A House Portrait

It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.
Author Unknown

This house portrait was thoughtfully commissioned by a friend as a surprise Christmas gift for her mother after she had seen some of the urban sketching I’d done.

Their house, like many, has allot of sentiment as it was built by her parents more than 30 years ago to be the home to raise their family in and now, the next generation of grandchildren are finding comfort there as well.

House portraits preserve a moment in time -a first home, a family home, a home in a specific season. (pets can also be included in the house portrait.)

Do you have a home, business or building you would like a momento of? Perhaps even a gift to a client. You can email me or send a picture of your home via post and I can produce a hand-rendered 8″ x 10″ ink and watercolor portrait on watercolor paper or illustration board. Once the pictures and details are in hand -it takes approx. 2 weeks to complete the portrait. Please don’t hesitate to enquire!

House Portrait
House Portrait, Watercolour & Ink, 9″ x 12″


Breathing Space in Barcelona

The haunting of history is ever present in Barcelona. I see cities as organisms, as living creatures. To me, Madrid is a man and Barcelona is a woman. And it’s a woman who’s extremely vain.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

After our days in the urban core of Amsterdam huddled winter clothes, we found some space to breathe.  We spent 5 sunny December days in this hot spot of Spain rambling down and hiking up A LOT! but we made up for the exercise with generous amounts of food & wine.

Charming views were at ones disposal every other city block. For example, this time-worn church that reflected it’s warmth into the courtyard where we lounged over espresso & tapas.

14th century Catalan Gothic church in Barcelona, Spain
14th century Catalan Gothic church in Barcelona, Spain

My Sketchbook came in handy many times during our European jaunt. Many hours were spent waiting for planes, trains &  automobiles. I packed a travel size kit of art supplies for moments such as these.

Sketch at El Prat airport, Barcelona. Ball point pen, Moleskine journal.
Sketch at El Prat airport, Barcelona. Ball point pen, Moleskine journal.

Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi, & Gaudi. The Catalan architects influence is evident throughout Barcelona. It was underfoot in the walkways and countless buildings as well.

I was amazed with the architecture and craftsmanship at the Ssagrada de Familia!
I was amazed with the architecture and craftsmanship at the Sagrada de Familia!
Gaudi designed these chimney pots for Casey Milan to look like the helmets of knights.
Gaudi designed these chimney pots for Casey Milan to look like the helmets of knights.
Paving stones on Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Paving stones on Las Ramblas, Barcelona

We couldn’t get around and see all of the sites but tackled as many as we could! I’ll come back. 

Next stop: Bulgaria! Our objective there is to spend time with our friend Amalia who moved to Sunny Beach a few years ago with her husband Matt. 

Rome: Virtual Paintout

Piazza del Paradiso, Virtual Paintout
Piazza del Paradiso, Rome, Italy (coloured pencil & watercolour) for the Virtual Paintout.


I participated in the Virtual Paintout again this December. The area to focus on was Rome, Italy.

Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.

Giotto di Bondone

I have never been to Rome but as I have recently returned from Amsterdam, Barcelona & Paris. I can imagine to a small degree what it could be like: Narrow, cobbled streets lined with tall antiquated buildings (by my Victoria, BC standards, where some of the oldest buildings are 135-140 years old. Only babies by European or Asian standards!) in various states of decay/preservation, with cafe tables in every other doorway. I’ll get there eventually but for now, this surrogate ramble through the medium of Streetview with have to suffice.

While doing research for the Virtual Paintout the contrast of warm stucco against the cool sky caught my eye this time around. I also like the the negative space, the slightly cock-eyed “X” of the sky.

If your curious to see a glimpse of how Piazza del Paradiso appears in Streetview, click the link here, but remember you’ll need to crank your head way up to get the perspective.


Vritual Paintout
Artist’s Playroom
Paint Party Friday
Paint Party Friday


Fast, Slow and a Series

An assortment of crows. All are acrylics except centre right which is watercolor on birch panel.


What can be learned by doing things really fast?  Or really slow? Or in a series?


Many artists painted have the same subject over and over, from different angles (Monet’s Waterlilies) and others have painted the subject repeatedly looking the same (Warhol’s Marilyn silkscreens) in an effort to show that even with endless amounts of reproduction where on the surface they appear the same, the small smears and clogs give an individuality to each piece. Even in my attempts to manually reproduce the same familiar image from memory, each time there would be variations to the theme. Some I liked and of course others not so much.

What I found is that each time I repeat a subject (such as a  bird) I become more aware of :

*the textures & highlights

*the shape & proportion

*the body language & movement

*seemingly subtle things such as the highlights of an eye can draw your attention

*the addition of a tiny prop like a cigarette can change the attitude



I hadn’t tried to give myself a time limit until I applied to compete in Art Battle, along with a few friends (Buddy System!).

My first reaction to the challenge was trepidation but the more I thought about it the old saying of “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” was lingering in the back of my mind.  That’s when I made the dive and sent in an application, only then to panic with my acceptance!

