Isobel: New Cat in the Garden

I still miss my Frank and my Zappa. This past Tuesday was one year without Frank. I couldn’t help but feel some sadness. I have a feeling I will miss those guys for the rest of my life. It’s been a hard year.

But eventually, spring comes round again and the sun comes out.

I met Joy a few years ago when she started doing house cleaning for us. I would usually be home on Fridays when she came to do our house, and we would chat. She adored our cats. A couple of weeks ago Joy mentioned that her daughter had a kitten in need of a home; she wanted Joy to take it, but Joy already has a kitten wreaking havoc in her house; she didn’t need another one.

This kitten, said Joy, looks Maine Coon like your cats were.

The daughter was reluctant to give the kitten to a stranger. What if  this person didn’t take care of it? No fear of that, said Joy.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure anything would come of i t, but a week later, on May 12, Joy shows up with a kitten.


This little one hit the ground running. I still had cat toys around from Frank and Zappa, and she was all over them. She was exploring the house. While the girls were here cleaning, she was chasing brooms and mops. Seven weeks old. She has no fear.

When she wasn’t playing and running around, she was sleeping on my lap. It was pretty much love at first sight.


I couldn’t help but think back; I have vague memories that Frank and Zappa were a little more cautious in checking out their new home. They were not immediate lap cats; of course there were two of them, so they usually curled up together back in those days.  I sort of wish now that I could remember more, that I had kept some sort of journal maybe. Not that it matters, because I think I will remember their personalities and quirks forever, but I can record some memories as our new girl grows up.

So, meet Isobel the Fearless!


I honestly wish that she had a bit more fear, or caution anyway. She just barrels along full speed ahead.

She is determined she wants to be an outdoor cat. The screen door for our patio is not quite the right size, so there is a bit of a gap when the sliding glass door is open. She has been very interested in sitting on windowsills and looking out the screen door. She tries to get out every time we open the patio door.

There has been once or twice when we weren’t quite sure where she was, then Cory saw her going for the screen door gap, like she meant business. I’m worried about letting her out because she’s so little, and there are some spots where I thought she could fit under the fence. But knowing how determined she was, I thought I’d better see what she’d do…

What she did was run around the yard with great abandon. She looked like the happiest kitten on the planet. Then she went straight for the gap under the fence and was under it before I could stop  her. So then I was running for the gate, and around the house to catch her.

That was Thursday evening. I spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon covering gaps where I thought she could get under the fence. All went well Saturday evening and yesterday (though she did keep going back to the spot where she got out on Thursday, she seemed pretty determined which makes me think she might have been out there a couple of times without our knowledge)…


Then this afternoon she found another escape route; so now she is confined to the house again until I can get out and do some more fixing.

These photos are from yesterday; they pretty much illustrate the life of Isobel at the moment: run, run, pounce, nap!





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Art Diaries: Catching Up

I’ve been in a bit of a lull. Things were so busy for a while. I had a chest cold and cough that did not want to go away. I was so tired! So there hasn’t been much since I finished my last Sunday painting class.

May 6 I attended a Canvas & Cocktails event: Paint Your Pet. You send in a photo, they do a drawing for you, then you show up and paint it. The event was at McGill’s, a restaurant we had yet to try. It was Burger Week in Saint John. May 6 was a busy day – volunteering at the Walk for Autism in the morning (in the rain!), it was Free Comic Book Day; forgetting about that I had signed up to do this painting event…

Yep; busy, busy day. So after volunteering, I drove home and changed into dry clothes. Then Cory and I went off to the comic book store, and then to McGill’s for lunch. We enjoyed our food (burgers, since it was still burger week) and would like to go back sometime. Then Cory went home and I stayed to paint.



And finally…remember this?


I painted it on April 16, the weekend between my last two Sunday painting classes, to work on clouds. It’s been sitting there waiting, bothering me that it was unfinished even if it was just for practice.

So finally:


Now I just have to figure out what to start on next. I have three different photos that I want to try…decisions, decisions!


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Sunday Painters #6: En Plein Air

Last day of painting class. As busy as things have been lately, I know it will be a good thing to have my Sunday afternoons free again, but I think I am going to miss this! It feels good to stretch some creative muscles.

