More Daily Sketches

It’s been a struggle to keep these daily sketches up this past week, first due to busy-ness and then due to being sick … I seem to have caught the flu :(

Though I would probably consider this more a painting than a sketch, I am going to count it as a sketch since it was a practice piece created under the watchful eyes of my watercolour teacher at my lesson last Monday. I’m pleased with how it turned out and am excited to practice more skies.

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DSC 35 – from my own photo – watercolour on 10″ x 11″ coldpressed wc paper.

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This next piece was another wet in wet practice exercise from a tutorial given me by my teacher, done in my sketchbook.

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DSC 36 – from tutorial – watercolour in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

I wasn’t terribly pleased with it, so I redid the exercise on better paper. I’m still not overly pleased with it, so I may try it again.

The second version...more painting than sketch I think.

The second version…more painting than sketch I think.

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I am having way too much fun painting imaginary sketchy people! They are becoming my “go to subject” when I can’t think of anything else to sketch…and I know the practice will come in handy when I start doing more urban sketching once the weather warms up.

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DSC 37 – from imagination – watercolour in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

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I have a little bonzai tree that I sketched from life. Was running out of time, so the sketch has far fewer leaves than the tree has in real life!

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DSC 38 – from life – micron pen in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I have been thinking about continuing my acrylic “Journey” series with my little girl (aka everywoman/man) and her teddy in either graphite or watercolour. I’ve been playing with the idea of replacing the teddy’s balloon (aka inner happiness) with a lantern … the concept being that the little girl is following her inner light … aka her intuition … aka the part of ourselves that knows the Truth … aka Divine Spirit :) Still thinking about it, and so I sketched out a couple of my thoughts….

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DSC 39 – from imagination – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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DSC 40 – from imagination – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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Wasn’t feeling at all well, so had a cup of tea and sank myself into one of my greatest childhood comforts — drawing horses and unicorns 😀

DSC - in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook. in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

DSC 41 – from imagination – graphite  in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I canceled my watercolour class this week because of how I was feeling, but I’ve got a book of watercolour tutorials by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and decided to explore it. I just love her style, as well as her fantastical subject matter. This is one of the tutorials from her book (except I decided to ink my seahorse).

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DSC 42 – practice using tutorial – watercolour in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

Think I will spend the rest of the week cuddled with Flirt in a blanket, with lots of hot tea, homemade chicken soup, and time to play in my sketchbooks :)

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Daily Sketch Challenge Going Strong

Well, I must say, I have sort of really shocked myself by reaching the end of January with not a single day of my Daily Sketch Challenge missed! I’ve even managed to get in a few extra sketches for a total of 34 sketches over the course of 31 days. Admittedly, it’s been quite a challenge to make the time to sketch every single day, no matter how busy I’ve been, or how little time I’ve had or even if I would rather do almost anything BUT sketch. A few of these sketches I’ve had to fit in at the very last minute before bed due to other demands on my time, and only because I am so determined to succeed at this challenge. It would be sooo easy just to succumb to the temptation of excusing myself from the challenge on the days I have no time/no desire to sketch, but so far I haven’t given in to that temptation, so for that reason, I am pretty proud of myself for sticking to it! :)

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Fantasy is my favourite genre and some 30ish years ago, I read many of the Terry Brooks’ Shannara series of books. They’ve recently turned one of the books into a TV series and though it’s not exactly Game of Thrones, it is pretty decently done. These 5 minute sketches are from the first episode of the show. I’m really enjoying playing with my watersoluble graphite pencils. I’m not very experienced with them, but am learning more about how they work every time I use them.

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DSC 28 – 5 minute sketches from paused movie scenes – watersoluble graphite in 8.5″ x 11″ unknown brand sketchbook.

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This was a very quick sketch, maybe 10 minutes, done just before bed, from a photo of my little joy angel, Flirt.

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DSC 29 – quick sketch of Flirt from a photo – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I spent some time on this one, mainly on getting the proportions correctly. In 2013, I had drawn two tiny 3″x4″ miniatures (Summer Memories and Remember When) to enter in the juried International Miniature Art Exhibit. I always wanted to draw more tiny drawings as part of that same “Lazy Days of Summer” series, but never did get around to it. I think I may do this one as part of that series, and perhaps will even enter it into the 2016 mini exhibition if I get it done in time. At 5″x8″, this sketch is actually larger than the drawing would be! LOL

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DSC 30 – from a photo I took in Perth, ON – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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One of the hardest parts of this challenge for me is finding subject matter to sketch. I felt like working with my coloured pencil on this day, and had previously sketched rocks in coloured pencil on the beautiful, cream-coloured paper in my Moleskine sketchbook, so decided to try doing another rock.

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DSC 31 – a lovely striated small rock I found on a walk years ago that I use as a paper weight – coloured pencil in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I totally didn’t much feel like drawing this day, so decided to play with some wet on wet watercolour. After my experimental “splotches” dried, I defined them a bit with some gel pens.

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DSC 32 – watercolour experiment and doodling – wet on wet watercolour with gel pens in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

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I love, love, love working on the tan coloured paper in my Strathmore sketchbook! I’m still not great at using the paper as my mid tone, but it’s definitely fun to play in.

