Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cape Cod Count Down

Here is a picture of the house we will be staying in on Cape Cod. Apparently it’s only 200 yards from the ocean, so I’m looking forward to doing some heavy duty beach combing, or mud larking as John calls it. (Apparently mud larks were little children who played in the mud beside the Thames and went paddling in it).
Emma called just now and I was so relieved to hear from her. She was standing outside a “sketchy” nightclub in Plzen in the Czech Republic having just arrived there from Prague. The reception was really bad so we couldn’t talk for long, but Emma is having an “awesome” time. She made me laugh when she said the hotel where they’re staying tonight is like something straight out of The Shining. I just hope that Jack Torrance isn’t anywhere nearby!
I still have a lot to do before we go, but I don’t feel like doing much of anything because I’m feeling so tired. Maybe I should start packing my art supplies. That should revive me. Only twelve hours to go!

Friday, September 29, 2006

That Packing Thing...

Trying to get everything done before we go away is a challenge. Plenty of tasks are still uncompleted, plus there are piles of stuff everywhere: notes, clothes, stuff for my journal, toiletries, books…I just wish everything was done so I could stop thinking about it. The one good thing is that we can just toss everything into the car.
But what if I forget something? That’s no big deal really. It’s not like we’re going on an Outward Bound trip. From what I’ve heard, the house in Cape Cod is better equipped than our house, and I always take way too much stuff anyway.
Fortunately this week has been better than last when it comes to my book. I have finished 140 pages, and with only 30 or so to go, the end is in sight. What’s left is mainly writing which always tougher for me than doing illustrations. I doubt I’ll get much done down in Cape Cod though because I want to spend time with my parents.
What I am going to do is to print out what I’ve done so far and see which areas need to be changed before I start rewriting. I think the thing that’s surprised me most is just how much time and energy this book has required of me, so I’m looking forward to taking a break from it. John and I always enjoy doing things together, and a vacation with my parents will be fun too. This holiday might just give me a much needed boost as I head into the home stretch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Brenda and Mary

I wrote an article on Brenda Shackleford for RubberStampMadness last year, and I was wowed by her just-go-for-it approach to life and art. One of the things Brenda told me was that when she travels, she always packs a fresh journal and her basic artist’s tool kit. She glues in things that she finds and generally riffs (is that a word?) about what she’s experiencing.
Just before Mary left for Cuba in June, she told me that she didn’t think she would have time for art while she was there. Mary being Mary, I couldn’t imagine her going a day without doing something creative, so I told her about the Brenda approach to travel. And Mary being Mary loved the idea.
I’m laughing as I write this, but here’s the thing…Mary started working in her Cuba journal on the flight down. Had the plane even taken off, I wonder? By the time she got home she’d finished her journal of course. Now I haven’t been to Cuba, but Mary’s journal gave me an idea of what it would be like…full of color and light.
Mary brought me back a dear little blank book that she bought from a guy on the beach in Cuba. I’ve been thinking about what to do with it, and I’ve decided that it’s going to be my Cape Cod journal. I glued this heart on the cover and painted all the pages inside the same color. Will I be able to work on it while I’m away? I’m going to try. I’m not as spontaneous as Brenda and Mary, but hopefully I can just enjoy playing in it without over thinking things like I usually do.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On Writing...sort of