Today we took our painting out doors. Before we went out, our instructor gave us a little back ground on plein air painting; apparently it was not really a thing until the impressionists came along – something I did not know – and painting outdoors really lends itself to impressionism, since you have to work fast; things move, light changes…I can tell you from my experience today that it feels a bit like going after a moving target.

I am not a fast painter.

It was cloudy today, and a little on the chilly side, but fortunately not really windy. We drove to a spot nearby on the river, where there happened to be a couple of convenient picnic tables. Then we dove right in.

At the end of the class we always compare paintings. I found it very interesting that between the four of us students, we came out with very different paintings, even though we were all in the same place. Of course, we all had different vantage points, and chose different things to focus on, but the colors/tones that we chose were all so different.

Mine was more blue – maybe because I love blue?


At the end, as we were all leaving, our instructor told us all to “keep painting!” I will really try to carve out some time most weekends to do that.

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Art Diaries: Blue Skies and Clouds

I have been staring at the sky, fascinated with clouds since last Sunday’s painting class. It doesn’t hurt that the weather finally took a turn for the better  and we’ve had some lovely warm and clear days.

And, finally, a long weekend! I felt like I needed it. Unfortunately, neither Cory or I have been feeling very well. I didn’t get as many things done as I had hoped, and I’m still not feeling great.

So I didn’t exactly get a start on spring cleaning, but painting I could do…I am in the mood to paint blue skies and clouds.

First up, how about a beautiful summer day at Peggy’s Cove:


This photo was taken in June of 2014 during a family outing. Such an intense blue sky!


This was painted on acrylic paper (not canvas), still sticking to the basic paint colours, in this case: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Cadmium Red Medium Hue and Titanium white. I did use a little bit of a “Bright Blue”, since in class our instructor suggested mixing in a bit of a primary or cyan blue (though in class we were working with ultramarine) and that was the only blue I had that seemed like it might work as a substitute.

I will revisit this photo in the future, and have another go at it. But for what it was – a practice piece to work on skies – I thought it turned out okay.

I have started on another, which is still in progress; I happened to come across this photo that was taken on my iPhone (this is a cropped version) which has lots of interesting clouds:


This was discovered and started today, and so far I have only been looking at the clouds:


This one is on canvas, using Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, Cadmium Red Medium Hue and Titanium white, again, with a bit of the Bright Blue. I did not get the right colour blue at all, but I decided to just go with it; I didn’t really have good light for seeing the colour for one thing, and I am still able to work on clouds.

I will play around with paint colours to see how I can get the right blue for a future effort.


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Sunday Painters #5: Clouds

Today was all about the sky.

At the start of our class, we all went outside and looked up; at the colour blue that is intense higher up, but fades lighter toward the horizon, and at the clouds which are not just white but contain other shades, going from bright to dark.

Then we went back inside and tried to paint that.


I painted this without actually looking at the sky, which probably would have been the smart thing to do – I could have got up and gone to the window.. Our instructor kept saying: darker! It’s hard to paint clouds without actually looking at clouds…

Then we picked photos from old National Geographic magazines, and spent more time painting sky.


There was more to the pictures I was working from, obviously, but we were focused on painting clouds. I added the skyline of mountains at the end, just to give me some delineation.

Believe it or not, after spending 2 1/2 hours painting clouds, I want to do more. Maybe next weekend.

Our next (and last) class is in two weeks time (since next weekend is Easter, we have no class) and if the weather  cooperates, we will be taking our class outdoors. Should be interesting!

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Sunday Painters #4

Life has been busy, I have been somewhat exhausted, so I haven’t kept up with posting as I intended. Only 2 classes left, so I wanted to give a little update now.

This would have been the thing to mention in the first post, but for this class we had a very short list of required supplies:


  • Four tubes of acrylic paint: Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, and white.
  • Two medium size paint brushes
  • One 8.5 x 11 sketch pad (I actually used a 9×12 acrylic pad that I already had)

For the first 2 classes, we did not use the white at all. We practiced mixing red, blue and yellow, and worked on how to create contrast and highlights with just those colors.

Week two we painted a bunch of fruit:



Trying to paint that red delicious apple, I found that the Cadmium Red Light was actually too orange. The instructor ended up giving me a more purple-y red to fix my apple.

