Thursday, December 31, 2009

Walking At Night


This is a thing I was taught to do long ago by mother. Without fail, after supper, summer, spring, fall and winter, out she would go for a walk when we were at the cottage. Now that I make that statement, it sounds like I was raised in privilege, and it was one. But it was the privilege of the common working class household of the 1970’s when a working Dad could raise a family of three, support a homemaking wife and own a beautiful second property on the rocky shore of a Canadian lake.

So while it was only on weekends, I still feel like I did most of my growing and learning in the woods and walking at night was one of those special things that I did that made my family different from all others. Other kids didn’t do this, and I knew that, because, when I walked with them, they always had their flashlights on, but I learned to walk in the dark, the absolute dark, navigating by the stars and in their absence by the silent black fingers of treetops stretching into a slate black sky. Sometimes there was moonlight, gleaming through like sunlight reflected off pearls underwater. And sometimes, when wind tore holes in the cloth of the clouds, the moon would shine so bright I could see the colours in my coat and the world looked like high noon in fairy land. Walking at night is one of those transgressive activities, a thing that most people do not do. It is considered risky and odd although, in the woods, not much actually changes. I was always aware of that, even after almost colliding a few times with strangers who were also walking at night it is still one of those activities that ‘make me feel special’. Maybe this is why, I keep coming back to the theme in my art over and over again. This is yet another version, of many (some of you saw a digitally altered version in a Christmas card, and some may have seen another one entirely on Etsy & Facebook). This one is just another kick at the can. One day, maybe, I’ll get it just right.

Happy New Year! Good health, good cheer, live well and rightly. See you next year…

PS. Oooh oooh oooh! In case you missed my tweet. I heard wolves howling a few nights back. While I know that most coyotes in this area are half wolf hybrids, and have heard plenty of evidence thereof, the howling I heard last had the pure long notes of the wolf. It was spine tingly shock and awe and of course I howled back and only received a sore throat for my trouble (I suppose answering a stupid human was beneath them). On all of my camping trips I always hope against hope to hear the wolf howl, and instead, I get to hear it on one of my regular jaunts through the York Regional Forest. If the raven is back, it’s perfectly feasible that wolf has wandered south also.

Image: 8”x10” mixed media, coloured pencil on watercolour, fine sand, and acrylic gel medium.

Below, Left, & Middle: ACEO’s in inks, and watersoluble pencils, Right: mixed media sand, watercolour, & pencils (this one was digitized into the christmas card). All scenes from Hollidge Tract.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree


“This One”, ACEO, 2.5”x3.5” bristol, Inktense watersoluble pencil, permanent ink.

Here we are, re-enacting some fairly ancient stuff.  How quaint, man, wife and dog out to cut a Christmas Tree—very Currier and Ives. Victorian, etc.. But while reading my latest tomes on mythology I stumbled up the following description.

In Phrygia, for example, in honor of the crucified and resurrected saviour Attis, a pine tree was cut on the twenty-second of March, and brought into the sanctuary of the mother-goddess, Cybele.  There it was swathed like a corpse with woolen bands and decked with wreathes of violets…from Joseph Campbell’s, Hero of a Thousand Faces.


Now, hmmm…doesn’t all that sound familiar, albeit in a less sanitized way?  All that imagery, of birth, sacrifice and rebirth.  Even the colours red and green have had symbolic importance for an awfully long time, although we may have forgotten. Green being the life blood of plant world and red the life blood of our own.

When I was a child, one of my favourite traditions was the Advent Calendar.  Of course it had sparkles and the baby Jesus in the middle, with the heavenly Mary and Joseph hovering about the crib.  But this so biblical scene was invariably set in the heart of the winter forest, with blazing stars above and frost laden trees surrounding, with worshipful wild animals, wolves and foxes, deer and rabbits, creeping closer to see the symbol of the return of light and the hope of spring.

I will leave you with that, to contemplate your traditions, their origins and the meaning they hold in your heart.

And of course, once you are done celebrating, I would love to hear about your traditions, what they are, and how they hold you.

A very Merry Christmas! Or whatever festive greeting you wish to insert here.

PS. Some of you may know, that I am very frugal, and normally buy my trees last minute and on sale for less the $20.  This year, no such thing happened.  Given a choice between a $60 stale pre-cut tree, and fetching my own (more fun) for $45, we spent the money.  What a pleasure.  It was a fine sunny day at the tree farm (Magic Hill) just down the road from us, and it felt like being in a picture postcard with the dog cavorting beside us.  Of course, I left the camera at home…

Friday, December 18, 2009

Olympic Torch Run – Stouffville Main Street


School Groups awaiting the torch.


Stouffville’s Town Crier.


And a close up: I love 10 megapixels.


The glowing man. Tempting to photoshop the flame in. It truly was visible in a spectacular way, but you’ll have to use your imagination. I don’t doctor photos beyond adjustments and crops. Nope.


The celebration continued at 19 on the Park, the renovated Municipal Offices where I do life drawing. This photo views to the North and shows the Clock Tower, and the people heading inside. I had Dynamo with me, so it was time to depart.

