Monday, April 30, 2012

Snail Mail - The Personal Touch

Today I received snail mail! Not a bill snail mail or junk snail mail, but a real letter personally addressed to me!  This gift of a handwritten note on this dreary wet day brought golden rays of sunshine into my life and joy into my heart.

Artist and friend Christine Cantow Smith of Aunt Bean Artworks sent me snail mail, a set of her wonderful cards and a beautiful handwritten note.  What a blessing and joy it was to receive this gift.

Yes Christine I love surprises! Thank you so very much!

The cards are beautiful, wonderfully crafted with a very professional feel to them. I will be putting in a order for your Frolicking Series!

In her note to me Christine gave me pause to wonder about what has happened to the hand written note?

In our fast paced world of modern technology where we jot off emails or send a quick text message how much are we giving up.  Growing up in the age before computers I remember having pen pals gleaned from the Vancouver Sun Newspaper, these pen pals were from within 1 - 3 hours driving distance from my home, not far at all as we see it today but back then they were major distances.  I remember the excitement of receiving a piece of snail mail, seeing that handwritten envelope with MY name on it, inspecting the stamp, anticipating the words inside.  Reading the letters over and over and then so carefully, using my best handwriting, nicest pen, and unlined paper crafting a reply.

Today in this age of modern technology I have exchanged those pen pals with online friends, we communicate via online, receive instant responses, share our life experiences as they happen, it has it's place and I love it but sometimes it's nice to receive a personal letter, to go through the ritual of making a cup of tea and settling down in a favorite chair to read the news of a cherished friend.

What about you, do you still use the personal touch and send mail, what are your thoughts re: email vs snail mail?

"Let us then leave behind letters 
of love and friendship, family
and devotion, hope and consolation, 
so that future generations 
will know what we valued and 
believed and achieved."

-Marian Wright Edelman,
From the foreword of Letters of a Nation

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Spirit of Trickster

Raven - In Northwest Coastal Native lore the raven is known as a trickster, curious and mischievous it often misbehaves but is never boring.

I find it interesting to look back over the journey of a painting. This one began with a photo that I took in Stanley Park, Vancouver of a crow, yes the original was just a plain ordinary crow, but crows are so common I changed it to a Raven. (artistic licence)  I had planned on staying pretty close to the photo reference, but as I worked on the background things began to change. What was supposed to be muted grays and browns turned into blues/grays and green/grays, shadowy totem poles emerged out of the mist and a creek showed itself at the bottom of the painting.  Not at all what I planned but sometimes you just have to let the painting dictate the outcome.

Can you feel the thrumming of distant drums or sense the spirits near by in this place deep in the forest?  Perhaps you can hear the Raven tells his story, but you must never forget he is known as the trickster.

The Spirit of Trickster
24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas

Prints available click here Melodie Douglas Fine Arts

Reference photo  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day - Into The Depths

In celebration of Earth Day.
Earth Day is a day to bring awareness and appreciation of earths natural environment to be conscious of our roll in the protection of our natural resources.

"Into The Depths" was inspired by a shaft of sunlight shining into Hayward Lake. a clear, clean,  fresh water lake in BC Canada.  As the sunlight cut though the water a myriad of colors was revealed, beautiful greens, blues, and yellows moved and shimmered below the surface drawing me into it's depth......

Into The Depths
24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas

This painting is available for purchase 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pastel How To - Eve of Seduction

The majority of my still life paintings begin with a photo shoot.  In the case of "Eve of Seduction" the shoot was contained within a large photo box that I built out of cardboard.  The photo box allows me to control my lighting as well as remove any clutter that might be behind the image.  Most of my photo shoots consist of 100 to 300 shots.  This is where it is so handy to have digital.

For detailed realistic work I work out my drawing first on a separate piece of paper then transfer it on to my preferred paper which is La Carte by Sennelier.  La Carte is a sanded paper which can hold many layers of pastel and isn't hard on your fingers when it comes to blending. The only draw back with it is that you can not get it wet if you do it removes the finish leaving a unsightly hole in your painting.

My preference for transferring the image is to use transfer paper which comes in both black & white.  I have used the chalk method to transfer drawings before but find that the transfer paper is a cleaner option for me. 

 In this photo you can see that my paper is affixed to a firm board using masking tape. Any type of firm surface will work, I've even been known to use an old canvas for my board. I keep the photo reference clipped to the top of the board so that it is close by to refer to and also so that I don't misplace it.

When I work with pastels I usually start on the left hand side of my paper or the upper left hand corner and work my way across the drawing.  This is so that I don't smudge areas that I have already painted.  Although a mahl stick can be used I find it easier to work without one.

The board is kept slightly tipped forward to allow the pastel dust to fall freely onto the catch cloth that I have below the painting.   At regular intervals I also remove the painting from the easel, tilt it and give it a good hard spanking to remove any loose pastel dust.  
(Please note that spanking would not work on smooth papers or velour.)

Note:  Although not shown here, while painting I would  have the painting held in place by the canvas holder.   

