Friday, 27 November 2015

Tranquility of Winter

Tranquility of Winter, acrylic, 11"x 14"

Blog 47

The first snow is on the ground. While I sit here and write this week's blog I can see the beautifully transformed landscape. I know that this snow will not last but it has magically transformed the subdued landscape into a bright and peaceful place.

I like this time of the year, when more and more houses are getting dressed up with cheerful Christmas decorations. Every night when I drive past the beautifully lit Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, I can hardly wait until it will finally open the doors again on November 28 for its yearly Christmas activities.

The little museum village looks just like a place Santa would love to stay in, and for everyone who is wondering, he is indeed in one of the houses waiting for the nice kids to ask him for a gift for Christmas.

Thinking of the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, made me remember my painting “Tranquility of Winter”, which was a commission piece for my father-in-law. He wanted to give a winter painting to a friend in Germany. The building in the painting is the Dupuis House, in which Eva Dupuis lived on St. Joseph Boulevard in Cumberland until her death in 1983. Eva is a descendent of François Dupuis, a war veteran of the War of 1812. He arrived in the area in the1830s, and many consider him the founder of Orléans. The François Dupuis Recreation Centre was named in his honour.

After Ms. Dupuis’ death, the house was moved to the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. The house was built in 1820 and was hardly changed over the years. It was heated with coal and wood. The only washroom was an outhouse. A well in the backyard was used to supply the water. Ms. Dupuis did not even have electricity. Instead of in a fridge, she kept her food in an icebox.

When I look at the snow-covered house in my painting, it seems like a monument of a different area, when time was moving slower. It seems to be a relic of history which was preserved by the cold to be studied by generations to come.

This Christmas season, the house is decorated with lots of Christmas lights which makes it, and all the other buildings in the museum, sparkle like stars in the dark night.

The Vintage Village of Lights will officially open on Saturday, November 28 with the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The museum will be open from 4:30 pm to 8 pm.

On Sunday, November 29 and on the Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays before Christmas, the museum will be open from 3 pm to 8 pm. For more information you can go to

For our family, visiting the Vintage Village of Lights has become a Christmas tradition. It brings moments of quietness into the hectic season. It is definitely worth a visit for both young and old. Maybe, it will also become a new tradition for you.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Christmas Gifts for Creative People

photo taken by Josie de Meo

Blog 46

With Black Friday just a week away, I can see that people around me are getting more and more anxious to get their Christmas shopping started. This blog contains some of my tips for getting someone an arts-related gift for the holidays.

As an artist and instructor, I certainly believe that art should have a place in everyone's life. However, not everyone feels this way. While it is tempting to give everyone around me gifts of art, such as a painting, art materials, colouring books, or materials for Do it Yourself projects, it is always important to ask yourself whether the well-meant gift is really something the receiver will enjoy.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the perfect gift in mind for a friend of mine. Luckily, during a conversation she made it very clear to me that what I had thought would be the perfect gift, did not interest her at all. She told me that she would not even know what to do with something like that. I was certainly glad that I had not bought the gift for her.

When you are looking for gifts for your family and friends, you can get really lucky, if the people in your life tell you exactly what they would like to receive for Christmas. Would it not be nice if everyone would continue with the tradition of writing a wish list for Santa. This would facilitate buying gifts. However, often you have to find out the information through listening to them. If you are thinking of a certain gift and are not sure whether it is indeed a good idea, you could try to bring the subject to this gift in a conversation, e. g. “I just saw this new 3D marker, and would really like to try this out.” The reaction of the person you are talking to will usually give you a good indication of whether or not they would enjoy the gift. You can also look around their work area, talk to them about materials they use, look at flyers together, or visit an art store with them before the holiday season.

Once you have figured out whether you have any creative friends or family members, check the art store and bookstore advertisements (either online or in the local stores) to see where you can get the products. This way, you can already get a good idea what you are looking for and avoid getting overwhelmed by all the products in the store. Once you are in the store, always choose the best quality you can afford as many cheap products will bring rather frustration than pleasure to the receiver.

Here is a list of art materials and equipment for your creative adults that caught my eye when I started browsing the Internet for ideas for this blog and at the same time for my Christmas wish list.

With regard to new materials the following look quite interesting:

Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers are pigment markers which means they use fine art pigments instead of dyes. Therefore, the artwork does not fade. With the use of a special blender you can also blend the colours.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers are highly pigmented, water-based markers which can be used with any regular watercolour. They are very useful for detail work. Each marker has a fine point on one end and a flexible brush tip on the other end.

