Sunday, November 30, 2008

Staying up, and drawing

Hi everyone,

Keeping a sense of humour looking at the deluge of marking
I've still got to do, is critical. Drawing helps me do that.
I'm showing you a little drawing of my son Sam, that I
did while talking to him on Skype tonight. The colour is probably
more flashy than I want exactly, but I like the mood.

Sam at his desk
Enium highlighter, Staples highlighter
Prismacolor coloured pencils
on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches

Sam's microphone on his computer doesn't work, so
he talked on the phone and I drew him. It's exam time,
and he's working away in his dorm room. It's been
a very hard working day for me -- lightened somewhat by both
drawing and Steven's delicious halibut, baby potatoes,
salad and home made applesauce dinner.

Now the day is done, gone the sun.

Have a restful, happy day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer

I swear sometimes writing a daily blog is like the old
camp counting song. Get to know me, I really like
to hear people singing -- even the corniest of songs
make me happy, or sad. I could never go to my
chidrens' school concerts without being deeply
moved. In fact whether they were performing in the
band, or in the choir, my sons were the boys straining
their necks to try and see me through the crowd to see
if I'd started weeping -- yet. I was moved by how sweet
they were singing, or playing the Tuba or Trumpet.
The music and the atmosphere with the kids all
dressed up, and the proud parents always caught
me off guard, and profoundly moved.

As for this blog. What I mean I think, is that I committed (to myself)
to writing something every day, and I've kept my
word (to me). One of my blogging friends made it a big
event when she reached 200 blogs, and I'm coming up
on 300. If you have any suggestions of how I should
celebrate -- or how we could celebrate together let
me know. If you have no suggestions be aware that
I will happily toast you with Veuve Cliquot, my favorite
champagne, on that occasion.

I'm putting a picture I painted at my art class on
tonight, because I'm hauling my big "Promise"
painting from a week ago, home tomorrow and
fixing the face, and I'll show you how that goes when it's done.

Class sketch
acrylic on bond paper
18 x 24 inches

This image may be of my friend Peter, although
I painted it a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure.
I used to drive to class with a colour formula in
my head that I wanted to try out. I soon discovered
that blue was rarely a decent ground for a painting.
But it does give the work a certain air of sadness
and pathos. The model, if it is Peter, is actually
a pretty happy person -- a wonderful artist, with
a great family. As you know by now, happy is
she who paints happy. Happy is my life's work.
Being happy, making other people happy, and
recovering my own natural sense of good humour
when seriously horrible life events knock it off kilter.

Have a perfectly joyous day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sometimes you paint, sometimes you draw

Being a painter with too much to do to paint can
drive you nuts. But lately I've noticed that anything
can make you crazy if you let it. So what's the answer?
I teach a course in creative problem solving.

Coming up with solutions -- I'm good at that.
What I can do is draw -- it fits in nicely between
bouts of marking hundreds of essays and tests. Especially if
I draw people while I talk to them on the picture phone
--known as Skype. I keep thinking of that movie "mother"
with Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds. The
obnoxious brother in the movie gives his mother a
"picture phone" and she has trouble making it work.

At any rate. I've been pestering my friends and
relations to let me draw them in my marking breaks.

Christopher in Korea
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Bic Marker, Crayola Marker
Sharpie Marker, Staples Highlighter
and Prismacolor coloured pencil
on bond paper

What's strange about portraiture, is that some people
are iconic -- burned into your visual brain. So when
I talk on the computer to my son Christopher I can
draw him really quickly. But other friends take two
or three tries just to get something like a likeness.

My friend Lyn #2
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Bic Marker, Crayola Marker
Sharpie Marker, Staples Highlighter
and Prismacolor coloured pencil
on bond paper

It's been an exciting few days. I've met some
wonderful people through the blog, and will have
so much to tell you in a couple of weeks.

My friend Lyn #3
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
uni-ball Vision marker
on bond paper

But for now it's time for bed, and getting ready for
another day reading what my super students have

Have a drawing-out-the-best-in-people day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends

Class sketch
acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches

Tonight I'm including an image of a fast sketch I did at the Tuesday
night art class. I liked the look of the subject, but only started
liking the painting a few months after that evening. The painting
was drawn in charcoal, and recently I washed most of the drawing
off to discover that I like the painting without the heavy lines.

Birthday cards from my son's students in Korea

At the beginning of the week we received a huge package from
Korea in the mail. Our birthday gifts were inside -- a lovely
video of my son's typical day, slippers for Steven and for me,
like the slippers my son wears at school (super warm and
comfortable), a pretty scarf for me, and a fleece for Steven and
lots of birthday cards drawn by Christopher's six year old students.
I am always both moved and charmed by children's drawings.
Isn't strange that everyone's an artist at 5 or 6 like these
kids, and then poof -- someone waves a critical wand at them
and they lose their power? I hope that never happens to these
children. I have some more cards that I'll post another night. They
are such a treat.

Speaking of children, one of the family traditions I really
like about Christmas is getting my kids, and their close
friends chocolate filled advent calendars. The idea
of a chocolate every day in December seems like one of the
most civilized of Christmas traditions. So -- I have a few, displayed
where we normally set them up against the china hutch in the kitchen.
When Sam comes home near the end of the month he'll probably
eat all of them at once -- and that's fine too.
This week we also have spectacular deep orangey red day lilies
from our favorite flower store.

I'm still in intensive marking mode, and I'm enjoying it.

Have a there's-so-much-to-celebrate day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm still standing -- and that's a good thing

Hi there,

It's going to be a short one tonight. Wednesday is my
long day at school, and I am soooooo tired. It is
actually a great accomplishment to be still
standing in every sense of the word, when I
look back on the months when I couldn't stand
at all because of my broken ankle.

