(A lil' blog on a dotty hill somewhere)

Wednesday, December 14

Creative Tuesdays: Gingerbread Gingerbread House


Since I knew I'd not have as much time as liked on this theme, I decided to take a simpler approach for a card of sorts -- a Christmas Gingerbread Igloo Xmas tree decoration! The baubles are meant to represent silver ball embellishments inside the piping but didn't quite work out. Well, at least I got it done!

Now, time to see what the rest of you put up, with Lissa already leading the way. Thank you.

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BTW, the new CT theme is up, so be sure to check that out! :)
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Monday, November 7

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!"


I plopped in and arrived (at CT) finally! Sorry to keep any of you waiting but as compensation, I've taken extra time doing this piece. It took several hours building up the layers of colour on this one and then erasing out areas, etc. Anyway, I hope you like it. The road is deliberately sort of warped as if everything isn't quite real, yet convincing enough that one can never be too sure.

It's been good seeing who signed up and just to let you know, my niece (and goddaughter), Alice, participated in this week's theme too (while her baby, Genevieve*) is asleep. I love how she's explored that sense of things not being quite as expected with her Narnia cupboard and such. Fun! In that keeping, she even re-activated her old Instagram to put things up. :)

OK, off to bed now, but will visit everyone tomorrow. Currently fighting a cold my last week here in Yorkshire, actually. Here's hoping that goes away before we travel back down to London then up to the Rockies in a week!

*While Alex gets to be a Great Aunty, I'm simply known as "Gummy" (Great Uncle Michael). Haha, love it! :)


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Wednesday, October 19

TREE HOUSE(s)

 Whose Home is it Anyway?!

This lil' bird has made a home inside a bird house fashioned as a tree that someone's put up in their own tree! Meanwhile the squirrel doesn't know what to make of his new neighbour, Still, bushy tail can't really complain. I mean, that same gardener has also hung up acorn bunting across its very own front door, the whole in the tree. Not too shabby, really. I think they'll learn to live in harmony, don't you? :)

OK, so time to see what the rest of you Creative Tuesday peeps did for your own tree-house interpretations. I'll scurry over to your sites soon enough. Can't wait. Thanks for playing along.
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Tuesday, October 4

Red Riding Hood


As I was just about to begin this  piece, my course changed from my initial idea after seeing a pic of a howling wolf and noticing that the animal's neck fur could easily represent Red Riding Hood's own hair and the creature's tucked back ear could tie in to the fold in her hood. And so, about 25 minutes later, voila! It was one of those mad dashes of inspiration where I wanted that passion of movement, energy and spontaneity to show through. In fact, I think this piece rather hearkens back to a 1930's feel which I find kind of theatrical and dramatic too.

Anyway, I wonder what each of you did and which story you chose? Hmm...time to find out. Thank you to those of you who've shown interest in joining us at Creative Tuesdays. I'll be watching to see who signs up and can't wait to see what you've all done! Thanks again.

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Monday, September 19

PATTERN


Hi, fellow CT'ers! I hope you're soaking up the last rays of summer. Here, in North Yorkshire, it's turned rather wet and cold but last week was lovely.

Again, using Scarborough as my inspiration, I decided to focus on the beach. The only thing is, I forgot to include all the endless seagulls here, there and everywhere, actually. Ha-ha. There is this herring gull that my brother-in-law particularly doesn't like — no wonder — it screams like a strangled something or other almost every morning and can even be a little frightening. Oh dear me. Well, as it is, I'm not terribly a seaside type person but love the idea of it at least, especially those Cornish ice cream 99's so dearly loved as a child. Now, if only I could get a ride all the way down to Cornwall but that will have to be for another trip!

How did your patterns go? Time to check them out. Below, you'll find the initial drawing which I then repeated. I was kind of hoping too that the waves might even remind one of clouds perhaps? Hmm... Well, regardless, they almost line up seamlessly. Not bad for my very first pattern attempt. :)


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Tuesday, September 6

Creative Tuesdays: PLUM


Mr. Plumy does a right plum job on his house. He does rather like to celebrate!

OK, well, no more sign ups with the week's extension but it did give me time at least to works hours and hours on this piece! I felt that I owed it to you guys to push myself just that bit more and come up with something with a story behind it. There are some things, admittedly, I'd like to fix but it's time to leave as is or I'll never get done! Ha-ha. Anyway, it's inspired by various scenes from around here along the North Yorkshire coast. I hope you like it! I

The idea I had here was not just to show that plum colour, but also was thinking about someone doing a "plum" job with something, as in top of form and so on. The caption goes in line with the way some locals say things here but, of course, needs that thick Yorkshire accent to perfect it.

Speaking of the locale, I really need to write an update of our time here. It's been full, let me tell you. More on that later. For those of you who might happen to do Instagram, you can always follow me along there and see a sampling of the snaps taken whilst here.

Your visits, contributions and comments are always treasured. I believe I've seen everyone's entries and added Donna's (as she has not got around to that yet) but do please let me know if anyone else's is missing who did this last go round. Thank you!

