Earthbound Artist

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.

December New Works: Dusk to Dawn

23 January, 2021 2 comments Leave a comment

Paintings by Karen Richardson  
Paintings by Karen Richardson
Up at the Crack of Dawn, watercolour by Karen Richardson

 

December was another busy month in my art studio, with the completion of the six new watercolours pictured above.

My northern lakes series continues and some unique and luscious skies have been introduced, depicting the magical effects of dawn, sunset, twilight, and starlight. I am enjoying this chance to work with bright, happy colours that lift my mood during this cold season.

Today, I am sharing the stories behind the creation of these new artworks.

Shown above is Almost Heaven, varnished watercolour on 12 x 6" panel. A venerable white pine stands guard over a peaceful northern lake as stars begin to fill the sky. The final glow of sunset rests on calm water. Places like this are almost heaven to many of us.

The scene is imaginary, but the tree details were loosely inspired by the photo below.

 

Tree in Lake Superior Prov Park, photo by Karen Richardson

I spotted this interesting white pine from Hwy 17 as we drove through Lake Superior Provincial Park last July, and took the photo from our truck. I love the way white pines tower over surrounding trees, like gigantic guardians of the forest.

For more details about Almost Heaven, click here.

 

Pictured above is Up at the Crack of Dawn, varnished waterdolour on 6 x 12" panel. Folks who get up early in the morning witness some breathtaking sunrises. In this scene, a streak of golden light parts the veils of darkness to reveal the trees and gently rolling hills of a northern landscape.

This painting was inspired by the photo below, which I took decades ago from a moving vehicle in an unknown northern location. I have kept this photo aside since then, knowing it would spark a great painting some day.

Photo by Karen Richardson

I love the feeling of mystery in this hint of landscape as dawn breaks on the horizon. It took many coats of paint to achieve the level of darkness and the glow of light behind the trees that was needed to create a magical effect.

Click here for more information about Up at the Crack of Dawn.

 

Shown above is Beyond the Blue, varnished watercolour on 12 x 12" panel. I am thrilled with the feeling of the finished work. The glow in the sky conveys that mystical time just before dawn. A light mist is rising from the lake and millions of stars still shine in the heavens. Soon the sun will burn off the remnants of night and a new day of adventure exploring these rocky islands will begin.

This painting is mostly from my imagination, loosely suggested by a long-exposure photo (shown below) taken by my friend Carolyn Caughell in Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve near Gravenhurst, ON.

Photo by Carolyn Caughell

I loved the starlight and the blues in her photo but completely reinvented the landscape and emphasized the stars when I created my painting.

To see more details about Beyond the Blue, click here.

 

Pictured above is And Time Stood Still, varnished watercolour on 12 x 16" panel. This painting was inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook, taken by Tania Bortolon Krysa during her back country hike on the Mdaabii Miikna Trail in Pukaskwa National Park last August.

Photo by Tania Bortolon Krysa

Tania's photo (shown above) captured a quiet twilight moment and I loved the shapes of the iconic northern Ontario trees. She kindly allowed me to use her photo as a painting reference. This is the second version of this scene that I have painted.

My husband and I visited this breathtaking park near Marathon, on the north shore of Lake Superior, around the same time this photo was taken, and plan to return for some hiking and kayaking in the future.

Click here for more information about And Time Stood Still.

 

The painting shown above is The Place I Belong, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. The sky is imaginary, but the land formations and trees are taken from a photo I took on Lake Muskoka in October 2018 while on a site seeing cruise. The photo is shown below, and you can see I took considerable license with shapes and colours.

Photo of Lake Muskoka by Karen Richardson

For more details about The Place I Belong, click here.

 

Shown above is the last painting I created in December, Time to  Reflect, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. The sky is from my imagination and the treeline is similar to one I used in my previous painting Exit Light, Enter Night (shown below).

For more information about Time to Reflect, click here.

As winter days begin to lengthen, 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.

The Making of 'Reflections of Yesterday'

10 January, 2021 3 comments Leave a comment

Pictured above is my watercolour painting 'Reflections of Yesterday' and today I am recounting the story of how this remarkable painting came to life.

In the spring of 2017, my husband and I and several friends explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island for two months in our travel trailers. I posted three stories showing the highlights of this fantastic trip ('Perfect Prince Edward Island', 'Camping in Beautiful Nova Scotia', and 'Top 5 Must-Have's for Travel Fun').

While exploring the quaint seaside village of Victoria in PEI, I photographed a colourful, weathered shed window from five different angles. I knew the various elements of this scene would work well as a watercolour portrait. The two views shown below are the ones I chose as painting references.

PEI shed window photo by Karen Richardson   PEI shed window photo by Karen Richardson

I liked the colours better in the red window trim in the left hand photo, but I preferred the reflection of the jellybean house in the right hand photo. One of the advantages of being a painter is that I can 'mix-and-match' my references.

Every inch of this painting was pure joy to create, from the cracks in the wood shingles, to the flaking red paint of the trim, to the distorted reflections in the vintage window glass.

For this painting, I tried out watercolour paints made by Sennelier in France and I was very impressed with their clarity and strength of colour. The three pigments I chose (Sennelier Red, Sennelier Yellow Deep, and Phthalocyanine Blue) worked perfectly for this piece. I will be using these paints again!