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DSC 33 – little fantasy scene from imagination – micron pen, white gel pen and coloured pencil in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

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DSC 34 – birch trees from imagination – experimenting with white gel pen and black pilot pen in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that I manage to get through February with 29 sketches completed by the end of the month!

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Sketches and more sketches!

I must admit, it’s been a bit difficult to keep up with my Daily Sketch Challenge as I’ve been so busy lately, but I am determined to end up with at least 366 sketches by the end of the year, so am admittedly proud of myself for having made it through the first few weeks of the new year without missing a single day of sketching!

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That being said, some sketches are really very quick and not very detailed at all, as evidenced by this curious little fellow!

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DSC 15 – chipmunk from my own ref photo – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

While others qualify more as doodles than true sketches!

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DSC 16 – a doodle – micron pens in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

And some are experiments that went horribly, horribly wrong, such as this unicorn morphing into a man! The idea was MUCH better in my head! LOL Not only was the sketch itself awful, but I discovered that the Moleskine sketchbook paper does NOT like very wet washes of watercolour! :( Ah well…lesson learned!

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DSC 17 – from imagination – graphite sketch with watercolour in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

Still other sketches I was quite pleased with, such as these quick little gesture sketches from the movie, The Book of Daniel.

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DSC 18 – 5 minute gesture sketches from paused movie scenes  – black Gellyroll pen in 8.5″ x 11″ unknown brand sketchbook.

These flowers also turned out much better than I expected and I’m very pleased with them. My little sketchbook from (brand name) Desserres has really nice paper for watercolour. Even though it is not made specifically for watercolour, the paper takes quite wet washes very well. Unfortunately though, it’s been discontinued, so once I am finished this sketchbook, I shall have to find another brand of sketchbook for my watercolour sketches.

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DSC 19 – in 5.5″ X 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

I’ve had this Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook for a couple of years now, but had never really used it until just recently. I’m not used to using the paper as my mid tone, so it took some getting used to, but I am starting to get the hang of it and am really enjoying working in it.

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DSC 20 – a red onion drawn from life – black and white Gellyroll pens in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

You can see my museum sketches –  DSC 21-DSC 24 – here.

This little winter scene is from my head and was just meant to practice using liquid frisket, as well as to practice snow in watercolour. Not a terribly successful experiment! My background wash is a total disaster! Which I made even worse by accidentally resting my fingers on it and leaving behind smudges! LOL

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DSC 25 – winter scene from imagination – watercolour on scrap coldpress Canson paper.

More experimenting and playing with watercolour. I had seen a tutorial somewhere a while back (sorry…really wish I could provide the link, but can’t for the life of me remember who did it or where I saw it) on how to draw “stick figures” (with a pen) to include in urban sketching. Anyway, I decided to try it out with watercolour rather than pen. This little sketch was sooo much fun to do! I have a feeling that I will be practicing lots more sketchy people and including them in future sketches! 😀

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DSC 26 – from imagination – watercolour in 5.5″ X 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

I’ve had to miss my last two watercolour lessons, so decided to try this little exercise from the Watercolor Painting for Dummies book I have. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and might try more exercises from this book….though am hoping to get back to my lessons again next week!

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DSC 27 – a practice exercise from the book Watercolor Painting for Dummies – watercolour in 5.5″ X 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

 

That catches me up to date until yesterday with my Daily Sketch Challenges. Going forward, I will probably be posting some of my better daily sketches on Instagram, and will try to post the entire week’s worth of sketches, failures and all, regularly here on my blog every Monday or Tuesday.

 

Night At The Museum: Whales and Wolves and Dinosaurs, Oh My!

Last night was the new official Urban Sketchers Ottawa first sketch crawl! There have been other sketch crawl events by this group, but this was the first one as an officially recognized Urban Sketcher Regional Chapter, which was very exciting! And what a night it turned out to be! Record numbers of sketchers turned out for the event, which was held indoors at the stunningly beautiful Canadian Museum of Nature, in the heart of downtown Ottawa. I’ve sketched many times before at this museum, and wrote a more detailed blog post about the museum itself and my sketching experiences there last year.

The moon peeking from the clouds over the museum

The almost full moon peeking from the clouds over the castle-like walls of museum.

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We got a group photo of the intrepid sketchers at the end of the evening. There are 24 of us in this photo and already many had departed, so we had well over 30 people attend! Such a fantastic turnout! It was so nice to meet everyone and I think it’s a wonderful indication of just how much Ottawa artists enjoy an opportunity to get out and sketch and hopefully this was a herald of many more well-attended Ottawa Sketch events in future!

What a turnout! photo courtesy of Cindi Foreman.

What a turnout! photo courtesy of Cindi Foreman.

Here a sketcher. there a sketcher...

Here a sketcher, there a sketcher…

Everywhere you looked, your eyes lit of a sketcher or three!

Everywhere you looked, your eyes lit on a sketcher or five!

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I managed to complete four sketches which I was pretty pleased with during the evening.

