Year End

Wrapping Up Another Year
I was just going back over some blog posts from 2012.  Some of these are from lessons, and some are just from life.

It's been a good year. Lots of classes with wonderful students, lots of family fun, good times with good friends, and it's been a healthy and active year.

Chris Guillebeau, from the blog The Art of Non-Conformity spends an entire week reviewing the old year  -  what worked, what didn't. Sometimes I wonder if I'm paying enough attention to be able to do that.  I do re-cap after each workshop, and go back over class lessons and demos to see what could be improved.  I also make notes of students' suggestions, and try to plan new things to do.  And, yes, I do write out goals for the new year  -  not resolutions, but some things I'd like to add to, or subtract from, my classes and my life. I could easily spend a week re-capping.  I can spend a week writing out my grocery list.

Christmas comes and goes so quickly.  I actually felt a little sad today as I put away my Christmas socks.

What are your plans for 2013?  



 We Have a Little Snow Here
I took these pictures at 8:30 this morning  -  the street lights are still on!  I was fussing about the snowplow on its tenth trip by to dump snow behind my car.  My husband asked if I HAVE to get out, and I told him I don't, but I don't want to be that little old lady who DOESN'T.  He suggested I just enjoy spending the day getting things ready for Christmas instead of shoveling my car out.  So here I am, blogging, drinking coffee, and eating chex mix for breakfast.

To any of my students who are reading this  -  this is the time to get some great snow photographs.  We will work on snow paintings when classes resume after the holidays.

Now I'm going to go refine my menus and shopping lists, and watch the snow fall.

If you are in the middle of a snow storm, I hope you can just relax and enjoy it. Maybe you could get some good photographs and maybe a couple of quick watercolor studies.


Local Color

This week in classes we were talking about "local color" (not the, ummm, interesting people that walk around downtown).  Local color is the true, or natural, color of an object without regard to highlight and shadow.  The point of the lesson was how to keep the objects interesting with some color changes on the surfaces. 

The wonky little cup was painted in a mix of hansa yellow and new gamboge, and then while it was still wet, I added some red and blue.  Color can also be added as a "glaze" when the paper was very dry. 

The primary color squares show how much more interesting they are when the other two primaries are added to each one.  For example, adding yellow and blue to the red square makes it a little more lively, yet it remains very red.

There are no hard and fast rules for adding color that isn't really there  -  that's the fun of it.  With floaty pigments or transparent glazes, the possibilities of watercolor are endless.  What are you trying out this week?


Still Life Objects

Still Life Objects
This is a quick little continuous line drawing, with watercolor added, done in my sketchbook after my class left today.  The tables were full of small objects that we set up in threes.  The idea was to zoom in on a simple composition.  We had some very nice little paintings. 

I have a shelf in the studio that is full of still life objects, and I have "stuff" all over the house that students are welcome to find and use in a still life set-up.  Sometimes I forget where the objects came from when I go to put them back after class, but it doesn't hurt to shake things up a bit anyway.

My new classes started this week, and they are full of fun, talented, eager students!  I get paid for this!!!


November 30th

As I was going through things in my studio today, I came across these sketches and the little painting.  Chairs are one of my favorite subjects.  They have so much character.  None of these photographed well  -  the light is bad and to re-do all three of them  -  well, it's late.  I make it sound like it's the pictures' fault, not mine.  It's okay to blame things on inanimate objects, isn't it?

This is the end of NaBloPoMo  -  or blog-everyday-throughout November, or National Blog  .  .  . something. Of course, I'll continue blogging  -  just not every day.  You'd all be really sick of my quantity-not-quality style. I really ramp up the quality the rest of the year, don't I?

This afternoon I went to the dollar store.  When the girl rang me up, she didn't give me my change.  I reminded her I had eight cents coming.  She said "Okay", and rang up the next person who had 22 items.  This was getting embarrassing, I'm standing there waiting for eight cents!!!  It was okay, no one in the long line knew it was only eight cents  -  until  she said something about getting mixed up because she was thinking about "her" eight cents, with a nod to me.   I was not about to leave without it at that point -  it's a matter of principle, right? ("Principle: A rule or belief governing one's personal behavior"  -  in the dollar store)  And I would have had almost nothing to blog about.  That was the excitement in my life today.  What was yours?


November 29th

Pears Again
These are the pears I did in class today.  They started out much wetter and with a more intense yellow under-painting than yesterday's.  We had fun with this.  It was a joint effort - deciding on the color mixes and what brushes to use.

