Category Archives: art

doing our bit for the local economy

My town held its annual studio tour over the weekend. I pace myself on how often I go because, well, I just can’t help myself. I love local art. I think there’s a recurring theme for me about supporting the community you live in whether it’s food, clothes, books or shoes.

I wanted to buy a lot more than the 3 (smallish) pieces I bought this weekend. I’m at the point where I need another addition for more wall space…or start lending out my art to make room for new pieces. I even had a fleeting thought about…wouldn’t it be a great job to buy big art for big public spaces…I would be in heaven.

As I talked to the artists about their technique and what inspired them, I thought about how much courage it must take to put yourself out there — carefully placing your pieces around your studio space, and watching an endless stream of people wander through gazing up and down…or right past…your heart and soul.

So it made me endlessly happy to pick up these three pieces to add to my collection…grateful to the artists who adorn my walls and make me smile.

Read more about Tiffany Horrocks who painted the barn, and Helen Hoy who created the other two new additions to my collection.



friday favourite – art on the street

On our recent visit to Guelph, ON for Canadian Thanksgiving, we walked by this art-on-the-street installment, called Street Projects. Part of the Open Field Collective, their mandate is to bring contemporary art into outdoor spaces where art and community can interact.  What a great idea! It’s our friday favourite.



the second cup

I don’t know if this holds true for the tea drinkers in the audience…but the first coffee of the day is like none other. The aroma is more intoxicating, the taste is indescribable and the ritual is, well, perfection.

But then there is the second cup. And on a weekend, for me, that is sometimes a homemade latte. And it comes awfully close to the perfectness of cup number one. It’s a ritual. It’s lighter. And there is no rush to get the caffeine in my veins and working.

Here’s what the process looks like – which is almost as important as the first sip.

  1. Brew a strong cup of java. I have lots of options for this – my newest is the Aeropress. I love that you can so easily alter the strength of the coffee. And it’s a fun gizmo.
  2. Gently warm up milk and get it ready for the French-press “low tech” style frother.
  3. Coffee, meet your frothed milk.
  4. Top with powdered maple sugar.


new ways to letter

We both might just be a little bit hooked on online sketchbook courses. We just started a 30-day class that focuses more on making cool lettering to go with our sketches.

I think we both have pretty interesting handwriting, but this course by Andrea Joseph is giving us a ton of new ways to play with how our letters and writing appears, and ultimately adds to our sketchbooks.

After week one of four, here’s some of what we’ve practiced so far.



patterns worth repeating

There is something so appealing about patterns. Repeating ones in particular. It doesn’t even really matter what the subject is. Tiles on a floor. Flower pots in a row. Mugs lined up on the shelf. Bricks on the garden path. Jars of just made jam on the counter.

Some patterns help us organize and order things. I am glad somebody came up with standard ways to file and arrange projects or clients in a system that can be easily shared – by name, by year or some other clearly identifiable category. To my brain, it is logical and takes the guesswork out of coming up with a new system every time you have something to store and save.

But creative patterns are something else. The order of these patterns taps into something much less orderly — creativity. Odd numbers of patterns are even more interesting. That’s why there are five pots of lavender on my deck, and not four. And three evergreens growing in the corner of my backyard instead of two.


I am not going to spend any time wondering or worrying that this love of patterns is some latent need for more order in my life. I’m going to go with the creativity that patterns unleash when my eye is behind the camera or my sketching pen is in hand.

And if you are looking for beautiful little books, full of delicious watercolours that include many repeating patterns, check out Sara Midda’s work.


friday favourite – online art classes

We are on our fourth online sketching class. And it’s definitely a new favourite. We’ve taken two through Sketchbook Skool. One with Jane LaFazio. And the latest with Sketchbook Skool teacher Koosje Koene.

It’s called Just Draw it. After three courses where we just jumped right in to sketching – with no real aptitude or skill – this class is about learning the basics.

If you have any interesting in drawing, sketching and buying cool watercolour sets, check out these online art classes!


creating space

I spent about 15 years planning an addition on my house. When I finally sat down with a designer to imagine how I would work in the space, I needed to come up with my list of must haves. Lots of sunlight and a desk-in-kitchen space were high on the list. I was inspired by the work of this company using reclaimed barn boards.

Last week, my kitchen desk was installed and I now have the perfect creative space to work. The desk is an old pine board from a friend’s barn, sanded and stained just right by our brother.

My sketchbooks and pens are finding their place. And the dog has found a spot close to my feet. I didn’t realize how inspiring the right space could be!




borrowing beauty

I’ve worked in advertising and marketing for a long time…and you learn that there are very few truly new ideas. A different spin. A different angle. Some little thing to make it a new”er” idea. And since imitation is a great form of flattery, we were thinking about the beautiful ideas we borrow to find inspiration – for pottery designs, dinner and for our sketchbooks.

Wine labels are a great source of sketching ideas. Last summer I found an Australian white Summer Shack that had a playful, relaxed label with a line up of beach houses. Kind of the way they want you to feel after a glass or two:-). We turned those houses into sketching subjects, and notecards.

summer shack

Here are some recently spotted labels that we’ll be lining up to draw.

What inspires you?


what a word

It’s January, there’s still time. Not for resolutions. Something much simpler.

Have you thought of a word for your year? A touchstone. Something to remind yourself about what you want from the year, from yourself, something you want to share with your family. An outlook.

It is easier to come up with one word than a list of 10 things. But I think it takes the same effort to practice your word every day.

Here are a few of the words we know are on people’s mind, cork board, day book, journal and sketchbook. (We are practicing handwriting as part of a new Sketchbook Skool online course called Expressing to present these year word ideas.)

Do you have a word for the year?


colour me calm

Adult colouring books were hot items on this past holiday season gotta have gift list.

coloured pencils 2

I have seen the computer-generated flowers and intricate designs that are supposed to be as good for you as yoga. They don’t really do it for me – kind of sterile and predictable.

But it was the one my brother got at Christmas that just might have got the meditative colouring hook in me.

Fantastic Cities is a beautifully sketched book of cities all around the world by Ontario artist Steve McDonald . I watched my brother go zen-like with his row of perfectly sharpened pencils as he filled in architectural details of rooftops in Germany and windowsills in Manhattan. He even humoured me, taking a break and letting me have a go when his fingers got tired.

At first, colouring within the lines felt like cheating or regressing from the sketching I’ve been doing over the last year or two where I actually have to draw and paint the images I create. But there I was, happily lost in the repetitive motion. As I held my nose to the page to differentiate fine details in the sketch, I realized I was also learning more about the art of sketching. The proportions, the angles and the layering.

I’ve started a sketch-a-day “challenge” for myself in 2016. And now, I’m waiting for Amazon to deliver my new set of pencils and my very own copy of Fantastic Cities.

Between colouring, sketching and weekly yoga, the mellowness may be overwhelming.