Stay tuned for Thursday when I'll announce our new theme. See you then.
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Monday, August 15

Creative Tuesdays: Journey


Sorry, this had to be far more rushed than to my liking and, unlike I usually do (where everything is created from imagination), this was actually started from a photo taken a few days back of some of the colourful homes spotted in Notting Hill, London. Using that as my base, I sketched this out very loosely, adding in embellishments like the bicycle for imaginary neighbourhood journeys and such. :)  As it was, I funnily enough, almost finished this up on another journey—a train ride—as we headed back to Yorkshire once again with one son dropped off and the other staying with us for a wee bit longer.

There's so much more to write about but for now, let's leave it at this. I started working today (remotely) as well so this has been a plenty long day and night already.

See you over on Creative Tuesdays. I'm looking forward to those blog visit trips as well, you know. :)
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Sunday, July 24

Transitions (snippet)


"Are you excited?" I hardly know how to answer. Sure, my Anglo side looks forward to being back in the throes of English culture, and while not an easy task, I'm thankful having this last chance to truly help my elderly mother. Aiding my sister too with all that's entailed there with advancing dementia and limited mobility will not only touch our mother but my family as well who contend with these challenges everyday. That is immeasurable.

As a friend noted, "She was there at the start of your life, and now you will be there towards her end... Death is a part of life; both involve pain—one physical, the other, emotional." ...

(Continued on our couple's blog, Paper Chains & Bunting.)
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Wednesday, July 6

Creative Tuesdays: FISH Ahoy!

Fish Ahoy!


While drawing this up, I thought about Nantucket/Cade Cod style marine folk art and how great that could be to use for this theme. Also, using a limited colour palette, helped me give a subtle yet patriotic nod to July 4th which is when I did a lot of the work, finishing off the fish and details today.

As often is the case, I took some liberty with objects, like this boat, just using various images as a base board for inspiration, and of course, none of these fish are based on anything real either, but you get the idea. In my book, artistic license is what makes doing the work more creative in the first place anyway!

Pushing myself further, I wanted to create something that didn't use any lines for outlines (like I usually do) but relying on the objects' colours themselves for definition. Whilst Alex and a friend sewed up cloth bunting tonight, I decided to add a navel version of it here too. :)

Yes, this was all quite fun and, actually, I might have even hummed a few lines of Gilligan's Island whilst at it. How about you?

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Tuesday, June 21

Creative Tuesdays: Time for Tea

"Lords of Tea"

For the last week, I was thinking it would be great to actually show some men drinking tea, and not the landed gentry type might one commonly associate with high tea or such. No, I wanted to depict archetypes of men from American classical culture, to show that real men can enjoy tea as much as anyone. OK, so, admittedly, these aren't your normal sweatshirt wearing sports-buff types, but you will find vague references to even a grandfatherly Santa Clause, Abraham Lincolnish kind of lumberjack/Amish farmer, and a beatnik Professorial type intellectual! You see, Stateside at least, taking time for tea has been far too relegated to little old lady tea parties and such, but, like coffee, it's something to be enjoyed by anyone, alone or even better, among friends! It is the great equalizer of sorts, sophisticated yet understated. To me, its enjoyment defies your classic norm in a most appealing, mellow manner.

My hope is that if I should ever get to retire one day when old and grey, that I could find some kinfolk with whom to engage in stimulating conversation, play the occasional game of chess and perhaps even share portions of the paper with each other at our local coffee/tea shop. As it is, I actually know one retired architect who truly loves tea and might, lo and behold, possess even a better gift of witty banter than I! I know, I know... you must be thinking, that just can't be, right?! Heh. :) Well, regardless, we certainly can laugh and, along with tea, that's good medicine! :D

BTW, I owe this piece of art to my work computer having problems and IT having to sit down to tinker around with it all afternoon. Wanting to remain productive and guessing there might be some down-time, I took the opportunity to start sketching out this idea. Glad I did.

And, finally, speaking of tea time, we had our summer tea a little while ago. If you're at all interested and might enjoy seeing photos of our delightfully fun offerings, you can read more on our couple's blog. :)
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Thursday, June 9

Sip and Savour


Yesterday, after a tiring day at work, I met a friend at a newly opened bakery café. After ordering his stout made from the new microbrewery across the way, the cashier asked what I was having. To her apparent astonishment, I informed her that actually I don't like the taste or smell of beer! Amused, Mike piped in, "Well, he doesn't like camping or being out in the summer sun either!" Her cheeky reply? "Why are you in Colorado then?!" I had to chuckle, but it's true that this town has more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in America, competing for that mantle with about one or two other places in the States. It goes without saying that if someone invites you out, invariably the rote suggestion is yet another bar or brewery. (It's akin to how one always hears the obligatory Lynyrd Skynyrd here.) We are a college town too which certainly doesn't help there either.

