Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cranberry Bog Killarney Provincial Park


More from last weekend, rendered in watercolour.  This is Cranberry Bog, one of the various scenic highlights of Cranberry Bog Trail in Killarney Provincial Park.  It’s about 5k but packed with sights, the bog being one of them.  The three of us, husband, dog, and myself, lounged on the smooth rock for a long time enjoying some bug free sunshine before moving on to the vampiric nightmare of the forest in June.  Of course I painted this at home as my hands were too busy either swatting or scratching to hold a brush or pencil (actually, I did sketch a few dead mosquito’s as a bizarre twist on ‘life drawing’)

Image Notes:  9”x12” watercolour on Saunders 140lb paper.  This is a far more literal rendition than I use when ‘painting’ with coloured pencils, but very good practice.  As it has been awhile since my last 'pure’ watercolour, I forgot a few things.  Mistakes are frustrating, but I try to remember they are always great learning opportunities.

Lifting:  with a damp brush, you can remove colour to fix mistakes, or pull out highlights at the end.  I lost my rock reflections and had to put them back with lifting.  I dampen the area, then dab hard with paper towel.  The higher the quality of paper, the more ‘lifting’ you can do.  The more experience you have, the more you can plan to use lifting as a technique rather than fixing.

Sea Sponge:  I keep tiny pieces of damp sea sponge on hand to soften the dry brush work as I’m not fond of too many crisp edges.


Cartoon or Thumbnail Sketch: this is something I didn’t do and really wish I had.  I planned to use my reference photo without alteration and considered it an unnecessary step.  However, as I worked from light to dark, the rocks at one point were an amorphous pink blob.  I simply ‘forgot’ the major shapes at one point and started doing something else—you could call it painting yourself into a corner. It took major edits, both in adding darks and lifting things out, to get me out again.  A cartoon thumbnail outlining major shapes left in view would have kept the major shapes foremost in my mind.

Next time I do a watercolour I’ll try to keep these things in mind, or will remain doomed to repeat my mistakes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Delicious Entertainments

The following: excerpts from my journal of last weekends camping trip in Killarney Provincial Park and a few photos too (black flies not included).

killarneysunset2  George Lake


My scalp is itchy, my ears itch, my hands and face are covered in little bulls eye welts. It's black fly season, and what a season. A million zillion biting flies.  I am tired of being somebody’s lunch.

One could try to look at things differently, a burgeoning abundant and bounty of life. But I am not a dragonfly and I don't eat bugs for breakfast. Okay, that may not be entirely accurate. I just had breakfast--pancakes and the quintessentially Canadian maple syrup on top. Of course, it would be entirely naive to imagine that within the course of cooking a meal, not a single mosquito, black fly, or no-see-um would have landed in, and met its demise in the delicious heat of the frying pan. The conclusion being; I probably do eat bugs for breakfast.

killarneyyachts Herbert’s Fisheries Wharf

The whine in incessant, but briefly, for a glorious afternoon, we headed into the town of the Killarney, a glorious and nearly bug free zone where we ate the best fish and chips in the entire known universe at Herberts Fisheries.  From a renovated school bus they serve fresh caught lake fish, lightly battered and deeply fried. Sitting on the wharf, dining (unhassled) with our dog at our side was a delightful novelty.

Bonus for the weekend (almost makes up for the involuntary blood donations):

Great wildlife spotting

1. A black bear gallumphing across Hwy 69.

2. Deer at the park entrance.

3. (all too common and less than welcome) racoon doing reconnaissance in our campsite.

4. Red fox (numerous sightings) that claims the park as home and trots about the campground and beach often, but not always, unseen.

5. Large snapping turtle, and small.

6. Tern, diving sea bird, pointed out by my friend Rike as NOT a common seagull.

7. Ravens, showing off their rather large vocabulary.

8. Otters, swimming.

If I could come up with four more, I would have a Christmas carol.

cranberrybog2 Cranberry Bog & friends

Delicious Entertainments Part II.

We saw a fox, a lovely fox, cat like in grace, long legged, wary, alert, dressed in a voluminous quantity of luminous red fur. We were enthralled, stopped in our tracks to to watch and stare. Dynamo, having no such sense of wonder, bounced in excitement, huffed, wheezed and hyperventilated in pure canine excitement. No appreciation of nature, I thought, as the dogs antics hurried the fox along. On second thought, considering her exuberant reaction, I'll have to admit that her appreciation surpasses mine (I don’t hyperventilate), though her thoughts about it are much different in nature.

Delicious Entertainments Part III

Swam George Lake to escape the biting flies. Cool water, green and glossy, I glide between water and sky, submerge and pull, emerge and breath. This is freedom, and carefree, and nothing can touch me. Then I see the bear. It is ambling across the diving rock. Humans, just the other side, are oblivious to its presence; the bear unconcerned by the noise, dogs, and everything else a campground contains whuffled along. So I swam in towards the rock, the better to see him.

He sees me, a large slow pale bellied fish, surfacing. It dawns on me then, that to the bear, in this state I just might look yummy. I'm tired of being yummy this weekend.

I angle away, and keep an eye on the bear as he scours the shore line.

