Monday, December 06, 2010

Going to Ixtapa

Tomorrow I am going to Ixtapa/Zihuateneho in Mexico.  There's a margaria with my name on it waiting for me.  I'll be there for two weeks, basking in the sunshine.  This photo was from the brochure for West Jet vacations.  It promises us warm butterscotch sands and chrystalline blue-green water.
There are 14 beaches here, all with some of the best snorkeling on the Pacific coast.
Hasta la vista, amigas!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

EDM 299 Draw a corner

This is where I should have been last Sunday afternoon.  Sitting in my new leather recliner in the corner beside the window, with a cup of hot tea, a good book, and a tabby cat purring on my lap.  Maybe with a fire burning merrily in the hearth.  It was a bitterly cold winter day, with wind chills hovering around 24 degrees below the freezing mark.  This is where I should have been.
Instead, I was bundled up like a snowman watching the CFL western semi-final game in an outdoor arena.  It was so cold that every time there was a stoppage in play (which in football happens about every 30 seconds) the players would jump up and down to keep warm.  The super tough Saskatchewan Roughriders team didn't even have long sleeved shirts on under their jerseys.  We Canadians are pretty stoic when it comes to winter, and some (me included) actually like the chill and the snow.  But it was simply too cold and we left in the fourth quarter, even though it was a good, close game and Calgary/Saskatchewan games are always hard fought.  Alas, the home team lost and next week's Grey Cup will be between Saskatchewan and Montreal.  Go Riders!  And now, my poor, aching knees are burning with the fires of a thousand suns to remind me of it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


These are some shells that we picked up along the beaches during our vacations in Mexico.  We are heading back to Mexico in  a few weeks for our fourth vacation. This time we are going to Ixtapa/Zihuateneho, along the Pacific coast.  We have been to the Mexican Riviera and the Caribbean Ocean is lovely, but I think I prefer the Pacific Coast.  The weather is just as temperate, but the ocean has a lot more personality.  There are waves and currents and if you're a person who loves being in the water, as I am, then the Pacific Ocean is much more fun.  The waves are big enough that you can interact with them.  If snorkeling is your thing, and I like that too, there are plenty of sheltered areas where the waves are calm enough not to swamp your breathing tube.  In fact, Zihauteneho has some of the best snorkeling on the Pacific coast.  This may be the perfect vacation, as Mexico has not been as battered by hurricanes as it has in previous years.  Here's to the perfect vacation!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

EDM 297 - Draw a water bottle

This is one of the water bottles we used when we took a guided tour through the Yucatan Peninsula.  We selected the option that did not include having chilled bottles of water in a cooler in the van for the princely sum of an extra $100 a day.  We thought that we could manage our own water and then have extra money for food, excursions, souvenirs, etc.  So I searched and found these water bottles that included a zippered insulated sleeve.  We could "undress" the bottle, fill it with free bottled water from the hotel, freeze it overnight, and then in the morning "dress" the bottle in the insulated sleeve.  The also had nice shoulders straps in case your backpack was too full.
When we reached our first, somewhat rustic hotel, I discovered that there was no fridge in the room and the bottled water was $7.00 US for a small bottle.  I may have miscalculated this badly.  It may be that away from the major resorts, bottled water is rare and expensive.  After supper, we went out to the town and found that the little bodegas sold bottled water for prices much cheaper than even at home.  We stocked up, and although we couldn't keep it very cold it was fine for our needs.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Deep Water Workout

I go to Deep Water Workout, usually twice a week.  I like it a lot.  I love being in the water, it's easy on my joints, it's a great workout, and I get to meet new people.  But sometimes it's a struggle to get through the class.  I drew this journal page chronicling my journey through the 60 minute class.  There always comes a point when I think I absolutely cannot do another minute or another repetition.  I have to tell myself that nobody dies of getting too much exercise, but they die of not getting enough.  And I always make it to the end.  But it's hard enough that I always get to feel a tiny bit proud of myself for sticking it out, and doing my body and my heart some good.
Pentel brush pens in the day journal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My new best friend