Fortunately I had the foresight to take photos as I worked on this challenging composition. From these work-in-progress photos, I assembled a short time lapse video, so you can see the flow of this piece to its completion.

Click on the image below to view the 2-minute story:

 

The completed painting (shown below) 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 'Reflections of Yesterday'.

This 12 x 16" artwork was acquired by a collector in Sunderland, ON shortly after completion. A little piece of my heart and soul went with this painting. I consider it to be one of my master works.

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.

A Corona Harvest: Feeling Thankful

13 December, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

Carrots grown by Karen Richardson

What a year this has been. When you throw a worldwide pandemic into the mix, life gets turned upside down, and everyone has to construct a 'new normal'.

Some folks have had a very sad experience with COVID-19. We hear of people who have lost their loved ones, jobs, homes, savings, or businesses, and feel so badly for them.

Tomatoes grown by Karen Richardson

As I write this, I find myself feeling grateful for our own situation. Many positive things have happened in our life because of the global pandemic and related time of isolation, perhaps because of the way we dealt with it. My husband and I realize we have much for which to be thankful.

Onions and garlic grown by Karen Richardson

Here in Ontario, starting last March, life got really simple, really fast. The province went into a state of emergency, schools and non-essential businesses were closed, and everyone was asked to stay home to control the spread of COVID-19.

Garlic scapes grown by Karen Richardson

With me running a home-based art business, and my husband being retired, staying at home is normal life for us, and we have endless to-do lists to keep us busy and content at the homestead.

Raspberries grown by Karen Richardson

I am an introvert, so being asked to remain at home and clear my calendar of meetings and appointments was no hardship at all. In fact, I came to love the simplicity of deciding each morning how to structure my day, depending on the weather forecast. Sunny - go for a walk or work in the yard. Rainy - make stuff in the kitchen or studio.

Crabapples grown by Karen Richardson

Since our spring trip to Australia was cancelled and Ontario campgrounds were closed, it looked like we would be spending the spring and summer at home. Rather than view this as a disappointment, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity to work on some major projects at home.

One of those was to grow a food garden in our back yard and figure out how to harvest and preserve the bounty. You can read about my spring and summer gardening journey in these previous posts:

My Corona Garden (May 2020)

My Corona Silver Lining (July 2020)

Rhubarb grown by Karen Richardson

This gardening project was the perfect way to change a negative into a positive. I got such a kick out of watching seeds and seedlings grow into delicious, nutritious things we could eat. It was miraculous, even in a garden as small as mine.

Tomatoes grown by Karen Richardson

I heard of many other folk who tried growing vegetables for the first time in 2020. The photos in this post are all vegetables and fruits I produced this year. I guess I can add 'farmer' to my resume ;-).

Lettuces grown by Karen Richardson

My husband built me two fantastic raised garden planters, (one of which is pictured below in September), and I grew most of my produce in them.

Karen Richardson's garden

With dine-in restaurants closed, I got used to cooking and baking delicious meals seven days a week, incorporating my garden produce whenever possible.

Tomato salsa made by Karen Richardson

I did some canning to preserve food, such as the tomato salsa shown above, and the crab apple jelly shown below.

Crabapple jelly made by Karen Richardson

I oven roasted most of my cherry tomatoes and then froze them. I look forward to adding these sweet gems to chili and pasta sauce this winter.

Roasted cherry tomatoes by Karen Richardson

I pureed some of the roasted tomatoes in a blender and will add this mixture (shown below) to soups or lasagna - perfect on a cold winter day.

Tomato puree by Karen Richardson

Another big positive to spending much of the year at the homestead was that we got to complete a major renovation on our house. When we moved here six years ago, the plan was to change the siding on the house from white to blue, to match the two new outbuildings we had built. This is what our house looked like in 2014 when we moved in:

Karen Richardson's home 2014

Since then, we have renovated the entire interior, re-shingled the roof, and completed extensive landscaping.

This summer, we hired a couple of local contractors to remove the old white siding, add a layer of rigid foam insulation all around, and then add blue siding with stone wainscoting. Shown below is a photo of the insulation going on in August.

Karen Richardson home 2020

Shown below is what our house looked like in September when all the work was done. We immediately noticed how much quieter our home was inside, and I expect this winter we will save on heating costs while being warm and cosy, with this project finally accomplished.

Karen Richardson home 2020

Another beneficial effect of the pandemic, and one I never would have predicted, happened with my art business. When all the galleries representing my artwork across Ontario had to close for three months this spring, I expected a long, slow period of recovery once they were allowed to reopen.

Such was not the case. When galleries reopened in June, sales of my original paintings were very strong, and have continued since then. I find it incredible that my total painting sales for this year of the pandemic have exceeded last year's levels (and 2019 was an excellent year).

Having to cancel the fall watercolour workshops I normally would have taught allowed me more time to paint over the last few months, and I continue to paint as quickly as I can to keep ahead of demand. 

