TBT – Ordinary tasks are a blessing

“Hanging laundry on a line is a very ordinary task.  It is as ordinary as scraped knees and lost keys, as fixing the same simple dish for supper again, and again.  Ordinary is most days…: ~ Jerusalem Jackson Greer, A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together.

"Three Baskets" watercolour and ink on watercolour paper

“Three baskets”, watercolour and ink on watercolour paper.

A basket full of line dried laundry might be viewed by some as another chore checked off a long list of ordinary, routine tasks, but I prefer to look at it as a basket of clothes that smell of summer sun and fresh breezes.

Aren’t the little things in life most often glossed over as too mundane, too insignificant for our consideration?

But scraped knees afford the opportunity to console a crying child and feel small arms around us in a grateful hug while lost keys (or cell phones), are fodder for stories that make us laugh at our forgetfulness…eventually!

Simple supper dishes that are repeated week after week become the comfort foods of our youth, recipes that are passed from one generation to the next.

As Jackson Greer writes,” Lord help us if we overlook them.”

Dear friends, I wish you many ordinary tasks this year.

TBT – Summer’s fresh sun kissed bounty

watercolour and ink picnic fruit

For this Throwback Thursday, I have selected fruits I painted two years ago.

After all the rain we have had, it is time to head out to the farm to pick luscious red strawberries and enjoy their sweet plump taste in pies, jams, on ice cream or just as they are, straight from the basket!

watercolour and ink strawberry wreath
watercolour and ink fruit and wine - ready for a picnic

Painting Miss Daisy

“Everything I know I learned from my cat: When you’re hungry, eat.  When you’re tired, nap in a sunbeam.  When you go to the vet’s, pee on your owner.” ~ Gary Smith.

Miss Daisy - mixed media cat portrait

“Miss Daisy”.  9 x 12 mixed media (cat in acrylics and background in acrylics and Inktense pencils) in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal.

Shhh…don’t tell my dogs that I am a traitor and I painted A CAT!

And please don’t tell them that I actually had more fun painting this cat than I did painting Chico, my Havanese, a few weeks ago.  June is butterflies, flowers, shade, and one relaxed dog

I was a cat owner long ago before I ever even thought of owning a dog (or have they owned me?).

Tyler, my Siamese, would hide from us most of the day until he heard the can opener on the kitchen counter, a trick we often used to simply see if he was still alive and with us.  He would THUMP! down from the bed upstairs and casually saunter into the kitchen as if to say, What took you so long?

 Except for his behaviour as a gourmand of fine canned foods, he was the laid back feline par excellence.  Tyler was the last cat in our house before our second child arrived and before I started my career as a teacher.

Misty, on the other hand, was the most hyperactive cat I have ever met.  I should have known that she would be a handful, and that is an understatement,  when I visited her first owners and saw her and her siblings climbing window screens and rappelling down cat clawed ripped sheer curtains.

Spooky, our charcoal black first cat, would allow my oldest son, who was a toddler at the time, to hold him, but he was very aloof with anyone else.  He had several bad habits (I will spare you the details) that surprisingly did not turn us off from owning cats.

Before I continue, consider yourself warned that there is a bias in this post.

At the risk of starting the whole dog vs. cat debate, I will let other pet owners and their observations speak on behalf of our furry friends.

Dog:  “This man is caring for me, feeding me, and sheltering me.  HE must be GOD!”

Cat: ” This man is caring for me, feeding me, and sheltering me.  I must be GOD!”

Dog; “I will love you forever if you feed me.”

Cat: ” If you feed me, you will live to see another day.”

Of course, nothing illustrates the major differences better than the dog’s and cat’s diary…

Dog: 8 am – ” Dog food! My favourite thing!”

Dog: 9:30 am – “A car ride! My favourite thing!”

Dog:9:40 am- “A walk in the park! My favourite thing!”…and so on.

Cat: “Day 983 of My Captivity.  My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.  The dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.  Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.”

