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.

Student Work: Stepping Out

I love seeing my watercolour students step out independently! While you can learn a lot by copying the tutorials on my YouTube channel and online courses, it’s in trying your own subjects and compositions that you engage your brain in “working out” a painting. There’s a lot of problem solving in painting, and it’s the best way to learn. The following paintings are from my watercolour students, posted in the online student galleries. I check in regularly to comment and critique, giving guidance to help my students build stronger paintings, and encouragement to help them stay positive and passionate about learning.

runs with paint

“Runs with Paint in her hair” posted this imaginary flower. Imagination is a wonderful thing, and using it can help us be more creative. I love these colours – probably because I have such a hard time sticking to earthy tones in my paintings.

Anthea D 3

Anthea D is a girl after my own heart – I love painting rose hips too! These have such a lovely glow. I used this painting to demonstrate how a grouping of similar objects can create a visual path for the eye to follow. See how the outer rose hips form a triangle? Very visually pleasing.

Susan derby fedora blueberries

Berries by Susan D. This woman is on fire! Since Susan started taking my classes, she is painting up a storm, and the results are evident in the growth of her skills as an artist. I enjoy seeing the new paintings she comes up with, and feel only a little insecure that this student might one day become my teacher!

Lindsay A

Not all my students are beginners. Lindsay A is an artist by profession and used my watercolour workshop as an opportunity to try a new style and subject matter. I enjoy doing the same thing – it’s always healthy to stretch yourself as an artist, and this portrait of her daughter is lovely.

Patricia K 2

Patricia K has done several versions of this interesting composition. I also like to work out a composition by painting it over and over again, learning from each attempt. Every version has different aspects to love.

Helen S

Helen S is another watercolourist using my courses to try out a looser style. I love how she’s taking fluidity and incorporating it into her realistic style.

Check out all my online workshops by visiting this page. My new floral workshop is on sale until July 31st.

 

The Colours of the Peace River Region: Gold & Blue

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 | Angela Fehr watercolour paintings http://angelafehr.com

Dusk over Canola” watercolour painting, 11″ x 14″
available for purchase

Easter Lilies in Excess

Note: After posting regarding the wildfires in our area, we did get rain yesterday, and today. Hudson’s Hope residents have been allowed to return to their homes, but there are still many fires burning, and some areas are still evacuated. Lots of smoke in the air today – the sky is yellow!

Just when I think I’m a courageous painter, I get even braver! It takes a confident hand to throw down colour and let it happen, and as I was filming videos for my new floral online course, I had a lot of fun painting Easter lilies.
lilies in progress | Angela Fehr watercolors http://angelafehr.com

The lesson was demonstrating how to use cling wrap and salt to create texture in watercolour. Most painters know about these techniques but don’t always understand how to use them so that they don’t overpower a painting, so this was my goal in demonstrating these effects.

Painting while taping and teaching is a lot like most multi-tasking – you can do one thing well, or several things poorly – so the painting in progress shown above didn’t really turn out. I did however use it as a jumping-off point for another attempt, and pulled out a full sheet of watercolour paper (22″ x 30″ or 56×76 cm) to try again."Easter Lilies" watercolour, 22" x 30" | Angela Fehr watercolors http://angelafehr.com

There are a lot of dynamics in this painting that make me very happy, and I’m using a combination of colours that is fresh to me, since I ordinarily don’t use a lot of yellow in painting. Lots of beautiful washes, brushstrokes and fluid colour that is so irresistible to me as a painter.

Easter Lilies is available for purchase. Email me to inquire.

Encouraged by Growth: a painting discovery

I am packing today for the Dawson Creek Farmer’s Market tomorrow morning. I enjoy being at the Farmer’s Market; it’s a great time of interacting with the community and I always meet someone fascinating and get to share my own story.

My table is a smorgasbord of creative stuff; paintings of course, my watercolour note cards, paper crafting projects and materials for sale, stuff my kids have made to sell (jewellery, travel washcloths), and even a little baking if the mood strikes me.

I removed some older paintings from their mats so I could fit something fresh inside, and found on the back side of one painting this little landscape circa 2005:peace country landscape

I had completely forgotten about it (you’d be amazed at how often that happens) and was struck by its charm. I can compare it to my paintings today, and see considerable growth, but it’s still a sweet landscape and it felt a little nostalgic to discover it after all these years.

The location is the Peace River, north of my home near Dawson Creek, British Columbia, but where exactly, I do not know. And our autumns really are that yellow.

New Painting: Saskatchewan Sunset

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.

"Saskatchewan Sunset" watercolour painting by Angela Fehr | angelafehr.com

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.

Fun with Watercolour, Printmaking and Kids!

