One: Emerging

emerging, abstract painting, urban realities, neomosaic, collaboration, cocreation,
A new project by DDK

The word “emerging” is usually associated with visual artists fresh out of school or newly engaged at any age. Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale Arizona cautions coupling this word with the artist as it implies the work may be inferior due to lack of experience. I can see his point.

Emerging as in unknown

emerging, abstract painting, urban realities,
Waiting patiently for months.

Emerging has taken on a new significance, however, with the latest category found in the extensive list of exhibition opportunities from the Federation of Canadian Artists. In fact, emerging is quite exciting. The premise centers on the unknown of interactive mark making. Unfortunately, my present work will not be available in time to submit to this competition. Or, at least, I do not think so.


Having been distracted for some time with other responsibilities, it has taken me a bit of time to readjust to creative studio work. That is not to say I am finished with the other distractions; it just means some time is available. Consequently, I have re-engaged in a collaborative effort with Doris Charest and Danièle Petit (DDK) called “Urban”. Emerging is what it is all about.

Emerging excitement

emerging, abstract painting, urban realities, neomosaic, collaboration, cocreation,
So far so good.

The first bits of masking tape adorned the watercolour paper a while ago. I gazed at the pattern and decided it was appropriate. Now what? The first two in the series proved to be too controlled. Some accident, not a lot. Less than satisfying, the result seemed a long way away from what I usually do. Therein lies the key. What I usually do is throw paint. So as I watched the drips and drops mingle on the surface, an emerging excitement took hold.

Following my muse

emerging, abstract painting, urban realities, neomosaic, collaboration, cocreation,
Graphite on paper

Due to the success of the first layer, I decided to continue in this vein and added some circles. Big ones. Interlocking. Grabbing a pencil, I renewed my acquaintance with graphite on paper and filled in one circle. Love it. The next circle called for something more robust: acrylic pen in blue. Yes. Emerging patterns and exciting happenings abound. What will it look like in the end? Who knows? I may take a wrong turn and end up scrapping it. Such is the danger and the hype of this process.

Busy month or two

DDK will be showing in Lotus Art Gallery during November. DEVENIR presents a wink at their new project “Stitched Time” in WAM at the same time. VASA is hosting my solo show “The Veil”, as well, in November. And “Earth” is in Calgary at the Central Library until October 27th. Learn more here.


One: Shifting Gears

shifting gears, abstract, mixed media
First in the series

Re-evaluating my recent adventure onto paper, I realized how far I have left the path. Shifting gears and refocusing requires a seriously adventurous approach. Hence, more fun required…

Control vs chaos

Succumbing to temptation, I had returned to a more controlled method of painting. As I re-entered the world of paper support I froze. I love the happy accidents watercolour produces yet I rarely allow them except inside of designated areas. Because shifting gears means creating chaos, I must let go at first. Then rediscovering the order within the random marks later provides endless intrigue.

Shifting gears inspires challenges

shifting gears, abstract, mixed media
No barbed wire

The incubation period has begun. Self-imposed parameters limit the amount of flexibility available to me. A vertical full-sheet watercolour paper is a must. The masking tape strips remain. Copper sheeting is a constant. It also provides a link to the barbed wire idea although the wire may be used in a different way. How I will incorporate the dandelion motif in the future remains a mystery. Consequently, shifting gears inspires a few challenges.

Paper demands changes in technique

shifting gears, abstract, mixed media
Now what?

Admittedly, the stark lines left by the masking tape strips precludes my usual chaotic beginnings. Paper demands a different approach. Shifting gears into chaos probably means later whites will be re-established with gouache or gesso. Truly a mixed media piece, anything goes.

Shifting gears requires risk

The reason behind the shifting gears? I feel tight. I lost something important in the transition. Instead of a labour of love it has become meaningless labour. A killer for any artist. My muse requires chaos. The fun is in the reordering. The satisfaction is in the neomosaic look. So, as I stand and gaze for a little longer, at one point I must take the risk and allow it to take me where it will.


One: Sidelines

sidelines, mixed media, abstract, paper
A good way to start the day

Sidelines are creative activities filling the time and space of drying paint. Much time could be lost to the drying process. Instead I use it to further other projects or experiments in media on different surfaces.

DEVENIR inspired

sidelines, mixed media, abstract, paper
One of the 8x8x30

DEVENIR inspired a project on paper which has continued at a slower pace than one per day. Certainly, the little six by six-inch paintings require drying time as well between layers. Having completed a couple of dozen on paper it is time to take it to other supports, perhaps terraskin, or yupo.

Family tree

sidelines, genealogy, scrapbooking, telling tales
A pocket for more information and a story to begin.

