Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Painting In High Winds - Not Recommended

Windy Day
Cachet Watercolor Journal
7 x 10 inches
Watercolor & Coptic Ink
Click to enlarge
You'd think I would have more sense than to go out the day after Hurricane Irene passed through and try to paint on location. You'd be wrong. I wanted to test out a new stool I'd purchased the weekend before. So off I went on Saturday morning.

The winds were stripping the crape myrtle blossoms off the trees and cascading them through the air onto the surface of this very dirty pond. At times, it looked like pink froth!

The winds were steady with periodic gusts up to 40-45 mph.

Did I have a clip to hold the pages? No, but I had my new stool.

Did I have a band to hold the pages? No, but I had my new stool.

Did I have a grand time juggling my pages and my palette in high winds? No, but I did get to test out my new stool!

The new stool is a Byer Tri-Lite Stool. I'm testing out various stools for the upcoming trip to New Orleans! Click here for more information.
I don't recommend this stool for sketching. It is a bit unstable even with the additional leg support and twice, I thought I was going to tip over! The weather really played no role in this tipping nonsense. Both times I was either stretching or reaching for something.

Too bad it didn't work out as it's quite light and folds up to 13 inches! Not bad! I have a new stool on order, so I'll let you know how that one works out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New (to Some) Tools To Check Out

A couple of weekends ago, hubby and I headed up to Ocala where they have two stores that Tampa does not—a Gander Mountain and a Hobby Lobby! Something for everyone! It turned out to be a nice day away as Ocala is horse country with lots of rolling hills and gorgeous oak trees. We managed to get "lost" once and didn't even bother to turn around because we were enjoying the views so much.

Anyway, while wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby, I stumbled across a Sharpie® Liquid Pencil. Hmmm, I thought. I gotta give this a whirl. I mean liquid pencil—would it smear like regular pencil? Would this eliminate the problem of broken leads let alone having a sharpener? I could see potential here so I chucked one into my basket.

A few aisles over, I stumbled across the Chatterbox Journaling Genie which is a fancy name for a stencil. A stencil used to draw lines quickly on the journal page so that your text will be straight! These have apparently been around for the last 10 years, but I just found out about them.

I liked the idea of a quick way to get lines on the page without having to get a ruler and measure each line, especially for when I'm traveling. What I wasn't liking was the full page of stencils. So, I did a little surgery.
I even rounded some of the corners so they wouldn't scratch me and I could use the shape of the stencil as a  template to draw boxes on my journal page. The last thing I did was to glue an envelope in the back of my sketchbook so I could stow the templates and take them out as needed.
As for the Sharpie Liquid Pencil? Don't bother! It looks and writes more like a pen than a pencil. It leaves an indention in the paper with even the lightest of touches and it requires an even amount of pressure to get the liquid "lead" to come out.
The stuffed puppy on the right is a baby toy and he barks when you squeeze his tummy. For some reason, he reminds me of my sweet cinnamon girl, Gatlin, that I lost to cancer a few years ago. You can see the stenciled lines in action over on the left with a Copic® gray marker.

The one thing I will say for the liquid pencil was that I was able to erase most of the lead after the watercolor was complete. I tried some more tests with it on other types of paper and different paints, but did not have similar results. Oh well! You don't know if you don't try!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New Medium - Gouache

Let me start this post out with a big thanks for all the kind comments and thoughts on the previous post with regard to my total backslide into deep water filled with piranhas (also known as insecurites)—your words meant the world to me! I have begun sketching on some of the wedding photos again, but so far, have not completed anything. I'll post when/if I get something together. Thanks also for the compliments of the wedding and for the well wishes for the lovely couple!

M. Graham Gouache and Copic Marker
on recovered paper
The sunflower above is gouache and Copic marker. It's the first time since art school that I've done a complete painting with gouache. I remember why too. As much as I love the effects you can get with the opacity of gouache, I absolutely LOVE seeing the transparency of watercolors more!

This is done on a piece of paper I salvage from the retreat package I received at Christine Kane's event last month. Hard to believe it's been a month already!

As for gouache, I think there's room in my world for this medium, I just don't think I'll be doing to many full paintings with it. This went quickly. It was complete in just one evening and it was fun to change gears from my usual medium to the gouache.

I love the creamy consistency of the M. Graham watercolors as well as the ability to mix just about any color you want from just the triad. The sunflower was painted with Hansa Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Ultramarine Blue and white.

If nothing else, switching to a new/different medium helps to remind you what it is that you love about your "regular" medium. For me, it usually knocks a little rust and sediment out of the crevices as well. Primes the pump for further adventures and creative pursuits.