I went home and experimented with two other red shads that I had, to see which would give me a better purple. I also started looking at fruits and vegetables as possible props for still life paintings. Unfortunately, I do not really have a good set up for still life work  in my painting area, so that is something I am now thinking about.

Week 3 I swapped my light red for a medium red. We started working with the white paint, and spent most of the class mixing colors and shades to fill in another color wheel. We had a short time at the end of the class to work on another still life, but I really didn’t feel like I managed to do enough in the time I had (I am a very slow painter).

Last Sunday, which was week 4, we arrived to see a list on our table, with instructions to choose some items to compose a still life.


This is what my table-mate and I chose. The photo was actually taken at the end of the class. The light changed toward the end, there was more sun coming in, which made everything brighter.


And I ended up with this painting. I was near the end of our time, starting the try and do the blue cloth, and the instructor said why didn’t I go back and keep working on the wooden carving, because I had done a good job on shading so far. I commented that I was trying to finish and she said that “sometimes a painting becomes about one thing.” So, I abandoned the cloth and went back to the wood figure.

I snapped the above photo of our still life arrangement at the end, thinking that maybe I could go back and work on the rest later, and I still may. But once I got it home, and had a look at it the next day, I could see what she meant. It’s all about practice, and experimenting, and I ended up being pretty happy with how the wooden figure came out; it looks more finished than anything else.

This week, we will be working on a landscape. A little bit scared, and a little bit nervous. But, all in all, glad that I decided to do this!

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Sunday Painters #1

I’ve been having fun playing around with my paints, but there are a couple of things that I know would help me to do more:

  1. Improving my drawing skills
  2. Colour theory

Those things are not the whole of what there is to learn, of course, but I feel like they would go a long way to building a good foundation.

I’ve been doing some reading, but I know that the best way to learn is by doing; putting the work in and practicing skills.  Which is sometimes hard to do…You know you should do it, but it’s more fun to just jump into the painting….Until you can’t manage to get the colour you want…

So…I happened to see this Sunday afternoon “leisure learning” course offered by UNB Saint John for beginner to intermediate painters…That sounds like me! In my usual manner, I proceeded to deliberate on this; how did I feel about giving up my Sunday afternoons for 6 weeks? What about the cost? Etc. I asked Cory and he said: If you want to do it, then go for it.

So I did the online registration…Only to find out that the class was full. So much for that.

Until I got an e-mail on Thursday saying a second class had been added to accommodate the wait list, and the next thing I knew I was all signed up…Didn’t even have time to really worry about it (in my usual manner…).

So off I went today. We talked about colour, and paint, and colour some more. We mixed colours to make a colour wheel. And then we painted clementines.

So no exciting finished product today, but I was interested, I learned, and I had a lot of fun. I am looking forward to seeing what I can learn in the coming weeks and excited to [hopefully] improve my painting skills!



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Art Diaries: Hummingbirds!

Ah ha ha! I have no idea what I’m doing! But I’m having fun and that’s the most important thing? Right?

As much as I enjoy painting once I get going, it’s always hard to get started. Figuring out what to paint next is always a task in itself. And while I’ve been copying other paintings so far, the eventual goal would be to create my own paintings, right?

After some thinking I thought maybe a hummingbird photo from this summer would work. Not too much going on in the photo, so simple-ish to start with, right? But drawing a hummingbird is maybe not so easy, so I chickened out a little bit and went to find another painting to work from…But I at least stuck close to my intended subject.


So not a perfect match, obviously.  I chose to do a blue background, because I thought I would end up preferring that (I do), and I left out that little line (tail feathers?) coming down from the bottom of the hummingbird because it just wasn’t working for me.

However, I need to start watching the dimensions of pictures that I am working from, compared to the surface I am painting on.

Still, I am okay with how this turned out:



Nothing for it now, but to see what I can do with my own photo, right? Mom should recognize this; it was looking out her kitchen window this summer.



And this is what I ended up with:


I need to work on drawing hummingbirds. I knew this because I tried a few sketches before hand, but painting is more fun and I am impatient, what can I say?

I was also trying to see if I could work a bit faster, and I messed up the background right off the bat…Maybe I should have started over because that was early on in the process, but it’s all practice at this point, so I just did my best to fix it.

