Monday, October 29, 2012

The weather

The streets are drenched – rain and falling leaves. 
Midweek will be hallowe’en, then an American Thanksgiving to the south soon to be followed by an American election. If I have my druthers I unabashedly hope Obama is reelected – a highly intelligent man of African/American descent – who would have thought… in spite of racism and all that – like a miracle to see something like that happen in our lifetime. 
I do hope also that every one who can vote gets to vote – not good if people of uncertain economic means are disenfranchised. I suppose I am sounding somewhat political  which is ironic because for the most part I’m not.

A thinking man on manilla 18"x24" chalk
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July afternoon

Several years ago my mother’s neighbour and friend, the vice principal's wife, claimed that Canadians had two questionable habits – an overriding concern with road building and talking mindlessly about the weather. She particularly deplored the latter. Talking about the weather she considered to be a poor substitute for small talk – it indicated a serious flaw in the Canadian character – a social awkwardness – an inability to engage in meaningful conversation with acquaintances and strangers. Somehow this tied in with her criticism of road building – we spent such vast amounts of capital on roads there was little left to contribute to ‘cultural or spiritual pursuits’ which made us on a national level irredeemably   boring.

Of course in recent times the weather has become a hot topic, huge – it entertains, distracts and worries us to distraction. Linda McQuaig noticed today in the Toronto Star that in spite of extreme weather – reporters on the whole studiously avoid talking about  climate change and the impact that excessive burning of fossil fuels  has on it – it never gets so much as a whisper this sizzling summer! 

The building with the Portuguese  pool hall where we draw has central air. Since several days this month the temperature, with  humidex  has hovered around and exceeded the 100 F mark – nothing could be a more seductive incentive to draw than air conditioning. Below, some short poses from mid July:

carbon pencil and charcoal on cartridge
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Glued to the mercury

I soaked in a tub of cool water for 10 min at two am, then went downstairs to the kitchen to serve myself a bowl of cottage cheese and pineapple with blueberries.
I went from room to room looking for the best breeze from a fan. The heat from earlier in the day still  lingered, was still maddeningly hot – David suddenly appeared from the living room looking  wild eyed and piteous.  He desperately needed a shower,  ‘itchy’, he said - poor thing.  Nevertheless he arose early to join his friend, Martin,  for a bike ride. 
Meanwhile, somewhat revived, I returned to my reclining position with Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood – fabulous book, read a few pages and fell asleep.
Later in the afternoon the power went out and the fans stopped whirring. Quiet – decidedly peaceful.
Now two days later it feels almost like early fall.

A few gestures from mid June on Manilla 18'x24' cropped:
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cool of the morning

Three am - very late to be pecking away at some blog – wouldn’t my time more profitably be spent sleeping?  I’ll pay for it later – but the coolness of early morning is disarmingly fresh and earlier in the day I felt drugged by the heat. As the Tour de France has finished it’s arduous mountain stage, we here in Hamilton are roasting and embarking on the second stage of a July heat wave – so intense this heat wave that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Both I think  – tears and laughter but more importantly, a limitless supply of  clear water to sip.

Strathmore 18"x24" chalk
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

Manilla 18"x24" chalk
mcohenlabelle (MCL) © 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

an afternoon

As the afternoon wore on he became increasingly sleepy, especially under the scrutiny and glare of a strong, unrelenting light. His upright head position would begin to droop and lean towards his arms. Occasionally as he tried to prevent his eyes from closing he would yawn.
click to enlarge
 drawing - unfinished - of a young man 
on strathmore 18"x24"
chalk and pastel 
photographed in colour and b&w
Marcia Cohen Labelle ©2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Waist high

When we returned home from our trip, the grass in the back yard was waist high. I wondered if perhaps it looked a bit derelict – grass as high or higher than the poppies - but David thought immediately that it looked enchanting. I was touched and surprised and even reassured by his way of looking at the world.

