Friday, August 31, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 58

I think I like the idea of a picnic more than I actually like picnicking itself. Lounging around on a patchwork quilt, looking out over a beautiful view, nibbling on cheese and crackers, and sipping a glass of Chardonnay - that's the way I picture picnicking... relaxing, idyllic, and maybe even romantic. Thus, my request for a picnic basket for my birthday ... 

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", ink and watercolor

Reality never seems to measure up to my fantasy, however. When I got the brilliant idea to take a picnic lunch up to the top of the hill one gorgeous day this past June, it didn't exactly work out as planned. That was before I had my well-equipped new picnic basket, so we had to pack paper plates, forks, napkins, cups, etc., as well as food, drinks, a blanket, and water for the dog. By the time I finished gathering all the supplies and food, I was almost too tired to go!

Detail, 1-1/4" x 1-3/4"

Smiling, laughing, enjoying the day, we spread the blanket in a shady grove near the woods and turned to get the tote bag with the food. Suddenly, we were invaded by a huge swarm of flies - hundreds, maybe even thousands of them! They were everywhere! Shouting, swatting, grabbing the blanket, we threw everything back in the bag, jumped on the four-wheeler and zoomed out the there.

Detail, 2-1/4" x 2"

Undaunted, we next chose a bright, sunny spot on the crest of the hill to have our lunch. Sunshine, beautiful views, good food, (and no flies) - what more could you want, right? But after a few minutes, that noontime sun started to cook us, then Buckley ran up, panting and slobbering all over our lunch, and the first few ants managed to find our plates. We looked at each other, and, without saying a word, I could see my husband was thinking the same thing I was, "Why did we ever think this would be a good idea?"

Detail, 1-1/2" x 2-1/4"

But hope springs eternal, and I haven't given up on picnicking. With all it's discomforts, it's still fun to have a change of scenery and a little adventure once in awhile. And now I have a really cool new picnic basket to do it with. 

Detail, 2-1/4" x 2-1/4"


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 57

Every spring I plant the front row of my garden with zinnias. All summer long, they flourish without any care, producing masses of bright blooms that cheer me up every time I pass that way. I love to pick big bunches of them to bring in the house. Arranged in an old blue and white pitcher, they brighten my kitchen and my mood - there's just something so lively and happy about them.

Watercolor over Noodler's Lexington Gray ink  in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 55

I recently took a few hours to visit the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh to see the Impressionism exhibit that's currently showing. It was wonderful, and I'm so glad I made the time to do it. When I stand in front of an original painting by Renoir or Monet or Cassatt, it's hard to believe I'm actually looking at a painting that I studied in art history class in college! Seeing them in person is a real eye-opener.


I took my time moving from one painting to the next, reading all the notes and commentary, savoring this rare chance to forget all the things clamoring for my attention and just soak up the beauty of the art.

What better way to remember my museum interlude than with a sketch? I plopped myself down on a couch, pulled out my pen and sketchbook, and surreptitiously began to draw a man studying a painting nearby (top left on the page). Since people in a gallery tend to stop, stand, and stare a lot, it wasn't too difficult to get a quick impression down on paper. When he moved, I just waited for him to assume a similar stance again, so I could finish my mini sketch. His head ended up looking a bit misplaced, but instead of fretting over what couldn't be changed, I began looking for my next victim, er, subject.

Drawing people directly in ink is kind of nerve-wracking for me, and my first sketch or two are usually the worst on a page. But things tend to improve as I relax and loosen up. This was the my second attempt that day...

I just realized I forgot to paint his hands!

Having so many people turn their backs on me made my job a lot easier!


I was surprised at how many people were there on a weekday afternoon; there was no shortage of subject matter. This was my sixth sketch  of the day...


I'm happy when I manage to capture something like the way the mom, above, leans toward her daughter.

As I headed out of the gallery and down the main hall, I spied this woman in a colorful maxi dress.


She was so engrossed in her phone that it was almost like having a paid model. She sat motionless (except for her texting fingers) the whole time I was sketching her.

It was such a fun day, and it made me vow to visit the museum more often. Maybe being in the presence of all that genius will begin to rub off on me. I can only hope!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 52-54

A couple of years back, some of the students from my Summerhill Weekend Sewing Retreats nicknamed our attic guest room "The Penthouse", and we still call it that today. It's way up at the tippy top of our Victorian style home, which sits on a hill, so the view from the attic window almost makes you feel as though you're on the top floor of a high rise.

