Announcing a new drawing challenge: The Key

Hi everybody,

I’d like to call a new drawing challenge: THE KEY

I was looking thru some old work the other day, and came across a book I wrote and illustrated which I called “The Uncomplicated Life of Joan Wood”

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This is a collaged book of drawings, ephemera, poetry and music (which one imagines would play in the background of each segment of Joan’s life.)

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But the key to this book are 9 letters, which I found in a box of letters at a flea market. There is one letter written by a nine yr old Joan from holidays at the sea to her aunt and uncle. The rest of the letters are written to Joan, by a headmaster of a school, by Joan’s friends, by suitors, and by a fiance. Slowly, using these letters as the key, I reconstructed Joan’s remarkable and somewhat heartbreaking life, and, as the letters stopped, I made up the rest.

It’s a slow book…that is…you have to read it slowly and methodically. Pull each letter from the envelope, read the content, read the poetry, look at the images, imagine the songs playing in the background, take it page by page. It’s the key to a good, lazy Sunday morning in bed.

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Tell us. Do you have a key? Is there something key to your art? Did you…like me…spend an hour searching for your keys (cabin) only to find them right in the place you decided to keep years ago so you wouldn’t search for them every time (yeah, what are we like?)

Say yes, and unlock a lovely bit of art, writing, photography…anything for us. :D

As usual, my post will come up on Friday, I’ll link everyone in, and we’ll go have a visit over the weekend. :D

Pollinators, Tammie’s drawing challenge

I was really excited when I got Tammie’s email saying she’s called a drawing challenge. And, how perfect for spring! :D Thank you so much sweetie, I love the DCs.

It’s been a while since I mucked about with my oils, and, since the tulips are blooming in the garden, I decided to paint one.


But the tulips blooming right now are early, single hybrids, and my favourite, and the most fun to paint, are parrot tulips…you know, the ones with the frilly, multicoloured petals which twist and turn in impossible ways. And, since my parrots are still in tight bud, I got out my photos of last year’s garden parrots and used those as reference.

Painting with oils, at least the way I do it, takes a couple/three/four days per painting, (there’s sort of a fine line of drying time that you get to know when you paint with oils for a while), because the oils end up being too wet and slippery after the first layer, and need a day or two to dry a little so a second layer blends in without taking off the first layer or blending everything into mud.

So I chose a canvas, and painted a first layer of oils on Tuesday.

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And then Wednesday, my painting was still too wet and so I painted a second canvas…oh yes!

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Yesterday and today I overpainted a second layer, blended it into both the paintings and refined them to where I like them.

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And there we are, two parrot tulips in full open glory, spreading out their stamens and black pollen, inviting all the pollinators in. (They look rather tarty up there with Frida, don’t they? Like wild girls in flamenco skirts…the big flirts)

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Come fly over to Tammie’s for some more lovely pollen action. :D

Birthday cake, Katrin’s drawing challenge, and a little tutorial

I have three children and they were all born as very special presents to me. Jonathan, my oldest, was born in July, and I took him home from the hospital on my birthday. Kerstin, my middle child, is a February baby, and I took her home on Valentine’s Day, Chloe, my baby, was born on Easter Sunday. All three had their favourite birthday cake which I always handmade for them. For Jonathan it was usually tiramisu, for Kerstie, it was fruit flan, and Clover wanted black forest cake.

But it’s still February, so we will focus on Kerstie’s birthday and and I’ll tell you what I used to always do for her.

Kerstie’s favourite flowers are violets; so much so that she named her middle child Isla Violet, and, here in the West Coast, they come up around her birthday. As a special treat, and if spring was threatening to be late, I used to cover and force a few buds, pick them, and candy them to add them to her birthday cake.

You all know that loads of flowers are edible, don’t you? And you all know how dead easy it is to do this, don’t you? Of course you do, you’re flower savvy like that. :D

So it’s been years since my girl has been home for her birthday…she’s the mom of my three precious granddaughters and rather busy these days, but because it’s February, and because it’s tradition, I decided to candy some violets anyway for the next time I see the gang.

So here we go, this is all you have to do: Grab some violets from the garden. Equally easy to do this with violas, pansies, rose petals, borage, calendula…the list goes on. Grab a very fresh egg, and some super fine sugar. Grab a small paintbrush and your manicure scissors.

