Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Moleskine

My larger format sketchbooks haven't exerted the same pull for me recently as they did in the past and for a while now I have wondered how a new format, a new size would feel to work with, what sorts of images, line, designs a new format might call for.  

Bought one today, so we shall see.

Why a squirrel monkey?  Oddly enough there was a large monkey cage and a monkey in it at my school when I was in elementary school.  A year or so later it was decided that keeping a monkey was not in the school mandate, so the monkey and cage were sent elsewhere.  I remember spending a lot of time in and around the monkey cage.  Something about the structure and restraint of that environment brings to mind the edge of the page.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whiskers - Night Wind - I.F. Nov 23, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday challenge word: Whiskers

...which meant I've had whiskers on my mind all week.

I keep thinking of the porous border between sleeping and waking, the way the mind scatters when we give it permission to break into its sensory particles and float off to absorb impressions from all over the universe past and present.

Dream Cat whiskers tickle night into dark, shimmery giggles that jiggle apart and appear one thing while mindslivers slip between them creating new layers, impressions, thoughts.  Stitching these impressions together we dream we are one entity while the mind itself relates as messages between disparate parts scattered who knows where as we sleep.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Emerging from the trees, memories

I missed this week's Illustration Friday deadline, hadn't finished my mental wanderings for the prompt word: Tree, and this week's quote:  "My sorrow, when she's here with me, finds these dark days of autumn rain as beautiful as days can be.  She loves the bare and withered tree, she walks the sodden pasture lane".  - Robert Frost  (Did I get that right?  Couldn't find the card on which I noted it down, though I read it often enough this past week)

Frost has been a favourite of mine since high school for how he selects words and invites the reader to follow into a landscape of carefully noted vistas and wonderfully implied senses.

The quote sent me hunting for my copy of Thoreau's Wild Fruit.  No idea why, beyond the shared intensity of appreciation for whatever is in view. 

And while mulling over ideas I was turning over papers.  Felt my thoughts skip when I came across this one.  Drawn as an exploration of themes while writing a retelling of a folktale from my childhood.  I can still hear my father's voice repeating a refrain from the story, and haven't given up hope of finding the reel-to-reel tape on to which he recorded this, my favourite tale - three times in a row.  He also taught me to rewind and play the tape when I was four or so, to avoid my importuning him at all hours.  Story within story, memory encapsulating memory, and I have yet to find the inner kernel. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Haunt - Illustration Friday Oct.26/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: Haunt

This time of year, haunt evokes stories of chills and fright, childhood anticipation of Halloween and all its promises of a night where rules were set aside and we could put on a getup in which we would not be recognized and traipse about dark neighbourhoods with our friends knocking on strangers' doors and demanding candy. 

But aside from this seasonal connection, what haunts us? 

For me, what can truly haunt are the breezes created by unspoken words.  Separated from the landscape where they could have been spoken, they hang in the mind, frozen constellations of thought, of connection and communication.  Perhaps at the right time they might have guided us elsewhere as constellations could.  Choked back they shed a cold light and stir up trailing shadows of unheard responses. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Air - Good Intentions

Connecting with Air.  Surrounded by it.  Supporting life, it will yet not support our weight, so we must find another way to move our intentions beyond our current reach.

this inventive fellow with detachable hands has his good intentions all ready to go, if somewhat hampered by his inexpert handling and clumsiness - some of which might be attributed to his working against himself, having inadvertently reversed his hands after their last maintenance check.  Oh the things that appear in images and all they infer, when I am not paying attention, just drawing, drawing, drawing.  Best thing about the sketchbook.

More thoughts about this image and others on my sketchbook page:  http://www.antostudio.com/sketchbook.html

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SCBWI Canada East Ottawa Conference - Getting It Together

In the last days before a conference, just as I'm mulling over what to add or move from my portfolio it happens.  Never enough to take along new things I've done over the past year or so, perhaps some overlooked images that now seem just right to take along, as the time to depart draws near, I am gradually overwhelmed by the mad urge to make something new.  This time is no different.  Suddenly dissatisfied I just KNOW that if I take the time and focus... a new image will be the result.  Definitely worth putting in the portfolio.

Summer, as always, melted away into small cracks of time between the bright mosaic of family time, new vistas and activities away from the drawing board.  Plans to work steadily at new images seeped into these same cracks.  I tell myself they morphed into rich ideas, fertilized by all the new sights and sounds.  I hope so.

