Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en!

For all the years that I can remember, my grandmother had this picture hanging in her kitchen.

It's called "All is Vanity" by Charles Allan Gilbert.  Anyone visiting her for the first time would always ask, "why do you have a picture of a skull?"  As a child, the optical illussion always delighted me and it still does today. 

I think my aunt got the picture when my grandmother sold her house and moved to a retirement home.  I hadn't thought of it in years until I saw this image on an artist trading card that my friend Marilyn made a few weeks ago.  It's funny that such an image, so appropriate for this time of year, reminds me of sitting in that pretty turquoise kitchen of my grandma's all those years.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy Was Surreal

My Hurricane Sandy experiences last night were quite surreal, although not quite as surreal as some of these photos from New York City:
Photo from
Photo from
Photo from
(Okay, that last photo is from 1960, the last time New York City was flooded by a hurricane.  That lady's name was Donna.)

It was our last drawing class and I didn't want to miss it but I was quite shocked to see a woman who had apparently just been struck by a car lying in the middle of the road on my drive to the art store.  Traffic on that side of the street was stopped and there were people with her, one talking on a cell phone, presumably calling 911.  It was one of those times when I wished I was a doctor or a paramedic so I could jump out of my car to help but instead, like many others, I had to keep driving.  They certainly didn't need another bystander.

As I got to within 2 blocks of the art store, I was forced to make a detour as the intersection I was headed for was blocked with several emergency vehicles with lights flashing and a police officer was redirecting traffic ahead.  I backtracked and made my way to my destination by another route. 

Once class started, I couldn't get my mind to settle.  We were drawing a live nude female model, something I had never done before.  It was a bit weird to have a stranger take her clothes off and pose but not impossibly so.  I just couldn't focus on what I was doing though, my mind was flitting about in a hundred different directions.   I couldn't stop thinking about that woman lying on the street, wondering if she was okay.  I was curious about what was going on down the street.  I was wondering about the weather outside and whether any trees might be blowing down on my route home.  I was hoping my family and friends were all safe.  My drawings often aren't much to begin with, last night they were barely more than stick figures or grossly out of proportion caricatures.   It was just too surreal to be drawing a naked human while this massive storm was going on outside and everywhere on the East Coast.

After about an hour and a half, I apologized to the group but left. I just had to go.  Do you know that little song, "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children alone"?  I kind of felt like that, I just had to get home.  The wind was blowing but it wasn't too bad. There was some rain but not enough to turn the wipers on more than intermittently.  I just couldn't fight the feeling that I needed to be at home, instead of where I was.  So I left.

I got home without incident but along the way, I heard on the news that a woman had been struck and killed by a Staples sign that was blown off in the wind a mere two blocks away from the art store.  According to the news reports, it happened just after class started so it might not have been why all those emergency vehicles were at the intersection where I had to make my detour, which was about 15 minutes before class.  But I'm thinking maybe the news reports had the wrong time, none of them mentioned anything else major happening in that area last night.  

Who knows? Maybe I was picking upon on the energy from that accident just a few blocks away or maybe that incident had nothing to do with the strange feelings I was having.  Maybe it was just the full moon tugging on my hormones.  I just knew I needed to listen to my gut and get to my safe place.  Which was tucked up inside my apartment with my cats and kittens.  Once I got home, I immediately felt so much better.  Everything was fine here, the power stayed on, the cats were sleepy but glad to see me, and everything outside seemed quiet as I live on the south side of the building and the wind was blowing from the north.   The surreal feeling went away and I could relax, safe at home where I belonged.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Minor Irritations

Tried to post last night only to have my computer tell me that it couldn't connect to the Internet.  Given that I had woken up in the morning to find the light on my phone on and the screen telling me there was an "extension is use", I was pretty sure there was a problem with the phone line (which also feeds my internet service).  Either that or the kittens had learned how to use the phone!  The line was dead all day but I was able to use the computer without any problems until about 9 p.m. last night but this morning, everything was working fine, so not sure what the problem was or how it got fixed, but glad I didn't have to call Ma Bell and wait for a repairperson to visit.

