Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Fragile Seeds of Art

West Coast Study,
original plein air painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

My last post was about the craft of art, by which I mean the "how", the process, or the series of defined steps that result in a finished product. It's a good thing and it's often a happy thing. It's easy to show, it's explainable, teachable, and learnable.

And then, there's the other side of creativity, its problem child, the art of art.

It has to do with the "why" and it's the driving force of creativity. It's what we have to do to move our crafty selves forward and create something new and different from the stuff we feel comfortable doing. It's moody, emotional, subconscious. It's not explainable, teachable, or learnable. It just somehow emerges from a deeply mysterious place.

It reminds me of cultivating a patch of the earth when you scatter the seeds and cover them with a fresh layer of soil. Things may germinate from it or they may not.

Before the plants show up, to anyone else, it's just a bed of dirt to be trampled, nothing to show, dirty, ugly, messy. But for the artist, it's everything.

We may be doing field studies for the first time or trying out a new approach to painting or forming a completely new way of expression which requires a brand new language. It's something challenging and often frustratingly slow in coming. Others will not understand it until you do so it's best to be teased out in solace.

Pachena Beach Study,
original plein air painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Having said all this, creativity is not a garden. The fragile seed of art is just a metaphor. The real thing can't be trampled by others because it's a part of us. It's there to be worked on our own sweet time.

We don't have to show it to anyone, we don't have to explain it or justify it. We just must keep gardening.

As I was finishing up writing this post, a piece of great news arrived in my mailbox. Sometimes that's how it works. While we are pondering a difficult section of our journey, a sign of appreciation arrives and suddenly it's time to celebrate!

My gratitude for this particular news goes to my FCA friends but also, I want to send out a huge thank you to all the art lovers out there for making this art world possible!


Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Brady's Beach Patterns - Step by Step

Yes, I know, this is crazy fast so I included individual steps below. Enjoy!

This is my reference photo. The idea for this painting came from several sketches and many photos I took at the Brady's Beach in Bamfield, BC earlier this year.

 I decided not to start this piece with an initial drawing but to use a drawing-less approach which I've been using a lot lately. I slathered on the alizarin crimson and phthalo green heavy body acrylic paint straight from the tube and wiped it off with a dry rag. The pattern vaguely resembles a beach with a close-up foreground at the bottom, a wide sandy area, the ocean and a slice of land in the background and some space for the sky at the top. 

The dark is a mix of phthalo green and alizarin crimson, strokes made with a large flat brush. They are supposed to loosely mimic the direction of the overall patterns in the rocks, NOT the shape of each individual rock.

Added white and gray directional strokes into the areas of the sky and sea. The gray is made by mixing alizarin crimson, phthalo green and white.

Added yellow ochre into the sand areas. At this point, the overall pattern of the beach is mostly formed but the colours feel crude compared with my vision for this piece so I want to address that next.

Mellowed the colour of sand with a peachy mix of white, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson and phthalo green, and added a more vibrant dark into the rocks (my darkest dark + dioxazine purple + a bit of white).

Dry brushed some grayish-purple all over to unify the piece. Established the horizon and water pattern with white. The grayish-purple is made by mixing the alizarin crimson, phthalo green and white. Dioxazine purple + white into the distant islands.

Added pale phthalo green + white into the sky outlining the sea stacks and ochre yellow into the beach patterns. I also started adding other colors into the foreground details: dioxazine purple, red oxide, bright green, cadmium red, etc. I'll keep doing this in all subsequent steps.

The chalk lines help tighten the composition. This is the closest to drawing I'll get in this process. I am using the theory of Dynamic Symmetry which I described in an earlier blog post. In this step, I went back in with the darkest dark mix of alizarin crimson and phthalo green to add some form to the rock pattern and to lightly shift some of the shapes to lean on the lines of my Dynamic Symmetry grid. 

Adjusted the colour of sand by making a more greenish mixture of ochre yellow, phthalo green, alizarin crimson, and white. The next step includes a lot of fiddling with details, strengthening the pattern of light/dark, adjusting the colour and texture of sand, etc. 

Brady's Beach Patterns, 24x30, original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I was surprised how much of bright green I had to add, especially into the foliage in the distant forest and sea stacks.  I decided to shift the sky colour toward yellow and green so there is more contrast between the sea and sky. This also added light and depth to the scene.

I hope you enjoyed this step by step demo.  This drawing-less method of painting is fun and fascinating to me.  The image seems to emerge from canvas almost magically without much pre-planning.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions about my painting process or you'd like to discuss something about your art.

