Saturday, August 23, 2014

Feel Like a Kid Again in My New Fall Classes

Remember how much fun you had with art as a kid? Back then you felt free to create without fear or self-consciousness, and you were limited only by your imagination. Your style wasn't like anyone else's and you didn't care what anyone thought of your artwork - you did it just for yourself, for the joy of creating. Wouldn't it be great to experience that feeling again?

Well, that's what my sketchbook journaling classes are all about - about having fun with art again, about silencing that little voice in your head that tells you this will be too hard, or you won't be any good at it, that it will take too much time and you'll probably give up.

With my guidance and encouragement, it won't be too hard, and you will be good at it. It won't take too much time, and you won't give up! You'll learn to draw (yes, you!) and paint with watercolors (really!) and you'll discover a whole new way of looking at the world.

I'm offering two 8-week sessions this fall. These are comprehensive classes that teach drawing, composition, watercolor techniques, hand-lettering, and page layout and design. They're loaded with information and inspiration. I hope you'll join me!

 Sketchbook Journaling 101
at Summerhill Studio near Ruff Creek, PA
8-week class
Tuesday evenings
September 23, 30, October 7, 14, 21, 28, November 4, 11
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Sue, from my Spring 2013 Summerhill class

Sketchbook Journaling for Beginners
at Wash Arts in Washington, PA
8-week class
Thursday afternoons
September 18, 25, October 9, 16, 23, 30, November 6, 13
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

My Winter 2013 class at WashArts

Click here to learn more

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Flashback to the Fifties: Alice's Jello Salad

Here's a fun commission piece I did recently...

This is a recipe that's been in my customer, Pam's, family for generations. It's a favorite at every large family gathering. The long-running joke is that it's usually forgotten in the refrigerator until after all the other desserts have been eaten. Then suddenly someone will remember Alice's Jello Salad, sitting in all its pink, fluffy glory, just waiting to be devoured.

Do you have a great idea for a unique gift
for someone special?
Contact me today to discuss the possibilities.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mushroom Sleuthing

I was on a quest. A mushroom quest. As I rambled through the woods, I had noticed a few colorful little gems peeking out from under the carpet of dried brown leaves beneath my feet, and that only made me want more.

Aquabee Super Delluxe sketchbook, 9" x 12", watercolor and Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen

I felt like I was on a treasure hunt, as my eyes darted this way and that, looking for bright pinks and yellows, as well as the camouflaged tans and greys.

Aquabee Super Delluxe sketchbook, 9" x 12", watercolor and Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen

If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed them...

I sketched the mushrooms directly in ink while I was there in the woods and snapped a photo of each one.

It was dusk by the time I finished, and the mosquitoes were finding me every time I paused to sketch, so, after filling two pages in my 9" x 12" sketchbook, I headed indoors.

I spent the next hour or so with a field guide to mushrooms, trying to identify the ones I had drawn. I'm not sure I was too successful - so many of them look similar to one another. 

 It sure was fun tromping around in the woods, though, just seeing what I could see.

I need to give myself permission to do this more often. To wander, to paint, to really look at the things I might normally pass by.

I need to remember that my to-do list will still be there tomorrow, but summer will be over in the blink of an eye. 

 I'm going to savor each moment.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Step-by-Step Watercolor: Lake Scene

I visited my mother last week at Alpine Lake, West Virginia, and while I was there spent a wonderfully relaxing couple of hours following the walking trail that meanders through the woods along the shoreline. There are so many pretty, sketch-worthy scenes, but I finally chose this one:

Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook, 7" x 7"

Sketching provides a great excuse to slow down and enjoy life. What could be better than to sit by a lake on a beautiful summer day just listening, watching, and painting?

Would you like to see a step-by-step of my sketching process? Well, blissed out and relaxed as I was that day at Alpine Lake, I actually had the presence of mind to snap some pictures as I worked on this page. I thought you'd enjoy seeing them. Here's step 1...

Step 1 - Quick sketch of the scene

I had a new toy to play with, a set of Koh-I-Noor "Magic Pencils", so I used one of them to do my sketch. It gave me a soft variegated line that would easily blend into my watercolors later as I painted.

"Magic Pencils" by Koh-I-Noor. I used the second one from the top for my sketch.

The lines are colorful yet subtle.

