Friday, July 20, 2012


We're heading North today! I was debating what to post today - I don't have a lot of time - so I thought the easiest thing to do was to post an excerpt from my Republic of Krez story. I took a break from it earlier this month, but have been back at it this week. I love writing and editing, so I'm really enjoying "watching" my story unfold. You can read more about the Republic of Krez here.

“You may be a Duffield princess Thea, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow the rules like everyone else. Father isn’t going to let you keep him. Besides, if it is a snowbeast, it’ll eat us all alive in our beds!”
Rodge glared at me for a few more minutes, our siblings shifting at his back, then he turned and left, as dignified as he could be scurrying under the prickly gorse. He said nothing else, making it clear that the matter was now beneath him; he was finished with us children. Midge hurried after him, closely followed by the other twins and Toby. Only Jimney lingered, still peering at the wriggling mass in my arms.
Out of all my brothers, Jimney is probably my favourite. He just seems to understand things; he’s incredibly perceptive. He smiled self-consciously, falling into the snow beside me. He didn’t try to take Opal from me – instead he reached for a handful of snow and began packing it into a missile.
Comforted, tension slowly draining away, I turned to him. “Do you think he’s really a snowbeast?” I whispered, unwilling to voice my concern, as if saying it out loud would change the outcome. Jimney merely shrugged, his eyes on the snowball in his hands. He shifted it from hand to hand, turning it over in his mittened grasp. He looked up, glancing at Opal momentarily before fixing his gilded eyes on me. “I have no idea, Thea… best not get too attached though. You know what they say about snowbeasts!”
I did know what “they” said – and the trace of fear in his voice didn’t help. Reluctantly, I nodded. I knew all the stories: the goring, the deaths, the snatched babies and livestock. I knew of the organized hunts, the attempts to confine all snowbeasts to the zoo and circus. The government assured the population that they were nearly extinct, that no snowbeasts remained in the wild. But there was always a sighting here, a mauling there. There were always stories.
And now our very own tale lay sleeping in my arms, finally exhausted from all his struggles. And despite all the horror stories, I was determined to keep him. I’m not sure what it was – it’s hard to explain – but I felt some kinship, some connection to the small beast in my embrace. I simply knew that I must not let him die, I must not let any harm come to him. I had to care for him because, for whatever reason, his mother no longer could. I knew that if I protected him now, in turn, he would protect me.
Jimney was gazing at me, reading my thoughts as though they were written on my features, in my actions: the turn of my head, the hunching of my shoulders. He smiled reassuringly, patting the back of my shoulder. “We’ll see what Father says, alright?” He echoed my very thought. I was daddy’s girl – as the baby of the family, I had an uncanny ability to manipulate him to my benefit. I was his Starlight and I would shine.

Oh, why not one more little excerpt?

