TBT – Where has the sunshine gone?

My weather alert app keeps reminding me that it will rain in 15 minutes. It is 95% certain that rain will fall.

I don’t doubt it.

We have had so much rain this summer that our garden vegetables are rotting from the stems upward.  Some friends of ours have uprooted their whole garden and simply given up on any kind of a crop for this year.

Our pool has had many backwashes because it has been near topped up by all the rain while our rain barrel is refilled faster than we can even use all the water stored in it.

journal entry - sunscreens in mixed media

Sunscreen painted in sketchbook last year before our trip to Havana, Cuba.  Mixed media (Watercolour and acrylic and ink).

There are some blessings:

No need to stock up on sunscreens and tanning lotions and no need to wear the sticky stuff.  No need to water flower beds and garden. Our cedar hedge is full and thick with new growth which makes me think that it too needs more water in drier years.  Mornings are dark and sleeping in is so much  easier.  And of course, there is more time for reading, painting, and doing indoor chores although I wouldn’t count that last activity as a blessing!

“Rain hangs about the place, like a friendly ghost.  If it’s not coming down in delicate droplets, then it’s in buckets; and if neither, it tends to lurk suspiciously in the atmosphere.”  ~ Barbara Acton-Bond.

As summer wanes, the optimist in me is hoping that fall will be glorious and dry!

What’s your favourite activity in rainy weather?

The rain in Spain results in adjusting my sails

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails." Elizabeth Edwards.

on the spot watercolour sketch in hotel lounge

Not long after we arrived in Spain, we had two days of bad weather. All four of us accepted that there would be no long walks on the Paseo Maritimo in Torremolinos, no exploring other than to find new restaurants for our meals. The intense rain and wind put a stop to our sightseeing plans.

The rain and wind abated around lunch time and we ran across the road to La Cabaña for paella and sangria, and then took a few photos of the rough waves before heading back to the lounge.

Because we were still jet lagged, we were grateful for the imposed change of pace.

on the spot - watercolour sketches - in the lounge
on the spot sketch - at the bar

While others passed the time reading, or playing games on their tablets, I practised quick, surreptitious sketches.

People came and went at the bar or in the lounge. Everyone was seeking a meeting place out of the rain.

I had many different scenarios to choose from. Some hotel guests were texting, others were chatting with family and friends, some sleeping... and generally, people didn't move too much so I was able to rapidly sketch their positions on paper and then add touches of watercolour on the spot.

The hours passed surprisingly quickly, and soon, the sun returned.

journal page - Malaga
Picasso journal page in travel sketchbook

Even before leaving Canada, I had convinced myself that I would have time to sit and sketch.

To that end, I carefully selected pens, pencils and travel watercolour set. I worried about the extra weight the contents of the zippered pouch would add to my carry-on bag so in the days before our trip, I sorted, and reorganized that container many times.

I needn't have worried.

Except for those two days of rain, daily sketching didn't happen. In fact, the Malaga pages were completed once I returned home.

We were on the go and when, at the end of the day, very late at night, we found ourselves back in our rooms, I was just too tired to even think about sketching and painting. It was time to socialize!

I adjusted my sails.

Picasso journal page 2
quick sketches scenes from Malaga courtyards

Sketches from my travel journal – the first days

travel journal sketch - the beach

"Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful." ~ Vincent Van Gogh.

What an easy assignment it was to "find things beautiful" in Spain.

I didn't have to look very far to seek inspiration for my travel sketchbook. Just walking along the beach and selecting colourful seashells amongst the thousands that had washed up onshore, drawing hearts in the sand, finding quaint little signs along the Paseo Maritimo, these were enough to get me started in my journal.

travel journal sketch - the marina at Benalmádena
travel journal sketch - The lighthouse at Benalmádena

These simple scenes from Benálmadena remind me of that sunny day spent at the marina where we had luch at Metro Ristorante. I glued a piece of their coaster in the top corner of one page.

