Parrilla in West Bay, on the Bras d’Or Lakes

We had the privilege of staying with friends in Cape Breton for the weekend. The parrilla (pareeja — BBQ) in this 5×7 sketch, is modelled after one they owned in Uruguay and was built this past summer. There’s enough grill to cook a meal for their large extended family and all the friends (like us) who visit them regularly. Then it’s swimming, hiking, boat rides, or campfires.

This weekend was snowshoeing along forest trails and thawing out in the sauna. Though we all ventured outside in our swimsuits at a balmy minus two degrees Celsius, Kirsty was the only one to brave a roll in the snow before jumping back into the sauna.

It was exhilarating to say the least. Evenings consisted of cards, board games and some good wine and ale. There”s more than a little bit of paradise here.



This is my first acrylic painting in over a year. It’s only the second one I’ve done, and the largest acrylic painting I’ve completed to date. It’s 12″ x 24″ on stretched canvas. The palette consisted of three primary colours plus brown, black, and white.

It’s painted from a reference photo I took through the window of my car a few years ago, but considering the amount of work I put in, I’m glad I didn’t tackle it en plein air. It was a bit of a battle with the paint to add just the right amount of water and to keep the palette damp.

In general I’m pleased with how it turned out with the usual caveats of what I’d do different next time.

I added shadow – there was none in the photo. Also, there were a spattering of raindrops on the windshield in the original photo that added to the moodiness of the scene but which I left out I wanted to add them but played it safe instead.

What do you think? Should I add the raindrops or not?

Icy Trees

We’re in the middle of our annual January thaw here in Nova Scotia. It was plus 12 yesterday and plus 14 today. And, there’s almost no snow left. It seemed like a good time to paint an icy winter scene.

When I took the reference photo, several people suggested turning it into a watercolour. I thought it would look great but had no idea how to approach it. There was a lot of sea mist which had frozen on the trees and very little colour. A year later and a little wiser, it was time to try it.

My palette was indigo with a touch of ultramarine for the open water and a cerulean blue wash for the sky.

Variations in the landscape were achieved with a mixture of dry brushing, wet-on-wet, scratching, lifting off, and controlled blooms. I managed to reserve a lot of the snowy spots without resorting to masking fluid.

Using mostly one colour helped the focus stay on technique rather than colour mixing. Overall, it turned out better than I expected.

Looking forward to the torrential rains in the forecast for tomorrow. Not really, but maybe I’ll try raindrops next.

Thoughts on the past

It took a couple of afternoons to complete this painting of historic Halifax. It’s a step away from my usual work and I have mixed feelings about it.

I was excited in July to get up pre-dawn with my sister to photograph the tall ships that were visiting Halifax. We hoped to see ships silhouetted against the rising sun. Of course Halifax was overcast that day and I was left with several very flat images. Shadowless and muted colours forced me to be a little creative and stylistic, so I punctuated the flags but kept the flat floaty feeling of the overall subject with a limited palette and reduced detail.

It feels a little dreamlike which works with the subject. When the tall ships are in its easy to imagine yourself stepping into the past.

I don’t know who the cyclist is, but I’m grateful he decided to see the ships that morning as well. His clothing, and the box on the fender of his bike, fit in with the overall mise en scene. He was a terrific if unsuspecting focal point and helped me to embrace the gray.

The details were both fun and a pain. It always amazes me how a blob of paint can look like anything… a tent, a flag, or some decorative woodwork on the bow of a ship. It’s magic.

Snow Tires

This is a quick December 31st sketch of four tires in our garden. They keep the tomatoe plants warm in the spring. And, since I’m home nursing a lady-cold, painting par la fenĂȘtre seemed the easiest thing to do.

Passing the last day of 2017 playing with the last few pages in the Moleskine I purchased in London a few years back. I’m switching to a small Canson spiral bound sketch book in the new year and hoping the pigment flows a little more easily.

It’s a little larger though, which should give some latitude on scale and composition, but still small enough to travel with.

Happy New Year. Its been an absolute pleasure to read others’ posts and see the talent out there! And, I really want to say thanks to everyone who liked, commented and/or followed Fieldnotes.

Wishing everyone peace and good health in the New Year.

Christmas sketches

After the gift exchange this morning everyone was down for some quiet activities. I seized the moment to spend a few hours sketching while husband napped. My mother-in-law has a green thumb and her geranium was in full bloom.

My father-in-law enjoys feeding the birds and we were visited by chickadees, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, morning doves, and a fox. All were appreciative of the seed as we are having a bit of weather. Missing the family back home but enjoying a very white, wintery, Christmas day in New Brunswick.

Pansies at the Garden Centre

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and I finally finished my pansy painting from the previous post. It was quite a struggle to get the right blue — finally settling on Manganese Blue Nova.

Inspiration to paint these came from a reference photo I took in the spring. The intense blue and composition stood out; they looked like they were moving together for a selfie. It was also, a good chance to practice achieving some depth in a still life.

With the chilly slide into winter complete, I’ll have a few months to paint winter scenes. But in truth, I’m hoping to do a little more writing through the shorter days, which means less painting. Why I can’t seem to write and paint at the same time is perplexing. I imagine it’s lack of discipline. After all, light or dark, there’s always 24 hours in a day.

Happy holy days everyone!