March 27, 2013

An Easter Haircut

You've met this guy before, right? I don't suppose it's a surprise that I thought he might be due for a haircut. Aside from not being able to see his eyes, he has had an unsightly patch on his side. Last November, he had a large rectangular patch shaved down to the skin for an allergy test. It's bothered me more than it has ever bothered him. Meeko is pretty joyful no matter what. His hair (Wheaten terriers don't have fur) has been ever so slow growing in. I've had so many people over the past few months ask me if he had had surgery. When I've posted photos of him, I've tended to show his other side. So the patch finally grew in to the point that I thought I could get the rest of him groomed to match.

So this was Meeko yesterday morning.

And this is him yesterday afternoon. Groomed. Blow-dried. An Easter kerchief.

And a little yoga stretch to finish things off.

Did you know that I cried the first time I took him to the groomer? When I picked him up, I didn't even realize it was Meeko, he looked so different. A little over-attached to my pup? Ah, perhaps.

I love when his hair gets a bit longer and goes curly--all shaggy dog like. But others like him this way. When I took him for a walk yesterday, a little girl called out from her front door (in French): 'You're the cutest dog I've ever seen!' :)

March 25, 2013

A Sweet Saturday

This past weekend was full of pleasant surprises. I received a couple of orders on Saturday morning which is always nice. One was particularly touching: an order from someone in Europe to be sent to Manitoba, my birth province, for her mother's birthday. It feels special when customers share the reasons behind their purchases. It makes things feel personal. She asked me to write in a card for her. I actually had the shivers when I read the order. Maybe that sounds strange, but it feels like a privilege to have my art chosen as a gift for a family member, especially someone who lives so far away.

I also had a customer contact me about the possibility of doing her wedding invitations. Her favourite flower is the iris. I was able to tell her that I had a couple of completed iris paintings in my painting drawer. We're just in the initial stages of talking but the fact that she contacted me saying that she loved my work and thought of me for her invitations is really lovely. It made my day.

I've always loved irises and can't wait to see mine bloom in my garden again. Well actually, I can't wait to see anything bloom in my garden at this point! Yes, that iris photo at the top was taken against a backdrop of  snow. I think the snow might melt this week, but I really don't want to hope too much.

On Saturday morning, I opened a parcel that had arrived the day before. I purchased two fabric pouches from Sonia. She mailed them from France on Tuesday. I received them here in Canada on Friday. The postal elves were working extra fast last week! The pouches are so beautiful. I am going to use them in my studio. I've put a jar in the base of one of them and am using it to store paintbrushes.

On Saturday afternoon, I worked on some exercises for a watercolour lettering course I'm taking. It was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. The course lasts for ten weeks and I'm sure that I am going to benefit in all sorts of ways. I incorporate text in my paintings sometimes and I just want to feel more confident about it. One of the exercises was to choose one letter of the alphabet and to do as many variations as you could think of within pebble shapes. When Emma saw the photo of my 't' exercise, she said "You did that? I thought it was Geninne's work." (She hadn't seen me working on it.) Do you think she could have given me a nicer compliment? :) Without a doubt, this course is going to be good for me.

This morning, I took some time to write a 'to do' list. I had so many things swirling in my head that I thought it would reduce some brain congestion to have them down on paper. It kind of worked. I can't quite believe that we are at the end of March. Both this week and next week are short because of the holiday weekend. March felt short already because of the girls' school breaks. I have so many new prints that I want to introduce to my shop; I have new paintings to paint, I'm thinking of creating my own you see what I mean? So many thoughts swirling.

March 21, 2013

Happy Spring!

We are not enjoying spring weather here yet. We had a big snowstorm on Tuesday so our spring so far looks like the photo above. Meeko is enjoying his snowy walks so I am trying to concentrate on his joy while outside. Trust me, under that fur are happy eyes. :)

While inside, I am painting 'spring'. I started working on a painting yesterday that I have had in my head for the longest time. I wanted to 'paint' my blog and shop name. I chose the name 'Trowel and Paintbrush' because of how much I love both gardening and painting.

The second photo has a little more detail in the flower.  I've used Fabriano Artistico soft-press 140 lb. paper for this painting. It's the first time I've used their soft press paper (a grade between cold press and hot press). I'm not sure how much I like it yet but it is very easy to lift and push colours around on it which you can't always do on other papers. 

In the past couple of weeks, I have also put the finishing details on paintings that were in my 'almost finished' pile. I've already posted these on Facebook and Twitter but will include them here for those who only follow me here. 

