On plein air painting and weed whackers

So many lessons learned. 

So many of them this very weekend! 

Lesson 2

I thought I was clever setting up to paint on the pergola under the grape vines that have all been pollinated - which means the teeny tiny little flowers are ready to shed, especially on this windy day.  Lesson? Teeny, tiny little flowers stick to oil paintings and to wet oil paint on the palette! Oh dear!

Lesson 3 and a product review

I have a mixture of water mixable oil paint from three different makers.  It was today I realized that the paint that seemed tooth-pasty, gloppy and hard to mix was made by one particular brand. Before I realized it was one brand, I was pretty sure I was about to revert back to traditional oils.  Still think I may.  But the brand in question is Holbein Duo.  Never again.  Love my Cobra paints. Face palm

Lesson 4

Once completing a couple of little, juicy oils, I decided to place them on our rock wall to aid in the drying process.  Only I did not tell my husband.  But I did hear him outside with the weed whacker. Only I did not hear him on time. Lesson? It is possible to pick of little bits of grass and whacked weeds with an exacto knife and a fine rubber tipped thingy.  Especially if you have lots of time on your hands. Sigh! Head shake!

Backyard painting series by Shideler

Painting Callie, a fun commission

I am always so happy and honoured to be a part of a secret project.  In this case painting this sweet little doggie intended as a surprise gift for someone special.  Painting dogs makes me happy and I so love the reaction of the doggie owners. Feeling blessed!

Callie by Helen Shideler

Lesson 5

This is for my husband.  Move the glass top coffee table before you start to build something heavy.  Cha Ching! Another $120 please! Rats!!! Second one this year!

In a jam, strawberry that is

Lesson 1

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So yesterday I decided it was time to make two batches of strawberry jam at the same time.  I was home alone at the time.  Not that is really relevant  - until it was.  I had sterilized the bottles.  Measured out the 7 cups of sugar.  Squeezed the lemons.  Hulled and tried to mash the berries.  Well now, the berries were fresh and firm and had a different idea.  Every time I went in the the masher the berries would slip and jump out of the bowl.  Big mess happening.  Meanwhile I was boiling the lids and covers.

Finally remember that I have a blender.  Excellent mashing tool.  Finally get everything boiling on the stove.  Phone rings.  Why I thought I needed to answer it is beyond me.  Water starts to boil over.  Felling like I am getting anxious.  Two batches on the stove now.  Hands are shaking.  Wait, did I eat anything since my very early breakfast?  Scooping the syrupy, sticky strawberry mixture into bottle and over my oven mitts. Just because. And the second batch comes to a boil.  The jars were scalding hot and I choose to move them with by bare hands.

It is almost a miracle that I got through this endeavour without getting scalded.

Product review

Jack Richeson panels - the stupid paper wrapper they put over a portion of the panel leaves a paint resistant film!  WHY?   They seem to work fine with acrylics though.

Now looking for linen or birch panels for plein air painting.

 

 

 

Repairing the Rigging and some really good news

This past summer the Tall Ships visited Saint John as part of Canada's 150 Birthday celebrations.  It was a magical, majestic site and made you proud to live here.  I was completely fascinated by the people who were "Repairing the Rigging".  I mean they appear to have absolutely no fear of heights!

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I, on the other hand, found myself to be on the bring of dizziness just photographing them.  Vertigo! But I was still able to be quite strategic as I lined up my shots.  I loved all the lines from the cranes across the harbour to the rigging on the ships.  As I lined up the angles for my reference shots, I was envisioning this as a poured watercolour painting.

After the first bit of masking was applied, I quickly realized there was no additional opportunity to apply masking.  One application did the trick.

A new toy

I recently saw this exciting tool advertised in Curry's newsletter a new high precision masking fluid marker by Pebeo.  Well then, I had to order two.  Sort of love it.  It comes with an extra bit as well, unsure why but I am sure it will be revealed to me as I use it.  Unable to get quite the fine lines I was hoping for - I used to create my signature int the painting above.

And some good news

Dear Helen

On behalf of the SCA, it is my pleasure to inform you that your application for Elected Membership into the Society of Canadian Artists has been successful. Congratulations!

As an Elected Member you may use prestigious 'SCA' designation after your name, participate in the annual members’ exhibition and qualify for society awards. As well, you will receive the SCA newsletter featuring articles by members, listing calls for artists, contests, and local and regional art events, delivered to your inbox three times annually. You will also receive invitations to Society Exhibitions and other events.

Now I will be signing my paintings with SCA as well!  Very excited!

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A good cause

I have been asked to participate in a fund raiser for a really good cause in Saint John for P.R.O. Kids. This group provides assistance for kids in need of support to play sports, recreational, art and cultural activities.  Uncertain for certain - but do you see children playing on a beach in that window?

Cheers, until next time

Helen

 

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.  

 

Week 3 Round Up

This week presented some interesting new challenges for me  

First I had a meeting for the Kings County Studio Tour on Thursday evening  and sore eyes.  So I didn't paint Thursday.  But the real challenge was around painting materials.  I ran out of panels. So I ordered some in from my friends at Endeavours.

