Thursday, May 31, 2007


pen-and-ink drawing digitally coloured

This has been really interesting. Feedback tells me that the text elements I've been adding to some of my drawings suck. And what do I have to say about all this outrageous criticism? THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. It's good for the ego when I get positive comments, but I really need this kind of feedback, too. Of course, incorporating the criticism of others must be taken with a grain of salt. My newest guru says, "You don't know if your idea is any good the moment it's created. Neither does anyone else. The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. And trusting your feelings is not as easy as the optimists say it is. There's a reason why feelings scare us." I think this is great advice if you have a groundbreaking idea, but this ain't it. And since I've been forced to reflect on it now I see the point. Personally, I love the edginess the text adds, but the 'venue' is all wrong. These are not gritty, urban pieces, so maybe not such a great fit. Critics: 1, Artist: 0. But hey, if you like the dichotomy (and tomorrow I probably will), please tell me. As Woody Allen said, "I need the eggs."

As I mentioned here, I made five of these pen-and-ink drawings, so there's one to go after this. You'll have to put up with wonky, mismatched, backwards letters one more time. I haven't got the 'discretionary investment funds' to print up a run of these anyway, so they'll have to remain in the virtual world. But that's probably a good thing as I learn more about Photoshop. I used the magic wand on this one and discovered that because I don't completely close the areas up, it didn't work perfectly, so I might change that in the future, though I did choose to do it because it works well with the wavering double lines.

It's all a process.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


pen-and-ink drawing digitally coloured

This one was a bit of an experiment in more 3D rendering (body shading) compared with the first two. Am I on a roll yet?

Monday, May 28, 2007


pen-and-ink drawing digitally coloured

I haven't forgotten about your great suggestions, I just felt like colouring inside the lines for a change.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

brave new (art) world?

oceans one

It's interesting that I was directed to this article, The Intersection of Economics and the Arts, at a time when I've been taking a break from 'serious painting' and considering my direction(s). I'm never really stuck for inspiration, which is actually my biggest directional problem: I choose one direction then switch gears because, like a magpie, I'm easily seduced by shiny objects. Right now, rather than head out willy-nilly down a new path in an effort to find both creative and economic nirvana, I am taking some time to clear my head so I can be more productive. I've been told more times than I can count that "If you do what you want to do and not others, then success will follow." If only everything could be reduced to a simple homily. The problem is, I want to do everything and my most successful work, economically, is the work I'm least interested in doing.

One lesson I have learned is that if the bottom line was my prime motivator, I would be painting landscapes. They sell and they sell through dealers (this one went last week), which means I could take the whole time-consuming marketing problem out of my own hands (a lot of it, anyway), but I have very few of them to go around and absolutely no desire to paint more. As a result, this is my first dealer sale in months.

According to
Tucker, "Most working artists split their time among the various sectors fairly evenly, according to a report from University of Minnesota. Roughly 39% spend most of their arts time in the commercial sector, and 42% engage in part-time commercial work. Only 19% of the artists surveyed did no commercial work at all." The commercial sector, as he describes it, has taken on a new face. I consider the most successful work on places like Etsy and eBay to be under that 'commercial' umbrella. But the similarities between, say, an artist who sells small, affordable work on-line and one who toils creating large-scale sculpture in a warehouse for the high-end gallery market are more remarkable than the differences. They both march to their own drummer, work in isolation and choose a good idea and stick with it. Multi-tasking seems the intelligent way to go, but I think the best work comes from people who are able to narrow their focus. I can think of a hugely succesful collage artist who writes books, jetsets all over the continent giving workshops, makes podcasts, etc., but I don't think her actual artwork is as successful as her career. She's leading a good life, but will her work hold up?

"The so-called reclusive artist of fifty or sixty years ago, the Horowitzes who showed up, played their concert and then left, although extraordinary artists, are gone. The world has changed a great deal, especially in America," says Joseph W. Polisi, president of the Juilliard School.

