Category Archives: Art Tips & Techniques

“X” Marks The Habit – 365 Days of Painting

365 Days of Painting Worksheet

Like many creative folk, I have interests in more than one area of the arts. Writing is one of them. For quite some time, I’ve been learning and writing in bits and drabs. One of the cool resources I turn to is The Writer’s Store. Often they have excellent tools, suggestions and books on writing. It’s more of an interest to me rather than ever thinking of publishing a novel or screenplay. Narrative interests me.

Yesterday, a very cool email came out from The Writer’s Store with a newsletter tip on how Jerry Seinfeld worked his craft. He had a very simple system to mark off X’s on a 365 day, one-pager calendar. The mantra is…
“Don’t Break The String”.

In other words, write every day, and mark a red (or any other colour) “X” that you want on your calendar and don’t break the string. If you’re awesome, you could have a red “X” on every day of the year. There has been much written on how to create habits, and what I’ve taken away from that leadership reading and training is that doing something for 21 days in a row, creates a habit.

Thinking about that simple system yesterday pushed me back to the easel. Instead of fiddle-farting away at admin work in the office, I thought…heck, I need to get my red X on that sheet. Without that reminder, I’m not sure that I would have gotten off the computer and into the paints, but I did!

Here’s a free PDF copy of my own version of this document –

 “365 Days of Painting – “X Marks The Habit” for you.

365 DAYS OF PAINTING – “X Marks The Habit”

Just click on the link above. A PDF document will open in another browser window.
Print it off, or save it to your hard drive. Enjoy and happy painting!


Stephen R. Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Ten Habits of Successful Artists: New York Foundation for the Arts

8 Habits of Mind – Studio Thinking Framework: Harvard

Artists 16 Habits of Mind – Costa & Kallick

Living A Prolific Life: A Zen How-To Guide – Clay Collins


4 Kind Steps To Green Your Packaging When Shipping Your Artwork

Pile of Old Clothes AKA Art Packaging

Green it! Recycle it! Use it!

1) Use old, discarded clothes instead of bubble-wrap or styrofoam peanuts, etc. (ICK for the environment either way you look at it.)

2) If you don’t have any, go to your local Thrift Store and get a box. Sometimes, there are even old blankets or comforters people have discarded. Explain to them what you are doing (they may even give you a discount).

3) Create a small tag/note to include in the purchase to your collectors and explain to them what you have done and why.

4) Specifically ask your collectors to take your “recycled clothing packaging” to a Thrift Store near them, donate it and spread the word.


Simple. Effective.  Human.
….and kind on so many levels.

True Confessions of An Artist :: Excuses, Diversions & Remedies for Artist’s Block

Janice Tanton working on a sculptureCritics, colleagues & collectors alike have remarked that I create works FAST and am quite prolific (when I wannabe). I certainly don’t feel like either of those…Fast….or Furious. I guess it’s all relative. Reflecting back on my ability to be prolific – “they” may be right. In 2000, I actually created 48 paintings in a six month period that were all published and all sold out as soon as they were completed (with 2 little ones under 8). Last year, I finished 52 works in a one year period – with a full time job and three kids…however, I think both of those efforts just about killed me.) Not something I want to repeat, and I’m happy to say, I’ve ditched the full-time job in favour of the full-time studio.

The trick is…I don’t feel like I’m prolific or productive.  I am afflicted with the dreaded  BCS (Blank Canvas Syndrome) every single time I look at that big white space on the other end of my brush. Even worse, I have a nasty recurrent case of ABD (Artist’s Block Disease) that prevents me from even entering the studio.

“Baby, I Got Dah Blues….” :: Seasonal Upsy’s and Downsy’s

"Ashes" by Edvard Munch.

"Ashes" by Edvard Munch. 1894; Oil on canvas, 120.5x141 cm National Gallery, Oslo

Like Buddy Guy says, “Damn Right I Got The Blues.” There is definitely a seasonal pattern. I’m usually quite productive from September – November. It tails off over Christmas and picks up again in mid-January – May. This might just be a pattern formed early in life by attending school. In fact, I’d bet on that.

There are also hiccups in the pattern, kinda like an ECG. Times when I’m searching for something to come…..there’s nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch…. I am convinced that I’ll never paint another thing as long as I live. I convince myself I haven’t got a bone of originality in my body, and am the worst painting hack on the planet.  Not quite a positive, healthy attitude towards my work, I must say. I think a lot about this. I know for a fact that many of my friends – other artists, musicians, screen-writers and creatives at the top of their game have the same thoughts.

