Snow Dogs in July

I said goodbye this week to two paintings commissioned by a family to pay homage to some of the dogs they have generously rescued over the years.  Dogs who have the good fortune to be adopted by this remarkable family will spend the rest of their days in a bucolic setting in the company of other dogs, ponies, and cats with mown meadow paths and snowy fields to meander and warm beds to sleep in.   Lucky dogs!

'Beagle in Snow' getting framed in a custom 3" reverse bevel frame
These paintings were commissioned and painted from supplied photos taken in winter with the cool snow offering a great foil to the dogs' warm colouring.

oil painting of a beagle in snow, detail, © Shannon Reynolds 2016
Beagle in Snow (detail), oil on panel 12" x 24"
Framed commissioned pet portraits beagle and rescue dogs in snow © Shannon Reynolds
'Beagle in Snow' and 'Snow Dog Trio' framed and ready to hang on the wall of their adoptive home


Happy Canada Day (or how to paint your berries and eat them too)

In honour of the big birthday party, I decided to paint a composition in red and white with the last of the season's strawberries.  These were painted from life in the studio in a single session today (technically yesterday).  It was a struggle not to eat my berry models while I painted.

Still life painting of strawberries and cream oil on panel all prima Shannon Reynolds 2016
Last of the Summer Strawberries, oil on panel, 8" x 8"

A still life painting of strawberries in progress on the easel Shannon Reynolds 2016
Strawberry still life on the easel in progress

Sadly, the berries have now been eaten, every one.


What's in a name? A portrait of Small

Small she was in voice only.  But she bore her ironic name with a quiet dignity.  For years she had to share her home with a tiny agile and dominant feline with a prior claim to the digs and the owner and sporting the name of a great American author.   Life can be unfair.  Except that Small outlived her rival companion and for a few years became the only cat in the room.  She seemed to come into her own as a soloist.  This portrait was commissioned posthumously and painted from supplied photos. 

commissioned portrait of a grey and white cat oil painting  #catpainting Shannon Reynolds
Small, oil on canvas panel, 8" x 8" ©2016


Norfolk Terrier Portrait

Could there be a better antidote to black dog angst than a tiny, smiling, slightly unkempt, adorable Norfolk Terrier?   This is a portrait of 12 year old Abbey, still puppy-like and much loved by her owners.  I painted this portrait as a commissioned piece from a good assortment of supplied photos and enjoyed every moment with this imperturbably happy creature.

Norfolk Terrier, dog portrait, fine art, commissioned pet portrait, oil painting, © Shannon Reynolds 2016
Abbey, Norfolk Terrier, oil on canvas wrapped board, 8" x 8"

From the mockumentary, Best In Show, here are the lyrics to "God loves a Terrier" written by Eugene Levy and performed by he and Catherine O'Hara in the movie:

God loves a terrier
yes he does
God loves a terrier
that’s because
brown sturdy bright and true
they give their hearts to you
God didn’t miss a stitch
be it dog or be it bitch
when he made the Norwich merrier
with his cute little ‘derrier’
yes God loves a terrier!


Black Dog, leashed

detail of oil painting of a black dog, leashed and waiting, by Shannon Reynolds
Black dog, leashed, (detail) oil on panel 12" x 12"

Black dogs get a bad rap. Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as a black dog.  But in Ian McEwan's postwar novel Black Dogs, which I read a few years ago, the black dogs symbolize a greater malignity, something not specified directly, but glimpsed peripherally as a looming menace over Europe. And then there's the so-called black dog syndrome which suggests that black dogs are less likely to be adopted--perhaps because of their association with depression and evil.

oil painting of a black dog, leashed and waiting by Shannon Reynolds
Black dog, leashed, oil on panel 12" x 12"

I was painting this black dog stoically waiting for his owner when I heard about the death of groundbreaking editor of Elle magazine in the UK, Sally Brampton. She'd written a book about her own struggle with depression called Shoot the Damn Dog, which I haven't read, but which resonated a little as I painted with all these associations in my head.

