Sunday, February 19, 2017

Almonte Won Me Over With a Contest

It's been a long time since I visited Almonte, Ontario, but the merchants found a way to coax me to come, and now it is inevitable that I will return every chance I get.

I had never entered a contest on Instagram before, but when I saw all the loot the Almonte stores were offering as a prize for their Valentine contest, I just had to give it a try. It was a Loop contest, which means I had to go from one merchant to another, online, and follow directions to win. It was very confusing as there were a lot of merchants, and, as I said, I'd never tried to do this sort of thing on Instagram before. I thought, while I was doing it, that if I succeeded in entering properly, the odds would be better than in a lot of other contests one finds online. Apparently, I was right, as I won about $450 worth of goods that were collected up and waiting for me at one of the shops.  I couldn't have been more excited, and though I don't drive, I managed to get there in less than a week from when I was declared the winner.

Parking was easier to find than I expected, and we only had a short walk to Cheerfully Made, where my prize basket (or bag, in this case) was being held. What an interesting store! There are so many fascinating things in there, that I even stayed and looked around longer while my hubby ran the heavy prize bag back to the car. I saw things I have never seen anywhere else, and I know I'll be going back there every chance I get. It will be my go-to store when I need a special gift. I probably would have bought something then and there, if it had not been the first store we stopped into. I wanted to see what else the town had to offer before choosing what to spend my money on.

There was some artwork in there that really captured my attention. If I had any wall space at home, I doubt I'd have been able to resist bringing some home. I do wish the artist would make cards of her work as I'd likely have to collect the entire set. Sarah Janes of Mississippi North does line drawings of animals that are much more impressive in person than how they appear on her Etsy page.  I found that but no cards were available there either.

Speaking of art, we stopped into an establishment called General Fine Craft, Art & Design. There we discovered that though we go to a lot of art shows, and studio tours, there are even greater artists loose in Ontario than I ever imagined. The talent gathered in this shop is phenomenal!  They not only have wall art, they have pottery, glass, sculptures, jewellery and textiles. I was ready to entirely redecorate my home!

And then there is The Tin Barn Market. Now, this store doesn't grab you the second you come through the door, as the goods are more rustic and not as colourful as what we had seen in the other shops. Upon closer inspection, though, there are many interesting things to be found there. My favourites were the large salvaged metal letters and some picture frames that appeared to be painted with chalk paint. I tried to convince the hubby to purchase a letter to hang on our garage.  He doesn't always listen well. As for the frames, well, one of the things I won was a can of chalk paint, so I'll practice on frames first.  I did see that they hold chalk paint workshops there so if I don't succeed on the frames, I might just have to go back and take a class.  The other side of the shop had marvellous things to eat. There were pizza buns and huge pretzels, as well as date squares, cinnamon buns and irresistible looking cheese danishes. I noticed there were pies and other larger things under the counter, but there were too many people lined up at that time, and we had just eaten anyway.

Later we hunted down the flower shop, and I collected a beautiful bouquet which was assembled within minutes while I watched. There was a good assortment of live plants, there too, and I discovered something called a heart hoya. I've had a regular hoya for a long time, and it's always been my favourite plant. I asked about these little hearts in pots, and was told that they grow vines just like my hoya, except the leaves are heart shaped. Of course, I had to have one!  Then I realized that with fresh flowers in hand, I really had to go home.

The village has really changed since last time we were there. We heard that a number of young women had opened up businesses and brought the town back to life. The contest was a great way to introduce the public to many of the shops, and while I may have won the prize, I'm sure the merchants have won a good many new clients and will continue to find ways to coax more people to visit their village. The people in the shops were all so friendly and helpful, it made shopping there a real treat.

I'm already marking May 6 and 7 in my calendar to remind me when they will be holding their Spring Market in the Agricultural Hall.  I certainly hope to get to visit that!

The following is a list of merchants and the prizes they contributed to the contest. Many thanks to each and every one of you!

Kentfield Kids         Tutu + Pink Bunny
Doree's Habit           Floral Wallet & Bracelet
Tin Barn Market     Annie Sloan Chalkpaint
Blush and Black     Apricot Body Oil &    Strawberry Lip Gloss  
Acanthus Floral      Valentine's bouquet
Crush Marketplace  Jon Clar Earrings
Hummingbird Chocolate  Chocolate Tasting Kit Plus Four Chocolate Bars
Heirloom                 $30 gift certificate for a meal & gourmet Canned Goods
General Fine Craft   Two Glass Sweethearts
North Market           Gift certificate for 2 take away items
Cheerfully Made      Love Story Candle, Brass Heart Studs & Gum               

I'm not finished collecting prizes in Almonte yet. I still have two gift certificates involving meals, and I will be going back to collect on them and visit some more stores (and revisiting those mentioned above). You will have to excuse me now, while I go test some chocolate......



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Playing While I Learn

I often post my artwork online. I'm no pro but I'm having fun learning and discovering what I can and cannot do.  I have sometimes been called brave as I try so many things but really, I don't see the point of just doing what I am already good at. For instance, when I discover I'm having a problem rendering something in particular, the next several paintings will tackle that subject head on, until I feel more comfortable with it. Right now I'm working on my drawing skills.  I have always felt they simply do not exist. I've always been very open about not being able to draw, and have admitted that I often trace outlines from my photographs in order to paint them.

Recently I took a short course online aimed at people who think they can't draw called Drawing Without Talent. The first and last assignments were to draw our own hand, for comparison's sake. I'm amazed at how much better my drawing got in such a short period of time, especially since we had to draw in ink so there would be no erasing. The course gave me some insight on how to tackle difficult subjects and taught me drawing can be fun, especially if you don't stress about the results being perfect.