Karen Richardson in her art studio

As my husband and I approach the end of this unprecedented year, we are filled with gratitude for the life we live and the good fortune that has been bestowed on us. We are people who see the pot as half full rather than half empty, and this outlook allowed us to be flexible and make the most of a challenging situation.

I sincerely hope next year is a healthy and happy one for everyone.

What was your impression of 2020? Has the period of isolation revealed any positive aspects you would like to retain in your future life? 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.

November New Works: Magical Skies

30 November, 2020 1 comment Leave a comment

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

November has been a busy month in my art studio, with the completion of 8 new watercolours (pictured above). My northern lakes series continues and some unique and luscious skies have been introduced, depicting the magical effects of dawn, sunset, twilight, and starlight. I am in heaven, pun intended, and fired up to make more paintings in this dramatic series in larger sizes next month.

In the meantime, I am sharing the stories behind the creation of these artworks.

Shown above is Let the Dream Begin, varnished watercolour on 6 x 12" panel. Warm sunset fades softly into twilight after an early snowfall has blanketed the landscape. The lake is still open but soon it will freeze over to begin its winter slumber. The idea of drifting into peaceful sleep prompted the title.

This piece was inspired by a summertime photo of a Ganaraska sunset (shown below) taken by my friend Tim Thorington and used with his permission.

Photo by Tim Thorington

I decided to switch the season to winter in my painting, which simplified the foreground and let the water shine.

Click here for more information about Let the Dream Begin.

 

Shown above is Let It Go, varnished watercolour on 6 x 12" panel. I imagined a story to go with this scene. There is a canoe resting on the island, and the paddlers have gone for one last swim before sunset. They had an amazing day on the water and don't want it to end. This feeling is captured in the title.

In 2012, I took a sunset photo (shown below) while boating on Lake of the Woods. The clouds were backlit by the setting sun, creating a rim of pink light on each cloud, and the sun's rays fanned out across the sky behind the clouds. The clouds were very tricky to portray successfully in watercolour, and I used some artistic license in my interpretation.

Lake of the Woods Sunset, photo by Karen Richardson

This past summer while on camping trips to Lake Superior, I made some pencil drawings of imaginary northern lake scenes in my sketchbook. I selected this one shown below for the foreground of my new sunset painting.

Pencil sketch by Karen Richardson

Click here to see more information about Let It Go.

Shown above is the first painting in my new Starlight Series, Music of the Night, varnished watercolour on 12 x 12" panel. There is something magical about twilight, and this painting captures the essence of this special moment. A glowing remnant of sunset silhouettes tall pines as the heavens fade to black. And when we look up beyond the tree tops, we behold a symphony of starlight. This musical reference is echoed in the title of this piece.

This unusual night scene was inspired by a photo taken by professional photographer James Shedden that he posted on Facebook last spring. The photo reminded me of nights spent looking up into a northern Ontario sky after dark, with no light pollution to interfere, and marveling at the heavy blanket of starlight across the heavens. I asked James for permission to use his photo as reference for a painting and he graciously agreed. His photo is shown below.

Photo by James Shedden

In my painting, I made the format square instead of rectangular, added more reds and oranges to the sunset, and made the trees slightly less dense so the sunset colours would show more effectively.

The process of painting the background sky, with smooth colour changes through the spectrum from yellow to black, was very challenging and took all my painting skills. I built up these deeply vibrant colours using many layers of paint and allowing a full day for each layer to dry before adding the next one.

Creating the pinpricks of starlight was pure fun. Adding tree silhouettes at the end was easily accomplished, due to my extensive history of examining, understanding, drawing, and painting thousands of pine trees over the last 35 years. I used to climb trees like these when I was a kid, so they are in my blood.

Click here for more information about Music of the Night.

 

Shown above is Be Still, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This scene is Picture Rock Harbour on Lake Superior, in Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon, ON.

This painting was inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook, taken by Tania Bortolon Krysa during her back country hike on the Mdaabii Miikna Trail last August. My husband and I visited this breathtaking park around the same time and plan to return for some hiking and kayaking in the future.

Tania's photo captured a quiet twilight moment and I loved the shapes of the iconic northern Ontario trees. She kindly allowed me to use her photo (shown below) as a painting reference.

Photo by Tania Bortolon Krysa

I changed my painting to a square format and made the sunset a bit more orange to contrast with the blue sky. I found this scene challenging, especially the smooth sky gradation and the rippled reflections on the surface of the lake, but thoroughly enjoyed the process of recreating this special moment in time. I would like to do another painting using the full rectangular format of the reference photo and including the moon in the sky.

When Tania saw my finished painting on Facebook, she said "I love it so much! This is going to transport a great many people right back to some beautiful and peaceful memories of Picture Rock Harbour. You are a great talent!"

Click here to see more details of Be Still.

Shown above is Into the Wild Blue Yonder, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. I am thrilled with the feeling of the finished work. The glow in the sky conveys that mystical time just before dawn. A light mist is rising from the lake and millions of stars still shine in the heavens. Soon the sun will burn off the remnants of night and a new day of adventure exploring these rocky islands will begin.

The literal meaning of Wild Blue Yonder is 'a location far away that is appealingly unknown and mysterious', which captures perfectly the spirit of this place. I am very keen to further explore this type of blue starlight scene in future paintings.

