Friday, August 31, 2012

This August 31st

Here we are, the last long weekend of summer.  Where does the time go?  How can it be the end of summer already?!  Those of us here in Toronto were treated to a very sunny, hot day, with temperatures in the high 30's (that's in the 90's in America speak) - I was having flashbacks to my time in Italy back at the end of June, that's how hot it was!  Forecast for the rest of the long weekend is looking equally good - what a treat.

It's the 15th anniversary of Princess Diana's death.  I miss her, don't you?
Photo from,
used entirely without permission and with apologies
It's a blue moon tonight - which doesn't mean it's blue in colour, it just means it's the second full moon in a calendar month (although according to Wikipedia, that is not the correct interpretation.  Oops!)  Kyle Cassidy posted an awesome photo of the moon on his blog in the wee hours of this morning, you should check it out.  Then go outside after dark tonight and have a look at the real thing!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

AGO Again

I go downtown to get my hair cut so when I made my appointment this week, I scheduled it for yesterday after work so I could head back to the AGO to take advantage of their free admission from 6 to 8:30 pm on Wednesdays. 

It was much more crowded than when I went on Sunday morning with Irene and Bob but I wanted to have a look at some of the things we had missed and see some things at a slower pace.  Don't get me wrong, our visit on Sunday was just right. We weren't there for more than 2 hours, which is just long enough for any museum visit as far as I am concerned.  Anything longer and my brain turns to mush, I simply can't absorb any more information.  They call it "museum fatigue".  But I do enjoy seeing new things and wandering about in museums and art galleries so why not do it for free?

I spoke to one of the staff who told me that you're not supposed to take pictures of the actual paintings, the only photos they allow to be taken inside are those of the architecture of the building itself so this one is okay:
The main floor lobby, with Rodin
statues and Frank Gehry staircase.
However, I saw several people taking photos anyway and so I snuck this one of my favourite room from a viewing alcove looking out over the room.  (Just this one, honest!)

This room is apparently set up to show how pictures used to be displayed in galleries and museums in days gone by.  Lots of paintings of various sizes by numerous artists, stuck all over the walls in a random fashion.  I can see why it might not be the best way to display valuable works of art but at the same time, I really like the feel of this room.  It could be the purple walls, I have the same shade on one of the walls in my living room, but I think it's just the cozy feel of it.  The other rooms in the gallery tend to be larger and brighter (mostly white walls) and feel a little more...hmm, what's the word I'm looking for? Austere maybe? Detached? Stark? Not all the rooms, just some of them.

One thing I find challenging about the AGO's set up is that they don't have anything near the paintings to identify the name or artist.  No little signs or plaques beside each frame.  Instead, they have some signs listing details about groups of pictures attached to walls in the general vicinity (although in one case, the sign was on one side of a doorway directly beside several other paintings that were not the subject of the sign and the actual paintings being described were on the other side of the open doorway, which was very confusing, especially since all you have is the title of the painting to identify by!)  In the other cases, they have laminated or printed forms tucked into holders in one corner of the usually large room, which you are meant to pull out and carry around with you while you look at the paintings.  Which wouldn't be the worst thing except that in some rooms, the English versions are missing completely or have pages removed.  The French versions seem to be intact and in good condition but even with my moderate knowledge of the language, I found some of the titles and/or descriptions of the paintings difficult to translate ("oil painted on canvas" not being a typical phrase you learn in high school French class!)  Then again, I might already have been suffering from museum fatigue while trying to figure out what was what and that might have been why it seemed so challenging to determine which painting was which and by whom it had been painted!

Still, I enjoyed my 2nd visit in 4 days and look forward to going back again some day soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Worn Out From Playing

Last night, Belle Cherie wore herself out playing with this little feathered toy. She could hardly keep her eyes open but she still wasn't going to let go of the toy, heaven forbid one of the other kittens should get to play with it instead!

I'm feeling a bit worn out myself tonight.  We're being switched to Office 2010 at work over the next 3 weeks. When I went into work this morning, the new program had been installed on my computer overnight.  Visually, it looks completely different on the screen.  It's as if you've been looking at a blue screen for the past 10 years and suddenly, it's green.  I could feel my brain whirling all day, trying to make sense of the new look.  I'm sure I'll get there and some of the improvements look really cool, no doubt it will be worth the update in the end but in the meantime, there are new things to be learned, settings to be set up or reset and new pathways to discover.  I tell myself it's good for my brain to have this new challenge, they say learning new things will hopefully help fend off Alzheimer's, but tonight, I'm just a little worn out from playing with the new system all day! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sketchbook #2

I have this sketchbook I bought at the dollar store some time ago. 

