Friday, 22 November 2013

Can you guess which well known Ottawa model this is?

The last time I posted a portrait study, Lesley O'Reilly guessed correctly that this was a portrait of Alyson. So I thought I'd put this one out there as well, and I will make a guess that several people will know who this is right away. Alysons' portrait was a 30 minute pose, I don't remember how long this one was. But I really like this style of treatment with the soft lines, and gentle gradations. The sitter is a very gentle soul and a great artist in his own rights. If you study the background really closely, you'll find out another unusual talent this man, another well known Ottawa model,
has,..... If you can't read the lettering in the background, I will reveal the answer in a forthcoming episode. Stay tuned,......

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Preparation Costa Rica 2

We booked our flights, and everyone is excited about getting to Costa Rica. In order to make the best use of our time there, I am continuing to review what skills I'll need while there. The first 4 days there, we'll be amongst the Mountains. Growing up in a fairly flat province, the first time I saw mountains sent a shiver down my spine. I've seen many since then. I am still inspired, but haven't had a lot of experience painting something so vast, until the last few years. When I look back on my work, I was a little surprised to see that I do have a few paintings, and a few different mountain ranges as well. I thought I'd share some with you today. Hopefully, before I leave for Costa Rica, I'll have painted a few more. Seeing the mountains of Costa Rica from a small low flying plane makes you feel like a national geographic photographer. Just a stunning experience.
I did this painting from a photo, not on site. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia are truly beautiful colours. Not what you might think, if you really look at the colours. You have to really look!
Title-Rock and River, morning. This is a place I've been several times in the Adirondacks. I love going hiking there. My daughter Genevieve and I managed to get there this fall, and hiked Noonmark Mountain. It was a fairly easy climb paint with a fabulous view at the top. One of these times, I'm going to take a small amount of pastels, and paint at the summit. The scene you see here was early morning light, in a valley surrounded by mountains. Mountains can be quite intimidating. I found being aware of where the they are, and what space they take up in the picture plane, allows you to keep everything in perspective, and then painting them, becomes a delight, allowing one to focus on very subtle value changes, that can be quite beautiful.
These are 2 scenes from the trip I lead to Tuscany, in the summer of 2012. Definitely one the the highlights, was hiking the Cinque Terre. It was incredibly hot, and kudos to all of us for surviving the hike. In looking back, despite the heat, I think all of us have incredible memories of the hike, the towns, the farms, and the most spectacular scenery anywhere. Very dramatic, and FULL of wonder. Anyways, here are some offerings from me on Mountains. As I told Robert Genn, there is nothing more sacred than Water, Sky, and Mountains. I hope to be ready to meet the Costa Rican Mountains, with as much reverence and awe. There's still time and room to come, for anyone tempted to join us! My contact is

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Essential life drawing

Of all the creative things I do, life drawing is the one thing, I am most passionate about. It's the time I totally forget about life, and dive down the vortex of concentration, relaxation, beauty and truth. I am a life drawing addict. When I am away from it for too long, I am lost, off center. It's one of the gifts artists can give themselves, and the greatest training one can do to advance your skills of drawing, observing, composing. This young lady was a model recently while life drawing. She is crazy tall, and whenever she does a standing pose, I study her head and face. I find her to have a vulnerable aura about her, and she has a classic face, like a greek goddess.
This was a 30 minute pose. Having finite time helps you make good use of the time that you do have. What's most important here, to get done in 30 minutes or less? This woman I am sure is over 6 feet tall. I call this, Standing tall.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Rich Colour in the Pyramid

On my recent trip to France,we all enjoyed having a drink at about 4 pm. in the pyramid, at Le Vieux Couvent. This is a newly renovated sun room, full of light at the retreat where I teach in southwest France. The roof is shaped like a pyramid. Late in the afternoon each day, we'd gather here for critique, art discussions, etc. It's a nice time of the day, with paintings done. Time to philosophize, light chatting, and relaxing. While in this room, I always wanted to sit in one place, where I can look at this gorgeous fabric wall hanging on a brick wall. The colours were so rich and delicious, and many. What really captivated me, was that the brick wall, met up with large windows with strong sunlight seeping in, so the sense of light on the left of this scene was quite strong. It's a fairly flat situation, but I was compelled to paint it. Here's another miniature that I did of this scene. Like many paintings I do, the main intention was to celebrate colour and light.

