Friday, November 2, 2018

Enchanted November

Getting an early start on completing orders this festive season and was honoured to create one of my classic Enchanted Letter designs. I get many letter requests but this is my first time doing a request for the intial Z. I completed two different versions of Z for my Enchanted Letter Series when I designed it 2011, but this is the first time experimenting with the elongated version of Z. As always, the Enchanted Letter begins with a detailed pencil sketch. I used my beloved Leuchturrn 1917 journal for the sketch. I prefer the quality of the paper in the Leucthturrn 1917 over the Moleskine journal. It is fun to keep the designs in the journals for future reference. I love to look back on what I have done. They often trigger lovely memories.  My students know that rather than reusing a design I have done before, I start each intial with a fresh sketch.
The next part of the process is the inking and gilding of the design. I had a particularly good bottle of McCaffery Brown to use for this design. I love the chestnut brown colour of McCaffery. Other suitable inks are Ziller Buffalo Brown and Fox and Quill's Victoria Ink. I have also been experimenting using Daniel Smith Sepia Watercolour which works beautifully. 
The paper for this Initial Z is Stonehenge Aqua 140 lb. This paper has replaced Fabriano Artistico and Arches 140 lb Hot Press for me. The only draw back I have found with this paper is that it can be reluctant to erase. I have to use a very light touch with a HB or H pencil when doing the transfer drawing.  
The final piece was gilded with 23K gold leaf, outlined in Japanese Shell Gold and painted with Daniel Smith Watercolours. Swarovski Aurora Borealis Flat back crystals were applied for extra sparkles! I continue to love these Enchanted Letters after working with them all these years. If you want more info about commissioning your own letter, please contact me at I will do future posts about how these can be integrated with an Enchanted Meadow creature. I teach this class frequently throughout the year to guilds as well as privately through facetime or Skype. I am also working on a Treasury book of the designs as well as the process in intricate detail. Lots going on!! I hope you find lots of time to work on personal projects as we go toward a busy festive season! Remember to breathe!! And find times of quiet contentment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Butterflies In October!

Taking a deep breath and enjoying a meditative moment this afternoon. The task list today is overloaded, but the joy of seeing a butterfly in the garden on such a chilly day caused me to take a needed pause and appreciate the beauty around me. October light is elusive. It illuminates differently. It captures the edges of plants a little differently and changes my perspective. I took a walk around the garden this afternoon with my camera. I can hear a different sound in the trees as the leaves dry out and fall. But the blessings of squirrels, birds, blossoms and chipmunks are still around. Just taking a moment to share these little garden shots. I was so happy to see butterflies visiting briefly.

Friday, October 5, 2018

October is Here

I can hardly believe Octobet is here already! Autumn is a very transitional season for me. I am wrapping up my teaching engagements for the season. I worked on these two letter designs for my dear friends who hosted me while I visited California.

One more workshop to teach here in Ontario next weekend before I break for the season. I will continue to take some private students through the winter months but I am doing some in depth projects as well.  I will update the blog with that info as I progress with it. I wanted to show you some shots of the studio so far. At this point, my walls are still bare. I have been loving the open space and don't want it to get too cluttered.

 The walk to my studio is about 20 feet from my back door.

Right now there is  patio rocking chair in there. When Chris comes home from work, he sits with me and has a coffee while I finish up work at my desk. The desk in the back corner is a light table that Chris made for me.  It is so good to have space to spread out.

For the past 30 years my studio space has been little more than a glorified closet. Very tight on space, but it did the job for me!I know I have written about this before. A studio is a place of study. More than just creating, it is where so many streams of thought and ideas converge. Sometimes it is a refuge of quiet. Sometimes it hosts a frenzied pace of work. Sometimes it is there for pure play and experimenting. At all times, I am so grateful to have this space. Whatever space you have, remember that it is a sacred place. What we do as artists, what we create, and how we reach people is more than just the final result on paper. The whole process is sacred, even the failures or the plateaus we reach at times. Whatever stage of the journey you are on....just keep going! See what happens when you work. Take time out to sit and breathe. Appreciate the quiet moments in between the busy ones. And do what you love to do! This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving! I am so grateful for my family, my friends and my work. Sending autumn hugs your way!

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.