One very time consuming endeavour is a family tree of sorts. Instead of the usual series of non-identified photos strung in a series across a page in an album, I have begun to gather selected photos with the intent to create a family tree wherein I add some choice remembered family legends as they were related to me by my aunt and my mother. 

Each person gets a page or two

sidelines, genealogy, scrapbooking, telling tales
Sometimes there are not a lot of images from which to choose

Beginning with the oldest photos, I relate how each couple produced certain children who have contributed to the creation of my grandchildren. The very oldest photos date from 1823 and I have realized some families gave more priority to recording their family history in this way than others. Perhaps it was a matter of money. Perhaps time. In any case, once the great (great) grandparents are complete, I devote one or two pages to each of their children eventually coming down to people I know and recognize.

Family legends and greeting cards

Other sidelines include choosing a family legend and creating a colouring book of about ten pages for the younger set for Christmas. In the same vein, this year’s Christmas card will be getting some attention too as it takes a while to design, cut the lino and print.

My muse prefers various sidelines

One would think I would have enough to do with the production of thirty or so paintings for my solos later in the year. Indeed, these are my priority. The sidelines, however, keep me focused and engaged. My muse is delightfully titillated by something off the track or in the midst of untraveled territory. In other words, variety is the spice of my life.

Framing for coming events

Now that the VASA show is coming to an end we can look forward to another show at CAVA at the end of February. I will have about a dozen paintings from the Whimsy series there. Framing will be among the sidelines I choose to do while watching paint dry in the coming weeks.


One: Archive

mixed media, archive, physics,

Recently I helped my daughter archive her work. She is way ahead of me. Photographing the work is basically the first step. I have known this for a long time. I have also kept a running list of inventory numbers. Gradually I added more information such as whether it sold and sometimes to whom….

Good advice

With this vast experience under my belt I am consequently in an excellent position to advise my daughter on what not to do.

More information is better

Certainly, the more information one has the better. I have not been with Artwork Archive for very long. Most regrettable. This excellent and inexpensive tool has immense capacities to store vital information, information I no longer possess. Although I managed to record the year I created a piece, I did not indicate the month or the day. As well, I can cite the year something sold without precision as to date or amount, or even to whom. Sigh.

How to name the photos

Along with the photographs, I included a list for my daughter about how to name them. Being consistent is really key. Every submission requires a particular set of parameters, so they do need tweaking. Nonetheless, a consistent method of naming will give the artist easy access to a lot of information. My suggestion was: NameOfArtist-NameOfWork-Medium-Size-Year-SizeOfPhoto-jpg. The best photos are then stored in a folder on the computer in categories such as <1M, 1M, 2M, 4M and >5M. Easy access for a quick emails or something more detailed for a special submission. As well, I add a sixth folder named Extras to hold all the extra photos generated during the photo session. If there are more than two extra photos for a piece I create another folder for that piece, for example: “Errant”, to keep things organized. 

Inventory numbers

Consistent with the photo, I use Word to add poetry, a blurb on where I was and why I was inspired inserted beside the photo of the work itself. This is another way to inventory a piece besides Artwork Archive. Inside a file on my computer I keep each page with two photos, the blurb and important information on the size of the support, the medium and the price. These pages I use for display in a folder for each series. Or I print them on better quality paper and cut them in two for display with the painting itself.

The archive is essential

The Archive is an essential tool in the artist’s repertoire. Start early, right at the beginning. At the moment I only have about twenty years of slides to digitize. At least I wrote the name of the work on the slide, I think… These are waiting in the wings as I endeavour to keep up to the present production. A challenge to which DEVENIR has contributed lately. I am certainly not bored. Life is good.


Do drop in on the VASA opening this Thursday evening, 6 December at 7pm.  Fun times and good fellowship.


One: Archiving

archiving, photos, full spectrum light, pins and masking tape
My handy pin board

Archiving one’s work ranks as one of the most important aspects in the life of a professional artist. Over the years I have discovered some practices which reduce the time needed for this chore. As I deal with various materials and supports, the tricks vary somewhat.

Taking photos

In the beginning I tried to follow the advice of the professionals. Some suggested special lighting. I bought special lighting. Others suggested the shadow side of a building on a day with relatively thin cloud cover. I managed inconsistent results. Consequently, I will forever be thankful for the invention of digital photography and iPhoto. Photoshop Elements is a marvelous tool as well.

Full spectrum lighting

Installing full spectrum florescent lighting in my studio has saved my day. Not only do I have consistent lumens, I no longer need to install the special lighting. All I need is my camera, a tripod and an easel.

