Tuesday, February 28, 2006

summer romance

It's fun to post works in progress, so I thought I'd do this one as it's my last landscape for awhile. Since it was a commission I wanted to documents its progress for its new owner. I won't explain the steps but you'll see trees appear and disappear and other ghost-like happenings. I paint by trial-and-error a lot, and though the very first stages of the painting may look like giant, blatant, undeniable error, there's actually method to my madness.

It's called Summer Romance (at the end of February I was getting very tired of winter scenes) and is 24" x 24".

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I wanted to try something different for Illustration Friday this week so, while surfing aimlessly looking for teapot inspiration, I decided to try this. I chose five teapots of varying styles and printed them. Then, with pens and coloured pencils 'customized' each one. Then I scanned the results and manipulated them in Photoshop. Finally, I created this mosaic using Flickr toys.

One of these teapots is a 'Nazi teapot' made by Rosenthal. Guess which one (answer in the comments).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

thursday challenge: pink

vote early vote often

My favourite South African blogs all won spots at the SA Blog Awards. You can now vote every day for your favourites until the voting closes, so get on over there and vote for The Other Side of the Mountain, Reluctant Nomad and Riding the Slipstream. (Favours will be called it at a later date.)

By the way, the link to wmtc yesterday is not about food, though it might look like that after a cursory glance. The real difference between Canadians and Americans is all about shoes, so scroll down.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


My boys have a mother who paints on everything that's not moving, but I think it's actually stunting their creative growth. We have spiders on the laundry room cupboards, a dog on the bathroom wall and geckos climbing up the ensuite, my interpretations of their creature creations on their bedroom walls, even a beetle painted over the outlet cover for the built-in vacuum system. Fortunately I'm discreet enough to keep these beasts small. So when they produce paintable sculpture, I just can't resist. #2 son made this tiger with some of that air-drying lightweight modelling material when he was 10 (isn't it fantastic?). Then last weekend #1 son came home from a friend's house with this creepy nameplate, made from spray insulating foam. He wanted it garish so I complied.

The thing is, they'll never learn how to paint while I'm still faster than them.

footnote: I find lots of interesting things to read over at we move to canada, especially since it's a highly interactive blog and isn't that what defines blogging? So if you've ever wondered what the key difference between Canadians and Americans is, the culture-defining crux of the biscuit, it's all here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

creative multi-tasking

The study of what makes creative minds tick is endlessly fascinating to me. I've looked at neurologies, learning styles, disorders, brain hemisphere theories, you name it. All fascinating. I especially like the lateral thinking/hemispheres model but I can appreciate how all these approaches contribute to make up the complex way in which each individual views the world. (And we all know that creativity comes in many guises, not the least important of which is creative accounting...)

Some of the best creative minds have more than one channel, though, so what I'm curious about now is people who excel at more than one creative discipline, especially visual art and writing. OK, I admit it -- I need role models. Let's face it: these things are never done in the interest of purely academic investigation and I'm just as self-absorbed as the next guy. (Not you, though, Alan. :) My own first love has always been drawing and painting, and I've had a camera slung around my neck since I was 10, but writing has always been something I enjoyed but only ever did casually, and I have almost never kept a journal or attempted fiction because writing into a vacuum is, for some reason, meaningless for me. Still, I love words, so discovering an outlet for it through blogging has been nothing but fun and games.

I'd love to find out which famous artists of the past (or present) were/are also well-regarded and published writers. I'm not really talking about the Frank Millers and Dr Seusses of the world, whose art is inexorably linked to their writing in a very specific genre (which is, admittedly, what makes them both exceptional), but more the fine art version of these people, whose art and writing are separate but complementary entities. The author of this article has an interesting if slightly jaundiced opinion:

But as regards artists who write, they usually become known primarily for either their painting or their writing, and whichever it is in each individual case, it is most frequently to the diminishment of the other capacity, regardless of how well the latter is done.

