Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gushul Art Residency: Open House

 To Win a Watercolour Sketch painted in the Rocky Mountain Foothills: comment on my blog or Facebook posts during Sept 2015.  I will make the draw the first week in October. Good luck!

Gushul Studio Open House, Blairmore, AB
 Sat, Sept 26 from 4-6 pm
Karen Arrowsmith, myself (Eileen Gidman), and Kristen Lyttle warmly invite you to attend and view their art:
watercolour paintings, painted textiles and Maori weaving
I'm in the third week of my art residency and I continue to paint plein air everyday rain or shine. This week it seemed to be about cows.

The DU ranch has a preserved log homestead on their land. After painting for the morning, it was a delight to walk down the hill to the log cabin for a close up viewing. Can you see the cows far in the distance?
Yesterday, in order to get the cows this big in my painting, I had to sit on the edge of a secondary highway. Amazingly when you are painting, it is easy to ignore the distractions of the zooming vehicles. Someone from Washington stopped to ask for directions and I am happy to say I was able to help them. I'm getting to know this Crowsnest Pass. They didn't even ask to see my painting. Hmmm..... 
This is what I painted today. I thought I would switch the colours up and I chose a split complement: purple with yellow-green and orange-yellow. What do you think?
After a three hour painting stint, look who decided to show up!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rocky Mountains Plein Air Series: Aspens and Fernie Art Station

To Win a Watercolour Sketch painted in the Rocky Mountain Foothills: comment on my blog or Facebook posts during Sept 2015.  I will make the draw the first week in October. Good luck!

 Completing a Painting on Location:

Yesterday I finally completed a watercolour painting on location. Well... okay it was 99% completed on location. I glazed back a few white trunks in the studio to draw attention to the aspens in the front.

 Monday's Plein Air Painting:

After visiting the Fernie Art Station on Monday, I decided to try a change of location and plein air paint in Fernie. Here is my set up: a folding chair and a TV tray. I was near a well used biking trail and had many bikers and dog walkers going by. Lovely to experience such an active community. 

This is as far as I got before the rain started. When beginning I thought I would sit for an hour and see how far I could get. Two hours went by before I could even consider it done enough to finish in the studio. I completed the painting in the studio this afternoon.

Title ? (I am open to ideas)
11" X 15" (fits a 16 X 20" frame with mat)
Watercolour by Eileen Gidman

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rocky Mountain Foothill Series: Field Patterns

To Win a Watercolour Sketch painted in the Rocky Mountain Foothills: comment on my blog or Facebook posts during Sept 2015.  I will make the draw the first week in October. Good luck!

Plein air painting in the Rocky Mountain Foothills:

Another longgg... view. The patterns of the far fields were captivating as were the dusty silver coloured shrubs in the foreground. This 11 X 15" watercolour painting is, so far, untitled. I'm happy to hear ideas.

Set Up for Plein Air Painting:

I had a comfortable set up for painting on one of the days last week as the other painter and I were parked along a road and thus close to our vehicle. It was very windy so I huddled down beside the car for some protection. This folding chair has a little table attached which fits my palette and water dish. On the ground you can see a metal case that holds my supplies. Once I get everything out, it makes a nice table for extra things. If I don't take an easel, I rest the board with the watercolour paper taped on it, at an angle, on my knees. To the left of the photo are other essentials: rain coat, water and bear spray!

Dusty silver coloured leaves dotted the foreground so I chose to highlight one of them in my painting.

The fence post was smack right in the middle of my view. Why didn't I move? Well the wind protection the car provided that day was really necessary. After awhile though, I totally forgot about the fence post.

 Another Day's Set Up:


A different set up on another windy day. As we packed into this field searching for a view and protection from the wind, we found it was best to sit low to the ground. The one flattish spot, on the side hill where I was, had two dry cow patties on it. I decided it best to place my foam insulated square and my cushion on one and my hard side case on the other. The case on the ground then became a table for my palette. I am pretty sure that was a long john day.

