Thursday, 1 December 2011

Golden Morning...

Woke up very early this morning and as the kettle was warming on the woodstove for tea I noticed that some of the tips of the trees were tinged with yellow...

 "Look behind you" said Tony, and there the rising sun was bathing everything it could reach in gold.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A cup of tea always makes things better...

My Irish grandmother, Nana. Hannah by birth, Annie to her friends, she always maintained that a pot of tea was the cure for all things. In my last post I wrote about the recent trauma of having a cold mug of tea dumped unceremoniously over my journal/sketchbook. With the help of my lovely soulmate's sense of positiveness I was able to turn the disaster around. What I'm still trying to come to terms with, is that on top of all this, one of the pieces I was most devastated about, after drying, well, sort of... looked... a lot... well... better!!!

Obviously I don't have the "before" picture, but just let's say there were no smudges on either side of the picture...

We had spent the week camping early October in Goldstream Park (near Victoria) and it did more for my soul than anywhere has in a very long time. I sat by the fire most days sketching and writing or just staring into the flames. For this particular piece I had drawn the trees straight onto the paper with a fountain pen filled with black ink, and then went back in with a watercolour brush filled with water to bleed the lines, which created the effects on the trunks of the trees. While the paper was still wet, I would dip the nib of my fountain pen into the wet spot, which would suck the ink onto the paper, bleeding further as it went.

I would come back to this piece again and again. The leaves of the trees and bushes were painted using my Windsor and Newton watercolour set, and then enhanced with Pitt Brush pens. Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.  Gelly Plus 0.4 point pens by Monami Co. Ltd. (brought back to me from Hong Kong by my friend Janie) added details. Silver pens put the finishing touches to the leaves on the bushes. It's one of my favourite pieces in this sketchbook journal because of the memories it brings back of a very meaningful time and place.

And then the mug of tea hit...

Cold herbal tea with almond milk and blackberry honey poured into the pages of my sketchbook journal and through my sketches. On the left hand side of the double spread page it smudged the trunk and the dead tree beside it, bleeding ink and colour out of both sides of the trunk. 

On the right hand side it smudged the trunk and softened the smaller trees beside it. The end result was a suggestion of mist, signature of the West Coast of British Columbia... a distant memory of mountains...a will- o'-the-wisp perhaps... 

To finish of the piece I glued one of the bits of fungi that I had picked up and dried between the pages of my sketchbook journal. Somehow it seemed to belong now on this page, a wandering spirit of the forest.

 My grandmother was right in so many... a cup of tea always does make it better...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Looking like a real artist...

So in the van today, as we turned a sharp corner, my tea mug (with about 2 inches of cold milky herbal tea with honey in it) tipped right over onto the unbound open edge of my sketchbook/journal, drenching the pages and everything within...

My dear sweet soulmate (the driver of said van) patted me on the (also wet) knee and says: "Now it looks like a real artist's."

Rude words abounded ~ I was devastated. It wasn't his fault at all but you see, I have this thing... I love prisine notebooks. I like them neat. And tidy. And, above all, clean. Not for me the mucky, dog-eared look. Ruffled pages seriously disturb me. Uneven paper edges actually keep me awake at night. I can handles water wrinkes, just. Only as a result of a watercolour sketch. Smudges bother me though. It took me, literally, years before I stopped carrying whiteout in my purse along with my journal to correct my spelling mistakes. Come to think of it, now that they have those whiteout pens I could... But I digress...

Words smeared... Paint ran... Ink spread... Pages stained. There is an unsightly tea stained mark along the bottom edge. My poor sketchbook/journal, proud in its crisp, clean state now lies battered and mottled. Bruised and worn. Like a warrior home from a war that was lost. Dejected.

Which makes me feel sorry for it. Because on some level I know it senses that I may just pick it up later tonight when I go to journal and reject it. Needing, no craving, the safety of a new, clean, and might I add, DRY, place to write and sketch.

Waiting for the ferry on the way home I did do a quick watercolour sketch. I had to. The first rule of thumb when you fall off, is to get right back on. Works for bicycles, horses, and skates too I understand. So hopefully it worked for sketchbooks. I did a quick sketch of the scene, did a watercolour wash, and then began filling in the details with Pitt pens. Absorbed in what I was doing until it felt good to be working in there again.

Am I going to abandon it? As someone who has had abandonment issues with toasters in the past (that's for another post) I don't honestly think it's within me. After all, this journal sketchbook has seen me through an awful lot these last couple of months. I'd have to be a pretty lousy person to discard it just because I forgot to put my very tall and unstable mug of tea somewhere safe in a van that delights in throwing things all over the place just because it can turn on a dime. I did mention the driver who loves same, didn't I?

