Thursday, November 2, 2017

Welcome November

I hope this doesn't seem like I am rushing the holiday season. Far from it...I want to slow it down. I love the sparkle, the joy and the time to work!
The festive season for me means rest from my travels, time to think, time to catch up and time to observe. I love the lights, the colours and the ridiculous overstatement of ornament that surrounds this season. I am not a fan of the cold or the approaching winter, but I do love the way my internal clock can be reset and I can change my pace. I don't get caught up in the frantic pace that seems to surround so many at this time of year. I really slow down and allow myself time to reflect. I don't mind the 45 minute drive to the closest Starbucks to get my seasonal Peppermint Mocha! I will be taking some time to catch up on my writing and hopefully finish some long overdue projects! Whatever your pace as you glance at the calendar each day, I hope you find some time for yourself. I hope you find some quiet time, to put your feet up, relax and just breathe!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sacred Time, Sacred Space

I get very reflective as I watch the seasons change.
 I wish it would always be spring and summer. Fall is ok, but it is a harbinger of winter which is my least favourite season. I am sad to watch the vibrant greens in the garden wither to brown and then fade away. But I have been learning to savour all time and all space around me. Whether I am rushed and trying to cram too many things into my schedule or if I am quiet room and alone with my thoughts there is something to learn, something to see, something to savour.
This spring we embarked on building me a permanent studio outdoors.
Dedicated space for me to work, surrounded by the garden, the birds and the sound of the trees.My goal is to keep it free from the computer and cell phone. So far I am winning that battle, but we will see what evolves.
I feel so incredibly blessed to have this space. It still feels like a dream. Chris insisted on a glass railing for the deck so I can see through it when I am working at my desk.  The folding table from the gazebo served as my workstation until my furniture arrived.
My commute to my studio is about 40 feet away from the door of my house. I wanted to share a special photo with you. The little prisms dancing on the wall are from a solar rainbow maker. Chris and I first came across this little magical surprise when we rented a cottage a few years ago. I have wanted one ever since, but knew that the device would drive Oscar crazy. It seems like such a small thing, but for about an hour each morning, when the sun hits the rainbow maker, my studio seems blessed with a magical dance of light. It brings me such a spark of joy.
The last photo for now is of my desk in place. The studio is still quite bare but it feels like home. I want to run out there every morning and enjoy the quiet space. I have so many projects to catch up on and it feels like an exciting new beginning. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fluid 100 Hot Press Watercolour Paper


At my last workshop, I was given some samples of watercolour paper to test out. The first on my list was Fluid 100 Hot Press paper. This is very affordable paper and I wanted to try some out but had not yet placed an order. I am so grateful to Gretchen for sharing some of this lovely paper with me. I am currently testing it for gilding, inking, erasing, dry brush and wet on wet glazing technqiques. Across the board I would give it high marks. It gilds brilliantly. The shine of the gold is brilliant on this paper. I was able to erase lines easily and inking with McCaffery Brown was as expected on this paper. No surprises. I can build up lots of detail with dry brush techniques. Layer after layer went into the owl and the paper is wonderful for holding tiny details.
   When I tried wet on wet techniques for the apple leaf, I did not stretch the paper. I applied washes liberally on the small surface. There was very slight buckling of the paper but as the glazes dried, the paper flattened. The washes soak into the paper and I think the paint dulled slightly more than I am used to. I tried lifting out the veins and the highlight of the leaf and had some success with that. I will continue to layer the leaf with more glazes and dry brush. I like what I see on this paper and think it is defintlely worth investing in. I will try a full engrossed project on this paper and report back. Thank you Gretchen! Love this paper!

Monday, September 18, 2017

September Days

It seems like I am in a relentless race with the clock. Days pass quickly into weeks and then months. We are in September and it seems like just a breath since I was planting my garden in Spring. I don't know where the time goes.  I have so many projects that await completion. Sometimes it gets so frustrating to leave things undone to hit another deadline. But new classes are in the works for 2018. I will be releasing a border flourishing class called Line Dances and I will be including this new chapter in the flourishing book that I am still working on!
My apologies if I am slow to answer emails these days. I have been spending less time on the computer and keep my head in my artwork. I promise to answer as I can. Hope that no matter how busy your schedule is becoming that you can find time to breathe and watch the changing season.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

From My Bookshelf

I can't believe its been a month since my last post. Lots has happened! Working hard here at home as well as getting ready for my last few workshops of the year. My time in Hong Kong was a whirlwind. I met so many wonderful and eager students. I have memories to cherish of that wonderful trip.



