A Painting for my Mother

Kyle L. Poirier, Tannenbaum, 2011
acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in.
Private collection

As I’ve been working on my journey to 100 paintings, when time permited I’ve also devoted some painting time to a side project for someone very special. This is why I haven’t added any new 10 x 10 works for the past week or so. That, and the little Pear Trees have taken up a lot of my time, in and out of hospital and doctor’s offices ever since Mr. Stitchyhead’s incident, up to the recent bout of croup both of them are now recovering from. It can drain the painting energy right out of you, believe me.

Anyway, ever since I graduated with a B.F.A. (oh, over a decade ago), my dear mother has been on my case to create a painting for her. Not just any painting, but some kind of winter wonderland, complete with woodland creatures or horse-drawn sleigh with silver bells.

While patiently waiting for this painting from me, she began a collection of Trish Romance and other similar prints. I began my career and family life, and painting anything was low on the priority list for me. That was my excuse, anyway, and I was sticking to it.

Well, I can now report on two major events. My mother turned 60 today, and this morning, she finally got her snowy Tannenbaum painting from me.

Now, I not only wanted to share this work and the story behind it, but also share a glimpse into the creation of Tannenbaum through some snapshots of the work in progress.



With many of my 100 series paintings I start off with thick gestural marks, shapes or colours, and then polish it up and let the painting almost evolve on it’s own. I will paint on paint, and repaint as I need to. It’s a process I enjoy, rewarded with happy accidents sometimes. However, with Tannenbaum, I treated it as an illustration and worked out the image ahead that began with a simple pencil sketch. I then painted the entire work using just a single colour – in this case, burnt umber. This allowed me to get the overall composition and contrasts worked out. I could build up layers of washes for effects I wanted to achieve, such as the back ground of trees that fade into the light. I would then essentially colour it all in, starting with the background, using washes and coloured glazes.



After adding more colour, details to the subjects, and the addition of shadows and highlights, some of the subjects in the work still looked a little plain and “pasted” onto the canvas. To make everything look more blended together, I polished up the trees in the foreground, mixed in more orange to the glowing green background to add some warmth, depth and complement the blues in the snow, and then had a wonderfully theraputic moment, flicking paint all over the work. This of course created the illusion of snowfall but also accompished bringing more texture, movement and depth to the image as well. Objects weren’t as flat and “pasted” looking. Everything blended together nicely.

Finally, the painting was complete. Admittedly, I think it’s not one of my strongest pieces, or usual subject matters, but it was made with love and for the enjoyment of one special person.

Love you mom!

Now, to get back on track with my 100 for 100 project. Let’s see how many more I can get done before the new year… well, perhaps just after the eggnogg and shortbread season of course.

– Words and photos by Kyle L. Poirier