Saturday, December 29, 2007

10 Lords a-leaping

This is my 100th post on this blog. It's been a little more than a year, and so it seems fitting that this post continues with something I started a year ago. This fellow was tricky to draw, and I think that when his feet finally land on the ground he will prove to be rather short and bandy-legged. But perhaps he is a good lord to his people. I think his face looks kind and wise. Well, that's the story I'm gonna stick to.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and travelled safely, and that your families are all happy and well. This lord is expressing my happiness because I got an iPod Nano as a gift. Although I try not to be materialistic or gadget-ridden (or boastful), I have to say that I absolutely love this thing. The whole concept of it is so clever and convenient. And best of all, I get to be (for a short time anyways) as cool and hip as my 14 year old niece, who also got the same thing from Santa.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

9 ladies dancing

Here is the entry for 9 ladies dancing, one lady dancing and the other eight in the wings looking for their toe shoes. This is my second foray into drawing people doing things and this was a little bit harder, as this dancer wanted to show off knees and ankles and collarbones. No hiding behind aprons and gumboots for her, so I had to pay more attention to proportion. I doubt that she would make the Royal Winnipeg Ballet troop, as she seems to lack the statuesque leg length required. But she has a good hairstylist. This was done with watercolor tube paints and Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils, and Pigma pen. The whole project is going a lot slower than I had planned, because I seem to be spending too much time in the kitchen. But homemade chocolate truffles are perhaps worth the time and effort, and I will persevere.
Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog. To those who comment, thank you for your support and encouragement. It means the world to me. To those who don't comment, thank you for visitingand I hope you left with a smile. May you all have a joyous season and a wonderful year to come.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

8 Maids a-milking

Last year, I had begun to illustrate this song and had a lot of fun doing it mostly because I like to draw birds. Then I came to this one - 8 maids a-milking. I had not had much (any) experience drawing people, I had never taken a life drawing course. And so I was somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of drawing 8 or more people doing anything. While I dithered over that, the entire season came and went and the moment was lost. I decided that perhaps I would postpone the project and spend the next few months practicing my figure drawing skills. While I dithered over that too, the entire season came around again! On one of my previous posts, a lovely supportive commenter suggested that when in doubt it helped to cartoon or do simple line drawings and have some fun with it. That seemed to be excellent advice in this case, and I also decided to just draw one figure doing the action and try to use symbols to represent the rest. It took quite a long time, this poor little maid was drawn and erased in her entirety four times. Trying to draw from my imagination also proved to be quite a challenge, I found. It's much more difficult than following the lines of solid object in front of you. So here is the first of the latter part of the song. And the lovely, supportive commenter was right, drawing that little cartoonish cow was a lot of fun!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

EDM 148 - Draw something soothing

There were a lot of candidates for this challenge. I had planned to make soups this weekend to freeze in smal containers to take for lunches. It is a job that I find very soothing. But there has been alot of food posted on this blog and I wanted to do something different. So I chose these products which are very soothing to someone who lives in a winter country. The Jergens lotion soothes parched, itchy skin and it's lovely cherry almond scent soothes the soul. The Blistex lip balm soothes cracked, chapped lips. The little blue bottle is lavender essential oil which I use to ward off the constant colds and flus that surround those of us who work in a public institution. It's also relaxing and soothing. I could also have added a CD called "the most relaxing classical album in the world...ever!" Cheesy title, but fabulous music, although I couldn't quite fit it on the page. There were also two little round lozenges for soothing sore, dry throats but (of course) the tabby cat knocked them off the table and so far under the stove that they were irretrievable. She seems to think that drawing and painting is a team sport, and all still life setups are simply cat toys waiting to be discovered. And that was not so soothing.
After previewing this, I see that the shading on the lotion bottle did not show up on the scan. Too bad, as I worked hard on getting the subtles shadows.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