We all have our excuses, diversions and remedies. Since we’re sharing… are mine:

Sad Excuses - The Dog Ate My PaintingMy “Sad Excuses” – Ten Reasons Why I Can’t Paint

  1. I’m worried about my personal finances, a family situation or the overwhelming Meaning of Life and How To Create World Peace.
  2. I’m feeling sick.
  3. I have too many ideas.
  4. I don’t have enough ideas.
  5. I just want to watch a movie.
  6. I don’t think I’m good enough.
  7. I’m worried if the painting will “sell”.
  8. I didn’t sleep well the night before.
  9. There are too many things going on in the household.
  10. The project I’m thinking of seems too big and unmanageable.

My 8 Diversionary Tactics for Avoiding The Studio::

  1. I play on Facebook, Twitter or the web or write a blog article. (like now)
  2. I watch a movie or just listen to some music on the floor with my yoga roll.
  3. I go for a nap.
  4. I cook.
  5. I go grocery shopping.
  6. I email friends.
  7. I do laundry.
  8. I clean my house.

MuseMy 8 Steps To Drive The Creative Muses To My Studio::

  1. I have a clean house.
  2. I have the laundry done.
  3. I connect with friends.
  4. I’ve got the grocery shopping done.
  5. I’ve got some great meals ready for the family.
  6. I’m well rested.
  7. I’m inspired by a book, a movie or music.
  8. I’m inspired & encouraged by folks on Twitter, Facebook or my blog.

Notice the pattern here? I sure do, and my family hates it when I get into that groove where I “clean house”. I recognize now that I do it so I can have a clean slate to be creative. Things just don’t come to me when the house is a mess, and I’ve got outstanding things that need to be “in their place”.

It’s really quite simple. To be creative and prolific, I need to:

“Get rid of the things I don’t love to make room for the things that I do love.”

And what I do love… being creative in a space that allows me to do that.
Confession complete.

PriestGo ahead. You can tell me. Confession is good for the creative soul.

Absolution is certain.

What are your excuses, diversions and remedies?

“Here To Stay” – Is Now Off The Easel!

Here To Stay ©2011 Janice Tanton. 48x48, oil on linen.

"Here To Stay" ©2011 Janice Tanton. 48x48, oil on linen.

I’m  quite excited about completing this painting and the colour depth in it.

It’s very difficult if not impossible to capture the real jewel-like quality in a oil painting on belgian linen with a camera.  I’ve used an exceptionally fine-grained linen for this large work (48″x48″).

The many glazes and substrate in this work all weave together to give an amazing optical effect in person, so I urge you to visit Elevation Gallery to view the work….before it’s gone!

The Magic Touch :: Married To My Favourite Oil Painting Brushes


What's In A Brush? Think of them like a seventh sense.

I’m often asked interesting questions by students and collectors. The questions range from, “Do you have a magic brush?” to…. “Are you married?”

The answer to the first is, “No, not really…” and the answer to the second is, “Yes, most definitely!”

While I don’t possess a magic brush, or even a special group of visiting elves that do my work for me while I sleep (I wish!), I do have some favourite brands of brushes that seem to work well for me.

The Big Guys – Styletto Brushes

For large brushwork and blending, I’ve found an awesome resource at my local Home Hardware in the Styletto brand of brushes. The ones they carry are 1.5 and 2 inch but I note that they have other sizes on the manufacturer’s website. They are synthetic, last forever if you treat them right, serve as a longtime multipurpose painting tool. From covering large areas of the canvas when they hold a good amount of paint through to drybrush blending, they have a light touch, are responsive and never seem to shed. I use them straight up and on the side. They go well both ways. I’d rate them as something I can’t do without, and I’d consider that I’m married to them.

The Medium Touch – Heinz-Jordan

I’ve really come to love the Heinz-Jordan line of oil brushes, which, like the Styletto brushes, have lasted me a VERY long time. I treat them right and wash them well with Murphy’s Oil Soap after using them. The ones I use are the Natural Hog Bristle brushes which, according to the company are “flagged” or split at the tip, providing the ability to hold and move heavy paint. The bristles curve in naturally keeping the bristles together, allowing for clean control of each stroke.

I find my H-J brushes great for plain-air painting and direct painting. They have a nice stiffness to them, and I prefer to use the filberts, in all sizes. They also make an excellent fan brush and I love them. The laquer-blue handles seem to be exactly the right length and weight, providing a great balance in my hand for expressive strokes and more detailed painting.

