Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallowe'en

We have to make sure Timbah doesn't get
out on Hallowe'en.

Do you know why all the black cats now have
a bit of white on them? Because all of the
pure black cats were killed in witch hunts.
Luckily Timbah doesn't know that story.

You say it's your birthday. It's my birthday too. Just had a super
day at school today. Candy, music, presents and
fun all day. Thanks everyone. We carved our pumpkins, handed
out candy to the kids -- what a treat. I just love the little kids dressed
up like faeries and ninjas at the door, and the big kids in their
"I'm too cool to dress up" black T-shirts, jeans and hats. Funny.
They think they're the first teenagers to go out as the with it
kids, but I remember doing the very same thing with my
friends in grade nine.

Tradition demands that we carve the pumpkins
just before we put them out.
Timbah approves.

In recent years the older kids keep Trick or Treating right up
to college age. That makes me happy. Sure they come out for the
candy, but who cares? In a world rife with trouble, there's
something innocent about moving around from door to door
asking for candy. We welcome everyone, so that the night
is about neighbourhood and generosity. I have always loved
the day.

Tonight when the kids were finished, some friends dropped in
for cake and champagne. We'll probably have a big party in
a couple of weeks. But this was just perfect for today.

All the guys in my family like the candy part too.

Have an enjoying-the-pumpkin day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quickly - what can I do with that little piece of watercolour paper?

Last night very late before bed I spotted a little piece of watercolour
paper that's been ready for a painting for a few years. Back then
I'd taped off an area and applied an orangey, coral ground.
Every now and then I'd see the piece of paper, but I had work to do.
I was using canvasses, I didn't really need it.

Last night the colour and size leapt out at me and said, "Woa girl,
I need a painting! Now!" If you don't paint you won't understand,
if you do this experience is all old hat to you. Thinking about the wonderful
work I've seen lately by painters who use a small canvas, or
board as their base -- I whipped a picture off my family photo
bulletin board and voila. The wedding.

The wedding

4.5 x 6.5 inches

acrylic on canvas

I've looked at this little photo of my sister-in-law Mary Lou and
her husband, John every day for years. There's something great
about it. The image seems to sum up the happy relationship
they have. The shapes are strong, their faces are radiant.

They had a very small private ceremony, no family, and it
was clearly a joyous one. I think that comes out in the picture
too -- that knowledge that they're in love, and it's their own
ceremony, not one controlled by wedding planners, and

So here it is. I may change it slightly, but not by much.

Have a noticing-what-is-great day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Praise be to the internet gods

I almost (that's a proviso) understand the primitive urge to pacify
the gods with foods, and wine and whatever it took to bring the sun
back and let the crops grow. Tonight the Internet is shaky here, so
if you've written to me today, I'll respond tomorrow to everything
when the system is not so blocked. It would wake the neighbours
up to chant and carry on. We did light candles at dinner, but I
don't think I could bluff the Internet into thinking that that was
more than our dinner time ritual -- more connected to warmth
light and beauty, than to getting the electronic world on our side.

On the terrace before the dance

24 x 36 inches

acrylic on canvas

I am not addicted to blogging, because my other rich life carries
on. For instance in two minutes it's time to go and watch Jon
Stewart. But I do love reading my friends' blogs, learning about
what and how they are painting, seeing what matters in their
lives. This means the world to me. Okay you're making me
nervous. I couldn't sacrifice anything except maybe my breakfast
cereal after I've had a bowl. Does that require special costume,
over and above a flannel nightie and thick socks? I've never been
too good at this. I wasn't even a girl scout. All that saluting and
formality made me nervous, and the uniforms were the wrong

Enough said, come back baby, come back. Forgive me Internet.
My modern mind suggests that it may be my American friends
Googling about the election (let's face it all of my Canadian friends
are enthralled and on edge about the American elections too).
Plus it snowed today, so weather may be spoiling my fun.
All I'm saying is I want the problem over with.

It was a superb day at school today, after negotiating the ice
in the parking lot with my healing but terrified ankle, I
loved every minute in the place. The teachers in my area
were in a highly jovial mood, the students were working hard
writing, and putting on excellent presentations. I felt lucky
to be alive and doing what I do.

