Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Red Pears With Silver
16 x 20
Oil on Canvas


This is the last of the year's commissions. Commissions are always interesting things. Made to order paintings that are a wonderful challenge yet are fraught with the inevitable worries that the painting may not be what the collector had in mind.

On the flip side of that are the studies that I've been doing which are done purely to examine, explore and practice. Whether it turns out good or bad isn’t such a concern. In painting mileage counts, the more you paint the better you are bound to get if you are willing to explore and try new things that will inevitably bring about failure. Happily our successes are built upon our failures and improvement is inevitable.

Red Pears With Silver is a quiet and more formal painting than the recent studies and I'm glad to say it looks better in real life. The photo somehow sucks the life out of it and I can't quite figure out what I've done wrong. As I carry on with the studies I wonder what my painting will look like a year from now.

And speaking of years, here we are, another one gone. Elections, political upheaval, economic disaster, strife of all kinds around the world and yet I feel incredibly hopeful and full of anticipation. As I sit in my studio today watching the snow fall I realize that the cycle of life just keeps on keeping on. What is happening in our world today has always happened in one way or another yet new lives are created while other lives end, joys continue to be had and sorrows too.

I feel incredibly blessed to live the life I lead and thank you all for following and sharing my art. My wish for you all is continued awareness and enjoyment of the beauty in life. How lucky we are!

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reflecting Light - Oil Painting Study

Reflections on White

Another quick two hour study. Normally I try to make my color and values as accurate as possible, only emphasizing them when I think an area needs enhancing or toning them down where required. I keep my brushstrokes quite controlled and not overtly visible but as I do more of these studies I see how making the the marks big and bold is simply another measure of control as is manipulating the color. Brushstroke placement, thickness and direction are even more important when they're large and bold because they are so very visible. One ill placed mark and you've got a bulls eye on your painting. I'd love to do one of these every day but illustration and commissions have to have their share of the time too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interview with Oranges & Sardines

I recently had an interesting interview with Dini Menendez of the Oranges & Sardines blog who interviews poets and artists. Answering the questions for interviews always makes me think about my art in a way that I don't always do. After all we're busy making it and we sometimes we go along not really paying attention to what, why and how we make our art. Things like this really makes you a bit more aware of your artistic self.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pomegranate Study

Pomegranate Study

11 x 14

I'm loving these studies. They're such a great opportunity to practice, experiment and take chances that I might not otherwise do for a commission or a painting destined for a gallery.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Studies in Oil

Pear and Bottle Study
11 x 14

The little studies have been so much fun but then so are the bigger ones, this one is only 11 x 14 but I recently did a bigger one about 26 x 26. I'm finding that the bigger I go the bolder and freer I get. Big brushes and lots of paint, done in 2 hours or less. A great exercise initially given to me by Doug Swinton (, an excellent artist in Calgary from whom I get occasional instruction. He's good for me because his work is the exact opposite of mine.

The recent studies have been very fun and liberating in that they've been quite experimental without my usual carefully planned set up of lighting, backgrounds and foregrounds. In fact some of them have been done from two separate photos. I know, I know, I usually say how important it is to paint from life as much as possible but sometimes I find that I get overly careful and maybe a bit afraid to take chances, after all this is my living and I want the paintings to turn out well, but there is something about putting two separate pictures into one painting, making up the background and shadows that is incredibly exciting and causes me to exaggerate colours, values and brushstrokes more than I normally would. Add to this recipe a time restraint and things get happening! I love it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Miniature Studies in Oil

Small Autumn Squash
3 x 3

Yup, you read that right 3 x 3 inches. A miniature painting like this is great fun to do especially with a bigger brush. I'd been doing tiny little 2 x 3 inch oil studies in my sketchbook then remembered a lilliputian canvas that seemed so right for the pint sized gourd. You can see that I'm really in the mood for red lately.

Still Life in Reds and Greens - Oil Painting

Red Green
8 x 10

I'm still painting tomatoes and am trying to get my last licks in while there are still a few ripening tomatoes left to paint. I'm down to a remaining few and will soon have to resort to store bought specimens which can't hope to compare for shape, variety of sizes, colour, personality, but most of all - taste and smell.

