Monday, 6 August 2018

Peru Part 2, Unconventional Peru: Pacific Coast, Pisco Vienyards, Huacachina Desert, and the Paracas Nature Reserve.

For a complete contrast, our next adventure took us south out of Lima to the Pacific coast, Pisco vineyards and the Huacachina dessert

We're driving south along a major hwy as we leave Lima behind. I wanted to include this photo, as the beach is at the bottom and at the top of the cliff, is Lima. Look at the rock of the cliffs. They are all covered with a special netting to prevent erosion. What super amazing about this, is that on the hay looking up at these cliffs, are a gazillion bougainvilleas, giving a Ton of colour to the very neutral cliffside. Lots of surfers out on the ocean too. Not far along, the scenery is less shiny and citified. 

However, good compositional possibilities. I just look at shapes and arrangements. 

As we leave the big city behind (population 10 million) the sun, as promised peaks out. (Lima has no sun and is under perpetual cloud cover. The landscape is barren, with a few shacks here and there. 

Then we reach our first destination for this area of Peru. The Pisco Vineyards. 
Pisco Sour is the national drink of Peru, and they drink it the way Canadians drink beer. Except it's a little more potent than beer. Pisco is fermented grape juice, similar in potency to Brandy. 

It was amazing to see the process, with the Andes beckoning in the background. Yeh,..they kind of make a lot of Pisco here. 

And sell it like corn in Canada in August, roadside stands everywhere. Except for the guns hanging, everything here is Pisco. Next Stop: Huacachina Desert.

Eva getting out her gear to paint

Myself, Janet and Jan, thumb nailing, and preparing to paint the sand dunes of Huacachina. For many years now, we have made a habit of having a sunset challenge. You prepare your composition, choose your palette, even start painting, knowing you are leaving the effect of the sunset to the last second. That's what we are preparing here. 

The following day, our jaws were dropped at the Paracas nature reserve, with spectacular coastal scenery, dramatic cliffs and awesome water/wildlife. After a spectacular seafood lunch, off we went to paint for the afternoon. Check it out:

Eva painting in from of the never-ending and blue, sky.

Here's Bev, mid-painting, by the water. 

Here's Barb capturing the remarkable red cliffs of Paracas. 

Bettys' off to the races, with her values checked, and ready to go. 

There's the lovely Janet, with a different viewpoint. 

There's Jan, with an underpainted surface and a bit of a different colour scheme. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Pastel Painting in Peru part 1: Lima!

In all my years of international painting trips, I have never had a challenge like painting Peru.

In early June, myself and a group of my adventurous art students headed of to an exotic faraway painting locale. We moved around constantly on this trip, every day, so many new subjects to paint, stimulating places to discover. So I will be posting a few times about this trip, just to be able to fill you in on the some of the details,........

First though, I would like to congratulate all my students who came on this trip. They are the ones that kept it going, went on all the treks, and painted even when we were tired. It takes some dedication, and I appreciated your efforts!

not everyone made it into this pic, can't seem to find one with EVERYONE!

It all started in Lima, Peru. Lima surprised me, with it's nice temperatures, but ever-present mist and overcast skies. 

Parque Del Amor, or,...Park of Love

Sculptures, mosaic walls, treed walk ways meander through the park setting on top of cliffs, overlooking the Pacific ocean, undulating waves and surfers for miles. Tropical palm trees meet evergreens. 

The spectacular gardens of the Larco Museum makes quite an impression without even going inside. We had lunch in a beautiful cafe, 1/2 inside1/2 outside, in a building and in a garden, profuse with hanging plants, greenery. Very alive! Food was delicious as well. A nice relaxing lunch before seeing this impressive collection.

We saw amazing intricately designed jewellery, body wear, and crafted tools.

When I first saw this case, I thought nice candle holders! Not. These are weapons of war and murder. 

Another amazing privately owned museum was “Las Pallas”, housed in a gorgeously renovated private home, owned and operated by  Scottish-born Mari Solari, who immigrated to Peru in 1966 and has since become Peru's leading specialist in the area of Peruvian native folk art. Her passion is contagious as she can't wait to tell you every detail of her amazing collection. We were lucky enough to be invited in to her private collection, where she has an amazing collection of pottery, and other handcrafted items. 

Here's Maria, standing in front of one of many cases full of artifacts. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. 

Check it out, a Mommy bird and Baby is attached by a string. Sweet.


These intricately detailed clay wall plaques are a traditional wedding present in Peru, depicting aspects of family life. Another tradition is a set of Bulls, sitting atop peoples' roofs. They are a sign and a wish for prosperity.  

The cliffside parks, lining the Pacific Oceans' way, the Larco museum, with its' amazing collection of pre-columbian art, (not to mention its' spectacular display of gardens particularily the Bougainvilleas) and evening light show set this city of over 10 million peruvians, apart.

