The eye searches for novelty…

“The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition.”  W.H. Auden.

"Unexpected experiences" mixed media portrait in Strathmore Visual journal

“Unexpected Experiences”.  9 x 12 mixed media in Strathmore Visual Mixed Media Journal.  Mixed media includes acrylics, Inktense pencils, Neocolor II, metallic paints, and collage.

And the world opened up to her colour

“A  kind of light spread out from her.  And everything changed color. And the world opened out.  And a day was good to awaken to.  And there were no limits to anything.  And the people of the world were good and handsome.  And I was not afraid any more.” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden.

mixed media portrait with bronze leaves -"The world opened up to her colour"

“The world opened up to her colour”.  9 x 12 mixed media on watercolour paper.

I carved my own leaf stamps for gold leafing. I did not have gold leaf so I used some really old bronze sheets of leafing paper that I must have had in my art stash since the 1990s.  This  was a new technique and had I followed instructions the first time, I would have been finished sooner. Live and learn once more!

The acrylics are watered considerably so that they give the effect of watercolour. This is a technique I learned (and am far from having mastered) from artist Lauren Rudolph. You can see her amazingly vivid paintings by visiting her website here: 

I have used this technique before, here Letting troubles float away

and here: What I learned from trying out a new technique

I added stamped lettering (store bought) in the background, and the colours were achieved using Neocolours II.  Pitt Pastel pens were used in hair as well.

It seems to be a pattern with me lately to throw everything that I possibly can at a painting and see what happens.  The learning continues.

How to keep a child creatively busy (an easy project)

When you have a little visitor in your home and it is one of those dreary days, here is an easy  project you might try.  I got the idea from Pinterest and we added our own unique twist to it.

child painting a canvas with acrylics

Items needed:  a newspaper or magazine, 3 colours of acrylic paint, medium sized sponge brush or other cheap brush, Modge Podge or good glue, a white canvas, foam squares with sticky backs.  Most of these items are available at the Dollar Store.

We also added a butterfly from a paper napkin, and a “crown” from a paper doily.  These are optional of course and your little one might decide to add different embellishments.  An older child might want to make this much more detailed.

collage newspaper outline of dog on prepped canvas
  1.  Paint the canvas with a sponge brush or old brush.  It will need several coats.
  2. I traced the outline of the dog on the newspaper and had my visitor cut it out.
  3. Next, glue the cut out newspaper dog (or cat, or butterfly…) onto the canvas.  We used Modge Podge because I know that it will hold. When it is dry, add the foam nose (a circle) and the dog’s eyes, in this case, ovals as her dog has oval shaped eyes in the photo we were using. Next, paint the ears pink.  This could be optional depending on the type of dog you have decided to paint.
  4. If you have paper napkins with interesting designs such as flowers, butterflies or whatever, remove the layers from the napkins so that you are left with only the top, printed layer.  It will be thin.  You might have to help glue this down.  We Modge Podged on top as well.
bow tie is painted separately

5.  Use a thin cardboard to draw a bow.  I had my visitor paint the bow in her chosen colour which was a deeper purple than the background and let dry.  Then she cut it out.  When the dog was dry, she glued on the bow.

6. Finally, she added the little crown to make it “cute”.  This was from the edge of a paper doily.

7. Once this was done, I suggested she write her name.

And then, it was time to move on to baking.  She made chocolate chip cookies and banana chocolate chip muffins.

It was a busy day!

the final project of collaged dog
time to make some cookies

How do you keep your children or grandchildren creatively busy?

Cody, the Sheltie, and life at the cottage

“When I am old and grey my step might be slower…BUT…My love will be the same.   My heart and soul are grateful for all that you have done and do…”  ~ Bridget of Linked Souls.

"Anticipation" mixed media portrait of Cody the Sheltie with Gelli printed background

“Anticipation.” (SOLD) – a whimsical mixed media portrait of Cody, the Sheltie, as he anticipates leaving for the cottage and chasing his favourite chipmunk.   (11×14 birch panel with 1 inch painted sides).  Background is Gelli printed tissue paper collaged on board.

