Friday, April 17, 2015

Crazy for Daffodils!

Daffydowndilly has come up to town,
in a yellow petticoat and a green gown.
~  Traditional nursery rhyme

I taught a lesson on painting yellow daffodils the other day for my April "Sketching at Summerhill" party, and one of my sweet friends who came to paint brought me a gorgeous bouquet of daffodils from her garden. But these weren't the everyday kind of daffodils that I grow in my yard - hers were pink, white, yellow, orange and salmon-colored, many of them ruffled and curled like a frilly spring dress.

8-1/2" x 11", ink & watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

We all oohed and aahed over them during the class, and several of my students did sketches of them. Then when everyone went home, I sat the pitcher of colorful blooms on my kitchen counter to enjoy for another day or two. But I kept thinking about how fleeting those blossoms were - they'd be wilting and shriveling up in such a short time.

So I did what any self-respecting artist would do - I sat down and began painting them!

What a great way to really savor nature's fleeting beauty!

The time I spent drawing and painting those gorgeous flowers was time I wasn't worrying or fretting or stressing over anything.

All I had to think about was how to mix that exact color of salmon-pink for the daffodil center, and whether to paint the shadows lavender, gold or green.

Such a simple thing - drawing a line, putting brush to paper, watching the color mingle and flow - but it changes me.

It calms my hyper, type-A personality and brings me peace. It's a way to meditate on beauty and make it a part of me. And it just plain makes me happy!

A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up,
whether or no the sun be shining outside.
~ A.A. Milne

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.
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