Coming off the work getting ready for last weeks KCST I needed to switch it up and slow it down. The exercises will with fit in nicely with my current morning stretching and balancing routine.