Tuesday, September 24, 2013


                                           Find A Quiet Corner                        watercolour

This past year and a bit has had its challenges, and by the time mid summer rolled around when things began to quiet down, all I wanted out of life was some comfort.    ( Peace, quiet, staying home, and good health for myself and my loved ones).  I began to notice that I almost lived in my old, worn, comfy jeans and a choice of three T-shirts.  I have lots of clothes, but they stayed in the closet most of the time this summer.  I craved the soft, reassuring comfort of those old, well worn things.
We went back to our old favourite shows on DVD and watched them, almost on a loop.  The familiar voices, stories, and scenes soothed our evenings when we didn't want to think, we just wanted to chill out for a lovely change.
We spent time with friends who have been there since forever, people we love and trust and want to have in our lives always.   And we spent long, peaceful hours with our animals, just hanging out.  Is there anything more comforting than petting a dog or cat's silky fur?  They will sit with me by the hour in companionable silence while my soul heals
We sipped a lot of hot tea, that most soothing of drinks.  It starts most of my mornings and ends the day after dinner.  Serve it in a bone china cup or mug, take the time to inhale the fragrant steam coming off the tea, and sip slowly to make the world go away for a few minutes.
Let's not forget comfort food.  Everyone has their own special food for stressful times.  One of the family favourites here is Shepherd's Pie, or more correctly, Cottage Pie, because we don't eat lamb.  Hot, bubbling, and delicious, it's a go-to meal when we want to relax.  Perhaps you'd like our recipe.

                                                            COTTAGE PIE

The amounts and times are sort of vague, as this changes nearly every time I make it, but here is the standard recipe:    1)  Brown and drain one pound of extra lean ground beef.  We don't like fat, so we pat the beef                        dry as well.   Boil some potatoes while the beef is browning.
              2) slice some onion (not too much) and cook in with the drained meat.
              3)  Add cooked sliced carrots, and frozen peas, in an amount that seems adequate for  your taste
              4)  Add one tin of creamed corn  and salt to taste.  (I never added salt until it was removed                               from the creamed corn, which tastes a little less appetizing  than wall paper paste without the                         salt. .. .  in my opinion.
             5)  Add some Thyme, a bit of Sage, and some Rosemary to taste.  Mix everything well.
             6)  Mash the potatoes and spread more or less evenly on top of meat and vegetable mixture.                             Smooth out, then "flip" into waves.  Brush some margarine or butter over the hot potatoes and                        sprinkle with paprika.
             7)  Heat at 350 until hot and bubbling. (25 - 30 minutes)  Serve with your favourite sauce - ie.                            ketchup, home made chili sauce, etc.

                This gives us dinner for 4 with the addition of  a salad and crusty bread.
Oh, and be sure to relax and enjoy both the prep and the dining.  This is about Comfort. :)


Tuesday, September 17, 2013


My husband and I love our quiet life in the country.  We both enjoyed the attractions of the social whirl when we were younger, my Sweetie going to sports events and me to the ballet.  He enjoyed venues where he could listen to rock, and I went to the symphony.  I should point out that at  that time,  that we hadn't yet met each other :0  But underneath the fun of going places and seeing things, both of us had a deep seated craving for the quiet of country life.
We moved to the country many years ago and we've never regretted it.  He has loved being able to walk to work in the little village we settled in, and I wanted the time to stay home and paint every day.
 We were warned that the country was beautiful in the summer but bleak and harsh in the winter, but we haven't found it so.  We love all seasons here; the lushness of summer, the glories of spring and fall, and the majesty of winter.

I think we are positively addicted to the big skies, where  we can often see a Splendour of wings overhead,  and there is always time to stop and  listen to the birds, sometimes the rackety gossip of gulls, but more often the chorus of field and garden song birds, each one singing out their joy ..  "Rejoice, we woke up alive this morning!".

I guess the thing we love the most about our quiet life are the evenings, when there is a lovely hush, and with night coming on, we go out and walk in the garden with our shelties to enjoy magic of the gloaming.

                                                Evening Walk                        Watercolour

Where ever you live, I hope you find peace and joy in your daily lives.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Discipline of Art

No, wait, this is not a repeat of  last week's blog.  Last week I wrote about needing discipline to follow a career or serious hobby in art. This week, I'm writing about the need to be disciplined in how and what you do with your medium and your paintings.   I always keep discipline in mind when I'm making decisions about my paintings.

SIMPLICITY   Even in a complex painting, I want to make sure that my subject, my center of interest, stands out from the background.  One way to do this is to keep things simple.  I keep the background to what I need to set the scene and learn to understand how much detail is great texture that adds  richness to the piece, and how much detail produces "Busy".   In this Mountain Guide and Mule painting, "DID SOMEONE SAY COFFEE?",  I focused on making the pair of them the thing that you see and stay with.  There is lots of detail in the man and the mule, so I had to restrain myself with the background.    The background is there  to enhance them, not swamp them.

