Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A sad state of affairs

Remember back on October 30, when I was talking about unfinished business?  Well... a lot of it is still unfinished.

The ones in green are the ones that were great ideas at the time but got kiboshed for whatever reason. The ones in red are DONE.  And I am proud of the ones I got finished, although I think I could have possibly accomplished a couple of other things, now that I look at the list again.

I'm on a more-or-less constant quest to find more minutes in the day; to squeeze in just a little bit more living before I have to go to bed; and to wring as much joy and fun out of each day as I possibly can.  A lot of times, my satisfaction comes from getting things accomplished, which is why this list of unfinished projects bugs the living hell out of me.  So, because I'm completely contrary, I'm going to ADD to this list, and see how many I can knock off by the end of the year.  Yes, I know that's only 13 short days away - but knowing that an entirely new year (and decade, for me) starts in two weeks... well, that's a pretty powerful motivator.

I'm under no illusions that I can do ALL of this stuff - after all, I do have a day job.  However, it definitely won't get done if it's not on a list right in front of my nose.  So the list is going up right beside my "DO EPIC SHIT" resolution.  I'll be unstoppable!!

See how I left room for one more thing?  JUST IN CASE.

Okay, I gotta go.  I have a lot to do.

Love Shelley!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guess what these are.

Did you guess feet?  BECAUSE THEY'RE FEET!!

That is all.

Love Shelley!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some art history - WAIT, COME BACK!

Hopefully this won't be as boring as yesterday's landscape...

The final assignment - or exam - for the art class I was in (which I promise to stop talking about soon, if you're getting sick of hearing about it already) was to pick an artist, do some research into his/her work and then to channel that person and create a work of art in that style.  We had to consider medium, substrate, colour, composition, style - all the things that make that person's work his or her own.

I chose Paul Klee, a Swiss/German painter who died in 1940.  I hadn't heard of him before taking this class but it turns out he was kind of a big deal.  He taught at the Bauhaus school in Germany, totally NAILED colour theory, and my favourite - he used any and all media and would pretty much paint or draw on anything he could get his hands on.  A man after my own heart!  Oh, plus I like his work, a lot of it really appeals to me.  He did some cool stuff with his own version of pointillism, his colour choices were amazing, and even though I don't particularly understand what he was getting at with a lot of his pieces, the mechanics of it all completely fascinate me.

Paul Klee - an example of his colour use and his version of pointillism
Not wanting to walk into this class (or EXAM) totally unprepared, I actually did more homework than you would expect from someone like me, (ie. who has the attention span of a flea) and on top of the research, I decided to try a surface that was new to me but sounded fun.  He had done some of his work on pieces of burlap, on top of which he had glued newspaper.  The newspaper was thin enough to take on the texture of the burlap, plus had the added advantage of sealing off the burlap so the paint wouldn't leak through.  It also automatically gave the work some depth, since he just painted right over the newsprint and that added a layer of text before he'd even started his work.  That sounded so cool to me, I couldn't wait to try it.

Here's where I had to deviate from the plan... burlap stinks.  Like, really, really reeks.  In the spirit of things, I did buy half a meter, but then I found this other cotton blend that also had a nice big woven texture, similar to burlap, and it didn't smell like a potato's ass.  Cotton it is!  The burlap is still sitting in a bag on the floor.  I'll have to try to pawn it off on someone else, because I can't stand it.  Bleah.
‘Untitled (The Prisoner)’, Paul Klee (1940)
Presumably on a less-stinky version of modern-day burlap... no newsprint on this one.

Anyway.  I was still in eager-student mode, so I cut off a baseball card-sized piece of the cotton and experimented with the newspaper and paint.  I had found a pic of Klee's studio after his death, and on his drawing board were a few different partially-finished works.  I tried to copy the one with the fish-like marks on it.  Then I used gouache to paint it in, and OMG I FELL IN LOVE.  The texture, the fabric, the newspaper underneath, the semi-opacity of the gouache, and the blending of the colours... be still my heart.

