March 31, 2011

Maybe if I give Socks a good petting I'll feel better

March 30-31, 2011
I did not enjoy this drawing. That's not normal for me. The set-up was perfect: two people asleep. So I started with the woman on the left.

As I idly went along, skritching away in my notebook, I noticed that her expression was changing. Frown lines were appearing between her eyes.

Was she awake, and pissed off? She was wearing dark glasses -- maybe she was looking at me under her lashes.

But no. Definitely asleep. So I went on but I really didn't feel right. Looked around for another subject. Returned half-heartedly. A few more stops and her chin was frowning now, acting like a ledge for her mouth, pushing the whole thing up with frowny lines down the side.

At first I just figured she was brooding over something, but finally I figured she must be awake, maybe looking at me here and there through slitted eyes, maybe when I was doing her collar or whatever. Who knows. Anyway, crappy.

I was duly punished, though. The story A Sketchy Ride didn't go in the print edition of Ottawa This Week. Ah well. You win some, you lose some.

March 30, 2011

Pictures from the Bus in Thursday's mail

If you get the free paper Ottawa This Week, I think Bus Blog gets featured tomorrow, thanks to reporter Jennifer McIntosh. I'm looking forward to checking it out. Since all my stuff goes from notebook to puter, this will be my first time seeing the bus stuff printed.

I always knew the municipal news in it focused on central Ottawa, but I didn't get that the arts/entertainment/sport sections featured local folk, too. I'll be paying more attention now. In a very big world, sometimes I like to focus on what's near.

In which I skirt the edges of stalkerdom

March 28-29, 2011
After twenty minutes of missed opportunities ("why is that wierdo staring at me?" crossing the faces of at least six people on one ride) I noticed a beautiful, tired woman standing in everyone's way at the other end of my bendy bus.

To the drawing board!

Ten seconds in, she turned the other way, so I started again. Then someone buffeted her down the aisle into the articulated section.

I got a bit farther into that view of her, then she moved aside again, then up the steps, until she stood at the back of the bus, a foot away.  

A stop went by, and then plop, she sat down in front of me.

Reader, she had such lovely hair.

A strange moment yesterday, while riding along: two conversations, each between a young man and a young girl, where the girls' voices were near-identical. I couldn't hear every remark so the conversations juxtaposed.

"I think we just saw a bus almost collide with a car"
"it was really annoying"
"I can sleep anywhere really dirty, as long as there's no cockroaches"

March 29, 2011

We're all (squished) in this together

March 25, 2011

The young couple across from me last Friday were curious about what I was doing so I held up my notebook and showed them. They appeared favourably disposed :) I love when doing art is social! I'd never make it in a garret... Do you think what I do is guerilla art?

At the same time, the woman next to me kept up the most distracting body language. Elbow into my arm, leg pushing into mine. Eventually she settled down, but what is it with some people?

"Oh. My. I am so comfy here in my little spot, hmm hum, all-by-myself-just-wanna-be-all -- wait, no. The door's opening. Shit. More passengers. That chick is heading for my -- no, she's moving in -- she's SITTING next to me -- Oh no, her leg is touching me, why-eeee whyy me --"

Get a grip. This is the city, lady. 

Hey, I didn't get any response to my pitch plea, so if you wanted to, but felt shy... now's your chance to tell an artist what to do!

March 27, 2011

Why don't more restaurants have paper tablecloths?

Crayola colours on a Sunday, while the child sleeps, and sister is out eating sushi. Hopefully I'll finish this tomorrow. Knowing me, maybe not. 

March 25-27, 2011 in progress

March 25, 2011

Article: A Sketchy Ride

Nepean this week covered Bus Blog today in an article called A Sketchy Ride. Best title, and I wish I'd thought of it! Way better than Pictures from the Bus, that's for sure.

Sniff, my little bus drawings are in a slideshow!!

I'm excited as well because I think there's a print version of this. Not sure. Seeing my bus drawings in print. Crazy!

Thanks, Jennifer!!

Pitch me, please. Pretty please?

I draw a lot, but I don't get to do a lot of illustration.* I want more practice, both on working with briefs and with clients. So here's my idea:

If you have a concept for a drawing, post a comment or e-mail me. Pretend you're writing an article, or producing a product. My challenge will be to transform the idea into visual form. You don't have to be a pro -- this is just for fun.

What I need in your brief:
-a description of the concept/article/product/whatever that the illustration is for
-art direction: what should be in the drawing? Are there specific narrative elements (e.g. woman walking a dog) that are musts in the illustration?
-any other direction, like mood or color, and reference materials (e.g. a photograph or other thing that suggests something about what you want in the illustration)
-Clue: you can leave this is open if you want, but clients get the most satisfying results when they provide a fleshed out idea of what they want.

