Sunday, September 2, 2018

September Mindfulness

September usually brings changes to routine to so many of our lives. I notice an increased stress level as I begin to scramble to meet all of my deadlines. Suddenly the calendar days seem to go so much faster as the light begins to fade earlier each day. I am working hard to be present in each moment and enjoy the wonders that still surround me in the garden. I try to stop and appreciate how the light looks on the rosebuds. The sounds in the garden are different these days as some birds have already migrated out of the area and the fall birds are back at the feeders. Nuthatches sound decidedly different than the robins. I slow down and enjoy the sounds they bring to the garden.

This summer has been different. We have been dealing with some health issues in my family and as those cares weigh on my mind, it has been difficult to stay focused on my scheduled tasks. I am more aware of the meditative and peaceful qualities of drawing, painting and writing. I am so grateful that I can always retreat to the quiet of my studio and breathe, and work. This small illumination reflects my thoughts of this summer in the garden, the peace of the studio and the beauty of the garden around me. It is based on a 14th century French Illuminated manuscript. Although I prefer to do all original work, there was a joy in trying to figure out just what the original artist was trying to depict in the mansucript and changing it to suit me. 
The last photo on the blog is a rose from my Mom and Dad's garden. They have far better success with their roses and while they were away, I had the pleasure of looking after their flowers!
No matter what changes come to your routine this month or what stresses you are juggling, try to take solace in nature even if it is just for a few moments. I find the practice to be so restorative and peaceful. Looking foward to sharing some progress on projects that I have been working on in upcoming blog posts. I have a few more workshops to teach this fall and I am still tutoring private students online. I will be restructuring my online approach in the new year as several people have been asking for more long term lesson plans. We will see what happens. In the meantine, be mindful of this beautiful month and the beauty it can bring as the season begins to change. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Botanical Studies

I have just completed a coloured pencil study course online with Gaynor Dickeson. You can find her at Gaynor's Flora online.

I started out with the watercolour course and wanted to keep studying with her. I would recommend her course of study to whoever is interested in botanical art. She is a wonderful tutor with a keen eye for detail and years of experience. She accompanies her detailed notes with wonderful videos of parts of the notes. Enough time is given in each of the modules to do the necessary assigments which are challenging. From line drawing, to perspective, to ink work, thumbnail sketches, composition ( my nemesis!)  and then to all the necessary colour information and techniques needed to complete a finished piece this was the most in depth online course I could ever have dreamed of.  The ink drawings were completed in her course and the garlic and pearl onion were part of her watercolour course.

I really did not want the course of study to end. If you look at Gaynor's work online you will see a delicacy and sensitivity in the paintings that is breathtaking. She is a detailed and thorough tutor.
The journey into botanical art started a few years ago and my bookshelves are now burgeoning with books that dive deeply into the subject. I wanted to learn botanical art to start to incorporate the paintings into my calligraphic work. To date, I really haven't completed that vision but I hope to. My calligraphic work has improved as I learn to control and utilize both coloured pencil and watercolour more carefully. My dear friend Brian Walker would always encourage me to continue these drawing and painting course. He would always tell me this is "all grist for the mill" and everything would work together to help inform and improve my calligraphic work. I will miss him so much as he passed away last month. I still hear his encouraging words when I work with pencil, pen, watercolour or ink.
My Dad and husband bought me a camera to photograph my subjects. There are so many skills to learn in this field! You can see my little bits of stick tack to prop up my harebells on a white piece of foam board. I also have little "helping hands" to help me isolate and photograph a subject.