I’m writing an article on Photoshop right now and enjoying the process because it isn’t my book. After writing over 130 pages on creativity, I can see I’ve fallen into all sorts of bad writing habits over the years. You’d think after being a professional writer for so long I’d have it all figured out. But I don’t. It’s always onward and upward. Then again, this is probably a good thing for me or else I’d go stale.
To unwind last night, I read Wedding Song by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Now there’s a woman who can write! Even though I love romances, so many of them are groaners. I remember reading one where the heroine kept licking her lips. I would have tossed the book aside except I was hooked on whether or not there would be any more lip licking. It was like reading a Where’s Waldo book and trying to find the Chap Stick.
Speaking of romances, David told me today that he’d like to read the unpublished one I wrote back in the mid 90s. I was really taken aback by this. He explained that he’d been thinking about the fact that even though we’re close, there was a lot he didn’t know about me and he wanted to learn more. Of course there’s sex in the book, so this is a little weird but my mother said she enjoyed it, and…well, actually I haven’t made up my mind about this yet.
Have I mentioned that when John was living in Amsterdam he taught himself Dutch by reading his girlfriend’s Harlequins? He’s even read a few of mine. Most men wouldn’t be caught dead reading a romance. But not my guys. From what I’ve seen though, David’s girlfriends seem to prefer writers like Ayn Rand.
I checked out Vicki Lewis Thompson’s website tonight, and apparently she has a thing for Colin Firth. I remember watching him on A&E in Pride and Prejudice. After the first installment was shown, my mother and sister both called to say they thought John looked like Colin Firth. Maybe I should email Vicki this picture of John – and mention that he has a darling Scottish accent.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I’m sorry I had to miss the Red Hat Stampers annual weekend this year. If I hadn’t been heading off to Cape Cod in a week, I would have gone for sure. There’s something really inspiring about spending time up north doing art with your friends. I hope they’re all enjoying themselves for me.
As it is, I have to work every day all day in order to get everything done before I go. But last night I had a mental meltdown while working on an article at two in the morning. I just could not think. It was like all the circuits in my brain were fried.
Part of the problem is that I’ve hit a wall with my book. While I know I’ll have a lot of rewriting to do when I finish, there’s nothing worse than trying to rework something that didn’t get done properly in the first place.
The section I’m struggling with is perfectionism. I’ve been working on it for the last couple of weeks, and now I’m behind on my book. When David asked me how things were going this morning and I told him that I was having problems with perfectionism, he burst out laughing. I know people think I’m a perfectionist, but in all fairness to myself, I get a lot done for someone who’s continually hung up on doing things right.

Anyway, I’m finding this a difficult subject to write about. On the one hand, I think perfectionistic tendencies are good because you want to take something as far as it can go. On the other hand, when you think you should do things perfectly, it destroys your spontaneity and makes it difficult to work. Now that I think of it, that’s really what I’m trying to say, so maybe I will be able to finish this section after all.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Propeller Set Up

The challenge for our September club meeting was to alter an Altoids tin that Sharon Ginsberg had sent each one of us. I lost the lid to my tin almost immediately, and it’s never turned up. This was probably good for me though because I ended up doing something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
The last time Mary and I went on one of our bin rummaging sprees at Active Surplus, I picked up this nifty propeller and two sets of gears to use in my challenge. The whole thing came together quickly for me, so I really enjoyed this project. (Just don’t ask what it means).
My favorite part of each meeting is seeing what everyone has done with their challenge, and being inspired by their creativity. For example, Marissa took off the lid and built a frame around the rest of the tin so it looked like a shrine. This is something I’d never though of myself, but I definitely want to try it.
Carmi gave me a couple of books for my birthday – a bio on Robert Rauschenberg and Tracy Bautista’s Collage Unleashed. I didn’t know about either of these books, so I was thrilled. Unexpected gifts are always the best.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Year Ago Today

Last September I did at least one trading card sized image every day in Photoshop. Here’s the one for September 21st, 2005. By the end of that month I was starting to get fed up with the push to accomplish something each day. Not that it was taking the joy out of it for me, but that self-imposed pressure tended to take over and by the end of the month I’d had enough.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever done creatively though because it forced me to learn things in Photoshop I hadn’t before. I read a quote somewhere that said: “Repetition is the mother of all skill,” or something like that. All those trading cards I did in Photoshop weren’t necessarily repetition – more like practice really – but the work that came afterwards was a lot better than anything I’d done before. The one-a-day habit is definitely an apprenticeship, if you stick with it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My place in the scheme of things

When I was talking to Carmi the other night, she told me that her two Goldens – Shadow and Shamus spend more time on the couch than she does. I thought this was really funny, so I decided to post a picture of Lily in her typical position on the chair in front of my computer. X marks the spot where I get to park my posterior. Actually I find it surprisingly comfortable because I have to keep my back straight in order to sit this way.
One of the enjoyable things about talking to Carmi is that I can run on and on about Lily without having to feel guilty about it. Most of the people I know don’t have a dog, and you can see them getting restless when you’re sharing yet another cute story about your furry beloved.
Last year Carmi had Claudine Hellmuth do the design for her Christmas card using Shadow and Shamus. This prompted David and me to put on some doll-sized antlers on Lily, and a couple of large doll legs that I have on her front paws. She just sat there serenely until we were laughing so hard her dog dignity took over and she wanted out. This would make a fun card though, if I can just find those antlers again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thinking about the past

