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?

Málaga ceramics and murals – uplifting and colourful

"Gazing at beautiful things acts on my soul." Michelangelo.

Málaga mural

Since our return from Spain, I have been in a bit of a slump. I have many projects waiting to be completed and yet, I begin new projects, never satisfied with anything that I make.

It's at times like this that I think of the determination to succeed, the dedication to art, and yes, the talent of other artists that I know or whose work I have seen, more specifically, art that I admired in a little shop in Málaga, just around the corner from the Picasso Museum. Of course, no one was allowed to take photos in the museum.

I asked the shop owner if I could photograph the pieces for sale on the shelves and told her it was for publishing on my blog. She graciously allowed me to wander around the shop and take all the photographs below (and more).

I have emailed another artist whose work I loved because it gave me ideas for my papier mâché creations, and asked for permission to publish some of his work on my blog, but have not yet received a reply. I mention this because I wrote on Facebook that I would be sharing some of the art we saw in Spain.

artisan work in Málaga - ceramics
ceramics in Málaga shop
ceramics in Málaga art shop
ceramics in Málaga shop
ceramics in Málaga shop
artist/contributors to Málaga ceramics shop

I am not too concerned just yet that I don't feel the urge to paint.

Just "gazing" at other people's work, whether it be the creative outpourings of my Facebook or Instagram friends, will get me in the right mood to start painting again soon.

What do you do to start creating again? How do you move out of a creative slump?

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.

The request was for a “real mermaid”!

This post is a little different than usual.

When my five year old granddaughter was told she could decorate her prop surfboard for the dance competition season which starts soon, we were surprised that contrary to the other girls who were mostly painting flowers on their boards, she wanted a "real" mermaid. There was lots of emphasis on REAL!

Now I ask you, what exactly is a real mermaid? After much questioning and probing, her mother sent me some ideas to consider for this challenge.

I had never painted on hard foam before, but the board came pre-primed. This was a blessing because the acrylic craft paint which is already quite gritty compared to more expensive artist paints, adhered really well to the board.

 foam "surfboard" prop of mermaid for dance show

After the mermaid was painted, I wanted to add a ballerina in the bubble she is holding, as though the mermaid wished to be a ballerina. That was the story I told my oldest granddaughter who helped me base coat the board during her winter break.

Below is the bubble with the ballerina and my oldest granddaughter who loves anything to do with art, helping me paint the prop.

close up of ballerina in bubble
keeping her busy

I saw youngest granddaughter's first dance show this past Saturday. It was a very cute number with summer music and twenty or so girls dancing and "surfing" on their boards.

Unfortunately, the audience never got to see all the work everyone put into painting the surfboard props. They were flat on the ground or quickly stashed away.

It was a disappointment as an opportunity was missed for a very awesome display of beautiful surf boards with colourful summery art to go along with the dancing and the music. I did get a quick glimpse of some sparkly Hawaiian flowers on one board before it was whisked away.

In the end, youngest granddaughter was very happy with her "real mermaid" board, and that is all that counts.

Nuliajuk, spirit of the north, and a new tale.

“This isn’t just about creativity in the arts; it’s part of something larger. It’s about living and working creatively every day. The creative process exists in all of us…Creativity is inherently human and not just for the ‘artistic’, and if nurtured and exercised regularly, it’s an incredible tool.” ~ Painting Your Way Out of a Corner; the art of getting unstuck by Barbara Diane Barry.

mixed media "Nuliajuk, Spirit of the North"

(“Spirit of the North”, Mixed media on 11 X 15 inch Canson watercolour paper).

Before I started this project, I had to think of an animal with which I felt a kind of spiritual connection.

To be honest, my dogs would have fit the bill. If you are a dog lover as I am, you will understand what I mean when I say that I do feel that special connection with them. However, my dainty Maltese and Havanese just weren’t impressive enough for this painting. I needed something regal.

The easiest part was the brainstorming on paper to finally reach a decision.

The snowy owl was the first animal that came to mind for this art work, but I had already used the owl in another painting last year. I wanted to try something different. I come from the land of ice and snow

Next, I researched the Arctic wolf; this animal’s characteristics weren’t appealing to me so I dismissed it very quickly.

The iconic polar bear inspired me with its symbolism, the folklore, and the myths associated with ursus maritimus. Finally, I felt I had something majestic that could work in my painting. At this point, I still wasn’t sure of the story I could tell with this animal.

brainstorming as preparation for painting
what lies underneath the painting

The words I retained from my research on the polar bear were used them as a first layer in my painting; unfortunately, none are visible in the final result. Oh well! Still, I find it an interesting way to get a painting started, one I had not thought of previously.

What lies underneath Spirit of the North

Over the words, I spread dabs of three or four different acrylic colours and then decided that I definitely needed white to soften the look and to suggest snow.

I first used a stencil for the white swirls and then my fingers to spread the white acrylic in horizontal lines across the page. I rather like the effect since the streaks of white remind me of a blizzard.

Next, I worked on the figure which took longer than I expected.

Initially, the first figure I drew after the draft sketch was neither male nor female. The bear also went through several changes in colour.

To make the female figure appear more exotic I used the little dots around the face and under the eyes. I added glitter snow on the protective arms around the woman’s shoulders.

Once I had her finished, I felt she was missing something. I thought of adding a snow globe. With more research, this is the story I wrote to explain the object she is holding.

Spirit of the North

Nuliajuk, Spirit of the North, wandered the barren lands of the Arctic during the long, dark days and nights of winter in search of Nanuq’s talisman.

As the protector of all animals, and the mistress of land and sea, it was Nuliajuk’s duty to find the tornaq, the spiritual talisman that was stolen from Nanuq many winters ago.

Since the tornaq had come into the possession of the evil shaman, glaciers had receded and the sea ice was melting.

With each passing season, food for Nanuq and her cubs was becoming more scarce. She wandered ever further afar from the southern tundra to raise and feed her young cubs. Her very existence was threatened.

On a bitterly cold night, Nuliajuk confronted the shaman taking the shape of his most feared enemy, the great white Nanuq.

Walking on her hind legs, she was a formidable opponent.

The shaman knew he could not fight the massive bear and her totem powers. For she had been gifted with endurance for the long winters, strength to fight off her enemies, acceptance when she felt weak from starvation, and surrender to higher spirits when she could no longer trek across the vast snow desert.

What the shaman had always refused to see was that Nuliajuk and Nanuq were one and the same. Although the shaman summoned all his magical powers, he was no match for the combined intelligence of Nuliajuk and the fearlessness of Nanuq.

Hiding beneath the imperial white pelt, Nuliajuk used her bear paws to claw at the evil magician.

The powerful gigantic claw took a final lethal swipe at the shaman and he dropped the precious tornaq.

