Friday, 19 December 2014

Holiday Inspiration

I decided against cramming another post before the holidays. I'm guessing you are busy with your own preparations, so who has time to read! Here are just a few images to whet your appetite for winter delights.

Winter Apparel, acrylic, 30x22

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and have a wonderful, artful New Year!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Rut Begone!

Alpine Glow I, acrylic, 11x14

There are many ways of getting yourself into a rut, and sometimes I even manage to do it all. Here are some dangerous things to look for:

  • Scheduling several important shows in one year sounds like a good thing, but it means having to paint consistently on a strict schedule throughout the year. This leaves me alone in the studio for days, living inside my head without a break - not a good thing at all. One looses perspective and may even jeopardize quality of work.

  • Complicated logistics can drain one's energy and enthusiasm. This could include use of substandard art materials, painting on canvases that are difficult to frame, expensive and exhausting business trips, inefficient delivery of works to and from the gallery, emotionally draining receptions. Some of this can be avoided, but on or two are sure to get me every time.

  • Taking workshops to learn new things is great, except at the time when you are already in a rut. While you are hoping to refresh yourself , diving into a completely different painting method may push you into believing that you are utterly incompetent. Also, beware that people who teach things different from what you do, typically don't have much good to say about what you do. I guarantee that won't make you feel like a million bucks.

  • Starting a completely unrelated project which is much easier and emotionally more rewarding than what you are just now experiencing with your art is dangerously seductive. It will make you ask yourself – why am I not doing this instead punishing myself to be an artist who can’t do anything right? Sounds logical, doesn't it? Well, it's not.

When you put yourself through all this, you ill find yourself in that familiar, warm, oozy swamp of resentment at the very thought of even entering your studio.
 That heavenly place surely does not deserve someone so substandard and confused as me!

So how to turn all this around? 

The only way I can feel worthy of entering the inner sanctum again is if I ask myself what are the good things I know for certain that I can do in there? Funnily, there is always something on the GOOD LIST!
  • Organizing! Why not clean the studio and sort out my electronic art files?
  • Compositions! I can start a new notebook and pencil in compositions, that's always a great fun.
  • Colors! I love making small color studies and playing with my color wheel.
  • Art materials! There are always mediums and tools that I never use. I wonder what they can do?

And here is is the BLACK LIST of things I mustn't do until I stop feeling about making art, like a seasick sailor in the middle of a prefect storm:

  • No watching of on line art classes and trying to paint using new techniques from art books. Would the seasick sailor climb on top of the mast? I don’t think so.
  • No trying to make a painting using new techniques. The new knowledge will have to find a subtle indirect way to seep into my work. Let it ferment.
  • No committing to anything new and unrelated to my art.  A one night stand or a lighthearted affair is fine, but keep it at that. There is nothing else I am meant to be in this one short life, as long as my hand can hold the brush.
  • No avoiding the studio, because that's exactly what spiders expect me to do (I hate spiders)
  • And absolutely no researching and approaching new galleries - this one is fatal! New business partners deserve the best you can offer, and that certainly won't happen when you are in a rut.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Time Gap Art

Hungabee Lake, acrylic, 24x30

I am posting one of the paintings I made for my Yoho show, to get reminded of busy days in the studio, and to help me get through November when other projects are keeping me away from the easel.

What to do when there just isn’t any time to make art? Some days just simply don’t have enough hours in them. On the other hand, we get stuck in situations where our time is mercilessly wasted – waiting rooms, gaps between meetings, waiting for a phone call, you get the idea.

I am not talking about luxurious half an hour or more, but about those annoying ten minutes when we can’t really start doing anything meaningful. Rather than succumb to frustration, something can be done if we are prepared. Many people reach for their smart phones, but I prefer a pen and paper.

Here’s an idea. When I am in the office at my day job, I use the smallest size yellow stickers and make tiny sketches with a felt pen and highlighter markers. Due to their small size and thickness of the markers, those things are simple and consist of just a few colored areas and few lines. But, the satisfaction I get from making them surpasses their size and significance. For a minute or two, I am making art, even in an impossible situation. Yep, I am an artist, despite gray padded walls around me.

I stick those on the edge of my computer screen, and on some slow days I have a nice art exhibition going, before it gets archived into the trash can. Nobody ever asked me about them, so I gather that people probably think I am nuts.