This innocent, even sweet, teaset is what's held up my drawing and posting for several weeks now.  The university where I work is turning 100 years old, and we are partying like it's 1999.  One of the many events is the creation of a mural mosaic depicting 100 years of our history.  A mural mosaic is a large painting that is made up of many individual paintings.  In our case, there are 180 small paintings that create the larger painting.  The mural is designed by a professional artist, and many of the flagship portraits are done by professional artists, but they wanted most of the panels done by members of the university community - including amateurs.  I have panel #112, and my reference photo was of this little tea set.  It was painted by a student in the China Painting section of the Fine Arts Faculty in 1931.  Her son has recently donated the set to our Archives.  This is my draft sketch done with watercolor pencils.  The curves of the plate gave me no end of trouble, as did the lack of tonal variation in the photo.  I'm sure I'll have to do several more  sketches before I'm comfortable with it.  My panel needs to be primarily blue to fit in with the overall picture, and needs to be done in oils or acrylics.  That's the next challenge - learning to use acrylics. Gulp!  This could be either the dumbest thing I've ever attempted or the most fun thing.  But I really am thrilled to be involved in this kind of project.
You can check out mural mosaics here
They really are quite amazing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Remains of the Toast

This is  left over toast from breakfast.  I'm telling you that because, as I look at it now, it doesn't look like toast.  I'm not happy with the way it turned out.  I've gotten out of the habit of daily drawing due to a steep learning curve in my new duties at work, and it shows.
I make my own bread, this loaf was shaped by hand which accounts for the odd shape.  They say the test of good bread is how it tastes when it is toasted.  And this toast tastes very good.  But clearly, there is no substitute for daily drawing practice.  Time to make time to draw.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colors of Autumn

We have come to the end of the coldest, wettest summer on record here in Calgary.  To add insult to injury, the rest of the country sweltered through one of the hottest summers on record.  Due to surprisingly cold overnight temperatures, the leaves turned early, in some cases causing odd things to happen.  Take these leaves for example.  They are poplar leaves, which usually turn an even smooth yellow color with little variation.  These however, got slightly frost-nipped before they were ready to turn, giving some really interesting colors and patterns.  The inside yellow color actually mimics the shape of weeping birch leaves.  The pay off for the summer that never was is that the leaf colors are the most brilliant I have seen in many years.  The trees glow as if lit from within.  It's especially dramatic against the gray, brooding skies.
Do you remember starting school in the fall when you were a kid?  In elementary school almost the first thing we did every year was gather leaves to draw and color.  I still love doing that, and it still reminds me of being a child when every thing was beautiful and everyone was an artist.
Watercolor pencils in Moleskine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

EDM 280 - Draw a teapot

I call this teapot The Persian Princess teapot.  The combination of the rich, jewel-toned colors always makes me smile.  The actual teapot is the green part.  When the tea is ready, you lift up the teapot and pour tea into the bottom cup.  It's a cute invention.   If you are called away from your desk, put the teapot back on top and it will keep the tea in the cup warm.  Very handy!  It's fun to drink tea out of, and very fun to draw, but sadly there's not much else to say about it.  Watercolor pencils in the Moleskine sketchbook.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Whooping Cranes

This whooping crane lives at the zoo here in Calgary.  They are still an endangered species, although they have returned from the brink of extinction.  In 1941, there were only 16 of them.  Now there are 200 in the wild and that many again in captivity, thanks to carefully managed breeding programs.  Their breeding ground is in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories, then they migrate down the coast to North America to the Gulf of Texas.  That's an amazing journey.
Pictures and more info at National Geographic

Watercolor on Canson 140 lb paper

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

EDM 1 - New shoes

I thought I'd share my cute new shoes with you.  They are pink suede shoes, and the sides are open mesh, very cool on so many levels.  They are Merrills and offer very good arch support.  That's important whether you are coping with a 3 hour shift at the library circulation desk, or a day trip to Zihuatenaho on your next visit to Mexico. (I like to think ahead!)
I believe that, whenever possible, you should start September with a new pair of shoes. That's what most of us did when we were kids and that laid the foundation for the rest of our lives.  New shoes, new school year, new  start.
Happy September!
Watercolor pencils in Moleskine sketchbook