Carefully, she cradled the delicate tornaq that, through its magical powers, would forever ensure that Nanuq and her cubs would find protection from the dangers of receding ice in the Arctic.

Nuliajuk removed her ursine disguise and returned to the land of her people.

TBT – A very traditional Christmas includes virtual friends

"Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening..."

~ A Winter Wonderland.

Folk art painting - An After-Christmas Visit

("An After-Christmas visit". Acrylic on canvas. )

This is probably my oldest art on canvas. An attempt at naive folk art, this scene was a tole painting project in the mid- 1990s.

I keep this painting because it reminds me of the fun I had with two good friends in class while learning new art techniques.

As we near Christmas, I think of friends who have walked with me on life's road.

There are certainly many types of friends, aren't there?

The best friends are always present in good times and in bad. They are anchors when life is a choppy sea.

Some friends I have never met in person, but because of shared interests, we have come to know each other through emails and messages. The virtual world allows the meeting of the minds with people who live half a world away.

Christmas wishes from Greece
gifts from Australia

Other friends are only a phone call away and can be counted on for advice and a listening ear.

Some friends have stayed in touch on a very regular basis while others send Christmas greetings the old-fashioned way with a letter outlining the passing of time and the major events that touched them during the year.

To all my friends near and far, I wish you a magical, joyous Christmas.

The perils of high expectations at Christmas time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

The best days include some time for doodling

"Creativity is magic. Don't examine it too closely." ~ Edward Albee

watercolour and ink flower doodle

There are days when I only want to paint the way children do. They don't worry too much about the outcome of their playful experiments with paint; they just get as much colour as quickly as they can on the piece of paper in front of them.

Adults forget the importance of play. Everything has to have a purpose, a goal, an end result.

Today, there was no goal. I was just having fun splashing paint around.

So remember Albee's words...don't examine these flowers too closely!

loosely painted watercolour rose

This is the flower I like best of all. The background for this rose is so soft and dreamy. I just dabbed a paper towel on the wet paint as I was adding colour all around the flower. I want to work with this technique in the future.

The repetitive movement of the doodles over the flower below is very relaxing, much the same I imagine, as colouring in those adult colouring books that are all the rage.

doodling on watercolour flower

There is always a way to save something I don't like. Artists seldom throw anything away.

If it doesn't look right, doodle over it. Or use it as a background for another painting. Or upload it into an art app and use it in an entirely new creation. Or cut it to pieces and use it as a collage. The possibilities are endless.

doodling superimposed leaves in watercolour

It is far more important to paint than to worry too much about the outcome.

I am learning so much by letting go and just enjoying the process. Albee was right. Creativity is magic.

What do you do to find your inner child? to find magic in your life?

Stamps, the silent ambassadors of a nation

"Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste." ~ William Butler Yeats.

TBT stamp collection with louiseprimeau art

My art will never adorn the stamps of any nation; however, they do say something about me when they are viewed as a whole. This is my Throw Back Thursday contribution.

The stamps clearly demonstrate that I love bright colours and different types of flowers, from roses, to geraniums, to poppies and tulips. They also show a preference for watercolour with only one painting completed in acrylics. I added a few photos I took of flowers which I reworked in various apps I like.

When I see stamps such as this, I think of Mom. Funny how often she comes to mind. Much like me, she loved to paint and knit, but more than this, she loved her stamp collection.

What an impressive stamp collection she had! There were several huge binders with stamps dating back to the 1800s and covering most of the 20th century events.

I remember her sitting at the kitchen table on rainy or wintery Sunday afternoons, her beloved Viennese waltzes blaring on our stereo, the stamps spread all over the kitchen table as she added her newest acquisitions to her collection from all over the world, but mostly from USA and Canada.

She wrote to pen pals and then I did as well and gave her the stamps from my pen pals in Japan, Germany, and France.

As well she subscribed to Canada Post's Canadian first day issue stamps sent to her on a specially decorated envelopes to commemorate various significant occasions and anniversaries and such, and these are all in mint condition. For example, she has the opening of the new St-Lawrence Seaway, Expo 67, and many more that I just can't remember right now.

So whenever I see beautiful stamps, I remember Mom and her love of stamps.

My brother has inherited this collection and he sent me the photos below.

First Man on the Moon USA stamp (vintage)
Robert Frost USA stamp (vintage)
Marilyn Monroe USA stamp (vintage)

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!

Art in the Barn – exhibits with wow factor, in a casual atmosphere

"Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It's enough to drive one mad." - Claude Monet

The annual Art in the Barn 2016 Show and Sale at the Lombardy Fairgrounds, just a few minutes south of Smiths Falls in eastern Ontario, was held this past weekend.

Featuring over 50 local artists, it is an annual affair not to be missed.

One of the largest shows in eastern Ontario, it is without a doubt a source of inspiration for people such as myself who are still dabbling, and searching, and questioning, and doubting.

Best of all, it is a place to discover wonderful like-minded artists with stories to tell about their creative journeys.

Many of the artists were on site in their booths and we chatted with them if they weren't already busy with other attendees.  

Peggy Orders at Art in the Barn 2016

Peggy Orders' whimsical dogs were a big draw as we entered the barn on the fairgrounds.

Her dogs are especially delightful with their paws on mugs of beer or very debonair wearing their colourful bow ties and bandanas.

Peggy discovered quite by accident that dogs could be great subjects for her paintings.

She explained to me that she had first drawn a racoon with a morsel of food and when she showed people the painting, they asked her if she could draw dogs, in particular, their own dog.

Peggy said she had lots of self-doubt (oh, I know all about that!), but once she started painting and adding the unique features for each pooch, there was no going back.  She has been painting dogs for less than a year but has already had many commissions.  Who wouldn't love having their pets painted in such an original way?

Each painting has a story. Some pooches are enjoying a drink with a partner much like their owners while others are eyeing a juicy, thick hamburger.

Peggy strives to add a personal touch that will make the painting meaningful to her clients. To that end, she questions clients about any habits, likes, dislikes their dogs might have, and then works on a painting incorporating one or two of these elements. For any commission work, Peggy requests many different photos of the subject so that she can see the dog's attitude and personality.

She has definitely found her style in the crisp colours and the animated canine poses in her acrylic paintings.

If you are interested in a painting of your favourite pet, Peggy does commission work, and you can find more examples of her one-of-a kind paintings on the Rideau Lakes Artists' Association website as well as information to contact the artist herself for commission work.  www.rideaulakesartists.com

Dogs at the Bar series by Peggy Orders at Art in the Barn 2016

Elaine Arkwright's gorgeous batik is definitely not the batik of the hippie era. Her colours and designs far surpass anything I can remember from the seventies.

Elaine Arkwright Batik and Watercolour - Art in the Barn 2016

Elaine always had an interest in art, but like so many artists I have met recently, she only began painting later in life, after she had raised her family and had more time to herself.

