Art and Positive Thinking

Welcome to my Renee Loves Art blog!

My focus is exploring, creating and reflecting upon the positives of life and connecting them to my art whether it be photography, pen and ink drawings, watercolour paintings, mixed media, digital media or any other possible media I dive into!

I hope you join me on my art adventure!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Positively Fortunate

Positively fortunate is what I feel when reflecting upon my experiences with my family.  In celebration of both my mom, dad and their own families, I have created this art as a Christmas gift for them. Now that Christmas has been celebrated, I can now reveal to you what I have been working on the past few weeks.

There are a lot of symbols in this art.  The two trees represent two families joining together- both different, but common in values, strength and importance.

The curve of the branches, the movement of the colours, and the horses next to the automobiles, the baby and the teenager photographs all represent change over time and the flexibility that is required to accept the change.

The flowers symbolize the love, patience and kindness that my grandmothers and mother have given to nourish their gardens and families to help them to grow strong and beautiful.

The wheat in the middle represents hard word and dedication my grandfathers had in being drylanders, fathers and grandfathers.

Hidden symbols flow throughout the piece... children, a handwritten message, musical notes and a passage from my favourite author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, all representing some of my own passions or special gifts that my family members have given me.  My mom is hidden in the picture with her brother and two sisters.  I included them all together in hope that one day soon they can rekindle their love and friendships they once had for each other.  My mom is also hidden in every brushstroke and her kind words of encouragement are always in my heart and head.

I have always had high regard for my dad and place him up on a pedestal. I have always admired his patience, humour, kindness and musical talents.  For this reason, I have placed him in various locations. Like my mom, he has always been there for me, no matter where I am.  In this art piece, Dad is high in the sky like on a pedestal of nature.

Both mom and dad have helped us all to become who we are today.  We are eternally grateful for them. They are the sunshine that brightens our lives.  The colours in this art reflect this.

I have also included a photograph of my grandma doing laundry outside with a tub and a washboard.  She used to say that, " There is nothing good about the good old days, that life is way better now-a-days. I don't have to work so hard."  This is a reminder to me to remember the past but also look forward to the good that can come!

There are more hidden symbols, can you find them all?  To me they represent the mystery that unfolds throughout our lives.

When I started this art, I didn't really have a clear plan.  I knew I wanted to use old photographs and collage them, but the outcome was uncertain.  When I started adding paint, my vision kept changing and I ended up with a landscape and some of the under layers became blurred.  I don't know if the symbols stand out to an onlooker, but they are strong in my own mind and heart.  Looking through all of the photographs was a wonderfully emotional time for me.  I sure do miss the good old days with my grandparents, but feel positively fortunate to have my own little family and my parents with me for another year!

A layer of cheese cloth and a quote.

Some tissue paper.

Adding some old family photographs.

My colour palette. My first attempt at using oil paint that is water soluble and light modeling paste (gel medium) to add texture.  The different textures of the cheese cloth and the very smooth collaged areas made painting a real challenge.  I used plastic canvas and modeling paste to create texture that would make the very smooth shiny  areas less evident and blend into the cheese cloth non-shiny texture.  This is also the largest canvas I have painted on, so now I am feeling brave enough to keep painting on large canvases.  

I have two other canvases to finish up and then I am going to trying a new technique inspired by a new book I received as a Christmas gift called,  Brave Intuitive Painting, Let Go.  Be Bold. Unfold, by Flora Bowley. 

Wish me luck!

My mom looking for the hidden symbols.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Positively a Wonderful World!

This time of year I become even more reflective than usual and like to take time to show appreciation for the things that make the world wonderful.  This Christmas it is time to celebrate my sister!  She is eleven months younger than I am, but in May we are the same age for two days short of a month!  We used to have a great time teasing people when they would ask how old we were.  We would tell them that we were the same age, but were not twins.  They would often go away wondering how that could be!

 I have already featured one piece of art that I created for her in my last post.  This is the second piece that I finished today.  It is a celebration of all of the things my sister does to make this a wonderful world for others! She volunteers for her sons' hockey and football teams, their schools and her husband's football team too!  She never hesitates to make the load of others lighter.

My sister is a fabulous cook and is always experimenting to make amazing food that makes our tummy's giggle with delight.

Her generosity does not end with humans, she is always looking out for the well being of animals. She often invites the neighbour's dog over for a play date because she knows it will be lonely at home when its owners are away at work.

Each Christmas she fusses and frets over making a Christmas decoration for each family member to hang on their trees, beef jerky, nuts and bolts and many other goodies for each family member. My sister has a knack of making the twinkle in others' eyes sparkle with her humour.  She makes the world a better and wonderful place with her love and kindness.

