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!

Varnishing an Oil Painting: How-To and Review

Perhaps the single most important step in the oil painting process, and no, I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating one bit.

I tend to get really excited about some random things. Like when my husband surprised me with a new Dyson on Black Friday 2018. I went on about that for weeks. I just wanted to tell everyone about how many canisters I filled just on the first go around the house. It was life-changing. Or when I discovered you can mail order dog food. Did you know you can mail order dog food!? And set a delivery schedule? That was pretty big. Or when we bought a food dehydrator and made our own raisins from grapes. That was really, really cool.

So anyway, usually when I have one of these discoveries I like to tell anyone who will listen. Varnishing my oil paintings is now one of those things. I feel like I can’t stop talking about it because it has made me so inexplicably happy. Everyone has been really polite about me going on about it, but the non-painters inundated with my excitement can only appreciate this so much. This topic is definitely more suited to visitors of my art blog. ☺️

Teelo says, Mom, it’s time to varnish your paintings!

To all the artists reading this: Varnishing is a big deal. Those of you in the know are thinking, well duh. I have always varnished my acrylic paintings, most recently with TriArt gloss varnish. However, my experience using Gamblin Gamvar Gloss Picture Varnish this week is what has left me feeling so impressed. First of all, you should varnish your acrylic and oil paintings to give them a protective surface (watercolorists – obviously varnish will ruin your work, just stick with glass framing). While I appreciate this protective layer, the majority of my happiness is because varnishing has made my oil paintings look so much better.

I finished three oil paintings from November to end of December 2018 (This is a Cat, Big Beesa, and Downtown Brown) and those are the paintings that I varnished for the first time this week. Like I said, I’ve been waiting for this day forever.

A bit of a preamble: I was really hesitant to start painting with oil paints in the first place, but now that I’ve made the transition – honestly I don’t know why I put it off for so long. Oh my goodness if you’re considering it – just switch. Like right now. My style of painting improved by leaps and bounds when I committed to acrylic painting on canvas (instead of forcing watercolours on myself, which is still hit and miss to this day) but I just could not stand the drying time. There is nothing worse than going back to work on a section with one more perfecting brushstroke and you hit dry paint and your brush skids across the sticky canvas. I just hate it. And I paint in fairly thin layers so it just happened all the time. I’ve been loving the leap to oil painting because I still feel like it retains everything I enjoy about acrylic paint but with even more benefits – colours blend so beautifully, the canvas is saturated in colour, and I have been achieving a level of realism and luminosity beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been loving the leap to oil painting because I still feel like it retains everything I enjoy about acrylic paint but with even more benefits – colours blend so beautifully, the canvas is saturated in colour, and I have been achieving a level of realism and luminosity beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.

However. And this is a big however. One thing that I noticed with the oils almost right away was that, while the painting may have looked amazing and perfect right at the end of a painting session (when all the paint was still wet and shiny and freshly applied), a few days later with a bit of drying – some of the paint seemed uneven. Some areas were still glossy, but some colours that had so much depth when first applied were now matte and dull and uneven too. At first I thought, oh when it’s totally dry it will even out. Not so. For the paintings This is a Cat and Big Beesa, the dark backgrounds were really dramatic when first applied but dried really patchy. No amount of layering fixed this (I tried, and just wasted paint for no reason). It really took away from both paintings.

The streakiness is really evident here in this process pic from Downtown Brown. Those black areas should be totally black:

After Googling this issue (thank you Google!) I learned that this is a fairly common issue for oil painting. This “sunken in” appearance is especially problematic for darker colours where it is more obvious. As for the reason – as usual it seems like a number of reasons are suggested – painting too thin, mixing too many colours, too much solvent. One big issue that faces all oil painters is that oil may not be absorbed from paints uniformly by your painted surface as the paints dry. Combine that with the fact that different oil colours differ in terms of oil content to begin with and you have all the makings for uneven drying and overall appearance in your final painting.

The fix

The good news is, there is a solution. The fix for this variation in paint appearance is varnishing (in addition to bestowing all those wonderful protective qualities). I have really, really been looking forward to this final step because I’ve read so much about how this really adds so much to your final painting. I love colour and contrast and I was so disappointed to see that some colours significantly dulled with drying.

