Prince of Wales Hotel — Niagara-on-the-Lake

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but some places, some events, you need far more than one picture to capture the spirit of the place. Knowing I’d be visiting Niagara-on-the-lake I did some research. Looked on Pinterest for what places to make sure you visit while there, and I took a virtual stroll down the street with the help of google street view. I found the Prince of Wales hotel and knew I wanted to paint it. When I was there I took many photos, enjoying the flowers and architecture. Getting different viewpoints from near and farther away. I looked through the photos I’d taken trying to find that one that would completely capture the hotel and the surrounding beauty. Like past landscapes and city scenes I’d done, I realized sometimes you can’t capture all something has to offer, but you can give a glimpse. You portray a moment. And really it’s not a bad thing to be left wanting more. Perhaps prompting the viewer to go and explore it for themselves. The beauty snags you, draws you in, invites you to more.

As I write a story I’ve read many times comes to mind. About a man who had a big request. He asked for something so amazing he wouldn’t be able to take it in or fully grasp or appreciate it.

The man was Moses, he wanted to see God in all his glory. And God, knowing what Moses could and couldn’t handle responded;

“And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:21-23 ESV

Moses caught a glimpse, not the whole. That glimpse gave him what he needed at the time. And yet it wasn’t over, Moses went up the mountain to talk with God many times. Heard his voice, saw him work, and grew in intimacy. In this age of information and got to have it now, sometimes appreciation comes from seeing new aspects over time. Appreciating each piece as it comes. So here is one small view of the beautiful Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-lake.

detail of painting

Patio on Sycamore Street

Celebration series

Acrylic on canvas
I made my way over to Celebration early on a weekday morning, determined to get some photographs when the sun was shining and there were fewer people around. There were tree trimmers blocking a lane of the main road into town so I turned early. I was thankful to find plenty of street parking on Sycamore. I got out of my car and looked over to find this cute patio. Surrounded by walls from the buildings, colorful tile work, a bougainvillea bush climbing trellis along, bright blue umbrellas all added to its charm.
I got a few shots that day, but came back another time as I wanted a different angle. The patio is for the Colombian restaurant in Celebration. For me, it embodied beauty, peacefulness and slowing down.

Market Street Cafe


Acrylic on Canvas

This Valentine’s Day we tried something a little different. My husband had the day off so we drove over to Celebration. There were a few specific shots I wanted to get, and I thought it would be fun to bike around. The Bohemian hotel has bike rentals. So we got two and started off along a path. It was a beautiful day. We saw the backs of a few large homes that had waterslides, and some tree-lined streets with great dappled lighting. (If only leaves changed colors down here, this is the season for raking leaves, as new growth causes leaves to fall. I’ll admit, I also figured the bikes would be a nice prop to any photos I took. It was a nice adventure riding and exploring.

I’d been waiting to feature the Market Street Cafe in a painting more prominently. I was pleased to see the renovations were finished and chairs back out awaiting customers. This is looking up Market Street with Lake Rianhard right behind me.

Fountain at Market street

acrylic on canvas


Have you ever experienced a literal spinning of your wheels? Saw some off-roading on a tv show last week where the truck got stuck in deep mud and they had to winch it out. Getting unstuck took a lot more than wishful thinking.

I thought I was almost done with this painting, and then a loving but trying to be the objective observer, my husband, asked about a few things. They were valid points. At the same time, I saw a Facebook post with Erin Hanson’s most recent work. Trees in a field with the sun shining behind them. So simple it could be about anywhere. Yet the colors and shadows, the way she handled the light coming through the trees was stunning. I looked at the live oak trees in the foreground. They were not happy little trees. The next morning I was back at the canvas trying to correct some problem spots. And I felt like I was spinning my wheels. I added shadows on the street, hated the angle and covered them up. Tried a horse and buggy that looked like a blob teacher to a dog. Covered up. Measured and painted over some areas. Put more color in the trees. (The genius of Hanson’s work is the vibrancy and color when it might be lacking in real life.)

Improvements were made, and I think it’s time to move onto the next canvas.

The scene is another from Celebration. standing at the corner of Celebration Ave and Market Street looking towards the lake.

This and the rest of the Celebration collection is for sale. contact me if interested.

Bank of America Tower from Water Street

Celebration 6


Acrylic on Canvas

In the town of Celebration, there are no happy little accidents. (Lots of happy trees, but buildings and layout were all thoughtfully planned out.) On the edge of the town square along Celebration Avenue is the Bank of America Financial Center with its Tower. The tallest structure in the quiet town, with stairs circling the outside. What’s inside, if anything at all is a mystery.

The building seems a bit like a landlocked lighthouse. Lots of style and beauty, although a bit mysterious in function. Almost twenty years ago I lived for 6 months in a city that had been thriving for hundreds of years. There were amazingly ornately decorated buildings built before we knew a new world existed. A palace complex had been turned into a beautiful city park. And then there were buildings built since communism took root. Extremely functional. Without beauty. No pride of ownership, they looked gloomy and sad. Life is like that city, a mix of old and new, everyday and extraordinary. The contrasts making one appreciate the beauty all the more.

Painting trees continues to be a learning experience. How much detail to strive for, when to add another layer of paint, and when to leave it alone. I like the shapes made by the light coming through the leaves. I find myself referring back to artist Erin Hanson’s treatment of trees. Wonderful branches, negative space, and color all are a staple in her landscapes.

