Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Meanwhile in The Studio

Despite everything that's going on in the outside world, my studio remains a little piece of heaven. It's even oblivious to the seasonal madness.

Tatjana's studio (recently cleaned up)

The easel looks like it want's to ask - what's all that fuss about?  Over here new paintings are being started, old ones finished, there is never a shortage of things to do. Alright, we did get a new artsy wall calendar from the FCA, but aside from that, it's business as usual.

Work in progress sketch for Elfin Lakes, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

"Life is short, art is long" said Hippocrates. What is one more year in the life or art? Nothing.

But for an art lover, just one hour in the studio, or even a few minutes of looking at art means everything!

I wish everyone a joyful Winter Holidays Season, inspired planning of new art adventures, and all the very best in the New Year!

Back soon!


P.S. The Crystal Lodge Art Gallery in Whistler is opening its door TOMORROW.

Yes! On December 24th!

Isn't that marvelous?

Please stop by to enjoy art in this amazing gallery and to thank our wonderful gallery elves on giving us this gorgeous space to showcase and sell paintings!

Tatjana's paintings in The Crystal Lodge Art Gallery

Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Allure of Learning

Between December of 2009 and December of 2013 I was relentlessly studying endless possibilities of developing paintings based on the concepts of Dynamic Symmetry. My copy of Jay Hambidge's book is well leafed through and that's not all. I've just run into my old notebooks with hundreds of sketches, most of which have turned into finished paintings.

Example sketches by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki - based on Dynamic Symmetry principles

I loved doing this so much, I could just keep developing compositions all day and all night long, without even bothering to make the actual paintings. That's how passionate I was about it. I wrote more about that process here

So what made me stop?

I guess I moved on. Perhaps the structures of these patterns have infused themselves into my mind so firmly that I now instinctively embed them into my paintings. 

Isn't that what the learning process is all about? 

We practice something until it becomes a second nature, and by that time something else is engaging out thirst for knowledge. 

Example paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki - based on Dynamic Symmetry compositions shown above

This never ending shift of interest, a search for the next piece of food for thought, is what drives me forward.

On the front end, I can't stop reaching out, stretching my own boundaries, while at the back end, evidence of the process materializes into finished works that hopefully leave the studio and find loving homes. 

Does that sound romantic?  

Of course it does, because it doesn't say anything about the trials of artistic blockages, marketing grind, expectations of sales. The "business" side of art. The stuff that has to happen, but never would happen without the fuel that drives the "art machine", and for me that is and always will be the thrill of finding the next great thing to plunge in, study, learn and apply. 

The good news is that everything can be learned - maybe not mastered, but who'd want to be the master of everything anyway?

Here are some recent places I've been visiting for the purposes of my personal classroom:

These venues sometimes give away freebies, so you can check out if something there captivates your internal student before you commit more of your time and money.

Resources have never been more readily available and affordable. At this time of the year, a flurry of on-line learning offers hits my mailbox, so I am stocking up!

Happy learning!


Friday, 20 November 2015

A Painting Makeover

Why on earth do I keep changing finished paintings? 

Good question.  

The best way I can explain it is that certain images have such a strong meaning for me, that the painting is not really about the image, but about the feeling I have about the place that inspired the painting. Feelings are complex and sometimes can't be pined down. Ideas keep coming and I keep exploring them. 

Why not just start a new painting? 

That's what I usually do, but sometimes it's just a few little things I'd like to change and it's too easy to put the painting back on the easel and keep working.

Of course, there is a danger of spoiling a perfectly good painting, but for an obsessed experimenter, that risk is rarely considered up front.

It is said that it's better to stop before one reaches the edge than step over it and fall into the abyss. Aim safe and stay safe. 

On the other hand, it's a painting, it isn't really an abyss. If we never step over the edge, how do we learn where it is?

BEFORE  / AFTER, North View From Seymour Mountain, by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Hmmmm, now that I see them side by side like this, I got even more ideas what else I could change.

On a different note, it's time to start welcoming the winter with art!

FCA 2016 calendars with twelve months of inspiring art are available for order. I am December!