Magica colour y Fantasia coloured fountains set to music.

Miles and miles of cliffs, are covered in mesh to stop erosion. The mesh is then planted with Bougainvaillea, imagine the entire cliffside covered in colour! As we left Lima for the Ica dessert and Paracas, Diego, our tour guide with Peruvian Soul explained how urban sprawl happens in Peru.

 Poor urbanites build a shack, literally, out of wood. More people join in, and eventually, someone replaces the wood with brick,...and when there are 10 houses or so made out of brick, the government then kicks in with hydro, streets and water. You can see these shanty towns as you exit Lima by bus. Urban sprawl with no planning at all.   

Please stay tuned as we travel next to the south and Pacific coast of Peru, to completely different climates, and very different painting experiences.

Thanks for listening,............. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

ICAN 2 Pastel Inspiration-Maintaining your creative ideas for paintings

This is my 2nd instalment about ICAN, and the second workshop I will be teaching at the Pastel Artists of Canada national conference, (known as ICAN pastel). I'll be giving a lecture on maintaining creativity Thursday May 31st. The conference is being held at the Aurora Cultural Centre in Aurora Ont. For more information or to register for either of my workshops there, go to and follow the links to register. 

El Vestido Rojo, pastel, which won the creativity award at the Pastel Society of Eastern Canada Intnernational exhibition, Montreal. 

Over my years as a teacher, I’ve discovered many students who struggle with keeping themselves motivated to create over the long term. I’ll be talking about creating a work environment and practise, where artists can encourage themselves to create on an ongoing basis, maintaining their inspiration, using many creative tools. In this 2 hour demo, I will talk and create continuously, while having the conversation about managing your creative time fruitfully.

 100 winter project 
one object:100 ideas

I’d be showing several ideas of documentation of ideas for future work, a reservoir of
ideas for days when you feel directionless, how to inspire yourself. I’ll be taking only a few ideas ( or even one), and show many possibilities within the use
of only the one image, working one idea in a fairly small format.
I want to demonstrate how to set yourself up for the creative expressions possible within one idea, but also how to manage your creativity. 

studio soul space; my bulletin board, with photos, art pieces, sketch book etc.  

Because pastel is such a versatile, spontaneous medium, it naturally lends itself to the initial creative visualization. Some variables will be paper colour, value and type of paper, underpainting, lighting, composition and pallette and value variation. I’ll talk about the difference between the right paper/colour choice, and the effect that you are trying to create, as one example. I will also talk about pastel as the seminal medium for experimenting with composing, why it is the perfect medium to start every piece art artwork with, regardless of following it up in another medium or staying with Pastel.

Ruffles in the sun, pastel, 5" X 7" from my A Time to Dance series, 2009

The follow up larger version, Ruffles in the Sun, 2009

Many of my students can attest to hearing me say if you don’t have any creative ideas for paintings, ones can be provided for you. 
Many creative people are constantly experiencing ideas for paintings, any time of day. How many ideas do you document, file and save for a rainy day?
Our creative inspirations don’t always match our time in the studio, so it’s part of our job as artists to document ideas as they come to us, and save for the some time ahead. 
How does this happen? How can we increase the chance that we’ll be able to express an idea, and get it back at the beginning of our studio time?
Creativity is an open ended phenomenon, leading to a multitude of possibilities. 

1 cup

many views

endless possibilties

Over my years teaching plein air painting, I find it's so important to spend a ton of time looking for ideas. The following pieces are all pastel, fairly small, and represent effort put into finding worthwhile paintings in many different subject matter. All these images are from Morocco. When I come to a new location to paint, I take my time, and allow myself to spend loads of time, looking for interesting compositions. If I come away with more ideas and less paintings, I know I'm on the road to huge creative output, through exploring many ideas. 

camel against the Atlas Moutnains

laundry day

architecture that speaks about colour choice.

more about light and geometry

stark light and fullness behind the white wall

perspective, depth, texture

Take the emphasis off of production and onto idea collecting, and rather quality idea collecting. I hope to see you at my presentation. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

ICAN National pastel conference

The Pastel Artist of Canada are hosting their third national conference for Pastel artists.
 I am proud to say I taught at the first two, and will be teaching at the third as well, this coming 
May 28th- June 1st. It's being held at the Aurora Cultural Centre
handy for GTA, and accessible to everyone. I really recommend this conference. Aurora is a sweet little town, with many old buildings surrounding our venue. The size of the centre is not too big, just perfect for the pastel Artist of Canada. There'll also be a national Juried show, held right at the convention, to offer participants another educational opportunity as well as enjoying seeing pastel work from all over Canada. 
While there will be teachers offering interesting workshops from all over Canada, I have two themes for my workshops that I think are relevant for my students. 

