Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Tulips Tutorial for Keeton's Class

Nothing says Spring to me quite the way tulips do and I have been loving all of the pretty flowers I see each time I step into the grocery store. They seem the perfect subject for a page in my sketchbook and I created a quick tutorial so you could join me!

The photo reference below is of some artificial tulips that I use to decorate with each spring:
Following general shapes, I drew individual flowers and leaves starting with the one closest to me and then adding the rest behind the last flower I drew until I had an odd number of blooms arranged on the page. If you follow the number order, you'll see where I started, what I drew first, second and so on:

I splashed paint using yellows, pinks, lavenders and coral for the blooms along with greens, yellows, blues, violets  and teal for the leaves. The stems have yellow and green:
Next, I used a piece of tracing paper to draw a simple outline around the outer-most edge of my tulips before carefully cut out around the shapes to create a mask:
Using a cardboard stencil, I then added the polka dots into the background. You'll note that the header, Happy Spring also shows up in this image—I forgot to take a photo!:
Using a cosmetic sponge, I dabbed paint from the palette to paint the dots. It is very important to use just enough water to get the paint to the sponge. The puddle of color should be mostly pigment. It will have a consistency of heavy cream. If you use too much water and the sponge gets too wet, the color will leak under the stencil and the edges will not be crisp and sharp:
You can either hold the tracing paper mask down or you can tape it down. Position the stencil and begin to dab color into the openings. It may take more than one application of paint to get to the level of color you want. Be careful not to let the sponge get over-saturated. If it becomes too wet, set it aside and grab another one.

Once everything is dry, go back and fix any edges that may not be to your liking and then add your header or text. Consider using a coordinating color like a darker green or pink rather than black.

Last go back and strengthen the outlines around the tulips to give them more energy:
Using broken lines as well as varying the line weight (thick vs. thin) gives the tulips a more dynamic feel than just the simple outline I started out with.

I hope you can join me at Keeton's down in Bradenton for the class on Saturday, April 25 and we'll paint tulips together!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Be Still! (Drawing People)

We went to my nephew's last home game of his high school career last Friday night and I decided to attempt sketching the players...
Black gel pen in No Name Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 5.5 inches
Here are my observations (and remember, these are from a non-sports person):
  • It is amazing how much the players shift around when you go to sketch them. The catcher shifts from side to side, foot to foot depending on the batter and where the ball may be going.
  • If you're sitting directly behind home plate, sketching the catcher is complicated by the fact that you have a ref standing directly behind him, hovering over him, and blocking the view. 
  • The players, the pitcher and catcher, are on high alert and the tension shows in their bodies. I don't think I quite captured it as it showed mostly in their shoulders. 
Batter for Our Team
Black gel pen in No Name Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 5.5 inches
After (almost) capturing the catcher, I decided to try my hand at a batter. The "guy" above is actually a sum of several players rather than just one guy. Because of the aforementioned ref/catcher combo being in the way, at times it was difficult to see the batter at all. More observations:
  • It is surprising how quickly time moves when a player comes up to bat and either makes it on base or strikes out. This is partly my fault for being slow at sketching the human form (more practice is needed!).
  • No two batters place their arms or feet in the same space. This means that their bodies are not in the same position either so you have to "wing it" and draw what you think is correct. This also applies to the same batter though it's not quite as noticeable.
  • Some guys where their shirts and pants tight. Some do not. This can easily mess you up if you're not paying attention to the details. 
  • Most batters bat right-handed, a few bat left-handed. If you want a decent chance at finishing your batter, choose a right-hander rather than a left-hander...they're up to bat a lot more frequently. 
Overall, it was a lot of fun to try to capture the action. I finally decided to put the sketchbook down and just enjoy the game as it's easy to miss a lot of the action. 

And it's good to know how many innings there are in a high school game as well. It's not nine like the big leagues but seven, unless there's a tie. I didn't get to finish my batter because we were ahead when the seventh inning rolled around! Oops.

A big shout-out for Mitch who will be attending the University of Florida in the fall! Good luck, dude!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Demons Of Doubt

Self Portrait of My Inner Critic
Ink and Wash
It happens to all of us.

We get excited about a new adventure and out of no where, or so it seems, comes this voice to tell us how we're not good enough or smart enough.

It questions who we think we are to think that we could ever undertake such a feat, let alone be successful at it!

Self doubt creeps in and after a while that voice starts to say reasonable things like, "Why don't you wait until you know more, go back to school and get a degree, have more experience, let someone who is smarter than you handle it."

And we listen and we give up our adventure.

And so we stay stuck.

