April 27, 2013

My Birds, My Flowers and My Buddy

There has been a flurry of activity in the backyard. Nests are being built, feathers preened, chirps perfected. I took several photos of my bird friends but most are out of focus. I was using my long-range lens and between my movements and the birds' movements...well, it didn't work too well. I was disappointed as I had taken several photos of my juncos. "My" juncos. You see how I think of them? Such sweet birds. I will have to set up my tripod in the backyard one of these days and see if I can improve my efforts.

The first daffodils are out. The crocuses are still lovely.  My botanical tulips are blooming but the cultivated tulips are only showing leaves for now. One thing I've realized since beginning my online life is that Montreal's growing season is behind many other areas. It means I have to be extra patient to see my flowers and it is sometimes long after others have posted photos of their own.

The past few days, I've been keeping extra busy. The week started sadly. We went to the visitation this past Sunday for a friend and neighbour, a mom to two teenagers, who died at age fifty. Monday I found myself in tears more than once.  Life just doesn't seem fair sometimes. 

Concentrating on painting has helped. Getting out in nature whether in the backyard or on my walks with Meeko has lifted my spirits. I've kept very busy. 

Maybe you noticed the small changes on my blog? I added my 'Trowel and Paintbrush' painting at the top right. If you click it, it takes you to my bio on Etsy. I thought that some people might be interested in knowing about my background as an artist.  I also finished working on some flowered initials that I have added in the right hand column as icons for social media. Clicking on them will take you to my Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Pinterest pages. I forgot to do one for Flickr so will add it later.

I'm a bit of a latecomer to most bandwagons it seems. I tried Instagram very briefly over a year ago, panicked that my photos didn't look great and then retreated quickly. A lot of people I follow on Twitter post Instagram photos and I started to realize that it was a nice, fun way to capture moments and interact on another level with friends and acquaintances. So I have tried again. I am limited by my dinosaur 4th generation iPod Touch's abilities. I think most people are using the newer iPod Touch or iPhones to post their photos. Emma pointed out that my iPad has a better capacity to take photos so I am using that sometimes. I really like the way that looking at someone's profile page on Instagram gives a sense of the person. Like a visual collage bio. And I'm trying not to be a perfectionist about my photos (always a challenge for me :).  I quite like the experience this time. Here's a photo I posted on Instagram this morning. Meeko, my buddy, absolutely glued beside me on the sofa. Mutual comfort.

I have been working on a new print this week that combines a hand-lettered quote with some painted images. It took three tries to get the lettering the way I liked it. I'll post it once it is finished.

The week has ended for me with a cough and stiff neck. I'm not sure at all if they are related. Maybe my neck is complaining about all of the computer and painting time I've spent this week? On the other hand, ChloƩ missed school one day this week so maybe she shared some of her germs with me. So I am writing this with a heated pad around my neck and probably shouldn't spend too much more time at the computer today. I hope the weather is as beautiful in your corner of the world as it is here today.

You may have noticed that I've added 'Bloglovin' as a way to follow my blog in the right column. Google Reader is being discontinued in July. I don't know if Google will offer a replacement so it seemed best to provide another way of following me.  There are other options out there but Bloglovin seems to be popular. 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

April 20, 2013

Forest Legend

 Heart Tree Painting
Well hello there! I can't believe it's been a week and a half since I posted last.  Just after my last post celebrating the return of spring flowers to my garden, there was a big April snowstorm. I think it knocked the spring breeze right out of me! I certainly wasn't about to post more snow photos here. I haven't been idle though. I've been painting quite a bit and enjoying myself too.

