Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Wing, A Beer Bottle and More-Oil Painting

Spirit Talk
9 x 12
Oil on Linen/Panel

An old stubby my husband found in the bush, a wing from a Red Winged Black Bird that died in our yard, an egg from one of my sister's little hens and a branch from a pine tree were all in my studio with all the other things I collect for paintings. I have a drawer full of moths, bees, dragon flies, and feathers. There are shelves full of old bottles that we've found in the bush, unwashed and left just the way we found them, old tobacco cans, 4 year old crumbling rhubarb leaves, china, berries, eggs, old cutlery, and more. The skulls of a goat, cat, cow, deer, rocks, stones, and numerous antlers. They're all things that have meaning in one way or another or can be representative of feelings, thoughts or ideas. I collect things knowing that eventually they will all have a story to tell on the canvas.

This particular grouping of items was in response to a call for entries from the Federation of Canadian Artists for an upcoming exhibition 'Capturing the Canadian Spirit' in celebration of the 2010 winter olympics in Vancouver. The space in this painting represents the spaciousness that is the Canadian landscape, the branch stands in for our incredible natural resources, the egg is for the newness and our growth as a nation, the wing stands for our history of exploration of this huge land, and the stubby represents the humour we Canadians can see in ourselves, and well, we do like beer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Children's Book - Clever Rachel

Clever Rachel - Author Debby Waldman/Illustrator Cindy Revell

Clever Rachel is book 2 of the Jewish folk tale series published by Orca Books. It's a challenging and rewarding experience to bring the characters in a story to life but then illustrating a kid's book is always quite an experience. My studio becomes a flurry of activity with tracing paper everywhere filled with character sketches, tiny thumbnail sketches that are used to capture those first initial ideas, then later the fine tuned and enlarged drawings. Finally I scan all the sketches and email them to the art director or editor to meet their deadline. A big relief. I clean up the heaps of paper, work on other jobs and paintings and wait for the go ahead to move on to the final illustrations which usually take about a day each to do. A kid's picture book is a process that takes a few months during which time my regular assignments like illustration for calendars, magazines and educational books have to be worked on as well, and they have their deadlines too. In between all that I work on oil painting commissions, Project Heroes, paintings for my gallery, and practice. There's a busy hum in the studio and with so much going on at once I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed but I can't imagine a life without that creative buzz.

Clever Rachel is in bookstores now and can be purchased from Amazon or Chapters/Indigo. Book launch and signing on Oct. 18, 2009 at Greenwoods Bookshoppe at 7925-104 St. in Edmonton, Alberta. Come join Debby and I at the book signing for coffee and Debby's homemade rugelach which was mentioned in the first book in this series.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aspen Studies

Aspen Study 1
8 x 10, Oil/Panel

Aspen Study 2 - Sunny
8 x 10, Oil/Panel

Aspen Study 3 - Early Morning
8 x 10, Oil/Panel

Aspen Study 4 - Sunrise
8 x 10, Oil/Panel


These paintings are yet more studies in my quest to explore and address specific aspects of painting. Painting aspen leaves is a challenge as they flicker madly about in the slightest breeze. They are frothy leaved, graceful trees and I've nearly always been surrounded by them. I always thought the trees in Dutch landscapes were very reminiscent of aspen and today a Czech friend informed me that aspens are indeed found in the Slavic part of Europe, she says they are romantic and they are.

For the first two studies I painted the aspens that I could see from the window near my easel. The third study was a more interesting experience. Very early one morning I let the pooch out just as the sun was coming up but it was cold and windy and I knew I’d want to paint that lovely dusty orange sky later in the week so I made notes about the colour then painted it from memory a few days later. Another early morning sunrise caught my eye but I hadn't even had a sip of tea yet and wasn't quite ready to haul the painting gear out on to the porch to paint so again I took notes and hoped I'd remember enough for next time. Turns out I forgot to write down the colour of the trees so I had to paint those from nothing but my memories.

Painting from memory and my notes might just prove to be one of the most significant exercises I've ever done and something that I'll continue to do. It was liberating and exciting not to be constantly looking up but to just rely on what I saw and that feeling you get when you are looking at something truly beautiful. Did I capture it accurately? I don't know, it might not matter, the painting still gives me the feeling of early morning and for now that's enough. With practice my ability to record what I see will improve.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dandelion - Still Life

Dens Leonis
8 x 10, Oil on Panel

The dandelion, one of the first blooms of spring, an early edible green, a child's favorite bouquet for Mom's, and reviled weed. The name dandelion comes from the french dente de lion, a translation of the medieval latin dens leonis which means lions tooth in reference to it's jagged tooth like leaves.

This joyful little flower brightens ditches, gardens, and lawns alike. Whether you revere it's edible qualities and happy blossoms or detest it's tenacious tendencies it's a hardy burst of sunshine that isn't going away soon and I love it - most of the time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Plein Air at Bob’s Point

Ragwort at Bob's Point
5 x 7

Right near my home is South Cooking Lake where I’ve been doing some plein air painting. The Marsh Ragwort is blooming and making a glowing golden display. There was a lovely little boat in the foreground but I decided to focus on the yellow flowers.

I admit to being a less than outstanding plein air painter but the experience of painting quickly before the light changes is such good practice that I keep at it.The fast brushstrokes of plein air paintings and my studies are slowing affecting my studio paintings making them livelier and juicier. Being an artist is very much a work in progress and a life long one at that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Limes & Stein Oil Painting

Spring Fever and Frost
9x12, Oil on Panel
$360.00 unframed

The frosty spring had me longing for greens. The little key limes which are incredibly delicious in a Corona are a fun contrast with the pewter beer stein. It’s a contrast of colour vs neutrals, small vs large and is a fairly understated painting with a touch of humour while the artichoke is a more vivid play of cool greens and purples on warm golden colours.

