Friday, 27 March 2015

Easter Crafts

Blog 12

If you have followed me for a while, you know that I believe that art is for everyone. We will not all end up becoming famous artists, but creating art is something that gives lots of pleasure and really relaxes. The most important part is not the finished artwork but the enjoyment of the process of creating, to be like a child again experimenting with different mediums, and surfaces. Do not be afraid to start something new.

This year, I started my ¨Creativity and Me” workshops which run once a month on a Saturday to encourage especially people who are too intimidated to start their creative adventure. I might add another mid-week workshop as I have had many people ask for it as their weekend activities are reserved for the family.

Last weekend, I held another ¨Creativity and Me” workshop at my house. Even though it was not springlike at all, it was actually snowing heavily outside, and we lost power for most of the event but this could not change the great atmosphere inside. We had lots of fun painting wooden Easter eggs and were chatting so vividly that we did not even miss the background music.

Everyone dove enthusiastically into the project. One of the participants made an elaborate sketch on a paper plate only to realize that this was far too detailed to put it on the round surface of the small Easter egg. We experienced that it was a completely different feeling to paint on a surface that is not flat. You only see part of your design which is also an advantage when you prefer a certain area of your egg. When you display your egg, you can put the best side up.

As you are totally free in how you decorate your egg, this is a project for all age groups. I tried two different approaches. For the first egg, I did the design once I had picked the colour of my egg. The next time I just started at the top and let my design evolve one shape at a time which was fun, too.
One of the participants tried her hands at a pointillist approach while another painted her favourite flowers on the eggs and added some metallic paint for extra emphasis. It took all of us about two hours to decorate one egg. However, if you would do the project with kids the time would probably be a lot shorter depending on what they want to paint on their egg.

 You will need the following materials for the project:

  • wooden eggs
  • poster, gouache or acrylic paints
  • brushes
  • markers or gel markers

Another fun and not very expensive project with kids is a nice Easter place mat made out of foam sheet. I will do this project at my Easter Crafts workshop at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex this weekend.

The materials for this fun project are :
  • foam sheets, (30cm x 45cm/11.8” x 17.7”)
  • sticky foam sheets in various colours
  • stick foam sheet letters
  • markers
  • glue stick, if you only have non-stick foam sheets

For my workshop I prepared cardboard templates of a bunny, and different sized eggs.

So if were looking for something to do with your family on the Easter weekend, I hope you got inspired. I am wishing you all a Happy Easter with lots of fun during the Easter egg hunt or just while spending time with your family.

Please contact me at if you would be interested in the ¨Creativity and Me¨ workshops. The next one will be on Saturday, April 18, 2015 from 1pm to 4pm. We will be doing a personal goal mandala.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Did You Hear That???

Blog 11

Considering that this week was St. Patrick's Day, I thought talking about my very green painting “Did You Hear That???' would be very appropriate.

This acrylic painting was done in my studio using reference photos I had taken on a friend's property. She lives in rural Ottawa and is lucky enough to have not only a creek with a waterfall running through her property but also to have several ponds and a beautiful garden. No wonder that wildlife feels right at home at her place. If I was a frog, this would be my dream place to live. Thinking about it, her garden is an oasis I would not mind having.

My painting buddies and I have painted on my friend's property several times at different times of the year. There are more than enough gorgeous views in any season: I did several paintings on site of the waterfall and creek, one of her ponds, and her spring flowers pushing through the snow.

Both the shimmering goldfish in her ponds as well as the frogs have fascinated me every time I went over. So when I looked at all the photos I have taken throughout the years, I saw many frog photos. This got me intrigued to start my frog painting. The shapes in the composition are simple enough and were no problem. However, mixing enough different shades of green and getting the frogs to be visible on this mostly green composition was very hard. Adding some rust colour and bluish green leaves helped to bring out the frogs.

It took me a long time to finish the painting but I am still smiling when I look at it today, and I am not the only one. A lot of people comment on my frog painting.

