November 11, 2013

Assume nothing

November 8, 2013

Working out some more thoughts about the purse painting. What would the expression of a girl discovering adulthood be? I'd imagined sobriety and nervousness -- my own anxieties about girlhood in our culture were projected on her face -- but maybe it would be anticipation. A few months ago I realised that I was confident in my son's future and worried about my daughter's - and that rather than transmitting my nerves to her, as inevitably I would over time, I needed to have more faith in her.

October 4, 2013

What's in her purse?

Thinking about the girl knee-deep in the lake, looking in the purse. It's an adult woman's purse. She's little, though, maybe six. Under the surface her legs bend, distorted by the waves and sunlight coming through at an angle. Her toes grip the pebbly lake bottom. Trees rise behind her, dark between the trunks. It's getting near sundown and the light is behind her, leaving a shine down the top of her head, across her cheek and arms. I am wondering, what do we give our girls?

When I think of this image, I remember... Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. The murky etymological relationship between purse and pussy. The loneliness of coming of age.

September 26, 2013

Image seeds

Moving slowly, learning and thinking more about the politics of childbearing and motherhood, feminism in art, women's meager inclusion in some cultural elites, the shaping of children's sexuality, socialisation of girls and boys. I know so little. 

But progress! My mind is keeping pace. For the first time I'm seeing how all these things could become pictures. I wanted to collect together references, a big pile of images, made up or found, that could grow into painting ideas. Yet already, yesterday, I thought of coat hangers -- tools of unsafe abortion, modelling industry. Crude, but the first concrete thing so far. Something you could draw. 

Today I imagined a little girl peering into a heart-shaped purse. She's standing up to her thighs in a pool of water. What is in the purse? What is underwater? 

My hope is that through this work I will be able to lay to rest some of the jarring conflicts I feel about my own person- and womanhood. I also want to give to my daughter a world less circumscribed by random customs, as my mother did for me, and this work could be a vehicle for sharing these thoughts with her. I don't know. So little has been worked out yet, and I know my technical abilities don't match my ambitions at this time.

Reading: Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood, by Naomi Wolf.

September 24, 2013

The beginnings of a plan

Kicked out of work on behalf of my union's job action, suddenly I've had time to deal with my art questions. And after a couple of days to think, wander around, no one after me for a snack, change of clothes, whatever... it returns in a flood. The rush of ideas, the fever to produce something creative, the dread of actually delving in. Creativity.

This morning, not finding anything at the bookstore, I dropped in on the Ottawa School of Art and asked Lauren at the counter for advice on planning a series of paintings. Something like How to Write a Novel, but for artists. Everything else is out there, how to paint a face, how to paint cats, painting in encaustic, drawing from life or in the woods, but nothing on how to take a cloudy idea and turn it into a few pictures.

Off the top of her head, she came up with nothing, but luckily for me her Googling skills outpaced mine. She found a two-pager on a website called Empty Easel. And just like that, I have the beginnings of a plan. 

After scanning it intently on the sidewalk, I charged off to Galerie St Laurent+Hill. One of the too-many-to-count things I've learned from reading Alan Rusbridger is that I don't have enough information. The man interviewed scads of pianists, professional and amateur, and subjected himself to the direction of at least four teachers. He read books about his chosen project -- learning Chopin's G Minor Ballade -- and followed the progress of others engaged in attempting the same difficult feat via Twitter and Youtube. I'm too much alone by comparison, progressing slowly or not at all because of it.

I figured, maybe I should take in some series, get a sense of how others might have done it. But the gallery had no solo show on (come back for Leslie Reid on Thursday, I'm told), and both La Petite Mort and Terence Robert were closed.

At St Laurent+Hill I disappointed myself by not asking the man at his desk for any advice on concretising a broad theme that doesn't immediately call up images and turning it into them. He had a battered notebook in front of him, reams of paper, a weary but inviting face. Surely he's the curator, someone often at the side of many artists exploring ideas visually. I also know people so often love to talk - what am I so afraid of? Bothering people? Being a pest? No, it's that I hate to call attention to myself. What if I raise their interest, and then disappoint? Better to make no impression at all.

