EXPLORING OIL PAINTS

oil swatches

About six months ago I tried oil paints for the very first time. For some reason they always seemed like an intimidating medium to me. Perhaps it’s partly because I’m a self-taught painter, and acrylic & watercolour seemed much more intuitive to me (just add water, and away you go!) with easy peasy clean up (just water again!) plus their super fast drying time. When I thought of oil paints and their rules, I mostly thought of the solvents or toxic mediums that traditionally came along with them, plus their very slow drying time. In the past couple of years I began to become more curious about oils though, but was still hesitant to invest in them without knowing if I would even like working with them (because like all art mediums, start up costs can be expensive). THEN last summer I saw a giveaway on Instagram for a set of Holbein Oil Paints from an art supply store in Eastern Canada called Studio Six, who were celebrating their 50th birthday with a series of art materials giveaways. So I thought to myself – why not! So I entered… and I won! I was sooo excited! How lucky, I get to try oil paints for free, and with a top quality beautiful brand at that – I was over the moon, and couldn’t wait to try them.

Here is a pic of the paint set when I first opened the special delivery:

(If you’re having trouble viewing this photo, it can also be viewed directly on Instagram HERE)

From the time I found out my name had been drawn, to the time the paints arrived in the mail about a week later, I did a lot of reading on how oil paints work (and asked some of my artist friends an annoying amount of oil related questions haha!). One of the biggest things that kept me away from oils for years was that they are traditionally used along with stinky/poisonous/flammable products. But what I found out, and what is seemingly not widespread information, is that it is totally possible to paint with oils completely solvent-free! That appealed to me in a big way, because not only are solvents flammable (which was a concern for me when painting at home), but they can also cause allergic reactions (from skin to respiratory problems, headaches, you name it). So it was very exciting to learn that it’s possible to paint without solvents or toxic mediums all together.

mini oil rose painting

I feel so lucky to have won this oil paint set. It saved me huge dollars in the start up costs of trying a new paint medium, as all I needed to buy was some oil brushes and a palette. One of the first things I like to do when I get new paint colours is to make swatches to see how the paint looks and acts (pictured at the top of this post, done on Arches Oil paper). Right out of the gate, I really liked the feel of oils!! After making the colour swatches I then wanted to try a mini painting of a wild rose (pictured above). So here we have my first oil painting, and I can’t wait to work with these paints more so :)

2017 HOLIDAY SEASON RECAP

Over the years it has become a little tradition on my blog to put together a post after Christmas featuring the artwork that was created during the holiday season. From October through December I go full tilt in the studio on painting & sketch orders, and as a result I tend to hit pause on my blog entries during that time. So I find this to be a fun way to feature what I’ve been up to over the past few months, and to get back into the swing of things blog wise :)

First up we have the 8 acrylic on canvas Pet Portrait paintings that headed out for Christmas 2017: xmas 2017 pet portraits

Larger/individual pix of each of these paintings can be viewed on my Pet Portrait Portfolio page if you’d like to take a peek.

Then for my Pets-a-Sketch pieces I completed approx 60 of them for the holidays this year, and I recently managed to condense (most of) them into collages here:

ornaments 2017

5x7 sketches 2017 xmas

This season there were a few Pets-a-Sketch pieces in the 8×10 format that headed out too:

(if you are having trouble viewing the above Instagram photos, you can also view them directly HERE)

In addition to my regular pet portraits, I received a few custom requests this year as well. But instead of making this the longest blog post in the history of time lol, I thought it might be nice to feature those in upcoming blog posts instead to give a little more info on each. So stay tuned for those!

Big thanks to everyone who trusted me with their sentimental orders and special gifts this holiday season, & throughout the year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and here’s to a great 2018 :)

END OF SUMMER JAUNT TO BC

plein air sketching

At the end of the summer this year I got to spend a few days with family in BC. While there I squeezed in some plein air painting (aka outdoor painting) with my mom, and my sister caught a pic of me sketching in action (above).

firewood sketch

There was just something about the colours of that firewood pile and the angle of the sun creating cool shadows on it that caught my eye – I couldn’t help but sketch it! I made the drawing first in pen, then went over it with watercolours mixed on the spot.

