Friday, March 31, 2017

Night Sketching

Bonfire Sketch, Stillman & Birn Zeta Softcover, 3.5 x 5.5 inches, watercolor and ink
Click To Enlarge
This past Saturday night, we had a bonfire at my sister-in-law's house. She had a huge oak to fall recently and it took down the old playhouse. Between the stump and the wood from the playhouse, there was plenty of wood to burn.

It happens to be spring in Florida and the trees and grasses are blooming themselves silly. Since I am an "professional level" allergy sufferer, I had taken plenty of allergy medicine before we left to go over, but I knew the smoke would be an aggravating factor in keeping my allergies under control.

After we roasted hot dogs over the open flame, I opted to retreat back from the fire and sit on the lanai. This gave me the view you see in the spread above. I was about thirty to forty yards away and I could not help but notice the way the Spanish moss dangling from the trees seem to pick up the light from the flames and sparkle.

This prompted me to pull out my sketchbook and begin drawing.  My husband's aunt and uncle showed up with a bottle of Disaronno (yum!) and it seemed appropriate to add it to the page. Those pesky people were added because they kept wandering on and off the "stage."

The gal on the far right was one of the last to arrive and the fire was burning quite hot by the time she attempted to roast her hot dog. Her stance was created from trying to get close enough to the fire to roast her dog without roasting herself!

The whole thing was sketched in low-light conditions and I even started adding paint while sitting there. I finally realized I was having a harder and hard time seeing what I was doing and I was going to need better lighting conditions to finish up. I still needed to add the lettering and fire sparks.

It was until late Sunday evening that I had another chance to work on the spread. I had painted the tree, the stump and the fire the evening before, but after being away from the spread, I could easily see I needed to go darker. Much darker!

My other challenge came in trying to show the heat of the flames against the night. Everything was actually very warm in temperature—the surrounding background, trees, sky and ground.

I opted to make the background much cooler by making it a dark blue with violet and burnt umber added in. I kept the ground around the stump, the tree, moss, fire and light being cast by the flames as warm as I possibly could to building up contrast between the to temperatures. I showed a slight hint of grayed green to indicate the grass.

Last I added in the headline on the right page echoing the same colors as the flames. The added text at the bottom was just the date and reasons for the bonfire in the first place. I have to say I wasn't at all sure of how this would turn out when I began the page, but I am so glad I did as I enjoyed the evening immensely!

There are few things better than good food, good friends, a roaring fire and my sketchbook!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Creating A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n Pages For England!

I don't know about you, but I love to create "a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n pages" in my journal way before the actual trip starts! In this case, I'm already creating pages for my trip to England in August! (There are still a few spots left!) Anticipation not only increases my excitement, I also get to enjoy the trip for a much longer period of time!

Anticipation pages can be anything from purchases you make specifically for the trip (a new art bag anyone?) to things you learn about the place you're visiting (see below) to places you want to visit while you're there (umm, everywhere?!). Since this is art journaling, there are no rules and the anticipation pages in your journal can be anything you want them to be!

It's always a lot of fun (to me) to look up slang terms and arcane facts about a place I'm going to visit:

  • Have you ever wondered what "high tea" is or how it started? 
  • Do you know how many cups of tea are consumed in England on any given day?
  • What about how"football" aka soccer got started (hint: a very barbaric beginning!)? 
  • Do you know how much it rains in England? 
  • How far the coast is from any given point inland? (I'd kill it in a trivia game...assuming it was about England!) 

Below is a series of photos of me prepping two facing pages to be used to capture information about England I did not know until I started getting ready for this trip. The pages have cut-edge borders to make them a bit more interesting.

As I add artwork and information to the page, I'll share over on my Instagram account and on my Facebook page!

What will you put on your "a-n-t-i-c-p-a-t-i-o-n pages" for England?" Why don't you come to England with me and then we can share our sketchbooks with each other over tea?!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Come and Play With Me In The Gardens!!

