Thursday, March 21, 2019

February Calendar Sketch

Life can become a bit of a blur sometimes, can't it? One day merges into the next and before you know it, another month has gone by. I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday, not to mention last week! But I've found that keeping a daily sketched calendar is a great way to capture days and moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

Ink & watercolor in a 12" x 9" Kilimanjaro sketchbook filled with 140 lb. off-white watercolor paper

I started this practice last spring and did a few months' worth of calendars (see March and April), then when workshop season arrived, I put it on the back burner. On January 1st of 2019, I started up again and have really enjoyed the process over the past two months. (See January Part I, II, and III) I have now completed five months out of the year, and I plan to eventually have a calendar for all twelve, even if they're done in different years.

I vary the layout each month to see how creative I can get with my boxes. February was easier than most, since there were only 28 days in it this year, which made four identical weeks.

After I drew the layout in pencil, I laid 1/8" blue painter's tape over the lines. (To make 1/8" tape, I sliced 1/4" tape down the middle with a #11 Xacto blade.)

I penciled in the dates, so I wouldn't get confused and forget a day, then started adding my daily sketches. All the sketches were drawn with a Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen.

The month included sewing, exercising, snowy weather, buying new glasses, learning to make my own sketchbooks, and getting ready for a teaching trip to Florida...

There were fun, happy days, like when some friends came over to paint on the 5th, and less-than-fun days like the 7th, when I spent a long time in the dentist's chair, and the 14th, when I received some discouraging news from my doctor.
I left the wintry weather behind on the 18th when I flew to Tampa, then spent two wonderful weeks teaching, relaxing, and enjoying the Florida sunshine.

Designing these little triangles was challenging. With such a limited space, the sketches had to be very small, especially if I wanted to include some lettering, too. To keep things interesting, I varied the lettering styles in lots of different ways, just like I teach in my introductory sketchbook journaling classes. Here are a few simple ways to alter a standard printed lettering style:

  • Use all caps or all lower case letters
  • Add serifs to the letters
  • Elongate the letters
  • Make letters short and fat
  • Make the letters more rounded (like on my Feb. 22 sketch)
  • Add curlicues to the letters
  • Use bold block letters
  • Fill block letters with varied patterns, such as plaid, stripes, & polka dots
  • Put dots on the ends of each letter
  • Curve the line of lettering
  • Make the letters "bouncy" (some up, some down)
  • Use cursive instead of printing
  • Thicken the downstrokes of printed or cursive letters 
  • Place the lettering on a banner
  • Use a fancy lettering style from your computer

At the end of the month, after all the boxes were filled with sketches, I knuckled down to finalize the design of the rest of the page. I decided on a bold lettering style for the title, hoping it would stand out against all the busyness of the triangles that filled the page below.

I added the three quotes that I had chosen to border the page then taped off the three sides using 1/4" painter's tape. The quotes were hand-lettered using a pointed dip pen and black ink.

Using the same colors I had used earlier on the triangles, I painted a border wash of blended colors around three sides of the calendar. The trick to seamless blending is to keep all of the paint the same degree of wetness as you paint. Mix up plenty of paint on your palette before you put brush to paper, then work quickly to cover the area with wet paint, then don't touch it again while it dries! Flooding wet paint into a drying wash is a surefire way to get blooms. Also, using a skimpy amount of paint and a fairly dry brush will result in lines, overlaps, and irregularities in a wash.

I like the bold, chiseled look of the lettering, painted with just two colors, a light aqua and a medium-dark blue.

Decorative motifs help to draw attention to the title.

The final step in completing this page was to add some darker values to the daily sketches using richer, more concentrated mixtures of the background wash in each block.

I think adding the darker values helped to make each block more cohesive.

Keeping a daily sketched calendar definitely takes commitment, but I enjoy taking some time each day to work in my sketchbook, and all those little snippets of time add up to a wonderful gem that's filled with memories.

This February calendar brings a smile to my face every time I look at it, remembering all the events, places, and people that were a part of my days. 

Click to see larger image 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

January Calendar - Part III

My January 2019 daily calendar is finally finished! I chose cool blues and purples for the borders and the spaces between the blocks. It seemed the perfect choice for a month filled with every kind of cold, dreary weather you can imagine.

12" x 9", ink & watercolor in an American Journey watercolor journal

It took awhile to do all that detail work...

I think I'm ready to work on something big and splashy next. (Well, maybe after I finish the February calendar I'm working on, which has 28 more little shapes to fill!)