Got a scratch on my finger when one of the kittens and I reached for the same thing at the same time yesterday morning.  Then I ended up with a small burn in the exactly the same spot on my finger (what are the odds of that??!) as I was cleaning up my stuff at the encaustic wax class at Bizzy B that I attended in the afternoon (great class, details to follow when I can get my photos uploaded) and I brushed my hand against one of the little irons we were using.  No big deal, just a little sore.

Not one but two people ahead of me in line at the grocery store on my way home from class had several more items than the 1 to 12 limit that was suggested by the express lane sign overhead. Lucky for me, they both seemed to come to their senses and wandered off to find a different cashier.

It was cold and wet and I actually wore my gloves for the first time yesterday. 

Just a few minor irritations and nothing compared to what folks on the Eastern Seaboard are dealing with as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.  We're supposed to feel her presence here in Toronto as well, several inches of rain and very high winds expected.  I'm going out at lunch today to gas up the car and stock up on water and cat food, just in case.  My cupboards are rather bare, I'll have to make do with peanut butter and crackers for the most part if I should find myself without power for a few days but my flashlight works and I don't have any worries about flooding, now that my car is moved to a drier parking spot and living in a highrise as I do.

Hope everyone stays safe and dry and warm.  We can handle a few minor irritations, it's the major catastrophes we're hoping to avoid!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Starting to Tame the Beast

You know what they say - anyone can eat an elephant, you just have to take it one bite at a time.  So it is with clutter.  Some days the thought of clearing it up is overwhelming and other days, I know it can be done, as long as I do a little bit at a time. 

On this rainy Saturday in Toronto, I decided to tackle a corner of my living room.  It looked like this when I started:

(Don't you love that little yellow child's dresser sitting on top? I got that 2 weeks ago at the Junction Flea.)

First I pulled everything out of the corner and rearranged the furniture.  It only took me an hour to get to this stage:

Then I decided that before I put the magazines back in the shelving unit, I wanted to decorate the side of it with pages of sheet music from a stack of vintage music books I had pulled out of the clutter.  A little bit of ModPodge, a wide brush and voila!

I love how it looks.  From the chair I usually sit in, I just turn my head to left and I can see the side panel with the music on it and it makes me happy.

Then I got busy loading magazines and some of my vintage photo albums back on the newly labelled shelves. 

Here's how the corner looks now, so much better!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Drawing the Teacher

Here are some more drawings from class last Monday night.  One of our exercises was to draw our teacher.  We used coloured chalk pastels but were limited to only 3 colours.  Here's how mine turned out:

This one was drawn by Marilyn:

and this one was done by Sarah, who is an actual art student:

Here's what our teacher Beth looks like in real life:

I think I can be forgiven for my drawing that doesn't look anything like her (except maybe for the turtleneck), seeing as how I captured such a great image of her with my camera!

At the end of class, we did a couple of really fast, two minute sketches.  This is the very last one I did and I really like how it turned out!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A New Parking Spot

I have a new parking spot in the underground parking garage where I live. 

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I came down to my car to leave for work and I noticed there was water leaking out of the wall in front of where I was parked.  No one else's parking spot was affected, just mine!

It had been raining for a day or two so I didn't really think much of it (although I should have, seeing as how it had never leaked water like that before in the few years I have been parking there).  Once it penetrated into my brain that the water didn't seem to going away, even though the rain had stopped and we'd had a few days of dry weather, I thought I should report it to the building superintendent.  When I did, he told me it was ground water and there was nothing that could be done.

A few days later, I came down in the morning to find small bits of concrete lying on the ground by my car. 

Granted, the chances of bigger chunks of concrete actually falling on my car are probably slim but why take the risk?  I'd rather not have dents of any sort if I can help it.  Not to mention the fact that winter is coming and it's possible that water on the floor running exactly beside my car doors could turn to ice or slush if it were to get cold enough down there.  So last week I asked for and got a new parking spot.  Which is up one level and closer to the exit I use when I have a wheelie buggy full of groceries or heavy items, luggage, etc., which is a very good thing because I used to have to push my buggy up a driveway ramp and around a corner to get to that door.