EDM 147 - Draw something made of wood

This is a drawing of a wooden pelican (I hope you could tell that's what it was). We bought it when we were in Puerta Vallarta a few years ago. We like to travel but we don't buy a lot of souvenirs or trinkets, partly because of the weight restrictions on air travel, and partly because neither of us wants more stuff that has to be dusted. Mostly we take photos to remind us. But Shawn enjoys things made of wood, being a carpenter and all, and so we have a nice small collection of carved animals and birds. I chose this one because during our visit I enjoyed watching the pelicans at sunset swooping low over the waves to catch their dinner. When perched on a rock or the edge of a fishing boat, they look so graceless and awkward. But when they take to the air, they suddenly become sleek and fast and graceful. I also liked the posture of this fellow. He looks almost meditative. It is made of very hard, shiny, dark wood, while the base is rough and unpolished. Watercolor in the Moleskine journal.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

EDM 144- Draw something square

It took me a long time to settle on what to draw for this challenge. It seems that many things are not real squares - rectangle seems to be a more common shape. This is a piece of cake that we made for our recent extended family dinner. I'm a pretty good cook, but since I don't like sweet things very much, I have never baked much or practised much with deserts and things. I'm way better with main courses, and appetizers which are my real favorites. But you can't have the family over for dinner and not offer a desert. That would just be bad karma. But there were some boxes of cake mix high up in the cupboard waiting for just such a situation to occur. Shawn whipped up the cake and swirled the yellow batter and the fudge batter together ever so prettily. And we baked it in our swell new oven - first time for baking a cake. Later I decided that we were on a roll here, and I should make some chocolate icing from scratch. Really, how hard could it be? That was when I realised it had been so long since I had baked a cake that I couldn't remember how to make icing. Sadly, I had to check for a recipe. Oh yeah, there's butter in it, not just milk and icing sugar and lots of cocoa powder. It was pretty when it was done, especially when the sprinkles hid the slight lumpiness. And my gluttonous family ate the whole thing! Except for one piece that I saved for the next day, and it became the inspiration for square.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

EDM 146 - Draw your favorite food

My favorite food? Hmm, now that's an interesting question, considering that food is a bit of a passion of mine. What should it be? Well, there's lemon and rosemary roasted chicken with mashed potatos and gravy, but I think that would lose a lot in the translation to the drawn page. How about a glowing glass of Pinot Noir with a bit of brie and crackers? No, Pinot Noir's not really a food and without it brie and crackers are not my favorite food. And I already posted about the perfect tomato sandwich. How about Shrimp cocktail? Tuscan bean soup? Quiche Lorraine? So many foods, so little time! How about something seasonal? It's November, so in my part of the world, seasonal things are limited. Ah, but wait, what's that? Mandarin oranges! How simple, how delicious, how absolutely perfect! When I was a little girl, my parents had to hide the box of oranges and dole them out to me one at a time or I would eat them gluttonously. Surely that means they count as a favorite food. The color, the texture, the shape - yes, it would be interesting to paint those. And it was. Maybe I'll save the Pinot Noir and the shrimp cocktail for another day. This is Windsor and Newton watercolor paints in the Moleskin journal. I did not eat this orange when I was done, mostly because during the course of drawing and painting it the tabby cat knocked it onto the floor and batted it around the kitchen so much that it was in pretty bad shape. It was inedible, although the cat was quite pleased with how well she helped me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

EDM 145 - A fall tree

This is the steeple on the little strip mall that I walk by everyday on my way to and from work. There is a row of poplar trees behind the building and from a certain angle, one of the poplars perfectly frames the steeple. In the fall the contrast is lovely - the clear blue sky, the vibrant yellow leaves, and the dark green of the roof. There are no leaves on that row of poplars right now, but I used a bit of memory to paint it. Painting landscapes and even trees are not my strong point - I can't seem to find the right spot between too much detail and not enough. And I'm still not sure about this one. I've looked at it a hundred times and sometimes I like and sometimes I think it's pretty lame. (Those of you who have read this blog before know about my woes with two point perspective). I've been feeling disheartened and uninspired lately because of things at work mostly, and the lack of sunlight and warm weather. But the colors are cheerful and nothing breaks through a lack of inspiration more than simply doing it and trusting that the universe is unfolding as it should. And then I found this little haiku that made me smile
Kaleidoscopic leaves
swirl and camoflage winter's
relentless approach
Carol Nation