Hope you enjoyed the Picture Diary.

And because I’m a blabber mouth, here’s the text version:

While being completely uninterested in organized sports; I’m glad I went. Not unlike Christmas, the Olympics has been politicized, corporatized, and indelibly tarnished. Quite like Christmas, there is still much to be valued in participation of public traditions. Reading Joseph Campbell’s, Hero of a Thousand Faces gave me a richer perspective of the proceeding; here is the hero myth rewritten and re-enacted for our modern times. Completely secular and cross-cultural, a modern product of blatant propaganda and corporate sponsorship it appropriately reflects the mores of our society. The fact that the torch run is a (relatively) recent invention, and lets not get into by whom, is perfectly in keeping with the theory that every society must rewrite their myths anew in terms relevant to the times. While most of us may be unaware of the monomyth theory, a deep primitive part of us recognizes and responds.

And so, armed with both cynicism and knowledge, the sight of of the glow of pride on the torch bearer’s face brought quick tears to my eyes. The story, the ancient story that has been told and retold, adjusted, rewritten and discovered anew was written there. The pride shown was of a special kind, lacking in personal ego, full of communal duty, showing an instinctive knowledge that he was an integral and special part of some great story, a story that spans the history of mankind, and he was the bringer of fire, of glory to be shared with all.

Hope you enjoyed my small town pictures. I forgot how quaint Main Street Stouffville can be until I began editing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Phaeton—and the wilderness of the mind


Phaeton extracted from his father, Sun God Apollo a misguided promise to grant any wish. Phaeton demanded to drive the chariot of the sun for one day. Honour bound by his promise, Apollo was obligated to comply, and with great trepidation dispensed sage advice to handle the horses with care, to follow the set path and, well, drive carefully. You can well guess it all ended in a fiery crash.


Involving the gods, it also included burning stars, boiling seas and a deadly bolt of thunder.


This story crept into my 365 Art Card project, 3 shown, more to come (boiling seas is still a pencil sketch). Last on Yupo, two above on bristol, colours are Inktense Watersoluble pencil, plus my trusty Pentel Pocket brush, and a waterbrush (brush with water reservoir in the barrel). All these tools work great in bed—now stop sniggering.

And to revive last weeks question “is it cheating”, this is the sort of story that can’t be told with a traced photo!

Mostly, in art, I explore wilderness, or near wilderness and wild things like the managed forest I visit daily. Today, the Phaeton story, is an exploration of the wilderness of the mind through myth and folk tales. I’m reading Joseph Campbell’s, Hero of a Thousand Faces; an exploration of the ‘monomyth’, the hero myth that recurs throughout all cultures. There is much to be learned from these stories of the way our minds work, in the background, below the conscious (the running commentary part of our mind) level. Universal needs, fears, and desire is all revealed in the commonalities seen in myth, folk tales and religions.

Why I found the Phaeton story so compelling that I had to illustrate it, though, I do not know. (well, okay, it does sort of remind me that regardless of technology, the driving habits of teenaged boys remains the same—the universality of the myth reveals the truths of today)

ps. colours are a bit dull as I just couldn’t be bothered with firing up the old beast (Pentium III computer) to do a scan & so did a quick flash snapshot. Santa can’t stuff a new scanner down the chimney too soon!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreaming of Mice and all things Nice

091211001dreaming_cats Subtitle: is it cheating.

Recently a read a debate about the use of photoshop in art (I use GIMP, same thing). Specifically, it revolved around enlarging a photo reference in photoshop, then tracing it onto paper or canvas to skip the chore of sketching free-hand. Given my style, expression and goals, this would never be a useful technique, so I’ll decline to comment on that specific technique. My answer, in the debate, was that as long as it was a technique that you would proudly share with others, buyers, viewers, and other artists, it’s not cheating.

It did get the gears turning on my own ethics in art. I grew up with the idea that copying (using reference images) of anything anytime, was cheating. While I managed to learn to draw horses from memory pretty well, there wasn’t much progress beyond that, and while I still spend plenty of time drawing with no photo reference (sketches) I find a little goes along way, and I take lots of snaps to help me along.

Which brings me to “Dreaming of Mice…” This is from a small graphite ‘bed sketch’ I did quite some time ago (literally, sketched while in bed). It was, by necessity, drawn from the imagination (nope, there are no mirrors on my ceiling) and is a self-portrait of a cuddly companiable night with the cats. Because I found it evocative of companionship, I used it for my static page, Casual Connections, but I could, through GIMP, never manage to bump the pale graphite into a good contrasting black. So today, I decided to use technology differently. I took the scanned image and printed onto 8x10 paper. I made transfer paper with a graphite stick scribbled onto tracing paper, and transferred the image onto a fresh sheet of sketch paper, redid the lines in coloured pencil, Inktense watersoluble pencils and Pentel pocket brush, while trying to maintain the spontaneity and mood of the original. Now, I’ll have an enhanced version of the original using both high tech and low tech to get there.

I will leave the original version on casual connections for a day or so so that you can compare.

