Monday, December 31, 2007

Wrapping Up 2007

Tonight John is going to make dinner and then we’re going to see The Golden Compass. I know the movie got terrible reviews, but we loved Philip Pullman’s books so we’re hoping it will better than expected. Afterwards we’ll come home and spend a quiet evening together.
Before I go to bed on New Year’s Eve, I like to look back over the year and remind myself of what I have to be grateful about. I usually aim for at least 100 things on my list—from the major to the minor—because it helps me to put the year in perspective. I find if I just focus on the low points in my life, it doesn’t give an accurate picture of what really happened.
For various reasons, 2007 has been one of the most difficult years I’ve experienced. On the other hand, there’s so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. Two creative goals that I set myself this year have been reached. I finished my book and completed my ATC challenge. Earlier this year I’d decided to post 150 digital ATCs to my blog and this is the final one!

I wish you an abundance of blessings for 2008, and I’ll see you next year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Time to Scan

I don’t know about you, but watches fascinate me…particularly their inner workings, so I scanned one to make this ATC.
Because I like to print out everything I do digitally, I always scan objects and pictures at a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) as this results in a better quality image. But when I scanned these watch innards, I chose a resolution of 1200 dpi. Even though the watch only measured 1-inch square, I knew I could easily enlarge it in Photoshop.

What I did was open a new file at 4 x 4 inches and 300 ppi (pixels per inch). Then using the Move tool, I slid my scan over and it fit perfectly. This is a fun way to play with objects or pictures that seem to be too small to work in a scrapbook or digital collage.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Visiting with Mary

I went to Mary’s house today for a holiday visit and to see her latest assemblages. There’s probably something a little strange about making notes on a good friend’s art, but that’s exactly what I did because I knew Mary wouldn’t mind. (At least I hope she didn't).
Later we had high tea with scrumptious crustless sandwiches and assorted tarts while we talked about—what else—organizing all our stuff. When I came home I was really fired up to create and organize. What actually happened was that I fell asleep watching an Eleanor Parker movie and then worked on this ATC in Photoshop.
I liked the idea of superimposing a face on an old photo, but something definitely got lost in the translation from idea to execution. Oh well, as Scarlett O’Hara once said: “tomorrow is another day.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I’ve basically spent the last day and a half in bed sleeping and reading trashy novels. Getting ready for Christmas always sends me into a state of hibernation immediately afterwards (whether I need it or not), and this year I definitely did.
Everything went well except for Lily getting sick on Christmas Eve. By three in the morning she seemed better after innumerable trips outside (with me standing guard on the back porch to make sure she was okay). She didn’t eat anything for most of Christmas Day, but then the smell of turkey cooking seemed to revive her and she was soon back on her feed. Seeing Lily healthy and happy again was the best Christmas present of all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Time Out

I’m getting fed up with the cleaning thing—mainly because it reminds me that if I did more on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be such a big job at this time of year.
When I mentioned it to John tonight, he said I had more important things to do…like Photoshop.At first I thought he was joking but he wasn’t. So I took a break from cleaning the silver and made this ATC. I used a scan of a broken clamshell and some paper I like…anything to get away from red!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Contemplating the To Do list

Are we defined by our tasks…or rather, by the ones we manage to complete successfully?
At this time of year it can be a challenge to feel blessed when you so often feel burdened. With all there is to do, I find I have to keep reminding myself that I’m going to all this effort to make it a good Christmas for my parents and children in particular.
I also think about Helga. Helga was a former neighbor who had an immaculate home—so immaculate that she and her family lived in the basement so the first floor would remain pristine at all times.
One day I was walking by Helga’s house and noticed her in spike heels and a tight skirt crouched in her driveway. She had a measuring tape and seemed to be writing things down in a notebook. Curious, I stopped to say hello and find out what she was up to. She told me that she had assigned her husband the task of planting her geraniums eight inches apart in the flowerbed beside the driveway, and she was mad as a hornet because the job wasn’t up to her standards.
Every time I’m tempted to feel annoyed at myself for not doing things perfectly, I think about how tough it must have been to be Helga. Eventually she left her husband, and he’s now married to a woman who wears sweat pants and lets him put his feet up on the coffee table.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Cori mentioned a while ago on her blog that she loved pictures taken with Santa Claus. Because this reminded me of a photo I have of Emma and David from the 90s, I went on a hunt for it.
Naturally I had to set aside my guilt feelings about having so many pictures that are not in albums…i.e. most of them…and try to stay focused. While I was searching, I came across an envelope of pictures my uncle had given me several years ago, and inside was a photo of yours truly taken with Santa in 1952. The weird thing is I don’t remember ever seeing this photo before. Did it simply materialize out of thin air?

