Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IF – Welcome

Labour Day weekend found me in Kelowna, with my mom and sister, enjoying thoroughly the home of our friends Tess and Loic. They were away in Merritt for the first couple of days we were there, so their perfect little home welcomed us by itself. We settled in right away, sitting out on the back deck minutes after arrival, for a beer-chips-tangerine salsa-smoked salmon break, dodging rain drops and taking in the neighbourhood.

I was enchanted by their surroundings – the peaceful garden in its beginnings, jumble of small roofs, trees, laundry lines, bird feeders, and the low dry hills keeping everything contained. The smallness of it all, the better to observe the changing sky.

The next day we had coffee downtown before embarking on some exploration around the lake (through hail and rainbows). I was reveling in having my sister there in front of me instead of at the end of a phone line, and tried to capture her in a quick gesture. It didn't go so well, so I kept at it, trying to loosen up and see what I could get at in a few seconds each time. Somewhere in here is Tessa. She is all four of these I guess, or somewhere between them. I could happily keep drawing her forever – probably never getting it quite right but enjoying the experiment all along.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Galiano Island, learning to draw trees (also IF – Caution)

I drew and coloured this while sitting on the sandstone edges of Maple Bay at the North End of Galiano Island. Mom and I stayed at Swallow's Keep for three nights, and made the trek through the forest to Maple Bay and Coon Bay twice. We had a run-in with our host's sheep at the start of the trail, and then descended into the most breathtaking forest I've ever been in. Seriously breathtaking. It was all sunbeams floating past mossy trunks to land on lush ferns. About half way through, the trail transitions from a homemade path to an official parks one, at which point wooden hand-lettered signs gave way to standard yellow ones warning us of a gate a few feet ahead. And then, the beach.

Emerging out of the dense, lush forest and stepping into a deserted cove made of small smooth pebbles and the clearest water, edged by sandstone cliffs – there is nothing so magical. Except having it to yourself all day long, and having no other obligations than to sit on the pebbles with a small sketchbook in your lap, a few watercolours and a cup full of sea water, and try to record at least a tiny bit of the place and the way it feels.

I generally get totally bored trying to draw "nature" – I complain to myself that trees don't move, so are infinitely more boring than people. If there are people in a landscape, or even evidence of people's effect on the place, I'm so much more interested. But I'm beginning to realize a tree in a moment has a gesture just as a person does, and the above is me trying to capture that. It's something I'm now excited to practice.

This was the next attempt, a few hours later, drawn while sitting on a swing in a tree and watching the sun set over the islands below us – a gesture of an arbutus tree, along with a gesture of Mom at the beach, and her reading in front of our little cabin on the cliff.

Friday, June 05, 2009

IF – Adjust

I'm a bit late with this, but I haven't had much time to sketch these days, because... I've been biking to work. Crazy, I know. I'm loving it so much, except for the fact that without the need to pass two dreary half hours sitting in a bus seat each day, my sketchbook doesn't get much action.

The Illustration Friday theme of 'adjust' was timely for me this week. I've been feeling the growing pains of my bike and me adjusting to each other. It's proving tricky to figure out where I now sit between this new sporty me and the normal me who likes to wear pretty heels and not squish my hair in the mornings. My threshold for sloppy clothes and a generally haphazard appearance in public has changed significantly, and I've found myself not embarrassed in the least in situations I would have been before. The thrill of cycling leaves me walking around in a happy bubble sometimes. Especially when it's so sunny and everyone around me seems to be in a friendly-neighbour mood like they have been this week.

But there are moments. Such as when I left Laura and Michelle's place last night after dinner, dressed in my normal office outfit, except minus the heels and with helmet and sneakers quickly slapped on and pannier in hand, to step into an elevator full of preppy, critical-looking people. I felt very conspicuous and not at all like myself. Ick. Then I toppled over while trying to get on my bike. The first inevitable fall.

Adjusting, it takes a while...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Butterflies, pants, and hamburgers

As promised, the comic I drew for Raisa's baby shower.

And it doesn't lie, she's having a boy! The shower was lovely – it was fun to hear others' pregnancy stories. Most impressive and strangely inspiring was the story of Sue's sister, who hopped on her bike and rode to the hospital after going into labor. Whoa.

Thanks for the opportunity to collaborate on telling your adventure stories Raisa! Can't wait to meet the little butterfly kicker.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I've missed doing Illustration Friday these past few weeks, but have still been sketching in my sketchbook, and have a couple of exciting projects on the go. The first is a comic for my friend Raisa about her adventures in pregnancy, which I'll hopefully be ready to post about soon (after it's revealed at the baby shower next weekend of course).

The other thing that's been consuming my time, a lot more of it, is getting all of the pieces ready for the portfolio website I've been working on for ages. This week I made major progress – two days of photo shoots with my friend Flora. We shot nine projects, using the really cool softbox tent that Flora originally bought for shooting wine bottles, and a couple of small strobes. I learned a lot, and the images turned out beautifully. Now I just have to get them all into the template I've built for the site. In the meantime, I thought I'd provide a sneak peak here of one of the projects:

Tess Letailleur, a very close family friend and super-talented poet, approached me about a year ago to ask if I'd create a title page illustration for a collection she was producing of her poems and those of family and friends. I was thrilled to be able to collaborate with her.

