I’ve been wanting to re-design my website for a long time but I recently discovered that my criteria are far beyond my capability. After many hours of tears, I decided to hire a pro. And I’m so excited! I’ve known Monica for awhile and her design sense and aesthetic is pretty fabulous. Check out her work and be sure to check out her visual resumé. Wow.
In the meantime, please have patience with this clunky, slow-loading mess of a website and stay connected for an update on the launch of a brand new face. Big thanks to social media, you can find my work in several places:
Good Morning Y’all! Happy weekend! Wanting to share a few bits and bites today:
Chapters Book Launch
The Ontario book launch for Bullet the New Steam Engine (written by Dwayne Lafitte and published by Flanker Press) happened May 25th, and it was awesome and so great to see those faces in the seats! I talked a bit about how I started illustrating, a bit about the history behind Bullet, as well as some illustration tidbits. I brought the original watercolours for people to peruse as well and Chapters Belleville was so kind to frame some of them for display. Afterwards I signed books! There are some signed copies on display in-store by the cash registers. And speaking of…
Also available and displayed with my books, are 11×14 in. prints from a few spreads in my first book Over by the Harbour. These prints are beautifully made by a little shop called Art Ink Print in Vancouver. They are a fine art reproduction printer with an exceptional eye for detail and a desire to do things right. Printed on archival, Mohawk Vellum 100lb, with a lightly textured finish perfect for watercolours. Chapters Belleville is so wonderful to carry them for me.
The Merchant’s Mill
Yesterday I dropped off some work at The Merchant’s Mill in Consecon, Prince Edward County. They open their doors every year for the summer months. Holy cow, what an awesome collection of artists they represent! I basically had to tear myself away before I bought the whole store. I did come away with a gorgeous wall-hanging piece of cast SNAILS, of course.
Open House for the vendors on June 5th, and official grand opening June 9th. Definitely check it out.
I got my test piece of fabric from Spoonflower in the mail and I’m so happy with how it turned out so I have more coming that was shipped today! You can read about my process of making this pattern here. The fabric is available on Spoonflower right now, but I will be making cloth napkins for my shop as soon as the new fabric arrives. Work has started on my second pattern which is all about STRAWBERRIES, of course
I finished my last commission (at least for awhile) yesterday. I’ve been feeling the need to re-focus my efforts (picture books, personal work) because all the multi-tasking has me feeling a bit flakey! Thank you so much to those that have involved me in awesome projects. Truly grateful.
Quinte Arts Council Arts Recognition Award
If you get The Intelligencer, you may have seen that, along with three others, I am receiving an arts recognition award from the Quinte Arts Council! Thanks to some wonderful nominators 🙂 The awards will be presented at the Mayor’s Luncheon for the Arts on June 9th.
Kaleidoscope | A Celebration of Craft + Design
Coming up June 18th! 11 am-4 pm. Craft + Wine crawl in Prince Edward County. Mosey on to the three locations: Classon Chase Vineyards, Prince Edward County Lavender, and Lacey Estates Winery. I’ll be at PEC Lavender, which I feel is quite fitting! Everything from clay works, glass works, jewelry, etc.
My first introduction to botanical painting was probably before my teens when I found The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden on my mom’s bookshelf. I devoured that book for hours and every now and again I still pull it off my shelf. So I can say I’ve had a life-long obsession with vintage botanical illustration.
In 2007 I think it was, I found artist Gennine Zlatkis creating her own hand-painted fabric using Spoonflower and I wanted to do it so badly but it seemed so far beyond my ability. Nowadays it seems like every other illustrator is making their own fabric thanks to a growth in technology making it affordable, to companies like Spoonflower, but also to larger companies who are licensing designs from independent artists. No more excuses!
Now that I’ve just uploaded my design to Spoonflower (finally!) I wanted to share my process. Please note this is not a “how-to”. My process is always based on instinct—creating and solving problems as I know how.
First I created a 10×10 in. drawing on sketch paper. I looked at a number of vintage prints of berries, thistles and flowers as reference, and without putting too much thought into arrangement and relying only on instinct, I just kept drawing until I had filled the page. I drew a vine entwining all the elements as a way of adding more depth and interest. I was looking at William Morris pattern a lot and loved the way he complicated his patterns with so many layers of leaves and I really liked that density.