My recollection of childhood is that I was introverted and always hung back. But according to my father this wasn’t the case. He wrote on the back of the photo that I looked like a ragamuffin because I’d been racing around Toy Town all afternoon and was very excited. Hmmm. Does this mean it’s time to rethink who I really am?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Bling

I finished this collage a couple of weeks ago, and despite the fact I like the bling, the red rose and the green background, it still annoys me. Why didn’t I “do” something with the upper right quadrant? If I’d been working on this collage in Photoshop, I could have experimented with the layout, but when you’re doing hands-on stuff you have to commit to what seems right at the time—and then just live with it.
Obviously there’s nothing preventing me from adding something to improve it now, but I seem to work better when I’m paring things down rather than jazzing them up. I have a feeling this collage is one of those pieces that’s going to be yodeling at me for a while.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Joy of Bling

Can we ever get enough bling? I don’t think so. It’s what every girl or guy who makes art lives for. You will never use all the stuff you have, but isn’t it fun rifling through it?
Recently I made this collage incorporating a brass finding Mary gave me a while ago. I knew I wanted to put something in the middle of it and finally found the perfect tiny shell. The rest of the collage kind of evolved from there.
Then a few days ago Christmas came early when Mary sent me a package of her special bling (below). I don’t know how she manages to track down such nifty stuff, but I do know I’d much rather be playing with all those tantalizing bits and pieces than trying to handle the tasks on my endless to do list.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Countdown

Nine days to go until Christmas…no, it’s eight when I think about it. There are two almost finished assemblages sitting on one of my worktables, but I’m not sure whether I can actually find the time to finish them.
I have a four-page list of things to do by the 25th and precious little has been accomplished so far. I will get everything done though, mainly because I have to.
The biggest single task is decorating the Christmas tree. One of my friends has the ideal solution to this yearly “problem.” Instead of removing the lights and ornaments, she leaves everything in place and stores the tree in her basement. Unfortunately I don’t have the space to do this, but I wish I did. On commercials, decorating the tree always seems like such a wonderful ritual. You’re drinking eggnog, listening to carols, the fire is on and each ornament is lovingly unwrapped and hung on the tree. Too bad it’s more like a panic situation in my case.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowed In

I’m not sure how much snow we’ve had since last night, but I’m sure it’s at least 10 inches and it hasn’t stopped yet. Because we knew a storm was coming, John and I ran around yesterday doing errands and getting in supplies. I doubt our street will be ploughed out until tomorrow morning, so we’re nesting until the roads are clear.
No matter how bad the weather gets here, it’s always worse in Buffalo, which is over 90 miles southwest of us. Sometimes they have twice as much snow as we do and everything grinds to a halt.
I feel sorry for all those people who had Christmas parties planned for last night or today, but fortunately Pam and Brian’s big get-together was on Friday. One year the weather was so bad it took us three and a half hours to get there, and of course we had to stay over night once we arrived.

Since it’s my turn to do the family Christmas this year, I’m hoping the weather will be okay on the 25th. We’ve never been snowed in on Christmas Day before, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed it won’t happen again next week.

Friday, December 14, 2007


On Wednesday night Emma took me to have my hair cut and colored at David Hillis a swanky salon in Toronto (thanks baby). I’d forgotten how pleasurable it is to be transformed by people who know what they’re doing…and how much artistry is involved.
First, Hannah did my highlights. I was fascinated by how focused she was on the process, mixing up the colors like an alchemist and then applying them in an unhurried but spontaneous way. And I was really thrilled with the results.
Then Sangeeta cut my hair while we talked. Cutting hair is more than a job to her, she explained; it’s a form of healing. Sangeeta has a degree in business administration and spent ten years in the financial sector before having that eureka moment where she decided to be a hair stylist. Now she knows she’s in her right place, and like Heather, Sangeeta’s concentration on the task at hand is awesome.