The only role models I can think of are close to home. Local icon Emily Carr, in her later years, starting writing her memoirs and discovered she had a knack for it, turning out volumes of words that are still cherished today. More recently, on-line guru Robert Genn, a prolific painter (who once had a very friendly pooch named Emily Carr), has also become an inspired writer, uniting a worldwide community (over 100,000) with his twice-weekly letter. But who else is out there? (And I don't mean really famous artists who can sell anything they write just because they're famous ... you know: the painter's equivalent of the model who really wants to act and sing and make videos and carry a Chihuahua in her handbag.) Ideas or suggestions anyone?

It's time once again for the smug and blatant self-promotion segment. Last week I had no idea that such a creature as BlogHer existed. Then Belinda, one of my latest 'discoveries' through the BoB awards (she has a unique and hilarious perspective), recommended me to the Canadian blogger profile writer. This is her article. Thanks Belinda and Jen!

photos taken on Granville Island on Thursday morning, February 16, then taken to my lab and subjected to eye of newt, wing of bat and other unmentionables before being posted here

Saturday, February 18, 2006

mr. picassohead

Here's a little something for those of us who don't spend nearly enough time on-line already. The first one was done by me, the second by #2 son, age 11, but there are samples at the Mr. Picassohead website that are even more amazing (if you can believe it).

Also, take a look at this hilarious commercial for Berlitz language courses. My 'supplier', Rudy, who sends me my bizarre links, teaches a script-writing class and needs a supply of good commercials for a project, so if you have any links to sites with exceptionally punchy adverts (less than two minutes long) please let me know.

Friday, February 17, 2006


This is craziness. It's only 10 a.m. here at GMT-8 and there are already 95 postings at Illustration Friday! This weekly meme has become a monster. I hope it doesn't collapse under its own weight. Fortunately I have something in the archives to post today. My first thought was 'songbird', but of course my songbirds are missing a few key components -- like flesh. I got the title (The Caged Bird Sings) from the poem I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

shameless self-promotion portion of this programme:
recipient of Award of Excellence at Federation of Canadian Artists juried show 'Small, Smaller, Smallest' December 2004
owned by Martine Gourbault

the sacroiliac blues

The following is a cautionary tale for you pig-headed morons out there who, like me, think they can defy nature through sheer force of will. Mother nature always wins because she's always right. I can guarantee that she will take her marbles and go home if you insult her intelligence one time too many.

I want a pelvic and/or right hip transplant. I'm convinced now that mine's abnormal. Years of being a couch potato, or at the very least someone who ignored my hyperactive need for exercise more often than not, concealed my dirty little secret, even from me. My first indication that something was wrong was a pain-in-the-butt (and eventually down my right leg) that started while training for my second half marathon a couple of years ago. By then it was too late for me: I was addicted to the endorphins and obsessed with improving my time so I 'worked through it' and ran two more half marathons. Anyone who has (a) suffered from piriformis syndrome or (b) a modicum of good sense knows that that was the worst thing I could've done. It pretty much ended my dream of ever doing a full marathon or probably even another half marathon. You'd think I'd learn after that, but I still run -- or at least I did up until Christmas when I tore something in my right knee and was laid off for ~6 weeks. By the time I was ready to go again I was so proud of myself for taking it easy, but really missing my regular injection of endorphins so was definitely chomping at the bit. Then two weeks ago I felt this pain in my right hip (oh hell -- give me an entire right leg transplant as well). In my infinite wisdom I decided that I needed to 'cross train' as the pounding might not be good for my hip! Everything I tried hurt. I thought about Brian, and since swimming is considered the mosty therapeutic of exercise got into the pool a week ago. Unfortunately it still hurt, but one stroke hurt less than the others so I did about 10,000 lengths of that.

