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Hot days in the Kawarthas

© 2017 Susan G Abbott - Hot Wind in Kawarthas

Hot Wind in Kawarthas | Acrylic on wood panel | 18 x 18 ins | $225 | 2017

Driving home from the Haliburton region, there’s a little diner by the lake in a tiny place called Cameron.

It’s in the Kawartha Lakes district, which is part of the Trent-Severn canal system, so you can take a boat from Lake Huron to Lake Ontario. At one time this would have been used for commercial shipping, but now it is primarily a route for pleasure boats.

There’s a small deck, a docking area for the little marina where the houseboats stop on their travels. I love the marshy edge of the lake, and this odd tree that is bent over by the wind and looks oddly tropical. This day in August was very hot, with the kind of humid overcast that creates a lot of glare and haze. It’s not really clear and its not really cloudy. You just know there is going to be a thunderstorm by late afternoon on a day like this.

Far too hot to be outside on the little deck, we sat inside the diner for our fish and chips. I had a lovely chat with the server who was very interested to learn more about my art, and has done some painting herself.

Only a short stop, then we bought some cold drinks, and headed back out to the main highway. Once back home and ensconced on our own little deck, sure enough, there was a thunderstorm. Something we can enjoy from a safe and dry spot.

This piece is currently hanging in my home, until it finds a new home. Here’s a little picture of what is looks like in my hallway. You can see the cradle mounting for these panels sets them off the wall nicely, even if there is no frame.

painting of tree and water with colorful sky

Hot Wind in Kawarthas installed view | Acrylic on wood panel | 18 x 18 ins | $225 | 2017



Paintings are happy in their new homes

I delivered two more of The Highway series paintings to the new owners yesterday, and both were so pleased, it made my day.

One has a new home overlooking Bronte Bay near Oakville, and is thrilled to have Pelee in Blue to hang as soon as she moves in. She’s starting a new chapter in her life, and something about this long path into the horizon captured her heart (as it did mine!)

© Susan G Abbott - Pelee in Blue

Pelee in Blue, 20 x 20″, acrylic on canvas

Pelee in Blue was the larger painting, made from this small study, which was purchased by another artist I admire. For her, the smaller painting has a freshness and energy that she valued. Dropping off the work at her home yesterday, it was wonderful to have a tour of her other paintings; she owns many wonderful pieces. And I was proud to have my piece taking its place in her home.

© Susan G Abbott - Pelee Study

Pelee Study, 12 x 12″ Acrylic on Canvas

A collector is scheduled to come by to see the latest work, and so I have a selection of pieces I think she will like all ready in my little sun room. Are the paintings happy to be there, instead of stored away in shelves? That is a whimsical idea, but I like it. Surely objects want to be useful and loved, just as we do.

A friend asked me why I would paint the same subject multiple times. More on that in the next post.


Inspiration for Paintings in The Highway Series

© 2017 Susan G Abbott - Hot Wind in Kawarthas

Picture 1 of 18

Hot Wind in Kawarthas | Acrylic on wood panel | 18 x 18 ins | $225 | 2017

People are asking me what inspired the works in The Highway series of paintings. That’s easy to explain in one way — it is the view of the countryside I can see from the passenger window of our car as we drive to various destinations when we travel in Ontario.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos from the car, putting my camera or phone up through the sunroof. (Not while driving!)  The horizon line you see in a car is invariably slanted, and this is starting to show up in my paintings.

When I was working en plein air (fancy artist term meaning outdoor painting) I was often right at the edge of a highway, because there is nowhere else if the forest is thick. Take Algonquin Park, for example — most of the time you are parked just off Highway 60, the main corridor through the park, painting something that is visible from the highway.

I did do some growing up in the prairies, and lived in Calgary for many years, so that landscape is always present in my imagination. And some of the works have that sense of spaciousness of the prairies, such as Big Sky, shown below. But they were still based on the Ontario countryside.

All the inspirations are Ontario countryside with one exception, which was purely from my imagination, the diptych Avery Beach.  It is actually based on remembering English Bay in Vancouver. But it is called Avery Beach because I was studying the work of Milton Avery at the time, so the title is a tribute to that influence.

From an artistic point of view, I am exploring the ways of capturing a sense of space, and the interplay of colors, while simplifying the landscape.

Some of my artistic inspirations are the works of people like these amazing artists:


New art works on display at DVAC Fall Show

I have four pieces in the Don Valley Club’s fall show, shown here. The show is at Todmorden Mills, and runs from 16 November to 27 November.