I just shake my head in disgust. Like I hadn’t already thought of all that. I tear my arm from her grasp, pivot and run from the room. My siblings never fail to remind me that I’m the baby and that I don’t know anything. Cara is usually on my side, too, which makes it smell all the more of betrayal. The worst part of it is that Cara is right. Ste Agatha’s is no place for a snowbeast. Opal would go wild from the confinement alone, never mind all the strange people to guard against. He needs woods and meadows to run through, game to hunt and streams to drink from and bathe in.
As if on cue, Opal ambles around the corner, from the direction of the kitchens. He has a guilty look on his face and when he sees me his wagging tail lowers between his legs. I cock my hip and cross my arms, looking at him sternly. His head slowly lowers, his eyes still on mine, sheepish.
“What did you do?” My tone is scolding, though playful. This is a game we played all the time. Opal loves tormenting the kitchen staff, sneaking around the counters and frightening a tasty morsel out of some poor chef’s hands. “Have you been in the kitchens again?” I wag my finger at him disapprovingly. “You’re not to pester the staff, Opal.” I deliberately make myself sound like my mother, adopting my sternest expression. Opal, almost shyly, lifts his head and licks my cheek. It’s his way of apologizing and promising he’ll never do it again. He’s like a grown man, kissing a lady’s cheek, asking for her forgiveness. I swear Opal is often more mannerly than Kenneth and Kane.
Our little game usually makes me feel better, but I was too preoccupied with the thought that in six short months I’d be traveling south without him. Opal seemed to sense my disquiet and leans against me, nudging my side with his shoulder. He’s full grown now, taller than me, with fiercely sharp incisors and a way of grinning so that you could fully appreciate his mouth full of them. His claws are just as sharp, though when he’s padding around the mansion they’re usually retracted, like a house cat. His snowy white fur doesn’t have a hint of yellow to it; I’m not sure how he manages to stay so clean, especially when one of his favourite pass-times is prowling the muddy river banks.
I hug his neck, burying my face into his fur. Breathing deeply, I enjoy his animal smell. It strangely reminds of smoked fish and candied walnuts. He always smells like that. If I went away to school, I might forget that smell. Forget the feel of his soft pelt under my fingers, or the weight of his body against mine. I couldn’t bear the thought.
Someone passes by us in the hall, fabric rustling gently against my back. I don’t lift my face to see who it is; I don’t feel like dealing with my mother or sisters right now. The soft footsteps recede, then stop as whoever it is turns back to look at us. I could sense eyes on my back, the hair on my neck standing to attention. Opal didn’t move, but I could sense him watching too. Finally, resigned and curious, I glance over my shoulder. 
It’s Radrick, one of my father’s ministers. He’s looking at me curiously, a puzzlingly blank look in his eyes. Indeed, he wouldn’t stop staring, even as I continue to look back at him questioningly. I lift my eyebrows expectantly.
Not a word or reaction from the man, standing frozen in place. He has white blond hair, clipped short at the top and buzzed at the sides and back. His violet blue eyes are intense, but veil his thoughts completely. He isn’t exactly handsome with his deeply cleft chin and high forehead, but he certainly commands attention. He’s the sort of man people look to for advice or instruction. He’s my father’s Right Hand in war, leading the Sky Land’s armies in my father’s name. So I was used to seeing Radrick around, helping father, discussing matters of government and war. He had a room in the visitor’s wing and often shared meals with the family. He always spoke to me kindly, never ignoring me, but not paying any undue attention either.
My eldest brother Weston is five years his junior and reveres the man. At the dinner table, when Radrick was not present, all Weston could talk about was his bravery, valor and skill in all strategies of war. I knew Radrick had been away on a mission with a large company of men, scouting the Eastern borders where there had been word of Barbarian attacks. Weston was a captain on the very same mission; I had seen him leave in uniform, brass buttons and white piping gleaming in the sun. His sword at his hip, he had nodded goodbye to Mother from the back of his horse, a giant chestnut. Our Mother had nodded back. “Do your duty; make the Duffields proud.” With another terse nod, he was off. He hadn’t said anything to me, hadn’t even looked at me. But that wasn’t unusual. There are thirteen years between us; a gulf I don’t know how to cross. I look up to him with reverence and awe (tinged with a little fear).
Weston is not with Radrick now. Radrick isn’t in uniform either, though this isn’t unusual. Unlike many soldiers, Radrick is rarely in uniform except in battle, sword in hand. Today, he’s wearing riding clothes, the breeches and vest a soft brown leather, the tunic underneath a creamy white cotton. A heavy cloak of fine dark green wool is clasped over his shoulders and steel toed boots emphasize his muscular calves. Uncharacteristically, his clothing is dusty and sweat stained, like he had traveled a long distance without stop. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to say something. “What? What is it?” I spoke to him familiarly but sharply. He may be the Right Hand in war, but I’m still a Duffield. “Where’s Weston?”
As the silence stretches between us, my stomach drops. I search his face for clues. And then I catch it. Barely a flicker, but something in his eyes shifts right before his gaze drops to the floor. A look of sadness, of pity and, most strikingly, of shame. I draw in a quick, short breath. It was so obvious and yet could not possibly be true. “No,” I exhale, shaking my head imperceptibly. “No.” A little louder this time as Radrick’s mask crumbles. Weston. It could not be. Weston was so strong, so quick and still so immediate in my mind, it could not be…
I swallow hard. “How?” My voice sounds unreal, croaking out from between my teeth, my face numb with shock.
He looks back up at me, his eyes hollow with pain. And shame. The shame radiates through him, his shoulders quivering. He licks his lips, swallowing deliberately. Opal twitched, sitting up straighter, and Radrick’s gaze shifts to the beast. He seems to be considering, pondering; he shakes his head, sighs and shakes his head again. After running a hand through his short hair, he says in a strangled voice: “I need to speak with your father.”

So what do you think? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Creative Space

I finished my paintings yesterday! I'm sure you're all thinking "finally! This is the last post about them!" Which would be true. I'm sealing them with a gloss acrylic sealant today (to give the water a nice shine and even out the gloss and matte media I used) and gifting them to my sister-in-law over the weekend. I can't wait to see her reaction!