Not to mention frustrated.

Our inner critic has struck again.

Self doubt has killed more creative endeavors than failure ever will.

While the inner critic is simply doing its job, it gets a little overzealous sometimes. It reminds us of all the failures, mistakes, and embarrassments we have ever made in our lives.

If you're like me and my IC, then yours has plenty of ammo too.

And that's fine because that's my IC's job—to keep me safe by whatever means necessary and it has learned over time that I am not easily dissuaded from a course of action.

And it's taken a long time for me to learn how to work in tandem with my IC rather than fight with it or to just ignore it.

Most of the time, I've learned to listen when my IC starts up with its claims of imminent doom or complete mortification because on occasion, its right. My actions are about to lead me off the cliffs of stupidity.

But most of the time, my IC is just being its usual neurotic self and I go ahead with my adventure.

And gosh, what do you know? Everything turns out fine!

Inner Critics aren't the enemy unless they hold us and our endeavors hostage. Their primary tool is fear.

Learn to recognize it for what it is. It's fear that masquerades as reason, as logic, as common sense and when wielded by the ever present critic it is a killer of dreams, hopes, creative efforts and happiness.

Don't be a victim. Find neutral ground and then move forward.

Even should we fail, failure is seldom fatal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

That's How We Learn

Making Mistakes
Are you willing to fail in your art attempts?

Are you willing to make bad art* in order to learn to make better art with the hope of eventually making good, or even brilliant art?

*Definition of bad art - art that is filled with so-called mistakes or inaccuracies.

Most of us are scared to death someone is going to confront us for being frauds, for masquerading as an "ARTIST" (said with a French accent) when we know good and well we're not. Scary, huh?

And yet, I've never had it happen. Even when I'm making art that is less than stellar, I've only ever received neutral or nice comments.

The fear is persist and often paralyzing. It holds us hostage and we don't get any better because we're afraid to make mistakes.

And there's the irony...because making mistakes is how we learn to do better, to do differently. 
Draw during the performance, color and text added later
7 x 5.5 inch spread in no name watercolor journal
Drawing People
Artists want to draw people in their sketches, but their fear stops them. When they finally do add people and the figures "don't look right," the artist freaks out and vows to never, ever add people to a sketch again.

The next time they try, they've built their fear of people into a bigger fear in their minds and when they fail to meet their goals again, the fear increases. Eventually, the fear of drawing people grows until drawing people seems nearly impossible.

Sound familiar? Stop and consider two things…

Maybe, instead of trying to put figures into a sketch, you should consider drawing JUST people in a junk journal for a while until you get the hang of them. Second, make up your mind that you'll make mistakes, draw crooked lines, wobbly noses and too-small heads and that it's okay—you're learning. Be excited for the opportunity!

Learning To Draw People
So back to drawing people…there are three things I highly recommend you do when you want to learn or improve your people-drawing skills:

            1. Draw people you don't know. Seriously.
            2. Be prepared to make lots and lots and lots of mistakes.
            3. Make it fun!

1. If you start out trying to draw people you know, you're adding waaaaay more pressure than you need. Would it be wonderful to draw your BFF from your last camping trip? Absolutely, but if your BFF turns out looking like Godzilla drawn by a 4th grader, your BFF may be notifying the creativity police to revoke your license!**

**Just in case you didn't know, creative licenses are non-revokable!

If you don't know the person, then it no longer matters if it looks EXACTLY like them especially if they never see it. Yay! That drops the pressure. As long as it looks like a human body, you've scored a win!

Do you think those guys from the orchestra will ever see that page? It's doubtful, but if they do, I'm sure they'll understand the concept of practice, practice and more practice.

2…and 3. It's hard to separate points 2 and 3 because here's the bottom line—if it's not fun and I'm making a lot of mistakes, I'm gonna stop. Why torture myself that way even for the sake of learning? I figure you're probably the same way.

We learn more, we learn better and we learn faster when the learning is fun.

When I'm working on improving my skills in an area where I'm in need of significant improvement, I do my best to find a way to make it fun. In the very top sketch, I went to see the Sarasota Pops Orchestra perform the music of Billy Joel with my sister-in-law. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the seventh row and there was enough light (most of the time) to see my sketchbook.

It was a bit wild—music flowing, people clapping and singing along, performers on stage dancing and moving around, lights flashing different colors—and it was kinda overwhelming, but I figured what the hey, this was a chance that would never come again.

