Friday, February 17, 2017

Part 2: Frustrated to Fabulous Green Pigments

Information does not become knowledge nor does it become powerful until we after we apply it and make it our own.” 

Think about it…how often have you heard a piece of information that seemed helpful, but had no relevance to your life because you had no use for it or didn't put it into use right away?

It is much the same with learning new information with art. Unless it is applied and we make the information our own, it will continue to be just that, information.

However, when we apply it and grasp what it means to us, even if we only get an inkling, then it gains in power and it truly becomes knowledge!

So it is with color charts.

You've created color charts and you've begun to "see"  that icky frustrating green pigment may not be quite so frustrating after all. It's still kinda icky by itself, but we now know there's hope for it.

Without applying what we learn from some of those super-cool mixes we came up with from the first part of this tutorial, well, it's kind of a waste of time. The color charts don't really help us to take a step away from frustrated and towards fabulous. Sure, we have a hint, but we don't have any application.

Welcome To Part 2: Applying Color Mixing To Simple Subjects
If you're like me, there were a few mixes that really caught my eye and appealed to my color sense. (Color sense or preference is as individual as our fingerprints!)

Look back over the color mixes you created and evaluate which ones sparked your interest. They don't have to be "traditional" leaf colors. If you like some of the zanier color combos, play with those as that indicates where your interest lies.

Begin With Simple Shapes
Draw out a few leaves on a piece of watercolor paper or in your sketchbook. The leaf shape can be quite simple, as the focus of this exercise is color mixing rather than rendering a perfect copy of the leaf. If you happen to live somewhere in the world where the only green leaves at the moment are on the artificial arrangement sitting on your table, it's quite acceptable to use leaves from the arrangement.
Draw a simple leaf shape.
Someone got the munchies
and this add interest to the shape.

I have also taken a photo of some leaves I picked up on my way out to the mailbox today. Click this link to download a high-res copy of the leaves I used. (I specifically chose leaves with interesting color combinations to help with the learning process.)

**If you are new to watercolor, don't worry about making the leaves look like specific leaves. Remember, this is about color mixing. If you become so focused on making the leaf look like an exact leaf, you often miss the other learning opportunities like, say, color mixing!**

Mixing on the paper
Once you're ready to paint, choose a two-color combination from your prior mixing exercises. If you have not created any color mixes, take a look at this post to learn more.

Try painting both colors on the paper and let them mix rather than mixing the two paints on the palette and then applying it to the paper. On a different leaf shape try mixing the colors together on the palette before applying the paint to the paper to see which you like best.
Adding the third and fourth color
to the combo

Once you're happy with the results of the first two-color leaf, choose a different combination and paint the leaf shapes again.
Note the legend at
the bottom of the art.

Remember to keep color notes (legend) at the bottom of the shapes so you can refer back to the color you used to create a specific result. See example on the right.

After you've exhausted the two-color combos, move on to three- or four-color combinations and repeat the process of mixing the paints on the paper as well as mixing them on the palette before applying the paint to the paper.
In these last few images, I have added the color mix I created in the first exercise in the corners of the art to show where I started. In the example on the right, I started with a mix of yellow and the palette green. To get the darker spots, I add a hint of brown at the end.  

In the next example, I used a mix of yellow and blue on the paper. I then added in touches of the palette green as well as brown at the very top of the stem.

Whether you mix on the paper or the palette, there is no right or wrong way. There are different uses for each method for various subjects, but it mostly comes down to which style you like best.
In the last example, I used yellow and the palette green for the leaf on the palette. I then added violet and brown for the darks as well as a hint of orange. I allowed the violet and brown to mix on the paper. You can combine techniques in one subject.

While I'm sharing only three of the leaves I created, I have many more. I highly, strongly recommend you play and paint as many leaves as you can stand! Why? Because the more we do, the more we understand. As the information is used and understood, it becomes knowledge and with repetitive use, it becomes reliable. That's where the power lies. It is only with constant use that our knowledge can begin to help us create consistent results that are predictable and remove the guess work!

Next we're going to tackle foliage in the shape of bushes to build on what we've learned from our leaves.

Did you do the first part of the tutorial and come up with lots of great mixes? Are you going to try your hand at the leaves? If so, send me a link in the comments or via email—I'd love to see what you've come up with and even more important if this series is helping you to turn your greens from frustrating to fabulous!!

Even better, come and join me at Selby Gardens in March for a two-day workshop and put your knowledge into action! Click here for more information.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Heart and Hand Lettering Reveal

Having fun playing with a squishy sweet Valentine's message for my honey! I used a Molotow masking pen to create the lettering and then watercolored over them. I added a bit of shading using Faber-Castell PITT pens to the first and last words.

And of course, Ms. Moby had to get her nosy self in there too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frustrated or Fearful of the Lovely Green Pigment On Your Palette?

In a recent conversation, an artist shared she had just purchased a pre-filled watercolor palette and it only had one green pigment. Not only did it have only one green, she confessed, she didn't even like the color. She explained it was a very "fake green" not found in nature and she didn't think she could paint a garden whether it was her own, a cottage garden in England or a botanical garden like Selby.

Since she was new to art journaling, she was not ready to spend a lot of money on tubes of paint she wasn't sure she'd ever use. I get it. Setting up a custom palette can be an expensive undertaking when you go with quality grade watercolor pigments and it requires a commitment to invest in costly supplies. (If you're looking to try top artist grade paints without the big outlay of cash, consider an palette here.)

