February 28, 2012

Signs of Spring

Do you know how you can tell if I've been working on prints for my Etsy shop?  Well, I tend to be as grumpy as a bear and I uncharacteristically growl the odd four-letter word. I take Meeko for his walks while trying to ease my tense muscles and muttering aloud about throwing my computer and printer into the garbage. The past few days have been full of many ups and downs including a rebel green phase that my printer decided to go through at about noon today. Literally everything that it spit out was tinged with green. Everything.  I decided that it needed a nap and I needed a walk and that seemed to do the trick.

How do I feel when my machines have finally cooperated and my new prints are finished and up to my high standards? Relieved and happy!

How can you tell if I'm looking forward to spring? Every single print I added to my Etsy shop today included flowers! Yesterday I saw five robins at one time in our tree in the backyard. I'm not certain if it was a sure sign of spring or of mass avian confusion but it was a splendid, unusual sight to see.

Technology willing, I will have more new prints in my shop later this week. :)

February 27, 2012

What To Do When It Snows

I know that some of you have not had a lot of snow this year and some of you live where snow never falls. For those of you not sure what to do when it snows, here is Meeko's advice.
9.22 a.m. - Ahhhhhh...feels so good.
9:54 a.m. - His hair has dried naturally with his curls in perfect order

February 25, 2012

Red, White and Black

Saturday morning: snow, a Northern cardinal and a Dark-eyed junco. Beautiful.

February 24, 2012

Thoughts of Spring Covered with Snow

Yes I am the crazy lady bundled up for winter and carrying an umbrella in the photo above. The snow was coming down so hard I was worried about ruining my camera. After I took a few photos, I tucked the umbrella under my arm and wrapped my camera in a hat.

I was dreaming a little bit about spring the past few days. It has been mild and melting.

Meeko and I went on our forest walk this morning and it was kind of sad. Not much snow, everything was brown, lots of branches on the ground from past wind storms.But as this afternoon drew to a close, the snow began to fall. I can accept the delay of springlike weather as it is absolutely gorgeous at the moment. A fairyland.

When ChloĆ© and I went in the forest in the middle of the snowstorm, the path was absolutely transformed. Everything was clothed in clean white. No footprints except ours.  Just magical.

Some of you must be starting to know this pathway as well as I do. :)  Have a good weekend whatever weather you are currently enjoying.

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There are some nighttime snow photos on my Facebook page. We also had lightning! Wish I'd caught that in a photo.

February 20, 2012

Some Photos and a Serenade

Yesterday, Meeko and I took a lovely walk in the woods along with my iPod Touch. These photos aren't too bad considering they were taken by the Touch and it's certainly convenient being able to carry it in my back pocket.  The light has been quite lovely the past couple of days creating lots of long blue shadows on the snow (what's left of it that is).

The past two weeks, I have been letting Meeko off his leash when we walk on the path.  He is very happy about the arrangement and has been very good about staying close to me and coming back when I call him. He knows that my pocket is full of treats when we go for our walks together.

I paid special attention to curled, dead leaves after seeing this wonderfully interesting blog post this past week.  A reminder that there is beauty in everything.

When we got to the end of the pathway, we were given the most wonderful serenade.  If you look very closely (I've put a little circle as it really isn't that easy to spot and the Touch is limited in what it captures), you will see the cardinal who was singing his little heart out to us.  And look at that gorgeous blue winter sky.

February 17, 2012

Seashells By The Seashore

I've been painting a little the past few days.  I still haven't finished my studio cleanup completely, so I can't show you my whole room yet, but my worktable is not looking too bad.

I decided to paint a trio of seashells.  Everything seems to have associations for me. I wonder if that is a sign of being older. Everything exists in my brain in layers.  I can't look at seashells without thinking of the line 'She sells seashells by the seashore':  a tongue twister from my childhood. I also think of my grandmother Viola who used to vacation in South Carolina every year and bring back shells. Mostly she collected tiny shells that she would open into a butterfly shape and glue onto all sorts of things.

I sometimes wish that I lived closer to the ocean. I love combing beaches for shells and sea glass. Plus, I always feel a sense of peacefulness beside large bodies of water. I've always wondered if that is because so much of our body is made of water.

Next week, I hope to finish my studio cleanup. I also need to get back to making a few new prints for my Etsy store. And paint (that's the part I like most).

February 16, 2012

Backyard Friends

There were so many birds in the backyard this morning.  We almost had a full house.  I saw a cardinal, chickadees, a goldfinch, a house finch, sparrows and a junco all at once.  I don't often see them all together. The only regular visitors missing were the mourning doves and maybe a blue jay or two. Looking at our busy tree made me think of Diana Sudyka's beautiful watercolour called 'Winter Birds'.

Not all of the birds cooperated for photos but most did.

There's a spring feeling in the air today. I even saw a robin a couple of days ago. As much as I am looking forward to spring, I wouldn't mind the cold weather lasting a little bit longer. (Did I hear someone groan?) The girls want to skate on the rink in the park across the street. We have to buy both of them new skates. And I would like to keep walking on the little forest path with Meeko. It's such a special part of my day. Once everything thaws, the path becomes impassable and we'll have to stick to city sidewalks.

And yet I do look forward to my garden flowers.

February 14, 2012

February 14th

February 10, 2012

Progress and a Feather

I decided to reward myself for the progress I've made in cleaning my studio. I allowed myself a little painting time. I did another study of the little sparrow feather.  This time I used Saunders Waterford watercolour paper and embossed a rectangular area for my painting using Arounna's cool trick (her February 8th post). I used a mat opening as my shape.  I think I'll be doing this again.