I'm off to Florida tomorrow to teach in Bradenton and Sarasota. Can't wait to soak up some sunshine! I'll check in when I get back. Meanwhile, click on the image below for a larger view of January, in case you want to see the individual entries....

Click to enlarge

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Taking a Chance

As I painted this sketch yesterday, I thought about all the chances I've been offered in my life, the ones I took and the ones I didn't.

Watercolor sketch in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman & Birn Delta series sketchbook

And as my thoughts meandered back to younger days and decisions I'd made that impacted the course of my life, I knew with a deep certainty that the best decision I'd ever made, the one chance I took that affected my life more than any other, was to say "Yes!" to this man...

He's been with me through the ups and downs, the joys and the tragedies, the days that were filled with happiness, and the ones that left me reeling. He's a good man with a good heart, and I'm so thankful to have him in my life. He's the solid foundation of my life that has made all things possible.

Happy Valentine's Day
to my one and only, 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

January Calendar - Part II

My January calendar still needs a few finishing touches, like a border on the outside edge and some color between the boxes, but while I'm working on those, here's a step-by-step explanation of how I drew the elliptical layout for the 12" x 9" calendar page.

31-day elliptical calendar layout

1 - Use a pencil to draw the layout, then ink the final lines.
     Mark a 1/2" border on all four outside edges.


2 - Connect opposite corners with diagonal lines.


3 - Use a clear plastic ruler to mark a line on both sides of each diagonal line. (I used a Westcott ruler with tenths increments. The spaces between my boxes are 1/10" wide.)


4 - Draw center lines vertically and horizontally to divide the rectangle into equal quadrants.


5 - Use an ellipse template to trace half of an ellipse shape onto the center of the page. Be sure to align the template with the horizontal line.


The center ellipse should look like this...


5 - To make a border around the center ellipse, use a ruler held perpendicular to the ellipse line and make tic marks equidistant from the line all the way around. (Hint: Don't try to use a larger line on the template - the proportions won't match up with your initial ellipse.)


Use the tic marks as a guide to draw a solid line. The border space around the center ellipse can be embellished any way you like.


6 - Make tic marks to allow for a 1/10" border just inside the outside border line on the page. Divide the space between those marks and the center ellipse in half. Make tic marks on both sides of the halfway marks. (You're marking the 1/10" space that divides the boxes.)


7 - Lay a piece of tracing paper over the page and use a pencil to lightly sketch an elliptical shape to connect the marks you just made. The new ellipse should echo the shape of the center one. You only need to sketch the new ellipse in one quadrant. Use the tracing paper pattern to transfer the design to the other three quadrants. Be sure to draw a double line with a 1/10" space between the lines.


8 - Repeat Step 7 to draw a larger ellipse between the middle ellipse and the outside edge of the page.


9 - Add more equally spaced division lines to the outside ellipse. The lines should appear to radiate from the center, so align a ruler with the center point on the page and rotate it around the page to draw your lines. Make sure the quadrants match, except for the lower center box which is larger, to give us a total of 31 days.


10 - Ink all the layout lines, as shown in the image below, then erase the pencil lines.

You're ready to start filling your boxes with daily sketches!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

January Calendar - Part I

Occasionally I get the urge to keep a sketched daily calendar for a full month. Last spring I did three months in a row in MarchApril, and May, and that was enough to last me for awhile. I figured I would do another month whenever the mood struck, and eventually I would have a whole year's worth.

On the first day of 2019, the mood definitely struck, and I decided to dive in and do another month. I was inspired to use a different layout than the other calendars I had done last year. After all, who says a calendar has to have five rows of seven boxes each? I decided to base my layout on an ellipse rather than a rectangle.

Unfinished January calendar, 12" x 9" American Journey Watercolor Sketchbook with 140 lb. cold pressed paper

Each day I designed a little box filled with simple sketches and text about what I had done that day, where I went, who came to visit, etc. The process I used for getting the images down on the page enabled me to test various ideas before committing to ink and paper.

Here's the process ...
  • Lay a piece of tracing paper over an individual box and tape it in place with painter's tape.
  • Design the images and text on the tracing paper. (Lines are so easy to erase from tracing paper, and you don't have to worry about messing up the page with lots of erasing.)
  • Flip the tracing paper over and retrace the lines on the back side with an HB pencil.
  • Position the tracing paper, right side up, in place over the box. Tape in place.
  • Rub over the image with your finger or fingernail to transfer the pencil lines to the paper.
  • Remove the tracing paper.
  • Ink the lines. I used a black Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pen.
  • Erase pencil lines with a kneaded or white plastic eraser.
Alternatively, you could transfer the images using graphite transfer paper.