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SIT HAPPENS’ DOG APPRECIATION EVENT

“An event GONE TO THE DOGS!”

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On October 1st I will have a booth set up at Sit Happens’ Dog Appreciation Event, where their existing clients / prospective clients / as well as general public & dog enthusiasts are all invited to attend! This one-day-only event will feature information sessions, a whole marketplace area with various dog related vendors, AND there will even be a BBQ hosted by Global Pet Foods (…featuring BBQ food for people, not for doggies I presume lol).

Please note: It is my understanding that this will be Sit Happens’ only event for fall/winter 2017, as they WILL NOT be hosting a Canine Christmas this year like previous years.

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KOOPER & SHERMAN

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Last month Kooper & Sherman’s painting was given as a surprise gift from a group of friends to celebrate a co-worker’s retirement at the end of the 2016/2017 school year over in Wisconsin USA!

My client had contacted me earlier in the year to coordinate this special project on behalf of her & the group, and she sent me photos of two of the giftee’s Bernese doggies. Based on the photos, I suggested we go with a long rectangular canvas format so we could feature their smiling faces side by side. They quite liked that idea, so we went with a 16″ wide by 8″ high canvas. Here is a photo of the finished piece:

DSC_1271I really enjoyed painting this happy pair, and wanted to include a couple detail shots here for fun:

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Once the painting surprise was revealed, I was sent this lovely note along with a couple of photos from the gift opening (also with permission to share them here) :

8x16 gift opening

“We had a great time celebrating our friend’s retirement.  I have attached our honored guest with the art. While I have known dog lovers before, my friend likes dogs more than anyone I have ever known. This was truly the perfect gift!”
So excited to hear the gift was a big hit! Congrats to Kooper & Sherman’s momma on her retirement, and big thanks again to her lovely friends for having me paint this special memento for the occasion <3

MY GREETING CARDS AT REGAL CAT CAFE

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I am sooo excited to share that my Cat Art Cards (shown above) will be available at the much anticipated Regal Cat Cafe when they open on June 24th 2017 here in Calgary (303-10th Street NW)! What is a cat cafe you ask? It’s a combination of a cafe and retail space, with a separate area to meet adoptable kitties – aka – the place I will likely be found every spare moment I have lol! If you don’t know this about me yet, then the “cat’s out of the bag” now… I love cats! (surprise surprise) :D

Making a special appearance on the shelves at the cafe are these mini sketch cards I did up for them (shown below on the right) :

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A cool side note to mention: 10% of all sales from the cafe’s retail area go right to Meow Foundation! Which is the local cat-focused humane society that is connecting the kitties to the adoption area as well. I can’t wait to go check everything out this weekend! For more detailed information on the cafe, please visit www.RegalCatCafe.com.

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CUSTOM SKETCH CARD

A lovely repeat client from Victoria BC contacted me to create a custom art card for a loved one who had lost their beloved cat Bishop earlier in the year. She thought it’d be a nice surprise to send him one of my custom Pets-A-Sketch pieces in the mail, but in a card format. I was up for the task, and this is the resulting piece:

bishop card 1

bishop card 2

bishop card 3

bishop card 4

It was also requested that I include custom name text detail on the front of the card, and in blue to match the kitty’s eyes.

The card was created using the same materials as my usual sketches, but just cut larger and folded in half to make it into a card format. The finished size remained 5″x7″ like my other pieces, so that it could be still be easily framed like my client intended. Thanks again CB for having me do this special project for you! <3

BEAR & SAM

bear & sam

Last week this fun pair of 8×10 black & white Pets-a-Sketches headed out of my studio. An interior designer contacted me to create them featuring her clients’ two pugs (Bear & Sam), as a thank you gift for their recent reno project. As soon as she sent me the photos to sketch from I couldn’t wait to work on them!! So cute.

