Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Is Your Mindset To Creating Art?

An Imaginary Visit To Norway starts March 3rd!
Examining My Approach
Have you ever given any thought to what your "default" mindset as you get ready to create a piece of art?

I didn't when I first started attempted to sketch on location.  Prior to these "attempts," I had always been a studio painter.

One of two things happened each time I went out: I either came home with an empty page or I came home with a page that looked like it had been attacked by a toddler on a manic sugar high. It looked like I'd tried to cram everything I'd seen onto one page, and, well, that's because that's exactly what I was doing. 

Frustration ruled the day. 

I finally started to work out the process of what I was doing and where the breakdown was occurring.  

It took several more attempts (and spectacular fails) before I began to get an inkling as to where and what I was doing "wrong.*"

*It wasn't necessarily wrong so much as it wasn't the best approach for what I wanted to accomplish. Kinda like trying to peel a potato with a butter knife—it could be done, but it would be a slow, laborious process.

“The mindset I used when approaching sketching on location was remarkable similar to the one I used when I approached a full-sized painting in the studio.”

When I worked in the studio, I had control of the temperature, the lights, interruptions, my physical comforts (food, clothing type, etc.) and if I wanted, I could stop and come back later to pick up where I left off.

This allowed me the luxury of capturing every detail, every nuance of shadow, making sure my proportions were spot on and studying the colors leisurely as I made my mind up how to recreate something on paper.

When I approached working on location, I no longer had control of anything! The light changed, there were constant interruptions (bugs, people, rain, wind, not having my stuff organized, etc.). Sometimes I was too hot while I was too cold at other times. And usually, I had a very finite amount of time to capture what was in front of me. Argh!!

No wonder I was not getting the results I wanted.

After discovering my approach wasn't working, I started developing the 5 E's—Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Embellish and Exaggerate. But I still needed to work on my mindset.

Why was I sketching on location? What did I want to accomplish given the limitations of working on location? What would satisfy me as a productive, enjoyable outing?

With these questions in mind, I started to grasp that within the limitations imposed by working on location and my weak to nonexistent sketching skills, I was going to have to seriously curtail my expectations of what I could expect to create on the page. I knew, as my skills strengthened, I could hope to capture more on the page, but that was down the road.

I also realized that all those details (that I worship) were seldom necessary, that painting on location wasn't about the details. It was about the whole experience.

“When I went back and re-evaluated those pages from this newly developing approach, I realized that even the lousy, half-finished (as well as the truly awful) attempts were portals back to the day, where I was, what I was feeling, who I was with and the events of the day.


So good OR bad, the sketch was a portal back to a moment in time. A moment that would otherwise have been lost if I didn't make the attempt to memorialize it in my sketchbook!

And that was one of my biggest eureka! moments that has helped me to move forward on my artistic journey.

By recognizing the need for a different mindset when I needed/wanted to work quickly and simply to create a portal back to that specific moment of time, I freed myself from being slave to expecting perfection, capturing every detail and feeling like a failure when I didn't recreate a page worthy of a spot on the gallery wall!

What's Your Mindset?
When you approach working in your sketchbook or sketching, whether you're on location or sitting at the kitchen table, what is your mindset? Are you looking to recreate in miniature the place or photo before you with every detail OR are you wanting to memorialize the moment with a likeness so that you can revisit at a later date?

If you're frustrated with your attempts, lack of progress or the end results, going through your process and approach to creating art can be very illuminating!

A few questions to ask yourself include:
Why am I creating? What is my intent for creating this [place, thing, person]?
Is it to remember the day/event/moment, to improve my skills or for another reason?
How important is it to me to get this "right" and why is it that important? (Watch out for fear of failure when answering this question!)
Am I considering the limitations in this situation (time invested, my current skill level, physical environment, etc.) or am I approaching this without taking those limitations into consideration?
What can I do differently that will increase my level of satisfaction with my art?

After answering these questions honestly, attempt creating art with your new found observations. (Please note that it took me several tries before my new approach began to really show up on the page.) I hope you'll let me know if it makes as big a difference to your approach as it did to mine!

If you'd like to delve further into this process, consider joining me for a class over at! We leave for Norway on March 3rd!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quick Lettering Guide Tutorial And NEW Classes!!

