Moorings–knife painted triptych

Moorings demanded to emerge !  I had painted four versions of this photo several years ago, after obtaining permission from the photographer, Christian Smith.  Why it became an obsession this March is unknown, although I do have a theory.  Having bought pairs of canvases in 12 x 24  in and 16 x 20 in, then painted one of each, the two lonely ones kept giving me depressed looks from their place beside my printer.  The day that a local shop brought in an array of canvasses set me off–or was it up?

Logistics were a frequent problem while painting.  To begin, a simple pencil mark separated sky from ground, so ligning up those major areas was straight-forward.  Then the fun began !  My work space, the kitchen island, is complicated by “life”.  The cats regard it as their space, there are an electric kettle and resident tea pot to work around, and then the just started Christmas puzzle, under the plastic table cloth, creates some unhelpful “texture” to  complement the scattered bits of dry cat food that appear mysteriously.  All three canvases WILL fit on at once, but only if one hangs off the end of the island in a precarious position that will not tolerate the sudden arrival of an air-borne cat..  Quick checks for alignment really must be quick !  Because of the volumes of paint needed, I was also trying to use both of my small Sta-Wet palettes, further complicating the effort to keep cat paws out of the paint.  They are not supposed to drink the painting water or chew my brushes, either–much less carry them off to secret hiding spots.  Trying to paint while all three are asleep seems to be the logical answer, but they draw straws to see who is on duty, looking for tempting things to do with me, while the other two get to nap.  Ah, the struggles in the life of a painter…… 

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Have you ever been in a place (physically, mentally or emotionally) where everything is so still, no movement or ‘disturbances”? Lately I have been thinking about time and reflections. How we invest or spend it and who we choose to invest it in or with. The funny thing is that whether you think about investing or spending time, the only thing that seems almost criminal is to ‘waste it’. The act of waiting is one of those that may seem like a waste of time… unless we use it for what is intended: reflect and prepare.
In one of my many drives last Summer I saw this almost blinding view while coming to a stop. The reflections in the water were so striking that… you guess it: I stopped and took a photo. This specific painting has taken me longer than anticipated. Partly, because I chose to do more of a glaze (which I usually don’t do because of the waiting process) and partly because though I liked the view and I liked the reflections it had no emotional connection to me. Until, I started thinking about the many hours I was investing in painting it.
Upon that realization, it came to my mind how fitting the title would be: Reflections. Reflections are just that, a mirror of an image. But when applied to us, to our thinking process, to our experiences and perhaps our spiritual walk, they also show us the real image; we see ourselves for who we are. Just like in a painting, these reflections could be blurry if the water where we are seeing our image is cloudy; yet it gives us the thought of a different possibility of what we have in mind. The trick of those mental and visual reflections is to identify where the light comes from, are we only blocking the light, creating a shadow? Or, are we really seeing a clearer image of what we think we see?  In the case of this painting, I was able to capture both, shadows and reflections. You’ll see that the first ones have a different angle and different tones in the water.
After this reflection ( no pun intended),  I was able to conclude that it was because I took the time to study and work on this piece that I could capture what sometimes we can ignore, light, shadows and reflections, which in reality, are not far from each other.


May you take the time to stop, invest and see the reflections that light causes in everything… there are more than shadows out there.  Hope you enjoy this piece!

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To Train a Beginning Painter

After my very early experiences with painting instruction, and my quite recent ventures into different techniques as a retired adult, it came to me that starting out by using painting knives instead of brushes could be a very useful way of eliminating the common reliance on tight control and tiny details that so many of us get involved in.

I am using painting knives more and more in my own work–and I love the freedom of expression that they spontaneously bring to painting.  I admit to being somewhat horrified by the volume of paint required, however.   As a painter of tiny miniatures, the fact that one scoop of the knife can gather more paint than needed for an entire painting of my usual size and style is more than a tad unnerving.

Perhaps that is one reason that my class and I are enjoying grabbing a knife to scrape our palette at the end of a session, then just playing with the paint.  Some results are rather mediocre–but others get the “WOW !” reaction.  Besides, it is so much more interesting than just wiping the palette clean and heading home as we used to do.  On days like today, some of us will even work the entire session with our knife in hand.  We are finding that using 140# or heavier watercolour paper, or stretched canvas, works well for this method.  In class we work mostly with acrylics, although watercolour is a second choice.  As we paint at the local Seniors’ Drop-In Centre, we have mostly avoided oils because of their odor/solvent requirements.  There is no need to gas the Scrabble players behind us!

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Mountain View

Mountains, no matter how many times I drive by or see them, they always remind me of the sense of peace, tranquility and security one can feel when you know that you are protected by someone way bigger than you.  Somehow the Mountain View makes us think of rest and evoke feelings that need to be felt more than translated with words.
During last year’s Plein Air I started this acrylic painting. I had already made a similar study in Pastels  (Wetlands) but I knew there was more that I needed to get out of that experience.  I finally came to the conclusion that instead of going back to my photographic archives as reference I wanted to go back to my feelings archive: The movement, the combination or elements, the smells, sounds, sun light, wind and the tree that I was sitting under while I did this study.  Instead of continuing with my acrylic approach, I decided to make it into a Mixed Media. I knew the palette I wanted to use and started to add Pastels that later would be mixed and adhered with medium. Everything was coming along yet there were 2 elements that were missing: The Mountains that I couldn’t see, because according to my visual archive they were to the left of my view and the tree that kept me protected from the sun… so, I added them. I used parts of the phone book I just received and continued the application of Pastels, Acrylics and Ink for the final touches. My husband came up with the title, which I loved. This time it was finished…
Through this process I was reminded that our senses, as amazing as they are, don’t give us the “full” experience. The things that matter the most to us are the ones that sometimes our visual mind could even fight because they are not in the view; yet, without the things that protect us and give us a sense of security and peace we only have a partial view.


May you always have the full perspective of everything you experience in life and know that life is much more than this.

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Finding some clay

During the summer on one of my many paddling trips I found some clay. It was on the bank of the Red Deer River just a short distance upstream of Sundre, Alberta. It was smooth feeling, very plastic clay. I thought I would try to throw and fire it to see what I could get. I grabbed the bailing bucket and loaded it full of clay and took it with me.

Once home I plopped it on the wheel since it seemed to have little to no debris in it and I made a vase effortlessly. Any twig or pebble was removed or considered to add character to the clay. It is very nice clay to use. The next challenge was firing it in the kiln. I experimented with a higher temperatures upon each firing and eventually it failed. It was a catastrophic failure. The clay would crack with a load bang and break into pieces. So I learned, not so high a firing next time.

I tried a couple different glazes and some worked well and others made it crack again. It made me appreciate the store bought prepared clay. I chose a blue glaze to work with at first since I found it on the waters edge. I also had a few other glazes that I could test it with that would be a good matching.

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