Not sure what I'll try painting next, but I do want to play with the gouache a little more to see where it may be useful to me.

What new or different mediums have you tried lately?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes, It's Best Not to Listen....

This past Saturday, my niece Amanda was married at an outdoor Florida. Yes, you read that correctly. In the photo, the flower girl is spraying Amanda's face with a water mister/fan thingie that helped to keep the girls cool before the ceremony.

I had started to put together a sketch of some of these images. I wanted to do a more personal representation of the day and I was struggling with my sketch to make it look like Amanda and her new husband, Dustin.

When Chris came in from work and saw the sketch, we started to talk about it. I was not happy with it at all. Since it was family, I definitely wanted the people in the sketch to look like who it was suppose to be and not the Asian folks that had shown up on the page.

Chris offered some constructive comments....Dustin's head was too small for his body, but the proportions were good. Then he criticized the photo I had chosen. I admit it wasn't the best, and the angle was crazy, but it was the one that I thought best summed up the wedding. 

Then he went on talking about how hard it is to draw people, let alone family. Throw in that crazy angle and well, it was just about impossible. That's why he'd quit doing artwork with people in it. At the end of the conversation I decided he was right. It was impossible and I couldn't do it. 
Amanda & Dustin

I wasn't good enough.

Mind you, that's not what he said at all. It's what I heard. My insecurities were already raging, nipping at my heels and chewing on my toes. (I tend to think of my insecurities as piranhas...they move in at the first scent of insecurity and work into a feeding frenzy.)

I took my sketchbook back to the studio and erased the whole page......

I shouldn't have listened.

Not to my insecurities. Nor to my fears that I couldn't complete the sketch to my satisfaction. And I shouldn't have erased the damn thing.

Cheesecake and Cupcakes!
 What did I learn?

1. The next time my insecurities are that raw, it's probably best not to enter into a conversation about the art no matter how well-meaning the person may be.

2. Wait before erasing. Nothing would have changed if I would have waited until this morning and still decided to erase.

3. I shouldn't have listened to the fear. I know better. Fear is not a good leader.

4. I would have learned something if I had gone ahead with the sketch, even if I had not done the work satisfactorily or to my satisfaction (two different things).

5. Nobody but me would have seen it anyway. Especially if I didn't think it was good enough.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Watkins!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fail. Epic Fail.

Two posts back (here), I laid out clear goals for the new sketchbook...keep it LOOSE and leave lots of WHITE SPACE. So what did I do? I promptly blew one of the goals!
Watercolor on Handmade Paper
in bound journal
Art size - 5.5 x 5 inches
I knew I was in trouble shortly after I started this. The vision of this art in my head was much, much looser with just some detail around his eyes and nose.

I did not take into account the paper. Or all those wonderful little details just begging to be painted with patience and precision!

So. Fail. At least with regard to the goals.

The dog belongs to "superheroine" Lani Harmon, whom I recently met (in person) at the Uplevel Your Purpose retreat. She said that Spot was so exhausted after they came home that all he wanted to do was sleep—he couldn't even be bothered to follow them around the house! Lani is a very talented photographer—check out her fabulous work here!

Full page view of Spot
Page size 8 x 8 inches

Two things really surprised me about, this was quite enjoyable to paint. I s..l..o..w..e..d down and consciously chose to get lost in the details. Second, the paper is proving to be a lot of fun to paint on! Who knew!

I've looked all over the book and its packaging for some idea of who made it because I'm gonna want another one now and there is NOT the first clue as to who made it! Drats!

Still, I'm sure I'll find it or something similar when I go looking.

Now, what "mistakes" or "epic failures" have you been creating?!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Makes It a Sketch or a Painting?

Bar Patron at Chili's
Junk Journal
Permanent Pen
5 x 5 inches
I recently found myself in a wonderful discussion when I was asked what makes a piece of art a sketch vs. a painting. The artist I was discussing this was rather amazed and a bit dismayed at what some folks put into a sketchbook.

Her frustration showed in her comment, "But, they're paintings! Just because they're on a page in a sketchbook makes them no less of a painting."

We started out by talking about time and speed first. Did the amount of time you spent on a piece of art make it a sketch or painting? No. What about speed? We've all seen paintings that have "come together" and nearly painted themselves in no time while a sketch got out of hand and took three times as long as it should have. But in the end, remained a sketch.

The we talked about paper and materials....did doing the work on a loose piece of paper rather than putting it into a sketchbook make it a painting? No. I have plenty of loose sketches floating about the studio and what started this discussion was paintings in a sketchbook. Did watercolor make it a sketch and oils make it a painting? What about pen and ink combined with watercolor? No, we had both seen evidence to the contrary. It seems you can make a sketch with any materials. Same goes for a painting.

