Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goals of 2008

Last year, I gave a lot of thought to the goals I wanted to achieve and ended up not setting any goals. Instead I chose some suggestions, some things that I thought I could achieve, and that would go a ways to increasing my confidence and my joy in creating. In looking back, I see that what I mostly achieved was a sense of exploration, and a realization that creativity is an important part of my life. I tried to draw or sketch something everyday, and to use it as a way to bring balance and perspective to the other things that happened in my life.

This handsome nutcracker prince is the keeper of the goals. Here's how he thought it all went down:

1. Have fun, relax, experiment, explore and enjoy.

This was the most important goal, because if it's not fun why do it? This is a hobby, a relaxation and joy and there is no room for shoulds, musts and havetos. And enjoy it I did. I used different kinds of papers, used pigment pens, brush pens, watercolor pencils. I drew in public and outside, I used borders and lettering for a more illustrated look. I practiced line drawing and black and white drawing.

2. Take a class. Learn proper technique. I signed up for Kate's watercolor pencil class in February. It took a while, but I have come to love these pencils. They have unique qualities and in some cases are the absolute best medium for the task. For working outside and in public, they rule!

3. Continue to do the EDM challenges weekly, and try to do one of the ones that I have not yet done. Although I didn't complete all the challenges, I made a real effort to do as many as I could, and I also did some of the past ones, often doing two a week.

4. Begin including people and urban landscapes in my repertoire. I did not achive this. I discovered that there are lots of outside factors included in this - like crappy weather, and working from photos is a whole different thing than working in real life.

5. Use lots of color because lots of color makes me happy (see goal #1). I did work hard at creating and using bright bold dark colors.

It was a good year, and setting some suggestions like this clarified why I was going down this road and where I wanted to end up. For now, I have no destination in sight, but I'm simply enjoying the journey.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chrismas cookies and wishes

Have a cookie. There's ginger crinkle, shortbread, and peppermint bark.
Take a deep breath. In this season that lends itself to mania, perfectionism, and frenzy, take this moment to let it all go. Exhale. Think about what is important to you, what you value. Chances are it didn't cost a lot of money. (And even if it did, chances are that's not the real reason you treasure it.) The things that are of real value are honor, integrity, honesty, love, self-respect, respect for others. As parts of our world spiral down into violence, hatred and depravity, we need to stand up for the better part of humanity. To let love and honor and respect shine as beacons against the darkness.
Take a deep breath.
Savor the simple pleasures.
Practice peace.
Shine your light against the darkness.
Thank you to all who have visited this blog. I wish you all the best and hope we can continue sharing creativity throughout the next year. You are all clear shining lights of inspiration.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

EDM 201 - Draw a stapler

This is the big, beat-up old stapler that we used to put up the outside Christmas lights. We did that two weeks ago, on the last of the good weather. Since then we've been in the deep freeze with temperatures and windchills around 30 degrees below freezing. And it's been snowing for the last week - I can't remember the last time I had to climb over drifts of snow to walk across the street. Brrr! Stay warm everyone.
Pen and watercolor crayon in Moleskine sketchbook.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

VSD - December

This is from the photo for Virtual Sketch Date this month. I hesitated over doing this one because I don't do landscapes well. I want to do them well, but I don't. I decided to go ahead because if I never practice landscapes I will never do them well. And I did miss the mark on this one, as I never achieved that dreary wintery look of the photo. This sketch is entirely too bright and cheerful. From a previous class I took, I learned not to make trees all the same height. i said to myself "make the trees different heights, make the trees different heights" over and over. And look at the trees - all the same height...sigh. Even still, I think it's better than my last attempt. The lesson learned from this is practice and repeat and practice, and don't make the trees all the same height!

The original photo is here

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Curiosity Journal

This spread is done in my new journal "Curiosity journal" with handmade rag paper. The paper is tinted pink, with little flecks of straw or wood here and there. It is very soft and absorbant and has an odd finely ribbed texture. It's a bit hard to draw on because the texture sends the pencil skittering crazily and the tip also gets caught in the ribbing making it hard to draw a smooth curve. I finally used a glass to trace around to get a credible circle. The watercolor pencils do not go on smoothly at all, plain pencil crayons worked better. I call this the Curiosity Journal because my plan is to research things that pique my interest and then illustrate and write a bit about them. The last lunar eclipse in February was very clear and bright in my part of the world, and I wanted to illustrate the transitional phases. The next lunar eclipse is on December 21, 2010.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

EDM 127 - Draw a book

One of my art goals for this year was to experiment with different media, especially papers and pens. I started with this Moleskine sketchbook - it has an odd color, and very smooth paper. It took some while to get used to it. Then I got some brush pens and I like them a lot. This is a sketch of a new journal that I bought at the 10,000 Villages sale. All items are handmade and imported from developing countries under Fair Trade agreements. The cover is made of rice paper, and the paper inside is made from recycled fabrics. It's very soft and absorbant and finely ribbed, and the medium that woks best with it is colored pencils. It's quite small only 5x6". I use it for my Curiosity Journal, the one where I write and illustrate things that interest me or pique my imagination to do a little research about the subject. I sketched this book using Crayola marker pens which created the look of the pleated, crinkled rice paper on the cover. It's a cute and cheerful little journal and I like it a lot. I'm enjoying this experimentation with new things. It's quite liberating!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

