Art Diaries: Round Two

Hey, remember when I used to paint? And post stuff? There hasn’t been a lot of that lately…

We had an unusually busy summer. It was a whole lot of fun, but tiring and somehow there just never seemed to be time for…a lot of things really.

I did try doing some painting outside, since I have to baby-sit Isabelle out in the yard. She developed this habit of going over the fence. So, I have to hang out in the yard with her. For a while, she seemed to be behaving as long as I was around.

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I had been thinking about trying to do some outdoor painting; I was somewhat daunted by the logistics of the whole thing, so I had been putting if off. This seemed like a good time to try though, so I put together a little kit for myself and gave it a try. Three out of five tries, I ended up with a painting. The other two times I didn’t get any further than background colour on the paper.

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It is a very different experience. I had to work very fast; I wasn’t sure I liked the feeling, to be honest, but it gave me a chance to do some painting. I did not produce any masterpieces, but there were things that I liked about each one, and things that I learned, which was kind of the point.

But, I gave up on that when it got to the point that I had to follow the cat around the yard at all times to [try and] catch her before she went over the fence. Good times…

Autumn has rolled around again. It is just recently started to cool off…Getting a little too chilly to be comfortable standing around the yard, but Isabelle still needs her fresh air.

You can see interesting things when all the leaves have gone from the trees.

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I have been coming home from work, changing my clothes and taking Isabelle out. Normally, after work would be my workout time, but I haven’t quite worked out how to fit it in with my cat supervising duties. Then, lately, my knee has been giving me a lot of problems, and I have gotten to the point that I am afraid to start exercising again until I get it checked out.

Work has been stressful, and I’ve been tired a lot. Last fall & winter, I found that painting really helped me a lot. I was having a hard time dealing with losing both of my cats. Painting seemed to have a calming, relaxing effect. It takes a lot of focus, it is absorbing and enjoyable.

I was finding it hard to get back into it again, though; where to start? Like so many things, that first step is the hardest. So, I picked up a book that I remembered seeing a while back on creating small paintings.

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Which means that I am back to copying stuff again, when I had wanted to start doing my own paintings, but…

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I am able to complete a small (5″ x 5″) painting each time I sit down. It is very low stress, and relaxing, which is what I was looking for.

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It took the pressure off. It’s giving me a chance to play around with my paints.

I’ve been feeling less stressed which is maybe a coincidence. Or maybe this is what I needed.

 

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End of an Era

A Year Ago Today

Oct 31st of 2016 we lost Zappa. I felt like I wanted to write a post in Zappa’s memory, as I did for Frank, but somehow I could never quite do it. 

This post was sitting in my drafts, the last edit date was Dec. 30, 2016. I tried to read it, but I go all tear-y eyed and sad, and I had to stop. So it will have to stay however I left it 10 months ago.

So it’s been a year. I’m not completely broken, but maybe not 100% healed. I adore my Isabelle, but I confess I have been missing my Zappa hugs lately.

December 30, 2016

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I’ve been trying to write this post for a while, but it seems the words don’t want to come.

Frank and Zappa came to us just a couple of months after we moved into our new house in May/June 2002, which was only a short time after our wedding on December 31, 2001. They were with us for 14 years, almost all of my memories of being in this house include them.

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Zappa was the first to sleep on my head, though that later became Frank’s thing. I woke up one morning to find Zappa sleeping on my pillow, basically wrapped around my head: front paws down one side of my head, back paws down the other side, body across the top. In the beginning, they could both manage to cuddle up to my head – and each other – but eventually Frank got the pillow, and Zappa would just sleep on top of me – chest, stomach, legs – whatever struck him as the comfy spot of the moment I guess. More than one morning I woke to Cory telling me how amused he had been during the night, seeing Zappa poke and paw at me until I rolled over onto my back so he could claim his spot.

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Zappa was usually the harder one to take photos of. As soon as he knew you were paying attention to him, he would come running.

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Zappa was my lap cat. I used to call Frank my Problem Child, and Cory called Zappa our “happy, well-adjusted cat.” I called him the Treat Monster; loved his cat treats, that cat did.

That’s what I was doing, in those last moments; I was getting ready to go to the store and buy some cat treats because we were going leaving the next morning for 5 days, and I’d realized we were out of cat treats. Can’t go off and leave the cat sitters with no treats for Zappa.

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We’d had a good day. Zappa woke me up first thing for his treats and breakfast. We were on our first day of vacation. Zappa had his breakfast, his morning nap, he went outside, he came in for cuddles – a day in the life. I carried him around on my shoulder, which was one of his favorite things; he loved to be picked up and held. I sat on the love seat with him for more cuddles, and when he’d had enough from me, jumped down, ran across the room and jumped up on Cory’s chair for cuddles from his other human. And I thought: what will I do when I don’t have him anymore?

The vet had given him a thorough checkup after we lost Frank. He was on medication for his thyroid, and it seemed like he was doing well.

I had just bought a new pet fountain, because a piece broke off the old one. It was still running, but I thought I should get a replacement before it gave out. I hadn’t even set it up yet, but Zappa was happy to check out the box.

I worried about going away and leaving him alone for 5 days, but I always did worry and our cat sitters were excellent.

 

It’s so hard to say good-bye.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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)…

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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.

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And finally…remember this?

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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:

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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?

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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  • 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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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And this is what I ended up with:

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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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