Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gingerbread Art

We went all out creating an entire village this year! Between seven of us we built five and a half gingerbread houses!

The half being the outhouse along side of the saloon!

Our designer, Denise, came up with the concepts and drew paper patterns for all the houses. I used a recycled pattern (from 2010) made it even smaller and constructed it in reverse. There was a hiccup with the baking. I had the oven temperature too low. No amount of re-baking would cook the dough properly. Good thing we had ample because we had to toss the pieces for two houses and start over again. 

Christmas Eve we begin

A little one has to do something while waiting for her gingerbread house!

Boxing Day and at last construction/decorating begins

Originally we had planned to have all the components baked and assembled on Christmas Eve day. However, with the baking issues, it was the afternoon of the 25th before we finally had all the pieces cut and cooked - which dangerously cut into turkey oven time! 

John and Alison at work on their haunted house while Larry, holding his outhouse walls upright, looks on

Both John and Alison are professional chefs.  Their arrival on Boxing Day, when we had only two of the houses upright, meant they had the pleasure of erecting the haunted house they had requested before spinning their creative magic decorating it!

The intense industry of seven bodies had a significant effect on the physical temperature in our little breakfast room!

Everyone was so focused on their project it's a wonder we have any construction photos at all. With so many helping hands the decorating was complete in just a few of hours and then we all sat back to admire our handy work!

Alison photographing the masterpieces. She and John saw that the houses were well tweeted!

After moving the finished houses to the display area Denise was found adding more icicles!

Avery wanted hers to be a traditional house

John and Alison's haunted house. Notice the noose, tomb stones and zombie gingerbread man rising from the grave!

Denise's saloon and Larry's larger-than-life outhouse with embarrassed snowman!

Decidedly the most creative effort, Bill used (among other embellishments) molten licorice on his burnt down house!

My wonky house

The best part of these intense construction sessions is the unity of working collaboratively. I have to say that by the time we finally got to the decorating stage it was tremendous fun.  Will we be able to go back to making one, single house next year?

Monday, December 23, 2013


In Alberta, winter came early (and is sticking around) setting us up for a white Christmas! After the December 2nd blizzard we were left with deep, crusted, cement-like drifts ...   

The snowblower can't go up the steps!

While in the past I have come up with some pretty far fetched colour combinations, this year the colour scheme is very traditional. For me it's all about ascetically pleasing arrangements and design.  

Loving the frog!
Atop the china cabinet
The dining room table does not escape my attention

My relatively new hobby of hand making cards becomes accelerated at Christmastime. The fun begins with collecting pretty papers, ribbons, embellishments and all the toys required to create them with!

Some of the collection

Challenging good fun (and early on in the game, when I thought I had all the time in the world) I figured out how to mark, fold, cut, and tuck a paper "braid", seen in two of the cards below.  

Cards for Amira and her parents
Avery's card

One evening a week Lynda and I join Debbi in her exquisite, sunroom/crafting space. And yes, there is often wine involved! Toward the end of November we had an intense Sunday. An all day, twelve-hour, card making marathon! By mid December we amped up our sessions to two evenings a week. Here are the cards I made (at home) for my card-making pals ...

Thirty of my cards were one of a kind, original designs. Enamoured with the look of a card Lynda had made (fashioned after one she found on Pinterest) I went into mini production cutting two inch squares to emboss. Varied them a bit with three different colour combinations ...

This was perhaps my most creative endeavour

And this was likely my most traditional

As you appreciate everything you have in life, remember that your time and love are the best gifts you can give. 

Whoever you are with and wherever you are, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fairy Heaven

FAIRY HEAVEN   unframed 24" x 12" mixed media on a cradled wooden panel with 2" deep sides

On October 16th, Avery celebrated her 5th birthday, in Calgary, while we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, USA. Late in September, before departing on our month long trip I had only the background painted. The name Avery means "elf ruler". I envisioned that she should preside over her subjects from atop a tall mushroom. The pose was inspired by a winged figurine I saw in a Stony Plain shop last summer.

The background is a wash of acrylic colours which, while still damp, I sprayed with clear water. Using a large, dry brush, I gently wiped up the water drops to create the mottled effect. The dangling fern leaves are stencilled on. 

This first incarnation of Avery's face was hopelessly unlike her. Frustrated, I set aside painting her, in favour of proceeding to develop the rest of the image. The butterfly, dragon flies and pom pom flowers are stamped on with commercial rubber stamps

I'm a huge fan of Cicely Mary Baker's exquisite flower fairies, so, when (years ago) found a collection of cut-out decoupage pieces, I bought them. From these I selected fairies to match my colour scheme who would look up at Avery (with the exception of the one on the bottom left who dances to her own drum). 

Arranging dried leaves and fairies helped me see what more to paint on the background

Avery's face continued to frustrate me. Thinking it would help, I opted to paint over it using oils (the medium I'm most comfortable with). Even then, I painted and then wiped her face off, twice. After the fourth attempt, I had to concede (once again) that I am not a portrait painter and this was a good as it was going to get! ...  

Reference photo I used (taken July, 2013)

Avery's Mom observed that her expression, in the photo above, is not a common one. However, not wishing to offend or tell me how to paint, Denise held back suggesting that I use a different photograph as reference. This may have helped, we'll never know! Certainly the sweet, mischievous look on her face eluded me.