Golden's new High Flow Acrylics have an ink-like consistency. They are very versatile and can be used for many techniques. They are are fully compatible with all other acrylic products. They can be used in an airbrush, a refillable marker, or with a regular brush.

Now some equipment that might make it possible for your loved ones to take their creativity into a completely new direction:

The iSketchnote, a slate which is a smart drawing pad, allows the instant digitization of paper drawings onto an iPad. The artists can use their regular pencils and pens. To see a demonstration go to This is something that would really interest me. Unfortunately, I do not possess an iPad.

I say the picture of a 3D Pen for the first time in the Chapters Christmas flyer. This afternoon, I watched a video about the use of it because I could not understand how you would be able to create 3D images. To see the YouTube video please go to It looks interesting but I do not think that it would be something I would enjoy.

Last but not least some hands-on books to get the creative juices flowing:

This year's big craze are colouring books. They top the the book charts, and there are so many variations on the market that you will see tables of different books in any main bookstore as will as long lists online, something for every taste. You better find out what subjects are of interest to the gift receiver because the sheer volume of different books will overwhelm you. Colouring books are great for people in your circle of friends and family who love colouring as a way to relax. Paired with some good coloured pencils or markers, this makes a very nice gift.

For someone who needs some inspiration, the books “642 Things to Draw” and “712 More Things to Draw” by Chronicle Books will give new ideas to challenge oneself.

You could also give a gift certificate for a painting course or a paint party.

Many community centres offer a variety of art classes at very reasonable prices. A course at a local art school or private lessons are other options. New courses generally start in January so the receiver of your gift certificate does not have to wait too long to redeem the certificate.

If you would like to create lasting memories of a time spent together, a paint party is a good choice. No experience in art is necessary and a lot of fun is guaranteed. My friend Josie de Meo and I offer paint parties both for adults and kids. If you are interested please contact us and we will gladly discuss prices and options with you. You will choose the painting you would like to copy. We will deliver all the materials, take care of the setup and cleanup, and make sure that you leave with a beautiful painting. We are able to cater both private or corporate events. For more information please contact me at

I hope I was able to give you some ideas. If you have used any of the suggested items, I would be glad to hear your opinion. Hopefully, Santa will bring me one or more gifts from this list. Then I will give certainly give you my own review. For now, I wish you happy shopping!

Friday, 13 November 2015

My Reasons to Switch to Oil Paints

St. Pascal Fields, oil, 11" x 14"

Blog 45

If you have read my biography on my website, you may have come upon the sentence “For her studio paintings she prefers acrylic paint, while her plein air work is now solely done in oil due to its better characteristics for the Canadian climate.” Have you ever wondered why? At first, this seems rather odd, as oil paint is a slower medium to dry. Therefore, you are left with a wet painting which you somehow have to transport. While one might still be feasible, how about a whole bunch when you are on a painting trip? Would it not be so much easier to work with watercolour or acrylic paints? The paintings would be dry almost right away, and storage would be no problem. While this aspect is definitely true, there are other reasons as to why I switched from acrylic paints to oil paints for my outdoor work.

I was painting a turning road in St. Pascal on a sunny late September day in 2007 when I got frustrated with the fast drying time of my acrylic paints. Even though I used a retarder and a stay-wet palette to increase the drying time, I had a hard time to get my paint onto the canvas.

However, it still took me a while to change to oil paints, and it was not without challenges.
I had started out my art studies with oil paints, then switched to acrylic paints when my first child was born. I fell in love with the fast drying time and the possibilities the different gels and pastes gave me to manipulate the paint. I did not want to get back to the messy oil paints.

When I finally brought my oil paints to a winter paintout in St. Pascal, it was a bright sunny day with a couple of wind gusts. I still do not remember why I wore my good winter coat - I assume I had not remembered my dad’s old construction coat that I wear nowadays - but before I could even react, one of the wind gusts pressed the painting against my coat.

While I might have had a couple of paint spots on my coat had I painted with acrylic paints, I wore the mirror image of my oil painting on my coat. However, because oil paints dry slowly, I was able to finish the painting session and take my time putting the coat into the washing machine. Every little spot of paint came out. With acrylic paints, I would have had to react immediately. Otherwise, the paint would have dried on my coat.

Oil paints, which contain pigments and drying oils as a binder, take a long time to dry, depending on the oil used and the pigment. Drying oils are oils that react with the oxygen in the air to gradually change from a liquid to a hard paint film, like linseed, safflower, poppy seed, or walnut oil. They differ in sheen and drying time. Other additives might be added to make the paint easier to apply, to decrease the cost of the paint, the drying time, or to change the appearance. Different pigments and the thickness of paint also have an influence on the drying time.

