See the Sea: new show, new look, new venture!

I am very excited to be mounting an exhibition of new works at The Landing Gallery in Gibsons BC, for the month of August. This feature exhibition is a collaboration with my friend and fellow co-op member Nell Burns, a textile artist. We agreed to create works on the theme of "the ocean," given that Nell already does beautiful three-dimensional embroidered shadow box paintings of seafloor creatures, and I already do paintings of waves.

The show will be hung on Sunday July 31, with an opening reception on Saturday August 6th from 1-2:30 pm. During the reception, a representative of CPAWS (the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) will give a short talk on the endangered glass sea sponges, a rare phenomenon just off the Sunshine Coast      (

In preparation for this show, however, and given my desire to provide some smaller works for it, I experimented with painting some vividly coloured pastels based on a series of photos of "kids on the beach" taken over the past two summers. I was thrilled with the results, and became obsessed with creating more and more of them.  In the end I made 21 new images (see the "Figures" tab within the "Works" section for the entire set).

Summer Sparkle 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

Summer Sparkle 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

Super Stripe 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

Super Stripe 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

First Dip 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

First Dip 8" x 8" framed pastel $195

I liked the images so much, and got such good feedback from those who saw them, that I decided to try a new venture, and had high-quality prints made of six of the images.  These "giclee" prints ( a term used to differentiate a fine-art ink reproduction from a colour photocopy) are available in the same size as the original painting (8" x 8") for $50 each, complete with mat, ready for framing. The prints will be sold through The Landing Gallery, but may also be ordered by email (payment via e-transfer only).  The same six images are also available as cards in The Landing Gallery.

Hope you enjoy these happy new paintings as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Rotary Art Auction Update

What's that line from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities? "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." My experience at last night's Rotary Art Auction reminded me of it...

Painting a 30" x 40" acrylic piece in front of an audience of 200+ people was, to say the least, nerve wracking. I've done many demos for my students and a few at art-related conferences...but this was my first time competing with a large, noisy crowd strolling by with glasses of rare vintages and plates of gourmet goodies while I worked hard to concentrate. It was rather fun to eavesdrop on the comments made by those watching me from behind--happily, all very positive, but sometimes amusing.

One thing I learned was that people are frequently very interested in knowing exactly where a resource photo was taken, and want to make a personal connection with the piece as a result ("Where was that photo taken?  It looks like Hawaii.  My wife and I were in Maui last winter and the surf looked just like that." Of course I jokingly assured him that it WAS Maui--in reality I have no memory of where I took that specific photo of the breaking waves--I have hundreds).

My "best of times" moment came when I noticed a tiny toddler of Asian heritage, perhaps 3 years old, solemnly watching me while clutching his father's leg. He was so fixated and so rapt that I invited him to come over, placed a paintbrush in his hand, dipped it into white paint from the palette, and invited him to help me paint my picture.  With the same serious expression, he walked over to the easel and silently placed a single mark--in exactly the right spot, on the foamy edge of the breaking wave! I had been prepared to "fix" any inappropriate stroke once the child left, but there was no need. Still wordlessly, he handed the paintbrush back to me and retreated to his father's side. Dad, meanwhile, had eagerly recorded the moment on his iPhone. When the family went to move off, the child resisted, and I offered to mind him for a few more moments while his father refilled his wine glass.  So he remained, wordless, unsmiling, but wholly engaged, until his father returned.  A future artist, perhaps! Such a privilege to have been a tiny part of influencing that life-in-the-making.

The "worst of times" came about 30 minutes before the deadline for the work to be ready for its live auction debut.  My composition had included a horizon and far-off headland, with the breaking waves in the foreground--an experimental departure from my usual close-up of just the wave pattern.  It had seemed to be ok, though I had already changed the values several times by that point. But at this critical, down-to-the-wire moment, I had that unsettled, uncomfortable, back-of-the-neck sensation that it just wasn't working.  Yikes!

