Monday, March 23, 2015

A Change of Season

Spring is here! Flocks of robins are hopping all over our yard and the snow is finally gone!

8-1/2" x 11", ink & watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook. Drawings done with a black Pigma Micron 01 pen.

Last Friday was officially the first day of spring, and even though the temperatures were still in the thirties and the sun was hidden behind banks of clouds, I had the urge to head outside and see if I could find anything green in this landscape of greys and browns.

I packed my nature journal, folding stool and a few pens and pencils in my backpack and took off down the hill to the woods.

The naturalized daffodils are just beginning to push through the carpet of fallen leaves on the forest floor.

Here and there, I saw the starting growth of a green plant with cute little scalloped-edge leaves. Wild onions are beginning to grow. Soon they'll be everywhere in the fields and woods.

Last year's dark green moss has bright yellow new growth.

That's about all I could find growing in the woods, so I headed back to the house and found daylilies popping up in the flower beds. Trouble is, the deer have found them, too. They lo-o-o-ve fresh, crunchy daylily shoots. Time to mix up a batch of my special deer-repellant spray!

The primrose plants that border the front flower bed are starting to grow, too. Fresh yellow-green leaves are spiraling out from the center of the hardy perennial plant.

Even the grass is beginning to show signs of growth.

Come on spring! We're ready and waiting for you!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Classes at Summerhill

My students do WONDERFUL work! This daisy sketch is by Sandy Conley.

Spring is just around the corner, and I think we're all ready to shake off those winter doldrums, aren't we? If you'd like to revive your creative spirit, I've got two classes coming up that might be just the thing for you.

Sketchbook Journaling 101 is a comprehensive course on illustrated watercolor journaling, suitable for all levels. Advanced Watercolor Explorations is a skill-building class for people who want to gain confidence in painting with watercolor. (Read more about both classes below.)

Classes will be held here at my home teaching studio, a spacious room that's perfect for art classes. We're just off I-79 near Ruff Creek, PA.

So, come on out to Summerhill this spring and learn something new! 

Debbie, one of my students

April - May 2015
Sketchbook Journaling 101
8-week class
Wednesday evenings: April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13, 20
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
at Summerhill Studio, Ruff Creek, PA
Cost: $120.00
For directions and to register,
call 724-627-8044 or email Leslie

An illustrated journal offers a way to exercise your artistic creativity and celebrate your life. It’s a place to discover and document your world, and it’s a low-stress way to make art!

In this fun-filled eight-week class, I’ll start you off with simple materials and easy techniques to begin drawing the world around you. Then we'll move on to watercolor and play around with mixing, glazing, and spattering. To add some pizzazz to your sketchbook pages, I'll give you lots of great ideas for page layouts, borders, and lettering styles.

Sketchbook journaling is all about recording a slice of life, not painting a masterpiece. It's about being creative and noticing the little things that we too often pass by. This class will give you the tools you need to confidently express yourself and record slices of your life on the pages of your sketchbook journal. Even if you haven't drawn or painted since childhood, my hints and tips will help you to conquer your insecurities and start having fun with art again.

March - May 2015
Advanced Watercolor Explorations
6-week class
Tuesday evenings: March 31, April 7, 14, 21, 28, May 5
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
at Summerhill Studio, Ruff Creek, PA
Cost: $90.00
For directions and to register,
call 724-627-8044 or email Leslie

If you're a watercolor novice who would like to move to the next level, or if you are familiar with watercolors and would like to further explore the medium, join me for this series of intermediate-level classes. Weekly step-by-step tutorials will help to build your confidence and improve your skills with watercolor, and the concepts learned will be applied to your own paintings. We'll practice painting a variety of subjects such as water, glass, pets, and skies. Soon, you'll be tackling even the most challenging subject matter with a smile on your face. With my guidance and encouragement, you'll be amazed at what you can do!

A full class at Summerhill Studio

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Travel Sketch Kit + Texas Travel Sketches

(Continuing my posting of sketches from the Monologue Basics A5 sketchbook that I reviewed here.)

My husband and I spent five days in Texas last fall visiting friends in San Antonio. I didn't think I'd have a lot of time to sketch, so I took a minimum of supplies, but it turned out to be all I needed. Here's the travel kit I used...

Click to enlarge

Everything except the sketchbook fits into an 8" x 4" x 2" cosmetic case. It takes up very little room in a carry-on bag.

Here's the set-up I use when sketching...

The palette is clamped to the sketchbook with a large binder clip. (This is an old Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolor Compact Set that I refilled with new tube colors.) The water container is held in place with two magnets, one in the container and one below, under the plastic palette. They're fairly strong magnets, and they hold it securely in place. I just have to remember not to tilt the whole setup and pour water all over my page. (I only did that once!)

The travel brush (Isabey Pocket Brush) is a #6 round sable. It holds a good amount of water and has a nice spring to it. I prefer it to the water brushes that I carry, but sometimes I don't want to mess with a water container, and that's when the water brushes come in handy.

