(Not) Born to Run

Thoughts from the dining room table as we transition to a new life in the Maritimes.

We made it! And just like that, I feel like I literally exploded my old life. We packed up all of our belongings, spent one last night sleeping on the (very bare and very hard) living room floor in our old house, locked the door behind us, and drove forever until we reached our new home.

Mom, WHAT is going on?!?

Except we’re not home, not for a little while yet, because our new home won’t be ready until the summer and my in-laws (very kindly) let us move in with all the animals. And reaching our destination didn’t mean that we were done dealing with the fallout of this life bomb in the least. In the past eight weeks, I feel like it’s been one major butterfly-inducing to-do item after another. I sort of envision this giant thumb just pressing down on me constantly during all waking hours – the pressure has felt so real and intense for so long. But, we made it here physically, and the pieces are ever so slowly falling into place and the pressure is decreasing.

We went out this past Friday for the first time since arriving here – not to go to the gym or run an errand – just a nice, casual evening out. Granted, there was no casual strolling through the streets of Fredericton. It’s been frigidly cold for May and our walk back to the car ended with me running through the parking lot to our car to escape the wind and drizzle – but still, our first evening out and a feeling that things are starting to return to a new “normal”.

During times of stress, I find there are a few constants for myself. I will definitely eat more, and I will definitely create less. With the combination of cold weather and prolonged exposure to high adrenaline – most nights I’ve been crashing with the dogs way earlier than I ever used to. The thought of painting or writing was as unappealing as the Mrs. Dunster’s donut holes have been appetizing – which is to say very.

View from my new office in mid-April 😦
Fredericton flood from the pedestrian bridge, end of April 😦

But, a new colleague and friend helped me to get out of my funk. She connected me back in April with a, “call for artists” for the summer art auction for a local restaurant called Isaac’s Way. One of the most appealing aspects about our new life in Fredericton is how arts friendly this beautiful city is. There is just no shortage of artists’ collectives and groups and galleries and prestigious and wonderful art schools – and I can’t wait to be part of it. Not to mention the beautiful scenery and architecture and rolling hills and life on the St. John river. I love it here. I found out about this ongoing art auction during brunch last summer at Isaac’s Way and I instantly wished that we could live here so that I could participate (and so we moved here, just like that! Ha!). The whole restaurant is set up like a gallery and over the months of the art auction diners and patrons can bid on their favorite paintings. Paintings are donated by New Brunswick artists (hey, that’s me!) and raise funds for various charities.

I was very happy to answer the call for artists, and so excited/flattered/thrilled (pick your favorite ecstatic adjective) to be accepted. Of course, then came the hard part – creating a painting when my entire art room is in storage and my life is in chaos. I knew I could only commit to creating something on the small side. I also didn’t want to invest in a lot of supplies because I have everything I could ever possibly need in a storage container in Ontario. Also, my current “art studio” is limited to a corner of my in-laws dining room table – suffice to say there were a number of logistical, spatial, and monetary considerations at play while I was considering my next masterpiece.

Current art studio 🙂

I have a lot of personal photos of Fredericton that I’ve been meaning to use for painting reference, and I’ve really been enjoying urban sketching so it didn’t take me long to narrow my focus to watercolour and ink on my favourite Canson art board.

Great little palette of paint, useless little brush.

I ordered a Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Pocket Palette with 12 half pans for its economy of price and space. The set comes with a #5 pocket brush (which is actually horribly tiny with short handle to fit into the palette and which I have never used). I also ordered a pad of Canson Plein Air Watercolor Art Board – this board has a slight texture pressed into it but overall handles like a hot press surface that allows for nice sharp pen lines and quick, expressive paint application.

My economical plan was compromised a little because I had to supplement the too-tiny paintbrush with two Simmons paintbrushes from Endeavors but otherwise this has been my simplest set up in along time. I should also say that despite getting a lot of mileage out of this little palette and enjoying it for the most part, as per the online reviews it was nearly impossible to open when I first received it – my husband had to pry it open with a butter knife and I’ve never closed it again since.

Sketch for August Evening at Officer’s Square – just testing the waters to see if I’ve still “got it”.

I had my supplies but waited (aka procrastinated) another couple weeks to get started – that initial push to paint after a long time away can be a big barrier to overcome. Like when you take a day off from exercising and it turns into a year. I told myself I would just sketch and paint as much as possible over the next week and whatever came out best I would frame for the artists’ auction. No pressure! I was sketching for the first time in three months and at first it did feel forced but quickly I got back to my “zone.” And then I felt like I had so much to say with my paints, and became very focused and the week that started with a few uncertain lines on a random piece of paper ended with three finished paintings and a sketch for a fourth.

I sketched August Evening at Officer’s Square and eventually it turned into my first post-move painting.

August Evening at Officer’s Square. May 2019. Ink and watercolour on Canson art board. 9 x 12″.

I’ve been really enjoying taking the dogs to the University of New Brunswick for long weekend runs since we moved here and I have so many pictures waiting to be sketched. UNB has to be one of the most scenic, lovely, begging-to-painted universities anywhere.

This is one of my favourites so far, Head of the Class:

Head of the Class. May 2019. Watercolor and ink on Canson art board. 9 x 12″.

The reference photo was taken looking up College Hill at UNB at the Old Arts Building:

I love the gestural, unrehearsed feeling of these paintings and this style I’m developing. Such a nice break from my more “serious” works (which feed my artist soul in a different way). I also keep going back to pictures I took of Queen St. in downtown Fredericton last summer and it’s not the first time I’ve sketched the old Owl’s Nest location – I find these old buildings with their bright colors and different personalities to be so visually appealing and all the years spent visiting the Owl’s Nest Bookstore on vacation tug at my nostalgic heart. I rounded out the big week of art with this painting:

Everything Must Go. May 2019. Watercolor and ink on Canson art board. 9 x 12″.

It was a great week for art, and our casual Friday out wasn’t so casual afterall. I had August Evening at Officer’s Square framed for the auction and we had the big fun task of dropping my work off at Isaac’s Way. This is a dream realized – to be displayed in a public place makes me feel so happy and so validated and so honored.

