Friday, 30 October 2015

Blog 43

I am not sure how many of you are true Halloween enthusiasts, and go out of your way to convert your front lawn (and yourself) into a scary Halloween display, which looks like a scene from a horror movie. However, I assume that most of you will put out carved and lit pumpkins to let children know that your door is open for trick or treating.

The month of October (and especially Halloween) is definitely the month of pumpkins. Therefore, I would like to tell you more about my 16” x 20” acrylic painting “Magic Pumpkins”, which is one of my favourite paintings.

Most of us have heard the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk", in which the young boy Jack exchanges the cow he was supposed to sale on the market for some magic beans. His widowed mother desperately needs the money from the cow to be able to provide for the two of them. When Jack comes home with the beans instead of the money, she throws them out of the window in her anger. However, overnight the beans grow into a gigantic beanstalk.

When I saw those huge pumpkins next to the forge at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum one fall, I immediately was reminded of the story of the magic beans. I had never seen pumpkins that grand before. I was so mesmerized that I wanted to capture this image.

In the background of my painting, you see one of the walls of the forge. I am quite happy with the way the pumpkins, which are my focal point, turned out. They look really three-dimensional. This painting is also a good example that many painting rules can be broken. In the case of “Magic Pumpkins”, I broke the rule of odds. The rule of odds originates from the opinion that it is more interesting and pleasing to the viewer to see an odd rather than even number of objects in a painting, especially if you have a small number of objects. Often you find groups of three as they form a triangle. As a triangle is one of the strongest compositional shapes, it can add a sense of unity and help the eye to move around in your painting.

In my painting, the wagon wheel behind the pumpkins is a repetition of the pumpkin shape. It almost feels like the two pumpkins and the wheel create a unity, one big circle. This makes the bright pumpkins the focal point of the painting. In addition, the leaves create several triangles which make the eye move around.

Do you agree with the rule of odds? Do you find it generally more interesting to have an odd number of objects to look at, whether it is in an arrangement of flowers, or a grouping of artworks or other collectibles? Or do you prefer the stability and symmetry of even numbers of objects? Maybe, there are some areas in your life where you prefer even numbers which allow us to group them in pairs, and other areas where you find it more pleasing and interesting to have arrangements with odd numbers. I am interested in your opinion. You would like to encourage you to leave a comment below the post.

Have a happy and safe Halloween tomorrow! For our family, it will be the first year without participating in the activities. My kids are too old to go from house to house, and because we live in the country, we have never had children come to our house. I am sure I will feel weird, like something is missing.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Plein Air Ensemble Fall 2015 Painting Trip to Lake Clear, Part 3

 Blog 42

This is part three and the last part of the travelogue about the Plein Air Ensemble trip to Lake Clear.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Today, was a great day. The sun never appeared but it cleared up and was quite mild. There was absolutely no wind, and the couple of raindrops fell before we even woke up.

Hélène and I stayed at the resort. Katia, the owner, showed us a spot behind her trailer where she looks toward a beautiful marsh with a couple of fallen and crooked trees. She named the scene “The Star Tree”. We spent the whole day on the spot working on a single painting but we are both very happy with the result.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Because Hélène and I forgot the time while chatting last night, I never continued writing my travelogue. Usually, I write my blog at night when we are on painting trips because both Janis and Hélène go to bed before me.

Last night after supper, we had “Show and Tell”. Everyone put up some of their best works and we looked at all the places everyone had gone to. It is always one of the highlights of the trip. It was nice that our friends Sharon and Bill as well as some of Kathy’s artist friends were able to join us.

For the first time, we also had a name tag competition. Usually, one of the members prints nice name tags with the name of the venue but this time he was out of the country, so we decided to ask the participants to decorate their name tags. Everyone received a white tag with their name. Hélène and I were overwhelmed with the response. Everyone loved the idea, and they want a repeat at the next trip. This is awesome!

Later, Hélène and I played “Paquet” again. Despite one phenomenal game where she got rid of all of her cards in one turn, I brought home the total win for the evening. Having been done with our job of organizing the trip, we were tired but also happy and got into a long chat. It is great that we get along so amazingly. Hélène has been a friend for many years but working with her as coordinators of the Plein Air Ensemble activities has brought us even closer.

This morning, we got ourselves organized and the car packed, then decided to paint “Big Rock”. The weather channel had forecasted a sunny day with 18 degrees, and it was quite mild but we never saw the sun, even though it tried really hard to break through the clouds. We spent the morning at the shore of Lake Clear painting “Big Rock” and “Little Rock”. Just when we were ready to pack it in, it started drizzling. Not enough, however, to prevent us from eating our lunch on the rocks of the shore. Then it was time to get on our way home.


We had a fantastic time. It was so great to see so many regulars return to the trip, we enjoyed the lovely music Charlie, Louis, and Mary played for us during “Happy Hour”. The food was great, and the cottages were cosy. The German resort owners and their staff were amazing. I have to admit that it was a special bonus to be able to speak German with them.

On one of the colder days, they even put the fireplace on in the restaurant which was also our meeting room and (in case it had rained) our painting room. We will definitely come back.