I love sharing!


Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Innovare Art

My two paintings Arbutus Beach and Purcell Patterns will be in this exciting group show. Se you there!


Purcell Patterns, 30x20
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Monday, 30 September 2019

Good Land Wrap Up

Brady's Beach Sea Stacks, 16x16
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
started at Bamfield Retreat and finished in the studio

For the third year in the row, I am grateful to the wonderful art community that congregates in the quaint city of Nakusp, BC, especially my collectors, the extraordinaire Studio Connexion Gallery, and all the art lovers who came to see the exhibit. 

Several paintings found loving homes and six pieces are still available in the Studio Connexion Gallery while the others are available directly from me.  I am also happy to report that some interesting commissions and friendships also resulted from this event. All pieces are now published on my website HERE.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

A very special thank you goes to the awesome participants in my acrylic painting workshop. Their enthusiasm and talent were truly inspiring!

"What a delightful weekend!" one of these delightful ladies wrote to me. "You have inspired me to enjoy the process of painting. This would not have been possible without your amazing approach to teaching and talent!"

With gratitude to all my old and new art friends,


Sunday, 15 September 2019

Art Retreat

View from Helby Island near Bamfield, BC. Painters' paradise!

Last week, I spent five days at an annual art retreat with the Federation of Canadian Artists. This year, the chosen location was the stunning Marine Sciences Centre in Bamfield on the western coast of Vancouver Island. This is a gorgeous, pristine area facing the Pacific ocean.

Nestled between the dense rainforest and stunning beaches, we decompressed, marveled, and created. Each person did according to her needs and priorities but the overall feeling was of artistic comradery and sisterhood. Critiques were non-existent and encouragement flourished.

Kristine and Tatjana enjoying a happy moment
between painting and beachcombing
on Brady's Beach

But here's a problem. Going in, I had a burning desire to immerse myself in the landscape and train my plein air painting skills. My target was to create three small pieces per day. This was probably a mistake because goals and numbers don't do places like Bamfield justice. While painting, I felt rushed and conscious of the passing time. But, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.

Less is more.

Somehow, my eye tends to catch overly complex patterns and compositions that require a long and thoughtful process of the studio work. Next time I set up my easel on the beach, I pledge to paint a single pebble or a piece of driftwood!

One thing I did do right was letting myself experiment and play with paint and mark making. I swished my brush every which way, I scumbled, scratched, and let sand stick to the paint. This was truly a lesson in joy!

Red House, Bamfield Boardwalk
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Big and Small, Brady's Beach, Bamfield
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Back in the studio, I am keeping up this playful momentum and allowing my sketches to inspiring new ideas. I feel something new emerging in my art-making and that's thrilling even more than nocking out a landmark piece. Somehow, a promise of future growth feels better than achieving one small victory.

Sea Stack on Helby Island
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Sea Stack on Brady's Beach
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

On a separate note, my exhibit Good Land in Nakusp is beautifully displayed at the Studio Connexion Gallery for another week. It will end with a bang, a reception on Friday, Sep 21, 2019, followed by a two-day workshop. As I am writing this post, there is still one or two more spaces available if you know someone who'd like to attend.

On this rainy September day, let's be grateful that we still have a week of summer left. May this Fall will be kind to plein air painters!

Pachena Beach, Bamfield

Friday, 30 August 2019

Good Land

I am excited to announce my third annual solo exhibit and sale of new landscape paintings in the Studio Connexion Gallery in beautiful Nakusp, BC.
The exhibit titled “Good Land” will include studio and plein air paintings and experimental pieces inspired by my love for our beautiful homeland.
On the last weekend of the exhibit, there will be a workshop where I will share my unique acrylic painting method with a group of students. There are still a few spaces available. More information about the workshop can be found HERE.
Please stay in touch if you are interested in attending these events and check out the fun images from the last year’s show Naturally Magical and my Nakusp Pinterest board to view this gorgeous location.
Sailing to Nakusp, 11x14
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I would love to welcome you to this very special place and share my love of art with you!
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
With gratitude,

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Art Agenda

Cypress, 8x8
original plein air painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I have two things on my art agenda these days. Preparing my upcoming exhibit at the fabulous Studio Connexion Gallery in Nakusp, BC, and enjoying the plein air painting while the weather cooperates.

Let's start with the plein air stuff. I'll share my essential kit with you. This is what I use for nearby trips to the parks or anywhere where the weight of the pack isn't a major issue.

