Tuesday, August 30, 2022


I'm thrilled that this pastel work, titled "Smoke",  has been getting plenty of exposure. It was accepted into the Purely Pastel Juried Exhibition in May, and was on the walls at Neilson Park Creative Centre for three weeks. Then in August I was chuffed to receive notice that it had been chosen for display at the Ontario Legislature Buildings (in the Members' Dining Room) for the Art √† La Carte Program. It will be on view there until next August. 

 Wednesday Portrait Drawing

When the Pandemic locked us down, I began to run an online Portrait Drawing session every other Wednesday morning. Participants took turns being the model while the rest of drew. It has been a rewarding exercise and we have plans to continue this Fall. The last portrait here is a self-portrait. I joined a Facebook group called Self-Portrait Sunday - also formed during Lockdown -  and actively participated for about a year before I got tired of scrutinizing myself so closely each week. Drawings are done in colour pencil and graphite. The colour piece is watercolour.

 Painting Flowers

This acrylic painting was a demo created in class. The emphasis was on shape/form and texture. I began with a base of modeling paste, textured with brushes and mark-making tools. 9"x12"

 Painting Flowers

After a series of drawing exercises featuring Sunflowers, done from photo reference, I worked with the same loose, gestural strokes to create this 24"x 30" mixed media/acrylic painting.

 Infinite Sunflowers

Quick, expressive drawings and Blind Contour drawings of Sunflowers. Done in conté. Colour added later. A series of exercises to explore composition and mark-making.


New Work

Mark-making, textures and working with  Pastel colours, water-soluble Graphite, and Acrylics to create this expressive work riffing on floral drawings.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Portrait Artist of the Week Challenge

On Sundays I've been enjoying the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Week broadcast (I access it through Facebook on the page of the same name). A 4-hour conversation between a Portrait Artist and a celebrity sitter whilst the Painter paints. The rest of the world (me included) grabs screenshots of the sitter and paints or draws them at leisure and posts them on social media - hoping to be graced with a 'like' from the fine folks at SkyArts! 
Above from top to bottom: Jon Snow - Journalist, in Water-soluble pencil crayons
Jon Snow in Pastel,
Russell Tovey - Actor, in Water-soluble pencils,
Leslie Garrett - English Soprano, in Water-soluble Pencils.
 I didn't discover this until the current series was almost done. It has been immensely fun.

 2020 - The Year of the Self Portrait

This crazy COVID year has been one of gazing into a reflective surface - be it a computer screen, window or mirror. I've done an unprecedented number of Self-Portraits in all moods, methods and media. Facebook has several Self-Portrait groups - I've been participating in Self Portrait Sundays - limited to posting only on Sundays. Media used here is Pastel, Acrylics and one Watercolour. 

New Work from the iPad

I've been teaching online classes in Drawing on your iPad, through Visual Art Mississauga. We work in SketchesPro and Procreate - two wonderfully innovative and versatile apps.
Some of the above pieces are analogue drawings that have been further worked on in one or the other app, and others are drawings done on the iPad. The last one (SelfPortrait) was done with a brush I created for my Brush studio.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

 Fall Courses at Neilson Park Creative Centre

I'm looking forward to Fall Classes starting soon. I'll be teaching ONLINE classes only this term. It'll be good.

Into The Looking Glass: Self-Portraits
Instructor: Helen McCusker
All levels
Monday, September 28 – Monday, November 9, 2020 (6 Mondays)
No class on Monday, October 12
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
$198.00 (with HST $223.74)
Self-portraits have existed as long as artists have been able to see their own reflection. They are an important part of any artistic practice as we learn to see objectively and scrutinize carefully to record ourselves and develop our skills. As we continue to self-isolate and limit our social circles, self-portraits take on a new importance – without others to model for us, we can turn to the mirror and do what artists have done for centuries – draw and paint ourselves!Using both mirrors and ‘selfies’, we will work with drawing and painting mediums. The focus will be on skill development, learning to see and understand the structure of the head and face, and interpretation. Exercises will explore line, shape, planes, proportions, composition, media usage (both drawing mediums and paint) and concept. Join us for an adventure into the looking glass.

