Borscht Anyone and another really good week

Borscht Anyone?  This was a painting I had in mind since last fall.  I took a series of photos at a farmers market in Vancouver while visiting with family (sigh). I took so many photos! These beets were calling to me.  Again with the dilemma. Oil? Watercolour? Poured painting? 

For some reason this past year, when I think of watercolour, I automatically think of pouring.  The freedom I have this this process feels so rewarding. And I can release some of my tendency to be a detail crazy painter,

Borscht Anyone by Shideler

I did the last pour yesterday, removed the masking compound this morning. The underpainting made me happy and I knew I should be able to top dress this in one painting session.  This is a goal I try to set with all my poured paintings of this size.  There are no rules other than ones imposed for me by me.  And apparently I have many....just saying...

Slide show below - click to move through


Happy Helen

Sometimes the universe lines up so well. I am having a marvellous May!  I mean pinch me!  I am so grateful and happy I am coming apart at the seams.  This week I sold two 1/2 sheet poured paintings and had an interview with CBC TV News for the painting on the window from the Saint John City Market. And so many people see my daughters in the painting! 

I am so grateful when someone appreciates my work enough to purchase it - and from my website.  Happy Helen

Making a Splash by Shideler

And then there was this...

An interview with CBC TV News for to support the fundraiser for Pro Kids with area artist painting a piece of history - a window from the Saint John City Market!  I am normally quite camera shy - but wanted to do this because I love the project so much.

Link to story here

Link to news story here - it is about the third story in the clip

Link to P.R.O. Kids here

Cheers everyone





Week 3 of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

I have learned so much with this challenge.  It was not enough to commit to a painting a day - I felt the need to add a layer of complexity by adding in a medium that I feel that I am just beginning to understand.  I am an oil painter that needs to allow for dry time for glazing.  Alla prima is really maybe not my thing - but feel i have been successful with my attempt.

Week 3 30 day challenge by Helen Shideler

Day 11 - Lunch on the Bar

The photo does not do this painting justine.  The feathers on the bird are quire detailed.  What I am finding is that it is difficult to photograph wet oils.  The light catches the thicker paint and the blackish tones look like a hole - but in person - you do not see that effect.  Here's whats funny - I counted the plover last week - oops

Day 14 - Watchful

Yeah, I may have missed  a day or two or three.  LIfe happens.  I love this gull and for the most part, the painting turned out exactly as I envisioned.  I did have to go back in a couple of day later to enhance the values.  It was fun to paint and I may also paint his brother

Day 15 - Stepping Stones

 was born in Cape Breton, very close to a beach. as long as I can remember I love shore birds. They give me a sense of peace and joy. Colours are a bit off in this photo but you get the idea

Day 16 - Home on the Beach

You can sure tell it is February and I am longing for warm summer days at the beach. These birds make me so happy 

Day 17 - Crusty Crustacean

No shortage of inspiration from the sea. Happy to be more than halfway through the challenge, my larger work on my shiny new easel is starting to call out to me. 

Day 18 - Young Cormorant

Yeah, I have a thing for beach birds. I was so taken with the posture of this young bird. It’s all in the attitude. The reference photo was taken last summer at Rockwood Park in Saint John.  This is an amazing location to photograph birds and some of the prettiest landscapes in New Brunswick!

Phoebe by Helen Shideler

Day 19 - Phoebe

This will be my last offering for the 30 day challenge. Also - this is the first attempt at a furry face in oils.  I like it!!!

The challenges is getting cut a  short by the early arrival of a beautiful new grandson.  I am off to Calgary without paints and computer.  I cannot wait to get my lips on his little belly!!  sigh!!!

Thank you for following along

Cheers - and spring is almost just around the corner



Feeling productive and happy

It has been a very productive week.  First my beautiful new RIcheson Santa Fe II Easel arrived.  It is even more special than I hoped it would be! Kind of makes me forget how frustrated I was when my previous easel had broken. My wallet it much lighter but I am very happy able to paint  large again. I completed "Tender Blues".  This was sure a long time in the painting.

Tender Blues by Helen Shideler

Tender Blues fresh off the easel

How do you know when a painting is completed?  Quite often you look up and can not see any place left to put paint.  Literally this was how it worked for me with this one. So the new easel is quite the asset.  There is a shelf on the easel where my brushes, water and palette are placed right in front of me.  No twisting and turning every 20 seconds or so.  I cannot believe the difference it made even with my concentration just to have eyes forward.  

I was literally working away and realized there was no place left for me at add paint. I love it when that happens.  I signed it and stepped back. I'll look at it for a few days to make sure I am happy with it before it gets varnished.  This is a large painting 30" x 30" on gallery wrapped canvas.  I painted the edges black - makes quite a difference and does not require a frame.  I like the clean, contemporary look. 

