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!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Meet Emily

Last night in my drawing class we got to meet Emily.  She was our model for the evening.

We practiced all kinds of drawing - broad stroke gestures, circles and tubes, contour (even blind contour but that one looks like a drunken monkey drew it so I didn't bother including it here).

We drew the circles and tubes, then went back in to do gesture sketching, and then finally drew the negative space around Emily's body, which helped me to see where I'd gone wrong and correct a couple of things.

Uh, except for this one, where I went way off track because the classroom discussion got really interesting and I lost my focus.  One person was telling a story about how her brother-in-law planted his own marijuana in the backyard and his mom (an older, staunch Catholic lady) was super-impressed with his gardening skills and even helped him water it, all while having no idea what she was helping him grow.  I was pretty entertained by the whole idea, and forgot to watch what I was doing there for a minute.

I think this one is my favourite of the night.  I know I didn't finish the black before the time was up but I got all the pencil lines in that I wanted to, and I love her head and shoulder.

I love the shadow on the left side of her body in this one.  It really makes her body look 3D.  (Note to self: put that little trick away to use again sometime.)

All of these drawings are conte on newsprint.  They're on an 18"x24" pad of paper, so they are WAY larger than they look here.

She has a weird shoulder in this one but I like how her right hand turned out.  The teacher said people usually avoid drawing hands, feet and faces because they're "hard".  Oh yeah??  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

By the end of the evening we were doing 20 minute poses.  These last two have shadows, midtones and highlights.  I think they're pretty cool!

Turns out though, that even 20 minutes isn't very long to draw a person.  I really didn't get a chance to work on faces at all.  BUT!!  We have a model again next week, so I'll get to warm up the conte crayons and do this all over again.


I hope you're all having as much fun as I am. 

Love Shelley!

Friday, October 12, 2012

These are the people in your neighbourhood

So last night I dropped my kids off at the middle school for a safety and first aid training program, and then went for a little drive around town to find something to draw.  There are lots of beautiful new homes in the area that I would love to sketch but I thought it might look a little creepy to sit outside someone's house and stare at it for an hour.  I ended up picking a quiet spot in the hotel parking lot and I found a car to draw.

Working on my lap with the steering wheel partly in the way probably didn't help any, but I persevered.  (Heroically.)

But then it got cold and dark so I packed it in.  (Not as heroically.)  I probably could have put another half hour into it and made it better, but it was just for practice. But blah blah blah.  Want to see it?

I picked up the kids and went home.  Then this morning I was flipping through the workbook they used last night and saw this:

Question: List another danger that you might find around your home or in your neighbourhood in the winter.

His answer: Avalanche.

AVALANCHE.  In THIS neighbourhood.  (sigh)  I guess he won't be getting into the gifted program after all.


Ahhh, I gotta go.  Keep your feet on the ground!

Love Shelley