Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Leaf

So I think I would like to try something new with this blog for 2013.  I've been thinking about it since this summer, and while having a sketchblog has been good for my productivity levels, I've also thought that it hasn't been as useful to other people.  I like to comparmentalize so I split off other things to other blogs but splitting my attention hasn't worked out so well.  Maybe this year, instead of spending all my time writing for forums it's time to put it all together in one place and be useful for a change.

Everyone seems to be using this day for reflection, so maybe I'll start this off by looking back at my year.

I did a lot of children's illustrations in January and February, really trying to replace old work in my portfolio.  I did one illustration for Spellbound Children's Magazine and submitted several to the SCWBI bulletin because why not.  In March I picked up a job to do several illustrations for a self-published RPG book that has just come out, that ended up being 7 illustrations over the course of several months.  I'm looking forward to showing off a few of them.  For some reason March seemed to be the month for surrealism.  I did a lot of sketches of strange things that didn't make much sense.

Things really slowed down in April.  I was probably still working on those RPG illustrations.  In May I realized that Art Walk was coming up and started doing some more traditional pieces to sell.  June was mostly sketching and RPG illos and working on small paintings for Art Walk.  In July I did another illustration for Spellbound and started finishing and framing last year's paintings to sell.  I sold a few things at Art Walk and that reminded me that I really like plein air painting, especially in August when the weather is nice.  I finished 10 paintings between August and November.

In October I discovered Daily Spitpaint, which I did as a warm up for a bit.  I tried doing Inktober for a while but didn't get very far.  I don't know where November went.  The start of winter is always hard.  I finished a couple longer paintings and otherwise sat around being depressed.  At the end of November I picked up a job doing illustrations for a theme park proposal.  I needed to do 11 illustrations in 2-3 weeks and I basically lived, breathed and ate digital art until five days to Christmas.  I got news back from the SCWBI bulletin that one of my illustrations will be published in the January issue.

In addition to all that I showed up to almost every monthly Urban Sketchers meeting and did several nice ink sketches every month, and made about 75 comic strips for that comic nobody is supposed to know about

I also set out to do my first metric century on my bicycle so I also biked somewhere between 7 and 100km 6 days a week between May and September.  By the end of the summer, riding to Beaumont (about 40km) was a long daily ride rather than a significant undertaking.  I am still no thinner, but my legs are like rocks.  Fat stubby rocks.  And in November, tired of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I took up swimming.

What did I learn this year?  That I can really put the work in if I am sufficiently motivated, and what I need to figure out is how to be sufficiently motivated more often.  I've learned that I should play to my strengths because they're going to turn into opportunities that I could never expect.  I've learned that I should bite off a little more than I can chew because I can do more than I think I can.  I've learned that I really need a schedule and that I need to talk to a lot more people about my art.

I think I'm slowly learning to waste less time arguing on the net.  That's a hard one.

Anyway.  Tomorrow I'm going to outline some plans for 2014 and after that it's time to get back to work, hopefully with a new purpose!

For now, here's a composite of the major paintings I made in 2013.

Here's to many more!  Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013


I managed to get a tiny bit of painting done at the Muttart in November.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Lion Appears

Near the end of November I got contacted by someone who needed a lot of illustrations in a rather short time and I fell off the face of the Earth.  It was a great project and I got to draw fun things, but I can't show them to anybody so it really feels like I've done nothing but abuse my body for three weeks.  It was like a retreat to the monastery of sleeplessness and bad posture.

This is a personal sketch completely unrelated to the thing I can't talk about.  I have a few of these and also an acrylic painting I managed to finish up right before work got me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Buffalo Jump Hills

Still playing with oils a bit.  This is a second go at this acrylic painting I did two years ago.  It's kind of recognizeable as hills now.

There's a few good things going with this picture, and a few other things I really ought to change.  Maybe I still will.  One can futz around with oils pretty much indefinitely if that's what floats one's biscuit.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Life Drawing

Last pose of the evening.  45 minutes, graphite.  I tried to work on my accuracy and drawing skills.  Some days it feels like I just can't draw at all.  Other days it feels like I can't draw because the model keeps moving. :/

Friday, November 08, 2013

Life Drawing

The weather sucks so it must be time to go back to figure drawing.  I thought I'd do some different things this time around.  I did all the gestures in ink or ink and marker.  Like all new things, most sucked and were not worth posting.  This turned out not too badly.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

DSP - Three Wheels

I really wanted to draw a passenger leaning out of the car madly and futilely grabbing for the tire but I couldn't make it work within the 30 minute limit.

I apologize to the person whose canyon photo I referenced.  This picture is nothing but personal practice.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Really just an excuse to stare at a lake.