So as you can see, there is a winter palette outdoors but the palette inside my head is definitely one of spring! The first day of spring was yesterday here but I am still celebrating. And happy autumn to my friends down under!

March 17, 2013

Family Portraits

One morning this past week, I found a little stack of pictures beside my computer. The night before Emma had doodled portraits of us all. I love them so much. I asked her permission to post them here and told her I planned to frame them. With a few lines, she has really caught our essence. (I am 'Mama' for those of you less familiar with our family.) These are by my 17-year-old daughter who says she's not artistic.

Of course, there is one family member missing so I will include my recent watercolour portrait of him. On Saturday, Meeko celebrated his birthday. He is three years old and it is hard to remember when he wasn't with us. He has stolen our hearts.

As of tomorrow, the household will be back to its normal routine. Chloé finished her school break last Monday. Emma is back to school tomorrow. I hope to paint a little and get some new prints into my shop. There is a ton of snow predicted for this week. Oh boy. Meeko will be happy about that. So studio time and snowy walks are on the agenda for the week ahead.

March 13, 2013

When Anyone Talks About Trees

I haven't posted for quite a few days. Chloé had her March break last week. Emma has hers this week. The normal routine of my days has been interrupted not rudely but sweetly by the presence of my daughters in the house.  But it means I haven't painted as much or visited blogs as much or looked after my Etsy shop as much or any number of things as much. It's an adjustment but it's not a bad thing. Maybe it's a reminder to pay attention to the important things.

  • I haven't been idle though.
  • I've painted a little.
  • I worked on a big print of my Lilacs image that a customer is potentially interested in.
  • I've walked daily with Meeko (of course).
  • I've watched the snow melt the past two days and heard the birds sing and know that spring is on its way.
  • I spent a lot of time in the backyard today poo-gathering (one of the "joys" of the spring thaw for dog owners) and got to visit all corners of my garden. There are signs of life despite the fact that everything was covered by snow and ice two days ago. I am always amazed.
  • I shopped downtown with Chloé last week, walked daily with her and Meeko, and enjoyed several days of one-on-one time.
  • Emma went away for five days to visit friends (the longest she's ever been away) and I was happy for her yet also happy to see her again.
  • I did some housecleaning (grumpily) to prepare for the visit of my sister Nancy and her family (not grumpy about that!). They won't be here long but we always love their company.
  • I treated myself and bought some gouache paints for a painting I would like to do of a lovely tree with a heart shape on it. It's not the one in the photo above. That is another heart-marked tree I discovered on the same path I take with Meeko every day in the winter. I thought of posting the other photo but it's too special to me so I want to keep it hidden for now and let my painting be the reveal. Now the pressure is on for me to do it. 
  • I am reading "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barberry. I have 50 books (not an exaggeration) beside my night table waiting to be read. I was an English major in university and love books so much. With my slow reading pace these days, that 50-book stack might be a little unreasonable, more like impossible (but I remain optimistic). It took me a long time to get into "The Elegance of the Hedgehog"--maybe even one-third of the book. I am a stubborn reader and am glad for that as I am now loving the book. This passage jumped out at me the other evening and I reread it more than once for the sheer pleasure of it. I love when that happens. And now you know why I chose the photo at the top.

After I'd had a chance to think about it for a while I began to understand why I felt this sudden joy when Kakuro was talking about the birch trees. I get the same feeling when anyone talks about trees, any trees: the linden tree in the farmyard, the oak behind the old barn, the stately elms that have all disappeared now, the pine trees along wind-swept coasts, etc. There's so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when we are surrounded by nature...yes, that's it: just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are--vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth--and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barberry

March 4, 2013

Coffee, Tea and Cake

In the past two weeks, I have worked on two paintings, one of tea and the other of coffee. My idea was to show the plant behind the beverages we enjoy on a daily basis. I tend to drink coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. I love both. And, as you already know I adore flowers, so I was happy to learn that both tea and coffee plants have beautiful white flowers.

The coffee painting gave me some problems early on. I just wasn't happy with how it started. That's when watercolour can be a troublesome medium. With oil or acrylic, I could have covered over the parts that were bothering me. I thought of abandoning it, but my stubborn nature kicked in and I found a way to balance out the composition and have ended up liking it after all.  The tea painting is already available as a print in my shop. I just have some small details to finish on the coffee painting and then it will be made into a print too.

Emma made the most wonderful orange cake over the weekend. It was as delicious as it looks. She used the recipe here. Perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

Chloé has her March break this week. Emma has hers next week. It's the first year that their breaks have been out of sync. I hope to find moments to paint in between spending some time with them. I have so many painting ideas swirling around in my head these days.


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