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.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Stuck and don't know what to work on next?

November 7th, newsletter excerpt:

This week’s topic because it touches on something that probably most artists deal with at some point – the uncertainty of what to work on next.

Jackie, from somewhere out in internet land, wrote me an email detailing her situation. Here is an excerpt that reveals where she is at right now:

“Back in September I got real excited about setting aside time for my art. You wrote about this in the newsletter and I decided to go for it. So Wednesday night is my night. At first everything was terrific. I told people that Wednesday night was my art night and I scheduled it in. I looked forward to Wednesdays a lot.

The first few weeks I was busy settling in, organizing my work space, getting my stuff out from storage. Everything felt great. That didn’t last. My problem is I don’t know what to draw. I come up blank every week.

At first, I just avoided this by sorting and organizing some more. I have a very tidy work space now.
I picked up a book at the library and it freaked me out. I realized I really don’t know much about composition. I bought an art magazine and now I am even more confused. When I look at the art, I just can’t relate. The subject matter is either bizarre or so loaded with hidden meaning that I just don’t get it.

 I used to really like drawing and want to get back into it but I am completely stuck. I don’t have any idea on how to come up with art like I saw in the magazine. I know I need to practice my skills but I just don’t know what to draw. Maybe I don’t think like real artists do.”

Gosh we are so hard on ourselves aren’t we? Don’t you just want to give this woman a hug?! Consider yourself hugged Jackie. Seriously, receive a large dose of compassion here.

So maybe you are a bit like Jackie. You have hit a wall or you are feeling confused and maybe even a little down because you are sure you are not made of the stuff that ‘real’ artists are. Can I just say that we have all been there? Because we have. Welcome to the club! :-)

So first up, be really kind to yourself. Brew up your favourite tea and take a few deep breaths. Put on some lovely music. Everything is going to be okay...

Next, pat yourself on the back for giving this art thing a go. Jackie deserves lots of hefty pats as she not only made a terrific plan back in September, she executed it and she is still hanging in there despite hitting a serious rough patch. Here we are in November and rather than throw in the towel, Jackie is reaching out for some help.

I can often predict when a person is going to reach their art making goals simply by assessing their determination. One woman described it to me as being too stubborn to give up. Call it whatever you want, determination, perseverance or stubbornness, if you want it bad and you are willing to keep at it, you will be amazed at what is possible. I believe Jackie is someone who is going to make it!

So, what to draw??? Jackie, draw anything! Seriously, it is that simple. Get out of your head. Stop over thinking this. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Composition is something that you can worry about down the road. In the mean time just get back in the saddle and pick up your pencils. (I can tell you that you will naturally get better at composing pictures as you hone your drawing skills and you create drawings. It will come, just be patient. And the book knowledge that is scaring you will be there when you are ready to tackle it.)

The important thing here is that you spend your Wednesday nights re-connecting with what you find joyful in art making. Let’s get you back into drawing.

Subject matter – To get your feet wet, why not work fairly small, quick and simple?

I repeat, simple. Keep this simple.

Go to your kitchen, grab anything, an onion, a banana, an apple, a head of garlic, the salt and pepper shakers, a coffee mug, grab a fork.

How about a cherry and a spoon? :-)

Grab the candle and candle holder off of the dining room table. How about the cat’s favourite squeaky toy?

Want to draw fur? No problem, snap a pic of the cat’s leg and go practice fur and a paw (you don’t need to do the whole cat right now if you don’t want to).

Go to your closet and grab your favourite high heeled pumps or if you hate high heels, grab your running shoes instead or your favourite boots. Draw your watch, draw a lamp.

Grab a few marbles from the children’s play area (Ever notice how many coloured pencil artists draw marbles? Oodles do.) Grab some building blocks or some other toys.

Want to practice fabric folds? Go grab a bath towel and hang it from a hook or the back of a chair. Go for a walk and find a couple of leaves to draw.

If you think I am kidding with this list, I am not. This is how I started drawing. One Christmas holiday I drew the candle and candle holder that sat on my coffee table. I really enjoyed the experience. Of course I used my eraser lots but at the end of the evening it actually looked like a candle in a candle holder. The next morning I drew my favourite coffee mug. The next morning, another mug...if I can do this, anyone can!

Allow me to state the obvious here: There is beauty in simplicity and in the stuff of everyday life.

I suggest simply drawing what is in your home.

Don’t fret about the conceptual art that seems bizarre or not relatable to you. Forget about it. Human expression runs the entire spectrum from hyper realism to the surreal and everything beautiful and twisted in between. A lot of the art that gets into art magazines and wins in competitions is hard to imagine in a ‘regular’ home. Don’t let that be your only standard of greatness or relevance.

Let loose and have fun. Try it all. Perhaps the only way to know you don’t want to draw animals is to spend a night trying to draw the cat. If you are too locked into perfectionism, work in a sketch book at first.

The goal is to get drawing. You are not trying to create finished pieces for a solo show in six months. (and if you are reading this and your goal is to get finished pieces ready for an upcoming show, well ignore that bit, keep doing your thing :-))

Over the centuries many artists have painted everyday subject matter. I personally love Flemish still lifes from the 16th and 17th centuries which depict items such as pewter beer tankards, cheese, fruit and bread.

 Below I include a banner from one of Mary Pratt’s retrospective exhibitions this year, this one at the McMichael Collection. At the beginning of her career she was a busy wife and mother of four children. Over the next fifty years, she became one of Canada’s most distinguished painters. She has carved out an incredible art career all while painting subject matter from her everyday life – cold cream on her face, jars of preserves, basting a turkey, bathing a baby, the supper dishes on the table.

Mary Pratt - January 18  to April 27, 2014 McMihcael Canadian Art Collection

Why not grab the cold cream and take a selfie? Get out your paints or pencils and make some art. Now I didn’t say depicting cold cream over top of skin was going to be easy! Ha. If your skills are rusty or you are a beginner, it might be best to stick to the jam jars. :-)

Thanks Jackie for a super question. I hope my advice to just draw anything and everything helps. Please take time to celebrate what IS working. You set an intention, you are keeping to your schedule and you are showing up. All of this is huge by the way. You just need to give yourself permission to not make high-falutin’, highbrow art.

You can so do this. Congratulations on your determination! :-) Let me know how things go!