Wildflowers & Artistic Identity

Thursdays on my Facebook page, I’ve been playing along with Throwback Thursday, hashtag #tbt , posting paintings that are several years old, and maybe hold a special meaning or memory. I thought it would be fun to let my web site join in, so to start it off I’m sharing this botanical style watercolour, painted way back in 1998. This is the painting that defined the beginning of my artistic career.

alaska highway wildflowers 1998

When I painted this, I was young, just twenty years old, a few months away from marrying Wade, and I remember clearly sitting at the table in my apartment, carefully shading the petals. It was a tentative process, but exciting, because what was appearing on the paper was, for the first time, nearly equal to what I had envisioned when I sat down to paint. Through my teens I had dreamed of being able to legitimately call myself an artist, and was basically waiting for permission to do so. This painting was my green light, the moment I realized I could be an artist, and not be ashamed to define myself as one.

Years later, I see things a little differently. Art has always been at the core of who I am, and that would have been the case whether my paintings were ever “successful” or not. But feeling capable of creating work of a certain calibre did give me a confidence in pursuing my dream that I might not have had otherwise. It is possible that if I hadn’t had this defining moment painting, I would have hidden my art and my dreams away on a shelf somewhere, and my life would have looked very different in 2014.

But maybe not. I’m not very good at giving up on dreams. And I still love this painting.

Northern BC Beauty: New Painting

I have a bit of a thing for skies. Talk about an unlimited canvas of ever-changing, amazing wonder!"Breaking Through" watercolour, 15" x 22"
“Breaking Through” watercolour, 15″ x 22″

I have four paintings in various stages of completion, using photos from our road trip into northern British Columbia last weekend. Stunning scenery! When my reference photos turn out so well, it’s hard to imagine improving on them in a painting. But of course, painting isn’t about copying photographs. In my paintings I want to draw out emotions, to show a bit of the awe I feel at the beauty in the world, in tiny and not-so-tiny moments of splendor.

“Breaking Through” is available for purchase. Email me to inquire.

Student Work: Growth and Style Development

I love seeing my watercolour students’ work as they progress in my classes and continue to pursue watercolour on their own. While I enjoy teaching how I paint, it’s even more exciting to see students apply the techniques and interpret them in their own way, and of course, this is what truly makes art art.

Here are a few of the paintings that have inspired me from my students’ work these last few weeks (don’t forget that you can check out my online classes and sign up here):

denise h

Denise H. explored negative painting, and created this image that would make a wonderful Christmas card in my online “Florals” class.

Poulami

Poulami watched my “5 Stroke Berries” video on Youtube (and yes, I know I used more than five strokes) and was inspired to create this fluid berry painting.

arlo wild rose

While my floral class features daisies, Arlo used the techniques to create this lovely wild rose with fascinating edges.

Mary Jo (2)

Mary Jo is also taking the Florals class and created this summery arrangement. I like the way she didn’t forget which way the sun was coming from (I had such a hard time with this when I was starting out…still do sometimes!)

Jocye C

Here are a couple from my “Exploring Fluid Colour” course. Joyce painted lychee nuts (which I haven’t tasted since I was a teenager, living in Papua New Guinea!) and while her painting appears realistic, there are lots of areas of fluid colour and looseness here to enjoy.

Estefi S

Estefi’s paintings are breathtaking – I have to admire a portrait artist, and she’s posted a number of paintings in my Skillshare class that have such expression and mood! She wasn’t happy with her dog’s nose, but I think you will agree with me that those doleful eyes make this a wonderful painting.

Patricia K

Patricia posted this painting of sea grapes in my Floral class gallery and I think what I love most is the clarity of it – it almost has a transparent feel somehow, like a piece of stained glass.

Julieanna M

Julieanna is a new student who is not afraid to use colour. Lots of interesting edges in this painting, and a great use of dark and light values.

After enjoying a gallery of paintings like this, I am always excited to paint some more. There is so much variety to be achieved! If your tendency is to feel discouraged, don’t despair. Watercolour is a journey, and we are all at different steps along the path. If you love it, you will keep painting, and if you keep painting, you can’t help but grow!

 

Alaska Highway Road Trip, Muncho Lake & Liard Hot Springs

I consider myself very fortunate to live where I do. Canada is a vast and beautiful nation, and British Columbia one of its most varied and awe-inspiring provinces. This Labour Day weekend my husband and I drove our family north, far past the limits of our sadly American atlas (which cuts British Columbia off somewhere past Fort St. John, less than 100km north of home) to mile 463 of the Alaska Highway for a weekend camping adventure.

family photo at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

Our ultimate destination: Liard Hot Springs. I had been there once before, on my eighteenth birthday, which was nineteen years ago. Did I mention that my birthday is in February? Though it was -30C that day (-22F) my parents, siblings and I bathed comfortably in the natural hotsprings, framed by frost-rimed trees. I had never visited the hot springs in summer, and Wade had never been north of Fort Nelson.

