Calico Art - Carol Vaage

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Reviewing my art and letting my brush take the lead

I've been spending the last week going through my collection of art works. Tending to be prolific has its drawbacks as I have hundreds of paintings. I've noticed how tight and tentative my earliest works were, and how closely I used the photo reference to try and replicate what my eyes were seeing. What I noticed was the surface of each photo, what you see when you first look at an image. The trees, the buildings, the lakes, the mountains.

Very few of those early paintings appeal to the artist I've become.

Since January I've been dedicated to using Daniel Smith granulating paints and experimenting, researching what happens when two granulating pigments are mixed together. The effects of those combinations inspired me to break free of my tight/tentative self. Now I'm painting two abstracts with every mixing color I use. Since January I've accumulated 175 paintings, which is quite a tall stack of work.

When I look at these, I feel freedom, movement, and surprise! Starting with a blank page every time, and no guiding photo or image, my brush seems to move on its own. Grabbing juicy paint with my sable brush and letting the brush take the lead.

The emotional feedback I get showed me just how deep my artist-self is. I see sharp lines, diagonals, curves, color contrasts, and I feel emotion. I feel like these paintings speak their own language.

As part of an art group that meets on Monday mornings, I see my paintings are different from all the other works. They are fluid, done quickly. So I wrestle about just how far out of the norm this journey is taking me, and the value of my work.

My sister reminded me this morning, I am doing this art for myself. Yet I've found other artists online who love working with granulation as well. Jane Blondell, Muriel Napoli, Anna Zadarozhanaya, Stephania Boiana, Muriel Buthier Chartrain, Anne Larrson Dahlin, Yesim Meltem Gozukara, and Reine-Marie Pinchon. I've been following their works on Pinterest, and noticing how free and unlimited the possibilities of using granulation.

So somewhere in the world, I belong  - with my quest and journey.

I'll continue to be surprised with what comes in the future, wherever my powerful sable brush leads me. Now when I use a photo reference, I'll look for the underlying emotion and feeling that's hidden, and paint with freedom! Lead on, brush!

Experimenting with Daniel Smith Granulating Paints

February 24, 2023

My newest passion is exploring the colours and textures created by using Daniel Smith granulating Paints. This example shows how using Hematite Genuine with 12 other granulating colours creates the most dramatic effects. These pages are 9 x 12, so squares are 3". The partner colours were selected from my master granulating paints chart. 


Sometimes the partner colours are similar in value or strength. Sometimes from my curiousity. After each page of mixing, 2 abstract paintings are created using only the mixtures from the page. Here are the two from the Hematite mixing page. 


The granulating effects and colour combinations pull your eye. Daniel Smith granulating paints offer so many choices. See the web page  Granulating Paints for other abstract paintings from vibrant colour mixes.


Artist Studies - Online classes


An option to taking an art course from an art teacher is to find an online instructor. The online course availability has grown significantly over the past few years, and you can find any topic that interests you. The advantage of these online courses is that you can work at them at your own pace in your own place. You can start and stop as you wish. The downfall is that the work, lessons, and contributions fall to you alone. Almost all instructors have feedback and question areas for support. Costs vary greatly, so be sure due diligence and research has been done. Check the feedback and ratings section of the course descriptions.

Following are sites and courses I have accessed and what I’ve learned from each.

  1. Angela Fehr -

    Angela is a genuine, sensitive person who talks through her painting sessions for loose watercolour painting. Through her, I’ve learned to use free movements and to abstract the real image in my paintings.


  1. Jean Haines -

    I feel like I am watching a master as Jean demonstrates an abstract dynamic process and use of colour for a background, and then pulling out the real focus with addition of extra layers (glazing) or brush work. I highly recommend her courses if you wish to work in a loose abstract style. They are expensive, but in my opinion, very worthwhile, as she takes you into her home and sincerely shares her expertise.

My examples of paintings below are not as beautiful as Jean’s, but perhaps you can see how I accented the background colour experimentations with lines and additional colours. There is a hint of something real, but it’s up to the viewer to perceive through their own experience.



  1. Udemy -

There are hundreds of art-based courses at reasonable prices on this site but there are usually only a few sessions focused on specific techniques or subjects.

Two sessions that I took focused on painting trees and leaves, and you can see how I learned to use composition and colours to show perspective.



  1. Domestika -

This site has truly impressed me with the caliber of artists and the professionalism with which they teach and demonstrate their renowned success. Following are the three courses I have been working on and will continue to review long after I’ve completed the lessons.

  1. Architectural Sketching with Watercolour and Ink – Alex Hillkurst

My sister and I have different ideas about straight lines – she enjoys them, and I shudder thinking about them. Alex taught me how to get perspective using windows, sidewalks, etc., so that I could get a reasonable representation of places I had travelled to.


