16 Questions with Marc Taro Holmes

Superfoods Illustration for BlendTec

Does God Google?

Great Watercolor Brushes for Photoshop

Oh look! I found all of your missing socks.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

So, This is Me On Food - Designing My Life

This is the part of my blog where I drivel on about my lifestyle challenges accompanied by fun and factual illustrations.

Several months ago, I wrote about my new adventure with food, or rather, my relationship to food. When it came down to it, I really hadn't realized that I'd whittled out so much "no-no food" from my diet, that I was basically starving myself - and yet, STILL GAINING WEIGHT.  It wouldn't come off no matter what I tightened up on, or how much I increased my physical activity. Clearly, eating less was not the answer, nor was exercising more. My body was in protest. My metabolism flipped me the bird and gave up.

Aside from the slow, relentless weight gain, I noticed that my hair was more the texture of burlap than silky corn tassels.  But I was eating healthily! I used nice, chemical free shampoos. I didn't abuse my hair with flat irons or colour processing. And yet, it was so dry that split ends emerged out of newly trimmed locks within days of cutting them.

Let me tell you a bit about my lady stuff. Yes, LADY STUFF. For years, at least dating back to my early 20s (I'm now in my late 30s), I've had a condition called Fibrocystic Breast Disease. My doctor recently told me they've removed the "Disease" label and replaced it with "Problem". Basically, it's non-cancerous lumps that present themselves in one's breasts. The only link it has to breast cancer is that people with this "problem" run the risk of being so used to encountering lumps that they might not take urgent notice of a new, potentially dangerous lump as they might have otherwise.  This has never been the case with me. I'm often feeling myself up and monitoring lumps. Once per year I get them checked out with ultrasound (mammograms are so over).  My latest and largest lump had been present for several years - maybe 5 or more. They come and go, but there always seems to be at least one, or more, present at any given time.

During ovulation, I would quite often experience a sharp, deep pain in my seat and abdomen. It would last 20-30 minutes, completely stopping me in my tracks, and then it would disappear. I've never had that diagnosed as anything, not that I haven't seen a doctor for it.

I've learned to navigate and live fairly happily with these things - my lot in life, and all of that. Imagine my surprise that when I finally recognized that I wasn't EATING ENOUGH FOOD, and did something about it, my body started correcting all of these woes.  My hair feels human again - that happened within the first month - and over the last few months, my ovulation pains have nearly completely subsided. The large 5+ year old fibroid/cyst in my breast is gone! My yearly ultrasound isn't until January, but I'm interested to see the changes when it does come.

My body is thanking me for simply giving it adequate fuel. What the fuel is doesn't seem as important as the quantity and frequency of consumption. I started being present in my body and deliberately not ignoring hunger pains (because, seriously, I have a problem with that. Who has time to be hungry? Eating is such a pain in the ass) and then nourishing myself with whatever I felt like eating, but focusing on carbs (oh dear carbs, why did I forsake you?), salt, sugar and saturated fats in the moments when I just need to squelch the hunger pangs. Of course I still eat a lot of healthy, whole foods, but I'm not avoiding foods for the sake of "health" anymore.

The challenging part of this all, other than remembering to eat,  has been the rather rapid change in my body over the last several months. You can't train your body how to function in scarce times (shittily, I might add) and then expect it not to hoard when times of plenty start coming around. My poor body is hanging on to every morsel, getting ready for the next famine. Except, my goal is that there won't be a next famine. Eventually my metabolism will kick in high gear and my body will be convinced that it can let go of the excess because I'm not going to starve it again anytime soon. It's like it's learning to trust me again. Poor metabolism. I'm so sorry.

I've gained somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25-ish lbs and I've gone up one full pants size. I laugh when I think back to my first post about this when I thought the weight gain was slowing down at only 10lbs. I'm not even eating excessively. I'm just adding foods back into my diet that I once avoided because I bought into conventional dieting wisdom.

What I wasn't expecting so much in this process (though Matt Stone does mention in his book that some women experience this) was increasing a whole bra cup size (thank you very much, but please stop now) and I think I've even gotten taller! Pshhht!  As if! The jury is still out on that, but I get measured, too, when we measure the kids. Since last October, I've grown darn near a 1/4". I know, that's just crazy talk. But maybe not. The body is a many splendored thing.

I'm starting to increase my exercise again, but I'm dealing with injured Achilles tendons so I'm still keeping things gentle with yoga, walking and a little strength training.