I needed a plan of action so our group, which we soon dubbed “the A-Team” (an attempt to take on the strength & ingenuity of these iconic characters) put into motion several practice sessions, complete with timers, distractions and loud music (we had to learn to block these things out).  We tried new images and old familiar ones to the point where it began to feel that our hands began to form a memory of their own for the twists and turns required, endeavoring to become more efficient in the movements each time. The results did surprise me at times and really made me consider whether some of the long drawn out hours necessarily paid off?

The day of the competition was loaded with adrenalin, unfamiliar materials and faces but I’m certainly glad I did it. Will I compete again? Only the future will tell but in the meantime I have a collection of birds in various sizes and shapes to contemplate and learn from 🙂


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Virtual Paintout Ireland, Dreaming of Grand Houses, Forests & Lakes.

Virtual Paintout Ireland

Muckross House, Virtual Paintout Ireland
Muckross House, Virtual Paintout Ireland
Muckross House

I participated in the Virtual Paintout Ireland this month. The area to focus on was County Kerry.

It  was very easy to “wander” the streets and pathways for hours through Google Streetview this month. It seemed every time you turned a corner that there was another beautiful lake, a fine old pub, stone cottages, and little churches overlooking another pastoral scene.

I chose another tall building, maybe I’m attracted to the distortion of the upward angle.

Muckross House is located in Ireland’s  Killarney National Park and was built in 1843  for the politician Henry Herbert.

Muckross House, County Kerry Ireland as seen through Google Streetview.
Muckross House, County Kerry Ireland as seen through Google Streetview.

If your curious to see a glimpse of how Muckross House appears in Streetview, click the link here


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Traveling the world -virtually!


Nils Ericson Central Train Station. Watercolor and sepia, Virtual Paintout
Nils Ericson Central Train Station. Watercolor and sepia ink on 90 lb. hot press paper.

Gothenburg, Sweden is on the other side of the world from me &  I have never had the pleasure of visiting there but it is this University town where my brother in law lives & works which is why this months Virtual Paintout Challenge caught my attention.

“A good traveller is one who knows how to travel with the mind.” -Michael Bassey-Johnson

A few months ago I found this particular painting challenge which Bill Guffey began in 2009. The idea intrigued me and I have been meaning to try it but this month location gave me the extra motivation to finally put pen and brush to paper.

The general concept of the Virtual Paintout challenge is to use Google Street View as source of inspiration and reference for painting and sketching. No matter where in the world you live, if you are lucky enough to have access to the Internet you can cruise the streets from the view point of a camera mounted on the roof of a Google car. While you certainly have plenty of urban scenes to choose from there are also rural landscapes,  people or animals to be discovered too.

For the last year I’ve been practicing my urban sketching locally so I thought I would be up to this challenge. Once I zoomed in on the locale selected what I came across was very intriguing.  I was cruising the streets,  peering into alleyways and parks,  glimpsing people having lunch in outdoor cafés,  passing cyclists and wondering “Are they going to work or school? “. Part of the test is deciding on an image and while you can submit more than one entry they all that you limit it to three per month.

Shall I do another or wait to see what neck of the woods Bill chooses next?

Check out Bill Guffey’s site. :


P.S. I came across this article after I did my painting.  They’re so tempting I’m going to need to try some of them too!


Summer Flies By (with sketch experiments)


The Red Head was illustrated with the Magic pencil in Fire (yellow, orange & magenta) by Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth
The Red Head was illustrated with the Magic pencil in Fire (yellow, orange & magenta) by Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth

It has been both a busy and lazy summer so far. Here’s a sampling of some of the sketch experiments I’ve been doing:

Shortly after my last post regarding the sale of my painting at the Red Art Gallery in Mystery Art Show in June I took my proceeds down to Artworld, a locally owned & operated store to reinvest in a few basic supplies but also to indulge in some new toys such as several kinds of non-traditional paper, watercolour paper & some Magic Color pencils by Koh-i-noor!

I have been making great efforts to use a sketchbook to do a sketch experiment  in daily as it doesn’t have the same sort of pressure associated with it as a pricey canvas or large sheet of paper. In my book that I have with me constantly I have been having great fun with the Magic pencils. Here’s a few examples:

Tropical eyes
Eyes done in Tropical (yellow, aqua blue & purple) Magic Color pencil by Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth.


Cupped palms drawn with Magic pencil America Red by Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth.
Cupped palms drawn with Magic pencil America Red (red, white & blue) by Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth.

Part of what I have been enjoying the most about these pencils is the randomness of the colour placement which can allow me to think outside the box when it comes to color associations and their traditional uses.  While you are in control of establishing a general color gamut you just never know which is going to land on the line or how is will morph see during a long stroke where the angle of the pencil changes and the top wears down.

There are always a myriad of colour choices that will work in any situation, as long as the tonal value is appropriate. (Gaye Adams)



Mystery Art Show Revealed!

The Mystery Art Show is now over!

Quadra Island boat painting, art show
“Quadra Island boat” is ink & watercolour painting on wood cradle board, 10″ × 10″. SOLD

I’m happy to say that my painting “Quadra Island Boat” sold yesterday via Red Art Gallery! I’m to see it off to a happy new home.

I shallook forward to participating again in the future and meeting many more local artists. 

Is like to extend my thanks to Bob & Marion for hosting this fun event!