At the same time I had started what I wanted to be a series of still life paintings (teacups) with pattern behind it instead of a traditional table setting. This stemmed from a painting class I took at the Toronto School of Art with Moira Clark, who had us paint a still life, and take a piece of found fabric and paint the pattern as a background. This was back in 1999! So I decided to use my botanical drawing as a background for the teacup and in so doing, procrastinate making a fabric pattern (again).
First I drew my teacup on a piece of 10×10 in. Arches watercolour paper. Then, using my lightbox, I traced my botanical drawing onto the watercolour paper, only tracing what was around the teacup. Since most of the visual interest in the botanical drawing was in the centre and would be covered by the teacup, I shifted the centre of the drawing above the teacup, and shifted the top of the painting below the teacup.
Once I started painting the teacup, it became clear to me that although my pencil drawing was correct, somewhere along the line in painting the pattern on the cup correctly (with perspective), along with painting the shadows, the perspective of the teacup was now incorrect. I made the decision to keep going rather than correct it, because I felt that my focus and exercise was more about painting pattern, rather than making a traditional still life (also an exercise in letting go!)
I used the watercolour really concentrated, with just enough water to really load the brush, “scraping” the pigment over and over since I wanted really saturated colour. I separated the colours into shapes, layering shades from light to dark. I also used a lot of titanium white on the top layers to create highlights and depth and varying tone. I used a no. 1 brush to make sure I was able to include all the lovely details of line and colour in real life.
Fast forward 4 months of illustrating a children’s book, and I finally finished the piece. You can see it here (link)
Now that the procrastination project was done, there was still the issue of making a fabric pattern. Because I’m a masochist, I thought it might be fun to paint the same subject all over again and see how different I paint it using the same parameters, and 4 months later. I carved out an hour of painting every morning, so that I had no excuses! I documented the process on Instagram and Facebook.
I was surprised at how little of an area I had accomplished in an hour, which was definitely an eye opener for me. I’m always trying to explain to people that it takes A LOT of time to complete a painting, but I hadn’t realized to the extent! I did get a comment on Facebook that said it shouldn’t have taken me that long, which I thought was a bit weird (for so many reasons), but the bottom line is, it takes as long as it takes and it’s different for everyone. I happen to be really anal about details—that’s what I ENJOY about making work.
My next step was to take this to Photoshop and create a repeat pattern. Phew! I had NO idea how to do this, so it took some research on a few people’s blogs and some trial and error to do this. I’m not going to go into it here, because that’s for another post entirely, but let’s just say it took some cutting and pasting to get rid of the seams to make a continuous repeat. Here’s a screen shot:
My next step once I get the fabric in the mail (cross fingers I’ve done it right), is to haul out the old sewing machine from the garage and start applying it to several products; cushion covers, cloth napkins, maybe even a duvet cover!
Another application for this design was Thank You cards, which are also in the process of being shipped to me. (nowadays I’m getting my designs printed instead of cutting and printing at home which just got too time consuming and expensive) I blew up the pattern in Photoshop, only including a small section of it. These will be in the shop soon:
That’s all for now, friends. Enjoy your Sunday. Make and share!
The studio french doors are finally open, and with the warm weather comes a few new things. I’ve wrapped up a 5 1/2 month-long project. Keeper of the Light, written by Janet Barkhouse and published by Formac Publishing in Halifax, is in the final stages of production and will be coming out this Fall. It was definitely the most challenging project I have ever done. Janet is such a rich writer and the book is full of atmosphere, so I felt it important to be really thoughtful about what I chose to illustrate and how. Because it’s historical fiction there was quite an amount of research, however I had so much help from Janet and also a lighthouse expert! It’s also the most lengthy book I’ve done which means that I had to pay special attention to continuity. The best part of it was, that I got to create 11 year old Sara, who right away I knew was going to be a reflection of some of my own female characters that frequently show up in my personal work.
