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The Making of 'All That I Am' (and How It Barely Survived)

28 March, 2021 7 comments Leave a comment

Shown above is an extra-large painting titled All That I Am (varnished watercolour on 24 x 36" panel). Don't let that smooth, untroubled lake surface fool you; this was an enormously difficult piece of artwork to complete. (More about that later.)

There is something special about a calm northern lake, especially when it features a stunning island. Every tree and rock is perfectly reflected on the water's surface. It is as if Nature is saying "See how wondrous I am." I feel a kinship with quiet, wild places like this.

All That I Am marks a milestone because it is twice the surface area of my previous maximum-size painting (which was 18 x 24"). Since I create my paintings on watercolour paper and mount them to cradled wood panels, I am limited by the size of paper and panels I can procure.

A few months ago, I discovered that Arches (the company in France that manufactures the watercolour paper I prefer) makes an oversized paper. I searched all over Canada without success for a supplier that stocks this large paper and eventually had to import it from an American art materials company. I also found an Ontario supplier of 24 x 36" cradled wood panels which are made in Quebec.

Next, I bought a selection of 2" flat watercolour brushes, since my existing arsenal of brushes is comprised of smaller sizes, and I knew I would need to work with bigger tools and generous amounts of paint.

Once I had all the materials in the studio, I searched for a subject suitable for a large painting. I wanted to start with a simple composition to evaluate my new materials, in case the experiment was a flop. A few months ago, I met Randy Whitbread through Facebook. He is an outdoor enthusiast and photographer who lives in Flin Flon, Manitoba. His photos of the northern wilderness near his home are breathtaking.

Photo by Randy Whitbread

Randy gave me permission to use his lovely photograph shown above as a painting reference. It was taken on Millikan Lake near Flin Flon in late fall. I have seen countless islands in pristine northern lakes similar to this. The mist and the dramatic island just spoke to me. 

I thought this simple scene would work up relatively easily on my large paper, because the composition is mostly plain gray sky and water. Boy, was I wrong.

The biggest challenge in painting an evenly-coloured sky and water background in watercolour is speed: getting the paint onto the paper quickly, taking a few more seconds to move the darker colours to where you want them, and then stepping away before any section of the painting starts to dry. An even drying rate is the key to a smooth, flawless background. It also helps to build up colour in multiple layers, allowing a full day's drying time in between each layer. This repetitive process produces deep, even colours.

Shown below is my work in progress after three sky and water layers and one land layer have been completed.

All That I Am (watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

The first issue I ran into on day one was the speed issue. Paint dries just as quickly on an area of six square feet as it does on three square feet. This meant I had to paint twice as fast as I am used to. The new 2" brushes helped, but I probably should have invested in a 4" brush as well.

Another problem I had to deal with the first day was buckling of the paper. This is a normal occurrence for me, and usually taping my 300 lb paper to a firm surface before I start keeps buckling to a minimum. (I can hear you artists out there asking why I don't pre-stretch the paper. I prefer the way paint behaves on virgin paper that has all its surface sizing intact.)

My usual taping strategy didn't work because the differential expansion of the wet centre of the oversized paper compared to the taped edges, caused the centre to heave up in large ripples. These undulations cause pooling of wet paint in the troughs, which would make those areas darker if the paint was to dry on rippled paper. I quickly solved this issue by removing the tape, wetting the edges so the paper could expand evenly, and then redistributing the wet paint with my brush.

Having the edges of the paper unfastened caused a third difficulty, which I discovered on day two. While drying overnight, the short sides of the painting had curled upward significantly. I taped them down to my drafting table so I could apply the next layer of colour. This new moisture allowed the paper to relax and flatten, and I removed the tape so the paper could expand and not buckle while I painted. After a few hours of drying, I re-taped the edges to my drafting table to avoid the overnight curling. Problems solved.

I continued with this layer painting for four days and on the fifth day was able to start the easier process of painting the big island on dry paper. Shown below are the steps as I gradually built up colours, shadows, and details, layer by layer.

Layer 1 started:

All That I Am (detail of watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

Layer 1 finished:

All That I Am (detail of watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

Layer 2 finished and masking removed:

All That I Am (detail of watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

Layer 3 finished:

All That I Am (detail of watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

Once the main island was completed, I built up the smaller island using three layers of paint:

All That I Am (detail of watercolour in progress) by Karen Richardson

Shown below is the completed painting.

If it weren't for my 35 years of practice and experience dealing with technical issues in watercolour, this painting would not have survived the battle. That is one reason I titled the painting 'All That I Am'. I certainly gave it my all.

The second reason is that I grew up near Algonquin Park in northern Ontario, where lakes and landscapes like this were the backdrop to my formative years and help define who I am and where I feel at home.

You can see the scale of this piece, pictured beside me in the photo below.

All That I Am, watercolour by Karen Richardson, with the artist

The completed painting is mounted on an archival wood panel, trimmed, varnished, and presented in a black wood floater frame. There is no glass to get in the way of enjoying the details of 'All That I Am'. I consider it to be one of my master works because of its size and level of difficulty. And it has a really cool island in it!

Click here to see more details about this painting.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

New Works - Scenes of the North

09 March, 2021 2 comments Leave a comment

Standing Watch, watercolour by Karen Richardson, with the artist

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

Since the turn of the year, I have been working away in my art studio, completing the eight new watercolours pictured above. During these cold months, I enjoy making art beside my cosy fireplace, while winter winds blow outside my window.

My studio is full of northern scenes this winter, and I feel like I am creating some of my best work. Half the pieces produced so far this year explore the effects of northern lights, and it has been exciting to experiment with vibrant greens and blues to create these magical skies.

I've also done scenes from summer, fall, and winter with various atmospheric effects such as mist, sunset, and moonlight.

