Friday, December 17, 2010

Busy holiday season - here's a little watercolour

It's coming down to crunch-time for the holiday artwork (and a bazillion other things that always seem to crop up in the month of December!).

Until I can post a more interesting blog entry I'll leave you with a quick watercolour I did in a course I'm taking. Enjoy!

"Warm Winter Forest" 11x14" watercolour, (c) Pam Boutilier 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Desktopper WINNER #4 "Weed"

I am happy to announce the latest Desktopper contest winner!

I realize that the Desktopper schedule has been.... inconsistent (to put it mildly) since the summer, but rest assured - everyone who has entered has their name in a hat (actually a small wooden box) and my husband faithfully pulls one out monthly. I hope to get back on a consistent posting schedule with these at some point, in the meantime keep watching as the paintings will be posted when completed!

The fourth winner of my contest is 'Weed', belonging to Patty;



This is what Patty had to say about her beautiful kitty:

"Weed was a very little kitty when I found her on the side of the road 11 years ago. Weighing less than a pound and being so tiny I thought for sure she was a kitten, the vet said that she had just given birth as her mammaries were still swollen. Weed's size and condition told us that there was no way any babies could have survived, so for the rest of her life she has treated every animal she meets large and small as though they were her long lost babies and licks them til they are wet (or so annoyed they walk away). Weed has been a special addition to our family, showing us how unconditional love really works."


~ Pam

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PSA - Website unavailable

The good news - catinaboxstudio.com is moving to a new site, which will allow me to keep things there a bit more up-to-date, including the 'What's on the Easel' page.

The bad news - it's going to take a few days to make the switch, and in the meantime the site is inaccessible. So if you stop by and get GoDaddy's generic site please don't panic (I'm expecting a world-wide uprising with my site being down of course), it will be back in a few days.

In the meantime you can look at a sneak peek of the new site at:

http://www.catinaboxstudio.moonfruit.com/

And for those of you who want something to look at... here's a random recent page from my sketchbook (demonstrating that I do draw 'stuff' between the 'bigger stuff' that I feel is good for posting on the blog!)

Autumn fairie and fawn (c) Pam Boutilier
Pumpkins! (c) Pam Boutilier

~ Pam

Friday, November 12, 2010

At least she was....

I've decided to just admit to myself that the only thing I am consistent about is being inconsistent.

I struggle constantly with my so-called 'web presence'. Don't get me wrong, I love blogging (though I'm still not completely sure about twitter ;D) it's just that I feel like I should have something useful to say if I'm going to blog - but then I get caught up with doing something useful to blog about that I forget to blog! Let me just say now that I appreciate all of you reading this - anyone who's willing to stick around for my erratic posting and randomness is tops in my book!

Last month was a hard one, and we're still getting used to being a dogless household, but time heals all wounds and life does truly go on.

Getting back in the art saddle has actually involved a lot of non-art related work. The first and foremost being that I can happily announce the official opening of my ETSY shop!



ETSY provides an online venue for my work, as well as a more user-friendly way of purchasing. Watch for continued updates as eventually all of my existing work as well as options for ordering commissions will be listed!

Watch for more blog posts as I have a stockpile of things to say now!

~ Pam

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Farewell Dear Heart....

October has been a bit of a wipe for me.... I'll just say, up front, that I'm behind on my Desktoppers, I have not filled the sketchbook, and my other artwork has been mostly on hold.

Earlier in the month we were visiting family 1500 miles away when our old doggie (who had been very chronically 'going downhill' but doing well when we left) decided to take a sudden turn. We had to make the heartbreaking decision to let her go without seeing her - we felt it wouldn't have been fair to her to make her wait the 18 hours it would have taken to get the soonest flight home.

Emma was my husband's dog initially, she and he were buddies for many years before I came along. Over the last 8 years though we'd all melded together as a big, happy (mostly four-legged) family. Emma was a wonderful soul - a street dog from Detroit she had a survivor's soul, but at her core she was sunshine incarnate. She knew about rules and mostly followed them... unless a higher calling (such as having some fun) beckoned.


She was almost 15, and in the last year and a bit she'd been going downhill. Heart issues and kidney issues, and mostly just old age. Like old Laurich she would dip low and we'd have 'the talk' then we'd change her treatment and she'd rally and we'd know it wasn't yet time.

Despite knowing 'it was coming', we'd stalled the trip for months and finally booked it when it seemed that she was stable and might decide to live another year. Whether it was the stress of us being gone or just bad timing - whatever the reason she chose that week to take the big downturn. My greatest regret is that my husband couldn't be with her to say goodbye.



Even being veterinarians, even knowing that it was coming, it is still hard. The first thing your mind does is construct the worst-case scenario and try to dwell on it. No matter how many people I've counseled when losing their pets it took my good friend to remind me "You didn't cause this to happen. I know you know that, but you have to ACCEPT that too." Knowing and accepting are two very different things aren't they?

Emma was our last dog - this is the first time we've been dogless in 15 years. The cats are more than happy to fill the gap and get more love and attention, but every night I still feel like there's something I should be doing (carrying the skinny dog downstairs to go potty because for the last month or two she couldn't navigate the stairs on her own). When we drop a piece of toast on the floor we have to toss it out because there's no dog to 'take care of it' (I won't mention the occasional cat vomit that we can't rely on Emma to 'take care of' either :D).