I guess that's true to some extent, but on-line sellers are more and more returning to the reclusive lifestyle described here. They see their postmaster far more often than they see the purchasers of their work, let alone anyone in a gallery or shop. Their computers are their link to the rest of the world.

At the end of the day, it's all about finding what works for you as an artist. Recently, Angela took a break from blogging and is producing some stunning work as a result. Like the Etsy artists I linked to above, she has discovered her niche and it's not the same niche as those high-volume print-producers who have successful on-line businesses. Like them, she is narrowing her focus and doing what she needs to do to make it work.

UPDATE: A fantastic link related to this topic is here. Thanks, BeadBabe49.

Friday, May 25, 2007

forest spirit

UPDATE ~ access to the video clip is now restricted. To view it go here.

This is the master painter, Robert Genn, at work in the forest near his home. He lives about 20 minutes south of me. Check out more here.

What I found most interesting about the video was how assured he is with his brushstroke. His unmistakable style emerges almost immediately. As for his technique, I liked seeing how he added the light blue glaze about halfway through. Often he paints on pink canvas to get the same effect. I've never used a maulstick, but really should. Or a Bentley. I really should use that, too. I'm sure it would improve my painting dramatically.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


This is Jacy. She lived with us for six days and has definitely travelled more in the past five years than I have! She was born in Toronto, went here to Arkansas as a pup, then last year she moved here. She couldn't stay, so she ended up at our house last week, and I almost sent her here to Alaska. A last minute change of plans meant that I put her on a plane for Chicago and here this morning. When you're a dog you can't follow the links, so you actually have to take the plane! Her ultimate destination is back to Arkansas in the summer, and I'm pretty sure she'll take it all in her (rather short) stride. Thanks for lending her to me for a few days, Belinda. One more day and all deals would be off!

Monday, May 21, 2007

more adventures in lateral thinking

I've been selfishly hoarding these links for awhile but I've been too lazy to think of a clever post to go with any of them, so enjoy the ride without me, courtesy of Rudy:
People trying to inhabit a place almost as small as my apartment.
Someone who takes knitting a little bit too seriously.
The secret of the Magic 8-Ball revealed!
Watermelon carving.
The world's largest coconut orchestra.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

learning curve


I am on a steep learning curve and keep falling off into the abyss. Serves me right for trying to make art like all the cool kids. It took everything I had not to break something expensive, electronic and indispensible into a thousand pieces this morning.

While my laptop was in surgery I drew five pen-and-ink drawings of birds. I was trying to develop a line-drawing style that relates stylistically to my work in other media. The above is the least successful of the five drawings so the perfect one to experiment with after scanning. The outcome was many hours of intensive labour colouring it in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. I like the result, but it took more time and effort than it would have taken to produce two small paintings. Maybe I just need more practice.

Digital artists HELP! Send your Photoshop-savvy friends over here to help me figure out a better way to do this. I'm still hopelessly ignorant in digital art media.

Friday, May 18, 2007


It must be one of those synchronicities; Illustration Friday's theme this week is 'signs,' just as I'm finishing up a sign design. I was commissioned to design a logo for a cafe and finished it up this morning. Below you will see some of my preliminary sketches for this project. Some of the requirements were: retro feel, lots of yellow, clean design, and suitable for the cafe's sign, bakery box stickers, stationery, etc.

I thought about using more traditional design media (gouache paint, illustration board, etc.) because I knew it would require more precision than fine-art-oriented media can offer, but I also knew that to incorporate my layering technique I'd need to use acrylic, so painted it on cradled wood panel. And what did I discover while working small and precise? That I may need to 'look into' reading glasses! :(

Thursday, May 17, 2007

letting go: a physics lesson

Inertia is a deceptively powerful force. I have always had trouble with transitions and have recently placed some of the blame on my ADHD-like hard-wiring+, simplistic though that may sound. Contrary to what most people think, people with ADHD don't just have difficulty focusing on activities they find dull, like conjugating French verbs and balancing their chequebooks, many (especially highly creative ones, like Mozart) also have a tendency to hyper-focus on activities and subjects that interest them. The impulsivity and ability to make lateral connections that causes them to follow where their ideas lead often results in great work. They seek distraction and when they find something that piques their interest, discover that it takes hell or high water (or laptops whose hard drives crash) to tear them away from the object of their passion++.