Today, I am sharing the stories behind the creation of these new artworks, beginning with the larger pieces.

 

Shown above is an extra-large painting titled All That I Am (varnished watercolour on 24 x 36" panel). There is something special about a calm northern lake, especially when it features a stunning island. Every tree and rock is perfectly reflected on the water's surface. It's like Nature is saying "Stop and see how wondrous I am." This piece is twice the size of my previous largest works. 

In January, through Facebook, I met Randy Whitbread, an outdoor enthusiast and photographer who lives in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He gave me permission to use his lovely photograph shown below as a painting reference. It was taken on Millikan Lake near Flin Flon in late fall. The mist and the islands just spoke to me. I feel a kinship with quiet, wild places like this.

Photo by Randy Whitbread

The creation of All That I Am was arduous due to its size, and I will tell you the full story of that adventure in a future article. Suffice it to say for now that I was very relieved when I managed to complete the painting successfully.

Click here for more information about All That I Am.

Shown above is 'Moonglow', varnished watercolour on 20 x 16" panel. A vintage cabin sits nestled in the quiet of a winter forest, under the warm glow of a full moon. Two venerable conifers stand guard as branches creak and wind sighs softly through a gentle night.

This complex scene was inspired by a photo taken by another of my Facebook friends, professional photographer James Shedden. His photo of an old schoolhouse near Magnetawan, ON on a moonlit night (shown below and used with his permission) captivated me. I was looking for a 'meaty' subject to get my teeth into and loved the complexity and mood of this scene.

Photo by James Shedden

 

I consider this painting to be one of my master works, not only because of its size and intricate structure, but also for its feeling of mystery and invitation.

For more details about 'Moonglow', click here.

Pictured above is Splendour of the North, varnished watercolour on 9 x 12" panel. Calm northern lakes provide the perfect showcase for northern lights. As they dance across the starry night sky, the swirling hues of the aurora are in perfect synchronicity with their twin on the water.

This painting was inspired by another photo (shown below) by my Facebook friend Randy Whitbread.

Photo by Randy Whitbread

Click here for more information about Splendour of the North.

Pictured above is Reflections of Glory, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. One of the many benefits of living in or visiting northern Canada in wintertime is being able to view the aurora from time to time (if you are willing to stay up late in cold, dark conditions). The eerie lights move across the night sky in luminous ribbons and waves, like vast curtains billowing in heavenly breezes. In this scene, the glorious hues are reflected on a frozen river.

This painting was inspired by a photo (shown below) taken by my Facebook friend James Shedden near Magnetawan, ON.

Photo by James Shedden

Click here for more details about Reflections of Glory.

Shown above is Reach for the Stars, varnished watercolour on 12 x 6" panel. Whenever I am lucky enough to witness the aurora, they always leave me awestruck with the power of Nature. Their ever-changing colours and shapes, like silent fire rippling across the heavens, never cease to amaze me.

This painting was inspired by another photo (shown below) that was taken by James Shedden near Magnetawan, ON.

Photo by James Shedden

To see more details about Reach for the Stars, click here.

Pictured above is Standing Watch, varnished watercolour on 16 x 20" panel. Every night, as they stand guard under a canopy of starlight, these venerable pines in a northern forest witness the vastness of the universe. Tonight their spectacle includes the glow of northern lights.

This night scene was inspired by a daytime photo I took looking upward in a pine forest (shown below). I don't recall the location but I assume it was in northern Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

It took some imagination to remove the sunlit effects and convert this to a night scene. I enjoyed painting the characteristics of each tree that made it unique. No two are alike.

Click here for more details about Standing Watch.

Pictured above is Sky Fire, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. This painting started out with an imaginary, luscious sky and a low horizon. I wasn't sure what scene to invent but the white section remaining at the bottom  of the watercolour paper reminded me of snow. A winter scene was born.

I see landscapes like this when we are out snowmobiling in northern Ontario. I love the drama of reflections on open water, contrasted with the white of the snowy fields. The flat orange pink colour of the lower left sky was a perfect backdrop for the intricate branches of a tree.

 

And finally we come to Moonbeam, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel (shown above). The reflection of a full moon shimmers on the lake like a dancing flame. The heavens are so dark a blue they almost appear black - a perfect backdrop for the celestial bodies that shine in the night.

This scene was inspired by a photo I took of the full moon over Lake Ontario last summer. We were camping steps from the shore and the blue of the water and sky was captivating. Thankfully my camera was able to capture the colour (shown below).

Photo by Karen Richardson

To make the distant headland more interesting, I changed it to a group of islands I photographed at Lake Superior (shown below). I had to imagine what the islands would look like in moonlight rather than sunlight. I also added the stars to make the scene extra special.

Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Click here to see more information about Moonbeam.

As the late winter snow begins to melt, and the breeze becomes more springlike, I feel my inner energy rising. I look forward to creating more new paintings and sharing with you the stories behind them.

Which painting is your favourite? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

 

Framing Watercolours Without Glass

14 February, 2021 6 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson at arts festival

 

WHY FRAME WITHOUT GLASS?

I am pictured above at an arts festival in 2015 with a display of my watercolour paintings presented without glass. I began using this framing method in 2011, taking advantage of technological advances in art materials. I like the clean, contemporary look of the thin black frames and no glass.

Prior to this, for the first few decades of my art career, I protected my watercolour paintings in the traditional manner, with museum quality matting and backing board, UV-blocking glazing, and coordinated moldings to hold the 'sandwich' together. Examples of this presentation are pictured below, at an art festival in the early years.

Karen Richardson at an arts festival

These traditional archival materials worked well to shield the artwork from environmental damage, but were heavy and fragile to transport and display. The worst aspect was that reflections in the glass often impeded viewing of the painted image.