A botanical artist has a huge skill set and I am only scratching the surface. I wanted to show you some of my photo studies as welll as the work from this module. Working from life is encouraged from the start and could prove challenging. I had to set up a little photo area where I could arrange the plant, photograph it with my camera and then my ipad. I found I needed to enlarge the images on the ipad to really study things and I am so slow with the process that the specimen would change and then die before I scratched the surface. I even took a white backdrop into the garden to photography my california poppies so I wouldn't need to cut them! As a former florist, you would think I would be ok with the life cycles of plants, but in the garden, I want the plants to flourish and bring on the honey bees!
Every field of study is a "rabbit hole adventure" for me. It opens ideas for more and more studies! Botanical art has started to open my eyes to the minute details of the natural word. I want to see things as deeply as I can and really understand what I am looking into. I appreciate the folds of a petal so much more than I ever did. I look like a lunatic in the produce section fo the grocery store as I inspect each fruit and vegetable for its potential to become a painting! But what an appreciation for the details! Years ago my Mom and I took a botanical course and I remember both of us feeling we could never do this type of drawing or painting as we held rulers and dividers up to an iris in front of us and then tried to mix colours to match it. I never thought I would try my hand at it again, but I am so happy I did. I am still in eager learning mode and enrolled in another botanical art course and vellum study course which I will post about in the future.
 If you are thinking of botanical studies, I would encourage you to pursue it. There is no time better than now.  If you are thinking of adding any area of study to your it! Don't continually put off things that are in your heart to do. Just find a way and put aside the time to invest in your own happiness.  I know online courses or in person studies are expensive and if you don't have the funds right now for that, try starting with a book and see what you  can dive into that way. No matter whay you choose, you  may or may not end up reaching the goal that you would like to reach, but you will enrinch your soul if that doesn't sound too strange! Do what you love! Love what you do.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Time and Intent

Taking some time to reflect this morning. I have been doing a lot of private tutorials online. I will get a description up on my website this fall for those of you who may be interested in private studies in an area of your choice. One recurring theme that keeps coming up with my students is time. Time races by for all of us. Magical moments whiz by at an alarming pace. I felt that I needed to do a post on the blog reminding us of the importance of taking time to nurture your desire to create artwork. You may not have hours in a day to put aside to study or create intricate artwork. The D and peacock design took four studio days of work to bring to completion. But even a few minutes in a day can be spent doing artwork. I have been trying to incorporate some loose painting studies into my daily routine. This is so not me. I am so detailed in my work and I love getting lost in the detail. But just letting the brush skip across the page can have some pleasing results. Be intentional about carving out some time for yourself. Reflect on the beauty each day brings to you. Quiet your mind for a few moments and relax. Breathe......pick up the pencil, the pen, the brush...whatever you have.....and let it dance on the page. Take time for you.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Gratitude Post

Happy Canada Day everyone!!! I love my country and feel so grateful to live here. I travel so much these days and enjoy visiting other places, but always love to come home! I had a wonderful visit last weekend to the Berkeley City Center to teach for Ink Academy.
It was a wonderful weekend. The Victorian Pen workshop is a culmination of my most ornate flourishing techniques. We work through several colour methods from monocrhomatic inks, vintage sepia, coloured pencil and finally watercolour with gilding.

The Berkeley City Center  is magnificent and is so inspiring visit. Acanthus abounds! Architect Julia Morgan thought of every detail and I was taking photos constantly.
I was especially blessed this visit to receive some gorgeous hand knit lace from one of the students in the class. Jane had spent 4 days knitting this gorgeous table doily! I will look at it everyday and remember her kindness!!! It is draping the marriage certificate I just completed.
I am only able to show you little hints of this piece but it was such a wonderful project to come home to. The final piece is on 16x20 Fabriano paper and is embellished with 23 K gold leaf, French Shell gold, Rose Gold and deep blue, burgundy and green watercolours. I added some pastel background burnishing to help make the ornamental design pop off the page a little. Over the past few years, I have done several of these larger certificate designs. They all offer unique challenges and I enjoy working larger on these special pieces. Feeling so grateful for this day and for this long weekend here in Canada.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Surface Thoughts

June rushed in with a blaze of heat and blossoms. The leaves on the trees are bright green and there is new growth everywhere around me. I love these days. While I hear so many complaints about heat and humidity, I cherish every warm minute as a blessing. I am more productive in these sunny days and wake up happy each morning to the sounds of the robins and cardinals.