I have noticed this with many animal paintings. They just put a smile on people's faces. Most people can relate to them, think about their own encounters and adventures with an animal. Maybe it is also because animals usually make us happy. They delight us with their beauty and their sounds, whether it is the melody of the birds, the happy barks from a dog, or the loud concerts of the frogs - they let us pause and make us remember what is really important in life.

Do you have animals that cheer you up, whether a pet, birds or other wildlife whose sight and sounds make you happy? I would love to hear from you which animal make your day, and why.

As today is the first day of spring, we will probably see nature awakening and peeking through the covers of snow soon. I already enjoy the beautiful songs of the birds, and can hardly wait for the first flower to bloom. In our house we have a yearly game of guessing when the last bit of snow will be gone, not only on our property but in the neighbourhood. My guess is May 1, 2015 but I would not mind to lose this bet.

If you would like to see the original painting, it is exhibited right now at the Bean Town Ranch, 2891 N Plantagenet Concession 3 Rd, Alfred and Plantagenet, ON K0B 1L0, Canada. The Bean Town Ranch is open for the sugar bush season until April 12, 2015 every Saturday and Sunday. For more information please go to I will actually be on site Sunday, March 22, 2015.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Plein Air Ensemble

Blog 10

Last week, I gave you some information about the Group of Seven.

Today, I want to take the opportunity to talk about “The Plein Air Ensemble”, a local group of outdoor painters that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with an exhibition at WALL SPACE GALLERY, 2316 St Joseph Blvd, Orleans. 21 artists are participating in the retrospective, among them two of the original founders, Pierrette Dulude-Bohay, and Charles Spratt. The exhibition runs from March 25 to April 6, 2015.

The show highlights the wonderful talent and diversity of this group of artists. You will find fine art works in oil, acrylic, watercolours, and pastel.

The participating artists will be present at the official “25 Year Plein Air Ensemble exhibition” opening on March 26, 2015 from 7- 9pm to talk with you about the group and the artworks.

I joined in 2009. Since last year, my friend Hélène Martin and I took over as organizers of the group’s activities which include the scouting for accommodations, getting quotes, negotiating, and finally signing a contract with a hotel as well as preparing the registration documentation for the members. During the trip, we are responsible for getting things ready for the daily get-togethers as well as the evening entertainment. It is a lot of work but I really enjoy it.

The founders of this group were three artist friends, Pierrette Dulude-Bohay, Charles Spratt, and Andrew Lyall, who encouraged by their students, organized the first painting trip 25 years ago. It took place in the fall of 1990. The first destination was Calabogie. The idea was to offer painting trips to teach students outdoor painting. However, the group soon attracted more experienced artists than students. Many artists just came to paint with like-minded artists.

From the beginning, the group's aim has been to capture the beauty of the landscape while fostering the friendships among artists. Each year, a group of organizers has planned a spring and a fall trip to different destinations, mostly in the province of Quebec. For the spring trip they hope for some remaining patches of snow and brilliant colours for the fall trip.

Nobody would have predicted that this small group would grow continuously. Today, the group has about 75 members, with about 15 to 20 taking part in each trip. Most of the artists come from the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Some well-known artists have joined the group, like Quebec artist Bruno Côté and Kanata artist John Mlacak. Unfortunately, both of them and some of the early members have either passed away or are unable to paint in nature anymore.

There is no doubt, plein air artists definitely have to be a resilient bunch. The Canadian climate has thrown a couple of surprises at us, from arctic temperatures, snow storms, ice rain and dense fog to wind gusts, and pouring rain for the whole duration of the trip. Many of the artists still go out no matter the weather. It is amazing to see how they can set up in the front or back of a car. However, there is always a room available at the hotel or inn to set up a still life or work from reference photos when the weather is just too miserable.

Over the years the time spent painting together and the evening entertainment of games, music, and dress-ups created many long-lasting friendships. Painting demonstrations, and talks by different speakers as well as the occasional movie about some of Canada's finest artists satisfied the educational thirst.

As for me and many of the group, we are already looking forward to our next trip to Val David at the beginning of April. You will be able to read my trip report in my blog on April 17, 2015.

