Sunday, December 02, 2012


On Monday morning I am leaving for a cruise down the west coast, through the Panama canal, and north to Ft. Lauderdale. It will include a stop in Costa Rica to do an aerial tram tour of the rain forest.  Two things to cross off my Life's To Do List.
See you when I get back.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunsets don't make much of an appearance on this blog.  I like sunsets a lot, and on my vacations I usually take a picture of each and every one.  But I don't paint them.  Way back when I took "Watercolor for Beginners" the instructor, who was a well respected portrait painter, said "Don't paint sunsets - they're trite and cliched". He should know, right?  My second class was with a woman who told me not to paint boats - they were hard to draw and always looked amateurish.  She should know, right? I'm no longer so sure about these absolutes pronounced by experts.  Are sunsets really trite, or did he just have a hard time painting a credible one?  Are boats hard to draw, or did she just have a difficult time with water reflections? Isn't it all subjective, and really shouldn't we get to paint what we like?
So when "Just add water, silly" chose sunsets as the theme for this month, I decided to make up my own mind about sunsets. I had a lot of pictures to choose from - this is Puerto Vallarta.  I had fun doing this - choosing the colors, blending them.  It made for an enjoyable afternoon and that's what it's all about, isn't it.
Watercolor paint in the HandBook sketchbook.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ginger and Spice

On our last cruise, we took a bus tour on the island of Grenada.  The air was warm and smelled of spices all the time.  Our bus took us high in the mountains to the Grand Etang National Forest Preserve, where all the native plants are gathered in a beautiful garden.  It is the highest point on the island - 1910 feet above sea level.  That's quite a steep climb as Grenada is a fairly small island.  There are many spice processing plants here, all contributing to the incredibly lovely aroma.  These are ginger blossoms.  I really liked the bold colors and fleshy, stiff look of these plants.  They are unlike the native flowers around here. Grenada is a beautiful island, very lush and green and mountainous.  I hope I get a chance to go back to it some day.
Watercolor paint and black and white gel pens.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

On the Beach

Winter has come to my part of the world.  I like winter - the air is crisp and clear, and the world looks clean and bright.  I like having four distinct seasons.  Each one can be appreciated for it's own unique characteristics, and each makes you appreciate the others.
But in the winter, I dream of escaping to some place warm and bright.  Like here.  I have visited several Caribbean islands and have many pictures like this. Paradise on earth.
I met an artist at a art show who did the most fabulous skies I had ever seen.  As it is something I struggle with, I asked him about his technique.  He said the secret is in tilting the paper and guiding the paint this way and that.  He said it gave soft edges and more realistic looking clouds.  I tried that technique in this piece and I like it. It does look like the soft, striated clouds in the Caribbean and the constant bank of clouds just above the water horizon.  And I like the look of the shadows of the palm trees. I'd like to practice this technique a bit more.
Watercolor paint on Cotman  paper block.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Salsa Dancing

Way back last spring when I was planning out my community garden, this is what I envisioned.  I wanted a salad and salsa garden.  I wanted to go out and pick fresh produce, wash it, chop it, season it and eat it.  Eat it still warm from the sun and swollen from the rain.  Us gardeners tend to dream big. It worked out OK, but it was too hot for the cilantro which bolted almost immediately.  These tomatoes have finished their ripening in brown paper bags in the basement. The peppers are not jalapenos, but Italian roasting peppers - their flavor is peppery and fresh but not hot. The tomatoes are Lemon Boy, Heritage Beefsteak, and tiny little black cherry toms that burst with intensity.  There is fresh salsa in my future, and maybe some dancing with delight in the kitchen.
Watercolor in the handbook sketchbook

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Now we are six

Welcome to the party.  Have a Tequila Lime cupcake.  Throw some confetti around.  We're celebrating because this blog is six years old.  Yes, six! Who knew I could have that much to say. I didn't go public with my sketches until a few months later.  I was new to the whole blogging thing, and it took me a while to figure out the scanning, uploading, security issues, commenting on other people's blogs, and general net safety and courtesy.  The virtual world was a very different world than the one I was used to.  Going public with my sketches was a little intimidating, too.  What if what I found was not a welcoming and charming community of like-minded individuals as I had imagined, but instead a harsh wall of indifference? What if no once came to the party?  But they did (you did) and the community I found was delightful.  I've learned a lot and seen a lot.  The hardest part of the blogging was not putting the sketches forward, but finding something interesting to say.  Sometimes there was a story to be told, or a lesson learned, but sometimes there was nothing to say.
So thank you for being there (and here).  Enjoy the cupcake.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Painting Parrots

