Come and Sketch At the Beach!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drawing In The Moment, Mistakes and All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

You can learn more about swallow-tailed kites here.

Have you taken any chances with your sketchbook lately?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking Chances

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

So I turned the page and ignored it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot and Muggy With A Chance Of Beach

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

It's Florida in July. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

••••••••••••••••••

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

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We Interrupt Our Normal Programming...

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

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

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

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

Intuition is easily and often overlooked.

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

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

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

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

All may be well.

It might not.

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

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

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

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


Friday, June 20, 2014

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

NOLA Street Performer,
An Imperfect Sketch
Mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letting the Page Evolve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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

Sigh.

Momma said there would be days like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn't it wonderful to be an artist?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They happen to everyone.

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sketching Under Challenging Circumstances

Sketching New Additions To The Studio…
While Tired From Moving
If you read the prior post about 13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Journaling and you kindly refer to number 12, you'll note that I mention every page will not be a winner.

When we're tired, stressed, sad, mad, distracted, worried or otherwise challenged, it's a bit much to think we're going to turn out pages we like (again, please note, I did NOT say pages that are perfect).

Does that mean you shouldn't sketch?

It means you absolutely should sketch. Quite often, when we sketch under these conditions, it becomes more about the process rather than the end result.

It also means you should manage your expectations.

When you know you're sketching under adverse conditions, set your expectations to match and then sketch away.

Do not mistake this approach for an excuse to sketch halfheartedly. Do your best even under these circumstances.

If it turns out not-so-good, you won't be surprised and you might just find yourself with a real, raw page that helped you process the emotion of the moment.

The sketch above was done after some intense moving and shuffling of furniture and all the shi...stuff piled around it.

I recently found myself to be the proud owner of two new-to-me oak printer cabinets. They used to store type and logo blocks in these cabinets. They're heavy, cumbersome beasts.

I'm thrilled to have all those fabulous drawers to stash supplies in. With any luck, I may just get organized! Oh, what a thrill that thought brings. (Seriously.)

However, I can't say I'm thrilled with the sketches above when I evaluated just the quality of the sketches and page. It's okay and it certainly hold a likeness of each cabinet. I'd like to think if I had not been so exhausted I wouldn't have smeared the ink and the page would have held more appeal.

Still…am I disappointed in the page? No. It wasn't about the end product so much as a record of the cabinets and the day.

Why not? Because it's a record of what as well as of the exhaustion. It's got grit.

Is it pretty? No, but then a lot of life isn't pretty. Instead, it's real.

It is more than a record of the cabinets, when we bought them and their sizes.

(It also gave me the opportunity to test drive an Eversharp nib seated in a Noodler's Flex fountain pen—more on this after I do a bit more testing.)

I haven't yet decided if I'll add color or not. It would go a long way towards making the page more appealing, but as is, it speaks to my exhaustion which is part of what I want to remember.

What's Your Approach?
Journaling can take many forms for each of us during our journeys. Sometimes, it's about the pretty page as near perfect as we can make it. Other times, it's about sketching because we're learning or bored or trying something different.

And then there are those sketches that come about under adverse conditions. As an example, I sketched in my MIL's hospital room because that was how I dealt with my fear and worry. We knew she wouldn't recover. Talk about stressed? Oh yeah.

I'd not trade those sketches for anything. They're not pretty. They do, however, convey to me what words cannot. It helped me to process the emotions of that time just as the sketch above allowed me to process my exhaustion…and my excitement to have these two cabinets.

Do you sketch under adverse conditions? How does the process change for you?

Friday, May 30, 2014

13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Art Journaling

They say experience is the best teacher, but I think mistakes are a top contender for the best teacher spot, and maybe, when you get down to it, they're the same thing.

Still, it can help to know, to be warned, ahead of time about some of the things you're going to come up against when you start on this artistic journey known as Art Journaling.

The following items are the things that immediately bubbled up when I started thinking about what I've learned on my journey.