Cody is getting on in age and his owners wanted to have his portrait painted sooner than later.

The owner says that I have captured Cody’s look of expectation when he knows he is going with his much loved “Grandpa” to the cottage. They have many fond memories of Cody at the cottage when he was in better health.

What’s not to love about the cottage even for a dog?

photograph of  rocky shore at the cottage

At the lake, Cody runs and jumps joyfully, and blows off all pent up energy he has kept in reserve at home in the city.  For a moment, he forgets his age-related aches and pains and is a puppy once more.

He has all the new smells of the forest to explore where wild animals have left their calling cards just for him, or so he thinks.

He has the shore where gentle waters lap against the polished and glistening stones.  How glorious it is to splash around and cool off with a few quick licks close to the rocks!

When he tires (as all old dogs at the cottage do), he can enjoy his naps and bask in the warmth of the sun on the large deck facing the gentle breezes from the lake.

relaxation by the lake - photograph

Most of all though, Cody loves patrolling the property and checking for “chippie” (chipmunk) hideouts.  This activity provides him and his owners hours of entertainment.

Cody chases the chipmunk who skitters away and then hides in the drainspout where Cody will shove his big snout and wait for Chippie to tire of the hide and seek game.  Chippie is wise and waits for Cody to retreat before ever showing himself again.

What would happen if Chippie would decide to come out of hiding with Cody’s snout blocking the way?  No one knows because it has never happened. Cody loses interest and calls it quits eventually.

Ahhh, yes, there is much to appreciate at the cottage for a dog.  (and for humans too).

the view from the deck - photograph
lilies at the fence - cottage life photography

A child of the palace of dreams

“In the garden of memory, in the palace of dreams…that is where you and I shall meet.” ~ Alice Through the Looking Glass.

"A child of the palace of dreams" mixed media on 11x14 watercolour paper

“A child of the palace of dreams”.  11 x 15 mixed media on watercolour paper including, watercolour, acrylics, Inktense pencils, Neocolor II.

In her garden of memory, the fragrant roses are already in full bloom. She closes her eyes and remembers the sweetness of the old-fashioned flowers on the table during the heat of the summer, their velvety pink petals falling, one by one, onto the embroidered white cotton tablecloth.

Dainty bone china teacups remain on the table.   Not far from the vase of roses sits the large crystal plate with one last piece of refreshing grasshopper pie made just for this occasion.  The ladies enjoyed the minty slices while sipping their hot tea.

The small room is now silent. One guest has forgotten her white gloves on a chair.  Lingering fragrances of lily of the valley and jasmine remain in the room, complementing the ambrosial scent of roses on the table. The hostess sits near the open window in her best Sunday dress, quietly fanning herself with the latest copy of Women’s Day.

In her garden of memory, the child she was, sees and remembers that afternoon long ago.


This art work collected dust for many months, but I can finally set it aside with a feeling of satisfaction to finish the second painting in a similar style.

I was inspired by the artist, Katrina Koltes.  Katrina gave an online workshop on her techniques which got me started with this painting, but then I became stuck as the results I had achieved were not like the ones she had demonstrated.  Sometimes, the best action is inaction, or at the very least, to wait for my confidence to return.

Katrina’s creations are colourful yet soft, detailed, and full of emotion.  I have so much to learn to create a story as she does with her gorgeous art. Or maybe the words are needed anyway?  You can let me know.  In the meantime, you can find Katrina on youtube or visit her website here:


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.

TBT – Flossie, the flapper.

“The pretty toes, the shapely ankle, the gently undulating leg – and then to cap the climax – there is the knee.  Or should we say knee-cap?

It’s a terrible bump – to masculine imagination.”  The Flapper – (The psychology of knees), June 1922.

"Flossie", mixed media and collage portrait

“Flossie”, 16×20, mixed media including collage background, acrylics, and Golden Pearl Mica Flake (small) in hat and on earring.