It's really been there for me. Accepting without crisitism all that I had to say or draw. So I'll see this somewhat unsightly sketchbook journal through to the last page.

Besides... apparently, now, it looks like it belongs to a real artist...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Just call me "Pumpkin"

Several years ago I broke a tooth on the front right hand side of my mouth. Having lost another tooth further back on the same side several years previously what remained was a HUGE gap, then one tooth, and another HUGE gap, or so it seemed to me. So much for all my talk of  “Inner Beauty… and “It’s what’s inside that counts…” and "It's not about looks." Yeah - right!!! It had EVERYTHING to do with looks. I looked like the Wicked Witch of the West!

I was feeling very self-conscious and extremely sorry for myself as I had to wait one whole day for my dentist to rebuild the tooth for me (and he did an amazing job) so woefully milked it for all it was worth that evening, with the man in my life.
We spent a lovely evening eating (me very carefully) and talking (me mumbling a lot) and laughing (me hiding my mouth behind my hand) and at the end of the night he hugged and kissed me, stroked my face and wished me good luck at the dentist’s next day. As he held me in his arms he smiled and said…

(Wait – just to put this into perspective, I grew up in Belgium and it was only when I moved to Canada at the age of twenty five that I first encountered Halloween. So take that into consideration as you read what happened next.)

… So he smiled and said: I’m just going to have to start calling you ‘Pumpkin’ then kissed me again, hugged me tight and said Goodnight.

I smiled all the way back indoors. Aaaaww ~ He really must like me, I thought – he has a nickname for me... How lovely…I smiled as I made my tea. I smiled as I got ready for bed. I even smiled at myself in the mirror.

I smiled as I lay reading my book. I wrote about it in my journal. I smiled as I turned off the light and began to fall asleep…


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sketchbook/Journal ~ when you forget to leave a trail of breadcrumbs...

In my last post: Mucking up a sketchbook so you’re not afraid to ‘muck it up’ I wrote about the transition that has occurred over the last few months with regards to my sketching and journalling.

In July of this year I was facing some health issues and felt a huge need to reconnect with myself on a very deep level. It wasn’t only a reconnection I craved, but the bringing together of different parts of myself that felt as if they had wandered of without leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home again.

One morning the need became so intense that I picked up a hardbound sketchbook and began gluing in sketches that I had done over the last little while, sketches that reminded me of the good things in life, places I felt safe, days that were special… and the sense of utter relief that I felt once this was done was overwhelming.

From that day on, my sketchbook/journal (as it became known) has never left my side. I poured my heart into it, my concerns about my health, about my ability to teach again, or continue working, my fears about the future. I also sketched daily, sometimes more than once a day. Sketched, painted, collaged.

It calmed me. When things got scary I was able to look back and in an instant be transported back to the garden, the beach, the lovely vase of flowers, my lover’s smile…

In it I pasted artwork that spoke to me, poems, quotes… I'd go back long afterwards and add paint to my sketches... it didn't matter how good they were, or weren't, just that I did them. And through it all I wrote, and wrote, balm for the soul, courage for the heart.
I’m on my second sketchbook journal now and have finally achieved what I have always wanted, to have an immediate and seamless record of my days, using two of my great loves, writing and art, to do so.

My health is improving gradually. Many challenges still lie ahead. I feel a lot safer now, and I feel more together (most of the time…) and certainly more complete… and the writing and the art are beginning to spill over into the studio seeking form in essays, blog posts, children stories, a new series of work…

Have courage.
Forge ahead into a blank sketchbook/journal.
Bear witness to your own life.

And know that, when you forget the bag of breadcrumbs, somewhere between your sketchbook/journal’s pages, you’ll always be able to find your way back home your self.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Mucking up a sketchbook so you're not afraid to "muck it up"

It's been a while since I've posted due to health issues, which are improving daily now. One of the things that has helped me through this time, is a commitment I made to myself earlier this year to learn how to sketch. Back in March I got terribly excited at the concept of doing 365 drawings this year. But didn't get as far as I wanted to...

I kept trying... and would get so far... and then somehow lose the thread. Until I came up with an idea that has started me of on an adventure that I hope will never end. It's so simple and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is just starting to sketch, having trouble getting back into it or staying the course.

I had an 8 ½ x 11 inch black hardbound sketchbook - any size or type will work - that I had started to use for something completely else but no longer needed. I tore the old pages out and, with some heavy duty glue and some tape, repaired it as best I could. So now I had a “mucked up” sketchbook that I couldn’t… well… muck up, because... well... it already was. (Note: this works particularly well if, like me, you like to think you're a perfectionist...)

Next I tore several pictures at random out of a magazine, and glued them throughout the first twenty or so pages. The only thing these images had in common was that I liked them enough to want to see if I could copy them.