Panels arrived.  A different brand than usual - Gotterick.  Well they only had one coat of Gesso on them  and the panels seemed to have a few hairline cracks.  Shoot.  So I had to get out my gesso.  I opened up all the panels, laid them out on the table, opened up the gesso and ....CRAPOLA!!!  Gesso was moldy.  Had to call my good friends at Endeavours once more to order gesso and in a hurry please.  

Gesso arrived, panels promed and lightly sanded.  And you know, they are not the same.  Ampersand is a far better solution and panel. These are ok though, just not the same.

Day 15 - Garden Interloper

They appear with the illusion of something elegant, almost regal.  But they are no more than Quispamsis garden rats.  White tail deer.  The vermine you love to hate rather hate to love.  They are garden interlopers.  They appear many times a day and eat insatiably.  Every thing in site is on theri menu but not the stuff you don't particularly care about.  Like the weeds (native deer food) or fallen apples.  No they wait until your flower buds are about to burst forward with beautiful blossoms and pop it like cotton candy.

Day 16 - Stymied

I loved the way this painting developed.  I used acrylics as watercolours for the base painting, then applied a number of layers to intensify the colours...then went back in with opaque layers.  I have to admit, I am thinking the title of the painting is particularly clever, eh?

Day 17 - Checking Things Out

This painting took a surprising amount of time to the point I decided not to paint another one for todays challenge.  Ducks have long been one of my favourite subjects with their perpetual grins and round cheeks.  They stand tall and proud and give the illusion of confidence. 

Day 18 - What's That?

Did you know I love ravens.  And crows. And likely all birds?  The black birds present an interesting challenge when painting them.  Their wonderful iridescent feathers gleam in the sun.  Shades of blue, teal and often purple are waiting for the artist's eye  to capture that fleeting moment

Day 19 -  Watching Me Watching You

A repeat performance. I could not leave it to one raven could I?  I went mining through my reference photos and you know?  I have a lot of ravena ns crow photos.  Stay tuned I think I am going to paint a large one after this challenge.  Oh and after I finish the lilac painting.

Day 20 - Singing in the Snow

Sweet little chickadees.  This is a teeny tiny painting.  Only 4"x4" on gallery wrapped canvas. Actually the little bird is likely life size in the painting.

Day 21 - Everyday's a Beach Day

And another favourite.  For about three years I have been trying to get a photo shoot in with sanderlings, plovers and sandpipers.  I have a really cool idea for a very large painting.  I think i really love beach birds because I love the beach so much.  I love the scent of the salt air and the warm breezes.  I would love to be there now!

  

 

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.

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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.

Inspitation

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

 

 

WIP Winters Light Through the Glass

We have a wonderful hanging stained glass window that was given to us 

Over the years we (really me) watch with fascination of how the right changes with each season.  Winter is particularly beautiful with the deep colour of the sky and the reflections of the snow.  You can see the effect of winters light through the glass!

I have taken oh so many photos of the stained glass

Knowing eventually I would be going to paint it.  The invitation to participate in “Stained Glass revisited” coming up in September provided just that opportunity. This was interesting. I always saw this painting as a thick acrylic work.  That was, until I tried to get started and now with a close deadline.

I started to work out the details and realized that the shape of the canvasses I have on hand were the wrong proportion.  Too square a shape meaning that I would have had to paint more background.  And that really would not work.  My artistic eye would not let me proceed and the fact that I do not have time for a redo!

I pondered what to do. 

I really wanted to get started and could not afford the time of shipping in another canvas.  Then it hit me.  Rather embarrassing really.  Watercolour.  Duh!  I could cut the paper into whatever shape I needed!  Oh my.  Sometimes I baffle me.

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Then I got real excited. 

On a recent trip to Arizona to the Plein Air Convention and Expo (PACE), I purchased a few tubes of Daniel Smith’s Prima Tek paints. And now I have a really exciting painting to play with them.  And I am loving them!

The glass represented in this painting has texture and is not smooth all over.  These granulating paints are working beautifully to help me simulate the glass. Some of the colours are luscious (not there is a word you do not get to use everyday). 

Lessons Learned

You have to be really cautious when you mix the Prima Tek  colours with regular waterolours.  They can get muddy fast

I highly recommend you paint an under wash first rather than mixing the colours together.  Now when I mixed two Prima Tek colours together, they worked fine.  But the wash had to be under not over these paints

Painting of a Dragonfly on the Fence

Dragonflies  

We have a backyard pond complete with a waterfall and lily pads.  And dragonflies are frequent  visitors.  Frequent but they do not rest for long. Almost never long enough for me to run and get may camera and get back down the stairs.  And my camera is by the door when I am home!  Another missed opportunity.

On the Fence 

On the Fence 

But I have gotten lucky a few times

One summer a dragonfly landed on my friend Jackie’s belly. And  I had my camera right there.  I just had to convince her not to swoosh him away until I got the photos.   The photos were really over exposed as her top was white but, as an artist, I am pretty good at improvising.  That painting is shown at the bottom of this post.