And there you have it, the reason we call a dog, “man’s best friend”.

Special thank you to my friend and blog reader, Thérèse, for suggesting the name for this cat portrait.

Also, I would like to thank Lela Stankovic and her photo challenges as a “free collaborative project”.

Each six weeks, Lela posts a reference photo on this website and artists are encouraged to paint and draw by hand (no digitally altered works permitted) using a medium of  their choice to explore the values and the complexities of the photo.  She then publishes all the art she receives on the website.  Anyone can join and benefit from the helpful comments.  http://www.paintanddrawtogether.blogspot.ca

A tisket, a tasket, and nursery rhymes reconsidered

A tisket, a tasket,

A green and yellow basket.

I wrote a letter to my love,

And on the way I dropped it.

I dropped it, I dropped it,

And, on the way I dropped it.

A little boy picked it up,

And put it in his pocket.

(traditional nursery rhyme)

a tisket a tasket, watercolour and ink journal entry

(“A tisket, a tasket”.  Watercolour and ink sketch.)

A quick whimsical painting was in order on a very rainy day recently.

Someone asked me not long ago, what comes first?  The painting or the quotation that you see above each painting on my blog posts?

Usually, the painting is first as was the case with this watercolour and ink sketch.

I was testing my new art supplies –  liquid watercolours –  and had absolutely no idea what I was going to paint with them.

The mailboxes came first, then the potted plant, next the basket and the girl, and finally, the watering can and the tree in the background.

Once I was finished, then I started to look for the story to accompany the painting.  Sometimes the story builds as I paint.  Not this time.

After some thought, I remembered the nursery rhyme my mother sang to me when I was young.  As it happened, there WAS a green and yellow basket.  I had filled the basket with kittens and so what?  The rhyme did not specify what was in the basket.

And as my luck would have it, the girl was holding mail in her hand which made sense since she was so close to the mailboxes.  So again, the nursery rhyme suited the sketch.

Are nursery rhymes still recited or sung to children today?

I admit that some poems deserve to be edited or updated because they are offensive.  As an example, my original intention was to title this watercolour, Eenie, Meenie, Miney, (the kittens) and Mo (the duck). And then I remembered the rest of the nursery rhyme…

But nursery rhymes involve silly words which children love (a tisket, a tasket), repetition of words, (London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down..) and children learn how language works through these poems.  They imitate the adults’ gestures as they sing these songs and so learn to coordinate movements to words.  There are so many positive reasons to keep this oral tradition and pass it along to future generations.

I know that the teacher in me is voicing these opinions.

However, you can’t deny that the cute factor is bumped up many times when toddlers innocently sing these songs alone or in a group.

Long before someone studied the educational value of nursery rhymes, mothers and fathers must have felt the same thrill we feel today in hearing youngsters repeating these poems and songs so expertly and so sweetly.

What nursery rhymes do you remember from your childhood?  Which ones did you sing to your children?

TBT – Summer time and everything is easy

journal entry for summertime - watercolour and ink

Summer, you have finally arrived!

Proof?  There are popsicles in the fridge and sandals and flip flops at the door.  The pool is already solar-panel heated to 85F.  Soon, we will be picking fresh lettuce and beans and other produce from our very own garden.

 

Lazy days of summer - journal entry

The tempo slows down and routines change during summer.  Walks are taken early mornings or later at night when the air is cooler.  There are more impromptu guests and drinks and barbecues by the pool.

And life is good!  Wishing you a safe and splendid summer.

(for this Throwback Thursday, I selected two entries from my 2016 gratitude journal.)

Life is the most difficult exam…

Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper. (myimagequote.com)

mixed media portrait

"On graduation day". Mixed media including XL graphite blocks, acrylics, Neocolor II, acrylic ink, metallic paste on Canson XL - 11x15 inch watercolor paper.

graphite blocks XL used in mixed media portrait

Smile for me once more

"Teardrops are falling from your Spanish eyes/Please, please don't cry/This is just adios and not goodbye."  Lyrics to Blue Spanish Eyes.