The sadness fades over time. We'll get used to our new situation. And sometime, when the time is right, we'll open our hearts to another homeless doggie. Until then we'll remember Emma's many good years - when she'd play chase with Nadia, cutting through the garden because that was the one spot Nadia wouldn't go. When she'd run Laurich ragged, then dive-bomb him in great, looping circles. The look on her face when she'd see horses 'What the heck are those big dogs doing?'. The way she'd keep one eye on you while you were eating but the other on the floor, because smart dogs know when the food drops the one watching the floor will get to it first. That her nose almost never left the ground on a walk. The fact that she lived in more places than me, from the heat of Texas to the chill of Saskatchewan winters, and everything in between. And mostly the look of sheer enjoyment that graced her face most all of the time.

So here's to Emma (and Laurich, and Rosie, and Scout, and Ty, and Ellie)! Here's to all the cats and dogs that leave such holes in our hearts when they pass, but who make our life so much more fulfilling while they are here and forever afterward.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moleskine.... tea or coffee?

Ah... the eternal question...



Of course I'm in Canada now - so drinking loads more tea than I usually do these days! No scanner here, but I have the digital camera so I still should be able to post some!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I heart Moleskine

My latest project (because I always need a latest project) starts tomorrow... I stumbled across an art journaling challenge posted by fellow blogger Ghislaine Bruno. I love Ghislaine's work, and also enjoy reading her blog in french then seeing how good (or how poor) my french comprehension is these days :).

A challenge! I'm there! Er... at least I'll start it...

In all seriousness - my sketchbook is down to its last few pages and it was about time for another. Getting *something* down on page consistently is important for your art, and I've decided that it's just going to be a constantly waxing and waning thing with me. It's so easy to get caught up with my non-art related work, home, life... you all know that there's always more that needs to be done. Like everything important in life, you just have to ~make~ time for the art. And that's exactly what this challenge is about. For you artists who might be reading this you can find the details on WetCanvas here. Basically the task is to fill a sketchbook in one month - specifically the month of October 2010.

Now this doesn't supplant my 100 dogs challenge, in fact it will augment it... I need to fill this sketchbook in a month, there are definitely going to be some pooches in there! I'm only up to 20 in the dog challenge, and coming up fast on the one year anniversary! At this rate I'll be.. well, let's not talk about how old I'll be when I finish it.

(c) Pam Boutilier 2010, Dog Sketches #14-19

Suffice it to say that more sketching is always better, and more dogs are always better (at least as far as sketching is concerned)...

.... and then there's the Moleskine!

You see, I've always slavered over Moleskine sketchbooks. They really aren't that impressive, a simple black book with an elastic binding. They ~are~ a high quality sketchbook, but it's more than that. There's something about the romance of using the same kind of book as Matisse, Picasso, Hemingway.... *sigh*. Maybe it's just we artsy folk who do this - but somehow there's an energy in such a thing... almost as if you are linked through time and space to those great thinkers and artists by virtue of a nondescript, little black book.
But despite the romance, I always seem to talk myself into buying a different sketchbook. One that is bigger, bound differently, less expensive, or just happens to be there and the Moleskine does not (buying sketchbooks is rarely something on can ~wait~ on). And so never have I actually had a Moleskine. And so when I read of this challenge I knew immediately that a Moleskine it would be! For simply practical reasons, they are smaller - and if I'm going to fill this thing in one month I really shouldn't start with a 100+ full-page sketchbook. So with only practicality in mind (*cough*) I jaunted down to the local art supply store and came home with this....


Isn't it beautiful?!

*happy sigh*

Of course now I have to mar it's simple perfection with my coarse markings. Perhaps the inspiration of Matisse will seep through the pages to infuse my pencil and brush. We'll see.. Even if I don't achieve those lofty heights, I will get some sketching done - and after all, that's the *real* point here...right?

>:)

~ Pam

(PS - I'm a total hipster aren't I?)

(PSS - how do ~you~ pronounce 'Moleskine'?)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I like the colour blue....

Yesterday I went down to the Glenwood Springs Fall Art Festival, and as usual it was a great show with a huge amount of art. The show is non-juried, and each artist is allowed to exhibit two works categorized as 'Professional', 'Advanced', or 'Amateur'.

I went with my hubby and a friend. They both approached in their usual fashion - going row by row and carefully inspecting each piece of art. I, on the other hand, like to make half a dozen or more sweeps of the show - the first couple to pick out what I like most, and then the rest to look at everything in a bit more detail (I can't pay attention when I don't know how much and what more is 'out there' - I blame the right side of my brain on for that one!).

So I found my own pieces just a little bit before they did, and to my surprise (and great excitement) I found that 'Hey, we're napping here!' took first place in the Pastel/Animals (Professional) division!


This one has always been a sentimental favorite of mine, but also one that I'm proud of technically as well. I'm so happy that it won! Now it will go back to it's spot on display at Valley Emergency Pet Care.


I also sold several pieces at the associated sale (all but one that I submitted). Now that the Fair is over the next big task is getting my Etsy store up and running. I'll post here as soon as I have some things listed!

~ Pam

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Art Fair

The Glenwood Springs 48th Annual Fall Art Fair is going on right now. This year I'm exhibiting two pieces:


"Rosie" Whiteboard (c) Pam Boutilier

"Can't you see we're napping here?" Pastel (c) Pam Boutilier

I won't get down to Glenwood myself until Saturday, but I'm so excited to see all the beautiful artwork!! I'll take some pictures of the event to share with you.

I've got some smaller works in the downstairs sale as well. If you happen to be in the Glenwood Springs, CO area this week be sure to stop in!!

~ Pam

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pet Portrait Desktopper WINNER - September #1 (of 2)

As you might recall I've had several things on the go this summer, not the least of which was moving - and so July's Desktopper contest was postponed and instead I decided to do TWO pets for September.

