Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Garden Tour

The bouquet above is not from my garden. It was bought as Easter decor for the house. Happy Easter, friends! I love the combination of the tulips and freesia. So pretty and the freesia is wonderfully fragrant.

I am excited to report that there are things happening outside! This year's slow, slow spring has arrived here in Montreal. It was only a few days ago that we had our last snowfall (Wednesday to be precise) but it melted quickly and my garden is finally coming to life.

Come on a little Easter garden tour with me.

These are all crocuses, but I also have scilla and botanical tulips blooming. Also one solitary, lonely dwarf iris. In the days ahead, they will be joined by daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, spanish bluebells and grape hyacinths. Oh, and I can't wait to see the leaves open on the trees.

I dug up some crocuses this past week just before the snowfall and did a little painting of them.

I love my garden throughout the year but spring makes my heart race. I hope the world is blooming around you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


So by the time my breakfast ended up in my lap the second time this morning, I decided I needed to plan my day v-e-r-y carefully! I didn't sleep well last night and my lack of coordination showed it, so it didn't seem like the right day to continue working on my latest painting. I am putting the finishing touches on my woodpecker feather painting. Click the link here to see a photo of what it looked like at the end of the day yesterday. It is so close to being finished.

I had an order to mail this morning and then I decided I would take advantage of the beautiful light today and retake some photos for my Etsy shop. The beauty of digital photography is you get to see what you took right away, so I figured I would just get rid of anything that didn't turn out. This morning, I wasn't convinced that anything was going to turn out right.

A few weeks ago, I went to our local home renovation store and bought two pieces of plywood that measure four feet by two feet. I paid about $5 a piece for them. I wanted to whitewash them to use them as backdrops for my Etsy photos. Previously, I had just used an extra sheet of watercolour paper underneath anything I was photographing but I wanted something with a bit more character. I had also seen a method online of making new wood look like old barnboard and I was intrigued to try it. It occurred to me that I could do the white treatment on one side of the plywood and the aged barnboard treatment on the other. Two in one. Less to store and less to carry.  I do my photography in our dining room so need to clear away my things regularly (although probably not as frequently as my family would like).

The white sides were easy enough. With a damp brush, I painted on a thin coat of a creamy white latex paint I had on hand. The effect is nice. It still allows the grain and character of the wood to show through.

For the barnboard effect, I consulted these two sources: Snovej and The Friendly Home. Both include good information and were very helpful.

First you put some extra-fine steel wool (#OOOO) in a jar of vinegar, put the lid on it and let it sit at least overnight. This will create an oxidizing solution.

As a first coat, you 'paint' the unfinished wood with strong black tea. This lays down tannins which allow the oxidizing solution to work. Once that has dried, you 'paint' on the vinegar solution.

For the barnboard effect, I treated the back side of the plywood as it was rougher. I didn't get the weathered grey initially that's in the source blog photos. My first attempt went quite chocolate brown (a pretty colour but not what I was aiming for). I put two coats of tea on the second piece before adding the vinegar solution. It went a better colour, kind of a brown-grey, but in the end I sanded back the surface of both pieces slightly and put watered down grey latex paint on top, wiping it with a wet cloth so that it was as transparent as possible and still allowed the grey-brown tones of the tea-vinegar stain through. I really like how they turned out.

I later read that if I had diluted my vinegar solution with the same amount of water, it might have given a more grey rather than brown effect. I can try that another time. You can read that advice here. I also read that different types of wood react differently to the stain so it could be worth experimenting.

The photos I took today were all on the white wood background. I've included photos I've taken recently on the darker 'barn board' side as well. Because I made two pieces of each, I can prop up one to use as my 'wall' and use the other as the 'table'.

For a day that I wasn't expecting to turn out that well, it was pretty good. I really like the photos I took. The light was beautiful. I bought fresh flowers on my way back from the post office and they definitely helped. I am enjoying how the wood backdrops are giving me more possibilities with my photos.

Oh and did I mention that the snow is melting outside? Things are definitely looking up!

❤  ❤  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring, Where Are You?

Winter weary. Frost fatigued. Ice impatient. It's interesting how the very people who look forward to winter's first magical snowfall can be the same ones who don't want to see one more single snowflake at the season's end. Count me in. I am tired of wearing boots, hats and mittens. I don't want to scrape ice off the car's windshield one more time or shovel the front steps. I'm finding it hard seeing photos of blossoming trees and plants in others' blogs and Instagram feeds. I am aching to see my garden.

Although the calendar says spring arrived here about a week ago, this is still very much winter weather.

