Sunday, December 31, 2006

New year, new direction

I've worked for a couple of days on a tutorial in how to draw water. This is outside my comfort zone, these inanimate objects. I include them in backgrounds for people or animals but rarely make them the focus point. Til now.

Its much more difficult than originally imagined to put into words what I do without thinking. Trying to describe with precision elements of shading, what pencils I use, what the points should look like, what pressure to use, construction, etc., etc., is a task in its own right. I'm in the final tweaking stage now and will then submit the tutorial for approval and see where it goes from there.

Its an hour and change from midnight on New Year's Eve. A quiet night at home and obviously some people either can't tell the time or perhaps have children who can't wait any longer so fireworks are exploding over the treeline. The pops in the distance are what attracted my eyes to the window rather than the showers of coloured light. I could go into St. John's and watch the formal fireworks, but at this point witha couple of drinks and a fire warming me, the thought of standing in the cold with thousands of people isn't that appealing to be honest. So I'll stick with my Plan A. Another drink and bed shortly after 2007 sails into port.

Newfoundland is the first place in North America to see the New Year. So to everyone who has visited my blog and contributed to making it a positive experience for me, Happy New Year. I hope that 2007 will be your best year artistically and brings you everything that you wish for.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


On January 2nd, it will be my weblog's anniversary. It was a tentative step into the world of commitment and a bit of an experiment. It wasn't really until late February that I came into my stride and seriously started writing and sharing information and art.

I started the blog with completely selfish purposes. I wanted it to make me accountable. I wanted to increase my output in art, to increase my visibility as an artist to the world, become more knowledgeable about art and meet others who may be on similar journeys. I achieved most of these things in the last 12 months.

I have reflected on the past year and looked at some highlights in my blog. Some are happy, some silly, some groundbreaking. I also have thought about what I have learned in the past year of being involved in a blogging community and how it has changed me.

I have learned that I can make a change in my life, even at my age. I can move into new areas, even if its outside my comfort zone and grow from the experience.

I know that people who I seek out or who seek me out are on similar searches to learn and grow artistically and that we all learn from each other and support each other in varied ways.

I know that I have the ability to produce art on a regular basis as well as function in my life and work and make them all fit. I know that I can pluck words out of the air and make them - most of the time - seem coherent.

I forged new ground, met new people and improved my skills in art and writing. I made progress without really trying to do so. And that's what amazes me most of all. With some effort, the next year can be more productive and that is my aim, both personally and professionally.

This moose is one of a series of wild animals in Newfoundland and Labrador that I'm experimenting with. The drawing isn't complete yet. Its done in coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper 9 x 12.

I have an option of providing some drawings and prints to local downtown stores for the summer tourist season. Not being a local scene person, I've opted for local animals instead and will see how they are received. Black bears, caribou, wolves, mink, squirrels and lynx are some of the animals that I will be trying to render, along with a few of the dogs commonly associated with the province.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Portraits and photos

I finished a double portrait of my niece and nephew before Christmas and sent it on to where it belongs. I combined two separate photos for this portrait and they weren't the greatest photos to start with, so I looked at other images I had of these two and 'winged it' a bit to create the parts that were still misty to me.

It seems to be that way a lot of the time with commissioned work that is done from reference photos, which is why I always offer to take photographs. That way I know I will have some good images to work from.

People often assume that artists have some sort of special vision that allows them to see what isn't there. They produce dog eared photos taken with a terrible camera in full flash of a fuzzy featured animal some 20 feet away that they say is 'the best photo of Georgie' and then go on to back it up with even worse images.

I know that often a good clear image is not possible and I do work with what I am provided. But I live in hope that one day someone will provide me with a large, clear closeup so I don't have to play detective quite so much.

For those commissioning portraits, animal or person, bear in mind the following points:

1 Photos taken using a flash tend to flatten out features and don't provide enough lighting and contrast for a good drawing to be created.
2. An image taken with the subject's back to the sun will be, more or less, a silouette and won't have much in the way of defining features.
3. I cannot make your terrier look like a poodle, nor can I make you look like you are 21 again. I can tweak a little, but you are going to look like you.
4. A photo that is taken halfway across a field will not provide enough detail to produce more than a blob of colour. You won't be happy with the result and neither will I.
5. I will provide you with sketches of a couple of different poses to choose from. Once you have made your decision and I have developed the drawing or painting, its not wise to change your mind. You will be out of pocket and I will be out of patience.

To be very honest, the majority of people who I deal with are kind, responsive and enjoy the portraits that I produce. 1 in 500 is not. For that person, I do the best that I can and work with them to ensure that their needs are met. Then I readjust the fine print on the contract...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


The drawing in this post was part of a Secret Santa thread in an art forum that I participate in. The concept of dreaming big is always appealing and having a cheetah for a pet isn't that farflung - at least not for the recipient of this drawing who was pleased with his virtual gift.

I had unsubscribed to Alyson Stanfield's art marketing newsletter a few months back, being on overload with too much mail and work and reading. Then the other day I read about Alyson's latest newsletter on Celebrate in Katherine Tyrrell's blog. It made me think about the past year and what I have accomplished. I am taking some time to go down through the list of questions and examine what I have done in 2006.

Alyson is right, it is amazing just what you find that you've accomplished.