Does this mean she (or you) can't paint a garden if you only have one green pigment on your palette and you don't even like the green?

Absolutely not!

A Simple Exercise
To learn more about the green pigment(s) on our palette, we need to have some organized fun! We need to play with all those pretty colors to see what happens when we start mixing them together. I say organized fun because we want to be able to replicate any successful mixes easily. and to do that, we need to make sure we label each and every mix. If we mix with abandon, we may or may not know which pigments combined to give us that fabulous now color.

For this exercise, I used a palette of eight pigments by Yarka White Nights or Gamma brand.

Step 1. Choose a shape and draw it out on a piece of tracing paper in pencil. Flip the paper over and trace the lines several times with pencil. I chose a leaf since I was playing around with greens. The shape itself is not so important as long as the shape can easily be divided into two parts and the shape is large enough to allow ample room for playing. (My leaf was approximately 1.5 inches long by 1.25 inches wide.)

Step 2. Either on a piece of watercolor paper or on a page in your journal, trace several shapes using the tracing paper as transfer paper. I scattered the leaves around the page, but the shapes could just as easily been in neat and tidy rows. I found it more entertaining to scatter the shapes.

Step 3. Choose a green pigment and paint it from light to dark in one leaf or shape. (Example 1) This is the base color and should be labeled as such. This shows how dark the pigment is when fully saturated as well as how light it is when it is diluted with water.
Example 1

Step 4. Choose another leaf and select one color to mix with the base green. The first color I chose was yellow. At the bottom of the leaf, I painted a small spot of green and a small spot of yellow so I could look and see at a glance the two pigments I used to achieve the greens within the shape. On the right side of the leaf, I started with the green at the top of the leaf and then the second color at the bottom. I let the two paints touch and mix in the middle of the leaf without help from me. This allows for both pigments to retain some of their original characteristics as well as to combine with a second color to make something new.

Step 5. For the other side of the leaf, I mixed the pigments together on the palette before painting the mix onto the paper. I call this homogenizing the paint because you eliminate most, if not all of the original pigments' personalities to form a new color. Because I was attempting to create greens, I pushed the new mix towards green whenever possible. I also lifted the paint on this side while it was still damp because sometimes the mixtures were more pleasing when they were not fully saturated.

Step 6. Once I ran through the eight colors on the palette, I started mixing two pigments to make green. I mixed yellow and blue to see what type of green I could make. Since I only had one yellow pigment, I then moved onto creating with three pigments by adding a touch of orange to the yellow to make an Indian yellow before mixing the color with blue and with green.

Other combinations I used were yellow and brown mixed with green, blue and violet mixed with green, red and yellow with blue...all in pursuit of finding pleasing green mixes.

Oh, What You Can Learn
Every mixture you create is not going to make a pleasing green, however, it may make a gorgeous gray or a moody black or a rich brown! Just because it didn't make green doesn't mean the new mix is not useful.

Look closely at the areas where the paint was lifted while it was still wet to determine if there may be a useful color not the paint is not at full strength. Make note of any combinations you dislike so you'll know to avoid that combination in the future. If there were any combinations that were especially pleasing, draw out a few more shapes and explore them further using more or less of each pigment to find out the range of the two or three pigments when combined.

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
Many greens available on the market and in pre-filled palettes today are mixtures of greens and yellows. Occasionally, you'll find a green mix with orange, white, blue, or even violet pigments.

When you throw blue into a green mix that contains orange, what do think will happen? It will most likely turn to a grayed green as orange and blue are complements. If you have a green that has yellow in it and you add a bit of violet the results are likely to be gray as well.

Is it bad if it makes a grayer color? Oh no! Think about a foggy morning when everything is shrouded. Those grayed greens come in handy for shadows, foggy and overcast days.

Some palettes give you the composition of the pigments used to create each pigment and some do not. Even if the information is not provided, you can often tell if a pigment is a mixture depending on how it mixes with the other colors. Use this knowledge to avoid making mud!

Label, Label, Label!
Create a legend for your page if you create a page of mixes. Be sure to include the palette you were using as well as a small example of each pigment in its pure, unmixed state. Make notes as to which side was mixed and which side the paint was allowed to mix on the paper. I find dating the page to be helpful also. This information can be invaluable later when you're sitting in the meadow in England and want to paint the leaves of a Early Gentian.

And just so you know, there are few things more frustrating than going through old mixing sheets and seeing a mix you really, Really, REALLY like and you have no idea which pigments were used to make it. I'm sure you can guess how I happened to come by that experience! Don't be like me—label, label, label!

Last But Certainly Not Least
Just as this works for green, this exercise will work for any pigment on the palette. The exercise can be very handy when you're considering adding a new pigment to the ones your existing palette. If a pigment does not mix well with over half of the pigments I use on a regular basis, I typically will not add it to my palette as I know I won't use it.

As you begin exploring the pigments on your palette, I think you will quickly find there are far more possibilities than you thought possible. The time you spend playing with the pigments NOW will pay huge dividends later when you're out on location.

Up Next...
In the next post in this series, we're going to take what we learned in our mixes and start applying it to creating a garden!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Painting A Fiery Sunset - NEW CLASS!

What is it about sunsets that we are compelled to capture their beauty in our sketchbooks or on canvas? Is it the colors, the brilliant light, the fleeting moment that will never be again or is it capturing the memory of the moment?

