Friday, December 26, 2014

Best artists of 2014?

Here I am on Christmas Day morning handing out goat treats – carrot and apple chunks before the gang went out for the day. Goats are great. J

It is newsletter day but... I took a break from the computer this week.I wanted to spend time with loved ones (including the goats above J) and I needed to be in the kitchen preparing a Christmas feast. 

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday with your family and/or friends.

While there isn’t a newsletter I have a couple of links you may like...

The Huffington Post published an article recently in which the writer revealed his list of the top ten artists of 2014, here is the link:

It is an interesting list!

I don’t understand what makes some of the selections the ‘best’.  Of course this just shows the subjective nature of art appreciation. I confess to liking detailed botanicals so Krista Schoening’s ‘Chrysanthemum’ is a favourite of mine.
David Kassan’s ‘Dorothy’ is a stunning, masterful piece.

On a light hearted note, this link will take you to some funny Christmas photos that folks submitted to Ellen Degeneres...just click through the few ads that appear amongst the photosAfter seeing these pictures, I am thinking matching holiday sweaters should be banned. LOL

My Christmas break continues on for another week. If you are a Newsletter Group Member, I shall be back in your in-box on Friday January 9th, 2015.

May You Have A Very Happy New Year!!!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A gift for the holidays and goats!

The next time I write, December 25th will have come and gone - so this is my Christmas Newsletter issue.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and happy Hanukkah everyone!!!!!!

Big hugs and lots of love going out to all of you.

Me, the reindeer feeding our goats some yummy treats.
I know you are busy so shall keep my note short today. I simply want to give you a gift. Now keep in mind that as a teacher and mentor, I care about the entire you, not just the parts of you that create art. J
And while the world focuses on love and peace on earth at this time of year (or at least pays lip service to it)...I would like to encourage you to give yourself the gifts of love and peace – this would be my gift for you.
This is a wonderful time of year, from the decorations to the fabulous food, to spending time with loved ones. We get that part...

But this can also be a time of year when we feel like we have fallen short of our hopes and expectations.
Perhaps you have found yourself thinking that you should have had a nicer outfit for the office holiday party, you should have lost weight this year, you should have made time to write out Christmas cards, you should have done more baking, you should have spent more money on the gifts (or you should have spent less), you should have upgraded the tired holiday decorations, you should have planned to visit Aunt Ida and Uncle Fred, you should have got things done earlier...

Does any of this negative self talk sound familiar?

I am asking you to embrace your performance this season with love. Just do the best you can and let the rest go. Pause to acknowledge that you have done your best.

Make peace with yourself. Recognize all that you are doing and accomplishing so that your loved ones will have a terrific holiday. Pat yourself on the back and then practice some loving self care – go for a walk in nature, enjoy a hot bath, tuck in early one night with some hot chocolate and a book.
And while the holidays are wonderful they can also be a difficult time for many of us. It can be painful to go through a season so filled with memories once we have lost loved ones. Perhaps you or someone you love is sick at this time of year.

Please know that my thoughts are with you. You more than anyone will need the peace and love that is so talked about. Hopefully my suggestion to make loving self care a priority will help you transition through the weeks ahead.

And remember there are many wonderful times of the year. Every time I go hiking in the woods with my dog, is a wonder filled time for me. Wonder is about your delight and how you feel inside. If this is a challenging time, focus on what would bring you delight.

Take care of yourselves okay? Choose peace and love for your fine shiny self, not just for others.

Regardless of your faith or cultural traditions at this time of year, I send you love and many best wishes for a healthy, safe, joy filled holiday.

Oh, and I can’t resist giving a final tip for soaking up a bit of art during this busy season – please get out your favourite illustrated Christmas story books. Even if your kids are grown, go find the books you used to read to them. Look for some new ones at your library. If you haven’t looked at books for kids in years, you will be very pleasantly surprised at the impressive quality of the illustrations. Many books are beautifully produced with amazing art to go with the stories. This is a great way to enjoy a quiet break in the festivities and if you have a child in your life to read to, all the better. Even big kids would love some time looking at these books with you. J  I believe we are never too old to enjoy a beautiful story book.