I looked over at my husband, who had been faithfully guarding my space (and, not incidentally, feeding me delicious goodies from the appetizer tables--coconut shrimp, aged cheeses, strawberries!) and said "Decision time--this background's not working, is it..."  With an anxious face and a nod, he confirmed my suspicions. I glanced at my watch, took a deep breath and a large brush in hand and slathered beautiful blues, greens, and turquoises all over the entire background section--about a third of the canvas.  Away with the deep background, in with an abstracted pattern of waves/water...and, phew!, it worked! Gratefully, I turned my attention to the final "finessing" of edges and shapes so that, when the organizer came by soon after and said "Ready?  Yours is up next" I felt ok to sign my initials with a flourish and pass off the work to the auctioneer.

Fifteen minutes later my painting was owned by one of my studio students who was the successful top bidder!  I was so pleased that she had been motivated to purchase the piece and glad it would go to a home where I knew it would be enjoyed.  As well, 70% of the purchase price will go towards good works by the Rotary Club.  Everyone wins.

I had five other pieces in the silent auction portion of the evening, and all five sold (three to collectors I already know--thank you!!) and one to a new admirer. All in all, a success.

Rotary Art Auction Opportunity

I wanted to alert you to an upcoming opportunity to acquire one of my paintings at a good price and support a very worthy cause, all while enjoying wine or beer and delicious appetizers at a gala event!

I will be participating in the Gibsons' Rotary Art Auction on Saturday April 23rd ( in the SunnyCrest Mall, Gibsons, from 630-930 pm. A number of my works will be offered via a silent auction. These will be all new pastel and acrylic works, never before exhibited, and the opening bid price will be 50% below their usual retail price. Should you be inspired to support me by placing an opening bid to get the auction ball rolling, I'd be very grateful, as would the Rotary folks. It could be that you'll acquire one of my works at a really bargain price--and a portion of the proceeds will support the Gibsons Elementary School Playground Fund this year, so everyone wins.

And there's more! I am also honoured to be the artist selected this year to do a painting demonstration during the event. The resulting finished work will be auctioned off live by renowned coast auctioneer Ed Hill. This will be a fresh and lively 30" x 40" wave painting in acrylic on deep canvas, ready to hang in your home should you be the final bidder. Come by and say hello as I work on it, and then have your bidding finger at the ready!

I hope to see you at this fun and festive event, one of the annual highlights of our thriving coast art culture. Come on out and support artists, kids, and community, and have a great time doing it! Tickets are available from any Rotary member, at The Landing Gallery in Gibsons, or by calling 604 740 6030.

Kona Coast--one of the paintings that will be auctioned

Kona Coast--one of the paintings that will be auctioned

Medium and Large

I have just completed a commission to interpret a finished work in a different format. The buyers had admired a pastel work of mine for some time, but were concerned that it would be too small for the space planned for it, and that the glass required on a pastel would create too many obtrusive reflections because of the adjacent large windows. Accordingly, they asked me to consider re-interpreting the work in a much larger size and in a medium that would not require glass to frame.

Here is the original work:

Time to Go, pastel on sanded panel, 12" x 36"; framed $750

Time to Go, pastel on sanded panel, 12" x 36"; framed $750

When accepting the commission, I asked them what they admired about the pastel, and was told that it was the mood, the colours, the movement of the geese, and the oblong format that they especially liked.

After measuring the intended space, I purchased two possible canvases (30" x 60" and 36" x 72"). I tried them both in the space, and decided that it definitely needed the larger size; however, I was concerned that neither of the canvases retained the ratio of the original (1:3). I considered cutting down the larger canvas to 30" x 72" to be closer, but in the end determined that the 36" height filled the space better. Because of this decision, I decided that the composition would need a greater "depth of field" and planned to expand the scene into a greater depth. The buyers are retired geologists who have spent considerable time in tundra landscapes, and I guessed that a bigger view of a tundra marsh would appeal to them. As well, on this larger scale, a band of solid dark value in the background (as in the original) could be oppressive, so I planned to break up the space with a more varied sky.