When Elaine moved to Sarnia in 2003, she became aware of the local art community during the Monthly Art Walks which celebrated different artists and their work.

She was especially drawn to watercolours and began to attend workshops in the Sarnia area. Elaine recalled making watercolour cards for her family at that time.

Many of the skills learned in watercolour paintings could be transferred to batik according to Elaine, who later moved to Cornwall to be closer to her adult children and friends in Montreal.  

In Cornwall, during several family get-togethers, Elaine reconnected with a cousin who was having a vernissage of her batik work in Carleton Place.  Elaine decided to take a batik class.

Afterwards, Elaine joined an art group in Cornwall called Focus Art where she was the only batik artist. 

Elaine's art is infused with bright colours or gradations in tone.   Such work requires the artist to select certain parts of the cloth to be covered in hot wax while other parts are dyed.  The sections covered in wax retain the original colour because they resist the dye. The process is repeated many times to create the complex multicoloured patterns.  The more colourful and complex patterns require hours and even weeks of blocking, dyeing, and washing and drying.  Elaine says she then stretches the finished cloth on a canvas.

Elaine has been in several juried shows and has won Honourable mention for "After Church".  She has also won first prize for "Young Minds" at the Focus Art Juried Show, and first prize for "Walking Home" at Cornwall (TAG) Art Gallery's juried show in 2015.

  Elaine and her cousin Jenn offer batik classes in Cornwall.  Visit her website to view her gorgeous work at www.elainesbatiks.com .

Elaine Arkwright Batik and Watercolour at Art in the Barn 2016

I was looking forward to meeting Pam Hills. At our first stop in the barn, we had met Peggy Orders who had shown us a vintage Corvette belonging to Peggy's husband, painted by Pam. It was breathtaking.

As you know, I have been sketching vintage cars since my recent holiday in Cuba and I was eager to see someone else who had the same fascination with old cars.

Pam Hills Mixed Media Artist at Art in the Barn 2016

Pam has been painting for some time, but she has only recently started painting vintage cars.

Her cars often emphasize one element that makes classic cars of the fifties so sought after. She might paint only the iconic big fins with red bullet lights, or perhaps the polished seats and the sparkling dashboard of a vintage car might be the focus of another painting. All her cars make a bold statement with their eye popping colours.

Pam's eclectic creations speak to her versatility as an artist; her paintings run from naive style featuring an element of nostalgia for country life, to paintings of women in vividly coloured 1950s  swimsuits, to abstracts with glass beads, to fanciful sculptures made with Paverpol.  When we visited her booth, Pam had just sold the sculpture she is shown holding in the above photo.

Pam does accept commissions and you can view her work at www.pamhills.com

The exhibits were all very enticing and we spoke with many different artists who were willing to share the various techniques they use in their work.

I particularly enjoyed the casual atmosphere of this art show which was well-attended in spite of the occasional downpours, and much more crowded as we left mid-afternoon to have a very late lunch in Smiths Falls.

Art in the Barn was just what I needed: it gave me a boost of confidence. I realized that many artists have travelled the same path as mine.  It was so reassuring.

I had trouble sleeping that same evening. I had too many ideas for my own art and I was up in the middle of the night, searching through my photos, and jotting notes on a series of paintings I would like to start in the fall.  

More discoveries to make on the way to becoming an artist!

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 title...is 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) ...an 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

How to pass the time during an unexpected power failure

"Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty." Erich Fromm

palette of watercolours

What to do when it is too muggy to be outside? Easy decision...stay inside and keep cool until later in the day when the sun isn't baking hot.

I could have prepared some salads for a friend's visit, or I could have made desserts. Sure, I could have cleaned the house too. It has been neglected just a tad lately.

But I did none of these and I am sure you are not surprised.

Rather than the usual cars or faces, I wanted to paint something a little more .... loose, unpredictable.

Out came my watercolours tubes. I had an idea and much like an itch that has to be scratched right away, I really wanted to get going on this experiment.

watercolour splatters

My idea didn't involve anything electrical and that, as Martha says, is a good thing because only a few minutes into my painting, lo and behold, the power went out.

So I happily continued the experiment.

watercolour splatters

The splattering brought my inner child to the fore much like colouring has lately for so many adults.

watercolour spatters
watercolour splatters

I know you are wondering what I will do with all these splatters. The answer is... there is lots of potential for creativity!

I can cut them and collage them into my artwork, or use the cut pieces to make jewelry.

I can import them into several different apps and rework them and use them as backgrounds for my photos or paintings or illustrations.

If I really liked the pattern and wanted to experiment, I could use it as is, or modify it, and then print it on material.

I could draw right on the pattern itself with acrylic or india ink.

The possibilities are endless...

My garden is poetry to me

handmade mosaic butterfly from purchased kit

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” ~ Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.

Gardens are very personal spaces. Some gardens attract butterflies, and bees, and birds. Other gardens soothe and calm frayed nerves with gurgling fountains. But the little details transform our gardens into poetry rather than mere prose.

I spent years buying plants, experimenting, moving trees, perennials, grasses, from one bed to another. I wanted the look of a country garden on a city lot.

I learned many lessons along the way. I learned that some plants will spread in places I don’t want them to be and become pests that are hard to be rid of while others are just too finicky for my limited abilities, and although they never flowered for me, they burst into wild colourful blooms for my friends. Yes, I felt very inadequate as a gardener!

I tried delphiniums and roses (wild and tea roses) and hollyhocks among so many others. None of them seemed very happy with my experimentation.

Finally, I threw my hands up in despair and called in a professional to help me set everything in a pleasing manner that would not be too labour intensive in the years to come.

My flower beds now include a variety of grasses and small trees, lots of texture and interest from the different foliage, and not many actual flowers.

I have plants that bloom spring, summer, and fall and some of the seed pods and dried flowers remain in the flower beds through the winter as consolation for the desolate wintry scene out my patio doors. I only have to fill in a few gaps here and there with annuals to add that pop of colour each year.

bird bath

My most treasured piece in my garden is definitely the mosaic butterfly my grandchildren made for me several years ago for my birthday. I can just imagine their little hands finding all the glittering pieces of smooth, rounded glass and ceramics and affixing them in the cement. Every year, it is the first ornament I pull out of the garage where it is stored over the winter months.

It adds a bit of colour under the bird bath that I bought many years ago from a local concrete lawn ornament manufacturer.

glass ornament from Kevin Robert Gray in Merrickville
glass globe ornament by Kevin Robert Gray

I love my garden decorations bought in Merrickville, Ontario a few summers ago. I was visiting this quaint little Ontario town with my American friend, Linda, and walked into the shop where Kevin Robert Gray was blowing glass. While Linda chatted up the owner, I selected the first of two globes.

