Tag Archives: light

The Cats of Italy, number 1

Everywhere we went in Italy, we encountered cats who seemed to have a great deal of freedom.  Some obviously had someone who they answered to, and others were definitely feral.  At some point during the trip, I decided I had to do a series of paintings centered around the cats of Italy.

This first scene is appropriately named Cats of Lucca, as that is its location.  Lucca is a beautiful old walled city, (the walls are very thick, with tree-lined pathways you can walk or cycle on all the way around), with many sights to see.  There are towers to climb, beautiful churches to see the inside of, an oval plaza on the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater, the Piazza Napoleone (a Green Day concert was being prepared for later that day when we were there), and lots of shopping!

But this is an ordinary street scene in Lucca, with the warm Tuscan sunshine angling in and cats lounging and gazing into the distance.  I hope you like it.  If you’d like to see the painting in person, don’t forget our studio tour here in Otterville is next weekend, the 18 & 19 of November!

Cats on the streets of Lucca, watercolour painting

Cats of Lucca. Watercolour on paper. 15×22″. Artist Lianne Todd. $450.00



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.

A Beautiful Fall

We have been so lucky here in Otterville, as in many parts of Ontario this year, to have a beautiful fall.  We’ve had such warm temperatures and pleasant sunny days to enjoy all through September, October and November, right up to this past Friday, when I was out in my shirtsleeves digging up canna lily bulbs to put away until spring.  We reached a record high temperature that day – 20.7 degrees Celsius!

Well, that all ended on Saturday, as the rain came down and the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up.  I woke up early Saturday morning to the sound of our smoke alarms making the tiny beeps they make when the power goes out or comes back on.  In this case, it was coming back on, but that was not to last.  Pretty soon it went out again, and was out until about a quarter to 10 in the morning.  Back on just in time for our Welcome Back to Otterville studio tour to begin!  Quickly I got the cranberry wassail heating up in the crockpot, and the lights on in the gallery.

I didn’t have a lot of hope that many people would venture out on such a morning, but they did!  And many of them were new people who had never been on the tour before.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who came out of their cozy houses and looked at what we had to offer.  I hope some of you, if you are reading this, will be back soon!

For those who didn’t make it out but who follow me here, I appreciate your ongoing support, and here is a new piece of my art that I had on display this weekend.  It features a portion of Otterville this beautiful fall.  I truly hope whoever owns these chairs has had a chance to sit in them with a coffee or a glass of wine once in a while and enjoy the sun.

Four Chairs.  Watercolour on Paper.  15x22".  Lianne Todd.

Four Chairs. Watercolour on Paper. 15×22″. Lianne Todd. $450.00

Wistful Landscape

It has been a while since my last post.  You may have noticed I haven’t been painting so much in the last couple of years…  so much so that when I began my most recent painting my husband looked at my studio table and said “Oh.  I thought you’d given that up!”  He was only teasing, of course.  I would never give it up.  But there are times in life when you just don’t have it in you.  I am really hoping that all the recent losses, surprises, and changes in my life are finished for a little while.  There have been some really good moments too, and they have kept me going.  As I mentioned before in this blog, one of the really great highlights in the last year was a trip my daughter and I took to Scotland.

As I looked out the tour bus window at this scene, I tried to imagine what it was that made some of my ancestors decide to leave that beautiful country.  I felt quite wistful that it was far enough away so I wouldn’t be able to visit it regularly, and it’s not even my home.  I think they must have been pretty sad to leave.  It’s hard to know what someone from a couple of centuries ago would think… life was so different then.  People probably had to adapt to change and strife and loss all the time.  They were probably tougher.  But this is a landscape that really pulls at you.

HIghland Afternoon II. Watercolour on Paper. 11x15". Lianne Todd

HIghland Afternoon II. Watercolour on Paper. 11×15″. Lianne Todd

Memorable Scenery

Last summer my daughter and I visited Scotland.  What a beautiful country.  The towns and cities really looked like they were built to last, with plenty of evidence that they had, indeed, lasted for centuries.  As someone who had never visited the old world before, I was duly impressed. But the thing that surprised me the most, I think, was the beautiful emptiness of the highlands.  It isn’t like they are hard to get to.  From the perspective of a Canadian, everything is very close, a few hours away at most.  I guess there must be some good reason.  I found the highlands very, very attractive, and wondered what it was exactly, that led my ancestors to leave this beautiful country.  It must have been a very hard thing to do.

Anyway, I felt very overwhelmed by the landscape, and I hope to try to capture some of the memories from that trip in some paintings.  I’m going to do a large one of this scene but here is a small study to start off with, which I shall give to my daughter as a thank you for coming along with me to a place I’ve always wanted to go visit.  I captured this view in a movie I took from the tour bus window.  Highland Experience tours (the Jacobite experience tour), if you are curious.

HIghlands Study002

Light and Depth

Today I begin teaching a course in achieving the illusion of light and depth in watercolour, at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg. I’ve taught a workshop in this before, but am looking forward to teaching six 2-hour-long classes because I think the lessons I’m teaching will have so much more time to be absorbed, and the students will be able to put into practice each part of what they are learning, as they learn it.

Why is this an especially important part of watercolour painting technique?  Because the nature of this medium requires us to plan.  Transparent watercolours allow us to see all layers of paint that were laid down, through the layers laid over top.  If we need light in a painting, that light needs to be captured and saved from the very beginning.  Do we want a foggy distance and a sharp, bright foreground?  That also has to be planned from the beginning.  Do we want it to look like a sunny, colourful day, or a rainy, grey one?  Colour saturation requires colour integrity or purity – which cannot be achieved if painting over that colour’s complement.  Do we want one thing that is light, in front of another which is slightly darker?  Again, it requires planning from the beginning.

The only case in which we as watercolour artists have the leisure to not plan our light and dark areas from the beginning, is when we use surfaces such as gesso-coated paper, Yupo, or any other surface that allows scrubbing the paint back to the white surface.  Even then, we must be fully aware of which paints contain staining pigments, or we may find the inability to remove a hard edge, or to lay down a saturated yellow when we need to.

Apart from the specific requirements of watercolour, I will be also using a little of my science education to help explain some of the behaviour of light and our perception of it and our surroundings in general.  I hope the students will all come away from this with fresh eyes on the world and an inspiration to tackle subjects they found too challenging before!


Happy Winter Solstice

Just wanted to take a little time today, a special day for me, and note the passing of the first day of winter.  As the days get longer and lighter again, so do our hopes for the coming year, and it’s also a natural time to reflect on the year we have just experienced.    Humans, at least in the northern hemisphere, have likely been celebrating this for far longer than any of our current calendars or religions have existed.