Techie notes: 

all written on a Palm M500 and small folding logitech keyboard—the only tech I’ll take on a camping trip.  The ancient palm (it’s monochrome) is tough (it once fell off my car onto pavement) and portable.  I carry this all in a plastic container, and use it in any weather but a downpour.  I once read Crime and Punishment on my Palm and used a Ziplock baggie to water-proof it for bathtime.  I am so happy it still synchs with my new laptop and OpenOffice software.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stag Linocut--Finished


Finally, here it is, finished.  The background is watercolour wet in wet wash, no salt this time.  The size is 5” x 7”, paper is stretched Strathmore bristol. 

As anyone on twitter knows, I’m still fighting to get my scanner running on my new laptop and am too stubborn to hook it back up to the old computer—I may have to, but not today.  So a photo will have to do.  The colours are unfortunately not what they should be, but I’m also still getting my feet wet with GIMP.  All this new tech is keeping me busy.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Linocut Work In Progress

Well here it is.  Actually, it’s done, but I’m still fighting with setting up my scanner.  I scanned this at the WIP stage as I became very afraid of screwing it up and wanted a record of it at this stage.  Also, there is something I very much like about the carving block in general.  It is softoleum, and is thick and soft and grey.  There is a sensuous pleasure in the feel of it, and the play of shadows across its carved surface.


Sorry it’s not much of a blog post, but I’m still ‘seriously distracted’ by the transition of technology.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Trillium Redux


I write this as my cats do battle with the laptop competing for lap space.  This time, the laptop won, but the coffee table is drenched in freshly spilled juice from a well-placed cat tackle manoeuvre.  Messy as the result may be, it is a better outcome than the alternative (cat-bombed computer). 

While I am still seriously distracted, and not nearly done migrating files and hardware to my new computer, I’m trying to squeak out a new blog post.  Both images were photographed, not scanned, so there may be some distortions.

Top picture is trillium grandiflorum or white trillium.  This began as a watercolour but I couldn’t resist using pencils on it.  The paper, unfortunately had a soft texture and the pencils applied were dull and lackluster.  I fought with this for the better part of the day before getting ready to trash it.  While this stage feels awful, it is often the point of discovery.  In this case, I decided it couldn’t get worse so I tried layering over with acrylic gel medium.  It dried in an invisible layer while adding tooth to the paper; finally my pencil colours could shine, and with multiple layers I could build up the usual multihued darks.  A nightmare at the beginning, I rather enjoyed finishing it and I’m looking forward to trying this technique again.

Below is the redo of the trillium erectum or red trillium.  It’s a mixed media watercolour, watersoluble pencil (Inktense), and coloured pencil.  Approximately 6” x 12” on watercolour paper.



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Seriously Distracted


I’m a little distracted of late: new hardware is always an exciting event for a girl.  Husband kindly purchased for me a brand new laptop computer.  Wow.  I’ve been pining for one of these since they were first invented; they always seemed like some expensive luxury but my old computer was getting, um, long in the tooth.  Lets just say that it originally ran Windows 98, and Pentium III is the operating system.  I had no idea what sort of handicap I was labouring under until I received my new toy.  Now I know the old beast is truly a dinosaur in need of retirement. 

So I’ve been distracted of late.  It is such a thrill to be able to cart this font of knowledge wherever I please, including the library, or, as now, the front (and only) deck. A white-breasted nuthatch just skittered across to railing to access the suet feeder. I am trying some new programs from the vast collection of "open source" software, which means free to copy, distribute and build upon. I am using OpenOffice Writer to write this letter, for instance. I also have an image program called GIMP, which may sound rather funny, but stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, which stills sounds funny. It is no surprise that the spell checker actually recognizes these terms. A real bonus, is that it corrects for English Canada, which means "colour" raises no red flag. All of these programs were downloaded via Wi-Fi—which is way cool.  Hey, I’ve been lost in the dark ages, allow me some enthusiasm.

All of this, of course, is keeping me busy, and some of it is frustrating. Not everything works right the first time around--it is a learning process. And I haven't even begun the process of migrating information from one computer to another.

While I am excited to own this new toy, I must admit, the more valuable the item, the greater the fear of its loss. On Saturday night, Lennier made his usual rounds, which normally ends with a leap into my lap. Of course I tried to block him, but my hand flew out too late, or shouldn't have flown at all. Lennier, one determined kitty, saw the block coming, and leapt with great determination, claws unsheathed for maximum grab. He hooked, and removed the 'enter' key. I can't say I was quiet about it. In fact, I screeched, not once, but several times, including "help" and a few words beginning with 'f'. Randy, who I'm sure would have preferred to watch the hockey game undisturbed, did come up to help, but he was 'all thumbs' and the 'enter' key remained detached until I reached a level of frustration (and anger) that allowed me to jam the key into place, at which, with an audible snap, it returned to its proper and functioning position.

Jennifer Rose kindly sent me an Xubuntu LiveCd which may give my old beast (the Pentium) so that’s more toys to play with.  It will take awhile to get around them all.

So if you managed to get this far, some pics.


Marsh Marigold


Snapping Turtle

Both photos from the North Magnetawan.

Top photo is a close-up of my workspace lamp, my mascot (brave knight rescued from the dumpster) and beheaded lily-of-the-valley from my garden.

Ps.  This post is also a test of Windows Live Writer, that allows me to write my blog off line.


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