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Artists who paints in oil en plein aire. Member of the three member Plein Aire Cottage Artists. Members: Mary Rose Holmes, Violetta Chandler and Helen Tilston

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tree Poeny Historic Cottage Painting

Tree Poeny in Bloom
Spring in Toronto is late this year.  Lots of Spring showers have delayed blossoms.

My friend Mary owns this beautiful historic cottage on St. Nicholas Street.  The cottage is c 1850. The street is in the heart of Toronto. Some of the owners of these cottages have chosen to paint the brick, some have sandblasted and left the brick natural.  The material used for the road is red brick.  This street is absolutely spectacular during the Christmas season, particularly when there is a fresh carpet of snow.

My friend Mary's home is painted in a soft white with undertones of blue gray.  Her garden has  2  Tree Peonies which Mary planted, one is a stunning pink and the second is in shades of white and lilac. The tree poeny is native to the mountain region in Northern China. The flowers bloom for approximately one week.  Heavy rain can wash the flowers away and one must wait a further twelve months to enjoy it.  The scent is delicate and difffers from poenies. There is a locust tree framing the cottage.   Mary phoned me on Tuesday evening to relate that there were eighteen buds on her tree and they should be popping soon, quite possibly on Wednesday morning and she feared the worst as the weather forecast was very dismal.  I checked the weather forecast on Wednesday  and showers with sunny intervals were promised.

My subject or motif - don't you love it?
Blocking in the beginning of the painting which is 12 x 24"
On Wednesday I set up my easel in the afternoon at around 2.00 p.m.  There was sunshine and excellent shadows.   I blocked in the colours and shapes.   By 4:00 p.m. it was bitterly cold so I packed up and went home.

Thursday:  Rain, Rain and Thunder storms

Friday:  Rain, mist, drizzle the entire day

Saturday morning:  mist, drizzle and overcast

At 2:00 o'clock on Saturday, the sun began to peek through the clouds.  I quickly loaded up my French easel and returned to St. Nicholas Street.   I think the angels were with me, for as soon as I opened my easel the sun came out and there were wonderful shadows and reflected light.

   Lots of Saturday shoppers stopped to say hello.

At 4:00 p.m. Spice Girl (our dog) and Mike stopped by and brought me a cappucino.  Bliss
The temperature was dropping and I know I can complete this in my studio  

Your comments are heartily welcomed.


  1. Hello Helen:
    What a most attractive cottage,beautifully framed by the tree. We love the deep windows which must flood the house with natural light.

    At first glance, the street looked to us to be a very English scene. We were quite amazed that this should be in Toronto, a city we imagine to be filled with modern architecture. But how wonderful to have the benefits of the city at hand whilst living in this most picturesque environment.

    We 'blew up' the pictures to have a closer look at the painting and cannot wait to see the finished article. We are sure that Mary will be delighted with the result.

  2. The cottage is so pretty Helen and I agree with the comments from Jane and Lance. The picture of the street does indeed look like it could have been taken in the market town near my home in England
    As you will know from visiting my blog that my own peonies suffered in the wind and rain. It is a real shame that such a wonderful plant is in flower for only a short period of time. Mine have no scent and I should love to grow a tree variety like your friend Mary's.
    I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished painting.

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7OGQpmrQ9A&feature=related

    Lance & Jane

    Good afternoon and what a lovely surprise to hear from you today.

    Yes, this street is similar to an English street. The architecture is classic and the inside of these homes are quite beautiful, with tall ceilings and lots of light. Mary's has been meticulously restored. Each home have stunning back gardens, long and narrow. Sadly Toronto does not have a building plan and many developers are ruthless. Right beside these beautiful cottages was a 2 story brick building owned by Regis College, who sold to a developer who wanted to build 29 storeys. A group of over 100 concerned citizens objected and all presented reasons for not wanting 29 storeys. The link above is my protest to the cause.
    The builder got his way. We did however obtain $850,000 from the builder to be spent for community projects/improvements.
    I have a lot of passion for St. Nicholas Street.
    I will post a picture of the finished painting.
    I love you blog.
    How frequently do you post?



  4. Hello My Spotted Pony

    It is so lovely to hear from you.

    Yes, those poenies are truly beautiful. I will be curious to hear if a tree poeny will grow in your area.

    I will be looking forward to your next post.

    Thank you kindly for leaving such a beautiful message on
    for Matt & Mary Rose.

    They are so thrilled that we featured them on our blog.

    Have a great week

  5. Hello Helen:
    We are absolutely appalled at the ways in which developers ride roughshod through whole communities in pursuit of profit, with absolutely no sensitivity at all to the integrity of the neighbourhood. Dreadful. And you were so right to protest, for all that it is worth!

    Thank you for the very kind comment about our blog. We restrict ourseleves, at the moment, to every four to five days. In time we hope to settle on once a week.

