Friday, July 31, 2009

The Place Where I Live-Musselman’s Lake


Available for sale at Etsy

Familiar, and often overlooked are the places we call home. I moved to Musselman’s Lake about ten years ago; I was thrilled to combine cottage life with daily life, but the novelty soon wore thin. The word suburban came to mind, as while the landscape was ‘southern Ontario country’ and the homes were ‘cottage lite’. There was no denying that this was a commuter community, emptying out in the mornings and filling up at night.

Still, there are the moments where I realize I live somewhere truly special, a community where people really do spend time out on the ‘front porch’ and the veranda is not just a place to store bicycles.

Last year, I wrote about this in “Guitar Man” (who still holds the occasional impromptu concert), and the weeds growing on the verge look just as lovely.

The painting is a boat I’ve walked by often, never noticing how ‘picturesque’ the scene truly was. If we can only open our eyes, we need not look far for beauty.

Image: 4”x6” watercolour on watercolour paper.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Man and His Dog


Another image of Cranberry Bog Trail, Killarney Provincial Park, with liberal interpretive changes.  I’m not much into copying photographs, even my own, but they come in handy for reference.  In this case, however, the photo had pretty much all the info I wanted to work with.   I was fascinated by the disconnect in the gaze between man and dog.  In the photo, man (my husband, of course) was looking at the dog, but the dog (Dynamo) had her watchful eye on the back trail.  It had me thinking how man and dog, or any two creatures (even man and woman) can inhabit the same physical space and yet be worlds apart. 

While we gaze at the scenery, enjoying the fine ‘view’, the dog lives in a world of predator and prey, where at any given moment, she could fall into either category; on the trail it is her continual duty to figure out where she stands.  This brings to mind long walks in the woods with my father where we would share equal admiration for the scenery, but while I would be admiring the beauty of trees, he would be assessing the timber yields.  Looking out onto a blue lake in summer, I’m wondering if it has deep clear water for swimming;dad would have been hoping for leeches and weeds, in return for good fishing.  Now my husband is the man of my life, and we seem to agree on a lot of things, watch the same sunsets, walk the same trails, but how he sees the world, I will never really know.

And so, here we are, always alone in the universe, attempting to make contact.  Is this what drives the artist?

Image: 8.5” x 11” watercolour

Friday, July 24, 2009

In Search of Textured Paper


Full views of these can be seen here at my gallery blog.


Here’s an example of me being cheap and stubborn. Something called colorfix paper, and colorfix primer exists for pastel and coloured pencil artists who wish to use a truly toothsome paper of good quality, but it’s not available at my local art store and it’s expensive to import. Others, who care less for quality, might use a fine sandpaper, but I don’t like working on an untrustworthy surface (artist quality papers are/or should be archival), sandpaper purchased from a hardware store is a complete unknown.

So I decided to make it a do-it-yourself project, mixing beach sand into acrylic gel medium. The grains were too big for coloured pencil (though I may revisit this idea if I want to do a large oil pastel someday). After some other sad failures (which I won’t get into) and after being ready to give up, I stumbled (literally) onto a patch of sand so fine in looked and felt like grey flour (perhaps more properly called silt). So I brought it home, and here’s the result.

In order:

york forest 008 this one is with watercolour

Deep watercolour wash, & let dry.

Apply Acrylic Gel Medium with a brush, dip brush in fine sand & brush in (I would use 2 brushes for something larger than an aceo to keep both gel and sand clean). Keep in mind that the brush strokes will remain visible due to texture which is something much desired but good to think about.

york forest 012 this one is an acrylic on paper wash

Let dry thoroughly, and then have fun with pencils.

I loved the freedom of being able to apply bright lights over darks, and love the rough texture, and the hint of brush-strokes coming through. This was an experiment that I will be revisiting often; finally, I have found a source for custom coloured textured paper. I will be revisiting this technique soon and often as it offers so many possibilities.

Top two pics, of course, show the finished paper, used during a life-drawing session. The final texture is wonderful, and as you can see the sand doesn’t obscure the under painting very much at all. Coloured pencil goes on thick and brilliant over darks and has a very ‘painterly’ affect.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When You Smile


When you smile the whole world smiles with you. I’m not sure where that meme or cliché came from (a coke commercial?) but it happens to be true.

Most of the time, during life drawing, the model adopts a suitably stoic pose, gazing into the middle distance as if communing with the muse. Last nights model was no different, but she does like to chat. And so, as the conversation ambled along, it suddenly broke into laughter. While her pose remained rock solid, everything about her changed. Her expression, brief and brilliant with mirth, dictated the tone; line and colour followed. As I drew her face, attempting to catch the fleeting expressions that flashed there, I realized my own lips had curled up into a grin.

So smile, and pass it around.

Image: coloured pencil on 8.5x11 office paper. The scan didn’t reveal the colours very well, so you’ll need to imagine the combination of lime green, fuschia and orange orange (sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Wish it would all show up on screen)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Abes and Essens Trail, Bon Echo

090714rocks-s Having gotten behind in my blog posts, I’ll hope the image will say all. This is from my trip to Bon Echo Provincial Park. Along the Abes and Essens hiking trail we stopped for lunch. Across the small lake there was an intriguing outcropping, inaccessible to those on foot. I had to paint the mystery.

Image: Water colour, 8.5x11.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nuts, Bolts and Solidarity Forever

Yes, I’m still doing the life drawing. How not to be fascinated by the human body, the vessel with which we experience the universe.