At times, I had to stop drawing a musician until he came back to a similar pose I had originally begun on my page. Other times, I was singing along or clapping to the beat rather than drawing. I was having fun and I didn't know any of those people! And bonus, it was dark enough that no one but my SIL and the guy next to me knew what I was about.
Mall Lunch Crowd
Drawn in Traveler's Notebook by Midori

On the mall sketches, I went to the food court at the large mall near me and picked the restaurant with the longest, slowest line, Chipotle's Mexican Grill. I positioned myself where I had a good view but not close enough to be noticeable.

And this is where I'm going to add Suggestion Number 4: Set clear goals!

Are you looking to sketch body/posture? Capture motion? Capture a likeness? Create a portrait? How much detail do you need? Are you focusing on clothing or draping or shape or texture or facial features or hair or little kids or women or men or teenagers or or or…

Know what you're going to practice BEFORE YOU START! By breaking it down to specific goals, you're more likely to feel successful about your attempts. If you're working on the bodies and their posture or movement, do you have the time to also focus on the facial features?  If you want to work on facial features, why are you drawing their whole bodies?

Back at the mall, I wanted to capture a general likeness with a focus on body shape and posture. As I observed my victims subjects, I made up stories in my head about where they worked or why they were at the mall. Some had badges on a lanyard. Obviously, they were on break for lunch, but where did they work, what type of work?

I worked in pencil and then went back and worked in pen on a couple before I decided it wasn't really necessary.

I then decided narrow my focus to just working on body types and to leave off the heads/facial details all together as I was spending way too much time trying to capture the details of their faces.

I found posture was hard to capture accurately as some folks lean or cock their hips and it became a challenge to recreate it on the page.

Something to practice, to observe well and to observe quickly. I often fell prey to drawing what I "thought" was there rather than what was really there. Hence, the guy's feet at bottom left look like the belong on an elf.

Practicing Anytime, Anywhere
We get caught up thinking we have to go somewhere special to draw, we need special tools, or a certain amount of free time to pursue our art goals to which I say, "Hog wash!"

That's excusing-making and procrastination talking. Sketch the guy on television, sketch your favorite comedian. Look at people in a magazine or online. The point is to keep at the goal until you develop the skills you want and need.

If you find yourself standing in line, waiting in the doctor's office, for the CPA or for your kids to get out of school, look around and see if there's anyone you can practice on.

When combine conscious thought, intention and practice, we have an unbeatable combination for learning. So what are you waiting for?! Start sketching!

The Bottom Line
If you truly want to draw people then draw people. Draw nothing but people. Make people your focus for however long it takes to begin to get comfortable with drawing them. Learn to observe. Then learn to observe quickly. After the skills of how to draw people have solidified into a decent skill base, go back to adding them into a sketch that provides them with an environment.

Have fun, play, experiment and keep filling the page!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Wanna Dog!! (And A Mini-Review)

But I won't be getting one any time soon. It seems that d-o-g has become the equivalent of a four-letter word in our household. The situation has become an absolute killjoy.

So instead of To help mitigate soon of my annoyance and aggravation about the situation, I decided that I would get a dog and it would be ALL mine without outside influence—or interference.

So I got an Imaginary Dog and I'd love for you to meet her!

Her name is Lovey. It was originally LuLu, but the term lovey was used to describe her and it just fit. I'd also considered Yip, but it just didn't work for her.
Ink and watercolor
Canson 180º Artbook Sketchbook
Lovey is part Border Collie and who knows what else. She probably won't get very big and by way of some genetic malfunction, she is nearly blind. It's possible that she sees some shadows, but that's it. BTW, Lovey is a real dog, but she'll never by my dog. She was in a shelter a few hours away from us when I first discovered her. 

I decided to create a journal about having a dog, the ups and the downs, the good, the bad, the goofiness, the messes, the fun and the unconditional love that only a dog has to give. When asked why I wanted a dog, I guess that would be my answer. For the unconditional love that only a dog can give. People simply don't know how to love unconditionally. 

I considered what my steps would be if I were really going to adopt Lovey and I figured the first thing I'd do is go shopping, right?! 

I found a sweet, pale-pink collar, a bright-pink plush toy in the shape of a bone and a bright-pink leash to match the toy. Then I found a couple of beds with polka-dot material and the sweetest little pink bow on the front (wonder how long it will last before she has it chewed off?). 

Knowing I had a two hour drive to go get her and bring her home, I figured I'd be nervous. After all, I wanted her to not just like me but love me! I got there early. Lovey and I played and walked and loved and petted while the woman at the shelter explained what to do when we got home…

  • Introduce Lovey to her environment by walking her around on the leash and letting her sniff and smell. 
  • Show her where her food and water bowls are as well as her beds. 
  • Let her wander around, but keep the leash on so that you can keep a gentle hold on her to keep her from walking into anything. 
  • Take her outside and let her sniff and smell around the yard. "Show" her to her potty spot.
  • Introduce her to the feline nation of 3 cats! 