If I let it go for a couple of days I have an excruciatingly hard time settling down at the easel again. But once there, I can get so obsessed with a painting that I can't leave it alone until it's done ~ or plastered against the wall, riddled with bullet holes. If I do leave it alone it will languish for weeks, taunting me to break the inertia and get back to work. And so it goes with the rest of my life. It affects my relationships and my daily routine and my career aspirations. I am well aware of the power of positive momentum and recognize that letting something go means possibly never getting it back again.

Let's take relationships. Recently, a friendship was showing all the signs that it had run out of gas and was dying a natural death. Inertia aside, the laws of physics also state that something that is gradually slowing down will eventually stop, but that means transition. I hate transition. I wanted to fight it. I made a last stab at resucitating the friendship but it was not to be and the truth is, I felt some ambivalence about it. Many of my long-term relationships still exist on some level, even if maintaining contact is simply a duty I perform out of a sense of obligation (smile when you say that). In most cases, the transition from friendly or intimate to merely cordial was difficult. There have only been a couple of occasions in which I've had to cut loose toxic people for good. But it's not just people. Those moments in my life when I've suddenly realized that staying in a job or situation or even country will be more painful than leaving have had such a powerful impact on me that is seems as if they happened yesterday. Maybe it's because the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do (and other cliches). One of the hardest things I ever did was leave my teaching career, but with any luck I will be painting until death us do part.

As for the present moment, I'm having a hell of a time finishing this post and disengaging my butt from this chair.

+No, last time I looked I didn't have ADHD
++Let's not discuss whether ADHD is an actual disorder or not. Schoolyard moms and tabloid rags are not reliable sources of information and that's not what I'm discussing anyway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

back in the saddle

We have liftoff! I was without my laptop and cut off from my email for almost a week and though it's been a productive time in other ways, and I did manage to visit a couple of blogs on the other computer, it felt really weird. What did I do? A bunch of pen-and-ink drawings (which I haven't done in years), a collage that didn't end up in the garbage can and I finally completed an overdue commission. Not only that, I washed all the floors (alert the media!), learned how to launder the down pillows and duvets myself (no more dry cleaning bills and chemicals) and did some experimental cooking with 'superfoods' like quinoa and pomegranate juice. I also got an extra gym workout in, helped my son prepare for a major presentation and did a little weeding. Clearly I need to lose my laptop more often!

That said, the status quo has returned and I now have 60GB to play with. My grubby old laptop and I are happy again.

Friday, May 11, 2007

woe is me

The hard drive on my laptop packed it in late Wednesday and I have been unable to access my regular email, scan artwork, upload photos, etc. since then. There's a new drive (twice as big and yes, size matters) coming. In spite of its almost constant use for four years (it's my husband's business cast-off) it's a workhorse (an IBM ThinkPad) and though it's not a Mac, I lubs it anyway. How pathetic am I?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


from my neighbours' garden

Monday, May 07, 2007

they walk among us

The minute I saw a news clip this morning on Antony Gormley's new exhibition Event Horizon, opening in London on May 17th, I sat up and took notice. I'm all over the notion of public art because it's such a simple way to get the great unwashed looking at it. I mean admit it, when was the last time you actually sought out a visual art exhibition? (And no, I'm not talking to those of you who visit this blog because you're artists.) Sometime between the Christmas pantomime Grandma took you to and your first Boy Band concert?