I’m booked to start up again next week, but here’s some pics from the last session I attended. On break, the model came around to pass on a compliment. I was thrilled; what’s not to love about flattery? He said it reminded him of the Russian Industrialist Movement, a movement that was manufactured in Communist Russia to celebrate the working man (and woman) featuring heroic and physically robust imagery of farm and factory workers. In my school days it garnered much criticism both for being communist propaganda and illustrative, but I’ve always admired it. In America, the style was adopted by the Unions you may recognize it from Union posters and paraphernalia.

I grew up in a union household; my father was, and my brother is a member of the Toronto Electrical Union. For a brief summer, long ago, fresh out of art college and having no clue of where to go next, I worked for the Electrical Union too. It was summer help, but the real thing, pulling wires, bending pipe, and enduring a bit of apprenticeship ribbing. One of my first tasks requested by my journeyman was to fetch a 1/2” nipple from the stores. I was pretty darned sure he was putting me on, but realized it was also a test. I’ll never be sure if he actually needed a 1/2” nipple on that day long ago, but I’m proud to say that, 22 years old, insecure and shy, and the only woman on the job, I did manage to walk into the storage room and ask for one (if I blushed, the lighting was thankfully poor) and I learned that building supplies indeed are a hotbed of suggestive terminology. Like screw, nut, bolt, male and female ends, pulling wire, and pipe bending (which I happened to be good at), not to mention nipples in all their metric and imperial sizes.

It was a good summer where I learned to conduct myself in a mans world, where being a lady (and I mean that in the old-fashioned demure sense of the word) was respected as long as it went along with a good measure hard of work and honest sweat.

I wish I had managed to make it longer, but circumstance did not allow. I’m fairly certain I would have been ahead in confidence and finances both and probably art too. But they are fine memories that stay with me forever. I worked on the Skydome where some of my wiring and pipebending still remains though the name has changed.0907043malenude


So back to the here and now, and art. These are coloured pencil on Canson paper.

You’ll find the un-cropped sketches on my ‘gallery’ blog, new and under construction—still a very messy workspace. Eventually, the gallery blog will be replacing my ‘art for sale’ static page on this blog.

PS. I’ve had trouble loading the gallery blog on some browsers, so please tell me if you get errors. I’m using blogger and not playing with html (yet) so am not sure what is going on. Looks fine in firefox.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some News


Bon Echo Provincial Park, ACEO on watercolour paper, sand, acrylic gel medium, watercolour and coloured pencil. Available for sale at etsy.

First: Some artwork, which was an experiment that worked out.  Using gel medium and fine sand I made my own custom coloured and textured paper (I’ll do a tutorial soon if you’re interested (or even if you aren’t)).

Next: Whoo hoo, I got a mention on the ETSY Lounge Blog.  Alongside mine, there are some fantastic fine art ACEO’s showcased.  I’m absolutely thrilled to be included in such fine company.  This came just at a time when I was ready to give up on etsy (without outside promotion (something I’m not good at) images get too few views lately).

And Third, and Important: Update to Fire Post.  I got it wrong.  Just like in a newspaper, I put the update in an obscure place.  I said that the firefighters were the first responders, but the truth is that a street sweeper was the first responder.  By ‘street sweeper’, I don’t mean ‘man with broom’ but man driving a tanker truck equipped with hoses, water, and rotating brushes.  He saw smoke, followed up, and emptied his water tank onto the burning house and the neighbouring house until the firefighters came and took over.  The truth is a far better story than my garbled account.

Here’s the article from the local paper.  Street Sweeper Saves the Day

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sometime the world outside forces a change in topic.  There was no question of which event would hit this blog next.

Last night, I sat down to an ordinary dinner on an ordinary day, supper parked on my lap, television on (and yes, now you know one of our crass habits).  While a ‘suspicious fire’ in Mississauga headed the news, we heard sirens.  We live on a through street, so this is not unusual.  They did stop rather abruptly, and flashing lights penetrated our curtains.  Hmmm…well dinner is best eaten hot, so we continued.  Dog looked to us for guidance, ‘shall I bark?’.  I think not; we were comfortable.  When the neighbours dogs began to bay, we shifted in our chairs; when the chorus was answered by neighbours neighbours dogs, we looked, one to another, ‘maybe something’s going on???’

Here is what we saw out our front window.

fire 002 

And if we looked up the street (south), this is what we saw.

fire 004

And to the north of our lot.

fire 018

And here’s what was going on.

fire 007

It was a vacant house two doors down from us.  It had already been gutted in a slow process of demolition and restoration.  The fire, I suppose, hastened the process in a rather alarming way.  Quick response from the fire department saved our neighbours house from all damage, and the fire was kept contained within the empty house.

My own reaction, I’m ashamed to admit, was mostly excitement.  Somewhere, there should have been a tear of sympathy, but I’m not one to shed crocodile tears, and the fact was I enjoyed the spectacle which probably makes me a terrible human being, and now I know and so do you.  It’s true, you never know how you will really react until it happens. 

I can’t say I was the only one gawking either, as I got to say hi and mingle with all of my neighbours.  The atmosphere was 100% garden party, and as I’m such a recluse this was a refreshing change.  They didn’t seem too upset either, and I’m not even including the dog walkers that settled in to watch from the field across the street.

When I finally peeled my eyes away from the spectacle, I saw that my own little house was bathed in the light of a rainbow.

fire 017

Happy Canada Day.

And kudos to Stouffville’s Finest – volunteer fire department for doing an excellent job!


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