The first was of a rather mangy looking and quite small mounted racoon on display in the Wetlands area of the museum. I didn’t spend too much time on this, and treated it as a bit of a warm up sketch.

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DSC 21 – racoon – black gel pen and inktense pencils (water added) in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

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My second sketch was of a life sized model of a narwhal. I just love narwhals, so spent a bit more time on this one. It was fun (and challenging!) trying to duplicate the mottled pattern of his skin.

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DSC 22 – narwhal – watersoluble graphite pencils (water added) in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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The third sketch I did was of the diorama of the wolves stalking a herd of bison. It’s one of my favourite dioramas at the museum.

 

My view was partially cut off so I had to more or less guess at the hindquarter placement.

My view was partially blocked by the diorama case so I had to more or less guess at the hindquarter placement.

I spent the most time working on this one, perhaps 45 minutes or so.

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DSC 23 – wolves on the hunt – white charcoal pencil and white gel pen in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

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The last sketch I did was of a life-sized dinosaur skeleton/model of a Triceratops.

Triceratops

Triceratops

I really enjoyed doing this one and would have spent longer except that time was running out! I spent about a half hour or so on it.

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DSC 24 – triceratops skull – black gel pen, white gel pen, 4B graphite and white charcoal pencil in 7.75″ x 9.95″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

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I had a wonderful evening and am really looking forward to my next outing with the Ottawa Urban Sketchers!

P.S.: As you may have noticed by the labeling of these sketches, I am including them as part of my 2016 Daily Sketch Challenge. I will make another post soon to post the sketches I’ve done between my last blog post and this one.

 

Welcome 2016!

Welcome, welcome, welcome 2016! It’s so exciting to have a brand new year just lying in wait for me to discover! A clean slate awaits with 366 magnificent fresh starts, each with opportunities to explore, to grow, to do good, to get it right! Yes, undoubtedly I will stumble along the way, and maybe even fall flat on my face a few times, but I have no doubt that 2016 will be a resounding success in all areas of my life! How could it not be, since I am the one steering my own little life raft and am able to navigate my course by consciously choosing my every thought, all of which are reflected in my feelings, which manifest my own personal reality! It’s all just as simple — and as tricky — as that! LOL

My first sketch of the new year. Ink & watercolour pencils in Moleskine sketchbook.

DSC 1 – ink & watercolour pencils in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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For the last two years and again this year, I have used a word to guide myself throughout the year. I don’t consciously choose the word. In meditation, the word chooses me. I always know that my word is sent by Spirit because of how deeply it resonates within my heart. In 2014 my word was “Grow”. In 2015 my word was “Be Not Afraid” (yes, I can count and know there are three words there…but I still considered it my 2015 “word”! :) ). Both those words perfectly suited those years for me. This year my word is “Love”. Just as in the previous two years, this year’s word is completely perfect and totally fitting for me. To be honest, I was hoping for a word like “Gentle” or “Patience” or “Kindness” or even “Tolerance” or “Acceptance”, as those are the qualities I have been feeling most in need of this past little while, and they are the qualities that I really want to focus my attention on in 2016, so admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when the word “Love” chose me. In fact, when that word first whispered to me I kind of rolled my eyes, sighed and then scoffed at myself, “Really?! How trite!” But then, almost immediately, I smiled, as the words from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 popped into my head (okay, so, only the first 5 words popped in…I had to google the rest 😀 ):

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I think that may perhaps be not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most truthful things ever written.

My New Year altar.

My New Year meditation altar.

When that passage came to my mind, I immediately realized that the qualities I most want to focus on in the coming year —  gentleness, patience, kindness, tolerance and acceptance — all could be defined by one simple word. Love. And so, trite as it may seem, I think “Love” is the perfect word for me to use as my guide through 2016.

Watersoluble graphite in my Moleskine sketchbook.

DSC 2 – my poor dying orchid…it’s definitely in need of a little more love! – watersoluble graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I also stopped setting New Year “Resolutions” a few years back. There is far too much negativity associated with “Resolutions”, and so instead, I now set yearly intentions for myself. An intention is so much gentler than a resolution, I think. Intentions leave wiggle room, give us space to breathe, to adjust, to adapt, where resolutions are just so, well, resolute! LOL

Sketch of the little pewter elephant that usually sits on my star - watersoluble graphite in Moleskine sketchbook.

DSC 3 – the little pewter elephant that usually stands guard on my altar – watersoluble graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

Ultimately I suppose it is all just semantics! Whether I set intentions or resolutions for myself, it still means I am planting seeds that I plan to water in the hope that they will grow into my reality. I know many people balk at setting resolutions or even intentions, but I am not one of those people. I like setting goals for myself and feel very adrift without them, as though I am wandering aimlessly. And so, once again, besides setting some personal intentions, I have also set some few artistic intentions for myself for the coming year and thought I would share them with you here :)

Sketch from my imagination - White charcoal pencil in Strathmore tan toned sketchbook.

