~excerpt from my October News from my Studio Newsletter
I have been really noticing over the past little while how often the word “Gratitude” seems to pop up in my life, to the point that I would have to be blind (or fairly dense! LOL) not to pick up on it! I am a huge believer in synchronicity … I believe that everything happens when it happens for a reason … and so, recently, when an artist friend of mine posted on her Facebook page a Ted Talk by Hailey Bartholomew that was all about gratitude, I sat up and paid attention! I won’t spoil the story for anyone who feels inclined to watch the video (and I really would urge you to do so!), but I will say that her story has inspired me to start my own “365 Days of Gratitude” project, in which I plan to take a daily photograph of something I am grateful for in my life for 365 consecutive days — a full year!!
That’s a big commitment to make, but this is something that I really, really, REALLY want to do, and so I have been thinking about how to best make it work for myself so that I am able to stay committed.
I don’t think that finding things to be grateful for in my life is going to be overly problematic for me, as I have noticed that the more I try to pay attention and raise my awareness about what there is in my life to be thankful about, the more I seem to find to be grateful for! I also don’t think that taking the actual photograph will be too much of a problem, as I take my little point and shoot camera most places with me … and if I don’t have that camera, I almost always have my smartphone (with camera built in) with me. And so, I don’t foresee collecting these photos on a daily basis to be a difficulty. However, I would very much like to share them with others, to perhaps inspire others to start their own 365 Days of Gratitude project … so that means finding a fast and convenient way to post my photos online on a regular and preferably daily basis.
And so, I have decided to make a special page on my blog for my 365 Days of Gratitude project and will do my best to post one photo there daily, starting on Oct 13 … because that is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. I thought it a very auspicious day to start such an ambitious project! LOL
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to think about starting your own 365 Days of Gratitude project. Even if you don’t keep a blog, you could post your photos to Twitter or Pinterest or Instagram or even to Facebook. Or you could just take the photos for yourself, as a simple but powerful reminder that your life truly is beautiful!
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Had an extremely enjoyable and very much needed relaxing “me day” yesterday. It was gorgeous fall weather here, not too warm and not too cold, and beautifully sunny, so I packed up my watercolours, brushes, pencils, sketchbook and camp stool and headed out with an artist friend to do some plein air painting and sketching. I have been wanting to do this for such a very long time, but just never got around to making it happen until yesterday. Having recently met Ana and found out that she is also very interested in working en plein air, I finally have the incentive I needed to start taking this idea more seriously, and am very excited about our new PAWS (Plein Aire Watercolour Sketching) Thursdays! LOL
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First stop was the old Catholic cemetery. Strange as it may seem, this is one of my very favourite places to just go and soak in the delicious atmosphere. And there is so much marvelous mossy old statuary! If you’re into angels or fairies … or old trees, crows and squirrels, this cemetery is an artist’s paradise. We spent a lovely couple of hours sketching and gabbing. I decided to try working with micron pens and watercolours — mediums which I am not very experienced with — and was reasonably happy with how my sketch turned out. Was satisfied that at least my proportions weren’t too off.
Micron pen & watercolour in sketchbook.
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After a picnic lunch, we packed up our stuff and headed to a nearby park where there is this gorgeous huge old stone gazebo up on a bit of a hill that looks out across the Ottawa river to the charming and somewhat iconic view of old Gatineau.
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This time, I tried working on a new paper that Ana gave me to try, Strathmore cold press watercolour paper. I thought I would do a rough pencil sketch and then add watercolour, but I was so happy with how the pencil laid down on the very textured paper that I decided not to add any watercolour.
I loved the texture of this paper with pencil.
I’m looking forward to many more PAWS Thursdays in the future!
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I used to feel horribly guilty if I failed to keep a commitment I’d made to myself and sometimes, when I didn’t follow through on one of my “self promises”, I would even shame myself by whispering scornfully inside my head, “How can you expect others to respect you when you don’t even respect yourself enough to keep your promises to yourself??”
While there is certainly an element of truth in that scathing accusation (that element being the fact that we should always treat ourselves with respect!), I finally woke up to the bigger and deeper truth that I am ALLOWED to not only make mistakes, but I am permitted to break promises to myself, and even to fail utterly at something! … yet still remain a person of value and worthy of respect from others and most especially from myself!
It’s taken me almost an entire lifetime to learn that sometimes the greatest pressures put upon us are not placed on our shoulders by others, but by ourselves. I have learned too, that often these self imposed burdens are the heaviest and hardest to bear because when we fail ourselves, we are usually our own worst critics. And those of us who suffer from “perfectionism” are all too familiar with that scathing, critical voice that lives inside our heads and never lets us get away with anything that even remotely resembles a mistake! Fortunately though, with age and/or experience comes some degree of wisdom! Both age and experience have taught me that Life is quite challenging enough with just the run-of-the-mill expectations we must all live up to and the ordinary everyday commitments most of us have to meet, without adding what amounts to unreasonable self imposed pressure to “measure up and keep our promises to ourselves!”. And so, though I don’t make promises to myself lightly or dismiss them easily, I no longer berate myself when I am unable to keep a “self promise”. Instead, I shrug and choose to look at my “failure” to live up to my self imposed commitment as a valuable lesson learned and to use the lesson to improve myself in some way going forward.
From imagination, about 30 minutes. Idea for future painting or drawing.
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All this is explanation for why I am not profusely apologizing or otherwise beating myself up for not following through very well on my promise to myself to “sketch something at least vaguely tree-like” every single day for my September Sketchbook project! LOL Things got a lot busier for me throughout the month than I expected them to be and I ended up with more on my plate on a daily basis than I thought I would have and, well, something had to give, so I didn’t end up with nearly so many sketches of trees as I’d hoped for — though I still managed more than I’d have done had I not challenged myself in that way!
From imagination, about 15 minutes.