Finally finished this one up.  Phew!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Red Barn

All summer my guy and I trained to do a metric century bike ride. After trying out a couple of highway routes that proved to be absolutely awful for cyclists (no shoulder, shoulder that disappears, shoulder that exists on one side of the road but not the other, shoulder that is three inches wide and next to a curb... what kind of moron put a curb in on a secondary highway? Really now) we found one route that worked.

So as I've been riding on the overpass above this farm every week I've been staring at the barn thinking "OH GOD I'M GOING TO HAVE A HEART ATTACK hmmm... I should paint that thing. It looks nice. Would it be more of a quinacridone red or cadmium red middle? Shit here comes a pothole. Only 60 more kilometers to go!"

At the end of the summer I finally got out to paint the farm. It was very different painting it from the dirt road than looking at it from the highway overpass. Less spandex, for one. And many, many more thistles. After a pleasant afternoon of baking in the sun and sitting in a thistle patch, I tried out the huaraches at a food truck in a nearby town and then dragged this painting back to the studio, where I applied many changes to it. I think I'm finally having a breakthrough in painting.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Bison Sculpture

After the Urban Sketchers group had lunch, a couple of us went back for another round of sketching.  We wanted to draw this crazy bison sculpture.  I don't know why I thought it would be a brilliant idea, in general trying to make art of other different art is a mistake.  Still, I'm glad I went back to get some more practice.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Great Ape

Our Urban Sketchers group went to the Shaw Conference Centre the weekend after Hallowe'en.  While I was painting on the second level, a crew was preparing the hall behind me for some sort of party happening later that evening.  Eventually they dragged this plaster statue of King Kong (I assume) out of the hall and put it smack in the middle of the floor.  After I finished my watercolour sketch I had to draw the monkey.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Sketchcrawl - River Valley

Muttart Conservatory, painted from the Shaw Conference Center.  Now that I'm looking at it, it could have used some ink.

Oh well, all this stuff is still there, it's just covered in snow.  Next year I'll snap a photo and use this as the basis for a proper painting.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

DSP - Tomb Guardian

I love small rabbity creatures with great gnashing teeth ffft fffttt

Monday, October 28, 2013

DSP - Fire Temple

Today's speedpaint, the Fire Temple.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Daily Spitpaint - Riot

I joined the Daily Spitpaint, to get more sketching in.  I do a lot more work from life now, but not nearly as much idle creative play.  The Daily Spitpaint is a Facebook group which posts several daily topics and participants create a speedpainting in 30 minutes or less.  It's not only good practice, but it's fun too.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Inktober - Cement Truck

Went out for lunch with a friend, and when we finished I sketched some construction equipment across from her workplace.  This is a composite of two trucks because of course you can't start sketching anything without it buggering off halfway through the drawing.  And my small camera is broken so I never bother to bring it along when I'm biking around.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Inktober - Going Away Party

Some friends at a farewell pub bash for an old friend.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Candle Flame

The fall colours have been amazing, but I had a lot of trouble finding a good place to paint this week.  I went out on Sunday to the ravine and although this tree struck me right away, I couldn't commit to it and ended up further down the trail by the water.  I got one of my shoes wet crossing Whitemud Creek, and the other wet crossing back again because the lighting was crap from the other side.  After a half hour of sketching the creek was invaded by children and I gave up.

I came back on a weekday, this time determined to paint the first nice thing I saw and the tree was right where I'd left it.  So here it is, like a brilliant candle flame glowing against the hillside.

While I was sitting there, one of the biggest bumblebees I had ever seen decided to explore my paint bag, my shoe, and my leg all the way up to my kneecap.  I gave it a ride down on a fallen leaf, but it was not interested in being on the ground floor and it flew off with a sulky baritone buzz.  A perfect capper to what is likely one of the last beautiful days of the year.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Inktober - Sofa

My living room sofa, from life.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Assiniboia Lilac

Perspective! My nemesis! So, at last we meet for the first time for the last time!

I started this... I think in May 2012, and it has sat in the pile of unfinished paintings until I pulled it out and decided that I wanted to try something different with the light and shadows. The building is one of the oldest on the U of A campus, where I spent some time in my undergrad years having labs, then teaching labs, and then -- after I graduated -- changing backup tapes in the basement. It now houses the Philosophy department, where I also spent a few of my post-graduate semesters.

Lilac season on campus is lovely, following flowering crabapple season which starts real spring off with a bang. (There is also fake spring which starts on March 21, is alternately brown and snowy, and lasts for 2 months.) It is by far my favourite time of the year.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Dry Island Buffalo Jump 2

2 years ago I went on my first plein-air painting trip out to the Drumheller area. I have some very fond memories of that trip, and also some highly questionable artwork and lots of reference photos and studies.

When I got a set of oil paints and a vague clue about how to use them, I decided to revisit this scene. I have learned a lot about landscape painting since that trip, and I was curious whether I could apply it to oils as well as improving an old painting. I think that I'm happy with the result.