Princeton Brush Company Umbria 6250 brushesIt’s All In The Soft Refined Details – Princeton 6200/6250

For a softer touch, beautiful edges and some detailed work, I use the Princeton Artist Brush Co. Umbria 6200/6250 series. These brushes can be used for watercolour and acrylic as well, and are a synthetic brush. I don’t use anything much larger than a #4 in the round, filberts and flats. They’re lovely, but don’t have as much longevity under the same care as the HJ’s and Stylettos. I seem to go through them more but they serve an entirely different purpose for me, (glazes and details) and are ones that I use the least amount, especially when working with large format linens.

Brushes are an extension of the artist’s touch, and need to follow the mood and intention of the work. For me, these work well… may find your own preferences. I’m interested in knowing, do you have a favourite line of brushes? Tell me about it here on the blog.

Glazes & Grounds Oil Painting Workshop with Janice Tanton : ACAD – May 4 – June 22

Red Canoe #10 by Janice Tanton

Red Canoe #10 ©2011 Janice Tanton. oil on linen, 36"x72"

Join me for a wonderful in-depth, weeknight workshop at Alberta College of Art and Design, July 25 – 29, 2011 as part of the extended studies offered at ACAD. Check out the online ACAD Spring and Summer Workshop brochure.

Take the time to immerse yourself in your art. You deserve it! In the “Glazing & Grounds Workshop” 8 week-long course, you will experience the philosophy and practice of the masters, from composition to foundational underpainting, to final glazing techniques and colour mixing. You will learn how to create paintings that glow from the inside out. You will spend a short time in studio demos, lectures and presentations with the instructor, then you’ll have the chance to try it out, step by step. Working from still life, you will learn how to focus on values, create a grisaille, define light and complete a painting. You will also learn how to stretch and finish a fine Belgian linen canvas. And of course…a healthy dose of fun, stimulating conversation and artistic community-building as always!

Program will run Wednesday evenings from 6:30 – 9:00 pm starting May 4th – June 22nd.

Course Fee: $299.00 + GST Course Number: 45053

To register & review the supply list, please contact ACAD at 403 284-7603 or online at

If you have questions regarding the program, please feel free to post below!

Upcoming workshops:

Paintings That Glow: Techniques of the Old Masters – Red Deer College, AB
Paintings That Glow: Techniques of the Old Masters – HFSA, ONTARIO
Authentic Impressionism – HFSA, ONTARIO
Glazes and Grounds – ACAD, Calgary ALBERTA

Art Tip of The Day – Allergic to Oils? Go Nuts!


"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton.

"Lie To Me" © 2009 Janice Tanton. 40x60, oil on linen

For years, one of the things that kept me back from painting with oils, was an allergy to them. At the age of 12, my parents bought me a set of oils, which I dove into down in the basement of our bungalow in Oshawa. Less than an hour later, I emerged, hardly able to breathe, my eyes swollen, itchy and my skin all blotchy with hives, as I was trying to paint a picture of a horse. An hour after that, I was in a doctor’s office, getting a massive dose of antihistimines. Needless to say, the oils were packed off to the garbage while I was being packed off to the hospital.

Thirty plus some years later, after painting in years with watercolour and egg tempera, I thought there must be some “modern” solution for me to expand my media.

Brushes!When I took up painting with oils, I did a lot of reading on what might be the best way to approach it, from a health and useability standpoint. I think my allergy may have been to stand oil – but I’m not about to take a stab at it again without an epipen nearby!

The solution that I found was in M.Graham oils. Based with walnut oils, this did the trick for me! The medium is wonderful, silky smooth and the pigment quality is excellent. I love them, and I wouldn’t trade them again for my watercolours or egg tempera, although each of them does have a spot in my studio and my work.

The Palette with oil paints

Typical palette setup with M.Graham paints

The walnut oil is non-yellowing over time, unlike some other drying oils, and I find that there are many ways that I have been able to avoid the use of heavier solvents with the walnut.  It seems to clean up very well with Murphy’s oil soap, and the M Graham alkyd medium is an excellent way to work through lightening the consistency of the pigment-rich paint.

Overall, I love my “new” medium and the way that the oils are performing. The happiest thing of all – is that I can actually use oil paints now without having a terrible allergic reaction.

PLAY! – 8 Cool Ideas For Exercising Your Family Creativity Muscles

Grace's Giraffe drawing

"Giraffe Smelling and Eating a Leaf" ©2011 Grace Tanton-Nuxoll, oil pastel on paper. 8.5"x11"

Looking for ways to pump up the creativity at home and in your family? PLAY MORE!

Here are some of the things we’ve done or created within our family to create a culture of creativity and critical thinking:

1) Create Spaces of Creativity in Unlikely Places

You don’t need a fancy studio to be an artist. Use what you’ve got!

Family in the Kitchen "Studio"

The family in the kitchen "studio".