And even though they said there was nothing they could do, the water has been turned off two days this week while they dig with heavy equipment, searching for a leak at the front of the building.  Coincidence? I don't think so.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Artober - Week 4

Amazingly, another week has zoomed by and my participation in Traci Bunkers' 30 Days To Get Your Art On challenge.  After my drawing class on Monday last week, I promised myself that I would draw every day for my 15 minutes of art making and I am pleased to say that I kept that promise, although I will also admit that some days I really had to force myself past my inner critic's efforts of resistance in order to get it done.

Thurs Oct 18 - I drew a picture of my craft caddy:

Fri Oct 19 - after my impromptu trip to Bizzy B and dinner with my friend Marilyn, who showed me some sketches she had been doing where you just close your eyes and doodle and then see what it looks like, I played around and drew a bunch of little pictures like these:
A fish and a fire truck
and this (I call him the good night man):

Sat Oct 20 - I drew a still life made up of a fish, a fork and an insulator:

Sun Oct 21 - I drew a still life featuring the items I had been using over the past 2 weeks to battle my cold:

Of course, I had a little help arranging my still life:

Mon Oct 22 - week 5 of my drawing class.  We learned how to draw faces (the principles of which I already knew from taking classes with Jane Davenport, especially her Supplies Me online workshop, which really is a fabulous class for both learning how to draw and the merits of various art supplies).  This is my drawing of a sample drawing of a mouth our teacher gave us:

We also had to draw one of our own eyes - here is my left:

Tues Oct 23 - since my week of drawing commitment was over, I decided I would make a collage to commemorate my morning with the Red Cross Meals on Wheels program, using the pamphlets and handouts they had given us in our orientation session:
It might still need a big red cross on it,
I haven't decided yet!
Wed Oct 24 - started a journal page with a Hallowe'en theme (planning ahead for next week).  Glued down some phone book pages, a sewing pattern, a strip of text from a Fedex package and a torn up phone ad, together with a black and white image of Leonard Cohen

then added some orange, black and white paint, including some on Leonard's face so it will look less like him and more like a spooky mask of some sort (although at the moment, it looks more like a mime than a ghost or a monster!)

Stay tuned for next week's final installment of my daily 15 minutes of making art!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doing Good

Spent this morning delivering food with the Red Cross program known as Meals on Wheels, along with 7 of my co-workers. Lucky for us, our employer provides two paid days a year for us to use for charitable activities.  It was nice to be out doing something good for others and seeing first hand how these people (mostly elderly but meals are also provided for disabled individuals, the chronically ill and those who are unable to cook for themselves) benefit from having a warm meal delivered to their door on a wet, rainy day from a friendly volunteer.

Photo from website, blue bags for regular meals,
red bag for meals for those with special dietary needs
We also learned about Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross (I swear the woman telling us the story called him Henry Donut but clearly I misheard.)  Henry saw people suffering on an Italian battlefield in 1859, realized they needed medical attention, transportation to a safe place and/or a warm meal and got a group together to provide those services.  These days, the Red Cross provides similar services in our local communities - as well as programs like the one I took part in today, there are the more publicized disaster relief and blood donor activities, and they also do things like arrange drivers to take people to and from medical appointments.

I was most impressed by the fact that the regular core of volunteers at the MOW office today was made up of retired individuals in the senior citizen age bracket.  The woman driver we had is turning 60 this year but she would have been the youngest of all the very nice people I met (other than the paid staff members), the rest would all be in their 60's (a few) and 70's (the majority).  The ones I spoke to help out several days a week for at least 3 hours a day.  Such generosity and commitment is admirable, what great role models they are for the rest of us!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Morning Shadows

At this time of year, the rising sun begins to shine directly in my kitchen window in the morning again as the angle of the earth shifts, so I've been treated to some soft colours and interesting shadows on the wall recently.


The warmth of these tones helps to ease the pain of the cooling morning temperatures outside.  Only one frost so far but we're down to the single digit zone overnight these days.  Autumn is such a bittersweet season.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wallpaper Collage

I've had a quiet weekend, trying to take it easy and send this cold packing.  It's been two weeks now and things are definitely improved, hardly coughing or sneezing now although I have woken up with a sore throat for two days in a row now, which makes me wonder if it is truly gone.  Others have mentioned having a similar bug that seems to go away and come back, I hope that isn't what I have.

