Sunday, July 3, 2011


I thought today I'd write about a rather complex subject - Watercolour Paper. It's taken me years to sort out what I know, and I know there's still a lot for me to learn on the subject. I won't get into the various ways Watercolour Paper is made, or the various things it is made of. Instead, I will stick with the surface and weight, and the with the brand of paper I use . . . Arches.

As you know, Watercolour Paper comes in a variety of weights, and that is based on how much a set number of sheets of paper (a ream) weigh. The paper is numbered according to how much that lot of paper weighs. The very light paper will weigh 90lb or less, while the heavy paper will be 300lb or more. That said, the usual range we see is 90lb, 140lb, and 300lb.

Someone told me recently that he had read that the 140 paper is for beginners, so why was I, an established, award winning artist who has countless shows under my belt and various gallery representation over the years, still using it? * * * * Well, there are shades to that statement.

It's true that the art school or watercolour teacher you go to will probably suggest that you get a 10 x 14 or 12 x 16 BLOCK of 140 watercolour paper. A BLOCK is a collection of 20 sheets of cold pressed paper that are lightly gummed together at the edges, attached to a hard board, and have a coloured paper cover distinctive to the brand. There is a tiny slit in the gummed edge, and the nervous art student is supposed to wield an X-acto knife with a sure hand and slice off one sheet of paper at a time. (STRESS!! ) The paper is quite thin and crisp, and needs to be taped down on a board, as it buckles like a star bucking horse the moment you put water on it.

The SHEETS of watercolour paper are, however, very different. Each sheet is 22 x 30 inches, and they come in 90lb*, 140lb, 300lb, and heavier. I've never used anything heavier than 300 as I don't have a need for anything heavier.
The 140 is a heavier and more pliable paper than that in the BLOCK , even though they wear the same number. (At a guess, I would wonder if the blocks are weighed while attached to the cardboard backing?) The 140lb Sheets of Arches watercolour paper are happily and successfully used by many professional artists, including myself. I like the way the brush feels on the paper and the way the paint goes on. The difference between the 140 and the 300 (aside from the obvious thickness) is that of how much water the paper can hold, not a difference in quality. If you are using relatively light washes and lots of dry brush, the 140 does not need to be taped, but it you want to use a generous hand with the water, you must tape it down, as it will buckle to some degree. The 300lb can take much more water. I never stretch or tape any more because I've found that the way I paint does not call for it, but this is a personal choice. I use layers of washes, but not soakers, and I don't mind a little bit of buckle. It's easy to flatten again. When I'm doing a smaller painting, I use 140, but when I do something larger than 11 x 14, I use the 300.

* The 90lb has it uses in sketches and such, but not for a full painting using lots of washes. It's just too light. I use it mostly for prints.

The other thing I've been asked about is my delight in Hot Press paper, when it seems to get "bad press" from time to time. Arches Watercolor paper comes in three finishes - Hot Press, Cold Press, and Rough. The ROUGH is very textured, and not something that is suitable to my style of painting.
The COLD PRESS is the most popular by far. It is relatively easy for an experienced artist to get interesting water colour results on this paper. It's a nice, polite paper that wants to produce a lovely painting, whether you are using 140 or 300lb. I used to use it until I discovered the Hot Press, which is more suited to my detailed style.

I've heard HOT PRESS described as slippery and slick. Not so! While some makes of paper do make a harder, "shinier" Hot Press, which I have tried and rejected, the Arches is smooth and velvety. The surface is hard enough to take a masquing fluid, and that can prevent tears when it's time to remove the masque. That's tears in both ways of pronouncing it! I've used masque with a softer paper. The results when it was removed weren't pretty! The Arches HOT PRESS takes a little more practice and some skill to use this paper to its best advantage, and I've been using it long enough to feel completely at home with it, either as a 140lb or a 300lb. It's a great paper for those who enjoy its challenges.

