How to recycle and reuse failed art work

Digitally reworked portrait

Vandalize might be a strong word but believe me, it accurately describes the feeling I have after a few bad days in my art room.

Wrecking, ruining, destroying are all acts of vandalism.

In the above photo, the face had been overworked and I hated it. I still do. The urge to vandalize art that isn't working is very powerful. I have heard of a group of artists who meet once a year to party and rip up their ugliest art. Seems like a good enough excuse for some kind of celebration!

But a friend once told me that trashing art is not an option as there are many ways that a piece might be saved. Sometimes, an ugly duckling can be transformed into a somewhat decent swan especially with all the apps that are available to rework art.

With this advice in mind, I added the quotation over the digitally reworked painting; she is presentable and ready for publishing.

watercolour experiments

In this pair, I experimented with saran wrap, gauze, salt, and watercolours.

scary stage of watercolour painting

Is she in the scary stage and I need to push through to discover the beautiful swan?

Or is she overworked and beyond saving? Maybe she needs to be beautified in an app?

What will happen if I start adding acrylics? Or maybe I add clear gesso and try a mix of watercolour and acrylics?

I could even chop the whole thing up and make paper beads.

Another possibility is to let my granddaughter paint over the disaster. She is surprised when I tell her she can do whatever she wants over the portrait. She spends hours pencilling in details, and then painting or collaging over my work.

As you can see, nothing is ever thrown out until the paper is scrubbed to a hole. (Hence the state of my art room as I type this!)

And that's not an exaggeration. Some paintings are just that difficult to bring to a satisfying end and quitting at this early stage is not an option.

Both watercolour portraits are still sitting on the desk waiting for a decision.

I would love to hear about your ideas for saving art that isn't working for you. I surely can't be the only one with art hidden in dark corners waiting for some type of transformation.

For unto you is born this day…

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:11-14)

peace one earth - digitally enhanced watercolour

(Digitally enhanced watercolour on Beepaper.)

I am taking a break for a week, but first, I wanted to say thank you to all my friends, readers and visitors to my blog.

Many of you I have met this year on Instagram and then on Facebook, and I feel truly blessed to have a growing network of artists and supportive friends.

I also want to thank those of you who have stopped by with comments in the last year whether it is here on my blog, or on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Reading your thoughts and answering you is always a pleasurable exercise.

Finally, I want to wish everyone good health and much joy during this season of celebrations and of family get-togethers.

A simple request to Santa from Chico

"A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things - a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyaltly." ~ John Grogan, author of Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog.

digitally reworked dog with letter to Santa

Chico with his letter to Santa. (after mixed media portrait below was completed, I worked the background in Procreate then imported that picture into PicMonkey, played with it there to change the appearance, and then, imported that back into Procreate and added the stars.)

We had a bit of a scare this week. Our oldest dog Chico, a Havanese, was listless and spending more time than usual sleeping in his crate.

After a quick visit at our vet's for blood work, we found out that Chico had liver inflammation. The cause is unknown at this time.

He is taking antioxidants along with a special diet, and we have reduced the store bought treats to a minimum.

For the first time, I have made him little treats with hepatic canned food.

I had visions of a goopy mess when the vet's assistant told me that I could transform the canned food into treats - and he seems to love them as much as the other treats we were feeding him.

Happily, the treats were very easy to make. I rolled the canned food into little balls and placed them on a pizza pan and set them in the freezer. Done!

mixed media dog with Christmas letter to Santa

(Original mixed media painting before I changed it in apps.)

He appears to be back to his normal self in the last few days and has more energy than earlier in the week. We have even witnessed the return of his clownish personality.

I had painted this portrait of Chico a few weeks ago and could only post it once I knew he was better.

Jane Goodall said that animals have personalities and minds and feelings. Anyone who owns a pet knows that she speaks the truth.

Our pets have their own little idiosyncrasies that endear them to us. As I type this, Chico is barking because he knows his breakfast is warming up on the counter and he wants it NOW!

Those of us who are dog owners, love our pets for their quirky and sometimes annoying characteristics.

Most of all though, we love them for the same reasons as John Grogan; we love them for their optimism, friendship, selflessness, loyalty and devotion.

What eccentric traits do you love (or find annoying) in your pets?

Chico (Havanese) as a model

Canadian adventures, Rick Mercer, and…tea?

"If someone says, hey, you know, this long weekend, let's go skydiving - I would say, no, are you nuts? I'd just as soon sit down and have a cup of tea."  ~ Rick Mercer, Canadian satirist.

Teacups in watercolour for Throw back Thursday

There won't be any skydiving for me this Labour Day long weekend.  ( I have a fear of heights) And there probably won't be any tea either as the lazy hazy days of summer linger for a little while more. An ice cold beer or a margarita will quench my thirst as I enjoy a few more days by the pool.

Still, the teacups aren't too far away and ready for cooler fall weather. Rick Mercer can come and have tea anytime in my home although I suspect he is more of a beer or gin and tonic kind of guy. 

He is the kind of guest I would enjoy; he has many different adventures and interesting guests on his Canadian television program, The Mercer Report.  

