Today is the Autumnal Equinox–officially the first day of Fall (or Autumn). In honor of the changing season, I give you an ode celebrating one of Fall’s most popular gifts, the handsome and versatile pumpkin.
You kept the new world’s hungry pioneers and pilgrims alive with your soft sweet flesh and nutty seeds, their feet warm with your rind woven into mats, their parties and celebrations fueled by your beer.
But I am not stuck in the past for you, orange gourd of October, are still the icon of autumn visiting our fall menus with spicy milkshakes fragrant muffins, scones, and pies infusing grainy loaves with gold burnishing soups and stews, ever the magnet of the latté lineup.
We see ourselves in your well-formed circle and with cold sharp blades carve for you vacant eyes, a triangle nose, a toothy grin then plant within the fire of life for one secret night only to find your precious meat shattered, your pulp a slurry on a November sidewalk.
Thank you, large melon for your stubby steadfastness through famine to plenty, your generosity from yellow blossom to creamy flesh, your patience with us as we bake and boil microwave and sauté carve and create you and your orange generation, most tasty and handsome denizens of the market’s harvest bin and the farmer’s freckled patch.
Are you a victim of impulse buying? The stores that hold the greatest temptation for me to buy on a whim are stationery / office supply stores (like Staples), craft stores (like Michaels), and art supply outlets (like our local Opus store).
Often I regret these on-the-spot decisions but occasionally I don’t. That turned out to be the case when, on browsing the offering of art books at Opus, I ran across Thy Doan Graves’ book Hand Lettering – Creative Alphabets for Any Occasion. It captured me when I first leafed through it as not only beautiful but probably useful and imagination sparking. I bought it and now, almost four years later, I still lose myself in its pages.
The book begins with a section titled “Tools, Materials and Techniques.” This section includes an analysis of the parts of a letter, information on spacing and composition, letter embellishment, and many stunning examples.
A “Directory of Alphabets,” made up of 50 different alphabet lettering styles, follows. From simple to ornate, traditional to modern, serif or sans serif—you’ll find some of every type here. Opposite alphabets with only an upper case design are lined pages titled “Your Turn,” inviting you to design alphabet styles of your own.
Especially fun are the contributing artist-designed graphic alphabets—inspired by space, automobiles, buildings, flowers, animals, food, monsters, and fantasy creatures.
Since I bought it in 2017 I’ve used this book a lot—marked my favorite styles with paper clips and browsed its contents for lettering ideas, designs, and embellishments useful in card-making, art journaling, and designing art that contains lettering. I would say that giving in to the impulse to buy this book was a wonderful capitulation. If you’re into hand-lettering, I’m sure you’d love it too
Art for Kids – Drawing by Kathryn Temple, for example, explains the basics of drawing and shading with pencil really well and has excellent sections on perspective, human body structure, drawing faces, and gestures.
Another favourite I purchased a few months ago is The Drawing Book for Kids—365 Daily Things to Draw by Woo! Junior Kids Activities. This helpful book truly has drawing instructions for 365 everyday and not-so-everyday objects. These instructions are simple drawings with a line or two added to each step. Follow along and before you know it you’ve drawn a salamander, a cupcake, a dinosaur, a hot air balloon, or a turkey.
One thing missing in my Kindle edition of the book, though, is a table of contents. There really is no way to know what’s in the book without paging through it. I did that and made my own list of items and the pages on which they’re found so that I can use the book as a reference.
These books would be excellent for kids who love to draw and also for big kids, who want a little refresher on the basics or could use some help drawing simple objects.
Happy September! I’ve kept my promise and given my blog a summer break. Now summer is all but over—hard to believe but that’s what the calendar and the shrinking hours of daylight say—and it’s back to more regular posts here. I’ll try for weekly.
Though the summer was a quiet one due to continuing Covid restrictions, it did have a couple of highlights.
– Early August: Hubby and I took our annual road trip to visit family. Driving to Kelowna and from there to Dawson Creek, we went through many smoky patches, raising our awareness of the many wildfires raging in B.C.’s interior. Fortunately, we experienced smooth driving both coming and going (with fewer RVs on the road than ever). Of course we heaved sighs of relief to be home when we heard of the Pine Pass closure (a stretch of Highway 97 between MacKenzie and Chetwynd) the day after we arrived home, due to a new wildfire in that area.
On the home front we’ve been behaving ourselves, going for daily walks, eating our veggies, with only a Sunday night ice-cream binge to excite the bathroom scales. With the vaccines available, things are opening up a bit (or they were before the fourth wave of Covid hit). It’s wonderful to be back in church in person!
Summer reading included:
Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner, a lovely but slow-moving story.
“Starving” to Successful by Jason Horejs about artists and the art gallery business—very informative, practical, & helpful.