Ella is checking out my new antlers. :-)

Friday, December 12, 2014

the truth about being an artist

TMS Newsletter excerpt for Friday December 12, 2014

This week’s newsletter is a fun little chat about keeping it real.

Over the years, as I have talked to people visiting during studio tours, I have come to realize that many have ideas about artists that are simply false.

These myths are so strong that they can keep wanna-be artists from actually creating.

Perhaps you have ideas about being an artist that might be stopping your progress.

 If so, please let me give you the real deal on being an artist...

·        Starvation is not a requirement to being an artist. Many successful painters, potters, weavers etc. are not ‘starving artists’. So if you are rather partial to eating, be reassured. Not all artists are poor or destitute and some of us are very well fed indeed. J

·        Being creatively obsessed is not required. It is a myth that artists create every waking moment. We do take time to wash ourselves and eat! In fact, let me reassure you that you can be an artist even if, gasp – you don’t draw or paint every single day. Gaps of weeks, months or even years can occur and they do not matter. If you have held a demanding day job or raised a family or looked after elderly parents and you have not made art during this time, so be it. This does not disqualify you from being an artist.

·        You do not need to be mentally or physically ill to make art. Yes many great authors, composers and artists throughout history have struggled with mental health problems and with things like lead poisoning and venereal diseases. These people created art despite these conditions not because of them. So if you are middle class and healthy and not hearing voices in your head, you can still be an artist. And if you are rich and not healthy and you do hear voices, well you can get an ‘artist card’ in your deck too. Art is equal opportunity employer!

·        You do not need a studio garret in order to be an artist. In fact you don’t need a converted garage or garden shed or a studio addition on your house. You can be an artist in a back bedroom or in a corner of the basement or at the kitchen table.

The title of the art below describes this chap as a poor poet. I rather think this looks like a lovely place to create. Love that light coming in the window. So if you have an attic garret, go for it.

Carl Spitzweg, Der arme Poet, The Poor Poet, 1839

·        You do not have to be young nor do you have to have been talented from your youth to be a real artist. Many artists really get going with their art making following retirement. Many of us develop our talents as adults not as children. It is never too late to pick up a pencil or a paint brush. I repeat – never.

·        You do not need to have a fine art degree. There are people with fine art degrees who are lousy artists and lots of self taught artists that are brilliant. Education is fantastic but there are many ways to obtain it. Besides, keep in mind that university fine art programs don’t often recognize coloured pencil as a fine art medium worthy of deep study. And you can graduate with a fine art degree and have never mastered the fundamentals of drawing. So if you haven’t yet got your fine art degree, relax. There are many ways to learn what you need to know.

·        Here is another myth - you are a real artist once you have sold work to the public. Hogwash. Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life. He was very much an artist before that sale occurred. You do not need to be a professional artist, making your living off the sale of your art in order to think of yourself as an artist. And just because something was painted on a canvas and money was exchanged, well this doesn’t make it good art either. J Just saying...

So do any of these busted myths set you free? A new year is just around the corner. Now is the time to give yourself permission to let your artistic self shine. Set art goals for 2015 not resolutions! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

simple tip that ends studio distractions

Time for the December 5th, 2014, TMS Newsletter excerpt...

This week I have a great tip on how to deal with distractions while you are in your studio (or wherever you create).

I am not talking about the obvious stuff, like how you should turn off your phones or how you should not have your email open on your laptop (waiting for that lovely ding that tells you that a new email has popped in) or how you shouldn’t be checking your Facebook account.

I am talking about managing your distracting brain chatter.

This happens to all of us: You are all settled in, music is playing, you are in a zone happily painting or drawing and suddenly an idea pops into your head. You remember that you didn’t call that woman back about watching your cats while you are away or you remember the name of that plumber your friend was asking about, or you get an idea for another art project. You know the stuff I am talking about.