I think for me, it's a bit of all of the above. There is something poignant about a sunset as it marks the close of a day and all the possibilities it held whether they were capitalized on or not.

The photo reference for this image was taking on the last evening I spent at St. Pete Beach with eight artists back in January of 2015. To say the evening was bittersweet would be an understatement—I so did not want our time to end and yet, it had to.

And while this was not painted that evening, it could have been! You may think capturing something so complex on location would be impossible, but it's not.

It takes some prep work to get the page ready and it takes knowing the steps of breaking down a complex image so that it can be tackled quickly and easily. The other keys are working in a small format along with using select pigments and suggesting detail.

I will be teaching how to "Paint A Fiery Sunset" at Keeton's in Bradenton, FL, this Saturday, February 11th and I hope you can join me! (Please call them to register. Just click on Keeton's to see all the info and the phone number to call.)

But if you're not able to jet into Florida for a three-hour class, you can still learn how...

Introducing "Painting A Fiery Sunset" online e-course at The Imaginary Realm! This class is an Independent Learning Class which means you can start any time and you can keep the video demonstration for one year. The instructions handout is a pdf yours to download and keep forever. You can watch the video as many times as you would like until you get the hang of painting sunsets!

You can sign up for the class by clicking this link. After a few practice runs, you'll be painting Fiery Sunsets in no time and hopefully, some of them will be there in the brilliant light!

Come and join in the fun!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Time In A Garden

There is a great deal of peace and serenity to be found at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, FL, and I found myself in need of a place to unwind and decompress after my whirlwind experience at the Suncoast View show. Selby was the perfect place!

What was even better was running into two of the artists who sometimes join me at Keeton's for classes. They even had their kits with them!

There was a light breeze coming in off from the bay that kept things nice and cool. I walked around for a few minutes just soaking in the ambience before pulling out my Stillman and Birn sketchbook. This is the Zeta version and it's their smallest softcover size at 3.5 x 5.5 inches, closed. It's perfect for small bags and pockets!

The sketches above were all done on location, but with a two-hour drive in front of me, I chose to add the color after I arrived at home. (It was only when I went to paint this that I realized I had not finished the tree that went with the really odd bloom at the upper right side—it looked like it was ready to strike! I didn't even take a photo! I must have been distracted!:)

I will be teaching a two-day workshop there in March, Painting Postcards in the Gardens, and we'll have a chance to explore this phenomenal place together in our sketchbooks—I hope you can join me! I will be returning in April for a second class as well.

Please let me know if I can answer any questions and I hope to see you there!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Playing Around With Lettering

Many of you know that back in October, Chris and I decided to open a booth at a vintage market, Picker's Place in Plant City. One of the side benefits of this adventure has been the opportunity to use my creativity in unexpected the sign you see above.

It's not perfect lettering and it didn't need to be for what it is—an attention grabbing sign! It was soooo much fun to do not to mention quick! (I copied the original for extra copies rather than lettering four different signs. It also stands out in the booth, letting folks know we have a few things we're looking to move out to new homes.

I love that I'm finding new and practical outlets for some of my creative energy!

Below is a peek at our booth:
This was taken during December. If you look closely, you'll see more lettering on the wall. You'll also see that insanely cool guitar lamp my uber-talented hubby made from a real guitar! Isn't that awesome?!
Here's a close up of the guitar lamp. It still has the strings and the volume knob is how you turn the light on and off! (Since I have "connections" to the guy who creates these beauties, I also have one hanging out in my living room!)

The clipboard was another opportunity to play around with yet more lettering (see a trend here?). It's a paper/cardboard clipboard from a discount market and was about to go in the trash. I slapped some chalkboard paint on it and spent a few very happy hours lettering out the saying.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy adding an artistic touch to ordinary things and in unusual places. Sure, a lamp is a lamp, a wall is a wall, but why not add some flair to both by looking for ways to add your artistic style?!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Oh, The Surprises Life Can Throw At Us!

I found myself blessed with a VERY unexpected opportunity late yesterday—I was asked to appear on the Suncoast View as a guest to talk about Art Journaling!!

The cohosts finished a piece of artwork I had started (we only had five and a half minutes!!) while I answered questions about art journaling and gave a plug to Selby Gardens as well as the two upcoming classes I’ll be doing there in March and April.

If you’d like to see my very first LIVE appearance on television you can see it at the following links. The show airs at 4:00 pm today and will be available afterwords on the web site. I think my segment airs in the 30 to 45 minute section of the show.

Live stream link online at h​ttp://

Facebook: w​ww.

Following the broadcast and live stream, links to full episodes can be found at w​ 

I’d love to hear what you think (just be gentle—I've never done television before)!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Making Waves!

Can join me on Saturday, January 14th, for Anatomy of A Wave? 

One of the artists who is frequently in class made the statement, “I understand things better when I can hold them in my hand,” and she’s absolutely right. It is often easier to translate a 3D item onto a piece of paper once we understand how it is put together by holding it in our hands...but how do we hold a wave in our hand? It’s not possible!