June last year on a farm above Dundas
oil on masonite 14"x16"
Marcia Cohen LaBelle © 2011

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A seated, leaning pose

I drew this model a few weeks ago at one of our Sunday life gatherings, which, except for the odd statutory holiday like Christmas and New Year, runs throughout the year. I don’t always manage to get there though.

chalk and charcoal on toned paper 18"x24"

Friday, April 20, 2012

On a slope

This past week I acknowledged the  miracle of vitamins which until recently I had ignored or was simply oblivious to. I now take a daily portion of vitamin D, co enzyme q 10, ginko (recommended by a friend) and as soon as I can get around to it – I’ll add a calcium compound. He, my husband takes roughly the same as I do plus one of the B’s - which facilitates the necessary illusion - that of becoming healthier and wiser - a lovely experience for both of us.
Should I continue? The other revelation – quite marvelous and stimulating – has to do with schmaltz grebe - a yiddishism for chicken fat - until recently a dietary no-no, verboten. Well it turns out that all this schmaltz or fat of any kind - butter, eggs, olive oil,  avocado (v high in fat), you name it, is good for us even trans fat!  Forget the pecking order, it's all good. So that old saying that 'he should be so lucky as to bathe in a barrel of schmaltz grebe', still holds!
But oh weep alas for the fate of refined flour and cheap corn syrup, which receives a resounding thumbs down  in Good Calories Bad Calories – 600 pages of a painstaking, technical thoroughness sparing of no detail that might cause ones eyes to glaze over (perhaps mine) - or in a shorter version Good Calories Bad Calories for Dummies. Dummies versions are fine for me, I can latch on to one or two phrases and let my imagination do the rest.

Trees on a farm off Mineral Springs Road
oil on pre gessoed panel 16"x12"
early March
Marcia Cohen LaBelle ©2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Yesterday it was 26 celsius with a ferocious wind. Our neighbour knocked on our door to tell us that our rain barrel had blown across the street into their yard. Again!
Today it was 20 degrees cooler and I put on my usual layers and woolens to go into the country. We were at a wildlife preserve in Flamboro  off of  Middletown Rd. A public place with a parking lot and paths that lead to a swamp. 
click to enlarge
Wildlife preserve - oil on masonite - 18"x7½"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Clock's forward - March forward as in the month of March

The shaft of light on the paper was a special effect of the late afternoon sun. i'll take all the special effects I can get, even if it's verging on kitsch, as it were -  shameless in that regard. We moved clocks an hour forward last night and it hurt this am. I was a pathetic zombie. 

charcoal, pastel on toned paper 18"x24"
 unfinished - Happy March break

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notebook drawing - stay at home day

The wind tore  several shingles off our roof last night and blew our rain barrel out onto the street. I could feel the entire house shaking at times - I shuddered and marvelled as I drifted in and out of sleep.
We’re quite exposed on the west side and from the north west and south west sides. D got very agitated running in and out – urged me to take a look. But I’m much more placid – nothing can dislodge me until I’ve had my morning brew i.e. coffee. Our little micro climate is being tested!

Jenny - carbon pencil on bond 8"x10½"

Jenny - earlier drawing, carbon pencil on bond 8"x10½"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February's leave taking

Even with the sun out yesterday, it got cold enough for my tubes of paint to get very stiff, not frozen mind you but still… 
As for my hands I managed with a pair of striped, half woolen gloves over latex ones – it’s a pleasure to get moderately filthy during these exercises. The good news is that there was practically no head wind and next week it promises to be warmer,  7 celsius, alsmost downright balmy.

Study of beech tree in Ancaster - oil - 16"x12"

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the floor

Three reclining studies, two from this month on Strathmore - charcoal and pastel and one from last November at Sherman Ave on cartridge.
click to enlarge

Friday, February 24, 2012

Still waiting

So nu?  Where are the 10 to 20 cm of snow that the weather channel cautioned about overnight that would clog our streets this morning. When I awoke this morning all I could see was rain. One doesn’t exactly see rain in the same way as one does snow. It doesn’t quite register in the same way. Visually it wasn’t what I was looking forward to.

 pastel and graphite on watercolour paper 18"x 24"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mixed precipitation

And the odd mixed feeling to go with it. It didn’t hold off,  snow turning into rain – but I went anyway. Lovely snow – this is Canada after all. Moreover,  I found an alcove and didn’t need to use my umbrella. There was also a chair and table, two chairs actually. Comfy  like a five star hotel really with a view but no bathroom so I checked out after an hour and a half.

Catholic retreat - Mont St. Mary, Ancaster 
oil on paper - 16"x10"

as above, oil and pastel on paper - 16"x12"

Friday, February 17, 2012


Years ago my mother wrote in a poem that winter is more mind than snow – but this winter it’s hardly even that – the snow seems to vanish before it even makes an appearance. Fleeting - hardly a trace of the snowfall from last weekend.  We were lucky to enjoy the stuff while it lasted, last Tuesday, Valentine's day.