Bowl of apples from my tree's an image from the season "of mists and
mellow fruitfulness!" (Keats, Ode to Autumn) that
I've always wanted to paint. One year we had
exceptional apples on our little tree, and luckily
we photographed them. I've been looking for
a set of bowls like this, so if you know where I
can get them -- in Toronto -- let me know.

I hope I'll have some new art for you tomorrow.

Have a pleasantly poetic day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How busy are you?

Hi everyone,

There's a degree of busy that just tips the scale into "okay
this is a little crazy," and that's my life today. I spent
the day marking, then trying to organize my photos for
the wonderful fellow who is designing my web site. He
needs the images, names, sizes because it's end of term,
and my web site is a school project for him. I have been
having trouble getting everything to him because I
am a professor at another campus that's part of the
same college, Seneca(which is how I found
out about this great program), and I am marking round the

Plus tomorrow my students are taking tests all day, and I
am preparing those tests. I have been doing my best
to stay positive, staring fondly at my paints, which will
have to wait for another day. And a couple of things
made staying upbeat a challenge. First of all, my
internet connection has been faint to nonexistent again.
Then I put all the images and titles carefully together
in a file on my Mac, we burned a disc, and guess
what my husband's IBM couldn't read the Mac data.
The web designer is an IBM person, and here we go
again. So my husband carefully and painfully re-configured
all the names, and edited the images, and burned a new
disc. I think he's going for sainthood, and if I were in
charge he'd get the title.

A bird eating the seeds from our
backyard feeder. Today
all the snow melted, but there will be more

Yow! Deep breath. So I'm including a photo of one
of my favorite little birds sitting on the snow eating
seeds in my backyard, because the picture, taken by
Steven, calms me down. Tomorrow other things are
happening, but I'll tell you all about that then. It's

Have an it's-all-going-to-work-out-just-fine day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Painting happiness

The catch -- if there is one -- to painting happiness,
is that the painting stays happy, perhaps for hundreds
of years after the happy day, event, moment, couple
are just a memory. Not only that, the painting holds
the memory more potently than most photographs,
even though it isn't a photographic record.

Reading together

This painting of some friends of mine,
done back in my watercolour days is testament to
that phenomenon. Sometime after this painting
was made, the couple, who I think were happy when
I did this work, split up. Does that matter now? My
friend, the woman, doesn't understand why I keep,
and even like the painting -- but do you? I love this painting,
not because of the unhappy breakup that happened
a couple of years after this lovely moment, but because
it conveys what I'm always trying to capture --
joy, happiness -- the part of the human condition
that works.

As a watercolour I like its imperfections. As a painting
I absolutely love the mood. I can't begin to compare
myself with songwriters like Paul Simon, but some
of his songs are about relationships that are now
over. The songs can be loving, happy, moving and
stand alone. I hope the painting does too.

I wanted to share it with you, because it makes me
happy. Just that. Nothing more. I'm not a political
painter -- just an image maker.

Have a loving-your-own-work day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pretty pink poinsettias

Today after Steven and I took Sam to his bus back
to school, Steven decided to get me some flowers
to cheer me up. I always get a clutch in my heart
and at least the possibility of tears when I see
someone off at a bus station, train station, or
airport. We had a short but sweet visit with
Sam, and I love having him around.

Steven bought me a huge bouquet of pale pink
roses, and I bought him some brilliant fire engine
red roses, and some lilies in a reddish colour. Now
the house is filled with flowers. But while we
were in our favorite flower store we saw huge
pots of deep pink poinsettias.

Pink Poinsettias
7 x 9 inches
acrylic on watercolour paper

I think it's too early yet for poinsettias -- they
just scream Christmas -- and I usually buy the
creamy white ones -- three plants for my hall
table. But I remembered this little painting I
did a few years ago, and I'm including it tonight.
If I have time I'll take a better photo (no shine)
and put it in tomorrow. I like the red ground
peeking through, and the unexpected blue sky.

The whole pace of Christmas is coming back to
me. When the stores start pushing it the second
Halloween is over, it seems insane. Then I get
caught up in work and forget about it, and
suddenly it's happening next week, and I haven't
sent cards again, and the house isn't decorated
again. However if you ever do get so swamped
that it's december 23rd and you haven't begun...
there are crazy financial advantages to decorating
at the last minute. I got my front door wreath,
and a big wreath for the front of the house last year
for a dollar each. I'm just saying.

Have a loving-the-colours-around-you day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sketching a Skype

I haven't done much in the way of art today, and yet
most of the day's been devoted to art work. I met
with the man who's designing my web site and we
discussed colours and treatment. He and his wife,
live in a condo with a spectacular view of the whole city
and the surrounding countryside. He can see
the wide sweep of Toronto, the blue hills to the
west, and Lake Ontario gleaming in the sun.

Their space has high bright windows and the sun
spilled into the room while we drank mint tea out
of perfect white china. So that was fun.

My son is home and his girlfriend came for what
was our official birthday dinner, with all of us
opening presents from each other.

Sketch of Flora
Doehler, done while we
talked on Skype through our computers.
This was my view of Flora in her
Sharpie, Staedler Permacolor,
pencil, coloured pencil,
Sharpie Highlighter

But before supper I talked to my friend, Flora,
who lives in Nova Scotia on Skype, and did this
little sketch of her. So while we were talking,
I was sketching. I kept showing her every 60 seconds
or so, and she was egging me on saying,
"let me see, let me seeee!"

So here's the result -- instant gratification - just
like Skype. This was my wonky view of her in her
kitchen, with the shelf to the right. Of course it's
got that caught in the headlights feeling that a
Skype image has, but it's also got a nice,
"are you really drawing me?" serious look to it.
And it was a very fast sketch. If you don't know
about Skype it's the free long distance
phone service and if you have a camera in your
computer you can see the person, which is really,
really lovely when people are far away.

