Early wrap to this years challenge

Although this challenge is still on-going, I am quite done for this year. I managed to complete 17 paintings since it began, but you see a surprise early arrival had me packing up my bags and flying off to Calgary!  My beautiful new grandson Henry was born a few weeks early!  And so I said to heck with the challenge and hopped on the first available flight. 

And I do have a few more on the easel waiting for my return.

2018 painting challenge by Shideler.jpg

This is the fifth time that I have participated in a 30 Day Challenge.  You can see my previous efforts here. With each challenge I like  to have a goal, something to learn - that I work towards. I feel pretty good about what I accomplished with my approach this year. I had decided to only work in oil.  It is a medium that I have been exploring for awhile now and think I have come to an understanding how to work with it. At least how I think that I want to work with it.

Grisaille how cool a word is that?

What I know to be true, at least for me, is that I do like to plan my work and have a grisaille underpainting prior to adding colour.  Not all subjects require this step.  But for me with the way my mind works, it makes the colour application make more sense.  You see I like to work with thin, transparent glazes.  Slowly building up the colours before I add in strategically placed thicker juicy paint.  Oh, did I just expose the watercolourist in me?  This is funny now that I have said it!  Old habits die hard.

And then there is Alla Prima

Painting alla prima (in one session) made sense for a few of the paintings - working really well with the mussel shells.  In fairness, I have painted so many mussel shells over the years that I could probably paint them in my sleep - they are a subject that I know so well. 

Honestly, I would have approached he painting with the sweet little sparrow differently knowing what I think I know now.  I think I would have felt better painting this one if I had taken the time to do an underpainting.  Because the bird was included as part of the landscape and not painted as a central subject, the background and leaves felt like busy work.  I was not as satisfied with the end result as I would like to have been.  It works, but I had a different vision of it in mind.

Helpful hint 

You have to get over your, um my... need to go back in and add in more detail.  In one sitting means just that. It is so hard to resist. But, in my mind - there really is no rules.  Rules are self imposed and made to be modified and ignored when convenient. 

Lessons learned

The other, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that applying many layers of paint over each other, without a few days dry time will create muddy colours.  I learned a new use for my pallet knife. Scraping.  Yep.  I had to remove areas on a few of the painting in order to re-apply the right colour intensity.

Until next time, cheers





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?



Day 18 - Flight Path

I just happened to have two of these little cradled clapboard panels - perfect for companion crow paintings.   I love how you can see the movement of its wings.  These small paintings are quite difficult to paint - you use a size 1 or 0 brush for the fine details.  Requires a steady had and almost no breathing!

Flight Path

My Day 18  painting for this event is called “Flight Path”.  I really like the contemporary realism presentation when painting on Claybord and leaving the background white.  The subject really stands out as intended. 

This is a 6"x6" acrylic on the always challenging Clayboard cradled panel.   

Available on my website by clicking HERE  for $75.

You can check out this project by visiting here -

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.