First Up: Quick Lettering Guide Tutorial

There are times when I'm out in the field and I don't want to take the time to carefully draw out lines to get a title of type just right. With this in mind, I came up with a quick way to do lettering without having to invest a lot of time.

Once your art is complete and you're ready to add your title, grab a piece of paper. In my example, I'm using tracing paper as I usually have a piece tucked into the back of my journal. Plain white paper works just as well. (The art is from the Keeton's class demo I did this past Saturday.)

The art is fine the way it is, but I really wanted to add the word, Seaside, at the top of the art.  I probably should have used "gulfside" as this is the Gulf of Mexico. You can click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Size the tracing paper to the width of the area where you want the type to appear. In my case, I wanted my type to stretch all the way across the top of the art. Please click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Once you have the size, fold the paper in half, then into quarters and then down to eighths. This step really depends on how many letters you'll be using. Fold down as much as you want, but the more folds you have the smaller the lettering will be. It may be necessary to space the words rather than the letters. Please click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Once I have my folds, I usually mark the folds as it makes them easier to see. I also mark my center fold with a "c." Based on how many letters and the lettering style I want, I then write out my word(s).

If you already know what lettering style you want, you can use the edge of the paper as your straight line. If you're going to play around with a few different styles, draw out several straight lines to practice different styles.

Knowing I really wanted the long, stretchy lettering, I flipped my paper and wrote out my letters in between the folds rather than on the folds themselves as I did in the first example.

Position the word so that it is centered in the space where you want the title to appear and then recreate the lettering using the guide as a visual map for placement. Depending on how complicated your title is, it may be necessary to pencil in a few lines. 

And when you're done, hopefully this is something like what you will have when you're done! 

Next Up: NEW Classes Over At!!
Okay, I'll admit I jumped the gun a little bit as the poll is still open, but Norway got out in front and never looked back! It's a pretty safe bet we'll be heading there first! To learn more about An Imaginary Visit To Norway, please click HERE! Class will get started on Thursday, March 3rd. Come and join the fun! Did you know they have a knighted penguin?! (I didn't either!)

After Norway, we'll head over to Sweden as Norway and Sweden share a border of over 1,000 miles. The history they share is also quite complex and intertwined. We'll head out for An Imaginary Visit To Sweden on Thursday, April 7th. Wanna come along? Click HERE to learn more! Sweden is home to the largest reindeer herd in the world and I'm pretty sure they've a huge moose population as well.

There's still time to vote on the poll and help decide where we go after we leave Sweden! Click HERE to go to the poll. It's open until February 1st!

I look forward to traveling with you this year!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Catching Some Wave Action (Tutorial)

Have you ever wondered how to sketch a waves, whether on location or in person?

If you're local, please come and join me at Keeton's in Bradenton where we'll be painting waves on Saturday, January 23rd, from 9 am to 12:30 pm. It will be loads of fun! Click here for more info!

Below are some observations on my approach to sketching waves from a photo. After sketching from waves, I highly recommend tackling a few in your sketchbook while you're on location.

Even if you were the speediest sketcher ever, it's doubtful you'd be able to sketch just one wave while you at the beach. Instead, you'd be sketching parts of different waves as they rolled into shore. With a photograph, that's one thing you don't have to worry about as the wave is stopped for you.

Before you start sketching, there's a very important first step you need to do and that's to study the waves to see their shapelight and dark parts of them, where the sun is hitting and what reflections are showing up in the water in front of the wave as well as behind it. All of these things are necessary to sketch a realistic looking wave.

It's up to the artist whether or not to sketch waves in pen or pencil. I've done both and I've found that I prefer just pencil.

When you're ready to sketch, take note of where you place the horizon line. Try to avoid placing it in the middle of the sketch. As humans, we like things divided in thirds rather than halves.

Once you have the horizon line in place, decide if you will add any sand or if your sketch will be all water.  If you're going to add sand, indicate the sand line (bottom of the sketch) AND the water line. I always try to make my water line uneven as water seldom rolls into the shore in an even, straight line.

Study the waves to find out how close to shore they're breaking. You can adjust the waves closer or farther from shore to make a more pleasing composition as well as how many waves are breaking...remember the photo is just for reference!

