Friday, 29 September 2017

Painting Trip to Kamouraska 2017 - Part 2

Blog 40

This is the second part of my travelogue of the September 9 - 16, 2017 painting trip to Kamouraska:

Monday, September 11, 2017

We had just an amazing day! The sun was shining from sunrise to sunset, and it was pleasantly warm if you stayed sheltered from the wind.

The Overflowing Garden, oil, 5" x 7"
Janis, Hélène and I spent the day painting together again. We started out at the Avenue Chassé, where we painted the flowers of a beautifully planted private flower garden. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones admiring the multitude of flowers -- whole groups of people showed up to take pictures while we were painting. I started with a 5” x 7” painting of sweet peas growing all over the fence followed by the garden, this time towards the blue house of the restaurant L’amuse-Bouche. 

View towards Île aux Corneilles at Low Tide, acrylic, 8" x 10"
After lunch, we felt too tired to drive out again. Instead we walked along Avenue Morel with our small painting kits looking for a place close to the house so we could easily go back for a nap. At the end, we stayed a couple of metres west of the house on Avenue Le Blanc and painted the low tide. I felt so energized after the first painting that I created another 7” x 5” painting of some wild roses. I am quite happy with the little painting, even though I did not have any magenta in my small acrylic set. I have to brighten up the colour a little bit when I get home. Magenta is one of the colours that is really hard to mix, I usually have a tube with me when I go to paint flowers but I had not really planned to paint with acrylic paints on this painting trip. I had brought them in case we found a picturesque spot that was not accessible with my usual painting cart.

Kamouraska Sunset, oil, 12" x 24"
After our Happy Hour, we finally, after years of talking about it, went outside to paint the sunset. Unfortunately, there was not a single cloud in the sky, which would have made the sunset even more dramatic, but we all managed to capture a stage of the sunset. If you have ever watched a sunset, you know how fast the sun moves. It is a question of minutes. Even though we are used to the fast changes while painting outside, this took it to a new level. The sky and the water change constantly. None of us even took the time to take a picture.

I am extremely happy with my day. I cannot remember ever having painted five paintings in a day, not that the quantity really matters, but I was excited and energized enough to paint for six hours. That’s a long time of concentration.

After finishing the sunset painting, we devoured Hélène’s vegetable quiche, salad, and goodies from the bakery. After cleaning the dishes, we all were so tired that it was a quiet evening of checking emails, puzzles, and knitting. Spending so much time in the fresh air concentrating on our painting subjects makes it hard to get through the evening. During the painting trip, even I go to bed an hour earlier than my usual midnight bedtime.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will return next week for part 3. If you are interested in my day to day news, please go to


Friday, 22 September 2017

Painting Trip to Kamouraska 2017 - Part 1

Blog 39

It has been almost a week since I returned from the painting trip with my friends Janis, Hélène, Sharon and Bill to Kamouraska. We had a great time, and the weather was the best we ever had. Except for one morning, we did not have any rain and mild temperatures.

The following is part 1 of my travelogue:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

On the sunny morning of September 9, it was time again for our yearly trip to Kamouraska. Janis and I left in the morning after getting lunch at the bakery and buying some last minute necessities for our week at Kamouraska.

Unfortunately, we had to go in two cars again as Janis has to leave a day early. However, on my way back Hélène will come with me. That will be a lot for fun. It is a long drive when you drive by yourself. I switched between rock music, Spanish and French language learning tapes. When I arrived my voice was a little hoarse but at least I made it through without falling asleep.

It was a nice reunion when we arrived. Even the house owners were there. It almost feels like family. We started by sitting in the winter garden, looking at the beautiful sunset and making plans to finally paint it during this visit.

We enjoyed Janis’ home-cooked meal of salmon with rice and a salad followed by the crowd pleaser blueberry duff before we spent the evening catching up.

This morning, we were a little disappointed that it was raining. Janis, Hélène, and I decided to get the errands out of the way. After we did our “mandatory” trip to the bakery, we looked for a place to order a dinner and found the bistro “Le Comptoir Gourmand”, where Janis and Helene enjoyed a coffee on the patio while I drew some flowers.

Once the grocery shopping was done, the sun came out and we headed to St-Roch-des-Aulnaies, because we hardly had any wind at the time. There, we spent the afternoon at the parc “Le Havre du Quai”. All three of us painted two paintings despite the increasing wind which seems to be always stronger at this little park.

Le Havre du Quai, St-Roch-des-Aulnaies, oil, 11" x 14, unfinished

Afterwards we went to “La Seigneurie des Aulnaies”, which contains a mill, a bakery, and a Victorian manor with adjoining gardens that was part of the “la Fête du Pain” (Bread Festival), that was going on that weekend. We enjoyed a stroll through the garden with its beautiful flowers and I even got some specialty flour for my daughter from the mill.