The painting at the top is DAWN RUNNERS, and it is an 11x14 watercolour on Arches 140 Hot Press.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Well, this was an interesting painting that was simple on the surface and presented me with one challenge after another. This is DAFFODIL FLOUNCE, an 11 x 14 watercolor on Arches 140.
First off, after using Arches 300 lb paper several times in a row, I found the 140 very lightweight. It just handles differently. I think I will still use it for smaller paintings, but for this size and up, I believe I've come to like the 300 better. As I have several sheets of the lighter paper (which is heavy enough, just not as heavy as the 300), I will be using it up - it's too expensive to let it just sit there in my paper box. But from now on, I will be buying the heavier paper.
And it is always a challenge when the artist drops a brush loaded with dark sepia paint onto a pale blue sky. Yes, well. Thank goodness I've been using this medium long enough to know a little trick or two!
Then there was the Sheltie himself. I know these dogs, I've had them all my adult life. I know how they move. But as I was working on this little guy, I realized that my photo had been taken from a 3/4 view from behind, and what I wanted was more of a profile, so the feet were not in the right position. By this time, I had too much color in place both with the dog and with the daffodils, which were also not looking as I wanted them to, so I started over.
Keeping in mind the variation from the photo that I wanted, I got going on the dog. And this time, it worked. The little fellow who modeled for me for this painting has the most wonderful gait - it's so full of animation and the joy of living. To my admittely biased mind, all Shelties move beautifully, but this guy is magic.
The first daffodils I did were OK, but too individual for my liking, so this time, I made sure to mass them, and I like the effect much better.
There is always something that can be done if things don't look right, but there comes a time in a watercolor, that if it isn't working, the only choice is to start over. I'm really glad I took the time to re do this one. I find DAFFODIL FLOUNCE to be a bright, happy painting. Hope you enjoy it too.
Available . . .. $400.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I've been spending some time this week looking over a few of the old EQUINE IMAGE magazines. In planning where I want to go, I find it often helps to look at where I've been, and what was happening 'way back when'.
In looking through these magazines, I'm fascinated to see that what was AMAZING EQUINE ART then, still is of course, but that a lot of work that I admired for the technical sparkle, although still every bit as wonderful, seems not out of the reach of my abilities now. My skills as an artist have grown. Obviously, one hopes to do just that, but it is encouraging to see it verified there on a glossy page. Even though years have passed, I'm still proud of my watercolor painting that appeared in an EQUINE IMAGE article. 'DID SOMEOME SAY COFFEE?" is a watercolor and I'm pleased with the way I handled it, but I wonder what I could do with it now.
In the ensuing years, my art journey has taken me on various paths. I've done a lot, oh, a LOT of commission work, and I've explored Acrylics and become very comfortable with Colored Pencils. And there have been very few days where I've not been in my studio for a little while at least, working at my craft.
Now as I contemplate a new chapter in my art life, I can do so with pride because I know I've put in the hours, done the research, and pushed and pushed myself until I have arrived at this new level.
And while my focus as stated in the article " I feel a great need to record the local pasture scenes, various horse events, and most of all, the magical relationship between people and animals" remains valid, that too, has morphed somewhat. I still paint horses - they are so deeply rooted in my soul that I believe I always will. But my equally great love of dogs and cats has blossomed in my art and now I find myself painting more dogs than horses, and the felines need their time too. Although my commission work is still done mainly in Colored Pencil, my old love of watercolor has taken hold almost to the exclusion of other mediums, and I'm enjoying the challenge, mystery, and complexity of this charming, demanding medium.
Looking back can be a good thing, because you can see how far you've come. Now, eyes on the present and future . . . .ready, set, PAINT!

Friday, May 20, 2011


I LOVE the whole beautiful procession of Spring. The world seems to get a little better when the fields start to green up, and soon there are snowdrops and crocuses in the garden. A little later, the daffodils arrive and then the tulips, and about that time, the trees start to look like they are wearing pale green, lacey shawls over their heads. It's that time, too, that the foals start to appear in the fields with their big curious eyes and long spindly legs. At first, they stay pretty close to Mum, but after a few weeks, the curiosity wins and they start exploring their world. No matter how many times I see them, it's still always an "Ahh!" moment for me.
Some years ago, I used to watch this little guy because he was so totally charming. Every time we'd drive past the horse farm where he lived, my eyes would find him immediately. One of the things he loved to do was to hang out by the farm house, and I've painted him having one of his impromtu visits.
"HI THERE. IT'S ME" is an 11 x 14 watercolor on Arches 300 lb paper. This little fellow is looking for a good home. Asking price, matted, $400.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


