Monica Burrow
Original Art

Blog - A Palette of Ideas - on being an artist

(posted on 1 Dec 2018)

Christmas Gift for someone special, or something for yourself? Local scenes from Delta and the southwest corner of BC in small sizes. Anyone who missed the November 3 show at the Harris Barn or would like to purchase a painting they saw there, please check out the showcase in the lobby of Gallery 1710 between now and December 16th. I have 15 small works for sale through the South Delta Artists' Guild, as well as three regular sized works that are hanging in the current show, Presents of Mind until the same date. Gallery is open Thur to Sun 11-4. Visa, Mastercard or cash accepted. There are always two guild members who act as docents during opening hours so please stop by. Gallery 1710 is in the wooden Longhouse on the campus of the South Delta Rec Centre across from McDonalds at 1710 56th Street, Tsawwassen, BC. For more information, the number during gallery hours is 604-943-3313.


(posted on 4 Nov 2018)

This is a note to thank you all for stopping by my booth at the For the Love of Art in South Delta Show at the Harris Barn yesterday and for filling out a ballot. Over 800 people attended the inaugural show, so thank you from myself and all the artists who participated.

Last night my husband drew a winner and, as I now have the addresses recorded, I am pleased to say that Marlene D. has won the mini original painting " Red Barn and Baker". I have sent her an email !

The next show I am participating in began yesterday;  "Presents of Mind" at Gallery 1710 on 56th Street in Tsawwasssen at the Longhouse Centre for the Visual Arts in the Municipal Recreation Campus across the Street from McDonalds. The show runs until December 17th and is open Thursday to Sunday 11am to 4pm.

I am showing with my fellow South Delta Artists' Guld members and have several pieces in the show. Since we share shift duties I may or may not be at the gallery if you visit, but there is always at least one member there during opening hours to answer questions or help with purchases. Gallery number 604-943-3313

Should you see anything on my website going forward, or wish to purchase work that is unsold that you saw at the Barn Show please get in touch.

Thank you again




I will be joining 25 other artists and artisans for a one day show in the fabulous restored Harris Barn in Ladner BC on November 3, 2018. Artwork from 3" by 4" to 24" by 30" will be in my space for sale. Show details on the poster, the list of artists on the back side, and my table dry run at home showing some of the new work I have added to the website as well. Please visit the show, stop by and see my work, say hello. While you are there please fill out a slip with name and email to enter the draw for a mini painting "Red Barn and Baker" 3 " x  4" Acrylic on Cradled Wood Panel


(posted on 9 Sep 2018)

Five places to see my work this fall:

"Hands on Art" South Delta Artists' Guild Show. I will have work in this show along with works from my fellow members. Gallery 1710, 1710 56th st Tsawwassen BC  September 13 - October 9, 2018. Thur - Sun 11-4 Info 604-943-3313

"Sublime Art Materials Fall Show"  I will have several pieces of work in this varied show that encourages experienced local artists as well as those starting out. Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall October 1-24 2018.  Mall hours

"Artists' Eyes" South Delta Artists' Guild Show. I will have work in this show along with works from my fellow members. Gallery 1710, 1710 56th st Tsawwassen BC October 11 - 29, 2018. Thur - Sun 11-4 Info 604-943-3313

" Presents of Mind" South Delta Artists' Guild Show. I will have work in this show along with works from my fellow members. Gallery 1710, 1710 56th st Tsawwassen BC October 31 - Decemeber 17, 2018. Thur - Sun 11-4 Info 604-943-3313

"For the Love of Art in South Delta" Show. I will be showing as part of a large group of artists and some artisans at the Harris Barn 4140 Arthur Drive in Ladner BC. Saturday November 3, 2018.ONE day only. There will be small gift pieces as well as larger pieces in my section. Prices start at $50.00 for a 3" x 4" mini, and go up to over $1000.00  for the larger sizes  eg. 18" x 36" and 24" x 30". Many pieces will be framed or on canvases that don't need framing. Stop by and say hello. Gifts for others or for yourself.

(posted on 8 Sep 2018)

Try number two with this entry. The first one disappeared when I posted. Ah, painting is always rewarding, technology sometimes!