It's a little bit bigger than Sketchbook #1 and psychologically, it feels a little more casual and relaxed.  It could be the coil binding or the perforated pages (theoretically, I could rip out a sketch if I really hated it), or perhaps due to the fact that I only paid $1.25 for it (although the quality of the paper is reasonably good, at least for basic sketching purposes).  The pages are also a little bit larger in size (6 x 8 inches), which I sometimes prefer.  So I decided it would be okay to have 2 sketchbooks on the go at the same time, depending on what mood I'm in.  (I don't think there's a law that says you must use one book until it's filled up. At least, I hope there isn't.)

But first, I wanted to pretty up the cover a bit, so I pulled out my shoebox full of little bits and pieces of things

= leftover scraps of paper, found objects, ticket stubs, etc. and did a collage on the front cover.  I told myself that this would be a good way to use up a bunch of things in that box but of course, given that it's only 6 x 8 inches in size, it hardly made a dent in my collection of wee bits!  But it looks much prettier.

Must find my collection of numbers and add #2 to this one.  In the meantime, I got busy drawing in it, doing the first exercise from the book I got last week at Value Village, "The Creative License" by Danny Gregory.  He tells us to draw a chair, a mug, a table and a person.  I went a bit farther and drew a little sketch with all four items all together.

It was fun!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Toronto Visitors

My friend Irene and her husband Bob are visiting from California.  They spent today touring Toronto with me, they're off to the Niagara Region tomorrow to see the Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, followed by a few days in Muskoka (cottage country), then they're taking the train to Montreal and Quebec City before heading to Chicago.  Sounds like a great trip to me!

What a lovely day we had today.  We started with a visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario, to see the Group of 7 paintings (the rest of the crowd was headed to the last day of the Picasso exhibit but we decided to skip that).

After a quick peek into Above Ground Art Supplies (a.k.a. "Golden paint heaven", according to Irene!) next door,

we headed over to the Distillery District for lunch outside on a patio.  It was the perfect day for it and the food was great.

After lunch, we checked out some of the art galleries, shops and outdoor sculpture in the DD.

(The painting I liked best was a mere $9,600.00 so I've left it hanging on the wall of the gallery shop for now!)

From there, we walked to Harbourfront, with a quick trip to the St. Lawrence Market (closed on Sundays, who knew?) and a peek at Buskerfest (a festival for street performers).

The walk was longer and hotter than expected so we had a good excuse to sit on another patio and enjoy a cool drink while enjoying a cool breeze off the water and watching people and boats go by. 

Fan Expo was on at the convention centre downtown, we saw lots of people in costume when we got to Union Station to take the subway back to their hotel and then home for me.
Not sure what this costume is for/from -
all I know is, she's not a Trekkie!
What a great day!  Summer may be drawing to a close but it certainly didn't feel like it today. I was glad to have a chance to spend some time enjoying my city with these two lovely people.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

90 and Counting!

Today was my stepgrandmother's 90 birthday.  Her family threw a surprise party for her, only she wasn't really surprised, she had known for a while that something was up.  Which is just as well - at 90, you don't need too many surprises.

Further to last Monday's post, here are some photos of the little book I made for her:
Front cover
2nd page

3rd page
One of the middle pages (as shown above and below) has two extra bits that fold out.  Here's what the flaps look like partially unfolded:

and all the way extended:
Back cover
Unfortunately she didn't have a chance to unwrap the book while I was there, I hope she likes it!  I certainly had fun putting it together.

Here is a picture of my sister, my mom, the birthday girl, my aunt and myself at this afternoon's festivities:

and here's one of my sister and I with Leola.

What a treat to be able to share this special day with her!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Better Value at Value Village

Another excellent shopping excursion at Value Village, a local thrift store, the other day.  I tend to drop in for a visit every week or two nowadays.  I usually head to the office supply shelves first, then check the bagged items hanging on the wall, then books.

