Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's Fall, Y'all!

It's here, it's here! Finally! I've been itching to hang out my fall wreaths and put up so autumn art. Tis my favorite of seasons!

We're not really feeling it yet here in Florida, but they say hope blooms was 73º this morning, so yay, weather!

To celebrate the changing seasons...somewhere else...we're going to be having some fun with sunflowers, lettering, border treatments, splatters and complementary colors at Keeton's this coming Saturday, September 26th, in Bradenton.

Did you know that the sunflower is Russia's national flower and they produce more sunflowers than any other country?

Me either! Oddly enough, sunflowers originally came from the United States.

Do you know the difference between a wild sunflower and a domesticated sunflower (and no, this is not a joke!)?

Wild sunflowers have lots of branches and small flowerheads while the domesticated sunflowers tend to be single-stemed with one large flowerhead.

Of course, that one flowerhead thing is a little misleading as the flowerhead actually consists of up to 2000 individual flowers that are attached to a receptacle base.

And last, but not least, there are over 60 different types of sunflowers and the flowers are grown in the United States, Japan, Russia, and Europe.

I hope you'll come and join us! There's something to be said for pretending it's a pleasant 70º degrees outside with a brilliant cerulean blue skies so bright you almost have to wear shades.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Please don't forget to check out the new Independent Learning Classes over at The Imaginary Realm!

Monday, September 21, 2015

From (Paper) Scraps To Treasures - Leaf Mobile Tutorial

This past week, I worked on a card design and found myself with a lot of paper scraps left over. Rather than toss them, I set them over to the side of my art board because I already had a project in the back of my mind. And I might as well confess now...I hoard my paper scraps in a little green container over on the window sill near my table.

In truth, I have no reason to save paper scraps. I could start an art supply store with all the paper I have, but I find scraps handy for testing out ideas, paint colors, ink samples and the like. And I never know when I may want to make a tag or cover up a line that went on an unauthorized walkabout!

Sunday morning found me with some time to kill while waiting for Chris to get back from his errands. Because I am hearing (but not feeling) Autumn's siren call, I decided to use some of those scraps to indulge my leaf passion. (If you search the blog you'll find dozens of leaves in different styles.) 

In fact, it's getting to the time of year where it's dangerous for me to go outside...I've already collected a half-dozen acorns and several leaves. I don't seem to be able to go outside without picking up some small treasure!

The leaf below is the first one I painted and in the spur of the moment, I decided to cut it out. Because I wanted to emphasize the edges, I used a craft knife to mimic the edges I had drawn on the leaf itself.

I used Indian Yellow, Transparent Pyrrol Orange and Sap Green to create the colors of the changing season. 

The ink is from a brown Uniball Signo pen that I love for the softer impact it has than black. Black, sepia or gray would have worked fine as would pencil.

I then added a message on the back thinking I would add it into a card for a friend. I went back to my scrap and drew out two more leaves, added paint and then cut them out as well. As I played with my leaves and arranged them on the table, I suddenly had a new project idea to play with!
If you've been in a class with me lately, you know I've been obsessing over little painted banners and flags. They're popping up everywhere! In the image above, you can see the outline of one I used when I created the card I had been working on previously. Using a similar design, I made a larger one. I used the same colors to paint the banner that I used in the leaves.
After the banner dried, I cut it out and used an awl to punch holes in the banner and the leaves. I then added my text using the same pen I used to draw the leaves.
And viola! Adding brown thread, I had a very simple leaf mobile to entertain me with fall's fabulous colors.
It is currently hanging from the hutch above computer and the leaves flutter and turn when the fan comes on. Since it is still very much S.U.M.M.E.R. here in Florida, that's about every 15 minutes. However, I can pretend it's a cool autumn breeze whenever I look over at my leaf mobile and it makes me smile every time I do!

If you were inclined to make a leaf mobile, it could be infinitely scalable in size and the number of items you add. (Remember, odd numbers usually work best.) Apples, acorns, pumpkins, ears of corn, gourds, and more leaves could all be added either to a larger top banner or another hole could be added to the bottom of each item and another item added on. 

