Come and Sketch At the Beach!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Playing Around With White Pens, Pencils, Markers, and Ink—Comparison

Experimenting with every "white-writing tool" I could find in the studio
I've had a white-lettering-on-black-paper project simmering on the back burner forever or so it seems. One of the things that has me dragging my feet is not knowing which tool (pen, pencil, marker or ink) to use. While cleaning up in the studio this weekend, I stumbled across the sheet of paper you see above (Arches text weight) as well as a couple of white pens I'd just purchased.

Deciding there was no time like the present, I sat down to play after I'd gathered as many white mark-making tools as I could find. In no particular order, I've posted close-ups of the results:
 I've been doing a lot of work with dip pens lately, so I gave a generic bottle of white ink I had a go on the left and right. Smears easily. Takes forever to get the right consistency and it took a long time to dry…hence the smearing. Could work well if you're the patient type. In the middle, I experimented with a Uni•POSCA® brush pen. Horrible control with no consistency to the ink…it's possible the ink is too old to be consistent as I've had the pen a while.
Using a Sakura® Gelly Roll pen worked very well. It takes patience to get a smooth line if you're attempting to create faux calligraphy. The Uni•Ball® Signo Angelic was the easiest pen I used and I like the results. The downside is it's a fine point and it would be really hard to do large lettering with this tip.
Since the Uni•Ball Signo Angelic worked so well, I thought the Uni•Ball Signo Broad would be even better. Wrong! You can see where the ink separated if you look at the graphic at the larger size. It also skipped like mad. Again, it's possible that the ink is old and with a new pen, it might work as well as the Angelic. (Hint: White gel pens get crotchety in their old age which is usually about 6 to 8 months.)
If I decide to go with a "chalkboard look," I will probably use a white charcoal pencil. This particular pencil seemed to have a hint of wax to it and the smearing was limited. Just below that is an example created by a Conté Pastel Pencil and it definitely, EASILY smeared! It would require a spray fixative to keep this from being a major pain in the backside and even then, it may still be smeary. However, it worked best for a chalk look.

Speaking of chalk, this Hampton Art® chalk marker gave a good result. It is not a truly opaque ink and allowed the paper to show through from below. I can think of several fun things to try with this effect.
Another great "chalk" example is a good, old china marker. Two caveats…it's hard to get good clean edges due to the challenge of sharpening the tip and second, if you make a mistake, it's there to stay due the large amount of wax in the lead. The Faber•Castell® Pitt Artist Pen was great for opacity coverage but the nib does not lend itself to any fancy writing. Also permanent. The Faber•Castell watercolor pencil would be wonderful for a chalky piece of work, especially shading. This has no water added to it. Not opaque, but still some fun possibilities there.
I think the most opaque and easiest pen to use was the Sharpie® Poster Pen. Once dry, you can easily fix any light areas. However, once it's dry, you're done because it's acrylic ink. The generic watercolor pencil was another good "chalky look." The Reminise® pen was easy to use and gave excellent results.
My final example is a Stablio® white watercolor crayon encased in wood. The dry result was awful so I added water. It didn't help much. For expressive marks these crayons make are fabulous, but they're not meant for this type of lettering.

Before you pick you tool, think about the final look of the project you're after to help you decide which tool to use. Test, test, test out your tools on your substrate before committing to the project—it can make a huge difference in the look and behavior of the pen or pencil you're using. I would have defaulted to the Uni•Ball Signo broad as it is my "go-to" white pen and I've have probably pulled my hair out before I was finished!

If your project is not going to be handled and touched, the charcoal and pastel pencils give excellent results and were great fun to play with if you're looking to create a chalkboard look.

Now that I've experimented and played, I'm more anxious than ever to get started and see what I can come up with on my project. I hope these results will get you to thinking about what you might do as well!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Event or Activity Journaling Results

Activity-Style Journaling
Journaled while out to lunch
Back on the 25th of September, I asked artists, art journalers, sketchbook keepers, and illustrated journal keepers to step forward and vote on whether they would classify themselves as an activity journal keeper or an event journal keeper.

An activity journal keeper is someone that keeps a journal as an activity much like someone would brush their teeth or eat a meal. It's just something they do without a prompt.

An event journal keeper is someone who journals about or because of a special event like travel, a birth, illness or growing an garden. Something external prompts them to journal.

The more I thought about this and the results of the poll, the more it seems to come down to whether the prompt is internally or externally driven. Some folks are compelled to create while others need a trigger to begin the process of creating.

The results were almost even for both categories:
18 votes for Activity journaling
17 votes for Event journaling

I have to say I am surprised! I thought there would be a leaning towards event-style journaling. Not a landslide, but I definitely expected it to have more votes. That's why it's good to ask and not assume.

Several folks commented that they fell into both categories as they had more than one journal going. I fall into both. I have a journal that goes with me everywhere and has a hodge-podge of subject matter in it such as the palm above.
Event-Style Journaling
A pinecone from my recent trip to Maine
I also create special journals for my travel and everything in them pertains to the trip—the anticipation and trip building, the actual trip itself, things I saw and experienced, and finally memories of the trip.

Regardless of where you are—just starting out or years into your journey—there is no right or wrong style. There is also the strong possibility that your style may change. It could easily move from event to activity and back again since a lot of our journaling often finds its origin in what's going on in our daily lives.

Thanks to all of you who voted and shared your thoughts with me about your particular style of journaling. This is part of a bigger project that is slowly taking form in the background. I'll share more as it takes on more life.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday's Demo At Keeton's

Sketch and painting fast. The journaling was
added after the demo.
What fun! We had a blast Saturday at the demo on Art Journaling at Keeton's Office and Art Supplies in Bradenton. Lots of wonderful folks showed up and asked all kinds of questions.