That's all for tonight folks. I hope my American
friends are having a happy Thanksgiving weekend.
I've got to sleep.

Have a permission-to-relax-sir day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hunting squirrels

It's been a strange and wondrous day in ways I can and can't
describe. Some of my shyest students gave great, brave
presentations today. One of my fellow teachers read an
eloquent passage to me from a book he wrote. When I
got home after driving beside a spectacular sunset, I saw my
youngest son and his girlfriend briefly before they went out
for dinner, and my son looked extremely happy.

We watched the end of Season I tonight of the 30 Rock DVDs
my sister gave me for my birthday, and really laughed a lot.

Zoey "hunting" squirrels

I found this picture of our dog Zoey hunting squirrels in our
local park and it made me think of a book I've joked about wanting
to write for a few years now called, The Philosophy of Dogs.
Most of the book would be about how dogs always think it's a
good day if you're in it. At the risk of sounding as corny
as Sarah Palin, my dog Zoey and her obsession with
squirrels seems like the perfect allegory for what most of
us do in life, especially in art. Zoey pursues a squirrel
with slow and careful deliberation. She doesn't run or
carry on until she's a few feet away from her target. And yet she
always misses. The squirrel always gets up the tree. Except
for that one time outside our house when by accident she
caught and killed a squirrel. I swear she felt badly all day
after that. Let me clarify right here that I don't
ever want Zoey to catch a squirrel, and I wouldn't let her
hunt them if I thought she would catch them.

I'm not talking about the thrill of the chase, which I know
is a tired cliché, I'm saying it's about process. Zoey puts
every fiber of her being into the process of catching the
squirrels she doesn't catch -- and here's the kicker -- she
loves that process. She is more excited in fact by hunting the
squirrel with great care on a beautiful day in the park,
than she was the day she actually caught one.

That's what I'm trying to learn as an artist. No painting
isn't a hunt, and I'm not going to catch a painting. But
painting is a focused attempt to catch an idea, and yet
the pleasure of the act is not in the completion, but in
painting -- watching colours come together to form
an idea that combines (for me) reality (the person,
object, landscape to be painted) and my own thoughts
and goals, to create a piece of art. Okay -- maybe it's
the end of the week and I'm just too tired. So
give me a break and I'll lighten up. I'm just saying.

Maybe what I'm talking about is this mania for
producing a great work of art every day that the
blogs seem to foster. You can go out every day
and try to paint, but you're just not going to bag
a squirrel every day. (Eee haw -- I do sound like Palin),
but you know what I mean. This whole concept would
have been preposterous to some of my favorite
painters of yore. They would have guffawed
heartily at the thought of artists turning themselves
inside out to make a workable work of art every
single day. Painting -- yes -- they'd get that, it's
a great idea to paint every day, but you don't get
a Sargent (my personal hero) in a day, unless
you're talking about the watercolours. He worked for
40 sittings with his portrait commissions. So
maybe some of us should give ourselves a break,
like Zoey does when she doesn't get the squirrel.
I'm going to start right now with myself, because
I'm turning in, and I haven't bagged a Sargent, or
even a laudable Muir today, but I've moved
brushes and paint around on a canvas, and thoroughly
enjoyed the process.

Have a loving-the-act-of-painting day.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A great day

Me as an angel
by Steven
To tell you the truth I was having trouble getting excited about
Christmas this year. Maybe the whole flooding of the stores
with stuff -- shiny, exotic in the thick of November's attempt
at subtlety thing was what got to me. But today it was brilliant --
white snow lined trees, snow on the ground, blue sky and cold
weather. Josephine and I drove out to the Yorkdale mall after work,
and in the new Crate & Barrel store I got that Christmas feeling.
It was the luminous red I think. I didn't actually want anything.
There was a very Swedish feel, which is cheaper at Ikea (plus you
can get a salmon dinner at Ikea for $20 for two there). But I think it might
have been the store design -- very festive and colourful. Walking around
with Josephine and laughing I felt hopeful. I will miss my son and his
girlfriend like crazy at Christmas, but I started inviting people to
Christmas dinner, and felt better right away.

The presents part is nice. I'm not religious, and school always
goes almost until the day before Christmas. But the real tree
makes the house smell amazing. The pine boughs over the
doors in the living room and on the hutch in the kitchen jazz
the joint up. I like the music, which we only bring out at
that time of year. And after walking through the sparkly
wonderland of Yorkdale with Josephine, I realize that religious
or not, I'm going to enjoy the feeling surrounding the celebration
all over again.

Besides I do believe in angels -- especially human ones.

The image is one Steven took of me as an angel. See if
you can figure out how he did it. We learned the technique
from my photographer son, Christopher.

Have a why-not-enjoy-yourself? day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great blogging writers

During the recent American election I was a bit
nervous that all of the friends I'd made through
blogging might be Sarah Palin supporters. I went
through a kind of dark night of the soul, and
realized that being Canadian gave me some
freedom from angst if I wanted it. In other words if one of
my favorite artists happened to be a Republican
-- well -- wouldn't I still love the work, and the
person? If I can be friends with Conservatives in
my own country, who have nothing in common with
me politically, couldn't I do that across the border?