Good to be home, unpacked and finally over jet lag! I am taking some time to go over my sagging bookshelves. Soon I will be moving my library into my new studio space. I need to go through all of my books and figure out what I need to keep and what I need to pass on. I have been studying botanical art for the past two years or so. I have so much to learn and I love where the botanical path is taking me. Mary Ann Scott's Botanical Sketchbook is so inspiring.
This book highlights the amazing journey of a student working through the SBA Distance Education Course. Mary Ann's struggles as well as her triumphs are recorded. It provides insight into her working process through her sketchbook recordings. What strikes me as I read throug it is that all of us have lightbulb moments. Skill evolves over time and with practice. The same is so true of our calligraphic journey. I know I repeat this message so many times but the point needs to be emphasized. As I take on the role of student in this botanical journey, my sense of awareness is changing. I see things differently and this affects how I attempt my calligraphic work. I want to encourage those who want to progress in their calligraphic journey but feel that they cannot invest time into any other art form. That couldn't be further from the truth. My time as a florist as well as my time as a needleworker effect my work as a calligraphic artist.
It is ok to invest your time, talent and treasure in other disciplines. Many of my calligraphic friends are also musicians, painters, athletes, voracious readers, quilters, and the list goes on and on. Follow your heart where it leads you. Embrace the view from as many angles as possible. Happy August 24th!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When the Student is Ready....

The journey of an artist takes a lifetime.
This blog post is meant to encourage those who want to improve their skills but just feel as if they have hit a plateau. Let me assure you, we all hit that same plateau. We all come to a point where are work seems to be stagnating at one point and we are not able to work past whatever barrier is in our way. We seek out more classes, more instruction, more books, more online lessons and purchase more supplies. But the answer is not in any of those wonderful solutions. Everyone has a different pace of learning and different way of responding to instruction. We all work past that plateau at different rates of speed and through different Euerka moments. Sometines, a student is just not ready to absorb the material presented in a class. But in time, they will recall the lessons and be able to make sense of things. A light bulb will suddenly turn on and the way past the plateau will appear. As I mulled over the words of this proverb it made more sense to me today than it did years ago when I first came across it. There will come a time in your artistic journey where your skills just come together. They are a culmination of the input from all of your books, instructors, life lessons and inspiring moments. The skills will appear and will work together. I know there is a lot of hard work involved and sometimes the investment of time and treasure seems too much. But your skills will all come together at some point. Your hands will be able to create the artwork that you envision. Keep creating! Keep practicing! Never rush the process! You are exactly where you should be.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Transition Day

Post IAMPETH convention is always tough. For an entire week we get to mingle with our own kind.
None of us get that glazed look in our eyes when we discuss paper, nibs or ink. We are with our people. This year it felt like a family reunion. Reconnnecting with old friends and meeting new people on the way. The energy of the conference is dynamic. I enjoyed every minute of my classroom experiences this year both as teacher and as student. It is always a pleasure to pass on my love of flourishing and Italian Hand with people and I was thrilled to have a class of 100 students to teach!
I loved learning from other instructors. Listening to the process of Holly Monroe and working through her creative exercises was inspiring! Watching Rosealee Anderson paint her missal letter was wonderful. I got to participate in Marcus Carlini's business writing class and have him deconstruct the arm movement process. I learned so much from these instructors!!! I had wonderful conversations, got to test out new products and hear different tricks of the trades from various calligraphers. I left Louisville on cloud nine. Part of an elaborate Silent Auction ruse was this gorgeous piece by Janet Takahashi of my studio that is being built. I can't begin to express how much joy this piece brings me. She created it with so much love. It was the brain child of my dear friend Joe and a lot of people conspired to keep the creation of this piece a secret. It will be the first piece of art to hang in my new studio. When I greeted my backyard, I took a minute to look for a pink unicorn!
 I came home to an array of packages waiting for me. Lots of new Daniel Smith paint to play with, Skyler's reprint books and my Denis Brown book!!!!
It is always bittersweet to return home. I carefully put each item back in its proper place until my next trip. I pack up my memories carefully and treasure so many in my heart. Thank you dear IAMPETH friends. In many respects you are the ones who helped me learn to find my voice. This year, I had the honour of creating the President's Certificate of Appreciation for Bryan Platt. His certificate represents a culmination of skills that took years to hone and are still evolving.

