Category Archives: sketches

Kelly – initial design

Have you ever had a moment stick with you so completely, that you knew you just had to do something to honour it?

giraffe and warthog, kenya

“hold on…just a little higher…”

It took more than a decade, but this is how my latest artwork began:

Many years ago a good friend of mine was working in Africa. Eventually I became frustrated with letter writing, and remarked to my husband that I wanted to fly over there, sit under a tree and really catch up together.

Wouldn’t you know it, we unexpectedly received some money. So we booked tickets to go to Kenya and Uganda, and meet up with my friend.

We arrived in Nairobi sleep deprived, jet lagged, and culture shocked. Trying to nap in our budget hotel was not working; the heat, traffic noise, and the lunchtime proselytizing in the park across the street were just too much to compete against. I suggested instead we get out somewhere, and do something to ground ourselves. So we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Giraffe Center, the closest nature area to the city.

The Giraffe Center breeds endangered Rothschild giraffes, and reintroduces them to the wild. Interestingly Woburn Safari Park in England also has a successful breeding program for Rothschild giraffes. I say interestingly because my father worked there when I was little, and I have many stories from there. Like the time he was converting a double decker bus for transporting giraffes, and cut out the upper level while he was standing on it. Which, admittedly, may well have been a better choice than cutting it out while standing underneath it.

Of course I have seen many giraffes, between Woburn, various zoos, and in the parks in Africa. At the Giraffe Center though I first had the wonderful experience of feeding them. Getting up close to the giraffes on the feeding platform was incredible. These gentle giants were the perfect ambassadors for our introduction to Kenya, and I have wanted to capture that moment in art since then.

Kelly initial sketch of giraffe

preliminary sketch for dye painting Kelly, 2012

My July newsletter contains an article about the Giraffe Center. If you would like to sign up for it you can do it here: newsletter

What I did on my summer vacation

Initially, it was very hard to go without studio time over the summer.  I have adjusted, though, and in hindsight I think the forced vacation has helped me focus on the bigger picture of my art career.

I managed to squeeze in a fair number of hours of drawing and sketching, and I have developed a better understanding of what works for me, in terms of brainstorming and revising.  Plus now I have several ideas to start on in earnest:

Arrangement, sketch (2012) 12″x12″

Arrangement #4, sketch (2012) 12″x12″

Meditation, sketch (2012) 12″x12″

Arrangement #3, sketch (2012) 12″x12″

Meditation #1 was juried into the upcoming Fibre Content exhibition in Burlington (my first entry, and my first acceptance!), and I am pulling together entries to a few other shows as I type.  I am also applying for two grants.  One of them may well be a very long shot, but the process is helping me focus and see where I am lacking.  

After this latest revision I am finally happy with my Artist’s Statement:
In my art I capture the relationships that fill our lives and the emotions that colour our days.  I am inspired by the rhythms and patterns of nature and music, and I am always finding life and meaning in the simplest of shapes.

I work in textiles because it is complex, messy, and fun.  Just like life.  The chemistry and serendipity of dyeing fabrics draws me in, then I am challenged to improve them with further surface design, then ultimately the final layer of stitch.”

I am excited to share that I am headed to Texas in September for the first session of a 10-year Master Art Series with Hollis Chatelain.  It is such an incredible opportunity for me, an art class within the context of quilt making.

Algonquin – Part 1

We had a little getaway this weekend. We wanted to see the moose that come down to the highway in Algonquin Park to eat the salt used on the icy roads in the winter.

Last time we went, a few years ago, we saw 24 moose. After much driving this time, I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see any. But finally (of course as soon as the toddler fell asleep) we found one. And yes, we did drive around and find him again when she woke up.

We also spent a lot of time hunting for shells around the lakes.

A couple of sketches inspired by the weekend:

Preparing for an adventure

When preparing to travel, there is a lot of work to be done. Where do I go? What do I want to experience there? What do I need to pack? Do I have what I need, to accomplish what I want? What loose ends do I need to tie up, before I go?

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this is exactly what the past few months have entailed. I am not planning for a physical trip however, but for my adventure in the studio.

I have assembled and improved the arsenal of techniques I need. I have fine tuned the process to get to where I want to be, and perhaps most importantly, I have realized I am ready to do what I’ve always wanted to do.

Make MY art.

These are a few sketches and works in progress, developed during the Abstraction course with Lisa Call.

Composition #1, sketch (2012) 20″ x 24″

Composition #2, in progress (2012) 20″ x 24″

Composition #3, sketch (2012) 24″ x 36″


The other day while reading through Adventures In Design by Joen Wolfrom I was pondering strong vertical lines in a design.

Brainstorming obvious examples of strong vertical lines, I thought about giraffes. I remembered a giraffe photo from our trip to Africa, that I have always wanted to make a quilt of. Of course it doesn’t have a strong vertical line, but so be it. It’s a worthwhile tangent anyway.

I’ve been very much inspired by the paintings of Oliver Ray but wanted to make sure the doodles were my own voice.

Working on this design has involved more technology than usual. I used Adobe Ideas on the iPad to doodle the shapes on the photograph. I love Adobe Ideas for this, because it smooths out lines as you draw them. Then I used Photoshop on my laptop to colour in the shapes.

Africa #3, sketch (2012) 24″ x 36″

Next I need to design the background, I have several ideas there. Then I will explore some different colour schemes, before deciding whether I will go au naturale or not. Lastly I want to experiment with doodling inside the doodles, whether with thread or ink, and see how I like that.