EDM 199 - Draw your toe

"Draw your toes". What a delicious excuse for a much-needed mid-winter pedicure. For the last few years, my mom and I have gone together to get pedicures at the spa. At first, I was a little uneasy about having strangers touch my feet. But the results were so nice that I quickly got over than. A few years ago, my mom gave me a home pedicure set that I use occasionally in the winter. It has some lovely peppermint lotion that makes my feet feel so good. So before I drew my toe(s), i freshened them up. Because really, who wants to see calloused, cracked toes. After all our feet do for us, they deserve some pampering and some maintenance.
This is Faber Castell brush pens in the Moleskine sketchbook I'm really liking these brush pens. They work really well on the smooth paper of this sketchbook. And the colors are lovely and clean and fresh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

EDM 198 - Draw some noodles

Procrastination was my major strategy when it came to this challenge. How to draw noodles without getting lost in the sinuous curves of a whole bowlful of fettucine or rotini? Trying to imagine it made my head hurt. I tried to think of ways to simplify the process, and thought that maybe I could just do the last bite of spaghetti twirled around a fork. That was less difficult to imagine. As I walked home from work, I also idly imagined that maybe Shawn will have started supper and maybe he chose to made spaghetti. What are the odds of that? When I got home, I saw a big pot of water on the stove - the pot in which we usually cook spaghetti. Could it be? "What's for supper?", I asked casually, wanting to believe that all the planets fell into the proper alignment to grant my wishes. "Spaghetti", he said. Seriously, how awesome is that? So after I ate, I set up this little still life on my lovely Corel Irises plate. It was meant to be.

This is done with my brand new Faber Castell brush pens. They are gonna take a little getting used to as far as technique goes. But I like them so far.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trio of Pears

This is the sketch I did of the photo for October's Virtual Sketch date. It was taken by Belinda Lindhardt. I missed the deadline for the actual sketchdate, so I was unsure of whether I could post it or not. But I enjoyed doing this so much that I wanted to share it. The photo was so stunning that it inspired me. Those of you who have read this blog before know how fruits and vegetables make my artistic soul sing, and I knew I had to do it. I enjoyed every minute of this process. This is why I paint!

Belinda's lovely blog is here.

Watercolor in Moleskine watercolor journal 5x7"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

EDM 197 - Draw a remote

This was a timely challenge for me. We recently changed our cable TV provider and bundled all our services together with the new digital TV offerings. So now we have 155 channels, and these shiny new, universal remotes. Everyone knows that the person who controls the remote, controls everything. And absolute power corrupts absolutely. In our house, we have two TVs and two remotes. I live with a news junkie whose favorite channel is Business News Network, and he now has a whole range of news channels to surf including European and Asian news and business. He's a happy guy as he's been recovering from knee surgery and has been off work and bored. I get the network channels and Space and Scream. I know it sounds as if we never speak to each other, but that's not so. We come together for movies and the Food Network!

Staedtler fine line pen and watercolor pencil in Moleskine sketchbook. No water was wasted in the execution of this sketch.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is watercolor and micron pen in the Moleskine sketchbook. There's not much to say about this one, except that I really liked the way the shadows of the tines lay. This would be a very meager posting if not for the fact that I've been tagged in one of those blog games that floats endlessly about cyberspace. EWian, a member of the EDM group has kindly asked to know more about by having me reveal six random things about myself. You can find EWian's six random things here

For those who want to know about me, here goes:

I work as a library technician in a college/university. I've been there for 16! years, and mostly still look forward to going to work every day. Of course, having 3 months off each summer has a lot to do with that.

I am an avid gardener, and although I live in townhouse condo, I do my best with the small space I have. My neighbors have told me that I single handedly improved the condo appearance by upping the standards for those who live around me. Now we all garden together, and have created a lovely spot.

I also love to cook and bake bread. I recently wore out my old bread machine. Buns are rising even as I type this.

I'm a Gossip Girl addict. I can't stop watching it. Seriously! What's wrong with me?

I love to travel and am currently researching Mediterranean cruises. Previous trips included 3 jaunts to various parts of Mexico.

And lastly, I secretly wish I was a much more exciting person!

Here are some people I would like to know more about:






And lastly, an open invitation to all the newcomers to EDM. I would love to learn more about you!

The rules:1. Link to the person or persons who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write six random things about yourself.

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

EDM 192 - Float

This is what the swimming pool looked like the last time I was in it for Deep Water workout class. Usually the pool is divided into three sections. One half of the pool is dedicated to the Cascades swim team. They are young kids who are very enthusiastic and noisily cheer each other on and occasionally break into a spontaneous game of Marco Polo. The other half of the pool has our class at the deep end. We use music and an instructor's encouragement and leadership. The shallow end is used for little kids' individual swimming lessons. It's a very noisy and energetic place. Last week the Cascade kids were on a break and when I came in this lone beachball was floating rather florlornly on the surface. It looked so lonely and sad, and the pool seemed that way too until we came in. Our noise and turbulence made the ball bob up and down a little and it seemed to dance on the surface. It seemed the perfect thing for this challenge.

Watercolor pencil in Moleskine 5"x7".

