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.

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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

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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

Spring Scentsation

Spring Scentsation is a relatively large oil painting of a soft and fragrant while lilac that grows on our property line in the back yard.  There is quite a story getting the painting to this point.

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Inspiration is everywhere

A few years back when visiting my daughter, we went for many walks around her area in Vancouver.   It seemed to me that almost every property we walked by had a tree line border framing in their yard.  They were really well designed.  Tall trees with shrubs at their base.  There really was no need for weeding as the growth from the shrubs kept them in check.  Everything grows uber big in Vancouver and very fast!

I was inspired.  When I got home I let mentioned by big idea to my husband,  whose pride and joy is the lawn – that I was proposing for us to dig up a lot of the lawn and create a lovely tree line.  Took some convincing.  But we did it.  

The only problem is the deer

One thing that I really wanted to grow is a white lilac.  We planted it in the tree line, quite close to our neighbour’s gigantic apply tree (that we secretly prune back every chance we get - so our plants will get enough light).  It was so lovely.  That spring the blossoms opened up and my heart sang…for one night.  Bambi and her entourage came through in the darkness and ate every single blossom.  

Once again, we declared war! Our lovely white lilac now resides in a chicken wire cage that is tall enough to foil the appetites of those garden marauders! It will remain a caged specimen until it grows large enough that the deer’s munching will not cause it any real harm. Likely three more years.

Point of all this is to say -  I love white lilacs. Most of this effort over the past few years, was to be able to paint it!

And paint it I have.  This piece took an inordinate amount of time.  I usually paint the background last.  But this time I went in way sooner than I think I should have.  It was ok. Only ok.  I knew that and had to brave up to go back in and modify it.  And so I did.  And it was decidedly better.  Only better.  Not quite pulling up a bit of drama like I was hoping for.  I continued working on the florets while I contemplated shredding or burning it.

Lessons learned

Third times a charm.  Yes, I went back in a third time and repainted the entire background again! Obviously, the previous layers influence the top layer, with the green remaining in the same hue, but this time I am happy with the results.  Note to self – wait to paint the background until you are sure you know the results you want to achieve. 

To give you an idea of the size (48 x 30”)

Helen Shideler with Spring Scentsation


Soggy doggies

So much fun painting this series of soggy doggies. This is a series that I have had planned for a number of years. Have taken so many reference photos in preparation and have now finally decided to start them. Happy dogs make me happy!

Trophy Stick by Helen Shideler

Never paint only one

You learn so much when you start to paint in a series. I wanted to strike a balance between a looser and less detailed background, while painting the subject with a higher degree of realism - all this while attempting to capture movement. No small task. Oh yes - in a small format and in oils. So far the paintings are 8” x 10”. I think the next round will start to get a bit larger 9 x 12” or 11x14”.

Oh Helen, must you do try to challenge yourself all the time? Apparently! And apparently I like it.

Get the Stick by Helen Shideler

Christmas commissions

I decided to paint a few relatively small paintings in between the secret commissions so I would have some fun things to share. The commissions will be shared after the holidays of course. Now that I have completed these requests I am able to get back to the large white lilac. Hoping to have it completed prior to the holidays!

Fetching Fun by Helen Shideler

Fetching Fun and a bit of trouble

So I got myself into a bit of trouble with this one. Knowing that oil and water don’t mix - right? And the hazards of painting when slightly exhausted.

Fetching Fun by Helen Shideler

Change of pace

I thought I would get started painting this little 8 x 10” oil.  It presented a rather nice diversion from the large white lilac waiting over my shoulder.

I organized may paint.  Squeezed out the right amount of luscious oil paint.  Then proceeded to paint.  With this type of painting I generally start with the background first.  That way the fur that is blowing in the wind is on top of the background paint rather than blocked in around it. This helps to make the painting look alive and suggest movement. 

One of the benefits of painting tired is that I was not too caught up in the details of the fur and water but rather the movement of the water. This allowed for looser, flowy handling of the paint.  

The trouble starts

Soon it was time to add in some more colour.  Bailey’s collar. Bailey’s tongue. And the white-ish patch on his chest.  I squeezed out some more paint but found that the paint was drying far too quickly.  I muttered about the mini-split heater above my head speeding up the drying time. The paint was even getting funky on my palette. 