DSC 4 – some joyful snowpeeps, from my imagination – white charcoal pencil in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

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I’ve given a lot of thought lately to what I’ve been feeling re: my art these past couple of years and confess (in case it’s not already obvious) that I have been in quite a deep “art slump”, feeling very unambitious and just not much into spending inordinate amounts of time on large, detailed, “serious” drawings. Despite feeling this way for so long, it really only just occurred to me that THAT is why I have produced so little pencil work over the past couple of years, not the fact that I have been so busy with other things (although I suspect my busy-ness has certainly been a contributing factor to my lack of inspiration).  I’ve also only recently realized that I have inexplicably been placing a lot of silent pressure on myself to “smarten up and draw more and enter some shows already!” and, even worse, have felt more than a little guilty about how few drawings have left my drawing table and how few exhibitions I’ve entered!

Seriously! What’s up with that??  LOL

And so, this year, I intend to put my word of the year into practice by loving myself more and relinquish all that pressure and silly feelings of obligation and guilt and all the “you shoulds” and “serious drawing” nonsense and allow myself to just relax and play more with my art! :)

Sketch of my little Buddha statue - white charcoal pencil & white gel pen in 7.75" x 9.75" Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook..

DSC 5 – my little Buddha statue – white charcoal pencil & white gel pen in 7.75″ x 9.75″ Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

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With that in mind, I intend to give priority this year to sketching. I love sketching — it is probably my favourite art-related thing to do! I have set the intention before (almost every year in fact) to “sketch more”, but life always seems to interfere and I never end up sketching nearly as much as I’d hoped to. So this year, I am truly making it THE priority by formally challenging myself to a Daily Sketch Challenge (DSC). And lucky me! This year being a leap year, I get to sketch 366 days! LOL

One of the most fun ways for me to sketch is to watch a movie or TV program and to pause it for 5 minutes at interesting scenes, set my timer for 5 minutes, then do at quick gesture sketch. I usually do these in ink and often add some watercolour after the fact. These scenes are from the series Merlin - micron pen & watercolour in a Currys sketchbook.

DSC 6 – One of the most fun ways for me to sketch is to watch a movie or TV and pause it at interesting scenes, set my timer for 5 minutes, then quickly sketch. I usually use ink and often add  watercolour afterward. These scenes are from the series Merlin – microns & watercolour in 8.5″ x 11″ unknown brand sketchbook.

I know I have defined what I mean by “sketching” elsewhere on this blog, but to reiterate exactly what I mean by the word “sketch”, here it is again:

“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.”

 

Crows sketched from my own refs - ink on watercolour wash in discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

DSC 7 – crows sketched from my own refs – ink on watercolour wash in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Desseres brand sketchbook.

Just because I am giving a priority to sketching doesn’t necessarily mean that I will have ample time to sketch! Likely, I won’t! :( Which means that a lot of my sketches will probably be either very rough, very vague, very minimal or very incomplete. The priority for me with this challenge is not to produce pretty pictures, so much as it is to produce art daily and playfully. On days that time is my ally, I might pull off something close to resembling a “serious drawing”, but on the days I am busy or distracted or just not in the mood, I might only be able to spend 5 minutes on a stick man figure.  I’m okay with that and I hope anyone following here is okay with that too. I also very likely won’t be photographing/posting my sketches every day, but I intend to post all the daily sketches I have done throughout the week regularly (hopefully once weekly going forward) here on my blog. I will probably also be posting them more often on Instagram.

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DSC 8 – little shell with feathers stuck in it that sits on my altar – watersoluble graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

 

Sketch from imagination - watersoluble graphite in Deserves brand discontinued sketchbook.

DSC 9 – from imagination – watersoluble graphite in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Deserves brand sketchbook.

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Keeping in line with my intention to sketch more, I also plan to attend as many monthly sketch outings as possible with the newly formed “formal” Ottawa Urban Sketchers. I’m looking forward to their next event, to take place the evening of Jan 21 at one of my fave places and somewhere I have sketched many times before, the beautiful Museum of Nature.

Sketch from imagination, an idea for possible future drawing - watersoluble graphite in Moleskine sketchbook.

DSC 10 – from imagination, an idea for a possible future drawing – watersoluble graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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I’ve mentioned before that my local Art Society holds twice monthly Open Studios, and attending those as often as possible will also become a priority for me. I really enjoy being able to share and socialize with “others of my kind”, and the Open Studio is such a relaxing, wonderful opportunity for just that.

Practicing g my watercolour washes - gel pen & watercolour

DSC 11- practicing my watercolour washes – white gel pen & watercolour on scrap cold press Arches paper.

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I intend (and in fact, have started) to take watercolour lessons from a local artist that I greatly admire. I’m really just thrilled about this, as I have wanted to formally learn watercolour for years and finally decided to treat myself this year. I imagine I will be doing a lot of my sketches in watercolour, though will certainly still be doing most in pencil I think. No matter what, pencil will always be my first love.

More watercolour practice - watercolour in disconti ued Deserres sketchbook.

DSC 12 – More watercolour practice – watercolour in 5.5″ x 8″ discontinued Deserres brand sketchbook.