Sunday, October 26, 2008

EDM 194 - Baked potato rant

This is a baked potato the way it was meant to be. Baked in a real oven, not a microwave. Garnished with a glob of sour cream - real sour cream, not that no fat abomination that I try to (lie to) tell myself tastes the same as the real thing. Chives, preferably fresh from the garden. Bits of crumbled bacon - real bacon and not that edible oil product that masquerades as bacon. And a liberal grind of black peppers. Yes, I'm a baked potato snob, and I'm not afraid to admit it. There's really no substitue for genuine, fresh ingredients. As someone who loves to cook (and eat), I am constantly dismayed by the plethora of "fake" ingredients that are in the stores. Often they are marketed as being convenient or fast. But don't you have to wonder what's in a product that never, ever goes bad? And isn't it preferable to have a small amount of whole fat products rather than a lot of modified products with parts taken out? If the flavor is left in food, perhaps we would need less of it to be satisfied. And maybe they wouldn't need to add a lot of corn syrup to cover up the lack of natural taste. I ponder these things in the grocery store, and am trying to buy more local and natural ingredients. It just tastes better.

Watercolor pencil, micron pen, in the Moleskine sketchbook. 5"x7"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

EDM 103 - Draw some exercise equipment

Deep Water Workout is my favorite exercise class. It's the one I have been able to stick with for 5 years now, twice a week. The pool is a heated salt water pool, and the water is silky smooth and soft. It feel wonderful against your skin, although it wreaks havoc with your bathing suit. I drew this suit as one of my favorites for its bright colors, but it's rapidly losing its structural integrity due to the salt. The Aquabells are made of styrofoam and are light as feathers outside of the water, but in the water the resistance is about 15 pounds - way more than I can lift in the gym. The belts keep us afloat in the deep water. But the noodle is my nemesis. Yeah, that benign pool noodle beloved of children everywhere becomes an instrument of torture in Deep Water class. The instructors actually expect us to stand on the noodle while in the water! It is impossible! Children love the pool noodle because when they try to stand on it, it dumps them face first into the drink, and causes much hilarity. The same thing happens to grown-up women when they are conned into believing that standing on this noodle is a terrific exercise for abdominal muscles. Much hilarity ensues, as we too are dumped face first into the drink. So not only do we get a workout, but we are reminded that grownups need to play, too.

Watercolor pencils in the Moleskine sketchbook.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Autumn asks that we prepare for the future - that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go - to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness." --B.W. Overstreet

As I walked home from work one day, I noticed all the autumn leaves on the trees and on the ground. Of course, they needed to be drawn. I chose carefully, looking at shapes and colors and patterns. I'm not sure what was more fun - the selecting or the drawing. As much as I mourn the passing of summer and the death of my garden, I celebrate the changing of the seasons and the cycle of life. For how would we appreciate the warmth and bounty of summer without knowing the chill and nudity of winter. And though I grumble about the cold and the winds of winter, I really like living in a country with such discrete seasons. It's always changing and always interesting. Each season has it's own beauty and charm, and it's one of the things that makes me want to draw and paint. To try and capture the ever-changing face of nature.
This is watercolorpencil in the Moleskine journal. At first, I didn't like this journal much, but it's grown on me. Although it still scans oddly, I've found that having the black lines as an anchor point tends to balance out the scan some.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

EDM 190 - Draw your pallette

This is my pallette of water color paints. In real life, it's a lot messier than that. This was a real exercise in perspective. I struggled quite a bit with all those corners and angles, and trying to convey "shiny white" surface. It was a real challenge, but as usual, I learned quite a bit. It always seems that the harder it is, the more I learn. There was a lot of erasing and re-placing of lines that forced me to look closely at the angles, and draw what I really see and not how I think it should look. Good challenge all around.

I had been without Internet access for about three weeks. I'm not one who is on the computer all day everyday, so I didn't realize how much a part of my life it had become. It was difficult to run my daily life - paying bills, renewing library books, looking up recipes and crossword puzzle clues (yeah, I cheat a bit!), communicating through emails, posting to this blog, and participating in the weekly challenges. So now I'm much more appreciative of the sense of community there is in being "connected". Rather than being isolating as so many think, it really opens up the world to you. And that can't be a bad thing - to be able to join a group of like minded people with the same interests as you, to discuss, to share, to teach, to learn, to participate. Isn't that what community is all about?

Monday, September 15, 2008


This was done from a photograph that hangs in my parents' den. It's been around for many years, and for just as many years I have wanted to paint it. There was some anxiety attached to that longing, it was such a beautiful photo takn by my dad on one of his fishing trips. I'd hate to mess it up. But I finally did draw it back in June when I was there. I studied the photo several times a day, and made mental notes. When I finally drew it, I also made paper notes. Then I went home and painted it. I used liquid mask (lots of it) on those tiny polka dots. The challenges were to get a dark enough color, to recreate the interesting green water, and to blur out the male and the chick. This last proved the most difficult, as the male loon always looked as if he was rearing out of the water like a breaching whale. At that point I thought it was ruined, so I decided to continue experimenting wih the color of the water. I added a second, deeper wash of color right over the background birds. And suddenly, it worked. That loon settled right down, and the colors blurred enough to look like the photo. So I decided I liked it. And even better, my co-workers chose it to hang in our library gallery.
Watercolor in Moleskine sketchbook, 5"x7"

Monday, September 08, 2008


It was a bad year for the garden, cool, cloudy, wet. But the cheerful pansies thrived, and brough much needed color. Pansies mean "loving thoughts", but I've always thought they meant resiliance and determination.
I send thee pansies while the year is young,
Yellow as sunshine, purple as the night;
Flowers of remembrance, ever fondly sung
By all the chiefest of the Sons of Light;
And if in recollection lives regret
For wasted days and dreams that were not true,
I tell thee that the "pansy freak'd with jet"
Is still the heart's ease that the poets knew
Take all the sweetness of a gift unsought,
And for the pansies send me back a thought."
---Sarah Doudney
Watercolor and staedtler pen in Aquabee sketchbook .