What I'm learning from this whole experience is that I don't feel as badly about my body at this size as I thought I would. In fact, I am feeling fairly comfortable with me these days. That's not something I have ever been able to say before, even when I was quite thin. By no means am I fat, really, I just feel that way when trying to put on clothes that are now too snug. Finding clothes that fit well helps a lot. If you don't like how it looks and/or feels on you, get rid of it! That's not to say I don't have struggles with dealing with my new shape, but it's not about bashing myself for "letting myself go".  I think that phrase is turning into something positive for me, actually.

Let's give ourselves a break - quit striving for health in a grossly unhealthy way.  It does take a not-small measure of courage, though. Do you trust your body to figure it out? I'm working on it. I'm a tiny bit of a control freak, so it's hard. Sometimes, honestly, I think I've gone mad. But I'm riding this out for at least a year to give my body a chance.  I've come across another health coach on a site called The Fuck It Diet. Her philosophy is more about changing your relationship with food and with your body, and I think it's worth checking out.

My goal is to trim down again, but I'm sure as heck not going to starve and beat myself into it.  That's just silly.  I recognize that I have to give my body time to get things in order. I just have to remember to keep feeding myself. No ignoring hunger. No restricting foods for the sake of restricting foods. I must eat. My body needs me to. It's all part of designing a healthier me.

Does this concept scare the bejesus out of you? Or is there a part of you that feels like it makes perfect, logical sense?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Urban Sketching: Pointe-à-Callière 18th Century New France Market

Last Sunday I joined USK:MTL down at the Old Port for the Pointe-â-Callière 18th Century New France Market. My good friend Rosalind joined me and we visited and sketched - a very rare thing for us to be together without our children.  It was fantastic!

The event was so well executed. There were little rustic kiosks set up along the streets and an impressive number of actors in authentic 18th century costumes were littered among them.  I had a few moments of being a little sad that I had actually left my children at home - like when the band came marching through, and the soldiers fired their muskets. They would have loved it.

I was impressed with how authentic all of the props seemed. The wooden barrel shown above was bound together not with rope or steel, but with tree branches - I'm not sure which species. The man's sandals were made entirely of rope.

We ran into an Aristocrat, all decked out in pink and blue, complete with man-makeup and a long curly blonde wig. He had made the entire outfit of brocade and linen himself. He even made the wig! He later explained he was a hairdresser by trade and the wig was actual human hair.

Being born into a logging community, I have seen many logs being cut through the width by hand with a two man crosscut saw, but this was the first time I had seen one cut down the length this way The handle at the end of this saw is set up for a second person to help push/pull the saw back upward. The guy on top of the log was no spring chicken - he was up there intermittently while kids came through to give it a go and he not only had great balance, but strength and energy. I wonder how sore he was the day after. It looked like an intense job. My hat off to him.

This event is absolutely on my repeat list for next year. So much fun!

~Side Note: Google just AutoAwesomed my watercolour image. For better or worse, it shows all the variations I uploaded before settling on the one at the top of this post. You can see that I removed the hand of the woman in red after fiddling with it a bit. I think it was one of those things that when you stare at it too long it loses it's shape/meaning. Was it a hand? A duck beak? Who can tell. So I removed it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Urban Sketching - Verdun and Place des festivals

It's been a sketch-tastic weekend so far. I've been out in my community sketching buildings as well as people on the move. I've quite taken to this rapid approach - using a water soluble black Pilot pen and water.

In Verdun:

We have a street fair happening this weekend in Verdun - Grande Vente Trottoir.
This is the Church of the Epiphany.

And some of the crowd watching l'Orchestre à vents de Verdun. I had to be speedy-quick. I was losing light fast.


Today, I skipped down to the Mode & Design Festival at Place des festivals. I took some photos (which I may post later) and scribbled down some impressions. 

I tried a little colour in this behind-the-scenes scene.

On Sunday, I'll head down to the Old Port to catch USK:MTL for their monthly Sunday Sketching event. I'm pretty excited. Maybe I'll see you there!?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Around Montreal - St. Catherine and Chomedey

Last weekend's sketches. I parked myself outside near St. Catherine and Chomedey and took in the comers and goers and tried to record a few of them in my wee little moleskine sketchbook

The parking meter was fun. It made people stationary for about 30 secs to a minute and gave me a little time to take to scribble them in. 