This entry is about the way painting in different sizes helps me grow as an artist.

Several years ago I volunteered to give back at the facility where a family member stayed in safety and comfort before they passed away. Over the years my relative was there I grew close to the staff, and decided to keep the connection ongoing. I would paint murals on paper for the residents, many of whom had cognitive impairment. My pieces were 24 FEET long by 6 FEET tall. I had to work quickly to lay in a horizon line, the shape of a building or a person so as to retain the viewers' attention and allow their often compromised brains and sight to register what I was doing. In moving quickly with a large brush, I was able to engage them sufficiently that those who would normally nap if not directly engaged one on one, would stay awake for upwards of 45 minutes at a time!

My art "critics" as I called them would sit sometimes 10 to 25 feet away to see the big picture and allow everyone to be included. The residents would look on with excitement as the image unfolded quickly right in front of them. I was becoming an artist in residence and a bit of a live Bob Ross if you've ever watched those PBS painting shows. I found around the same time my paintings on canvases became freer and more loose as I found confidence to move to bigger brushes and less detail in my work.

At the same time I was asked by a Gallery owner, on the island where we own a vacation property, to show work and we decided with her clientele that I would mostly show small pieces under 12" x 12". The price point is great for tourists, who may be packing their lives with them in carry on sized luggage, and so began a series of  3" by 4" works, that function like little wooden postcards. (see the Gallery Minis Sold, some still for sale are hidden among the Southern Gulf Islands and BC Coast Gallery and some in the Fraser Delta Gallery). Some have flown to New York City to small apartment walls, one 5" x 7" hangs in Ohio on the wall of a couple who became engaged at the spot in the painting. People come back year after year to pick up a new one to remember a warmer week when they left their cares behind and went on holiday.

I began selling some larger paintings. A 24" x 36" sold locally. (see " Pumpkin Time on Westham Island" in the Fraser Delta Gallery) .Then a 3 FOOT by 4 FOOT commission came in from far away in Central Canada (see "Fitzsimmons from Whistler" in the Vancouver Whistler Area Gallery). In every case these large works freed me up to use broader strokes, larger arm movements, and bolder colours than the little ones.

Each time I moved from small to big or big to small I noticed a need to simplify. If I began painting big, I had more ground to cover. The skeleton that one hangs a composition on became crucial as I needed the piece to hang together and not take decades to complete. When I moved from several large ones to the minis I found I had to simplify as the amount of area would simply not hold every little thing.

On both extremes I had to distill the image in the same way, but for different reasons. Whether I paint with a 2" or 3" brush, or a 1/4" or 1/2" brush I am painting with a large brush if my brush is large relative to the size. Getting out of the 11" x 14" and 16" x 20" comfort zones actually taught me that I have many more comfort zones than first thought!

It's been a rewarding discovery.


(posted on 24 Jul 2018)

Last month I had a brand new artist's experience with the shipping of the largest commission I had done to date. I had done some work on the phone looking at options to ship between Vancouver and Toronto. I began in April with a research phone call to several companies about the costs of shipping. At one point the client even looked into having me take the canvas off the stretchers, roll it, and ship it that way. The cost seemed rather high, given what I was hearing from freight and cargo companies for a packed complete canvas. Since the work was 3 foot by 4 foot unwrapped, I had quite a large item on my hands.

I went on the internet and looked at ideas for lightweight sturdy packaging and was able to adapt my packing strategy to capitalize on quite a few free materials I could easily find. I had some good tips and went ahead collecting the various components of the end wrapping.

First I wrapped the work in white roll drawing paper that I bought at my local art supply store to keep it clean. Next I wrapped the image side and edges with some scraps of that hard pink 1 1/2" insulation board to protect it. Next I bought two half sheet scraps of 1/4" door skin or mahogany plywood and put one on each side of the work. The next layer was was an appliance box from a dealer where we had bought several appliances over the years. The whole thing was well taped around the edges and in both directions across the middle. Lastly I purchased enough 6mm heavy poly plastic to totally waterproof the whole thing with a last layer. All seams were taped in case the package ran into rain on the tarmac somewhere.