It’s the time to take a good hard look at the steps you’ve taken toward reaching your goals. And I’ll bet you’ve made more progress than you know.

That’s why it’s important to do this exercise. If you don’t write down your achievements, you’ll just keep thinking about what’s left to do.

With that in mind, what did you do this year? Take into consideration:

* How many works did you create?
too many to count in the form of sketches - 3 sketchbooks at least and at least a dozen large works
* What trips (local or far away) did you make to nourish your art?
Mary Pratt's Simple Bliss exhibition, The Rooms
* How much money did you make from your art?
under $1,000
* What classes (business or creative) did you take?
coloured pencil, realistic drawing, composition, charcoal
* What did you invest in that will help you to run a more profitable or streamlined business?
Furniture to assist with drawing classes in house, a new printer,drafting table, replaced an old easel
* Whom did you hire so that you can spend more time on your creative career? (framer, virtual assistant, housekeeper, lawn mower, bookkeeper)
* Whom did you meet that has turned out to be a mentor?
Brenda Hoddinott
* What books did you read? What magazines?
Art & Fear, The Creative License; Artist's Magazine
* What movies did you see that inspired you?
I'm not a movie watcher
* How many names did you add to your mailing list? (Note the exact number so you can evaluate your progress this time next year.)
Fifteen people
* What habits or routines did you put into place?
daily drawing for at least an hour
* What habits or routines did you eliminate?
procrastination in drawing
* Where did your name or artwork appear in print? Where did it appear online?
Online in WetCanvas, Drawspace and my blog
* How did you improve your website or Web presence?
Creation of a blog in January and nearly daily posting of drawings and works in progress, signature line on emails, forum postings including blog and contact information
* What new marketing materials did you add or improve on?
Creation of a brochure and flyer for portraiture, information sheets for drawing classes
* Where did you speak about your work?
Beagle Paws, Pooches in the Park, pet stores
* What new materials or techniques did you experiment with?
Oil pastels, oil paints, drafting film
* What organizations did you join?
Application for Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador
* What projects did you initiate?
Offered drawing class for beginners, developed limited edition prints

On a more personal level:

* How did you care for your health and well-being?
Ate well, tried to get on the treadmill more regularly :o)
* How did you strengthen your personal relationships?
By concentrating on devoting time and patience to them.
* What vacations did you have?
A week with my daughters in Saskatchewan
* What parties did you attend?
Very few. None that were art-related
* What new hobby did you take up?
Jewelery making
* Where did you volunteer?
As a moderator for Drawspace

Recalling your accomplishments is a good habit to adopt. After you do, how will you celebrate?

(From "Celebrate" Alyson Stanfield's Art Marketing Action newsletter 18th December 2006)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


In addition to a number of gifts received for Christmas, this is one that should keep me going for awhile. Its a wooden box, filled with paints, graphite, coloured and watercolour pencils, soft and oil pastels, paper, canvas boards, brushes, a table easel,drawing board and a colour wheel. They are mostly student grade pigment, but are good to mix with my regular brand name mediums and give me lots to practice with.

I also received an Italian floor easel that is lovely and is in my studio now set up and ready to go. My original easel, which was around 25 years old, keep falling apart - rather frustrating when I had something on the easel! The new easel folds flat into a box shape, making it easy to transport if I want to paint plein air.

So now I have to stop touching the new things and looking at them and start using them. I have a few ideas for new pieces that I need to work with and set up some compositions. In 2007 I intend on concentrating on marketing and selling more work in addition to teaching both in reality and through the online course that I have agreed to mentor. There is a lot to do and a lot to prepare for. In a later post I will share some of the successes for 2006 and the plans for 2007.

Right now I'm off to my studio to play (and avoid eating another chocolate!)

Monday, December 25, 2006

The artist's cat

Here is why its sometimes difficult to draw when I don't confine myself to my studio. I seem to have a constant 'helper'. "Are you sure that's the right size pencil? Let me check."

Forever the critic. "My nose doesn't look that big..."

Just as well he doesn't drool on the Moleskine...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Christmas - that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance - a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved. ~Augusta E. Rundel

May your holiday, whatever it is, be peaceful and bring you joy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


David Blackwood's image of three mummers is wonderful. It evokes images of rural Newfoundland in past and present.

Listen to a clip from Simini's Any Mummers 'Lowed In?' There is a love/hate relationship with this song in Newfoundland but it still lives on and is associated with Christmas and will be for years to come.

From the Mummering in Newfoundland page:

Sometime during the twelve days of Christmas, usually on the night of the "Old Twelfth", People would disguise themselves with old articles of clothing and visit the homes of their friends and neighbours. They would even cover their faces with a hood, scarf, mask or pillowcase to keep their identity hidden. Men would sometimes dress as women and women as men. They would go from house to house. They usually carried their own musical instruments to play, sing and dance in every house they visited. The host and hostess of these 'mummers parties' would serve a small lunch of Christmas cake with a glass of syrup or blueberry or dogberry wine. All mummers usually drink a Christmas "grog" before they leave each house. (A grog is a drink of an alcoholic beverage such as rum or whiskey.)

When mummers visit everyone in the house starts playing a guessing game. They try to guess the identity of each mummer. As each one is identified they uncover their faces, but if their true identity is not guessed they do not have to unmask.