Besides the sewing I posted about yesterday, I've been making a little bit of art and doing a little bit of cleaning and organizing, in between and/or while watching TV and cuddling kittens (yes, surprisingly, all 4 are still here.  Cute as can be, sweet natured, growing like weeds, constantly active and exploratory when awake, totally zonked out when asleep.  They each weigh about 5 lbs. now and are scheduled to be spayed next week).  I went out for groceries today as supplies were getting scarce but otherwise, I've been indoors all weekend in my pyjamas!

One of the things I've been working on was collaging with scraps of wallpaper from this book I bought at an antique store recently for only $5.00.  It's a sample book from Eaton's department store, measures 8.5 x 10 inches in size. 

Don't you love the retro living room?  Funny thing is, the wallpaper shown on the cover above isn't one of the sample in the book!  For the most part, the wallpaper is rather pretty but some of the patterns are rather strange.  Here's what one of the more alarming patterns looks like:

Odd, isn't it?  Who would want these mini moon craters all over their wall?  And why mix them with roses of all things?!

Here's how my collages turned out:

I had a bunch of little scraps left over that I was about to throw out, until I had a look at the back of them and realized I could form the pieces into what looks to me like a palm tree on a little island.  So I glued that design into my journal!

The reverse side of the wallpaper pages is just as interesting as the front, I have to say. Only 45 cents a roll back then, can you imagine?  I'll be using some of this text in future journal pages for sure!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Not Perfect But Done

I learned this motto from Dina Wakley a few weeks ago when she taught at Bizzy B and I have to say, it has come in handy several times since then.

It worked for me today when I was sewing a scarf for a woman at work.  She knew I had a sewing machine and asked if I could help her with this project. She had bought what she thought was a scarf as a final sale item that couldn't be returned and it wasn't until she'd paid for it, brought it home and removed the tags that she realized it was more of a serape or a poncho than the scarf she had thought it was.  There was a slit down the middle of half of it where your head and shoulders would go and you would then wrap the fabric, a very soft wool, around you.  However, when she tried it on, being very petite and not too tall, it just ended up looking like she was wearing a blanket. 

Basically, it was twice as much fabric as she wanted, so she asked me if I could fix it.  She offered me the other half to keep for myself, she swore she had no expectations of how it might turn out, whatever I wanted to do would be fine.  She went out and bought a skein of wool for me to use for the blanket stitch edging.  She begged me to try and I couldn't refuse.

In theory, it was going to be simple enough. All I had to do was cut off the excess fabric, sew the cut edge with a zig zag stitch to keep the wool from unravelling and sew a blanket stitch over top by hand to match the border of the rest of the scarf. 

Except...I hadn't used my sewing machine in months and last time I tried to use it, the tension was all wonky and anything I stitched wouldn't stay stitched.  And I've never actually sewn a blanket stitch on anything before, although Diana Trout and Susan Cohen very kindly and patiently taught me this stitch and several others on the train from Assisi to Florence last June and I quite enjoyed it.

Luckily, it all went accordingly to plan.  After tucking the kittens into their room for a nap, I hauled out the sewing machine, found appropriately coloured thread in a vintage sewing box I had bought last year (along with several other treasures I had forgotten were in there).  I cut, I sewed, the machine worked just fine.  I went online and watched a few 2 minute videos on how to do the blanket stitch and I got busy doing it.

I think it turned out okay.  Hopefully no one but she and me (and now those of you reading this post) will ever look at the stitching this closely.  I suspect the scarf itself was edged by machine, or at least by someone who has been doing the blanket stitch for more than one day, as they are so perfectly spaced and all exactly the same size.  My stitches are a little uneven but they work.
My stitches on the bottom
The only problem is that I used a plain blanket stitch and the scarf was done with what I discovered is called the closed blanket stitch, for which there are not that many videos and which I couldn't get the hang of, so I just said to myself, "it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to match perfectly, just get it done."  And I did.  So on half of one side of the scarf, there are two types of stitches - ones that go straight up and down and ones that have pretty little triangles:
My stitches on the top
Again, it's not perfect but it's done. I don't think she'll mind the discrepancy, but if she does, I've still got the other half that I cut off, I could try again on another day!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not As I Had Planned

I didn't have anything special planned for tonight, thought I'd just go home after work, have dinner, play with the catlings, maybe watch a little TV.  As sometimes happens, it didn't quite work out that way.