Kevin Robert Gray is well-known internationally as he has had exhibitions outside of Canada and his art is in over 1000 galleries around the world as well as well as owned by individuals, corporations, and government. And no wonder. The colours of the glass and the uniqueness of the pieces cannot be matched by the cheap reproductions imported from China.

Kevin Gray, the founder of Kevin Robert Gray Glassblowing, passed away from cancer in 2012. Since then, his son Michael, has continued to make the lovely pieces such as witch balls, friendship balls, perfume bottles, and so on. The shop is now Gray Art Glass. It is well worth a visit and there are daily demonstrations of glass blowing as well as a shop where all the glass works of art are offered for sale.  http://www.grayartglass.com

I love supporting local artisans as I know that a long time was invested by the individual in learning the trade, and hours devoted to the design of individual pieces, and the actual creation of each one-of-a-kind work of art.

glass globe yard ornament by Kevin Robert Gray in Merrickville
glass globe ornament by Kevin Robert Gray
glass globe by Kevin Robert Gray of Merrickville

 

From the comfort of my backyard deck I watch sparrow, robins, cardinals splashing in the birdbath in the morning. I love seeing the morning dew on my Lady’s Mantle. The tall fronds of grass sway with the cool evening breezes passing through my yard. I enjoy seeing the transformations as the weeks of summer flow into fall. My garden now has rhythm and rhyme.

It is poetry to me.

 

Affirmations for encouraging creativity

Thank you to Tamara Laporte at willowing arts (http://www.willowing.org) for allowing me to use her “Affirmations for living a happy creative life” poster on my blog.

Tamara is very generous with her ideas and her art. Visit her website and you will find inspiration for your own creativity!

You can also view her many free videos on YouTube. Tamara’s projects are always lots of fun, and her positive energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

Affirmations for creative people by Tamara Laporte

My souvenir suitcase

“I’m going on vacation. I’ll bring you back a souvenir suitcase. It’ll be full of love, but otherwise appear to be empty.”

― Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. And the ageless sages.

Spanish Figurine Bells

How many of us bring back an empty suitcase when we travel abroad? That would really be unusual wouldn't it?

When I visit new places, I can't resist wandering into quaint little shops and boutiques where I might discover just the right souvenir to bring home and display on a wall or a shelf.

Each precious item is evidence of having visited faraway countries, of having tasted a culture different from my own for just a few weeks, certainly a remembrance of a special time.

If you are like me, (and I hope I am not alone in this idiosyncrasy), your suitcase is packed tight until nothing more could possibly fit into it.

I have quite the reputation in my family for being an expert at shopping while travelling.

I have brought back a small musical table from Sorrento, a ceramic figurine from Positano, linens, clothes, tablecloths, plates, not to mention jewelry, all in my one suitcase on three separate trips to Italy.

In 2008, my suitcase split open on the baggage carrousel because I had loaded it up with five very heavy Mexican ceramic plates and two bird vendor figurines. I think I had stuffed all my clothes in hubby's suitcase in order to make room for the bulky bubble wrapped plates and dolls.

Whether it is fridge magnets, shot glasses, spoons, posters, most of us will have at least one memento from a faraway place stashed somewhere in our home.

For this post, I am opening up my home to reveal a few select keepsakes from beyond our Canadian border.

I have been thinking of our travels together as hubby winds down his last week in beautiful Australia, a month-long trip he has waited all his life to experience, and a final last leg of vacation in Honolulu. Scratch that off his bucket list!

Cuban figurines

When I travel abroad, I am especially careful to look for those unique items that are particular to the region we are visiting.

And I love having a story to go along with each item I purchase in a foreign land.

Some souvenirs were more difficult to find. We walked far and wide looking for a figurine in Varadero in 2004. I was being very selective, and I waited almost until the last day of holidays before making my purchase. I found these lovely, expressive, wooden musician figurines in a dingy little shop not far from our hotel.

My Mexican plates and figurines remind me of bargaining with shop owners in Puerto Vallarta where I walked away from a selection of plates because the vendor did not want to accept my offer. I purchased the plates elsewhere and I have them, as well as many others, displayed in the kitchen and dining room.

When I wear my silver jewelry from the shops in Playa del Carmen, I remember the collectivo we hailed from the shoulder on the highway near our resort.

We were the only Canadians in a small van filled with Mexicans workers. The seatbelts were of no use and each time the van stopped to drop off or pick up more Mexican workers along the road, our bench seat would slide forward and then back again much like the end of a roller coaster ride. Safety standards? There were none, and hubby and I shared a few meaningful glances, as we counted down the kilometres until we reached our destination.

And then we stayed just a little too late in Playa as I meandered from one shop to another on Fifth Avenue, and we had to return to our resort in the dark. The walk from the highway on the unlit road that brought us to the hotel was an experience I could have done without. My imagination got the better of me. I had visions of being on the nightly news back home. TRAGEDY STRIKES CANADIAN TOURISTS. But we made it safe and sound that night with more memories for our old days.

Mesican bird vendor
Sun and moon mexican plate
sunflower plate
Mexican figurines

We have been to Mexico so many times that I have lost count.

The vibrant colours of my Mexican plates remind me of all the wonderful holidays we have had in this country, of margaritas and colourful toucan drinks, of long chats in the pool with a dear friend, and yes, of feeling just a tad tipsy on that last day of our vacation in 2007.

And I have among other Italian souvenirs, plates from Codroipo in north-east Italy. These are special to me because they come from my grandmother's hometown in Friuli Venezia Giulia, an Alpine region bordering Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, and not generally on any tourist's bucket list.

It was on mine though in 2006, and again, in 2008, and once more in 2010. The plates have sayings in my mother's maternal language, friulian or furlan, a Romance language that dates back to the 11th century and is still taught in some schools. It is, unfortunately, a dying language.

The accents on certain words highlight the Central European influence on the Friulian language.

The first plate states the importance of a happy family, while the second simply says hello or goodbye (Mandi means both) from the heart from our Friuli region.

This very distinct language, is the language that I heard during my youth when my mother and nonna got together for their weekly Sunday visits.

Codroipo plates

The watercolour scenes from Florence were bought from an artist who showed me magazine articles in which he was featured. Apparently, back in the sixties, he achieved some notoriety. I liked the soft colours and the chosen setting for each of his paintings.

Florence scene

More recently, I bought a silver tray and tea set in Morocco in 2014. Both the tray and the teapot and glasses remind me of the sweet mint tea we were offered at each destination along with a variety of pastries, a Moroccan tradition to welcome guests.

I decided to split my set and hang the tray on the wall in my dining room because it didn't fit in my nonna's hutch which I recently inherited from my aunt.

silver plate from Morocco

These figurines were bought in Athens in 2007.