Here's the official announcement of the first of those - meet Havoc!


Here's what Havoc's owner, Jennifer has to say about her!
This is my 8 year old cat Havoc. I adopted her from the SPCA when I was working there. She is a himalayan mix and I've been told by a cat breeder that she is a 'poorly marked blue cream'. Regardless of her colouring, she is very dog-like in personality, which really isn't a surprise considering her housemates are 3 big furry dogs! She is just cat-like enough to irritate me sometimes and just dog-like enough to make me keep her!

Thanks for entering the contest Jennifer! Watch for your Desktopper portrait in the mail!

The second Desktopper for September has been selected and will be posted soon! In the meantime the contest is still open, you have until September 20th to have your pet's photo in the hat for the October contest! Remember the contest rules are on my website here. Any of you who have entered in the past, remember that your pet's photo will remain 'in the hat' unless you wish it to be removed, so keep watching as the new winners are announced!!

In other news - I've got several pet commissions on the go that will be completed over the next few months. I will post some work-in-progress posts on those ones. Also the Glenwood Springs Fall Art Fair is coming up soon! If you are in the area I will have works entered as well as things available in the 'bargain bin' sale.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where it all began....

Recently I was looking for some document or other and came across my 'bin of remembrance'... I'm not a terrible hoarder, but I do tend to keep my drawing and writing as well as cards and letters from people. Most of the drawing of the last two decades can be found in my sketchbooks but I have this one bin of loose sheets in plastic document-protectors. It mostly consists of sketches and cartoons, concept drawings and random high school notes to friends. But among all of those I found what might be the oldest pet portrait I have saved....



Note the very yellowed paper, crumpled and water-stained, and the lovely extra touch of some amber scotch-tape residue on there. It's dated 1989, so I would have been 14 when I drew it. I'm pretty sure this one wasn't an actual portrait - that what a time when I was very into drawing cats and dogs from magazines, pet food labels and kitty litter packages (my mom owned a corner convenience store), and just about any other reference shot I could get my hands on. This one had 'Mike' scrawled at the top - and it tickles my memory that 'Mikey' was the spokesdog for a pet food at that time.

At any rate - not the most auspicious beginning. I know I drew things (especially horses) much earlier than that, but those seem to have been lost to the ether...

So that was then... and up to the now. The new studio is all unpacked and I'm finally getting back to work. It is wonderful to have so much open space and natural light! I'm still shuffling my supplies around to figure out what the perfect organization is for functionality - but that's a part I actually enjoy.


I've got several things in the works - so more posts will follow (I mean it this time!)

~ Pam

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Desktopper Contest WINNER for JUNE!

Better late than never, right?

The studio is currently 1/3 in the new place, 1/3 here and 1/3 in the truck (I'm taking a load over this afternoon). So instead I went to a local coffee shop today to finish off the piece!


"Who Me?"

The winner for June is Red, an English Cocker Spaniel owned by a fellow artist Karen Hendrickson. Red was actually the first entry I received - and his solemn, wise eyes caught my attention immediately. The title of this piece (chosen by Karen) is 'Who me?'. She said that Red can't jump on the counter anymore so he used the chair. She had just asked him 'What do you think you're doing?' when the reference photo was snapped, and his response is perfectly clear!

This is what Karen told me about Red:
This is Red, my heart dog. He has a recurrence of anal gland adenocarcinoma with mets to his lungs. He's 12 years old and I'll say goodbye when he no longer feels he's invincible.
Well he sure looks like he's enjoying his senior years! Congratulations Karen and thank you for giving me the opportunity to get to know Red in a small way!

Because this move is a bigger disruption than I had anticipated, not helped at all by getting sick in June, I am going to make a small one-time change to the Desktopper contest and thereby hopefully preserve the tiny bit of sanity I was allotted in life. There will be no drawing for July, and instead I will draw TWO in August (to be posted Sept. 1st). The deadline is August 20th and you have double the chance of winning.

I've also decided that I like all the entry photos so much I'm just going to keep them in the 'hat' and carry them over month to month (and I apologize if I've already announced that... getting old and senile you know). So if you've entered previously you are still in the running! You are welcome to enter another pet though (one pet photo and description is considered one entry). If for any reason you don't want to be kept in the running then just send me an email and I'll remove your entry, no questions asked!

So jump on in and enter for August's draw! And once the studio is all moved and settled I do have some things I'll be blogging about. Until then...

~ Pam

Monday, July 5, 2010

I have some essplaining to do.....

I don't even know if I've ever watched a full episode of 'I love Lucy' but yet I can hear Desi saying 'You have some essplaining to dooooo!'.

If you follow this blog you know that I've sort of dropped off the face of the earth. I seem to do this in a bit of a cyclic fashion but this time there is a string of legitimate excuses. June has been a rough month for Cat-in-a-Box (not the actual cat.. he doesn't care, the whole world could collapse and he'd be happy as long as his food supply wasn't interrupted and he had a couple of humans around to apply his dorkiness to).

This is referred to as effective packing of kitties :)

In early June I attended a veterinary conference - which was great. It was actually a really good meeting and there was some great stuff presented. But traveling eats up time and despite having good intentions of posting to the blog and such, the conference really was pretty well all-consuming of my time for 1.5 week of the month.