The image tonight is one I posted earlier, but the photograph
was so poor that you couldn't really see what it looked like.
The model was Tia Reid, a former neighbour, who is off
at university now doing great things. She is a brilliant
girl, had frighteningly high marks all through high school,
and was an exceptional model. I'd like to get her back
sometime when she's in town. This painting is in a
weird way a homage to Richard Diebenkorn, even though it
looks nothing like his work. It reminded me of the
Californian light.

Have a keeping-the-blogging-gods-happy day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hot off the easel

Dashed to class tonight at Steven's urging. I missed my artist friends too
much. The model had a beautiful face, deep soulful eyes, brows that
arched into the center, a strong nose and a winning smile. He didn't
look anything like my painting, but he liked the work, so that's good.

16 x 16 inches

acrylic on canvas
still wet

I told him he was much better looking than what I could capture in
my short time there. I worked for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Sometimes my determination to fire something off inspires me,
sometimes I end up with nothing, and a sinking feeling. I knew
I was rushing tonight. Too much to do for school and the rest of
life. I've been forgiving myself for being too busy all day -- so why not
continue? The break was energizing, the other artists' work
exciting. I learn something every time I spend time with them.

Have a take-a-deep-breath-and-smell-autumn day.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Growing up is worth it

Some days I really feel for my students going through the rough
transition from teenager to adult. It isn't always easy. Tonight after
a day of teaching, I had work to do and couldn't paint. Searching
through a very old notebook I found this little painting of a
fellow I dated when I was my students' age.

Watercolour sketch of a young man

He was the strong, silent type, and at the time I thought that
was what romance was all about. I married a strong man,
but he is comfortable with conversation and has a great sense
of humour. Living with someone who can't talk would be far
too lonely for someone like me. But as you can see the silent
boy made an excellent portrait subject.

My students talk about love a lot. They're trying to figure out
what it is. When I painted this portrait I thought it was about
finding someone handsome. Maybe that's not a bad start, but
it won't get you through raising kids, making dinner, watching
Jon Stewart, or juggling busy schedules. And don't get me started
on animals. My cat is fishing things out of the recycling basket
as we speak.

I hope that wherever the portrait boy is, he is happy. The last
time I saw him we definitely parted as friends. He had
a little boy and a wife, but I don't know where the story went
after that.

Flowers and kitchen china

It's hard to explain to teenagers that love is more than romance,
but that doesn't mean romance isn't important. We always
have flowers and candles in our house. It's just that we have
so much more.

Have a loving-your-present day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Capturing fond memories

Here's a painting of our friends in Nova Scotia, Ian and Marilyn
Fancey. Almost everything in the painting has changed. They are
sitting in front of their century old farmhouse, which they sold
a couple of years ago. Taking care of the large acreage got to be
too much of a hassle, and Marilyn was lonely out in the country.
Sometimes in winter the icy roads made it treacherous to venture
into town, only a fifteen minute drive away.

At the farmhouse
14" x 16"

The kids reflected in the window are my sons, who loved to play
at the farm, and watch TV. We don't have a television at our
schoolhouse, so a trip to the Fancey's place was always a treat
for them. The little boy in the reflection in the window, is my
son, Sam -- who graduated from high school last week, and is
now 6' 3". All those Nova Scotia summers helped no doubt --
clean air and seafood.

The little dog, Tess, sitting on Marilyn's lap is no longer in
this world, and we miss her when we visit. Before we met
Marilyn and Ian, we had never really been card players.
But they are absolutely astonishing cribbage players. Now
any visit includes potato chips, instant coffee, and hours
of cribbage, punctuated with lots of laughter and endless

I don't paint in watercolour anymore, although I think about
it fondly now and then. I just like the feeling of painting
in acrylic so much more. Someday when I have time, I'll
do both, but for now I'm sticking to perfecting my skill
in one medium.

Have a fondly-remembering-great-days-and-enjoying-the-present-one day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Models of kindness

Before the Dance
(the first image)
6' x 4'
acrylic on canvas

One of my favorite models is Claudia. She has always been
beautiful, and at 19 is self assured and growing up quickly.
As a model Claudia is perfect, reliably on time, kind and
cooperative. Her face is almost iconic in my work.
She is one of the faces in my largest painting 6' x 4', that hangs
in the administration offices at Seneca College where I teach.
The other girl is Solanna, my friend, Carolee's daughter.
Solanna is another amazing young person. She's now in
second year university here in Toronto.

