Saturday, April 14, 2018

My paintings at St.Mark's sale

Ruth and I were at the annual St. Mark's Church art and craft sale on April 7, 2018, where I displayed my latest paintings and Ruth sold her books, including her latest novel, Grace in Love.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Grace and the Secret Vault

Ruth's newest young adult novel, Grace and the Secret Vault, has just come out..

In 1919, a general strike is called in Winnipeg, and thirteen year old Grace learns that her father is involved in it. In this crisis, she finds a way to help her family.

Grace and the Secret Vault (Ottawa, Baico, 2017, ISBN 978177216096,  $20) is available from and from

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ruth Latta's newest novel, Most of All, is available on Amazon Kindle. For more information please click here. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The first painting is Fitzroy Harbour. The place is a town on the Ottawa River, North-west of Ottawa.

The second is Winter Light # 1. It is a December scene on the Edwards farm in Northern Ontario.

It has been a long gap between posts, but I will try to post more often in the future.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Songcatcher and Me

Ruth Latta's new novel for young adults is The
Songcatcher and Me
"It is 1957, and fourteen year old Sheila feels stalled, living with her tired grandmother and irritable uncle at their failing country store in the back of beyond. Then a songcatcher turns up and everything changes."

The book is available for $20 (+ shipping & handling) from Ruth ( and from her publisher Baico Publishing Inc., 294 Albert Street, Suite 103, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 6E6. (613)829-5141. baico@bellnet.

I did the painting for the cover. It is mixed media (mostly acrylic) and is called General Store. I took it to an art show recently where it generated some interest but did not sell. Such is life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

New art at last

The first painting is called This Old House. It is entirely imaginary and was done to practice painting some architectural details. I wanted it to have a somber, "middle-of-a-long-winter" feel about it, relieved with a little bright blue (cobalt blue) and soft yellow.

The second is called White Pine No. 2. It is a semi-abstract work based on nothing but the impulse of the moment.   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Old Love and the New Love

Ruth's new novel, The Old Love and the New Love, (Ottawa, Baico, 2012, ISBN 978-1-926945-70-5) has just been published by Baico Publishing of Ottawa (

The Old Love and the New Love combines humour, romance, history and action in showing how the past comes back to haunt us.

The plot:

When Cleo's old lover, Leo Phelan, whom she hasn't seen in a decade, turns up on her doorstep, she is flustered, not flattered. Should she invite him to join her and her husband, Andy, for dinner? Will Leo be the serpent in their Eden? Little does she know that Leo poses a different sort of threat. Gradually she realizes how tangled she is in the ties that bound them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first picture is Sheds and Snow. It is entirely imaginary. The second is The Locks at Hog's Back. This is on the Rideau Canal (a world heritage site) not far from our house. The third is Algonquin Park. It is the first in my Algonquin Park series and was done six years ago.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still More Paintings

The first picture is Southern Tamaracks. The painting is not quite this bright and purplish in the flesh, but the reproduction is the best I can do at the moment. The second is Peggy's Cove at Sunset, the cove being in Nova Scotia. The third is Abandonned Mine, Kirkland Lake. Kirkland is in Northern Ontario. The photo from which this was painted was representative when I took it 10 or 12 years ago, as the town had fallen on hard times due to the decline of the mining industry. But it is coming back now thanks to gold mining.