And yet, once temperatures rise, Meeko and I will no longer be able to take our daily forest walks. The little forest at our street's end will be too wet and swampy in a matter of days or weeks to walk in. So, I realized that instead of hating the last few days of this long, long winter, I should be cherishing its final moments. So I shifted my focus and my mood followed. Interesting. A recipe perhaps for other areas of my life?

I took these photos near the end of the day two days ago while trying to drink in the beauty of the snow, shadows and light. I thought about the freedom and joy that these forest walks give Meeko several months a year. I thought about the times I laugh out loud at Meeko's crazy antics in the snow or his goofy expression as he runs back to my side on the path. I thought about the welcome break these walks give me in my day and the peacefulness they provide to my spirit.

Oh spring, I can't wait for you to come but do you know what winter, I'm actually going to miss you.

The sun goes down and one season slowly concedes to another.

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” 
― Mark Twain

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Awkward Social Life

I guess I really mean my awkward social media life but I’m not sure that they’re so different. The other evening, I asked my husband if he would go to a meeting coming up at one of our daughter’s schools, saying that I really didn’t enjoy doing things like that. He said to me: “You’re not very sociable, are you?” I actually burst out laughing and said to him “You’re just figuring this out after being married to me for 20 years?”

I wouldn't describe myself as anti-social but I tend to be shy and have always been sensitive. Maybe that makes me careful around people. I’m not unfriendly. I like people very much but I’m not naturally gregarious. I like spending time by myself. I can always count my close friends on one hand and they have changed over the years.

Here’s some inside information. If you want to torture me, tell me to go into a huge crowd of strangers and mingle. If I think of the least favorite places I’ve been in my life, the high school cafeteria comes to mind. That’s a long time ago but I still remember that horrible sense that everyone was looking at me as I walked in (I know! They weren’t!) and knowing that I would never be one of the cool kids yet really wishing that I was (I wasn’t!).

What does this all have to do with social media?

When I first launched my blog, I never would have predicted that I would also be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sometimes Pinterest and Flickr. Me, have a social media presence? What am I doing mingling in a gargantuan crowd of strangers?

One of the very best parts of social media is being able to connect with like-minded people around the world. I have found that there is a beautiful creative community online. I am grateful for the friends I have here at this blog as well as the other sites I frequent. I have met some wonderful online companions, connected with their hearts and minds, and found sources of creative inspiration and personal strength. 

So on a good day, everything social-media-wise is great. I like to encourage other people and it feels good when others do that for me. I enjoy seeing the art that others are producing. I am a curious person and like learning new things. I love seeing the beautiful commonality of our days (the sunrises, the sunsets, treasures from nature, our gardens, our studios, our kitchens, our pets). Because I work on my own, it’s nice to have the camaraderie of others online who lead similar lives--someone to share a joke with, a frustration, a disappointment. I’m grateful that people in all sorts of countries have found me and my paintings through my social media accounts. And of course Meeko now has adoring fans around the globe!

But on those other days, the web can be a source of self-doubt and comparison. I can feel like I’m back in that high school cafeteria. I worry way too much if people like what I post. After each post (here and elsewhere), I watch to see who likes it and worry about those who didn’t. It’s not rational because I don’t see everything that everyone else posts so I don’t like everything of theirs. Plus, it’s not normal to like everything! Every now and then, a comment will hurt my feelings (like the person who posted the backhanded compliment under one of my paintings on Facebook 'I didn't know you could paint that well!'). Or I will follow someone I find interesting but it is obvious that they don't find me interesting at all. Following other artists' feeds is a wonderful source of creative inspiration but during slow periods for my Etsy shop, if others’ streams are filled with photos of the stacks of orders they are sending out, it’s easy to compare myself and feel discouraged no matter how happy I am for their success.

My solution is sometimes to take a little break from it all. That’s probably a healthy thing to do. These past two weeks, I haven’t followed my normal routines. ChloĆ© was on her March school break last week and Emma is on her break this week. When others are in the house, my concentration goes haywire. So I’ve been posting much less on my different social media accounts. I miss it and yet I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to focus outward to the detriment of what’s inside, constantly being a cheerleader for others if I’m not always feeling some sort of benefit in return. Or to be photographing things more than I am living them. Like in anything, balance is required. With social media, I find it’s a delicate balance—I want to participate because of the many good and positive things it offers and that I enjoy, while making sure it doesn’t eat up my self-esteem, painting time, and creative energy. Balance. Moderation. Constant challenges of my awkward social media life. 

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