Birds are one of my favorite things to paint.  I also like to paint with bright colours. At the library the other day, they had a display of painting books.  I took one called "Daring Color" by Anne Abgott.  One of the exercises was about mingling colour on the paper instead of glazing one color over top of the other. It sounded like it would be fun, and give a much looser approach than glazing would.  And it was fun, just letting the colour blend and mingle.  It was quicker and freer.  It was the embodiment of the advice to let go of the result and enjoy the process.  I used lots of paint and less water and that gave more control.  I think I'm usually using too much water, which results in blooms, pale colors and too much blending of colours  With thicker paint, there is only a little bleeding and it worked better.
I learned some valuable things in this exercise and I think I will continue to use this technique.
This is a nice, easy book to read and to follow, and I would recommend it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jewels of Summer

The Dragon-fly

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.
The dragonflies are enormous and plentiful this year.  I had to try to capture them. I had some iridescent ink that I used on their wings but it didn't photograph very well.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Start of the Harvest

Last year, I drew produce that I had bought at the Farmers' Market.  This year, I'm drawing produce that I grew myself in the community garden. I'm pretty proud of these. The colors are intense and the flavor is unbelievable.  That's the way a tomato is supposed to taste - bright and vibrant - an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  The lettuce was fabulous this year, I got a third crop by planting the seeds underneath the potato leaves which protected them from the hot sun in July so the leaves did not get bitter.  The onions and peppers have a really intense taste without being harsh.  Next up is potatoes and carrots. There is something so simple and satisfying about growing and harvesting your own food. And of course, drawing before devouring it.
Watercolor paint in the HandBook sketchbook. Photo taken with the iPhone 4 camera and a way better photo than in the previous post.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hot summer in the city

This is how you celebrate the end of a hot summer weekend.  Almost every weekend in the summer in my city there is a festival of some kind.  Last weekend was "Taste of Calgary" which is one of my favourites.  Lots of local restaurants get together at Prince's Island on the Bow river and offer small bites of their best dishes and drinks. It was hot and sunny and lots of fun.
We came home and relaxed on our shady deck with a Blue Mojito.
I had my first Blue Mojito on the island of Curacao where they produce the orange flavoured Curacao liquer that makes this drink so beautiful and tasty.  The little sprig of orange mint came from my garden. Summer in the city has been good this year.

Cordelia's Blue Mojito Recipe
Pour some rum into a glass (live large and use good amber rum rather than that harsh white stuff)
Throw 6 mint leaves and half a key lime into the rum.
Muddle or mash together until it smells amazing.
Take out the leaves and lime.
Pour in some Curacao liquer until you have a really pretty blue colour.
Add ice cubes and top off with club soda.
Take it out onto the deck and relax and celebrate how fabulous your life is.
Repeat as needed.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's blooming this week

I often find inspiration in my garden and, in tune with keeping it simple, I returned there for my subject.  We had lots of rain in June, and lots of hot sunny weather in July.  The garden exploded into lush wild growth (including the chickweed, but we'll pretend that didn't happen).  These three flowers represent the simplest shapes and the simplest colours, too.  Nothing is extraneous or overdone. The bees love these flowers, it's probably easy and quick to gather the pollen.
Micron pen, watercolor paint, and white gel pen.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Keeping it simple

For a while, I forgot to keep it simple.  I forgot that my main source of inspiration in sketching is to celebrate the simple beauty in every day life.  My drawing got tight and frustrating and was no longer a source of joy and release for me,
So I've gone back to the basics.  I was on my deck eating one of these white peaches.  They were fresh and sweet and juicy and I noticed the rich colors and interesting swirly patterns on the skins.  And that's why I like to draw - to capture that simple beauty in the ordinary.   I think John Keats had it right:
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'  50
It was fun to play with softening edges and blending colors and adding salt to damp paint. Keep it simple and enjoy the process.
Watercolor (and salt) in the journal

