Monday, June 30, 2008

Can't stop working

Tonight I'm making adjustments to work I'm submitting to a show.
I've shown the work before, but some of the pieces are mine, and
others are in my care, so I can keep working on them. Should I/
I think you can work on a piece until your brain feels finished with
it, and your heart agrees. There's that final finished Ahhh. Then
there's no point working on it. But I frequently feel that I could
and should do more, even when I've exhibited something more
than once.

Here's is a painting of my son's girlfriend, Megan, that I showed you
last night. I've done quite a bit of work on her mouth today, and
then messed around with other parts of the painting, and I may go back to the original feel on some areas.

The painting is very big -- 4ft. wide x
3ft. tall. The background of flaming
sunset was done with a palette knife.
Megan loves the outdoors so it
seemed appropriate. And fun.

Have a make-up-your-mind-to-be-happy day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday night

It's been a great day, but I still have painting to do.
Tomorrow -- the day before Canada Day, should
be a day off, but I have quite a bit of work to get
photographed for a show, so I'm just doing some
touch ups tonight.

I remember the first time I had a show with
Jennifer Hinrichs, I was shocked at how picky
we had to be about the details. Most of the time
I don't frame my work anymore, which is definitely
one of the great advantages of painting on stretched canvas.
But when we were framing all the time, it was an
agony keeping the glass clean, making sure no dust was sitting
on the mat. The tiniest speck of dust could ruin the look
of a watercolour.

I'm making a few changes to one of my big works, a painting
of my son's girlfriend Megan. The painting belongs
to Megan and Christopher, but it's huge so they couldn't
take it to Korea. I'll give you her eyes tonight, and maybe
the whole thing tomorrow. I know the picture is a bit
blurry. Forgive me,

Have a dreaming-in-blurry-colour evening.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Taking a break

I should be working tonight. I've been torturing myself looking at wonderful painters who produce one small painting a day -- many of them astoundingly good. Rats. I take a long time to do most paintings. When I see these blogs though I am so impressed. I think the concept works like the Skip Lawrence, or Bob Burridge idea of starting each day with a series of small paintings as a warm up. Every time I try that I find myself one week later still trying to finish up one of the nine paintings I began a week ago. But it's also clear that the daily discipline keeps
a painter fluent because of the need to work hard consistently.

I have a lot of work to repair, finish, just bring up to scratch for
my own satisfaction. But Steven and I have a tradition of going out
to the movies most Saturday evenings and I really want to watch
a TV film with him as a second best alternative.

Sometimes life wins out over art. The truth -- everything an artist
looks at "could be" art -- and that's both the joy and frustration of
the job. Did I say job? Forgive me. Painting is a job; I'm happy to
say it's mine. This little painting sold right away. I painted it
from a photo image I took of one of my models relaxing between
her timed poses. It was done in acrylic on watercolour paper, then
glazed with shiny gel medium. The resulting photo record taught
me to photograph my work before I glaze it.

Have a night off -- enjoy yourself!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Loving a landscape

This is my first small painting of Bear River which sold almost before it was dry. I don't
have a larger image of the picture because
I forgot to photograph it properly before it
went into a show last fall, and that was that.
Flora Doehler allowed me to paint images from
her wonderful photos of Bear River and I did
two takes on this image.

Right now Flora is enduring the hardships of
gardening in the country, and still staying
joyful about her decision, despite, the bugs,
weeds and other problems.

I sat on top of our ladder pruning our cherry tree today. It has a
horrendous fungus, but produces bushel after bushel of sour cherries
for pies and maybe this year cherry liqueur made according to a recipe
in Joanne Harris's Five Quarters of the Orange.

It is hot here, and not at all pruning weather, but like Radio Noon's,
Ed Lawrence on CBC says, prune when you've got the
pruning sheers in your hands. It's really time to take it easy.

Have a quit-working-and-dance night.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In the bag

A few weeks ago I was looking at the work of some wonderful
realist painters working on objects inside glass, and in lunch
bags. That Sunday I was attracted to apples in a plastic bag lying on the table when Steven and I were unpacking after our weekend shopping trip. I grabbed the bag and made off with it into the studio, promising to buy more, and began this little painting -- but I just couldn't get it to work.

I started the way I sometimes do with small paintings, drawing
with fine marker on a pre-painted ground. In this case the ground was orange for warmth. But the pen was
too harsh, the apples the wrong colour.

Tonight I went at it again, as a break from a formal portrait
I was working on, and it's almost done. I like the exuberance.
High realist it's not. And my friends who don't believe in
white will be certain there's too much of it. Maybe so,
and yet -- a bag of apples now and then is fun to paint.
What's the rule about the doctor. An apple a day?

