Missing Feet

Eight more penguins to paint

Progress is being made… I still have more penguins to paint, detail to add, not to mention the dreaded background! There are also several penguins with missing feet, including the wombat that needs his foot painted too.

Six more penguins to go!

The missing feet on this painting is not something sinister or mysterious and will soon be rectified, unlike the twenty detached human feet that have washed up on the shores around Vancouver and Vancouver Island, Canada, since 2007. The mystery around these feet, which at one time were thought to be originating from a funeral home, but investigations have since confirmed that the feet come from people who have unfortunately died. The feet detach by the normal decomposition process. The feet were usually found in sneakers. Coroners postulate that the sneakers helped to give the feet buoyancy, enough to eventually be washed ashore, and gave the feet protection from decomposition that helped them to remain relatively intact. The feet have been able to provide some closure for families by DNA matching with the National Missing Persons data base.

I’m going to make a point of enjoying my feet today! I hope that you can too.

Kind regards, from PJ Paintings

Please visit my website for a browse at: http://www.pjpaintings.com


Oliver on Granville Island

Part One

I loved the two urban sketching sessions I did with Oliver Hoesser in Vancouver, Canada in the Opus Art Supplies store on Granville Island!
Some concepts were refreshed, reinforced and introduced.  It has excited and reinvigorated my enthusiasm to continue developing my urban sketch skills.
Oliver’s philosophy is to master drawing contours then you can become fearless about drawing anything because you can break down any complicated scene or object into a section of contours.  So, we began the first session as most art sessions begin, with some contour drawing exercises. I chose my pencil case and then a water bottle.
Oliver encouraged us to hold are pens far back from the point to create looser drawings.

Contour line drawing (the bottom pencil case has some shadows drawn in with a grey texta)

Some of the takeaways for me are:
1. Connect by overlapping (composition & contour). 
This contained a Light Bulb moment for me. Oliver said that, for example, when he’s in a town and he likes two buildings that are far apart from each other, “no problem!”, he just draws them side by side.  (Throughout the course Oliver repeatedly said, “no problem!”).
I’ve often wanted to draw the old McCanns building on Elizabeth Street in Hobart, Tasmania, and the new university residential building (divided by a road going between them) because I think the juxtaposition of the new and old would be quite interesting but didn’t know how to handle the road. If I keep the road in the drawing, I would split the drawing, creating two pictures on one page and the composition would really not work.
When I read the International Urban Sketching Manifesto it seemed quite rigid about drawing accurately the scene.
International Urban Sketching Manifesto
  • We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  • Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel.
  • Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  • We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  • We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  • We support each other and draw together.
  • We share our drawings online.
  • We show the world, one drawing at a time.
Injecting creativity into the drawing seemed to be discouraged.  I didn’t think I could just omit the road but, not only is it permissible, Oliver encourages this for the sake of composition and creating an end-product that is interesting and draws people into the picture!!! This interpretation is HUGE for me and really renews my excitement for urban sketching.
He showed us several examples from his sketch book and this example from a magazine:
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2. If don’t want to overlap two unrelated objects, find something in the environment to use as a connecting design (a train, boat, buildings, banner, cast shadow, cobble stones and so on can be used).

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two unrelated objects connected by the background pattern and shadow

Stay tune for Part Two, where I will reveal another Light Bulb moment and more clever composition strategies…

Until then, take care and thanks for stopping by, PJ Paintings

Funky Gastown in Tasmania

I moved from Canada to Australia about 28 years ago.  During all the years I’ve lived in Australia, I have never come across a restaurant that had a menu dedicated wholly to serving Canadian food, until Gastown East moved into my neighbourhood, walking distance from my house! It is an awesome restaurant with the best coffee, yummy food, excellent selection of wines, awesome atmosphere and views. It even featured in the weekend’s paper.


There are tables outside on the deck and this is the view that awaits you.  I love the reflection of the red boat and the zig-zaggy masts.  I once painted this but I cannot find the painting or a photo of it.  I used a wax candle and oil pastels to create some resist on the paper.

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The restaurant looks out over Kangaroo Bay, Bellerive

Gastown East is nestled in historic Bellerive, right across the street from the Historic Police Station built in 1842.  It’s for sale right now.  I hope its beauty is retained.  I really want to draw it.


Also, close to this funky restaurant is the old Telegraph and Post Office building, built in 1897 and in operation as a telegraph and post office until 1982.  I sat on the sidewalk and drew this.  I went for looseness so I used a reed and ink.

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Ink and reed drawing

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and then paint was added

It’s very cool having a bit of familiar culture and food so close to home.


Congratulations, Gastown East! and I’m sure if Gassy Jack was still around, he’d be wishing Gastown East many, many happy returns.

Day 4 – 30 x 30

Today I had a go at painting Grinder or Coola.  I’m not sure which is which.  They are two grizzly bears housed on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, which I have visited and photographed several times. They were rescued as orphans in 2001, in two separate incidents; one in Bella Coola and the other in Invermere, BC.

Coola, found in Bella Coola, was orphaned, and the only of three cubs to have survived when his mother was killed by a truck. Grinder, was found wandering alone on a logging road, dehydrated, thin, weak and weighing only 4.5 kg.  His mother was never found so we don’t know why he ended up in this situation.