I expected the varnish step to even out the surface and that the glossy finish would return and saturate my colours and really make them pop. Gamblin advertises that their Picture Varnish will unify the surface of your painting.

Gamblin is a great company and really committed to artist education. If you have a question and contact them they WILL get back to you with a personalized email. For example, Dave from Gamblin sent me a lovely email response to my question about using graphite for your underdrawing for an oil painting (I had concerns). Anyway, they produced a really handy post about varnishing that covers everything you need to know. I followed it exactly with excellent results.

Gamblin recommends waiting until your painting is touch-dry to varnish. This may be a few weeks or a few months. I paint in pretty thin layers so after a week or so all of my paintings are just about touch dry. I thought I would be extra good and I gave all of my paintings at least a month to dry. I also figured a varnish assembly-line would make the best use of my time.

Step 1: Assemble your tools

Not much to assemble. I had my varnish bottle from which I poured a small quantity into a flat container (old Tupperware repurposed for the art room). I cleared off my flat art room table to place each painting during the varnishing. It’s best to work on a flat surface so the varnish goes on evenly and isn’t drawn downwards by gravity.

I purchased this 2″ Royal and Langnickel Jumbo flatbrush just for varnishing. Soft but firm synthetic bristles and well constructed (no bristles falling out during the actual varnishing and ruining the painting).

Loving this new varnish brush.

If you have a dedicated varnish brush, you don’t need to clean your brush after using Gamvar. You can just let it dry and put it away until your next varnishing party.

Step 2: Varnish!

I laid each painting flat on my big table in the art room. Using my large brush, I dipped it into a flat container holding some Gamvar. I tapped off the brush and then starting at the top of each painting I swept it in long even strokes across the canvas. I worked my way down being careful to lay the varnish down in a thin layer picking up any excess as I go. You want to watch out for any areas where it may pool, especially on amore textured painting surface. The Gamvar needs to be applied very thinly or it will always remain tacky. It dries solely by solvent evaporation and if done correctly will be dry to the touch in a couple days (I checked, mine were dry to the touch in a couple days!). I did ignore the unsolicited advice of a well-meaning sales lady at Michael’s who I chatted with on a recent canvas buying expedition. She advised to rub the varnish in with a cloth. I have no idea how this would be superior but I implore you, do not do this. It seems more likely to ruin your painting. For my 24 x 30″ Big Beesa I dipped my brush into the varnish twice for the entire thing. That’s it.

Here’s a pic of the varnish process halfway thru. The Gamvar immediately saturated the painting, You can see a distinct line about halfway down. The top half is varnished, the bottom half not varnished. The difference is really striking in this photo and that richness was retained when the varnish dried.

Another compare and contrast. Varnish applied on the left side of painting, the red, especially the darkest areas are noticeably more vibrant. The right side is awaiting varnish. It is more dull and muted.

Step 3: Drying

Let your varnished painting(s) dry for a few days in a safe pet-free zone. They should be totally dry to the touch if done properly.

Before and After

All of these pics are totally un-retouched to try to show you the true before and afters.

This is a Cat

You can see the top-down vertical steaks in the black background and the variation in light and dark black throughout even though black was used straight from the tube. I applied two layers of black to the background to try to fix this but it dried the same every time. In the after, you can see that the background is totally uniform and this effect is even more striking in person. All of the colours look more saturated.

Big Beesa

I felt that the dark background was even more problematic in this painting. Again I applied multiple layers of paint in the background to no avail. In the after image, again the paint is totally uniform and all of the colours have been restored to their straight-from-the-tube lustre.

Downtown Brown

This painting was so streaky in the before image. Again the darker colours are a bigger problem but you can see in the varnished image that everything gains a greater intensity and the steaks are lost.

Final Verdict

I put so much love and care into all of my paintings that it just makes sense to kind of finish them up and tie everything into a neat package with a final varnish (like the ribbon on a present). The same goes for painting the edges of my canvas and signing my work. It’s the little things that can elevate a painting so much. In terms of the varnish step, the difference is subtle but it is also everything. Not only will you protect your artistic investment, you’re allowing it to reach its full potential.