I have a stack of papers, drawings, and small paintings that I've been piling up over the last class session.  I am anxious to go through them and put things in some kind of retrievable order.  I always say that, and then one thing leads to another and it becomes a huge task and begins to involve every aspect of my life.   I'll get every drawer dumped out to rearrange because I'll need to make room.  I'll have a pile of stuff to go through that will take years (yes, years).  I'll have to stop in the middle and go to the grocery store.  I'll have to shove a pile of papers out of the way so I can get to the washing machine.  Then I'll try to re-do my filing system so it will be cute.  .  .  Did I just talk myself out of something?

November 28th

Pears this week are $1 a pound here!  I love pears any way, but especially in a salad with red Boston lettuce, almonds and blue cheese. Last night we added pomegranate seeds.

I did the charcoal drawing of the pears last night.  It was, more or less, a contour drawing or continuous line drawing.  I concentrated on the fruit first, getting in the bowl here and there as I came to it with the continuous line.

This morning in class, I did the painting. I was demonstrating layering and tying colors together. Four is an awkward number in a composition, and I was trying to show how repeating colors can tie things together, so they aren't too separate.  In tomorrow's class I'm going to try to have the colors bleed together a bit to tie the objects together.

Happy Painting!


November 27th

Charcoal Continuous Line Drawing and Prismacolor Pencils
Just getting a little color in my life.  This is a very scrawny geranium that seems to be on it's last legs.  I feed it and give it the best light in the house, but it may not make it.

This, like the drawings in yesterday's post, is done on newsprint, which I don't think takes any medium too satisfactorily.  But it's cheap, and big and seems like a good place to "warm up".

I just went out into the world for the first time in two days.  I seem to be in my hibernation mode. Hibernation can be productive can't it?  Nope  -  it can't   -  I just looked it up and the definition is "To be in an inactive or dormant state or period". Well, I knew that, and I guess I don't want to go to that extreme.  I just don't like to go out in the cold. I'll just keep painting and I'll be okay.  How about you?  Do you have painting plans for the winter?


November 26th

 Pencil and Charcoal
I'm just trying to get the pencil moving again  -  playing around with small house shapes and negative areas. 

I'm not crazy about the way pencil and charcoal handle on newsprint, but I thought I'd try to fill up a large sheet with small sketches.

I feel a little rusty after a few days of no drawing or painting, but I'm ready to get at it.  Small drawings like these help to jump start the process  -  kind of like musicians playing the scales.  Little pencil marks can lead to large paintings.


November 25th

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
We have some more fresh snow and it is cold!  Thursday, Thanksgiving day, we had 65 degrees, the next day it was 32, and this morning we had winter snow advisories.

This pretty much wraps it up for a very nice Thanksgiving weekend.  I'm looking around the house at the remnants of a long weekend of family coming and going, lots of eating and other fun stuff.  There are stacks of clean bedding, piles of more laundry waiting to be done,  silver and Grandma's dishes to put away, forgotten items to be shipped back to their owners  .  .  .    It's all about picking up Thanksgiving and putting it away until next time. 

Tomorrow I should catch up on ordinary everyday things.  I know I have some things that need to get done, but four days of eating turkey and playing dominoes tends to blur one's mind.  Maybe I need a couple more days off.


November 24th

BK veggie Burger
More food blogging.  We've been eating Thanksgiving leftovers non-stop, but we went to Burger King and the bookstore with our youngest granddaughter tonight.  Just before we left home, my husband said, "What about that pie on the porch?"  What pie!  I thought we were finished with pie! There was a whole Dutch apple pie on the table on the back porch (when you live in the north, you can use your porch as a giant refrigerator).  So -  a little more dessert, and then I sent it home with our granddaughter. I think that takes care of the leftovers.  Now we can move on with our lives.

Yesterday when I blogged, it posted somewhere else on my blog.  I guess the little quote on the towel was quite appropriate. I will try to pay more attention to where this one is going.

November 23rd

In my Own Little World
Is this the cutest little towel you've ever seen in your life?  A friend found it in a gift shop and brought it to me.

Here it is, the day after Thanksgiving, and we are still eating.  A tradition in our family is for everyone to come back the day after Thanksgiving and have leftovers.  Some of us did a little shopping, some of us went to work, and all  of us ate a lot.

Happy Day after Thanksgiving!


November 22nd

We are eating nuts and grapes, playing dominoes, and cooking.  Simultaneously.  This is a quick little sketch done in gouache. 

In a few minutes we are going to have to start cooking in earnest, or we won't be ready by the time the rest of the guests arrive  -  and the nuts and grapes are almost gone.

I hope you are all having a nice day!  Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21st

Me   -  many years ago.
No sketching today.  I baked a couple of pies, prepped some things to finish up tomorrow, set the table, did laundry, worked a blood drive, picked up the grandkids . . .

Getting ready for a holiday always makes me think of family and holidays of my childhood. So here, in desperation to blog everyday in November, I'm posting this picture of me as a little girl with birthday or Christmas gifts.  I'm thinking birthday.  Look at that carpet.  Look at those bangs!