Drawing with Soft Pastels


Instructor: Helen McCusker
All levels
Tuesday, September 29 – Tuesday, November 24, 2020 (9 Tuesdays)
Online, except for two “at Centre” critiques on Tuesday, October 27 and November 24
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
$297.00 (with HST $335.61)
Soft pastels are a versatile medium that have been used through the centuries by artists such as Carriera, Quentin de la Tour, Degas, Cassatt, Picasso and many others. They are portable, vibrant and easy to use. Through a variety of exercises, students will learn several different pastel techniques to create beautiful drawings. Subject matter for drawing will include drawing from Still Life and photo reference (supplied). We will cover colour theory, composition and design, personal style and expression, and the nitty gritty of what pastels and papers you need and where to find them. Class instruction includes demonstrations, examples of pastel work, one-on-one direction, and group critiques. Beat the Isolation Blues and join us for a fun, informative drawing class.

And a 2-day workshop:

Introduction to Drawing
Instructor: Helen McCusker
Saturday, October 3; Sunday, October 4, 2020 (2-day workshop)
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
$78 (with HST $88.14)
Have you been thinking you’d like to finally learn how to draw or get back into it after a long hiatus? This two-day workshop is just what you need. Learn how to observe and to draw what you see. Explore a variety of observational tools to approach subject matter. Discover an intuitive approach and develop your personal style. The emphasis is on cognitive exercises and process. Different media are explored and experimenting is encouraged. Technical skill in these media will also be addressed. This course is designed for those who have never drawn before. Individual attention is given to each student in a supportive, positive environment.
Click for Neilson Park website here.


Fall Classes at Visual Arts Mississauga

Learn to Draw on your iPad using Procreate and SketchesPro. Discover all the fun stuff you can create on your iPad in this 10-week Online course at VAM.

Click here for more info.

I'll also be teaching Drawing Explorations - a fun course with an eclectic approach to drawing. Whether you're just learning how to draw, or want to try something completely different - there's lots on offer.

Click here for more info.


Digital Symmetry Drawings

Done in Procreate using the Symmetry tool. Same drawing - different Layer Modes.

 Mandala Variations

Done in Procreate, more Mandala variations. I played with Layer Modes - it's a great way to discover new colour combos - every layer mode changes everything - highlights different shapes with every mode. You get some very cool effects happening.

 Digital Symmetry

Symmetrical drawings done in Procreate using a limited palette. The drawings were done quickly and as soon as I started to hesitate over a move, I'd save the drawing and open a new canvas. I was on a roll - there's some similarities between pieces, but I tried several different brushes and had no agenda other than to keep moving as fast as I could. Very little erasing or backtracking.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Portrait Class

I'm currently teaching a Portrait Drawing and Painting Class at Neilson Park Creative Centre. It was a small class last week, so I snagged a bit of time to do a couple of quick drawings of our model, Annike, between my rounds. Pastel on Canson Pastel Paper.

Life Drawing at PixieBlue Studio

Pixie Blue, in Port Credit, is running a monthly Figure Drawing Event. We went down to check it out a couple of weeks ago. A fun evening with some great people and a really good model. Couldn't believe this was the first time she'd modelled. These are done in Watercolour Pencil.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Contour Drawings

A variety of contour line drawings in which Etienne loses his head...

Monday, June 03, 2019

Haliburton School of Art and Design

I'm really looking forward to my classes in Haliburton this summer. I'm offering 3 courses in July - Life Drawing and Painting is almost full, but there's still space in my Artmaking: Drawing, Painting and Collage, as well as  Artist Retreat: Yoga, Meditation and Drawing (click on the links for more information).
The Artmaking Course is a lot of fun and great for those who want to work on their own projects under supervision - or to learn new skills and ways of thinking about their art process. We begin each day with a slideshow and talk about contemporary and traditional artists and their work - tailoring it to my students' interests. We warm up with art exercises designed to get you thinking about composition, process, subject-matter, etc. Then you can get busy on your project, or continue with more exercises and projects directed by the Instructor (me!). 
As an experienced Instructor and Artist, I bring enthusiasm, encouragement and know-how to my students to help them engage in and get more out of their own artist's journey.

 Artist Retreat is a wonderful week of Life/Art balance. Sheila Miller facilitates the Yoga and Meditation - she's an amazing instructor for all abilities - thoughtful and creative in her approach to Yoga and Meditation. The Drawing part of the program gets us outside (weather permitting) to be inspired by the natural beauty of the area. We'll be doing drawing exercises to promote 'seeing', trying some new techniques and using Drawing as an extension of the Meditation techniques you'll be learning. You'll find it a refreshing, mind-expanding week, full of new and wonderful experiences.