Lake Oesa, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

If you love film and art, and you can make it to Whistler in the first week of December for the 2015 Whistler Film Festival, you are up for a treat. 

There will be a lovely collection of paintings for viewing and purchase. I am preparing my contribution for the Whistler Film Festival Artists Gallery just now.

Paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival Artists Gallery

I hope that this November will surprise us with a few sunny days. If not, that's fine, it's always bright and warm in the studio.

Happy artsy adventures!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Easel Monologue

On The Trail, 30x36, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

What to do when doubt starts gnawing at the easel legs, nibbling in the back of my mind and something round, heavy and cold nests in the pit of my stomach? 

Talk it through.

Dozen Tips for The Easel Monologue

1. Stop and look. 

2. What bothers you about this painting? Name just one thing.
  • Rest your eyes, then come back and observe your emotions. Your eye will lead you to the problem, but your empathy will try to hide it. Notice this.

3. What is it about that one thing that bothers you?
  • Does it kill the spirit of the piece?
  • What would happen if you accepted it for what it was?

4. Are you holding onto some preconceived idea?
  • Consider alternatives.
  • What is the most compelling one?

5. Is the painting evolving in a way you didn’t foresee?
  • Does the change in direction feel harmonious?
  • Embrace happy accidents.   

6. Are you fighting instead of developing? 
  • Does your fixation create an obstacle? 
  • Tactics are as important as strategies.

7. Are you giving this painting what it needs?
  •  It’s not about you, it’s about art. 
  • Give the painting what it needs, not what you need. That’s the deal.

8. Are you judging this painting by someone else’s criteria?
  •  Remember your mom saying how neat and well behaved the neighbor’s kid was? That’s what you are doing now.       

9. Are you afraid of your work's uniqueness?
  • It takes guts to stand alone when everyone else has picked a team.  
  • You've got guts.

10. Are you afraid of your work's familiarity with works of predecessors?
  • Your island is a part of an archipelago.
  • Cherish your work's family ties.

11. Can you see development in your work over time?           
  • That one brilliant early painting is not representative of your early skills.
  • That one painting you spoiled a few days ago is not representative of your present skills.

12 Do you love your work?             
  •  Yes.

Happy Painting!


Outside the studio

Friday, 16 October 2015

Inspiring Patterns in Nature and Art

Alpine Patterns, 30x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki - available in the Buckland Southerst Gallery

Forces that cause changes on our planet sure make some amazing patterns!

I am always fascinated by the beauty of rock patterns, be it on an ocean beach, in a desert, or on the top of a mountain. Even if you look closely at the texture of weathered tree-trunks and wrinkles and creases of our bodies, you can see how elegantly each line is shaped. Erosion is beautiful!

Years ago I used to paint figurative works and marvel at the folds and curvatures of human body, but for many years now I find my main inspiration in nature.

The shapes found in the landscape are a language of change. I think I could spend a lifetime studying that language and creating visual stories.

I've always thought that the life writes best stories, so my creative process is usually triggered by seeing some interesting pattern. Then my imagination takes over, and I develop the image in a direction where muse takes me. Sometimes the result is close to what really is there, other times it ends up completely transformed.

Turns of seasons are especially great times to seek inspiration outside. My hubby and I took a lovely road trip to Okanagan last weekend to admire the autumn foliage. The trip was a great success and we came back with some wonderful reference material. The Manning Provincial Park section  of our journey was especially magical.

Back in the city, with days getting cooler and shorter, it's time to start planning for indoors activities.

Art studios and galleries are great places to visit. If you are in the area, make sure you drop by the Buckland Southerst Gallery in Dunderave Village in West Vancouver, to see what a great job Chris has done updating the space!

In Edmonton, Brent and Marie would love to see you stop by in the Lando Gallery, and in Calgary, I recommend visiting Webster Galleries.

I hope you will enjoy seeing a few of my paintings  on display.

Happy Autumn!


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Work In Progress

Seven Veils Falls, Lake O'Hara (Work In Progress), 30x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Is it done yet? When will it be finished? It looks perfect to me!

Any of this sounds familiar? There is also my personal favorite (not) - I hope you don't ruin it!