5½ x 7½ inches - Saunders Waterford 140 lb. paper

February 8, 2012

Big and Small

I have been cleaning my studio the past two days. It is a big, overwhelming job but not without interest. I am finding all sorts of things I had forgotten about.

I started painting when I was 18 years old.  I didn't study Fine Art in university but English Literature.  I started taking a neighbourhood painting course to serve as a creative counterpoint to my studies.  I was never told that I had an ability in art when I was in elementary school, to the point that I didn't take any art courses when I was in high school. I was more often told that I was a good writer. So I didn't expect to love painting as much as I did.  Even after I graduated from university and started working in the corporate communications field, I continued painting in the evenings and taking art courses. I even thought of getting a second degree in Art History but realized that the actual doing of it was what I loved the most.  It wasn't until I was in my thirties and in the middle of a burnout related to my corporate job that I realized that painting was what I wanted to do--all of the time.

What I am finding as I clean my studio is work from years ago. It's quite mindblowing. Some of it feels like it was done by another person and I guess in a way it was.  I have a ton of stuff but picked out a few that I thought you might enjoy seeing.

These three really surprised me as I don't have any clear memory of painting them. Isn't that strange? I am thinking that they were perhaps done during one of the evening courses I took at a lovely little independent art school that existed on Queen Street in Toronto in the 1980s. It was called Arts' Sake.  These are all on full-sized sheets of very ordinary newsprint paper.

I painted primarily in oil when I was in my twenties. The studies above would have been done during that period, so I was experimenting but hadn't made the official switch to watercolour.  That came in my thirties. At the beginning, I used to paint miniatures almost exclusively. I love things that are small and I love detail. Here are some that I still have from 1991 and 1992. They include scenes from my garden, Quebec, Ontario and travels in England, Australia and New Zealand. They measure 3½ x 2½ inches and smaller. (Some I like; some I don't.) I sold many of the paintings I did in this period.

The iris studies at the very top of this post were done in this same period too, although they are bigger.

This mosaic was the result of a class I took about six years ago at the Visual Arts Centre in Montreal. I have taken several courses there.  We were asked by the teacher to bring in a watercolour that we weren't happy with, without being told why. I brought in a still life I had done of a tea pot, butternut squash and orange. When we arrived, we were told to cut the painting into squares (eek!), rearrange them and then add painted detail.  I added three tea bags, flowers and lines and the sentence 'I will make time for tea and art and tranquillity'.  It ended up being a piece that I like to this day.

This final piece is one of the very few 'full sheet' 22 x 30 inch watercolours that I have done.  Some artists work on full sheets all of the time.  I much prefer smaller formats.  This was also done during the course I took six years ago. If my memory serves me right, tears were involved. :)

My cleanup is still not finished. I'll post photos when I have everything organized. I'm already breathing easier as I walk up the loft stairs.

February 6, 2012

To Maunder

My head has been all over the place today.  Did you know that you can find the word 'maunder' in the dictionary and that one of its meanings is to think or wander aimlessly. I carry the name well some days.

Let's see. Where has my mind been today? I started the day by reading Lucile's wonderful post on lemon meringue pie and it made me want to tell you this story.

When I was in my early twenties, I bit into a lemon tart and found myself crying.  I thought 'What is going on with me?'  And then it occurred to me. My grandfather had died recently.  One of the things he loved best was lemon pie, most particularly my mom's lemon meringue pie.  Every time he ate it, he would say how there wasn't anywhere else he knew of where you could get good lemon pie. No one used real lemons any more, he would say.  I realized that deep inside of that tart and every lemon pie since has been the strong memory of my grandfather.

Lucile's wonderful Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe print available in her Etsy shop

Lucile and I agreed this week that food is never just food.  There are so many levels to it:  its origin and cultural significance, its cultivation; the way it's prepared, who prepares it, where it's eaten and the way it's served; its smell, look and taste; and our emotional associations. Not so simple, is it?

Baking a lemon meringue pie is out of the question at the moment as our oven is ailing, so a painting of lemons seemed the next best choice.  Out of our fridge came the sorriest two halves of lemons I've ever seen. Have a look at my sad models in the top photo. I tried to freshen them up a little in my quick little painting.

Still on the food theme, I had a bit of excitement yesterday evening. I submitted an illustration to the site 'They Draw and Cook'. I decided to try to do an illlustration of a recipe that I remember from my childhood and still prepare to this day.  My mom would often make Butter Dips when we would have soup or stew.  I created some little butter dip guys to accompany the recipe. Salli and Nate of They Draw and Cook posted and had even made my recipe within two hours of me submitting it!  I think it was maybe because I sent it around the supper hour. :)  You can have a look at it here.

I am really, really trying not to be too critical of my Butter Dips illustration which is really, really hard for me. (I could have, I should have...)  It was a very good exercise for me, as I don't normally paint these kinds of subjects.  I think it is something that I would like to try again.

In the morning light
Later today, I decided to paint a feather. I'm sure that the time I have spent looking at Jody's beautiful feather paintings recently is what put that idea in my head. There has been a little sparrow feather sitting on our kitchen windowsill for weeks with the promise of a painting in it. I got out my smallest brushes and did a little feather study. (The light was very dim by the time I took the photo so the colours and details aren't showing exactly right. I might try to take another photo during the day tomorrow.  I did.)

I always listen to music when I paint.  Today I had a number of Norah Jones' albums on 'shuffle'. One lyric popped out at me and I thought I would share it with you. It's from the song 'Seven Years' on her 'Come Away With Me' album.

"Our fears are only what we tell them to be."

I like that very much.



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