When I'm done, I'll post it here along with your brief.

What I can't do:
-mimic somebody else's style
-return the illustration in a quick timeline.

* "Illustration is the interpretation of a problem that requires imagery to solve it. This imagery complements, explains, decorates or tells a story."
-Holly DeWolf, Breaking into Freelance Illustration

March 24, 2011

Talked off the ledge

March 24, 2011
Hope your ride improved or was unaffected by today's transit plan proposal?

This drawing tried really hard to junk itself. There's so much wrong with it. I hit Ottawa's least-suspended rides, four buses in a row, which messed with everything. (My money's on the old blue seat buses -- not the new ones with the curvy backs -- for Worst Rattle Experience.) One lady's face was totally destroyed (Photoshop solution employed).

Then, I misjudged the angle of the iPhone readers head. She's clearly not looking at it. Turns out I wasn't wrong - she spent most of her time lost in thought. She was on a news site, but I couldn't see the story. But it doesn't look right, does it.

I drew the opposite passengers later and guessed where to put them, so of course they're too close together, too far down and too little.

I didn't finish Curly Hair in time, and I can't draw feet without a model, so... he doesn't have any. 

So, yeah, it was going to join my large trash pile. But then I got fond of it and tried to fake out some of the faults. So now you know the truth behind one of my new favorites, wonky as it is.


I joined it (@liahiltz) -- hope to see you there!

March 23, 2011

Local Tourist Ottawa stops over in Bus Blog!

Want to hear more from Pictures on the Bus? Jump to Local Tourist Ottawa, a fantastic site that captures everything neat about Ottawa (including its best cupcakes). They kindly asked to interview me, and you can read more of my wandering thoughts on bus drawing in their feature.

In other news, would you like to know more about the strangers around you? (And see some yummy photos, too...)

I love you, Ottawa. You are so strange. I wonder what's going to happen on the Hill today?

Go scribbling

All the brown scribbling is to cover up the fact that her head started out as a mushroom.

Last weekend I visited native-Ottawan Kristy Gordon's show at Cube (on until March 27). I'd recommend getting over to Hintonburg for a look. Her portraits look like contemporary Ontarians and I really enjoyed them. Someone who knows how to paint, but has imagination, too. I didn't have much time to take in the rest of the show (there are 2 other artists showing with her).

March 21, 2011

And now for my silliest idea ever

March 21, 2011

The people at the other ends of some of these legs (who were sadly too close for safe portrait drawing) held an interesting conversation about life before and after his accident. The way they were talking, it sounded like they struck up a conversation as strangers. Maybe she got out of the priority seating for him, and that's how it started.  

And that's when it hit me. I've been thinking about approaching a magazine or a publisher or a gallery about my pictures. (OC Transpo never called back, sadly, although maybe it's too soon to give up.) I thought about basing the text part on my "Why you should draw on the bus" pages, but this morning I got a better idea. Everyone assumes that a bus ride is a terrible ordeal, right?A real sampling of the rat race -- a transit maze, with no swiss cheese!

But I don't think so. I see the most endearing things all the time.

So, what about a list book? (My husband --via Seanbaby -- scorns them. I'm going to get such a piss-taking if he reads this.) Like, "Fifty happy rush hour moments"? Insipid title, I know, but I can work on it! I could introduce it, and then match one drawing with each item. Let's get started:

1. I got trapped behind a giant snow bank running to catch the bus. A pregnant stranger stopped, risking missing it herself, and held her arm up to help me over.

2. This story about a great listener.

3. Hot tip: Old men always offer their seats to women. They're too gallant to accept help themselves. So if you're sitting and you want to offer an old man a seat, don't say anything, just stand up and take off.

4. Need a good wish today? Try this: Say, "Thanks, have a nice day" when you get off a bus. Chances are the driver's heard this a thousand times. But they still always say, "You, too."

 What do you think? Am I nuts? Looking it over it looks sort of horrible. But it's all in the tone, right. Ugh. This is harder than I thought. Reminds me of writing short stories. The self-doubt is ridiculous. 

Oh well. Happy spring!

March 18, 2011

The world is not yet done!

Summer 2005
"Each new piece of your art enlarges our reality. The world is not yet done."  Home sick, I'm rereading bits from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

There are many of us, and does that mean there's too much noise, or that there are more eyes to see?

For anyone who likes to snoop around  an artist's studio, the process images on Nimit Malavia's website scratch your itch. He's an Ottawa illustrator who is deeply involved in the comic scene. And the colour red has fallen all over in love with his inky lines.