This happens all of the time doesn’t it? Sheesh. Maybe it is because we are relaxed and in a creative mode. An awful lot of ‘important’ stuff takes this opportunity to come bouncing through our brain. Our tendency is to drop what we are doing and we rush to make that phone call or we go to our computer to start Googling something we wanted to check on – like what was that actor’s name in that movie we were trying to remember at dinner last night? Ha. It’s a slippery slope...

Cause we all know what happens next don’t we? We lose precious art making time. AND, we return to our work only to find that we can’t get back into our groovy flow. Arrrgh!

Here is the solution...

Go buy yourself some brightly coloured index cards.

mine are 3 inches by 5 inches in size

Keep them right beside you while you work.

When that out of no-where thought pops up, to call the cat sitter or you remember the name of the plumber pause for a brief moment and write a quick note to yourself. Get it on the card. Then go back to work!

This little life management trick works like a charm. The benefit of these sturdy, brightly coloured cards is that you won’t lose track of them. I used to write myself notes on scrap pieces of paper, whatever I could grab, and then I would lose these bits of paper amidst the stuff on my work tables. Of course these silly scraps of paper didn’t stand out at all when I tried to find them.

Using my bright index card system has made a huge difference in how I work. I don’t lose my ideas, (I don’t have to try to remember them either) and they are there waiting for me to follow up on at a much more appropriate time.

I encourage you to give this a try.

I know it will work to keep you distraction free and super focused as you create your masterpieces.

Friday, November 28, 2014

healing your shopping woes

Friday November 28th, 2014 Newsletter excerpt...

I would like to take this moment to sincerely wish all of my American readers a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you had a wonderful day yesterday and I hope you are enjoying a blessed weekend with your family and friends.

Thanksgiving Vintage Card Humour

This week’s newsletter is all about shopping - because the crazy shopping season is here.

How are your gift lists coming along? Did you remember to create a juicy ‘I want’ list for yourself?!!

You do have a Christmas wish list right?

I bet that your loved ones would really like to know what gift would light you up on Christmas morning. So help them out. Tell them what you want.

Of course I suggest you start your list off with art supplies! J

This is important because I know a lot of you feel reluctant to indulge in art supplies. Maybe you are raising a family or perhaps you are retired. Whatever the reason, perhaps money is a bit tight during the year. The cost of art supplies can add up. For some of you, it isn’t about the money. It is simply because you don’t normally treat yourself to hobby purchases.

If this is you, now is the perfect time to get what you would like. And remember, you are sparing your loved ones the agony of having to come up with a gift idea on their own. That is a very loving thing for you to do.

If you haven’t crafted your list yet, go through your art making work space and think of things you might be able to use.

Could your studio set up use a desk lamp or perhaps some plastic bins to hold pencils and pastels? How about a new sketch book or some new paints and brushes? Maybe a desk top easel or a pad of your favourite paper?

 If your loved ones don’t have a clue about what to shop for in an art supply store get very specific. Write out the brand name of the must have pencil or paint set you want. Give lots of descriptive detail.  Or go buy your goodies yourself and hand them over for your loved ones to wrap and offer up on the 25th .

You could also see if your favourite art store offers gift certificates.

Okay, I shall assume that you will give this some thought and you will put some arty things on your list. Yeehaw!

 Now, what are you going to buy for people?

Christmas is the perfect time to support the artists in your local community. Give handmade, artisan gifts of pottery, woven items, jewelry, hand crafted children’s toys and games, soaps and lotions. Visit craft fairs and any events put on by your local Farmer’s Market – think locally made salsas, jams and other condiments.

I know this message of ‘shop local’ gets old and I hope you will forgive me for writing something of a Public Service Announcement, it is just that I see an awful lot of art loving folks forgetting to support artists with their dollars at this time of year. An awful lot of folks, seriously...

Remembering those in need:

If you really want to brighten up your Christmas (cause this sort of giving feels soooo good) all while making a stranger’s holiday super bright as well, extend your giving to people who need some help.