Here's a closer look at the 31 days...

I'm planning to leave the squares/boxes black and white, but I'll add color to the borders between the boxes and also add an inked border around the outside edge of the page to frame it. I'll be sure to post when it's finished.

Would you like to see how I came up with that crazy elliptical layout? Click here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Hotel del Coronado Sketch - Finished!

In my previous post, I showed you several color options for the title lettering on my unfinished sketch of Hotel del Coronado and asked which you thought worked best. I received lots of comments both here on my blog and on a Facebook group that I participate in and could tell you all put a lot of thought into your answers.

Here's the sketch as we left it earlier...

and here are the color options I was trying to decide, blue-violet, peach, or olive green.

Color options on a Duralar wet media film overlay

It was so interesting to read the reasoning behind each person's choice, and I have to admit that the reasoning was valid in every case. Any one of the colors would have complimented the sketch in its own way, and, after reading all the opinions, I was still stymied as to which one to choose. Terra cotta red had been my first impulse, but when I looked at the other colors, they all offered viable options, so I ended up letting YOU decide. I tallied up the votes and picked the high scorer:


People liked how the green lettering almost became an extension of the foliage and acted as a subtle frame for the hotel sketch. I had to agree. It was a great choice, and one that surprised me, since my instinct had been to use a color that contrasted with the adjacent foliage.

I had penciled in the lettering when I did the initial page layout. Now I picked up a #2 round Escoda Versatil brush and carefully painted over the pencil lines with olive green watercolor.

Ink & watercolor in a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" Stillman & Birn softcover Zeta series sketchbook

Next I used a Duralar overlay to test some colors on the background behind the ice cream sundae. I decided to use a peachy color that was a combination of Permanent Rose and New Gamboge. I love how it settled out as it dried, separating into pinker tones where the paint application was heavier and yellow where it diffused into white.

The color ties in nicely with the martini and the hotel roof.

I added some handwritten text to the box after the background color had dried thoroughly, then inked and painted the other lettering on the page. I used a Pitt size S black pen for the lines, then painted over them with a paintbrush to add some color.

The last step was to decide whether to put color on the narrow border surrounding the ice cream sundae. After considering the options of "color" vs. "no color" and testing various colors using a sheet of Duralar, I decided it would look better with a border than without, and it seemed like terra cotta red was the way to go. It coordinates with the peachy background color, the hotel, and the drinks.

The sketch is finished, and I love it! I hope you enjoyed participating in the decision-making that went into this fun, colorful sketchbook page. Thanks for playing along!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Hotel del Coronado Sketch - Opinions, Please!

Whew! The holidays are over and the January lull has arrived. Don't you love it? I really enjoy this quiet time of year, when there's not usually much going on, and I have time to catch up on some of those projects that have been put on the back burner for awhile. I haven't been blogging, teaching or posting anything art-related lately, just taking a breather, finishing up some travel journal sketches that have been languishing for a year or more, and completing the last sketch from my California trip in November....

Softcover 5.5" x 8.5" Stillman and Birn Zeta series sketchbook

I thought you might enjoy seeing a step-by-step tutorial on this one, and I'd like you to help me finish the lettering on it. Are you game? I have a cool new idea for testing colors on a sketch, and I think you'll LOVE it! But before I get to that, how about if I show you the step-by-step process I used to design, draw, and paint it?

(If you don't care to follow along with the tutorial, skip to the end of the post to see my lettering challenge and question for you.)

I started out by roughing in the sketch with a pencil to get everything in place on the page, then the lines were inked with a Sailor Fude pen. (I was working from reference photos I had taken the day my friend, Karen, and I splurged on lunch at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego when I was visiting.)

I wanted the architecture of the hotel to dominate the page, so I made the beautiful building big and bold, filling at least two-thirds of the page with it. A tall, skinny palm tree frames it on the left.

A Sailor Fude fountain pen filled with DeAtramentis black ink was used for the drawing.

The fruity drinks we enjoyed at lunch were so pretty and colorful, I just had to include them in the sketch. The shape of the martini glass was an inverse of the hotel's roof, so I tucked it in right next to the hotel. The other drink, in a tall tumbler, filled the corner nicely and framed the composition on the right.