Blue skies, blue water, and green gardens with every possible color under the rainbow! Sound like a great sketching opportunity to you?

Then come and join me at Selby Gardens! Florida has had an extremely mild winter and everything is bloom in wild abandon. There are so many wonderful features at Selby besides just what's blooming—statues, topiaries, special garden areas, green houses, and a Marc Chagall exhibit!

The koi pond, the bay just beyond the gardens, and the lavender garden are not to missed either. It won't take long to fill our sketchbooks in a place like this!

If you're in the area, I hope you will join me for a one-day class on April 21st, Painting Postcards In The Gardens! (They called it Advanced but it's not. It was just a way to differentiate between the first workshop and this class.) We'll be splitting our time between the classroom and the gardens and hopefully, most of it will be outside! To register for this class, please click this link.

If you're not in the area, you can still join me in the gardens! Introducing "An Imaginary Trip To Selby Gardens!" I'm doing an online class with lots of demos that will focus on using color harmonies, suggesting detail and texture by using broken color washes as well as how to focus in on what really matters to you most so you can get it on the page.

There are now three different class formats that offer something for everyone! To learn more about the class and the new formats, please click here.

Have questions? Shoot me a message via the Blogger contact form over in the righthand sidebar.

I hope you can join me and help me to usher in Spring in all her glorious color!

Friday, March 17, 2017

NEW Class!

I guess it was inevitable though I didn't see it until last week—we're going to visit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens! These gardens are spectacular and given Florida's mild winter, everything is busting out in glorious colors EVERYWHERE!

Registration for An Imaginary Trip To Selby Gardens will open on Friday, March 24th, as the sign up process will be changing for all of the classes.
You will now have the option of taking the class in an interactive environment with a blog and feedback from me and your fellow travelers
you can opt to have the class materials for a year, work at your own pace and not worry about interacting on the blog.

If there is sufficient interest, I may add a third option where you can join the blog AND keep the materials for a year after the interactive portion of the class is complete, but that's down the road a bit!

I think in the long run, this will serve us all much better and eliminate some of the double work I've been doing that slows down making the classes available over at

As always, please let me know what questions you have!

P.S. If you're going to be in Florida on June 24th, check the sidebar for an exciting workshop opportunity!

P.S.S. Next, we're going somewhere hot, sunny and red! Any guesses!?!

Another GREEN Tutorial Just In Time For St. Paddy's Day!

In the first Green Tutorial (HERE), we discussed making friends with those greens on our palette by blending them with other pigments on our palette.
In the second Green Tutorial (HERE), we put what we learned in the first post to work by painting individual leaves.
In part three of this Green Tutorial, we're going to apply what we learned about painting leaves by painting a basket of flowers and last, a charming cottage garden in England!

A Pretty Basket of Flowers
The image at the top of the graphic is from a postcard I started at Selby Gardens but did not get a chance to finish. There were hanging baskets everywhere just brimming with blooms. This one was full of Impatiens. In the first layer, I laid down a scribbled wash of yellows and greens after I completed the pot.

In the second step, I add spots of color to represent the flowers. Again, these are mostly little scribbles of color without any real attempt to look like a certain flower but rather something generic.

In the third step, I started adding in darker greens. I used my base green mixed. This included yellow mixed into my icky palette green to make it more natural. I then added blues and violets to get a variety of darker greens.

In the last step, I went even darker and when I felt I had enough darks built up, I add some "raggedy edges" to the edges of the plant mass to make it read more natural.

Notice the lack of details. There's nothing there but suggested shapes and a variety of colors. I've used my darkest darks to indicate the areas in shadow so that I am suggesting a light source (see the small penciled sun in the left corner just above the border).

When we're out on location doing quick sketches, we don't have a lot of time for details, but we can certainly suggest them to our viewers!

