Summer in the Studio

Summer! I have to love summer so much. I get to take the summer off from many of my responsibilities. Being a home educator (my title of choice over “homeschooler”), I find that I really need the break from school by the end of May or June, and the dynamics of being at home with my kids becomes so much more fun and relaxing. We have been able to do fun things like eat our height in licorice (red, of course!) and run a race and hang out at the pool and buy hats and take fun photos and plan a big July birthday for a certain almost-ten-year-old.Licorice kids

I was able to buckle down this month and finally finish my floral watercolor workshop. I’m so glad I can finally share the link for this great resource! I really packed almost everything I know into that one course, so next on the agenda is to get painting so I can learn more things to share in my next course. I’ve enjoyed developing this floral course as it has allowed me to revisit florals as a subject and awakened a revived enthusiasm for painting florals. Over the last year or two I’ve sought to become a stronger landscape painter, but getting back to florals has been so invigorating! Painting flowers just feels so natural and expressive to me that it’s just fun every time I put paint to a petal.

Strawberries in progress | watercolors by Angela Fehr

First wash of strawberries on my easel, watercolor, 10″x10″

It’s very easy to feel like I’m not making the kind of progress in my art that I want. We can be so hard on ourselves! Taking some time to just enjoy painting, and summer, and family is a great way to remember what really matters, and celebrate everything I have.

Foliage: Two Stages of an In-Progress Painting

One has to wonder what sights this tree saw over the years, overhanging the Peace River as it is. This country was settled late in Canada’s history; maybe trappers paddled past, or a raft laden with supplies for a homestead, steered by immigrants. Just up the bank is the historic, hundred-year-old log St. Charles Mission Church. dunvegan tree photo | Angela Fehr

I started a painting of this scene, and while I’m never certain until it’s complete whether or not it’s going to be a success or not, I am enjoying seeing it come together. This is what it looked like when I started painting this afternoon:dunvegan corner in progress - Angela Fehr watercolour paintings

And when I put my paints away an hour later: dunvegan corner in progress - Angela Fehr watercolour paintings

There is at least one mistake and a few unresolved areas, but I’m learning lots about painting foliage, looking for patterns of shadow & light, and using colour and texture. Whether this painting ends up in a frame or not, every painting helps me become a better painter in the long run.

2 Videos to Help You Paint Trees in Watercolor

Trees for video demonstration | Angela Fehr watercolours http://angelafehr.comI love our local trees, and we’re on pussywillow watch around here as we wait for the first signs of actual spring to appear (as opposed to the spring we’ve been pretending to have for the last few weeks. It’s snowing today.). Our local trees consist mainly of aspen or poplar, willow and evergreen trees like spruce, pine and larch (tamarack). So it felt right to work up a little video tutorial on how I paint these local beauties.

The video is in two parts. Part one is all about the greens – summer trees, both deciduous and coniferous:

And part two covers winter & autumn in all the colours of the spectrum. Enjoy!

Peace River Corner watercolor 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.Peace River Corner (full sheet) | watercolour painting by Angela Fehr

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!Peace River Corner | watercolour painting by Angela Fehr

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!

Great Watercolor Books: A Peek Into My Shopping Cart

I thought you might like to peek inside my Amazon shopping cart and see the watercolor books I’ve been saving up for!

A good book on watercolour doesn’t just show you amazing art, and it doesn’t just demonstrate techniques. I find techniques are largely the same, the magic lies in how you use them. A really great watercolor book will inspire, not to copy the artist’s style, but to use the tools in the book to make your own work sing your song.

I compare all watercolor books to Jean Haines’ “Atmospheric Watercolors”. While her paintings are beautiful, it was the encouraging, gentle tone of the words of the book that helped me move ahead and be more confident in expressing myself in watercolour.

The next books I’d like to add to my collection are as follows:

Artful Watercolor: Learning to Use the Secrets of Light, by Lou Bonamarte:
The simple beauty of the landscape on the cover is a draw in itself, but I was ‘reeled in’ by the description that explains that beyond the techniques demonstrated, the artist explains the “why” and “when” for using them. This is something my students struggle with, and I could use help myself, even if just verbalizing the rationale of things I often do by experience and instinct.

Watercolor Without Boundaries: Exploring Ways to Have Fun With Watercolor, by Karlyn Holman:
I love the word “FUN” in this title! Learning watercolor can be frightening, paralyzing and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. While I love painting, when I’m actively learning to paint better (which is pretty much every time I paint), it can be very taxing. Taking time to “play” with watercolor is one of the best ways to learn and have fun doing so. I can’t wait to see what Holman’s suggestions for playing and experimenting are, and to try them out.

Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium, by Tom Hoffman:
What is it about watercolor book titles that they always include a colon? This book has great reviews. I like that it includes art by many artists, including past masters such as John Singer Sargent. And because my focus these days is on the business of crafting a strong composition and mastering values, I think this book will hold just what I need.