Once my clients had finished their renovations and cleaned up enough, I phoned again to recheck the information from one well known Canadian airline.  Initially their answers seemed too good to be true.  Upon calling back, it all checked out as correct! I was even able to book the wrapped parcel using the actual dimensions, on a flight. It flew on a specific flight due to the fact that it would be on a wide body jet and be built into a cargo container and not laid on top of other loose cargo. I was able to purchase insurance through the airline.

About the only thing they didn't offer me for the painting was a seat with pretzels and drinks! The timing of the Thursday flight meant it arrived in Toronto after midnight which meant arriving on the Friday. This meant that with the weekend looming the buyers had 3 days to pick up instead of 2, before storage charges began to apply.

Once I had it booked it was a matter of taking it to the cargo hangar at Vancouver Airport and signing it in. It even traveled collect so I did not have to put out any money ahead of time and the clients paid the bill at the other end to release the parcel.

Everything was well written out for the client in emails where all agreed to the amount, which turned out to be substantially less than the cost of undoing the work from the stretchers, shipping rolled, and re-stretching. Through the magic of smart phones I was able to track and text the client with the work's progress through the system and they sent me the photo as it arrived on the other end - in absolutely perfect condition.

With good preparation and proper packing I discovered that paintings can really fly, and with less fuss than it would take for a person!

(posted on 17 Apr 2018)

Now coming to the end of months of working on the commission I mentioned in an earlier blog:

At the end of the last work session, I started feeling that things were getting to a point where I was getting to the home stretch.

Early on when I was first learning to paint, an elderly lady in our Guild said "Always quit when you think you are 3/4 finished." She also said "Put some paint on the canvas before it is fully mixed on the palette, that way you get more complicated colours."  It's something I've always tried to keep in mind. Don't overwork the piece.

Another person I learned from said "Don't fall in love, don't marry any one part too early." A great way to say that if you become attached to any one part of a painting too early, and spend the rest of the time protecting that area and painting around it, it will affect the success of the work.

Learning when to stop is one of the most important things for an artist. When is enough, enough?

Here's where I Spy comes in. That game we often played as children mostly when an adult wanted to keep us occupied with something that involved sitting down and keeping relatively quiet. People often ask me how long it takes to paint a piece. It's not an easy answer to give. As with anything that involves the puzzles of the mind and perception, one can spend as much time observing the piece figuring out what happens next, as actually squeezing paint and applying it.

From Plein air where one has to get the scene composed and down on the surface before the light or weather change, to the studio where one could work forever on one piece, there's a middle ground, but it's rare that I don't spend some time backing away and observing. It's usually at the point in the work session where the brain starts to wander that little bit, and one becomes aware that one is in danger of putting down a stroke that is not thoughtful. I don't think between each stroke. Each stroke is not deliberate, but before I start painting the group of strokes,  I have deliberated.

Stepping back for a few seconds is the minimum and the larger the work, the more often I find I have to step back. Once I hit the point I described above where the mind starts to wander, if I'm not hungry or thirsty, I know I have to put the palette away, clean the brushes, take the piece off the easel and take it to where I can put it into my daily life backdrop to watch it. Observation confirms where to go next, points out areas for attention and improvement.

It can also draw out a word of opinion from my husband, who is really objective and has very useful things to say as he plays music but doesn't paint. Because he doesn't paint he is objective, and not competitive. He doesn't know the "rules", he just knows when something bugs him. Most of the time the stuff that bugs him is right where the problem is. Often he knows when it's done too. How does he know this? As a viewer, he doesn't need to be hit over the head with every detail. If I am going to leave something for him to think about and participate in when viewing the painting, than I have to leave room in the picture for him to fill something in for himself.

It's that magical quality where you look at the brush strokes the artist put down on an individual basis and then resolve them into the subject, before going back to the parts again, only to return to the total. Your eye begins to move through the painting in the way that pleases you enough to stay with the work and marvel at how the shapes allow you to see what the artist saw and add in something of your own.

The observation stage can last a few hours, or it can last a week or two. It calls for patience.

