three books

three books

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The countdown to Christmas has begun and thank goodness I have most of the gifts that need to be posted eastward packaged and ready to go. Between Christmas crafting, a dog with a sore paw that won't heal because HE WILL NOT LEAVE IT ALONE, and training for a new job I'm feeling a little frazzled so I think I will step back for a minute and catch my breath.
I have managed a bit of time in the studio lately and moving forward even as I am still working the Nixie-ness out of my encaustic pieces. Not that I wouldn't simply become her if I could but alas, there is room for only one Nix in the world and that is she. Although the influence is still strong I am quickly discovering that a limited palette continues to appeal to me and that the pieces that satisfy are those that say something about what is going on in my head at any given time. This one is about life's stages since I am feeling pretty good about kind of officially stepping into the third this year. I had hoped that I would wake up a little wiser on the day of my birthday but it seems it may take longer than anticipated. Hmmm.
Anyway, I discovered that linocuts make weird and wonderful stamps in wax so out came my ladies once again to represent the ages/stages of life. Go girls!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

oh and...

A little painting from the series I call "Being Nixie Barton". This was the last one before the shift that made all that new stuff I learned start to fall into place. More on that next time.

"Nixie Says Make Tulips Like This"

here to there and back again

I've just spent the morning checking in on my favorite blogs to see what I've missed over the past couple of weeks.  I've been so busy madly doing that I've not taken a moment to think about it let alone write about it and if I hadn't missed the drawing challenge last week (hosted by Kristen ) I'd have had to admit that this is a "habit" I perpetually fall into at this time of year. It's because I am a craft show junkie.Seriously. I love seeing and experiencing all that amazing creative energy presented in amazingly creative ways. Sadly, for those of you who do all that fabulous stuff, I am one of those awful people that only occasionally buys a little something as a gift. The rest of the time I spend simply being inspired then I come home and launch into a frenzy of making stuff for Christmas gifts. I have a good reason for this terrible habit of mine. The simple joy of making gifts that are specifically adapted to the receiver is a pleasure I do not want to deprive myself of. The only "bad" part of this habit is the fact that I start far too many little projects at once and bury myself in bits. Making cards, painted tags, mini books blah, blah. This year in particular I was captured by a booth featuring little needle felted creatures. Lovely but understandably expensive given the nature of the craft. I happened to have some material left over from a felting project last year and I've had a wonderful time with it this week. So far I've made half a dozen tiny creatures for cat friends (marinating in catnip as we speak) and five larger birds for their human friends. I don't want to spoil any surprises but I'll post a couple that are going to people known to avoid computers. Now I can get back to painting this week and relax until the next craft show - coming up this weekend I think. Oh, oh!

A bluebird of happiness for someone who needs a little this year.

A couple of silly shorebirds for someone fond of oddities

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Hey Mister Postman!

It is always a good day when something special comes in the mail but when something long awaited finally arrives that is cause for celebration. A few weeks ago I was the winner of one of Stefanie Seltner's charming give-aways. When I opened it this morning I was delighted not only with the lovely ring but with the box it came in too. What a treat for Halloween! Special thanks to Stefanie and Happy Samhain to all!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

One bad apple

A weekend with Nixie Barton has taught me more about working with encaustic than I would ever have gleaned from all my books combined. But more than that and maybe more important even, I realized what a conservative - okay, chicken - I am and what glorious colorful fun I have been missing out on because of it. I'm not sure that it suits me to work in brilliant, living colour like Nixie does but I do think it is about bloody time I learned how to mix it up a little more. So, here is me dipping a toe in. Twenty six letters in the alphabet, only 24 left to do. Note to self - it's only paper and wax, don't get precious.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Autumn Leaves

It is autumn in BC but, much as it pains me to admit it, that isn't such a big deal. Yes we have some trees that turn colour, even a few that put up a decent show of crimson hues but really, if you want to truly appreciate the season you need to experience an Ontario autumn. It was always my favorite time of year out there and all my memories of country rambles are still bright and crisp, and smell like Macintosh apples.
This week's drawing challenge is presented by Sabine of and the subject is "Leaves". Because I have been busy learning how to make new kinds of books this week I thought it fitting to make a book in homage to Autumn in Ontario.  
When the leaves start to fall it is time to pick apples.
I'm afraid I don't know who to credit with this funky little book design. I made this one up based on a picture that caught my eye a few months ago. Come to think of it that may have been a sculpture rather than a book. Hmmm, oh well, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp I will say "It's a book because I say it's a book".
Then, because I was having just too much fun printing leaves, I made a couple of variations on what Alisa Golden (author of Making Handmade Books) calls a "guest book". The term apparently comes from the fact that it's original designer - Paul Johnson - makes them and draws in them while travelling then leaves them behind with his host or hostess when he leaves. It is such a lovely gesture that I hope to make a practise of it one day myself . A few folds and cuts turns a single sheet of paper (one side printed) turns into a book with six "leaves". Very clever.
Finally, we're off to the island tomorrow to pick up "OH, BABY, BABY an assemblage by my hero Nixie Barton that the husband surprised me with for our anniversary. He is also very clever.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