So happy!
Nerdy photo with the Isaac’s Way’s Saucepan Sam 😛

It was a fantastic day and there was nothing left to do except return to the dining room table and get back to it…

Fredericton Playhouse

Change is hard. I keep saying, I never want to move again. Ever. But like my mother-in-law said to me once, “Sometimes a change is as good as a rest”.

Thanks for reading everyone.

My Muse, Miss Clicquot.

To love her is to paint her. ❤️

Oh Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. Sweet girl with the biggest brown eyes. She joined our family when she was two years old. Clicquot is the younger sister to Teelo and Riggs. I did worry about her blending into our animal menagerie at first, and how that would go. I remember letting her out of the car her first night in our home and she trotted into the house like she owned the joint. She spent the next 48 hours chasing Beesa everywhere and she placed herself firmly and unwaveringly at the top of our animal hierarchy. Since then, she has ruled over our home like the Princess and the Pea with all of her delicate sensibilities and constant demands.

Like clockwork, every night at 9 pm she cries and grunts until you cover her with a blanket. Hers is a pushy, aggressive type of love. Clicquot thinks nothing of climbing up on an already crowded couch and camping out on top of one of her brothers until they make the sensible choice and leave, vacating their spot for her. Or body-checking her grandmother when she comes to visit (sorry mom!). Or head-butting everyone in sight when she knows it’s “walk time”.

She loves the fireplace in the winter, and sun- tanning on the warm deck in the summer. Sometimes you have to save her from her love of heat – turn the fireplace off or bring her in from the sun when it seems like any sane animal or human would’ve had enough. It is impossible to get mad at her, and that is how Clicquot gets away with it all. Really, all she wants is to be warm, and to be loved, and she is not shy to demand either when her meter is running low. And we – we are so happy to supply her with all the cuddles, blankets, and love she could possibly need.

With her almost cartoon-like features, and that face, Clicquot has been a huge source of inspiration for my art. She’s my little vizsla muse.

I realized I’ve done quite a few portraits of Clicquot and I thought I’d share them with you. Miss Monkey Bananas, below, represented a real level up for me. The solitary figure, vibrant colours, and solid background cutting in with confident lines around my subject – this is a style I returned to and experimented with many times in the latter half of 2018.

Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. August 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 12″.

My husband and I took Clicquot for an epic 35 km backcountry hike at Algonquin Park the summer she came to live with us. We planned it as a bonding experience for just the three of us (the boys stayed with their grandparents and were thoroughly spoiled). Clicquot was such a good little hiker. She stayed right beside me even when we was off-leash, and she was NOT interested in meeting any other hikers, human or canine. We hiked about 17 km the first day and when we arrived at our campsite at Hart Lake we spent the rest of the summer afternoon chilling on the rocky shore. Clicquot was our little lookout dog. This painting makes me want to take her back to the backcountry… such happy memories.

Clicquot at Heart Lake. February 2018. Acrylic and ink on canvas. 18 x 24″.

And finally, this painting was inspired entirely by Edward Hopper’s Pensive Lady in Pink, replaced by our own little pensive lady in red. I went through a bit of a Hopper tribute phase in the first half of 2018, covered in this post. Every time I finished a Clicquot painting, I would think of another painting idea, or take another perfect photo of her that was just begging to be painted.

Pensive Lady in Red. May 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 20″.

Clicquot 3 x 3

The Clicquot 3 x 3. I love this. This is an ongoing Clicquot project that I started about a year ago and which I would really like to return to and finally complete. My recent sketchbook tour sent me looking through other sketchbooks for fun and I was reminded of this series. This was inspired by a sweet book my husband gave to me many, many years ago: Arty Dogs. In it, dogs are added to famous paintings accompanied by a short story that explains how they ended up there, and it’s just really whimsical and great. It gave me the idea to feature sweet Clicquot in nine different scenes inspired by nine of my favourite artists. Whenever I don’t have another project going on, I try to finish a Clicquot sketch. Lately – that hasn’t been very often and this project needs some attention. I envision finishing all of these on hot press drawing board, with white frames, and hanging on a wall in a 3 x 3 formation (obviously).

This first sketch is inspired by Salvador Dali’s melty clocks and the Persistence of Memory. I absolutely love this quick sketch that I did in about five minutes during lunch at work one day. I hesitate to try to create a more polished, final drawing from this sketch because I think it might be difficult to reproduce the spontaneity.

The Persistence of Clicquot.

This is Clicquot standing outside looking into the old Apollo Grill at Hunter and George Streets. Inspired by Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks it puts a local spin on the classic painting. This makes me think of an independent little Clicquot who took a stroll downtown to get herself a hotdog only to find out, “No Dogs Allowed” inside the diner.

Nighthawks Clicquot

This is Clicquot starring in Edvard Munch’s The Scream and reimagined as, what else? The Howl. Clicquot doesn’t howl much. None of the dogs do. Teelo is the only one who ever really has, but the conditions need to be exactly right. He used to howl when we lived in Downtown Toronto, and he was still Downtown Brown. Sometimes when we were out for a walk, a firetruck would pass us with the sirens wailing. If the firetruck approached us from an adequate distance, so that the sirens were going for awhile, Teelo would sit down, throw his dog head back, and hoooooooooowl along with the sirens. Everyone on the sidewalk would turn to look. It was kind of his thing. This sketch reminds me of that, even though Clicquot is the subject.

The Howl.

Oh this is one of my favourites. I made many drafts of this sketch to get it just right. It is inspired by Roy Lichtenstein. We have three Lichtenstein prints hanging in our house. We spent many months trying to source that perfect trio of prints that explore domestic un-bliss and melodrama. I love pop art, I love Lichtenstein’s primary colour, dot-matrix portraits, and this is a combination of the “I don’t care…” sentimentality of Drowning Girl, and Kim Carnes’ song, “Bette Davis Eyes.” I always think of the line, She’s ferocious, and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. I’m pretty sure that Teelo and Riggs think Clicquot is a spy sent from outer space, or from our breeder’s house. Hence the title. 😉

All the Boys Think She’s a Spy.

