Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winter sketches

I've done a little sketching lately, mostly while sitting in the car as either wind or rain prevents me from venturing out. Scenes constantly flash before me as I drive from place to place, wishing I'd taken the camera with me usually.  Or I see something when I'm in a long line of slow moving traffic.  I dare not pull off the road and try to get a sketch or shot as it would take forever to get back into the stream again. 

But on weekends I sometimes manage to find time and less traffic and take the camera and sketchbook with me.  Today, I did some shopping downtown which in St. John's is always a challenge in terms of parking, but more interesting than a sterile mall.  On the way back I stopped to pick up T.O.O. (the other one) in my favourite haunt, the Anglican Cathedral church yard.  He had gone to find any remaining conkers from the trees there. 

The cemetery is reported to be the oldest in the city, going back to the 1600s.  Most of the gravestones are long gone, having toppled over and nature reclaimed them.   There is a monument there and I stopped for a little while to do a sketch of it.  I will try to get back there tomorrow and get some photos of it.  I'm not sure what it stands for - perhaps a later tribute to those who died or some particular family in the city.

I love old churchyards and cemeteries.  They are an artist's paradise in terms of inspiration, especially in winter when the colours are muted and the sillouettes of trees against the sky are dramatic. This church, while smack dab in the centre of the city, links to the past and makes you forget the present while you're visiting.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Lately my oil painting skills just aren't working for me.   I started a portrait last week and seem to scrub and paint and scrub and paint til finally I think I'm going to let it sit for awhile and revert to watercolour or even dry media.

This week has been crazy busy and perhaps the busyness has something to do with my inability to paint well.  I do find that distractions do put their footprint on what I try to do creatively.  Switching media often helps me see something in a new light.  So here's a sketch I did at lunchtime today, a different pose slightly, of the same woman, and tomorrow I'll transfer it onto watercolour paper and see what happens.

I've been filling up my last Moleskine with faces.  Sometimes sketchbooks fall into different genres.  I have one all completed in red ink, another devoted to animals and now people.  Nothing I do in sketchbooks is done with purpose - or rarely.  It seems that something just guides me in a particular direction - or I let myself be guided.

This sketch was done on a plane of a previous portrait that I was doing for a portrait swap.  I'm still not 100% pleased with the original outcome of the piece I did and may have a do-over as this sketch, done with no pressure, has more of a likeness than the original.

Ahhhhhh, how the brain and hand work or don't work in harmony sometimes...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Hares - finished

I'm flitting between several projects at once as is my usual style.  Ideas jump in and out of my head and I like to have the option of working on alternate pieces.  When one starts to frustrate or while I wait for something to dry, I can move on to the next piece.

Tonight I finished the Christmas Hares and am happy with the final outcome.  I will work on some prints and cards from it so stay tuned.  I just need more time in my days and more money in my bank account!

Then on to finish a dog commission.  Funny, however many commissions you do, there is always the lump in the throat feeling, waiting to see a reaction.  I sent an update on what I had done so far and it came back positively last night, so I can breathe again.  I will send the little dog off to its owner next week and concentrate on others in the wings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Hares

I have been considering creating a Christmas card and various ideas float around in sketchbooks.  I wanted it to be round, part reality, part fantasy.  A late night sketch of a Newfoundland hare and thoughts of a winter night made this marriage.

There are no rabbits in Newfoundland, but hares, arctic and snowshoe hares which were introduced in the mid 1800s to help feed the population.  These are large animals and are prone to fight in the spring which looks like little boxing matches and they take jabs at each other.  The classic 'mad as a March hare'.  I love the shape of hares and wanted to capture that sense of movement and shape and mimic the circular form.

This piece is watercolour on 300lb Arches paper and is about 8 inches in diameter. There is still some tweaking to do and a decision around what little thing to add to make this say 'Christmas'.

My laptop is now covered in little white dots of ink from the spattering. Note to self:  Move pieces off the main table to spatter them!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elephant poop and sketches

I just put in an order for some paper from my regular mail order company.  While I can get a lot of basic supplies here, pricing tends to be more expensive here and bargains can be had along with unique finds in art materials.

