Butterfly studies

January 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

I was lucky to get to do some sketching, colour and motion research at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens last week. It’s a pretty magical place, hot and steamy full of tropical plants, parrots squawking, iguanas, tortoises and even flamingos (all rescued or adopted). I got there a little early and two of staff members Kurtis and Justin were releasing about 300 butterflies that had recently hatched.
There is a room where you can watch the butterflies emerge from chrysalises that are hot glued in rows to strips of painters tape in pretty jewel-like rows. (Above & Below White Tree Nymph) I hope to do a more in depth study of the hatching process, it’s pretty amazing to watch.
The next thing you see is a table covered with slices of orange and bananas. Staff members take turns coming up with cool fruit designs, and the effect is striking and attractive to a number of butterflies that feed only on fermenting fruit juices. It’s also a great spot to observe and sketch the butterflies because they’ll sit still for long periods of time. (Below: Brown Clipper on an orange slice)


Here are a few more butterflies that are common at the Gardens. The one with the eyes in the middle is called a “Blue Morpho” and the inside of its wings are a vibrant iridescent blue. The one below was sketched from a photo I took from behind a group doing a tour. She didn’t know she had a little friend on her shoulder, probably having a rest after taking its first flight.
Here are a few more studies. Lots of colour ideas to keep me going for the rest of the winter (From the top Plain Tiger, Blue Morpho, Julia, Blue Frosted Banner, Green Moss Banner).
plain_tigerWEBblue_morphoWEBjulia_butterflyWEB blue_frosted_bannerWEB   green_moss_peacockWEB

Gone bowlin’

November 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve written and that’s not because I’ve been busy bowling (I wish) but more because I’ve been away for 3 months touring with my band. Now we are home and I’m happy to be back in the studio gearing up for a very busy month. News to follow but in the meantime here’s a weird animation test I just came across from a couple years ago… STRIKE!


Finding Emily

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

A few months ago we visited the Royal BC Archives as part of the Museum Artist Residency. After poking around the extensive library of original records, marvelling at the hand bound covers of very old books, and looking through drawers of beautifully hand written documents from over 100 years ago (the calligraphy!), we ended up in this room in the basement full of art.

A random collection of framed works were mounted on rows of metal grills. Ann, our guide, pulled one out and there were these watercolours and sketches of trees and totem poles. “Are these Emily Carr?” Yes they were. I can’t remember who said it, but something to the effect of “they aren’t her best pieces,” meaning that’s why they are just sitting in that room and not up in a gallery somewhere. I took a closer look.

When someone tells me I should care about something I usually don’t. And that’s how I felt about Emily Carr. I know, I know. But when we moved to the west coast, and to Victoria, she was just so ubiquitous. It felt touristy. Her imagery is everywhere, she is the city’s claim to fame. To be honest my eyes would just glaze over. But standing in that basement looking at Emily Carr’s “not so great” work under fluorescent lights? That’s where everything changed.

The pieces were random, imperfect, vibrant, sketchy, alive. And that’s when it hit me. She was real. She was there. She went to that village, she sat right there under the fucking totem pole and she drew it. Alone in the early days of colonial British Columbia. Often being boated into remote communities by locals or hitching a ride on a horse and cart. Exploring and drawing in all types of weather. Inspired by the art and traditions of the First Nations people who informed her later interpretations of the land she loved so much. Born into an era and a part of the world that was less than supportive, she carved a path that was uniquely her own and continued to do so until the day she died.

(Here are a couple quick photos of the pieces that blew my mind down there – apologies for the bad quality)


The other day I stopped by the Ross Bay Cemetery
on my way to the museum. This is where Emily Carr is buried, and this was the day I decided to finally find her grave. I had tried before without success (surprising because the place isn’t very big) so I looked it up online. There was a map and a photo of a tiny granite marker placed on what was until the 1960s an unmarked grave. It looked pretty boring.

I walked up and down the area where I thought it should be, and again found nothing. Running out of time I eventually gave up and decided to continue on my way. I headed towards a taped off area where a massive branch had fallen off a pine tree and was being sawed into pieces. A worker walked over and we chatted about branches falling off of trees, and how it’s lucky no one was sitting underneath (insert grave joke here). “Another huge branch fell over by Emily Carr,” he said, pointing towards the opposite end of the yard. “Oh, and where might her grave be?” I asked, casually. Turns out I had the map upside down.