Sketch the general shape of a wave, clearly defining the white splash of the wave as it breaks. Notice it is not even on the bottom or the top. Include lines to indicate the reflections in front of it. Be sure to draw the edges where the water can be seen curling over on either side. Pencil in the small wave as well. I do not mark the areas of white foam before and behind the smaller wave that can be see in the image above as I know it's there. If you're concerned you'll forget it, lightly mark it in pencil.

Once you're satisfied with your sketch, pull out your paints and paint in your sky. I used a tissue to blot up some of the cloud shapes. While this is drying, I switched to the other end of the paper and painted in my sand and I make sure to go past my waterline as the sand would show through the shallow water.

Once I went far enough, I feathered out the edge so that it faded back to the white of the paper. After the paper was dry, I went back with a dark blue and started at the horizon line and painted down towards the big wave. Along the way, I added some green to the blue to indicate we were closer to shore and the water was not as deep.

Picking up more dark blue, I continued painting around the whites of the wave and towards the foamy area of the water. To indicate the foam, I leave lots of skips allowing the white of he paper to show through. At this point, I stop and check out the reflection in front of my wave. If it needs to be lighter, I can either lift with my brush or use a tissue.

Picking up more of the blue-green paint, I start below the foamy area and begin to paint around the smaller wave line. I then repeat the foamy area and paint up onto the sand area.

I make sure everything is dry and then go back with a damp brush and tickle the edges of the foamy area to soften some of the edges. I pull some of the paint into the white areas so they're not all the same value.

Next, I make adjustments to the wave areas. If you look at the base of the wave where the white water meets the blue, you'll see lots of very dark shadows in a dark blue. These shadows help to give form to the wave. I also take a very small amount of the blue mixed with water and begin to paint all kinds of random marks and squiggles to indicate the water frothing in the white of the wave. If needed, I add more dark areas along either side of the wave to give it more definition. I repeat with the smaller wave.

Last, using the same blue-green paint I used for the water, I paint a section of the sand to indicate where the sand got wet from a prior wave rolling up onto the shore.

After everything is good and dry, I take my white Uni-Ball Signo® pen and put in the white splashes around the waves and along the edges of the water line closest to the sand. If needed, I may add some of the white ink to the foamy areas.

Painting waves is lots of fun and very rewarding. I hope this helps you get started painting waves and I highly recommend going to the beach and sketching live! Meanwhile, I hope to see you at Keeton's!

And don't forget to vote on your favorite location for the 2016 classes! Click here to access the poll.

If you're not able to participate in interactive classes, check out the self-paced classes over at The Imaginary Realm. You set the pace and you have access to the materials for a year from the date of purchase! Go here to learn more!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Where Would You Like To Go This Year?

Where would you go if you didn't have to worry about jet lag, expenses, danger, your health, obligations at home, work obstacles, child- or care-giver responsibilities or anything else?!

It's a big place out there and there's so many incredible places to go!

Below, I have added a list of locations that I am considering for the Interactive class schedule for 2016. I'd love to know what your TOP 3 choices would be! Feel free to share in the comments why you've chosen your three locations.

If you don't see a destination you'd like to go to, please add it in the comments. I can't promise we'll get there, but I will put it on the list for consideration. Voting is open for 14 days. Three votes per person per day, please!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Willis doing her gargoyle impression in the dark of night
Why are you looking at cute cat photos on an art blog? 

Because even the best laid plans go awry and my carefully planned week did just that with a phone call early Monday morning from my dad. He needed my help with several pressing issues and just like that, all my plans went out the window. 

It took 9 phone calls and a visit to my parents' home on Monday.

On Tuesday, he and I had to run some errands, including stopping by my mother's doctor's office. That took the better part of the day. Wednesday was more phone calls and another visit to their home. Make no mistake, I'm glad to help out and I'm thankful he called so we could get matters taken care of, but I also have to acknowledge it shot a huge, gaping hole into my plans. 

Oddly, this article came up in one of my feeds on Monday afternoon. It talks about only scheduling yourself to 80% capacity so you have room for the unexpected and for creative, unscheduled pursuits. Who doesn't have the unexpected coming up in their lives on occasion and who doesn't want time to pursue those unexpected glimpses of creativity? 

Joey on the "traveling tree skirt" back during the holidays
Since I know this isn't going to be the last time I'll get a call that will take my day (or week) in an unexpected direction, I'm going to try leaving room for the unexpected so that I don't panic when I see my plans going off the rail and to give me more of a chance to pursue my muse when she dances off in a completed new direction. 