Thursday, November 08, 2007

EDM 116 - Draw something green

These are jalapeno peppers that I grew this summer along with the herbs in the previous post. The peppers had a rough go of it. They were infested several times with aphids. Each time I eradicated them only to have te next generation take up residence. Despite that, the blossoms were prolific resulting in lots of tiny little green nubbins. But August did not deliver the heat required to make them grow into the usual shaped. They are somewhat stunted and stubby and some are very tiny. But they did ripen. I've always like the deep, dark, sensuous color of them when they are green and the almost black color as they begin to change from green to red. They are not terribly hot, but they have a lovely fresh bright tanginess.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

EDM 243 - Draw some herbs or spices

These are some herbs that began their lives outside on the patio last spring. July was hot and dry and the herbs did really well. But a cool and cloudy August did them no favors. I brought them in and placed them on a little bench near the patio door. Even still, there is not enough heat nor light, for them to thrive. And in order to sleep in her favorite sunbeam, Holly the tabby cat has to crawl underneath the little bench. I think the time has come to harvest them and dry them. But I have so enjoyed leaning over from the couch and brushing their leaves to release the scent into the room, and picking the fresh leaves for cooking. This weekend, I cooked three large bags of roma tomatoes into sauce flavored with fresh basil. The rosemary scented the lamb roast we had for dinner today, and many a Greek salad was flavored with the oregano. And now they are "immortalized" by this sketch. These herbs have fulfilled their destiny.
I tried to be a little quicker and looser in this sketch. I'm not sure that I achieved that, but it did not take as long as it usually does. I have so many ideas for things to draw, but I never have time to do them all. So I'm trying to speed up a bit. This is watercolor in the 7"x9" Aquabee sketchbook.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

EDM 142 - Draw something hot

For most of my adult life, I used an iron that I had picked up second hand at a yard sale. It was a perfectly good iron - solid, heavy, with a shiny surface, and a practical black plastic body. But eventually its performance began to decline. The steam holes began to fill in with lime and scale from our hard water. It began to spit and heat unevenly and erratically. I bought linen and cotton clothes, hoping that no one would notice that I was no longer actually ironing anything. I was instead relying on body heat or the steam from the shower to release the wrinkles. It was only marginally effective at best. So I broke down, and went shopping for a new iron. And what a surprise! Modern day irons were light to hold, quick to heat up, the shapes and lines of them were lovely, and look at that color! Now that's an iron designed to make ironing far less of a tedious chore. This iron dances over the fabric and swishes steam out gently and softly, chasing away the wrinkles. It's a treat to use it now, and also a treat to be more well groomed. And while I never drew my old iron, I bet this one was way more fun to draw and paint.

Monday, October 22, 2007

EDM 141 - Draw something with bristles

I had decided to do the paintbrushes, but I was a little apprehensive about painting metal. I had wanted to try all the crazy reflections and shapes that come with painting metal, so I looked really hard and tried to see the shapes within. I wasn't happy with it, but I had to leave it to go to lunch for a friend's birthday. When I came back it looked quite a bit better than I had thought when I left it. I think sometimes you can look so hard at something that you see only the parts and not the whole. I tried too hard to see the reflected shapes and ended up losing the brushes themselves. The lesson learned in this sketch is to find the balance between the detail and the object, and to not let the detail overwhelm the story.
"Solutions to problems often depend upon how they're defined."
Mary Catherine Bateson

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

EDM 140 - Draw an envelope

This is some of the envelopes I got in the mail. I tried to think up an interesting interpretation of the envelope theme, but it didn't really lend itself to anything clever. An envelope is an envelope. And it did look very plain, I couldn't even find one with an interesting stamp or logo or pattern. Those Canada Post prepaid envelopes are singularily unimaginative. So I thought maybe I could make an interesting background to add some punch. I left then to go to my book club meeting (Alligator by Lisa Moore - lyrically written but brooding and violent and essentially plotless). I came home about 4:00. The lowering sun was shining strongly in through the window directly onto these envelopes. And it suddenly became all about the shadows cast onto the table. I thought that was way more interesting (and more real) than a fantasy background. The lesson learned is that light and shadow are so crucial to creating interest and substance in a drawing. The blue square is the logo for the company sending the envelope, but I didn't want to actually put company names or addresses.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

One Year old today!

