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!

Flower-y Doodles & Dark Chocolate Cookies

 

My drawings “in progress” are still in progress, so this week I’m posting some doodles. I’ve always liked to make pattern-like doodles which I can then colour in, much like the adult colouring books that have become popular. Here are a few samples of my mostly flower-y doodles.

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This week’s dessert is dark chocolate cookies. The original recipe (from Martha Stewart’s Cookies) is for milk chocolate cookies, but for some time now I’ve wanted to try it with my family’s favourite dark chocolate:

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Every time my parents visit from Montreal they make sure to bring us a stock pile of Munz chocolate because we can’t seem to find it anywhere in Ottawa. It is by far the yummiest dark chocolate available at regular grocery stores, and it also has less sugar than other dark chocolate bars. (The photo above is of the bar with hazelnuts, but I used a plain dark chocolate bar to make the cookies.)

Dark Chocolate Cookies

1 cup flour
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
8 ounces Munz dark chocolate (4 oz coarsely chopped, 4 oz cut into ¼ inch chunks)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar (I used only 1 cup of brown sugar)
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Melt 4 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter—the recipe says to do this in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, but really! Who has time for that? I just used the microwave!! Mix the chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixture on medium speed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Drop 1 ½ inch scoops of the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, and space them roughly 2 inches apart. Bake at 325 F for about 15 minutes—the cookies should be flat and the surfaces cracked, but they should also be soft.

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So good!!

Strange Bird & Easy Brownies

I’m back!

It’s unfortunately been 3 months since I’ve posted anything. I’ve still been so busy with our new house that I haven’t made any time for my art. But no more! I’m going to make a concerted effort to sit down and draw for at least 2 hours a week if not, hopefully, more. During the holidays I had a chance to set up my studio—yes! We have an extra room that I have claimed for myself! 🙂 So now that I have an actual place to work (other than the kitchen table) I’m optimistic that I will more easily find time to draw.

Here’s a snapshot of my new studio:

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It’s still not 100% complete since this is the room where we are storing the hardwood that is eventually going to be installed in our bedroom:

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But it’s a wonderful start; I am so happy to have a space to work again!

That being said I haven’t been able to complete any of my “in progress” drawings yet. The past few nights I’ve been so tired that I opted to sketch in bed instead of in my studio. So for this week’s posting I decided to share an old drawing that I made while still in University (I think–unfortunately I never dated it). I came across it while organizing my new studio. I gave the original to my father years ago, but I kept a colour photocopy for myself.

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It’s by no means a perfect drawing. The bird isn’t realistic at all and the “water” leaves much to be desired, but this many years later I’m still quite happy with it for whatever reason. Maybe because it’s just a weird image. So I framed it and hung it in my studio:

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I may not have had time to draw for the past few months, but I haven’t stopped baking. I have no excuse for why I haven’t been posting my desserts other than I’ve been lazy! But now I have a nice backlog of yummy desserts, so for the next little while I’ll be sharing a drawing and a recipe in each post.

This week’s dessert comes straight from the back of the Baker’s brand (owned by Kraft) unsweetened chocolate box. It’s the best brownie recipe I’ve ever come across, so it’s usually the one I make. It’s also incredibly easy and fast, which is always nice!

Brownies:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup butter
2 cups sugar (I use only 1.5 cups)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Microwave the chocolate and butter until melted. Stir in sugar until well blended, then mix in eggs and vanilla. Finally stir in the flour. Pour into 8 inch greased (buttered) baking 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). You can also easily add nuts or chocolate chips to the recipe.

I used a slightly bigger pan than normal this time so the brownies turned out a little too thin, but they still tasted absolutely divine.

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New House & Apple Pie

I haven’t posted in a long time, mainly because we’ve moved, and besides the general unpacking and organizing there are also a lot of renovations to do! And when you work full time and have two children under 4 you don’t get a lot of free time to work on renos…by the time my husband and I finish the daily chores we usually only have 1 to 1.5 hours in the evening to work on renovations. Needless to say it’s been a little slow going. But we’re almost finished with our daughter’s room—the carpeting has been removed and my husband finished laying in the hard wood this week. The painting is almost done and we’re hoping to have our daughter moved in to her proper room by the end of the weekend. I’ll post a “before & after” photo when it is finished, but in the meantime here is a quick sketch of the house that’s been taking up all of our time:

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Two weekends ago we went apple picking, and then I actually had time to bake over the Thanksgiving long weekend so I made some good old apple pie. I used my favourite Jacques Pepin crust recipe posted here. For the filling I chopped about 6 Cortland apples (that’s what we got when we went apple picking) into small cubes and cooked them for about 15-20 minutes with lots of cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar and a tiny bit of water.

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I baked the pie at 450 F for about 50-55 minutes, until the crust was golden brown:

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There was a decent amount of crust leftover, so I made a little blueberry torte. I simply rolled out the dough, placed it in a small corning ware dish, filled it with frozen blueberries, folded over the edges and baked it at 450 F.

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It turned out pretty well, but the blueberries weren’t sweet enough on their own. I think a little bit of sugar would have made the torte less bland. Meanwhile the apple pie was good, but it was definitely missing the vanilla ice cream (we only had chocolate ice cream in the freezer and all the stores were closed on Monday!!). I also wouldn’t use Cortland apples for a pie again, it’s definitely better with McIntosh or Spartan apples. The Cortland apples almost seemed to overpower the taste of the crust. That vanilla ice cream really would have helped….