13 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Art Journaling

1. Begin. Today. Now.
All you really need to begin is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. An open mind is very helpful as well as an eagerness to learn. Do not over think. Do not make this complicated. It's not.

What are you waiting for? Go! Get busy!

2. The more you sketch the more you'll learn, the faster you'll sketch, the less fearful you'll become and the result of this continued practice will be a much more enjoyable experience.
Bottom line—you have to learn the skills first and the only way to do that is to begin and to keep pushing through every so-called failure. Perhaps you're the rare individual who enjoys the learning process. Most of us don't. We want to be an expert the first time we make a mark on the page.

3. A blank page isn't something to fear.
Chances are good you have at least 25 more chances. These chances are known as pages. If you don't get it right on the first one, you still have 24 more chances.

Bengal tiger on the loose, a rabid raccoon, now those are something to fear!

4. Accept that you will make mistakes.
It's how we learn and usually, it's the lessons we make from mistakes that stick with us far longer than the lessons we learn from succeeding.

And the good news? Journaling mistakes are seldom fatal!

5. Don't let the fear of making mistakes paralyze you.
Everybody makes mistakes, even so called experts or pros. No matter how long you sketch, no matter how many journals you fill, no matter how good you get, there will be mistakes. Rather than fear them, embrace mistakes for the learning opportunities they are.

Don't sulk about making them either. It's not pretty.

6. It's okay to turn the page and holler out, "Next!" when the page has gone south.
It happens to all of us. There are gonna be days when every line goes wonky, every pigment turns to mud, perspective leaves the building and proportions just don't work. Finish the page anyway (you might just surprise yourself!) and then begin again. See number 4.

7. Make art journaling fun. 
If it's not fun, why would we continue doing it? Art journaling is suppose to be fun and if it's not, evaluate why it's not. Chances are good it will have something to do with unrealistic expectations. Hmmm, what could those be? See Number 11. Remember, we learn quicker when it's fun.

As my brother says, "If it ain't fun, we ain't doing it!"

8. Never, ever, Ever, EVER, NEVER compare your work to someone else's work!
This is a biggie. There are few things more demotivating than comparing your work to someone else's and to think your work coming up lacking. And no matter how long you sketch, if you look around long enough you will always be able to find someone else with work you like better than your own.

9. If you must compare, compare the sketch you created today with the one you did yesterday, last week or last month. 
Use comparison to see how much you've grown, how your skills have strengthened, and what still needs strengthening.

10. Everyone started at the same place—the beginning. 
No one got a free pass from learning the skills and techniques of how to sketch. No one came out of the womb with a pencil in one hand and paper in the other. So every time you're tempted to use the excuse, "I'll never be as good as so-and-so," sit yourself back down and start sketching again.

11. Sketching is an evolution of skills but seldom a revolution.
Yes, I know, you want to know how to do it TODAY and you want to do it PERFECTLY. Ain't gonna happen. This is another biggie—give yourself permission to make mistakes, learn, fail, and to not like every page. We create so-so sketches. Sometimes, they're down right awful (to us). It's okay, that's what the next page is for. And the one after that.

12. Not every page is gonna be "all that." They can't all be masterpieces.
Is every endeavor you undertake marvelously, brilliantly done? No? Mine either. Don't put this kind of pressure on yourself, it will kill the fun. See number 7. And if your inner critic opens his or her mouth, kindly tell them it's not their day to complain and next month's not looking good either.

It's okay to have an off day...or month. See number 6 and 11.

13. Challenge yourself…to sketch something you think is beyond your current skills.
Even if you think you can't, you may just surprise yourself. And it's how we learn, how we get better. And if you fail (gasp!), count it as a success anyway—because you had the courage to try.

This is in no way an exhaustive list so I'd like to know what you would tell yourself if you could travel back in time…please leave your thoughts in the comments and I'll add them to the list!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Keeping A Sketch From Becoming A Painting

Baby Blue Heron
Watercolor and lots and lots of ink
Stillman and Birn Zeta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
My brother went down to the Venice Rookery over the weekend and came home with some fabulous shots. This one of the baby Blue Heron just captured my heart. I decided on the spur of the moment—did you know moment's had spurs?—to create a sketch out of this cute, little bugger.

