Saturday, 31 December 2016

Making Marks

Whistler Evening, 18x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

There's no doubt that some paintings are more fun to make than others. Some are way, way, more fun than others. As I finished a fun one, I thought that it would be worth taking a minute to write down what it was that made it so enjoyable.

For me, its all about variety. If I had to follow the same process for every painting I made, I wouldn't have lasted long as a painter. Luckily, we are our own bosses in the studio, and we shall do as we please, right? 

This time I decided to play with making marks. I usually use brushes, but paint can be applied with all kinds of interesting tools. I was recently inspired to use palette knives and I've been playing with them ever since.

In this painting I used:

  • edge of the palette knife to establish the overall patterns in the under-painting
  • curved strokes smeared with a large palette knife to create the mountains
  • broken strokes with a smaller palette knife to create patterns of rocks and trees
  • fan brushed scumble to add texture to the rocks
  • large flat brush for the foreground snow and the flaming sky
  • edge of a small flat brush to add sunlit details in trees and rocks

    Each tool makes different marks, which are most interesting when they are left fresh and distinct. The bigger variety of marks, the painting is more interesting to look at. 

    Here is a beginning of another painting. where I experimented with mark making. This is really fun! 

    In case you are wondering about the theme of these paintings, I am on a roll with painting scenes from the Whistler area for the Crystal Lodge Art Gallery.  I will spend an afternoon painting in this beautiful space in the heart of the Whistler Village. Please come visit if you can. I will bring a bunch of brand new paintings with me. I wrote more bout that in my monthly newsletter, and I will make sure to post pics on social media.

    Whistler Mountain, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    I never remember my New Year's resolutions, but I'll try to remember this one:

    Increase the joy of painting by using a variety of mark-making tools. 

    After all, isn't our job as artists to make a mark?

    Happy New Year my artsy friends!


    Thursday, 15 December 2016

    One Way to Make a Painting - Silhouette

    Diamond Head Descent, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    There must be a million ways to make a painting - how to pick one? I ask myself this every time I put a fresh canvas on the easel.

    More often than not, the subject suggests the process. In this case, for example, the subject is a snowy sunset scene, which means that there is:

    • a lot of snow (very light values)
    • a lot of sky (even more of very light values)
    • a lot of back-lit trees (very dark values)

    In search of mid-values I find some shadows in the snow and distant hills, but still, there is a very narrow range of light lights and a very narrow range of dark darks. In photography, this is called a silhouette.

    The main characteristic of silhouettes is that the outlines of dark shapes are stark and sharp, so they need to be very pleasing to look at.

    This means that the shapes of trees in this painting - both the individual ones and the overall shapes of clumps of trees, needed to be drawn with a lot of attention. I tried to make all the shapes interesting, especially the largest trees, by making them appear playful, almost human-like.

    I also designed the overall patterns to lead the eye all around the scene and toward the point of the biggest interest, which for me was the gleaming ocean.

    I debated the inclusion of human figures and decided to go with it. The two hikers add to the feeling of wonder that I experience when I am on the mountain. Especially when the sun starts setting and  the cool colors of the snow are lit by the flaming light from the sky. I’ll never get tired from views like this one, which can be seen descending from the Diamond Head lookout via the Elfin Lakes Trail near Whistler. The ocean view is of the Howe Sound Islands with the Vancouver Island in the background.

    Paintings with such a particular lighting requirements pose an interesting challenge, and for me, a challenge is always a good thing. It's an opportunity to solve yet another puzzle. If not exactly a million, there are many ways to make a painting, and I am sure that more that one of them would do the job.

    Happy puzzle-solving!


    Wednesday, 30 November 2016

    Make Art - Show Art - See Art - Buy Art

    Taylor Meadows First Snow, 24x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    I was recentrly asked why I write this blog. It's an easy question to answer.  The purpose of this blog is to keep reminding people just how much art contributes to the quality of our lives.

    Any way we let art into our life is good.