I use a wide variety of pastels with my main staples being Great American, Unison and Terry Ludwig Pastels.  The reds for "Eve of Seduction" are from the Terry Ludwig Intense Darks  collection which I just love.

Pastels come in various degrees of hardness some are very soft, just a little touch and they explode on your paper and do not accept other layers on top of them, these are the finishing ones the softest of these is Schmincke's.
I start with the hardest pastels first and build up to the softest.

Once I am finished with the main painted area I work on the background.  In this painting I knew in advance that I was going to have a fairly solid color for my background.  With a more elaborate background I would  have worked on it in the beginning.  

Add some final touches and tada a painting is born!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sneak Peeks April 12th, 2012

I've dabbled on a couple of the in-progress paintings that I showed you last week in  Sneak Peeks April 6 finished up one painting "Celebration", and finished a small painting which might be the start of a new series, you can see all about that on my last blog post .  I also made a panicked run out of town to my art supply store when I realized that I wouldn't have time to pick up any canvases for at least two weeks perhaps longer.  (Yes I panic at the thought of running out of canvases).   So with those clean new canvases tempting me (I know I should hide them in the closet....but they keep calling to me...yes I know I'm weak)  I of course had to start two new paintings....could they wait for me to finish up the of course not.  The unfinished in-progress works grows and grows.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tulips The Beginning of a Series? Perhaps

Another week has passed and as promised on Monday I shared with you one of last weeks Sneak Peeks paintings which was "Celebration" the inspiration for Celebration came from seeing some silk screen paintings and the hundreds of tulip photographs I have taken over time.  Now that painting has led to the idea of doing a series of small 5" x 7" tulip paintings.

Of course any good artist knows that to do a series you should have a plan so first off is how many am I going to paint?

Which leads to the great mind debate which goes like this:

In the throes of excitement the first number to jump in my head is 100 at the same time the sane part of my brain leaps in and said "WHOAAA are you crazy"  Yes yes I know I have a problem with commitment, maybe 100 is to big, maybe 30 would be a better number, yes 30 sounds good, now ms .sane jumps in again with "oh dear I don't know about 30 that's still a big commitment perhaps 10."  "10???? but that sounds so chintzy I want to do something BIG."   

As the argument continues in my mind I paint you a tulip.  The first in a series? Perhaps. One of one hundred?  Who knows.....but for now I give you #1

5" x 7" on canvas board
Dedicated to God

One of the meanings I found on the internet for tulips was that it represents prayer, as my painted tulip stands in a bed of Forget-Me-Not I am reminded not to forget my creator, to give praise to Him for the gifts that he has bestowed upon me, and to lift up others in prayer.  To God I dedicate this painting.

As a creative do you have on going arguments with yourself or your paintings?

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Today as Christians through out the world rejoice in the reminder that “He is risen!” (Mark 16:6)

 I share with you my painting "Celebration"  for all that I am is only by the grace of God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16  

Fun, joyful, invigorating, and playful are all words I would use to describe this painting as well as how I felt painting it.  This one painted itself there was no angst lurking, just complete joy in the whole painting process.  One of those paintings that make me feel so blessed to be an artist and it looks fantastic hanging on my wall!

24" x 24" Acrylic on canvas

Red, White, & Blue - Photography

The royal blue of her jacket caught my eye as she wound her way through the beds of red and white tulips.  The colors red, white, and blue lends itself to a patriotic feel, although not quite so patriotic is the ukulele version of Tiptoe Through the Tulips that leaps into my mind whenever I see tulips. It is a insidious tune and once in so very hard to shake.  As I continue my painting of tulips it loops over and over in my mind driving me to madness.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips
by Tiny Tim

Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I'll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me

Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Knee deep in flowers we'll stray
We'll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sneak Peeks

Sneak Peeks April 05, 2012

The three images above are all small parts of three different paintings that I am currently working on.  The first one titled "The Sunday Paper" is in pastel and the other two are in acrylic.  The two in acrylic are so different in mood, their palettes are polar opposites, one dark and mystical, the other bright and bursting with joie de vivre.  I find it difficult to jump between the two.

I've tried to do Work In Progress blog posts on different paintings that I've done in the past but i'm such a slow painter and I jump around from painting to painting that i'm sure you must get bored to death waiting for the next installation so I decided to do Sneak Peeks just to prove that YES I AM PAINTING!  So each week I will post small sections of the paintings I am currently working on.

Teaser:  I can tell you one of these paintings is just getting it's finishing touches and will be posted on Monday April 9th so check back to see which one it is.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"Sheltered - A Coastal Arbutus"

 "Sheltered - A Coastal Arbutus" 
 original acrylic painting 24" x 36" x 1.5 on canvas.

During the fiercest of winter storms she clings to her rocky bluff overlooking the raging ocean, as the cold howling winds push and pull at her limbs she endures through another west coast storm. But today is different the sun shines showing the beauty of her bark and her glossy leaves. Cedar waxwings hide in among her branches trilling songs of joy as they gorge on her fruit. Today she can rest.

This beautiful painting is available for purchase at