With my new method of mounting, the artwork is created the same way but sandwiched differently. I still paint on 300 lb. acid-free 100% rag watercolour paper. After the painting is completed, it is supported from behind by an archival wooden art panel and sealed on the front with a UV- and moisture-resistant coating that takes the place of glass.

The art panel is then mounted in a simple black wooden float frame, as shown in the 12 x 16 inch painting below 'Come Fly With Me'. This new process provides a clean, updated look to the artwork, helps protect the painting from humidity and colour fading, and allows the piece to be hung without the glare and weight of glass.

Now my watercolours have the visual impact of an oil or acrylic painting, while still showcasing the soft colour transitions and glowing light effects of traditional watercolour. I think of this as having the best of both worlds.

Come Fly With Me, varnished watercolour on panel, by Karen Richardson

HOW DOES THIS FRAMING METHOD WORK?

People ask me this question frequently. Sometimes they are curious collectors but often they are fellow artists who wonder if they too can present their artwork without the weight and glare of glass.

I summarize my experiences here, so that art collectors can be better informed when contemplating an art purchase, and artists can choose safe procedures and materials, and avoid potential problems.

That said, if you are an artist and wish to display your paintings without glass, I encourage you to do your own research and find the archival method that suits your circumstances and keeps your artwork protected. I place a lot of trust in art material manufacturers' recommendations based on actual science, rather than those of well-intentioned but possibly ill-informed artists on YouTube.

An example of a trusted resource would be this printable instruction sheet 'Mounting Flexible Supports to Panel, an Archival Practice', produced by Ampersand (manufacturer of art panels). This article includes instruction for mounting canvas art as well as paper art.

Outlined below are the methods and materials I use to mount and varnish my watercolour paintings, along with some important tips I have learned over the last decade. The process takes about a week to complete and can be somewhat perilous for novices. Remember that mounting your painting to a panel is non-reversible, so start with a small sample painting while you learn and test the process. Also bear in mind that some art societies might consider a watercolour painting coated with acrylic varnish to be a mixed media artwork.

TEN STEPS TO MOUNT AND VARNISH A WATERCOLOUR PAINTING

(A printable version is available at the end of this article.)

1. Obtain an art panel which has already been sealed and primed, and a floater frame that will fit. Panels come in standard sizes; the smallest I use is 8 x 8 inches and the largest is 24 x 36 inches. My favourite panels are Jack Richeson cradled gessoed tempered hardboard panels, ApollonGotrick gesso wood panels, and several coated panels made by Ampersand (Claybord, Gessobord, or Primed Smooth Artist Panels). I prefer the 3/4" or 7/8" panel profiles. I buy custom floater frames that will fit the panel profile plus the thickness of the watercolour paper and still have at least 1/8" of the frame protruding beyond the front surface of the artwork. This will protect the vulnerable edges of the painting.

2. Complete a finished painting on 300 lb. acid-free Arches watercolour paper, with an image that is 1 inch longer and 1 inch wider than the panel. The excess paper will be trimmed off after mounting is complete. Thinner papers will show any unevenness of the adhesive layer, so avoid 140 lb. paper. I do the mounting after the painting is done for two reasons; the mounting adhesive affects how paint behaves on the paper, and I don't want to risk wasting a panel with an unsuccessful painting.

3. Decide where the image will need cropping, to become the same size as the panel, but don't cut the watercolour paper yet. On the back of the paper, draw a pencil outline of where the panel will need to be placed. If your painting scene has a horizon, make sure it aligns parallel with a panel edge.

4. Place the painting face down on a hard, flat surface that is covered by a clean towel. Wet the back of the painting with clean water using a sponge. Quickly apply a thin coat of Golden Soft Gel Matte acrylic medium to the surface of the panel, using a two-inch flat brush. This needs to be done in about 30 seconds so the adhesive stays evenly wet. (Use a cheap brush, because the dried adhesive eventually builds up in the brush hairs, no matter how carefully I rinse the brush.)

5. Flip the gel-coated panel over and place wet side down onto the back of the wet paper, aligning the panel within the pencil lines from step 3. Press hands hard on the centre of the panel to force air bubbles out the sides. Pile on heavy objects (stacks of books work well) on the centre of the panel to make sure the paper and panel are squeezed tightly together. (See photo below) Leave overnight to dry, then remove the weights and flip the painting front side up to continue drying.

Mounting painting to panel, photo by Karen Richardson

6. After another day, or once the painting feels fully dry, paint the edges of the panel with black acrylic paint. I usually apply two coats. The flange of watercolour paper helps to protect the front of the artwork from the acrylic paint. (Shown below)

Mounting paintings to panel, photo by Karen Richardson

7. Once the acrylic paint is dry (30 minutes), place the painting face down on a clean cutting mat and remove the paper flange with a very sharp utility knife. Make the cuts vertical and flush with the panel edge (shown below). When done, use a fine grit sanding block to sand the edges of the paper to remove any burrs.

Mounting painting on panel, photo by Karen Richardson 

8. The exposed thickness of the watercolour paper is white. Paint it with a black or very dark watercolour mixture (shown below). I mix my black from the three primaries. This dark colour will make the paper look like part of the panel rather than a separate layer. Do not use a black marker or acrylic paint, as it is too easy for these pigments to bleed over onto the front of the painting. Leave the painting face up to continue drying for several days before varnishing.

Mounting painting to panel, photo by Karen Richardson

9. I never varnish my paintings in my studio, because of the toxic fumes. I set up my turntable stand in a garage with ambient temperature between 65 and 75 degrees F (18 to 24 degrees C). The varnishing process takes me a whole day because there are seven coats, with at least 45 minutes drying time between each coat. I varnish my paintings in batches of 4 to 6 pieces to make the process more efficient. I wear a respirator mask and use a spray varnish that does not disturb the watercolour paint. I start with three coats of Golden Archival Varnish (Mineral Spirit Acrylic Aerosol with UVLS) Gloss, followed by four coats of the Matte version. (Shown below).

