One of my favourite local trees would have to be the birch. Our acreage in northern British Columbia is home to many birches, though they don’t all survive to adulthood as woodpeckers tend to drill them full of holes after they reach a certain age. I love the young birches for their coppery bark and the mature trees for the curls of bark peeling from the trunk and their feathery branches.
This winter I couldn’t get past the beauty of the sunset reflected on tree trunks and this painting was the result:
11.5″ x 11.5″ (29 x 29cm)
available for purchase
I only wish my camera did the colours in this painting justice. The subtleties of watercolor are lost in photos. As with most of my paintings, it takes a little time before I know for sure a painting is “done”; a fellow watercolorist tells me he has been known to unframe paintings that are years-old to make changes and corrections, but I haven’t had that happen…yet. I think every painting deserves closure at some point!
I’m starting to add paintings to my 2015 folder and it’s fun to see the direction I’m taking in my work. I was looking through my paintings from 2014 and was inspired by the trees I painted over the year. I have a little crush on birch trees, especially the young birches with their coppery bark slashed with black, dark branches tracing spiderwebs in the sky. So while I’m not excluding any subject matter that inspires me, I am thinking that trees are going to be my focus this year. I don’t think it will be boring!
Here are a few of my favourite tree paintings & sketches from 2014:
And here are two studies from 2015. The first is the reason I love cross country skiing; every Saturday in winter we are on the trails and they are so beautiful!
And this is a view from the end of our driveway, looking west toward town.
Here’s to trees in 2015!
I’ve started teaching a series of watercolour classes in my home studio. I look forward to every class as it is so energizing to share watercolour with other lovers of the medium. This class is a departure for me; previous classes were centred on learning technique by creating paintings step by step together, which was great for a realistic style. However, I don’t paint with the goal of realism anymore, so why would I teach that way? We’ve been working instead on learning watercolour by painting loosely, and it’s been great fun.
Last week we started a landscape painting and then spent the rest of class working on a floral. When I’m demonstrating to a class, I find the best way to show them my work as it happens is to hold the painting board propped against the table, and paint from behind – essentially painting upside down. Because I do a lot of talking and explaining the process, I find that most of the time, these paintings don’t turn out to be anything but good examples for demonstration. But every now and then, one of them turns out to be something I love and believe to be worthy of framing.
“Dainties” is a delight. I love the freshness of the colour and the brushmarks. It’s a tribute to the power of suggestion in painting – that objects don’t need to have every detail defined to be beautiful and make evident what they are. And I always believe that loose paintings like this reveal the beauty of watercolour – the fluidity, transparency and movement that can only be found in watercolour and that I love so much.
“Dainties” measures 8 1/2″ x 11 1/2″ and is available for purchase.
You can take my online class on painting florals loosely here.
I attended (and helped hang) the Peace Watercolour Society’s annual Fall show on the weekend. This is my third show with the society, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being a part of this group of passionate watercolour painters.
This year our show, which rotates between four communities in the Peace River region, was hosted by the Beaverlodge Cultural Centre in Beaverlodge, Alberta. The cultural centre is a historic former hospital and since our show coincided with Alberta Cultural Days, there were a few other artistic events happening in the community through the weekend as well. I have five paintings in the show, and if you are in the area, why not stop by the gallery and see them? The show hangs until October 23rd, 2014.
I’ve been enjoying painting the colours of fall. I tend to gravitate toward cool tones of blue, violet and rose, but in the fall my palette fills with juicy warm red, gold and umbers as I drink in the colours of the foliage, trees and fields. Harvest is creamy butter-yellow. Willows are red-violet and the aspens frame it all in hues of gold.
“Golden Afternoon” watercolour, 11″ x 11″ (28 x 28 cm) available for purchase
Last Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving falls the second Monday of October, just 2 weeks away), my sister and I ran down to the Peace River from my grandparents’ house. It’s a beautiful 10km loop and I carried my heavy Nikon DSLR the whole way. As we climbed the final hills leaving the river, the afternoon was waning, and the world was lit with that perfect golden light. I was so thankful to be able to spend the day with my family, the strength to run and explore the river hills, the beautiful place where I live. I feel like I captured a bit of that in this painting, and that makes me very happy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After all the colour inspiration blooming in my garden, it’s pretty easy to splash brights around on my palette! For this painting I used mainly QoR watercolors by Golden for their non-fading brilliance. They don’t lighten as they dry, which I love. The pink is Quinacridone Magenta.
I’ve been really enjoying playing with brushstrokes lately; scribbly marks that dance across the page give paths for the moist colour to flow and mingle. I love seeing the transitions between colours and their interactions are so dynamic.
“Kaleidoscope” measures 9″ x 12″ and is available for purchase.
My hometown, Dawson Creek, has chosen for its colours blue and yellow, and they have a good reason for doing so. These two hues would have to be the defining colours of our region. Blue for our skies and the shadows on snow six months of the year, and yellow for the autumn gold of aspen trees and the swaths of canary that are canola fields in bloom in summer.
The canola is blooming right now and I keep thinking the only thing that would make it more lovely is if we grew flax alongside. Darkness falls around 10pm and I often find myself driving home around 9, just as dusk is deepening and the light is rich and glorious. Sometimes I just have to run up to the studio as soon as I get home to try to capture a little of what I saw in my rearview mirror. Our skies, our land, such richness!
“Dusk over Canola” watercolour painting, 11″ x 14″
available for purchase
I did create one painting while we were on our trip. Wade and I took a ride on an ATV out in his folks’ pasture and I was so tempted to get up early one morning to paint the sunrise on the marsh near their home. So beautiful and full of waterfowl!
One the way back to the house, I was struck by the sky above the trees bordering the yard. Clouds so dark and the sunset at that “overripe” stage, just fading to dusk. I immediately set out to paint it as soon as we were back indoors.
Sunsets are tricky to photograph, which makes them hard to paint, since there’s an absence of good reference material. Painting them immediately, while the colours and contrast are still fresh, is the best way to do it.
“Saskatchewan Sunset” measures 9″ x 12″ and is available for purchase by contacting me.
I consider myself very fortunate to live “next door” to the mighty Peace River. The Peace River watershed stretches across northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta and is edged by rolling hills. I grew up hiking these hills, mud-bathing on the banks of the river and skipping rocks across its surface, though I confess I have never boated on its surface.
This summer we picked strawberries at Dunvegan Gardens on the banks of the Peace River near Fairview, Alberta, and after the berry picking, I walked down to the river’s edge and was struck by the glow of sunlight and contrasting deep shadows on a majestic poplar tree along the riverbank. I sat down to paint the scene last week.
You can believe that I will be visiting this spot again this year and who knows what will inspire me this time?
“Dunvegan Patriarch” is watercolour on paper, measuring 14.5″ x 21.5″ and is available for purchase by contacting me.