PS. Those cards I promised are going out tonight, lurkers included (actually, only lurker came forward, for the remainder, “Happy Lurking and Enjoy the Holiday Season” (and hopefully, this blog where lurkers are always welcome!))

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday


Life Drawing Club is over for now, in future (until February) I will have to rely on photo reference if I want to get some figure drawing practice; a dismal prospect, completely lacking in human dynamics, not to mention sociability, chit chat, and a night out. I love being in the presence of other artists the way goose loves the company of geese. Since I’m terrible in social situations, nope, haven’t actually made friends there, just enjoyed their company.

Here’s last weeks effort. It was a long tall pose, and I had great difficulty deciding on composition. This is a crop for delicate eyes. See the entire pose here. As I like what I’ve done with pencil and ink, I’m still undecided on messing with the background to get the composition working or just accept it as it is. Yep, I’m asking.

Image: 11”x14” (cropped out the extra on scan) cream Stonehenge paper, pentel pocket brush, graphite, coloured pencil

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Transformations, and an invitation

You might notice the new banner: it’s not finished yet, but for now, good enough.  I used to be a perfectionist, and when I was, nothing ever got done.  Okay, that’s a lie—I was classic underachiever.  At every step of the way, including the first step I would assess my ability to achieve perfection.  If the answer was ‘no’, there ends the action.  So for me, learning to live with ‘good enough’ is a fairly major accomplishment.  So here’s my banner, and while I have not yet solved all the mysteries of GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program, like Photoshop but free) and thereby have stray pixels scattered about the text, I do declare my banner ‘good enough—for now’.

It all began with an ACEO I did as study for a slightly larger work.

Which I photographed, plugged into GIMP, and then started fiddling with the intriguing options one of which was fractals, whooo.


It was a fascinating effect, but unlovely on it’s own, until I peered at it sidewise and remembered I was still looking for a decent banner image.  Well, you see the result above.

And now, if you’ve actually stayed with me thus far: The Invitation.

It’s that time of year again, rapidly rolling towards Yuletide, Christmas, XMas, Winter Solstice or whatever moniker floats your boat to mark a momentous turning point of the season.  In fact, whether you ascribe to the Christian story, or the pagan version, or, as I do, the bare scientific fact of the turning of the seasons and the changing of the light, it truly is a time of transformations, and an event to be celebrated.  And in so doing, I wish to send all loyal bloggers an um, seasonal, yule, Xmas, whatever card.  If you were in on it last year, please assume that I’ve misplaced your address and send it to me anew.  I’m big on organization, but not very good at it.  If you’ve only come on board lately, include yourself if you please; Anna, Jenny and Missy Rocco, the invitation extends to you.

This year I would include another category, if you are willing to briefly come out of the woodwork.  Dedicated lurkers, I’d love to send you a card too.  Mystery person who hails from Sudbury and secretly surfs in from Atlasquest, that would be you (yep, I have a hidden stat-counter). 

Everybody, my email is now out and plain to see on the banner (though hoping it still gives the spam bots trouble) and please feel free to use it for secret and not so secret messaging.  I’m not into blog awards or contests, etc. etc. ; this one is freely given, no strings attached.  Basically, blogging is a lonely undertaking; one flings thoughts, feelings, hard work and images off into the ether in hopes that someone somewhere will get the connection.  Anyone who takes the time to read this has my many thanks (especially in this particularly long-winded and scatter-brained posting).

‘Nuff said.  Seasonal Greetings and all that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lost, the Discovery Zone

09111403handofman Hand of Man, Yupo, Pentel Pocket Brush, my left thumb.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been been lost in the woods; I know all the local haunts too well, and know enough to bring a compass or be very careful without if I ever venture into strange territory.  And yet, I miss the sense of being lost.  I remember the very first day I learned to ride my bicycle.  This was long before the age of helicopter parents, when children were free and forgotten between the hours of sunrise and sunset.  I set out, un-helmeted (not even sure bike helmets existed back then) on my own, wobbling along a small paved web of suburban sprawl.  Back in those days, even government housing was built with personality, and while the home designs did repeat, they at least varied in design, materials and orientation. All of this lent a sense of adventure as I took random turns to the right, then left and left again, wheeling myself to destinations unknown.  For a moment, as I realized that I had no idea which street I’d come from, I teetered on the edge of the realm of ‘here be dragons’, until, much too soon, I pedalled myself onto a familiar street, thus ending the experiment. 

My woodland walks were once like that too. York Regional Forests are all, by their location, flanked with ‘main streets’, east and west, north and south.  Some of them busy highways with a drone and hum that echoes across the soundboard of the sky, and others are wide strips of gravel flanked by the type of estate home I can’t even begin to dream about.  Either way, while it’s possible, in fact, easy, to become disoriented, it’s pretty much impossible to become dangerously lost (although at least once, a dog walker used her cell-phone to call in a emergency rescue—personally, I think she was just too lazy to puzzle things out on her own).  Knowing my margin of safety, I made a game of taking random trails, just for the thrill of sensation, tame and bordered as it was, of being ‘lost’ if only for a moment, and the joy to be have in the discovery of territories heretofore unknown.