We discussed art journaling, materials, tools, making mistakes, getting started, and everything in-between. My favorite question from the audience was "You don't tear out many pages from your journal, do you?"

My response was, "No, no I don't. My sketchbooks are for me and it gives me the opportunity to see where I've been and where I'm going." If I removed pages, it would be much harder to see progress whenever I looked back through them.

My wonderful husband was there as my wingman, cameraman, technical advisor, and all-around supporter. I could not do what I do without him! (Thanks, Honey!)

One of the funny (as in "odd") things to me is always "seeing" myself at one of these events. As I went through the photos (which I hated them all), I could not help but laugh at some of my expressions.

Some of them made me look like I was imploring someone to like my page, others looked like I smell something awful, about to sneeze or was savoring a wonderful bit of chocolate.

I decided to share some of the funnier ones. Most are slightly fuzzy as I moved around quite a bit proving to be a difficult subject to capture. I also noticed I was flapping my hands around in almost every frame.

Well, it was a demo after all!

I hope if you're local or in town, you can join me for "An Imaginary Visit To The Beach" on October 11th from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Calling All Art Journalers, Sketchbook Keepers and Illustrated Journal Keepers!!

If you are a keeper of a journal or sketchbook that has some combination of words AND art, I have something on my mind and I'd like to know what your thoughts are on the subject…

Is Art Journaling an Activity or an Event for YOU?

For the purposes of our discussion, Activity is defined as something that is embedded in your life like brushing your teeth, wearing a favorite piece of clothing. Chances are good you carry a journal with you all the time and may whip it out most any time to capture something that intrigues you.

An Event is defined as something that finds you in a certain place and that might be the only place you journal or perhaps the event only takes place at a certain time such as you only journal at night or when alone. Do you only journal after returning from vacation? That would be Event-style journaling. Do you only take advantage of your journal when no one was home? Again, that's Event-style journaling. Or when something significant has happened—birthday, new car, new baby, new puppy or kitten, etc. That would be Event-style journaling. You may or may not carry your journal all the time, but it's seldom you actually take it out when you're out and about.

If you find yourself in both categories, which style of journaling best describes your style?

One last comment…there is NO right or wrong answer. I'm looking for ideas on what the most common work style might be. If you have thoughts you'd like to add, please leave a comment!


Is Art Journaling An Activity Or An Event?

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Gonna Be Live And In Person On Saturday!!

I'm going to be doing a live demo (gulp!) on Art Journaling this Saturday at Keeton's Office & Art Supply!! If you're in the or near the Bradenton area, I hope you'll come and join me. 

At Saturday's Demo, I'm going to be demonstrating getting started in Art Journaling with just a few tools, a good sketchbook as well as discussing some of the common pitfalls folks new to art journaling often get caught in.

I'm also delighted to be doing 4 classes as an Introduction to Art Journaling. These classes are suitable for beginners to advanced artists interested in getting started with a journal:

Introduction To Art Journaling: A Visit To the Beach on Saturday, October 11th, from 9 am - 12 noon. It's always fun to capture our "found" treasures on a page! More info here
Come and visit the beach with me!
Introduction To Art Journaling: A Visit To The Bakery on Friday, October 24th, from 9 am - 12 noon. This will be so much fun because we get to eat the treats after we're finished journaling! More info here
Yummy treats from the bakery—what fun!
Introduction To Art Journaling: A Visit To The Farmer's Market on Saturday, November 8th, from 9 am - 12 noon. With lots of color from peppers, fresh citrus and veggies, it's fun to play around and see what we can create on the page. More info here
There's always such gorgeous color at the market!
Introduction To Art Journaling: A Visit To Autumn's Garden on Friday, November 21st, from 9 am - 12 noon. By the time November rolls around, I'm ready for cooler temperatures and for the trees to start showing color! More info here.
I can hardly wait for the temperatures to cool off
and the leaves to change!
The classes are going to be small with lots of individual attention and time to ask (and answer) lots of questions. I do hope you'll come and join me for some journaling fun!

Click here for directions to Keeton's (just enter your address at the top of the page).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Packing Up The Art Supplies...

Getting ready for my trip to Acadia National Park and trying to decide what to take is so much fun!

I'm not sure what your approach is, but more often than not, we artists seem to adopt the "more is way better" attitude when it comes to packing up for a trip on which we hope to get some sketching done. In fact, we often try to take the whole studio, never considering how much that's gonna weigh!

After the tickets for my trip were booked, I started setting "maybe" art supplies in a pile at the corner of my desk. This past weekend, I pulled them out and sorted them to see what it was that I thought I wanted to pack and schlepp across two airports. Here's the pile:
Possible art stuff for the trip—the sad thing is that this isn't even all of it! Click to enlarge.
Taking a closer look from the top right:
1. Storage baggies and a piece of brown paper from a brown sack.
2. Masking fluid. Ummm, yeah. Moving on...
3. Assortment of pens, pencils, water brushes, charcoal pencils, watercolor pencils, bamboo pens, white markers and colored ink pens, both permanent and non-waterproof.
4. Wrist band for wiping my brush.
5. Two small plastic boxes containing clips, erasers, kneaded erasers, white and wax crayons and small splatter brushes.
6. Leatherman tool. (This will go in the checked luggage. I don't want to get thrown off the plane before I even get to board.)
7. Sketchbook and palette.
8. Assortment of travel brushes.
9. A fountain pen.
10. White post notes and a see-thru ruler.
11. Stamps, stamp pads, extra decorative paper, and whatnot.
12. (which is not marked in the image) Wet wipes at the top middle of the image. Those will go. They're great for having on hand after I pick up something "icky."
13. And right below the wet wipes is a box with several document clips on top. The clips will go. The box probably won't make the cut.

