A Watchful Eye – update SOLD

Thanks everyone, for the comments and likes on the last post. The suggestions were helpful and I decided to go darker on the barn window.

Not only do the kittens show much better, this piece has sold quickly and the buyer prefers the darker version! This has been a good lesson in contrast.  I’ll have to do another painting for the gallery submission now.


Here is the image from my previous post.


A Watchful Eye

There was a crowd of people at the garden market that morning. I looked at the barn window and something jumped across the open space. Checking things out with a small zoom lens revealed 3 barn kittens, each with their own attitude, perched on the sill. One had just pounced down from a hidden rafter (the curious one in the middle) and was now in stealth mode. No one else seemed to be aware they were there. I’m glad to have captured the memory.

Asked to submit a piece for consideration for an upcoming art show, the photo I took that morning seemed like a fit. It embodied the theme firstly. And with the rectangular proportions (Fibonacci?) and the strong contrasts between light and dark, and hard and soft subject matter, I think the composition is of interest. Hopefully, the gallery will too.

I’m not certain about the background behind the kittens. In the reference photo it was deep black with no light. When I put the initial coat on I liked the lighter brush marks and decided to keep those. My fear is if I go too dark the kittens will disappear; they were well camouflaged. Also, with the lighter values there is depth to the opening. For now it will have to wait until I can decide what is best.

Skill building day

It was Malcolm Gladwell who said in his book ‘Outliers’ that you need ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert in any cognitively complex field of study. I think watercolour painting fits in there. He goes on to point out, that’s about 4 hours a day for ten years.

Since our paint group cancelled their morning painting session, Susan and I met at my place to get in that all important practice time. I worked on some skills while Susan painted. Susan is an excellent storyteller in addition to being a talented artist. She is the author of the blog Travels with Suze. If you are interested in Acadian history or travel check it out.

Mist and water effects are two tough watercolour skills to master.

Making this treeline appear to “float” in the mist required a mixture of ultramarine and cobalt blue pigments with just a touch of medium red both for the sky and snow.

The tops of the trees were three layers of a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. Lifting off followed each layer where it was needed to diffuse the pigments in the trees and landscape.

This second skill builder was inspired by fellow blogger Graham McQuade’s recent post, The Ways of Water. Using a Chinese brush like a calligraphy pen (thanks for the tip, Graham), I tried to replicate the image of water from his post. The first one was a disaster and will never see the light of day. This one is a better imitation and there’s room for improvement but it’s a start!

Overall, it was a solid morning of skill building, painting and telling stories! Let me know how you manage to get in your 10,000 hours.

When the Cat’s Away…

With my husband away on business I thought I would get a lot of painting done…. yeah, not so much.

From binging on Netflix, to hanging pictures, to organizing cupboards, I’ve only managed this one tiny practice sketch over the past four days. But, to my credit, I also set up an Instagram account, watched some Masters Series painting videos, took in a few art marketing videos, and wrote this blog. So, the time hasn’t been totally mispent.

I’m looking forward to painting with an artist friend who is coming over in the morning. I’ve got some delicious chocolate covered crispy rice squares and coffee to offer her in exchange for some motivation. 😀

Winter is here

I have always loved how raindrops, sleet, snow and ice form mesmerizing patterns on windows. I’ve been meaning to tackle raindrops in watercolour for a while. This reference photo from the backyard has been tempting me for a few years now. I opened it up last week and began the process of figuring it out.

After a very loose sketch and masking out the raindrops, I soaked the front and back of a half sheet of 300 lb arches watercolour paper. Once the shine was off, I dropped in washes of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and burnt umber. I confess to trying to control the bleeds a bit though I’m developing the instinct to let them run more. Individual branches were picked out with a #2 brush. The raindrops and parts of the trunk are done with watercolour pencil followed by touching the edges with water to prevent a crayon-like mark. All the whites in this piece were reserved.

All in all, it turned out to be more interesting than the original photo and I found my eye pulled constantly to the foreground while maintaining a strong middle ground and a few background layers. So, hopefully I captured depth as well as the weather.

Let me know if you have any tips or suggestions that would make this a more interesting piece.

Happy Valentine’s Day


‘Highlander’ is done in oils on an 18×24 inch canvas. It took a couple of weeks to complete.

I originally thought this would be a watercolour but instead, I decided to resurrect my old oil paints. Its been so long since they were used that vice-grips were needed to pry open the tubes.

The palette consists of titanium white, burnt umber, cadmium yellow, cadmium red deep, and cobalt blue.

I had forgotten how messy oils can be. After the first day, I dug out my old paint clothes. By the third day I was pulling on the surgical gloves. I had also forgotten how much I love the smell and feel of oil paint, so wearing it wasn’t really a bother.

Highland cattle are raised on some Nova Scotian farms but they’re not too common around these parts. This little cow had a young bull calf with her and kept her eye on me as I took the reference photo.

The mixture of resignation and protectiveness spoke to me and I got the feeling she took her role as mama very seriously. I’m thinking of doing a companion piece of her with her calf… hopefully with a faster turnaround.


This is a second sketch I did while visiting friends in Cape Breton this weekend. The quilt Lily is perched on is a leather throw blanket from South America. She had mixed emotions sharing her space with us and alternated between hiding, posing, or abbreviated attempts for attention.

Cats are so open with their emotions – perhaps that’s why they have nine lives; there’s something we can learn from them.

I tend to like aloof kittens as allergies prevent me from close interaction. She eventually warmed up to us though and turned out to be a very sweet girl.

The sketch became more of a painting. I worked on it on the way home yesterday and today, and resorted to goache, chamomile tea, and, accidentally, a bit of honey garlic sauce from my submarine sandwich, to capture both the hardness and softness.

As a first feline attempt I hope this catches her overall catitude.