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Avocado Dilemma

The other day, I sliced open this avocado for the salad and was struck by the gorgeous range of colors. From the buttery yellow near the pit to the electric lime near the edges, and the deep mysterious color of the skin, I knew I wanted to paint. It came together almost effortlessly and I'm very happy with it. It was effortless because this is what I love to do. This is my passion, finding the beauty in the ordinary things of life, the fruits, vegetables, flowers. This is what I love to draw and paint in small scale. And therein lies the dilemma. The library I work in hangs artwork from the college community on one of the large bare white walls. They have asked me to submit some work to hang in the fall. Last year, they took a sketch of tomatos that was 5x8". There it was, tucked beneath Pat's soaring Rocky Mountain landscapes, Judy's exciting horses and cowboys, Joan's exqusite portrait of a cat, and the guest artist's four panel painting of an elephant's head. All were quite large. I felt like a teetotaller on a wineries tour. Maybe I could choose 3 or 4 of my small veggies and frame them together to give a big bigger footprint. I don't quite know what to do.
Watercolor paints in the Moleskine WC journal 8x5"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

EDM 182 - Draw a truck

I don't think I've ever drawn a truck before. I can't even remember ever wanting to draw a truck before. It was cold and rainy so I didn't want to go outside to draw a truck. I googled it - "how to draw a truck". And I got this awesome site on how to draw absolutely everything you could think of . Check it out.
It gives step by step instructions for drawing things. The only drawback, for my purposes anyways, is that it has no backgrounds and doesn't show shadowing. It's strictly line drawing. But it is an excellent learning tool. I softened the corners on the truck and added shadows and the trees from looking out the window at a real truck. There's still no substitute in my mind for the drawing the real thing.
This is Pigma Micron pen in the Aquabee sketchbook (5.5 x 8.5"). And no color!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tranquility vs Exasperation EDM 184

I am back at work after about 3 months off. To ease myself back into it, I went in the afternoon to the beautiful little rose garden we have on campus. There is a water fountain, and beside it is a small gazebo with two benches facing one another. It is a lovely spot for solitary contemplation, or the sharing of secrets with friends. It was the perfect park bench to draw, there in the shade of the honeysuckle vine, with the scent of roses, and gentle flow of the water. Aaah, perfection itself! The angle of the arms and legs on that wretched bench drove me crazy. I tried and tried, gowing ever more frustrated. Finally, I gave up and sought to soothe myself with a walk around the pond. Where, to my chagrin, there were a great many other park benches, none of which had arms like the ones that had just defeated me! "Oh well", I lied to myself, "that's why they call it a challenge. I'm sure I learned a lot." I'm not sure I did, but after a while, I managed to clean it up a lot and added some color. It's still not quite right, especially on the right side, but I hope it conveys the tranquility of the spot (when I'm not there drawing).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

EDM 183

This is an Egyptian Cobra, one of the most dangerous snakes. We don't have many dangerous snakes in Canada, and while searching for information on cobras I found this tidbit on Wikipedia ... "the Egyptian cobra garnered attention in the fall of 2006 when a pet cobra became loose and forced the evacuation of a house in Toronto. For more than six months it is believed to have sought refuge in the home's walls." I don't know about you, but this boggles my mind. Why would anyone want a dangerous reptile for a pet, and why would you let it out of its cage? It's not like you can cuddle with it or take it for a walk. And how do you sleep at night knowing there's a poisonous snake on the loose in your house?

Friday, August 08, 2008


I took up drawing again, mostly because I was inspired by the flowers growing in my small garden. I had wanted a cottage type garden, and had planted daisies, delphiniums and roses. The daisies are my favorite perennial - cheerful, persistent and worry free.
Daisy, Common
Botanical: Bellis perennis (LINN.) Family: N.O. Compositae
Synonyms---Bruisewort. (Scotch) Bairnwort. (Welsh) Llygad y Dydd (Eye of the Day).
Parts Used---Root, leaves.
Historically used as a cure for fresh wounds in an ointment applied externally, and against inflammatory disorders of the liver, taken internally by distilling in water.

To the Daisy
"In youth from rock to rock I went,
From hill to hill in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleased when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make,--
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly Nature's love partake,
Of Thee, sweet Daisy!
- William Wordsworth

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Tomkins Park Gazebo

This was my second foray into drawing in public, and fulfilling the goal of doing architectural drawings. I wanted to start small, a whole building can be a tad intimidating. This is a cute little gazebo in Tomkins Park. My first "grown-up" library job was in a building that faced onto this park. I ate a lot of lunches in this park before the gazebo was there. Over the years, the park became a haven for the homeless and the addicted. The business community has made a real effort to clean up, and bring shoppers back. It's a lovely area now, and there are tons of people around. I was a little nervous to draw, but once I started I really enjoyed it. People were watching me but noone approached me, probably because I was very intent and absorbed. Those steps gave me many problems, and the columns are a little wonky. But I liked how the green roof contrasted with the deep purple leaves of the crabapple tree.