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Tiding of Magpies

There are three magpies hanging around my small back yard.  They sit on the branch of the big tree each morning and squabble like siblings on a road trip. They peck each others' heads and chase each other around the yard.  They are noisy and vexatious.  I'm sure they are siblings because world wide inter webs tell me that magpies mate for life and hatch a clutch of three chicks.  They are curious and clever and fearless.  They often perch on the flower pots on the deck as long as the tabby cat and the curly-haired dog next door are safely inside.  I think they admire their reflections in the patio doors.  They are fat and brash and endlessly entertaining. And, yes, a group of magpies is called a tiding - I guess they are bringing us all the neighbourhood gossip and tidings.
Watercolor int Moleskine sketchbook.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back to the Basics

This is not the post or the sketch I had planned for today.  The key word here is "planned". I thought about the sketch I wanted to do, about the composition, about the story.  I over thought it, and then I overdid it.  What started out as a great idea became an ugly, overwrought, out of proportion mess.  The harder I tried to fix it, the worse it became. I thought i could reset the process by drawing something simple like the watermelon I was eating.  And I struggled with that, too - it seemed I had forgotten how to draw!  But in reality I had forgotten to keep it simple, to not draw what you think, but to draw what you see.  So I'm going back to the basics.  I will try my original idea again, maybe after I've learned just to draw and let the process happen.  Simple is best.
Watercolor in the Moleskine wc journal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

These poppies bloom every year in my back garden.  This year the buds were so heavy that they bent the stalks down to the ground.  When I came out in the morning the light caught the bottom petals and they seemed to glow from within.  The brilliant light also made the dark blotches and the feathery parts look purple.  I have tried many times to capture the silkiness and delicate glow of these poppies.  With luck I will spend a good many future summers doing the same. They seem to embody the very essence of summer - lush, bright, and hot. And they just beg to be sketched.
Watercolor in Moleskine wc book.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


My cousin gave me this rose bush to plant in the back garden.  It's a Morden Sunrise and the flowers are a beautiful creamy yellow shading to pink at the edges, and it has a heavenly citrusy scent. It's lovely and flowers are one of my favourite things to draw. I find roses intimidating at the best of times, but this one seemed simple - no complicated folding and crimping, just a few petals.  It's the shadows that I find difficult to render realistically to give the petals their shape and delicacy. This simple flower was actually quite difficult.  I'm not sure that I achieved what I wanted to but I think continuing to work on it would ruin it. For now I'm calling it done and a good practice piece.  Good new is that there are more buds forming so I can continue to practice.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Uninvited Guests

Across the street from my bedroom window is a poplar tree that has suffered a fate common to poplars.  The tops of the tree die out due to drought.  The city planted them because they grow fast, but forgot that they only do that when in their native habitat along a river.  Away from an abundant source of water, they die off or send strong roots searching  for the nearest source of water, which in most neighbourhoods, is usually the water mains.  Most have been replaced by more appropriate trees.
The ones left become favourite gathering places for murders of crows. At his time of year when the days are long, their raucous cries can be heard from about 5:00 am to 10:00 pm.  They dive bomb pets and people who venture too close to where the nest is.  They are like the uninvited party crashers who drink too much, get rowdy and don't know when to leave.   Their loud and unlovely calls brings out the worst in me, and I admit to wanting to "stone the crows" as they say. Hopefully they will settle down a bit when the babies leave the nest.  Then maybe we can sleep in a bit longer, and enjoy the back yards without having to chase them away.
Water colour and micron pen in Moleskine wc book

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ever Day In June #14

This was the daily challenge for June 14.  I don't usually join in these challenges, and there are several of them each year.  I like the prompts but inevitably I know I will fall behind, and then feel like a failure.  And then it's no fun.  It's not so much the daily drawing that defeats me, but the daily posting and finding something interesting to write about.  Weekly challenges are more my speed.  But this particular challenge "Draw a fish" grabbed my interest, and I chose to draw a koi because I like their graceful lines and pronounced scales.  Apparently lots of other people like that too because when searching for images via Google I found lots of tattoo designs based on koi - one woman had a tattoo that covered her entire side from her hip to her shoulder. It was truly spectacular.  I found drawing all the scales an almost sen-like experience, you know, when you get into "the zone" where there is nothing but you and the paper and the lines.  It's a simple sketch, but it's really why I enjoy drawing so much.
Watercolor and ink in the sketchbook.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Garden lovelies