Two days ago,  I first found this stamp holder for only $1.99:

(which, you might recall, I needed because the one I got in May only holds 8 stamps, leaving the number 9 without a hanging spot.  Not any more!)

On the shelf right above it, I found this Rolodex for only $3.99.

I really didn't need another Rolodex but I did want the cards themselves.  [So if anyone needs one, let me know, which will force me to decide which version I want to keep - the flat, covered box or the round, spin until you find the card you want type.  I'm leaning towards the round one, it seems much more bohemian somehow.  The box type seems a little too "corporate" to me right now.]

And, the best part of that day's score, just as I walked into the first aisle of books, I looked down and there was this copy of "The Creative License" by Danny Gregory for a mere $4.99.

I had literally just ordered myself a copy of this book the day before for $15.87 from Amazon.  I went right back to the office and cancelled my order!

Now that's a valuable shopping spree!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sunnyside at Sunset

I especially like some of the photos I took at Sunnyside Pavilion just before and after the sun set:
The purple sunspots caught on camera

The shimmer of gold on the stone facade
The reflection of the setting sun at the water's edge
The reflection of the trees in the turquoise water,
together with the mauve sky

The stillness of the pool as dusk falls

What happened when I hit the "I feel lucky" button in Picasa
The same viewpoint, taken with the "night" setting on my camera

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Sunnyside

Here are a few more pictures from my visit to Sunnyside Pavilion last week:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Urban Sketching - Sunnyside Pavilion

Last Thursday night, I joined up with an urban sketching group to make some art at the Sunnyside Pavilion on Lakeshore Blvd. here in Toronto.  I'd heard about the group on the website calendar posted by a new art store my friend Lorraine had told me about, which she and I had visited the previous Sunday in the Junction, called Articulations (great store, interesting collection of merchandise, reasonable prices. I'm looking forward to taking some classes there in the fall.)

You can read some of the history of Sunnyside here.  The building we visited dates back to about 1908.  When we arrived at 6 p.m., the pool was full of bathers and on a warm, summer's evening like last Thursday was, the beachfront itself was bustling with activity.  There were all manner of boats on the water - kayaks, dragonboaters, canoes, sailboats - and an equal number of activities taking place on land as well - beach volleyball, walking and jogging (with or without dogs and/or strollers), bicycling, rollerblading or inline skating as they call it these days (or does it have another name now? so hard to keep up!).  The Pavilion is also home to a cafe which was quiet until later in the evening when a number of the athletes sat down for a cool drink and a nosh.

I met up with Michael (easily identifiable as a painter by the portable stool he was carrying) and Ernie (other members of the recently formed group being away on vacation or unable to attend that evening) and we settled down to sketch from this viewpoint. 

Michael kindly lent me his stool (turns out he had two other smaller ones in his knapsack!).  Seagulls came by to check out what we were doing, they probably thought we might have food.  I didn't have time to paint them but quickly took photos to work from later.

When we finished our first drawing, we showed each other what we had done. I thought I had done reasonably well in such a short time period, given my novice status as a sketcher and watercolourist:

However, I quickly realized I was way out of my league.  Michael, an architect, and Ernie, a graphics designer, have both been drawing for most of their lives and had created stunning watercolour sketches in the half hour we had sat there.  Both of their creations were suitable for immediate framing and were stunningly beautiful.  My painting was...not nearly as good.  It was incredibly intimidating but luckily for me, they were both very gracious and welcoming in spite of my obvious lack of skill and talent. 

We then moved to the road side of the Pavilion, which was much noisier from the traffic and road construction going on behind us but which offered prettier aspects of the building's architecture.

I focused on sketching the left hand side of the pavilion and didn't get very far along before time ran out.

As dusk arrived, we headed back to the beach to do one more drawing from the water's edge.  I like this one of mine the best, perhaps because I only used a Derwent sketching pencil (medium wash) and water (we chose to work only with a monochromatic scheme for this last painting) and didn't have to worry about getting everything painted in before it was too dark to see any more.

Like I said, these gentlemen were very kind and friendly, and graciously invited me to join them in two weeks' time when the group meets again (location TBD).  They also suggested I come along to the live model workshop taking place this coming Thursday but I'm pretty sure I'm not ready for that yet!  It's one thing to do a bad drawing of an inanimate object, I certainly wouldn't want to insult an actual person with my as yet unschooled renderings!