Simplifying Design & Color for Artists: Positive Results Using Negative Painting Techniques, by Linda Kemp.
Not only is Linda Kemp a fellow Canadian (woot!), but she is also the artist whose work inspired me to be more authentic in my painting. I remember seeing her work and thinking “She paints exactly the way I thought I shouldn’t paint, because no one would understand it.” I own her other book, “Watercolor Painting Outside the Lines” and it’s another favourite.

Great watercolor books are treasures to me, and my watercolor students will tell you, I don’t loan out my favourites. I can’t wait to dive into these, and fill up my well with creative inspiration!

The Riverbank

There’s a ravine I often drive through on my way to town. Locals call it the “snake pit” because the road is so windy, and while it’s a little scary in the winter, I love to drive it because the view is so enjoyable. A gurgling creek, evergreen trees, sharp angled banks and a trestle bridge – so much inspiration for an artist!

In the fall while driving through, I was struck by the colours of the foliage against the cliff-like banks, and for the first time, painted this almost-daily view."Riverbank" | watercolour by Angela Fehr

An artist would be impoverished indeed if she couldn’t find inspiration close to home, and I am passionate about never allowing this to be the case.

Silver Valley Riverbank

Silver Valley Riverbank | Angela Fehr watercolors

Silver Valley Riverbank, 11″ x 15″ watercolor by Angela Fehr

Side by side with the painting I posted yesterday, you can sure see my current color palette making a repeat appearance! I’m painting a lot with Winsor Violet, Phthalo Blue, Payne’s Grey and Quinacridone Gold. The second reason that this painting is a lot like yesterday’s is that they are both Peace River scenes, in fact, yesterday’s is a western vista, while the one above is facing east.

Water is not always easy – I think you lose a lot when you’re painting from a photograph in terms of trying to capture the depth and sheen of the surface. This time of year, it’s the best I can do. We have had record amounts of snowfall and winter’s only just begun! Today the sun rose at 9:33 a.m. and will set at 4:30 p.m. Short days, and frigid.

Yesterday we had sunshine, and at our house on the hill we were 20 degrees warmer than where my husband was working just ten miles away. The kids and I went outside and found a patch of ice in the yard that they were using for as slip sliding runway. I got some great photos of winter fun!

ice sliders ice sliders2

The Second Try Watercolor Painting Method

I often find that the second time is the charm when I’m creating a watercolor painting. As I paint the first attempt, I start seeing in my mind new ways to interpret the subject, fresh ideas or just a looser version start forming and demanding outlet. Sometimes that means I’ll end up scrapping the first effort and starting over, but sometimes I end up with two or more versions of the same subject, and sometimes they are radically different from each other.

Like my sunflower-inspired paintings from last year:

Version 1:

Version 2:

Version 3:

I consider each of these paintings successful in their own way.

Right now it’s all about apple blossoms. You’ve seen peeks of the yet-unfinished original:

But what do you think of the intuitive strokes of the second version?

This started as a demonstration for my watercolour class – more wet-in-wet – and I continued adding layers after class. Part of me thinks it’s just too “pretty” in a kind of pinky/blue way but it was fun to paint and whether I end up framing it, selling it or storing it, I have learned that no painting is wasted. Everything I put into this painting will benefit the paintings that follow.





“Paradise” watercolour painting

With only two more classes until my Winter 2012 watercolour session wraps up, it’s been fun to see my students grow and change in their skills and painting style. Only three students were able to make it last night, and a smaller class size is always fun and laid back. When our two hours were up it really felt like we were just getting into the groove.

I learn a little more every time I teach a watercolour workshop. I teach very hands-on; I love to do demonstrations, and if my students don’t mind too much, I love to grab a paint brush and do a little “demo” right on the painting they are working on – it is so much easier to “show” than “tell”!

Our last few sessions have been independent painting sessions, where the students pick their own subject and I am on hand to give guidance and encouragement. Because this can be so hands-off for me – sometimes they are doing so well I feel like I’m not providing even guidance! – I like to do a demonstration of a technique at the beginning of class.

Last night my demonstration was all about edges – the mystery and beauty of the “lost & found” edge, when to use crisp, hard edges in a painting, and how to create a soft, blurred edge.

Click here to purchase “Paradise” 5″ x 7″ watercolour painting by Angela Fehr


I painted this little beauty during class as part of my demonstration – a lovely abstract chock full of colour and movement. There’s also a little salt texture which I demo’d as well.

I don’t do a lot of abstract paintings, but there was something so relaxing about painting this little, 5″ x 7″ watercolor painting. I followed my muse wherever it led, and was happy, happy in my heart when I put my brushes away at the end of the evening! I titled this painting “Paradise” because it really looks like those gorgeous tropical Bird of Paradise blooms that we used to see in Papua New Guinea. And that much colour is really paradise to me!

There will be more watercolor classes in my studio after this session wraps up on May 1. Last night we even discussed the possibility of en plein air painting sessions which would make me feel like a student too – it’s not something in which I’m experienced. If you want to join my next class, why not send me an email and get your name on the list?