Karen Richardson varnishing a painting

This non-yellowing finish protects the artwork from dirt and dust and is moisture resistant. UVLS stands for UltraViolet Light filters and Stabilizers, which provide archival protection and reduce light damage. According to Golden, manufacturer of artist paints and varnishes, it takes a minimum of six coats of varnish to provide UV protection. The gloss coats seal the surface while keeping the painted image sharp, and the matte coats eliminate glare. I have not noticed any colour change caused by the varnish. It does add a slight texture to the surface of the painting. I have read that this varnish provides better UV protection than UV-blocking glass offers. I let the varnish dry overnight in the garage, to allow most of the smell to dissipate, before bringing the painting back to my studio.

10. After the varnish has dried for at least two days, I attach the frame to the back of the panel, add a hanging wire, and label the back of the panel with artwork and artist information. Now the painting is ready to hang on a wall.

I hope you have found this information helpful and interesting. Click here for a printable version of the above steps.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

My Corona Garden

12 May, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson home and studio

My life has been impacted in many ways by the Covid19 global pandemic. During these last few months of isolation, it has been an interesting journey to design a 'new normal', while my husband and I hunker down at our home property, which is pictured above. In this article I am sharing with you a glimpse of how we have been spending our time at the homestead.

The biggest impact to our personal life was the cancellation of a 7-week vacation in Australia. My husband and I were to begin our excellent adventure in early April with a week touring Tasmania in our rented camper van and then fully explore the coastal route from Melbourne to Cairns before flying home at the end of May. Here is the type of adventure we had envisioned:

Gallivanting Oz Adventure in Australia 

Hopefully we can re-book the trip at a later date through the same company, Gallivanting Oz, who did an excellent job of arranging our camper van rental and subsequent cancellation and refund. If anyone is considering a similar holiday in future years, I highly recommend this awesome Australian company. We cancelled our first class flights with Air Canada but have not seen our refund or credit yet.

Karen Richardson gardens

Our life at home has gotten quiet, yet not boring. My husband is retired but his handyman hobby takes him to his shop out back (pictured above), fixing things for the house and doing vehicle maintenance. We order repair parts and supplies online or by phone (from local stores offering safe curbside pickup if possible) and I make a weekly trip to the grocery store. I'm doing more cooking and baking for us than I usually would and we are making the most of this chance to live life simply and deliciously.

Karen Richardson's baking

Since we live on the edge of a small town, there are lots of places where we can walk during the day for exercise without getting close to anyone. We don't have cable or satellite TV but enjoy spending our evenings watching educational videos on YouTube or programs on Netflix. I also enjoy reading most days. We have conversations with friends and family by phone or Facetime. I look forward to the day when we can resume our in-person walks, visits, and dinners with our longtime friends.

Karen Richardson studio

I'm an introvert by nature (as many artists are), so being told I have to stay home actually makes me happy. I have an infinite list of fun things to do in my home and art studio (pictured above). As is my usual habit, I spent the winter months creating lots of new paintings and then moved to outdoor mode once spring arrived. Shown below is the mound garden in our front yard, tidied up for the start of the growing season.

Karen Richardson garden

The fact that I don't have to go out for meetings, fitness classes or appointments, means I can decide how to fill each day based on the weather or how energetic I  feel. I find myself wondering how to change my habits going forward, so I can continue this simpler existence in a post-pandemic world.

My husband and I had planned to spend the summer of 2020 making short camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario, after we returned from Australia. It remains to be seen whether those excursions will happen or not. The realization that we may have to stay home this spring and possibly summer lead us to research growing a vegetable garden.

The current upheaval of our food supply caused by the pandemic has prompted many people throughout the world to start a vegetable garden this year, just like the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think this activity gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, makes us feel useful by growing our own food, and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

I have enjoyed establishing raised bed flower gardens at all three of our home properties over the years, but never had the time to devote to growing many edibles before this year. The photo below from 2013 shows some of the backyard flower gardens at our Port Perry home, which was on a one acre property.

Karen Richardson garden

We downsized to our lovely bungalow in Lindsay the following year. The raised border garden shown below was one I constructed shortly after our move, using stone dug up from our one acre yard. I grew pole beans and garlic successfully, but invasive grass runners from the adjacent farm field had started to invade my stone garden. This spring, I decided to dismantle it and try something more robust and permanent for my new vegetable garden.

Karen Richardson stone garden 

My husband and I designed wooden raised planters 18 inches tall with a top frame wide enough to sit on, to make gardening more comfortable for me, and to have high quality soil with fewer weeds.

He built the two cedar planters pictured below in his shop. These are each 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and have no bottoms. The little legs will keep them pinned to the ground and the planters are lined on the inside with builders' vapour barrier to help extend the durability of the wood. He also varnished the outside surfaces with clear Varathane wood preservative.

Karen Richardson garden planters

We moved the planters to a sunny spot in our yard in mid April, and since then I have been steadily filling them with a custom mix of soils and amendments using a sustainable agriculture technique called Hugelkultur (meaning 'hill culture' in German).

Hugelkultur mimics how plants grow in a natural forest ecosystem, where trees fall over onto the forest floor,  and other organic matter falls and accumulates on top of the fallen trees and breaks down. This creates a fertile place for the seeds of new plants to germinate and grow on top of the decaying wood and other organic materials. This environment not only provides extremely fertile soil for new plants, but the woody materials also soak up water like a sponge.

