Continual Improvement?


Twilight Ponds, Studio oil, 12″ x 24″

When I was mid-way through painting this piece (above), I found that stage of the process where I thought it was the best thing I’d ever done. I was so thrilled with myself! Ha! It’s just that the sky came off so easily. I was happy with it, knowing that I was going to let it dry and then do a final orange/yellow glaze over it to get the glow right.

Mid-way through painting the land, I once again thought I was the bees knees! Man, I can paint. How did this happen?

And then the stage of disillusionment arrived. The foreground had to be reworked several times – moving through detail to more abstract strokes and back again. And again. The piece finally did not meet my own expectations because guess what – they changed along the way!

There is the point where you just need to let the painting be. It’s done. No amount of re-work will bring it back to that illusion of grandeur point. Because you know what? It is an illusion.

Every stroke, phase, piece, is another step in the process of being an artist. There are moments of self-delusion, recognition of some growth, the joy of creating and the pleasure and pain of learning. Some pieces meet my expectations, some do so only at points along the way and others simply do not.

Mist, Studio oil, 8″ x 10″

And that’s okay. I’ve been trying to practice every day this month, since having such a long time away from the easel. I am undertaking at least some kind of activity in the studio every day – if only prepping a board for the next piece after work or completing a small wet-on-wet study. Practice, practice, practice!

Drawing the design for a new snowy creek piece.


Flow and Focus

Forest Light
Forest Light, studio oil, 12″ x 25″

Two full days in the studio this weekend and it was wonderful. I first attempted a little farm painting and as Andrew said this morning “It’s just not  you, Faye”. I keep trying, but I’m not a pretty-little-painting painter.

So after that failed attempt, it was important to get back on the horse. I put up another 6″ x 12″ panel onto the easel and Andrew says “Go big, baby, go big.”

Great advice.

I replaced the little panel with the largest painting surface in the studio, a 12″ x 24″ raw panel. I love the feel and smell of raw wood, and the way it grabs the paint into itself, like it’s a part of the process. (I do wonder if I am sabotaging the longevity of the piece by not using Gesso. Anyone have any advice?)

I’ve had time in the past 6 months to gather a lot of reference material so on hand was a lovely tall forest scene with beautiful light dappling the leaves. That’s what I’m looking for now; powerful and interesting light.

I’m very happy with the finished piece and having that much focused time allowed me to feel the flow of creating, which is like meditating, yoga, watching a good movie and enjoying a favourite meal all at once. Exhilarating, comforting, exciting and familiar.

I do recognize that I can be a lazy painter. This time when I heard that little voice in my head say “whatever”, when it came to value, colour and pace, I told it to go away and refocused my energy and effort. I was also observing that process (hence the meditation aspect).

I can’t wait for next weekend!

Being Grateful

A new year, a new studio, a new excitement for the work to come. After a long 5 or 6 month hiatus of house selling, purchasing, renovating, celebrating and setting up, now is the time to settle back into my work – life – paint pattern. The time away from painting has been extremely stressful (which, for someone with an immune system disease is not such a good choice), and yet we come out of it with a stunning new life and art space. The studio is at least double the size of our old one in just the work space. It also has supplies and fresh work storage space and the house also has space to hide away all that old work we can’t seem to part with. In addition, the house acts as a gallery space to showcase work as it comes off the easel and to cherish our small collection of work of other artists.


We are lucky. We are incredibly grateful. Yet there is a tiny, persistent line of tenuous running through life. We need to stay steady to maintain the home, our jobs and to start working on our art again.

The Boardwalk, 6″ x 12″, studio oil

And so it begins. This weekend will be the return to plein air painting even if the weather is somewhat chilly. This past weekend was the return to studio painting. Turns out I’ve been gestating knowledge and inspiration as evidenced in 3 wide but small landscapes. The way that my husband, Andrew Bartley works with darks and lights has rubbed off as I try to capture the light in the forest. I’ve been watching plein air videos and gathering my favourite paintings of marvelous artists on Pinterest. That wealth of skill layers up inside of me to be inspired by, eventually.

Into the Forest, 6″ x 12″, studio oil

We also challenged each other by painting the same creek scene (below). Oh no, we’re not competitive at all!

The Stream, 6″ x 12″, studio oil

This year my goal is to stay away from major life changes and focus on appreciating and maintaining our new home and studio and to paint landscapes. To exhibit the best of those (or maybe to hold them back for a 2-person show… maybe). Here we go.