If you've painted your leaves on a sketchbook page but still want to try this idea, either scan or photograph them and then print them out on a thicker piece of cardstock. (Regular printer paper will likely curl.) Cut them out and string them up to a banner you've painted on a separate piece of paper. 

Save those scraps and make yourself a mobile. Hang it in a place where you'll see it often and enjoy Autumn's Delights!

Happy Fall, Y'all!!

140 lb. cold press watercolor paper • Uniball Signo Brown pen • watercolors • craft knife • cutting surface • brown thread • acid-free glue

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Independent Learning Classes Are Now Live!!

The Imaginary Realm is live!! The Independent Learning Classes are ready and waiting and I could not be more excited to share this milestone with you! It has been a dream of mine for years  and it's happening now!

Independent Learning Classes are just what they sound like, you learn independently, on your own schedule when it's convenient for you and at your own pace. The classes have the same class materials of the interactive, online classes over at The only that's changed is the format (so you can go at your own pace) and the price! You'll have access to all of the course materials for 365 days!

The classes also have different participation options. If want just the class, you're good to go, but if you're looking for input on your developing your skills and would like to have feedback directly from Laure to help, there is an option for that. If you would like to be able to discuss that feedback in a live situation with Laure, there's an option for that as well.

So far, there are four classes available with more on their way!

Artful Journaling: Foundations
This class helps the beginning journalist to get started and start building the skills needed to successfully create journal pages that are fun and playful.

The class has over 12 assignments and covers everything from tearing paper to building your watercolor skills! Please click on the class title for more information.

Artful Journaling: Explorations
The Explorations class continues to build your skills as we explore various design elements and principles as well as creating word art and textures in on our pages.

Twelve more assignments along with lots of video demonstrations! For more information, please click on the class title.

An Imaginary Trip To New Orleans has to be one of my most favorite trips I've created because NOLA is a super fun place to visit! There's so much to see and do...and eat!

By the time you've explored all six seven(!) assignments, you'll be anxious to stroll through the French Quarter yourself! For now, you can click on the title for more info on the class.

And last but certainly not least, a brand new class, Artful Journaling: Watercolor Beginnings, will be launching on October 30th, and is currently available at a special prelaunch price (50% OFF!).
I am so excited about this class! I've had requests for a class like this for years and I finally the place to host it and the time to pull it together. It's gonna be a blast!

This class is directed towards those of you who wants to get into watercolor and have no idea where to begin! We'll learn about pigments, paper and brushes, how to set up a palette, the differences between mixing color on the palette and the paper as well as working in layers...and that's just getting started!

There will be more than a dozen videos with pages upon pages of information to help get you started on your very own watercolor journey! To learn more, please click on the class title.

Come on over and check out the classes—you can see a the full curriculum of the things we'll cover and or the places we'll visit in each class. I'd love to hear what you think!

All future classes will be announced through the newsletter. To find out about them as soon as they launch, I hope you'll consider joining up here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inspiration Of A Different Kind (Artist Appreciation Month)

I was recently made aware of Artist Appreciation Month. Have you heard of it? No/ Me either. After doing a little research, I found that the idea had been around for a few years but had not really taken off. Still, the idea had merit and felt like something worthwhile.

The idea is basically to discuss an artist that inspired you in your creative journey. It can be someone famous, someone local, a friend or a family member.

My Story
When I looked back at my own journey, I realized my catalyst to undertake an artistic life began with a visit to a craft fair when I was either 15 or 16 years old. Mind you, my sole reason for attending the event was because my mother told me I could drive if I went and since that was uppermost on mind in those days, you can bet I went! I liked crafts as well as the next female, but I mainly went because I was able to drive. (The priorities of a teenager!)

After arriving at the event, I quickly became bored and wandered off by myself rather than trailing around behind my mother. (Teenage angst showing.) In my wanderings, I came across an artist painting a macaw parrot with watercolors. The parrot was mostly finished as I recall, but what held me spellbound was watching her use green paint to "carve" a leaf out of a white background.

