Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb; Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
Rose Milligan

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

VSD March 2009

This is the photo for VSD, an excellent photo taken by Stacy Rowan. When I first saw the photo, I thought Irecognized these birds as Pine Grosbeaks who breed in northern Alberta, and occasionally can be seen at backyard feeders in the winter and early spring. However, my backyard in Calgary is a very long way from Stacy's backyard. I checked in the bird identification book "Birds of Alberta" and it really looks like Pine Grosbeaks. Some birds have been known to fly long distances. There is a fabulous documentary called "Winged Migration". The film crew used planes, gliders, and balloons for four years to follow migrating flocks on their long journeys. Some flew for thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds. There is very little narration in this film, just the sounds of the birds, and natural sounds set to classical music. It's a spectacular undertaking.
Click here for Virtual Sketch Date
Click here for Winged Migration
(Watercolor paint in Moleskine watercolor sketchbook 5x7)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

EDM 215 - Draw your thumb

The concept was good, the execution... not so much. I had drawn the outline of my thumb holding the book. I then added white gouache to block out the print beneath my thumb. I let it dry overnight, thinking that it would become permanent and I could paint over it the way you can glaze with watercolors by letting them dry thoroughly. I wanted to mix the skin color on the page by adding Naples Yellow and Permanent Rose and letting them blend. But they were too wet, I guess, and the white gouache began to dissolve and mix in. Then the paper began to buckle and soften. After letting it dry, I switched to watercolor pencils. They were probably the better medium for this idea, but they don't blend smoothly enough to create a skin tone. I guess I'll resign myself to the fact that this piece probably won't hang in the National Gallery 8>)
But this was a good entrance to my next project which is to collage or draw on found books. I have a whole collection of books that have been given to me that I probably won't read and are of no value to second hand dealers. For a hardened library worker like myself, it has been extraordinarily hard to deliberately deface a book. This was a baby step on the road to literary destruction!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sushi for Different Strokes

This photo of sushi represents one of those odd occurances in life when you run into something for the first time and then continue to see it everywhere. If you've seen this blog before, you know I love to draw food, so this photo really grabbed my attention. I had recently heard of something called "The 100 mile diet", an interesting concept about eating only food that was grown within one hundred miles of your residence. When I went to the library this weekend, the book of the same name was on the display table. As I drew the sushi, it occurred to me that nearly all of the food stuffs represented in this sushi had come from far beyond my local area. We have no rice fields, no soy fields, no crab grounds, no sea coast for seaweed, no vinegar maufacuring for the rice flavoring, no avocado fields. The only thing that could be locally found is the cucumber. The authors of the 100 mile diet say that our food travels an average of 1,500 miles "from farm to fork". My local TV stations are currently advertising "fresh" fruit and vegetables from Chile - the tag line is "Because it's summer in Chile". Nice sentiment, but doesn't that also mean that the fruit is coming from another hemisphere? There's 10 countries between Chile and Canada. That tomato had seen more countries than I had. But despite it's wordly experiences, those tomatos were pale and insipid. Beside them in the store, were plump, vibrant, fragrant cherry tomatos from Shirley's Geenhouse in Airdrie, about 20 miles away from my house. And they cost twice as much as the ones from Chile. It's a mixed up world, isn't it?


100 mile diet

"100 mile diet: a year of local eating" by Alisa Smith and J.B. McKinnon

Different Strokes for Different Folks for the other sushi paintings

Watercolor and Pigma pen in Moleskine watercolor journal 5x7

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Another architectural type drawing. I knew this one would be difficult - trying to differentiate a blue and white windmill against a blue and white sky. But I liked the photo for the strong shadow shapes, and the colors.

This is an actual windmill that was used to grind up to 150 pounds of flour a day. The owner, a farmer near Bruderheim, made it entirely of wood and lubricated the moving parts with paraffin wax.

I had trouble with the values of blues - I think this is the difference between a novice painter and a truly accomplished one. It takes practice to see more than 3 or 4 values, and even more practice to reproduce them on paper. Once I added the original sky color, the windmill faded out. I used felt pens to deepen the sky which increased the contrast but did not go on smoothly. The sky now looks blotchy. But as a learning experience, it was quite valuable. And isn't that really what life is all about?

And the world is like an apple

Whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find

In the windmills of your mind

---Alan and Marie Bergman

Thursday, March 05, 2009

EDM 213 - Draw a microwave

This microwave is a little brighter than it is in real life. The colored lines around the push buttons are much paler and thinner. I don't have much to say about the microwave. I use it, and the one at work to heat up soup. This is my very favorite soup, and I'll share the recipe from Bonnie Stern's "Simply Heart Smart Cooking".
This smells divine!
Apple and Squash Soup
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
4 cups of chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)
1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Cook leeks until tender.
2. Add apple, squash and potato.
3. Add stock, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.
4. Puree the soup or mash with a potato masher. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. When serving, spinkle each bowl with a little grated cheese.
I've made some changes to this basic recipe. Roasting the squash first increases the flavor and adds a bit of smokiness. Pears instead of apples add a bit more sweetness. And sour cream instead of cheese is also a nice finish.