Saturday, October 31, 2009


Eerily close to Halloween in 1989, a prestigious Ottawa kennel reported a theft or perhaps only a comical if unauthorized trade. An expensive Golden Retriever puppy had vanished. In its place an enormous radiant orange pumpkin was found …
The pumpkin might have been the pup enchanted … HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Old Stone House — Part Three

… and on September 10, 2003, the local fire department burned it down as a training exercise. The house stood 120 years. Several trees, including a giant white pine nearby, were killed. With a borrowed camera (a 35mm SLR), but no tripod, I braced myself against a window frame in the house across the road. At the height of the fire I had just enough light to take some photographs. I snapped five, but this was the only one that wasn't blurred. Shortly after the blaze, the remains of the house were levelled. The heat was so intense, wafts of smoke rose from the site well into the new year. In 2008 the photograph was used on the cover of a mystery novel titled Muskoka Bound & Betrayed by Brad Hammond & Liam Dwyer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old Stone House — Part Two

After the old man died, all of his treasures were removed from the house …

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Old Stone House — Part One

This was my favourite house in Huntsville, Ontario. It was built of stone in 1883. An old lilac trimmed the lane, and a clump of rhubarb grew in the backyard. On June 9, 1998 (I write an ink & paper diary) I was allowed a peek inside by the owner, who also gave me permission to draw it. Inside was home to a family of raccoons, three upside-down treadle sewing machines, topsy-turvy tables, and a jumble of wounded wooden chairs the old man hoped to restore. Propped under an upstairs bedroom window was a magnificent flexible flyer sled. The kitchen floor had given way so the cellar was filled with sand brought in through the tornado door (which can be seen in the Autumn photograph). The house had been abandoned for many years, but had been in the man's family a very long time. His ancestors were United Empire Loyalists. In a future post, I'll show what happen to this house, and what happened after that …

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes are flourishing this year. I accidentally startled this pair into flight over Goulais Bay, Lake Superior. Their voices are not musical.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Luna Moth

Luna moths (Actias luna) reside in hardwood forests, their caterpillars especially love butternut, yellow birch, and beech trees. They are members of the giant silk moth family (Saturniidae) but unravelling a cocoon for silken thread would doom the chrysalid. The true, domesticated, mulberry-leaf-eating silkworms of China belong to a different family of moths. Luna moths lack mouths and digestive tracts, and live for only a week on wingspans of 10cm. They fly only at night. The moons on their wings are believed to resemble eyes and used to intimidate predators. It is like a treasure to know "chrysalid" derives from the Greek word for "gold."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chippewa Falls

The water is gold and turquoise-green. This is a small detail of a much larger, exuberant, waterfalls.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cross-Country Skiing Chickens

Every chicken has a secret. For some chickens it's eleven different herbs and spices. For cross-country skiing chickens it's double-sided suction cups.
I miss the clap and sigh of skis underfoot, and gliding through forests of slumbering trees. But, Winter is near … I'm working on drawings subcontracted from the North Pole.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Agawa Bay, Lake Superior

A photograph can't even hint at how beautiful a place this is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Skunk Fairy

A cool, damp, mousey-grey day requires a jolt of colour.
The usual fate of my skunk paintings is to be torn to shreds, soaked until as much colour as possible is tickled out, chomped to pulp in the blender, and poured into the mould & deckel to make new paper. These shreds escaped and, with some paste, became a fairy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beaver Down Pond Road

Walking on the left side, facing traffic, as all pedestrians should when there are no sidewalks. There is a second beaver not in this picture, off to my right in a thicket of Joe-Pye-weed. When I politely requested "the nickel-pose," the beaver snorted.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ornithology Lecture

Lorrie scolding a trio of pigeons for feasting on soggy cheesies without a speck of nutritional value, dropped by a gaggle of boisterous high school girls.
I have a collection of people-doodles to post intermittently. All are characters I've observed in the world, and stealthily sketched … a sneaky field guide of sorts. I thought it only sporting to begin the exhibit with this jab at myself.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Poison Ivy Berries

Swamp-green and grinchy poison ivy berries. Just before snapping the shutter, out of habit I muttered "smile." Cold and grim and bereft of leaves, they cling to their stems all Winter. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers eat them, as do migrating birds. Many plants remind me of architecture. This could be a communications tower bedecked with mirrored metallic glass office spheres in Toronto. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tailpiece Cats

This pair of scribbly cats I drew as the tailpiece for Wendel Messer's smart book, The Sink: The Last Days of Driving. Tailpieces end a book with panache, like fancy peppermint candies at the end of a hearty feast. More books should have them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

A male Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) puddling for the sodium in road salt. I snapped this photograph lying on my stomach while humming Bach off-key. Photographing butterflies keeps a person nimble, patient, and not overly preoccupied with tidy clothes. 
I walked over 13 km today, mostly in a forest. A whirlwind of golden trembling aspen leaves swirled around me, like a flurry of tiger swallowtails.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hemlock Cones