Another article that Kathy from Catching Happiness shared with me is about learning to stop doubting ourselves, giving in/up and looking for quick-fix solutions. It resonated with me as I recognized myself and this is an article I'll need to revisit more than once as the year and my plans go in directions I never anticipated. 

One of the things that helped me get back into the swing of my week was having clearly defined goals for the week. I may or may not get everything done. I'll make note of the things that came up that kept me from meeting my goals, but the week won't be a total waste because I was able to get back on track fairly easily. Without a written plan that said go here, do this, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have been the case. 

Moby lounging in the shipping supply box
So what does this have to do with cute cat photos? I have a log of posts to develop for the blog, but my research time is one of the things that went out the window on Monday after the phone call came. 

I could have stayed up on Monday night trying to do the research. I could have posted the article in its half-baked state. I could have not posted at all. Or I could choose to give you a glimpse into the a life that's doesn't always go as planned...kinda like yours...and not stress over the article I had originally planned to post. 

Someone had commented back during the holidays they'd like to see my other cats and here they are. Willis likes to hang out on top of the file cabinet in our office and to me, she looks like she's one with the shadows. 

Joey's hanging out on the "traveling tree skirt" in our living room back during the holidays. We never knew where the skirt would be when we awoke each morning. (Well, we knew it wouldn't be beneath the tree.) The cats, mostly Moby, decided it was too much fun to leave it beneath the tree. 

The last photo is of Moby hanging out in a box where we keep bubble wrap and air bags for things we need to ship out. Maybe she thinks she's going somewhere?

What about you? What do you do when your plans go off the rails? I hope you'll share your methods for salvaging your day or week as it may be a great help to the rest of us still looking for ways to cope.


Be sure to check out the classes over at The Imaginary Realm for self-paced, independent learning!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Practicing my lettering in the No Name Sketchbook (that I'm almost through with!)

As I mentioned in the last post, I am way too excited by the reset mentality that comes wrapped up in the 1st of the year. I find myself wondering where the year will take me and what I will accomplish, what new adventures will I find for myself and what, if anything, will be different NEXT January 1st.

Only time will tell!

To BEGIN. There is magic in those words! Do you feel it? To begin a fresh new year, a way of life, a new approach to life, or maybe just a new day. All new beginnings and filled with promise.

Underneath my sketchbook you can see my planner and the notes and scribbles already beginning to populate the page—heady stuff! Well, for me anyway, as it is a new beginning for how I will approach the new year.

I used planners in my old corporate life when my day was filled with scheduled meetings and phone calls, deadlines and projects. When I started working for myself, I didn't have a need for that type of planner and so I gave it up.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone to keep a planner nor am I advocating creating goals, tasks, steps and such. You know what your life needs far better than I.

I can only tell you that my life needs a planner filled with goals broken down into steps and tasks. Desperately. My realization that my life needed this happened when I looked back over last year. My first thought was that the year sucke...wasn't great.

Now, I am not a big one for looking back at where I've been, but I learned a rather surprising lesson this past December and I thought I'd share it with you...I had the unfortunate luck of picking up some sick person's germs and came down with the flu the week before Christmas. Stayed home for two weeks as I did NOT want to share the crud with anyone else.

Here's the lesson I learned: I was judging the entire year on the last few weeks—and those weeks were memorable only for how truly horrible they were!

But the year wasn't horrible. Far from it! When I looked back over the blog and through Facebook, I saw the fun things I did, people I met, and the goals I accomplished. It was a good year!

IF I had kept a planner where I was tracking my goals and accomplishments as well as the challenges and obstacles I encountered along the way, I would have had a much more complete, balanced picture...and who knows, I might well save myself from having to repeat history if I'd kept better track of what I did and didn't do.

Regardless, I'll be keeping a planner this year as a place to work out the next steps for what I want to accomplish in 2016. It will also be a written record of those darn obstacles that seem to crop up from time to time.

I hope it will help me to fill in those unexpected free hours with something more meaningful than wandering around lost, wondering what I'd like to do. (I'm keeping a project list of current and future projects in the planner.)

And last but not least, I'm hoping to break myself of the very annoying habit of scribbling down notes, info, thoughts and ideas on the back of any handy piece of paper. If I put it all in one place, you'd think I'd be able to access it later, right?