Below is a pic of the drawings all framed up and installed in the beautiful new powder room by Sölle Interiors:

A post shared by sölle (@solle_interiors) on

(If you are having trouble viewing the image, it can also be viewed directly on Instagram HERE.)

Before the sketches left my studio I took a quick video of them up close:

A post shared by Robyn Millar (@artbyrobynmillar) on

(If you are having trouble viewing the video, it can also be viewed directly on Instagram HERE.)

After all these years of painting and drawing pets, these are actually my first pugs to date!! I had waited oh so long to do some too lol. I just love all the wrinkles & folds on their little cute faces. Thanks again T for having me sketch these guys! <3

DOGFEST SPRING FLING 2017

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I’m excited to share that I will be a vendor at DogFest‘s 1st annual ‘Spring Fling’! It’s on Saturday May 6th 2017, and is a one-day-only style market & doggie playdate event. If you came to DogFest in December, this one will be similar but even bigger & better!

EVENT INFO
Date: May 6th 2017
Time: 10am to 5pm
Place: Triwood Arena, 2244 Chicoutimi Dr NW (Calgary, AB)*
Tickets: Dogs $10 ea, people FREE! (buy online, or cash at door)
Parking: free

(* Please note DogFest is in the Arena - NOT the community hall. The arena is to the East of the hall.)

WHAT’S NEW:

Did you attend DogFest at Christmas time? If so, here’s what’s new this round:
– Larger space
– More vendors (and all dog related!)
– Longer hours
– THERE WILL BE FOOD TRUCKS!

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WINSTON

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Earlier this year a client contacted me to paint a special portrait of her beloved Winston. Sadly, he had passed away a few months before :( . Then after seeing a painting I had created for one of her friends at Christmas time, she reached out to me to paint a portrait of her own.

She sent me a variety of photos, and we selected the one that was most “him” – with him resting contently on the floor looking up with his beautiful brown eyes. We had initially planned to create the painting on a gallery depth canvas per my usual specs. But very shortly after the order was placed she came across a picture frame that she thought would be perfect for the upcoming painting. She sent me measurements and photos of the frame, and so I was able to confirm that we could fit a standard 11″x14″ canvas board in it. So since I hadn’t started on the original canvas just yet, we were able to easily change gears and proceeded with the thinner canvas format:

canvas board thickness

(Thin canvas board profile.)

Luckily I had some practice with canvas boards and picture frames last year while working on an order for a piece called ‘Odie’, so I knew what I was getting into. And since she sent such detailed measurements, I was able to confirm that the 11×14 canvas board would just pop right into the frame when it was ready, so that was really handy too.

Once the painting was all finished and before packing it up, I took a little video tour of it to try and capture Winston’s fluffy fur detail & brown eyed stare:

(If the video isn’t loading properly, it can also be viewed directly on my YouTube page HERE.)

Oh! And for the signature, I usually sign my paintings on the side of the canvas. But since this one was painted on a thin board the side signature placement wasn’t a possibility. So I offered to put it on the back as not to distract from Winston’s handsome face, but it was requested I put my name right on the front, which I thought was quite sweet :)

The morning after the painting was received safe & sound in Leduc AB, my client sent me this lovely photo of the painting in the frame:

winston in frame

I think this frame is absolutely perfect for Winston’s painting! The colours are so complimentary and warm, and I love the varying textures between the white wood, black velvet, and gold accents. I’m really glad we went with the canvas board format so she could use this particular frame! So neat.

My client also sent me this amazing note when she received the painting:

“I didn’t think the real version could be better then the photo you sent me.  I was completely wrong! It’s as if he is sitting right here!  So incredibly real and life like.   I showed our other golden retriever and he had a real reaction to it.  He went up to it and you could tell he was looking so hard at it.   He started wagging his tail and just stood there looking at the picture.   He knew who this was.   We are all just standing here admiring it and like I expected, I couldn’t stop the tears.  It feels like my sweet boy, has come home!  So incredible, such a gift!”

Couldn’t ask for a better reaction, oh my goodness! So happy that she is so happy :)

For a full image of Winston’s painting, please visit my Pet Portrait Portfolio page.

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