5x7, Oil on Panel
$266.00 unframed

As usual I’m doing my typical balancing act of painting, illustration, and Project Heroes, a soldier portrait project. Recently one of my partners and I interviewed the parents of Cole Bartsch, one of the soldiers whose portrait I’ll be painting. They showed us his room, the many, many photos and told us so much about him that it seems as if I know him. It will make painting his portrait that much more poignant. Cole believed in what he was doing in Afghanistan and I am one proud Canadian to be painting his portrait. We owe so much gratitude to these young men who serve our country, and this project, even though it’s a big one, hardly seems enough to say thanks.

I haven't spoken about Project Heroes on my blog but you can find out about it here Project Heroes and you can follow it's progress at the project heroes blog

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oil Painting to Watercolor - Illustration

Thank You
6 x4, Watercolor with Pen & Ink

It's been an experimental few months and I'm not done exploring yet. Recently my agent Deborah Wolfe of Illustration OnLine suggested we give our clients another illustration style to choose from, something loose and free, like watercolors which used to be my medium of choice. It was a great idea and I'm loving the spontaneity of these.

Flowers For Mom
4x4, Watercolor with Pen & Ink

This illustration is one in a series that depicts a small story in only 6 steps with no text to describe the story. The pen I'm using to do the inking is my Aunt's which she used when she was just a young woman. It's in my studio now and I'll treasure it forever.

Smart Car Journey
7x6, Watercolor with Pen & Ink

Smart cars are a pretty nifty mode of getting around but they do have their limits.

Am I done exploring? I don't think so. A commission for another trunk has come in and this one has a Cuban theme. The research phase is underway and inspiration is starting to flow. Still lifes in oil, whimsical watercolors and acrylics, and functional art, it's going to be a fun and very creative summer.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Snow, Cranes & Chilis - Oil Painting

Red Hot Blues

(6 x 8, oil on panel)


While the springtime drama of snow, sun, snow, sun has been taking place the trees grow knobby with buds and the pussy willows burst out. Flocks of Sandhill Cranes are soaring and circling overhead on their way to their nesting grounds making far away haunting calls.

Over the winter the studies have been large but I’m back to painting small again. I love doing the tiny paintings. Red Hot Blues, so contradictory with it's cool blues and deep red, kind of like our spring which was warm and sunny one day and snowing the next. Fortunately the snow seems to finally have given up and the chorus of frogs, robins and chickadees is getting louder.

"Who told you that one paints with colors? One makes use of colors, but one paints with emotions." (Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Turquoise Tango - Oil Study

Turquoise Tango

(5 x 7, oil on panel)


This was painted just the other day, another exploration in using exaggerated color. I'm interested in just seeing how far I can push the color in shadows and in the backgrounds. Besides exploring color I'm also making things up which is simply not what I normally do.

Setting up the still life is a hugely creative part of the painting. Instead of making decisions as I work my way through the painting I plan them ahead of time when I'm setting up a still life. The lighting is carefully planned to create mood, objects are placed so that a rhythm is established, shadows are planned similarly, and folds in fabric are used to point to the focal point. I choose a fabric color for the background and foreground or use lighting to influence the color of the wall. After the planning is done and the decisions made I observe carefully and try to paint what I see.

Turquoise Tango and the other studies are completely different. In nearly all of them the background or foreground is a made up color. I have to use my imagination and go with my gut feeling. It's more immediate and very rewarding. Being studies there is no concern about 'will a gallery like it' or 'will the collector who commissioned it like it'. Will it change how I paint? Not completely, the act of quiet observation and the challenge of capturing what I see has it's own rewards but as time goes by there will be a bit more freedom in my work as I continue with the studies, time will tell.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Apple Study
19 x 15
Oil on Canvas

February and the first half of March were spent illustrating a children's book and I didn't have a lot of opportunities to paint or to post any previous studies. The book art has been shipped and I can spend some time with oil painting again. It's interesting doing both illustration and the still lifes, it requires quite a mind switch. One day I'm painting whimsical little characters and scenes straight out of my head and the next I'm painting a still life that is set up right in front of me or from a photo.

This painting was another exercise in looking for colour in white, the shadows were vaguely purple but I pushed them as far as I could. Normally I lean toward accuracy but it's been wonderful fun to exaggerate the colours I see. How will this affect my regular paintings? Will it be a sublte extra bit of color or will it be more obvious - it will be interesting to see.

Apple Study
was done in January but reminds me of the fresh greens of spring that I’m waiting for.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oil Painting - Looking For Color in White

Chinese Bowl with Mandarin Study

This winter still finds me working on studies with an emphasis on whites and how they are influenced by surrounding objects and the light source. It's amazing how much color is there when you really look and of course exaggerating that color is exhilarating. It will be interesting to see how these studies will affect my regular paintings. If I could I would do one of these a day, they're that fun, but commissions and illustration assignments have to be tended to as well.

Working with white and specifically looking for the color in it has made me notice more color in the whites of snow. I never realized just how much red can be detected in snow. What a lovely bonus.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Contemporary Still Life Site

Just the other day my work was added to Contemporary Still Life. I feel hugely honored and somewhat out of my element. This site is produced by several artists from the Netherlands and they have some fabulous work there. The artists deeply revere the still life and make no apologies for it. I visited many an artist's website and am feeling pretty darned humbled and a lot inspired.