I recycled this title for my Beesa painting, This is a Cat. I sketched this with Magritte’s pipe in mind – The Treachery of Images. I like it. It’s cheeky, just like Clicquot.

Another Magritte, another surrealist painting, another portrait of Clicquot. A cross between Magritte’s Green Apple and Decalcomania. I like how it pays tribute to three Magritte works in one. This will be the final composition for the Magritte drawing.

Ceci n’est pas un chien.

Below is a rough sketch of my Andy Warhol Clicquot Portrait. I think we all know the silk-screen Warhol Monroes on repeat, and the Campbell Soup Cans. This would be neat as a sketch but also as a mixed-media kind of decoupage that combines a black and white photocopy of Clicquot with multiple contrasting colours. I’ll have to think on its final execution a little more. I remember going to see the Warhol exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario on a wintery weekend with my MOM back in grade 10. I wore high heel boots that really hurt my feet and she insisted on taking the subway. After living downtown for ten plus years, taking the subway is no thing at all now but I was quite concerned for our safety on that first roundtrip into the big city. Anyway, the whole exhibit focused on Warhol’s work as a graphic designer. I loved it – I was really interested in graphic design as a career for myself back then and it was so interesting to see it elevated to fine art at the AGO. The exhibit was partly Warhol’s work interwoven with snapshots and pieces of his life. There was even a little display within the exhibit that featured a bottle of Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion that Warhol used. I used the same lotion then, and I use it now! And I’ve been a fan of Warhol since way back then too.

Candle in the Wind Clicquot.

My husband’s favourite artist is William Blake, the British Romantic painter unwittingly responsible for so much of the imagery in the Red Dragon movie (of Hannibal Lecter infamy). Unbelievably, he was a watercolour painter – I think his works are amazing. This is Clicquot howling along with the dragon in a sketch appropriately title, The Great Red Vizsla and the Dragon Clothed in Sun. Not sure if I’ll take my chances and paint the final work as a watercolour too… it’s not always guaranteed to be a success for me.

The Great Red Vizsla and the Dragon Clothed in Sun.

And that’s the entirety of my works inspired by Clicquot. Now that I’ve had a chance to return to the Clicquot 3 x 3 I hope I’ll be able to make it a priority to finish in the next few months and finally get it framed and on display. I counted and it looks like I’m two sketches shy of having all of my ideas. Kandinsky? Cezanne? Picasso? Seurat? We will see.

Representing my loved ones and my own memories through painting is a huge theme for my work. This is a subject I hope to explore more deeply through portraiture for the rest of 2019. I think it’s interesting to kind of push my own idea of a portrait a bit, paint my subjects from unconventional viewpoints, play with the colour and background and contrast. I have a number of paintings already lined up.

Clicquot has such an easy face to paint – I’m in the middle of a portrait of her and her brothers right now, and as soon as I filled in the darkest parts of her eyes I sat back and thought, I’ve got it! Those expressive features, and her fierce and pushy and lovey personality – we are just so lucky to have Clicquot in our family. I always call her my sweet girl. I feel like she’s been my little girl forever. There was no warming-up period, it was just an instant bond. That first weekend with her in our home my husband had to work. So I ventured out for a solo walk with all.the.dogs. It was unusually hot and when we got home it was quiet in the house. I lay down for a rest after the triple-dog-walk excitement (um, mayhem) and I remember distinctly that Clicquot just jumped right up beside me on the bed and curled close in next to me. It was love. It’s been her spot ever since (not counting her first few nights here when she was crated to stop her from hunting Beesa while we slept 🙄).

And there you have it – Little Miss Monkey Bananas Clicquot. Thank you for reading everyone and happy Monday!

Sandy Goes to the Hospital.

My brief foray into illustration during high school drew heavily on my own life experiences 😉

Today – a fun blast from my past.

But first – We have been inside for nearly two straight days due to an extreme cold weather warning. Monday morning we woke up to wind chills of -40 degrees Celsius. It’s good we got out for a run on Saturday afternoon because as scary cold as that was, this is much, much worse. We can barely get the dogs to go out back to do their dog business. I literally have to push their bums down the deck steps. I’m like a crazy lady running around wearing my husband’s Canadian dinner jacket waving a broom in the air trying to corral the freezing dogs. I think Teelo could hold it just about forever but the potential consequence of this type of bathroom willpower also stresses me out. So, dogs bums pushed down the stairs by the crazy dog lady it is.

And now – may I present to you, Sandy Goes to the Hospital.

I created this cartoon for the old Mississauga Hospital back in grade 10 or 11 when I was volunteering there (and it was still called Mississauga Hospital). I volunteered there for a few years in high school. I had a vague idea that I wanted to go to medical school one day and it seemed like a good strategy to volunteer in a hospital. I helped for a long time as a greeter in Emergency intake which seemed pretty intense and high stress for a fifteen-year-old?!? I don’t think I liked it very much to be honest. Anyway, when I discovered that they were still using the same “welcome to the hospital” colouring book for kids that I received when I got my tonsils out in grade 2 (!) I volunteered my drawing services.

I actually ended up doing a few different art projects through volunteer services but the coloring book came first. They kind of entrusted me to redo the old one, page for page. I’m pretty sure I renamed the main character Sandy because my younger sister and I were heavily, heavily into the move Grease for several years through high school. I’m also pretty sure that the doctor was based on Dr. Carter (played by Noah Wyle) from ER which my sister and I were also heavily into during the NBC Must See TV era. So, so weird in retrospect but hey, there it is.

Sandy was surprisingly chill about being told that she would need to be admitted to the hospital and none of these people have fingers, just mitt hands:

Sunflowers were kind of my thing back in high school, that’s a sunflower on Sandy’s shirt – not the sun or just any old flower.