Next weekend I plan to attend  Pointe-â-Callière 18th Century New France Market and connect with Urban Sketchers Montreal.  Come say hello!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Urban Sketch: Verdun Hospital

I sketched this on the day we joined a few other families in Verdun for some urban sketching. You can read all about it here. I painted it at home a day or two later.

My family and I walk by this hospital quite regularly. It faces a skate park, playground, out door swimming pool, and a lovely pathway that runs along the St. Lawrence River.  We often see medical personnel out front of the hospital smoking, which I find rather ironic.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Urban Sketching With Kids: Verdun

As you know, from time to time a group of friends, kids and adults, meet together here in Montreal to try out some urban sketching. We decided to meet near the St. Lawrence River in Verdun this time.

This is described as "A rich guy's fountain". Fictional, but based in reality.

I'm not sure where this little sketcher saw this critter in the park, but it looks awesome.

This is of a community centre and slide nearby.

The water feature/spray park shown above.

Trying out some aquarelle pencils. Lovely colour combos.

 This is hilarious. The kids decided to try sketching while sliding down the slide. Here, Thomas attempted his name and it ended up looking more like Chinese characters.

Swings are always fun! Some great shading here.

As always, we enjoyed hanging out and drawing and rewarded ourselves with a quick swim at the nearby pool afterward. What a fun way to spend time with friends.

You should give it a try.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Black and White Illustrations

I've been working in black and white more lately trying to envision my main character (of my MG novel) in motion. My last sketch of the story characters was quite a bit looser, and I may just rework it in the coming days to bring it more in line with the feeling of this one.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Urban Sketch - Vinet at Notre Dame

I've been spending a lot of time on this corner lately. It's where I come for quiet time - to edit my novel and work out various illustrations. It says Vinet at Fauteux on the painting, but that's where I was sitting. The image is of Vinet at Notre Dame.

The building with the dark brown facade contains a Starbucks and I head there knowing I have anonymity, for now, and I don't have to ask if they mind me hanging around there for hours at a time. It's in a burrough of Montreal that's about a 5 minute drive/half hour walk away from my own. You wouldn't think that's a significant difference, but in my head I think it helps me to be removed a bit from the thought that I could just flitter home on a whim, like I fear I would. Heading to the next burrough is an intentional committing to the moment for me; locking in my attention. If I stayed in Verdun, it's just a short walk home, and the omnipresent To-Do List may reach out to me and call me back. St-Henri/Little Burgundy seems to be just beyond the reach of home's distractions, and that is why I head there. Sure, there are other coffee shops around, and I'll likely start to explore them. It is nice to help support local shops, too, after all.

Later this week I hope to head out with my kids and their friends to do some urban sketching around Verdun and explore the shores of the St. Lawrence River, so watch your inbox. If you want to sign up to my email list, check the sidebar for that.

Thanks for coming to enjoy my journey with me!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Backyard Bees

So, meet my backyard. The little cedar-roofed structure under the purple Japanese Maple is my beehive. I'm a first timer. So far, it's been super interesting. I'm utterly in love with them.

A couple weeks ago, they swarmed and rested in my neighbour's tree. We didn't notice until it was dusk and stormy weather was heading in, so we knew that we would have to wait until morning to catch them. 

They were so beautiful, hanging there, flapping in the increasingly strong wind, in perfect form - the same shape as the hive they left. It's a top bar hive. It's very bee-friendly and relatively easy to manage. It's shaped like a beheaded inverted triangle trough. Haha, you can totally picture that, right. No? Okay, here are some photos, and a bit on the process of building it.

We did catch them - I was up all night like a kid at Christmas. I watched a few youtube videos of others catching swarms and I couldn't believe how easy it looked. And it was. My neighbour joined me, and we caught the swarm. I was able to divide the hive into two separate hives by use of a dividing board called a follower board, and after a day or two, I put the swarm in the empty side.  They seem to be doing fine. 

I dove into the drawing/watercolour painting today on some Fabriano Acid Free paper. It's got a stiff, slightly porous feel and took the paint really well. The difference paper can make! I slowly built up the layers, letting them dry in between.  I think I'm becoming less timid with watercolour and was ready to keep adding until I was satisfied with the depth of colour. I used a brush I bought while in Malaysia (or was it Singapore? It was many, many years ago) at a porcelain factory in grade 10. I have no idea what it's made from, but you can see the picture below.

I really enjoyed my afternoon on my back deck. It wasn't too hot, my Hubby took the kids out and it was just me and the dog and an excellent audio book, A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. What a nice way to spend a Saturday.