Saturday, August 9, 2014

A response to those who fear sketchbooks

My response to a letter about sketchbook fears…

So, what is a sketchbook anyway?

People have been known to be  frightened by the very idea of a sketchbook and it’s true, sometimes the act of starting a sketchbook or a journal can seem like a huge challenge. That is especially true if the book itself is a beautiful handmade volume. But it is also entirely doable.

First, consider removing a few pages. This simple action is very important if clippings, scraps of found paper, and the like are going to be pasted in later. Give the book’s spine a break. Or more like, stop the spine from breaking! Make some space. Tear and pull out a few of the center pages where the stitching that holds the pages in place, can be seen when the pages are fully opened out. (The removed pages are great for note writing and materials testing.)

Then, if the book is pocket-less or without a place to store things found along the way; add a pocket. An envelope cut to fit and open at the top, glued onto the inside back cover works well.

Any bits of stuff to add? Glue them in. No need to start on page one. Some can wrap around a page from front to back. Good quality art supplies: watercolours, crayons, pastels, pencils, pens, and so on are very useful. A non-wrinkle glue stick is essential. Paint or colour parts of pages or even whole pages. These can be written on or collaged over later.

And begin. Will the book be filled with amazing beauty? Perfection? Maybe, maybe not. But who cares, really? The true wonder of it all is that over time a sketchbook becomes a grand accumulation of ideas in a very visual, tactile, compact, and portable format. A sketchbook is a document of awareness and understanding. It’s a place of reflection and growth. There can be both looking back and moving forward. It’s the dancer’s open floor.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


a banana a day or at least a banana most morning breaks, a student who really loved bananas, and the notion of a banana tattoo inspired lots of talk about bananas, and then banana art for a banana card

Sunday, March 30, 2014

sketchbook pages March 31, 2014

The first page is a layering of stripes, spots or dots, and objects at hand: an open envelope, a mug, a pen, a mechanical pencil, a bone folder, a credit card, a calculator, a paper clip, corrector fluid, a book and a Japanese maple leaf. The spots with "HONEY" are a collaged fragrance paper found last week.

The other page is also about spots and seeing in layers. The packaging for the red tights from Japan had a thin cardboard sheet with holes so that the red colour through. With the tights out, there was a plastic sleeve and the card with holes. The holes were easy to trace around. Because the holes were for seeing through and when the card was on the desk, the scissors and tape were visible, they were traced around as if behind and seen through the holes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dux pencil sharpener pairs with Blackwing pencil

A wonderful new toy, a holiday treat that is fantastic! You guessed it, my new adjustable brass Dux pencil sharpener. Nothing could be finer. THREE lovely points to choose from - round, between round and sharp, and very sharp. The solid brass sharpener comes with its own black, leather case. Absolutely beautiful. BLACKWING 602 pencils and the Dux sharpener, a match made in drawing heaven! Happy New Year, 2014!!!

> Should you care to have the same, kindly visit the dandelion emporium and they'll be happy to help you out! dandelion emporium, 2442 Main Street, Vancouver BC

Sunday, December 29, 2013


ITAP of Vancouver skies while waiting for the bus on July 16, 2013. 

ITAP, an acronym for "I took a picture," was included by leicographer Grant Barrett in the New York Times new word list for 2013.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

who would deny...

Who would deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?
- D.T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture

Who would deny that when I am drinking tea in my classroom (with a student and looking out at the wonderful view of the north shore) that I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that the very moment of lifting my cup to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?
- L.N. Phillips, ESL teacher, November 27, 2013


"Has anyone turned in a phone? I lost my phone."
"No. Have you called lost and found?"
"No. I don't have a phone."

teaching English to speakers of other languages

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) is an adventure. It's something that new ESL teachers embark upon equipped with educational theory and training acquired during a teaching practicum. One quickly discovers that a real classroom with real students is something unique, fresh, and very immediate (very real!).

A teacher must manage a class, organize lessons, set the tone, step out of the way, know every student, know the subject, test the students, satisfy the school, and somehow make the classes interesting. A couple years ago, I got excellent advice about how to do all this. The school director reminded me that I'm creative and told me I should go ahead, figure it out, and do it. Very true.

Some important things that I have found out include:
* Drawing is very useful. It makes my life easier and way more fun. Board markers are wonderful low-tech learning aids.
* Photos are fantastic writing triggers, especially if the students choose the images and what to write.
* Drawing and writing together help students discover and organize their own ideas for discussion and/or follow-up writing. Drawing/Writing and the new literacy by Susan Rich Sheridan, Ph.D. is a great resource.
* Teaching is about being present, listening to the students, and responding to situations as they arise. If I pay attention, everything works out.