I’m sorry this turned into a bit of a review of Gamvar varnish but I just can’t get over it. I received it for Christmas from my husband and it’s now one of my favourite presents (the spiky shoes and Neewer lights were the front runners up until now ;)). I think the Gamvar Picture Varnish is an absolutely excellent product. It’s always hard to photograph paintings, especially glossy ones, but in person the paintings have a rich, saturated, unified appearance. A little Gamvar goes an extremely long way. I have a 500ml container and I think it will last me for years of oil painting varnishing. And yes, in case you were wondering (I know I was!) you can use Gamvar Picture Varnish on oil and acrylic paintings.

I hope these impressions will help any of you starting out or on the fence about which product to varnish with. If you have any questions please feel free to write to me in the comments below.

Thank you for reading everyone. Happy varnishing!

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!

Week in Review.

Sunday, January 20th, 2019.

It’s been awhile since I did a week in review! I think a lot of people start the New Year with big plans for how it’s going to be the best.year.ever. While I’m cautious to make too many grand plans, I know I’m usually as excited as the next person to get a fresh start and plan out my time. Unfortunately Christmas and New Year were a little rough around here this year and it caught up with me in the past few weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time at home, cuddling with the dogs. I haven’t had the feeling of wanting to start any big projects for a couple weeks, and I had a bit of writer’s block. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, but also sometimes I personally need a bit of a kick in the pants to get back to it when the step back goes on for too long. For anyone out there whose New Years are not going as shiny and sparkly and positive as your favourite celebrity Instagram feeds – I hear you!

Now let’s get to it and on to the week that was. We’re hunkered down this weekend, in the middle of a snowstorm and avoiding the extreme cold temperatures as much as possible. We did venture out for an extremely refreshing run on Saturday afternoon and the three little vizslas were total troopers. Everyone is happier after a little bit of exercise, dogs included.

Teelo, showing extreme caution about our impending cold weather adventure.

And away we go! Quickly dogs because it’s cold AF.

The vizslas are genetically programmed to lie in front of fireplaces when the temperatures dip 🙂

The gruesome twosome.

I kind of waded back into painting and writing this week after taking a bit of a break from both. I did my favourite combination of personal and art instruction posts. In case you missed something:

  • I talked about my favourite artist Edward Hopper and my painting Vizsla and the Sun in an Empty Room here.
  • I finally published a massive post all about colour mixing and colour theory – it’s the second post in my Painting for Absolute Beginners series.
  • I finished a sketchbook and gave a tour of my favourite drawings and paintings.
Starting a new oil painting! Step one: Transfer sketch to canvas.

I also spent some time early this week transferring this sketch to a prepped canvas for an oil painting I hope to get to this weekend. You can see the time-lapse video of me working here above!

I always love watching these and I hope you do too! They are definitely fun to film and edit.

And to round things out, I did get some painting done, just nothing too serious. A bit of a fear of commitment right now, lol. Felt good to shake the cobwebs off – they gather quickly (actually, painting is a LOT like exercise in that it requires the same level of routine to make progress – if you workout every single day, you’re more likely to keep working out everyday. And eating healthy. Miss one workout and I’m a ball on the couch eating an endless stream of Jalapeno Cheetos. Same for painting lol).

This week’s work:

Oh, and lastly I started a Pinterest account for evachristensenart – I’ve never used Pinterest before, ever (apparently that’s weird?) but it seemed like a good idea for getting my ideas out there, especially my how-to posts. Please check me out on Pinterest and let me know how I’m doing. I’m not sure how things are supposed to look, or how I avoided knowing about Pinterest for so long (I swear I don’t live under a rock!), but I definitely feel totally out of the loop now. Thank you to my Pinterest-loving sister-in-law for checking it out for me and helping me to navigate 🙂

Next week is all about getting back on track – exercise, painting, life (hopefully).

Hope you all had a great weekend. Any big plans for next week, art-related or otherwise? Comment away below. Thank you for visiting!

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!

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!

1995 –

My art history would not be complete without revisiting high school – however cringe-inducing it might be.

I started grade 9 in 1995.

Grade 9 me!

