Oxford Studio Tour

May 6 & 7 is only two weeks away!  Some of you may have taken the opportunity to drive around the countryside of Oxford County, Ontario in previous years, so you know what a fantastic selection of original art can be found.  You also know how much fun a daytrip or weekend jaunt like this can be if you pair up with a friend or family member, or gather a carload of them.  We have 18 locations featuring 38 artists, and our brochures are available all over the county in libraries, tourist offices, and businesses, as well as at each studio.  Admission is absolutely free, and all you do is follow the maps and the red signs to get to each studio.  Then you just wander in!  The artists will be there to answer any questions you have (we love when you ask questions), and will leave you alone if all you want to do is enjoy the feast for your eyes.

Below is a small sampling of my own art, in case you are new to it.  I paint traditional subject matter with watercolours and I also do fractal art, all on various surfaces.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll stop by my open studio/gallery, at the back of my home which is Location #3.  I’m in Otterville, which is a little off the beaten track for many travelers but it’s worth the drive.  I’m easy to find, on Main Street near the historic mill and waterfall.  And my good friends Sue Goossens and Rhonda Franks, whose work I admire very much, are nearby at Location #4, along with Ashley Beecraft.  I’ve never met her but she makes really cool looking ‘misfit beasts’.

See you soon!

Lianne Todd Art Samples

Oxford Studio Tour basic information

Under the Milky Way

There’s a new juried show opening, at the Elm Hurst Inn in Ingersoll, ON.  It’s called Spectacular Skies.  The title of the show immediately made me think of the night sky: in particular, the night sky in places where light pollution hasn’t destroyed the ability to see the Milky Way in all its glory.  In spite of so many nights away from cities, I’ve yet to really see the night sky in its full splendour, and I hope to do that someday.  I was pondering where, in the world, might be a good place to do this, and my mind went back to this lovely and somewhat isolated cottage at Glen Coe in Scotland.  While thinking about all this during a car trip, I happened to be listening to SiriusXM’s 1st Wave channel, and ‘Under the Milky Way’ by The Church came on.  Complete with bagpipes mid-song.  So, that settled it, I was definitely going to paint this scene.  I dug out my photos of the cottage, changed the composition a little (the photos were taken from a tour bus), imagined it at night, with the Milky Way above it, and got started.

I photographed my work as it progressed, and put all the photos together in this little video.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you’d like to see the framed finished piece, which is a full sheet watercolour on paper (22×30″), it is hanging at the Elm Hurst until May 17.

Opening night at Paint Ontario

If you haven’t been to the Paint Ontario exhibit in other years (I hadn’t) this is really an exhibit worth driving to.  Such an amazing array of really good art portraying so many aspects of Ontario life.  Some really large pieces, some quite small…. mine fell somewhere in the middle, size-wise.  Maybe I should paint larger more often – the large pieces have such an impact.  I loved all the bright colours in many of the pieces, and some of the innovative mixed media.  Very inspiring.  I was also especially glad to see some watercolour pieces winning awards – and congratulations to all the award winners regardless of medium!  I don’t know how a juror would be able to choose, it must have been very difficult.

Anyway,  here is a little picture of me with my two pieces.  I was really happy they decided to hang them together.

Paint Ontario

I recently entered the juried show Paint Ontario with two of my paintings, and to my great delight, they both were chosen for the show.  I’ve certainly been painting Ontario for a long time but this was the first time I’ve entered – partly because it’s a bit of a distance from my house to the venue, and in other years there wasn’t the option of entering online via digital photo – you had to physically bring the painting.

Aside:  In the olden days 😉  juried shows often had you send slides of your paintings.  Remember slides?  And there was special tape to crop the slides with so that only the painting showed in the projection…

Anyway, the digital age is here and I’m really glad.

The two paintings I have in the show are ‘Four Chairs’ (which I posted in ‘A Beautiful Fall’) and a new painting ‘Resting, Killarney’, which I haven’t posted anywhere yet.  I think I will wait to post it.  I like to have people see the real painting first, sometimes.

Opening night is March 10 (this Friday) from 4-9 pm.  Admission is free for the opening night, and there is a cash bar.  Here is an invitation to the exhibit itself:


Achieving All the Bright Colours

Here’s a question for you:  how many of you artists out there still consider the primary colours to be red, yellow, and blue?  It is what we were taught from day one in school.