I ended up working until almost 7 pm, finishing up a project that could have waited until Monday but I wanted to just get it done once and for all.  Sometimes it's nice to work in an office that is all but deserted, the peace and quiet easing me along after a busy week, no interruptions, no ringing phones, the printer entirely at my disposal.

On the drive home, a black cat dashed across the 4 lane highway in front of me.  I don't consider that to be a harbinger of bad luck, at least not for me, but I do worry about that puss, where he or she was going, if they would find their way safely home, if they even had a home to go to (where I saw the cat was a long way from any houses), if they would have to risk their life crossing that highway again.  Sending up prayers for its safety.

I stopped to picked up milk and headed home.  When I came in the door, after cuddling my cats and the current crop of foster kittens, grateful that they have all been rescued off the street and are not running loose on a highway somewhere, I checked my phone messages and discovered one from Barb at Bizzy B, letting me know that the new journals were in stock.

What new journals, you may ask?  The new Dylusions journal from Ranger!!

Dina Wakley had one when she taught at BB last month, they are fabulous (read more about it here, where I got this photo).  Of course, I immediately put my coat back on, grabbed my keys, said goodbye to the kittens and headed off to the store.  Never mind that I hadn't yet had dinner! 

When I got to the store, the monthly ATC meeting was just coming to an end so after paying for my purchases, I headed next door to Pizza Hut for a quick bite, joined by my friend Marilyn.  We had a nice visit and then it was time for me to go home.  Again.  It was 9:30 by the time I got in the door for the second time and as you might guess, I'm a little tired now!

So my evening didn't go quite as planned but at least now I have two of these lovely journals of my own, shiny new, completely empty and ready to go.  Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow??!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Attention Postman!

I have to share this note I saw taped to a door a few days ago. 

I am thinking either the writer is the most naive and/or optimistic person ever or else they know they have a saint making the rounds as their postman or woman, because really, I can't imagine any postal employee would actually take the time to read these instructions, let alone "walk up stairs, turn right, go through the door and turn left..." to find the mailboxes in question, can you?  But you gotta give them credit for trying!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Artober - Week 3

Wow, can it really be Wednesday again already?  Here's what I've been doing for the "30 Days of Get Your Art On" challenge suggested by Traci Bunkers.

Thurs Oct 11 - painted and collaged a journal page:

Fri Oct 12 - made a tag bookmark for the 4th volume of the "Game of Thrones" series written by George R.R. Martin, entitled "A Feast for Crows". 

Sat Oct 13 - carved a crow stamp - read more details here.

Sun Oct 14 - I made a page divider out of a file folder which I collaged and painted.  I'm working on a binder full of notes for online classes - in this case, Mary Ann Moss' Stencilry, and here's what the divider looks like so far, don't think I'm done with it just yet.

Mon Oct 15 - week 4 of my drawing class.  Just me and the teacher as the other 2 students couldn't make it.  No pressure!  Among other things, we worked on drawing still lifes.  I think my rendering of the dinosaur in the snow globe turned out especially well.
Still life objects

Tues Oct 16 - Since I've been avoiding my drawing class homework each week since we started, I thought I would force myself to face my resistance head on this week and not only do my homework for next week's class (drawing a still life, haven't done it yet but I will!) but also get my art on every day this week by drawing for a minimum of 15 minutes.  I drew this picture of Katrina sleeping on the chair beside me, focusing on the negative space, being the spaces in between the design on the back of the chair.

Wed Oct 17 - more negative space practice (I'm not sure I'm "doing it right", so I'm forcing myself to do it more than once).

When I laid the key on top of the drawing, I was pretty close in my proportions!

I also drew my stapler, although I did it with a Micron pen and ended up having to erase a few lines with correction tape! :)

What have you been doing to get your art on this week?