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Grinder or Coola?

I used no pencil in this painting, just started directly with watercolour paints.  A different style for me and a little scary but stepping out of your comfort zone helps hone skills. I was planning on doing some splattering but I completely forgot! I suppose I was in the “zone”.  I think I’ll leave it as is…  and if I try to paint another grizzly bear, I’ll try to remember to splatter.

Thanks for visiting.  I hope your day hums along nicely.

Rescue Mission

I recently visited my hometown of Vancouver in Canada.  Things have changed, as expected.  For example, these colourfully painted silos near Granville Island, which brought art’s rescuing powers to the forefront of my mind.  These were an eyesore and now, despite their dominating size, are fun and intriguing.

Graville Island silos

It reminds me of “the little town that did”, Chemainus, which I visited on Vancouver Island, many years ago.  For years, it believed that the forestry sector was the backbone of its economy

In 1983, after operating for 120 years, the mill closed. Almost 700 people became unemployed in a community of just under 4,000. Businessman and Chemainus resident, Karl Schutz, came up with the concept of painting history on the walls of Chemainus. There were many who were against turning the town into an Outdoor Art Gallery. In 1982, the first five murals were painted.  As word spread, international artists transformed Chemainus into the world’s largest outdoor art gallery with 33 murals and 8 sculptures completed by 1997.  Over 70 new businesses, a museum and dinner theatre have opened, with plans for a hotel, marina and more.

Me standing in front of one of the first large Chemainus murals 

On the other side of the globe, Sheffield in Tasmania was experiencing a steady economic decline. A committee was set up to try to stem the negative impact of the situation.  Soon after its creation, it began pursuing a suggestion to explore Chemainus’ successful strategy when it faced similar economic downturn in traditional industries. The murals were credited with rescuing the town.  Sheffield followed suit.  Now, it annually hosts the famed International Mural Festival and boasts the mural capital of Australia.

A similar, more recent story, has unfolded in Coonalpyn, 200 km from Adelaide, with a population of about 300. The struggling farming town set out the ambitious project of have its 30 metre operational silos painted.  The silos were painted by Guido van Helten. It features children from the local school, hoping to inspire those children, and the community, to consider creative industry pathways and entice tourists to the town.  The art has attracted more visitors and now the main street, which was dotted with closed shops, has three new businesses. Art rescued this dwindling town.

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Coonalpyn silos photo taken by Andrew Burch 

Art not only rescues towns.  It also rescues and helps people through really difficult times.  I recently did a session with sketchbook artist extraordinaire, Danny Gregory.  He described a difficult time in his life. During that time, for some unknown reason, he drew his wife lying on the couch.  It was true “mindfulness” because while drawing, he wasn’t able to think about the past or the future. When drawing, you are definitely in the ‘present’ trying to figure out how to draw hands, arms, eyes and so on.  He got hooked on drawing and now art and teaching creativity is his full time profession. “I enjoy talking to people who are looking for ways to expand their creativity, see the world in fresh ways, or to heal themselves.”

I’ve heard many similar stories where art has come to the rescue.  I gave birth to my Cheer ‘em Up series during the hardest time in my life. Painting the Cheer ‘em Up series gave me solace during my distressing time and helped me come out the other end stronger.

Art is a well-qualified rescuer and I am forever grateful (and so are towns, communities and tourists).

Gold Creek

We did a family walk along the scenic Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park, B.C., Canada and saw lots of interesting things along the way.
In the forest we came upon this scene – a tree piggy backing on the back of a stump.
The colours and upward streaks on the stump reminded me of some paintings that the famous Canadian artist Emily Carr has painted.  I love the way she has depicted the west coast’s forests.
The moss on the tree created some funny cartoon like images.  This one looks like a bird that has been flying for a very long time, wearing a pilot’s cap with ear flaps and has snow (green snow) building up on its beak.
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This one looks like a hand puppet.
 And this one, this is stretching the imagination, but I think that some of the moss clumps look like koalas.
 We came across a water-logged fungus, a Salamander, Canada Geese, squirrels, orange breasted robins and we saw a Bald Eagle flying over Alouette Lake.

a very water logged fungus

A Salamander

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Canada Geese

At the start of Gold Creek, we came across this very typical Canadian scene that often adorns the front cover of magazines.

 Gold Creek is fed by water from glaciers and in some parts the creek is a stunning emerald and turquoise colour.  The walk is about 1 km to reach the lake at the end of the creek.

Gold Creek

Gold Creek

It is a really scenic walk for all the senses: beautiful sights among the smell from cedars and Douglas fir.

Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Park where we saw the Bald Eagle flying 

Thanks for visiting and I hope the upcoming week is a great one for all.



An Eventful Train Ride

My ride from Vancouver to Edmonds, USA (a suburb in Seattle) was quite memorable.  The train was scheduled to leave Vancouver at 5:30pm.  When it got closer to 6pm, it was announced that the brand new locomotive wasn’t communicating to the older control system, so the train was going to be turned around and they will drive the train to Seattle using the back locomotive.  So, we travelled to Seattle backwards.  All our seats were facing forward but now they were backwards, which didn’t matter much because it wasn’t long before it was dark and you couldn’t see the passing scenic views.  The seats were comfortable and spacious.  Heaps of leg room compared to flying!