The photos below show the layers I used to fill my planters.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

First I covered the sod with cut up paper leaf bags. By the time they decompose over the next year, the grass will have died and will not invade the garden. Worms and other beneficial organisms will be able to travel between the ground and the raised beds. The second layer was wood from apple trees we cut down. The largest pieces went in the bottom, followed by all the cut up twigs. This wood layer will slowly rot, providing nutrients to the soil above and acting as a spongy layer to retain moisture.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

Next I covered the twigs and wood with layers of composted manure and native top soil (screened to remove gravel and weeds) that was cleared from our yard when my husband's shop was built.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters

I had saved garden clippings from the spring cleanup of my perennial beds and all those dried trimmings went on next. I covered that with about 8 inches of screened native topsoil mixed with peat moss and composted manure. Then I created a grid with string and aluminum plant markers, in preparation for my 'square foot gardening' planting layout. In this bed I am densely planting raspberry bushes, onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and marigolds (to deter pests).

Karen Richardson garden planters

The photo above shows my other raised planting bed which will have asparagus, pole beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce, herbs, nasturtiums, and marigolds. You can see the bamboo teepees that will support future pole beans. The plastic bubble is a cloche, protecting herb seeds while they germinate. To the right of my planters is where the stone border garden used to sit, now seeded with grass.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see my progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you enjoy it and have good luck with your green thumb. Be well and safe.

If you have comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more life-of-the-artist articles, travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Unbroken Story: Why My Painting is on an Album Cover

11 January, 2020 1 comment Leave a comment

 
Unbroken CD by Terry Posthumous, cover artwork by Karen Richardson

My ‘Unbroken’ image was licensed last year for an album cover (shown above) by Canadian singer/songwriter Terry Posthumus. The long, happy journey of how this happened began about 18 months ago, thanks to Facebook.

The story of this series of events also is an excellent example of how I use Facebook and Instagram to spread awareness of my artwork, which often leads to new homes for my paintings.


Karen Richardson with her stone circle watercolour in progress

In August of 2018. I made a Facebook/Instagram post of the photo above, showing me in my studio holding a painting in progress, with the following caption:

"I started a new watercolour painting this week, based on striped stones from my own collection (note the vases of pebbles on my window sill). I'm so lucky to be able to make art in a beautiful bright studio overlooking a field of corn here in Lindsay, Ontario. Life is good. Cheers to all."

Two days later, I posted these photos with the caption:

Karen Richardson with completed stone circle watercolour   Karen Richardson's completed stone circle watercolour

"Finished today. Watercolour 12 x 12"
I love it! Let me know your suggestions for a great title. So far I like:
The Same But Different
Stone Soul Circle
The Ties That Bind
Eternity Ring"

I had an excellent response from my Facebook friends, and was contacted by someone who wanted to buy the painting. A few days later I responded to my followers:

"I appreciate all the thoughtful title suggestions everyone suggested. I made note of over 30 good ones to use on future paintings. The title I selected for this piece is Circle of Kindred Spirits, which was suggested by the buyer of this painting. I like this title because it is welcoming and symbolic of positive energy, and it refers to a common bond shared by members of a community. Just like all of us on this Facebook post are bound together by art. Cheers to all."

One of the other title ideas I especially liked was 'Unbroken', suggested by one of my watercolour students who follows me on Facebook. I decided to use this title on my next stone circle painting. About a week later, I posted the new work in progress:

Karen Richardson with Unbroken stone circle watercolour in progress

"I have more stone circle watercolour paintings in the works. These are such fun. (OK, I'm a confessed rockaholic.) Here I am in my sunny Lindsay studio, surrounded by my pebble collection - on the window sill, and arranged into circles in the foreground. The painting I am working on is titled 'Unbroken', a title suggested by my Facebook friend Pauline Shortall-Shenton for a previous stone circle painting. I love the red/gray colour scheme in this one. I'll show you when it is finished. Cheers everyone and have a great day."

The next day I posted the finished painting photo and caption:

Karen Richardson with her watercolour painting Unbroken

"Unbroken, watercolour 12 x 12". I finished this painting today, the second piece in my Stone Circle series, inspired by my own collection of pebbles. I love the way Unbroken turned out. The stones are a metaphor for the common bond shared by humanity. We are one."

The post included this close up photo below with the caption:
"Unbroken, watercolour 12 x 12". I love the way it turned out. I used actual pebbles from my collection as reference for this painting. Thanks to Pauline Shortall-Shenton for the title."


Unbroken, watercolour by Karen Richardson

A week later I received a private message through Facebook from Terry Posthumous. I was acquainted with Terry from when I lived in Port Perry and knew he was a musician and guitar instructor. He knew my artwork from when he used to work at Framer's Gallery and make frames for my Doors of Port Perry posters.

"Hello Karen. I would be interested in chatting with you about using your, "Unbroken" painting as the cover for my soon-to-be-released EP entitled, "Catharsis". Are you open to chatting about this? Peace."

I responded in the affirmative and, over the next several months Terry and I discussed, researched and drafted a non-exclusive rights managed license agreement, which was signed in early January 2019.

This type of contract meant I was able to sell the original painting to anyone, and also make and sell print reproductions of the Unbroken image. I had the painting photographed by a professional photographer to make a very high resolution image.

I made this post at the end of January 2019:

Unbroken CD cover held by Terry Posthumus

"I have some amazing news. My painting 'Unbroken' will be on the cover of "Catharsis", Terry Posthumus's new record, which is expected to arrive on March 29, 2019. This is the first time I have licensed an image for the music industry and am thrilled that this well-respected Canadian singer songwriter chose my artwork for his international release.
"Hailing from Oshawa, Ontario, Terry Posthumus is an innovative Canadian artist, activist and speaker. Terry is known for lyrics that are introspective, inspirational and insightful. His gravelly voice and his command of his instrument has captivated audiences near and far - with performances that have been described as “root-sy”, engaging and delightful. His passion for life, love, family, faith and justice is woven into the very fabric of his songs and stories. Through story and song, Terry delivers a powerful message of grace, hope, mercy, peace and love."
'Unbroken' also is available as custom art prints on paper, canvas, wood, metal, and acrylic in a variety of sizes, from my print-on-demand publisher FineArtAmerica."