For a time the old tradition of "Mummering", or "Jannying" as it is sometimes called, seemed to fade, especially in the larger centers of Newfoundland. But in recent years, thanks to the popular musical duo, Simini, who wrote and recorded "The Mummer's Song" in 1982, mummering has been revived. It is just as prevalent and popular as it was years ago and young and old look forward to dressing up this Christmas, knocking on a friend's door and calling out "ANY MUMMERS ALLOWED IN?"

The roots of mummering go back to England and the earliest recorded performance of it in Newfoundland was 1819. Its not as popular as it once was, with people more hesitant to open their doors to people, especially those who are in disguise. But it does continue in small pockets and lives in David Blackwood's prints.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I've finally completed all the drawings that were required for Christmas deadlines and feel as if I can relax a little and draw what I like once again.

Commissions are always a little heart-in-mouth because no matter how well you draw or paint something, you always think you could do better. The moment of presenting a piece of art to a client is horrible. Every fear that you imagine comes into your mind. I have not had work returned for tweaking yet and almost hold my breath when the unveiling occurs, half expecting the client to say it doesn't look like the animal, person, etc. They don't and even then I still doubt, thinking 'they're being polite'. Only when I have the payment in hand and don't hear anything in a week or two, do I believe that they are content with the piece.

Why do we doubt our ability so much? The subjectivity of art is one reason as well as how we feel that we personally come under attack, not the result of our knowledge and technique. Either way, most artists cringe at the moment of release of their work to the world.

A sketch of a bear in my favourite chair may be the start of a painting. I still have not had a chance to play with the oils I bought a few months ago. With a week off work for the holidays, I hope I'll have a chance to experiment with it and with a new easel that I bought as well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

High flyers

Last Friday the turkeys went to the processor. We have had them for about 16 weeks at that point and they grow fast and eat a lot. And they learn to fly early. For large birds they are anything but graceful and crash around. Like most birds they want the highest vantage point - in this case, the top of the partition of their enclosure in the barn.

At 16 weeks old the average weight of a bird is about 17 lbs with the toms being heavier. This year the largest bird was 21 pounds. Most people these days don't want huge turkeys or have huge families to feed so 16 or 17 pounds is the average weight with some smaller ones at 12 or 13 pounds occasionally.

The average bird eats about 60 pounds of feed to 16 weeks and costs of buying the poult,heat, light, sawdust, water and processing all add up before they are ever sold. The profit isn't huge - about $10 per bird, more if it is a larger bird. But the fresh free range turkey is far superior than the usually processed frozen ones. Even after freezing, the bird will not have changed texture or flavour or be dry and tasteless. Simply because nothing is done to them to change, preserve or alter them further.

Yes, I always feel a little guilty when they go to the processor. But it is their purpose in life, or I've come to terms with it and can know that they have had the best life that can be provided. They have space, food, water, clean bedding and security - even music and entertainment - note their red ball in the photo...yes turkeys like to play with a ball.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feeling festive yet?

Tripod, my three legged cat is pretty laid back for an intact tom cat. In fact, he's almost too laid back, liking to be held several times a day, lying on his back in my arms. At that point, he is oblivious to the rest of the world and you can do pretty much what you like to him and he accepts it.

The Santa hat was too close by and here is the result of the encounter. There is a certain mix of apprehension, resignation and disgust on his face. What a cat won't do for a tin of whitefish and tuna...

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Tough love

I had a conversation today that troubled me somewhat. It troubled me because I couldn't do anything about it and I couldn't make anything change for the individual. Although it seems the opposite at times, I am a fixer of things. I prefer the quiet life and don't enjoy confrontation or argument. BUT, there is a place for it in life sometimes when all other forms of communication fail.

Years ago I, like most parents of teenagers, complained to a colleague about my teen daughter's antics. Staying out late, wrong kinds of friends, arguing with me - all the usual antics of that age group. My colleague sat for a moment then, in a quiet voice, she started to tell me about her daughter. She was 15 years old and was involved with a wild crowd. She did hard drugs, smoked, drank and they had to make her leave their house because they were almost scared to be near her. Help finally came from the police. The girl stole her parents new car, took it on a joyride down the highway between Winnipeg and Brandon and crashed it. When the police called them and asked if they wanted to lay charges, without hesitation they said yes, arrest her. It was the only way that the girl would get the help she needed and the only way that the girl would realize the seriousness of her actions. It did work. It was a rocky road back to any form of communication or life for both sides but sometimes action needs to be taken that doesn't make you popular as a parent. No one said it was an easy ride. I'm a parent, not one of my children's best buddies. There is a real distinction there.

I read a book, about dealing with the problems and expectations of grown children and how to deal with them. It showed how to get my life back and not feel guilty about my adult children's lives.