November 20th

Butternut Squash
Yes, of course this was supposed to have been a sketch, but a photograph was the best I could squeeze in today.  This is perhaps my all time favorite color.  The texture of the seeds and the shadows around them fascinate me too. All those little bitty negative shapes.

The thing about sketching  -  or not sketching  -  is the fact that we are aware.  Often almost as aware as if we were going to sketch the object.  Sketching everyday objects in our lives has made us appreciate everything around us  -  the wonderful colors, shapes, and textures.  The shadows and way the light hits things keep us looking and thinking.,

Okay  -  that's my little sketching lecture of the day.  Does it sound like I am trying to excuse myself for not painting this?


November 19th

The oldest pottery in America
It has a colorful logo
and then it has the Good Housekeeping seal of approval

All of this on the bottom of a custard cup.  These have been around before I can remember. There are two of them, and I have two other baking dishes in different patterns.  I can find information on other Harker patterns, but I can't find anything on this one.  Does anyone know anything about it?

I went to the grocery store today  -  along with everyone else in the world, it seems.  Buying a turkey now is like buying a car with the shifty price cuts and trade-in allowances.  At one store the turkeys were VERY expensive, but you could get $17 off with an additional purchase of $20.  Another store had turkeys for 43 cents a pound with a $50 purchase  -  and so on  -  I won't get into it.

I was complaining to my sister-in-law that I agreed to help out at a blood drive on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, for heavens sake.  She said she has to decorate a Christmas tree at the zoo! Does that sound like fun or what -  decorating a Christmas tree at a zoo?!  It's all about what you get to go home at night and tell  -  "I handed out cookies and juice today." or "I decorated a tree at the zoo today."


November 18th

From my Sketchbook
This is going to be short and sweet  -  I'm ready for bed.  I just had a very spicy meal with some very spicy, strong tea, so I might not be as ready for bed as I think I am.

There is no rhyme or reason for this sketch.  It's not relevant to my day, but one day I sketched this while sitting in a parking lot.  If you carry your sketchbook with you, you always have something to do.

Speaking of something to do, is everyone gearing up for a big grocery run in preparation for Thanksgiving?  Maybe we should all sketch some of our produce when we get home.  Or maybe some colorful jar labels.  Just a quick sketch.


November 17th

Colorful Art Supplies
I keep my art supplies out on my work tables.  All the bright colored pens, pencils, markers, etc. are pretty inspirational, and it's nice to have them within reach.  If I had to put these things away in a drawer or cabinet, I'd never find them.  We all have our own style, and I think it is important to use your own style when it comes to how and where you keep your art supplies.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I learned at an early age that it's important to have your own work space, if at all possible.  It doesn't need to be large, but it does need to be yours.

Today is the anniversary of the first time my husband and I met.  A looong time ago.  Today we put up the storm windows and made a trip to the dump.  Then we made burgers and watched some old Freisher episodes.We really know how to celebrate, don't we?


November 16th

Still Playing with Gouache
This little painting is really too awful for words, but I'm going to talk about it anyway.  I am always saying we aren't after a masterpiece every time we pick up the brush.  How will I ever learn to use gouache if I don't experiment?  I couldn't leave this alone, and it has layer after botched layer on the light weight paper.  I think if gouache is layered too heavily, it will crack, so if I feel myself coming close to a masterpiece, I'll remember that.

Doing this painting made me think of a painting I did when I was a little kid. Even the smell of the paint today took me back there.   I had been given a set of paints in jars, and I was painting a beach with palm trees.   I left that long-ago painting somewhere accessible to our dog, and he licked off the paint!!!  I learned a few lessons from that licked painting  -  have a place of your own to paint, it's all about the journey not the finished product, and use materials that dogs don't find tasty.


November 15th

Fruit Painted in Gouache in my Sketchbook
Just about the time I was thinking it would really be fun to try gouache on the colorful Mi Teintes paper, an artist friend, Hennie,  gave me a ziplock bag full of tubes to play with.  This is my first attempt, and was it ever fun!

The dish was really patterned with flowers in primary colors, but when I got to that point, I was really liking the "flatness" of the shapes and didn't want to complicate things.  Hennie paints large, simple shapes on full sheets of watercolor paper  - she gets a very smooth, almost suede-like finish.

Gouache is a water based paint that comes in tubes like watercolor.  It is very opaque with a mat finish, and unlike watercolor, it is painted dark to light, instead of light to dark.  Fun!  Thanks, Hennie. I think I'm hooked.

I gave my class an assignment of watercolor sketching at least one page in their sketchbooks of some of the dishes they pull out this time of year as they get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.  Drawing objects in our homes makes us appreciate our surroundings a little more. 