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Ultimately, I’m very glad that I at least attempted this project because it taught me a couple of valuable things. It reminded me that I lovelovelove to sketch … and that I don’t do it nearly often enough. It also taught me that I don’t do especially well when I have to stick to a pre-chosen subject. Part of the reason I love sketching so much is because it is usually a pretty spontaneous thing for me and I very much enjoy sketching whatever I feel moved to sketch in that very moment. Feeling compelled to sketch a subject that I either am not much in the mood to sketch or for which I have no immediate reference (to be clear, I include “inspired imagination” in my definition of “reference” material) feels very unnatural and, in a way, is almost painful. And so, I ended up with very few tree sketches completed for my September Sketch Project.
From imagination, about 5 minutes
Going forward, I intend to re-commit to trying my best to sketch every single day … but I will only sketch subjects that move me to sketch them, at the time they move me, and will do so with the understanding that Life and other commitments will very likely take precedence some days … and when that happens, I will remind myself that everything is as it should be and all is well!
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September has continued to be an unexpectedly busy month for me, so much so that I haven’t found the time until now to sit and write about my experience at the very first Pencil Art Society Open Juried Exhibition. The Exhibition has just closed yesterday (September 21). If you’ve not already done so, I would urge you to read the “official” review of the show as written for the PAS Blog by PAS Vice-President, Erica Lindsay Walker. I must echo her sentiments about the show’s opening — what a weekend it was!! Of course, much of the personal excitement has faded at this point, but I am still left with an overwhelming feeling of deep joy and gratitude when I think of our opening weekend, and I just wanted to share a little bit of my own personal perspective on the excitement and happiness of that time here with you.
As anyone who has followed me for any length of time knows, much of my time this past year was taken up preparing for the PAS show. Being our first live Exhibition, of course there was some worry that everything might not go according to plan: Would we get enough entries?? Would the quality of the work be “good enough”?? Would anyone even show up for the opening weekend?? Yes, we actually worried a bit about that! LOL You can’t imagine not only our relief, but also our extreme pleasure to end up with an Exhibition that was not only “good enough”, but that surpassed — by leaps and bounds — almost all our very hopeful, yet modest, expectations! We were truly blown away by the number of entries we received (and most especially by the number of International entries), by the very high quality of the entries and by the enthusiastic support of not just our own members and the other artists who entered the show, but also by the staff and Director of the Exhibition Centre, who helped us to present the Exhibition so professionally and elegantly. We also were so very pleased and admittedly touched by how many artists had traveled some great distances to attend the events of the opening weekend and helped to make our first Exhibition one to remember!
Over 350 people attended the Artists’ Reception & Awards Ceremony on the opening weekend.
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As remarkable as the quality of the Exhibition was, one of the greatest parts of the entire weekend for me was getting to meet some of the artists I had previously only known through Facebook — some of whom I have known or been aware of or have been silently in awe of for many years! To be able to actually shake their hand (or hug them) in person and discuss their art and PAS with them was just so exciting! Next to that honour was the fact that I got to see … and even examine closely! … the work of some of my favourite artists — artists that I have admired for a very long time.
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Perhaps the best part of the opening weekend for me was being able to share it all with Darlene Jordan Pfaff and Manon Menard Adams, two artists that I met through Facebook back in 2012, who have since become very close and very dear friends to me. They live some 7-ish hours away (by car), which means that we don’t often get to see each other in person, so getting together for the PAS show was an absolute treat. They drove down to Ottawa from the London/Sarnia area on the Friday and we had dinner at our place. We had to be up very early the next morning for the 2.5 hour drive to Repentigny (Repentigny is a suburb on the east side of Montreal), so we kept our drinking partying to a manageable level and made a relatively early night of it, but still enjoyed an evening filled with much enjoyment and laughter.
Dinner at at home with artist friends Manon (with hubby Rene) and Darlene (with hubby Brian)
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Once we arrived in Repentigny, we had no time to go to our motel first, as we had to be at the Exhibition Centre in time for the Meet & Greet, followed immediately by the 1st PAS AGM and then immediately afterward by Erica’s workshop on Unusual Coloured Pencil Techniques, so we only checked in at the motel at the end of the day, just before going to dinner. We all (including Erica and Carolyn Bain) stayed in a motel just a short drive from the Exhibition Centre. The motel itself ended up providing quite a few laughs for us. Thankfully, it was reasonably clean (we checked for bedbugs and didn’t see any!) but otherwise, well, let’s just say it didn’t QUITE live up to our expectations (or the photos on the website)! Nevertheless, we had a great time after dinner relaxing and chatting at an impromptu “PJ Party” hosted by Darlene in her room.
Me, Darlene, Manon out for dinner on Saturday in Repentigny
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The Repentigny Exhibition Centre
The Artists’ Reception and Awards Ceremony was held on the Sunday and was a time to remember! I really cannot express how beautiful the Exhibition Centre is and how professional and elegant everything looked. PAS President / Exhibition Director, Alexandra Bastien, did a spectacular job hanging the show and the Centre’s Art Director, François Renaud, was very charming and made everyone feel most welcome.
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Me, with my drawing, Lost in Space
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Me, with my drawing, The Sentinel
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The weekend went by far too quickly and all too soon we were in our cars headed back home. There were so many people to talk to over the course of the weekend that I just didn’t have enough free time to really examine all the artworks during the days we were there, so hubby and I enjoyed a little trip back up to the Exhibition last week, and took the show in at our leisure, lingering over each and every piece of work. Despite the fact that I work in pencil, part of my mind still boggles at the astounding things that can be achieved with a humble pencil, as evidenced by so many of the works in this Exhibition. Really, there are simply no words to describe how humbled and proud I am to have had my own work included in the Exhibition. To have my work hanging beside so many artists I have admired for so long was such an honour and is a memory I will cherish always.
Our drive home from Repentigny, heading into the sunset.
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For more photos of the event, check out the photo album on the 2014 PAS International Open Juried Exhibition photo album on the PAS Facebook page.
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Well, as it turns out, life didn’t suddenly become as quiet and peaceful as I’d hoped and anticipated it would this past week, and so I just barely managed to squeeze my daily sketches in. And since my weekend thus far has been busy, and most especially since this is supposed to be a FUN, NON-stressful project for me, I didn’t force myself to find the time to do my sketches yesterday or today.