One year ago today, I began this blog to join the EDM art group. I had been lurking on the group for a while as I learned how to create and manage a blog. I began posting the challenges last October although I didn't formally introduce myself and my posts until January. It was a big leap in courage for me to show my drawings to others. But I really wanted to join a community where I could see what others were doing, and share techniques and ideas. I did not achieve my second goal which was to post 100 times in the first year. This is #86, most of which have been EDM challenge drawings.

Blogging is an interesting phenomenon. I read that the average blog has a life span of three months, probably because it requires quite a commitment. It's made me pay attention to what I draw, to really try hard, and to make a real attempt to do something every day. And then I have to find something interesting to say about it. But I can see how easy it is to measure your own value by the number of hits on your page. I try to resist the temptation to live or die by how many comments I get. I try to value the quality of comments over quantity. (I've also noticed how the meaning of the word "friend" has changed with the advent of blogs and social spaces on the Internet. How many of those called "friends" are people that you have actually shared hopes and stories with, as opposed to just sharing biographical facts? But I digress.)

I have been fortunate that all the comments on my blog have been positive and cheerful and pleasant. I have received a lot of encouragement, not just about my drawing but about my writing too (I get that from my dad). If you are reading this, I thank you personally for your encouragement, and I hope I get a chance to see and comment on your drawings and paintings. I hope I get the opportunity to be around for another year, and work hard to achieve 100 posts, and catch up on the EDM challenges I have not yet done.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

EDM 139 - Draw something with a handle

This tea set was given to my parents as a wedding present more than 50 years ago. I have always loved it even though it is kind of kitschy. When I was little, my favorite book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I imagined that if I opened a hidden door in the fence and found the garden, it would look exactly like this tea pot with the white doves and the bird bath and the climbing roses. Back in June, I stayed with my mom for several days and drew it. I took copious notes about colors and lines, etc. When the challenge to draw something with a handle came up, it seemed the perfect opportunity to finish this. But even with the notes, and even with as many hundreds of times of looking at the thing, I could not remember all of the details. So this weekend, when I was there again, I was able to focus on what I couldn't remember like how to finish the birdbaths. This is more complex than my usual drawings, with more detail and fine work. It seemed to take a very long time, but I'm actually pleased with how it turned out. It really looks like the tea set. I used water colors, watercolor crayons and a Pigma Micron pen.

Monday, October 01, 2007

EDM 138 - Soft

There was a hard frost last week and many of the garden plants are frozen. This weekend we cleaned up, tore out dead plants, raked leaves. It's a sad time in a gardener's life. Later when I was doing some shopping I saw this stuffed scarecrow. She looked so bright and cheerful with her denim dress and colorful hat. I thought she would bring some needed freshness to the winter weary garden come November. But she made me think of the things that I like about fall:
the lucent brilliant blue of the prairie sky, that occurs at no other time of year; how the yellow leaves just glow against it; the tang of smoke on the brisk air; warm socks; flannel pajamas; crackling fires; and my favorite thing when I was a child, baked apples made with the tart crisp MacIntosh apples from BC.

So when I saw a full bag of them in my fridge, I knew just how to welcome autumn and begin the season of gratitude. I propped my soft round scarecrow up and drew her, and I made soft sweet baked apples. And then I put on my new flannel jammies.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On and Off EDM # 136

This is something that I turn on and off more frequently than anything else I could think of. I like the graceful, swooping lines of this faucet set. We bought it when we first moved into the house, and a few years ago when we renovated, we decided to keep it because we still liked it. The counter and backsplash are new. As I was drawing this yesterday afternoon, I noticed that I could see, faintly out of focus, the pink portulacca and calibrachoa that were in the window box outside. So I added them in as well. This morning when I opened the blinds, I saw that the frost last night was so deep that they succumbed to frostbite. Now I'm extra glad that I added them in.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Swag from the Dentist Appointment

I visited the dentist today. I always get a brand new toothbrush and some dental floss on my way out. It's better than the cheap. overly sweet suckers that the dentist of my childhood gave me. My childhood dentist I remember as a very tall, very thin man who didn't believe in dental anaesthetic except in extreme circumstances, and never told you what was coming next. His office was in the neighborhood strip mall, on the second floor up a narrow, dark staircase. I was fortunate that I didn't have a lot of dental difficulties as it was an unpleasant experience in an uncomfortable dingy office. My grown-up dentist has a bright, cheery office with a tropical fish tank, posters on the ceiling, and music. It's clean and light and cheerful. During my check-up he spoke enthusiastically about how much he enjoyed the Harry Potter series. It was as pleasant and comfortable as it can be when someone's fingers are in your mouth. And of course, there was that ergonomically designed toothbrush to make it a sketchable experience.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Summer's Bounty

