Woodland Nursery part 4: Watercolour paintings

watercolour paintings of fox and fawn

Fox & Fawn watercolour paintings by Nancy Hildebrand 2014

These two little creatures are ready to populate our woodland nursery. I didn’t realize how quick it would be to do these paintings. Usually, I do watercolours that cover the entire page so more time is required for each stage. These sketches took about 10 or 15 minutes each. I applied a little masking fluid to places I wanted to keep white.

animal sketches

Sketches with masking fluid, waiting to be painted.

I had a busy week, so didn’t get back to these forest friends until the weekend. The first phase of watercolour took about half an hour each, then I had to let them dry. I used my Roussillon pigments on the fawn – a lot of the colours were perfect. I so seldom get a chance to do watercolour that many of my paint tubes are dried up. But I can still just get the colour straight out of the tube onto the brush by dampening the dried paint.

Meanwhile, our family went for a hike to enjoy the +8 C weather and sunshine. My daughter didn’t want to go at first, because she was so enjoying the relaxing family day at home in her pajamas, so we just let her wear them on the hike. The kids were immediately having a grand time hiking up mountain bike trails. They found the look out especially exciting, because they could see our grocery store and street from above.

view of Fraser Valley from Sumas Mountain

pregnancy photo on mountaintop

Me, 31 weeks pregnant

Back at home, I was able to remove the masking fluid and put the finishing touches on the paintings. This little project has reminded me how quick watercolour can be…if I practiced more often I could get better at these.

fawn painting fox painting 2

Woodland nursery part 3: Fox and Fawn

My daughter loves to paint, and over the years I’ve learned to let her paint along with me sometimes, although I am naturally quite solitary when I’m working on creative projects. I had seen a cute painting of a fox here, and I thought it would be a fun addition to the “Woodland nursery” we’re creating.

painting a fox with watercolour paint

My daughter and I got out the watercolours for her first lesson using “real” watercolour paint and paper.

I find a lot of people are nervous to try watercolour. I started with this medium, so I quite like the effect you can get on real watercolour paper – the way the paint dries and the colours mix on the paper. We used rag paper out of a book I have. It quickly became clear that sketching this fox shape wasn’t going to be an easy lesson for a seven-year-old, so she claimed my first sketch and I drew myself another one.

fox watercolour paintings

Two foxes

I plan to paint another one to fit into a pair of white antiqued frames I bought for the woodland wall. We’ll also try painting fawns like this one.

watercolor fox

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.