This painting is mostly from my imagination, loosely suggested by a long-exposure photo taken by my friend Carolyn Caughell in Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve near Gravenhurst, ON. I loved the starlight and the blues in her photo (shown below) but completely reinvented the landscape and emphasized the stars when I created my painting.

Photo by Carolyn Caughell

Click here for more details about Into the Wild Blue Yonder.

Shown above is Starry Starry Night, varnished watercolour on 12 x 12" panel. I had so much fun painting Music of the Night that I made a second, larger painting. I added the flare from the setting sun to balance the large trees on the left. I also made the colours brighter.

The title Starry Starry Night pays homage to the opening lyrics of Vincent, a haunting song about Vincent Van Gogh, on Don McLean's iconic 1971 album American Pie.

Click here to see more details about Starry Starry Night.

Shown above is Dreams of Dragon's Fire, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This painting is set in that magical time when night fades and a new day dawns. Rich scarlet, gold, and purple flow like flames through the sky and reflect in a lake so vast, we cannot see the far shore. Pine trees perch atop a rocky island, perfectly reflected in calm waters.

I found the idea for this painting on Pixabay.com, where I saw the photo below by Johannes Plenio.

Photo by Johannes Plenio

In my painting, I used the same background colours but made my own swirls and shapes. For the island, I used a photo I had taken while snowmobiling north of Lake Superior in 2017 (see below). I flipped the photo so the trees would lean into the centre of the scene.

Photo by Karen Richardson

Click here for more details about Dreams of Dragon's Fire.

Shown above is Shadows of Dawn, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. Mist dances in elegant swirls along the surface of a calm lake, parting to reveal a perfect little island, crowned with a cluster of conifers. Shadows recede gracefully as the new day awakens.

The background sky, mist, and water came about entirely by chance. I had laid down some gold graded washes to begin a new sunset scene, but the colours were dull and unattractive. I let the painting sit for a month or so while I pondered its fate. Then I decided to strike out in a new direction and added more washes of orange and black to pump up the drama. I loved the result and added the misty island and soft reflections to complete the scene.

The island is the reverse image of the one I portrayed in the painting below, titled Hidden Secrets.

Click here to see more details about Shadows of Dawn.

As the days continue to shorten, 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.

The Making of 'Lapping Waters'

16 November, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Lapping Waters, varnished watercolour on panel by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Lapping Waters, watercolour 16 x 20". I painted this scene as a demonstration for a 3-day advanced level workshop I taught in my studio in November 2019. I took some photos during class so I could show you the strategies and steps involved in making this painting.

Beach at Neys Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

The photo above is one I took on the beach at Ney's Provincial Park, on the north shore of Lake Superior near Marathon, Ontario and was the reference we used for the painting. I gave my students the option of bringing their own photos of driftwood to make their paintings unique.

As is my usual habit, I used just three tubes of paint to mix all the colours I needed for this scene. I don't always use the same primary colours but in this case I used Antwerp Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and New Gamboge (all by Winsor & Newton) because this brand is easiest for my students to obtain locally.

Because watercolour dries very quickly, I have a small window of time to apply paint before it starts to dry. Since it is easier to paint a small section in 30 seconds than it is to paint a large section in 30 seconds, it is helpful if a scene has distinct sections that can be worked on individually. Conveniently, this scene divides naturally into several horizontal sections and my strategy was to work on one section at a time, starting at the top and working downward. (Sky, deep water, surf, calm water, sand.) 

Lapping Waters layout sketch by Karen Richardson

DAY 1 (plan, sketch, begin painting background)

To begin, I sketched a simple contour drawing on graph paper (shown above). This establishes the horizon, the edges of each section of the scene, the shapes of the foam, and the outer shape of the driftwood.

When completed, I traced this sketch using graphite transfer paper onto a 17" by 21" piece of 300 lb Arches cold press bright white watercolour paper. The finished size of the painting would be 16" by 20".

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I wet the sky area and painted the upper blue section and then the purple mist section, being careful to leave some of the mist area white in between the colours.

On dry paper, using a paint brush and a water brush, I painted in the darkest shapes of the waves using a golden brown mixture, softening the edges with clear water as I went along. (This is the complementary colour to the blue water, so will read as a dark blue gray once the transparent blue layer goes over top.)

While that area dried, I used liquid masking fluid (my favourite type is Pebeo Drawing Gum which is pale blue) to protect the white highlights of the surf. This is a temporary coating that preserves the white of the paper and allows me to paint around the protected area quickly and evenly. The close-up photo below shows the blue masking fluid in the surf section.

Detail of surf by Karen Richardson

When the masking was dry, I painted gray on top to represent the shadows in the surf. When that paint was dry, I rubbed off the masking fluid with a crepe eraser, revealing white bits of the foam nestled in gray shadows. I added pale blue shadows to the lower edges of the white bits to give them dimension.

DAY 2 (completing hill and lake sections, beginning the sand)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I mixed a dark gray and painted in a hint of the far hill peeking above the mist. I also added a few purple shadows in the mist to give it some form.