He could recall his experiences tagging slumbering bears in Algonquin Park, or his flight in a CF 18 jet (give me a barf bag), or his "training" with the Ottawa tactical unit rappelling off a bridge on the Ottawa River, or his visit to a GM Canada plant assembly line where he tries caulking the hood of a car or inserting a seat into a Camaro.  

Drinking tea would indeed be pretty lame compared to all of his exciting stories.

For Throw Back Thursday, the above collage is effective to feature all the teacups I have painted to date. I still have a few of the more challenging teacups sent to me by subscribers, but I need to improve my watercolour skills to do them justice.

On the left hand side are two teacups submitted from a friend in Australia from an earlier post, Prim and proper teacups . The classic petit point at the bottom of the collage was sent to me by a childhood friend.  The accompanying text is found at Tea in a pretty cup uplifts a sagging spirit.

The July teacup on the right was also sent to me by a high school friend and is found in  Teacups of days gone by whereas the second cup on the right, an antique baby cup, had me searching the net for hours for information about the history of Alsace-Lorraine. See A rare vintage baby cup keeps its secrets for now .

My own Bailey's teacup can be seen at Prim and proper teacups and the middle teacup once belonged to my mother. I added chocolates which she loved.  See  Teacups of days gone by.

You can still have a favourite teacup painted. I will continue to accept submissions in the following months.  

And if you happen to see Rick, tell him I have a cup of tea or any other liquid refreshment ready any time he wishes to visit.  

Why Cuba’s old cars remain classy if not classic

"Well mister, I want a yellow convertible, four door DeVille
With a continental spare and a wide chrome wheel..." from Chuck Berry"s "Maybellene" a hit song in 1955.

watercolour and ink sketch of vintage Pontiac Super Chief 1957

Cars held a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans in the fifties. The songs of the decade are proof of an endless fascination with anything on four wheels including old jalopies. Here are just a few of the better ones!

"My Buick My Love and I" (1951) Notice the BUICK comes FIRST in that title.

"Your Motor Needs a Tune-Up Job" (1952) How romantic is that?

"Roadside Rag" (1952) Very provocative this in reference to a musical genre or something or someone found along the road?

"Old Jalopy Bounce" (1953) A well-padded derriere is a must for this ride.

"Cadillac in Model A" (1954) When only Model A will do.

"It's the Mileage that's Slowing us Down" (1954) Is this ageism at work?

"Ethyl in my Gas Tank" (1954) A precursor for "Put a tiger in your tank" Esso ad of the 1960s?

"Parking Worries" (1954) I love this title especially combined with...
"Woman Driver" (1954)...and....
"Cadillac Funeral" (1955)

"Rocket 88" (1955) It's THAT FAST.

"Beep Beep" (1958) early Sesame Street recording?

"Flat Tire" (1958) which obviously can be paired with...
"Car Trouble" (1958)

"Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat" (1959) I suppose the next song might be the result of this back seat activity.
"No Wheels" (1959)

It isn't hard to see that in the fifties, cars were the stuff of dreams for young men in North America.

1957 Pontiac Super Chief in Havana, Cuba

Above is a 1957 Pontiac Super Chief used as a taxi in Havana Cuba.

Cuba's cars are highly prized and why not? They have stood the test of time. Of course, many if not most of them, have been adulterated with newer hubcaps or hood ornaments or other fixtures. Many have had a new coat of paint and are lovingly cared for by their owners.

1953 Chevrolet Bel-Air adulterated hood ornament in Havana Cuba

The 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air did not have the angel attached to the hood ornament. It is only when I came home and started to examine the photos we took that I realized that these cars have been modified to some degree.

Most have had body work as rust, with time, will eventually start to penetrate old steel. Hubcaps that were lost were replaced with whatever could be found as in the car below.

rusting vintage car in Havana
sketch of 1957 Dodge Custom in Havana Cuba

1957 Dodge Custom

digital rendition of 1956 Chevy Bel Air
1956 Chevy Bel Air in Havana Cuba

In first photo: digital reworking of a watercolour of 1956 Chevy Bel Air in second photo.

However, even though they aren't truly classic, in the collector's sense of the word, these vintage cars are still classy with their outlandish tail fins and after-burner lights, their wraparound windows, their little decorative turbines on the front grill, their bold flowing design, and of course, all that shiny chrome.

They are part of the charm of Cuba.

watercolour and ink sketch of 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air

Cuba: a land stuck in a time warp…for now.

"Cuba is like going to a whole other planet." Henry Louis Gates, American historian, film maker, Harvard University professor.

vintage car in Havana, Cuba
vintage car in Havana, Cuba
vintage car in Havana, Cuba

Cuba must be one of the very few countries that time has not changed, and although there were lots of vintage cars in seemingly top notch condition to ooooh and ahhhhhh over, really, it's not "all about the cars". Cuba is a country where the clock has stood still for well over fifty years.

In the countryside, many farmers used horses or donkeys to pull wagons as they went into town to run errands or to sell a few goods.

As we made our way into the city, little fruit stands appeared along the road where a few meager bananas or other fruit were offered for sale by individuals.

Chickens had the run of small yards and of the canteen where we stopped half way between Varadero and Havana. Animals tied in the fields looked like they were close to starvation.