Whenever hearing such expectations, quietly a part of me kind of deflates inside. It's not that I terribly mind others enjoying beer (within moderation), mind you, rather, it's the seeming lack of imagination, or perhaps more so, variety of social suggestions! (After all, I never automatically assume everyone is going to be gung-ho to come do tea or coffee with me, for example.) Surely, there are some other people more akin to another culture, as it were, as the propensity of coffee shops around here also suggests? But yes, I do understand that for many there's nothing like "a cold one," especially when it's hot outside like it was today (95 F/35 C). In that case though, I'd far prefer cold water or coffee on ice, thank you! :) 

With all that said, do you ever feel like just putting your feet up, stopping for a while and taking a break or perhaps a more reflective muse... but with most likely a cuppa in hand instead? Well, now you can illustrate that with Creative Tuesdays' new theme, TIME FOR TEA (or COFFEE)! There are so many ways one can depict this. We'll raise our mugs to creativity then and explore this idea further. The fun will be coming back on Tuesday, June 21st, to see how just how we all do that. :) 

Fellow artists, breathe in, sip from your imagination, savour, and enjoy.

P.S. I'm loving the comments over on CT form this theme. Great feedback and nice to know we are not alone! :)

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Monday, June 6

Creative Tuesdays: Children

On Top of the World

This idea came to mind when coming up with the CT theme last fortnight but at that point, this brother and sister were way up high in a tree overlooking their home and surrounding area, imagining theirs was the highest around. Even though it was their imagination, the parent in me wanted them to scurry down down right away! Hahaha. So, instead, I thought, how about have them looking at a building block landscape instead? :) Alex then had the idea of them being on a bunk bed... and many hours later, voila!

Unfortunately, as you can see, it's not quite finished. I had hoped to paint in the colour but some things came up this weekend that made it hard to find the time to do so. Well, I hope to do that later then. If so, I'll be sure to post that version too. 

How did your "children" renditions come along? I can't wait to see what each of you did. I was quite inspired creating this scene, thinking about how my daughter and hubs are expecting twins. And, actually, you know what? These are probably the best kids I've ever drawn! :) Wheeee...


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Tuesday, May 24

Creative Tuesdays: Angel of Stars


I really pushed myself with this one, trying out new things. After creating the initial drawing, I painted the entire piece in black then digitally erased out portions to create the white areas, trying to assimilate that wood-cut process and feel. Working on the texture was actually the most enjoyable part of the process.

Knowing that angels have been illustrated a dime a dozen, I thought of the beautiful Ethiopians my cousin loves working with and felt that would help add a slightly different touch to the versions we're so used to seeing here, especially as I still really wanted to depict some of those classical angel wings!

Anyway, another fun piece. So, how about you? What kind of STARS did you see? Time to check them out...
 
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Saturday, May 14

I need a rainy day in an endless summer, a pocket full of stars...

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/353954851945018229/

Linda recently asked me this great question: "Do you have an empathy with the sky and clouds, as they appear quite frequently in your pieces on [Creative Tuesdays]?" Yes, I do indeed have an affinity with clouds, the sky...and stars! Living in big-sky Colorado, we enjoy the most incredible cloud formations, sunsets/sunrises, night skies, etc. As I wrote in my portfolio's bio, they really are signs of hope and the miraculous to me: 

"And, whenever needing that extra lift, I can simply look up... to those magnificent clouds forming off the Rockies, reminding me that I'm playing a tiny yet crucial part in this curious and gloriously complex designed world of dotty wonder."

When at my loneliest and, consequentially, lowest point years ago, I would often gaze at the expanse, the glorious changes above me, tossing up endless prayers and sorrows. While my faith was severely shaken, there was no way to deny the vastness of life and creation, and in that was a small reminder that so much is a matter of perspective. I am only part of the equation. There is hope out there, even when we don't feel or see it!

As it was, this post's headline (part of a song, actually) was my heart's longing. While the promises held onto never materialized as longed for, I still had family responsibilities! I had to press on, as hard as it was, often not sure if I even could. And, here I am, 7 years later, in a life never imagined yet wondrous all the same. I have an amazing, loving wife; beautiful, incredible children; an ongoing continued career, and a legacy to build. 

New people of different stripes come into our life and with these, we have opportunities to love anew, grow, etc. And, of course, I have a best friend who not only enjoys the exact same things as I but who's also creative. Wow. Talk about "stars!" That's how I sometimes feel in this crazy adventure called life. It's sobering. Life's taught me humility; that not only is it OK not having all the answers, it's actually quite liberating, mysterious and magical. When you've faced your greatest fears, you are not only broken then redefined, changed, emboldened and strengthened, you come to more fully appreciate with perspective, that one closed door offers another opening. 

So, I'm hoping for and expecting my own pocket full of stars. How about you?

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Tuesday, May 10

Creative Tuesdays: Striped Socks!

View enlarged | (detailed slice below)

A (clothes)line of communication was opened up between them. All it took was a fallen sock, that quick glance, and the promise of love was in the air!

You know how hard I can be on myself with my art — always wishing to have improved something here or there? Well, not this piece! Actually, lo and behold, I'm really thrilled with this one. After sketching it out then painting in the hues, my heart was alight with the story just waiting to unfold.