Sandy was getting her tonsils out because I had also had my tonsils removed years before and this was my closest frame of reference for an operation or medical intervention. In 2019 I think this is now an outpatient procedure – you go to the hospital for a few hours and go home the same day, it’s not really a thing – but in the late 1980s it was still a bit of a big deal. It was like a 10-14 day recovery (off school!!!). I remember being on the couch and watching A LOT of Little House on the Prairie reruns (you didn’t get to choose back then and that’s what was on TV on weekday afternoons apparently). Before the operation I had to go in for a pre-op work-up and you had to stay overnight. That was the most stressful part for me because 7-year-old me had to stay overnight at the hospital by myself after the actual operation.

This was how the actual entrance to the old Mississauga Hospital used to look. And these cartoon people kind of (?) look like my parents except my dad never owned a sweater like that.

I remember I really obsessed over the spelling of paediactric (or pediatric?). Even now this is making my head turn in a funny way to make it look right. I Googled it and it turns out this is a thing to wonder the correct spelling – and both are right. Count on me to use the spelling that seems more pretentious.

Again, so many happy people, including this poor boy with two broken limbs? What on earth?

And THAT is the most terrifying needle I have ever seen:

All together now:

I know that the point of this colouring book was to make the hospital seem friendly (and not scary) and more accessible for little kids but I just cannot get over how deliriously happy the characters in this little colouring book are. It’s pretty funny. I wonder if it’s still in use?

I even got a little bit of press for my work! This beauty of a pic was taken of me in my volunteer smock for The Mississauga News.

And another article in my high school newspaper (I think?):

Looking at these old drawings and clips reminds me that I used to combine my art side and my science side wherever possible. There was a fair amount of cross-over and I always had the prettiest science projects 🙂 There was a time, maybe in grade 11, that I went to the University of Toronto to check out their medical illustration graduate program. Sometimes I think that was a bit of a missed opportunity for me. I imagine myself working from home, holed up in my studio (the dogs are there too) and just spending my days drawing highly technical illustrations of teeth and eyeballs and whatever you might need to fill a science textbook. I think that would’ve been really, really cool. But, like so many things that have kind of gone more technical over the years, my sense is that there’s more computer illustration used now in medical illustration than actual watercolours on paper and that’s not something I would’ve really enjoyed. Still, it’s interesting to reflect on what could’ve been (you know, the whole Frost fork in the road quote, kind of sort of?) and in the very least share these funny little illustrations for you on this cold Tuesday.

Thanks for reading everyone! Hopefully the cold will break later this afternoon and we will finally be able to get the dogs out to walk off some of those crazy sillies that have been building up!!!

Paint-along still life apple.

Acrylic painting for absolute beginners. Everything you need to know ☺️

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of my Absolute Beginners painting series, you can check them out here and here.

So, you’ve chosen to paint with acrylics! Excellent choice! Or maybe you’re just reading this post for the heck of it – also excellent! Thank you so much. If you’ve never painted with acrylics before, please, let me be your guide.

Today we are going to paint this (if you want to):

First up, let me explain the basic of acrylic paints in this video below:

Notes

What exactly are acrylic paints. Well, as we covered in Part 1, all paint is made up of a binder or vehicle (the stuff that keeps the paint together, sticks to your painting surface, and holds the colour in place once the paint is dry). The pigment is mixed with the binder – this is what gives your paint its colour. Acrylic paint has a similar consistency to oil paint – both are generally pretty-heavy bodied and thick. The binder in acrylic paint is acrylic polymer emulsion. Straight out of the tube acrylic paint is water soluble. So all you really need to thin your paint and work with them is basic water. If you like you can buy a product called retarder which is an additive for increasing the working (drying) time of your acrylic paint. Once acrylic paint dries it is water impermeable and permanent. It is a great paint for beginners.

Basic acrylic painting shopping list

Yay, you get to go shopping! Here’s what you’ll need to get started with acrylics:

  • Acrylic paint, 60 ml tubes (I recommend TriArt or Golden paints): Alizarin crimson, cadmium red medium, cadmium yellow medium, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, chrome oxide green (optional), Payne’s grey, titanium white
  • Brushes: Round #6, flat 1/2″ thick, filbert #2 or #4 – short handle if you’ll be working at a table, long handle if working at an easel (I prefer synthetic soft bristles, other option is hog hair, see what you like) – inexpensive is ok, but I don’t recommend dollar store paintbrushes – you would regret it
  • Pre-stretched canvases – you can buy a bulk pack for a volume discount (12 x 12″ is a good size to go with) and/or pad of inexpensive canvas sheets for practice
  • Retarder (optional) – Golden makes a good one
  • Palette: Disposable palette sheets (optional, looks like a pad of paper) – or a piece of plywood or Masonite board – it is up to you
A bunch of well-loved brushes. From the top: Hogs hair filbert, synthetic soft bristle filbert, flat synthetic soft 1/2″, round synthetic soft #6.

Paint-Along: Still Life With Apple

Here’s what you’ll need for our paint-along:

  • Titanium white
  • Cadmium yellow medium
  • Naphthol red medium (or cadmium red medium from basic palette0
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Payne’s grey
  • Chrome oxide green (optional)

Click below to watch me paint. You can paint along with me! I recommend you get all your supplies assembled, a nice cozy tea, and then press play! You can follow me, skip around to the parts you need. You’ll have your first painted masterpiece in no time. I’m no Bob Ross but I really try to break it down for viewers. And I apologize for the length! This is my first kind of “paint-with-me” video and there’s definitely a learning curve. But I thought, ah, I’ve got to start somewhere so here we are.

Our apple palette!
Today’s subject.
Reference drawing.
All the colours – before.
All the colours – after.
Remember to paint your canvas edge to finish everything like a star!
Don’t forget to sign your work!

I hope you all enjoyed this little how-to and tutorial. The best way to learn how to paint, is to paint – as much as possible. If you painted along, please please please share your work in the comments below! Any comments? Questions? I love to hear from you!

Thank you everyone for reading and watching!

Sketchbook Tour.