Book Launch, Chapters Belleville:
With the closing of one book, comes the launch of another! Bullet the New Steam Engine was a project I worked on last year with author Dwayne LaFitte and Flanker Press in Newfoundland. Our second time working together, Bullet the New Steam Engine is based on the passenger steam trains which traveled around the province, this one taking place in pre-confederate Newfoundland (circa 1945). How fun was it to paint the costumes! The launch in St. John’s will take place at the Railway Coastal Museum, May 4th. Chapters and Flanker Press have been organizing an event here in Belleville which will take place May 25, 6 pm. I’ll be talking briefly about what it’s like to illustrate a book, the history behind the “Newfie Bullet”, and of course, signing books after!
UP-COMING CRAFT FAIRS
Also with the warmer weather comes the craft fairs! Flamingo Baby Organics presents the 2nd Annual Springtime WEE ONES EXPO at Frontenac Mall in Kingston on Saturday, May 14th, 10amâ€”5pm and Sunday, May 15thâ€”11am to 4pm. The expo will feature arts and crafted items and unique products for babies, toddlers and families. I’ll be selling my two children’s books, stationary, and art prints. We are also talking about a possible story time event/reading corner.
The 5th Annual Kaleidoscope Craft & Wine Crawl!Celebrate the Summer Solstice June 18th, where Kaleidoscope is pairing with Closson Road Wineries and Farm Shops to bring you their inaugural Craft and Wine Crawl. Each venue will feature it’s own unique artisan theme, blending the love of handcraft with wine tastings, food, music and more. Among the usual art prints and stationary, I hope to have some new fabric pieces as well, and some original watercolour paintings.
I have a couple new watercolour paintings up in my Etsy shop which are a departure from children’s illustration. I have always been interested in paintings “from life”â€”dutch still life painting, Audubon’s naturalist watercolours, and botanical watercolours. My eye just devours that detail and precision. But I also take great pleasure in the act of life drawing which is a kind of meditation by focusing on the object and nothing else. Often I’m surprised by the colour of a shadow, or the shape of a negative space, or the curve of an object, which is always exciting.
These paintings are done by building up the layers of paint which not only make the colours highly saturated, but gives me a way to simplify what I’m painting by breaking down the colours and shapes. Nature can be a bit overwhelming in its complexities! For example, I will paint a whole leaf a light green, and then keep adding darker shades and lines on top (like glazing in oil painting). I also use white a lot, giving highlights to the berries for example, to give them depth. Watercolour doesn’t do this very well because of the transparency, and I know this is when I should be buying gouache to layer on top!
At the same time, I’ve taken the drawing of this floral pattern I made, and traced it on another piece of Arches paper, and am painting it all over again without the teacup. It’s amazing how different it looks even though it’s the exact same drawing. I’ve shared my progress on Instagram and I’m about 20 minutes away from finishing it. The idea is to create a repeat pattern in Photoshop to make fabric which will be used to sew napkins for my wedding! If all goes well, I’ll have them for sale at the Kaleidoscope craft and wine crawl, as well as in my shop.
Thank you for stopping by! Enjoy the sunshine, friends!
Last night at around midnight I couldn’t sleep because my brain was racing. I have a multitude of unfinished projects, upcoming projects, personal projects and goal-oriented projects competing in a race with each other and never nearing the finish line. I feel like I am running out of time and time is always an anxiety. I wake up in the morning and look at the clock and it’s already 7:00am and I’m already thinking, shitgetoutofbedyou’rewastingyourtime!
I guess I am hyper aware of my immortality. The only way I know how to calm down this anxiety is to write lists. So last night I wandered into my studio and made a list of everything that was on my mind. Because I’m a visual person this helps me pin down the jumbled and overwhelming mess of ‘shoulds’ and ‘need to’s and wants and if I want to accomplish this, I’d better do this NOWs.
I blame it on my mother who was always telling me, “Do something for the benefit of humanity!” And “Time is of the essence!” And, “Get up and at them!” We were never allowed to waste time.