Monday, August 30, 2010

EDM 284 - Draw your downtown

This challenge was a true challenge for me.  Urban sketching has been my goal for a while, although I am very intimidated by it.  It's not only the perspective, and all the lines and angles that can, and often do, go so very wrong.  There's also the whole "drawing in public" dilemma.  I decided to ease into it by taking photos of the buildings and then drawing from the photos at home. 
I chose to draw these buildings because I really liked the red windows and plants in the boxes, and the curved window on the right side building.  But mostly, I was completely charmed by the way the sky and clouds were reflected in the windows.These buildings really are side by side and are on Stephen Ave right in the heart downtown.  Most of the buildings along here are historical and original, and protected.  During the day only foot traffic is allowed, which opens it up to cute kiosks that sell everything from sunglasses to bratwurst on a bun.  All the many restaurants place tables and chairs outside, and the business people sip their lunchtime beers under umbrellas.  On this day, I sat on a wrought iron bench in the sun and listened to a wonderful jazz trio playing.  That's why they say "Summertime, and the livin' is easy".
Pigma pen and watercolor pencils in Moleskine.  It took me a long time to complete this drawing, but I'm quite pleased with it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

EDM 286 - Something colorful

These colorful begonias are in riotous bloom on my deck right now.  The flowers are quite showy, but its the leaves that I think are the real beauties.  The spiral shape, the luxurious ruffles, and even the soft fuzziness are really beautiful.  They were born to be sketched.
As I was preparing to draw, a small bumblebee landed on the table.  It crawled along the edge of the table and then suddenly stopped as if it were too exhausted to go on.  I grabbed the pencil and quickly sketched it, noting the placement of the stripes of fur, the shape of the legs, the curve of the thorax.  It stayed for about 20 minutes, long enough to study it well and add some color.  I added it to the sketch of begonias.  See it there on the darker leaf on the left?  It was a tiny little bee, maybe just hatched or popped or however bees become bees.
I'm always in awe when I get the opportunity to see a bit of nature up close like this.  Bees are always in motion so it's rare to see one so close and still that I could make out the soft down and the brilliant colors.
Watercolor in Moleskine wc book.
Here's the bee sketch if you're interested.  It's done using watercolor pencils.  I made notes, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

EDM 285 - Draw something that loves the sun

Every winter, I put out seeds for the small birds that come to my back yard.  Every summer, I get surprises where the the birds have redeposited those seeds.  This sunflower came up in one of the small containers attached to the fence.  At first, I thought it was a weed, but the more I looked at it the more it looked like a sunflower.  So I left it alone, and planted fuchsias around it.  Over the summer, it grew, in that tiny container, to be about 4 feet tall.  It had only a single blossom, but it  followed the sun every day.  It was a true testament to the power of fulfilling your destiny or of the saying "Bloom where you are planted".
Watercolor on 140 lb paper.  I tried to do this loosely and quickly and to let the colors be the focus more than the drawing.  And besides, sometimes sunflowers are a little unkempt and imperfect.  I think there's a lesson in that, too.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Roses are difficult here

The title of this post refers to the title of a well-known book in these parts, and it refers to the difficulty of growing roses in a climate that has frequent winter drought conditions.  I have grown many roses in my yard, only one of which has survived.  It grows by the back deck and whenever it snows we sweep the snow onto the rose to give it some protection over the winter.
My personal difficulty with roses is drawing them.  My goal during my summer off work was to learn to draw roses (and cats, but that's another story).  There have been many badly drawn, unrecognizable roses here, lots of frustration and despair.  But this one is OK, I think I had a bit of a breakthrough on the shape and curvature of the petals.  I worked from a couple of books, and the actual roses blooming by the deck.  And really, any day spent drawing roses on the deck simply has to be a good day.
"Roses are Difficult Here" by W.O. Mitchell 1990
Watercolot pencils in Robert Bteman sketchbook

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

EDM 183 - Draw something shiny

We were at the zoo a while ago, checking out the new botanical and butterfly gardens. At the zoo, the peacocks are not penned in any way, and have free range of the park.  They are quite tame, and quite large.
I was perched on a bench eating a hot dog.  You know the kind of hot dog you get at these places - the ratio of bun to weiner is way skewed.  Usually I pull off the excess bread and throw it out.  But a young girl was trying to take a photo of this magnificent peacock who was strutting around like he owned the place (which he does).  I suggested to her that I try to lure the peacock nearer with a piece of bun (one without relish and mustard on it).  The bird darted forward and snatched that morsel so quickly that she wasn't able to get a shot.  No problem, there's lots of extras bun bits.  So I threw another, and the peacock obliged nicely, coming forward more slowly.  I threw another piece.  The girl clicked madly, exclaiming in delight.  But... now the peacock has figured out the source of the bits and has the entire hot dog in his sights.  He advanced confidently forward and showed no signs of stopping.  He and I were beak to nose before I finally decided I should stand up and move before he grabbed the whole bun right out of my hand.  He followed me!  I shoved the last bit of hot dog in my mouth and threw the last of the bun his way, as I moved in the opposite direction.  He still followed me, until I threw up my empty hands in surrender.  The young girl photographed the whole episode, and as I left,  I heard her excitedly telling her mom about it.  Glad I could help out a budding photographer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Landscapes of Celebration

