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Merging Art and Ecology

On the Rock: Merging Art and Ecology opens Friday March  7:00 pm. at the Carnegie Gallery 10 King Street West, Dundas Ontario. It runs until March 30. 

Each artist’s contribution was inspired by the landscape at Cedar Haven Farm, north of Hamilton. The exhibition is a project of the Hamilton Chapter of A Rocha, an international organization dedicated to environmental stewardship. Across Canada its volunteers act locally to carry out community based conservation work. On-the-Rock-Invitation

A chat with the Markham Group of Artists

I'm with Karen Grimshaw, president of the MGA following my presentation and brief demonstration.

I’m with Karen Grimshaw, president of the MGA following my presentation and demonstration.

I recently visited the Markham Group of Artists (MGA) to talk about the joy of working in oil pastel.  Many people tell me that they have oil pastels in their kit but never use them because they’re not quite sure what support to use or how to preserve them. I’m always happy to talk about my process. Oil pastels are a very simple medium to use, require no special techniques, yet can be manipulated in many ways, have no smell, create no dust, are portable and can be applied to any surface. I concluded the morning by showing them the first steps I take to start a painting in oil pastel. Many thanks to Maureen Thompson for the invitation.

Ireland in January

Goat Island Ardmore, by Aleda O'Connor 8 1/2" x 11" Pen and Ink

Goat Island Ardmore, by Aleda O’Connor 8 1/2″ x 11″ Pen and Ink

It would be hard not to be inspired by the light and landscape in the south of Ireland at any time of the year. 

Gate, Lismore Castle, by Aleda O'Connor 3" x 4" Pen and Ink

Gate, Lismore Castle, by Aleda O’Connor 3″ x 4″ Pen and Ink

My Irish friends and family thought I was a bit odd choosing to visit in January and urged me to come when the weather was “better,” but I haven’t regretted my timing for a moment.

Middle Glanmire Road, Cork by Aleda O'Connor 8 1/2 " x 11" Pen and Ink

Middle Glanmire Road, Cork by Aleda O’Connor 8 1/2 ” x 11″ Pen and Ink

While I was admiring the palm trees, primroses, daffodils and gorse in bloom, my family was confronting blizzards at home in Ontario.

Blackwater River Near Villierstown County Waterford, by Aleda O'Connor 8 1/2" x 11"

Blackwater River Near Villierstown County Waterford, by Aleda O’Connor 8 1/2″ x 11″

Above the Pier, Ardmore,  by Aleda O'Connor3" x 4"  Pen and Ink

Above the Pier, Ardmore, by Aleda O’Connor
3″ x 4″ Pen and Ink

This trip was a bit of a sentimental journey to say hello to family, friends and visit a landscape I hadn’t seen for a while, so I especially appreciated finding some of my old haunts in Waterford and Cork Counties empty of tourists.

Without leaves on the trees and hedges, it was much easier to see the landscape.
My sketchbook was a great companion, especially for someone travelling alone. 

The magic of soft pastel

Sheep, hillside, by Aleda O’Connor. Soft pastel on board. 16″ x 20″

Though I’ve been using oil pastel for almost 20 years, soft pastels aren’t part of my regular kit. So when I noticed a six-class session at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) taught by pastel artist Clarence Porter, I jumped at the opportunity to experiment. I first saw his exquisite cityscapes of the Hamilton skyline in the spring of 2012 and loved them.

The class was as much fun as Clarence’s colourful paintings. He led us through a variety of techniques and concepts: using sponges to apply and blend colour; the effect of alcohol as a blending/fixing medium; the differences between hard, soft and pan pastels; tips on using a variety of tools from pencils and erasers to palette knives. We experimented with several different surfaces, including paper and board prepared with Golden Pastel Ground, which I also use as a base for oil pastel.

My painting, Sheep, hillside was completed during the class.  Clarence Porter will be teaching another pastel class from March 24 to May 5 2013, at the AGH.