I painted the sky first, wet-on-dry since I didn't want too much spreading of the color. I softened edges where needed with a damp brush.

Step 2 - First washes (sky and grass)

The grass was a bright yellow-green, so I laid in some leaf green, olive green, and cadmium yellow light, allowing them to mingle on the paper. In the lower part of the page, I dropped some ultramarine blue into the wet paint.

In step 3, I began painting the masses of foliage, varying my greens to add interest.  I also added the first indications of the dirt path and foreground grasses. The boulders received their first light and medium tone washes.

Step 3 - Began painting leafy foliage, path, grasses, and rocks

I always think of this part of the process as being the awkward adolescent stage of a painting. It's hard to foresee a satisfactory outcome, and I'm usually thinking, "Augh, this looks so bad!" I try not to get discouraged at this point, though, because I know things will get better if I just keep plugging away at it. 

In step 4, I defined the tree trunks, first with a light grey wash, then a darker one after the first had dried. I added some spattering in the tree foliage and painted the deep green undergrowth behind the tree trunks. The boulders received their first layer of shadows, and the path had some darker tones added to it. More texture was added to the foreground grasses with spattering from my paintbrush, a size 6 or 8 round.

Step 4 - Tree trunks, undergrowth, foliage spatters, rock shadows

A lot happened between steps 4 and 5 - I painted the distant hills, began painting the water, added deeper shadows on the rocks and foreground foliage, and further defined some of the branches and leaves.

Step 5 - Add darker shadows, hills, grasses, and water

Step 6 shows the final touches: trees on the distant shore and a few touches of darker shadows here and there.

Step 6 - Distant trees, spots of darkest color

Total working time was about an hour and a half. I like the way this turned out using the colored pencil for the drawing, rather than my usual ink lines. It's a looser, less defined look.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Painting a House Portrait Using Simple Sketching Techniques

How did this little sketch...

5 1/2" x 3 1/2", ink & watercolor in a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook

lead to this finished painting?

14" x 10", ink, watercolor, and gouache on 140 lb. Saunders Waterford paper

Well... when my dentist and his wife saw the sketch I did of the coffee corner in their office waiting room, they loved it so much that they checked out some of my other work online and decided to have me do a house portrait of the wife's family home. Her mother had recently moved from the house into an apartment and was still missing her old place. The painting was to be a gift for her, to remember the home she had loved for so many years.

Even though this finished house portrait might look very detailed and complex, up close it's not much more complicated than a simple sketch. Let's zoom in and take a look...

The trees were painted with variegated washes in shades of greens and yellows, with touches of blue and purple dropped into the darker areas. Most of the work was done with the initial wash. To finish up, I added some spattering and a few marks with a round brush to suggest leaves. Easy as pie!

Although the flower bed in front of the house may look complex, if you examine it more closely, you'll see that most of the plants were painted with a wash of light to medium value, then after that dried, a few touches of a darker tone were added to indicate leaves and shadows - two simple steps to a convincing-looking flower bed.

The stone wall was also painted in two steps: a light overall wash of grey/tan, and a darker shadow color. 

I painted the windows by simply wetting the area, dropping in touches of paint and allowing the colors to blend on the paper. Later, I drew the muntins with white Speedball ink over top of the watercolor. It worked great and was so much simpler than trying to preserve the white of the paper.

I usually just suggest the bricks on a house by painting a few individual bricks here and there, but for this painting,I went into a little more detail. It took more time, but it wasn't difficult. I brushed on a warm base of yellow ochre mixed with a bit of burnt sienna for the mortar color. After that dried, I painted the bricks with varied tones of burnt sienna. Here and there I washed over the finished bricks with a pale yellow ochre/burnt sienna mixture to soften the lines a bit.

My house portraits usually include little personal touches, like this "Dad's Garden" sign, which was a special request from the family.

The lettering on the sign was painted with gouache

And, if you look closely, back in the bushes you'll see a friendly fox who made it part of his daily routine to walk through this yard every day, right in the middle of a busy neighborhood!

The address sign was another special request. It doesn't take much time to add these personal touches, and it means so much to the recipient of the artwork.

The line work on the painting was done with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen, just like the one I often use for my sketches. I did the ink drawing first, then added watercolor.

As you can see by these detail views, my paintings are really just larger versions of my sketches. The same techniques I use in my sketchbook serve me well when doing a house portrait.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Dream Fulfilled...Teaching in Tuscany!