It began life as a storage area, then morphed into a rec room for our teenage son, complete with ping pong table, TV, and booming sound system. When I needed more sleeping space for my students, we turned it into a guest room.

(All sketches are 5-1/2" x 8-1/2", Lexington Gray ink in Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook)

There's a secret message hidden inside the corona. I appliqued "Sweet Dreams" on the quilted cover of the mount board that the draperies are hung from.)

I furnished it mostly with flea market finds (white painted furniture, vintage china, etc.) which gave it a lot of character, but the custom bedding, slipcovers, and window treatment are what really made it special.


It feels like a princess room, with smocked coronas, white wrought iron beds, girly slipcovered chairs, and a cushiony window seat. A black and ivory toile fabric anchors the color scheme, with coordinating fabrics of polka dots, checks, and ticking stripe. The wall color is a muted aqua.


Of all the window treatments I've made in the past ten years, I think the London shade in this room is one of my very favorites. The garden toile fabric is pretty without being overly formal. The checked fabric of the pleats is accented with black piping, and a ruffle finishes off the lower edge. Pleated black grosgrain ribbon adds a finishing touch at the top. The window seat has a reversible cushion (polka dot on one side, soft cotton chenille on the other), plump appliqued pillows, and a plush quilted throw. It's a cozy little nook that's a favorite with my grandchildren. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 51

My birthday and my husband's are just one day apart, so we always enjoy celebrating together, usually with lunch or dinner out (plus gifts, of course!) This year we decided to try a new Japanese steakhouse in our area. I was up for being adventurous and trying the sushi, while he ordered the hibachi lunch with steak, scallops, and vegetables.

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", ink and watercolor in Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook

Everything was so pretty I wanted to sketch it, but my appetite got the better of me, and I decided to just snap a photo to paint from later on. Just looking at this sketch now makes me want to go back! Mmmm, it was all so good.

It was a very happy birthday for both of us, and no matter how many years go by, one thing never changes - he'll always be one year older than I am!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 50

I can't think of a better way to spend a summer Saturday than sitting on a grassy hillside with my dog at my side, listening to some awesome, foot-stomping, live bluegrass music while looking out over a gorgeous lake and the green hills beyond.

I attended my first bluegrass festival a few weeks ago at Alpine Lake, West Virginia, and had such a great time that I think I've become a bluegrass groupie. I've got to have more!

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor and ink

In the hills of West Virginia, they take their fiddle and banjo playing seriously, and some of the bands that played at the festival were just incredible.

Detail, 3" x 1-1/2"

Watching the people walking by was almost as much fun as listening to the music. I worked on my sketch throughout the afternoon, adding characters as they came and went.

Detail, 2-1/4" x 1-3/4"

Just taking time out from the busyness of my daily life, and having a chance to sit in a beautiful place and listen to some great live music was such a treat.

Detail, 2-1/4" x 2-1/2"

Now, when's the next bluegrass festival? I'll be there!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 47-49

This pretty guest room, which used to be my daughter's when she lived at home, is a beautiful, serene space with a high ceiling and a tall arched window looking out over the woods and fields to the north of our house. This antique dressing table was a lucky flea market find whose pale aqua paint color was a perfect fit with the the furnishings in the room.

All sketches are 5-1/2" x 8-1/2", drawn in a Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook with a Noodler's flex pen and Lexington Gray ink

I slipcovered the small swivel chair to match the window treatments. It has a cute, lace-up bodice back and full gathered skirt. The soft floral print fabric is repeated in the decorative pillow shams, below, which are embellished with tucks.


There's so much to see in this room that I did a series of three sketches. The 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" sketchbook I'm using isn't well suited to drawing expansive views, so I've been focusing on smaller vignettes, parts of the whole. I think it's been good for me to realize that I don't always have to include everything in a sketch.




Thursday, August 9, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 46

My house is surrounded by hydrangeas of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They start blooming in June and don't stop until the first frost in October. All through the summer, I'm treated to those gorgeous blooms of periwinkle blue, deep pink, and soft ivory. This beautiful blue lace-cap grows next to our front porch, surrounded by Japanese iris, bleeding heart, and miniature roses...