The eight-hour drive became much more scenic after leaving the oil & gas fields of Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. The trees thickened, the mountains emerged and the highway wound, nearly empty of traffic. Just the way we like it; tons of scenery and no one to share it with!

into the north | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

I promised myself I wouldn’t take photos through the windshield. Promises like that can’t help but be broken when the scenery is so spectacular around every bend.

northern BC rainbows | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

We were prepared for rain, but saw little – our camping was chilly; tenting in the north requires lots of layers as even at the end of August, frost is a definite possibility. We were fortunate and it didn’t freeze at night. We pitched our tent on the shores of Muncho Lake, and I went out several times a day to photograph the jade-green waters and moody skies.

Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com sky over Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

The lake makes no claims to warmth; the estimated summer temperature is 10C (50F) but we just had to take a dip anyhow. Brrrr! It was gaspingly cold!

swimming at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

From cold to hot; we achieved our main objective when we arrived at Liard Hotsprings. This beautiful spot is a true gem on the Alaska Highway and it was wonderful to see it in summer. The hot springs have been maintained as naturally as possible. One side of the springs holds the change rooms, stairs and benches for entering the water, and the other three sides are natural, banked by rock and clay, ferns and green plants and trees. The bottom of the springs is pebbled with black & grey and the springs flow into a lower pool of cooler water, and then out a narrow, twisting channel until the water justs trickles away.

Liard hot springs | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

The pool was enjoyed by about twenty other people – we overheard conversations with both locals and tourists, and many who, like us, live a few hours’ drive away and were visiting for the weekend.

boardwalk at Liard Hot Springs | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

Though the day was brisk and cool, we were heated through and stayed warm through even after changing and drying off in the unheated change rooms and walking a quarter mile along the boardwalk back to the truck.

I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our weekend! I took so many photos with future paintings in mind. I spend way too much time thinking, “How would I paint that?” and I can’t wait to start trying to answer that question and painting some of my impressions of beautiful northern British Columbia.

cloud break at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

bison at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

bisonstone sheep at Muncho Lake | Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

We saw stone sheep, bison and caribou along the edge of the highway. 

 

Summer’s End

We’ll be starting school here in a week. My how the summer has whizzed by! This week will be a blur of fall house cleaning and homeschool prep. It definitely would be easier to pack the kids’ backpacks and send them off to school, and maybe I’d have more time to paint, but we believe in home education too much to abandon it now. I think my favourite aspect of homeschooling is that my children spend 95% of their time in an environment where they are loved and accepted just as they are. They get to be themselves without trying to conform to their peers. We recognize that home education is not perfect, or for everyone, and I like to say that I can be an advocate for home education while reserving the right to change direction if a different education plan serves my children better down the road.

Plus, this year I’m taking third grade for the fourth time. I am becoming thoroughly educated.

Summer projects are wrapping up. My husband had a week off work and spent his days off building an outside entrance and deck for my art studio. It’s beautiful! 400 square feet of view, and I can just imagine sitting out and painting here next summer. Or hosting a summer party on the deck; stringing up some lanterns and enjoying music and laughs with friends. The bathroom inside the studio is nearly finished, and once that’s done, I’m moving in. We do still need a heating system installed, but I can live without it for a few more weeks.

deck boys deck man

We’ve spent lots of time outdoors this summer, with one of the driest, hottest summers I can remember in the Peace River region, it’s been wonderful for hiking and picnicking, if not for gardening or forest fires. All of this time outdoors enjoying nature’s beauty will translate into lots of paintings celebrating this splendor this winter.

path in progress | Angela Fehr watercolour http://angelafehr.com

I’ve been working out how best to paint a sunlit, tree-arched path in the woods. Those places always seem so magical!

path in progress 2 | Angela Fehr watercolours http://angelafehr.com

Like always, I’ll paint several versions of this until I can paint it confidently. These studies are my favourite way of working out a painting.

 

Good Ideas Take Time.

Home again after a week’s absence. We went to Saskatchewan for a family wedding, and enjoyed time with people we haven’t seen in a while.

It’s funny what time away from the palette does to the mind. There wasn’t a day when I wasn’t thinking about painting, but being unable to paint can be very helpful. Several painting ideas seemed to take shape out of the creative whirlpool in my brain, and these are the ones I want to paint now that I am home again.

work in progress | Angela Fehr watercolors http://angelafehr.com

I am always rearranging my studio area, trying to find the best way to set up my paints so they don’t get in the way of the other things I want to do in my large workspace. I like having several projects on the go (crafting, sewing, or just making room for the kids to create) but it’s hard not letting the paintings take over. Right now I have three pieces spread out on the floor (a good place to look them over), and my treadmill, which is only used during the winter, is an informal filing cabinet of paintings, studies and abandoned attempts. I really need to categorize my work into “finals”, “studies”, and “try again on the b-side”, but every time I do I find just a few weeks pass and the filing needs to start all over again.