Pastel Minis                Monday May 28th, 9-12

                                           Grounded and graceful, pastel, 4.5" X 6.5" 2009

In 2009, I took a sabbatical from teaching for 9 months. The "painting a day" movement was just coming on strong in the States. My friend Margaret Dyer suggested I do one miniature a day during that time, first thing in the morning. The thinking being, that you can have a finished piece pretty early in the day. The psychological benefits of having a piece under your belt before 9 am. was not lost on me, and a huge series was born.

From that time on, I have understood the benefits of working small, as in Grounded and Graceful, one of 100 pieces executed in 2009, in pastel,  all miniature. Not just psychological benefits either :

-working small has helped me really hone my compositional skills. You have no choice but to see    how every stroke affects the entire picture plane.
- the ease of working out ideas in small format to gage their viability for larger work
- simplify your composing skills, paring down to the most necessary elements only.
- accumulate work produced and feel good about this accomplishment.
- appreciate the charm of small work

Barbs' Koi pond, pastel, 5" X 10", 2017 

One of the greatest things I really appreciate is all my Ottawa students who get together and paint every Thursday, plein air. I join them when I can. This is a scene at Barb Dicksons' place. Thanks for the lovely scenery Barb!

Musical Whimsy, pastel 4" X 8"

I work small on location wherever I go, for practical purposes. This was done at a music festival, where this beautiful woman wore scarves on her body and a feather boa in her hair. Whimsy. 

Stone at Serrania , pastel, 4" X 9"
Since 2008, I have conducted almost 18 international painting trips. Working small is a wonderful thing when you have many ideas to work through. This was a stone pillar on Mallorca, Spain. I wanted to try and capture the feel of flagstone, while the late afternoon light gave some definition and good split to the picture place. I've been taking students on painting trips for 10 years now: France, Italy, Costa Rica, Spain, Peru, and coming up in 2019: Guatemala, March 2019, and Portugal, November 2019. 

Working small whenever I am lacking direction is a regular part of my creative practise. This winter, I made many small studies, letting these give me direction about what I want to paint next. 
To register for this class, just go to and follow the links to the conference. 
Hope to see you there!

Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will be about another challenge many people face: staying creative, organizing your ideas, and never being out of the groove. 

Friday, 26 January 2018

surfacing for air, living quietly, and travelling around the world

Hello my followers. Greetings from the cave. I've been incognito for a while now, living quietly. I've hardly done any teaching, though some is coming up. One thing I have been doing is clarifying my ideas for paintings, for series I want to do, and for individual paintings as well. Many ideas, no studio.

thinking of some large landscapes,.....

Here is Barrie the closest thing to encouragement I have got from other artists is that studio space is very expensive, and I should find someone to share with.

I'm still looking, and may land somewhere further away than I had planned. Whatever happens, I will keep you informed.

               However, I am still life drawing, no matter what,....... I'll be drawing the figure/portrait.

WHERE DID go?, my beloved website for about 20 years, is no more. With my move, I did not renew my yearly fee for my website, as the invoice went to my old e-mail address. Thus, unbeknownst to me, there is this whole process a company goes through when someone doesn't renew their web address. It's a ridiculous game of monopoly that favours other it companies. Thus a company, (to which I am not allowed to know the name of) could purchase my web address, as soon as it goes back on the market. I tried to as well, but I am no techy.

This company bought my web address for $9.95 usd, and now wants to sell it back to me for $500.00 usd. I won't do it, just based on the principal of the big guy, taking advantage of the little guy. Rip-off! I'm telling you so it doesn't happen to others! The enemy is a company from Massachusetts, called sedo. They are an intermediary, who is selling my web address on behalf of whomever bought it.

For the time being, I won't have a website, but will list workshops here, and if you have a question, or want to be in touch please e-mail me at
I'll be just a pulse, for a while, can't say how long, I don't have it all planned out.

In the meantime, I'll be back in Ottawa Feb. 10-March 5th, so stay tuned for possible workshops then.

Painting Peru FULL! waiting list:

My next travelling and painting trip is to Peru this coming June. The trip filled very quickly, but please be in touch if you'd like to come to Peru with me another time. For this years trip itinerary, just for interest sake, click here:

Travelling the world, ......
                                          from the comfort of a table in the laundry room,....I have been creating, and dreaming about our miracle of existence on this beautiful planet. Just some thoughts:

I guess any animal you are not used to seeing seems magical. These camels are so darn tall! Camel rides being offered on our hiking trip in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. 

watercolour underpainting, with pastel done in our kayak while dave fishes, this past summer. This is Carthew Bay, just south of Orillia.

From the bottom of the Ocean,....

                                                     To the serene skies of Costa Rica, .....

from quiet street in Italy, 

to the gentle breezes of San Jose

There's quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Quietly busy. More to come! Stay tuned for the announcement of my next international painting trip, 2 Ferraro workshops at a national pastel conference, and more. 

Margaret Ferraro Artist

blogging at and e-mailing at