I wet the deep section of the lake with clear water and painted blue and dark blue onto the lake surface. I lifted colour here and there, using a clean damp brush, to look like sunlight on the swells in the water.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress detail, by Karen Richardson

(Shown above in detail) Using mixtures of green and blue green, I painted in the near headland. Then I touched a wet water brush to the painted areas, leaving soft blooms in the paint that looked like sunlit tree masses. When the greens were dry, I added some tidbits of tan colour to the shoreline to represent the rocky shore.

While that area dried, I applied liquid masking fluid to protect the white surf and driftwood.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I wet the middle section (the calm water closest to the beach) with clear water and painted in three colours: pale gray under the far surf, tan across the middle, and darker brown along the leading edge of the wave. These colours had to be applied quickly so they could have equal moisture levels that would dry evenly, with no back runs.

Then I wet the front section (the sand) with clear water and painted on the same three colours I used in the middle section, trying to imitate the placement of the colours according to the reference photo. The pale gray went next to the wave, the tan across the middle, and the darker brown in several areas.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) Once the paint was fully dry, I re-wet the sand with clear water and painted on a second layer of the same paint mixtures, in the same areas as before, to deepen the colours.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown in detail above) When the sand area was dry, I added the cast shadows below the foam to give it dimension. After that dried, I rubbed off the masking fluid and painted pale gray shadows within the foam, using the reference photo to get the shapes right.

DAY 3 (completing the sand and driftwood)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I painted the first layer of shadows and texture in the driftwood using a mixture of grays and browns. (Shown in detail below.)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

 

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) After the first layer of paint dried, I added more layers of colour and shadow to the driftwood, paying careful attention to my reference photo.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) After the driftwood was fully dry, I painted the shadows cast on the sand. I was careful to make these graded washes rather than flat washes, to imitate how light reflects back into shadowed areas.

Lapping Waters, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is my finished demonstration painting.

Students with driftwood beach paintings, workshop taught by Karen Richardson

My students were accomplished watercolour painters who worked diligently to recreate this complex scene, and the results are shown above. Each one is a unique interpretation, beautifully done.

My finished painting, titled Lapping Waters, was mounted on a 16 x 20" archival wood panel, then varnished and presented in a black wood floater frame. There is no glass to get in the way of enjoying the details of this scene. I think it successfully represents the stark beauty and warm light of this special place.

For more information about Lapping Waters, click here.

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

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Ontario has some Great Lakes

03 November, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

Pukaskwa National Park photo by Karen Richardson

When Ontario was on full COVID-19 lock down last spring, including campgrounds, provincial parks, and national parks, my husband and I thought we might not be able to go camping in our travel trailer this year. That is the main reason we decided to grow a food garden and complete some house renovations while we sheltered at home.

Fortunately for us, Ontario travel restrictions started to loosen in June and we managed to fit in a few wonderful camping trips to several scenic lake regions of our home province between July and October.

These trips to natural settings allow us to relax and unwind, without all the to-do list-pressures that life at home entails, and let me immerse myself in Nature to gather reference photos and sketches for future paintings.

In this post, I am sharing with you a selection of inspiring landscape photographs I was able to capture this past summer and fall while camping. The photo at the top of this post was taken in September at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior.

Full moon over Lake Ontario photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is the full moon over Lake Ontario on July 4, steps from our beach front campsite at Quinte's Isle Camppark in Prince Edward County. We spent an enjoyable and relaxing week camping there under sunny, blue skies.

Mississagi River photo by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is the Mississagi River, north of the North Channel of Lake Huron. I love the little islands and perfect reflections. The Trans-Canada Highway follows the shore of this pretty river for many kilometers between Blind River and Iron Bridge. When we are driving eastward, I have an unobstructed view of the river from my passenger side window.

Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Lake Superior (pictured above) remains my favourite Great Lake. It looks like a magnificent inland sea, with dramatic headlands and rocky islands, and simply takes my breath away whenever I see it. Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, plus three extra Lake Erie's.

Batchawana Beach Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is the beach at Batchawana Bay Park, between Lake Superior Provincial Park and Sault Ste. Marie, in September. Lake Superior contains ten percent of all the fresh water on our planet, enough to cover all of North and South America with water one foot deep. I find such facts about this lake utterly astounding, and they help to convey the vastness of this magical place.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is the pebble beach and rocky island at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park near Rossport. We have stayed in this picturesque beach front campground several times in the past, and finally the weather gods smiled on us one August day, so we could paddle along the tranquil shoreline in our kayaks. This was the first time in our lives that we kayaked on Lake Superior and I think I grinned the whole time.

Shown below are another couple of views of this beautiful park, seen from my kayak. The water is so clear that the bottom can be seen distinctly in shallow areas. I have about 100 stunning reference photos taken during our most recent stay here.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park from my kayak, photo by Karen Richardson

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

This also was the summer we discovered Pukaskwa National Park, which is between Wawa and Marathon on the north shore of Lake Superior. We visited the park twice, briefly, checking out the serviced campsites to confirm our travel trailer could fit there (it would), and hiking the short Southern Headland Trail to enjoy scenic vistas, such as the ones pictured below and at the beginning of this post.

Horseshoe Bay in Pukaskwa National Park photo by Karen Richardson

Above is the gorgeous view from the beach at Horseshoe Bay in Pukaskwa (pronounced 'PUCK-a-saw').

