Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A New Class - Revisiting Basics

9B Pencil and Wash

Ink and One Colour Highlight
I've just started a 12 week online course by Australia's Liz Steel called Sketching Now. In the first lesson, she has us re-examining the materials in our kit and working on some basics. This assignment was to draw the same still life twice, once using pencil and a matching monochrome colour and ten again straight to pen with just one colour focal point. As much as I love colour and pen, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the smooth flow of a 9B pencil and the exciting dark shadows in paint. Quick, wonky, fun and satisfying.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Shrivelled Rose Hips

We have had a remarkably warm and dry fall this year. (I heard with horror that it snowed in Calgary today!) This morning,  I got up to the coziest yellow glow in the house as the sun shone on all of the brightly coloured leaves in my garden. The witch hazel stands directly in front of the kitchen window and casts an unearthly glow on our table. And the burning bush in the courtyard is as fluorescent red as it has ever been. And the big leaf maple leaves at the back are sailing down for their 5 seconds of freedom and glory.

My favourites continue to be the tree peony pods with their huge glossy black seeds and of course the rose hips, now all shrivelled and cratered. Originally they were a luminescent orangy red but now they have dipped into the deep purple red and, in places, almost black range.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Small Diversion - North Shore Celtic Ensemble Concerts

The North Shore Celtic Ensemble has been a big part of our lives for the past number of years. My daughter has played her fiddle with the group since she was in grade 5. She is now in her final year and we are also celebrating the 15th anniversary of the NSCE with the launch or our new logo. The poster design is based on our new logo and we just love it.

If you are in this quadrant of the globe in late November, come to the concerts and help us celebrate this amazing group. 

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inspiration Melanie Reim Style

Waiting in the ferry line in the rain.

I signed up for another unit of Danny Gregory and Koosje Koone's online Sketchbook Skool. The theme this time is storytelling. Each of the 6 instructors talks about and shows their style and take on this theme. This week's instructor was Melanie Reim, a New York artist/illustrator from the Fashion Institute of Technology. I found her crazy lines and flowing attitude to drawing very appealing. She is particularly interested in people, gesture and communicating stories in lively places where no one stands still! So in the spirit of line and people, I gave it a whirl. 

Brigit relaxes with a book by the fire.

Humans on the beach…..
….and surfers

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tree Peony Pods

I can see from the file where I keep the scans of my drawings that I am fairly obsessed with tree peony pods. I have lots of variations on this theme. It is something about those super shiny, grape sized black seeds emerging from the split in the pod that I find fascinating. At first, the pods are soft, fuzzy and green, but as they dry, they go through various colour changes, from green to yellow to red to brown and finally to a hard crusty black. I just love them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pssst! There's a Pinecone in Your Purse

I love pinecones. I pick them up where I see them. Sometimes my purse gets a bit lumpy. 
Part of a long, thin cone.

Practicing line work

It's all about etching really. An Urban Sketcher acquaintance of mine, Sigrid Albert, was recently involved in a cool, creative collaboration. She and poet, Christopher Levenson put Sigrid's etchings and Chris' poetry together in a book called Getting to Know You. They worked with master printer Peter Braune to produce a lovely, hand printed,  limited edition tribute to Vancouver. Check out Sigrids blog to get a taste of the book. http://www.urbansketcher.ca

As with all things creative, finding the money to do projects like this requires lots of creativity in and of itself. So the trio decided to crowd source the money through the website Indiegogo. (to great success - they raised $5000) The cool thing about this fundraiser was that, instead of just making a donation, you actually buy something, in my case, an etching session with Peter's printshop, New Leaf Creative Solutions.

Oh my gosh! Great idea, right?! Except now I have to be able to draw something worth printing, straight onto a metal plate! I pride myself on adding watercolour to make lovely my less than amazing drawings. As far as I can see, there is no watercolour involved in etching. The whole premise is that the drawing part is lovely from the start!