This favourite of mine I painted at a life drawing open studio in Collingwood, Ontario. I taught part-time English and Math in a tiny school, painted at lunch and nights, and Photoshop re-touched for a graphic design studio the rest of the time. Bliss.

Sadly, my scanner of six or seven years, a Lexmark all-in-one, is faltering. Now begins the disloyal and exciting process of replacement! Any suggestions?

March 17, 2011

Where do you get the nerve?

I called OC Transpo. I want to show my pictures on the busses themselves. Like Poetry on the bus, remember that? I loved it. Maybe we could find other artists to do it, too, and have a huge suite of pictures and photos of commuters, drivers, the transitway at night. Plus, OC Transpo's advertising seems lower this year. Some busses are empty of ads altogether, so there's some space to work with.

I could work some pictures up into full-colour paintings and display them in OC Transpo kiosks. Maybe they even have a display area for OC Transpo history? Showing the pictures to drivers and other OC Transpo employees would blow me away. Or, maybe they're sick of looking at commuters?! I can see the OC Transpo rep handing me my pictures back with stains, Scotch tape pasted across the rips. "It's not you, Lia," all apologetic. "It's us. You'll find love with a different bus company. Really. Keep drawing!"  

I bet there's an art space out there that would get a kick out of showing them. Even (tiny thrill), Wall Space -- my favourite gallery ever.

Or maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Maybe my real self is a little grey shadow trailing along behind the part of me that charges ahead into professional artdom, taking the things I think about people and work and saying them out loud.

Do you remember when you were fresh out of school, full of ideas and purpose?
Me, too.

March 16, 2011


To each of you visiting this blog, which I feel so affectionate toward, thank you! I'm glad you like it.

Local Tourist Ottawa approached me to feature Bus Blog, and I devoted my ride home to thinking about their interview questions. But first I spent a half an hour waiting for the bus. A terrible fire raged all day in Vanier. I hope the folks who were put out of their homes have all found places to stay.

March 16, 2011

So I have one small drawing to offer today (I did have another, but one of her limbs didn't work out. Sorry about the hand, pal). I gussied it up with a stray orange marker from my bag, but it so wasn't good enough for this lady. She wore a deep purple jacket, mauve scarf, and carried a pink bag. Her skin was a light peach. If only I had had some more colours. But then, I only own garish markers, and her ensemble was really pleasing.

Is anyone else curious about the Voice behind the automated stop announcement system they've got on the busses now? He's so cheerful. "I made it to Slater and Kent!" Every stop is an accomplishment to him. I should take a lesson. Celebrate everything. It makes each step more fun. On the other hand, now if you sit under the speaker by the back door? The stop request chime is DEAFENING.

March 15, 2011

Bus blog's happy day

Today I visited the CBC Ottawa Morning studio to give my interview. I've long admired host Kathleen Petty, whose warm voice through my clock radio helped me through many lonely mornings in 2006 before my husband could join me here in Ottawa. I lived at the time in the attic of a true CBC-friendly house. My friends, the owners, blasted CBC Radio across three floors, and it accompanied every sleepy breakfast at the tiny kitchen table. I loved it.

Nowadays, with my hectic breastfeed/standup-breakfast/dressup-out-the-door mornings, there's more As It Happens in my life than Ottawa Morning. But my excitement still kept me up most of last night!

While I waited for my spot, I drew a woman in the studio who I thought might be Hallie Cotnam, but Google Image search contradicts me. The picture's not great -- I was REALLY nervous.

Studio 12, CBC Ottawa

Below, a little drawing that happily distracted me on the way downtown.
March 15, 2011

March 14, 2011

Seeing what's in front of me -- part 2

...but not what's outside! On a 96 going home, I was so far into finishing this picture that we went two stops past my stop before I looked out the window.

"I don't usually go on the highway..."

March 14, 2011

I want to clean this up a bit more, maybe in Photoshop, but here's my almost-last version of this scene. I hope you like it.

Pictures from the Bus -- on Ottawa Morning!

After OttawaStart blogged about this page last week, CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning producer called me up and asked me to go on air. I'm stunned. Thanks, Glen and Denise!

I'm to talk tomorrow with Kathleen Petty (!) at 7:45 am. My favourite radio station, and one of my favourite shows. (My other favourite is As It Happens.)
CBC radio hosts always know how to get the right stuff out of people. I hope the magic works on me, too.

Wish Bus Blog luck, friends!