I had originally planned to sketch the bird much bigger with a lot less nest showing. How I managed to wind up with a small bird and lots of nest showing beats me, but I did it.

Beginning with the bird, I sketch him out in pencil and then added general outlines of the nest without a lot of detail (my first miscalculation). Since the background is all suggested shapes, I didn't draw anything back there.

Next, I painted the bird. Since he was my COI (center of interest), I knew if I messed him up the rest of the sketch wouldn't matter.

With the main sections of the bird painted (details to be added last), I moved on to the background. It was easy to do by just mingling colors.

Then it was time to do the nest.

If I had drawn in even a partial bit of the nest, I think I would have realized the chore I had set for myself. But I didn't.

I was using a waterbrush and those do NOT have a fine tips and so don't do fine details easily. Choosing to save my sanity, I grabbed a traditional brush to tackle those finer details.

In short order, I realized my sanity was still in question because if I continued to sketch the nest with a brush, I would have HOURS invested in this page.

Not ideal and not what I was going for. It's a sketch for goodness sake!

Rather than lavish hours on a sketch, I went to the studio and gathered up markers and pens in colors that would harmonize with the colors in the image. Then I went to work.
Some of the tools I used in the creation of the page
On the right page, you can see a few of the tools I used. Pens, markers, and two brushes.

All told I have about two hours in this and I'm itching to go back in and make a few more "adjustments."

If I had continued to work in just paint, I'm guessing I'd still be working on it and you might have seen it tomorrow.

Editing "Perfect Images"
As you can see, the photo is a pretty darn good one and who am I to fool around with a great image?

The artist with a creative license!

I edited the photo to make a more compact sketch. I moved the baby to the edge of the nest and moved the support underneath him so it didn't look lopsided. I also simplified the nest details greatly and it's still very busy.

When I set out to sketch, I generally have a goal in mind of being quick, of capturing the essence of a place, thing, etc. However, I do occasionally get into something that can't be "created" as quickly as I'd like. At least, not by me.

That's when I change up my method of working. I'm not a big pen and ink artist. I like it, but it's rare for me to work this way.

Realizing I was going to have to make a choice of abandoning my goal of quick or change my method of creating, I opted for the latter.

Is there anything wrong with spending several hours on a sketch/page? No.

Why was it a problem? It's not, but because I wanted this to be a quick sketch and not a painting I had to make a choice.

The longer I work on something, the more detail I tend to put into something and the greater chance I have of overworking the piece and regretting the hours I invested. 

There is a constant decision process going on when we create. The more aware we become of our choices, the more freedom we have when we're in the flow. Realizing we have more than one way to create goes a long way towards helping us to tackle subject matter that we would otherwise avoid.

Do you vary your approach and/or the tools when you're sketching? How so?
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Many thanks to my brother, Mark, for access to the great photos!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Do You Suffer From Attention Splatter?!

I do! Big time. You may have also heard it referred to as Shiny New Object Syndrome—you're distracted from whatever you're doing every time something new, shiny, different, fun, challenging, fill in the blank, comes along...and you're gone in pursuit. 

Yeah. That. 

Attention splatter is when your attention is splatter over EVERYTHING in your life with little or no focus on any one area unless it's a crisis. We discussed how to get and keep focus here, here and here on the blog.
Attention Splatter
If you've been reading the blog, you may have some idea that I have a rather large number of irons in the fire at the moment.

You would be correct in that assessment.

Some of those irons include planning an artist's sketching holiday at the beach in 2015, a trip to Acadia National Park this summer, interactive Imaginary Trip classes, overhauling 2 web sites, creating a couple of logos and building Independent Learning classes—just to name the highlights.

