Speed painting

A small sketch completed in 20 minutes of a night market.

A small sketch completed in 20 minutes of a night market.

I have been practicing for Friday’s Art Battle painting competition, and have learned so much! I didn’t realize speed painting was a thing, but it’s fun. With the way my week has been going, there is no way under normal circumstances I would have made half a dozen paintings! This experience has gotten me painting. Here are a few of the things I’ve been working through:


The number of brushes and tools needed to make one of my 20-minute paintings.

The number of brushes and tools needed to make one of my 20-minute paintings.

I’ve relied heavily on the mixed media style over the past ten years. I love being able to build up my pieces using collage and pastels and coffee and leaves etc. I have only occasionally attempted a painting with ONLY acrylic paint. I don’t love it! Plus, a lot of my paint is drying up so I’ve had to concoct some substitute colours for the palette I’ll be using at art battle. This takes a lot of time! But I’m learning what I can create with this palette and how to replace some of my favourite colours by mixing something similar.


Normally I paint in stages, working on a piece and then letting it dry for weeks before I get back to working on it again. Considering I’m parenting three kids, this is not surprising. And my “studio” is just a corner of the kitchen. So working on a complete acrylic painting from start to finish in 20 minutes has taught me so much about which order to apply the paint, which tools I need on hand (the vast number of brushes!) and how to get the most bang for my buck quickly.

Prioritizing has also been hard. I’ve had a particularly busy week, with my husband being both in school and working all weekend, finding myself solo-parenting a lot. There was one day where I just asked my kids for 20 minutes to work on a sketch. My oldest daughter babysat our 7-month-old, which was great, but my 6-year-old quickly lost interest in watching me paint and started pestering me for a brownie! I banished him to another room. The next day, I found a package of macaroni in my husband’s boot. I realized he had opened it to eat the cheese powder! He confessed that he had just been so hungry that he ate it while I was painting. I felt like the worst mom ever at that moment! But as all parents know, these sometimes crazy and funny things happen and I have to keep going and try to balance everyone’s needs and demand.


I currently have five ideas for my painting for round 1 of the art battle, and I am trying to practice each one and see which one is truly attainable with wet paint in 20 minutes. I want to be true to my own style while at the same time playing with new ideas. It’s easy to look at past art battle images and want to imitate the winning styles – for example, everyone connects with portraits. But it’s not my style! I think both abstract landscapes and cityscapes are my style. Abstract expressionism is something that works for me in a time crunch.


I signed up for this art battle as a risk-taking experiment. I just took the plunge. Any time I have done this sort of thing, it’s helped me move forward. This is going to be terrifying and exhilarating! My goal is not to win, but to show up. It may be really hard – it might not turn out – my painting may not sell or get any votes. But for me, this is about putting myself out there, being real, and just showing up.


Competing in Art Battle Canada!

I am setting aside my 7 month old baby (safely in the excersaucer) to announce something crazy, challenging, vulnerable…..

I am going to paint in a public competition! Art Battle 312 in Abbotsford, BC. Art battle is a public event where several local artist get 20 minutes to create a painting using materials supplied to us. The winners of the first two rounds face of in the final round.

Normally I paint slowly. And in stages. And on a flat table. Alone. With mixed media techniques. So needless to say I’m excited and terrified right now. This is probably the bravest thing I have done since I finished reading “The Artist’s Way” and started studying at Emily Carr University over ten years ago.

So, if you live in the area, come out and support me at the event. Tickets are available here:


Now time to clear my schedule and practice.

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