Without further ado, here are the photos:
I'm really, really happy with the boys; I think they turned out great. Jaden... well, her little face is the size of a quarter, so it was hard to get her to be recognizable. And her skin tone is darker than the boys, which was hard to replicate. Luckily, I chose a recognizable photo / pose, so my sister-in-law will definitely know who it is.

I'm really proud of myself for having completed these - and not just because I'll be giving a handmade gift. I haven't had any formal training since grade 10 art class, and these are my very first realistic portrait paintings. So, considering, I think they're pretty awesome! I particularly love the way the water turned out (though I could have added another 14 layers to it - so much fun!) and the trees in Jaden's landscape.

What do you think?

Head on over here for more Creative Spaces.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Painting Update

I'm getting there! Can I just say how difficult it is to mix the perfect brown?!

Anyway, here's what the three paintings looked like this morning:

And here's what they look like now:
I mostly added in browns and skin tones. I'm really happy with how they're progressing! Just a few more rounds of mixing paint and I'm done!

Here's what's left to do:

  • Edward: hair (needs another layer), eyes (need to close them a bit and add whites), teeth
  • Jaden: skin (needs to be a bit browner), mouth (need to close it a bit), teeth (and the whites of her eyes), body (need to make her a little skinnier)
  • Dustin: mouth, nose (shading a bit underneath mostly), eyebrows (thinner), eyes and teeth
  • water: another layer or two
What do you think? Any suggestions?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mosaic Monday

It's Mosaic Monday! I hope you'll join us - it's really easy! Just make a photo mosaic - you can use whatever photo editing software you like, or a website such as the mosaic maker and photos from Flickr - then post it on your blog. Go ahead and pick a theme if you want, but don't feel like you have to. Have fun with it!

Make sure to include a link back to my blog so that everyone can participate. Then come back here and submit a link to your blog post (using the "add your link" button at the bottom). I'll be looking and commenting on each one!

Here's mine for this week: sweat.

Here's the list of mosaics for this week. Once you've blogged, click the button below to add your blog post link.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Seven

Here are a few things I'm grateful for this week... despite this week being a particularly rough one for my family:

Sunday: lazy Sundays 
Monday: dinner with friends 
Tuesday: online courses
Wednesday: successful surgeries
Thursday: my next door neighbor (and her return business
Friday: the farmer's market within walking distance
Saturday: staying out late with friends  

What are you thankful for this week?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Project 52 - 26, 27 & 28/52

I missed a few week - here's a recap.

Week 26:
The water bottle I freeze half-full every day to keep cool this summer.

Week 27:
A sweating wine glass.

Week 28:
Not the best photo, I know, but it was late last night when I caught Liir sleeping in his shot glass house. I changed up his apartment yesterday and he seems to be happy with the results. I much prefer the natural stones at the bottom over the bright orange rocks and it gives him a little more to explore. Each week I plan on switching things up a little bit so that he doesn't get too bored. I'm planning on getting him a 5 gallon tank soon (maybe for my birthday) so that he has much more space.

I'd love it if you'd participate with me in this challenge! The rules are simple - take 1 photo a week, for 52 weeks. No theme, just a photo of something that sparked your interest during the week. Feel free to use my Project 52 banner as well. Either right click on the image above and save it on your computer, or follow this link and download it from Flickr.

Once you've taken your photo, post it online somewhere and add your link in the submission box below.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Painting Progress

Just a quick update today. Instead of mixing skin tones yesterday, I decided to go for yellow. With these, I finished the life jackets and added some sun reflections to the water. I also added a bit of light blue to the water.
Now today I really will work on skin tones!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Creative Space

This week, I've been steadily working on the trio of paintings I'm gifting to my sister-in-law. I only have a week left to finish them! The water is almost done, I just need to add a few more lighter colours / reflections. Before that, I wanted to get a good chunk of the kids done - so I started by blocking them out in a light skin tone:
Jaden was the hardest since I needed to get the body proportions just right:
Next, I mixed ten different skin tone colours, ranging from yellow to pink to brown shades. I even mixed a grey-green to add depth to the shadows. I started with Edward's - I was planning on doing all three at once, but the paints started to dry a bit, so I thought it'd be best to just do one at a time. So here's Edward's skin:
 He looks a little spooky without eyes, I'll admit. Those are next, along with a few adjustments: his mouth needs to close a bit, his jaw line is a bit too "fat" and the one shoulder is a bit too pink. And I still need to colour in the bright yellow life jacket and add a layer or two to his hair. But overall, I'm really happy with how it turned out! Here are a few close ups:
Alright, now I'm off to mix another batch of skin tones and get started on the other two!

Head on over here for more Creative Spaces.