Purchase some colouring books, crayons, markers, or pens and colourful pads of paper. Then consider who could use them. Perhaps the organizers of the local toy drive would like such items as gifts for children. How about your local homeless shelter? Entire families can find themselves needing the services of shelters and basic art supplies are a great way for kids to have fun in a disturbing situation.

Check to see if your local hospital could use some art making supplies for their children’s wing. How about your local seniors home? Sketch books, pens and coloured pencils are terrific, no mess items. Users don’t need access to sinks and water for clean up and they are easy for people in wheel chairs to use, people who might find working at an easel difficult.

Spread the word to your friends, neighbours and family and get them involved in this sharing of love.

So maybe you are like me and you are totally fed up with Black Friday and busy malls and shopping for meaningless stuff. If so, I shall present my radical, life changing Christmas gift giving idea.

At first reading it may not seem feasible but hang in with me...see if the idea starts to grow on you.

You see several years ago I declared I had had enough.

I just never looked as happy as this lady after shopping for oodles of gifts, never mind spending hours doing all of that neat wrapping.

I was fed up with spending money and life energy on buying gifts for people that had so much. You know who I mean, the people that ‘have everything’ so you fuss and fret trying to come up with gift ideas.

I was also overwhelmed with the stuff just for stuff’s sake that was coming into our home over the holidays. Every first week of January, I would stare at these gifts that I didn’t need nor want wondering what to do with them. I was also pretty certain that most of the folks buying us these things were doing so out of a sense of obligation, caught in the same trap as we were, because tis the season after all.

So I talked it over with my husband and then I cancelled Christmas – well gift giving anyway. We announced our plans to family and friends. We would no longer be accepting gifts nor would we be buying gifts. INSTEAD we would be donating money to various charities in honour of our loved ones. If people wished to, they could do the same on our behalf, in lieu of ‘stuff’.

Not everyone understood at first. For example, my mother-in-law donated to a charity AND got us a gift for a few years. We persisted. We didn’t buy her a gift but instead we asked her to tell us what she would like as a donation. She asked if we would stock a medical clinic in Africa via World Vision in her honour, so we did and we continue to do so.

Over the years we have bought winter coats for children in Romania, bought hens and a rooster for families in developing countries, sent money to assist in getting young girls out of the sex trade etc.

This all feels absolutely wonderful and for me it is in keeping with the true spirit of Christmas.

Now you don’t have to cancel all gift giving. You may want to buy gifts for your grandkids or your spouse or your mom and dad. My husband and I still exchange gifts. Simply consider if there is some way this might work for you.

If this sounds at all appealing, I encourage you to look up charities on line. There are lots of reputable groups doing fabulous work and your donations go where they are supposed to.

Organizations like World Vision have a gift giving catalogue on-line and you can donate in a couple of clicks:

You can check out this organization that builds schools in developing countries, Pencils Of Promise,

If your loved ones are into environmental causes, there are lots of environmental organizations that would love a donation.

Do you have a local animal sanctuary that you could support?

All major cities have homeless shelters. If you live in Ottawa, consider supporting The Mission: This is a great organization. You can give money to provide daily meals or you can check out their website for most needed items – things like warm socks and hats and mitts - great if you enjoy shopping, and you want to give something physical and not cash.

The problems of the world seem so overwhelming at times but we really can help make a difference. Even small donations impact lives in incredible ways.

Here is an update on Suzanne’s stained art work – she managed to get them out. Phew. She used my bleach idea. Because her stains were splotchy, she says she decided to dampen a cotton make up remover pad. Using light pressure she dabbed the bleach onto the paper. The stains weren’t deep and the colour bleached out beautifully. Yay Suzanne!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2014

how to remove stains from your art

The latest issue of the TMS Newsletter has just been mailed out. Here is my usual Friday excerpt...

Winter weather hit this week. We have gone from a lovely autumn with above normal temperatures to snow and strong winds. I have scrambled to find my warm winter boots and dressing in many layers suddenly became a necessity. The animals are not happy about this abrupt change in the weather. Chickens love to spend their days scratching around in dirt and leaves looking for yummy worms and bugs. They don’t even like to walk across snow. This morning I swept some paths for them. J It has become time to hook up the heated water buckets! Frozen pails of water already?! Sheesh...