Paul Klee's studio after his death

My test piece - about 2 3/4" x 4"

All of this nerdery of course didn't make me any friends when I sailed into class, with my prepared fabric/newspaper surface ready to go; and found the others were feeling nervous and anxious about the exam.  I was EXCITED!!!!  I couldn't wait to get started!  I was probably super obnoxious and offensive!!  I apologize to my classmates; I hope I didn't aggravate anyone too badly.  I felt like Buddy the Elf, all "I'm SIIIINGING!!!!" but I couldn't help it.

Yes.  I was THAT excited.

So (ahem) I did the assignment and got it graded right away.  (A+, bitches!!!)  (Okay, I'm done.  Sorry for the outburst.  I promise that's the last one.)  The instructor offered a few comments, then said what I should really do next is the same kind of thing, only way, WAY bigger.  Like, use-a-staple-gun-to-put-the-fabric-on-the-wall-so-you-can-work-on-it kind of big.  And then I zoned out because I started picturing it. And liking it.  A LOT.  She probably said some other things, but hopefully none of them were dire warnings or anything because I wasn't paying attention any more at that point.

Anyway, here's the finished product.  It's hanging on my living room wall right now, which is great for catching the natural light, but crappy because you can see my shadow in the lower-left of each pic.  Please squint and pretend I'm a good photographer.

Thank you.

Nunchuk Fantasy, by Shelley Malone (fine, YOU come up with a name for it.)

Detail of some of the shading

Detail of the bottom right edge

You can see the newsprint beneath the red paint.

Okay, that's it for today.  If you made it this far, gold star for you!!!  Thanks for playing along.  I'm already picking paint colours for the next one... any suggestions?

Love Shelley!

PS: In case you think I was maybe getting a little conceited about this painting, don't fret.  My daughter came home from school, spotted it on the wall, and immediately announced that it looked like "two pigs' nostrils."

So I screamed, 'It's an ANGEL!" and flipped the table.

Artists are so misunderstood.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A lovely landsczzzz

I love these paints so much.

Deep, heartfelt, sleep-with-you-under-my-pillow love

They're nothing fancy, just a set of Staedtler Karat Aquarell watercolors.  Mid-range price - not Crayola, but not the crazy-expensive Yarkas either.  I think this box was thirty-five bucks when I got it a few years ago.

I have a set of Yarkas... I got them when a local art store was going out of business, so they were less than half-price.  I figured if the Crayolas are okay, and the Staedtlers are great, then the Yarkas must be freaking amazing!!!

They probably are.  But all the dark colours look the same in the pans, and every time I open the box the pans stick to the lid and go everywhere.  They're impossible.  I think I have to glue the pans down or something, because I just get mad every time I try to use them.  (Also I'm not known for my patience.  When inspiration strikes, the paint better be ready.)

Rule of thumb for mixing watercolours: mix up as much as you think you'll need, then double it.

This was an assignment I did for the drawing class I just finished.  We were to take a simple landscape, and do two versions of it.

The top one is painted first, then the detail is added with a black pen.

The second one was sketched out first, then painted afterward.

The goal was to learn something about using watercolour as a drawing medium, vs. using it as a painting medium.  Just between us, I'm still a little confused about that distinction.

If you tape down your watercolour paper (all edges, all the way around) it keeps the paper from buckling. Also now that I look at the top painting, it kind of looks like a giant moon rising over the mountains, instead of more mountains.

Turns out I BY FAR preferred to draw it in first, it made the painting part so much easier.  That probably says something about me as an artist, that I like to paint as if in a colouring book. 

Top: Painted first.   Bottom: Drawn first.

Anyway, I did learn a couple of things:

1. Watercolour is way easier to work with in small wee areas.  Once you go big, the potential for disaster increases exponentially.

2. I am shit at mixing colours.

3.  Landscapes are boring.

Anyway: best class ever.  I've already signed up for the follow-up class after Christmas.  The teacher promised more life drawing, including both women AND MEN this time.  So stay tuned, this could get interesting.

Love Shelley!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Numbers and letters - my favourite!