Even though I’m talking about my past in the context of my artistic development, any walk down memory lane would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the glaring awkwardness. So let’s get it out of the way. I look back on my old photos from high school and I sincerely wonder, what on earth was I thinking? At the same time, I remind myself that it was such a different time from now. Just to give you an idea, the week I started high school the number one song on the radio (because we listened to the radio!) was Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”, and Friends was the most popular show on television. We all wore jeans, white t-shirts, and plaid button-downs over-top, sometimes tied around our waists. We all thought we were sooooo cool – even me! Pant waists were still pretty high back then – not total mom jeans but it wasn’t great. Nowadays people wear their high rise pants and feel ironic. Back then we did it because we just didn’t know any better. How could we – we barely had the internet!


Growing out those bangs in Grade 10…

I think most people usually just go from elementary school to their feeder high school. I had a few choices. I guess as an alternative to art school or my local high school, my mom actually lined up overnight at an all-girl’s Catholic high school that only did admissions via a lottery – it was really popular with local parents. Suffice it to say my mother put a lot of effort into getting me into this school attached to its very own nunnery.

This seemed like insanity to me. Grade 8 me was totally appalled. I already had my sights set on going to art school anyway. So in the winter of 1994-95 I applied to the Cawthra Park S.S. Regional Arts Program. The admissions process involved a few steps including a portfolio audition – it was all very proper. Two of the art teachers interviewed me, asked to look at my portfolio, and then had me draw a still-life scene for twenty minutes. 

Grade 11!

I was accepted and I was thrilled. My mom came to terms with it 😘

Cawthra Park S.S. was “famous” for being real-life Spike-from-Degrassi’s high school, but we never saw her. Students in the Regional Arts Program majored in visual art, music, drama, or dance. Art class was really great. I remember enjoying it very much right away.

The grade 9 art majors had Mr. Jensen, and let me tell you that was both an awesome and terrifying experience (I feel like that was a theme throughout grade 9). It really gave meaning to the expression, “baptism by fire.” Mr. Jensen was a no bullshit kind of guy. When you sensed he was in a bad mood (like the time he told us he got into a fight at hockey practice as an explanation for his black eye?!?) you would just stay out of his way. He was also awesome. Just a really awesome guy. He was a legitimate artist – he’d paint landscapes at his easel right alongside us sometimes. And he taught the most captivating art history classes. My knowledge of 20th Century art and the progression from impressionism through post-modernism is solidly intact because of this man. He was just a fantastic teacher. Kind of like Dead Poets Society: Cawthra Park Freaks and Geeks edition. Despite being a little bit scary, I just loved Mr. Jensen. His talks on Picasso and Dadaism and Michelangelo made me appreciate artists and styles I thought I knew or would have written off as being “dumb” or “boring”. And I loved the way he seemed to appreciate my art and my vision and what I had to offer. He seemed to think there was real merit in my work and I loved that because Mr. Jensen didn’t have time for fools – on this point he was incredibly upfront.


Cawthra Park S.S. library, drawn on location. 1996? Pencil crayon on paper.

As an aside – I had really high hopes of finding magic again when I took art history as an undergrad at Queen’s but no such luck – it turns out Mr. Jensen was the diamond in the rough of our class. We had other art teachers over the years and they were good, but Mr. Jensen played a huge role in my high school experience and his teaching guides how I judge myself and my success as an artist even now. Definitely a lasting impression.  

Academically I did very well. I think when I started in grade 9 I had enough raw talent to do reasonably alright and I thought a lot of the projects were fun. I liked getting good marks and I wanted to do well, that’s in my nature. At the same time, class didn’t feel like a chore in the first year or two. In the beginning we spent a lot of time drawing and then there were introductory “units” on painting, print-making, sculpture. Looking back, the projects were pretty disjointed. We spent time on colour theory and produced a series of abstract drawings focused on light and shadow. We spent a month on watercolours and produced a still-life watercolour painting at the end. It was pretty cool to get to go to art class everyday but I guess I’m not surprised looking back that a lot of my work has a sort of empty quality to it. It really wasn’t very inspired. 

Grade 9 watercolour.

I’m not sure that I became a better artist by going to “art school”. I do think that it kind of opened up more options to me. Being a creature of habit I probably would never have experimented with acrylics (for example) without being assigned to do an acrylic painting. Likewise for oils. And I learned I hated printmaking. Like, I hated it so much and could never apply enough pressure to get an even print and it was just so… messy.