I hope this triggers ideas of what can be done with very little, even when we are stuck in the rut of a daily grind.



Friday, 14 November 2014


Reflections at Lake McArthur, acrylic, 24x30

Reflections are difficult to get right, so I was thinking about the artist’s dilemma – paint what you know, or paint what you see?

Some of the old masters, like Leonardo and  Thomas Eakins studied reflections  in gory technical detail, and were obsessed with understanding their nature.  

Other’s believe everything we see are splotches of value and color that just need to be placed in the right spot.

One way or the other, I wonder if realist painters can get away without a thorough understanding of optical laws of nature.  I think that even when we paint what we see, we should be able to consciously choose when to be technically precise and when to leave things ambiguous or intentionally inaccurate in favor of design or an idea. I believe that the effort of accumulating knowledge has value, even if it’s not reflected (pun intended) in every single thing we do. 

But maybe I’m just overthinking it – there will always be planners and pantsers after all, and I am guessing there’s a little bit of both in most of us.

Happy painting!


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Thread of Love

The last time I've seen my mother, she had an idea to sketch designs of flowers from my garden, and then embroider them on my clothes. I remember her amongst hydrangeas and rosebushes, engrossed with her task. She embroidered lovely wreaths around the hem of my jeans skirt and a linen blouse, and even a pocket of my husband's shirt received a tiny, silky rosebud.

My mother's embroidery

My mom wasn't very artsy, but she was very creative and she appreciated my artful efforts. Throughout her life, her true passion were needle and thread crafts. I have several large totes full of her crocheted, embroidered and knitted creations. She passed away in 2008, eight months after I've last seen her. We had talked on the phone every week, and she always asked about my paintings.

I wrote all this about my mother, because it explains why a call I got earlier this year, felt just right to me.

Kathy emailed me asking if she could use the design from one of my paintings, she'd seen on my web site, to create a quilt, which would then be auctioned off for her local fundraiser. Kathy makes the most amazing quilts based on designs from painting she likes. Here is her latest one, based on  my painting Edith Cavell Lake.

Art quilt by Kathy Bush

Kathy's auction is this Friday and I can't wait to find out where this gorgeous piece of art finds it's home.

Thank you Kathy for your beautiful work, and for helping me connect my art with my mother's passion.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Art Seasons

Trail to Oesa, acrylic, 16x20

After finishing my Yoho collection on which I worked for the entire summer, and after taking a well-deserved (I think) rest to recuperate and clean up all the mess, the studio is calling again. It's close to the end of the year and those last couple of months were supposed to be the time for play and learning, experimenting and trying out new techniques.  

But the little evil voice keeps bugging me to skip the play and do what responsible artists do - make more paintings!  I negotiated a month-off with this nasty creature, but in a couple weeks it wants to see me back on the wagon, or else!

Do you plan out what you want to paint over the entire year? 

If your paintings reflect seasons in some way, typically with seasonal scenery or colors, the timing is kind of important. For example, if you use your winter to paint spring and summer subjects, you will have a nice collection of fresh summery paintings ready to wander into the world in spring.

Accordingly, fall feels appropriate for painting of wintery subjects (while we are still not sick and tired of the cold). I guess we all start resenting snowy scenes by early March if not earlier, although I have heard cries of joy from gallery visitors seeing them during the heat waves of July and August. 

My experience is that art lovers generally enjoy seeing art that compliments nature.

This kind of planning is practical, but the difficulty for the artist is in ignoring the inspiration of what nature is offering at the time. Who wants to paint snow covered trees while the foliage is just turning all shades of gold all around us?  

Of course I prefer to just paint what my heart desires. I suppose in a perfect art world everyone paints what they like, when they like it, and we all get rewarded!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

More is More

Lake O'Hara Lodge, acrylic, 20x24

Do you ever question the “less is more” saying? It's such a blanket statement that one may be deceived into believing that it is possible to gain more by contributing less.

Call me crazy, but I have always believed that no job should be easy – if it is, than we can probably do more, try harder, or learn something new. 

Even when one acquires superior skills, so it takes less effort to create a piece of art, one is then capable of creating more art, or further expanding skills into some entirely new area that needs to be learned.

This is my personal recipe for what it’s worth - when work feels easy, go back and do more. Keep going until the ease disappears and something new has emerged – that by itself is a personal victory. 