There is a hint of frost in the air, and the next five days are to be cool and rainy. It's time to harvest the summer's bounty. We have so many tomatos this year. In the spring, we bought a four pack of "mystery" tomatos - they had lost their identifying tag and were on sale for $1.49. It tuned out they were all cherry tomatos, I think perhaps String of Pearls or Sweet Millions. The vines often have 14 or 16 tomatos on them. Pictured here are some of the larger ones. We eat them at every meal, and have given several bowls to the neighbors. These were ripening on the counter in a transparent bowl. The sun shining on made such lovely patterns and shadows and highlights. What could I do but paint them? It seemed the perfect thing to continue my study of transparency. I was halfway through when Shawn stole the top tomato (the one shaped like a strawberry) to eat with his lunch.
"The incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life."
Macrina Wiederkehr

I have been remiss in posting because I have been struggling with another sketch that I wanted to do that has had me very frustrated. It was of my favorite tea tin and cup (combining two challenges). But for the life of me, I couldn't get that tin's back corner to stay grounded on the table. It always looked as if it was defying gravity and floating upwards. Those pesky vanishing points have come back to haunt me. After 4 confidence-destroying attempts, I gave up and had to try something that had a possiblility of being moderately successful. I like the way the shadows and highlights turned out on this tomato sketch. And perhaps tomorrow, I will go back to the drawing board (so to speak) and practice vanishing points and two point perspective once again.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

EDM 135 - Draw a salad

This is my favorite kind of salad for this summer. It's made with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, red onions, pears, and toasted walnuts. I posted the recipe for the dressing in a previous post about the peach. I could have done a regular salad, the kind we have on a daily basis, but I've already put a lot of tomatos on this blog. This salad with fruit and nuts in it is so fresh and lively tasting. It's a nice change from the ordinary, even though there is nothing from my own garden in it. Our tomatos are ripening nicely, we have cherry tomatos every day now for both lunch and dinner. We had a frost warning last night, so we covered them just in case. This is a bittersweet time for gardeners - sweet because the harvest is coming in, and the flavors burst on your tongue with juiciness, and you feel the pride that you grew this yourself. But bitter because it's coming to the end, the flowers are tired looking and leggy, the air is crisp and cool, there is a touch of frost on the grass. It's time to harvest what you can, clean up the rest, and plan for next year. But most of all, it's time to savor the best of what's left, and look forward to the new season, and eat salads like there's no tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

EDM #2 Draw a Lamp

September, and the students are back at the college. The last long weekend is over and it's time to sober up, buckle down, get on with the job of helping the students navigate their way through their education. Suddenly it's noisy and crowded, and you can see that some of them are overwhelmed, homesick, anxious. This is when a kind word or a simple smile can make a difference. There is such energy and potential in the air, excited voices, squeals of recognition of a friend not seen for several months, and many questions. Most of the questions we will be asked this week will have little to do with "library stuff" and more to do with just finding their way around. This is usually the most interesting week of the whole academic year. I really like the first day of the Fall semester.

But back to the reason for this blog. This sketch is of our new lamp. We bought it the same day we bought the new fridge and stove, but the drama of the fridge stole the thunder and the lamp did not even get a mention. But here it is, shiny and new and reliable.

Watercolor in the Moleskine journal.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

EDMs 8, 11, 37

I had wanted to draw these simple, everyday items but each in itself seemed a little boring. Not much there to make a composition out of. I decided to group some of the previous challenges together, to see if I could find some common ground about the individual items. These seemed to me to belong together as Accoutrements of Personal Satisfaction, each of them designed to make life a little easier on a daily basis. How many of us really take the time to appreciate how our glasses make the world bright and focussed, how our keys keep our "stuff" safe, how our watch keeps us on track and responsible to those who rely on us. This is a celebration of the quotidian, an homage to the ordinary.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I am Yellow

I am a Yellow Crayon
Your world is colored with happy, warm, fun colors.
You have a thoughtful and wise way about you. Some people might even consider you a genius.
Charming and eloquent, you are able to get people to do things your way.
While you seem spontaneous and free wheeling, you are calculating to the extreme.