I did so well in my first year art class that I was awarded the Year 1 Visual Arts Award. I didn’t know this even existed but once I did, and once I found out that it was offered for every year of the Regional Arts Program – the gloves were off. I feel like people are really surprised about this aspect of my personality but it’s true – I am really, really competitive. As such I mounted a Herculean effort to be “the best” at art class.


A design project that I did not enjoy but other people always seem to like. 1997? 
Ditto.

What did “being the best” mean to me? Number one it meant achieving the highest mark in art class, every year, which I succeeded at. This made each year less fun than the year before. And in the process of aiming for the top, I also totally ruined the enjoyment of learning for the sake of learning. I was just so obsessed with the number awarded to my work. Not only that, I know that I wasn’t “the best”. I don’t even know what this means now. A lot of my fellow students went on to become very successful professional artists. I just got to be really good at playing the grade game. In fact, one of my life regrets is that, despite doing so well on paper, I didn’t decide to do art as a career… 

One of my lasting takeaways from art school is that I really got a bit of a bug in my head about art needing to have meaning. I kind of learned the hard way back then that it’s just not good enough to create a carbon copy of the world around you. It’s ok for practice, sure, but what you paint matters. Without meaning, without a story for a Mr. Jensen to tell his grade 9 art class, the work has no soul. The story can be the colours, or the choices made by the artist, or all the things in their life that led to the pivotal point in time when a work was created. For me, art without purpose really became art that’s not even worth doing. This concept created a huge artist’s block for me in my last year in the program and lasted for a number of years (as in, what’s the point if there is no point?) but I’ve come back to it in a big way now and I find it’s really my central motivation. 

Grade 9 yearbook.

By grade 11 there was a significant contingent of students that chose to focus on abstract and conceptual art, especially for our thesis project in our last year. I thought it was all just madness. I just wasn’t open to it. We got a new department head around this time who really championed conceptual art… and I really struggled to continue to paint in a realistic style with some sort of heart. When I look back on a lot of my art projects from high school they seem kind of lacking, and I remember feeling a bit empty when I was creating them too. It’s funny how that feeling isn’t lost on me even now. 

Portrait study, grade 9.

Because of art school I have a soft spot for the work of Mark Rothko because it reminds me of our class trip to the Albright Gallery in Buffalo. I also have a soft spot for the super weird movie “Metropolis” that we watched there and back. I love the Group of Seven even though they are “overexposed” perhaps in the history of Canadian art – it reminds me of art history class. I’ll never forget the day students were invited to bring their dogs to art class and we spent the morning sketching in the middle of this off-leash crew of pups just wandering around the room, coming up to us to say hello. It was the best. And I’ll never forget my classmates, because even though I’m not in touch with most of them now, it was a really great group of kids. I actually recently had the fortuitous experience of reuniting with a high school friend through kind of five degrees of separation and from our conversations – it was like no time has passed. We may be separated by nearly a continent, but having this shared history makes these friendships feel like home 🙂 

If I could go back in time, I would try to enjoy the “journey of learning” a little more. I suppose that’s easy to say now that I’m twenty-five plus years removed from the awkwardness of trying to paint a masterpiece while worrying about being popular and pretty enough too. I felt so creatively burnt out after art school and it took a long time to want to go back to it in a meaningful way. I was so hard on myself and my work for so long. In the past year, the most freeing thing for me creatively has been thinking – it doesn’t have to be perfect. In so doing, I feel like I’ve been creating the best work of my entire life and I really feel like the best is yet to come. I’m grateful for the solid foundation provided by the incredible learning opportunities that I had when I was younger. I just hope it’s not too late to still make something of myself in the art world.  

Grade 12 me!

Stay tuned for part two of my high school reminiscing – my last year in the art program and my last year in high school was a pretty pivotal time and worth its own post… thanks for reading!

Tuesday’s Gone.

Hi everyone. I’m getting into the swing of posting regularly but I’m still fiddling with the content. Sometimes it feels more natural to write about things as they are happening, and Day in the Life was popular so it makes me think I should check-in with updates more often?

What do you think dogs?

