Monday, October 28, 2013

Motivation Monday


"Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."  Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday morning on the farm

After chatting about apples yesterday, I thought I would try to get a photo of my apple loving goats. In the end, I got a lot of blurry shots of excited creatures. In the picture above, Noah is standing on a ledge in the wall of his stall (treat time was happening just before the goats were let out of the barn to enjoy the day) and I think he is wondering why I am pointing a camera at him instead of giving him a slice of apple! 

There was a cold north wind this morning. After being let out of the hen house the chickens spent a fair amount of time scurrying around looking for bugs and worms. Eventually they took a break from the wind and napped in the shelter at the base of a large thick pine tree.

Have a great weekend, I am off to pick more apples...

Thursday, October 24, 2013


coloured pencil on Stonehenge paper, 5" x 7", copyright Teresa Mallen

The sheer number of apples this year is simply staggering. I have never seen anything like it. Ever tree, from carefully tended orchard varieties to scrappy, unpruned old trees in farm fields and road side ditches are loaded with fruit beyond belief.

Goats love apples. My husband and I pick apples off the old scrappy tree in our backyard and the goats are given apple slices as treats throughout the day. Spoiling goats is an absolute highlight of my day, they so love this special attention and really what's not to like about apples?

the view from underneath one of our old apple trees

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Tomatoes, coloured pencil on Pastelbord, 8" x10" copyright Teresa Mallen

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes...that is what has been occupying my spare hours these past weeks. Harvest time is busy for me but I love it. One of the reasons I grow food is because I love the connection to the land and the seasons that this work gives me.

In recent years I have been shooting for getting in around 75 to 100 tomato plants (in addition to the other veggies we grow, I don't just plant tomatoes :-) ). This year with the gift of a dozen or so plants from a neighbour and with the self sowing of a few plants from compost seeds, I ended up with 95 plants made up of different varieties. It is a long journey from the planting of seeds in tiny seed pots in the house in late February to now, the end of the harvest.

So what do I do with all of these tomatoes? Well what we don't eat fresh in the fall months, I use to cook with over the winter. These tomatoes turn into homemade pasta sauce as well as a base for sauces in soups, stews and chili. I have also created an annual late autumn tradition of turning lots of green tomatoes that have been patiently waiting in the garage into our year's supply of salsa.

Tomatoes are not only fabulously versatile in the kitchen, they also make great subject matter for art! I loved the look of these just picked tomatoes (still with a bit of stem), as they sat in a basket in the early morning light. I decided to capture the moment. This piece was done on an 8" x 10" board with a sanded surface (made by Ampersand, called Pastelbord).

I have been blogging in fits and starts this year. I would muster up some great intentions and then life would bring surprises. We lost a much beloved goat this summer. Her various health issues were my priority but alas in the end there wasn't anything that could be done, she simply had a heart that was done its job. Losing an older animal, even when they have had a great life is still not easy. Fortunately I was able to spend oodles of quality of time with her last months and that was wonderful.

So the harvest is just about in and I have been really busy in the studio. I have some new things to show you...I just need to snap some pics first.

Finally, here is a use for all of those green tomatoes that are left in our gardens when frosts come and there is no more time for ripening...Green Tomato Salsa. I have included a recipe here, it comes from Farmgirl Fare.


Farmgirl Susan's No Sugar Green Tomato Relish/Salsa 
Please note my recipe changes mentioned at the end of Susan's version.
Makes about 3 pints. Recipe may be doubled; increase cooking time by 10-15 minutes.
 2 lb. green tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 lb. white or yellow onions, chopped
3/4 lb. sweet red peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 lb. tart cooking apples, such as 'Granny Smith', cored and chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup 5% acidic organic raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon kosher or sea salt
4 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded if desired, and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, onions, peppers, apples, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a large, nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about an hour.
Stir in the jalapenos, cilantro, and cumin and simmer for 5 more minutes. Carefully purée the mixture using a stick blender or in a traditional countertop blender (in batches if necessary) until still somewhat chunky.