 

mixed media Sevillana

"Smile for me once more". 9 x 12 mixed media portrait (acrylic and oil pastels) in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal.

She ought to smile because I struggled with getting her out from the shadows. At the very end, she was given a "nose job" in order to make her nose more feminine. And now that I am happy because my creative slump is over I think should be happy too!

Inspired by the lovely women of Seville, Andalusia, this portrait was painted after I returned home and started looking at all the photos I had taken during the Feria de Abril, a week of parties that occurs two weeks after Semana Santa.

While we were in this pretty orange blossom filled city, Seville society paraded before us in carriages, on horseback, and on foot.

Everyone was going to Los Remedios, an area next to the Guadalquivir River where we were told by our guide, over one thousand tents were set up for daily singing, dancing, drinking and general partying.

The Festival lasts the entire week and well-to-do families, clubs, businesses, and associations have their own pavillion in an area that is a little less than a square mile. One has to have an invitation to be allowed into one of these pavillions or casetas but there are also public casetas for the general population.

The parties begin early in the afternoon each day and on the day we visited, I took many photos of the beautiful gowns and of the decorated carriages whisking entire families to their casetas which are equiped with a sound system or perhaps live music playing Sevillanas, the music of Seville, as well as a kitchen, and a bar.

Little girls in carriage in Seville going to casetas in Real de la Feria

These pretty little girls were accompanied by their grandmother to the Feria.

Horse-drawn carriage during Seville Feria
Seville family in horse drawn carriage on their way to the Feria.

Entire families such as this one, parade in one carriage after another, during the week of parties held at the Real de la Feria in Seville.

Sevillana ready for party during Feria di Abril.

I took many photos such as this one, of the lovely Sevillanas in their beautiful, traditional gowns, and posted them to my Facebook or Instagram pages during our holiday in Spain.

Our second visit to Seville offered us a quite different perspective than the one we had during the somber processions of the Semana Santa in 2014.

This visit was a feast for the eyes.

TBT – These Crocs were made for travelling

I posted this sketch last June after our trip to Havana, Cuba.

These Crocs were really the best shoes I could have wished for on that particular trip. It rained buckets. It rained cats and dogs...

Streets were inundated with huge puddles. The guys' sneakers were so wet that they never completely dried.

My Crocs? I placed them in the shower, ran tap water over them, and then dried them with with the floor towel.

They are light and comfortable and they are with me on my trip this time as well.

Beautiful, they might not be, but they certainly are practical.

watercolour sketch of Crocs brand shoes - best for travelling in hot weather
watercolour sketch of Crocs brand shoes - best for travelling in hot weather

Nursery rhyme inspired characters

Oh, dear, what can the matter be? / Johnny's so long at the fair. / He promised he'd buy me a bunch of blue ribbons, / He promised he'd buy me a bunch of blue ribbons, / He promised he'd buy me a bunch of blue ribbons, / To tie up my bonny brown hair. (Old nursery rhyme)

nursery rhyme inspired papier mache character

Poor Johnny.

He was sent to the fair to buy blue ribbons, not realizing that he would be going to the mother of all fairs, the yearly London Grand Ribbon show, where exhibitors, in row upon row and as far as the eye can see, display their collections of lustrous ribbons for sale.

Johnny was told to buy blue ribbons...poor guy...there are so many blues! He is completely flummoxed, yes, flummoxed!

Which does Priscilla want? Is it sky blue or turquoise or sea blue or ultramarine? And then there is royal blue, and azure, and baby blue....or how about indigo, or midnight blue? Add to that the sapphire blues, the lapis lazuli, the aquamarine and moonstone blues. So many blues that he is truly perplexed!

And then does she want a satin ribbon, or is it velvet? Was it a thin or a thick ribbon? So many decisions that Johnny is befuddled and speechless when the vendors approach him with their offerings.