Okay, I admit, that last one comes from my internal self doubt (the longer I work on a piece, the higher it raises its nasty head).

Regardless of all this trepidation, I believe that each painting takes its sweet time, and some happen to take longer than others.

All paintings are not made the same. There are those that fly off the brush, and others that have a level of complexity that slowly unfolds until all its elements fit together the way the artist finds satisfying.

The angst over trying to speed up the process can really affect my flow. I have been told (many times) that patience is not one of my virtues, so I constantly have to deal with lack of it.

What to do when a paintings demands more and more time and I feel I am approaching my wits end?

Yep, I know, I can read your mind. I should walk away for a while, yes? Great advice!

Here are some questions I ask myself while a complex work in progress painting is resting on the secondary easel:

- Is the composition really sound? Should something in it be simplified or tweaked?

- Are the values appropriate to the scene? (ratio of dark and light areas)

- Are the edges treated well? (soft, hard, disappearing, etc.)

- Are the colors harmonious yet surprising?

- Is the surface quality sound? (texture, brushstrokes)

- Does it look fresh? What can be done to make it all look easy? (now this is an interesting subject on its own, isn't it?)

And then one day I look at it and all parts of the painting appear to sing, my eyes find a specific dance in it, and I feel that familiar pang of joy in my throat. Sounds melodramatic? Well it is. I am sure that every art lover has felt it. The painting comes alive in some way and it's ready to go out into the world. I think that deserves a drum-roll! What would art be without drama?

Happy Autumn!


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Color of Light

Daly Glacier, 24x20, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

There are many reasons why I love this time of the year – delicious freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, gorgeous transformation of the foliage, my home and studio all nice and cozy in anticipation of colder months. 

But one thing that tops it all is the change in color of the sunlight as the earth slants just so for the sun rays to get that amazing pink-gold glow. Last weekend my garden looked as if every single leaf was gilded with gold. True, we get less of the sunlight overall, but what we get is just drop dead gorgeous.

That is a gift of shorter days – every hike and walk in the nature is saturated with warm radiant colors that lend beautifully to the creative inspiration.  Hopefully some of that gets into our art!

Looking at my work, I realize that I tend to add and remove pigments on my palette,  following cyclical changes in the nature. Here are some of the seasonal colors that I seem to use more at certain times of the year:

Winter – Raw Umber, Payne’s Grey, Diox Violet

Mountain High, Mt. Seymour (detail), acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Spring  – Cadmium Red, Phthalo Blue, Sap Green

Rock Formations, Gabriola Island (detail), acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Summer – Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green

Golden Sunset, Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, (detail), acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Fall -  Yellow Ocher, Red Oxide, Green Gold

Daly Glacier featured above (detail), acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki


I captured the Daly Glacier scene with the Takakkaw Fals below it, on an early September hike along the Iceline Trail in the Yoho National Park. It’s on the British Columbia's side of Canadian Rockies and I am sure that it’s absolutely stunning at any time of the year, but in September those warm sunlit colors shine like jewels. 

As I write this, it’s raining outside and the world looks gray with just a few sparks of turning foliage. I feel lucky to have the brilliant fall palette captured in paintings and sketches on my walls.

The creative process is the most amazing mystery for me - I don't know where art comes from, but I am grateful to be granted access to its source.

I wish everyone many fair days with a beautiful fall sunshine! 


Wednesday, 2 September 2015


Kinney Lake, 30x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

The stormy weather seems to have turned off the summer here in Vancouver area.  Last Saturday we had no power and dark clouds prevented any meaningful work in the studio. The perfect time for a purge!

 It’s amazing how much substandard stuff accumulates in the studio while the good ones get finished and sent out.  Many of them are just experiments and exercises which I like to keep as a reminder of some particular technique or a material I don’t often use, but quite a few that were still hanging on the walls suffered incurable illnesses. Here are a couple of examples.