The Kitchen Studio:: We’ve been working at reorganizing our home. Part of this was attacking the kitchen and learning a bitabout Feng Shui, courtesy of Alyson Stanfield’s “Get Organized” class. We began to move things around and I thought…hmmm….this might be an opportunity to create space within the kitchen for creativity. Clearing the fridge of two years of old phone numbers, expired coupons and “reminders of things to do”, I was left with a shiny open canvas. Now, our fridge isn’t a gallery to hang work done at school – it’s a creative poetry centre.

We had some of those “poetic words” as magnets. If I was in a super creative mode, I would have made them….but that’s something we WILL do.

We created a daily “game” in which everyone is challenged to come up with some kind of word art phrase or statement. You wouldn’t believe what beautiful words and poetry they’ve come up with each day.

The Buddha Board:: In the pile of stuff sitting around the kitchen, mixed in with some old cookbooks, was a Buddha Board that was a Christmas gift to me from Kevin 7 years ago. Since moving from Haliburton to Canmore, it had assumed it’s position and was taken out a little bit, but not a ton. Now, I’ve put it on a small part of the kitchen counter where anyone can come and paint upon it at their whim…and they do!

2) Be Ruthless: Create Dedicated Time for Creativity and Arts Practice

Zero Electronic Time:: Establish a time each week (or more often) where you are together with your family and you can play. Make it a two hour space of undisturbed time. Turn off the tv’s, telephones, video games, electronics, smartphones, sound systems and any other kind of distraction that doesn’t allow you to be present with yourself and your family. You can do a number of rotating things within this timeframe, and try something different every week.


Grace - Proud of Her Drawing

Play, dance, create and BE with all the enthusiasm of a child!

8 Cool Ideas for Stretching your Family Creativity Muscles

  1. READ OUT LOUD – a novel or story. Take a turn doing the reading and the listening. Pick something that has some substance to it. Get everyone to retell the story in their own words.
  2. Get some real PAINT and a canvas. Create a family picture together that you can hang in a place you’ll all see it every day.
  3. Make MUSIC together. Grab the pots and pans or rent some instruments and give them a go – all together and at the same time. Don’t be shy. Listen to each other. You’ll make amazing sounds.
  4. Create a PLAY together that you can do just for the fun of it. Let the kids be the directors, create the story and you….follow their direction.
  5. Create a song together. SING it to each other! You can do this in the car.
  6. DANCE. Turn on some Motown and boogie – even if you don’t have a lick of rhythm in your dancin’ pants, make your living room into a Soul Train!
  7. PLAY Scrabble, Yahtze or Backgammon. Both help that creative thinking brain muscles by playing with patterns.
  8. ACT out your day by grabbing a lamp and making shadow-plays on the wall. Laugh a lot and enjoy it like no one is watching!

Being able to express yourself artistically within a safe environment is a great way to learn and grow at any age. Take a chance. Go one step beyond your comfort zone. If you don’t try, you’ll never know what you’re capable of creating.

Don’t worry…..your family will catch you!


Janice Tanton's Red Coffee Cup cup overflows with it!



Loving the Studio Facelift! – Before & After Photos.

Brushes!I’ve been busy “spring” cleaning…(for three months.) Actually, I’m doubtful that spring actually is coming to the mountains, this year. The first room in the house to be finished…is the studio!

With a bit of elbow grease, help from the family, a new chair and two trips to IKEA, we were able to “containerize” and set up a space that serves as a multi-purpose area for creativity. Here, I meet clients, paint, research, do my office work and film-editing.

Total budget for the facelift, which included the new purchases of baskets, shelving, magazine and CD containers, candles, copper floral buckets (for brushes), material for skirting the tables and desks, and a lovely new reading chair?

Loving my creative space with the family and FINDING stuff?

New works are on their way.


Here are the before and after photos:



















Storage area and shelves

Baskets store digital media, small canvasses & reference books


Reading corner and entrance to outside second story deck

A cozy corner for reading, studio guests and the entrance to the outside second story deck

The storage shelves - closer up

The storage shelving. Baskets were an excellent choice for me.

Drafting table work area and shelving

My drafting table and work area. Shelving behind acts as storage and a screen for large canvasses that are in progress.

The meeting corner.

Meeting area in the studio.

The Office corner

The office and film editing area of the studio.

The desk and my lucky bamboo.

My desk area and my lucky bamboo. I can edit on my larger monitor, and also enjoy a mountain view through the window.

My large easel and painting centre.

Easel and painting centre area.

Book shelving and business binders

Another reading corner with business reference binders.

Another view of a reading corner

Another view of a reading corner.


Seating/reading corner

Another shot of the seating/reading corner