Just underneath another huge beautiful pine tree on the other end of the cemetery is a patch of warm dry grass, and there lies Emily’s grave. I was expecting the sad, lonely little marker I saw in the photo but what I found was neither. The marker is there, but all around it is the evidence of many visitors. Fallen pinecones from the tree above have been collected and piled lovingly around it. The area is like a sweet smelling cozy little nest. Paintbrushes and pencils are stuck into the ground, and little messages, painted rocks and carvings nestled in. A newer memorial stone has also been added, pictured below, and it’s kind of perfect.

I’m thankful to have found Emily in my own way, and I’ll find a nice spot to put my pinecone the next time I go visit.

Royal BC Museum Residency: The Botany Collection

November 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last week as part of the Royal BC Museum Artist Residency we got to go behind the scenes and explore the Botany Collection. They house over 215,000 specimens, made up primarily of native and introduced plant species found in British Columbia. Most are gathered, pressed, and affixed to cardstock that is marked with collection data for future reference. These pages are stacked in folders, bagged, and stored in lockers. The earliest specimen in Botany was lichen, collected in 1889.

Here’s a sketch I did of some pressed native succulents that collection manager Erica Wheeler was nice enough to pull out for me. Got to use their “official” stamp too – almost looks like the real deal. AVD_crassulaceae_sketchLE

Museum volunteer Daniela Toriola was helping prepare some new specimen sheets on the day we visited. She carefully arranged the pressed plants, gluing them onto the page with assorted metal weights to hold them down until they dried. Daniela noted that she always tries to make the presentation as beautiful as possible. It is obvious from our visits to the different collections so far that there is a lot of creativity going on behind the scenes. Whether its taxidermy, scientific drawings or how sea creatures are placed in a jar, there’s been care taken to make things visually appealing. These people take pride in their work, knowing that the collections will be looked upon for years to come.
Drawing in Botany was fun. I got my “spill safe” ink and water sketching set up going, perfect for capturing the transparency of leaves and petals, and the dark curly roots. I used a couple drops of water to wet my brush, and introduced ink with my brush pen (similar to how I was sketching on the road this summer). Here are drawings of a Lilaicaee Zygadenus, and Camassia or “Camas” – a native plant with edible bulbs found in western Canada and the US.

Succulent Sketches

October 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

So as some of you may know over the past year I have become a bit of a succulent junkie. I think it started when I was in San Francisco last November putting up an art show. I did a lot of walking around the residential streets of the Mission and noticed all the beautiful succulents, jades and cacti growing everywhere for the first time. I fell in love with… everything. The symmetry, the colours, the variation. The contrast of plump juicy leaves with the warm dry temperatures.

I wanted to try designing my own combinations and arrangements. I made an Instagram profile just for succulents so as not to look like a total crazy lady on my regular feed. I’ll be releasing my first “Succulent Print Collection” next week, and thought I’d share some photos of my drawings in the meantime ☺succies_6

succies_9succies_4   succies_7  succies_5

Artist in Residence Royal BC Museum… take 1

October 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

I’m very excited to be one of three artists participating in the first artist in residency program put on at the Royal BC Museum! Did you know that 90% of the museum’s collection is not currently on display? Part of my job over the coming year will be to explore the hidden collections, record my findings with sketches and illustrations, and share my discoveries with the public.

Last week we were invited to explore the “wet collection,” which houses thousands of marine specimens in jars. Starfish, crab, shellfish, octopi, you name it, preserved for future study. We only had a couple hours but I could have spent the whole day in there (carefully) pulling out jars and drawing.


AVD_mushroomcoral1 AVD_mushroomcoral2
I love the textures on the mushroom coral above. I also found the jars filled with multiple specimens really compelling. The layers and repetitive shapes of these starfish inspired the quick sketchbook animation below…

(Label) “CTENODISCUS CRISPATUS – Junction of Burke Channel and Fitz Hugh Sound | Feb 8, 1988 | No. of Spec: Many”AVD_starfishjarWEB




Dog sketches

September 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

You might have already seen these on Instagram… Sketches of some of the rad dogs on Dallas Beach!


AVD_dogsketch_frisbee AVD_dogsketch_scruffy AVD_dogsketch_weenie

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