Monday, July 30, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 38-40

I've been finishing up the watercolor on some of my sketches from Smith Mountain Lake, since there just wasn't time to do it all while I was there. I always kind of enjoy working on vacation sketches after I'm back home. It's a nice way to keep the memories fresh.

Here's a view of the dock kitchen -

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

I'm over the hump now in the 75 Day Sketch Challenge - Day 38 was halfway. Yay! It hasn't been easy making time to sketch every day. Sometimes, when I have an especially busy day, or I have a tight deadline in my drapery business, I just can't fit in time to draw and paint. But so far I've been able to make up the days I've lost, and in 38 days I've done, not just 38 sketches, but 38 pages in my sketchbook, some of which have multiple drawings on them. I'm feeling pretty proud of myself!

The sketches of people and animals have been the hardest. Getting those proportions right when drawing with pen is still hard for me. You can draw a tree or a flower anyway you like and it will probably look okay, but make someone's nose too big and you've altered the whole look of their face (and not in a good way!) But I keep on trying. I'm stubborn that way. And I've given up worrying about likenesses. If it looks human, I'm happy!

Flex pen with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

Anyway, on to Day 39 (above)...
We hung out at the dock a lot during our visit, just chatting, reading a magazine, watching the boats go by, and petting Trixie, my friend's Jack Russell terrier. She's such a sweet dog, cuddly and affectionate, and pretty mellow most of the time. She does have a funny habit though. She barks at the waves that wash up onto the shore from passing boats or jet skis, and, to her way of thinking, it works. Every time she does it, the waves eventually stop, proving that her yapping really does calm the waters!

On our last morning there, we took a walk along the water at Smith Mountain Lake State Park. I sketched one of the resident ospreys coming in for a landing on their large, twiggy nest, which is equipped with a camera that streams video of the osprey pair's comings and goings.

Pitt pen and watercolor

Before we headed back to the house, I drew the lilies growing in a flower bed near the Discovery Center. I like having multiple sketches on a page, especially when there's a contrast between close-up and distant views.

Two more Virginia pages to go, then it's back home to PA.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 34-37

There's nothing like spending time with your girlfriends. Relaxing, laughing, shopping, eating - it's the best kind of therapy. And if that girl time is spent at a beautiful house on the shores of a lake, so much the better!

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

Last week, my sister and I took my mother away for a few days to celebrate her birthday at Smith Mountain Lake, in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. A good friend had generously invited us to stay at her guest house, so we had deluxe accommodations and our own personal tour guide to show us around. We had a fantastic time and are looking forward to going back one of these days.

We spent lazy mornings sitting around in our pajamas, reading or sketching, and the rest of the day doing whatever we pleased!

We drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway our first day there and hiked up into the mountains where there was a restored 1800s farm. While I sat on a hillside sketching, a young deer wandered out into the meadow and started grazing on fallen apples under a tree near the garden. After a few minutes, I packed up my stuff and headed down the hill toward the house, getting closer and closer to the deer. Finally, I was within ten feet of her, and she just stood there staring at me, completely unfazed by my presence. I've never had a chance to get that close to one before - she was so beautiful!

Driving through the little town of Bedford, we saw a sign advertising a quilt show at the local library, so we stopped to take a look. It was a nice show, definitely worth stopping for. The grounds around the library were gorgeous, too, and I couldn't resist taking a few minutes to sketch the gazebo surrounded by hydrangeas. I was enjoying myself until I suddenly realized that something nasty was biting my legs - a lot! I don't know if it was ants or mosquitoes, but you can bet I finished my sketch pronto and practically ran to the van!

I did one more sketch that first day as we toured the lake by boat while waiting for our dinner reservation. It may be a little rough, but it takes me back to that warm summer evening, with the sun, water, and wind, and the mountains all around, feeling happy and contented, spending time with my best buddies.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 33

When I took my car in to have the wheels balanced in mid-July, the guy mentioned that my inspection was overdue by two months - oops! I never even noticed. I'm blaming it on my husband - the cars should be his job, right? Oh, well, I have a brand new sticker on the van now, and while I was waiting for it, I dashed off this sketch for Day 33.

Since I can hardly bear to sit for a few minutes with nothing to do, I keep my sketchbook and a pen handy when I'm out and about. I'm gradually building a nice little collection of sketches of our town.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

80 Years and Counting...

Last week we celebrated my mom's 80th birthday, and I thought you might enjoy seeing the card I made for her. I sketched a silly cartoon on the front...
(click to enlarge)
Pitt pen and watercolor

and drew a funky "happy birthday" inside, with a personal note written below it. She got a kick out of it, and funny as the card was, everything on it is true. (Well, except the part about being honored at the White House!) She really is incredible, and I'm so blessed to have her as my mom.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 31

July 9 was my father's birthday. He passed away a few years ago, but I think about him almost every day. One of the first things I see when I open my eyes in the morning is one of his dog tags, hanging by its silver chain from a shelf in my bedroom.