The artist was quite skilled at creating form and shape in one wash. (I learned this much later.) As I watched, she added lights and darks, lifted a bit of paint and suddenly, it looked like I could have reached over and picked that leaf up. It seemed so effortless!

I was instantly, completely captivated, a willing hostage to the magic she was creating.

After watching for several minutes, she engaged me in conversation and explained a little about what she was doing. I have no idea what paints she was using, what her palette looked like, how many pigments were on the palette, the type of brushes she used, the type of paper she was using or whether she had two buckets of water or just one.

All I knew was that I had been witness to something incredible and I wanted to create magic too!

She told me about some classes on the other side of town from me, but I was never able to locate them. I searched for again after I moved to that area, but I had no luck in finding her. I'm sad to say I had no clue what her name was nor did I ever locate her.

I wish I could.

When I walked out of that craft fair, I knew with unshakeable conviction that one day I'd be able to paint with watercolors. I can still see that leaf coming to life before my eyes when I look back at that memory over 30 years later!

The artist engaged me with her humor and willingness to share. She encouraged me to pursue my interest by telling me about the classes. But maybe best of all, she made it seem possible that I too could one day create art.

There were no discussions about how hard watercolor is to learn or how long it takes or anything negative. She didn't put up any obstacles nor did she set herself on a pedestal to be admired by the little people. Instead, she showed me her joy in a simple pleasure.

It took another decade and a few more cataclysmic events before I became serious about the pursuit of my art. I'd always dabbled in crafts, but I believe the idea that I could actually making a living with art, be an artist (gasp!), was planted that day.

If I could sit down and talk with her today, I would thank her for sharing her joy, for demonstrating the simple pleasure of painting without apology for how good or how bad the work was. I would thank her for encouragement to take classes and for planting the seeds that have brought me to where I am today.

There's plenty of negativity out on the web these days. The political arena is heating up with all kinds all balderdash, so how about joining me in sharing your story about an artist or artists that inspired you on your creative journey? If you do, please leave a link in the comments as I would love to read your inspiration.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Unicorns, Mice, and FlipFlops!!!

Now that's a headline I never thought I'd write, but you just never know, do you?!

Actually, all of those items have to do with upcoming classes at and Keeton's Art Supply in Bradenton. Whether online or in person, I hope you can join me for some sketching fun!

First up, how about immortalizing our favorite, summertime shoes, the ever-present FlipFlops? (Well, they're ever-present in Florida anyway!) Any time I work on capturing two similar items or sides, like FlipFlops or a vase, I employ tracing paper to make sure I'm getting like shapes and sizes. Come on down to Keeton's on Saturday, July 25th to learn more!
The thistle is the national flower of Scotland (and we'll be seeing plenty of those!)
If you're nowhere near Florida, hop online and join me for some fun on An Imaginary Trip To Scotland! Did you know that the national animal of Scotland is the unicorn?! (I kid you not! Google it if you'd like.) While I can't promise we'll see any of those on our trip, I have no doubt we'll be in for a visual treat of castles, ruins, serene lochs and beautiful, rugged mountains. For more information, please click HERE. I do hope you'll come and join me! Class begins on Thursday, August 13th!
The Mamam sculpture outside of the Guggenheim • Bilbao
Did you know that Spain is means "land of the rabbits" or that they do not have a tooth fairy? Instead, they have a mouse called "Ratoncito Pérez" that leaves behind small surprises! Spain's culture is rich and varied. The landscapes range from high mountainous areas to vineyards to vast cities. They say you'll come for a visit and want to stay a life time—let's go find out, shall we?

The Imaginary Trip To Spain will begin on Thursday, September 17th. You can learn more about the class by clicking this LINK. It's gonna be fun!

I hope to see you soon!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Did You Forget Your Sketchbook?! (And What To Do When You Do)

Cutlery Bag I Drew On
Ink and Watercolor
Chris and I went to St. Petersburg a few weekends ago to visit a favorite bookstore, Haslam's, eat lunch at one of Florida's fun and kitschy restaurants, Fourth Street Shrimp Store and to look for a new freezer to replace the one that died a month ago.