This flapper from the 1920s for Throwback Thursday was originally published last year.  When you know your hours of frustration are over

At that time, I was beginning to learn that each painting goes through a scary, ugly stage when artists must push through to the other side, that is, to the portrait that actually has human features.  For Flossie I used a collage technique in the background that I still find appealing a year later.

Even though a year has gone by since I painted Flossie, and even though I like to think I have progressed at least a bit in my techniques,  I do like the mica glitter in her cap, the colours from the background which are repeated in her cap and dress and the spotlight which seems to be focused on her.

She was the first painting to be displayed in my home.  Most of my other art work remains in dark corners of my art room or in sketchbooks.

Portraits and faces remain the subjects I truly enjoy painting, but our furry friends come a close second, and I have a backlog of commissions waiting to be completed.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what endeavour is undertaken, whether it is knitting, music, cooking, sculpting, photography, etc.  as long as it fills a need or a void in our lives.

What is your creative endeavour?



When eyes see things much too far

She always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world. ~ Joanne Harris.

"That look of otherness". Mixed media: XL graphite blocks, Neocolor II, acrylics, collage of original printed tissue paper done with the Gelli plate on 11x15 inch Canson watercolor paper.

When eyes see things much too far, what do they see?

This is a good question; it seems to be relevant to the portrait as she has a look that says she is not present in the moment.

Is she looking in the distance or is she daydreaming? I don't know.

She is a surprise to me because when I started her I had no predetermined idea of the end result.

Here she is at the beginning of the process, looking a little like Marilyn Monroe.

initial rough sketch with XL graphite and gesso

She began to take a life of her own after I added colours using watered down Neocolors II.

portrait painting - added colours to initial sketch with Neocolors II

progress on mixed media portrait

When I was fairly certain I had a face that I liked painted on paper, I added the collage in the background.

I chose the Gelli printed paper with bronze and orange and green since I thought these colours were also in her skin tone. This is tissue paper that I had painted last fall while experimenting for another project.

I painted a portrait using the Gelli printed paper in a shirt a few months ago: Nests in her hair for spring

You can see the actual Gelli plate here:  Experiments with new art supplies and life is good!

Gelli printed tissue paper in background of portrait

Finally, at the very end when I thought I was done, I didn't like her hair. And then I didn't like one of her eyes and eyebrows either.

Acrylic paints are somewhat easy to rework and so I made the necessary adjustments.

And now she gazes in the distance, quite aloof to her surroundings, looking off into the distance, and I wonder what she is seeing.

June is butterflies, flowers, shade, and one relaxed dog

"The love of a dog is a pure thing.  He gives you a trust which is total.  You must not betray it." ~ Michel Houellebecq, a French poet and novelist. 

Mixed media portrait of Havanese on 12 x12 gallery wrapped canvas

“An afternoon in the shade”.  12 x 12 gallery-wrapped canvas, mixed media painting of Chico, my 12 year old Havanese.

Chico, our Havanese, has been with us since he was a puppy and has always been an easy-going, laid back kind of dog.

When he is happy to see us, he bounces around, and I swear, has a big grin on his face.  Most times though, he is quite content to lie quietly on a comfortable cushion and watch household activities.

I decided to paint him outdoors for this portrait.  After all, we are almost into summer here in Canada, and just like his human family, he loves the cool grass on his paws and the shady areas of the yard.

Below is the original photo used as inspiration for the whimsical portrait I painted of him.

photo of Havanese

The photo is a bit dark and not quite focused but hey, I work with what I have!  Chico is sitting on his favourite brown blanket on our red sofa.  He claimed that blanket as his own not long after he was sick and we used it to keep him warm.  It has been put away for the summer.

You can tell that I was aiming for a fanciful, soft portrait of our little puppy, as I often call him.  And in keeping with the puppy theme, I have made him look a little pudgier than he is in real life.

Although he barks at anyone who dares come to our door, he is the gentlest, friendliest little dog one could ever want.