Why didn't Priscilla send him to buy an awl, or a socket set, or ratcheting wrenches. THAT he could have handled!

papier mache character based on a nursery rhyme

TBT – Sangria Olé! an illustrated recipe

Illustrated sangria recipe

This past weekend we met with friends, who are joining us on our next trip to Spain. I invited another friend who has just returned from a six-week stay in Torremolinos, on the Costa del Sol, our destination. What better time to make a big pitcher of sangria served with tapenade.

Tapenade is made with black olives, capers, anchovy paste, garlic buds, and olive oil which are pulsed in the food processor until it is somewhat like a lumpy paste. Purists prefer mashing it by hand but as long as the food processor is pulsed, it is easy to control the texture to avoid a purée.

Spread on rounds of French baguette which should have lessened the salty taste, (it doesn't) sangria is very much needed to wash it down, but if you don't have time to make the sangria (it should be made in advance), tapenade can certainly be served with beer or wine.

I made the above sangria recipe and I am sharing it here as I already posted the Sketchbook illustration on Instagram on August 16 of last year. Thank you Joanne for sharing it!

Sangria is not difficult to make and there are many possible variations on a theme.

As usual, I did not follow this recipe to the letter. I substituted rum for cognac. No one wants to use expensive cognac in a fruity mixed drink. I changed the fruits a little by deleting the grapefruit but adding sliced grapes, as well as lemon and lime slices.

This is a wonderful change from those store-bought sweet coolers that are served during summer.

Enjoy!

sangria pitcher

TBT – Souvenirs from Seville and Castilla-La Mancha (the heart of old Spain)

"If you're feeling fancy free, come wander through the world with me, and any place we chance to be, will be a rendez-vous. Two for the road, we'll travel through the years, collecting precious memories, selecting souvenirs and living life the way we please." ~ Henry Mancini.

Sketchbook painting of ceramic Spanish dolls

As so many tourists do, I come home with a few (and sometimes many) souvenirs from the countries I have visited.

As an example, last fall during our river cruise in Europe, I bought watercolour paintings and Delft pottery in Amsterdam, hand made lace bookmarks and embroidered napkins in Germany, clothes in Austria, wooden hand painted dolls in Hungary, and a few other items I just can't remember at the moment. Most souvenirs were gifts for friends.

At times, my suitcase was so loaded with souvenirs that the zipper gave up and the suitcase was split open on the "arrivals" carrousel at the airport. That was the case on the return flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when I purchased two rather bulky 8" ceramic dolls (one for my sister) and several ceramic plates as well.

Then there was one trip to Italy where I brought back ceramics from my grandmother's hometown, a small musical table with the inlaid wood designs typical product of the Sorrento region, linen clothes made in Italy, and jewelry.

inlaid wood musical table from Sorrento
musical table from Sorrento
ceramic plates from Codroipo, Italy
ceramic doll from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Top photos: Inlaid wood musical table from Sorrento. It plays the song "Isle of Capri". Bottom right: Ceramic figurine bought in Puerto Vallarta holding caged parrots. Bottom left: Plates from Codroipo with the dialect Friulan sayings written on them. With its accents on some words (cûr as an example), it looks nothing like Italian, but it is a language I can still understand to some degree today).

In Greece, I bought handmade linens and pillow covers and jewelry as well as ceramic dolls.

O.K. You have discovered my secret. I love to shop when I visit foreign countries.

So today's Throw Back Thursday sketch is from my 2016 travel sketchbook.

Each little bell that sits on my kitchen window sill reminds me of the wonders of the world that I have seen in the past ten years, in this case, in beautiful España.