For comparison, here's the first version, painted on location.

Oils on hardboard, 9x12".

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Inktober - Woman with Bun

No ref, just doodling.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Inktober - Philodendron

This Inktober thing could easily become Draw My Plants month.  I think I could draw a different indoor plant every day for a month without leaving my house.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Inktober - Tea and Coffee

I don't know if I'm going to do all of Inktober, since I have a pile of illustrations and paintings to finish, but I like ink and I've been thinking of doing more drawings.  Also after a summer of biking and gardening I am trying to get back into a more productive schedule.  It's not that I haven't been drawing, I've just been so awful about scanning any of it.  As I am writing this I am a month behind on my blog posts.

Anyway.  Here's a sketch to celebrate the start of hot drink season.  Kettle, teapot, and coffee grinder.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Started this one back in April (actually even before that, because the very first iteration of this sketch was done for the first issue of Spellbound).  Finished up for this month's Finishing Frenzy!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Journal Sketches - Airport

A man at one of the airports we went through on the way home.  I was experimenting with something here and I'm not sure it worked.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Journal Sketches - Cafe Plume

It was a chilly morning in Montreal and we rode our rented bikes to Cafe Plume for coffee.  It was busy and we didn't stay there long, just long enough to inhale a couple of lattes and for me to sketch this guy.  I liked how he was framed by the window and the plant.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Journal Sketches - Miso Ya

The weather turned cool suddenly.  I wanted to go downtown and sketch some of the architecture but we had to find a place where Neil could sit and work while I sketched, where I wouldn't freeze, and where interesting architecture could be seen.  We ended up in a lounge on the second floor of one of the Concordia University buildings.  Good old school campuses, they never let you down.

My brother went to Concordia and it was interesting seeing his school.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Journal Sketch - Parc La Fontaine

Back in Montreal, this time to see my brother get married.  We rented bikes again and revisited all our favourite places from the last trip.  Here we spent an afternoon at Parc La Fontaine before heading out to a BBQ with our new sister-in-law's family.

I forgot half my usual entertainment for the trip so I spent every morning reading Stapleton Kearns's blog at breakfast.  Here there was nothing to work with but trees, so I played around with the design a bit.  I quite like the shapes of all the trunks, except that big black one on the right.  I should have removed that big left branch.

While we were sitting by the pond looking at the trees, an older couple sat at a bench near us and started feeding ducks.  Very soon we were on the periphery of a large flock of quacking ducks (all mallards, damn their beady eyes) and some seagulls.  It was entertaining.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Curve of the Creek


So far I think this may be my favourite painting of 2013.  You can read the story behind it here

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Youkai Tree

For Spellbound, Fall 2013 - Creatures of the Deep Dark Woods.  If you're interested in children's fantasy you can buy it HERE.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Colour Study

Quick colour study from random photo on Flickr.

Monday, September 09, 2013


It feels like I did nothing in August/September except paint and make these little sketches.  Maybe October is going to be more productive.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Amongst the Reeds

This was started the same day that I did the old train a few posts back.  I had such a lousy sketching session that I stopped at this little pond near a church to do some painting.  Unfortunately my arrival startled the ducks but I saw a large muskrat, some grebes and some darting swallows overhead.

After I'd been there for half an hour, a couple of coots came out. And the hilarious thing is that they started grunting, which is a bizarre sound halfway between a quack and a fart. I couldn't keep my face straight because these black duck-like objects were floating just off the left side of the painting going "fffrrrrttack". If my camera had been working I would have put them into the picture but as it was still wet I had to leave it at inanimate objects.

This is a very small painting, so most of it was finished on location.  I did a bit of refining in the studio but otherwise it stands.  It's very... blue.  I don't usually use phthalo, it's a bit overwhelming, even in small doses.

Acrylic on hardboard, 8x6".

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Colour Study

From a random photo on Flickr.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Bridal Falls

I thought I'd experiment with the palette knife again.  Difficult but fascinating!

From a photo I took at Bridal Falls in British Columbia.  I've never met a waterfall I wasn't willing to stop for.

Acrylic, 8x9".

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Old Train Interior

Our September Sketchcrawl actually happened a week early so that we could visit the Alberta Railway Museum before it closed down for the fall. It was a lovely day for it and the train cars were very interesting, but my trip was plagued by disaster.  I had wandered around some of the cars and settled down to sketching this antique smoking car when I realized that my water bottle had come undone and was leaking into my bag.  Unfortunately my bag is water resistant and my camera was swimming in a small pool of water contained by the bag.  I had to take immediate action.

I removed the camera and my soggy wallet and dumped the rest of the water outside.  Then I had to slog back to my car, damp things in hand.  I left my drawing stool and water bottle behind.  I spread out all the wet things in my trunk to dry out, switched all the non-wet things to my backpack, and then went to the washroom to collect some paper towels so I could clean up the spill.