    From those who make art to make living, to those who start making art later in life, seriously or as a hobby, to those who collect art, those who facilitate the art world, and those who just enjoy seeing art.

    Every single one of us is gifted by it.

    My dear late friend Bob Genn used to talk about the great brotherhood and sisterhood of artists, and I have no doubts that all types or art lovers have a honorary membership in it. I've always felt intensely connected with all artful souls, and that connection is what I am trying to nurture with this blog.

    I guess what I'm saying is - you and I are one of us!

    My wonderful hubby, always thrilled to participate in art adventures!

    Here is another delightful moment from the world of art that I'd like to share with you. It's provided by the Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Ever since Grant opened this fine art gallery, his enthusiasm has been shining on everyone involved in it. He makes everything easy and he is always kind and supportive. I am grateful to be a part of it. I just wish I knew how to hang paintings so perfectly!

    Paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki in the Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie, AB

    Another artful delight is the annual Federation of Canadian Artists Signaure Medal Show, now on display in the FCA Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC. My painting Larch Valley is a part of it, but there is a lot more to see there. The show is on between November 29 - December 23.

    Stay warm, dry, and artful!


    Friday, 18 November 2016

    Re-creative Process

    Medicine Lake, 24x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    It's an exciting time for my paintings because we are having a big reunion in the studio! How do these reunions come about? Everyone knows that the life-cycle of a painting starts with conception and ends on a wall. But what happens in between?

    After I make a painting, I try to figure out the best way to get it out into the world. The choice is usually one of the wonderful commercial art galleries that represent my art, but there are also non-profit shows (like the upcoming annual Signature Artists' Medal Show in the FCA Gallery), collaborative projects with other artists, all kinds of exhibits and fundraisers. Some paintings like to stay for a while in my home or in my studio, where they can be seen by most welcome visitors.

    Ideally, paintings find their permanent homes through one of those venues. In reality, finding the right home for each painting requires a lot more engagement. In this sense paintings are similar to children. Some of them realize that they are not on the right path, and they come back home to regroup. This can be a fun time, especially because (unlike children) paintings can be re-assessed and modified.

    This is what's happening in my studio right now. Paintings returning from all kinds of adventures are telling stories of what happened to them. Some even have scars and bruises to show, so I give all of them a lot of TLC.

    1. Cleaning:

    I always clean my acrylic paintings with soap, and fix any damage that may have occurred.  Here's a tip for cleaning of the edges that got smudged by frames, or by rubbing against other paintings (if they were not stored properly). I discovered that a gentle rub with a wet Mr. Clean magic eraser removes those unsightly marks in no time. Just don't rub too hard because you will remove the varnish and paint if you are not careful.

    2. Re-varnishing:

    At the minimum, I apply a fresh thin layer of Liquitex acrylic gloss medium varnish. Most of the darlings are now ready to go out again on a new journey. For others, this is just (a new) beginning.

    3. Re-creative Process:

    The best part of having them back in the studio is an opportunity to look at each piece with a new pair of critical eyes, and assess if it would benefit from a change.

    Typical checks for things easy to implement are:

    - Shifts in the color temperature (a warm or cool glaze)
    - Shifts in value (dark glaze or a light veil)
    - Softening of hard edges, or affirming of fuzzy ones
    - Minor composition tweaks (re-direct the viewer's eye by adding, removing, or modifying a line or a shape)
    - Calligraphy / bravura / texture by adding a few finishing brushstrokes
    - Cosmetic issues (make sure the edges look neat and they present the work well)
    - Emphasize or subdue the highlights

    But the process may extend beyond simple adjustments. New ideas may emerge and take the piece in a new direction. And even further than that, ideas for new paintings and new bodies of work evolve and take a life of their own. I am truly in awe of the creative, and re-creative process. It proves to me that art is not, and never will be, merchandise. It is a product of inspiration, love, nurture, and a unique and mysterious creative force.

