The Great Jigsaw Puzzle Imperative and Other Analog Pursuits

One of my pen pals recently recommended a book to me that I just received from the library after putting it on hold. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax is fascinating because I came to many of the same conclusions six to ten years ago.


I missed a few of the things I used to enjoy, notably making art and writing stories and journalling. When I started collecting tarot cards and various other cards including playing cards in 2000, it opened me up to both art and writing again and it never stopped. 

I like creating on my computer but I sometimes feel chained to a screen and it’s nice to sit in an armchair with a piece of paper and write. I resurrected a Parker 51 fountain pen in 2015 that was an old family pen purchased circa 1963, and I’ve filled a lot of journals in the last few years. I like the decorated journals that Paperblanks and Peter Pauper Press publish. 


This year I discovered the Rhodia Webnotebooks which take fountain ink very well and I love the dot grid that these bullet journals feature because you can draw tables and headings. 


I’ve been working my way through it, using stickers on every page for colour and variety, decorating the cover, and using it for “morning pages” as Julia Cameron often cites in her books. I’ve tried doing that before but it hurts my arm to write too much and the smaller size of this journal makes it easier to fill pages. I actually bought two of Julia’s newer books this year: Finding Water and It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. She has some wise things to say about not giving up, persevering despite chronic pain and ageing or other problems in life.


In July 2018 I had seen people online doing regular jigsaws that had stunning artwork. I have used a couple of digital jigsaw programs on a laptop, mainframe computer, and now my iPad, but when seeing real jigsaws again I remembered how much I’d enjoyed them through the years. I bought four of them about five or six years ago but had nowhere to work them, but I now have a long, white Linnmon table from Ikea that I use in my sewing area, and it works very well for jigsaws too.


I started collecting some puzzles, and then got some more. I discovered that jigsaw puzzles go out-of-print like books, so I bought some more. I now have fifty-six jigsaws and have done quite a few of them in the last four months. I found some of them too easy so bought a few with 2,000 and 3,000 pieces to challenge myself. I even bought five Christmas themed jigsaws and have done all those which was a lot of fun.


One of my favourites is a Pomegranate puzzle of the Tower of Babel from the Bedford Hours. I’ve had a write-up on this image from a large book I own on illuminated manuscripts, so I was delighted to find it in a puzzle.


White Mountain puzzles has a nice map of World Explorers that features two of my heroes, Lewis and Clark in the centre. I’ve been collecting a few postcards and books on these two and I even named my Garmin portable GPS device William Clark. “Clarkie”, as I call the device, helped me navigate to my new home.


Cognitive abilities are enhanced by doing jigsaws. The act uses both the right and left sides of the brain, keeps things sparking in there, and also brings a keenness to perception of colour and shape, observation, and provides some meditative peace for the brain, lets it enjoy ruminating and noticing without the jangly noise and frenetic activity of a computer. Call it “finding flow” or “going within” but the human brain likes a little quiet time to bounce around and happily connect things. 

Try a puzzle, see what I mean. It’s like finding water…


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A Mug Rug Exchange

I agreed some time around April to participate in a quilted mug rug swap with a group of quilters. I had no idea what a mug rug was but it was a small item and seemed like fun. We had three months to get it done, so lots of lead time. 

This was done with paper piecing, the mug is mine for show, another great thrift store find. I used the Janome 9400 to machine quilt this with the walking foot using variegated Guterman green thread.


Unfortunately my swap partner didn’t send me something so a volunteer did instead. It was suggested I send something as thanks in return so I made another mug rug. The top one is mine and the bottom one is by a woman named Michelle who lives in Seattle, complete with hand embroidery. I have this displayed on a coffee table I like it so much.


I won’t exchange these again, and the postage was costly at $7 each, but it was fun for something different in the summer, and I appreciated the time my second swap partner put into it. LOVE these colours!! Michelle spent a lot of time reviewing my likes and dislikes in colours and she did such a lovely, lovely job with what she picked. The embroidery was a delightful bonus. 