With no more backs of envelopes, sticky notes or scraps of paper lying around and cluttering up my desk, perhaps next January the first thing on my to-do list won't be to clean my desk!

So what about you? Will you be keeping a planner or using some other system for tracking goals and accomplishments?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Let Us Begin, Again

I suspect I am not alone in saying that I'm very much looking forward to the new year and the 365 chances for new adventures that it brings. I find it odd that I am so hopeful and enthusiastic towards the new year when in truth, not much will change besides the flipping of the calendar page. 

There are no sudden, magical changes that herald the start of 2016. I don't expect to suddenly find myself in Paris or Belfast or Rome. I doubt I'll have millions in my checking account. I seriously doubt I'll be in fighting condition to run a 5K either. My house will still be cluttered, the tree will still be up and my studio will still look like a wreck. (Those darn elves haven't done a thing to clean it up!)

However, I do believe the beginning of the year gives us a mental "restart." And therein, lies magic!  January 1st gives us the opportunity to hit reset and begin again. We get to wipe away cobwebs, throw out the old, worn out year to pull out our dreams and blow the dust off from them. We begin to think about new steps we'll take to move closer to making those dreams a reality. At least, that's what I do. 

This year, my approach will be slightly different though. Instead of just sitting down and writing out a bunch of goals to get me closer to my dream, I'm taking the time to break down the goals into steps, I'm giving them timeframes in which to accomplish them and I'll be working with an "accountability partner" to make sure I stay on track with my tasks. 

As I looked over my 2015 goals, I realized I had about a 50/50 split on what I'd said I wanted to accomplish and what I didn't even think about doing. And I guess that's not bad, but I know I can do a whole lot better. With that in mind, I'm setting out to rock 2016—step-by-step, day-by-day. 

When I'm sitting here writing out my New Year's Eve post in 2016, I want to be able to look back at a year of accomplishments, fun, progress, great memories, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends and lots of good times. I want MORE out of myself. I want a year I can be proud of because I met and exceeded my goals.

Interested in joining me? 

If so, let me know. Together, we can make 2016 a year to remember!

Meanwhile,  I'd like to leave you with the thoughts of Neil Gaiman from I think his graphic sums up my wishes for all of us in the new year:

Wishing each of you, a safe, prosperous, exciting,
challenging, creative, and Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Wish For Each Of You...

Painted in 2011

I hope each of you find yourself with family, friends and love ones for the holidays, no matter what or how you celebrate.

I also wish for you some downtime so that you might savor the season's special moments without stress or worry.

I pray for safety for our troops and first responders scattered about the world, keeping us secure, and for their families as they celebrate alone. 

And I add a special pray for those who have recently suffered the lost of someone close and hope you find peace. 

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Honey, There's A Cat In The Christmas Tree!

Yeah, it's definitely that time of year...there's a cat in the christmas tree!
A tree? For me!?!

Moby went to full alert as soon as the box appeared in the living room and when the first part of the tree came out the box, she was in, on, under, and beside it! She's a tree-climb, limb-chewing, ornament-bopping, play machine.

It's both hysterical and exasperating as there's no slowing her down. She's a blur as she runs around the room and tackles anything that moves including the other two cats. Speaking of Willis and Joey, they retired to the relative safety of being under the bed so as to make sure they were not snatched by evil elves or run over by a manic-Moby. 
It's so shiny!
I kid not when I tell you the tree was not completely assembled for more than 10 SECONDS before she was climbing her way towards the top! It probably wasn't five. And ,of course, she thought it was great fun to try and bop our hands as we were attempting to fluff the branches. 
There's something on my head. It tickles.
She burrows nearly to the top, but can't go any further. She can look me in the eyes from that height, so it's plenty high! And she doesn't have any trouble getting out or climbing down. What is odd (to us) about this whole cat-climbing nonsense is that Chris and I have had cats the whole time we've been married (23 years) and we've never had a climbing cat—until now. First time for everything, I guess. 
Wonder if I can reach the shiny ball swinging down there, hmmmm....
We knew from last year's experience that we would not be putting any glass ornaments on the tree because she thinks they're for target practice and the whole point of them being on the tree is for her to get. them. off. And it's soooooo much fun! Thank goodness someone invented "shatter-proof" ornaments or we'd have a naked tree again this year (well, naked if you don't count the wad of cat in the middle of the tree). They're also wired on so that we don't hear them hitting the floor in the middle of the night.
I'm invisible and the humans can't see me!
Sometimes, she just lays in the tree and watches the world go by (we have a spinning base) and other times, she's busy plotting world domination. When she gets too quiet, I go looking for her to see if she's begun to implement her plans. 