I took it as a good sign that Lovey whined when I walked away to go do the paperwork. Once it was all completed, I gathered up my dog and set off for home.

Who knew 2 hours was a lifetime when you have a scared puppy in the truck?! But we made it home, safe and in one piece!

Next up, I'll be journaling about Lovey and meeting the cats.

Like most artists, I like to try new things. I recently picked up this Canson 180º ArtBook Sketchbook to try out. If I coulda tried before I bought it, I never woulda bought it!

If you look through the images above, you'll see lots of bleed through. 

If you look at the pages above, you'll see lots of smeared ink. Didn't matter if it was permanent or not. Didn't matter what brand…the ink took a long time to dry!

See that little black band? That's part of what attracted me to the journal in the first place. It closes the book with a magnet at the end of the band. Pain in the patooty! It's constantly in the way. 

Oddly enough, it does handle watercolor okay. There's a small amount of cockling, but it's not bad. The paper works well with light colored pencil too. 

Should you fall prey and buy one, just don't use ink and you'll be fine. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Class Schedule AND A NEW Tutorial!!

New Class Schedule Is Posted
I wanted to give y'all a heads up that the new 2015 Class Schedule is up over at! We're going to new places, visiting some old place and there's something BRAND new as well. Come on over and check it out!

New Tutorial
I'm working on my next class project for Keeton's down in Bradenton, FL, where I do live classes and I decided to turn it into a tutorial. We'll be painting garden gloves on March 7th, so come and join the fun if you're close by!
Photo Reference
There is something about garden gloves, especially in Spring, that touch my creative spirit. Maybe because they're so…ordinary. Plain. Easily overlooked. 
Basic Line Drawing
I actually drew the gloves from life rather than using a photo and as you can see, my line drawing is very basic and slightly different from the photo reference. I've not added any detail except the knobby material with the dots that help me to get a better grip on things. I haven't indicated any shadows.

If you're new to drawing and journaling, you would be fine if you stopped here and started to add color.

 If you're adventurous…you might want to add a little more detail. I used broken line to indicate the stretchy texture of the cuffs of the gloves.

A note on lines…as humans, we like to see variety. Variety holds our interest longer and makes what we're looking at more intriguing. By using broken line, I allow the viewer to complete the lines with their own eyes.

I've also used the line to indicate the direction of the soft waviness of the fabric rather than just drawing straight lines.

By the way, notice the hole in the tip of the finger? I added that because I smeared the ink line at the top of the finger.

To "camouflage" the smear, I created the long string and the small hole.

This next step is optional. I've used Carbazole Violet and Ultramarine Blue to create an underpainting of the shadow shapes. While this step is not a requirement, but it's lots of fun!

The purples and blues will disappear as I paint the greens of the glove over it.

The reason for painting this layer is to begin to build in the shapes that give the gloves their soft shapes and to show dimension.

It also gives me a "shadow map," much like a road map, to know where I need to put my darker colors when I start to add local color.

If you opt to add this underpainting, make sure the layer is dry before add the next layer of paint!

Using Sap Green as the base, I added Azo Yellow to get the "spring green" and Ultramarine Blue to get a darker green for the shadows.

In some places I added the colors and let them mix on the paper and in other places, I added color that was mixed on the palette.

Notice the thumb areas that looked quite blue in the image above after the underpainting layer.

Once I added the darker paint, it made the thumb areas appear much lighter in value.

Values are relative to what is around them. In the image above the blues and purples were the darkest value. In the image to the left, the greens are the darker value which makes the blues and purples much lighter.

Again, this next layer is optional. I like to play in the dirt! Therefore, it only makes sense that my gloves would have dirt on them from a morning spent out in the garden, but I don't want dirty gloves in the house where I did the line drawing. Instead, I used my imagination to create the dirt on the gloves!

Using Carbazole Violet, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, I daubed the colors together to give the appearance of dirt clumped on the fingers of the glove.

Next, I painted in a light cast shadow. You can see over near the thumb where I had a couple of bleeds because the paint wasn't totally dry.

If you decided to follow the tutorial, be sure to add your cast shadow before moving to the next step!

Once the dirt layer on the gloves was DRY, I added splotches of dirt around the gloves to give the impression that the dirt fell off when the gloves were dropped on the flat surface.

