Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beginning an experiment

Even though I’m constantly thinking about—and planning—what I want to do, I usually only work seriously on one project at a time. But since I tend to hyper-focus on a specific project, this may not be the best approach for me. So tonight I took a deep breath and decided to work on seven things at once (seven being my “lucky” number). I gessoed five wood panels and a couple of small shadow boxes in preparation and then started going through my paper, paint and ephemera. Will working on so many things at once overwhelm me? I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Make your own cartoon

I used to run art classes for kids in my home back in the 90s, and one of the things we did was learn how to cartoon. But you don’t have to draw to make your own comics or cartoons now. Just go to the Toonlet website and play with their toolkit of cartoon elements. I did one of Emma and David (above), although I don’t know how flattered they will be when they see themselves online! I had to resist re-doing them in my own style as I’m trying not be distracted by yet another interesting project.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't forget Bernie!

If you're a dog lover like I am, you're in awe of artist Bernie Berlin and A Place to Bark, her full-time dog rescue, Bernie takes in abused and abandoned dogs, nurses them back to health and then places them with loving families. Each $10 donation from a unique donor gives Bernie at shot at winning a grant of $50,000. But hurry! The deadline is Thursday, January 31st at 3 p.m. EST. To find out more about Bernie, visit her blog, or just click the orange "donate" button below.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I think listening to music can make you more creative. But it depends on the music and the circumstances. I like rock when I’m doing art, but when it comes to writing, I want classical—or no music at all. My art seems to come from a different place than my writing, which is generally more difficult for me, and I tend to prefer silence when I’m trying to think things through.
Apparently Mozart is the best music to listen to if you want to increase the power of your intellect and experience well-being. So I think I’ll take a tea break now and crank up the Mozart.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Our Club Challenge

After my heavy-duty week, I was really in the mood to see my friends and have some fun. I had a great dinner at Beverly’s first, and then went on to the club.
As usual, we all rose to the challenge. The vase was transformed into everything from a fertility figure, to a mask and a lamp. If you want to see pictures of what everyone did, you can visit Carmi’s website. (While you’re there, you might want to check out her store as well. Carmi has some truly gorgeous ribbons and embellishments from France—just to mention a couple of the products she carries).
I debated about posting my own take on the vase because I’m not finished with it yet. For example, the head fell off and needs to be put back on. And the flashing light thing on the top of my doll’s head is precarious too. Beverly’s husband Michael suggested 2-part epoxy, so I guess I’ll be making a visit to Lowe’s soon.
We always have a demo at our club meetings, and last night Carmi showed us how to do felting. Then we all gave it a go (see mine above). Felting is very low tech and therapeutic. It reminds me of painting and is definitely something I’d like to do again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Procrastinating as Usual

I just checked Carmi’s blog and she mentions that she’s given us “a doozy" of a dollar store challenge” for our art group tomorrow night. Right you are Carm! I’ve had no end of trouble with my vase for a long list of very annoying reasons that I won’t bore you with here. But the bottom line is: it’s almost midnight and I’m still working on it.
Even though I’ve been looking at the vase for weeks—and knew how I wanted to alter it—I procrastinated as usual. Then everything went wrong. This always happens when I don’t make an early start. I could give the excuse of being busy (which is true enough), but who isn’t when you really think about it?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


John has a knack for languages. He can speak French, Dutch and Glaswegian(!), as well as carry on a basic conversation in Italian, German, Flemish or Russian (which he studied in university).
Unfortunately I don’t seem to have an aptitude for languages. But I’m certain I’d learn one in a hurry if I relocated to another country because I sure like to talk!
What really interests me, though, are pictorial languages like hieroglyphics. The other day I came across a site, which you might enjoy because it lets you create
your own custom cartouche.
I played around with different words, and “love” (shown here) appealed to me the most. Shorter words with no repetition of letters seem to work best from a graphic point of view.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stick with it

Working on this assemblage has turned into a long running joke between John and me. Every once in a while he’ll ask if I’m done yet, but I’ve been saying “no” since April of 2002. John then responds by picking up something totally random and inappropriate from my worktable—like a large papier-mâché pear—and then squeezes it into my assemblage to help me finish it off. In other words, lots of laughs, but very little progress.
Actually I’d pretty much given up hope this assemblage would ever come together—that is until Mary made a couple of comments on it recently that set me on the right track. (Thanks girlfriend!) So when John asked me this morning again if I was done yet, I was able to say, “Yes,” although I'm not sure if he believes me.

The moral to this story is that you can reach resolution with a problem piece—even if it takes you almost six years…i.e. Just stick with it! But now that I think about it, maybe there is no moral. It could just be more proof of how self-absorbed I really am.