Today I went to the museum to see the Painter as Printmaker exhibit.  While downtown, I wanted to visit my favorite park in the city.  It is Olympic Plaza where we presented the medals during the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Now it is an established, beautifully landscaped park with a pool and a fountain.  But not today.  Today it has "temporary gardens designed by local artists"  to create "Landscapes of Celebration".  I had my camera, so I can share these with you. 
This one is titled "We're not gophers".  Yes, those are pink, cement prairie dogs heads sticking out of the planter openings.  The other openings are filled with prairie grass.  What used to be filled with gorgeous flowers spilling down the sides is now filled with pink, cement prairie dogs.

This is the bottom of the pool. Usually, on a hot summer day, the pool is full of children running through the fountain. Today... no children.  It's hosting the garden called "Big Sky".  It's a series of circles in various sizes and shades of blue painted on the bottom of the pool.  And did I mention, there are no children here today?

"The Centennial Garden".  Each of the orange posts has the name of a city park printed on it.  I believe that the height of the post corresponds to the size of the park.  Below the posts are wild prairie grasses.  These are under the magnificent arches that proclaim the Olympic virtues of Citius, Altius and Fortius.

This is "Picnic".  Platforms of wooden slats painted a very loud shade of pink and red have been placed over the flower containers with various cutouts of prairie grasses.  There are slanted risers so you can sit and rest your back against them.  There were many people napping on them.  But no flowers.

"Come Play in my Garden" .  Green wooden pine air fresheners, complete with little holes at the tops so you can hang them from your rearview mirror, nestled there among the real trees.  At least there was no cheap piney woods smell permeating the area.
So what do you think?  I think that I would prefer the beautiful plantings that usually appear in this park.  It's not that I don't like these.  I think they're quite creative and imaginative.  I just wish that they didn't replace so much of the annual plantings.  Our growing season is so short here.  I think this would have been a great fall exhibit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We're renovating in our house where we have lived for almost 20 years.  We've pulled out the old carpet and put down new hardwood laminate flooring.  It's been a tad stressful, what with all the dust and moving things from one room to another.  When it gets to be too much, I go outside and look at these poppies, and it all gets put into perspective.  They are spectacular (and the new floor is too), with flower heads the size of a dinner plate.  They are almost too heavy to hold their heads up and the one on the right had the most graceful dip and sweep to its stem.  I love the simple, ruffled shapes of the petals.  Many years ago someone told me that to learn to paint one should paint pears because they have the perfect shape.  Once you can paint a pear, you can paint anything.  I would add poppies to that statement as the perfect flower to start painting.  They are simple but elegant.
Watercolor in Moleskine wc sketchbook.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

EDM 278

Draw something that starts with the first letter of your first name.   Nice!  I love to draw fruits and vegetables so of course I had to do lemons and limes.  I love their colors and shapes and this lemon had an odd shape with a high hump.  And the lovely little key limes that reminded me of Mexico...
We went on the Sierra Madre tour near Puerto Vallarta.  We drove in a Unimogg, which is an open-sided jeep type vehicle with a canvas canopy designed for cross-country travel.  And cross-river travel, too.  We arrived at a working cattle ranch and had a nature walk with our guide who told us all about the flora and fauna of the semi-desert area.  As we walked, we were followed by some gaunt, sad-looking long horn cattle that were the lifeblood of this ranch.  The guide gave a vigorous shake to a small tree, and several bright little limes fell down.  We put them in our pockets, and when we got back to the Unimogg we were greeted with icy cold bottles of Sol beer.  Our guide cut up those limes with his pocket knife and we squeezed them into the beer.  In the hot, dusty shade of the trees it was the most refreshing drink I've ever had.  When we turned to go back to the vehicle, we saw that the cattle had followed us and were now standing in a complete circle around us.  It was a little disconcerting at first, but they were just curious. They were free-range cattle and didn't see many people.  We drew quite a crowd.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Art and Nature