That doesn't take in account things like grocery shopping, going to the bank, dry cleaners and hairdressers, eating, cleaning, doing laundry and all those daily maintenance things necessary to keep a life from derailing.

You may think that I have a handle on them as well.

You would be incorrect in that assessment.

Very.

Up until lately, I thought attention splatter looked a little like the graphic above. I thought there had to be some semblance of order even if there was chaos.

Umm. Well, no, not really. I've found that the inside of my brain looks a whole like this:
The Way The Inside of My Brain Really Looks
Oddly enough, this isn't so much a complaint as it is a realization that despite my determination to keep on track this year with my attention to my projects and goals, life has thrown several challenges and opportunities my way that have made focus a challenge.

You may relate.

Last Monday, when I found myself with a couple of "free" hours that were not already slated to be used on a specific project, I found myself with absolutely no idea what to do first, where to start!

Panic started to build!

I wasted a good half hour before I threw my hands up in disgust and jumped into the first project I laid hands on…and gosh, what do you know, things turned out just fine.

But that's not how I want to "run" my life. Or my mind. It gets old after a while. And what I've found is that has been working best for me is to simply stop, take a deep breath and to start writing.

Write it ALL down. And I do mean everything. Every blessed and not-so-blessed thing.

All the stuff I want to do, have to do, think I want to do, should do, would do if I could and so on until I get it down on the page and out of my head.

It makes space. It calms the "noise" of all those thoughts competing for attention, clamoring to be the loudest, crashing into each other and causing a mind-numbing roar.

Whether I write it down by hand or type it out on the computer, it seems to have the same effect, but I do find handwriting to have a more last impact. Probably because it takes longer. If I use my computer, I still print it out so that I can see "the big picture" of ALL of my brain clutter.

Once I have it listed out, I can often cross things off the list because they're past their freshness date. Some are no longer relevant and some are things that seemed like a good idea in the moment, but once I hold them up in the light of day, I realize they're not so hot.

I can usually see "themes" in the items left. Some are urgent and get highlighted with a pretty-colored highlighter. Some things can be relegated to the "Someday" file. Others are just the many steps to all the projects I have going on and need to be put in order with any necessary dates applied.

Once I have some sort of a plan, a way to approach the piles, I generally feel calmer. And that's a good thing because I don't like waking up at 4:37 AM wondering if I forgot to do some major task. It irks me because it doesn't have to be that way. Keeping focus is a lot like losing or maintaining weight—we all know what to do. It just comes down to whether we're doing it or not.

If planting myself in a chair to write down the noise will stop the panic, then yeah, that's what I'm gonna do.

When I compare my recent lists to those I created at the beginning of the year, I see I've made progress even though it doesn't feel like it. I've marked a considerable number of things off my list. I've also added a bunch more because I chose to take advantage of opportunities that showed up with expiration dates.

But probably the biggest thing I realized when I saw that attention splatter is not pretty or neat is that I've realized I'm normal. Everyone I know has a similar splatter in their lives.

It's okay to have all of this going on. In fact, I figure I'm lucky to have so much going on!

We demonize our lives and ourselves because they don't look like something out of a life-managment textbook.

Do you know anyone who has that kind of life?

No? Me either. And really, as busy, chaotic, crazy, messy and overwhelming as my life can get, I'm really not sure that I'd change a thing even if I could.

Okay.

I'd take the calories out of chocolate. ; •)~

How are you doing with your attention and focus to your life this year?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Puffin Practice

Nearly Live Practice
of Sketching Puffins
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman and Birn Zeta Bound Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
I am planning a trip to Acadia National Park towards the end of this summer and I have always, always, Always, ALWAYS wanted to see puffins in the wild.

When I stumbled across a couple of puffin cams here and here, it seemed like a good idea to get in some practice. The cams are not live yet, but they have several videos of the highlights and it's just like sketching from real life.

Just as I started to get a pose down, the bird would move or fly away. Sometimes, the video would change to a completely different location.

Sigh.