What personality trait of your dog is most endearing?

Sisters always have each other’s backs

"No one could have called Mr. Standen quick-witted, but the possession of three sisters had considerably sharpened his instinct of self-preservation." ~ Georgette Heyer, (1902-1974) a prolific historical fiction writer who specialized in the Regency era.

Three Sisters - Watercolours and Micron and Pitt pens on Canson XL watercolor paper

Three Sisters - 12 X 18" watercolour and micron pen on Canson XL watercolour paper.

Although we were only two girls and one boy in our household, the girls always stuck together no matter what the issue or problem might have been, and our unfortunate brother was caught in the middle, literally and figuratively.

Of course, much of the time, he was the author of his own the time he went into the freezer and ate the filling out of the butter tarts mom had made for Christmas.  Or the time he nearly electrocuted himself, or set the house on fire.  So even if he tried to pin the problem on us, we were quick to defend each other and place the blame right back where it belonged.

I can only imagine adding one more girl into the mix! It would certainly keep any boy on his toes if not teach him quick comebacks.

So when I read about Mr. Standen and his "sharpened instinct of self-preservation", I laughed at the memories the quotation conjured up for me of my childhood, with my brother always in some sort of trouble at home, and the girls watching as fate or sometimes mom, meted out the consequences.

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. (

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.

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.

TBT – Shakespeare said it best

Throwback Thursday mixed media mermaid

I would like to thing that Shakespeare must have felt the urge to visit some of the faraway places he frequently used as settings in his plays.

In The Merchant of Venice, he writes of the business conducted on the Rialto, a bridge that still stands today and of Belmont, an area that only existed in Shakespeare'd mind but could certainly be set in the tropical Italian mountains of the north near Lago Maggiore say, where the wise Portia meets her suitors and must choose one to marry her.

Romeo and Juliet, of course, is set in Verona. Tourists can see Juliet's golden statue (a tourist trap, I might add) in the Capulet courtyard.

Hamlet's action takes place in Denmark and Macbeth's gory scenes and battles, in Scotland.

Incredibly, this prolific playwright never set foot outside of England.

I often wonder why the "unpathed waters, undreamed shores" never pulled him in their direction. I suppose he was too busy earning a living once he was in the queen and then later, the king's good graces.

I might have taken the quotation out of context but there are many "unpathed waters, undreamed shores" that I hope to visit in the years to come.

This mermaid was painted last year for Let's Face it online class.

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.

Caught between two worlds

"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. " ~ Carl Jung.

mixed media painting on paper "Caught between two worlds"

"Caught between two worlds", mixed media on Canson XL 12 x18" watercolour paper.

This title came so easily to me compared to titles for other paintings.

Why is she caught between two worlds?

For this assignment, I was to paint a "graffiti girl" but right from the get-go, the painting never suggested anything contemporary to me.

She reminded me very much of photographs of women long ago who endured hardships and disappointments with presence of mind and cool composure.

As I continued with the painting, she adopted a bit of a more modern look. Her hair is loose and partially uncombed, she does have a bit of lip colour on her, and the dress, although rather demure by today's standard, might be considered timeless.

And this is how the title "Caught between two worlds" came to be.

She does look sad, as women did long ago in their formal photos, but surely she has had her moments of happiness too in spite of life's hardships.

After all, as Jung states, happiness is not a permanent state of mind, and is appreciated far more when we also accept our times of sorrow.

Nests in her hair for spring

"You can't keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair." ~ Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons.

Nests in her hair - mixed media portrait

"Nests in her hair", mixed media portrait.

By the look on her face, she doesn't seem to mind having nests in her hair at all. She thinks the melodious bird song is pleasing after the silence of winter.

Mixed media painting including:

- Charcoal XL sticks by Derwent
- Graphite XL sticks by Derwent
- Faber Castell Gelatos
- Acrylic paint
- my own leaf printed collage made last fall with my Gelli plate. I decided she needed something bright to wear.
- a photograph of birds resting in a willow tree taken this winter by my talented photographer friend, Jean-Pierre Serré. I used parts of the photograph in the woman's hair. Thanks so much for the generous offer!