Finally, on November 28th, FAIRT HEAVEN is delivered to Avery

When I view the painting as a complete image ... and from a distance ... I am pleased with its overall sensation.  Thanks to everyone who supported and listened to me as I obsessed and agonized over it. Also thanks to Judy Dahl for her home grown mushroom images, to Win Dinn for those stunning leaves along the bottom and to Karen Linderman for the title. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Back in the Saddle

This autumn, Bill and I have enjoyed the company of some remarkable people in stellar locations from local haunts to NYC and the Appalachian Hills of Virginia and North Carolina, but, there comes a point when it is time to come home and hunker down for the winter. Back at the easel I'm focusing on marrying the adventure of working in mixed media with my fine art painting. I'm pleased to present my latest pieces ...

DANCING QUEEN   unframed 8" x 8" on a deep cradled wooden panel, acrylic and oil mixed media   SOLD 

My love affair with irises is no secret and so into the wet paint of the top right hand corner of Dancing Queen, I scribed "Oh iris, most exotic of flowers, how you dance!" For this background, I mixed sap green with a Daniel Smith luminescent acrylic called Duochrome Oceanic. The nondescript writing in the lower left is rubber stamped on. Knowing that I can achieve the luminosity I crave, I painted the flower with oil paint. When I was done I felt the top left was terribly blank looking so, with Golden moulding paste and a stencil, I added the scroll work. When that was dry I painted over it as I had the rest of the background.

CHICKADEE SONG   framed 8" x 8" acrylic mixed media on a MDF panel   $295.   SOLD 

Chickadee Song is worked entirely in acrylic over which I placed torn pieces of antique sheet music and pressed leaves.  The top leaves are from the autumn-turned willow tree next door and the Japanese maple leaves are from a tree Win's Creston, B.C. backyard. And, for those who will ask, to the best of my knowledge, the sheet music is Traumerei Op. 15 No. 7 by Robert Schumann and as I understand it, it's a set of thirteen pieces of music for piano written in 1838.   

SKIMMERHORN GRAPES  unframed 6" x 6" acrylic mixed media on a deep gallery wrapped canvas   $150.

The background of Skimmerhorn Grapes (Creston, B.C. winery) was created using a rainbow of acrylic colours (some irredescent) painted over top of stretched and manipulated cheesecloth. When this was dry the peeling off of the cheesecloth left this magnificent patterning. For a long time I wondered what I would paint on it? I had an ah-ha moment when I found my photo of these grapes and thought "They'll be perfect!" the way that they echo that rainbow background.

CARDINAL   framed 5" x 7" acrylic on MDF panel   $150.

Taking art supplies out of the studio can be epic. Last week I was looking for a portable, clean and easy medium that I could take to the Claresholm Art Club's Create-In. I opted for a pan set of gouache paints and began this Cardinal there. At home, I sprayed it with a fixative so as not to disturb the water-soluble gouache colours when I painted over them with acrylic colours to further develop and enrich the bird.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to sell Dancing Queen at the Kinette Christmas Sale here in town! The other three pieces are available at Willowtree Designs, in Claresholm 403 625-4567  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Special Story Book

On September 20th a very special lady turned seventy. To accompany the painting gift I intended to create a card, but somehow this card took on a life of it's own and became this little 6" x 6" accordion, folded book.  It tells the story of how fate orchestrated my life.

… a long time ago, a very pretty twenty-five year old nurse, Terry Pletzer, took a roommate into her St. James Town apartment in Toronto (1968).  Five years Terry’s junior, newly fledged from her parent’s home, Alice Saltiel, was and still is happy that she did!

Terry introduced Alice to all her friends ...

… and Alice fell in love with one, Bill Marshall, who lived in a house, on Falcon Street, which he shared with Lloyd Pitts and Roy Hawk.

Less than a year later, on September 13th, 1969, Alice and Bill were married at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, Toronto.

Just prior to the wedding Alice and Terry moved out of the apartment.  As a parting gift, Alice gave Terry the pastel drawing, she had drawn, seen here hanging on the wall of the St. James Town apartment. 

To commemorate Terry’s 70th birthday this little book accompanies a painting which is meant to replace the pastel drawing Terry no longer has.

Yup, that's me in 1969!

Years passed.  Terry moved to one end of the country, Alice and Bill to the other.  They lost touch with Terry.  Alice’s repeated efforts to find the gal who had introduced her to Bill finally resulted in a reunion when Terry and her husband, James Joyce, visited Alice and Bill at their Canmore home in August 2006.

In July 2010, Alice, with daughter Laura, traveled to Montreal. On this trip there was a serendipitous opportunity to visit and have a fabulous lunch, with Terry and James in their Dunvegan home.

What should happen next, and it needs to be sooner than later, is that Alice and Bill visit Terry and James, in Dunvegan!

SUSEN (not a typo - and before I signed it)   16" x 20" oil on canvas

The painting was created in October 2010, at an Ingrid Christensen workshop. Ingrid's appearance and stature so reminded of Terry that I always know I'd give her it.
To see the blog post about this workshop please click here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hi Lily, Hi Lily

Here in southern Alberta we've just concluded a summer of unprecedented rain and unpredictable, not-all-that-nice, weather.  But,  on the first day of September, the sun shone in a cloudless sky and the thermometer hit 31C.  It was a perfect day to paint on our back deck ... in the shade.  

Me in my office

Although I returned to work on it again, yesterday, the day lily painting still isn't finished.  I'll have to add the stamens and pistils when the flowers themselves aren't one giant oil slick.

DAY LILIES in progress   oil on canvas   8" x 10" 

God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll finish the above painting so that it can go, along with the oil below, to Sunny Raven Gallery, in time for Canmore's Artist's Studio and Gallery tour, September 21st and 22nd, 2013.   

LILY BRIGHT LIGHT   oil on canvas   8" x 10"

Meanwhile the open road beckons ...