At the Dance
7" x 9"
acrylic on canvas

Claudia is the face on the sign I put on my lawn each year when I
open my studio for the St. Clair Artwalk. She is kind,
funny, intelligent, and now as a girl taking a year off to
work before going to university -- very business like.

One of the great joys in my life has been watching my children,
and my friends and neighbours' children grow into exciting
young adults. Their talent and generosity, energy and
incisive wit make any time spent with them a complete

I'm taking off tonight to see the movie Happy Go Lucky,
with Sally Hawkins. It looks exactly right for a
Saturday night.

Detail showing Claudia's face in
the first Before the Dance painting

Have a loving-the-people-and-animals-in-your-life day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When beautiful is true

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
John Keats -- Ode on a Grecian Urn
I was raised on Keats; my mother could quote any
poem she ever read it seems, and did. Plus I
studied English Literature at university, and the
teachers who taught us about the Romantic poets
were some of the most inspired and engaging
professors I ever met.

So...Keats was my mentor, my hero, my demigod.
As an adult, mature and thoughtful I suppose I'm
like the duckling that imprints on an eagle. I can't
shake the idea that celebrating beauty is important
in life and in art. That doesn't mean turning my
back on ugliness -- not noticing what we're doing
to our planet, not trying to vote responsibly, live
without polluting, sending the odd bit of extra cash
I get to help people out around the world.

It means that I think art that is about what works
on the planet -- flowers, lovely human moments,
beautiful fabric, glorious scenery -- matters.

Line drawing in Sharpie pen on bond sketch paper
The photo is too dark, I'll try redoing it tomorrow

As a young girl right out of university, I survived
a stint of horrendous work at a pizza restaurant
with a boss who was unscrupulously cruel. I'd
heard that the small town I lived in was a mecca
for artists. One day someone introduced me to a
young woman artist and I went to her studio to see slides
of her work. She created "art" out of dead animals
stuffed in awkward poses by a taxidermist, standing
in shattered glass.

I can thank her now because she depressed me so
much when I added her disturbing art to the mix
of bad work and no pay I was dealing with, that I left
town and never looked back. I can also thank her, because
she helped me decide that art could be beautiful,
and that creating appealing work was a calling
every bit as important as shocking and horrifying
the public.

In short she sent me crying for mercy back into
the pages of John Keats, where I now live
celebrating the beauty I see any chance I get.

The drawing tonight is one I'm working on in
preparation for a painting of the flower lady
at the Brick Works market. The drawing is
probably uber detailed, the painting will most
likely be much less so.

I like how she disappears behind the mass of
greenery and blooms. Half of what she sells
I've never seen anywhere else, and that's the
beauty of her bouquets. Which sends us back
to the theme.

Have a knowing-beauty-day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time out -- my son's graduation

Tonight was my younger son's high school graduation. He won an
award for music citizenship. We're really proud of him --
he's an amazing person. Sam was absolutely dedicated to
his high school, and participated in as many activities as
he possibly could. His focus was definitely strongly
tied to the arts -- so he was in the band, and played the
lead in several plays. But he also took part in leadership
weekends, and joined Crime stoppers.

Sam the joyous graduate
receiving his award

We've been associated with his high school for 12 years,
because his older brother went to the same school,
and set the pattern of high involvement that Sam
followed. So I was sad when we walked out the doors
of the old school after the long commencement to think
that we might not go there again.

Sam and friends celebrate in the school cafeteria

Meanwhile Sam's in university and life moves on.

Have a loving-to-learn day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sketching indoors -- it might snow -- again!

Yesterday we had snow here, coming down in white sheets
over the crimson, yellow and orange maples. Of course the
ground was far too warm, and it didn't last. But it was the
earliest snowfall I can remember in a long time, and reminded
me of my first year in university when it snowed on October
14th. Too early.

Still Zoey and I bundled up and went out. She suffered the huge
snowflakes on her black coat, and I just marveled at how
beautiful the sky looked a purple grey in the far distance as the
the cloud mass approached.

Today -- all gone, blue skies, high white clouds, trees shedding
leaves in hundreds of shades of red, orange, yellow. Wildflowers
still surprise us in the park.

Fixing that darn computer
black marker on bond
5.5" x 8.5"

I'm working on a sketch for a painting so I'll include two more
small sketches tonight. One is of my husband Steven, and really
captures the look he used to get when he tried to help me with my old
Mac. He's an IBMer. But my new IMac causes him nothing but

More chocolate please
5.5" x 6.5"
acrylic and ink on bond

The second sketch was done in ink and watercolour, and is of
a little girl licking chocolate off her finger.