That was it. I have been in pain ever since, it strikes when it bloody well feels like, even in bed, and I'm kicking myself (but making sure I use my left foot) for being such a fool. I'm living from one anti-inflammatory to the next. Last night I was immobile. I saw my GP yesterday but he was on holiday so the locum, after diagnosing sacroiliac joint syndrome told me to keep up the anti-inflammatories and quit being such an idiot. I give it a week. If I don't improve I'll be on his doorstep again, demanding amputation.

See you at the 2008 Paralympics. I'll be the one with no legs or arms.

Soggy race a: the finish of the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon
Soggy race b: the finish of the Royal Victoria Half Marathon

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

canadian art

While on the topic of web awards and contests, check this out if you're Canadian (or just curious). These masterpieces in particular caught my eye:

sa blog awards

Early on in my blogging experience I discovered something delightful: South African blogs are fantastic! I've read many, so my sample pool is pretty broad, but here are my favourites: The Other Side of the Mountain (Kyknoord), Reluctant Nomad, and Riding the Slipstream (ChittyChittyBangBang). And since there are less than two days left to nominate these blogs for an SA Blog Award, you'd better get right on it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

happy valentine's day

Enough art lessons; today it's lessons in lurve. I feel honoured to be in a position to help you make this the best Valentine's Day ever, so take out your notebook and stubby pencil (you know, the ones in your breast pocket, ever-so-carefully shielded behind your Spiderman pocket protector) and listen up.

You need to start by presenting your sweetheart with a sentimental gift that shows the depth of your devotion. But the object of your affection deserves more than just chocolate; any plugged-in woo-meister of the 21st century knows all about the importance of bling. This is the buttering up phase, so to speak. But no indulging just yet. There are more hearts and flowers to come.

This is the 'impress him/her with your fabulous wealth' part of the strategy. Believe me, it's better panty (or edible boxer short) remover than champagne and oysters (or so they say). Time to invite your love muffin into your personal home theatre. Blowing the thing up will get your honey in such a lather, especially after all the build-up ... but you're not ready yet! To get the mood just right you must now apply carefully-chosen sad but uplifting movie (Valentine cupcakes built right into the plot). Okay, Romeo/Juliet, you're ready to move in for the kill now. Enjoy! But if he/she suddenly has a splitting migraine (I know ~ it's happened to me, too, unbelievably enough) then there's always plan B. Happy Valentine's Day ... and good luck!

Friday, February 10, 2006


Something Simple for Illustration Friday (and no, I'm not getting a kickback from the company).

thursday challenge and friday lecture: tree

I'm a day late for the Thursday Challenge. Sometimes I get the reminders, sometimes I don't and this week was an I don't week.

Recently I've been made aware by friends in both Europe and North America that they think Canada's west coast is as much a white wasteland in winter as many parts of the rest of Canada (e.g. Churchill, Iqaluit, the top of Mt. Logan). Shame on you people! Especially if you live farther south on the west coast! If you have a rudimentary understanding of major ocean currents, you'll know that the north Pacific coast is a completely different ball of ice from the north Atlantic coast. Most people know that Seattle is rainy but many don't make the connection that Vancouver is in the same climatic region ... and only two hours north. As for you Brits, if you want to leave home without really leaving home, come here. Our climate is almost identical, except we tend to have sunnier summers.

I love you anyway, even if you're all ignorant gits. :)

What is also interesting about living here is that there are climatic zones (sub zones? I failed meteorology) within this zone. The trees on Vancouver Island, for example, are quite different from those on the mainland, because of the much drier climate. Victoria is worth visiting for the oak and arbutus trees alone. I am completely in love with arbutus trees and often paint them. Saltspring Island is in the same zone and that's where I took these photos of arbutus trees on an August weekend two and a half years ago. This was pre-digital camera, pre-Photoshop. Ah yes -- it was a much simpler time...

PS We've had but one brief sprinkling of snow this winter so nyah nyah nyah.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I know this is supposed to be an art blog, and so it will be again one day, but in the meantime, please indulge my sentimentality. On Sunday this week we saw the end of an era and I've been thinking about it ever since. That was the day we visited my husband's grandmother for the first time in her new home, a nursing home not far from the house she lived in for 65 years. During that time she slept under a different roof only a handful of times, and was always relieved to get home so I've been worried about how she's adapting, though her attitude has always been the best.