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The Wonderful World of Artist Trading Cards

One of my pen pals has been making and trading artist trading cards (ATCs) for years. While I can’t do a lot of artwork now due to pain and injury, she sent me the most beautiful ATC of an owl painted on birch bark along with a gorgeous envelope with hand drawn elements and a wax seal. My heart soared! Isn’t this gorgeous? Artwork by Holly Johnson.


Naturally I had to return the favour. I think we might exchange a few of these. She has fibromyalgia and arthritis, and I have much the same thing so drawing and painting small things seems ideal. It’s good art practice, good to keep the eyes and hands in art mode.

I felt I should use some of the new art supplies I bought this year, so this was done on Strathmore Mixed Media Toned Grey paper with Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. I used a page-a-day calendar I bought earlier in the year as a photo reference and used a paper viewfinder I made in the 2.5 x 3.5 inch size to select an area to sketch out. I could have done the whole bird but it would have been too tiny to work on, too painful for my arm.

As much as I liked the background of toned paper, I decided to try the Pan Pastels for the background and they worked beautifully, really pulled the bird out. This took me four days to do as I had to limit my drawing each day. I have had carpal tunnel as well as tendinitis, and I don’t want that to flare up again.


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Art Supplies of 2018

I went a little mad buying art expensive art supplies after being given some money. In late 2017 I bought some dream Winsor & Newton professional watercolour paints that I’ve wanted for decades, as well as a small palette of 18 Daniel Smith watercolours, which I outlined on this blog. Those of us who love art supplies always seem to find other things to entice us though. 

In April of this year I started seeing some very nice artwork done with Holbein Acryla Gouache. As much as I like my kit of Winsor & Newton Gouache, the acrylic gouache resists re-wetting which opens up a lot of possibilities. I bought a few tubes and was so impressed that I added a few more and I bought plastic case with a handle to keep them in and set up my own “stay wet” palette to keep the colours moist while I was painting.

Basically you just put a wet sponge in the bottom with baking parchment or tracing paper on top, and then squeeze the paint out onto the parchment paper. The sponge keeps it moist as does the fitted lid, and the last time I used this the paint kept fresh for about 3 weeks. Mine is pretty small but I also have a larger one for regular acrylic paints.


Then I started seeing lovely backgrounds to coloured pencil and watercolour done with Pan Pastels. I don’t seem to have the gift of working an entire image with pastels, but I liked the way they performed when doing backgrounds because they blend and soften into the paper and look wonderful. I bought the Landscape set which comes with a few sponges and tips and handles so you can get going immediately.


As well, I bought some more of the Strathmore Mixed media Toned Grey and more recently I bought a pad of their Toned Blue. I didn’t find this paper worked that well with watercolour but I’m going to try it with the Acryla Gouache and see if that works. It’s great with coloured pencil and pen and ink.

I bought a very cheap Platinum Preppy fountain pen, and some Platinum Carbon Ink which is permanent, waterproof ink, and they work well together. The Platinum pens seal very tightly so they are good to use with carbon inks which can ruin a fountain pen if left too long.

After seeing some artwork crop up here and there with M. Graham watercolours, I decided to buy some of those. I bought an introductory kit and liked them so much that I bought some more loose tubes. This paint is made with honey and stays somewhat sticky, so when I bought some half pans and a tin to make up a palette for them, I only squeezed a bit of paint in the pans to keep things fresh.

I bought some Southworth Linen Finish laid paper at Staples and experimented a bit with using pen and ink with M. Graham watercolour. I had a pen pal who had dug a koi pond and was breeding and selling koi, so I painted stationery and an envelope with koi the last time I wrote to her. The M. Graham watercolours stay moist so they re-wet immediately and are good for laying down precise details. Because they were going in the mail I spayed them with Krylon Workable Fixative.


I also splurged on two brass stamps and some supple sealing wax this year to use for correspondence. I like to mix and match colours for a marbled effect. This was my first one on a handmade envelope. Ah, the satisfaction!


