Flora Doehler Paints the Town

This past weekend I painted up a storm in the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal. The event, Paint the Town, is an annual fundraiser for the Annapolis Regional Community Arts Council (ARCAC). The resulting silent auction of  hundreds of paintings, sculpture and blacksmithing that are created also benefits the 75 participating artists. Continue reading

Painting Winter Fields

Charcoal sketch of field patterns.

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside right now. There is a thick blanket of snow covering the fields, and the  hills. With all the leaves gone it is really easy to see through the trees to the hills on the other side of the river.  What I see is long stripes of trees that border fields, slashed diagonally by roads that wind their way down the hills.

Looking from the Annapolis side towards Riverview Road.

The colors now are so muted that it is a challenge for a color-loving painter like me to actually paint that scene in a monochromatic way.  in fact it would be easier for me to use brilliant colors to depict the snow scenes around me–but I want to try an abstracted approach using muted colors.

Acrylic on canvas.

I start with charcoal drawings to get a sense of the shapes in the distance.

Charcoal sketch of snow scene.
Larry is immersed in creating a pendant and is listening with me to a podcast from This American Life about the fictitiousness of money, starring the Federal Reserve.
I discovered, quite by accident, that if I put my paper on top of the hot wood stove, and draw on it with crayon that the wax melts instantly and leaves a very dramatic line.This must be what encaustic painters experience!
Melted crayon on paper and charcoal.
I chose for my palette:
  • anthraquinone (blue )
  • burnt sienna (rust)
  • raw umber (brown)
  • titanium white
  • carbon black
These canvases are 16″ x 16″. I’m using fluid acrylics mixed with matt medium. This one was my favorite as far as the intensity of colour.

I rarely use burnt umber and I never use black. In fact I hardly ever use white either. So all of these choices amount to a complete departure for me. But I was determined to give it a try.
This was my favorite of the 3 canvases as far as paint texture goes.
I will work on them tomorrow with the objective to create a more harmonious look and feel to the 3 canvasses. Although I really like the intensity of the colour, it is more than I intended. But, a reduced colour seems to go against my very nature. I may try to mute things anyway. Stay tuned!
Canvases drying on my new cushioned mats. (I stand when I paint).
This is a good exercise to work on while winter is upon us!
The studio is like a giant playroom for Larry and me.

Intentions for 2011 at Green Willow Studio

Our Green Willow tree,  Cordelia, has finally dropped her leaves. A Cherry tree stands to the right and produces tasty cherries that drip down your chin in the summertime.  Mostly the birds get the bounty as the limbs are too high for us to reach. Our studio is the red building. The other two ‘public sides’ are painted periwinkle blue. We heat it with a wood stove and a small space heater.

2010 was the ‘birthing’ year for our Green Willow Studio. We started with an uninsulated garage and transformed it into a warm, walled and electrified studio! It took us some time to get everything arranged so that a silversmith and a painter could work in the same space. Together, yet apart.

Most of the time it works. We listen to music or to podcasts. We break for tea or coffee and either talk about our work or we go for a walk around the garden to get a different perspective.

It is a thrill for us both to have the luxury of such a well lit room (there are windows on all four walls!) and to be surrounded by garden and a wild field where pheasants live.

As part of the Bear River working artists studio tour it was essential for us to have our studio ready for the beginning of the tourist season in May. We set up a display area in the studio where people can buy our work.  We have met some wonderful people that way and have sold some pieces.

Tulips. Acrylic on canvas by Flora Doehler. SOLD


My painting sales this year at the Flight of Fancy, at Paint the Town and in the studio were motivating and rewarding.  A series of one-on-one art coaching and tutoring in painting has helped me to share my painting techniques and to practice teaching. Attending the Bear River Artists and Farmers Market nudged me to develop affordable art as well as gave people a chance to see my work.



Larry received jewellery commissions and is showing sculptural pieces at Art and Jules Gallery in Halifax.