There are new techniques to be learned, new materials to be researched, new concepts to be tried out. Yes, we will end up making some paintings too, but at the end of the day, it's all abut integrity - isn't it?

“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour – his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear…is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle---victorious.” (Vince Lombardi)

Monday, 22 September 2014


Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki - YOHO
Exhibition: Oct 2-10, 2014
Opening Reception: Oct 2, 6-8pm
Buckland Southerst Gallery
2460 Marine Drive, West Vancouver, BC

Dear Art Friends!
This solo exhibit and sale features landscapes from the beautiful Yoho National Park, including the stunning Lake O'Hara area. I hope to meet you in the gallery!
(attached image: Lake Oesa, 30x40, acrylic on gallery wrap canvas)
Best Regards,

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Unrealistic Commitment?

How do you call committing to doing something way beyond you have ever done, but you have a burning desire to accomplish? Unrealistic? Or a major opportunity for a leap forward? With some thoughtful and hopeful weighting of risks, I usually opt for the later, at least when art projects are in question. 

Over the past few months, I have committed to making quite a large number of paintings. Up until this year, I was able to make at the very most about fifty paintings per year - and frankly, that was a stretch. In early July of this year I agreed to having about thirty mid size to large new paintings done by end of September (so in less that 3 months!!!), all to be featured in a solo show in the Buckland Southerst gallery in West Vancouver

The theme was was what got me so excited that I just had to do it. The show will be titled YOHO! and it will feature paintings inspired by the Yoho National Park, including the famous Lake O'Hara

I have visited these locations and done some sketching there, but this show will feature brand new studio works of the most inspiring scenes with amazing rock formations, pristine forests and alpine lakes, and yes, of course, the famous golden larch trees.

Right at the get go it was clear to me that I needed to set a few things straight:

  • The painting process had to be improved and standardized. I had to figure out what steps to use to maximize productivity and minimize errors. That would allow me to calculate with decent accuracy how much time I will spend on a painting. This was the key for successful delivery on my commitment, but not only that. Having a reliable process is a long term value that would make me a more skillful and happier painter!

  • A detailed weekly painting schedule needed to be established and followed to avoid the feeling of panic over the upcoming milestone. This wasn't such a big deal because I am used to multitasking and scheduling, just as most people who juggle several responsibilities. Nevertheless, having a tight schedule is tough and can be very tiring, especially late at night when the night-stream is starting on CBC radio II, and there is still one more layer to be finished.

  • The summer fun activities with the family must not suffer! I am not sure if everyone will agree, but for me, painting is a sacred activity that has a purpose to enhance life, not to deprive it from good quality time with the loved ones.

To cut the long story short, I believe that I am (almost) on schedule! The most important piece of the puzzle was nailing down the effective painting process. Over many years I learned so many methods and techniques, and being a curious person I find it difficult to stop experimenting and trying out new things. But not this time! I defined my steps and I stuck to them, and it was worth while. So here it is - my new and improved five-step painting process!

Step 1 - Drawing of the image onto canvas, firstly with pencil and instinctively considering a dynamic symmetry in placement of objects (I have constructed dynamic rectangles so many times that their patterns are burned in my mind by now). Then strengthening the drawing and adding form with dark transparent paint. 

Step 2 - Imprimatura is the easiest step - transparent burn sienna layer over the entire surface.

Step 3 - Block in. Deciding on the color scheme and using pure pigments as much as possible, with very minimal mixing - less is more if you want to avoid endless adjustments and remixing of subtle shades (not to mention fighting the darkening of the drying acrylic paint).  I am adding texture with light molding paste to make sure my brushstrokes stay thick and juicy. The trade-off is that the first layer looks uneven and crude due to the nasty consistency of the paste, but that will be taken care if in the next step, after this layer is dry.

Step 4 - Form and Color. In this step, I stick to the same pigments, and still minimize mixing, but I add more values to enhance form and vibrancy of colors. Edges can be softened and cleaned up, and some minor corrections made in the composition if needed.

Opabin Lake, Yoho, acrylic, 30x30

Step 5  - Isn't done yet! In this step I will apply glazes to warm up or cool down colors, add scumbles to make the surface texture more interesting, and do all that fiddling that adds magic to the final piece. 