Your color wheel opposite is purple. You both are charismatic leaders, but purple people act like you have no depth.
What color crayon are you? Find out here:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

EDM 28 - Draw an appliance (or two)

This is a drawing of my brand new fridge and stove. We bought our original ones fifteen years ago and, while they still worked, they were inconsistant and not very efficient. We chose these ones with the environment and energy savings in mind and we were happy with our choices. The stove is a ceramic cooktop with a warming station. The fridge, however, needed to have the door swing orientation changed from right to left. "No problem" said the salesman, "It'll take three days for them to do it in the warehouse, and it will be delivered on Wednesday". Thus began the nightmare. It was delivered on Wednesday, but without the swing orientation changed. The delivery man said to call the salesman, the salesman said to call Customer Service. The receptionist said they were all busy but someone would call me back. When they finally did, Customer Support said to call the Warranty company. The Warranty company said they had no record of the sale and to call the salesman. Now we've gone a full circle, it's five days later and the freezer has turned out to be defective and all the items in the freezer are a soggy, dripping mess.

After taking names of managers, and threatening to complain constantly and loudly, we were promised a new fridge, delivered the very next day with the door swing orientation completed. And it was. But why does a request to get what you paid for need to become adversarial before it becomes successful? It seems so unnecessary and unpleasant. But the new fridge is perfect.

I'm calling this EDM 28 - Draw an appliance. The stove has a distinct slope that shouldn't be there. I drew this in the Moleskine with the Pigman pen. Sometimes it seems that the texture of the paper can grab the pen and lead it astray. The T-shirt magnet on the fridge commemorates all the things we did in Puerto Vallarta, and the little gecko is a magnet clip that hold the bills to be paid. I think I will try to keep this large, pristine fridge quite uncluttered this time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

EDM 133 - Draw a Peach

I found this beautiful white-fleshed peach at the market. It has more delicate coloring than a regular peach, and a more delicate taste as well. They seem to ripen better and sweeter than the other peaches which sometimes never ripen. I ate this one in a salad for supper. This recipe is worth sharing.

Romain lettuce, torn into pieces
One peach, peeled and wedged
One yellow tomato, wedged
Slices of red onion
Toss together.
Add the dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Whisk til blended and pour over salad and toss again.
Add some freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chain of Change

Tomatos again! One of the best and most gratifying part of gardening is watching the tomatos grow and change and ripen. Each day brings a change in color or scent or size. These little cherry tomatos seem to tick off the days and keep track of the changes in temperature and length of day. We don't grow many vegetables, only salad ones, and we eat them as soon as they are ripe. We also have a jalapeno pepper plant that has about 12 peppers on it all in various shapes and sizes. This week we have been eating the little cherry toms, almost daily. The bigger tomatos have a ways to go and are just starting to have a tinge of orange. I will now begin to gather up tomato recipes and find freezer space because soon there will be too many to keep up with. Life is good now when they are fresh and ripe, and in the deep of winter we can take some out of the freezer and pretend it's summer again by making salsa with the tomatos and jalapenos.
Jalisco Salsa
1 cup chopped tomatos
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
Juice of 2 key limes
Salt to taste
Mix everything together and serve immediately yellow corn tortilla chips.
I was going to call this post "It's a Tomato's Life", and forget about this week's challenge because I could find no chains. But my beloved said it look like a chain of tomatos, and suggested the title "Chain of Change". He is, after all, my biggest fan.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

EDM 131 - Draw a Spray Bottle

This was a good challenge, as it gave me an opportunity to continue my exploration of transparency, reflected light, and shadows. I spent a long time just looking at the color gradations, the highlights, the shapes within the colors. This is a bottle of Avon Exotic Waters body spray. It is an oil emulsion spray that must be shaken to blend it. The oil settles to the bottom to become that clear layer and then the lighter liquid lies on top. It smells lovely, is very soothing to your skin after you've been in the sun, and it's color is luscious.