Just a little further from the sailboat marina, people were sunning themselves on the rocks near the lighthouse. I chose one woman to add to my sketch of that area.

These sketches, completed rather quickly by my standards, and with all their imperfections, help me to remember things which photos just can't do: they remind me of the hot sun on my back as we searched for the little tobacco shop in Benalmádena where we could buy a bus pass, of the smells and all the sounds in and around the main marina and finding a little outdoor patio restaurant wedged among other restaurants and shops, and then, the long trek back to our hotel in Torremolinos where some of us discovered oozing blisters on feet not used to wearing sandals.

Of course, at the end of each day, we sat on our balcony overlooking the ocean, and reminisced about the events of the day while enjoying a good bottle or two of local wine.

travel journal sketch - the first day

Sensuous hands of the flamenco dancers of Seville

The sensual hand gestures in flamenco dancing are mesmerizing to watch. Sometimes languid, sometimes frenetic and wild, the circular movements of the hands and the fanning of the fingers and the snapping, (either combined or separate) have a hypnotizing effect on the audience.

I love the passion of the movements, the spiraling spine, the hip rolls and hip juts, the finger snapping and clapping, the castanets, the rapid heel work, the shouts of the encouragement, in short, the drama of it all.

watercolour and coloured pencil sketches of flamenco hand gestures

Andalucia in southern Spain is the home of flamenco, but this dance has been influenced by the different cultures of that region over many centuries.

Seville, a city in the south of Spain, hosts the flamenco festival each year. A few years ago we visited a "tablao flamenco", a nightclub where flamenco is performed on a wooden stage, but this, time, as we should be in Seville around the final weeks of the festival, we should be able to see dancers on the streets of this charming Spanish city.

Truly, flamenco music is a fusion of seductive music from the different cultural groups present in that area over the centuries.

When attitudes towards gypsies began changing in the mid 1800s, this type of music and dance caught the attention of writers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and people who had no gypsy blood in them, popularized the dance and the accompanying music.

Many variations of the dance were found and afficionados could visit a café cantante, similar to the tablao, where there was a stage for the performers and tables for the audience.

Over the years, flamenco reinvented itself many times. In the late 1990s, a new craze for flamenco was ignited with the guitarist Francisco Sánchez Gómez (Paco de Lucia) who accompanied the greatest flamenco dancer, José Monge Cruz. They were to influence a new generation of musicians and dancers who are still on the scene today.

What my travel sketches will not reveal about me

"You can't do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh." ~ John Singer Sargent.

watercolour and ink sketch of clothes for travelling
watercolour and gouache map of trip in travel sketchbook

As you read this, I will be basking in the warm sun on the Costa del Sol. With all the rain we have had here lately, sunshine will be a pleasant change for us.

My sketchbook and a few art supplies are ready to be packed.

Here are five things you will not find out about me in my sketchbooks:

1. I have a healthy fear of flying but I fight it because I want to see the world. There is so much more to fear these days it seems: being bumped off planes, or more specifically, dragged off and missing my entire holidays as I heal a concussion from the overly zealous militia-like officials. We know from the nightly news that this is not a far-fetched possibility anymore. I fear passenger rage as we are crammed tightly into small spaces. I fear turbulence and any kind of unexpected bump in the night.

2. Speaking of night, contrary to all my friends, I cannot and have never been able to sleep on a plane. As I make one of several trips to the washroom, I see that I am the only one awake along with the air attendants. How I envy all those people who are snoring with their mouths open, the drool running down their chins.

3. I will probably never visit some countries because they are just too far. Recently, we inquired about a trip to Vietnam and our travel agent told us we could travel over the north pole and we would be seeing not one but two sunrises. She seemed excited about that but that was a turnoff for me. Ten hours is the most I can stand confined to a metal tube hurtling through the atmosphere at 30,000 feet above the earth.