Friday, 15 November 2013

This is a compilation of the places we'll be going in in Costa Rica this January 10-19nth. Everything is done for us-food, lodging, transport. We have one job: rise, and paint. Hard to take,....
Here's a little quicky I did on the last day of my plein air trip to France in October. Once you get warmed up, it's hard to stop painting. After walking around Toulouse for a day with some of my students, we went back to our hotel room, as we needed to put our feet up. But I had the longing to paint all day. So I got my pastels out, and did this piece while laying on my bed, just the view from my hotel room. Being an architecture freak, I just love all the intricate rod iron detail on so many old buildings. Worthwhile composition is everywhere. It's a matter of your perspective,enjoy! Margaret

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Doors close and windows Open

Over the past week, I've attempted my first oil painting in years. I went back to my old process, which is to create in pastel, with loose spontaneous use of colour and strokes, and then use this as reference for my larger work in acrylic or oil. The piece I chose to start with is a pastel I did a long time ago, but I always knew it was a keeper, and one that said things in it, that I really liked. What are those things? A dramatic use of colour, temperature and light, that makes the painting about light, and how that light dances. I also like the unusual position on the human form, and it's placement within the picture plane, whiel it suspends itself over dark water. Dramatic. I put the pastel up here a few blog posts ago, but here is the finished piece. I have things I would have liked to have done differently, but as I said, it's my first oil in years, and it is, what it is. On to the next piece. For those of you who've been in my classes, you know very well, that I emphasize your skill in drawing and composition. So if you have that skill, translating that to any medium is so much easier. This was the piece I am practising in order to be prepared for Costa Rica this January. I expect lots of deep rich colour there. This piece is called "Feet First", and it's 18" X 24", in oil. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 November 2013


A Colourful Mountain & Beach Art Retreat

The Chirripó Mountain & The Osa Peninsula


10-19 JANUARY 2014

Bring colour to paper as you explore two completely unique ecosystems in Costa Rica. Immerse yourself in the surreal and magical setting of the mountains and cloud forest of the Chirripó National Park followed by the enchanting wilderness, lush tropical rainforest and warm Pacific Ocean of the Osa Peninsula.

Enjoy beautiful accommodations, delicious organic foods and push your limits on our daily activities that will introduce you to these two majestic destinations.

Indulge in healthy, inspiring dishes, incorporating a wide selection of locally sourced fresh organic ingredients, providing a culinary experience that will nourish, satisfy and make your Costa Rican Art-Escape as perfect as nature intended.



9 nights (10 days)

US$ 2250

(includes tax)
Price includes all domestic flights and travel, all accommodations, all meals, daily painting workshops, daily guided hikes and 5% added staff gratuity.

It does not include any international flights, taxi transfers in San José, airport exit tax ($29 USD), alcoholic beverages or any optional off-site activities and tours.


  • 1 night full board accommodation at hotel 'Luisiana', San José
  • Private bus transfer from San José to Chirripó National Park (3hrs)
  • 3 nights full board accommodation at 'La Montana Azul' Mountain Retreat
  • Complimentary mountain hike to botanical gardens and hot springs
  • Private bus transfer from the mountains to the Osa Peninsula (4 hrs)
  • 4 nights full board accommodation at 'El Tumbo de las Olas' Beach Lodge
  • Complimentary jungle and river hikes
  • Transfer from beach accommodation to Puerto Jimenez (30 mins)
  • Domestic flight from Puerto Jimenez to San José (1 hr)
  • Transfer from airport to hotel in San Jose
  • 1 night full board accommodation at hotel Luisiana San Jose

NB. This retreat has a maximum capacity of 16 guests.

CONTACT or to reserve your spot on this unique art eco-retreat!

We look forward to hearing from you and to meeting you soon in paradise!


