The Journey and Process in Life and Painting

I paint because I’m in love with my subject and I am delighted by the process of applying colour to a blank surface.

In the book Art and Fear the writers suggest that the observers who admire the finished piece of work have no interest in the artist’s process:

MAKING ART AND VIEWING ART ARE DIFFERENT AT THEIR CORE. To all reviewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork…In fact there’s generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist’s work. The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.  One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.

Continue reading

Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Iris

Right now, I’m headed outside to paint iris and lupins. Here is a repost of a blog I made in 2010 about painting at this time of year. I will try today to express the emotional connection I feel for iris as I did in this painting.

irispainting2010There were gorgeous, large bearded irises in my grandmother’s garden over 50 years ago. My mother transplanted some to her garden and eventually I had them in my garden. They moved ½ way across the continent with us when we came to Nova Scotia and are blooming like never before.

Bearded Iris from my grandmother.

I know my mom and my grandmother would have loved the yellow variety that I’ve added to the ancestral iris. And I know they would have loved the wild purple, pink and white lupins that grow like weeds here and especially at our place.

Lupins ring our land and the colour is often deep purple.

I want to show you how I painted and drew these flowers using fluid acrylics over a base of wet matt medium and I’ve made a tutorial for you about this. Enjoy!

I paint from life and in early June, the lupins and iris are in bloom here in Nova Scotia. I brought some into the studio and placed them in wine bottles so that I could have good close-up examples of the lupin in the distance.  Although I prefer to paint on location, at this time of year the black flies are biting, so I paint inside.

There are lupins growing in the distance.

I started this painting applying watered-down acrylic on a primed canvas. I wanted to achieve a soft, wet in wet watercolour effect.

When that dried, I applied a thick coating of matt medium over the entire canvas and then painted into it with my fluid acrylic paints. I keep them in sealed plastic containers in a muffin tin. That way they are always ready to use.

I try to limit my palette to five colours or fewer because it creates a better colour harmony in the painting. I paint with nylon brushes and I also use a rubber-tipped scraper to draw shapes into the painting.

I dip the scraper into my paint and draw with it much like dipping a pen into ink. I like the calligraphy effects that I can get by pushing the paint away and creating a line and a texture.

If the medium gets too tacky, I moisten it with a spray of water. The water also makes the paint run which adds an interesting softening effect to the work.

Golden fluid acrylics are transparent and have a high level of pigment.

As long as the medium is moist, the painting can be worked on and the scraping will reveal the colours underneath.

I love iris and I deliberately choose purple and yellow because they are complementary colours and they make the painting vibrate.

Although I have an easel, I painted this on the floor because otherwise the entire painting would drip and run if I placed it upright. That’s because I have a coating of wet matt medium on the canvas and that is the tip or secret that I am sharing with you.

Painting on the floor.

I came across this quite by accident and now I almost always paint with acrylic this way. For one, it delays the drying period, which I like; but the biggest advantage is that I can create all kinds of textures and linear marks in the painting by pushing away the colour with a scraping tool and revealing the layer of colour or canvas underneath.

I bought a gorgeous yellow iris at a plant sale this spring and I wanted to make it the focal point in this painting. Unfortunately, by the time I painted this, it had finished blooming, but I used my huge purple bearded iris as reference. That’s the beauty of being the painter. You can change the colours of anything in your painting to suit your mood!

Airing out the painting. (sold)

Check list for this painting:

Golden fluid acrylics

Rubber tipped scraper

Matt medium

Spray water bottle

Ancestral flowers

Painting detail. The purple bearded Ontario iris transforms into a yellow Nova Scotian flower.

Painting in Acrylics – the Indispensable Guide

Sometimes luck and opportunity come knocking together.Painting in Acrylics 3

Over a year ago I was invited to participate in a new comprehensive book–Painting in Acrylics – the Indispensable Guide. The publisher emailed to ask if they could feature a couple of images of paintings from my website to illustrate the chapter on sgraffito painting.

The artist-author Lorena Kloosterboer lived in Belgium and the editor in England. The book would be published in the UK and the US.