Finally, I imported the work into Procreate where I softened the edges of the collage with digital paint!

Happy spring everyone!

A strange kind of beautiful

"What strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is good." ~Leo Tolstoy.

mixed media portrait - A strange kind of beautiful

"A strange kind of beautiful", mixed media in Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook.

Titles might sometimes express the idea of the portrait. But suitable titles are not easy to find, especially when there is no background as in many of my portraits, and the story behind the painting is only in my head.

Each painting is a different experience. I like to see the painting evolve especially when it is in its ugly stage as the previous post shows. Really, a painting is just so many layers of change and I get to know the person emerging on paper or on canvas. Each painting is an obsession.

I imagine the subject's thoughts as the portrait develops. Could it be she is going to post a selfie? Does she need to pose in a special way to get positive feedback? Is she about to do something her parents would disapprove of? She looks innocent enough...but maybe that is the whole point?

How can I relate all that in a few words? I think she might be a good girl, or maybe not. She may just be deceiving me with her lovely eyes. Behind the loveliness are strange, maybe evil thoughts. She is not what she appears to be.

Tolstoy is not alone in thinking that we deceive ourselves in assuming that what is beautiful is necessarily good.

"You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love." - Warsan Shire.

"Strangeness is a necessary ingredient in beauty." - Charles Beaudelaire.

"It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art." - Walter Hagen.

I leave the final word to Virginia Woolf. "For the eye has this strange property: it rests only on beauty. "

She walks with wolves

"I think over again my small adventures/My fears,/Those small ones that seemed so big,/For all the vital things/I had to get and to reach;/And yet there is only one great thing,/The only thing,/To live to see the great day that dawns/And the light that fills the world." ~Anonymous, An Inuit Poem, 19th century.

Qisaruatsiaq, "She walks with wolves"- mixed media portrait

"Qisaruatsiaq" or "She walks with wolves". This is a mixed media portrait on 16" X20" artist canvas panel.

For a long time, this canvas was partially prepared for painting. I had collaged paper and had sketched out a figure, but I had no story. The collaged background just didn't inspire me.

This year, I have been trying to paint more than just faces, and I have challenged myself to tell a story with my paintings, well, at least some of them.

Keeping this in mind, I began to think of stories that are particular to our Inuit in Canada and found one by Saali Arngnaituq published by National Museums of Canada in 1988. I summarized the main ideas that grabbed my imagination.

Before the arrival of white men in this country, the "one who became a wolf" (Qisaruatsiaq) fished to survive and although her sons did try to help her, she was unappreciative. When she didn't catch any fish, she waited until her people were asleep and then she stole from those who had fish.

Qisaruatsiaq built a snow house only for herself even though her sons tried to convince her to live with others.

One day, Qisaruatsiaq simply disappeared. Her sons tracked her footprints for a long time, continuing the search until darkness blanketed the land. Her last tracks showed the footprint of a wolf and of a human.

Having been left to her own devices, she had become a wolf.

In my painting, I decided to show her in a position where she is shielding the wolf from some unseen threat. She appears to be holding him back with her hand.

She has become protectress of the wolves. She has the knowledge of this alien world, the one we fear, and so she is the "light of the world" as in the Inuit poem at the beginning of this post.

I decided to paint her wearing a very filmy, delicate nightgown because the story said she roamed at night looking for fish to steal from others.

But don't let the fine, dainty gown fool you. Her face is determined. Her stance reveals that she is undaunted by her surroundings. Unfazed by the frigid cold of the night, she walks with the wolf, scouting the valley for any imminent danger.

She is one of them now.

Lady Caterina’s fantasies

"But if I lose you, what have I left to hope for? Why continue on life's pilgrimage, for which I have no support but you, and none in you save the knowledge that you are alive, now that I am forbidden all other pleasures in you and denied even the joy of your presence which from time to time could restore me to myself?" ~ in a letter from Heloise to Abelard.