I must admit, I am finding myself lacking the inspiration to sketch trees. I think because I am just tired from being so busy lately. It’s not like I am lacking for sketch subjects either, as I have only to look outside and there they are! Trees! But the weather here has been horrendously hot (up to 40C) this past week, which has put rather a damper on my desire to get outside for a walk to the park to sketch, and the trees right outside my window are almost too close to allow for decent perspective, and so, for the most part, my sketches this week have been mostly the result of using my own photos for reference. All except the acorn, which I did sketch from life. We’d been for a walk a couple of weeks ago once again to the Governor General’s park-like estate, where visiting foreign dignitaries have planted many trees over the past several decades. The acorn I sketched fell from the Red Oak that had been planted by Jackie Kennedy in 1961!
All the acorns that dropped from the Red Oak tree planted by Jackie Kennedy.
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Anyway, here are my sketches for this week. Am hoping to have a bit more leisure time for more detailed sketches next week.
Sept 1 – 20 minutes – acorn sketched from life
Sept 2 – 40 minutes – twig with water droplets, from my own photo ref
Sept 3 – 30 minutes – watercolour pencils with water, from my own photo ref
Sept 4 – 30 minutes – very rough sketch using black coloured pencil, from my own photo ref
Sept 5 – 10 minutes – quick sketch of crab apple tree in winter, from my own photo and imagination
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* This is an excerpt from my monthly News from my Studio Newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, you can sign up to receive it at the right.
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Example: very quick pen sketch from life.
I’ve had a lot of artistic projects simmering in the back of my mind for months now, but one of the most persistent has been a Daily Sketch Project.
I do sketch fairly often, but really would like to develop an every-day-without-fail daily sketching habit, and since I am the type of person who always seems to do best when I get serious enough about my goals to turn them into commitments, I’ve decided to start a Daily Sketch Project for the month of September.
Example: quick sketch in pen with watercolour pencil wash and a bit of journaling.
So, what exactly do I mean by the word “sketch”? Essentially, I think of sketches as unrefined “practice drawings”, which may be created in any medium (including paint), and that are not intended to be displayed as finished works of art. For me, sketches are intended to promote a sense of play, freedom and perhaps exploration and therefore I never worry about mistakes I may make during the process, or even about completing my sketches. They are usually created fairly quickly in a rough or exaggerated style, but I may spend more time and pay more attention to detail if I wish to explore an element of a proposed drawing, such as composition or value or perspective, etc. More refined sketches may also serve as preliminary studies of a subject or scene I wish to draw or paint later. I use sketches very much as a learning tool for myself. The upside about sketching for me is that it’s not only educational, but is also a lot of fun and very relaxing.
Example: fast sketches from life and imagination.
Having committed myself to this month long Daily Sketch Project, I’ve also decided to focus my attention on just one subject for the duration of the month. I chose to narrow my focus in this way partly because I felt it would be much more successful as a learning tool for me, but also because if and when time is an issue for me, then at least I won’t have to waste any of my time wondering what to draw! And so, for the month of September, I’ve decided to sketch trees … and any/everything related to trees (ie: leaves).
Example: detailed but incomplete sketch of wizard wands (from imagination)
I love trees, and I do paint a lot of surrealistic curly-branched ones, but I’d like to do some more realistic drawings of them in the future, so I think studying them in sketches will be of great benefit for me. As much as possible, I am going to try to sketch from life, though if I can’t access a live tree I will permit myself to use photos for reference. And, if I enjoy (and can keep up with!) this daily project during September, then I plan to continue the project throughout the rest of the year, and explore a different subject in depth every month.
Example: detailed sketch in coloured pencil, with notes, from life.
If you’re an artist, do you keep a sketchbook and sketch regularly? Have you ever done a sketchbook project as I’ve described? If not, why not join me with a sketching project of your own? I’ll be posting my sketches every week on my blog. Perhaps you’d like to do something similar and post yours as well.
Example: detailed preliminary study of crow in preparation for serious drawing (from my own reference photo).
And if you’re not an artist, have you ever considered starting a sketchbook and perhaps using it to keep an illustrated journal or to doodle patterns or even to practice drawing a banana every day for a week? You’ll be amazed at how quickly your drawing skills improve if you draw the same subject day after day!
Whatever it is that you love to do, whether it’s drawing, writing, photography, cooking, knitting, calligraphy, gardening, dancing, singing … whatever it is, try to find at least 15 – 60 minutes every day to practice and hone your skill and do what you love to do.
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On a slightly different note, I thought I’d mention that I am also starting another, more personal project this month: the 1000 km Challenge. I have no idea who started this Challenge on Facebook or how “official” it is, but I really like the idea / end goal, which is simply to walk 1000 km over the course of 1 year. I did the math (using my handy-dandy calculator!), and that works out to just under 4 km/day if you walk 5 days/week, or 3 km if you walk every day. I prefer to take weekends off, so will be aiming for 4 km every week day. I have been wanting (and needing!) to start a regular exercise program in preparation to hopefully someday walk the Camino de Santiago, an 800 km pilgrimage across Northern Spain, so I think this 1000 km Challenge will suit me perfectly as a start. As an incentive to really keep myself accountable and keep my feet to the fire, I have decided to record my walks here on my blog. Keep your fingers crossed for me that my knees don’t give out on me! LOL
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Lose this day loitering – ’twill be the same story
To-morrow – and the next more dilatory;
Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days,
Are you in earnest? seize this very minute -
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated -
Begin it, and then the work will be completed!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)
Passage from Faust, translated by John Anster
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Unlike most years past, I certainly have not spent many days loitering this summer! PAS, as well as my own artistic ventures, have kept me super busy since Spring sprung. As I mentioned before, I am not a big fan of most poetry, but this passage from Faust that I stumbled across a couple of months ago struck a chord with me. The poet warns against the perils of loitering (procrastination) and urges us instead to seize the moment to simply “begin it”. So many days I wanted nothing more than to just spend the day “loitering”! LOL But then I would sigh and remind myself that I had work to do and once begun, my “work will be completed”! Knowing this (and proving it to myself every time I buckled down to actually “begin it”) has often been the incentive I’ve needed this summer to push myself to work on something that needed to be done, when I’ve wanted to do anything but buckle down! LOL And of course, once the work is completed, there’s always such a sense of deep satisfaction and accomplishment afterward! So, as I look back over the past four very busy months, I do so with a deep sense of satisfaction at all I have accomplished and also with much gratitude for everything I have had the opportunity to do. With this in mind, I thought I would share with you some of what has been so much a part of my life since last May.