What is possible is to look at a wave from different angles and see the shape it takes from those angles. Once we begin to understand a little of the shape, it becomes easier to adapt what we’ve learned to other viewpoints. By working in gray values so that color does not confuse us, we can learn the shape of the waves:

From there, we’ll need to work out the paint colors needed to replicate nature’s colors. You might be surprised to learn that we only need a handful of colors and among them you’ll find orange and yellow as well as violet! Below are some of the paint mixed used to create the final wave at the bottom of the post:

Last, we’ll put together what we’ve learned and we’ll create our wave in four steps. In the first step, we create just the basic shapes. In the second step, we’ll add shading to form the depth and volume of the wave. In the third step, we’ll adjust values. In the fourth step, we’ll add the “icing” which is the details of foam using a white pen. Each step builds one upon another to give you the final portrait of a wave breaking:

By studying shapes from different angles and understanding how a wave is formed, it becomes much, much easier to create those shapes on paper! I hope you can join me!

I hope you’ll come and join the fun of painting Anatomy of A Wave on Saturday, January 14th from 9 am to 12:30! Please note, to register for this class, please contact Keeton’s directly. Their number is 941.747.2995. They're located at 817 Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton, Florida.

UPDATE: For some folks, there are two small, blue boxes with question marks in them showing just above the first image and just below the last image. For some reason, I am unable to delete them. Only three images should be showing in the post regardless of those little blue boxes. My apologies for the confusion!

Friday, January 6, 2017

After The Holidays...

Happy New Year! 

Isn't it wonderful to begin a brand new year with a sense of hope and a lighter feeling? A whole calendar of days, pristine and unstained by what's come before (or so it seems). I'm not sure what it is about the new date that makes me so ridiculously hopeful and even expectant of good things to come, but there it is.

Unfortunately for me, 2016 ended much the way 2015 did—sick an upper respiratory infection that started way before Christmas. At the end of 2015, I wanted to throw the whole year in a trash heap and say forgetaboutit. 2015 seemed like a horrid, awful year even though it really wasn't. What I realized and wrote about here was that I was judging the whole year on the last two weeks of December when I was so ill.

Realizing I had not done a very good job of keeping track of my goals and accomplishments for the year, I resolved to make some serious changes. At the beginning of 2016, I got myself a planner and an accountability partner. I have to say those are probably two of the smartest things I've done in a very long time!

I also chose a word of the year (see below) and incorporated it into my planner as well as some art that hung out on my desk all year so I would not forget the word I'd chosen. These changes had a tremendous impact!

Fast forward to the end of 2016. Even though I've been sick for two three weeks, my feelings towards the whole year are completely, totally different. I can thumb through a stack of weekly emails that tracked what I worked on and when, goals accomplished, areas that could stand to be improved and a few areas where there simply was not enough interest to keep going. I redirected that energy into areas that could benefit from more attention.

My word of the year started out as progress and then progressed into thrive around the middle of the year. I was able to create more "live" teaching opportunities for 2017 with classes at Keeton'sMarie Selby Botanical Gardens as well as a chance to teach a week-long workshop in England with The Blue Walk! That's when I realized my progress was turning into thrive as many of my goals were beginning to come to fruition!

I found that having someone read my list of tasks week after week was a great motivator to get things done that probably wouldn't have happened without that check-in. It was also nice to have someone ask for specifics on an ongoing project as it helped me to get interested again when I found myself getting sidetracked by too many other tempting opportunities.

It also motivated me when I had one of those weeks that went off the rails and nothing on my tasks list was accomplished. My partner was there offer insights, to help me pick myself up and to push me forward rather than letting me sink into a pity party (that had the potential to derail the next few weeks).

As the year marched by, we started to refine our lists and efforts in ways that helped us to see where we were going and what we were doing as well as what we were accomplishing. We celebrated each other's accomplishment and milestones. We had occasional meet-ups so we could discuss things more fully than you can via email.

When we met late last year to wrap up 2016 and celebrate our accomplishments, we started working on ways we can leverage last year's success into making 2017 an even better year. The year has already gotten off to a crazy-busy start with several streams of attention that I'm attempting to juggle.
I suspect both my planner and my accountability partner are going to key to keeping me on track. Otherwise, I'm fairly confident I'm going to fall victim to attention splatter (read more on that here).

I'm looking forward to a prosperous, happy, 
fun-filled year that is my best one yet!

How did your 2016 shake-out? I know some of you were going to use planners while others were going to use a bullet journal or a program online and some of you lucky duckies were retiring...what worked for you and what didn't??

 Let's learn and grow from each other by sharing ideas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wishes For You

I wish for each of you the season's very best delights!

I hope your hearts are full, your eyes aglow with joy and you're surrounded by love. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pack Your Bags, It's Time To Get Going!!

Oh, my goodness, I have so much to tell you! I've been quiet these last few months as I've been working on opportunities and I finally get to share all the joy with you! To cut down on confusion, I'm going to go in date order so I'm sure to cover all the yummy goodness coming up. You can bet I'll be sharing more in the weeks to come!

December 3, 2016
Festive Starfish Designs
Keeton's Office & Art Supplies
Bradenton, Florida
December 3
9 am - 12:30 pm
Cost: $35
Please call 941.747.2995 to register

These festive starfish can be arranged in a number of ways including a ball, a swirl, and a wreath, just to name a few! I know I haven't been able to stop at just one because this idea opens up so many possibilities.

This dimensional project combines scrapbooking paper, extra watercolor paper, salt, glue and a little bling! It's just another way we can make our journals come alive.