If you are looking for a nice cottage or camping resort on a beautiful lake, I can highly recommend the Opeongo Mountain Resort, RR # 2, 949 Lake Clear Rd., Eganville, Ontario K0J 1T0. Telephone: 1-800-565-9623 or 613-754-2054. Email:

If you would like to get more information about the Plein Air Ensemble and upcoming trips, please contact me at Right now we are working on the details for our spring 2016 trip.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Plein Air Ensemble Fall 2015 Painting Trip, Part 2

Blog 41

This is part 2 of the travelogue about the Plein Air Ensemble trip to Lake Clear.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I woke up early today, just after 6am. When I looked out of the window, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises. The sky was just pink over the blue water of Lake Clear. Unfortunately, now, an hour later the sun seems to have disappeared. As long as we do not get rain, I am happy. It has been very windy since we arrived and looking for painting spots does also include finding a sheltered area.

Today, Hélène and I plan to go to the other side of the lake where we hope we will be sheltered from the wind.

Yesterday, we had a great painting day. Hélène, Janis, and I drove towards Combermere where we stopped at the Crooked Slide Rapids. We painted the marsh in the morning - Janis and Helene from one side of the river and I from the other side. After having slept only one hour the night before, I needed some time alone. However, the scenery was just too beautiful to lounge about. I got busy and even started a second piece in the afternoon. While Janis and Hélène painted the rapids, I decided to concentrate on another view of the marsh.

We had to come back to the cottage early because Janis was only able to stay for three days and wanted to be home before it got dark.

Hélène and I went for a small walk to find the marsh close to the resort. We only found the smaller one which is beautiful but fully exposed to the wind. After a time of rest, we prepared the “Happy Hour” where everyone was indeed happy, not only because of the wine, but also because they all had a great painting day.

After dinner, we were treated to a presentation from Kathy about her father, who was friends with A. Y. Jackson and painted with him on several occasions. He spent most of his retirement in the Arctic and painted until his death at age 88. It was fascinating and wonderful to see some of his original paintings.

Let’s see what today will bring.

By now, it is past 10pm. Before I go to bed, I want to write down today’s adventures. Hélène and I decided to stay close to the cottage as we had already done a lot of driving the past two days. It was still windy, so finding shelter was still important. As the day was mostly cloudy, the colours were not as brilliant.

After checking out the area around Manning Road, where we saw two beautiful horses, but did not find anything else that attracted our interest, we went further to Wittke Road where we spent the day painting two sides of a marsh. This does not mean that the view and the crystal clear water of Clear Lake were not absolutely amazing, but it is difficult to describe it in words and hard to translate it into an exciting painting.

We took our time for the first painting. Usually, Janis is the one who is finished pretty fast. Without her the two of us lost completely track of time. As it was already around 2 pm when we had lunch, we did not bother moving to another spot. We found out later from a passing driver that we were watched by a deer for quite a while. This is something different for a change. Hélène and I were so engaged in our painting that we did not even notice.

Back at the cottage, we put everything together for “Happy Hour”, then decided to rest for ten minutes. What can I say, we almost missed it. Hélène fell asleep and I was reading and not watching the time. I was close to falling asleep as well when suddenly my phone beeped. I am sure the others would have been not so happy if we two organizers had not appeared with the wine and cheese.

We were able to welcome one last participant who could only arrive today and who found the missing purse that was never left at a gas station in Ottawa but fell under one of the beds in the cottage. If only we had known...

On the down side, a new participant decided to go home without informing either Hélène or myself. We all were very welcoming to her but “plein air” painting is not for everyone. Even though we are very lucky to have had dry and mostly sunny weather, it has been cold. The wind has been strong for the past couple of days, which certainly is a challenge. I am glad for my snow pants, winter coat, wool socks and gloves.

After another delicious dinner (squash soup and vegetable or Caesar wraps), we had our game night with an art infused Trivial Pursuit. The game guarantees always lots of laughter and seems to be a crowd pleaser as almost all of the artists participated. One of the categories is “Canadian Painters including our Plein Air Ensemble painters”. Tonight, two of the picked images showed paintings of mine. It was not easy to keep a straight face. I was just glad that the comments were all very positive.

Despite the strong groups, we had a clear winning team at the end. I am sure we all also learned a thing or two about art history, materials, and techniques.

It would be nice if the weather cooperated tomorrow as well. It would be one of the few trips without snow, rain, heavy fog, extreme wind or arctic temperatures. We often experienced a combination of some of the weather challenges. It certainly would be my first dry trip.


To find out if the weather continued to cooperate and what we experienced the last two days please return to my blog next Friday for the final part of this travelogue.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Plein Air Ensemble Fall 2015 Painting Trip, Part 1

Blog 40

This is part 1 of my travelogue of the Plein Air Ensemble trip to Lake Clear in Eganville.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Right now we are in the area of Lake Clear in Eganville where the Plein Air Ensemble is spending the next couple of days. Hélène, Janis, and I arrived yesterday to get everything organized for the arrival of the rest of the group. We still found time to paint.

The colours are not as intense this fall. Many of the trees are just too dry and the leaves just turn yellowish brown. However, there are pocketful of really beautiful colours. The reds and oranges bring a lot of vibrancy into the green landscape.

