January 30, 2011

A onesie a twosie

Ada's shirt on a pillow
Here are two studies of a onesie draped on a fat pillow. I like these. It's soothing and very interesting to paint this kind of thing sometimes.

In more exciting news - especially if you like images of animals -  I ran across the work of Ottawa artist Stefan Thomson. I'm flabbergasted! Wonderful. So good that I just clicked through rapidly, not really able to digest it all. My first reaction is that they're sympathetic and sensitive pictures, but threatening, too. They're pictures that make me think the artist is an interesting person.

January 29, 2011

I hope you're right

Once you love the act of creating art, the skill practically develops as a side effect
-Kenji Toyooka, Ottawa artist

January 28, 2011

Bendy bus

January 28, 2011
Today I sat in the articulated section of the bendy bus, where bumpiness thwarts all attempts at straight lines, and encourages lovely rattle-y squiggles. I like how soft this drawing turned out. Maybe her bag is a little small, now that I think about it.

January 26, 2011

#95 Overlap

January 26, 2011
Someday I would like to ride the bus for a few hours, and try to capture the whole room with the riders overlapping. (And maybe do a stop animation.)

January 25, 2011

Is that you, dear dusty creativity?

Yesterday's and this morning's pictures remind me of high school, when I was a girl studying art. My beloved art teacher, who has since passed on, once criticized my work as too stylized. He thought my stuff ought to be more artistic. I wish I hadn't believed him. But that was a long time ago, and since then I've doggedly stitched back up this false divide in my art.

January 24-25, 2011
Do you see hints of the Jack of Spades, the Hulk in man-form, an Inuit spirit in these little pictures?

I'm glad to see some imagination slink back into my art. Mostly I've used bus drawing as technical practice (e.g. fabric, hair, texture, etc). Maybe the brain just plays with anything it's working on, whatever it is? I like the idea that playfulness and creativity are things I couldn't keep away, no matter what my life circumstances were.

Over the weekend, I read a blog by a lady who spent a few months trying to figure out why she couldn't get herself into the studio now that her kids were finally in full-time kindergarten. At first she thought it was because she was out of practice, not having done much art over the last few years. But in her last entry she said that she had realized that art wasn't that important to her anymore, and that her family occupied all the spaces that art used to live in.

I've made that same conclusion more than once. Buuuut –

Art came back the very next day
Art came back, I thought I was a goner

January 24, 2011

Nodding and responding

Drawing and blogging about the city goers in my little world has planted a little seed of curiosity. Is anyone else doing the same thing?

Turns out that OttawaStart.com keeps a list of Ottawa Art blogs. Most are actually portfolio sites, with nothing to follow, but some of them I love! This weekend's find: Dharma Arts Magazine. I love the format and design; it's a truly web-based design, rather than a print publication slapped onto a website. You'll see what I mean once you start clicking! Real estate agents should mimic how Dharma presents this Peace House.

My creative action group (for which this book was the inspiration.) convenes at my house for the 4th time this Friday. We gather in the hopes that rubbing shoulders will encourage our solitary-maker efforts. We've yet to solidify into a core group. Different people show up each time. We still don't communicate much between meetings and the group has yet to really embed itself into our lives.

I'm trying to figure out what else I can do to make it more than just a pleasant two hours a month. Although, of course, that's quite a bit better than nothing. It's the one time every month where I speak up about my art and actual humans (other than my dear mate) nod and respond!

January 21, 2011

Old people and children first

January 20-21, 2011

The two guys on the right delighted me. Fellow in the flower toque kept swiveling his head, peering around and out the bus curiously, giving me wonderful glimpses of his giant nose. Swear he checked me out when he was getting off the bus. He took a big eyeful anyway.

It won't surprise you that there's a certain demographic among the commuting crowd. More 90-year-old duos, please.

Out of my league, part two

My sister just twigged me to this wonderful pencil artist! Such honest images.

His artist statement's worth a look. He sort of ... wipes away the cobwebs of normal polite talk and replaces them with something simple and gentle.

