Painting Epiphanies

I was talking to my sister on the phone the other night and we were discussing the trials and tribulations of raising middle-schoolers. It’s a different dynamic than when our kids were toddlers and comes with its own set of problems. I was explaining to her that I found that I was doing better at dealing with conflict with the kids when I stop to think instead of reacting instinctively. “When I remember I’m the mom,” I explained, “I am better able to handle things maturely and with authority, instead of stooping to their level.” She knew exactly what I was talking about, and only later I started to think about how that principle applies to my art life as well as to my parenting.

It’s pretty easy to let emotions take over. One bad painting, a show submission rejected, or an insensitive comment and I can start to feel pretty discouraged. “What am I doing this for?”

I need to stop and think. Remembering the milestones achieved, the many opportunities that have come my way and achievements and awards I’ve received. The initial highs fade so quickly, and without conscious thought, I can be swept along by whatever emotion I’m feeling, living reflexively instead of intentionally.

Intentional thinking regarding my art life is going to include ideas like this:

  • I’m on a journey. Everything that happens is a step along the path. Think of where I was 1, 5, 10 years ago and celebrate how far I’ve come.
  • I am exactly where I need to be.
  • Don’t force progress. I will take the steps I can to move forward, but I will also enjoy where I am right now.
  • My painting is for me, first of all. Others’ opinions, praise or criticism are secondary to my own satisfaction in my work.
  • Don’t get caught up in perceptions of success that involve accolades and awards. What truly satisfies is feeding my soul through painting.
  • I am so blessed with everything I have right now. To be able to paint fearlessly, to have everything I’ve been given (family, home, studio, love). Don’t let anything distract me from gratitude for my blessed life.

"Alstromeria" watercolour by Angela Fehr

“Alstromeria Study”  watercolour by Angela Fehr
A demonstration from my local watercolour classes.

Snow Studies in the Peace River Region

Snow carries its own beauty, and I realize this every year as we in northern British Columbia are covered by its crisp, pure brilliance. Sun on snow is dazzling, and the shadows fall in myriad shades of blue, azure and cobalt. Our short days mean that often there is a rose tinge to the sunlit areas as the sun hovers in a constant state of either rising or setting, low on the horizon.

Driving home from town in the late afternoon, I was struck by the glow of sunset on a drift of snow just a few hundred metres from our driveway. I don’t think I properly captured the glow, but I had fun painting this little snow study, just a little bigger than a greeting card.

"Sunlit Corner" watercolour by Angela Fehr

On other days, the sun doesn’t appear and the world looks a lot greyer. Still beautiful, if a bit more bleak. Can you see the deer in this painting? This is an interpretation of the road coming up the hill toward our home; my house would be just a dot, dead centre, if I had painted it in!

"Bleak Midwinter" watercolour by Angela Fehr

Even more close to home is this painting of a view from my back yard. The kids go sledding down this slope, and I as usual am distracted by the contrasts between sun and shadow. The brighter the sunlight, the darker the shadows!

"A Crack in the Hill" watercolour by Angela Fehr

And one more. Beauty doesn’t have to be complex. My painting has always been about looking for beauty in simple things. Slowing down to savour what we see and experience a moment of gratitude for our gorgeous and varied world.

"Slope in Shadow" watercolour on paper

A Giving Tuesday Giveaway

From my Facebook page: Have you heard of Giving Tuesday? It’s a day dedicated to giving back; combating greed and excess by remembering to share what we have with those less fortunate. Giving is a way of thanking God for all He’s given me and I love to give to mission organizations that work in developing countries. If you choose to give today, comment below with the name of your charity or simply say “I gave” and I’ll draw a name to win 2 sets of note cards, one to keep, and one to give!
The non-profit I gave to this week is New Tribes Mission

Recognized at the Peace River Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists “Life in the Peace”

I wasn’t able to attend the opening for the Peace River Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists show “Life in the Peace” yesterday afternoon, so I was thrilled by email to learn that my painting “Peace River Corner” won second place in the show!

"Peace River Corner" watercolor by Angela Fehr |

Previously my highest placement in any show was third, so I consider this a step in the right direction! Honestly, it’s always pretty wonderful to be chosen simply to show with dedicated and skilled local artists, and both the pieces I have in the show are ones I am proud of. However I’m bursting my buttons over this little painting which was the result of many hours of exploring the scene and figuring out the best way to paint it in “my” style. I counted later and realized I painted this scene SEVEN times before I could call this one my final draft. I learn best that way, painting out my issues and learning as I go.