For the last year or so, I’ve been doing a lot of my digital work in black and white because of my book. So far I have 54 illustrations completed and incorporated into my layouts. I don’t know how many I’ve rejected, but it’s probably close to the same number.
When I think of illustration, I tend to think in terms of watercolor paintings or line drawings, and mine are all digital collages. I never thought I’d end up doing something like this even though I’ve been experimenting with black and white for as long as I can remember. My plan was always to become a famous painter and have a big loft in New York City.
Back in my early twenties – and after I’d done my B.A. in English – I decided that I wanted to go to art college because that had always been my dream. A friend of mine was dating a well-known Canadian artist, so I took my portfolio to him for feedback. He told me that I didn’t have the talent to be a painter and to forget about it – advice I might add that I took to heart.
Twenty-five years later I met this guy again at a party. He asked me what I’d done with my art. Thanks to him, I’d chosen to focus more on writing than art, so I was taken aback when he said he’d always thought I’d be a great illustrator.
This was a major life turning point for me. He had never said a thing to me about this originally. In fact, I was so devastated when he trashed my portfolio that I gave up the idea of going to art school full-time.
But this experience really made me think about whom we should trust with our dreams, and the importance of self-confidence. It had never occurred to me at the time that he might be wrong, or have his own twisted, personal agenda. (After all, he was a so-called artist of substance and I was just another wannabe).
That’s why I now believe that if you want to something that’s reason enough to pursue it. And give it your all no matter what anyone else thinks about your talent…including yourself!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday Update

Okay, so it’s officially Monday, but since I haven’t gone to bed yet, it still feels like Sunday. I’m hoping this week won’t be as hellish as the last one because I’ve literally spent twelve hours a day every day trying to get back on track with everything I needed to do. Nevertheless, I managed to squeeze in time to work on my book which means I’m still keeping to my self-imposed schedule.
Last night I took a quick look at the pages I’ve already done. I don’t think I’ll have to rewrite everything, but changes definitely need to be made – hopefully for the better. Because we’re going to Cape Cod in October, I won’t get much done while I’m away, so I basically have six weeks to finish my first draft – although it’s not really a first draft in the true sense of the word since each page is as finished as I could get it at the time.

While I was reading through the copy and looking at the illustrations, I had the strangest feeling. It was like I was holding someone else’s book. But that feeling would soon vanish when I came across things where I’d slipped up.
Tonight I also played with a picture of two statues Emma sent me from her trip to Luxembourg last weekend. I am using another one of her as my screen background, but I’m thinking about changing it because every time I look at her sweet face I feel homesick for her.

Friday, September 15, 2006

No Time for Art (or Fred)

When I was working as a layout artist at Sears back in the Pleistocene age, I was really green. One of the first things I had to do was to pick up some pictures for a layout I was working on. My supervisor told me to go over to Old Art. Of course I thought Old Art was an eccentric older guy hidden away in some cubicle…kind of like Malcolm Waddems in Office Space now that I think about it. Well, at any rate I was hunting around all over the place for him when I finally discovered that Old Art was actually the place where the catalogue transparencies were filed. Naturally everyone thought this was hilarious.
But I’ve been thinking about Old Art this week because I’ve been seeing plenty of it while trying to straighten out my files. Here’s one I did from a photo of my dad and grandparents taken back in the 1930s. I guess doing something three or four years ago doesn’t really qualify as “old,” but in Photoshop years it just might be.
One thing I don’t like about the reformatting and Adobe Bridge is that I can no longer see pictures of my files on the folder icons like I used to be able to do. All I needed was the visual with Photoshop 6 and I knew what was going on inside. Now I’m forced to read the titles and I really hate this because I have 810 file folders – and I can’t do it in Explorer anymore either.
I discovered this week that I’m not the only Photoshop user who is unhappy with this. There doesn’t seem to be a solution however, so I suspect Adobe is saving the picture icon feature for a future version of Bridge. Leaving it out must have been deliberate when you consider that Adobe is marketing their software to people who are geared to the visual…artists, photographers and graphic designers.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My computer is consuming me

For the past few days my life has been focused on trying to deal with the repercussions of having a new computer workspace. I’m overwhelmed by the chaos of my various file systems, software conflicts and so on.
Speaking of software conflicts, it reminds me of the personality clashes that sometimes happen in a group. You have a common goal in mind, but personal inclinations and agendas tend to get in the way. So why should software be any different just because it’s mechanical? Everything that happens on the road of life is a reflection of who we really are.
That said, I’m trying to get back to normal because I have two articles and a book to finish. Before I went to bed last night, I did some writing, and you know what? It seemed like a breeze after all the digital soul-searching I’ve been forced to do lately.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Portrait of Moi

