Every Blah Winter Day Should Have Sharpies, Presents and Birthday Chocolates.

Pink Bunny Bento Leftovers, Feb. 2015,  Sharpies on paper

A new sketch of bento leftovers in a brand new sketchbook that I got for my birthday! My birthday isn’t until Friday but my parents were in town so I got some early birthday gifts. And since my daughter has Thursday, Friday, and Monday off school, and I have Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off work, I’ve decided to make it one long birthday weekend…which I guess I’m starting now :)

My studio day even started off with coffee and birthday chocolates for breakfast, and it was glorious.

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So the leftover bits in this bento are half a cheese string, 3 carrots, and a bunch of round crackers. And a strange thing happened in this bento…I think the crackers absorbed the moisture from the carrots and they developed an odd texture where they kind of dissolved into powder when you touched them. Suffice it to say, Poppy did not like the new texture and wouldn’t eat them.

I also played around a bit with cropping this sketch, which I haven’t done for a while. I really love the mark-making you get with Sharpies–I just want to zoom right in on these. Though I also want to zoom in on watercolours so maybe that’s just me.

Pink Bunny Bento Leftovers crop


Heart Egg Bento Painting.

Heart Egg Bento, Feb. 2015, watercolour on paper 11in. x 13in.

With doing all those Sharpie sketches I actually had time to miss painting with watercolour. And I forgot that I wanted to do a “before and after” for my next painting, so that will have to be later…when I feel like it.

I am noticing that the bento lunches I am choosing to paint are the most colourful ones–I’m really drawn to ones that have blue, green, and yellow in them. I remember my mom always telling me that you should strive for at least three colours on your plate at meals, and although I do try to make all her bento lunches colourful, sometimes (if we need to go shopping) there is a lot of beige and red. It is also a lot trickier to get green in the bentos since she decided she is allergic to all vegetables except carrots. This is also unfortunate because the edamame has become one of my favourite things to paint.

I should list what is in this bento lunch:

Top tier–Pocky sticks

Middle tier–heart-shaped egg, edamame, a plum, and crab meat

Bottom tier–pretzel mix and cantaloupe.

Bento Leftovers.

Bento Leftovers, Jan. 2015, sharpies on paper

Poppy has decided that she is “allergic” to vegetables. One day I took a photo of her bento at the end of the school day with the uneaten edamame still on the food picks (in order to text it to my husband to complain about it), but then I found that I really liked the photo. I have since started taking photos of her lunches at the end of the day as well as the beginning. It’s interesting to see the contrast between the neat, orderly lunch and the disheveled leftovers. I think next I’ll do a diptych of a before and after bento…maybe in watercolour…

In doing all of this bento art, I am remembering Mary Kelly–a conceptual artist I studied in University. More specifically, I am remembering her Post-Partum Document, where she methodically documented her sons’ first 6 years. Even though what I am doing doesn’t come close to the scale of her project, I do find it interesting to see where motherhood will take ones’ art.

For reference, here is a photo of what this bento lunch looked like at the beginning of the day (taken under very different lighting conditions):


Coloured Sharpie Bento Fun!

Flower Pattern Bento, Jan. 2015, coloured sharpie on paper

So Poppy got these new coloured Sharpies for Christmas and I have been coveting them. I think I might have to go get some for myself because they are super fun–I mean there are FOUR different pinks! This was a really fun little sketch to do; I forgot how fun sketching is, and how satisfying it is to finish something quickly.

This was the second lunch that I have made in her new bento box. She loves the new bento. Maybe it is easier for her because it has just one tier to open…or maybe it’s just because it’s new. The food in this bento lunch is: yakisoba noodles with sausage and cheese cut-outs on top, and strawberries and cookies.

Squares Bento Painting.

Squares Bento, Dec. 2014, watercolour on paper 11in. x 15 in.

I thought about painting one of the more Christmas themed Bentos for this week, but then I wasn’t into it. I started two different Bento paintings and wasn’t into painting either of them, so I decided to just paint whichever Bento I felt like painting. So Squares Bento it is! It’s a little hard to tell since everything was cubed but the food in this Bento was: a cereal bar (top), sandwiches, cheddar cubes, and shreddies (middle tier), red pepper, cantaloupe cubes, and fudge (bottom tier).

Stars Bento Painting.

Stars Bento, Dec. 2014, watercolour on paper 11in. x 15 in.

