A Lent Conversation – Week 2

Leave a comment

This is the second instalment of a Lenten conversation between Laurel Archer, my poet friend, and me providing some art. This week I sent Laurel a painting as a prompt. She responded with a poem.

The Hellebore plant was new to me when I moved to the coast (we didn’t have it in Saskatchewan, at least not when I lived there). This beautiful perennial blooms here in early to late spring with blooms that customarily face downward. It’s a plant that, even in bloom, looks penitent. Perhaps that’s why it was given its common name “Lenten Rose.”

I’m delighted with Laurel’s poetic response that reflects her experience with this lovely spring flower and takes us deeper.

Painting: “Lenten Rose” – © 2021 by Violet Nesdoly, Watercolour on 140 lb. cold press watercolour paper, 9×12 inches

Poem: “Promises” – © 2021 by Laurel Archer

Top Ten Sale

Leave a comment

The Top Ten Sale at my art shop continues—15% off 10 most-searched paintings and note cards. Most items are originals, only one available, like this “Fortress Mountain” painting, inspired by a drive along the beautiful Icefields Parkway in Alberta.

“Fortress Mountain” – original watercolor, on 140 lb. cold press Winsor & Newton watercolor paper, 9 x 12 inches.

Sale continues through tomorrow (Feb. 28, 2021).

Check it out: Violet Nesdoly Art

A Lent Conversation

Leave a comment

Do you keep Lent? Lent is a church season—a time of sober introspection in preparation for Easter—that my faith tradition mentioned only in passing. But I do love the idea of a faith calendar where one remembers and honours each season of faith at a set time each year.

In the spirit of discovering, appreciating, and “keeping” the season of Lent, a friend and I have begun a conversation about Lent in poetry and art. She began it last Tuesday with a poem that she sent to me. I responded during the week with a piece of art inspired by her poem. This is our call-and-response for Week One of Lent.

Laurel’s Poem: “Lent is Here”
My painting: “Step Aside” – Watercolour and Gouache on 140 lb. Cold Press Watercolour Paper, 9×6 Inches.

This week it’s my turn to prompt Laurel with a piece of art. I’ll let you in on the next bit of our conversation sometime early next week.

I’d be interested to know, how do you keep Lent?

Amee’s Story – review

Leave a comment

After reading  the first few pages of Amee’s Story, I wasn’t sure I would ever finish the book. That’s not because it was poorly written. Rather, it was so well written I was pulled back into  a difficult time in my own life. However, I persisted with the reading and I’m so glad I did.

In thirty-three chapters Harrison takes us from the birth of Amee, in August of 1982, through her miraculous life-and-death early months, the challenges of childhood and teen years, up to her 28th year (2010, the year the book was published). It’s an inspiring story of a special child and the faith, prayers, and perseverance of her mother—indeed an entire family—who supported and encouraged her.

Once into the book I found it hard to put down. Harrison describes in detail the physical, intellectual, and social challenges Amee faced at the various stage of her life and how Amee, her mother as main caregiver,  and the whole family rose to them. The search for a correct diagnosis and then helpful therapies, the recurring challenge of getting medication dosages right, and the difficult saga of her education are all themes too familiar in the lives of special needs children and their caregivers.

I would recommend this book not only as an inspiring story, but also as an eye opener for parents of newly diagnosed special needs children as well as school, community, and church educators.

Amee’s Story was a Finalist in the 2011 Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

Everyday Watercolor Flowers – review

Leave a comment

Everyday Watercolor Flowers – A modern guide to painting blooms, leaves and stems by Jenna Rainey © 2019.


One of my favourite art teachers, particularly of watercolor, is Jenna Rainey. A couple of years ago, her book Everyday Watercolor introduced me to the wonderful medium of watercolor (reviewed here). Her newest book Everyday Watercolor Flowers came out in 2019 and my Kindle edition is well used.

The book begins with an extensive introductory section on watercolor basics including materials, colors, color mixing, hue, and value. In this section Rainey also gives a brief explanation of flower anatomy, leaf types and shapes, and demonstrates brush strokes that make those shapes.