And then I started. I would turn to any page and start sketching from the picture. When I had enough I would start another sketch of the same image, or turn to another page and start sketching the picture I found there. I wasn’t remotely attached to whether my sketches were any good or not, I just kept putting pencil to paper.


Very soon I would get bored with “copying” and turn to some clean pages and just start sketching whatever I wanted, be it something in my line of vision or some image in my head. (Are you picking up on the second bit of clever reverse psychology here?) And this kept happening.

Soon my sketchbook went everywhere with me. I’d go to bed, pick up a book to read and put it down again only to reach for my sketchbook and sketch for a while instead. I’d wake up in the morning and write for a while in my journal, then reach for my sketchbook to draw.

Within a couple of months, sketching has become the focal point of my life in so many ways and indeed has undergone yet another transformation which I’ll post about in the future.

So it’s that simple:

1) Grab a book that has already been interfered with, or “ruined” and patch it up as best you can

2) Pick some pictures from magazines you’d like to draw and glue them one per page (or double spread)

3) Start “copying” the pictures without being attached to the outcome

4) Move into your own sketches when it feels right

5) Repeat steps 2) 3) and 4) as often as possible

Oh yes, and have FUN!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Exploring Unused Supplies

Reorganising my living room into a light and fluid space for me to work on my illustrations and visual journals A Brand New Art Studio Space was about making a fresh start. Many ideas of how to approach my work in new ways have been coming forth. One of the commitments I made to myself was to really get to know all of my art supplies by paying and experimenting with them to my heart’s content.

I have had a set of watercolour pencils for a very long time. I’m not even sure I know when or how I got them. I do remember giving them a brief try-out years ago without being terribly impressed, but had not got rid of them because I liked the colours and they came packaged complete with this clever stand…

Recently I’ve been flipping through painting or sketching videos on You Tube before going to bed. What a wonderful resource of ideas, inspiration, techniques and how-to’s! Recently one of them by Cathy Johnson showed her using watercolour pencils by stroking the pencil tip with a water filled paintbrush, and laying the paint from it down onto the paper.

I decided to give my pencils a quick try! WOW! I loved the colour that was transferred onto the paper with a couple of brush strokes, and as is often the case, one brush stroke became many. And the same happened with the flower that emerged.

At one point I was a little over enthusiastic in my stroking. The next thing I knew I had splatters all over the paper! Not to be discouraged, I just made lots more! (I have since viewed the You Tube video in its entirety and learned that this is actually an acceptable technique…)

And on into the night it went. I was enchanted by the effect I was getting and the way the colours blended so beautifully. Only two colours were used for the piece. I did use a yellow pencil to scribble in the centre of each flower, and flicked some splattering of yellow into the mix for good measure.

Ebhard Faber MONGOL Watercolouring -
Carmine, Yellow and Light Green
(the words: "vintage" and "very old" were applied to them
when I looked them up on the internet...)

Do you have any supplies in your studio that you’ve not fully explored? Why not look them up on You Tube and see what happens when you find another way to use them.

A beautiful start to my new studio space.

What a joyous start to summer!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Place for Everything

... and for everything a place ~

With all the re-organisation taking place in my space, this was a timely reminder.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Wish you were here

"A friendship can weather most things
and thrive in thin soil;
but it needs a little mulch of letters
and phone calls
and small, silly presents every so often -
just to save it from drying out completely."

-Pam Brown

My friend Janie lives a ferry ride and about two hours drive away so we don’t get to see each other that often. We email voraciously back and forth and talk quite a bit on the phone. We both love to write however, and we love getting letters, so we decided to start sending postcards to each other through the mail.

I’ve recently found some great postcards to send her. One is in the form of a puzzle. You write a note on the back of the postcard, break the pieces apart and then mail them to the receiver, who then has to reassemble the puzzle to see what the picture is, and what is written on the back. I have to confess to a childish delight when I decided to take a photo of the puzzle card for this post, and had to reassemble the puzzle in order to do so!

Another card simply yelled her name across the store at me. No it wasn’t a talking postcard, it just was one designed for her. A woman who loves nature, is very artistic, loves writing, and food…not necessarily in that order

The last card is one that I found stuck between the stove and the cabinet of a house my partner was renting for a client. Definitely the worse for wear. And yet, inspite and maybe because of its battered state, it retains a certain charm. (I actually made a copy of it before sending it off to her…)

Being a “found” postcard it seems only natural to write part of the message in the form of a “found” poem. I’d better get to it before she reads this post…

Try it, there is nothing more magical than finding a real piece of mail in the postbox.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A brand new art studio space...