Have a break the rules with passion day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drawing a first impression

I've been working today on one of my commissions. The client wants me to include her two cats. So I've blown up the photos (the cats would not enjoy the trip to my studio -- or my two cats, and the dog). I've met the cats who are beautiful. Tonight I thought I'd try a quick sketch, so here it is. Coloured pencil and Sharpie produced this odd combo, which I changed to black and white because the colours really didn't work. The bad thing is it isn't paint, the good thing is I can already feel how I'll go about painting this guy. I did the drawing to get a feeling for the look of the cat. So that's it. When it's all done I'll show you the painting.

Meanwhile, have a Purrfect night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our Wedding Anniversary

This will be short and sweet because it's my wedding anniversary.
We've had a wonderful day - sleeping in, reading, puttering around
the house, then lunch on the waterfront

at the Waterside Bistro,
a great little restaurant behind the tennis club at the end of
Sherbourne Street.
It has the best view of the lake, so we ate
lunch watching the ferries go back and forth and the gulls and ducks flying around. When we had dinner there last year a duck named Freida came begging for fries at all the tables.
Then tonight we ate at a local tapas restaurant on St. Clair called Tapas by Personal Touch,
and that was delicious too. We toasted our long, and happy
marriage, and our great life together, then walked in the clear,
starry night. Perfect.

The pictures are of 1. Our wedding day. 2. The current version.

Have a celebratory night.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stand up for your brights

Here's a little sketch I did many years ago, probably imitating one of my favorite painters, although I don't know who right away -- maybe Derain. Whoever it was, I like the drawing for its bold use of colour. I've been painting all day today, but can't share the results with you yet because it's a sustained portrait. I think this was the fifth session and it's turning the corner -- becoming a personality, not just a painting. That's always a great feeling -- knowing I will capture a person's essence. It's
not quite there yet, but coming.

Have an essentially lovely night.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weird day

While we were shopping for groceries at a Superstore north of
the city, an amazingly powerful lightning storm hit.
The roof of the high steel building reverberated with hit after
hit of lightning, but held. Then one of the indoor water pipes
broke and water gushed down into the store in a torrent like
a waterfall. The aisles started flooding dramatically and an
announcement came on over the loud speaker that the store
was being evacuated.

Steven said that would be a Sev 1 incident, meaning it was severe
enough to shut down business. They were letting people out through
just one door, and I asked if they could open another one.
So they did. The storm cleared up just as we were walking to our
car, and we drove home through blue sky and sunshine.
Thank you universe. Here's a very small 3" x 6" landscape of
a sunny, fall Ontario scene I painted a few years ago.

Have a calm and peaceful day!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A floral finish

The past few days have been busy, but last night I put the
finishing touches on the pansy painting I talked about
the other day. Ultimately a painting is finished when
it feels completed. See if you can see what's changed.
It's Saturday night and we're going to the movies.

Have an everything's-entertaining day.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Settling down into the weekend

Hi friends,

It's been quite a week -- what with my son heading off to Korea,
and the cat getting fixed. The cat's doctor wants us to watch her
like hawks. Of course real hawks would eat her because she
only weighs 5.6 pounds. So I'm painting again, but tonight we're
going to say goodbye to Chad who works at the pub where my son,
Christopher used to work.

Here's a picture of Fiona. She'll be all better next week. This week
we're trying to keep her calm. Good luck! She's a nine month old
Siamese kitten. Fun is her middle name.

Have a hanging-out-with-friends night.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back at you


One of my friends says, "back at you," when you say
anything complimentary. I like the sound of the
saying -- it's like a tennis ball coming back across the
net. In painting little works can rest for months on
a shelf, then come back at you asking for more

I was working on a big painting today and my pansy
painting from April caught my eye. Our recent cold
weather has been a boon to pansies, and once again
they're blooming like crazy -- so my kitchen table
is covered with little cream jugs filled with these
beauties. So I resumed work on this small painting
and it's almost done. I'll know it's really finished when I
sign it, and that hasn't happened yet.

An artist I know asked if I couldn't just crank these
tiny paintings out. This is 6x6" and the answer is
-- apparently not.

Have a loving-all-sizes day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Painting joy produces results

I admit it -- my bias leans towards happy art. That said, there's a big difference between happy and sappy, and I try to stay on the joy train, without turning my work into Hallmark cards. This painting of my friend, Carolee is a case in point. When I asked her to pose so I
could photograph her for a painting, she was reluctant.
It was a bad year for her, and she was doing her best
to get through it. My demands were annoying, just
another hassle. Carolee has great taste, and she's moved twice since this image was painted, but she always creates a magnificent garden. Plus she's a beautiful woman and a delight to paint.