“Life in the Peace” will hang until December 18th at the Beaverlodge Cultural Centre in Beaverlodge, Alberta. I encourage you to check out the show if you are in the area!

New Online Course: Painting Christmas Images in Watercolor

This morning I launched my newest course, “Painting Christmas“. It’s a fun mini-course featuring three Christmas/winter themed paintings and a reminder that watercolour is fun to learn!

$20 Christmas-Themed Watercolour Course by Angela Fehr

I get emails all the time from people struggling with learning watercolour. So often they’ve been told how hard it is to learn, and they are scared, and discouraged by the many mistakes they feel they are making. My goal in my classes is to free every watercolour painter from the tyranny of fear and perfectionism. Watercolour is so much fun when you are willing to experiment and make mistakes, and these three new paintings are no exception.

The class is just $20 and you can start anytime, and take as long as you want to finish (like all my online courses). Click here to join and enjoy!

Studio Update: Moving In!

I hosted my first class in my new studio on Tuesday night. Here’s the painting we created, learning to paint birch trees:

birch class study | Angela Fehr watercolours

And now I’m going to show you my new, in-the-process-of-moving-in space.

studio update | Angela Fehr watercolours

On Monday evening, Wade told me, “The heat is on in the studio,” so Tuesday afternoon I spent cleaning and moving things around so that ready or not, I could host class there that night. It’s been five years since we built the shop/garage/studio building and so to say I was anxious to move in would be an understatement.

studio update 2 | Angela Fehr Watercolours

One of the reasons it’s taken so long is because we are doing everything ourselves. And by us, I mean 90% Wade, 10% me. He’s a carpenter, and he’s also not afraid of hard work. I am learning to appreciate his motto, “If you do it right the first time, you only have to do it once.” Although that doesn’t really apply to housework. We made our own floor from unfinished pine boards, and the ceiling tiles took many hours of painting, staining, buffing and varnishing. Then there was time spent waiting for enough money to buy supplies, and getting sidetracked by other projects (like Wade’s amazing rat rod, and our kitchen cabinet reno).

studio update | Angela Fehr Watercolours

I ended up only cleaning half the room – the left side will be kind of a living area/guest room so that in addition to painting, the studio will be a relaxing place to hang out with friends and family. I’m looking for the perfect sofa and maybe a fold-out wall bed. The table against the wall will go to make room for other stuff, and sadly, I think the glass cabinet on the table will have to go as well to make room for other things.

We are working on finishing up the bathroom. I’m letting Wade go a little nuts with it – he is calling it a “gas station bathroom” but it’s not really the right phrase – if you are envisioning the grody, scary bathrooms you encounter on road trips, you’re not catching his vision. I’m thinking it’s more “steampunk gearhead.”

Studio bathroom sneak peek | Angela Fehr watercolours

Here’s a sneak peek at it since it’s not nearly done yet. He’s been working on the towel bar and some decorative pipe for the wall for a week or two. I’m thinking this towel bar will hold up the weight of even the plushest of towels.

studio bathroom sneak peek | Angela Fehr watercolours

There is so much to love about my new studio! It’s close to the house; I can even peek into the kitchen window and see if the children are setting their hair on fire, or just sneak out early and paint before anyone else wakes up. It’s beautiful; I have learned that I am inspired by beautiful spaces and it’s going to be wonderful to work where I am completely comfortable and visually delighted. It’s quiet; I will be able to shoot more video tutorials in the quiet of a room with an actual DOOR (my studio in the house is doorless and it really makes it difficult to film without distracting background noise). And it’s a wonderful gift from my husband who enjoys doing this stuff as an expression of his love for me.

When Mum’s an Artist

We have a new neighbour in our little subdivision and it’s been pretty fun for my 8 year old son to have another boy to play with. It’s hard to be a boy with two big sisters!

Wesley’s friend was fascinated by the fact that I am an artist, and when he’s over to play, often he will come check up on me and what I’m up to in the studio. I overheard him ask Wes, “What’s it like having a mum who’s an artist?” Wesley just kind of grunted; it’s not something he’s ever spent time thinking about, and he’s “guy” enough that he wouldn’t have an answer even if he had pondered it. I think my husband would answer the same way!