Umbrellas along Bloom Street

Celebration 5

Acrylic on Canvas


Eating outside, a picnic, around a campfire, at an outdoor cafe. For some reason getting out of the kitchen, or the dining room holds a special appeal. Maybe it’s the novelty, the change from the everyday. Perhaps it’s feeling the breeze blowing, sun on your face. Or the ability to people watch. Maybe it’s engaging more of the senses while enjoying the taste of the food before you.

One thing Celebration has is a number of outdoor seating options. Restaurants, benches along the water, even some rocking chairs at the edge of the lake. This scene is outside the Avocado Mexican Grill restaurant, along Bloom Street. I love the brightness of the umbrellas and the shadows from the tables. I arrived later in the morning, workers were getting ready for the lunch crowd that would arrive.

Palms on Market Street

Celebration (4)

Acrylic on canvas


Market Street is only a block long. It’s the heart of Celebration with a handful of brightly colored buildings that have different shops and restaurants. In December the street is closed to traffic and an “ice rink” is set up. (Closer to Christmas they have nightly snowfall, it’s actually soap foam.) Lights are strung across the street, palms line the street and tables are set outside restaurants. It’s quaint, and a nice place for slowing down.

It was a challenge to get photos to work from. Our first visit the ice rink was up. The second visit there was a small art fair/farmers market filing the street with tents, and it was overcast, no shadows. The third visit, cars lined the street, but otherwise, it was quiet, restaurants hadn’t opened yet.

The lesson to remember, reality rarely lines up with expectations. Sometimes you need to try something a few times or look for a different way of doing it. Look around, take the set back as an opportunity to try something new. After my third visit, I actually have photos from several angles of the street. Perhaps I will attempt another view in the near future.

Lily pads at the Bohemian

Celebration series (3)


Acrylic on canvas

Lake Rianhard is at the heart of Celebration and one of the most prominent buildings is the Bohemian hotel. It’s style, like the rest of Celebration is nostalgic. The hotel is surrounded by the lake on three sides. There is a nice paved path around the lake, so I have no shortage photos from different angles.

I choose this one as I loved the lily pads and the drama of the sky. A moment in time where everything seemed perfect. Sadly when I returned recently all the lily pads were gone from this section, the water wasn’t as still, and not a cloud in the sky. I’ve loved Monet’s paintings of lily pads, all the colors, the size, the attention to how season and time of day changed the subject. Here the sky and the lily pads play against each other. When I bumped up the contrast in my photo I could see different tones of blue that added depth and interest. It was a challenge to balance the detail of the building with the water and sky that was more impressionistic.

Moments are fleeting. At times I miss opportunities. My desire is to enjoy the moments as they come, be as present as possible, and look to my source of strength when times are less picturesque.

Yellow Canna Lilies- Celebration

Acrylic on Canvas


Mild weather, the clouds were dramatic, the water was still. As we walked around Lake Rianhard in Celebration we found these Yellow King Humbert Canna Lilies. The sun was causing the petals to glow.They were so vibrant.

Returning to this area less then a month later it’s a different story. It’s breezy, the wind obscures reflections, the clouds are all but blocking out the sun. A hard freeze came for a few nights. The lilies are gone, a few shriveled brown leaves remain.

I was saddened by the change. It reminds me that sometimes the passage of time feels unkind. Your childhood house belongs to another family or sits neglected. No more gatherings at grandmas as she’s passed away. Moved away from childhood friends, grown up and grown apart.

These Canna Lilies are a bulb plant. The season has ended but give it a few months and a new group will grow up to glow in the sun. New memories can also replace the old. A new home, new holiday gathering tradition, new friends in your stage of life. Not the same, but still good.

Lake Rianhard, Celebration

Celebration series #1
Acrylic on canvas

The Disney brand capitalizes on fantasy, entertainment, nostalgia, and utopian ideals. In the 1990s Disney went about planning out and building a community that capitalizes on that branding. Celebration is a small town near Disney World in Florida. Houses have porches, streets are lined with trees, and you can easily get around by bike or golf cart.

I like to focus on beauty, reflecting on our desire for wholeness. Celebration easily gives a feast for the eyes. It’s the opposite of fast-paced city life, with rocking chairs by the lake and little shops to browse in.

We visited one afternoon at the end of the day. The clouds were beautiful and the light was turning things golden. Bikes had been left temporarily as owners were probably dining nearby at an outside cafe.

I confess painting the bikes gave me a hard time. My photograph had distorted the sizing. I considered erasing them all together, spent time tracing and reworking.  After different attempts, I ended up totally repainting the teal bike. As much trouble as I had, I liked what they added to the painting, and will probably have the bikes appear in future works in this series. (You can rent bikes here too, I could pose one around town if I wanted.)

Life is usually not as ideal as what’s pictured here. Things break, plans fail, people disappoint, storms blow through. And yet, we long for the ideal, we vacation trying to capture for a fleeting moment, rest, and peace and joy. C.S. Lewis said; ” If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. ”  Disney does a great job at weaving fantasy, creating places we can catch a glimpse of what may be. (But even in a Disney built town things deteriorate, traffic backs up and neighbors can annoy.) I think one day we will be blown away by how much better our creator is at creating the perfect city, eternal, unbroken, perfect.