If canning, return the puréed relish to a boil, then ladle the hot mixture into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Store in a cool, dark place.
10 calories, 0g fat, 60mg sodium, 0g fiber, per Tablespoon

My changes to the recipe: I chop up the tomatoes, onions etc. using a food processor at the beginning, before putting into the pot. That way I am able to skip the hand blender step or putting it into a blender at that later point. If you don't have any organic raw apple cider vinegar, just use the apple cider vinegar that you find at your grocery store. Also, garlic powder can be used to replace the fresh garlic.
I also don't wait to add the jalapenos, cilantro and cumin. Not sure why you would add these ingredients for just five minutes.The cilantro and cumin add wonderful flavour! I add a lot more than the required amount of cilantro.
I always double the recipe and it does work well that way too.
Finally, I took the recipe and using some conversion charts, I converted the weight measures to cups. I found this easier to relate to.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Congruency...say what?

So what does a picture of plant tags and Virginia Woolf books have to do with congruency? Good question! Quite simply, I am currently on a bit of a mission to make things in my life more congruent. Yup, say what?

This all started about a month ago. I read somewhere about the concept of how in order to really, radically move forward in life and to shift blocked energy one must seek congruency - i.e. one must let go of things, mindsets, habits etc. that are not congruent with who we currently are and who we wish to be. Well I wasn't feeling particularly blocked but I was intrigued at the thought of examining my life to see if I could locate areas where I wasn't congruent.

First up, I realized my studio was in need of a good sort out. If you have been reading previous posts, you will recall that I have spent some time in recent months 'exploring'. It was time to tidy up some of the mess created whilst exploring! Seriously, you don't need an article on congruency, you simply need to brew up a pot of tea, load up a tray with milk and mug and such and then find that once you have climbed the stairs to the studio that you do not have a clear surface anywhere to set down the tray! I started to tidy things up immediately. While I wouldn't say that I was feeling blocked, once my studio was cleaned up I did experience a burst of enthusiasm and energy, along with a desire to roll up my sleeves and really dig in to some fresh art and some business things that I had let slide...

Next up, I spied some shelves in our family room that needed a bit of sorting. On one of those shelves, I discovered a gardening file that I had forgotten about. In the file I found meticulous notes and plans for my landscaping projects along with plant tags from shrubs and perennials that I had purchased. But was this file congruent with my current life? Quite simply no. All of these plants were happily growing at a home we no longer owned! :-) Purging this from my life was a no-brainer!

Then I got congruent about our bookcases. I knew I had books that I no longer wanted to keep but every time I thought of tackling this sorting job, I felt overwhelmed. Ah but this article on congruency was starting to burn a fire in me...those books 'artfully' displayed on the floor of our living room needed to go on the shelves, 'on the floor' was not congruent with who I wanted to be. 

In recent years our farming endeavours has led to the purchase of many how to books - how to raise chickens, care for goats, keep bees and so on. This was congruent with my new life but many books in our home were not. So I dove into the project. I am happy to say that my energy is no longer at risk of being blocked by Virginia Woolf's Orlando! What on earth was I hanging onto the Collected Novels by Virginia Woolf for? No offence to fans of her work but gosh this is one writer I never did get. Two large bags of books were donated to our local library for their used book fundraising project and the farming books have a new home...

This getting congruent feels wonderful! And yes the whole deal is about a lot more than sorting and getting rid of material goods. I am also examining how I think about things and looking at what I have been focusing on, what I have been spending my time on...all of that good stuff! I highly recommend it...sometimes I think we need to question if drifting along with the status quo is really working for us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

latest work in progress and inspired by food

This is what is on my drafting table right now. You can see the very small finished study above the larger piece. I never work this way normally. Usually I decide how big I want a piece to be and then I just dive in and do it. My latest phase in exploration and my adventures in landscapes have brought a desire to work very small and quickly. I ended up liking this little funky landscape so I decided to see if I would like working it up larger.

