Something Else I Did Last Summer

easels…Well last spring, really.  For a long while I had been looking for a life painting class to take.  I really enjoy life drawing (although it is somehow really hard to find a class that I can fit in to my life in Peterborough).  There is something very special and magical about human skin and the way light is absorbed and reflected in it.  There is also something very special about finding all of the colours in skin and finding ways to mix them up.  So to my pleasure, I found a Haliburton School of the Arts class which was to be held at Fleming College, not far from my home.  The class, which I can’t find now, was taught by Matthew Mancini.  Here he is.  It was a pretty rad class, although it fell on a bad week (actually a week that got something horrible out of my life, but it was a crap process).  Matthew was an excellent teacher, in a style that I would actually like to devote myself to, if nothing else (money, crippling self-doubt…) were in my way.

The first day was spent on a small painting using only black and white paint.  We were supposed to Alla Prima life paintingblock the basic tones and shapes of the figure.  I hate black paint, the particular black I have makes unappealing blue greys which are thick like toffee and seem to need to be chewed too much to get any kind of gradient.  Needless to say I hate what I ended up with and never want to see it again.

On the second day we did a style called Alla Prima, or what I would have called before that day Painting.  This made me much more comfortable.  He wanted us to really only work on the light portion of the figure and add little or no detail to the dark portion.  Although unfinished (which is pretty generally my painting M.O.) and containing some brushstrokes I regret, I enjoy the result I had for that day.  The model was great and I came up with some good skin tones and some nice suggestion (oooh, the mystery…).  I’m not quite sure what happened with that tiny foot, but I really was (and am) out of practice with the life-drawing and the proportion.

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The rest of the week was spent on one large painting done in the abbreviated style of the old masters.  This involved getting a good drawing (with spirits-diluted mid tone brown), blocking the lights and darks, rounding the light shapes (which was a step that I could not get my brain around…I think that this slowed my progress quite a bit), and finally getting in detail using walnut oil diluted paint (thick over lean).  Because I am generally a slow painter, Matthew suggested choosing an area to work on for the detail work.  I generally like to work from the centre out, so I chose the belly.  …and what a belly it was.  Everyone in the class would take a look at it and say “that’s a belly.”  Oh dear.  Never be a life model for me.  The model was very good and kept her post exactly the same for the three days we worked on it (was it 3?).  I wasn’t intending to make such an unflattering belly, but when I start looking deeply I see all types of translucence and reflection…  Anyway, it is a really odd painting.  I left it in Candace’s old room and whenever she would visit, she would turn it around so she didn’t have to see it.  I wish I could have finished the whole painting.  I think that if it were complete, the belly wouldn’t matter so much.

I completely recommend the class and the teacher.  I forgot that this was actually one of the most stressful and draining weeks of my life.  This may have been part of the reason that I created such an unappealing painting. The belly I also recommend never getting involved in litigation…

Side note:  This should have been my post somewhere in between Candace’s Chutney and Basket posts.  I am painting, you’ll be happy.  I’m working on two right now that I’d hoped would have been done before I needed to post, but neither were.  Hopefully my next post will be on time and a new painting.

Whittlin’ Away the Afternoon

Turmeric-stained spoon

Working last summer at Lang Pioneer Village, I was looking for a vaguely time-period appropriate activity to do with my hands when the day slows.  I had had my fill of knitting small washcloths to sell in the gift shop, knit my own pair of socks and wasn’t ready to find an other knitting project.  I had also spent the summer telling people how the first settlers would have had to make everything that they needed and felt that I probably would need something more than a pair of socks and a few washcloths if I were in that situation.  It occurred to me that I could probably make something useful out of wood.  So I talked to the carpenter and he got me started carving a spoon out of wood.

We cut down a big block of wood using a saw and the shave horse and then when my wood was a shape closer to a spoon, I began carving with a knife and later a chisel.  The spoon I created was not exactly useful, having pretty useless proportions, but I felt that I was on my way to making something.

spoon and fork
Spoon and salad tong fork

As I started this year I again got the whittling bug.  Dave, the carpenter has a pretty sweet knife this year and carving seems to be easier.  I started by making a giant useless fork.  It was supposed to be a soup cookin’ spoon, but looked fork-like as I was carving it…  Later I realized that it looked more like a creepy doll arm.  …and so my new project, something equally useless to someone settling ‘new land’ has begun.          2014junecasscam 1242014junecasscam 123I’m working on a creepy doll.  So far I have whittled some simple arms and I’m working on  making legs that match.  The first leg I tried was too blunt and thick, so I’ve started another.  It seems to have a bit more of the same feel as the arms I have.  When i have finished my doll, I’ll post it fer ye. 2014junecasscam 125 2014junecasscam 126

Out of turn post

I’m posting early, because Sammi is working away at her sweater for her next post and I don’t want her to rush too much.  So it is me this week instead of her.

out of place post

Well here is a painting.  I painted it a couple of years ago at John Climenhage‘s studio over the shwarma place.  I was having one of those periods where I felt like I should be painting, but couldn’t think of what to paint (where right now I have lots of ideas as to what to paint, but can’t get myself to paint).  John had a book of photos taken during the Afghan war and suggested I paint something from it.  I felt a little uncomfortable painting from someone else’s photo at the time, but sometimes you (I) need to get over stuff like that when you (I) just need to practice.  There were many beautiful and haunting photos, but this boy/young man really stuck with me.   I can’t remember who the photographer is or the name of the book.