I feel my time is so finite when I’m at my desk that sometimes I look at the clock and panic that I only have so much time left! (before I need to cook dinner, or move on to the next thing, or get on to that other deadline). Also, time when you’re creating is really mixed up. When you’re not thinking about time, and you’re rapt in whatever you’re doing, 5 hours could feel like 5 minutes and vice versa.
I am also the kind of person that needs time to do things, and on my own time. If I’m on someone else’s time than I feel like I’m on borrowed time, and like I can’t waste time! And again, that the time I have is finite so I feel pressured and rushed. I need time for ideas to take seed and germinate before they take off. This is why cooking is integral to my art-making. Cooking is a time for me to let my ideas flow freely, without the urgency of time when I’m at my desk. It’s a little bit like how good ideas always come when you’re in the shower or out for a walk. Time away lets you step back and get a whole new perspective. Cooking also takes up a lot of my time and sometimes I wonder why I am canning 100 jars of relish instead of giving my shop a makeover.
So I’ve gotten an app. It’s called HOURS and it’s an iPhone app. It allows me to add projects, give them a name and start the timer whenever I start working. It’s actually going right now. It’s great because once I finish writing this, I can go back to my last project, start the timer, and it’ll add my previous time with my last time all in hours and minutes. This is kind of revelational for me. THIS IS REAL TIME, friends. It means I can price my work according to its time value (huge) and also, when my obsessive compulsive behaviour starts showing up and I can’t…stop…fussing….the timer says, HEY THERESE, STOP!!
And speaking of time, my book Bullet the New Steam Engine is coming out soon (like guys, the publisher is sending it off to the printers like next week) and I still have some Over by the Harbour books in my closet and since I don’t have a lot of closet space, and Bullet will need some room, I’m doing a nice little get-a-lovely-hardcover-book-with-a-lovely-11×14 inch -reproduction-of-one-of-the-lovely-spreads-that-you-can-frame-and-hang-in-that-empty-spot-on your-wall-that-will-brighten-up-your-lovely-day SALE! You can head on over to Etsy or contact me here!
Ok I’ve got to go, my time is UP. Thank you for taking the time to follow. Happy Family Day, my Canadian friends.
I felt it important to check-in with myself after writing that post about fear. You know, New Year, new resolution and persistant bad habits. Last week I could already feel myself sliding downwards into the black hole of fear and doubt but by being aware of my patterns, I was able to re-direct my thoughts. It IS POSSIBLE! It’s astounding how much effect a change in attittude and perspective has on productivity.
Winslow Homer. When I started working on Keep the Light, the author sent me an image of The Fog Warning so that I could get an idea of the wave structure in a stormy sea. Since then his work has been a constant source of inspiration for this book. Homer’s colour is so astoundingly accurate, it’s startling. The watercolours especially, because they are so full of gesture, are deeply moving because their accuracy puts you there in the moment, feeling empathy for his figures.
What Homer is teaching me, (besides REALLY using my eye for colour) is to be bold and step past the fear. To go deeper in colour and brushstroke to create a real sense of drama so that the viewer really feels for the characters.
I LOVE life drawing. It gets me really excited and engaged and I find the brain work (drawing what you see, not what your brain thinks it knows) really satisfying. So the teacup painting was a challenge in the ever ellusive ellipse. The battle is not letting the brain take the driver’s seat. Ellipses are everywhere, we think we know their shape and there’s the difficulty. They’re like drawing hats, or chairs or bananas. You have to refrain from drawing what you believe them to be. Since I wasn’t interested in setting it on a table, and to satisfy my urge for all things pattern and detail, I traced a William Morris design (upside down), and painted it in a minimal palette. I think what makes it interesting is how your eye merges the teapcup with the pattern and then fights to separate or distinguish the two. This is available as an original watercolour painting in my Etsy shop, or you can contact me directly through my contact page on my website, or via Instagram or Facebook.
I’ve signed up to recieve emails from Marie Forleo. I’d love to take her B School course one day. For now I’m getting lots of helpful tips and inspiration in my inbox to keep me on track. Check her out!
