Tag Archives: notebook

From On High… An Idea (25/365)

So I was pretty high up on a climb on Kid Goat (Blue Bubble) when it occurred to me it’s really hard to capture a real sense of how it feels to be up that high above the valley floor in a photograph.

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A vista like this sort of conveys scale (those are tall trees down there, and they don’t look very big). But what is harder to capture is the sense of vertigo when you are actually directly above stuff, like when you are at a hanging belay on the side of a cliff…

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So, I took a bunch of reference photos and what I think I’ll try to do is a drawing or painting that exaggerates certain elements of the composition to try to better reflect the feeling of being up there…

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Here’s a view of the climb from below, from the approach trail.

Dad has been very helpful, sending me examples of work by people like Sonja Delaunay and Andre Derain, who both used exaggerated colour and perspective to get their point across.

 

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Baker’s Hotel by Andre Derain, 1904

 

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Three Women Dressed Simultaneously by Sonia Delaunay

And then I found this one, also by Sonia…

 

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Color Rhythm by Sonia Delaunay, 1967

Which was a bit odd, because I’d been playing with colour blocks in my notebook just moments before I found her work after following a link sent by Dad…

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My blocks are a lot less solid than hers (pastels on textured paper rather than oil paints in Delaunay’s…). And my palette is totally different, of course… but on that front I was inspired by Josef Albers, about whom you will hear more in the days to come as Dad and I have had several Albers conversations and, weirdly enough, he is also featured in a current issue of an art magazine (which I stumbled across online and have now lost again… I’ll retrace my steps and try to post a link when I get back to Albers properly…)

It has been another busy day and I need to go find some grub, have a shower, and take another look at the scenes we’ll be rehearsing tomorrow for the Canmore Summer Theatre Festival’s production of Romeo and Juliet. My creative cup runneth over!!

 

 

 

 

 

On Sketching in Public – A Sketchy Business (22/365)

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Sometimes there’s not a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a subject to sketch… my knee and foot were handy while waiting at the hospital…

For whatever reason, I am happy to pull out my phone or camera or even the awkward iPad and take photos wherever I find myself. The exception to that is portraiture – bad enough when I know the subject, beyond daunting when I don’t. That’s why, when you look through my billions of images, you’ll rarely see one that includes a recognizable person. It’s a shame, really, because people are endlessly fascinating and certainly worthy of being photographed. But there’s something about invading people’s privacy and stealing their souls that makes me anxious. So, I generally wait until passers-by get out of the way before snapping the photo. 

 

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People? Who needs people when you can photograph your dog? This is Pippi, looking adorable as always… 

 

Maybe that’s why I enjoy Humans of New York so much. Brandon Stanton’s work taking photos of people in New York is both disarming and captivating. The combination of deceptively straightforward images and the stories of the people he photographs is endlessly entertaining. Not in a funny way (though, sometimes the anecdotes are pretty amusing) but also often in deeply touching ways. More than once since I became a HONY groupie (groupy?) years ago I have been moved to tears after seeing an image and reading the accompanying text. 

 

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Sunflower experiments… various waiting rooms

 

Not that this is a post about street photography or candid portraits. Over the past couple of weeks as I’ve been trying to draw something every day, there have often been times where the available time to do a sketch was in public somewhere… in a waiting room, at a ferry dock, on a plane or at a coffee shop. 

I have forced myself to surreptitiously pull out my notebook and draw something, but oh my, it’s excruciating. First, it’s physically challenging to contort myself so I hide as much of what I’m doing as I can from curious eyes. I cross my legs to make a sort of angled platform for the notebook and then ‘rest’ my right arm over the page while leaving just enough of the drawing peeking out that I can sort of see what I’m doing. People are curious, of course. I would certainly wander over to peek at someone’s work if they were sitting out in public somewhere, drawing. So why the shyness? I’m keenly aware that I’m not very good – and, that this does not matter. But who likes to think that the response from an onlooker will be ‘dear God, why is that woman wasting her time? What is that she’s trying to draw?’ 

At the hospital the other day, I was waiting with Dad in a small room off to the side of the main emergency room waiting area when the lab tech came in to take a blood sample. I was sketching something from a photo I had taken over the weekend (oh, how much do I love having so many photos at my fingertips on my cell phone???) and the lab tech stopped and asked, “Are you sketching?” I nodded and blushed but before I could say anything else she started going on about how in all the years she had been working at the hospital she had never seen anyone drawing while waiting. “People are always on their phones! Their heads are down. They aren’t paying attention to anyone else. This is so cool!”

 

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Pretty soon, I’m going to have quite the collection of waiting room chairs in my notebooks…

 

She didn’t actually come over to see what I was working on, but the whole time she was busy with Dad she kept talking. “We all used to draw, didn’t we? And color? They say it’s very therapeutic – relaxing. Why did we ever stop? Why did we ever stop playing? Why do they take the swings out of the middle school playgrounds?”