This was done with Pigma Micron pen and Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils in the Moleskine journal. I really like the richness of these pencils, the colors are so clear and bright.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

EDM #24 - Draw a piece of fruit

One of my favorite pastimes seems to be cruising the produce area at my local grocery store. Over the years, to my delight, they have been bringing in more and more different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Although I now try to buy local produce as much as possible, we don't have the proper conditions here to grow much fruit. And I really love to try food that I have never tried before. As I walked along, I smelled a divine aroma. I traced it back to these pears. Aren't they gorgeous? They are Forelle Pears from South Africa. I have never seen them before. Usually we have Bosc, Anjou, and Red pears, all lovely in their own right, but none have this amazing spotted skin. I just had to buy them. My biggest problem with pears is that they really are only ripe for about 30 minutes. Before that they are hard and bitter and after that they are mushy and ugly. It's sheer luck to catch a pear when it is perfectly, gloriously ripe. But if you can, then you can have a taste of heaven.
Watercolor in the Moleskine journal.

Friday, August 03, 2007

EDM 130 - School Supplies

A brand new box of crayons was always the best part of going back to school. The crayons were sharp, the paper sleeves were clean, the corners of the box were still crisp. There was such potential in that box, such promise of hours spent in creative bliss. But that was back then - before anyone judged us, before we even understood talent, before we learned to be critical and fearful, before we learned to submerge our creativity because it wasn't "right". But true creativity will find its way out, and those lucky ones will return to the promise and potential. We can once more see the joy in a box of crayons, or a tube of paint, or a clean sheet of white paper. We can once more celebrate the ordinary, see the beauty in the everyday things that surround us, and spend hours in creative bliss. And when the crayons are worn to dull stubs, the sleeves are ragged and grimy, the box is all squished and soft, and the promise and potential is all spent, there are many "masterpieces" to show for it. The crayons have fulfilled their destiny.
Watercolor and Pentel brushpen in Moleskine

"We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names. All are different colors, but they all have to learn to live in the same box." - Anonymous

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.

Friday, June 29, 2007

EDM 125 - Chipping Sparrows

These little Chipping sparrows frequently come to nest in the big spruce tree in the back yard. They are quite small, and quite noisy. Chipping refers to the sound they make which is not very melodious. They perch on the very tips of the long branches and loudly taunt the cat for being too slow and fat to catch them. They are native to this province, but they are usually only around in the summer. They have bright rufous caps that often stick up like little cowlicks. My bird book* says they prefer to build their nests using black horsehair if they can get it, but any hair will do. I've not found their nest yet, although they usually nest at eye level in the fork of a coniferous tree. Best of all, they love to eat "adult and larval invertebrates" which includes mosquitos. I love to draw birds so I really enjoyed this challenge. And sparrows are so cheerful and resourceful that they are one of my favorites. This was done with Pigma pen and watercolors in the Aquabee sketchbook.
* Birds of Alberta by Chris Fisher and John Acorn

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

EDM Challenge Yellow

Have you every had one of those periods where you're just not happy with anything you do? You just can't seem to get onto the paper what you see in your head? I was quite happy with these little goslings and their olive yellow colors, but I just couldn't get the background right. And I'm not quite sure how to get that fuzzy glow around the goslings. But the deal was, if I do the challenge, I post the challenge.

For the last seven or eight years, a pair of Canada geese has come to the outside courtyard of the college where I work, and 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 this year, one of them was killed probably by a coyote. Later I noticed that there were three geese near the pond. I like to think that one of their offspring have found their true love and come back to the family nest to carry on the tradition.

Here in Calgary, the Bow river does not always freeze over, and so we have lots of geese and ducks that winter over and never leave. They become quite a nuisance in the parks and especially on the golf courses. One course took the unique step of hiring a beagle named Daisy to go out on the course and scare away the geese. Can't you just see Daisy's resume - "Will bark at birds for kibble and tummy rubs". But it did seem to work, without harm to either geese or dog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's Blooming this Week