This dog, leashed and waiting, looks too benign to be a threat, but I won't discount him entirely. It's easy to glimpse black dogs today in the lead-up to the American election, the refugee crisis, global warming... I really should stop listening to public radio in the studio.


Garden Nemesis (aka Eastern Cottontail Rabbit)

Garden Nemesis, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, painting, oil on panel, artist Shannon Reynolds © 2016
Garden Nemesis (aka Easter Cottontail Rabbit), oil on panel, 12" x 12"
Every Fall, in an ritualistic bid to ensure the return of Spring, I plant tulip bulbs--gorgeous extravagant bulbs: parrots, fringed, sword tipped, black as night, streaked with sherbet colours, bulbs that would've required a second mortgage in the 17th century--bulbs that take a backyard rabbit about 30 seconds to eat from stem to tip. 

painting detail Eastern Cottontail Rabbit artist Shannon Reynolds
Garden Nemesis (detail)
My yard seems to be a rabbit paradise.  I have at least one healthy breeding pair, and lots of quickly growing babies.  My garden is their all-you-can-eat-buffet.  Though I'd probably never have the heart, nor the wherewithal, to do what author Jeanette Winterson did with her rabbits, I'm empathizing with Mr. McGregor, and dreaming of eating rabbit pie and becoming a falconer. 
A girl can dream, right?

Old Gold for a New Year

Golden retriever painting, oil on canvas, ©Shannon Reynolds 2016
Jake, oil on canvas board, 8" x 8"
I’ve never had a pet dog, but after painting this smiling retriever I’m beginning to understand the appeal of a constant sunny disposition in a companion.  My friends who have goldens truly adore them and Emma, my pet portrait winner, is no exception.  Even with a menagerie of pets at home, she chose her family’s aging golden retriever Jake to have his portrait painted.  Jake’s character seemed so epitomized by his big toothy grin that I decided to brave it despite the challenges of painting an open mouthed smile.  Emma had such a good selection of photos from different periods in Jake’s long life that although we’ve never met, I feel as though I’ve come to know him a little.  And I’ve had welcome assurances according to various members of his human family that I managed to catch something of his personality in this little painting.
Golden Retriever portrait oil on canvas © Shannon Reynolds
Jake, (detail) oil on canvas board

And the winner is..

Thank you to everyone who joined my mailing list and by joining entered my pet portrait contest.   The winner is Emma Storey, who has very graciously accepted her prize. Congratulations, Emma. Emma has and has had many pets and will have to decide which will be the portrait subject.  I'm looking forward to seeing her choice.  I will post the painting here once it's completed, likely in the new year.
In the interest of fairness, I cut up my mailing list and drew one name from the pile

To those of you who didn't win this time, I am happy to accept pet portrait commissions any time.


A Caribou is a Reindeer, but not an Elk

A caribou is a reindeer by another name.  Both belong to the species Rangifer tarandus, although their long separation across continents--caribou in North America and reindeer in Eurasia--means some differences have crept in over thousands of years.  As far as I know, for example, Canadian caribou don't fly.
Woodland caribou, painting oil on panel, by artist Shannon Reynolds
Woodland Caribou, oil on panel 8" x 10"
Even so, I painted this Woodland Caribou for last year's Christmas postcard.  The original painting is available for one more week at the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph where my solo exhibition continues until December 13th.

Woodland caribou postcard "We caribou you!" © Shannon Reynolds 2014
We Caribou You! postcard © Shannon Reynolds 2014

And, of course, neither a Caribou nor a Reindeer is An(ne) Elk.

