Category Archives: On location

Back to Ritchie Falls to paint waterfalls

acrylic painting of water patterns below waterfalls

Below the Falls

Another beautiful spot for painting in Haliburton is Ritchie Falls. I’ve painted there a few times before, and was keen to go back. I was very interested in the patterns in the water made by the bubbles as they floated down from the falls.

This is me with my painting music stuffed into a pocket, working on a charcoal drawing to lay in the big masses before starting to paint.


The painting that resulted, called Below the Falls, is an acrylic on wood panel. It has an oriental feel to me that I quite like.



Painting the rapids in Haliburton

I had a wonderful painting trip to Haliburton again this year. We rented a cottage in the old fashioned Chateau Woodlands Estates — more of a cabin, really. A 1950’s style resort. Easy access to many good painting locations, and I thought I would tell you about a few here.

painting of red rocks with tree trunks in front of light green rapids

Rocks and Rapids 1

One of the most gorgeous sites was at the Wildwater Reserve. This is a site for whitewater kayaking competitions, and the rapids were fierce and beautiful. We saw a number of talented kayakers navigating the water. Amazingly, they often waved at me! (I would not have thought they could take their eyes off for a moment!)kayakers-in-rapids SG-Abbott-painting-at-rapids-haliburton

I love anything with wild roots and rocks, so this location had plenty of that to choose from. The water filled with bubbles was tremendously challenging to interpret.

The first day painting there I created the piece at the top of this post, called Rocks and Rapids 1.

We went back again another day, and I found a different vantage point. A bit more crowded with people, but one advantage of the rapids is that they create a tremendous amount of background noise, plus cool the air around you. Perfect conditions for painting on a hot day! You see I am well protected in the shade.

These are all acrylic paintings on panels, and will be posted to the galleries shortly. All are for sale, of course.

painting-at-wildwater-2 painting-at-wildwater-reserve

Two more paintings emerged that day. Rocks and Rapids 2, where I pulled out the bluish colors in the rocks and the red of the cedars on the far side of the river. These standing waves were the target for the best kayakers.

blue rocks with green whitewater rapids and orange cedar trees in the background

Rocks and Rapids 2

The next one, The Red Maples, drew on the color of the trunks of these young maples and the vibrant green of the grasses below. It’s a patch of calm beside all this wild water.

Whitewater rapids in the background with tall young red maples on a field of green grass

The Red Maples

Painting in a field


There’s an organic market and demonstration garden in the country just outside Haliburton, with beautiful fields all around. A gravel pit was just behind the market garden, and on a weekend, no one was working. The weather was quite unsettled, but the colors of the fields and the trees were spectacular.

I enjoyed capturing the many colored wild flowers and grasses at the edge of the fields. The ochre colored grasses on the hill in the background were what originally caught my attention – when the sun was still shining – so this is called The Yellow Field.

I may do a larger studio painting based on this plein air study — it’s such an expansive view it seems to warrant a bigger canvas.


Painting the Bruce Peninsula

I’m just back from two weeks off the grid (no internet! no e-mail!) of glorious painting on the Bruce Peninsula. This wonderful location is bordered on Georgian Bay on one side, and Lake Huron on the other, and has a landscape that really appeals to me. The Niagara Escarpment, a rock formation that runs south to Niagara Falls, has created many beautiful cliffs and bays on the peninsula.

Here are a few of the painting locations, kindly documented by my husband Bruce.

My work is inspired by the landscape, not an attempt to capture it in a realistic or photographic way.

Getting started with a coffee in hand, a crucial part of my painting routine!

Getting started with a coffee in hand, a crucial part of my painting routine!


This was the dock at our rented cottage, overlooking a quiet lagoon. I created several paintings on different days, different light conditions. Often too windy to use the umbrella, so the light was often a challenge — blindingly bright.


Another spot on the cottage property, this time trying to get some shelter from the sun and heat.