As I was puttering along in my studio this week I was pondering the drawing challenge "driftwood" as proposed by the immensely talented Mano of Mano's Welt (or Mano's World depending where you are in it) . Years ago, when we lived on Vancouver Island and spent a good deal of our time on the beach, we commonly dragged home piles of driftwood and built our garden furniture and fences from this abundant (not to mention free) resource. I also found planks of wood worn down by the sea and I enjoyed painting sort of folkish art on the rough, knotty surfaces. I kept this one of crows.

Now, although we still live close to the ocean, the beaches are oddly bereft of driftwood and I found nothing to inspire me there. So, I looked to see what I had on hand in my stash of stuff that serves no purpose except to remind me of all the lovely beaches it has been my pleasure to explore.

I dug out a couple of bits and poked at them. I thought about something Grant Leier once said about dragging driftwood home to your garden, "paint it orange or something, make it your own". So I contemplated painting them in honour of the late, great, Barton/Leier garden but "orange"? I came to a less permanent compromise.

But, just as I was about to walk away from this week's challenge I thought wait, this is Mano's challenge! To honour her I had to find a way to box these bits and so this is my official entry to this week's challenge. Visit Mano's blog for a list of participants this week.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Happy Birthday Stefanie

I've been back home for four days and still I am struggling to get my head back into this time zone. The nine hour difference combined with the completely surreal culture clash has taken it's toll and my overloaded brain is still processing WAY too much information. So, I am particularly grateful to Stefanie Seltner for proposing a weekly drawing challenge that managed to inspire a brief moment of focus. I celebrated my birthday this year in a small town in Sicily - Santo Stefano - that is renowned for it's highly ornate ceramics. One gentleman in particular, who's name is on a card in this huge pile of stuff I haven't sorted yet, did small, faithful, reproductions of images found on ancient religious works depicting strange little half-human creatures. I was alternately told that these were primitive angel figures or sirens, but I was also told that Italians love to make stuff up for the tourists so he may have been pulling my drumstick. Anyway, I couldn't resist a somewhat less faithful play on the chick-en.
Don't ask me what the black lava turtle has to do with birthdays but it was presented to me with much ceremony during a sing-a-long while a taped version of Buon Compleanno A Voi  played LOUDLY over the restaurant's sound system. Yup, there's an image for you.
See Stephanie's blog for a list of participants in this weeks challenge.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

viva l'Italia!

Last quick blog bit before I grab my bags and head for the airport. The funny thing is that I was determined to finish this largish (24x48) painting before I left on holiday as if it mattered in the slightest whether on not it had waited for my return. It makes me wonder if somewhere deep down in my lizard brain there is a conviction that any overseas flight has a high probably of disaster.

This one was inspired by shields, symbols and talismans so I am bound to have a safe journey.
I'm taking along my playbook so if anyone has an suggestions for things that absolutely must be seen or done in the south of Italy - do tell.
Ciao for now.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Plover Lover

Time spent in the studio these past few months has been an exploration of technique and materials with new discoveries of one kind or another almost every day. Sometimes it is just a neat little trick like the waxed prints on these cards. I have always enjoyed lino cuts and the way they simplify an image into positive and negative fields. I like working with water based inks because they are a lot less environmentally nasty and clean up so quick and easy. What I did not like was the fact that the finished print remains water soluble and can be so easily damaged so I have been exploring various ways to stabilize them so they could be used on touchable things like cards. I found that they can be dipped in wax without shifting the ink and it seals them perfectly. I can also layer on extra bits and glue them on with wax, instant collage. Just for fun I stitched some of them on to cards - by hand because my beastly old sewing machine simply refuses to stitch the waxed paper. That is a challenge for another day.
I also started a book a week project a couple of weeks ago to learn various styles of stitching and folding. This week the project was a snake book. Some old and some new linocuts came in handy.
So what gives with the birds, birds, birds? I love birds! All kinds of birds. They are fascinating little creatures. Every time I think I am done with them they find me again. Like the little chickadee that followed Boo and I for a time on our walk this morning, flitting along the wrought iron fence beside us. Did I have my camera - no - of course not. A fact I am certain he was aware of or he wouldn't have stayed with us so long.

