In JK’s family, names are drawn to decide who is going to get a gift for whom. With only one person to think of a gift for, the pressure of thinking up those perfect ideas is eased and the budget is higher.  Well, that’s the theory.  The budget is easy to adjust.  The perfect idea… well, that depends on whose name one draws!

This year JK drew the name of a person who has been  supportive of his painting career and very perceptive of his artistic communication.  This may have made his basic gift idea, a painting, easy, especially since he knew his of gift partner’s home colour scheme and plenty of open wall space.  Even the subject of the piece was clear: the two had travelled together to Istanbul for a wonderful holiday so it was natural to capture that memory.

Oftentimes, however, it is most difficult to paint the most personal of paintings, especially when the idea is strong, clear and important.  Add a deadline and the pressure is on!  JK knew his colour would be Shadow Violet, his technique would begin with a pour, and he was going to use a full sheet of paper.  After that, it was all a gamble as the paint was mixed, the paper saturated, and all was in readiness for whatever would happen with paint, water and gravity.

What a relief when the first pour came out beautifully!  The detailed work came next, offering more control and direction from the artist: a different sort of stress, yet one fueled by initial success.  Building the landscape by layers was a thoughtful process of composition and value adjustment.  The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are highlighted by the landscape of JK’s own design.

When it was finished the piece was strong, grand, and had an air of ancient intrigue mixed with fresh circumstance and light. It was given a name to reflect all these things: Constantinople.


The receiver of this piece was well pleased of course.  This was a fine gift indeed.



September Snow in Alberta

Luckily we did not get the heavy snowfall Southern Alberta saw!  Our trip home from Jasper was light dusting in comparison.  Here’s the area around Grande Cache.

Jasper Wildlife

Of course when painting en plein air, even with a group of people as with Watercolour in Jasper, wildlife is always a consideration.  On our trip in mid-September we saw plenty of large animals in the park, although none were curious about us.


Moose had been causing a stir on the route to Maligne Lake. A photography stop at a small pull out turned up these two, a mother and calf. At first we were by ourselves, having a quiet moment with nature. Before long though, the hoardes noticed us looking into the bush and descended, most in search of a great photo. We were lucky to wiggle the car back onto the road and escape; the moose had to stay and ready for winter as the paparazzi looked on.


Imagine the attraction of a gorgeous male moose! The highway was lined with people pulled onto narrow shoulders and streaming the edge of a steep hill to have a look at this guy. Camera in one hand, baby in another, a man beside me narrowly avoided being hit by a car as he got his shot. Thousands of photos were taken of this moose, in exactly the same position, in the ten minutes we were there.


This elk narrowed her chances of being photographed by hanging around Tekarra Lodge. Only the people staying there would see her. As you can see, she has also perfected the Rear View Photographic Evasion Tactic (RVPET).


Yawn. What’s the big fuss about, anyway?

Retreat Day Two: Medicine Lake


Day two of our plein air painting with Watercolour in Jasper began with slightly warmer temperatures than Day One, but it was still a moody morning.  Our destination, Medicine Lake, was atmospheric.  No wonder movies were made here in Hollywood’s heyday.

This is the scene we painted.  There is a handy dirt road coiling down from the parking lot, perhaps an old boat launch.  There were plenty of spots for a dozen artists each to have front row views of the scene, although there were other beauty spots in other directions.  The fall colours were just beginning to come through.  They contrasted sharply with the burnt trunks of a former forest.


We stopped and had a giggle over the Canada geese bobbing up and down for their snack.  Each time the front end was submerged, the legs kicks mechanically to keep it so until, pop, the strength of buoyancy righted the bird in an instant.DSCF3934

Is it a mink or a pine marten?  It is difficult to tell.  Maybe the ears are too small for a pine marten.  Anyway, this little creature was seen scurrying among the rocks at the lake shore.  Not completely jaded by all the tourists, it must have known that the earlier errands were run the smaller the audience would be.  Only three of us saw it.

More Drama Mode


Ooh, do you expect wolves or dragons to frequent this place?  Elves, warriors or witches meeting on the bridge?

How about adding a dramatic angle to dramatic mode on the camera?  Oh no!  We were all just swept past our last chance at rescue!  We’ll be going over the waterfall for sure!DSCF3679

Using Special Effects

Smoke can make a verdant place like B.C. seem awfully pale.  To compensate for the dullness caused by the polluted air I used a variety of special effects on my camera.  This one is dramatic mode – for a dramatic waterfall! Helmcken Falls looks movie-moody in the second shot, and the odd phenomenon of the river below the falls seeming to rise up and over something as it turns toward the view is enhanced as well.


Fires in B.C.

It seemed like anywhere we went in B.C. this summer there was a forest fire just over the mountain.  Except, of course, for the time there was a forest fire on our side of the mountain.  This is the fire near Clearwater, which was burning up slope and was not threatening the highway.  Ten firefighters were on scene the day we drove past.



The river at the bottom of the mountain was handy for efficient trips from water to fire.


Mount Robson.  Ironically, the top was visible and completely cloud-free; a relatively rare occurrence and a highlight of the trip had the smoke not obscured the view.  The next morning, Mount Robson had disappeared and only a gap showed where it should have been.  By afternoon, the mountains on either side were invisible as well.