Sunday, July 29, 2007

Garden Grid What's blooming this week

This is what's been blooming this week in the perennial garden. And some of these were a real surprise. In the top left is lavender, surprise number one. I planted these last year, and they did absolutely nothing. They didn't get bigger and certainly didn't bloom. I forgot about them as lavender is not a perennial in this zone, and planted a day lily and some poppy seeds. They comp;letely overshadowed the lavender, and it wasn't until I went to weed that I actually saw them blooming underneath everything else. Surprise number two was that beautiful red lilly, which was planted two years ago. I had (foolishly as it turned out) planted about 14 lilly bulbs hoping they would survive the harsh dry winter, and the harsh hot summer against the brown house. Some did, but barely, and this red one has never bloomed before. This year, probably because of a very wet June, all 14 lilly plants came up and bloomed. The white one is also blooming right now. The daisy is different from the last one, this one has longer, more raggedy shaped petals, and smells much more pleasant.
From an art point of view, I've been drawing and painting lillies for two years, because they are my favorite, and I think this is the best I've ever done. I'm really pleased with the shape of the petals. I finally managed to capture that little curve of the ends of the petals.

Friday, July 27, 2007


For the past year in my drawing journey, I have tried to concentrate on seeing what is in front of me. Of really seeing it, not just assuming what it is shaped like. Not just the shape of something, but also seeing the colors. (I suspect this a lifelong study.) No where does this seem more obvious as well as difficult than in transparent objects. I spend a lot of time looking at transparent objects with things inside them and seeing how the reflections are shattered and scattered. I try to not see a glass of cranberry juice, but instead see how the transparency breaks the color, how the broken shapes fit against each other within the whole. That sounds rather mystical and whimsical but it something I have been training myself to do. But visualization is a whole lot easier than execution. So I got myself and instruction book* and read all about cast shadows, and projected light, inner shadows, reflected colors, and distortions. This is my first attempt at this, following the instructions in the book. I think I grasped the basic idea, but I think there is so much to learn and explore. The projected light coming through the transparent object was the real revelation for me and I think the key to making it look transparent. I really enjoyed this process, and may work my way up to that gorgeous glass of cranberry juice. My ultimate goal will be to paint cut-glass crystal, but for now I will start simple. I think next will be dewdrops. I tried hard to connect his to an EDM challenge but it just didn't match up.

Water color in the Moleskine journal.

*Nice, Claudia. Painting with watercolor, pen and ink. 2001

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

EDM 128 - Draw an interior view.

This challenge was extraordinarily difficult for me. Left to my own devices, I would probably never attempt this. There's too many angles, too many lines, too many pitfalls of perspective. But that's precisely why I participate in the challenges - to do something difficult. But I promised myself I could take it slowly, just a few lines at a time. If I felt frustrated, take a break, try again later. I thought that maybe if I could get the outside lines down correctly and in the right perspective, then the rest might be easier. It seemed likea good idea at the time. An hour and a half later, Shawn startled me by coming home from work. An hour and a half! And I still didn't have it right! Aarggh! So we took a break, had a drink and some bruschetta on the patio. After dinner, I tried again... and again...and yet again. If I could see that the line was wrong, why couldn't I see how to make it right? Then I remembered that trick of holding your pencil against the angle, and that helped a lot. It's still a bit wonky, but as a learning experience, it was great.

This is the view from the couch in the living room into the kitchen. We have a very open floor plan. The kitchen was designed and built by Shawn, and required the tearing down of one wall to eliminate an awkward hallway, and then the addition of this opening between the living room and the kitchen instead. The triangular shelf holds a ceramic bell that has been featured on this blog before, a Brown Betty teapot which is the accessory of choice for all well-dressed kitchens. The brown box on the right hand side of the counter is used to hold note pads and other kitchen flotsam and jetsam. And in case your're wondering? Yes, Shawn is a professional carpenter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

EDM 87 - What I had for Lunch

OK, I'm willing to concede that maybe I'm a bit obsessed with tomatoes. Not only do I have eight plants growing on the deck and in the garden, but I also buy them from the market. I caught myself fondling some Heritage tomatos at the Farmer's Market last week. Bu I couldn't resist. They were two-toned green striped, with folds and pleats along the top, it was firm and fresh and smelled like the essence of the earth. How could I not touch it. There were purple tomatos, and striped ones, and gnarled, ugly ones. Yellow and orange and red, it was a riot of color and shapes and scents. A day without a tomato is like a day without sunlight.

Earlier, I wrote about Sarah ban Breathnach's recipe for a tomato sandwich. I agree with her about the soft white bread, but for me ithas to be fresh French bread or white sourdough bread. The bread needs to be somewhat innocuous, as it's really all about the tomatos, and the freshly ground pepper. So I've indulged my obsession and managed to combine it with an EDM challenge. This is #67 Draw what you ate for lunch. I did this in the Moleskine watercolor journal, which is a little difficult to write on as the pages have quite a lot of texture.