I had decided that yes, I want to be from the country
of ART anyway, and in that country we are all one.
But then I read the delightful blog, by Lisa
from On painting titled Which Candidate Would
You Paint?
and found out that most of the artists
I enjoyed were Obama supporters. My excitement at
this revelation was enhanced by the extremely
artful way Lisa's piece was written, and the ironic
responses from her artist friends.
Check it out yourself at:

I still stick to my earlier sentiment. Politics should not
be a dividing line in art. At the same time I'm grateful
to On Painting authors Lisa Towers and Bill Jones
for their satirical take on the combination of art and

We frequently honour the art we see on line,
but the writing some artists produce
is equally compelling. Edgar on Arty Fice
goes pretty deep from time to time on subjects relating
to the world of art. Theresa Rankin is a warm and
humorous writer, Eldon Warren first hit me with his
"Geez Louise", and that phrase has been rattling around
my brain ever since. David Lobenberg adopts various
persona when he writes, and his blog presents his
zany take on the art he's working on. You can get to Theresa,
Eldon and David's blogs from last night's tag list.

Reclining Figure
36 x 24 inches
acrylic on canvas

The painting tonight is a figure study from my Tuesday
art group.

At school we've reached the hard end of the
semester, marking in every spare minute. All of the teachers
look equally wired. Luckily they're very funny --
their wit makes it worth teaching there, despite
the 2 1/2 hour drive home tonight
at 20 clicks (12.4274238 miles)
an hour. Snow my southern friends -- in
Toronto that spells chaos. Before last winter we hadn't
had much in 20 years. Got to go and find all my winter
gear, so you get painting now.

Have a yes!-read-that-great-book day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Being tagged

Hi everyone,

A few days ago I was tagged by my friend Theresa Rankin in
Carthage, Missouri. She is a fantastic painter, an excellent
writer, and her blog is a delightful combination of facts
about her wonderful life, and the art of being a painter.

So here are the rules for being tagged.

You need to:
1. Put a link in your posting to the person who tagged you.
2. List 7 unusual things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and comment
on their blogs to let them know.

Here is a list of 7 things about me. I don't really have any
wild revelations to make because although I love my life
you might not find it at all remarkable or exciting.

1. I've been married to the same man for over 20
years and we are still in love.
2. I have two wonderful sons. One is in Korea
teaching English, and the other is studying acting
at university.
3. I studied art at the Ontario College of Art and
Design, but left half way through my studies to
take an English Literature degree at the University
of Guelph. I missed language, (not much talk at art
college). At university I felt like I lived in a waterfall
of delicious words and discussion.
4. My undergraduate thesis was on "Iconography and
Imagery in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene."
5. I teach English and Psychology at Seneca
College in Toronto.
6. My main goal in life is to be happy, and to try to
make those around me happy. Over a long life
of practice, I'm getting pretty good at it. Sorrow,
hardship and illness come without our bidding,
but remaining happy and kind requires
intelligence and dedication.
7. My joke with my friends is that I am shallow.
I do read Allure magazine, but I also read
more challenging literature for at least an hour every
morning and every night. Even though I pretty much dress in
a uniform (white shirt, dark sweater, jeans, or black pants),
I love the look of fashion, which is why I paint people in
beautiful dresses and evening wear.
8. I never forgot what it was like to be a teenager,
and still feel like a kid. That's why I relate well to
the young people I teach. When I was their age
I was a skateboard freak.

Here is the list of fellow artists I'm tagging:
Theresa Rankin
Flora Doehler
Eldon Warren
Liz Hirst
Aaron Lifferth
Laurel Daniel
Susan Carlin
Belinda del Pesco
David Lobenberg

Forgive me for being still so novice at this that I don't
know how to use your names alone, and have it click to your
blog. Some of you have been tagged already. It's a bit like the school
yard tag game, gone all Dada -- or Cubist. You may be
tagged, and tagged again, and again. Perhaps the truth is that we
wander in the same circles on the net for a reason.

Ultimately I think that one of the nicest things about blogging
is this feeling of support you get when people like your work
and your blog so much that you get treated to being noticed.
As usual, I could add about 15 other sites on here, but this list
includes some of the sites I try to visit every day. They dazzle me
with their work, their daring and their consistently
experimental intelligence.

Here's a little painting I did back in
my watercolour days.
The painting shows my husband on the
right talking to his friend Frank,
with Sam our son staring out at the
sailboats. The river is the Ottawa
River and the town across the water is Aylmer, Quebec.

Have a getting-ready-to-be-tagged day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The promised promise

Today was the day my painting "The Promise" had to be submitted.
Ouch! I worked at school up in King City today, then drove
home between classes to finish it up. With one hour to go I
looked at it in complete despair. The face was just not
working. What to do? My reference photos weren't
accurate enough, and I didn't have my wonderful model.

On the point of tears, I sucked it up and painted out the face.
Yup. I started the face from scratch. Not only that
I was jumping between reference photos of three different
people. So it went in tonight after I got home from driving
through a snowstorm, not as the ideal portrait I was planning,
but as the painting I had promised to the show -- The Promise.
I don't have a photo to show you, and that's just as well.
Thank goodness the nice woman on the desk at our D.V.A.C.
show said I was wrong, and that it was fine. Still, I know what
I was working towards, and unless it sells, I will still have my work
cut out for me.

In the studio
16 x 16 inches
acrylic on canvas

I came home and spent some time on my little painting of the
studio tonight to celebrate my change of pace. So here's the
(almost) finished version of that piece. Maybe the moral of the story
is, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes
you get what you need." (I needed a painting). Thanks to the
universe and shameless willpower I got it on time. Just.

Have a forgiving-yourself-for-being-human day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The heat vent wars are on again

Fiona (the cat) works on worrying Zoey
away from the preferred heat vent

At this time of year our house gets pretty cold.
It's an old rug brick, Toronto semi-detached
house, and yes it could use some insulation, and
maybe a revised heating system. I don't have much
time to talk to you tonight. I'm still marking, preparing
for a long day tomorrow, and trying to finish my
big painting. Still I thought you'd enjoy this little
picture of Fiona fighting over the heat vent with
Zoey. Fiona is the alpha dog in our house, and she's
a 5 1/2 pound Siamese cat. This photo shows how
she wins over the vent, from Zoey, who is 10 times
her weight. She simply taps Zoey on the posterior,
until she drives the dog nuts, and presto -- she gets
the heat vent. The warmest one in the house (we have
forced air) is under this kitchen cabinet, and all three
animals fight to lie there.

