Sunday, March 26, 2017

Keeping A Nature Journal in Ottawa

I have made a resolution to keep a dedicated 2017 Nature Journal starting this spring (if spring ever arrives in Ottawa). 

Some pages from my March 2017 Nature Journal

It seems that I have been keeping a nature journal forever.......some years much more intensely than others.

My Nature Journal from 1986
I loved sketching birds and I used my Nature Journal as a way of studying and remembering distinctive features of various species.

My Nature Journal: unfinished bird sketch dated 1980
I also used my Nature Journal to study trees, their overall shapes and distinctive features. I admire folks who can look at a tree far off in the distance and know exactly what it was just by its shape and location.

My Nature Journal dated January 1986
I attended an event in 2015 hosted by the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club where we were looking for fall shorebirds on migration at Mud Lake and Shirley's Bay.

These sketches (below) were done from photographs after the event as a way of recording what we did, where we went and all of the birds that we saw that day.

My Nature Journal: Birding at Mud Lake
My Nature Journal: Birding at Shirley's Bay
 My Nature Journal Sketch Book

I have dedicated the Fabriano sketchbook (that I purchased at the beginning of this year) because I have decided to stop using it as my daily sketchbook.

I have found the Fabriano Venezia sketch book is too heavy to carry in my sketch bag; the book does not stay flat when open and requires many clips and I am disappointed in how the cotton paper holds my many mediums (watercolour, gouache, graphite, ink etc.)

So this book has been re-purposed into my 2017 Nature Journal! It will make a perfect book for scribbling my nature notes in as well as pasting sketches that are cut out from my other sketch pads like this cardinal below, that I originally sketched on a mixed-media pad.

Today's sketch to record the Northern Cardinal that I saw while dog walking

My Nature Journal Field Guides 

Below are some of the Ottawa reference books and materials that I have on hand to add information to my sketch notes. Of course the internet is an amazing resource as well.

My field guide home library

My Nature Journal Links for Ottawa

One of the first activities I did in my Nature Journal this year was to map out the trees in my neighbourhood where I walk regularly. To do this I needed online help from the City of Ottawa's Tree Inventory where every tree (that the City of Ottawa is responsible for) is mapped and named (in Latin) with the radius of the tree trunk! I love this resource!

To see this resource and other Ottawa specific resources that I find helpful, please look at my link list below. (I will be adding to it as I find new links so keep checking back)

In Early spring, the buds begin to swell. Its fun to look for them on daily walks.


I will be posting some of my 2017 Nature Journal pages here on my blog. If you will be nature journaling and/or blogging your nature adventures in Ottawa, please add your link in the comment section below.

Likewise, if you have interesting links you would like to share on Ottawa-Gatineau natre and sketching opportunities, please add that in the comment section below as well.

Happy sketching!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Crazy About iPad Stop Motion Animation

I wanted to call this blog post "If I Can Do Claymation, Then So Can YOU!" but that is too long for a title even though it is true - you can do this!

It All Started At The Ottawa Public Library

For March Break in Ottawa, I attended a workshop called "iPad Stop Motion Animation" that took place in the "Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Children's Library (Monday March 13, 2017).

This is the picture I tweeted from the Ottawa Public Library
The workshop was being done by Jessie Curell of Hands On Media Education from Montreal.

Jessie provided all of the equipment, instructions and encouragement for about a dozen young folks. I was amazed at how quickly she impressed upon all of the children what was required, the necessary steps and what they could expect at the end of the day.

One work station at the OPL Children's Library
There were four work stations set up with clay, a scenery backdrop and a tripod with an iPad. Jessie said that an artist friend of hers had painted the scenes which she then had enlarged at Staples and pasted onto display board. The scenes were beautiful!

I loved this Arctic backdrop
Each of the scenes were really stunning and this Arctic one was one of my favourites, Jessie does a lot of work in the north with her visual storytelling workshops as well as the  iPad Stop Motion Animation workshop.