I've been working on the painting at the top the past few days. It is special in several ways. First of all, it was painted in gouache rather than watercolour. I had a few tubes of rarely used gouache in my painting drawer but have just invested in a wider range of colours. The scene I painted is very special to me. Meeko and I walk on the same forest path all winter long. I thought I had every curve in the path and tree trunk memorized, but no. All of a sudden I came upon this gorgeous tree with a beautiful heart shape on its trunk. I gasped out loud when I saw it off to the side of our path. The heart, the gnarly bark, the gorgeous green lichen all made this tree trunk look more alive than all of the trunks around it. I didn't post the photo I took of it anywhere. I didn't want anyone to take it. I've actually been using it as my desktop image the past few weeks while I gathered the courage to paint it. I chose to use gouache as I wanted it to be a strong painting and for the heart tree to have plenty of character. I put the final few details on it this morning. The image measures 8 x 10 inches and it is painted on 300 lb Arches watercolour paper. There's a close-up of the trunk below. I am calling the painting "Legend has it she gave her heart to the forest".

 Detail of heart tree watercolour painting
The day of the snowstorm, I gathered bouquets of crocuses and scilla from the garden just before the snow began to fall. I even plucked some bulbs right out of the ground. (Crazy lady!) I took a crocus bulb because I wanted to paint it. I took several muscari bulbs because I wanted to see if I could force them to bloom a little faster inside the house if I 'planted' them in fish gravel with water up to their roots. It's working!

Here's the crocus painting I started the day of the storm and finished over the next couple of days.  (I'm such a slow painter.) It's painted on gorgeous feather-deckle Twinrocker watercolour paper. I made it complicated for myself by choosing a bulb that had two intertwined stems but I'm happy with the way it turned out. It's the first time I've included a bulb in a painting.

 Yellow crocus botanical watercolour painting
Good news! My flowers all survived the late snow cover. The garden is coming alive again. Leaf buds are swelling. The birds are singing. Here's a pretty little bouquet of botanical tulips I picked yesterday. The blue in the background is scilla. From me to you! Have a lovely week!

April 10, 2013

My garden wakes up and I move forward

How do you spell joyful? How do you spell happy? How do you spell uplifted spirits? I believe they are all spelled G-A-R-D-E-N.

These photos were taken this morning on a little stroll through my back and front gardens. I mention the backyard first because that's usually where my walks begin--out the back door with Meeko by my side. This time of year is bursting with daily changes. I do regular inspections of shoots and buds knowing that more and more blossoms are on their way. The anticipation is delicious. The birds have been so loud (in a good way) the past few days. They are my marker that spring has truly arrived. There was a little song sparrow earlier today singing his little heart out. He perches in the neighbour's tree and I always like to imagine from year to year that it is the same little fellow. 

Spring. So much activity. So much life. So much to look forward to.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the beautiful words of encouragement that you wrote for me after my last post. I had tears in my eyes as I read them--not of sadness, more of amazement and gratitude for the wonderful, eloquent, big-hearted bunch of people who gather here. Thank you as well for the honesty that you spoke of your own art and struggles.  There is enormous strength in knowing that we are not alone in our worries and challenges.

Many of my posts are about ordinary things on ordinary days, but I have to say that when I have spoken up about deeper and more difficult things, the response has always been quite amazing. I find it extraordinary that we are able to make connections and establish friendships in what could be a cold and impersonal forum. I was thinking that the only thing missing at times like that is a big pot of tea or coffee or a bottle of wine in the middle of the table as we share our opinions and experiences.

I've put my setback behind me and have been painting this week and finding joy and satisfaction in it. I hope you are able to find time for creative pleasures this week whatever your medium. A big, big hug to you all.

April 7, 2013

My Heart and My Art

I hesitated to write this but it's about something that has taken up a good part of my week, so here it is. I have been waiting over the past week for an answer to something. I applied to be part of an online market. It's not important which one. What I wanted to talk about was my reaction.

First of all, the wait was hard. It's a case of only being contacted when the news is good. That made the wait even harder as I was hoping until the very last moment that maybe I was included and that the response had been delayed. But the answer at this point is definitely no.

And why does that hurt so much? I've been thinking a lot about it the past few days. Why does rejection of our art hurt? I think it's because it is part of us. Whatever we create includes a piece of ourselves. When our art is rejected, someone can say 'Don't take it personally' but it does feel personal.