It wasn't too long after we sat down at the Shrimp Store that I realized I had left my sketchbook on the table next to the couch where I'd been working in it the night before.

Fourth Street Shrimp Store is full of fun wall art, license plates, and lots of old antiques. LOTS of Florida kitsch! There's even some ancient taxidermy sprinkled here and there. It's not a good place to go without a sketchbook in hand.

I immediately started looking for another piece of paper to sketch on—in my purse and on the table. I was even eyeing the waitress' order book.

My eye happened to land on the little bag the restaurant used for the cutlery and I pounced on it. My concern was that it might be covered with a waxy coating, but it wasn't. I was back in business!

Spotting an old paddle that seemed to be the perfect subject matter for my long, narrow bag, I got down to sketching. However, lunch came before I put down very much info, so I put the little bag away to finish it later.

Turns out later was several days later and the paper bag had gotten quite beat up and folded tumbling around in my purse.

I added the logo and shrimp before I added watercolor to the paper. I really wasn't sure how it would take paint, but it worked great. If it had not, I would have used color pencils or left it as black ink.

One I was done with the artwork, I glued the end of the bag into my sketchbook and then folded the rest of the bag in an accordion fold so it would fit in the book. By seizing the bag, I was able to seize the opportunity to sketch!

What To Do When You Don't Have Access To Your Sketchbook
Don't be discouraged by the fact that you left the darn sketchbook at home or you're stuck in some long-winded meeting—where there's a will, there's a way!

Instead, look around for another piece of paper to scribble on. Don't hesitate to ask if you don't have anything useable.

In a restaurant: don't overlook placemats! They're often paper and there is seldom printing on the back. I do recommend staying away from menus unless you ask as the restaurants usually have a limited number on hand. Ask if they have a carryout menu instead.

In a meeting: scribble and draw in the margins or over any part that is irrelevant to you and what you need to know. You can always go prepared to the meeting with extra paper than can be glued into your sketchbook later. I do suggest keeping it out of sight as it can be disconcerting to others when they see you drawing over your handouts or in your day planner. I had to explain more than once that I wasn't goofing off, but actually paying attention. (I always retained more and listened better when I drew!)

Try to use permanent ink as paper that does not qualify as "sketchbook paper." Menus and receipts are usually printed on very, inexpensive paper and will not hold up under a lot of erasing or water. If the ink feathers, try using a ball point pen instead. If the paper doesn't like water at all, use colored pencils if you want to add a touch of color.
The same little bag glued down to the page in an accordion fold.
No Name/Brand Sketchbook
Consider whether or not you want to add the new piece to your sketchbook. Chances are excellent the paper is not 100% cotton rag and will begin to yellow and oxidate over time. In other words, it's not going to be archival. This may or may not affect your other pages and or sketches. It's for you to decide based on what your sketchbook's purpose is.

Sketching on unexpected and untried surfaces can be a lot of fun and lead to results you would never expect. You may decide it's more fun to sketch on "found" ephemera than in an actual sketchbook. If an experiment doesn't turn out, what have you lost? Probably not as much as you gained!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Somebody's Having A Special Day!

Wishing my guy, Chris Ferlita, a super happy birthday as he begins a new decade today! Hope the day is as brilliant as you are.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Sketching

Pen and Water Wash with stamped letters
Crummy watercolor journal
3.5" x 5.5"
I would love to tell you I've been traveling or sketching up a storm or on some delectable adventure, but the truth is I'm not really sure where the last two weeks have disappeared to! I haven't any sketches to show for my absence either. Well, with the exception of the one to the left and it's just a quickie.

There are times when I want to sketch and there are times when I want to sit back and absorb what's going on around me or to focus on the person I'm spending time with.

I can fall into my sketchbook like some people fall into their smartphones and it can damn annoying to someone who doesn't sketch. Or so I've been told.

For me, often the point of sketching is to create a portal, or return ticket, back to a moment I want to remember. In this instance, I wanted to remember the "pity pot" and a quick sketch was all that was necessary.

As we sat together, it took a few minutes for me to grasp the idea that the pity pot was a toilet and when my friend was done with her pity party, she simply hit the handle to wash all the negativity away!