Lack of Clarity

When you have to ask yourself repeatedly - what is this painting about anyway? - chances are that you have a case of missing clarity. The best works embody an idea which is supported by the composition, colors, texture, any number of elements we add to our work. But sometimes the idea just fails to gel. I have two versions of a scene featuring a bunch of cows in a sun-dappled pasture. The scene captivated me so strongly that I made two versions of it, but when I look at them I feel confused – what is this about?  There is something about the whole thing that bothers me – is it the cows, the patterns, the colors, I don’t really know. I keep going back to them again and again trying to change various aspects of the paintings. After a while it’s becoming obvious that the puzzle has become a distraction and it’s time to move on.

Faulty Materials

Poor choice of the support is where things most often go wrong for me. I recently noticed that a 30x40 canvas was too thin for the acrylic texture I’ve been working with. As a result, the painting started to sag and the only way to save it would be to glue the whole thing onto a large board, and I don’t really want to do that because all my large works are on stretched canvases.  It’s quite a disappointment to realize that all the work on this painting went to waste just because I didn’t notice the canvas was inadequate before I started. Lesson learned – always make sure all the materials are top notch.

So I spent a day sifting through unfinished works and making a refuse pile, while my significant other was taking them back, pleading for mercy, and offering to buy them from me. At the end I agreed to keep a few as long as they are kept out of my sight, and the curator agreed to help dispose of the rest. It’s a deal! 

The next day the power was back and a fresh new (sturdy) canvas found its place on the easel. Now what will this painting be about?



Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Plein Air Painting Enthusiasm Deflating?

Agnes Lake, Banff, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

It's interesting what's going on with the plein air painting movement in the art community (seen from my little corner). Everything is changing and this isn't an exception. When I studied art in the Vancouver Art Academy in the late nineties, there were no plein air events in my neck of the woods. The only person I knew who was doing it was one of my teachers who would rise at dawn every single day and head outside to paint - rain or shine.

He'd show us products of his efforts and they were rarely impressive so none of us, his students, felt compelled to leave the comfort of the studio and fight the elements. We talked about the tradition of impressionists and The Canadian Group of Seven, of painting outdoors, and wondered how anyone could find time to do it nowadays.

And then, just over a few years, plein air painting events sprouted in artsy communities everywhere, the social media exploded with daily paintings, and artists at large massively invested in portable easels and nice wide-brimmed hats.

Once we tried it, we realized how much beauty and inspiration can be found in the nature, parks, streets, marinas or in our own backyard. I attended some fabulous outdoorsy gatherings where I socialized and painted with like minded artists, and adored every minute of it.

I am sorry to report that I didn't produce any major masterpieces, but I sure learned a lot, and I gathered endless inspiration for my studio paintings - and I happily continue to do so every year. Just last week I spent a beautiful rainy day with dear old friends, and met awesome new friends in the West Vancouver Harmony Festival plein air painting event.

But, here comes the deflating part - there used to be more participants  in these gatherings in past years. Am I imagining this or is the enthusiasm for plein air painting ebbing? I notice events being canceled, number of attendees dropping, and it's been a really long time since I've seen a procession of daily paintings in social media. What's going on?

Maybe it's the way it should be - maybe we all had to try it out to decide if it works for us or not. I will keep at it, simply because I love painting oudoors, and learning from other artists whenever I can - but I have realized that my best works still come from the studio. Maybe one day this will change.

(plein air sketch) Ruckle Park, Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

(studio painting) Ruckle Park, Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Happy painting, inside or outside!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Discount Art

The Village, 30x40, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Discount on art? Now there’s a title you don’t want to see if you are an artist. Good art is never discounted! It’s unique, one of a kind treasure, like gold nuggets, like diamonds! Yes, yes and yes! Yet, still, there are a few secrets of a savvy art buyer that I dare to share.

But before I move on to the juicy stuff, let me get one thing out of the way – discount art that I’m talking about is NOT sold by artists behind the back of their galleries. Don’t even think of it! Artists who sell their art through galleries are in a business relationship held by trust (and signed in writing), that all sales withhold the same market price, which guarantees that all buyers get the same value.

So where do discounts happen?

