Arting People

Faces and bodies intimidate me, when it comes to art. So I decided to start simply, with this computerized sketch (featured) made from an old photograph of one of my girls.

I have found with my sketching that adhering to the original is not always necessary, as long as I get the general idea. This is art, after all.

I choose the colours that I want to introduce to the image – pink, blue, and burnt sienna. Wetting the paper, I dab in the colour, then decide to add some green.

I take pictures along the way, so that I can objectively consider the painting and what else it needs. At this point, I usually redo some of the sketch lines, but I don’t feel inclined to do that here. Instead, I think about highlighting areas of the piece by intensifying the colour. I paint the trees in the upper right hand corner, and then opt to do her hat.

Still not satisfied, I decide to sleep on it. In the morning, I realize that it is the snowball that is bothering me. I decide to introduce yellow, emphasizing her hair and the ball.

Now the painting has taken on a metaphorical aspect, telling a story.

To me, it is the light the emanates from this special child.

Self-Portrait and Mountains

Many moons ago, I won an award for my artistic talents and was immediately counselled to drop the art program. That same year, I wrote my first novel, and after it was graded, I burnt it. I wasn’t meant to be creative, I decided, and obediently signed up for advanced math and other academic subjects.

For decades following, I admired the creativity of others and bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. Now that I have put that nonsense behind me, and reconnected with that younger self, I am revelling in exploration.

And, still rolling in the mire of self-doubt.

I am very conscientious of the fact that I have not been a student of art – that I wouldn’t recognize a Gaugin from a Renoir without some prodding. I don’t know the technical terms and when I read artists’ blogs, I am often lost. Does this make me an imposter? I wonder.

Still, I plod along – my work station a permanent corner of our abode (we dine on our laps) – each day daring myself to try something new. Thus the self-portrait.

Mostly, I am focusing on sketching, and liking where the extensive pencil work is taking me. This mountain scene is inspired by the large rock formations of Joshua Tree National Park. Less focused on realism, I find I am more liberal with the watercolours.

Each new venture is a learning.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey. Comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Art Inspires Hope

spire artThere is a painter inside of me busting to get out.  She talks to me, while I am working – makes suggestions, helps me pick the right brush, encourages different strokes.

I like it when she is present.  Listening to her is an act of letting go.  It is a form of trusting.  A growing confidence.

I feel as if I am aligned to a creative force.

The painting classes I signed up for didn’t go.  Not enough participants.  No matter.  Now that I’ve started on this journey, I’m not willing to give up.

So I try harder.

Heading North artMy paints are out most days now.  On the days when the muse is present, I attempt ambitious pieces – works that require hours of concentration, and patience.

When she is absent, I practice techniques inspired by Instagram or YouTube videos.

Clouds still elude me, but my trees are improving.

I am pleased with how my use of colours has progressed.

I love that painting, like writing is always evolving.  So hopeful.


What inspires hope in your life?

mountain scene art



Creativity- Releasing Perfectionism

Having given myself permission to paint with bolder colours and abandon the expectation of replicating the perfection of photographs, I am venturing into more ambitious projects.

Mistakes, I am learning, can be tossed or mended.  The featured image was meant to be a sunset over water, but my mother called just as I was putting paint to paper and the distraction resulted in a less than satisfactory image.  Discouraged I set the work aside, and then decided to turn the water aspect into long grass.

Mountains my art“Would you be interested in a painting from your mother for your birthday?” I asked my son – too polite to say no.

“I’d love a mountain scene,” he offered.  For four years he lived in Calgary, and still hears the call of the slopes.  I googled a photo of the mountains as viewed from his former home and created this piece.  He says he loves it, but I am dissatisfied with the sky – an area I hope to explore more when I take lessons in October.

IMG_2405I have many images sketched and awaiting my attention, and while I try to paint as often as I can, several end up in the trash pile.  That’s okay; I am learning, I keep reminding myself.  This is just the beginning.

Recently, we took a road trip to Ottawa, following back lanes through rural Ontario.  Stopped at a quaint diner, I took a picture of the outside view.  To date, this is my favourite piece and I’ve framed it with grey to accent the window effect.

Now my middle daughter has requested a water scene for her birthday, so my wheels are turning in a different direction.  Likely I’ll do a few practice runs before I attempt the final product.  She is a perfectionist, so pleasing her will be quite a feat.  Actually, I’m okay with my art being relegated to hidden away places.  At least she’ll have something personal from me.


Curiosity is the Mind of a Child

“Grandma, you are just like my mom!”

We are snuggled in against the cold night air, having a sleep over.

“Well, I am your mom’s Mom.”

“Yeah,” she says hugging me tighter, “she’s your kid!”