A little wiser this time around, I opted to work (mostly) with images I already felt strongly about, seeing if I could make them sing - in colour.

If you'll be at the conference, do wave across the room.  And when you bump into me with my portfolio under my arm, it will be fine if you ask: so what's new?

This week's Illustration Friday challenge word was water  with an accompanying quote by Rabindranath Tagore (not in front of me, so I'll paraphrase to the extent memory allows) to the effect that you cannot cross the ocean by standing and looking at the water.

A desire to be elsewhere, to expand one's horizons, to adventure - so many reasons for stepping in to the water and then figuring out HOW to journey in it, through it, and perhaps finding ease in just being IN the water .

Parenthood is such an adventure - there's no way of knowing what being a parent means until you ARE one.  And even then, you discover more every day. 

And the image, as it's setting is watery, seemed doubly appropriate.  A sketchbook image, the colour layers added with mottled acrylic surfaces scanned and manipulated digitally.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Burst" Illustration Friday Sept. 14/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word:  "burst" and the quote:
" I was not out to paint beautiful pictures; even painting good pictures was not important to me.  I wanted only to help the truth burst forth"  - Alice Miller

It's been a good while since I was able to make the time to sit with a word and a quote long enough to respond to them properly.  Luckily, this was the week. 

Creating, exploring, how often we feel the blank page blocks us - and yet, even more, having an end in mind when reaching for that paper and pencil will limit what we end up with so much more.

A true idea escapes us, finds its way out into the world, to inspire - or shock - and when it has left, the breeze finds its way in and stirs up long-held beliefs.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Carry" Illustration Friday July 20, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "carry"

After drawing and discarding for days, it dawned on me that having an idea is one thing, and having the energy, persistence and effort required to carry it out is quite another thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lost - Illustration Friday July 13

Inspired by the Illustration Friday challenge word: Lost.

This is the latest in a series of drawings, springing from a flow of thought, questions, a tangle of process and sifting of intention.

I had nearly finished a drawing begun with relish and found my enthusiasm for the image had drained completely.  It wasn't a bad drawing, and sincerely enjoyed elements in it, but it wasn't saying what had crept up on me as I pondered the word long enough to work with it.

So I gave my pencil freedom to just draw - and kept adding to something that made sense to me.

Lost - as in fragmented, whirlwinded, energetically DOING and yet not coherent in being.  An energy, an entity, but not grounded.  At times, overwhelmed with calls on our time we might turn around and wonder when we last did something that arose from inside ourselves, an expression of self, rather than responded to an outside need or demand.  Finding we are defining our days and by that our selves through what we DO, and lose our grip on that too.   

And strangely, of the calls on our time that come from outside, most were put in place by choices we made, that we wholeheartedly DID want to do.

It is odd, that we can feel lost even in the midst of following choices we have made ourselves - if we have lost track of where that choice arose, or how it might develop, change, diminish over time and yet an obligation tends to grow - and we find ourselves defined from the outside and expressing the inner self less and less.

I enjoy the feel of batik that this image has attained through manipulation -  batik begins as the tracery of hot wax on fabric -  after colours are applied, often in an intricate sequence, the cooled wax is eventually heated until  it vapourizes and only the colours remain.  A clear image, though the negative of what originally was.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'space' Illustration Friday June 22/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: space, and the quote:
"For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions"     - Lao Tzu

This quote reminded me of how it feels to come awake, as though one's mind has to be gathered from beyond the edge of dark, from among the molecules of scent drifting from a night-blooming jasmine, from scattered memories and unformed possibilities - truly when we sleep, our inner selves know no limited dimensions.

As I painted I thought of a dream where I flew.  Standing at first at the edge of our lawn, I realized with a jolt that there was no hedge in my way - so I must be dreaming!  If I am dreaming, I can fly!  I stretched out my dream arms and leaned forward until I floated off the lawn, over the houses and streets in my neighbourhood thinking to myself: of course, this is what the roof looks like, so THAT is what is behind this hedge... until my little son, awake already, flung himself on my back, and I became too heavy to fly. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012


As the bustle of the school year gears up toward its grand, heated finale of forgotten shoes, overflowing knapsacks and armfuls of artwork heading homeward the mind skips backward to September; the last lazy days of summer to be savoured, crammed full of friends and late nights; the fresh school clothes waiting to be put on, lunchbags as yet unsquashed, unsmelly, thermoses still in their places.