November 14th

This is a demonstration I did in class this morning.  The purpose was to show how I would draw the fruit first, and then draw the bowl around it, instead of drawing the bowl and then adding the fruit.  I did a contour drawing of the oranges, paying attention to the angles where the individual oranges met up or overlapped.

Another purpose of the demonstration was to show how I would swoop across the oranges with one color,  go back and add deeper and varying warm color, and then put in cool shadows.

I don't know why it's easier to draw the fruit first and then the bowl, but it is.  Trust me. Better yet  -  try it.

Is everyone doing the Thanksgiving countdown?  Are the tablecloths ready?  Do you have to clean out the fridge and freezer.  Is the guest bedding all set?  Have you planned a centerpiece? Do you have to polish the silver?  Are you using your grandma's china  -  have you washed it?  Or if you're not hosting  -  have you planned your dish to pass?  Wow  -  that sounds a lot easier!


November 13th

The Handmade Book That Started it All
I was looking back over my November posts of past years, and came across this image I had posted of the first journal I made. I made it at a bookbinding class in Ann Arbor in November of 2009.  Since then I have made them in different sizes, and with watercolor paper mixed with various drawing papers. 
A Few of the Other Journals I've Made

 Looking over previous years' posts is like reading old diaries. Some of the things I had forgotten I did, and some of the things I had forgotten I was going to do. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing to be reminded of things we had forgotten we were going to do.  Well, of course, it depends on what those things were, doesn't it?


November 12th

Color Swatches from Nature
I've been watching the color combinations change with the changing of the season. Everything is quite flat today, grayed.

After yesterday's warm temperatures, we are not too crazy about thirty-four degrees today.  Oh  -  and now we have some snow!

I've spent the day catching up on laundry and  making a batch of soup for the slow-cooker.  A friend and I did our "Flowers for Friends" thing, but ran out of flowers after only about 18 arrangements.  Flowers for Friends is a program that pairs up "used" flower arrangements and volunteers.  The volunteers take apart the larger flower arrangements and make them into small arrangements that are delivered to hospitals, nursing homes, soup kitchens, etc.  Not only is it fun to put together the arrangements, but it's nice to know that they'll be delivered to someone who may need a little cheering up.

Now I'm going to go look over homework assignments for middle granddaughter.  If it's math, we're both in trouble.


November 11th

Gray Skies  -  and Unseasonably Warm Weather
The colors today have been very subdued  -  except for the yellow slash of sky early this morning.  It has been very warm  -  strangely warm for this time of year. No one is complaining!  We took a two mile walk down by the waterfront, and and did a few last minute outdoor chores.  A lot of people were out on the walking trails today  -  it may be our last chance at weather like this for a few months.

I always intend to record the sky on a regular basis.  We live on a hill, and in the winter we have a pretty good view across the rooftops and across the Bay.  There is a beautiful steeple in our view that changes with the light.  I am not good at sticking with things, so maybe this is it for my sky series.

Have you sketched this weekend?


November 10th

I did nothing creative all day.  Of course the day isn't over yet.  I've packed up my summer clothes, cleaned our closet a bit, tried to do something with things I didn't know what to do with.  When in doubt, make a run to the "donation station" at the resale shop.  It has been very dark here all day  -  a good day to grub and sort.

The picture posted here is our cat, Rudy.  He's waiting for my class to arrive.  He loves people!  He especially loves the people in my classes, and I don't blame him.  I do too. 

I suppose I could get creative with dinner, or I could just have the sandwiches that my husband brought home from an all-day conference his library was hosting.  Let's see  -  from-scratch dinner? Ready-made sandwiches?   That's a no brainer.


November 8th

Pomegranate, Persimmon, and Pear
There is just something about persimmons  -  the color of course, but also the shape, and the very shiny surface with that dusty blue coating.

I'm going to have to play around with some color mixing with this persimmon.  Maybe I'll try it in various color triads (variations of the primaries), although I think I already know that I would like quinacridone  burnt scarlet, quinacridone gold, and phthalo blue the best.

Middle Granddaughter and I watched Mirror Mirror this afternoon and I have been listening to the closing track , I Believe in Love,  over and over.

It's the little things in life  -  lunch at Burger King, a Netflix movie in the middle of the afternoon, and shiny orange persimmons. 


November 8th

Pine Tree With Snow
We don't have snow yet, but my Thursday class wants to be prepared.  This is a small demo on Arches  cold press paper.  I think it would be more effective if the pattern of lights and darks had been broken up a little, but I'm happy with the combination of hard and soft edges and the shadows.

I haven't done any snow paintings in a couple of years.  Maybe I'll do some this winter.  There will be plenty of time  -  we have months of snow here.  I think it enhances our lives to really pay attention to our surroundings, record in a sketchbook what's happening,  mix some colors we see around us, and watch things change with the light of day or the seasons.  Maybe it's a form of gratitude.  