These are some of the flowers that are blooming in my garden.  The poppies and irises are perennials, but  the Gerbera daisy in an annual.  It's so wonderful to have things blooming around me.  Gardening and growing things have a profoundly deep affect on us.  It touches something primal and elemental in us - not just the need to nourish our bodies by providing food, but to nourish our souls by providing beauty. It teaches us patience and to let go and allow the world to unfold as it will. It teaches us that everything has a season and life is a transitory experience.  We need to savour and enjoy every moment because that moment will never come again. So many of our phrases use this as the basis - "Stop and smell the roses",  "our salad days", "our time in the sun", even "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".  The cyclical nature of growth, blossom and decay is at the basis of everything for us.  We are truly children of the earth.
Inktense pencils in Hand book sketchbook.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pelican Post

This sketch is of Eagle Beach in Aruba.  Our cruise ship stopped there one day last December.  It was an odd day, cloudy and a bit rainy to start with, and very humid for us Canadians who were used to a dry cold climate.  We are also not used to rain that is warm and pleasant. It stopped raining, and became hot and beautiful.  There were lots of lizards of many kinds on this island.  The sky remained dramatic and overcast, which was really good for taking photos.  Towards the end of the afternoon on Eagle Beach, the heat and humidity were almost enervating.  The pelicans were resting on these perches in between diving for fish.  The overcast sky showed their distinctive silhouettes with their swooping beaks and awkward wing humps.  They really are unmistakable in profile.  I wanted to capture the beautiful colours of the water and the dramatic sky behind the pelicans.
Watercolor in the Handbook sketchbook (which I really like!).  

Nature’s prime favourites were the Pelicans;
High-fed, long-lived, and sociable and free.
        Montgomery—Pelican Island. Canto V. L. 144.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pumped up kicks

It was finally warm enough today to wear my new shoes.  And when you have pumped up kicks like these, you have to paint your toenails to match.  Cause that's the way us fashionistas roll!
I thought this was a very cute phrase so I googled it to see where it came from.  There's a catchy song by Foster the People called "Pumped up kicks".  The chorus lyrics are :
All the other kids in their pumped up kicks
Better run, better run, outrun my gun.
Hmm, not really the sentiment that new shoes ought to elicit in my mind.  Further investigation on the inter webs tells me that pumped up kicks are high-priced designer shoes that are often purchased to cause jealousy amongst one's peers.  Greed and jealousy do seem to provoke violence, don't they?  I doubt, however, that these shoes actually count as pumped up kicks according to this definition.   There's probably not a desperate sprint to safety in my near future.  More like a leisurely lounge on the deck or beside the pool at a vacation resort.  Now that nail polish, on the other hand...
Inktense pencils in Moleskine sketchbook

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

Last spring, i drew cherry blossoms, but the drawing was careful tight.  This time I wanted to loosen up a bit, and to test the paper in the new Handbook sketchbook.  I began this by wetting the paper and splattering paint from the end of the brush on to the page.  I did it 3 times as the paper dried to try and get some depth of colour.  I let the paint spread and flow as it wanted (that's one of the best things about water colours).  I lightly drew in branches and randomly added darker flowers.  I accentuated with white gel pen and black ink.  It's different from my usual, but it was fun.
Cherry blossoms are truly a sign of spring, before the leaves are even out on the trees.  It brings hope after the long, barren winter.  Surely, the universe is unfolding as it should.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Journal post

There have been some sorrows in my life lately that have seemed to weigh me down. I tried to find solace in drawing and sketching and applying colour to a page. But it just didn't seem to work for me. My imagination seemed weighted down, and my sense of enjoyment seemed blunted. Sounds like the classic definition of depression and I suppose that the loss of loved ones does result in depression.
I have been doing these quick little inspirational journal cartoons, no pressure, just whatever inspirational saying gave me some comfort that day. This weekend, though, I have so many ideas in my mind.  The sun seems to have thawed the numbness and started the creative juices flowing again. (My writing also seems a little disjointed - but I'm maybe out of practice with posting to this blog.)
This ia Derwent Inktense pencils in the Co-mo sketchbook.