Will I be able to deliver it all on time? I'll keep you posted.

Happy painting!


Monday, 25 August 2014

Unlocking The Mystery

Agnes Lake Teahouse, acrylic, 20x24

At this time when all the paintings I have started need to be finished, and they all stare at me and beg not to be ruined, the responsibility can get a bit overwhelming and I can’t help resorting to some melancholic musings about the ultimate purpose of it all.

Almost every topic that touches upon art goes back to that nagging question – why do we create art? There are many, many theories and who care whys, but the question still keeps coming back to me. Somehow I keep thinking that unlocking that mystery is of utmost importance, and at the same time I know I never will unlock it.

One interesting lead is in the fact that there are two distinct types of art that I create. One is the art for me - for the joy of the process. I truly don’t care how the thing looks at the end as long as I enjoyed creating it and learned something along the way. The second type is art for my people, with which I desire to touch someone. It doesn't need to be pretty or perfect if I feel that the end result gives me, and thus someone else too, a kick in the heart.

This is obviously an attempt at some kind of communication – but why? How is that “special” communication different from the “normal” one? Why do artists nurture it and why is it important? How come many non-artists appreciate it, but some don’t? If there is a box of paints, a musical instrument, pen and paper, a chunk of clay, laying around, why do some reach for it and others don’t? And of those who reach out, why do some go to their room and never come out, while others inflict their doing onto public? I don’t buy the “for money” argument, because money can be made in larger quantities and with less effort and heartache, and it can buy a lifestyle.

The longer and deeper I live my art life, the more I feel that communication with art cuts through any other kind. No matter what else is going on in my life, a flash of color, a tune of music, a powerful image, any form of art  at all, has the ability to take me to a completely different level of feeling and thinking. And it just is so that some of us experience this and some don’t, or perhaps we all do, but at different times in life. 

Yes, to be an artist is a profession, but a very special one that sits on the base of something much, much bigger and grander than bread and butter.

I wish everyone many, many wonderful hours in conversation with art!


Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Inner Student

With the summer speeding by, it's a good time to make the upcoming fall less scary by planning some great art projects, but also some great learning  activities.

With my October show preparations in full swing, I am also aware of the adrenaline depletion that will follow. What better way to rejuvenate the old brain than by learning something new?

Many venues are already publishing their education schedules, and there is a wealth of courses and art books available on line. Here are some of my favorites:

- Federation of Canadian Artists Education Program
- Painter's Keys resources

I am making sure to plan a course or two for late fall, and at the same time I am remembering moments with some of my most favorite teachers.

Demo in the snow by Bob Genn, Banff, May 2011

Stephen Quiller, Gabriola Island 2009; Bob Genn, Bugaboos, 2010; David Langevin, Gabriola Island, 2009; ...and ...ooops, how did this get in here? Just making sure you are paying attention :-)

I am deeply thankful to all the art gurus I have ever met, geniuses and others! I appreciate immensely every morsel of information the gurus had to share because I learned something from every single one of them. The craft, the language, the attitudes - it all makes the world of arts.

And I had some very colorful teachers over the years - the ones that grabbed my brush and found it okay to make the last few strokes on my almost finished painting, the ones who wanted me to buy their signature paints or books, the ones who never did demos "out of principle". One even tried to break into my car with a coat-hanger (pardon me for this insider joke that takes me to a memory of a very dear friend who would be very amused to read this).

My feeling was always that teachers provide much more than they are aware, and especially to the students who are very attentive . Some students are focused on teacher's shortcomings,  overlooking the great buildup of knowledge that can be gathered.

The truth is that you have to find the student within yourself, and that student will find a teacher withing everyone else.

Happy learning!


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pattern Maniacs

Lake Louise From Big Beehive, acrylic, 20x24

As I am working my way through new paintings, I notice how much I love to start a new piece and how rapidly my attention drops during the painting process. The puzzle of a new piece is addictive, and for me it’s all about formation of new patterns, and composing of the scene in a particular way that follows some design idea.

Patterns are one of my obsessions. I find a lot of pleasure from dissecting images, tucking some unruly elements in or out, and omitting others. For the most part, nature fits amazingly well into patterns of dynamic symmetry – you just need to find the right one for the image (I wrote about this in a previous post here). The  rule of thirds and the golden mean are just a beginner’s stuff.  The possibilities are truly endless.

