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.
I really enjoy filming videos to share my painting processes with you, and I also hate it. So often I got to film a painting demo, and halfway through I think, “This is terrible!” Nothing seems to be coming together, I’m not sharing any information of interest, and I’m bored by my own painting demo. So that explains why I don’t post videos as often as I would like. It’s just like the rest of painting; a lot of hard work goes into painting duds that no one will ever see before a good painting actually happens.
In my newest painting video, I work through a watercolour landscape, start to finish. It’s a simple landscape, but it’s a great exercise in painting skies, making composition decisions and pulling a landscape together. There are many elements in landscape painting that must all come together for it to work out, and I still feel like I’m learning.
I’ve titled the finished painting “Muskeg Corner” and it is available for purchase on my original paintings for sale page. Thanks for watching!
Yesterday I did a little playing in the studio. While I usually start painting with a subject in mind, sometimes it’s just fun to start painting and see where things go. In this case I started with lots of Indian Yellow pigment and what emerged looks very much like Bird of Paradise flowers to me. So I’m titling this fun semi-abstract “Fine Feathers”.
“Fine Feathers” was painted using my new Golden QoR watercolor paints, which I was given to try and review. They are a brand new product that is not yet available to the consumer, and I’m not sure yet what I think of them. The colour dries very true to the wet colour, which is often a problem in watercolour, but the texture and response is different than I am used to. I’m not seeing the blending and reactions that I am used to in traditional watercolour paints, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I have used Golden liquid acrylics before and the QoR watercolour paints are very similar. I’ll be working with them more over the next little while and I’ll report back soon.
I’ve updated my “Paintings for Sale” page and I would love to hear what you think! Take a look and report back in the comments.
Thought you’d like to see the outcome of my “fabulous skies” painting that I started earlier this week.
It’s rare for me to complete a painting I’m happy with on the first go-round. It makes the times that it does happen all the sweeter. Sometimes, when I pick up my brush, I just know that this time will be magical – everything will flow, I will paint with confidence, and I will know what to do. Did I mention this is rare?
It’s important when you’re painting in this kind of free, loose, style, not to overwork. I have learned that less is more, and if you start “fussing” with adding colour and brushstrokes when you’re not sure what to do next, that’s the fastest way to ruin a painting. Sometimes you just need 2 minutes of painting, and then twenty minutes of waiting, thinking, resting.
When I was finished, I had filled a full sheet of watercolour paper with gorgeous colour and some truly billowing clouds. I am debating whether to crop the finished painting (see above), or keep it as is below. I’m leaning toward the crop just because I think the cloud is pretty dead centre of the painting in the uncropped painting.
I’ve been working on the same scene for a couple of months now. Started on one side of a full sheet (22″ x 30″) of watercolour paper (I like Arches 300# cold press), and when that one turned ugly on me, flipped it over and painted it again on side two.
Side two shown above: still not satisfied. The beach/waterline gave me trouble – I’ve hidden most of that with dark, interesting brush strokes.
It’s a little frustrating when full sheet of paper gets filled and I’m not completely happy with the results. I don’t hate it, I just think it could be better.
The good news about fighting through a new composition/subject matter/painting style, is that progress will be made. The other night I took everything I had learned through the two full sheet paintings and threw it into a smaller, 10″ x 14″ landscape of the same scene. And, success!
Simple, serene and a true sense of place. Very happy!
“Peace River Corner” (bottom image) measures 10″ x 14″ and is available for purchase. Contact me!