The bird feeder was actually completed all in one go. I figured I would go back and touch it up, but in the end I was happy with it. I spent the most time on the background and the humming bird.

And it still took me two weekends to finish.

No idea what will be up next. I do think I will be practicing hummingbirds and trying again though!


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Art Diaries: Painting with a Limited Palette

Sadly, vacation is over. No more halcyon days of sleeping in, stumbling to the kitchen to make coffee before I spent the morning in my comfy chair with a book. Afternoons of puttering, painting, and piano; working in the kitchen with Cory to make tasty dinners…It was a good vacation!

However, before it was over I did manage to finish my next painting project.

Next up: How to paint a warm & cool still life painting (using only 2 colours) Tutorial from


Colour theory and colour mixing is something I need to learn about. Somewhere in the basement storage closet there is a box of my old art stuff, and in there is a colour wheel. I keep thinking I need to try and find that box, but it’s scary in there.


This video lesson uses 2 colours plus white: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. Sounds easy, right?

Before I start:

  • I printed out the reference image this time
  • I watched the videos through one time before I started, then watched and painted along with each lesson.

Lesson 1 thoughts:

  • Last time the base colour was too light, this time I think it was too dark?
  • My drawing skills are terrible!
  • Need better light. This was late afternoon, which is getting pretty dark this time of year, and I definitely noticed it made things more difficult.


Lesson 2 thoughts:

  1. This is not going well.
  2. The light! It’s killing me.
  3. Was not happy with where I ended up. Particularly the colour on the table top. Then I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back I actually looked at the reference image. I was trying to look back and forth between what was happening on the video, and the original picture, but somehow it was easier to really look at it when I was not comparing to the video. So made a few adjustments (though after the photo was taken), a little bit happier, but thought I’d better stop there because you can mess things up by trying to do too much.
  4. Seems like a good time for a yoga break.



Lesson 3 thoughts:

  1. Changed to a different type of light bulb in my lamp; ceiling lights are still not great, but this is a little better.
  2. The more I work on this, the more obvious the drawing errors are; the jug is all out of proportion, the angle on the edge of the table is too steep.
  3. I tend to want to paint clean, sharp edges; not necessary in this painting, and maybe better if I had not. Too solid filling in the shadow/dark areas. Was not happy with the table top at all.
  4. Lost it again at the end, when finishing touches/highlights were being added. It seemed fine when I was watching, but the watching painting at the same time doesn’t go so well. When it’s one section at a time, I watch, pause to do some work, then start it up again. Need to work out how to tackle the end bits.


The Jug tutorial felt like a bit of a fail. But I remain undaunted! I decided to experiment further with the Two  Colour palette. I chose Burnt Umber and Phthalo Blue (green shade) and dove right in.


  • Not the best colour choices, I think, but it still sort of worked out.
  • I got lost in the weeds – literally. I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted/how to make it work.
  • Too much paint on this canvas, trying to correct things, and I ended up letting my paint dry out a bit which just made things harder.
  • I will try this one again, eventually.





Haven’t decided on the next project yet, but hopefully it will be soon!

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Art Diaries: Learning To Paint

So I decided to start painting! It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to try, and I decided it was time – thanks in part to Kim Stubbs’ Van Vino events which gave me the opportunity to try it out without having to stress about all the details.


It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed if I let myself think about things too much, there was still a certain amount of hesitation, but with some help from google, I finally dove right in.  I started playing around with paints in October, or thereabouts.



I have been enjoying a rare week and a half of winter vacation at home in SJ. I know our families were probably a little disappointed that we didn’t get to NS over the holidays (sorry families!), but I think I needed it. It’s been a hectic couple of months. It took a few days, but I have been feeling rested and relaxed, and I’ve been able to find time for some painting almost every day which feels like a luxury. Piano practice too!

The weather has been conducive to staying in. It goes from cold to warm to cold, with precipitation in between, so there’s been lots of ice. We really have no where to be, nothing we need to do. We did go to see Rogue One on Monday, since Cory missed the viewing for our office. We’ve been out to buy groceries a couple of times. But most of the time I barely know what day it is; my kind of vacation!

So, I’ve been working on two paintings. I chose a winter scene, and I started that on Dec. 23. Then I think I must have been down to the detail work on the first one, and started looking for the next project which led me to a still life of a cherry.