The main chapters describe flower painting projects and are organized by flower shapes (star, circle, bell, bowl, trumpet, and combination) with four projects in each.  That’s 24 projects plus a section on combining flowers into wreaths and borders…so lots to paint here. The projects in each category come in two types: loose and realistic (botanical). In the star-shaped chapter, for example, the cherry blossoms and anemone tutorials describe painting these flowers in a loose style (with little or no pencil drawing to guide the painting), while the clematis and orchid are painted more realistically (begin with a pencil drawing and adhere closely to the details of the plant and flower).

Loose Cherry Blossom flowers from the Star-shaped flower chapter.

The book is beautiful! Rainey’s skill with paint and brush shines through each illustration. The instructions are clear, easy to follow, and interspersed with pictures of the project’s steps. Though the text does feel wordy at times (it would be easier to follow if it were in point form), its tone is encouraging and laced with tips and hacks. If you’ve ever visited Rainey’s YouTube channel you’ll recognize her voice, which comes through here in her writing.

I think beginners and intermediate watercolorists would enjoy these projects. If you’re looking for a book that is designed to help you gain skill in analyzing flowers by shape and has projects that are both loose and realistic, Everyday Watercolor Flowers is a great choice.

Some projects from this book that I’ve done: loose Sunflower, realistic Clematis, loose Dahlia, realistic Ranunculus.

The Third Grace – review

Leave a comment

It’s always a joy to celebrate the coming out of a new book by a fellow Canadian writer. Today is the day we fete Deb Elkink and the re-release of her prize-winning debut novel The Third Grace (originally published in 2011). It comes out with a new cover, but the same rich interior. Here is my review of The Third Grace (review first published in 2011).

The Third Gracesumptuous as a period costume

Aglaia Klassen’s jaunt to Paris has been a long time in coming. But now it’s three days away—a business trip for which the main character in Deb Elkink’s debut novel The Third Grace, has significant plans of her own. On the evening we make her acquaintance she is trying to inveigle from her worldly friend Lou, how one would go about finding someone in that vast city.

When her country bumpkin mother Tina bursts upon their little soirée with the embarrassing request that Aglaia take the Bible that Francois left at the farm fifteen years ago and return it, Aglaia is beyond humiliated. But the Bible does find its way into her luggage and becomes a magnet once she discovers the notes this French exchange student scribbled in the margins all those years ago.

As she reads them, she is transported back to that summer of young love when she was seventeen and sure that Francois’ heart was all hers. She recalls the Greek myths of which the Bible stories they read in youth group reminded him, and finds tucked inside a photo postcard of the Three Graces. The Third Grace, Aglaia, is what Francois called her. That’s why she has not been Mary Grace—the name her parents gave her—for many years.

Much has happened since that crossroads summer at the farm in Nebraska. She has made an impression on the cultural scene in Denver where she works as an up-and-coming costume designer. As far as she’s concerned, her Mennonite past is history despite the longing in her parents’ eyes and their thinly disguised pleas for her help with the farm. Aglaia’s friend Lou has her own agenda and their paths get crazily entangled in this story that explores young love, faith, identity, and loyalty to family and friends.

The well-realized characters make this book a delight. Lou is a devious college prof who we don’t trust from the minute we meet her—though Aglaia wants to and tries to, to our dismay. Eb, Aglaia’s boss at the costume shop, is an eccentric, wise, father-figure and my personal favorite. Francois, the charming, lascivious student from the past plays a large role through Aglaia’s memories. Aglaia’s Mennonite parents ring true, with their homespun sensibilities, their ethnic cuisine, and their Plautdietsch-inflected pronunciations: “trock,”  and “tanse” for “truck” and “tense,” and germanisms like “Na jo,” En betje.”  Finally there’s Aglaia herself—talented and ambitious, yet idealistic, wistful, and tortured in the way she continues to carry the torch for her teenage sweetheart.