I felt so grateful to all of my teachers, mentors and IAMPETH friends as I worked on the certificate. You never know exactly where a path will take you. My first trip to IAMPETH in 2003 put my feet on a path and a journey that has brought me joy for 14 years. Sending hugs to all of you who take time to read the blog! Thanks for journeying with me.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What Happened To June?

This month has been a blink! Hope has been my word of the month as I try to stay positive about reaching elusive deadlines.
I have had a few weeks off from travel and I am so busy getting work ready for the next round of teaching.  I head to IAMPETH in 10 days which begins my teaching schedule for the summer and fall. I feel like time is the enemy, ticking away each day at an ever increasing pace! I get up early each morning, walk around my garden briefly and then work until dark. I know that life is out of balance at the moment but this is just the current pace that I am working with. In the midst of the busyness, I make sure to enjoy the gifts of the season. To listen to the sound of birds and watch the flowers bloom is an incredible gift. I don't take it for granted.
 I am currently working on new portfolio pieces, teaching pieces and silent auction pieces as the clock continues to tick. Out of necessity I have made some major material changes. I have had to switch to Ziller Buffalo Brown acrylic ink as it does not alter with air travel. It is reliable down to the last drop. The problem is that it is heavier in body than my beloved McCaffery brown ink.
I thin it slightly and use an even lighter touch. I hope to get used to using it. I do love the colour when I want subdued Victorian effects. Old World Iron Gall Ink has become my favourite for work that will be reproduced.  It thickens up with exposure to air but is easily thinned with water. Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper has been substitued for Fabriano Artistico for work for reproduction. Too many issues with the new Fabriano paper and until they get it resolved, the Strathmore is behaving much more predictably. Finally, Stonehenge Aqua 140LB Hot Press Paper is my new favourite for coloured pencil work, Gilding and Watercolour work.
You can request a free sample at Legion Papers. It has withstood a lot of testing and even dry brush watercolour work is promising on this paper. That's it for now!!! Hoping to post more in July if I can win the battle of the clock.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Across the Miles

 Just finished a private tutorial session with a student across the miles. It was a delight to meet her this way and answer her quesitons personally as well as let her shape the lessons we chose to explore. It was inspiring to see how many notes she had taken and her practice work! What a delight. This morning she wanted to learn more about applying colour to a flourish and flourishing around corners.
 She also wanted to see the difference between a pastel background burnish and a watercolour wash as a background effect. I was happy to share my techniques with such a dedicated student. Later today I will package all of the material we have studied together over the past few weeks and ship them off to her for her reference.  I admit that I am not a huge fan of technology but I am grateful that it allows for this type of connection with a student that I was unlikely to meet in person. Enjoy this Sunday. Here in Canada, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the gardens are blooming.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Home and Away

 Back home after a teaching weekend with the Chicago Calligraphy Collective. It was a great weekend meeting new students and seeing familiar faces. The venue was moved to The Irish American Cultural Centre which was a fascinating backdrop for the class. I could hear Irish music being practiced, strolled through the huge library of Irish books and even peeked in on a dancing class!


