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.

It’s on, baby.

The summer of art has begun. Along with the heat comes some extreme art events. I hope to see you there!

Currently in progress is the grand opening exhibit of the Windrush Gallery in Metchosin.Windrush

Both my husband, Andrew Bartley and I have pieces in the opening show, which features Vancouver island artists exhibiting their work in a mental health themed show with partial proceeds going to  

Windrush Gallery  10-5, Weds to Sunday  |  4357 Metchosin Rd

Coming up in July is the TD Art Gallery Paint-In on Saturday, July 18. Again, both Andrew and I will be exhibiting (and plein air painting!) at this wonderful event. Seriously, if you’ve never been, you are missing out on a most unique community event with over 150 local artists demonstrating, displaying and discussing their art throughout the day. Moss St. closes down to traffic and the pavement fills up with thousands of happy art goers and their canine companions. I almost enjoy dog and people watching more than talking about art all day long! Please go. You won’t be disappointed.


TD Art Gallery Paint-In

Saturday, July 18, 2015 | 11am-9pm

Moss Street (all of it!)

Last but not least is the annual Sooke Fine Arts Show.

A must see every year, this regional exhibition showcases 375 works of original, west coast art by artists on Vancouver Island and the surrounding BC coastal islands. Andrew and I both have work in the show this year and the gift shop is a wonderful place to find original art at small sizes and small prices. I believe art should be accessible to all so look for a few of my miniature landscape oil paintings in the gift shop this year.

SookeSooke Fine Arts

  • July 24 – August 3
  • 2168 Phillips Road, Sooke
  • $8 – One Day Pass* (13+)
    $7 – Senior (65+) Day Pass
    $15 – Show Pass
    $30 – Purchaser’s Preview Evening (July 23)
    $15 – Taste of Sooke Evening (July 30)
    Kids under 12: Free at all times

Transferring Methodology

My husband, Andrew Bartley and I recently had the privilege of attending an Alla Prima Portrait Painting workshop with Teresa Oaxaca at the Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio. Our focus of late has been on plein air landscape painting, so attending a portrait workshop was a bit of a sideways jaunt. I’ve always loved Teresa’s unique and beautiful work so when I saw an ad for the workshop one evening, and having a few glasses of wine in me, I exclaimed to my also-web-browsing husband across the room: “TERESA OAXACA IS DOING A PORTRAIT WORKSHOP ON WHIDBEY IN JUNE, WE SHOULD GO!” (All caps does indicate shouting and/or excitement). You see, these wonderful workshops and artists usually offer their work/classes further away from our nest, mostly the southwest US or further east. Having one close by was very exciting. Andrew’s response was: “LET’S DO IT!”.

And there we were a few months later, on lovely Whidbey island amidst a familiar rampant bunny population (the university where I work also had the bunny “issue” until they decided a cull was in order) and 14 other eager students, watching and learning from the extremely skilled beauty herself, Teresa. The 4 day workshop was intense sessions of demonstration from Teresa and our attempts to follow her method to a successful process and end piece. I personally experienced a progressive strengthening of understanding and results as the days and exercises went by and Andrew was also very happy with his experience and results. While he rediscovered his native painting style utilizing Teresa’s methods, I learned several key things:

  • Look more, paint less
    • I can’t emphasize this enough. Slowing down and spending time looking at your subject and considering the whole composition is critical for me. I tend to push work out, hoping that the next one will be better. Now, I promise myself to slow down and really look, really see, really paint what I want to be there.
  • Keep your colours clean on the palette and on your brushes
    • Which means I need more brushes! and smaller ones too – I tend to order large brushes!)
  • Thick over thin
  • Maintain a basic process: block it in, lay down the colour, finish
    • Avoid “drawing” in the blocking in step – and never, ever outline
  • Increase harmony by incorporating reflective colour from the environment and clothing into the portrait itself
  • Include a balance of warm and cool colours
    • This is something I need to do/research more, as I don’t seem to get it
  • Make it POP!
    • Include clean bold colours as way to create interest
  • Avoid too many hard edges because it makes the eye jump around the painting
  • Soften edges often
Brandy, oil, 16"x20"
Brandy, oil, 16″x20″

When we returned home, we didn’t want to stop learning so on our single day left of time off, we went plein air painting. We both more or less used the same process of blocking in, laying in colour and finishing, but this time on landscape pieces. I found it to be a very calming and satisfying process. Whereas before I’d be in a rush to get things to the point of really seeing where the painting was going (which could take up most of the time in the session), the block-in step gives you a fast and strong impression of composition, tonal values and focal point. When that is all set, I found myself way more relaxed, knowing that I simply needed to capture the light, colour and values of the scene in front of me. It allowed me to incorporate soft edges and focus on the lights and the darks which would draw the eye in.

Summer on the Gorge, plein air oil, 8"x10"
Summer on the Gorge, plein air oil, 8″x10″

Not only did the workshop help us grow our skill and knowledge of portrait painting, it also helped move our landscape work to another level. All I need now is more time to paint!

To that end, we have a camping and painting trip planned this summer. I can’t wait!