Here they are all grown up and blooming.
I get such inspiration and rejuvenation from the garden.
What could be better than sitting on the deck, in the sunshine, drawing the flowers blooming all around you?
Nature and art seem to go together so naturally.  Even the original cave paintings show nature - well, usually man conquering nature as they show people driving mastodons over a cliff.  But still, art is a way for us to make sense of the world around us, to capture a part of nature forever.
In the dead of winter, when I look at this little sketch, I can remember the sunlight and the birdsong and know that nature renews itself as it renews me.
Watercolor pencils in the Pentallic sketchbook.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Welcome back, my lovelies.

These are the promises that greeted me on the morning of the longest day of the year.   We've had a lot of rain this year and many days of grey, sunless gloom. 
Then, there were two or three days of glorious sunshine, just in time for Solstice.  The perennials took that as a sign and wasted no time putting up buds. This is what, as gardeners, wait all winter for.  The perennials always know when to send up their buds as a solemn promise that summer really is on its way.

These superstars are (from left to right) Japanese Daisy, Siberian Daisy, and the always lovely and graceful day lillies.  Welcome back!
Pen and watercolor pencils in my lovely new little Pentallic Nature Sketch sketchbook.  The paper is divine and takes water really well.  I like it a lot.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

EDM 276 - Draw your grocery store

Home renovations and a monstrous cold have left me little time for drawing.  This is our neighborhood grocery store near my house.  It has recently gone through a massive renovation.  I think it's finished now, but it remains a singularly uninspired piece of architecture.
What did inspire me though, was the dramatic sky that was transitioning from ominous and threatening to blue sky and fluffy clouds.
I don't think this is very successful - I'm not happy with it for a lot of reasons.  With skies it seems that you have to wet the paper, drop in the paint, walk away and hope for the best.  I think it requires lots of practice so that you know how much the various paints will spread and how much water to apply.  I will keep practising and next time I will try add lots of paint and then blotting clouds out.  That might give the softer, more nebulous look that I want.
For better or worse, I always post the EDM challenges that I do.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Creative Every Day - Bliss

There are so many things that are blissful in my life. I am fortunate that way. The beginning of gardening season is one of the ways that my soul renews and rejuvenates itself. We've had lots of rain over the last two weeks, but I managed to plant the bedding plants and tomatoes and seed some lettuce in between showers of rain. It was blissful. With my hands in the dirt, and the sun warm on the back of my head, all seems right in my small corner of the world. Nurturing the small plants, watering, fertilizing, coaxing them into being the best they can be is blissful. Listening to the birds splash in the birdbath, squabble amongst themselves, and sing the sun across the sky is blissful. Sitting on the patio, viewing my garden, with a soft pleasant ache in my muscles, sipping on a Wild Rose WRaspberry Ale is blissful.
It doesn't get much better than that, unless of course, you add in drawing what you planted. Now that's bliss.
This is also my 250th post.  That's also kind of blissful (and amazing).

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Harbingers of summer

The irises are blooming in my yard right now. I planted these many years ago, and they are the plants that made me believe I could be a gardener. They are hardy and cheerful and low-maintenance. When they bloom, I know that summer is not far away no matter how cool and rainy the weather is. In fact, they are one flower that often looks better in cloudy weather with raindrops glistening on their petals.
Watercolor in the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mat showers and flowers

My tulips came up and budded out in April when we had some nice warm weather. Then the weather turned cold and they stalled. These ones I rescued from the snow that threatened to crush and break their stems. They bloomed inside and were such a sunny, cheerful hit of spring I had to draw them. And this poem is the perfect description.

by A.E. Stallings
The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,
Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,
Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.
The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see—
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,
The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Step Class - EDM 173

This is me taking my first step class. It always seemed to have complicated choreography, and routines that no one without formal dance training could hope to follow. And I worried about the impact on my knees. The class I am taking is called 20-20-20 and includes 20 minutes each of cardio, strength training, and stretching. Last week our cardio portion included the dreaded step. And it wasn't so bad. Not very complicated, not very choreographed. Simple and effective, and a great workout. It was low impact, and I was able to follow the steps and keep up. What more can you ask from a fitness class.
I was so excited I went home and iced my knees and journal led about it.
Prisma pen, and watercolor pencils in my day journal. I'll call this EDM 173 - draw something from memory.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Monthly Sketch Project May

Flowers are one of my favorite inspirations for drawing and painting. This is the photo for the Monthly Sketch Project. I loved the ranges of pinks, but mostly the dark background grabbed my attention. It's very difficult to do dark in watercolor, but I think it's important to learn how. It's the dark that often makes the light work.