They remind me of marathon shopping sessions with my friend Lucie. Wherever we went, whether it was Mykonos, Santorini, or Athens itself, there were always shopping opportunities, and boy, did we take advantage of that. More lovely memories.

figurines from Greece

And now, I count the days until hubby returns home.

His trip will be memorable for many different reasons.

"I’ll bring you back a souvenir suitcase. It’ll be full of love, but otherwise appear to be empty.”

I scratched my head at this riddle, but then the answer came to me.

His travel suitcase appears to be empty of souvenirs, but really, it is full of.....

...love of adventure
...love of discovery
...love of new friendships
...most of all, it is a suitcase filled with love of home
...and love for me.

So the suitcase is not at all empty.

How I became a newbie blogger or…. wing it until it’s perfect

“You start as a phony and become real.” - Glenn O’Brien, American writer and critic also known as the “Style Guy”. (glennobrien.com)

working on laptop with dog watching me I have been thinking lately about my first six months as a blogger. Starting a new year does that to me. I want to feel that I am achieving the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

cartoon - at the easel As most things go, the idea of blogging didn't occur to me until April 2014, when an acquaintance, who read the travelogue I was writing while I was visiting Morocco, Spain, and Portugal, suggested that I might like to have my own blog.

And thus began a year of procrastination. I sent emails far and wide and asked if my friends knew anything about blogging. No. Not one of them did. I cursorily researched different blogs but nothing caught my attention. I was ready to just leave the whole idea on the backburner for a good long time.

Blogging was foreign to me and to people around me. It was like learning to change a spark plug on a car (do spark plugs even still exist?)...are you SURE, ABSOLUTELY SURE the car will work when I am through working on those plugs? I probably would have continued to delay a decision, but then, something changed my mind, and I just couldn't wait to get started. 

In the fall of 2014, I started an online course with Sketchbook Skool (sketchbookskool.com) and this lead me to discover that I loved watercolours perhaps as much as, dare I say it, my coloured pencils. Shocker!

(my first sketch with a watercolour background for an assignment in Beginnings at Sketchbook Skool.)

Sketchbook Skool Beginnings; first assignment Around the same time that I started this online course, (see how the stars often align?), the same acquaintance who had previously suggested the blog, was now a close friend. We had exchanged emails, had spent time together, and in conversation, I learned that she had worked in the tech industry.  She volunteered to help me set up my very own blog.  And that is how I ran out of excuses.

Before actually publishing my first post, there was a lot of tedious but necessary work to do. 

There would be a binder full of notes that she and I would prepare before we even started the actual process of going live. There were lots of elements to consider now that I was so close to my goal.

I had had a whole year to think about blogging and ask myself a few crucial questions.

1. why blog? ( or, in other words, didn't I already have enough to do?)

The best reason to have my own blog was that it would motivate me to paint or draw on a regular basis. Having subscribers was enough incentive to make me feel very committed to producing art that could be published at least once a week.

An added bonus that I didn't think of initially is that it is gratifying to see all the posts add up, and all the art that has been done over time.

Secondly, the social connections that are possible with a blog were very enticing. How cool would it be to get feedback from friends, and from other bloggers in far away countries! Much like all the pen pals I had when I was young...so exciting to see their letters in the mailbox.

2. Who would read my blog? (or can my ego accept that I might only have a few readers)

I hoped my friends and family might read it because then it would save me the trouble of spamming them with all my art.  I had become quite adept at doing that before I became a social media maven. (HA!) I also hoped to make connections with other artists and that eventually, they might also subscribe to my blog.

3. What look did I want for my blog? In other words, which template did I want? (or could I find something out of the thousands of possible "looks" that would be pleasing to the eye)

This was a bit more nebulous for me. I scrutinized many templates and narrowed them down to three or four that I really liked. I chose a template that most resembled some of the blogs I liked at that time taking into account a few other important factors like level of technical support and mobile friendly features.

I didn’t want: a junky looking blog with too much information and doodads in the sidebars. Some blogs are just overloaded with so much information that the art is lost and the temptation for the viewer is to skim over the blog post and look at everything in the sidebars, and potentially, move away from the blogger's site.

Having seen blogs that are all over the map so to speak, I wanted my blog to focus on art and art-related subjects. I wanted to sketch or paint items, places, people I saw in my travels or during a walk in the neighbourhood. If I had beautiful photos, I wanted to post them as they could be potential fodder for artistic creativity. The blog would become a record of my journey as an artist and that would be the initial intent that would have to be kept in mind at all times.

4. Was I willing to learn and invest some of my time in a blog? (or was I ready to be the student)

As a teacher, I had to learn everything before I taught it. The technical aspects of the blog were the ones that I feared the most, but with a little help from my friend, and lots of reference notes I kept in a binder, I found that I was able to manage the blog myself. And I still do.

There are features that I would like to add in the future and I am discovering what they are as I continue to blog.

5. Could I be patient enough? (ahhhh, this is the tough one)

I wanted everything to be perfect from the get-go and that was not going to happen with either the blog or the art. As I have said, both are works in progress and just as I discover new techniques, new mediums to mix in my art, so it goes with my blog. I am learning as I go about hyperlinks, RSS Feed, Widgets, SEO Tools and plug-ins, (yes, I know your eyes are wandering away) and I am still at times as befuddled as if I had to change that darned spark plug.

Each time I try something new on the blog I wonder if it will work once I have played around with it. Will I delete something important?  Will I change something I really don't want to change?

I am surprised that everything usually falls into place, sometimes after a few glasses of wine.

To get the blog up and running as quickly as possible, I decided I would post the art I was creating and nurture my love of writing with accompanying texts and occasionally, I would add photographs. This would have to be enough to start.

The blog would allow me to see a progression in my work and hopefully, my readers would follow and perhaps even be inspired to try something creative of their own, another aspect I find very rewarding about blogging.

Finally, my tech-savvy friend generously gave me lots of excellent advice, first and foremost, to just dive in and start the blog and accept that there would be some tweaking from time to time. (thanks Kris!)

My first blog post was published in June 2015.

When I look at other artists and their blogs, I feel like a phony.  I always see art and blogs that are so much better than my own.  I suppose we are hard wired to compare our work to others and especially, to notice what we are lacking compared to others.  However, I am reassured that with time, and lots of improvement to both the blog and the art, I will be a genuine artist as well as an accomplished blogger.  Stay tuned!

cartoon - walk?

Another Christmas Past

"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness." ~ Bob Hope

An after Christmas visit  - acrylic painting

Another Christmas, so greatly anticipated, has come and gone.

It was a strange holiday for me, one where the songs about a white Christmas, and sitting by the fire on a cold night didn't quite jive with the green lawns and warm southerly breeze here in eastern Canada.