So your adored son is nearing 30--or past it already--and still living at home, unable to hold onto a McJob for longer than six months running, relying on you to feed him and make his car payments. Your beautiful, brainy daughter is anorexic, or addicted to drugs, or unwilling to leave the man who hits her. Increasing numbers of baby boomers are finding that their grown children have fallen far short of their expectations. These parents are confused, angry, guilt-ridden, and ashamed. Jane Adams’s When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us is for them. She reveals the kinds of disappointments that other parents are facing: kids who are unable or unwilling to support themselves, kids who are addicts or convicts, kids who’ve joined cults or seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. She stresses that these are real problems--but that they aren’t the parents’ problems. Adams reassures parents that they’ve done their jobs and that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces for their grown children, emotionally, financially, or otherwise. Continuing to prop up kids who’ve repeatedly fallen on their own teaches them nothing; it’s just a temporary fix. Beyond offering sympathy, reassurance, and wisdom, the book doesn’t lay out a plan for solving anyone’s problems, but reading it may help disappointed parents shuck some of their guilt and shame, gather the courage to take back their own lives, and let their grown children fend for themselves. --Jennifer Lindsay

These situations aren't all extremes, not all of these adult children are drug dealers or addicts, but sometimes are simply children who just don't grow up or aren't allowed to grow up because parents won't let them. We all like to be needed but it should not be to the extent that we cripple our children to satisfy our own needs.

I started colourizing an image of myself when I was 19 months old taken at Christmas. I am using a piece of Mylar for it and to photograph the drawing I put the image behind it so it would show up more clearly. Its a unique medium that doesn't take a lot of layers and is slightly grainy so rather unique. Its my experiment and if it works I'll mailorder some decent drafting film and try my hand with more coloured pencil on this support.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas music

Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived.
If the table was turned would you survive
Band Aid Trust 2004 lines, not in the original song.

Why is it that Christmas music can only be tolerated for a short window of time in December each year? At any other time of year it sounds so out of place and schmaltzy you drop it like it was hot or look embarassed and say you were 'testing the sound system and this just happened to be in there'.

I wandered through collections of Christmas music to let you know what I am listening to in this season. But it isn't a constant, this Christmas mixer CD can only be played at the following events:

1. Baking mince pies or decorating Christmas cakes or trees
2. Anytime on Christmas Eve
3. Dinner on Christmas Day
4. When drunk at Christmas parties and feeling nostalgic

Walking in the Air
by Aled Jones

Aled was the boy wonder of the 80s in England who started life with the Bangor Choir.
In 1985, Aled's "Walking In The Air", which was originally sung by Peter Auty in the Raymond Briggs cartoon "The Snowman", was a massive hit.

Santa Baby by C. Basinet

Don't we all have a wish list like this?

*Last Christmas by Wham!

You knew there would be Wham! Go ahead and laugh. Next year, I'll give this to someone special.

Christmas in Prison by John Prine

"It was Christmas in prison, and the food was real good. We had turkey and pistols carved out of wood." Hands down, the most touching song about Christmas in prison, ever.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

99% of the time Mariah Carey makes me want to throw up, but this song always has me singing along. I defy you to listen to this song and not start bouncing in your seat.

Let it Snow by Lena Horne.
That smoky voice would make the snow melt.

Jingle Bells by Diana Krall

Just because I love jazz and Diana Krall's style, even if I haven't forgiven her for marrying Elvis Costello. (What WERE you thinking girl??)

'Zat You Santy Claus by Louis Armstrong

I always want to give him cough drops...but I adore his voice at the same time.

Silver Bells by Johnny Mathis
Because his voice is hynotic and the song is classic.

So This is Christmas
by John Lennon.

Can it be Christmas without this song?

Do They Know its Christmas by Band Aid

Because its my era and I remember the original Band Aid in London in the 1984 and Bob Geldof's who was then in the Boomtown Rats.

Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee

My eldest daughter probably still has nightmares about it from that Christmas parade when she was a cheerleader and heard it forty thousand times in row.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Math and art

I was listening to CBC this morning and listened to an interview with a woman who teaches math and analyses math and how it relates to the arts. She asked a dancer to describe how the steps of a particular movement were created and in it found many similarities to algebraic formulas.

Mathematics are a very left brain function and, to me, something that always horrified me. I never excelled at them and stumbling blocks early in life set me up on a road to fear ever since. The right side functions of language and arts however, came without fear.

The interview about math and the arts made me wonder if there is a difference in the processes of creating dance, theatre and visual art. I can see the same crossover process in theatre when an actor assumes a role and 'becomes' the other person, losing themselves in the role. Perhaps the same happens in a dancer, but having known few, I can't comment. Sailing into 'the zone' when creating art is a common occurance and there is a mathematic element to drawing in perspective, measurement, angles and proportion.

The whole concept of putting something into writing that you do without thinking is becoming a reality for me. I have been asked to write tutorials in art on a number of subjects. It is more difficult than one would imagine. Its like verbalizing how you drink a cup of coffee or how you fall asleep. I do it without thinking. I know the process intimately. I can see it in my mind, I can visualize it effortlessly. But to put it into words is always a challenge. A good one, as it makes me carefully consider the steps and the processes behind the art.

This drawing was done as I waited for a cake to bake today. It is done in my Moleskine in conte crayon. I love the earth tones that the conte produces.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm drawing

A last minute flurry of commissions and drawing tasks keep me off the keyboard and onto the drawing board.

Normal service will resume soon. This little chap will amuse you while I'm off being industrious.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Circa 1955

I was looking through some old photos and found this image of a Christmas tree decoration that I had when I was a child. Its quite innocuous, just a simple plastic 1950's reindeer. I remember that the two halves split allowing access to the inner contents of little green and red candies - tiny little balls that filled it and made it a bit psychedelic perhaps 10 years before its time.