Oh Helen, Helen, Helen

I continued to paint on, muttering about it as I went.  When all of a sudden it occurred to me that the second series of paint I squeezed came from a different location! Drat!  For the second round I grabbed my acrylics not my oils.  And I even keep my oils and acrylics on different areas of the studio so this would not happen!  Face palm!  Was this a disaster?  Did I already say drat? 

Had to rationalize this. A few thoughts:

    • You can paint oil paint over acrylics 

    • My oil paints are water mixable 

    • Acrylic paints are also water mixable

    • I mixed my acrylic paint into my oil paint

    • Disaster averted?

Lessons Learned?

Separating my supplies seems so logical to me. My foolproof plan translated to proof of a …..

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

Summer Update and Spring Scentsation

It never fails to amaze me how incredibly fast summer comes and goes.  And how little painting I  actually accomplish from the first of August to the middle of September.  When the sun is out I am out.  Revelling!  This year we have had an amazing amount of family visiting - and we took the time to cherish each moment knowing how fast it goes. 

Fast, except maybe for the work on this painting "Spring Scentsation".  Yes, I finally came up with a name that is sticking. And I think it is finally about the halfway mark.

white lilac painting Spring Scentsation by Helen Shideler

Often I start projects without really knowing what I am doing. I do have a plan but am unsure if it the right one. But I go with it!  And I promise, I am learning.  I tinted the canvas all over because I do not like those little white holes (misses) that may appear as I apply the first few layers of paint.  Adding to the changes to my approach, I painted a foundation layer to the background first.  At about the halfway mark, i got brave enough to figure out how to approach and modify the background.  That work in now done - however, I will be going back in to deepen and glaze the area around the bloom.

With my next painting I will be changing my approach once again. 

Rational thinking?

This is a large painting - 30 x 48" and I think it may be a new favourite size.  Honestly, I do not think smaller works take less time - just that your "mistakes" may be less obvious as they are smaller?   Is that rational thinking?

Summertime at our house

Always includes as much family as possible, good food and friends whenever possible. This year was no exception. Our house was coming apart at the seams. Joyful sounds. Good meals. And grandchildren that fill the house!

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On the Fence

crow painting On the Fence by Helen Shideler

I did manage to get another crow painting in. This little 10 x 8” oil is a study for a much larger painting in the future - I got caught up a bit too much in the details for a painting of this size. Must remember to simplify going forward.
 

Next post will be from beautiful BC

until next time may your days be colourful

the problem with Prussian blue

Oh dear me.  So I have this brand new tube Prussian Blue paint in oil (if course).  I tried to squeeze a dab out onto my pallet.  Only it would not come out.  So I squeezed a little harder.  Still no paint.  And then I squeezed a little harder.Success!!!! 

Painter Painting by Helen Shideler

 

Only half the tube shot out. Over the top of my pallet (as in all over the edges), onto the side of my water bottle, across the protective cardboard I had put under my work.  Phew!  Now if you know anything at all about Prussian, it has a reputation of getting away from you.  I really thought that meant as in messing up your mixes.  Nope.  I now know it means literally getting away from you! So, I thought- I can manage this and clean up later. 

I had my roll of paper towel on the table as well.  A breeze came up making the paper towel flap around.  Made it flap across the large squeeze of deep blue paint. 

Confession

When i paint I have a very bad habit of holding a piece of paper towel in my other hand.  This is never a good idea.  Especially when you have some unruly paint out there trying to get you.  I never noticed it until much later. 

You can see where this is going.  A fly landed on my shoulder and I shoed it away.  My hair was blowing in the wind and into my eyes, I tried to move it away.  Then an ant ran up my leg.  Could not let that happen - had to flick it off.  By the time the wind died down, I have Prussian Blue on my forehead.  Up the entire length of my left arm.  In my armpit????? Seriously, how did that happen????? Over the upper part of my right arm and shoulder.  And of course, remember the ant?  Down my left leg. Remember the cardboard protecting my table.  It shifted.  The nice white tiles are slightly blue even after I tried to clean up.

Not to be discouraged, I finished the painting,  Started to take my materials back into the studio.  Made three trips.  Came back for the cardboard and hit my really tall glass of lemon water.  It went across the table, into my hat, soaked a chair with the pulp-y juice.  Needless to say, I was a great source of amusement for my husband who felt the need to show me each one of the blue blotches all over me. hmmmmm