March 9-10, 2017
Painting Postcards In The Gardens Workshop
Sarasota, Florida
2-Day Workshop (March 9-10, 2017)
9 am - 3 pm
Cost: $215
Please click HERE to learn more and to register for the workshop. Registration is now open!

Selby Gardens is a lush, tropical playground and it's a perfect location to learn how fun Art Journaling can be! We'll work together to create a series of postcards of colorful sketches that can shared with friends and family, near and far. 

This class is open to all levels and will introduce various approaches to sketching and art journaling. Basic drawing skills, laying out a page or postcard, learning to observe,  adding interest with borders, background color blocks and such will also be covered. 

Weather permitting, our time divided between the classroom and working out in the gardens enjoying the sunshine! 

As a side note...I will be teaching an Art Journaling class at Keeton's Office & Art Supply in Bradenton, Florida on Saturday, March 11th. Keeton's is just a few miles north of Sarasota and the class will run from 9 to 12:30. If you would like to join this class, please click here. I will make the class information available as soon as possible! 

The recommended supply list can be found here

April 21, 2017

Advanced Painting Postcards In The Gardens Class
Sarasota, Florida
Friday, April 21, 2017; 9 am -12 pm
Cost: $65
Please click HERE to learn more and to register for the workshop. Registration is now open! 

We will continue to work together to create a series of postcards of colorful sketches that can shared with friends and family, near and far. 

This class is open to all levels and will quickly introduce various approaches to sketching and art journaling. Basic drawing skills, laying out a page or postcard, learning to observe,  adding interest with borders, background color blocks and such will also be briefly covered. 

Weather permitting, our time will mostly be spent working out in the gardens enjoying the sunshine with a brief beginning and closing session in the classroom.

The recommended supply list can be found here.

August 14-20, 2017
An Imaginary Trip Made Real To England 2017! Workshop
Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
Monday - Saturday, August 14-20, 2017
Please Click Here For Tour Details and To Register 

All aboard for a fabulous trip to the Cotswolds and in particular, Stratford-Upon-Avon, home of William Shakespeare! English cottages, impressive palaces, afternoon tea, rolling meadows, meandering canals, cobblestone streets...need I say more?!

I am so very, very pleased to be partnering with The Blue Walk to provide this travel workshop to you. You may have heard of the Blue Walk before as they have hosted a number of Art Walks with artists like Leslie Fehling and Jane LaFazio, to name a few. They get and understand the need to slow down and really see rather than look and go. Needless to say, we'll be in very good hands!

There will be many impromptu, on-location demos provided throughout the day, depending on our day's activities as well as some advance instruction because I am a strong believer in a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n and it makes the trip begin way before we ever step foot into the English Countryside! 

Once we return, there will be a little more info sent out to help keep you on track to finish your sketchbook and to add in a few memory sketches as well as any ephemera you may have picked up in your travels. 

Does seven days wandering the English town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, time spent with likeminded folks with the opportunity to indulge your love of art and sketching, sound like your idea of a great trip?!

If so, click here to sign up and join me!

I am in the process of creating the schedule for 2017 for the online classes we will visit via virtual reality. If there's somewhere you'd like to visit, please share the location in the comments. I'd love to know where you want to go. 

Whew! That's a lot and I am sooooooooooo excited to share all these fabulous upcoming opportunities with you. I hope there will a date (or seven) where we can connect and spend some time together making art and happy memories!

As always, please let me know of any questions you have!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Overcoming Fear And The "Perfect Picture" In Our Minds

Do you have a muse? A completely imaginary but totally real artistic influence that gives you courage and encouragement, tempts you to try new things and takes you to places you never would have gone on your own (either in life or in your artwork)?

I do! Her name is Sam and I've spoken about her on the blog before. She is as real to me as you are. I can describe how she looks, how she sounds, how she cuts her eyes at me when I say or think something limiting. 

By turns, she is daring, naughty, laugh-out-loud funny, fearless and kind. She doesn't ask for permission and she doesn't really give a hang about anyone's opinion, including mine. Maybe most especially mine. Simply put, she is the best of me and the best of what I'd like to be.

I can also hear her needling me about being too careful or convincing me to jump off the proverbial high dive board and how, quite often, she challenges me to keep going on a piece of art that I would likely abandon because it’s not going in the direction I intended it to go  it doesn't look like the "perfect picture" in my mind.

Seashells By The Seaside is one of those pieces. I can tell you from the very first mark I put on the page, I knew I was in "trouble" because it didn’t go where I meant for it to go, it wasn't going to match that "perfect picture" in my head. 

And I was working in permanent pen. Oops. 

As the page progressed, I continued to go down a path I did not mean to. It was taking me further and further from what I had in my head. While I was toying with the idea of starting over, Sam came over, pulled the pen out my hand and shooed me out of the way. 

Sam’s working theory on art, and life too, is this: There are NO mistakes, just new and different directions. When I’ve completely botched the original idea (read that as, “no longer held hostage by preconceived notions"), it's time for the fun to begin and to see where we can go! She’d also be yelling, “Yeehaw!” as she raced off with my our idea, but that’s her.

Needless to say, this piece of art is NOTHING like I had in mind when I started. It looks nothing like that "perfect picture" I had in my head.

Is it better? I can’t say. What I can say it that it’s different and rather than assign an arbitrary value to the artwork being good enough or better than, I decided to simply enjoy the work as it turned out.

