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.