A languid Elk at my brother's family's campsite in Jasper this summer


Painting from a live model

There's really no substitute. I love to set up my portable paintbox and tripod and paint with a limited colour palette in one burst of intense concentration.  There was a great turn out last Wednesday night for the sustained pose at the Cambridge Centre.  Here is my oil painting of our lovely model, Irena.
portrait study oil painting woman's head from single live sitting by Shannon Reynolds
Irena, portrait study from life, oil on gessoed board (detail)

portrait painted from a single live sitting by artist Shannon Reynolds
Irena, portrait study from life, oil on gessoed board, 9" x 12"


Win a Portrait of Your Pet

Until December 13th, when you sign up to my mailing list (see form to the right) I'll enter your name in a draw to win an original portrait of your pet painted in oils on a 6" x 6" canvas from your own photo.  Just like this one:
Golden Retriever oil painting portrait © Shannon Reynolds small pet portrait commission
Tasha, Golden Retriever, oil on panel 6" x 6"
When a friend of mine wanted a surprise portrait of her parents' dog last year, I decided to bend my rule about working only from in-person sittings or photos I've taken myself.  For this stealthy portrait, we resorted to a cell phone snapshot.  While not ideal, the result was so successful that I've decided to offer this option to people who'd like a more expedient and less expensive option (for portraits of pets only).

I'll draw the name and contact the winner on December 14th and make the announcement here and on my facebook page.

Of course, if you'd prefer not to leave things to chance, or can't wait until the 14th, you can always commission one of your own by contacting me directly. Just follow this link to my website and click the info tab at the top, then contact at the bottom to get my email address.


Angry Birds Through the Front Window

...of the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph, where they can be seen daily for the next few weeks, while my exhibition is hanging.

Mute swan busking, Canada Goose, House Sparrows fighting, Ring-billed Gull, oil painting Shannon Reynolds
Angry Birds (detail), oil on birch panel, 30" x 40"

Angry Birds seen through the front window
My show at the Red Brick in Guelph is in its second week.  It runs through December 13th, so you still have plenty of time to stop in for a look.  Get in touch if something catches your eye.


Solo Exhibition of Paintings at the Red Brick in Guelph

A solo exhibition of paintings by Shannon Reynolds at the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph
Shannon Reynolds
at the Red Brick Café
8 Douglas St. Guelph, Ontario, Monday- Saturday 8am-11pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
October 26 through December 13

My paintings will be hanging at the Red Brick Café in downtown Guelph until December 13th. The exhibition features a few large paintings and many smaller landscapes and animal studies as well as some oldies but goodies from earlier series, notably my dj hands.  There's something for everyone.  The historic cafe/gallery space is high-ceilinged and light-filled with several comfortable rooms.   If you are in Guelph over the next few weeks, I hope you stop in for a cappuccino or a craft beer and let me know what you think of the show.


Doe, a Deer

a female deer.  Elegant creature. Tick vector. Driving hazard. Muncher of gardens.  We spotted this one and several others in the long grass near a popular surfing beach on Nova Scotia's south shore.
oil painting portrait of a young, female, white-tailed deer by Shannon Reynolds
Young Female White-tailed Deer, oil on panel, 12" x 12"


When Thanksgiving falls just a week before a federal election...

the dinner table can become a battleground.  Fortunately for us, we banned all political talk beforehand and the potential melee was forestalled...

red fox, hound, Canada goose, red-winged blackbirds, and gull fighting
Clangor, oil on panel, 18" x 18"

Red-winged blackbird, Mute swans, Red fox, Coyote, American Kestrel, and Hound all screeching
Cacophony, oil on panel, 18" x 18"
at least until after dinner when we relieved any lingering tensions by throwing fallen walnuts at each other in the nearby park.


Too cold and Damp for Nuit Blanche...and Barn Owls

We didn't brave the cold to see the overnight art spectacle this year, but I heard we missed a sculpture of one of these stealthy killers constructed entirely of Lego blocks by Toronto Artist Ekow Nimako.