Poldark (the first book in the series by Winston Graham, on which the TV series Poldark is based—a very sticky read… could hardly put it down.
I’ve kept my Etsy shop open throughout most of the summer and stocked with new cards. Believe it or not, I’m now working on Christmas!
Throughout the summer I have also added to my series of wild berry paintings. I started out with a painting of blackberries last summer. Since then I’ve created a few more. Here are some. All are for sale (unframed), except for the “Blackberry Time.” Email me if you’re interested.
So, now it’s welcome Fall! I’m expecting the autumn will hold more of the same for me. I hope your summer was safe and healthy. Any exciting projects in the works for you?
Here, on the west coast of Canada, we’re experiencing a heat wave. At 3:15 p.m. Monday (June 28) I took a photo of the thermometer in the shade at our front door. I read it at 43C which converts to 109.4F. That felt blistering hot for us! And because we don’t have air conditioning everything stayed warm long past the peak of the heat …surfaces, doorknobs, I felt like I was sleeping on an electrically warmed sheet and pillow.
I was reminded of the poem I wrote some years ago and included in my book Family Reunion (2007).
Yesterday’s fever broke in the evening This morning cool soothing air bathes face arms legs the neighborhood refreshed as if it slept deep and exhausted after sickness
But sun’s warm hand upon my back warns temperature is rising and burning heat will soon again blister the brown grass make bright-eyed impatiens and roadside chicory droop in the dazzling delirium
We will lie in darkened rooms splayed under whirring fans flushed fighting off sweats ice-tinkling drinks within arm’s reach till evening when the fever breaks again.
Thankfully the temperatures have moderated since then. But such a weather stretch drives home our vulnerability. We humans have only a small temperature range in which we can comfortably exist. I am in awe of the complexity of creation which God has fine-tuned for plant, animal, and human flourishing!
Tomorrow, July 1st and Canada Day, always feels like the official beginning of summer to me (a holdover from years of school rhythms, I guess). I’ll be taking a break from weekly blogging during July and August. I may post occasionally but not on any schedule. I hope to be back to a weekly post in September.
Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day and a happy, safe, and healthy summer!
In the Snowflake Method, Ingermanson starts writers off by planning from their main concept to ever more detailed aspects of the book. The genius of his method is that you assemble the bones (setting and characters) and construction plan (plot) in its entirety before you ever begin writing. You won’t spend weeks at the computer just to discover that your story comes to a dead end.
I purchased the C. S. Lakin book, (The 12 Pillars) while working on Under the Cloud and spent several months making sure my story had each pillar in place. Here again the focus begins with story basics. Lakin identifies four main pillars as the basis for a good story: 1] Concept with a Kicker; 2] Protagonist with a Goal; 3] Conflict with High Stakes; and 4] Theme with Heart. With these established, she goes on to talk about eight additional pillar: 5] Plot and Subplots; 6] Secondary Characters; 7] Setting; 3] Tension; 9] Dialogue; 10] Voice; 11] Writing Style; and 12] Motifs. A downloadable checklist/worksheet (link provided in the book) is available for each of these pillars.
For myself, making sure that I had considered my story in the light of each of these pillars gave me confidence that I hadn’t missed anything major.
So if you’re writing a novel and struggling with any aspect of it, either or both of these books, along with books by James Scott Bell (especially Plot and Structure and Revision and Self-Editing) will prove helpful… or they sure were to me!
t’s peony season here on the west coast of Canada! These gorgeous, fragrant flowers decorated the reception tables at our June wedding in Saskatchewan back in 1981, so my love affair with them is lasting. They are also an irresistible magnet for my camera and paintbrush.
I was excited to see a peony in bloom in the back garden of our current property when we first saw it back in June of 2007. That magenta peony bloomed beautifully for a few years and then mysteriously stopped blooming, eventually shriveling away to nothing. I blame the encroaching roots of trees that line the walkway behind us and the gloomy shade their branches cast over the garden.
Since then I’ve had to get my fix of peony beauty elsewhere. One local garden where the peonies bloom in profusion is Sendall Gardens in Langley. We visited on Sunday and I was not disappointed. We went shortly after a rain shower and the blooms were heavy with raindrops making them all the lovelier.
One of my favorite peony poems is by Jane Kenyon.
Peonies at Dusk
White peonies blooming along the porch send out light while the rest of the yard grows dim.
Outrageous flowers as big as human heads! They’re staggered by their own luxuriance: I had to prop them up with stakes and twine.
The moist air intensifies their scent, and the moon moves around the barn to find out what it’s coming from.
In the darkening June evening I draw a blossom near, and bending close search it as a woman searches a loved one’s face.
