Monday, July 12, 2021

July is Watercolour Month

I hope you are all having a beautiful summer so far. I was blessed to have some roses bloom in my garden this year, but my parents' garden has been filled with blooms.

Whenever I stop by, my Dad rushes outside to cut me some roses to take home. The cut roses fade quickly but I cherish the blooms. Many of you know that I spent 18 years in the floral industry. I don't regard flowers as a luxury, or something to be saved for sacred occasions. I see them as a necessity. They accompany us for so many of our special moments but they also bring such joy and charm to your surroundings. They bloom for us and wait to be noticed. This morning as I posted a watercolour painting to Instagram, I saw that July is watercolour month. I had never heard of watercolour month but thought I would make a quick blog post about the wonders of watercolour. The world of watercolour is vast. They are so versatile but can be overwhelming to a newcomer. I have taken several botanical watercolour courses over the past few years to help me explore watercolour as well as my love of flowers. One of the best online courses I have found is Billy Showell's watercolour school. You can choose a membership either monthly, bi-annually or yearly and her tutorials are wonderful. I have learned so much from her techniques.She has several books but the most comprehensive book I have found is Botanical Painting for Watercolour. The basics of many techniques are explored with beautiful illustrations.
The American Society of Botanical Artists have also produced a beautiful guide. This book is wonderful. The tutorials can be explored as individual lessons or you can read the book cover to cover. You can start anywhere in this book. There is the potential to go through each chapter as a mini study and learn so many lessons. Beyond watercolour, this book gives advice about drawing, working on vellum, using egg tempera and even silverpoint. It is a beautiful book. 
My newest acquisition to my bookshelf is Colours of Nature by Sandrine Maugy. This is a beautiful book  explaining the properties of various pigments alongside explanations of her painting techniques and projects. I have been reading each page with  interest as the author really wants you to understand watercolour and how to get the best results from your paint box and avoid common pitfalls.
My own preference for studying watercolour came from the desire to add  florals to my calligraphic work. I wanted to combine image and text. But as I started to study botanical watercolour, I realized I was drawn to it for the same reasons I am drawn to calligraphy and flourishing. I want to get into a peaceful and mindful state while working. I want to feel fully engaged with the project I am working on. When Dad cut the blooms from his rose garden, I wanted to cherish the gorgeous pink blossoms are really appreciate their beauty no matter how busy my schedule had been. When you examine a flower to draw, you hold it you hand, experience the fragrance, view it from all angles, touch the petals and really understand the subject. As you put pencil and then paint to paper, even if you can't capture all of the beauty of the flower, you will truly appreciate its complexity and the magic it has. As a florist, I handled dozens of flowers every day and in some ways, took them for granted. Now that I have to go out of my way to grow them or purchase them, I love taking mindful moments to really appreciate them. If you are new to watercolour, I encourage you to give it a try with what you have on hand. Skills with a brush and taking time to observe a subject will enhance our calligraphy. The disciplines really do merge together well. I hope you find some time to play this July....after is watercolour month!!!

Monday, July 5, 2021

To Flourish is To Bloom!!!!

Later this month I will be teaching The Artful Flourish through The Gentle Penman online. I wanted to take a moment to tell you what flourishing means to me. I came onto the calligraphy scene in 2003 and it wasn't long before I heard the phrase "if you can't flourish....don't prove it." Years later, I see the humour in the quote and I understand fully what it means in terms of artwork. But flourishing is not only the curves and designs that you create on the paper, it is a mental state of flow that happens during the process.And to learn to flourish, you have to start somewhere!

Beyond that, it is a skill building technique that will enhance your other artistic pursuits. When I found the world of offhand flourishing, I quickly put many other things aside. My needlework was packed away and I left the world of floristry. But in exchange, I found a way to access the calming and peaceful effects of meditation, while working with pen and ink. It really is quite extraordinary.

Beyond that, I found a sense of confidence in my work and I wanted to share it and pass it on to others. I wrote notes of encouragement constantly and kept the post office busy. Notes and letters represented practice as well as sharing my thoughts with friends and family. Ideas for flourishes keep coming and coming. I have been playing with these flourishes for 18 years now and have never been bored with them and I still don't know whether I am really practicing or just playing! No matter what calligraphic hand I explore, I look for ways to combine it with offhand flourishing. As an artist, I can point to offhand flourishing as the skill that caused me to bloom and reach beyond the comfort zone of the introvert. It remains such a love in my life. No matter what skills you have, you can flourish. It is one hundred percent acquired skill and does not rely on any natural talent!