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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Preparation and Anticipation

In January, I'll be leading a group of adventurous souls on a plein air painting trip to Costa Rica. We'll be in the mountains for 4 days, and on the beach for 4 days. During that time, we'll be embracing the best of what Costa Rica has to offer, fabulous landscapes, big skies, and that magic colour thing that happens between sky and water, at Sunset. I am going to be in the studio, practicing and preparing. I hear a rumour we may have a model in Costa, and since I'm a figure drawing enthusiast, I'll be preparing for that. One way to prepare is by attending life drawing sessions. Another project that will help me prepare, is an oil painting I'll be doing this week. I did this little pastel of the boy, swinging out over water, a while ago, while teaching at The Haliburton school of the Arts. It's been a while since I've had time to work in oil, but I've done the underpainting, and have it all drafted out. I am psyched to paint this. I am compelled to paint in simple compositions, that allow the viewer to breath. I am also captivated by scenarios where the human form is put into different positions. You could never draw this in a life drawing session!
Feet First, pastel 6" X 8" by Margaret Ferraro

Friday, 8 November 2013

Artists, Architects and Artisans

Yesterday, I went down tot he National Gallery of Canada, with a students of mine, and a very knowledgeable art history buff, Anne Draper. Since we are both members of NGC, we had a first peek at this exhibit. I haven't been excited about something at NGC in a long time. But when I heard about the idea behind this exhibit, and the time period represented, I got quite interested.
          This exhibit looks at art, artisans, and architects, as well as their collaborative efforts, during the most exciting period of art and world expansion, 1890-1918. I LOVE this period of art. Not so much the architecture, but the fine art of this period, the depiction and romance of the human form in this time, and also appreciate the influence of Art Nouveau had on other art mediums- carpentry, architectural details, textiles, hand wrought metal work in functional household items and jewellery.
In the Pine Shadows, Moonlight
In the Pine Shadows, Moonlight             JEH MacDonald

          All the work in the show is Canadian, and I like the way it is set up, featuring work done in different cities. Having long admired the work of George Reid and Mary Heister Reid, I was pleased to see both of them figured prominently in the exhibit. Although a good deal of the fine art shown is from the permanent collection, these are paintings I really enjoy, including one of my favorite paintings by MacDonald, In the Pine Shadows, Moonlight. Check it out, MacDonald has captured the light that happens in the middle of the night, during full moonlight phases. I love this painting!
          Another aspect of the show that I really enjoyed is the overview of the importance of the Arts and Letters club, which formed in 1908. Indeed they talk about many art clubs during this time, but the Arts and Letters club was significant and important, as it included all art disciplines, and many important artists were members, and I'm not just talking about the group of 7.  I was excited to see so much about this club, as I only first visited this club in September with my class, In the footsteps of Tom Thompson and the Group of 7. The whole week there was exciting, but out day at the Arts and Letters club and AGO was definitely a huge highlight. The club still exists, and going strong.
              Don't miss this exciting exhibit! on til Feb. 2/2014

Monday, 4 November 2013

Pastel Society of Eastern Canada International Exhibition, Les Pastellistes, 2013

On Saturday November 2nd, I was asked to do a demo for this pastel group, centered in Montreal. The exhibit has 100 pastel paintings at Tudor Hall, a famous landmark in the old Ogilvys' Dept. store, located at 1307 Ste. Catherine St.W. at the corner with de la Montagne, Montreal. This is a real education for anyone interested in Pastel. I always enjoy this show as there is always such an array of different techniques and expression.
For my demo this year, I was thinking about all the plein air work I've been doing lately, and how little time I have to do a piece when I am teaching. However, these are not limitations. Rather they are just circumstances that produce a certain outcome. I have found plein air landscape lately to be somewhat like going to a life drawing session.  You have a certain number of variables, and you must respond in the moment, and do what needs to be done. No plannings, just relying on your drawing skills, spontaneity in the moment, in terms of composition and colour, and some theory thrown in for good measure.
All in all, it's been a good work out, doing so much plein air.
The piece I did in Montreal was a still life. I did not want to use a photo, and I brought two cups I really like with me, and a bunch of other things. I didn't really know what I was going to do, but I knew the composition would be simple, so I could talk about mixing up applying theory and playing intuitively. To stay motivated and passionate about art, we must follow processes that are fun and enjoyable for us. Otherwise, the motivation to create cannot be sustained.
I really like my cups, and had fun playing with colour. Working dark to light, hard to soft, and back and forth between warm and cools.
Here's what I Created:
There was really a lot more purples and deep reds in the background than what is showing up on my screen. I was working on a pretty intense turquoise background. As you can see, it's playing quite a role. I was happy with the way the shadow inside the cup on the right, gets darker as it goes back. I may touch it up some, but I like it just the way it is too. 
The show at Ogilvys' in downtown Montreal goes to Sunday Nov.10nth. Get down there if you can! Lots of great work.