At home, emboldened, I tell my husband I will take the list of artists I like in Ottawa and fire off e-mails to every one of them. Won't they accept a free lunch from an amateur wanting a bit of advice? Hopefully I will have the courage to do it. 

September 22, 2013


Four months I've let go by and I still haven't sorted out what to do next! I developed a lot of ambition this summer -- worked out in a basic way some characters and plotlines for a novel, thought vaguely about a poetry collection, dreamed up two related themes for a suite of paintings. Much of it in my head, but not much over all. I went easy on myself because one kid was starting school, another daycare, and I was going back to work. So no blogging, no art production, no writing. Well, enough time's trickled by, I guess.

I last planned out a major artistic project over two decades ago in high school, and I need advice. Loads of books exist on techniques for project management, as well as subjects like becoming more creative or persisting in spite of self-doubt or time restrictions. Are there any resources on the practical steps to taking a theme (say you wanted to do works on climate change, which I don't, but my themes are as broad) and turning it into a series of works? Is there a word for that part of the process, and does anyone know where you can learn more about that?

Guess I need to talk to people.

I'm reading a good book lent me by a colleague: Play It Again, by the impressive Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger. He spent a year learning a difficult Ballade by Chopin, a song I used to half-play and that was outside both of our abilities, and by playing in small bursts, often merely twenty minutes, I suppose he managed it. I always assumed that if you had so little time, you might as well not bother. He also admits to a weak memory (never memorised a song, couldn't remember dates and events), but committed to memorising this complex, 9-minute-long song.

So I'm inspired/chastised on two counts! My lack of time and terrible memory are no excuse for anything. :) The fact that I'm no Alan Rusbridger, maybe I'll just not worry about that.

May 8, 2013

Art Battle steal

Self-portrait by Mark Stephenson

I bought art! I thought that collecting original art was years away for me for lack of cash. But art is cheaper at auctions so I got lucky. This gorgeous self-portrait is by Mark Stephenson.

Mark painted it Sunday night at Art Battle. It was Ottawa's first Battle and I expect there'll be more since a good 100 people showed up and everybody left looking happy. The set-up is 12 artists live painting for a chance at some cash and a ticket to Art Battle nationals in Toronto. Painters paint in two qualifying rounds, easels in the middle, audience surrounding. 20 minutes per painting.

It'd be easy to get frantic under the pressure. Loud music, people circling you in a churning wheel. It was generally a younger crowd, students maybe.

Mark and local artist and Ottawa School of Art teacher Hamid Ayoub won their qualifying round and competed against the other two qualifiers (Margo Bennetto and Peter Akiki) in the final. Mark won the whole thing by only one vote. Mark seemed really focused, working away at his palette and canvas steadily and considered. Impressive control.

I talked to Mark after and he told me that he'd planned to paint an audience member. But Art Battle admin vetoed that, saying no references allowed. Instead, he painted an acquaintance from memory in Round 1 and himself in Round 2. I was so glad. I figured everyone would paint something they'd practiced in advance. But who wants to watch people put down a formula?

When the winner was announced, Mark broke out in a grin and family members pulled him in for a hug. Looked like his wife, kids and parents. I was so chuffed that the winner of an edgy art contest was a family man. That's just my momness showing through :)

I'm proud to own this painting. My first original art purchase in, oh, 13 years? I think it's really fine.

April 25, 2013

Innovate, produce, consolidate

After the Bath by Paul Beel (1890)

Ten days ago I completed my second course with the Ottawa School of Art. First, the exhilarating Anatomy of the Human Figure with Aida Alves, and second, a first-time journey into Acrylic Landscape Painting with Blair Paul. My technique improved a lot. Composition, colour, the whole thing. If you've been visiting this space you've been seeing it happen. But I haven't been making pictures about what I want to make pictures about.