March 13, 2011

Baby wisdom

For my first piece in Adobe Illustrator, I made this drawing for my friend Kim who is expecting her first baby. I used it as the frontispiece for a book collecting wishes and advice from her friends and family. I had very much wanted to call it "Wisdom our babies taught us," but there were a few people in the mix that that title would have left out. Maybe the title I used is more whimsical. And I like whimsy, after all.

The colours are very flat, which is attractive on the blanket but jarring in the sky. I still have to figure out gradients (colours that shade from light to dark) in Illustrator, but I think that you can't do those with the Live Paint feature.

This is the ink drawing I made first. I imported it into Illustrator and applied an automated tracing tool. That's why the lines are so rounded and uniform in comparison to my drawing. I could have made the trace more faithful to my drawing, but I don't know how to do that yet. Fourteen days left in the trial!

March 11, 2011

Seeing what's in front of me

March 11, 2011
I loved working on the series of scenes I did this week. I'll keep filling this one with shading next week on slow days.  It has bothered me that I rarely do frontal portraits of people on the bus; I worried my glimpses from the side and back of people were inherently boring. But I think I'm seeing something else instead, and I like it, whatever it is.

March 10, 2011

***Dateline Ottawa***

It's 2011, I'm 35, a married mum, gainfully employed, and the proud keeper of 
two senior cats (both gray)... but friends, I'm STILL COOL! 
Thanks, OttawaStart

 a couple of months ago, and that must be how they found me. I spent 
many satisfying hours of clicking there. Enjoy!

March 10, 2011

So, why is that despite carefully positioning the pole behind his head, in exactly the right spot, he's still sitting half off the seat? Something is wonky in the space-brain continuum.

March 9, 2011

Havana ink

March 9, 2011
This week I've been super enjoying my Faber Castell markers. They make the bumpy lines produced by driving over potholes seem intentional. Well, I hope so, anyway! And the brown is so lovely. It reminds me of a beautiful shade of brown fountain pen ink by Waterman. My boss at the Canadian Embassy in Washington used this ink. I loved his elegant, liquid-y scrawls in the margins of my reports.   
Ink name? "Havana."


In other news, my logo project was cancelled, perhaps for the better given how much is going on in my life right now! I'll keep learning Illustrator until my 30-day trial expires.

March 8, 2011

March 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I think I talked about learning Adobe Illustrator last week. I spent way more time on it since then than I should have. I love learning these programs. When I taught myself Photoshop, I just read the help files from start to finish. It took weeks.

But the common look or feel of Illustrator art disappoints me a bit. Everything has that cheerful, coloured-shapes look to it, with those sharp, sharp edges. It's not to say I don't like it, just, there's that sameness. And it's an awful lot of program to learn and master -- you really have to bend your brain around it. But I'm having a good time with it anyway.

I've got no bus art today. I spent 1.5 hours getting to work and an hour getting back, with nary a drawing to show! There was much, much, much standing. Oh! The standing. The extra-funny part about not posting any art today is that I've been doing art at home like crazy, never mind on the bus! But all projects are TOP SECRET until they get handed in.

Ada made her second card ever (the first was for her mom and dad on Valentine's Day) on the occasion of her Papa's 75th birthday. I wish I'd taken a photo of the card, too, as it seems to have been lost on the mail on the way. Ah well. Next year!

February 26, 2011

March 3, 2011

A good drawing day

March 3, 2011

Today I drew a woman (the one on the right) in conversation with an elderly colleague. (I know they're colleagues because we all work in the same place -- I was on the work bus.) I wasn't paying much attention to the words, but I swiftly realised by her expressions and the way she leaned toward the other woman that a significant amount of pretty personal information was being passed along to her. The kind that makes someone feel sympathy for another person. And here I was, drawing away, for all intents and purposes a shameful eavesdropper. I managed not to listen in, while trying to catch a bit of the kindness in her face. She was a very good listener and left the tiny, old woman a bit more relaxed.

As for the women I drew with marker, I don't know a thing about her except that she was kind of fascinating-looking (her nose is what you'd call sculpted) and that she sat as still as a stalking cat for a solid fifteen minutes.

March 2, 2011

Go to bed, Lia

Bedtime has been and gone, and what are Lia and her husband doing? He's playing Fallout, and I'm on the blog.

March 2, 2011
This is the only rule-breaking I get to do these days. (At least at this age. My younger me -- like your younger you...? -- had better definitions.) But I wanted to share these 2 people with you, so there you have it. Throw the book at me.

March 1, 2011

Commander in a toque

March 1, 2011
This morning I began a drawing of a truly interesting-looking busrider. He left the bus too soon, however, so I popped someone else's toque on his head. From there, whimsy developed the drawing into the portrait of some kind of commander (starfleet?), and the toque into a pinned headpiece.