I don't know about you, but I find young love rather boring, even predictable for the most part, but show me a love kindled in the latter years... and I'm hooked! Perhaps, that's why two of my favourite movies of all time are 84 Charring Cross Road and how 'surprised by joy' C.S Lewis was when his and Joy Davidman's paths crossed. A meeting of the minds led to a challenge then deepening of faith, a startling discovery of true love found in full measure only to be known in the Shadowlands of life. 

So, onto your entries now. Reading your comments and finding out how many of you really liked the idea of this theme was lovely too. So, let's see who got around to actually interpreting it! :) Can't wait to discover what each of you have conjured up and written along the way. Thank you for your contributions.

P.S. Oh, yes, one more thing. Remember how I mentioned that competition Alex and I were entering? Well, guess what? While mine was not chosen, Alex's was and made it to the next round of the top 15. I'm so proud of her! :) Please wish her luck as she paints in her "missing piece" artwork and gets to have her piece critiqued live online in front of the others and the NY kidlit agent! Maybe she'll even get picked to be represented? Now, wouldn't that be exciting? Perhaps one day then I can retire, paint from home while she creates her award winning pieces? Ooh... I have NO problem with that whatsoever. :D




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Tuesday, April 26

Missing Piece: Lil' Monster Surprise!

Suzie never knows what she'll find behind the park fence whenever her mom takes her.


Here's my take this week, created specifically with an online "kidlit" competition* in mind that I'm entering. Wish me luck! 

Thinking on the theme, I thought how perfect to show a fence with open slats in between — you just can't help but try to fill in the missing pieces. It takes imagination, something this girl is obviously very good at. :)

*If, amazingly, my piece is selected, I'll have the opportunity to colour it with 14 other lucky recipients. So, stay tuned. Ooh, I'd so love to get picked and then could show you what I'll do next for this initial offering. Yes, it's likely a long shot, but well worth the challenge. :)

OK, now on to see what other lil' creatures the rest of you Creative Tuesday peeps came up with! I hope you enjoyed this rather unique take on things.

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Tuesday, April 12

Creative Tuesdays: Magical Lamp


I picture this being the start of "The Journey of the Magical Lamp" or something like that. It's rather rushed as I was trying out new things with a lot of trial and error. Overall though, as a result, I like the feel of this piece. I didn't want it to seem too scary (for kids) but more a sense of adventure and wonder. Where's the boy going? What's lit up ahead? How does the lamp work when it's unplugged? And so on...

OK, off to visit the rest of you (later tonight). Just leave the light on for me, will ya? :)

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Monday, March 28

Easter Eggs


So, how was everyone's Easter? It seems to me, somewhat sadly, that each year Easter gets smaller with fewer doing anything for it. With my daughter on bed rest and the "kids" schedules complicated, we ourselves kept it pretty low key too — the 5 of us actually ended up going to the Barnes & Noble cafe and on Saturday night, no less. One side benefit? No clean up. That's always good.

Having the Creative Tuesdays' theme was perfect as while our celebration may have been simple, the Easter Eggs we brought as a surprise for the occasion were anything but! Alexandra and I had so much (back tiring) fun drawing, painting and creating them Friday night as well as most of Saturday until it was time to go. Above, is just a sampling of the ones I created. ...I'll leave you to guess which ones were for the boys and which for the girls. :) Each set was presented in small half-dozen egg containers along with a handful of Cadbury mini eggs, offering some other festive notes.

After a rough night for Alex (injury related problems), we were up early Easter morning at 5:30 am! Not to be put off though, we decided to take full advantage of our time to work on a couple more eggs for special gift deliveries to surprise others later.

So, how did your CT go? I wonder how many of you actually worked on eggs? Can't wait to find out! Thank you for playing along. Next year, we're hoping to get a few more (here) involved in the process. Let me tell you, bonding over a multitude of boiled eggs is certainly one way to celebrate abundant life. :)
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Sunday, March 27

Wishing You Hope in the Midst of Life


"Beautiful" (Acoustic Version) by Mali Music (Lyrics) | Live | Video

Happy Easter, everyone! Did any of you decorate Easter Eggs? We did! Can't wait to show you but will tell you more about that later when posting my Creative Tuesdays entry.

Until then, wishing each of you a beautiful day. With so many facing such dire circumstances that truly break my heart, it's important to take the time to soak in and reflect on those more intangible gifts of life we have that bring newness, hope and love.

Like this song says too, I'm thankful for those of you who have supported me in any way you may have over these years, whether that's been remotely through encouragement in an art co-op or in prayer and good wishes, or for anyone I've had the opportunity to know and be blessed by. It's not just family or friends, mind you, it's also those special people working as baristas, bringing smiles each day, or simply those at work who take time out of their busy days to acknowledge the worth of others. I'm reminded too of those like our friend, Nathan, who is overcoming homelessness, working hard, trying to help his mom, holding faith and setting an example for the rest of us of a life worth living.