The ghost drawings of hemlock cones are showing through from the other side of this flimsy paper.
Today horticultural staff inadvertently locked me in the Bellevue Park Greenhouse. Luckily I had my sketchbook and pencils, and did not have to eat the tiny, caterpillar-green bananas that dangled from one tree. I must resemble a plant. (Green is my favourite colour.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bright Earth & Bright Treetops

The top three photographs are of the forest floor. The earth glows, as do the trees.
I was grateful today was squinty-bright, as I had to trace a wisp of a drawing onto thick paper at the vertical light table ("window" is the architectural term).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hornet Trio

A hornet on a window, waiting-out a rainstorm. It's the same hornet in different poses.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Highbush Cranberry

Highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum, trilobum meaning "three-lobed" leaf, not "three-bummed") are face-twistingly tart. Only after mellowed by frosts do I collected them, toss them in a pot, and simmer them into a sauce, flinging in sugar and straining out the flat hard seeds at the end. Highbush cranberry sauce is a scrumptious concoction. It's rich in vitamin C which prevents scurvy, the scourge of pirates. HAPPY SWASHBUCKLING THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ambiguous Duck

I met this duck while walking near a pond. It could be a rear view, looking coyly over its shoulder (if ducks have shoulders) as it waddles off, or the duck might be facing forward glancing down.
It snowed! In the dark early hours of morning snowflakes fell, but melted quickly after sunrise. I wore my raspberry-red woollen toque today for the first time this season. I also whisked-up my pet acorn squash from the vegetable patch, fearing it might turn to mush in this cold weather.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

False Pixie Cup

False pixie cup (Cladonia chlorophaea) lichen balancing dew drops and devouring gneiss. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Grandma's Dresser

I wish I could rewind the mirror and see her again.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Queen-of-the-Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) grows in the bay window near a Bay Tree (for both seasoning and humour). If it didn't slouch, it could touch the ceiling. A friend gave me a cutting from her plant, and warned that it's considered the ugliest plant in the Universe. Naturally, I adore it. It has an endearingly gangly aspect and arches over my drafting table like an octopus chandelier. (A stretched-out scarf looped around a sawed-off hockey stick barely improves its posture.) When it eventually blooms, the flowers are huge, resemble a waterlily, and have a warm-spicy-citrus-exotic fragrance. They open near midnight and wither by morning. It flowers at the end of a long curved stem explaining another common, if less-poetic name, Gooseneck Cactus. On August 9th, my Queen-of-the-Night bloomed for the first time, with a second blooming two days later. Inspired, it grew two extra flower buds, which bloomed the same night, on Sunday (October 4th), the night of the full moon. The flower in the photograph is 24cm in diameter. I wish I could post it's fragrance as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Many contemporary representations of unicorns are as squat, bloated, ponies or extravagantly-maned, improbably-coloured thoroughbreds. It's a ghastly way to treat a mythical creature. I conjured up this unicorn from three sources: the horn is a microscopic Radiolaria shell from the deep seas near Barbados, the body I adapted from a deer found on a fragment of stone in Scotland (reconstructed in George Bain's magnificent book, Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction), and the tail ends with an Aldine leaf, as many good tales do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Old House in Vankoughnet

This old house is tucked along the Black River Road, in Vankoughnet, Ontario. Beyond the road glides the Black River. Wet Autumn days are perfect for adventures. Rain-polished leaves are intensely vibrant, and the earth smells spicy with newly shed leaves.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cuke Zeppelins

Years ago when my Aunt Grace sent me a basket of cucumbers from her garden, I couldn't stop laughing. It flummoxed everyone. So, by way of explanation, I made this drawing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spider Web Site Under Construction

Spider silk was used as the cross hairs in theodolites. Replacement cross hairs were supplied by neighbourhood spiders.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Devil's Paintbrush

Devil's Paintbrush is also called Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum). On sun-warmed afternoons, accompanied by crickets, they are the smell of Summer. It has long irked me to find this wonderful plant described in books as a weed. One book describes Devil's Paintbrush as "a beautiful but pernicious pest," which is something I've long aspired to being. In Spring I saw shelves bulging with pots of them at the Canadian Tire greenhouse. They were tagged at $3 each. I smiled. Conspiratorially.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Alona Bay, Lake Superior

Alona Bay is on Lake Superior's east shore. There's a look-off at the edge of Highway 17 (the Trans-Canada Highway). Although I'm bundled in woollens to grizzly bear proportions, I'm shivering as I take this photograph. There's an icy wind blowing off Superior, and I'm grateful for the thermos of tea I packed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wild Apple

Rendered in watercolour pencils, which are fun for sketching, but are not lightfast enough to use for permanent artwork. I ate the model.