Do I sound panicky? All this to say, I am practicing with fine black pens. And yes, I am panicky…..and excited. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Camp Mustard

Camp Mustard Buoy Pole 
Tent and Boots

We had an idyllic weekend camping trip to a beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Many of our tents and tarps coincidentally turned out to be mustard coloured (until ketchup red arrived).  Hence the name Camp Mustard. The beach was also scattered with many abandoned buoys. We erected a mustard buoy "flag" pole and had some fun playing beach buoy bocce with the hard black orbs. Some of them were enormous and took quit a lot of strength to hurl. We had a particularly fun and random round when the red buoy pallino ended up tossed in the waves at the edge of the beach. Rather hard to pin down who actually won that round.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Gifts

My daughter often presents me with  an unusual leaf that she has picked up between home and school. This time, it is a maple leave with the flesh nibbled out from around the veins. Around the same time, my friend arrived with a box of coronation grapes. These grapes always remind me of my grandma and make me think that fall has arrived.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Of Cheap Materials

I was fooling around in a small 4 X 6 inch sketchbook, trying to get a handle on hatching (pens not ducklings). The paper was very light weight and did not take the watercolour all that well.  And yet, the results were surprisingly fresh and satisfying. I worked with intent but had nothing to lose on this cheap paper. I still have that crazy inhibition when I work with nice materials that I have to be better. I have to draw and paint more skilfully. But often that mind trap  sets me up for tighter work. So here is to cheap materials and uninhibited expression.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Making Contact

 One of the reasons I have tried to make myself brave enough to draw and paint in public is that I think it is a great way to make contact with people. I always feel self conscious and like a bit of a fraud as I am sketching and painting, but people who come up to me are inevitably curious and generous with kind comments. And in return, I get to have some interesting conversations with all sorts of people.

I often find myself in New Westminster with time on my hands while I'm waiting for my car to be serviced. The Quay down buy the Fraser River is always a good source of inspiration and places to sit for a while. This day, I was working away on a tug boat when a little boy and his mom approached. He seemed really curious so I encouraged him to have a go at painting. I only asked that he paint on the left side of the page so I could do the painting of the tug. He made beautiful bold strokes and enjoyed mixing the paint, as is obvious. And he just could not resist adding a bit of blue to the bow of my tug, just above the textured tire bumper. I have to say, Oskar improved my boat. He even agreed, with the help of his mom, to co-sign the painting.

As I drove home, I spotted a Korean restaurant and spontaneously decided to treat myself to lunch. As I waited for my cold noodle soup and kimchi, I pulled out my pen and paints and did a quick sketch of the traffic lights. The waitress, who spoke very little English, was very interested and turned out to be a painter herself. She was too shy to show me any of her work, but carefully noted the type of Moleskine notebook  and reservoir paint brush I was using, with the thought that she may give them a try herself. My lunch arrived before I got too far along with the painting but, in the end, I decided I liked how the traffic lights hung in the middle of the white page.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cypress Finale

It is the end of an era for our family. After 67 years at Ghost Lake Cabin in the Cypress Hills, my parents and aunts sold the cottage. I went out for a last visit in July, and spent part of my days drawing and painting.

 The first thing that strikes me when we drive east towards the Cypress Hills from Medicine Hat, are the enormous skies with puffy white clouds as far as the eye can see. The sky feels like a huge bowl above your head. In the evenings, we go up to Lookout Point, to Grandma and Grandpa Rae's bench to watch the setting sun turn puffy white clouds to every shade of pink, orange, red, purple and blue.

We spend lots of time on the front porch communing with the lodgepole pines, birds and scolding squirrels. The wildflowers are always amazing.

Cabin details remind me of my childhood and my daughters' years at the cottage. The snap of the latch on the screen door takes me back to crafty days, painting rocks, doing batik, weaving lichen and noggin knockers  into wall hangings and my girls making quilts and sun prints with grandma Maxine. 

 These are the trademark logs of Ghost Lake Cabin, their beautiful details fully visible inside and outside the building.

I fully intended to paint this scene but never quite got to it. And then the moment was lost. This is Grandpa Rae's odd penthouse bedroom above the biffy, defying gravity and all architectural logic and yet his beloved night time haven. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Is it possible that my last post was June? Where has summer gone? Indoor time was shifted to the outdoors; sunshine, natural things and a little bit of drawing and painting.