One of the ideas emerging has been to paint some spare landscapes. “Spare” as in “open” and “simple”. There’s a beauty about the haze of wildfire smoke that hangs over the region. Beauty in dusk, when the colour is stripped from the landscape. Beauty in open, empty sky underlined by dale and field.

Haze Study | Angela Fehr watercolours http://angelafehr.com

I completed one simple study of such a spare landscape last night. I want to use white gouache mixed with blue/grey to create an opaque mid-summer bleached sky. Still need to do some more experimenting to get the right mix. Questions and experiments that keep the brush moist and the palette awash with variegated puddles.

Ninja Germ Pancakes: Adventures in Authoring

This is a re-post from last summer, sharing one of the highlights of our summer and still a favourite giggle in our home. 

uncle bens

Here in the Fehr household, we are loving the freedom of summer. Laid back schedules and lots of laughs. I had to laugh out loud when I found these photos on my camera the other day. The kids were trying on some freebies won from participating in a contest. The staging was all their own idea!

Creative people are idea people, and while many of those ideas are junk, and quite a few, while good, may not make it further than idea form, every now and then an idea of sheer genius just has to be put into action. I had such an idea when the kids and I were looking at these photos.

When I was a girl, my siblings and I used to make our own story books. We would sort, cut up and arrange photos from Mom’s “not-good-enough-for-photo-album” box, glue them into scrapbooks and add our own text, creating zany storylines that we would laugh over again and again. Sometimes we would do the same using photos from the Sears catalogue (or we’d just go through the catalogue and write nutty speech bubbles over all the models).

Today’s digital cameras and photo technology has changed everything. My kids don’t have to try to arrange assorted photos into a cohesive storyline, instead, we can stage our own story, upload the photos, add text and order a custom photo book all in an afternoon. It was the most fun we’ve had in ages, and such a great way to spend time together!

We talked out our storyline before we got started, then we gathered our costumes and props and staged each photo chronologically. New ideas for story twists came to us as we went through the photo shoot, and once all the photos were taken, we uploaded the pictures to Shutterfly and created a new, blank photo book. Luckily the photos we took fit into their standard, 20 page book without us having to delete any. As we inserted each photo, from front to back, we made up our narrative. I did most of the writing, but everything had to be approved by the cast. Certain lines really tickled their fancy, and for the rest of the afternoon they could be heard, randomly spouting phrases like, “Oregano!” and “Having trouble with the germ-proof lid?”

 DSC_7438

Once the storyline was complete, we quickly proofed the book, reading it aloud to make sure it had “flow” and then I placed the order. The best part is that I can order three copies, one for each child, and it will be a keepsake they can share with their kids twenty or thirty years from now! We’ve also given it as a fun Christmas gift for their friends and the local library ordered a copy for the children’s book section! 

While I may not have gotten much painting done that afternoon, I think it was worth it! You can view the full story online here if you want – maybe you’ll get some ideas for quality time with your family, or just enjoy a laugh.

Vivid Fireweed

We have been enjoying a very dry summer here in northern British Columbia, and while the wildfire risk is very high right now, and the air is filled with a haze of smoke (again), it is idea weather for weekend adventuring. A week ago we drove out past Tumbler Ridge, BC to Kinuseo Falls. It’s a beautiful spot, and we especially love the solitude. Only the most determined traverse the ridged gravel 40 km into the backwoods to enjoy Monkman Provincial Park.

fireweed and bee

Along the way I was struck by the beauty of the fireweed, in full flower. Fireweed gets its name from being the first bloom to carpet burned-off wildfire zones, and it’s ubiquitous in our forests and roadways in summer, arching magenta spires above the sweet clover and wild grasses, twined among baby spruce trees and huckleberry bushes. In some areas it enveloped acres in a misty fuschia swath.

fire-kissed | watercolor by Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

Of course I had to paint it when I got home, using a fresh tube of Opera Pink and my beloved Rose of Ultramarine from Daniel Smith. The violent pink dots are where I actually scraped the mouth of the open tube across the page, aiming for the fullest saturation of colour.

fireweed canvas 12x12 | watercolor by Angela Fehr http://angelafehr.com

I recently bought a jar of Golden Watercolour Ground. This medium can be brushed over almost any surface to give an absorbent, paper-like finish that can be painted on with watercolour. Very exciting to try out and see how it reacts to my watercolour methods. I brushed it over a 12″ x 12″ canvas and painted a second fireweed-inspired painting. I added in a few individual blooms this time, and a burned out tree trunk. The watercolour ground really absorbs colour – I find that the first few layers of paint dry to a bit of a chalky finish as they soak into the ground, and the edges are a little different than I’m used to on paper, but I love the possibilities for painting on canvas – with a coat of finish, this watercolour won’t need to be framed under glass.

“Fire-Kissed” measures 19″ x 22″ and is available for purchase.

“Fireweed & Stump” measures 12″ x 12″ is available for purchase.