For the first layer, I have used the sheet music for "A Wonderful World", a quote from Anne of Green Gables, where Anne is showing gratitude for being alive in this lovely world, and a letter of gratitude that I wrote to my sister.  After painting several layers of blue, and using modeling paste to add texture, I decided to treat the canvas as a letter and hand write a letter in white.  I also added some relevant quotes about making the world a better place. Finally, I used my antique typewriter to write a final compliment to her.

I hope she realizes how special the world is with her in it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In Positive Anticipation

The antiques decorations are all finally hung and the scent of Christmas fir delightfully fills our house all waiting in anticipation for family to arrive this afternoon.

Many years ago, I fashioned decorations out of antique spoons. Beside this decoration are ornaments passed down from my family.

I was always crafting when I was younger.  Here is a little girl I created.  To the left is an antique bell we picked up last weekend at a Nanton antique store.

A hand painted wooden star nestles in a little tree in my dining room.

Also in Nanton I purchased a wooden yardstick.  I created a star, added raffia and a hand painted wooden star.

I have added all of the leaves to our tiger oak antique table to support our yearly games tournament.  Later we will journey to a near by small town to feast upon yummy Chinese food. We will return to our acreage for an evening Country Christmas music festival!  The guitars, piano, spoons, accordion and bells are anxiously awaiting around the Christmas tree.

I sure hope Mom and Dad bring out some of their delicious Christmas cookies.   The other day I popped  into my Mom and Dad's house and they were making dough for our favourite Christmas cookies.  I am sitting here drooling just thinking about them.

Here is my little cousin eating last year's Christmas cookies!  Those eyes say it all!

The finishing touches have been added to the art that I plan to give to my family this Christmas. This piece is for my sister.  I have written a letter to her about believing in herself.

The quote was written using my antique Underwood typewriter... 
If your mind and heart agree, then you have made the right decision.  Trust yourself!

I have a second one on the go, but I have not finished it yet.

I will share my other art with you after Christmas.  My mom and dad check out my blog, so I do not  want to ruin their surprise!

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a local decorating store.  I won a raffle! The money is being raised for a local animal shelter called Save Old Souls.  This little Maltese puppy looks so real.  It actually has a little motor inside that makes it look like it is breathing!  So cute!

Well, I must go and finish getting ready for our annual Christmas Eve party.  I hope your day is filled with positive anticipation and all of your Christmas dreams come true!

See you soon!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Positively A Winter Wonderland

It's positively time for a walk in a winter wonderland! The snow has fallen, the drifts daringly rest among the feet of the trees as they stand proudly for enduring another year.

This little art piece was inspired by my love for trees and how the full moon highlights all of the bends, twists and turns trees display, but the original idea came from this blog page for art teachers.

My school is hosting a Winter Village Night on Thursday, and each class is supposed to decorate a bulletin board for the evening.  I just could not cope with one more cheesy cookie cutter Christmas craft, so I asked my Grade Six students to put on their artists' hats and to think like Francisco de Goya.

It was a great challenge for my students to consider light and skillfully paint trees with different tints, but we gave it a go!  Wow, we all survived!

At times I wasn't sure we were going to outlast the flurries of painted flicked snow in the classroom. Yikes!  The student quality paint was not cooperating.  As we tried to pour the tempera paint from the bottles, the paint would plop down onto the paint pallets, instead of smoothly flowing out like my paint at home does from the professional quality paint tubes.  I have to admit, we weren't very frugal with the paint.  The project actually requires very little paint, but we ended up wasting a lot of paint because of the school quality supplies we had to use.  Oh, well.

The students seemed to be proud of their work and it was a good first attempt.  The paintings are growing on me.  Each time I walk by them, I begin to see something that I like, an eye catching angle of a tree branch, a quirky little snowman, footprints in the snow, the light dancing on the moonlight branches.

We spent some time examining Goya's art and analyzing how her used light.  I also modeled different techniques.  Tree shapes were also discussed.  Our adventures in the forests of  Police Point Park and Cypress Hills helped us.

The painting pictured above is my attempt at the Goya challenge.  This is the process:

1.  Using tape, mask around the grey art paper.  First I had my students collect fuzz from their clothing
     using the tape.  The fuzz makes the tape less sticky and easier to pull off, with less chance of ripping      the paper at the end. I asked the students to line up the outer edge of the tape with the outer edge of
     the paper, going around the perimeter of their pages.

    This is a lot easier than measuring and more precise than eyeballing and trying to line up the tape so       that the edge of the paper lines up with the middle of  width of the tape.  This wide taped border
    prevents the paper from buckling,  keeps students in their own private spaces/ "artist studios" and
    also creates an attractive clean border around the edge for framing.