It amused me and it delighted me that she had found a way to deal with some of the ongoing, life challenges she's facing. Like most of us, she's dealing with her fair share of "stuff."

She also puts a timer on her pity parties and sets a firm deadline, say 4 o'clock in the afternoon before her family comes home from their day, by which to end her party. That way she doesn't fall into the trap of lingering too long.

At the end of her party, she ceremoniously flushes the toilet and watches the water swirl the pity away and out of her world. Clever, huh?!

And that's what I have to show for the last two weeks.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Do You Give Up Too Easily?

Assignment from An Imaginary Trip To Canada
There are days when I get up and it seems I have completely lost the ability to draw accurately. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, drawing is often an exercise of frustration.

But not futility.

What I've learned is that sometimes it pays to keep going even when all the lines are wonky, proportions are off and well, it looks like a toddler got busy on the page with their crayons.

Because it turns out okay in the end.

If you're on location in some beautiful local and you woke up not knowing which end of the pencil to use, would put your sketchbook away and just take photos while telling yourself you'll draw it all out when you get home (knowing you probably won't)?

There's a quote I recently discovered by Mark Twain:
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.
Huh. That says it about as well as it can be said. 

And that explains my approach to the page above and to sketching in general. The page above is part of the Imaginary Trip To Canada class currently going on and the page above is on the back of the first page I did for the class. I didn't want to skip it.

The very first mark I put down on the page was incorrect. But I figured if I just kept going, I'd work out the kinks and hit my stride. 

My stride was no where to be found that day. 

The clock tower is probably the worst of the drawing, but the sailboat's mast looks drunk, the box around the lighthouse is way off and the lighthouse itself looks a little bizarre. 

When I finished with my sketch, this is where I was:

Some folks think that adding color will "hide" incorrect proportions or perspectives. 

They're only half wrong. Color alone won't hide anything:
You can see from the comparison above that the clock still looks pretty wonky even with the color added. 

However, when you use some other strategic techniques along with some that use color, you can help to direct the eye so that the wonky becomes more of "the hand of the artist" and less of the "I forgot how to draw."

In this case, I used the following techniques to both disguise my challenged drawing and to re-direct the viewer's eyes:
  • I created layers of "stuff" to look at. By adding the map in the background, it pushed the other items on the page forward. By placing the boxes over the map but behind the boat, clock and foghorn, I built a back, middle and foreground. This creates a push and pull of items to entertain the viewer.
  • By placing the blue wash around the land mass, I also created a unifying wash that creates one overall element with lots of smaller components. Kind of like a map of the United States is one land mass with the various borders creating the states within. If I had stopped with just the clock, it would have been front and center and quite obvious that I had trouble drawing that day. By adding the other elements, I took the pressure off the clock drawing.
  • I also used a color trifecta to lead the eye around the page. Did you notice the red foghorn first? Then the lighthouse and the lettering? That's because I've used the red to move the eye around the page rather than letting the viewer just "read" the page. By using a strong color ( and it doesn't have to be red,) in three or more distinct places, it moves the viewer's eye around. You'll note that it doesn't direct the viewer's eye to the clock or drunken mast. 
  • The sailboat and the clock serve as "brackets." All the information held within them is about Prince Edward Island and it gives the viewer a visual clue about the page. Because the sailboat and clock are visually balanced as long verticals, it again takes the eye away from the wonkiness. 
As you may have guessed, I work directly in permanent pen, especially when I'm on location because it saves time and it keeps me out of the "Oops Loop." I'm sure you've dealt with're working in pencil and you realize your lines aren't working so you erase and redraw. Then you do it again, and again and again, and finally something that should have taken five minutes ends up taking thirty. Not to mention the paper is now messed up.

Working on location is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'd rather take Mark Twain's advice and work on continuous improvement rather than delay until I get home and hope for perfection. 

What about you—do you give up on a wonky drawing too soon or do you push through?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Keeton's Class Project for 5.30.15!

Do you have supplies left over from your scrapbooking days now that you've moved on to sketching? Wondering what to do with them?