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Yes, I still LOVE pencil and love “serious drawing”, and I do intend to complete something to submit for the Pencil Art Society International Open Exhibition that will be held in Ottawa in September. If I take the time to work on and complete only one such drawing this year, that will be the one! I am keeping everything I have that is crossable, crossed, that I can come up with something I am happy with and complete it in time for the deadline!

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DSC 13 – negative drawing practice with grasses from imagination – graphite in 5″ x 8″ Moleskine sketchbook.

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And finally, my last art-related intention is to be a little more present on this blog. This too I have set as a goal before and wasn’t very successful at keeping it up, but I am ready, willing and able to try again. I think my DSC will give me a good incentive to post here much more regularly :) … and hopefully with not quite so much to say at a time if I post more frequently! 😛

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DSC 14 – experimenting with white charcoal on watercolour wash – on scrap piece of Strathmore cold press paper.

If you’ve set any New Year Resolutions or Intentions for yourself, personal or creative, I’d love to hear what they are and wish you all the best with them! Whatever they are, I know you can do it! :)

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2015 Reflections

Well it’s been some time since I’ve updated here hasn’t it?! The usual excuses apply, but now that the craze of the holidays is fading and while the end of the year is still a warm memory, I feel the desire to wrap 2015 up in a nice pretty package and kiss it a loving and very grateful farewell.

My Christmas altar.

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2015 was another pretty quiet year for me on the artistic front. I made a very deliberate decision last January to devote the majority of my time in 2015 to personal areas of my life, and most especially to my own spiritual growth, both through formal study and through practice. I know this is supposed to be an art blog about artsy things written by an artist … and I promise, I do have some very few artsy things to share … but the bulk of my time over the past year was consumed by more personal pursuits rather than creative pursuits, and is thus reflected in this blog entry.

The first drawing I completed in 2015

The 1st drawing I completed in early 2015.

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It’s a bit hard to sum everything up in a nutshell, so I’ll just share some of my highlights from the past year with you ….

Last Christmas, at the very end of 2014, I started having a severely sore stomach on a daily basis, to the point that I had to take narcotic pain killers just to get through my days without agony.  Very long story short, finally I was diagnosed with ulcers, but after treatment with antibiotics the stomach pain became less localized but even more severe. Finally, in July, after far too many trips to the doc and gastro specialist, who both wanted to put me on stronger and stronger versions of the stomach acid meds they had already put me on, I gritted my teeth, said “buh bye!” to them both, went off the stomach meds they had given me and decided to treat myself. After 8 months of almost daily stomach agony and heavy duty narcotics to control the pain, my stomach finally began to feel better 3 weeks after I started treating myself with large doses of a couple of different probiotics. I am convinced that the intense course of antibiotics I was given for the ulcer (which, as it turned out after the biopsy came back, in my case, was not even caused by H. Pylori, so I didn’t need the antibiotics — UGH!), and a second course of antibiotics for a case of bronchitis I just couldn’t shake in May, as well as perhaps the multiple strong prescription antacids (they insisted each progressively stronger one would surely fix the problem, but none did),  caused all my good gut bacteria to die off and left my poor tummy screeching for a solution. I am just so grateful that I was able to find relief at last and now I take my probiotics without fail! (and won’t take antibiotics again unless I am dying of sepsis! LOL)

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Both my grown kids had been in long-standing partnerships, but then both went through major relationship upheavals that took a bit of a toll on them and consumed a lot of my own concern and emotional energy for them over many months during the past year. Thankfully, they are both doing well at this point and both are looking forward to their futures and new relationships.

One of the four drawings I completed in 2015 - a portrait of my daughter and her ex.

The 2nd drawing I completed in 2015 – a portrait of my daughter with her ex.

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Yikes! I am making it sound like it was all doom and gloom for me in 2015! But it really wasn’t! Not by a long shot! :) Health-wise, despite having so much trouble with my stomach, I am in a really good place with my RA. Where I could barely walk at times because of my knees two years ago, I have very little trouble now with mobility or pain. I had been on Methotrexate for about ten years and Humira for about five and they’d been working reasonably well for me for quite a while, but gradually they stopped being effective and when I started getting side effects from the Methotrexate, I asked the doc to try something else for me. He switched me to Enbrel last year, and that seems to have done the trick. I have also drastically reduced the amount of gluten I eat, and I feel that has also helped my RA.

Hiking in gatineau Park with friends

Hiking with friends up and down steep hills in Gatineau Park. It’s so wonderful to have knees strong enough to handle the physical stress again!

 

Ink & watercolour sketches done while hiking.

Ink & watercolour sketches done while taking little breaks from hiking to just soak up the scenery.

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I joined the Orleans Ladies Social Book Club in December 2014 and over the past year have become friends with some absolutely fabulous ladies that I would never have met otherwise. How beautifully Life works in this way! We meet once monthly over wine and far too many yummy goodies and discuss almost everything BUT our chosen book of the month! LOL I really enjoy my time with these women and affectionately call them my “Bookies”. 😀 Being part of this book club has also “forced” me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. Even though I may not have always appreciated some of the stories chosen, I do very much enjoy the opportunity to broaden my reading horizons! I’ve updated my Reading List for anyone interested.