Elkink’s writing is a tailored garment of sensuous description, trimmed with just the right words to signal deeper meanings. Note this bit from the opening scene where Aglaia is entertaining Lou in her apartment:

“Aglaia angled her glass and looked into its blood-red interior. Wine was a symbol of communion, she thought, and she was using it with carnal deliberation to seal this relationship that had so much to offer her.”

The Third Grace, page 12.

Or this snippet describing Aglaia’s relationship with her craft:

“From the time she was a child…she’d hankered to sew. She learned the smell of the flax beneath the linen, savored the variance between silk and wool. She had a habit still of chewing a strand  each time she laid out a length of yard goods ready for the shears. She made a sacrament of touching and sniffing and tasting—a sensual adulation.”  

The Third Grace, p. 42.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Eklink is herself a seamstress and has designed costumes.

I enjoyed this tale for its literary forays as much as its finely crafted characters. Elkink seems as comfortable recounting Aglaia’s fall from faith and attraction to the occult world of Greek myth as she is describing a scene of teenage seduction, a Paris bistro, or a child-squirmy kitchen. Through Eb she shares wisdom from Christian luminaries like Saint Augustine, Dante, and the Bible.

For a reading experience as layered and sumptuous as Aglaia’s period costumes, The Third Grace by Deb Elkink won’t disappoint.

Want more? Find out about Deb and her writing on her website DebElkink.com. Her second full-length novel, The Red Journal, came out in 2019 and is also available for purchase.

15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces – review

1 Comment

If there was ever a great time to learn about art, this is it. Not only is the internet full of videos and online class possibilities, but books are easier than ever to purchase and use. For art instruction I love Kindle books. On my iPad they have a built-in stand (I don’t have to fight with stubborn pages to keep the book open while I’m using it) and the illustrations can be enlarged with a couple of finger swipes. One book I downloaded some months ago is Anna Koliadych’s 15-Minute Watercolor Masterpieces. It is full of simple and fun watercolor projects.

The book begins with a section on watercolor techniques and exercises, and then is divided into chapters that name various categories: “Beautiful Landscapes,” “Dreamy Galaxies,” “Elegant Plants and Foliage,” “Flowers,” “Fruits and Sweets,” “Adorable Animals,” and “Fashion.” There are six to nine projects (paintings) in each chapter so lots of possibilities.

The paintings are explained step-by-step and include a list of materials, swatches of the painting’s colors, how to mix them, and illustrations of the project as it progresses.

The book ends with a list of supplies and a few hacks from the author in chapters titled “Supplies” and “Tips and Advice.”

This is a colorful, fun book. The instructions and illustrations are easy to follow. Though I wouldn’t call my projects “masterpieces” or art I would want to frame, they introduced me to a variety of techniques and subjects. They usually took me longer than 15 minutes because drying time was needed. But they were quick and a wonderful way to squeeze in a bit of art every day, even when I didn’t have much time for it.

Here are some of the projects I completed from Anna’s book.

“Mysterious Forest” and “Autumn in a Circle”  are projects from the “Beautiful Landscapes” chapter. “Leafy Branches with Berries” is from the “Elegant Plants and Foliage” chapter. “Wreath of Flowers” is from the “Flowers” chapter.

Author Anna Koliadych also teaches watercolor online offering courses on her website. She is @dearannart on Instagram and her feed is full of short instructional videos.

Shikataganai–It Can’t Be Helped (review)

Leave a comment

In years past we have attended the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) and visited the barns on the fair grounds. However, I will never view them with the same casual attitude I have till now, after reading Sumi Kinoshita’s book Shikataganai—It Can’t Be Helped. That’s because those barns at Hastings Park became the home of Canadians of Japanese descent  when they were forcibly evacuated from their homes along the B.C. coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Later they were moved to internment camps in the B.C. interior.

Sumi (Morisawa) Kinoshita was four at the time their family was loaded onto a train, forced to leave behind everything in Victoria except what fit into two suitcases each. Their first stop was Hastings Park where they lived for six months before being moved on to New Denver and other places in the Kootenays.

