Saturday, April 4, 2020

Everyday Pandemic Days

Sketchbook journaling is all about capturing our everyday lives in visual form, so I've decided to start a pandemic journal to chronicle the strange times we're living in. Here are the pages I've been working on the past few days...

Ink & watercolor in a 3-1/2" x 5-1/2" Moleskine Japanese Album journal

In my pandemic journal I'll write about and sketch what's different these days, what's the same, what's happening, and how I'm feeling about all the changes we're experiencing.

These days of being isolated at home don't really feel that different to me than my normal everyday life. I still feed the dog, drink my coffee, work in my studio, go for a walk, etc. What's missing are the extras: time with friends, a visit from my grandchildren, dinner at a restaurant, or a trip to the store for groceries.

My classes have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, so there are no deadlines looming and my days are my own to do as I please. Here is how they tend to go...

Click to enlarge

Most mornings I wake up earlier than my husband, so I have the house to myself for awhile.

Cappuccino Freddo is an iced coffee drink that I first had in Greece. Now it's my morning treat every day.

I head downstairs in my pajamas, let Buckley out, make my coffee, then settle in to paint .

Sketching makes me happy and takes me away to another world where I'm not thinking about the latest pandemic statistics or terrifying world news. Inside my head it's peaceful, calm, pretty, and quiet.

After a couple of hours in the studio, breakfast time rolls around...

My kitchen sink is NOT this tiny. What was I thinking when I drew this? :)

then it's time to clean up the kitchen and maybe do some laundry.

Then I work on the computer for most of the morning. I'm formatting many of my step-by-step watercolor lessons to sell online as PDF downloads later this year. (Watch for a new website coming soon!)

I hop in the shower at some point.
Watch out! This next little sketch is (almost) X-rated!

Aaaah! It's finally time for lunch. Do you find yourself looking forward to meals as much as I do these days?

Our mail delivery comes around 11:00, so I often walk out our long driveway with Buckley to pick it up either before or after lunch, whenever I'm craving some fresh air and sunshine.

Afternoons are filled with the stuff of life, all those little chores that need to be done to keep the family and household running smoothly...

Lately I've been getting ready for spring: pruning trees and bushes, cleaning out the flower beds, and planting seeds for the garden.

More computer time gets mixed in here and there...

And finally, we get to eat again!

We usually take Buckley for a long walk after supper, but that didn't make it into the picture - I was running out of room - so I finished up the sketchbook page with Fred and me watching a show together and finally heading to bed.

These are good days, even if they're not normal ones. Just a few short weeks ago, we were wishing for more hours in the day, running around trying to cram as much as we could into each 24 hours. Now we've been given a respite, a gift of time, and it's up to us to use it wisely. Although there's an underlying fear that lurks in the back of my mind, warning me that my life could all come crashing down around me at any time, I'm choosing to stay positive, do what I can to help, and focus on the good. I'm grateful for this quiet time to reflect, paint, putter in my garden, walk in the sunshine, and connect with people all over the world who are sharing in the challenges and rewards of these pandemic days.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Catching Up

Hi, Friends -
Oh, my, how the world has changed since I last checked in here back in early January! I'm spending most of my time at home these days, just like the rest of you, and with this lull in my usually busy schedule, I've been doing lots of painting and working on some projects that have been on the back burner for years. It feels good, not rushing from one thing to the next but having the luxury of time. I miss my grandchildren terribly though - that's been the worst part of the forced seclusion for me.

I haven't posted anything here for awhile. I gave myself permission to take a winter break, but it's time to catch up now, so here's what's been happening since I last wrote...

In January I organized a sketching challenge on the Facebook group I host for my students. The challenge was to create 31 sketches in 31 days. Subject matter was up to each artist, and anyone who completed the challenge would win a free Khadi sketchbook. It sparked a lot of enthusiasm among the group, and fifteen of them completed the challenge and won a prize. I did quite a few sketches that month (but far fewer than 31) and had fun playing around with different materials, like water-soluble pens and colored paper. Most of my January sketches were of everyday things like grandkids...

candy hearts...

Platinum Preppy pen w/purple Platinum ink + watercolor in a 4" x 6" Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

and the geraniums that flourish all winter on our sun porch.