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The Pencil Art Society, of course, has taken up an inordinately huge chunk of my time this past year, and if I am honest, I must admit that I moan and whine rather quite a lot in private to hubby about the work load involved with helping to run PAS. But, at the same time, I am incredibly proud of what we have built and achieved with PAS in such a short period of time. Mainly though, I am deeply grateful to have been given the opportunity to (virtually) meet so many other talented artists through PAS, and I am especially grateful for having the chance to work so closely with my two co-founders and the rest of the PAS Board. They are truly an amazing group of very dedicated, generous and loving people that I feel blessed to be able to not only work with, but to call good friends
At our PAS Board Mtg in July, we broke out the champagne to celebrate the large number of entries we received for our upcoming International Exhibition!
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Much of the rest of my time this summer has been taken up with drawing and painting and printing and creating some new products (my Journey Cards, which I am so excited about!) in preparation for various art exhibitions and festivals that I have entered/been accepted into. All of them were really wonderful experiences for me and I am so glad I had the time and energy to participate in them. I had planned on doing one other final festival in August, but with everything I have had on my mind, some dates got mixed up for me and I forgot I had made a previous engagement … and so I’ve had to cancel my favourite of all the summer festivals that I do, the one at the Experimental Farm. Next year I will plan a bit better and make sure there are no conflicts for that festival, as I really enjoy it.
One of my Journey Cards, available in my Etsy Shop
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Of course, it’s not been all work and no play! I have managed to steal some time here and there to linger and loiter and enjoy the many pleasures of summer. One of my favourite things to do is to go exploring new places, either by car or on foot. A couple of weeks ago hubby and I went for a drive after supper and ended up at Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence, located in a beautiful park-like estate which is open to the public. We’ve been to the GG’s estate several times for walks, but we’d never actually walked in the surrounding neighbourhood. So that evening, after we’d strolled around the grounds of the GG’s for a bit, we went for a little walk in the streets adjacent to Rideau Hall. This area, Rockcliffe, is one of the wealthiest and oldest suburbs in the Ottawa area and has so many grand old houses. Many of the city’s embassies are located in this area as well.
Looking from a side street into the fenced grounds of Rideau Hall.
One of the charming old houses with a gorgeous English Cottage style garden.
An inviting stone path leading through the open gates of the Vietnam Embassy.
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We’ve also been very fortunate to be able to squeeze in some babysitting time with our one and only granddaughter. She has completely stolen our hearts.
Playing pat-a-cake with Grampa.
The Mod Squad.
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Sometimes we even manage to sneak away for a nice treat as we did yesterday. We enjoyed salad, cocktails and a lovely breeze on the patio of a local restaurant.
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And since this is, after all, supposed to be an art blog, I suppose I really should show some art! LOL I haven’t had a lot of time these past weeks to get any “serious” drawing or painting done, but I can’t resist the call to create for long, so I usually have my sketchbook handy and doodle little sketches … often very rough, minimal and/or incomplete … and sometimes I even play with watercolour in my sketchbook, which is always a nice change for me.
Very fast sketches of friend’s dog and cat.
Quick sketches of skulls from a magazine.
Pacing magician (from my head) LOL
Secretive Satyr (pose based loosely on non-satyr woman in magazine LOL )
I was just playing around with pen and watercolours while babysitting and came up with this woman’s profile from out of my head. My granddaughter decided she would look much prettier with a colourful frame of marker circles around her LOL
A quick watercolour sketch of granddaughter’s teddy, who must, of course, sit slumped over in his chair at the table for supper with us.
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Less than two weeks left to go until the PAS International Open Juried Exhibition! I am looking SO forward to it! Next post I will have an update about that and photos to share! Until then…stay cool!!
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I have been wanting to go Plein Air sketching for a very long time, but never really made the time or the opportunity to go … until just a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I really was far too busy to go – but I decided to go anyway … and I had a wonderful time!
My local art society, Arteast, started holding a Plein Air “Paint Out” event for their members every summer for the last two years. I was unable to make the previous two outings, but am so glad I was able to make it this year. The “Paint Out” is held at a different location each summer and then, in the fall, they hold a Plein Air exhibition of all the works done en plein air by the artists who attended the outing. This year the “Paint Out” was held at a local conservation area, beautiful Mer Bleue Bog.
Much of the bog is in full sun, but there is a wooded area near the end of the boardwalked trail and that is where I headed to set myself up. I was careful with my packing before I left home and was carrying only the bare necessities, which I managed to fit into a light canvas messenger type of bag with a shoulder strap. I didn’t bother to bring my SLR camera, but instead hung the long strap of my little point and shoot camera around my neck, slung my little camp stool and bag over my shoulder and had free hands to carry my sketchbooks. So many of the other artists there were carrying loads of what seemed to be fairly unwieldy and heavy stuff. Besides the fact that I prefer to sketch nature than paint it anyway, that was also part of the reason I chose my pencils over my paints – I couldn’t stand the thought of lugging all that painting paraphernalia around on such a warm day. Fortunately, though the day was hot, it wasn’t horrifically so, and when I set myself up in a little patch of shade, the heat was more than bearable.
My set-up: camp stool, canvas bag for pencils, etc., sketchpads & a water bottle.
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I have been to Mer Bleue Bog many times in the past, as it is one of hubby’s favourite places to go for photos, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go to sketch first. There is a beautiful stand of birch trees right next to the boardwalk very close to a bend in the path. I was so lucky that nobody else had set up there yet! One painter had chosen to plant herself right near the bend in the path, but fortunately had left “my spot” empty. So I set myself up comfortably and sat and sketched the clump of birches for the next hour and a half or so.
My sketching spot
Though I have sketched outside several times before, it is not something I am used to, and I had never tried to sketch nature realistically from life before, so I found the shifting light to be a challenge. Drawing white trees on white paper wasn’t exactly easy either! LOL But at last it started to come together in a way I was feeling very happy about.