Sadly, once again I missed the deadline to post this on the Sketch Project site. But do click the link and look at how some others drew the project.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Painting Flowers

Spring is coming and I am looking forward to painting all the flowers that grow in my garden. I've done this before, usually quick sketches in a garden grid. Now I'd like to paint more. I got this great book from the library called "Painting Flowers in Watercolor" by Trevor Waugh. He breaks down the complex shapes of flowers like roses and peonies into simple 3 step paintings. He makes it look easy, but I think it will take practice. My plan is to chronicle the life of the flower - from bud, to flower, to seed head. While these poppies are easy, simple shapes to draw, which is why the book starts there, we progress to more complex spiral shapes. That's where I need practice. No more procrastinating over tackling roses, masses of foliage, and ruffled irises. Ultimately, I would like to garden journal the way Edith Holden does in her book "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady".

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April is the cruellest month

I'm trying to draw a bit quicker. You need to be quick if you want to draw birds, cats, sailboats and other moving targets. This was an attempt to let go of the details and capture the shape - the essential "birdness". I'm not sure that I like it.

I did it last week, when the robin was gazing skyward and basking in the sunshine, and I was contemplating breaking the capri pants and flipflops out of winter storage.

This week, we were visited again by winter with lots of wet, heavy snow, wind warnings, and barely above freezing temperatures. This afternoon the robin was slogging through the snow, probably wishing he hadn't let the travel agent talk him into taking the Early Bird flight back to paradise. For now, the summer clothes stay put, and I hope the robin's fluffy feathers will keep him warm. Oh, and any complaint about snow has to be followed by the obligatory phrase "But we need the moisture" Sigh...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Monthly sketch project

This is for the monthly sketch project, photo provided by ffyrebird. It's a great photo. Don't they look like they are gossiping? I can hear the one on the left saying "And then ya know what she said...?" as the little one shakes her head in disbelief.
This is watercolor pencils in the Moleskine wc sketchbook.
The Monthly Sketch Project site is here

Thursday, April 22, 2010

EDM 75 - Favorite recipe ingredients

Last weekend I made soup. Two kinds - roasted mushroom medley, and tomato vegetable. I washed the veggies in preparation for dicing, and laid them to dry on the green waffle tea towel. They looked so nice, that before I could create soups, I had to create a drawing. I liked the colors and the shapes and I really love to draw fruits and vegetables and fresh, growing things. I'm, not sure how that poor pepper got so lopsided, though. It was a creative weekend, as I now have a freezer full of cups of soup to take for lunch and an EDM challenge! Life is good.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monthly sketch project

This sketch is done from the charming photo posted on the Monthly Sketch Project site. It's very serene, and probably from a zen garden. I loved the photo and really liked doing the sketch, but because it's not my photo I don't have a story to go along with it.

However, I can write a bit about the flowers surrounding the temple. I think they are wax begonias of my favorite variety. It's the Cocktail series, the white flowers are called Whiskey. The red variety is called Vodka, and the pink ones are called Gin. They have those lovely bronzy-green leaves, and flowers upheld on stiff stems. They are my favorite shade plants for the patio. And such cute names!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Virtual Paintout - Canary Islands

This is the urban sketch that I chose for Virtual Paintout this month. It has the angular lines, and the perspective that I need to practice. It's an easier one than the one I chose last month. I was able to get those windswept palms and dramatic grey skies that appealed to me so much (although the skies do not show up so well in this scan).
The perspective is still not great, but I'm learning a lot each time I try. And traveling vicariously with my Internet boyfriend, also known as Google Pegman, is a real treat. It looks like this time we made it to the literal "end of the road".
Virtual Paintout is here ;
This street scene is at Calle del Mirador del Charco, San Juan de la Rambia, Canary Islands.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Signs of spring

This is not the post I had in mind today. I think it was John Lennon who said that real life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. I can attest to that. None of the drawings that I wanted to post are happening the way I want them to. I think I need to lighten up and stop trying so hard.

