Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Woof.  It's been a while!  One gets busy and goes on vacation and the garden starts sprouting and before you know it it's mid-June.  As always I go out with the local Urban Sketchers on the first Saturday of every month.  It's nice to chat with other artists and get to draw somewhere where I don't usually draw.

The weather finally warmed up in April so we were able to start sketching outside.  Our first trip out was to Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton.

The Art Gallery of Alberta:

What a weird building this is.  It makes me thing of the time that I had to design a building for an illustration and I scribbled random shapes until they looked futuristic.  The client liked it.  I think this is how they design buildings now.  (Of course my random shapes did not have to stand up and not fall on people so I am not going to knock the difficulties of actually making one of these things.  I'm just knocking the concept process.)

A guy having coffee with his friend in the square.  His friend kept moving, though, so I had to leave it at this guy.

 City Market is always a good bet for drawing:

 A singer and a vendor.  The singer was really good!

The girl I sketched on the LRT.  The guy was a friend of one of the sketchers and he had such a great face that I was requested to draw him.

That was it for April.  I sketched a couple things from life in between.  I want to finish that dang sketchbook so that I can start a new journal book.

This was a hare we caught napping in our yard.

We named it Loafcake for a number of reasons.  If it seems like it's listing to one side, that's because it was.  I'm astonished it didn't fall over.

My shoes, for Everday Matters Challenge #1:

These may be the coolest shoes that I own.  They remind me of my mom, who had great taste in shoes.

May's Sketchout was at  Jackson Power Gallery, where one of our sketchers had an exhibition.  It was quite interesting.  She does encaustic, primarily, and transfers photographs that she has found in the provincial archives onto various materials.  This exhibition was about pioneer women and included excerpts from letters that they had written to friends and relatives.  They were often very isolated and lived in very primitive conditions.  It was very cool to experience a bit of history.

This was a clothesline strung with photographs transferred onto cloth.  The objects beneath were related to pioneer women's life somehow -- there were broken teacups, surgical instruments, medicine bottles and dried bean pods.  Fans made the cloth flutter and the objects tinkle.

This was an industrial building seen from the window of the gallery.  (It was kind of a nasty day for sketching outdoors.)

This lamp was part of another, related exhibit by another artist.  He had recreated his grandmother's parlour using old family furniture.  It was a tiny room and there were four or five sketchers crammed into it at any one time since it had both knickknacks and comfy chairs.

"Lamp" was the second challenge for Everyday Matters, though, so I had to come back and draw it.

Later in the month I got a chance to sketch this girl on the LRT.  I love finding neat people to draw on the train.  I wish I rode it more often.

And that's it for the last couple months of sketching.  Next up some miscalleneous art, and then my sketches from Vancouver Island and then a boatload of paintings.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sketch Dailies

It's painting season!  I've spent the last couple of weeks making some larger oil paintings (18x24", which is huge for me) for a May 30th exhibition deadline.  I'm going on vacation on some unspecified date between then and now so I don't have much time to finish these guys.  Luckily one is almost done and looks FABULOUS.  But there's not much point posting it before it's done, so that will have to wait.

In the meantime I've been "warming up" (by which I mean "dicking around") with sketches.  There's a Twitter group called Sketch Dailies with posts a daily sketch topic and people draw it and it's a fun way to spend an hour or two when one is tired of work-drawing.  Here's some of the sketches and topics I've done in the last month or two, in no particular order:


The Invisible Man:

The Loch Ness Monster:

Favourite Muppet (the Swedish Chef):

Modern Samurai:
The Cookie Monster:


Anyway.  These short little activities help keep me creative and don't take up much time.  They're a great thing to get into if one is suffering from any sort of creative "block".  Just be careful about getting too wrapped up in the popularity contest aspect, nothing hurts creativity quite so much like feeling underappreciated.

Next time, Sketchcrawl sketches and then hopefully I'll have paintings to show off.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great Project Rundown

Everybody occasionally runs dry of ideas.  I used to bump around the house looking for and rejecting ideas when I was younger, but that was before the internet.  With the net around there's really no reason to have a day without drawing.  Whatever kind of art you're into, chances are good that there's a group or activity or competition for it.  Here are some of my favourite sites to keep the momentum going:

Illustration Friday - weekly illustration topic
Daily Spitpaint - daily speed-painting exercise.  You have 30 minutes to create a painting based on the daily topic or topics.
Sketch Dailies - weekday illustration topic, usually fan art.  Lots of fun!
Inktober - 31 days of ink sketches in October.  Missed October?  I'm sure Inkuary works just as well.  Or any other month!
100 Themes - one hundred ideas on which to base a picture
Random Animal Generator - randomly generates two animals for you to mix together


Hourly Comics Day - February 1st.  Original site is now gone since John Campbell has gone pear-shaped, but the event is alive and well on Tumblr.
24 Hour Comic Day - make a 24-page comic in 24 hours.  I have done the lazy people version, where the pages are really, really small.  Your local comic shop may have an event so you can do this with other people!  Alternative for people who like sleep - do a 12 hour version.

Sketching From Life:

Urban Sketchers - get outside and sketch from life.  There are Urban Sketchers groups in many major cities, and if you can't find one you can start your own.  I joined my local group in late 2012 and have met some very friendly and social artists of all skill levels.  The Urban Sketchers have a very active and inspiring group on Flickr as well.
Sketchcrawl - every 2 or 3 months people from around the world go on a great life sketching marathon and then share their work online
Everyday Matters - a great long list of ordinary objects you can draw when you don't know what to draw

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Fairyland Project

A few weeks ago I got some books out of the library and one of them was Catherynne Valente's latest installment of the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  Catherynne Valente uses such rich language and her descriptions are so imaginative that I wanted to do some illustrations based on the book. 