The second image is of me, taken at Christmas 1955, when I was 19 months old. I seem to be guarding my doll, an elf of some sort and setting a baleful gaze at someone else who may have had their eye on it too. The photo is the circa of the reindeer ornament and we've both survived the last 50 years, even if one of us has lost their centre core.

I don't know why it was saved from those years but it turned up in some decorations received from my mother's house years ago and it has decorated the tree ever since. My whole tree has animals on it. Not silly cartoon animals, but ones based as best as they can be on real animals. Bears, squirrels, moose, dogs, cats and birds all find their way into the branches amidst fragrant boughs and tiny white lights that make the silver icicles sparkle and turn the room at night into a different world.

No matter how old you are, there still is something magical about a Christmas tree lit at night in a darkened room. And something more magical still to find among the ornaments a memory.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


The art store in Toronto rang today to say that they didn't have the Mylar drafting film in stock and didn't know when it would be in. They're sending the remainder of my order, but I REAAAAAAAALLLLLLLYYYYYYY wanted the Mylar. Now I will have to find another source. A week and a half before Christmas and finding drafting film in St. John's? Yeah, right. But you never know. I'll scour the phone book tomorrow in hopes.

I have s number of Secret Santa projects to work on before Dec 22nd, as well as a couple of portraits too. Deadlines do create pressure and sometimes that is a good thing as it pushes you to complete drawings and not let them slide. The portraits are near completion and the first secret santa drawing in on the drafting table - at least the outline of it. Two more to go...both needing research for images and time to draw them. I'll get there. Its like Christmas, you think you'll never finish all the preparation, but Christmas Eve arrives, all the stores are shut, the last people have gone home and you can sit and soak up the atmosphere of another season. And wait for it to start up all over again the next day.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Rooms with a view

The Rooms unites the Provincial Museum, the Provincial Art Gallery and the Provincial Archives under one roof. A place for people, The Rooms is a portal to the many stories our province has to tell.

This photo was taken with my little 2mb camera in my cell phone and shows the panoramic view from The Rooms overlooking St. John's harbour. I was there to see the newly opened Mary Pratt exhibit a few weeks ago Simple Bliss. It is only now that I've figured out how to transfer the photos from the little card in my phone to the computer - amazing what you can find out when you actually read the instructions!

I have ordered some Mylar matte drafting film after hearing nothing but praise for it from other artists when using it for coloured pencil work. I've ordered it and some other things (well I had to get up to a certain monetary value before they will let me order)so I'm waiting not so patiently for it to arrive so I can try it out. It has unique properties and takes limited layers of colour. You can erase back to nothing and add colour on both sides of the film. I anticipate some interesting experimentation with this new carrier for my colours.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006


PMS or Panic Mode Syndrome is the worst form of stress for an artist to confront. Sometimes it enables a new unplanned concept to appear in the painting, but I'd much rather have an enlightened thought arrive effortlessly and out of love for the piece. (Dianne Middleton)

I had so much to do today that didn't get achieved. And now its Sunday night and my energy level is dropping along with my enthusiasm to complete any more tasks today.

My fall yesterday has manifested itself into some nice bruises and soreness all down one side, so that makes hauling around boxes of decorations or trying to put up Christmas lights an impossibility at the moment. I'll tackle it again tomorrow but think it will be on a diminished scale.

I have been working on two portraits at once today, flitting from one to the other and fitting in this little drawing in my Moleskine of one of the images from the Weekend Drawing Event at WetCanvas. I can't resist portraits of people and this one was no different. I look at a sketch like this as a coffee break between the other portraits. It lets my mind wander and allows me to play with colour and just see something new. I can then go back with fresh eyes to my other drawings again. I'm on track for timelines with the others which are needed before Christmas so they aren't causing stress - yet.

The Arts and Letters Competition deadline is February 16, 2007 and this year I want to have a couple of pieces ready to go. Open to the residents of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the aim of the awards is to stimulate creative activity, both amateur and professional, by the provision of cash prizes, adjudication, and the publication or exhibition of meritorious entries. I have several images that may be worth entering but there is enough time to complete a few more. I just need to make sure that procrastination doesn't enter into the picture or February will come and go and I will will not have brought the paintings to the gallery.

There are always ideas for drawings floating around in my head and they come to me in the strangest places. In the shower this morning, I watched the water come out of the showerhead and thought about colour in the water and on the head itself and how the light reflected on it. I spent a full five minutes analyzing water drops - how they lie on flat surfaces or how the weight of the water changes their shapes on curved areas. Nothing is sacred. The most mundane becomes art if you let it. The bathroom becomes a myriad of shapes and colours and light plays instead of a utilitarian space.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

One step forward

Today has been busy. I've taken my mother shopping which is a one step forward, two steps back exercise. I have come to terms with it now by confirming to myself that I will not get anything achieved during my time out with her, but simply be the chauffeur, translator, finder of benches, locater of food, drink and washrooms and listener to endless stories of how things have increased in price and that wherever we are, things would always be easier, cheaper, or different at her usual store. I bite my tongue and tend to her needs then come home and collapse. Its tiring and reminds me in many ways of going out with a small child. The same set of skills come into play.

