Tag Archives: painting


Plein Air Painting on the Sunshine Coast

I recently had the fine luck to return to  the fabulous Joe Creek Artist Retreat in Roberts Creek, BC for a week of plein air painting. The place is magic. It’s run by my friends; the equally magical Kendra Fanconi (playwright and human being extraordinaaire) and her hubbie Eric Rhys Miller, founders of place-based theatre company, The Only Animal Theatre Company. You must go! (Tell them I sent you!)

This was my second visit to the Magic Cabin at Joe Creek. Two years ago, following treatment and surgery, I got out there with family to work on some pieces for my first intensive plein air experience since being Gwaii Haanas National Park Artist In Residence and being diagnosed with cancer. A spell was cast over me, and I was instantly in love with everything about Joe Creek, Roberts Creek, Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast. I’ve been waiting two years to return, and this March was time!

I was able to produce 11 pieces during the time that I was there. I had a goal of 14 finished pieces but I had a bad chest cough and cut my painting thumb, necessitating a quick visit to the hospital in Sechelt. Two weeks later, the thumb is well on the mend, with no nerve damage and just a bit of extra sensitivity!

My purpose in getting out of doors to paint is always to learn. I find that being in the place, dialling in the shapes, colour and quick light one of the best things that a painter can do to learn about the world around them. It’s a lot of work, lugging gear, setting up and working quickly to capture the light…but the results are well worth it. Upon returning to the studio, I feel fresh, loosened up, less fearful of my mark-making and empowered!


Joe Creek Waterfall, ©Janice Tanton 2016. OIl on linen panel. 6×8

Painting Sunsets En Plein Air

The sunset pieces are a new thing for me. With only 3-4 minutes to really watch and see what unfolds in the sky and water, a good sunset plein air painting can be one of the greatest challenges for a painter. I didn’t attempt it until later in the week. My son and daughter were with me, and we went out in the evenings to enjoy the view. I realized, just watching one night – that this could be one of the best learning opportunities I could get, and so the next night I set up, premixed from memory what I thought I had seen in the landscape and nervously awaited the fireworks. It was one of the biggest painting rushes of my life, and I am thrilled with the results. In the future, I’m going to make a practice of capturing every coastal sunset that I can. It’s my new drug! Tell me what you think!


Sunset at Roberts Creek #1 ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel. 6×8


Sunset at Roberts Creek #3, ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel. 8×10

Sunset at Roberts Creek #3. ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel, 6x8.

Sunset at Roberts Creek #2. ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel, 6×8.


Joe Creek – Rock Table, ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen 6×8


Joe Creek – Running Water,©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel 8×10.


Grey Day At Sergeant Bay, ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel. 8×6


Sergeant Bay, ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel 8×8


Porpoise Bay, ©Janice Tanton 2016. Oil on linen panel 6×8


Roberts Creek at Low Tide, ©Janice Tanton 2016. OIl on linen panel 9×12.

“Oki Niksokowa” Janice Tanton at Canada House Gallery, Banff – Sept 26, 2015

Artist Statement for Oki Niksokowa – Janice Tanton

"Oki Niksokowa" ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen 48x96

“Oki Niksokowa” ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen 48×96

I am an artist working in paint, sculpture, installation and film. My work examines relationships through a spiritual, cross-cultural and intergenerational framework. My research interests lie in examining how practice and process in the arts can influence our core humanity so we can co-exist in more sustainable ways. The ugly narrative of racism is looming larger in the Canadian lexicon. I hold that it is still Britishly difficult for us to talk openly about such things. Art is one way to have that conversation. Deep relational development and committed understanding are what I consider the key to this research. I am keenly interested in exploring my own life experiences and connectivity to indigenous traditional knowledge, language, spiritual practice and ways of knowing. I seek ways of reconciliation in the spaces in between my art practice, the teachings of Elders, ceremony and comparative analysis with my Euro-centric, colonistic roots. – Janice Tanton

My work is underpinned with a contemplative connection to the land, the Creator, and all other beings I encounter, for I have a deep relational connection to all of these elemental mysteries. Crossing a wide spectrum of styles; from structured, detailed and traditional to conceptual, spiritual and contemporary, visibly juxtaposing key elements from each cultural tradition to which I belong, I create works which have resonance to our shared core humanity.