Monday, January 21, 2008


My friend Zanne from Mississippi mentioned in an email earlier this month that people have been choosing a word to express the approach they want to take to life in 2008. I’ve been thinking about this for days now, and finally decided on mine. I want to celebrate 2008 by expressing my creativity and enjoying all the wonderful people I know.
I think the word “celebrate” comes to mind because I had a great weekend. It started on Friday night when I had a long, intense conversation about art with David. On Saturday, I went to Yvonne’s house in Guelph to hang out with my stamping buddies for the day. Beverly and I figured out our ATCs for the next exchange at The Hive, and I actually started putting mine together.
Emma and Bryan were staying overnight, and when I got home they took us out for dinner. The next day we went shopping to Michaels where Emma bought a bowl for her fish Fred, and I scored some nifty stamps on clearance for my journal. Then I worked on this digital ATC and my club challenge—although I’ll admit I had to keep reminding myself to celebrate because I’m struggling with the latter.
P.S. Do you have a word for 2008 that appeals to you? (I’m curious).

Friday, January 18, 2008

The chaos downstairs

I know I'm a slob, but I didn’t realize just how bad I really am—or “was” because I’m attempting to turn over a new leaf by organizing the dungeon that’s our basement.
In the last few days I’ve discovered a Gocco Printer, papermaking equipment, a box of old printing plates, at least two hundred rubber stamps, pictures of Paul Molitor, dozens of writing magazines, broken china, a box of weathered wood, a day timer from 1988…oh, and did I mention that I’m still in the furnace room?
I thought about posting a photo of the chaos today as a feel-good gesture because I guarantee that looking at my mess would automatically make you feel better about yours. But I decided against it. (Just too embarrassing).
On a positive note, I have started and already recycled a ton of paper. In fact, I felt so virtuous tonight that I knocked off early and played with my amaryllis in Photoshop.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On the other hand...

Last January I created a digital ATC every day and posted it to my blog. This proved to be an absorbing pastime, and I learned a lot about Photoshop in the process. But so far in 2008, I’ve only done five. Am I falling down on the “job?” Should I motivate myself by establishing a number to work towards?
On the other hand, it isn’t a job. And I have to admit I’m bored with striving to accomplish certain things. When you feel you always have to be succeeding in one way or another, then life degenerates into a process of proving yourself. Success means you’re worthwhile, and failure you're not. Yes, I think I’ve finally had enough of that way of thinking. There’s so much more to life than setting goals, and trying to meet them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Writers and Aging

There was a fascinating program on Bravo the other night about writers and their craft. Gorgeous and talented American author Richard Ford said he hesitated to start a new novel at the age of 58 because he knew it would take him four or five years to finish it. No matter what age he is, Ford doesn’t hesitate to put the time into his work it deserves, and this reminded me of the British novelist Mary Wesley who didn’t publish her first adult novel until she was sixty one.
Wesley went on to publish nine more—the last of which when she was eight five. Even though Wesley had terrible problems with gout, she still managed to work. That’s the great thing about writing. You can do it at any age, and you don’t have to feel good while you’re doing it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free PC Photoshop Filters

If you’re running Photoshop or Photoshop Elements in Windows, you can download the plug-in VirtualPhotographer free from OptikVerve Labs.
There are 50 presets that give you all sorts of effects, which are particularly useful if you’re a scrapbooker. I tried it with a photo of David’s girlfriend Leigh and had a blast. Fast and free is always a good combination in my opinion!

Monday, January 14, 2008

100 Things

My cousin Bruce told me last week that he had made a list of 100 things he wanted to do in his life. One of them was running a backhoe, and he got a chance to do this last summer when construction was going on down his street.
Of course I had to start compiling my own list too, and it’s harder to do than I thought it would be. The first thing that came to mind was going back in time to the 18th century and visiting William Blake’s solo art show in London. He didn’t sell a single thing, so if I could, I’d buy a ton of his stuff. And I wouldn't mind going back to New York in the 1940s when Joseph Cornell’s assemblages were going for only $12.95 each!
But since time travel doesn’t seem to be an option, I’d have to say that number one on my list would be spending two weeks in Florence touring the sights—the Uffizi gallery in particular. I mentioned this to Debbie the other day and she said I should start saving money every week. Sounds like a plan.

P.S. What’s on your list?

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Isolation Lifts

Shortly after I posted my last entry our server went down for a day and a half. It’s always strange when you can’t send or receive emails because you’re so dependent on them to stay in contact with others. But somehow it wasn’t as bad this time because I knew it was beyond my control and I just had to wait it out. Besides, I was already in the groove from being away.
The good thing about not having Internet access is that I automatically turn to reading instead of online cruising when I have downtime. What I realized when I was looking through my bookcases last night is that I have a pile of books I’ve never finished or even started. How could I have forgotten them? I guess it's the same old thing. I seem to pay attention to what's right underneath my nose.
Somehow I think this year will be all about finishing stuff off—like art projects that have stalled, and cleaning and sorting the basement. Now I think I’m going to add books to the list.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back to Reality

I had a great time in Orillia with my cousin Bruce and his wife Diane, and it’s hard to work my head around being home again. When I’m away from my day-to-day responsibilities for any length of time, I easily forget them. But this is a good thing because it reminds me that there’s more to life than the tasks we have to do (or choose to).
On Monday night Bruce and I had a long talk, and he told me he’s been keeping a journal since January 1st 2007. I’m always surprised when a man keeps one and I shouldn’t be because David, my dad and my brother Robin do too.
Bruce explained that he was inspired to start journaling after a friend of his had passed away, and he discovered the guy had been keeping a journal for almost fifty years! I’ve never let anyone take a peek at mine before, but I showed it to Bruce and he thought it was “cool.”