Monday, February 14, 2011

More paintings at last

The first painting is called Greece for Edna, done for a friend who had just returned from a trip to Greece. The second is Birches in Winter. I did it because the starkness was appealing. The third is Algonquin Park # 5. I like panoramic sweeps of scenery that don't necessarily have a strong focal point. It was done to replace one that was thought to have been destroyed when the place that was selling it burned down. Two years later I had just finished this when the original turned up undamaged.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Two topics today. The first is the quality of the images on the blog. The individual images are saved as jpg files which are severely compressed to save space. This results in some loss of definition and in some cases slight changes in colours. Most of my paintings are fairly bright, which is usually how I like to do them. I have found taking pictures of them that correctly capture the colours to be a bit of a challenge. Optimum lighting conditions and camera settings seem to vary quite a bit depending on the painting and the colours used in it. When I haven't been able to get the conditions just right I have decided to err on the side of brightness, so some of the paintings are even brighter on the blog than they are in fact.
The second topic is a bit of a rant about abstract and mixed media art. I prefer when working to have some idea in mind of what the painting will be about. Even if the painting is just about a feeling rather than a scene, an object or a concrete idea, I prefer that to working in a vacuum. I was at a talk last spring given by an abstract and representational artist whose work I admire. At one point she presented an abstract that had won a prize in a contest. I thought it was beautiful but it didn't call up any feeling or response beyond that. She began her talk by saying she felt that abstract art had to be about something, which opinion I was grateful to hear. At the end of her talk a member of the audience asked her what her prize-winning abstract was about and how she had known when it was finished. She said she didn't know what it was about. but her intuition told her it was about something and also told her when it was finished. Since I had invested at least a little mental energy in trying to understand the painting I felt let down. Perhaps if it had been about something my appreciation of it might have been a little less superficial.
The paintings I have posted are an abstract (Creation) and a mixed media work with abstract elements (Shore at Night). Creation was done with no planning or forethought and was named after it was finished. The title refers to the explosion which likely marked the beginning of our universe (or that part of it that we know, if we happen to live in a multiverse). It was my first abstract and I am not taken with it. Shore at Night was planned but altered as things proceeded. I Like it a little better.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best Wishes for the Holiday Season

The first painting is Algonquin Park # 7.
The second is Stone bridge at Packenham. Packenham is in Ontario about 45 minutes drive northwest of Ottawa
The third is Jack Pine. The title is lifted from Tom Thompson's work of the same name, though the two works have little resemblance.
The fourth is Barn at Storm's Corners. This is near Kingston, Ontario. I was taken with the coincidence of the looming storm clouds and the name of the place.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three More Images

The first painting is Flax and Canola. I was attracted by the juaxtaposition of the comlementary opposites, yellow and purple, and also by the irregular and somewhat abstract shape of the fields.
The second painting is Times Past, a reference to an abandonned farm. The farm itself is somewhat fanciful. The "dancing" poplar (aspen) trees where real, distorted by the dry windy climate (south-west Manitoba) where they were growing.
The third painting is Algonquin Park # 9, one of a series of shoreline studies of the park that seem to be an ongoing project.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ruth Latta's New Book

My wife, Ruth, has just published a new book of short stories, Winter Moon. The cover design is taken in part from one of my early paintings which bears the same name.
The back cover descibes the book as follows:
"In this collection of short stories, Ruth Latta's imaginary characters seem like real human beings. Their dilemmas and solutions cast light upon our own journeys. Whether set in the past or the present, the stories in Winter Moon will amuse, entertain and enlighten readers."
The book costs $18.95 plus shipping and handling and can be obtained from Ruth ( or from her publisher, BAICO Publishing Incorporated, 294 Albert Street, Suite 103, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1P 6E6. (Telephone:(613) 829-5141. E-mail: Web site:
Ruth's other books can be seen on her web site:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The first image is Avocets. The second is October Evening, Algonquin Park. The third is Sliding away No. 2. The fourth is First Snow. The first, second and fourth are self explanatory. The third is so named because the shed is slowly sliding into the swamp (sort of like life passing, if you don't mind the swamp metaphor).

I wanted to say something about photorealism in painting. I have a great deal of admiration for the technical skill that this usually involves and can appreciate the work of Robert Bateman and many others. On a few occasions I have incorporated photorealistic elements in works that as a whole are not photorealistic, partly for the practice and partly to help establish a focal point. However, I tend to prefer interpretation of a scene. This can involve changing the composition, simplifying it by leaving things out, changing or exaggerating colours or trying to get a specific effect of light (the hardest thing for me, personally). Photorealism does not preclude any of this but it does place limits on what one can do. My first effort at a photorealistic element was Avocets, the first image at the beginning of this post. The birds were the best I could do with photorealism at the time (it was done about six months after I started painting), the rest of the picture is just filler.
I will give the last word on the subject to Emily Carr. "We may copy something as faithfully as the camera, but unless we bring to our picture something additional - something creative - something of ourselves - our picture does not live." (Taken from Emily Carr, a Biography, by Maria Tippett, Stoddart, 1979, page 193.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

More Paintings

The top picture is Winter Sunset. It is currently hung at The Ottawa Little Theatre until August 8, 2010. The one beneath it is called simply Driftwood. It is a scene on the beach near Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Getting Started