Out for a special breakfast with my "Bookies"

Out for a special breakfast with my “Bookies”.

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As I mentioned above, at the very beginning of the year I made a decision to really focus on my spiritual growth during 2015. I’ve always been very interested in spirituality and have been exploring and studying various different “spiritual paths”, including Wiccan, Hinduism and Buddhism over the past 20 years or so, but never truly felt a “perfect fit” in any of them for me. Then about three years ago I discovered Unity, which is a spiritual / metaphysical / philosophical New Thought movement based on Christianity, and I knew that I had finally found my “spiritual home”.  With the goal of deepening my understanding of Unity principles, I started attending their weekly services regularly this year, have taken 5 different classes related to metaphysics since last March and, most significantly, have committed myself to a daily hour-ish long meditation practice. As a result of my studies and especially my meditation practice, I feel I’ve grown so much over the past year and I know it has helped me to face my health and other challenges with a much better mindset than I might have otherwise. I feel that I am a significantly different person now than I was at the beginning of last January as a direct result of my studies and practice, and am so very grateful for all the amazing people I’ve met in Unity, as well as the learning opportunities and lessons I’ve had this past year. Life is beautiful, and I am so grateful for how deeply happy and fulfilled I feel and how blessed I am.

Candlelight Christmas Service at Unity Spiritual Centre Ottawa

Candlelight Christmas Service at Unity Spiritual Centre Ottawa (photo © Rev. Roxanne Buckle, used with permission).

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I was beyond thrilled to get to see two of my “spiritual gurus” in person when they visited Ottawa this past year: I saw Marianne Williamson in April (and she even gave me a hug and autographed the book that I’d brought with me!) and I saw Wayne Dyer in May. Given the fact that Wayne Dyer died so unexpectedly in August, I am so very grateful that I got to see him. I attended his lecture with my best friend, Kathy, and he gave a truly memorable talk. The experience is one that I treasure.

Marianne Williamson signing my book

Marianne Williamson signing my book, A Year of Miracles.

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One of the biggest changes for me in the past year is that we moved in September from a 3 story, 3 bedroom home with fireplace + garage + yard in the suburbs … to a teeny, tiny apartment right in the heart of downtown Ottawa. We’d always wanted to try the urban lifestyle, but not while we had kids at home, as we wanted to raise the kids in the suburbs. But finally, with kids gone and hubby due to retire in a few years (at which time we plan to buy in the country), we felt the time was now or never! So, we bit the bullet, sold, gave away or stored almost everything we owned, and made the big move to the not so big city (it IS Ottawa afterall! LOL)! Was it scary?? YES!! What a huge change for us! But wow! We’ve been here now for four months, and we truly couldn’t be happier! It’s a very different lifestyle, but we adapted quickly. Hubby no longer has a 1.5 hour twice daily bus commute, but instead enjoys a healthy 20 minute walk to and then from work. I no longer have a large, dedicated studio that so often kept me completely separate and isolated from the family, but instead, I now have ample work space in the large, bright, eat-in kitchen and when it’s warm enough during the Spring, Summer and Fall I also have dedicated creative space set up on the large balcony. It’s a much simpler, yet a much more vibrant lifestyle and we’re enjoying it tremendously.

Enjoying a drink on an outdoor patio just up the block from our new pad.

Enjoying a well-earned glass of wine post-move, on an outdoor patio just a block away from our new home.

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Immediately after our move, we went away on a week long vacation to a cottage we rented in the Kawartha Lakes district. It was such a beautiful, peaceful spot.

Mist on the lake in the early morning.

Mist on the lake in the very early morning.

Two of my very good artist friends, Darlene and Manon, along with their hubbies, joined us for a week of very welcome R&R. Living so far apart, the three of us rarely get the chance to spend real time together, so we all had such a wonderful, relaxing, fun and creative time.

Darlene (l) & Manon (r) painting at our cottage getaway.

Darlene (l) & Manon (r) painting en plein air at our cottage getaway.

The weather was perfect and I was able to sketch every day and came back home feeling much rejuvenated.

A few of the sketches I completed while on vacation.

A few of the sketches I completed while on vacation.

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So at last, we come to my few art-related activities for the past year and, sadly, just like last year, I’ve very few pieces of “serious art” to show for 2015. I spent so much of my time and energy on non-creative pursuits, that my drawing time really suffered and it’s been a very dry year for me artistically.  I find myself desperately missing my drawing time!

Currently on my drawing table ... in progress

Currently on my drawing table … in progress. Tried to finish it in time for my daughter for Christmas, but ran out of time.

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I have been painting consistently though, as I’ve worked the past year (and continue to work) as an Artist Instructor for Paint Nite, teaching groups of inebriated non-artists in a bar/restaurant setting with the music blasting (between instructions), how to paint a particular scene in acrylics … and I gotta say, as jobs go, this one’s a blast! :) But because of the small space we now live in and the associated lack of wall space and storage issues, this is now the only form of acrylic painting I do.