WIP Market Fresh by Helen Shideler

New beginnings

I wasted no time getting a new painting started.  This is a large oil that I have started to block in.  I am approaching this one slightly differently than I usually do.  Typically I would have done a grayscale underpainting and over painted with colours.  You know, I really just felt like slopping paint around.  I love the buttery texture of oil paint and wanted to have some fun with it.  This is still an underpainting and will require a number of layers to bring it to life.  But I am loving the way it is starting to develop.  This may be a fingers crossed scenario....

WIP Special Occasion by Helen Shideler

Two to pour

I also drew out two watercolors that I intend to pour.  Have the first masking on one of them.  This trio is sitting on a platter that I was gifted for Christmas. It has images of lobsters on it - this will make for an interesting pouring exercise.  But hey, I am up for the challenge.  And if I really mess it up, you will never see it.  


Kinda sort of busy

Ah, the holidays.  They have taken their toll on my productivity.  But, in fairness I always know I may not get as much done as I hoped.  Often I have more ambition than time. And family and friend come first.  Tender Blues is a large painting. With a whole lot of little florets that seem to be taking more time than usual.  This is my impatience showing I fear.

WIP Tender Blues by Helen Shideler

A couple of things 

My acrylic paints are acting funny and not in a charming way.  A couple of things are going on.  First, my heat source.  The mini split operates with a fan to distribute the heated air.  The heated air dries the paint out so fast on my pallett. No amount of spritzing it will water seems to help.  It is drying out way to fast.  Second, well they paint is going funky in the tubes.  It seems to be thickening up and gloppy - like toothpaste.  I do not know what is making it do this - but I really do not like it.  The texture of the paint will not apply smooth and there is certainly no blending ability.  What the heck?

Anyone else experiencing this problem?  And it is not limited to any brand in particular,  Hmm, I think it is time to get serious with oils.

My daughter Katie was supposed to fly home on Friday -you know the day after the storm.  YOu can imagine what happened.  Flights delayed everywhere and some cancelled creating a backlog of weary travellers.  From mechanical failures and get this, the plane would not start this morning from the cold! Delays.  Cancellations.  On the up side, we got to spend more time with her. Maybe tomorrow she will be able to fly out.

Pet portraits

I have also been working on a few commissions.  I am able to share this one with you now.  Meet "Murphy" a portrait of a very expressive labradoodle.  So much fun to paint this guy.  HIs owners were surprised by this thoughtful gift and very happy with it!  Gotta love that! And I will be delivering another one tonight. Gotta love that as well.

Murphy pet portrait by Helen Shideler

My poor easel

Still broken.  My husband managed to get it back together enough that I can use it.  The crank awkwardly still cranks.  (he missed putting one of the ball bearings back in but we will not tell) But it is stable enough that I can use it.  Unable to easily raise and lower it.  But it is usable while I wait for my shiny new, incredible easel motors towards me.  EEEEEEEEEE so excited.

Cheers for now




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


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.


Week One of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Fun to see my efforts in a grouping like this

Week 1  30 in 30 days challenge Helen Shideler

Day 1 Purple Finch

Being greeted by these brightly coloured birds was breath-taking.  They are not a regular visitor to our feeders but were around for a few days at Christmas.

Day 2 Seed Stuffer

Our feeders provide us a constant source of entertainment when we are sitting down to eat. They are located right outside our large kitchen window. The little red squirrel has claimed on of the birdhouses as its own, chewed the opening to make it larger and stores is seeds in the birdhouse.

Day 3 Lunch on the Deck

These amazing little birds gather as group every morning and afternoon at the feeders we have on our deck. They stay for hours providing plenty of entertainment for those of us lucky enough to be there. They fight over the perces at the feeders - kind of cute.

Day 4 Nut Job

The daily antics of our little red squirrels give us so much amusement.  They appear to be so expressive as they raid our seed and nut staches.  

Day 5 Cheeky Chickadee

These little birds amaze me with their spirit.  I cannot get over how these little birds will loudly inform us when the feeders are empty.  Or even tell us off when we are out on the deck and in their way to the feeders.  Cute and spirited.  Almost my favourite!

Day 6 Out on a Limb

Sweet and lively chickadees always make my heart sing.  

Day 7 Song Sparrow

Another Sweet visitor to our feeders.  This one seems to be patiently waiting its turn at the feeders.

Chickadee dee deeee

Sweet, fat, fluffy and round.  

And cute! Dear little chickadees. I cannot stop painting them.  They make me so happy.  We admire them daily as they flit in and out of our feeders.  They fly in and steal a sunflower seed.  Fly into the grapevines or into a nearby tree.  Crack open the seed.  And then come back again.  Over and over for most of the day.  So entertaining!

