Cafe Conversations

I was recently in Vancouver visiting my daughter Jenn and her beautiful family for a couple of weeks. Love. While I was there my other daughter Katie joined us from Calgary with her baby Henry. So perfect. The time in BC was low key. Exactly what we all seem to need at the time. Enter cafes and coffee shops.

Cafe Conversations by Helen Shideler

When in Vancouver

Coffee Shops and Cafes are a big part of the culture on the west coast. And Jenn and I had the opportunity to go to Savary Island Pie Company one drizzly day. I was completely taken in by the coziness of the place and the lighting in the cafe and snapped a few photos. No secret, I really love watching people - especially in cafes. They get so engrossed in their conversations. I try to imagine what they may be talking about and often thought it would make a great series of short stories. (I’m really going to do this)

Really snuck a few photos

I saw snuck as the customers really were engrossed in their conversations had no idea that I was taking their photos. Honestly, at the time, I did not think about it. I just loved the atmosphere.

A few more photos

And of course when visiting with family, one must take as many photos as they will tolerate. Right?

When I arrived back home and started to revisit my photos, the interior of the cafe really stuck out to me. And i knew I was going to paint it . Only -

Only I remembered a situation from my past whereby a restaurant was filming for a TV commercial and the place was full of customers. One couple in particular became very agitated and started to loudly complain about the filming. Apparently they were ahem, having an inappropriate rendezvous and for some reason did not want to be filmed. They were really bashful for some reason?

Lesson well learned

Whenever possible I ask permission to paint the people I photograph unless they are part of a crowd in a public place. The alternative is to alter their appearance so they would not recognize themselves. or…

What’s a painter to do?

Remember all those family photos? I figured that I should be able to swap out the people in the cafe with images of my daughters. I mean, why not add an additional layer of complexity to my work. And of course my daughters would not mind. Right?

And it worked out ok, they are both still speaking to me!!!

Until next time, cheers

To Santa Fe and back

This trip had been loosely planned for a year.  I mean we all registered on the last day of PACE 17 when we hear it would be in Santa Fe.  Other than that, we waited until January to book flights and the hotel room for the trip home. And maybe just maybe, we should have really scrutinized the schedule first.  Who has time to be that planful?

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On the road again

Two friends and i planned to meet at the airport in Albuquerque, rent a car (really really expensive) and drive to Santa Fe. I Googled the satellite maps to look at the roads to mentally prepare me for the drive.  And although I thought I was ready - but absolutely noting can prepare you for that type of traffic - unless you live in San Francisco, maybe... The car agency rental person warned be, but frankly I thought it was a ploy to sell more insurance.  They spoke of inebriated drivers, reckless drivers and crazy drivers.

We persevered and make it safely to our destination.  Only, I speak in kilometres not in miles.  Jeepers creepers the drive was a lot longer than I anticipated- and the resort was off the beaten track in a place called Buffalo Thunder.  The resort was wonderful.   Only there was nothing else in the general proximity other than a couple more casinos.  No grocery stores.  No place to shop. 

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The PACE 18  sessions were amazing.  Brienne Brown.  Barbara Tapp. Cindy Baron. And so many more.  They talked of throwing the paint down with out a drawing (gasp) and maybe draw later (again gasp).  But being there to learn, I decided to throw away everything I thought I knew and try it. Well, it kinda sorta works.  With a lot more practice it may just really work.  Above are my attempts.

View from behind

PACE included paint outs in various locations including El Santuario de Chimayó.  While we were there the wind was quite strong to the point I decided that setting up my easel may be a bit risky.  I found a bench and noticed all the painters painting in front of me.  And I love sketching figures. Had a lot of fun with there.  And yes, there will be a painting soon!

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Cheers, until next time

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?

 

 

WIP Amethyst Blues and the Summer Sunshine Factor

The interesting thing about summer is when the sun is out, I am out.  It is not possible for me to stay indoors and so work in the studio s-l-o-w-s down and is often neglected.  Such is the case with Amethyst Blues.  This painting has been on the easel for far too long.  This morning it talked to me and I dove in.

WIP AMethyst Blues by Helen Shideler

The summer sunshine factor

I find that when I am working in acrylic, I really need an extended period of time to paint. Waste not want not (paint I mean). Summer is often fickle and this year, we have been starved for heat and sunshine. So when Mr. Golden Sun is shining I am so stir crazy that I have to go out.  The summer factor really digs into my studio time. Ah, the choices we have to make.

Watercolours allow you to grab an hour or two whenever you feel like it.  Acrylic not so much.  Time has to be scheduled and planned.

Feeling joy while on vacation

One of of my favourite memories as a little girl was waking up from a nap with the warmth of  sun shining on me and the sensation of the cooling breeze flowing in. The curtain would be dancing in the breeze and I literally thought it was heaven. The scent of the salt air  The memory of this is still heaven to me.

I got to relive this memory once again while on vacation in PEI

We were still living in Cape Breton. Our little house was close to the shore.  I was laying on my bed. Just awaking from my nap. It was sunny and warm outside. My window was wide open and the breeze was blowing my light curtain across my bed. I felt so safe and so content as I lie there basking in the sensation and scent.  Confession, I tried to take as many naps as possible this trip.