My incomplete sketch
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It was about then that my alarm on my phone went off to remind me to head back to the picnic area for lunch. I wandered up to the bend in the path to talk to the woman painting there (we’d taken a few breaks through the morning to talk). While still chatting. I took a couple of steps backward … and suddenly found myself on the boardwalk flat on my back! My foot had slipped off the boardwalk (which was about 3″ higher than the ground), and before I knew it, I had fallen!
It’s so scarey how unexpectedly fast accidents happen! Because of my RA and the risk to my joints, I am always so careful not to put myself in precarious positions that might cause a fall. And yet, there I was, flat on my back before I even realized I was going down! I suppose that is why they are called accidents! LOL I was so relieved and grateful that I hadn’t hurt myself! My head was fine, my back was fine, my butt was fine. Nothing hurt … or so I thought! I picked up my stuff and headed back to the car to grab my cooler and join the other artists gathering at the picnic area. I had packed a delicious lunch of caprese salad, cheese, crackers and an apple and one of the ladies at my table had even thought to bring a tablecloth, so our picnic was perfect!
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Through lunch, my ring finger on my left hand started to really hurt. When I looked at it, it was starting to swell and there was the beginning of a bruise. By the time lunch was over, my finger was throbbing in pain and had become even more swollen. I really didn’t want to leave though, as I had been having such a nice time … and I had seen a big old gnarled tree along the path in the forest that I really wanted to sketch.
I packed up my cooler and put it away into the car and determinedly went back into the forest to the tree I wanted to sketch next, but by the time I got there my entire forearm was aching and I couldn’t hold anything in my left hand (ie: my sketchbook). So with much regret (and yes, I confess, a few muttered curses), I trudged back to the car, and managed to drive home with one hand, where I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening icing my finger to try and get the swelling down. Fortunately it wasn’t broken, but it was a very bad sprain that turned half of the palm of my hand black and blue for the next week. Thankfully Father Time has worked his usual magic and now, two weeks later, the bruise is mostly gone and my finger feels nearly completely healed. I’m just so grateful that I didn’t break it! I am also very glad that I stole the time to go on my little Plein Air adventure. It was definitely worth it … despite my poor finger!
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I have been crazy busy these past several weeks! As both Secretary and Webmaster for the Pencil Art Society, and with our first live International Open Juried Exhibition coming up at the end of August, I have hardly had a moment to call my own. The moments that I have had for doing my own thing over the past month, I have spent painting and getting ready for The New Art Festival, which was held last weekend in beautiful Central Park in the Glebe area of downtown Ottawa.
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This was my first year doing this art festival and, thankfully, the weather cooperated with gorgeous sunny days that were neither uncomfortably hot nor humid! This was only the second time I have done an outdoor art festival, so much of it is still a real learning process for me. And wow! Did I learn some things at this show! LOL
I was very fortunate to have a great booth space, right across from one of the few food vendors in the park and not too terribly far from the unloading area. I have shown my pencil work several times before at indoor art fairs, and have professional gridwall for those shows. But gridwall is extremely heavy, not to mention awkward and unwieldy! It’s a major pain to transport as it is too long to fit inside our small SUV, so must be tied to the roof rack. UGH! So, since parking and the drop off zones were not ideal for this festival, with access to my booth space not conveniently close, I decided to replace my heavy gridwall with something lighter and easier to transport and carry in an effort to save poor hubby’s back (he very kindly — and usually good-naturedly — does all the lifting and toting for me).
As a replacement for the gridwall, I figured that lightweight chains were the perfect solution to hang my paintings from — such a brilliant idea! NOT! Though the white chain was considerably easier and more compact to transport and carry, and it certainly looked very neat and clean against the white backdrop of my tent walls, hanging my work from the chains that first day was a nightmare!
Hubby putting up tent, making sure it’s square.
Hubby attaching tent walls, just in case it rained.
Despite the fact that I had a layout plan on paper and knew exactly where each painting would hang (I am nothing, if not well organized!), getting the paintings to hang evenly from the chains and then to stay in place took much trial and error, and was an exercise that was fraught with anxiety and frustration (mine, not hubby’s! He just rolled his eyes at my grumblings and kept right on adjusting chains! LOL) Finally the S hooks were all spaced in such a way that the paintings were hanging evenly … though not very securely! Every time there was a slight breeze, the paintings that were not secured with hooks through the D-rings, but that were just hanging from their wiring, tilted crazily off centre, and oft-times tilted so they were completely up-ended! So, why not simply secure them all through their D-rings, you ask? Well, that was hubby’s original idea, but silly me had to go and argue with him about that, thinking it looked bad because, by securing the hooks through the D-rings, the chains did not all hang exactly vertically (due to the fact that some paintings on the lower rows were wider than those on the top row). I insisted that it was more important to have consistently vertical chains than to have securely moored paintings that I wouldn’t have to jump up and straighten every time the wind blew!
Welcome to my booth. I was very pleased with how it looked.
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I also had a problem with my price tags that first day! Because I had business card sized price tags, which I usually secure to my gridwall under my paintings with sticky tac, they didn’t fit very well into the tiny spaces left between the paintings, nor did the sticky tac stick very well to the tiny chain links. Instead, I decided to stick the tags to the sides of the paintings themselves. They stuck…but barely. I had to keep straightening the tags, and often had to pick them up off the ground and re-stick them.
Although there was overnight security, the park is huge, so rather than taking a chance that my work might be stolen or damaged, we packed up all my paintings at the end of the Saturday to bring home, but I made sure to leave the S hooks in place on the chains so we wouldn’t have to fiddle to get them even again on Sunday. I meekly held my tongue the next day when hubby proceeded to wordlessly secure those S hooks through the D rings of all my paintings so they wouldn’t tilt when the wind blew! I had also made new price tags overnight on self-sticking labels that actually did stay stuck to the sides of my paintings on the second day! So, Sunday was much
less traumatic more relaxing than Saturday had been. I may be a bit inexperienced when it comes to these outdoor festivals…but thankfully I am a quick learner…and know when not to argue with hubby! LOL
After a quick stroll around the park to view the set-ups other artists were using for their paintings, I’ve also decided that chain is NOT the way to go for hanging paintings! I plan to try something different — and hopefully much easier to manage! — for my next festival, which is only three short weeks away!