The photos I took were a far cry from the final result,
except that Carolee was in this pose, and wearing these
clothes. Her true expression was a kind of wry resignation -- as in,
"let's get this over with."

My goal is frequently to portray what I feel is the joy, or even potential joy inside a person. And that's what I did with Carolee.
The painting hangs in the office I share with my boss
at Seneca, and everyone who sees it, loves it. And Carolee?
She's happier than she's ever been in her life, in love
and living with a wonderful man. So there you go.

Have a looking and feeling happy day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drawing for relief

My oldest son, who is still my "baby" and always will
be, is in the air as I write this over the Pacific ocean
heading towards Korea.
We said goodbye at 7:30 this morning, holding up
the line by hugging, and hearing the harsh voice of the airline woman saying, "go around them
they're not ready."

Hard-hearted, still the airport
was pretty, the morning magnificent -- sunlight streaming
in in glorious broad bands, and a crisp cold air of fall
in the June day. Perfect travelling weather.

As I said yesterday, I've always been drawing -- not well
necessarily, and to the horror of my classical
instructors in felt marker, which if anything is
more glorious to draw with today than ever. (Sharpies
come in every colour).

Here are a couple of drawings from my sketchbook
in Christopher's first year.

The first is of C.J. sleeping in the summer
heat of our rented house, and the second is an
odd sketch of the Mona Lisa. I like all the colour,
but you can see that I was a rushed new mother.
Still M.L. (Mona Lisa) seems to be saying the right
thing with her odd smile. "All will be well."

Have a loving-where-you-are evening.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The art of goodbye

What is the art of Goodbye? I can see amazing paintings of ships with women waving delicate hankies from the prow, but in the modern world you send people off half way across the world in a fluorescent lit airport
with security everywhere, preventing them from taking even an apple on board, and the whole event is steeped
in a cocktail of boredom coupled with tears and fear.

The fear must always have been there.
Even when there was more possibility for ceremony.

Well I'm trying hard to be artful in how I say goodbye to my son, Christopher as he takes off to teach in Korea. I was lucky to spend quite a bit of time with him today looking for the perfect birthday present so we could have a mini birthday party for him tonight, before he goes. I've been drawing him since just after he was born, so he's certainly been an influence on my painting, and he is just a great person in every way.

Here's a sketch of my baby when he was one,
and a photo of Christopher and Megan hanging out
in our kitchen. I wish them every happiness on
their adventure, and can't wait until they're back
at our kitchen table again.

Have an appreciating-your-home day.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

My own father has been dead for 20+ years, although it's a testament
to the power of love, that my brother and I talk and joke about him
almost every time we phone each other. Steven, my husband, is a
great Dad -- loving, very involved in his sons' lives, and proud of them.
Tonight we're going to a send off party for my oldest, Christopher,who is going to Korea to teach English with his girlfriend, Megan, for two years. This will be quite the party, because it's Father's Day for both Dads, and
a Farewell event. The weather is planning to make its own fireworks I hear from the girl at the carwash,
so it should be exciting.

From left to right Christopher, Steven and Sam.

Have a loving-your-family-day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The way home

There are places in the world that feel like home, even though
you've never lived there. My mother's house in Ottawa is one
of those places -- a converted cottage, originally on a street of modest
summer homes, now prime real estate, it's across the Ottawa River
from Aylmer. The house is unremarkable, but the view is something else -- spectacular at almost any time of year, as places on water tend to be. I talked to someone last year who had moved
to Toronto from a house on a lake north of the city. Of course
we have Lake Ontario here, but her family doesn't live by the lake,
and she keenly missed the water view. My mother has that.
The Gatineau hills stretch away on the other side of the river, blue
in most light, and in summer my mom is cheered by the sight of
sailboats from the local yacht club racing .

I was in university when my parents moved to Ottawa. So I only
lived in the house in the summer between semesters. After
university I stayed on in Guelph for awhile, then moved to
various towns before settling in Toronto. But Ottawa, and in
particular my mother's acreage, will always hold a special place
in my heart.

Have a sailing for home day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Working the family thing

Here's my third and final sample of a Little Art Show
painting. The challenge in each case was to create
a strong painting, in my main area of exploration

portraits, on a 7x9" canvas. When Carolyn Megill
ran the show, she brought the canvasses to each
artist, on the theory that you were already
donating your skill. My son Christopher gave
me permission to use a photograph he took
of his beautiful friend, Neely, as reference. I'd met Neely several times, so I was familiar with her face. The final image was quite stylized, but it worked in the big room where the work was displayed.