Then upon return I contracted the obligatory travel-virus and felt crappy. A week of such illness is typical for me when I travel, but this was different - instead of sleep/tea/echinacea/gargling salt-water fixing it, a week later I felt as bad or worse. Another week and a course of antibiotics (I haven't been on antibiotics since about 2003!) and I felt better, but not quite 100%. And last night the throat started feeling suspiciously irritated again. So possibly another trip to the human doctor for me...*grumble*.

And on top of all of that we are in the process of moving (just locally - to a place where my studio will have way more natural light, yay!!). It may be the most painless move I've ever experienced but with the way I'm feeling this month it's just one more thing.

So those are my excuses - I've got a beautiful commission that is completed and will post as soon as it's delivered to the recipient (waiting on some framing materials). There *is* a winner for the June Desktopper contest who has been informed but is being graciously patient as I'm terribly behind on getting it finished. I have other works on the go and planned, things to blog about, a newsletter to put out, and so much else that is sitting on the ever-growing pile.

Desktopper for June - detail of the preliminary sketch

The best I can do at the moment is pick at the pile and try to keep (get?) healthy. So thanks for bearing with me - once the craziness has passed I will get more consistent with posting again!

~ Pam

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Desktopper Contest WINNER!

First - thanks to everyone who entered the May contest!

Second - I'd like to happily announce the winner (by random draw) of my first Destopper Pet Portrait contest....*drumroll*.... Bailey!



Bailey Page is an adorable boy owned by Jon. Jon actually found my little contest in his endless search for things to enter - be sure to check out his website, it's highly entertaining!

According to Jon, they rescued Bailey from a shelter where he was slated to be euthanized. Here's what Jon has to say about his friend:

"My wife and I are convinced that he is a person trapped inside of a pup's body. In addition to his many outstanding qualities, such as destroying couches, we love his most obvious physical characteristic: his right-ear-up, left-ear-down combination."

I love it too - Bailey was a joy to paint, his personality just shines through!

Now since by the time I got my website updated and the blog posted last month there wasn't much space before the deadline, so I am going to carry the May entries over to June (you know who you are!).

And for anyone who didn't enter - now's the time, you have until June 20th! All you have to do is send an email to me with a few lines describing your pet and a photograph. The drawing is random and the next winner will be announced July 1st! Full details are on my website here.

(Hey, I think I can count Bailey in my 100 dogs challenge too!! Yay!)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Things I'm working on

I am working! Which is why I haven't been posting too much recently. Works-in-progress are really only fun to post after they are finished (but I am saving WIP shots of the current projects, so when they *are* done I can do a few play-by-play posts.

But just so you know I didn't fall in a coffee cup and drown, here's some sneak peaks of what's currently on the go in the studio....





And the painting for my first Desktopper Pet Portrait contest is underway! The winner will be announced on Tuesday and the painting will be posted. It's exciting! I absolutely loved reading the stories that came with each of the entries. And every single one of them was beautiful - they were all dogs this first month (though they don't have to be... cats, horses... heck, I could probably manage a gerbil if I had to... all are welcome!).

So check back in on Tuesday!

~ Pam

Monday, May 17, 2010

Desktopper Pet Portrait Contest!


Who:
Anyone can enter. You can enter once per month.

What:
The prize will be a free 5x7" ink painting of your pet based on the photo you submit. These smaller works fit into any standard 5x7" frame or mat and are the perfect size to sit on your desk!

When:
Once a month, every month, starting immediately! The deadline is the 20th of the month and the winner will be announced by the last day of the month.
The first deadline is May 20, 2010!

Where:
To enter just send an email to pam@catinaboxstudio.com or via my website contact sheet here. Include a digital photo of your pet and a short (like three lines) biography of your pet. If you have more than one photo you wish to send, go right ahead (but indicate which is your favorite!). If you don't have a digital photo then just send an email with the name and biography and I'll let you know where you can mail a real photo (don't worry, any real media images will be returned to you).

Why:
Why not? Truly, it's a fun way for me to drum up some interest in my website. It's also fun to have a little deadline to keep me on track!

And most of all, the whole reason I do pet portraits is based in my love of the human-animal bond. I find it so much more inspiring when I know the name and the 'story' behind the animal I'm painting. This contest is a way for me to get all kinds of wonderful stories!

Wait.. what else is there to this??:
Nothing! You don't have to subscribe to my newsletter or blog, you won't go on a mailing list, you will retain all copyrights to the photos you send and your information will not be given to anyone.

Now of course I'd like you to follow my newsletter or blog and tell all your friends to do so as well - but I don't care as much about numbers as having people who enjoy following my work involved, so this is really a means to try to get people to take a peek and then they can decide if they want to see more!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

MWF seeking Muse

I've been feeling uninspired recently... not that I lack ideas, I'm just having difficulty executing them. Or perhaps I'm not working them out well enough in my head... when I start to get them on paper or board I realize it's the same old thing I always do. I'm not sure what I'm trying to achieve, nor am I completely sure I've not just been spending too much time in my left brain recently. But whatever the reason I need to step back a little bit.

Cats and dogs are my passion - which is why I do pet portraits I guess. I love to use my art to celebrate the bond we share with them, but they are also such beautiful creatures in their own right. However lately my in-progress portraits seem dull and uninspired to me. They say when you get stuck in an art rut it's a good idea to break out of your 'normal' - a new subject, new medium, anything that is unfamiliar territory. So that's what I'm doing a bit of right now. Last night I took some scraps of watercolour paper and my precut ACEO cards and just dabbled. Here's what came of it...

Reeds... I mixed three colours, a mossy green, burgundy, and brown and just played with them a little.