1. Fundraisers

 These are the events organized typically by a non-profit organization where artists donate their paintings, and donors either bid on them or purchase a ticket that guarantees them a piece of art. In the atmosphere of generosity, art typically finds homes for less than its market value, and artists typically put their best foot forward, so you can find some real beauties. The trick is to find quality fundraisers, curated by someone who knows their art. Yep, I can recommend one, I’m glad you asked.  Federation of Canadian Artists has an annual fundraiser called Paintings By Numbers, which is regularly a sellout, so hurry up to get your ticket. 

2. Art workshops

The best hidden secret in the art world. Art instructors demonstrate their techniques in art classes and workshops, and the resulting paintings often get sold to the students for a fraction of their real value. Many workshops, especially the ones that take place in beautiful locations where artists and students get to paint outdoors, organize a show and sell exhibition on the last day. The secret is that some very good artists sometimes congregate and organize workshops resulting in fantastic exhibitions. Artists are overjoyed by the whole experience, and thoroughly wined and cheesed, so they tend to put small numbers on the price labels. There is some wonderful art to be had this way. Look for art events in places with strong art communities, typically in late summer, slightly out of season when hotel rates drop.

3. Galleries

Even art is subject to the challenges of logistics, so when a gallery goes through a relocation, hundreds of paintings need to get moved, which you can imagine is a huge task. In an attempt to quickly decrease the stock, the gallery may organize a show and sale event and the artists try to help by agreeing to a discount during a limited time period. This happens once in a blue moon, and the blue moon is in Whistler between August 3-10, 2015 here.  My advice would be to try and catch it because it’s not going to happen again any time soon!



Sunday, 19 July 2015

Old Dogs and New Puppies

Shelves sag and creak under an overlapping load of unfinished paintings. Plein air sketches, blocked in canvases, half covered panels, canvas boards. Almost-complete and almost-ruined pieces await their coveted time under the brush. Some almost done, others just begging a touch up, a quick fix of this or that. Nagging. Pleading. Get me done! Get me done!

In another part of the studio, there is a neat stack of pristine new canvases, lined up by size, smaller ones in tight shrink wraps, large ones in acid-free plastic bags. Noble. Entitled. They are the preferred stock. They know how I yearn to push paint over their crispy surface, how I long to cover them with layers of mesmerizing pigment. They don’t beg. They don’t plead. They demand!

What to do, what to do? What to do next?

That is the everyday dilemma in my studio.  I wish I had two of me, one working out new ideas, the other fixing up incomplete works. Did I mention I was a Gemini?

Yet another part of me wishes there was a market for unfinished stuff. Anyone?

I imagine an older sister stuck with a toddler brother, so I try to make a rule – one shall always go with the other. For every new painting on the easel, one of the oldies must get completed. Most of the time this works, but somehow, by some act of magic, the pile of oldies keeps growing and growing. Every once in a while I go through it and purge the hopeless ones (this is how parenting paintings differs from parenting real children), but there are still many that make the cut. Some will never grow up, but there might be some really neat idea in them, a lovely passage, cool brushwork, or just pure and simple good feeling that I get when I see them. So they stay on the shelf. Perhaps, maybe, one day I will do something with them.

Gabriola Sunset, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

This one was hanging around for the past few years. There was something about it that bugged me but I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until a couple weeks ago when I needed it as an entry into a very interesting group show. I harmonized the color temperature, added some texture in the foreground and changed the shapes of clouds. I am calling it done!

As a reward, I can now work on a brand new piece, a spring scene with Mt. Rundle in the background. Stay tuned!

I wish you a blue sky with white fluffy clouds, and a little bit of rain!


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Art Lover in New York - MOMA

I've been dreaming of visiting art museums of New York for such a long time, I was afraid the real experience wouldn't match my expectations. I needn't have worried. I found everything I hoped for, and way more. Here are my impressions with a few tips for any first time NY visitor, hungry for a huge dose of big city art collections, and a real bite of great food here and there. What can I say, I never managed to make it as a starving artist!