Back wall of my booth. The trunk I’d painted was incredibly handy!
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All in all, I consider The New Art Festival to have been a generally successful venture for me. It was exhausting, but very enjoyable. I love being able to talk to people who are obviously interested in my work and seeing their smiles and the expressions of wonder and appreciation on their faces is really encouraging and inspiring for me. I also love hearing their interpretations of what they feel my art is saying.
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Still, as enjoyable as the entire weekend was, there were a few things that did not work out so well. Besides the chains and price tags problems, there were no food vendors selling healthy or non-wheat food, so I will be sure to pack myself a bigger lunch and snacks next time.
There was also a major problem with one of the festival’s rules not being enforced. The rules for TNAF state very clearly and strictly (and numerous times in their prospectus and on the website) that ONLY original art is to be sold. No prints or cards are allowed. Well, unfortunately, I was one of the very few artists at the festival that seems to have actually obeyed that rule! Sadly, I brought no prints with me to sell….and over the course of the weekend I had SO many people ask me if I had prints! Needless to say, I felt very frustrated and disappointed by the lack of rule enforcement by TNAF, as I felt it put me at a very distinct disadvantage. Nevertheless, it was a great lesson, and in future, I will make sure that I always prepare prints to bring with me and have them ready to offer.
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Despite the abundance of inexpensive prints and cards available for sale by so many of the other artists, I did sell one of my smaller original paintings on Saturday. I spoke to three other artists at the festival whose work I admired, whose prices were in a similar range to mine, and who also did not have prints available, and discovered that sales had been poor for them as well. It gave me much food for thought. Was it just the general poor economy affecting sales of originals for everyone? (I noticed lots of people walking around with little packages of purchased cards, prints and small works of art — but I didn’t see one person walking around toting a large wrapped up painting). Was it because there were so many less expensive options available to prospective buyers in the form of prints and cards? Was it because my prices for original paintings were perhaps unreasonably high? I don’t feel they were, but have given the matter a lot of thought since the weekend and have decided to lower my prices to see if it makes a difference in sales of my originals.
As artists, we put our hearts and souls into our art, and so it is difficult to sell work for less than we feel it may be worth — but at the same time, if the work doesn’t sell, well, my house has only so many walls to hang paintings from! LOL And besides, I make my art to share and it is such a thrill for me to hand one of my “babies” over to someone who I know will be able to gain pleasure from my efforts for years to come because it hangs on their wall and not mine.
I am looking very forward to applying all I learned during my TNAF experience to the festival I will be doing in July.
My “Little Black Book”, where people could leave their email to enter a draw for a free print.
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I did have a draw for two free prints, one on Saturday and again on Sunday, and will be mailing them out to the two lucky winners at the beginning of next week (after the Canada Day holiday)!
I held two draws to give away two free prints over the weekend, one for Saturday, one for Sunday. Congratulations to Laura and Debbie!
I also had the foresight to bring paper and pencil with me and, during the quiet times, started working on a new graphite drawing. I’ll be posting it as a work in progress to my FB page.
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What if you slept?
And what if,
In your sleep
And what if,
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked
A strange and beautiful flower?
And what if,
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand?
Ah, what then?
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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I am not much of a poetry reader or lover, but when I stumbled across this poem by Coleridge the other day, it resonated so deeply within me that I actually found myself holding my breath when I’d finished reading it. I’ve since read it dozens of times, and have committed it to memory — not purposefully, but just as a result of repeating it to myself so many times. I think it touches me because it speaks so simply — yet so eloquently — of unlimited opportunities and boundless possibilities. “What if?” Such a little question…yet it opens so many doors to endless potentiality. What if you never asked “What if?” Can’t you just hear all those doors slamming hard in your face?
Pilgrimage – 6″ x 6″ (SOLD)
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“What if?” has always been a silent but ever-present question in my life. I think it must have been conceived in my heart as a little girl when I started to read fairy tales and imagined myself to be the beautiful princess or the jealous stepsister or even the wicked witch. I wanted to be a part of their magical worlds so badly! As an older child, I was often at my happiest when exploring the fantastical lands of Moonacre Valley (from The Little White Horse, which I read over and over again), Oz, Wonderland and Narnia (Oh, how I loved Narnia!). As a teen, a much more active social life lured me away from my books, but I found them again as an adult and shivered in terrified delight at my discovery of a more sinister type of magic in the dark lands of Shannara and the beautiful realms of Middle Earth. I lost myself in the romance of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon and Camelot, in the punny escapades to be found in Piers Anthony’s Xanth, in the exciting adventures to be had in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and in the treachery and unexpected horrors that lay in wait in Martin’s kingdoms of Westeros.
I recently discovered that The Little White Horse was made into a movie called The Secret of Moonacre! The full movie is here on YouTube…I can’t wait to watch it!
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As an adult, and particularly in the last almost 20 years, I became especially curious about religion and about spirituality. “What if?” I wondered. “What if there’s more to what I’ve been taught? In fact, what if everything I’ve been taught — about God, about heaven, about the devil, about sin — what if there is something more to it all?” The question fascinated me. “What if REAL magic exists? What if there’s just more to it???” I couldn’t resist that “What if?” all those years ago, and it set me on a journey of discovery that continues to fill me with wonder and fascination still. I expect that, for me, it is a journey that will never end
~ * ~
More recently, I have started to share some of my feelings about spirituality and the journey I believe we are all on, through my art. I taught myself to paint using acrylics last year, and almost from the first, I had a desire to express myself very differently than I do in my drawings. I draw in a very detailed, realistic style, and usually depict “real” things on my paper, most often people and animals. However, with my paintings, I felt a need to speak intuitively, from my heart, and so, almost from the beginning, I have used my paintings to try to convey some of my own spiritual journey and beliefs through the exploration of a surrealistic and slightly whimsical fantasy world where the trees are sentient (what if they are so closely connected to us, that they are us?), the skies are filled with light (what if, no matter how deep the night, there is always a light to guide us?) and a gentle sense of wonder and mystery inspires an urge within the viewer to wander farther, to quest deeper to find…something? (what if, what we are looking for, is already within us?).