Then I lost the train I had been drawing in.  I spent half an hour wandering in and out of all the cars trying to find my folding stool.  There are four different sets of cars and I had not taken any special pains to remember which one I had exited because I assumed I would find my things when I got back.

So... the last train in the row of trains is longer than all the others and it runs behind a little warehouse.  The end of it is some ways down the road.  In my preoccupation I hadn't noted that I was passing the warehouse, so I was searching all the short trains, convinced that someone had taken my things.

Eventually I decided to backtrack more systematically and I discovered my mistake.  Everything was exactly where I had left it, except the puddle of water which people had tracked all over the room.  Sigh.

After that I didn't have a lot of time to sketch and my inks were shaky anyway.  I gave up a bit early and after our group dispersed I went back on the rural roads, parked by a little church and had a calm couple of hours painting beside a duck pond.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Today I finished this painting I started last week, out in a field not far south of my house.

I ended up on this three-foot-tall dirt hummock in the middle of an enormous weed patch.  I liked the way that the weeds rose up around me and framed the field.  Sadly I muffed up the composition.  If I had the chance to re-do this, I'd use a bigger board so I could include the plants on the left, and I'd pull the sunflower above the horizon.  Next time I'll take more reference photos and do some composition sketches to start with.

Acrylic on hardboard, 9x12".

Friday, August 23, 2013


I'm still enjoying these odd little sketches.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blackfoot Beaver

I thought it was a bit shameful that I didn't make it out to paint very often this year, what with the cycling and all, so I decided to remedy that by going out to Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Park.  It didn't look like it was going to be an auspicious trip.  I started late, and I got a bit lost on the way, second-guessing myself and then third-guessing and then getting stuck waiting for a train.  I finally made it there only to discover that I was at the wrong entrance, but it was too late to remedy that.  While walking I realized that it was very hot and humid and I didn't feel very good at all.

I started out along one of the trails looking for a lake, and then wasted time trying to find a viewpoint from which I could actually SEE any lake.  The water level was so high that it was puddling around the bottom of the heavy brush surrounding the lake and I couldn't work my way around to any area that was dry enough to sit on that didn't have trees or bushes in the way.

I eventually gave up, went down the other trail and after a bit of exploring I discovered this shallow bit of water, surrounded by reeds and thorn bushes.  There was an old wooden platform to sit on but I found a dry spot right on the edge of the water.

After I had set up and spend some time painting there, I heard a splash.  I was hoping for waterfowl but instead I got this beaver.  It swam out a few meters away from me and then spent quite a long time chewing on the stick, stripping it of bark.  It left, but came back some minutes later, dragged the stick away, then came back and dug another stick out of the muddy lake bottom.  My whole time painting was punctuated by periods of industrious beaver chewing.

It is interesting how similar beavers look to capybaras when they are in the water.

Anyway, I got everything laid in while I was there, and then finished it up over a couple days at home.  I got some really nice close-ups of the beaver with my camera.  I really like how the logs on the left turned out and the backlit grasses.  The bottom of the painting is not so successful, I may end up cropping an inch off it.

But anyway -- the first decent painting of 2013!  I believe this is my 77th painting.  Hopefully I can get closer to 100 by the end of the year.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Mango Peelers

The last sketch from the Heritage Festival.  I believe this was behind the Guatemala Pavilion, which always has Mangos Locos -- mangos on a stick rolled in chili and lime.  This is one of the more popular items at the festival, and they have piles and piles and piles of mango boxes in the back and obviously a dedicated (if small) cadre of mango preppers.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Dancer

I managed to catch one of the girls in ethnic dancing gear still for long enough for me to sketch her.  These were all done from life, no photos.  I believe this was one of the Croatian dancers.  They wore jingling coin vests for one of the dances.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Sketchcrawl - Heritage Festival

The August Sketchcrawl was held on the first day of the Edmonton Heritage Festival.  I always do a bit of sketching there but this time I had a couple hours to wander around and sketch random people.  Here are a couple stilt-walkers and a lady wearing a bright butterfly caftan, tidying up the dresses in one of the African tents.

The best thing about the stilt-walkers was that the stilts all had baby shoes on the bottom.  I saw them again the next day and they were wearing completely different costumes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I keep being inspired by Insanely Twisted Rabbits.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fantasy Thumbnail

A thumbnail for a fantasy illustration.  I'm thinking of doing this one up in acrylics.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Antique Shoes

Pen and ink on paper.

I liked the antique shoe sketch I did previously so much that I decided to do a better, bigger version from reference.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


The last painting I finished this year before Art Walk.  Some peonies from my garden, painted plein-air.  I was trying out glazing again.  These turned out slightly better than last year's rose!

Acrylic on masonite, about 9x12".  Soon to be available in my Storenvy store!