Brrrr. It's cold outside.

Have a cuddling-up-to-keep-warm day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Getting tagged never felt so good

I woke up today just delighted to know it was Saturday,
one of my favorite days. On Saturday I really like to
read and drink my coffee for as long as I can.
So I did. Tomorrow the model's coming. I worked
on her face a bit today, and I may change all of it
tomorrow. The question as always is how far to go,
and when to stop. I may pull it back and make
it more abstract than I originally planned, or go completely
in the opposite direction.

Saturday after the market
The Brick Works Farmers' Market is closed
for the season now. But the memories
are there for next summer.

Today I was tagged by my good friend in Carthage, Missouri,
Theresa Rankin. This is a great way for blog friends
in art to get to know one another better. I am going
crazy with marking now, and trying to finish my
big painting by tomorrow night. But next week when
things settle down a bit, I'm going to tell you all about
it, and tag seven lucky people. Meanwhile thank you
so much Theresa. Theresa has been a powerfully kind
supporter of my work, and that has meant the world
to me. Last summer when I was really hurting with my
broken ankle her kind words lifted my spirits no end.
We need that as artists to keep on being able to see
in our own unique fashion. So thanks to Theresa,
and to all of the kind people who write comments
to me on this blog. I am eternally grateful.

Have a you-are-the-best-people day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Check out this great show

A dear friend, Gill Cameron had an opening tonight
at a gallery on the Danforth in Toronto. I just love
her work, and she showed with another artist, Chris
Cooper, who paints the same wild, Ontario
landscape, but in oil, so their work displayed very well

Gill had some new work that just blew my socks off.
She is an absolute genius with colour, abstraction,
light, watercolour and joy in the landscape. Her style is
100% original and gorgeous.

Her openings are always buzzing with people, good
conversation, wine and goodies. The show was
the perfect treat to end a long and busy week.

I'm including the invitation. If you're in town
by all means go and see it. If there's anything left
to buy, snap it up.

Have a getting-to-see-great-art day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Living in a world of kindness

Some days I am lucky to be conscious of what a kind world I
inhabit. Today was one of those days. It started with and ended
with the kind gestures of everyone I met. My friends on the
blog lifted me up with their comments on the painting I'm working
on. I talked to my son in Korea on Skype and we laughed as
I drank my morning coffee. He was going to bed, as I was trying
to get into my day. If you haven't tried Skype yet, it's a miracle
if you have a camera and microphone on your computer.
You can call the people you love who are far away for free and
see them. It has meant the world to me this year with Christopher
and Megan teaching English half way across the planet.

My sweet model came and we worked on and off for three
hours. You may have trouble seeing what I was working on,
but I was blocking in more of the painting, especially the skirt.
We were both tired today, but we stayed cheery, and the
session was very good.

The Promise
36 x 48 inches
I start by filling in more of the blue
satin throw behind the model,
and define the pillows a bit more

I visited my cousin and she gave me a beautiful little table,
which just fits in the corner of my studio. So that was a treat.
She also showed me wonderful pictures of my paternal
grandparents when they were young that I had never seem before.

Because I started with an orangey
red ground, I now want to cover
most of it.
I start laying in more of the blue/mauve
underpainting that will highlight the bright
white on the skirt. For my friends who are opposed
to white, it is actually titanium white,
with cadmium yellow medium and portrait pink,
even some cadmium orange. I add touches
of light to the bodice of the dress
and the pillows.

Then after supper my friend Josephine came over to help
me with a couple of projects around the house. We took
chips of colour off the bottom of the walls in the family
room and the office to give to the best paint colour
man I know, Todd, at Maple Paints here in town.
We need to match the existing colour, because the walls
will be repainted next week, and they are red in the family
room, and yellow in the office.

Where we left off today. I am
now pushing and pulling the
darks and lights. So much
of the work is just playing
around until it feels right.
Tomorrow I'll start by checking for variety in
the width, texture, colour etc.
of the skirt folds, make some
more decisions about the background and
start on the face.

Well actually I'll do that over the next two days, because I only have
an hour with my model tomorrow. When she's here, it's all about
capturing the light. Her presence gives the work depth and
excitement that's harder to capture from a photo.

Have a loving-your-work day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coming together -- a happy time

After a long and delightful day at school today, I came
home to a super supper (not my night to cook) and then
my model, Claudia arrived. We managed to get in three
sessions before it was time to quit. Each sitting was between
10 and 12 minutes long.

I've probably done six paintings of Claudia at least,
so in some ways the code of her appearance is in
my eyes, heart -- I'm not sure how that works,
but there's an ease there.

Session One today

I begin to block in the red in the pillow,
the yellow (for now) of the chair

At first I am in a way shot back to the beginning, feeling my
way into the painting again, after a day away. The basic bones
make me happy, so I know I can build on the work.

Session Two
I start blocking in more of the darks,
recognizing that to hold the light
I need to establish some dark.

In the second session I remember to put some dark in, because I
can't illustrate the highlights of the white dress without a dark
colour. During this 12 minute time slot I decide to begin defining her
hair. I paint the background a dark combination of ultramarine,
deep purple and grey. I cover the entire background, and then
find it's too heavy even for an underpainting (which much of
the painting may be at this stage) so I spray it and wipe it off
on the left hand side of the painting.

The last session for today
I begin work on the skin on the face,
and neck, block in more of
the chair in yellow and work
on the hand and arm on the right side of
the image.