Oki Niksokowa means, “Hello, All My Relations” in Blackfoot. It is a concept that encompasses all beings in the category “relations” and simultaneously recognizes a familial relationship of the highest order to all that exists. It opens the door by it’s simple ‘Hello! to humans, animals, birds, water creatures, spirit beings, land beings, unknown beings – the full gamut that we may imagine and know. Close your eyes for one moment and imagine the deepest relationship of love that you have with someone – perhaps a family member, spouse or lover. As a Mother, one of the deepest bonds of love I have is with my children. I ask you for a moment, to take that fierce love and imagine a river…a bison…a wolf….a rock…a falling star… a blade of grass…being your child, your loved one – our relation. Think of how that may change about how you consider that animal, place or cosmos. That is how I consider ‘All Your Relations’ and grow my love and respect for all that is around me.

"Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt" ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 12x12

“Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt” ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 12×12

In Oki Niksokowa – All My Relations, I have worked for over a year, preparing paintings for Canada House Gallery that are very, very personal to me. They may also represent some pretty common themes for Canadians. The works represent relationships that I have with just some of the beings, things and places that have touched my life. In some cases, the objects remind me of a significant place on this land that is related to me, that I have come to love unconditionally and wholly. In some cases, the animals represent the spirit of a loved one as well as the ‘relation’ that they are… in and of themselves. Place and home has deep meaning for me and this is reflected in the iconic image of the lodge. As a tipi bundle owner, I understand the meanings, the stories and importance of the lodge, the symbols of the land, the animals and the cosmos that are embedded with song and story – not to be separated, but as one bundle of sacred place and protection. Having a ‘home’ is an important relational element and the lodge bundle is symbolic of that as a base from which to grow.

In 2012, I was privileged to be one of three Artists in Residence in Gwaii Haanas National Park and was welcomed by Parks Canada, The Haida Nation and the people of Haida Gwaii to their rich, sacred land and waters. It changed my life with its vast, abundant and ecologically rich treasures and gave me hope to see a government agency and an indigenous culture co-managing one of the most life-giving places on this planet. I learned much from our Haida guides and hosts, and this had a great spiritual effect on me. I began to understand the Super Natural beings – those that occupy the space in between the tangible world and the world of the spirit beings. I could see them clearly on the island as the trees and growth in the forests moved and accelerated around me – everything was crawling with life of some kind. I understand what it means to occupy space between cultures, and it is difficult. Much of that goes unseen, somewhat like the Super Natural beings. The pieces that I paint of the carved poles of Haida Gwaii with the moving, changing anthropomorphic rainforests around them are my attempt to capture that spiritual piece of movement – that space in between worlds where even more of our relations inhabit and where they make themselves known. It is a given for any who will deeply listen to the land. ‘Tanuu Rising’ specifically uses Bill Reid’s pole carved as the first new pole in Skidegate. I married the painting together by using a place I visited on Tanuu near Mr. Reid’s resting place. The work Mr. Reid and those that followed created a catalyst for the rise in Haida cultural practice after a period of decimation due to colonialist assimilation policies, sickness and industrial commodification of the land.


"The Prayer" ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 40x72

“The Prayer” ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 40×72

Canoes have always been deeply imbedded in my life. Metaphorically, I’d say I was conceived in a canoe in the east, born in a barn, raised on the back of a horse and thrown to the wolves in the West. All of these are sacred space to me. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that there was a much deeper history to the canoe than sentimental warm summers spent paddling on the lakes and rivers in Ontario. What strikes me most about the red canoe now is it’s formidable duality. It’s an awful, bloodthirsty, iconic symbol of colonialism (as is the Hudson Bay Blanket) that none of us wish to discuss in proper societal conversation or governmental nation-to- nation negotiations.

Indigenous by design, the canoe has never been improved upon except perhaps for constructive materials after thousands of years. Form and function are perfectly in sync. It harbours many nostalgic memories for the modern-day white folk such as myself who remember idyllic paddling on the shores of Lake Kashagawigamog, Algonquin and Killarney Parks. However, at its origin, it was a tool of transportation and survival for indigenous cultures, shared (usually) graciously with early traders to ensure their survival in this punishing county’s formative years. As a matter of honour, we need to recognize this “Canoe Treaty” and work hand in hand with the indigenous peoples of this land, honour those treaties and go beyond, as human beings – beyond racism, beyond litigation and beyond fear, to become ourselves again – human beings. That is what a red canoe is to me. It is a treaty – to be honoured. My relationship to the canoe is reverent and thankful…hopeful and peaceful as I look on my two families and as we look toward reconciliation as a nation. And yes…our family care for a white canoe and a red canoe…on purpose.