4. My friends Sally and Jill who live in different areas of Australia will probably never see unless they meet me half way. Hawaii is a nice place to visit and I might be able to handle that with a stopover on the west coast. Sally and I have been friends now for five or so years and have never met in person whereas I met Jill on our Scenic cruise last fall.

5. For some odd reason, I am not as nervous on the flight back home. I can't explain why that is, it just is. I am always happy to be back even when we have had the most wonderful time.

I will post any sketches I manage to complete while we are in Spain when I return home.

Cheers everyone!

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.

Spain will once more add pages to my travel book

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." ~St. Augustine.

first page in sketchbook for trip to Spain

In a few weeks we will be enjoying, along with our lifelong friends, a glass or two of sangria on the shores of the Mediterranean.

This will be our second visit to Spain's Costa del Sol. Our first trip was in 2014 and we stayed in Marbella for a few nights and travelled to Mijas and Torremolinos but those visits were far too brief.

Spain kept a piece of me...I had to return.

This time, I am bringing along a travel journal, a sketchbook where I want to record our daily activities and add drawings as I did when we were in Havana, Cuba, in June 2016.

Parque Central sketch - in the lobby (Havana, June 2016)

Last fall, I regretted not having my watercolours and other paraphernalia with me on our Rhine/Danube cruise. However, if truth be told, I probably would not have had time to sit and sketch. This will not be the case in Torremolinos.

You might wonder what is so special about a travel journal?

Contrary to photos, a travel journal makes you more aware of all the minute details of your surroundings. You might record:

- snippets of overheard conversation
- stamps from different areas
- maps or sections of maps
- quick, on-the-go, gestural type sketches
- more leisurely, detailed sketches
- quotations
- lists (sites to see, things to do in and around the area)
- bits and pieces of travel brochures
- the joys of discoveries, the disappointments and irritations that sometimes occur while travelling
- the best gelatos, tapas, beer, wine, etc. that you enjoyed and where you found them
- caricatures of people

In a world of instant this and that, a travel journal seems old-fashioned and maybe even quaint to some people.

But putting pen to paper forces the writer/artist to examine the surroundings without any filters of a camera lens and find the particular in the general setting, as well as people to sketch, and conversations to listen to (eavesdropping is permitted at such times), and chronicle the highlights of the trip.

More often than not, as I am sketching, someone will look over my shoulder and begin questioning me, and that will lead to more fascinating discoveries.

A travel journal/sketchbook, I would argue, heightens the senses.

The world is a book and those who do not read each page thoughtfully, savouring each word, will easily forget the wonders they have seen.

You can quote me on that!

Boots of the Fallen – Battle of Vimy Ridge 100th Anniversary

On this day, Canadian soldiers fought, with much sacrifice, and captured Vimy Ridge.

Boots of the Fallen - Watercolour in sketchbook

"Boots of the Fallen". 3,598 Canadian soldiers killed at Vimy and over 7000 injured in a battle that lasted four days.

This great battle represents a coming of age for Canada. The French and British armies failed to take Vimy Ridge. During cold, snowy spring days, in three lines of muddy trenches, Canadians awaited their orders that would see them move up the ridge and make greater advances, capture more soldiers than any other offensive during WWI.

Vimy was reclaimed from the Germans after four days of intense battle and loss.

Vimy Ridge, where physical evidence of the battle remains, is Canada's National Memorial in Europe.

Comfort clothes make a fashion statement of their own.

"A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her own clothes. " Vera Wang.

"Anyway, there is one thing I have learned and that is not to dress uncomfortably, in styles which hurt: winklepicker shoes that cripple your feet and tight pants that squash your balls." George Harrison.

gratitude journal entry for appreciation of clothes week 20

I am not so sure I agree with Vera Wang. I have seen some examples of comfort clothes that should have been left hanging in the closet rather than on the person who was wearing them. After all, not everyone looks good in leggings or yoga pants.

