Portraitist Goes to the Birds

A collage of Angry BIrds, and oil painting © Shannon Reynolds and the Globe Studios Art Show postcard
Globe Studios Art Show and Sale Friday November 25th and Saturday November 26th
Well, not entirely.  But I admit I've been painting many birds lately.  I've always been a birder, albeit a non-competitive, opportunistic one.  Birds are a living example of a prehistoric past, astonishing in their variety, and possessors of the perpetually amazing ability to fly.  Given their ubiquity and my recent acquisition of a super zoom camera, I've been turning to them as models more often.

A portrait of a Northern Mockingbird on a Wire, oil painting, ©Shannon Reynolds
Bird On a Wire, Northern Mockinbird, oil on panel, 12" x 12"

Birds of many a feather I've painted will be on display and for sale at the Globe Studios Art Show and Open House today and tomorrow, from fancy pigeons, to urban gulls, and birds of prey.  Some fish and fauna and even a landscape are also part of my little wall space.  I hope to see some of you there.

Osprey on twig nest, oil painting, ©Shannon Reynolds
Osprey (left side), oil on panel, 12" x 12"

An oil panitng of an osprey on a nest of sticks by artist Shannon Reynolds
Osprey (right side), oil on panel, 12" x 12"
For more details of the Globe Studios Open House:


McMichael Volunteer Committee Autumn Art Sale Fundraiser Opens Tomorrow night

#AutumnArtSale #ShannonReynoldsArt
At the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario
Opening Night Gala Friday October 21 from 6 to 10 pm Complimentary Hors d'Oeuvres, Free Parking and Admission, Cash Bar
Sale continues Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm, $5 parking includes free admission to the fundraiser. Regular admission rates apply to the McMichael Art Collection and exhibitions.

From the McMichael volunteer committee:
"The annual Autumn Art Sale is recognized as one of the most prestigious events to see and purchase original works from some of Canada’s most talented artists. There is no better setting than the gallery’s stunning Grand Hall, surrounded by 100 acres of beautiful conservation land, to showcase unique one-of-a-kind works.  Over the course of three days, art will be on view and available for purchase from 50 juried artists who will be in attendance. The quality and variety of works on sale will please the taste and budget of seasoned art buyers as well as those beginning to build a collection.  This is your opportunity to invest in a beautiful piece of original Canadian art that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment."

I am delighted to be one of the 50 artists selected to exhibit at this year's sale.  I will have over 30 paintings available at the show, many of them new, and I would love to see you there.


Under the eaves

Our neighbour's porch and carport is supported by flat topped pillars that provide a perfectly sheltered platform for birds.  Right now, even in late September, a mourning dove is sitting on her nest (such as it is) for what must be the fifth time this season.  The doves are amazingly prolific, but their nest building skills are nothing compared to the woven mud and grass architectural creation of their robin neighbour. The building process was touch and go for a while, but the but  the finished product was an artistic masterpiece. 

Three demanding alien creatures emerged.

Robin's nest, oil painting, by Shannon Reynolds
American Robin's nest under the eaves, oil on panel, 8" x 10" ©Shannon Reynolds 2016
This painting will be available for sale at the 2016 McMichael Volunteer Commitee's signature fundraiser, the Autumn Art Sale  which runs from October 21-23 in the beautiful lobby of the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario.


A delicate balance

I seldom see two chickadees on the feeder at one time.  They typically swoop in and out individually, in an established order.   Lately,  I've spotted two birds seemingly surprised to encounter each other.  Maybe they're still working out the social hierarchy.
A painting of two black capped chickadees on a bird feeder, oil on panel ©Shannon Reynolds
A delicate Balance, two black-capped chickadees, oil on panel, 6" x 12"


What's black white and blue and sounds like a squeaky clothesline?

