Trying Something New

by Tiffany Lepack

Colours fascinate me.

Each colour and the texture on the canvass tells a story.

I have a secret that not a lot of people know about; I love the world of art and the adventure that it can bring. My best friend since high school recently told me that she was excited that I was so crafty. I do not know why I have hidden this talent of mine for so long. A girl has to have some secrets after all!

Oil painting would be my first love, because of the texture, the ability to mix it on the canvas and of course Van Gogh.

One reason that it has remained hidden is that I do not think I am that good! My husband sometimes sneaks into our third bedroom where I have my easel set up and tells me it’s like his own private gallery just for him.

Sure I have confidence in myself, I love the praise from him and the select few who have seen my work but I am also a realist and I know I have no formal training whatsoever.

Well that all changed this Spring, I had promised myself I would one day take some lessons and with some time on my hands I made that fateful inquiry with a local artist who I admired.

Why did I do it after so many years of yearning to be a real artist? I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could learn something new after all these years studying work from afar but never first hand.

The main reason I have been attending these lessons is the outcome and journey is solely for me. How often in today’s society do we as women and wives take the time to do something that makes us happy? I know the answer for me was not very often. As women, we are the ones who tend to care for our family and typically we come second. This is not a bad thing necessarily; we have motherly tendencies that tend to rise to the top and other duties to perform in our homes.

But every now and again we need to put ourselves first and that is extremely hard to do.

So, with my painting lessons I am determined to do it for myself and achieve my goal of finishing my first real painting with a teacher.

The first lesson, I was nervous to say the least. I arrived at Kevin Dodds (http://www.kevindoddsart.com) studio in downtown Arnprior, almost 30 mintues early. Kevin was going to set me up on my canvass and wanted me to bring a few pictures of what I wanted to paint.

I brought a number of pictures and I especially liked the ones from the Tulip Festival, we decided that a field of pink and yellow tulips would be a good starting place.

I had never before started a painting by drawing my vision out on paper so this was something new, he helped me break it in to four quarters and we lightly outlined the tulips.

Kevin is an easy teacher and is well schooled in a number of different mediums and styles; if you just look around the studio everyone is different.

Sometimes he comes around and says ‘perfect keep going like that’, other times it’s an ‘ummm I think it needs to be darker’ or ‘let me take your brush’.

It is interesting to hear him suggest blue to the base of a vibrant pink tulip but he is right it brings out the tones in the pink and red. Half the fun is trying to mix the red and white to the right shade of pink and then layering on the thickness on the canv.

Sometimes, I sit and stare as a mix four different tubes of green to make the perfect leaf, which have been the bane of my existence for the last three weeks.

I have definitely been working on my patience, as I try to perfect these leaves. I stare at them but all I see is green, I hope they look like leaves in the end. Every stroke I make I try and be patient with the paint and how I mix it. I take a deep breath and in the end hope for the best.

Did you know that you add a gel medium to oil paints? The medium goes on when you are using other paints as well to help the paint dry. Every week I go, I am learning something new!

I have been uncharacteristically quiet during most of the lessons, as I listen to Kevin’s critique, he makes it sound so easy! I find, I inch ever closer to the painting as I steady my hand and try to apply his instruction to the canvas.

The ladies in the class are chatty enough and I have learned a lot of small town gossip as we sit there. The gallery is right across the street from the funeral home and we always try to figure out and discuss who is being waked on that particular day.

Everyone is kind and says that I have a unique style and love what I am doing. At my last class a stranger walked in and whispered behind me ‘beautiful.’

It is hard to accept praise on something you are still learning, something that you want to excel at and something in essence is so new to me.

But I smile and say thank you and continue to be patient with my tulips and the leaves.

It has been a challenge to try something new, but I am not afraid to try something else.

The tulips are almost done now; I can smile at them and think of the challenges I have overcome, the skill of my teacher, the admiration of praise by others and what my next masterpiece will be.