Staedtler pen and watercolorpencils.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EDM 13 - Draw your phone

This is my new cell phone. For years, I bucked the trend and didn't have one, didn't even want one. I had pared my life down to carrying a tiny little purse that held my wallet, a tissue, keys and a lip gloss. Carrying the bare essentials meant life was easy. I took this philosophy to other parts of my life, too, keeping the important things and not getting bogged down with consumerism and being the "firstest with the latest". But life conspires against this kind of simplicity. Now it's hard to find a public pay phone. EMTs are trained to check cell phones for the ICE number, the person to call In Case of Emergency. And my employer thinks cell phone warnings are the way to deal with a potential disaster. Hence my new cell phone, and my search for a slightly bigger purse that will fit the phone. I may as well get one even a little bigger to hold the iPod. Sigh...
Done with a Staedtler pen and watercolor pencils. This is probably the fastest sketch I've ever done!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

EDM 181 - Draw a trash can

My kitchen trash can is white plastic, and the condo's is a big brown bin, neither of which were interesting nor inspiring. I found a picture in a flyer of this sleek, stainless steel cylinder and decided to play with color. I'm not sure that I like this at all. But my philosophy is that if I do the challenge, I post the challenge. I'll chalk this one up as practice. The lesson learned today is to look at mundane things in a new way, and see the beauty in practicality and utility.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

EDM 180 - Favorite Color

My thinking for this challenge led me to the conclusion that I don't have a favorite color. In fact, the reason I like to paint rather than just draw is because of the colors. Without color, it just isn't interesting (which could also be my philosophy of life if I chose to dissect that sentence). But back to the point... I couldn't choose a color, so I looked to my patio plants to see what grabbed my attention. This container of geraniums and lobelias is quickly becoming my favorite color combination. I had chosen white lobelia to contrast with the salmon geraniums in the black container. Instead I got a mislabelled batch of these brilliant blue lobelias. Serendipidity! This combo is eye-popping.(And geranium leaves are so much fun to paint!) Watercolor in Moleskine wc journal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

EDM 36 - Draw in public

This is a display of bags of coffee beans at Starbucks. It was in front of the big cushy armchair I chose to sit in, and with my resolve to draw in public it seemed appropriate to just draw what was in front of me. This turned out to be quite a learning experience on so many levels. When I set up to draw at home, I spend a lot of time placing the objects, moving them around, adding and subtracting elements, looking for the perfect shadows and highlights and anchor point. By anchor point I mean the specific point at which I start the drawing, and the point against which I measure all other lines and angles. I hadn't realized how important that anchor point was until here, when I had an immovable position and an immovable object. The display case was against the window and the only source of light was the overhead lights, creating a real flatness and lack of shadows. I began drawing this at the top of the sign, and as I drew downwards, I became aware of how the point of view changed. The bags on the top shelf were above my eye level and all I could see was the front of them. As I went down, and my perspective changed, so did what I could see of the bags. Below eye level, I could see the tops and sides of the bags as well. Because I was in public and a bit nervous about it, I drew as quickly as I could. I also used a finer pen. I think I did achieve a less stilted and formal drawing than the previous one. But I learned a lot, and I really had fun doing it. I will definitely be doing it again. There are so many coffee shops!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Be like the flower, turn your faces to the sun."- Kahlil Gibran

The other morning, I was enchanted by this scene in my backyard. The day lillies had exploded into bloom and leaned gracefully across the birdbath. The sparrows were chattering and splashing. It's my little piece of paradise.

One of my art goals has been to experiment with different media. I really admire those who can draw with pens (drawing is not something that comes easily to me), and wanted to try pens and wash. This is a little tighter than I would want it to be. It's one of those drawings where sometimes I like it, and sometimes I don't. But I really did like the process of doing it. I found it totally absorbing. I understand the "rule" that you have to understand the princples of drawing and how to apply them correctly before you can creatively break them. I think you have to draw tighter at first in order to understand how to draw looser.

Friday, July 11, 2008

EDM 179 - Draw an onion

These green onions always seem to be the epitome of freshness. One of the best things to do with them is to make Crispy Green Onion Pancakes, a Chinese street food. They are made of unleavened dough rather than a batter, and require a bit of patience. But if you like making bread like I do, then this is a recipe that is worth the work.