English Cottage Garden
Below is the "inspiration source" I used for an English cottage garden sketch.
Click to enlarge
I gave myself a maximum of 30 minutes to create a sketch based on the image. Knowing my time limit helped me to focus in on what I liked best about the image—the row of trees with the garden and lawn below it. I love the cottage in the background, but with only a half hour, I decided to forego it until I had a bigger window of time to tackle it and do it justice.

In the top image, you see my beginning sketch...just a few outlines to tell me where things belonged. Since I planned on letting the paint do most of the work, I didn't need much. Notice I've used the rule of odds with five trees.

Also, I wasn't shooting for a copy of my photo but rather my interpretation of the garden. 

In the second step, I painted in the lawn using a smooth wash that had a mix of the yellows, oranges and icky green on my palette. Next I mixed blues and yellows with the green to get the tree "balls" with squiggle shapes to suggest trees.

I added the back lawn using more green and less of the yellow and orange.

In third step, I add spots of color to suggest flower shapes and then I added in a very dark background to help establish the middle ground. This also helped to push the foreground closer to the viewer.

Again, this was all done with squiggles except on the left side in the background where I used long strokes to suggest long pieces of grass.

Starting in Step 4, I begin to build the flower garden at the base of the trees. To make sure I was going dark enough with my first layer in this area, I also added in some of the dark, dirt color. If I waited to add the darks until last and my first layer looked too light, I would have to paint yet another layer over the first. Layers take time to dry and are not ideal for location work. It is best to limit them as much as possible by going dark enough on the first layer.

In Step 5, I added more detail in the background, closed up some of the white skips and adjusted some of the background darks.

In Step 6, I've completed the foreground garden and added in a second layer of "squiggles" over the tree balls to give them more of a leafy texture.

I've added in turquoise and Indian yellow which are no where to be seen in the "Inspiration Source" photo.

In the last image, I've added in the sky with some fluffy white clouds meandering by to give the image a more complete look.

This entire sketch was accomplished with a base green and by adding the other pigments on my palette to it.

If the green on your palette is not a natural green found in nature, it helps to go ahead and build a puddle of a base green and working from that. Be sure to use lots of pigment and as little water as possible. It may take yellow, blue or both to make the green look like something you would expect to see outdoors.

The rest of the work was done via texture, shapes, temperature and value.

Texture - the trees, background and part of the flower garden are nothing more than squiggles. The lawns are a smooth wash.
Shapes - the grasses in the background are long lines as are some of the shapes in the front garden.
Temperature - notice the warm yellows and greens that make up the grasses vs. the cool greens that make up the tree balls and the darker areas of the background on the right and directly below the trees.
Values - by using darks, I push the background further into the back. By using lights, I am pulling the trees and the front flower garden towards the viewer into the middle ground. The light value lawn also moves towards the viewer. I also used lights and darks to give the trees roundness and volume as well as to separate them, one from another.

Greens are here to stay and it only makes sense to make friends with them if we're going to find ourselves outside in a England or a Garden (click the words for upcoming workshops!). Just looking out the window can bring greens into your view!

Questions? Questions about greens or another troublesome pigment? Let me know in the comments! 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wow, What A Week and More Yet To Come!

Painting Postcards in The Gardens Workshop

Oh my! We had a super fun time at Selby Botanical Gardens this past Thursday and Friday! I kid you not when I tell you it did not matter what direction you went, there were at least a half dozen views that were sketch-worthy within a dozen steps! Blooms, bees, osprey, boats on the water, butterflies, statues, koi, water fountains, planters brimming with saturated color were artist's paradise! Can you tell I was digging it?!

The weather could not have been any better if we had custom-ordered it. Lots of sunshine with a hint of coolness in the breeze and shade...Florida at its best! The image above is some of the fabulous postcards the group created in just two days! There were more, but I would have had to climb up a ladder to get all of them in.

I think one of the most important things that came out of this workshop was the participants realized how different your mindset has to be when you are working on location vs. working in the studio. You don't have time to capture every detail, every leaf or bloom and there's a bazillion more things calling out to be drawn on the page and painted!

