The Courage of Three Sisters

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Last year I had the amazing opportunity of creating a painting for a wonderful family that lives just up the street from me. Their son was wanting a painting to commemorate the amazing bond between his mother and her two sisters, one of whom had recently passed. I suggested a watercolour of The Three Sisters mountain range in Canmore. The quote he had provided to go on the painting seemed to go perfectly with the idea of the strength and courage that existed between the three sisters. “When sisters stand shoulder to shoulder, who stands a chance against us”. The quote is by Pam Brown. I can’t imagine the courage it must have taken for the two remaining sisters to say goodbye. I felt honoured to be a part of this project.

Are you fearful of taking on a larger painting? I certainly was! I had never created a painting this large before. It was going to require a great deal of courage on my part.

I’m going to share with you the steps I took to create it and perhaps you will feel more equipped to take on a larger piece.

I used a full sheet of Arches 140lb. cold  pressed watercolor paper. The size of my paper was 22×30″.Working with a piece this size was going to require preshrinking of the paper to prevent buckling as I painted it. The other option was to use a heavier weight paper such as 300 lb. Because of the weight of the paper, 300lb. doesn’t require shrinking. I had a piece of 140lb. on hand so that’s what I went with. Follow along as I explain the steps I took to create this painting.

Bath your paper in cool water for ten minutes flipping it occasionally. You’re going to need a tub to do this.


Once the bathing is done, pull it from the water letting all the excess water drip off. Lay it onto a board (I used a sheet of plywood). Using a sponge or paint brush, push the excess water out to the sides. Once this is done, staple it to your board every two inches. After you have stapled it, tape down the exterior with masking tape. I used regular masking tape. It will take a few hours before it’s dry enough to paint. My next step was to draw out my image and start painting, taking into account the fact that I had to leave enough space for my calligraphy.


Once I had drawn it out, I felt relieved and ready to paint. The bulk of the work was done and now all I had to do was create an amazing painting that captured the beauty of “The Three Sisters”. Easy right? Not so much I discovered! I would recommend painting a piece this large in stages, or it can become too overwhelming. Go easy on yourself and allow yourself a few days to get to the finished product. I made the focus of the painting the mountain range in the distance.

Once my image was painted, I added in my calligraphy. The calligraphy was done with walnut ink. I did a test sample on a separate sheet of paper prior to adding it to the finished painting. Here it is.

Sometimes the courage that’s required to complete a large painting can be overwhelming. Believe in yourself and your ability to create. We are all given an innate capacity to create once we come into this world. The challenge lies in how to access our capacity to create. I believe that the creativity shows up when the courage shows up. That’s only one of the many rewards of the creative journey. Show up and the inspiration arrives! There’s a great quote by Pablo Picasso that illustrates my point  “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.” I challenge you to allow yourself the time to create. You will be amazed with what shows up!



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