There is a lovely access point to Bruce Peninsula National Park that you reach by walking an easy half-kilometer path. There are lovely rocks and coves, small islands, and it’s also a great place to swim.

Unfortunately, in the afternoons, stable flies are a nuisance here.

The start of a painting - this is just inside Bruce Peninsula National Park, and a popular spot for a cooling swim.

The start of a painting – this is just inside Bruce Peninsula National Park, and a popular spot for a cooling swim.

The finished painting.

The finished painting.

Many people visit Flowerpot Island every year, named for the large pillar formations formed by eroded limestone. We walked to the far side of the island, where the old lighthouse-keepers cottage is located, and I enjoyed painting the large rocks there.

That's me at my easel in the centre background, trying to capture the forms of a large rock.

That’s me at my easel in the centre background, trying to capture the forms of a large rock.

On the Lake Huron side is Singing Sands beach at Dorcas Bay. This huge beach is very shallow. Too shallow for adults to enjoy swimming there, it seems to be an endless series of shallow sand bars. Very popular with young families. I was enjoying the tiny vivid yellow flowers and red grasses, as well as the dunes.

Painting the dunes at Singing Sands

Painting the dunes at Singing Sands

A more whimsical painting of the beach, with some bathers visible in the background

A more whimsical painting of the beach, with some bathers visible in the background

Little Cove is a beautiful spot in the National Park that is marred by only a couple of small chunks of private land. We encountered some wild weather there, and I had to move to avoid getting wet feet!

The round shapes in the rocks seen in the second photo are apparently formed when the great weight of a glacier pressing down on the rock is released due to melting, and the rock springs back. Very challenging to capture in a painting, but quite inspiring.


Painting at Little Cover, note the waves starting to encroach.

Circular wave shapes in the rock caused by melting glaciers

Circular wave shapes in the rock caused by melting glaciers

So now I just have to get busy and get images up on the site here to show you! It was a fantastic trip, and I painted almost every day.

On location in Haliburton at A Brush with the Highlands Plein Air Painting Festival

This is a photo taken at the 2011 plein air painting festival (A Brush with the Highlands), after I had finished painting, so the light had changed quite significantly. But here’s what I was looking at. I love these groves of trees, they never fail to capture my attention.

This is a photo of the installation for the juried show at A Brush With the Highlands in 2012. I’m in good company in between two pieces by artist Sheila Davis, which won awards. For this part of the show, one can only submit pieces that were completed during the three day festival. We had exceptionally warm weather, so being in the shade was essential!

Summer plein air painting

Two of my favorite things to do are create art and be in the great outdoors. In the summertime, I try to combine these by painting outside, known as “painting en plein air”.

Every summer in August, there is a plein air painting festival in the Haliburton Highlands, a district in the Canadian Shield about a three hour drive north-east of Toronto, where I live.

This year, my husband and I rented cottages in a couple of locations for two weeks before this event and I painted outside almost every day, which was really joyous and relaxing. You can’t really think about anything else while you are painting, so it takes you completely out of your head.

For the actual festival, which happens over three days, farmers and landowners in the rural area let artists come onto their private land to paint. Meeting the other artists is usually interesting too, although I freely confess that we are a unique segment of society for the most part!  Case in point — I bumped into a painting friend in the grocery store, and we stood in front of the cheese counter discussing composition principles for half an hour.

The images in the gallery called “Come into the Forest” are all plein air paintings. Most would have been painted over 3 – 4 hours, with occasional stops for coffee, sunscreen or bug spray! Some take a bit longer. This year was very dry, so I didn’t have to cope with any sudden rain storms.

The changes in light and shadow over a few hours are one of the challenges of outdoor painting, to say nothing of the overwhelming complexity of the view. You have to take away everything that is not necessary until you are left with a story that makes sense.

The painting shown here – The Old Maple – was painted on the last day of the festival in the afternoon, on a property called Brigadoon.