A pile for archiving

DEVENIR has created a whirlwind of activity in my studio lately. I love the challenge of creating a painting a day. Now that the challenge has come to an end, I feel the need to continue, although at a slower pace, perhaps. As a result of all the painting, however, I had a pile of paintings needing photography.

archiving, pins, masking tape, screws
Pins and masking tape

Screws for small stretchers

My years with watercolour gave me a singularly useful tool in the form of a pin board. Using a half sheet of half-inch plywood, I covered the surface with a sheet of cork. Over the cork I installed a neutral piece of gray fabric. This gave me a surface into which I could insert hat pins holding the watercolour paper in place for the camera. I also use this board for smaller pieces which I hang on the screws at the top.

archiving, DEVENIR, photos, mixed media
One of forty-two

Same size easier

With the 30 Day Challenge, I not only had the thirty paintings which needed archiving. A dozen “mistakes” could be included as well as the latest two in my new series “One”. Most of the paintings were the same size, eight by eight inches. A much easier and quicker proposition.

Masking tape corners

I set up the tripod and camera, placed the pin board on the easel and lined up the first painting. Making sure I set the camera at the lowest setting I proceeded to take several shots knowing what I saw through the viewfinder may not be the result I sought. Ideally, I fill the lens as much as possible, so cropping is kept to a minimum. Masking tape gave me the borders of the next painting. It did not take long to go through forty-five paintings at five different settings each.

Turning it sideways

Archiving canvases requires a different approach. Removing the pin board, I put the first painting on the easel. Since it is square, it only needed a level to determine if it was square to the camera lens. Several shots ensued as I moved the camera where the image filled the photo. The second piece is rectangular. I find it easier to place the painting on its side rather than finding the apparatus to change the camera to a different angle. However, I cannot simply hang it on its wire. Using a clamp, I secure the wire to the easel and proceed with the photography.

Archiving made easy

Now iPhoto completes the preparation for archiving the images, cropping colour adjustment and renaming. Once this is done I file the photos on my computer in folders for easy access and then I add them to Artwork Archives, a tool I highly recommend.

archiving, cropping, mixed media
Ready to crop

Upcoming events

Finally, don’t miss the latest show at VASA in St. Albert. Always a good time.


Different Strokes: Shapes

shapes, blog, negative space, landscape, mixed media

Picking out the shapes in the chaos of drips, drops and texture is the real challenge. At this point, one allows the photo reference to slide into a vague memory as one is more and more involved with the selection of size, value and placement. The notan study done previously becomes essential.

shapes, blog, abstract, negative space, landscape, mixed media
Picking out the shape edges.

shapes, blog, abstract, landscape, mixed media, negative space
Filling it in.

Nature does not like straight

A watercolour pencil marks the changeable parameters of shape and movement. It is very easy to give too much authority to this line. Slavishly following a straight path in a natural setting is appropriate only in the context of something human-made. We like straight lines and even placements. Nature does not.

shapes, abstract, negative space, landscape, acrylic, mixed media
Sometimes finding the shape is easy.

shapes, abstract, negative space, blog, mixed media, landscape
Sometimes not so easy.

Shifting into another world

AAs I gaze into the labyrinth of possibility my mind shifts to another universe where negative space resides. Negative space is the area around objects, the neglected nothing we often ignore. Consequently, drawing or painting nothing is vastly contemplative. Time vanishes. Quiet reigns. God is in control.

shapes, blog, abstract, landscape, negative space, mixed media
Left this for a long time… incubating.

Selecting shapes

Ultimately, I tread softly. Selecting the shapes begins with either the gesso foundation or the dark mix of complementary colours. Light or dark? Often, I begin with light. Skies are usually light although they need not be. Water is usually dark, yet, not necessarily. To avoid the unnatural straight edges, I focus on them first. Deliberately exaggerating irregularities and angles. Another useful tool is variety; little shapes within the bigger shape in various sizes excites the visual treat. Gradually I adjust the smaller areas to accommodate the runs and the edges of textural marks. In the meantime the questions of what to leave out and what to include remain.

shapes, blog, abstract, negative space, landscape, mixed media
Sometimes I begin with the dark shapes.

Distance makes it easier to see

While most of the work is done up close, standing back, getting some distance, helps me see the whole better. How much do I fill in? Which line do I follow? How do I unite the whole? The answers vary according to the results of putting paint to canvas. Each mark therefore requires a decision. Bigger? Smaller? Wipe it off and try again? Break up that straight line. Re-enter a contemplative mode.

shapes, blog, abstract, landscape, negative space, mixed media
Dark shapes may be other than water…

Shapes open the door to unity

Contemplation removes me from my small, controlling self. Letting go of control and listening to the guidance offered allows me to see more clearly. As a result, I become one with the bigger plan and the flow finds the perfect shapes easily. Life is so good.