We are eager to return to Pukaskwa another year, perhaps for a week-long stay, to camp in our trailer and spend some time kayaking among the scenic islands and hiking back country trails. This park is truly spectacular and has captured our hearts.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Although the lake scenery takes centre stage for me, I have to share some photos of the vistas seen from the Trans-Canada Highway that took us along the north shore of the Great Lakes. The iconic white pines tower above the other trees on forest-clad hills of the Canadian Shield that flank Highway 17 (shown above and below).

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Ontario's autumn colours were fantastic this year, and we journeyed through the Lake Superior region at just the right time (late September) to see the glorious fall foliage (shown below).

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson
Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson
 

On our journey, we noticed that the autumn forests west of Wawa are yellow and green. These photos all were taken east and south of Wawa and include the glorious red maples and sumacs.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Huge rock cuts such as those shown above and below are an intrinsic part of this route, blasted and carved through the Canadian Shield to make road travel possible in this mountainous region.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

 

I am feeling blessed to have been able to explore these beautiful regions of Ontario this summer and fall, despite the pandemic. I hope you were able to get out into Nature and feel her healing effect too. If not, I hope these photos have given you the feeling of being there.

Now I am back in the studio, starting to work on new paintings from the Great Lakes region. Stay tuned folks.

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

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New Works: Stories of Peaceful Northern Lakes

25 October, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

New paintings by Karen Richardson

 

It is remarkable how many memories can be captured in a simple lake scene. I grew up in the Canadian Shield region of Ontario, just east of Algonquin Park. Landscapes filled with clear water, sturdy rocks and wind-sculpted pine trees are ingrained in my soul.

Now that our summer camping trips are in the rear view mirror, it feels great to get back to playing with paint in my studio. Camping season ended at Thanksgiving, and already I have finished six exciting new works in my northern lakes series, pictured above.

I love painting the effect of calm water and the stillness it imparts to the viewer. Many people tell me these paintings remind them of their childhood. Let me give you a tour of my latest paintings and tell you their stories.

Exit Light, Enter Night watercolour by Karen Richardson

Exit Light, Enter Night, 6 x 12" varnished watercolour on panel, shown above, has been a long time in the making. I have lost count of how many attempts I made at capturing the vivid colours of this scene.

My original inspiration was a photo taken by professional photographer James Shedden, who posts his gorgeous photos on Facebook. When I saw his winter photo (shown below) in May of 2019, I felt a visceral connection to the land of my childhood in the Upper Ottawa Valley. I just had to paint this! And James was kind enough to give me permission to use his photo as a painting reference. You can check out his work at SheddenPhotography.ca

Photo by James Shedden

The difficult aspect of this subject is controlling the placement and intensity of the colours that make up the sky. I had to paint on wet paper to get the soft transitions between colours, but problems occurred when the colours bled too far on the wet paper, and warm oranges mixed with cool blues to create grayed colours. After starting over a few times and running into the same problem, I decided to begin again but with a new strategy: slow down and separate the processes.

I pre-wet the watercolour paper and applied many coats of blue to the upper sky and the snow-covered lake, letting each layer dry overnight before adding the next coat. After several days, the blues reached the intensity I was after. When they were fully dry, I re-wet the middle section and stroked in the pinks and oranges.

I changed some pink areas of the photo references to oranges when I painted them, to emphasize the dramatic contrast of complementary colours blue and orange. It took a few coats over several days to build up rich colour there too. When the sky had dried, I added in the delicate streaks of purple and turquoise above the treeline.

Once the sky had dried thoroughly for a few days, I drew the tree outlines with pencil and then filled in the trees with black watercolour mixed from the primaries. Several coats were needed to achieve an opaque black.

This paint-and-wait process I have described required patience and the ability to delay gratification, but I was very happy with the final result.

The title 'Exit Light, Enter Night' is from the lyrics of one of my favourite Metallica songs and perfectly describes what is happening in the scene.

For more information about Exit Light, Enter Night, click here.

Serenity by the Shore, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Serenity by the Shore, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel, inspired by our camping trip to Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario in July. This vast lake contains many scenic bays and islands and the waters are very clear so you can see the bottom of a shallow bay.

Photo by Karen Richardson    Photo by Karen Richardson

These are the two reference photos I used to compose my painting. The transition from blue sky reflected on the water to the sandy brown lake bottom was done in one paint layer on wet paper. This is a risky technique, especially adding in the slight ripple of waves, so I was very pleased to get it right in one go. Once this layer had dried for a few days, I painted in the island, its reflection, and the underwater rocks and crevices.

For more information about Serenity by the Shore, click here.

Waiting For Summer, watercolour by Karen Richarsdon

 

Shown above is Waiting For Summer, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This quiet little scene was inspired by a photo I took decades ago at the Richardson familycottage on Big Cedar Lake, in central Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

 

When I look at this scene, I almost can hear the echoes of summers past, when kids swam around and dove from the home-built raft. I love the feeling that mist softly imparts; there is a gentleness, but also a sense of mystery, inviting the viewer to add personal reminiscences of cottage life.

For more details about Waiting For Summer, click here.