Seeing pink in a different light

"People usually associate the colour pink with weakness and naiveté; but I associate this colour with the most beautiful parts of the day - dawn and dusk! And in my searching through mystical writings, I have found that pink is actually related to the utmost levels of the Tree of Life. I've also seen it in pictures of the sky surrounding the most magnificent Aurora Borealis! So pink is strong and wonderful. " C. JoyBell C., American author, blogger, and inspirational figure whose influences include Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, C.S. Lewis, and Ernest Hemingway.

Mixed media portrait of "Candy Floss", pink haired woman

"Candy Floss" Mixed media in Strathmore Toned Tan Sketchbook.

When my son saw this portrait, he remarked that this woman looks like she has been through some s*^t in her life.

Funny how portraits turn out like that.

I thought I had painted a woman looking off into the distance, but since he made that comment, I see she is staring right back at me, daring me to touch her one more time. In fact, she is now telling me to bugger off.

Colours too have had different meanings and associations through time.

Pink, for example, until the 1950s, was considered a boy's colour because it is a derivative of red which is a very strong colour whereas blue, was seen as more delicate, and was chosen as a girl's colour. The reversal occurred in mid- 20th century when pink was assigned to girls for some unknown reason.

Ultimately, that is what I like about art: it speaks to people in different ways. Much like the colour pink.

Do you ever think of me?

"I exist in two places, here and where you are." Margaret Atwood, Canadian novelist and poet.

Mixed media portrait

"You called my name?" Mixed Media in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal.

As I started painting in my sketchbook, this young woman appeared on paper.

I like to imagine what the people I paint are trying to say, or what their eyes might be seeing that I cannot see.

She has just turned around very quickly...has someone called her name? Maybe she imagines a voice she longs to hear.

Her inquisitive look might suggest she is about to discover someone who has been on her mind for a long time. What a lovely surprise that would be.

Has she existed in two places...here and in someone else's mind, or heart?

Danny Boy – a quick sketch

"Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling..." lyrics by Fred Weatherly, an English lawyer. The song was written in 1910.

"Danny Boy", Mixed media in sketchbook

"Danny Boy", 9 X !2, (mixed media) charcoal and pastel pencils in Strathmore Toned Tan Sketchbook.

When this portrait was done, I had to think about how I got to this place this afternoon.

Having finished another portrait earlier in the day, I still had some time to work on something and decided it would be a pastel portrait of a little boy.

It is unrefined and I am ok with that. I only spent an hour on it.

But as I was working on this sketch, I kept thinking of my brother when he was young. He had curly dark hair much like this boy. And he so often got into trouble, and this little boy has a mischievous look I think.

Had I known I was going to travel this path, I might have searched through old albums to find a photo from long ago in order to achieve a close resemblance. But since I had only given myself an hour, I wasn't going to spend it searching through old albums.

As I finished the portrait, one of my mother's favourite songs became a brain worm...and I had to look up the lyrics to the tune she loved so much...those lyrics sent me into a funk, especially the closing words.

I will let you find the lyrics if you are unfamiliar with them. They have an added meaning now that mom is no longer with us. I need a glass of wine and a Kleenex.

What songs have a special meaning for you?

Letting troubles float away…

"I wish I could show you when you are lonely...or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being." Hafez, (approx. 1320 AD), a prolific poet, memorized the Koran because he wanted to write poetry that was divinely inspired.

My spirit is healed - mixed media painting

"My spirit is healed", 11x15 media on Canson XL watercolour paper.

Who will help the vulnerable children of the world?

"It was the end of civilization, the end of all that men had striven for since the beginning of time. In the space of a few days, humanity had lost its future, for the heart of any race is destroyed, and its will to survive utterly broken, when its children are taken from it." Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke.

Childhood Lost - Charcoal

Childhood Lost - charcoal in Strathmore Toned Tan Sketchbook.

Many layers later and I am done with her

"Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness." Anni Albers, a German-American textile artist.

mixed media portrait in sketchbook

"...breathe with a different kind of happiness?" Not always.

Sometimes art can be very frustrating and that's when I throw all caution to the wind.