See the ink smear on the rim of the martini glass? I fixed it later by covering it with Dr. Ph. Martin's Pen-White Ink.

A simple frame set off the ice cream sundae from the rest of the page and kept it from feeling like it was a giant ice cream-shaped balloon floating in the sky over the hotel.

The lettering style I used for the page title was copied from the distinctive lettering found on almost everything at the Hotel del Coronado, from the sugar packets and coasters on our table to the grand sign at the hotel entrance. I sketched it in by hand with a pencil and waited until later to ink and paint it.

Time to start painting! First, the sky. I mixed up a large puddle of Manganese Blue on my palette then wet the sky area with clear water. Wetting the paper first gave me a longer working time as I cut in around the building and tree with my loaded brush. I used a size 10 round Escoda Versatil, which holds plenty of paint, so I could cover the entire sky quickly and avoid streaky brushstrokes.

While I had the blue on my brush, I painted sky reflections in the upper windows of the hotel and in the glasses.

Next, I tackled the roof, starting by mixing up a generous puddle of Quinacridone Sienna + Quinacridone Magenta. Then a deeper, darker version of the color was made by adding some Ultramarine Blue to a second puddle of Quin. Sienna & Quin. Magenta. To paint each section, I started with the dark mixture on the shadow side, gradually switched to the pure mixture, and finally ended with a diluted mixture on the lightest sunlit areas. (It's important to keep the wetness consistent as you move across an area. If you flood paint into a drying wash, it will create a bloom.)

The vegetation was added next. Colors used:
Tree trunk - Yellow Ochre + Getz Gray (American Journey)
Palm fronds & bushes - Yellow Ochre + Sap Green + Ultramarine Blue (for darker areas). Leaf Green was added in the foreground to make it pop.
Spiky foreground plants - Cerulean Blue + Sap Green + Quin. Sienna

I always try to get as much value variation as I can in my initial wash by dropping dark colors into a wet light-value wash to indicate shaded areas.

Time to add shadows! Cobalt Blue with a touch of American Journey Shadow gave me a nice deep bluish purple mixture that I used for the form shadows on the building.

A bit of Naples Yellow was dropped in on the left side to suggest reflected light, then I painted the shadows cast by the dormers, and the deep shadows inside the window frames. They really make the windows look three-dimensional.

On my reference photo, the lower windows, just above the green hedge, were solid black, but I suggested indistinct shapes there by dropping rusty red and Burnt Umber into my shadow color.

While the shadows were drying, I laid down the base washes on the drinks. The martini was painted with New Gamboge + Carmine Red in a graded, blended wash. For the tall drink I used Carmine + Ultramarine Blue + Permanent Rose. Colored reflections were brushed onto the glass while the washes were drying, then I glazed (layered) on a darker value to the peach and raspberry drinks to deepen the colors in the shadows.

So far, so good! Next, I began painting the ice cream sundae. (Yes, I splurged on a sundae, but I had no idea it was going to have THREE scoops of ice cream!) A base wash was painted on the ice cream and blue-gray shadows were stroked on to suggest the swirls of whipped cream.

The chocolate chunk topping and the dark brown penuche under the whipped cream were painted, then I dabbed some texture marks on the ice cream with the tip of my round brush.

The sketches were finished, except for a few final touches. Now it was time to add the lettering. I like to wait until the end to finalize my page titles, so I can coordinate the colors with my sketches and make a cohesive page.

I always debate long and hard about what color to use for the title lettering on a sketch. The color can have a huge impact on the look and feel of a page. I've found a great product, though, that really helps me to envision what a color will look like on my sketch. It helps to take the guess work out of the process. The product is Dura-Lar Wet Media Film, a clear plastic sheet that can be laid over the sketch and painted on. Just wipe the paint off with a damp paper towel when you're finished and reuse the sheet.

So, for my Hotel del Coronado sketch, I chose several colors from the sketch and painted each one individually (and rather messily, in this case) on the Dura-Lar sheet laid over my sketch. Here's the first option showing how the title might look if I painted it a rusty red, similar to the terra cotta roof color...

 Or how about if I made it the deep purple shadow color?

Or maybe I should pick up the color of the peachy drink...

Or I could link the title to the green foliage by painting it Olive Green.

They all give the sketch a different look, don't they? I'm having trouble deciding which one I want to use, so I'd love to have your input.

What color should I paint the title,
and why?
Leave your answer in the comments.
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