Janice & Yalexy

Not too long ago I posted about the Facebook ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative I participated in.  And not too long ago I also finished the second of the surprises: I made a portrait of my friend Janice and her husband Yalexy. I quickly sifted through a few Facebook photographs until I settled on this one:

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They both look so happy in this photo and it seemed like it would make a nice portrait.

The first attempt didn’t go so well:

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Yikes! Time to start over…

The second attempt was much more successful.

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I really struggle with portraits, so I don’t attempt them very often. Yalexy’s eyes were very difficult to capture, I think I erased and redrew them at least four times. When I look at the portrait on it’s own it seems good enough, but when the original photo and the portrait are compared side by side I feel there is a lot of room for improvement. The general shape of both their heads seem a little off, and Yalexy’s gaze appears a little cross eyed. Both of their hair gave me quite a bit of trouble too. But overall I would have to say I’m pretty happy with it. Although I think I am done with portraits for the next little while…

Framed and ready to go:

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Happy New Year to anyone reading this post!!

 

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Keys for Dani

Back in January 2016 I took part in the ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative on Facebook:

I want 2016 to be a kind and loving year. I’m participating in the ‘Pay it Forward’ initiative: The first 5 people who comment on this status with “I’m in” will randomly receive a surprise from me at some point in 2016- anything from a book, something homemade, a postcard, absolutely any surprise!
There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These 5 people must make the same offer on their Facebook status. Please copy and paste this message in your own status (don’t share it), so that we can form a web of connection and kindness.
Once my first 5 have commented “I’m in” I will message you privately, to get your address.
Let’s do more nice and loving things in 2016, without any reason other than to make each other smile and show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, friendly and love filled year!

Three friends replied that they were “in,” and I have only now finished the first of the surprises. My friend and co-worker Dani likes to collect antique keys, and when I couldn’t find her an actual set of old keys I decided to simply draw some.

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Not having any old fashioned keys myself I had to look online for the source photograph. Credit goes to photographer Michelle Rhodes.

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I’m quite pleased with the end product, and I’m also proud of myself for having completed it fairly quickly (about 4-5 hours). I’m always frustrated by how slowly I draw, but the more I draw the faster I get and that makes me very happy. I’m also happy that Dani liked my drawing and promptly put it on display in her hallway:

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Crepes

We often make crepes for breakfast on the weekends. The kids love it (who doesn’t love an excuse to ingest copious amounts of maple syrup?!) and they’re very easy to make. The ingredients are simple: milk, flour and eggs. I use one cup of flour and about 3/4 cup milk per one egg. But to be perfectly honest I don’t usually measure the milk, I just keep pouring until it looks right. The batter should have an off-white colour and should pour freely and easily, but it shouldn’t be too runny.

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Beat the eggs first, then slowly add the flour and milk. In order to feed two adults and two young children I use two eggs, two cups of flour and about one and a half cups of milk. If you need a bigger serving simply throw in another egg, another cup of flour and some more milk…When making a larger batch I add the flour and milk in installments: beat the eggs first, then add one cup of flour, then 3/4 cup of milk, then another cup of flour, then another 3/4 cup of milk, etc. This makes it easier to keep the batter lump free. Also, adding a tablespoon of coconut to the batter can complement the taste of the crepes quite nicely. Or for an even more subtle hint of flavour you can simply grease the frying pan with coconut oil.

Let the pan get nice and hot before cooking.  Each crepe will take about two minutes–one minute per side or until it’s very light brown. I like to make small ones (that’s how my mother cooked them when I was young), but the batter cooks just as well with larger crepes.

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My kids prefer “weird” shapes:

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I don’t care what shape they are, as long as I have a mountain of them topped with maple syrup or honey:

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Dreary Winter Afternoon

I may not have posted anything in a while, but I have been getting a lot of drawing done. One of my “drawings in progress” is finally complete: a winter-y scene from a neighbourhood near my own. I’m  always looking around for inspiration while walking our dog, Chester, and one day I was taken by the lighting and colour (or lack there-of) in this scene:

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This is my favourite type of subject matter these days. Drawing buildings and trees is incredibly satisfying.  Buildings I enjoy because the lines are precise and obvious, and trees because, although the major lines are clear, you can attack the branches with abandon and still produce a fairly accurate depiction of the real thing.

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I took the liberty of making the windows larger,  omitted the cars and added a hint of colour in the sky and buildings to (attempt to) capture the lighting in the photograph. I hope you like it!

Sunset in a Parking Lot

I’ve been slowly progressing with my many ongoing projects. Since the days are getting shorter I don’t have many daylight hours in which to work–after we put the kids to bed the sun is pretty much setting, so I’ve opted to use the Paper app instead of actual paper. Last night I finished the drawing that was inspired by my husband’s photograph that I recently posted about here.

Here is the original photo that was taken in the late evening in the parking lot outside my husband’s office:

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Here is the half-finished version I posted in June:

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And the finished product:

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I’m not 100% satisfied with the sky (I feel the left side and top left corner should be darker to create a greater contrast with the pink of the sunset)  but that’s the beauty of drawing with Paper; I can easily revisit the drawing any time…

Lysa’s House

Today is my daughter’s last day at her home daycare. She’s been going to Lysa everyday for a little over a year (since my mat leave ended). My son also went to Lysa’s house for a year and a half before he started preschool. They both love Lysa and she loves them–she has been like an Aunt to them, and has taken such good care of them. She has been a blessing to us and we are going to miss her dearly. (Thankfully we will still see her once in a while–she lives next door to my sister-in-law!)