Bounty from the backyard

Squirrels and birds shaped my time at Cypress.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beach Paradise

Missing two legs...
An excellent kick-off to the camping season, we spent four days on the beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Near the longest day of the year, we basked in long hours of daylight and almost perfect weather. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mountain Inspired

Birthday Painting for Me by Janice

Birthday Painting for Janice
My friend, Janice, and I have started a birthday card tradition. Every year we exchange cards of one of our original paintings. This year the theme seems to have been our shared mountain adventures at the Hytte.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Simple Sliver Drawings

I was waiting for my car to be serviced in New Westminster. There is an excellent coffee shop just down the road from the garage. It has high stools at a counter right up at the front window so I can sit and draw the street theatre as it unfolds. There was a narrow sliver view of a tree all backlit in vibrant green. And right in front of me was a construction site. A woman was putting bollards together out of the back of a truck then dragging them around in moving traffic. All of this was the front drop to the parade of people and ongoing interactions in the coffee shop itself; the slightly unhinged guy wheeling his earthly possessions, asking for cinnamon and all the while making everyone smile at his antics;  the  business man and his business coach/therapist speaking in business bubbles about building a courier business. It was all topped off by the non-stop cheery banter of the baristas, all polished and professional but somehow sincere too. Just another day in normal-ville.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Day On Bikes

#1 Fail so #2 Try Again
We spent the first day of June, riding along the bike paths of waterfront Vancouver: Granville Island to the base of UBC, then back around to Yaletown. We were reminded of just how far you can get on a bike. It was glorious. We stopped at various points along the way to eat, sketch, study and take in Vancouverites enjoying their city. 

Chris practices Chinese.

Bike at a weird angle.

Symbols of the Kids Fest. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Kitchen Project - Sort Of

Pen and watercolour on scrap photocopy paper.

As part of the Sketch Book Skool online course I took recently, Tommy Kane did a meticulous drawing of his kitchen. He literally spent 4 or 5 hours sketching, cross hatching, painting and coloured penciling a view of his kitchen. Then he challenged the students to do the same. He argued that, even if you do not normally work slowly and meticulously, the practice even 2 or 3 times per year will have beneficial effects on anyone's art.

I have been meaning to do this exercise but have not made time to really commit. As I sat during a recent violin lesson, I decided to try a view of Claude's kitchen. All I had was the back of a photocopied ferry itinerary form a recent trip to Galiano so I used what was at hand. You can see the print coming through and when I tried to add some colour, it was clear that would be a mess. Generally, I'm not much of a cross hatching fan. It is far too detailed and time consuming for my sensibility. But having done this quick little version on the spot, I thought I should revisit Tommy's lesson, belly up to the kitchen counter and give it a shot on decent paper.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Animals from Real Life - Maplewood Farm

These renderings of ducks, sheep and goats are not nearly as "successful" as some of the other drawings I have done. But somehow they are so much more evocative and poignant than paintings done from random photos found online. It is a very personal thing. I can picture the ducks floating around the mucky pond at Maplewood Farm, as legions of tiny children passed behind my bench and quacked their greetings at the green headed mallards. Or the feeling of a tiny goat, nibbling at my bag through the fence as I stood drawing his brothers and sisters, is still fresh in my mind as I look at the crude pen drawings  of ears, horns and heads. Artists I admire say it all the time. Nothing beats the plein air experience.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Shallow Rooster

I drew this rooster from a photo I found on the internet. It is a perfectly fine painting in watercolour, pen and coloured pencil. But somehow the whole thing is lacking soul. I did not even take the photo so I have no connection to this perky rooster. I had no memorable experience as I drew. I have no idea what the context of the photo was. This was a fine practice exercise, but I have more feeling about the work I have done in situ, even if the final "result" was "worse". I think I  need to get over to Maplewood Farm tomorrow and find some chickens in the flesh.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Rooster with a mutant puffin beak. 

 These last two were done in a hand sized accordion book, on paper that was super absorbent. It was like painting on paper towel so I had to work fast! It was fun but I missed being able to mix paint on the paper. This might be the beginning of a rooster series. But I'm not announcing that.