The album of gospel songs written and performed by Terry was released originally under the 'Catharsis' title, but he liked the title of my painting so much that he quickly changed the album title to 'Unbroken'. Here is the back of the CD package:

Unbroken CD by Terry Posthumus

Then, Terry emailed me with more good news:

"Hi there. Would you be interested in doing a combined Art Show/CD Release concert with me? I would like to introduce you to my world and talk about how this happened. I was thinking the last weekend of March... BTW, I want to buy the original."

Unbroken release concert March 2019

I attended the album release dinner concert party at Nestleton Waters Inn (shown above), made a speech about the origin and symbolism of my Unbroken painting, and had a display of my artwork there.

Part of my speech said: "This painting is the second in my Stone Circle series, inspired by my collection of smooth striped stones. This circle symbolizes unity and the stripes represent the common bond that connects all of us, no matter what colour, size, shape, or orientation we might be. My hope is that the people of this earth focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us."

Terry spoke about how my painting appealed to him as soon as he saw it on Facebook the previous year. He said he had 14 children (11 surviving) and there are 14 stones in my Unbroken painting, so it represented family to him. He loves stones, and the way they each have different shapes, sizes, and colours in the painting made him think of the different passions, personalities, and life paths of his children.The line connecting the stones symbolized his hope to spend eternity with his kids. He also noted how a watercolour painting is constructed in transparent layers, just like he builds the audio tracks on his record, so a picture emerges over time.

It was a wonderful evening of music and stories, presented to a sold out house. Terry gave me a deposit that night after the concert, towards the acquisition of my Unbroken painting.

The album went on to become an unprecedented international success for Terry. In February he posted this about a single from Unbroken called Time and Again:

Time and Again single by Terry Posthumus

In May he posted about another single from the Unbroken album that was being played worldwide:

Mercy single by Terry Poshumus

I am so pleased that my artwork played a small part in the continued success of a fellow Canadian artist. I love it when artists support artists! You can find out more about Terry and listen to his music at www.terryposthumus.com.

Last October, after I returned from our summer exploring Newfoundland, Terry and his wife came to my studio to pick up his painting. Terry mentioned that his Unbroken album had been entered in a national music award competition and he would let me know if he made the short list. Here is a photo his wife took of Terry and me in my studio. Terry is a lovely person - very calm, caring, and kind. He has a big heart to match his tall stature.

Karen Richardson and Terry Posthumus Oct 2019

Terry posted this photo of the painting hung in his Oshawa music studio. I can't think of a more fitting home for this piece of art:

Unbroken painting at Terry Posthumus studio

In November, Terry let me know the fantastic news that his Unbroken album had garnered three official nominations from the Gospel Music Association of Canada. Here is my Facebook post with the details:

"Hello friends

I am honoured and thrilled to let you know that my 'Unbroken' image was licensed earlier this year for an album cover by Canadian singer/songwriter Terry Posthumus, and the album is now one of five nominees for 'Album Artwork Design Of The Year' in the 41st Annual Covenant Awards, presented by the Gospel Music Association of Canada.

Terry's 'Unbroken' album also has been nominated for 'Country / Southern Gospel Album Of The Year' and his single 'Time and Again' has been nominated for 'Country / Southern Gospel Song Of The Year'.

Congratulations Terry on this landmark achievement and I hope you win all three awards. Thank you for the opportunity to showcase my artwork to an international audience.

Pinch me, somebody...😁🍁❤️👍"

Gospel Music Assoc nomination for Unbroken album artwork

Winners will be announced at the 41st annual Covenant Awards at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC in March. I will let you know what happens.

And that is the story of how one of my Stone Circle paintings became an album cover. That reminds me, I have more stone circles to paint!

Click here for details about art prints of Karen's Unbroken image.

If you have comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

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How I Sold This Painting to a Middle East Buyer

31 October, 2018 6 comments Leave a comment

Holding On by Karen Richardson

It all started with a Facebook post I made last week, about a painting that was accepted into a local juried art show.

'Holding On' (pictured above), a large watercolour in my Lake Superior Series, was one of 65 paintings selected from 181 entries in PineRidge Arts Council's Annual Juried Show. The accepted works are on display at the McLean Community Centre in Ajax from October 23 until November 24, 2018.

I posted this announcement on Facebook one evening last week, along with the photo. The next morning, I was delighted to receive this message: "Dear Karen, hope you are well! I love the painting Holding On and would like to buy it. 🙂 please do let me know if it is for sale, I could transfer the funds to you through the Internet. I am now working for UNICEF in Kabul Afghanistan! Hopefully I will be home for Christmas. All the best." The sender was a long-time friend and former co-worker from my years at Hubbell Canada.

I thanked her and sent her the price of $2000 and my email address, and a few hours later received the funds via bank transfer. I advised the arts council of the sale and sent them their commission cheque. 'Holding On' will remain on display in Ajax for the duration of the show and then I will store it until the buyer can pick it up.

After the sale, she commented: "As soon as I saw you post the painting it just spoke to me and I had to have it! It is serene, calming, beautiful, and for me represents success despite all the odds! :) I look forward to enjoying it for year's to come! It will definitely have a forever home! 💖"

To see the creation story of 'Holding On', including a time-lapse video, click here.

This sale marks the 20th country from which collectors have acquired my paintings, and is the first sale of my work to the Middle East.

Caught in the Rain by Karen Richardson

This year, several other paintings have found homes outside of Canada. 'Caught in the Rain' (shown above), went to a buyer from Boca Raton, Florida.