Time to get back to drawing. Talk to you tomorrow.

Have a capturing-all-of-it-day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

About Lynn Donoghue

David Revant De Luxe
by Lynn Donoghue
oil on canvas
78 x 60 in.; 198.1 x 152.4 cm

I have to make a correction in my post about women artists.
Today I tried entering "paintings by Lynn Donoghue" in Google,
and found quite a few sites.

Thanks to one of my readers Mic Harper for one link.
When you look at Lynn's portraits, you'll understand why it's
so sad that she died feeling unappreciated. Poverty is a major
factor for Canadian artists -- even widely collected, and well
known artists like Lynn. Her work combined a classic knowledge
of the power of art, with a fresh, new way of looking at portraiture.
Not only that many of her works were large. She once did a
painting of herself with her friends on a billboard. She tried
exciting new ways of using and combining portraits.

She left a 14 year old son behind.

Happy to be home again

On Saturday we decided to go up to Ottawa to visit my
mother. My mom lives on the Ottawa River, in a spot
that is spectacularly beautiful, especially at this time
of year. I love spending time with my family. Both my
mother and my brother live near our nation's capital,
and both have properties right on the water, on
two different rivers.

You can't beat the city of Ottawa for its beauty, and its
dedication to preserving both its buildings and its
wild spaces -- something we need more of in Toronto,
but I am always glad to be back in my own home,
sleeping in my own bed, and working in my own

In the studio
acrylic on canvas
still working on it
16" x 16"

Tonight I spent more time on my little painting of
the model relaxing in the studio. I'm still working
on it, but it's got the happy feeling I was trying to
create. There's nothing like working with a cooperative
model, and thinking about the painting
during the breaks. This model looked beautiful in
every light, from every angle. I think this is my
fifth painting of her this year, eventually I could
probably fill a gallery with paintings featuring
her image.

The same is true of most of the models
I've worked with. If they can set a mood, enjoy
being around my home, family and animals, can
relax and like the work -- of course I want to
work with them again, and I do. I always miss
all of my subjects when they go, whether they're
models or commission subjects. I spend so much
time with them, that before long they act and feel
like family.

I'm tired from the trip tonight, so I'll talk
to you tomorrow.

Have a there's-no-place-like-home-day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Great women artists

Madame Perregaux - 1789
Oil on oak, 100 x 78 cm, 39 3/8 x 30 3/4 in
Wallace Collection, London
Vigée Le Brun

As a woman studying art history in high school and university
there were very few role models. This wasn't because none
existed, but because art history at that time was taught in
a highly sexist manner, and it would be easy to believe that
my girlfriends who were interested in drawing and I were
the first women painters ever to exist. Not true of course.

One of my favorite portrait painters from the past is
Elizabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun 17 55 - 1842. Most people
know her as Vigée Le Brun. She was a famous french painter,
prolific in her output (I think she painted more than
1,000 paintings in her day). She also wrote her memoirs
and instructions on how to paint -- still fascinating reading

Mary Cassatt was one of the few women painters who
should have been on our art history agendas, but
she wasn't someone my teachers mentioned. I admire
her work. Her portraits represent to me the best
possible combination of accuracy and painterly

Woman in black

c. 1882 (180 Kb);
Oil on canvas,
100.6 x 74 cm (39 3/4 x 29 in)

One of the saddest stories of a woman artist is that
of the Canadian portrait painter Lynn Donoghue.
I met her when I was an art writer for a Canadian
art magazine. She was a vital young woman, and an
amazingly fresh portrait painter. Experimental,
bold, and unique, her portraits were like nothing
I'd ever seen.

A close friend of mine knew Lynn well, and owns
several of her paintings. Through this connection
I understand that the last year of her life was harrowing.
Trying to make a living as an artist in Canada is difficult, even
when you're in the top flight, and collected by
most major galleries, which she was. In her
last year she lost a major grant, and significant
commission my friend told me. She was
a diabetic and died of an insulin reaction. She
was only 50 and would have had a long and
promising career in front of her. I cannot find
an image of her work to show you on the net. And that
is unbelievable. Five years after her death she has
effectively vanished. If I find one I'll put it on the blog.

Until that time, courage women and men. We
artists have to stick together.