Fun at Paint Nite

Fun at Paint Nite

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As both the Secretary and Web Services Director of PAS, a lot of my art-related time was spent working for the Pencil Art Society, mainly on getting the MPAS prospectus and applications and the 2015 IPAS exhibition ready. I’ve also been working on the PAS 2016 Calendar, which will be published on the PAS website by the end of the month. And finally, the PAS Board has been working hard on preparing for our 2016 International Open Juried Exhibition, which will be in Ottawa this coming fall, and is something that I am very much looking forward to. I didn’t have the time / energy to get anything drawn for the online show, but am hoping to submit something for the International show.

"Joy" by sculptor bruce Garner. There's so much beauty for visitors to see in Ottawa!

The statue, “Joy”, by sculptor Bruce Garner, on Sparks street. There’s so much beauty for visitors to see in Ottawa!

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I had a solo exhibition of my acrylic work, which took place at a local library, but unfortunately it coincided with the time of my move and vacation, so it was not something I had the energy to get overly excited about and I didn’t bother to promote it. As for my pencil work, I completed only four drawings, plus one commissioned portrait, and showed in only two local exhibitions this past year.

Name won 3rd place in the Works on paper division in Arteast's show

My 3rd graphite drawing of the year, Judgment Day, won 3rd place in the Works On Paper division in the Arteast Juried Awards Exhibition.

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My local art society, Arteast, holds Open Studios every couple of weeks, and I was so glad to be able to attend quite a few of them this past year. It’s so nice to be able to get together with other artists to share tips, techniques and some fun chat.

A little watercolour I complete at the Open Studio in December.

A little watercolour I completed at the last Open Studio in December.

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And finally, I did get in quite a bit of sketching over the course of the year, though not nearly so much as I had hoped to. I had tried to start up an Urban Sketch / Sketch Crawl group early in the year and managed to organize a few outings, but ultimately I just did not have the time to invest to grow the group, and the events kind of petered out as everyone got busy over the summer. So, I was thrilled to discover in the autumn another local artist, Cindi, who had started an official Urban Sketch group for Ottawa! She even created an official blog and a page for Ottawa sketchers on Facebook! I attended the December Sketchcrawl at the National Gallery. No ink, paints or erasers are allowed by the NG (because of the potential for mess), so it was a bit of a challenge, but I ended up with a couple of sketches I was very happy with. I am looking so forward to future outings with this group.

One sketch in graphite and one in coloured pencil that I did at the National Gallery

One sketch in graphite and one in coloured pencil that I did in my Moleskine at the National Gallery.

Altogether in 2015, I did 80-some sketches. I hope to triple that number next year!

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And so, at last, it’s time for me to bid a grateful Farewell to 2015! I look so forward to 2016 unfolding, with all its shiny, new, exciting and beautiful opportunities just waiting to be discovered! To all my friends and followers, I wish you vibrant good health, great abundance and prosperity, many fulfilling and successful creative ventures, much happiness and joy, deeply loving relationships and a glorious sense of inner peace in the coming year!

My 4th graphite drawing of the year - "Best Friends" - which, though I would consider it more or less complete, I think I will be tweaking for deeper contrasts in the floor and door before framing.

My 4th graphite drawing of the year – “Best Friends” – which, though I would consider it more or less complete, I think I will be tweaking for deeper contrasts in the floor and door before framing.

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Museum of History Sketchcrawl

curves

curves

Last week was another Sketchcrawl date, and with weather still just a bit too crisp to be comfortable wandering outdoors, our little group headed off to another indoor venue…this time the  Museum of History (formerly known as the Museum of Civilization), just a short drive away on the opposite bank of the Ottawa River.

Originally the exhibits in this museum were housed in the beautiful Museum of Nature, but some years ago the Gov’t decided to spend some of the tax payer’s money on a fancy new-fangled super-cool architecturally-modern building to better display all the historical artifacts previously cramped into what I always felt was the less exciting side of the Museum of Nature.

Totems

Totems

The Grand Hall is the museum’s “piece de resistance”, with it’s spectacular wall of windows that soars to a height of 6 stories and highlights the magnificent totem poles exquisitely carved by the First Peoples of Canada’s Pacific Coast. I had never been to this museum before, so while the others spent a couple of hours parked in the Grand Hall sketching, I just did a couple of quick sketches then spent some time exploring the Native houses in behind the totems.

sketches

My quick ink sketches, with a bit of watercolour.

We got a wonderful seat for lunch in the cafeteria by another panoramic window wall that looked out on the iconic scene of Parliament Hill, so after lunch we spent another hours or so relaxing with our coffees and sketching the sunny view across the frozen river.

Silhouettes

Matt, Maureen and Mari silhouetted while sketching.

 

sketches

Pencil sketch.

Though architecturally stunning and historically interesting, the Museum of History ultimately just doesn’t compare to the Museum of Nature with its exhibits of birds, mammals, marine life and dinosaurs. Still, I am really glad that I finally, after all these years of living so close, was able to get to this museum.

sketchbooks

Our sketchbooks.

Hopefully our next Sketchcrawl date will be on a day that it’s warm enough to wander outside!