We often cobble ourselves by focusing too much on the image in our minds rather than using it as a guide. When we make a mark on the page that doesn't sync with the perfect mind picture, we react to it as if it were a mistake but is it? 

What do you suppose would happen if instead, we took it as our "true voice" (read that as "muse") speaking up and making itself known? 

Our fears of making mistakes, of wasting time and resources, of others' opinions can take away our true voice and bog us down in a rut doing the same thing—safely—or keep us from experimenting with a new or different way of doing things.

In hindsight, making marks that did not work with my "perfect mind picture" was a gift of freedom. It allowed me to kick the idea to the curb and start fresh. What you see above is what happened when I let myself play. 

If you're in the Bradenton/Sarasota area, I hope you can join me at Keeton's Office and Art Supply on Saturday, September 24th, from 9 to 12:30 as I delve more into the process and overcoming those pesky fears. For more info, please click here

How do you get past your fears? What do you do when your work and your "perfect mind picture" part ways? Do you stop and start over or keep going?

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Okay, I'm in serious denial. This is Florida with temperatures in the high 90's, with hurricanes and tropical storms swirling around us, and we don't see Autumn before December (usually) at the earliest...but why let a little thing like reality spoil the party?!

 I'm going to have myself an An Imaginary Visit Through Autumn and my autumn is going to have cool temperatures, gorgeous jewel-toned leaves, a cup of tea, a bowl of my favorite soups, maybe even a wood fire! Wanna come play with me?!
I did this piece last November and it was meant to pay homage to some of my FAVORITE things! in fact, I was picking up acorns in a parking lot today. (I think I may have been a squirrel in a past life!) I'm thinking there might be a few more items to add to this list...

Farmer's Markets, gorgeous flowers, scarecrows, crows, acorns, pumpkins, and who knows what else might show up on our sketchbook pages! I hope you'll consider joining me. The class will be four assignments long (6 weeks) and starts this coming Thursday, September 1st! 

I can tell you it's going to be a blast. I may have to crank the AC down and dodge a hurricane or two, but I can't wait for cooler temperatures and turning leaves!

For more information on An Imaginary Visit Through Autumn, please click here. I look forward so sharing the fun with you!

Monday, August 1, 2016

There Will Be Days...

There will be days when the challenges stack up, left and right.

There will be days when it seems easier just to give into the defeat than to keep fighting.

There will be days when nothing makes sense and the fight seems pointless.

And yet...

There will be days when I remember why I do what I do and why I love what I do. Those are the days I live for. The moments that make up those days are the reasons why I continue to overcome the challenges that would see me give up.

I've recently had a bunch of those challenging days gang up on me all at once. Technology is a wonderful, marvelous thing—until it's not working right, a piece of the system changes or has to be replaced. I use an analogy of a spider web. Wherever a spider web is touched, it is felt all over the web. The bigger the touch, the stronger the vibrations.

My camcorder malfunctioned and I was quite annoyed to learn that the maker considered the camera "obsolete" even though it's only six years old. Of course, in the world of technology, that's a dinosaur. When I switched to a new camera, my lighting setup no longer worked well. More changes. Then there was a memory card malfunction. And if these had the only challenges, it wouldn't have been so bad, but life doesn't work that way. There were other challenges, unrelated to work, going on in the background.

A casualty of those "stacked" challenges was my concentration to write and post to the blog.

There are days when I have to scrape pretty close to bottom before I realize it's not a place I want to be, let alone linger in, and the only way for me to realize this seems to be for me to go there.

One of the things that helped to pull me back up and refill my well was a great class at Keeton's. Since it's been so bloody hot here in Florida (and a lot of other places as well), we worked on painting ice cream in our sketchbooks using stencils for the cone and backgrounds.

And, yes, we had a blast! Below are three of the ladies from class with their gorgeous ice cream cones (everyone chose their own flavors) and there wasn't a calorie in sight.
Marilynn, Mary and Gayle
Once again, it was the healing fun of art, the camaraderie of working with others to learn and create art that seemed to restore a sense of balance to my life.

The challenges are inevitable. To some degree, they're even wanted. How boring would life be with no mountains to climb or obstacles to scale?

And I'm sure there will be more weeks when they all happen at once and yet again, decisions will have to be made about whether to fight or give in.

I'm also willing to bet art will be there to save the day!

How is your (hotter than all-get-out) summer going? Are you painting, sketching or pursuing some other artistic pursuit? Please share in the comments!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Come And Play!!

Two quick reminders for this week!

An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival will begin this Thursday! We'll be working with all kinds of bright color both close up and at a distance over a field. We'll also play around with all kinds of greens and how to make them interesting. If this sounds like fun to you, come and join me! Please click here or on the class title to sign up!

P.S. As will be celebrating six years of creative fun and learning, I am offering this class at a special celebratory price. Check out the link above to find out more!

Next up, if you're anywhere nearby, plan on joining me for a class at Keeton's Office And Art Supply in Bradenton this Saturday, June 25th! We'll be capturing the jeweled wings of the Monarch Butterfly in our sketchbooks! It seems kind of appropriate since today marks the Summer Solstice!

To sign up for this class, please contact Keeton's directly by following the link above!

Hope to see you there or in the Imaginary Realm!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

(Help Me To) Pay It In Kindness #ForOrlando

Laying awake last night, I found myself asking the same question over and over.

"How do you stop the hate?"