Every time I look in the mirror, I think about Emma’s generosity and the two women who worked their magic on me. The big test will come this afternoon when I wash my hair and try to style it myself!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Inspires Me

Inspiration isn’t usually a problem for me because there are so many things I find interesting I continually feel prompted to respond to something. There are also certain activities I engage in that make me want to try something new, or at least take what I’m already doing farther.
This afternoon I had good gab with Carmi on the phone and played in Photoshop while we were talking. Somehow the combination of the verbal and the digital is a good one for me because both activities are so satisfying. And last night I stayed up way too late poking through assemblage materials and getting ideas. Now if I could just finish the three I’m presently working on that would be great. But I guess most of us are artistic contractors…we always have to be working on several “jobs” at once.
Looking at art books is probably my number one inspirational activity though. While I like checking out other people’s blogs and websites, there’s something about grazing through a book with fantastic pictures in it that really revs up my creative motor. So my question today is: what is it that inspires you?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Gender Genie

Do you write like a man—or a woman? Try the Gender Genie and see what happens.
The Gender Genie is based on an article and test that ran in The New York Times Magazine a few years ago, and relies on masculine and feminine keywords to reach its decision.
You’ll need to copy and paste a piece of your writing into the box provided, and choose the genre: fiction, non-fiction or a blog entry. (Note: 500 words + seems to work best).

The first couple of times I tried it, the Genie correctly identified me as a woman. But since I also do technical writing, I thought I’d enter an article I’d written. This time, the Genie decided I was a man. I’m not sure if this means I have a split personality or that I’m just a pragmatist when it comes to getting the job done.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More about Cards…

I’ve spent hours and hours over the last few days trying to turn my holiday card into something I could be happy with, but it just didn’t work out. I finally went back to something I’d worked on a couple of years ago and decided to turn it into my card. I’m pretty sure I’ve sent a similar card to a couple of people, but I’m at the point now where I just don’t care.
For some reason, designing a specific kind of card always makes me anxious. I don’t feel this way about ATCs though. Tonight I counted up all the digital ones I’ve posted to my blog this year and I’ve done 141 as of today. My goal by the end of the year is 150, so I think I can do that.
But maybe I find it easier to do ATCs because nobody expects anything (including myself). Mind you, I doubt anyone has any particular thoughts either way about my holiday card—except for my dad. My friend Joy told me about a cartoon she saw in a magazine once that said: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people thought of you, if you knew how seldom they did!”

Friday, December 07, 2007

Free Samples from Dover

If you love using clip art from Dover like I do—I have a ton of their books and use the images often—you can sign up to receive their free sampler every Friday. Just right click on the images you want and download them to your desktop. Then you can either print up what you like for collage work, or import it into Photoshop (like I did with the butterfly I used for today’s ATC).

Thursday, December 06, 2007


The urge to hibernate is strong in me right now. It’s kind of like The Force, only I don’t feel like saving any worlds from a wicked empire—I just want to do nothing…at least nothing that could be considered constructive in a worldly sense.
How does the idea of spending the day in bed reading and playing in your journal sound to you? It certainly strikes a chord with me. It occurred to me this morning that when I do these things, it’s always at the end of a long day and I’m tired. I think I’m going to try switching things around tomorrow morning…if I don’t feel too guilty about doing it that is.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Joanna of Aragon

I have always been fascinated by the 1502 portrait of Joanna of Aragon by Raphael (which I took the liberty of cropping and turning into an ATC here).
Joanna married her first cousin from Naples and then her own daughter Giovanna married her nephew who was actually ten years her senior. Other than all the byzantine information available about intermarriage, history doesn’t offer us any clues as to how Joanna felt about things or what she was interested in.

There’s a part of me that would like to be a biographer and create imaginary lives for historical figures like Joanna who have been reduced to their alliances and the role they play in politics. I also wonder if Aragon, which was part of Spain, gave Tolkien the idea for the name of his character Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Cards

Last year I was too busy to design a card, but I worked on one last night and it’s something quite different from what I’ve done before. I know some people won’t like it, but right now I’m looking on it as an opportunity to stretch creatively.
As I’ve mentioned before, I got burned out with hands-on card-making a few years ago. I used to make 180 every Christmas—80 for myself and the rest for Pam who obviously has more friends than I do!
We take the holiday card thing seriously in my family. My dad carefully chooses every card he sends. The sentiment and image have to be just right before he will mail one off to anyone. A couple of years ago he even bought me two holders to display my cards over the holidays, which I thought was really sweet of him.