'Clarity' and 'Listen to the Lake' (shown below) were acquired by collectors from Boston, Massachusetts.

Clarity by Karen Richardson    Listen to the Lake by Karen Richardson

The acquisition of my paintings by like-minded people all over the world, through galleries, art shows, open studios, and social media, provides profound encouragement, and tangible support, for a sustainable, art-centred life. I send a heartfelt 'Thank You' to the many fine folk who have welcomed over 600 of my paintings into their homes and hearts over the past three decades.

Your comments are welcome. Please use the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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Why I Share my Art with the World

27 August, 2018 2 comments Leave a comment

Hardwood Floor, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Recently, a thought-provoking question came from one of my Facebook friends, who asked if I find it hard to part with my paintings when they sell, since I put so much of myself into creating them. This question made me think of several favourite pieces that I no longer own.

The truth is, when a really successful piece sells quickly, I do feel a bit of a pang inside, because I still have a powerful emotional connection with the finished artwork. 

The images in this post reveal paintings that still own a piece of my heart, even though they have long ago been acquired by collectors.

Pictured above is Hardwood Floor, painted in 2002. I enjoyed it for three years before it found its new owner, but I still miss it. The colours just sing to me and I like the idea of finding beauty in imperfect or ordinary things.

Sweet Slumber, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The painting above is Sweet Slumber (1990) which graces a home in Calgary, Alberta. I love the contrast of complementary colours, orange and blue, in this piece, as well as the diagonal and vertical lines that guide the viewer's eye around the composition.

Autumn Welcome, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Above is Autumn Welcome (1995), inspired by a beautiful historic home in Port Perry and a twig chair made for me by a friend. I love the seasonal elements that celebrate autumn and the contrast of the red-orange brick with the dark green of the porch and roof. Fittingly, this painting was acquired by the home owners. 

Noteworthy, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Noteworthy (2006) and below is Sun, Sand and Sea (2006). Both were inspired by trips to the Maritimes and sold the same year they were created. I adore the balanced composition and fresh colour palette of Noteworthy, and the contrasting textures and subdued colours in Sun, Sand and Sea.

Sun, Sand and Sea, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I have had lots of practice saying good-bye to paintings, with over 600 of them sold to collectors since 1986, and I am still young enough to think I have 'unlimited' opportunity to paint more great pieces.

Below is Desert Compadres (2009), inspired by our trip to the American Southwest. This Collared Lizard ran right up to me as I was standing in the Painted Desert taking photos. This normally elusive creature posed on the colourful gravel at my feet for about 30 seconds and I got several clear close-up shots to use as painting references. I couldn't believe my good luck. I added the cactus to the scene in my painting, which sold before it was finished.

Desert Compadres, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I take photos of every completed painting and keep an archive to refer back to, so I can continue to enjoy my sold pieces. Below is Simply Amaizing (2009). The step-by-step process of painting this remarkable larger-than-life piece is detailed in my book Watercolour Toolbox. I love the light and shadow in this painting, as well as the range of colour. Every sunlit corn kernel has a highlight and a shadow containing reflected light.

Simply Amaizing, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Essentially though, I paint in order to share my reverence for peaceful and beautiful places, usually in the natural world, with folk who feel the same. Below is Magnolia Serenade (2012) which sold the following year. I am drawn to the dreamlike quality and soft colours of this painting. The background was challenging but turned out beautifully.

Magnolia Serenade, watercolour by Karen Richardson

I experience a thrill when one of my 'kids' goes to its forever home, where it will enrich other people's lives for decades to come. February Flow (2016), shown below, sold just two months after I finished it, which is wonderful, but I do miss this awesome painting. I love the contrasts within it - light/dark, fluid/frozen, and powerful/delicate.

February Flow, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Last year, I painted a set of three watercolours of pebble stacks, each named after a different cocktail. I only got to enjoy them for three months before they went to their forever home in Washington state. Shown below is one of them, Martini on the Rocks (2017).

Martini on the Rocks, watercolour by Karen Richardson

My art business motto is "Making the world a happier place... One painting at a time." So I am committed to sharing my paintings with a wide audience, but sometimes that does tug on my heart strings.

Cheers everyone. And feel free to share!

Your comments are welcome. Please use the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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My Interview with Cogeco TV

23 April, 2018 0 comments Leave a comment

My Lindsay studio was the setting for a video that Cogeco TV filmed last year. Mike Sloboda hosted the half hour interview as part of his 'All Around The Town' series, and it was a sincere pleasure to converse with Mike.

Recently, I came across a snippet from this interview, and thought you might enjoy a glimpse of my art studio and my artist's story. This 3-minute summary captures the highlights of my art background and why I paint; shows me in my studio; and includes some time lapse sequences of paintings being created.

Just click on the image below to view the video.

If you have any comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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The Artist's Studio

05 February, 2018 9 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Studio

At the end of last year, I took some time to catch up on paperwork in my studio office, finish some framing, and do a general studio tidy-up. Once that was done, everything looked so uncluttered and clean I took some photos to show you what a working artist's studio looks like. I also want to share with you some key features that make my creative space both comfortable and efficient. Welcome to your personal virtual studio tour!

When you come down the stairs to enter my studio, you see the panorama shown above. It is an L-shaped space, with my creative area on the left and my gallery and teaching space on the right.

Our home is a bungalow with 8' ceilings on both levels. In the lower level, large above-ground windows face west and north, to fill the space with light so it doesn't feel like a basement. We added four 2' x 4' LED ceiling light fixtures that greatly enhance the natural illumination.

Karen Richardson's Studio

The photo above shows my studio office. The desk and black file cabinet on the right house my computer and day-to-day office files and reference binders. On top are white photo storage boxes containing reference photos I have taken, sorted by subject matter and season. I take thousands of photos but just print the ones I think I may use as painting reference some day.

