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.


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