The way I like to look at the new scene is to ask myself – in which way did the nature construct this landscape so that it is pleasing to my eye? Most often the elements of the pattern are very subtle and need intensive observation, and in some cases they have to be imagined (which is fun, but still not as satisfying as discovering the real things). Sometimes a fleeting suggestion of a cloud or a crest of a wave, or an aura of a reflected light is just the thing you need to complete your idea. 

Indulging in untangling of natural patterns to this extent may seem like a sign of an unhealthy obsession, but I am sure that I am not the only one. In fact, books have been written on this subject, for the use of designers, architects and other professionals whose job it to please someone’s eyes.

Another thing I would like to emphasize is a caution about reuse of same designs over and over again. There is no greater thrill for a sensitive viewer than seeing a painting composed in an original way. Sometimes we have a happy accident of stumbling into a new and exciting way and we delight in it, feeling that we have made a breakthrough, but we are not sure how it happened or why the following paintings fall flat.  The key is in the conscious use of fresh patterns.

But, I know that this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Pattern or no pattern, artists find ways to create something new and beautiful every day – our happy “asylum” is full of all sorts of creative characters, and we - the pattern maniacs, are just one bunch in the courtyard under the watchful eye or art lovers and criticizers.

Now, if I could only figure out how to make the rest of the painting process as much fun as this!

Best Wishes!


Monday, 28 July 2014

Awake From Summer Lull

I am sure everyone has noticed how seductively deceiving the summer can be, making us believe the time can be stretched endlessly, without a worry on the horizon.  The glorious lull of summer! 

Well, in the past couple weeks I am trying to wake up and smell the studio, because those show pieces for my fabulous October show are not going to paint themselves by the power of my inspiration alone. The studio is busy and there are many things already checked off from the to-do list.

Sneak peek at the easel - no, it's not done yet!

And here is the list, with some of my thoughts about each item,  in case someone would like to know what preparations need to be done for a solo show of (for me) major proportions.

Theme and Title – what do I want to paint this year the most? What body of work is in dearest need of getting on the canvas? Is that something that would engage other art lovers?

Quantity and Presentation - Ask the gallery how many paintings and what dimensions they can accommodate. Also agree about the framing and hanging strategy. Framed paintings look great, but frames are such a pain in the neck. Luckily, for a modern presentation, going unframed can work very well.

Timing - Decide when the show will take place. Now that I know how many paintings I need and by what date, calculate the rate at which the paintings need to be completed. This step may include a major shock and a rude awakening from the summer lull. Its helpful to estimate a ballpark of painting hours needed on weekly bases  and stick to the plan. The wiggle space will be determined by the urgency of delivery – as any master procrastinator worth his chops knows.

Content - The fun part – plan the paintings. This doesn’t need to be very precise at this point. For example, just decide what scenes you want on your large pieces, small ones, verticals, any specific color and composition schemes etc. This is my favorite thing to do – make the entire body of work in my head. Sometimes I make little sketches, but I haven’t been consistent with that. I think that I like to maintain a sense of play and unleashed creativity at this stage of the process.

Supplies and Work-space - Buy the canvases; replenish paint, mediums and brushes. Anything else in the studio that bugs me should be either fixed of put away (e.g. ask husband to remove his junk from the studio).

Quality Control - Prepare a nice staging area for half-finished pieces.  It’s great to see the stash growing in numbers, and look for inconsistencies and things that require fixing up.

Advertising - Take care of any early advertising of the show. Some magazines require a long lead time, so this has to be done ASAP. Make a list of all the places and methods for advertising and plan the timing for each of them, then send them out every once in a while.
It’s also good to get any hanging hardware and packaging stuff that will be needed later, but this can wait for now.

This is all I have to do this time since the gallery eliminates need for many activities I would do if I was organizing the show entirely by myself or in collaboration with other artists, which I have done as well in the past - it can be lot of fun if planned properly.

Most importantly and urgently, it’s the painting time now!

waiting room for canvases

stash of started paintings

I enjoy having a deadline, but at the same time there is a pressure to deliver, which can be taunting. The key for me is to remember that art complements life and that there must be a harmony between the creative time and those deliciously mundane things that make up our ordinary days.  Achieving balance is challenging, but very much worth pursuing - just ask any family member.

Keep enjoying the summer lull until you can!