If you would like more information about the artists participating in the “25 Years Plein Air Ensemble” exhibition and to view some of their work, please visit the Facebook event page

Friday, 6 March 2015

Group of Seven

my Tom Thomson inspired art

Blog 9

Last week, I talked about the reasons for the collaboration of artists. One famous collaboration in the Canadian art history is the “Group of Seven”.

Before I came to Canada, I had never heard of the “Group of Seven” which is not very well-known outside of Canada but very important for the development of the Canadian art scene. They are considered leaders of the first major Canadian art movement.

The art scene in Canada in the early 20th century was heavily influenced by the European art culture. However, the “Group of Seven” members wanted to show the beauty of the Canadian landscape by celebrating its wilderness. They wanted to create a truly Canadian style which they believed could only be achieved by getting out of the studio and into nature. The Group of Seven is most famous for its many plein air sketches which were often used in the studio to create bigger paintings. In many cases their sketches have so much more energy than the paintings, and capture the spontaneity of the moment.

The roots for the group can be found at the design firm Grip Ltd. in Toronto where Tom Thomson, Frederick Horsman Varley, Frank (Franz, Francis Hans) Johnston, Edward Hervey MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, and Franklin Carmichael worked. In 1913, Alexander Young Jackson and Lawren Stewart Harris joined the group. The informal group temporarily split up during World War I during which Jackson and Varley worked as official war artists.

When the “Group of Seven” was finally founded in Toronto in 1920 for their first exhibition together, Thomson had already died. His untimely death by drowning in Algonquin Park in 1917 is still an incident of many speculations. However, his name is still closely linked to the group because of the influence his painting style, visible in the many sketches and finished canvases, had on his fellow artists. He had achieved a painting style which truly captured the Canadian landscape.

Alfred Joseph Casson joined the group in 1926 replacing Frank Johnston who resigned after the first exhibition. In 1930 Edwin H. Holgate from Montreal joined the group, followed by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald from Winnipeg in 1932.

Aside from Thomson, Emily Carr was also closely associated with the Group of Seven. She met members for the first time at the National Gallery in 1927. She and Lawren Harris developed a close relationship in which Harris supported and influenced her the most. The encounter ended Carr’s artistic isolation and inspired her to the creation of many of her most famous works.

The Group of Seven increased the awareness and appreciation of the Canadian landscape.
Their use of bright colours and bold patterning was inspired by the Post-Impressionists Van Gogh and Gauguin as well as by the contemporary Scandinavian art which MacDonald and Harris saw for the first time in 1912 at an exhibition in Buffalo.

After the Group of Seven's final show in 1931, the members realized that the art community’s opinion had shifted in favour of their art, making the security net of the group unnecessary to withstand criticism.

To the contrary, with the help of influential friends and supporters including the National Gallery, the group had reached a celebrity status. This led to accusations that the National Gallery of Canada favoured their members’ works and therefore assisted them to be the only Canadian artists to receive recognition. As a result of this controversy, the Canadian Group of Painters was founded in February 1933 and included some of the Group of Seven members.

I saw pieces of the Group of Seven for the first time during my very first visit to Canada in 1994 when my husband brought me to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. At this point, I had stopped painting at all due to a very demanding career. However, once we moved to Canada, the Canadian landscape has also captured my interest, and I have been back to Kleinburg many times admiring the works of these great artists. I have also taken some workshops exploring some of the artists and their painting style which only has increased my admiration. Even though, I do appreciate some more than others, I found that I learned something from all of them.

I hope you enjoyed this journey into the Canadian art history. If you would like to learn more about Frederick Varley, one of the founding members of the “Group of Seven”, I invite you to my new four week mini session “Painting Like Famous Artists". It will be held at François Dupuis Recreation Centre in Orleans, and starts April 7, 2015. The other artists we will study are Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Vincent Van Gogh.

I also offer the "Painting Like Famous Artists" mini sessions for kids at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex. Each session, we look at different artists. The next one starts in May.

"Painting Like Famous Artists" would also make a wonderful activity for a private get-together or a child's birthdays party. Please contact me for details and rates at