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You only use the egg white, but what’s the point of separating the egg for the infinitesimally tiny amount you use? And, besides which, you’re going to scramble that delicious egg for breakfast tomorrow anyway, aren’t you?
Just get your brush and brush a bit of the egg white on the flower. It doesn’t have to be all Martha complicated….sheesh!

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Now sprinkle some super fine sugar on it. Don’t have/can’t be bothered with super fine sugar? No problem, use ordinary sugar, just not icing sugar or you’ll obliterate the violet.

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Now put it on a dry plate and snip off the stalk.

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It takes almost no time at all, since we’re all a crafty and clever bunch, to get a whole plate full of sugared violets.

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Now they just need to go in the cupboard overnight to dry. Then they can go into an airtight container where they’ll keep for a while. Not sure how long because they just never last round here. They look and taste so great on everything from ice cream to creme brulee.

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But wait! This is a drawing challenge. :D

I’ve been dying to do some more lino cutting. I’m not that good at it, and the more I practice, the better it gets, so, in honour of Kers’ birthday, violets it was and a hand made birthday card to go with the cake.

I drew some little violets on a piece of transparent paper, copied them to the back of the paper, and traced them onto a piece of lino. The pencil mark really transfers easily.

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Then came the hours of cutting and decision of crossed lines and how to handle the edges…etc.

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Then the exciting part: the first inking and pressing to see what I got!!! :D

I’m always so anxious and excited to do this. Like a kid in a candy store!

Aaannd…there it is: mistakes a plenty. (shrug)

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But, after all, this is a handmade birthday card, so out came the inks, my funky plastic tray, requisitioned for an ink mixing surface, and my small roller.

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Please bear in mind that I have very little idea of what I’m doing…and I should really go and bug our Patrice for some advice…either that or learn reduction lino cutting…but I have a very limited amount of patience…and inks, and so I decided to mix a few inks and go for a sort of green.

Then I decided to wipe off the green from the violet blossoms.

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Now what? I don’t have a super small roller, can’t be bothered with figuring out how to make a mask, so I dragged a firm oil brush into some purple ink and applied it to the blossoms.

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AND: Voila!

One ink mess on the tray, one bespoke violet birthday card.


Come help blow the candles out on Katrin’s cake and wish her a happy birthday and then stop by the gang and share a slice!

Happy birthday dearest, thank you for a fun and wonderful challenge. May this next year bring you happiness and joy. :D

Vein, a drawing challenge

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Inside I have weak veins. The thin, blue lines lie shallow under my skin. Each time someone needs to draw some blood I become the human pincushion as one vein after another collapses under the pressure. It’s OK, I’m used to it. I breathe deeply and focus on the moment when it’s all over. It takes ages!

Inside I have strong veins. The rich, crimson of my creativity runs heavy and deep. Each time I pick up the camera, a pencil, my brushes, these veins take over, command my hands and stay strong under pressure. I’m hardly aware that I’m breathing, Time stands still.


Come follow this beautiful vein of creativity to: Ariane, Lisa, Tammie, Renilde, Nadine, Katrin, EricKim, Marian, Roberto, Sharmon, Sabine, and maybe Patrice and Annton.

And Katrin is our host for next weekend, Feb 28th, March 1st with Birthday Cake!

Art: Mixed media painting, collaged paper, acrylics, oils, inks, a few vintage postage stamps

Aqua, my Drawing Challenge

There’s legend about an island somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Sailors refer to it as Sham Center and all maps say it is to be avoided, for anyone who comes near risks life and limb. Because, you see, this island is the home to a strange civilization which no one can get close to. Some say it’s paradise on Earth, others say it’s a prison. All that is known about it comes form a few aerial photographs which are usually obscured by a creature so fierce, so territorial, that usually only one partial photograph manages to be transferred remotely before the camera drone is forced down into the depth of the ocean and is lost forever.

This creature is the dreaded Aqua Sham.

