Is This What Dante Was Talking About?

Sigh… the couple of you who have checked will know that I haven’t been active here lately. That’s mostly because my pen hasn’t been active because I haven’t been much in the mood to sketch anything.

Nothing seems worth sketching and certainly not worth presenting to an audience that, in my opinion, have lost their way. It’s like there are 300 million people, living south of my border who are sitting around fiddling as their country falls apart, but every one of them thinks they’re right. This isn’t a political blog and never will be but the daily news of US events has certainly had an impact on my view of the world.

And so I’ve turned to other things. I mentioned a while ago that I’d gotten back to reading a lot, and I have. I’ve gone through many f the classic “big books” and have been enjoying the journey. When I read War and Peace I fell in love. It’s an amazing book that 1) isn’t big when compared to Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, 2) isn’t a “war book,” though a war is taking place as the backdrop to half a dozen characters deal with love, philosophy, and free will vs fate. Mostly it’s a book with characters that are so real and complete that you just want to keep reading about them, even though you’ve finished the book.

And I have. I now own 4 translations of Tolstoy’s masterpiece and I’ve been enjoying casual analysis of how the different translators portray the work. Kinda crazy, I know, to get that wrapped up in one book but if you’ve read it you may understand it a bit better. It could also be the case that the Russian/French war of 1812 is just easier to handle than the evening news (grin).

I’ve also been doing some cooking because I bought a new toy, a Ninja Foodi airfryer/pressure_cooker.

I love this thing. It’s essentially a small convection oven with a pressure cooking lid and you can fry, bake, broil, sear, steam and more. Slowly I’m learning to use it and most of what I’ve done with it comes out better and faster than using an oven and with less mess, oil, there’s no heating up the kitchen as you do it. Lots of fun.

Now that our snow is beginning to melt, I’ll probably be getting out sketching. In the meantime, here’s are a couple doodles I did in the name of Marc Holmes’ 100 people event. While I didn’t participate, these three dripped off my pen/pencil.

Testing, Testing, Testing….Anyone Out There?

This post is mostly just a test of my website to see if it’s working again. January 2023, for me, has been the month of broken. Seems that everything has, in one way or the other. My body is being arthritically challenged, a recurrent problem. My winter boots died, requiring and expensive, and unsatisfying purchase along with sore feet as I break them in. Then my glasses broke, with a fuzzy couple of weeks waiting for the new ones to come. Amazon’s delivery seemed to fall apart, generating books delivered to the wrong place and another set damaged. Oh, and my snowblower broke requiring parts shopping and a very cold fix-it session.

The worst of the problems, however, was that I lost access to my website. It seemed that people could view it (sometimes?) but I lost admin access completely. What a mess that was. Just before the holidays I’d backed away from blogging as I was immersed in reading some of the larger classic lit works and so losing access probably happened at a good time, but it took a lot of time and several hours of phone calls to the US server to get it fixed. It’s now Feb 1st and I hope that with new books, new glasses, fixed snowbllower, and operational website, things can get back on track. I’ll have to live with my aging body and mind but I’m getting used to that.

I’ve included this snapshot of scribbles I’ve done in the past few days while watching TED talks and other YouTube offerings just so there’s at least one graphic here.

Falling Off The Earth

I haven’t reallly fallen off the Earth, but almost.  For me, this has been a really weird year.  Certainly, all the pandemic stuff that preceded it messed with my mind more than I thought but weather and life contributed to this year being, what was the word…oh yeah…WEIRD.

I came out of the pandemic looking to spend the spring/summer/fall out sketching like I normally do, but I never really got into that groove.  Partly this was because of near constant rain from April to June.  We had an amazing flower crop, though, and I dodged the rain to draw some of them.

By the time the rain stopped we felt pressed to get the housework we’d planned to get done in the spring and so everyday was spent with construction tools or paint brushes in my hand.  We got a lot accomplished but not nearly as much as we’d planned.  Anyways, we followed this with several picnics and other “we need to just hang out” actvities.  Gals prices were too high to go anywhere so we didn’t. Should I blame Biden for our Quebec $6+/gal prices or credit him for the fact that they used to be $7.50/gal?

I resumed daily walking and during it I did a bunch of little sketches but I wasn’t too interested in scanning them and posting them.  To be honest, social media is kinda getting to me.  It’s become a steady stream of artists replacing posts of their finished products with frantic videos, sped up to a stess-inducing rate of scribbling and I just can’t watch this stuff.  That, I guess is a topic for another discussion.

And then it got to be late August and September when we got a surprise.  Just as cool/cold should have been setting in here, it got warm and beautiful.  It was so nice that Chantal and I couldn’t resist spending the day in the backyard sipping wine, reading books and enjoying the sun.  So, rather than a daily sketcher, I’ve become a daily reader…a serious daily reader – hours at a time.  Here are a few of my new friends.  Just a different way to feed the mind and now I want to draw Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (grin)


Sketching In My Front Yard

This summer I’ve fallen in love with sketching Chantal’s flowers.  Why?  Cuz they’re beautiful, plentiful, and available.  But another reason is that they really help me hone the connection between my visual and motor cortex.  Some call this hand-eye coordination but there are no hands or eyes being trained here.  It’s all hind brain doing the work and the trick is to get this to happen without interference from the forebrain, be it left or right forebrain.  When artists say “get the brain out of the way,” this is what they mean whether they realize it or not.

Anyway, I spent a bunch of time “in the zone” drawing these black-eyed susans, locating them relative to one another.  During most of it I was “unavailable” to anyone walking by.  In the end I was both exhausted and exhilarated.  I think I got most of it right.  The leaves are not accurate.  I used lines representing some leaves to locate the flowers but otherwise the leaves were a by guess and by golly venture.  Hope you like it.

The Family Tree Of Excavators

This year has been an odd one, with lots more rain than usual and very high temperatures with jacket days interspersed.  Our flowering plants have put on quite a show as a result but at the same time, insects have been scarce.  I’ve seen a single Monarch but no other butterflies.  No mosquitos, one moth, a few flies, but nothing like a typical Quebec summer cadre of insects.  And NO spiders.  I typically get to play with small jumping spiders and we normally end up with a bunch of web-building Theridids around our yard.  Not this year.

But one species that comes and goes like clockwork are the excavators.  These huge yellow and orange beasts trundle around Quebec City like they own the place, digging holes here and there, dragging a stream of orange traffic barrels in their wake.  They show up ever spring. They start to die out when it turns cold.

As a biologist I’m always interested in the life cycles of organisms and excavators are no exception.  The adult shown above is a prime example of the type.  I drew this one several years ago and confess that anyone who believes urban sketching should be done quickly would take offense to the couple hours I spent drawing this one.  There are several things to note beyond their overall size.  First, its feet are huge as are its muddy footprints.  Second, its head is sized to hold a single human and its small relative to its huge, elongated body that swings a long beak here and there.

While walking on my river, I came across a baby excavator.  It was hiding next to an apartment building being built along my river.  You can immediately see that it’s an infant.  Notice how large its head is relative to its body.  Its body is short and pudgy and its feet aren’t as developed as the adult versions.  If you see these little guys operate you’ll notice it bouncing around and rocking back and forth, unlike the adults who move steadily.  I wonder if they simply grow larger with age or maybe there’s a metamorphosis that takes place, maybe during the winter season.  More study is required.


Stillman & Birn Alpha (6×8), DeAtramentis Document Black.