In terms of process, Jessie made it clear - do not touch the clay until you have your story line completed. The steps were simple:
  1. Write your story-line
  2. Build your characters
  3. Film your story
I love the look of this clay character - he has been through a lot. And the books are flip-books to illustrate how stop motion works
The stories that the children came up with were absolutely brilliant! A grandmother being robbed, children coming across a dinosaur and an underwater adventure!

Children in the process of filming.
The process was incredibly simple. It may just be a sign-of-the-times that we are living in (where even toddlers have iPads) but ALL of these children managed the iPad and the software with ease.

The iPad Software

I asked what the software was and Jessie said it was called "Stop Motion Studio" so I googled it and found out it was FREE! I thought this was amazing and Jessie added that the free version was good but there were features that you would not be able to use (for example: add music) but she said it would be great for practicing just making animations. The free version has very high customer ratings.

The Stop Motion Studio Pro full version is only $4.99 though so I splurged and bought the Pro version.

This seemed much less challenging and less expensive than what I had imagined and I was excited to try some animation once I got back home. Just one last technical question for Jessie: the iPad remaining stationary during the whole process is key and how much would it cost for an iPad set-up like the one she had brought to the workshop? Jessie said that each unit she had was between $200-300. For her workshops, high quality equipment that could withstand the use and reuse at the many workshops that she runs was necessary.

This was going to be a problem for me. I didn't want a big expense to give clay animation a try and I didn't need equipment that could withstand heavy use. I stopped in at Henry's Camera store on the way home from the library to look at what they had for using an iPad to do stop-motion animation.

What luck! The Henry's employee I talked to also does shadow puppet animation! He asked if I had a camera tripod (which I did) and he then sold me the iPad mount below for $19.99! I was on my way!

My Henry's Tablet Mount

Playing With Clay

I bought some modeling clay at Wallack's (under $5) (I had some Sculpey at home from another project) and I started experimenting with my character.

My story-line involved a bunch of foam letters that I had bought at the dollar store a long time ago.  I wanted to play with the words "activist", "archivist" and "artist" because these three passions have been a major part of my entire life.

My characters head made from Sculpey
I was unhappy with my first full-bodied character so I decided to focus on just a head instead.

The Sculpey head into the oven
My First Animation!

I am happy with my first attempt! And now my mind is busy building more story-lines for future animations.

I hope that this has inspired you to give it a try. Try the free version of the software and have some fun.

I know that I will!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Drawing At The Rooster: Tea Party

Tuesday night I attended the monthly "Drawing at the Rooster" (DATR) event in Ottawa at the Atomic Rooster on Bank St. This open and free event is hosted every month by two Ottawa area artists, Peter Purdy and Rebecca Gilman.
"Drawing at the Rooster is a monthly life drawing event. There are multiple live models (clothed/costumed) that will do a variety of short and long poses. 

Each event has a different theme! Drawing at the Rooster is a no cover event, and is a creative, non-judgmental environment where artists of all skill levels will have an opportunity to practice their life drawing skills.  (Source: DATR facebook)

The evening started at 7 pm with the models Rhapsody (as "The Rabbit") and Carmen (as "Alice") doing quick, short poses leading up to fifteen and twenty minute poses by the end of the night (at 10pm).

Model Rhapsody as "The Rabbit"

Model Carmen as "Alice"

I tried something entirely different this month and used toned paper, graphite, gouache and water colour.

Pasted toned-paper sketches into my sketchbook

20 minute pose: Rhapsody as "The Rabbit"

20 minute pose: Rhapsody as "The Rabbit"
15 minute pose: Rhapsody as "The Rabbit"
I liked the mixed-media process but, if I were to do it again, I wouldn't use titanium white. It was harsh and I needed to soften it later. I would try zinc white gouche next time. Also the toned paper was lovely but the paper I used buckled quite a bit. (Scans of my sketches were quite wrinkled and so I am posting photos instead).

GREAT News! A NEW Life Drawing Venue

Ottawa artist Kat MacGregs was at the Art House Cafe / Urban Sketching event on Wednesday night and wants everyone to know about a new Life Drawing event at the Art House Cafe.