I have to point out that even with what I've culled from the list above that's still too much stuff to lug around. And believe me when I say that unless you're going on an art trip with likeminded artists or have copious amounts of free time to sketch and paint, it's highly unlikely that the majority of stuff you drag along will ever see daylight. Also, it gets damn heavy. What started out weighing 9 ounces will feel more like 9 pounds by the time you get home!

A Different Approach
Rather than approaching the art supply selection process from the "how much can I take" end, I find I do much better if I pull out what I MUST HAVE—something to draw on, something to draw with, something to add color with and color in some form.

In other words, the basics.

The better I do on choosing the basics, the more "extras" I can take to play with if I get the time.

Let's take another look:
Necessary basics—art stuff I won't leave home without. Click to enlarge.
Again from the center top:
1. Leatherman tool. You never know when you're going to have to operate on some piece of equipment that has suddenly decided to be contrary.
2. Baggies and brown paper. Always be prepared to bring home unexpected (but messy) treasures. Likewise with the brown paper. You just never know when you might need to sketch something on brown paper…or cover up a major oops.
3. Document clips. Yep. That wind is wicked to fight when you're trying to hold everything in your lap.
4. Wrist band. With this item, I don't have to struggle with paper towels fluttering in the wind, dropping on the ground or flopping over onto the wet page.
5. Post-It Notes® in white. I won't take all 1,184 notes. Instead, I'll break off about 50 and fold up the last not to cover the sticky strip. Why notes? When I skip a page I use the notes to write down my thoughts on what will go on that page, weather conditions, etc. Why white? Because I'm using water and have found that if the colored notes get wet they are inclined to leave a colorful imprint on my page. Not cool.
6. Sketchbook with extra pages.
7. See-thru ruler. I seldom use it, but when I need a ruler, I need a ruler.
8. Palette. Self explanatory.
9. Water brushes. These will be tested before I go to make sure I don't have any duds or leakers. I use four brushes (small, medium, large, and flat tips) because the handles are all interchangeable. If I run out of water on one handle, I simply change the handles to the preferred tip and keep going.
10. Fountain pen. I still have to make a decision as to which one (or three) fountain pens I'll be taking plus ink. I say three because one is my workhorse for drawing while the other two are great for lettering. Decisions, decisions!
11. White pens, mechanical pencils, stick eraser and (missing from the image) black waterproof pens. I generally take a couple of white pens (permanent and non-permanent), a loaded mechanical pencil, stick eraser (though this item is not strictly necessary), and the missing black pens. I take the extra black pens to make sure I have backup if I should have an ornery fountain pen or lose a pen. If I draw while I'm flying, it won't be with a fountain pen as they don't like pressure.

What's not showing besides the black pens: scraps of Zeta paper for practice, scraps of tracing paper for testing ideas if necessary, white gouache, wet wipes and possibly one stamp and one stamp pad. Maybe a couple of pieces of decorative paper.

Because I'll be staying in one location most of the time, I am trying to decide if I want to take my travel brushes. I can always use a glass for a water container. It will most likely depend on the weight once it's all in my bag.
All art supplies with the exception of sharp pointy things have to go in the bag.
If it doesn't fit, it's not going!
Leaving The Studio Behind
One of the biggest challenges we face when we take it on the road is making the decision to leave the studio at home. For me, getting out and about is learning to use the tools I have as best as I can. That means doing without or making an item do something I didn't intend for it to do.

Sometimes I'm successful. Sometimes not, but I always learn something.

How do you decide what to take on a trip?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's A Celebration Over At ImaginaryTrips.com!!

Oh My Goodness.

Five years? Really!?!

Yes, FIVE years has flown by and it's time for a celebration of EPIC proportions!

Okay, maybe not epic, but still fun!

I am going to be doing a very special Imaginary Visit to Acadia National Park that will have two bonus assignments (for a total of six visits), fun giveaways each week as well as special pricing for the class!

The class will start on Thursday, October 2nd and close on Thursday, November 20th. There will be lots of prizes* and some lucky folks will even get their class fees refunded.

It's my way of saying THANK YOU for all the good times we've had in the classes. The two sketches in the graphic above are from the very first classes I did at ImaginaryTrips.com!

You may be wondering what Acadia National Park and five years of classes has to do with each other…well, I seem to have several 5's converging in my life at this time.
Bass Harbor Light House
As I prepared to make my grand entrance into my fifth decade, I was asked how I wanted to mark the "event." I've decided I want less stuff in my life and more experiences, so I opted for a trip instead.

I'm heading for the park and you're invited to come along!

If all goes well, the students may even get to drive the curriculum, but we'll have to wait and see if that works out.

It's a celebration for sure, but it won't be complete without y'all there to make it complete, so please come and join the fun!!

Click HERE to come celebrate!

*You do have to be enrolled to be eligible to win. Each person enrolled is eligible to win once. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Learning New Things I Probably Knew Once Upon A Time...

Maine Things
Double Spread in my Maine Sketchbook
Zeta Paper - 4.5 x 15 inches
Ink and watercolor
You think you know something and then you find out you don't. 

It's a little disconcerting. 

As an example, I thought Portland was Maine's capital. 

It was in 1831. 

Then they moved it to Augusta in 1832. 

I can't even come close to just having the dates confused. 

And I thought a fiddlehead was some kind of soft-shelled ocean crustacean.

Who knew?!

I didn't know there were over 60 lighthouses or head lights in Maine, but I can't say I'm surprised given all the rugged coastline they have.

And did you know there are more moose (why aren't they called meese?) in the state of Maine than there are humans in Portland?

See all this fun stuff I'm learning?

This, for me, is about getting maximum mileage out of a trip. It's about building anticipation. And I will never remember these interesting little tidbits 3 days from now, let alone 3 months, so putting them in the journal makes sense to me.