The white bookcase on the left mainly holds my collection of painting technique reference books, plus office stationary. The glass doors keep the dust out and make it easy to find what I'm looking for. The window in the middle is the one on which my wild turkey visitor knocked last month.

Karen Richardson's Studio

The photo above shows my office and creative space. On the left is my trusty collapsible print rack that I take to art shows as well as use in the studio, to display my giclee prints and matted paintings. The small bookshelf in front displays Watercolour Toolbox, the art instruction book I wrote. On top of the desk hutch is the satellite radio receiver that supplies whatever genre of music I choose, to keep me company as I work. Mostly I listen to soft rock or quiet jazz.

On the back wall is the tiny gas fireplace we added to this space, to make it cosy in cooler weather. I have it on all day, every day in winter. To the right of that, under the north window, is the drafting table where I do most of my painting. The working surface is 3' x 4', large enough for a full sheet of watercolour paper plus reference photos displayed to the sides.

In front of that is a desk credenza just over 5' long, that is very handy for assembling frames or doing any job needing a large horizontal surface. When one of my painting buddies comes here, she works at this desk while I paint at the drafting table.

Karen Richardson's Studio

To the right of my drafting table is an Ikea cabinet I bought over 30 years ago. It primarily stores unused framing materials, painting supports, paint palettes, paint tubes, and rags. The photo above shows it with the doors open. The adjustable shelves are 24" x 30", so this cabinet stores a lot of stuff.

Karen Richardson's Studio

Continuing around my creative space to the right, I have a black flat file cabinet that holds an astounding amount of watercolour paper, paintings in progress, brushes and other art supplies, office supplies, giclee prints, art card supplies, and archival bags. I bought this used metal cabinet from one of my framing suppliers when they no longer needed it, and I had it repainted at an automotive paint shop. Each of the ten drawers is 2' x 3' inside, so that is 60 square feet of horizontal storage in total. I love the efficiency of this cabinet! 

Around the corner to the right is my painting display space. I have professional grade wall hooks spaced 24" apart horizontally, with a second row 20" below the top row. This layout fits most sizes of finished paintings, without having to move hooks, although some of the larger pieces may cover two hooks.

Karen Richardson's Studio

My display space shown above consists of three walls, one 10 feet wide, one 12 feet wide, and one 8 feet wide. There is a short hallway to the right with display walls 2 feet and 6 feet wide. This gives me a total of 38 linear feet of gallery space. This is also the room I use for teaching my watercolour workshops. I teach up to five students at a time, and we each work on a 2' x 4' portable table. The photo below shows a typical class (and a different display of paintings).

Watercolour workshop in Karen Richardson studio 

No art studio or teaching space would be complete without a bathroom. In the photo below, you can see the bathroom we added on this level when we renovated. I also display a couple of finished paintings in there.

Karen Richardson's Studio

This completes the tour of the public area of my studio practice. The photos below show more studio storage and equipment that is in our furnace room and not accessible to the public (except on this virtual visit).

Karen Richardson studio

Shown above is my wonderful automotive storage rack. Each shelf is capable of supporting up to 500 lbs. This rack stores my painting transport boxes, shipping materials, business records, bulk storage of Watercolour Toolbox books, art show lighting equipment, framing materials, as well as some household items. Those 13 binders on the right are scrapbooks that document my entire art career to date (paintings, awards, shows, etc.). All this on a bit of floor measuring 2' x 6'.

Below, also in the furnace room, is my mat- and cardboard-cutting table. The slots underneath store mat board, and painting transport boxes, bags, and portfolios. The drawers hold my framing hardware, tools, and equipment.

Karen Richardson studio

I hope you have enjoyed your personal virtual art studio tour. I hope to see you in person in my studio at some point in the future.Visitors are welcome by appointment, or during an Open Studio event.

If you have any ideas, questions, or comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to learn more about the life of a professional artist, travel tales, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions. 

A Winning Season

01 November, 2016 1 comment Leave a comment

It seems I live a charmed life. From every show I have exhibited in, for the last few months, I have brought home an award. How long can it last?

My recent winning streak started at The Northern Art Show in Apsley in August, where my display booth won the People's Choice Award and a cash prize. Here are photos of parts of my booth.

Karen Richardson's watercolour display at The Northern Art Show in Apsley, August 2016.   Karen Richardson's watercolour display at The Northen Art Show in Apsley, August 2016.

In September, I had two paintings accepted into the Kawartha Art Gallery's Annual Juried Show, and they both won awards and cash prizes. Rhapsody in Red won the 'Technical Skills & Use of Colour Award', and Caught in the Rain won an Honourable Mention. Both paintings are pictured below.

Rhapsody in Red, watercolour by Karen Richardson   Caught in the Rain, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In October, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish presented me with the Mayor's Award and cash prize at the PineRidge Arts Council Annual Juried Art Exhibition, for my painting Sunbathing Swallowtails, pictured below.

This show of 64 paintings is now being exhibited at the McLean Community Centre, 95 Magill Drive, in Ajax until November 26. The juror selected the paintings in the show from 178 pieces submitted by 96 artists, and the PRAC awarded almost $5,000 in prizes.

Karen Richardson with her award winning watercolour, Sunbathing Swallowtails

Here is a detail from Sunbathing Swallowtails:

Detail of Sunbathing Swallowtails, watercolour by Karen Richardson

My next big show will be the 40th Annual Buckhorn Fine Art Festival next August. Wish me luck!

And what did I do with all my winnings, you ask? Well, I tucked it all away in our 'vacation jar', ready to fund our upcoming winter snowmobiling adventure on Baffin Island. Stay tuned!

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