    Every step of the painting's life-cycle is precious to me and I am happy to say that there are no cookie-cutters in my studio!



    Monday, 31 October 2016

    New Skills

    Arbutus Grove, 24x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    One of the best things about the artistic journey is having endless opportunities to learn new things. Having a well defined path is a great thing, but for me, it can get tiring. So I like to mix things up every now and then. I like to take a workshop, pick up a new art book, watch an on-line demo. There have never been so many different ways to learn new things as nowadays - from free demos on the internet, to extravagant workshops all around the world.

    In the last few days I've been working on my palette knife skills, inspired by my new friend, Linda Wilder, an amazing acrylic painter, whose workshop I recently attended. Go check out her web site to see how it's supposed to be done!

    Here are some of my experiments - my palette knife skills need a lot of improvement!

    The challenge with learning is not just to master a new technique, but also to explore possibilities of the new skill, to figure out how to incorporate it into our own work, rather than just replicate the teacher's lesson.

    This is a journey that takes time, patience, and creativity - the stuff that we artists have in abundance, right?

    Well, I am sure we all try our best, although patience has never been one of my strengths, and time is always in demand. I guess I'll have to rely on creativity.

    happy learning, and don't eat too much candy tonight!


    Tuesday, 18 October 2016


    West Vancouver Coast, 24x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    I adore beginnings.

    Love to plan compositions, sketch ideas, thumbnails, initial drawing, imprimatura, block in...
    Love, love, love!

    Any way I start a painting, I am having great fun. Creativity flows! Opportunities sparkle! Choices beckon!

    And then, there's a pause.

    Opportunities considered, choices made, the painting on the easel waiting for more. Like a girl in a summer dress, waiting for her date who is running late or may never show up, while the storm clouds are gathering in the sky.

    This is the moment of a careful consideration. The margins of error narrow down. The cost of error, in time and emotional energy, skyrockets.

    Sometimes things flow smoothly from there, sometimes they don't. Sometimes it takes years to get back to those patient paintings waiting to be fixed up.

    At  times when something new and exciting is brewing below the surface, I appreciate a distraction of gong back to older works and trying to finish them up. Here are some before and after shots of what recently transpired in the studio.

    Before and after images of paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki.West Vancouver Coast, Rock Formations, Arbutus Grove, Cypress Afternoon.

    You have to be there to know what kind of battles and wars are fought in the art studio. Some are won, some avoided, and some postponed. I like to think that none get completely lost.

    Brush is a more worthy weapon than most!

    May all your art battles be won,


    Thursday, 29 September 2016

    Back To Studio

    Opabin, 20x20, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    It's that time of the year. Some go back to school, and some go back to the studio. In any case, with the return of rain and cold weather, the appeal of indoor activities is back too.

    It's a good time to review the art supplies and make sure everything is in order for the long mornings or evenings in front of the easel.

    A good supply of favorite brushes? Check!
    A variety of canvasses and panels? Check!
    Pigments in all the glorious seasonal colors! Check!

    At the beginning of every year I promise myself that this would be the year when I am ahead of the game, having the seasonal landscapes painted ahead of time, so that the pieces are finished and ready at the beginning of each season.

    I have not yet managed to do this, and now I know why.

    I paint from inspiration, not from some production plan. I just can't help it. In spring, I am inspired by the juicy rebirth of the nature. In summer, I revel in the gifts of our beaches and parks. In the fall, I want to paint the landscape transformed by golden colors of turning leaves. And winter scenery is graced by snow and ice. The natural cycle is important to me and it's apparently important to my muses as well. So, I give up - I shall paint what transpires outside!

    Here are some examples of my paintings which illustrate obsession with the change of seasons.

    The work in progress piece on the easel is no exception. This gorgeous place is well worth visiting. You can find the spot just off the Crowsnest Highway, a few kilometers east of Princeton, It is called Wolf Creek.  The water of the creek is so brilliantly green and seductive, you can't possibly miss it.