November 7th

Working from Photos in Class
I keep telling my class (nagging them) that they should work from their own photographs. not those of someone else.  You need to know WHY you are doing the painting, and if it is someone else's picture, you just don't have a good enough reason.  You didn't feel the subject, smell it, investigate it.

So here I am, working from a photo that isn't mine.  And really, as much as I liked it, I just couldn't connect.  I had worked on some thumbnail sketches, and in the middle of the night (right after having a dream about discussing Anais Nin with someone  -  where did THAT come from?) I had the bright idea that a vertical format would work better than horizontal.

What I had really wanted to demonstrate in class was how I would do the white flowers on the left side of the photo.  And a little bit of the stone texture of the walls.  The flower demo didn't photograph well, and I didn't get the vertical thumbnail started yet, and the stone texture demo is not worth showing.

By the way,  I really know nothing about Anais Nin, so please don't hold me responsible if she offends you.

Let's all go do some thumbnail sketches now.


November 6th

Veggie Pizza Ingredients
I roasted the veggies and reduced the balsamic vinegar  -  with a little orange zest in it.  I used naan flatbread for the crust, put the veggies on it, sprinkled with a little mozzarella, and baked it until the cheese was melty.  When I took it out of the oven, I drizzled the balsamic on it.  Oh, and I put a little pineapple on it too  -  because we always put pineapple on our pizza.  With the sweet potato, pineapple, and balsamic, it was fairly sweet and very tasty.

The naan flatbread we use is Stonefire.  The price keeps going up, and they keep moving it all over the store, but I found a larger package of it at a much more reasonable price at a food services store.

I need to get some things ready for tomorrow's class.  I want to do some demonstrations with textures, light and shadow, and as always, composition.

I hope every registered voter in the USA will exercise their right to vote today!  I am really glad NOT to be getting political calls  -  wow  -  that got tiresome.

How about sketching some dinner ingredients tonight?


November 5th

Okay, so here we have a photograph of wild turkeys circling our yard. 

I know, day five, and this is the best I can do already. I had intended to sketch the ingredients for last night's pizza and tell how I made it, but I didn't get far enough to post it.  Maybe tomorrow.  This seems to be a busy week with lots of little things that need attention  -  they do add up, and the days don't seem long enough.  I think it's time to curl up on the couch and watch a silly movie.  Or take a little nap before bed.

Don't these turkeys know they should be hiding?


November 4th

Some Autumn Demonstrations
I'm usually not too crazy about painting fall colors, but the small painting at the top was really fun to do.   Someone in class had asked about painting fall leaves without getting muddy or spotty looking.  I painted clear water around the white structure, and then started dropping in the color.

The leaves are all gone now, and everything is very brown and bare.  That gives us a great view across the Bay, so I'm not complaining.

Because I have nothing else to say, I'm going to talk about food now.  A couple of days ago for lunch I had a roasted veggie pizza, at a downtown restaurant, with a balsamic reduction sauce.  Fabulous. I make roasted veggie pizzas all the time but have never done one with balsamic vinegar.  Come to think of it, there was no tomato/pizza sauce on it.  I have to give this a try.  I'll let you know how it goes, and maybe even do a quick sketch.

How was your weekend.  What's ahead in the next week for you?  Some sketching?


November 3rd

Ice Cream Sundaes
French Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, bananas, mango, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  This reminds me of the ice cream sundae "dinner" we had when the California kids were here.  These were more dessert sized  -  and no caramel  -  I missed the caramel, but they were delish anyway!

We watched Jumanji.  How had I never seen Jumanji?  We all started to fall asleep, so we finished watching it during breakfast.  Things are moving slowly here today.  Fun.

This morning I said, "I can't find my sketchbook!", and one of the kids said, "Oh, it's up behind my bed."  I probably would never have thought to look there.

I am only into day three of blogging every day in November, and already you have to read about what I'm eating and watching on Netflix.  Will it get any better?  Maybe not.


November 2nd

Tiny White Pumpkins
These were a demonstration in class one day.  

I spent the day being much less productive than I had planned, but it seems as if every day is like that.  I messed around updating my bio, and felt I ended up back at square one.  I had intended to start some thumb nail sketches for a painting I want to do for class next week  -  that didn't happen.  I've been trying to feel good about the things that I do get done, instead of feeling frustrated about the things that don't get done.  I think we all have a warped sense of time when it comes to our to-do lists.   So I am feelin' pretty darn good about taking a shower and going to the grocery store.

How about you?  How did your day go?


November 1st

 Scented Geranium Cuttings
Karen brought these scented geranium cuttings to share with our class.  I took a lemon scented one because I love the fragrance, and because it is curly.

I think I started doing the "Blog Every Day in November" challenge in 2007. Here we go again.  Fair warning -  as I claim every year, it's all about the quantity, not the quality.