When you look at the drying times of oils, which are generally dry to the touch in two days to two weeks, you can immediately understand why I switched mediums. When I am exposed to the elements, the slow drying process is a big advantage. I can mix bigger amounts of paint at a time without having to fear that the paint dries. It also gives me more time to blend the paint. Another advantage is that oil colours do not change during the drying process, while watercolours get lighter, and acrylic colours darker.

Now, that I use with oil paints for all my outings, I have adjusted my painting gear accordingly. I am happy that I do not have to carry large amounts of water with me to be able clean my brushes right away. Now, I just wipe the excess paint off my brushes and wrap them in plastic foil when we change locations. Often, I do not have to clean them for a couple of days. Thanks to my painting buddies, I also found some slotted boxes which make the transport of my boards easy.

These days, after a painting trip, I really have to pay attention to my painting practices when I am back in the studio working with my acrylic paints. It is tempting to leave paint covered brushes lying around. There are still means to get the hardened paint off the brush but it might shorten the life of your brushes.

If you are interested in learning more about watercolours, acrylic, and oil paints, their advantages and disadvantages, you will enjoy my free eBook "I am ready to paint, but where do I start?", which you will automatically receive when you subscribeto my monthly newsletter at

If you would like to see most of my plein air winter paintings (and some new studio work), I would like to invite you to my solo exhibition "Winter Wonderland" at Tyros Shawarma Lebanese Restaurant at 5929 Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard South, Orléans, ON K1C 6V8. The "Meet the Artist" event will be on December 13, 2015 from 4 pm to 6 pm. This is also a great opportunity to try some of the fantastic food the restaurant has to offer. I would like to thank Adnan Bawab for the opportunity to show my works in his restaurant. Another thank you goes to my friend Josie De Meo who curates the exhibitions at the restaurant.


Friday, 6 November 2015

November Paintings

Ottawa River, Rockland

Blog 44

We are already at the end of the first week of November and the weather of the last couple of days was just spectacular. When I made the schedule for 2015, I had planned to write about a different painting for this week, a painting that is part of my “Winter Wonderland” exhibition which I will hang this afternoon at Tyros Shawarma Lebanese Restaurant at 5929 Jeanne d'Arc Boulevard South, Orléans, ON K1C 6V8. The exhibition runs until January 8, 2016.

However, the warm temperatures reminded me of November 12, 2012 when I spent a very mild late fall day in Rockland with some of my painting buddies. From the grounds of the retirement residence Jardins de Belle Rive, we painted the beautiful view of the Ottawa River. I worked on the 14” x 18” oil painting “Ottawa River Islands” and the 11” x 14”oil painting “Ottawa River, Rockland”.

Ottawa River Islands

When I started painting “en plein air”, I took every opportunity to paint outside, especially when we were on painting trips. My friend Janis and I went outside even if the temperatures dipped below 20 degrees Celsius. Nowadays, I am not going outside anymore when the temperatures are below -15 degrees, even if it is one of the brightest and most beautiful winter days.

As I drive my daughter to dance school to Rockland most of the year, I pass the little islands in the Ottawa River regularly. It is one of the places where you can see some of the most magnificent sunsets. I always wanted to paint those little islands, and on that mild November day in 2012, I finally got a chance. We all were really excited because we do not get out too often in the late fall and winter months.

In November, the landscape often starts to look rather monochrome and sad after the last leaves have fallen and before the snow puts a crisp white blanket over the land. The rainy and grey days do not help to lift the mood. On the day we were painting, however, the sun brought out the warm golden reds and ochres of the vegetation on the islands and the purple of the distant Gatineau Hills on the other side of the river make them seem even brighter.

Unfortunately, I was not able to paint outside this week but I am glad I created those two paintings. They are so much more than just two paintings of the site I saw and always wanted to paint. They contain all the memories I have of that day. I would probably not have remembered this particularly mild November day otherwise. No matter whether my plein air paintings turn out successfully or not, every painting I created is like a journal entry. The ones that do not turn out the way I had hoped are a memory of the struggles I faced. Maybe, I was tired that day or my mind was not fully engaged in my painting process, maybe the cold or heat distracted me. The successful ones help me relive the glorious feelings I had on site.

Which means do you use to keep your memories alive? Do you enjoy filling scrapbooks with photos of precious moments or do you write down special moments in a diary? Do you collect souvenirs that remind you of a special day or place? I am sure there are many other ways to keep your memories alive. If you would like to share yours, please leave a comment.