This is PHOENIX. I wanted to express my belief that beauty is something strong, and that even though ideas of what is beautiful change over time, and there are even dark times when it seems to vanish, the essence of beauty is a constant. I've chosen an Andalusian as my symbol of strong beauty, and the classical pillars to represent beauty past. The poppies are the future. Anyone who has planted corn poppies in their garden, and then decided to change their location, knows that they will always renew themselves where they decide to bloom.
PHOENIX is a 12 x 16 watercolor on Arches 140 paper. This painting is sold, but note cards are available.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


First let me say that early morning any month of the year is not my natural habitat. But we had an 8:30 am appointment, and I had to be up. Notice I didn't say "awake". But the drive into the village where we had to be, was worth the pain of being up before time. Recent heavy rains have kept the little river that runs past our house, in flood. By mid summer, it is a tiny creek in many places that you could step over, or shallow enough to walk through, but at this time of the year, it is mighty. The banks turn into watermeadows and are often filled with ducks and geese. On a sunny day, this is lovely to see, and even on a rather snarly day like this one, it's something to enjoy as we drive along. We took a different way home, and the fields of cut-back corn stalks were filled with geese. A huge flock - many hundres of them, turned the sky black as they came to land in one field so they could rest for the day and glean the muddy corn rows of left-over corn. Something startled one group who had already settled, and there was a sudden glory of wings as 50 or so birds rose like a living fan out of the stubble. Fox? All through the cut corn stalks, if we looked closely, we could see long black necks bobbing along as the geese went walk-about. There is something about geese that amuses me, although I don't particularly like coming nose to beak with them. Long necks, short geese tempers!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Each Spring that we can manage it, we go to a Maple Sugar bush, not so much to get the sweet treats, (although that is not neglected!) but to walk in the woods and let the forest work it's magic on our souls. I seldom go into the woods from mid spring to mid autumn - (possible Serpent sightings), but from late October to mid April, I feel safe to wander and look. Once we are away from the main road, the magic of the forest takes over. I can hear the wind in the trees singing and sighing and whispering old-as-time secrets in my ears, and the air has a fresh tang that is a mix of pine needles, rotting leaves, damp earth, solitude and possibilities. It exhilarates and soothes all at the same time. We walk along the sometimes muddy, sometimes icy paths into the heart of the woods and are often silent, just observing, feeling, and talking to the spirit within. By the time we leave, we are refreshed and at peace again. If you want to catch up on my shorter gratitude comments since my last full blog, they can be found on my Facebook page.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Sometimes, on a troubled day, looking up at the endless blue of the sky brings peace. It's a deep, infinite, calm blue that sooths the soul. On a day like today, when my post is short, and perhaps does not have an image, I think I will move my peaceful/happy comment to FACEBOOK. You should be able to find me easily by typing in my name and my website -

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hope Springs . . . Spring Hopes

Hope springs eternal, and in the Spring, one pins one's hopes on a tiny seed. The other day, I planted a few left-over tomato seeds from last year, and I just noticed that several of them have come up. This is exciting! I don't do badly with flowers, but last year was the first time I grew an edible tomato, and now I have a chance to do it all over again. My Spring hopes are hitched to these tiny plants, and who knows, by August, I may have another one of these beauties.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Today is about small pleasures . . . . an E chat with a dear friend, an unexpected gift, and a new commission. The sun is shinning, everyone feels peaceful and happy, and lunch is looming. Yes, a good day! I wish the same to you all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


We were driving through the woods this morning on our way to a nearby village, and although it was far too early for this night owl, I couldn't help enjoying the gorgeous mounds of moss that are beginning to show in the wooded areas as the snow pulls back. It's SO intense and rich. This must be what the Faeries make their winter gowns from. I suppose some bleach it in frost and then tint it with rainbow colors, while others opt for the glowing green of the moss itself. It's always a wonderful Spring treat to see these mossy mounds in their brilliant emerald and peridot greens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A cozy fire in the studio on a cold day, and a pretty dog stretched out companionably on the hearth rug are beautiful things! Yes, there really is a fire going (electric), it just didn't show up all that well in the photo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Beauty of Words