After over 25 years as a painter, even when I stare at the blank gessoed canvas before I start a piece, I know with confidence to a decent degree what I am aiming for and how to get it there. Things can change as I work through the piece, but I always know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it from where I begin. There is a point though where you just know you are so close you can touch it.

It's at that point that I start making a list. The bigger the piece, the more I write it down rather than carrying it in my head. It's just like I Spy.

I spy with my little eye: and the list develops from there. It's funny how that list is enough to create the objectivity I need to make the last adjustments. Changes in tone, value, mass, highlight and low-light. It's the final adjustment just as a chef makes a final adjustment to the seasonings just before serving the dish.

And suddenly it's there. The painting is done. Each last stroke is put down thoughtfully and I know I'm there. It makes sense to me and it's enough. Time to put the work out into the world and enjoy it without looking back. It could be time for a new piece or painting the next one in a series from similar reference material. Either way, it feels like the piece is done.



(posted on 17 Jan 2018)

It's been a while since my last blog entry. Life has it's ups and downs, and the last few months of 2017 have been some of the strangest I have ever experienced. There is a big commission on the easel that clients are waiting patiently for with understanding and I'm almost able to get back to it.

In December I spent a month in hospital totally focussed on treatment and the process of trying to heal after finding out I had something potentially life threatening going on. Isolated from all except masked and familiar family and friends, I did some daily exercises to the beat of The Stones, read books, and used a great set of Faber Castell pencil crayons and three colouring books to mindfully stay in the moment after my treatment while waiting for signs that the improvement in my faulty numbers would begin.

The art I was making was different than my usual in that I was not creating the image. I used photo reference on my phone in order to get colours, light sources and shadows to look accurate. I was playing colour against colour, light against dark, creating dimension and passing the hours until I could go home.

Part way through the treatment, the sight in my right eye began to be compromised and it was two weeks before I could see someone about it in the hospital between Christmas and New Year holidays and the sheer volume of others who needed the eye department's services. I decided in relation to everything else what while the eye was a priority for me as an artist, that life itself was bigger. I reminded myself that many artists have had sight compromises and have adapted.

Today I discovered that the issue will resolve itself and I was reassured that I would be able to see as well as before.

I realized that art and having the materials in my hands during the last month was a great part of what got me through the time, made me hopeful, and made the weeks pass more quickly.

At this time of year in order to keep consistent light on the easel, I paint on sunny days when there is natural light to keep the colours and values accurate to what I want and consistent from work session to work session. I got home and looked at the commission which is about one third finished. I still liked what I saw. I am eager to get back at it as soon as I can. Losing my health whether temporarily or permanently is one thing, but the important discovery was how important painting is to me in my life. It is an even larger priority than I had ever suspected.

It was a good Christmas actually. My family stepped up to support me, to create their own version of Christmas at home, to show me I was valued beyond what I ever believed. Between Dec 21st and Jan 8th I recieved 10 blood transfusions. One came from four strangers who went into Canadian Blood Services and gave - on Christmas Eve of all days. A day when many are caught up in, and busy with, last minute preparations.

These things and the presence of painting in my life are gifts that cannot be wrapped with a bow and put under a tree. Whatever the future brings, I will always remember that and try to put a little into each piece I paint.

Happy New Year - may 2018 bring good things for all of us and keep the important things in life at the forefront.


(posted on 13 Aug 2017)

It's been a month of extraordinary heat and no rain, with over a week of smoke filled skies that looked like a tube of Golden's Titan Buff. Two days ago the heat broke, we began to see a faint hint of Prussian Blue to the sky and then the clouds showed up. I saw a star at night and the moon was a normal colour.

Painting was a way to pass the hours, but motivation at a humidex of over 30 degrees can be an elusive thing. 

Yesterday the rain moved in at 10pm and we got a good overnight soaking. The first rain since July 21 when we had a few drops.

The best thing I could do for my studio in July, was to look around and see what could be thinned. I once took a workshop from a woman who said if she was blocked, she would tidy her surfaces and creativity followed. Some people need to have a lovely layered chaotic space where they know the whereabouts of each item in the layers of detritus and sediment, while I work better with spaces between the bits of visual chaos. Calm areas that make me feel productive.