We have had a lot of rain for the past couple of weeks. Yesterday the sun began to shine in earnest, and the garden has just exploded with growth. This is a grid of what's blooming today. All of these plants are volunteers in the garden. I didn't plant them this year and when I did plant them in a previous year, I didn't plant them where they are now growing. They have self-seeded and found themselves the perfect spot. The Columbines grow wild here in Alberta and this red and yellow one is called Aquilegia Canadensis. The little blue and pink forget-me-nots are so sweet and have seeded themselves all over the back yard in both flower beds. Their Botanical name is Myosotis which means "mouse-ered" after their rounded fuzzy leaves. We ate a lot of the chives on new, little, red potatoes - a true taste of spring. We also had a record breaking crop of dandylions this year. It seems the city was a bit slow in spraying and that has raised a big kerfuffle over it. Dandylions are certainly something that raises the ire in people. All of these plants are native to Alberta and I enjoy having them take their rightful place in my garden.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bells of Mexico

These are two pottery bells from Mexico. My beloved godmother and aunt, who was an intrepid traveller, brought these home from one of her many trips to Mexico. The yellow one now belongs to my mother. The end part that hangs down is made of metal (copper, maybe). It hangs in the doorway of my parents' den I noticed every day this past week as I was visiting my mom. The white bell is the one given to me. It's hanging part is made of unglazed pottery. This bell has the center part cut out, as are the doorway and some of the windows in the mission. I think it reminds me less of Mexico and more of the Pueblo dwellers of the American southwest. My aunt has been an inspiration for me as far as travelling goes. She says the best parts of the journey are often the unexpected, out-of-the-way things that you see while on your way to the tourist attractions. As I think of my three trips to Mexico, I know that she is right.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bloom where you are planted

These are some of the violas that have voluntarily come up in my garden. I never plant violas, but I do plant pansies in containers on the deck. Late in the summer, when they become leggy and listless, I let them go to seed. The next year it is a pleasant surprise to see what will come up where and in what form. I like pansies, I think they are cheerful and opportunistic. They are the real embodiment of the phrase "Bloom where you are planted". They seem to find the spot where they will thrive. Some of them have come up in places where pansies never were. Perhaps they migrated on the breeze, or hitched a ride with the sparrows. They are always welcome in my garden and we plant the tomatos and other things around them. Like the sparrows, violas are cheerful and adaptable, and remind me do my best with what I've got and to be grateful for my life each and every day.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

EDM 121 - Coins

This was an interesting challenge. I hope to see coins from many different countries. Here in Canada we have a lot of coins, as we have a $1 coin and a $2 coin. The $1 was introduced first and has a Canadian Loon on it, thus it was called (coined) the Loonie. A little while later the $2 coin was introduced with a polar bear on it, and it was dubbed the Twoonie. What else could it possibly be called?

My first memory of money was when I was in the Grade 1. Our teacher had adopted a child through the Christian Children's Foundation for our class (anyone remember Lotta Hichmanova, that scary Russian spokeswoman for the Foundation?). Every Friday, I would go to school with a precious nickle clutched in my hand to give to our adopted child. Her name was Luz Marina and she lived in Columbia. Sometimes we would get a letter from her, and we would write back. We would also gather together basic household items to send to her at Christmas. So my first memory of money is of how much more it could buy for Luz Marina in Columbia than it could buy us here in Canada, but also of how much less she had. No medicines, no clean water, no school books, no new dresses to go to school in. It was a big lesson for six year olds. But I learned it well, mostly because I was so afraid of Lotta Hichmanova coming for me if I didn't.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Garden Grids

I had been journalling for a while, but two years ago I decided I wanted to add illustrations to my journals. I wasn't sure how to start as I wasn't very accomplished at drawing. My garden is where I spend a good part of every summer day so I decided to start there. Surely the flowers wouldn't mind if their portraits were a bit wonky, surely they wouldn't whine that it didn't really look like them. Once a week, I would sit on my deck and draw each of the flowers that were blooming. Since I planted many containers, this soon became overwhelming, so I focused only on the perennials. This weekend, I noticed that it was time to start this tradition again as there were currently six perennials blooming. Six! That would make a perfect grid drawing! This is the result. It is done in the Aquabee sketchbook with my fairly new Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils. They are buttery and rich and smooth and I liked the result so much that I didn't even add any water. My previous attempts had been with markers and with colored pencils.
This one on the left is from June 2006. This one on the right is from June 2005.
It's gratifying to see that there has been some improvement. Certainly using better materials and daily practising makes all the difference.