Supermarket shelves were disappointingly bare or poorly stocked and we were told that the black market continues to thrive.

We met other tourists from Florida who told us that they visit their Cuban relatives every six months or so to bring them toothpaste, medicine, and other provisions.

Not much has changed since 1979 when we first came to Cuba, and then again, since our second visit in 2004.

supermarket in Havana, Cuba

Below is the canteen in the countryside (our driver took us on country roads rather than on the major highway) where we stopped on the way to Havana. Locals came by for a few minutes, had a drink, and then left.

On the return trip to Varadero, at a different road stop along the highway, there was very little to buy.

At both stops, coffee and alcoholic beverages could be ordered, but not much else.

canteen stop in Cuba on way to Havana

To visit this country is to see the collapse of Havana, a once beautiful city, into an apocalyptic shell of its former glory. One can only truly get a sense of the ruination from a rooftop vantage point.

Old Havana, panoramic view from rooftop
old Havana from viewpoint of Parque Central Hotel rooftop

But there are buildings that have stood the test of time and political upheaval.

The Bacardi Building gives us a sense of the beauty that Havana must have been in its heyday.

Built in 1930 by the famous rum company, it is a gorgeous example of the Art Deco style and a reflection of a time after WWI when Cuba became an escape from prohibition for wealthy Americans.

An important landmark in Old Havana, it was taken over by the Cuban government in 1960 when Bacardi left Cuba after the revolution. It was restored in 2003.

Bacardi Building in old Havana

For many years after it was built, the Bacardi Building was the tallest structure in Old Havana.

Now it is just one of many high rise buildings.

Notice the nymphs on the side of the each of the pillars? the warm red and gold colours of the facade? and the tower with Bacardi's bat, its signature logo? I did!

And I could imagine women and men dressed very fashionably for a night out at the bar in the Bacardi in the 1930s. It must have been THE place to be and to be seen.

Men might have worn a fedora and double-breasted coat while women would have worn dresses with floral patterns and shoulders would have been accentuated with pads. Furs were very much in style and some women might have worn fur just to be ultra chic and sophisticated for their evening out on the town.

Can you tell that this wonderful building was hands down my favourite in old Havana?

top floors and spire of Bacardi Building in old Havana
Bacardi Building viewed from Parque Central pool on rooftop

In central Havana, the Latin beat joyously drowned out other city noises. Even the smallest of venues pulsated with the sounds of salsa, mambo, and cha cha cha among many other musical genres.

In one very nondescript building, we climbed a narrow stairway at the urging of a young Cuban woman. On the very top floor were three musicians playing Cuban music. How could we not stop and stay for a while?

watercolour and ink sketch of Havana street musicians

And of course, we all took loads of photos of vintage cars. They are used as taxis and the Cubans favour them as much as the tourists do. We often saw taxis cram in one more local seatbelt laws here it would seem. And Uber hasn't made its way into Cuba just yet.

vintage car watercolour and ink sketch
vintage car in Havana
vintage car in Havana

But my favourite photograph was not of a vintage car. The photo below was taken with my IPad ( I know, REAL photographers will scoff when they read this) as we walked to Los Nardos Restaurant in the early evening rain.

The soft colours of the buildings and the reflection on the wet pavement convey the quiet mood of this area on that particular Monday night. The hustle and bustle of the city core did not extend to this section which was only a few minutes away from our hotel.

Los Nardos restaurant, in front of El Capitolino in old Havana, is a favourite among locals. The food was delicious and inexpensive, and the waiters were very attentive and friendly.

buildings in front of El Capitolino
Los Nardos in Havana

El Capitolino (below), a building just around the corner from our hotel, the Parque Central, bears somewhat of a resemblance to the US Capitol in Washington.

It is one of many lovely architectural treasures being reconditioned to its former grandeur in the heart of Havana. Once renovations are completed, it will again be home to Cuba's legislative branch as it was before the revolution.

refurbishing El Capitolino, Old Havana
El Capitolino from rooftop pool in old Havana

In my humble opinion, the charming Old World architecture remains the most appealing aspect of Havana.

old Havana architecture
old Havana architecture

There was always something interesting happening during our walks around old Havana whether it was the "statues" coming to life, or the men playing chess on the sidewalk, or watching the uniformed children as they made their way to their schools.

My friend and I, both retired teachers, curiously observed young children in their dark, claustrophobic classroom with its open façade on Obispo. There were no cell phones, no laptops, in fact, no computers at all in this little room.

In spite of all the distractions happening right behind them, not to mention the street cacophony, the students were completely focused on the teacher and on the lesson in front of them. Ahhhh yes, that is what teaching was like when we started our careers long before technology was introduced into a classroom of spoiled students. (see photo below)

During our wanderings, I often thought of Florence, Italy, and that Havana with its beautiful architectural details, and the life and movement in the downtown area, in some ways, reminded me of that particular old Italian city. Very delightful in so many ways.

Old pharmacies had been turned into museums and we marvelled at homeopathic remedies stored in exquisite jars and ledgers listing ingredients to cure various ailments.

We sauntered through open doors on calle Obispo, a pedestrian street, and found a lovely inner courtyard being used as an art gallery.