By now, I’ve explored the local forest trails to the point of redundancy; not even the faintest deer path takes me to parts unknown, so it’s refreshing to find that a new art project I’ve undertaken recreates that lost joy of discovery.

I had, while slogging through a bigger project (which turned out, btw, to be an unmitigated disaster) the strong need to ‘finish’ something.  The diminutive format of the ACEO (exactly 2.5”x3.5”)  provided a level of frugality in both time and materials that exactly reproduces the safety of the ‘bounded forest’. It allows me to explore, experiment, even get a little lost without taking any real risk in investment. It is a format where I can allow a free flow of ideas, and follow them through to multiple conclusions in the course of minutes to hours, but never days on end. By allowing myself the luxury of exploration, I have, in so doing, managed to surprise myself.

Hand of Man is one of those surprises.  I had no idea where I was going with this one, except as a graphic black and white study.  That day, I had been hiking in the North Tract, York Regional Forest.  It is not the prettiest tract by far; whenever I go there, there is something of a disturbing feel imposed on me by the landscape.  It still very much bears the stamp of it’s origins as a disturbed ecosystem, reforested land.  The blow sand exposed by 19th century deforestation lies exposed on every wide trail, trees grow sparsely, neatly planted in rows.  I went there to catch the last of the golden tamaracks, but they’d already shed their needles.  So it’s no surprise that in the evening (yep, I do most of them from the comfort of my bed with a good book at my side) I began penning the stark barren tamaracks.  Being on yupo, a slippery, shiny ‘paper’, I knew it was prone to smearing and set it aside to dry.  When next I picked it up, twenty minutes later, I left a large an obvious thumbprint.  After a moment of dismay, I gleefully began ‘thumb-painting’ the card with the still tacky ink.  The result was both disturbing in tone, and wonderful in success.  Will I do a series, or a larger work, or will I abandon this as a ‘one off’?  I don’t know, and I don’t presume to know.  In my 365 Art Card Project I am only committed to further discovery, as I have once again found my way into terra incognito, the land of ‘here there be dragons, and parts unknown.

PS. so far I’ve been dumping my 365 Art Card Project into a Picassa Album.  I’m not sure if I want to continue that, or just display selections as they arrive here, with text, or, well, anything else.  Here’s the first few on Picassa; as I go on I’m seeing themes, techniques, styles develop, but in the meantime, by the nature of the project, it’s a really mixed bag.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Touch Me, I Dare You


Search engines must hate me with my teaser titles that have absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the subject matter.

Let’s talk fungi.  Jelly fungi, to get specific, and in fact, I can’t get more specific than that this time, as I’ve failed to identify what looks like tree brains oozing out of bark.  I found them irresistibly intriguing, so much so that I just had to touch them.  Dear husband was with me, and not only did he have to tolerate this weird fungal fetish of mine, but was actually dared to participate. 


Now you have to understand, this is a man who hates mushrooms, enough to run from a room if he smells them cooking.  But what sort of man can resist a dare?  Come to think of it, he’s touched all sorts of strange and forbidden things at my goading.  Snakes and frogs, for instance.  He also hates snakes, and declares frogs ‘slimy’, toads also, which displays a certain level of ignorance (he knows better now).  But I’ve caught snakes, specifically a lovely brown rat snake that was in danger of being roasted in the fire (it was warming itself by dangling off a branch that overhung the fire pit).  And while I had no hard time at all grabbing it (they are harmless, unless you are a rat) I couldn’t manage to pull the thing off the branch without stretching it to death.  So, it was my husband who had to overcome his primal fear and carefully unwind the tail from the branch allowing me to deposit said snake in a safer (but less warm) place.  He does now admit that snakes are not slimy.


So, on a lovely late autumn walk, here I go find grey jellies growing on trees, and they are clear, and gooey and jiggly to boot.  (click on the photo to enlarge to get the full effect).  And I just had to touch them; I couldn’t resist.  And, like ancient Eve, I insisted that my husband touch them too in spite of his misgivings. And they were, um, odd.   Not slimy at all; dry on the surface, but very soft like skinned over pudding, all liquid inside.  And there we were, the two us, bent over on the side of the trail, stroking a tree, when a whole troupe of cyclists came peddling by.

My husband, by my count, is a brave man.

More mushrooms at the Mushroom Pages.

PS.  Please, if anyone can identify the jellies, I would love the help.  Just couldn’t find them in any of my books.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday, and some whine


ACEO sized, bristol, acrylic gel medium, fine sand, coloured pencil

Today’s topic; frustration

I took half the morning creating a new blog banner.  First, finding some artwork low key enough to work as a background but still representative of my characteristic style (low key it is not). Then, struggling with GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program).  It’s great, it’s free, but I don’t use the advanced features enough to be able to cruise through the process. 

In the meantime, I’m finishing a ‘bit off more than I can chew’ piece.  It’s a mixed media, and I’m still trying to pull all the elements together without mangling the surface.