Note: If you try to add a cast shadow AFTER you put down the fallen sprinkles of dirt, it's quite possible you'll have a mess on your hands because the dirt color will lift and mix with your shadow color—we want dirt not mud!!

I've also gone back and added more splotches to the fingers of the glove as well as down into the cuffs and crevices of the gloves as the dirt would not be just on the fingers.

Next, I had to decide what, if anything, I wanted to say on the page. Once I had the words figured out, I looked the page over to decide how I wanted to arrange them on the page. I added pencil lines to give my guidelines for the lettering.

Since my right brain does not know how to spell, I wrote my letters out in pencil before coming back and inking them.
Final Page
Watercolor and Ink
I echoed the pattern in the gloves in the large G to tie the two pieces together. After all the paint was totally dry, I went back into the gloves and strengthened some of the line work to give the gloves more dimension.

At the very end of the project, I noted that I had once again smeared the ink in the word "dirt." Rather than trying to get the ink up, I opted to add "sprinkles of dirt" around the word to help camouflage the smear.

It is always fun to take the plain and ordinary and elevate it to something extraordinary!

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and if you decide to paint garden gloves, please leave a link in the comments so that I can see. I also hope to see you on an "Imaginary Visit or Trip!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spontaneously Happy and Totally Unexpected

Tribute to a fun day
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Watercolor and ink
Valentine's Day has always been a minefield for dating couples or those who have just broken up or those who have just gotten together. Add that to the pressures of Madison Avenue to buy bigger, better, sparklier things and it becomes a hated holiday. And that pressure is also felt by those who are alone and would rather not be!

Chris and I don't ignore the holiday as we both feel it's nice to recognize each other, but nor do we get caught in the "Hallmark Trap" of trying to make it picture perfect with just the right card, gift and activities for the day.

As it turned out, this year's Day of Love came about as something a little more special than the usual with a surprise gift (for me, that I adore), a great movie (Kingman: The Secret Service), lunch with friends, discovery of a cool, new shop near the theater with some fun new finds for decorating our home!
Detail of journal page
They were giving out roses at the new store, so another surprise—two white roses. Not only have they opened, but Moby and her holy terror tactical team have left them alone! (UPDATE: I spoke to soon—we awoke this morning to find one of the roses visiting the floor.)

Lastly, we ended our outing at Ruby Tuesday's. We wanted to sit out on the patio because it was jam-packed inside and very, very noisy. After we were seated we heard others complaining about the 45-minute wait. Because we opted for the patio, which we had all to ourselves, we didn't wait at all!

That's when we remembered it was Valentine's Day. Oops. I assure you that had that little piece of info crossed either of our minds, we've gone home and rewarmed the leftover pizza.

Our waitress asked us how long we'd been together and of all the folks she'd served, we had been together the longest (22 years and counting).

I decided to put together a journal spread for the day and it became very busy, very quickly.

To help make the text flow…wait. Stop. Let me back up first.

The first thing I did was kind of a quick pencil layout where I wanted all the items. I then laid down a piece of the drywall patch* that I've seen used by others to help with the journaling.

I'm sad to say, it left a very nasty glue residue all over the page which would not be picked up by a kneaded eraser nor a plastic one. Grrrrrr!
Detail of the page
I decided to keep going, sans drywall patch, and just wing the journaling. To better help the text flow (which really had no flow), I decided to add the arrows in a different ink color.

I added the movie ticket, a logo from a bag from the new store and RT's logo to offset the art and journaling. It was a busy day and I kinda like that the page is busy as well.

After nearly completing the spread, I began to think of a few more things I wanted to capture and added them in yet another ink color.

A fabulous day all the way around!

I hope your Valentine's Day was a special treat as well.

*While the patch did not work out for me this time, I will try it again. If you want to give this a whirl, I STRONGLY suggest you adhere the patch to a piece of fabric (that you don't care about!) several times BEFORE you press it down to your page.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some Days…I Am A Blooming Idiot

I truly wish studios came equipped with little guardians (maybe a daemon?) that were capable of body slamming and hog-tying us when we started to do something really stupid, but alas, they don't and I did.

It all started out harmlessly enough. I've continued to work in my Winter Interrupted sketchbook from the workshop a few weeks ago and I managed to paint the first sunset painting I've ever liked:
Our Last Sunset
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook

And life was good.

Until I went into the kitchen and noticed a really cool texture on some new paper towels we had just bought that looked a lot like a beach towel-ish texture. Well, the brain synapse fired off—beach+sunset+beach towel=brilliant idea!

Yeah, except not so much.