What baffles me is why it is still being taught as the standard, even in art school, apparently.  Even though we know that if we want a giclee print made from one of our paintings, it will be made with the ink pigments magenta, yellow, cyan and black.  Even though if you pick the most primary red (i.e. 100 percent red) you can think of from your computer screen (which we know uses red, green and blue as its primary colours because these are the additive primary colours of light), you can still print that red out and your printer is programmed to mix that red using the only pigments it contains: magenta, cyan, yellow and black.  Does it make any sense to you that we use red, green, and blue light to get all the colours on the computer screen, but somehow only the yellow colour is the different primary on the traditional painting colour wheel?

Have you ever been trying to make a fuschia or magenta-coloured flower look right using what is commonly taught as a primary red?  Let me guess – you gave up and went out and bought a colour of paint (possibly magenta…) that was as close as you could get to that flower colour.  The reason?  Magenta and fuschia are synonyms, essentially, and in order to get a nice, saturated fuschia, you cannot start with a ‘traditional primary red’ pigment.  That is because magenta is the actual primary colour.

If you search magenta on the internet, the first thing that comes up is a definition.  It describes magenta as “a light purplish red that is one of the primary subtractive colors, complementary to green.”  We also find, further down in that same box, that the natural dye named magenta was not discovered until the 1850s.  From Wikipedia, we learn that paintings featuring the colour magenta soon followed.  Why do you suppose that is?

Cyan is what most of us would describe as a greenish blue.  In fact, if you mix green light, and blue light (additive primaries), you get the colour cyan.  Interestingly, the use of the word cyan has also increased significantly since the 1850s (search cyan, then click the ‘Translations, word origin, and more definitions” button below the definition.)  I am not sure why the name for this colour was based on the Greek for “dark blue” and the Latin species name for cornflower.  It certainly isn’t a dark blue OR the colour of cornflowers.

So, why are artists so unwilling to let go of the red, blue, yellow model for the colour wheel?  It does have its place in art history.  Historically, artists had to use the limited number of pigments that were available to them.  Certainly, we can get purple from red and blue, we can get green from blue and yellow, and we can get orange from red and yellow.  This works.  And of course we can get to the tertiary colours as well.  But the results are sometimes unsatisfactory.  That certain really bright green – that’s a difficult colour to mix, isn’t it?  Unless you start with a greenish blue, i.e. something at least close to cyan, you are not going to get there.  And that really bright purple you want?  Unless you start with a magenta, you aren’t going to get there either.  Of course, we are not restricted to the traditional primaries when we are mixing colours on our palettes, are we?  We have the luxury of purchased modern paint pigments that are already very close to the colours we want.  We can cheat and use these or at least mix with them.  But what if we were restricted to only three of these paint pigments?  Which ones would you choose?   Mastery of colour theory as taught by modern science will give you the tools you need to mix most of the colours you want using a minimum number of purchased pigments.  Knowledge is power!

If you search primary pigments on the internet, the first link that comes up explains modern colour theory in a very accurate and succinct way.  I would say it may be the best explanation I’ve seen yet.  It even has a link to a demo near the end in case you are having trouble wrapping your mind around it.  And if you still have more questions, read the Wikipedia page on colour theory… it does have a lot of explanations as to the history and the reasons why the traditional artistic way of understanding colour has been slow to catch up with the scientific way of understanding colour.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t sit well with you.  It took me a long time, too.  The dogma of red, yellow and blue as primaries is surprisingly entrenched, although there are other notable scientific theories that come from the 1850s that many  people also find difficult to accept ;).  Hah!  Just found out I’m not the only one to make this comparison.  And I guess the new cyan, magenta, yellow model didn’t really develop until sometime after the 1850s.  So maybe I shouldn’t actually be so surprised.  These changes in paradigm take time.  Eventually, if you keep testing out the theory, and trying to disprove it, you will accept it – like any good theory.


I was feeling the need for some uninhibited pure creativity recently.  I needed to begin with barely an idea and let the painting process direct me.  This piece is the result of that.

It’s about light and dark.  Without the dark, we would be unaware of the light.  Without light, we would be unaware of darkness.  We as humans really like it when we have the right amount of both, because then we can see colour in all its beauty.  Some of us actually see more colour than others, and others just prefer more intense colour, while still others prefer muted colours or shades of grey.  Either way, a perfect balance of light and dark is what we need for our best vision.

I mean all of this metaphorically as well as literally.  Take this imagery, in the context of your own life, or of current events, and make of it what you will.

Radiation & Absorption. Watercolour on Paper, 22x30". Lianne Todd.