I've created a collaged spread of the various elements along with some representative artwork. None of these sketches have more than 15 minutes because it was more about the information than the sketch, BUT…by adding the sketches, I've made it a far more entertaining and interesting page.

How do you build up anticipation for your trips? Do you do any kind of "specialty" page?

Please share your ideas!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Meet My New Dentist

Dr. Weber, I presume?
His name is Dr. Weber. 

He seems to have one very large and very bright eye. 

Every time that eye gets closer to me, I hear the words, "Open wide," in my left ear. 

I would be hard pressed to tell you exactly what his eye color might be as it's usually so bright I have to shut or overt my own eyes. 

He seems kinda tall and skinny with a dark complexion, but again, that's me trying to see past the glare. 

After a particular long visit yesterday, I came away with the impression that he was very intelligent. 

Maybe a bit otherworldly?

Still, I would have difficulty describing him to you.

So I drew you a picture instead!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sometimes, I Forget I'm Suppose To Be Sketching

Shoes For Acadia
Acadia Sketchbook from Zeta Paper
Watercolor and Ink
7.5 x 4.5"
It doesn't happen too often anymore, but every once in a while, when I'm working in the studio with the music rocking and enough uninterrupted time, I forget I'm sketching.

When that happens, I turn a sketch into a painting.

Like the page above.

And normally, I'd say there's nothing wrong with that…unless I let the page become "precious" as this one did.

When I realized I was adding details to the stitching detail on the pink skimmers, I realized I'd gone a little overboard.

Sigh.

And actually, the painting was fine. It was the lettering I added afterwards that was the problem.

It looked horrid. I mean truly awful.

Maybe it looked worse because the sketches paintings weren't messy like usual.

I started off using the wrong pen. I knew better and I did it anyway.

What's worse is that I didn't stop when I saw it wasn't working.

My punishment was spending two days trying to find a way to successfully cover up the areas I'd written on.

While you can't tell it on screen, you could definitely tell it if you were to hold the page in your hands.

Just disgusting, I tell you.

Using a combination of watercolor ground and white acrylic, I brought enough of the white back to make the page work.

Rather than run the risk of more issues with trying to ink over my patches, I created a tag and glued it down over the most offensive area.

I suppose I may learn one of these days, but it hasn't happened yet so I can't say as I'm holding out much hope.

Anyway, I've got my shoes lined up for splashing around on mud flats and exploring tidal pools.

I've even packed some of my new socks!

Now, I just have to sit and wait for a few more days to fall off the calendar...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes, It's The Little Things

Finished Journal Page
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Ink and watercolor
5.5 x 8.5 
Do you ever lose track of the small "events" of your days? I do. And I'm guessing that may help to explain my fascination with the journal pages that are actually calendar pages that folks have drawn and doodled on.

Wish that I could and would, I know that I'm not disciplined (or interested) enough to follow through with week after week of calendar doodles and journaling.

Instead, I tried a different approach that seems to be moderately successful for me. The journal page you see above actually looked more like the one below until yesterday when I added the touches of color to it.

I started off with just writing about small things I wanted to remember with a very simple doodle like the skink tail. This is either the fourth or fifth LARGE skink that the kittens have captured in the house. Even without the tail, their bodies have been four to five inches long!

The other day, they caught another one. While I wrangled this one outside, Moby and Willis were having a joyous time tossing the still-wiggling tail around the kitchen. Blah. Ick. Yuck.

Because this event has happened a number of times, I went with Skink Tales rather than Tails as a fun jest.

A few days later, the mighty huntress, also know as Moby, was playing with something in the office behind my chair. Upon closer inspection it looked like a wasp with yellow rings on the tail. Not a yellow jacket, but something similar.

The huntress was not amused at the removal of her latest toy—it buzzed.

I drew it in and then added the journaling and date box before going on with other things.

Lastly, I bought some socks this week—$36 worth for $2.11! Nine pair of socks for two bucks! Score!

When I showed them to Chris to tell him about my great deal, he responded, "You've got Dr. Seuss socks!"

No doubt, these socks will forevermore be known as my Dr. Seuss socks.
Just the Ink
Platinum Carbon Black
Using Pilot Namiki Falcon and
Metropolitan Fountain Pens

After I filled the page, I added a few more notes about other events that didn't make it onto the page.

I then added watercolor to the small sketches. It was not my intent to add a lot of color, just something to liven up the page.

It wasn't lively enough so I added some splatter for more liveliness forgetting that some of the ink (red) was not permanent. It didn't run too badly, but it's a note for next time.

There's nothing earth shattering or gorgeous on the page, and yet I find myself oddly pleased to have captured some of the simple moments that make up my days. I didn't feel "trapped" by having to fill every.single.box.on.a.calendar.page either.

By being flexible on the dates and when it was added, it made it more fun without any pressure.

I think I may just have to try this again!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Fun?!

Acadia National Park Sketchbook Cover
Stillman & Birn Zeta Paper
Watercolor and Ink
Going on a trip, for me, begins long before I ever get in the car or plane. It starts with the planning of the trip and once the tickets are purchased, I begin the long and lovely process of deciding which journal format I'm taking, the type of paper I'll be working on and what pigments to put in the palette (often, but not always, determined by the location).

"A-n-t-i-c-p-a-t-i-o-n is making me wait…"

As you might have guessed, I'm heading up towards Maine and the art you see above is the cover of my new sketchbook I'll be using.

I decided I wanted a long horizontal spread for the trip. Take a look over on Flickr at some of the panoramas and you'll know why I want this format! Here lately, my paper of choice has been Stillman & Birn's Zeta paper, but they don't make a horizontal themed sketchbook.

What they do make is loose sheets of paper, 22 x 30 inches!