I usually sit to sketch, so I hold the sketchbook/palette combination on my lap or place it on a table. I always have a water bottle with me, and that's what I use to fill the small plastic water container. The Gerber baby food container shown in the photo has a snap-on lid, and, when I'm finished painting, I put my paint-spattered tissues in it to dispose of later.

Here are the colors I'm currently using in my travel palette:

Here are a few sketches from our trip to the Texas hill country, where I put my travel sketch kit to good use...

All sketches are done in a Monologue A5 sketchbook, 5-1/4" x 8-1/4"

On the flight home, I sketched a few passengers...

and doodled some border designs to use on future sketchbook pages.

Later, I added some more elaborate borders that I found online...

So even when I don't have a lot of time to sketch on a trip, it's still nice to be able to pick up a pencil or pen during the quiet moments and do a little something in my sketchbook. If I have it along, I'll probably use it. If I leave it at home I'll probably regret it, and I know I won't get any sketches done. Better to take it along just in case!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Snow Day!

We have a SNOW DAY! Yippee! I still get a thrill from being snowed in. We've gotten ten  inches of snow since last evening and everything is cancelled, so I thought I'd share a snowy sketch with you today. This is one I painted a few weeks ago of the view out our driveway...

Ink and watercolor in an 8.5" x 5.5" Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

That was one of those sparkling, crystal clear days, but there's no sunshine today, just gray skies and lots and lots of snow.


So peaceful and beautiful!

Monday, March 2, 2015

More Random Sketches

As promised, here are more random sketches from my Monologue Basics sketchbook...

I deviated from my usual technique in this marigold sketch. Instead of doing a line drawing, then painting light, medium, and dark glazes of color, I did a quick initial freehand painting with watercolor, then, after the paint had dried, I did my drawing. The color doesn't always match up with the ink lines, but I like it that way. I think it adds interest to the sketch.

Drawn with a Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex Pen and Noodler's Walnut ink

I used a Koh-i-noor Magic Pencil for this sketch of the front of our house.There was so much yellow in the pencil that it was hard to get a dark line, so the whole sketch is a little washed out, but it also gives the impression of the bright sunlight that was washing over the scene.

I cleaned out my ancient Winsor & Newton Pocket Box watercolor set and filled it with fresh paint, so I did this little sketch as a record of what colors I chose.

I hate wasting time sitting at a car repair shop or waiting for an oil change. There are so many other things I'd rather be doing! But at least I have the option of sketching to help pass the time. The guy sitting next to me at Monro Muffler and Brake struck up a conversation about what I was doing and ended up telling me all about his college art classes that he really enjoyed and how he'd like to get back into drawing someday. Who knows? Maybe he'll think back on our encounter one day and decide to pick up a pencil and draw.

My Chrysler minivan goes through brakes at an alarming rate, so I have quite a collection of sketches with titles similar to this one...

I always feel a little self-conscious sketching in church, but since I sketch so many other parts of my life, it seems only natural to sketch there, too. On this particular Sunday, I drew one of the pretty stained glass windows in the sanctuary, surrounded by Zentangle-like borders and the words from one of the praise choruses we sang that day.

I love how this next page turned out. The colors are so light and happy. I painted an overall wash of blue, pink, and yellow first and let it dry, then did the line drawing over it. Finishing off the painting was easy, because all the light tones were already painted. It was a simple matter to add the mid and dark tones to finish it off.

Farm along Route 221 in Lippencott, PA

Here's another sketch done with the Koh-i-noor Magic pencil - this one had a darker mix of colors in the lead.

Memories of fall....

More sketches from my Monologue sketchbook coming soon!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

People Practice

In my last post I commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the  Monologue Basics sketchbook, and mentioned that I liked using it for practice drawings. One of the things I always feel I could use more practice in is drawing people, and I've hit upon an easy way to find people to draw - I use the DVR on our TV.  It's easy to pause the action and do a quick five-minute sketch of a character, then move to the next scene and do another. It's a fun challenge to try to draw all the actors in a movie or TV series.

Drawn with colored Gelly Roll gel pens

These are all drawn in the Monologue Basics A5 sketchbook directly in ink, with no preliminary pencil sketch. It's really good practice, because I find myself being much more careful than when I have the option to erase.  I have to really look at what I'm drawing and analyze angles and relationships before I put pen to paper.

Drawn with a Pigma Micron 01 black pen

Sometimes it works better than others, but I don't stress over the irregularities and out of whack proportions. This is practice, and it's fun, and I'm learning and improving. That's what's important.
Drawn with a Pigma Micron 005 black pen

I want to get to the point where I can do a quick sketch on location without fussing too much.

Drawn with a Platinum Preppy pen with Platinum black ink

Drawn with a Platinum Preppy pen with Platinum black water soluble ink washed over with water

I put my skills to the test last weekend when my mother and I attended a Pittsburgh Symphony concert. Sketching people from life is worlds apart from drawing people off the TV, but I found that I just needed to slow down, take my time, and go with the flow. I sat in the third row and sketched throughout the entire concert. The first sketch looks kind of jittery and nervous, which is how I was feeling. ("Oooh, they're all moving their arms! Is anyone watching me? Oh no, the conductor is jumping all over the place! Eeek! I forgot that guy's hand, and I drew someone's foot stomping on the drummer's head!")