Stop 1. The MOMA  (

MOMA's permanent collection was the main draw for me, so the temporary exhibitions of Latin American Architecture was a pleasant surprise. Also, as a part of the Yoko Ono show, you can catch glimpses of some derrière Ono-Lennon nudity - not really my cup of tea, but it's not lacking fans by any means. For more on Yoko Ono, check out the Ono page on

The main treat for me was the collection of impressionists and post impressionists - it is divine! (Searching for art on MOMA web site by using those terms doesn't give you much. You will find a much better selection from their overview of "Modern Art". It seems to me that "isms" are out of fashion.)

 I was especially struck by Cezanne's stunning mix of landscapes, still life paintings and figurative works. On every visit to an art museum one or two paintings particularly stick out and get etched in my mind, and this time it was The Bather.  The lively brush-marks, the shimmering greys and the simplicity of contours just blew me away. Thank you Mr. Cezanne for a lesson in mastery and elegance!

Another thing to enjoy are views from the gallery windows, of surrounding Manhattan streets and gorgeous buildings.  The tapestry of the city is as rich and satisfying as the artworks on the walls.

Photography is allowed, but you can also use their IPad to take photos of paintings, and they will be emailed to you - super cool! See for more info.

And last but not least, for a hungry visitor, I want to mention that the cafeteria serves very interesting rustic food and deserts. I recommend trying their smack-a-licious banana pudding!

Last view of Manhattan from MOMA before leaving... next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Summer Gallery

This is a great time of the year to gather a bunch of summery paintings and take them to your local non-profit venue where they can be seen by leisurely summer visitors. Most communities find a way to showcase local artists during the summer season when people are out and about, eager to enjoy all the goodies of long warm days when one can relax and spend a few hours just wondering around, visually feasting on everything that summer has to offer.

In Vancouver, we have the Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery right in the most wonderful, artsy part of the town - The Granville Island. There is a beautiful market, a gorgeous harbor and the most charming community of art studios, galleries, stores, restaurants, and so much more.

The FCA organizes many art shows throughout the year, including the traditional Summer Gallery in which I have been participating for many years. In fact I sold my first few paintings there, for which I am extremely grateful. You can find all about joining the FCA from their web site. If you think you'd enjoy being a member of a large, diverse national art organization, I recommend that you look into it.

Few things before paintings leave the studio:

1. Even if the pieces are finished and have been shown elsewhere, I look at them with a critical eye and make corrections and touch-ups if I conclude that they need improvement. This can go from minor fixing of the surface, re-varnishing, to glazing certain areas to change the temperature of the color, or even repainting passages that bug me. I almost always re-varnish them just to restore that special fresh-surface luster.

2. Photograph the paintings for the archive. I used to agonize over this and I still have a system of floodlights, light filters, tripods and what-nots, but I don't use any of that any more. I just go outside and find a location where the painting surface won't get any glare from the sky or shiny objects (north side of the house is your best bet). I don't even use a tripod - today's cameras are so fast, it's easy to snap crystal clears shots freehand. Here is my super easy "setup" which consists of a nail on my yard shed.

Photographing paintings outside - the painting is hung in the shade and it faces north to avoid glare

3. Make sure the titles and prices on the back labels match with the inventory list.

4. Frame the pieces that need a frame, go over the edges of unframed canvases with a fresh coat of paint. I usually paint edges black, but this time I added a thin coat of coppery glaze as an experiment and I really like it. If you happen to visit the FCA Summer Gallery, let me know what you think.

5. Wire the paintings for hanging in a way that the gallery recommends. Every venue has their own preferences, but in general the wire needs to be strong, mounted about at the third of the frame height measuring from the top. The mounting hardware mustn't have any protruding and/or sharp points. The whole thing needs to look neat and professional - front, sides and the back.

6. Put cardboard corners on the framed pieces to protect them during delivery. Everyone will do their best to protect your art, but it's always a good idea to do what you can to make their job easier. I like to wrap edges of all paintings with a layer of packaging shrink wrap just to be on the safe side.

I hope some of you can visit the FCA Summer Gallery between June 23 - July 19, and participate in your local summer art events. Enjoy!


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Painter's Paradise

Opabin Patterns by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki,  acrylic, 24x18

I spent last weekend in the beautiful Bear ValleyHighlands Wilderness Retreat with a group of lovely artists. The workshop instructor was an amazing artist and explorer Dominik Modlinski. My goal was to spend time with likeminded people, enjoy a fantastic location and hospitality, and get a peek into the painting process of an artist whose work I admire.  Check, check and check. The weekend was a raging success on all fronts!  