No Escape – 6″ x 24″ (SOLD)
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The positive response my paintings have received have given me the confidence to start exploring more fantastical themes in my drawings. Over the years, I have tended to stay away from fantasy in my drawings because it seemed that fantasy themes were never as well received in my drawings as more realistic subject matter was. That has left me rather all over the place with my drawings, as I have always felt at a bit of a loss for subject matter. In trying to appeal to the “market” with my drawings, I think I lost a bit of myself. The truth is, fantasy is my first love, and though I do enjoy drawing portraits of people and animals, and sometimes even a still life, those subjects just don’t excite me like fantasy-themed subjects do. That is why I have finally decided to park myself firmly in the fantasy niche for most of my future drawings.
Not too long ago I wanted to test out a paper I had not used before with graphite. It was a very different experience for me and I ended up not overly happy with the technical results — the paper I used (Stonehenge) has a much more textured surface than the paper I usually use, and so I found it difficult to get the smoooooth, subtle shadings I am used to, and prefer. Nevertheless, I was extremely pleased with the actual concept, and I plan to redo this particular drawing on my usual paper as soon as I have time. I am looking forward to exploring a lot more similarly-themed drawings in future.
What Dreams May Come…
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But first, I need to get some more paintings done for my upcoming festival in June! More about that next time.
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I love winter. Not because I ski or skate or carve ice sculptures. I love it because, for me, it is a restful and most welcome season of recuperation, contemplation, reflection, meditation and hibernation. Usually I watch winter’s retreat with some small measure of melancholy at the corresponding loss of my own inner quiet time, but not so this year. This past winter, with its many dark-clouded days and the deep, relentless cold, was long enough even for me! Though Spring has been slow to arrive in these parts, arrive she did at last, just in time for Mother’s Day last weekend!
My husband surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and prepared a delicious gourmet breakfast. I enjoyed the morning with my family, but the warm sun outside beckoned, so in the afternoon, hubby and I went for a drive to Gatineau Park.
Flowers for Mother’s Day
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I am very fortunate to live so close to one of the largest and most beautiful natural conservation parks in the area. It covers 140 square miles of land and is located where the Canadian Shield meets the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Ottawa River meets the Gatineau River. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails, bike paths and cross country ski trails scattered throughout the park’s forests, as well as spectacular lookouts, beautiful picnic areas and clean lakes. I have been visiting Gatineau Park since I was a little girl and have very fond memories of driving the twisty roads in the summer heat with my Dad in his old ragtop corvette, and of walking with my mom in the crisp air to find leaves and pine cones to make crafts with, and of Saturdays spent x-country skiing in the winter with friends, and of hubby and me taking our own kids for walks and picnics there when they were younger. In fact, when it is time for me to continue on my journey after this lifetime, my family knows exactly where, in Gatineau Park, I would like my ashes spread from.
Me, 1976, Champlain Lookout
Me & my kids, 2001, Pink Lake
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This time when we went for our drive, we decided to visit an area of the park we’d never been to before — the McKenzie King Estate. William Lyon Mackenzie King served a total of 22 years as Canada’s Prime Minister, from 1921 to 1930 and again from 1935 to 1948. Upon his death, the unmarried King left his country retreat as “…a public park in trust for the people of Canada.” It is around this beautiful country Estate that the government established Gatineau Park.
There are some walking trails that lead from the Estate through the surrounding untamed woods, but the beauty of this particular area of the park lies in the groomed grounds of the Estate itself, which is home to many transplanted architectural “ruins” that King had brought to his country retreat from old stone buildings that were being demolished in nearby Ottawa. On seeing these ruins, I simply couldn’t help myself — visions of maidens and Muses and Fates began dancing in my head! I knew immediately that I would have to find a model with enough courage to don a long flowing robe and brave the gawking stares of strangers to pose for me on the ruins while I snapped photos for my references! LOL, yes, I am serious! In fact, thankfully, I have someone who I think would be quite happy to model for me under such conditions, and I hope to be able to get the reference shots I want in the coming weeks. Here’s a little taste of some of the ideas dancing in my head …
Can’t you just see her standing there in the centre? Artemis, with head tilted back in gratitude and arms raised to the sky in worship of the beautiful day?
Perhaps this is where Gaia sat in contemplation of the beauty around her?
Does a captive maiden look out longingly from one of these enchanted windows?
I’m certain this is where the bereaved princess came to mourn her slain knight.
Is this the home of the three Fates?
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I will be extra busy for the next little while painting up a storm to get ready for the largest outdoor art festival in my area coming up in June, The New Art Festival. Will hopefully have a couple of new paintings to show by next weekend. In the meantime, I wish you a happy, creative and sunny week!
Snapping turtle we rescued from the road on our drive through the park.
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Imagine my embarrassment when another artist asked me last week if I had a blog, and I had to point her here to the neglected home of two lonely little posts written so many months ago that I forgot they even existed! Of course, I have all kinds of legitimate excuses for the dust that’s accumulated here these past many months — I fell on Facebook and couldn’t get up … I accidentally threw my computer out the window … I doodled myself into oblivion … and not only that, but the dog peed on all my drawings! Okay, so that last one isn’t true!
Is this the face of innocence?
But really, aside from the fact that I am an irregular blogger at best, I have been insanely busy these past months. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it
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Being on the executive committee of the Pencil Art Society has certainly kept me hopping. We are having our first International Open Juried Exhibition this August and since January, there has been a flurry of things to do behind the scenes in preparation for that. Once everything was finally in place, I had an indoor Art Festival to get my paintings ready for in April, and this past month I have been panicking trying to get my own submission completed for the May 31 deadline for the PAS show.
Because she’s still living at home and is therefore so convenient, I often use my 24 year old daughter, Alanna, as a model for many of my drawings. Over the years, she has become more than a little weary of and impatient with my (sometimes weird) modeling requests, so, though she usually does comply with my instructions for various poses, if she’s not making deliberately funny faces, her expression is often distorted by rolling eyes and a wry are-you-not-DONE-yet? expression.