I posted an unfinished portrait yesterday and I was looking forward to finishing the painting today; however, it took much more of my time than I ever intended. Finally, as it was getting closer to the end of the afternoon, I just decided that I would experiment with my new oil pastels.

I discovered that I really, and I mean really, like the smooth buttery feel of the Sennelier oil pastels I received before Christmas. They blend together so beautifully.

And I am still loving the glazing and all the colours that can be achieved on a simple black and white portrait. My bottle of glazing medium had not been touched since I bought it over a year ago and now, I can hardly wait to do another portrait with glazing.

But this painting did not make me happy. Quite the contrary. I was frustrated because I kept going back to her and adjusting the lights and the darks until finally, I slapped on some blue to her face and blended some other oil pastel colours on her face and shoulders.

So I leave her right where she is now and move on to the next project. And that does make me happy!

In my sketchbook today

In my sketchbook - February 1, 2017

"The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they're always looking ahead to something new and exciting." - Norman Rockwell.

Yesterday I did not paint so of course I was looking forward to working on one of my many art projects.

On my easel today is a portrait I am painting in the same style as the one I posted yesterday.

She is still very much a work in progress but I am past the scary stage now and she has a face that is more human than zombie like.

I can already see my errors. No matter. I will correct what I can and then move forward.

You can guess what I will be doing tomorrow. One more project to look forward to completing.

A study in values

"The innocence of children is what makes them stand out as a shining example to the rest of mankind." Kurt Chambers, author of children's books.
This is happiness

( Gesso and Stabilo pencil with acrylic in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal)

This is a study in values for Let's Face It 2017 with Kara Bullock.

I used a model from Pixabay.com, a site with thousands of photographs that are all copyright free.

Simple line drawings are a stress-free way to unwind

"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." ~ Edward De Bono.

Line drawing of Medieval woman

Colouring books have become best sellers in recent years as adults rediscover the pleasure and relaxation of filling in blank contours with colours of their choice.

But few people have considered going further back to an earlier form of drawing.

As children, we all started with simple lines to draw people, houses, cars, animals in our midst. Whether we remember or not, we have all used line drawings at one time or another.

Line drawings can be done with pencil, pen, coloured pencils, or any easy to obtain materials lying around the house.

Line drawings rarely create a mess the way acrylics and other mediums do.

Best of all, line drawings don't require any kind of investment in specialty colour coded markers or no-bleed through papers or expensive colouring books.

line drawing first attempt at flapper
line drawing second attempt at flapper

The last two drawings are of the same flapper. I didn't like the first drawing so I started over.

Line drawings as you might have guessed, are useful to observe the form, shape, contour of a thing or person, and when cross-hatching is added, line drawings can also indicate variations of shading.

This type of art is not meant to be especially realistic. It helps the artist make the connection between what is seen and what appears on paper.

Line drawings are the best way to be more observant of shapes and edges.

Simple line drawings can morph into beautiful works of art. I have seen it on friends' galleries on Instagram and on Pinterest.

For anyone who wants to practise relaxation without worrying too much about the results, line drawings are the best and most inexpensive way to begin drawing.

A song and a sketch for a Friday afternoon.

"A tinkling piano in the next apartment/ Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant/ A fairground's painted swings/ These foolish things remind me of you." lyrics from the 1946 song These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You) by Frank Sinatra.

Vintage woman with victory rolls - pointillism and collage

(Pontillism with various Micron pens and collage. Light background wash with a Gelato.)

I started this portrait in October, and as it was convenient to bring my sketchbook and pens with me on our trip, I was able to work on it from time to time while we were travelling in Europe.

Pointillism is an exercise in patience to be sure.

The little dots must be carefully arranged or it will appear that the subject in the portrait has a bad case of acne.

It isn't always possible to be so consistent especially after a few cups of coffee!

However, I like this type of sketch because it is another way to practise shading and values.

Frank Sinatra's lyrics seemed appropriate for the period that this woman illustrates with her hair done in victory rolls which were fashionable in the 1940s.