"Reeds 1" 4x6" ink on watercolor paper


"Reeds 2" 5x7" ink on watercolor paper


Back in the day I used to do a lot of fantasy - I still have some older work on my elfwood site (http://www.elfwood.com/~pamela). If one does fantasy one must do dragons, and a very fun twist on them are minidragons (varying degrees of mini, but anything from the size of a butterfly to the size of a bird). A fun thing to do with ACEOs is making something life-sized on them - so this is a life-sized minidragon (the finger is to scale):

ACEO minidragon (ink on matboard, 2.5 x 3.5")

I don't know how long these utterly random posts will continue - but I hope you enjoy the tangent while I'm on it. Now where did that muse get to...?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Leftie

Here's the product of my left-handed sketching exercise after the last post, ~85% of it was done with ol' leftie (FYI I am totally right-handed).

Many artists will do this - more often, I think, righties will do this. Whether it 'taps in' to the right brain or whether it just forces you to really slow down and concentrate - either way it is a good exercise for making you really see what you're drawing and pay attention to contour, negative space, etc.


This was my coffee cup, pencil case and tin that I'd brought with me. The only downside was that I couldn't drink my coffee until I finished!!

~ Pam

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Right brain, left brain (or tl;dr)

(If you're not up on your internet memes the subtitle means 'too long, didn't read'.. it's meant to be a warning :D)

Last night I rewatched Jill Bolte Taylor's 'A Stroke of Insight'. If you have not watched this video I strongly urge you to do so - there is a link to it from my very first blog post here.

I am not sure exactly what prompted me to watch it again, but no matter how many times I've seen it I am still very struck by her message. If you've read my blog or had the misfortune to chat with me during a philosophical mood you will have been exposed to my deep interest in right/left brain theory. Jill's message has been a keystone to the crazy metaphysical idea wad that's in my brain.

What caught my eye last night was actually in the comments. I like to read a bit of the comments to anything that has affected me - a presentation, book, etc. I can only read so much (people tend to get a little crazy in the comments and reviews section) but generally I'll pick a couple of the highest and lowest ratings. There was one fellow who brought up drugs - which is a comment I've heard before. Things like LSD inducing a state similar to what Ms. Taylor describes. I've also commented myself how I've seen similarities between her description and meditation, as well as similarities between both of those and 'art mode'.

Mini-digression ('art mode', 'R mode'):
If you are an artist reading this you are likely aware of 'art mode' or 'right brain mode'. It's a state many artists enter while doing their work - it is a little different than just a state of being totally focused. I have been completely absorbed in non-right-brain activities before, the feeling is not the same. When you are deeply in right-brain art-mode really the best thing I can compare it to (in my limited experience of the world) is meditation. Real meditation (which I do not achieve often, even when I try) where you are there but not there, where there is no time, where you have to adjust to the return of your consciousness to it's normal state, where you come out of it feeling like your brain has just done jumping jacks instead of not-thinking for an hour and feels activated and refreshed.

So the comment was that if Jill reached this 'state' by a massive stroke, if others have reached it through drug use or through mental training than it is not something metaphysical or magical, it's just a subfunction of our brain. His comments were not well received - as many people (myself included) do see meditation and Jill's talk as a window into more spiritual things. BUT.. I do not at all disagree with him.

As Jill points out, it does not take a neuroanatomist to see that the brain is clearly bisected. Her comments about two entirely separate ways of processing input have, I believe, been well proven and documented by studies done on patients who have had their corpus callosum split.
Mini-digression (Split corpus callosum patients)
If you are unaware of these studies, in the normal brain the corpus callosum is a bridge between the two hemispheres (the only bridge). It's a HUGE bridge, comprised of millions of brain fibers. Several decades ago surgery to transect the corpus callosum was used to try to treat refractory seizure disorders, one by-product of that though was valuable information about the differences between the hemispheres as shown in this little demonstration. In a normal person there is not 'right-brain' and 'left-brain' working in isolation, we are well integrated. People who do not subscribe to right/left brain theories generally say that if you have an intact brain the integration is so complete that the argument is invalid. This may be true, I don't know. But what I do know is that if any of us were to have our corpus callosum split, both hemispheres would go on processing information, 'thinking' if you will, in their own individual ways. And further, I believe that those ways would be different. It would be the left side that we hear from though - few would disagree that the left side controls speech and 'thinks' in words.

So if the gentleman's comment - that right brain experiences are just a subset or abnormality of 'normal' brain function, and if we take that to be true, then why would we care? Well, I said before that I don't disagree with him, and yet I still think that this is a very important thing. Here is my reason why...

Warning: I'm digressing wholly into my personal little theories of life, the universe and everything here - I am not trying to change anyone else's views or start any arguments. I do not research neurophysiology in my spare time, my observations are purely as a layperson. So please feel free to leave comments - in fact I'd love to hear what you have to say - but please don't be inflammatory and don't take my individual little ideas personally!
There is obviously a continuum - Jill Bolte Taylor, during her stroke, was in a state of minimal left brain function (relative to 'normal'). Her descriptions were tremendously valuable, but obviously you could not function in a state like that. There are stories about people with right brain defects (some very interesting ones in Oliver Sacks' 'The man who mistook his wife for a hat'). But if you were (theoretically, obviously) to take a person with their left brain chopped off (we'll call this person Ron) and someone with their right brain chopped off (who we'll call Len), I bet you'd be able to pick Ron out of a crowd much easier than Len.

Len would be able to speak eloquently, he would approach things very linearly, he would see the world in symbols (letters, numbers, and representational images would make lots of sense to him). He could explain many things to you, but might have difficulty doing so with abstract concepts.