In 2010 I came into possession of three large canvasses.  A 24 x 36, a 30 x 40 and a 28 x 40. I used the 24 x 36 to paint "Pumpkin Time on Westham Island" (which can be seen in the gallery Sold and Archived Works). It went on to win a spot in a competition in our Guild, it won an Envision Credit Union Category Prize in a local art show, and went on to sell on the last day of the show.

The other two canvasses stayed in the studio waiting to receive the  right image. Somehow clients never chose the size, canvasses that large have to be something that is live-able for more than just myself, and then there was the empty white canvas intimidation factor.

One day this past month I realized that they were taking up mental as well a physical space in my studio and one day I sent out an email to fellow artists I know who like to paint big, put a good price of 30% of the orig. pre tax value on the two as they had been no cost to me, and within an hour had four artists willing to take them off my hands. By supper time they were gone and I had the equivalent of two tubes of paint I would definitely use in my wallet!

Last week I was sorting through some knitting wool that was taking up a drawer in the corner of the studio while other items remained homeless and distracting on the floor. As I opened another drawer, I noticed a tray of coloured acrylic inks I was given once. At the time  I thought they would be very inspirational. In over ten years they never made it out of the drawer! Sent out an email to fellow artists I know who I thought might find them useful and within an hour I had someone who works in illustration, and does the most beautiful detailed fine work with ink, reply. She was thrilled to the extent of 3 exclamation points in her query about whether they were still available. Within a day the inks were in her studio where they WILL be used.

The feeling of weight, relief and freedom I feel when this happens contributes directly to my enjoyment of a tidier studio where I will feel more productive. The enthusiasm of the other party is infectious. Things I won't even miss out the door, leaving room in head and heart for a more creative space. It's something i highly recommend.

(posted on 17 Jul 2017)

Today I uploaded an 8" x 10" piece called "Violet Louise" which can be viewed in the Gallery - Sold and Archived works.

It's a piece done for a specific owner. Her mother owned the store over 40 yrs ago in an old heritage building that still stands in a neighbourhood of Vancouver, Canada. I took a reference photo of the building as it is today.

The challenge with this painting was that the building, unusually, is still the same on the exterior in an architectural sense, but the colours are not at all the way they were when I wanted to depict it! I asked the future owner's son, but although he tried to help via chat, no one in the family had any photos. My next step was to ask a friend who still visits the neighbourhood if he knew. I thought, being a history buff with a great memory, he might shed some light on the issue. He checked with a friend and sent back some educated guesses along with some paint chip sample ideas for heritage colours. Helpful but still not definitive.

I contacted the future owner on a pretext to "settle an argument" and she didn't twig to what I was doing! So she gave me a little info, but I couldn't pump her too obviously. Her info was general and didn't shed much light on it as I couldn't make a clear request or say why I was really asking.

She did give me one very helpful clue. She said the jeweler who was originally next door had a black and white photo of part of the building on their counter across the street in the new store. So I called the jeweler as the same family operates it today.

The original jeweler's daughter was very helpful, sent me a blurry scan of the photo in it's frame, and told me what she knew. She told me the store was in the middle of the three units, and there was black tile under the street level display windows. She settled the question of the trim and confirmed it was always black. She wasn't sure about the pebble dash stucco colour, but thought it was a dirty grey. This was nice to hear and narrowed things down, but made for a very accurate but boring painting full of grey.

So I used artistic license and decided that, in a nod to Violet, the building would be violet to contrast with the greys of the sidewalks and pavement and show off the black trim. Of course, the way to get the sky to pop was to put it in quinacidrone gold to exploit the complementary colour pop against the purple colour and symbolize the humble good fortune her family achieved in Canada after coming from Hong Kong.

I purchased a refillable ink pen and, filling it with high flow black ink, put in the black trim to get finer detail than my hand would permit by brush. In the end it was a case of detective work creating enough truth in the end result to make it believable to someone who knew, from long term memory, a good chunk of what it should have looked like. Getting the shapes and lines correct within the context was enough to allow me to take off into the symbolism of the owner's mother's name and the gold sky to indicate the life she was able to create for her children in Canada.

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