So to switch my brain off, I noted the signs of spring that I saw on my way home today and then drew them as quickly as I could. But ture to theme, I chose a new, untried pen. It takes forever to dry, smears when I try to erase the pencil, and is not waterproof with the brushpens.

On the up side --- 4 signs of spring! Spring is most welcome this year. Now, back to the drawing board.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stavanger Norway

This is a street in Stavanger Norway - not a place I've been to in real life. I used Google maps and the little pegman. There haven't been any posts on this blog for two weeks and I'm blaming this for that.

In my heart of hearts, I very much want to be an urban sketcher. I also know that I am not going to magically wake up one day and be an urban sketcher without any effort on my part. Martha Beck, one of my favorite authors, says that we can all work miracles,and it is significant that the first word of that phrase is work. To that end, I found the website called Virtual Paintout. Each month, they choose a location and participants use Google maps and the pegman to get street views. It's not easy to find a place, I saw a great many warehouses in Stavanger. Secondly, moving the little pegman up and down streets is seriously addictive, and eats up great chunks of time. Thirdly, perpective is ridiculously hard for me which is why I keep procrastinating (and why I'm still not an urban sketcher). I have worked on this small sketch for two weeks! For better or worse, it's done.

Virtual Paintout is here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Martin / St Maarten

This is a hillside on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten. We took a bus tour from the Dutch side of the island over to Orient Beach on the French side. The whole island is very hilly and steep and the buildings cling precariously to the slope. From the bus, it was not apparent how people got to these houses as the lush vegetation hid all the roads and paths from sight. Most of the houses were white with red or terracotta roof tiles. It was a very pretty sight against the green hillside and the brilliant blue sky. At Orient beach we had barbecued ribs and chicken at Boo Boo Jam's beach side restaurant, and played in the rough surf. Good times.

Watercolor and ink on coldpressed paper.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Monthly Sketch Project - March 2010

Onions and garlic are the perfect marriage. It's lasted a long time, and has been the start of many beautiful dishes. Almost anything can be made to taste rich and complex using these two ingredients as a base. OK, maybe not chocolate cake and lemon meringue pie, but most savory dishes use them. Think of how bland food would be without them.

This blog celebrates the beauty in ordinary things and today I invite you to celebrate the humble garlic and onion. Look at their voluptuous shapes and vibrant yet delicate colors. Onion skins have also made contributions to ink and textile colorings, as well. These two vegetables are often reviled for their strength and aroma, but we still love them.

The original photo is by Gillian. Her website is here:

and other links for VSD is here:

I used watercolor pencils in the Robert Bateman sketchbook.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Happy March

These brilliant red hibiscus flowers were blooming in front of the hotel we stayed at in Fort Lauderdale. We had left Calgary early in the morning and it was -16C. In Fort Lauderdale, it was warm and humid and rainy. And there was green grass and blooming things. It was such a treat for our winter-weary souls. When we returned home, it was again very cold and very foggy. Good riddance to February, I say, time to turn our thoughts to spring and sunshine.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

EDM 260 An Olympci Event

I hesitated to post this. Drawing people is something that scares me - really scares me. This photograph was wonderful, the sense of excitement and dynamic motion was very compelling. It also made my stomach clench and my hands shake so badly I could barely put a line down.

About 8 years ago, the teacher in my Watercolor for Beginners was confidetn we could do portraits. I had a gorgeous photo of my 2 year old nephew. He was adorable with his sparkling eyes and beaming smile. My portrait, however, bore a resemblance more to Stewie Griffin from Family Guy than to my nephew. I was mortified, and a bit traumatised. But I am committed to doing these challenges and it's impossible to draw an Olympic event without drawing people. So I gave it a try, telling myself that I can't ever get better if I don't try. The arms on these fellows are not quite right - they were foreshortened in the photograph. This is actually my third attempt. It took that long to get my hands to stop shaking. And the helmets and goggles helped because I didn't have to come up with a true likeness. One step at a time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy Accidents