"LOOK FOR A LOVELY THING AND YOU WILL FIND IT. IT IS NOT FAR - IT NEVER WILL BE FAR. Sara Teasadale I love the beauty of words. My grandmother used to recite poetry to me - she had a verse to fit any and every occasion. She intilled in me a love of the music of words. I was so lucky.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Don't you find the world is always a better place with a plate of home-made cookies and a cup of your favorite tea? These are Lemon Poppyseed cookies, and I have them with my favorite Yorkshire Tea. Using a pretty china plate and cup enhances the mini home getaway - pretty things always do. I love to bake. Baking helps make a celebration, and at other times, it eases stress. And whatever the reason for doing it, in the end, you have something delicious to share. Can it get any better!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Today, I have a new watercolor painting on Arches 300lb Hot Press that is making me very happy. I'm celebrating because long ago, I used to paint T-tiny things, a couple of inches square. I did it because I couldn't bring myself to paint anything larger - it was like I had to keep my need to paint a secret. Thankfully,that was a very long time ago, and in the years since, I have been getting my paintings larger and my voice has been getting stronger. Now I have finally managed to paint something the full size of the watercolor board, minus a couple inches for matting - 20 x 27".
Let me begin telling you about this painting by saying that I've never been out West and I'm not a Western painter, so to speak, but here in Eastern Ontario where I live, there is a vibrant Western community of people who love Quarter Horses and Paints, and who enjoy the Spirit of the West. There are Western horse shows, rodeos, and Western Games. Western tack and clothing is available, and although I rode English sometimes, the tack I usually used was my big comfy Western saddle and I was more comfortable in my well worn jeans and Western boots than in my neat breeches and elegant long black boots (although I loved them too!). I have a ton of wonderful memories that come from those days riding through the woods and fields and going to watch the Western Games. As a result, my paintings with a Western spirit will always have an Eastern pasture and woodland setting. They're about my memories here at home.
And speaking of memories; Remember what it was like, coming home from a ride on a blustery, cold March day, desperate for a steaming hot coffee, but knowing your horse had to be cared for first? The barn never looked so good, and when you had a buddy with you, that coffee was just a bit closer. "I'LL START HAY, YOU START COFFEE". Wonderful memories!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Don't you love the wild, exuberant joy of Spring? Granted, the visual exuberance is a bit thin on the ground around here as yet. There is still some snow that is refusing to leave, and what greenery there is, doesn't deserve the name. But close your eyes and just listen for a few seconds. The air is one glorious chorus of Red Winged Blackbirds, Sparrows, Chickadees, Finches, Cardinals, and Jays, and outsinging all but the Blackbirds, are the Geese. The Canada Geese fly past, announcing their passage with their haunting, strangely beautiful 'Goose Music'. I'm surprised no has ever written a concerto to them.
This photo was taken yesterday at a watermeadow near our village. In the spring, the water sometimes comes right over the road, and there will be quite literally thousands of geese resting there. In a few weeks, the river will be behaving itself again, the grass will be greening, and the geese -many of them- will be gone until the Autumn.
I'm just going to pop out to the garden now and listen to the birds!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I've never really been a fan of Pollyanna (old Disney movie) - I mean, there are some days and situations where you just can't be happy, but I do share the character's love of prisms. Unlike Polly, I don't look for things to be happy about every day, but I do look for something beautiful every day, and that, for me at least, makes every day better - sometimes only by a little bit, but hey, it all counts.
For a few minutes every sunny day, one wall in my studio is filled with prisms, and I love seeing them there. I have a small crystal hung in my window, and it catches the light, throwing little rainbows everywhere. The prism is held by a golden winged horse . .. any surprises there?
Even on an unhappy day, these dancing rainbows bring me a moment of joy, and on a good day, they are a reason to rejoice in the beauty that is out there for all of us to discover.
And today? Oh, a good day! After being almost a month overdue for a haircut, by the end of the day, I will finally be able to see past my fringe. No more curtain of hair - it will be back to being a neat, swing of hair along side my face. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I know I've posted this image before, but an evening drive last night reminded me of this painting, so I thought I'd use it as my image of the day. Last evening, we had to drive into Ottawa to deliver cookies to an art meeting. We couldn't attend because we had to take our little dog with us. Left to his own devices, he would have pulled out his stitches by the time we got home - make that, before we got out of the driveway. But I had promised cookies and so had to deliver. Trust me, you wouldn't want to mess with a group of artists who have been deprived of their sugar high :-0
The trip in was a pleasant drive through late afternoon golden sunshine. But by the time we turned for home, the sun was setting and once we got out into the countryside again, the glory in the sky was being reflected in the pools, streamlettes, and puddles that dotted the emerging fields. Everything was gold and vermillion, and in places, the pine and fir trees turned a rich, living black against the molton sky. It was lovely, and reminded me of the year when there was a huge spring run-off, and the fields consisted of little islands of dark, wet earth peering above the "lakes" that had over-run them. It was then that I took the reference photos for the above painting - "WAITING TO GET ON THE LAND", an 11 x 14 acrylic. This painting didn't get seen very often, as right after I did it, life went into one of it's challenging stages, and I dropped out of my show circuit. But now, when I look at it, I get a great feeling. The challenges have been met, and I am reminded yet again, that we live in a beautiful world.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Things