I had so much fun, in fact, that I will take another course from Sketchbook Skool. In the meantime, I decided to continue the process with a free 28 day challenge from Creative Live. Everyday I get a prompt and in no more than 20 minutes, I attempt to do what it says.

As we are supposed to post our results with the hashtag #28toMake I have been putting my renderings online. But really, do my usual followers need, or want to see this stuff?  Probably not. So, after just two days, I stopped allowing it to hit my Facebook feed. By day four, I was not liking the idea of cluttering up my Instagram page with this stuff either. As I am supposed to post my results, and I think hashtags originated on Twitter anyway, I may restrict future posts just to Twitter. They would be spaced out there anyway, but I could still see what everyone is doing easily by searching for the hashtag.

I do like to celebrate the "where I'm at" moments in my art by sharing though.  Occasionally I have been fascinated by the number of people who would like and comment on something I've posted that I wasn't particularly proud of.  I am, as they say, my own worst critic. So, there may be times when I still want to share on the other platforms. You guys can feel free to scroll on by if you chose to. I'm just playing while I learn. This was, after all, one of the promises I made to myself at the beginning of the year.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Merrickville Library Adult Art Workshop

Last month I saw an ad in the local newsletter that offered something to do with adult art at the library. There has often been art for children, but this was the first time I'd ever seen anything for adults being offered there. I e-mailed the library to get more information and sign up. The librarian got back to me and seemed to suggest that perhaps this particular art experience wouldn't be something I'd be interested in. Or maybe I was reading between the lines.

As it was explained to me Gloria Stowell was offering an art workshop geared for people with little or no art experience.  She was hoping to reach out to people who are interested but intimidated by the idea of creating art.  It would not be an art lesson per se, but more an introduction to some art techniques and an opportunity to explore one's own creativity.  The workshop would have a theme (in this case, painting a winter mountain scene), but people would be doing their own thing within that framework.  

Somehow the librarian knew I'd done a lot of painting, but what she didn't seem to know was that  I'm in the process of exploring my own creativity. I am still highly intimidated by the idea of creating a painting from scratch so I thought this workshop just might be right for me after all.  I did offer to go on a waiting list, though, so that I didn't take the space of someone who might need it more.  In the end, she decided to have the Gloria phone me.

When she did, I had company, but got very excited.  Gloria had seen my blog and said that she noticed that I tried all kinds of different things and after a brief chat declared I'd be perfect for this workshop. I was in, but I had to ask, how she found my blog. She told me the librarian had directed her to it.  The librarian reads my blog? Can you see me doing a happy dance here?  I don't know if she reads it often or what, but the fact that she would even remember the name of it, so she could direct someone else to look at it just thrilled me to death!  My company was quite amused by my glee. Personally, I wasn't sure what made me happier, the chance to join the workshop or the idea of an actual librarian even knowing I had a blog.

And so it was that I took part in the first workshop. I asked Gloria where she would be standing so that I could pick a spot nearby. I'm deaf enough even with a hearing aid that it helps to be near the person I'm supposed to be listening to. 

There were eight of us around the tables. We were given a piece of multimedia paper and some paint (two shades of blue and some purple). Gloria pointed out the implements on the tables, which included little paint rollers, some sponge brushes, and an assortment of palette knives. There were no normal paint brushes anywhere. She showed us a few paintings she and a friend had recently done using these tools and then showed us various ways to apply paint with them.  The idea was to use what we had in front of us to explore, not to be goal orientated, or worry about how our art was turning out. We were to think in terms of winter but we were not to have a picture in mind before we started.  To start us off, we were told to get the paper covered with paint for the background.

I wasn't fast enough to get my hands on a little roller, so I started spreading paint with a dry sponge brush. The only water we were provided with was in a spray bottle, which we were told to use sparingly, as the paper would curl if it got too wet.  I started off with the darkest blue at the top, as the sky overhead is darker than at the horizon. I got part way down and thought I should have left some clouds, because, even though I had no idea what the picture would turn out to be, I did know I was working on the sky. I left some white spaces and tried to dab out some of the paint further up that had already been laid down. That's about when we were also given some white paint so we could make snow scenes. I dabbed a bit of that on the tops of my clouds, and they looked a lot better. So then I continued on down the page, getting lighter as I went until I suddenly got the idea that whatever my scene turned out to be, it could have a river running through it. Oh, and let's put in a tree using the palette knife technique we had just been shown and a few suggestions of trees on what could be hills in the background. 

We had the opportunity to use some stencils of snowflakes and polar bears if we wanted to, and there were also lots of glittery stickers to apply if inclined. I learned how to use a rubber stamp with acrylic paint. That's a technique I'm sure to use more and more frequently as I create more stamps of my own.

It was fascinating to see how everyone's painting came out so completely differently. It was great to be able to explore the acrylics and the tools without any pressure to produce something wall worthy.  I think my results proved I'm in the right group, despite any experience I've gathered along the way.

We only had an hour and a half to work on our projects (including clean up time), which is quite a bit less time than it normally takes me to finish a painting. The lady next to me really liked my tree. I can't say that I do, but I've had time to think of how I might fix it and the water, so perhaps I'll do that, or duplicate this unplanned scene again here at home on a sturdier background.  

It was a fun evening, and I'm so glad I got to take part. Next month we will play with oil pastels, which is something I've never done. I can hardly wait.