When Canadians picture Christmas, we think of thick, lazy snowflakes falling from a heavy sky, of boughs of pine trees laden with sparkling snow, and of the crunch of the white stuff under our heavy winter boots.

But this Christmas Eve, we were outdoors in spring coats joyfully (mostly) soaking up the weak rays of sunshine and enjoying another day more like Easter and Spring Break than Christmas.

The wintry scene above, painted many years ago, came to mind as the type of Christmas we imagine. One with lots of snow, crisp, cold wintry nights where the warmth of home invites us to linger indoors with family and friends.

True, we didn't have that white Christmas this year. But there were other simple things to give us, as Bob Hope so aptly said, "the greatest glow of happiness".

There was.....

time spent with loved ones....
the excitement of Christmas in children's eyes....
good food, lots of it......
Christmas mass...
and a choir singing all the traditional songs ....
card games and laughter....
yes, there was laughter, and joy, and a bit of sadness too.

And now, with fresh snow, we are ready to greet 2016.

May yours be a healthy and happy new year.

Parting shots of a beach holiday

hammock beckons

"The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world." Marc Chagall.

Although I do not consider myself a photographer by a long shot, probably no more than I consider myself an artist, I do enjoy looking for perfect opportunities that present themselves to take pictures. The iPad is so convenient, so user friendly. I imagine real photographers cringe when they see photos taken with gadgets such as the iPhone and iPad.

On a recent holiday to Puerto Morelos Mexico and the Royalton Riviera Cancun, I painted, sketched, and I took many photos. I posted on Facebook and Instagram right on the spot, but there were some photos, the ones I consider more artistic, saved for this post.

The hammocks swaying in the warm breeze were especially beautiful I thought. They seem to beckon us to stay a while and enjoy the last rays of the day.

hammocks beckoning on the beach
hammock on beach

The hammocks, as inviting as they appeared to us, were hardly ever in use. There was always something to do at our resort and sitting on the beach was more appealing than using the hammocks.

Late in the day, just before the sun set, we explored past our resort. The area reminds me of Nuevo Vallarta when we first started spending our holidays on the west coast of Mexico in 2001. Our resort was the only one on this isolated stretch of beach. We could walk a long time before ever seeing another building.

There are no hotels other than the Royalton Riviera Cancun on this beach, part of the Puerto Morelos Reef National Park. The sandy beach and the mangroves extend forever on both sides of the resort.

On the day I took these photos, there was quite a lot of seaweed, more than usual, washing up on shore.

We came upon a piece of driftwood that was fascinating to me. From one direction, it appeared as a big lizard coming out of the ocean. Do you see its leg? It even looks as though it has claws (a piece of seaweed caught in the wood).

driftwood lizard on Mexican beach

From the other direction, the same piece of driftwood had an entirely different look. Tell me if you see a seal on this stretch of deserted Carribean beach...

seal driftwood

There is much to see, much to discover in this wonderful world of ours.

May the new year fill your days with wonder.

mexican holiday - puerto morelos

Crafts of Christmas Past

"It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.”

~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer.

Christmas painted skate

As I look through boxes of decorations I am discovering all the crafts I worked on in the past.

I find myself remembering particular years when I was busily painting in my craft room much the way I am now, and I wonder how I ever found the time for my hobbies when I was working and had children at home.

And yet, I have ample proof that I painted even back then.

santa napkin holder
santa candle holder
Victorian Santas
painted carollers

Since the children were young at the time, (most projects except for the skates in this post are from the 1990s) I painted lots of Santas.

After the 1990s life and work got in the way of my crafts. I turned to pencil work instead.

Items were made many times over and then given away or sold in a craft shop on the outskirts of the city.

Above are carollers I painted and gave to my sister-in-law. These were only made once as they were very labour intensive. The bodies are wooden eggs sitting on a base to keep them stable. I used Fimo clay for their noses and doll hair to make the figures more interesting. I had such fun painting their faces. I still have a set of wooden eggs in my craft room and I will make myself a set of carollers one of these years.

The lace angels below are in the front hall in my house for Christmas although they are usually on display all year long on my piano.

Many friends and family received one of these as a gift at Christmas some years ago. I have seen them on display in china cabinets, on my aunt's piano, on a hutch in a dining room, and probably in other places too that are not coming to mind at the moment.

Long ago, I even had a workshop in my home and we all made these angels together. Very good memories!

The folk art angel below is displayed this year in my kitchen.

Christmas straw angels
folk art angel
painted Christmas skate

Last year, I painted the winter themed skates, one featured at the top of this post, and the other on the left.

They graced the front of the house for several months during winter. This year, I decided to go with a red theme so the skates are staying in storage, waiting for another blue themed Christmas.

What favourite crafts will you be displaying?

What stories are associated with your handcrafted keepsakes?

Please click on "Leave a reply" below. I would love to hear about your cherished keepsakes whether they are handcrafted or not.

Seeking a gift from the sea

"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea."

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001). Lindbergh is an American author who was also the first American woman to obtain her glider pilot's license. The quotation is from a favourite book of mine, Gift from the Sea, written by Lindbergh in 1955.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is my aged copy of Gift from the Sea. It is a quick read and whenever I pick it up and glance through it, (often over the decades), I find something meaningful, some life lesson to take to heart.

It's time for a temporary escape from the routine and the Christmas hype for one week.  I will be bringing Gift from the Sea along with me to read on the beach.

This year has been a difficult one with the loss of my mom in March.

She always lavished me with encouragement and praise regarding my art. All the crafts I had given her over the years which included a wooden key holder with painted pansies, an antique washboard I had cleaned up and painted with roses above the washboard section, a family tree, angels, and painted pots were always proudly displayed in her home.  It surprised me that she never returned to the painted sceneries later in life that she so loved doing as a young mother. 

I miss her terribly especially at this time of the year.

Hubby and I haven't had a holiday together since April 2014 and the time seems right just now.

It is a gift we are giving ourselves at this moment in our lives.

It is a gift I need.

open sea shell

We are flying to Mexico today to soak in some sun and relax on the beach.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes that for a while, when one first arrives at the sea, books should remain unread, and there should be no writing, not even any thinking. (I guess that might mean no art as well...)

"One is forced against one's mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea-shore. [...] One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings."

 

I am trying very hard to get excited about this trip. More than ever, I know I should take her advice seriously and  just let the sea soothe me and forget about everything else.  

sea shell

I love walking along the beach, looking for treasures.  Polished stones and glass find their way into my home.  I have started photographing various objects I find washed up on shore.  Shells fascinate me with their creamy pearlescent interiors and concentric whorls on the outside highlighting sometimes subtle, sometimes vivid colours.

Even though I live nowhere near the sea, it's not surprising that shells have been part of my life.  They have been the subject of my art and crafts time after time.  