And violá, I have the beginnings of my sketchbook. The folded page is 7.5 x 4.5 inches. A full spread will be 15 inches wide—plenty of room for some of those gorgeous views. You may be wondering about the size…let me explain:
Damaged paper
Unfortunately, when I received the paper from the art house, it was damaged. Since I'd already decided on the long format and to go against the grain with the pages, It was just a matter of adjusting the width to eliminate the damage at the bottom.

Over on Facebook, in the Artist's Journal Workshop group, Tina Koyama shared that she made signatures of paper, but them in a cover and then bound them together after they were complete rather than carry the entire sketchbook around at one time.

I decided to take that fabulous idea and run with it, but I needed a cover:
Leather Cover with an elastic loop close
If this puts you in mind of a Midori's Traveler's Journal then I did something right as that was my inspiration! I stumbled across those journals late in 2011. In mid-2012, I bought some leather, stamps and dye with the intentions of making my own. We already had a collection of tools for working with leather.

Ummm…I have no idea what happened to the intervening years so let's fast-forward to July 2014 and I finally got around to making my own journal. For those of you interested in making your own, there are a number of excellent YouTube videos on the subject.

The sketchbook allows me to carry two signatures of 4 pages each. I've already punched holes in the middle of the pages  and tied them together. This is only for the sake of carrying and so the pages don't move when I'm working across the spread.

When I finally complete my journaling from the trip, I will take all of my completed signatures and bind them with covers using the coptic binding method. (There are also a number of YouTube videos on this as well.) Using this method, I won't have a lot of unfinished pages and I won't have the bulk of the entire sketchbook to haul around.

One other plus will be that if by some odd chance I should lose the sketchbook (eek!) or drop it in the water (argh!), I won't lose all of my pages.

I'm only just getting started on this journal and I'm already having way too much fun and building my anticipation. Rather than have all the fun and then bombard you with all the pages at the end of the trip, I'm going to start sharing them now and along the way.

What do you do to prepare for your travels, anything special?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drawing In The Moment, Mistakes and All

Swallow Tailed Kite
Ink in Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
8.5 x 5.5 inches
Back in the spring while out and about on errands, I happen to glance up and see the most beautiful, acrobatic show put on by a couple of sea gulls. I had never noticed gulls being so graceful before! They would dive and hang out on the thermals before falling away and gliding around in slow, flowing twirls and twists.

They combined grace, ballet and acrobatics into a beautiful dance.

As I continued to watch, I noticed their tails were odd. Finally, I caught a glance of one from almost straight above me and I noticed the swallow shape of the tail feathers.

By the time I realized they weren't gulls at all, they were too far away for me to see any real detail and I didn't even bother to reach for my sketchbook. I did, however, make myself a promise that if I saw them again, I'd be ready!

Last week, I happened across another one! According to my brothers these kites have been around for a while—it was me who was missing!

Anyway, I grabbed my sketchbook and a black pen. My first attempt is at the bottom and just line work. You can see where I struggled to get the shape right of the wing. I didn't get it quite long enough with my first drawn line and tried again. Also, the area where the tail and body meet is not quite right.

Mind you, this guy wasn't just sitting still. S/he was doing cartwheels in the sky while I attempted my sketching.

My second attempt was better, though still not right. The tail shape still isn't working quite right and her/his neck is odd. (Many of my inaccurate lines are covered by the black wash of ink.)

My third attempt was a side view and s/he was gone before I could blink. I attempted to go on from memory and realized it was a lost cause.

My last attempt was the tail at the top of the page. Since I knew I wasn't getting that area right, I focused in on just that area.

Then…s/he was gone. Too far away for me to see much more than a speck.

Arriving home, I pulled out my Pentel Color Brush and painted in the wings and tail on two of the line drawings. I added the title only to realize this morning I had it wrong!

Sigh.

I used my white Sharpie Marker, but the ink bled and now I have a nice gray smudge.

Still, it was fun attempting to capture this gorgeous creature in my sketchbook. I knew before I started the page that chances were good great it wasn't going to be a "pretty" page, that it would be full of "mistakes" as I'd never drawn a kite before.

I decided it was more important to me to get the bird down on paper and I'd figure out the mistakes later. But you can bet the next time I see them I'm gonna try again!

You can learn more about swallow-tailed kites here.

Have you taken any chances with your sketchbook lately?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Chances

Imaginary Traveler
Stillman & Birn Zeta
Ink and Watercolor
When I first created this sketch just after the first of the year, I was very unhappy with the way it turned out as it looked nothing like I hoped it would. It is based on imagination and just didn't feel fight, it didn't have that sketchy feel to it. In fact, I stopped working on it. I had intended to put a large advertisement poster in the background to push the woman forward, but decided not to waste more time on the sketch.

So I turned the page and ignored it.

Fast forward to this week and I realized I hadn't posted anything on the blog last week and I didn't have anything to post this week. I've been sketching and painting but on things I can't share—yet.

Looking through my sketchbook, I came across this page and decided since I didn't like it anyway, I was going to play with it. (I know I have a scan or photo of the page without the changes somewhere, but after two searches, I can't seem to find it—sorry!)

I went to get one of my juiciest black pens and sat down with my sketchbook and started to scribble in more lines. At first, I was still being careful. As I began to see improvement, I relaxed and just went with what felt right.

Once I was finished, I set the book aside so I could study the updated page. I saw a few places that needed a bit of refinement and then decided to call it "good enough."
More and More Ink Scribbles
Is this my most favorite sketch I've ever done? No, but by being willing to make a mess of it I managed to get it to where I considered it good enough to post.

If you've been reading the blog for very long, you may have guessed that my sketchbook is where I play, try out ideas and such. I try very hard not to let any sketch become too precious and it still happens on occasion. When it does, I find that time is a great equalizer. Time tends to help me gain distance from the work whether I consider it a great piece or garbage.

