Sunday, May 12, 2024

Painting Flowers

This weekend is Mother's Day and Mother's Day makes you think of flowers.  Ever since I started painting I loved it when I had a bunch of flowers, often bought from one of those roadside stands that you find in the country.  This would start me off on the challenge of creating something equally wonderful on canvas.  Some of those paintings from the 1990's and early 2000's are presently in a small show at Oeno Gallery in Ontario.  

However, eventually I decided that nature always had one up on me.  It was too difficult to capture the essence of the colours and textures; I would set that challenge aside. 

After 20 years I took the risk of trying again.  During the pandemic, I went crazy with single blossom abstractions, loving the thin texture of the wash and the graphic quality of the edges, against a white ground.  This goes back to when I was starting to get obsessed with painting.  Watercolours were my first choice of medium; the transparency and delicacy of watercolour painting has affected my approach ever since.  I try to resist but it creeps back in.  

My most recent efforts have been on a different scale.  A friend of mine paints mostly in small sizes and does really striking paintings that way.  I thought I would try to see what I could do.  Being in the midst of condensing 2 studios into 1, small also seemed practical.

Here are examples of what I have done on a small scale - some of them look like flowers, but I think of them more as Signs or Signals.

(The first painting has a ruler to keep you in mind of the actual size of these canvases.)

                                                                   Takeoff, 8x8", 2023

                                                                    Startle, 8x8", 2023

Alert, 8x8", 2023

Diamond in the Rough, 8x8", 2022

Rattle, 8x8", 2022

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Black Velvet Paintings

You know those treasures we can still find in second-hand stores, the paintings painted on real velvet?  They gave me the idea of starting with a black canvas, which is the opposite of how I have traditionally worked.  Using different blues, reds, and yellows, I mixed my own blacks, then layered thin washes on the canvas until the surface reached a rich matt finish.  This formed the base for the brush marks I placed on top, the marks thick and thin, opaque and transparent, with their edges jagged or smooth depending on how the brush draws across the canvas.  The dark grounds make the colours pop, but also the dark grounds make a wonderful surface to draw on.  Below you can see the steps I took to paint a Black Velvet painting.  














Saturday, March 25, 2023

'Spring Fever'

These paintings and others of the floral series are presently in a group show at the Oeno Gallery Royal  Annex in Ontario.  This is a very nice exhibition space in The Royal Hotel, Picton, a lovely town near to where the main gallery is located in Bloomfield, Prince Edward County.  Catering to a triangle that encompasses Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal the gallery attracts devotees all year round.  

Here are the other of my paintings in the show:

Velvet Poppy, 30x30", 2020

Twin 2, 30x30", 2020

Purple Rain, 30x30", 2020

Blossom, Pale, 30x30", 2020

If you go to my post for November, 2020, I talk about how I started this series.  I had such fun during that uncertain time.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

New Arrangements

Something fell into my lap last year that I hadn't been looking for; but I knew when I saw it that I wanted it.  For the last few years I have been trying to simplify my life and here was something that might work.  There are so many things I do, things that I do and enjoy doing, but I struggle to stuff them into the few short hours of every day.  

Up until now, I have always had 3 or 4 galleries showing my work.  From the early 80's when I went to Toronto and met up with the formidable gallerist Miriam Shiell; and through the years when I connected at the Emma Lake Workshops with the brilliant artist Robert Christie and his gallery at that time, Art Placement in Saskatoon; and then there was John Long of the Wade Gallery who took my paintings to Los Angeles.  That is only the beginning of the great galleries that I have been lucky to be shown by.  They were artists and dealers who loved art and worked in a difficult business to introduce me to the world.  

Because I have had the luxury of being able to go to my studio every day, I have always had paintings galore to show.  That is not the problem  The problem is selecting shows, sending jpegs out, keeping in touch with the galleries, packing paintings to be delivered to the galleries, and so on.  Lots to do.  

When Oeno Gallery made the suggestion that I show with them exclusively, I was very ready to listen.  This would be simpler.  Rather than having work all over the place, and losing track of it, and forgetting about it for a while;  I could focus on the one relationship and be on top of what is happening.

And that is what we have been doing for a while now.  It is going very well.  In fact, it is going so well, that there is only one hang up - I am busier than ever.  

Here is a photo of me relaxing at the Sandbanks in Prince Edward County, which is where the Oeno Gallery is located.