I have been busy testing numerous watercolour papers. My friend Gretchen gave me a variety of papers to test and I found some that I love. I have been enjoying working on the Stonehenge Aqua 140 LB Hot Press paper for Enchanted Meadow pieces as well as watercolour studies and coloured pencil botanicals. Seems a good surface, although I wish the colour of the paper was just a bit brighter. One paper that Gretchen gave me to test was Lana Lanaquerelle 140 lb Hot Press paper. I also found that I really enjoyed this paper. A beautiful bright white, takes ink, watercolour and gilding beautifully. I still need to test it with coloured pencil, but this seems like a wonderful paper. So glad to have tried it.  Thank you Gretchen!!! I have also added Canson Moulin Du Roy 140 lb Hot Press  to my favourites for all of my techniques. I think these three papers will meet all of my needs for future projects. Of course, I still keep vellum nearby for my most precious projects and Strathmore Bristol Vellum Surface paper for the times when a client needs a less expensive alternative. Good to know there are choices available in papers. The photo is a a grouping of some of my various tests I did to see how different techniques performed on different papers.  Still so much to learn and study. I am grateful for each hour I am able to spend with these various art forms. 
 On the desk this past month were some preparations for my upcoming Victorian Pen workshop. The Victorian Pen class incorporates offhand flourishing as well as more drawn/pen rendered flourishes that incorporate pencil work. Some of my private students have requested this as an option for their studies with me and I am enjoying working individually with them. 

I am also catching up on pen orders and able to have stock ready as time allows me to paint and dye pens. The best way to obtain a Held Pen these days is at one of my classes or by emailing me at to see what is available. I let the season influence me as I create new designs for pens. 

Whatever this month brings to you, I hope you can find some time to walk along a quiet stream and listen to the sounds of the birds. Let nature charm and intrigue you as this season surrounds you. Cherish these days.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


The page of the calendar is turned to May today!!!! May will carry me to Atlanta, Georgia for my presentation of The Enchanted Meadow workshop! I love teaching this class. It is part of my heart and soul and I get so excited at the thought of teaching it. At the core of the class, beyond painting skills and learning how to construct intricate acanthus patterns, is the instruction about slowing down to observe the moment. Be here now. Be mindful of the time that passes each day. Observe your surroundings as you walk in nature. Look everywhere. Let nature be your teacher. This time of year is so exciting as Spring hopefully starts to wake up the earth. Yesterday I saw my first butterfly in the backyard!As artists, observation is as important as painting, drawing or writing skills. We must be able to look deeply at a subject and take in all that is has to teach us. Looking foward to sharing many newly awakened insights with my Atlanta class.
  My latest Enchanted Meadow project was an illuminated inital for my Dad's 80th birthday.
The owl took hours of dry brush work, but the process was so peaceful and meditative that the hours flew by.
I also had the opportunity to take another illumination class with Debbie Thompson Wilson. We worked on birds from the Sherborne Missal.  My study was the female sparrow.
I plan to do a few more studies from that Missal as well as paint more of the birds that are visiting our feeders this spring! Happy observing. Enjoy each moment.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Love is Patient

The calender has been turned to its April page and assures me that Spring has arrived. But the days are still cold, the windshield is frosted in the morning and my walking treks still require my winter coat. And yet I wait and believe that Spring will come. It always has! Thankfully, my studio is warm and cozy and my desk invites me to work everyday. I have been pensive these days as I am launched back into travel. I have several new private students who are full of eagerness and questions. I have even been able to connect online with a few people who want to study The Enchanted Meadow designs. The slow methodical dry brush method of painting is a joy to share with others. I look foward to sharing this workshop with a new group of students in Atlanta! I am working on a very special Enchanted Meadow piece for my Dad's 80th birthday this month. SHHH!!!!!!! Don't tell him!