I love the first morning, walking and gathering neighbourhood kids like a snowball until at the last corner we are a gaggle of parents and kids catching up - from last week, last night or all of summer in a few steps - before jumping in and joining the crowd in the playground.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Hurry" Ilustration Friday June 1, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday quote:

"All things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry.  Haste is blind and improvident".  - Titus Livius

Reminds me of the kinds of things we would hear as kids - sayings from my mother's and grandmother's childhoods.  One year we asked as many people as we knew to tell us the ones they knew.  I managed to gather about two hundred.  My older sister got well over a thousand.  And the one that comes to mind on this topic translates something like this:
"Haste leaves a trail of dribble"

In my own life it reminds me of watching people with their eyes closed, minds wrapped in something else as they sit on the subway during the morning and evening rush-hours.  As though they had shelved their inner selves while they waited to arrive somewhere, start to consciousness again.  As for myself, if I was so busy playing in my mind the conversation I would have when I arrived, or anticipating the vacation I was planning, what was I missing that I was rushing by on that train?

So I try to take note.  Breathe deeply.  Whatever is outside the window right as I go by is my life right now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In the Garden

Fingers have been occupied with other creative pursuits recently.  Handing this over for the newest member of our clan to enjoy, I find myself missing the mad stitchery, the solving of design problems unique to this art form.  And now, back to the drawing board - literally.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yes and No

Yes and No

Moving things out of the studio this week made the space more inviting, felt like air was flowing through the room and my mind more freely.  I felt pulled in to the space, the empty stool in front of the work area.

A drawing made while the mind had no settled thought, only impressions amid noise (while waiting for youngsters to have their fill at a Gamer convention)  was added to and played with over the past few days.

Yes and no.  Choices, balance, the hovering between options not decided yet - what is that called?  I know there is a term for it.  Bardo.  That's it.  There's a balance point where anything is possible.  You can't stay there long, but until you close off other options by choosing, you can turn in any direction, open any door within reach.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Jump" Illustration Friday April 27, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "Jump" and the quote:

"Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at the sun'.  W might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground".  - Zora Neale Hurston

This word, this quote sent me bouncing - quite literally - in memory, to neighbourhood pogo stick competitions, children all tossing baseballs back and forth, making blades of grass whistle between their thumbs, skipping ropes or trading roller skates while waiting their turn to try and be the one who could stay on the pogo stick and jump the longest.  It makes me think: how rich we were, in our choices, our pastimes, the community of children from who we drew our friends, our challenges, our memories.    It was this environment, with the memory voices of all our mothers in chorus saying if not quite to 'jump at the sun' then at least: Get outside.  And once outside, the sunlight would find us.  No ceiling, no walls, the only barriers being custom, courage - and bedtime.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heights - Illustration Friday Apr.20 2012


This beginning point took me to the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs, where I have since my teens often stretched out with my feet over solid ground (I hoped and trusted) and my nose over the edge of the cliff, feeling the breezes reaching me from over the lake, and setting thoughts free to waft.

I've gone there in thunderstorms to be drenched and watch the dance of lightning over the lake; alone with thoughts I wanted to unload over the edge, and with friends and children to absorb the majesty of the Bluffs from above and down below where they seemed endless, the tufted upper edge framed by passing clouds unreal, unreachable, the lower lapped by waves arriving endlessly from away.

But when I sat down to draw, I wondered how heights call to us.  Like "up" calls to a seed, a sprout bursting with water and energy from the soil, its casing split and drying behind it.

Growth from brokenness.  Room for roots and sprouts and leaves, stroked by passing breezes carrying scents from where they have come. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Vocal" Illustration Friday April 6, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "vocal" and by the quote:

"The more one listens to ordinary conversation the more apparent it becomes that the reasoning faculties of the brain take little part in the direction of the vocal organs". - Edgar Rice Burroughs

I enjoyed finding this quote, its snide tone so beautifully wrapped in elegant phrases, like a medicine coated to slide down the throat before its bitter taste makes one think twice about swallowing.

But the more I mulled it over, the less pleased I was to derive an illustration from the quote. We all speak without thinking, and pointing this out in a superior way has been done so beautifully by Mr. Burroughs I need not add to his words. And besides, I suspect I am more often to be found on the other side of his judgement line anyway.