I am a slow painter. I like to take my time; work on a stage, give the paint a chance to set, give myself a chance to walk away so I can come back and look at it with new eyes. When you are staring at a painting for a long time, working on bits and pieces, it can be hard to step back and see how the whole thing is coming together.

So I decided to get started on something else, since I was close to finishing the first one. I had been browsing around a website – – and decided I would try one of the free instructional videos. The website indicated Acrylic Still Life Painting of a Cherry For Beginners as the place to start, so that’s what I did.

So you’re wondering: what’s with the green painter’s tape? Right?

The internet is a great place for finding information and opinions. A lot of that will be conflicting. One thing that was pretty universal, though, was the idea that thou shalt paint on canvas panels! I sort of understand that advice…But I ignored it.

Because I’m learning, folks. And I’m thinking that learning is going to mean a lot of paintings. Some of which will likely go wrong. And even if they all go right – what do you do with them all? I mean, cost aside, those canvas panels take up space – this I know because I have 5 completed Van Vino paintings kicking around (I had seven, but my mom now has two of them). They make pads of canvas paper, and to me it just makes sense to go with that so I can experiment to my heart’s content.

But the green tape? What about the tape? Well, it just looks neater to me. I like the border, with the nice straight edges. I’m not worrying about getting paint all over the place if I paint to the edge of the paper. I’m sure there are other solutions, but I’m happy with this for now.

It means all of my projects are small, and I admit to some trepidation when I think of doing a larger painting someday…But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So the paintings…

Painting #1: Still Life of a Cherry


I can honestly say that I’ve never had any strong desire to paint fruit. Or tea cups or wine bottles, etc. But, the still life painting seems to part of the learning process, so let’s go with it. My thoughts on this:

  • I did the base layer (the coloured ground) too light. It seemed okay at the time, I didn’t realize til later on. I think maybe it was hard to tell from the video. It’s painted over, so maybe it doesn’t matter so much anyway, but I know.
  • I also messed up on my drawing (something I need to work on), and I substituted some colours, based on what I had.
  • I did not print out the reference image, which I should have. I thought: “I’ll be there sitting in front of the computer, so I’ll be able to see it on screen,” but that doesn’t work very well when trying to watch a video at the same time.
  • I kind of got lost somewhere toward the end, and I confess that I kind of just reached a point where I gave up and decided: good enough, I’m done. It’s not that it was hard, or that the video was poorly done – I think I just need to get used to working this way?

In the end, it does look like a cherry if you don’t stare at it too hard. I do plan to do the drawing course from this website, but I need to get out to the craft store for some materials I am missing first, so that is on the back burner for now. Maybe, someday down the road, I will get the proper colours and try again and hopefully by then will be able to demonstrate that I have learned something. 🙂

Painting #2: Winter Cardinals


In October I was choosing autumn scenes. When I was looking for something new to start last week, this one jumped out at me.

The thing with this is: I am blindly choosing paintings. I don’t know what colours or techniques were used by the artist who painted the original. It’s easy to get lost in the fact that the colours don’t quite match the original, etc. But that’s okay once I can take a step back and look at the painting by itself, not comparing with the one that I’m working from.

The birds, obviously, were the most difficult part. But hey, I’ve never painted birds before, and I already know I need to work on drawing, so I can give myself a break, right? It actually mostly freehand anyway; once I had the back ground and branch done, I put in some basic line to give me a position to work from. I can see other mistakes too, but I learn  best by doing, and hopefully I will improve. Given the fact that I was winging it, I am pretty satisfied with how it turned out.

I really do want to start working from an original photograph, something of my own. I even have one picked out. But somehow that is way scarier than copying another painting. Not sure why that is, exactly.

Oh well. Baby steps, right? For now, I’ve started on a new Will Kemp tutorial, and I have chosen another painting to copy as well. Not sure how far I will get, since vacation is almost over, so I will be back to trying to squeeze in some time on the weekends, and it may be a while before I have something else complete.

Note: For the paintings other than the Still Life of a Cherry and the Van Vino projects, I have no idea who the original artists are. I am not claiming them as original works – though mine do not exactly mimic the originals. They are exercises to help me learn. So thank you unknown artists!

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