Small to Large

Arbutus and Brambles, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I've been happily sketching small compositions in the past few weeks, so the next logical step was to look at them with a critical eye and decide which ones wanted to become larger studio paintings.

Some scenes feel great in a small format. I think of them as little jewels and let them be. But there are some which beg to grow. I visualize them on a large canvas, and if what I "see" excites me, why not make it happen?

I included here three examples of small sketches and their work in progress big sisters. In two cases I even changed the composition ratio from rectangle to square. The foreground needs a bit more work, but I like the direction it's taking so far. It's as if the beach has more breathing space.

Arbutus Beach, 30x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

The first thing to remember when going big is to use appropriately sized brushes. But even more important is to decide on the painting process.

There are two ways one can approach painting a larger version of a smaller piece.

One way is to replicate the smaller image using a grid, constructing the composition using the geometry of Dynamic Symmetry, or copying the image in some other way. I use replication when I have a particular idea which I want to explore. For example, I may replicate the composition but vary the color temperatures, change certain element of the composition, or introduce a new material. This approach is great for making a series of works, but that's not what I did this time.

Cabin Lake, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Cabin Lake, Cypress, 30x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

The other way, which is what I did with these pieces, is to paint larger paintings from scratch, using the smaller pieces just as visual references. This approach allows for great gestural brushstrokes and organic development of the painting, just like making a brand new piece.

Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Salt Spring Island, 24x30, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Either way is valid. Try them both, or stick to one, but whatever you do, keep making art!


Step by Step

Garibaldi, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I've been playing with a new painting process, so it's time for another step by step post.  This is just one point on my journey to learn as many different ways to make a painting as I possibly can, without getting off-track with my own creative voice. In this process, step 2 is what makes it new to me.

1. Mother Color

Pick a color for the imprimatura and cover the canvas with it in a transparent layer. Visible strokes are okay. I lately use a rag to wipe off excess paint. The goal is to cover the entire canvas with a "mother" color but to still let the whiteness of the canvas shine through. This time I picked blue.

2. Flow

Block-in dark areas without acknowledging their meaning. Focus on the direction of strokes only.  How do the dark areas seem to "flow" in the scene? Move the brush or the palette knife the same way. This is a new step for me and I am having a lot of fun with it. Use at least three different colors (from dark-darks to mid-darks), to do this. The key is to ignore shapes of individual objects in the scene, but instead to move with the flow within dark areas.  With a light touch and dry brush, allow some of those flowing strokes into lighter areas as well. I used a dark purple for the first darkest dark, then a mid- value green, and a mid-value yellow.

3. Edges

Start introducing more values to define objects, considering their edges. Attend to the soft-edged areas first, by using a dry brush, blending, or whatever trick you use to preserve softness. Stop to evaluate the placement of object before diving in with hard edges. It's not fun having to go back and make too many corrections.

4. Surface

Decide which areas are best left thin, and which require thick juicy layers of paint. Typically, dark areas are left thin while the light areas receive thick delicious strokes. But, as anything else, there is opportunity for innovation. Acrylic is especially forgiving with this. I added thick lightest lights in the sunlit areas of the rocks and tree-trunks,.

5. Magic

Bring the picture to life. This is a step which is not really a step. Every painting needs something different. What does this one need? I have yet to figure that out. I may have to do steps 3 and 4 a few times going back and forth. There is a danger of ruining the painting's freshness, but I also don't want to abandon it before it receives due attention. Is it done yet? I think it's (almost) there.

Cabin Lake, Cypress, 16x20, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Happy painting!


New Things

Lighthouse Park, 12x9, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I have a few new sketches to share and some ideas about finding new opportunities to enrich our creative experience.

I looked back at art projects and events where I had participated over past years and noticed patterns of coasting by inertia, entering the same shows and repetitive events. Doing the same thing over and over can feel like a tradition or a ritual, even a matter of loyalty. But, I noticed that at some point my creative contribution gets depleted. There just isn't anything I can add or learn, unless I venture away from (my) beaten path.

At first it feels a bit scary to throw oneself out into the world, meet new people, get exposed to new environments. It's unnerving to be in a place where I don't know anyone and nobody knows me.

But this anonymity has its advantages. There are no preconceived expectations, and there certainly are no agendas to navigate. It's liberating to be a new gal on the block. People are generally kind and patient with a newcomer, and there lies a chance to learn new things, and maybe even shine.  

I've done this several times and each experience was extremely invigorating and educational.