Many, many thanks to the hundreds of art lovers that showed up on Oct. 5 for the opening night of the Alberta Oil Painter's annual fall exhibition. Nine artists put up their best works for a total of over 100 paintings. The gallery was hung salon style and was lush with colour and a variety of subject matter. I love seeing all those personalities represented in paint.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fall Bounty - Another Autumn Inspired Oil Painting

Fall Bounty
Oil on Canvas
5 x 7


Another painting inspired by the produce of my garden. The red and orange autumn colours in this painting are a homage to fall and bring out the green in this stout little squash. In my front yard I have a scarecrow overlooking an old wheelbarrow full of squash and pumpkins that were recently picked from my garden. Of course I want to paint it all! This painting will be in the upcoming fall show on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn Crisp-Fall Show Painting

Autumn Crisp
Oil on Canvas
8 x 10


A friend gave me a big bag of fresh apples, the smell was incredible and their colouring was so delicate, I had to paint them. They will be in the Alberta Oil Painters 3rd Annual Fall Exhibition being held this Thursday on Oct. 2, 2008 at Johnson Gallery, 7711-85 St. Edmonton, Alberta. We'll have over 80 paintings and about 15 will be mine. The next few days are a flurry of activity as I get ready for the show, one activity being picking eesny teensy flies out of the varnish and fixing those spots. Who knew flies would like varnish so much?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Love Apples in Black - New Oil Painting

Love Apples in Black
24 x 18
Oil on Canvas

Autumn, it’s a mellow golden time of year with ripening fields and an abundance of garden produce to pick. The vegetables are covered with sheets each night to protect them from early frosts and there is an abundance of tomatoes ripening faster than we can eat them. As always I’m lured to the greens, reds and oranges of tomatoes. I love the sharp, green smell of the vines and hate to wash it off. I do, and paint the tomatoes with the smell and taste of summer in my mind.

Love Apples in Black
combines that wonderful, golden, autumn light with ripening tomatoes in a Korean jug which I've painted before, a heavy, chunky piece of pottery with a glossy rich black glaze. I think this is a Korean medicine jug but I'm not certain. This painting is larger than my usual paintings at 24 x 18. The tomatoes were ripening while I painted them and over a few days some of them turned from green to orange. A fun challenge to capture the original colour.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunflower - Oil Painting

Good Morning Sunshine
8 x 10

Painted with such thick paint that it's positively chewy. I loved painting this and did a companion for it. Good Morning Sunshine will be part of the fall exhibition that I'm participating in again this year.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pear Series - Oil painting

Oil on Canvas
36 x 24

Lavishly Red
Oil on Canvas
36 x 24

2 of a series of 3 large paintings. The topic appears to be pears but the underlying theme is space and seeing how the mood and intimacy of a painting changes when you place your subject near the top of the canvas or place it close to the bottom - and of course light. I also played around with colour, Illumine has an analogous colour scheme, the colours being in the yellow/red-orange family while Lavishly Red is based on the complementary colours of red and a very subtle dark green/grey.

These have been shipped off to Vancouver to be part of an opening exhibit for The Bay as they celebrate their national campaign ‘Artful Living’

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Squash Blossom Journey-Oil Painting

Squash Blossom Journey
16 x 20
Oil on Canvas

This painting shows the various stages of a zucchini’s life, from flower to baby zucchini with the light pouring through the back of the flower making it the star of the show. The little zucchinis are placed in a tiny, old brass watering can which watered plants for a time, then served as a little pot for a plant outside and now lives out it’s life performing with various subject matter in my still lifes. The composition of this painting differs from some of my others which often have abundant space all around them to give a sense of air and atmosphere that I like so much, but change is good and this time the subject matter is cropped making it a much more intimate painting.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Studies & Painted Furniture

Forelli Pear Study
9 x 9 Oil on Canvas


The dog days of summer are here and they’ve brought both exciting wild weather and beautiful weather. I love those words, dog days of summer, they bring thoughts of hot, still and slow moving summer days. This summer I’ve been trying to do field studies as much as my schedule will permit, either in paint or with pencil to better understand the various colours, textures and patterns of nature. It’s a practice that makes the eye keener and the hand faster and better able to quickly capture fleeting moments. Studies are done to learn or as preparation for a larger studio painting, it’s basically information gathering. Forelli Pear Study was done for a larger studio painting.

