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.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Roundup

I keep meaning to post this project I did on our stamping weekend. Yvonne was the mini-workshop leader on this one and I really enjoyed using an arch. If you’re interested in this format, you can check out the Gothic Arches blog where they accept ongoing submissions on certain themes. I read about this on Godelieve’s blog a while ago and I can’t think why I’ve waited until now to mention it.
Anyone interested in anagrams will enjoy the Wordsmith.Org site too. I entered Artopia Update and apparently there are 17,759 anagrams for the name of my blog! A few of my favorites (no, I didn’t read them all) are: A Tiara Dote Pup, Dear Utopia Tap, Aura Teapot Dip, Radiate Atop Up and Pitapat Ear Duo.

Another nifty site to check out is Various & Sundry’s 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art. One portrait morphs into another and it’s really fun (and inspiring) to watch.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

Marie Antoinette’s supposed comment: let them eat cake is the next centerfold challenge for Artist Trading Card Quarterly and I knew I wanted to do something for it because it reminded me of a dream I had a few years ago on New Year’s Eve.
I dreamt the muse wasn’t a single person, but four. She was a combination of races and temperaments—silver, bronze, gold and copper—each one distinct, but part of her nevertheless. When I woke up in the morning, I was all fired up to do an assemblage. But when I went downstairs, the wind was taken out of my sails. It looked like mice had been in the kitchen. When I got down to clean the droppings up from the floor, I realized they were actually chocolate sprinkles from the cake we’d eaten the night before. (Perception is a funny thing isn’t it? What you initially think is true so often turns out to be something else).
Well, I went ahead and did the assemblage anyway—part of which is shown here. But I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the cake. Fortunately everything seems to come full circle eventually, so now I’m challenging you to do your own ATC of Let Them Eat Cake.

The deadline is November 15, 2007, and you can email Ronna a 300ppi JPEG scan of your card to
Or send it via regular mail to:
19698 County Road 24
Dunvegan, ON
K0C 1J0 Canada

(Include a SASE if you want your ATC back).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lily and Squirrels

Yesterday I saw a squirrel take an old tea towel (not mine) up the locust tree to its nest, which really made me laugh. All the squirrels around here seem to be very busy tearing around after each other and burying food for the winter.
Lily is exhausted from patrolling the property and being taunted by them. Do squirrels taunt? Yes, I’m sure they do. They like to wait until she’s almost on them, and then they take off—or else they’ll lie on the top of the fence sunning themselves while she goes nuts barking down below.
Naturally Lily never catches anything. It’s tough being a lap dog that thinks she’s a terrier. She has been sprayed a couple of times by skunks though. It’s been three years since it happened the last time, but the memory is still fresh (so to speak) in my mind.
Last night I saw a skunk out the bedroom window and Lily was really annoyed when I refused to let her go out. But the coast is clear tonight. It’s foggy, muffled and mysterious out. Leaves are falling, Halloween is definitely coming, and winter is not long behind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More on Books

Thanks to the comments Zanne and June made about their love of reading on my blog yesterday, I’m feeling much better about my book. I seem to remember reading (!) somewhere that even though people predicted horses would go the way of the dodo when the car was introduced, there have never been more horses than there are now in North America. Hopefully the same goes for books.
Practically everybody I know loves reading including my kids. David came home from L.A. yesterday with several and Emma adds to her library regularly.
P.S. When we visited David’s work recently I took pictures of a piece of grinding equipment and a glass bowl made by his employer Jeff Goodman, which I sandwiched together into this ATC. You can see more of Jeff’s glass art here.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Earlier today I got an email on blogging with a link to a site that told me that the book is basically dead because people can’t be bothered to read them anymore. They want things fast and short…so short in fact that even the ebook is on its way out. According to this site, books are “irrelevant for all but true enthusiasts, desperate people seeking a manifesto for life change, or those who read as an escape.”
It’s hard to get with the program when things keep changing so quickly. Imagine if you’re an architect. One week cathedrals might be in, and the next they’ve been abandoned for yurts. I can’t help wondering where I fit into all this myself. Here I am toiling away on a book that may never be published—so am I crazy, or what?

But if there are any prizes going for doggedness, I certainly deserve one because I stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing my quota of pages for the week. Surprisingly, I’m not that tired today, although as I write this, the idea of a hot water bottle and a long nap sounds mighty appealing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

John’s Great Granddad #2

I have spent most of today cleaning up and organizing a satellite studio in the dining room so I can watch TV while I’m doing art. At the end of November I’ll be selling some of my work in a couple of Christmas shows and I need to get organized to do this.
I’ve also been working on the ATC of John’s great granddad James Wason. About a month ago I did one of him as a young man, but this photo has been easier to work with because it’s not damaged like the other one was. James Wason was a baker and caterer in Ballantrae on the east coast of Scotland about 70 miles south of Glasgow, and John was born here in the family home. Apparently giving birth at home was a family tradition, but it was unusual. John is the only person I know in our age group who wasn’t born in a hospital, and I think that’s kind of cool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Goings on at the Nest