So far it is looking pretty rough but hey, this is the warts and all phase of the piece! You can see that I am working on coloured paper. It is a sanded surface paper, intended primaily for pastel work. I love using my cps on it. I may leave this one for a while as I have something else I wish to get started on...

Artists find inspiration everywhere. And I mean everywhere - even in our lunch! The other day I was eating a small wedge of leftover quiche and I suddenly became aware of the lovely patterns and colours on the surface.

I grabbed a camera to take a few reference photos before I gobbled it up...okay so maybe it doesn't look much here on my blog and perhaps this is a case of 'you had to be there'. But I see lucious curves and folds and valleys in the cheese and spinach not to mention lovely reds and oranges and yellows and plums.

Inspiration for a lovely abstract in future perhaps????? So what beautiful thing did you eat for lunch  today? :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

wrapping up the explorations...

I think I am done hauling out wee explorations for show and tell. I am working on some new stuff and I will show you that in the days to come.

The above small study is one I rather like (3" x 4", cps on Colourfix paper). Yes there are a few things that need tweaking but as a quick, improvisational piece it worked for me. Some day I might create a larger image using this study as inspiration.

When we moved here, I was thrilled to discover that we had so many varieties of flowering shrubs and trees. The honeymoon is over. While I am still thrilled to enjoy the beauty and the scent of the blossoms, it is the reality of maintenance that is hitting us. Shrubs keep on growing until they are unruly, seriously unruly. We spent the past weekend cutting back shrubs that have become bushy trees!!!! Maybe buying a property from people who were retired and enjoyed gardening wasn't such a great idea. :-)  Every summer the weeds and overgrowth get ahead of us. One of the many reasons I like winter. LOL

Friday, June 14, 2013

more exploring...

Wine Glass Trees, 4"x 3", coloured pencil on Colourfix paper
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here are two more examples of my 'exploring' adventures from recent months...the one above is a small study that started off with some stylized trees. The trees eventually ended up looking like wine glasses. I am wondering if the fact that I like to take a glass of wine to the studio some afternoons, might not have had some influence here?!
My husband has been making wine in recent years. He has a grape crusher and a wine press and in the fall he lines up at a shop with the elderly Italian men in Ottawa's 'Little Italy', to buy the variety of grapes he has chosen. This means we have lots of tasty, inexpensive wine readily available!  Oh and my husband is not an elderly Italian gentleman, in case it read that way... :-)

The work above is very small, just 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches. It is a bright and  fanciful landscape and I completed several others in a similar fashion. Some got downright garish!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

tree advice wanted

autumn marsh study, 4" x 5", coloured pencil on colourfix paper
copyright Teresa Mallen

I love pastel landscapes...yet oddly enough I have never explored doing landscapes of my own, in cps of course, until recently. Here is a little something I did this winter. I can see things I will tweak someday but my main goal was to get in and out quickly, to suggest movement and to delight in the autumn colours. As a lover of detail, getting in and out quickly takes getting used to but I have really started to like the process.

old apple tree in our backyard

As the title of the post states, I am looking for some tree advice. If you have a fruit tree variety that you simply love, please let me know. Our small farm has some old apple trees on it and a terrific chestnut tree. Since moving here, we have planted a small apple orchard as well as pear and plum trees. Ah, but there is room for more! :-)

I was at a garden center a couple of days ago and I was delighted to see that they have a very good selection of fruit trees. I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the lovely choices. I would like to plant more fruit trees but I would like to get some help on this. I am looking for something that bears fruit that is truly good to eat. So if you have a favourite cherry or pear tree variety or whatever, that you would like to recommend, please leave a comment. If you don't wish to leave a comment here, you can email me at: teresa at teresamallenstudio dot com (of course exchange at and dot for symbols and leave out the spaces). Thanks!

We received cold weather just after the apple blossoms opened. I am hoping there were a few days that were warm enough for the bees to do their pollinating business. If they did, this year will be a great year for the apple harvest.

