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!

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Magic of Inspiration

This April, I will be teaching at the Ink Links Sampler in Guelph, Ontario.
As soon as I heard the theme of Harry Potter I was overwhelmed with inspiration. I will be teaching "Fainting Fancies"

....which will be fanciful, embellished Roundhand Capitals done entirely in Pen and Ink. And, I will be teaching "Flourish and Blotts"
, a course in offhand flourishing. It will be a whirlwind day. I am currently working on the notes for both classes. Harry Potter, always makes me think of owls, so my artwork so far has been rich with owl imagery. I have really enjoyed the slow process of just stippling, or hatching with ink on paper. Sometimes it just takes a word, to spark some inspiration. Often after Christmas, I go through the doldrums of trying to get fully back into work mode. I am thankful that this year, it passed quickly as I have so much to prepare for in the coming days. I am thankful for work to keep me occupied and students who are eager to learn.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Welcome 2018

The first day of the New Year is always a bit disorienting for me. I try to look ahead to all that needs to be done while trying not to carry forward too much from 2017. I update all my calendars to look over the upcoming year while trying not be overwhelmed. I always need to remember it is just one day at a time and to treat each day as its own unique experience. I hope to have lots to share with you in the upcoming weeks. The pictures on the post today are of my final projects of December. The first is my thoughts as I worked quietly away on Christmas Eve
and the second is my piece for New Year's Eve.
I hope 2018 is both peaceful for you and filled with opportunities for you to believe in your dreams. Welcome 2018!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December in Pink

 December days are flying by at an alarming speed. I am further behind on my tasks than I want to be, but I that seems to be how I work! I wanted to share some pink joywith you. My Christmas 2017  Festive Flourish is online on my youtube channel.  Thank you for following the blog and taking time to email me. You have brightened my days for me this year and I amd grateful to you. I have met some friends through this blog. Some dear people have met me in my workshops and have told me that they appreciate the blog posts. Thank you for your kindness!!! I hope you can enjoy some December tranquil moments!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This and That

November is just a blink now. It seems like the month barely started and now it is over. I have my Christmas envelopes addressed and ready to send so I am in good shape there. I have lots of work in front of me to do and I am determined to catch up on things. My online presence may be less than usual but I will do my best to keep my blog updated. If you are interested in my teaching schedule for 2018 please email me at and I will send it out to you. 2018 is filled to capacity and I have bookings all the way into 2020 which seems so far off!

I spend less time in the house these days and more in the studio which is fully functional now. When I do come into the house, Oscar is always willing to help me take photos! I think he misses being by my side while I work, but I have to say, I am getting more work done with fewer distractions.
I completed my final module of a botanical art class that has been done through correspondence with a tutor in England. It has been a wonderful experience. The studies of botanical art have improved my observation skills. I still have so much to learn about watercolour, paper, drawing etc but I feel like I am equipped with more tools to get me to my end goal. Of all of the botanical studies I have been doing, I seem to prefer painting fruits and vegetables to actual flowers. Shopping for groceries takes so much longer as that whole produce section is brimming with potential future painting studies. I will continue to pursue these studies as time allows.
Hope you have had wonderful November. This last photo is my most recent commission.  I will end up keeping this one for myself and redoing this on larger paper. I used a paper that I was not happy with. It is Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper and while good for ink work, it doesn't hold the depth that I want for the watercolour work. I always keep in mind that mistakes teach us something. Just learn the lesson and move on. 

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.