Not sure what this is? Let me explain. I'm still working on my Miniature house, and will be for quite some time. This is the shower I built for the guest room. I know it ended up with a bit of a tilt, but this is meant to be fun, not something to stress over. Someday, I will do this again and get it straighter, but for now, I'm Really proud of it. The "tiles" are made of wood or art paper, painted dark green or left white, and then "varnished" with gloss medium. The frosted glass is cut from a plastic box top, with waxed paper lining it. I painted on the design, as I did on the shower curtain - a thin, white plastic bag. I'm most pleased with the little shower head. Can you guess what it is made from? Half the fun in Miniatures for me, is looking at something and seeing, not what I'm looking at, but what it might become.
Today I had the joy of sharing lunch and "Show and Tell" with a fellow enthusiast who has become a great friend. Her work is amazing, and a visit with her always inspire me to be creative. It's good to take time to play!

Monday, March 21, 2011


We had an early vet appointment this morning and woke up to a semi spiteful little snowstorm that made visibility a bit iffy and the roads quite slick. But it was SO beautiful! Not far from home, three deer meandered out on the road and then seeing us approaching, just stood there - you know what deer are like! My husband slowed down, beeped the horn, and the deer farthest from the road went back into the woods. The other two ran across, jumped the fence, and as we watched, bounded easily through the snow and into the far woods. We've seen them so often, but every time is magic. Such a wonderful "image gift" on a less than perfect day.
We realized that the road was getting more clear, and soon we caught up with a snow plough who led us safely into the village where our vet has his practise. The appointment went very well, it's a case of so far, so good, with nothing bad expected. Just one more test to get back to be able to say with 100% certainty, "Whew, alls well that ends well!"
And the snow? It's melting already.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Beginnings

Today is the first day of Spring, and this year seems very special. For one thing, it's a gorgeous day, and there was a once in 19 or 20 year special full moon last night. It was so big and bright, we did an audible "Wow!" when we stepped outside to see it shining through the trees. It feels as though something nice is beginning. It's something in the air, and a sense that my painting has moved up another level and I can't wait to get to my art table in the mornings. With so many things in my head that I need to paint, I will have to paint steadily for many years to just keep up with them :-0
Today is also our 30th anniversary in a very happy marriage. And for the icing on the happy cake, we had good news about a much loved dog this week. I need to celebrate, and so I'm committing to posting on this blog about simple, happy things as well as my art, as close to every day as possible, for one year.
To begin, I have a photo from a Flower Show we go to every March. It is held at Algonquin College in Ottawa, where I went to art school. Granted, this is a new campus and there is no longer a Fine Art Department there, but I still love going back. We have actually attended Mini-Vet courses at this new campus, so it really feels like home.
This flower show comes at a time when the snow is usually still hanging on, and walking into the Show Greenhouse is like walking into faeryland. The perfum hits you as soon as you walk through the door, and then the color washes over you. There is a sense of peace that envelopes you, and you automatically take a deep breath, slow down, and just be. We count this "moment out of time" as the first joy of Spring. (And it's always great to see the resident Greenhouse Cat).

