Posts Tagged ‘#art tips’

Last week, I decided to do my research for the Silent Skies project and find some pictures of the selected birds to give me ideas I will rework. In the afternoon, I went to the studio with the intention of playing with my brushes which must feel abandoned since Christmas …

Strange how this New Year’s theme is gradually emerging and moving towards birds with the mural project and the children’s book that I started that will be about a woodpecker family …

But entering the studio and after putting my music on, it is not my brushes that caught my attention but the room where I store my half – finished and new canvases, my working and packaging material, etc. I should have taken a picture before, it was a disaster. It is also the room where I varnish when it is too windy or cold or rainy outside. I need a good central space on the floor to do this especially if the artwork is large. Since the move of the studio, I had not yet managed to tidy up and make this space functional.

After an afternoon of work, everything is now organized and clean, a great way to start the year. Here are a few photos :

While doing this cleaning, I found a list of projects dating from 2012. It gave me the idea to remake one for 2018. I don’t know why I lost the habit of making my list of art projects at the beginning of the year since the move of the studio. I often complicate my life by entering my ideas in different notebooks when a simple list strategically placed is so much more effective.

There are many benefits to keeping a list of projects in the studio. I like to put it on a prominent wall where I can consult it regularly and everything on my list usually get done during the following months.

A list of projects is very stimulating and helps to keep focus on priorities in the studio where you can easily lose your attention. My problem is that I want to do everything at the same time, everything attracts me, colors, new techniques, my paintings that are started and need finishing, new ones to start, so a list of projects brings me where I am more productive.

A paper, a pen and a few minutes are enough to create a list of projects. It’s a wonderful tool to keep control of your day and your attention and it only takes 5 to 10 minutes.

No electronic tool for me when it comes to making a list of projects because I want to have it in front of me at all times especially when I start checking what is done. It definitely works for me, it gives me an overview and a impulse of optimism.

I also use it to set my priorities, including deadlines for exhibitions, symposiums, orders.

It also allows you to optimize your time, such as preparing several canvases with gesso at the same time depending on what is planned.

It helps to stay calm because you feel more in control and it eliminates the stress of thinking you have forgotten a project or a date.

You can easily guess what I’m doing as soon as I am finished writing this post!

I hope this short article will motivate you to make your list of projects for 2018!

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This is the sixth of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

Vers le haut / Moving upwards
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

As I am tackling numbers 7 to 12, I am hoping to look at the subject with new eyes and find new ways to design my contemporary forests. Some things I could explore are putting more emphasis on shapes or changing the color relationships. I find myself thinking about values and intensity of hues and playing with this.

I also want to explore how I could apply the Notan principle in the next paintings. I could also play with the value contrasts. The key is often to just forget the subject and play with the shapes.

I’ve also thought about adding patterns in the background or adding calligraphy. The possibilities are endless when you think of it, all you need is to jump in and commit.

Perseverance is the answer. Working on a series is a great exercise for any artist wanting to move to a more personal level in his or her painting. I realize, even as I am resisting the exercise at this point, that it is neither a waste of time nor useless to continue down that path.

Working on a series often becomes a requirement in order to progress in our art, the whole purpose being to tap into our feelings and imagination. It goes without saying that since working on a series is all about discovering our own creativity, we should do so without any outside influence, either from another artist or from a teacher.

Let me know if you have tackled a series and if so, how you found it improved your art practice.

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This is the fifth of a series of small contemporary forests I am working on.

Le pic
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Acrylic and Inks on canvas 10 X 10 in

The previous painting of the series can be viewed here.

As mentioned in my previous post, after these paintings, it seems like I’ve run out of ideas to depict my contemporary forests in primary colors. Despite wanting to, I won’t give in and change either my subject or the colors I decided to use (how tempting).

On the contrary, now is the time to keep going and explore the “old” idea and see if a new original way comes to mind. So this is where I am today with this series as I am starting numbers 7 to 12 of the variations.

Surprisingly, as I aim to simplify the subject, I find myself adding more and more details with each painting and increasingly defining the trees, thinking of some of the abstractions not as colors and shapes but as clouds and background grasses. I see figures popping up in most of the completed paintings and I find myself wanting to emphasize these and characterize a story.