I haven't made the pictures I want to make in years. During my first maternity leave, just at the tail end, I did some work I wanted to do while my daughter went to daycare part-time. I tackled a classical painting of Ada's face, a couple of other things. Three months later I got back to work and started drawing people on the bus. I drew anyone with whatever materials I had from fall 2010 to spring 2012.

On my second mat leave, I drew a number of pictures of my son while he slept. I loved doing these pictures, but I really wished I had more time and different poses.

Next, I chose the Anatomy course because I was weak on anatomy. (Great at heads, feet not so much.) And I chose the landscape course because the courses I really want to take weren't offered when I could take them. Contemporary painting, Expressive figure painting, etc.

I guess I've been making art out of whatever's in front of me for three years. It's exciting that I can do that now. Make things workable. I'm a much better technician than I was.

So, the next step.

Ada will be starting school in a new place across town this fall. We're buying another car so I can drive her there every day on my way to and from work.

In other words, the bus part of Bus Blog is over.

I'm pretty freaked about this. If I don't have Pictures from the Bus, what do I have?

The ideas I do have are pretty unformed. Ever since I first saw Canadian artist Paul Beel's After the Bath I have wanted to do nudes of children. I've made a few basic sketches. I'm nervous about taking photos, which would help for reference. It seems like a violation of my kids' privacy somehow. I'm not sure what poses I would do. How could I avoid them seeming sexualised? Serious art featuring kids doesn't have a good smell to it these days. How would I present these paintings? Would they be appropriate online? What audience would they have, if any?  

I guess I'm thinking too much again, aren't I.

I'm not ready to do the children paintings that I want to do. And I don't want to do more of what I have been doing. If I'm not actively producing or growing as an artist or technician, then what am I doing? I'm consolidating.

Time to redo Best of Bus Blog and update my art site.

April 24, 2013


April 2013

I brought this painting home Sunday before last and, as though she'd been drawn to it, my daughter planted her finger right on a scratch I'd thought I'd aptly disguised. Harrumph.

The painting asks what the relationship might be between the boats. I hope the tension comes across.

I received some compliments from classmates on this one. A stranger in the parking garage asked where I'd bought it. One person thought the different styles of brushstrokes didn't work together. Another thought they did. My husband disliked the bottom boat. Someone else really liked the sky. And so on.

I guess there's no consensus when it comes to art. No truth everyone has figured out except me. Tastes are pretty whimsical. What someone appreciates in my work maybe says more about them than it says about my work. I don't particularly like this painting. I didn't like the one before it, and someone bought that one.

My teacher told me I do good work. Compliments feel amazing, especially from someone like Blair Paul, but no one can tell me what to do next because they don't know either. The only thing is to keep going.

I couldn't find any open studio space for the spring and there weren't any courses that appealed to me. So I'm on my own again. No bus, no class and only vague ideas as to what to do. This is the kind of uncomfortable-at-the-time moment you look back on and think -- awesome.  What's next?

April 18, 2013

Eastern Townships again & write-up

Eastern Townships III

I got included in a write-up in Apt613! I'm quite happy about this as I had written them a couple of years ago hoping for some exposure. They'd responded that they liked the blog and they'd happily review a gallery show should I ever do one. That's not an avenue I felt suited Bus Blog, sadly, so I was chuffed when I showed up in Alejandro Bustos' Tour de Blogosphere. He also has a very interesting side project, the Ottawa Blogging Library. Very ambitious!

This little piece marks the last of the Eastern Townships paintings I completed over the winter. I did this one at home and brought it in to show my teacher. That thing up there is a pipe. I'm telling you this because neither he nor my husband could tell what it's supposed to be. The man-made element mars the natural beauty of the scene, and my teacher suggested I paint it out. I did a good job with the colours and I quite like this painting.

I did a large canvas over two days of art classes last weekend. Five hours of painting in such a short period really lets me get into it. I'll show you the results after I get a chance to set up the tripod and shoot the painting.