I had wanted to sketch local scenes but it was either too hot and humid or too wet (it rained buckets and we were soaked) to stay in one place for very long. I settled for photographs and used these as inspiration for my sketches of Havana..

But there was time to enjoy the music, the food, and the dancing, and drink a few cold ones. I couldn't leave Havana without sampling a mojito. Cubans apparently prefer the Santiago de Cuba to the Havana Club rum although you wouldn't know this from all the advertising everywhere for the latter rum.

open classroom on Obispo in Havana
mojito Havana Club
coco bien frio sketch in old Havana

I don't know whether I will ever visit Havana again. It will likely undergo changes as relations warm between Cuba and the USA.

Time moves forward and eventually, so will Cuba. In the previous blog post about our past trips to Cuba, I included photos of hubby and me showing that time has indeed changed us.

Unlike Cuba, we will never be restored to our former glory. We are much like those many vintage cars in Havana with patches here and there to keep us together. Such is a life well-lived!

(a special thank you to hubby who contributed many of the photographs for this post and whose patience, devotion, and love, after forty years together, (June 19) continue to sustain me through the ups and downs of life. Love you.)

Cheers to all of you!


Georgia O’Keeffe: this is not a biography

Nobody sees a flower, really - it is so small - we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

~ Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe - charcoal and gesso and digital image

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) was an American artist and writer. Her letters and interviews have been published, among others, by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

Most people have probably seen the big, bold, iconic flowers she painted; however, she also painted landscapes, and cityscapes, and later in life, when she began to travel extensively, she painted the places she visited. But, this is not a biography!

I am always attracted to women who are a bit unusual for the times in which they lived. I think O'Keeffe was one such person.

In the reference photo I found of her, she appears to be severe with her hair so tightly pinned back, somewhat plain, almost certainly very straightforward. I couldn't find a date for the photo on which my sketch is based, but I am guessing that the artist must have been in her fifties.

I painted O'Keeffe in my sketchbook using charcoal to outline and shade the portrait and then filled in and blended the charcoal with the white gesso.

Next I imported the image into Procreate, a digital app for Ipad, and used one of my own acrylic flower paintings as her background (sorry Georgia!), and then imported that blended image and  reworked it in Repix, another art app, to soften the colours in the background.


The first quotation above next to her portrait, reminds us not to take anything for granted.

Flowers and friends are often easy to dismiss, after all, they are just there, right? But both have to be carefully nurtured and time is needed to appreciate them. O'Keeffe worded the idea very succinctly.


Here is a selection of O'Keeffe's beliefs about art and life:

~I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

~There's something about black. You feel hidden away in it.

~To create one's own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.

~I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.

~I have lived on a razor's edge. So what if you fall off - I'd rather be doing something I really wanted to do. I'd walk it again.

~Schools and things that painters have taught me even keep me from painting as I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to and say what I wanted to when I painted...

~I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.

~I feel that there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.

~I think it's so foolish for people to want to be happy. Happy is so momentary - you're happy for an instant and then you start thinking again.


This was the best I could do until I knew better.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. ~Maya Angelou

progression of sketch from graphite to digital experiments

Maya Angelou's quotation rings true especially with regards to any interest, craft, or hobby. Most of us aren't naturally gifted with the craft that we choose. It takes patience, and time, and practice before any improvements can be seen. Do the best you can until you know better. I love that.

I already have quite a collection of sketchbooks in which I have been trying different techniques. As I look through them from time to time, I notice that I can do better than what I have done, say , a year ago.

Of course any art can be improved at any time. However, after a year has gone by, and I have been experimenting, and practising,  and following online classes, as well as having joined several online art groups, it makes sense that I can see some needed changes in my work more clearly.

Last week, I reworked a graphite sketch that was done a year ago in one of those sketchbooks.

The greatest improvement in last week's sketch I feel is in the shading. The sketch done a year ago did not have enough contrast in tones between the shaded areas and those in the light. I made a few other adjustments as well to the nose, the mouth, and to the left eye and added subtle hatching to her hat to mimic fabric which must be wool or felt.

This first sketch is the improved one. 

improved graphite sketch 2016
first sketch of vintage portrait

After I completed the improvements, I set the drawing aside for a while. Then, one night, I found my stylus which I hadn't used in a while, and opened up my apps on my iPad.

Adding colour to the graphite sketch I had completed earlier was a breeze using Procreate, an app I purchased last fall. There are so many possibilities that I haven't yet explored with this amazing software. Besides adding colours, there are different brushes within a variety of categories such as inking, airbrushing, sketching, etc. that can be selected.  You can see the effect of the oriental brush in the fur.  There are so many options that I am just really only using the software in a most basic way at this point.  I admit that I have a much greater admiration now for digital artists.

digitally enhanced graphite sketch

In the end, after the sketch was painted, I exported the resulting product into other apps and experimented with a variety of backgrounds, textures, lighting, etc.

This is not the first time that I use traditional art and make digital improvements and changes to it. You can view similar enhancements to my other drawings from last fall here.  and here .

fade out image
graphic digital reworking of sketch

I still don't know exactly where this art journey is taking me but I am having fun along the way, and I am encouraged that I can see differences between my work today and my earlier work.  

I am doing the best I can until I know that I can do better. So wisely said.