A couple of people have asked me recently how I’m coping with empty nest syndrome, and I can honestly say there’s nothing to cope with. But maybe I'm so self-absorbed I just don't notice.
I haven't seen much of Emma for the last couple of months because she's working so hard, but she spent the weekend with us and we had lots of fun. We had a couple of good heart-to-heart chats and watched Garden State, which we both really enjoyed. We also had a conversation about what things people remind us of. Emma told me I remind her of a flower unfurling. I’ve always thought I was like a lemon meringue pie: fluffy on the outside, tart on the inside. Emma herself reminds me of an emerald, John of a blue agate and David is definitely expensive dark chocolate (just like my sister Pam).
Speaking of David, he came up on Sunday for a visit. I showed him the etching I’d done at our club meeting, and we also talked about power tools. The upshot of our conversation was that he wants to have a mother-son etching day, and then he went out and bought me a 300-piece set of attachments for my Dremel!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


To celebrate Thanksgiving Day, John and I went hiking in El Dorado Park. We took the camera and got all sorts of great pictures including this one of a tree snail. I also got stung by a wasp. Zowie! It’s hard to believe that a small creature can pack such a wallop. For some reason, insects of all varieties just love me. They smell me coming from miles away, then zero in and start chomping. And just when I’d recovered from the wasp, I was attacked by some stinging nettles. Well okay, I blundered in on them when I was trying to take a picture of a tree...all in all though, it was still a wonderful day.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Collaborating with Jeanne

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of projects with other artists. Everything from contributing to mail art shows—and even curating one myself—to swapping ATCs. There’s a special energy generated by a group of people who respond to the urge to create, and then want to share it.
I know some artists don’t like doing this though. It could be the so-called disparity between skill levels, or the feeling that someone else isn’t pulling their weight. Personally I’ve never had a bad experience when I’ve collaborated with someone else. In fact, I’d say it’s always an enriching experience. I just wish I could do more of it, but I never seem to have enough time.
Jeanne and I recently finished our second Photoshop volley, and this time it was my turn to serve first. So you can see how the process unfolded, I’ve included four of our collabos—as David calls them—Numbers 1, 4, 7 and 10. I chose these ones in particular because they’re all different. We’re both continually surprising ourselves by what we come up with. I don’t know about Jeanne, but I find the process liberates me from my habitual ways of doing things—and that’s always a benefit.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Photoshop Friday Sabbatical

Although I’m going to continue posting to my blog, I will be taking a break from Photoshop Friday for a while because I need the time to finish my book and website. But if you want to access the twelve tutorials I’ve already done so far, click here.
The best way to learn Photoshop is to play—and to play with it as often as you can. Even though it’s a complicated program, one skill mastered leads to another and you soon have plenty to build on.

If you want to learn the basics of Photoshop, I highly recommend the video tutorials at There’s a monthly fee involved, but you can check out a few of them for free first to see whether or not this approach works for you. Another good thing about this site is that there are tutorials for Photoshop 6 and on, so you don’t have to buy the latest version to benefit.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

In Praise of Naps

I didn’t have a nap today, but I sure could have used one. While I don’t nap often, I always enjoy it when I do. There’s something rejuvenating about letting your mind go flat as a pancake for an hour—although I suppose a more appealing image would be a leaf floating on a sun-dappled stream.
The trick is not to do it for too long. The other day I decided to catch forty winks at 5 p.m. and ended up sleeping for two hours. Not a good idea. It took me until half way through Dancing With the Stars to wake up—and that was hours later.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Granny Knott

My grandmother gave me this picture of Granny Knott when I was a teenager. Over the years I’d forgotten what Nana told me about her, so I figured that Granny Knott was a family friend or acquaintance. Maybe even a second cousin twice removed.
I finally remembered to ask my dad about her the other day. Turns out Granny Knott was my great-great grandmother—and the little girl? My grandfather’s mother. Apparently she died when she was in her 30s, so Granny Knott became my grandfather’s surrogate mother.

The sad thing now is that we don’t know my great-grandmother’s first name. Dad says he thinks it’s because her daughters died young too. But I disagree that women are the ones who remember information like that. I know three rabid genealogists—Dad included—and they are all men who go after the details like ferrets. Will I catch the bug myself? I have a feeling I will.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Art that Endures

Yesterday I went to my parents’ church to take pictures and to see an installation by artist Mira Coviensky. I took classes ten years ago with Mira at The Japanese Paper and the Canadian Book Binders and Book Artists Guild, so it was a pleasure to see her again—and to look at her work. Printing on Japanese paper is Mira’s specialty and she has a minimalist style I appreciate.
The reason I took my camera is because I am designing a blog for the church, and I wanted some good (I hope) photos to use as illustrations. Even though I went to St. Philip’s growing up, now I mainly go for weddings and funerals. Pam got married there and so did I, so I thought about this as I was taking pictures.
I also realized that I had never taken a really good look at all the art in the church before. This sculpture appealed to me particularly, so I decided to turn it into an ATC. It’s life-sized and for some odd reason hangs on the wall by the font.

The good thing about art in a place of worship is that it stays put. Not like in your home where you can shift things around, or get rid of a picture when you’re tired of it.