April 9, 2013

Saturday's another day

April 7, 2013

I was feeling pretty out of sorts on Sunday. Yet another cold/flu. I'd only been well for a week since the last one and here came another one. I didn't have any thing to work from in art class, so I just picked a picture from a photo reference for artists. Can't really get into things when I've got no connection to it. So that's where this picture came from. Nothing special. Just pushing the paint around.

This weekend we have art class both days, though, so I'm super keen about that. If I can manage to get away, I should be able to do a big one. Hope I think up something good to paint!

April 7, 2013

Rent something

The last few months I've devoted many evening hours to clicking through the artwork available for rent through the Ottawa Art Gallery. I finally looked at the last piece tonight, and I'm sad to be done. Tonight I discovered or rediscovered Shannon Whittle, Amy Thomson, Patrice Stanley, and Anthony Tremmaglia. Quite a lineup for a single evening.

If you've got 40 or 50 bucks, you can rent you some Art. Perhaps a piece by my teacher, Blair T. Paul. Just a friendly suggestion.

March 28, 2013

Rocks, studiously

High Falls Gorge, Lake Placid

I hung the new landscapes of the Eastern Townships over the fireplace last week and, for a lark, quizzed three-year-old Ada on the effects of different lights on the paintings. We have several lamps in our living and dining room, each with different light colours. She surprised me by easily pegging how each light brought out different colours in the paintings.

Above is my rendition of High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid, which we visited last year. My teacher describes painting as problem-solving. I found balancing the palette and finding the right brush and stroke to be the most challenging parts. I already knew that colour and line mattered a lot to me, but texture was a main event this time.

March 21, 2013

Scratchify no. 2

This picture fits with my toys post from January. Never drawn toys before, which seems odd when I think about it. Since they're everywhere. We have a small house, no playroom, so our home mixes Rainbow of Plastic with Roadside Furniture Treasures. (Or, as I like to call it, "British Colonial.") It's a mess. Chewed over playthings can be found every which way, including the kitchen table, which is where I was when I began this drawing.

I stopped working on this eventually, though I think it would look better with another, larger toy at bottom (maybe the side of a doll's face?). Scratchboard is great, but I don't think it's for me. I can't figure out why. That's probablyy why it took a month for me to realise I was not going to finish this picture -- because I didn't want to!

I have a terrible time knowing which voices in my head to listen to when it comes to picking subjects, media, and whatever in art. My teacher told us about a book called The Widening Stream, which is apparently all about that sorta thing. I checked it out of the library but found it too spiritual for me. It doesn't fit my reality [ref. para. 1, above]. Oh well, onward I trudge.

March 13, 2013

Ottawa art: what's stirring me these days

Painting rocks and water and skies lately. It's hard and delightful. I feel my work developing quickly and I think I will really miss this stage. I struggle with which colour to use or which brushstroke. Something is growing but I can only help it along through trial and error. Areas of my current painting are getting re-painted over and over. It means I have nothing to show right now, so I thought I'd share some artists and paintings I'm loving lately, mostly by local artists. First, three paintings, then some series of works. Yum yum yum.

by Claude Marquis. Title unknown.

(Marquis has no art website because his thing now is his music with the Ottawa-based band The PepTides). This painting must have been tough to do. First there's how well he executed the landscape, then there's the what's-that-she's-holding-oh-it's-a-gun moment. The two realities sort of... throb... against each other. Even if you don't like the subject, it's an amazing piece, I think.

Paul Huot Africa

Pierre Huot is an Ottawa-based artist who paints abstractly now. How has he managed to balance so many blues?

Rufino Tamayo Landscape with Rocks

Rufino Tamayo's Landscape with Rocks appears to have been a bit of a departure. The other paintings I could find online by this Mexican artist were quite different, often a bit violent in tone, featured roaring animals and barren land. Very compelling as you can imagine. In this painting, I love all the different shapes and brushstrokes. It's so alive!