One of the things I like most about watercolor is the unpredictability of it. You can add the water and the paint and guide it in the direction you want it to go, but the final effect is the reaction of the water and pigment and paper to each other. This is from the photograph provided for Monthly Sketch Date for January. I loved the photo and had the idea to use salt in the background wash to give that crystalline look of foggy air. I also wanted the background to be very dark to show up the edges of rime frost. But the salt in the wash did not give me the effect I was looking for. Instead the crystals just drew the paint into blobs that ended up looking messy. It was a far cry from the airy, ethereal look I wanted. So once again, I did not make the deadline for the sketch date. But I wanted later to give it another try, maybe make the background darker and smooth some of those ugly blotches out. When I rewet the paper, suddenly those lovely crystal blooms appeared! It was exactly what I had expected the first time around. I added a little color but really it was the water that did all the work. Don't you love it when that happens?

Monday, February 15, 2010

EDM 259 - Pet's Point of View

This is a true story. I'm sure my cat Holly has this very thought every time I put out the art supplies. Of course, the final goal for all art supplies/cat toys is permanent exile under the stove, never to be seen again. If there are no more art supplies, then all the attention goes to the cat. Right?

I don't often draw from my imagination. I'm not very good at it because I can never get the shadows right. I got the shadows right on the pencil and brush because I set those up in front of me. But for the first time since we adopted Holly, she did not get up on the table and reach her paw out for the brush. I even invited her to this time. The one time I actually wanted her to do it, she refused. So I had to guess at the where the shadow of her paw would fall.

Sharpie pen, Pentel brush pens, watercolor in Robert Bateman sketchbook.

Monday, February 08, 2010

February Monthly Sketch Project

This is for the Monthly Sketch Project. The photograph is beautiful, and really made me want to draw and paint it. But it presented a few challenges, too. The photo is quite bright with an absence of strong shadows and contrasting colors. It was tricky to get the yellow flowers to pop against the green background.

The photo and the website are here:

This is watercolor pencils in Co-Mo sketchbook.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

EDM 258 - Draw your closet

Draw the inside of your closet. Yeah, this one was a real challenge for me. Honestly, this is the kind of drawing that I have been know to cower before and run from. But I had made a commitment to do the challenges, especially the ones whose level of detail made me whimper. It took a long time, there's an awful lot of vertical lines that disappear and reappear. It's like that in the real closet too.
But I did do it, and I learned a lot from it. Although, I confess, there are a lot more striped and patterned shirts in this closet. Lest you think I only wear tops, this is only half the closet. Skirts and dresses and pants hang on the other side of the shelf where there is only one bar to accommodate longer items. The shelves hold sweatshirts, pajamas, purses and socks in the drawer with the scarf hanging on it. Once I had tackled the challenge of drawing this closet, I was so inspired I went through the closet, the dresser drawers and the storage boxes under the bed. I threw out everything that I hadn't worn for more than a year or that I currently don't want to wear. It was exhilarating to clear up so much space. And now I don't have to face those mocking size 8s that I'll never fit into again.
Pentel pen and watercolor in the Robert Bateman sketch book.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

EDM 44 - Draw an animal

One of the highlights of our recent cruise, was snorkeling with the sea turtles in Barbados. They were magnificent! They have such grace and elegance in the water. They were not afraid and came right up to us, swimming around and among us. At one point, I was kind of eye to eye with one. It was truly a thrilling experience.
Green turtles are an endangered species and are protected in most areas. They have a life span of about 80 years. The "green" comes not from their shell which is mostly brown, but from the layer of greenish fat beneath the shell. Unlike most sea turtles, the green is herbivorous.
This is watercolor pencil in Moleskine sketchbook.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

EDM 257 - Draw a houseplant

One cold, dark, winter afternoon I struggled through the snow to the grocery store to stock up. There by the entrance was a display of these beautifully blooming African Violets. They were waiting for people like me who were mourning the lack of fresh, blossoming things and sun-warmed earth to dig into. How could I resist? I brought it home and it has cheered my heart and soul, bravely blooming against a backdrop of snow drifts in the back yard.
Years ago, I heard a CBC reporter interview a woman who lived in northern England. She asked how the residents coped with the lack of sunshine and warmth during the very short days. The woman replied "We draw the drapes against the dark, we light a fire against damp, and we have a wee drop of Port to warm our hearts". I admire that woman's practicality and resiliance.

Pentel pen and brushpens and watercolor pencils in the Moleskine sketchbook.