Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Recent Sketches + Maine Preview!

It was a beautiful sunny day when I painted at the first annual garden party at the historic David Bradford House in Washington, PA. People strolled through the gardens, listening to live guitar music and nibbling on tasty hors d'oeuvres. I set up on the lawn where I had a perfect view of the old well and the purple irises that had just begun to bloom.  

9-1/4" x 7", ink & watercolor, Canson 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook

I was there to demonstrate how I paint with watercolor, but I'd been a tiny bit concerned that I'd feel self-conscious when people stopped to watch me paint. The whole experience turned out to be a great deal of fun, though. I felt so happy, sitting outside on a pretty spring afternoon, doing what I love to do. It was the most relaxing few hours I'd had in a long time. And I met a lot of interesting people, too. It's good to stretch myself sometimes and get outside my comfort zone.

I just finished up my spring classes last week, and at the last session of my sketchbook journaling class, the students asked me to do a demo, so I picked some clematis from our yard and did this quick sketch...

5-1/2" c 9-1/2", ink & watercolor, Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook

And since I'm heading off to teach in Maine in a little over a week, I thought I'd share with you a few of the sketches I did the last time I was there. Some were completed on site and others were drawn in ink while I was there, then finished up with watercolor here in my studio. It's a process that works well for me, enabling me to see a lot and get in plenty of sketching time while I'm visiting a place, then reliving the good times later when I paint from photos I took on location.

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine, 8-1/2" x 6", ink & watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook

Thuya Gardens, Northeast Harbor, Maine, 8-1/2" x 6", ink & watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook

Somesville, Maine, 8-1/2" x 6", ink & watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook

Northeast Harbor, Maine, 8-1/2" x 6", ink & watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook

Owls Head harbor, Maine, 8-1/2" x 6", ink & watercolor, Strathmore 140 lb. watercolor sketchbook
This is really getting me in the mood for Maine - it can't come soon enough!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Catching Up

There's been so much going on this spring!  I've been teaching two series of classes each week, and busily planning lessons for my Maine workshop that's coming up in less than a month. I'm behind on my spring yard work, and I've barely begun to plant my garden. I tend to feel a little overwhelmed at times about everything I have on my plate, but then I look at this and it puts everything in perspective....

We have a new granddaughter! Meet Isabelle Anne...

She's a little bundle of pure perfection and holding her is my favorite thing to do these days. There's just nothing that compares to holding a newborn baby in your arms, is there? The cares of the world melt away and peace and contentment take their place.

Nicholas and Callista love their new baby sister, and can't get enough of holding her. With all the aunts, grandmas and siblings standing in line to cuddle this little munchkin, she hardly ever has a moment when she's not being snuggled and loved.

So for now, I'm playing with my grandkids, planting flowers, and planning for Maine. Just wanted to check in - I'll have sketches to share again soon. I promise!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Enjoying Spring and Planning for Fall

Seems like everything's blossoming, growing, and greening-up time of year. It's so much fun to walk around the yard every day and discover what poked up through the soil overnight. Echinacea, hosta, and primroses are all growing, and the bleeding heart is covered with buds. The forsythia was spectacular this year - I brought a few branches inside to enjoy and did this little sketch in my Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook the other day.

5 1/2" x 8 1/2", ink & watercolor

I'm enjoying spring, but I have to admit I'm a little preoccupied with the future. I've been working on lessons for my week-long workshop in Maine in June...

And I need to finish up everything for a two-day sketchbook journaling workshop in San Clemente in July. I'm adding pages to my nature journal in preparation for my "Sketchbook Journaling in Nature" workshop at Touchstone in September, and always, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking about Tuscany in October!

That's the reason for my writing today. I wanted to let you all know what a great deal that trip is now. The Euro/Dollar exchange rate has been dropping for months and it's almost down to 1:1. Since my Fattoria Bacio workshop is priced in Euros, that makes it an unbelievable deal! It's half the cost of comparable workshops. Click here for a flyer that details the prices.

There are still a few spaces open for this all-inclusive seven-day workshop. Read all about it on the Italy Workshop page and think about joining me for the week. We're going to have a great time sketching, learning, touring, and relaxing. And the food will be fantastic!

We have a great group of artists going on the trip. Many of them are people I know locally and a few are from other parts of the country, but we all have one thing in common - we love an adventure! We'll be seeing Tuscany at a slower pace, with time to sketch, visit the village markets, wander the back streets of hilltop towns and sit in the sun and sip a cappuccino. I believe that traveling should be more than just checking items off a list of "25 Places You Don't Want to Miss in Tuscany!!" My goal with this trip is to immerse ourselves in the joys of Tuscany, have a good time and come home with a journal filled to overflowing with memories of our time there.

I'll be teaching a lesson each day, then we'll head out to apply what we've learned. The class size will be small, only around ten or so students, which will allow me to help everyone individually as they work in their watercolor travel journals.

I'm so excited to have a chance to share Tuscany with a group of fun-loving artists. Think about joining us - it's going to be a wonderful trip!

Click here for more information about my
Fattoria Bacio workshop

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!

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