Tomorrow, down at Keeton's in Bradenton, I'll be doing a live class and we're going to be working on a mixed-media page using scrapbooking paper as the main design with watercolor, stencils and colored markers to make a fun and festive page.

Come and join me if you can! More info here. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding My Way Back To My Sketchbook

After coming home from a trip, I always have grand plans for all the pages I'm going to do based on the great photos and wonderful memories I have. Sound familiar?

And then life, work and daily living gets in the way. Sound even more familiar?

Those pages still exist, but they're only in my imagination and they fade with each passing day.

Each trip, I do a little better by getting more done in my sketchbook while on location. However, there will always be more pages to be done when I return. Both our Acadia trip from last fall and the Winter Interrupted workshop from this winter await the finishing touches.

Luckily for me, I had a little help from one of the gals that helped me Interrupt Winter, Claire McFeely. Actually, it was more than a little help—she's been a powerhouse of inspiration because she recently finished all 48 pages of her trip and she's been sharing them on a private trip blog we have.

The other "help" I have is that my brand new Apple computer, the Big Mac Daddy, is back at the big house for yet more diagnostics and repairs. I am so over this situation and I knew I need some serious distracting from the situation, so I pulled out all my saved materials and photos and went to work. BTW, distraction is a marvelous tool to get going on a stalled project!
Final Day and a Page of Thanks
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Watercolor and Ink
On the NOLA trip, we lost a stool on the very last night. On the last evening of Winter Interrupted, one of the ladies' hats decided to separate from its brim in a rather dramatic fashion. After a wonderful walk on the beach, we had dinner at a little grill where we sat outside to enjoy the wonderful breeze and listened to the waves crashing into shore.

That single-serving bottle of bubbly Moscato wine was ridiculously expensive, but just too cute to pass up and the wine was good. The ink on this page reads as black but is actually a grayed blue. It worked well with the restaurant's logo colors.
Happy reminders of a wonderful trip
Stillman & Birn
Watercolor and Ink
During our adventure to John's Pass, the bag above was spotted. Since it had eight flip-flops on it and there were eight "Beach Sisters," the Sisters decided to gift the bag to me as a happy reminder of the trip and to show their appreciation. After they gave it to me, I had each of them sign their names to a flip-flop…I still need one more signature that I'm determined to get one of these days, soon!

I have to say that going back and working in my sketchbook was like a balm to my frustrated mind. I didn't look at the clock, I didn't worry about how much detail I was putting into the work, I just drew and painted to my heart's content.

Since I still do not know the fate of Big Mac Daddy, it looks like I'm going to get to keep going in my sketchbook and who know's I might just get finished!

How do you get yourself motivated to go back and finished an abandoned sketchbook?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wonderful, Weird Florida!

Commemorating A Wild and Wacky Mother's Day 
Ever go to Gatorland on Mother's Day?

Ever been to all?!

Well, we have! We went this past Sunday with family and friends and it would not do but some of them just had to go zip-lining over the gator ponds!
The Zippers
And they all had a blast. So much so, that I've already heard discussion about a return trip though we'll probably wait for cooler temperatures—it was HOT! (And yes, I know this is Florida, the land of there perpetual summer!).

The park had plenty of alligators and crocodiles along with lots of other critters—panthers, bobcats, tortoise, parrots, budgies, snakes, spiders, herons, egrets, flamingos, ducks, wood storks, anhingas, a rookery,  and without a doubt, the most buzzards I have ever seen at one time! There were hundreds of them!

It was interesting to watch the shows. Most of them were quite comical and at the same time, they were sliding in a lot of education about the critters, their habitats, what kind of environment and food they needed as well as a good bit of common sense about how to avoid being lunch.

My sketch above was just a fun parody on the goofiness of the day! The folks that ran the zip line were great sports and did everything they could to scare the pants off all the "zippers." (At no point was anyone in any danger.)
My goofball having a great time. If you enlarge the photo, you'll see me as a pink blob
doing some videoing on the right
The Great Blue Heron was the only thing I actually managed to sketch on location. Everything else was done from photos once we got home. I was too busy running around attempting to video those flying through the air with the greatest of ease.