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Painting The Peaks

After a wonderful painting weekend in Whistler as a part of the Painting The Peaks Event organized by the White Dog Gallery, few things came up as very useful and worth sharing.

Panorama from a Whistler Mountain hiking trail (Harmony Meadows towards the High Note Trail)


 I wanted to fully finish a couple of larger paintings, rather than do several small sketches, so I chose acrylic over oil this time. I feared that my acrylics would dry too fast (it was a scorcher), but they behaved just fine in the shade and with use of a water-sprayer.


 I had my half-Julian easel with me, thinking that weight wasn't important since I was not going on a hike. Wrong - even a short stretch of uphill walk with this beast makes you feel miserable on a very hot day. I had to drag my stuff up a short length of a hill and was grateful that Sinisa was there to help. If you want to paint on larger canvasses, rather than small panels, a pochade box is not an option. But a light aluminum tripod-type easel would work great.

Canvas Prep

I wanted to paint brightly lit scenes with deep shadows, so I prepared my canvases with a darker than usual (~value 7) warm color imprimatura (burnt sienna + black). The plan was to start with transparent darkest darks, then do the mid-tones, and finish with lightest lights.

Whistler Mountain from Creekside


Limited palette strategy worked out well, I didn't feel that I needed anything else. This is what I used: diox purple, pthalo blue, pyrrole red, ochre yellow, medium cad yellow and white.


The locations I selected to paint from, happened to be almost in full sun, so I sketched in the composition, and quickly blocked in the big shapes with main colors/values on location, and then retreated into shade where I completed the painting from memory.  If you paint in expressive style, this works well since it detaches you from the scene and liberates your creativity. Rather than thinking about the exact matching of the values and colors in the scene, you are free to think how to best express what made you paint this scene.

Support Team

Having a kind soul remind you to hydrate, or even bring you a drink, is a super wonderful treat - thank you Penny and Kathi! Not to mention how great it is to have interesting and supportive companions - that is truly priceless!

Kathi Bond, Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki and Penny Eder

The summer adventures continue. Next weekend I am off to a beautiful garden in Belcara village.

Happy painting!


Monday, 7 July 2014

Tip, Reminder and News

Dear Art Friends,

This post has a little bit of everything. I have a tip, a reminder and a piece of news for you.

First the TIP. If you have been searching for a light little paint box which won't break the budget, take a look at my new toy - incredibly light and practical. I bought it here.

Also, from what you can see, I could use a tip about a good wood deck stain product :-). This is how the acrylic stain looks the next year.

If you need some inspiration to go out and do some painting outside, here are a few pics from my recent trip to the beautiful Salt Spring Island.

The quick REMINDER is about two summer art events happening in the next couple weeks. Please come visit if you can, it would be great to see you.

Painting Event in beautiful WHISTLER


And finally the NEWS! The date for my next solo exhibition hosted by the Buckland Southerst Gallery in West Vancouver has been set for October 2-10. The title of the show is YOHO!

All paintings will be inspired by the YOHO National Park, including of course the beautiful Lake O'Hara Park where many artists have painted, including The Group of Seven and John Singer Sargent. This is an amazingly inspiring theme, and I can't wait to have all the paintings complete and displayed in the gallery, ready for their new homes. The next few months in the studio will be very joyfully busy.

I will try to capture some of the painting process for the upcoming blog posts. If there is anything in particular about it that you'd like me to share, please do let me know.

Happy painting!


Friday, 27 June 2014

Art Newbies

Long Beach, oil, 9x12

Taking first steps in the art world is the most amazing and wonderful time for a newbie artist, especially when doing this later in life, after we have spent many years eagerly waiting for it. With fresh eyes, we see all the wonders that art life has to offer. But, after every honeymoon hard work begins, with all its doubts, questions and fears. Both working alone or in a class can be intimidating, ranging from light discomfort to soul crushing. I know, I’ve been there. Here are a few suggestions that may be helpful when self doubts threaten to overtake the joyful creative process.

  • Find a way to get consumed in your work with no talking or asking questions. If any questions still linger by the end of the day, write them down and save them for a “questions day”. If you are patient, you will answer your questions yourself.

  • Your work is beautiful as long as you are keeping yourself open to learning, fearlessly experimenting and practicing. The real meaning of this beauty is only known to you. Any comment from another person will fall short of what you feel, so it’s better not to ask.