    If you are looking for a satisfying road trip where you can soak in the rich colors and textures of the fall, I recommend driving the loop from Vancouver to Okanagan via route 3, and back via Coquihalla highway. Don't forget to bring your good camera!

    Happy autumn!


    Sunday, 18 September 2016

    Presenting Art

    Whyte Islet, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki featured in Paintings By Numbers - annual fundraiser for the Federation of Canadian Artists, for tickets, go to

    Maybe it's just me, but in the past few years I've been experiencing some confusion in expectations for presenting paintings in the commercial gallery setting. When I first started exhibiting my work, traditional subject matter (landscapes, figurative, still life) was mostly framed, while modern genre (abstract, experimental) was acceptable, or even preferred, unframed.

    Lando Gallery, Edmonton

    This reflected what most collectors expected to see. But, here's the problem. While the frame is an object of beauty which enhances the look of the collector's home, for the artist and art deal it is the thing that eats up storage, gets banged up, quickly goes out of fashion, and causes all sorts of frustrations, and eventually an almost certain financial loss.

    Lake O'Hara Lodge painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki in collector's home

    There is nothing better than a beautifully, tastefully framed painting. But let's talk about the cost of that pleasure for a moment. Frame making is a fine and delicate craft that utilizes expensive materials and tools. The quality product is precious, even if it is made in large batches for standard sized, most frequently sold canvasses, not to mention the custom-sized stuff. To frame the entire exhibit, you are looking at thousands of dollars (been there, done that, broke the bank - I rather spend my money on paint). In effect, the framer, the artist, and the art dealer, are business partners who share the profit when a painting sells. The problem is that the framer always gets paid, while the artist and the dealer are left to suffer the loss if the frame gets damaged before the piece is sold.

    Oesa, painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki (sold)

    Do frames help sell paintings? That is the question.

    I would guess - not enough, because over the years, I've noticed a trend of ridding the traditional paintings from frames. I've been researching framing and frame-less options for years and I've seen some very good solutions.

    The most obvious frame-less option is to use a gallery stretched canvas (wide edge, staples on the back), and paint the edges in one color - often black. This is what I've been doing with my acrylic landscape paintings, with mixed results.

    Winter Apparel, painting by TatjanaMirkov-Popovicki in collector's home

    A problem with the black edge is that the black can look quite severe, especially if the edge intrudes into the image. From some reason it took me a a long time to realize this. The front image should slightly wrap over the canvas edge, for a clean unobstructed look. Still, some viewers will dislike the black sides, and whichever color you paint it, someone will not like it. I've been asked to repaint the sides more times than I care to remember, and I wouldn't be surprised if this eventually became a custom order thing following each sale. Perhaps this could become a nice little venture for a gallery intern?

    My paintings hanging in an office in Vancouver

    One controversial solution is to extend the image all around the edge. One school of thought deems this to be childlike and amateurish, although I've seen this on some really wonderful paintings, and with best success on whimsical and highly stylized paintings. I have recently been assured that this practice is taking off even in the realist camp and that it has lately been accepted by some widely respected artists and their collectors. I tried it on my paintings and I am on the fence. I just can't shake off the impression of the image being printed on the canvas and then stretched. Maybe it just needs time to grow on me.

    Some artists use texture to embellish the edges and sides of the canvas to create an impression of a faux frame. I've seen some ingenious use of acrylic mediums, faux gold and silver lief, producing amazing results. In the right hands, this method is a great way to give the piece a finished look.

    Similarly, I've also seen canvas sides with intentional paint drips and splatters, which give the canvas that art studio flair that some collectors especially value.

    Gimmicky? Maybe, but isn't art itself the greatest gimmick of all? If it ends up looking elegant and it doesn't interfere with the artistic value of the piece, it works for me. I read somewhere that J. M. W. Turner framed some of his paintings with a piece of a thick docking rope.