Green Onion pancakes

3 cups of flour

1 cup of hot water

Chopped green onions

Sesame oil

Salt and pepper

Peanut oil

Put the flour in a bowl and add the hot water to it. Stir until it comes together in a ball. Turn the ball out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until the dough is silky and smooth. (yeah, the directions are a bit vague but making bread is like that). Put the ball of dough back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the dough onto a floured surface again and knead for 1 or 2 minutes until it's no longer sticky. Now comes the fun part. Cut the dough into pieces, depending on how big you want your pancakes. Roll the piece into a round thin shape about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with sesame oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and then the chopped onion. Roll it into a cigar shape, then coil it into a round shape, and then roll it out til it looks like a tortilla. Cover with the plastic wrap, and continue with all the rest of the dough pieces. Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan until quite hot, then quickly fry the pancakes one or two minutes until crispy. Flip and fry the other side. Serve smokin' hot with soy sauce. Delicious!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

EDM 18 - The view from a window

There are several, large, noisy, busy crows that live in the poplar trees just across the street. The sturdy poplars have lots of crooks in the branches for supporting nests, and the trees are tall enough that the nests are safe. Lately, they have been venturing onto our property and taking over the tall spruce trees as well. Almost every night this spring, when the sun goes down, and the world takes on that odd colorless one dimensional feeling, a crow has come to roost on the tallest tree. This tree has a tall, thin leader branch and the crow perches on the very top of it. It is too thin to support his weight so each landing results in a gentle bob of the branch until it surrenders to inevitable and bends over. The crow then sits there motionlessly, silhoutted flatly against the sunset until it is fully dark. Although the crows are noisy and obnoxious during the day, this seems an almost meditative and solitary behaviour. I wonder what he's thinking.

Friday, July 04, 2008

EDM 178 - Draw something red

I took my first trip to the Farmers' Market yesterday, just in time to catch the first shipment of B.C. cherries. Oh, how wonderful! The cherry orchards in the Okanagan area were hit by frost and cold temperatures and some of the crops were destroyed. The damage was hit and miss, though, so some survived and I was delighted to see them (as were many others, those beauties were flying off the tables!) It's a good thing we are never forced to pick a "favorite" fruit or vegetable, because it seems that whatever is on the table at the Market is my current favorite. And of course, they were perfect for this week's challenge - that voluptuous shape, the luscious mysterious colors, the bold sheen. Watercolor in Moleskine.
“Life is just a bowl of cherries, don't take it serious, it's mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, laugh and love."
Bob Fosse

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Canada Day, Draw a flag

Today is Canada Day, celebrating our nation's 141st birthday. This year also marks the 400th birthday of Quebec City, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. It is the first place in Canada where European settlers spent the entire winter. It has recently been declared a World Heritage site. This year is also the 250th anniversary of the first parliamentary procedure, taking place in what is now Nova Scotia, and is considered the earliest democratic process in North America. Happy Birthday, Canada, the true north strong and free!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

EDM 176 - Draw summer

There are so many things that shout "summer" to me. Living in a winter country as I do, summer is short, sweet, and something that you wring every last drop out of. I even keep track of the "firsts" of every summer:

  • first gin and tonic (because you can only drink G&Ts in the summer)
  • first full day wearing flip flops (the day you don't have to start off wearing socks)
  • first harvest of rhubarb
  • first day you can drink morning coffee on the patio
  • first cutting of the new grass
  • first robin in the birdbath

But it's really watermelon that is the quintessential taste and smell of summer. I know that we can have watermelon all year long now, but when I was a kid we waited for summer to have watermelon. It was like the reward for surviving the six foot high snowdrifts. And the best part was when you went to the freezer and got the snowball that you made from those six foot drifts and stashed away in there last January, hoping your mom hadn't found it thrown it out. Eating watermelon and a snowball - yep, that says summer to me. I don't think I would enjoy summer nearly as much if I didn't have winter.

This is watercolor in the Moleskine watercolor journal. I wanted to experiment with gettting the sparkly texture of the watermelon, so I used lots of water to create blooms. It does give the effect of those slightly mushy parts of the melon. I think salt would have worked as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

EDM 175 - Draw a basket

This is the cute little basket that I use to carry my "stuff" around. I'm in a fortunate place in that I only work ten months of the year so with vacation time, I have about 12 weeks off most of them in the summer. Last year I found this basket that is the perfect size for carrying my personal things around. It holds my drawing and water color pencils, my sketchbook, my personal journal, and a paperback novel. Since I spend a lot of time outside on the deck, it's perfect for moving my life from the inside to the outside. The basket is in one hand, leaving the other hand free for a cup of coffee or a cold drink. And when the urge to draw the flowers in the back garden strikes, I just reach into the basket for what I need. It's organization and creativity in perfect balance. It doesn't take much to please me. But then, life on the deck in the summer should be simple and easy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

EDM - Draw a bridge

This is the little footbridge that crosses over a creek in Weaselhead Flats. The wetland area is one of my favorite walks in the city. It is a protected area, and is away from developments. There are lots of wildlife, especially water birds of all kinds. It also has one of the largest coniferous forest of white spruce in the area, which is mostly prairie. The first bridge was built in 1971, but was washed away during a flood. This particular bridge has been in place since 1996. By the time you reach the bridge, you have descended from the main park area onto the wetlands, and the noise of the city has disappeared to be replaced by the trills and chatter of birds and water. It is a simply lovely, tranquil place, where I go often to refresh my soul.
I don't do many landscapes, as I find it difficult to choose what to leave in and where to just "suggest" the trees or forms. But this seemed to be a good photo to work with. The spruce trees were quite fun to do, but I had to remind myself to slow down, and make a conscious decision about how much detail to put in, and where to place the reflection of the bridge, and the shadows of the trees. It also seemed like the right tool for this job was the water color pencils and I really like how they worked here. I feel like I learned a lot from this sketch.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Waking up the Garden

After a long, bleak winter the garden is beginning to wake to the warmth of the sun and the spring rains. Most of the perennials are peeking above ground, but only the intrepid tulips are blooming. They got a big dump of snow on their tender leaves awhile ago, so the leaves are quite twisted and discolored. And then the blooms were threatened by a day of extreme heat. I cut these to spare them and they brightened the kitchen for a week. The pink one has the loveliest green tips and stripes down the center of the petals.