The second shot is of the people looking at the paintings arranged around the perimeter of the
huge BMW ballroom where the show took place.

What else is happening? In the
world behind the art there was quite
a dramatic thunder storm tonight.
Steven and I and Zoey dog ran home
from the park, and got inside just as
the worst of it began.

Lorraine Roussel, a fabulous artist,
visited and we shared lunch today.

Have a delightfully friendly day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Small is powerful

I've painted Claudia so often, that she is certainly
one of my muses. Here's a painting I did for one
of the Little Art Show exhibitions. Claudia's
fresh, stylish face inspired a bold painting.
Even though it sold a few years ago, it remains
one of my favorites. In fact it's been a kind of
icon for me, and is on my St. Clair Art Walk
street sign.

Have a strikingly beautiful night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Out into the yard

Steven and I are always late planting the garden.
We really need staff even for our tiny plot. But the time
has definitely come to start. I've pulled out most of the
forget-me-nots crowding every conceivable other form
of plant life. Now it's time to put in the ritual list. A
few years ago my brother, Andrew gave me a list
of what I must include, and every suggestion on it is one of my favorites. So here it is:

• Nicotiana
• Cleome
• Morning Glories -- Heavenly Blue
• Nasturtiums
• Poppies - red
• Blue Delphiniums
• Ornamental Tree -- got them
• Sweet Peas (haven't tried those in a few years)
• Cosmos (have never got this together)
• Trumpet vine, (not yet)
• Datura (had to stop because the seed
pods are dangerous for pets).
He forgot red geraniums, which I love for
their smell and hardy success with
erratic gardeners.

Here's an idyllic, 12"x 12" painting of our backyard,
based more on feeling than reality. When the
whole space is packed with the flowers I love,
I feel extremely happy.

Have a jubilant day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hanging out with art donors

One way to meet other interesting artists is to get
involved in communities outside your own area.
Toronto is so huge that that's not hard to do.
Flora Doehler,
and I met at the Don Valley Art Club, mid-way across
town from my home and studio -- it's true -- our paintings
introduced us. You expect friendships to arise
out of connections with your children's friends' parents
in your community, or fellow dog walkers in your local park,
but we actually met because we admired each other's art.
And Flora introduced me to Carolyn Megill, another amazing
artist and wonderful woman, who ran The Little Art Show (LAS)
for a number of years. I took part in three of those shows.
That project was in support of the Riverdale Art Walk,
and though I never participated in the walk, I supported it
by donating to the art auction Carolyn headed up that helped
fund it. My friends and I had a great time, and saw some amazing
paintings and photography. A classy event the LAS was put on in
the big BMW ballroom down near the Lakeshore, catered with
great food, elegant flowers, a deejay, and cash bar. It was an event
with a capital E. I was very proud of the small paintings I submitted
that helped that art community.

Here's one of them. The photo isn't as clear as it should be,
but you can see that I was working on the King Tut theme
at the time and couldn't wait to put some gold leaf on my
painting. The subject is Rosalind, my boss, whose three quarter
length portrait I did that year.

Through that event I was lucky to get to know Carolyn,
have been to her shows, and even bought one of her
superb paintings, but maybe that's a subject for another
day. It's late.

This artist needs to clean up the studio.

Have visually giving day today!

Monday, June 9, 2008

The china series

Every now and then I get in the mood to do a series. Here's a series of very small paintings I did a few years ago based loosely on my grandmother's wedding tea set. I love china, and collecting antique china is one of my passions. My granny's very delicate china set, is one of the
few things I have left to remember her by. But I also think
my love of china is comical, and that's why the pieces are set against
the bright background colours I love so much, and have
stylized shadows in bright contrasting colours. I started each
painting with the background colour, drew the cups and the jug
with a black marker, then painted them in and gilded the gold
with real gold leaf. I can't erase the marker line, so it
lends an insistent quality to the otherwise detailed paintings.

The photo doesn't do the work justice.

Have a collectible day.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Soaring seaward

The first hot day hit like an exhaust fume from hell.
We didn't have the air conditioners in (yes we use
portables - and yes we use air conditioners), and the heat
in the house was stupefying. Last night Steven and I
hardly slept, and tonight I find myself yearning like
a trapped bird for Nova Scotia. The
pull to get in the car and go is
strong. Vruumm, Vrummm,
Vrrrrummmm as my sons would say gunning their trucks when they were little (toys not ride ons, you guys are touchy tonight!).