Chickadee dee dee by Helen Shideler

Not a crazy bird lady

Before you get the idea I am a crazy bird lady,  I will explain.  You see we have large windows all over our house and place the feeders strategically so you can catch a glimpse as you walk by.  Quite heavenly.  Tonight there was a pair of cardinals outside the kitchen window.  I am amazed at how red he truly is this time of year.  She was in  the feeder and he was ever watchful.  Until he saw me watching them. And then they were gone.

Chickadee by Helen Shideler

And so there are two little chickadee painting.  The one on the bottom is sold

Two Cardinal Paintings Fresh Off the Easel

Two acrylic paintings of cardinals on cradled panels

I needed today to be a productive day.  I needed to feel accomplishment and be distracted. And what a better way to distract yourself than to paint two cardinal paintings!  These birds are truly stunning.

That incredible shock of red

The sight of a male cardinal on a winters day will literally take your breath away especially when seen against a snowy background or on a grey cloudy day.  They are magnificent.  Unprecedented beauty.  They are a symbol of hope and renewal.  Strength. Grace.  

Happy to See You - Painting of a cardinal by Helen SHideler


Some believe cardinals are messenger.  Visitors. They show up when you are celebrating or missing someone you love.  For me, today was a two cardinal kind of day!

Sweet Memories cardinal painting by Helen Shideler

Some days you need to be retrospective

And it is certainly one of those days for me. Today is an anniversary that has a profound impact on me. Every year from a certain Monday in March to April 3rd i find I am fighting back tears.  I manage through it.  Try not to give in to it.  This year I decided to handle it differently - to celebrate and embrace it in a spiritual way.  

Cardinals are often thought to be symbolic of a loved one who has passed.   I decided that today I would embrace the day. Not fight it. Not try to ignore it.  You see today is the anniversary of the passing of my son.  Dear sweet Andrew Justin Hill.  And how much I miss him.  This is so very much a huge piece of who I am.  Today I decided to face the day head on. Painting birds that evoke sweet memories for us and for so many.  And they were my mothers favourite bird and are loved by our family.  


WIP Call of the Raven finished

Watercolour painting of a raven by Helen Shideler It is always an exciting part of the painting adventure to call a painting finished.  I looked over the "Call of the Raven" numerous times and then called in my critiques er family to scrutinize.  I appreciate their honesty, fresh eyes and ability to see what I may be missing or just not seeing anymore. The happy moment is when a painting passes the family test.

I have been hunting crows and ravens with my camera for a few years now with a series in mind.  This is the first of that work.  You can see the next two raven drawings in the photos below.  They may appear to be grainy but you will get the idea.

I have brought it into my framer and asked Mario to order in enough of the same moulding for the three I have currently sketched out.  They will be triple matted - cannot wait to see this one done.

I typically sketch the work out loosely and yet precisely.  I know that may sound contradictory  but in my mind it really isn't.  I draw initially for scale and then refine for detail as I go.  Has a lot to do with my patience level or lack of it.  I am usually so interested in getting started that I cannot labour the drawing too much at this stage.  Would make the work too tight as well I think (said she the detail queen).  I approach each element as a controlled wet in wet painting area, in this case the feathers.  And I have been known to squeal with delight as the paint mixes on the paper in the itty bitty painting areas.

Sneak Preview for what is on the easel next.....

WIP by Helen ShidelerWIP Constable Craw


WIP Call of the Raven

Call of the RavenI have to admit from the moment I started thinking about this watercolour raven painting  I was unsure what to call it -  so I uploaded photos of the work in progress so far and then it hit me "Call of the Raven". Makes sense, it is certainly cawing about something important - I think. I did quite a bit of research with my good friend Google as to "what is a group of ravens called?"  The answer came back with a few possibilities such as "unkindness, constable, conspiracy and parliament".   I played with "Call to Parliament" , I tested it with a few friends but they really did not get it, even after I explained it a few times . Clearly, that would not work  - and I had to Google it too, remember?

I am working from a couple of reference photos I took this year in Yellowstone National Park. The ravens let me get very close to them to take their photos. I worked hard to shoot them in such a way to capture the iridescence of their colours.  They remind me of a pewter carving.  Or is it iron ore?  I love the colour variations.  And I have enough material to paint for a year.  More ravens are sure to follow!

This is a 1/4 sheet transparent watercolour. The various stages are shown below.  I was so darn sure I would be able to finish it this weekend - by no.  The kink in my neck from leaning over my drafting table caused by leaning over to work in pretty meticulous detail got the best of me. Time to change my posture.

Current working on the face area - then on to the shoulders and the rest of the wing.

Back at it tomorrow!   Clink the link to see the earlier stages and the colours I am using

Call of the Raven - WIP Helen Shideler Call of the Raven WIP Helen Shideler Call of the Raven by Helen ShidelerColours are shown above - only I am not using Davy's fray after all - keeping this painting transparent.