P.S. The amaryllis John bought me in December is doing well. Now it has a baby, so I’m hoping it will flower too.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Skin Color

When I was shopping at Michaels before Christmas, a woman stopped me in the paint aisle and asked me if I could help her, No one in the store had the answer to her problem and she was desperate, so I said I’d try to help her. She explained that her daughter was getting married Christmas Eve and was insisting on a bride and groom decoration to go on top of her wedding cake.
Then the woman opened her handbag and pulled out the ornament. She looked at me and I looked at her, and we both burst out laughing. The plastic bride and groom had bubble gum pink skin and impossibly blond hair—and the mother of the bride? She was black! Because she didn’t have enough time to order an ornament online, she’d picked this one up and decided to paint it.
I immediately thought of my doll Selina (see the ATC above). I’d used Lumieres for her skin, but Michaels doesn’t seem to carry them anymore. So we poked around looking at different things until I realized that the paints used on model cars might work. I matched the mother of the bride’s skin to a nice bronze color and then we got some black for the hair.

I’d love to see how it turned out…i.e. I really hope it worked! I’ll tell you one thing though. It’s started me thinking about couples and ungeneric they actually are. Why wasn’t that woman in Michaels able to buy what she wanted? After all, couples come in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages and sexual persuasions. In my experience, I can only think of one bride and groom who both had blond hair—and they’re now divorced!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Cardinal

“Come and see this,” John called out to me this morning. I went rushing upstairs to find out what he was looking at and he pointed out a male cardinal sitting on the back porch. For a split second I thought the bird was real—then I burst out laughing.
When I was at Dollarama with Mary a couple of days ago, I bought the cardinal for John as a joke since he always asks me if I got him anything while I was out. (Apparently that twelve-year-old boy that lives inside him is good to go for 2008).

This practical joke reminded me of a story I read about Vita Sackville-West, the English poet, novelist and gardener. Vita was renowned for her fabulous gardens at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, and her mother Victoria was jealous of her daughter’s success. One day during the 1920s Victoria invited Vita for lunch. As Vita walked up the path to her mother’s front door, she noticed flowers everywhere. It didn’t take a gardener to recognize they were all fake, and some of them even had black velvet petals embellished with rhinestones!

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Fleet

What am I going to do with these eleven plastic animals I bought yesterday at Michaels? On the other hand, they only cost 50 cents each, so how could I resist? Mary thinks I should cannibalize them and add parts to every club challenge I do this year. Hmmm. Sounds like a plan.
Normally I don’t go shopping with other people because I find it hard to concentrate on looking at things. But I had a ball with Mary at Michaels and the dollar store. She is a very methodical shopper going aisle by aisle with focus and intention. For example: who knew that the cake-decorating aisle in Michaels could be so interesting? They sell pillars for wedding cakes that would be perfect in assemblage.

Before we left on our shopping spree, I had Mary look at a couple of assemblages I’m having trouble with, and the advice she gave me was spot on. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference, so thanks Mary—I know what I’m going to do now.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Your Birthday Color

If I had to choose one color that resonates with me, it would probably be purple. But according to the Colorstrology website, my birthday color is Wedgwood Blue (see the upper left-hand window in the ATC above). Colorstrolgy gives you a little write up about yourself too. Mine said:
“You have enormous creativity and an eye for detail. Highly principled, you are a good person that takes your work and behavior seriously. You love to learn and acquire information. You are constantly analyzing and assimilating the psychological aspects of life. You can be hard on yourself and need to be surrounded by people who remind you of your greatness and caring nature.”

Cool, huh? I’m going to go upstairs now and find out if John is in the mood to remind me of my “greatness!”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Color for 2008

According to the experts at Pantone, Blue Iris is the color of the year for 2008. (In case you’re wondering, chili pepper red was last year’s).
Pantone describes the color as “a beautifully balanced blue-purple…combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple. Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.”
Don’t you just love it when a company waxes poetic over something like color? But wait, there’s more! Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute adds: “As a reflection of the times, Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic. Look for it artfully combined with deeper plums, red-browns, yellow-greens, grapes and grays.”
Doesn’t this make you want to do lots and lots of art?

If you want to find more about color forecasting, check out a recent article on this subject published by The New York Times.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Because it’s a brand new year—one that has never been before—you can’t help thinking about the changes you’d like to make in your life. It’s natural to want to elevate yourself by giving up limiting habits and achieving goals that are important to you. The problem is there are probably so many changes you want to make that the process of transformation not only seems overwhelming, but downright impossible to accomplish.
For this reason, I’ve decided to concentrate on one main thing this year—letting go of fear. If I could reduce the challenges of 2007 to a single point of reference, it would be wresting with fear—particularly fear of the future. Since the human solutions to this problem didn’t work, my goal is to spend more time praying, meditating and studying metaphysics this year.