Ink & watercolor in a 5.5" x 8.5" Stillman & Birn Zeta series sketchbook

For this geranium sketch, I challenged myself to work quickly, starting it when I put dinner in the oven and putting the finishing touches on it before we sat down to eat 45 minutes later. I was amazed that I was able to complete it that quickly, and it taught me a good lesson: to paint looser, more spontaneous-looking sketches, I need to give myself a time limit and paint quickly. Using a big brush helps, too.

Here's a sketch I did of my grandson with his new dirt bike. I used a Platinum Preppy fountain pen filled with water-soluble Platinum black ink for the drawing. When I added watercolor, the black lines softened and ran, creating shadows. It's a fun technique and a great way to complete a sketch quickly without fussing over it.

Platinum Preppy pen w/black Platinum ink + watercolor in a 4" x 6" Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

Looking around the house one evening for something to draw, I spied this bunny statue on my mantel. I sketched it with Noodler's "Rome Burning" ink, which is a warm brown but bleeds yellow when water touches it.

Noodler's ink (Rome Burning) + watercolor in a 4" x 6" Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

The polka dot background was created by first painting a circle of orange, then, after it had dried, laying a plastic stencil over it and gently swiping across the stencil with a damp Mr. Clean Magic eraser to lift the paint. (I had protected the bunny drawing with frisket film before I did the lifting.)

Here's another everyday sketch from January. It's a line drawing of my kitchen sink done on tan Stillman and Birn Nova paper. I was stuck for a title, so I asked for suggestions on my Facebook group, and Linda Trigg Price came up with "Real life still life", which was perfect!

Platinum Preppy pen w/red Platinum ink in a 5.5" x 8.5" Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook (tan)

I sometimes do yoga with Adriene, and I happened to see that she had a recipe for something called Yogi Tea, which is similar to chai. I whipped up a batch and did a little recipe illustration just for fun.

Ink & watercolor 
Ink & watercolor in a 4" x 6" Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook (Oops! I just noticed I spelled Adriene's name wrong.)

In early February, I packed my art supplies and summer clothes (and my mom!) and headed for Florida. I was scheduled to teach two 2-day workshops while I was there, but I had rented a little cottage for 21 days, so we got to enjoy three blissful weeks of warm weather and sunshine. My sister and daughter joined us for a few days, too, and we had lots of fun going to the beach, eating out, drinking wine, and just hanging out together.

On the trip south, we stopped to visit my friend, Wendy, in South Carolina, and I did this little sketch of a corner of her sunroom late one afternoon while we sat and chatted and drank a cup of tea. Looking at it reminds me of happier times not so long ago.

Ink & watercolor in a 4" x 6" Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

I headed back to PA at the end of February and a week later taught a Summerhill Sketching class on How to Paint French Macarons...

I had spent the entire week prior to the class learning how to make macarons (and how not to make them!) I wanted to have several flavors of the cute little cookies for dessert after class. There's quite the learning curve when it comes to making them, and it took a lot of trial and error to figure out the correct techniques to use, but by the time I was taking my fifth batch out of the oven, I was feeling pretty good about how they were turning out.

The little lemon ones were my first attempt, and the turquoise (vanilla) were my last - much better!
But they all tasted GREAT!

Everyone enjoyed the lesson that day and their paintings turned out great, but what they enjoyed most was taste-testing the macarons to pick their favorite flavor. Would you believe vanilla beat out lemon, raspberry, and chocolate with ganache filling?

This month I organized another sketching challenge for my student group on Facebook. Since we're all spending so much time in our homes, I encouraged them to sketch the view from their windows. I sketched the view through the leaded glass sidelights in our front entry, looking west on a blustery spring day.

Ink & watercolor in a 5" x 6-1/2" Khadi sketchbook 

The latest challenge I've come up with for my sketching students is to draw some food or an illustrated recipe, something along the lines of the yogi tea sketch above. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Why not join us and try one of your own? I did this one as part of my lesson on how to paint macarons, but I'm counting it for the challenge. :)

Ink & watercolor, 2" x 3"

I've started a COVID-19 journal, too. I'll post those sketches when I have a few more finished. And I've been finishing up some of my travel journals over the past few weeks. I'll share them here in upcoming posts. Until then, stay home and stay well!