Beach Patterns, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Two years ago I wanted to do some plein air painting in the beautiful Okanagan. I stumbled into The Bear Valley Highlands workshops and signed up without knowing a single person there. Luckily,  artists are one of the easiest people to befriend! The event was a fantastic experience. I made new friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a weekend in a gorgeous setting.

This year I decided to check out our neighbors in the south and this time I stumbled (I do a lot of stumbling) into the Pacific Nothwest Plein Air event. I submitted my application and was thrilled to be accepted. This is what I will be doing in the first week of August. Painting the stunning Columbia River Gorge scenery in the company of some top notch  painters, followed by a month long group show in the Maryhill Museum of Art. in Goldendale, WA.

Taking risks has its rewards! I can't wait to meet new art friends and get inspired by the Columbia Gorge landscape.

Reconnecting with old art friends and making new ones is one of the best aspects of a creative life. The upcoming plein air painting season is a perfect opportunity for that. I hope to see many of you, my old and new friends, in some of the paint-outs this year.


Art Retrospective

Salt Spring Island, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki (2017)

When is the time to take a moment and look back at one's work created over years by hanging a mixed exhibit of old and new works?

This typically happens late in the artist's career, but wouldn't it be fun to have a retrospective exhibit earlier?

It's not practical to do this in a commercial gallery, or even in a non-profit one, but there is a way. Public spaces are perfect for curating our own shows, and that's what I have done.

During the month of April, a selection of my paintings will be displayed in the Port Moody Public Library. There will be eighteen pieces, the earliest one created in 2006, the latest one just a couple of weeks ago, and everything in between.

Gabriola Morning, 11x14, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki (2012)

What ties the exhibit together is the theme of our coastal landscape, with a couple of exceptions. Sizes of works vary, and no two paintings are alike so I think that this will be an interesting exhibit.

The library is at the same time a serene and an active place with many visitors and I am thrilled to contribute to the visual joy of this public space. It's an honor to have people of all ages, my neighbors and visitors from other cities, see my art.

Salt Spring Gold, 24x30, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki (2009)

Here is the library's location in case you find yourself in the neighborhood and have time to drop by. If you do, please let me know if any of the paintings inspired you in some way. I would love to hear your impressions. If you wish to own any of the paintings, I will be glad to to sell it to you after the show is over, just give me a shout.

Coal Harbor, 20x16, acrylic sketch by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki (2006)

For those of you who are searching for opportunities to show your art, here's a hint - check out your public library! They may even be so kind to put you in the local news - yikes!  

Happy Spring!


In the Rabbit Hole

Black Tusk Trail, 30x22, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

How much joy can be found in a single brush stroke? How to preserve that joy in a finished piece?

These questions go through my mind as I continue experimenting with making marks using various tools. I learn that every single mark can be a source of delight, for the painter, and for the art lover who looks at the painting.

I played to my heart's content with palette knives over the past few months and now I am into big brushes. Here are my latest purchases.

Some turned out to be more useful than others, and surprisingly some cheap ones work quite well. But overall, the best ones are still those that cost the most. Painters can't be thrifty with tools and materials.

I also decided to revisit filbert brushes which I didn't use before because of that round beginning of the stroke which I couldn't figure out how to use. But now, with some playing around, I see their versatility. I am probably the last one to discover that filberts can make all sorts of lovely marks, which add variety to the painting. As they say, better late than never.

Here's how it all looks like on a few sketches.

One thing about experimenting is that once you start, you can't stop. I think that it's because of the element of play in it, but also because experiments keep birthing new ideas, and this could go on forever.

At which point do you stop playing and pull out a brand new large canvas?

I set a temporary goal to start a new painting every five days, just to make sure I don't get lost down the rabbit hole. I am just now realizing that finishing them up should be a part of the goal too. Hopefully I'll have a new finished piece for my next blog post!

Happy experimenting!


Five Painting Projects

Botanical Beach, 30x40, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I know that this is a silly thing to ponder, but I keep wondering how many ways there are to make a painting, or at least how many I can learn over a lifetime. While some of us strive to prefect one method, others are on a quest for multitude.

Some go deep in their learning, some go wide. There is no right and wrong in this. Each artist's journey is personal.

These days I seek to broaden my horizons and to mix things up. I examine works of masters, pore over art books, take a workshop here and there. It all goes into the knowledge bank. The possibilities fascinate me.