The property features forests, meadows, pastures - wherever you look, a picture begs to be painted. Not to mention sightings of bears, echoes of howling coyotes, abundance of birds and many other forms of wild life. 

This little fellow couldn't have cared less for the stir he caused showing up unannounced in our outdoor studio

Dominik's sharing of his techniques and his world wide adventures was a treat, and so was getting to know his lovely wife and their four-legged companion.

Gunness kept us company and protected us from bears

One of the fun parts for me were daily group critiques. I have always considered crits by a sincere and knowledgeable person precious. When such a person takes the time and energy to briefly step into my world and tries to help with my next step, is an act of ultimate generosity. I keep in mind that receiving a critique is not an entitlement - it is an opportunity to receive valuable information. I try to remember everything that is said, and later analyze it and figure out how best to use it.

I'd like to share a few tips for prospective workshop takers:

-          Don't expect too much from yourself.  It takes effort to adjust to the new environment and focus your mind on the instructor's technique. Don't beat yourself up if you don't create a masterpiece. What I create in workshops is usually a kind of a mutation between what I see, what I would paint using my own technique, and what I am trying to practice based on the instructor's lecture. Mutants very rarely look good, and that is why I posted a studio painting on the top of this post :-).  (I apologize to all the mutants out there for this opinionated statement)

-          Listen, take notes, absorb everything that is going on. Be a sponge. Months and years later some piece of the puzzle will fall into place and you will experience an a-ha moment when you least expect. This is a wonderful aspect of learning - the process never stops.

-          Build friendships, enjoy company of other artists, extend your network. There are few things more valuable than exchange of thoughts and experiences between members of a community.  Stay in touch. Share.

-          Replenish your wealth in the bank of good memories. Years down the road, all you will remember will be a wonderful artful weekend with friends. The last thing on your mind will be how your painting turned out.

My gratitude goes to all the fabulous people with whom I was lucky to spend a few days in a painter's paradise. May there be many artful weekends for all of us!


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Observation and Preconception

Whistler Hike, acrylic, 20x24, by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

It strikes me how much time I spend not actually painting. Just staring at stuff takes easily 80% of my creative process, if not more. It sounds ridiculous since the obvious goal is to create, but observation has so many rewards. Most importantly, it gets the art-making juices going. Here are some of the great things to be experienced when we simply observe the world around us without actually trying to make anything happen.

  • joyful excitement of exploration
  • absorption of new information
  • surprise of unexpected discoveries
  • naughty delight of seeing what was intended to be hidden
  • awakened desire to contribute
  • playful invention of stories
  • triggering of small and groundbreaking ideas
  • witnessing of miracles
  • developing of appreciation and love for the world around us

The person who likes to observe, never feels alone. Observation gets you out of your own head, which is not a small feat for some of us.

On the other hand is preconception of what the world looks like - a visualized idea of a tree, a rock, a nose. When we have preconceived ideas, all trees, rocks and noses look similar or even identical. At it's extreme, think comics, medieval art, folk art. 

What I love about art is that it brings the two approaches together. I think that preconception and thorough observation play really well with each other.  The artist considers reality and decides how to change it - compose, generalize, stylize, exaggerate, distort, annihilate, beautify...the possibilities are endless. It's quite amazing how powerful  and appealing those artistic deviations can be - from small ones that you find in realist art, to any degree that your personal taste may prefer.

Observation and preconception - it's as simple as that!

Happy creating!


Thursday, 30 April 2015

How to Ruin a Painting

Hungabee Lake by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, acrylic, 24x30 (Webster Galleries, Calgary)

Do you ever take a moment to figure out how you painted yourself into that hopeless far corner with no escape? I took a moment to trace back my steps and try to figure it out. After all, how can we improve if we don't know what we did wrong?