Canada Geese

The Canada Geese are regular visitors to our pond in spring and early summer, coming and going but usually coming when I was busy with a deadline and unable to take the time to draw them. One day they stayed for a whole morning giving me the opportunity to draw them while they fed at our pond in the back yard. They moved a lot, one feeding while the other kept watch and then switching. I plan to use these sketches for the basis of a painting one day.

Cosmic Terrestrius
Grandfather Clock, Acrylic on Wood
7' tall x 18" square

This Grandfather clock commissioned by Lime Design has been in the works for a while as I juggled illustration assignments, other commissions, classes and outdoor painting. The theme is the rhythm of life, symbolized by the tree of life which links the cosmos (the top of the clock) and the earth (the base with earth dwelling creatures). The flora and fauna all have symbolic meanings taken from various cultures, luck, love, beginnings, knowledge, imagination, awakening, growth, the seasons of life, constancy etc. Painting something like this is quite different from working on a canvas. When I'm in the designing stage I have to consider how it will look from all angles. Later on when it's time to paint I stand on a stool to reach the top spending a lot of time with my arm up in the air, later on as I move to the very bottom I lay on my side to paint the decoration at the feet. Anyone who came into the studio would think I was napping.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Plein Air Painting

Wind-blown Aspen
8 x 10
Oil on Panel

Spring is in full swing and it is glorious! The birds are all so busy they simply don’t know which way to run and the choir of mating frogs in our backyard has been a wonderfully lascivious concert that’s come to an end now that they’d done their job and created hundreds of tadpoles.

The last couple of weeks have had me outside doing some studies of beautiful Alberta. Painting outdoors is always a challenging event and last week was no exception with a relentless and gusty wind. This little study features the ubiquitous aspens of western Canada bending in that wind.

I was recently a finalist in Canadian Brushstroke magazine’s still life competition for my painting Tipsy. To sign up for this FREE Canadian art magazine go to

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Art and Critique Review

Elija Shifrin of the Art and Critique website recently reviewed my work. It's always a fascinating thing to read what someone else has to say about your painting. Do they get what you are doing and see beneath the surface? I think Elija does. Check out the reviews as well as the many interesting write ups that he's done.

Pears With Rose-hips

Just as the pussy willows were out and the tulips showing their new red leaves we got snow! It was so hard to be patient with these spring snows when all I really wanted is to get out and do some gardening! We are finally snow free and I am delirious with spring! The frogs and robins are lustily calling and my perennials are all poking their heads up as if wondering what all the fuss is about.

Pears With Rose-hips
12 x 16

These shapely green pears share the stage with rose-hips that grow on a profusion of wild rose bushes alongside our driveway. Dozens of large trees were blown over in some of the truly powerful winds that we’ve had this winter yet the rose-hips have resolutely clung to the branches through it all.

Happy, happy, happy spring!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Indian Trunk - Furniture as Art

Indian Trunk
30 x 18
Acrylic on Wood

Usable art or functional art, whatever you want to call the trunks, they are a pleasure to paint and one more has just been delivered to a client, how I hated to give it up.

I've been asked for more details on how the trunks are painted, my procedure, below, is similar to that of my commissioned illustrations for books, magazines, wine bottle labels, or any other product requiring this kind of art. A piece of wall art done in this style would be done in a similar manner.

Thumbnail Sketches

1. Depending on the subject matter I do lots of research online and in books to understand my subject matter. In this case the topic was India, my creative designer and art collector friend was particularly interested in the embroidery of the Indian women and the animals of India. After researching I have a pretty good feel for my topic and I draw pages and pages of little thumbnail sketches, somewhat to scale. They are called thumbnail sketches because they are tiny. I make colour notes etc.

Sketch-Tiger-Front Panel

2. I refine the sketches which at this stage are about 1/4 of the actual size but to scale, and email them to the client to review.

Colour Sketches-Photoshop-Trunk Top and Side

3. Once we are all satisfied with the design I open the sketches in Photoshop where I add colour, it's a bit rough but it allows me to make changes easier than if I were doing a coloured sketch in crayon, water colour or qouache. I can try different colours to be certain that what I'm planning will really work. This colour sketch of the elephant shows it when it is only partly done. When using so many colours and patterns I need to find ways to keep it all pulled together and not looking like a cacophony of unrelated colour. I solve this problem by repeating colours and patterns. After the client approves the colour sketches I transfer my sketch on to the trunk which comes to me already built and primed. The wood is somewhat rough and rustic and while it's a bit hard to paint on it lends a nice texture.