If you are interested in what the Blog Every Day thing is all about, there is a link at the top of my sidebar.  The website explains what it is, and has a blogroll of the participants.

I have been a pretty slow blogger this year.  We'll see if this gets me back up to speed.


Salad Prep

Prismacolor Pencil on Mi Teintes Paper
with a little collage
I don't really care for the way the pencil looks on the mi teintes paper, but now I know, and that's what sketchbooks are for  -  experimenting.  The paper is rougher on one side, so as it is bound in my book, the left page in this illustration is rougher that the right page. 

On the right hand page, I had drawn the blue cheese box and hated the way the pencil looked on the paper, so I glued a piece of paper over it and collaged the end of the box onto the page.  Sometimes students will ask me if that's ethical  -  to rip out, cover up, paint over  -  I always say it's your sketchbook  -  do whatever you want.  I don't get into perfectionism in my sketchbooks, but I also don't see any reason to look for the rest of your life at a page you hate.

The page makes me happy  -  I was making a salad to take to dinner with friends, a fabulous French version of La Mer was playing on Pandora Radio, and a pair of cardinals was perched near the window.
There is nothing beautiful about the page, except the nice reminder of a very pleasant period of time.

Here we are almost into November. It seems as if we just wrapped up summer, and now I am busy locking in things for next summer  -  workshops and classes.  It makes me think about the past summer and look forward to next summer.  Nice.

If anyone is interested in the salad, it consisted of red Boston lettuce, Bartlett and bosc  pears, red onion, almonds, dried cranberries, and blue cheese.


Tiny Pumpkins at Dawn

A Page in my Sketchbook
These tiny pumpkins were sitting on the window sill in my studio and the early morning sky was very dark blue behind them.  A few days later, I painted the pears that were on the kitchen counter while I was getting dinner.  Yes, I did paint them while I was getting dinner  -  you know, when the mood strikes. Remember, some of the pigments are toxic, so try not to be too sloppy with them in the kitchen.  Remember what happened to Vincent Van Gogh.  No, not the ear thing, the ingesting of paint thing.  Too much lead white pigment in his kitchen.

We have had rain and more rain, but yesterday was beautiful  -  sunny and warm. This little painting is of some flowers still hanging on in a small metal urn in friend Karen's garden.  It is watercolor done on mi teintes paper.  I really didn't expect the watercolor to cover that well.  I like the effect.  I'm going to try Prismacolor pencils next on this paper.   I bound some of it into my sketchbook. Try out some different papers now and then  - it sparks creativity in simple ways.  Try some different paper, pencils, pens, brushes.
Remember,  we aren't after a finished product or a masterpiece each and every time we pick up our art supplies, but somewhere in all that playing and experimenting, we'll get one.


Small Shape Demo

 These Little Paintings are Each About 2.5" X 4"
This week in class I handed out very small black and white images of simple building shapes  -  houses, sheds, and barns. The assignment was to choose one of the shapes and put it in a very simple setting.  First we did a very light shape in a very dark setting, and then a very dark shape in a light setting.  The challenge is to have enough contrast without the shape looking pasted on.

The third part of the exercise was to do the whole painting in a middle value, and then do some very simple contrasts to bring out the focal point.  We didn't really have enough time to do it justice, but we'll work on that next week when we get into composing some "serious" paintings.

The idea of these very small paintings was to do them in a "brainstorming" mindset  -  not worrying about what was right or wrong, but just doing it, and seeing what worked and what didn't.  If we work out our compositions in a very small format, and they take up very little time or space, it is easy to move on.

As so often happens to me in the fall, I have a million things on my mind that I want to spend some time on  -  painting, writing, blogging, journaling, cooking  .  .  . and the list goes on.  Do I give one thing at a time my undivided attention, or do I do a little of everything?

We've had some cold rain, sleet, and day-time temperatures in the 40s.  It's time to settle in for the winter (!) and start on some of those things on my list.  What's on your list?


Painting with a Triad

Demonstrations from Today's Class
A triad is a variation of the three primaries  -  red, blue, and yellow.  For this demo I used quinacridone red, ultramarine blue, and hansa yellow.  We were just trying out different ways of getting the paint on the paper.

The little peppers are sooo cute  -  very small (about an inch and a half) and very bright.  They say they are sweet, but I haven't tasted them yet.  So  -  if these very small peppers are sweet, what happens with the rule "the smaller the pepper, the hotter pepper"?  I know very little about peppers, and I liked that rule.  It seemed simple enough, but now  .   .   .

Are you sketching today?


From the Workshop

Looking Back on Late Summer Classes and Workshops
 On our second day of the book binding workshop we painted in the journals, and the page on the right shows some examples of pens and pencils we were trying out.