I’ve been finding a few items in thrift stores lately. This is a sandwich/cake plate produced by J & G Meakin circa 1920 that I found in the Salvation Army Thrift Store for $2.50. It is perfect to use as a watercolour mixing tray. In this photograph I was painting a chrysocolla sphere I bought for Christmas last year and you can see the tray is perfect because the interior is white and it has a lip to contain the paint.



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The Embroidered Nightie

You can see my original post from October 2016 about sewing this nightie here.

While the tendinitis in my shoulder has improved, I have chronic tendinitis in the rest of my arm so it’s taken me a while to do some projects. I refuse to give up though as I like to be creative. 

I actually finished sewing this in late 2017, but didn’t get the courage to wear it until February 2018. I used the good quality flannel from Connecting Threads which is miles above the cheap flannelette they sell here in Fabricland that pills immediately. But I was worried about washing this as I had read things about the dyes in embroidery threads not always being permanent, so I turned the nightie inside out and washed it in cold water with minimal detergent, and then hung it to drip dry.

No problem, and since then I’ve washed it numerous times and the embroidery is still fresh and undamaged, as is the flannel. It’s nice to wear something of quality to bed, and I simply don’t find quality nightwear in stores these days.


This Kwik Sew 3106 pattern is good for both long and short nightwear, so I use it regularly to make new nighties. It’s easy too, I never did get the hang of altering patterns and making nighties or purses is a great way to keep in touch with your sewing skills without having the intensity of fitting patterns.

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Art Books for Christmas

I usually do up little montages and text citations for books, but I bought so many for Christmas that I’m using photos to explain.

As usual, I started buying these before Christmas, but I had been waiting for months for the publication of Mindy Lighthipe’s book so threw in a few more to get free shipping. Anna Mason is new to me but she has some videos up on YouTube and also offers courses, so I bought her book and it is wonderful. I notice she has a new book coming out in June 2018 that covers watercolour painting of fruit, birds, and animals so that’s a must-buy for me.


I enjoyed Billy Showell’s book on painting vegetables so much that I thought I’d backtrack and buy two of her earlier books. I really like her methods and tutorials.


These last books were for fun and inspiration and I haven’t done anything but browse them but there is good art and eye candy and lots of ideas. The Freehand book was a disappointment as it was mostly digital examples.


I find that when I buy a bunch of books together, it takes a while to go through them several times and assimilate the ideas, but it was Christmas so a special situation where the influx of books was a bit overwhelming.






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Finally, the Watercolour Mixing Charts

In June 2016 I started a mixing chart for a new palette of 24 Winsor & Newton half pan watercolours. It took me years to be able to afford these and when I got them I was so intimidated that I felt hesitant to use them. Doing up a mixing chart was supposed to alleviate my unfamiliarity with them, but we were wading through a bunch of home repairs at the time so I was frazzled in general and stopped.

I couldn’t believe 18 months had gone by so I finally completed this. Due to arm injuries it took me about four days to finish but it is so useful to have and I learned a lot about the pigments, particularly the new ones like Naples Yellow, Cobalt Violet, Brown Madder and Cadmium Orange and Red which were all new to me, at least in this form.


I had decided just before Christmas to beef up my tiny set of Daniel Smith watercolours. I had their 6-tube introductory main set and the 6-tube introductory set of their Primatek mineral pigments, but I couldn’t find anywhere online in Canada to get 5 mL tubes of some specialty Primatek colours I wanted. I found a shop two hours away that special ordered them for me and then couriered them to me, but it cost me in total $83 for these five tiny tubes which was shocking.

However, I have them now and am currently working up a colour mixing chart for them.


I’ll never buy these paints again as they cost so much, but I’m happy I have my small set of 17 to work with. In order to fit five extra pans in the tin, I bought empty half pans off Amazon and then stuck them in the tin with self-adhesive magnetic tape. After squeezing the pigment from tubes into the pans, so far it’s working well and the five extra pans are stable enough to dip into.



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