We had a great session today and I can see the painting emerging.
The nice thing about putting the images on the blog, is that
I can almost understand what I'm doing better in the
photographs than with the painting alone. When the model
is in the chair I am responding in a trance. Of course
I make decisions about colour, and brush size, but I move
around the piece mostly by instinct.

Tonight I kept remembering something Marcia Burtt said
about sticking with larger brushes.
So as much as possible I stayed with my favorite
2 inch brushes.

That's all for today. Claudia's coming back tomorrow, and I'll
keep you posted. I'm very tired now, and happy. I love
painting on this large canvas.

Have a happy-to-be-alive day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When the model is right... the rest will follow

This is both an exciting day and a sad day. Remembrance Day
always makes me think of and miss my father, long dead now.

The exciting part -- I began my painting The Promise tonight.
My model and I reviewed the 9 possible choices to select the right dress,
narrowed it down to three, and finally picked one.
After that I worked in two 10 minute poses before it was
time for her to leave.

The Promise

Step One, blocking the light

In the first pose I started blocking in the lights. In the
second I began refining the image by drawing it in
charcoal. I also decided at the end to whip in some
colour for a dark to define the right side of the image.
I like the layout of the piece so far.

The Promise Step 2
Drawing and staring colour

My biggest problem in painting big, is that I could always
paint bigger. So I still have to try and make the model
fit on the 3' x 4' canvas. I've been painting a lot of small
works lately, and this canvas is huge. I began work with
the largest brush I could comfortably draw with (2"), and then
used a slightly smaller brush to get more of a precise feel.

So that's it for today.

Have a memory-filled day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The odd glitch in the system

Hi Everyone,

If this publishes tonight it will be a miracle because I'm on the phone
to India to try and fix my Internet service here in Toronto,
and I've been assured it will happen. But I am soooo dependent
on this blog as my friend Edgar has pointed out. Meanwhile,
if I haven't replied to a comment you've made on my blog, or
yours, be aware that I'll be catching up as soon as the
Sloooooooooooooooow high speed is fixed.

I start my big painting with the model tomorrow
and will keep you up-to-date step by step.

Cloudday 1, Panorama 1
Christopher Muir

Here's a photo tonight that my photographer older son,
Christopher, who is teaching English in Korea as we speak,
took in the Nevada desert.

Have an appreciating-technology day.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Starting a big one

Last Sunday a new friend, Jan Marriott, came over to give me
seven wedding dresses before she left on a vacation to
France, which she pronounces in a beautiful English
accent making it sound even more delicious. (She's
English). This all happened because Jan regularly
takes part each May in the most wonderful garage sale that
covers a whole neighbourhood south of the supermarket where
we buy our groceries.

Step One The Promise
combining cadmium red medium, cadmium orange,
and cadmium yellow medium to paint the ground
with a four inch wide house painting brush,
and then a roller.

Jan is a fabric lady, and she sells vintage (30s,40s, 50s,
60s) dresses, pieces of fabric, old pillow cases, sheets,
curtains, quilts, and tablecloths. I have bought everything
possible from her. Her gorgeous quilts cover our beds.
I bought 5 or 6 vintage brightly coloured 40s table cloths.
Then Martha Stewart did a special on the same pieces,
and said never to use them, they were much too valuable.
I paid $4 each and use them whenever I can. One of the great
things about Jan is that she is completely fair in her prices.

Stage Two The Promise
The wet ground dries on the
36 x 48 inches

So a couple of years ago I bought two beautiful 30s formal
dresses from her and both have been used in paintings.
When I ran into Jan at the Brick Works Farmers' Market,
I told her about the paintings. She checked out my blog
and decided to give me some wedding dresses she
couldn't sell. They have a small tear here, or a spot or
two there, but they are gorgeous, and fine for paintings.

The painting I'm about to start is called "The Promise",
so a girl in a wedding dress seems fitting. Once again
I had to submit the name of the painting before I
started the piece. I had small work ready, but the lady
from the show requested a large painting, because the show
is supposed to feature both.

The last time I painted a girl in a less than perfect
wedding dress for the Dance Series, I paid $50 for it
at the Salvation Army. This time I got seven
(maybe eight I have to count again) for free. I gave
Jan a vintage dress I couldn't use that was in good repair
in return. To me this is a clear example of the
"bounty of the universe" in action. I guess you could say
I'm a firm believer. What an amazing week!

I have to go and mark papers.

Have a seeing-prosperity-everywhere day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes and No

I'm giving my friend a book about saying "yes" tonight, which
is funny because she's very agreeable, and kind, and does say
"yes" a lot. I saw the book in a bookstore, and my inordinate
curiosity made me buy it. It is one of those books you can read
in a night, so when she's finished, I'll take a glance at it.

On the other hand, one of the big things we teach our students
in school success is how to say "no" to friends, parents, anyone
who pulls them away from their studies.

A class sketch from
my Tuesday art class
acrylic on watercolour paper

I guess the answer is balance. One year I was so excited about being
asked to participate in huge number of shows, that I said "yes" to
everything, even to craft shows where the chances of selling fine
art were slim to none. Now I try to go with my gut. If it feels like
I'll enjoy it, learn something, meet people -- I'll do it.

In the past day we've driven 1,000 kilometers, or half the distance
from Toronto to Nova Scotia -- that's about 600 miles. We left Friday
after work, stayed the night in London, then drove on to Windsor,
had lunch with Sam, gave him a cake, drove back and had
cake in Toronto with Josephine and Luigi for Steven's birthday.
It was too late when we got together to go anywhere, and Steven
was exhausted from the drive, so we sang Happy Birthday to him
and played two games of cribbage.

Sammy loved his cake and gifts. Steven loved his birthday dinner in
Port Stanley on Lake Erie, at Me and Suzie, a great restaurant, last night.
The drive was just insane with horrendous traffic out of Toronto,
heavy rain and hail! But the restaurant held our dinner for us,
and it was delicious.