By allowing time to neutralize my stronger feelings towards this piece, I could see it still had potential. By adding more line work, by not being so careful, it gave the sketch a subtle change. It now feels less contrived and flows better.

Neutralizing Fear So You Can Play
If you have some sketches you're not crazy about in your sketchbook, but don't quite have the courage to jump in and take the chance of messing up the page, I would suggest scanning it or photographing it and then printing it out and practicing on it. If you're not any happy with the changes you can just ball up the paper and throw it away.

Consider printing out more than one copy to try out different ideas.

Staying stuck, especially out of fear, stops our artistic growth. Taking chances, trying different things, will almost always move you forward even if you don't like the end result because even then, we're learning.

So pull out your sketchbook and look for a page that just doesn't quite make you happy or that you downright dislike. Consider what you can do to make it better, more likable. Will more pen work help, will adding a different color or a background or more values or perhaps using stamps change it up? Will small changes do the trick or do you need something more drastic like gesso or a piece of ephemera? Is there an area you can cover up with another piece of paper, like craft brown paper that would help?

Finding the courage to make those changes is the first step.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot and Muggy With A Chance Of Beach

WIP - Beach Visit
Watercolor in Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Ah, yes, summertime is upon us here with a vengeance. It's hot. It's humid. It's like walking through a furnace whenever you go outside. 

It's Florida in July. 

And June. And August. And September. And most of October. And sometimes, part of November. 

When you live in the state of perpetual summer, there's only one thing to do…head to the beach!

The page above was started here. I used torn tape to make the faux deckled edges and while, the page is not done, I am quite pleased with how it's turning out. 

The sketches are all from the John's Pass area where we'll be visiting in our Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday in January of 2015. 

The dolphins are frequently spotted playing in the channel underneath the bridge and there are always lots of birds around to keep us entertained. 

One of the things I found interesting was the changing color of the water.* Depending on where we were as well as the time of day and weather conditions, it changed appearance frequently even though the water is all of the same body. 
Torn tape to make the faux deckled edges
Creating Faux Deckled Edges*
To create the faux deckled edges, I took white Artist's Tape, similar to this (I have no affiliation with the product or Amazon) and tore it in half. I then built random shaped boxes with the strips of tape, being careful to burnish the edges.

A note on burnishing edges: do yourself a HUGE favor and test out the tape and your sketchbook paper before you put the tape all over a page and find yourself with a disaster! Depending on the type of paper you have and the amount of texture is does or doesn't have, you may need to adjust how hard you burnish the edges. 

Also, the tape may not stick well (leaving you with lots of little bleeds). It may stick too well and tear the paper (in the exact wrong place) or it may not want to come up at all and you'll be forever stuck with tape on the page! 

I also would suggest you NOT leave it on the page for a long period of time. I put the tape on my page at the end of April, painted one square and then got distracted.

When I went to remove the tape from around the dolphins frolicking in the channel, the paper tore next to the binding. Luckily, it did not cause any major issues. 

Be sure to wait until the page is bone dry before removing the tape or the wet paper could tear. 

And last, but not least, even if you've used the tape before, be sure to do a test strip as manufacturers often change their processes and make significant changes to adhesive. 

••••••••••••••••••

While we swelter in the heat, me thinks it's time to go take a dip in the ocean and watch the fireworks as the US celebrates Independence Day!
______________________________________________________
Happy Fourth of July!!
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**To learn more tips and techniques such as torn-tape edges and how to paint water, I hope you'll come and join me for Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday! Only 6 months and 15 days to go, but who's counting!?!

Please click here or on the banner at the top of the page for more information.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

Today, there aren't any sketches to share or tutorials on art.

Instead, I'd like to make a special request. Something personal.

I've very recently received some devastating news from a friend who had been missing from the landscape of my life. While I had noted the absence, I did not reach out to them. Even when this lovely person had crossed my mind several times, I wasn't tuned into my intuition that said, "pay attention."

When I saw a post on FaceBook, I mistakenly thought all was well.

Intuition is easily and often overlooked.

We're all going a hundred miles an hour with family and jobs and other activities.

For these reasons, I'm going to ask that you look around your life and note any absences from your life of friends or family, near or far.

And then I'm going to ask you to reach out to them.

Make a call, send them an email, a message on FB or stop by their house.

All may be well.

It might not.

But knowing that you cared and reach out may make the burdens of living a little easier to bear.

And you won't be left with a pocketful of wishes of what might have been.

I've closed the comments on this post because I want you to reach out to someone you've not heard from in a while rather than me.

Please, for me and for my friend, in the name of friendship…reach out to someone.


Friday, June 20, 2014

13 MORE Things I Wish I'd Have Known About Mistakes When I Started My Creative Journey

NOLA Street Performer,
An Imperfect Sketch
Mistakes.

They are a fact of life and yet, they continue to confound us all. Especially those of us who put ourselves out into the world in a visual way. Words, dance, singing, sculpture, poetry, painting, sketching, sports...you name it, and there is an element of fear that creeps in because we just might make a mistake.

It has taken me long years to learn to view mistakes as opportunities to learn. To NOT invest a lot of anger or aggravation in them. (And yeah, occasionally I still do.) Mistakes only become a big, honking deal when I turn them into a big, honking deal. Even more important, if I get so focused on the fact that I made a mistake rather than what I can learn from the mistake, I've compounded my mistake! Big time.

Mistakes are necessary, fundamental, and a requirement for learning. Resistance is futile. They're gonna happen.

Below are some thoughts I've collected over the years in my creative journey I kinda wish I'd known going in. Might have saved me some trouble. It certainly would have saved me some aggravation.

1. Mistakes, nor failure, are fatal. Okay, maybe if your a bomb defuser or a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon, but for the rest of us? Mistakes are annoying, aggravating, irritating, possibly demoralizing, certainly demotivating but not fatal. So go ahead, make some.