2.  Using scrap paper, students tear snow drifts,  paste and overlap the white paper onto their paper to        create layers and dimension.  Be careful not to glue the snow onto the tape.

3.  Using the white scrap paper, students create a full moon.  Glue the moon onto the paper.  This will        determine where the highlights are added later on, so this needs to be done before any painting is

    A few students wanted to have crescent moons.  I explained that the reflected light off  of a crescent
    moon wouldn't be strong enough to cast many shadows and highlights on trees.  Maybe this activity
    would have been better placed after our moon study in January? (Grade Six Alberta)

4.  After putting on a painting smock/shirt, paint the deciduous trees in black.  I used blue and red to
     make  "black". I challenged each student to draw branches at acute, right, obtuse, straight and reflex
     angles.  Math and art together!  I gave the students the option of using black or creating their own
     black like I did.

     Some students may want to try painting coniferous trees.  I wouldn't recommend it unless they have
     had experience, otherwise, this may ruin the realistic look you may be going for.  I did a lot of
     modeling for the students, but coniferous trees are a real challenge in this type of painting exercise!

5.  Paint grey on each side of the branches and trunk that is closest to the moon.   I used the blue and
     red mixture and added white. If the students are up for it, they may add a shadow to the base of each
     tree.  Paying attention to the location of the moon is very important at this stage.

     Encourage the students to resist temptation to paint around every angle top to bottom like one would
     normally do when outlining.  This forms cloud like foliage and this is not what we are going after
     here.  It is winter after all!

     Science lessons in light and shadows (Grade Four in Alberta) would also be beneficial for this      
     step.  I would suggest using a flashlight to examine the light at different angles and observing how
     the light hits different surfaces, what the shadows look like, where the placement of the shadows            are, what colours the shadows are.

6.  The final stage is to overlap white paint where the "grey" paint was painted.

7.  Some students may feel adventurous and may want to add a snowman, a bunny, footprints...,
     following the same techniques as with the trees.

8.  The optional finishing touches are to flick watery white paint on the the entire paper to create the
     illusion of snowing.

     As I am right handed, I find it easier to hold out my left index finger and take my paint brush  and
     flick the bristles across and down my index finger, as I lift my left index finger up, which sends the
     paint flinging onto the page.  The students will also create snow on the table, on the floor, on your
     clothes, and any other obstacle in the way, so don't do this near carpet or in your dining room or
     living room.

9.  Carefully peel off the tape.  I asked my students to pull the tape slowly, so the tape is at a 90 degree
     angle to the paper.  Again, more math!

10.  Signing and dating the art adds the final "final" touch.

11.  We displayed the art in the hallway, using tacks to carefully fasten the art to the bulletin board.  I
       never put tacks and staples through the art, just in case parents want to put the art in frames.  Who
       wants holes in their art?  I place the tacks as close to the edge as possible without going through
       the art!

Note, this is a difficult challenge for Grade Sixes.  It depends on the level of art training they have had in previous grades.  If you are an art teacher, and have taught all of the students in your school, the basic painting skills throughout the previous grades, then perhaps this activity would be easier and more successful.

Another idea would to be very prescriptive and have the students do each stage one step at a time, as you model.  The danger of that, however, is that you turn art into a craft, and you will end up with a lot of trees and scenes that look the same.

I also had a "quiet contest".  Many students use art time as a talking time.  Some talk more than they concentrate and create.  I had quiet thinking music (baroque) on in the background and challenged each table to see which could be the quietest and most productive.  It was fun for the students to figure out how to ask for more paint without talking.

P.S.  Adults are only allowed to pour the paint.  Each student has their own 10 centimeter
circumference pallet ( an old margarine lid works great), a flat bristled brush and a fine tipped brush. Round brushes seem to work best to flick the paint and create coniferous trees.  Some students also
used fan brushes to create branches.  Each student also had a rag and a very small amount of water. Insist that no brushes sit in the water.  This weakens the glue on the bristles.

It is a good idea to show how the students how much paint to have on the brush, how  to hold the brush, how to create angles, and how to clean the brushes between each tint and at the end of the session.

At the end, excess paint gets wiped off the brush, then they go to the sink, squirt soap onto their hands and then go around and around in the soap on their hand with their bristles, rinsing once in a while with water.

Here is a peek at our art:

Even though this was a challenge, when the parents join us on Thursday night, they will be positively walking through a winter wonderland!

If you end up trying this out, let me know how it goes.  What successes and challenges did you experience?  Do you have any pointers?