Despite lots of new projects, and continually changing hats to prepare for the next class, I find myself quite pensive for the past and some of my old working methods. I came to the calligraphy scene in 2003. There were very few videos online. I viewed Dr. Joseph Vitolo's script videos over and over again while I was learning. I made my way to my first IAMPETH convention in 2003 where I forged some of the strongest friendships of my life. Practice was daily and solitary. I still have some journals where I would practice writing quotes and verses in Spencerian Script. Progress was slow but never a chore for me to practice.  Things have changed in the calligraphic world. There is calligraphic overload online of every sort of style, and no shortage of ideas and opinions. You can fill your eyes with so many images of accomplished calligraphic work, look in on people's working methods and be constantly nudged to buy more and more products for our work. There are some days that I love this and other days that I am very unsure of what I see.  The calligraphic arts, like all arts, require a patient build up of skill. The art requires carefully honed senses and intuitive instincts about subtle nuances in letterforms. I learned the hard way and still learn on a daily basis. I make mistakes, fill up the recycle bin with practice papers and artwork that is not quite right, and try again. Patiently and lovingly I report for work at the studio desk and attempt to accomplish the day's tasks. I am grateful for the time spent with my calligraphic mentors who encouraged me along my path. I am thankful that this inkstained journey is such a big part of my life. My email inbox is at a point where it now takes me a few days to answer all the emails I receive. This blog post is for the impatient ones who want to quickly conquer this artform. I encourage you to continue to be patient. Show up at the desk ready to work and understand that there really are no shortcuts. This is hard work and acquiring skills comes at a different pace for different people. As hard as this may be to do, try not to compare your work to the work of others. Take a time out from instagram video feeds and look inward for a little while as you work on your next goal.Did I mention be patient yet??? Don't rush this! Savour the moments you have on this journey as you explore each twist and turn. I will jump down off my soapbox now with this little flourish.  I picked up some Fabriano Rosapina paper during my recent trip to the art store.
The paper is quite textured and it is extraordinarily soft. It requires a light touch with the pen and patience as you try to coax the best possible results from the paper. It forces patience  but was a treat to watch as the flourish evolved on the paper. From my heart to yours on this first day of April 2018, I encourage you to be patient with yourself on this journey.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Strathmore Toned Tan Paper

Every time I use Strathmore papers, I love them more and more. I have really enjoyed their 400 series drawing paper because is it a delicate cream colour, can take light watercolour washes and gilding really well and holds a beautiful ink line. It is a wonderful paper. I have also been doing some experimenting on Kraft paper, Strathmore Toned Tan and Strathmore Toned Grey papers. There are some really interesting effects you can get on these papers. None of them can take a very heavy ink stroke. Although the ink doesn't feather at the edges, it doesn't hold a tight line the way we would like. But in combination with some delicate Faber Castell Polychromos and a touch of bleedproof white, it provides an interesting background to both flourishing and ornamental design work. I will keep experimenting and see what happens next. March is here and time seems to pick up speed. I am booked with travel all the way into 2020!!! I always seem just a little bit behind the next looming deadline but I will try to stay positive. Watch the season of Spring emerge and look foward to the changes it brings.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

February Care

Here in Ontario, Canada, we have had week after week of icy weather, lots of grey skies and lots of snowfall. Bright blue sky days are scattered here and there but the continual grey of winter can play with the soul of an artist. I take measures to keep smiling! One thing I do is surround myself with colour. I take trips to the butterfly conservatory to see the magic of colour in the air! It is restorative to hear the waterfall flowing, see flowers blooming, watch birds in flight and so many butterflies. An extra few trips there in the winter are very helpful.

Inside the studio, I am keeping lots of flowering plants in sight. I am working through a graphite module in botanical illustration so I need to have lots of subjects to draw. The added benefit of having blooms on my desk everyday has been so restorative. When I worked as a florist, I encouraged people to bring home flowers every week especially in the winter. When I got out of the business, I started to neglect my own advice. But these bright blooms have been such a welcome sight. I have had Paperwhites, Amaryllis, Muscari, Freesia and Narcissus greeting me on the desk these past few weeks. Even studying the root systems of the plants keeps me connected to the earth and the promise that spring is coming.
Finally, when I do find some extra time to send out a letter or mail out a packet to a student, I am choosing happy colours to use. As an artist, I need to see colour. When it fails to appear outdoors, do your best to bring it indoors.  Keep thinking happy thoughts as we wait for spring to appear!