These first two are part of an ongoing series I have been doing experimenting with words and image transfers, and some gentle humor or wit. They work well alone or as a pair. If you only see one hanging on the wall, ask to see the other, which may still be in the back. These are unframed, but are painted on 1.5″ gallery canvas, with the edges painted in gray, which I find hangs quite nicely with no frame.

I love imagining that these birds have the same idle conversations that other neighbors have when we chat on our street!


“Online Chat” 12″ x 12″ Mixed Media and Image Transfer $144


“Online Update” 12″ x 12″ Mixed Media and Image Transfer $144

If you’ve ever been to Pelee Island, you’ll love this view as much as I do. Pelee Island is the southernmost point in Canada, and a beautiful place to visit. There is a very long natural spit that seems to connect to the distant horizon, making lovely shapes. The small piece was the study for the larger piece, shown below.


“Pelee Study” 12′ x 12″ Acrylic on Canvas $144


“Pelee” 20″ x20″ Acrylic on Canvas, comes with a narrow black floating frame, $275

I painted one more version of this image (not in the DVAC show), called Looking South at Pelee.  For this one, I used an oblong format, simplified the composition even further, and changed the color scheme to be even more calming.

It’s hanging outside my office right now, and I love it, I think you would too. (If you are interested in this piece, contact me directly.)

"Looking South at Pelee", 20" x 24", Acrylic on Canvas

“Looking South at Pelee”, 20″ x 24″, Acrylic on Canvas, $350







Don Valley Art Club show at Todmorden Mills

Show details

The fall show and sale for the Don Valley Art Club is coming up soon, and I will have a few pieces in the show. This particular show is set up so that if you buy something, you can take it with you immediately, not have to wait until the end of the show.

Opening: Wednesday November 25, 7:00 to 9:00 pm.  The show is on until December 6. Todmorden Mills is at 67 Pottery Road, where there is free parking and free admission. The gallery is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, open noon to 5:00 pm weekdays, and noon to 4:00 pm weekends.

This show is always popular for the wall of square paintings available at $144 each. These are 12 x 12 inch original pieces.

New pieces in this show

The cabin we rented in Halliburton last summer was on the water, and we had the most spectacular sunsets, with amazing combinations of almost neon colors. With the fading light filtering through the tall thin trees at the water’s edge, I just had to capture this mood in a painting. I thought the finished piece looked oddly tropical, despite being in the near north, hence the name. It’s part of the Near North series of paintings.

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This piece is another in the Highway Series, where I have abstracted the landscape visible from the highway. The blocks of color are carefully selected and layered to produce a calm mood, and a sense of spaciousness.

This is also part of the Highway Series, and I think creates a lot of space in a very small canvas. The silo stands like a sentinel watching over the activity, which becomes a competition between the agricultural structure and the wild bushes and trees. The photo has an odd brown cast that does not exist in the original — I’ll have to take a picture with a better camera, instead of the ipad. (Better plan, come and see it for yourself!)

This is the first of what will be a series that I think will be called Broken Words. It uses a new method of transferring printed images that I have developed, and am getting good results with. The letters have been finished with a high-gloss gel that makes them stand out from the matte finish of the paint, something that does not come through very well in the photo.

There are many fine artists that show with the Don Valley Art Club, and you will not be disappointed if you make the time to stop by. For more details about location, check here.

Upcoming show at NEXT!

I am delighted to have two of my recent pieces going in to the juried NEXT! show at the Arts and Letters Club.

This is an amazing club that looks like Hogwarts on the inside, and has been in existence since 1908. Many famous writers, painters and musicians have been members. The club runs an open submission juried art show, and I am so pleased to be a part of this event, since they select only 45 pieces.

The two pieces I will have in the show are Cooper’s Farm with Sketchbook Page, and Three White Buildings and Triangle, shown below.

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Details about the show and public access dates are on the Arts and Letters Club Web site here.

More in The Highway Series

I almost overlooked adding this little gem, Billboard and Cows, which is currently hanging in my sun-room. It’s also an 18 x 18 piece, and although it is painted using a hard edge technique, you can see there is lots of texture. I guess we need a new term (see more below*.)


Also hanging in my sun-room are the two vertical pieces, called Shapes and Shadows 1 and 2. I think this view gives a more accurate impression of the colors, which came out a bit strong looking in the other photos posted.  These two paintings work well side by side, I think — they were actually painted from the same source material — but they also work well on their own.