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

---Lewis Grizzard

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Joys of Summer

Summertime, and the living is easy. I thought it would be easy to draw, paint, write and post to the blog every day during the summer since I would be off work. But it's not. We've been coping with not only hot temperatures, but soul-sucking humidity as well. Yesterday and today it's been like trying to move through honey. I checked the Weather Network and it said the humidity was 94%. I didn't even know humidity could get that high without it actually raining. It's hard to get motivated or to concentrate, even Holly the tabby cat only plays late in the evening. But I just couldn't resist doing a garden grid of what's blooming, and of the bounty from the Farmer's Market last Friday. This is the best part of summer, the fresh produce, the barbeques, and tomato sandwiches. Sarah ban Breathnach, in her divine book called Romancing the Ordinary: a Year of Simple Splendor knows how to savor a tomato sandwich. She writes "You must wait until July to partake of this bliss, because only then will you get the tomato at its most sublime. After you have thought about a tomato sandwich for a minimum of one week, on the appointed day take two slices of extremely soft white bread. Spread both slices with real mayonnaise. Slice ripe summer tomatos and pile them on the bread. Sprinkle freshly ground salt and pepper on the tomatos. Cut into quarters. And eat them as slowly as possible. Now make yourself another." This year I have eight tomato plants, and all of them have little green tomatos on them. I'm so excited about that. I love watching them get bigger and then ripen. That, to me, is the real scent of summer.
I did the veggies in the Moleskine journal, and the flowers are in the Aquabee sketchbook with watercolor pencils. I've always found roses hard to draw, and this lame one is no exception. But every bit of practice helps.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

EDM 127 - Skyscape

These are two of the most recognizable buildings on the Calgary skyline. On the left is the Calgary Tower. Originally known as the Husky Tower, it was once the highest building in the city. It is now only the fourth tallest. It has an observation deck, and a restaurant on the top. Recently, a glass viewing floor was added. When Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988, the Olympic torch was used to light a flame on the top of the tower. The flame burned continuously throughout the Olympics, and when it was extinguished at the end, a long drawn out spontaneous "Boo" echoed through the city. Today the flame burns to commemorate special occasions, such as Canada Day, or the Calgary Flames going to the Stanley Cup finals. The eye-catching copper colored buildings are the PetroCan towers. They have a very unique shape, and seem to almost glow when the sun goes down.

This is my first painting in my new Moleskine watercolor journal, bought on the recommendation of so many. So far I like it, although I suspect the first page is not meant to be used for painting as it did not lay flat. I had a lot of trouble with the sky wash because of that, although the rest of the pages do seem to lay flat. This challenge was a bit of a reach for me. I have never done this kind of "distant" or far away kind of perspective. I think I like it, I did achieve a recognizable likeness of the buildings. But it really was a true "challenge" for me, and I really did enjoy it. (Oh, andI apologize for that black line under the picture, I hadn't noticed it was there before uploading.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

EDM 61 - Similar Things

I don't really collect things. I'm not a big fan of dusting (or any housework), and it seems to me that most collections are really just things that collect dust. I'm also not a big fan of cluttered sufaces, although that's a battle that I seem to wage daily. But I am a big fan of reading, and so over the years I have obtained (not collected) a few bookmarks. I buy unusual ones that catch my eye. These are three of my favorites. I think they are really pretty, although all of them are seriously impractical as actual bookmarks. The pink and green ribbon one is lovely, although the beaded wire part on the end is so heavy that it falls out of the book unless it is lying flat. The other two wrap around the book with elastic bands. The metal parts are magnetised and can be pushed apart to put around the book. Again, they are difficult to use and are heavy. The bookmark that I mostly use (and is not pictured here) is a little blue butterfly that has magnets that clip on the top of the page. That's a very practical one. I'm thinking of actually making my own bookmarks in this way. The three bookmarks here were chosen because of their similiarity in colors primarily, and also because while they are pretty, they are also impractical. The green magnet one has white lettering on it that says "Harmony". I tried to put it in using white, but it didn't scan very well.
"Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life." Mortimer J. Adler

Saturday, July 07, 2007

EDM Challenge 126

It was with a bit of relief that I greeted this week's challenge to draw a sponge. While I loved drawing the birds, it was nice to put the sponge on the table and have it sit still. This my ScotchBrite sponge. The handle is hollow and the end screws off so you can fill it with detergent. That's handy if you want to scrub the counters or stove top. When Natalie the Niece was about 9 or 10 she came over for Thanksgiving dinner. Her mom had said that Natalie was old enought to start helping. When she saw this sponge, she was so entranced that she insisted on doing the dishes. Being the indulgent aunt that I am, how could I say no? In fact she was disappointed when I finally had to tell her that there simply were no more dishes that needed to be washed.
This little poem says it all, and makes me count my blessings.

"Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell;
while others may go hungry,
we're eating very well."

~Author Unknown
This was done with watercolor and a Pigma pen in the Aquabee sketchbook. I have been trying to make my colors bolder and darker and I think I achieved that here, especially with the shadow which frequently gives me trouble.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

White-breasted Nuthatch

The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer to God's heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth

Dorothy Gurney
1858 - 1952

Monday, July 02, 2007

What's Blooming This Week

The garden has just exploded this week after all the rain. It's been cool up to now and some things have been delayed. I'm having trouble keeping up with what's blooming this week. I started this on the weekend and by today three more things have started blooming. These are the daylilies, the Japanese painted daisy, the Siberian daisy and the perennial Geranium. The Siberian daisy has the oddest, almost unpleasant smell, not one you would associate with flowers at all. I'm having a hard time being very close to those daisies, but the bees sure seem to like them. They get so loaded down with pollen that they fly rather drunkenly around in almost slow motion.