My Creative Process: Gold

blog, gold, mixed media, abstract, landscape

From grays to pure colour

Having consistently resisted adding anything but the wonderful gray combinations it is time to introduce some pure colour in selected areas. I usually begin with the tree trunks especially when they are in the foreground. In this particular painting I used Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Burnt Orange for the combination in the trees. Instead of choosing the orange I went with Quinacridone Red and carefully filled in the lines the puddling left behind to render the trunks with a more solid appearance.

blog, gold, mixed media, abstract, landscape
Details and adjustments.

Creating harmonies

The water is a combination of Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) and Quinacridone Red hence the harmony created between the trees and the water. The symphony has begun. Using some blue interference I lightly cover the surface of the water unifying the blue/green shape. Interference gold is sprinkled throughout the foreground grasses as well as a few strokes of various colours already present in the painting.

blog, gold, mixed media, abstract, landscape
The tools for metal working!

Playing with gold

I often add some gold (real gold) or silver (tin foil) into a few circles around the centre of interest and to help the eye move around the painting. It is fun to play with the circles before I glue them down. The tin foil is no problem although it ruins scissors. These are my metal cutting scissors. You will notice a few other essential tools such as the hat pin. It draws a line in the metal around the lids and tubes for circle making (the same ones I used to create the texture). Gold sticks to fingers so the tweezers are extremely useful as well.

blog, gold, mixed media, abstract, landscape
Not knowing much about gold at first I bought both.

Two types of gold

There are two types of gold. “Best Ducate Surface Gold” is the one on the right. The tweezers are holding down the page. Don’t breathe while using this as it floats and crumbles with the slightest provocation. Even the heat in my studio is too much for it so I tuck myself away in a less breezy corner before I begin to fill in a circle. “Best Patent Ducate Double Gold” is the one on the left and much easier to use as it has been applied to a paper surface that cuts into any shape you wish. I use regular gel to glue it down.

blog, gold, mixed media, abstract, landscape
The finished painting.

Almost finished

At some point I decide to end the process and I consign the “finished” painting to a wall or some distance place where it stays for a while before I can really declare it complete. Of course, it is far from complete at this stage of the game. There are still the very time consuming finishing touches, the subject for our next Creative Process.



teaching, blog, abstract


Teaching is a pleasure

Every once in a while events remind me about why I find teaching such a pleasure. Just lately the Redwater Art Society asked me to present a workshop on Abstracts. They offered me one day to cover this immense topic. Where to begin?

Winging it

I arrived early and discovered I had left my lesson plan in my studio. Since I had designed the presentation at least a month ago I had trouble remembering not only the order but the subject matter as well… One of the participants suggested I could “wing it”. Yes…. I can do that. I took a deep breath and let go of my preconceived notion of perfection. Sigh.

Less than enthusiastic

As the various people trickled through the door and set up their stations I noticed a few seemed less than enthusiastic about the topic at hand. I wondered how they had been coerced into attending. Nonetheless, the class listened attentively as I cited what I considered important. Next we proceeded to an exercise or two.

The fire is lit

Somehow my disorganized scramble managed to ignite a fire. The least enthusiastic transformed into the most engaged. Nothing excites me more than seeing the lights go on as the teaching unfolds. The excitement became contagious. Individual attention smoothed the rough edges. At the end of the day everyone expressed satisfaction with the presentation and all they had learned. How much did I manage to teach really? Who knows?  After all is said and done it does not matter. Life with wings is so good!

teaching, blog, abstract
Counting the strokes: only thirty-seven are allowed.

If you are in Vancouver BC do drop in on the two shows coming up “2016 Concepts” and “2016 Sketches” at the Federation of Canadian Artists gallery on Granville Island. I have two pieces in each show.



Nine-Foot Ceilings

Higher ceilings

I need nine-foot ceilings. Or ten. Or twelve! Eight is a little low…. I selected the image for the four foot square canvas I had already prepared. The first step is splatter and spraying. As I spray I turn the panel to encourage the drips and drops to dribble in different directions.

Collapsing walls

Therein lies the problem. The table is about three feet off the ground; the frame is four feet. Diagonally it is much longer so as I turn the surface, concentrating on the dribbles and trying to avoid tobbling my open jars of paint, I hit the ceiling. Then the light fixture. Then the plastic splatter wall. The paper clip holding the wall in place snapped off the railing and the plastic sagged onto my painting. This would not do!


Carefully replacing the canvas on the table I set about repositioning the sheeting. I needed more slack. Noticing the lack of splatter to the right I moved the whole sheet to the left forming a corner around the table. That gave me enough material to set the wall further back away from the table and the canvas. Glancing at the wet puddles forming on my painting I decided all is well. Life is good.


blog, ceilings, acrylic,
Collapsing into wet paint!