 

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Children’s Playground in Tiergarten Park in Berlin by Max Liebermann, 1885

 

What excellent questions! What the heck happens to us when we grow up and get all serious and think that everything we do either needs to have a dollar sign attached to it or has to meet someone else’s standards of good enough? She wasn’t the only one to note the strange shift that happens at some point in our childhoods when we stop experimenting and trying stuff. Dani also made a comment when she was looking over my shoulder at a truly awful rendition of a lily I was struggling with and observed, “We all stop drawing as eight-year-olds. That’s why our drawings all look like they were done by eight-year-olds.” 

It’s true. My lily was crude, but not in a good, sophisticated Picasso-esque kind of way. It was just badly drawn and the colour was wrong and there was something terribly skewed about the perspective. Kind of like what I might have come up with when I was about eight. For so many years I have kept that eight-year-old kid artist wannabe locked up, banished to a darkened room without access to coloured pencils. Now, suddenly, she has burst out of her room and gone mad!

 

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Just a bunch of squiggly lines, right? Any kid could do that, right? Wrong… Artist and his Model by Pablo Picasso, 1926

 

What is interesting about my recent efforts is that for some odd reason I seem to have reconnected with my eight-year-old self and am treating her much more kindly. I am so enjoying exploring different materials, techniques, subjects, approaches as I blunder my way from page to page in my notebooks. It’s fun to be messy, to be wrong, to make mistakes. There is nowhere to go from here but up! To facilitate this progress (because I have to believe that if I keep going, there will be progress), I am determined to get as comfortable whipping out a sketchbook when I see something interesting as I am pulling out my camera or sitting down to write in my journal (or, as I am doing right now, typing on my iPad). I used to be a bit embarrassed about that, too, but in terms of writing in public, I have done it so often I don’t even think twice about settling in wherever I find myself. 

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I’m writing this while on a plane heading from the coast to Calgary. I’m inches away from my seat-mate, who is watching something on her iPhone. Outside the window, we are descending into fields of crazy big puffy white clouds… I stop my writing, flip the iPad over and aim it out the window and snap a few reference shots. I’ll sketch those clouds a bit later. Maybe even in the airport, at a coffee shop, while I’m waiting for my shuttle to take me back to the mountains. 

 

Dots, Lines and 3D (13/365)

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Back to Basics: Red Dot, Green Line (pen and gouache)

Yesterday I left off with the thought that if lines and circles were a bit much to handle, perhaps I should have a better look at the good old dot.

Then Dad sent me this…

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Pause, by Bridget Riley (1964)

Oh boy. I’d say mine is more… colourful? Clearly I have a lot to learn about dots. Bridget Riley was born in England in 1931 and became one of the big names in the Op Art movement. She was also the first woman to win (in 1968) the painting prize at the Venice Biennale. (More about her here.)

Dad was not done with lines, though… and also sent this:

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Thankfully, he also sent an explanatory comment about the Golden Section which was, apparently, the point of the series of boxes. I’ll try to explain in case you aren’t right up on your geometry. Top left – a square. Kind of boring. (I’m paraphrasing Dad here… there were a series of texts and then a lengthy phonecall before I got this all straight in my head). Next box – a square cut in half. Also kind of boring. Next up, a square cut in half in the other direction. Also not so interesting. Then, bisected squares bisected to make smaller squares. Ho-hum. And then, in the bottom row, things get interesting.

Basically, you take a square and bisect it (see bottom row, square on the left). Take the diagonal of one of the halves. Add that distance to the bottom line of the square on the left… the resulting rectangle (I’ve added some red lines to my version below) is roughly 1.65: 1 (length to height) ratio.

 

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Golden Ratio (more or less)

 

Mine isn’t super accurate as I didn’t use a compass or set square, so my measurements are not quite right, but you get the idea. Anyway, that basic rectangle in those proportions pops up over and over again in architecture dating back to those clever ancient Greeks. Even before that, the ratio appears in snail shells and the way in which the spiral pattern is formed in the seeds of a sunflower head. Those complex examples are waaaaaaaay beyond my capacity to draw, but the basic principle of the ratio remains the same.

Unrelated to the Golden Ratio, I was also determined to have a look at basic three dimensional shapes…

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The boxes are a bit wobbly and the one on the table top/flat surface to the right is all wrong as the two surfaces are on two different, incompatable planes… Which led us into a discussion about perspective that was accompanied by another flurry of diagrams from Dad. Which will have to wait until tomorrow as those messages spun off into a discussion of perspective, various other artists, primary colours, and art-themed movies not to be missed…

 

 

 

 

 

Lines (12/365)

The lines seemed to go a little better than the wobbly circles of yesterday… with the exception of trying to draw a square using a series of parallel diagonal lines. That was so not happening, especially when the lines angled down and to the right… clearly some neurological rewriting needs to happen before I get that right. My triangles are a bit asymmetrical and my straight, vertical lines all tend to have a bit of a leftward leaning tilt, but overall today’s exercise was not quite as painful as my efforts yesterday.

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Composition No. 10, Piet Mondrian (1940-ish)

Piet Mondrian jumps to mind when I think of nice straight lines put to good use. What I didn’t expect was to see Van Gogh popping up in the Getty Museum’s handout intended for students learning about the elements of art. Line, of course, is one of those basic elements…

 

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Wheat Field with Sheaves and Arles in the Background, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh 

 

Check out all those lines!! There’s no real drawing going on here, per se… and yet… That’s a wheat field! And smoke from the factory chimneys! And stubble… and the impression of a real place made up of a bunch of short lines! Here’s a link to the handout, in case you want to have a go at filling in all the boxes with different types of lines.