When travelling, the cars on the tracks do sway quite a bit and I found it difficult for painting or drawing, but I did this quick sketch of the passenger sitting across from me.


When we arrived at the US/Canadian border, at the Peace Arch, the American border guards came on board to collect train passengers’ Declaration documents and sight passports.  When a border guard collected the man’s, sitting across from me, Declaration card, they asked him what kind of meat is he bringing into the country?  He answered, “what do you mean?”  The border guard answered, “you’ve ticked meat on your Declaration card.”  He replied, “oh, that was my meat sandwich! I ate it.”  That was rather funny.

About an hour out from Edmonds, the train came to a screeching halt.  An announcement was made reporting that “we have a situation”.  I immediately thought that there might have been a person on the tracks.  Many train drivers suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from this type of extremely distressing situation.  Thankfully, after a while, they announced that there was somebody on the track but they were able to stop in time and he was not injured in any way.  We waited for the police to come and safely remove him, did a brake check and then we were on our way again.  I was really amazed that we were able to stop in time, with presumably one less braking system when travelling with one non-functioning locomotive, and with the diminished visibility with the darkness.

The train arrived in Edmonds, without further incidences, an hour late.  Despite the delays, I prefer travelling from Vancouver to Seattle by train than plane.


Jug Island

I feel like I’m home when I smell the cedar and Douglas fir.  My brother and I usually do a walk in the forest whenever I visit Vancouver.  It was raining and hailing when we were driving to the starting point. We weren’t sure if the walk would go ahead but upon our arrival, the rain ceased and blue skies made their presence!


A tree bridge to a tree tunnel 

This time we did a walk to Jug Island, which I’ve never been to before.  The walk was about 7 km return.  The trails are well marked and the climbs up or down are not too steep.  It is well worth the effort because Jug Island is spectacular.

During our journey we passed a tree with its roots growing over a stump

We also passed a tall tree with steps nailed onto the tree.  I think you would want to bring a bag of nails and a hammer if you are brave enough to climb up!

We passed by some fungus and plenty of Skunk cabbage but the cabbage was not at its stinky stage of life.  It had hardly any smell.


Jug IslandPNG
And then we arrived at stunning Jug Island, B.C., Canada!

There were plenty of water birds near the shores of Jug Island.  It was a breathtaking and glorious day.

Thanks for visiting.


My favourite Vancouver building

I love the grand Roman Colosseum inspired Vancouver Library. It is a stunning building. 


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Vancouver Public Library

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It is a multi-level building with open crossways connecting each floor.  When I first visited the library, soon after its opening, I wondered how long this would last before all the crossways would be enclosed? 


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Open crossways connecting the floor to study cubicles lining the circumference of the interior building

If somebody dropped an iphone or book, it could knock somebody out cold below. 



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looking down from a internal crossway

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I’m really happy that all these years later, the open-plan persisted, and with the stunning art, its luxurious feel.

It is a clean, modern, busy and well patronised place.  This library houses so much: city views from the windows, a massive children’s section, thousands and thousands of books and magazines, multiple filing cabinets of maps, census records and more, a box light and so much more. 


A view from one of the library’s windows

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A map from a book full of illustrated maps from the 1600s.




This library is well worth a visit.  It really is an impressive place.

Allen’s Rivulet Track

There’s no better way to start a new year than a walk in nature.  It’s calming and soothing.  I started the new year with a walk in Allen’s Rivulet, Tasmania, Australia.

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On the way to the track, I came across this comical character.

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The track takes you through Tasmanian bush, passed a large hollow living tree, to a rivulet and back onto the street.

One of the views from inside the tree

The middle large tree trunk in the photo has the hollow base

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Allen’s Rivulet Track’s hollow tree

It reminded me of the most famous and photographed tree in Vancouver, Canada, the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park, which I have played in many times as a child.

Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree

It is arguably the most famous tourist attraction in Vancouver for over 100 years.  There are many historical photos of this tree.

1917 Duke of Devenshire and Dignitaries
A 1917 photo of the Duke of Devenshire and dignitaries


Unlike Allen’s Rivulet’s hollow tree, which is a living tree, the Stanley Park one is a 600 to 800 year old Western Red Cedar tree that died, but left a huge hollow stump.  In 2006, there was a severe windstorm that caused significant damage to many trees, including the famous Hollow Tree, causing it to lean precariously.  The Vancouver Parks Board considered taking it down but there was a massive public outcry resulting in some ingenuity to save the tree.

The brace installed to help keep the stump stable and upright

I spotted this most unique little nest too!

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A Grey fantail in its nest

The nest is really small, the size of a tiny cup and it had the mum bird, a Grey fantail, sitting in it.  Most of her body is outside the nest because the nest is so small.  A bird book describes the nest as looking “like a wine glass without a base – a tiny cup of plant fibres liberally bound with cobweb.”

Thanks for stopping by. I wish one and all an awesome upcoming new year!