January 20, 2011

Attack of the sad people

 So they don't look ready to mobilize. Give them time!

January 18, 2011
Despite the melancholy of the season, it's been a lucky week (though do I regret getting caught by a dude in naval uniform before I produced anything worth showing you. We may not have much fashion variety to feature here in Ottawa, but we do have our men and women in uniform!).

The young lady in the next picture sat a mere foot away last night. Our knees were practically touching! Hopefully she just played dumb out of kindness or disinterest. She must've known I was drawing her. Teenagers know everything.

Don't look a gift commuter in the mouth is what I say. 

It's too bad about that guy growing out of her ponytail.
January 18, 2010

January 19, 2011

What are you listening to?

January 18, 2011
 This woman was really beautiful. Too bad all you get to see is her nose. I really enjoyed working out all the different textures, crimped skirt, molded leather purse, her hair and fur ruff.

January 18, 2011

I guess it'd be hypocritical to fault her for staring

People often watch me draw, and I like it. The solitary artist thing is a bit of a drag, really. But yesterday one lady distracted me quite a lot rubber-necking between me and the woman I was drawing.

Was she:
  1. Trying to see if I was going to get caught (or is that just my paranoia talking?)
  2. Comparing my picture with the object of my efforts?
  3. Wondering if I was a spy? 
That last one's there just for fun. I don't really want people to think I'm a spy. I might have to defend myself physically or something one day. That wouldn't work out so well for me.


A bit tense in the ole resource centre this morning... It is slightly obvious that I'm not doing anything work-y. They couldn't care less as long as there's no line-up for the computers and such. But it was busy in there today. I brazened through the scan, then fled before I finished cleaning up the scan in Photoshop.

So here it is! Rough! and! ready! 

January 13-17, 2011
Confession: I made up the guy on the top left, based on a lady with hot pink hair and the greatest kisser you ever saw.

January 17, 2011

Out of my league

What kind of pencils is this fella using, and where do I buy?
Terry Miller, sketch in progress

This post is censored

I'm working on a wedding gift for an old friend. She's a former event planner and plans to embed the ceremony -- and my art -- in a multimedia showcase!

This post USED to say -- and show -- way more about this project. But Jeff-my-husband says my friend might appreciate a surprise gift. Hopefully she didn't see this post already.

January 15, 2011

Where I'm (not) drawing from

When I'm lucky enough to get the time energy to do art at home, this is my art-doing spot.

Brush and ink

January 14, 2011

You should see what I started with

January 11 and 12, 2011 
It might surprise you to learn how difficult it is to scan pencil drawings. The initial scans are very faint, and require tinkering in picture editing software. I did a bunch of Internet reading before settling on my current method. (Desaturate, then darken midtones, sometimes a little brightening. ... I wonder if it might be easier to photograph my sketches instead.) 

The problem seems to be peculiar to pencil work. Over the years I've scanned acrylic paintings, watercolor painting, ink drawings, whatever, and the results generally resemble the original.

I wonder what the difference is? Does the graphite in pencil lead reflect light in a weird way? Hmm.

January 13, 2011

Oh my gad they've also got Photoshop

The staff at the resource centre have started looking at me quizzically. But I figure after a few more visits they'll be so used to me parachuting in for 5 minutes that I'll become just part of the scenery...

That makes me think of a cool name for a blog: the "Diveblogger," as in Divebomber. Hmm, let's look it up. Aha! There IS a diveblogger. "Investment professional by day, dive blogger by night." He loves to dive wrecks -- which is so odd since I am currently reading this -- and it's a beautiful blog. Undersea pictures enthrall me. Sadly, not updated since 2008. 
January 13, 2011
Spent twenty-five delicious minutes on this sleepy devil. We got off at the same stop. Contemplated fabricating a reason to talk to him so I could see his face from another angle. Resisted temptation.

Drawing at the post office beats the bus

I'd almost forgotten what it was like not to have to allow for a bumpy ride!