This week our topic is what to when our art gets damaged. Suzanne P. from Toronto wrote me with an urgent call for help. Her art had met with an accident and she was wondering if there was anything she could do to fix it.

Suzanne’s almost finished artwork was lying on a table. Her young son was walking around the room, eating some fruit and he was telling his mother about something exciting that had happened at school. Suddenly the plate tipped a bit and his fruit plopped down onto the drawing!

Suzanne quickly removed the few of chunks of watermelon and a strawberry off of her art. She dabbed at the paper with a piece of paper towel.

What was left on the paper were a few small blotches of stain, pale peach ones where the watermelon had landed and a brighter pink one where the strawberry had been.

To make matters worse, the fruit landed on a part of the drawing that will not be covered by dark pigment. The art work is almost done so it is too late to change the drawing. The white tablecloth in her still life is the area that got hit. So, hoping to cover up the stains isn’t much of an option.

Suzanne has tried to remove the colour by gently erasing with an ink eraser but the stain has penetrated the fibers. Now she is concerned that she might damage the paper if she continues to try to rub it out.

My suggestion for stains like this is to try applying bleach. I have used this a few times with much success.

Accidents do happen.

A tiny bug can land on your paper – and even a teeny weeny insect can leave behind body fluids of some kind. Goodness, a fly can poop a small dark dot onto your paper. Ever had a pencil slip from your fingers? Of course the pencil falls with the point facing downward. Suddenly you have a dot of strong pigment placed somewhere you didn’t want it that won’t completely lift off.

My advice is to pour a very small amount of household bleach into a container. I use the bleach bottle cap. Next I dip the tip of a cotton ear swab into the bleach. Soak up a very small amount. Then dab this onto your paper. Let the bleach sit for a moment and then lift it off by pressing the area with a bit of tissue. If the stain is still there, re-apply and let the bleach sit for a little longer. Have patience and be gentle.

Of course this probably only works on white paper. I would assume that you would bleach the dye in a coloured piece of paper and you don’t want to go from a coloured stain to a pure white/bleached spot. Having said that, stains would be easier to cover on coloured paper as you need to add your whites. For example, on a dark sheet of paper, Suzanne would have to draw her white table cloth versus leaving it the white of the paper.

While we can’t prevent all accidents here are a few tips that will help:

·        Cover your art when you are finished working. A simple sheet of paper or tracing vellum would suffice. If you have a cat that might jump up onto your table, go further and store your art somewhere that your cat will not be able to get to – lie it flat in a cupboard – and make sure this is a safe place, i.e. no one will come along and set something down on top of your art.

·        Have a no food or drink rule. I don’t eat in my studio and I am very disciplined with my beverages. I never place a cup of anything on a table where I have unframed art, no matter how far apart the art and the drink might be. When I am working at my drafting table (which is slanted, positioned on an angle), I place my water, tea, or glass of wine J, on a table nearby. I sip while working but my sipping doesn’t take place over top of the art. I may spill coffee down my shirt front but it won’t hit my paper.

·        Close all windows at the end of the day. I have a habit of shutting all of my studio windows in the summer or if it is really warm out, I leave them open just a wee bit. I do this to control the dampness that can get into the room (dampness isn’t good for fine art paper) not to mention any rain that may blow in during an unexpected storm overnight.

·        Don’t feed your children fresh fruit. Just kidding...

 Does anyone have a different solution on how to remove stains? I would love to hear your remedies.

File:George Henry Durrie - Winter Scene in New Haven, Connecticut - Google Art Project.jpg

Winter Scene in New Haven, Connecticut circa 1858, oil on canvas, by George Henry Durrie 1820 – 1863, (image now public domain)

Isn't this painting gorgeous? I love all of the detail. I keep seeing something new every time I look at it.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

a gift you must give your loved ones

Hey it's Friday and time for my newsletter..