Saturday, January 11, 2020

California Road Trip - Part 3: 17-Mile Drive

One of the prettiest stretches of coastline that I saw during my recent trip to California was 17-Mile Drive in Monterey. This scenic road meanders around the Monterey peninsula, offering spectacular views of rocky beaches, crashing waves, and abundant wildlife.

Ink & watercolor in a 5" x 6-1/2" Khadi hardbound sketchbook with rough textured 140 lb. paper

I  did small sketches in my Khadi sketchbook at many of the stops along the way, roughing in each little drawing with pencil first then quickly inking it. I painted the page later at home in my studio using QOR watercolors, which I've been having fun trying out lately.

Click to enlarge

It was a beautiful sunshine-y morning when we set off that November day, and we had clear views of distant mountains at our first stop on "Huckleberry Hill". (Isn't that the cutest name? I think I sketched it for the alliterative name more than the view.)

Continuing on, we traveled downhill through evergreen forests to windswept Spanish Beach, where explorers camped while searching for Monterey Bay back in 1769. 

17-Mile Drive hugs the coast for most of its length, and one of the most popular pull-off spots along the water is "The Restless Sea", where the turbulent waters of the Pacific smash onto the rocky shore. I could sit and watch the show for hours!

The clouds had moved in by the time we arrived at "Bird Rock", where thousands of birds congregate on an off-shore island...

and sea lions swim and play in the surrounding waters, hauling themselves up onto the rocks to nap in the sun. The sea lion sketch was added later at home using an online reference photo, since they were too far away for me to see from the shore.

We drove past the immaculately groomed Pebble Beach golf course and stopped at several more beaches to look for sea glass and heart-shaped rocks. Our last pull-off was at "The Lone Cypress", a 250-year old tree which has stood on a rocky promontory since the late 18th century.

There were also cypress forests, "ghost trees", and grassy meadows to see along the way. It was a beautiful, relaxing drive with lots of variety in the scenes I found to sketch.

If you ever have a chance to travel to the Monterey/Carmel area, don't miss the 17-Mile Drive. It's an American treasure.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Rincon Point Beach Sketches & More!

During my recent Santa Barbara workshop, I took the class on a sketching field trip to Rincon Point Beach, which was just down the hill from the barn where our class was held. Rincon Point is a world-famous surfing spot, but we settled in on the quieter side of the point where a long, crescent-shaped beach stretches for a half mile or more. It's a beautiful stretch of coastline, and we had the place to ourselves that afternoon.

Ink, watercolor, & gouache, 10" x 7", Handboook Field Watercolor Journal, 140 lb. paper

For this demo sketch, I first taped off a border on the page using 1/4" painter's tape and roughed in a pencil drawing. Next, I painted a watery wet-in-wet base wash over the entire page with Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose, letting it dry thoroughly before painting the actual image. The light base wash served as the lightest value in the painting, so all I had to do was add the midtones and darks to finish it.

Click for larger image

I have mixed feelings about this sketch. There's a lot I like about it: the glow from the underwash, the figure of my friend Monica walking along the beach, the birds, the misty mountain in the background, and the lettering style. But I think the criss-crossed border looks too busy on the page and detracts from the scene, and the underwash dulled the highlights on the wood, so it doesn't look as sunlit as it was in real life.

My takeaway from this is that not every sketch is going to be one I love. I tried a new kind of border, and on this sketch, I ended up not liking it. But I still had the experience of being on a gorgeous California beach on a perfect sunny day with friends and companions, doing what we love. And that's what's important, not whether I made a perfect sketch.

Would you like to see some of the other sketches that were created that day? Check out the work of my talented students....

I taught a lesson on using thumbnail sketches to narrow your focus and choose a composition, and one student turned her thumbnails into a very nice gridded page...

We did another exercise the next day where we created composite sketches from our beach finds...

Other sketches from the workshop featured views around the barn...

I love seeing the wide range of compositions, page layouts, and lettering styles that my students dream up during our time together.

They work so hard to absorb all I'm teaching and invariably come up with ways to expand on what I've shared and make it their own.

They're enthusiastic, fun, inspiring, and unfailingly supportive of my efforts. I'm so thankful for each one of them.

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