There are many other women of note I could
mention here, but for now this will do.

Have an honouring-the-women-in-your-life day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A sense of wonder part b.

Class sketch,
acrylic on canvas
I like how the model created an intense mood

To continue on yesterday's theme. It's a big topic -- how artists
feel when they're painting, and what drives them to paint.
I love people, and I'm intrigued by their faces in particular,
but I enjoy painting the figure too. The way a person sits in a
chair says so much about their personality and mood.

This delight in the human face helps me in my other job
as a teacher too. In fact I spend so much time "reading"
my portrait commission clients' faces, that I frequently
surprise myself with how much I can tell about a person
from facial expressions. Understanding what people
are feeling, helps them to learn.

What can I say? Perhaps my fellow artists and I are
the most unconsciously spiritual beings in the world.
We don't ask to be, we just are caught by the light
coming in a window, or settling on cars, or shining out of
your spectacular eyes. We are in love with the visual.
In that way we are always "worshiping" the world
we live in, even if we never step inside a religious

Have a divinely inspired day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A sense of wonder

I stayed late at school last night -- the last day before Reading Week
so a student could finish a paper. Luckily another prof doing a
Ph.D. in comparative mysticism visited me, and we had a great
conversation about religion, and belief, and Bill Maher's movie
Religilous. We talked about why people need religion, and I said
that even if people aren't religious, they can feel a sense of wonder
and awe at the magnificence of the natural world.

For an artist I think this sense of awe comes easily, unbidden.
In fact apparently our brains are wired differently -- so we
get into what this fellow was describing as a "trance" state just
by opening our eyes. This is a bit dangerous in traffic, but
it also means we see the whole picture -- a big part of safe

Detail of a portrait of my friend Josephine.
I've painted her many times,
and she's a superb model

The human face makes me feel that sense of spiritual connection
to all things. That's why I'm a portrait artist. Most parents
feel deeply moved looking at their child's newborn face,
and for portrait artists that feeling spreads out to include
most faces at every stage of life.

One beautiful baby

Have a appreciating-your-sense-of-wonder day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A moving experience

A couple of weekends ago my friend Josephine and I
went out to the Brick Works market on Saturday,
and hit a couple of garage sales on the way home.
We are garage sale maniacs, and can hardly resist
stopping when we see a driveway full of tables
of other people's castoffs. We're convinced there's a
deal there, something we can't live without.

Josephine at the Brick Works Market

By now my house is stuffed to the gills with china,
odd pieces of silver, and too much of most of what
I don't need, so I know I should resist. But the
middle bedroom needs a new bed, and -- voila --
a beautiful bed was for sale at a garage sale near
our place. The owner's house was beautiful, and
they were suitably sheepish about
selling their old stuff (always a good sign).
Oh yes, when we're in the garage sale
mood we follow an elaborate set of unspoken
and well understood rules. Josephine bought a
beautiful little desk, and I bought the bed.

But the significant obstacle in the way
of enjoying our finds? We couldn't fit any part
of what we'd bought into her Honda. No amount
of turning, twisting, measuring would make any
part of our new prizes actually go into her car.

Enter Khalid Bukhari -- the next door neighbour in
shining armour -- who volunteered his huge black truck.
He helped us load our heavy purchases into the
spacious vehicle, rearranging all of his own
possessions in order to do so, and drove our stuff home,
first to Josephine's house and then mine.

Tonight we dined at his restaurant, Shala-Mar,
to let him know how grateful
we were for his kindness, and enjoyed a delicious meal.

Fall in the yard
3" x 3"
acrylic on watercolour paper

The painting today is a tiny 3" x 3" acrylic
on watercolour paper painting I did of the view
over our backyard.

Have a returning-the-favour day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Classy class sketch

Hi everyone. Here's another class sketch. I've had the most
spectacular day today. I'm getting a web site designed through
a college web design program, and the man doing it is a grown
up. Bonus beyond compare -- both the blog, and the wonderful
fellow designing it. We hit it off in our first phone call and he
understands exactly what I want in a site. He gets the way I
describe my web wishes.

So in a few months I'll be able to direct you to my web site too.
In the mean time I will thoroughly enjoy working with
the great guy who's doing it. He is funny and kind, and
experienced in the working world, with training as a mechanical
engineer. I so lucked out, that I feel truly blessed by the universe.