The summer sunshine factor 

And a wonderful family reunion! Note: the person jumping is a stranger -I just love the freedom of the moment.

 

 

Beautiful Bermuda and some other stuff

We are vacationing in Bermuda with family for a few very special reasons.  Announcing a new grand daughter expected in December and an engagement. Life is good!  

We were able to spend several hours each day just floating in the pool. When was the last time you were able to do that? Sigh..... Actually here it is a necessity to get relief from the heat and humidity. But that sounds like complaining and I certainly do not want to do that. ever so grateful for this experience.

Evening view from balcony. 

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A bit of time to paint

Between the heat, humidity and gentle rain I did manage to get some paintings done.  Interesting though, the paint dried out immediately and the paper stayed moist.  Who doesn't love a challenge...eh?

 

 

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A bit of a challenge with the internethere, this will be a short post. I delivered this commission this week. It was a birthday surprise and went over very well.

 

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Niko. 10"x8" acrylic on gessoboard

Can we slow down summer please

Well, it is hard for me to believe that yet another Studio Tour has come and gone. Time is moving a little too quickly this year.  How can we slow down summer?

I love the meets and greets that come with participating in the tour.  So many nice people coming through and all interested in art.  How amazing is that?  A number of people are "followers" of my work.  This is so encouraging and humbling at the same time.  Life is good.

With all the preparation for the tour I fell behind a bit with my painting - but I did manage to complete the three small oils (8x10") I was working on. Time to start another before I lose the momentum.

Walk in the Park by Helen Shideler

"Walk in the Park" is a fun 8"x8" oil of a strutting crow.  This little guy proved to be very popular.  I guess what I saw in him others saw as well.  He could have been homed five times this weekend! I find it amazing how many people love crows and ravens.  I know I certainly do but thought is was an artsy thing.

King of the Castle by Helen Shideler

"King of the Castle" this gull really felt he owned the place.  He was perched up so proudly on this concrete post with a view of the nearby restaurant and the sea.  He was talking it all in.  Ever watchful for that morsel that would be presented should someone dare to drop a bite.  I was leaning on the fence taking photos of some cormorants when I noticed him.  He did not seem to care how close I was and truly, it took awhile before I even realized that he was there - my husband had to point him out.

Plein Air Pretties by Helen Shideler

The first day at the PACE Plein Air Conference April in San Diego, people has not had a chance yet to mix and mingle.  There were all kinds of plein air painters milling about in the hotel lobby. These two caught my attention.  I thought they looked so interesting looking at their walking map of the area. I knew I would be painting them.  Plein Air painters are always interesting to people watch!

Memories of California

I am somewhat jet lagged after just returning home from almost three weeks in magical California.  Seriously with all the flight delays my head hit the pillow at 4:30am! Other than trying to get home, it was truly an amazing experience.  Although it was seriously chillier than I expected it would be.  But the sun was shining almost every day and the sky was so blue.

Never had the chance to share the experience while I was travelling.  Happiness is being that kind of busy.

PACE 2017 San DIego

PACE 2017 - This is a lot of what it was about

The opportunity to paint along side of plein air artists, watch what other are doing and learn from almost everyone.  And one of my personal favourite sports - checking out everyone's gear!  I was on the hunt for lighter gear to take when I am flying.  I had a chance to talk with lots of people to see if and why they love their stuff.  And to see what they would recommend.  Wonderful opportunity. 

The presentations were informative. I took many notes and also sketched some of the people sitting in front of me.  I have a travel sketchbook that I have taken away with me the past four years.  It reads like a journal with good detailed information from the sessions. I get to relive the the experience each time I open it up.  Really happy I have been doing this.

PACE 2017

Friends

This year I met up with Jane Freeman and Marilyn Wear once again.  We have managed to meet up once a year for the past four years - and plan to do it again in Santa Fe in 2018.  

We have so much fun attending the sessions, painting at new locations,  offering advice and opinions on art products and of course the conversations at meal time.  And checking out what each of us may have purchased at the Expo

We met up with so many people and had the opportunity to bond in art.  I would not even know where to start.  Just really grateful for the experience.

Spin to win and nervousness

Part of the excitement was the opportunity to spin to win. Every morning the 1000 attendees sat with anticipation to see if their name would be drawn.  On the last day, anticipation turned to nervousness as I heard my name being called out. I think I may have said crap!  We had to go up on the stage and do a happy dance. I hid behind the wheel but got caught and had to go out on the stage.  I was quite surprised at my reaction - I was trembling inside.  I really do not like attention.  

Wheel spin

New tricks

After PACE wrapped up, Gary came down to San Diego and we toured around, did the tourist thing and travelled up the coast to San Francisco. Coronado Island. Carmel-by-the-Sea. Monterey. Santa Monica. Santa Barbara. Napa. San Francisco. Alcatraz.  Names of places that conjure up so many romantic images in my mind. Fabulous trip.  Wonderful company.  Sigh!