  •  Be creative in everything that you do, and find a new way to look at the world. Force yourself to do things differently, just to find out how that feels. Experience enriches our art.

  •  Use many different materials and tools, especially those that are not obvious. Handle them, make marks, and modify them in many ways. Become a master of your own tools.

  •  Make art in various moods and observe how happiness, sadness, anger…influence making of art. Observation triggers ideas.

  •  Take ownership of your new art life and reserve a special place, time, money and energy for it. Even in art, something can't be created out of nothing.

  •  Let your ego do its thing thinking about the future and comparing yourself with other artists. Do this for 15 minutes, then pack it up in a mental drawer and start drawing your foot (yet again). Ego is awesome...keep telling him/her that while you do your own thing.

Happy painting!


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Joy Art

So…what is the purpose of art making?
Should each piece aim for the Guggenheim?

Our dear friend and mentor Bob Genn taught us that when we start taking ourselves too seriously, it's time to remember that "joy is also good"! 

There are serious paintings, experimental paintings, masterpieces, products of out sweat and blood…but there also those lighthearted paintings of pure joy. You all know that joy contributes to good health, so how about taking that to heart for some summer inspiration?

And there is another angle to this, which has to do with Vincent Van Gogh. I recently visited a great exhibition in the Museum de Orsay dedicated to his work. I have carefully read all Vincent's letters to his brother, family and friends, I visited the hospital in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, and by now I feel like I know him quite well.

Vincent at Saint Remy

Aside from his great art, one thing that won me over was Vincent’s love of what he called “the real thing”. He keeps mentioning it in many of his letters in reference to his paintings of real scenes and people that he experienced. The closer to the community, the better according to Vincent. What a noble idea to embrace.

When I am not on a quest to reach and paint those amazing wild natural wonders of Canada, the subject matter of everyday life is all around, begging attention. And from some reason, the community loves to see artists at work. Why, not? I am all for it! 

The White Dog gallery in Whistler is organizing a great Painting the Peaks event this summer, and Port Moody Art Center is organizing an Art in the Garden event.

Me and my portable easel are ready to roll!

Bird Feeder, plein air sketch, acrylic, 11x14

if you are up to it, come visit and cheer us on! Plein air paintings are known to fly of the easels to some great loving homes, what's not to love about that?

On the weekend of July 11/13 you can find me in the vicinity of  the Scandinave Spa in Whistler.

On Saturday, July 19, I will be sketching beautiful garden things on this gorgeous Belcarra property  with a friend artist Adrienne Peacock, thanks to the generous owners Cheryl and Bill Papove. Proceeds from tickets go towards the much needed upgrade of the Port Moody Art Center.

Cheryl's amazing garden with hundreds of gorgeous plants

And what’s happening in your neighborhood? Any opportunities for joy painting? If nothing seems to be going on, perhaps you can gang up with neighbors or fellow artists and organize a community art day. It's bound to be a success, especially if the weather cooperates.

As for me, if you come to call this summer, it's likely that I will be outside, painting the “real thing”! 

Planning of my very exciting fall solo show in the Buckland Southerst gallery is on the back burner for the moment, but some irresistible ideas are already gushing out. The stunning scenery of the Lake O’Hara Park is painting itself in my mind…stay tuned!.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Another Plein Air Painting Season is Here!

Are you searching for the meaning of life?
Look no further than your (or someone else’s) back yard!

There are few things more joyful than a relaxed day of backyard plein air painting. Add to that a stash of fresh new painting boards and I am in heaven. Here are a few of my sketches with photos that inspired them.

This is my famous backyard setup, all with the giant Utrecht umbrella which was a gift from my hubby from his trip to San Francisco, a few years ago. He somehow managed to board the plane with it in the carry-on luggage. When the pilot spotted it during disembarking, his shock at the sight of a huge spear-looking object on his plane left him speechless. So instead of the customary “thanks for flying with us”, he only managed a dirty look. The umbrella is way too big to carry on a hiking plain air trip, but it works great in the back yard, as witnessed here!

I titled this sketch “A Chair for You My Dear”. Painting dappled sunlight should be prescribed as a treatment against any sort of sadness. I had to finish it in haste due to an overly critical wasp.