I enjoy the puzzle of planning how to present grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and language skills. Today I use things I learned as a kid as a native Englsih speaker, ideas I find online, textbooks and other print materials like magazines, wisdom from other teachers, and good old day-to-day life for useful stories and examples. Teaching ESL is all about making discoveries.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Draw/Write description

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. - E.L. Doctorow

Words influence seeing. We learn to describe what we can see. We see what has been described. There is a strong relationship between seeing and language. Draw/write focuses on this relationship. Through drawing, we increase visual awareness. Then through writing, visual grammar and writing expand. In the process are discoveries in creativity. Some are surprising. Participants make personal portfolios and take away investigative skills and creative thinking along with core drawing and writing skills.
> Click draw/write in the labels for Draw/Write posts.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

fork frottage. write about it.

Rubbing: drawing and writing

fork as fork.
fork as friend and known object.

fork as fork.
the form as fork speaks for itself.

Friday, November 29, 2013

draw fork profiles. write about it.

Tracing: drawing and writing

Fork as funny face.
Fork as after a while or later.
Fork as two hands clapping.
Fork as fork.

Point of view changes what and how we see.

Lines describe the fork life-size.

Although the lines are guided tracings and mechanical, there is discovery and the play of human with bumps, stops, starts and miss joins - the playful path around an object.

There was some control but in the drawing, chance marks always appeared. The lines are paths once taken or documents of movement.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

touch the fork. draw the fork.

Double blind: drawing and writing 
Drawing by touch is a very physical experience. The object is felt. Shapes carry information: sharpness, roundness, length, curvy, or straight. There is a knowing, such as the fork, it is symmetrical and balanced. Without seeing the object or the paper, relationships of size (usually made through comparison) are not possible. Instead a trust in the drawing action alone becomes important. My drawing is fork-like. The first viewing was a shock. I had gone around the object and the object was recorded. It exists.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

enjoy the rain

First I liked reading "UPPERCASE" in the school library, then I'd buy my own copy, and now enjoy being a subscriber. Every issue has great geometric repeat patterns. One day a paper fragment from an "UPPERCASE" postcard, ink, and crayon all came together in my sketchbook. The text, I read and copied while traveling on a city bus. uppercase magazine blog

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a rainbow.

Every day I look at the weather forecast either online or in the newspaper and then I go out to be in the real thing. No matter what the weather is like, outdoors is more magical than indoors. Outside, I take the temperature of the the moment. The weather, usually as clouds, migrates into drawings and writing. A weather spread from my book "above".

Friday, November 15, 2013

a room with white walls

The room was really just a room in a photograph. It was projected on the wall. Three students and their teacher, an ace drawer of the architectural persuasion, were looking for shapes and drawing one point perspective. Informative and informing. Rather like the quiet breaking apart of a poem. 
The drawing teacher romanced precision and accurate renderings just as an English teacher does grammar. In the end, all of the students had a greater appreciation for what we were seeing. Of course, there always seems to be a rebel in the class! ;-) My drawing is above - not exactly what the architect had in mind. However, I had a very nice time!
To draw like an architect: Mohammad Atashzad 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

getting there

Every moment the clouds seemed to move. Shadows were strong, as deep as the mountains were high. A sketchbook page.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

subtle vapours (clouds)

“What a spectacle the subtle vapors that have their habitation in the sky present these winter days! You have not only the ever-varying forms of a given type of cloud, but various types at different heights or hours. It is a scene, for variety, for beauty and grandeur, out of all proportion to the attention it gets.”
Henry David Thoreau's journal, December 13, 1859

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


On December 2, 2012, Susan Angebranndt of Green Chair Press wrote:
Several weeks ago, I wrote about using ligatures in my book One More Blanket on the Bed. In response to that post, Louise Phillips sent me her lovely little accordion book, above. Do check out her website where she’s got photos of her artist’s books as well as a section on clouds with a drawing called Alphabet x 5 (language of clouds). Photo: Susan Angebranndt
I subscribe to the Green Chair Press blog feed and look forward to reading the articles about artist books, book makers and printing as art.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a guaranty of sanity

Last year I picked up the announcement card for the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, August 3 to 22, 2012. Ever since, I've had the card in the studio. It always makes me smile! Maybe the card, itself, is a link to sanity!

Louise Bourgeois
What is the Shape of This Problem?: Art is a Guaranty of Sanity, 1999. Images: lithography, text: letter press; series of 9 images; 9 text panels, 12" x 17 each," edition of 25 with 8 AP, Copyright: Galerie Lelong

Monday, November 12, 2012

international letter writing week

Oh, I can't believe that I missed it! Every year International Letter Writing Weeks is the week with October 9 in it. I just got a letter from Japan. (See the stamp above.) I've marked my calendar for next year. What a great thing to celebrate! See stamps and read about International Letter Writing Week in Japan: into the ring of fire blog