  1. The Art of Sketching: Transforming your Doodles into Art – Mattias Adolfsson

    Mattias encouraged practice of doodling people, exaggerating features, sketching them from different perspectives and finally adding human figures to backgrounds. For the first time, I painted figures. 


  1. Modern Watercolor Techniques – Ana Victoria Calderon

    I have just begun this course and am very excited about the modern style she’ll be introducing.

  1. Other great websites that you might consider for online art classes
    1. Art Tutor -
    2. Artist Network -


Artist Studies - In-person classes

A blank white paper, a new palette, great brushes, and panic sets in! I had several teachers that helped me past that blank page fear, walking me through different aspects of art, opening my mind, removing the blocks of internal messages of ‘you are not an artist’.

Kathryn Hines

My family gifted me a watercolour sketchbook class offered by the City of Edmonton with Kathryn Hines. At our first session, Kathryn set up a still life arrangement consisting of a green teapot, white creamer, olive vase, an orange, and a blue and white checked tablecloth. Our tools? 3 primary colours squeezed onto a foam plate, a piece of paper, and an unruly mid-sized Chinese paintbrush. Frankly, I was stunned, but gave it a shot. Then the group critiqued all the paintings. Amazingly, mine was not the worst, nor the best, and to me, it seemed like my colour mixing was awesome. 

You can see the objects are floating, and the teapot has a unique shape. I chose not to attempt all the still-life objects but loved the beautiful background effects.

Kathryn helped me become bolder with pencil lines and sketching. I learned how to do amazing gradients. She also opened my eyes to the difference between realistic and loose paintings. I began to see the beginnings of my favorite art style.

Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association (ELLA)

Every spring, ELLA holds three week-long spring session classes at the University of Alberta. The daily art classes were almost 3 hours, so a great deal of information and practice was shared. Two of the artists I studied with Susanne Lamoureux and Frances Alty-Arscott

Susanne Lamoureux

Beginner Drawing – Definitely not in my wheelhouse. But with Susanne’s teaching expertise, I learned so many new skills and techniques. We explored pencils of different values, graphite, and charcoal. Experimenting with paper textures and erasers, we selected different photos to represent.



Watercolour Pencils – Susanne offered other courses that I took as well, such as Watercolour Pencils, and Pencil Crayons. She helped me learn layering, glazing, and patience.



Frances Alty-Arscott

Frances drew me in to her watercolour style with the brilliant, vibrant colours and bold strokes. We learned how to represent impressionistically rather than realistically. Frances had us work through value studies of our photos, followed by colour studies before we began working on the actual painting. Focusing on the light source and shadows, we learned to create dimension in our paintings. The technique of using masking tape to block out areas for trees was a fantastic tip (below left). She praised me for my mark making with flicks and palette knife work (below right).



Willie Wong

Willie is a favorite art teacher in Edmonton, offering 6-week courses through the South-West Seniors Association (SWESA) watercolour and acrylics. He brings detailed drawings and guides us step-by-step to produce a stunning, beautiful realistic painting. I’ve taken a few of his courses, and his wealth of knowledge and practical tips that he shares are amazing. He has an affinity for his not-so-clean palette and demonstrated how adding different colours here and there can make a painting pop.



Artist Studies - Tutorials

Thanks to the wonderful world of online tutorials, a person can observe and learn from others who have mastered different techniques.

Because I wanted to be able to access specific tutorials at any time, I created a Pinterest page and subscribed and bookmarked YouTube sites that supported my art journey and discovery. On this Pinterest page, you’ll find alphabetically arranged over 40 subjects and almost 2000 posts.

Again, I remind you that I was totally untrained in the field of art, so this bounty of tutorials was amazingly beneficial.

For example, I really wanted to know how to paint flowers, as I had so many beautiful photos from my walks and from my friends. On the Floral Tutorial page, you can find videos of artists painting flowers, their colour choices, brush preferences, both loose and realistic examples, and step by step photos of work in progress. Most importantly for me, was the information shared in finessing floral images. I’m still working on adding extra shading, focusing on light and shadows, and painting in the fine detail lines. During their videos, these artists expressed that learning to paint florals is a lifelong journey, and I am only starting to understand. Close observation of flowers and plant life contribute to your intimate knowledge of them and subsequently impact how you can represent their truth.

Filling in my vacuum of basic art principles, the section on Basics significantly supported my growth. Topics of line, shape, form, value, colour, composition, materials, texture, and watercolour techniques were covered succinctly, and in as much depth as I was able to absorb at any given time. Looking over them again today, I see material that I need to review again now that I have moved from beginner to intermediate. My foundational understanding will help me understand and apply more of the concepts than in the early stages of my learning.

Also on the tutorial page are other pages relating to art styles: loose paintings, negative painting, multimedia, portraiture, pouring, and sumi-e ink painting.