Gormley told the BBC that his exhibition of 31 casts of his body, dotted around the London skyline, is designed to make people think "about how 50 percent of the world's population are now living in cities. The idea is to somehow introduce these life-sized figures into the topography of London, as it if were a natural landscape, as if it were mountains against the sky."

I think there's even greater value, however, in what the average London resident will have to say about it. There's bound to be plenty of misunderstanding and dismissal but for every five "I think they suck" there will be one like the following (from the Guardian article):

Tim Hodgson, 32, a graphic designer from Stoke Newington, is also taken by the figure on Shell-Mex House. 'It's my favourite one because I always imagine the Ministry of Information from Orwell's 1984 when I see that building. But I like all the statues. They're fantastic, really powerful, but all different. Some look like they need rescuing, some look quite defiant, and others look really small and lonely.'

There's a good interview here with Gormley and his friend, Beeban Kidron, who has been making a film about him, and if you happen to be in London, there's a list of locations here.

Cities all over North America have jumped on the sculpture in the city for charity bandwagon and it was fun spotting Orcas or Spirit Bears here in Vancouver. But there's certainly nothing new about public art. Here's a photo of me, over 10 years ago, exchanging insults with street art in Dusseldorf. (Me: "You're a cold, hard, unfeeling brute." He: "And you're all melodrama: one sharp remark from me and you spill blood and guts everywhere.")
Does anyone know if these two guys are still there?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

sunday morning on the town

I do love taking photos of back alleys.
Because he is a product of his environment, if you look closely at the above photo you can see #2 son becoming one with the urban landscape.
And because there really was a purpose for prowling the back alleys of downtown Vancouver at 7.00 on a Sunday morning, here is #1 son nearing the end of the Vancouver Half Marathon:

Friday, May 04, 2007


neighbour This was a fun one to do for Illustration Friday this week. Question: do these drawings work better with or without the wonky stencilled text? There are versions of both here.

chez Etsy

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

is it art?

I had this canvas kicking around for ages. I don't often paint on regular-depth (3/4") canvas, and I'd never tried this particular brand (DeSerres) and was pleased with the quality. There's a nice, soft finish to it. And in case you're not sure if it's art: the leaves in this painting are cut from images of the Sistine Chapel!

at Etsy

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

the interview

Often I find myself reading blogs with more of a personal touch, then chickening out when it comes to my own. But then I run out of things to blog about, so when I saw the interview on Rachel's blog I jumped on board. By the way, Rachel takes amazing photos so you should also check out her Flickr site.
1. What is the significance of your blog title "colouring outside the lines"? Aside from the fact that you draw why "outside the lines"?
The name is an arty spin on the whole notion of "thinking outside the box." Creativity is all about taking risks and looking at things differently from the conventional way and I wanted the name of my blog to reflect that. I also wanted it to reflect the child-like aspect of art-making so it was perfect.
2. When you draw, do you do anything special to get yourself in the "zone" like listen to a certain type of music, certain mindset, etc?
It's usually a case of carpe diem when I get an idea, but often I just sit down with my sketchbook when I'm in front of the TV (hockey game starting soon so I'd better get the pencils ready...) or waiting in the car to pick up a kid or whatever -- with no idea what I want to do -- just that I want to draw! I do have a place I like to draw, in the corner of a sofa in my living room. Painting is a whole 'nother story.
3. If you didn't have to worry about finances, what is the one thing you have always wanted to do?
Be a nomad. I have a very restless nature and travelled/lived various places pre-kids, and I miss it! I can imagine packing up my family, the necessities and my art supplies and living wherever the wind takes us indefinitely, money no object.
4. If you found $1,000 on the street would you keep it or turn it in?
Turn it in -- not because I'm holy and altruistic; I'm simply heavily influenced by guilt! :)
5. What do you think a stranger would say about you if you had one day to spend with them, chatting, eating, etc.?
"What a nutter ~ change the locks!"
1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me." Cut me some slack -- it may take awhile.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.