Saturday, April 7, 2018

Adventurous Dogs


A small portion of the final painting.

2018 has me starting on a new series about dogs and their lives with their humans.  Animals enrich our lives in so many ways. Through my paintings I want to honor that bond.

These dogs are living a life many of us dream of. I thought this photo was a perfect depiction of the adventurous life they lead. And by they, I mean the dogs and their owners!

Transferring Photo to Watercolour Paper

I understand now there are even computer programs that take a photo and create a sketch for you. The following way has always worked for me and allows me flexibility in the placement of the elements. To transfer a photo to your watercolour paper the old fashioned way, you can draw it on the same size sheet of paper as your watercolour paper and transfer it on using an artist carbon paper. This is better than drawing directly on the watercolour paper as any erase marks can affect the way the paint lies on the paper. To assist myself regarding the placement of the dogs and person in the boat, I have folded the paper to get a grid of 8 both ways. Note I only made the smallest grid throughout the center of interest. The other elements can then easily be placed. 

Always check the size of the watercolour paper you are using against the photo size. Otherwise if you draw what is in the grid of the photo onto the paper and they are not proportionally the same, your drawing will be wonky. For this painting, I added additional sky. When working your sketch be sure you are happy with the composition before transferring the outline to the watercolour paper. For me, I don't want my paintings to be a copy of a photo but rather an artist expression of what I see in life or from a photo.


Raw sienna is the natural golden colour of the environment and I felt a must for this painting. The Quinacridone Gold I keep in my palette will just not do for this painting. As for a colour scheme for this painting, I decided on an harmonious colour scheme from yellow green on the colour wheel to primary blue. The neutral greys and browns would have variations within that range of the colour wheel. 

The Studio

Here is the studio set up. The computer screen is set up with various edited versions of the working photo. Lightened in some areas, darkened or decreased clarity in others etc. For my studio I often work in silence but I also enjoy a little gentle music. Today it was Calgary's County Station. Almost always there is a 'cuppa' that is kept well away from the rinse water! Note the bottle of masking fluid. Hint: be careful about getting too much water in your brush when using misket. I find that between dips, if water gets mixed with the masking fluid, it adheres to the paper harder and is more difficult to remove later. Just ask me if I have any finger prints left! 

Working the Painting

Masking was applied with a small brush and a toothpick everywhere I wanted to save the whites. That way the sky and background colour can be laid down with a consistent brush stroke. Remember too much dabbing results in the loss of luminosity with watercolour painting.

You can see on the left where the trees are, I painted around the bottoms of the trees leaving them white to match up with the masked areas. I included some cerulean blue and burnt sienna in the water in case I needed to lift off some paint later. These are granulating pigments and have that quality to them. 

I like to work a little bit all over the painting, laying down the lighter colours and sometimes the second layer too, ie the jacket and the dogs.

Below are the completed four corners. I don't want to show the painting in it's entirety until the owners have received it.

 A couple more details of the painting.


The older dog admires the scenery? Smells for fish? The younger one has eyes only for the photographer following in the other boat.  Being so young, I think he has many lessons to learn from his more experienced and what I am told, very tolerant dog mentor. I'll be sure to post the completed painting soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Painting on Location at Valley of the Swans

The Creston Valley has also been known as Valley of the Swans. Fortunately a friend alerted me that there were Trumpeter Swans feeding in the farmer's fields on the 'Creston Flats'. This was the first time I was able to see them so close. The first day I went to see them, it was sunny and the water sparkled and the geese appeared so very white.

Watercolour by Eileen Gidman 7 1/2" X 10"
The next day, I went back and set up for painting on location. It wasn't as bright but I wanted to capture what was still in my mind from the day before.

Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese and Northern Pintail Ducks

My set up. Still a bit chilly for plein air painting.

This is what I accomplished on location.  More darks and details are needed  but there is a freshness that is, for me, often best achieved with location painting. 
I puzzled for some time, days in fact, what made the swans appear so white. The snow was a similar white but it didn't pop out like the swans. I knew I would have to sacrifice some of the whites to draw attention to the swans so I glazed the snow on the mountains with the blue of the sky. As well I toned down the geese on the left and the snow belt between the geese and the trees. 

Those geese still weren't standing out the way I wanted. By chance in the studio, as I was working on final details from photos, I enlarged the one below. Then I could see that the swans were not only greyed on the underside but the were also shadowed with the blue sky colour. Adding that blue made all the difference for me achieving what I had in my mind.