A rare vintage baby cup keeps its secrets for now

I am admiring the teacups I have been sent so far by subscribers and friends (thank you!) and decided it was time to tackle this rare and unusual vintage baby cup. I spent several hours online examining vintage baby or birth cups and was unable to find anything similar.

There are many types of baby or birth cups celebrating the arrival of a new member of the family, but this one is particularly fascinating to me because on the one hand, it commemorates the birth in 1882 of a little girl named Theodora, but also, it seems to be telling a more important back story which has to do with the cup's country of origin, and the family's status in that country.

rare vintage birth cup 1882

Theodora Bernards was born in Germany in 1882. Her name has been painted on one side of the cup and my friend believes that "Dora" might have received it as a child. It is also thought that her siblings might each have had a birth cup, but contrary to Dora who immigrated to the USA, they remained in Germany and the family on both sides of the ocean lost touch with each other. This is a story that has happened to many of us, isn't it?

Theodora is my American friend's grandmother.

rare vintage birth cup 1882 with horseback soldier
rare vintage baby cup 1882 with couple having tea

I was intrigued as to the reason for depicting a soldier on horseback with a drawn sword. My friend cannot read the German script found above each image which would probably tell us a little more of the history of that time. However, it was helpful to know that Theodora was born in an area in upheaval in 1882.

The artist may have used this war-like image as reference to the Triple Alliance signed in 1882 between Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary which was kept secret for a time, and renewed four times again in the years preceding World War I. Was the artist warning that countrymen would fight for their country?

If the cup was painted, say a year or so after the birth, it is possible that the signing of this treaty was no longer such a well-kept secret.

Theodora Bernards' family hailed from Alsace-Lorraine, a parcel of land that France ceded to Germany in 1871 at the end of the war between those two countries. This territory was ceded back to France, then later returned to Germany, then again ceded to France in 1945.

Imagine the confusion for citizens who lived through all these reversals. Little wonder that Theodora decided at some point in time to leave her homeland for more stability in America.

watercolour painting of vintage birth cup 1882

However, I think the more likely story is that the soldier with the drawn sword may have been painted to commemorate the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

Was Theodora's father a soldier in the cavalry? I think this is closer to the truth.

The man's uniform is the same as the uniforms worn by soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War fighting under Otto von Bismarck who wanted to unify Germany and build an empire.

The soldier's aggressive stance where he appears to be leading a charge of the cavalry would suggest to me that the artist was referring to the Franco-Prussian battle.

His sash and epaulettes in the painting on the cup also suggest that he was no ordinary soldier but someone in command.

Was the family honouring his participation in a recent war by having him shown in full war uniform and stance? It is all very intriguing, but these are only my theories not supported by any family history. I hope my friend will one day find the definitive answer so that she knows more about her ancestors.

The painting on the birth cup is very detailed and I am afraid I did not do it justice.

After researching information related to the birth cup, I wanted to find out what was happening in the USA in 1882, the year Theodora was born, and also since her descendants are American citizens.

I used old newspaper copies from that year as collage in the background for the cups. I found several interesting events for 1882:

- Cornelius Vanderbilt shot himself and died in April 1882. The motive "as given by his friends, was the result of mental aberration, brought on by several years' suffering from epilepsy." The article in The Daily Express states the gruesome condition in which his friend found him.

- Other suicides are listed in this newspaper along with advertisements for attorney and wholesale and retail produce and provisions, and insurance.

- "Hotel Arrivals" are also found on this page, a list of men, some who are ranchers.

- the town of McAllister in "Indian Territory was almost obliterated by a terrific cyclone."

-there was a proclamation for the reward for the arrest of Frank and Jesse James, express and train robbers. Jesse James was killed by a gang member in 1882.

collage and watercolour vintage baby cup 1882

I didn't like the darkness of the sepia ink on the newspaper.

The painting apps I have on my tablet are very handy to soften a look or to add different effects to any art with which I am dissatisfied. I uploaded a photo of the collage and experimented with different looks and below, in the final photo, is the end result.

I had fun with this challenging vintage birth cup and I hope my friend won't mind the theories I suggested as to the background of her treasured keepsake.

Perhaps one day she will be able to find out more when she scratches an item from her bucket list: a trip to her ancestor's homeland, Germany.

digital reworking of collage and vintage birth cup 1882

Get more art done faster…maybe!

"The artist never entirely knows - We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark". Agnes de Mille. (American dancer who gave concerts of her own choreographies which included her own character sketches. She helped to advance the narrative of dance in musicals and ballets).

digital reworking of photograph

Agnes de Mille's "leap after leap in the dark" is appropriate to describe everything I have been doing creatively in the past year.

From my watercolours portraits and nature sketches, to my unsuccessful attempts on canvas and on other substrates with acrylic paints, to digital experiments, everything in art has been a giant leap into the unknown for me.

There is so much to discover and so much to try. I don't know how to limit myself to only one medium. And it all takes up so much time!

I don't know how artists whose blogs I follow manage to crank out so many works of art each day. I have discovered some of their secrets such as paint on small surfaces, use broad strokes to suggest the object in question, or work in a series in order to get more done.