I love lists, always have.  But they don't always have to be boring and list-y.  I wanted to play with these new alphabet stamps so I busted 'em out at the kitchen table so the kids could play too.  The colour is all done with watercolour pencils, but I used a blue water-soluble pen to do the doodles, so the blue colour ran into the intended colour and made it all look a little weird.  That's okay though.  It's still better than a plain boring list.

What are YOU doing today?

Love Shelley!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reunited, and it feels so good...

I got down and dirty with my art journal this weekend.  

Things got downright sloppy.  Like here, where I thought the lines were too dark so I just finger-painted over them with the nearest bottle of paint.  For the record, it was a whitish colour called "Parchment" but it mixed in with the sprays I had put down earlier.  Awesome.  (My internal monologue: "Needs covering up, ooh, white, yeah, OH SHIT, oh wait, yeah, I like it!)

The title wasn't dramatic enough for my liking so I outlined it in black.  Much better.

The door actually started off as a tombstone (don't ask) which is why the colours are so dark.  In the end I decided a door was a better idea.

This corner of this page perfectly shows you just how messy this page is.  Spray, paint, marker, splatters, random stuff everywhere.  It's not the prettiest thing I've ever made but it felt GREAT to just throw down some colour and words.

 It's art, Swedish-Chef-style.  Just flinging stuff around, singing to myself, having a really good time.

But now it's Monday and time to get back to the serious issues at hand.  Like this public service announcement:  DO NOT CARRY AN EGG IN YOUR JACKET POCKET.  It will only end in heartbreak.

Love Shelley!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Building up to something... just not sure what.


I technically don't "need" another journal (pfft, I totally do), but the other one like this is filling up fast and I REALLY love the weight of the pages.  They can seriously handle anything I throw at it.

Buuuuut..... it's kinda boring.  I decided I wanted to change this one up a little.  So I cut all the pages down by 4 1/4".  I was envisioning a long skinny book this time.

Side bonus: Enough sheets to make a whole other book - or two, if I cut them down even further.  OR I might tape some of these back in to make random fold-out pages for the book.  Or I might get an even better idea.  Anything could happen.

I cut the covers down too; but left them 3/4" wider than the sheets of paper inside so I could leave stuff hanging over the edges of the pages once I'm ready to work on them.  Messy is good.  I'm not exactly known for my perfectionistic tendencies.  I HAVE OTHER GOOD QUALITIES, OK?  Don't judge.

Kinda cool, don'tcha think?

The leaving-the-covers-bigger was an afterthought, and I had already scored the cover in preparation for cutting it... leaving it looking pretty ugly.  (Thinking things through - also not a strong point.)

So I dug through the stash and found this piece of 12"x12" scrapbook paper with a vintage photo of a ferris wheel... cut it down and poof.  I used it on the inside covers - I guess you would call it endpapers, if you were feeling fancy.

Hmm.  Now the front cover.  I already tore off the paper announcing what kind of book it was, but the cover is this shiny faux-snakeskin or something.  Pretty hideous.  (Sorry, Strathmore; other than that little detail I really do LOVE THESE BOOKS!)

The book (covers included) now measures 5 1/2" x 12".  The papers inside are 4 3/4" x 12".

I had a seriously old envelope that I hacked up and stuck to the front of the book.  If you look carefully you will see that I took the flap off and glued it underneath the envelope.  I figure I can keep scraps and ephemera and secret stuff (art supply receipts, for example) in it.

I used those wee skinny magnets on the flap and inside the envelope so it will actually stay closed.

So far that's it.  It definitely needs some more work to jazz it up but it was a nice break from the boring stuff I was supposed to be doing.  However, as much fun as this was, I'm going to need to get my hands on some COLOUR soon.  I can feel that urge to get my hands dirty, building up, making me flare my nostrils and squint my eyes and stand in the doorway of this room, looking around for something to mess up.  Something fun might happen around here tonight... I'll let you know.

Love Shelley!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unfinished Business Part I

You know that overwhelmed feeling?  I get it sometimes.