At five, Sloane likes to explore connections, turning things over, understanding things from different angles.  The next day, she finds a bag of marbles and lines them up by colour, comparing greens to blues.  I suggest she groups them by 10’s, which she enthusiastically does, discovering there are six groups and four left over.  Then I teach her how to count by 10 and her eyes light up with new understanding.

Another granddaughter, now six, is learning to read, patiently sounding out the letter combinations to reveal a new word.  She attacks reading as one would a puzzle, decoding the mystery.  She is also fascinated by nature, particularly bugs, and has no fear of handling even the slimiest of creatures.  Researching information about her findings is a developing skill.

At seventeen months, my third granddaughter is learning to talk.  She wants me to carry her about, pronouncing the word for each object she points to, watching my mouth and attempting to imitate the sound.   She studies the actions of the older girls and tries to repeat what they are doing.

Children are by nature curious.  Their minds are sponges, absorbing information and processing it.  It is easy to see in the young and so delightful.  Spending time with my grandchildren reminds me that although they are each very different, their love of learning is innate, which evokes a question in my educator’s mind:  How do children lose this instinct?

As teachers we are schooled in differentiation:  an appreciation for diverse learning styles; and we are encouraged to apply this knowledge in terms of our delivery and assessment, and yet, children still struggle to learn.  The emphasis for years, has been on promoting self-esteem in our students, by ensuring success for each student, a trend that is proving to be less than successful.

Resilience was the newest buzz word when I left teaching:  educating our children to learn from their mistakes, and develop the character skills necessary for success.

I had the opportunity in my youth to experience a variety of learning environments, from the one-room school-house where I started out, to the open classrooms of the sixties and freestyle learning, to text-book driven learning.  Personally, I struggled with the structure of standard school practices:  I found textbooks boring and unimaginative, detested worksheets, and felt antsy when confined by a desk for too long.

I suppose this is why, as a teacher, I kept switching things up for my students – rearranging desks, offering different approaches to lessons and giving them options for demonstrating learning.  I wanted my students to reconnect with their curiosity.

The five-year-old informed me recently that a winged unicorn is called an Alicorn, a term I had never heard before.  She then went on to recite other ‘fun facts’ that I did not know.

“You never stop learning, Grandma,”  she exclaimed.  “Even my dad is still learning.”

Her dad is a neuroscientist.  I love this attitude.

I am no longer involved in the education system, and my interest now lies with how my granddaughter’s educations will unfold.

I just pray the school system will be able to keep their thirst for knowledge alive.  Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and the children of today have adapted, but is our education system keeping up?

Perhaps too much onus is put on the classroom.  Maybe the answer lies with family.  More likely, a child’s continued enthusiasm results from a combination of both educational programming and home support.

For my part, I will continue to look for opportunities to help the minds of those within my circle of influence thrive.


A Reflection on Need for Reform in Education

Having been absent from the school system for the better part of two years has not fueled a complacency about education; it has given me a lot of time to reflect on my experiences.

As indicated before, my passion in teaching was with special needs student, and I spend many days thinking about one or another teenager and how we might have served their needs more appropriately.

Adolescence is a crucial period in the development of a citizen of the future: which is how I approached my work:  How could I best help prepare this child for the life that awaited him/her?
th-1I came into teaching at a time when building self-esteem was the all important goal, which really translated into:  let’s give children an inflated sense of self, build their reliance on external signals, and teach them to doubt their ability to overcome adversity, giving them a false sense of protection and entitlement moving forward.  Sorry if that is harsh, however; as a parent who raised my children on the principle that I was responsible for helping them finding their wings and ability to fly (i.e., be responsible and accountable), I shuddered frequently over the disservice we did to many students.
thWhile I do not have answers, I do believe that we need to enter into a serious dialogue that addresses current issues.  At the point in which I fell ill, the trend was swaying towards a recognition that resiliency is the best thing we can foster in students, and there was a movement towards looking at ways to change the instructional format and expectations for assessment, in order to define “success” in a way that defined more personal outcome than an assimilist attitude of mass conformity.

Forty years ago, I was invited to participate in a panel composed of educators, parents, and former students of the high school I had attended.  The question they put to their alumni was whether or not we felt that our experience at the secondary level had helped prepare us for life beyond.  The resounding response was “no”.   This was before the age of technology changed the landscape of the post-secondary world.  Success today requires adaptability, versatility, and a willingness to engage in life long learning.  Are these the skills our high school students are pocketing during their high school years?

I know I am ranting into the wind here, but the haunted memory of so many children, who lives touched mine, lingers with me, especially how inadequately their needs were met.

This post is dedicated to all those students who spark was extinguished by bureaucracy, failed initiatives, and a system whose mandates often have more to do with keeping “bums in seats” than actually making a difference.

Ken Robinson’s take (although focused on the U.S. system) speaks much more eloquently about the matter:  (If you haven’t time to watch the whole talk – please skip to the last two minutes – this is the part that brought tears to my eyes.)