Ron on the other hand might end up just standing there taking it all in. Ron would have a hard time communicating to you what he was experiencing if you rely on words. If you give him materials he might be able to communicate visually by creating an image that invokes feelings in you, that speaks to you. He would likely be better able to communicate abstract and broad-reaching concepts to you than he would be able to tell you how to program a VCR (oh, did I just date myself? How to set up an iPod then.)

Which of these two men would you think was smarter if you met them on the street? My guess is Len. My reasoning is that (I believe) our society is very geared toward left-brain functions. We value them, we foster them, and I would go so far as to say we undernurture the right brain functions. I think few people would spend enough time with Ron to even figure out what he had to communicate and likely not place high value on it once it was communicated.

The reason I am willing to say this in writing is based on personal observation of myself. Yes, n=1. This is what I outlined in that first blog post over a year ago. There was a time, during my post-secondary education, that I studied science and I drew. I observed that drawing helped me to focus and I retained lessons much better if I did so. I'd never not drawn, so I'd not known anything different. In hindsight I think I had a good right/left brain balance at that time.

Then I spent years of further intensive study and work, and through necessity and also not realizing what would happen, I stopped drawing. I didn't even really doodle. For years. And the shock came to me when I realized that I no longer *could* draw - for the first time in my life my pencil marks on paper just didn't look the way I wanted them to, when they always had in the past. It was horribly frustrating.

The solution turned out to be an art class where I did (for the umpteenth time) Betty Edwards' right-brain exercises. So my n=1 suggests that I 'trained myself' out of balance, too far to the left. The consequences were that I was still very functional in my left-brain job, but I could not draw (representational art, abstract art is a different matter). Nor could I turn off the 'brain chatter' in my head, that constant running dialogue that most of us have, to the point that I couldn't sleep for having a constant stream of consciousness about all that was going on in my life. I also paid little attention to the world around me, I felt very much like an individual and all of the many labels I wore became so important, truly all-important and all-defining. I felt disconnected and isolated from the world around me. It wasn't a good state for me at all. I didn't realize this, of course, until I was retrained back to the right a bit - and only then did I understand what had been the matter.

Now if we can be 'trained' toward our left or right side - again, still working with the concept that a normal brain integrates. And if left brain dominant persons would fit more seamlessly into our society (or at least garner more respect in it). And if we look at our typical education system that promotes language, analytical thinking, and (dare I say) left brain processes over right brain processes. Is it unreasonable to think that if we look at all humans - past and present, near and far, all cultures - that the typical person reading this blog is perhaps in a society that is, on average, left of center? Is it unreasonable to think that the Dalai Lama is perhaps further to the 'right' than the typical American? Now even if that is true - we have no way of knowing how far right or left any group is. Maybe North America is dead center, or maybe we're 2/3 over to the left, who knows. I am speaking only in relative terms.

But when you listen to Ms. Taylor speak of connectedness, of energies, of beauty. For me it conjures up things like James Cameron's Avatar - and every other tale contrasting the 'advanced' society against the society that is 'in tune with' the natural world. In our own reality societies that embrace left brain development seem far more likely to conquer and oust societies that do not. I read an essay by an artist (I wish I could recall his name) who spent time living with the Navajo peoples. The Native Americans are a culture that are often seen as having historically been more 'in tune' with the natural world (similarities between Pocahontas and Avatar aside). In his essay he discussed how living there he found that nobody passed judgement on the fact that he was an artist - it was as valid as any other job. He did not have to justify his profession, in contrast to his experiences in the city.

So what if we are left of center? What if even we who try to foster the right side are still way to the left? What if we are training our children to be the same through failing to nurture and listen to their right brain input? Actually teaching them not to listen to it - but instead to break things down, to rely on the symbols that society has built, to never spend time turning down the brain chatter, to live as a separate entity from the world around you? Is that a problem? I think it might be, in the long run.

I've been struggling with my art the last couple of months. I feel like everything I touch turns to crud. I feel frustrated. I think this was the impetus for me to rewatch Ms. Taylor's talk. And it started me thinking about these things again. As I said - this is only my personal little take on things, but it is important to me. When I do more art I feel more connected to the world, I really see the things around me, my mindfulness improves. When I am in what I would term 'left brain dominant' mode I like to look at pretty things. When I am in 'right brain too' mode I like to look at everything, because it's all pretty.

And since I am a left-brained creature (I feel that I am left of center and will always struggle with that) I have to put it all into words. But now, having written all this down, I think it is time for me to go foster my right brain a little bit. I have a sketchbook and charcoal, a beautiful spring day, and if I choose it - no internet, no conversation, no language other than the language of the world around me coming in through my senses.

I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The days fly by but the months slip through my fingers

I'm a louse for not posting more - I'll blame it on work, preparing for taxes, things going on at home... but really I've just been in a bit of an art funk for the past month. The weather has been that typical in between I-can't-make-up-my-mind-if-I-want-to-be-winter-or-spring (as in little daffodils and crocuses peeking up one day, doused in snow the next, then clear and growing again the next). I've been mentally in-between as well, I guess.

But just as the weather is finally making up it's mind (and those darn little crocuses are some hardy buggers!) I am getting more settled and getting down to tackling all of the things I've put off for the last month or two.

And so here's a wee start on the art side - a little ink/water painting of Nessie the Noisy.

Nessie's Gaze 4.5 x 6" Ink/Watercolour paper

Enjoy! I promise I'll start posting regularly again soon!