When it was time for our son to move on we had given Lysa a gift card for a spa as a thank you, but this time I wanted to give her something  more personal and heartfelt so I drew a picture of her house:

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It didn’t turn out as well as some of my other house drawings. Partially it was because I had to work in the evenings when natural light was waning, and I don’t do well under artificial lighting. I was also under more pressure since I had a deadline and the drawing was actually for somebody! But it’s mostly because my drawings never feel finished–I always feel like there’s something I can touch up or fix, so I have to force myself to just stop. (It does actually look better in person, the camera on my phone doesn’t always do my drawings justice.) At least I made the right choice with the frame:

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Drawing with my Kids

Our children are still quite young (2 and 4 ½), so while they do enjoy drawing and doing crafts, their artistic abilities are obviously limited. But I still relish the few moments we sit down together to draw. One of my favourite things to do is collaborate with our son, and turn his lines and squiggles into more complete drawings. I often see images in the things he makes, (like I posted about here), and the other day he drew a shape that looked very much like a bird to me. His work is still evident in the drawing below—he is responsible for the general orange outline of the bird, including the wing (just for the record, he wasn’t trying to draw a bird):

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Another line he drew greatly resembled a large rock, so I threw in a few extra squiggles and being a boring regular adult simply added a gecko climbing the rock. I asked him what else we should put on it, and being a bright-imaginative-think-outside-the-box child he suggested a school bus.

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One day my husband got in on the action and started making a curvy pattern. He never had time to finish, and later on I turned his drawing into an alien (my husband’s work includes the main outline of the creature as well as the outline of his eyeball):

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Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies

This week’s dessert is, once again, from my all time favourite dessert cookbook Martha Stewart’s Cookies.

Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons)
1 ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used ½ baking soda)
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup granulated sugar

Whisk together 1 ⅔ cups flour, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer (I just use a handheld one) beat 9 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture on low speed. In a large bowl mix the cream cheese, granulated sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 egg, and ½ teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Pour half of the “blondie” batter into an 8 inch parchment lined baking pan. Spoon two-thirds of the cream cheese mixture on top and spread evenly. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining blondie batter on top and spread. Finally, top with the remaining cream cheese batter and swirl the cream cheese mixture into the batter with a knife. Bake at 325 F for about 45 minutes—until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet.

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Super yummy. If you ask me, any dessert that involves cream cheese turns out tasty no matter what!

Here’s a bonus photo of a carrot I picked up from a local farm last fall:

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New Projects

I haven’t posted in a long time, but I have been busy. Especially these last few weeks; I’ve forsaken many chores, and the piles of dirty laundry continue to grow exponentially, but I don’t feel bad or guilty about it because I’m getting some drawing done! I haven’t actually completed anything yet because instead of working on my many drawings in progress I’ve started a heap of new projects.

Here is a winter scene from a neighbourhood near ours:

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I’ve made some decent progress since I took this photo, I may actually finish it soon.

This is the maple tree in our back yard:

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I was making progress with this drawing as well, but things came to a halt when I decided to draw our daughter’s home daycare provider’s house (as a thank you gift; our daughter will be starting preschool in August):

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I only started this one three days ago, but since I have an actual deadline for once it may get done quickly (“quickly” by my standards anyway!).

This scene has been on my “to do” list since 1995 (!) which is when I took the original photo on a small island in Foça, Turkey:

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My husband took this photo a few months ago:

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He was working late and the sun had mostly set when he walked out of his building into the parking lot. He correctly assumed that I would be very interested in drawing this scene, although I’m not sure if I’ll ever tackle it with oils. For now I’m sketching it with the Paper 53 app:

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I’m also working on a portrait of my friend and her husband:

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She doesn’t know about it, so I have to remember not to share this post on Facebook!

Finally, this oil painting was started a few years ago while on maternity leave with my son—when I actually had time for oil paints! It’s 90% finished, I just want to add some snow here and there. Hopefully now that I’ve posted about it I’ll feel some extra pressure to get it done!

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Village House & Chocolate Cake

Last week I started a new drawing of my great great grandparents house in Sarıçam, Turkey (a small village in the province of Kastamonu). I worked more quickly than I usually do, so the details aren’t perfect, but I’m pleased that I was able to finish the drawing in much less time than is normal for me.

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Here is the original photograph I took on a family trip in 2008:

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This week’s dessert is chocolate cake. It’s basically the brownie recipe posted here, but with half the amount of sugar. It was an accidental creation–I was simply trying to make the brownies with less sugar and it turned into a delicious cake instead.

Chocolate Cake

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Microwave chocolate and butter until melted. Stir in sugar until well blended, then mix in eggs and vanilla. Finally stir in the flour. Pour into greased (buttered) loaf pan and bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes (or until cake tester/knife inserted into centre comes out mostly clean—with a few crumbs but not wet).

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It didn’t even last long enough for me to take a picture!