Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunny Days and Seashells

I didn't realize how very attractive sunflowers were to bees until two sunflowers seeded themselves near our back door this summer. I feed sunflowers seeds to the birds in our backyard so there are usually a few self-seeded sunflower gifts throughout the garden. These ones however are so close to the house that they provide the opportunity for close observation. As I have been going in and out of the door in the past few days, it is rare that I don't see at least one bee on the sunflowers.

Our garden has frequent bee visitors which makes me happy since I know that their population has been declining in past years mostly likely due to pesticide use, specifically neonicotinoids. In our garden, the bee magnets this year were bee balm (of course), lavender, salvia and the sunflowers.

While I love seeing bees everywhere, there is something particularly happy about seeing one on a sunflower. They look like they were made for each other.

Speaking of busy bees, I have been busy painting a series of small seashell paintings. I am painting three sets of three. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen their progress. I am now working on the last one. I love painting natural objects. I love the challenge of observing an object closely and conveying the detail while still maintaining a painterly look. 

The creation of this series is a bit of a story. I did the first three paintings two years ago after I received a gorgeous gift of shells from my Australian artist friend, Cindy Lane. I was experimenting with different papers at the time (I love doing that) and each trio of shells was painted on a different paper. 

That was great as an experiment but it meant that the three paintings didn't really work as a set to be sold together because of the different weight and textures of the papers. So I decided (with some encouragement from my daughter Emma) to paint three sets of three. Threes abound. I used Arches 140 hot-pressed paper, BFK Rives 280 gsm and Arches 300 lb hot-pressed paper. The shells I have used as my references for the paintings are a mix of the Australian shells I received from Cindy, ones I have collected on past visits to Maine and a piece of mother of pearl that was a gift from my friend Sonia in France.

While my favourite brush for just about any painting is my Isabey No 8 brush, these small paintings have had me using my 3, 1 and 00 brushes! Each painting is taking me several hours and sometimes more than one day. Each little shell, because there are no two exactly alike, presents its own challenges. I'll post a photo of the paintings once they are completely finished.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Raindrops in the Garden

We had a huge heat wave the past week. So unusual for September. We are on our way to more reasonable temperatures thanks to a big storm yesterday. Today, there was a beautiful light rain in the morning. I decided to go on a walk with Meeko without an umbrella in order to literally soak it in. So lovely and refreshing.

Afterwards,  I toured the back garden and was able to capture some of the raindrop magic with my camera.

Chloé went back to school this past Tuesday. Emma is settling into life in residence and beginning her first year at university. We miss her day-to-day presence but love seeing how happy she is. As for me, I am finally back in the studio. I posted a couple of photos of my current painting in progress on Instagram and Facebook

I am thankful that cooler days ahead will allow me to take Meeko for longer walks. (He hates the heat!) I'm also glad that my head is full of a million things that I would like to paint. This time of year always feels like the beginning of the year to me. Even though my own school days are long behind me, my inner calendar still seems to follow the scholastic year. I feel that for all of us here, whether resuming familiar routines or tackling new challenges, this new year is full of promise. 

1) Nasturtium leaves 2) Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) 3) Sunflower 4) Spindle wood (Euonymus europaeus) 5) Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) 6) Nasturtium leaves 7) Japanese anemone 8) Bee on Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue'

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

As Summer Slips Away

Where did the summer go? And what an odd summer it was in some ways.

I began the summer with a back injury in early June. It kept me from looking after the garden the way I normally do. I also didn't swim or walk as much as usual. So frustrating but a lesson in taking the time to look after myself. After a couple of setbacks (sorry), it is finally feeling better.

The weather this summer has been changeable. We've had incredibly hot spells, dark and rainy periods and this past week actually felt more like autumn than late summer.

We got away briefly twice this summer. My husband and I went on an impromptu vacation to Maine for a few days at the beginning of August. Emma and Chloé stayed here with Meeko. It was the first time we have been away together (sans enfants) in eight years and the first time that our daughters stayed home on their own. Everyone survived. We all travelled to Muskoka to visit family. It was a great visit but Emma, Chloé and I all ended up with a terrible cold and we decided to go home a day early. It's just been one of those summers.