I am FOREVER telling folks to experiment on another piece of paper first rather than commit to your artwork and risk being an unhappy camper. So I did and it kinda worked. I used a blue stamp pad on the paper towel and stamped it on tracing paper. It worked well enough that I decided to go for it.

It didn't work. My page was a much larger area and the towel was drying before I could get an imprint.

I should have just stopped. But oh, no. Nothing quite so brilliant crossed my mind.

(And I had no little guardian to say, "You are on the verge of a colossal mistake. Step away from the sketchbook and no one gets hurt.") 

Instead, I thought, "Hey, I have a stamp with a similar texture!"

Similar but not the same and apparently, the differences escaped my notice.

Our Last Sunset
Watercolor with stamping around image
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
And so I stamped it. Not bad, really, but NOTHING like I had in mind. The lines were too…straight and rigid. I wanted relaxed and flow-y. Meandering, maybe.

Annoyed with my results, I sulked for a while, trying to find a way to make the page work. Not too much later, a new thought struck!

In another moment of sheer brilliance, I decided to add gesso to the offending texture to "knock-back" the blue and hopefully obscure some of the lines.

Only, it didn't really work. (Grumble, grumble.)

So, this time, not in brilliance, but out of desperation, I decided to add some more color…blues, lavenders and grays.

(Do I at least get a point or two for persistence?)

And it sucked! I'm sure you are just as shocked as I was.

Thank goodness for gesso and baby wipes. I removed as much of the color as I could and in doing so managed to smear a bit of paint into the white border around the sketch. Oh, the horror!! I had to fix it!

(What do you mean, "Where's the photo?! I didn't want anyone to see that!)

In trying to fix the smeared paint, I touched the very dark paint and it BLED!

And then I had an even bigger mess.

("Arrrrgh, just shoot me now! Can you not see what you're doing, lass? Stop already before you've completely ruint the thing," pleads the imaginary guardian.)

But did I stop? No. I. Did. Not.

So in my final moment of staggering brilliance—you, in the back, stop with the eye-rolling and chuckles—I grabbed a couple of pieces of tape to use over the sketch so that the paint wouldn't run while I cleaned up the smear AND the bleeding.

And it didn't. The paint didn't run a bit.

But the paper tore and the paint lifted when I lifted the tape.

("For the love of Pete, woman, just...just stop!!" my little guardian would have been screaming at me.)

After repairing the smear, the bleed and the area where the paper tore and where the painted lifted, I was almost, but not quite, back to where I started.

In a quiet moment of admitted defeat, I decided to heed the advice of my make believe guardian and just journal on the page and call it finished before I did something I couldn't salvage.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the only true moment of brilliance I had through the whole, entire process.
The Final Sunset Page
(And if I had said guardian, at this point, his hair ripped out of his head, his voice hoarse from screaming, shoulders slumped, he would have tendered his resignation while muttering something about "bloody brilliant, my arse" as he trudged out the door.)

I think I'm in the market for a new imaginary guardian...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sometimes…Ya Gotta Go With What Works!!

Shoe Spoof from #WinterInterrupted
Stillman & Birn Zeta
Watercolor, Stamps, Ink
Is that color overload?! Yes? Good!! Mission accomplished.

While we were poking around in the shops of Pass-A-Grille Beach during Winter Interrupted, we happened upon a sign that said "Wild women wear outrageous shoes" that featured a pair of sky-high stilettos.

I seriously doubt my feet will ever see the inside of a pair of stilettos again, but the words still resonated with me because at the time, I was wearing those very shoes you see in the image. In fact, you can see them in the very first image in this post.

No one has to tell me they're ugly. I know it. No one has to tell me they're as comfortable as any shoes I've ever worn either. I usually wear them around the house or out in the yard. Just not in public. But here in Florida, well, let's just say you can wear just about anything at the beach and no one's going to so much as bat an eyelash.

But there's a reason—a very good reason I might add—why I opted to wear these outrageous shoes…back in the fall when we were in Maine, I slipped while climbing on a granite ledge below our cabin. It was slick with silt from the outgoing tide. I did quite the number on my knee and foot.

While they're mostly healed, my foot occasionally takes exception to overuse such as walking around at the beach. When that happens, my foot swells and any other type of shoe becomes a torture device.

So, these were the shoes I wore all week long. Attractive? No! But they allowed me to continue to function through the week. Being raised on a strawberry farm as a teenager, I got over "looking cool" many long years ago. It was far more important to be practical and dress to be warm or cool, be able to move without binding or chafing, and to be able to stand on your feet for long periods of time.

