Category Archives: Inspirations

Artists’ Workshop Open Studio show and sale – Monday, Nov 27th from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.


You are invited to our

Open Studio Show and Sale

Monday, November 27th from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Grace Westminster Church Auditorium
505 – 10th Street East     Saskatoon, SK

Every Monday from September through April I meet with a group of artists for a full day of creating and art-making in the auditorium at Grace Westminster Church. Please drop by our open studio to see how we work as well as what we have created.

I will have many of my small watercolour batiks, perfect for gift giving! Other artists work in a variety of media so there will be acrylics, oils, watercolours, pen and ink, mixed media. Something for every taste!

Artists' Workshop Open Studio

Artists’ Workshop Open Studio

Sketching in Artists’ Workshop member’s the back yards, driving around Saskatchewan, travel to other parts of our country; all provide inspiration. On our travels I stopped at the Japanese Paper Place in Toronto to learn more about the origins of the Ginwashi paper that I use for my watercolour batiks. Unexpectedly, the stop provided a different kind of inspiration – shape. This change in shape started me thinking about composition in new ways and I have created a collection of 2 x 14” pieces perfect for small spaces.


@Paige Mortensen 14×2″ pieces in folding hangers


Paige Mortensen 14×2″ pieces on wood panel

I also discovered some tiny clips and a new way of mounting that highlights the journey my pieces take in their creation. All of this reminding me to be on the lookout for inspiration everywhere.


Yellow Flowers ©Paige Mortensen in 7 x 5″ Shadow Box frames

See you on Monday the 27th!



Flock of birds now in my studio

Flock of Birds October 2016 ©Paige Mortensen

Flock of Birds October 2016 ©Paige Mortensen

My fireplace gallery now has a flock of birds – part of the work I am doing for the  Artisans’ Fine Craft Market coming up on November 4 & 5, 2016. The white papers behind them have been hanging empty for a few days so it feels good to have some colour there again.

It was our grandson’s 7th birthday at the end of September so we went to help celebrate.  They live on an acreage with a beautiful view of the lake and the birds were plentiful.  The weather was great and our grandchildren were happily jumping on the trampoline. I took some time with my camera to capture some reference images. I am thankful for every one of these special days spent with family.

Things to do:

Over the last week I have been keeping the memories of the day alive by working on some small watercolour batik pieces.  This batik process I use uses wax as a resist so I always work on wax paper (or in this case the liners out of cereal boxes).  These waxy papers stop the wax from sticking to whatever else might be underneath.  Here are some of the flock, finished and waiting for the wax to be ironed off. I did that this morning.


Flock of birds ready to iron

The next steps are to:

  • sign them
  • photograph them
  • mount them onto canvas
  • attach hangers
  • add labels to the back

Enjoy the birds you see today!


Memories of Bouquets

Fond Farewell ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 12x24"

Fond Farewell ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 12×24″

As the saying goes, “Pictures are worth a thousand words”…and they bring back so many memories. Looking at some photos recently I came across some from a farewell party for a friend and co-worker. They brought back many memories of working with this amazing, dedicated person. Another co-worker had put together this small bouquet in an office mug reminding me of the special talents every person has. Working on this piece was a joyful opportunity to remember those connections.


Healing & Protea ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik each 8×24″

These two also have memories. The daisies were a gift from family when I broke my ankle in 2014. I don’t really want to remember the broken ankle but I am always thankful for my awesome family and their support in everything. The orange flower in the second one one is a Protea (or Pin Cushion) and the arrangement includes some Eryngium and Eucalyptus. These I gave to my sister for her birthday. The vase she used was a plastic one that folds flat. Once filled with water it created some very interesting shapes and colours.

Just over a month until the Artists’ Workshop Show & Sale.  Hope to see you there!

2016 aw invite sm



Mann Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection

It doesn’t happen very often but yesterday there was something very exciting in the mail.  It was a letter from Jesse Campbell, Director/Curator at the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert, SK saying that they have purchased this piece (‘Welcome’) for their permanent collection!  I am honoured and thrilled!