Sunday, March 6, 2011


The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful, energetic dog who excelles at Agility. I think they are wonderful, but then, I have a soft spot for most of the Herding dogs. I love that they are usually "free thinkers" as I call it . The Herding dogs have to be intelligent enough to be able to think for themselves once in a while.
I'm starting to rebuild my collection of note cards; retiring my old black and whites and replacing them with colored images. Eventually, I will probably put them into a little book about dogs, something I've always wanted to do. This image will part of that collection.
AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD is a 9 x 11 watercolor on Arches 140 smooth, and is available as note cards, and the matted original is also available.

Heather Anderson - Sheltie Hollow

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SMOOTH COLLIE - Keeping an Eye

I've been wanting to paint a Smooth Collie for some time now, and this was finally the moment. The Smooth has all the wonderful traits of the Rough Collie, just without the massive, glorious coat. But the simpler, cleaner line of the Smooth Coat is lovely in it's own way. In this painting, I tried to echo that cleaner look by keeping the background simple and bright. I wanted a feeling of space and freshnness.
The Smooth was used more as a Drover than a Herder, and like the Rough Collie, this guy is ready to take charge of any situation his family might be in. (I love the Herding Dogs - I think of them as "Free-thinkers").
Keeping an Eye is an 11 by 14 watercolor, and was done on Arches 140lb, Hot Press paper. It will make a great Smooth Collie print, and lovely cards, and the original is available.

Heather Anderson Sheltie Hollow

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


* Note. This is part 3 of a set, so you may want to scroll down 3 posts and work you way back up.

PATCHES OF SPRING Watercolor on Arches Hot Press 16 x 20

Here we are, done. Well, almost. I am pleased with the painting, I like the way the horses' patches echo the snow patches and flow together. I like the fairly low key colors, the sense of ease in the horses, and I like the composition, so I removed the masking tape that I put around the image area (sorry, forgot to tell you that, didn't I!) I like a clean border, so now I always use low tack tape to keep it that way.
Now is the time to set the painting up where I can see it during the evening and look for any areas that I want to fiddle with. Does something need highlighting, does something need knocking back, has anything got lost?
Once I am sure I am satisfied, I will take the painting out and photograph it in natural light and it will go on my website. Then I will catalogue it by noting the date, title and medium on the bottom of the border and put that information, along with a photo and notes about the painting in a book I keep for that purpose. Now the the painting is ready to go out in the world and hopefully find an appreciative home.

Patches of Spring - the process - 2

Here we are with the sky done. I like to put clouds in most paintings to give a sense of movement and interest. I also blocked in the forest in the background, leaving the trees along the ridge. In the hilly ridge, I tried to echo some of the shapes of the horses' backs and necks to keep the design strong and to keep the eye moving through the whole painting.
I decided to start with the buckskins for no other reason than that I wanted to. Here, they are about 90 % done, and I've moved on to block in the other horses and some of the grassy patches so the legs don't get lost. To this point, I'd spent 5 days drawing and 2 days painting. This image,by the way, is 16 x 20.
During the next week, I worked on each horse, went back to polish the buckskins, and finally worked on the background. Sometimes I block in all the grass and trees before I do the main subject, but in this case, I felt all those legs needed to be done before I started laying in much background colour.
For me, doing a painting is about going back, and back, and back until I feel satisfied with my work.