Transferring the Sketch

4. I use a projector to enlarge my coloured sketch on to the trunk. This is a huge time saver. I do my oil painting very differently, the drawing is done right on the canvas with oil paint and no preliminary sketches, no projector. When it comes to still life much of the creative work is done when I set up the fruits, flowers or objects. Compositional issues, colour and lighting are planned during the set up and I am free to paint what I see, for the most part. Creating the stylized designs and patterns that I do for illustration and the painted furniture requires a different way of working and planning since it all comes from my imagination.

Block in Colour

5. Notice my cat who immediately claimed my chair as soon as I got up to take a photo. Oh, the attitude! After the drawing is transferred I start blocking in the background and basic colours. Once all the basic colours are blocked in ( no shadows or details yet, just flat areas of colour) I start to layer on colour on colour to lend richness and variety. For example. I painted the tiger a flat orange, then added yellow in key areas. Once the animals were painted I started on the background pattern. This took some trial and error as the colour I was using was transparent and took a steady hand to go over the lines time and time again to make a line opaque enough to show up against the background. I experimented with lighter, darker brighter etc. till the background pattern showed up well but did not compete with the animals. Most colours need 2 coats others 3.


6. Finally it's time for the glazing which pulls it all together. I use brown for my shadows not because shadows are brown but because using the same colour shadows for all of the different coloured elements helps to unify them. In addition it tones down any harshness, softens, warms all the colours, and adds depth, richness and texture.

7. Once the glaze has cured for a day or two I put on a clear water based isolation coat which is a barrier between the varnish and the paint. After 2 days of curing I can give it a coat or two of synthetic resin based varnish. The varnish serves 2 purposes, enriches the colour and protects the paint surface. If this varnish becomes very dirty from smoke, grease or pollutants it can be removed while the isolation coat protects the paint.

8. Deliver!

Spring & Pussywillows - Oil Painting

Jade Spring
8 x 10
Oil on Canvas

While winter is having a hard time letting go the tulips and poppies have pushed up their heads and the pussy willows have been out for some time now. The sun is getting stronger and I can practically hear the snow melting. I'm inspired to paint spring. The pussy willows in Jade Spring were picked along the roadside just a short walk from home.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cats, Grapes & Gourds - Oil Paintings

His Royal Nibs
9 x 12
Oil on Canvas


The cold days are getting fewer and my senses thrill at the very thought of warm days ahead. I can just imagine myself soaking up the spring sun like a cat. Cats; all sleek beauty and nonchalant elegance combined with kittenish goofiness, oozing attitude and personality galore. His Royal Nibs has it all.

Purple Translucence
8 x 10
Oil on Canvas


Purple Translucence - all about the semi-transparent aspects of grapes and the effects of light. Available at the Johnson Gallery at 7711-85 St. 780-465-6171

Light Play
9 x 12
Oil on Canvas

My painting Light Play was chosen in 2006 to be part of the juried travelling exhibition 'The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century'. The exhibition featuring the work of 56 artists from countries all over the globe will be touring America from spring of 2008 to December 2010. For touring schedule go to

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Subject Matter in Art

What makes an artist choose a subject and paint it in a particular way? Artists all have their own reasons for how they compose or make subject matter choices in a painting. Sometimes we work on a theme for a while, sometimes we paint what simply catches our eye and other times there are more complex ideas at work.

Gathered Up
5 x 7

Gathered Up was a simple reaction to the fresh loveliness of these tiny little crab apples that grow next door to my Mother's house. They were arranged simply as they might have been when they fell from the tree.

Reflections on Black and Yellow

There were more complex ideas behind Reflections on Black and Yellow which is about contrasts of all kinds. The gleaming reflections in the smooth, shiny black cup contrasting with the broken up reflections in the lumpy surface of the dazzling yellow lemon, all on a neutral background. Contrast in all ways, light/dark, bright/dull, colour/neutrals, and shiny/textural.