At the house, Sharon and Bill were ready for Happy Hour, which was followed by Sharon’s wonderful creamy meal of “Creamless Cream of Cauliflower”, corn on the cob, ham with mashed potatoes and carrots followed by a creamy dessert with fresh fruit.

Now, we are all sitting happily but very tiredly in the living room enjoying a lazy evening.

I hope you enjoyed my travelogue and will join me for the continuation next week. Thank you for reading my blog. Please share my blog with family and friends who might be interested in my writings.

Friday, 15 September 2017

The Interpretation of Symbols in Still Life Paintings

Spring Bouquet, acrylic, 16" x 20"

Blog 38

While many still lifes nowadays are painted in order to show simply the beauty of the objects and the interesting composition, many early still lifes contained symbols to express the artist’s opinion with regard to common religious, spiritual, social, cultural, and moral views.

The so called vanitas paintings contained big arrangements of objects that held a lot of symbolic meanings with regard to life's fragility and the inevitability of death, often warning the viewer that all earthly riches are vain.

Some of the most popular natural objects used in still life paintings were food, flowers and plants, animals, shells, skulls, bones, rocks and stones, feathers, and shells. Books, china, vases, jewelry, coins, and tools were man-made objects that were often used as well.

Sometimes, the painting of natural objects was done to symbolize a scientific interest in nature. More often natural objects were used to show abundance or deprivation of material goods, and mortality. In general there is the distinction between fresh and decaying objects. For example, fresh food signifies abundance and wealth, while decaying food serves as a reminder of our own mortality. The same is true for freshness of flowers and plants. They are often also a reminder that life is short and fragile, or symbolize certain seasons. In some cases, flowers of different colours have a different meaning (see for example the rose).

Here are a couple of flowers and their meaning:
Lilies: purity, chastity, and innocence.
Orchids: perfection.
Poppies: sleep and death.
Red roses: love and passion, are also used as a symbol for the Virgin Mary
White roses: virginity and purity
Yellow roses: jealousy and infidelity.
Sunflowers: loyalty, admiration, longevity and faith.

In Western cultures, the Christian Church was a strong influence on artists and one of their most affluent commissioners, therefore many religious symbols were used to tell the constant battle between good and evil. The triangle with its point upwards and the three divided clover leaf are signs of the Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, while four-leafed clovers represent luck. The butterfly often represents the soul and the resurrection of Christ. Bread symbolizes the body of Christ, while vine leaves and grapes can either be a symbol of Christ’s blood or a symbol of earthly pleasures, but also of the loss of self-control. Feathers can either symbolize the religious virtues of hope, faith, and charity or freedom as they make it possible to fly, and rise up to heaven. Therefore, birds symbolize the resurrection of the soul after death. The apple often represents temptation and sin according to the bible story of Adam and Eve. At the same time it is a symbol of knowledge and death. Skulls or bones also symbolize mortality. Skull also represent inner contemplation, and eternity.
Clocks, hourglasses and burning candles show the passing of time, but when a candle is extinguished it symbolizes the end of life or loss. In a Christian painting a candle can also be a symbol for the light of Christ.

Musical instruments are often added to still lifes. String instruments like the violin often symbolize the vanity of our life, because their strings break easily. The flute on the other hand is often a symbol with sexual meaning. Music is often associated with a lazy and sinful life.

Luxury items like jewelry symbolize wealth and power in still life paintings. However,
when they are toppled, it is a sign that earthly riches are fleeting. Meat and fish also symbolize wealth, as well as greed and temptation. They also warn of the transience of wealth.

When looking at the meaning of objects used in a still life painting you have to use caution as some objects have a different meaning in different cultures and settings. If you are more interested in the subject, you can find a lot of fascinating information online and in books.

This was my short introduction to still lifes and my attempt to show you that especially the older artworks contain a lot of information and meaning behind the beautiful facade.

When this blog is published, I am on our yearly painting trip in the Kamouraska Region at the St. Lawrence River. Starting next week, I will share my travelogue with you. In remembrance of my wonderful Kamouraska trips, this week’s painting on sale is the 16” x 20” acrylic painting “Roch-des-Aulnaies, QC”. The painting is in a gold frame. The original price is $420. You can purchase it for $375 until Monday, September 18, 2017 at noon. Shipping and handling fees are added, except if you pick up the artwork or live in the Orleans area. To buy the painting, please send me an email to Payment can be made in cash, by check or e-transfer. Photos of each new painting are posted every Monday on my website as well as on my Facebook page

I hope you enjoyed my blog and will return next week. If you enjoy my blogs, I encourage you to subscribe to an automatic delivery of my blogs to your email inbox.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Have Some Fruit!
acrylic, 9" x 12"

Blog 37

For the next couple of weeks, I give you some more information about still lifes, a genre of art that has a long history. While still lifes were already found in the interior of Egyptian tombs of the pharaohs and Ancient Greek vase paintings, for the longest time pure still life paintings were one of the less valued painting genres due to the lack of people in the composition.