You wouldn't believe how mesmerizing a humble garden hose can be.

And finally, the challenge of a circular pavement pattern. I could fiddle with it all day.

Now how much fun was that!

Think you can do this? I bet you will, so grab your paint box and your bug spray and get on with it; there is no better time to start than today (alright, tomorrow morning will do).

Happy painting!


Thursday, 5 June 2014


These days I have been thinking a lot about the role of mentors. Are mentors important, how do we find them, recognize them, chose the right ones, connect with them and trust them? How do they affect our art and our life in general? With the passing of our dear friend and mentor Bob Genn, all these questions hit a very tender spot. 

There are many dear friends with whom we exchange love and support on daily bases, but there are those very few wizards that make effort to help us reach a major eureka moment. Here are a few of my wonderful mentors (in order of appearance) to whom I will forever be thankful:

  • My dear grandfather fed me stories about history, mythology and real life adventures from his childhood and developed in me passion for reading and learning. As a token of gratitude, I kept his surname (Popovicki) which I appended to my husband's (Mirkov).

circa 1970, my grandfather Peter and I on a meadow behind his house

  • From the first day we met, my awesome husband believed in my artistic vision. He pushed me to join my first art classes in Canada and taught me that we can achieve things we only dream possible.

Tea pot, painted in the Vancouver Art Academy, probably in 1999

  • This may sound silly, but Dale Carnegie's books on leadership were an eye opener for me. The idea that we can manage our own life with some very practical techniques positively changed my life. If anyone hasn't read those books yet, I would recommend them sincerely. 

  • Through my engineering career I met a few amazing mentors who taught me the importance of taking risks and making my own decisions, of nurturing respect for colleagues and of true leadership and mentoring of junior colleagues. All of this was applicable in any endeavor including my art career.

  • And then I met Bob Genn. From our first conversation it became clear to me that I stroke pure gold. Bob wrote a lot, but he was a mentor of few very well chosen words. He taught me about commitment and joy and the value of networking. The last thing he said to me, jut a few weeks ago, was to make sure I don't neglect my painting by getting distracted by other less important projects. I will forever treasure those precious nuggets of wisdom. 

"Speed is important, but joy is also important" said Bob

Experiencing mountain-high in the Bugaboos in 2010

True mentors speak from a position of genuine altruism and concern. This is a rare and precious treat and very few people ever step up to the plate, which makes it even more important to give recognition and thanks to them. 

I am sending a huge hug of appreciation to all the wonderful mentors out there!

Tatjana (posted in June 2014)

- You have to find the student within yourself, and that student will find the teacher within everyone else. -

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Botanical Beach

Here are a few more steps of the painting I started last week. It's close to completion and I hope that you will enjoy reading about this painting process.


Since the most striking colors of this scene come from the turquoise water, and the orange sunlit foliage in the foreground, I decided to punch up  those two colors as much as possible. My turquoise in the water and sky is a mix of phthalo blue and phthalo green. The orange in the foreground is a mix of ochre yellow and perylene red. Violet-grays in the rocks and clouds are a mix of ultramarine blue and perylene red. Greens in the trees and shrubbery are a mix of ochre yellow, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue. If you place these pigments on a color wheel, you will find that they are arranged in a nice symmetry so they should work in a painting.


In most of the cases adjustments of color, form and values take the most effort and time in my painting process. I wish it wasn't so, but I haven't figured out yet how to get it all spot on, in one go. I doubt that I ever will. And in any case, making changes can be a fun path of discovery...for the most of the time. When things just aren't coming together and I start feeling frustration, the best thing to do is stop and come back later. Sometimes we get fixated on some particular idea and we don't see a forest from the trees. Coming back after a rest usually allows me to step back and take in the whole thing without prejudice. Either a fresh idea emerges or I realize that what I thought was a problem, isn't a problem after all.

Step 6 - DETAILS

Finally I get to work on those delicious little details that many of us like to fiddle with - the grass, the negative spaces around trees, little shadows and forms in the rocks, highlights, etc. The idea is to add more where it is required, and obfuscate where I have put too much. 

Botanical Beach, acrylic, 30x40

I just got an idea to transition color of rocks from warm to cool as they move from the foreground to the background. Since this would be a big change, I think I should leave the painting alone for a while until I convince myself that the idea is worth pursuing.

Best Wishes,