I confess I was inspired and decided to give the line-making another go, this time based on the little boxes on the Getty handout…

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It’s no wheat field, no Arles, but I can see how mastering some of these basic elements could prove useful someday.

Dad concurs. Right under the greeting ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ he texted, “Lines are really neat…” and then went on to illustrate with some quick examples. They were a little different to the Getty categories… Dad’s examples were:

  1. static straight lines
  2. straight lines showing slight movement
  3. more interesting/complex movement, still using only straight line
  4. quite a complex pattern, though not using many more lines (just varying length, angle, relative positions). Here’s my rendition of Dad’s example…

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No wonder I was having such trouble with circles! I was running before I could walk… I’m thinking maybe tomorrow I need to go back a step farther and maybe try a plain dot. I’d ask, ‘How hard could that be?’ but I am thinking even a dot could present mysterious challenges I can’t even imagine…

Smooth Sailing

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Days like this are great if you want to photograph masts reflecting in glassy water, but not so good for doing anything remotely like sailing…

Having just returned from a day on the water it seems like a good time to do a bit of an update on the sailing front. Despite the fact we don’t have a boat (yet), I have marked November 1st as the date we will head for Europe (Greece? Montenegro? Croatia? Italy) for a sailing trip. We still haven’t pinned down destination or duration of the trip, but one way or the other I am bound and determined to be aboard a boat of some sort, for a while, heading somewhere.

While the details of the trip are still somewhat fuzzy, what is absolutely clear is that there is no time to be lost between now and then when it comes to getting myself prepared to take the helm and cast off the lines. Given that one now needs to have an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) in order to sail in most European waters, I signed up for a five-day sailing course through Sea to Sky Sailing. My original dates were to be at the end of March on one of the company’s boats, but then Dani and Toryn decided they would hire a Sea to Sky instructor to come over here to the island to teach them on their boat, Easy Rider. Because they had an extra berth, they invited me to join them, which makes a lot of sense given that a) we’re practicing on a boat we will sail on in the future and b) we’ll be sailing together in the future so it makes sense we’ll all be learning the same way to do things.

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Katabatic winds? My study notes are serving two purposes. First, they are supposed to be helping me retain info needed for the ICC written test (my aging brain no longer holds onto details the way it used to). Second, in keeping with one of my 2017 resolutions, I’m trying to add more visual elements to my notes and journals. This has been an interesting process for someone who has never tried to draw anything. If I feel brave, I might post more sketchy efforts here at some point.

On the down side, the dates of the new training session are March 11-15, which has thrown me into a bit of a panic. Before then, I need to have completed the theory part of the course and get my VHF license plus get in a bit of sailing practice. My studies are well under way, but the clock is ticking now and I’m starting to have dreams eerily like those that tortured me throughout high school and university. In those dreams I show up for an exam and find I have studied for the wrong course or I try to get into the examination room and the doors are locked, or I’ve missed the exam date by a week or I open the exam booklet and discover I can’t read the language written on the page.

On the practical side, though I’ve sailed on and off for decades, my experiences have always been as crew. It’s quite a different thing altogether to be in charge of the boat. So, for the past several weekends, we (Dani, Toryn and I) have been trying to get out on the water before we are thrown into the deep end (not literally, I hope). Our first expedition was a bit hairy as the winds kicked up and we were all very rusty (fouled the jib quite handily and rattled ourselves quite thoroughly). Sailing brother, Sascha, popped over from Vancouver the next weekend and put us through our paces in very light airs in a fun expedition to Sidney Spit, a picturesque spot within spitting distance of Sidney.

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Up goes the mainsail…

That trip went pretty smoothly and included practicing picking up a mooring ball. At the end of it, we felt a bit more confident that we had not actually forgotten everything we had ever known about sailing. After enjoying a tasty barbecue in the cockpit, we also remembered how much fun it is to sail somewhere and then share a meal!

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Today we took Easy Rider out again, looking forward to sailing in light winds so we could do a bit more tacking practice. Sadly, the forecast 5 knots of wind wound up being 0-1 knots. Flat calm. It was easy enough to hoist the sails, but from that point on we bobbed around in the millpond with two gigantic limp hankies decorating the boat. What forward movement we actually managed to accomplish was more the result of the current pushing us than any impact from the non-existent wind. The fact there was not a single sailboat (other than us) out there should have been a hint that perhaps today was not a good day for sailing.

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We may not have buried the rail today, but it was mighty pleasant lounging around on the foredeck as we puttered back toward the marina.

Undeterred, we floated around for a couple of hours before dropping the sails and motoring back to the dock. While uneventful sailing trips are generally a good thing, today’s journey to nowhere gives mellow a whole new meaning.

Wildlife count: 2 seals swimming, 2 seals perched on rocks, 2 dolphins and a bunch of sea birds. Note to self: Take a bird identification book to the boat.

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