I did not photograph all of the tutorial projects we worked on but did manage to get a shot of the Florentine inspired pink foliate spray. We work through all of the stages of design and then painting these small, decorative sprays. 
Now I am in process of unpacking my tools and cleaning up the studio space. This is my longest stretch home before more travel begins in July. I am always feeling that my tools are familiar friends. I have those who travel with me and those who only come out to play while I am home. This is especially true of my palettes.
What have become the most lightweight and convenient are the Daniel Smith Dot Cards.
What a wonderful way to sample all of the colours before investing in the tubes of paint. My small John Neal palette of my favourite colours has been in use since November of 2016. Still lots of pigments on the card it will work for several more workshops. Without question, the most economical way of students getting the colours they need for my workshops which tend to have a large supply list! The Mijello travel palettes often accompany me on my teaching trips and are never far from reach here at home. They are extremely lightweight and convenient.
I believe I have the same palette addiction as I do journal addiction, so I seem to have a Mijello pallete in any colour and size that I could find!
The silver palette has more wells to fill and lots of room to mix the paint.
All of these Mijello palettes work well in my classes and for my miniature painting. My botanical studies though, required greater space to mix washes of watercolours. The simple white porcelain paint serves this purpose well.
Lots of mixing room ( and you know I have several sizes of these plates including one that is more like a platter!) and the surface allows for pools of washes that don't bead up they way they do on a plastic surface. Wonderful for at home work, but not remotely convenient for travel. The wooden paint box is an overindulgence in my need to see my colors!
The little half pans are numbered and then rest on the base of the box with glue dots to hold them in place. But be asssured that those glue dots are not permanent. Thankfully the numbering system has helped me as the box got overturned and needed to be sorted out again! So it is very cute, but not convenient for travel. It does come out to play here at home when I need very specific colours for botanical work. But too many choices is sometimes more trouble than it is worth. I don't limit myself to a double primary palette and do like adding pigments to my paint boxes. But all of the toys don't improve our skills. Careful study, attention to detail and the passion for the artform are far more important! All that being said, I love returning home and putting the travel friends alongside the home friends. I was equally grateful to be greeted by my lone blue anemone.
The only one to survive the squirrels and such a happy sight to see. A wonderful welcome home.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Life of A Journal

I know I have shared about my passion for keeping journals. I have them everywhere. If there is ever a worldwide shortage of journals, just open one of my studio cupboards. They are there in row upon row. Every size and binding colour! But inside, there is a common element...the grid squares.
 After all of these years of calligraphy, I still can't draw a straight line! The gridded squares really help with the planning.


They keep me centred and give me some reasonable lines to work with. As I flip through the pages of journals on the go and journals retired, I can see pencil record of my progress. I can watch skills evolve. The pages are personal. Often recorded in airports during long layovers. They are portable peace. Sometimes I add a hint of colour but most pages are just pencil. If you haven't already started a journal of your sketch ideas, thoughts or projects, I can't recommend it highly enough. Keep pencil, eraser and journal handy to capture inspiration or to process your ideas. See if it transforms your work. As you flip back through the pages  you record, watch your work evolve and be encouraged by the changes you see. The Leuchtturm 1917 is still my favourite journal to work in. The pages are a bit heavier than Moleskine and the grid lines are not intrusive.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Some Quiet

April is burgeoning here in Ontario. Tulips and poppies are starting to emerge from the soil. The backyard gazebo is back up and after a brief jaunt as it catapulted into the neighbour's yard during a windstorm, it seems ready for spring. A huge project in the backyard is underway. It will change the way I work if all goes well with it.

I just returned from my teaching trip at the Ink Academy in Berkely, California. The Berkeley City Club is a gorgeous building. I don't remember ever bonding with a building before. But it had so many touches that were completely endearing. Acanthus overload!




The architect Julia Morgan is a fascinating woman. I could not resist buying a book about her work. Gardens were around every corner and I was greeted with hummingbirds every day. It felt more like a retreat than a teaching weekend. But 31 students in class learned the joys of Italian Hand.


As I got back into the routine here at home, I was overwhelmed with my workload. Commissions remaining incomplete and hundreds of emails needing a response. Website issues now need sorting out as well. I need to be quiet for awhile and work a bit more slowly as I sort through all of my upcoming projects. Don't let the seasons pass you by without stopping to notice the small things. Be delighted by your surroundings. Take walks. Observe. Enjoy the peace. Happy April!