Still Life in White & Upcoming Spot for Still Life Class

I am in love with white still lifes. In these still lifes, that at first look, are white, black and grey have immense subtleties of colour that are infinitely fun to work with. They hone an artist’s eye for colour sensitivities – particularly the sensitivity to colour temperature.

This particular painting also forces value choices as painters are limited to not having to include actual sources of light. The highlights on the bulbs are substantially brighter than the background just due to the fact that they are reflecting concentrated light to the viewer. This leaves the painter with a choice to darken the background to accentuate the highlights or keep the whole painting brighter and keep the highlights closer in value to the background.

The complexities of reflection in the bulbs are infinitely complex, which leaves us other creative choices and limitations. What my brain separates out as as detail is very different to what my eye is able to “see”. It is also time limited to the amount of time I choose to set for a painting and the general “looseness” I’d like to work within. With this I need to choose which reflections are essential information to read correctly and aesthetically jive with my creative output.

When you are working with coloured objects the viewer misses this. The viewer is blasted with a huge range of hue, value, temperature, tone etc. that they miss the beautiful subtleties. As a painter, it almost feels like choosing between a song by Lady Gaga or a song by Max Richter. I absolutely love both, but they fill very different needs and niches.

The calm of a white still life and the visual simplicity feels orderly and soothing. The loudness and strength of full value ranges in bright hues is lively, energizing and choatic. Of course you could challenge this by trying to create chaos and loudness in a high key white painting or to create orderly, soothing and calming aspects within a full value and hue range as well. Though, I believe by nature it is limited.

Palette for a White Still Life

On a side note. When I put in the ideal preparation time I am gessoing my canvases in a neutral grey now. I have found this particularly helpful in making my brights jump off the canvas. I spent much of my day yesterday preparing small canvases and panels so I can work on grey panels! I feel rich in preparation now and can’t wait to dig in to paint on them!

Future White Still Lifes

There is still space in the Still Life class starting January 12 2023. Email me at to sign up.

Upcoming Classes

Still Life Sessions

Dates:  January 12, 19 and 26 from 10am – 1pm

Location:  Sperling Vineyards 1405 Pioneer Road

Price:  $140 *Discount for returning students who have completed homework and anyone who brings another new student

What to Expect:

  • Max 6 students – Appropriate instructions for beginner to advanced – small class sizes allows for integration of skill level
  • How to lay out a still life and map out the canvas
  • Basic colour mixes and how to modify them appropriately

Class Details:

  • Day One: Demo of how to place items in the still life and how to transfer it to the canvas to make an interesting composition. Practice on paper
  • Day Two: Demo of painting simple still life. Students to paint simple still life in black and white to focus on values, texture and brushwork.
  • Day Three: Demo of simple still life in colour. Students to paint simple still life in colour with focus on colour temperature.

Recent Paintings, Re-starting Painting Classes & Setting up a Non-Gallery Show

It’s been a busy month. It’s exciting as I feel like my art life is integrating in my day to day life again, but starting anything has a bit of anxiety and stress tied to it. Maybe the excitement and the anxiety are opposite sides of the same coin and need to co-exist.

The last while I’ve been working on portraits – kids in particular. Their face structure is different and allows me a whole new area of growth. If you’re interested in getting a portrait painted – now is the time as I’m just doubling down and having fun right now. If you’d like one done and we can settle on an image I will paint it – you get an image you can share via media or make prints of and I will get promo material for my portrait classes. If you really like it, you’re welcome to purchase it, but absolutely no commitment to that for the next couple months as I immerse myself in portraiture. Message me if you’re interested and I will let you know what I’m looking for in an image.

I’ve got a portrait class coming up that I am just super stoked to be starting again. It took years to build up classes and build a foundation of students that were keen, capable and really developing their skills – I was highly engaged in their growth, but Covid took that away overnight. Re-starting has been heartbreaking. Back-end work like organizing who takes what class and actually collecting the cost of classes wasn’t a strength of mine in the past, but I had built up a system. I had a great studio to teach out of, I had built a great curriculum that was working. The connections I built with students felt more real than most. It’s funny how when Covid came I felt like I had no purpose in their life and it made me sad. After having students still connect with me years after Covid started I’m staring to feel the strength of the personal connections art can build. It’s filled me with a resolution and calm belief in people and their capacity for love, forgiveness and care. Thank you friends, art students and… Art.

In 10 minutes I’m off to go hang a show in honour of a very dear and strong art supporter, Gary Benson. I met him when I served on the Board of Directors at the Kelowna Art Gallery. I didn’t know him well, but there was something so self-assured, yet humble about this man. I am filled with this great sadness that I didn’t get to know him better. Before he died (he didn’t know he was going to die), he wanted to have a show at his house to help fundraise for the Kelowna Art Gallery, help artists show their work and create a connection point between art lovers and creators. The generosity he was showing was immense. Sadly, he died before the show. The other artists who knew him better had met with him two days prior to his death and he was so excited. They knew him well and knew he would want the show to go on. So, it’s a bit of a different pre-tense for a show, but heartfelt. What Gary is leaving for me is bigger than a one night show – it’s opening himself up to help – in real ways. He fully understood what art can do for people and fundamentally found this to be a truly beneficial way to help his community.

So, here I am paintings packed in the car, nervous as heck, drinking coffee in a Starbucks. I have severe anxiety about introducing people – it’s not social anxiety (though there are tiny bits of that), it’s a fear of forgetting names, not introducing people properly, not highlighting their strengths or connection points with others. Shows are often very anxiety inducing for artists – for very different reasons, but this is mine. All of this with the added weight of wanting to honour Gary, the other amazing artists I’m sharing the show and the Kelowna Art Gallery. It’s very different than shows at an art gallery – it’s a new journey, but I need to flip that anxiety coin to the other side.