Monday, 27 August 2012

catching up and moving on

More than a week gone by in a flash which always seems to happen in summertime. Especially as we near the end of it and I am desperate to be out and about every possible moment. The husband took a three day weekend and we had fun poking about the fair on Friday. It was my first and likely only trip to the PNE since I am not especially fond of games, rides or gross fair food. I do like the animals but I always feel sorry for them and it makes me sad to see them penned and pinned with tags in their ears. I took some pictures of some particularly pretty cows and thought I would draw them but then I realized that I wanted to draw them looking happier and that is a weird kind of denial - wanting to alter reality by drawing it differently. Okay, maybe it's not such a bad idea. In fact I think I do that all the time anyway.
Sunday we went to a huge flea market in Cloverdale. We found a gorgeous strawberry pitcher for my fruit and veggie collection and a lovely brass pig to go with Daniel's hare. That made it worth the trip.

Earlier in the week my lovely friend Carole was in town and we went along to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Cone sisters collection. Lots of lovely Matisse and more, more, more. It was brilliant and by the time we were done I felt like I had been dipped in colour. Neither one of us could be bothered to look at anything else for a while. Too much richness to take in all at once. Of course we wandered through the gift shop on the way out but the only thing I bought was a postcard of a Matisse portrait called The Blue Eyes. Not because it is one of his more spectacular ones, it's quite quiet actually, but because the pose is particularly intriguing. It seems a little awkward and yet, just right. I am always drawn to that quality of just a little off. So, as part of a new resolution to do a drawing a day (nearly every day) I imagined one of my ladies in that pose and did a quick little cartoon. I liked her so I decided to make a transfer to lino and let her evolve.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Queen of Hearts

A few years back I did a little exercise in not-so-serious doodling just to free up creativity while working my way through a series of paintings that I was taking much too seriously. I didn't expect them to be useful but several years later I was asked to do a large painting for a casino and one of those little doodles became the basis for the nearly life size "Lady Luck".
This week's drawing challenge was hosted by Ariane at Rose and the theme was "playing cards". I immediately thought of those little scribbles and it seemed a natural thing to turn one of them into a queen. I was certain she wanted to become the Queen of Hearts.

Here is the drawing, and the painting, Lady Luck. Sorry about the poor photo of the larger painting, the background is actually the colour of a copper penny.

Funny how things come back around isn't it? And so nice that they found a reason to be. Have a lovely weekend.
See Ariane's blog for a list and links to this week's participants.

One shots

I will try almost anything once and I know from experience that most things are easier the second time so I am not faint-hearted. There are some things though, that I know with absolute certainty, will never be repeated. Child birth was one. Thank goodness the first one turned out okay because a second attempt was out of the question. They say you forget how bad it truly after the fact but I never did.
I'm pretty sure that Gel prints are like that too. In fact I was thinking, as I was scraping the moldy gunge out of the pan, that I do not want to forget how nasty that is because I am fairly confident that a second attempt would incur the same result - that is my forgetting that a pan of disgusting goo was moldering in my refrigerator bin. Ew!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Mini Books

Mini books were the theme of this week's drawing challenge, hosted by Norma at the Fairyyellowbugqueen.  It's been a very long time since I have made any sort of book so I spent a very cheerful afternoon getting re-inspired.
First I made a simple little stitched book of zebras inspired by a carved wooden bead that has been on my fridge for years. This one is about 2 x 2.5 inches, made to fit into a little box that needed a use.

While working on that one I cam across a series of lino cuts that I did years ago and used in a variety of ways including a series of greeting cards. I've always enjoyed these little ladies so I decided to make them a photo album. No good reason.

Then, because I was on a roll, I decided to reduce the pick up prints I'd done earlier in the week to wee size so I could make them into one of those clever little fold up books.

I'm looking forward to being further inspired by seeing what the other participants in this week's challenge have done. See Norma's blog for a list and links to the rest -

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Again with the Wabi Sabi

I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED - Chalk paint and wax on canvas