Ever since I sketched my way through Italy a year ago, I've dreamed of going back one day and taking a group of sketching friends with me. Well, my friends, it's happening! I've been invited to return to Tuscany in 2015 to teach sketchbook journaling, and I'd love for you to come along!

In early summer, I'll be leading a workshop at the Watermill at Posara in northern Tuscany. We'll start off with three fabulous days in Florence, then settle in at the Watermill for a fun-filled week there.  There are oodles of places to sketch around the mill, but we'll also be taking day trips to some amazing places. Click here to download a flyer about the workshop.

In the fall, during grape harvest time, I'll return to Tuscany to teach at Fattoria Bacio, a lovely estate and vineyard located between Siena and Florence. The views from Villa Bacio are amazing, with vineyards and olive groves stretching off in all directions and hilltops dotted with historic towns and castles, which we'll visit during our stay. Click here to download a workshop schedule.

I've created a new page on my blog entitled Italy Workshops, where you'll find complete information about both trips. They're both going to be wonderful - I'm glad I don't have to decide between them!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. 
Explore. Dream. Discover.

 Mark Twain

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summerhill Sketching + Two Delicious Summer Recipes

Yesterday afternoon I hosted my July "Sketching at Summerhill" session. It was a gorgeous summer day around here, with blue skies, puffy clouds, and lots of flowers showing off their colors. We had such a great time sketching, talking, eating, and relaxing, and I thought you might want to take a peek and see what goes on up here on the hill on the first Thursday of every month.

I like to begin our little get-togethers with a short watercolor lesson. These tutorials aren't about theory, they're step-by-step lessons on how to approach a particular subject, and everyone seems to really enjoy them. This week's was about painting stone walls, like the one that's just outside the doors of my studio...

This wall served as our subject matter

Here's my rendering of it
Everyone dove right in and splashed on an initial wash of watercolor, then began to define the rocks in the wall...

A few more layers of washes, a bit of spatter here and there...

and soon everyone had a finished wall...

Then we gathered our supplies and headed outside for independent sketching time. There were sketchers scattered all over the yard...

On the patio...

and in the grass...

We drew and painted for almost two hours. It was so quiet and peaceful - everyone was engrossed in what they were doing.

Sharon filled several pages in her sketchbook...

Cathy worked on a two-page spread of flowers and the rope swing that hangs from the locust tree in our backyard...

Sandy sketched the ladies on the patio, with stone steps, bushes, and daylilies in the foreground...

Helen painted purple coneflowers...

and I did, too!

We all worked up an appetite out there in the fresh air, so we eventually packed up our supplies and headed inside for a glass of wine and some yummy appetizers.

First up, Pimento Cheese-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes...


They may look a little messy, but, boy, are they tasty! Here's the recipe for the Pimento Cheese filling. It's got more of a kick than most, so the flavor really stands up to whatever you pair it with, like tomatoes, celery, or bread.

Pimento Cheese
½ pound sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 - ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp horseradish
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp dry mustard
5 T. mayonnaise
3 T. marinated roasted red peppers, chopped

In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, cayenne pepper, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, and mayonnaise.
Blend half the mixture in a food processor until smooth. Transfer back to bowl.
Add chopped red pepper, and stir to combine.

I also made one of my favorites, California Roll-Ups...

and fruit skewers with a yummy Honey-Lemon Dip...

The recipe for the fruit dip is super simple:

Honey-Lemon Fruit Dip

½ c. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
½ c. light sour cream
3 T. jarred lemon curd
1 ½ T. honey

Combine all ingredients, stirring with a whisk.
Serve with strawberries or other fruit.

My friend, Cathy, brought a delicious 4th of July brownie dessert and even made it gluten-free for me. What a sweetie!

She took home a clean dish - there wasn't a crumb left. Hey, all that sketching really burns up the calories! We needed to replenish our energy. :)

I forgot to take pictures of all of us sitting around gabbing, eating, and sipping wine - guess I was a little too anxious to dive into all the goodies.

We sure had a great time. I love getting together with friends who enjoy sketching as much as I do. We're all so busy these days, and it feels really good to just slow down for a few hours and have fun.

If you're in the area, you're welcome to join us next month on Thursday, August 7, for another "Sketching at Summerhill" get-together. Email me for directions. I hope you can join us!

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