                                            " Did Someone Say Coffee?"             watercolour

COMPLETION    There are times when I just want to finish a painting, call it done, and offer it for sale.  But that's not a great idea.  Not only would I feel I'd be cheating the buyer, I'd be cheating myself, and at these times, I have to find the discipline to keep going, keep making the colours richer, deeper. Sometimes, I want to splash around colour, just because I'm caught up with the magic of  the image and I want to keep adding something new.  But I try to  restrict myself to only those few colours that are going to make the painting "speak", and to keep adding the appropriate colors until the painting truly is finished, not set aside because I'm tired of it.

                                         'MOONSHADOW'                                   watercolour
COMPLEXITY    Even when a painting is very complex, I need a sense of order to make it flow.  I need the discipline to create a pattern that leads the eye, makes sense, and is interesting and clear to the viewer.  Even in a very complex, detailed painting, the eye needs a place to rest if you want people to enjoy looking at your painting for the long haul.

In ALL THINGS BRIGHT & BEAUTIFUL, (watercolour) I was very careful that one image led into another, that there were little surprises to discover, and that there was some clear space to rest the eye now and then.  It took a long time to choose the animals for this one, and to put them together so they made some sort of sense.  It was hard work, but great fun!

In 'PATCHES OF SPRING',  (watercolour) there is actually a lot going on, so I kept everything simple.  The trees, the patches of snow and grass, the old leaves, the clouds, the "patches" on the horses, and the grouping of the horses themselves could produce eyestrain if not carefully handled, so I thought about every step, and only used about half of what I could have.  I think the result is fresh, exciting, and yet has a sense of calm, much like a lovely day in early Spring.

So all the while I'm being Creative, expressing myself, and letting the artist in me flow, I am also conscious of the need for discipline in what I'm doing.  It's kind of like riding two different minded horses at once. Are we having fun yet? :0

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Art As A Discipline

A few days ago, one of my favorite Face Book people asked the burning question - is there a role for discipline in  today's world.  (I'm paraphrasing this a bit).
 My answer is a resounding YES!  If I didn't have discipline, I would never have made it through Art School.  Working all day and then going to school two or three nights a week, followed by art assignments the other nights and weekends is not for someone who can't force themselves to have good work habits.  And it's not easy.  There is always something much more enticing to do than buckle down and get the work done.
When we were nearing the end of the courses, one of my teachers told us that although we all were there to learn how to draw and paint . . . how to be artists, only a very small handful of the group would actually follow through and make art a career.  He told us that some of us would get discouraged with the near constant rejection . . .boy, he got THAT right!  But like other artists, I learned to live with it and celebrate the successes.   He said that many of us would start off fine, but would find ourselves getting bored or lonely with the solitary life, the hard work with no certain financial reward when the painting was finished, and we would gradually drift into seeking out fellow artists who were beginning to feel the same way and end up in cafes  sipping coffee and talking about art instead of sitting by ourselves day after day, putting paint on paper/canvas, and getting on with our art career.  He said that a very few of us would take that lonely, discouraging path and actually become artists.  The thing that would make the difference was, you guessed it,  DISCIPLINE.
 If I don't do the work, I won't have anything to sell, I won't have anything ready when Opportunity comes knocking at my door, (as it often does) and my art will never get any better nor will my career move forward if I don't have the discipline to establish and keep good work habits.  I have to work nearly every day, even if I don't feel "inspired".  Trust me, NOTHING is more intimidating, more likely to kill inspiration, than that big, blank sheet of white paper sitting on the art table in front of me! Even after all this time, it takes discipline to keep going on a large painting, or on one that is very complicated.  The color pattern on this Australian Shepherd nearly caused my eyes to cross, but I wanted to do it and do it well.

                                          Australian Shepherd                          watercolor

Besides painting, I need to have the discipline to market my work, to return calls/emails from potential clients, be cheerful and polite even when I want to say something quite nasty to a rude comment, I need to keep excellent financial records and a record/diary of my completed work.
Sometimes the size and complexity of a painting is nearly enough to swamp me.  "I'll Do Hay..." is 20 x 27, nearly the full size of a big sheet of watercolor paper, and there were many times I nearly threw the brush in on this one.  I thought it would never be done!  But I'm glad I stuck it out and finished it.  It never would have happened without the discipline of good work habits.

                                    I'll Do Hay, You Start Coffee                           watercolor

The bottom line I think, is that if you want something badly enough, you have to be willing to have the discipline to work for it.