The following paintings, shown in previous posts, are now titled and ready for sale. For further details, email me at

Watercolour painting: 'Nestled in the Rockies' - 11 X 15
by Eileen Gidman

Thank you to the viewer who gave me a title that I think perfectly suits this painting.
Watercolour painting: 'Tree Tessalations' - 7.5" X 11"
by Eileen Gidman

Monday, September 7, 2015

Week 1: Painting in the Rocky Mtns

Watercolour by Eileen Gidman painted on location in the Rocky Mtn foothills
Any title ideas?
 Day six today! The days, of the month retreat, are taking on a routine. Out painting by 9 for about 3 hours. Home for a warm lunch as the days have been very cold and some were rainy. Do you see the snow on the top of the mountain in my painting. That happened this week and there were even a few snow flakes in the valley! The afternoons include a rest period and finishing that morning's painting in the studio. The weather is supposed to be better this week, so the other artist and I plan on getting out a second time in the afternoons.  I might end up with a stack of paintings that need finishing!!!
This is a photo of the view I was working on today. The watercolour painting is so far from being finished I won't post it. I like the way the tops of the trees show so much movement. I would like to capture that but don't think I have thus far. I'll let you know how it goes.
To Win a Watercolour Sketch painted in the Rocky Mountain Foothills: comment on my blog or Facebook posts during Sept 2015.  I will make the draw the first week in October. Good luck!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Day 1 & 2: Painting in the Rocky Mountains

The time has arrived! This is day 2 of a one month sojourn of painting in the Rocky Mountain Foothills. Excitement and trepidation are two of the feelings I've had, thinking about this much anticipated event. Following in the footsteps of former Canadian artists I have admired, I wonder if I can measure up. Not so much painting skill wise, as we are all on our own artistic journey but rather I wonder if will I have the fortitude to maintain the focus necessary to paint continuously? Somehow I've always imagined this is what it takes to be real artist. After one month will I feel the same? Will I stay focused all month?
Day 2 Painting on Location

Photo of the wind tortured tree trunks I've been thinking about painting all year.
Today I turned my paper to a landscape orientation to capture the various layers of the scenery. At some future date, I plan to interpret some of my paintings onto fabric by painting with dyes. With that in mind I want to be cognizant of patterns in the landscape.
With this month's blog posts, I hope I will inspire you to start planning your own creative retreat as A. M. did for me.
To Win a Watercolour Sketch painted in the Rocky Mountain Foothills: comment on my blog or a Facebook posts during Sept 2015.  I will make the draw the first week in October. Good luck!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ice Dyeing with Shibori Folds

Ice dyed Cotton Lawn Fabric
  • Soak light to medium weight cotton fabric in a soda ash soak (1 cup soda ash to 1 gallon of warm water) for 20 minutes
  • Using gloves, squeeze out the excess liquid and lie the fabric flat on a large table. Fan fold it with about 1 inch pleats keeping it as even as possible.
  • Outside on a hot day, I then placed the folded cloth on a screen. I used a length of white wire shelving you find at hardware stores with a length of tulle like fabric on top of it. This allowed the water to flow through it as the ice melted. The shelving was elevated on some plastic tubs to catch the drips

  • The ice was piled on top of the fabric.
  • Using a dust mask, to avoid inhaling the dust particles I sprinkled powdered fiber reactive dyes across the folds. The colours for each piece were carefully selected to create specific colour combinations.

  • Everything was covered with plastic and left to sit for 24 hours.
  • Then each cloth was rinsed quickly in cold water under the tap and placed in a bucket of cold water for several hours to allow excess dye to run out. After that the excess water was squeezed out and the fabric was washed in hot water using a textile detergent, then rinsed in cold water until the water was clear.
  • The fabric was then pressed dry. 

You can find some of my hand dyed fabrics at Puffin Designs - Fantastic Things for Interior Design .