However, I am unable to apply these tricks to my own practice and I am falling behind in my art work already. No matter, I must convince myself to relax and just let art happen.

So for this post, I thought I would focus on the ways that I have been experimenting with apps and using them to save time.

With Procreate, an app for Ipad, I am able to add colours, to smudge, to add backgrounds and really, totally modify a photo or create an entirely new work of art. I have only scratched the surface with this app.

Other apps such as Brushstroke, Repix, Stackables, are lots of fun to use and I can play for hours and get lost in trying all kinds of modifications to my art. In the end, I usually delete all these experiments. The artistic leaps don't always lead to productive end results. Still, the leaps must be taken!

sketchbook faber castell polychromos pencil sketch

I was trying to get a likeness to Shania Twain in the sketch above done with Polychromos coloured pencils by Faber Castell. I just couldn't get the mouth, the teeth and the eyes to my liking. And if the eyes don't work, the rest will not work either. This is the reason I usually start any sketch with the eyes. I could have started the whole sketch over. I don't think so! So she doesn't look like Shania. Maybe she looks like someone else, who knows?

I decided to upload the sketch to Brushstrokes and experiment a little with it. The result below is more pleasing although it still bears no resemblance to Shania and I can live with that.

sketch uploaded to app

Any art can be reworked any number of times in so many apps without affecting the original work. Artists find this appealing as they can experiment in a virtual world before applying any changes to the actual traditional art.

The above sketch was uploaded once more into Brushstrokes to soften the texture of her skin, her hair, and her dress.

uploaded twice

I especially love using apps like Procreate and Repix to jazz up a background. I find backgrounds tedious and boring to do so when I am at a loss, I can always count on these apps to help me get to the finish line a little more quickly.

sketch no background
sketch with black background

The journal sketch was untouched for many months because I wasn't particularly interested in colouring in a background. Then I thought of simply adding a coat of dark acrylic paint to simulate the dark background in the actual photograph.

The result was a bit too stark. After uploading the sketch into Procreate, Repix, and Brushtroke, I achieved a more pleasing result which remains in the virtual world. The above sketch is still in my journal, as stark as ever.


These are among the many leaps into the unknown that I have taken in the last year. I don't know where these leaps will lead me, but if I don't try, I will never know.

The fun is in the discovery which can occur in any one leap. And if I can save a little time in taking that leap, why not!

Gratitude Journal Entry 3

mixed traditional and digital

Gratitude Journal Week 3 prompt: Art Supplies.

Sketch or illustrate your appreciation for the gift of self-expression.

I chose to blend traditional and digital art for this weekly assignment. I painted a few of my favourite supplies in watercolour. Then I tore the paper towel that I used to wipe my paint brush on, and added it around the supplies. Using my iPad, I took a picture, and then imported it into several apps for digital sketching and painting where I reworked the background until I was satisfied with the results.

I was a bit at a loss this week...but I like the paint splotches in the background.

Prim and proper teacups

Baiely's Irish Cream Liquor and cup

Picture you, upon my knee,
Just tea for two, and two for tea.
~Irving Caesar

This rhyming couplet is certainly very old-fashioned. Picture you upon my knee?  Drinking tea upon my knee? Isn't that an accident and lawsuit waiting to happen?

What about political correctness? Who would be sitting on that knee exactly? The lyrics once had a charming, romantic connotation, you know, young innocent love and all, but these days of internet voyeurs and bare all, tell all stories, it's more than likely to be a very creepy image that comes to mind.

Tea just doesn't pack sufficient punch for me. I NEED my coffee in the morning and the sooner the better! I think if I had to write lyrics for coffee, it would definitely be some kind of rock and roll rendition sung by none other than Jon Bon Jovi himself. Ohhhh.....can you see Jon and his beautiful eyes as he belts out the first few lines...."hot! hot! hot! That's how I like my coffee and my women...." Now THAT is my kind of morning!

Coffee mugs however, aren't nearly as pretty and delicate as teacups. Just the word mug itself sounds very clunky and uncouth.

Think about all those messages people carry around on their coffee mugs.

"I DON'T LIKE MORNING PEOPLE. OR MORNINGS. OR PEOPLE." Does this elicit a laugh or do people run away from you?

"NO TALKIE BEFORE COFFEE." Huh! Apparently you regress to baby talk before coffee. It's not pretty.

Or how about this one?

"BITCHES BE CRAY CRAY FOR COFFEE?" Baby talk, bad grammar, and a demeaning statement towards women proudly displayed on one quick, memorable, rhetorical question. It may, in fact, say more about you than you want to reveal on a coffee mug.

This next one would make me want to punch you first thing in the morning......


REALLY? You want to taunt me with that one at 7 am? You are risking life and limb!

Please, give me a beautiful flowery teacup any day. No crude sayings, no crass messages.

Teacups hark back another era when people at least pretended to be prim and proper in public, and followed Emily Post's advice on etiquette. No more slurping out of big coffee mugs.

Tea bowl with flowers

I received a lovely sampling of teacups after my request in an earlier blog post. I have drawn two of the several teacups I have received so far, both of them from a subscriber in Australia. She writes that the above tea bowl belongs to her husband.

