Garden Painting

The garden that surrounds our home has offered many opportunities to work with colours and shapes that change daily. Sometimes the changes come moment by moment.

On occasion, while working in the garden a butterfly or bee may enter the picture plane. They will be recorded as part of the overall experience.

Spring is such an exciting time of year watching the plants in the garden. The weather in Nova Scotia takes a dramatic change for the better. Gone are the cool and overcast days as the sky opens and sunlight pours in. Temperatures rise and the days are the longest we can expect. The seemingly slow rising and unfurling of ferns has turned almost overnight into a bloom bursting frenzy. There is a riot of energy in the garden as spring turns into summer.

Of course I will grab some canvas and head out to record the spectacle. My only problem is keeping up to the changes.


Returning home last evening the lake provided a beautiful reminder of our location by Springfield Lake. The colours of the sunset reflected perfectly of the still waters surface. The reflection echos in my mind and a journey through time begins.

Planning for Art

Our weather has turned towards winter now. The seasonal shift and lots of cold rainy days allow the opportunity of planning time for future art projects. Of course the future work will include preparing boards and canvas to work on. The locations for site work could change over the winter months but with time allowed for travel to areas near and far I hope there will be time for hikes with paint and boards.

Painting Minas Basin

Such a wonderful view looking out over the Minas Basin. On this day in November the sky began to open allowing light to stream down over the bay.  The stormy sky and the water current drawing out towards the Bay of Fundy was revealed. There was so much to take in, shape and colours defining the moment you would think was special. Not too long after making the work I was taken aback when I saw a copy of a watercolour work made by a military officer in the 1700's. His work made note of a very similar sky and was made in a location not far from where I stood. Suddenly the work took on a whole new life and meaning.

Sketching in Colour

Having canvas ready to go made all the difference when time and weather made a sketching trip possible. Weather reports called for increasing wind and cloud along the coast so I knew I would be working fast but that just added to the adventure. With weather on my side I set up on a bluff overlooking the shore looking out to Shad Bay Head. Being an optimist will suggest a return trip before the temperatures drop and make working outside with water based paint impossible.

Lucky Dog

Living on the coast has benefits. Where water meets land and air an immersive environmental phenomena exists. Sometimes we are there to enjoy it all and take note of the experience.

Drawing and painting our way through the vision and jumping into the spectacular.

Water Painting

As a child, learning to paint opened doors to the world around us. Shape and colour that previously remained unseen became visible. Early work included experiments with the mixing and applying of colour to a prepared surface of canvas or board. Sketches were usually made on site and then taken to the studio.

Now,  site work is rough and moving reflecting the changing conditions and quick pace. Working directly on site from start to finish seems to provide a different but somehow more satisfactory result.

Tidal Painting

Growing up in Ontario the largest body of water around is the Great Lakes. Many hours were spent along the shores of the lakes playing on the shores or in the water and waves but nothing the lakes could offer prepared me for the visual effect of the tides of the Bay of Fundy.

We were camping a few days at Fundy National Park in New Brunswick and went to the town of Alma to pick up groceries and do laundry. While waiting for the wash to finish we took a walk behind the building to the beach and watched the water recede. The sun was setting and the stars came out. the experience took on a magical quality, mystical in some sense. The effect is something that continues to amaze and stir the emotions.

Five Islands in Nova Scotia is another site on the opposite side of the same bay we became aware of to watch the twice daily phenomenon.

Bringing paint and canvas to the site is something that I would not have considered all those years ago but luckily my painting practice has grown to include working on site, in situ or as the french describe plein air painting.

Get to the Beach

With summer air all around us it really is time to get to the beach. A day of painting and watching the tide move makes the artist work at a sustained accelerated rate.  The kaleidoscope of colour revealed on the water is a seasonal pleasure that I would liken to eating fresh strawberries in a field. A little bit sand always seems to find its way into the work adding unplanned texture to the surface. The high contrast colours reflect an intensity of light not seen at other times of year and is oddly unfamiliar but welcome at the same time. Did I mention the water was warm?

Public Art

On Tuesday this week a bit time opened up to make a drawing in the downtown area. The old park had shade trees and a bit of a view so I sat on a bench and began to record to work. It wasn't long before passersby stopped to chat. This was an unexpected consequence but led to some interesting exchanges. My focus for the drawing was the intersection between the new construction represented by the large cranes looming over the pond and garden I sat in.

One visitor asked if I could identify the floating ship model in the pond. I suggested it was the Titanic based on the four smoke stacks.  Our conversation moved from ships to his tee shirt that had a drawing of the famous skates made by Star Manufacturing in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. When we first moved here in the 1970's our apartment was just down the road from the old factory so a bit of the history was known but I had never heard the story he told me next.

His story begins with the skate designer, a distant relative of his. Somehow during the mid 1800's an order for 500 pairs of these particular skates was made by the Czar of Russia. He noted that the intention was to provide skates for the staff at the winter palace in St Petersburg. I will have to do a bit of checking on this but it is totally amazing to think about with all eyes focused on trade these days.