I had a brainwave a few days ago though.  I thought, hey, what if, in January, instead of setting a bunch of new resolutions, I spend some time FINISHING all the shit I've started over the past year?

Then I got an even BETTER idea: how about if I spend some time NOW finishing all that shit so that when January comes, I have a clear path ahead of me, and I can do something truly astonishing?

Yeah!  So I made a list of all the stuff that's sitting unfinished and taking up space in my head.  I've already gotten a couple out of the way but there's a long way to go.

Granted, there are a couple of things on the list that I need help with.  I bought weatherstripping for the front and back doors, and Mike half-jokingly said he would do it "so it's done right."  Normally I would smack him for making a comment like that, but last year about this time I tried to weatherstrip the back door and accidentally glued it shut.  So yeah, I'm going to let him take the lead on this one.

And honestly? I know some of these jobs are small jobs, but for some reason in my head they've taken on this monumental status, and I've just been procrastinating them forever.  But now that I've told you about them, I'm kind of committed to taking action, aren't I?  Let's see... it's Oct 30.  I'll report back in on Nov 30.  Anyone want to join me?  Just add a comment saying what you're going to finish in the next month.  We can be accountable together.

Love Shelley!

Monday, October 29, 2012

I ain't afraid of no ghosts

As you may or may not know, one of my passions is getting into places I'm not supposed to be.  I love seeing behind the scenes, going where the general public doesn't get to go, and just generally snooping around.

So it was a huge thrill to get into the Pantages Playhouse theatre this weekend for a vigil.  The building has allegedly been haunted forever, and we went to investigate.  The building is almost 100 years old, is close to the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg, and was at one time connected to the underground tunnel system (!!!!!) that has sadly been sealed at some point since then.

I went with my sister to this vigil - we've both lived in (different) haunted houses, so convincing us that ghosts exist was not an issue.  We got there a few minutes earlier and got to wander around the lobby and public areas.  The building itself is AMAZING.  I took some pics with my iphone, and yeah, they're crappy but you'll get the idea.

This is the ceiling of the lobby where the public used to enter.  I couldn't capture the whole thing because it's enormous, but you can still get the idea from this picture.

This is in the corner of the same lobby area - close to the ceiling.  The plaster is cracking off but to me, that just adds to the charm.

There were dozens of these sconces lighting the lobby.

On either side of the lobby were stairs going up to the mezzanine level.  We were almost dancing around in glee at the thought of getting to sneak past this gate and go check things out.

Here's my sister (you might know her as Kristy McCool) being a goober.

The lobby again...

Finally the fun started!!  This was up the first level of stairs.  I forgot to mention that the very first concert I ever went to was at the Pantages.  At a ritzy joint like this you would expect that it was maybe something operatic, or at least respectable... but no.  I saw Warrant and Danger Danger - a couple of 80s hair bands.  When I told Kristy that, we both started singing Cherry Pie ("She's my cherry pie, cool drink of water bring a tear to your eye, taste so good make a grown many cry, sweet! Cherry pie...) and couldn't get THAT tune out of our heads for the rest of the night.  So much for pretending to have any class at all.

These pictures were really dim but you can still see the beauty of the building.  The guy in the picture above turned out to be quite sensitive to spirits - he kept hearing words in his head that were ridiculously accurate.  I was jealous.

 This next picture is the view from the mezzanine level, overlooking the main part of the theatre. The overhanging balcony prevents you from seeing the stage from here, but that's okay - that's not where the action was anyway.

We were all hanging around the middle part of the mezzanine, trying to attract spirits, when I found myself drawn to the corner by the staircase.  I tiptoed over there and could distinctly feel something different there.  The medium who was accompanying the vigil came over too and we could tell there was a spirit in that corner.  She could apparently SEE the ghost (JEALOUS) but I could only feel her and sense where she generally was.  At one point she freaking HELD MY HAND, not joking.  I felt a hard tingling in my hand where she was touching me, then a hard tingle up my whole back, from my heels to the back of my neck.  Then some of the other people got too close and she got spooked and left.  It was So Freaking COOL.