"Oh how the ghost of you clings,
These foolish things remind me of you."

TBT – Buy the damn shoes even if you wear them once!

"What I've learnt is: buy the damn shoes. Kiss the boy, You can lose a life in indecision, and regret is a waste of an emotion." ~ Kate Lord Brown, The Taste of Summer.

journal entry watercolour party shoes

(first watercolour sketch of a pair of my shoes, party shoes at that, in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal, 2014)

These elegant stilettos were bought a decade ago for a wedding, and then worn again on a few more special occasions, but they pinched my toes so I am happy to leave them where they can be admired once in a while without having to actually wear them.

This year, weather permitting, the celebration on New Year's Eve will require a pair of warm, comfortable winter boots, not stylish stilettos.

There is no regret in knowing that these party shoes have been replaced either by flats, bulky boots or even slippers.

Warmth and comfort are more important than elegance.

Cheers!

The perils of high expectations at Christmas time

"We're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas!" (Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation).

Whenever I see Christmas lights, I think of one of my favourite movies, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

This holiday comedy is all about the high standards and expectations many of us have for ourselves, and perhaps for others, at this time of the year.

Clark Griswold, the central character, is in good company as Christmas approaches.

Social media sites are full of photos of exquisitely wrapped gifts under trees, homemade pies and cookies and other delightful sweets coming out of the oven, shopping and more shopping, decorating...

(wreath completed with Micron pens and Sharpie coloured pens and a touch of watercolour for bow).

My favourite part of the movie occurs as Clark works on the outdoor lighting determined that his house is going to be better than anyone else's.

"Little knot here, you can work on that..." (as Clark hands over a huge mess of twisted, tangled Christmas lights to his less than enthused son).

"I dedicate this house to the Griswold family Christmas." (as Clark prepares to test his lights with the whole extended family present).

"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No. No. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here." (when the lights do not work and the family is ready to abandon Clark and return to the warmth and their drinks in the house).

"Is your house of fire, Clark?"
"No Bethany, those are Christmas lights." (the lights are finally turned on).

We are almost there my friends! And then, we can relax once more until next Christmas.

Find a few hours in your busy schedule to watch one of your favourite holiday classic movies.

Don't forget to send me a quick line or two to let me know which movie you like best at this wonderful time of the year!

Cheers!

ThrowBack Thursday – Santa loves birds.

"They err who think Santa Claus enters through the chimney. He enters through the heart." Charles W. Howard, attributed, Legendary Locals of Orleans County, New York.

watercolour Santa

(Watercolour in Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal, painted in 2014 for Jane Lafazio's online course)

Our ceramic Santa sat atop a box of candies which when emptied, the box was thrown out and the Santa became one of the Christmas decorations in our house.

He has an old-fashioned look that I find appealing: the long robe is certainly not the usual attire of the Santas in our shopping malls.

In the last decade or so, this bird loving Santa has complemented the theme I have created in my Christmas tree as I transitioned from a very feminine decor with pink ribbons, and white pearls and lace angels, to a tree decorated with hand painted birdhouses, frosted leaves, miniature wind chimes, birds in nests, and large pinecones along with crimson berry-like garlands and red Christmas balls.

May your heart be filled with the spirit of Christmas now and throughout the coming year.

TBT – The nutcracker and other Christmas trinkets

"The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale..." Vera Nazarian, author and award-winning artist.

watercolour Christmas page

(Sakura Koi Water Colour Pocket Field Sketch Box and Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal)

How to keep a poinsettia forever – paint it!

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." ~ Norman Vincent Peale.

Watercolour pointsettia

(My first painted poinsettia - Sakura Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box on 6" x 9" 140lb. watercolour Bee paper).

Friends came over for drinks on Friday night and brought me a huge potted poinsettia.