 Part of a cottage at a Catholic retreat - Wilson St., Ancaster 
pastel on watercolour paper - 9½ x 14½

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


There was a snowfall yesterday, very fine, light snow but steady – I knew that if I worked outside for longer than a few minutes – the snow would make a mess of my materials. On the way to the catholic retreat in Ancaster, therefore,  I stopped at Curry’s and bought a wonderful white umbrella to clamp onto my easel.  To position it was a little more  challenging and awkward than sharpening a pencil. Cathy Gibbon, a brilliant artist who heads our group, helped me with that – so that I wasn’t constantly ducking my head or banging it.

pastel, charcoal 9"x14"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Working over

I painted over a seated figure from mid fall, 2011. I settled on a photo reference from an old magazine and used that to expunge the image I felt would never work. It was the reproduction of an illustration probably from the 1940’s, but I’m not sure who the artist was. Beforehand I sanded the painting of the seated figure as much as I thought necessary. Then there was some frustration that followed, because I was only working from a magazine photo and not from life. 

oil on pre gessoed panel 12"x16"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Standing, leaning

Last Sunday there were a few 20 minute poses and several rapid gesture poses, a few of which I attempted to consolidate, combining, with some of the gestures, two to a page in order to set up ideas for 
a composition.

charcoal on manilla 18"x24" -click to enlarge

Friday, February 3, 2012


He touched a chord in me, the young clerk at Goodness Me where I buy my sesame seeds, etc.
As I was paying with interac I asked him how old he was. “Twenty one.
“Then you probably don’t remember a time when we didn’t use plastic and scanned everything, I asked. He looked thoughtful. He would in fact have preferred the old way, in fact he owned neither a computer nor a cell phone. He preferred to write letters the old fashioned way and to talk to the people around him, locally,  in person.  

wintery field 2008 - pastel 15"x20"

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The philosopher’s diet

This book, written by a Cartesian, is a treatise on how to lose weight. He provides a recipe for muffins – a strict regime of one large muffin or two small ones per day plus jogging will do it. 
Why do we care about losing weight? It’s the division of mind body, the mind body split – the mind tends to loathe an excess of flesh. Not me!
Richard Watson wrote this book when it was still fashionable to believe that oat-bran  would save the world, i.e. human kind. Since then that theory has bit the dust and the price of oat bran has come down.

 man resting,  pastel on Ingres 18"x24"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Today’s outing

Today’s poses were a bit convoluted whereby I dove in sleepy eyed and surfaced gasping for air - no sleep walking today,  keeps one on one's toes. 

click to enlarge

chalk on strathmore 18"x24"

chalk on strathmore

charcoal on cartridge 18"x24"

chalk on manilla 18"x24"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


An exciting moment. - today on our walk along Locke St. to the harbour, two young women, not Hamiltonians,  approached us for directions - "McGill  street off of Cannon?
I knew precisely where to direct them and they showered us with gratitude. 
One of the women was from Wynyard Saskatchewan! What a thrill – Never in my entire life had I met someone from Wynyard. I asked her if she’d heard of Elfros and Wadena. Of course she had! I explained briefly that when I was a little girl, my father was the doctor in Elfros, an Icelandic village. Because it had no hospital, he admitted some of his patients either to the hospital in Wynyard or to the one in Wadena. Sometimes I’d go with him on his evening rounds to either of these two towns. Dirt roads back then. On rare and wondrous occasions I'd be allowed potato chips but then cautioned that they really weren't good for me.

And what were these two, very young women doing in Hamilton? They were on a tour giving motivational talks to high school students, and then on to New Brunswick where they’d finish off their tour and fly back west – one to Wynyard, the other  home to a place about nine hours north of Vancouver.

A view from the cat walk at Siemens  from  a year ago. 
The factory closed down in July. oil on pre gessoed panel 

Monday, January 16, 2012


My  portrait of a dear friend,  Richard Lubbock, who sat for me in Toronto some years ago. I met him shortly after he arrived  from England. He had a walloping, dry sense of humour. For years he worked at CBC as a writer and also wrote for a publication,  The Idler which which no longer exists,  which took its name from a pub where a bunch of them used to meet weekly. When he sat for me we had lovely, heated debates on politics - we always agreed to disagree – Richard loved that – we both did, generally coming to a draw.   

ciment fondu

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One, two, three….

Three goes at it
First time back at James N in a long while,  a poon's age. (poons or coons are large prehistoric animals disguised as trees which don’t do well at skiing steep downward slopes – crosshill maybe)
Tea cookies and a Clementine and a dandy reclining pose. Also some new people joined us and familiar faces were a joy to behold.

 charcoal and pastel on strathmore 18"x24"

charcoal on manilla 18"x24"

 charcoal and pastel on strathmore 18"x24"