As often happens when I get overly excited about exploring new techniques I go off in six different directions and paralyze myself with the overwhelming wealth of possibilities. Time to step back and ponder recent work to decide where I'm at and where I'm going.
"I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED" was the last piece I finished in the series I call "Ode to the Ladies".
This series was inspired by absolute awe for the positive, life affirming attitude of the ladies of Gees Bend Alabama (see earlier post) who proved it possible to make silk purses from sows ears. Metaphorically at least. 
As positive as that sounds I have to admit that it was equally motivated by a severe case of retail guilt - that horrible sense of responsibility for abetting the crime of corporate junk offloading and encouraging people to both buy and to "buy in" to the myth that more stuff is going to transform their lives and energize their creative spirit. 
In response to those factors I challenged myself to create a series of work using a large percentage of reused and repurposed materials. I wish I could lay claim to the setting of a trend but in fact I was both influenced and encouraged by a current movement, particularly in European decor, that promotes "undecorating". It is about down-scaling, simplifying, reusing, re-purposing and, most importantly, appreciating the objects we choose to live with. Hand crafted objects are an significant factor in this with value placed on the minor imperfections or human-ness of them as much as for their beauty or practicality. Trendy yes but new? Hardly. It is no more than a western revision of the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, which encourages the acceptance and even celebration of imperfection. I came to appreciate this concept as a potter years ago and find it interesting that it translates directly into the kind of artwork I am drawn to now. 
I don't know how to wrap up all that pondering in a word so I'll use someone else's. Carlos, a metaphysical maniac I used to know once said, "Why strive for perfection? Perfection is subjective and therefor unattainable. Strive instead for excellence in all aspects of life and let your work reflect joy in that endeavor."

Saturday, 4 August 2012


The theme of this week's drawing challenge (hosted by my lovely friend Carole once again) is "crows" and because they, of all birds, make the loveliest silhouettes I thought it might be the perfect time to try out a new printing technique. Gel prints a la Linda Germain I watched her video carefully and then proceeded to do everything wrong, having lots of fun at the same time. If you want to try it yourself I can give you one important tip.  She is not kidding when she says it is a bit of a trick to get the right amount of ink on the stencil but I also discovered that cutting the stencil from a non porous paper like terraskin or yupo works better than regular paper or plastic. Here are a few variations from the same stencil. 
See Carole's blog at for a list of participants in this week's challenge.

Oops, out of register

Oops, too much ink on the stencil

Oops, not enough ink on the stencil

Getting closer

Almost there

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Have a nice day.

The first thing I saw this morning was a clip from one of the blogs I've been reading - an artist by the name of Nelleke Verhoeff It was a clever little line drawing with the caption, "have a nice day". This pleasant salutation has almost become synonymous with insincerity in this country where young people snarl it out from behind cash registers as though it somehow diminishes them to be polite to customers. Somehow she had managed to instantly restore the message to it's glory days when it actually, in all honesty, meant 'have a nice day'.
Well thank you Ms.Verhoeff, I did have a nice day. I even spent a little part of it making post cards to send out to friends so I could pass the sentiment on. I hope you had a nice day too.

Friday, 20 July 2012

more fun with DIY

I remember the day, many years ago when I discovered that homemade salad dressing takes about five minutes to make and tastes worlds better than most bottled versions. It was a revelation to me, having been raised to believe that Kraft invented the stuff and held the secret formula. It also taught me a lesson that seems to be reasserting itself regularly lately - there are no secret recipes any more. Thanks to the global community we live in there is little information that is not readily accessible. So, when I ran out of modeling paste this afternoon, instead of walking to the art store for a fresh supply I went to the computer instead. Sure enough someone had figured out what it was made of and darned if it isn't the very same thing that makes chalk paint - chalky (see early post "I love Annie Sloan"). Again, I don't know what the exact composition of say, Golden modeling paste but who cares? I discovered that I can make my own by adding calcium carbonate to mat gel and I can make it any consistency I want to suit the job at hand. Five minutes to  luscious goodness. Too funny.

Because it is very porous, it can be used under wax also.

Why I never thought of making my own before now I don't know but I do know that I will be experimenting with DIY texture gels, fibre gels, bead gels...hmmm, I wonder what dog fur looks like in gel?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Drawing challenge

This weeks drawing challenge, which may actually be a misnomer of sorts since the title is "finger painting",  is hosted by Carole Reid I have watched with interest the various themes this group has come up with and enjoyed checking out the submissions but this is my first foray into the challenge.
Okay, an obvious twist but what fun. I may start wearing a new painting each day to match my outfit.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


I haven't been able to get much done in the studio for the past couple of weeks but I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd like to do next and that led to thinking about the nature of inspiration and then the inspiration of nature. Sometimes that happens in a very direct form, see something - paint it.

Okay, you caught me, it's not the same nest but you get the idea. Today however, while adding pages to this blog, I had a chance to look at some older works and realized that what I really enjoy is when I have somehow managed to maintain the feel of a visual cue long enough to capture a tiny portion on canvas or board. There is such satisfaction in those pieces that conjure up a memory of something, be it person, place or thing, that may or may not have ever actually been. One example is this over sized canvas that I painted when I'd just returned from a trip along the Oregon coast. The man who bought it asked me what had been my inspiration and when I told him he turned to his wife and said "I told you it was Oregon". The fact is, it wasn't a specific place along those dunes, only a memory of the feeling of being there. It is not accurate in any detail and yet it took us both back to a place and time in our separate experiences.