Thursday, May 7, 2015


disclaimer-this isn't the original camellia I painted-it died!
Yesterday I was working on my watercolour painting.  I had a plan to work each day on it but as of yesterday, that had only happened once.  And that consisted of me playing with washes and using salt.  I realized I needed to really practice on drawing not just playing and I needed to have a real block of time so since class is today that happened yesterday.

I decided to go back to the camellia I had started in class almost two weeks ago.  It actually didn't look too bad.  I hated to "mess" it up.  And I was trying to remember that lesson as well.  Watercolour often requires waiting, waiting for a section to dry.

While I was waiting I decided to try to draw another flower and work on it.  I wanted something fairly simple!  I decided to choose a perennial bachelor button which grow like weeds in my garden.

When I started drawing I realized it wasn't that simple and when I started trying to get the colours right in my painting I realized it really wasn't simple.

Watercolour painting required patience and I am not a patient person.  Long ago I remember my father saying,  "I don't know how you can teach those special children, you have no patience!"

Actually I can be patient but it isn't always easy for me.  It is something I am continually working on or I should be working on.  My lack of patience often has me not  following things in order for instance.

 I am not always convinced patience is a good thing.  There are times when I think we need to not put up with things but that is another story.

I am not good at waiting.  And watercolour painting requires waiting and it requires patience with myself, my lack of skill etc.  I also have to contend with that fear it isn't going to look right.  And in a way it may be that unwillingness to go through the steps, put in the effort.  My perfectionism comes out in be just saying let's just not do it.

In a class you generally have other people encouraging you, alone you have to be your own encourager.  Maybe that is why some kids don't get their homework done!!!

I think this is one reason I always liked going to work as opposed to the idea of working at home or on my own.

using Waterlogue app
I actually found myself posting my before and after camellia pictures on Facebook, no doubt seeking encouragement.

I actually have  things I enjoy doing on my own  but when I am doing something challenging to me I seem to need that encouragement of others.  I find it hard to struggle alone and not just give up or take the easy way out.

But as I was having difficulties yesterday, I was also thinking, "This is good because now I know what I need to ask in class"  I can show our instructor where my struggles are and ask for suggestions.  Not really very different to Grade 11 Algebra class with Mr. Cochrane.  Several of my friends wouldn't even attempt the problem they were so math phobic but it didn't bother me to get it wrong and find out what I needed to do to make it right then I would explain the whole thing to them.  My early teaching moments…

So I am trying to learn to have patience and not be afraid to "screw up".  And yes, I am looking forward to art class today.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Watercolour Lessons

still life by me from art class onboard ship
A former principal told me once you shouldn't say you are going to wait to retirement to start something new or something you want to do.  Retirement should be about doing what you enjoy and  learning more about something you already enjoy doing.

I have tried quite a few things in my life and others I haven't.  And for instance, I have never gone scuba diving and I have no desire to do so now that I am retired.  Although I have really enjoyed snorkeling and I like to look at things underwater I am kind of claustrophobic and the thought of all that water over me is not appealing so no scuba diving planned in my future.  I also have no plans to go crawling around in dark caves.

out the classroom window
But I am someone who kind of likes taking classes.  And if you have followed this blog you have probably heard about my going to Spanish lessons and my attempts to learn some Portuguese using iPad language apps.  And I have told you about my knitting lessons.  And lately I have also been learning about identifying different types of ornamental cherries!

In February I went on an 18 day cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Miami (for more details check out my .  I was a little worried about being on a cruise ship that long and about the nine days at sea. It all worked out, but a real highlight for me, was I got to take watercolour lessons on our sea days.  The lessons were only about an hour long but fortunately we had a skilled, former middle school art teacher.  For many of my fellow travellers and me, this became something we really enjoyed and looked forward to doing.
travel blog)

first class demo
I haven't taken much in the way of art lessons but I loved drawing when I was a child but I never really had access to much art instruction.  I think I took a drawing course in the community once when I was in university.  I did a bit of sketching much later,  and I did a one day seminar in watercolours about 10 years ago. I never really liked teaching art and fortunately, usually had a talented art teacher to teach my class.

But after the ship experience, I really began to think about taking a watercolour painting course.  First I did a plein air watercolour seminar with a friend.  It was a bit of a disaster for both of us and we actually quit early and had brunch.