The poinsettia adds a pop of colour to my home at this rather dark time of the year; unfortunately, I have never been very good at keeping such a finicky plant alive much past the holiday season. It already had a sad, droopy look yesterday when I examined it more closely before sketching the poinsettia on paper.

With my painted version of one of the bracts, (I am very pleased with my watercolour painting I must say) I have a keepsake of this very thoughtful gift.

And my poinsettia is looking much better this morning after having had a good drink of water.

Cheers everyone!

In praise of the often maligned fruitcake

Why do so many people cringe at the sight of fruitcake?

Lovingly homemade, a Christmas fruitcake is a work of art.

Nonna's (we called her Nonni) Christmas cake was a lemon loaf gem-studded with cherries, green and red, and glaceed fruits, and nuts. Never mind that it had 6 eggs and close to a pound of butter in it.

In my mind, it was (and still is) the iconic Christmas dessert.

When I was young, the fruitcake was made months in advance, wrapped in cheesecloth, and then brushed weekly with a few teaspoons of brandy. Now, I ask you, what's not to like about that?

mixed media Christmas fruitcake

(Mixed media sketch of Christmas cake. Chocolate covered peanut butter balls (for you, Mom) melting on the plate.)

On Christmas Eve, Nonna's fruitcake always shared a space with rum balls, fudge, coconut squares, and myriad other sweet confections guaranteed to melt in our mouths.

Even though no one in the family makes this cake anymore, I have fond memories of the colourful gems that sparkled in each slice of Christmas cake each year.

What is your favourite Christmas sweet?

journal entry for Christmas memory
Nonna's traditional white Christmas cake

(Nonni's handwritten recipe which she gave to Mom long ago so that Mom could continue the tradition.)

She’s the talk of the town in her million dollar clothes

Mixed media portrait 1920s flapper
"A night at the opera"

Excerpts below from the 1919 Broadway musical "Irene".

When I first wandered down into town
I was proud and shy, as I felt every eye
And in every shop window I primped passing by
Then in manner of fashion, I'd frown...

Oh, what a gal, she's the talk of the town
Little bit o' lipstick and a pose
A million dollars worth of clothes...

TBT – The best cupcakes are the ones that are painted

reindeer cupcakes watercolour

Baking that is imagined and then painted without worrying about fat, sugar, and calories is my kind of sweet treat!

The satisfaction lasts so much longer and as I still like this watercolour painting, I am featuring it today, December 1, for Throw Back Thursday.

Cheers everyone!

She speaks without voice – a new portrait

"We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea." Paul Tillich.

"She speaks without voice" a mixed media portrait

"She speaks without voice".

I struggled with a title for this portrait. She appears to be saying something with her intent eyes and so there you have it, "she speaks without voice".

Initially, this was going to be a little fun piece of only an hour or so to complete, a journal experiment while my granddaughter painted a project of her own on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

HA! Gross miscalculation as I spent more than eight hours on this red-haired witch!

Many artists I follow on Instagram post new work on a daily basis. Something in my genetic makeup makes me want to pick at each detail in my paintings especially the portraits. In my mind the painting should be simple but it never is.

Just when I think I am ready to publish a portrait, I find something new to rework. Hubby rolls his eyes and sighs as I run down the stairs to my art room, one more time. And then many more times.

Then he examines the revised painting and doesn't see the improvement. I don't care. I know that I see it and I feel better.

With time, I am learning that it's ok to take a risk.

See the paint drippings in her hair? I really love that but what if it hadn't worked? When I was ready to add hair to the bald portrait I initially posted on Facebook, I had already spent eight hours on her face!

It would have been a momentary disaster, but I would have gotten over it.

If the piece didn't turn out, I still gained the benefits of having worked on the portrait, right?

She will soon be posted on Society 6 (louisesarticulations).

(Santa will be visiting this household tomorrow when he brings us a new laptop. This one has served us well since 2012, but it is now giving up and telling us it is ready for retirement. Conveniently, it waited for this time of year when we might get a Black Friday discount.)