This is the still life painting LaChance decided was a “stinker.” He reused the panel to paint a winter landscape.

Living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, requires an outdoor painter to get used to working in deep snow, strong winds, and cold temperatures. Todd LaChance can handle all that, as well as the inevitable failures – the paintings he calls “stinkers.” He recently salvaged one of those stinkers and shares his triumph with us here.

“You have them, and so do I — the failed paintings I call ‘stinkers,’” says Todd LaChance. “Not everything we do comes out the way we intended, and the best we can do is try, play, fail, try again, learn, and keep going.

The artist sands down the ridges of the dried oil color.

“This particular demo is on a panel I made from mahogany door skin. It’s sized and coated with three layers of lead priming. I first used it to create a still life that never went anywhere. Once the surface was completely dry, I sanded it down to get rid of the ridges, cleaned it off, wiped it down, and took it back out into the winter landscape.”


LaChance then applies a thin wash of burnt sienna over the entire panel.

LaChance continues, “I took it back out on a gorgeous day when there was the kind of eerie calm we get sometimes with a Chinook in this part of Alberta, Canada. I knew a painting of a snow scene would be a fairly cool-colored painting, but I wanted to warm it up by underpainting with a thin wash of burnt sienna. I wanted both the warm tone and the patina of the old painting to show through in the new painting.

Working on location, the artist paints the winter scene and allows some of the color underneath to remain visible.

“I set out the palette of colors and figured out how I wanted to compose the scene. I observed the scene for a while, then painted the big shapes and the darkest dark. Next, I worked on the focal point of the painting and shifted my attention back and forth, sort of as if I were doing a puzzle. That is, I painted areas adjacent to each other and compared the colors, values, and edges. I then added the middle ground color, leaving warm bits visible throughout to create a harmony. I applied the paint loosely because most of the snow in the shade was similar in color and value.

The completed landscape painting

Todd LaChance painting on location

“As the painting started to come together, I developed the section of snow in the light. Union rules stipulated it was time for coffee, so I got up, stretched, walked around, and didn’t look back at the painting, and then I settled back down to paint. Fortunately, the light hadn’t changed very much, so I wasn’t worried that I had yet another ‘stinker.’ I put in the final highlights, added some strokes of color in the foreground with a palette knife, signed the painting, packed everything up, and called it a day.” For more information, visit


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