So I sit down, and decide to write my Life Drawing Tuesday pose.  What could be easier?  Well, turns out I ‘lost’ my scanned image, and since scanning requires booting up the old beast (an old groaning Pentium) I refuse to do so. So much for full length colour sketch that the model actually said she liked (nice ego tickle). Maybe I’ll add it in next week (and I believe Santa is bringing me a new compatible scanner)

The remainder of last week’s session was a bust; I chose a sand-textured paper that I’d been hoarding for a long time.  It was velvety black with a hint of violet, and all on it’s own made a nice abstract painting.  However, I began badly and finished worse.  When I finally decided to ‘give up’, I began a portrait in an unused corner.  The above image is a rescue of the ‘long’ pose.  Excuses are boring so I won’t go there, but if I couldn’t make wine, at least I ended up with a decent vinegar (I cut out the portrait as an aceo).

Nuff’ said.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Zoo Day, A Photo Journal


Moon Jellies at the Australasia Pavilion, Reef Display (and wow, I never thought that my camera could do this!)


The Bird Eating Spider – cuddly (in the America’s Pavilion)


Canadian Beaver, outdoors, America’s Pavilion


An obliging fish, posing for pictures (yes, alive, he/she stayed very very still), in the Beaver pond, underwater viewing, America’s Pavilion (if anyone can identify the species, please help me out)


Otter, America’s Pavilion.  Low light limited the image quality, but he posed so nicely.  There were two, and they were hugely excited about the impending feeding time, leaping & splashing about.


Red-headed Blackbird, America’s Pavilion, the last and only decent one, of 10 shots. The birds fly free within the pavilions, sometimes within inches, or even, this time around, brushing my husbands head with a wing.

So those who already know me, and now those who don’t, know I’m very frugal (with good reason).  I know for a fact that money doesn’t grow on trees, although sometimes you find it under trees (yes, I do collect beer cans for deposit).  So you may be surprised, that while I refuse to pay $$$ for high speed internet, yesterday, my husband and laid out $155 in cash for a one year pass (including parking) to the Metro Toronto Zoo (and not for the first time).  Amortized (what a stuffy word) over the whole year, however, it works out to a whole lot of cheap entertainment, far less than the money we used to spend having cafe lunches and weekly restaurant dining. So while it seems extravagant, it fits nicely into our lifestyle.

Yesterdays was the first visit in quite awhile, and what a lot of fun.  It’s November, and the days are often dark, so it’s good to get out and see people, and the zoo has indoor gardens that gives a Northerner a decent fix of tropical green.  This is one of the major zoos that prioritizes large naturalized enclosures and an enriched environment for the resident animals.  I don’t see any of the pacing or other stress related (stereotypy) that you might see in lesser zoos. They also participate in conservation programs, such as the breeding and re-introduction of the black-footed ferret.

But it is also a beautiful zoo, a spacious realm with great architecture, and beautiful landscaping.  As a child, my parents would take me to the zoo, starting at opening time, and plodding about until my feet were numb; it took that long to see it all as my parents were always determined to get full value for their money (btw, my dad worked as an electrician during the building phase, African Pavilion may still bear his wiring). Now, with the pass, it’s a real treat to arrive on a whim in the late afternoon, and stroll about, stopping and starting at will, knowing we can come back again any time we please.  I gave my new camera a work-out.  With my old 2megapixel camera, there were so many shots that weren’t worth the bother.  What a surprise to find I could catch birds and fish (not to mention bird eating spiders) in the camera’s lens.

PS. Nope, I’m not taking a break for art, just really busy, and somehow, blogging about works in progress is not what I want to do, and the 365 Art Card Project is another thing but I’ll wait until I have more. Happy blogging all.

PPS.  Wifi in the library is down for a week at least, so please be patient.  It’s hard to surf on dial-up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday—Frugal Me




I suppose it’s something of a milestone, but I finally finished the last of my ‘office’ paper, which was actually a huge box of tear-off printer paper from the days of the dot-matrix printer.  Contemplating the fact that I’ve scribbled up that much paper is daunting, and I’m not sure if it should be a point of pride for all the practice or a crying shame of squander.  At any rate, that paper had been destined for recycling anyway, and my direct reuse was a good a thing (thanks, anonymous donor, you know who are).

Switching to newly paper, was more difficult than I thought.  I have a ‘thing’ about waste, and using scraps eliminates the ‘blank page freeze’.  I ended up packing more scrap paper (ugly stuff with a defunct letterhead en-scribed on the back) which I used for the minute poses.  Meanwhile, my neighbour to my left walks in, as always, carting giant sheets of brand new spanking white 140lb cold-pressed what looks like Arches watercolour paper.  This makes me want to cry.  This is the kind of paper that, if I lay out the cash for it, I hoard, somewhere safe, somewhere secret, for some special future project that deserves the million dollar approach.  I can’t imagine marking it up for a warm-up sketch. It’s like watching someone burn money; or maybe she takes them home and develops them into masterpieces. That would make me feel better about it all.