Kat wrote:

You are invited to join open life drawing sessions hosted at The Art House Café. This public event encourages those of all skill levels to come try their hand at sketching semi clothed models. Evening poses consist of 5x 1 minute, 5x 2 minute, 4x 5 minute, 2x 10 minute, 2x 20minute, and 1x 45 minute.

The Café will be open to provide beverages and snacks.
Event starts at 7:00pm ending at 10:00pm, with a single break in between.

Limited drawing utensils available, easels available for rent ($2).

We welcome those of all orientations, ethnicity, ages, sizes, skin colour, genders, etc.

All drawing sessions are hosted on unceded Algonquin territory.

Here's a link to our Group Page:

And our First event can be found here:

I plan to attend the inaugural session on March 28 - sounds like it will be great!

My Previous DATR Blog Posts

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Temporary Lapse in Blogging

I have just realized that I haven't posted to my Moynahan Studio blog since November 2016.

Mixed-Media "Byward Market Melt" (on Canson 124 lb/ 265 g Montval Aquarelle watercolor paper)

I realized this blogging-lapse when I was applying for a one week residency in Quebec with the Pontiac Artists' Association and they asked for my art website URL.

My thoughts were: "Wow! I haven't posted on my art blog since November 21, 2016. Why not?"

I opened my sketchbooks and I have been making art every day (almost). I have been posting some of it to social media (my twitter and instagram) but I haven't been writing any blog posts.

I reviewed my blog and noted that:
  • in 2014, I wrote 55 blog posts; 
  • in 2016, I wrote 113 blog posts
  • in 2015 I wrote 43 (nearly one blog post per week) 
I also noticed that in 2015 I had a similar lapse in blogging for a couple of months (March to May) and I wrote a blog post about it called "The Essential Fallow Times".

My Most Popular Art Blog Posts

Since November, I produced a few more sketches for the February edition of "The Wrench".

In January, I managed to sketch a little in Mexico while on vacation. I started a new sketchbook: The Fabriano Venezia sketch book  (and I am still not sure what I think about the Venezia).

Fabriano Venezio Sketchbook: Watercolour sketches from Mexico adventures

March 2017 will be a busy month of sketching starting with the monthly Drawing at The Rooster and some Cafe Sketching with the Ottawa Urban Sketchers at the *NEW* Art House Cafe (555 Somerset St West).

This early March weather is still cold, icy, and generally unpleasant. My recent self-portrait sketch below was created to express my gratitude for my warm green coat, but seriously, the truth is that I can't wait for the warm weather to arrive!

Fabriano Venezio Sketchbook: Watercolour sketch
I feel that my blogging-lapse has now ended and I will aim to create two blog posts per month for 2017 as a minimum (and more if possible.)

If you would like to follow me on my 2017 art adventures, submit your email in the "Follow Me By Email" form on the right-hand side of this blog

Happy creating!

Monday, November 21, 2016

A New Project: Sketching For The Ottawa Wrench

My sketch entitled "Broke Not Broken" (pen and ink)
I am excited to be working on a new project with some great Ottawa folks who have established a street paper in Ottawa called "The Wrench".

When I recently read in the Metronews that the paper had only just begun, I wrote to the organizers and told them that I was an urban sketcher and that I was very inspired by the work of Washington Post graphics editor/illustrator/artist Richard Johnson and especially his series on "The Invisible"

 Artist Richard Johnson's Series "The Invisible"

This sketch by artist Richard Johnson as part of Washington Post series "The Invisible"

This sketch by artist Richard Johnson as part of Washington Post series "The Invisible"
(NB: "Street Sense" is a Washington, D.C.-based 16-page bi-weekly street newspaper that was founded in 2003)

I volunteered to create sketches in the style of Richard Johnson's and/or sketch anything else that they might need for their paper. This led to a meeting at The Well the following week where I received a list of the planned stories for the November 2016 and January 2017 issues.