January 11, 2011
Turns out when you draw a shorter person who's standing in front of you... you get a really big head on a wee tapering body. So later I went over the initial sketch in ink and re-sized her head. (She had the neatest haircut, all different lengths.) Plus I cropped out the tiny feet. They were kind of creepy anyway.

January 12, 2011


November 2010

For months I've been weighing going to art school against keeping my day job, or dreaming up scenarios that combine the two, all the while conducting serious consultations with my husband on the topic of trying for a second baby. Sometimes I feel like I've been at the art vs. job crossroads for years, never getting anywhere. Other times I feel I've been making incremental, steady steps in the direction of my goal of doing more art more often, and that that is good enough.

January 11, 2011

Where I can now be found on my breaks

by Summer Pierre
Some of the best tips in Summer Pierre's book The Artist in the Office relate to finding ways to make your day job inspire or support your art. Since reading them, I've noticed I'm better at finding creative ways to meld the two without hurting my day job.

I have a scanner at home, but by the time my workday and chores are done, it's surprisingly hard to drag myself and my laptop to the back of the house where the scanner lives. Part of that might have something to do with the fact that I usually have to scan something two or three times to get my clunky scanner to work properly… Well, I discovered that there's a resource centre -- with scanners! -- here at work. I checked it out this morning. It only took a couple of minutes, way less than the 15 minute break I usually take twice a day, to scan in this morning's bus drawing.

Your favourite daredevil/annoyer

January 11, 2010
I felt a bit bad drawing this lady's backpack this morning. She looked uncomfortable with the attention I was giving her stuff. I think she was trying to decide if she was annoyed or not, but eventually landed on the side of ignoring me.

Sometimes I feel like a daredevil when I draw people; other times I feel a bit like a jerk.

January 10, 2011

Intent and not-so-intent

January 10, 2010
The fellow on the left stayed glued to his Blackberry for over twenty minutes. He didn't move so much as an eyelid (I was watching). I drew the guy on the right (whose ear suffers from a clear case of foreshortening) later the same morning and he was as jumpy as anything. I had to use all my stealth powers to avoid getting caught. I guess the reports on his Blackberry weren't as gripping as the first guy's.

January 8, 2011

...and distracted

After laboriously trudging through a drawing of bus interior architecture, a subject I return to constantly because it is SO HARD, I got bored and pulled out a drawing pen.
January 3, 2011


January 5, 2011

I did this little cartoon of a waif that was inspired by a girl sitting across from me. She was really on the ball, so I couldn't do her portrait. Too bad, because she had the most amazing forehead -- high, domed and shiny.

If I can't get away with drawing somebody, I usually cartoon them instead -- next to her is another example: this preteen boy looked soooo sleepy. He was wearing lime green headphones. It looked like he spray-painted them himself. A photograph would be way better than this, but anyway.


Jan 7, 2011
The main benefit of being stuck on the bus is that I have to find ways to entertain myself. This has lead to all sorts of mental gymnastics, like drawing hardware and other people's tired husbands.


This morning Ada and I tried to go play in the snow with a backpack carrier. By the time we got her snowsuit, boots and hat on, squeezed her into the carrier, and started in on all the buckles and straps, her patience ran out. I gave up on the mission and hauled her back out, but then she fell in the snow and grabbed a metal railing with her naked hands to pull herself up. 

She was really distressed, poor mite, and went around the house crying with her hands outstretched for ten minutes. Later while we were colouring I drew this picture. You can see her crayon line up there on the right.
I won't leave her mitts for last again!

January 6, 2011

Anatomy with Aida

Wire frame, by Aida Alves
Think I might register for this yummy human anatomy drawing course offered by this amazing artist Aida Alvez at the Ottawa School of Art.   

Amber Alexander -- beautiful animal watercolours full of whimsy

Pie Thief, by Amber Alexander
My friend Mandy gave me this print by Amber Alexander and introduced me to a talented and prolific watercolourist. I love the two touches of red! Thanks, Mandy.

January 5, 2011

At the #87 lay up stop at Carlingwood Mall

No matter where I am there is always something to draw. At Sears: An old, mustachioed man in a tweed beret at the wheel of an idling Ford F150.