Don’t be mad at me, but I’m a little late in telling you how awesome this planner is because yesterday was your last day to buy it! I had my eye on it for awhile and then I watched a demo video and it did it for me. The cool thing about this business planner is it’s a downloadable PDF which means you can use it year after year. It also gives you the freedom to change or add to your pages as you go along just by printing a fresh sheet. Check out The Dream Job Shop because they offer all kinds of information on running a successful creative business.
I’ve been hearing it ’round the block lately from other artists – it’s the new goal for 2016: letting go of fear.
When I sat in the glare of afternoon sun on white snow January 1st, this is what I thought about. I am SICK of fear. Sometimes my fear is so debilitating that when I pick up a paintbrush, I can physically feel like I’m about to create some catastrophic event. I have to talk myself through it. No, Therese, no one is going to die if the colour of the little girl’s pjamas aren’t as perfect as you intended.
Over the years, this fear of not creating something as beautiful as I had imagined, and fear of creating something while not knowing whether it will turn into a massive failure, has progressed into such a stress that damn it, doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing as a career, is just not fun anymore.
It all went downhill when I started trading my art for money. For me, bringing money into the realm of creating, turns creating on its head. It’s very unforunate for an artist trying to make a living. There are all the fears: fear of not being good enough, fear of not being professional enough, fear of making work below client standards, fear of being an imposter and fear of self-worth i.e. who am I to while away my time in my pjamas messing about in paint while others go out in the world saving lives and feeding their children?
It’s interesting how making art for a living turns into making art for other people, and not making art for yourself. It’s interesting because call me selfish, but isn’t this why I started making art in the first place – because I loved doing it? It’s unfortunate that as an artist, you can’t just make money by creating something. Someone has to buy it in the end. If a nickel dropped clink! into my piggy bank every time I made a something! Then I could just give away the stuff for free! The work that is, and to hell with value.
I’ve taken note, reader, that all these fears are doubts. I’m thinking that the wonderful thing about doubt, is its double-edged sword. Fear your doubt, and it will hinder. Ride your doubt, and your creative process takes off. Because when you are sure, you create what you know, what you’ve already done before. In this case, you’re hindering yourself from creating something imaginative and inventive and exciting! (i.e. your best work). It’s like when that artist becomes successful and thinks that to keep his success, he has to keep creating what made him successful. (note: fear of not knowing how long his success will last i.e. doubt) And then you look at that artisit’s work and cluck, how derrivitive! What a bore!
To sum it all up nicely, this is how I do it now, for now. I put on my books on tape or my CBC podcasts, I wear very comfortable un-restrictive clothing and knitted socks, I drink my piping hot coffee, and I PRETEND. I pretend that all the work I’m doing is for no one else but me. I ignore all the irrational voices in my head wondering if I’m not good enough. I put all catastrophic events aside and I just paint. What happens next is I enjoy the process. I respond to my materials and the way water meets paint and my intuition and I are pals. And when it’s done, I send it out, and let THEM decide.
Sometimes it’s easy at the end of the year to feel like we haven’t acomplished anything we set out to do. So I decided to put a positive spin on things by doing what I do best; making a list. Highlights of 2015 turned out to be not so bad! In one year, I changed jobs so I could spend more time illustrating, I started and finished my second picture book, made my first wedding invitations, made new personal work, had my new work professionally reproduced (finally), took part in several craft shows, made many commissions, took my business seriously by getting Quickbooks (!), started a third picture book contract, quit my day job, and… got engaged! I also got in the habit of writing my goals down and making lots of to-do lists to get me on the way to achieving them.
Here are a few art supplies I acquired over the holidays that I’m really excited about!
A palette for my watercolours big enough to hold them all! And because I like lists, little labels to distinguish them.
These are Japanese KIRIN pencils from my mother in-law whose grandfather passed away recently. He had a box of of 12 of these boxes. I just love the package design.
I organized my pen nibs in this little metal container which held Teavana tea leaves. The mechanical pencil in the front was a gift from my hubby which has a beautiful weight, nevermind it’s gorgeous design. The top metal part comes off and has four prongs on the end which you screw around the lead to sharpen it. Purchased from The Paper Place.