But, in the end, this was not for my friends, husband, teacher, or other students it was for me to learn and grow and I have.

When was the last time you took a risk to try something new and had some time for yourself? Your next masterpiece might be right around the corner!

Tiffany is a writer and former reporter with the EMC Newspaper in Kanata/Stittsville, an editor with the Ponoka News and a communications assistant at City Hall. She is happily married, lives in Arnprior with her husband and black cat Fitzgerald. The blog-world is fairly new to Tiffany however she enjoys Tweeting and writing about current events, entertainment, living in the Ottawa Valley, DIY adventures and much more. You can follow her on Twitter @TiffanyWLepack or @ArnpriorON or on her blog www.tiffanywlepack.wordpress.com

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First Day of Christmas

Four years ago, on my oldest daughters fifth birthday, she had a “pink” themed party. Since her birthday falls so close to Christmas it always seems that winter or Christmas get thrown into the theme as well.

I had seen this idea in Martha Stewart about sewing little bags and hanging them on a small tree as an Advent Calendar. Clearly forgetting that I am not Martha Stewart, but rather a cheap knock off, I ran with it for all the kids at the party. That particular year, I found pink Christmas trees at Walmart for $5 a tree. Not bad. The problem was that I wasn’t just making one Advent Tree but SEVEN and I had to sew 168 little felt bags, and string ribbon through each one. You should know that I am most definitely NOT a seamstress. It was a long, frustrating task for me. I cursed Martha’s name for 167 of them. ( I love you Martha, it was a weak moment). Once I had sewn each little bag, I used fabric paint to write the numbers 1 through 24 on each bag. When the girls arrived, they got the fun part of stuffing each bag with a piece of candy and tying it to their tree. It was a success because (a) it kept them amused for a long time and (b) it covered the favour.

The trees set up and ready to be decorated!

The trees after the girls had stuffed the bags and hung them on the tree.

What surprised me most about these trees is that four years later, my girls still use theirs. Last night they stuffed each bag with candy and hung the bags for Christmas. This morning they woke up and had a piece of candy before breakfast. What? It’s the Christmas season, after all. I can’t be a Grinch all year ;) I love how a birthday favour has evolved into a Christmas tradition.

The First Day of Christmas 2011

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The S’more The Merrier

One of the things I like to do for my girls is have a Back to School celebration. It helps them get excited for school’s return and it allows them to reacquaint themselves with friends they may not have seen through the summer. Last year, my girls attended a new school which brought a little extra pressure. They were nervous about making new friends and being in a new environment. In typical Candace fashion, I jumped in and planned a party for both girls, on the same day, inviting all their classmates (because I hate excluding) and their parents. Crazy? Maybe. But it all went off without a hitch and in the end I was glad I did it.

Since my house would never accommodate that many people inside, I planned for it to be outdoors and prayed for good weather. We thought we’d have a bonfire and make s’mores. So we dubbed our party The S’more the Merrier.

I went out and bought small cello bags, tags, brown ribbon, marshmallows, small individual size Hershey bars and graham crackers. Into each bag, we put two graham crackers, two marshmallows and a chocolate bar, then tied it up with the tag. These were then our invites. The girls took them to school the second day and handed them out! They were pretty popular kids that day.

Not everyone could make it (which was probably a blessing), but many did and it was so much fun seeing the kids play and make new friends. It was good for my husband and I too to meet some parents of the kids our girls would be hanging around. Of course, you can do this too on a much smaller scale and still reap the benefits of having your kids look forward to back to school.

This year, my girls have decided boys are icky and I’m cool with that. So our back to school party will be significantly smaller. I also might break it up this year but haven’t decided if that means twice as much work or not. Hmmm. I’ll let you know. In the mean time, here’s some inspiration for your own “S’more the Merrier” party.

The Spread - Pretty Easy!

Don't forget sticks for your marshmallows!

Make sure you assign adults to supervise around the bonfire!

Brace yourself for kids hopped up on chocolate!

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