Happy Friday all! I finished a sketchbook yesterday! It feels great! This was an especially good one so I thought I’d give you a little tour to celebrate. I used to treat my sketchbooks a little too preciously. I was afraid to start something unless I was sure it would be really good. I was always worried about wasting any of the pages. I just ended up with a lot of half-used, not very interesting books gathering dust. I’m in a place now where I view it as more of a visual diary. Don’t get me wrong – if something is downright awful, I’ll probably rip the page out – there’s no need to keep a drawing if it makes you cringe every time you look at it. You may not be able to crumple up any other types of life mistakes and toss them in the trash, but you can certainly rip creepy/ugly/awkward/what-were-you-thinking? drawings out of your sketchbook.

Anyway, I date everything in my sketchbook and it ends up being a really nice journal and a great way to look back on work in progress. Some stuff may stay in the sketchbook, other drawings may have been the spark for a great painting or phase of art (my Clicquot phase, my Hopper phase). I love it.

I purchased this sketchbook from Endeavors the Artist Shop in downtown Fredericton on Monday, July 30, 2018. It’s just the best little art store packed with great supplies on Queen Street right across from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design and Garrison Square (double love!). When my husband used to live in Fredericton he would go to Endeavors when shopping for presents for me 🙂 🙂 :0 so my history with this great store goes way back. I was actually walking around Fredericton all by myself on Sunday, July 29th, during the hottest summer ever in history. The scenery is so nice on Queen Street and you’re close to the water. I was waiting for my husband and I thought, I should find that cute little art store and buy a sketchpad and pen – and a fancy iced coffee! and find some shade to sketch the city. I thought that would be so artsy-chic of me.

Well, Endeavors was closed that Sunday (wuh wuh) and my plans to look like a fabulous artist sketching in the park like it required no effort at all were foiled. We returned the next day, and I loaded up on sketching supplies (including this book) and then had lunch at my favourite lunch place of all time, The Abbey. As an aside – We ate there almost every single day that we were in Fredericton last summer and I couldn’t get enough. Local art work on walls? Check. Creative vegan food served in big bowls? Check. Air-conditioning? Check. I still love that place so much but I digress… (sketchbook tours will make you do that, all the happy memories just come flooding back and you go off on a tangent).

So this sketchbook features a lot of east coast drawings, most from pictures that I took on site, and a few randoms too. What are sketchbooks without the randoms? I started the book on Monday, July 30, 2018, and finished it yesterday, January 17, 2019. Not bad!

Here’s a selection of my favourites 🙂

Owl’s Nest Bookstore, Fredericton. I’ve been visiting this place every time I visit Fredericton with my husband for nearly twenty years now! We were both distressed to see that there was a closing sign up last July. This store was just always absolutely crammed with books, it was actually kind of claustrophobic for me. A downtown institution nonetheless. And an obligatory stop on our semi-annual trek around downtown. We did give it one last wander last summer before I insisted we leave because it was too warm and I felt like bthe store was closing in on me.

The Citadel, in Halifax Nova Scotia. Did I mention that the summer of 2018 was literally the hottest summer on record, like everywhere on earth? Including the Maritimes? Oh my god, it was intolerable. This really came into play when we went to visit the Halifax Citadel atop the treeless Citadel Hill and I forgot to put on sunscreen. We hung out in these tunnels a whole bunch until we felt like we had got our money’s worth. This is a view from one of the underground tunnels, looking out into the blinding sun. That’s my husband at the top of the steps.

My husband at Moxon’s Country Pumpkin. My nephew was in the other half of the drawing but he took on an unfortunately creepy sort of Chucky-like appearance so he’s been cut out of this picture for the sake of my pride. I don’t know what it is about drawing/painting kids – when it goes wrong it goes really wrong.

Backstreet Records – also on Queen Street, Fredericton. My husband has been shopping @backstreetrecords forever, and this is another one of our usual Freddy stops. This drawing was pretty good but then I feel like I ruined it a bit with my limited pack of pastels that I bought on a whim when I purchased this sketchbook. Not a huge fan of pastels to begin with so I don’t really know what I was thinking??? these ones certainly didn’t do anything to convert me to a pastel artist, they just made a mess.

Le Coq Bistro in Halifax. Of the few days we were there, this was hands-down the best meal that we had. It didn’t hurt that the air-conditioning was perfect and it was a great escape from the heat. We drove east in search of seafood and authentic donairs. I never would have guessed our most memorable dinner would have been French food. But @lecoqbistro was so lovely, we just couldn’t stop talking about it. I loved the food here, loved the atmosphere. My sketch is a little busy, but at least the dinner was very good, and looking at this reminds me of our really nice Haligonian date night.

I saw this little dog chilling out on Richmond Street in Charlottetown, PEI on another horribly hot day in August. His people were having brunch and he seemed pretty happy out beside them in the shade. I imagine that his name was probably something awesome like Milkbone. Our dogs are always on high alert so they would never chill on a curb like this, ever. I’m jealous of people with really chill dogs because they are living my dog fantasy. We don’t do stuff like this with our dogs, ever.

Down at the Khyber! I love this sketch. I love this building. Down at #thekhyber is one of my favourite albums of all time, steeped in personal happy memories and feelings and finding the actual Khyber was so awesome. I took many photos at many different angles of this awesome building. The above drawing led to a great little watercolour painting that was part of a really productive week last fall where I felt like everything I touched with my watercolour brush was awesome.

Another great view of The Khyber 🙂 Just loved those angles and the pretty architecture.

St. Paul’s Church in Downtown Halifax. We were walking around one evening and this striking building just called out to be photographed. This sketch is one of my favourites! Now that I’m writing about it here in my sketchbook tour I’m wondering why I didn’t paint this with the rest of my east coast watercolours??? I especially like all of the horizontal lines and how simple it looks. It was really easy to draw which is always the way with sketches you end up liking most. Love the perspective. Maybe this one is worth another look for a painting? The tough part is, any attempts to reproduce this will lose something in the reproduction process and I have a feeling that the spontaneity of the drawing is part of what makes me like it so much.

Cavendish Beach at sunset in August. We got to PEI after driving over the terrifying, vertigo-inducing bridge, we had a traditional lobster dinner, we got Cow’s Ice Cream, and then we drove up to Cavendish Park and dipped our toes in the ocean and called it a day. I loved these little red and white huts along the beach.