Patches of Spring - the process - 1

I've just finished my most ambitious painting so far, and I thought that, for those of you who may be interested in how I put a painting together, this would be a good one to use so I can share my process with you.
Sometimes my paintings are IMAGE driven, and by that I mean that I take a photo that I JUST HAVE to paint. That's when I noodle around, looking for ideas in which to set this image, or ways in which I can change and enrich the photo so the finished painting is an original, not just a copy of the photo.
Sometimes, as in this case, the painting is IDEA driven. I love those first days of spring when the snow is melting back and the earth and grass is just starting to peer though. I remember the horses loved it too. Forget their breakfast of hay, they wanted those first blades of grass! I've always thought that horses seem so content in their environment - they have a sense of harmony about them, and a number of years ago, I did a painting called "HARMONY" that depicted Paint horses against a background of patchy snow and hillside. Last year at this time, I had planned to do a second one on this theme, but life got in the way. It seemed appropriate to do it now, a year later when things are almost calm and peaceful again,
My first step is to gather my photos, and that means looking through my albums to find what is going to work with my idea. There were 3 photos of horses invovled in this painting, and each one was a different size. I had to resize them so they would be in proportion to each other.
I'd like to say here that it is point of honour with me that I never trace or project. I do use a grid, and that takes skill, knowledge of the subject, and a good ability to draw. There are no lines there to follow, I am the one who has to decide exactly where the lines are going to go within the little boxes. Mistakes are easy to make.
I decide how large I want the finished painting to be, then see how many squares each horse is in the photo, and how big each square will have to be so I can size up and draw the image in the desired space . In this painting, the buckskins, the black, and the chestnut paints each required their own hand drawn grid, and each one had to fit with the next one. The black paint was not co-operating, so I ended up doing him by hand, without the grid.
Once the horses (or other subject) are in place, I put in the background, and in this sort of painting, it is almost as important as the main subject. I do my positioning sketches and the initial drawing on large sheets of newsprint, and when the drawing is the way I want it, I trace it onto tracing paper, rub the back of it with graphite, and then transfer my drawing to the watercolor paper. (Note please, I am only tracing my own original drawing here!)
The paper I most like to use for watercolor work is Arches Hot Press. The 140 lb is very smooth and lovely to work on. The 300 lb is lovely too, but a little rougher and you have to insist a bit more with it, but I am enjoying using it again for these larger paintings.
I usually use a masking fluid to outline some areas so I can put on a free-flowing wash of sky, as you see in the photo above. When the sky is done, I remove the mask and get on with the painting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stepping Lightly

I've started the new year in a slightly new way. My usual comfort zone with a painting is on the smaller side. That said, I have done a couple of 3 x 4 foot wall murals (acrylic) in a local school and had fun with them. So to make a break with the past few years of mostly little paintings, the first one of the new year is bigger. This is a 14 x 18 inch watercolor on Arches Hot Press 300lb paper (or 'board', as I think of it), and I've called it STEPPING LIGHTLY.

This painting came out of something I saw one lovely spring morning a couple of years ago. I was watching this mare and her new foal, and snapping photos, when the foal lay down, sprawled all around his Mum's hind hooves. I was sure she was going to step on the little guy - how could she help it? But with enormous care, she picked her way out of the tangle without brushing a hair of the little fellow's body. I knew then, that sooner or later, I would have to paint this scene.

I'm really pleased with the way it has turned out. I feel that I captured that fresh, spring morning in the sweep of the clouds and with the clear, bright meadow. I also like the contrast I achieved between the power of the mare and delicacy of her movement, and I think I showed the utter trust her baby has in her.

STEPPING LIGHTLY will soon be on my website, and it is available for purchase.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Ideas

Here we are, staring the New Year in the face, and I'm wondering if it will be a good year. I'm hoping so, because I have to say that 2010 was very difficult, both personally and professionally. On the personal front, I'm proud to say that the challenges were met, and I am grateful that myself, my husband, and our darling dogs and cat are well, comfortable, and happy.
I've seen some people whom I thought of as friends, make it known through deed and word, that they were not. So I am leaving those people and the situations surrounding them, in the past where they belong. (No fireworks involved - courtesy reigns in any future contacts.) On the other hand, I am savouring a couple of new friendships that have blossomed over the past year, and of course, I treasure my dear friends of long standing who have been with me through good times and bad. Love ya . . . always will!
On the art front, I am about to implement some changes that I've felt were needed throughout most of last year. The trouble was, I wasn't sure what those changes needed to be. The year was a strange one, with some wonderful and unexpected opportunities turning to Chimeras, and very ordinary little things becoming something very wonderful. There were also moments of total hilarity, and they all helped point out the new directions for me. I need to paint what I NEED to paint, and not worry about who will find the painting appealing, and not concern myself with the pursuit of commissions. 2011 is my year to follow my dreams. I will be concentrating on watercolors again because I love them above any other medium, but there will be some Colored Pencil work and Graphite as well My subject matter will remain what is in my heart - dogs, cats, horses, and Fantasy, with one or two surprises thrown in. I am beginning my second series in watercolor, titled ME AND MY DOG. I'm not sure yet how far that will go, but it will be fun to find out. I plan that some of this year's work will be larger than usual for me, and some will be smaller too. And sometimes, I will just "follow the music and see where it leads me".
So like the little Shelties in the painting, I'm peering at 2011 and wondering what it will bring, and am hoping that it will be a very good year. Let the Year unfold!