Alanna making faces (used with permission).
So, I felt very lucky when, a couple of months back, I happened to catch her sitting quietly at the kitchen table playing with her phone, oblivious to everything going on around her. Sunlight streamed in from the window behind her and another one to the side of her. The beautiful light caressed her skin so gently and kissed her hair so brightly and reflected from the table’s wood so softly that the whole scene looked almost ethereal. I said not a word, and immediately ran down to my studio, keeping my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t get up and leave in the minute it took me to grab my camera. Thankfully, she hadn’t, so quickly and quietly I focused, and snapped a photo. She looked up, rolled her eyes at me, and sighed a long-suffering sigh. “Really Mother??” she muttered …… then went back to browsing her phone as if I didn’t exist. Actually thrilled for a change to be so completely dismissed by her, I proceeded to shoot to my heart’s content as she ignored me and browsed her phone. LOL I ended up with a number of great shots, and that’s how I came up with the idea for the drawing I decided I would do for my submission to the PAS International Open Juried Exhibition.
Lost in Space
We are allowed to enter up to three drawings in the PAS show, so the second drawing I will enter is the one I did of a beautiful crow I captured early last spring while out on a country drive. Am not yet sure if I will enter a third drawing. I had been working on something in coloured pencil, but am not sure if I like it enough to submit it.
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Yesterday was Mother’s Day and what a gorgeous sunny day it was. Hubby took me to what is probably my favourite place on earth — Gatineau Park (okay so, admittedly, my travel experience is very narrow! hehe). Here’s a little glimpse of one of the trails we walked. I will try to be a better blogger and so, with regularity in mind, I will write more about yesterday’s excursion soon
Gatineau Park hiking trail
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Today is the last day of 2013 and I can’t say that I will be especially sorry to see this year pass away into my life’s history. 2013 was a rather tough year for me and, in a couple of significant respects, was simply not the year I hoped or expected it to be. That’s not to say that there weren’t many personal moments throughout the year that were very happy for me, for there certainly were! A dear artist friend was able to visit me from out of town and stayed for a whole week! My daughter graduated college, found a great job, bought her first car and has a 3 year term boyfriend whom we love! My son and his fiancée are happily learning ballroom dancing together while determinedly saving up for their first house! My adorable granddaughter grew from a sweet little crawler to a precocious, babbling toddler! Hubby finally got the promotion he’s deserved for so long! Lots of special times were spent with family and we had a lot of laughter and very good times with dear friends.
My granddaughter — artist in training
I also had a wonderfully creative and what might even be regarded as “successful” year with my art! I not only had two of my works accepted into the inaugural 2013 PAS Online Internet Exhibition, but Spring’s Sentry won 3rd Honourable Mention! It’s the first International award I’ve won, so I was really thrilled. I also taught myself to paint and am working on a series of whimsical landscapes in a fantastical acrylic world. I am very much enjoying exploring this new (to me) medium and more surrealistic style. And then, of course, there is the unexpected and almost overwhelming success we’ve enjoyed with the Pencil Art Society, an incorporated, non-profit arts organization which I helped to co-found with two good artist friends, and which only launched publicly nine months ago. I am so grateful for and truly humbled by all we have accomplished. It seems that, almost overnight, PAS not only became an internationally known arts society, but also one to be respected and reckoned with – so much so that our blog even won Making A Mark’s Best Art Society Blog Award given annually by Katherine Tyrrell! All of us on the PAS Board have worked incredibly hard and long hours to get the Pencil Art Society to where it is, and I am sure that with our inaugural International Exhibition coming up in Montreal, Quebec in August 2014, we can expect to continue to be insanely busy preparing for that well into the new year.
However on a more deeply personal note, 2013 held some few unexpected and unwelcome situations for me My RA has not been especially kind to me this past year and has played havoc on my body and particularly with my left knee — which pretty much put the kibosh on our plans to walk 800 miles across Northern Spain this past September. My meds just are not working so well as they used to and so, my RA has been very difficult to get under control. There have been other personal issues to deal with that, together with my health problems…well, let’s just say that much of it has left me feeling generally rather down and more than a little spent at times. I believe strongly though that every single person we meet in our life crosses our path for a reason…and every situation we find ourselves in is meant to teach us something. When I go through hard times, it’s not always easy for me to remember this and to really feel my true belief, which is that we are here as spiritual beings having a human experience…and that it ALL happens for a reason, and that the reason, ultimately, is for our higher purpose. But these last couple of months, it’s almost as if the Universe itself (or dare I say God?!) has reminded me of this quite frequently and some of the darkness I’ve been feeling for what seems like so long, is lifting and I look forward to 2014 with great anticipation and a renewed joie de vivre Happy New Year to us all!
Studio Mascot, Flirt
I’ve started an art blog in the past, but I was never very good about keeping it updated. My biggest excuse is time — there’s simply never enough of it. My other excuse is that I use Facebook. I am fairly active there and often post my drawings and paintings there as I am working on them, so I figure that nobody would be interested in reading about my process twice. But then it occurred to me: although I post my works in progress on Facebook and often give a short description, I rarely fully describe my actual physical process, much less the mental or emotional process I go through while creating. Facebook just doesn’t seem to be the proper venue for that. That is what blogs are for, aren’t they?!
And so, I am hoping that this time will be a charm for me and I will become, if not exactly a reliable blogger, at least a long-term and permanent one and, I sincerely hope, a helpful and interesting one.
Goodies from Curry’s
As winter creeps in and the present year grows old and tired, I am reminded of the Artist Resolutions I have made every New Year since 2010. My resolutions change every year, but the one consistent promise I make to myself every year is to sketch something — anything! — every single day. I have been very lax about keeping this promise to myself this past year, and so, with the intention of better keeping this resolution in 2014, I spent the lovely Curry’s Gift Card that I received for winning 3rd Honourable Mention for Spring’s Sentry in the PAS 2013 Online Exhibition on a lovely supply of paper and sketchbooks!
Sketchbooks and more sketchbooks