For some reason, my wanting to take a more abstract approach to painting seems difficult for me. It’s hard to take the realism out of me!

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My studio is in a building where there is construction and there are two more phases to be completed before it gets quiet in the way that I appreciate.

But no matter, I put my music on and paint ignoring what is going on outside my door. The light that comes in is wonderful and a big reason why I chose this place. For the last four days, there has been a construction strike which means all was quiet around the building site.


This past week I concentrated on my two San Giminiano urban landscapes:

Colors and some details are slowly going in.

Travail en cours / Work in progress
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 30 X 40


Notice how I started to offset the warm tones with more blues and I positioned the trees and some of the greenery. Later, I will add greenery on the other side of the canvas too on some of the terraces and balconies.

The trees are a mix of Ultramarine blue and Cadmium Yellow pale. I don’t buy greens anymore. I always mix a blue and a yellow from my painting’s palette to create the greens.


I started painting some of the window’s shutters with a mix of Cerulean blue and Naples yellow.

Limiting the colors will keep harmony in the painting. Notice how the lower corner has been dulled to take the eye away from this area even if it is in the foreground. The deep orange that was painted underneath as a background color keeps the building warm.


Travail en cours / Work in progress
©2017 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 30 X 40


For this one, my challenge as I was building the background city, is to keep the colors soft and subdued but still delimit the houses so we can make out the intricacies of the constructions. Most of that area was done with a 10-0 paint brush and I’m mainly working on building architecture at this point.

It becomes a sort of meditation when you are working small details like this and it teaches you patience. At this point , it is long tedious work, like putting a puzzle together.


To see the beginning of there paintings and learn about this fascinating town, refer to my previous blogs:
Work in Progress
And Work in Progress (bis)

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I recently attended an art workshop in Montreal. I don’t attend a lot of workshops anymore, preferring to explore solo in my studio and perfecting my own techniques but every now and then, I try one.

In the case of that particular workshop, we explored image transfers, collage, multiple mediums to give special effects and mix with acrylic paints, stencilling with spray paint and resin application. It was a good blend of mixed media techniques.

I had already tried some of the techniques before, some were new to me and the atmosphere and the group were a lot of fun, the instructor knowledgeable. I am not particularly happy with my piece, especially for the fact that it would be difficult to modify anything at this point after the application of resin which I wanted to try.

My Art workshop experiment

But that’s OK because the point of attending an art workshop is to learn something new, be it a new medium, subject matter or technique. You have to go into a workshop with an open mind and should not be expecting to come out with a finished piece ready to hang on your wall. That is not the point of a workshop.

Often, workshop attendees are afraid of making mistakes, are feeling watched by the others and want to perform. They want to come out with an artwork worth keeping (after all, they paid for it) but this is not what workshops are for! Workshops are meant to take you out of your comfort zone, to let you experiment with the curiosity of a child, without expectations. It is the perfect place to watch what happens with whatever new thing you are trying. It is also the perfect place to learn from the other attendees’ experimentations and to share your discoveries.

The goal is to listen to the instructor, take notes and experiment just for the joy of it. Relax and enjoy the moment without expectations and you’ll really benefit from the workshop. Always walk in with an open mind.

Later on, if you enjoy the results, you can implement what you have learned into your own work or continue pushing what you’ve learned to the next level.  A workshop is a starting point, not an end. It opens up a new door in your artistic mind.



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I have not been blogging much lately. Recently went through two surgeries and my husband just had knee replacement surgery. All this went on within 5 weeks and made for a busy and crazy time. Add to this the move of my studio during the same period and I’m lucky I didn’t completely go insane. I am happy to say that all went well I am now reaching my “cruising speed” as my old boss used to say.


When life happens and events prevent us from working like we would normally do, how do we keep up with our art and creativity? What I did was tried to remind myself that hopefulness is necessary and to take things one day at the time. I tried to take one action per day, be it small, towards my goal of being ready for three summer exhibits and symposiums.


Adding one step after another eventually adds up to something and gets you moving in the right direction. For me it was a way to feel like I was still working. When I couldn’t paint, my brain was in high gear noticing things around me for future reference or reading about techniques When I couldn’t think, I soaked my brain with relaxing music and tried visualising future paintings without worrying too much about deadlines coming up or commitments I would not be able to honour because of my temporary limited physical ability.