What would make a young man so full of hate by the ripe, old age of 29, that he would take it upon himself to kill 49 people while leaving scores more injured?

I found no answers. Folks far smarter than me don't seem to have the answers either.

I've watched some of the vigils held around the world to mark solidarity and to remember the victims. I've given money to some of the relief efforts, and yet, I feel...frustrated. Like those few token gestures were not quite enough. Perhaps you've felt the same way?

You may have called your congressman or woman to ask for stronger gun laws, or you've sent a letter or joined in a protest or you may have sat quietly and cried tears for the incredible loss of life. I have.

As I chased this question around and around in my mind last night I finally decided there was something more I could do—I could Pay It In Kindness.

Paying It Forward
Here's my idea—I intend to pay kindness forward 49 times for each of the lives lost. Then I'll pay kindness forward 53 more times for each of those injured. That's 102 acts of kindness paid—deliberately—into a world that seems to have tilted ever so slightly off its axis.

If even one other person joins me, we'll be bring 204 acts of kindness into the world. And if ten of you join me, there will be 1,020 acts. If one hundred people act, that's 10,200 and if a thousand people act, that's well over 100,000 acts of kindness.

Kindness Of Every Kind
There are thousands of ways to be kind. Even the poorest among us can spare a smile or a compliment. It makes no difference if the person knows of our acts or not. Because we know and kindness has a way of making us feel good just as it does the recipient. A few suggestions:

Hold the elevator door...share your a cup of coffee for the next person in line behind someone pick up spilled items...tell someone how much you like their eyes or their smile...speak kindly when aggravated...take a breath to let go of impatience...tip your waitstaff a larger amount then necessary...let someone in when you're sitting in traffic...give a stranger a flower...let someone have your seat on the as you pass people on the sidewalk...stop and visit with an elderly person for a few minutes...tell a child how much they inspire you...give the toll for the person behind you...curb your impatience for the person driving slow in front of you...

Maybe, just maybe, if we fill the world with kindness, we'll begin to crowd out the hate that drives someone to harm others.

This Is About The Human Condition
This post is NOT about political party lines, gun laws, alternate lifestyles, religious beliefs, or anything else EXCEPT recognizing we're all in this together and it will take all of us to bring about change. I cannot change the world. You can't either. But we can change ourselves. We can all be kinder and share kindness with those we love as well as unsuspecting strangers.

Please SHARE
I don't usually ask for you to share anything from this blog, but this time, I'm asking you to share this idea with others. Share the graphic at the top of the image along with a link to the post or give it your own spin.

Join me in bringing something good out of the horrific events in Orlando this weekend. 

Thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Unexpected Gifts

An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival!
One of the coolest things to happen along my artistic path are the connections I've made along the way. It is odd to me that some of my "closest friends" are people who live thousands of miles from me and I only actually see once in a great while, but then to me, that's the real beauty of the world wide web.

One such connection is Claire McFeely who recently sent me a disk full of gorgeous photos from a trip she took with her family to Skagit Valley, Washington, to the annual Tulip Festival—a place I've always wanted to visit!

Undulating waves of colorful blossoms, kites rising gently over the fields, happy shining faces of the visitors, portraits of delicate tulips lifting towards the sun...and an imaginary visit was born!

I had intended to wait until next April to put the class on the class schedule as this when the real festival happens, but I decided I didn't want to wait. This unexpected gift was too bright and colorful and fun to be ignored and we all know artists are hard pressed to ignore any new, bright, colorful, fun thing that comes along!

I invite you to come and visit the tulip festival with me. An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival with start on Thursday, June 23rd! To make this even more of an unexpected gift as Imaginary Trips is celebrating six years of travel sketching, I have included a discount on the pricing of the class. Click here or on the class title to find more information!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Simple Changes That Make A Big Difference

Monarch Butterfly on Globe Thistle
Ink and Watercolor
The drawing for this piece of art has been sitting on my desk for a while. It took me a while to realize I was avoiding painting it. In its former life, it was a full page sketch with the background mostly abstract containing suggested shapes and lots of greens, yellows, blues and violets.


It didn't excite me and it was a lot of space to paint. Especially when I wasn't all that excited about it. (I don't know about you, but if I'm not excited about painting something, I tend to do a lousy job at it.)

After realizing I was resistant to tackling the piece, I began the process of sussing out what the problem was and it was mostly the background. It took up a lot of real estate and it didn't really add anything (IMO).

Playing around with ideas, I scratch out some thumbnails looking for a better overall use of the space.  I was looking for a composition that excited me:
While they're not a lot to look at, thumbnails do the job of visualizing possibilities. Starting at the upper left, I started with a smaller version of the full page, limiting the background and adding a title at the bottom.

I then decided to break the border and put titles at the top and the bottom. I then moved on to putting the title along the right side. From there I abandoned the title idea and put in an erratic line for a border, and—eureka!

I decided to break the border AND put the word, monarch, down the right side, as part of the border.

Once I started drawing the page again, I scaled the box back even more so that butterfly's wings would break through on each side.

That made the stems kinda short and I would have lost one of the leaves, but by leaving them outside of the box, I added a little more interest.

After the painting was done, I decided to add splatters (mostly because I need to camouflage some errant drops of paint). Splatters are an easy way to add energy as well fill in "too" much white space (if that's even possible. I've never had too much white space, but I digress...).