Adrian Baker I gasped when I saw the series on women giving birth. I've never seen anything like this, ever.
Click Labours of Love.

Karen Bailey Check out her work for the Artists in Afghanistan program. The medical staff paintings compel you. She has an interesting style for such a project -- it's not gritty, which contrasts with the subject matter. Would I ever love to join the Artists in Afghanistan program! Such an incredible, multi-dimensional challenge.

Philip Craig and his gorgeous landscapes. His mastery of colour! These are enjoyable, soft pieces that I want to look at again and again. My favourite is The Boat Slip, in catalogue 2008.

Sarah Hatton I linked directly to her series called Role Models. These close-up paintings of children wake the protective mother in me who never sleeps soundly anyway.

Jaya Krishnan has gallery after gallery of gorgeous scenes of Cambodia, but my favourite is his last gallery of amazing Ottawa snow scenes.

February 27, 2013

Mer Bleu out to pasture

February 2013

This is Mer Bleu peat bog... transformed into a wet September farmer's field! I wasn't equal to the challenge of painting tundra. Aw, be kind. It's my very first landscape. I finally finished it this morning and it's still wet!

February 25, 2013


Eastern Townships I

Since my Acrylic Landscape class with artist Blair Paul began, sketching has taken a back seat to painting. I'm so happy to paint again. I manage my three hour class and often another hour or two during the week.

Eastern Townships II

These are two paintings of a trail in Quebec. I don't feel finished with this subject, and hearing that, my teacher suggested I do a larger canvas. I'm mulling it over. 

January 30, 2013

Get perspective

January 2013

Savouring the AMAZING art on this agency website, I'm struck by all the slanted streets and fish-eye perspectives. See how this artist sloped the floor to emphasize our hero's fall into the pointy bits.

To play with perspective, you've got to get perspective. Well, I thought I did. And then last week I tried drawing simple road scenes. Like, generic road disappearing into the horizon from the viewpoint of someone standing on it.

Hahahahaha. Feels like you're about two storeys off the ground, no?

Tried the same with a piazza. Again, 20-foot tall viewer. Tried doing a car coming over a hill -- it looked like a beetle because the perspective on its back end was wrong.

In art class, my painting of a boardwalk receding into the distance looks like we're standing on a balcony. I mean, this is a problem. It sucks that my painting doesn't look the way I want it to, simply because I don't know how to do what I want!

So this week I'm passionately about understanding perspective. My goal is to be able to draw a scene with the viewpoint and depth that I want on my first try. Curvy road winding down a hill and behind some mountains? Street scene seen from around the corner? These should come easily, right?

A bird's eye perspective on the Chrysler Building's gargoyles from a 45 degree angle, okay, that would be a headscratcher for anyone.

I already know about two-point perspective, even though I don't understand why we stick these mysterious vanishing points in one place or another. I have (yay me!) figured out the horizon line is the viewer's eye level. If a line of trees is coming at you in the picture, the canopies will slant upward above the horizon and visible tree roots will slant below it.

And that's where I run into a wall.

Help, Internet? Ah, says Internet, perspective's way more complicated than you thought, Lia. For example, Rule #4:

4. For two sets of parallel lines at some angle in the scene, the two vanishing points form that same angle at the viewer's eye, regardless of the orientation of the angle in space. In particular, the vanishing points for any 90º angle in space form a 90º angle at the viewer's eye.

Get it? Me neither. But I am persevering!

January 23, 2013

The Montreal poets of 1998

Every once in a while (an embarrassingly short while, to be honest), I Google lost friends and lovers. What ever happened to...? Listening to CBC Radio's The Next Chapter this week, I heard an interview with someone who edited a book of poetry by Canadians named Susan. She'd managed to narrow it down to 47 Sue's. With difficulty, apparently.

I was barely listening. She started to name them. "...Susan Musgrave, Susan somebody, Susie blather, Susan Elmslie...."