I first painted a shell in 1987 when I used words to create art long before there was software that could make image poems in seconds.

A university professor had asked permission to use the shell on a cover of a book he was about to publish. I had made him a copy and the image below is my yellowed copy.

image poem sea shell

 

Bowls of particularly beautiful shells are displayed in two bathrooms in my home. My parents were "snowbirds", the name given to retired Canadians who spend the winter months in the Sunshine State (Florida). They brought back shells for me so that I could use them in my crafts and they started this shell craze of mine.

At one time, shells and pieces of coral framed a mirror in our powder room, an idea I had seen in a home decorating magazine and I decided that I could easily replicate the frame which became a conversation piece when guests visited the powder room. After I got tired of it, we discarded both frame and shells.

Over the years, I collected shells from all the places I visited.

This past September, I gathered beautiful black and grey shells, colours that I did not have in my collection, from the Jersey Shore near Strathmere. When I want to feature shells in my sketchbook or elsewhere, I have an impressive collection as inspiration.

shell on Jersey shore

the Jersey shore at Strathmere

journal sketch, watercolours, of shells of the jersey shore

Last year, I painted shells and coral in my sketchbook when I took an online watercolour sketching course with Jane Lafazio. http://www.janeville.blogspot.ca

sea coral in sketchbook

sketchbook sea shells

In the sketch below, I selected a few of Lindbergh's passages that are personally significant and I used them around more painted shells.

When I first sketched the page of shells and quotations and emailed it to close friends, they  expressed their appreciation for Gift from the Sea as they too had read it or had someone close to them who had read it.

The shell is intricately woven as a metaphor throughout the life lessons in this little gem given to me by a dear friend in 1984. I wonder if she knew the impact the memoir would have on me? 

seashell sketch with quotations from Gift from the Sea

Lindbergh writes at the end of the book that shells remind her that "the sea recedes and returns eternally."

Through the ebb and flow of life itself, one must learn to accept the gifts as they are revealed and remain open to the present, not delving too much in the past, not looking too much to the future.

For the gift is truly found only in fully living in the moment. This is a little more difficult for me this year.

How will you "live in the moment" this holiday season? What books have left the greatest impact on you?  

And the winner is…..

"The guardian angels of life sometimes fly so high as to be beyond our sight, but they are always looking down upon us." Jean Paul Richter

WIP angel giveaway

This little angel is almost ready to go to one of my blog subscribers. I will draw a name from my list of subscribers on Sunday. New subscribers are also eligible.

There were many general quotations about angels to choose from for today's post. However, Jean Paul Richter's quotation was most significant for me personally because he mentions a particular type of angel, our guardian angels.

I have often thought that the outcome of events in my life could not have happened as a matter of fate, but rather as an element of faith, the belief that a string of occurrences at different times were helped along by a loving angel.

As I have been diligently working on this giveaway, I have been thinking about guardian angels.

I am adding another passage, one that appeals to the pragmatist in me. "Angels are principally the guardians of our spirits. Their function is not to do our work for us, but to help us do it ourselves, by God's grace." Eileen Elias Freeman.

There are no gifts given by our guardian angels. Perseverance and determination will allow us to reach our goals.

Angélique, the name I gave her when I started this project, has a blank face right now. I cannot decide what look to give her... I am not quite sure about the wreath either. At various times, she has been holding a big star, and then different other Christmas objects such as a string of lights, a bell, a tree....And I am still undecided.

I especially like her shimmering wings which are difficult to see in the photo. I layered white paint with silver sparkle paint, and then used a sponge to cover the sparkles with more white. A similar technique was used for her dress.

Tole painting was a hobby of mine in the 1990s and I had forgotten how to shade, how to create the illusion of lace. It took a few tries before I got it right.

So I am getting closer to having her done.

I am not sure what kind of an angel she represents, but as I add the finishing touches while reflecting about guardian angels in my life, I am also wishing health and happiness, and sending positive energy to her new owner.

Winter’s beauty along Highway 17

"There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad in radiance." - William Sharp

snow scene in mid north Ontario

We recently went back to my hometown for a few days. While we were travelling on Highway 17, I snapped photos of the freshly fallen snow. Everything was so pristine and quietly beautiful.

It was quite the transition from the city with its bare lawns and drab colours. Just a couple of hours on the road in a northwesterly direction, we came upon scene after scene of wondrous beauty.

There is certainly lots of inspiration here for art work in the months to come.

We are back in Ottawa and it is raining. Very dreary but still lots of time for snow! Our winters are often seemingly endless so I don't mind waiting for our own winter splendours.

freshly fallen snow in mid north Ontario
freshly fallen snow in mid north Ontario
fresh snow in mid north Ontario
ontario sign
snow covered trees

A Treasured Christmas

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” ~ Agnes M. Pharo. (1904-1985).

A writer, artist, and grandmother, Pharo's passage is considered one of the top ten quotes about Christmas.

wooden hand painted advent calendar

The completed Advent calendar has been returned to my son and daughter-in-law and I am breathing a sigh of relief.

Getting the calendar ready wasn't without a few little challenges.

The most frustrating challenge by far occurred as the project was nearing completion.

I had painted the rims of the boxes thinking they would be prettier and also hoping to hide any exposed wood. Unfortunately, most of them would not fit back into their slots.

WIP wooden advent calendar

The boxes had to be sanded and during that process, some of them chipped on the sides which meant I had to touch them up with paint and varnish them again.

Now the miniature boxes have to be stuffed with treats mostly of the non-edible kind.

The shelves at Party City were well stocked with all kinds of little treasures that will fit into these rather tiny boxes. Each one must contain three items for my three grandchildren who have various allergies to milk and nuts.

holiday favours for advent calendar

Perhaps one day, this calendar will have a special meaning for my grandchildren.

They might remember all the arts and crafts they did with me when they were young. Those were special times when we painted wood or ceramic ornaments or made gingerbread homes, or foam castles, or baked cookies.

Or they might also remember all the laughter we shared. I hope they will.

I like to remember past times with loved ones and surround myself with family mementoes.

Last year, my mother gave me a few vintage Christmas ornaments that once belonged to my nonna. I have them this holiday season in a Venetian glass bowl, a birthday gift from my youngest son and his wife - very appropriate as a display I think, as our family on my mother's side hails from a small town very close to Venice.

old glass ornaments

I painted the glass ornaments with my watercolours in my sketchbook. (The poinsettia on the next page smudged a bit on the glass ornament page.)

sketchbook ornaments using watercolours

An embroidered Christmas banner my mother finished for me about ten years ago is currently on display near the front entrance of our home.

This will be our first Christmas without Mom so her handmade items are all the more precious to me.

embroidered Christmas banner

When my children were young, we made special decorations that still adorn my tree every year.