In about half the time it would have taken me to create a full page, I had a page that I not only liked but I'm looking forward to sharing with my class at Keeton's Office and Art Supply on Saturday, June 25th. If you can, please come and join the fun!

Please click Keeton's name to find more info on signing up on the class.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Craving Distraction, But Too Distracted To Be Distracted

From the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class*
Have you ever found yourself desperately wanting to distract yourself from something ongoing in your life and at the same time you're too distracted to do anything for long? 

That seems to describe where I've been at for the last few weeks. 

The few times I've been able to focus has been either while preparing class materials like the piece above from the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class or when I am painting in my sketchbook...not sketching, but painting. 

I guess painting takes a lot more concentration and so I find my sketches turning into paintings in my current sketchbook. 

What is it that I need to be distracted from? My mother's worsening dementia. 

We've started exploring options for in-home care to take some of the load off from my father and it's been...rocky. Big-boulder-sized-rocks-kind-of-rocky. 

Painting has always been a balance between meditation and torture for me. The further I've traveled down this path of creativity, the more the balance has shifted towards mediation and away from torture. 

In the past, I've struggled over the smallest things gone wrong in a painting. Now I recognize it as part of the process and not critical (usually). It flavors the painting with nuances of the me, as the artist, as the imperfect being that I am.

From the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class*
It is times like these that I am so very thankful for the outlet of creativity in my life. I feel like maybe, just maybe, I might create something beautiful out of the stress and unhappiness that comes from watching my mom fade away. 

The image above is from my Lavender Fest "story"'s morphed way past a journal or a sketchbook at this point as it has become my escape when things get a little too intense. 

This situation has been impacted my life in many ways with (or not) sketching being one of the more obvious. It has also had an impact on the time I've spent online and posting to social media and this blog. So if I go missing, know that I'll return. I'm either dealing with a mini-crisis or recovering from one!

* The two top pieces of art focus on incorporating maps as decorative elements onto the sketchbook page. The diagonal rectangle in the top image is an envelope that will be filled with a treasure from my trip. The cool thing about the envelope that there is another map printed on the inside!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Escaping Through Art

I don't know about you, but every once in a while, life gets obnoxiously tedious with lots of little "events" that I could do without. Things that cause small amounts of stress and worry. By themselves, they're no big deal.
Unfinished Daffs from 2009

But together, it's like being ganged up on and pecked by a bunch of ducks until I'm a bundle of raw nerves. Together, all those events feel huge. Overwhelming.

And that's when I turn to art as an escape.

Back in 2007, when my job was outsourced to another country, I spent 18 months trying to find another. Unfortunately, the economy was in a nosedive and there wasn't much out there. During those months, art became my way of maintaining my sanity.
From 2008

I started sharing my work on this blog and people stopped by to say hello. I found myself with a new community of friends and before I knew it, I was launching Imaginary Trips!

Before I started the trips, I would frequently "run away" to the garden or the kitchen or a coffee shop so I could escape into my sketchbook and away from the worry of trying to find a job in a lousy economy.

What I realized early on, was that I really liked traveling via my imagination! Who knew it would be so much fun. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and I didn't have to pack a thing!

Imaginary Trips, from the very beginning has been about escape. Sure, the classes are about growing our skills and preparing for a big trip. It's also about going to places we've not been before or are not likely to get to any time soon.

Sometimes, we're not physically able to travel or we can't break from from our obligations and other times, it's not financially feasible.  There are a host of reasons why it makes sense to travel via our imagination rather than in reality.

By going on an imaginary trip, it's possible to control the weather, how long it takes to get somewhere, the circumstances upon which we travel and where we go. We can travel solo or with friends and we don't have to worry about anyone standing around tapping their toe wishing we'd hurry up. There's no rush to get home and we get to sleep in our own beds each night! We don't have to wait for the seasons to change—you can see them all if you want to—on the same trip.

It's also a fabulous way to keep our skills sharp or to continue to grow our skills when we "go on a trip." Especially if I'm preparing for a real trip I have coming up in the future. I find it so much easier to be creative all along rather than to try to get creative right before or during a big trip.

But for me, I think the most important thing about going on an imaginary adventure is that while it lifts me out of my current circumstances, it also allows me control over those circumstances. It allows me to forget about the struggles and worries for those few precious moments I'm in the zone and creating a memory on my sketchbook pages. Stress goes away. Worry melts. Joy comes and infuses the minutes and a sense of balance is restored.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

If you'd like to join in on an imaginary adventure, please join me for "An Imaginary Visit to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park" starting on May 12th. We'll explore the rugged mountains, hot springs, abundant wildlife and delicate wildflowers without having to camp or sleep on the ground! Click the class title for more info.

If you're not able to join in an interactive class, take a look over at The Imaginary Realm for independent learning classes. They're the same as the interactive classes without the time constraints. You work at your own pace and you have access to the materials for a year. Click on the link for more information.

Detail shot of the front cover
If classes are not for you, strike out on your own. Pick a location and decide when you're going to go, how you'll travel and who will be traveling with you. Look for information on the internet about where you'd like to go along with photos in the public domain to paint from and build an adventure in your sketchbook.

In my "spare" time, I've started a journal to chronicle a trip to the Lavender Festivals. I've only just started it and I work on it in starts and stops, but the time I spend playing in that journal are so very important to my wellbeing. It's a relief to "be away" from the daily grind.

Your imagination is the limit!