Sue Elmslie?

In the old days before I threw over the arts in favour of government and diplomacy, I helped put together a small poetry workshop that made up for being short-lived by being terrific. (I guess that doesn't make up for it. Makes it worse, really.) There were five of us. And we wanted to keep it that way. The local self-avowed poetry maven who ran a workshop that fairly vomited wannabe-poets even rang our members up and excoriated us for being exclusive.

Our group was excited about words. We loved how they fondled and frowned together. And, getting back to Google, Sue Elmslie was one of us. So were Rachel Rose, Fran Hahn and Masarah Van Eyck. They were terrific writers. More shockingly, some of them still are. (Well, I could never find Fran online, but I'd bet she's still at it.) I hardly write poems anymore but if you want to pore over my verse, be my guest.

Here are some poems of Sue's and some of Rachel's. Masarah's site is down, but maybe she'll post again someday and I will edit this entry.

January 21, 2013

Red plus brown plus white

January 20, 2013

They cancelled art class yesterday. The weather got so excitable that the province closed a hundred kilometres of the local freeway.

I was despondent about losing my three hours of escape. Jeff told me to go out, find somewhere to draw. So I went to the art school anyway and painted by my lonesome.

After working out colour charts for landscape (my unfinished class homework) and for flesh tones, I attempted James in acrylics. It is just a sketch, but it's him. He really looks like this. Yah!

January 19, 2013


January 2013

Last fall I was blown away by Spanish artist Ricardo Martinez' illustrations in Scientific American. What technique was this?? I looked him up (amazing work, right?) and discovered he works in scratchboard.

Scratchboard, huh? Never heard of it. So I promised myself I would check it out.

January 2013
Scratchboard is a paper backing coated with a layer of clay, usually white, and a layer of paint or ink, usually black. Your tool is a slim blade on a stick. Using your quasi-nail file, you scratch off the black stuff so the white shows through. As I was often better at using my eraser tool in Photoshop than the brush, this seemed like a great technique.

Here are my first attempts. The scene at top is my bedroom and it includes a framed painting that is actually the plan for a piece I'm working on in art class. I'm thinking of putting the completed painting in the same spot once it's done. Just because.

January 17, 2013

Admiring her imagination, hoping it's enough

A personal post today. Two art posts in the queue coming this weekend.



I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Ada.

Ada, aged three-and-a-half

 Last week I entered our living room to discover this:

It's the crane her uncle gave her for Christmas. She has placed two figures in the crane. 

But here's the thing. The construction set to which the crane belongs came with these figures (hello fellas!):

Construction Big Site by Kid Connection

She didn't use these figures. Instead, she took this figure...


...and one figure from this set...

Melissa & Doug use in her construction play. Problem solved. At least according to the child.

I didn't put her up to this. It has just become more and more important to her over time to play with the figures she has that represent her own sex.

Ada dreams of being a fireman when she grows up. This Christmas, her grandparents bought her the Melissa & Doug fire truck set, above. I tried to tell her the female was a firefighter-in-training. She poo-pooed my idea, telling me instead that the girl was getting rescued by the firemen, which of course she is. (Those are her words. I always say "Firefighter.")

We have a lot of old toys around saved by Grandma. These toys are so impressive. The figures here...

Fisher Price "Little People"

and here...

Playmobil (truck is unrelated to these figures, of course)

...have defined genders but each can still  play any role a child might want.

Toy manufacturers have improved in terms of race. Look at those black firefighters and construction dudes! You used to be lucky if you could find one person of colour in your toys.

But my daughter, who loves trucks and tea sets equally, has been nudged out of such roles. And yet, in real life, there are more females occupying more roles than ever before. What gives, toymakers?

As a mom of two (I also have a nine-month-old son), I have to tell you that I don't like the fact that she has to make do by cobbling together what she can scrounge out of the toy bin. It's not fair.