~ Pam

Friday, March 12, 2010

More life drawing

I have many tasks on the go this month - but keeping my online venues up to date doesn't seem to be one of them. I'm coming around though - and soon will get the website updates finished and another newsletter out.

Running parallel to that I have also put several of my in-progress scratchboards to the side in favour of doing some different techniques. Loose... sketchy... painterly.. those are my guiding words for this late-winter/early spring period.

There are my life-drawing classes (here are some products of the last couple of weeks). This is a great way to force a looser, more gesturely sketching technique. Our instructor emphasizes the sketch and it is a wonderful feeling to capture that .. something. Sometimes it is the gesture, sometimes the mood, sometimes a particular beautiful angle, sometimes just the right play of contrasts. These are things that you can be in danger of losing as a painting/scratchboard/drawing gets 'finished', a reminder of what I want to preserve is tremendously helpful when I go back to my hyperdetailed, meticulous boards again!





Along the same lines I've been doing more little sketches and then also some scratchboard paintings (as I must always come back to my first love). I alluded last post to working in Charlie's technique - a more painterly approach to scratchboard than what I usually do. Now I have no real desire to paint buffalo (sorry you bison fans out there) so I started with what I do know - the boys:

Close to complete "Brothers" - 18x24" whiteboard/india ink

"Brothers" is india ink on whiteboard - scratched with a steel wool and fibreglass brush. It's not done yet - Michael's face needs work, Dufus' fat-folds need work.. but it's getting there. This photo is really terrible - on the original the contrast is better and there are some great, subtle and dare I say even borderline abstract textures in the 'solid' parts. I will post better photos when the piece is completed. This has now officially become my largest scratchboard!

And the other 'painterly' board - this one is literally just barely started. Again, using Charlie's techique but this time with colour instead of just india ink. I've been dying to do one of these, of course now that it's started I have no idea where I'm going!

Just barely started "Emma" - 16x20" whiteboard/ampersand ink

The technique is very different than my usual coloured whiteboard process of many layers of subtle, even washes alternating with scratching. The basic concept of ink/scratch/ink/scratch is the same - but I'm allowing much more of the brush strokes, bubbles, uneven layers and... well.. character of the ink to come through. I'm using wide, sweeping scratches with the steel wool and I will only put fine detail in certain areas as the piece progresses further.

So I guess I do know where I'm going... it's just a road I've not really traveled before, so I might make some wrong turns along the way. Honestly, as an artist, if you don't travel some new roads from time to time it is certain you will stagnate. And I was feeling a little stagnant over the winter which I guess is what (in hindsight) prompted these new explorations. Little Abbie, the snow leopard, Nessie's BIG board... those are all waiting for me and once I've had my fun with painting I'll get back to them. But for now... loose... painterly.. I can do it!

Thanks for stopping by!
~ Pam

(PS - And to you fellow artists out there.. yeah, I know even my 'loose and gesturely' is still tight as a steel drum. But it's all relative! :D)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

100 Dogs Challenge #12 - Dane sketch

It's been a hectic month with getting all the tax stuff ready for the accountant (we're not dumb... er, bold enough to do them ourselves!), the life drawing class, and some graphic design work I've been doing. I have a few things on scratchboard in the wings that I'll post when they are further along - but for now I'll leave you with a really quick sketch I did today of a Great Dane.

Spring is in the air, though there's still a lot of snow on the ground. In that spirit we decided to haul out the bicycles today and make the 15 mile ride to Carbondale and back. We stopped in town at a coffee shop for a rest and a little caffeine and this guy was outside with his owner. This is a pretty rough sketch - as he didn't like to stand in one spot for more than ten seconds at a time - but a good exercise for me.



Enjoy!

~ Pam

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday Life Drawing

I started a life drawing class tonight.

As you can imagine, scratchboard tends toward tight, precise, and meticulous, and that is great because it's the kind of thing I like. But to keep loose, to keep in touch with the ol' right brain, and keep balanced this class is the perfect thing.

We started with one minute gestures then short, ten minute poses for the rest of the class. Here is a sampling of what I did:



(Note the sweet ninja clock in the center)

Along the same lines I have started an 18x24" whiteboard done in the technique of Charles Ewing which I will post as soon as it is done. As much as I prefer the tight detail of scratchboard I also love and need the looseness of gestures, charcoal and painting. Since I juggle multiple projects at any given time I can have some tight and some loose on the go, allowing me to move from one to the other as needed to keep invigorated.

Enjoy!

~ Pam

Sunday, February 7, 2010

100 Dogs Challenge #9- DaVinci

Another ACEO size ink painting.



This is little DaVinci, an Italian Greyhound.

Here's a photo to give you some perspective of the size if you're not familiar with ACEOs.



Enjoy!

~ Pam

Friday, February 5, 2010

100 Dogs Challenge #8 - Little Frenchie

French bulldogs are the breed of the month on WetCanvas for February - this little guy was so cute he prompted me to try something I've been thinking of but haven't done, painting with my Ampersand inks on paper (*gasp*).


This is ACEO size (2.5 x 3.5) on archival matboard. He was tremendously fun to do, though I have to get used to the different feel on paper compared to Claybord.

Thanks for peeking!

~ Pam

Friday, January 29, 2010

All hail the right brain!

I must say I'm feeling in a bit of a right-brain mode today. When I try to think of how to construct sentences and paragraphs to make this post make sense it's just not working - I am seeing a web of thoughts, experiences and ideas. It's easier to put something like that on paper (I've heard it called a 'mind map') than in typeface, but let's see what we can do...

