Architectural Triptych

I drew this sketch from photos I took several years ago in residential Toronto. These old homes are so beautiful and unique and are slowly being replaced by way of tear-down purchases. Not all the new builds seem out of place, but it is sad to see the older ones go.

Next step : watercolour 🙂

The Sketchie Tarot

I’m pleased to introduce my latest project, The Sketchie Tarot. Back in March, I was inspired to sketch my own version for personal use, and it has been a lot of fun. I chip away at the deck design when I have the time, and am nearly finished tweaking the lines { updated from what you see here } . I’m thinking about producing a colouring book next.

Tarot geeks may be interested to know that I used The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (London, 1911) as my guide. Every line drawn is my own ~ and eventually I plan to finish each piece using watercolours. Ambitious, I know! But as I mentioned to a friend, I would rather have more projects than time. Stay tuned! ?

My Steampunk Wall Clock

I am so excited about my little wall clock. Like so many things, it all started with an internet search…

I rent the upper floor of a century-old farmhouse, which I love, and although it’s snug I am constantly inspired by its beauty and charm. The kitchen is sort of mother-in-law-ish, but who cares? It works nicely for this mostly-foodie. Different areas of the flat have their own unique feel: some downright cave-like, others intriguing — and in some others I have a full long view from outside wall to outside wall, which is very freeing at times… being somewhat claustrophobic by nature… but it’s really not so bad that way. No worries.

However, the bathroom is, well, tiny. Big enough, but still — tiny. In my first few months of living there, I splurged on a big custom mirror. The frame shop in town that I frequent { } sells ready-made frames, and the day I went looking I found a large mahogany piece with a skinny little frame that I had assembled with a piece of mirror glass. I have lots of mirrors in the place, it really helps to open up the space.

For someone who doesn’t often care { give a … } what time or day it is, I sure do love to design clocks. On a whim in the early 2000s I took out magic markers { Crayola, actually }, found some round things for a template and drew this Watermelon Clock that is for sale on my Zazzle storefront. { If you are in Canada, I have another source that produces locally to save on shipping — let me know if you are interested. }

But for the bathroom, as with most of the house, I didn’t really care. “No wall clock” is just fine. In fact the only other wall clock in the place has no markers: Mary’s fantastic Whatever Clock. Anyway, the bathroom is also the last room in the place to be painted — I’ve chosen my grandmother’s teal. Pretty bold for a room, but there’s lots of white and windows, etc., and it’s not that big a space. Over the towel ring I’ve hung a small square frame with my favourite marker fish drawing, but I couldn’t figure out what to put above it. A clock would work, I thought, but it’s such a small space. And the look of the room is more industrial than the rest of the house… Most clocks spoil that vibe…

So I googled “tiny steampunk wall clock.” Words like “tiny” don’t usually yield the desired filter, so it was a rather frustrating search. I saw some quite large wall clocks called “steampunk” and they look fantastic — but I don’t have any kind of space on that wall. Really. Several sellers on Etsy are making bicycle gear clocks that would be the right size, but it didn’t seem to make any sense, to have a bicycle gear clock in my tiny bathroom.

And thus my design was born, inspired mainly by this and this, shown in the previous paragraph in case the links go dead. I looked into laser cutting, but would have had to bulk order more than I could probably move, since 7″ clocks are not in high demand. But on our town’s facebook swap group, one member serendipitously posted a certain kind of metal art product she was looking for, and the owner of a local metal shop saw it and replied. Their technique and artistry are just right, and I love to go to local artists first — problem solved! So my clocks are plasma cut, and as such they don’t have perfectly smooth lines, but in fact I truly love their rough look! It gives them extra character and a rustic feel that juxtaposes the sort of anglo-industrialism. My boss says bicycle wheels, but I am also thinking railroad cars. Anyway I’m totally chuffed.

My own clock of this design is 7″ for the wall space in question. My sister asked for one in plain steel for her place, at that size. I also have a prototype in 8.5″, which is more of a standard clock size, and I am happy to take any custom orders. For a custom metal clock the cost is pleasantly reasonable, so let me know privately and I will quote a ballpark.

Ideally I suppose this design would work best if the face itself spun and the hands were stationary, since the numbers are upside down on the bottom, but I like it this way. It suits my sense of order, even if it is a little hard to read. Isn’t that what steampunk is all about?

