Rethinking a Painting, One Step at a Time

I can’t believe it’s 2021. I can’t believe it’s February. I can’t believe it’s Friday.
Like where has the last year/month/week gone? OK…sorry I asked.

All I know is that I woke with a start at the beginning of the week like a rabbit emerging from hibernation. That little voice said “Get your painting act together NOW because before you know it, you’ll be reopening our co-op Gallery in Bear River in May. 

Late afternoon in the studio.

I’m also thrilled that my friends at Lucky Rabbit & Co in Annapolis Royal have invited me to hang a solo show, also in May. More to come on both openings………

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just deadline panic that shook me awake on Monday. The heartwarming emails and comments from readers of this blog to my last post moved me. Your messages summed up that:

1. We all need beauty, music, the visual arts in our lives – especially now
2. These human needs are essential for our inspiration and to lift our spirits

I was also reminded how good it makes me feel to connect with like-minded people who value creativity. It certainly alleviates some of the isolation I feel in these times. So, thank you!

Now, let me show you what I’m working on.

A painting has returned to the studio after a 4 year journey through 2 different galleries. I am tweaking and changing it and I’ll tell you my ‘whys’ in this video:

Rethinking a Painting.

This is how it looks today. It might not be finished.

Summer’s Dream. Acrylic on Canvas. 36″ x 48″, © Flora Doehler, 2014-2021

And that ‘might not be finished’ part keeps me having several paintings on the go all the time. Like this collage I’m developing from pieces of paintings on paper.

We’ve had a little bit of snow too. That’s the studio in the background and I’m tramping around in my snowshoes thinking about my next steps. Outside and inside.

Reimagining the Garden – Painting with Ink

Usually, I paint from life. It is a thrill to study the subject in all its aliveness and life energy. But this time as I was looking for a scrap of drawing paper, I pulled open a drawer and my eyes landed on a sweet little crayon and watercolour sketch that I’d made a few years ago of Bee Balm in July.

I really liked the composition of it – that off-centred bloom and the undefined green in the background.

But can I translate it into an ink painting?

Yes and no. Continue reading

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.

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.