I’m looking forward to reporting back on the experience. Let the excitement begin!

Practice Portrait

My daughter was out for coffee with my husband and I – in between colouring and bites of cookie she would stare out the window.

I struggle with cooler lights in portraits so then throw the frustration of kid’s abnormal proportions and huge cheeks and bam… recipe for a portrait I needed to tackle.

I’m pleased with how this study came together – of course I didn’t work much on the hair or clothing as the concern was more to do with form and lighting around the face, but I almost like the semi-finished look. I’m thinking I will try this portrait again in a few months – after getting back into the flow of painting a bit more and see if I make any improvements.

‘Here, Let me get that for you Honey’

8×8 Oil on Canvas

Well I sat down at the easel today and was wondering what I should paint for an upcoming show… And then I thought, I’ve got everything I need done so I can paint what I want. This is when the magic happens I think.

I’ve been on a bit of a kick with birds lately. There is so much cultural and personal history that colours how we feel about birds. When I say ‘Pigeon’ a general sense of the bird comes to mind. When I say ‘Crow’, ‘Magpie’, ‘Owl’, ‘Lovebird’, ‘Chickadee’, ‘Sparrow’, ‘Vulture’, ‘Eagle’, ‘Dove’… They all bring up such different feelings. Some we love, some we love to hate. Some are dirty, some signal strength, freedom, sweet, some are scavengers, some are predators… But they all fill a niche.

‘Trickster’ 8×8 Oil on Canvas

I thought I’d share that I have thrown the rule of ‘don’t use black’ out the window in the last few days. Black can definitely get over-used and it can create a flat, muddy image, particularly for newer artists, but it’s extremely fun and useful for those who understand colour temperature already. It allows for a depth that just saturates so perfectly and allows the lights and brights to sing.

Failure is Exciting!

This is an excitement few artists can relate to, but if I would love to share my elation with you anyway. I’ve had the beautiful problem of getting into galleries too early in my journey. Through connections and some early capacity to paint, I had exhibitions before I probably should have. Which left me having a lot of pressure to produce. 

The problem with having to produce is that you don’t get the time to problem solve through nagging issues that constantly poke their ugly head. It’s generally not welcome to share your failures, but as a teacher – this helps my students immensely. All artists produce crap – ALL. Sure, the disappointing pieces come less often and they’re not the same level of “bad”, but the disappointment feels the same. The disappointment feeling is amplified by having to produce. The focus becomes less about finding evolving and creative ways to face some of the nagging issues and instead you put the piece to the side because the clock is ticking and solving the problem is not coming soon enough.

So… today I sat down. Facing a piece I want to nail. I am not giving up on this piece. This is a problem I face often. Instead of that panic and terror of failing creeping in yet again, I got to take a breath and enjoy the visual conundrum I’ve gotten myself into. Problem solving is part of creativity and one I relish in – one I’ve missed dearly.

I’ll give you a few peaks of what I’m enjoying about this… and.. gasp… I will show you the failure in real time.

I’m enjoying the thick paint, high contrast and different colours of this painting. This subject is quite different for me and one I’ve always wanted to explore.

Aside from really just loving birds and being so curious about them, they offer unique opportunities for brushwork. I’m excited that I’m finding ways to play with this.

However, I don’t want to be stuck painting actual backgrounds as they are. I want to find patterns and ways to play with texture and dimension in the background. I am certainly not at the place where I’ve solved this, but the drive and excitement to explore is there. With the space to “Fail” again and again and again I will have the time and space to solve this in ways that are fitting for my creative output.

So… I encourage you to fail hard from time to time. Enjoy the evolution of failure. Don’t feel the need for each piece to be perfect because it is the need that often kills a painting. A brilliant artist, Connor Charlesworth loosely re-quoted a beautiful saying from Enrique Martinez Celaya “in a good work of art you will find successes and failures next to each other. If you want the good far from the bad you will have safety, but not art.”

Making the Change

Well… Covid has put us all to the test – helping us to choose our priorities and somewhat forcing us to shed habits and comfortable decisions. Having over a decade of working through the gallery system, I’ve decided to move on. It hasn’t served me in the ways I want – I want to meet you – The Artist, The Art Lover, The Person – face to face.

It’s painting itself that I enjoy – becoming better – exploring always. The gallery system has been limiting in this sense. And when I ask myself if that helps me teach – no, it does not. And… it is teaching or connecting through actual creation that brings me the most joy in life.

When I was a gallery owner I will admit, there was a lot I didn’t enjoy. All said and done though, within a year we made it possible for artists who needed this outlet to thrive. Artists were able to create full-time – they were able to see the world differently and share that with us all. Galleries certainly are needed and I love visiting them – I always will.

But, out of necessity, they can box an artist in. This left me frustrated and unable to grow in the ways I needed to in order to be the best teacher I could be. And I want you to be the best artist you can be. I want to find the way through the thicket – open that path up for those wanting to paint for a living. I want to teach – I want to get the high of watching each and every student grow – to see the world just a little differently – to paint better.

It’s an odd choice to make… to actually be in the gallery system and choose to turn away from it. Many artists (very capable artists) spend years just trying to get one under their belt. I’ve had successful years in the gallery system with sell-out shows and years where I barely made enough to cover supplies. It’s addictive in many ways – the dopamine rush of a sale, nevermind the cash that comes with it. And in many ways, its what gives me credit as a teacher, but it doesn’t make me a better teacher.

Exploration, growth, connection and sharing… Here I come!