Fuel of course is prohibitive. Flying isn't an option, and... I just want to go.Out there we live in our little one room school house, (two if you count the makeshift second floor)
we read, play cards, and plan the
next meal. We go to a fabulous beach in a nearby provincial park
every day. We visit our wonderful friends, and get restored back to something approaching warm,
positive and human. For me summer = Nova Scotia = schoolhouse = beach = friends = fun.

Photos: The schoolhouse,
the hill running down to the beach,
the beach, playing volleyball at
our friends' party, our dog Zoey (left)
with her friend, Kujo.

Have a flying away night.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The morning after

This painting depicts the morning after the big party.
The young man has a look of resignation and is
back in the land of reality looking for work.

I like its fresh simplicity.

Have a simply wonderful night.

Friday, June 6, 2008

In a party mood

These portraits, Before the dance in the white dress,
and its twin, After the dance in the white dress,
are part of the Dance series I've been working on for
a few years. I started the theme out of respect for my
students, who emerge from time to time from the very casual
clothes they wear in class, to show an entirely different,
more timeless side of their personalities when they dress up.

I am attracted to the timeless quality of people in
fancy dress. Recently my son went to the prom
with his girlfriend, and there is no question in
my mind, that men need more occasions to dress
up. Tuxedos exude elegance, and the men who
wear them well appreciate that.

My niece, Chloé posed for these two paintings,
and did a great job conveying the mood of
anxiety before the dance, and of exhaustion
afterwards -- perhaps after a very late post-prom

Have a timeless and elegant day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

For the love of cherries

Our little cherry tree planted in a space
between the garage and the neighbour's
fence, which is too small for the poor
thing, has been the source of great joy
and more than one painting.

Here I played with branches with
not yet ripe green cherries, in a
crystal jug against a cherry red ground.
It's more detailed than I thought it was
going to be. Outside right now the
cherries are exactly like this on the tree.
Thunder ripples through the sky, and
the cat is asking me to shut down
my computer.

In a few weeks we will have so many
cherries that both Steven and our neighbour
Gill will make as many pies as our
families can eat, and then ---poof it's
all over and the birds and squirrels
who can stand sour cherries harvest the rest.

Have a crystal clear day tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Portraits in humour

Patti-Anne, my former boss Frank's wife,
is what Frank would describe as, "drop
dead gorgeous," and a very funny woman.
One of her favorite expressions is,"too
funny!" as she cracks up watching a
comedy skit. She is also a pro
golfer, so when Frank asked me to paint
her, I knew I had to honour her love of
the outdoors.

Of course she posed in my studio (living
room/dining room), but I placed her
on my back porch, with a sunny,
abstract floral background. I love the
energy in the painting -- her athletic
strength and femininity coming through,
and the clear expression of the sparkling
sense of humour I enjoyed so much while
she sat for the portrait.

Have a witty and enjoyable evening!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Small is beautiful

Trying out new ideas is a lot less fraught, if you work on a smaller canvas. Here are a two
7x9" paintings, I did a couple of years ago. In the first I
was playing around with a red ground, something
I'd just started working with. In the second I started the
drawing on bond paper, then gel mediumed it to a
canvas, painted it in acrylic, and applied a thick
gel medium glaze.

What did I learn? I prefer working on either
watercolour paper with acrylics, or canvas.
Good to know. Both paintings sold, and
were fun to do. That's always my first goal with
painting -- enjoying myself.

Have a cutting-edge day!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Painting the cat

Here's a watercolour (sold) I did of my cat Simone. She died very young (8) last fall and we were broken hearted. If you follow this blog you know we brought home a new
Siamese cat, Fiona, two weeks later. I haven't painted her picture yet.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Exciting times

One of the most exciting evenings of my life
as an artist happened the night I won
Best Portrait, for this odd little painting
submitted to the Don Valley Art Club
spring show. That year the judge was
a man who travelled extensively for
Windsor Newton. In choosing my painting
he said that he had just been to a show
of portraits at the Tate in London, and
that my work was equal to anything there.

Wow! There were oohs and aahs from the
crowd, and a friend of ours rushed away
from the room and purchased the painting
on the spot. The evening was not only
wonderful, surprising and a hit on every
score. But the funny thing was that because
it was a self portrait, it never occurred to
me that someone would buy it. I had painted it more or less as an artist's joke
for my family, because my true artist's costume, is a pair of paint covered jeans
and an old sweater. But this was funny.

The moral of the story? Have fun painting, because the art
world is full of surprises.

Have an exciting and surprising day.

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!