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peony and Lily Painted on Fabric

Hand painted 'Peony' on textile
by Eileen Gidman
Working with Someone Else's Vision: Creating something for someone else, usually isn't not too hard when you are giving a gift, however when you are doing commissioned work the process becomes a little more involved I find. Some artists avoid commissioned work but I find I like the challenge of it. Every time I learn something from it as I am often engaged to create something I wouldn't think of on my own. Such was the case with a recent commission of flowers to be painted onto textile.
The purchaser, an accomplished quilter asked for two fabric pieces with specific flowers on them that were meaningful for her. She provided me with her own photographs as noted below. She asked for the background to be a mottled medium green and a 14 X 15" size.

Then my work begins:

  1. New dyes and soda ash solutions are mixed
  2. Mercerized cotton fabric is soda ash soaked and air dried 
  3. The composition of the images are considered and adjusted as need. I felt the peony sketch required the full peony to be showing, so that was added in
  4. The images are sketched on the fabric using a black thickened dye that I applied using a squeeze bottle with a very fine metal nib on it. (I purchase them at the Dharma Trading Co). The fabric is then placed in plastic overnight at a warm temperature. Temperature is a big consideration when setting the dyes.
  5. The colours are mixed and painted on. I generally start with the darkest colours first. This is where one of my challenges came. I had never before worked such fine detail as would be required for the peony petals. Painting with thickened dyes requires that the dyes have to be a bit thick in order to not have the dye just bleed everywhere and because of that thickening, it does not brush easily into small areas. What to do??? Well I was very careful with the mixing of the thickener into the dye. Not too thick and not too thin and I used a very small brush.
  6. Unlike the photo where the flower and leaves were lighter than the background, I knew I would have to adjust things in order to have the background a mottled medium green as requested. For there to be contrast, the leaves were painted with some very dark coloured dyes. Darks are the most difficult to achieve when painting with thickened dyes and you must put your colours much darker than they will be in the final product. I have learnt that the dark green must look black when you apply it. The darks of the lily were also a challenge to consider. The photo didn't show much change in the dark burgundy colour but I wanted give the impression of the lily petals bending over so I varied the colour slightly to show highlights.
  7. Painting the fine dots as the petal turned to white on the lily was fun, being sure to make the pattern irregular. Can you see there is a fine white line on the edge of the petals where they overlap each other? More fine brush work was required there.
  8. It was a big session of painting both pieces at the same time but this was done to ensure the colours in the two pieces were cohesive.
  9. Before covering them in plastic, I let the pieces air dry just a little as the darks were especially saturated having had two or three layers applied. I didn't want the colours to run into each other when covered. However moisture is needed to complete the process of the dye molecules adhering to the fabric so timing was everything.
  10. After 24 hours, well actually 22 hours in this case, I quickly rinsed each piece under the cold water tap. Both fabric pieces were placed separately in it's own bucket of cold water to allow any un adhered dye molecules to rinse out overnight.
  11. The next day the pieces were washed in hot water with a textile detergent and rinsed until the water was clear.
  12. As the pieces were not large, I pressed them until they were dry. This is an anxious part of the process for me as I am never sure until this point if I will be happy with the set of the dyes.
  13. I know the night after I painted these pieces, I dreamt of the darks all washing out. Fortunately they did not and the resulting colours were just as I planned.

 I couldn't be more pleased with the results on the petals of the peony.  The detail showed and the darks of the leaves are just what I wanted.
Hand painted lily on textile.
by Eileen Gidman
 The depth of colour on the lily makes me so happy. The customer's words were "They are beautiful. I love them" That response makes a commissioned piece all worthwhile. 

I am so looking forward to seeing what the customer (quilter) does with these pieces which are to become gifts for Christmas.

It looks like I have some time in my schedule in November, so email me at if you would like me to create something for you.

I am busy preparing for a very special Sept. Check back for more information about where I will be painting for a month!