Class sketch
woman in blue
acrylic on canvas
18" x 20"

Here's another class sketch. I'm working on my small painting
from last night and it's coming along smoothly. I remembered
one of the things one of my teachers at art college said today.
He said to draw and paint what moves you, and to slow down
and look at what you're painting, instead of rushing to get
an impression devoid of what the eyes are taking in. Good
advice. See Mom and Dad -- it all paid off. I'm paying attention
now decades later.

Have a listening-to-your-inner-voices day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A little studio painting

Enough on elections already. Tonight I took a break from
all of it to work on a little studio painting. I had to stop
because it's very late. So I'll do more tomorrow. It was a long
day of teaching my wonderful students today, so I need my

Step One -- a loose drawing on an orange ground in
16" x 16"

Finding the light

Starting to block in the painting
acrylic on canvas

Have a doing-what-you-do-best day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Land and madeleines

Before I start I've been thinking about Proust, not because
I'm a fan, but because in an attempt to escape the sad
recounting of how Canada may have capitulated to power
in the vote, we went to a bookstore that has a good coffee
shop and drank decaf with madeleines, Proust's famous
shell-shaped cookies. If those cookies could transport
Proust back in memory, driving my school route with
Steven takes us over the road of lost lives. The farm
Steven worked on north of Toronto as a 15 year old boy,
is gone, the land covered in houses. The farm where
we bought our vegetables and wonderful Ontario
wine until a year ago is gone, succumbed to the same fate.

Here's a little painting I've been working on, which seems
appropriate tonight because I'm thinking about the land
-- Canada and land as a concept. A new government will
rule us tomorrow, and I hope in my heart of hearts that
that gang will respect both the country, and the land.
All around Toronto land is disappearing. This isn't poor
scrub land, no good for anything, but housing developments
anyway. This is prime farm land -- the bread basket of
Ontario. And it's tragic to cover it with cheap tract
housing, that will be ploughed under in 20 years because
it won't hold up. As I drive to school I watch acre after
acre of this beautiful country -- golden trees, forests
of pine, fields of daisies, places where hawks soar,
swallowed up by badly built homes.

Landscape in progress,
acrylic on canvas

So here's my little painting. Canada has a proud landscape
tradition stretching back before the famous Group of Seven.
Even in the early 1920's painters were hurrying to capture
the raw, wild, natural beauty of this place, before it
was invaded by industry. Landscape is not my
strength, but each time I paint a landscape I honour
my friends who do. Vote carefully my friends.

Have a proud-of-the-land day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sketching to happiness

All the sketches today are from a 5.5" x 8.5" sketchbook

I think this is a sketch of Mario Buatta from
a magazine photo.
(I miss the flourishes in fabric that were
his design style. In Toronto the
hotels have gone minimalist --
the opposite of comfort.)

Black marker on paper

Here is one of many sketches I did while
painting the writer, Sandra Martin's portrait.

Black marker on paper

Another view of Sandra Martin.

Peach pencil on paper

Not all of a painter's days are painting days. I feel for the daily
painters, because in the world I live in progress can
mean getting one small part of the painting right.
Some days -- like after two days of feasting and reveling
to celebrate the harvest -- are meant for sketching,
for quietly slipping back into the art mode through the
familiar feel of pen on paper -- the sketch.

My son Sam and Zoey napping.

Black marker on paper

In museums Picasso's, and Matisse's sketches stand
in harmony with their larger paintings -- acknowledged.
I have walked around many times with the audio
player in my hand listening to erudite scholars
explain the lyrical line, the absence of detail.
But in my artist's heart I know -- the painter was
taking a break, thinking things through, trying to
find relief in line, that might not have been present
that day in blocks of colour.

Or maybe it was a child's birthday, or a day spent not
painting in a café, and there it was in brief notation --
the antidote to not performing for a day, the sketch.
Ahhh. Still an artist. Still have your chops Picasso --
little did you know that in this century we'd pay millions
for your explorations. We love your sketches as much as
your great works, sometimes more.

My son Sam and Zoey the dog fast asleep.

Black ink and acrylic on paper

Have a playing-with-paper day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall road trip -- short and sweet

We all piled in the car today to head out to see fall colour.
There was a crowded bike race in our local park, so walking was
not a possibility. Sam and his girlfriend came
along and we headed for a farm just outside the
city limits, that Steven and I love.