I came to listening late in life. As a kid in a noisy opinionated family with many siblings, volume was where it was at. Being clever was great, but if you didn't turn up the volume nobody would know you had anything worth listening to say. After school anecdotes were considered and polished on the way home, and delivered -often at full volume and speed to forestall interruptions - before after-school play could be considered.

It wasn't so long ago that I realized my conversations didn't have a lot of empty spaces. And I wondered if I were one of those people who listened for spaces into which I could insert my next thought, rather than pondering what the other person was saying and responding to that.

So I decided to try listening.

Conversations opened up, slowed down, and became more of a meander with an unknown outcome than a forced march to a planned closing statement. Friends would look at me, perplexed, when I let pauses stretch out, thinking they had more to add.

And I got to know what my friends really thought. Or at least what they would say if I didn't have quite so much to say myself.

I thought about this, and of the abundant flow of noise and words we encounter sometimes, when a person has strong feelings they want to express. Election year is good for that. The internet prompts impassioned attacks and defenses of topics as wide ranging as war and grammar, schooling, sexuality and religion - and those are just some of the topics I've seen this week. Sifting through, looking for the clear thoughts behind the bombast is sometimes more effort than I care to expend. And though I am always interested in someone's opinion, I am rarely ready to subject myself to the vocal deluge of what might otherwise have been an interesting idea.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Return" Illustration Friday March 30/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday quote:

"The return makes one love the farewell". - Alfred de Musset

Farewell and farewell and farewell, a thousand shadows of goodbyes and an equal number of joyful chimes of return, that is how I remember visits with my Grandmother growing up. They ended with a hand wave behind glass, a car window, the front step, and the sure knowledge of a warm squeeze in greeting when we next met.

My Grandmother created beauty, tending her garden where ripples of beauty spread out from her hands as seeds, scent, a bouquet, and the farewell of fall, waiting, longing, patient for spring and the return. The ripples she sent out are spreading still, long after she has left us, in a corner of my garden, a shock of black-eyed-susan, rhubarb in another making beauty of taste for another generation as she is remembered, the treats she made for us as kids now being made for another set of children.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Weekly Sketchbook post - March 30/2012

The Carrot and the Stick

sketchbook pages.

Fridays I post consecutive images and the thoughts they provoke on my website. Drop in, send me a comment if so moved. Ideas in response are always welcome.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"swamp" Illustration Friday March 23/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "swamp" and the quotation:

Buttercup: "That's the fire swamp! We'll never survive."
Wesley: "Nonsense! You're only saying that because no-one ever has". - from The Princess Bride

Spent a while sifting thoughts about swamps and about the movie, The Princess Bride (a family favourite for decades).

I'm not quite sure how I arrived at drawing an oil lamp, a clay vessel, not the mystical kind seen in movies. Possibly the idea that we confer mystical power to quite ordinary things and places just because they seem strange, unfamiliar, dangerous. I wondered about the way mist hangs in the air in a damp place like a swamp, and that made me think about how we imagine a spirit manifests itself - a ghost, or a genie in a lamp. I wonder what is inside the lamp, and when the spirits return there, do they condense? Might make for a swampy environment.

Stories involving Djinns fascinated me when I was younger, their power tethered to the will of a human being through a possession, often a lamp, a ring, some small household or personal item.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"yield" Illustration Friday March 9, 2012

Inspired by the illustration Friday challenge word: "yield"

This week's quote by Oscar Wilde: "Do you think it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to" did not lead me directly to an image - rather, it got me wondering about structures in our lives, social mores, habits of person, of culture - and how they make dizzying patterns which shift and change slightly, creating a historical mandala that feels as though it has been caught mid-breath, mid-birth, on the brink of an explosion.

The courage of beginning, of continuing, responding afresh to each layer, each slight shift in proportion makes for a lively dance of shapes, ideas, yielding to the internal conviction that new connections and relationships between these lines exist - and need only to be set down on paper, making more resonances that call new shapes and lines in turn.

Drawn high above clouds, pulled by the desire to make some visible response to ideas dancing invisible.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"intention" Illustration Friday March 2/2012

- inspired by the Illustration Friday quote:

"Intention involves such a small fragment of our consciousness and of our mind and of our life".
- Jasper Johns

This quote and what it seemed to be saying sloshed around in my mind every which way I turned this past few days.

Really?? REALLY?!??

That seems a bit like saying gasoline is such a small fragment of a car. Hardy necessary for car-ishness, except, of course, for the 'transportation' part of a car. Negligible, really.