No ordinary sparrow, this distant cousin of the common rosy house finch has evolved to live in and around the coast line of Sham Island. Some believe it needs the tropical waters to breed and incubate its eggs, some believe it is a water bird only coming to the air in a massive murmuration when the island is approached by someone or something foreign. Whatever the truth may be, be warned, if you approach the island, it may be the last thing you ever do.
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Joining in with their most Aquanocity:
Tammie, Roberto, Ariane, Marian, Carole, Katrin, Eric, Nadine, Annton, Rebecca, Barbara, Susan, Lara, Melodye, Stefanie, Emily, Linda, Sharmon, KimLucia, Lissa, and maybe Patrice

And remember, there’s still time to get in on my giveaway. Draw this Sunday. :D

Art: Collaged map from pieces of a pretty much destroyed ordnance survey map of Lancashire, tissue paper, inks, different blue acrylics.
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Invitation to Drawing Challenge # 158 : Aqua


Hi everyone,

A good friend, Kathryn, sent me some beautiful beach glass to do something wonderful with. Thank you so much sweetie. The first thing I thought to do was call a new drawing challenge. So how about Aqua! Can you imagine the wonderful possibilities?

I know it’s Tuesday already, but I hope the challenge is broad enough that quick options might present themselves. So, all you DC loves and anyone else who can pick up a camera, pencil, paint or even gather a bunch of blue hyacinths, everyone come join in!

Leave me a comment telling me you’re in, and I’ll link to everyone’s web sites, FB pages, anywhere else I can link to next Friday the (gulp) 13th and we can visit on the weekend. :D

And, don’t forget, there’s a little giveaway happening this Sunday here, for the most charming memoir gardening book in the world. :D

Quick addendum: Thru my FB invitation we have: Annon, Becca, Linda, Ariane, Barbara, Susan, Carole, Sonja, and Lara joining as well. It’s going to be a fun one! I’ll keep adding. :D Even more: Melodye, Emily, Amanda and maybe Patrice, plus everyone who left a comment.

Gala, Katrin’s drawing challenge

Oh what fun! Just in time to get ready for the Oscars…no?

I have to show you what I did as a little girl. Well, I got my first barbie at age 9. I remember we had just left everything behind us in the Czech Republic, and, as political refugees, immigrated to Austria where my aunt Vera was living at the time. My aunt Vera gave me a barbie doll when we got there. I thought she was the most beautiful doll in the world.
So what does every little girl do with a barbie doll? Take her clothes off and dress her in something else of course.
Problem was: money was extremely tight,barbie was not going to have a wardrobe.
Solution was: grandmother’s scarves!
I used to wrap the barbie in my grandmother’s, aunt’s, mom’s silk scarves, fasten the gown with a straight pin, and my barbie would saunter off into my barbie stories, happily ever after.
Here is one of Binky, Bunny, and Ziggy’s barbies in a vintage Hermes scarf. (Nothing is too good for barbie)

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The absolute truth is, we love us a good dress up! Oh yes we do! Years ago, my father gave me his old Dr’s bag, and it houses my collection of sparkly shinies, so we’re always ready.


But wait, this is a drawing challenge.

So I decided to do something I’ve always done for myself, for my daughters when they were little, and now will do for my granddaughters. Make beautiful paper dolls for them to dress up.

My girls really only got straight dolls, but Binky, Bunny and Ziggy are going to get fully movable and posable dolls like this one. Then they can learn to trace around the body and make beautiful gowns for wonderful gala evening.

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So just look! This snow white princess is joining flapper girl and mermaid, and Nick Bantock’s Man Descending thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. :D

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But, what I wish I could do, what I really wanted to show you, is this dress I’m wearing. It’s about a million years old and hand sewn by one …I can’t remember…women family members (mom, two aunts or grandma). And worn by my mother to a gala evening. Do you see the design? My aunt Vera painted it!

Oh yes she did. Isn’t it the most fabulous thing in the world? She painted it with her oils, just like she painted a little childhood dress of mine (that one with sunflowers and a little caterpillar). My aunt Vera was the most amazing artist. I think I told you before…and I don’t care, I’ll tell you again…I used to bug her and bug her to be allowed to paint with her oils. I still remember the day she stopped painting and gave me her oils and her brushes. I’m still using them. She was my true inspiration and reason why I paint.


Well there we go. Are we all ready for our next gala evening? For us round here it’ll be the Oscars. Maybe we’ll dress up.