Tonight I planned on wrapping Christmas presents but never got around to it. Outside my mother's I slipped on ice and landed hard enough to jar a few things and create some unique aches and pains that weren't there before. So the sofa coaxed me to stay put for awhile and only in the last couple of hours have I managed to make any progress on the portrait of the child that I started earlier this week. I'll keep working on it over the next couple of days and then send it on its way. Freebie portraits aren't a bad thing, as long as they don't interfere with paying ones and they pay off in terms of goodwill and exposure.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I don't know where I found this or who it belongs to, but it says so much. Which side of the paper traps us?

If someone owns this and would like it removed, please let me know and I will do so immediately.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


"We must rediscover that reality from which we became separated as the formal knowledge we substitute for it grows in thickness and imperviousness - that reality which there is a grave danger we may die without having known, and which is simply our life." Marcel Proust

I am reading Danny Gregory's book 'Creative License' and his description of seeing is so in sync with mine. To really see and not let the logical side of your brain dictate what is there. You lose yourself in the journey as your pencil or pen travels over lines in peaks and valleys. Everything around you slowly slips out of sight as your pencil takes over and your mind concentrates purely on the form of what you are drawing.

External sounds disappear, you have no realization of where you are or what is around you, just the form. You don't see the object that you are drawing. You see shapes, light and shade. You see colours that instinctively you know how to acheive them.

Then your journey slowly comes to an end. Your boat docks with a slight thud and wakes you out of your zone. You have returned. The trip is a memory and your drawing is the souvenir of the trip.

You can see.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006


“I want relations which are not purely personal, based on purely personal qualities; but relations based upon some unanimous accord in truth or belief, and a harmony of purpose, rather than of personality. I am weary of personality. Let us be easy and impersonal, not forever fingering over our own souls, and the souls of our acquaintances, but trying to create a new life, a new common life, a new complete tree of life from the roots that are within us.” D.H. Lawrence

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Monday, December 04, 2006

No, I will

I'm such a wuss. A real pushover. I say no and I never mean it. I think no and and I say yes. I always do it. Then mentally kick myself because I don't have time or energy. But I always manage to do it.

Do what you ask? Take on a freebie drawing this close to Christmas.

I promised a friend that I would draw a portrait of her grandson who's about 18 months old. This is the draft sketch that I fit in at lunch time - pardon the salad dressing. Its freehand done from a cute reference that actually was good and clear for a change. That is a rare thing for commissioned work - to get a good image to work with! The boy was wearing his Halloween costume. He was a cow. Yes folks, I'm drawing a baby cow. And I'm doing it for free.

It must be Christmas.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Too much

I drew this whale about 8 or 9 years ago and rediscovered it among some papers while looking for Christmas wrapping paper. I always seem to unearth long lost things when searching for totally unrelated items.

It was originally a design for a promotional item that didn't make the grade at the time. It was too complex. This wasn't the first and likely won't be the last time that my work is rejected for being too much of something. A number of people when they commission an artist or invite submissions for a specific use don't do their homework very well and research the style and ability of the artist. Then when they receive a cartoon instead of a detailed drawing or a detailed drawing instead of a cartoon, they are disappointed, and the artist is frustrated at having wasted time and effort in vain.

Its a bit amusing in some ways to have your work rejected as being 'too good' I guess. I submitted illustrations for a book that met a similar response. They were 'like finished portraits' Well, yeah. That's what I do. Even at the line drawing level. I can't change my style anymore than I can change who I am.

So for anyone reading this and looking for a realistic, detail oriented artist, here I am!

Whales are one of my most favourite creatures and I have had the opportunity of living near the ocean where I could watch them from my kitchen window or deck, blowing and breaching. I've also gone out in boats to whale watch and to see them close up - very close up - is such an amazing experience. To gaze into the eye of a creature that huge is awe inspiring. Here is a video clip of humpback whales cavorting in the ocean.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter ice

Winter gave a taste today with a little snow followed by hours of freezing rain. It hate freezing rain. It coats everything with layers of ice that makes getting into the car an adventure and makes driving a roller coaster ride. It turns agile adults into people who creep their way across sidewalks and steps. It encapsulates every branch,twig and needle of trees with ice and bends trees to the ground with the combined weight. I can bring down power lines and cause havoc to road, rail and air travel.

It has a pretty side, especially if the sun comes out after an ice storm. Then it glitters and glints, the silence occasionally broken by some of the ice loosening its hold and crashing like breaking glass to the ground.

The weather makes me turn to domestic affairs and plans for the coming season. I cook and clean and bake inappropriate goodies that do me no good. Its a nesting thing that winter weather brings out in me. I want to cook stews and chili, bake bread and cookies, dust off Christmas lights and sort decorations. Just as well this weather isn't a daily occurance or I'd never get any drawing done!

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Friday, December 01, 2006


June 26, 1989 - December 1, 2005

A year ago today I lost a friend that I had for sixteen years. Biscuit was endearing, infuriating, loving, loyal, disobedient but always constant and he changed my life during his stay with me. He is buried at the edge of the woods with his friend Blue, the cat, who died two days after he did at the age of 18. You are missed my friend.

A Dog Has Died - Pablo Neruda

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I found a heap of bears under a Christmas tree at the supermarket of all places. They were festively dressed in red sweaters wtih a tag around their necks saying that $2 from the sale of each bear would go to children's charities.

I love teddy bears and he is cute and does make good drawing material and I can pass him on soon....yes I know. I can't resist small furry animals even if they aren't real.