In return for my images I would be given credit in the book, my website would be mentioned and I would receive a copy of the finished book.

DSCN3319
Lilies Acrylic painting ©Flora Doehler, 2013 12? x 12? $260

 

I have to admit that my 1st reaction was skepticism. Like many visual artists I’ve been invited to publish my work in the past–but at a cost of hundreds of dollars in ‘books’ that would only be distributed to the participating artists.

But this offer was and is bona fide. The publisher is Quarto in the UK and Firefly Books in the US.

Painting in Acrylics 6

So how did this opportunity come about? The author found my website in an internet search. I had tagged some of the paintings as sgraffito . She was looking for samples of that style.

So if you are an artist, let this blog post be a reminder to you to include detailed descriptions of your artwork and your methods on your website so that search engines–and publishers–can find you.

Painting in Acrylics 8
Even the studio was shown, along with a shot of my set up at Paint-the-town.

It has taken years for this book to go from concept to publication. 12 months ago I submitted many images of my paintings, my studio, and my painting setup to Quarto. I sent high resolution jpegs to the publisher through the free version of Dropbox. It is a server ‘in the cloud’. I uploaded the large images required for printing, shared the password, and Quarto downloaded them. I didn’t have to make a DVD or snail mail anything.

Just before Christmas I received my very own copy of Painting in Acrylics – the Indispensable Guide.
I am so thrilled that my paintings are part of this international book. There are many painters included whose work I admire.

Painting in Acrylics 7

This is the most comprehensive acrylic guide I have ever seen with extensive information about acrylic painting–styles, materials, color theory and so much more.

There are paintings from over 90 artists all over the world.

Artist – author Lorena Kloosterboer writes clearly and is generous with her step-by-step descriptions of her own high realism painting process.

Painting in Acrylics 9

I love experimenting with art materials and this book will show me new ways of working with this versatile medium. I highly recommend this book for artists at all levels. I know that for me, getting my hands on it is a great way to start 2015!

If you want to take a closer look at the book, click on this link to view it and my current favorite art-related books.

On the Road from Realism to Abstraction in Painting

There were years and years when I believed that all abstract work was bourgeois and decadent and wasn’t actually art.   The shift in my thinking has been gradual and unexpected. All I can say for sure is that the more I paint, the more I feel drawn to the work of abstract artists. I notice this when I view art exhibitions or when I look at online works. The bold colorful paintings of abstract expressionists past and present excite and move me.

abstract4
“Garden Chaos”. Acrylic Ink sketch detail. 4″ x 4″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

And yet what I paint still remains literal… That is, the viewer knows exactly what they’re looking at. Even when I try to paint in a non-representational way it gradually morphs into a flower painting or landscape. I can’t seem to help myself.

So I decided to create a series of works that would challenge my way of approaching a painting.

Flora Doehler
“Garden Chaos”. Acrylic on Canvas. 20″ x 20″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

This series that I created for my October 2014 show in Annapolis Royal is my way of abstracting flowers. Instead of painting live flowers, I painted from sketches of mine of live flowers. The “big deal” for me was to use a previous drawing as a point of reference rather than the actual plant or flower.

abstract1
“Bee Balm”. Acrylic Ink sketch detail. 4″ x 4″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

The original drawings are ink and ink stick on watercolor paper. I cropped them that I would be forced to paint a larger-than-life version of the flower which is also not my usual way of painting.

 "Bee Balm". Acrylic painting on Canvas. 18" x 18" © Flora Doehler, 2014
“Bee Balm”. Acrylic painting on Canvas. 20″ x 20″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

20″ x 20″

The finished paintings are one painting removed from the original subject and have morphed into an abstracted painting that suggests a floral theme. I would like to experiment by cropping these paintings and developing new and changed versions of them.

abstract3
“Breathing New Life”. Acrylic Ink sketch detail. 4″ x 4″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

It’s like playing “broken telephone” with the brush.

abstract5
“Breathing New Life”. Acrylic on canvas. 20″ x 20″ © Flora Doehler, 2014

I’ve very excited to explore a new approach to a favorite subject and I can’t wait to hang these in a couple of days at my show in Annapolis Royal. Please come, if you have the chance!

poster

DSCN4194

 

 

 

Could This be my Favorite Painting?