“Growth Spurt” hammered copper vessel by Larry Knox, 2010.
Now 2011 lies before us like a blank canvas or like a shiny sheet of copper waiting to be formed.
The possibilities are infinite; the ideas are many and there are decisions to be made about content, about intention, about the best way to express one’s creativity.
Blooming summer flowers were a constant inspiration.
 I will spend more time posting to this blog and sharing step-by-step, the creative discoveries and techniques that I am using in my work and that Larry is using in his work. Up until now my blogging focus has been on our day to day lives in our adopted village of Bear River. After three years there are over 100,000 hits on that Blog and it has even brought visitors to Bear River. It’s time for me to shift some of the energy spent in promoting Bear River into sharing our artistic life and promoting our work to the world!
Commissioned copper and silver bracelet by Larry Knox.
Copper pieces.


Larry and I are excited about these developments and we look forward to sharing our creative journey with you in this coming year.  Thanks for your virtual visit!
Happy New Year and may you experience many creative moments in 2011 and may some of them be inspired by our creative journey.
Painting outside in the summer.

Painting the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal

In the Begonia Garden by Flora Doehler, 2010. 8″ x 8″

This past weekend I joined over 70 artists to Paint the Town’ in Annapolis Royal. This annual fundraiser for the local Arts Council is a great opportunity for artists to show and sell their work and for collectors to watch artists at work and to buy art at reasonable prices.

The Annapolis Region Community Arts Council (ARCAC) has sponsored the event for years and the weekend runs like a well-oiled machine. Artists arrive from all over Nova Scotia…over 7o painters this year. The artists set up all over town.
Plein Air Painting kit
If you are curious about the contents of my painting kit, click on the photo and read the notes at Flickr.
Volunteer ‘runners’ circulate and pick up the finished pieces in pizza boxes and take them back to the gallery at the Legion where they hang for sale all day with a ‘gallery’ price determined by the artist. At 5 o’clock the unsold work is auctioned by silent auction. The Arts Council gets 50% of the amount and thousands of dollars are raised this way every year.


The Artist entry fee is $12.


I was thrilled to be able to set up my paints at the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. This park is an oasis of flower garden beds organized around the centuries of the town.
The first morning I scouted around the park with its ancient trees.
I set up in a great spot with dappled light under towering trees. The begonias were a riot of colour and were nicely contrasted by blue salvia flowers. I pulled out all my gear and promptly dropped my piece of German Plum Cake upside-down on the grass. Not to be discouraged, I brushed it off and enjoyed it with my coffee while I studied the flowers and thought about my painterly approach to them. Meanwhile birds hopped around and sang and it was wonderful to be there.


Surrounded by happy flowers.

Wonderful until I realized that I’d forgotten to bring containers for my paint water!! I finished my treat and headed for the recyling bin where I found plastic juice containers! My sharp knife soon transformed them into water jars and it was smooth sailing after that.

Here are the works I painted in the Begonia garden on Saturday. (Click on the images to enlarge them.)
The next day, Sunday,  I spent the early morning in the Victorian Garden while there was still some shade to work in.
The colours were vivid and the zinnias were taller than me. At one point a butterfly was brought out and released to much fanfare.


This was my largest painting. I used up all my matt medium on it.

My Sunday problem was that I ran out of matt medium! It’s an essential part of my kit because I use it to get the scratching-in effect in my paintings. I searched out other artists in the park and was given some by artist Shannon Bell and when that ran out, a bottle of the stuff from Louise Baker, an artist with a love of colour who lives in Halifax. Thank you Louise and Shannon!!!

Here are the paintings I did in the Victorian Garden until the sun drove me away. (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

After the heat of the flowers and the sun, I decided to seek out a cool, shady, quiet spot. I found this at the Lily pad pond.
The mosquitos thought it was a pretty nice spot too, in spite of my liberal spraying of citronella. In fact a couple wandered by while I was painting and asked me if I could tell them which flower was giving off that scent. I told them that I was the flower and we had a good laugh over that.


The challenge here was to edit the elements down to make sense of the scene in a painting.