"Iinii Naapii" ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48x72

“Iinii Naapii” ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48×72

Oki Niksokowa – All My Relations also debuts a new body of work featuring a marriage of animal beings and Blackfoot tipi symbols in a healing way. Using a more representative style of painting for the animals – moose, buffalo, bear, wolf and coupling them with the more graphically designed glyphs of the Blackfoot, I’ve sought out a way to meld my traditional Eurocentric painting roots and upbringing with the more abstract use of graphic indigenous symbols. A ceremony of mark-making was used to denote my relationship with both the animal and the symbology and is marked by my own handprint in each of these paintings. It forever links us together and recognize those relationships, thanking them for their healing. Anthropomorphic relationships also exist in these paintings to some extent. “Makoyii Itsikin” is Tom’s Blackfoot name, and so this painting represents Tom as I see him, as a whole with the colours and places that I associate him with. All of the animals are healers and people for me, and represent some relationship with me through my life, helping me through illness and difficult times.

"Kyayo Sikimiwa" ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48x72

“Kyayo Sikimiwa” ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen.

Gilda Radner said, “Cancer is probably the most unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humour in what I went through.” I agree with you, Gilda. The importance of humour became more real to me when I was sick, and it made me learn to look at the lighter side of a dark situation. No other place than with my indigenous family, have I ever found more belly laughing. When faced with difficult social issues, suicide, missing and murdered women and girls, racism…there is somehow always this respectful, leavening humour that balances the family and community. I admire this greatly, and thought – how do I honour this humour and humility in paint? How do I find more joy in my work? Hence – “Don’t Forget the Eggs”, “Zippity Doo Dah” and other such pieces in the “Ever Real” series.

"Don't Forget The Eggs" Oil and 22k gold on linen. ©2015 Janice Tanton. 9"x12"

“Don’t Forget The Eggs” Oil and 22k gold on linen. ©2015 Janice Tanton. 9″x12″

The most important and most personal piece in this show “The Promise:: Sacred Bundle – Stonechild” remains unfinished as I write this and may not appear at the show opening at all. It was the piece that was started first, and it will be the painting that is completed last, if ever. A 60×60 oil on linen with my daughter Grace as the model, wrapped in a Hudson Bay blanket in the Banff woods, on the side of Buffalo Mountain in Banff, it was conceived last October during my residency at The Banff Centre where I created “Undercurrents” (exhibited at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to October 18, 2015). Stonechild has presided over the studio for a year while these other pieces were imagined and created. She remains the symbol of promise for me – the promise that we can follow the Seven Grandfather Teachings – wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth; the promise that we can come together; the promise that we can laugh at our troubles while finding new ways to live together; the promise that we can honour the spiritual and the scientific and the space between; the promise that we can honour the canoe and all that it means to us as Canadians; the promise that we can find healing, together…in many forms.

Janice Tanton Canadian Artist - "Sikstssoo" ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48x72

“Sikstssoo” ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48×72



"Makoyii Itsikin" ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48x72

“Makoyii Itsikin” ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48×42

"Iinii Skiim" ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48x42

“Iinii Skiim” ©Janice Tanton. Oil and 22k gold on linen. 48×42

"The Lookout" ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 12x12

“The Lookout” ©2015 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen. 12×12

"My Brothers Lodges" ©2015 Janice Tanton Oil on linen. 24 x 48

“My Brothers Lodges” ©2015 Janice Tanton Oil on linen. 24 x 48

Oki Niksokowa – Hello, All My Relations.


To View more of the upcoming show, please visit:

Canada House Gallery
Banff, AB
Artist in attendance September 25, 1-3 pm

Let’s Get Physical :: A Little Less Conversation and a Little More Action


Right…so, in a further attempt to “shake it up” in the studio, get loose and unwind, I spent some time creating a wicked playlist of boogie music. I’m a firm believer that painting with all your body, heart and soul is the best way to get those emotions down in paint. Lots of the time, I choose more classical pieces, but from time to time, I really need to get moving.