And Gary managed to convince me that selfies are a good thing.  Ha Ha. I really do not like to be photographed.  Have to admit that selfies make fun memories.  Actually it was Marilyn that started the selfie thing.

Update 3 Amethyst Shades of Blue and picking and packing

And then it happened!

I am excited with the completion of each petal.  Then I look to see where I should take my brush next. Drawing further.  Analyzing and looking to understand the negative spaces between the petals. Then getting brave enough to go in with my brush.  

And then it happened. I had my brush fully loaded with a deep shade of blue.  Went to the painting and for some unexplained reason, my brush flicked out of my hand and landed on a light coloured petal. There are words for moments like these.  None that I can share here, but boy-o-boy I moved fast! Fortunately I was able to lift the wayward paint and work the stain into the petal.  Jeepers Helen!

WIP Amethyst Shades of Blue by Helen Shideler

Picking and packing

It always amazes me how fast time goes.  Last year at this time, I was already at PACE 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. Facebook kindly reminds me each time I open it up, greeting me with last year at this time photos. AND here I am, getting ready for PACE 2017 in San Diego! Five more sleeps!

I think the hardest part of all this is getting organized and making decisions.  I spent the better part of this weekend trying to figure it all out.  I took out my amazing Soltek Easel only to realize what I have to keep learning.  It is too heavy to fly.  Then I took out my Plein Air Pro for watercolours. And decided this trip would be about watercolour!  That decision made it easier to get packing.

Anxiously Waiting by Helen Shideler

Donation Kermesse Art Show & Sale IWK Auxiliary

One of my favourite charities is the whole world is the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax.  My beautiful son lived there for much of his 3 1/2 years. Although life did not take us down the path I so hoped and prayed for, I hold the hospital and the care team is such high regard. Each year I donate a painting - this year I donated this painting to their upcoming Kermesse Art Show & Sale in May.  The painting is called "Anxiously Waiting" and I think it personifies all the emotions that I felt and that most parents feel when one of their children is unwell.

Hurry up and Wait and Anxiously Waiting a tough code to live by. And April is the Cruelest Month also resonates.  Anniversaries are tough. Maybe just maybe I am finding comfort in all these Amethyst Shades of Blue with two paintings of blue hydrangeas on the go.  

I have a profound love for spring. A promise of new beginnings and fresh starts.  And it has finally arrived on the Canadian East Coast (although please do not look at the weather forecast for tomorrow night).  Five more sleeps and may I not hear the snow wor again until Christmas!

WIP Update 3 The Pond in Mid-Summer

From side to side

I know it may not look like it, but I am really making progress with my pond painting. As of today the paint now touches the left edge.  This feel like a milestone.

The Pond in Mid-Summer by Helen Shideler

Getting there

Now that I have paint spanning from almost edge to almost edge, it it time to start thinking about what will be coming next.  I have a birch cradled panel the same size as this painting (24"x48") that I have begun priming with gesso.  I have a few ideas of what to paint - but I am thinking about a portrait oriented painting.  Hmmm the eagle in the pine tree at our cottage...bright red hollyhocks, or the sun breaking through the fog in the early morning at a beach.  Hmmm the possibilities are endless.

The gesso-ing process a pain in the rear.  I guess I really hate the feeling of sandpaper.

What comes next?

I have at least one more froggie to place. The one I have in mind is floating in the water with it's legs dangling below him.  And I just happen to have a good variety of photos of leopard frogs at the ready.  Oh, and I have more work on the water lilies including adding in a couple of discreet buds.

Traveling Colours

So excited.  I booked my flight to get me to San DIego and the Plein Air Conference and Expo PACE 2017 .  This is special for so many reasons.  Being at a convention with 900 artists is beyond anything I could ever imagine.  And especially special as I get to spend a week with Jane Feeeman and Marilyn Wear.  I am so excitedtruly blessed!

#PACE

Plein Air in Arizona

I have just returned from the Plein Air Conference and Expo (PACE 16) in Tucson Arizona! And what a wonderful experience it was.  I will be creating a few posts on this experience I am sure. There was so much to do and to take in.  

 

I met up with a few friends there Jane Hagen Freeman and Marilyn Wear.  Marilyn was a prize winner - was so exciting to be there to see her win!  We attended many daily sessions for interest and to help us hone our plein air skills.  I also met up with Poppy Balser from Nova Scotia!

Shideler Plein Air Arizona 2016

It was so hot there that my watercolours kept drying on the palette before I could get the paint to paper.  I persevered and managed to complete three sketches.  One of the most important lessons was the importance of first completing a value sketch to help plan your work.  We herd this a lot and frankly, you cannot hear it enough if you do not do this step.

I dod not keep all my value sketches for some reason as I quite liked them.  Below are a few of the ones that made it safely home.  The sketch on the bottom was be being distracted in one of the sessions - I love to sketch groups of people.

Sketches by Helen Shideler

And we got to visit with some pretty amazing artists

Marilyn, Jane and I with Frank Ebert
Thats me with Georgia Manseur