Posted tagged ‘painting’

Books on Painting Water and Bird Photography

July 21, 2017

I want to do up a small watercolour and coloured pencil drawing of a sandpiper to represent a story from my father’s childhood. Now that he’s dead I’d like to get this done and framed. I was going to use Stonehenge paper because I want to do it on a toned surface with minimal background. Strathmore has a new toned mixed media paper that is heavyweight and can take watercolour better but it doesn’t seem to be in Canada yet, so I might wait a bit to see if it shows up in art supply stores in a few weeks, hopefully it won’t take months and months which is the usual way of distributing supplies here.

So for preliminaries I was looking for good photo references. There are several types of sandpipers here and sanderlings as well. Not knowing the particular species, I found a photo of a Western Sandpiper and a Sanderling in books by Glenn Bartley: Birds of British Columbia: A Photographic Journey, published in 2013, and Birds of Vancouver Island: A Photographic Journey, published in 2010 that will be useful.


I like photographic bird books because you can so easily see the exact birds that might be around you. Even my field guide for birds can be confusing, so I loved these two books and see all kinds of references that might be useful for drawing some of my favourite birds.

The other two books I bought are (surprise!) watercolour and pen and ink books on techniques for drawing and painting water and weather, coastal scenes, rivers, rainy streets, rocks, spray, glittering light on water, all kinds of scenarios.


The first is by Claudia Nice, Down by the Sea with Brush & Pen: Draw and Paint Beautiful Coastal Scenes. I have about five of Claudia’s books and they are excellent, and she uses different media. She really covers everything in this, from rough seas to coastal trees, even dogs and children playing at the beach.

The second is by Ron Hazell called The Artist’s Guide to Painting Water in Watercolor: 30 Techniques, and he too has some comprehensive scenes and much information on the way light behaves on water and how to paint that, how to paint reflections.

I just need to wait for the right paper.







Beefing Up Gouache Palette and Brushes

June 26, 2017

One of the fairly local art supply places has a big sale on so I added four more colours to my gouache palette. While fiddling around doing decorative initials and drop caps on my Manner and Material blog, I realized that it was either too laborious to mix certain colours or mixing used too much white, so I bought these on sale. The Winsor Violet cost a lot but it will be so useful and I felt lost without Burnt Sienna. Opera Rose was an indulgence and the Olive Green is one I use quite a bit in regular watercolours so it made sense to buy a tube of gouache in that colour too.


While browsing Instagram and looking at people’s watercolours, I saw one woman mention the Escoda Versàtil brand of synthetic sable brushes as being great and holding up to lots of mixing. To date, I have only used relatively inexpensive brushes that don’t last very long, but these Escoda brushes were on sale so I bought a #4 and a #6 round. I use those most often and could only afford two so this was my decision. I will take good care of them!





Books on Owls and Colour Mixing Recipes

January 23, 2017

I placed an order at an art supply shop to beef up my collection of Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. Although I have 60 colours, I was short on the warm and cool grey selections which are good for animal fur and feathers. I ended up getting 18 colours, so I’ll be up to 78 colours in total with this set. I initially bought a set of 24 pencils and then this will be my third order over several years to get the particular colours I find useful.

I was going to try the Caran d’Ache Luminance or Pablo coloured pencils but the cost is way too much. Besides, I like the oil-based Polychromos and want to stick with them. Then I was looking at the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastel crayons and I realized I was just looking for the sake of looking. Back to reality.

I thought I’d also order a drafting template for small lettering. I got the Alvin Standard Lettering Guide TD112 that uses size: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, which is pretty small, but makes neat and tidy text.


I threw in a couple of Faber-Castell PITT pens because no one here sells them. I bought a back-up Sepia Superfine pen and a new-to-me Sanguine colour in the Fine size. I love their sepia colour and I think Sanguine might look good for buildings and lettering.

I occasionally buy photographic books for drawing references. I have used my reptiles book so much I thought I’d get one on owls, and I liked the photos in this and the huge amount of information on global species of owls.

Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide by Heimo Mikeola looks terrific and it gets great reviews. He is originally from Finland and has spent 40 years researching and photographing owls; a noted expert who obviously knows his stuff judging by the sample pages I saw of this book.