Can't really judge a quote this brief - perhaps Mr. Johns is saying that we need to exercise other aspects of our selves, our consciousness, mind and life, and not worry so much about intention. I'd like to ask if this was what he intended with his words. Perhaps it is, like art when it is finished and available for view, that the intention might be less important than the interpretation of those who see it. Perhaps. I wonder...

...as I wonder how far Itzhak Perlman would have come as a violinist without intention. His own, his parents', SOMEONE's intention was that the thing be taken out of its case, tuned, the bow rosined and then stuck under his chin - day after day and year after year until, I wonder now, is it part of him, and can he even imagine putting it aside?

The mind wanders without intention - and yet our intention shapes those thoughts as we become aware of them. Intention is the self directing aspects of the inner orchestra, to play louder, softer, longer... and the music we create, the lives we live, the imprint of our consciousness on our own lives and those around us, is a creation of our intention - what we allow to flourish in our selves, the words we speak, actions we take.

Intention is perhaps the opposable thumb of the mind. We're pretty nifty creatures, even without it. But calling it a small fragment of who we are?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Capable - Illustration Friday February 24/2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday quote:

"If we all did the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves". - Thomas Edison

As one of four siblings, hurrying, squabbling and noise were the order of our mornings - until the wonderful day I hauled open a resisting drawer and decided for myself what I would wear. Sticking my head through the neckhole of a stiff polyester knit shirt always resulted in sore ears - doing it myself, I could ease the ears through one by one, and if I had to turn the shirt around because I'd put it on back-to-front, at least it was not inside-out. I chose pants in the shade of brown that matched the stitching around the neckline and found acceptable socks where I'd left them, crumpled behind my bed. My older sister was sure the matching shirt and pants were accidental, but I didn't care. I felt as though I were floating.

To this day, that sense of accomplishment at age three, of being capable of choosing for myself and taking those choices into the day is like a trophy I gave myself - and memory polishes it brighter than graduating from high school or even university.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Popularity" Illustration Friday February 10, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "Popularity"

"Avoid popularity if you would have peace". - Abraham Lincoln.

So thrilled was he with the popularity of his performance that Ralph did not stop to consider on what this popularity was based...

I'm afraid he had never heard of Abraham Lincoln nor his thoughts on peace.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Suspense - Illustration Friday February 3, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: Suspense.

Childhood imagination is wonderful - fills in blank spaces, the unknown beyond the horizon, answers the question: what will happen next? As a kid, what your imagination provides may not always be pleasant. And the suspense of waiting for the imagined to befall can be interminable.

I'm glad I still have that imagination - and even more pleased to have context for what it conjurs up. Still, I don't do suspense.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Petey's Mamma

Pulling out the tablet for some other work, it invites doodling. No crumpled up or wasted paper, just ideas and play. I should do this more often.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Forward" Illustration Friday Jan. 27, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "forward"

Thoroughly energized by the SCBWI conference in NY this past weekend. Still catching up on sleep, digesting everything.

Now, forward!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Grounded" Illustration Friday January 6, 2012

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word "grounded"

As one of four noisy, energetic and - above all - inquisitive children (I'll admit the word "hooligan" has been used to describe one or more of us at times with some accuracy) one of the things I longed for most was somewhere I would not be disturbed.

In the summer, even a call of nature did not necessarily mean a period of solitude, as the outhouses up in the country were two-seaters, and "take your sister with you" was a phrase we all had to live with - and learned to sidestep with some skill as we got older.

I used to watch squirrels and groundhogs with some envy - to my eye, they could just wander off, dig for a while, and voila - a new house. All the peace and quiet they could want.

These days I've learned to enjoy, even gather the noise around me. Solitude comes of its own accord.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Highlight" Illustration Friday December 31, 2011

Inspired by the Illustration Friday word: "Highlight"

Mulled over this word choice all week, in between various holiday gatherings, tidyings and while working on my portfolio, getting ready for the SCBWI conferece in NYC late January (anyone else going?)

Although the highlight of the holidays was the wonderful, noisy tribe of kids tromping through the house, drawing that while my mind was on other work did not develop.

And then I noticed - the toes, leaves, branches and shoebuckles in this image, all highlighted in the moonlight. I rarely post an image not created specifically for the I.F. challenge, but I think this one took shape influenced by the challenge, eve if I was unaware of it until just now.

Happy New Year, everyone.