So another awful scan. I'll set up the camera for the next image and it will be at least clearer I hope.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

I stopped at the supermarket on my way home to pick up some salad stuff and was at the checkout with a harassed mother and small boy about 6 or so behind me in the queue. The overheard conversation went something like this:

Boy: Look Mom, that gum is only 79 cents.

Mother: No.

Boy: But just 79 cents. That's not a lot.

Mother: No.

Mother gets on cell phone to husband:
Do we need guinea pig food and that bedding stuff? Silence. Obviously husband screwed up here.
'Well, I'll get it now. I'll get the cedar chips. Perhaps the fumes will help shorten its little life span."

All the time, the boy is chanting, 'Look Mom, gum, 79 cents, get it? Mom?? Gum is only 79 cents.'

Finally the mother turns to the boy and says ' Ten minutes earlier to bed for every time you say that again. Get it?'

Boy: I never really liked that gum anyway...'

I couldn't help but chuckle at the eavesdropped conversation. And thank my lucky stars that I didn't have small children anymore!

The photograph is downtown Flatrock with a harp seal snoozing on the rocks of the harbour. Seals are common around Newfoundland and come to shore from time to time. I even met one on Water Street a few years ago, that was in the heart of St. John's!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Scottish play

Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep', the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast,--

A number of years ago my daughter was involved with a Shakespeare By The Sea production of Macbeth. It seems that I was too as each night I trekked her and friends to the play and either came back home, then went back again to fetch her or sat around and watched Macbeth - over and over and over and over.

It was set on the edge of cliff in Logy Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. An idyllic setting, rugged and wild which was suitable for a play set in Scotland. But perhaps not the best choice considering the history of that play. Dubbed 'the Scottish play', Macbeth has acquired a reputation as 'cursed' due to calamities which have occurred during various productions over the centuries, including riots, falling scenery, illness and even the death of a lead actor. This one was no different, with actors suffering broken bones and one concussion. Then there was the night that a dog in the audience took offence at the charge of the guards, armed with swords and took off barking in full challenge mode til the embarrassed owner retrieved the animal. The joys of open air theatre...

When I drew this image of a bedroom, the quote from Macbeth sprang to mind immediately - Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care. But that's not the phrase that comes to mind when I think back over that summer of Macbeth plays. It is evocative and provides me with the images of light fading and night taking over. I remember it so strongly that the phrase is commonplace in my head now when afternoon is fading into evening. Light thickens...

Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day doth droop and drowse;
While night's black agents to their preys do rouse.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Little things

I finished a sketch of a friend's daughter and have been asked to do another child portrait before Christmas and have also started another drawing that was in this week's WetCanvas drawing thread.

The image caught my eye early this morning and may have promise, providing I don't work it to death. Its a bed and lamp on a bedside table and looks soft and inviting with lovely sunlight filtering across the pillows and on the wall behind it. I'm out of practice in drawing material folds and am finding it difficult to make them look realistic. I have started it in graphite but am wondering if perhaps it may be better suited to charcoal. Time is the deciding factor with me in most things. I could easily fit another 12 hours into each day and still never have enough time to do all that I want to do.

But there's always tomorrow...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Early winter

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Saturday, November 25, 2006


In a brave venture into the commercial fiasco they call shopping today, I found a new treat. Fresh persimmons. I have only seen persimmons in photographs and have even created this coloured pencil drawing of them, but I have never touched or tasted one til today.

Firm, orangey yellowy red, they remind me a little of those big beefsteak tomatoes,but the taste very different. It has firm flesh with a taste that is redolent of peaches, mangoes and canteloup merged together.

I have also been drawing portraits this week, the last two today. Earlier this week I tried my hand at a WetCanvas drawing thread. The daughter of my friend Judi who is a moderator there. Because my schedule was busy last week I didn't do the portrait of Maggie justice so I may well try it again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Airport Scenes

Spending time in airports and on airplanes can be mindnumbingly boring but it can also provide opportunities to draw and watch people as well which makes time move more quickly. Drawing also creates conversations. Sometimes they are not the ones you want and cause me to lose the flow of what I am drawing. People like to look at things that are being created and offer opinions and to date I haven't had someone say anything I was doing was awful, even if I knew it was pretty suspect at the time. Its part of that game you play with strangers where best behaviours are presented and politeness rules.

These are a sample of sketches in sequence of my day of travel.

I brought a new Moleskine with me on my trip but only managed to capture airport scenes. In meetings and restaurants there wasn't an opportunity to draw without causing undue attention - or getting fired.

There were elements of places and people that I would have liked to capture. Little booths in pubs, panoramic penthouse views of Montreal, expressive faces and actions. I'll have to translate them from my mind to paper and hope memory doesn't differ too much from reality.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Traveller's tales

I spent yesterday travelling. In reality a fairly short journey by plane (about 2.5 hours) turned into a 7 hour marathon due to flight changes and long waits in airports. But there are always advantages to delays too as I had time to read and draw and people watch.

Airports are wonderful places to people watch and sketch and yesterday I saw all sorts from trendy young men toting designer store bags and wearing clothes that were out of this world, to orthodox Jewish men poring over somewhat 'interesting' sites on one of their laptops from what I saw as I passed by. Then there are the harried parents dragging or being dragged by children shouting their demands, their faces showing resignation and irritation mixed with fatigue.