An ironic side note: once I had the clock mostly designed, there were a few variables and options to consider, and I wound up with three main versions to choose from. I printed each one out and tried them one by one on the wall — in fact as I write this post they are still held there by tape as the final clock is not yet assembled. There is no way to mistake them for a real clock: a stack of white circles with black toner print. But … every single time I have stepped out of the shower since I put them up, I have reflexively glanced up to see what time it is. Ha, well that joke is on me. We’ll see if I still do that once the real thing is in place and the walls are finally painted.

Reflections on Anticipation : Honouring a Friend I Never Met

Remembering Tina Forrester.

Life is a funny thing, sometimes.

I started the kernel of this blog post last September, right after my inaugural Rhinoceros. I had such high hopes for writing monthly posts — now it is April and we are anticipating reuniting with our Summer clan for weekends up north.

The topic of my unpublished September post fragment — how much I like the off season — had at its core two works in progress that I’m still not sure about, and a subject that I enjoy on occasion: historic Steamships. During a very active period in 2013 I completed R.M.S. Segwun. She is available in several formats including greeting cards and special order prints. One of her sisters on the lakes, Wenonah II, is anticipating the 150th birthday celebration of her predecessor, Wenonah [I], at Muskoka Discovery Centre. In honour of the celebration, I started some sketches in the Fall, and really I was quite pleased with them. If all goes well I would love to complete them as companions to Segwun.

A different facet of anticipation has to do with friends and the people we know. I am a big fan of social media — facebook in particular — where I really enjoy exploring personal interest groups such as spirituality as well as the art community. It has also brought together a passionate blogging community of photographers, which I stumbled upon when I first created my Segwun. There is no easy way to tell this poignant story but to jump right in.




We see so many beautiful images on the internet, and most of them go uncredited. For the most part, people believe it’s OK to appropriate them for their own use, seeing the milieu as a public domain of sorts — which, in fact, it is not. As an artist/designer and an author I uphold the standards of credit and copyright { the right to copy — or not } of so-called “intellectual property.”

My Segwun piece was initially a lark, to see how I would manage such a subject, having mostly sketched private homes in my new style up till then. Like many people, I started off with Google image search, and there in front of me was a fantastic photo, showing all her lines and positioned in a classic Fall backdrop. I had intended to make a start of my project using found images, and after I’d practiced enough, I’d shoot my own photo and use that for the final. The sketch turned out so well though, and when I did go down to the docks in Gravenhurst my own snapshots were nowhere near as useful for the sketching template as the one I’d found — Tina’s.

In some cases it may be legal to create an homage, one’s own artistic version of an existing piece, as long as we don’t pass the original off as our own or include too much { some would say any } of the original in the derivative work. Derivative works are not a way to dodge copyright law. However for personal use, when copying the masters, riffing off the same topic, or recreating in another medium, it is often regarded as inspiration and interpretation.


RMS Segwun

segwun_v3_square 150503_framed_528x

So I tried a sketch from my own not-so-stellar photo of Segwun and compared it to my original. There was no comparison, and I made the decision to contact the photographer and request permission to publish my derivative, being based on her photograph. Well she was thrilled, and accepted a link back to her photo blog as a fine thank-you. Over the next couple years we connected as friends on facebook and began to get acquainted in that oblique way so common to the site. Knowing she lived nearby to me, I started to think it would be nice to go down and actually meet her in person. I’ll have a month or so to myself this summer and sort of projected that meeting into that time.

Just about three weeks into this line of thinking, I started to get posts in my feed with Tina’s site linked: in February of this year, she and her husband died in a car crash near their home. The photoblogging community erupted in shared grief and I discovered that Tina had hundreds of other friends who were just as in love with this friendly and talented photographer, who also wished that they had met her, and had also hoped to do so.

This blog post is my tribute to East Gwillimbury CameraGirl — Tina Forrester — and her husband and family.




Does this story have a moral? I’m not sure. Maybe just some extra inspiration: be mindful and respectful of others’ creations, but don’t be afraid to follow your own inspiration. Seek permission before copying or creating a derivative, always give credit, and honour as best you can.

As it turns out, when I’d looked online last Fall for an image of Wenonah II to begin the next round of sketches, whose do you think took the cake? Tina’s of course. I hope she won’t mind if both my Gravenhurst steamship pieces owe their sparkle to hers. Thank you, Tina.


Room for Metaphor

We spend our time restoring and memorializing what we cherish of the past. I certainly enjoy doing so — much of the new I create is grounded in or copied right out of the old. Old family friendships, old decorating styles, old objects, old ideas, old sayings. From the compost of the past spring the seedlings that nourish us. A metaphor for a different post.

