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:



The Sentry Raven Painting is Finished

Water-color painting of a raven

The Sentry water-colour painting of a lone raven is finally finished.

Or at least I think it is.  I will likely stare at it for a few days scrutinizing it and then deciding.  But hey, It must be close, I actually signed it.

This painting presented a number of challenges for me.  Mainly naming it.  You can read all about my journey with this here. And after all that research I decided upon The Sentry.  And I still waffled between that and The Sentinel.  They mean almost the same thing to guard, although Sentry is usually associated with guarding a passage or a gate.

The other major challenge for me is determining if it is really finished or not.  When I was in high school art class Mr. Swedersky always coached me to stop working - just stop before you ruin it!

With this style of minimalistic background in order to feature the bird, it is difficult to decide when is enough enough?

The Sentry is a transparent water-colour painted on Arches 300lb paper and is a 1/2 sheet  is available on my web site at www.helenshideler.com .  Link to The Sentry