Heading For Home, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is Heading For Home, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. This painting began as a doodle in my sketchbook (shown below), during our camping trip to Lake of the Woods. This was drawn entirely from my imagination.

Pencil Sketch by Karen Richardson

When planning the colour scheme for the painting, I wanted to try some complementary sunset hues. I found a photo of a random sunset in my archives and the unusual colour combination of turquoise and peach caught my eye. I added the canoe and paddlers in the distance to imply the end of a fabulous, strenuous day spent exploring the wonders of Nature, when it is time to return home before dark.

To see more information about Heading For Home, click here.

Misty Blues, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Misty Blues, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This foggy Lake Superior scene was inspired by a photo taken by my Facebook friend Ellen VanLaar. Last May, she posted the photo shown below of a foggy morning at Coppermine Point, which is near her home between Pancake Bay and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Ellen graciously gave me permission to use her photo as a painting reference.

Photo by Ellen VanLaar

I so enjoyed painting the 8 x 8" version of the scene that I made a second version in a rectangular format in a larger size. This became Blue Becomes You, varnished watercolour on 12 x 16" panel, shown below.

Blue Becomes You, watercolour by Karen Richardson

For more information about Blue Becomes You, click here.

As our weather gradually cools, and more days are spent indoors than out, 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.

A Perfect Corona Bubble

16 August, 2020 0 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson RV

It is hard to believe my husband and I have enjoyed 16 seasons exploring North America in an RV. And the last ten seasons have been spent with our Earthbound travel trailer, shown above in Quetico Provincial Park in NW Ontario a few weeks ago. Most of the reference photos I use to inspire my paintings are taken during these travel adventures.

This year we discovered that recreational vehicles (RV's for short) provide the perfect mode of travel for the current global pandemic. Having owned two travel trailers and a fifth-wheel trailer since 2004, and embracing the RV lifestyle up to 4 months each year, we fully understand why the RV industry in Canada and the USA is experiencing record sales since the pandemic began.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is our first travel trailer, an Award, camped in Nova Scotia in 2005.

People have become leery of boarding airplanes and cruise ships but still want to get away with their family to enjoy quality time together. RV travel is the perfect way to isolate with most of the comforts of home, while safely enjoying the rejuvenating aspects of nature.

In June of this year, the president of the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association, Shane Devenish, said in a statement that recreational vehicles are more desirable now because people can prepare and eat meals in a private space, use a private washroom and bed, and have peace of mind knowing who is sanitizing the space and how.

He went on to say that "RVs lend themselves to outdoor activities where crowds are nonexistent, like hiking, biking, fishing, geocaching, photography, off-roading, rockhounding, exploring back roads, kayaking, etc.".

Shown below is our second RV, a 31-foot Wildcat fifth wheel trailer, pictured in New Mexico in 2009. This model had a small garage in the back that would transport either our ATV or two small motorcycles.

Karen Richardson RV

When the pandemic hit in March of this year, we assumed we would be spending most of this spring and summer at home. (That is why we decided to embark on a food-growing journey in our back yard, and you can read about it in these Garden posts.)

We were relieved when Ontario campgrounds opened in June with safe protocols in place, and since then we have taken some short camping trips.

Shown below is our current typical camping setup, complete with dining tent, pictured at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park on the shore of Lake Superior. We bought this 29-foot Earthbound travel trailer in 2011 and still love the layout, build quality, and amenities it provides.

Karen Richardson RV

We often refer to our trailer as our 'bubble', because it is a self-contained unit with its own kitchen, 3-piece bathroom, bedroom, and living room with TV and satellite radio. It is the perfect setup in which to isolate and entertain ourselves during the pandemic, while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.

When we are set up a campground with full hook-ups (water, electrical, and sewer connections), we have essentially a condo unit. Campsites have lots of open space, which makes it very easy to keep safely distant from other campers during this time of isolation.

If we need to, we can camp for up to a week without services, by using our solar panel, batteries, propane tanks, freshwater tank and sewage holding tanks. This 'boon-docking' capability allows us to camp in more remote areas for brief periods. Shown below is our rig stopped at a Lake Superior lookout on Hwy 17 a few years ago. 

Karen Richardson RV

The easiest way to explain what makes our innovative, eco-friendly Earthbound special is that it is built like an aircraft rather than a house. It was constructed aerodynamically with recyclable materials, has no wood in it, and only weighs 4,500 lbs (compared to 10,000 lbs for our previous fifth wheel toy hauler trailer).

All this makes for an easy-to-tow, extremely durable RV. It is short enough to park in most campgrounds, but long enough to contain the amenities we like. Let's take a look inside.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is the view from the entry door (which is in the living room), looking at the kitchen. The kitchen slide-out is in the 'out' position, which has expanded the hallway by a foot. The kitchen has a large round sink, 3-burner propane stove and propane oven, and a fridge/freezer that will operate on 120V, 12V or propane.

Across the hall from the kitchen is our little bathroom. The shower has glass doors and a built-in seat. We appreciate having hot running water and our own flush toilet.