Some things are thriving in my vegetable garden and some are doing poorly. Tomatoes, what happened to you? The weeds are towering over my perennials in my flowerbeds and filling cracks and crevices throughout the garden. They may think they have won but I am coming to get them! Meanwhile, the flowers are definitely in late season mode. There is some sadness at how quickly the summer has gone by but I've always liked this time of year. The garden quiets down, the light becomes more subdued and there are still weeks to go of garden enjoyment.

These photos were taken this morning with my iPad on a pajama tour of my back garden! I love that the shrubs surrounding our back garden are now tall enough to provide us with total privacy from the neighbours.

One of the weedier parts of the garden.  I would say that half of the plants here are weeds.
Self-sown and pretty verbena bonariensis with snapdragons in the background.
I was happy to find this cucumber at the back of the vegetable bed this morning.
Two late summer friends: hydrangea paniculata and echinacea 
Rose hips (Rosa glauca)
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Phlox paniculata 'David'
I haven't painted for a few weeks now. I can't wait to get back at it. There will be time in the weeks ahead. Emma moves into university residence on Friday. Big changes. (I can do this.) Chloé is back to school on September 2nd. Soon my days will be filled with studio time punctuated by walks with my friend, Meeko.

And speaking of him...as I was writing this blog post, I felt that I was being watched. I was. This is for those of you needing a 'Meeko fix'.

❤  ❤  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Pleasures

It has always seemed to me that summer really starts sometime around July 1st. Maybe because it's Canada Day on July 1st (that's Canada's birthday--147 years young!) and a public holiday in most places in Canada. It's also my birthday today! By this time of year, the school year feels far behind the girls. The garden is lush and the weather is hot and humid.

Some summer pleasures that I am thankful for today:

♥●•٠·˙ I love being able to walk out the front door and pick a huge number of beautiful serviceberries from one of our shrubs. They are at their peak right now. Meeko accompanied me while I was picking and got the occasional berry (he loves them!) for his companionship. Look at those beauties! For those of you who haven't tried a serviceberry, they look very much like a blueberry but are redder in tone and slightly sweeter in taste. We have several serviceberry bushes and trees in our yard and share the harvest with the birds.

♥●•٠·˙ Last night, Emma and Chloé had tickets to see a live version of the satirical radio show Welcome to Night Vale. My husband and I drove them downtown and decided to have a pre-birthday dinner together while we waited for them. We had a restaurant in mind but it was full so we walked a few minutes and ended up in an area called 'The Village'. Several blocks of the main road are reserved as a pedestrian mall in the summer. It is lined with terraces and decorated with garlands of pink balls (les boules roses). So beautiful. It is a diverse, lively, colourful neighbourhood of Montreal. We live in the suburbs and don't get downtown enough. It made my heart happy to be there.

The pink ball garlands or 'boules roses' kind of remind me of serviceberries. 
♥●•٠·˙ I received some lovely, thoughtful gifts from my family today--many of them from fellow Etsy shop owners. Some of the purchases are still in transit so I will be enjoying an extended birthday when I check the mailbox each day in the next week.

♥●•٠·˙ I am thankful that we have a pool in the backyard. Did you know that Quebec has more pools per capita than almost anywhere else in North America? Odd when you consider how short our summers are. But when the temperature is 32 degrees C (89.6 F) with a humidex of 42 C (107.6 F) like it is today, it is a very nice thing to have. Meeko also is thankful for our pool. He is an avid swimmer. (This is a video of him swimming in my in-laws' pool this past weekend.)

♥●•٠·˙I am thankful that there is a delicious looking chocolate layer cake waiting for me on the kitchen counter that was made by Emma. We will eat it after my birthday dinner which will be cooked by my husband Jocelyn.

I hope that, wherever you are, you are enjoying time with friends, family as well as the pleasures of the season.
Here's a watercolour I did of a serviceberry branch last year. I have it available as a print here.

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