There is no "one" bird on the page. Instead, I used an eye from one bird, a beak or wing from another until I had "most" of the creature showing on the page. I even tried sketching from memory with limited success.

When I couldn't finish a pose, I'd start on some of the different body parts and that's how I managed to come up with a puffin body that's less than an inch and peg-legged—the creature moved before I could even get his feet sketched!

The nerve of some birds. ; •)

When doing this type of sketching I always (attempt to) approach the page with the thought that it will be an adventure and I may or may not have a finished page that I like, let alone love. And that's okay because it's more about what I can learn about my subject matter, strengthening my observation skill as well as my hand and eye coordination.

I gotta tell you, it was amazing fun! And time FLEW by! It was like being there and with the help of technology, I was! Just amazing. Without disturbing or threatening the habitat of these wonderful "little friars," I was able to enjoy sketching them.

There are a number of different cams that spotlight the lives of ospreys, eagles and other birds as well as bears, dogs and all manner of beasties that I intend to take advantage of when I'm wondering what I'm going to sketch or when I don't feel like braving Florida's high humidity and temperatures in the middle of summer.

Getting back to the puffins…they live in the park in the summer months and their summer runs from April to August. They'll have "puffed" before I get there.

Dagnabit!

I missed them in Alaska too. Apparently, I'm going to have to plan a Puffin Tour at some point if I'm ever going to see the cute little rascals for myself. They live most of their lives on the open sea only coming back to land to breed.

Did you know puffin swim using their wings to propel them through the water much as they do when they fly? Their feet as used as rudders. How cool is that?!

Did I mention that I really want to see puffins in the wild?

What bird or animal do you want to see in the wild with your eyes?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Killing Time Before The Show

Jacaranda Tree across the Hillsborough River
Straz Performing Arts Center
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birn Zeta Bound Sketchbook
I have the opportunity to go and see We Will Rock You, a musical featuring Queen's music. Somehow, we managed to arrive too early, so will my friend Celeste took a call I decided to pull out my sketchbook. 

I wasn't sure how long I'd have to try and capture the gorgeous Jacaranda tree in bloom across the river, but since I had my iPhone with me, I knew I could always take a photo if it became necessary. 

Once I had the bare bones down, I checked on Celeste to see if she was still on the phone. When I realized it was going to be a lengthy call, I pulled out my palette and started slinging (literally) paint—there's a big black smudge under the ticket on the right page!

Close up of page
Despite being a tad messy, it was fun and will always be remembered as the beginning of a super, fun night. The show was a blast. We clapped, sang along and would have danced if there had been room. 

One of the things I often tell folks in the Imaginary Trip classes is that as artists we have to look for and seize those little pockets of time that are unexpected gifts. Seize the moment!

To take advantage of those golden moments, it is necessary to turn loose of perfection and expectations because you never know just how long you're going to have or how things are going to turn out. 

For those few minutes when you're racing the clock and you're watching the image emerge on the page is pure gold and the image is just a bonus. It becomes part of a bigger experience. One that was made richer because of the sketching assuming you don't get caught up in the "is it good enough" mindset. 

The first challenge comes in recognizing those pockets of time. The second challenge is scraping up the courage to sketch in front of people. I had several couples mosey by me while peeking at the page. 

Because I knew my time was severely limited, I hung out a mental "Do Not Disturb" shingle and no one attempted to engage me in conversation. I didn't meet anyone's eyes, I didn't smile at anyone and as such, I was able to focus on the scene. 

The third challenge is knowing your current skill level and how fast you can sketch. If the whole scene is too much to attempt, focus on a less ambitious sketch. There were fountains, row boats, ducks and gorgeous (non-moving) plants in bloom that could easily have been added to the page.

Even if you don't come away with a stellar sketch, give yourself kudos for making the attempt!