    Any of the mentioned methods can be used successfully for large paintings, but small paintings with a traditional subject matter are really difficult to present without a traditional frame. While a small abstract looks lovely on a wide gallery canvas, a realist landscape can look quite silly on it. On an unframed panel, it looks unfinished. So, the little darlings may just have to be framed.

    Ruckle Park, painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, hanging in collector's home

    Another thing to consider is that realist art doesn't have to have that traditional old-world look. It can be transformed into something modern and edgy, including its presentation. I'm thinking collage, heavy texture, "special effects", there is no end to what "could be", I have a lot of ideas I have yet to try out.

    The main point is that now that frames are more or less getting out of the picture, the artist needs to be creative not just with the image of the painting, but also with dressing the whole piece up to make it presentable for the public. Rather than an annoying problem, I am starting to consider this as another creative challenge to be addressed during these increasingly longer evenings in the studio.

    May the fall bring us many crispy mornings followed by mild sunny days and inspired evenings in front of the easel!


    Wednesday, 31 August 2016


    Minnestima Lakes, Larch Valley, acrylic, 30x40, original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki.

    Although I prefer painting stylized landscapes, like my latest painting Minnestima Lakes - Larch Valley, that took me several weeks to finish (yikes!), every once in a while a few quick realist paintings emerge during my plein air painting adventures, especially in special places like the one I just visited last week, only an hour and a half drive from Vancouver.

    I've been painting stylized landscapes since 2004. I distinctly remember transitioning from realism to expressive landscapes at the same time when I got hooked on hiking our Coastal Mountains - North Shore, Garibaldi Park, Whistler. Then The Cathedral Park in Okanagan, Mt Robson, Mt Baker across the border, and of course the Canadian Rockies - Yoho, Banff  and Jasper.

    Hiking influenced my painting in a significant way. The scale of the subject mater expanded, and instead of seeing trees, rocks, clouds and other individual objects, I saw patterns and colors.  And that's what I wanted to paint. The result was a style - a visual language that combines those two elements in an infinite number of ways. This, for me, is a wonderful thing because it is at the same time a creative process and a game of sorts. You get to create your own puzzle and solve it, again and again. The possibilities are endless.

    The problem with this is that you get used  (addicted?) to the game to the extent that you start visually "translating" everything you see. Everything around you becomes a play of patterns and colors. It can become tiring if not disturbing. That's why it's good to break the mold every once in a while and do something completely different. Why not realism? There is a real world full of real things all around us, after all!

    I love to go outside and paint something that isn't a giant mountain of a huge lake. Something that I can try to paint just the way I see it, in less than a week. Hopefully in less than a day. A little bit of realism, just for the fun of it.

    Days Gone By, oil, 9x12, plein air sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    Kilby Summer, oil, 12x9, plein air sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    These are a couple of examples that I painted during a lovely weekend I spent in Kilby - an amazing heritage site in Harrison Mills in the Fraser Valley.

    I included a few photos from this wonderful place too. Make sure you check out their calendar of events, If you enjoy historical places and farm environment, you won't be disappointed. There is also a cafe that serves a vegetable quiche and a strawberry rhubarb pie to die for!

    Volunteers and organizers of the event are a wonderful cast of characters, how can you resist these smiles? You can't. Notice the award packages on the table in the background - they are quite wonderful too :-)

    The plein air painting event is held on the last weekend of August every year, so if you are a painter or an art lover, add it to your calendar and make sure you sign up in advance. I hope to see you there next year!


    Tuesday, 16 August 2016

    Garden Art

    Zinnias, oil, 8x10, original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    Not much going on around here these days, just trying to extend the long summer days as much as possible. Setting up in the back yard garden is perfect for this.

    Without commitments and  expectations, everywhere I look there is something to paint. The 8x10 canvas boards are light, unassuming, happy to be keepers or not.

    There aren't many art critics in the area. Baby red robins chirp from their nest and the resident hummingbird generally leaves me alone. Brushes in the grass, paint tubes at an easy reach. A brand new hammock beckons from the patio but the easel is always a priority. I think I can do one more by the end of the day.