Sumi tells the story of her family’s experiences during the internment without self-pity or whining, sprinkling good memories and humour throughout. She typifies well the resignation of Japanese Canadians at this time, captured by two words, “shikataganai” (it can’t be helped) and “ganbaru” (to persevere). She explains her people’s attitude at this time:

”…the ‘shikataganai’ philosophy also gave them the impetus to go on, to cooperate with the government and ‘ganbaru’ (to persevere). Making the best of their circumstances by submitting to government policies, it helped to prove their loyalty as Canadian citizens” p. 35.

Memories of Sumi’s siblings follow her narrative, helping to tell the story from a variety of ages and perspectives.

Aspects of the book I found particularly moving:

  • The book’s cover image, a blown-up photo of the 1200 or so confiscated Japanese fishing boats.
  • The final chapter, “Afterthoughts,” where Sumi details the effect of the internment on her and how she came to peace about it:

“For years and years even after I was married, I felt too ashamed and humiliated to talk about the injustice and indignity of living in the animal stalls of Hastings Park and ensuing internment. Then one Christmas the story of Jesus being born in a manger came alive to me in a new way. Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in an animal stall and was also subjected to the shame and indignity of being placed in a smelly environment surrounded by animals. … He identified with me and others who experienced the same shame and understood what happened to us. Jesus forgave those who sinned against Him as He died on the cross and rose again. That thought gave me great comfort and healing” – pp. 134,135.

For those wanting to discover more about this regrettable chapter of B.C. and Canadian history, Shikataganai is a great choice.

Only a month from Valentine’s Day!

Leave a comment

Can you believe we’re already almost halfway through January?

Have you done any dreaming or planning for the year ahead?

I finally got to setting down some intentions and goals last weekend. I know many pooh-pooh this new year tradition. Not I! Even the roughest road map helps me feel more purposeful and confident that I’m heading in a direction to which I’ve given at least a little thought.

One of my intentions this year is to be more regular with blogging. I’m going to try for one post a week, alternating posts about art and writing. We’ll start this week with art.

A month from today is Valentine’s Day! Since I’ve opened my shop, I’m very conscious about upcoming celebrations—all the more because orders need to be placed in good time to allow for shipping (and I’m not Amazon!). And so I’ve spent my art hours this week making valentines (with accompanying memories of elementary school).

A Valentine trend this year, according to Etsy, is for vintage designs. I had fun trying to figure out and duplicate that look. Here are some of the cards you’ll find at Violet Nesdoly Art. (Several of them can be personalized.) What do you think, did I capture the vintage vibe in some of them?

How have you spent these first weeks of January 2021?

Eye of the Storm – review

Leave a comment

Eye of the Storm by Janice L. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Eye of the Storm, Book Two in Janice L. Dick’s Storm Series, takes us through the tumultuous years of 1917 to 1919 in Russia and Crimea. The Czar’s rule is in shambles. All over the countryside poor Russian peasants are agitating for land. Mennonite settlements, like the villages in the Molotschna Colony, are frequent targets as Russian neighbours, emboldened to take over land they feel is really theirs, steal, kidnap, raid, and light fires. The troubles soon spill over to Crimea and reach the Succoth Estate—the home of Heinrich Hildebrandt, his family, and Johann Suderman, the tutor Heinrich has hired for his younger children.

In the city, Paul Tekanin, the Russian friend of Johann in his youth, joins the Bolsheviks. Through him we experience the roller-coaster-ride of political developments in Russia at this time.

The characters we met in Book One continue to throb with life as they feel the increasing pressure to defend themselves (in defiance of the pacifism which is a foundational tenet of their faith) against vandalism, looting, and threats to life. At the Succoth Estate Heinrich and his family do their best to placate the populace with generosity and service. However, the anarchy in the countryside only grows worse. As their lifestyle of peace and plenty is turned upside down and lives are lost, they face the dilemma of whether they can live by another teaching of Jesus and forgive their enemies.

Dick keeps the action moving as she segues us from one scene to another through the viewpoints of various characters. These people are realistic and sympathetic. The setting is described with confidence and in vivid detail. Not only was this a captivating read, but educational as well. I am looking forward to the release of Book Three, the final one in the series, this summer.






View all my reviews