Have you sketched on location lately? What was your biggest challenge? And if you haven't, what's holding you back?
___________________________

Many thanks to Celeste for the invitation and ticket to the show and best of luck to you in DC!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Revisiting A Past Subject With A New Perspective

Farm-Fresh Onion
Watercolor and Gouache
11 x 8.5 inches
Stillman & Birn Zeta Bound Journal
Every once in a great while, I'll revisit a subject I've already painted if I can find a new "take." While I may work in a series upon occasion, it usually is more of a theme-driven series rather than the same exact material over and over.

Here in Florida we get to enjoy farm-fresh produce all year long. There are fruit and vegetable stands set up as permanent businesses and you can just about get your favorite fruit or veggie any time.
Farm-Fresh Onion
Watercolor and Gouache
11 x 8.5 inches
Stillman & Birn Zeta Bound Journal
When I brought this onion into the house the other day, I set it up on top of the dryer in the laundry room because I knew those long, crinkly stems would be irresistible to certain 4-footed members of the household.

The next day as I was tossing clothes into the dryer, I happened to glance up and see the unique perspective of the bottom part of the onion being cut off…eureka!! A new take on an old subject!

As I'd already sketched onions before, I needed something new to capture my interest and make me want to sketch another one.
Watercolor and Gouache
11 x 8.5 inches
Stillman & Birn Zeta Bound Journal
As "they" say, there's nothing new in the world, nothing that hasn't already been done millions of times before, but I disagree. A new perspective, a new palette of pigments, something even a different day of the week and the results are astoundingly different.

As for the thought that's all been done before…yeah, maybe, but not by me, or you, on this day, in this light, with these pigments, with our given life experiences, skills, and challenges that are in constant flux. 

For me, that's what keeps me coming back to the page, to the brush, to put down marks and to see where it takes me, what it reveals.
 
That's what keeps it fresh and fun, because after all, if it's not fun, why would we even bother?

Do you work in series? Are they subject matter driven or theme driven? How do you maintain your interest level?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Crabby Friends

Florida Stone Crab Claw
Watercolor and Gouache
3.5 x 2 inches
Chris and I recently went over to a friend's house to pick a roll-top desk she had left for him when she passed away. While we were there, her son asked if we'd be interested in going through her art supplies as she had been a lifelong art teacher. 

We stepped out into her garage where it was hotter than Hades and started to look around. I figured it was going to be a short hunt due to the heat, but it was a bit like a treasure hunt. Even though many of the boxes, crates, bins and bags were labeled, you never knew what you'd find inside. 

Oddly enough, one of the very first bins I opened was filled to the top with seashells, starfish, and pieces of coral. (The label suggested watercolor supplies.) With an upcoming workshop taking place at the beach, I knew immediately that the bin of shells would be going home with me. Replacing the lid, I set the bin aside to keep looking. 

It wasn't until I was home that I started to wonder at the serendipity of discovering a box of seashells—a grand plan by the Universe or just lucky happenstance? Digging around in the treasure trove, I discovered the crab claw you see above. There was also a plastic seahorse(?) as well as shells that had been sliced so that you could see the chambers within. 

Because of the claw's faded colors, I couldn't decide if it had been cooked or was natural, so I started doing research and learned the following:
  • The crab is actually called the Florida Stone Crab. I've never heard them called Florida Stone Crabs before.
  • These crabs can be found as far as Connecticut to Belize in the North Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas. 
  • They live 7 to 9 years.
  • Predators of stone crabs include the horse conch, octopus, grouper, sea turtle, cobia and humans.
  • The crabs will easily give up a claw to escape from a predator as they can re-grow the lost appendage. 
Given the amount of chipping and erosion along the edges of the claw, my guess is that it was found on a beach. Perhaps given to a predator or lost during a molt. 

About The Page
Looking closely at the two images, you can see torn tape around the edges of the sketch and a small peek of the other sketches that will be on the page once I get the page finished. The torn tape you see is an experiment to see if it will create a "torn edge" look to the boxes.

As for the rest of the shells in the bin, I could be busy painting shells until the cows come home in, say, 2051. It would definitely take a while and in an odd way, it kinda felt like a nod from our friend saying, "Yeah, I'm still keeping up with you and what you're doing. Now, get busy!"