Welcome ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 12x18" SOLD to Mann Art Gallery's Permanent Collection

Welcome ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 12×18″ SOLD

As background, it is Winter Festival in Prince Albert and as part of that the Gallery has a member’s show and sale.  All gallery members are invited to submit two pieces to the show so that is how this came to be there.  There are many, many amazing and varied artists with work in this show so please take the time to check it out.  It is up until April 2, 2016. Details can be found on the Mann Art Gallery website.

About ‘Welcome’

In 2008 we were in Bath, UK. The weather was great and we had been exploring. I remember a little shop where we watched a glass blower create beautiful pieces of art.  Glass blowing is magical and mysterious…and makes the room very hot.

Shortly after we came across this sign and a very welcoming building.

The building is the Walcot Chapel and it was built in the late 1700’s. I loved the welcoming feel of the space, the people and the history. What stuck with me was again magical as the artist’s ‘circular art’ explored deep inner emotion in a colourful, mesmerizing show.


This is the second piece I have hanging in the show:

Beauty Behind ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 10x14" $225

Beauty Behind ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour Batik 10×14″ $225

I am extremely thankful to the people who chose my work for the Mann Art Gallery’s permanent collection!




Remembering and Letting Go

First Drive Memories

First Drive Memories Watercolour Batik 24 x 36″

In this, the city of bridges, we are remembering and letting go of a bridge that has been part of our identity since 1907.  It was the first vehicle bridge and replaced the ferry service for connecting what were then Saskatoon, Nutana and Riversdale.

It is fondly (?) remembered by many of us as the first test of our driving skills as it seemed that all new drivers were taken across it on their very first drive.  It was extremely narrow so once you made it safely across your confidence was bound to have improved.  Since 2010 it has been closed to traffic and it is now being taken down to make way for a new one.

The taking down process has brought people together this winter as they came to watch the demolition.  You can watch the crowds, and the explosion from the removal of two of the spans in this time-lapse taken by our son Derek (Electric Umbrella).

And the bridge came tumbling down. #yxe #?

A video posted by Electric Umbrella Images Inc. (@electricumbrella) on

First Drive Memories

First Drive Memories (Detail)

This is my tribute to a bridge that holds many memories for Saskatoon residents.  I invite you to imagine yourself sitting on this bench and remember.



Le Vieux Couvent

Continuing with our journey from the fall of 2014, a year ago we were staying at Le Vieux Couvent in France on a painting holiday with artist Kathie George.  Le Vieux Couvent hosts painting holidays with various artists bringing groups of about 20 people to paint, tour and be pampered. What a wonderful place to be!

While there we were painting watercolours, since coming home I have done many watercolour batiks inspired by our stay and as I look through our pictures there are so many more memories waiting to be painted that I will be busy for a long time to come.  These were the stairs up to our room:

Stories Inside XV ©Paige Mortensen 24x36" Watercolour Batik

Stories Inside XV ©Paige Mortensen 24×36″ Watercolour Batik

And if you turned around, this was the view back down:

France Le Vieux Couvent Stairs Down

And this was our painting studio – so inviting!

France LeVieux Couvent Studio

In addition to painting, there were day trips.  We saw quaint little villages like Saint Cirq La Popie perched on a steep cliff 100 meters above the Lot River, ancient cave paintings at Perche Merle, Baynac Castle, Rocamadour and more!  We were so well fed we didn’t need to buy anything but the markets were still fantastic.  We wouldn’t see open bags of spices or bowls of olives at any market near where I live!

France Marketplace

In the little towns we visited the doors were fascinating.  This little door knocker looked like a fist all curled up ready to knock.

Stories Inside VIII ©Paige Mortensen 12x18" Watercolour Batik

Stories Inside VIII ©Paige Mortensen 12×18″ Watercolour Batik

So many interesting doors into people’s lives!

Stories Inside VI ©Paige Mortensen 12x18" Watercolour Batik

Stories Inside VI ©Paige Mortensen 12×18″ Watercolour Batik

Stories Inside XI ©Paige Mortensen 18x24" Watercolour Batik

Stories Inside XI ©Paige Mortensen 18×24″ Watercolour Batik

The hospitality was incredible and I know they did a wonderful job of accommodating my allergies.  If you ever have the opportunity to go, please do!  Our final dinner included these cute little hedgehog potatoes!