We started to talk about size, and then quickly realized that size wasn't going to work as a determining factor as there are sketchbooks out there that are 11 x 14 inches (and possibly larger) all the way to the smallest of smalls.

Next up, we discussed planning....was a sketch an unplanned, spontaneous piece of artwork? Hmmmm, since I teach the idea of planning your artwork, regardless of whether it is a sketch or a painting, before your brush or pencil ever hits the paper, that argument sunk quickly.

From there, the discussion turned to intent....and this is where the discussion became murky. How could one ascertain an artist's intention when looking at a piece of art? No matter if the art was in a sketchbook, on a loose piece of paper, regardless of the materials used or the size, nor how much planning the piece did or did not show, it wasn't always possible to tell if it was a sketch or a painting.

So, dear readers, it's your turn to weigh in with your thoughts and opinions.

Mind you, this discussion is not about "labeling" or "categorizing." It is merely to see if there is any consensus about what makes a sketch a sketch and a painting a painting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oops! I Did It Again....

...I've started another journal. *Sigh.* I've tried to be good and focus on the ones I currently have going. Really. I have.
Beaufort, SC
Handmade Paper Journal
8 x 8inches
watercolor, watercolor pencil
and Inktense pencil
However, I'm learning that once a journal 'ho, always a journal 'ho.

The thought process behind starting this journal is that I want to loosen up. I want to get better at shapes and only adding the bare necessity of details.

I've had this handmade paper journal for....I'm not sure how long, but a long time. I've had it for a long time because I'm intimidated by it.

Painting on handmade paper is not like painting on Arches paper. It's hard to futz and fuss with handmade paper. There's not a lot of sizing and if forces you to edit yourself.

Recently, I've noticed I've been drawn to pages that have a lot of white space around them and so I decided that this journal would focus on leaving lots of white space.

So simple shapes without too much detail and lots of white space.....we'll just have to see how that little self-imposed "rules" last.

Frankly, I don't have much hope. I mean really. I can't even stick to the FOUR journals I already have on the go!

All the same, it's good fun and I'm already learning—the image above has watercolor, watercolor pencil and Inktense pencil in it. I'm not sure what I think of the Inktense pencils. It may be the paper, it may be the subject matter or it may be the artist holding the pencil, but so far, I can't say I'm impressed.

I'll continue to experiment to see if they have a place in my studio.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Secrt Garden Gate?

Secrt [Sic] Garden Door
3.5 x 8.5 inches
M. Graham Watercolors
and Ink
Click to enlarge
Each day as we walked to the trolley in New Orleans, we passed this really cool doorway. It led to someone's backyard. There was a house, a garage and other structures back behind the doorway, but for my purposes, I chose to edited them out.

I've always been enchanted by the idea of a secret garden. Maybe it has something to do with Alice In Wonderland or Harry Potter's adventures.  Whatever it is, I seemed to be drawn to unusual doors and gates—they are a portal for my imagination.

The title "Secrt Garden Door" is a typo. My right brain was writing creating and it doesn't know how to spell. So I've decided you have to know the "proper" spelling of secret to gain into into my "secrt" garden! Who needs that extra "e" anyway?!

(And as a wise woman once shared with me...if you can't fix it, feature it!)

This was completed with M. Graham watercolors and ink in my NOLA sketchbook. If you're interested in joining me for a real adventure in New Orleans, please click HERE for information about NOLA Live!

For those of you who are interested in learning more about creating journal pages and using watercolors, Artful Journaling: Foundations and Explorations has been added back to the schedule over on Click HERE for more info on the journaling classes.

Happy Weekend, Y'all!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Choosing Pigments for A Palette

When I posted the recent images of color swatches and the post of the blueberry video, I received a number of questions around how I chose the pigments on my palette—all 27 of them and I promised to address that it in a separate post. Today's the day.

I generally work from a split primary palette in that I have a cool and a warm of each primary, a selection of neutrals, some convenience colors (for painting on location) and then what I call "subject matter" pigment choices.

As an example, I LOVE to paint rusty metals and copper that has the green and blue patina, so I have added Anthraquinone Blue and Cobalt Teal Blue to my palette as these two pigments are extraordinary when painting metals.

I also like to include an unexpected "pop" of color in my work. I often drop in Cobalt Teal Blue for this, but I digress...

