Spring Green.

A study of greens, May 2019, watercolour on paper

A beautiful, beautiful week. I had some days off and I spent them all in my yard. Not a lot of blooms yet, but a whole lot of green coming up after the week of rain that we had. I did this watercolour study of one of my flowerbeds over two of the days. Soon this will be full of phlox, cornflowers, and alliums.

I am gardening a bit obsessively right now–I think Thursday was the first day that I just sat and enjoyed the yard without getting up to weed this or that, or transplant or prune something. I sat out on my patio on a perfect day with a book and a drink in the dappled shade of the Honeysuckle tree…it was glorious. This corner of my backyard that I turned into a patio garden last year is my favourite place in the world right now.

 

New Desks All Around.

New studio desk

So I am back to work in my studio and this is my awesome new studio desk. It is very comfortable to work at and has inspired me to do a bit of a clean-up and reorganize in my studio. It all started with a (cheap) remodel of my daughter’s room–which was mostly just paint and curtains and a new desk. The desk that we had in her room was tiny, an old wood desk that I bought for $25.00 at a garage sale about 15 years ago, and she had outgrown it. The desk I had in my studio was the white Micke desk from IKEA with green drawers (I don’t think they sell it anymore), which we decided to put in her room and then get something new for the studio. In the end I actually just bought a Linnmon table and paired it with a green Helmer filing cabinet for drawers (all from IKEA again) and I love it all. I did not realize that the Micke desk had maybe been a bit small for me. The new bigger work top area also works great for a studio.

Here is a peek at my daughter’s room with the old studio desk and her new black and grey walls. We have since bought her a new white chair for the desk. Much to her chagrin, we did not let her keep the laptop, which is my husbands, in her room.

Poppy's new desk

In related art news, earlier this week I painted some watercolours and meant to post them, but I am still not happy with the photos I took of them. It seems my art photography skills are just as rusty as my painting skills. And I also started up a Pinterest and Instagram page (just a little late to the game…), but I am still figuring how to use those and tie them all together, and yet not have them all the same either. It’s a whole new world to me. Anyway, there should be no lack of things for me to do at my new desk this winter.

Sometimes Life IS Just Fun and Games!

Kikwi studies a fly (coloured by Poppy and mom), Feb. 2015

My birthday gaming-day-turned-gaming-weekend-turned-gaming-week is now over, and what a welcome break it was! And Poppy and I ended up doing a lot more than play video games: I taught her how to knit (using YouTube tutorials), and we worked on her new stamp collection, and she started doing her “Kikwi comics” again after rediscovering the Legend of Zelda on the Wii (Kikwis are characters in the game). Then, just for fun, I made some copies of her comics and started colouring one with Sharpies. Poppy was so excited when she saw what I was doing that she asked if we could colour one together, alternating panels. So our joint-coloured comic is pictured above; she did the first panel and I did the second, and so on. The comic is about a Kikwi trying to study a fly (for her homework), but the fly keeps flying away. When the Kikwi finally gets to study it, finish her homework, and head back to school (St. Moo school), she ends up dropping the homework on the way and doesn’t have it to hand in.

Colouring it was funny because Poppy would purposely do things different colours than I did them, and she didn’t like if I tried to do the same colours as her; she wasn’t at all happy that I did the same colours as her for the bed, but I guess I am too stuck on the idea of needing continuity from panel to panel.

And here are two more of her new Kikwi comic pages. The first is about a Kikwi daydreaming in her room, getting new roller-shoes in the mail, rollering to her school in them, but then the school is closed. The second is about a Kikwi having fun putting things in the crack of her loose floor board, and then being late for school.

These poor Kikwis can’t seem to get a break.

Kikwi gets mail (colour version)

Kikwi late for school Feb. 2015

And lastly, here are the weekend knitting projects, a mini blanket and shawl, that we made for her current favourite stuffy “Liona”.

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A New Bento Box! Well, It Was Really For My Daughter, But Still…

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I almost forgot to post today (even though I had a post all ready to go), and I also almost forgot that it was New Years Eve (even though we are having people over tonight). I guess I just have my blinders on, busy getting ready for company. Which also reminds me that I haven’t started a new painting yet…

But this post is really about the new bento box that Poppy got from her grandma–which I almost feel was a gift for me. It is a one-tier bento (the other two we have are both two-tier bentos), and I am super excited to try out all new bento lunch arrangements.

Bento boxes are categorized by their capacity and this new bento is a 560 ml capacity bento. My old blue bento is 510 ml capacity and the burgundy bento is 640 ml. What I have found so far is that the 640 ml bento is just a touch big for Poppy, so I usually don’t completely pack that bento when I send it for her lunch.

This is also very exciting because I now have the option to send larger sandwiches–like the panda pocket sandwiches that I bought a kit for and have not made yet :)

Now off I go to finish getting ready for tonight–no time to daydream about bento lunches just yet. Though maybe I’ll have some rum and eggnog to calm these pre-company jitters. Have a Happy New Year everyone!

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It Turns Out Donating to Charity Was Just the Kick in the Pants I Needed.