When we got to Halifax we walked all along the Harbour as the sun was setting. The reflection of orange light from the pier on inky blue-black water was so pretty. I took a ton of photos for reference and returned to them recently. It’s nice to reminisce about summer from the depths of winter. These harbour sketches inspired two paintings in one evening which is kind of a record for me. I was particularly happy with the perspective of the sketch above, and the resulting painting which I talk about in this post.

A few more studies of the pier at night.

These drawings turned into a fun little painting session and time-lapse video captured here.

Oh, and here are the dogs:

I’ve been doing these random cartoons of my funny little vizslas for awhile now. It started when Teelo and Riggs were the original gruesome twosome and continued when Clicquot joined the mix. They just have the most hilarious little personalities and facial expressions. This particular cartoon is just an illustration of their random food-related nonsense nicknames. OMG I love my dogs so much.

More vizsla cartooning. I imagine that in addition to being totally crazy Clicquot is also very stern and scares the boys.

I didn’t paint in my sketchbook very often but this view across from Garrison Square in Fredericton turned out pretty nicely I think and I really should return to this for a painting. I love Maritime architecture. Brightly painted wood in a rainbow of colours and all sorts of interesting lines and designs. I also love pen and watercolour paintings but I have yet to find a totally perfect pen. I tend to use fine Sharpies which are pretty good. My Micron Pigma pens, although highly rated, have been pretty disappointing. Most pens are good at first but once they start drying at all… that’s it, they’re of no use to me.

And here we are, the last few pages from my sketchbook:

The past few weeks were a bit of an artistic slump. It was so busy, busy, busy right up to and after Christmas, and then a bit of a rough time caught up with me. So even though at first I felt like I wanted to be busy and was painting and writing and running and cleaning and getting everything done… all of a sudden over the past week or two I felt like I had just had enough, and needed a bit of a break. So my incredibly prolific run came to an end and evachristensenart endured a bit of a radio silence as a result.

Anyway, two weekends ago my husband and I visited downtown with my idea of wanting to walk around and get some great pics to continue my watercolour and ink series closer to home. Not the best idea in a mid-January deep-freeze. We walked pretty quick, it was painfully cold, but I got my pics and my notes. I liked my east coast series so much my idea was to do the same with local landmarks and interesting-to-me places. These two paintings are my favourite downtown stores. I love the perspective in the painting above and I have tried three times to reproduce this as a more polished, final painting – each time was a huge fail. Not sure if I’ll try again as I’m just wasting my favourite Canson artboard at this point. Stay tuned I guess…

This particular sketch below was one of my most popular ever on Instagram. Maybe it’s the perspective? I like it quite a bit myself. Not sure if I’ll try another version outside of my sketchbook as that hasn’t been going too well for me recently. We will see. Sometimes I will put something away for a few months and then when the time is right I’ll be able to come back to it with the right perspective.

I finished the last pages of my sketchbook with notes and illustrations for my post all about colour theory. The art nerd in me thinks colour charts are so pretty and it was so much fun to create these for the post. It’s true – you know you’re doing something you love when it doesn’t feel like work. That’s how this blog and creating teaching-type posts feels for me.

I’m hesitant to take any pages out of my sketchbook but I’d love to frame some of these drawings and paintings. Especially now that I’ve had a chance to do a bit of a retrospective with this tour.

The Pentalic Nature Sketch Sketchpad was pretty good! The paper is 130 lb, acid-free, and has a cold-press texture. You have to have a light touch with any watercolour or wet media that you use because the paper does warp pretty easily. I loved the heavy chipboard back – It makes the sketchpad really sturdy, substantial. The texture is really nice for pen work. Like I said I usually use fine tip Sharpies and those worked really well here. I still feel like I haven’t found my pen soulmate but I suppose I can check out the pen situation this weekend when I go out to get a new sketchbook. Exciting!

I hope you enjoyed my sketchbook tour. Lots of east coast memories here @fredtourism. I may not be a real Freddy by geography, but after nearly twenty years of visits, I like to consider myself a Frederictonian by heart – or in the very least by marriage. Shout-outs to all of our favourite places: New Brunswick College of Craft and Design #NBCCD (if only I could be a student again), The Abbey Café #theabbycafe, @backstreetrecords, @beaverbrook_ag, @chesspiececafe. #Downtownfredericton we will be back soon 🙂

Thanks for reading everyone and welcome to the weekend!

Vizsla and the Sun in an Empty Room.

Vizsla and the Sun in an Empty Room. May 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 20″.

Today I wanted to tell you the story of this painting, Viszla and the Sun in an Empty Room. It’s from the spring of 2018 and while I like the actual painting just fine, it’s the title that makes it one of my favourites. I posted this on Instagram back when I finished it, but I’m not sure that everyone (anyone???) picked up on the reference so I thought I would explain. Did you get it? It’s a big time nod to Edward Hopper, my favourite artist, and his painting, Sun in an Empty Room. Actually, it’s entirely inspired by that painting (and of course Riggs who loves to stretch so gracefully).

I love Edward Hopper’s art. Everything. Not just Nighthawks – I know you know this painting, everyone knows it. Corner view of three people sitting in the nearly empty diner, scene from outside looking in? So famous it’s been parodied in multiple episodes of The Simpson’s? It’s a good one. I like it so much I did my own little parody last year, featuring Clicquot (this was during my Clicquot-as-a-muse phase last winter):

Clicquot and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. 2018. Ink on paper. From sketchbook.

I like all Edward Hopper paintings. Chop Suey,  Pensive Lady in Red,  Summer Evening. For my birthday one year, my husband surprised me with a print of Summer Evening printed on a gallery-wrapped canvas. I see it everyday and I always think, What on earth is going on here? How can something so simple be so narrative? It’s awesome! (yes, that’s my technical art critique :)).

Edward Hopper, Summer Evening, 1947 courtesy of http://www.edwardhopper.net

My interest in Edward Hopper goes way back to high school. I discovered his work when I was doing research for my OAC art thesis which focused on realism and architecture (and considering my subject matter it’s not really a surprise that I discovered him). Along with favourites like Lawren Harris and Andrew Wyeth, there stood out the work of Edward Hopper – quiet scenes of post-WWII American suburbanism, people lost in thought or just not talking on purpose (what were they thinking? what??), the contrast of lightest lights and darkest darks, the play of colours, and shadows cast with absolute geometrical precision. He had me at geometric precision.