By the way, if you want to send cards but aren’t in the mood to make any, check out Carmi’s great deal on her website.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Gifts

Today I’ve been thinking about what to buy for Christmas presents. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys shopping for others, but it’s not enough to just buy anything handy. I want a gift I know the other person will enjoy, and therein lies the challenge.
I’ve received some pretty hilarious gifts myself over the years. My uncle gave me the same book on Degas three Christmases in a row, so I was disappointed when he chose something else the next year because the Degas thing was becoming a running joke.
Two other gifts I recall from another relative were a key chain attached to something that looked like a large plastic dinner plate, and a pair of women’s black satin pedal pushers—not the best choice for the skinny, knock-kneed nine year old I happened to be at the time. I remember squeezing both my legs into one side of the pedal pushers and laughing like a loon.
My dad always got the best “worst” gifts though. One Christmas it was a large can of barbecue lighter fluid clearly marked “sample.” The next, he received The Executive Coloring Book and several of the pictures had already been colored in! You just gotta love stuff like that.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ATC Quarterly

When I have deadlines looming, which is pretty much most of the time, I tend to let my mail pile up. This afternoon I decided to work through it and try not to feel too guilty about being such a slack off. (For some reason, feeling guilty makes me less effective when it comes to taking care of things).
Sometime this week ATC Quarterly must have arrived, so I immediately took a long break to enjoy all the art. Really, I can’t get over how much talent there is around—and how diverse it is. There’s something about the ATC format that really encourages people to explore their own creativity. And one of the reasons I like this journal so much is that because of the many different kinds of art featured, I’m inspired to get busy creating my own stuff before I’ve finished reading it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Selling Stuff You Like

This was my favorite mixed media piece that I made for the craft sale yesterday and it was the first thing I sold. Mary’s sister Carole bought it, so I know it’s going to a good home.
Letting go of stuff has been a problem for me in the past. I think I like to keep things around to remind me of what I’m capable of. But that’s one reason why I enjoy having a digital camera. All you need to do is take a picture and you have a record of the work you’ve done.

Mary had some amazing jewelry for sale yesterday. I particularly liked her hardware line, and one necklace in particular. Hmmm. Christmas is coming up isn’t it?

Thursday, November 29, 2007


For the arts and crafts sale at Emma’s law firm tomorrow, I decided to make some small collages on wood blocks in addition to selling my framed digital prints.
What I discovered when I started rooting through my stash is that I’m reluctant to use papers and ephemera I’m drawn to. Why is this? Why hesitate to use things that are meant to be used? Could it be that the desire to collect and hoard stuff is stronger than the urge to create?
Somehow I doubt this. I think this problem really stems from my fear a much better idea might come along in the future, and then I’ll be sorry I wasted whatever it is on something insignificant.

But somehow this feeling is based on limitation, which is certainly not what creativity is all about. So I took a deep breath, used up some stuff…and guess what? I really enjoyed myself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cherri's New Book

Cherryl Moote latest book is called Photo Op, and it’s jammed packed with super cool projects to display your photographs. If you visit her site and click on the Photo Op Gallery link, you can see full color examples of everything from albums and books to calendars and carousels. (Cherri also used three of my digital collages in her meandering corners photo structure, so it was an honor to be included).
P.S. Corey and I made the Origami ATC Pocket Book at the workshop I taught back in March with Ruth Booth, and it’s really fun to do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One of a kind...

I don’t make handmade cards any more because I’m just too slow. Maybe three people a year would receive one if I did this, so I print mine now. And that’s why I treasure the cards I receive from my friends because I know how much work goes into creating them.
Take Carmi for instance. She has made 2,500 for the One of a Kind Show and Sale, which starts today. How she managed to do this is beyond me. Anyway, I know Carmi likes this digital collage so I’m posting it to wish her good luck (instead of sending a card). She’s at booth 0-37 at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place in Toronto. I can’t wait to see what she’s done.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Emma's Skyscapes

I’m still not feeling 100 per cent, but I’m definitely better. John picked up David from the airport first thing in the morning. Then I made him breakfast and went back to bed. This afternoon we took him home and celebrated Emma’s birthday.
Emma had just finished opening her gifts when a phalanx of jets roared past the condo. She rushed to get her camera and got some great shots from the balcony. I wish you could have been there to experience it. We all found it really exciting. I know it’s the closest I’ve ever been to a plane without actually being on one—and there were 9 of them!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Under the weather