My work held their annual silent auction to raise money for charity last week, and I donated two of my watercolour paintings–one of the Bento Box lunch paintings and a landscape–for the auction. This year the chosen charity was the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, and even though I am glad that they both sold, I went through the usual stress of hoping someone would want to buy them, and not really wanting to let them go. The serendipitous side effect of this whole experience was that after I framed the paintings up I was so excited by how good they looked that I immediately started working on the next Bento painting; it completely re-invigorated me! I’m not quite finished that one so for now here is some pictures of the framed paintings hanging in my kitchen before taking them in.

Both paintings (2)Round Things Bento, 2014Cloudy Sky, 2014

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.

 

Kissing Fish Bento and the First Day of School.

First Bento BoxYesterday was the first day of Grade 1 for Poppy, and for the past week I have been practising for her school lunches. A friend of mine had given me some Japanese Bento Box lunch supplies a couple of years ago, but I never really tried making Bento lunches in earnest until now. And now I’m not making them for me, but for my daughter. She tends to dawdle and get too excited and not finish her lunch, so I thought doing Bento lunches would help facilitate her finishing her lunch at school. This one was my first attempt for a Bento lunch at home, and it was just a very simple snacky lunch with star and moon-shaped peanut butter sandwiches, a car-shaped hard-boiled egg, cherries, carrots, cheese cut-outs, and Pocky sticks. Not much different from a regular lunch except it’s prettier! The arranging and artistic side of this style of lunch appeals to me and I am actually having a lot of fun with it rather than it being too much work. Though we’ll see how I feel about it by December.

I also found the most amazing book at the library called “501 Bento Box lunches”. I counted and I already have 97 post-its stuck in it, so I decided that was enough to warrant me buying myself my own copy, which I am now eagerly awaiting. I am also gleaning a lot of information from the website Just Bento which also has a weekly bento planner worksheet you can print out!

501 Bento Box lunches book.Bento planner!All of this just tickles me–pretty books, planning, post-its. Sometimes I wish I had a desk job just so I could have a desk full of pretty pens and post-its. But then I think that no, this is better, I’ll keep my pretty desk in my art studio and just do my own thing.

So then I moved on to making a more Japanese style Bento, and tried my hand at making Onigiri (formed rice balls that sometimes have filling). I am going to have to practise those a bit more before putting them in her school lunch. I made them with Tuna Soboro filling, and although she liked them and preferred the Nori (seaweed) wrapped ones, they were a bit too big. I will have to work on making smaller ones, and maybe also trying some different fillings. I am also learning how to get everything to fit into the Bento once the lid is on–the lid didn’t quite seal over the section with the Onigiri in it. This Bento had one wrapped and one unwrapped Tuna Onigiri, edamame, apple slices, dried fruit, and Pocky sticks.

Onigiri first attempt. Tuna Soboro Onigiri Bento Box.So that brings me to the first day of school Bento Box. I did a more simple one with cantaloupe cut-outs, star and moon-shaped honey sandwiches, carrot sticks, fish-shaped hard-boiled egg (cut in half to fit in the bottom tier of the bento), and apple cut-outs. And then there was some extra stuff stuck in her lunch bag for snacks. I called it the Kissing Fish Bento :) Though it turns out that the first day of school was far too exciting–all she had eaten when I picked her up at the end of the day was the bottom tier with the egg and the apple; but as soon as we were in the van she opened her lunch box and ate up the entire lunch. At least I now know that I didn’t need to worry about there not being enough food.

First day of school Kissing Fish Bento. The whole lunch. Packed up!

In The Meantime…

Painting outside in the last days of summer.It’s the last week of summer holidays, and the sun has finally returned to my neck of the woods after a lot of rain; so I spent most of the day outside trying to paint and enjoying the last Lucky Lager from the fridge. Today was the first time in three weeks that I actually sat down to do any kind of painting, and it felt like I had once again forgotten how to paint. I did three studies of flowers–all of them pretty so-so–and then it was too dark to take photos of them anyway.

So next week it will be a whole new world for us! Poppy is starting grade one, and in theory I will have more time to paint–that is the plan anyway. For now we have been frantically trying to fit in some last-minute summer activities and get our back-to-school shopping done. I’m super excited about what’s to come, and only a tiny bit anxious about getting up way earlier than I’m used to and making school lunches.

The Shape of Things to Come.

This blog is going to be changing a bit. I had wanted a new direction for my art and I was finding it harder and harder to find the time for doing the art, let alone the blog posts. I was barely getting a weekly post done and although I know that it’s good to just keep painting even when it feels a bit pointless, because it eventually does lead you somewhere, I was trying to keep the blog just about art and ignoring a major development in my life. With the recent diagnosis of my daughter Poppy as being on the Autism Spectrum I can’t keep my daily life with her and my life as an artist separate anymore.

So there will be posts about art and posts about my daughter and there may be posts without images which I seem to have a weird hang-up about; I have it in my head that it is an art blog and there needs to be an image with every post. But sometimes there isn’t an image. And there are things that I need to say.

I had wanted to start working on more projects in my art; I think that now my biggest project is going to be Poppy and I have no idea what shape that will take.