Birthday at Vancouver Art Gallery: Jock MacDonald and dragons

Vancouver Art Gallery 2014

5-year-old's sketches of dragons at VAG

5-year-old’s sketches of dragons at VAG

Yesterday we made a family trek to the Vancouver Art Gallery for my birthday. I’ve always wanted to go on a Sunday when they have family activities to engage our kids better. The main exhibit right now is “The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors.” Clipboards in hand, the kids sought their favourite dragon representations to draw as they explored the exhibit.

brush painting Chinese characters

Using water and brushes, these templates allowed us to practice some Chinese characters that looked just like ink.

Next we zipped up to the fourth floor where a table of craft supplies was provided for making Dragon collages. Our kids loved this craft and put lots of thought into their designs.

7-year-old's dragon collage

7-year-old’s dragon collage

5-year-old's dragon collage

5-year-old’s dragon collage






Meanwhile the adult artist in me was snatching glimpses of the Jock MacDonald exhibit on the third floor. I had read about this painter in art school, and three years ago when I read the Painters Eleven book. Another artist has captured a few highlights of the book here.

The paintings showed very clear stages in the artist’s work. I most enjoyed the abstract paintings, especially “Nature Evolving” and a few others that featured a combination of yellows, browns and turquoise green. I’m planning to experiment with these colours now.

Nature Evolving - Jock MacDonald

Nature Evolving – Jock MacDonald

Poplars on paper

At the same time as I started the last painting (Autumn Poplars), I also started one on paper. This one is not quite finished but here are some progress photos.

paint on paper

Step 1 – on a piece of rag paper, I just started painting.

Painting in progress

Step 2: Toning it down and adding texture with used expresso grinds mixed in gesso.

painting in progress

Step 3: Messy “underpainting” stage.

forest landscape painting in progress.

Step 4 – current state, but not finished.

Autumn poplars

poplar trees in autumn
On Thanksgiving Monday, we went for a hike with my brother-in-law and nieces. We came to this clearing, and I was taken by the contrast of the poplar grove tree trunks against the dark background, and the autumn colours in the foreground. I decided to try to paint a couple of small sketches to capture this scene.

Disclaimer: I should probably use a better camera than my phone for these progress photos! Sorry! I think it looks quite a bit better in real life.

collage artwork in progress

Step one – sometimes just starting a collage is a good way to build the surface, so you aren’t staring at a blank canvas.

collage painting in progress

Step 2 – I added a light grey sky and roughed in the forest texture with gesso and espresso grinds.

forest painting in progress collage mixed media

Step 3 – painted in the dark background of the forest.

mixed media painting in progress

Step 4 – added more colour. I guess I just really like colour.

mixed media painting in progress

Step 5 – painted in the forest and started adding layers of colours.

mixed media landscape painting

Step 6 – added some dry-brushing and noise using things like pastels. I think it is finished.



Eclectic Cottage Art

As I mentioned in my last post, we traveled to Oregon in the summer and we stayed in a comfortable cottage within walking distance of the beach. I didn’t have much time to think about art, being quite busy with the kids. But I did take some {really bad} snapshots of some of the artwork around the cottage. I enjoyed the variety of artwork, and the different styles and skill levels.
cottage art 3This top one was neat just because it captured the experience our children were having. While it portrays a different time period, the essence of their play and enjoyment of the coast was the same.
cottage art 1I was most taken by the church painting above. it is representational, and amateurish in style. But I really like it. It made me want to paint and not worry about how things turn out.

cottage art 2The last one here is a very simple watercolour. It captures one of my favourite types of scenes: peaceful lakes! Wilderness.

My point being, I feel inspired to allow myself to get back into painting in all the different styles I’m capable of, from watercolour to realism (in my own non-exact kind of way) to abstract.

Still delighting in leaves


I found these leaves the other day while our family was walking along the Vedder Canal. I delight in collecting leaves, and remembered how much the name of this blog still resonates with me, and sums up the way I experience the creative life.

I’m inspired by leaves; like snowflakes, every leaf is different. I love looking at them, comparing the different patterns. After the luscious perfection of early spring, the leaves’ short lives are marred by insects or disease. But like millions of fresh canvases, each year the results are spectacular.

When I re-branded my blog a few years ago, I tried to combine my love of nature and art in the name “Delight-filled leaves.” This name is a play on the first line of this 1979 Wendell Berry poem:

To sit and look at light-filled leaves
May let us see, or seem to see,
Far backward and through clearer eyes
To what unsighted hope believes:
The blessed conviviality
That sang Creation’s seventh sunrise.

Time when the Maker’s radiant sight
Made radiant every thing He saw,
And every thing He saw was filled
With perfect joy and life and light.
His perfect pleasure was sole law;
No pleasure had become self-willed.

For all His creatures were His pleasures
And their whole pleasure was to be
What He made them; they sought no gain
Or growth beyond their proper measures,
Nor longed for change or novelty.
The only new thing could be pain.

I’m kind of shamelessly geeky on this point – I love nature! And I love seeing this delight rub off on my little ones.

Lillia on rock

child throwing dirt in the air

My little Andy Goldsworthy, making dust art in the forest.


Watercolour painting

watercolour step 1

Steps 1 and 2 of watercolour – ground and masking fluid

I can’t remember the last time I did a watercolour painting that didn’t involve collage, sewing, or other mixed media. I started watercolour when I was 18, and for a few years it was my only medium.

I was stuck in traffic last week, and as usual I spent the time looking at nature along the side of the road. I noticed that the daisies were floating in areas of lighter grass than areas without daisies. As this pattern floated slowly past the window, I thought of doing a watercolour. This painting doesn’t really resemble the scene I was looking at very well, but here it is anyway. Not quite done yet though: have to let the paper dry thoroughly enough to remove the masking fluid, which is usually best left overnight.

cat looking at watercolour painting

The cat watching paint dry with me. There’s a lot of waiting with watercolour.

watercolour in progress

Added more saturation to my ground, and started the grass with raw umber and a mossy green.

watercolour in progress

Lots of grass. Now I just have to wait for the paper to dry (probably a day) before I try to remove the masking fluid and finish it up!