Barn owl, oil painting, Shannon Reynolds
Barn Owl sketch, oil on panel, 6" x 6"

This is my far more humble sketch of a Barn Owl painted earlier this year.   Even in Southern Ontario, we're at the very northern tip of  its habitat.  Maybe if global warming continues, the Barn Owl will venture farther north, and then we'll have yet another reason to preserve small family farms, which offer ideal nesting and hunting grounds.


Wrong Bird Right City: Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole, oil painting, ornithological art Shannon Reynolds
Baltimore Oriole in Magnolia, oil on panel 8" x 8"
We usually get one of these on our Magnolia Stellata, which blooms before anything else, each spring.  The oriole's orange and black is always a shock after so many months of grey, but would blend right in with our sugar maples over the next couple of months. 

Oh, and I'm not usually one to jump on the bandwagon, but Go Jays Go!


We've been infiltrated

Red fox pouncing painting oil on panel urban wild Shannon Reynolds
Red fox mid-pounce, oil on panel 8" x 8"
...or perhaps we've done the infiltrating. Where once there was a den of foxes in a municipal storm sewer drain pipe in the park near my parents' downtown house, now there is a den of coyotes.  A brazenly curious wild pack.  It seems coyotes are supplanting foxes as a top predator in the urban landscape. Even in the city we live so intertwined with the wild world. 

Coyote cub pack in storm sewer drainpipe, Spring 2015 (photo credit Ben Reynolds)


Black Swan for a Blue Monday

Black swan portrait, oil on panel, painting, Shannon Reynolds
Head of a Black Swan, oil on panel 6" x 6"


Globe Studios Art Show and Open House

Once again it's time for the Globe Studios open house and once again I'll be among the juried guest artists exhibiting in the halls.  It promises to be a great show and a perfect opportunity to reduce your Christmas shopping list.

Amongst the paintings I'll be showing are these two small swan portraits:

Swan portrait, oil paint, ornoithological art, Shannon Reynolds
Head of a Mute Swan, oil on panel, 6" x 6"
Mute swan portrait, oil painting, ornithological art, Shannon Reynolds
Head of a Mute Swan, oil on panel, 6" x 6"
Globe Studios is located at 141 Whitney Place, Kitchener in the former Bonnie Stuart Shoe Factory.  The show runs Friday, November 28th from 4-9pm, and Saturday, November 29th from 11-4.   I hope to see you there.


Art In Support of FLAP Canada

Some of my recent gull paintings are going to be at the juried show at Gallery 1313 in Toronto in support of FLAP Canada whose bold mission is safeguarding migratory birds through our urban environment.  

Imperious Great Black Backed Gull (detail) oil painting Shannon Reynolds
Great Black backed Gull on Rocks (detail), oil on panel

The opening reception for the exhibition titled Flights of Fancy is Thursday, November 13, from 6:00 pm, with general admission starting at 8:00.   Gallery 1313 is located at 1313 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON.  
If you'd like your name on the guest list for the preview, please let me know to avoid disappointment. 

framing the gulls


On a day like this,

Fallen Leaves watercolour sketch in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook Shannon Reynolds
Fallen leaves, watercolour in sketchbook
even with the sun streaming through scarlet leaves out my window, the studio seems oppressive.  So out went box of paints, sketchbook, and me.

watercolour sketch fallen leaves in Moleskine Shannon Reynolds
Fallen leaves, watercolour sketch, detail


Summer, We Hardly Knew Ye

I can't quite believe you're gone, so soon.  I'm not willing to let you go, though.  I have a few more beaches and gulls up my sleeve, to try to call you back.

Beach and gull painting oil on panel Shannon Reynolds landscape art
Beach and gull, late afternoon, oil on panel, 6" x 6"

This one is from the wonderful beach and dunes at the Pinery Provincial park, but could be anywhere, really.


Sky Sea Rock Gull

I've returned from another inspiring trip to the East Coast and am hoping to conjure some of the elemental experience of sea, sky, and land in some new compositions.  At the same time, I'm continuing to take a portraitist's approach to the wildlife that seems as archetypal as the landscape.