The FW Acrylic Artist’s Ink is in Burnt Umber and I’m using it to outline the picture book I’m working on. It allows for so much more control than India Ink which bleeds too easily. The acrylic ink has a thicker viscosity so I have greater control over a thick or thin line.
OMG, ok, are you ready? This box of pencils were also a gift from hubby. They are the most luxe pencils I have ever seen. On the box: “The Blackwing 602 pencil was favoured by many Oscar, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winners thoughout the 20th century. After they were discontinued, fans began paying as much as $40 per pencil… Now, Blackwing is back for a new generation of artists, writers, musicians, and people who appreciate the craftsmanship of a well-made good.” They are a smooth Japanese graphite. Drooooool. Purchased from The Paper Place.
And, well…eye candy.
Happy New Year, folks. Wishing you lots of meaningful work, deep love, friends and family to carry you along, and the grace to be grateful every day. 🙂
The other day I was telling my mum about how sometimes I really miss the places I’ve lived and I wonder if I’ve made the right choices in leaving them to find something else. And I thought how lucky and grateful that I’m a painter because I can take painting where ever I go, and be preoccupied with it.
Lately I have been feeling really grateful for the work I’ve been doing. Illustrating is so rewarding and intense for me. Any other work and I’m bored to tears. Illustrating is about really looking at the world around you and researching it, creating your own challenges, working to solve them, improving your knowledge of colour and structure, and line. Illustration is always keeping me on my toes every second, and somehow, the challenge is always something new.
I just read an article on Creaive Digest by editorial illustrator Marco Bevilacqua who said this:
“Day-to-day, the most exciting thing is never quite knowing when work will come your way next. It sounds almost sadistic to say, but itâ€™s this that gets you up in the morning to start working, learning and trying to improve yourself on a daily basis. Having to be proactive and making things happen for yourself and consistently challenging your own ideas. Also, having worked in a thoroughly dull 9-5 office job, the diversity of projects and people that you encounter in illustration is super fun and ultimately very rewarding. Iâ€™ve done reportage in The House of Commons, taken a tape measure round the office of MTV London for a wall mural and spent afternoons sampling craft beer in the name of research. Spending days researching, drawing and visually responding to issues, be it in personal or commissioned work, is another empowering and satisfactory day-to-day event that illustration gives.”
Now until July 31st you can get free shipping on everything in my shop because I want to celebrate with you the first print in my latest personal project. I’m awaiting the proof on the 2nd print pictured above and starting to paint a 3rd piece. I hope you love it!
Part of the reason why I like making paintings and looking at paintings is because they are quiet. It’s not just a form of escapism, but it’s a place in the mind where we can go and be our true selves. Either looking at a painting, painting, reading a book, listening to music, meditating, these are vehicles that take us to a residing place where we experience meaning.
Sometimes when I’m in the studio and have an idea, I am residing so much in that idea that when I go to the kitchen to fill up my coffee cup, I am literally tip toeing so as not to disturb it (the idea, not the coffee). It’s a little bit like when you’re dreaming, and you’re half awake, and you’re trying to get back into the dream.
I can only reside in that idea when there is such silence that everything stands still. It is a little bit like another dimension. When you’re making art, you’re always trying to get to that dimension. When you’re residing in it, that’s when your artwork has succeeded.
I think a painting is good when it reflects that meditative state that the artist was in, that third dimension. It’s amazing to me that a moment of a person’s being, can be transferred on to a piece of paper by way of art, and be held there long after we’re gone.
I think this piece is a little bit about all of the above. In my past personal work, I think there is always this theme. I’m interested in this link between imagination spaces and actual interior spaces. When I was researching for my thesis in school, I came across Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space: the classic look at how we experience intimate places.
“…an inquiry focused on the house, its interior places, and its outdoor context, The Poetics of Space resonates deeply, vibrating at the edges of imagination, exploring the recesses of the psyche, the hallways of the mind. In the house, Bachelard discovers a metaphor of humanness.”
“…in poetry and in folktale, in modern psychology and modern ornithology, Bachelard find the bits and pieces of evidence he weaves into his argument that the house is a nest for dreaming, a shelter for imagining…his insistance that people need houses in order to dream, in order to imagine…”