There was simply no room for dressing cool for school. Besides, unlike at the beach, there was no one to see me on the farm and those that did weren't part of the school scene.

But I have to say, these shoes have one other feature that makes them perfect beach wear…they float and they dry in a hurry. Perfect for splashing in the water!

As for the color fest above, Florida beaches are nothing if not gaudy with all the bright colors and that was what I had in mind when I indulged in the neon colors! I gotta say, I kinda like it…it certainly chases away the gray days of winter.

Do you wear outrageous shoes?!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Honey, I'm Home From The Beach!!

Feet and Books from Winter Interrupted
Wow, what can I say?! What fun we had at the beach!

Eight of us spent five glorious days sketching all up and down St. Pete Beach and into Clearwater at Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Sketching Holiday. We sketched everything from giraffes to old gardens to ocean critters to fish shacks!
We spent the day sketching, eating and shopping at John's Pass
It was fun hearing everyone report the weather conditions "back home" each morning as we gathered for the days outing. There was only one day it was warmer in another location pass the Mason Dixon line than it was where we were at the beach even though some of our day's started out kind of chilly!

Imaginary Trips Made Real is the natural extension of the online classes. We  put the skills we've learned online into action at fabulous live locations like the beach. But I gotta tell you, the location is secondary.
An afternoon spent in another beach town sketching, shopping, laughing and talking
It is the camaraderie that comes alive on these trips and weaves itself in and around a group of like-minded artists to creates magic: colors are more colorful; the air is a little brighter; the fun a little funner and makes the moment all the sweeter that is most important.

It is positive-uplifting-battery-charging magic that's even better than therapy! Imagine spending a week with people who understand when you come to a dead stop in your conversation as well as the street to take a photo of some adirondack chairs with parrots painted on the back or when you pull out your sketchbook at lunch instead of eating your meal. No explanations were necessary.
We saw adirondack chairs with parrots, flip-flops and ice-cream cones for the back boards!
We shared about ourselves, our lives, our families, and the challenges that we face in that other life we left at home. We laughed until our cheeks hurt and we talked late into the evening more often than not.
Three of the intrepid sketchers braving the chilly winds come in off the Gulf of Mexico
We ogled each others supplies and kits and made notes on where to get those special pens or fabulous palettes.
Yummy, messy, juicy color!
Art and Imaginary Trips Made Real is not just about the pages we fill or the places we visit or the things we learn. It is about the entire experience and maybe most important, about the connections we make to others and I can hardly wait to do it again!
Wave Demo Page
In fact, I'm already looking into the next adventure—I hope you can join us!!

Where would you like to go on a sketching holiday?

Monday, January 5, 2015

By The Seaside…In January!!

Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Watercolor and Ink
5.5 x 8.5 inches
We are 13 days out from Winter Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday being held at St. Pete Beach…don't you want to come and play!?!

There's still two spots left!

We'll be going to all kinds of fun locations to sketch including old Florida gardens, an marine aquarium and of course, the beach! When we're not out sketching, we'll be lounging in our big blue cabanas at the TradeWinds' Island Grand Resort.

I started my sketchbook page, seen at the left, way back in June and you can see the beginnings of the page here. I used torn tape to create the deckled edges and then created the starfish and title block on other papers to add interest to the page.

These are some of the fun things we'll be learning during the workshop. Interested?

Our temps are forecasted to be in the 70's tomorrow. Later in the week, we're forecast to go down into the 40's—for one day.

I know you gotta be sick of snow, freezing temperatures and gray skies by now, so come on down!

Go here for more information and if you have any questions, just let me know.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Will You Accomplish In 2015?

Ah, there's nothing like a brand new, pristine year to start us thinking about what's next, what we want to accomplish. 

Below is a simple graphic that I hope you'll print out and post somewhere you can see it on a regular basis once you fill in the blank. 
In case you're having some difficulty coming up with an idea, let me make some suggestions: 

Print out the list and cut out the sentiment that resonates most strongly with you then paste it to the first graphic. If your dream is not on there, write it out. 

I'd like to thank each of you who read the blog, leave comments, friend me on Facebook, send emails or contact me via Pinterest. You are the reason I do what I do and will continue to do. It wouldn't be much fun if I didn't have "imaginary friends" who liked to play with me!

I wish each of you the very best for 2015 and hope to celebrate all the great things we accomplish along the way. 

Stay safe and we'll see you next year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Wish For You...

This is still on the table, but it's just in time to wish you the very best of the season however you make celebrate.

It has been a fun year, made more so by each of you. While we may not have all met in person, you each are near and dear to me and I sometimes wonder where I'd be without you.