Although Heloise was in love with Abelard, he was not as taken with her and the relationship was much more like a friendship for him. ~1101-1164 approximately.

"Lady Caterina", mixed media

"Lady Caterina", mixed media. The background includes collage and then layers upon layers of spray inks, glazing, stamping, doodling, and more glazing. I am pleased with the way she turned out and the discoveries I made along the way.

There is very little shading on the face because I was trying to imitate the style of artists long ago.

"Lady Caterina" is an example of the ways the subconscious can play tricks on an artist.

For this assignment, I wanted to paint a young African woman wearing a head-wrap or dhuku.

However, once I started the initial sketch, the lines suggested something quite different, and I decided to let the art lead me wherever it wanted to take me. A woman from Medieval times appeared.

It must have been the Borgias' fault, a series we have been watching on Netflix for the past few weeks.

From the beginning, Lady Catarina had a very odd smirk on her face, and I thought she must be reading something naughty, something like modern day Fifty Shades of Grey. Again, let me repeat, I blame those steamy scenes on the Borgias.

What literature of love could I remember from the Middle Ages? I thought of Abelard and Heloise. Their letters to each other are rather tame.

I wondered if racy books were available to the more genteel classes back in Medieval times? Yup, that's how my mind wandered while I painted this lady.

A little research revealed that the "fabliaux" were short stories which were considered very naughty for those times, and, you might be shocked, (or not) to find out that they have much in common with Fifty Shades of Grey.

The lady kept her smirk to the end. I think she is finding her book very...stimulating.

Change is in the air

"When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings." ~ Dean Jackson, author of Verses from Somewhere.

Metamorphosis - mixed media on fabriano 9x12 hot press watercolour paper

"Metamorphosis", 9x12 mixed media painting on Fabriano 140lb watercolour paper.

Already the days are getting longer here in central/eastern Canada. The ground is still covered with a thick blanket of snow and the rinks and rivers are frozen solid.

But change is in the air. In a month or so, the sun will be just a little warmer and the melting will begin.

Much like the butterfly that emerges from four different life stages, nature also transforms itself anew each spring.

The butterfly teaches us that everything is cyclical and that change is good.

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 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.

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.

The greatest rewards come from challenge

"If we go for the easy way, we never change." - Marina Abramović. Abramović is a performance artist who has stirred up controversy in her shows at art galleries around the world.

I can't say I agree with everything she believes, but there is some truth in the way we deal with change in our personal and professional, or artistic, lives.

Butterfly Kisses - Mixed Media portrait on 11X15" Canson Watercolour Paper

Butterfly Kisses - Mixed Media portrait on 11X15" Canson Watercolour Paper. This is my second attempt with this technique.

This post is all about listening and being patient and also learning to change as an artist.  

The end result is "Butterfly Kisses" above.  Even though I can see all my errors, I am posting her because the process I went through to get her finished taught me a few important lessons, one of them being....gasp!  that I don't follow instructions.  

I can hear my friends laughing.  They know not to ask for a recipe because I seldom follow recipes to the letter.  

And hubby will add that I never follow instructions if I have to assemble anything.

So there you have it.  Why should it be any different with art?

 I don't usually publish two attempts at one technique within the same post.  But for the purposes of demonstrating that I wasn't listening to the instructor, I need you to see the difference between two paintings following the same lesson and instructor.

Glazing allows for different layers to show through in the final painting. All the colours in the above portrait were achieved through many layers of glazing.

The instructor demonstrated the technique and used the word "subtle" many times. She also emphasized that the charcoal in the initial sketches should be applied lightly.

However, those words just didn't register with me as I proceeded to outline and shade and paint the portrait below.

So when did I realise that I had gone down the wrong path?

Come out of the Shadows - mixed media on Canson 11X15 watercolour paper

Come out of the Shadows - mixed media on Canson 11X15 watercolour paper. This was my first attempt using a new technique.