Every example with moments like these is truly beautiful and I cherish them deeply. Thank you.
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Monday, March 21

"You can never stand in the same river twice!"


How silly, I thought when first coming across this quote in one of the 3 books I'm currently reading.  It wasn't until later that it struck me just how deep this analogy was for change. Not only is the river not the riverbed, our lives too aren't just defined by the seeming constants of them (whether found in the blessings of profound relationships or the isolation of illness, loss, or what have you). Rather, it's as Heralitus alluded: "The only real constant is change."

As much as we may want to resist the river's current, we simply can't unplug life's forward movement (as this book's author suggests). In fact, to resist the flow is to choose further suffering. Sadly, many of us know that all too well. It is incredibly wrenching when faced with having to let go of people and things we've cherished so deeply that they've seemingly become one with our very nature. Yet, as Merritt Jones adds, to try and force change before it's ready is like trying to make the river flow faster — an exercise in futility.

That certainty of change can understandably create a fair degree of anxiety. So, what do you do with it? While, say, having faith in God and seeing reality through that wider prism can provide a greater sense of purpose, most of us, if we're honest with ourselves, contend with worry at some point or another. Its anxiousness ebbs and flows through our lives. In response, we do our best to mitigate the unknowns as much as possible. We build faith, routine, expectations, support, whatever it is that can seemingly add stability and preparation for those trials that may come at any time. Some are seen from afar and dreaded, while others arrive suddenly and forcefully where we can barely breathe; it may take a long time to recover.

The point of this muse is not really to give some all-knowing dissertation on preparing for or even triumphing in those challenges of life, but more just wondering how we deal with the inevitability of actual uncertainty.

Increasingly, I've found find that while some "do" life better perhaps than others, no one has theirs fully mastered. That is both sobering yet liberating too. If, for example, we're approximating an A for effort, we don't have to justify and beat ourselves up for not getting an A+! Maybe for some of us, it's a B, C or even D. I don't know, but you get the gist. As a friend recently noted, "We all carry what we can carry." Simple, yes, but oh how true. We are all unique — what comes easy for some may be challenging for another. Each of us have our own burden and lot to contend with, and that's enough already!

None of us like change or uncertainty nor the hardships it may bring. I'm discovering though that remaining in our perfectly constructed nests will never help us look beyond our own self-imposed boundaries and into the mystery and adventure of life itself. It's rather like C.S. Lewis so humourously wrote:

"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

After all, on the other side of uncertainty, change, hurt, and challenges is a world of growth, wonder and possibility.


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Tuesday, March 15

Baked Goodness

Mmm... for this Creative Tuesdays, a tower of spongy baked-with-love goodness, sandwiched between strawberries and cream. One of my faves but never seen that here, actually. In fact, the closest I've remotely found is Chantilly cake(?) at Whole Foods Market but not nearly as tasty nor as... glorious, shall we say? (The US oddly lacks the variety of cakes so commonly offered across the pond.) As it is, I doubt any sponge could hold that much cream but isn't artistic license a dream? Heh.

As I rather had a penchant for my initial sketch here, I decided to just focus on colouring in the "love offering" instead, in order to keep the whole feel of it fairly sketchy in the process, as you can see. Must admit, my mouth was practically watering the entire time, so probably just as well this wasn't drawn from real life or I dare say, my resolve might not have been as strong as this little boy's! :)

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Tuesday, March 1

Meet the Artist

 
Here's my Meet Me piece for Creative Tuesday's Meet n' Greet! Ha-ha, I so had fun with this and am sure you did too! What's quite funny is this is exactly what I wore for work today. In fact, I almost always have black polished shoes on and usually one of my three v-neck sweaters. Aside from the dark purple one, there's a dark grey and a maroon one as well, much like the t-shirt's colour showing through here.

Alex has given her stamp of approval so that's good. It's legit! She says it's very me... "even down to your rosy cheeks and [err] the crumbs on your sweater!" Whilst my tea has long been consumed, I can sit here satisfied knowing that no crumbs were left from my tag-a-long girl's scout cookie so enjoyed earlier for my ritualistic dunking. (I will also have you know, btw, that was well deserved after that huge salad earlier.) And... OK... I must admit there are indeed some [popcorn] crumbs around the place. Oh dear me, I really must talk to Alexandra about her mess! Heh. :D Nooo, I mean, surely my table manners are far too impeccable to EVER be so...um, err.... expressive?!

Well, my suspicion is this theme's going to be quite engaging for all. Can't wait to learn a few new fun things about each of you! Oh, and don't forget too that I plan to do a montage of all our pieces for this go around. It will be quite a keepsake, I'm sure. :)
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Monday, February 15

Feathered Fuzzy Feeding


I struggled coming up with an idea for this Creative Tuesdays' theme but ended up settling on fuzzy clothing, feathers and hair. Not my favourite drawing and watercolour by any means but you get the general gist of it, clunky as it rather is.