You like what you like. There is no scientific formula that tells us why a person is drawn to a piece of art. But when I finished painting this cyclamen while a snowstorm raged outside the studio, I liked it so much that it became my favorite — almost replacing the previous two favorites. 🙂

Cyclamen Acrylic Painting ©Flora Doehler, 2014 10" x 10" $250
Cyclamen
Acrylic Painting ©Flora Doehler, 2014
10″ x 10″
$250

I like the contrast, the composition, the texture and the colours.

But more importantly, the real fun is in making the painting because there is a mystery in the process.  I make the decisions about colour and method and technique, but as soon as I pick up the brush, the painting takes on a life of its own and evolves and shows me where to go next. Every painting is like solving a puzzle and it is embarking on an adventure.

It helped this week that snow swirled out the studio window while crows dug into the compost for any scraps they could find , (including eggshells). It made the studio time even sweeter with soothing music and coffee and a crackling wood stove.

crows in the snow

How I approached this painting

I started by flooding the canvas with gel medium. It’s like spreading a clear custard. While the medium is still wet, I brushed in the shapes of the cyclamen flowers with white acrylic paint.

cyclamen1

Then I got out my Liquitex inks that are intensely pigmented and transparent. I squirted out the ink into strategic areas of the wet canvas and gently brushed it into the gel.

cyclamen2

Next, I drew the flowers and various other marks and lines on the canvas with my rubber tipped colour-shaper.

cyclamen3

You can see that the gel is still wet which is a great advantage to me because it will display the brush strokes and textures.

cyclamen5

I added some texture by ‘lifting’ some of the ink with bubble wrap and a scraper.

cyclamen6

I continued adding detail. I let the painting dry.

P1390381

The following day I added some gentle blue tones to the flowers to give them more dimension.

Cyclamen Acrylic Painting ©Flora Doehler, 2014 10" x 10" $250
Cyclamen
Acrylic Painting ©Flora Doehler, 2014
10″ x 10″
$250

This painting is for sale. Please contact me if you would like to purchase it. flora.doehler@gmail.com

Homage to Montreal

Last week we spent some time in beautiful Montreal visiting our daughter. It was my first trip there in over 40 years (gulp) and we visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I was so inspired by the oil paintings I saw from artists in Montreal who were contemporaries of English Canada’s Group of Seven, that I came home and pulled out my oil paints and got to work.

Flora Doehler
Homage to Montreal.
Oil Painting by Flora Doehler,  24″ x 24″, 2013

I chose a yellow and green acrylic ground for the painting because of the fresh ‘alive’ feel I wanted for the bouquet.

The background is acrylic.
The background is acrylic.

There are no flowers left blooming in my garden. The cold has taken care of that. The pickings are slim (pardon the pun) for buying flowers in rural Nova Scotia, but I was delighted to put together this bouquet from the  grocery store selection in Digby. If varieties of fresh flowers are important to you in winter, don’t even think about moving here.

Homage to Montreal6

By the time I finished blocking in the shapes, it was dark outside, so I called it a day. That night as I fell asleep I kept thinking about what should belong in the large yellow space. I loved the colour and I hated to cover it, but the painting needed more development.

Homage to Montreal2
I mostly worked with oil sticks which are super messy, but allow me to draw the image or use a paint brush.

And here’s the thing about painting. Sometimes the main part can happen in a spontaneous, inspired way and everything flows together. But there will always be an area of the painting that causes more grief than the rest of it put together. At least, that’s how it is for me.

I was happy with the gestural line and texture and tone of this painting and I think it reflects the feelings I had about the work I saw in Montreal. But that darned yellow canvas area…..that was a challenge to resolve.

When I woke up, I thought about the interiors I’d seen in paintings the previous week and I decided to place a chair from the 40’s to suggest a table and to give the painting a nostalgic feel.

Homage to Montreal3

But now the tabletop looked empty. I decided to include fruit. I brought out a plate of Nova Scotia Gravenstein apples and added them to the painting. I  defined the table edge on the left hand side of the painting.