    Hydrangeas in the shade of an old cherry tree, oil sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
    Lemonade time!


    Sunday, 31 July 2016

    Art on a Mission

    Indian Arm, original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    Sometimes art finds a permanent home, sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes it goes on a mission. There are opportunities to lend an image to accompany all sorts of initiatives and the trick is to select those that will compliment the art and contribute to something that we enjoy or care about. Over the past years I've had my art on a wine label, on a mural, on a calendar of a non-profit art organization, on the cover of a poetry book, and even on a quilt!

    The latest feature is on a mission of saving lives. Yep, it's hard to believe but it's true.

    Can art save lives? I suppose a huge painting could be used as a flotation device. No? Well, there is still a way it can help.

    Did you know that the Coquitlam Search and Rescue team of volunteers is responsible for an area of over 1700km², including some of the most rugged and inaccessible terrain in southwestern BC? They respond to an average of 35 incidents a year.  What they do isn't for the faint of heart. Here is a pic of my hubby (who is a Coquitlam SAR member), dangling from a helicopter.

    Despite husbands hanging from helicopters, it's a great cause to support!

    I am proud that my painting Indian Arm is featured on the Coquitlam SAR team's greeting cards. If you make a charitable donation to this group, you will get one too as a token of appreciation.

    And now, back to making paintings, I'll leave saving of lives to those who know what they are doing. Here is a sneak peak of what's on the easel.

    Work in progress - Larch Valley, 30x40, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    The summer is in the full swing around here. It's hard to stay in the studio long enough to finish a large painting, so it's taking longer than usual, but I am enjoying the process nevertheless.

    Happy painting or sketching or just enjoying summer, whatever you prefer!


    Friday, 15 July 2016

    Harmony Trail

    Harmony Trail, 16x20, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

    It all begins on a hiking trail. This was in 2014, Whistler, BC, Harmony Trail.

    Some of us start by studying the map, others just go...

    Stunning views everywhere! My camera is my best friend - except for my real best friend who's walking ahead of me in the picture above.

    Two years later, I am scheduled to paint for a day in the beautiful Crystal Lodge Art Gallery in Whistler. What to paint? I remember the Harmony Trail hike and run to my photo archive. Where are those sunny meadows, those brilliant greens, yellows and pinks that I remember?

    To my dismay, this is what the "cold eye of the camera" recalls:

    How dull! How uninspiring! So I crop, I adjust, and with help of technology, I recreate what's in my memory. Now that's more like it!

    A little bit of prep in the studio won't hurt - a quick sketch to work out the composition, and a purple value study. Why purple? Why not? Dioxazine Purple is a nice dark transparent pigment that gives you interesting chromatic darks when glazed or scumbled over with other colors.

    So I pack up and head to Whistler on a scorching Sunday, grateful for the serenity and shade of the gallery walls, plus for the inspiration of all the beautiful artwork that surrounds me. I relax and get to work.

    Like most people, when I paint I am completely engrossed in my work, thinking that no harm can come to me in this safe place of art worship,

    But one should always keep in mind that an enthusiastic galerina with a smart phone never sleeps, Before you know it, your are caught on camera and posted on the Facebook.

    Luckily, there's plenty of goodies to see in the clip aside from the stunned artist. The gallery is gorgeous so I try to think of that when I see the counter with 1K views (yikes!).

    Facebook video clip from The Crystel Lodge Art Gallery with the stunned me in it

    The time passes quickly in the company of art and it's always nice to have something to show at the end of the day. I was glad to add a piece to the gallery collection which earned a wide smile and a hug from the lovely galerina Penny Eder. 

    The Harmony Trail painting is now in The Crystal Lodge Art Gallery in Whistler, awaiting its permanent home. It's a record of a perfect day in Whistler!

    Art can emerge from life or from memory. I never know what those muses are up to until the next idea pops up. 

    Happy painting!