And then there are times when Moby is NOT in the tree and she finds other ways to occupy herself...
Puncture marks on watercolor paper, copper foil and a custom card
Moby's other favorite hobby is chewing...paper, plastic, tape, ANYTHING with adhesive...basically anything she shouldn't have or we don't want her to have. 

The holidays have definitely arrived at our house. How about you? Are you ready or does the grinch have your intentions held hostage?!

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Added Sparkle!

I don't know about you, but I needed a little extra sparkle in my life run your mouse around on the page and watch the faerie dust fall from your mouse!

Sooooo much fun and a totally time drain, but it still brings a smile to my face! Happy day to you!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Saturday's Class and A Festive, New Header!

Come and join me on Saturday, December 12th, from nine until noon, as we catch a little "Wave Action" in our sketchbooks!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to take a break from all the decorating and shopping and head over to the beach.

The class will be held at Keeton's in Bradenton and you can find more info here.  We'll be working from photos and with regular watercolor brushes rather than waterbrushes.

Waves seem like a challenge until you break them down into shapes. Adding the foam and white spray at towards the end of the page are what makes the whole sketch sing!

I hope you can make it!

How do you like the new header?! I wanted something a little more mellow for the season and so I landed on the combination of muted green, blue and purple. 

It was a lot of fun to fill my sketchbook pages with these small vignettes. They started off a little looser than they finished up, but then, I guess I could say that just about every time I paint!

After finishing the pages, I scanned the work and imported it to Photoshop to build the banner. I enjoyed manipulating and arranging the images until I had a design I liked. (I can tell you this was a whole lot easier than decorating my house!)

The other fun thing is that I can take the pieces and print them out to make card tags for any gifts we're giving this year.
From my "Pineapple Journal" I made myself with Canson watercolor paper. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Savoring The Season

Savor The Season
Watercolor with ink (writing)
I'd love to tell you I created this recently, but it was actually last year and I never got around to posting it.

I find myself in the same headspace this year as last—wondering where the last 11 months went and how I'm going to get everything done between now and December 25th.

My plan is to take this advice to heart and
s. l. o. w.    w. a. y.    d. o. w. n.

I may get less done, but my hope is that I'll enjoy the season more instead of suddenly finding myself in January, thinking, "Huh, where did December go?"

The inspiration for the cup came from a very "plain Jane" cup I've had forever. It's totally ivory without any kind of holly border.

It was kinda fun to transform such a simple cup into something festive. With its age showing, it reminds me of an old friendship that is often renewed during the holidays. (Hello, my old friend, I don't see you often, but when I do, I am reminded of all our visits over a cup of tea...)

Regardless of how we got here, we're here—we might as well make the best of it and enjoy the last month of 2015!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Autumn Blessings

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have plenty of family, food and fun!

For those scattered around the world, I wish you Happy Autumnal blessings (even if it's Spring where you live!).

I am so very thankful for the friends and family I have, for our good health, the window on the world provided by the internet that allows me to pursue my artistic passion and for the small, everyday joys that come my way.

Thank you for being a part of my life!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Losing My Way Before Finding It In An Unlikely Way

I have found myself in an odd place here of late and I wasn't really sure how to move forward.

I added a house (based on an ornament I have in my studio) at the lower inside right corner.
I wasn't overly interested in sketching and since I have 973, 974 things on my need-to-do-right-now list, motivation has been scarce. As in, none. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, I hit a wall or plateau and it all seems to come to a screeching halt.
Ollie, hanging out on the back of the card
The thing that usually goes first is my personal sketching. It used to terrify me when that happened. I'd freak out thinking I'd never draw, paint or create again. Time, that most benevolent teacher, has taught me that panicking doesn't help and that eventually, the desire/need/compulsion comes back.

Sometimes, it's a slow dribble that becomes a steady drip before the faucet fully flows. Other times, it's a deluge all at once. I prefer the slow dribble because the deluge has a tendency to be overwhelming and I find myself unable to pick a place to start.