Homage to Montreal4

The next day when I looked at the apples, I didn’t think they fit in the painting, so I got out my turpentine and scrubbed them out.
But in looking at the apples on my German pottery plate from the early 70’s, I’d fallen in love with the look of apples. I had to take a detour from the flower painting and begin a study of the apples. They really deserved their own canvas, wouldn’t you say?

Homage to Montreal5I went back to my flower painting and had gained another day of thinking about what to do in the big empty yellow space. I wanted something that wouldn’t overpower the bouquet.

I chose to break up the yellow of the table with a long shadow from the chair. The shadow points towards the vase to which pulls the viewer’s eye there. The shape of the shadow reinforces the style and age of the chair.

The painting will require at least a few weeks to dry. It is definitely my Homage to Montreal.

Flora Doehler
Homage to Montreal.
Oil Painting by Flora Doehler, “24” x 24″, 2013

And as for the apples. Well, they are perhaps an homage to the Homage to Montreal. 😉

oil painting by Flora Doehler
Gravensteins. oil painting by Flora Doehler, 2013.
12″ x 12″

Painting with Gel and Paint Markers

I love to try out new materials. I just discovered Liquitex’s Paint Markers and I am so excited to try them out. They  contain high quality acrylic paint in a fluid form AND the containers are refillable. After trying out this yellow marker, I’ve ordered a variety of colours in the two different sizes they come in.

I wanted to create a painting of my gorgeous Turk’s Cap lilies using a limited colour range and with a softness that fits with a breezy summer’s day. These beauties grow on stalks that reach 6 feet high and they sway beautifully in the breeze.
Using the paint marker, I sketched the flowers onto my canvas which is 16″ x 16″. P1360326
I drew with the markers as loosely as I could to create movement. I was mindful of the swaying nature of the stalks and avoided painting them in straight lines or painting them parallel to the edge of the painting. This makes the painting less static.

After the marker dried, I applied a coating of gel and matt mediums. This makes the paint slide and prolongs the drying period. I worked flat on a table. I added a touch of turquoise blue to my medium and gently filled in the background for the sky. Here I was mindful of laying down intentional brushstrokes that emphasized the negative spaces and created a light and dark pattern in the blue which also added movement.
P1360328
The use of medium also creates a transparency of colour and allows me to scrape into the painting with a rubber tipped colour shaper. I also dip my shaper into my paint and use it to draw into the painting as you can see in this next photo and in the final painting.
P1360332
I am thrilled with the outcome of this painting for these reasons:

  • It has the softness and the movement that I hoped for
  • it has the essence of the tiger lily that is a Turk’s Cap
  • the addition of the Joe Pye Weed in the background helps to pick up the patterning in the grasses and in the petals
  • using the paint markers created a lovely yellow tone in the scraping
  • it makes me smile
Dance of the Lilies acrylic painting by Flora Doehler 16" x 16"
Dance of the Lilies
acrylic painting by Flora Doehler
16″ x 16″, $375

 

 

Show of Paintings – Jan / Feb 2013

Hi there!  I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m having a showing of my paintings in Bear River at the end of January.  This will be an opportunity for me to show large paintings from the last couple of years in one space.

I will work on a painting onsite during the show.

Saturday, January 26 – February 3: A BRUSH WITH LIFE: paintings by Flora Doehler

the Rebekah
 downstairs location (1890 Clementsvale Rd.) in Bear River.

Gallery opening with refreshments on Sat Jan 26, 1 – 4 pm.
I will be at the gallery from 1 pm to 4 pm (or by appointment) on the following days:
• Sat. Jan. 26, Sun. Jan. 27
• Thur. Jan. 31, Fri. Feb. 1, Sat. Feb. 2, Sun. Feb. 3
I’ll be painting starting on Thur. Jan. 31. All welcome.

For more information, please email me at flora.doehler@gmail.com

Summer on Brier Island, by Flora Doehler, c. 2012.
Summer on Brier Island, by Flora Doehler, c. 2012.

Here is one of a series of short videos to show you some of the paintings that will be on display.