I’m transferring a gazillion files to my new workspace from our external backup and finding all sorts of projects in Photoshop that never got off the ground. Not that I feel guilty. How can you feel guilty about things you’ve completely forgotten about?
But I decided to take a break and complete this one anyway so I could play with CS2. It’s a picture of me taken in my early twenties by an old boyfriend. I remember the day it was taken because I’d just finished looking at my grocery bill and a large tub of peach yogurt cost me 39 cents. Now why would I remember that?
The best thing about going through my files is discovering so many photos we’ve taken that I’d like to work with. But why did I save our 25th wedding anniversary pictures SIX times? Guess I didn’t want to lose them. Still, it shows how disorganized I am – I definitely need to be more on the ball.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mona, no longer moaning

You get so used to the way you set things up on your computer that when there’s a big change you feel like you’re suddenly in an alien landscape. Still, it’s a good thing because I’m being forced to really think about how I want to organize my files. They have been in a chaotic state for months, so it will probably take me several days to do this. Plus I have to install more programs, calibrate my monitor and iron out several bugs as well.
Photoshop CS2 doesn’t seem that different from Photoshop 6 so far. The workspace is fancier, and obviously there are more features, but I was able to reduce this digital collage of Mona without any problems. Adobe Bridge is a cool new program included with Creative Suite that allows you to scroll through your images without having to open them up in Photoshop. I love being able to do this!!
I now have Illustrator and In-Design too, although the thought of learning two new programs is daunting. I actually used Illustrator back in January to draw a spiral for a theatre poster I designed, but I found things very difficult to figure out. I guess it helps when you actually take the trouble to learn the basics instead of just winging it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Computer Problems

At the moment I am quietly freaking out. The Speedos...not the swimsuits but John and David...are reformatting my computer. It's crashed several times over the last few days, so hopefully this will fix things. Meanwhile I'm computerless and using David's right now.
I really wish I was doing the reformatting myself. I think I could handle it if I took my time because at one point they got totally stuck and called all their friends. No one was home, so I went on the Internet and found the information they needed to get started again.
Maybe computers aren't supposed to be a chick thing, but I have to disagree. Guys go all gnarly and macho when it comes to computers, and it's really a pain.
Who knows how long it will be before everything is sorted out? I know it will take me a few days to reorganize my files...they were in such a mess anyway. The good thing is that I will have Photoshop CS2. Yipee! (On the other hand, do I really need yet another learning curve right now?)
Book-wise it was also a grueling week. Last night I finished page 121 of my book, and I probably have another 40-50 pages to go, plus rewriting.
I spent 12 hours one day working on two pages which was awful. I've learned from experience the pages I have the most trouble with continue to be the most trouble. Somehow you either get it or you don't, and when you don't, your words keep on harassing you until you do.

Friday, September 08, 2006

John's Dream

Last night John had a dream that he was eating this collage piece by piece, and when he woke up he could still taste it.
For some reason I keep the picture in my bathroom…I guess it’s because I like maps so much, and I want to remind myself to do more with it at some point. (Yes, even my bathroom is filled with stuff).
Anyway, this map collage was one of our in-club projects. Carmi gave us instructions, but I was so busy yakking to Mary and Cherri – and so involved in ripping and gluing everything down – that I mixed up the instructions. Carmi’s plan was to have all twelve of us collage inside the borders of our individual maps; then she would assemble everything and photograph it as an art quilt. Such a cool idea, but I ruined it. Did I apologize to you Carmi? I hope so.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Jeanne's Collages

Jeanne Schedler sent me a CD of her latest Photoshop collages, and since I always like put my friends’ work up on my blog, I thought I’d share a couple of them with you. It’s great to have a fellow Photoshop addict to share things with, so thank you Jeanne.
The CD also cheered me up because I’ve been feeling down for the last couple of days. I made the decision not to go to Artfest 2007 solely based on financial reasons, but I haven’t quite come to terms with it yet. I wished I lived close by, and then it would be a lot cheaper to make the trip. Last year I took an online quiz about where your ideal place is geographically. For some reason, I got Portland, Oregon. When I mentioned this to Carmi, she said she could see me living there too. (Portland would be close enough to Artfest, wouldn’t it?)