Speaking of dressing up, pop round to Katrin’s and see all the rest of the glamour and glitz! :D

The Unexpected, Joke’s drawing challenge

Oh the possibilities!!! When Joke first proposed this brilliant theme for our drawing challenge I just had so many ideas that I didn’t know where to turn first. Can you imagine the art which can come from THE UNEXPECTED? Oh I can, and I think I love it!

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So, here in Rain City, we got a bit of unexpected sunshine. It came streaming into the bedroom this morning and lit up my butterflies and made sparkly prism stars thru my collection of hat pins on the little window ledge in my closet.

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And as I sat there glorying in the sun and having my tea, I thought of all the new beginnings this year. I thought about all the art I made last year, and all the new art to come. and I planned and sipped my tea. And then I had a second cup…

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…and then it hit me. A new New Year is almost upon us. A Chinese Lunar year completely chock-a-block with the unexpected. New surprises, new challenges and new happiness to look forward to. Last year, the year of the horse, I painted myself those three horses symbolising so much to me. And this year is the year of the green, wood sheep.

Green wood sheep…hmm…that to me sounded like a bighorn sheep, running wild and free thru the forests and mountains, not a penned up lamb on a farm. A big majestic bighorn.

And so I picked up my oils, chose a piece of driftwood…which, to me, symbolises my Pacific West Coast, and I painted that bad boy right there on it.

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And there we have it. The unexpected…bring it on. :D

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And when the Lunar New Year dawns on February 4th, I’ll be ready. :D

Thank you so much Joke. Can’t wait to see everyone’s unexpected works. You all know by now that you can pop by Joke’s this weekend to visit everyone, don’t you? Sure you do. :D You’re drawing challenge savvy like that. ;)

Toast, my drawing challenge

Welcome to my drawing challenge with Toast.

I’m so very happy that so many people could come toast something this week.

We artists, writers, friends and strangers are: Katrin, Barbara, Marian, Kristen, Roberto, Renee, Nadine, Patrice, Lucia, Anneke, Eric, Joke, Linda, Sabine, Tammie, Mano, Stefanie, Carole, Renilde, Susan, Kelly, Dawn, Becca, Jennifer, Melodye, and Catherine and Dot 

I hope everyone can manage to swing by the blogs, FB pages etc. Such wonderful people as we are should really all know each other.

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When I was five years old my father put his cup of coffee down on the breakfast table, reached into his pocket and handed me a small test tube full of fossilised sea shells. I shook it like a rattle.
“Gently”, he said, “these have been dead a long time. Little things, little things are fragile.” He said.
“Remember”, he said, “time kills everything”, he said, “time kills everything.”
Those were the last words I remember him saying.
From time to time, I spill the seashells into my palm and count them. There are 146 sea shells in that test tube spiralling perfectly in simple geometry, according to the golden mean, by the law of nature.
I tip them from one hand to the other listening to them click against each other. They leave traces of prehistoric sand in my palms.
I close my eyes and I see the test tube on the breakfast table, I see my father’s tired eyes. I hear him speak.
Time kills everything, he said that day at the breakfast table while I sat beside him holding the test tube in my hand.
And the dead world inside the test tube remains exactly as before.
And he said nothing more and looked at the sky through the open window. On the table, an uneaten slice of toast, a half empty bowl of cereal, a cold cup of coffee, crumbs.

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A little story, half fiction, half real

A little collage half fiction, half real: a page made from various bits of pages, on an old ledger, directions for a swift chess win (not quite fool’s mate), a bit of music, a bit of a toast recipe, charcoal, a stamp, gold crumbs.

The page and the little story were inspired by this little test tube of prehistoric sea shells. It used to belong to my birth father and he gave it to me when I was very little. It’s about the only thing I remember of him.

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Drawing challenge 155 “Toast”

Hey all my friends!

I’d like to invite you all to the 155th drawing challenge around the word “Toast”. :D

Take a photo, do a sketch, write an ode to your breakfast or just grab a glass of bubbly. Join me this coming weekend for our informal link-up of sorts where you leave me a comment this week saying you’d like to join in and then write a post for next weekend showing us your toast and I write a post for Saturday January 17th including everyone’s website, FB page or some other links to see your toasts. Then, we all have a laugh and visit each other.

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Everyone welcome to join our silly, organic and lighthearted challenges.

Big hugs. :D