My Grade 13 art journal:

I love reading what 17-year-old me had to say. There is some pretty angst-y stuff in here.
Edward Hopper journal entry.  He’s been inspiring my art for 20 yeras!

So as I said, MY painting is inspired by Sun in an Empty Room, another classic Hopper work. This is one of his later paintings and he totally forgoes any lonely-looking people in favour of just a totally empty, lonely room. Note the shadows – so, so, so great. And note the view outside the window – anyone else think that those trees look totally foreboding in spite of the sunshine? This is a great one – really begs the question, What is going on here? 

Edward Hopper, Sun in an Empty Room, 1963 courtesy of http://www.edwardhopper.net

Back to my painting – The vizsla is not any old vizsla – it’s sweet Baby Riggs and if you knew him you would know this is Riggs, because THAT is a Baby Riggs classic stretch pose and he is always stretching :). The house is our house, I took a ton of reference photos, and the shadows and highlights are all done in the style of Hopper.

The painting is on a 16 x 20″ gallery-wrapped canvas. I completed it in May 2018. It was painted with acrylics – a mix of TriArt and Golden paints.

Some progress pictures (always my favourite!):

Why, why, WHY did I used to do my acrylic under-drawing in black Sharpie marker???
Reference picture.

This painting took me forever to finish. I think I started it in March and I finished it in mid-May. Yikes. That doesn’t happen too often anymore. I swear I listened to The Weakerthans song, Sun in an Empty Room (so cool!) the entire time. If there was a way to infuse this blog post with that song – oh who am I kidding, there probably is, but I’m so technically-challenged I feel lucky that I was even able to create this website in the first place. Anyway, if I could embed that beautiful song to play over this post, it would really set the tone of this painting for you. I’ve given you the link instead ;).

I went through a real Edward Hopper phase from March 2018 onwards. I painted Vizsla and the Sun in an Empty Room, and then I painted sweet Clicquot in Pensive Vizsla in Red (yet another cheeky Hopper reference):

Pensive Vizsla in Red. June 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 20″.
Clicquot critiquing her portrait. Serious stuff.

And some more Hopper-esque sketches from the same time period:

Riggs and Clicquot, on the couch. Riggs is the one looking out the windows. It’s always Riggs. Ultimately I decided one vizsla and the sun in an empty room was enough. 2018. From my sketchbook.

My intention for this post was just to discuss the one painting. But in so doing I have summarized a nice little period in my personal art history – the time represented by these drawings and paintings has a really positive feeling around it. When I think back to it, it’s kind of cast in a warm and sunshine-y glow of late spring-early summer (as seen through the rose-coloured glasses of my mid-January perspective :)).

These paintings and sketches were completed at a time when I had just started painting again after the longest dry spell ever. For these months I felt super inspired to just study my favourite Edward Hopper paintings and allowed myself to kind of learn from him. It was a really freeing little art experiment. It seems kind of counter-intuitive because it was the opposite of easy-going, laissez-faire, let’s just see what happens! kind of painting. I learned a lot and that was really motivating.

I made some significant changes to my style and brushwork that have really stayed with me. Specifically, I simplified the forms in my sketches and paintings, and I tried as much as possible to keep.it.simple. Nothing fussy. I learned restraint. I learned to plan more in advance – especially my treatment of my light source. And that has kind of followed me through up to now, where I’m in a place where I’m becoming happier and happier with my painting.

Looking out my backdoor. March 2018. From my sketchbook.

I always loved the sketch shown above. It was inspired by a photo of my husband and Teelo and Riggs barbecuing in late winter. On the one hand it unfortunately led to my largest unfinished painting ever. I could never get it right. In fact, I’m looking at all 30 x 40″ of its unfinished glory leaning against the wall by my desk as I write this. But on the other hand, this sketch led to this portrait of Teelo, which was a real game-changer for me in terms of how I approach acrylic painting, and marked the start of my most prolific and productive period of 2018.

I once read that Edward Hopper spent a really long time working out each painting. I think it’s important to practice your craft a lot. But I also think it’s important to take a step back and really think about what you’re doing. I always see my productivity as kind of a wave function (yes, I’m referring to math :)). It goes up, it goes down. I feel inspired and invincible, then I’ll have a week (or two, or more) when I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to “do art.” But every time there’s a down, there seems to be an up that is better than ever before. And it’s neat to look back and link everything together in a post like this. It’s important for me to follow the process, take the time to work everything out in my brain, and think about what inspires me most 🙂

Who’s your favourite artist? What inspires you?

Thanks for reading everyone!

Week in Review.

On Sundays we let sleeping dogs lie…

We laid low this weekend. A few family runs with the little red dogs, some boardgames with friends on Saturday night with their cute, pushy puppy ❤️❤️❤️. I feel like hygge is a really overused word but I’m also Danish on my father’s side so I maybe that gives me some license to use it – I actually love cold and cloudy (but NOT snowy!) weekends because they are so cozy and perfect for hygge painting in the art room with the sleeping dogs 🙂

I’m teaching again as a university instructor this semester. I had to spend some time setting up and updating my online course and getting things in order. I was such a nerd in school and the start of a new term is still exciting for me. My work is in healthcare, and my teaching has so far focused mainly on science and clinical applications. It definitely feels like I am a different person when I am in that role compared with my artist side which I am trying to grow now.

And speaking of art, it was a really busy art week! I finished Downtown Brown at the start of the week:

Oil paint on canvas.
Downtown Brown. December 2018. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24”.

And I completed a few pieces for my East Coast series:

Watercolour and ink painting.
Halifax Harbour at Night.
Watercolour and ink painting.
Dartmouth Ferry as Seen From the Halifax Harbour.

I enjoy all types of painting. The transition to oil painting has been awesome, and I just love it. But I always, always love paintings in watercolours too, I just don’t take it as seriously?