*Hard Edge painting is a term that dates from the late 1950’s. You can read more about it at the Guggenheim or the Tate.  Or have a look at some of these paintings from Takao Tanabe.

Updating the site

Well, it was an amazing summer of painting. I’ve been a real slacker at keeping this web site updated, but was pretty keen to get some of this new work up here, so finally set aside the time to just get it done.

I try to make the photos as true to the colors of the work as possible, but I would have to say that the originals all look better than the photos — it’s just very difficult to capture a painting in a photograph.

I have started two new series of work that I am REALLY excited about.

The Near North Series is a looser, wilder interpretation of the raw landscape of the Canadian Shield country. The same landscape that has inspired a lot of painters over the years. These works are also finished in the studio.

The Highway Series is about the wide open spaces that we can see from the highway — agricultural and industrial lands. It is hard-edged, worked in the studio from my sketches and photos. The image shown at the top was the first of this series, and the first time I have painted in this style. I was having a lot of difficulty settling on the right color for the foreground, and painted several swatches on sketchbook paper. When I finally got the right one, I collaged it in, as a mark of the process of painting.

My obsession with the square format is not quite over, exactly, but I’ve started using some other shapes and sizes.

I hope you enjoy these new pieces.

Preparing for a show – building frames and mounting the work

I’ve been getting some paintings ready to show, and thought you would be interested to see what goes into that.

Since I generally paint on wood panels, the panels themselves need to be supported on cradles. I build these myself. The work looks so much better when it is framed, even simply framed, that I decided to build simple frames for the pieces in this show. As well, the frame protects the painting. If it gets dropped by mistake, for example, it will be the frame that is damaged, not the painting.

I was building so many that I made a careful plan of the rough and finished size of each piece, and how many pieces of each type of wood I would use.

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Careful planning will minimize the waste from the wood. So I measured all the cuts first. The wood you see here is oak and poplar, which is what I use for the visible parts of the frame.

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I allow for 1/4 inch of waste from the power saw — you actually use close to 1/8 inch just to the cut itself.










Next step is to make all the preliminary cuts with the power saw. I did this outside the sun room, which I temporarily converted into a framing studio.  Way too much sawdust to do this inside, so I bundled up and did it on the deck.

sawing frames sawing frames 2

Next up is trimming the rough cuts. This bad boy tool is called a mitre trimmer, and it has razor sharp blades that cut a very thin slice off the corner of the wood. I love the way the trimmed corners feels – smooth and perfect.

mitre trimmermitre trimmer in use

Here’s my giant pile of trimmed cradle pieces, ready to be glued up. This year I acquired a v-nailer, which greatly simplifies and speeds up the process. You glue, clamp and nail one corner at a time.

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I also paint the edges of each of the cradles. Usually a dark purplish – charcoal color that I mix up myself. So if you buy a piece without a frame, you can hang it on the wall. In the finished frame, you can see just a bit of this edge, so it is important that it look good.

In the picture on the right, the thin pieces that are painted are going to be the back part of the frame. Thin pieces of oak and poplar will be mounted to the edge.

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These cradles are all mounted to the individual paintings with carpenter’s glue, then clamped until the glue is set.

The thin frames are a little trickier, since they have two parts — the profile is an L shape. Each one has eight pieces to be fitted and glued. I use corner clamps, but this year I also pressed some yoga equipment into service — see the colored rubber bands? I wrap and clamp these as well, to make sure the corners all fit nice and neat.

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Before I put the painting into the frame, I apply a coat of matte varnish. This is painter’s varnish that protects the painting from UV and minor bangs, as well as grease or dust. I also mark the back of the painting with a title, date, and conservation information (so any future conservator knows what materials were used — what kind of ground preparation, paint, and varnish.)

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Here are a few of the pieces for this show, all framed and ready to go. These are hung in my home for us to enjoy before they go make their way in the world!

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I’m quite pleased with how these all look. All set to be hung!

Paintings added to permanent collection of Toronto Public Library

I was thrilled to have the Toronto Public Library Special Collections get in touch with me this year and enquire about purchasing two paintings.

These are both recognizable locations in a nearby area of the city that was at one time the town of Leaside. The top piece is an old building at Todmorden Mills, which is now a public space. I deliberately distorted the perspective on this lovely old building, which had such pretty colors in the stucco.

The lower one is part of a cement plant, in the Leaside industrial park. I am very interested in these industrial spaces that are part of the city, as they are fast disappearing.

Both pieces are now in the permanent collection at the Toronto Reference Libary!