In Powerful Thinking, popular Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer challenges readers to take a deep look at twelve mindsets. Each mindset titles a chapter and is expressed as an affirmation (e.g. ”Mindset One: Because I Am in Christ I Can Do Everything I Need to Do in Life”). Meyer uses personal stories, scripture passages, and explanation of those passages to detail what each mindset involves and why it’s important. The chapters end with a “Think, Then Act” section made up of questions to use in journaling or group discussion to help the reader apply what they have read to life.
I did not find this book all that different from other books on the thought life that I have read by the same author. However, familiar truth is still truth and a good reminder. The chapter in Powerful Thinking that really struck me, judging by the number of highlights I saved, was the mindset “Because I Am in Christ I Am Difficult to Offend.” Notable quotes from that chapter:
“As human beings, we tend to be suspicious of others, and we get hurt due to our own imaginations… I encourage you to believe the best about others. Resist the temptation to question their motives or to think they hurt you deliberately. Believing the best about people will keep offense and bitterness out of your life and help you stay peaceful and joyful” – Kindle Location 397.
This compact volume is a great introduction to, or review of thought life hygiene for a Christian. It is inspiring, challenging, and a quick read. Powerful Thinking will be available for purchase on June 15, 2021.
I received Powerful Thinking as a gift from the publisher in return for writing a review.
Finding places to sell art is a challenge. That’s why, a few months ago, Pacific Arts Market caught my attention when I saw that a few of the local artists I follow on Instagram had shopfronts there.
Pacific Arts Market is a physical marketplace in Vancouver. It operates out of the second floor of a building at 1448 West Broadway (near Granville). I have never visited it in person but it looks like a happening place!
As well, the market has an online store!
After giving it a lot of thought and prayer, I applied a few days ago and was accepted into the online store! My storefront is now live. The image below is what it looks like. You can find it HERE.
At Pacific Arts Market, in-store and online, you can purchase a huge variety of arts and crafts including wood, pottery, photography, wearable art, jewellery as well as drawings, mixed media, prints, and paintings. These come at a variety of price points from $ to $$$$. Check out some of the many crafts and vendors from the Online Store Home Page.
Whatever creative practice you’re into, you’ve probably faced the question—what do I fill my time with?
If it’s writing you ask yourself, what do I write about? If it’s a craft, what do I make? If it’s art, what do I draw, paint, or sculpt?
I have faced this question daily since starting my sketch journal in December of 2018. Here are some ways I’ve solved the problem of what to draw.
Sketch some detail of your day:
I was inspired to start a daily art habit by Samantha Dion Baker’s book Draw Your Day. In it, she tells of how she began doing a daily sketch of ordinary items from her day. When she posted these on Instagram, they gained an eager following which encouraged her to continue this practice. Since starting it several years ago she has filled many sketchbooks, published books, taught classes, and more.
My first sketchbook entries were in that vein—items from my day. My book became a visual journal—interesting to look back on.
However, after doing this for a while, I felt drained of ideas. My life just wasn’t that interesting or varied. Around that time I discovered lists of prompts.
You never need to look for inspiration. In a way, though, when the item feels uninspiring, finding an angle to make it your own is another challenge.
When you post your drawings to social media using hashtags, your work becomes part of a collection and you get to see how others have responded to the prompt. You can follow them, comment on their work, and inevitably a community develops.
You are challenged to draw things you would never choose to draw without the nudge of a prompt, and so you grow as an artist.
Other lists of prompts I have followed are Spring Your Florals (an Instagram flower prompt every second-day), Opus Daily Practice (ever February), and Inktober (an October drawing challenge).
Sometimes, though, you just get the hankering to work on subjects of your own choice. When that happens, you can make up your own list.
Set up your own list of prompts:
When I tire of following someone else’s list, I make up my own. I usually do it by themes. One month I sketched and painted only birds. Another month I gave each week a different theme (favourite things, fridge and pantry items, buildings, and plants). The possibilities are endless here: shoes, jewelry, dishes, desk items, wild flowers, insects etc. etc.
There comes a time, however, when you may feel you should spend those art hours with more intention. You may feel the need to learn a new skill or work on your weaknesses.
Work on areas that need improvement.
As I’ve continued my art practice, I’ve become increasingly aware of areas where I need to improve. Painting landscapes, for example, has shown me how I need to get better at painting rocks, trees, and water. Hours of art time can be absorbed by studying and practicing elements that need work. You can also grow in specific areas by watching videos and painting along with art instructors on YouTube and other platforms.
Work on your art business
At the moment I’m in still another space, where I’m trying to keep my little art shop replenished. Thus my daily art time has frequently gone in that direction, painting another set of cards, sketching a value study for a painting doing trial sketches and paintings in my sketchbook before getting out the pricey paper. Then, of course, the paintings themselves take hours of work.
Wherever you’re at in your creative practice, look hard and long at the challenge of how to spend your time. Then, if you’re not happy with your current source of inspiration, give it some thought, try something different, and so keep yourself and your creative endeavors fresh, nourished, and growing.