Lucky for me, I don't have to know the answer to that.

Wishing you and yours plenty of merry, sparkly and bright!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What To Do When The Creativity Won't Flow

Here's a post I've never thought to write before...

I've heard a number of people say they were "blocked" and even though they wanted to create, they just weren't able to.

You may have heard folks who write say they are block or you might have experienced being blocked yourself.

I haven't.

I've never been blocked. I've gone through periods where I didn't want to sketch, paint, draw or do anything else that required paper and paint, but I've never been blocked.

I think recognizing the lack of desire or resistance to creating in a journal is key.

Occasionally, I've allowed myself to get caught up in the "well, I should do this" or "I ought to do that," but to me that's not being blocked—that's guilt. And who better to guilt us than ourselves? For me, guilt almost NEVER works.

Perhaps my definition of being blocked is different from everyone else's.

Currently, I'm going through a period where I don't have the energy or a strong desire to sketch. Every time I pick up my journal, I feel resistant towards putting anything on the page. So, I lay it back down and walk away.

Part of my reluctance to sketch is that both of my parents have the flu and my mother actually wound up in the hospital for a few days. My father, brothers and I had to stay with her around the clock to make sure she didn't fall and she still managed to do that anyway. (She's banged and bruised but otherwise alright.)

Lots of folks sketch hospital equipment, interiors of rooms and their loved ones lying in a hospital bed in these circumstances…so far, I've not been able to bring myself to do that. That's simply not a memory I want in my sketchbook. (Hello, my name is Pollyanna.)

Rather than get upset about not wanting to sketch or not having the energy to sketch, I divert my creative energies, or what's left of them, into another form.

Instead of drawing, I cook or bak. I may do some sewing or rearrange my living room. All of these endeavors take some form of creativity, it's just that the process is not so obvious. Nor is the end result.

The other thing I know is that my need/desire/addiction to sketch, paint and create will flair again. Just like the sun will come up in the east. When it does, I'll pick up my journal like I never left off.

I believe having an unshakeable conviction that my creativity will never go away is the second important key to not being blocked.

I'm not sure, but I don't think it's possible to lose the creative streak in us…but I know a good many folks seem to think that way and I can't help but wonder if it's part of the reason for their block.

I'd also go so far as to say that it's perfectly okay to set down the journal and go off in pursuit of another creative activity. A steady diet of nothing but the same old thing gets pretty boring after a while.

Using a different approach or using a different medium can often be enough to kick the fire back up. Sometimes not.

I expect to be back to my regular journaling self in a few more days, a week at the most, but if I'm not, I'll continue to give myself permission to get over this slump.

And there's the third key—giving myself permission to feel what I feel and to move through it.

Of course, I have to be careful not to wallow too long or overindulge in the negative feelings that can accompany these bouts of not wanting to journal.

I hope these thoughts will help you navigate the minefield of guilt that often part of the busy holiday season. I also share these thoughts in the hopes that it may help someone else avoid the pain of feeling blocked when life gets a little too busy or downright overwhelming.

Be kind to yourself and be kind to others as we often have no idea what others are going through.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Flyin' By, Baby!

Much like today, our weather 22 years ago was mostly cloudy with a hint of rain with the sun playing hide and seek most of the day. Finally, on that day many long years ago, just before seven o'clock, a fine mist began to fall…and that's the day I married my best friend!

Sounds cheesy, right? You bet, but it just happens to also be the truth. He's still my best friend today!
A rare photo of a smile on his face!
You may know him as a mild-mannered, laid back guy named Chris, but don't be fooled! I thought it might be fun to show you some of his other "sides:"
He's got a great sense of adventure as long as it doesn't involve planes or long car rides…
He's almost always calm and is seldom surprised though he does occasionally pretend to be outraged…
Every once in a while he gets very reflective and when he comes back from his thoughts, he asks something profound like, "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to talk to animals?"
A good judge of character
He's not often fooled by people and the many facades they wear. When he focuses his attention on you, it's like you're the only one in the world. He may also have a touch of pirate blood in him...
He's seldom in a really bad mood, though occasionally he gets grumpy…but then who doesn't? He's also wildly amused by farts, burps and other body function noises…but then what guy isn't?
Hello, Mr. Serious
He can also be stern, intense, and he has a great "you're about to disappoint me" stare. But mostly, I know him by his smile and great sense of zany humor and love of animals:
The man and a canine bud from work
May the next 22 years be as fun and full as the first ones, I love you, Chris!! Thanks for being a good sport about me taking your pictures at lunch a few weeks ago. :)

(We'll be back to our normal programming next week.)