They were visiting from Montreal and I told them about the silent auction. They later lost out on the bids for 2 of my pieces, but found their way to our studio the next day where they bought 2 paintings that I had been working on in my garden. Here is one of them:

Nicotiana in garden chez moi.


It was truly wonderful to connect with some of the people who bought my works. Over half of the purchasers and bidders had watched me paint in the park. They connected with my interpretation and they also connected with the setting. I think it was nice for them to see the process (well, not the dropped plum cake part). Oh, did I mention that all 12 paintings and sketches that I did over the weekend sold? It’s three days later and I’m still flying high about it.
These were my paintings at the lily pond. (Click on the images to enlarge).
At the end of the day I sketched the scene for myself with marker and brush on damp paper. A charming woman from New York walked by to admire it. She thought it would make a gorgeous wallpaper. I told her that it was my souvenir of the weekend and she suggested that I offer it at the silent auction so that she could bid on it.
Well I did and it sold for $50. Here it is for you to see:


The Pond sketch on 9″ x 12″ watercolour paper. ( The paper is actually white)
Acrylic paint brushed into damp paper.

It was an exciting weekend on many levels – wonderful to meet painters, wonderful to have such a positive response to my work, wonderful to create in such an inspiring setting. And, wonderful to earn some money too which was just as well because our house water situation was failing while I painted.

See you next year at Paint the Town!

photo courtesy of Trish Fry, Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.

Inspiration. Where does it come from?

Creative inspiration.

Where does it come from and where does it go to? Like all eternal questions the answers vary from person to person and the reasons are complex.

There are several ‘givens’ for me. My feelings have to kick in. I have to feel an inkling of an inner joy or excitement about looking at the object that I want to paint. I like to be well-rested so that I can focus on the task at hand. I feel especially inspired by nature, by colour, by visual things around me. Sometimes I am amazed by the sight of a flower grouping or a landscape or a cloud formation or even a colour and I want to stop everything and pull out the paints. I like to play music that accompanies my mood and my approach to the canvas.
Cloud in Bear River East
Sometimes a life event will trigger the painting. My painting Exuberance that sold recently at the Flight of Fancy in Bear River may look like a flower painting, but it was really a celebration of a breakthrough in my painting style.

After painting exclusively with watercolours for years, I had discovered fluid acrylics and found them to be a logical extension of wet-in-wet watercolours. Fluid acrylics have both the translucency and brilliance of watercolours with the advantage of the flexibility of acrylic. I was so excited about this and I think that energy came through in the painting.

Recently I’ve been getting my inspiration from beautiful Bear River Blooms on Sissaboo Road. This flower growing farm is worked by the caring hands of Cheryl Stone. Her bouquets are loaded with blooms, they are fresh, cheerful, colourful and the ones I’ve been getting from her have a country-cottage feel to them. How could I not be inspired

I drew inspiration from a bouquet to develop my current painting.

For me, the painting process starts out as an exercise in getting to know the subject matter. I focus on the object so intensely that I don’t want to talk to anyone or to be interrupted. (My wonderful studio-mate and life-mate Larry is very respectful of this).

Next, I choose the colours that I will use. My objective is to narrow it down to 3 to 6 colours. It’s a tough discipline, but it means there will be more harmony in the painting.

I changed the colours of the blooms as I was in an “orange” mood. 

The flowers emerge out of darkness and for me, this painting is about the joy I feel in finally being set up in a fabulous studio and having the chance to play with colour.
Into the Light  (sold)

It is interesting to me how much more I get out of the flowers knowing they were lovingly grown by someone I know. If you get a chance to go to the Annapolis Farmer’s Market, stop by Cheryl’s booth and buy some old-fashioned blooms that last forever.

Some of the music I listened to was Jane Ira Blooms’ Chasing Pollack. It’s quite jazzy and loose. You can sample it here.

I also listened to the Peat Bog Fairies and you can hear them in the background of this little video of me painting. They live on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, an extremely inspiring place if there ever was one!

The pasty looking gunk on the canvas is matt medium. It allows me to move the paint by scratching it and scraping it. It also dries clear. You can also see which colours I used for this piece.