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.


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. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Novel Illustrations - On Horseback

I'm getting closer to bringing my Middle Grade novel up to a presentable state. I hadn't looked at it for quite sometime after the first draft, and now that I'm into my first round of revisions - actually just trying to read it front to back without marking it up too crazily - I'm realizing that the time away from it was a good idea (not planned, though, in my case). I'm actually enjoying it - excited to turn the pages. Who knew? When I was in the nitty gritty of writing it, it felt so slow and maybe boring in spots. And maybe feedback will say that's still the case - but I'm shocked to read through and find, that, so far, it's not too shabby.

This is the gist of it:

Fear destroys everything.

Nearly 14 year old Bixton battles grief over the death of her father, three years earlier, and the knowledge that this life thing has more in store for her than she bargained for. When she discovers that her bloodline isn’t entirely human, she is thrust, unprepared, into the task of protecting her new found history. A Top Secret Government Task Force has been systematically wiping out her kind and any trace of their existence for decades, maybe longer. Is she alone in this? Hardly. But there aren’t many left. Can she protect her family’s past and secure their future? Or will they be eradicated without a trace? Will she grab hold of her fear, or will it destroy everything she loves....

I thought it would be fun to create a few illustrations in black and white.

This one is from a scene later in the story where the three girls leave Salem, MA on horseback.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Urban Quickie Down By the Canal

Truth be told, I'm terrified of watercolours - the non-digital kind. You know, there's no 'ctrl z' to undo my mess ups.  And, I'm pretty sure that somewhere along the way, I made some sort of arbitrary decision that watercolour was just not my thing. That in itself created a kind of barrier. Why, oh WHY do we do these things to ourselves?

I recently got a watercolour travel set and I'm determined to overcome my bothersome fear. After all, I'm a big girl. I can do this.

But I still started on just my regular ol' sketchbook paper - too timid to use the actual watercolour stuff. Geez Julie, get over yourself!

I am. Slowly, slowly.

I think part of it is time - or a fierce lack thereof. I may find it easier to throw caution to the wind if time weren't always such a suffocating factor. But, until I can properly schedule my time, baby steps will have to do. Though trust me, making a proper schedule is on my to do list.

I left the kids with my husband today and skitted off to a little section of the Lachine Canal not too far from where we live. It was serene amid the hustle and bustle of the burgeoning burrough of Petite-Bourgogne.

The benefit of starting with my inexpensive sketch paper was the added freedom of not caring if I made a mess of things, which allowed me to speed along with more of a sense of reckless abandon. I love the feeling of sketching quickly. There's nothing quite like it. When I started adding colour in, I layered it slowly and thought about shape and tonal dynamics. I could have increased the contrast more, but I grew restless and moved on.

Lachine Canal, Vinet, Urban sketching, watercolour, bridge, summer

It's not that I haven't ever tried on proper watercolour paper - I've just failed miserably at it. I'll try again - perhaps next time.

Have you been out sketching this summer? Le me know in the comments. Post your links!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Guess What, Chicken Butt? I'm Offering Book Cover Design!

Guess What, Chicken Butt? That's straight out of my childhood. And it would make a great book title, don't you think?  Maybe you'll see a mock cover with that name in a soon-to-be-made gallery of book/e-book covers located on the side bar (don't look for it now, silly. I have to get around to actually making the gallery).

So, I have a few samples I've been working on. I'd still like to do some other genres, namely fantasy, maybe romance, non-fiction, etc, but you get the drift.

Have fun reading the totally made up book synopses. What can I say, I'm quick on my feet (and or brain - when my dog's not barking, kids bickering, cat clawing or bees swarming. Hint: that doesn't leave me really any time to be brainy, but at least I can laugh at the listless look on my face when I'm brushing my teeth before bed).

And yes, my bees swarmed last night, and I caught them this morning. Fun times in Montreal.

I digress.

Book covers!


Front, spine, back. Or, actually, as we read left to right; back, spine, front.  You're smart. I'm sure I didn't have to explain that.

As for pricing, I'm still working that out. If you have a project in mind, contact me and we can discuss.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Death in the Age of Facebook

My husband and I were casually discussing death the other day, and it struck me that I might like just a big ol' Facebook thumbs up icon on my tombstone. It spiralled into this comic ...

Now, could this mean that 425 people liked Rhonda? Or 425 like that she's a goner? Hard to say. She has a pretty sexy duck face, though. Nice selfie, Rhonda.