I’ve spent a little time thinking about what it might be like to have an artist for a parent, and I don’t think I would change a thing. Of course, my children have grown up in a home where paintings littered the art room (how many families even HAVE an art room?!), where mum stops the car to snap a reference photo, or drops down into the dirt to study the light on a fallen leaf. For all they know, every child lives under the stricture that under no circumstances should mum’s palette be touched and that sky is not merely blue, it’s cobalt. Not to mention the wealth of art supplies they have to work with for their own creative projects!

Having an artist parent is a gift for my children, whether they know it or not. They won’t suffer in a home that allows art to come before housework, and where supper is sometimes an afterthought (if I can make it in 30 minutes, it goes into permanent menu rotation). What they have been given is an opportunity to see what it looks like to pursue a dream. So many people live with secret desires that remain unspoken and locked tightly away. It is a frightening thing to chase a dream. It is so tempting to just postpone that proposal, not make the call or send the email to start the ball rolling, to enter the gallery and leave without asking for an audience (which I have done, many times).

I’m not saying I always choose rightly. My children and husband need to come first in my life, and it is not always easy to know how to prioritize so that marriage, art and family can live in harmony. But in living this artist’s life, my kids see someone who says, “I can do something great,” and then give it her best shot. That is one of many things I want for them to take into adulthood.

Chosen: Ridley Terminals’ Northern Art Initiative 2014

I’m very pleased to announce that my painting “Breaking Through” has been chosen by Ridley Terminals Inc. for their 2014 Northern Art Initiative. The painting will be purchased by Ridley Terminals to hang at the Museum of Northern British Columbia in Prince Rupert, British Columbia during December, 2014. Following the exhibition, the painting will be donated to a registered charity for use in fundraising.

"Breaking Through" watercolour, 15" x 22"

I try to hold no expectations when submitting art for various calls for artists. There are so many unknowns when submitting art, from what the jurors are looking for to how many artists participate in the submission process. But it does seem consistently that when one of my pieces gets chosen for a show or event, it is always art I feel deeply connected to and proud of. I’m a little sad to have to pack this one up just as soon as it is framed, but I’m excited about being a part of this event and having my art hang in a city it’s never been to before.

A Retro Family Photo Shoot

We are not a family who “does” professional photos. I find it’s hard enough to snatch a moment with the self-timer when we are all clean and respectable looking without trying to factor in a third party and get everyone to pose. And I’ve never really been a fan of cookie-cutter photo shoots. But I started planning this family photo session about four years ago when I met photographer Emily Parsons of Emily Jane Photography. Her style sparked something in me and the project she had just launched, a local vintage photo calendar, inspired me. I thought, “When Wade’s hot rod is done, I should get her to do a vintage style photo shoot of our family with the rat rod.”

Little did I know it would take four years to complete, and in that time Emily would move. But she comes home frequently and I was able to book a shoot for late September, when our yard is golden with fall colour.

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

I sewed my girls matching skirts, and we got our hair done that afternoon. It was fun to hear comments from the other customers in the busy salon inquiring what we were up to with our retro looks. My middle girl especially looked so perfect in her flipped-out bouffant! Both my girls are so beautiful, inside and out.

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

Guys are easy to dress retro; jeans and white t-shirts were the perfect look.

 photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

The kids are at the perfect age for a project like this; they participated enthusiastically and were willing to pose as directed.

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

Our yard is full of little retro details; Wade built the shop to resemble a false-front garage and he’s brought home vintage pop coolers and a gas pump. Auto memorabilia signs we can’t afford to buy, we make ourselves. We could have moved indoors to my retro kitchen for even more vintage photo ops but we were having too much fun out in the sunshine.

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

 photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

These photos were so much fun! And Emily was a great sport about working with our funky non-traditional ideas. My absolute favourite photos from the shoot are the ones with my guys working on the hot rod. I’m pretty lucky to live with these creative people and we love our home and the life we’ve created together.

photos by Emily Jane Photography 2014

These photos will be delighting me every day – we are hanging an assortment of them in the living room as well as going with the rat rod photos in my studio bathroom – wait until you see how that is turning out! I have high hopes of moving into my garage studio before Christmas. Can’t wait to show you the photos and invite you to the grand opening.