It was fairly experimental, you can see a couple of different styles of painting in it and it is definitely not a finished image (me saying this is significant, ’cause I’m normally happy with things before most would consider them finished).  I wish that I had done a little more work on it at the time, as I can never go back to a painting.  This painting might also benefit from some cropping…

I promise that next month I will post something new.

Fancy Florals

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Yet again, I have not produced anything new to post (sigh), although I have been doing some drawing (yay).  I happen to have some pictures of some an experiment I did based on an Art Nouveau poppies I found, probably somwheres on the internet.  First I basically copied the poppies, which was quite pleasant

Then I got excited and stole some images of flowers from good seed catalogues, stylized them and added some half-assed Art Nouveau-y lines.  I left the backgrounds with the wood texture, which makes all the colour stand out.

Unfortunately, it never occurs to me to sand the wood, so edges come out a little more rough than I’d really like.  Or maybe they would just come out a lot differently if I were to do another.


By the third one things were starting to get a little fairy-tale style, which appeals to me on another level.  I really should work more with these.  I know that there is another, unfinished, of geranium; maybe soon I will finish that.





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Something I did last summer…

It’s a squirrel.

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It’s a squirrel made from a rock!

It used to be a rock (well It didn’t occur to me to take a picture of the rock before I started carving, but you get the idea).

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Tthe squirrel beginning to take shape

How did this happen?

Well, a woman I know that happens to be a busy lawyer (a lovely woman, who I am very grateful for and to) had signed up for a week long class with Zimart.  As she was very busy, she offered me to take over the class for her.  I was able to rearrange my schedule so that I could have 3 days of the week off to be at the class for those days. Since I was only going to be there for a few days.  I searched the rock pile and found a relatively soft one (I believe that it is some type of serpentine) which I thought was in the shape of some type of animal (or I could see a little being inside the rock).  I thought that it was probably a dragon or a sea serpent and I began carving.  As I explained it to the artist in residence for my group, Simon Chidharara (a sweet guy, who is a powerhouse with the carving), it somehow became a rat, then a squirrel.  Knowing that I had little time to work on it, I had to just go with it.  I focused and worked hard, then the squirrel was revealed before the three days were up.  The best part is buffing up you little creation with the power of fire.  I recommend trying the class if you have the money.  As long as you work a little harder than you socialize, you should come away with a piece of art, especially since the artists-in-residence are very skilled and can usually smooth over any mistake you make.

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Simon Chidharara taking off excess squirrel rock
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This is the squirrel before the exciting buffing process
Hey there Squirrelfriend!

Peter the Great and Alexander II

It was my goal to post something brand-spankin’ new this week, but as it goes I haven’t had any time to work on things.  Instead, its time for another oldie but goody.  Plus Candace told me that I have to post these sometime.  Plus it vaguely ties in to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

While taking Russian Imperial History at Trent I developed a Historical Figure Crush on Peter the Great.  Although he was a douche at times, he had all of the magic and machismo of an important Russian historical figure.  Including, most importantly to me, a death surrounded by an unlikely but awesome story: death by gangrenous bladder.

Anyway, as we studied him, I felt the urge to paint a mini-portrait of him so that I could carry it around like an old-school lover.  I just looked it up and it is referred to as Portrait miniature.  Good thing we cleared that up.  One night when I had an evening to myself, I sawed a piece off of an old mandarin orange box and began to paint.  At first I had to fight off the feelings that it was a silly plan and that I could never paint that small.  But then I got into the zone, as they say and the time flew by.  When I looked I had painted this.  It’s a little wonky and unfinished, but I love it, so don’t mess with it.

Peter the Great

After this I wanted to do it again.  The next Russian dude with an awesome death story was Alexander II.  This guy had several attempts on his life and reportedly lectured one of his would-be assassins on how he could have done a better job.  …and then I saw this portrait of him, which my boyfriend would refer to as “Don”  or maybe “Boss don”.  So here is what I painted.

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After this, I attempted to do other minis, which I may post later.  None were quite as awesome as these were.

Anyway I totally recommend the Russian History courses at Trent University, so long as  it is taught by Olga Andriewsky.  


Entomology!Here is my collection of insects.  Years ago I took an entomology class as a part of my Biology degree at TrentU.  The main component of the class was to make a collection of 40 different insects.  I spent the summer before the class collecting (which was fun) and killing (which was horrible) all types of insects.

Our home garden was particularly rich in Hymenoptera (Bees and Wasps, etc.) and beetles, and Sammi helped my find and catch the super-creepy, agressive and impressive Dobsonfly.  Now they are mostly just a cool souvenir, but they also serve as pretty good material for drawing and painting.  I did this painting of one of my large beetles.  I painted it at John Climenhage‘s dark and cold studio above what is now Aryana on George Street, in Peterborough.

Although my brain was screaming for a smaller paintbrush, I actually think that it turned out really well.  I think that it has some of the nicest brush strokes that I have ever made.

Enotomology! - Beetle


Can-Can Dancers


I painted this based on a very far off, very zoomed-in photo of Can-Can dancers in the Operetta “La Veuve Joyeuse” which me and Candace saw at the Palais Garnier.

I was trying to loosen up with details and paint a little more freely.  Unfortunately (or not) I didn’t do anything to prepare my rough piece of wood, so it wasn’t so relaxed as I would have liked.