Have you seen me before?

January 3, 2011
After the packed hours last week of website updating and flipping through magazines for art director names, it was a relief to draw again on the bus this week. Miraculously, everyone stayed in place for twenty minutes while I drew several people. 

January 5, 2011
This morning a woman left her seat on the packed 95 going downtown. I sat down, thinking she was about to disembark, but she stayed on the bus for several more stops. I had a little fantasy that she has seen me drawing on the bus before, and gave up her seat so that I could draw. I drew: the back of a man with an attaché case and quilted coat, the bejewelled hands of a goth-dressed woman, a pink boot. 

This morning, drinking coffee as I do every morning while my daughter nurses, I looked out the window for a long while. (I bought that house for its huge garden and lovely large corner windows.) Funny thing, the snow and sky were the exact same colour, indistinguishable -- a really, really pale whitish blue. A few minutes later, I caught the moment when the snow became white, as the sun rose.

January 4, 2011


Blank book, by Bruce Mao
In December, I finished my first book of pictures drawn during my long commutes. Now I'm drawing in a red Moleskine blank book. The buttery pages make anything look good, though I miss my first book. Bruce Mau designed it, and the dull gray cover has "OPTIMISM" in white across the front and excerpts from Manifesto throughout. "OPTIMISM" was a little everyday lift that I loved.

Cockiness and vectors

I forgot to post this last year. Oops!
That wedding invitation assignment from my violinist friend in San Francisco sure sold me on vector illustration! She asked for maple and oak leaves, and in typical fashion I started outside by collecting samples from my oak tree and the neighbour's maple.

I stared at the brown backyard leaves for a while until I got a sense of maple and oak basic leaf structure. It looks like the maple leaf's points fall in a pentagram shape and the oak leaf is an upside-down teardrop with holes cut out along the sides. Next, I cruised the Net and some ancient plant books from my bookshelf to explore oak and maple varieties. I chose the Sugar Maple and White Oak. They're classic shapes, very recognizable -- the sugar is pointy and curvy, each lobe swirling out from the main vein. Think Canadian flag, but bendier. White Oak is the oak leaf with the smooth, round lobes. It's really gentle and voluptuous.

Beyond looks, with a Canadian bride, the Sugar Maple was the natural choice given Canada's maple syrup fame. For him, since I couldn't find a native Californian oak, I chose the White Oak as it's the most loved among oaks.

So I did a few drawings in black ink (she'd told me she wanted a Japanese look, being Japanese herself) and scanned them into Photoshop.

And as soon as those leaves landed next to the wedding text, they looked like garbage! Eww.

I'm no graphic designer, right. When I took this project on, all I thought about was the illustrations. Wrong! I completely neglected to remember that the images needed to flow with the graphic design. These images looked very odd, very weak and not wedding-y at all next to the Japanese-style typeface I was using.

So I figured I could do some fully worked-up paintings -- either on paper or on 'Shop -- no doubt they'd look nice as opposed to those little ink sketches. But I couldn't take the risk -- taking that kind of time wouldn't leave me any margin for error if I had more screw-ups. I needed attractive, simple images that would be easy to layout and resize and colour on multiple projects: the invitations, menus, and whatever else. I didn't want to do some paintings and then have them print poorly or something.

Soooo I figured I'd try doing vector images because they've got that versatile thing going for them, apparently. But, yeah. My lord, that was tough to learn. In hindsight, I could've managed a couple of watercolours in the time I spent sifting through tutorials and making an ass out of myself with the Pen Tool on Photoshop. I've tried it before with no success, but it's amazing what necessity will do for me.

(The Pen Tool is totally unintuitive, at least at first. You click on the screen a starting point and end point for a curve, and pull little handles to affect its direction and (slope?). I finally had a break-through when Photoshopcafe released a new tutorial this week. That and some help files on "vector masks" got me through.)

The result is some spectacularly unimpressive leaves, but hey, it's my first time :)

She seems happy, and that's what matters.