The two books that started me on my flourishing journey were The Ames Compendium which can be found online and Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy which is still in print. Although flourishes can look complex, they really have a very simple underlying structure. Once you understand how curves harmonize with each other, you will be well on your way. I hope you look into the world of flourishing and take time to play with pen and ink!!! There is just such a sense of delight in this world of pen and ink. Email me anytime if you have flourishing questions. Happy to help! Hugs all around. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Magic Of Mornings


These past few weeks have been busy here in the studio. I have had some late nights and some very early mornings. This July 1st morning (Happy Canada Day), I noticed so many things as I walked in the dark from the house to the studio. What looked dark to me, must have been looking light for the birds. The robins are always the first ones awake with their songs. It always sounds to me that they wake up with such a sense of cheerfulness. The studio is so quiet in the morning. It is cool enough to just open the window so I can really hear the songs of the birds and the last few drops of water flowing through the rain chain. It is too early to  hear familiar neighbourhood sounds like cars, splashes in pools or lawn mowers. It is just calm and quiet. The Rumi quote came to mind this morning: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you, don't go back to sleep." Although I am not a person who falls in to any sort of rigid routines, I have found that I love the quiet of these magic mornings.  I can instantly focus on the work on my desk and stay undistracted. Ideas for new projects come flooding in to my mind and I feel so inspired here in the quiet. And then, all at once, the concentration is gone and my mind shifts from my work to other tasks that will need my attention in the day. I wish there was a way to capture that magic of the morning and always be in that sense of quiet inspiration. Like anyone else, I face the same challenges for getting work done on time, keeping up with the business side of my job and juggling all of my other tasks. So finding that magic hour or two to work uninterrupted has seemed like such a gift these days. My hope for you dear friends is that you notice those special times when inspiration hits and take advantage of it. I can't always push back against the distractions that come my way, but I am working hard on singular focus rather than multitasking. If my task at hand is to clear up all of the email, then I give it my full attention. If the laundry needs folding, I try hard to do it without thinking about all of the rest of the tasks that need to be done. These are small things to tend to, but I find that I do so much better if I just tune into the task at hand. 

I will be busy teaching this month. My Victorian Frames and Labels as well as my Glittering Vines class will be coming up this week for the LegaciesIII calligraphy conference.The classes are filled and registration is closed, but if you visit the Legacies III website after the conference, I believe recordings will be available for a period of time.  If you would like to join me  live online through The Gentle Penman, as I bring my style of flourishing to you through my Artful Flourish course, I believe registration is still open. The Artful Flourish is probably the course I have taught more than any other. It keeps evolving over time but this course can teach anyone how to flourish without any pre-pencilling or planning. It is a direct result of thinking on paper and I am so excited to share it online. Learning to flourish is really what helped me to blossom and grow both personally and as an artist.
And a new teaching venue for me will be the Ardington School later this fall. I will be presenting a course based on fall themed offhand flourishes. The Ardington school has a newsletter that you can join. These classes are kept small so I can pay more attention to individual questions as the course progresses. They offer all sorts of wonderful courses including fine art and needlework for if you want to check them out. I will be doing a holiday themed illuminated letter course for Ardington in November but the listing is not yet posted. Here is just a glimpse at the letter. I hope to show you the drawing, gilding and painting of a holiday themed illuminated letter. It is a lot to pack into the course, but the class will be kept very small. I am happy to share my teaching schedule with you through email if you contact me at I know some of you are taking so many courses already and I never want you to feel pressured to take a course. Always follow your instincts!!
I will close this post with an image of one of the baby foxes that have been living across the street from me all spring. We have watched a family of 10 foxes grow in our neighbourhood. Part of the magic of these early mornings has been walking to the end of the driveway to see if any of the foxes were already awake. I haven't seen any of them for a day or two, they may have moved on now, but they were the source of so much curiosity in our little neighbourhood.
Whatever sights and sounds are in your neighbourhood, I hope you look for the magic around you. Treasure the times that inspiration floods your mind no matter how brief that moment may be. I hope you have a wonderful July. Thank you for your constant encouragement through messages, photos and email. Enjoy your summer dear friends.