Celebrate what you love now. Life is short.

World Rhinoceros Day : 22 September

What a cool way to launch an art blog.

World Rhino Day 2015

It’s safe enough to say that near the top of my favourite { visual } artistic influences are, in no particular order: Henri Matisse, Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, and Albrecht DĂŒrer.

Those of you who know even one of DĂŒrer’s works should understand the appeal. My style of illustration and sketching draws more on Matisse { pun not intended 😉 }, but DĂŒrer’s Rhinoceros has lodged in my imagination ever since I saw it for the first time, who knows how many years ago. { Yes, I know this is a rabbit: }

Durer Young Hare 1502

Albrecht DĂŒrer “Young Hare” 1502
Source: Wikimedia.


Happy Inner Child

In this phase of my life, my spiritual “side” has truly become the conscious basis for my whole expression. Last year my focus was drawn back to Rhinoceros by Jean Rockefeller’s blog, Jack’s Corner. According to her information, three main holders of feminine energy on the planet are Elephant, Lion{ /ess }, and Rhinoceros. Thus another item was added to my long list of ideas: a work that honours all three “beasts” equally.

My inner child was really happy about all this, as it also offered and inspired a chance to create my own Rhinoceros unicornis in homage to DĂŒrer. A google search ensued, while I inspected what is known about the history of DĂŒrer’s piece — side stories to which are pretty fascinating for an art geek such as myself.

Giacomo Penni

First Woodcut of a Rhino, from the Giovanni Giacomo Penni poemetto 1915
Source: Wikimedia.


Artistic Depictions of Rhinoceros

… date back to antiquity, of course.

Chaturbhujnath Nala rock art

Chaturbhujnath Nala Rock Art, Madhya Pradesh
Source: Bradshaw Foundation.

Indus seal with Rhinoceros

Steatite seal from the Indus Valley
Source: The British Museum — Ancient India.


Meanwhile, Back in the West

In the year of 1515, and according to DĂŒrer’s engraving, “ on 1 May* there was brought to the most puissant King Emanuel of Portugal / to Lisbon from India / just such a living animal. they call it Rhinocerus … . ”

—English translation { and original Archaic German } on Wikipedia.

*Or maybe it was May 20, as the article states. Whatev’s. Honestly.

In any case, it seems the animal was not treated at all kindly in its role as the King’s new “possession” but of course sparked the curiosity of a culture who had never seen the like — well at least not since Roman times. A series of letters were sent to DĂŒrer in Nuremberg { for map enthusiasts, the map overlay link is fairly worth it }, one including a sketch by an artist whose name has not been preserved to history. This inspired Albrecht to make a few drawings and finally our beloved, famous woodcut.

Durers Rhinoceros

DĂŒrer’s Rhinoceros
Source: Wikimedia.


500 Years of Durer’s “Rhinocervs”

It has not escaped my notice that 2015 is the 500-year anniversary of the masterpiece, and as such I’ve had a printout on my bulletin board all year — egging me on to create my version. A couple of weeks ago, researching and preparing for a day of sketching, I happened to discover that 22 September is World Rhino Day. How about that for timing?

In the process of reigniting my artistic practice over the past few years, I’ve also realigned with my own native sketching style, which I’ve had since forever { or so }. I’ve given it a modern twist whose reward is digital vector art that can be tweaked and adjusted to perfection — as well as printed without concern of random scan quality. In coming years I’m keen to return to my first love: watercolour, but for now am really enjoying this new way of illustrating sketches.

I thereby present my in-progress offering in honour of Rhinoceros — and all of my artistic muses — with a special tip of the hat to Albrecht DĂŒrer.

{ P.S., This is a baby born at the Buffalo Zoo in 2008. }
Source photo credit: Wikimedia / Dave Pape { Flickr }.


Now – When is World Octopus Day?

Hmm, October 8, naturally.

Colossal octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort

“Poulpe Colossal” { Colossal Octopus } by Pierre DĂ©nys de Montfort 1810
Source: Wikimedia.

That gives me… 375 days to prepare. *Whew!




Welcome to my blog!

I am a graphics professional { among other things } and have been a “fine” artist all my life. My professional design Portfolio is found in the main menu, as is the “about Ellen” page. You can also find me on Linkedin to view my CV. I will be putting up some more of my personal artwork as the years go on, as well as the occasional random blog post.

Enjoy your stay!