Today I found tree-less multimedia paper and ordered a few sheets to try out.

No priming is needed as this paper doesn't buckle, and makes an ideal surface for oils, acrylics, charcoal, pencil, pen & ink, watercolour & more. 
Terraskin is made from 75% mineral powder (ground calcium carbonate or limestone) combined with 25% non-toxic resin. Tree-free, this paper uses no water or bleach during manufacturing.

This 348 lb paper feels similar to a 300 lb watercolour sheet, but is not as stiff as it does not contain any sizing.

There are quite a number of tree-free papers available it seems, including elephant poop, yep, the real thing.  Odorless and bacteria free.  Don't think I want to make that kind of paper. However, its a logical progression seeing that the diet of elephants, like horses or cows is predominantly grasses or other woody matter.

An additional link to more hand made papers is here.

Green Living Tips points to a number of varieites to look out for:

Bagasse - the pulp that remains after extracting juice from sugar cane.

Mango - Mango paper is usually from Thailand. It is made from kozo (paper mulberry) and mango leaf.

Banana - Made from waste bark of banana tree which is cut after the bananas have been ripened.

Cotton - Can be made from old cotton rags, clothing and general cotton waste

Jute - you've probably seen jute twine; usually brownish in color and quite coarse. It can also be made into  high-quality writing and specialty papers

Elephant poop - yes, you read it right, poop - but it's bacteria free and odor free :).

Hemp - Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was the owner of a mill that made hemp paper and that Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on paper made of hemp? Hemp has somewhat of a undeserved general reputation; but industrial hemp is an incredibly useful plant. 

Straw - as straw fibers are very similar to wood fibers, it makes an excellent paper. Oddly enough, the USA was once the largest producer of straw for paper making; but the industry no longer exists.

Tamarind -  contain petals and leaves from tamarind tree

Coconut - the husks of coconuts were usually discarded, but the fiber is now being used to create paper with a thick texture

However, I digress.  I was going to subject you to a glimpse of the contents of my head before I go to sleep at night.  Or perhaps during the night too sometimes.   Most nights before I sleep, I draw in my sketchbook.  These drawings can be snippets of anything, rather like a notebook for ideas, or notations about dreams.  Most come from somewhere in my head and have no references, simply memory to go by.  Others start out as a photo in a magazine, then morph from there.

These are a few that arrived over the last couple of weeks.  Some have futures, their thumbnail forms rough and strange. Some are destined to be trapped in the sketchbook forever.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Moving ahead

I've been doing some marketing with my art over the last few months and its starting to pay off now.

I have one of my pieces accepted into the Provincial Art Bank which I'm very pleased about.  This provides a showcase for my work to a broader audience.  Pieces are displayed on a rotating basis throughout government and government related education buildings around the province and may be displayed at times in the provincial art gallery at The Rooms.

I've used a free public advertisement service to promote animal portraits and contacts have been good from that source.  You take a chance when doing this but I created special offer for the holiday season and that seems to bring out collectors and commissions.

Finally, I had dinner tonight a St. John's restaurant that displays art from local artists in its rooms.  I asked about displaying there and was told they're interested in new artists and charge no commission for sales.  I will be setting up a meeting to show some of my art there I think.

With every marketing piece that I do it has a fear and pleasure aspect to it.  Like many artists, marketing myself becomes a daunting task, but as with all things, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  There is always a risk of rejection, but you take the punches with the good times.  Lately, the good times are becoming more frequent.

I still haven't had a lot of time to play with my new camera, but this image at the top of the post was taken early one morning this week with a telephoto lens. It is a Northern Flicker which frequents the birdfeeder outside the dining room window now that it is stocked with suet cakes.  I think this is one of this seasons 'babies' as it seems rather round and a bit small.  I love the colouring and markings on these birds and occasionally they wake me by drumming on the side of the house.  That, I'm not so keen on.