I typically overwork a painting by going back into it over and over again in a sort of a fixing frenzy.  It's a strange cycle of cowardice followed by poor anger management. It all happens in my head and if I knew how not to fall into this trap ever again I would write a book just on that one subject. I am sure it would help many of those who have the same problem. In the meantime, I can write the little that what I know about it in a  blog! 

This thing attacks me periodically and it seems to get triggered by some unpleasant event that intrudes into my mind and prevents me from fully getting into the zone. The key to avoid the next stage is to recognize when this happens and do whatever it takes to get it out of the mind - meditate, exercise, read a book, take a bath. Just do not under any circumstances, work on a painting.

When I ignore the signs of trouble, what happens is that I start painting too timidly and half distracted as if my ears are full of water and my senses just can’t get a grip on the situation. From some bizarre reason I keep believing that the painting will find its own way if I just go along with it. What really happens is that I work pensively instead of confidently. The painting might even appear to start unfolding happily, like a joyful child frolicking in a meadow. But at some point, hours later, I realize that the thing is going nowhere, the child is now hungry and scared and it’s getting dark. The poor painting is begging for help. 

This is the second point where the best thing to do is leave the studio. If I can just notice this switch of emotions and be reasonable and rational, and make an exit. I wish! Instead, that's where anger takes control. I must protect my creation and I start furiously “fixing it”, and at the same time slapping myself for being so foolish to get into this situation in the first place. Needless to say that the brushstrokes are by now sticky-dry and bumpy and all in wrong places, soft edges are lost, composition errors  are laughing back at me. Someone may even ask the dreaded question:  “Why did you spoil it!? I loved the way it looked yesterday.”

If there wasn't just a delicious passage in it, it would be chucked away, but in truth, I have been able to salvage such paintings with decent success, so the battle isn't always doomed. The Hungabee Lake painting I posted here is one of those saved babies - everything that could go wrong went wrong with it, but in the end I was very pleased with the result.

My experience is that simplifying and strengthening the composition usually helps, even if the surface quality isn't impeccable any more. But when the composition is beyond help and the surface is ruined, all I am left with is a reusable stretcher. There is a landscape with a lovely creek and a mess of the background waiting for me in the studio. I think I’ll sleep on it.

Happy Painting!


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

From Calgary to Santa Fe!

Odaray Mountain Reflection by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, acrylic 20x24

I am thrilled to have five of my Yoho paintings available for viewing and sale in Calgary, in the wonderful Webster Gallery. This is the first time that my work makes appearance in Calgary in a commercial space, although I had pleasure to participate in various group shows across Alberta over the years. If you happen to be in the area, I hope you will make time to visit - there is nothing like seeing paintings in the real life! Good selection of my paintings can also be seen in a few Vancouver, Whistler and Edmonton fine galleries, with friendly staff always happy to help.

So what's with Santa Fe?

It's been my dream for many years to make an homage to the Georgia O'Keeffe land and to see that incredible, pastel colored, organic-patterned landscape that she made famous in her paintings. And finally I did! I got a chance to visit the famous Ghost Ranch and hike the same mesas where Georgia did her magic. The experience is memorable, as you can see from these magical pics.

I admire Georgia for many reasons, some of which can be taken as excellent lessons for any painter:

  • With a very slight change in tone, and surprising, poetic shifts of chroma, she had composed the most beautiful compositions. It doesn't really matter what her subject matter was; be it a flower, a desert-weathered horse scull or a gently wrinkled landscape, sensitivity of chromatic forms is amazing! I wish I had days rather than hours to spend in the Santa Fe Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
  • Georgia's drawing skills were stellar, and she had an impeccable taste in using them. In a semi abstract painting, among whirls of ambiguous shapes, you can find just a couple of beautiful, masterful lines that are pure poetry. She never hits you over the head with mastery. She lets you search and discover it for yourself.
  • And most importantly, she had created a beautiful life for herself, doing things she wanted to do, in the place of her choosing. Imagine moving to another side of the continent and making home among strangers, all on her own, at that time and age. She did it courageously, with certainty that she chose the right path, and judging by everything we know about her, she was right.

Georgia's attitude, her life and her work inspire me and encourage me to be at least a little bit bolder and braver with my art. I hope that she inspires you too.