I especially tried to remain positive which is not necessarily easy for me and reminded myself that the situation was only transitory and I would get back to painting and enjoy creating eventually.

©2016 Suzanne Belair

©2016 Suzanne Belair

Just before all this came about, I had committed to painting a particularly difficult artwork for some clients, a painting where I was unfamiliar with the subject matter and in a style I don’t normally work in. But I really wanted to do it as a challenge even if I had some moments of regret during the process. I had to do a lot of research just to begin drawings, went on the premises and took more than 100 photos. It was a big project and I finally completed it last week.

20160623-IMG_3808 (3)

© 2016 Suzanne Belair

20160623-IMG_3808 (6)

©2016 Suzanne Belair


I ended up with 36 figures in a snowy landscape. I have not found a title yet but it will include Mont Sainte-Anne, Qc. where the action takes place.


20160623-IMG_3808 (5)

©2016 Suzanne Belair

I am including a few pictures of details here since the painting is not delivered yet and the owners should see it in person first.

I always varnish all my paintings so have to wait until it cures a bit more. I spray three coats of retouch varnish so that I can deliver earlier but also because I find finishing varnish ends up yellowing with time.





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This week, I am living a second adventure outside of my comfort zone. I am taking a workshop with Pat Dews, an award winning American artist that started off as a realistic watercolour painter and is now an abstract and mixed techniques painter.

I signed up after taking a previous workshop exploring Abstraction in May, which I enjoyed so much and thought this would bring my art forward.

I meant to share my thoughts every night when I got home but found myself too tired and drained by the time I sat down at the end of the day. Let me tell you the experience is novel and quite tiring. Fun, yes, but speed of execution, noise and lack of space were difficult to deal with the first 2 days, not to mention working on paper which I never really did before.

So here is what I learned so far. I summarized each day with one main idea I felt needed to be integrated completely to move forward. I heard these main ideas before, we’ve probably all read about them, but now, they were demonstrated to us in quite an enlightening manner.

Here is my take on the workshop so far and what I learned:

Day 1- On the first day I learned that I have to look at the world in terms of SHAPES, first an foremost, Small, Medium and Large shapes. You need the 3 kinds in your painting.

Day 2- On the second day, I learned that “It is only a piece of paper” (or a canvas), it’s not the end of the world! I knew that already but it finally sank in. Don’t worry, relax and enjoy the ride and if you hate the result, don’t lose sleep over it, cover it up tomorrow. We were told to make a failed painting on purpose, to put anything any which way on a piece of paper or a canvas, so that we could rescue it later, to get rid of fear, you know, that fear of failing.

Day 3- Today, I learned that you can go beyond a failed painting and make it good if you keep working at it, especially with acrylics. Cover it up, change the focal point, make up shapes, don’t get discouraged and go with it. Invent, create, do anything and think composition. The possibilities are endless! A lot is about attitude. Don’t worry so much about it, don’t give up !

Here are a few tips:

1- One of the most important thing is SCALE – make sure not everything is the same size and that your shapes are not too big or to small for the size of paper or canvas you are working on.

2- In abstract, you must show depth by overlapping your shapes, so overlap what you want to come forward, decide what you want to come forward.

3- Texture adds a lot to a larger shape: add grids, use wax paper, newspaper, saran wrap, texture, texture, texture your larger shapes unless you want it to be an absolute quiet space.

4- Make the eye travel through your painting by using leading elements. One dot can add a lot

5- Use a picture for inspiration if you want, but look for shapes, not details.

The “Failed painting” concept:

A very interesting few days indeed ! Here is a work in progress I started with putting yellows and reds any which way and that I had used to protect my table while painting a previous smaller piece, in order to create a “failed painting”.


Second stage on my failed painting, trying bland colors to put over the yellows and oranges. You can use white chalk to plan the next stage.


Stage 3 of the failed painting, I gessoed over most everything, sprayed and textured, it’s starting to take shape and I really love the patterns over the mauve-blue on the left side. How do I keep this while creating harmony?


Step 4 of the failed painting. It is starting to look better and better, more variation of shapes, more contrasts but not finished yet . It is no longer a failed painting !



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