We were there for 3 hours and saw lots of evidence of spirit activity - we could smell sausages cooking at various places in the building, heard water rushing and doors slamming.  The medium found an usher named Edward (not Eddie, he does NOT like to be called that), and in the basement, a former performer named Sally.  The leaders of the vigil had K2 machines - they were monitors that picked up electromagnetic activity - that would light up like crazy when the medium asked the right questions.  Honestly we would have been pretty lost without her.  Seems the spirits actually talk to her!

Another thing that I was initially skeptical about was a free phone app called Ghost Radar.  They told us about it when we got there and indicated that sometimes it was helpful when dealing with spirits. There are two things it's supposed to do - pick up spirit activity near the phone, and also come up with words that can help you interpret what's going on.  Sure enough - when the medium was talking to the usher on the stairs, she picked up that his name was Eddie, but someone had an ipad running the app, and "Edward" came up, (RIGHT AT THAT TIME, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!) and sure enough, it seemed to make the ghost way happier to be called Edward.

The last part of the night (close to midnight) was a spot of table-tipping.  Six people gathered around a card table in the orchestra pit and tried to attract the spirits' energy.  The table moved around quite a bit, and they seemed to talk to a few different people.  Unfortunately there was a guy sitting behind me who was wearing a squeaky pleather jacket who would NOT sit still and he kind of ruined my concentration.  The view was nice though - you can see some of the balcony seats in the next pic, and that's the stage on the left.

Kristy and I desperately wanted to stow away and get locked in the building for the night, but good sense prevailed (rats) and we left with everyone else.

Now I kind of wish I wouldn't have chased away the ghost in the house I lived in... but to be fair he was kind of creeping me out.  Maybe if I had a medium to find out what his deal was, things would have been different.  But his thing was to come in around 11pm (the back door would open and close, even if it was locked) and then you could hear his footsteps come through the kitchen, through the living room and stop RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY BEDROOM, where I was trembling in fear just on the other side of the flimsy accordion door.  Not cool, ghost.  One day I'd had enough of being scared at bedtime and I had a very bizarre conversation with an empty room - told him that whoever he was looking for didn't live there any more, and maybe it was time for him to move along.  Never heard him again after that.

Anyway, that was the highlight of my weekend.  Now: back to making art!!

Love Shelley!

Friday, October 26, 2012


Yeah, chiaroscuro.  I didn't know what it meant either.  It sounds vaguely ominous, like something an Italian mobster might do to you if you didn't pay off your gambling debts in a timely manner.

But no!  What it actually means, is giving a two-dimensional object the appearance of being three-dimensional through the use of shadow.

Or as dictionary.com puts it:


 [kee-ahr-uh-skyoo r-oh] 
noun, plural chi·a·ro·scu·ros.
the distribution of light and shade in a picture.
Painting. the use of deep variations in and subtle gradationsof light and shade, especially to enhance the delineation ofcharacter and for general dramatic effect: Rembrandt is amaster of chiaroscuro.
a woodcut print in which the colors are produced by the useof different blocks with different colors.
a sketch in light and shade.

One of our drawing class assignments was surprisingly not to try to draw a perfect circle (we outright traced these, so I guess we're not ready to work for the Pope yet.) but to give these plain circles some life by adding different values to them.

The first one was done with conte, the second one with pencil (I think it turned out the best) and the third one was done with a 0.3 permanent pen, in pointillism... all eeny weeny dots, put down one at a time.  To be honest, this one was the most fun and relaxing to do, although it took forEVer.  In fact, I decided not to do the shadow because it was really putting a cramp in my time management.  That's why I wrote in "awesome speckly shadow here (squint)" although now that I look at it again it seems like something drunk me would have done.  NOT TRUE, I was stone cold sober.  I wasn't thinking of the fact that we have to hand in our sketchbooks for marking at the end of the class.  Oops.  Maybe if I bring peanut butter cookies to class she'll overlook it.  I'm not above bribery.

Okay, I gotta go.  I have some baking to do.

Love Shelley!