The first picture is Algonquin Park No. 6. The second Barn at Napanee. A word about the pictures. They are severely compressed to avoid using up my space quickly. This leads to problems with colours, contrast, resolution and blending, so the pictures may not respond well to being downloaded and blown up in size. Also, the pictures tend to be darker on the blog than they really are.
Now for the main subject of todays post.
Starting out in art turned out to be harder than I expected. I encountered three ways of teaching it. Some art teachers let the students do their own thing while continually circling the room giving advice. Others gave a demonstration at the beginning or middle of the class and then allowed the students to practice the technique or work on their own projects. A few used the "do as I do" approach in which the teacher had fairly fixed ideas about what was correct and insisted that they be adhered to. Many instructors practiced some combination of these.
As an art novice I had no drawing skills and so decided that a drawing course would be a good place to start. The instructor was a strict adherent of the "do as a I do" school. That would have been all right except that she turned out to have a domineering personality. As the least experienced person in the room I was also the least skilled by a wide margin and so was a source of frustration for her. After being shouted at and having my work defaced several times I declined to participate and dropped art for two years.

The nearby community centre offered a painting course by Roy Murgich. Roy was entirely in the first school of instruction that is mentioned above. One was encouraged to paint or draw what one wished, however one wished and in whatever medium. On the first evening I disclosed my lack of skill in drawing. He said that the ability to draw well was not necessary in painting. I think that this was a highly dubious assertion but I was grateful to hear it. In his class I developed my own style. After a year and a half of effort it just seemed to come together.
Roy was kind and patient with his students. People kept returning to his class. Some of them had been with him for more than twenty years and obviously thought extremely well of him. I was fortunate at that stage to encounter someone with fairly liberal ideas about creating art. Sadly, he had Parkinson’s disease and had to stop teaching about five years ago. He died recently and is fondly remembered by his students and the local art community.
If you are starting out in art you might be able to find someone like Roy but in the absence of advice from other art students or artists the search is a trial and error process. Not everyone is a good fit. Classes are often available at the studios of individual artists or thorough community associations, municipal governments and the adult education branches of school boards. These organizations usually publish a course catalogue and/or have a web site. There are sometimes art studios or ateliers where one can go to paint or draw in the company of like minded people for free or for a small fee. Artists in these are often happy to share their experience and expertise.
Perhaps in a class or an art association you will find a painting buddy or group of buddies with whom to paint and share ideas and gentle criticism. Gentle is important. I have on occasion encountered brutal critics whose approach put me off so much that I simply didn’t listen to them and perhaps missed out on useful advice.
There are also other ways of learning about art. Local art associations sometimes offer classes or one day tutorials, workshops, demonstrations and talks by accomplished artists, and access to a membership of experienced artists, as well as the opportunity to have one’s work hung in local galleries or other public venues.
There are of course bookstores and libraries - sources of "how to" books and magazines. Buying "how to" books carries the risk of becoming habit forming. Art books about specific artists or movements can be helpful for learning about style, composition and the use of colour, though the colour reproduction in them is often far from perfect.
Simple observation can be a great learning device. Visit galleries. Look at what your fellow students are doing. Ask questions. Most people are happy to explain how they do things and may even be flattered to be asked.
Perhaps the most valuable resource in creating art lies within. Virtually everyone has some innate creative ability that can be brought out. Don’t be afraid to listen to you inner artistic muse and try out your own ideas in subject matter, colour, and technique. They may not always work out but making mistakes is part of the process and one of the best ways of learning.
Being happy in creating art depends to some extent on your expectations going in and on how they will change over time. Perhaps it will be enough to do work that you are satisfied with and can hang in your home or give to friends and relatives. You may decide at some point that you want to seek a greater level of validation or financial reward by selling your work, as do I and many of my painting friends. Either way the most important thing is to have fun with doing it. So enjoy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The purpose of this blog to natter a bit about painting and to show some of my work. I have been painting acrylic landscapes for about seven years. Progress is slow but the process is very enjoyable. I hope to update this blog about once a week and post 10 or 20 paintings. The painting above is Sunset From the Wolfe Island Ferry. Wolfe Island is in the St. Lawrence River Near Kingston, Ontario, Canada.