Following is a list of my YouTube subscriptions of my favorite artists and their styles:

These tutorials have helped me become free in my painting. To believe that art does not have to be realistic to be beautiful. To trust my instincts and intuition. To create, explore, and discover. As you can see below, I have developed several different styles!



Artist Studies – ongoing

Studying under the masters was the only way to become an artist in previous generations: apprenticing, learning techniques, design, composition, form, line.

But today, it’s possible to study virtually with artists from anywhere, by studying their style, colour choices, compositions, use of light and shadow. My Pinterest page of artists show more than 50 artists and 2000 images. They are organized alphabetically and can be found at:

At first, it was the renowned artists that I studied, like Picasso, Emily Carr. Practicing their pieces helped me to become bolder with use of colour and unrealistic artistry.

My first ‘aha’ was discovering the Group of Seven. Even, never having studied art, I had heard about this group through my school years but had never seen the images. When I began to look at their work, I was struck by how it called to me. Enlarging the images on my computer allowed me to take in the impact and strength of their work. Images of Canada. Broken into segments of colour and shape. The wild and the raw of our landscape – forests, mountains, lakes. Falling in love with their art led to research their style.

As happens with Pinterest, as soon as you express an interest in a subject, they recommend similar images, like Erica Hawkes, Robbie Craig, and Nicholas Bott. When I studied their work, patterns began to emerge. The flow of lines. The use of colour. The foreground versus distance. Composition. My love of nature blended with this style, and I attempted paintings with my own images using their style.

Studying Emily Carr, led me to painting trees with swooping, curved lines and using unusual colours. Her work with Indigenous topics, led me to explore Benjamin Chee Chee and Norval Morrisseau. I spent several months working in this style, loving the bold strong colours and contrasting blacks. At this point, I created my only self-portrait thus far using this style of art.

With so many of the art galleries, museums and artist websites having online images of artwork, it is possible to branch out in many different directions. Immerse yourself in an artist’s style until you can recognize it anywhere, and experiment with the techniques they’ve used. You’ll soon find that certain bits become adapted into your own style. They become the influencers for your growth and development.

Tree Study 2013

In the fall of 2013, I joined SWESA, the Southwest Edmonton Seniors Association. They have a Friday morning art group where anyone wishing to do art in the company of others could join in.

My first project was to experiment with watercolours - to see what I could create with them - what effects colours would make on the same design. Using an image from Pinterest (unable to source as I can no longer find it), I copied the tree design and used different colours. You can see how the colours create mood. The backgrounds can be muted or become the highlight of the  paintings. This exercise helped me fall in love with watercolour painting and its possibilities for expression. Colour alone can define an artist.






Beginner Drawing - Susanne Lamoureux ELLA 2013

ELLA stands for Edmonton Lifelong Learners Association, which operates 3 weeks of courses for 55+ at the University.

My first year of attending, I took Susanne's course for beginning drawing. At this time, I had zero confidence in my abilities to draw other than a stick figure. However, Susanne taught me to see. To see shapes and lines, to take one step at a time. She was excellent at teaching techniques and using drawing materials, like pencils, fine line black markers, graphite, and charcoal. We actually worked on complex pieces and chose our own final projects.

The face is drawn using a photograph. We used measurements to capture the placement of eyes, lines, and shapes.


This African Tree is my final project. For this, we used graphite powder and erasers to create the image.


Graded Wash - Kathryn Hines


2013 - This was my first watercolour course - Watercolour Sketch Book

One of the best things I ever learned in a course, with Kathryn Hines as instructor, was how to do a graded wash.


  • Good quality paper - 300 lb. (140 dries too quickly for this method)
  • A substantive puddle of water and pigment (enough to do your entire sheet of paper +)
  • A squirrel mop brush, or sable brush that holds a large volume of paint
  • Courage!


  • First, prepare your paper. If it's in a block, it's ready to go. Otherwise, tape the edges on a cardboard or coroplast board.
  • Slightly incline the top. I usually place the top on a roll of masking tape.
  • Using your mop brush, soak up the pigment colour, and lay a row of round, wet puddle line across the top.
  • Bring more pigment up and gently stroke the bottom of the puddle row, but lowering it down a bit.
  • Keep going from left to right, never letting the puddle row thin to nothing.
  • Continue to the bottom of the page.


The image on the left is a cobalt blue graded wash on an 10x14" 300 lb arches paper.

The image on the right is a graded wash introducing a second colour part way down - 8 x 10: 300 lb arches. Note that these were completed vertically.

The colour combos are:

top: cerulean blue to lemon yellow

2nd row: cobalt blue to permanent rose

3rd row: cobalt blue to new gamboge

Bottom row: cobalt blue to cadmium red.



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