Why right brain? I've been thinking about it because I recently found out that there is an HBO movie coming out about Temple Grandin.
http://www.hbo.com/movies/temple-grandin

I've admired her for a long time - I knew her as an animal science guru before I even knew about her autism. Since we don't have HBO I won't get to see the film right away (I'm sure we can get it online someday) so instead I watched 'The woman who thinks like a cow' on YouTube.

It got me thinking about brains and patterns of thinking... and as someone who self-identifies with right brain thinking...



Here's me and my husband....

(YouTube link - click this if you cannot
assemble furniture with your significant other):


... I see similarities with Dr. Grandin's thought patterns, but in other ways they are very, very different. So that got me thinking of other big divisions... and ultimately back to Carl Jung/Isabel Briggs Myers (another favorite pondering topic for me) and the differences between sensory and intuitive input... that's key, Dr. Grandin is sensory in the extreme, I am intuitive (but more in the middle of the spectrum).

I certainly realize that these are all names and 'tags' that don't correlate directly to neuroscience - there is no question that the right and left brain have different functions - and even though it's not quite that simple, for me it is one tool to help in understanding how others think.

I'm not going anywhere specific with this - just letting all these concepts float around in my head. I'm always fascinated by how others perceive the world.. I 'get' the concept that 'there is no truth, only perception', at least as far as what most of us experience as humans in developed countries most of the time.

This ties in to Buddhism as well...
srsly, it does.
But don't worry,
I'm not going there right now :D



It ties into the book I'm reading now 'In Defense of Food' too...
though that link is a bit more obscure.
I'll refrain from getting into that now as well ;).



The trip to Alamosa was fabulous this past weekend - meeting with other artists, basking in our squirrel-chasing, right brained tendencies (incidentally Rodman does tricks and commented that artists are 'so easy'... I wonder why that is? And further, I wonder who isn't easy to fool with tricks... Engineers is my bet).

And if you haven't seen this, you should: An Engineer's Guide to Cats

At the Alamosa show I got to finally meet Charles Ewing - scratchboard artist and inventor of the porcelain clay surface that is now used by Ampersand for all scratchbord and claybord products. He's an awesome guy and his studio was amazing! Open space, windows and light, dogs and a cat wandering around, art EVERYWHERE. It was inspiring!

I have a bit more about the show on my newsletter (as well as the missing 100 Dogs sketch #4 *mysterious grin*) - if you haven't signed up for the newsletter and wish to you can sign up on the right sidebar --> ---> --->

I publish it once a month and although there is some overlap with the blog, I can't do the exact same thing twice, so they end up being reasonably different. If you want to look at previous issues you can find them here!

And at the show I started a new whiteboard - here's the current status:


I'm calling her 'Little Abbie' (See Peggy, I promised you kittehs!). This is at the VERY early stages. It's funny that the underpainting is always pretty (a little impressionistic, but pretty) and once I start scratching it looks terrible for while, but then in the end it all comes together and I get that realism and depth, with still a bit of cartoonism (that is my subconscious style). I'll be sure to post this one here on the blog when it's done!

And I think that's most of the flurry in my brain... for now! I promise I'll be a bit more coherent in the next post (whoever voted for 'more right/left brain' and more 'personal anecdotes', well you can blame them for this post :D).

~ Pam ~

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Alamosa bound!

It's an exciting evening for me - tomorrow morning the hubby and dog and myself pile into the car and drive 5 1/2 hours through the mountains to Alamosa, CO.

This is my first mention of it on the blog - but two of my pieces have been accepted to the Adam State College Invitational Scratchboard Art Show in Alamosa, Colorado. The show officially opened Jan 19th, but the official Opening Reception is tomorrow, January 22nd. I'm very excited as this is the first time for me having my art shown in a gallery, but also I will get to meet some people I've known for more than a year and yet have not met in-person. Here's a brief moment for me to put out a plug for WetCanvas.com - a great online artist community of which I can say at least the Scratchboard art segment are a great bunch of folks! Many of the artists showing in Alamosa did a show last year in Indianapolis, and I am proud to number among them in this show (and so lucky that it's close enough I can actually attend!).

So here's a peek at the pieces I have in the show, in case you aren't close enough to stop by:

"Ben" 11 x14" Scratchboard and Ink


Detail shot:


Some of my blog followers may remember this one from the initial sketch here, or the sneak peek here. This was a beautiful boxer I met at the Basalt Sunday Market last year. It's one of the first coloured scratchboards I have done and presented a few challenges that were a definite learning experience. I am glad that I was able to represent this beautiful dog, and the pose and lighting were an artist's dream to work with. I love working from my own reference photos when I can catch the exact image I want - perhaps that is why I take 30-40 photos for every one that I choose to use for a scratchboard. :D

"Ben" 16 x20" Scratchboard


Detail shot:


This was (is) my beautiful Belgian horse. This is my largest scratchboard yet, and even so it is not as large as real-life, in reality if he stuck his muzzle in my armpit I could just barely reach his poll (the tip-top of his head). He is a wonderful horse - when my veterinary career advanced I had to move across the country we had to sell Ben, but he went to a wonderful farm where he could be around other horses and finally decided that with a friend the harness wasn't so scary.

I hope you like these pieces, and if you happen to be in southern Colorado please stop by - the show is at the Cloyd Snook Gallery and runs from Jan 19th to Feb 19th, 2010. You can find a little more information here.

I'll put out a new Newsletter with photos from the show after the fact, and the first glimpse of my newest whiteboard, so if you haven't signed up for the Newsletter yet consider doing so (link in the upper right!).

Good night, wish me luck on the snowy mountain roads tomorrow!

~ Pam