Friday, 24 February 2017

My Favourite Famous Winter Paintings

Blog 8

Before I came to Canada, I had not seen too many winter paintings. Winter is not such an interesting season to paint in many European countries, including most of Germany. I was born in Hesse and the winters bring lots of rain and gray days. I got my first view of Canadian art at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg in 1994. I was fascinated with the beauty and energy reflecting from the paintings. Until this day, I love the blue winter skies and the glistening snow, even though I am usually tired of winter by the end of February.

Here are my favourite winter paintings. Not surprisingly many Canadian paintings are part of my list. One of my favourite painters of winter scenes is the Group of the Seven member Lawren Harris. While I respect his abstract works for his personal progress and modernism, I prefer the earlier works.

Due to copyright issues, I am not able to show you pictures of all the works as not all of them are already in the public domain. You will be able to find the images online but that still does not mean that you can legally post them in a blog.

1. Lawren Harris: Spruce and Snow, Northern Ontario
oil on canvas, 1916, 102.3 x 114.3 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

I love the mood that Lawren Harris sets in this painting. I feel the cold of the winter landscape brightened by the setting sun. While I love Lauren Harris's use of thick brushstrokes of complementary colour, this technique is not for me. I find it too painstakingly slow to place the short brushstrokes on the canvas.

To see the image please go to:

2. Lawren Harris: The Red House
oil on canvas, 1925

I love how the two trees frame the bright red house. The crisp white and blue create a fascinating contrast to the bright red of the house. While there seems to be no life in this picture, the branches of the trees make me think of long fingers pointing to the house. You can already notice Harris' increasing abstraction in this painting.

To see the image you can go to:

3. Lawren Harris: Snowfall
oil on canvas, 1920, 36 x 44 in

I saw this painting during the special exhibition “The Idea of North” at the Art Gallery of Ontario last summer. I love how Lawren Harris succeeds in creating a beautiful picture by wrapping the soft cover of snow around an old run-down house. His masterful use of complementary colours makes the image look bright despite the softly falling snow. The thick brushstrokes create a liveliness despite the fact that the house and street are deserted.

To see the image please go to:

4. Lawren Harris: Return from Church
oil on canvas, 101.8 x 122.3 cm, National Gallery of Canada

I am always intimidated by people in a landscape. I love how Lawren Harris uses simple shapes to give the illusion of people. The visible brushstrokes create a lot of energy in this otherwise calm painting. I admire his subtle use of bright red in some of the coats for added colour as well as his well planned use of complementary colours for the building.

To see the image please go to:

5. Lawren Harris: Old Houses, Toronto, Winter
oil, 1919. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

I love how Lauren Harris uses complementary colours to create this bright painting of an old house that has seen better days.

To see the image please go to: The image is part of the review.

6. Clarence Gagnon: Midnight Mass
oil on paper laid on wood, 1933, 18.8 x 22.7 cm, The Thomson Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario

I am fascinated by Gagnon's use of light to create mood in his painting “Midnight Mass”. I love the composition that is dominated by triangles, many of them pointing directly at the church.

To see the image you can go to:

7. Clarence Gagnon: After the Storm (Après la tempête)
ca. 1922, oil on panel, 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"

Again, I am fascinated by the play of light and shadow. The brightness of the painting reflects what I most love about the brisk winter days when the sun lets the snow sparkle and the light creates colourful shadows. The snow that is so thick, it is weighing down the fir trees. This is how I picture winter.

To see the image you can go to:

Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8. Claude Monet: The Magpie
oil on canvas, 1868–1869, 89 cm × 130 cm (35 in × 51 in), Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Monet and fellow Impressionists painted the winter landscape to capture the natural effect of snow. The Magpie is one of more than 100 snowscapes produced by Monet. It is Monet's largest winter painting. A solitary black bird, a magpie, is perched on a gate as the light of the sun shines upon freshly fallen snow creating blue shadows. I just love the light in this picture and the blue of the shadows. The Impressionists were the first artists who used colour instead of black to suggest shadows making them look much more natural.

Franz Marc [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
9. Franz Marc: Dog Lying in the Snow
Oil on canvas, 1911, 62.5 × 105 cm, Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V., Frankfurt/Main

Franz Marc was convinced that animals were closer to God than human beings. He considered them purer in soul and therefore more beautiful. The dog lying in the snow seems to be in perfect harmony with its surroundings. When I look our pets, I have to agree with Marc's opinion. Our dog Alex and our cat Miko give us so much joy and unconditional love.

Paul Gauguin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
10. Paul Gauguin, Breton Village in the Snow (Village breton sous la neige)
oil on canvas, 1894, 62 x 87 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Gauguin followed with this painting in the footsteps of many Impressionist painters who were fascinated by the effects the changing light and different weather conditions had on the snow-covered landscape. The painting shows a village seemingly drowning under the heavy snow. It is still undisturbed by traces of human life at the beginning of a new day. I love the simplified forms and visible brushstrokes.

I am sure that you are getting tired of all the snow we had over the last couple of weeks but it definitely makes the world look beautiful and bright. Hopefully, my blog is a nice farewell to the winter season. I am ready for warmer weather and the first signs of vegetation popping up between snow patches as harbingers of spring.

As March Break falls into next month, I dedicated next month’s blogs to experimenting with different gels and pastes. Some of the materials are not only great for artists but can be easily used with your children or grandchildren for some creative activities.

If you enjoy my blogs, please share them with family and friends. Thank you in advance for helping me to increase my audience.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Painting Winter Scenes

Winter in Quebec, acrylic, 24" x 12"

Blog 7

When I started to go on painting trips with the Plein Air Ensemble in April 2009, I attempted to paint outside in any temperature despite the fact that we always had a room to paint if inclement weather prevented us from going outside. I was a mother of two young children at the time and painting time was precious. Only falling snow or rain, heavy fog and extreme winds would prevent me and my friend Janis from painting on site. Today, I am not as eager. Once, the temperature drops below -10 degrees, I prefer to stay inside, or sketch from the shelter of a car.