I’ve been checking out a lot of other artists’ blogs and the watercolour artists out there make me wish I could paint like that. I have a big block of Arches paper and I think I may try my hand at a few more “serious” watercolours next week.

This week I made my most polished time-lapse painting video yet! I’m so proud of this and if you haven’t seen it you can check it our here!

I also wrote about my 2019 goals here. For this website I would really like to regularly add educational content and how-to videos in addition to my more personal blog essays. The website is still a work in progress but I’m hoping it will all crystallize in 2019.

Thank you for reading!

What I Painted – Halifax Harbour.

Dartmouth Ferry from Halifax Harbour. January 2019. Watercolour and Ink on Canson Artboard. 9 x 12″.

Last summer we took a road trip around the East Coast starting out from our vacation home-base of Fredericton, up and east to Prince Edward Island (hitting Charlottetown, Cavendish, Summerside), looping down through Halifax (and Dartmouth then back to Halifax) and back to Fredericton. I took as many pictures as I could and I have been loving painting these in pen and ink and watercolour ever since.

My first set of paintings focused primarily on PEI. I picked up this series again on New Year’s Day as a little break from my oil paintings. This time I’m focusing on a few great shots from Halifax harbour, from our first night in the city. This was also a great excuse to give my new Neewer light kit a try for filming. Watch me paint the Halifax Harbour at Night below then keep reading for more work from tonight and more details!

We arrived in Halifax on the August long weekend. We walked through the Harbour – the air smelled like the ocean and even though there was record-breaking heat during the day (it was seriously horrendously hot) the evenings were downright cold. Here’s my reference picture. Across the water you can see Dartmouth :).


Every time I look at this picture I hear Joel Plaskett singing, I took the Dartmouth Ferry into the town… 

Some painting close-ups:

I used my artist quality Winsor & Newton watercolour paints combined with my new set of Winsor & Newton gouache paints – the opacity was key for adding details in the night scene.

And painted on Canson Watercolour Artboard:

My painting set-up with Neewer light! Awesome! Ignore my cluttered table. It’s pretty multi-purpose these days.

I’m loving the Neewer light kit. I have to play with the angle and height a bit more for my video set-up but it’s a huge step-up from my previous arrangement of children’s alphabet blocks, wood board, and playing cards for leveling. Thank you to my sweet husband for the fancy Christmas light kit and to my in-laws for the Christmas gouache paints and artboard that made this painting possible 🙂 xoxo

It was so much fun to make this video tonight. Thanks for reading and watching everyone!

Back to the Grind.

Teelo stole Riggs’ Christmas toy and is so proud.

Hi everyone! Happy Wednesday. Missed any holiday posts? You can catch up here:

Running Free in Rusagonis

The Story of Downtown Brown

Christmas Commissions Round-Up

and Unpacking Boxing Day

I’m back to work, back to the gym, and back to regular life. Thank you to everyone who reached out about my New Year’s goals. It’s exciting to put myself out there!

I spent New Year’s morning watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo and taking down our Christmas tree. Relief at last! Totally random fact: I discovered the KonMarie method for folding clothes a few years ago and for anyone with 2019 home organization resolutions let me tell you it.was.a.life-changer. I think I spent like a week re-folding all of our clothing when I discovered this, and I still use this method now.

Another random thought: Today I learned that if you delete images from your WordPress media library that are linked to a post – you will also delete the linked images in your post! Oops! Well that was a giant fail!

I have This is a Cat, Big Beesa, and Downtown Brown drying around the art room now. I’m looking forward to varnishing these soon! I’ve read so much that varnishing really brings out the colours of your oil painting and I’m really excited to see this. I’ve noticed that the Old Holland Scheveningen black that I use dries pretty matte. This has the effect of making my deep, dark, black backgrounds on the Beesa paintings appear kind of dull. I have the Gamvar High Gloss Varnish and just need to pick up a new, clean flat paintbrush before I give it a try.

Also, kind of out of nowhere but I wanted to share: I’ve been painting a lot and losing a record number of paintbrushes. I was finding that even with careful cleaning, my brushes must have had a film of oil paint that hardened when dry. It rendered a few brushes totally useless. I picked up some Master’s Brush Cleaner on a recent trip to my local art store. We also used to sell this when I worked at Curry’s Art Store and I always thought it looked like some old-timey weird product from the packaging. But given the number of paintbrushes that had been lost (and the cost to replace) I thought, oh just add it to the pile. Well, it works great!

For my brush clean-up I follow these steps: 1. Use a paper towel to remove any excess paint. 2. Swish my paintbrushes around in my jar of Gamsol. 3. Run the brush under warm water. 4. Lather up the brushes with the Masters Brush Cleaner Soap (you just rub the brush against the hardened soap bar in the container. 5. Rinse the brushes. 6. Reshape bristles and lay flat to dry… And, voila!

Totally clean brushes, no more film! And I was actually able to restore a few paintbrushes that I thought were garbage. This method works great so I really wanted to share!

I started working on some more east coast pen and watercolor paintings yesterday which carried over into today. I got a few rough sketches done last night and started painting today. I started this project last summer when we got back from a trip to the east coast and I just loved those little paintings. The first set focused a lot on Prince Edward Island. I’m really looking forward to working on these new ones more this week. This particular series is focused on Halifax at night and I’m hoping to play with my gouache paints for these.

And just to keep up the productivity moving along because I’ve been feeling so motivated art-wise, tonight I set up Wiggis on one easel and prepped a second canvas on my other easel for tomorrow night. Now I can kind of travel back and forth between easels on my rolling chair (Ha! if only I were so efficient!). Both of these paintings have kind of been queued in my brain for awhile now. I’ve kind of moved ahead of these paintings with some other ideas but I think it’s important to finish these – have to practice a little bit of diligence in 2019.

I’m looking forward to Thursday evening – long dog run with my spiky shoes and then an evening of painting with sleeping dogs lying around my feet.

Thank you for reading everyone! Time to watch Friends (turns out it’s still good!) and eat homemade oatmeal cookies. We’re almost to the weekend 🙂