Wishful, nostalgic thinking, no doubt, but comforting as well.

Many thanks to Minnette Webster—you may be gone, but you'll live forever in the many hearts you touched. Bon voyage!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Come Play At The Beach With Me Next January!!

Image
Doesn't Interrupting Winter Sound Like A Great Idea!?!
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Imagine next January—the long, cold, gray days of snow, sleet and oh, yeah, more snow…orimagine yourself soaking up the sun with your toes in the  warm sand as you enjoy gentle breezes off the Gulf of Mexico!

Doesn't that sound much better than freezing!?! Then come and join me for  Winter, Interrupted: An Artist's Beach Holiday, January 18th through the 22nd, 2015. 

I'll be hosting a 4-day workshop and together, we'll explore St. Pete Beach, Florida as well as several other wonderful locations including lush Florida gardens, wild bird sanctuaries and historic John's Pass. 

With live sketching demos and one-on-one feedback from me, you'll be going home with a very special sketchbook brimming with beach memories and treasures!

The workshop will take place in the morning so that you have plenty of free time in the afternoon to go exploring or to bask in the sun in a royal blue cabana! 

We'll be staying at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort for 5 fabulous nights. Click the link to check out this awesome resort! 

Please click here to see and download the brochure with all the juicy details! 

There is a Frequently Asked Questions document included with the brochure to help answer many of your questions.

If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at the email address listed in the brochure.  

This adventure is so brand new, it's not even on the web site yet!

Saving the best for last, I have a very special offer to share with you, dear friends:
  • Everyone who registers by April 30th,* will save $100 per participant on the total workshop price   they register for! 
  • Past ITMR participants** will save $150 per participant on the total workshop price you choose          if you book on or before April 30th.*
  • On May 1st, the pricing in effect will be prices listed in the brochure. 
Let me mention now that our grand adventure will take place in one of the busiest seasons in Florida. This means I have a very limited number of rooms available. To get the room you want, please, please book early. I don't want anyone to be disappointed. 

If you're interested in coming in early or staying after the workshop, book now!  Don't wait. This isn't a sales pitch. This is me being me asking you not to wait—the rooms will become more scarce and the prices will only go up the closer we get to January. 

*One discount per participant. Completed and signed Registration and Liability Release Forms along with the deposit amount for each participant must be received before or postmarked by April 30th, 2014 to qualify for the discount. Regular pricing will apply if the Registration and Liability Release Forms are received incomplete and/or unsigned. 
**One discount per participant from the NOLA Live! Trip only.Completed and signed Registration and Liability Release Forms along with the deposit amount for each participant must be received before or postmarked by April 30th, 2014 to qualify for the discount. Regular pricing will apply if the Registration and Liability Release Forms are received incomplete and/or unsigned. 
This sketching holiday is brought to you by Imaginary Trips Made Real, LLC (ITMR).


Save $100 Per Participant on Winter, Interrupted Workshop 
By Registering On or Before April 30th!*
Valid through 4/30/2014
Please print, clip and attach coupon to Registration Form 


*One discount per participant. Completed and signed Registration and Liability Release Forms along with the deposit check(s) for each participant must be received before or postmarked by April 30, 2014 to qualify for a discount. 
Regular pricing will apply if Registration and/or Liability Release Forms
 are received 
incomplete
 and/or unsigned.

Prior ITMR Participants, Save $150 On Winter, Interrupted 
By Registering On or Before April 30th!*
Valid through 4/30/2014
Please print, clip and attach coupon to Registration Form


*One discount per participant. Completed and signed Registration and Liability Release Forms along with the deposit check(s) for each participant must be received before or postmarked by April 30, 2014 to qualify for a discount. Regular pricing will apply if 

Registration and/or Liability Release Forms
  are received incomplete and/or unsigned. 
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As always, please let me know of any questions you may have and I look forward to interrupting winter with you next January!