Saturday, April 21, 2007

Another Plein-air on 9th and Derry

We had another gorgeous day today, and yes, I was out early in the morning to do some work en plein-air. I went back to the farm house on 9th and Derry Rd. I wanted to capture it from another angle. The morning air was warm and comfortable so I decided that I was going to take my time on this one.

I did a rough sketch and then once I had the composition right, I settled down to do the painting. 1 1/2 hrs later, it was time for breakfast and I was satisfied with what I had done on location. The rest of the details could be done at home. I took some reference pictures, packed up and headed back home. But the day was just beginning.

Farm House On 9th & Derry Revisited 10.0" x 7.0"-
Order Original (US$75.00) Order number 210407_O
Order Giclee

This day was too nice to be spent indoors, so we packed our lunch, paints and paper for everyone, and headed off to a nature reserve about 15 minutes from our home. Up here, nature has still not had its morning coffee so to speak. It is still drab and earthy with almost no greens yet. Still, we had lunch in the shade and settled down to paint in the sun (see Marazine for the family painting results). It was just perfect!

Back in the neighbourhood after the outing, we grabbed some milkshakes from a fast food place and settled in the back yard for some more fun under the blue sky. I took some time to finish the painting and then grabbed a grapefruit-vodka. Ah! Yes. Winter is finally gone and we are blessed with every season.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Farm House on 9th & Derry

It was a glorious morning. Sunny and relatively mild this Saturday. I went out early and this time I knew exactly what I wanted to paint. No wasting time driving around looking for a spot.

I had seen this farm house hundreds of times driving back and forth on 9th line (a few blocks from my house). I had seen it in morning light and afternoon light and resolved to paint it in early morning to catch the shadows.

Farm House On 9th & Derry 9.5" x 6.0"
Order Original (US$75.00) Order number 140407_O

This was my first true plein-air of 2007. I left the comfort of the car, walked for a while to find the right angle and set down my gear. I put a plastic bag on the wet grass, and settled down for a quick painting. It was/is still a bit nippy, so I knew I had no more than 30 minutes to do this one.

True to all my plein-air painting experiences, I was greeted by an eager little dog with a chatty owner, but I did not let that bother me. I greeted the dog and engaged the owner in a review of the day's weather. I was enjoying this so much nothing could distract me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Home Made Watercolour Bijou Box

It seems that the people at Home Depot rarely know what they have as products. I have received many emails saying that they don't carry shelf edging. NOT TRUE! The do. They are usually kept in black piping that is hug from the bottom of the wood section in the shelf isle. For your convenience, I stole a bar code so you can print it and take it with you and ask them to scan it and maybe that will alert them to the FACT that they have it!! Here it is:

For the watercolour sketchers, The Winsor an Newton Bijou Box has got to be on top of their wish lists. It is a beautifully compact and solid enamelled box that measures 79mm x 60mm x 16mm (or approximately 3" x 2.5" x 3/4"). I have always wanted to have one of these, but since I own two larger Winsor and Newton boxes and have made my own Altoids watercolour boxes before, I could not justify the cost of the Winsor and Newton Bijou Box.

This size box is excellent for carrying around in a pocket for sketching when you are out in the everyday world. It is the size of a Blackberry, and when coupled with a small size pocket sketchbook and a waterbrush, can turn into an instant pocket studio.

I love my Altoids box. It has been my companion for a while now, but over time it has become loose and clunky and with spring around the corner, it was time to retire it. I had been constantly on the look out for a metal box that approximates the dimensions of the Bijou Box. Call it an ideal, or just the fact that it is a classic and THE one to be imitated. I always look for boxes, mint boxes at convenience stores, metal boxes at garage sales. Anywhere I see a metal box, I try to envision it as a watercolour box.

A few months ago I was at a conference where they were giving away mints boxes. They called them "Manage-mints". Smart idea! I didn't care much for the mints, but the box? The dimensions of this small metal box were almost the same as the Winsor and Newton Bijou Box. They are exactly 80mm x 63mm x 17mm. It is professionally covered with white enamel, and I was able to easily remove all the marketing graphics off of the box by using a bit of my wife's Acetone. That left me with a very nice white enamelled box. Granted the Bijou Box is black, but hey! This was the home made version so white would be just fine by me.