George Harrison said it best. After all, those winklepicker shoes are damned painful. Women know all about the stiletto shoes, sexy yes, but so darn hard to wear all day long, especially if you had a job standing most of the day as I had.

These days, I am all about comfort, and the more comfortable the clothes and the shoes, the more confidence I exude. If Vera Wang equates confidence with sexiness, then I am all for that!

This is another gratitude journal entry for a week where I was probably away from home or too busy with other art to illustrate my appreciation for clothes.

For this gratitude journal entry, I thought of the most important characteristics that I look for when I am shopping for a new addition to my wardrobe.

What is most important for you when you shop for clothes? Comfort? Style? Cost?

How to enjoy summer fruits….the secret is in the sangria!

"If life hands you lemons, put them in your sangria!" ~ author unknown.

For those of you who have been given lemons lately, well, they could be added to this recipe for a bit more tang.

And if you feel a bit of sour grapes coming on, they too are delicious in sangria! (Couldn't help myself!)

Seriously though, if you wanted to keep your sangria really cold, try freezing slices of lemon on a cookie sheet and then bag them. You will have tasty frozen lemon slices for your water... or sangria. I also freeze grapes from time to time and pop them into drinks.

My sister asked me for the sangria recipe which is the only one that I have ever made. I would say the secret of its delicious taste is in the fruit one chooses to include, but then you could call me a liar.

sangria recipe illustrated

We both know that it is the wine and the cognac that really make this drink so enjoyable.

Special thanks to Joanne, my long time friend, for this recipe that has never failed to please my guests. Over many decades, she has helped me rescue litres (or gallons) of wine trapped in bottles... (I won't divulge how many decades or bottles! We stopped counting a long time ago.)

What is your favourite summer drink? I had so much fun painting this one that I might just paint yours and add it to my sketchbook.

Cheers everyone!

Puppies paw their way into our hearts

gratitude journal entry for our pets, our perfect companions

The prompt for this week's gratitude journal entry is to show our appreciation for our furry companions. On Instagram, see other entries for this specific week at #G52Prompt31.

Jennifer Frith sends a weekly prompt for those of us who want to participate in this year long activity.

There are beautiful examples of all types of journaling creativity for all the prompts for the year to date at gratitude52community and #gratitude52community on Instagram.

The quote above my pencil portrait of my Havanese, Chico, when he was a puppy, is my own.

"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet." Jennifer selected a quote by Colette to accompany this week's prompt.

Many dog lovers have expressed their feelings about their furry pets so poetically that I am adding a few more of my favourite ones:

"Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog; but you're never friendless ever, if you have a dog." Douglas Mallock.

"The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog." George Graham.

"Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching." Rudyard Kipling.

Which furry companion do you prefer? Sigh...and before you send me all types of furry companions, lets limit this list to dogs and cats, ok?

Why do you appreciate their company? Do you have any funny dog or cat stories to share? I know you do and I am waiting to see which of you will send me some of those quirky tales! (no pun intended)

My furry companions:

Mopsy 1991-2005
Chico (Havanese) 2005 -
Sophie (Maltese) 2007 -

Finding inspiration for art during a morning walk

maple tree keys in watercolour in Moleskine journal

On a blustery day like today, I am reminded that fall is just around the corner.

Gone is the oppressive heat of the last few weeks. It is pleasant once again to be active outdoors.

I love this time of the year leading into the early weeks of fall. There is much more material that I can easily gather as I am walking in the neighbourhood.

This morning, I found two attached keys, which I am guessing from a quick search, are those from a maple tree.

First, I painted them with watercolours in my Moleskine sketchbook.

watercolour sketch and then imported into several apps

Since I didn't like my handwriting, I imported the painting into Procreate. I erased the writing and fixed some of the shading.

And then I spent the next hour, importing the results into more apps and playing around with the painting. Repix, for example, allows me to add raindrops to the keys. Brushtrokes gives me additional effects and frames to finish the keys more artistically.