I feel too lousy to do anything except lie in bed. Even my hair aches (but maybe that’s because I have a lot of it).
This has put me behind on what I’m doing for the craft shows next week, and I had to miss our club meeting last night. I really look forward to seeing my art buddies and hearing all their news, but I had to settle for emailing Carmi a photo of what I did with the doily challenge. You can see what the original looked like on
her blog, and I’m sure she will be posting the results soon.
I have to admit I struggled with this challenge for a while. I considered everything from painting a mandala to making a pillow. But when in doubt, stick a doll’s head on it, use gesso or cover everything in plaster.
In the end, I settled for two out of three and managed to incorporate at least one doily element—a flower—into the assemblage I came up with.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

One thing I love about Americans is they really know how to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our holiday is in October, but I always feel it gives me an excuse to be grateful all over again when my neighbors to the south have their own party in November.
When I woke up this morning I started thinking about everything I have to be grateful for…friends, family, art, nature (yes, even the snow today), John waking me up with a cup of tea and so much more.
Then there were two books from Emma which arrived this morning: The Art of Personal Imagery by Corey Moortgat, and Linnea Dayton’s Photoshop Cs / Cs2 Wow! (her exclamation point, not mine but the book deserves it). Thanks baby!

P.S. I hope all of you have a fabulous Thanksgiving, and I’m sending a special “hello” to David who is celebrating in L.A. with his precious girlfriend Leigh.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Getting it together

This is the first time I’ve been involved in venues selling my work that I haven’t been stressed out about it and overwhelmed. It’s not because I’ve reached some Zen moment of clarity about the situation; I’m just not as busy with work as I usually am.
Even though I’m reasonably prolific, I’ve never been good at churning out large amounts of stuff to sell. The reason for this is that I have to meditate on everything I make, which is obviously not the best policy when it comes to making money. But I don’t think you can go against your real nature. You just have to find some way to work with it.

Today I also put some time into our challenge for this month’s art meeting. At one point John stuck his head around the door and said: “You’re still in the same position you were 25 minutes ago.” True enough. But I think I’ve finally figured out what to do with the dreaded doily we were assigned to alter. Now if there was just some way I could put my creativity on warp drive…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Something to try...

I was aiming for a TV with this digital collage, but somehow it got away from me and ended up looking like a psychedelic Etch A Sketch—minus the controls.
Somewhere in the mountain of stuff in our crawl space, we have one. But where could it be? Not to worry though. There seems to be a virtual equivalent for every toy going nowadays.
Check out to experiment with Etch A Sketch online by using the arrows on your keyboard.
One thing that’s always disappointed me about it though is that you can only “draw” straight lines.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My thought for the day

I often become anxious when I’m planning my week. There seems like so much I have to do—and so much I want to do—and never enough time to accomplish it all. While I was thinking about this earlier, I realized I was holding my breath and understood that what we think about always affects our body in a basic way.
Then I remembered an experience I had standing on a friend’s dock one summer. It was a beautiful gusty day, and I felt light and free. The wind seemed to be blowing right through me. Wanting to justify my existence suddenly seemed absurd, and I realized that I was here to express myself. So today I plan to keep things simple and enjoy myself, and that’s my wish for you today too, dear reader.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

International Eccentrics Day

I just googled International Eccentrics Day and apparently there’s no such thing so I’ve decided to institute one. Today is the day to celebrate your inner eccentric by doing something strange.
My contribution is superimposing a picture of my eye on a photograph I took of the mocha torte cake my mother baked for last night’s family birthday party. (Great cake by the way, Mum).
The most eccentric thing I’ve ever heard anyone doing was the lawyer who cut his toenails during a consultation with my father. But that probably catapulted him way beyond the peculiar and straight into the realm of the just plain gross.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hiking Highlights

The best thing about hiking in Canada at this time of year is there’s no one else around. No picnics, no Frisbees, no parking lots jammed with cars. I like to take my camera so I can take pictures of everything that appeals to me. Then John and I come home, fire up my computer and hike all over again.
Here are some highlights from our latest foray:
Pampas Grass Stonehenge—right in the middle of a field, a small forest of pampas that was over our heads. (Wish I’d ventured inside).
Drake and his gals—I know “gal” is a tacky word in some circles but what else can you say about three ducks obediently trailing their lord and master?
Tree tongues—can’t remember what these ledge-y growths are called, but they are works of art.
Yes, Virginia, there are caterpillars in November—this little guy (or gal) froze when we stopped to look. Was the caterpillar terrified? Probably. I’m positive insects have feelings. I once broke up with a guy because he deliberately crushed a gorgeous beetle underfoot. The poor thing was actually trembling, and even though I begged Mr. X not to, he went ahead and did it anyway.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

#12 for Lily

I love this shot I took of Lily relaxing on her back on John’s lap and enjoying the sun. Today is her twelfth birthday (macaroni and cheese tonight!) so I thought I’d celebrate with five reasons why it’s great to have a dog.