In case you haven't read the previous post "Re-arrangers Remorse"  not more than a week ago I was bemoaning the fact that my upstairs loft studio was simply not working for me anymore right now. Too crammed, claustrophobic, not the right storage or proper light were just some of the problems I felt I was encountering. I asked my partner, Tony, what he thought. Why don't you get rid of the living area and create a space to work there instead? was his solution. So we got rid of everything and started afresh. Here's how it looks so far...

A shelving unit that has seen many incarnations serves to hold a selection of art supplies, sketchbooks, art books and works in progress...

Tony gave me a rusted old Singer Treadle machine stand (that still works!) for the base of my table, and a piece of curved square glass as the top... I absolutely love it!

I'm still looking for a little trolley to put all my pens and paints on but for now they are all at hand at the back of the table, with plenty of room left to work...

Here's the new work space ~ my office/computer/writing space to the left and the art/illustration/visual journalling space to the right. The stairs lead up to the upstairs studio loft...

Now I can move effortless back and forth between my kitchen area, my computer, my writing, my dining area, my painting and where I see my clients.

I couldn't be happier...

Re-arrangers Remorse...

For a Taurus, any change is threatening. We are Earth signs and our homes are our sanctuary. The last week has seen an upheavel in my living space which, I am delighted to say. I'm... well... delighted with! I'll be posting photos later on today. But here's just a bit of the thought process that I underwent in the first 18 hours from the time the idea was first brought forth until the deed was done...

" I can't work upstairs in my loft studio anymore. It's too crowded. There's no space. I'm totally claustrophobic..." (emotional meltdown proceeds in front of ever-patient partner) " I don't know what to do. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them right about now..."

Ever-patient partner, Tony, recommends dispensing with living area and making it into nice bright airy work space...

" Wow! Yes, that's a great idea! I'd love to have my workspace on the same floor as everything else. It makes so much more sense... "

Positive discussion ensues as to what are the alternatives for living space use. Successful decisions reached...

" Yes let's get rid of it all tomorrow... "

Later on...

" No, you know what? I should try to make the effort to sell it all over the next few days... " (estimated value of all furniture incl old TV - $ 20.00 but the seeds of panic are sprouting)

That same evening I tell my girlfriend all about it: " I can't tell you how excited I am about this..."

Time for bed... sleep...

Wakes up at 3.00 a.m. " OH no, I can't possibly do this, where will we sit and relax, and what if Tony doesn't like it, and ... " (It was Tony's suggestions that we watch movies sitting on the bed, we spend most of our time sitting talking at the table after supper, and we also have two wonderful rocking chairs...)

" No! I'm not going to do it... I'll hate it. I'll have got rid of all the furniture, then what will I do... "

Gets up, makes tea and calms down a bit...

" OK - I can do this. It will give me a chance to get everywhere clean and tidy and organised... that will be really great..."

Panic sets in again at the thought of what all that tidying and organising will entail...

"No! It's no good. I can't do this. I'm definitely not going to do it... "

Sleep... finally

Awakens to Tony making tea in the morning: " I know I said I was going to wait and sell it but I really want it gone. I want it gone now..."

Removal of stuff begins immeditely. Tony knows me better than to give me more time to think. I go upstairs to the loft studio to get boxes to put stuff in...

" I love this loft studio. I love being up here. It's not so bad at all..." Luckily this was not said aloud...
And yes, it is the same loft studio referred to in the beginning of the post...

Everything removed and now on back of truck...

" Oh thank goodness, I can breathe! I love this. I can get under the stairs totally cleaned out, and clean the blinds and I can finally get some work done... "

Parting comment to Tony, who had far better things to do at 9:00 am on his way to work and climb trees:
" This is great. I can get working down here and in my spare time clean out the upstairs loft studio  and then I can move back up there if I want the living room area back  later... "

To his credit, he kept smiling...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Painting Prompt... by Nature

I've been busy the last week, reorganising my home to accommodate a second art studio space for illustration and visual journalling work. It involved some serious upheaval. Being a Taurus, movement of any kind is traumatic to say the least. Not to mention the second guessing that was going on inside me with regards to effectively eliminating my living room space!

Until the following morning...

I awoke at the crack of dawn, and after putting the kettle on I began to open up the blinds in my home. As I reached the new studio space, the light shining through the windows created a pattern, from the leaves of my indoor plant, on some paper I had left out the night before. It was as if nature was saying: Okay, we've made a start, now you make yours!!!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Whales in the garden

These pictures were taken early Spring outside one of the Parks and Recs buildings in Nanaimo, BC. It wouldn't be too hard to fashion a metal frame, even out of chicken wire or deer fencing, spray it black, and fill it with earth. Then it's just a matter of planting mosses, hens and chicks and low growing thyme...