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A Little Art Journaling

I spent another wonderful day this past week with the ladies from Arteast at the Open Studio. It was a beautiful, though cold day, and the sun decided it wanted an art day too, and drew some magnificent shadows on the building where the Open Studio is held. I just had to stop and take a few minutes to marvel at Nature’s masterpiece … and to snap a few photos.

Nature's masterpiece

Nature’s masterpiece

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I am really enjoying my Open Studio days with my artsy friends. It’s so inspiring to see what others are working on, to learn new techniques and to experiment with new tools and mediums.

There were about 9 of us for the Open Studio, but I only captured these ladies on camera.

There were about 9 of us for the Open Studio, but I only captured these lovely ladies on camera.

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This time I decided to work on an art journal page I had started a while back but never completed. I got most of it done while at the OS, then completed it later at home.

This very moment is all there is

This very moment is all there is.

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I have altered an old Time-Life hardcover book to use as my large (8.5″ x 11″) art journal. Here are two other spreads I have completed in this large journal:

Shine Your Light

Shine Your Light

 

shit happens

Even when shit happens, everything is exactly as it should be.

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I have also been doing much smaller spreads in a 4″x6″ hardcover sketchbook:

Title page of my small art journal

Title page of my small art journal

I am not very experienced with art journaling, but am starting to really enjoy it and hope to spend more time playing in this way. It’s so relaxing and creative!

This too shall pass

This too shall pass

It’s also wonderful art therapy and is very helpful for working through feelings! I felt almost compelled to do something to commemorate the shootings on Parliament Hill last year, and the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was gunned down while on sentry duty at the Canadian War memorial, which is only a 15 minute drive from where I live. It was a sad and, in many ways, a fear-filled day for many of us who live here in Canada. My husband and daughter both work in the area where the shootings took place and so, I filled the anxious hours waiting for them to get home safely that day by creating a page dedicated to that young soldier who lost his life.

Done to commemorate the shooting in Ottawa on Parliament Hill

Done to commemorate the shooting in Ottawa on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014.

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Watercolour Experimenting

Last Thanksgiving I happened to capture a quick and casual photo of my granddaughter admiring her aunt’s nail polish. At the time, I had it in the back of my mind that it would make a wonderful drawing and I finally got ’round to finishing it up recently.

I decided to attempt something quite different than my usual process with this drawing. Rather than my favourite smooth Bristol paper, I used a cold pressed watercolor paper instead and, rather than going for a tightly controlled, detailed graphite drawing, I used my pencil to draw a loose and somewhat sketchy interpretation of the photo, which I then washed loosely with some wet in wet watercolour. I am not used to just letting go and being loose, so this was a challenge for me! I’m very pleased with the results — but I will try for an even looser, sketchier feel next time!

Wonder

Wonder

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Sketching at the Museum

It was -30 something C yesterday (translation? It was FREAKING cold out!) and so, for our second sketching venture, the newly formed Ottawa Urban Sketchers planned another indoor sketching date and headed out to a local museum. Housed in the Victoria Memorial Museum Building – a stunningly beautiful Gothic Revival style stone building  – the Canadian Museum of Nature is a sketch artist’s dream!

Entrance to the Museum

Entrance to the Museum

From architectural features to rocks to mammals to birds to dinosaurs to whales to insects, there is something to sketch for almost anyone’s taste and an artist could lose herself amongst the exhibits and die happy there — until she was discovered in a far-off future, fossilized in some quiet, obscure corner with pencil still poised over paper LOL

A portion of the carved stone ceiling

A portion of the carved stone ceiling

The museum also holds some very sentimental memories for me, as it is where, at the age of 16 to 18, I had my very first part-time job as an elevator operator, and it’s where I met the love of my life when I was 17, my future hubby, who worked there as a part-time security guard — yes, our eyes met over the crowd of museum visitors and it was love at first sight! LOL

Even as a 16-17 year old, I used to spend my breaks in the mammal gallery sketching!

Even as a kid, I often spent my breaks in the Mammal Gallery sketching! This is an old sketch from 1978, when I was 17!

 

Beautiful diarama of caribou

Beautiful diorama of caribou

 

The caribou I sketched in present day ... I've hardly made any improvements in 30+ years! LOL

The caribou I sketched in present day … I’ve hardly made any improvements in 30+ years! LOL

 

Diorama of Chickadees

Diorama of Chickadees

 

Sketch of chickadees and a stone inukglik

Sketch of chickadees, a Gyrfalcon and a stone cairn called an Inuksuit

 

Ana sketching a polar bear

Ana sketching a polar bear

The museum was almost empty and we didn’t have to “fight” to get a “good spot” to see any of the exhibits from. The biggest “problem” was simply not having enough time to sketch everything I wanted to sketch! It was such an enjoyable, relaxing day out with some very nice ladies that I am quickly coming to regard as friends. I really can’t wait to go again!

Our sketches

Some of our sketches (Corinne’s, mine, Mari’s, Josie’s, Ana’s – Maureen’s is missing)

Mari also keeps a blog and has posted some of her thoughts about the day too.

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