Things coming from the studio reflect this journey. In the past few weeks I worked on a few different projects:

1. Composition Challenge

I expanded an old favorite painting, Goat Mountain Patterns into a triptych, which was an interesting composition challenge. I wrote about this in my last blog post. This exercise altered the existing painting by opening up a wider, and more satisfying, but still harmonious scene. See the result here.

2. Texture Challenge

I completed a painting which I started a while ago with a thick and juicy layer of transparent acrylic texture gel in the foreground. The painting then grew by adding many layers of paint - glazes, veils, and dry-brush marks. This is The Botanical Beach painting featured on the top of this post. The texture of the gel helped form the rocks and plants in the foreground. BTW, this painting depicts a scene from the amazing Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on the west coast of the Vancouver Island. Well worth visiting!

3. Scale Challenge

I made a quick small sketch of a mountain trail scene, and then used that sketch as a source for a larger painting.  It's interesting to see how the initial draft, although very rough, has a pleasing freshness and vigor of brush-marks, while the larger piece has a calmer, brighter and more polished feel. You may recognize the Black Tusk, a well known mountain peak in the Garibaldi Provincial Park, in the background of the scene.


Left: 14x11 quick sketch;  Right: 30x22 acrylic painting Black Tusk by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

4. Color Challenge

I used a photo sent to me by a wonderful art lover and avid skier, to paint this piece. It was a great exercise in achieving a color harmony. The shapes in this scene are divided between cool shadows, a deep blue sky, and flaming sunlit peaks. The key of this challenge was to balance the color temperature of the contrasting areas.

Chatter Creek, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

5. Marks Challenge

Last but not least, this sketch was all about shapes and marks made by a specific tool - in this case a palette knife. The abstract shapes of the mountains and the directional pattern of the pines felt just right for this exercise.

Whistler Patterns, 20x20, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I love variety in my painting projects and I found this mix very stimulating.

Who knows what'll come next?


Art Keepsakes

Goat Mountain, triptych by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, not for sale 

The theme of creative  joy continues!

What comes to mind when you try to recall the most joyful creative moments from your past? For me, this takes me back to my childhood when I could immerse myself in drawing for hours on end, the outside world disappearing completely. It was all about creating my imaginary world with endless possibilities. Where is that magical world now?

It's still here. Somewhat burred under expectations, needs to excel, desires to get better, but still here, And I am making a point of re-discovering it by paying a close attention to things that resonate joy.

Here is an example.

I have a painting that I made a few years ago that I particularly enjoyed making. It went to a few shows and didn't get sold, and I have to admit that I was relieved, because I secretly wanted it for myself!

I never send a painting into the world if I don't like it, but this one had something in it that puzzled me (in a good way) every time I looked at it. It still does. It's been hanging on my living room wall and I never get tired of it. But I often had a thought that I wished the composition included a wider view of those amazing mountain patterns.

The original - Goat Mountain, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

That gave me an idea. How much fun would it be to turn my favorite painting into a triptych?

So that's what I've been doing the past few days. I added vertical narrow panels on each side of it and expanded the composition. The result is on the top of the post. I enjoyed both the result and the process. I got to play with patterns (I am crazy about patterns!) and the best part is that I am  keeping this triptych for myself!

My little selfishness will be justified because I now feel even more inspired to make new paintings with patterns of our stunning Canadian landscape. This project helped crystallize my inspiration. Art begets art, as it should.

Talking about art keepsakes...

Don't you love to see which paintings of their own artists keep for themselves? When I was just starting to paint I was told by an accomplished artist that professional artists never keep their own work because they can't afford it. I found that very sad and I hoped that it wasn't true.

A few years later, the owner of the first commercial gallery that represented my work suggested to me to keep a few pieces from each body of my work for myself.

I took that to heart.

I make sure to have enough of my own paintings in my personal collection, to illustrate where I've been and what I've done so far.

I also have a few paintings by other artists whom I've encountered on my journey. Some I received in exchange for my own work, and some I purchased. Creating an art collection gives me an interesting perspective because it allows me to truly appreciate both sides of the creative joy - the creation and appreciation of art.

On my wall - a lovely still life by a wonderful artist Cindy Revell

I warmly recommend having your own art collection, be it created by yourself or by artists whose work you admire. It's never too late to start, and it can be as easy as picking up a brush!

Whether you make it or buy it, I guarantee that it will be a great source of joy.

I love my keepsakes!


On my wall - an inspiring landscape painting by a talented artist Brian Buckrell