Karen Richardson RV

The photo above was taken in the kitchen, looking back toward the entry door. The large living/dining room with lots of seating was a feature that attracted us to this model, which is called Copper Mountain. The extra loveseat on the left gives us additional room to spread out. My husband added the convenient illuminated shoe cupboard under the seat by the door.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is another view of the dinette and seating area. The dinette table can be moved to various positions and is where I work on paintings and drawings.

There are so many storage cupboards in this trailer that it holds everything we need for a 4-month stay. Recently my husband installed a microwave oven in the upper right hand cupboard, which is next to the kitchen.

Karen Richardson RV

The photo above was taken from the dinette, looking up the hallway. Underneath the TV is a very handy coat closet. Every surface inside and outside our trailer is washable and easy to keep clean. The Earthbound came with two flat screen TV's, propane furnace, air conditioner and radio sound system with three speaker zones (living room, bedroom and outdoor).

Karen Richardson RV

A feature I especially enjoy, being someone who loves to bake and cook, is the pull-out pantry (shown above) beside the fridge.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is our bedroom, with a queen size pillow top mattress that lifts up on pistons to access the huge under-bed storage compartment. The extensive closet space was another plus with this floor plan.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is the bedroom dresser and TV. We can run this TV from our batteries, connect our laptop, and watch prerecorded movies and documentaries, even if we are camped in the wilderness with no electrical services. It is a perfect activity for a rainy day. All the windows in the RV are double glazed, can be opened to let in the breeze, and have roll-up screens and roll-down insulated blackout blinds.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of our travel trailer and understand why I think of it as a perfect Corona bubble.

Are you a new RV owner? Or thinking of getting an RV? Had some safe RV adventures this year? 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.

My Corona Silver Lining

13 July, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

As I write this, I find myself feeling very grateful for silver linings. I am referring to all the positive things that have happened in my life because of the global pandemic which has caused us to isolate at home. I posted in May about how Corona impacted us and you can read the article here.

I realize that some people have had a much sadder experience with COVID-19 and my heart goes out to them. I'm one of the lucky ones, and most Canadians I have spoken to feel blessed about their situation this year.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband and I had planned to spend the spring of 2020 touring Australia in a rented camper van, and then venture out on summer camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario. The realization that we would be spending more time at home this year lead us to research growing a vegetable garden. This project has become my favourite 'silver lining'. Check out the lettuces I'm growing (shown above and below)!

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Bare shelves at the grocery stores this spring resulted in many people growing a vegetable garden, similar to the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think taking concrete action gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, and growing food in our own back yards makes us feel useful and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband built me two raised bed planters for my food garden in March (shown above in his workshop) and I filled them with organic matter and soil and planted a square foot style garden in a sunny spot in our yard in April and May. We had a cold, wet spring but the heat really came on in June and July and the plants took off. This is what my west planter looks like now (pictured below).

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

The front row is 5 varieties of pole beans (vines) climbing up bamboo teepees. They are flowering now (shown below) and will start producing fresh beans within the next few weeks. They will continue producing beans for about 3 months, until hard frost kills the plants. I have grown pole beans before and they are excellent producers for small gardens, since they take advantage of vertical space.

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Behind the beans are 6 tomato plants supported by spiral stakes. The huge plant on the left (taller than I) is a cherry tomato and I picked my first ripe one this week. The other tomato plants are beefsteak (shown in the first photo at the top of this post) and Italian (shown below). I have hundreds of green tomatoes and I'm going to try my hand at canning when they ripen.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Behind and around the tomato plants I have sweet peppers, chives, basil, parsley, thyme, and marigolds growing. Below is a photo of my baby sweet peppers and parsley.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My east planter is pictured below and contains onions, carrots, raspberry bushes, leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, radishes, mesclun mix, and marigolds.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I've been picking baby lettuces and spinach since early June and they are excellent - mild and tender - and very prolific. I thought the lettuces might bolt (flower) in our excessive heat the last few weeks, but they are still growing tidy little leaves and taste great (pictured below).

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The spinach has flowered so I pulled it out today and will plant more seeds in August for a fall harvest. I had less success with radishes, harvesting a half dozen before the plants flowered. I dug up my first samples of onions this week to check the size and it looks like I will have a large harvest of small onions. Carrot tops are looking healthy and I have my fingers crossed.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Shown above are two more food gardens. At the house foundation is a row of rhubarb, which I harvested twice this spring and preserved rhubarb nectar (shown below). I mix this sweet syrup with club soda to make a delicious rhubarb lemonade.

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Next to the rhubarb garden I am growing 6 blueberry bushes (in cages to protect from rabbits) and 50 heads of garlic. Shown below are the garlic flower stalks (scapes) that I harvested a few weeks ago. I made a delicious pesto for pasta, and froze some chopped scapes. They are very tender and mild and I enjoy them sauteed with potatoes.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden 

This week I dug up the ripened garlic bulbs (about half the crop - shown below) and will wait a week or two to harvest the rest when they are ready. I will set aside enough bulbs to plant 50 cloves in late October and use the rest for cooking from now until next July.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I'm 'cautiously thrilled' with my Corona garden and am hoping that pests and diseases will stay out of my beautiful raised beds. So far, so good.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see how things progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you are enjoying it and have good luck with your silver lining. 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.

 

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