I dithered over this book because it’s better that people learn to mix their own colours when painting. I’m not too bad when mixing watercolour but in planning a large acrylic piece I wanted a reference for mixing particular colours, so I ordered the book 1500 Color Mixing Recipes by William F. Powell. This is one of those handy Walter Foster publications that have such good information.


I saw an excellent tutorial on YouTube for drawing rabbit fur with Polychromos coloured pencils so it got me all fired up. I still have a shoulder injury and tendinitis bothering me but I’m going to try doing small pictures at least. I’m sure a suitable owl with appear in the new book.

I also want to draw a sandpiper because of a story about a sandpiper from my Dad’s childhood, and due to his recent death I’ve been thinking about that. It’s a bit harder to find a large photo of a suitable bird but I’ll keep watch for one. I have some scraps of grey or cream Stonehenge paper that would do well for this.



Biographies and Art Technique Books

January 17, 2017

I bought 4 new books and 2 used books that looked interesting for biography art techniques.

1) How to Draw & Paint Animals: Learn to Draw with Colored Pencil Step by Step by Debra Kauffman Yaun – another excellent Walter Foster publication, and a large format with few pages like their older publications. Many good steps and tips in this without the usual interminable pages of supplies that many publishers use to pad out their books.


2) No Excuses Watercolor Animals: A Field Guide to Painting by Gina Rossi Armfield – I rather like Gina’s exuberant, loose style which is accurate but so different from the precious approach to painting tedious art that looks like a photograph. Again, no 21 pages of supply discussion padding out the substance of the book.


3) Colored Pencil Cats & Dogs: Art & Instruction from 80 Colored Pencil Artists by Ann Kullberg – Each artist has a picture and a page of remarks and tips. I love this kind of book where you can get inspiration without copying a tutorial.


4) John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes – A recent biography recommended by several newspapers. The print is a bit small but I’m enjoying it as I knew nothing of his life.


These two I bought used on ABE so it will take a while to get them. I have read two other biographies by Mary S. Lovell, so was interested in the one that she did on the Churchill family. She doesn’t include everyone but some of the well-known Churchills and family history.

5) The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell – I bought an older edition paperback and it’s not as fancy as the newer and larger books with photos of the family on the cover. Winston Churchill wrote his own biography of his famous ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough, but I wanted something lighter.


6) Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon – I wanted to re-read the biography of Dickinson My Wars Are Laid Away in Books by Alfred Habegger, but it was tedious to read I thought I’d try another approach and bought this for $1.


I joined a new book group for this year where you keep track of what you read each month (something I always forget to do), and they also read a book together each month. I recently got an app for our tablet for reading eBooks, and it wasn’t as hard on the eyes as I expected so I am enjoying reading the first two classic books.

Years ago I used to be on several book groups on Yahoo Groups, but they changed the format on Yahoo which made it more difficult to read and reply to messages, so I gave up and left them all. I miss talking to people about books though, and part of the fun is checking other people’s lists of books and finding new authors of fiction and new non-fiction reads on fascinating subjects.









Embroidery History, Painting History, Pema Chodron, and Books

October 26, 2014

What does Pema Chodron have to do with embroidery and painting? Nothing directly, but after getting her book Taking the Leap out from the library and viewing some of her videos on YouTube, I thought I’d buy inexpensive paperbacks of four of her other books so I have a readily available collection. Short but punchy, full of the reality of life for us all and some helpful measures to accept that.


Due to my interest in history and needlework, if I find good books on the subject, I try to get them, preferably used. I managed to find all four books by Thomasina Beck that are mostly out of print. The latest, Gardening with Silk and Gold is a revised edition of an earlier book Embroidered Gardens. I love parterres and plants in needlework, so these all looked good with a large dose of history and photographs.


After seeing a television documentary on the painter Edouard Manet for the second time, I decided to buy a used copy of the book The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe that I ordered and read from the library some years ago. It is just too good so I want to read it again and get my husband to read it too.


I often say on this blog that I am just sneaking in a book before the money runs out, but when I buy used books it allows me to sneak more in!

Who am I kidding, books are my life.



Artist John Saarniit – From Estonia to Canada

October 24, 2013

In the house where I grew up,  my parents had a painting in the living room that always fascinated me. It was done on location near Midland, Ontario by artist John W. Saarniit. This painting shows up in a number of family photographs over the years, and I can remember gazing at it and making stories about it when I was young. In this photograph, I am standing with my siblings in front of the painting circa 1961. That’s me in the lower left.