It's embarrassing and sad. Especially when in every other way all these toys are just awesome. I just want to see one woman in each of these sets. And I really don't want her to be the one getting rescued! Please help, toy companies!


Lia Hiltz

January 16, 2013


January 11, 2013

My long-term theme being "draw whatever, wherever" but especially new things (it just happens to be my eating theme, too -- I tried sweetbreads in December! Yum!), I took advantage of some impromptu hospital visits to get in some sketching. My innards aren't functioning quite right, unfortunately. It's scary having your body parts examined and I always find my drawing pad a great relief at such times.

January 7, 2013

These studies are from Queensway-Carleton Hospital's Rooms 9 and 10 as well as my doctor's office. I think they are very studious! I'm sooooo glad I have more patience now. I was really hyper when I was younger and it was so hard to stick with this kind of thing. But it really pays off artistically to do it. Better late than never, I hope.

December 20, 2013

January 11, 2013

Happy Second Anniversary, Bus Blog!

Practice makes perfect. Or something. (December/January 2013)

One of my favourite Ottawa artists is Blair Paul and he offers an introductory landscape course at Ottawa School of Art, which is where I took Anatomy for Artists in the fall. It starts this Sunday and I don't own most of the paints required on the course materials list. I guess that don't have common colours? More money to the art store, dammit. Well, I always chose paints by their looks. Only since I read a small book on Colour Theory in December have I more intention when choosing colour. (Did you know you can gray a colour by mixing it with a complimentary colour -- not by adding black?? Weird.)

I started going over fundamental elements of drawing and colour once the Anatomy course finished up. It's been really eye-opening. Yesterday I learned that pencil crayon artists often work on both sides of transparencies. And that scratching colour from a top layer of colour so an under-layer shows through -- something I always thought was kinda rebellious, something the kids dreamed up on their own -- is a respected technique known as sgraffitto.

Since leaving school I avoided instruction. I'd learned the hard way that I was impossibly impressionable. Flitting from one technique or idea about how to do things to the next, I was at the mercy of the last person I talked to or book I opened. Looking at other peoples' work was equally disorienting, and discouraging, too. Soon enough I just shut everything out and tried to muddle along on my own. And  now, at 37, I have done my own thing long enough that I don't get thrown off course as easily anymore. What a relief that's finally over. Impulse control - wonderful!

That's not to say that after ten years my own thing is particularly developed. I remember deciding in my twenties that the reason I must be having so much trouble dreaming up content was that I just hadn't lived enough. So I resolved to do some living before getting back into art seriously. That was another good decision, I think. Now I have some solid ideas and I'm excited about working on them.

But those unopened art instruction books, courses not taken, silenced conversations, and artists' work not viewed together left a big hole in my art stuff. I can't do many subjects and I've come to grips with only a few techniques. On the plus side, I have at least tried most things and I've developed a bit of the other things that matter, like commitment and discipline.

January 2013
So I'm working through some art books and magazines. The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson was really good. I read a few others but that one, lent by my mom-in-law, was my favourite. More of a complete lesson on drawing for beginners along with the focus on drawing outside. She also got me a subscription to International Artist for Christmas. I'm mostly done The Sketching and Drawing Bible, also lent by my dear MIL.

At right are some remedial exercises I have been doing courtesy The Complete Guide to Drawing. Guess who I borrowed it from. :) Sorry for the terrible photo. Too big for le scanner.

I have also been practicing with Sennelier oil pastels. They're gorgeous, paint-like, but with no mess. That's useful for my non-ventilated home studio that has to be kid-safe and totally non-toxic. After reading about the dust problems of using chalk pastels, the set of Neupastels I bought last November (and fell madly in love with) has been set aside for a future where I have a suitable space. The picture at the top of the page is me sorting out flesh tone mixtures.

I wish I had a chance to get my brushes out so I'm less rusty this Sunday. I haven't painted since, oh, was the last painting I did really circa January 2011?

Happy New Year! Let the studies of trees and rocks commence!