During the thirty years of her life before moving into the little wooden house she helped her husband build around 1940, Grandma's life was difficult and transient. She was born in a Mennonite community in Ukraine in 1910 and was raised speaking Low German. She retains her accent to this day, though she's lived in Canada for most of her life. The Russian Revolution saw her forced from her home with her parents and younger siblings (seen in this photo many years later) in the early twenties, living in refugee camps in Germany and England over a total of four years. In the English camp she met Abe, who would later become her husband. They landed in Saskatchewan and the next years were spent working as migrant farm labourers to pay their government debts. The family moved slowly west until they ended up in Chilliwack, British Columbia. It was there that she married Abe and gave birth to their first son, my husband's father. Abe managed to get work at a Macmillan-Bloedel lumber mill in Vancouver, Mac-Blo being a huge employer at the time. They bought a city lot and lived in a shed, Grandma giving birth to her third child in that same shed, while building their house. These were small people, Abe being among the tall ones at 5'3", and the house was built on their scale. Grandma, the shortest, has been looking up at my overgrown boys from her height of maybe 4'7" for years, declaring "they're almost as tall as me!"

Life was easier after that. Grandma devoted her life to her family and her religious work, and by the late 1970s, when her husband died, she was the matriarch and would cram everyone into that little house for every holiday gathering. If it was summer, and there were too many, they would eat outside, like at her parents' 50th wedding anniversary in 1959 which was also her and Abe's 25th (Grandma and Abe are up front):

Her energy and work ethic are an inspiration to me, and had our second child been a girl we probably would've named her Katharina, after Grandma. Up until she was 90 she'd do errands and shopping for her 'elderly neighbours', some of whom were 20 years her junior. Here she is with my husband and his younger brother in the late sixties:

The only real physical impediment she's ever had is early hearing loss, but even now, as she rolls toward her 96th birthday, she's still as strong as a tree... well, maybe a tree stump. But in the last year she has started suffering from dementia until it was so bad in January that it was time to make a change. Now that she's in care, my husband visits her as often as he can on his way home from work (and it's always like the first time! :) because her deafness and memory loss leave her feeling really isolated, but still she laughs and looks for ways to help the other inmates.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

interior desecrating

Twelve days ago, when I got home from Victoria, I had that 'summer holidays' feeling. The flurry of work was done and I could take a break before getting back down to it. But I'd let everything else slide for so long that before I knew it I was having the car that hadn't seen the inside of a garage for eight months serviced, attempting to brush the long-neglected dogs but finally resorting to just cutting out the mats and, worst of all, dusting (which I truly hate) ... to just skim the surface.

This flurry of domestic activity awakened my usually deeply-buried (if not downright catatonic)interior decorator. Most people assume that artists, by the mere fact that they create 'wall decorations', have a knack for and interest in this kind of thing. Some do, but some really don't. It's like crafts; when I was a teacher many of my colleagues automatically confused 'art' with 'craft' and assumed I could educate them on whatever project they wanted to do with their students, but I couldn't knit one purl two if someone poked me in the eye with a sharp knitting needle. Fortunately I have a lot of factors on my side: (a) I can put paintings on the walls (and paint them, too), (b) thanks to a mother with impeccable taste who seems to be constantly downsizing I get the world's best hand-me-downs, (c) I'm a neat freak who detests clutter, (d) practically everyone I know has more money than we do and gives us beautiful presents because we never buy that sort of thing ourselves, and (e) there's an Ikea 15 minutes down the road.

