Local Lore – Call for Submissions

Hello! Long time, no blog.

I am unfortunately not yet writing to share new work of my own with you. I am still blissfully adjusting to and loving my new role as a mother. Our baby girl turned 7 months yesterday. SEVEN MONTHS! Holy smokes! Time does fly.

However, a friend in Perth, Ontario, is putting together an anthology of stories, poetry, artwork, recipes, and audio work that relates to our town and surrounding area. The project is called Local Lore, and the website can be found at www.locallore.ca. For more information on the project and submission guidelines, please visit the site. She’s also featured one of my Perth Portraits in the print ad, and on her website. This particular painting was one of my favourites in the series. In high school, I used to frequent that weeping willow on the Tay River. It’s a beautiful spot to eat lunch and ponder algebraic equations.

Have a look at the site, and send something in, Perthites and Lanark County residents and enthusiasts! I myself am very excited to read the ghost stories! This is a really fun and exciting project. There are prizes up for offer for the top 15 Campfire Story entries, as well, including delectable gourmet locally-made food products.


Mason and Gracie

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I’m posting this after Christmas to keep the spirit of surprises alive, although this was one of my final projects pre-baby. An old friend asked me to do a portrait of her son Mason and her parents’ Standard Poodle Gracie. She had a few photos of the two of them, but felt they weren’t the best…one was a good photo of the dog, and one was a good photo of her son…

We sat down for a pow-wow and looked through the photos together, as well as some supplementary images. This was the one that she loved of Mason, but she felt that Gracie looked a little doleful. Typically this poodle is perkier in the ears and generally more upbeat.


This photo here was a better representation of Gracie’s personality; her ears are up and her coiffure is fluffy:


In the end, we decided to use the original photo of Mason and Gracie, but with some edits. I fluffed up her ears, and darkened her pupils so that it didn’t look like she was shooting laser beams from her eyes. In the final portrait drawing, I think Gracie looks more mischievous that forlorn:


I didn’t want to overdo the ears. But, I think it works, and my friend is happy with it. I hope her parents love this portrait of their grandkid and puppy-child. I had a lot of fun doing it.

Happy Holidays, friends! Best of wishes from my family to yours.

xo Melody

Bridging…the gap?


I’m working on the last couple of things before Christmas…well, actually, before MY BABY COMES! Yay! As an aside, I’m due in less than 2 weeks, so it’s all happening pretty soon!! (We’re very excited.)

I just finished painting the Red Bridge in Stewart Park, in Perth, Ontario. I have actually painted this same subject – nay, this same image – before. A client requested that I repaint the bridge, which was part of my Portraits of Perth series. It was actually one of the first paintings in that group to sell. The red bridge for me, many Perth, Ontario natives, and visitors to our pretty town, is iconic of this historic place. For those of us who grew up around here, it may elicit memories – dipping our toes in the water underneath on our lunch breaks from high school, running back and forth across the curved structure as children, or standing at its apex, watching the river dance across the rocks in every season. For those just visiting, it’s simply beautiful, and a striking landmark that finds its way onto many postcards, wedding pictures, and family vacation albums.

Since I initially painted the Stewart Park Red Bridge in the spring of 2012, I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison of the original with the more recent version. Firstly, I did the series of portraits of Perth as a group.  I worked on them simultaneously to save time and keep the prices down (they were created for a gift shop in Perth), as well as to give them a strong sense of congruity.  It was also, as always, an exploration into a different process. This newer painting was no exception. I did not look at the original painting at all throughout the process of painting this picture, and worked with a slightly different medium than I did with the first one. I often water down my acrylics dramatically to create washes of colour, and multi-layered surfaces. I typically water down the paint, load the paintbrush, and then blot the excess moisture off onto an absorbent surface before I apply the pigment to the canvas, giving it a very thin application of pigment. I still employed water in the second painting, but also introduced a clear polymer medium, which ‘waters down’ the pigment, without watering down the texture of the paint. It creates more of a glaze, and gives a different sort of depth to the colours (or in this case, greys). Additionally, with this newer version of the Red Bridge, I was focussed on the one painting. I was no longer creating a series, but rather painting an individual piece. Perhaps to outsiders, the differences between the two aren’t very pronounced…but to me, the differences are vast!