The silver token has the saying, "See you later, alligator" on one side and the Gatorland logo on the other.

If you're after a slower pace and a glimpse of old Florida attractions, this is a fun place to visit. Unless you go zip-lining, it won't take you a full day to visit, but I think you'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Learning, Learning and More Learning!

This is going to be a bit of a meandering post, but bear with me—it all connects together...

Back during the holidays, during my reflection on the year just past and the year to come, I realized that I had not taken any classes in a while and I was feeling stagnant. I had been for a while. 

I set myself a goal of learning something new each month. It could be reading a book on something new (to me), taking a class (in person or online) or experimenting on my own with something I've not tried before. 
Final Project from Joanne Sharpe's class
I took a class from creative lettering guru, Joanne Sharpe, on Friday night and this was my final project. It was a fun, boisterous evening spent in the company of likeminded artists and a nice switch from teacher to student. Stretching those brain cells in a new direction gave me a much-needed creativity boost. 

On Thursday, April 30th, the Imaginary Visit To A Japanese Garden begins! This is one of my favorite classes as we get into mixing greens and grays. The class is fun way to delve into color in a beautiful location. Come and join the fun! If you click the class title, you'll find more info. 

Last but certainly not least is my "adventure" into sketching people once again. Let me set the stage for husband and I went to a gun show a few weekends back. I went and found myself a bench near the entrance which also happened to have an ATM near it. 

I pulled out my sketchbook and made a few false starts but quickly realized folks weren't lingering too long before entering the show. However, they did have to wait to use the ATM and that worked out well. As I said my first few attempts were on the horrid side so when I sketched this guy, I was pretty excited. I liked the smooth lines and the proportions were good. 

Unfortunately, his buddy retrieved his money before I finished my sketch. When I finally pulled back from the act of sketching to look at the end result, I started to laugh. In fact, I got so tickled I was afraid they were going to come and take me have to remember, there I sat, a lone woman, on a bench outside of a gun show, laughing hysterically at...something in my hand. 

Each time I got myself calmed down, all I had to do was look back at the page and I'd start laughing again. It didn't help when some guy came by and did a double take at my open sketchbook. The look on his face was quite comical. 

In desperation, I pulled out another piece of paper and laid it over the drawing so that I could keep going, but by then, I'd lost my momentum and I decided it might be prudent of me just to put the book away.

In defense of the sketch, it was very chilly in the building and the guy was cold standing there in his shorts and tank. His hands were in his pockets and his arms pressed against his body in an effort to stay warm. I could hear him and his buddy bantering back and forth about the temperature while they waited.

Now, if I'd been paying slightly more attention, I probably would have opted to NOT draw this particular guy. There's that learning piece often do we get so into what we're doing that we lose sight of where we're going? I had NO idea what this guy looked like until he started to walk away and I pulled out of "sketching mode."

When my husband came up and sat down, he looked at the closed sketchbook questioningly. I opened it without saying anything and let him take a look. His first comment was, "Did they leave the door open to the men's bathroom?!"

This will be a favorite memory for a long time, but I can't say that I recommend laughing hysterically at something no one else can see at the entrance to a gun show!

My point in all this is that we learn by doing. We can read books, watch others in classes or on videos, but until we put a mark down on the page, we don't usually "get it." Not really. 

And of course, if we do finally find the courage to make a mark, we have to worry about those darn mistakes...or do we? Mistakes are how we learn. Can you imagine trying to learn to walk if you could never fall down and then get back up to try again? I can't name anything that doesn't require trying and then trying again before we can begin to claim any kind of mastery.

The other cool thing about these activities is that they often come along with their very own happy memories that make the learning fun. 

What have you learning lately? Do you find yourself getting stale if you don't challenge yourself?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring Tulips Tutorial for Keeton's Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Be Still! (Drawing People)

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Demons Of Doubt

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

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

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

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

And we listen and we give up our adventure.

And so we stay stuck.

Not to mention frustrated.

Our inner critic has struck again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even should we fail, failure is seldom fatal.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

That's How We Learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar? Stop and consider two things…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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