Additional note, even though the geese in the foreground on the left are closer, I kept them soft (soft edges) so that the focus would be on the geese behind the white reflections. The reflections were also glazed very lightly with the sky blue. 

Zooming in on this photo, I could see there was a lot of blue sky colour shading those geese. 
I hope I get some more opportunities for painting swans this spring. Click here for more information about these amazing travellers Trumpeter Swans . I am thankful our valley has the food they need to replenish as they make their journey north. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

'Painting Miss Daisy'

'Miss Daisy'.  I've tried to capture the personality of this very loyal dog. A few of the characteristics I've tried to portray is her love of adventure; her intelligence; and her keen awareness of her owner's whereabouts.  
'Miss Daisy' watercolour 10" X 11" by Eileen Gidman

Miss Daisy and owner receiving their painting.

Checking it over for details.

"Hmmm, is that me?"

"Yes, that good looking dog is me!"

I am happy to see my latest completed painting going to it's new home. Stay tuned for more dog paintings in upcoming posts.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Creating Cards for Spring

Making Textile Cards

My Favorite for Spring
Looking for some new cards for spring? I have a new selection at Creston Card and Stationery, in Creston, BC. You can always contact me if you want something specific. 
Do you want to make some textile cards yourself? Below you will see the start of the process. Click here  or Click here for two other posts about the process of painting with dyes. 

Here the painted dye is wet. I am painting on soda ash soaked cotton which reacts with the dyes so their bond becomes permanent with the fabric.

Sometimes I put the thickened black dye in a bottle with a nib and draw the image first. You can see the bottle in the upper right corner of the photo below.

Oh the excitement of applying the thickened dye to fabric. I find it easiest to work on few card tops at once. That way if I am mixing the red dye I can apply it to several sections while I have some mixed up. You have to work fairly quickly as the setting of the dye relies on moisture so you don't want the fabric drying out. After the dye is applied I then put the fabric in between two pieces of plastic to cure 24-48 hours at 70 degrees F or above.

A length of fabric that has been rinsed, washed twice with Synthrapol which is a detergent that helps keep excess dye from moving to other areas and staining it. I like to iron the pieces dry. Mostly because I can't wait to see how they've turned out!

Another piece of cotton was painted with dyes in a way that may suggest landscapes. I like to use up the little bits of mixed dye colours that I have left over when painting the specific images such as in the photo above this one. Let your imagination run wild.

A window cut out of card stock can be used to choose the composition.

Heavy interfacing is ironed on the back of the fabric where I will be cutting the card top. I use 4" X 6".

Here is a sample of a length of cloth with the interfacing on, now ready for cutting out the card tops. Did you note that two of the corners are lacking an interfacing backing? They didn't make the grade and were culled out. On one the black dye bled into the yellow of the butterfly. This happened as I was too impatient to let the black cure overnight before adding the yellow dye. I managed to get away with it on the larger butterflies as I stayed away from the black line as much as possible. Reminder to self, plan to sketch out images with black dye and cure overnight!!!

This one turned out much better and with additional free motion stitching it should be a card that someone will like as it reminds them of spring. I was quite please with the sky in this one. It was a very light mix of blue, having a lot of the thickener (sodium alginate) in it. I sponged it on. It reminds me of those breezy days in May and June.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Upcycling Shirts

Upcycling Shirts

At the Art Barn  recently, a course was offered about upcycling shirts called 'Fashion Sewing with Stitch + Eco Designs' by Darcy Wanuk . I took it and I am so glad I did. What great fun it was with Darcy giving us mind expanding ideas for sewing. Her eye for design was exciting to see in action as she worked with each one of us individually. I would highly recommend Darcy's courses. Please check out Darcy's site Darcy Wanuk .

Hand Dyed Fabric in Clothing

Since that day, I have upcycled two additional shirts but added my own hand dyed fabric as accents.
For those of you who hand dye fabric, paint on fabric or collect interesting fabrics, I thought you might be interested to see what I did. 

Upcycle Shirt 1

Back of the shirt with some hand painted pansy fabric.

Front details.

Sleeve detail.

Upcycle Shirt 2

Auditioning fabrics
Note the fabric with the lamp post, which I originally thought was going to be my main added fabric, actually didn't make it into the shirt. I felt quite disappointed at this, but in the end it just didn't fit in. 
By the way the lamppost scene is in Gibson's, BC. I did some sketching when I taught a 'Painting with Dyes Workshop' at Carola's Quilt Shop a few years ago. The Sunshine Coast of BC is a very scenic place. 

