Forest Mystery

Forest Mystery (11″ x 14″ oil on canvas)

This was an intuitive painting inspired by local forest walks but definitely not literal. We do have cascading water falls at this time of year but the foliage is more monochrome green. I livened it up with pinks and reds as if there could be rhododendrons blooming already. A good way to play and warm up at the beginning of a new year.

(C) 2023 Hilary Farmer


Blooming at the Edge

Blooming at the Edge (9″ x 12″ oil on panel)

I took photos of an apple tree in bloom by the ocean a while ago and finally decided it needed to be a painting. It seemed so fragile there in a way and yet obviously had been surviving in that location for a long time.

I live on one of the Gulf Islands off Canada’s West coast. After a recent winter storm, we were out of power for about a day. No big deal. We’re used to that. But then, our main (actually only) communications line hit the main power line (both crossing from one island to another) in the wind and ended up in the ocean. No phone land lines, no wifi and very little cell phone service with sporadic access to data …and most importantly – no 911 service. Five days later we got a temporary fix. Anyway, all that to say “Blooming at the Edge” is sometimes a more active struggle than you might think!

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer

Malaspina Galleries and Descano Bay – November

Malaspina Galleries (8″ x 10″ oil on panel)

The best known tourist attraction on our small Gulf Island is called Malaspina Galleries. This natural sandstone formation dramatically creates an arched room open on the ocean side. You can see there are trees growing on the “roof” above. Some late season fine weather meant I was able to go out painting one afternoon in November with a friend. She had painted here many times before but it was a first for me. It was quite challenging to catch this quirky spot in a painting but I was quite pleased in the end.

Descano Bay – November (8″ x 10″ oil on panel)

It was too nice to just head home after that first painting so we went to another spot nearby. Here, I really wanted to capture the sparkles in the water even though it was pretty blinding! I had to take a peek and then paint for a while then peek again. I was delighted when a family of three paddled into view and stayed around for long enough that I was able to add them to the piece. The canoe and people give a sense of scale and add movement to the scene.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer


Migration (7″x10″ oil on Arches oil paper)

I like to paint (with oils) on paper sometimes. With an inexpensive substrate, it feels like there is less pressure to produce something saleable. Here, I was just feeling an autumn mood with dried grasses under foot and birds overhead heading off to somewhere warmer. The sun peers through hazy clouds since we did have some late in the season forest fires in the area. The brushwork is quite loose and you can see that I have also scratched into the paint – often just with the end of the brush.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer


“Enduring” (16″ x 20″ oil on canvas)

A new piece inspired by the cliffs and rock formations around where I live. In this case, I have included the cormorants that form seasonal colonies here. From below, it looks like they make their homes on the narrowest ledges. The stone wall also has strange round pockets that seem to make more congenial nesting locations.

A couple of details below.

“Enduring” (detail middle, right)

You can see the shadow of the cormorant in flight on the cliff.

“Enduring” (detail bottom right)

Some fun with splashing surf.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer

Solitary Dawn

Solitary Dawn (8″ x 18″ oil on canvas)

This is an imagined landscape but very much inspired by my experiences of exploring the west coast of Canada. Sometimes there are lots of people around, lots of boats but at other times the stillness and feelings of peace and solitude and deep and pervasive. Some details below to give a better idea of the textures and colours.

Detail (far left) Solitary Dawn
Detail (middle) Solitary Dawn
Detail (right) Solitary Dawn

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer

Former Glory

“Former Glory” (8″ x 10″ oil on panel)

This is an enormous large leaf maple tree with just a matter of time before the limbs that are left fall. In the meantime however, it’s a wonderful subject to paint en plein air. The stark pale grey of the dead tree contrast with autumn colours even on this rather dull day. I also enjoyed the interplay between the shapes of the branches and the movement of the clouds. The hydro poles remind us that there are people around even if the setting looks remote.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer


“Sheep!” (8″ x 10″ oil on panel)

I’ve been wanting to paint sheep (or cows or horses) from life for a while and this was my first try. The day did not exactly cooperate and neither did the sheep! The dots you can see in the oil paint are because it started raining …and of course the lovely initially curious sheep wandered away – no doubt being more sensible that the human they found somewhere out of the weather. Anyway, I had actually anticipated that might happen so I took a couple of snaps of one of the sheep before she wandered off so I was still able to have a couple featured in the foreground and not just distant blobs. As I was going to pack up, the sun came out with some lovely slanting light across the field which I added and really brought this one to life. I touched up the foreground sheep in the studio but left the rest quite sketchy and suggestive. It really captures the afternoon.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer


“Persistence” (9″ x 12″ oil on panel)

This glorious, enormous large leaf maple is clearly the star of the painting. Although it had some dead limbs, there was still a lot of life and colour to be seen. One of the challenges with this painting was distinguishing the tones of yellows and greens of the tree from both the foreground grasses and distant tree line. But the tree’s leaves had a warmth of tone and were much closer to a pure chroma making it reasonably easy for it to stand out.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer

Red Tree

Red Tree (8″ x 10″ oil on raised panel)

A recent opportunity to paint in a friend’s garden …this view captured the light starting to come through the gap in the tree and make the red tree glow. We set up ahead since my friend knew exactly when the sun would make an appearance. Awareness of time and light is so important to success in plein air painting! I was pleased with this one. I got the main shapes and values in place quite quickly but I did need to finish up a bit in the studio. Once the light dipped too far, everything looked completely different!

Here’s a detail of the red tree that inspired the painting.

Red Tree (detail)

The pops of pure colour (cadmium red light) in the tree as well as some “sky holes” were the details needed to make this one sing.

(C) 2022 Hilary Farmer