Radiation & Absorption. Watercolour on Paper, 22×30″. Lianne Todd.

Lofty Thinking

Happy New Year to all.  I hope you were able to enjoy the holidays.  If you weren’t able to do that, I hope you’ll find new and wonderful beginnings this year.

Prior to the holidays, I finished this painting I’m introducing to you today.  I spent a lot of time in haylofts as a child.  I don’t get to do that much anymore.  So when a friend in the Artists of Oxford – Kristi Osinga – invited us to her farm for a paint-out a couple of years ago, I took advantage of the photo opportunity which gave me the reference for this piece.

A Place for Lofty Thoughts. Watercolour on Gessoed Paper. 15x22". Lianne Todd. $450.00

A Place for Lofty Thoughts. Watercolour on Gessoed Paper. 15×22″. Lianne Todd. $450.00

Some of the best times of my youth were spent in the hayloft.  It was my job, for several years, to go up there after school in the late fall, winter and early spring, and throw down several bales of hay for our dairy herd to eat.  Dad would be down in the barn cleaning out the stable, and I would be up there singing any song I could remember the words to at the top of my lungs.  Some of the bales would be dense, and others would be light and fragrant.  All of it was scratchy.

If I was lucky, in springtime there would be kittens to find in the hayloft, hidden in a corner or a cave created by stacked bales.  First they would be so tiny they were barely distinguishable from one of the mother cat’s paws, then they would grow into little soft blue-eyed waddling balls of fluff.  And then later they’d be braver than they should be and scampering everywhere.  I always hoped to have them fully tamed by then, but alas, there was the occasional litter I didn’t find in time and then it was a real task to ever get hands on them, let alone tame them.

Less enthusiasm was given on my part for the finding of hen’s nests.  We had a large number of free range chickens on the farm, and it was also my job to find the nests and gather the eggs every day.  This consisted of a mental battle between me and the sitting hen.  Some were less than cooperative about moving off the nest so I could get the eggs (always leaving a nest egg so they would come back).  I can still picture some of them giving me the one-eyed “I dare you” look, and feel the fear of having my eyes pecked out deep in my heart.

Every summer I savour the smell of fresh hay being mown if I encounter it.  Summer had its own joys in the hay mow – that of hard work, sweat, and camaraderie with the local kids my age who were often hired to help with putting the hay in the loft.  And the satisfaction, like piecing together a puzzle, with a well built stack – the efficiency of space usage was appreciable.   We often commiserated about the work – the heat, the humidity, the fact we had to wear long sleeves and pants to keep from getting completely scratched, the heaviness of some of the bales (most weren’t bad, but some felt like they were filled with lead), the blisters on our fingers from baling twine (the farmers’ equivalent of duct tape) even though we were wearing gloves… but the fact is, we loved it.  Time teaches you a lot of things, and makes you appreciate that which made you who you are.

If I needed some time alone to contemplate life, the loft was a good place to go.  It was peaceful, quiet, and soft.  You could relax, breathe in the aromas, lift your eyes to the light coming in, and things would become a little clearer.  I tried to transport myself to the hayloft of my youth while I painted this one.  I can’t actually go there anymore – that was one of the things I lost in 2016 – and even though I could have gone I didn’t, for a number of years.  It wasn’t the same anymore once the cows were gone, and the cats were less abundant, and the hay wasn’t put in fresh every year.  It just wasn’t.  It’s the animals and the work that make a barn a nice place.

It happened that just before I began painting this, a podcast was recommended to me by the social media I find myself unfortunately addicted to.  I don’t often pay attention to those types of recommendations, but the title intrigued me.  It was called ‘Finding Our Way in the Cosmos’, one of many in a series called Waking Up by Sam Harris.  I had never heard of him before but he’s a neuroscientist and an author.  He was having a conversation with physicist David Deutsch, who I had also never heard of.  I had, however, heard of several of his other podcast guests in the Waking Up series.  Near the beginning of the recommended podcast episode, Sam recommends listening to a different episode first – a previous conversation with David Deutsch called Surviving the Cosmos.  What better way to stimulate lofty thinking than listening to this while painting a loft?  Well, it took me several different podcast episodes to finish the painting and I have to say, there are few people in this world who I find more agreeable to listen to than Sam Harris.  I’m now a huge fan.  His outlook may not be for everyone but if you listen and find him as intelligent, reasonable, logical, thoughtful and humorous as I did, I am sure we would get along very well.