The clotheshorses came next. Those women whose presence hits you on a wave of expensive perfume long before the sight of them does. I watched one woman teeter on impossibly high stilletto heels and almost felt her pain of walking. At my tender age, I find it amusing how some women are slaves to fashion and designers still. Sure I like to look good, but not to the extreme of causing pain to myself.

So now I'm ensconced in my hotel in Montreal, ready for a set of meetings and all the activity that goes with the process. Wish me luck!

I will post sketches at the weekend when I return home.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Green eggs, no ham

There aren't a lot of chickens left in the barn anymore. There are about 20 plus a rooster and their egg laying capacity has reduced as they go into moult. We will let them do so naturally and leave them til the spring instead of using artificial light to induce them to lay. They are a mix of hens one and two years old which means, especially with the older birds, the quality of eggs deteriorates and they don't lay as frequently.

I had a pair of Americaunas, the hen laid beautiful turquoise eggs and she had the colouring of a pheasant almost. Every shade of copper, tan and gold. Then there was in incident with the mink. Of all the hens in the barn at the time, what does the mink kill first? The Americauna hen of course. Sigh. I hate mink. After the last incident when the mink killed about 15 or more hens, it became too disheartening to keep on trying with poultry in some ways. There will always be a few hens for eggs, but not on the previous scale.

This drawing was done from a photo I took of some of the eggs that the Americauna hen laid. Unfortunately the photo didn't show the delicate turquoise colouring. It was a mix of white, turquoise and brown eggs, perhaps I'll do a coloured version of it one day. Its a good candidate for oil painting,something else that I need to get moving on. The bowl is one of my favourites too. I can't resist buying interesting bowls when I see them and this one is perfect for serving as it has that lovely little thumb hole for a good, secure grip.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cat people

I'm not a cat person. I've had them pretty much all my life, but they've been more utilitarian cats, earning their keep rather than being lap warmers. My last cat died nearly a year ago at the age of 18 and she too earned her keep once she arrived on the farm. She would proudly present a line of freshly caught mice for me in the morning with a pleased grin on her face.

After she died, I had no intention of getting another cat or dog or any inside animal. There were enough in the barn in the form of geese, ducks, chickens and horses. Then along came this feral cat - Tripod.

He's now insistent that I pay attention to him and if I don't do so quickly enough he lands on top of whatever I'm doing and makes sure I know what he wants. Today he leaped up onto the laptop and I finally had him on my lap while I tried to draw with his head resting on my sketchpad. I warned him that if he drooled on the paper, he was out of here! He didn't. He lay there and purred.

This drawing of him shows the misgivings he had when he and I first made contact. I probably had a similar look...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More moose

I'm starting a series of wild animals that live in Newfoundland and Labrador and have started with this cow moose. I am surrounded by woods and moose so there is no shortage of subject matter, sometimes too close for comfort.

I began with a rough sketch to get the desired composition and form, then created this master line drawing which is also my value drawing. I use it to create the areas of light and shade on the image and it acts as my reference as well. I have transferred the drawing to both watercolour and stonehenge paper as I'm not sure which I want to do the final image in. Both perhaps!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Goodbye Kit

Kit has gone today to her new home. It was so strange when I came home not to see her in her stall munching hay. It feels odd. I don't like it. But I guess I'll get used to it.

She walked into the horsebox without a murmur and stood quietly to be tied in then had a little adventure of a side trip to Ryan's farm where a calf was having problems being born, then on to her new home in Torbay. As there have been no phone calls, I am presuming that all has gone well at the other end. I'm dying to phone and find out, but am stopping myself from doing so and acting like some overprotective parent on a child's first sleepover.

Kit, who gave pleasure, worry, concern and joy. Kit who taught me never to wear a jacket with buttons on it, to always keep horse treats in my pocket and a tissue to wipe horse goop off my jacket. Kit, who loved sweet feed more than anything in the world, who galloped to the barn and skidded to a halt at the barn door in her haste to get there. Kit. I miss you already.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I've been adding layers to this drawing for weeks now and I'm losing interest and patience with it to be honest. The horse itself is ok, but the background is 'blah'. I think its too green or has too much detail or not enough detail or something. So I've left it for a week or two and gone back to have another look.

It still doesn't look right. It may be one of those drawings that gets shoved in the 'mistake' drawer. I pull those drawings out from time to time and look at them to see if I understand where I went wrong or why I went wrong. Often I look at them and just think ' arrrrrrrggggggggg' and put them back again. But I don't destroy them. Every drawing is a learning experience.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marks on paper

I found this sketch while looking through a few sketchbooks that have accumulated over time. I remember drawing it while at work during lunch. I had one of these promo hats on my desk and the light was just right - if ever it can be in an artificially lit office. My pen was in my bag and it just flowed.

Its funny how sometimes you can get into the drawing and it works so well, as if the pen knows where to make the mark and every mark goes down as anticipated with no silent, or not so silent, cursing as the pen drips or you make a wrong line that can't be corrected.

I've found that pen and ink is more forgiving than I originally anticipated. I had always avoided it as I felt it was too tricky to use well. With a number of ink drawings under my belt, I have a very different outlook to pen and ink and quite like it now. I'm experimenting with some holiday themed drawings for Christmas cards right now all in pen and ink. I'll probably add a touch of colour to the black and white of the cards - just enough to highlight it. But right now its the experimental drawing board.

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