Funnily enough, when I showed it to Alexandra, she said, "It's Wanda's husband!" Ha, I suppose I might have had his look in the back my memory banks. Mind you, I'm not sure she'd ever let him get that shaggy haired, nor would Don care to, come to think of it. Well, I could certainly see my hair like that but I'd probably forego the beard. I do though rather like to keep that windswept look. :)
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Tuesday, February 2

BOXES of CHOCOLATES

(See this close-up version for details)

Wow, look at all those chocolates! Someone luuuvs someone, I'd say. :)

For this Creative Tuesdays theme, I thought it might not only be fun to show a bounty of chocolate boxes but to do it in a sort of fashion design pen-like style.

Here's hoping you enjoy more good things than expected in the coming weeks and months ahead. It's sweet to receive and even more fun to give! For many out there, Valentine's is nothing more than a commercial Hallmark holiday but that's fine with me — I actually like those sappy movies and would far rather celebrate love and romance than some of the other also abundantly commercial holidays out there.

Thank you to everyone who's participated in our challenge this go around. Time to bundle up some hugs and sample some of your chocolates. I wonder what kinds of boxes will be on display? (Heh, just as well I do rather have a virtual sweet tooth as well!)

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Wednesday, January 27

Ageing... with finesse & style!

Original photo taken by Monte Stevens | © Copyright 2015

I've mentioned Bettie to you before. She will be 80 this year and is anything but “old!” Her mind is sharp, her wit smart, quick and contagious, and her body lean yet strong. In fact, she is a lot fitter than I. She even laughs with that certain twinkle in her eye when telling us that we wouldn't be able to keep up with her in her core work outs at the senior centre each week! Too funny. I don't mind at all. She has every right to feel good about how well she's taken care of herself, not just physically but mentally too.

Not only does she walk an average of 5-6 miles a day, if you were to ever stop by her simple, sparse yet airy 400 sq. ft. flat, you might find her studying another World Atlas, or perhaps listening to one of the university lecture series CD's she recently found at her local library. Another past time? Dancing away by herself to music cranked up on her little boom box. How thrilling to be so alive, active and curious at her age and really, quite different to the older folk around her in her building too. (Actually, many of them would no doubt dismiss her as rather mad!) Then again, she has always been progressive, far earlier than when that word ever became fashionable as it is with some today. She was vegetarian, exercising, doing yoga, and TV-less while adopting a life of decluttering and simplicity long, long before society ever found any of those things trendy.

And now, while still able to be fully engaged, she finds this phase of her life the happiest by far. She may not have much materially (very little in fact), but has found how to make life productive and good around her and in the process, as she likes to say, show her children how to age. That is something I had never considered before but, oh how I like that! I love her maverick ways.

That is not to say, Alex and I agree with her on everything but we don't feel the need to either. I find a freedom of fascination in our differences, much like my father and I, actually. Her world view is a fair bit more liberal, politically, and Eastern, philosophically (atheist Buddhist* to be precise). Nevertheless, we often see much of the joys of simple life the same, and with it, the things to avoid too that can so easily beckon us to follow along with the masses, culturally speaking.

Assuming we have our wits about us, while we can all choose to age gracefully, that doesn't necessarily mean as our culture might dictate. Setting that example of how to grow older begins today. While none of us know just how long we might have, we can still find things in the spectrum of life around us that can engage us, keeping us learning and wanting to do... more. It goes beyond mindlessly flipping on the tellie just because it's there, beyond automatically supporting our local sports team because it is just that, beyond defaulting to a night out at another obligatory bar, beyond base, coarse language that has become rote, and even beyond the ingrained need to be "cool" simply for that transitory sake.

Ageing and maturing well beckons us out of just sitting there, whether that has been remaining apathetic at home or attending to some religious or social expectation perhaps only out of a misplaced sense of duty. These are all just ideas to stimulate your own imagination. I certainly have my bias but how your distinction looks to you is something only you can answer. As we're all different, one would hope our own blend is varied too for each of us, considering how our life might otherwise be if we kept it in automatic. And that is rather the point, isn't it? It comes down to be being truly alive, being fully conscious in our routine decisions, not just adopting whatever is the norm of the day. As such, it often necessitates having to choose to live different.**

At any regard, it's easy to embrace the cultural norms of our peer groups, whatever the age, yet the Betties of this world are out there, showing us that you don't have to give in to predictable normalcy. You can start living more today! I don't know about you, but I find that very invigorating indeed. :)

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* Yes, one can actually be both — embracing the concepts of detachment, Karmic consequence, etc., while yet not ascribing to that endless cycle of reincarnation, for example.
** It likely goes without saying that no one here is somehow advocating giving in to a kind of reckless abandon where your life is thrown into peril or where those under your care are put unnecessarily at negligent risk. Of course not. That would be fruitless for all. It's more about finding that balance that leads to a healthier life, let alone how to age in style!
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Sunday, January 24

That Peter Pan complex


What a difference 10 years can make. I was not at all happy about turning 40, but this go around, if anything, has been positively invigorating! And seriously, that's quite an accomplishment for me, let me tell you.

