Adventures in painting

For the last five years, I’ve been enjoying learning how to paint with watercolours. Writing is an abstract and intensely mental art, and painting is such a contrast. It’s refreshing to create with “stuff” and to be so immersed in the visual world.

Each time I begin I feel that it’s going to be an impossible task to create the image before me or in my mind, but painting is a step-by-step process, a slow layering—so very much like writing.

The first group of paintings are on a raptor theme, the subject of my next novel. The second group (scroll down to “ALL OTHER PAINTINGS”) are of various subjects, most of them painted in workshops.

All are watercolour with some use of gouache and sometimes permanent felt-tip marker. I’ve given details below each image. The work is quite small, rarely more than letter-size, and often half of that, if not smaller. I’ve focussed on using transparent hues because I like to layer. I will often work on an image for weeks, sometimes months, although only for a few minutes at a time.



April 15, 2019. I started this painting in February and fussed with it for two months. An early stage is in the thumbnail, showing the masking I did. I used my (now) usual combination of watercolour, masking fluid, gouache, felt-tip marker and Exacto knife scraping.


April 6, 2019. This painting was for an online class; the assignment was to work with only three primary colours. I used Transparent Yellow, Ultramarine Blue and Rose Madder. I got the white feathery and speckled effects by scraping and scratching with an Exacto knife. (Using 300-lb paper helps!) I also used masking fluid for the lighter feathers.

March 1, 2019. I’m fond of this indignant eagle. It’s one of my few fast studies.

January 10, 2019. Painting of a Red Kite, the raptor most associated with Elizabethan England. See my blog post about this bird here.


December 10, 2018. I loved this assignment for an online course I’m taking. The assignment was to draw the same image four times, first using drawing pencils, then one in charcoal, then coloured pencil and finally (lower right) pastels. I’d like to explore using pastels.

September 15, 2018. Unfinished. I’ll post the final when I get back to Canada. I believe this is the first painting where I used Exacto knife scraping. You can see it around the eye and on the beak. It helped that I was using wonderfully thick and stiff 300 lb. grade Arches paper, which I have to special order.

August 22, 2018. Owl eyes! I had this one framed in a beat-up old frame I had stored away in the basement.

July, 2018, and nicely framed that fall in another old frame I had tucked away in the basement. It started out as a bigger painting and I cropped it down to the bit I thought worked.

July, 2018. I finished this painting in the summer of 2018 in a workshop with Shirley Ann Miller on Amherst Island, Ontario. I love this baby gyrfalcon so much! She’s become the main (non-human) character in the WIP.


September 25, 2017. For the trees in the distance, I used a gold-flecked watercolour paint which glitters in the light. The image is of a white gyrfalcon-saker cross, found on Wikipedia.

January 20, 2017. This was my first raptor painting.

January 6, 2017. This was my first fowl painting, which led to all the others.



I’ve been enrolled in a terrific online class given by Canadian artist Sandrine Pelissier. She encourages her students to creatively explore various mediums, which I very much enjoy.


April 1, 2019. The assignment was to use geometric shapes, for which I chose a sunflower, because of the amazing geometry of the sunflower heart. For this painting, I used watercolour and felt-tip markers, both permanent and washable.


Sandrine Pelissier suggested considering off-setting the image to make the composition more interesting. Above are two crops I tried, but I can’t decide which of the three I like best.

March 10, 2019. A collage for Week 4 of the 26-week course. I discovered that it isn’t easy to get gel medium off my fingers! This image was inspired by a close-up of an owl. I used layers of a variety of wonderful Mexican wrapping paper and tissue, plus some from Japan I inherited from my mother. I used a little gouache around the eye and some watercolour over white tissue paper that I wanted to “golden.” I also used some thread.

February 25, 2019. This image was for a lesson on using thread, inspired by a painting by Monet. I dreaded the assignment, but ended up loving it.






February 20, 2019. The two images above were for a black/white assignment. For the top one, I used the scraping technique for the clouds. For the bottom one, I first applied masking fluid for the grass blades and then used a felt-tip marker for the raptor’s feather pattern.

January 27, 2019. This painting was for the self-portrait lesson in an earlier online “Drawing Explorations” course I took from Sandrine Pelissier. A challenge! I used watercolour, some gouache and felt-tip marker. Also, I scraped with an Exacto knife to help get the bark texture.

I worked from this photo, taken in July 2015 by Mark Raynes Roberts for his Illumination show of Canadian authors.

January 21, 2019. This was an assignment on adding pattern to a drawing. Close pattern work can be meditative.


April 10, 2016. Painted from a pano photo I took on our beach holiday that January.

April 2, 2016. From a photo of our driveway in Canada in the fall. :-)  I love the rough texture of the paper coming through. I worked on this painting for some time while we were in San Miguel, going once a week to Oscar Aguire’s wonderful open art studio close by. We’ve since moved and so has the studio, or I would still be going.

March 18, 2016. From a painting by Monet, also worked on in Oscar Aguire’s open studio.


(August, 2015) I put brushes and paints away for several months, and seemed to have forgotten all that I learned. This is one I made following a lesson on YouTube:



Final. People are hard to paint!


First “draft.”

IMG_0557 copy

April, 2015. This last one was by far the most challenging. The photo is of my husband Richard, but the portrait doesn’t look like him. It is going to take time to learn how to paint portraits!

It is also my last one in a Donna Dickson class, for she’s moving to the Pacific coast. I’m going to miss her!



March 5, 2015. My dear Finn, R.I.P.



February 23, 2015. This is the first painting that I actually signed. :-) It was painted in a Donna Dickson workshop. I recall being shown the toothbrush spatter technique, which I love.




January 29, 2015. For a Donna Dickson class in San Miguel.


January 29, 2015. For a Donna Dickson workshop. Shadows!


January 17, 2015. I painted this one at the beach, “en plein air” as they say. It has messy bits, but I like the feel of it.



January 1, 2015. There is one tiny error that would be easy to fix: see if you can find it on the door knocker.



December, 2014. This was my first in Donna Dickson‘s class in San Miguel de Allende.

August 11, 2014. One of my first, from a Joyce Burkholder class.


Summer, 2014. I painted this one on my own, after taking a one-day workshop with Joyce Burkholder in Wilno, Ontario. SaveSaveSaveSave