To make a long story slightly less long, I tackled the dining room yesterday. There was no longer enough duct tape in the world to salvage the sad cushions on the dining room chairs (which, along with the table, are still in excellent condition in spite of their age because my mother only discards the best), so off to Ikea I went and got new seat cushions. Before I knew it I was whipping the tired tablecloth off and polishing the glass, replacing the bowl in the centre with a beautiful glass one given as a present several years ago and putting fresh candles in the cheap, nasty Ikea candelabra. But there was still something missing. D'oh! Art, of course!

This part was surprisingly tough. As much as I shout and wave my arms about philistines who buy art to match the sofa, when push comes to shove, colour and format do matter to some degree (wow ~ I can't believe that the painting gods didn't just smite me for that one) and only one painting fit the bill. It's huge, 4' x 5', and dominates the area so much that it's more than a little overwhelming. Not only that, I'm not sure if bird skeletons and a million dirty little bird footprints will stimulate the appetites of guests, assuming we have guests. But for those two reasons alone I realised that the chances of me actually selling this painting are pretty darned slim. Besides, the colours work and the horizontal format is perfect.

Yeah, I know: time to abandon my domestic projects and get back to work! It was fun for the 10 minutes it lasted but I've recovered.

stats & maps

I love stats. At 5:10 a.m. PST my 10,000th visitor (from Reston, Virginia via the Best of Blogs site) cruised through. I put Site Meter on my blog in July and it's been a source of ongoing fascination ever since. Extricate the cat from the dryer? Stop #2 son from using the roof as a bike ramp? Wait! Let me just check my stats first...

I also love maps. That well-worn stereotype of the woman always asking for directions and the man refusing to ask is lost on me. I feel completely confident when I have a map, whereas if I ask for directions it invariably becomes "Turn left at the next street and blah blah blah blah 'til you blah blah blah blah..." I guess I'm what you'd classify as a 'visual learner.' Less than a month ago I added a ClustrMap to my sidebar and it has definitely usurped Site Meter as the most interesting thing about my blog. I get such a kick out of seeing, visually, where visitors originate that I changed my blogroll title to 'From the Four Corners'. From Iceland in the north to Sydney in the south, Alaska in the west to Japan in the east, it doesn't get any better than this.

If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door.
~ Paul Beatty

Monday, February 06, 2006

princesse a la fenetre

Blogging creates the most amazing connections. I was really taken with this manipulated photo of Merlinprincesse's petit chat, looking out a window, and today it showed up in my mail slot in the form of an 8"x10" glossy! Check out the incredibly fertile creative mind of ma grenouille favourite Canadienne.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

musical chairs

I had no brilliant ideas for Illustration Friday this week, but I did want to do something new, resulting in this pretty unremarkable drawing, so after scanning it, I couldn't resist playing with it in Photoshop. First I tried a few effects with the format intact. Then I tried a variety of crops. In the end, I think I like the simplicity of the vertically-cropped monochromatic version best. It's all a process.

Does anybody see a weird format here? i.e. the vertically cropped greyscale image overlapping the sidebar? If so, are you using Firefox and/or a Mac?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

thursday challenge: group

I haven't participated in Thursday Challenge for awhile but this photo I took last week fits the theme of 'group' well.

The Osc ... er, BoBs are being awarded as I speak and I was tickled pink to come second in the art/photo/poetry blog category. Take a trip over to My Topography to congratulate Christina, and while you're at it visit the third place winner, John, at The Daily Exposure, as he takes some of the most fantastic photos I have ever seen. And if you visit BoB to check out the other great blogs, leave a kind word for the hard-working jurors.

This whole BoB thing begs the question "what kind of blog am I?" for more than just me. How would I describe my blog? It's definitely an art and photo blog (though my attempts at poetry are more than a little suspect), but I dip my toe in so many other areas: the ridiculous, the political, the personal. I guess it's best defined as "the world as seen through Andrea's peculiarly skewed viewfinder." Now there's a blog category that's unlikely to be added next year!

read at your own risk

What's worse? Gratuitous sex, senseless violence, or an ego the size of a house? Register your votes here.

Fimo fellow by #2 son