In fact, I thought, why not do a chapter illustration for every chapter in the novel?  Which I promptly set out to do.

As of now, I have all 21 chapters thumbnailed, have moved onto the roughs for about five of them, and have finished three.  I think I'll post these in sets of three, as and when I finish them.  They don't take all that long to make, individually speaking, but I have other projects on the go and occasionally one of these will stall a bit as I try to deal with a difficult part.

I'm hoping to avoid spoilers for the book, mostly.  You won't learn who cut the moon in two (or why) from me!  Those of us who read the first two books will see September reunited with some friends but that's not much of a surprise to anyone.  What would a Fairyland book be without a wyverary?

But hopefully I'll get some practice in and people will be intrigued by the book and the whole thing should be good fun for all.

Anyway -- here are the first three chapter illustrations of Fairyland 3.

Chapter 1
September Looks at the Moon:

Chapter 2
Boomer and Beatrice:

Chapter 3
The Blue Wind:

So far I'm enjoying playing with real ink again and reviewing my compositions.  I'm starting to idly plan what other books I'd like to do.  I have a small supply of kids' books I never quite got rid of.  Classics like The Witches and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Neverending Story.  The more I think the more books I'd love to illustrate!

Oh well, I'll just keep going with this and see where it takes me.  Maybe the next book I illustrate will be one I wrote myself. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014


This month has been particularly bad for me for painting (although I'm getting lots of illustration done, so that's something).  I eventually resorted to looking over my WIPs and dragged this guy out.  I had started it last year or possibly even the year before.  I had painted the frogs and the rocks, got to the silly day-glow reeds and that's where it languished for months.  Frogs, easy.  Reeds, hard.

I may end up cropping it at some point to remove the reeds.  I'm not too fond of them, but the rock is pretty nice.  That will have to wait until I can access my table saw, though.

Anyway, this was from a photo my husband took at an aquarium while we were on vacation a few years ago.  I think these were American Bullfrogs and man... their terrarium was crawling with crickets and despite the frogs' best efforts they did not manage to eat a single one while we were there.  At one point the frog launched itself towards a cricket, fumbled critically and the cricket ended up crawling on top of the frog's head.  I guess the aquarium caught the dumb ones and the smart ones are still out in the wild.

I enjoyed painting the frogs.  This year I'm going to try and get more photos of animals and maybe include more of them in my landscapes.  I'm really looking forward to plein-air season, but it looks like it's going to arrive late this year.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Last month I did another illustration for Spellbound for their Spring 2014 Issue, Dwarfs.

I've really been enjoying making these black and white children's fantasy illustrations.  I love playing with shape and contrast and composition. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

March Sketchout

The Urban Sketchers March Sketch-out was at the Royal Alberta Museum. The day was awfully cold (-29C on March 1st? Really Mother Nature? REALLY?) and I wasn't sure whether I was going to go, but in the end I did and I was glad that I went.  I expected the museum to be empty, but the cheap admission and cold weather lured quite a few families out.  So much so that the cafeteria kitchen was actually closed at one when our group tried to get lunch there!  I had to settle for a slightly stale cinnamon bun.  Some 20 minutes later some of the other girls were able to get salads and sandwiches but the grill was so far behind that it had to stay closed.

Still, it was a fun time.  Next time I will bring Neil, who had been hoping to come along but found himself feeling sick all weekend.

The museum has an extensive collection of animals (mostly stuffed, obviously, except for the bugs which skitter around in all their multilegged glory), which are fun to draw. Mostly I try to draw animals from life, which is challenging because they are almost always moving.  Last year I became interested in bird watching, so I had a great time seeing their bird collection and trying to identify some of the birds I had seen but not confirmed.

For the first half hour I actually found myself trapped in the crafts area with a group of children who were doing a bird-colouring workshop.  I had been lured in by the owl and snow bunting, neither of which I've seen in the wild, and they closed the door on me!  The kids have a much shorter attention span than I do, though, and they were done with their birds long before I was done with mine.

Afterwards I wandered over to the First Nations Exhibit, which has some interesting tools and clothing.  I wish I had had more time to spend there, but by that point the museum was getting quite busy.  We'll be going back soon, though, and I'm hoping to have a chance to look closer at the areas I ended up rushing through.

This jingle dress is from the early 1990s.  It reminds me of my school days, when we would occasionally have native dancers at the school assemblies.

After lunch I took another turn through the nature dioramas, which I had also rushed through at the beginning.  The part that I like the best is that the paintings behind the dioramas all come from real places around Alberta.  It makes me want to fly out to Fort Smith and hike the Slave Rapids Trail.  There's a lot of stuff up north that I would love to see, with a little bit of camping know-how and a lot of bug spray.

Anyway, I had to draw a mountain goat for Neil:

We've only seen mountain goats once in real life, driving somewhere along the Icefield Parkway between Jasper and Banff.  We got really lucky that time because they were right by the side of the road, there was a herd of them, and they had kids with them.  And then... nothing.  You can always see bighorn sheep, but good luck seeing a goat.

Fun fact: mountain goats are not actually closely related to true goats.  They have their own genus within the goat-antelope family.

I also sketched some mule deer.

Bonus sketche: a few days later I was hanging around the house and wanted to draw some still life.  This is a pair of salt and pepper shakers Neil's parents gave us for Christmas.  They are very silly!  Also, rather challenging to sketch.
Hopefully I can get a few more journal sketches done this month.  I am also copying from Bridgman, which takes up a good deal of time (about one seventh of the way through!) and working on a series of children's illustrations.  So far March has been decently productive and I'd like to keep it that way!