Monday, June 3, 2013


small study of a winter's day, 3" x 2.5"
coloured pencil on colourfix paper, copyright Teresa Mallen

It seems rather fitting that I post a tiny snowy scene, given that my last entry was written back in the depths of winter! Sheesh, the time has flown by.

My 'word' for 2013, is explore. Do you pick an annual word too? In case you don't have a clue what I am talking about, what I mean is that every December I ponder what I would like to focus on in the coming year. One year my idea required a phrase, not just a single word  - 'Teresa, own your time'. That one stays a work in progress! :-)

Anyway, the reason I haven't been posting is that I have been busy exploring!!!! I dedicated these past months to the pursuit of working differently, creating very small studies of different subject matter using different techniques and approaches. 

I allowed myself to create freely - with no objectives with regards to competition entries, possible sales and portfolio building. As part of all that, these artistic experiments would remain private. Honestly, some bad art was made and that was absolutely fine with me! I think that is rather expected when exploring.

But now it seems that I have exhausted the ideas I wished to explore and now I am feeling the urge to get back on track. So that means my blogging break is over and I shall be posting once more. I have lots of garden pictures to share and of course, why not a few photos of my pretty hennies?

This spot is a favourite with our chicken flock. They love this weathered wooden bench which is located under a basswood tree right beside the house. From here they have an elevated view down the lawn to the barn. The grass is long, with lovely seed heads that they like to eat, and there are lots of insects to scratch around for.

I love this tiny clump of violets that has naturally seeded on top of the concrete of an old stable wall, in a bit of mossy soil beside a rock. Reminds me of the saying, "Bloom where you are planted." I hope all of you are having a wonderful spring!

Monday, January 7, 2013

watch me work

'Red Trees', 4" x 4", coloured pencil, copyright Teresa Mallen
On Wednesday January 9th, 2013, I shall be the guest artist at the Kanata Art Club evening meeting. My presentation shall be an inspiring look into the world of coloured pencil. First up will be an overview on how to create fine art with cps. After reviewing traditional coloured pencil techniques, I will reveal how to go beyond these basics, sharing how to create work on coloured paper that looks like pastel, how to create richly pigmented effects, how to work in mixed media with coloured pencil as well as how to move beyond realism.
As part of my presentation, I shall demonstrate how I created the above piece. I have a fresh piece of paper with a new line drawing on it and my pencils are sharpened. Come watch me work! 
This event takes place in West Ottawa, 1030 Riddell Drive at the Kanata Montessori School. Start time is 7:00 p.m. and non-members are welcome to attend. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

more recent little gems

I read a blog post a few years ago written by an artist whose name or work I don't remember. But I do remember that the blog author was putting together a show at her studio. As part of the marketing strategy, the artist was offering up small studies done for larger works as well as some small pieces that the artist had left unframed. She called these pieces her "little gems". I liked that and thought that if I ever did something similar then I too would label such works little gems. I had some of these studies available for viewing at my recent open studio exhibition. They were not for sale but these and others like them will be my 'little gems' offerings on the next tour. I also plan to set up a shop on my website for these small pieces...once I have enough done that is.

The above abstract is 5 inches wide by 2 3/4 inches high. It is coloured pencil applied to coloured Colourfix pastel paper.

3" w x 4.5 " h, coloured pencil on Colourfix paper

People who have looked at this piece have commented that it makes them think of waves or the ocean. When I had finished it, it reminded me of the yarn in a chunky sweater! But yes, I can see the waves too. :-)  This pieces is 6" by 3", coloured pencil on coloured Colourfix paper.

The above photo simply doesn't do this tiny piece justice. Getting good lighting in the dead of winter isn't easy. I wasn't about to photography this outside as it was overcast and storming and being by a window didn't help much. Blech...Anyway, this one is a very small square, 2 1/4" x 2 1/4".

My recent landscapes have all included striped soil! I have no idea why striped hillsides are coming forth but I am liking the look.

Coloured Pencil on coloured Colourfix paper, 4.5" x 2 3/4", copyright Teresa Mallen
As today is January 1st, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. May we all enjoy a blessed, prosperous and creative year in 2013!