So I have my hang-ups, and paper frugality is one of them.  Necessity led me to using 8x10 office paper, and now, in all honesty, I love the stuff.  It’s smoothness never interferes with the line and the image, and the pencils slide right on.  Even brand new pages are cheap enough to play with, but unlike the newsprint ‘sketchbooks’ you can purchase from the art store, a nice white bond can produce a lovely finished drawing (I hate newsprint even for quickies).

I’d love to say something sublime, but for the most part, my drawing session was characterized by desperately trying to keep my jaws shut, and repeatedly losing the battle as my mouth cracked open into cavernous yawns.  I did manage not to give in to the strong urge to lay my head down on the table and sleep, but this temptation took up a lot of band width in my brain, and drawing was difficult.  Finally, after weeks of maximum pose times of 20 minutes, we get a long pose, and I just didn’t have the brain power to take advantage of it.  I left my Stonehenge paper in the case, and used my office paper to make multiple sketches instead.  I just knew I didn’t have it in me to sustain anything.

PS. if you haven’t already figured it out, my life drawing tuesdays are bloged about a week behind.  I get home at 10pm which is way past my bedtime (it took me years to admit it, but I just really need 9 hours of sleep to be anything more than ‘low functioning’)

Images: White bond paper (New!), prismacolor pencils.  2nd image done in black prisma pencil, and my new purchase, a black prisma stick.  I thought I’d try them out for fast coverage. In all honesty, it’s better reserved for works larger than 8x10 but this was a trial. It looks like conte but it’s a pencil crayon, soft, buttery and sticks tight. I tried out a neighbours conte just to compare (haven’t used conte in ages) and decided the prisma’s MUCH better.  Not sure why conte has such a hold on the art tradition.  I guess it sounds much more sophisticated than Pencil Crayon.

PPS. Life Drawing Hint: even if you can’t move for a different angle, get up and walk around to ‘see’ the pose in 3D.  I was rooted into my chair, and thought I could get away with ‘guessing’ at the hidden/obscured body parts.  I’ll remember this for next time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

T’s finally ready



I carved the blocks way back in September, to be ready to ‘field test’ on my holidays. The sample shirts (which my husband proudly wears) were trail tested and machine washed many times already. New shirts (shown) hand-printed but it took me ‘till yesterday to get them out and photographed, and then scanned as the photo’s just don’t seem crisp enough. Spending all day fiddling with facebook (I’ll get to that) and Etsy was frustrating, especially as I had been busy for four days straight on non-art projects and I’m just itching to do some drawing and painting, but here I am fiddling on the net again.

So here’s the t’s, up for sale, finally, on Etsy.

As for facebook; I’m using it for networking, so privacy is not a big deal. There are enough other ways to have private correspondence, walking in the woods together notwithstanding. That said, some people do use it to post pics of their kids in swimsuits, or themselves blasted at parties, and for them, ‘friending’ a stranger, like me, is a big no-no. So I’ve built a ‘Fanpage’ on facebook to use as a public gallery on facebook. Here, my pictures and images will be available whether you log on to facebook or not. And if you ‘fan’ me (but not ‘friend’) me, you won’t be giving me access to your private pics. It’s a whole lot of duplication as far as the pictures go but I’ve been wanting a quick and easy gallery for a long time. So here it is: Ingrid Schmelter, Kaslkaos Art. (this will be just art, no blather)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday-It's a Man

Yep, another man, actually Greg, the guy from the last time. This time, I cheated...I did a light pencil sketch first, then inked in with my magic brush aka Pentel Pocket Brush. Black is so strong, I just didn't have the courage to start with it. One false move and you're toast. So now I know what graphite is for (I hate the look and feel of graphite, but it erases real good!). After removing the graphite with a kneaded erasure I had great fun with the colours.
And that's all for today.

& PS. This one passes the library test for me given the style & lighting so no censorship today; hope I'm not wrong on that.

Friday, November 6, 2009



Feral refers to many things, meaning something domestic reverted to wild. A cat, a dog, an orchard tree. These things can be feral. We rarely think of ourselves as such, domesticated as our lives may be, but for us, the wild lies equally just below the surface.

This is a view from my window; the cat is a frequent visitor—she may be feral, or just playing with the idea. The vastness of the overgrown field beckons and instincts blunted by easy meals are sharpened by the experience. The field is land that has lain fallow many years (another version of feral), dotted with sprawling survivors of an old orchard, filling in with transitional trees of aspen, birch and poplar, un-trimmed grass ripe with wild-flowers flowing with the wind. One day, surely, this small acreage of nascent wilderness will all fall to development, but for today, it is an inspiration.