Even though I hate the long Canadian winter with its cold temperatures, I am fascinated with the bright days when the snow glistens in the sun and changes colour not because of the dirt of the passing cars but because of the changing daylight. I love to sit inside and watch the falling snow. I have to admit that once November has passed, I can actually hardly wait for the first snow to transform the monochrome landscape into a winter wonderland. I also love to walk through the fresh snow. The thick white puffs weighing down the branches and the prints left in the snow from animals and humans alike are intriguing. Driving in the white stuff is, however, a completely different story.

What is it about the snow that is so irresistible for painters? Snow makes everything look so much brighter and more striking, especially under a bright blue day sky. The white snow creates a strong contrast with the dark trees and bushes, its colour changes during the breathtaking sunsets with the purple and pink clouds. I guess during the long winter nights, we long even more for the brightness to cheer us up.

Once, we reach the end of winter when the snow starts to thaw, the snow patches in the monochrome landscape create interesting shapes on the ground.

Frozen rivers and creeks are also a fascinating image to paint. Being able to walk over ice opens up new possibilities to reach areas which are usually impassable. However, it is often hard to take painting equipment to these remote areas. I usually take my camera to take pictures for studio paintings. Partially thawed creeks and lakes often have a beautiful green colour which is one of my favourite winter colours. The open parts of rivers and creeks also create interesting shapes to paint.

At the end of March, I will go again with the Plein Air Ensemble to the Magog-Orford area in the Eastern Townships. As all of us, I can hardly wait to capture the transition from winter to spring. This year, I hope that we will be able to capture spots of snow and frozen ice without the bitterly cold winter wind.

For now, I hope you enjoy my little collage of winter images. If you would like to see some of the paintings in person, please visit the St. Laurent Complex, 525 Coté St, Ottawa. “Quebec Winter” hangs at the Promenade Arteast wall at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd, Ottawa, until the March 14, 2017.

I hope you will return to my blog next Friday, when I will talk a bit about my favourite famous winter paintings.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Evening Glow

Evening Glow, acrylic, 18" x 24"

Blog 6

Now that January's Creativity Challenge has ended, for the rest of the year my blogs will have monthly themes that I already picked with regard to the season or certain activities. The February theme is winter paintings.

Today’s blog is about my painting “Evening Glow”. This 18” x 24” acrylic painting was created with painting knives. The site depicted in the painting is just up the hill from our house. I often enjoy the beautiful sunsets at this spot when I return from my walks with our dog.

You have probably also witnessed some of the amazing sunsets we get on especially cold evenings in winter when the sky is full of bright pinks and purples. For me, these sunsets create the urge to pick up a paintbrush and capture these shorts moments on a canvas. Not only is the sky full of bright colours, but also the snow is tinted in shades of purple and blue.

The painting was created in my studio with the help of a couple of reference photos. While it is still on my bucket list to paint a sunset on site, I do not intent to create a winter sunset en plein air.

When I started to go on painting trips in 2009, I attempted to paint outside at any temperature. Today, I am not very eager to step outside once the temperature drop below -10 degrees Celsius. In these frosty times, I prefer the warmth of my studio.

Here are some photos which show the stages of my painting until completion:

If you would like to have a look at the finished painting, you can see it right now at the St. Lawrence Complex, 525 Coté St, Ottawa, ON K1K 0Z8, where it is part of the Arteast exhibition “Winter Mix”. The exhibition runs until March 9, 2017.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Creativity Challenge Week 5

Blog 5

This is the last blog of my personal 2017 creativity challenge. At some points life took over and made it impossible to create art every day. However, the challenge encouraged me to pick up my felting needle or a pencil when I would have otherwise possibly worked in front of my computer. I was very happy to hear that some of you got inspired to start their own challenge.

I will do my best to keep creative even though my new work situation might make it difficult. I have to adjust to getting up early and teaching the whole morning (on top of several nights a week). I adapted my creative hours to my new schedule to allow at least one hour a day for art. However, appointments or visitors might interfere with my plan from time to time. That’s okay as long as I do not give up creating. Like with any habit, there are always times when you cannot follow through with your plan because of some circumstances. It is important to keep on going despite the obstacle.

Any artist has periods of more or less productive times. Sometimes, it even helps to take a break to get a fresh start. I am not planning on taking a break. I am excited that my first new work of this year will be a portrait of a beautiful cat.

Here are photos of the last seven days:

Day 27:

My student and I set up another still life. I was quite tired after a full day of orientation and had a hard time to concentrate on the still life of subjects that did not really appeal to me. It is been always easier to draw or paint something you love because you pay more attention to it.

Day 28:

After a busy day, my husband and I had dinner at a restaurant. I created a quick sketch of the salt shaker.

Day 29:

I could finally continue the work on the portrait of our dogs. I am quite happy with the way Candy, the Golden Retriever, looks. I started to work on Alex’ details and hope to work on him some more this weekend. 

I also continued working on my felted image of the dachshund.

Day 30 and 31:

There was no time to sit down and relax, let alone be creative.

Day 32:

I finally finished the little squirrel. It is a cute little critter.

Day 33:

I had planned to finish the still life but only had time to write my blog.

I hope you enjoyed following my challenge. If my example got you in the mood to get more creative, but you would like some help, I encourage you to join me for some of the workshops I offer. I still offer a drawing class for beginners on every second Thursday of the month and a felting drop-in on the fourth Thursday of the month. For more information please contact me at