Here's what I pack up:

- Strada paintbox is made of metal so it's heavy but I like it because it takes various sizes of panels and it's sturdy in the wind.  You can screw in an adapter for the photo easel to its bottom.

- Most often, I use 11x14 or 8x10 canvas panels which I make by gluing gessoed canvas to custom-cut good plywood which I buy in a hardware store. I use other kinds and sizes of supports as well, but this one is my favorite.

- I like having a heavy-duty photo tripod because it's super stable and easily adjustable to different heights.

- The collapsible aluminum stool is practically weightless and good to have either for painting in the sitting position or to place your water bottle on it if you stand while you paint.

- My tubes of acrylic paint, vinyl gloves, and a tiny spray bottle fit in a square metal box.

- Since I paint with acrylics, I need a big water bottle and a container for washing my brushes.

- My brushes and paper towels fit together in a long cardboard box.

- A plastic bag is for garbage and dirty paper towels.

- I use a paper-palette which means that I only squeeze out the amount of paint I need and I throw away the leftover paint. I am looking into improving this because I hate discarding good paint. In the studio, I use a Masters palette box which keeps my paint fresh, but it's bulky and it would have to be carried horizontally so it's not suitable for plein air trips.

- Bug spray is a must for me. You may also want to add sun lotion, hat, sunglasses, jacket, umbrella. Whatever you need to feel reasonably comfortable.

For me, it's essential that the setup is quick and everything fits in a compact bag on my back with the tripod in one hand. This pack is quite heavy but I can walk with it comfortably for a short time.

Again, this kit is meant for easy trips ending at a cafe, not for strenuous hikes into the wilderness. I have a different setup for something like that, which I will write about some other time.

My setup in action on the Cypress Mountain,
 thanks to Jane Appleby for taking this pic!

And now, about the other, exciting thing on the agenda.

The GOOD LAND exhibit starts on September 4 and runs until September 21, 2019. I will also teach a 2-day workshop in Nakusp. You can read more about all that HERE. Please come by to visit us if you are in the area!

I have a few more pieces to finish and then take photos, update archive, varnish the pieces, frame some of them, pack, ship, advertise, find something to wear. Yikes! I better get on with it!

The pieces for my GOOD LAND exhibit are starting to gather in the staging area!

I wish you all the best with your own art agenda!


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Art and Fire

Spanish Banks, 8x8
original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Driving back home from our community garden in Coquitlam last Sunday evening, my husband and I noticed a thick cloud of smoke over Port Moody.

Our first thought was a dreaded forest fire, but it didn't look like that. The source of the smoke was clearly somewhere in the old part of the city.

Checking the online news as soon as we got home, we found out that a block of beautiful old heritage buildings was on fire. Sadly, it included a beloved local bistro where musicians, artists, writers, and all kinds of art lovers have been gathering to socialize and share their love of art and good food. At the time of the fire, a group exhibit was hanging on the walls, including several of my paintings.

The first concern was, of course, checking and thanking the fortune that no one was hurt by the blaze. Unfortunately, the buildings were badly damaged, the businesses suffered a terrible loss, and a few residents lost their homes. In the light of all this devastation, nobody dared ask about art. Words of sorrow and support to the affected flooded the internet and the police and firefighters were left to do their job.

I silently mourned my paintings, fully aware of how small my loss was compared to the big picture. And yet, I have to admit that it hurt to say goodbye to my darlings. 

The next morning, we learned from the onlookers that the art seemed to have survived the fire and a few hours later a call came to pick it up. The firefighters had entered the damaged, unsafe building and saved the art.

I rushed to my car as I was and arrived at the location which looked as if a bomb had gone off. Roads blocked, the structures chared, the street surrounded by the police tape. 

In the midst of destruction, I found the paintings carefully stacked by the wall.

Incredibly, aside from the heavy smoke odor, my pieces didn't suffer a single scratch. There were slight water stains on some of the rescued art, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I had had paintings returned from professional art galleries in much worse shape.

Other artists showed up and we helped load the art in the cars and left the area. It didn't feel right to linger but I regret not being able to give my thanks to the wonderful firemen who saved our art and took such gentle care of it.

Back in the studio, as I was trying to wash off the smoke smell from my paintings, I made a mental list of the fire-smart practices that I follow. They suddenly seemed even more important.