Back of the envelope
What gave me a spark this time was a mother's request. In a group I play with on Facebook, a woman requested for folks to write to her two daughters as they're very, very homesick for the United States.

They are currently in Norway for a year and their journey is only in it's third month!

Are you familiar with Beatrix Potter's picture letters that she sent to her governess' children? The illustrations Beatrix created in those letters would later become the basis for her books. The thought of having received a letter like that as a child stayed with me when I read Ms. Potter's life story.

Front of the card
How could/would my life have been different, if at all, should I have seen someone using art in such a normal, everyday way? I dare say it may not have taken me until my mid-20's to find my path.

So when the mother asked for letters to ease the girls' homesickness, I decided to give Beatrix's approach to art a whirl. I cannot tell you how much fun I had coming up with simple illustrations!

I didn't want to stop. I sprinkled little illustrations along the sides of the letter and in place of a few words. Then I made a list of other possibilities I could doodle if the girls decide to write back to me.

Either way, creating this letter did the trick of opening me back up to the joys of creating. I think because it was something so outside of my normal round, it helped to remind me of why I love to create.

Now, if it will help to alleviate some young ladies' homesickness, it will be even better!

When you lose your way, how do you get back on track when you've misplaced your desire to create?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seasonally Inspired Sketching!

Left: This was as far as I got on location. Right: The finished spread.
Watercolor and Ink
Kathy, from Catching Happiness, and I went sketching the other morning to take advantage of the um, cooler* weather, here in Florida and the fact that it's pumpkin time! It was 79º instead of 89º at 10:30 in the morning. Woohoo.

Sometimes, you gotta go when you gotta go and it doesn't matter what the thermometer is reading.

Still, it was fun and when a breeze came by, it's was sweet. We don't have too many of the large pumpkin farms in Florida like they have further north and we don't have the huge change in temperatures either. Obviously.
This was as far as I went while on location—it was taking too long and there were too many other things to draw and paint!
Finished at home, in the studio!
They had all kinds of pumpkins and gourds in all shapes, colors and sizes along with harvest corn, cornstalks, hay bales and some croton plants on display.
A purple pumpkin?! Actually, a happy accident! I meant to pick up the gray watercolor brush pen and accidentally picked up a violet instead. I was a little shocked, but then decided to go with it as the color wouldn't lift anyway.
The image above was originally going to be just gray watercolor along with pen and line but things went a good way! Sometimes, we find ourselves in new places because of "mistakes." After I got past my shock of the violet, I decided I kinda liked the look and continued. Now, I'm planning on exploring this style with other colors as well.

It was worth it to put up with less than autumn-like temperatures...well, scratch that...that was autumn-like temperatures for Florida! I think this may turn into an annual pilgrimage, perhaps as a way to shepherd in the change of the...calendar...even if it does still feel like summer outside.

How does the changing of the season effect your sketching? Do you do more or less? Change styles?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Easy-Peasy White Lettering On Dark Backgrounds!

Three examples of white lettering with a fourth using metallic ink instead
In the video below, I demonstrate using Faber-Castell's Big White Pen to create letters on dark backgrounds and then using PITT Artist pens to do a bit of embellishing—so much fun!

This technique will work on envelopes, scrapbook pages and paper, kraft paper tags and just about any other dark paper. I'm going to try this on fabric next!

The "joe & alice" envelope is the same technique but using a metallic marker instead of white.

Just think of the possibilities!

Happy lettering, y'all. Let me know if you use this technique! I love to see what you come up with.

Just a heads up...I am not associated with Faber-Castell or their products in anyway. I just really like 'em!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When The Paper In Your Sketchbook...Sucks

The small sketchbook I am currently working in is about 3.5 x 5.5 inches and was suppose to be a watercolor sketchbook. There are no identifying marks as to who the maker might be or what type of paper is in the sketchbook, but make no's a PITA (Pain-In-The-Art!).

To say this sketchbook has been a challenge would be to a vast understatement. Years ago, I would have chunked it back on the shelf and forgotten ignored it. However, I'm attempting to finish up some of the PITA sketchbooks I have so I could move on. It dawned on me others may have made some questionable sketchbook purchases that are currently sitting, languishing on a shelf. I thought I'd share some of the ways I've managed to fill the pages without giving up on this journal.