One of the lovely Maple trees at the farm

The farm owners let you walk out into their fields and
fields of pumpkins and pick your own -- a spectacular experience
on an out-of-this world, beautiful, fall day. We marveled at
the scenery, and waited for the big tractor, pulling a merry
family of passengers to pick up our selections.

Free range hens in the pen
for the weekend, because the
Rooster is over protective
(Normally the hens on this farm run wild like the hen seen
here outside the chicken coop)

Sheer joy was ours, in the landscape, the wonderful
day, and singing our brains out as we drove through
magnificent country roads and headed home.
No art today. The table is still dressed for dining.

Steven finds the perfect pumpkin

Back at it tomorrow.

Have a loving nature day.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We had Canadian Thanksgiving tonight. What a great meal --
Steven baked pumpkin pies last night, and today we
went to the market to pick up a free range turkey. We had
delicious steamed broccoli, salad, and my friend Josephine
brought her wonderful roast potatoes.

Seven of us settled around the dining room table
I use as my painting table most of the year. We put an extra
leaf in the big walnut table, get out the wedding china, and
the white table cloth. Sam and I set the table with the silverware
my mother bought me over several birthdays, and the
wine glasses are good old Ikea.

class sketch
acrylic on watercolour paper
28" x 24"

With candles and Vivaldi the mood was complete, and we were
extremely thankful to all be together having a great meal.
Thank you universe.

The painting tonight is another class sketch from a few years
back. I liked the model's mood and his clothing was fun to
paint. It was one sketch I was happy to bring home.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cheerful struggle

I'm a subscriber to Mike Dooley's Notes from the Universe,
and do believe that, "it's not hard, it is working." But my little
portrait of the mother and baby is making me crazy.
Not severely crazy -- just-- well, I've spent tonight working
on it, and a few minutes last night before I went to bed
after marking all night. I incorporated Theresa Rankin's
suggestions, which improved it greatly. But that
baby has an awkward, medieval feeling -- not what
I want.

Is it time to open my huge Mary Cassatt book, or to paint
over that painting?

I'm not opposed to struggle. The back story to almost
every successful portrait commission (in my terms
-- i.e. I liked the painting, and I thought it was a decent
representation of the sitter) had moments of triumph over
that failure to gel. But every now and then with my
other paintings I quit. I take a good, long, hard look
at what I've done, and back off. I put it away, and then get
the thing out a few weeks, or months later. Sometimes the
solution is an instant no-brainer, and the painting makes it
into the light -- gets on a wall. But sometimes
that sucker gets a good thick coat of a new background
colour and starts over.

I have never regretted that decision -- thought, 'Yow,
I shouldn't have covered that almost Michelangelo,
that just shy of a Vermeer work.' I've felt the way
you feel when the break up is in the way of
your happiness. That wonderful "goodbye
kid!" feeling. A quick breath of relief and a loud
cry in the heart -- 'Next!!!!'

Another cranky woman sketch
from the Tuesday night figure class
acrylic on watercolour paper

The painting tonight is the head from a figure
I painted at my Tuesday night class. She's a bit
stern for my tastes, but she'd have no trouble
looking through my portfolio and tossing the
stinking fish into the garbage.

Have a letting-go-of-garbage-paintings day,
combined with a welcoming-super-work day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The cat's meow

Despite all of the work the grown ups in this house do to try
to keep things rolling, and the way we dominate the landscape,
the true heads of state in our house are the animals.

A view of the studio cleaned up for Artwalk

Another view of the studio
during Artwalk

On October 5th it was the cats' birthday. We planned the menu
a few days in advance, and set out to purchase the Loblaws
roast chicken they like so well. We had a festive meal for
the humans, toasted the cats, fed them endless treats of
the freshly roasted bird, got the dog to do her Happy Birthday
rendition (something I've longed for her to do on Letterman
as a stupid dog trick). It was a regular jolly party. Both
animals got presents -- the panther toy Fiona thinks is a
mouse, and the tiny mice with bells that Timbah likes.

Timbah views his 4th birthday cake
with guarded interest

We are a family that likes a party. The boys will both be away
on their birthdays this year, so this lets the cats, and Zoey
get more high quality attention on their special days. It just so happens that
Timbah turned four, and Fiona turned one on the same day!
That is so lucky.