  1. They’re optimistic. I mean how many squirrels has Lily chased over the years and failed to catch?
  2. They like you just the way you are. No need for manis, pedis or Dolce and Gabana.
  3. They know how to get what they want without negotiating. Standing on your bladder at the crack of dawn is simply the most effective way to get breakfast pronto.
  4. They know how to fit in. I love it when Lily wedges herself in beside me on the couch while I’m watching Dancing With The Stars—and then rests her chin blissfully on my shoulder. (Guess she knows I’m not going anywhere for a while).
  5. They’re always glad to see you whether you’ve been gone for 15 minutes or a couple of days. In my opinion, we can learn a lot from our dogs because just being alive is a celebration for them, so my motto for today is: Go forth and be yourself!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Something to have fun with!

If you’re a fan of Pollock, the circa 2000 movie starring Ed Harris as the painter Jackson Pollock, you’ll have a ball being an abstract expressionist on this site. Just move your mouse or Wacom stylus around to create your own digital painting.
You can print out what you do, or you can save it by doing a screen capture if you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. In Windows, choose Print Screen SysRq. Then open Photoshop and select New document. It will automatically open the right size file for you. Finally, press Control V to paste in your painting.
I don’t have a Mac, but there’s a tutorial here that will explain how you can do a screen capture using that operating system.
What I did was Invert my original (the top painting) and then apply a gradient to the flower area to spiff it up a bit (bottom). Be warned though. Pretending to be Jackson Pollock is addictive! I could have happily spent the whole day playing with this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Princess Ahmadee

This is an image from a DigiWERX collage sheet that I played with in Photoshop and then turned into an ATC.
Most of the cabinet cards I’ve bought, collected or been given have no information about the person being photographed, so this is one of the rare exceptions. Stamped in gold below the photo is the title “Princess Ahmadee of the Royal House of Delhi.”

I doubt “Ahmadee” is her first name though. Apparently Ahmadi is an Islamic sect, and there was a royal family by that name in India during the time of the British Raj. I’m assuming Princess Ahmadee must have visited London in the 19th century when her photographer made this spelling mistake.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day

I’ve been reading June’s inspiring posts about Remembrance Day on her blog lately, and since today is November 11th, I decided to write about it too.
In one way or another, both my parents and John’s were involved in the Second World War. John’s mother was a fire service warden in Edinburgh, and somewhere we have a photograph of her in uniform meeting the Queen Mother. John’s father served in Italy, Holland and North Africa with the British Army, and was shot twice during the war—“friendly” fire on both occasions.
Just before the war, Adrian had been managing a hotel in Germany. He was good friends with a Jewish bandleader who warned Adrian that he should break his contract and leave immediately because something terrible was coming. To do this, Adrian arranged to have his father send him a telegram with a fake family emergency. While Adrian was in Germany, he said it was obvious the Jews were being treated badly and how much it disturbed him.
Like John’s mother, mine was also part of the war effort. Mum worked as a rations officer for the British Ministry of Food during the war, and still remembers the sound of bombs being dropped on Liverpool and Chester. She met my father at a garden party in Wales where he was billeted as a member of the Canadian Air Force.
Dad had joined up as a twenty year old, and after basic training in Canada, he was posted to Britain. But he ended up spending most of the war in Ceylon as a radar mechanic. Hundreds of troops were transported there on a ship swarming with rats, and everyone slept in a hammock.
The day before the Germans surrendered, my parents were married, and the photo that I used for this ATC was taken as they emerged from Bethel Methodist Chapel in Connahs Quay after the ceremony. Because all the troops had to be sent home first, my mother waited for a year before coming to Canada as a “war bride.”

Mum and Dad have been married now for 62 years, and it’s amazing to me to think how an overwhelming global event like World War II ended up affecting my life in such a basic way.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Family Bonding

Last night Emma took John to see The Police concert at the Air Canada Centre, while David and I spent some quality time together.
We went out for vegetarian Japanese food, and then came back to the condo where we played with alcohol inks on glass and watched a documentary on Van Gogh.
It was a fun evening for both John and me—and I hope for the kids—but our exhaust pipe came lose on the 401 on the back. We ended up parking the car at the mechanic’s and walking home through the park, which was dark, rainy and deserted. I’m just glad this didn’t happen on the way to Toronto because the traffic was terrible, and John would have been very late for the concert. There’s a silver lining in every cloud, I’m convinced of it.