As the illustration took shape, we corresponded back and forth about the ideas behind the book and the drawing. She described the book's poems as sharing “a kind of common human experience.... a movement through life to a ripeness of sorts... a flowering.” The book evolves through sections focused on youth, seduction, experience, liminality, and ageing. In the illustration I focused on this life and growth, referencing the shape of an umbilical cord as well as veins and cells. It mixes the human and the plant-like, to create a living, moving, feeding, growing thing. It reaches up the page, evolving from seed to flower, supporting other paths and growth along the way. These ideas are expressed with such beauty and depth in the book, in the words of Tess and her community.

The book was typeset by Tess' husband Loic, and they had it printed exquisitely by Gasperau Press in Nova Scotia.

Monday, April 20, 2009

IF – Impossibility

Earlier today I was thinking this was a difficult topic, since there aren't many things I think are impossible. But then I read Michael Nobbs' post on 75 Ways to Draw More and I couldn't help myself from grabbing a pen and drawing what was in front of me. Which happened to be a new pair of shoes I'm still drooling over... Problem solved.

I have got to get back to sketching every chance I get. Yesterday I was bored standing outside waiting for Darryl to finish a phone conversation. Reading Micheael's tip #20 (When meeting a friend, get there ten minutes early and draw something) tonight reminded me that I used to never ever be bored because a few minutes stuck waiting somewhere meant a few minutes to draw my surroundings. Knowing that you'll never be bored is a really great thing. Must draw more!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IF – Fleeting

Two things I so enjoy, each fleeting in its own way – asparagus for its short spring season, soft-poached eggs for their carefully-timed runny perfection – came together in tonight's diner. And were preserved here while they grew cold, drawn before eaten.

It's strange, but I keep thinking that the eggs and asparagus combined in this way, exhibited, look like daffodils... I probably have daffodils and their fresh colours on the brain, as they're everywhere I look this week. Daffodils and cherry blossoms, yum.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

IF – Talisman

[Click image to enlarge]

Earlier this week I was thinking about the word talisman, and that I didn't have any personal association for it. Then, this story surfaced. It had been floating around in my head for a while. I sketched it out on the bus on Tuesday morning, and just as I was arriving at work, had a random thought that maybe scratchboard would be cool to try for this. I haven't used scratchboard in who knows how long – high school? first year of art school? I bought a pack of ten sheets, and a couple of scratch tools, and started to play...

This went from a very rough sketch, to a comp with some quickly snapped photos pieced together in Photoshop, to working directly on the scratchboard. I'm excited to play around with this process some more, for other stories, and see where it takes me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

IF – Poise

Since spring is taking its sweet time getting here, I think it's fair to skip it and start dreaming about summer. I originally sketched this figure while sitting on a grassy hill outside jazz fest (or was it blues fest, or folk fest?) in Victoria last summer. The grass beneath us and the rest of the crowd was soggy but no one seemed to mind, relaxed as they were, sprawled out in various summer-chillin'-without-a-care-in-the-world poses. Poised to enjoy the summer.

I haven't pulled out the pencil crayons in forever, but tonight I just really wanted it to be me and a piece of paper, with no screen-staring involved (until the final moments anyway). It was fun.

Now, bring on the barbeques, swimming and picnics please!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

IF – Intricate

Darryl and I went to the aquarium a few weeks ago, for the very first time. I passed three happy hours gazing into all of the intricate underwater worlds they had created for the fishies.

The plants captured my attention as much as the animals – all the underwater foliage seemed so curated, with shapes, colours and ways of moving coming together so beautifully. I love the ocean, the beach, and everything to do with it – the Pacific Northwest exhibit was one of my favourites, with the kelp and sea pens and all the life that thrives beneath my favourite swimming spots. If I had some magic abilities, I'd use them to shrink myself to the size of a little fish and learn to breathe underwater, so I could go strolling around that intricate terrain.

A side note – those bubbly shapes in the background were made with some NaturePrint paper my sister gave me years ago. I found myself at home on a sunny (!) afternoon yesterday and jumped on the opportunity to make a sun-photogram. So paper + little gold seed beads + sun became the perfect bubbly waves for my sea-scene.

Monday, March 02, 2009

IF – Breezy

Tonight I was in the mood to doodle, to have some couch-and-pen time rather than computer time.

Is she breezy? Is she not? Maybe she's feeling the breezy barely-beginning of spring outside, but doesn't quite have the energy to rise to breezy-ness herself, yet. Or maybe she put on a dress that she was hoping would make her feel breezy but it was lumpy and ill fitting instead. I'm right now in the middle of going through my closet to purge and try to insure myself against this kind of unfortunate thing happening to me ever again...