Fiona wonders why her candle is blue

It was a good thing that Artwalk with all of its preparations
and excitement was over, so the house was still relatively
clean, and we could concentrate on what really matters --

After the festivities
Fiona had to retire to her
Princess and the Pea bed
(We were forced to eat the
cakes -- tragically good)

Have a give-your-cake-and-eat-it-too day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Staying in the zone

It's one thing when the world is falling apart, and another
when it hits your own tiny nest egg. Thanks greedy
banking guys with the foresight of what? Snails?
No -- snails operate by feel, and although they leave
a trail of slime, they do no harm. But I am moving
way too fast down the beach here.

What I want to say is that even if yours, and mine and
everyone's little protection against the chill of future
peril is diminished, you are still fine. I am still fine,
because we can create, and people will always need
the wonders we produce. I do believe that.

Thinking about summer
4 1/4 " x 6 1/4"
acrylic on watercolour paper

I found a cache of small paintings in acrylic on watercolour
paper that I'd put away for the next show, and forgotten
for a couple of years. I'm glad that when I discovered them,
I liked them. My work is always changing, but in the same
way I learn from my blog friends' paintings, I learn from
mine. This is a painting of my son, Sam, at a much younger
age. I like his pose, with that incredible flexibility of childhood.
He looks like he's right on the edge of the next stage --
probably 11. I know I painted it long after the fact.

The cardinal is the bird I'd love to include in all my
paintings. When one lands in the apple tree, or on the
fence I feel a sudden feeling of bliss. That's something
no banker can influence.

Have a who-cares-about-money?-day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My first real walk

You know I broke my ankle in July. Aside from losing out on
my vacation in our somewhat primitive school house in Nova Scotia,
I lost my favorite form of exercise temporarily. I couldn't walk for six
weeks, and the truth is, I'm still learning how today. At school
I still use my crutches, because the long days make my ankle
hurt, and the crutches ease the pain. Plus they protect me from
the unwitting football style blocks that can happen in a hallway
full of teenagers and young twens (early 20's) rushing to class.

At home I try to go it alone. Today I took the dog for an old style,
long and rambling walk in the park. She sprained her ankle the
other day, so we were almost on equal terms. She is a big time
runner, so slowing to a walk is not her regular style at all.

I thought of Eldon Warren and his description in his last blog
of a magical space to walk in Colorado.Cedarvale Park is that
kind of place for me. I have not been into the ravine in two months.
Today it was decorated with tall, bright coloured maples, and low
bushes in every shade of red, filled with birdsong. Canadian
Thanksgiving is this weekend, and it makes sense. Outside it feels
like there's so much to be thankful for.
Even the wild flowers are at their peak -- lining the pathway in
purple, white, and yellow flowers -- their leaves a brilliant green.
I revelled in my liberation to move through this beauty alone
-- with the dog.

Sun spill
4 1/4 " x 6 1/4"
acrylic on watercolour paper

I found this little painting of another place that's special to me --
the beach near Pugwash Nova Scotia, where we usually spend
the month of July. Of course walking on this beach at the ocean,
you see skyscapes that would knock your socks off, if you weren't

Have a grateful-for-what-you-see day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Baby boy, pride and joy

This was one of my long days at school -- exciting from the point of view
of teaching -- I have wonderful students this semester -- but tiring in
the way that only teaching is. Still there is a great feeling of moving
forward, watching ideas and skill take shape.

This is one of the little drawings I did
before I began this painting
It's purple Sharpie on white sketchbook bond

Now I am going to go and paint. I found the prep drawing I
was looking for of the woman with the baby. I call the painting
Aaron's First Party. The woman holding Aaron, is not his mother.
It's a friend from the neighbourhood, who like me, is the mother of two boys.

When I started tonight this is where
it was at
As a mother of boys, I always feel a tenderness for baby boys, and boy
children. I love girls too, but having raised boys, it's like I switched
camps, and almost feel I understand boy children better than girls.
Little girls are a delight and a mystery to me, but boys are my home
territory. So part of what I am trying to capture in this painting, is
the nostalgia my neighbour seemed to feel holding baby Aaron.
Her own "babies" like mine, were well into teenage life when the
party happened. Baby Aaron is now four, as he proudly told me the
other day, and still absolutely beautiful.

I refined both faces,
although the baby still looks too old.
I began to think about the background.
That's all for tonight, I'm tired.
The painting is acrylic on canvas
12" x 12"

Have a loving-the-children-in-your-life day.

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!