Now it's bed time, and the family birthdays are all over. Happy, Happy
Birthday to the Scorpio wing of the family (four of us).

Driving home today the landscape was spectacular, moody low slung
grey skies, bright yellow maple leaves and brilliant yellow roadside
grasses, then luminous, green stripes of spring wheat. A painter's dream.

Now it's time for this weary painter to dream. I say "yes" to that

Have a saying-yes-to-happiness day.

Friday, November 7, 2008


The winter park uniform,
toque, ski jacket, neck warmer over the
face, 15 layers including a man's
jacket on the top, two layers of mittens

My friend Josephine and I talked last night about how smart dogs are.
Sometimes when I walk the dog alone, I admit I natter on about
my day. Meanwhile the dog is sniffing out what's ahead, and moving
forward. If I seem upset she furrows her greying eyebrows and sniffs
more heartily as if to say, don't you see it, that squirrel, the sunset,
those people over there with all the cool dogs, come on!

Zoey and I moving forward in our local park

I feel like she's taught me a motto, and that's look ahead, stay happy,
enjoy the walk -- and the short form is what dogs do -- Forward!

Have a looking-forward-to-the-future day.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A family filled with fun

Today is my mother's birthday. Last Friday was my birthday,
and this Friday is Sam's birthday. Saturday is Steven's birthday,
and the excitement about this solid week of cake, presents,
and cheer is mounting. Sam is away at school studying acting.
And Christopher, his brother, is in Korea. So although the
family is scattered, the plans continue.

My brothers took my mother out to dinner in Ottawa.
I had flowers delivered to her yesterday, our tradition in recent
years. A nearby grocery store puts the bouquets together,
and they are especially kind and gracious to my mother.

My mother lives alone, with her Siamese cat, and although
she'd deny it she is a strong woman. She manages to do a bit
of gardening despite the constant ravages of deer, racoons,
rabbits, and groundhogs. Although she'd like to be in harmony
with nature, she's frequently at war with large segments of
the natural population around her two acre property. We all
love and admire her, and love the fact that she continues to
prosper, and enjoy the gorgeous view across the river of the
Gatineau hills.

Tonight I should be recalling the 36 hours of labour I
endured with Sam, but isn't that what the morphine at the
birth was for? Instead I'm thinking about what a
beautiful and sweet baby, little boy, teenager and now
almost adult he has been and is. He is a really great
person, and everyone who knows him would agree.

Ocean play

16 x 24 inches

The picture I'm showing you tonight was based on a photo
of Christopher, Sam and Steven playing in the ocean in
Nova Scotia. In the photo it was a grey day, but
obviously warm enough that the boys were having
a glorious time. I loved those days, but it's
no longer my picture of our family. Now I see all
of us around a table, out in a restaurant, or on the beach
in Nova Scotia laughing and laughing at the stories we
tell each other. My children are growing into fine young men.

The great thing about being apart is that there will be
even more of these stories when we all reunite, and
they will be funnier than ever.

As for Sam, we're going to see him for lunch on his
birthday weekend, because we're driving down to
join him. He may be a bit weary from celebrating with his
friends, but we'll all be glad to see one another.

Have a having-a-laugh-with-family day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Happy Day

There was lots of discussion at school today about the Obama
win. Everyone is a political analyst and everyone was reviewing
how it happened, why it happened. But most of all people
all over the school, and on my street and everywhere I went
today were slapping hands in triumph and laughing.

I do believe that this ushers in a new world order -- not in the
crazy ominous way that Obama detractors were afraid of.
What I believe is that the man Obama intends to share his
win with all Americans, and be a consulting, caring, honest,
fair and thoughtful president. He inherits a set of problems
that as he says may not be corrected in one year, or even
one term. He is a realist. Naysayers today were saying
that all of this talk about hope and change has given people
unrealistic expectations. I don't think that's true. I think
it has been the people's message, that they want their country's
integrity given back. I think Obama can do that, and will.

It seems fitting to me that a tall, handsome, kind, honest
man should be chosen by history, at a time when another
tall, handsome, kind, honest man is becoming 19. This
is a birthday my own son will never forget, and Obama is
a role model, that any sensible mother would want for
her son. In fact I think he was elected for his measured,
and electric way of speaking, his intelligent consideration
of the questions posed to him, his steadfast attachment
to his principles and to setting a high standard for himself.

The young man in this painting today is my son, Sam.

Sam after the dance
acrylic on canvas

12 x 14 inches

He will turn 19 Friday, in this momentous week, and is lucky
to become a man at this moment in the history of North
America. He is blessed to see that an intelligent man,
with moral fortitude, and brave conviction can do
just about anything he sets his mind out to do.

It is indeed a happy week, and a happy day.

Have a celebratory, and rejoicing day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama, Obama, Obama!!!

I wish I could be in Chicago right now, or with any
of my American friends on the blog. If you didn't
vote for Obama, it doesn't matter at all to me.
But if you did, congratulations. I would have voted for
him, if I could. I have been so impressed by Obama
since the first time I heard him speak. All through
this long campaign I've been getting emails from
Barack, Michelle and all of his key supporters, but
as a Canadian, I could not contribute to his campaign.
It is my sincere feeling, that America and the rest of
the world have won a magnificent victory tonight.

Barack Obama

I didn't want to speak out forcefully about the election,
because America is not my country, and art has no
country. It transcends country, political
party, and even time. It lives on long after this momentous
night. So if you did not vote for Obama, and you are
American, forgive me this brief indulgence. I know
that for my friends in the most diverse city in the
world -- Toronto -- where I live, this win means a
change in the way the world views people. It
also means the triumph of intelligence, deep thought,
true concern for people's well being over the greed,
deception and power of the Bush administration.
I know Obama isn't perfect, and he will definitely feel the
weight of his office, in the current global financial and
political climate. But he has elevated America in the world's
eyes again. And I believe he will live up to his promise.