Monday, April 09, 2012


Every time I've been in Mexico or the Caribbean, I am fascinated by the pelicans.  They are so big and ungainly on land, but in the sky they are graceful and lovely.  When they fold their wings in, and plummet like an arrow to the water to scoop up their fish, they are quite wonderful. Sharp-eyed and lightning fast, they can be deceptive.  On our last trip, we frequently saw them perched on old wooden pilings sticking up out of the water - one pelican on each perch.  I wondered if they each had their designated perch or if they even cared about things like that.  I like the way their black feathers etch against the brilliant blue sky.
Watercolor pencils in the oddly curved sketchbook.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Simple pleasures

I really like to draw fruits and vegetables.  Not for me the soaring mountain ranges, or golden light of Italy. I am a simple woman of simple needs and I find inspiration and beauty in the everyday things that surround me.  The graceful shapes and vibrant colour of these peppers for example, make me want to draw and paint them before I even get home from the store.
Because I was having trouble photographing in the other sketchbook that was so curved and buckled, I was on the lookout for a new one.  At my last dental appointment, I made a short detour to the art supply store.  This is a Handbook sketchbook. I had heard many raves about these sketchbooks, but had never seen one sold in Canada. I liked the size and texture of the paper, and the price was good, so I took the very last one that they had in stock.  So far I like it.  It takes a wash nicely although the paper is not too thick.  It also has a hard cover which helps the pages flatten out.  It photographed quite well - not too many shadows or crinkles.  The paint is regular water-colour paints with a bit of the Inktense pencils added in.  Thank you to the commenter who told me that they are ink pencils rather than water colour.  Despite the name, i had not clued into that.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Inktense angel fish

This sketch is of a juvenile angel fish in the Bay of Ixtapa. We spent many happy hours snorkelling here.  The fish are plentiful and the water is calm and warm.  The adult versions of these fish are bright blue.
I coloured this with the new Inktense water-colour pencils. These pencils are buttery soft and dissolve very easily with the addition of water. Water makes the colours even more intense and vibrant.  I like these pencils a lot.  The down side to this brand is that they are so soft that they don't hold a point so it is hard to get a sharp, thin line.  But the strong colours make up for that.
The paper is Bee paper's Co-mo sketchbook.  I like the texture of it.  It is thin, only 80 lb so won't take a wash of colour without wrinkling badly.  But as a take-along sketchbook, it's the perfect weight and size.  I took the photo with the iPhone in natural light.  No shadows this time, except where the paper had crinkled a bit.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


The beautiful onions were part of good haul bought last year at the Farmers Market.  They were coloured with the new Faber Castelle Aquarelle water-colour pencils that I bought.  These pencils are quite hard and create a very sharp line.  They don't blend instantly with water and so even if you add water, you retain the edge of the lines.  I'm not sure that I like that although for this drawing it worked well.  In the actual onions you do see distinct lines of colour, but it makes
the shadows not so believable.
And in the continuing adventure of learning the Mac Book and flying without a printer/scanner, I uploaded this as a photo taken with the iPhone in natural daylight.  This little sketchbook is nearly filled and over time the pages have curved quite a bit and it is hard to take a good photo.  I think I'll switch to a different kind that stays flat.  I do think that the photo colour is very true to the sketch colours.  I think I can make this work!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

After a long absence I am returning to blogging.  My mother was ill for a long time and passed away in February.  My computer gave me all sorts of trouble and I am now using a brand new Mac Book Pro.  It has no printer and scanner, so I took a photo of this sketch using PhotoBooth and uploading it as a photo.  I had to crop my finders out of the left hand side.  I took the photo using natural light by the window, but there is still a shadow.  I think that taking a good photo will take a little practice.  I also notice that while I've been away, Blogger has changed quite a bit, too.
It's like starting over with everything.
This sketch is of a Bohemian Waxwing.  There was a whole flock of them in the crabapple tree on my way home from work the other day.  I think I want to continue to work on this sketch and refine it a bit.  I used my new Derwent Inktense pencils which are really nice.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


In my back yard is an old weathered tree branch.  For some reason, the branch grew in a circular formation. Birds, especially the smaller ones like chickadees and these red-breasted nuthatches love to perch on it. It's full of cracks and crannies that are perfect for hiding seeds and other treasures in.
Nuthatches are distinctive because of the way they perch upside down on the trees, and run down the trunk rather than up it. That way they can find insects in the cracks that the right-side up birds miss.  (That's the definition of "win-win situation" in the bird world.)  They are very lively, friendly little birds who aren't afraid of people or cats.
Watercolor in Moleskine sketchbook.