Drawn with a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon ink  + watercolor

 Sketch #2 is much more relaxed. Maybe Beethoven was making me more mellow.

Drawn with a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon ink  + watercolor

By Sketch #3, I felt like I was getting the hang of it.

Drawn with a Platinum Carbon Desk Pen with Platinum Carbon ink  + watercolor

I finished off the sketches with some watercolor the next day at home. I'm glad I got up the nerve to pull out my sketchbook at the concert. What a cool experience, to sit there doing what I love to do, listening to that wonderful music with one of my favorite people in the world, my mother.

Practice is great, but eventually you have to be brave and get out there in the real world.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Impressions of the Monologue Basics Sketchbook + Random Sketches

A few months ago, the Monologue company sent me a few of their sketchbooks to try, and I decided to play around with the A5 hardcover to see how it handles the materials I normally use for sketching: ink, colored pencil, watercolor pencil, and watercolor paints. It measures around 5-1/2" x 8", and the paper is listed as 140 gsm "Italian heavyweight".

I've used this sketchbook as a casual practice book, one where I can fool around without worrying about the end result, but I would not use it as my primary sketchbook. The paper is too thin for watercolor - it wrinkles badly, and colors look much duller on it than what I'm used to with my Stillman and Birn sketchbooks. Some ink pens perform just fine, while others bleed on it. Lines show through on the paper, so I do not draw on both sides.

The spine opens flat, which is nice, but all of the pages are perforated about 5/16" in from the spine, and the perforations tear apart easily with normal wear and tear. I've had to put tape at the lower edge on the back side of most of the pages to keep them from tearing out. This is the one reason I would never buy this sketchbook. I don't like perforated pages. The perforations are unnecessary and they lessen the usable space on the page, making an already narrow vertical format even narrower.

So, although I don't love the Monologue Basics sketchbook, it has served me well over the past nine months as a secondary sketchbook that's not too precious to mess around in or mess up. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my "messing around" sketches, so I'll be sharing them over the course of the next week. Here's the first batch.............

On page one I tried out a Lamy Safari fountain pen with Noodler's black ink. It worked well, with no feathering or bleeding on the Monologue paper.

I sketched this next one with a Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex Pen filled with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink. The ink bled quite a bit and the paper wrinkled when I applied the watercolor washes. Still, it's a sweet little sketch of a place I'd like to visit in Ireland. (I was watching a travel show on PBS and paused the DVR for a few minutes to sketch the scene.)

The Pitt Artist's Pen worked great for this next sketch - nice, clean lines with no bleeding or feathering.

I saw this quote online somewhere, and it really touched me. Taking the time to add it to my sketchbook ensures that I won't forget it.

I've had this tiny Winsor & Newton travel watercolor set since I was in my twenties, but I never liked the paint it came with, so I finally cleaned it out one day and put fresh paint in it. I've used it quite a bit since then and like it much better now.

Drawn with a Lamy Safari fountain pen with Lexington gray ink

My husband knows how much I love all things Italian, so he has taken to occasionally bringing me Italian chocolates when he comes home from a trip. The Venchi chocolates come in a beautiful multi-layered box that's almost too pretty to throw away, so I collaged part of it to a page in my sketchbook, along with one of the wrappers. (The candies are painted with watercolor.)

Brown Pigma Micron 01 pen and watercolor with collaged elements

This next page is the only sketch I managed to finish during our family beach vacation last August. I was too busy playing with my adorable grandkids to pick up my paints.

Sketched with a Koh-i-noor Magic Pencil

Here I tried out a green Bic Mark-It Ultra Fine Point permanent pen. It tends to soak into the Monologue paper and bleed through to the back side. It also bled whenever I paused in drawing a line.

Keeping a drawn food diary is a good way to be more mindful of what I eat. This day's diary was drawn with a Noodler's flex pen filled with Noodler's walnut ink, which gives a nice dark brown line. Gelly Roll gel pens were used for the other colors.

Don't judge me when you read that I ate pineapple upside-down cake twice in one day!

We live out in the country, and our mailbox is about a quarter mile from our house, out by the two-lane road. I often take a walk to the mailbox at lunchtime to stretch my legs and give Buckley, our golden retriever, a nice run. I've always enjoyed the view of the driveway curving through the shady woods, and finally one day I took my sketchbook along and stopped to draw it.

Drawn with a Faber-Castell watercolor pencil (color 192). Water added later to paint the shadow areas.

Looking at it now in the depths of winter brings back the feel of that sunny, warm, late August day. It may be going down to 1ยบ  tonight, but at least we have spring on the horizon and summer following soon after. 

Lots more sketches to come as soon as I get them scanned and uploaded!

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