Sunday I ran around for most of the afternoon trying to get s$#! done. I hate feeling unprepared for the week ahead and usually I just feel antsy on Sundays. I took the dogs for a *cold* run (I have vowed to run everyday possible this winter – no snow or ice, we will be out), cleaned the house, paid some bills, and completed some *boring* paperwork, various forms that have been hanging over my head to be completed.

I work in healthcare primarily but I have a part-time role as a university educator. Once I was done my housekeeping items I also spent a bit of time writing up some notes for an upcoming project and organizing myself for the winter semester starting in January. I bought a new eyeshadow on Saturday so I took a break to experiment with that – really critical stuff 🙂

I didn’t feel like I was in a good place for returning to the Big Beesa painting on the weekend (too much on my mind and I’m nervous to ruin it now that I like it so much) but I did paint the edges with black acrylic so that’s ready to go when I do return to it… 

Pretty edges…

Why black acrylic? Mars black to be specific (which I don’t love as much as carbon black in Tri-Art but it will do until I make it back to Victory Art Supplies to stock up on more paint). I’m not sure how other oil painters finish the edges of their canvasses, and it’s hard to find reliable information?!? But, I always, always finish the sides of my canvases by painting them black or very dark. Otherwise it looks unfinished and forgotten to me. I wouldn’t want to use oil paint for this because 1. It’s kind of (a lot) pricey for just painting the sides and 2. It’s oil paint, you will literally have nowhere to rest the painting with wet edges while it’s drying for the next 3-6 months. Or you can do one edge at a time for the next year. Anyway, I digress. By painting the sides with acrylic paint now, I can easily paint my background right to the edge of the canvas and the oil paint will just dry on top of the acrylic. It really can’t be done the other way around.

It was a nice to get this little painting housekeeping item to get out of the way 🙂

New project!

Monday was a completely unremarkable day, still tying up loose ends from the weekend and that kept me away from my art room. It is actually very important to me to try to give meaning to each day, do something productive and not save everything “fun” for the weekend so…

I tried to make up for that tonight. I have been working on a painting of my Swedish cousin’s house, and it is such a pleasant change of direction – it really feels like a little painting vacation. And it’s such a fun house to paint! So many interesting angles. Have you ever seen a house this cute? I’ve been doing some watercolour sketches and working out the proportions, getting to know the house. Mainly I’ve been feeling jealous because it is such a beautiful home, as I’m painting I’m thinking, “I wish I lived here!” My lack of Swedish language skills would really hinder me I think but still – I am envious of this gorgeous house on a hill.

I haven’t used a ruler on purpose, I like freehand watercolour and ink paintings of buildings. Here’s how it’s evolving:

Ink sketch with various Sharpie markers in my all-purpose sketchbook.
So much prettier with colour. I love this little painting.

First sketch and watercolour. This took about half an hour. I love this angle and the suggestion of height.

On Tuesday night I opened up my Arches watercolour bock (140 lb, cold press, 12 x 16″) and started to sketch the house from a different angle using a Sharpie fine-point pen. This is wear I really missed the Canson mixed media board – the watercolour paper totally dries out my pens, even when brand new and I just feel like the lines aren’t as crisp and strong as I would like – more like weak and tepid. I’ll have to consider this a bit more for the final painting but this was just a sketch for fun. 

Took a pic and a break here to go to kickboxing.
Finished the sketch after dinner. I just couldn’t stay away.

When I finished the sketch it was after nine. We took the dogs for their bedtime walk and then I decided I really wanted to lay some watercolor down. Mainly I was excited to be able to share pics with my cousin and I wanted to see it transformed with some colour. 

Honestly I just couldn’t resist finishing the whole painting 🙂 
All the pretty angles.
Altogether now.

The Swedish house got a little too crooked in my free-hand drawing (yikes!) which is something I’ll have to keep under control for the final painting. But I’m really happy with the direction it’s going in and it’s a fun excuse to message my cousin 🙂

Oh, and I couldn’t resist ending the evening without sketching Screaming Beesa. I can’t wait to start this painting, the final installment in the Beesa Series 🙂 It’s pretty rough sketch, but it gives you an idea of the direction things are moving in. 

Beesa, starring in “The Scream”

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!