P.S. Here are some scanned alcohol ink slides incorporated into my latest ATC.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I have a couple of weeks to figure out what to do with the doily we were given as our next club assignment. I don’t have a clue how to transform it. (To see what we have to work with, check out this photo Martha posted to her blog).
Most of our members are good at sewing. While I can do things by hand, I rarely do, so late last night I decided to loosen up for the assignment by painting.
Have I forgotten how to paint? It seems like it. Frustrated, I came back downstairs and decided to paint digitally in Photoshop. From time to time it crosses my mind that what I really am is a digital artist. More than anything else, it’s what I keep returning to because it seems to flow naturally for me.
Still, after I’d finished this ATC, I started scanning some of the results I got from using alcohol inks on glass. My hands-on stuff seems to be recycled into digital art whenever I can.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Volley Three

Jeanne and I are now on our third round of volleying in Photoshop. It was her turn to start this time, and here’s my response.
The image of a lady I used is from Lazar StudioWERX’s collection of digital daguerreotypes. Judging from the clothing, I think this photograph must have been taken sometime in the 1840s. I wonder how a proper lady like her would feel if she knew that her image had been recycled into a grunge background in the 21st century?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Art and Longevity

Picasso did 165 paintings in his 87th year and he lived to be 91, so I think we can assume that making art was good for him. But is this true for artists in general?
I thought about this last night while I was looking at a book of self-portraits by British women artists, and decided to try an experiment. I took the life spans of the artists who were no longer living—32 of them from 1633 to 1953—and came up with an average of 73 years.

I’m at the age now where 73 doesn’t sound that great. But as usual, an average never provides us with the real picture. For one thing, even though five of the women died in their seventies, no one actually expired at 73; and for another, over half of them lived longer than that.
In fact, you had a better chance of dying in your eighties or even your nineties than in your seventies. Nine of them died between 81 and 87 and seven were over ninety when they passed on! So I think we can assume that art making must have made a positive contribution to their longevity. Then again, if your number comes up, it comes up, so maybe the whole point is: we don’t know when we’re going to go so it’s important to make the most of right now.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Online Fun

I’m not doing anything exciting with Photoshop lately, so I think I must be in the doldrums. But there’s always time to cruise the Internet aimlessly, isn’t there?
Here are three sites you might enjoy if you have nothing better to do with your time like me.
To choose the perfect spammer name for yourself, go to this url and check it out; just the ticket if you want to sell bootleg Viagara or replica watches. My spammer name is Fussy C. Heiress. (I like the heiress part of it!)
Discover the ideal location to live at Find Your Spot. I got Portland, Oregon, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Carmi told me once that she thought I’d love it there, so it must be right.
If you absolutely feel you must do something while you’re wasting time on the Net, visit the Collage Machine where you click and drag to create your own collage with the elements they provide.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Solo

Aside from staying in hotels, this is the first time in 26 years I’ve actually been on my own. The first day it felt empty and weird without John, but now I’m getting used to it.
I was under the illusion I would get a lot more done without having someone else around to consider, but it really hasn’t made any difference. John is basically a low maintenance kind of guy and I’ve discovered that I’m a creature of habit.
My friend Joy asked me tonight if I’d eaten a bowl of Shreddies over the sink like she does when her husband is away. But no. I cooked myself a nice pasta dinner and gave Lily a bowl too. Then we watched Dancing with the Stars. Well, I watched and she snored.

