Studio Life During Covid-19

This week has been intense and uncertain for a lot of people. We are all watching the news on a daily basis, and surfing social media for the interaction that we are prohibited from getting in person.

In the studio, in addition to the new Covid-19 drawings I am sharing with you in this post, I had a contract cancellation as their offices are shut down for Covid-19.

Kathleen & Quinnton, 16 x 20 Acrylic on Canvas

I finished Kathleen and Quinton’s wedding painting, and edited and uploaded the final video in the series, which will go live on Youtube this Friday (watch for it).

I am still planning on doing a sketchbook tour video this week which I should upload to Youtube for next Friday. This almost couldn’t happen as I dropped off the sketchbook to be scanned (more about that later) and picked up the next day. That evening all non-essential business were ordered closed and I thought the book would be unavailable until restrictions were lifted. However curb-side pick up was still available the next day, so I will still be able to make that video for you after all.

This does put me a bit behind on the schedule for the next Planning an Art Show video, however this crisis has changed many plans. Or delayed them in this case, so keep an eye out for it on my channel, it is still in the works. Make sure you are subscribed so you don’t miss it when it does come out.

Three more people joined the Sunflower Project, and will be receiving a painting of a sunflower seed from my halloween series in the mail (so long as the postal service is still delivering). A nice surprise for them, art direct to home, when we can’t go out to get our art-fix! On a serious note though, I believe that the hoarding we saw in grocery stores this past month has shown how relevant the mission of the Sunflower Project is in working to encourage a society where we all have confidence that we will have enough of what we need.

I was turned down for inclusion in this years Western Art Gallery at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. Oh well, you win some you lose some. However it is not certain that the Calgary Stampede will go ahead this year as planned amid the Covid-19 crisis. For the sake of all those it employs, and all those artists who were accepted this year, I hope it does.

Speaking of not going ahead, it was difficult to motivate myself to carry on applying for projects and shows, not knowing if the effort to write the applications were futile given the potential for the events to be cancelled anyway.

So more about why I got my sketchbook scanned: The response to the Covid-19 drawings has been overwhelming for me. I have had a number of requests for reproductions, so in this time of limited access to services I find myself looking into what I can do to get reproductions of the drawings into peoples hands, and how to share them with more people. I will keep you updated on what I am able to make available as I know more.

In the mean time, keep watching my channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In and Youtube for the drawings as I upload them. CBC Calgary has shared them on their feed:

Take care of your selves (and your community) and we will talk to you again next week.

Did I Mention? New Painted City Utility Box.


It appears I am so behind on keeping the blog up to date!

SO last spring I was given the opportunity to participate in a program bringing a suite of new painted utility boxes to the Marlborough Community in Calgary. I jumped at the chance, having spent nearly a decade of my formative years in the neighbourhood. Each artist created a design concept responding to the overall theme of home,  and to information gathered during an extensive phase of community engagement.

Here was my contribution to the Curb appeal in the Marlborough Community:

Painted Utility Box
City of Calgary
Marlborough Community
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Painted Utility Box
City of Calgary
Marlborough Community
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Painted Utility Box
City of Calgary
Marlborough Community
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Painted Utility Box
City of Calgary
Marlborough Community
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

You may notice the retro colour scheme and styling. Marlborough is a 1970’s community and in talking to residents it impressed me how many people had bought when Marlborough was new and still lived there. It was also impressive to me how many people said it was their community and their neighbours that meant the most to them when they thought about their experience of living in Marlborough.  So I decided to create a design that was an ode to the 70’s roots of the area, and that focused on the points in our homes where we interact with our neighbours.  The theme of community was also a natural fit for the sunflower project, and you will see that I included copious references to it in the design.

Art In Transit: Installed! (plus bonus Inglewood art)

You may recall I posted last spring that the City of Calgary was interested in reproducing my little painting,  Pancake Breakfast, in the large, on glass for the 17th Avenue BRT project. Well here is the finished project!

Pancake Breakfast, Reproduction of glass, Installed

I really like where it was situated, close to the Blackfoot Diner in Inglewood. When the former owner, Edna, was alive, she was known to give free meals to the homeless on occasion, so the placement of this symbol of Calgary hospitality seems appropriate. What do you think?