I would like to share an update regarding Jackie whose story was featured in last week’s newsletter. Jackie took my advice and did some domestic art this week. She decided to have some fun with the theme and she dashed off a quick sketch of a toilet bowl brush as a warm up. J  After that she settled in to some serious drawing choosing a favourite tea pot as her subject, one which had belonged to her grandmother. Yeah Jackie!!! You go girl!

I like tea pots and having one that was from my grandmother’s kitchen would make it even more special.

This brings me to the topic of this week’s newsletter...what the dead leave behind...

Have you ever inherited something?

Perhaps after an estate was settled you found yourself having to deal with your mother’s old sofa or your aunt’s huge chest of drawers that was so heavy no one could move the darn thing. Sometimes inheriting someone’s stuff isn’t what we want or need.

BUT what if you discovered something in that chest of drawers – like a hand written book of poems your aunt had laboured over, or perhaps a never before read play that your uncle had dreamed of seeing performed on stage.

Wouldn’t you pounce on that thing like it was a treasure and wouldn’t you sit and savour it?

What if you came upon a sketchbook that belonged to your grandmother or you discovered a little oil painting that your great grandfather did – and no one knew he had ever tried to paint!

Our passions and hobbies reveal something special and unique about ourselves. That is why it is so wonderful to discover something that is left behind by someone we loved or perhaps someone we never got the chance to know.

The thing is, you probably think that not many people care or even notice your passion for art.

Perhaps your spouse seems indifferent. Perhaps your children don’t pay much attention when you tell them about an art course you just took or they don’t really listen when you talk about something new that you are working on.

But that would all change if something happened to you. And something is going to happen to all of us some day.

So here is what I want you to consider...someday someone will care about those sketchbooks of yours, those sheets of unframed drawings or the paintings you have stashed under the bed or in a closet. They will care and you can leave them a greater gift by the actions you take now.

Leave behind notes. Document your efforts. Scribble your thoughts in the margins or the borders of a piece. At least record the year in the front of your sketchbook.  Sign your work. If your signature on your art is difficult to read, print your name on the back.

I have inherited a painting which depicts my grandfather, done when he was a toddler. Unfortunately the work is unsigned. The portrait is very good and was obviously done by an experienced painter. It must have been a gift as I doubt my great grandparents would have paid someone to paint their young son. They wouldn’t have had the extra income. This would have taken place in the late 1800s and the story around this piece of art is no longer known. It all remains a mystery which I feel is a loss for the generations that have followed.

So again, sign your work. And why not leave a paper trail of some kind?

Need more convincing?

Well, have you ever gone through a stack of old photos and wished someone had taken the time to write down on the back who exactly is in the picture or where this holiday trip took place and when? This sort of knowledge is the gift you can consciously choose to give your future grand children or great nieces and nephews.

Write down what inspired you to draw that flower or what it was about that view that you simply had to turn into your next landscape painting. Consider keeping a creativity diary to help those that will read it someday to understand who you were and why you attempted to capture what you did with your pencils or brushes.

Our art is permanent and it lives on after us. It can and probably will be handed down through generations. It also tells a bit of our story. I write this today to encourage you to be part of telling a better, fuller story. Help those that come after you. They will be so grateful.

There is no time like the present. If you put this off you will probably forget. Why not spend a couple of hours this weekend going through your sketchbooks and your art. Make sure you have things signed and dated. Start writing some notes.

Another idea would be to invite family members to join you. Plan a date when you can get together to have a fun time going through your stash of stuff. Bake some cookies, brew some tea and then go through your art memorabilia together – and don’t forget to make those notes. Don’t expect the people you show your art to, to remember all of the stories you share.

And once you have documented all of your art perhaps you should move on to those old family photos...might have to brew more tea and bake more cookies first!


Here is a painting by one of my favourite painters:

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Tea Pot (copyright public domain) painted between 1902 and 1905.

A simple tea pot, some fruit and a lovely cloth make great subject matter.