Saturday, March 24, 2007


I needed a reminder of summer today. Its trying to be spring here, but today didn't succeed very well, with flurries and cold temperatures most of the day. I spent some time cataloguing photographs and came across this one of a dog rose (rosa canina) that I took last summer in a cemetery in St. John's. The plants are horribly prickly but so hardy, nothing can kill them and the roses, while simple and short lived are so beautifully fragrant.

I have pink and white dog roses in the garden, an inheritance from the previous owners and every year I collect petals to make my own rosewater to use in creating herbal creams and lotions. The rosewater that I make is a combination of a distillation of rose petals, distilled water and alcohol. The scent when I open one of those bottles in the depth of winter is pure summer, quite incredible how the scent lasts.

These roses produce huge rosehips and if I can beat the birds and mice to them I dry them and make use of them too in herbal medicine. The hips have an acidic but fruity taste, due to the rich amount of ascorbic acid present. Fresh rose hips contain 60 times as much vitamin C as oranges, and rugosa roses, with their large round fruits, are considered to have one of the highest contents.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Light and shade

While we sat on the patio of a restaurant in Laguna Beach, Robin spotted the interesting architectural shape and light play in this building which was behind me. I asked her to take a photo of it as she was facing that way.

The simple lines and contrasts of light scream oil paint to me. My sister sent me a box of oil paints a few weeks ago as the book store in the university was having a sale, selling them at half price. Perhaps this weekend I'll have a chance to reacquaint myself with oils. Its been some time since I tried them, so I'm looking forward to them again. There is something so nice about the feel, look, texture and smell of oil paints.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Silk nest

I love drawing eggs. They are such beautiful shapes and colours. This reference was from Dianna Ponting, who has done a series of eggs in silk using pastels - and quite beautifully too.

I was taken with the image and will likely try it on a larger scale perhaps in pastel or maybe Derwent Drawing pencils. For now its in mechanical pencil in a 7 x 10 sketchbook.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Learning curves

I have been trying to help someone come to grips with some basic drawing skills. The individual wasn't good at following written directions and was at a distance, being online, so I tried a combination of illustrated steps to see if she could follow that way. I chose a simple circle to turn into a sphere as it would provide a number of techniques and would be satisfying.

Unfortunately, I started the demonstration at lunch, so grabbed the first thing to hand - lined paper. Kids - don't do this at home!

Here were the steps that were to be followed:

1. Lightly draw a circle freehand on your paper with a pencil of your choice.
2. Your light source is coming from the upper left of your paper.
3. Begin shading your circle lightly, just cover the surface with a layer of graphite.
4. Then start adding further layers to deepen the shading, remembering where your light source is coming from. Your sphere will be darker on the right than the left.
5. Continue to deepen shading, trying for a smooth transition from light to dark until you achieve the illusion of having a smooth, round ball on your paper.
6. Finally, you can 'ground' your ball by adding a shadow to the right, darkest closest to the ball and lighter as it gets further away.
7. Post your sphere online here at each level so we can help guide and correct you if required.
8. Have fun!

I had great fun drawing this sphere. Why don't you have a go at it and see what you produce? And see what unusual support you can draw it on? Telephone book page? Envelope? Newspaper? Be creative!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Red dot

After Tripod joined the household, I rediscovered an old laser pointer kicking around a kitchen drawer. The red dot that it creates provides hours of amusement for him as he chases it as if it were a bug or mouse all over the living room, up furniture, under the coffee table, finally flopping onto it, convinced he's trapped it. Only to find it has gotten away... The game is now known as 'red dot' and you only have to say the words or pick up the pointer and he's ready for a game.

The laser beam lights up one of his little plastic balls amazingly well, giving it an unearthly light. The cat is looking suspiciously at it. When he arrived, his left eye was partially shut. It seems fine now and I wonder if it was something to do with the injury of his leg on the same side.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Spring is trying to raise its head here for the last week or so. Its made quite a bit of progress with about half of the snow melting. I can actually see that I have a garden again, not just a broad expanse of white broken occasionally by trees.

Warmer weather means that the ducks and geese like to come out of the barn and wander in the yard. Sunday was warm enough for them to have their first proper bath of the spring. BD (short for Big Duck) and Buddy, the two Muscovy ducks were first in and came out quite sparkling clean. This is unusual for BD as he hates water. Yes, he's a duck and yes he hates water. But he was the first one in this time. After his bath, he spread his wings slightly and gently raised them up and down drying himself.

I offered him a treat of some bread and as I went to the kitchen to get it and came back out, he was clambering up the steps of the porch, waiting for me. For a big duck, climbing stairs is neither safe nor elegant but he managed. I think he stayed there for most of the afternoon because these large ducks manage to climb the stairs, but then get to the top and wonder how they're going to get down again. With a little 'encouragement' he half flew, half fell back down the steps and was reunited with his friend Buddy. I adore these two ducks, they are such characters and despite hissing and tail wagging which some see as aggression, they are as meek as lambs.

Spring is also uncovering things in the garden, some which are good, some not. These rocks emerged out of the snow with matted grass surrounded them. Flaked pieces of the slate were breaking off and the image proved to be a lot more detailed to draw than the sketch that I anticipated doing.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Artist's/Writer's block

Wikipedia defines writer's block as a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity

I don't consider myself a writer, even though I've written nearly every day for the last 15 months for this blog. In the last few weeks, my writing has become a struggle. Inspiration is slow to find me or me it and I start to view the blog as a chore rather than a pleasure at times.

I know all the tricks to getting through a block, whether artistic or writing, but I haven't put them to much use yet. The reason for the blog was for my art and with my life moving at breakneck speed in many areas, the art is now moving ahead as well as I want it to. All this is in my control I know. Only I can make the time and take the decision to move it ahead.

So my block is a combination of art and writing, as one fuels the other.