It's quite obvious to see that there is nothing subtle about this painting.

I began to suspect there might be something wrong when it took many coats of fixative before the charcoal was set (photo below) and I was able to begin the glazing process.

Notice the heavy hand right from the get go. Looking back, I should have stopped right there and then, and just left her as a charcoal portrait.

Even though I knew there was something not quite right, I really didn't get it until I went through the whole lesson a second time.

But as they say, live and learn. Sometimes, the best kind of learning occurs when mistakes are made and one has to start over.

overworked portrait before glazing was applied

However, if I look back to earlier paintings, and especially to a portrait painted under the guidance of this same instructor, I can see that I have progressed quite a bit in one year.

The portrait below was painted using some of the same techniques without the glazing. The colour was applied with pastels.

I can definitely see improvement from this one below to the first portrait of this post.  

And that's the beauty of facing various types of challenges.  They force change upon us and make us better for having persevered.  

What have been your creative or other challenges in this last year?

2016 portrait - mixed media

She’s a little red with a touch of blue

"If I don't have red, I use blue." - Pablo Picasso.

She's a little exotic - mixed media portrait

"She's a little exotic" - 11 x 15" mixed media on Canson 140 lb watercolour paper.

I was in a bit of a creative slump earlier this week.

In case you wonder what that's like, it happens when nothing I paint turns out to my liking. Hubby of course would disagree vehemently. Not in so many words of course, just with one of his looks that says, "what's wrong with this one?" or "it's just as good as any of the other ones you have done." He is my number one fan and cheerleader.

So, back to the slump...No reason for it other than maybe I have been spending just a little too much time that even possible?

Several projects are lined up on the counter in my art room much like planes waiting on the runway to leave for far away destinations.

One project must be glazed, but until the charcoal is set, I can't continue working on it otherwise the charcoal will smudge into the fresh coat of glaze. It sits drying on newspaper.

Many sheets of watercolour paper are prepped with a base coat or with collage so my art room is in just a teensy bit of a mess right now. And that folks, is an understatement!

Some time ago, I bought a brand of acrylic paint that I absolutely detest. Is that a good reason to use red?

This portrait was going to be a tonal study of all the shades of red with the purpose of using up some of that dreaded paint.

Then, I wondered what would happen if? I had a tube of of bluish-green paint that I had bought for the winter night scene I posted previously this week. What if I added some blue to the red? I tried to be more painterly and not blend too much. Altogether, I am happy with the results of this experiment.

I still have lots of that detestable brand of red acrylic paint. Any suggestions?

red paint in coffee

Yes, that is red paint in the bottom of my coffee cup. Thankfully, I only had one sip left of very cold java. Lesson learned? Keep the brush water away from the coffee cup.

When childhood is left behind too soon…

"We must choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children." Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winning author, survivor of Nazi concentration camps. In his memoir "Night", he wrote about his experiences in the death camps. An activist for human rights all his life, Mr. Wiesel died in 2016.

Mixed media boy -Humanity is not concerned with us

(Mixed media - charcoal and pastel pencils - in Strathmore Toned Tan Sketchbook. I imported the painting into Procreate and several other apps for the background and text.)

As I was drawing this boy, my thoughts wandered to the images of devastation in war-torn countries, to the atrocities children have witnessed, to the genocide of various religious and ethnic groups, and the fact that a whole new generation of children will live their lives with the emotional scars of war.

I remembered that so many people have warned us to be vigilant, and the book I read many years ago by Elie Wiesel came to mind.

"My forehead was bathed in cold sweat. But I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would never tolerate it."

The young boy in Elie Wiesel's autobiographical work Night, has just arrived in Auschwitz. He is answering his father who has just told him that he should have followed the women to the crematorium. Then, the father continues,

"Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today, anything is allowed..." (p.29)

Is this boy wondering when he and his family will be rescued? Is he thinking that the world has forgotten him and his loved ones? Or is he living in fear because "today, anything is allowed..."