Even when I am not entirely satisfied with the results in my sketchbook, I am able to save the piece by using different apps.

watercolour sketch after importing into two apps

I am free and no net ensnares me

gratitude journal entry week 26

I am catching up on several missed gratitude journal entries.

The prompt for this one has to do with thankfulness for my freedoms. The quote by Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Brontë says it best: "I am a free human being with an independent will."

The entry was mostly done on paper in my journal, but the ravens and some of the colouring around the net (cheesecloth that I dyed with acrylic paints) were achieved in various apps on my iPad.

When the scorchers of August make me thankful for simple things

"Sun-kissed skin so hot it'll melt your popsicle." Katy Perry.

gratitude journal entry for summer week 22

This is gratitude journal for week 22 (I am trying to catch up in the weeks of journaling that I missed). Obviously, the theme is summer and frozen treats go so well with the heat of those lazy, hazy, days of summer.

I am thankful for all the summers of my life, and especially thankful for a career that allowed me to spend all of July and August with family and friends.

The best summers were the ones of impromptu get-togethers, shared meals by the pool, late evening drinks (and no mosquitoes), and of course, lots of laughter, the tears rolling down the cheeks kind of laughter. Ahh, life's simple pleasures.

Cheers my friends!

Vacations and getaways are the stuff of memories

Gratitude Journal entry for this week: Draw, quote, or illustrate your appreciation for vacations and getaways (on Instagram see other entries at #G52Prompt30)

gratitude journal entry: vacations and getaways:watercolour and ink

I shouldn't be thinking about winter already, but now that I am mostly retired, summer is no longer a holiday in the same way it used to be when I was teaching.

I am grateful for getaways whether I am going to a nearby cottage, a trip to my hometown four hours away, visiting a friend in the USA, or flying to some foreign country.

All my holidays have been memorable for one reason or another.

Below, a downpour doesn't dampen our enthusiasm as we tour Havana on a Hop on Hop Off bus in June 2016.

(Special thanks to friend and photographer, JP Serré.)

having fun in rain in Havana

My First Memory

"What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever." Mary Jo Putney

Gratitude Journal Prompt 28/52  "Your First Memory"

(Gratitude Journal Entry week 28, "Your First Memory"...)

If it is true that what one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever, then my heart is indeed filled with gratitude for all the wonderful memories from long ago.

The illustration shows my first puppy, a mutt my parents found for me when I was just a baby. It might be hard to believe but I do remember that puppy. Is that possible? I wasn't even two years old!

Could that be the reason I love dogs so much?

I also included Ring a ring o' roses, a song from my childhood that I learned from my mother and then later sang with girlfriends, although there were many other songs my mother and my aunt used to sing to me. Maybe this is the reason I love music and a day doesn't go by that I don't have some song playing in my head.

Other early memories include Dad giving us piggy back rides to our bedroom, Mom and Dad helping us remember the words to Hail Mary and later, my parents listening to our night time prayers, and then Mom snuggling with us to read us bedtime stories. I wish I had kept 365 Bedtime Stories. She read from that book each night for a long time.

In the summer, my parents would have us get into our pyjamas and then bring us for a car ride around town which might include a stop at the Dairy Queen for a cone.

When Dad was working shifts, and Mom was alone, I could sleep with her in bed which for me, was always a treat.

I am surprised at how much I can remember of those early days.

Our little house was filled with warmth and I remember being loved.

A simple act of gratitude by John Kralik

Finally, as half of the year has gone by, and since this weekly journal I am keeping is all about gratitude, I would like to thank my American friend Linda, for giving me A Simple Act of Gratitude when I visited her last September with the request that I pass it along to someone else who might like reading it.

After I read the book, I passed it along to hubby and then to Dad. Now it has to move along to other readers.

If you are looking for an uplifting book to read during the dog days of summer, this just might be it!

What childhood memories are you most grateful for?

Cheers to you my friends!