I am happy to report that the November issue is now off to be printed and you will be able to find it on the streets at the end of this week.

I am looking forward to contributing more of my sketches to this great project in the future.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Starting A New Moleskine

My daughter loves Moleskine journals. She is a writer (and artist) and has been buying this brand of journal for as long as I can remember. I had never owned one!?

A page from my last Moleskine sketchbook ( a gift from my daughter) and the new one

My daughter bought me a small purse-sized watercolour sketchbook (Christmas 2014) and last Christmas (2015) she bought me my first large Moleskine sketchbook.

It was perfect-sized (5" x 8 ¼") for my small sketch bag and I used it to experiment and play with my new Noodlers inks and fountain pens (Noodlers and Lamy) and to focus on creating more black and white sketches.

I used the sketchbook to sketch out in the field and at home. I used pencil, ink, watercolour and gouache and it handled all of them surprisingly well.

This Moleskine features:
  • 104 pages
  • 111 lb. acid-free paper
  • an expandable inner pocket
I thought I would scan and share some of my favourite pages here.

B&W coffee shop sketch and W/C photo sketch
Both of these double-page scans (above and below) show sketches done:
  • in the field (sitting in a coffee shop and waiting in my car at the Riverside hospital)
  • from a photo at home (a photo texted to me of me walking my dog Lexie and a photo I took of a window washer from my car)

B&W Riverside hospital and W/C pencil sketch of window washer

I didn't scan all of the pages in my Moleskine sketchbook but picked some of my favourites and sorted them into four categories
  • "Black and White" (B&W) 
  • "Watercolour" (W/C) and or "Gouache"
  • "Bike and Sketch" 
  • "Hospital" sketches. (I spent a LOT of time in hospitals in 2016) 

Black and White Sketches

I tweeted the sketch below ( of a lecture that I attended at the Library and Archives Canada with Guy Berthiaume and Jacques Godbout done with Noodlers Lexington Gray ink.

Guy Berthiame and Jacques Godbout sketch at LAC
I did the sketch below while I was waiting at the Ottawa VIA rail station and this sketch demonstrates one of the things I like most about my Moleskine - it's size is quite inconspicuous and perfect for sketching people in public!

Waiting for my train at the Ottawa VIA rail station
I loved doing the sketch below from a photo taken by Ottawa historian/photographer Christopher Ryan  of the Ottawa snow storm. I used the Lexington Gray Noodlers ink and a white gel pen.

Ottawa Snow Storm Feb 17, 2015
 The sketch below was done from a photo of my daughter and our yellow Labrador retriever when she was a puppy

"Puppy Love"

The page on the left below was done from a photo that I took of the never-ending construction in my neighbourhood. ( The sketch on the right was done while waiting in the Passport office - a wait that was MUCH shorter than I thought it would be. (Sketchbooks are great for places where you think you will be waiting a LONG time!) 

Construction in my neighbourhood and the Passport office.
Double page scan of more B&W sketches
Double page scan of more B&W sketches
Double page scan of more B&W sketches

Colour Sketches 

I love sketching "Pets In Windows" and, in this case, on balconies. These cannot really be done in person because standing outside someone's window with a pencil and sketchbook would be super creepy. So they are all done from photographs.

Pets on Balconies

The sketch below was done from photograph that I took at the Byward market. I had "gessoed" the page to take gouache and it really got quite sloppy and awful at one point but I persevered and I'm happy with the result.

Trying to add gesso to the Moleskine - the Byward Market, Ottawa
Loved making this sketch below while all of my ingredients were getting prepared to make my favourite Butternut Squash soup recipe

BEST Butternut Squash soup recipe!

My Moleskine flower sketch

Spring blossoms

My old red Kodiaks

My Messy Corner

Bike and Sketch


My New Ride

My first "Bike and Sketch" (Ottawa River)

My Hospital Sketches

The Groggy Patient

Having a Chai tea at the Riverside hospital
I hope you enjoyed this small sample of my Moleskine sketches from 2016. I am looking forward to starting my new Moleskine sketchbook today!