The tea bowl's origins can be traced back to the Middle East, and of course to China, where it is still used today. I should have made the bottom wider as it was shown in the photo the reader sent me, but I am quite pleased with the flowers.

I added a background by importing the watercolour sketch into Procreate, a painting and sketching  app for apple mobile devices. I often use this app to create backgrounds when I am in a hurry or at a loss as to the way to finish my art. I did this in an earlier post when I added a background to a vintage Chevrolet truck I had painted in my sketchbook.

There are wonderful, easy to use apps for art available online sometimes for free, sometimes for a pittance, and I have fun just uploading art through the different apps and experimenting to see what will happen. It is a stress-free way of creating since nothing is permanent. One click of the undo button and voilà...the atrocity disappears.

gold-rimmed teacup

The second cup above belonged to the same reader's mother. I love the bouquet of delicate pink flowers all gathered together with a gold ribbon.  The gold rim adds a touch of class doesn't it?

Once a month, I will feature more teacups.

Search through your cupboards and send me those lovely (or chipped and cracked) treasured teacups. Even the flawed ones are beautiful.

Forward your photos to me at The file should be between 300k and 3mb in order to give me the best resolution for drawing the teacup.

Now go and enjoy a hot cuppa!


October is a feast for the senses

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Digital portrait - here is the one I choose

October is....

Crunchy tart apples freshly picked

fall activity - apple picking

Sweet scent of fruit pies and crumbles

Fallen leaves swirling in the autumn breeze

Grey rain filled skies over crimson trees

Rows of pumpkins in farmers' fields

fall activity - pumpkins

Children's rosy cheeks and warm fingers in new mittens

Firewood aroma in the air during evening walks

Longer nights and shorter days

The warmth of home after being outdoors.

October is a feast for the senses!

I agree with Anne...The world would be a sad place without October.

Halloween Night

Going digital without fear

digital art portrait

"Creativity is....inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. " -Mary Lou Cook

Some time ago, I remember saying that of all directions I was exploring in my art, the one that least interested me was digital art. I think I might have even used the word....dare I say it? Never.

You see how our mothers were right when they said never say never? Because here I am, absolutely in love with my stylus and iPad and the whole idea of digitally reworking or creating art on my tablet.

Since I have started sharing my digital creations, people have asked me how I do this art. I have to give credit where credit is due. I took a three week online course, Paint and Pixels and what a learning experience it was. Robin Laws and Yvette Newport are wonderful supportive teachers, but more than that, their digital art is really inspiring.

I still have not tried many of the new techniques in the final lessons because I keep getting sidetracked by my watercolours or by other interests. However, I intend to savour each lesson and complete all assignments in time. This is the beauty of learning at your own pace on an online course. In our Facebook group everyone shares their art and we can see all the various interpretations of the lessons. Yvette has created a board on her Pinterest page where all our art is available for everyone to see.

Here is one of the amazing ways that digital art can be applied. This purple acrylic sketch below was done some time ago in my Strathmore Visual Arts Sketchbook and I was at a standstill with it. I uploaded it into several different apps on my iPad and reworked it. You can see the process below. I wanted to have a vintage look in the final piece. For now, she has no name, no title and she exists only in the virtual world.

sketchbook acrylic drawing
uploaded sketch
uploaded sketch digital refinements
trying different digital apps
final digital sketch without background additions
Final digital rework for now

Of course the greatest advantage of digital art is being able to start a project anywhere, anytime, as long as the iPad and stylus are available. There is no prep work, no mess to clean up. Any mistakes can easily be erased, blended in, or undone altogether with a few clicks of the undo button.

The beauty of digital art is that there are so many possibilities once the art is taken out of the digital world and brought back into the traditional, real world! Imagine being able to print original art on cards, canvas, shirts, mugs, calendars, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Once I get through more of the lessons, I will also learn to take the digital art and transfer all or parts of it to a canvas and continue along with more traditional methods to completion.

So now, I find myself eating my words. I love digital art. In many ways it is easier than traditional art but that is not to say that there isn't skill involved. The apps provide an array of possibilities whether it is the look of the piece, the colours, the background, the texture, etc. The artist must make choices and apply them successfully.

But the fun is in trying different things without fear.

A feast for my artistic soul

“When I’m old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in.” ~ Ava Gardner

Let's set the record straight right from the get-go. I don't consider myself old and gray nor do I have a house by the sea. However, for a few days this week, I could live the illusion if I wanted, that the sea was just out the back door. A friend invited me to her cottage by a quiet lake only one hour away from home.

Did we have music? Check. Booze… wine counts as booze doesn't it? And lots of chatting? Oh, yes! I would add mouth-watering dips, cheeses, stick to your ribs soup, and finger foods to the list of essentials needed for a wonderful time and we had all that as well.

Our days were of the lazy kind...taking long, leisurely walks up and down the road with the dogs, listening for the haunting call of the loon, going out in the dark, eerie night to see the full lunar eclipse, reading, and watching movies when rain forced us inside, and drinking more wine.

So I thought I would share some of the delights of this retreat with you.

As you can see, the owners have thought of the minute details that make their country home worthy of being featured in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

The logs and all the wood are from the area. The gleaming kitchen has been lovingly updated with granite counters and new handmade cupboards.