You see, I think I may be the only person out there who was actually rather despondent about the prospect of even reaching the double digits! Turning 10 meant I was no longer a little child; I had to put away child's play and face life a tad more grown up... or so I thought. Ha, I remember actually being sad that no doubt one day would surely come when I would no longer care to play with toys or make believe. All I wanted was to be a kid... forever!

Of course, a few years later, my peers were all too excited about becoming teenagers whereas I was positively not. That mantle indicated that now I surely had to pack away my Action Man figurines and finally stop playing pretend! I think too though seeing the duress my mother was under raising us as a single mom filled me with a certain sense of dread. I feared that adult life was going to be more about worrying how to pay the bills or what else to sell than anything else. It was the diminishing of dreams, as it were. Adulthood was all about working all day, all the time too, only to then come home exhausted and have to cook up some meal for the family. No thank you! Childhood seemed far more wonderful. I just wanted to close my eyes and carry on living in that imaginary childhood wonder where there were no real worries, where how one did in school didn't even matter that much.

While most of the ensuing teen years seemed challenging and sometimes outright depressing, I nevertheless wasn't ready to give them up at twenty, nor was I wanting to become a full-fledged adult at eighteen (in England). On top of that, I had absolutely zero desire to spend my 18th in some dank, smoke-filled pub somewhere. No, I didn't see any advantages to becoming an adult. I mean, after all, living in London there wasn't even a need to drive! None of my friends had cars either. Besides which, I loved riding my bicycle through Kensington Gardens and down empty, serenely quiet mews at night. Did this mean that now I had to put all that away too?

By the time twenty-one rolled around, I was living in America with my girlfriend (who would a year later become my wife), working and finally loving school (uni). That, however, didn't equate to relishing the idea of (once again) becoming a fully legal adult here now too. Again, I had no desire to drink too much in some loud bar filled with drunk "kids" seemingly desperate for attention and that pursuit of fun at all expense. Working almost full-time whilst a student meant I wasn't about to dump our money on such frivolous, let alone expensive pursuits. I was more mature than that, as it were! Some might well say I was far too old already, except for the inconvenient fact of only looking about fifteen or so by then and, deep down, my child's heart was still not ready to let go.

Other eventful birthdays came and went, some harder than others, but while I've never enjoyed getting older, I have always, oddly enough, loved my actual birthdays. It's that one day which is all about oneself! Relishing good cake too certainly helps, must admit. :)

This birthday was no exception. It was, actually, perhaps the best! Alex went overboard, even having that delicious Victoria Sponge (above) made for me at the bakeshop we love downtown to celebrate with some new friends and with my children who also showed up. In fact, earlier, I had a special dinner time out with the kids on my actual birthday that Alexandra arranged. The best part? As usual, the lovely cards with their thoughtful (tear inducing) sentiments each of my children wrote... and a loving wife who celebrates and believes in me. Those are the things I will always cherish, naturally.
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Wednesday, January 20

LOVE IS IN THE AIR




I had this idea right away after posting the LOVE IS IN THE AIR Creative Tuesdays theme. In fact, I went so far as to quickly scribble it down with dry erase pen on our magnetic refrigerator's shopping list.

My idea here was to show a heart quickly painted down as if in a rush of heart-felt emotion or passion, if you will. Initially, I had thought of a triptych with a boy climbing up a ladder into a tree to shoot this simple love note across the way to land next to a girl sitting in a meadow pulling he-loves-me/he-loves-me-not daisies. Considering it further though, I felt that the best part of the story was what what I ended up painting here...so, voila!

OK, now onto looking at your contributions. What a great way to start my two day birthday bash!  :) (I'm actually taking time off work, no less.) Smoots (Alexandra) has certainly punctuated the air with an atmosphere of fun, expectation and love these last few days with hints of things to come. Ooh, I can't wait to find out what surprises she has in store. (Yes, I'm still such a kid at heart...well, when it comes to my birthday anyway.)
 
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Tuesday, January 12

How did we end up here?


96 down to 19. What am I talking about? Age? Waist size? Ha-ha, no, no. Rather, that's just how many sites I had in my blogroll that are no longer updated or have been deleted. Of the nearly 100 blogs that piqued my curiosity somewhere along the way in the last 7-8 years, 19 is all that's left*! Blogging has certainly lost its fad factor over the years, hasn't it? In fact, this recent spring clean was reinforced by a post Jackie made on her Home blog. She and her readers brought up valid concerns about the nature of blogging: why people come and go; how to maintain privacy yet be authentic, etc. All this had me pondering my own thoughts on this curious craft...

Ironically enough, when blogging was most misunderstood and misjudged, that's when it was most engaged, most popular! Now, the platform's become almost blase with seemingly everyone having blogged at one point or another. Portions of it, true, can be terribly designed with hard-to-read formatting, huge images requiring tons of scrolling, bright garish colours, flashing animations and so forth. No wonder it leaves a bad taste for some.