Image: 8”x10” watercolour paper, watercolours, gouache, acrylic gel medium, fine sand & finally & most importantly, coloured pencils. This one was a discovery. Early on, much of the paper had lost its tooth inspite of the sand layer. Once again, it was time to take violent action or toss it in the trash (the WIP I posted was as far as I could take it in that state), so I slathered on a brand new layer of sand & gel, right on top of everything. It dried invisibly, and left a textured surface absolutely perfect for finishing. Yay! It’s probably obvious, but the underpainting is an abstract rich sepia tone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life Drawing Tuesday


Finally, a new model; well, new to me anyway. I’ve seen the same six faces for a year, and while they are wonderful, it’s great to see someone new. This guy brings ‘professional’ to a whole new level. He arrives more than 15 minutes early—he was ready to go, and in his robe when I arrived 15 minutes early. The lighting was not yet set up and he was ready to take charge in moving the podium to a better lit spot. Once the artists arrived, he began warm-up exercises—I have never seen anyone do warm-ups before.

We are a leaderless group at the moment, and a little disorganized, so we didn’t have a ready answer as to how to proceed (ie. pose lengths, number of each, etc.). As soon as he realized this, he pulls out an outline that he’d received on his last visit (which was many months ago) and asks if he should follow those instructions—we all nod gratefully.

He’s lean and muscular revealing a wealth of details not usually apparent. I reigned in my scribbly style for a change and tried to take advantage of the study opportunities and paid extra attention to the muscle groups and interplay of light an shadow, while still having some fun with colour. His strength is phenomenal, as he can hold a pose for 20 minutes without so much as a millimetre of movement—I do not exaggerate.

He had cards available; since I’m definitely not in the market for hiring my own model, I thought, why not pass along his website here. Careful what you look at; some is for over 18 (appropriately labelled); apparently he doesn’t just model for little old ladies like me.


Images: 8”x10” office paper, prisma coloured pencils, the upper is my favourite monochrome sketching colour ‘expresso’

More Life Drawing on the Human Studies Page

PS. I’m on facebook now; actually, I signed up a long time ago, but left an empty profile. Now that I’ve discovered it’s dial-up friendly (at least using ad-blocker) I’m going to try it out as a central ‘go to’ site when I’m on dial-up. I even get sneak peaks at your blogs this way.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Mushroom Pages


Chrome-footed Bolete, Tylopilus chromapes, Prismacolor pencils on 8”x10” Stonehenge Paper.

Anyone who follows this blog can’t help but notice the mushrooms sprouting up amongst the posts like, well, mushrooms after the rain. A life-long fascination of mine, begun by my father, for whom mushrooming was a tradition of ancient lineage, their intrusion on my blog is inevitable. While I follow in his footsteps, I often take a more aesthetic point of view, deriving greater joy in finding, admiring, photographing them, and sometimes rendering them in full colour, than I ever do eating them (with the exception of a fresh yellow morel, mmm…irresistible).

For those of you who share my enthusiasm for things neither plant nor animal, let this page serve as a guide to all things fungi on the Drawbridge. As there are many more to come (I am loyal to my loves) you can also use the search box at the top, type in ‘mushrooms’.

The Lost Art of Mushrooming – A tribute to my dad who guided me through the forest.

Play With Your Food – Bizarre events in the kitchen.

Don’t Eat These – Inedibles are fun too.

Jewels of Autumn – Pungent Cort, a beauty inspite of it’s name.

Food or Pleasure – too beautiful to eat, the Fading Scarlet Waxy Cap.

True Blue and Edible Too – only a photo will do for the incredible edible Indigo Milky.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rivers Edge, Gargantua River


Rivers Edge, Gargantua River, Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Here, an impression from latest hike on the Coastal Trail, heading from Gargantua Harbour to Warp Bay. From these two points the trail heads through shaded woodland, and eventually catches up to Gargantua River that flows into Warp Bay. The river tumbles darkly over the granite before it slows into a sinuous ribbon of transparent nutrient rich tea coloured water. The habitat about the river is rich with life, moose and beaver, lynx and wolf, but the river belongs to the fish. Trout lurk below, twining together through the shadowed depths, rarely emerging to the eye. This is their domain.

This year, I was lucky enough to see these furtive aquatic creatures, and a glimpse of them is enough to impress their image on my brain. My original reference is a snapshot of the tangled alder growing on the sandy banks of the river. I was fascinated by the twisted patterns they made and the mysterious depths within them, but when it came time to render them onto paper, the fish intruded and insisted (quite rightly) on taking the centre stage.

Image: 15”x15” watercolour paper, watercolour wet in wet wash, followed by acrylic gel & fine sand, finished with coloured pencil. If you click on the image, you’ll get to see the heavy texture of the paper, almost like a rough canvas. The coloured pencil went on well this time, sticking tight when moderate pressure was applied, and smearing like oils when layered together. While flash photography didn’t capture this, from a slight distance, this piece looks slick and wet like a fresh oil painting.


Works In Progress, the Chrome-footed Bolete on the left on Stonehenge paper, almost finished, but in need of tweaking. On the right, another mixed media, painted in gouache and watercolour, followed by the infamous sand, then pencils. This one is challenging me to think and work in the negative shapes (sky and sky holes) more than ever before as I want to keep it looking loose and spontaneous and don’t dare to pencil it in first. Not sure why I do this to myself….