At any rate, this is the perfect chance to post some other lettering doodles from my sketchbooks that I've been meaning to share. These are from my morning commutes on the days when I don't feel like staring my fellow passengers down for long enough to draw them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

IF – Time

I sketched this one afternoon in August, in the middle of a vacation-at-home. As awesome as it is to go away on adventures, I love the indulgence of taking a week off to do nothing special at all. Being in my usual space, with none of my usual routines to adhere to is the ultimate luxury. Oh how I miss the green grass and blue skies of summer!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

IF – Flawed

I'm slowly continuing to work with the sketches I did while in Toronto this past summer with my Dad. It's fun having these on hand to play with when one happens to match an Illustration Friday theme. This particular one fits "flawed" perfectly – I still get a pang in my heart remembering my disappointment upon discovering the flaws in these dresses.

It was a rainy, foggy day. Dad and I had been for a long walk, down Yonge street, up and down and through the financial district in every direction, along King and up Spadina. Once on Queen Street we split up for a while, with plans to meet back at the pub. I had been wanting to go in search of a vintage shop which had been one of my favourite downtown stops when I lived out at York years and years ago. I found it – Black Market, a cavernous basement spot with vintage clothes of all kinds, plentiful and cheap. I gathered up a huge armful of dresses to try (it being summer, I was obsessed with finding perfect vintage sun dresses). I had at least 15 dresses, nearly more than I could carry. And not one – NOT ONE! – was right. All flawed, horribly. Too flawed even for a "Well, it's only $12.99 and I could probably put a different belt on it, shorten the straps, and..."

I bravely managed not to cry, and continued on to the pub to meet dad. Sitting at the bar, sipping my beer and waiting for the jazz band to start, I pulled out my sketchbook and pens and drew some of the pretty pretty (on the hanger) dresses, so as not to forget the hopes I had had for them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

T is for Tessa, C is for Cathie

One of the ideas I had before Christmas for useless but beautiful things to impose on my family was these 3-D letters (there was also a "J" for Jim, which I didn't get a chance to photograph). Not really sure where it came from, but I guess I thought it would be fun to build something and to draw on letterforms. And of course I had to work my bright inks in there somewhere, because I love them still.

What I underestimated was how much time I was going to spend hunched over my cutting mat, ruler and knife in hand, coming to terms with the fact that measuring things over and over is not my favourite activity. Thank goodness I had Michelle watching over me to interject repeatedly with, "Wait! Don't you want to score that on the other side?" I made it through, but the shapes weren't quite as straight and perfect as the ones I had sketched out when planning these. Hmm, oh well. In the end I kind of grew to like the slightly wonky lines of the "T." And it was fun trying to figure out where to string the fishing line to create the right tension to hold them in shape.

Somehow they seem right hanging in the backyard, chillin' in the trees...

I really want to have more regular crafting days and nights to do this kind of thing, not just for Christmas. It's a good kind of release to make something beautiful but useless, to counteract days spent designing with such focused purpose. To try out new ideas that then filter into other things...

Friday, January 23, 2009

IF – Climbing

So these two turtles were originally seen in the Darwin exhibit at the ROM, slowly cavorting around behind glass. Here I've imagined that the have escaped and are navigating the back alley obstacles, seeking their fortune – one more enthusiastically than the other.

The background is a photo taken with my new Holga camera. Michelle and I went out on an expedition Wednesday night, putting our faith in hand-holding and long roughly counted-out exposures, and it worked! You can see the rest of the images on my flickr. Oh foggy city nights, I love you...

Monday, January 05, 2009

I dream of card-making

Now that Christmas is over and all the cards have long since arrived, I can tell you how much I love making Christmas cards. For the past few years I've had friends over in November or early December to make a mess, try out any of the crafty ideas that have been floating around our imaginations all year, and get a head start on the Christmas eating and drinking (the mulled wine is as essential as paper and ink...).

I love it because it's a concentrated afternoon of playing and making, and although we're each working on our own card designs, it feels collaborative. For one afternoon, my apartment is like a studio for that design collective we never quite formed.

Well, one-half design collective and one-half preschool – when it comes to card designs, I like to go back to the basics. And nothing's more basic than potato stamping! Cutting into a potato, coating it with ink and stamping away... you definitely can't be precise. Given that messy, spontaneous, intuitive art is my favourite kind to make, I love it. Here is a sampling of potato-stamped cards I made over the past few years (not the best specimens, as these are the leftovers, but you get the idea):

This year though, I didn't buy any potatoes. I had recently been to Urban Source on a Main Street scavenge with my sister and a friend, and had filled a bag with totally random stuff which seemed destined to end up on Christmas cards somehow. I sat down with no plan and ended up making these:

An army of dreams – castles, houses, buildings, each living in their own bright, windy, blue sky world. I started by tearing and folding a piece of the coolest textured foil, from Urban Source, pink on one side and green on the other. Then I scribbled some blue ink on paper, placed the castle over it, and stenciled dream above. And then replicated it 30 times. The castle and sky felt dreamy, I was dreaming of holidays, and wanted to send everyone sweet dreams for the year. This fit with my pattern of making cards that are bright, fun, hopeful, usually minus the red and green and super-Christmas-y stuff.

I really got down with the Christmas crafting this year, making some other fun stuff for presents too – a mobile recycling old jewelery, 3D letters, etc. – which I'll post about soon. Happy New Year!