At a visit to M Mills to see the flocks of migratory sea birds I was so surprised by number of dragonflies. So many varieties. So many really big ones. So big.  And hovering doing the helicopter flight thing.  I spent the entire day there trying to get a great photo of one and you know?  They are super  fast.  Just as soon as I would have the camera on the ready they were gone.  Every single time.

On a recent trip to Arizona as I was strolling down a path in the 100 degree sunshine (melting) when I spied a dragonfly resting on a fence right beside me.  Actually resting.  My camera was actually around my neck.  So,  I got some pretty cool photos.  The result is show below in “On the Fence”.  This is a 9”x12” acrylic on Ampersand Claybord.

I know you have heard me talk about Claybord previously  

I have a love hate relationship with it.  Almost always the acrylic paint does not behave as I expect it to making for some stressful moments and multiple do overs.  What I love about it is that when you mess it up you are able to scrub off most of the paint and start over.  What I hate about it is (and all acrylic paint for that matter) is that the layers of paint have to be completely dry between the layers or the bottom paint will lift off.  Uncool.  This is particularly bad on Claybord.

The background of this painting is a really good bad example of this  

Blending is particularly challenging especially on the base coats.  Once you have your base coat down it does get easier to work with.  The smooth surface allows for highly detailed paint application.  Love this.  Then I had to draw the dragonfly on the painted layer.  This is nerve wracking as you really do not want to erase on paint or have to correct your drawing with paint (although this works really well trust me).

This painting is scheduled to hung in the upcoming shaw at the Saint John Arts Centre "Stained Glass Revisited" in September

Jackie's Dragon by Helen Shideler

 

 

 

Gone to the Birds

I joined in a challenge to paint 30 Paintings in 30 Days.  The first week quickly became about painting chickadees!

I knew the challenge was coming up so between Christmas and New Years I braved the elements to attempt to get as many photographs as possible.  I stood out on our deck for hours.  Freezing my fingers off while waiting for the perfect photo opportunity.  Interesting enough, it did not take me too long to figure out that these feathers cherubs are much faster than I.  I managed to get many empty feeder shots. And a few with the snow flying as the little cuties flew off the feeder.  

A Discovery 

After about three days of obsessive photographing and freezing I discovered that my Canon camera with my long lens can shoot through the glass at my kitchen window. Well now.  No more freezing.  Interesting enough only the long lens can do it.  Go figure.  So about 500 photos later, I have enough reference material to keep me painting for 90 days!  Loving it.

Oh Yeah

The first painting I did for the challenge was of a white husky appropriately named "Lily".

Particulars 

These painting are available on my web site.  You can get there from here by clicking on AVAILABLE WORK on the top menu on this site and going to artwork portfolio.

Lessons Learned

Due to the inclement and cold temperatures, I decided to use LIquitex acrylic varnish.  They recommend for best results that you first apply a thin (and they mean it) coat of gloss then apply a thin layer of matte. This is great product for work with backgrounds.  Not so much for leaving      the lovely white backgrounds of Gessobord or Clapboard unpainted.  No mater how careful your are you get a bit of frustrating streaking.  

RECOMMENDATION: If you are leaving much of the surface unpainted, you are much better off to use an archival spray varnish.

 

 

 

Don't Butter Me Up

Buddy here is an interesting crab.  He is really big and barnacled and maybe tough and old!  So big in fact that the crows and seagulls thought better of going after him.  They were very much interested but he was too big for them to figure out how to tackle.  He was very aware they were nearby.  Not sure how crabs hear but for sure they can see.

From what I have observed throughout my entire beach combing experiences, crabs are really on this planet as a food source.  So many things (especially birds) want to eat them.  Hence “Don’t Butter Me up” was painted.

Don't Butter Me Up by Helen Shideler

When I was taking the photos I really did try not to get disturb it, although I really wanted the up-close shots.  I had a long lens and squatted with my nose almost on the ground.  At one point it did turn away – that is when I figured that I may be bugging him.  So I left him alone.  However, during our encounter I did get to take many exciting reference photos.  Then I got even more on the way back from our walk.

I was just full of ideas of what I would be able to create after my successful day of shooting.  Originally I thought I was going to crop the photo and focus in on the “face” then I decided that the whole critter was really to interesting and decide I had to paint it barnacles and all. 

I also thought I would paint him super huge – then I thought better of it and went with 11 x 14”. I thought it may be  really creepy to see a crab oversize in realism - at least for me.  That may be the stuff bad dreams are made of.  There may be a painterly version in my future.

During the September 30 Paintings in 30 Day Challenge, I painted “Out in the Open” 8 x 10”.

Not On the Menu

Both of these are painted on Ampersand Gessobord, a really slick surface (official description “the fine tooth of this surface is delicate enough for fluid strokes and fine detail” and works with acrylics or oils.  I love this product as it allows me to achieve clear and crisp details that are challenging on canvas – particularly on smaller paintings.