Solitary Great Black-backed Gull, oil on panel, 12" x 24"

While gulls, genus Larus, are found almost everywhere in the world, I associate the Great Black Backed gull, Larus marinus, the largest gull in the world, with my trips to the Nova Scotian coast.

For all of its imposing size, this a shy bird, and never allows me to come very close however stealthily I paddle my kayak.  It seems to sense, with a predators keen eye, when it is being looked at with intent and abhors my paparazzo efforts.


Gouache portrait sketch

A quick portrait sketch of model, Bill, in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook from last night's life drawing session with Fabio at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts.
Portrait sketch, Bill in profile, gouache in watercolour Moleskine, Shannon Reynolds
Bill, profile, gouache in watercolour sketchbook 5" x 8"

Sketchbook and palette


Under sodium lights

Here's a small portrait sketch in oils from last night's life drawing session. The model is our session coordinator and sometime model, Miss Robin. I've been using far more paint of late--applying it thickly, with almost no added medium except what I need to make the paint workable, and drawing directly with the brush instead of relying on a preliminary underdrawing.  It's exhilarating.

direct painting portrait sketch in oils from life, Shannon Reynolds
A small portrait sketch in oil on panel (detail)
portrait sketch in oils from life, (detail) oil on panel, Shannon Reynolds
A portrait sketch of Miss Robin, oil on panel (detail)

The light in the room where we draw is lit with low pressure sodium lights, which are great for energy efficiency, but terrible for colour rendering accuracy.  Under those lights, I lose all perception of the red spectrum, which isn't a problem when I'm drawing, but is a definite challenge when painting. I always emerge from the room with a far more highly saturated painting than what I'd perceived.  Last night I paid closer attention to my colour mixes and tried to get the tones right, so the painting isn't quite as far off as usual.  Still, it's a little like painting while colour blind.  I love the Cambridge life sessions, so maybe I'll look into getting some kind of clip-on light with high colour rendering index to take with me on painting nights.

A portrait sketch of  Miss Robin, oil on panel, 11" x 14"


Incidental landscape

This landscape painting is not mine, which is to say I painted it, but it’s a copy. 
Ontario landscape, oil on canvas, Shannon Reynolds
Incidental landscape (detail), oil on canvas
I’m painting a corporate portrait in which the CEO, an avid outdoorsman and art collector, is posing in front of a landcape painting which hangs in his office.  The original is a highly finished instantly recognizable Ontario landscape conjuring Muskoka or Algonquin in a familiar language we know if not from actual experience, then from Group of Seven paintings.  I had to stylize it significantly for the background of my painting. As a portraitist, I’ve only painted a handful of landscapes but hope to paint more.  In this case, freed from considerations of composition and subject, I could enjoy sketching the landscape, without being a slave to accuracy (unlike the portrait part in which likeness is my necessary preoccupation).  Here's a larger view, with telltale ear and suit jacket shoulder:

Shannon Reynolds, landscape painting, corporate portrait, oil on canvas
Incidental landscape with telltale ear (still a detail), oil on canvas
How easily a wind twisted pine against pink tinged clouds against a blue sky evokes the northern Ontario (okay, northern, southern Ontario) landscape.  Made me want to trade my brushes for a paddle.


Two reclining nudes

Reclining nude, life drawing study, gouache, Shannon Reynolds
Reclining figure study 1, gouache on paper, 11" x 7"
In Isabella Stefanescu's studio this Saturday we had a rare, daytime life drawing session with the model.  There was gorgeous light streaming through warehouse windows, birdsong outside, some French romantic composer playing in the background--Ravel I think.  It was great, until we were shushed by people in the neighbouring studio...

Reclining nude, life drawing, gouache on paper, Shannon Reynolds
Reclining figure study 2, gouache on paper, 11" x 7"
Apologies to the people next door who were recording something and had probably expected the studios to be unoccupied on the Saturday of a long weekend.