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



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.


Winters Light Shines Through

I have to admit this was an ambitious painting.  I think I may have a thing about straight lines and me not really know what to do with them.  I always thought I have a steady hand and a good eye... but am not thinking my astigmatism may not know how to deal with them.  Seeing this finished painting sure brings a smile to my face.


The thing is I often have more ambition than brains.  

Just as I finished signing this one I ran upstairs with my camera and took a series of photos of the same window with the green of the grape vines showing through.  I have to admit it looks kind of sharp.  And it looks cool in the spring with the pink apple blossoms too. Wonder how it will look with the fall foliage? I am unsure that I need to paint it in all the seasons.  

The other thing i, I wanted it to be somewhat painterly.  I drew it out as I went - except for the outside graphic shapes - which sort of line up with the actual window (a little bit of artistic licence here).  I know you know that I am very much a precise painter so just based on that I may feel the need for a do over in another season.  

Helpful Hint:

I test drove some of my new Danial Smith Prima Tec pigments on this

Mostly I love them.  I always recommend to people to test what you are about to do on a sample piece of paper.  It is important that it be the same type of paper as the paint will behave differently on different weights and textures.  A lot of these pigments are staining.  You cannot lift them.   When you add certain colours after, such as anything remotely yellow you get a grey mess that you cannot redefine the shapes without a lot of effort and a few choice words! 

At the end of the day these pigments were the right approach.  The little bit of granulation helped to simulate the texture of the glass.


Inspired by a glass panel by Ingo and Julie Doetsch, Raven Glass Studio from Fredericton NB



WIP Cascading Blooms Watercolour Complete

Cascading Blooms a 1/2 sheet watercolour of pink climbing roses complete

Cascading Blooms watercolour by Helen Shideler


I finally figured out why I have been procrastinating so much.  At least I think I have been.  And not sure I was even conscious of it until now.  Participating in the 30 paintings in 30 day challenge in January was very satisfying.  I mean I completed a painting a day for goodness sake. Felt accomplished every single day!

Now that I am back to painting larger works - they seem to be taking forever.  I had a goal this weekend of finishing two.  Well, I only finished this one.  But, you know, you cannot hurry this type of work.

This is painted from reference photos I took at my friend Jeannie's garden.  Each time I visit I take more photos and have painted this climbing pink rose at least three times.  You know her secret?  She fertilized them with her abundant source of horsey manure.  


For some reason I am completely captivated by roses and peonies. I am drawn in by their complexity.  Each petal has no less that four or five shades and has a soft almost velvet appearance.  The colours intensify at the centre into rich deep tone while the edgesbecome lighter with a few crinkles.   

I loved painting the leaves (and the blooms of course).  The ones in close proximately have so many different shades of greens and a bit of blue.   

Every time I finish one I tell myself - well that is enough and yet ever year I am compelled to do at least one or two more.  I have started to paint them on a smaller scale 1/2 sheet as opposed to full sheet.  No less effort - just good for framing options and really for your walls!

The painting is available on my web site



WIP - Cascading Blooms Update 3

An interesting thing happened

when I was working away on this painting. I got distracted by another piece I had loosely sketched out.

Cascading Blooms by Helen Shideler


I realized I had most of the roses finished except for two in the background in the upper part of the painting.  For awhile I was not even certain that I was even going to add them in.  After starting the painting with a pretty loose sketch, I have been refining the sketch and pretty much drawing it as I work along.  Adding a leaf here and there.  Not adding in the large twigs.

Anyway, I have moved from the roses to painting leaves.  Now I love painting leaves.  That is often where the drama is.  Each leaf is taking about an hour or more to complete.  Then the strangest thing happened.  I started to get tired of working with green.  And I swear - I heard the sketch of the rhodos calling me.  Helen we are here, over here.  Come start to paint us.  We need so much more colour than green.  Really it is true.  

The hard stuff is next

The next phase in is painting is to cut out a masking film to cover and protect the roses. From there I will have to mask off the edges.  This will allow me to work the background with a degree of abandon and not have to worry about splashing dark colours on the blooms. 

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

I may be thinking too much

but as I was working on this painting it occurred to me that these roses are actually rose coloured.  Is a rose rose? When is a rose not a rose? Not quite an epiphany but it is fun to say and to think about. And I am rather sleepy right about now... and obviously easily entertained.

WIP Helen Shideler "A Rose is a Rose"

I figure that

each petal takes me just under an hour to paint.  I paint each one wet in wet and let the colours flow into each other, then edit by removing some paint and adding some more deeper tones. In the photo above, well the colour is off.  When you take photos inside the camera reads the white background funny.  The pinks are close but the background is white not cream.  But you can definitely see it shaping up! I this the name of this painting will have to include something about a cascade.  

WIP Helen Shideler "A Rose is a Rose'

Starting to build dimension by adding in the green of the leaves.  They are really quite deep shades of green. I have stated one and cannot wait to get into the others.

WIP Helen Shideler "A Rose is a Rose"

Here is a close of of another area. 

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


Flirting With Sunshine Sunflower painting on Aquabord

Flirting With Sunshine by Helen ShidelerFresh off the easel. This is a watercolour painting of a bright and happy sunflower painted on Aquabord.  I love the transparency and vibrancy you can achieve with this surface, just unsure if if I love it with watercolours - I know I really love it with acrylics.  The problem is with me. My lack of patience for the washes to dry completely in between applications!  This is a key step with this surface. I may need patience pills. (painting is 14" x 11" unframed, will be framed in a floating frame once it's partner below is completed). The resolution on this image is a bit blurry, but you get the idea. I have a companion piece on the go as well.  I am thinking that once this one is complete, I will go back to the traditional watercolour on paper - at least for awhile!WIP Helen Shideler



Spruce Shadows

Spruce Shadows Oil painting by Helen Shideler Whenever I come home I always take a look around the yard to admire all our years of planting and nurturing the landscape.  This particular view is of a little stand of spruce and fir trees we planted at the side of our drive way.  Impressive to us as as not so very long ago they were little trees (loving and some ruthlessly dug up from a friends yard in the pouring rain).  I say lovingly, at first it was.  But as the day progressed and we dug up so many trees to create a double tree line at the back of her yard and a few more for us that we just started ripping them out.  By the time we were through with this adventure we were soaked to the skin and scratched up pretty good.

That was a few years ago.  And now they look like trees! I love the shadows they cast on the cold, clear winter days.  Reminds me of lace somehow.  At first I thought I would paint them en plein air.  Then the sissy in me got a grip and I took a lot of photos trying to capture what I was seeing and feeling.

 This is a 14" x 11 " oil on GessoBord