But that was the first step down the slippery slope of Calgary gardening. Even though I knew it was too soon, I could not resist these dahlias. They were so spectacular that I also knew that if I waited for two ore weeks, they would be gone. So the next day I went and got them, and there were only two of the rose ones left. And then of course, they looked so gorgeous and so lonely out there... well, I'm sure you know how this story ends. With me hovering and covering. We did, however wait until today to buy the rest of the annuals. I no sooner got them in the ground, then it began to rain again. Aah, it's good to be in the dirt and the rain. It's where I belong.

"Paradise lost can only be regained by those who remember it" --Andre Hardellet

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EDM 171 - Ice cream

When I was little, we would often go to the Dairy Queen in Red Deer for ice cream. Back then, the Dairy Queen only did ice cream and they did it very well. Their banana splits were divine. Three mounds of ice cream, one topped with a ridiculously yellow pineapple sauce, one with a smooth chocolate sauce, and one with strawberry sauce. It was lusciously topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries. Delicious! But for some strange reason, the bananas were never ripe. Never! You would think that by the law of averages, you would occasionaly get a ripe one but they were never ripe. You couldn't even cut them with that cheap plastic spoon. But we still ordered them. The day after I drew this, while out with friends at the Old Spaghetti Factory, the meal ended with a little dish of their famous spumoni ice cream. I wish I could have drawn it because it was so pretty, brown and green and white, in a tiny little silver dish. But I ate it instead.
This is drawn with Pigma micron pen in my day journal and colored later with water color pencils.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Walk in Spring, Bitter disappointment

The weather has been very cold and wet and I was desperate to go for a walk. I wanted to find some pussywillows to draw. Nothing was blooming in the garden and everything just seemed so dull and uninspiring. At Glenmore Park, I found this gorgeous branch that had been blown off in the wind. The twig was the most beautiful colors, orange, yellow and red, bursting with sap. The pussywillows were so delicately colored. I had fun drawing it and using the watercolor pencils which finally seemed to be the "right" medium for the subject. Finally I was inspired! I even found a quote that summed up what I felt when I drew this, my joy in drawing the everyday things around me:
"Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen." Robert Bresson

And then I scanned it...

Honestly, in real life it does not look like that! I have been struggling with this Moleskine drawing journal and it's given me nothing but grief. The color throws me off, and in this case it really threw the scanner off. It's about nine shades too yellow and the delicate blues and grays of the pussywillows don't show up at all. So then I tried something with blue shades in it. This is the one thing that is blooming in my garden but was buried under the latest snowfall on Friday. It's better, but again there's too much yellow in the scan and the blues and violets are washed out.

I think this journal is not for me. I think I will use it for my everyday writing journal, and go back to the Aquabee sketchbook and the Moleskine watercolor journal with white paper. Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you want them to.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

EDM 80 - Draw something that makes you happy

This is the iPod I got for Christmas. It makes me happy to have all the music at my fingertips whenever I want it. I like the shape and the size and the whole concept of digital music. I walk to work and with the iPod I don't have to make that difficult decision as to which few CDs shall I tuck in the backpack. All the music is there all the time. I can even change my mind in mid-song. One day as I came into the building someone said they had seen me walking and I was smiling. I replied "Leonard Cohen on the iPod makes me happy" and so became the logical choice for this challenge. Usually if asked, I would say that family and friends and a job well done and my health and food on the table and a roof over my head makes me happy. And they do, but they are also darn hard to draw! So I'm gonna face the dark side and admit that sometimes material things do make me happy. I enjoy this toy every day.

And yes, I did buy it a new blue dress and some soft earbuds, but it's just so cute!

This is Staedtler pen and watercolor pencil in the Moleskine sketch journal. I have in the past been unsure if I like the paper color, but the cerulean blue sure shows up and scans better on this color than on the white paper.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

EDM 168 - Draw your daily newspaper

This is the newspaper as it arrives at my house. Half of the time, we have to search for it. I believe they stand on the sidewalk and hurl it in the general direction of the front door, with massive disregard for any green, growing things. The other half of the time, the delivery person has exercised her option to simply not bother delivering the paper at all. We and the Herald delivery complaint department are on each other's speed-dial. Since when did doing your job become optional? It's been an on-going battle this year. This particular paper brought the news (that everyone already knew) that the Calgary Flames had been drummed out of the playoffs for the third year in a row. (Tiny voice:Go, Flames, go). Maybe next year...
This is done with Staedlter pen in Moleskine sketch journal. I think that this particular paper takes pen and watercolor crayon far better than watercolor paint. I kind of like the idea of using drawing and words. Mostly I have been a painting kind of girl, for me the drawing was just the bones and structure of a painting. But I might get used to just drawing. It's a stretch for me, and the color of the paper I still find a bit odd. I found I really enjoyed reproducing the lettering of the headlines and for that the pen was surely the best choice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunlit Geese

I was a bit hesitant about posting this, even though I really like it. I had wanted to draw geese and especially the goslings for quite a while now. I had tried before to capture the glowing fuzziness of the little ones, but couln't manage to do it well. I got lots of advice and have been practising that technique. Then I got this book from the library with the a watercolor demo of geese and goslings that looked almost exactly like the photo that I had. The demo had 4 goslings, my photo had 3 and the positions were a bit different. But I feel that I must mention the book and the demo as this is similar to it. The book is called "Watercolor Workshop" by Glynis Barnes-Mellish.