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor & ink in Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook

To get the lacy effect behind the title, I tried a little experiment. I laid down one of my grandmother's starched, crocheted doilies and spritzed diluted purple watercolor paint through it, then quickly lifted the doily and allowed the paint to dry. I rewet the area later when I was ready to add the watery washes behind the hydrangea. I wanted them to mingle and flow, covering some of the lace background and assuring it didn't dominate the sketch.

To paint the leaves, I first applied pale yellow-green paint. When that was dry, I painted the spaces between the leaf veins with darker shades of greens, blues, and browns, leaving the impression of a lighter green vein.

4" x  2" detail

The texture and detail of the flower itself was intimidating, but, taking it one step at a time, and suggesting the tiny buds and blossoms in the center of the flower rather than trying to paint every detail, I think I managed to give an impression of the lace cap hydrangea. Here's how I approached it...

First, I applied very pale shades of blue to the petals of the larger individual blossoms, leaving areas of white for highlights. I put touches of the same blue in the flower center, along with a medium lavender, once again leaving some white areas for sparkle. Touches of olive green suggested unopened buds. Next, the shading on the flower petals was painted with darker blues and purples, along with touches of red-violet in the blossom centers. To suggest spots where dark green leaves showed through behind the flower head, I added a few accents of dark blue-green. I finished off the center with a few more touches of medium periwinkle blue.

I'm glad I decided to finally get over my fear of painting hydrangeas and give them a try this summer. They're definitely challenging to paint, but I love that I have two portraits of my favorite flowers in my sketchbook now. (See the other hydrangea sketch here.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 44

Recipe for a perfect summer evening:
  • A big front porch
  • White wicker furniture with comfy cushions
  • Wooden rocking chairs
  • A porch swing
  • Pots overflowing with flowers
  • A big goofy dog
  • At least one cat
  • Birds
  • Fireflies
  • A good book
  • A glass of wine or iced tea
  • A gorgeous sunset 
  • Time to enjoy all of the above
My mom and Buckley enjoy a peaceful evening on the porch

Sunday, August 5, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 43 & 45

Here are a few more glimpses of spots around the house, drawn with my Noodler's flex pen and Lexington Gray ink in my Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook.


The flex pen allows me to vary the lines in a drawing from thick and heavy to barely there. What it doesn't do is correct lettering glitches, like the word "Study" in Day 45's sketch, below.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 41-42

Working in my sketchbook every day this summer has given me an opportunity to try out lots of different page layouts and text styles. It's made me realize that, by taking a few minutes to think and plan before I draw, I can make a much more interesting page. Leafing through my sketchbook now, you never know what to expect on the next page. It could be a grid, a vignette, a stamped border, or a framed view, like this one of the Blue Ridge Parkway...


I'm enrolled in an online watercolor lettering class with Val Webb, an incredible artist whose blog, The Illustrated Garden, has inspired and delighted me since I discovered it a few months ago. She's an excellent teacher and her course is filled with exciting, do-able techniques and projects that I can't wait to try. It's not too late to enroll, and you can work at your own pace, so, if you're interested, why not hop on over to her blog and take a look?

Week One's lesson was about drawing block letters and allowing the watercolor paints to mingle and blend behind them. I did my practice exercise on this final page of my Smith Mountain Lake sketches...

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", ink and watercolor, in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook


Everyone remembers the joy of running to meet the ice cream truck when they were kids. Well, at the lake they have an ice cream boat! When the faint, tinkly notes of its perky song are heard coming across the water, kids and adults alike make a dash for the nearest dock. The boat cruises up, flags flying and music playing, and stops with a flourish, ready to take requests for Creamsicles, Fudgesicles, and Nutty Buddies.

Detail, 4" x 2-1/4"

I didn't try the frozen treats from the ice cream boat, but I did manage to finagle several opportunities to have what ice cream experts the world over (or at least me and my friends and family) say is the BEST ice cream in the world. The Homestead Creamery store is right next to their dairy, which is right down the road from the two farms where their milk is produced. Their ice cream is heavenly! Rich and flavorful, with the proper meltiness that tells you it's real. There are certain things that are worth the fat and calories, and this is definitely one of them. I wish I could try every flavor in the case!

Detail, 4-1/4" x 2-1/2"

Well, that's the last of my Smith Mountain Lake sketches, but I have thirty-three more to go in my 75 Day Sketch Challenge. Keep on stopping by!

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