I was going to do a demonstration page of a few pens and pencils, but then a friend brought me several pencils from the Derwent factory in Britain.  Now I want to try them all.  I don't know how anyone thought up that many pencils  -  colorsoft, charcoal, sketching, graphic, drawing .  .   .

Tomorrow my fall classes begin.  I haven't done any classes since the 11th of September, and I'll be glad to get back at it.  I have some beautiful, tiny sweet peppers for the classes to paint.  I made a trip out to the farm market today, and realized soon it will have just pumpkins and squash, and then just Christmas trees.

The leaves are really changing color here.  We have definitely switched to a new season.  


Gazebo at the Boyne City Park

A Watercolor Sketch Done During 
a Book  Binding Journaling Workshop
Our book binding/journal painting workshops have finished up, and now I guess I am back into my "off-season" mode  -  mid-September until early June.  I have scheduled my regular weekly watercolor classes to begin the first week in October.  This morning it's dark and getting cooler by the minute.

 I still have art supplies covering every surface in my studio/classroom.  In my "little studio" (a small room between our back entry and my classroom) is so full of stuff that I can't get to the drawers and shelves to put it away.  I think it is time to pull everything out and start over.

The sketch, above, was a continuous line demonstration, and about painting the negative shapes to give us the positive object. This only took a few minutes. It was a beautiful day to paint in the park.

Now I think I will see how quickly I can clean off these tables.  How hard can it be?


What About Sketchbooks?

A Watercolor Sketch Near the Walloon Boat Ramp
In the previous post I talked about watercolor paper  -  answering some questions that had come up in class.  In the same class, we also talked about different kinds of sketchbooks suitable for watercolor.  Just as the quality of watercolor paper depends on the sizing, or finish, the same is true for sketchbooks.

For many years I used Aquaee sketchbooks as my watercolor journals.  The paper is pretty light weight, but I like the way it takes the color.  Pigments stay bright and it doesn't buckle too much with the application of a little water.  All of the paintings in my Petoskey Watercolor Journal were done in Aquabee sketchbooks.  What I really like about them, especially for beginners in watercolor journaling, is the fact that you can't play around too much with watercolor technique  -  you have to get in and get out.  The paper isn't tough enough to keep trying for perfection  -  put it on and call it quits.

I became interested in different kinds of journals because I wanted something pretty and bright (sorry Aquabee, but you are not pretty and bright) and wanted to try out some different paper.  That, of course, led to making my own.  I started out having various papers spiral bound at the copy shop.  Then I started binding my own hand stitched round back spine books.

My favorite paper for books is Strathmore Aquarius II  -  it folds and stitches easily, and doesn't buckle with the application of watercolor.  I also like to throw in some drawing paper, some colorful mi tientes (pastel paper), nideggen (light brown), and anything else I might want to try.  That's the fun of binding your own books  -  anything goes.  And I love being able to paint right across the two facing pages as if they were one  -  no spiral.

Does anyone really read a blog post that is this long? Does this sound like a sketchbook lecture?  Don't we want to just look at the pictures  -  or is that just me? The main thing is  -  find paper that you like for your style of painting and sketching.

Have a great weekend  -  it's a long one for us here in the USA.   Take your sketchbook wherever you go.


What About Paper?

A Little Sketch from the New Park in the Village of Walloon

Such a beautiful day to be out painting with friends!  Perfect.
Wednesday wrapped up my summer classes. Bitter sweet.  My friend and co-instructor, Cathy, and I have book binding workshops coming up, starting Monday morning.  After those I will start my regular weekly watercolor class.

In the last journal class I did, there were several questions about paper, sketchbooks, and brushes.  I am not an expert on any of these, but I do know what I like  -  does that ever really count?  Also, I love to give my opinion.

When I first started to do watercolor, I was lead to believe that it was unprofessional to use anything but 300 lb paper.  I wasn't crazy about it.  I really liked the way 140 lb paper took the paint.  I have always preferred Arches watercolor paper to any other.

I think the main difference between brands of paper is the "sizing" or the finish.  Sizing is what gives it the properties that make it suitable for watercolor  -  some brands more suitable than others.  To me, the sizing or finish of the paper is more important than the weight.  There are some pretty bad 140# watercolor papers out there.

Practicing on cheaper paper isn't practicing at all.  You will never get the hang of what watercolor can do if you're using an inferior paper.  I think "getting it right' is worth the price of a good piece of paper. I suggest going together with a friend or two and ordering 25 sheets of Arches 140# from Daniel Smith or Cheap Joe's.  A 25 sheet pack of Arches 140 cold press will run a little over $100 plus shipping.  Get on their emailing lists and get notifications of sales and reduced shipping.

Fabriano Artistico is a pretty popular paper too.  I haven't tried it, so I really can't say, but I do know some very serious artists that use it.