The painting is now hanging in my dining room and every time I look at it it gives me joy. The frame is unusual by today’s standards, and there is a plaque at the bottom of the frame that says “By John W. Saarniit”.


Click to enlarge this one.




Saarniit’s Art Gallery

Sunnybrook Plaza

660 Eglinton Ave. e. Toronto

567 Roehampton Ave. (hand written below printed address)

BY J. W. Saarniit

TITLE Place Near Midland

PRICE $90.00

#27 is hand-written in the upper right of the label.

A second label gives the address more fully on a printed card as 567 Roehampton Ave., Toronto. It looks like he moved the gallery at some point. As you can see, the phone numbers are very short and use alphabetical designations (I am assuming “HU” stands for Hudson), proof that Toronto was very small in the old days.


When I looked Mr. Saarniit up I found scant information, but I saw another blogger with a similar picture. The artist is dead now, and considering how popular he was and the newspaper and magazine articles about him, it seems a shame that there is not more information about him.

So for all the people trying to track down some information on J.W. Saarniit, I have typed up verbatim, the sheet of paper that is attached to the back of our family’s painting. He seems to have had a trying time but persevered and was successful as an artist, once settled in Canada.


Saarniit was born in Estonia in May of 1909. From 1925-1932 he studied with the Academy of Arts in Tallinn, Estonia, and graduated with a diploma in 1939. He studied in several European countries: Finland, Sweden, Poland. He has independent exhibitions of his paintings in Estonia, Finland, Russia (1943), Denmark (1947), Sweden, Stockholm (1948), Canada, Halifax, N.S., Lord Nelson Hotel (1948), Toronto, Laing Gallery (1949), Montreal (1950), 1951–1953 coast to coast, London, Ont., University of Toronto, Peterborough, Winnipeg, Oshawa, Vancouver etc.

In 1941, when Russia suddenly invaded and occupied the Baltic States, he was conscripted into the Russian Army and later Saarniit was thrown into a concentration camp in Siberia. With many difficulties he managed to escape from the concentration camp across the battlefields, and fled through Nazi-Germany to Finland. While living in Sweden he organized, for the first time in history, an anti-Communist exhibition.

In the Fall of 1948 Saarniit with many other countrymen, crossed the Atlantic Ocean by small boat and arrived at Halifax, N.S. The Immigration authorities of Canada recognized the artist Saarniit as a legal immigrant. Articles have been written about him and his works in newspapers and magazines of which only a few may be mentioned here: Halifax Chronicle, Halifax Herald, The Standard, Chicago Tribune, Toronto Star, The Telegram, The Globe and Mail, London Press, Time etc.

At the end of this long voyage, Saarniit has found a new and friendly country, Canada, where he is settling down and has learned to know the beauty of this country which he tries to show in his paintings. Saarniit is highly recognized by art critics.

We had good family friends who were from Estonia (we think they gave this artwork to my parents), plus Midland, Ontario was where our closest family friends kept their boat, and the father drowned there, so it’s important to me to have this picture for those reasons as well.

I was reading through meditations last night from the book by Deng Ming-Dao called 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, and it talks about the world being terrible and full of suffering, and yet we can also enjoy happiness when it comes to us.

“Life has its sad and happy moments. I accept them all. Life has its times of dispassion and utter serenity. Those are the moments that I seek. They give me my path through the myriad phenomena of this existence.”

So here’s to the John Saarniits of the world, who go through terrible times and suffering but find a path to serenity through their art, and pass it on.



The Great Purse Thingy Visual

June 17, 2008

I took my fabric paint out to the sunporch and mixed a batch of Ultramarine and Cobalt and did these leaves and also painted over some of the flowers on the print to pick up the overall tones. I was aiming for a retro look, hoping to update the fabric slightly from the 80s floral print that I overdyed. It’s kind of cute.

This trapezoid purse is very small but after lugging my humongous, ratty tapestry purse around for 12 years I’m looking forward to skipping about with this one and its matching wallet. I could get very used to sewing up a few bags for myself now and then.

Here’s a snap of the bag with the strap basted on ready to sew together with the lining. Oh, and the buckram worked beautifully for the interlining.