A new Bento painting! I had a bit of trouble getting a good photo of this one. I usually take photos outside on the North facing deck on a bright day, but it has been cold and overcast lately. The colour in the photo still doesn’t look quite right–though it always looks better in real life anyway. Maybe it’s better that way, I would rather have that than have my photos look better than the real thing.

And I think there are enough Bento paintings for a new category on the blog now :)

Bento 2.0

Poppy's Coloured Version, Oct. 2014

If anyone was getting bored with my Bento paintings, here’s something a little different. We were having a lazy studio day on Sunday, and I was doing a Bento sketch with a Sharpie marker; Poppy came up to me and asked if I could make a copy of it for her to colour. Prettier than the real thing I think. She got bored and didn’t want to finish it, but what can you do, she’s only seven.

And here is the original sketch, which we could just keep printing out to colour…if only the attention span of my seven-year old were but a bit longer.

September 3rd Bento Sketch, Oct. 2014, pencil and sharpie on paper



Painting of the Round Things Bento.

Round Things Bento (September 22nd Bento), Oct. 2014, watercolour on paper

This was from a week that I did some shaped-themed Bentos for Poppy. This one had strawberry Mochi (2 of them), pretzel mix ‘o’s, hard-boiled egg slices with seasoning, edamame, blueberries, grape halves, and a Babybel cheese. I like both the burgundy and blue Bento Boxes that I have (technically the burgundy one is Poppy’s), but it seems to me that the blue Bento Box looks prettier with food. Maybe it is the contrast I like.

Click and Share for Bento Moms! Just Kidding–Don’t Do Any of That.

October 1st Bento, Oct. 2014, watercolour on paper

My love affair with the making of, the photographing of, and the painting of Bento box lunches continues. This is the new “Kiki’s Delivery Service” Bento box that we gave Poppy (my daughter) for her birthday, which has opened up all new possibilities for arranging the Bento since it came with extra dividers and the bottom tier is a different size. The food in this Bento was flower shaped sandwiches (with Nori seaweed faces), pretzel mix, two (somewhat misshapen) egg shapes (with seasoning salt), and strawberry salad (with vinaigrette dressing). And I spent a little more time on this painting rather than planning on doing any extra comic-style outlining at the end (which reminds me that I haven’t gone back to that first Bento painting…).

Though speaking of Bento box lunches, I was a bit down this week. It seems that lately every third day there is some blog post circulating on Facebook about “Bento moms” and how terrible they are. I was not even aware that it was such a fad at the moment, but my news feed is sprinkled with posts and “articles I might enjoy” (thanks a lot Facebook for the customized newsfeed) all about these “Bento moms”. The end result is that I felt bad about making Bento lunches for my daughter, and ashamed about sharing them on Facebook. What really got me was that I love making them and they really inspire me–I see them as art and as bringing art into my everyday life. I am not even doing any crazy “art Bento” with scenes painted out, I am just arranging things nicely and using cookie cutters. I now feel like I need to defend what I am doing. I now wonder if all the moms of my daughter’s friends hate me. It doesn’t seem fair. At the start of the school year Poppy begged us for lunch money so she could eat at the “Bear Bistro” at her school; but as a stay-at-home mom with more time than money, I told her that I couldn’t do that, but I could make her lunches pretty.

Ironically enough it was another link on Facebook that made me feel better about what I’m doing. It was from a blog column called “Ask Andrew W.K.” and the post was Pizza is Healthy. In it he talks about the things that give us joy and how important they are. Just insert “Bento” in place of “pizza” and this was written for me. He says:

“Some people get a twisted sort of joy in systematically abusing and degrading the joys of other people. It’s not so much that they want to convince you pizza is bad; they want to convince you that you’re bad for loving it, and that they’re truly healthier, smarter, and all around better people for eating differently or having a different lifestyle. It’s not enough to just do what they enjoy, they have to take others down in the process.”

This attitude seems to be rampant right now about anything and everything, not just Bento moms. As soon as there is an idea or something that is popular, just wait a couple of days and there will be posts going viral that tear it apart. It seems it is far too easy to just “click and share”. It all makes me think of that story a while back about the girl who developed anti-bullying software. Based on the idea that teenagers are more impulsive than adults, it would simply prompt users as to whether they were sure they wanted to post something. In the study 93% of them would change their minds after given a chance to review a message or post. I don’t know though, on Facebook at least it seems like we are all just out-of-control teenagers with no reservations and barely any empathy.

The pizza column goes on to say, “It’s healthier to be truly happy than it is to painfully censor yourself and your passions.” So I have decided that, just like pizza, Bento lunches give me joy and I’m just going to keep doing them.