Watercolor paper comes in different textures;
     Cold press  -  has a nice texture that gives a little sparkle of white paper when you drag your color over it.
     Hot press  -  is smooth, but not slick.  It's pretty unforgiving  -  the color just does not move around on it.
     Rough  -  is just that  -  a rough texture. That's not a bad thing.

If you're not bored to death yet, I'll say a little something about watercolor blocks.  They come in various sizes from very small to pretty large, and they are edged with a glue/tape binding on all four sides.  This edging holds the paper flat so it doesn't buckle (it still does a little bit) while you are painting on it.  Each sheet is left on the block until the painting is finished, then removed, exposing the next clean sheet of paper.  With their heavy backing, they are convenient to take on location or to class.

Don't confuse blocks with watercolor tablets or spiral pads.   I really have never seen a tablet of good watercolor paper.  That, of course, doesn't meant there aren't any just because I've never seen one.

Maybe I pushed Arches paper a little too hard.  I don't have an interest in the company, or in Daniel Smith or Cheap Joe's.  I recommend Arches because that is what I have always used and I like the way it handles. I told you I like to give my opinion.  For what it's worth, huh?

Okay  -  this house is a mess.  A summer's worth of dumping art supplies here and there.  Oh, my gosh, it was fun!

Have a great weekend.  Take your sketchbook sketching.



A Perfect Summer Afternoon

A Watercolor Sketch in my Journal
on an Absolutely Perfect Summer Afternoon
The sun was spotlighting these flowers in front of a very dark background of foliage.  Too good to pass up.  It's a sketch  -  keep it simple.  I reminded myself I didn't have to do the tree to the edge of the paper, I didn't have to show any detail of the cottage, and I didn't have to show any more dark background  -  it was all about the flowers in the sun.  Everything else just supports that.

We were talking about sketchbooks in class this morning.  What happens in your sketchbook, stays in your sketchbook.  It is your own private space for experimenting, learning, note taking, making little masterpieces or NOT.

What do you use your sketchbook for?


In Karen's new Garden

In My Sketchbook
My friend Karen has a new backyard/garden area. After years of gardening in her small yard, she had the chance to buy part of the yard behind her house.  In no time at all, she has it looking like it has been hers forever  -  vegetables, flowers, a beautiful garden shed, a picket fence, a wonderful pergola with wisteria growing up it already.  It makes my yard, and my attempts at gardening, look pretty sick, but instead of worrying about it, I am enjoying her garden now and then.  I suppose that time could be spent spiffing up my garden ,but  .  .  .  .

The California grandkids have gone home.  Sad.  One of them stayed for almost six weeks, and the other for almost her entire summer  -  they go back to school in about ten days.  They have come every year for awhile now, but this is the longest they have stayed.  I miss them when I go to the grocery store.  When we go to bed and there is no one with a light still on, reading.  I miss them when I water the garden, get ready to go to classes, or eat dinner on the porch.  It was absolutely wonderful having them here, and I am SO glad it happened. Being SO glad makes it less sad.

Okay.  Now I'm going to go out and deadhead in my garden, and see if I can make it as nice as Karen's. Yeah, right.  I'll cut a couple of nice bouquets of flowers, and see how my new method works to keep Rudy the cat from eating them.  I bought a couple of mesh wastebaskets at the dollar store, and I'll try inverting them over the vases of flowers, so I am not running the flowers in and out  -  wherever Rudy ISN'T. 

What are you sketching today?


Beverly's Gate

A Journal Class Demonstration in my Sketchbook
This was done in one of my favorite gardens.  Whatever the season, what ever is growing on it at any given time, I love this gate!

I don't have any classes today, and I am home, catching up on paper work.  My studio/classroom opens on three sides to the breeze and summer air, so it is very pleasant in here.  Filing and going through notes after several busy weeks of classes is kind of like cleaning up after a party - taking my time, savoring the memories, recapping some of the workshops .  .  .  It's not over, but this seems to be a good place in time to catch up a little.

It is so quiet in the neighborhood today.  Why can't it be like this all night?  It comes alive after dark  -   dogs, people, cars, wild animals, music, firetrucks.  While our daughter was visiting a couple of weeks ago, she heard people walking in the street in the middle of the night, and the guy says, "Babe?"  The girl says, "Yeah?" The guy says, "I have to go to jail on Friday."  The girl freaked out, and they walked on out of earshot.  What the heck  -  this is not the inner city.  This is a quiet little neighborhood (maybe not) in a quiet little resort town, on the banks of a beautiful bright blue bay.

We are still wondering what that wild animal screeching was in the middle of the night.  And that bird flying over this morning at dawn that sounded like a cross between a Canada goose and a loon.  And I'm wondering how Babe is getting along while her boyfriend is in jail.