But it is the carved door that immediately caught my eye when I entered the home. It is located in the middle of the great room and is a visual point of interest from the entryway. It makes a statement: the warmth of the wood, the sinuous lines of the carvings, the polished finish all tell the story of the loving care that has made my friend's beautiful house into a home.

This charming country retreat invites guests to stop and smell the coffee. Even Cody, my friend's Sheltie, relaxed and enjoyed sitting in the afternoon sun.

The hand-hewn railings in front of the log house and all along the deck at the back were made by local carpenters and craftsmen to meet the owners' intention of having their house blend in with its surroundings.

The owners have meticulously planned all the details outdoors with native flowers planted around the house and by the shore, pots of herbs only a few steps from the kitchen, easy access from the front of the house to the shore, and trees planted for special occasions labelled by plaques. The natural shoreline has been preserved with rocks trucked in from a local quarry.

As it was too cold to sit outdoors and draw or paint, I used my photos to create this version of the wildflowers by the shore.

Cody is so photogenic that I took many shots of him. We didn't know it at the time, but he must have found some delicacy in the nearby woods which became obvious by his odd behaviour the night before we were to return to the city. If you are a pet owner, you know how worrisome this can be. Sure enough, the morning of our departure, he was sick by the beach, and had to be brought to the vet later in the day.

Isn't he adorable? He has a sweet disposition too!

I found myself reaching for my iPad time and time again. I took videos of the loons on the lake, and of the geese flying south in the grey fall sky. I took close-ups and panoramic shots. Thankfully, my friend indulged my hobby as she herself loves to take pictures. She even caught me in the moment and I am posting the best of the two shots she took of me.

The other photo is not for your eyes as I would be the laughingstock of the Internet for sure!

A few days after I returned home, I used my coloured pencils to paint the 1966 pick-up truck that was parked in the front yard at the lake. I had never drawn a truck or car but this vintage Chevy, in excellent condition, had me reminiscing. I seem to recall that Dad had a similar truck when I was young. I will ask him about it next time I see him. Was that the reason I felt compelled to draw this beauty? Maybe.

I took many photos which then became inspiration for my art.

"Reaching out"

This is my favourite art from the cottage. I love the colours and I am thinking of having it reprinted to a large canvas to display in my home.

Other art might be suitable for cards.

My friend is encouraging me to post my work on redbubble and shopify. I am still thinking about it.

In other photos, I was fascinated with patterns and I don't yet know how I will use them if at all, but I am posting them just so you can see the subject of interest and the texture.

Between walks outdoors and taking photographs, I found the time to finish this shrug which has been sitting in my cupboard at home for close to two years. I not only have lots of material for my art, but I also have a Christmas gift ready two and a half months ahead of time. Woooo hoooo!

With a touch of sadness, I left the quiet comfort of the cottage to return home. At heart, I am a city girl. I love all that Ottawa has to offer, a beautiful place at any time of the year. However, a little vacation by the sea or by a lake is a wonderful opportunity to drink wine, chat with a friend, and take long walks. It is also needed to feed my artistic soul. What feeds your soul?

My goodness how the time has flewn

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
~ Dr. Seuss

September has quietly slipped away and I hate to say it, but December isn't that far away.

Earlier in the month, I travelled to the Philadelphia area where there is much to do and to see and all only two hours away at most. I relaxed on a deserted Jersey shore, visited various outdoor gardens such as Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania, as well as the city of Philadelphia itself. I saw The Liberty Bell and walked around the historical area, and then spent an afternoon admiring the murals on South Street. It was a week that seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I was on my way home.

A few days after returning to Ottawa, I participated in a 5K race in the downtown core in support of our armed forces. On the same day, we took in the Battle of Britain ceremonies on Parliament Hill. Two days later, I was ready for a road trip to northern Ontario to visit Dad with my friend Lucie. By the time this post is published, I will be sipping my morning coffee sitting on a dock at a friend's cottage.

As you can tell, it has been a month filled with activities and I have tried to sneak in some time for art whenever possible. In addition to all the comings and goings, I started an online course, Paint and Pixels, and I am learning to use my iPad to enhance my art in many new ways.

In the first few lessons I have learned to modify art that I don't really like or simply to start right from scratch and try out a new idea before committing it to an expensive canvas.

It is very addictive this art on the iPad. There is no mess, no prepping to worry about, and with one click of the undo button, a line, stroke or colour can easily be removed.

The first portrait below is an imaginary person completed with Procreate on my iPad mainly using charcoals. I cannot really say which particular charcoals I chose because I used that undo button to its fullest advantage and tried different charcoals and brushes. Warning: do not adjust your glasses. The sketch is blurred. I think I used the smudging tool a bit liberally!

The second portrait was started in my sketchbook after seeing a Jeanne Oliver video on painting portraits using mainly gesso and charcoal or stabilo pencil which I only recently started using so I am learning how they might be applied on paper, and then also learning the ways they might work within this app. Excellent creative gymnastics.

I uploaded the image of my portrait into the Procreate app and started adding colours to the face experimenting with different brushes and tools available within the app.

I could spend hours with Procreate. There are so many ways it can be used and I am eager to learn more about using other apps in combination with Procreate. Lots of fun!