After driving around a little bit to check out the area, we ended up at the historic stone fence which was erected by hand by the German immigrant Carl Ludwig Neumann. We stayed there to paint. I decided to paint the curving road. After having spent the summer finishing up paintings, and not having painted “en plein air” since May, it was quite a challenge.

In the evening, we met up with Charlie and Mike who also had arrived a day early. We drove together to downtown Eganville to meet our friends Sharon and Bill who moved to the area a couple of years ago. We had a great German dinner at “The Granary”. The schnitzel were really good and the dessert was just amazing. It took three people to finish our crepe Denmark.

Back in our cottage, Janis, Hélène and I played a game of “Paquet”, where Janis did not give us a chance.

Right now, we are on our way to the store to get the groceries for the daily “Happy Hour” when all the artists get together before dinner. In the afternoon, we will be going out to paint.


It is nighttime by now, and I should be getting ready for bed. I am too worked up to sleep even though I am tired.

We had another very windy day, but we found a beautiful vista in Cormac. I managed to finish a small painting and got a good start on a second painting before we had to head back.

At 5 pm, we met everyone at “Happy Hour” for a presentation by Christine, the former owner of Opeongo Mountain Resort and now full-time artist. She and our painting buddy Kathy had put a lot of work into marking maps with interesting painting sites, and giving us information on picturesque spots.

The evening held a couple of excitements. First, one of the cottage doors did not open even though the electric lock opened. Luckily, the resort owner was still on site and able to help.

Then, Janis, Hélène, and I were waiting for the return of one of our participants while trying to distract ourselves by playing cards. She had left her purse at an Ottawa gas station and gone back to get it. However, we were worried whether she would find the resort again in the darkness. Once four hours had passed, we got more and more worried with every minute that passed. After more than 5 hours and repeated checks at her cottage, we were ready to call the police. Right at that moment, she arrived. We were too relieved to be angry at that point. As organizers you just feel responsible for everyone’s safety. Starting tomorrow there will be a new rule: Everyone running unexpectedly late has to inform us. There is always the possibility that someone loses track of time or gets lost, which is not a problem as long as we know what is going on.

On the bright side, we saw a beautiful yellow moon over the lake and a sky full of stars. I am sure a beautiful day lies ahead of us.


I hope you enjoyed my travelogue and the photos of the beautiful region so close to Ottawa. There is a lot more to come. To read more about the painting trip, please return to my blog next week.

Friday, 2 October 2015


  Blog 39

As October is generally associated with Halloween, it seemed appropriate to tell you the story behind my painting “Masquerade”.

When Arteast Ottawa picked the theme “A Night at the Theatre” for their 2011 exhibition at the Trinity Gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre, I was initially thinking about ballet dancers or wealthy ladies and gentlemen in fancy outfits in their boxes, the way you see them in movies. Then, I remembered the last Halloween outfit I wore. I am not a big Halloween fan but each year when we went out with our kids to go trick-or-treating the neighbourhood for treats, I dressed up a little bit. I knew how much my kids liked it, and that made it fun. That particular Halloween, I did not feel like dressing up at all, so I had just grabbed a cheap face mask with feathers, my gold shimmering winter coat, and an antique fox scarf. I looked very elegant that night.

I used one of the pictures we had taken as the reference photo, hung up the mask and fox scarf in my studio and started painting. While I had started a portrait of myself many years ago during a workshop, I am not to keen on painting myself. However, this was different as part of my face was covered by the mask. I liked this touch of mystery.

As I had anticipated, the details of the face were still the most challenging part, despite the fact that a big part was hidden behind the mask. But my eyes and mouths were visible. I was not satisfied with the detail I got from the photograph, and worked at times with a mirror, letting my eyes wander from photo to mirror to canvas and back.

I am quite happy with the result. "A Night at the Theatre" is all about diving into an imaginary world and playing roles. What better way than to paint a self portrait hiding my face behind a mask. The face and therefore the person's identity are hidden. Feelings and facial expressions are not visible. Everything is mysterious and open for interpretation.

It also reminds me of the fact that we often hide behind an invisible masque because we are afraid to show ourselves to others out of fear of rejection.

There is a long history of famous artists capturing their faces in self-portraits. What has fascinated so many to create their self-portraits?

A lot of artists used models for their paintings. However, as most artists did not make a lot of money, posing for themselves was a cheap and always available alternative. Before the invention of photography, it was the only way to capture the appearance of a person. The self-portraits would, however, often not only show physical attributes but also give you a glimpse behind the facade. The artists would present themselves in their profession, show their experiences and struggles in life, their character traits, their social status, and their style. For example, Frida Kahlo’s and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits let you step into their world of pain and struggle, of fight and despair. Self-portraits give the artists a way for self-investigation without restrictions and expectations from the establishment. They leave a very intimate personal legacy, an image that will outlive the artist and create immortality. Self-portraits also served as advertisement. They were an excellent tool to advertise the artists’ skills to potential customers.

Have you ever done a self-portrait or thought about having a portrait of yourself painted? Why? What intrigues you about a self-portrait or portrait?