Hand painted fabrics that were rejected for this project.
Decisions had to be made somewhere. I wish Darcy had been there to help me!
Cutting the square fabric in half!!!
For the front and for the back I needed long pieces so I cut the mostly square fabric in half and after auditioning several colours, pieced it back together with the mauve shirt fabric I had from cutting the lower sleeve off.  I have only one very small piece of this fabric left.
Making a long piece of fabric.

Shortening the sleeve and adding some hand dyed fabric as a facing.
Back Inset.

Front details including tab and button to pocket.

I know it's fun to sew hand painted fabrics in quilts and such but I hope you like this idea and give it a try.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

'Tricking' Myself Into the Studio?

Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art.” Andy Warhol

Where Are Those Eyes?

Practicing regularly and often is when I get the most improvement and experimentation in my work.

How do you achieve regular practice? I've tried various things such as carrying a sketchbook around with me EVERYWHERE so I could sketch when I had little moments. That was great but eventually fell by the wayside. I've tried Inktober which is making an ink sketch every day in October. I made the month but then that petered out. I tried one painting daily for awhile and amassed quite a few of those but it too stopped. 

You might be different from myself in how you are motivated but here are a few things that have worked for me:

  1. Attending a weekly group. I attend life drawing once a week and I carve in a group once a week. Now, I do paint and draw more than that but having the commitment of the group keeps me working throughout the rest of the week on my own. That is when I often get working on larger projects. 
  2. Working in series. Currently I am wanting to improve my drawing and painting skills of animals. By choosing a goal and also telling others about it seems to motivate me to keep practicing.
  3. Because I think a lot of artists paint their own lives, being engaged in the subject matter is key for me. As I am painting animals currently, I asked my niece to send me photos of her dogs and I have had great fun and challenges practicing where the lab's long gangly legs go in relation to it's body and how to show the eyes under all the fur in the little one's face.
  4. Commissioned work is not something all artist's embrace but I think I learn a lot from it because it forces me to do something I wouldn't normally pick. It gets me experimenting and I like that. Oh yes, there is often a deadline associated with it. 
  5. A special gift for someone or a special project for a charity. Those sorts of things always feel great and gets me running for the studio. 
  6. Requiring art for upcoming shows and galleries can also keep me working be it in the studio or on location.

Do you have other 'tricks' that keep you heading for the studio versus dealing with all those distractions we have in everyday life? 

As a young pup, I don't think he was too sure about the ocean!

Okay the cat was in one of the photos. How could you resist painting that cute face?

I am going to be searching for more Border Collies to paint. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Carving on a Bird Feeder

Carving on a Bird Feeder

I've been bird carving. And for the first time carving into a flat surface (the leaves on the feeder). The birds were painted with acrylic paints that were thinned with a glazing liquid. I sanded some highlights after the paint was dry. 

Back of the Feeder

The leaves were carved with a V tool and painted with watercolour. I wanted them very transparent. Watercolour can bleed from where you want it with the grain of the wood. It takes patience and a building up in layers using a fairly dry watercolour mix.

The Carved Roof

The lovely bird feeders were made by CDSCL Woodshop for the Art Trot Fund Raiser in Creston, BC. The money raised when they are put for sale goes to the Therapeutic Riding Program.


A female cardinal was sighted over a period of time in Cranbrook, B.C. in 2017. Wouldn't we like to see one at our feeder.

The cardinal, mountain chickadee and mountain bluebird were carved from a 3/4" piece of bass wood. I love carving these decorative birds as although they require some shaping, mainly with a flat carving knife, they are not as intricate and time consuming as carving a 3 dimensional bird such as the winterwren (A.K.A. pacific wren) pictured farther below. 

Mountain Chickadee

 I had a lovely mountain chickadee at our bird feeder today.

Mountain Bluebird

Alas, I didn't have any bluebirds at my feeder today. Once in the winter, I was fortunate enough to see one in Arizona.

The Winterwren/Pacific Wren with the Big Voice

One of my most favorite birds.

 Harris's Sparrow

This Harris's Sparrow showed up in our feeder today after almost a month of not sighting it. It is a rare sighting here, especially at this time of year. I was delighted to see it! Can you tell how different his feathers look on his head? All finely dotted.

I know I am going to have to carve or paint him one day. Heh wait, I did paint him. Let me find that photo.

Experimenting with Alcohol Inks. 
The alcohol ink technique was so much fun.

I know I have been away from blogging for a bit. I was busy with a very big project. I will post about it later on. Has winter got you in the creative spirit?