Other conversations were polite and encouraging as passersby also noted the contrasts between the constructed and the natural. In general everyone was enjoying being outside on such a beautiful day.

Art Conversation

The tone of conversation has changed. Our air has become thick with bold faced lies and loud bluster.


While driving through Quebec there is a beautiful and welcoming house in the town of Levis that we make a point to stay at.  The proprietor operates a B&B in the old home with a view over the St. Lawrence River. The scene is captivating for the architecture as well as the beauty of the river below and as you can see drawing out the window is something to look forward to.  At dusk it even gets better if you can believe that as lights that turn on to illuminate the city.  The whole scene becomes something that is too fantastic to describe.

Lost Art

A sketch that was created some time ago became lost. The image came to light recently while working on another project and reminded me that a sketching trip is long overdue. Funny as it is the time of year is similar as ferns are stretching toward the sky and the trees are just budding out. The light in the sky holds a certain warmth reflected in the rocks.

I wonder where the painting went?

Lacey Brook

As a student of painting we often heard that we should paint what we know. For me the idea painting what I know has meant returning to familiar sites with new ideas.  Allowing the idea to change allows the painting to move within itself, meaning that I don't feel constrained by any one idea.

Enter the creative process with a fresh canvas and see where it goes.

Showing two views of the same pond painted years apart make you wonder where the time has gone.

Grey Day Sketching

Sketching on a gray day is something to look forward to. The sky is active with clouds moving on accelerated winds while the water reflects the ominous tones.

Feels like Spring

Our air is warming and song birds are returning to the area. Working in the studio through the winter months has allowed ideas to continue developing but now I would just like to get out and work on site again. To hear site specific sounds and feel the air move while I work to deliver my immediate response to these conditions is energizing to the artist and reflected in the work through line and colour.

Painting Fog

Now that the calendar has turned to April and the winter snow have given way to rain, fog has covered the land and water. Working with paint on site has its problems but when the air is so full of moisture the act becomes almost but not totally impossible.

Planning for days and sites is underway and hopefully the weather will cooperate with warmer air in the not too distant future.

Random Residuals

D rawing and painting led to Random Residuals. Each form began separately from each other before combining in practice. The activity of drawing with tools not designed for studio work seemed foreign and desperate but when traditional rendering forms collide with process and the idea of chance inserts itself into the work everything changes.

Twisted Garden

T he Derivative Speculations project moves in ways that are unexpected and always a catalyst for traditional artmaking. There is something about the interaction of lines and tone juiced up and mixed inside a computer that has bridged the gap between the old and the new. 

How Much Art

A sketchbook allows quick notes while on the move. Notes about spaces and relationships between built and natural environments.


Well, now the sun is providing a little warmth and the days are becoming longer. Stretchers are covered with canvas and primed with gesso. It seems as if things are moving towards spring at the same time as we jump into summer. Ready Set Go.

Halifax Harbour

Drawing along the harbour shore allows views of many marine activities. Ships of all shapes and sizes appear and then disappear just as quickly. They provide very apt metaphors for many things. The fact that steel floats is crazy. The size of ocean going ships is amazing. Shapes in space attract the artist over and over.

Seen Unseen

Ihave been drawing and painting on the harbour for some time now and the variety of ships of all kinds and sizes never stops interesting me. One such ship was a little different in that it moved onthe surface but also had the ability and was designed to move under the water. Watching the submarine move out of the harbour and into the open ocean allowed a series of work to grow in the studio. The work has included collage and silhouette and took my work on the Sweet Dreams project as a jumping off point. 

Studio Days & Nights

Plants and blooms have been a big attraction for one aspect of my art practice. Beyond being able to spend time enjoying a garden environment there are the endlessly different biomorphic shapes of the forms.

Recently some old family photos came to light and it is interesting to note that the wallpaper covering the rooms at the time was mostly floral. It is interesting to consider where ideas and attractions are derived.

The Dead of Winter

With Groundhog day solidly behind us our hopes have turned towards sun filled warmer days and the prospect of painting outdoors.  There is something about the sights and sounds that accompany being on site feeling the air and being fully engaged in the work of painting. In the meantime there is much to do in the studio.

Colour Changes

The weather outside has created a blurred vision of soft white tones. It is a far cry from the bold and vibrant tones of fall found near Lacey Brook a few years ago. We are certainly feeling the effects of winter all around in the north east. So far the Atlantic Ocean has worked in our favour moderating temperatures and limiting the snow pack. That can all change just like art. Time to get in the studio.

Art Choices

Our view changes from minute to minute making working by hand a time sensitive challenge. The fluid quality of watercolour paints used as a colour sketch tool allows quick rendering of inspirational elements encountered in a day.

The relationship between the hand, eye and heart of the artist when choosing to make a painting or taking a photograph is one that is constantly at play.  Somehow the questions arising around the choice of medium don't seem to diminish. The results of sketches vary wildly and are very different from those of photographs. Ultimately the artist will have to decide given the variables of the day.