We were out and about in the gardens, sketching on location. We "appropriated" cuttings from some of the work carts to draw back in the classroom before we ventured out to do more sketching.

We worked on using thumbnails to get a page composition we liked, we worked on embellishing our work by adding color and elements that were not there as well as on exaggerating what was already there. We also worked using a template to create title banners and flags as well as date and temperature boxes.

We even shared our kits and inspiration with each other. There is just something about sharing with like-minded people that cannot be beat!

And if you missed this workshop, not to worry! There will be one more class in April. It's a one day class from 9 - 12 on Friday, April 21st. The title of the class is Advanced Painting Postcards in the Gardens, but do not let the "Advanced" deter you. Anyone with a desire to art journal is more than welcome!

To register for the class, please click HERE. (Please sign up soon though as spaces are going quickly.) I hope to see you there!

Keeton's and Flamingos

On Saturday, we painted a fabulous, pink flamingo! I introduced everyone to working on a simplified grid system to be able to quickly get a likeness of their photos down on the page.
We worked on creating broken-color washes and then creating a unifying wash once everything was dry to create the look of feathers without having to render each and every one.
By the time we were done, we had a finely, feathered flock of phenomenally fantastic flamingos! One of the coolest things to me about these classes is how everyone can work from one photo reference and come up with such a diverse crowd of flamingos!

But if you missed this class, not to worry because I have you covered! You can still take the online class. It is available HERE. You'll have the materials for 365 days from the day you signed up and you can watch the videos as frequently as you'd like.

Annnnnnd...we'll be doing it again next month at Keeton's as well! We're going to be creating that big blue Florida sky with gorgeous fluffy clouds and a beach umbrella! Sound interesting? You can call Keeton's at 941.747.2995 to register! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Birds, Gardens and Glue—All Good Things! (Classes)

Wow, it's been a busy week! I hope you can join me for one of the following treats:

Painting A Fabulous Flamingo
These gangly creatures are so much fun to capture on the page! It may seem like a lot of work, but by using broken color washes, it's actually not so hard at all. In this class, we learn to suggest texture as well as work with contrast to give our bird that gorgeous and warm, sunlit look.

If you struggle with developing your drawing skills, this may just be the class for you. I introduce using a simplified grid system that gives you a support system to develop your drawing skills, and also helps you to develop your skills more quickly than tracing an image.

If you'd like to get your pink on and be a fabulous flamingo, come and join the fun here in The Imaginary Realm

I will also be teaching this class live at Keeton's Office and Art Supply on Saturday, March 11th! I hope you'll join me if you're going to be in the area! Click here to get the details.

Painting Postcards In The Garden
While much of the country has been dealing with crazy up-and-down temperatures with the occasional snow dump the day after wearing shorts, Florida has already ushered in spring! The flowers are blooming, trees are busting out with new leaves and everything is that bright, brilliant green!

I can hardly wait to go to Selby Gardens on March 10th and 11th for the two-day workshop, Painting Postcards in the Garden! This workshop will cover making friends with your palette, working on location, how to create a more finished postcard (or page) and basic drawing skills. This workshop combines time in the garden with plenty of classroom time.

It's also a wonderful opportunity to soak up some sun, enjoy being outside, enjoying the gardens and spend time with other artists. Interested? Click this link for more info and to register!

Using A Glue Resist With Hand-Lettering - A Free Tutorial!
As promised, I have created a tutorial showing how I used a Tombow® Glue Pen to create a fun resist with hand-lettering. I'm the first to admit I'm not a letter artist as that takes way more hours and patience than I can imagine, but I LOVE to play with letters as an art form.

This tutorial will take you through the steps of setting up a drawing a word and using both water-soluble markers along with the glue resist to get some great effects. There's even an ombre technique in there!

It's FREE and it's available here! (I have no affiliation with Tombow or their products.)

I hope to see you—online or in person—and I hope you enjoy these learning opportunities!