Speaking of Carmi, I just received an email from her to say the angel book has arrived safe and sound. Now that she has it, the whole project suddenly seems real to me. I can’t wait to see what everyone does

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Done and Dusted

As Mick Jagger would say, the angel book is “done and dusted.” For me, anyway. There’s nothing like a deadline to keep you motivated. I finished off my pages this afternoon, and then sent the book to Carmi.
I’ve never worked on a collaborative project like this one before, and what was running through my mind most of the time was curiosity. I wondered what everyone else would do with their pages, or how they’d work with my raw material if they had the opportunity. Something completely different, I’m sure. I can’t wait to see what this talented bunch of women will bring to the book.
What I’d pictured in my mind for my pages, and what actually transpired were miles apart. I’d planned to do a lot more stamping than I did, but I couldn’t find my box of angel images. At least I had my collection of wings handy, but most of them didn’t fit, so I ended up doing most of my work in Photoshop (using images I’ve used before and that I like). I can see now why artists do series. There are some images that stay with you no matter how often you use them.
On Sunday morning I had this wonderful dream about a winged heart. But it wasn’t something I could easily translate to the angel book. It’s interesting how boundaries help you to focus, yet at the same time also rule other things out. I keep promising myself I’m going to paint and to work larger – and I keep not doing it. I don’t think it’s because I’m lazy or hesitant. Rather, I think that I know what a stretch it will be for me artistically, and most of my stretch is going into my creativity book at the moment.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amsterdam Update

I love the Internet! I just received a long email from Emma with pictures, and she’s having a ball. The photos above show the view out her window. It sure doesn’t look like Brampton, does it?
On Saturday Emma went to Ikea with some of her new buddies, and bought a rug, tea towels, a blanket and some bedding. In her words: “My room is fab.” But she says she’s definitely having culture shock. In cafes, people smoke “with their babies…the babies themselves weren’t smoking, but you know what I mean.”
Another thing Emma has noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be a celebrity culture going on in Holland. People are not hung up on how they look, and no one checks out what she’s wearing. Emma says she hadn’t realized how much people do it here.
She’s addicted to cheese now (there’s a great cheese shop just around the corner), and today she’s buying a bicycle because that’s how everyone gets around. My mother phoned me last night to say that she had just called Emma and was really upset when Emma told her that no one wears a bicycle helmet in Holland!
Emma says that European guys are more relaxed and not as concerned with being manly. “For example two guys in my group – one from Italy, the other from Greece – were arguing over whether Italian or French is the language of love and passion. They all double kiss too. It's hilarious. You can tell who the North Americans are because we are wearing similar clothing and are a little more standoffish…”
So far, she’s met several people from Poland, Russia, South Africa that she’s sure she’ll become friends with, plus a couple of people from law school she knew, but had never spent any time with. Her only complaint? “I am dying for more novels to read since English books here are really expensive, and I foresee spending a lot of time reading at corner cafes and stuff.” Obviously we’re going to have to send her a care package, and pronto.
Today is Emma’s first day at the University of Amsterdam, so I keep thinking about her. But since she’s six hours ahead of us, she’s probably eating cheese right now and admiring her new bicycle.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Even though I used to do a lot of bookbinding and taught all sorts of classes, I gave it up because it drove me MENTAL. Bookbinding is absolutely the wrong, wrong, wrong craft for a first-class nitpicker like me.
I was reminded of this tonight when I had the bright idea of covering the inside of the angel book because I didn’t think painting would work. How could I have forgotten that paper stretches when wet? Why didn’t I think of testing how the paper would take glue first? Naturally, it refused to. In the end I managed to salvage it, but just barely.
I do have a question for the angel of art though. Couldn’t I just have one project that didn’t have a steep learning curve? What’s the deal here? (Feel free to answer immediately).

It was a pretty good day otherwise. Debbie, Gerry and I went to a craft store in Dundas, and then on to The Ink Spot in Oakville, which is a lovely new stamp store on Lakeshore. I really got the urge to get out my rubber and experiment when I got home. Well, okay, I chose about fifty stamps and then decided it would be more fun to email Jeanne. But it’s the thought that counts…isn’t it?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Angel Thoughts

I did more work on the angel book tonight and enjoyed it. I wish I could do my favorite thing last, which is painting the backgrounds. I visualize this like rewinding a video so the beginning becomes the end of it all.
Even though my backgrounds are plain, the act of smoothing paint on paper is soothing to me. In fact, I prefer paper to canvas hands down. I’m glad I chose a Moleskine for this project because it takes paint really well, and the book is a sturdy one – not like my Pilgrim’s Progress altered book which will definitely need some first aid, and soon.
I have to admit I’m a little intimidated because I’m the first artist to work in The Angel Book. This is my first real experience with a collaborative project too, and…well, I don’t really know why I should be intimidated, come to think of it. It’s probably because I hesitate before doing just about anything. Will I be able to pull “it” off? What if I mess up?

But I’ve already done this. I had a paint accident tonight and had to improvise. John says it happened because I didn’t leave myself enough space to work, and he’s right. Why does my drafting table shrink to the size of postage stamp whenever I start working?