2. To become a better artist faster, lose your fear of making mistakes. How do you lose the fear? By doing. Not by thinking, reading, wishing, worrying, studying, analyzing or looking at other people's art on the internet. By doing. If you create more art, you will make more mistakes. Because you are making more mistakes, you'll learn more, faster, about what works, what doesn't, what you like and what you don't.

3. Mistakes are part of the process. It's just like when you learned to walk. You didn't climb out of the womb and onto the couch. You had to learn to roll over, sit up, scootch forward or backward, get your knees under you, how to crawl, how to pull up, stand up and stay balanced, how to move your foot forward, then the other one, how to turn loose and…how to fall down. Repeatedly. And get back up. Just. Like. Doing. Something. Creative.

4. No matter how good you get, you will make mistakes. It is inevitable. You're human. Just accept it and move on. Oh, and chances are good, it will be a rookie mistake that you know better than to do. Just saying.

5. How you respond to the mistake you've made is one of the most important choices you will make with regard to your art. Rather than dread the making of mistakes, treat it as a learning opportunity, as no big deal, as a part of the process. If you can't fix it, turn the page and holler out, "Next!" and begin again… OR…waste a lot of time moaning and groaning and grieving for that great piece of art you were creating. Staying upset and refraining from making art is fear dressed up in grown ups' clothing to make you think you're being wise to not waste time, materials or energy if you can't do it right. Bull hockey!

6. It's not a mistake or failure nor a waste of materials or time if you learned from it. Let me repeat that…if you've learned anything from putting a mark on the page, then you've gained something even if you deem the end result a mistake or failure. But don't call it a waste if you got anything out of it that will make you stronger or better the next time you put down a mark.

7. Before you decide a sketch or page in your journal is a complete failure, give it time. Often, when we are in the throes of creating and something doesn't turn out like the perfect picture in our mind's eye, we judge our results as lacking, as wrong, as a mistake. Turn the page and go on with another sketch. After a few days or weeks have passed, take another look at it. Many times, when that perfect image in our mind has faded, the work in front of us is often better than we thought.
Puffin Doodle
I have no idea what happened with his legs!
8. Being afraid of making a mistake won't stop it from happening. How many of us have not put in a darker value or a background or added words to the page because we feared messing it up? I dare so most us. What's the price? A piece we know could be better if we were just brave enough to take that next step. If we do that enough times, we erode our self-confidence.

9. Sometimes we have to learn what NOT to do by doing it. Yeah, it sucks, but the bottom line is there is no teacher like experience. It's kinda like getting your fingers burnt after being told not to touch something hot. You don't forget it. Some lessons are like that and it's necessary to learn the hard way, but you learn. Don't let the fear of learning the hard way stop you. Keep creating.

10. Do not feed the fear [of making mistakes]. If you find yourself obsessing over making a mistake or messing up on a piece of art you really, really like, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen. You totally destroy the piece and get your artistic license revoked. Then ask yourself what's the best that can happen. You create a gorgeous piece of art and go on to win the most prestigious prize in the country and world acclaim. Now, decide where you want to put your energy and efforts. You've got at least a 50/50 chance of being right!

11. So you've totally bungled the page, now what? Go play. Seriously, all expectations are gone. You're ready to tear the page out of your book. This is the best possible opportunity to play and experiment with some new idea or technique. To do something fun or outrageous or different. What do you care if it works out at this point? You were going to tear the page out the book anyway!

12. Is it a mistake or is it an imperfection? How many times have you bought a garment that had a tag saying something about how the imperfections were part of the nature of the fabric? What about a piece of pottery that was prized for the imperfections? It's not just semantics. It's how you think of the matter that is important. Learn the difference.

13. Did you fail? Fail better the next time. Much as when you learned to walk, each time you got up and tried again, you did a little better. So it goes with art. Embrace the opportunity to learn and make a new, different mistake the next time so you can learn from that one, and the next, and so on.

Fear is often the end result of having made mistakes or failing. This type of fear can paralyze your efforts to be creative, stunt your growth, or at the very least, slow it down. This kind of fear often sounds rational, reasonable and very adult-like when it whispers in the back of your mind that you don't want to put pen or pencil to the page because you're just wasting time and materials. You might mess up. Again.

If you'd listened to that voice as a baby, you'd still be lying on your back waiting for someone to come along and roll you over!

Turn the fear into fuel and let it fire your efforts. In other words, do it anyway. Because really, we talking about a little bit of paper, some paint, a touch of ink or lead and some time you'd probably have wasted trolling the internet looking at someone else's art or reading about making mistakes.

After all, if you try and fail, you have gained an opportunity to learn.

If you fear and do not try, you've gained nothing but fear itself.

P.S. This post is a continuation from this one!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letting the Page Evolve

View From Hamburger Mary's
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Ink and Watercolor
Stillman & Birn Zeta
Just as a planned day sometimes takes an unexpected detour that turns out to be far more enjoyable than what was originally planned, so goes a journal page.

When it comes to the page, I usually have a vague plan in mind of what I'm trying to capture/create. The day, not so much.

We had a loose plan to have lunch at Carmine's, an old establishment that's been in Ybor City forever and to go to the movies.

Tin ceilings and concrete floors are just part of the "ambience" of Carmine's, but they do not make for good acoustics. Since it was Father's Day weekend, there were several groups in the restaurant, each talking over the other in an effort to be heard. Add to that a two-year-old who desperately needed a nap and it was bedlam.

We couldn't hear ourselves think, let alone speak, so we left before they came to take our drink order. We knew finding another place to eat wouldn't be a problem. There are plenty of great restaurants in Ybor City. If you go hungry, it's your own fault. 

We wandered down the street to Hamburger Mary's and it was blessedly quiet. A bonus of this new venue was our waiter—he was quite a treat! It was obvious he liked people, cutting up and having fun. Of course, at Mary's, I think that may be part of the job requirement.