After doing a quick thumbnail value sketch to finalize the basic composition, I sketched out the large shapes on the canvas with a pencil. Thinking that this larger format needed more textural interest than the smaller original, I then applied a texture to all the marsh grass areas. To do this, I applied a layer of thick gesso with a palette knife to each grass section, and then dragged a comb-like plastic tool through the wet gesso to create a grassy texture. As I worked, I kept perspective in mind, creating smaller scale marks on sections further in the distance in the scene.

Once the gesso was thoroughly dry, I did the first pass with acrylic, developing the foundational values and hues for all sections: a mid-dark value blue-grey for the sky and water, and a mid-value gold (my favourite Naples yellow) for all the grasses. Then, I applied variations of these colours to create depth and texture in the grasses, establishing the three-dimensional shape of them against the water areas. As I washed various colours over the textured areas, the ridges took the colour while the gold showed between--this method creates a naturally textured and believable grass effect that I find more pleasing than what can be accomplished by brushstrokes alone. As the painting progressed, I repeated this technique twice: once to raise the area of marsh and reduce the area of sky, and once to reshape the closest grass section to create a better composition. Both of these modifications improved the eye path that guides the viewer's gaze around the painting.

The water areas required only some strokes and spatters of pale grey to suggest that it had iced over, and I added some very light grey areas to the edges of the grasses to indicate areas of snow caught at their bases.

To create the desired effect in the sky, I brushed in various muted tones of cream, pale gold, and a soft rose to hint at impending dawn on the horizon at the point where the stream disappeared. The horizon itself turned out to be the most challenging part of the painting!  I wanted the values to be very close so that the division between earth and sky was very muted (as it is in the far distance), yet the hues (gold/grey) needed to be just enough different to reveal the division between the two planes. Eventually I achieved this balance, but it took awhile!

Once the landscape itself was completed to my satisfaction came the scariest part: adding the geese!  I knew that I had to scale up the size of the birds for this larger format, while still retaining the sense of blurred motion from the original. With the original pastel in front of me for reference, and only a basic sense of the size, shape, number, and attitude of geese required, I took a deep breath, dipped my brush in dark brown paint, and quickly sketched in all the geese at once in varying wing positions.  When I let out the breath I was holding and stepped back, I saw to my relief that I had achieved the same sense of motion and direction as I had in the pastel. Phew! A few refinements in shape, and the addition of the white marks that identify these birds as Canada geese finished this step. As a final touch I added the dark shadows below the geese that suggest that the water has frozen over to ice.

I pondered the work for 24 hours, made a few more small changes, and then signed it on the front and added the title and date on the back. I called it The Urge for Going, based on the title of a Joni Mitchell song that includes the following lyrics:

See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going and they've got the wings so they can go
They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown

My clients were away for a few days, but had left me a house key, so I delivered the painting, leaving it propped in the planned niche with the spotlights on it, and nervously awaited their response...until I got a text the next day that shouted "It's PERFECT!!!" I am very glad that they love the finished work. However, I never hold a client to a purchase even on a commission. I only take on commissions that I feel I can accomplish to my own satisfaction and enjoy creating. If the buyer then refuses the finished piece, I can be confident that it will stand on its own and find another buyer at some future time.

And here is the completed work:

The Urge for Going, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 72" x 2"; collection P. Allen & J. Devlin

Completed demo

And here is the piece I completed at OPUS on Saturday. We had a great crowd of people who competed with the many Winterruption attendees to find a parking space, watched attentively, and asked great questions.  Thanks also to the very helpful staff who made it a really good experience. Hope to do it again some time!

Arc & Splash 20.5 x 28.5 unframed $700

Arc & Splash 20.5 x 28.5 unframed $700