The palette used in the video has all M. Graham watercolors in it and is an ongoing experiment. There are 5 reds on that palette—Quinacridone Red, Naphthol Red, Pyrrol Red, Cadmium Red Deep and Scarlet Pyrrol. Do I need 5? No...I'm experimenting with them all to find which ones work best for me.

I have found I can't really find out if a pigment is a good addition to my palette unless I've used it in several paintings/sketches as well as completing some color swatch/chart pages.

To distill down my process for choosing colors* for a palette:
1. Do a color mixing chart. Mix each pigment with every other paint on the palette to see what I'm going in mixes. You will often find that another pigment does the same or better job than a newcomer.
2. Study what type of subject matter inspires me to paint—it may be florals, birds, rusty metals, architecture, the desert landscape, etc. Whatever it is, I assess my pigment choices for any paints that I can add that will enhance my work.** This is also known as a "color signature" and can make artwork easily identifiable to collectors as long as I am consistent in my use.
3. Add the pigment to the palette and commit to using it in a dozen paintings/sketches. Some sketches should be the focus of that pigment (the reason I paint said image) while others should use the pigment as a subordinate in mixes.
4. Add in pigments that "speak to me." Again, I add them in just as I do subject matter pigments and experiment with how they work.
5. Neutrals do not have to be Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Quinacridone Gold. There's nothing wrong with those earth pigments. They've stood the test of time. They've earned their place on the palette. However, there's more than one way to arrive at browns and grays. Scarlet Pyrrol and Cobalt Blue make a fabulous coffee color that when thinned down is the color of beach sand!

One of my favorite neutrals is Neutral Tint—but only the one made by M. Graham. It doesn't have any black pigment in it. Instead, it is made from violet and green. It doesn't deaden other colors and is easily influenced by the addition of blues, purples or browns when I need a super quick dark.

Approach your palette with an attitude of exploration. Test, experiment, and play. See what "speaks" to you in the way of color. Thinking that the pigments on your current palette are the end all, be all may work for you. I've found I do better when I think of my palette choices as an evolutionary process. As I grow, my palette changes.

Words of's really easy to get 47 (or more) pigments on your palette....add slowly, thoroughly testing each pigment numbers so you're not buying duplicate colors from different brands....make sure that each pigment has "earned" its place on the palette....evaluate the colors you use most on your palette by noticing which wells you have to refill frequently. There may be some colors that you simply do not use enough to make it worth your while to leave on the palette. Use them up and replace them with new candidates.

*My choices are also based on the specific pigment properties as well...opacity, granulation, whether the pigment stains, etc. You need to consider these things as well.
**I could easily create the same image with the split primaries and neutrals on my regular palette. This just gives me more room to play.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Extraordinary Event - Christine Kane's Uplevel Your Purpose Retreat

I apologize for not having any pictures to go with this post, but taking photos, drawing and painting were the farthest things from my mind during my 3 days in Charlotte, NC at the Uplevel Your Purpose Retreat.

In the many events I've attended over the years in corporate America, I don't believe I've ever experienced the openness, energy and willingness to connect as I did at this event.

Wow! The energy was amazing.

The event was centered around getting clear about who we are, what our business is about and how we can step into our own power with clear, decisive steps and take action to serve others authentically.

This meant leaving behind (or working through) preconceived notions, old mindsets that in some cases we didn't even realize we had! It meant (and will continue to mean) being scared and doing it anyway. It meant leaning on someone who had been a complete stranger just moments before to help us move forward to a more positive mindset.

The information we received is a "nuts and bolts" plan to making our businesses grow—authentically. Make no mistake, we still have to do the work to make it happen. This isn't a magic bullet, drink this magic potion or even a magic pill.

Success was modeled for us by several members from Christine's coaching circles. Businesses as diverse as the women who created them. From a neonatal nurse to an astrologer to a cosmetic surgeon.

One of the biggest things I learned while at the retreat was that will it takes work, sometimes hard work, to build a successful business, it doesn't have to be a struggle. We get into the habit of making our lives difficult so we can celebrate our victories over the struggle by sharing it over and over again with friends and family.

I'm coming to understand just how much this behavior limits me and what I can accomplish. This type of behavior drains me and steals energy that I could be using to accomplish more.

One of the other lessons I heard time and again, was that life is a process just as success and failure are as well. I create success, or failure, through the myriad decisions I make everyday. Neither success or failure is a one time event—it's the thousands of decisions made each day.

As I move forward with what I've learned/learning, you'll begin to notice changes. Some big but mostly small tweaks to what I'm already doing.

I look forward to sharing the growth with you. Meanwhile, I encourage you to check out Christine's blog—it's chocked full of goodies!