France Le Vieux Couvent Couvent Meal

I’m thinking this might be the inspiration for one of my next paintings.  It is from Rocamadour, France.

France Rocamadour

I am extremely grateful for this incredible journey.  I hope you to have experiences to treasure and share!



Inspiration in Venice

Last week I talked about being in Rome in 2014.  From there we went by train to Venice – a city of water and bridges!  Inspiration was everywhere, but water was a big part of all of it.  Here again, it was the ordinary parts of daily life that attracted me.


Stories Inside 1V ©Paige Mortensen 15×15″ Watercolour

Stories Inside II ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour 15x15" $300

Stories Inside 11 ©Paige Mortensen 15×15″ Watercolour

There were, of course, more doors but here the windows seemed to draw my attention.  Maybe it was the narrow ‘roads’ where we walked because you could never get far enough back to really see the doors.  In the windows there was evidence of ordinary lives – cats on windowsills, flowers growing and laundry hanging out to dry.  Again, the questions arose in my mind: who built these buildings? who lives her? and what are their lives like?
Venice 2014 ©Paige Mortensen

One of my favourite memories of Venice actually started before we even got there and I owe it to YouTube.  We were very thankful for the video showing us how to get from the S Zaccaria Vaporetto Station (water taxi) to the Hotel al Piave where we were staying.  With these tiny streets going in all directions and water and bridges everywhere we would have been lost trying to get there.  Having watched this ahead of time made it into a fun adventure instead!  You can watch the video here:

Venice 2014 ©Paige Mortensen
Some places were busy with gondolas and people everywhere.  But then we found lots of quiet, peaceful spots where we could just enjoy being in Venice.  Love the reflections!
Venice 2014 ©Paige Mortensen

This summer I have been experimenting with some different styles of watercolour painting and one of the books I worked through was Jean Haines’ book Atmospheric Watercolours: Painting with Freedom, Expression and Style“.  She had obviously been painting in Venice and it was fun to work on her way of painting with my own reference photos of the same places.  This is the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  They say it got its name because as prisoners went across it to be locked in their cells they sighed as they had their last glimpse outside. On another note it is also said that eternal love will be granted to those who kiss while in a gondola under the bridge at sunset.  This is my interpretation of the Bridge of SIghs done in Jean Haines’ style:

Bridge of Sighs ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour

Bridge of Sighs ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour

And my favourite spot in Venice!  This piece is currently touring as part of the Dimensions 2015 show and at the moment is in Whitehorse, YT.


By the Canal ©Paige Mortensen 12×18″ Watercolour

Thanks for sharing my adventures!


Inspiration in Rome

A year ago we were in Rome!  And what an amazing trip it was full of history and wonder. Inspiration was everywhere – from the ancient ruins to the doors that people use every day.  Some of the doors turned into paintings once we got home.  All memories of a trip.


Stories Inside XII ©Paige Mortensen Watercolour 18 x 24″ $700

One of the first sites we came to was Trajan’s Column which is an amazing piece of ancient art!  This marble column with its stand is about 125′ tall and 11′ in diameter. Spiralling around it 23 times is a frieze that tells the story of  wars between the Romans and the Dacians from 102-106AD.


Trajan’s Column ©Paige Mortensen


Trajan’s Column Detail ©Paige Mortensen

As a tourist we greatly appreciated the fresh, cold, drinkable water flowing from fountains around the city – originally built by the Romans 2,000 years ago.


Roman Water Fountain ©Paige Mortensen

We also appreciated the modern fruit stands for their refreshing modern day treats!


Fruit Stand ©Randy Mortensen


Rome – Colloseum

The Colluseum and Vatican were fabulous to see, as were the churches, statues and paintings!


Veiled Lady by Antonio Corradini

For me it will be the doors I remember as I continue to wonder who built them, how did they live, who lives there now?


Stories Inside X ©Paige Mortensen 12×18″ $350

Thanks for reading!