Back to the sketch…looking around, I spotted the window above across the way. It was partially blocked by an overhang, but I could see enough of it and decided to go for it. At this point, I would sketch the window and add just a splash of color, but not color the whole thing. 

Nothing would do but for the waiter to sit down beside me in the booth to see where I was looking as he could not see the window from his perspective while standing up. Leaving the booth, he turned to ask, "Do you want some crayons?"

"Nope," I responded, "brought my own." 

The food was excellent and Mary's typically has great cakes and when I inquired about flavors, I was told there was no cake. NO cake?! How could this be?! 

The waiter offered me cookies, brownies, a bun with frosting and several other combinations. He even offered to step down to another restaurant to get me a piece of cake. Now, mind you, most of these were offered with a heavy dose of sarcasm and a large dollop of humor. 

When I informed him only Mary's cake and no other would do, he threw up his hands and walked away muttering (again, all in playful jest).

In the end, he surprised me with a Hershey's® chocolate bar when he delivered the check. What a cool (and sweet) thing to do!

Between goofing around with the waiter and sketching, we were nearly late to the movie. Eek! When we left Mary's, this was as far as I'd made it:
The beginning of the page.
The red oval highlights the mistake I made right off the bat.
Because I was too busy playing with the waiter and not spending enough time concentrating on my sketch, there are a number of "structural" issues with the sketch above and when I finally got past the overhang, I was quite surprised to see the top of the window looked nothing like my sketch.

In fact, it wasn't until later that I figured out what the problem was. Rather than letting it stand, I pulled out my white Sharpie poster marker and extended the white window sill over to the right. 

The day and sketch would have been woefully deficient had I not added the Hershey bar and Hamburger Mary's logo in honor of a man that was fabulous at his job. He really was too much fun, not to mention a real sweetie!

We hurried to the ticket counter and purchased tickets for How To Train Your Dragon 2. I walked into the theater waving my sketchbook up and down in order to get the page dry so I could put the book away before the start of the movie. (Great movie and highly recommended!)

After watching HTTYD2, we decided to see Edge of Tomorrow (an excellent movie) with Tom Cruise. We haven't watched two movies back-to-back (at the theater) in years, but it was fun and made for a very enjoyable day. Besides, it looked like it was getting ready to flood outside. 

Adding a ticket from each movie to the right side of the page serves as a reminder of what we did. All in all, a fabulous day and the sketch will make it easy to remember as I flip back through the book. 
Movie tickets added to the page and a close up of the white "fix."
You can see the "corrected" window sill in this image. 

Despite the imperfections, I find they don't detract from the memory in any way. If anything, for me, they add to the "patina" of the page as they speak to my divided attention.  

The journaling was added last as I recaptured my thoughts of the day, but I wanted it to appear as though the chocolate and sticker had been added last. 

Rather than get aggravated about the change to our day, we managed to embrace those unexpected moments and add them to the day and the page. It made for a far richer experience. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Artistic License, Colorful Black and (Erk!) Ink Blobs

Sigh.

Momma said there would be days like this.

What she didn't say was that I should have known better, but I'd do it anyway.

Let me start at the beginning...
Woodswallows
8.5 x 5.5 inches
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birns Zeta Sketchbook
I recently received an email from Carole M. of Snap Happy Birding Blog and she hinted she had an image she thought I'd like…

She was right! And I was thrilled when she gave my permission to use her photos as inspiration for my sketch. I chose to use them as inspiration and drew my own interpretation using several of Carole's photos so that my sketch is not a direct copy of any of her images.

Carole had the opportunity to snap some fun shots of these white-breasted woodswallows huddling together. You can learn more here as well as hear them.

As the day was overcast when Carole took the shot, the birds didn't have a lot of variation in the black/dark gray color of their feathers so I decided to use my artistic license and make them colorful.

If I didn't say anything, and you just glanced at the image above, you probably didn't notice the various colors in the feathers. Take a closer look below:
Notice the blues, reds, lavenders, and turquoise
Now, I could have used just black: 
Just a hint of color in the tail feathers
But where is the fun in just using black when I can pull out just about every color in the paint box and play!?!

Our eyes read VALUE first and COLOR second. The cool thing about that statement is that it means that as long as we're using the right value, we can use any color we want to and it will look right!

Isn't it wonderful to be an artist?!

By adding in all the color, the image becomes more lively and entertaining to the eyes. As the colors closely represent black/dark gray, it doesn't make the birds look like parrots rather than woodswallows.

Fixing Mistakes
I mentioned in a prior post that I've been playing around with an Wahl/Eversharp flexible nib seated in a Noodler's Flex Fountain Pen. 

I knew it was just a matter of time before I had trouble with it as it doesn't really sit well in the feed of the Noodler pen, but a girl's gotta try. 

I shouldn't have been surprised when I got a lovely blob of ink on the last letter of the word, woodswallows. 

And, I wasn't. I'd been expecting trouble. 

What I was surprised at is that I didn't stop there and change pens. Instead, I cleaned the pen and kept going…right into another blob as seen on the right:
More than a little annoyed with myself, I wondered how to fix the blob quickly. Rather than futz around with ink, gouache or gesso, I pulled out a scrap of watercolor paper and created a tag. Once I had it cut out, I quickly painted it with raw sienna to give it a little more personality and glued it down to the page. 

I then switched pens (yes, I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I get there eventually!) and wrote the photo credit info. 

Using Your Creative License
Take a look the next time you're painting black or another dark color and look for ways to add unexpected color into those areas and don't get discouraged by ink blobs. 

They happen to everyone.

And last, but not least, many thanks to Carole for her generosity and allowing me to use her images. I hope you'll check out her blog as she always has something new up!