The newer painting has much more distinct markings of colour, whereas the original looks more fluid. More individual brush strokes are visible, and more attention has been given to finer details. The first painting is much more impressionistic. The second one is more photographic. I could go on and on. I actually find it fascinating. And all of these differences are a function of both a different approach to making the piece and a difference in the physical materials used. I can’t say I like one better than the other, but I can certainly say they are quite different!

Do you have a preference between the two?

There will be at least one more piece completed before Baby comes in November, but I may wait until after Christmas to show you, as it’s a surprise…as for Baby, stay tuned! I’ll sneak a picture of her into the blog, of course!

xo melody

Trying something new

Hello! Long time!

So, I just finished up a larger pencil portrait of a father and son, and I approached it differently than I usually do. I was taught in art class, many years ago, to work on an art work all over, all at once. The danger, I was told, was that if you develop each area separately, they do not always mesh together – you create a series of separate paintings mashed together on one canvas. This is definitely true in paintings and colour drawings. However, it has proven to be a problematic approach when working on large pencil portraits. What happens is that my hand smudges everything below and to the right of where I am drawing, as I go along. And when the drawing is ‘complete,’ I then must go back and erase smudges from highlights, and amp the contrast in the image back up. Basically, it requires damage control. Some people use a barrier underneath their hand, such as a parchment paper, to prevent this from happening, but I have never worked that way – it’s too cumbersome for my liking. This time, I thought I should try to work from the top left to the bottom right, much in the way that we read.  Since I was working with graphite pencil, and a range of greys, I wasn’t concerned about the colours not flowing throughout the work, as I would be with a painting. It was worth a shot, I thought!

I snapped a picture part-way through the drawing process:


I roughed out the placement of the figures with light outlines, and then went about filling in the shading and details, starting with the boy’s face, then going to the father’s face, then to the father’s right hand, then the boy’s bowtie, and so on and so forth. It was actually a fun way to work and did protect a lot of my original shading from the wrath of my smudging right hand.  As a final stage, I still had to clean up the white border of paper around the drawing, but did save myself a lot of time in the restoration of my own drawing.

Here is the completed piece. It was commissioned as a 50th birthday gift for the ‘little boy,’ whose father (on the right of the images) recently passed. A lovely tribute, if you ask me. And I love the way it turned out – I had a wonderful photo with which to work. Both the father and son have such sparkling eyes. It was a treat to do this one. :)


Here is another recent work – a painted portrait of a cat named Jamie (11″x15″, acrylic paint on canvas.)


I hope that everyone is having a wonderful summer.

xo melody

Portraits of myself seem to be a popular subject!

I just finished a drawing of my brother, sister and I for my mother. I’m finally sending it off later today! As I updated my People Portrait Gallery, I noticed just how many of my portraits feature myself. Ha ha. I’m not sure what to say about that. And I’m not comparing myself to Rembrandt, or Van Gogh, or Frida…oh wait! Maybe I am. But, a lot of artists do a lot of self-portraits. I’ve studied my own face for as long as I could look in the mirror. I’m my easiest and most available portrait subject.  But really?! There are like 4 self-portraits in my gallery. Hmm.

Check them out:



It is really fun for me to draw portraits of family, friends, and myself. I was thinking about why I so enjoyed drawing this last portrait of my brother, sister and I, and I think it’s the familiarity. Just like it’s easier to speak to an old friend sitting across the table from me as opposed to a stranger, it’s easier for me to bring to life on page the portrait of a person I know. And this is why it is important, when you commission me to do a drawing or painting, to send as many photos as possible. I will draw or paint from whichever photo you choose. However, the more photos the better.  In essence, I have to very quickly get to know the subject of the portrait through your pictures in order to really capture them in a painting or drawing.

Now back to the drawing of my siblings and I: My mom had requested this one a while ago, but asked me to cut out my father and uncle so that it was just me, my sister, and brother. I’m not terribly computer-savvy. I like to make things with my hands, and physically manipulate surfaces and objects…so, I took to the photograph with scissors and a glue stick!