1. Fire extinguisher placed in a location easy to reach. Check the expiry date to make sure it's functional.

2. Smoke and chemical fumes sensor/alarm installed in the studio and tested regularly.

3. The exit door easily accessible, clear of obstructions.

4. Combustible substances stored safely in an air-tight container and according to the manufacturer's specifications.

5. Computer and cloud data backup, including the comprehensive art archive, refreshed monthly and stored in a fire-proof safe. A second copy of the backup is created quarterly and taken to the safe deposit box in the bank.

All this is essential, but what gives me the most comfort art-wise is the fact that whatever happens, my paintings can't possibly all burn down. Thanks to my wonderful art lovers, they are spread around in homes, galleries, and collections all over the world.

I give my gratitude to all of you who are a part of our expansive art world.

Enjoy the summer and stay fire-safe!


Monday, 15 July 2019

Artist on Vacation

VanDusen Waterfall, 10x8
original plein air painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Here's something new I am doing this summer. I've promised myself a longish vacation. I will be making art and doing other things I love, but without any planning. I will let my creativity fly without any structure or expectations. 

No art events, no to-do lists, no obligations. For two months, it's all about freedom. 

Painting plein air at one of my favorite locations, 
VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver

This may come as a surprise to non-artists, but running an art business, despite its delightfulness, is a lot of serious work. Summers are typically loaded with artsy events and projects and for many years my summers have been flurry or activity. 

I loved my artful summers but I've noticed that the bulk of time somehow gets gobbled by those side-chores that are not so easy to love - packing, loading, driving, unloading, following someone else's instructions, displaying, cleaning up, etcetera. Not to mention loads of administrative tasks that follow everything that we do, including figuring out who wants us to do what and when. 

This year I am taking a little break, but thanks to the wonderful galleries that represent me, my art is as always available to the art lovers and there is more to come! 

Come September, I will be in full gear, rested and refreshed for my solo show and workshop in beautiful Nakusp, BC. Check out my website for details.

Are you wondering what artists do on vacation? 

This artist likes to visit beautiful, inspiring places and hang out at home. I'll spend blissfully unstructured time in the studio, do some plein air painting, hike, garden, check out art museums, and goof-off with my hubby.

Visiting the amazing Audain Art Museum in Whistler,
getting inspired by the visiting collection
from the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

I can't tell you how great this feels. I hope you make some time this summer to take it easy and do whatever you feel like doing!

View from my home studio.
Beautiful things inside and outside!

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Loving Canada!

Some of the paintings that recently found homes. Original paintings by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki. Huge thanks to my collectors, galleries, and supporters!

Tomorrow, we celebrate Canada Day and this summer has special importance for me and my family. It marks twenty-five years since my husband and I emigrated from the former Yugoslavia and settled in Vancouver. A quarter of a century later, our love for this country keeps growing.

As you well know, I express my love for Canada in my paintings. I am sharing some of the pieces that recently found loving homes.

I feel fortunate and grateful to all the art lovers I've encountered on this journey!

Happy Canada Day!


Saturday, 15 June 2019

Re-purposing Supports

Sailing to Nakusp,  11x14, original painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Recycling and repurposing are increasingly important in our polluted world. Art studios are no exception. Here are a few ideas on how to give a second life to the used and abused painting supports.

The reusable supports that I utilize are mostly wooden stretchers, plywood boards, cradle panels, and loose gessoed canvas.

When I end up with a painting on canvas that just doesn't work and can't be saved, I remove the staples and discard the ruined canvas. If the stretcher bars still look sturdy, I re-stretch a fresh piece of gessoed canvas that I buy per yard in the art store. I used to buy raw canvas and apply gesso myself but I have abandoned this since it takes a huge amount of time and it's very messy.

Another great thing about this is that canvas remnants can be used too. I tape them onto a board like you would do with the watercolor paper. When I finish the painting, I remove the tape and at that point, there are several options for its finishing and presentation.

You can glue it (using acrylic medium) onto a plywood board that you can buy in a hardware store and have it cut in various sizes. These home-made panels are very easy to frame.

Another option is to glue them onto a cradled panel and in that case, they don't even need a frame. I noticed that the small square cradle panel paintings have become very popular in the last few years. They also look great in floating frames.

One more option is to glue small pieces of canvas on cardboard or some kind of sturdy paper, mat them and present them the way you would do with watercolour paintings.

If you perfect this craft of repurposing, you may end up with excellent supports, more versatile than those available in art stores. It takes some practice, care, good tools, and elbow grease, but it's so good to see a pile of refuse turn into a stack of good quality supports ready for new creations.

I hope you try this and come up with even more ideas for avoiding waste of materials and money in your own studio. If you do, please let me know!