Burlington Fine Arts Association – Oil Pastel demo step-by-step

In September, I made a very abbreviated start on an oil pastel demonstration at the end of my presentation to the Burlington Fine Arts Association at the Burlington Art Centre. I didn’t have time to show the group much about how I work in the allotted time, but I promised I’d post it when it was finished. Here’s what it looked like in progress: 

I began by drawing in the major shapes and blocking in patches of colour.  

Wheat field and Willows Step 1

At step two, below, I emphasized the orange/pink glow where the sun shines on and through the wheat stalks.

Wheat field and Willows Step 2

By the third stage, I have worked into the shapes with more colour – building layers with my Sennelier Oil Pastel sticks and Sakura Cray-Pas Specialist Oil Pastel sticks, while also scratching into the surface with a palette knife and a bamboo skewer. I find that by using different brands of pastel I can manipulate the texture and colour better. I also use oil pastels made by Holbein and Caran D’Ache.

Wheat field and Willows Step 3

Finally, I refined the surface, added more colour in the sky, defined the shapes and shadows of the willows and added additional contrasting complimentary marks throughout, but especially in the foreground wheatfield. Notice the distant roadway as well – a last-minute addition.

Wheat field and Willows by Aleda O’Connor Oil Pastel on Wood Panel 18″ x 24″

337 Sketch Gallery – Miniatures!

Plant Shadow 3″ x 4″
Pen, Ink and White Charcoal

Bicycle, 3″ x 4″
Pen, Ink and White Charcoal

The opening Gala for the 2nd annual 337 Sketch Gallery Miniature Show is tomorrow, Thursday October 11 2012, from 7 to 9 p.m. Work by fifty local and international artists is on display, including some of my smallest drawings in pen, ink and white charcoal on toned paper. This is a great opportunity to find a little work of art for less than $200.  You will find the gallery at 337 Ottawa Street in Hamilton (905-966-2892).  I understand that the $10 admission charge goes towards artist awards. The show runs until October 29.

Art Gallery of Hamilton Super Auction

Black Spruce, by Aleda O’Connor Oil Pastel, 20″ x 28″

My oil pastel landscape painting “Black Spruce” is up for sale in the first of three online art auctions in the 2012 Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH) Super AuctionFunds raised through this event are being used to establish an art acquisition fund for AGH .


My first presentation on oil pastels

I was the guest speaker for the Burlington Fine Arts Association this week – an exciting first for me. I am so grateful to Victoria Pearce for inviting me to talk about this rewarding medium and to the Association members for their warm response to my work. I briefly discussed the origin and history of oil pastels, the artists who have inspired and influenced my work, and demonstrated my set-up and materials. As you can see I started a new pastel painting and I’ll post the finished work when it’s done.  The event was held at the Burlington Art Centre, a wonderful facility not far from our new home in Hamilton.

Art Fair, Seoul Korea

One of my pen, ink and white charcoal drawings, Winch, Herring Smoke Shed is being exhibited in the 5th Seoul Art Fair in South Korea, from April 27 to May 1, 2012. Work by Canadian Artists is on display in a booth sponsored by the South Korean art magazine, 미술과 비평 (Art and Criticism). The Art Fair is being held at the Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Centre, SETEC. The subject of my 8” x 10” drawing is a handmade, wooden winch, located in the Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame, at Seal Cove, Grand Manan, New Brunswick. The museum, established by the late Michael Zimmer, preserves the traditional environment of a herring smoke house and is open for visits during the summer months. The Seal Cove Herring Sheds are designated as a Canadian National Historic Site.  More than 370 artists participated in the event according to the Korean Herald


My challenge to convey whites in watercolour in Barry’s Tuesday watercolour class was to maintain the relationship between core and cast shadows, while developing the shapes of the white containers in contrast to the brightly coloured apples. As we observed, when bathed in direct light, some of the apples were lighter than the adjacent white objects. Later in the week I re-visited the exercise, using red apples, white objects and a white cloth trimmed with a red stripe. I randomly touched very pale pink, yellow and blue into the bright fabric area before I drew in the shadows. It’s virtually invisible, but does help the white cloth glow. Once again I finished up with soft charcoal pencil.


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