Now that I am retired, I can admit that I chose one day in late November or early December to stay home from work (cough, cough!) and my children and I would make Christmas ornaments and begin baking for the holiday season. As tradition would have it, we would also play special songs. Each holiday season, out came the Nana Mouskouri cassettes along with everyone's favourite, Dolly and Kenny and their 1980s Christmas album.

As corny as it is, Christmas is not Christmas without Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing "I'll be home with bells on." My son bought me the CD not too long ago, and I think he even has his own copy of "Once upon a Christmas." We have to play the entire CD at least once when the whole family is gathered together around Christmas time.

handmade ornaments
Once upon a Christmas CD

We all have treasured ornaments, recipes, traditions that remind us of Christmases long ago spent with loved ones.

During this month, and in December, when we are all rushing and trying to get everything done just right, remember the special preparations for Christmas with those you cherish most, and don't forget to create new memories, for these are fleeting moments.

The advent calendar – part 2

advent calendar

In an earlier post, http://louiseprimeau.com/the-advent-calendar-time-to-stop-procrastinating/ I started working on the wooden advent calendar that had been sitting in my craft room all year.

I dawdled and delayed working on the individual boxes, but the countdown has really begun, if only in my own mind, and this advent calendar must be ready to be used this year. A promise is a promise! The fun part is painting different Christmas themed objects on the front of the boxes, and now that I am in this stage of work, I am more relaxed and enjoying myself.

I had originally painted the boxes white and I had colour coded the drawer knobs only, but I found the appearance of the tree looked too bland.

The colour coding is needed to identify which of the three children will open a box each day starting on December 1.

Then I painted the entire box either blue, pink, or purple, the colour each child had chosen. But I really didn't like that effect at all; in fact, the calendar reminded me more of Easter than of Christmas.

So I am back to traditional, perhaps boring but safe, tree green. I made myself a list of objects to paint on each of the boxes, items such as a bell, a Christmas stocking, a candy cane and so on. These miniature paintings are definitely the most tedious part of the project.

Next step will be to add the numbers from 1 to 24. Finally, I will buy a special varnish to protect the paint and give it a nice finish.

My deadline? I would like to have this completed by November 20. I have too many other Christmas related crafts to get done.

Stay tuned. I will post the finished product if all goes according to plan!

Has your countdown begun? Have you started any projects or baking for Christmas? Happy crafting and baking! (I won't ask about shopping.... and I won't tell you how many days are left until Christmas!)

 

Nature’s grand finale

watercolor leaves

"Fall has always been my favourite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale." - Lauren DeStefano, American young-adult author.

Without a doubt, October is the grand finale of autumn. With the last days of gusty winds and rain, only a few recalcitrant leaves are left, desperately clinging to their branches.

The steely grey skies of November are harbingers of frigid weather coming from the Arctic. There is something ominous about stark, somber November until the first lazy fat snowflakes blanket the frozen earth. It is a harsh contrast to the cheery warmth of October.

In this part of the world, November is a time to get boots, mittens, hats, and winter coats pulled out of storage. Drinks by the pool have been replaced with gatherings by the fire, indoor that is.

As a kind of grand finale of my own, in the last week of October I made another series of fall cards as a gift for an aunt I was about to visit. There is still some material to collect outdoors as inspiration for art. Although the leaves are a bit dried out, their coppery colours are quite attractive.

watercolour leaf over poem

In an old book of poetry I found some verses about fall and I painted a leaf on the poem and then glued it to the card. This worked better than I expected with very little, if any, buckling.

Now I feel like Christmas is just hovering on the horizon and I must be more efficient with my time. I have several projects on the go in my craft room which looks like a disaster zone.

But it's not the only room where everything is topsy turvy. When disaster strikes in our home, it hits more than one area!

Hubby and I have emptied one bedroom to give it a fresh coat of paint and install crown moulding. Since the crown moulding is on back order at the builder's store, the powder room on the main floor is going to be emptied and painted and decorated with new colours and wall fixtures while we wait for our order to arrive. See what I mean?

Even though October was fall's grand finale, there are other finales up ahead, and one is having my house all tidy for the Christmas season. So it looks like November will be a busy month, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Angélique….a Christmas gift for one of my subscribers

Angélique, an angel for my subscribers

"Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
-- Anonymous

I feel uplifted knowing that you are there for me whether you are someone I know very well or whether you are a faraway reader I have never met. Thank you for the comments that some of you have left for me on my blog or in emails or on Facebook. I appreciate that you allow me to come into your busy life on occasion.

Christmas will arrive early for one of my subscribers. I am painting a wooden angel that might adorn a mantel or a Christmas basket of goodies, or one of the boughs of your tree or a lovely wreath. So many possibilities.

She now has a base coat on her to be followed by a sanding. I will post my progress in the weeks ahead.

If you are a subscriber, thank you. Your name is automatically entered into the draw.

If you wish to become a subscriber, the red SUBSCRIBE button on the right is for you!

“There are often people nearby who want to pull you up when you reach out. These are your angels-in-waiting.”
-- Author Unknown

The Advent Calendar – time to stop procrastinating

work in progress; the advent calendar

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston S. Churchill

Christmas countdown has not begun...yet....and I know you might be thinking it is still too early to even think about the holidays. I get it, really I do! Let's get past Hallowe'en and Remembrance Day and then we can think about Christmas you say.

I concede that mid October is a tad early to be thinking of Christmas even if the local Costco store has had its Christmas decorations on the shelves for well over a month. Towards the end of this month already we will begin to be bombarded with tv ads related to the festive season and then Christmas music will be heard on the radio and the madness that leads up to that special day will truly begin.

But if you are like me and have wee ones in the family with allergies, it is definitely not too early to think about Christmas. The chocolate advent calendars are out in the big box stores and of course, all children love them and clamour to have one each year. Two of my grandchildren have allergies to dairy products and nuts so these chocolate surprises will not find their way into their home in December.

What to do? Last year, my daughter-in-law asked me to design an advent calendar, possibly by sewing something together. I am not much for sewing. She sent me some models from Pinterest to give me ideas. I procrastinated long enough until I felt really guilty as grandparents do from time to time. Then I saw this wooden advent calendar in a local arts supply store and it was just what Santa ordered!

Imagine the little trinkets one could have in each of the little drawers. Each day in December is a new surprise...little toy cars, I mean really miniature cars, stickers, a delicate bracelet, tickets to a show, who knows? Much better than chocolate I would think.

painting the advent calendar

And now we come to the task at hand....the unpainted advent calendar has been in my home since January. I started the project this afternoon, on a day that nothing else in the art department seemed to be working for me. I have days like that.

The fun part will be designing and painting the decorations on the boxes that represent each day in December.

Please tell me that I am not the only one working on a Christmas project?

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?