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken


Mmmm… This is the Sulphur Shelf fungi (laetiporus suphureus), ready to eat, cleaned, sliced, spiced and fried. Also known as the Chicken Mushroom, for reasons obvious to anyone cooking and tasting them. So the old adage, “tastes like chicken” may often be meant facetiously, and has appeared in some off colour jokes I won’t mention here, but it this case it really really does.

09102302sulphurshelf Here it is just getting ready in the pan.

09102301sulphurshelf And here it is on the cutting board. This is one of the most easily identifiable edible mushrooms around. Supposedly common, it’s been awhile since I’ve found one to eat.

And the sad thing is, when I found it, it was the most beautiful mushroom in the woods, all hot peach and sulphur yellow, growing in voluptuous layers across a fallen tree, surrounded by the yellow greens of early autumn. And what did I do? I screeched ‘ooh, ooh, ooh’ in excitement and hurried over tear off a few lobes for myself. While I wasn’t completely oblivious to it’s aesthetic appeal; I tore off lobes in such a way as to leave the bulk of the mushroom intact, a spot of beauty for other passersby to enjoy, but for some reason I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of eating this choice morsel that it never occurred to me to photograph it first. And this on the same day that I snapped the flag, and the windmill!

Have I learned to not let appetites get in the way of aesthetics? Probably not. Or should we learn to appreciate our appetites in a full and rounded fashion? Better yet, for there is something wonderful about finding food in the forest, and something more wonderful that this still can happen. A single feral apple, a have dozen wild berries can be a superior culinary treat to anything found in the store.

November 1st, 2009 Update!

This is an elderly, and therefore not particularly edible, chicken mushroom still on the tree. Aged beyond edibility, but still splendid to look at; found in Eldred King Forest, York Regional Forest.

And now, a Work in Progress, just to keep the art theme going. The Rivers Edge WIP is sitting on my wall, so that I can digest and assess before I continue. On the left are my snaps of the chrome-footed bolete as found on the trail to Warp Bay, in Lake Superior Provincial Park. I never positively identified them, so I could be wrong, but I enjoyed them as visual treats as they were so rosy I was completely mesmerized by them. The artwork is coloured pencil on 8”x10” stonehenge paper; a rather conventional treatment (for me), but I did notice that while my usual swirly line-work is absent, it appears in the shapes and composition.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Changes & Work In Progress

You may have noticed a changes in format. I spent Saturday at the library fiddling with adding a third column to this blog, something I've been wanting to do for quite a while, but was afraid to. In the end, it was very easy, but required a great deal of trust in strangers. I googled the term, found instructions and followed them. And, wow, it worked! You can check out the instructions at Blogger Buster.

It's Autumn, and while the weather is lovely today, I'll be indoors more and spending some of that time tweaking my blog. The idea of multiple blogs to suit different purposes has occurred to me, but frankly, I just don't have time, so in the next few weeks/months (hey, I'm still on dial-up and technically challenged) I'll try to add in some navigational info so readers, including me, can find stuff, because this blog is starting to resemble one of those vast mounds of shiny junk that truly weird people collect--which might be saying something...

In other news: I added a Guestbook on my Casual Connections page, on the hunch that sometimes people might want to say something off topic from a particular post, or just want to say hi and don't like twitter, or just like signing guestbooks, etc...

Thanks very much Mariette from Seattle for starting things off. It's also another way to contact me, as I get email notification for each signing, and it allows for private messaging. I still haven't figured out whether I should chat back there or not. Advice on that welcome.

And on the note of Who's Art is it Anyway, here's another 'found' installation, seen in Walker Woods, Uxbridge. Surrounded by fall colours and stately maples, being confronted with a Canadian Flag glowing with light and lurking in the depths of the woods (off trail) intriguing to say the least. The top photo is also from Walker Woods, and is the fallen remnants of a windmill.

And finally, that WIP (Work In Progress). A new mixed-media coloured pencil. 15x15 on 200lb Saunders watercolour, watercolour wash, acrylic medium plus sand, and now the prisma colours. The watercolour makes it look more complete than it is, but I actually have a long way to go as I going for full coverage and burnishing on this one. Rivers Edge, Gargantua River, Lake Superior Provincial Park. Of course, this is an interpretation, and not a representational landscape.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Human Studies – Life Drawing


I originally attended life drawing sessions (live model) in order to improve and acquire technical skills. I was completely surprised at what else I’ve gained.

*A clear view of ourselves as one of the panoply of mammals on this planet; the anatomical similarities are many from the curve of the spine, to the mechanics of the hip.

*I’ve gained respect for the human animal; the form of the body, it’s grace and beauty, and the mind that animates it both in action and repose.

*And of course many kudos's to the talents and courage of those willing to bare all for the artist, and a great appreciation of their creative spirits as revealed by their poses.

Image: 9”x12” cream Stonehenge paper, Prismacolor coloured pencil.

For newcomers to this blog, a few more selections of life drawing.

Nuts and Bolts and Solidarity Forever


The Legend of Ondine


It’s a Man


A View from the Other Side


Two Artful Nudes


PS. Fellow bloggers, I will be turning this into an ‘anchor’ page so while comments are welcome, eventually, they’ll be hidden, and this little ps edited out.


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