Teaching art has been a good fit for me over the years. I’ve learned a lot by articulating what I have learned, and I really enjoy the chance to connect with others. I believe that creativity feeds our souls, and love being able to help others nurse their own creative inner selves. This spring I’ve been working with an elementary school class in a nearby rural community as the students create “legacy art projects” celebrating their school. After 38 years the school is closing and this small class is pretty special, full of thoughtful, creative students with a close bond to each other and their community.

We’ve been experimenting mostly with watercolour, since that is my strength, teaching principles of art like value, colour theory and perspective. We’ve gone out on a couple of occasions to paint en plein air and have learned lots by actually being in the environment we are painting, instead of working from memory and photographs.
kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

On this morning we painted the creek beside the school. I’m frowning in every photo, because it was so cold outside, but the kids didn’t seem to notice! kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

They are finishing up their projects and they’ve all shown a tremendous about of growth. Even something as simple as learning to place a horizon line in the picture plane can make a big difference, and they are enjoying working with good quality materials and getting honest, and sometimes tough, critiques on their work.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

After our painting excursions, we hung and critiqued our work and assessed our strengths and weaknesses.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

I’ve also been teaching a monthly girls’ art course. We’ve worked with a number of different mediums, and this month we tried out printmaking, spreading a plastic transparency sheet with ink, impressing different textures and shapes into the ink, and then pressing paper into our “printing plate” to see the result.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

Printmaking is an interesting medium. Much like photography, you can make many prints rather quickly, every one different, and make hundreds before you get one that is really something special.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

It’s fun because the learning curve is relatively small, and there is a lot of freedom in the creative process.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

We used bubble wrap, netting, cling wrap, feathers and stencils to make our prints, and we experimented with single and multi-colour prints on white paper, and white prints on black paper.kids' art classes | AngelaFehr.com

We all ended up with a few favourite prints out of our collection, and I know these girls will look at printmaking with new eyes the next time they enter an art gallery. And I have had a ton of fun working with some really creative kids this spring; they really breathe life into the creative process!

My New Favourite Colour: QoR pigments review

I was given a set of Golden QoR Artists’ Watercolors to try out, and while at first I struggled with the different consistency and flow of the paint, I’ve been reaching for my Qor’s (pronounced “core”) more and more in my recent projects.

"Fine Feathers" watercolour painting by Angela Fehr | http://angelafehr.com

I use a lot of Daniel Smith pigments and I always gravitate toward transparent, granulating colours. They make such interesting colour mixes, often separating as they dry for really fascinating textures. QoR pigments seem to be so finely ground that I don’t get any kind of granulation, which confused me at first. I really love working with granulating hues and wasn’t sure what to do with colours that didn’t do that.

watercolor wash | Angela Fehr

But. QoR has one amazing advantage, and I am loving it so much. They retain their colour from wet to dry. We watercolour painters are used to painting a little darker than we want, because watercolour paint does dry lighter. My QoR paints don’t follow that rule, and it’s so wonderful to come back to a wash to find the colours as vibrant as when I laid them down.

gerber first wash | Angela Fehr

Look at that vibrant Quinacridone Magenta! And it does mix smoothly with other colours – there are some lovely transitions here. I’m hoping to free up some spaces in my daily palette for some of my favourite hues of QoR colours – definitely the Quin Magenta and Indian Yellow to start with. And my colour addiction has gotten so bad that I really should be using 2 or 3 palettes for all my favourite colours and really broaden my spectrum.

I entered my “Fine Feathers” painting, shown at the top of the post, in the Peace River Chapter of the Federation of Canadian Artists’ “Dimensions of Reality” show, opening Friday at the North Peace Cultural Centre in Fort St. John, British Columbia, and I’m pleased to report that it was accepted and will be on display at the gallery there from May 2-17, 2014.

Paint Courageous!

I realize the truth of this statement more and more as I pursue my dream of being a professional watercolour painter. From the very first time I asked myself, “Am I good enough to call myself an artist?”, fear has been the greatest obstacle to my art.stop fearing start being | Angela Fehr watercolours, Ann Voskamp quote

Children don’t have this problem, and I guess I became an adult when I started wondering if I was “good enough”. Kids pour themselves confidently into their creations. There’s joyous abandon, and somewhere along the way, we lose that. Many people give up on creativity at that point, thinking, “I’m not creative/I don’t have what it takes/I’m not good enough.”

Lately I’ve been burdened with the cost of making art; buying frames, entering shows, shipping and marketing. It’s all an investment into paintings that may not ever sell, and I wonder, Is it worth it? Fear of failure is built on these questions. 

I love that quote, “I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” There is beauty at the bottom of the ocean, and gemstones in the darkest cave. No one sees it, but it pleases the Creator.  There is no fear in painting if my goal is to delight myself, to revel in the process, to celebrate the drive for creativity that is never, ever silent. When I remember that every brushstroke can feed my soul, isn’t that the most valuable payoff of all?