  6. My dear, it's so poetic in the most beautiful setting - almost like a little house from Anne of Green Gables. And my dear, your painting is utterly charming. I love it. I admire the reasons why you choose to paint plein air!! It's been windy and wet here too. Keep well and see you at the end of June. I will miss you. ASD

  7. Hello Helen, so happy you stopped by 24C for a visit, thank you for your sweet comment! The little cottage and your painting are lovely, I look forward to seeing the finished masterpiece. How nice of the sun to cooperate with you!
    xo J~

  8. Hello 24C

    What a lovely surprise to read your supporting comment.I will indeed post the finished painting.
    Have a wonderful week

  9. The little cottage looks so inviting.. and much loved. You trully bring the cottage to life Helen. I love to see them. The roses are so beautiful.. and the colours of the cottage.
    Were you in Toronto painting this.. I believe it to be a lovely city.
    Following your art and travels.
    best wishes val

  10. Hi Helen, thank you very much for following my blog. I am now following yours and I am really enjoying it. At first glance, I thought the photos were of Cabbagetown but then I read it was St. Nicholas Street - yes, that is a such a beautiful street and a little known treasure in the heart of downtown. I thought developers were not allowed to tear down historic buildings in Toronto? Anyway, it is a real pity and something that seems to be happening all over Toronto. I live in the east end, and there is currently a battle with a developer to prevent building several tall condo buildings on the Quarry lands at Victoria Park & Danforth.

  11. What a lovely glimpse of your painting, and indeed the image of the painting with its subject is itself beautiful, and the parallel between the fleeting painting opportunity and the brief life of the tree peonies in a storm. My own tree peony is over now for the year, but I always note the coming of summer with its blossoming.

  12. Hello Helen, I really enjoyed reading this post and look forward to some ' backwards catching up' of your earlier ones! Best wishes, Jane

  13. A Super Dilettante

    Thank you for stopping by and for your support and kindness. Now, Anne of Green Gables that is a stunning house. I have visited Prince Edward Island and "Green Gables" I have a small watercolour study of it and now you have prompted me to do an oil painting.
    I will be counting the "sleep and get ups" till you return at the end of June. Will miss you.

  14. Hello Valerie Tilston
    Yes I am in Toronto presently - we divide our time between Indian Rocks Beach Florida, Toronto and of course Ireland and as my late father who was a great horseman would say "a halter of snow would lead you anywhere Helen". He was right, my bags are always packed and faraway hill are green (despite aerial persepective).
    Keep painting Valerie and I love your work.


  15. Hi Louise, thank you for visiting.
    Cabbagetown I love, and the architecture is spectacular - I am going to paint a wisteria (there is a wonderful vista in my neighbourhood).
    Yes it is sad that developers are getting their way and it is all about greed and more taxes. I feel it is always worth it to protest if a development is unsuitable to a neighbourhood.
    You live in a beautiful area Louise and we are particularly fond of going to the Beaches and the dog park.
    Enjoy this beautiful weather

  16. Hello Mise

    What a lovely surprise to hear from you and that you have a tree poeny (I did not know it would grow in the west of Ireland - are you in Galway?
    Your blog is like a breath of fresh air and I am looking forward to future posts

  17. Hello Jane the Booklady

    So kind of you to read my blog and earlier posts.
    I am happy to have found your interesting and well written blog
    My best

  18. I love your blog, Helen! I shall be following. I adore your style and the way you combine shape and colour. I enjoy painting, too, as a dilettante, of course... nothing like you! And I like to think I understand art. I love it, for sure! I'm glad you found me!


  19. I love peonies. When I lived in Iowa, the city's park had a sidewalk lined with different colors of peonies.
    I must say you are very talented! Not only do you paint, but you also knit.
    I do neither, but I do admire those that do. My Mother-in-law also paints and she is very good, although she says it's only her hobby.

    I'm happy the weather cooperated so you could continue painting.

  20. Hello Helen
    Thank you so very much for your most generous comments on my post. In the short time that I have been writing my blog, I have been touched by the many kind hearted people, like yourself, that are out there. In the uncertain times that we live in, it has been a blessing to connect with so many wonderful people.
    I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  21. How lovely to have an insight into how you work Helen. The house and tree peonies are lovely subject matter. I too look forward to the finished article. Thankyou for your kind and caring comments. I am making the most of the garden, sadly there is no Cuckoo singing, will a blackbird do? Have a wonderful weekend, love Linda x

  22. Hello Anna

    My sincere thanks for your compliments. You live in my favourite country. I am delighted to have found your blog and look forward to knowing you

  23. Hello Elisa
    How kind of you to offer words of support and encouragement. Yes I knit and find now it is difficult to do both, so art has gone into first place. Hope you have a beautiful weekend

  24. My Spotted Pony - hello again. Yes, it is wonderful to meet so many like minded bloggers. The support and encouragement is good for the soul
    Have a lovely weekend

  25. Flowers on my table

    Hello again, so happy you are feeling better I will be happy to settle for the blackbird. Reminds me of a song my father used sing "If I were a blackbird, I'd whistle and sing and I'd follow the ship that my true love did sail" etc. etc.

  26. What a charming cottage! I can't wait to see your completed painting of it. As someone who can hardly draw a stick figure, I am in awe of your talent :)