Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

Offerings from the lilacs on our balcony

To celebrate spring and all things non snow related, I took a stroll to photograph one of my favourite spring blooms, lilacs. It’s a lazy long weekend here in Toronto with the May 24th weekend the first official long weekend of summer. I know it’s not the 24th but no one calls it by the official name – Queen Victoria’s birthday. The holiday is simply referred to as the 2-4 or May 24th.  I doubt half the people in the country even realise it’s a hold-over from Empire days. But death to the politician who entertains the idea of doing away with it.  It’s a grand excuse to enjoy the first days leading into summer, plant gardens with no fear of frost, open up the cottage, and crack open a case of beer. That’s the 2-4 reference by the way. A case of beer holds 24 bottles, QV’s birthday is the 24th – a match made in Canada.

Alright, I cheated, I went out onto the balcony and snagged some shots without putting on shoes.  We’ve been growing a lilac tree for a couple of years now, and it’s beginning to shine.  We thought we’d lost it two years ago. And again, last year it looked sad and forlorn after we moved. But it survived the extreme cold, benign neglect and a move. During the summer, it shot up and produced a lot of greenery. It has proven to be quite popular with the local sparrow community that flitters about our balcony. We were concerned they may be eyeing it for nesting at one point. Luckily they opted for a less traveled location.  This spring, it’s honoured us with a bumper crop of purple.  It loves the corner we plopped it in. Here’s the first photo:

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

Too bad there isn’t  scratch and sniff internet.  The scent is intense this year. Can’t get enough of it.

Photo of the lilacs blooming on our balcony

 I leaned over the balcony and debated about getting dressed and actually going out, but nah – it’s the long weekend. Another espresso, prop my feet up and say screw it. I’m not budging for the rest of the day. I can look out my window and admire the birds and the blossoms without putting on shoes. 


Waiting for the TTC @ Union Station – digital art

Waiting for the TTC @ Union Station – digital art

I’m glad I found my Wacom. I really missed it. I’ve been fussing around with it quite a bit lately, trying to create a decent brush archive. I think I’ve created a series that seem to work well for my style – between 28-38% opacity, 25-37% flow with build up and wet edges. This gives me the colour and feel I’m looking for.

I’m still cheating on the startup – I’m still doing a hand line trace of the photo, but excluding elements I don’t want in the final product. I’m also trying to do a looser outline, with more a hint of the movement in the background. And that’s were the real fun begins. It’s interesting using different brushes and colour buildups to give the illusion of a train flashing past. I didn’t do any blending this time around, I wanted a rougher feel to the movement. It’s still Photoshop paint by numbers, but eventually I’ll get to the place I want to be. I’ve begun sketching with pencil, similar scenes. So far, yeeks. My sense of perspective still screws me around. Might help if I didn’t keep getting left and right mixed up.

All in all, I’m rather pleased with this:  Digital art of people standing on the TTC platform at Union Station


Original photo was taken  at the Union Station TTC platform on a warm afternoon. Northbound to Finch, Line 1.

Your week is a true success when you end it by rescuing a #toad

Your week is a true success when you end it by rescuing a #toad

I was up along the nasty stretch of Yonge, just above York Mills this morning. On my way to my appointment I spotted a lone blooming tulip:

Tulip apr 2016 - Toronto

Lots of tulips leaves are visible, but this was the lone brave bloomer. On my way back to the subway I spotted two young women waving at the ledge along the pavement. Now, I often see slightly odd things, but to see to office workers, on their way back from lunch waving at the grass, I just have to stop. They were desperately trying to stop this lovely fellow from jumping onto the road:

American Toad Apr 2016

A real beauty, isn’t he. An Anaxyrus americanus or American Toad for the rest of us. He was stuck on a ledge and was trying to leap down from there. Unfortunately that path would have led to one of the busiest stretches of Yonge and he would have been a toad patty in minutes. He was disregarding their leaf waving and was determined to go forward. I gently picked him up and moved him off the ledge to a safe spot up top where he originally came.  He posed for a few shots and then leapt off into the ground cover. I’d forgotten how soft and silky toads feel to the touch. Not that I go around fondling amphibians .. I don’t … no seriously… I don’t. But as a kid we used to go frog and toad catching in the creek near where we lived.

If you didn’t know he was there, you’d walk right by him. Here’s his (her? How do you tell the difference?) beauty shot:

American Toad Apr 2016b

It’s definitely spring when you see tulips and rescue toads.


Foggy morning in Toronto – winter goes  at last

Foggy morning in Toronto – winter goes at last

Good news! Winter finally moved along. Bad news, I’m Canadian which means I’ll still talk about the weather regardless the conditions. It rained and snowed all through the night. By morning, the temperature had risen above the chilling -10 with the wind-chill from Saturday and zipped into 3 Celsius. It’s now a balmy 8 degrees out there and no rain.

It was discombobulating this morning. The alarm went off and I rolled back to sleep thinking I’d set the alarm too early. It was dark. About 5 min later I sat up in bed and thought “wait, what time is it?” The fog had rolled in so heavy nothing was visible out the window. We get that up here on the 20th floor more often than you’d imagine. It’s kind of cool. Some days the fog is so thick around the building, the balcony railing isn’t visible. This morning was like that. By 10:30, the fog was still hanging in, but all clear once you got below the 15th floor.

Toronto fogged in along Yonge St

Along Yonge Street, looking north, the fog was still hanging low enough to hide many of the taller buildings. And yes, it really was that dark and dim. Once I hit ground floor, there was no fog at street level, but looking up, I couldn’t see our apartment.

Toronto west fogged in

Fogs all gone now, it’s just a dreary looking day. But … it’s warmer so I don’t care.