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. ūüôā

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

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.


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.


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


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.


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


I continued adding detail. I let the painting dry.


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
Acrylic Painting ©Flora Doehler, 2014
10″ x 10″

This painting is for sale. Please contact me if you would like to purchase it.

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. ūüėČ

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.
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.
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 ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 4 pm.
I will be at the gallery from 1 pm to 4 pm (or by appointment) on the following days:
‚ÄĘ Sat. Jan. 26, Sun. Jan. 27
‚ÄĘ 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

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.

Painting Sumachs

It’s been raining here for a few days so it was wonderful to see the sun today. It is lovely to go outside again to capture this sumach scene in front of our house.

The reds, oranges and greens are stunning.

Just like painting other plant out of doors, the time to capture this brilliant display of colour is just a few short weeks.

I start the drawing on canvas with watercolour crayons.
Next, I fix the drawing with matt medium.
My set-up was on-the-fly so I sat on the ground and leaned my canvas against a tree stump. That way, I was ‘in’ the sumachs. I felt a bit like Alice (in Wonderland).
Painting detail showing my sgraffito marks.
I like the dark patterning that goes through the painting. When this is dry, I’ll have a better idea about how much of the original crayon colour is showing. Then, I’ll make my final changes. ¬†Painting by Flora Doehler, 2012. acrylic. 36″ x 36″

I narrowed my pallet of Golden fluid acrylics down to yellow, green-gold, purple, pyrole red, and a cerulean blue mixed with white.

I can’t wait to work on this tomorrow and to finish another Sumach painting that I started ‘in season’ last fall and is waiting to be finished this week.

Painting using Complimentary Colours as an Undercoat

I just spend a fabulous week painting on Brier Island, Nova Scotia where the Bay of Fundy meets the Atlantic Ocean. I went there with other artists and you can read more about it here.

I want to show you another way of working with acrylic and watercolour sticks.

Brier Island painting by Flora Doehler, 2012
On Brier Island, looking towards Meteghan.

During the trip I noticed one of the other artists creating beautiful little watercolors with her watercolor sticks.  Another artist was using a underpainting in a complementary color to the main color  of her painting.   I  have used both of those methods/materials but it got me thinking;  what if I used my watercolor sticks as the underpainting and chose colors that would be complimentary to the local paint color? In other words, what if I used a red crayon underneath where I would be painting a green tree and allowed some of that red to show through?


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


Brier Island
Pond Cove
Brier Island Afternoon
Brier Island Afternoon (sold)
Westport on Brier Island. Ink drawing by Flora Doehler, 2012.

I had some Derwent ¬†watercolor artbars. I love¬†their triangular shape because¬†it’s possible to mark the canvas with broad strokes.

Drawing on canvas with watercolour sticks.

I drew my back ground using the complementary colors. This was a good exercise in reading the landscape as a series of shapes — although I must admit I deviated from the plan a little when it came time to painting.

Fixing the watercolour crayon by brushing matt medium over the canvas.

In order to ‘fix’ my drawing and to prevent it from dissolving into the paints,¬†I brushed matte medium over the watercolor crayon and something very exciting happened. The medium dissolved and activated the crayon drawing making it blurry but also making the color of it spread into intense colour.

The intensity of the colour was brought out by the matt medium.

After the medium dried, I added more medium to the surface and then painted using my fluid acrylics. This is so that I can scratch into it and reveal the crayon colour underneath.

Briar Island painting by Flora Doehler. 16″ x 16″

I’m looking forward to developing new work using this method. And it just goes to show you the benefit from working with other artists and from having a good chunk of uninterrupted painting time.

Painting with Slow Drying Mediums

This summer we’ve had very hot weather which made painting difficult. Acrylic paintings I worked on dried faster than I wanted them to. So, I’ve been using gel mediums that are formulated to slow down the drying time of acrylic paint. This allows me a longer time to apply the paint and to draw into my work revealing the canvas underneath.

Let me show you the steps I take.

Brilliant yellow golden globe flowers were one of the inspirations for this painting.

First I paint the medium on the entire canvas. I used a combination of a pouring medium from Golden Acrylics and a thicker one from Liquitex. For the background colour I dripped Liquitex inks into the medium.

Canvas with wet gel and ink.

Then I blended the ink into the gel with a brush. This will be the background and will help to unify the painting.

Canvas with wet gel and ink.

Next, I studied my reference materials‚Ķin this case flowers from my garden that have bravely weathered this summer’s drought!

Then, using broad strokes, I painted a suggestion of flowers onto the canvas.

Painting detail.

I try to lay in the colour with single strokes. This way, the gel allows every brushstroke to show. I like the freshness of painting this way.

Painting in broad strokes.

Sometimes I put two colours on the brush to add to the surprise and spontaneity of the brush stroke. I mostly paint with Golden Fluid Acrylics and I keep them in small plastic containers.

I use lots of brushes and rubber-tipped shapers.

Finally, I draw the scene using a rubber tipped shaper. This technique is called sgraffito.  I add a few more colours and at this point it is a push and pull effort. I try to keep the freshness of the colours as well as building up a contrast and creating a pattern of colour that goes through the entire painting.

painting by Flora Doehler
Acrylic painting by Flora Doehler. 2012. 16″ x 16″

I can only get this effect by using gels and the slower drying mediums/gels allow me to work for several hours on the painting.

I am happy with my result. It totally reflects the joy I felt in looking at my garden flowers on a hot day in August.