Speaking of Inglewood and the Blackfoot Diner, (two, or rather one in another, places which meant a lot to me growing up in Calgary,) here are a couple paintings I did a few years ago expressing my love of Inglewood:

Blackfoot Diner
10″ x 11″
Acrylic on canvas and repurposed candy box.
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Inglewood Food Mart
10″ x 11″
Acrylic on canvas and repurposed candy box
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Both of these paintings were shown at the Edge Gallery YYC in the I Love Inglewood show.

Process: Tom & Laura’s Wedding Portrait Painting

I thought it might be fun for you to see the stages of creating this modern fairytale portrait painting. I scheduled about a month, at two days per week, to work on this 16″ x 32″ acrylic painting on canvas. To learn more about commissioning a painting, click here. So without further ado:

Stage 1: Drawing using graphite and then Pitt artist pen.

Stage 2: Grisaille in Chromium Oxide Green.

Stage 3: Colour wash. Quinacridone Red, Pthalo Green and Green Gold.

Stage 4: Establish background buildings and sky.

Stage 5: Working on everything but negative space objects.

Stage 6 & 7: Work on the car.

Stage 8: Paint the figures and adjust the background to create proper recession and focus. DONE!

To see more of my portraits click here.

To learn more about commissioning a painting, click here.

Process: Paintings are grown, not executed.

I was posting some progress images of a wedding portrait I am currently working on to my Facebook page, One Life Fine Art (if you are on Facebook, make sure to like and follow me there), and it occurred to me suddenly that the person for whom I am making the painting could actually be terrified by what they were seeing!

The first phase was the line drawing, the second, a grisaille in chromium oxide green, and the third was the layer where I work out my major colour story (in this case a series of full strength washes of pthalo green, green gold and Quinacridone red/violet mix).

On top of that I will start to refine the forms and paint in details, balancing lights, darks and colour as I go along. To me this seems natural, but to someone who has never seen a painting grow from sketch to finish, they might have assumed the process was something like paint by numbers or colouring books, where each clearly delineated area has its individual colour mixed and applied from left to right, in one go.

I suppose some artists work like that, but my paintings are more like a living thing, layers upon layers built up from the back to the front of the painting (or canvas to picture plane), with each layer growing from the layer beneath.

The major difference is in how preplanned the painting is. Am I merely executing something which already exists fully realized in my head, or am I working with the idea to create something unique to itself?

Working left to right, filling in areas in a planned and orderly fashion is certainly efficient, but doesn’t allow me to take advantage of coincidence or discovery. Knowing that I can’t possibly anticipate every eventuality in the painting, I would rather give myself the opportunity to stop earlier than planned or change things to capitalize on coincidences as they appear. I couldn’t see these coincidences and happy accidents if I were focussing on the orderly filling of areas of colour instead of an organic approach to the image.

So, should you be out there watching my paintings take shape and feel you are on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in terms of progress, never fear, we will arrive safely. You will just have to have a little faith in the process and trust your pilot. In the mean time, sit back and enjoy the ride!

Why commission a painting?

I am not going to give you a lot of practical, solid investment oriented reasons as to why you should commission a work of art for yourself or your ‘organization.’

I could talk about the difference between having a professional trained in translating feelings and thoughts into an aesthetically pleasing visual expression, and an amateur snapping an off the cuff photo and having it ‘blown up.’

I could talk about honouring your subject with a one of a kind highly crafted and durable object.

I could talk about investing in both the status and worth of yourself or your organization, and the subject, through having it recorded in the time honoured manner of the wealthy, the noble and the pious.

But I am not.

Instead, I am going to talk about magic:

The real reason you should commission a painting, in my opinion, is because of the magical way it heightens your feelings about the subject.

The Crone Children
Oil on Canvas
30 x 30
by Debbie.lee Miszaniec


I don’t completely know why, or how, but the act of having a professional artist invest hours, weeks or months, of their time, skill and attention into the interpretation of your thoughts and feelings in relation to the subject (a home, a garden, a pet, a loved one…) seems to imbue the subject with a certain magical quality of stirring emotion, even more than the photo that may have served as reference.

At unveiling, time and again I have witnessed unexpected tears as the individual sees the painting for the first time. Whether it is a gift or for yourself, I think this is what you are looking for when you commission an artwork, that recognition of the magic of feeling, time and attention.

What do you think? Have you commissioned an artwork? Why? What was the reaction to the finished work?