The sketch above was done after wedding vows were exchanged on a dock on a small, private lake. I spotted the tree and knew I had to sketch it. The view below is of the area at the bottom of the page where the sizing(?) is uneven. When I washed over the area with water and pigment, the wash beaded up and was repelled away from the paper. This has happened in random places throughout this journal. And while I like the texture, I would have preferred not to have it.

Luckily, the page turned out okay and it looks intentional even though it was not. Had this lovely spot been somewhere higher up the page, it would have looked bad. Really bad. If you enlarge the image, you can see that the sizing issue goes higher up into the water and into the dead tree.
What do you do if you're a beginner and stuck with this type of paper? It can be frustrating and not a lot of fun to try and get a decent page created only to have something invisible fell your efforts. In the case above, I chose to ignore the "added texture" and just let it stand. Had it been further up the page? I'd have had to pull out the creative license.

Here are some of the ways and things I've done to help get the pages filled:
1) Add pieces of ephemera, receipts, business cards, cut-up brochures and stickers. I cut apart a brochure from my trip to Chocolate Kingdom in Kissimmee and glued it down over a good portion of the page. I also took notes (another idea to fill the page). I doubt if it will show even if you enlarge the page, but the ink bleeds like crazy on this paper and it looks fuzzy.

2) Gesso the paper and paint over it. Using clear gesso* over the paper has several advantages. (*You can use white as well.) Chief among them is being able to paint without fear of uneven sizing showing up midway through the painting process. You can go right over the page or you can use clear gesso as glue to add another piece of paper to the page and then paint over the added paper. I used a deli sheet from Logan's Roadhouse (I dig that quote!), and I let the diluted, white gesso brush strokes show. I then added a little watercolor over the top of that.

3) Paint on another piece of paper and glue it to the sketchbook page. I had some left over Stonehenge "kraft" paper and wanted to use it up. The pumpkin started out a little differently but I messed up the top of the paper with a smear of ink. Rather than tossing the artwork, I cut it out and glued it down. I thought about doing the lettering on the page behind it, but ultimately decided to do the lettering on another piece of the brown paper and glue that in as well. By hitting the edges with a stamp pad, it gives it a more finished look of a border.  You could do the same thing with another piece of white watercolor paper and glue it in the same as a colored paper.

4) Take a break from the challenging sketchbook and work in a different one once in a while. It can slow you down and seriously mess with your mojo if you are working to fill a PITA sketchbook and the pages don't turn out like you want. Rather than wait for that to happen or if you realize you're not sketching as much as you normally would and it's because your resistance to working in that PITA sketchbook, pick up a different sketchbook and "treat" yourself to a couple of nice pages. If you don't have another sketchbook lying around, cut up some paper and sketch on them with the intention of gluing it into the sketchbook later. Never let a hateful sketchbook kill your fun!

5) Try different mediums. Play, experiment and have fun! Maybe the paper is not so good for watercolor...try a different medium. Get out your markers, gouache, colored pencils, graphite and other fun supplies and see what happens. Practice lettering or improve your drawing skills. Play around to see what else might work. Make fun backgrounds and add quotes with markers. Use watercolor pencils and only a little water to see if you can get around a sizing issue.

6) Turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." Every once in a while, the paper in a sketchbook is just...too lame to be saved. Rather than struggle with it, turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." What is a junk journal, you ask? A junk journal is a journal where you draw, practice, try out new ideas, scribble, fail, try again, write notes, brain dump and all manner of crazy things you never intend to share with someone else. And make no mistake, just because it's called junk, it's NOT!

The reason it's called a junk journal is because the idea of a junk journal works best when the paper is cheap so that you don't have any monetary concerns about junking up the paper. And no matter how much you may have spent on that PITA sketchbook that has crummy paper in it, don't be afraid to turn it into a junk journal. You'll still be getting your money's worth, just not in the manner you expected to!

Life is really too short to sketch and paint on crappy, crummy pages on a regular basis, but once in a while, we get caught with a less than desirable paper. If you're just starting out, go ahead and splurge on the nicer sketchbook that's suitable for your preferred medium rather than fight your way through one that fights you every step of the way.

Once you've put in your time, try one of these less than desirable, PITA's amazing what you'll learn and what you just might create!

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