"a garden party" by Ellen Kelley McHale
“a garden party” by Ellen Kelley McHale

My friend Lorell (who is also my most trusted web developer and advisor)is often telling me to show my process because she thinks it is cool watching how I get from point A to point Z.  So I decided to document my painting in various stages of undress – I mean, evolution.  I can be working on a painting for weeks at a time so I will jump around to other things when I’m just not feeling that things are going my way and come back to the painting after I’ve had a chance to distance myself from the mess I’ve made.


Ain't nothing but a thing ...
Ain’t nothing but a thing …

Case in point: I have a tiny idea to make myself a little garden party on canvas so I just throw a lot of color down and get the beginning of an idea on the canvas.  Quite frankly, I’m in total dislike with myself at this stage of the game and am wondering why I’ve ruined a perfectly fine canvas.   I leave the studio and head over to Concord Fitsquad to do a body pump class while still covered in paint.


Now we're getting somewhere...
Now we’re getting somewhere…

After staring down the canvas for day or two I decide that the pot needs a friend to party with so I’ve added a smaller vessel on the right side and have begun to add a blossom here and there.  Things are taking shape but the two big hero flowers on the main stage are driving me nuts.



presto chango - new flowers emerge
presto chango – new flowers emerge

I begin to clean up my background and I start playing with shapeshifting – not me but the flowers.  I add some petals and cut into the blooms with paint.  I like where it’s heading but I keep coming back to the hero flowers and they are still driving me nuts.  I leave the studio covered in paint and get some fresh air.  Sometimes you just have to walk away. I did come back and painted two small abstract paintings (check them out here) which loosened my thoughts up and helped me move on.


some flowers went on a diet
some flowers went on a diet

I put the flowers on a diet. They needed it. The background was changed and the table that the flower pots were sitting on got refined.  The sunflower turned it’s face to the imagined sun and the Dr. Seuss-ian bud had its waist whittled down.


new additions and finishing touches
new additions and finishing touches

Let’s get this party started: I added some leaves and buds and cleaned house just a little bit to tidy up before the big reveal. Some flicks of paint here and there and a scribble or two of pencil along with some smudging along the edges.  I’m feeling happy …


"a garden party" by Ellen Kelley McHale
“a garden party” by Ellen Kelley McHale

“et voila”: ” A Garden Party” has finally been realized.  The voice in my head kept saying (in its best Maine accent) “you can’t get there from here” but I know that the ugly stage will pass and something splendid will show up at the end.  It’s kind of like middle school, when we are looking all awkward and strange and then you come back years later and you’re now taller and cooler and probably still strange – but in a way that is how I like my paintings … cool and still strange.

Garden Party: floral still life: acrylic on stretched canvas, 24 x 24

That’s it for now, see you soon,



9 thoughts on “Evolution of a painting …

    • Ellen McHale says:

      Thank you ever so Mo! We’ve got some snow on the ground this morning so I think it was timely that I finished “The Garden Party” to remind me of warmer times. Wasn’t sure what to make of the white stuff on the deck today. xo

  1. Valerie says:

    Love this post – so interesting, El! And of course, I love the results. Still hoping we can do a little party featuring your art sometime soon. xo

    • Ellen McHale says:

      Maybe with some other colorful language thrown in Lucy. If you have ever seen me with paint all over my hands at our body pump class then you know I am there seeking diversion from my own self. Happy Thanksgiving to all the McBrides. xo

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Hi, this may be interesting you: Evolution of a painting ...! This is the link: https://www.nelleykelley.com/blog/evolution-of-a-painting/