Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy New Year

"The fairies go visiting from house to house with sweet gifts"

These four fairy revellers (plus fairy dog) first alit on the drawing board as little procession across a two page spread titled "Festive Fairy Fare", all about fairy kitchens, cookery and feasting. Along the top of the original layout are the pencilled words "The fairies go visiting from house to house with sweet gifts" , and to either side are roughed-in notes and sketched vignettes - a tray of individual cherry dumplings, gingerbread cut-outs, litle spoons. When creating a world on paper words speak to pictures, pictures to words, and multiply each other - a pencilled fairy cook hovers over a rectangle labelled "recipes" and the scribbled words "G-bread here". The next level of sketching provides more shape and details and the final painting brings them to life.

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed New Year, with feasting and merriment with friends and dear ones.

Christmas Interlude

"And as the hunter braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born
Jesus is born
In excelsis gloria!"

In the peaceful interlude between Christmas and New Year's Eve I am completing existing projects and planning the new ones. I finished painting a page of little dragons last night, very lively ones, which must stay under wraps for now. New portfolio pages are being prepared for the website, and next year's card designs are under way. There is also the annual duty of finishing up the Christmas chocolate, which is going very smoothly with the benefit of boosted creative energy.

This is the twenthieth year since the winter that I worked on my first book contract, The Huron Carol. It was an tremendous opportunity and also a great responsibility to represent the faith, cultures and history. I usually painted late into the night and sometimes through to morning, absorbed in the details of stars, snow, animals, trees, dwellings and clothing as well as the subtleties of the faces, working to bring together Father Brebeuf's vision and the dignity and history of the Huron people, all against the backdrop of ancient forests and deep winter. Of everything that I have painted before and since then, Huron Carol was a rare, privileged experience.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime

"Twas in the moon of wintertime
when all the birds had fled,
That Mighty Gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead:
Before their light the stars grew dim
And wond'ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In Excelsis gloria!"

Wishing you all a merry and blessed Christmas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

"Every year it is the same. First the tree and the box of lights are taken to the living room, where the furniture has been moved to leave a space by the front window...". Thus begins our book Grandmother's Tree, and it is still true. I have just put up the Christmas tree and unravelled the lights to wind and drape about the branches, as we do every year.

The ornaments are next. "Rustle, rustle through blankets of tissue paper as the inhabitants wake from their year-long sleep" .. the elf whispers "Wake up, wake up, it's time."

The inhabitants of my box of ornaments include paper birds, feather birds, Santas, an orchestra of plastic angels, the Hasbro "Dolly Darlings" of my childhood, tiny crochet Amigurumi dolls from Chinatown, and more.

Grandmother's Tree, written by Avril, celebrates 55 years of decorating our family's tree in all its lovely disarray, with its bent tinsel star, homemade ornaments and other family memorablia. The book can be ordered from my Etsy shop at a Christmas special price of $15 Can.

At the last watercolour classes before Christmas I have been teaching wet-into-wet techniques with Christmas ornaments for subject matter. In just two hours the results were merry and bright as well as reasonably proficient. So to all my watercolour students, Well Done and Merry Christmas!

Lesley at sea blue sky abstracts has a delightful giveaway this week, so hop over and have a stroll through her virtual gallery too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Miscellany

Many thanks to Claire for saving my files and restoring my computer after a virus got into the system. Going through my rescued files I am happily finding everything still there, including all the images. I love hand lettering and inventing fonts and have this week compiled the resulting alphabet of interchangeable letters. My website is being added to and will include these in a page of lettering samples.

My kind computer friend has loaned me a Wacom computer tablet to play with, my first efforts in direct drawing are below. The stylus responds almost but not quite like a pencil or brush, and after the initial loop-and-scrolls scribbling (reminiscent of playing with my first rapidograph pen) I began to get the feel of it.

The tremendous crop from my pear tree led to some serious jam-making this fall. The first batch didn't set but the next lot did and was delicious as well. It can can become addictive once you taste successful jam in the making and view with satisfaction the row of full and warmly gleaming jars. There was more than enough to give away, which naturally led to the fun of designing and hand-painting the labels. I cut out rondels of textured watercolour paper, set atop circles of fabric cut from a favorite faded denim.

I was invited to a local Brownie troup recently to introduce them to watercolour painting. This was a highly enjoyable evening - I have only been to Scout meets over the last decade! Our subject matter was fairies, of course. I took along some of my samples and demonstrated my method for painting simple figures. After some initial experimentation the results were charming, a host of Christmas card fairies.

With Advent beginning this weekend the outdoor Christmas decorations went up and I brought my big Santa's List painting out of its storage place.

I painted this in 1997 and have put it outside by the front door to endure the early winter Advent weather every year. Successsive coats of protective glaze have all given way to cracks and flaking.

If I put it out this year Santa will literally disappear, flakes of colour flying away in the wind, and we can't have that. (But it would make an interesting story if he was reassembling somewhere else)

I have sketched an angel for a new panel, with a good coat of wood primer to go on before the paint this time. Santa will stay indoors and perhaps the angel will be ready in time for Christmas.

Happy Advent to all.