The reason I wanted to paint this is that for the last seven or eight years, a pair of Canada geese has come to the outside courtyard of the college where I work, to nest in one of the large concrete planters. It's a good spot because it juts out over the lower courtyard, and can't be reached by curious bystanders. Once the goslings are hatched, the proud parents march them through the courtyard, down the steps, and out to the pond in the back. We are all quite protective of these geese, but unfortunately last year, the female was killed, probably by a coyote. This is the first year for a long time that the college community has not come together to look out the window at the nest, and marvel at the renewing of nature right in front of us. Perhaps the male will be back with a new mate, but I really hope not. There are two many aggressive coyotes around now, and I think none of the little ones would survive. So I will miss them, but I will remember them in this small way.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

EDM 166 - Draw a fish

This a Bull Trout, the official fish of Alberta. (Aren't you glad you read this blog so you can know terrific trivia like that?) It is a protected species as its numbers have declined, and the way they teach us that we must catch and release this fellow is "No black, throw it back". It is the only trout here that has no black spots on its dorsal fin. It is also recognisable by the white leading edge on its lower fins. I think trout have such lovely, streamlined shapes and beautiful coloring (and no, I'm not being sarcastic, I really am a fan of fish). One of my favorite vacation memories is snorkeling in Parrotfish Bay in Mexico among all the fish there. Parrotfish are cute!

This is done in the Moleskine watercolor book with watercolor paints so I could get smooth washes for the fish and the water.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

EDM 165 - Draw the front of your house

This is the front of my townhouse condo. It looks pretty sad, with an empty window box and dead perennials in the garden. There are some tulips poking up through the ground, and yesterday I saw a fluorescent orange nubbin of the rhubarb coming up. We have lived in this house for 16 years, and we have filled it with love and laughter, friends and family, tabby cats and books. It's been a good place to live, and I wish I could have done a better job portraying it.

I succumbed to the hype and bought a Moleskine sketchbook. I have the watercolor sketchbook which I like a lot. But this new one I'm not so sure about. The paper is very slick and smooth, the pen seemed to slip and dance across it. It's also quite yellow. It absorbed the paint quickly so it was difficult to get a smooth patch of color. I think it worked much better with the water color pencils and no water. The whole experience threw me off a little, I felt very hesitant and unsure how to lay the lines and paint down. (And aren't there a lot lines! )

Monday, March 24, 2008

EDM 163 - Draw a deck of cards

My parents went on a Mediterranean cruise and all I got was this lousy deck of cards! Used cards! I'm sure I got more than that, because my parents are very generous people, but it seemed appropriate here.

"Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game." Voltaire.

I like this quote, it is one of those that seem designed to pull you out of yourself and give some perspective to whatever situation you find yourself in. Like envy over someone else going on a cruise while you're slaving away, or people being excited over the first robin or crocus of spring while you wake up to snow on the ground, and a vicious wind. Instead, play your cards right, and you, too, can be waving goodbye from the observation deck. It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts.

This is Pigma and Staedtler pens, and watercolor pencils, in the Aquabee watercolor journal.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

EDM 162 Draw your breakfast

Here is my breakfast and it makes me a bit sad. I caught sight of myself unexpectedly the other day and thought "Who's body is that, and what happened to my own?" I never minded aging, never was one of those who wanted to be young again. I was looking forward to the wisdom and patience that comes with age. I didn't realize that you paid for that with an expanding waistline. And I don't know how it happened. I walk to and from work, half an hour each way, and I do a Deep Water workout class twice a week. The only culprit can be a sloooooowed down metabolism. So no more bagels and smoked salmon cream cheese for breakfast, it's Special K and a banana. And sadly, no more evening snacks of a glass of wine and a bowl of potato chips. I think that's the real reason. I'm so glad I've reached the level of maturity and wisdom to know that if it tastes good, it gotta be bad for me. Sigh... Just when you can afford the cost of the good life, you realize you can't afford the calories.

Friday, March 07, 2008

EDM 83 - Draw a body of water

Finally, I have something new to put on the blog. These are American Pelicans near the weir on the Bow River. The river is deep and fast there, and the weir churns the water up quite high. It creates a kind of rolling motion that is quite dangerous for people, and also for fish. The fish are tossed up to the top of the water and into the waiting beaks of the pelicans. It's like dinner delivery for pelicans. Sometimes, they are so stuffed, they don't even bother with the fish, they just float serenely, knowing that the next hunger pang will be instantly gratified. They are fat and lazy, and have an enormous sense of self-entitlement, just like a tabby cat. Maybe in my next life, I'll come back as pelican (or a tabby cat).
This is done with water color pencils in the Moleskin water color journal. It is part of my homework for Watercolor Pencil magic, the chapter on water and skies. In the three weeks of the class, this is the only thing that seemed good enough to post here. It has been a truly humbling experience, albeit a valuable one.