Afterwards, I sat around and thought about numbers I like. Seven is supposedly my lucky one, but I’ve always liked sixty. In case you think the isolation is turning me into an eccentric, I was born that way. I’m always ruminating about unimportant things, and since John isn’t around to listen to me, there’s always you, dear reader.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Eardial

I tend to think the pictures I take of my club challenges don’t do them justice, but in this case, the photo looks much better than the finished “product.”
This month we had to make something using the etching we’d done last meeting. I thought mine looked like a sundial, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn it into one. While browsing through all my stuff, I came across a resin piece of an ear I’d done in a class with Carmi, so I decided to make my challenge an eardial. I constructed a tinker toy base plugged the holes with eyelets, then added corners and some bells to make noise. Kind of lame, I know—and it turned out wonky too. But I enjoyed myself anyway.
Carmi’s alcohol ink/stamping workshop on Friday night was great. There’s something alchemical about alcohol inks that really appeals to me, and I played around with them on my own again yesterday.
P.S. You can see a group shot of our challenges that Carmi posted to her blog after the meeting.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Farewell Jean

John’s mother Jean passed away on Friday afternoon so he left for England tonight to help his brother Sandy make funeral arrangements and to spend a few days with him.
Jean was 92 and had been in ill health for several months, so it wasn’t really a surprise. But I don’t think you’re ever prepared for death. Jean herself always referred to it as “going to that great Taco Hut in the sky” (for some mysterious reason). Somehow I doubt she’s having a taco right now though…probably coffee and prosciutto by Lake Garda while she watches the boats go by.

After John’s father died, I had a dream that I met him in this beautiful outdoor café in the Italian Alps. “So what’s heaven like Adrian?” I asked. “Just great,” he replied enthusiastically. “It’s full of Italians!”

Friday, October 26, 2007

What to Take

What would you take with you if a firestorm was advancing on your home and you only had a few minutes to get out? The main thing for me would have to be John of course—and my dog. I read in the New York times about a guy in California who loaded his three cats, three dogs, snake and tortoise into his van while his wife grabbed the photos. (All eight pets spent several days in his office).
Photos would be important for me too, along with my journals, artwork, external drive, keepsakes, art supplies, printer, rubber stamps, David’s glass, my grandmother’s diaries, my shell collection…let’s face it, I’d need a truck and a bunch of brawny movers to accomplish this.
I don’t think of myself as a materialistic person, but so much of our identity seems to be reflected by the stuff we have, and losing it all would be like losing a part of your self. But a dog or cat has to come first. It was heartbreaking to see all the abandoned and starving pets people were ordered to leave behind in Hurricane Katrina. I don’t think I’d ever get over having to leave Lily behind, so I just couldn’t.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Well I finally finished writing my book late this afternoon, then read it through and made a few changes. But I don’t feel euphoric about it because there are still a lot of things to take care like tweaking a few of the illustrations, doing the cover, marketing the book and so on. Still, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders because the writing was so incredibly difficult.
There have been many times in the last couple of years that I’ve been tempted to pack it in, and there has also been a lot of self-doubt. But I think the book is as good as I can get it now, and that’s all that matters to me at this point. When I phoned my mother to tell her I’d finished, she said (seriously): “Why don’t you write a novel next?” That really made me laugh. If there’s another book inside me, it better hold off for a while because I’m completely done in.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Everything I do is an experiment (like this one), and some of them even work! Not that I’ve had much time to experiment lately, but I’ve been thinking about it.
I have an assemblage I started in 2003 and never finished, so I’m determined to by the end of the year. Are some things meant to be incomplete? Somehow I think you know when you need to let something go. But this particular assemblage just won’t let go of me! It keeps glaring accusingly at me from its perch on my drafting table.

I suppose I could have done something on it tonight but I was too tired—and besides, I had to watch Dancing With the Stars. Yes, I know it’s kind of tacky, but I’ve got John hooked on watching it now, so how bad can it really be?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Weekend That Wasn’t

Years ago my next-door neighbor showed me her photo album like people do, but the weird thing was that she had used an X-acto knife to cut out her ex-husband’s face from all the family pictures. I remember wondering at the time how her kids felt about having a father who had been reduced to a black rectangle.
I though about this today because I had one of those weekends I’d like to surgically remove from my life. It was all about my computer going AWOL and a monitor that’s still distorting everything. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about graphics cards, driver downloads, screen resolution etc.—and none of it helpful.
Just before everything went squirrelly, I was working on this ATC, so I’m pretty sure it’s the right size, but I must have had a premonition of what was coming next because it’s cracked…kind of the way I feel after spending fifteen hours trying to get back on track. It’s hard to be philosophical about this when I’m almost finished my book and need a computer in good working order.

Fortunately the end of the weekend was much better. John and I sat outside after the baseball game and looked at the moon while he told me more about his childhood. It’s amazing the details he can remember like how to make pasties, potato scones and crumpets, the names of the five bakers who worked in the family business, and what was in the meals for catered events. Even though we’ve been married for 26 years, I’m always learning something new about John.