Have a celebrating-your-private-wins day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sleep please

The concept of settling into some quiet inactivity as
we get older seems really strange to me. My life seems
to crank up to the next level every couple of weeks, so
there is more and more, and more to do. I'm not complaining,
clearly I like it that way. But give me a break --
if I clean the house at all, teach, paint, read, feed the
cats, pat the dog, walk the dog, make dinner, have
intelligent conversations with my husband, remember
to call the kids.... where's the slow down?

Each year around my birthday I look back and think
"Now that was a crazy busy year!" and then boom it
all begins again.

So tonight after a really exciting day at school,
and truly great student presentations, (one of the
skills I'm teaching at the moment) I am ready to
sleep. I wish I could sleep through tomorrow
too, so I wouldn't have to wake up until the
American election was over. Then I'd know,
can I celebrate, or do I get into my bunker?
Just kidding. I don't have a bunker. Just
a basement with a TV. Good enough.

Art workshop sketch
18 x 14 inches

acrylic on watercolour paper

The image today is a sketch I did during an
art workshop. I used reference from another
painting. The face is not right, but the colour
is one of my favorite combinations.
The warm ground makes the blue and
red pop.

Have a out-of-your-bunker day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Sunday feeling

I'm not religious, but I am a bit of a fanatic about Sunday.
That's probably a leftover reaction from all of the Sundays in
my childhood when we were forced to dress up
in extremely uncomfortable clothes, hats and shoes, then
polished up to be trotted out at church as an example of all
that was wholesome, well raised and doing the right thing.

Art class portrait of a member's wife.
She had an aristocratic air -- a delight to paint

I liked the singing, loved the high airy ceilings in the churches
(we attended more than one, because we moved). But early
on my artistic attention deficit disorder was duly noted, and if
we were in a church with too much going on, showy architecture,
sculptures, elaborate gold or over dressed clerics, my parents let me
sit on the floor and colour so I wouldn't be sick. True.

My son, Christopher and his girlfriend, Megan
enjoying a relaxed Sunday breakfast

Long before my teenage life my father quit going, he didn't like being
forced to count the collection plates, and felt like a hypocrite. My
mother stopped going when I was a teenager, which was not that easy
as at that time all of her social life revolved around church.

Still the idea of Sunday as a unique day persists in my
current rituals, though they are very different from
our childhood routines.

#1 I like to sleep in and read, first the trivial sections of the
Saturday paper, then my novel, then a few magazine articles.
#2 I don't really get moving until I've had my second
#3 I loll. I reserve the day for as much relaxation as possible.
#4 I like to take a walk, or drive in the country
#5 I talk to my mother on the phone (a habit ingrained
no doubt from talking on the way to and from
#6 I like a superb dinner, and I don't want to be the
one making it. I can still see my father carving the
Sunday roast with great relish. A special cake or pie
would be waiting in the kitchen. We eat differently
now -- very little red meat, desert not an absolute,
but the feeling remains that Sunday dinner should
be more than packaged pizza.

Of course I'm a teacher, and Sunday like the six other
days of the week is for marking. Today it was essays, and
they gave my other reading material a pretty good run
for the money.

Having just finished the super dinner Steven prepared,
I feel so contented that I could happily call it a Sunday.
But I think I'll finish my marking, make my notes for
tomorrow, and do some of what passes for "colouring"
today -- paint, or draw.

Have a recognizing-the-hefty-depth-of-the-day day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Good dog Zoey

What a spectacular day it was in Toronto today. Big cities don't have
that many clear blue sky days -- the kind of days my friend, Flora,
in Nova Scotia can pretty much count on. But today was one of them.
I stepped out onto our back porch and realized I'd better take
Zoey for one of our weekend walks.

Zoey and I cut through this alleyway,
and are rewarded with this view

I am lucky to live near a beautiful park. Just over the top
lucky. So after asking the dog whether she wanted a walk
enough times to make her talk the way I wish she would
when I take her on Letterman, I put her leash on, and let
her out the front door. I still don't walk her down the stairs
-- you remember she pulled me down the hill and -- crack
broke my ankle. But she waits patiently for me to clunk down
the stairs. She sniffs exuberantly like a truffle hound, and
the walk begins.

Around the corner we see this great tree casting a
brilliant blue shadow on a white house.
I'm thinking in watercolour suddenly

Lovers walking down the hill.
Soon the leaves will be gone.
The trees just north of Toronto
are already bare.

We ran into a neighbour up the street with a bouncy Vizsla,
and Zoey's joy increased. Mine too because my neighbour,
Angela (another Angela for those of you who follow my
blog)has a great sense of humour, and we laughed
for the entire walk. One of the funnier sights
was a woman with a cane hitting the low branches in a
maple tree because one had fallen on her. Whack went
the cane, and there were no more loose branches.

The late sun hits the young trees on
what locals call "the loop."

Sometimes walking your dog you run into people who
have clearly lost whatever slim grip they ever had on
reality, and it's best to smile, give a nod to your dog, (as if
to say, I'd love to stay and chat, but Fido here is so
impatient -- sorry)and move silently on.

Sketch in acrylic and oil pastel on
watercolour paper

10 x 12 inches

I'm including a sketch done in acrylic and oil pastel, of
Zoey dog sleeping on her blankets in Nova Scotia.
It's clear that the influence is folky, maybe Maude Lewis.
Don't know. But it's even brighter than my normal
style -- pushing the boundaries.

Have an enjoying-what-comes-your-way 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!