Friday, September 02, 2022

My First Studio outside of my Home

 My first studio downtown was in the Gault Building on Water Street.  They made work clothes and overalls during the depression and Second World War;  my uncle told me that one of the workers was killed when he fell down the freight elevator shaft and the next day there was a line-up of people out the door and down the street, hoping to get the job.  

One brave day in 77 or so, when my kids were finally in school full time,  I ventured down to Gastown to meet an agent about renting a space for a studio.  This building eventually became a fine part of the Gastown restoration project, but at the time it was pretty empty above the bottom three floors.  

For around $75 a month, I was able to rent a great space on the top floor and my husband came down and built a wall so that I could lock my door.  The view out the window was the Vancouver waterfront and the North Shore mountains.  

Because I was paying the grand sum of $75 a month, I hurried there at every opportunity that I had.  I painted the view out the window, I painted from sketches and watercolours I made around the city, and I set up still lives to paint from.  I painted and painted and painted.

When you are painting that much, eventually you build up a body of work that you would like to exhibit. In 1979 I approached The Studio Shop in West Vancouver and they gave me my first solo exhibition.  Recently I counted up and I have had 55 solo exhibitions since then and participated in over 65 group shows.  

I have had some nice studios over the years, but I think that was my favourite.   

Monday, June 06, 2022

On the Question of Changing Your Style


                        Photo from 'A Life of Picasso The Minotaur Years, 1933-1943' by John Richardson

I was so surprised to see that these portraits of a woman's head (I forget which one it was, maybe Dora Maar) were both painted in 1939.  Look how different they are!  One is a somewhat realistic depiction of a woman with a cute green hat.  We would know who it is if it were a friend.  The other one however is a strange contortion of a head and body, sort of surrealist, and only the people on the inside know who it is intended to be.

Many times I am chastising myself because I keep changing my 'style', if you can call it that.  I go back and forth from a more realistic depiction of a landscape to a minimalist abstraction with only a few clues as to what it is.  For instance, here is a lake that I painted inn 1999:

Chaperon's Lake, 38x54", 1999.

You can see it is sort of an impressionist lake scene with shrubs and bushes in the foreground, then the water of the lake and the view across it.  However, here is another lake that I painted in 1988:

Lake Shapes, 40x50", 1988.

It is so different. There was time to change because they were painted 10 years apart.  But Chaperon's Lake is more similar to the work I did in the 80's when I was first starting out; and Lake Shapes is hinting at what I went on to paint in the early 2000's.  I guess I sometimes I have to remind myself that I can still do something, to reassure myself that I am still me.  And it is actually really boring if you are just repeating yourself.  When you are in your studio regularly you have lots of ideas and you want to try them all.  Many famous artists do it with no qualms at all.  Look at Gerard Richter - his two different styles are extremely apart from each other, all abstract to photographic reality.  

Friday, February 11, 2022

O'Keeffe & Stieglitz An American Romance by Benita Eisler

For the past month or so, I have been quite entertained by this biography. Written in 1992, it is full of endless details and sometimes cutting comments about the subjects' behaviour.


Because Steiglitz had his renowned gallery 291 and later The Place, Alfred and Georgia knew and interacted with many artists, collectors, critics and society figures.  The names are so familiar:  Charles Demuth, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Florine Stettheimer, Mabel Dodge Luhan, it goes on and on; they seemed to know everybody, wealthy and not.  

One artist that I was inspired by, John Marin, was a good friend of theirs.  I always wanted to see more of the actual paintings and drawings that he created; they were full of energy and life.  But it was curious to hear about him as a human being with the flaws and ups and downs in his relationship with them.

O'Keefe and Stieglitz were brilliant artists, and brilliant marketers, but they were not brilliant in interacting with each other or with their friends.  Living at a time when people wrote letters, there is quite a record of their thoughts and behaviours, not only through their own letters but also through the letters of others.  The author doesn't hesitate to note how nasty and even cruel they could be, the both of them, on occasion when interacting with each other and their friends and acquaintances.

While reading, I dug out an old coffee table book that had reproductions of Georgia's work.  I hadn't really looked at any of her paintings for a long time.  What surprised me was that I liked them more than I remembered; but however I was unsettled that my recent floral inspirations may have been influenced by what I saw so many years ago.  

Georgia O'Keeffe, 'Black Iris', 36x30", 1926

Me, 'Canna Lily', 42x42", 2019

They worked hard, all their life, and saw the rewards for that, Georgia more than Alfred at the end.  When he died, he was quite hard up.  Georgia being younger had more time to produce paintings and lived long enough to become a very rich woman.