I had already signed up for a watercolour art class apparently for all levels working with spring flowers and given at the nearby botanical gardens.  I was a bit worried after my last experience where I felt totally over my head.  I didn't have the right materials, I didn't even know the particular colours he was telling us to use.

When I got to the centre last week I was greeted by a lovely younger woman who asked if I was looking for the art class because I looked artistic (it was probably the big bag I was carrying).  It turned out she was the volunteer who is helping with the class, but it was nice to be greeted that way.

second class demo
Our teacher was excellent and although, I was a bit nervous, I was quite pleased with the beginnings of my camellia painting.  I left the class quite happy and excited.  But somehow life got in the way and I was busy and the painting didn't get touched again.  Not that we were given homework, but I kind of felt guilty but obviously not guilty enough.  In university I often seemed to carry books around that didn't get read and now I even took my painting equipment to Salt Spring Island but didn't do anything with it.

But no recriminations in my art class.  After my second lesson in this class, I was thinking how much I am enjoying it.  Some people are quite experienced, others are novices such as myself, but our teacher is able to accommodate our differences.  I also really like the people in my class and I love the beautiful setting.  There is a nice sense of community.  I think we are all nature lovers and appreciators of beauty.  

one of my talented classmate's work
I went into class today feeling a bit stressed out and noticed how good I felt by the end of the class.  That lovely sense of concentration.  I can see why my students always enjoyed art class.

Even in retirement I sometimes feel a little driven in a zillion directions.  It's nice to find a quiet place where focusing is required.  I also really like learning new skills.  I like that I am required to be patient.

And maybe this week I will find time to practice!  And perhaps work on that portrait of the camellia.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring in Vancouver

I love Spring and I love Spring in Vancouver because it lasts so long here. back east it starts late and it quickly goes into summer. Here you start to see new growth as early as January and now in late March while Eastern Canada got yet another snowfall, tulips are blooming here.

Each day I wonder what is coming up new in my garden. And I am currently learning about all the different types of ornamental cherry trees and trying to make it as an official cherry blossom spotter. There are 54 types of trees in Vancouver! We even have an official cherry blossom festival!

I spent an amazing three weeks cruising from Brazil to Miami but part of me was wondering what spring flowers I might be missing. And as I was working in my garden a couple of days ago I was thinking that I kind of did miss the full array of my crocuses as they were just beginning blooming when I left in February.

But of course it is wonderful to get away to exotic places and have longer days and real warmth from the sun so no regrets but I was thrilled to see my daffodils blooming on my return. To read more about this trip and other adventures just go to my travel blog.

One of my favourite things to do here is early morning walks. I have favourite spots but sometimes I go to other places as well, but each week I generally walk Kits Beach area, Spanish Banks, and Queen Elizabeth Park. And their are also shorter walks in my immediate Douglas Park-South Cambie-Main Street neighbourhoods. And Queen Elizabeth Park is actually just a walk up the hill. Other favourites are Stanley Park, Steveston, and downtown. And I could keep going about neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland that seem to feed my soul. You can always check out my walks in My Beautiful Vancouver blog.

I moan and groan about planting bulbs and I do plant new ones every fall because as I look at my garden in spring I think about where I need more colour etc. and I am so,delighted that I planted what I did, it inspires me for the coming fall. Some bulbs only last so long while others spread madly. This year I really love the snap of colour these red small early tulips gave my front garden.

But you have to know I am rather random in my planting, planting what I look the looks of on the package!!!

Spring is also a season of fresh starts and on our days at sea I was able to take water colour painting lessons. I had doubled a bit in water colours quite awhile ago due to a couple of artistic friends, who sadly died too young, but thanks to a great instructor that interest was reignited.

So I am going to definitely take some lessons.

This week, after five weeks away due to my trip and the two week spring break, I was back volunteering with the grade ones and tutoring my next door neighbour also in first grade. It was great to be back and see all their learning taking place. And that actually could be a subject for a whole other blog, but no one should ever underestimate the value of the work of teachers. To be a teacher is to have the awareness that you never master the art but are constantly having to learn.

This is Holly the cat greeting her friend whose reward for reading aloud three books was getting to help me garden!

Cam helped me with my pruning of my hydrangeas so new flowers will bloom!