Just the other day, I heard some young chaps discussing blogging with one noting that while they enjoy writing, they haven't blogged as they don't have anything important, or more so, unique to say. That's also a good point. Certainly there is nothing new under the sun, yet we humans keep writing books, journals, magazine articles, you name it. Not only that, we now go so far as to maintain something even more intrusive — personal Facebook accounts! Add to that, we often "friend" people we barely know just to keep in touch. We are reduced to simply "liking" posts that may share something even tragic in order to show our support. Unlike what blogging affords, there's no art to the message, no crafting the words or choosing that perfect photo to add to your online presence. No, it's rather become a sort of haphazard, immediate way to let the world know where you are and what you're doing on any given day. That's fine, I'm not invested either way.

What a bizarre dichotomy though that now we readily embrace a platform that engages most in ways that increasingly raise those same concerns about privacy, mediocrity, authenticity and so forth! While sometimes I too am tempted to catch up with relatives, old friends, even co-workers and the like, I have refrained from having my own personal Facebook account. It seems to me from the frequent comments I hear from its users that it's often filled with drama, people getting hurt unnecessarily and a network used by some to unfortunately snoop and gossip. It's gone beyond the pale of its useful social experiment. That's one trouble with technology.

So, no thank you, I will stick to blogging! Here's an avenue for writing something beyond just a tertiary snippet; a place to explain one's wonder and aesthetic; to connect with other artists and writers one might never have the privilege of knowing otherwise. If you "thumbs up" a post or not isn't my main concern but whenever you do happen to leave a comment, wonderful! Truly. I love getting to know people and what makes them interpret something as they do, thus in part why I host Creative Tuesdays.

All this to say that I'm not abandoning the blogging ship! Yes, admittedly too, there are very few of us men out here in the blogosphere, at least those who aren't discussing sports, geek stuff, political/social activism or what have you. Well then, if nothing else, perhaps that makes my voice at least a tad more, dare I say... novel? :)

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* My blogroll, btw, has now increased to 23, finding that some have re-taken to Blogger. Perhaps there's been a mini resurgence of sorts for creative souls out there? One can certainly hope!
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Tuesday, January 5

STAINED GLASS - New Year

http://www.dottyhill.com/holidays-seasons/

Christmas is over and the New Year has just begun... What better way to represent both and bring in my favourite bird but to depict this imaginary scene for my C.T. Stained Glass? I have to admit, this took quite a long time. The longest part? Deciding to "break" apart the glass into pieces and doing the black lead lines. The funny thing is, I actually did that bit on the computer, not wanting to potentially ruin my original watercolour painting (below).

Thank you to the three of you who had already completed this CT theme prior to the one week extension. You got the ball rolling! Nevertheless, I will check back in later tonight to see if anyone else got theirs in last minute too.

Wednesday night or Thursday,  I'll announce the new theme over on Creative Tuesday's site so do be sure to check that out. I think Tracy and Donna will in particular enjoy this one. You'll perhaps figure out why... :)

http://www.dottyhill.com

P.S. There are many different ways to create stained glass, I've learned. The more modern way is to outline every detail with lead but I am particularly drawn to the classic approach with details in each pane of glass. My inspiration was this gorgeous window, although obviously mine was far simpler!

P.P.S. The New Year is a perfect time to (re)join CT if you've followed along and debated having something like this co-op to keep you productive...and creative. Consider it anyway — we're a friendly bunch. :)
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Saturday, January 2

Rejuvenating the soul


Inspire. Strengthen. Excite. Restore. Rejuvenate. Vitalize. Good words, aren't they? Oh, how I love these... even the way they sound. And, how insightful it was coming up with a new word to motivate me through the year ahead. As previously mentioned, last year's was Radiant — an apt word for 2015, inviting me to pause and consider when I was rising to the occasion and when not.

This year, after going through Susannah Conway's Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook and having read her own ruminations of the year past, I've chosen the word, INVIGORATE! It's exciting wondering how it might unfold in my life and for those around me.

Finding one's own word for the year necessitates asking questions beyond knowing what's definitely happening in the next 12 months. What do you hope to happen? What dreams would you like to nurture? What areas need support? What needs developing in oneself? What does your heart need? And so on. The end goal, of course, is not to promote yourself above all others but, as I like to think of it at least, to live more in tune with who you are when (if) unencumbered by the cares of this world. When we are true to our calling, as it were, we're bound to have a more effective life, affecting those around us in a healthy way too.

With all that said, funnily enough and quite unexpectedly, Alexandra also settled on the same word, each of us having arrived at it independent of one other. How thrilling! Quite fun too. So, does that mean anything? I don't know. We shall see!
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Friday, January 1

A simple toast to the New Year

holiday celebrations!


Clink. We raised our glasses (mugs of tea) to the New Year as midnight chimed. What a long wait! Oh, not Colorado's, mind you. No, far too unmemorable. London's, actually. Easier that way and at the tail end of our tea time (5:00 pm), to boot. :)

Next year, however, we're going BIG! We're doing it proper. I'm thinking, ringing in the year a WHOLE day early! Sydney, I'm waaaiting... 

Happy 2016 everybody! Anyone else celebrate in a tad unexpected way?

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