I know the rational side. My art wasn't a good fit with this particular market. My art doesn't appeal to the curator. They were looking for a different style. That category was full. There are any number of ways I could explain it to myself in a reasonable way.

I know the emotional side. They don't like my work. They didn't pick me. They liked others' work better. My work wasn't good enough. I feel mad. I feel sad. Oh boy! We artists can be hard on ourselves.

I have a trick for when I am having trouble dealing with something. I imagine what I would say if it was one of my daughters having the same problem. It quickly provides perspective. In this case, I would say: "It's okay and understandable to feel a bit sad about the rejection but it is important to remember that it is only the opinion of one person. That needs to be weighed against all of the very positive things that have been happening for your work and the wonderful support it has from people all around the world. Maybe there is something you can learn from this and then you need to move forward."

Well then, that feels better. Doesn't it? Having one person say no doesn't take a thing away from all of the other positive achievements.

This is the photo that accompanied by very first blog post.
Being able to sell art online is wonderful but it's hard too. I remember the knots in my stomach when I made my first blog post. I remember when I put those first few things in my Etsy shop. Unless you are creating only for yourself, there is risk attached to sharing your work with the world. There will be people who like it and people who don't. When I mentioned to a friend that I sometimes wondered if the representational way I paint excludes me from some things, she said that for every style of art there is an audience. She is right. My sales have been increasing lately. I have had sales to places as far away as Greece, Australia and New Zealand. I have lovely customers and have made some wonderful online friends. My shop is being noticed by more people. I am creating new work on an ongoing basis. I am growing as an artist. I am being true to my heart. I am proud of what I produce. I am having fun.

The paintings at the top and bottom are of practice exercises from a course I am taking on botanical borders and hand lettering. Wonderfully therapeutic work to engage the brain while the heart is figuring things out. :)
If there are occasional tears, I think that it is just part of being fully engaged in my art. Have you ever noticed the materials that I list in the 'item details' under my Etsy listings? I list the paper, the ink or paint and then always add 'my heart'. Because it's true, my heart is there. The note that I send with each order confirmation says "Thank you so much for ordering from me! Knowing that you like my artwork puts a smile on my face. :)" If you saw me at my computer when I get a new order or receive a compliment on one of my paintings, you would know that is a fact. I do smile--both inside and out. 

April 3, 2013

Sunshine and Spring Soldiers

The Easter weekend brought sunshine and warmer temperatures to the point that we started thinking of patio furniture, open windows, swimming and lush flower beds. All sorts of irrational summer thinking. It was too early for all of that. The temperatures have plummeted again. It is freezing.

I took these pictures of my crocuses in Saturday's sunlight. I love the first flowers of spring. Brave soldiers that they are.

Today, they are closed tightly as protection against the cold winds. If I knew how to knit, I would make them tiny sweaters and hats. 

The only good side of the freezing temperatures is that I was able to go into the little forest for a walk with Meeko. Once it is warm, the terrain becomes too swampy to walk in. We haven't been there in more than a week because of that. Yesterday, Meeko and I felt like adventurers as we carefully chose our steps and occasionally had to hop across half frozen areas. At one point, I dragged a small, fallen tree so that I could put it across one of the deeper bits to help us cross. Meeko became very excited and picked  up the other end of the tree and helped me to carry it. We are partners in everything.

When not on forest adventures, I've been working on adding more prints to my shop. I recently added a large print of my lilacs painting. I printed it on real watercolor paper. This one was printed on 140 lb. hot-pressed Fabriano paper. I work so hard at matching my prints to my original work. Sometimes, though, the printer can't capture the subtlety of certain colours. So I did an experiment. I applied a watercolour wash on top of the finished print where I felt that some of the richness of colour was missing. It worked beautifully!

Other new prints in my shops are here: radishes and coffee. (That's an odd duo. :)



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