Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Just For A Change

I guess everyone knows by now that I love working in watercolour. It's always been my favourite medium and it always will be.  But every so often, I think a change is good.  I used to work in pastel, but the dust really triggered an asthmatic response, so I had to let that go, and the same thing with oils.  I have to admit that I enjoyed both those mediums, but I'm not going to make myself ill for art.  Especially not when there are other medium choices.   For a long time, I would switch to Coloured Pencil for a little break, especially for animal portraits, and I loved using them.  But Coloured Pencil eventually gets very hard on the hands, so regretfully, I packed them away.  I have to say too, that the quality of the pencils I most often used, fell quite badly, and that had a little something to do with my decision.

                                    Cairn Terrier                Coloured Pencil

So now when I want a little break, I choose Acrylics or Graphite.   There is a lot about Acrylic that I don't like.  I find the paint stiff to work with, I hate the smell, minor as it is, and they do dry very fast! But the painting builds up quickly, mistakes are easily fixed, and the fast drying time adds to the speedy completion of a painting.  So I'm hanging in with this one, trying to understand it's secrets, and make my peace with it.

                                      Jack Russell Terrier       Acrylic

Sometimes I love the challenge of Graphite.  Black and white is so elegant.  But it is nearly impossible to recover from a mistake, and all too easy to make one.  Still, I enjoy the focus required, and the way I have to distill colour into Black, White, and Shades of Grey.  Even a small graphite piece can take a very long time.

                                      Border Collie             Graphite

But when all is said and done, I always love coming back to the watercolours, feeling refreshed from my 'busman's holiday'.

                                    Hasten On Home      Watercolour


Wednesday, June 18, 2014


It's nearly Midsummer.  You can feel that Midsummer magic all around you if you stop, look, and listen.  The birds sing their lovely chorus early in the morning and then a quieter version in the evening after their busy day of food gathering and chick watching is over until tomorrow.  The air is soft and sweet with the fragrance of flowers, both garden and wild, along with the unique scent of newly mown hay.  The little sheltie noses here at Sheltie Hollow never stop twitching, trying to take it all in.

Everywhere, wildflowers are springing up, almost as if everything has suddenly answered a Faery trumpet call.  Overnight there are huge drifts of wild phlox, billowing in the breeze, and frostings of daisies are appearing along the fence lines and road sides.  And don't forget to look for the Fire Flies flickering across the darkness of a mid June field or garden.  These little characters always thrill me.  I like to think they are on their way to light a Faery Ball.

This is a beautiful and bountiful time of year - think asparagus, new lettuce, and strawberries.  Take a moment to stand still in a quiet spot, look around you, listen carefully, and take a deep breath.  The rewards are great.  Oh, as to the name Mid Summer, when it is really the first day of  summer?    The ancient Celtic calendars had Spring arriving in February, so by June, it would have been mid summer by their calendar.   Some things are just too much fun to change.                                                           
Heather Anderson                                                                                                          

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Horse, A Horse!

The first thing I can remember asking for as a little girl, was a HORSE . . . .  I want a HORSE for Christmas, my Birthday, for Easter, PLEASE!  Although I don't how the Easter Bunny was supposed to carry a horse in his little basket of eggs.  Hey, I was only three - I had no idea.
I gave my family members grey hair by racing off to try and touch every horse we came across, and kept hearing, "They'll bite you, they'll kick you, they'll roll on you!", but fortunately I was selectively deaf on this subject.  In the end, I was an adult before I got my horse, and what an adventure he was.  We were together for 19 wonderful years, and I'll miss him until we are riding Heaven's trails together.  (Presumably, my Sweetie will be playing heavenly baseball while I'm riding.)

For years, my painting focus was Horses, and I had the MOST fun going to horse shows big and small,to Jumping, Dressage and Evening, to harness tracks, to county fairs where there was a horse draw, to the harness track and  the Polo matches.  I boldy contacted people who had different breeds of horses to ask if I could visit and take photos of their horses, and nearly all of them were generous enough to welcome me.  I had the joy of hanging out with Friesians, Morgans,  Canadians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Percherons, Connemara Ponies, Saddlebreds, Andalusians and Arabians, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some.  Two major thrills from those days were two stallions, an Andalusian and an Arabian, because both of them were gentle and well mannered enough that I could stand with them and pet them.  Oh, Wow.  

I'm painting mainly dogs now, but every so often, I still need to take a trip down memory lane and paint a horse memory.  And every so often, I need to get to a horse show and find a horse who needs a soft nose rub.  These beautiful creatures have been part of  my life, one way or another, all my life, and that won't change.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014


It's always a joy to be asked to paint someone's beautiful dog, cat, or horse.  But I am an artist who finds Commissions very stressful.  Maybe it's the perfectionist in me.  Years ago when I was doing a lot of shows that ranged from CKC All Breed Dog Shows, to major horse shows in the area, to art shows, I would almost always leave a show with commissions.   It became something of a tradition at the big dog show I went to each year, for a dog to finish their championship and the owner would come to me for a portrait.  I always had a waiting list in the Fall, and I reveled in it.  Until I didn't.  At some point, the pressure got too much for me and I severely cut back on Commission work.   I still do Commissions, but far fewer than I used to, and I'm enjoying them so much more.  I also decided it was time to leave the shows.  They just weren't fun anymore, and you need the fun aspect to counter the massive amount of work that goes into them.

So how do I do a Commission?  Where do I start?  First I need several good photos, as one picture never tells the whole story. And using several photos enriches the creativity of the piece.  Once I've decided what I'm doing, I do a detailed hand done drawing on newsprint - I make most of my mistakes there, as they are easily erased and re-worked.  Then I  trace my own image using tracing paper that I then cover with graphite and re-trace onto the watercolour paper or canvas.   If any of the lines are too dark, I will use a gum eraser to pick up some of the graphite.    Then I begin painting and slowly develop the colour.  Naturally, by this time, I already have the client's intitial approval.                                                         

It can take weeks sometimes, to get to the point I can call the painting Finished.                                                              
One of the tricky little things about commissions is that it's not enough for the dog to look like the breed, if indeed, you are painting a pure bred.  Each dog within a breed has his/her own looks, and it's imperative to catch that difference.  I'll close by showing you two portraits I did of two sweet Cocker Spaniels, each the same colour, but each one has a unique face.

Heather Anderson