My husband and kids thought I’d gone crazy when I stopped the classical and opera music and started blasting out “Brick House”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing” and “Polk Salad Annie”. I’m sure the neighbours think something very strange is going on, as I keep the doors and windows to the studio open all the time and this music up loud. He he he…

Chaka Khan….We feel for you!

However…I must say, the mood in the household has picked up and everyone is going around doing “the bump” and dancing through the day. (Kevin is even cleaning out the garage.) Grace was even singing “Chaka Khan….I feel for you…..” all over the house. Ah…she’s her mother’s daughter, after all.

Well, I have to say it’s really “moving me” in more than one way. I’m finding myself dancing to the music and the works and they’re coming a lot easier.

Kinetically speaking, shaking your booty while you’re working is good not just for the figure…but for the figurative! It seems to move the work along quicker, make the brushstrokes a lot more emotive and physical. Using a large brush can help that loosey-goosey approach too. I’m finding I’m looking for the biggest brushes I can get at my hardware store.

Here’s part of the eclectic “shake it up” playlist. Maybe it will help you too!

Polk Salad Annie – Tony Joe White
A Little Les Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix) – Elvis Presley
Breakdown – Tantric
Lizobuya – Mbongeni Ngema
Freedom Is Coming Tomorrow – Khanyo Maphumulo
Southland Concerto – Hans Zimmer
I Have The Touch – Peter Gabriel
Sita Al Sobh – Hussain All Jassmi
The Isreaelites – Desmond Dekker & The Aces
In The Summertime – Shaggy
Turn The Page – Bob Seger
Get Down Tonight – KC and the Sunshine Band
Soul Man – Blues Brothers
Candy Shop – 50 Cent & Olivia
Getting’ Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith
Love Shak – The B-52’s
Sixty Minute Man – The Dominoes
Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
Vivrant Ting – Q-Tip
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
Car Wash (Shark Tale Mix) – Christina Aguilera & Missy Elliot
Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
I am A Man of Constant Sorrow – The Soggy Bottom Boys
Shotgun – Junior Walker & The All Stars
Brick House – The Commodores
The Name Game – SHirley Ellis
Beautiful Day – U2
Sacred Love – Sting
Desert Rose – Sting
Joke Thing – Snow
The Glamourous Life – Shiela E
Hips Don’t Lie – Shakira and Wyclef Jean
Sympathy for the Devil (Neptunes Remix) – The Rolling Stones
Night Time Is The Right Time – Ray Charles
Powerless – Nelly Furtado
Caligula – Macy Gray
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynryd Skynyrd
American Woman – Lenny Kravitz
Can’t Stop – Jack Soul
Use Me – Hootie & The Blowfish
Coconut – Harry Nilsson
Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
Brushes (Never going Back Again) – Fleetwood Mac
Missionary Man – Annie Lennox & Dave Stewart
State of Independence – Donna Summer
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing – Chris Isaak
I Feel For You – Chaka Khan
Kiss – Art of Noise & Tom Jones

 Get down tonight!

“Three Waiting”

"Three Waiting" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen panel. 8"x8"

"Three Waiting" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on linen panel. 8"x8"

This is the way that I feel when my own children leave and go off at school in the morning. I miss them. When they went back to school after the Christmas break, I cried when they boarded the bus. Some parents might think me silly, but I love them and I want to be with them. Handing them over to any stranger for care is a complete act of trust.

I imagine it as only a very small and bitter taste of what it might have been like for so many aboriginal parents when their children were taken away to residential school. So many of them…never returned.

I’m so grateful that at the end of the day, my children come home to me.

This painting is available for acquisition.


Educate yourself by reading more about the Residential School System in Canada, and the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. Write your Member of Parliament. Be involved in your own country and the lives of those around you. Make a difference as an artist. You have a voice in so many different ways. Please use it to do good things with your gifts.

A Lost Heritage: Canada’s Residential Schools – a digital archive of the CBC

Indian Residential School Survivor’s Society

My friend, Bev Jacobs on the floor of the Canadian Parliament, responding to the National Apology for the residential school system:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

“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


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.