An oil painting of two bluejays with a sunflower seed on a branch by fine artist Shannon Reynolds
Two Young Blue Jays "How do I open this thing?" oil on panel 8" x 10" ©ShannonReynolds
Though often denigrated by birders for their loud and thuggish ways, I find blue jays to be smart, handsome, and engaging. They are known to imitate the cries of red tailed hawks to scare off other birds, and their natural curiosity and sociability leads them to strike some very entertaining poses.  At this time of year I can hear their distinctive clothesline cries all day, and often spot them, especially the young ones hanging out on the maple tree branches outside my studio windows.

This is one of the paintings I plan to take to the 2016 Autumn Art Sale Fundraiser, created and run by the McMichael Volunteer Committee, in October this year.  I'll be writing more about the show in future posts.

Leader of the Pack

Okay, so it's not called a pack, nor a herd, apparently, but a fold, a fold of Highland Cows.  She, in all of her shaggy black beauty, was its undisputed leader.  I observed her, not entirely unseen, for the two and half days that I had the pleasure of staying at her hotel (why don't all hotels have folds of cows and flocks of sheep and chickens and rows of piglets?) .  Hotel Le Germain in Baie St. Paul, Charlevoix, QC, has all that and more.  Nothing escaped her wise bovine gaze, especially not me, who was trying to observe unobserved,  I couldn't resist painting her portrait. 

Portrait of a Black Highland Cow entitiled No Bull, by artist  © Shannon Reynolds 2016, oil on panel
No Bull, Highland Cow, oil on panel 12" x 12" © Shannon Reynolds 2016


My Heart's in the Highlands Wherever I Go

An oil painting of Black and Tan Highland Cows by artist Shannon Reynolds © 2016
Black and Tan, Highland Cows, oil on panel, 11" x 14" © Shannon Reynolds 2016
I was thrilled to find a beautiful small fold (rather than herd, apparently) of Highland cattle at our hotel in Baie St. Paul in the Charlevoix region of Quebec when we stopped there for a couple of days en route to Nova Scotia.  Bred for the harsh climate, rugged landscape, and wily predators of the Scottish Highlands, this breed looks the part completely with their impressive horns (even on the cows), shaggy double coats, and sturdy legs.  I was able to observe and sketch them right from the balcony of my room.  The only drawback was the high railing which partly obscured my view.  If I went again, I'd request a lower floor. 

Highland Cow sketches in watercolour and gouache by Shannon Reynolds
Sketches of Highland Cattle, watercolour and gouache in Moleskine sketchbook 
Over a couple of days of observation, we could see the hierarchy in action.  The beautiful black cow was the matriarch of the fold, and the mother of the one young calf (who seemed to outrank one of the other cows by association).  She was the first to run to the farmer in the mornings for the special feed and often stood atop the hay manger as if to claim it for herself.  Besides cows, the hotel had chickens, a sow with piglets, sheep, and ducks and a beautiful produce garden.  It's a bucolic place with sweeping vistas to the St. Lawrence and luxurious rooms...and a fantastic place to draw.

Cow in the manger at Hotel Le Germain in Baie St. Paul 

Sketching the highland cattle from my balcony


Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea bound coast...

Every time I return from a trip to the ocean I find that my landlocked house, which I usually love, is missing a crucial dimension and I long for the sea.

oil painting of Owl's Head rock formation on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, © Shannon Reynolds
Owl's Head at high tide, oil on panel, 5" x 7"

We kayak around this rock formation called owl's head every year, but only this time did we really see the owl--or what we think is the owl.  It's really only obvious from a kayak's vantage point between the cliffs (and is not visible in this painting of the spot).  Last time we were lucky enough to see Black Guillemot chicks high on a rock ledge keening their raspy calls and getting ready for their first plunge into the sea below.  This time we didn't see or hear any of the Guillemots, although I did spot a solitary chick swimming in the cove where we stay. 

I keep venturing into landscape in small ways, but I think I might paint a larger studio version of this painting sometime in the future, if only to conjure up the ocean from my land bound studio.


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