Cousins Art Lesson

girls art lessonWhen my sister’s family visited in August, I wanted to take time to do some art with my niece, who has always been interested in learning to try mixed media art. The family drove all the way to British Columbia from Michigan in five days, and we spent 4 days together. It wasn’t until the very last evening that I was able to squeeze in a mini art lesson. My daughter and her cousin really enjoyed this experience together.

2015-08-09 21.40.12

My niece’s painting of an ocean and shore (in progress) – the finished painting included a tree on the shore.

I’ve never really taught an art lesson (OK, I guess I did in my daughter’s Grade 1 class last year). But I sure learned lots from this experience. For example, with only an hour or two (or five) to work on the painting, it would have been good to paint a simple scene, and have all the students work on the same thing. This would have made it easier to coach the group and use a limited palette of colours and supplies. It was also interesting working with the personalities of young girls (giddy tired young girls) and to help them have fun and finish their project that they would feel proud of.

My daughter's painting, in progress.

My daughter’s painting, in progress.

Cliff watercolour

watercolour palletteI’m kind of excited to be writing a post that is not baby-related! I decided to just pick up my watercolours today and do some “fun” paintings. I find it so much easier to work on art when the pressure is off – I’m not working on a big canvas, but rather what looked like scraps of watercolour paper.

I am inspired by nature, and if you are following me on instagram you will see that I spend a lot of time out in the forest. So today I decided to also paint what inspires me! Below are just some snapshots of the process of painting a mossy cliff landscape.

watercolour process

Step 1

watercolour forest

Step 2 – still wet

watercolour scenery

Step 3 (I think this is just Step 2 after it dried)

mixed media watecolour painting

Step 4 – added more colour and texture with pastels, watercolour pencils, and more paint.


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.