Joachim Beuckelaer: Kitchen Piece, with Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary in the background, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At first, still life objects were included in religious and allegorical pieces as well as portraits to support the focus of the painting. The rise in popularity came with the discovery of new continents in the 16th century that lead to an immense interest in the study of new species of plants and animals.

Claude Monet: Still Life with Apples and Grapes (1880), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With the rise of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists who were interested in the effects of light on nature’s color schemes, experimenting with brush strokes, tonal values, and colour placement, still lifes became less realistic but expressed mood and energy instead.

Juan Gris: Still Life with a Guitar, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Over time, artists explored for fresh ways to create still lifes. They lost the interest in creating realistic still lifes and were looking for ways of abstraction. The illusion of perspective was replaced by objects constructed of flat shapes in bright colours, followed by breaking down the painting into geometrical shapes that found its peak in the works of the cubists who arranged the simple shapes of the deconstructed objects to show the object from different perspectives in one painting.

The Surrealists on the other hand explored the subconscious mind and painted their often distorted objects in fantasy scenes, making it seem that the objects were weightless and floating.

During the pop art of the 1960s and 1970s the sterile still lifes of mass production objects put the commercialisation of the products into the focus showing the attitudes of society rather than the characteristics of the objects. The objects lost their uniqueness and became interchangeable.

Nowadays, still lifes are created mainly for the depiction of the artist’s interest in the object, either to capture the beauty of the object, an interesting composition or the play of colours and shapes. In the past, many artists added symbols to express their view of mortality, religious and moral opinions as well as to use them to tell a story in allegories.

Next week, I will I will discuss the symbolism in still lifes. I hope you enjoyed my blog and return next week for the continuation.


If you are interested in bringing a little bit of history into your house, this week's painting on sale is "The Duford House", a 16" x 20" acrylic painting of one of the buildings at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. The painting shows the house before a veranda was added to the front of the building a couple of years ago. The original price is $400. You have until Monday, September 11, 2017 at noon to purchase it for $340. To buy the painting, please send me an email to Payment can be made in cash, by check or e-transfer. Shipping and handling fees may be added depending on the destination.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Do Compare Apples and Oranges

Spring Bouquet With Gerbera and Lilac,
Oil, 14” x 11"
Blog 36

With the start of the new school year, the subject of lunch and snacks comes to my mind once the school supplies are bought and the school bag packed. With the increasing consciousness about healthier eating, fruits and vegetables are a big staple in our house.

Fruits and vegetables are, however, not only great for eating, they also make beautiful objects for still life painting. Still lifes are artworks that depict objects that are not alive, often vegetables, fruits, flowers, shells, and even dead animals, or man-made everyday objects to name just a few.

I love painting still lifes in class or as an impromptu project on a rainy day. While I have no problem with artists using photos as reference materials, I feel it is essential that one also practices drawing and painting from nature. When I teach a class at night, it is not possible to go outside to paint. Setting up a still life gives students and myself the challenge to create an illusion of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface while actually looking at a three-dimensional object not an image of the object that is already two-dimensional.

I usually take photos of the things I paint. Sometimes, when I look back at the photos, I am surprised that the scene does not look the way I remember it. Often the colour is not the way I saw it in real life, especially considering blue and violet objects. In the photograph, the depth is compromised, the highlights and shadows are usually too sharp and would look not convincing in a painting.

Fruits especially also help to demonstrate that you should start the composition with simple shapes. This is one reason why I like to paint apples. They are nicely round. You can also demonstrate while looking at an apple that they consist not only of one colour but mixtures of colours with different values. These different values create the illusion of perspective. Observing different fruits also makes you realize how an apple differs from an orange, peach or apricot, even though they look similar in shape. When you look at a still life you learn how to observe characteristics you might overlook otherwise or see what some characteristics that you have taken for granted are in reality. We have all been programmed to assume that things look a certain way, while they actually change appearance according to the light source and the surroundings.

Here is just an easy exercise: Just look at a tree trunk at different times of the day. It is not simply brown as the first response might be, if you were asked about the colour. The trunk has different colours according to the type of tree, which change when it is in the sun, shade or wet from rain. This will show you how light influences the appearance of objects.

Here are some of my favourite apple painting:

paintings of my "An Apple a Day" series

Thank you for reading my blog. I wish you a wonderful long Labour Day weekend. If you are going back to school or work after the holiday, I wish you a good start. After the long summer break here in Canada, not only school starts again, but also all the fall courses at recreation centres. This fall, I will teach one adult landscape course at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex in Orleans from Mon, Oct 16-Nov 6 from 6pm-7:30pm ($67.00, code 1114789). You can register online at or at any of the City of Ottawa recreation centre. I am also available for private or semi-private classes. Please contact me at, if you would like more information. I also offer kids cartooning and comics classes at both MacQuarrie Recreation Complex ( and François Dupuis Recreation Centre (