This approach doesn’t always work, but I did employ the old cut-and-paste technique with a couple earlier portraits. The two Puggles, Bella and Ernie were actually laying further apart on the deck in the original photograph. With that one, I believe I folded the paper in the middle to put them closer together for my drawing. Pretty high-tech. And with Liam, Adley and Flynn, I did some cutting and pasting to combine the three photos. (All of these can be found in my People and Pets Portrait Galleries.)

Portraits can always be customized, sometimes to various degrees. That being said, I’m always open to personalizing your portrait so that you are happy with the end result. Sometimes I do this with scissors! Whatever works, right?

Thanks for reading; hope you all are making it through the dull winter. Spring is on its way!! Can’t wait!

xox melody

Christmas gift roundup!

Here are my paintings and drawings that made it under families’ Christmas trees this past holiday season. It really is an honour and privilege to have been a part of people’s festivities. I just wish I could see the looks on people’s faces when they opened their gifts!! (Hopefully they were “thrilled” or “ecstatic”.)


Keeta, Acrylic Painting on Canvas, 10″ x 10″


Maddy and Evan, Graphite Pencil Drawing on Paper, each 5″ x 7″


Chara, Graphite Pencil Drawing on Paper, 8″ x 10″

mstarkweather_podedwornycottageportrait copy

Podedworny Cottage (Otty Lake), Acrylic Painting on Canvas, 10″ x 12″


Benji, Acrylic Painting on Canvas, 12″ x 12″


Kaity and Jeff, Graphite Pencil Drawing on Paper, 5″ x 7″


Cody and Pal, Graphite Pencil Drawing on Paper, each 5″ x 7″

The very last one will be coming up soon. My poor mother has been waiting for her holiday portrait of my brother, sister and I since, well, the holidays. :( Sorry Mom. That is the next one in the roster. And following that, a drawing of a very cool Basset Hound named Buddy!

BTW – Check out my Portraits of People section, as I’m adding some new images this evening, including the completed “Eloise” portrait.

xo melody


Wowzers! It’s been over two months since I last posted a blog entry! I cannot believe it.  FOR SHAME! It’s not that I haven’t been working on stuff, although I did take a bit of a break after the Christmas madness.  Since the holiday whirlwind, I’ve been obsessing about wedding crafts (of course I’m making everything I can myself!) And…well, mostly obsessing about the wedding this summer. There will be pinwheels and fabric bunting and mason jars and a pig roast and a Beatles cover band! It’s going to be amazing!

However, I have actually been working on a fun new drawing project that I hope to finish up in a couple of days…here is the rough draft…do you get the reference?


The woman who has commissioned me to do this drawing asked for me to draw her sister and sister’s dog as Eloise and her pup Weenie from the Eloise stories (written in the 1950s by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight.) I tried to reference the original heavily, but put a bit of my own spin on it.  I also wanted to imbue the original image with the character and personality of the subjects in my drawing. Here is the original:


I do love it when customers come to me with their own ideas and present me with a challenge – an opportunity to stretch my creative muscles and drawing/painting skills! Remember this one? This was another person’s vision as well, which I managed to bring to life on canvas. (I think that Wayne and I were somehow mentally/spiritually connected throughout that process! See what he had to say about it in my testimonials.)

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this portrait. I’m also going to post a Christmas roundup – all of the paintings and drawings that made it under people’s trees this past holiday season. How honoured I feel to have found such a special place in people’s Christmas mornings, and on the walls of their homes!! You should see that post in the next few days.

Thanks for reading. xo melody

German Shepherd for Christmas

Hi there,

I cannot believe how quickly the holidays are sneaking up and I am proud to say my portraits will be under some peoples’ trees! Here is a sneak peek of an adorable German Shepherd I’m working on:


I would say she is just shy of half-done. Perhaps that is a little too optimistic. But I’m getting there!

After this one, I have a Weimaraner, two adorable grandchildren, a terrier of sorts, a Bassett Hound, and potentially a horse and another dog. Pending confirmation on the last two, this books me up fully for the holidays.

However, I can do gift certificates! Contact me for more information.

I’ll keep you posted, and given my very full workload coming up, will have lots of pictures to show you, too!

<3 melody