In my earlier work on the Altoids box and in restoring one of my Winsor and Newton boxes, I used 3/4" shelf-edging to hold the pans in the boxes. These shelf edging strips work perfectly and allow you to change the pans and half pans easily, but hold them in place extremely well. For this box, I decided to use 5/8" shelf-edging. If you go to your local hardware store you will actually find three sizes of these shelf-edgings. 3/4", 5/8" and 1/2". The first two sizes will hold half pans very well in different directions, the third size is not useful for our purposes, but I am sure I will find a use for it soon. The reason I used the 5/8" edging is that three strips of that size, will fit perfectly in the box while only two of the 3/4" would fit in and I would be left with significant unused space in the box. Moreover with the two 3/4" strips, I would be able to hold 10 half pans, while with the 5/8" edging, I could fit 12 half pans into this box of 2.4" x 3.0" x 3/4".

Aside from the shelf edging, I needed a plain white vinyl tile, six 1/2" staples (The kind used with a staple gun), and a small piece of white adhesive shelf lining. I also needed the smallest drill bit in my tool box.

I started by measuring the inside of the box and cutting a piece of the vinyl tile to fit snugly in there. I also measured the inside of the cover and cut the shelf lining to size and stuck it there. The white shelf lining makes the inside of the box cover a perfect place mixing colours.

I then cut three strips of the 5/8" shelf edging to fit in the box and secured them to the vinyl tile by drilling holes in the edging and the tile and threading the 1/2" staples in these holes to hold the tile and edging together. The 1/2" staples hold the pieces together very well and you do not have to worry about them becoming unglued if you try to change the half pans. I fit the finished component in to the box, and filled the edging with 12 half pans.

I am ready for spring now. This blackberry-size paint box fits easily in my jacket pocket and with a couple of travel brushes and a small moleskin-like sketch book, I am ready and able to sketch any where, any time.

Watercolour artists fall into two groups: Those who use tube paint, and those who prefer pans and half-pans. Whether you are traveling near or far, you should consider using paint in pan and half-pans in boxes. There is a myth in North America, that you can't get rich colour out of pans. Not true. You can get colours that are just as rich from the pans as you can get from the tube. All you have to do is wet them before you use them. If you are still not convinced that you should give pans a try, maybe this will do the trick: With new carry-on travel restrictions on liquid and jells, tube paints are not likely to make it past the security counter at your local airport. So if you plan to travel with your paint, I hope that this article has given you an idea of how to make your own home made watercolour Bijou Box.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


It always happens. The April snow storm that is. So why do we always believe that just because all the snow has melted and we had a few days of rain showers and mild temperature, things are going to be different? Or is it as Jon said:

At the window, the silence of
naked limbs, fingers extended
with no apparent direction
reminds anyone, simply:
Time serves hope, else
hope serves time.

I don't know. All I know is that the weather man has predicted a few days of snow showers coming up, and I for one think it's enough already! I mean really, the buds are swollen and the grass is starting to turn green, do we need another snow storm? Can we vote on that?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Poetry Contest Results

Well folks, the time has come for me to make a decision on the best poem submitted in the contest. This was really hard. All of the entries were well done and I enjoyed reading them very much. I wish I could declare all of you winners and move on, but that would not be fair either.

First let us review the entries:

The fingers of limbs
direct the hopeful at Time's
extended windows.

Debi Cates


'Tis the time of hope
the time of reminding someone
of silent windows
of naked limbs
apparently, hope serves no one


The fingers of time
The simple naked hope
Of limbs
In the direction
Of anyone,
At no one

Rima Barrage


At the window, the silence of
naked limbs, fingers extended
with no apparent direction
reminds anyone, simply:
Time serves hope, else
hope serves time.



Naked limbs with fingers extended
Direction apparent.
Was anyone at the window?
No hope of anyone at the time,
Silence, the simple reminder.



The silent fingers of limbs, extended,
are reminders of times direction.
The window of hope serves with apparent simplicity.
Should anyone serve silence else it extends?
No! Time was the hope

Donna Elio

As you can see, they are all excellent. So here, with a heavy heart, is my pick for the best poem.....

At the window, the silence of
naked limbs, fingers extended
with no apparent direction
reminds anyone, simply:
Time serves hope, else
hope serves time.


Jon, if you send me your mailing address to, I will have the ACEO on it's way to you next week. Congratulations. I really loved your poem.

So folks, shall we do this again? I am encouraged by your daring work. I think I will, so watch for the next contest coming soon!!!