Exploring Wabi-sabi and Boro – Part 2/2

This is the second part of  my exploration of the concepts of wabi-sabi and boro.  This exploration was inspired by Donna Watson‘s article “The Zen of Discovery” in the August 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist.

For the first part of my story click here.

In Part 1 I explained how I had created the ‘scraps’ I would need to create my finished piece.  Now I was ready to put them together.

The Patching Process

I wanted to bring the concepts of wabi-sabi and boro together with the thought that water and warmth are needed to sustain life. Working within this framework it was important to me to limit my materials to the pieces I had created, treat each ‘scrap’ as precious and ensure that I wasn’t wasting anything.


As I laid them out it became apparent that this was going to be a 18 x 24” ‘quilt’. None of this was planned out in advance so placing the patches was a process of trial and error. As the composition came together I pinned the pieces in place and began hand stitching it together.



The Finished Quilt

I offer this piece as reminder to us all to bring the concepts of wabi-sabi and boro into our everyday lives. Wabi-sabi to help us accept and celebrate the imperfections in our lives – both in the things we own and the people we love. Boro to remember that the smallest everyday things are the most precious.


©Paige Mortensen Sustaining 18×24″ Mixed Media

How will you explore wabi-sabi and boro in your life?




Exploring wabi-sabi and boro – Part 1/2


Summer is a time for breaking out of habits and trying something new.  My inspiration came from Donna Watson‘s article, “The Zen of Discovery” in the August 2015 issue of Watercolour Artist. The article featured her work inspired by two Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi and boro and I knew I had to go exploring.

First some Background

The concept of wabi-sabi has been on my mind for a number of years. Donna describes it as “the Zen appreciation of things incomplete, imperfect and impermanent” and “an appreciation of things humble, modest, simple and minimal”. For me it has been about embracing imperfections – in my art and my life.

Boro was a new concept for me. Donna describes it as “patched and mended rags” created out of necessity by north-eastern Japanese farmers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Small scraps of cloth, generally died with Indigo became very precious as the necessities of mending created quilt-like clothing and blankets.

Washi is another Japanese term; ‘wa’ is Japanese, ‘shi’ is paper. Ginwashi paper is a very thin, strong paper with long fibres and I regularly use it for my watercolours. I also had some scraps of other Japanese papers, which I used to bring different textures into the finished piece.


My favourite way of working involves layers of wax and watercolour. The watercolour layers are applied from light to dark with wax applied between layers to preserve the colour and value at that particular point. Once the wax is ironed off the finished piece has a textile quality that seems to be asking to be quilted or stitched. This was something I had only thought about doing and now was the perfect opportunity to do some experimentation.

Creating the Boro ‘Scraps’

PaigeMortensen_WaterJug_Torn copy.jpgMy first step was to recreate the concept of scraps. Recognizing that the peasants were only allowed to wear blue brown, black and gray limited my palette.

I had recently completed a not so successful piece with a beaten up water jug in it so I tore the jug out of it and there was the focus piece for mypaper ‘quilt’. Yes, the jug has some purple in it. Could that have been the result of aging? Or maybe I just took some artistic license here.

Out came the Indigo tube of Qor watercolour paint and I got to work creating textures. The first step was simply to paint all of the pieces with diluted Indigo watercolour paint. Once these dried it was time to add some wax with various sponges and stamps to preserve this shade and value of Indigo and create texture.

02_PaigeMortensen_IndigoWatercolourCropped_QOR  03_PaigeMortensen_FirstLayerCropped 04_PaigeMortensen_WaxingMaterials

These are the tools I used and the pieces with the wax applied. In order to create a worn and stained look I added Qor Burnt Sienna, Quinacridon Gold and Paynes Gray to my palette. Once I was satisfied with the scraps I coated the pieces completely with wax to give them an even translucency and seal the pigment into the paper. The last step was to iron these between layers of newsprint to remove the wax.

06_PaigeMortensen_MoreColourCloseUp 08_PaigeMortensen_Ironing

Next week I will tell you about how these ‘scraps’ came together to express my interactions with the terms wabi-wabi and boro.

In the meantime I invite you to consider how you too can explore wabi-sabi and boro in your lives.