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", drawn with an old Sheaffer calligraphy pen from the 1960s + Tombow marker

He served in the US Air Force for 26 years, and many of those years were spent in places like Japan, Turkey, Greece, and Africa, far, far away from home and family. Those times were probably really hard on my mother, but she kept things fairly normal for us while we waited for Daddy to come home.

What I remember are the good times we had when we were all together, laughing and joking over dinner, camping in our tiny little pop-up trailer, traveling to see new places, and sharing the everyday life of a happy family. Our last few years were kind of difficult, with surgeries, hospital stays, and lots of challenges, but looking at that dog tag, all I remember are those younger days when he was the man in my life, the one who meant the world to me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Day 30

Despite our current drought conditions, my garden is thriving. I've been watering it every few days, and that seems to have helped. I have loads of ripe cucumbers, green peppers, and eggplants, and the tomatoes are just starting to turn red. The sweet corn is finally ripening, and the raccoons haven't wiped it out yet. We had some for dinner tonight, and it was fantastic!

All of that ripe summer produce inspired me to do a gridded page in my sketchbook with little vignettes of glossy purple eggplants, deep pink rhubarb stalks, shiny green peppers and prickly cucumbers...

5-1/4" x 8-1/2", drawn directly with pen & ink, with watercolor added later

Here are some closer views...

Detail, 2" x 2-3/4"

I love the deep magenta color of the rhubarb stalks, and the way the color transitions from red to green. I'm not sure I captured it very well in this little sketch - maybe I'll try a larger one sometime.

I like the curling tendril on this next sketch. I used a white gel pen to make the white dots of the prickly spines on the cucumbers. (That was much easier than trying to paint around all those spots of white!)

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

I think I managed to capture the yellow-y green color of the peppers in this painting...

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

... but my favorite part of this page is the hole-y, chewed-up leaves on the eggplant.

Detail, 2" x 4"

This is what I'm talking about when I encourage my students to draw what they actually see, not what they think a thing looks like. This isn't a generic plant; it's a particular plant at a specific moment in time, with individual leaves which have a unique pattern. And that pattern of chewed edges and ragged holes tells a story and makes for a more interesting painting.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 28-29

Whew! It's been a busy week. I finished up my first Sketchbook Journaling class, which I was teaching here at home, on Thursday, and today I started a new one at our local public library. Seems there's a lot of interest in learning how to sketch - that makes me happy. I want others to share the fun and satisfaction that comes from being creative and filling up a sketchbook with little vignettes of everyday life.

Since my everyday life includes living in the country, you'll see lots of farm scenes in my sketchbooks. I never tire of drawing and painting barns, silos, and old farmhouses. Here's one I did last week, just down the road, in the valley below our house...

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

The sun was going down, and the farm and surrounding hills were bathed in a beautiful golden light, while the road where I was parked was covered in deep purple shadows from the hill to my west. I did the line drawing onsite with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink, then painted it at home using just three primary colors: permanent rose, aureolin yellow, and ultramarine blue.

The next day I went out to the garden first thing in the morning to pick some strawberries for breakfast, and thought, "Why not get my sketching done early today?" So I grabbed a folding camp stool and my sketchbook and pen, and plopped myself down to sketch the corn stalks with their tassel tops and long, wavy leaves. The silk on the ears of corn is still mostly pinkish, but beginning to turn brown. Any day now it'll be ready to pick. (If the raccoons don't get to it first!)

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor with pen & ink

Watch for more garden fresh sketches coming soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 26-27

My grandson Nicholas looked so cute the other day when he was here. He had on a little navy and white striped baseball outfit, and, with those chubby little arms and legs, and big brown eyes, he was just about irresistible. I snapped some photos to draw from later, and did this page that evening...

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

I did a pencil sketch first, to make sure I got the proportions correct, then inked and painted it.(So, technically this doesn't qualify for the challenge, where everything must be drawn directly in ink, but since I've actually done multiple paintings on some days, I'm letting it slide and calling it Day 26.)

Remember when I told you about our problems with raccoons in the garden? Well, look what I found in the live animal trap a few days ago, another brown-eyed cutie...

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 24-25

Day 24 was almost over, and I hadn't had a chance to do my sketch yet. I picked up my sketchbook and, pen in hand, wandered through the house looking for something to draw. Suddenly I spied my husband sitting on the couch doing some paperwork. Hmmm, this looked like a great opportunity to practice my people skills - people drawing skills, that is. So I gave it a try...

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

The sketch actually does bear some resemblance to Fred, but the guy in the picture looks to be about twenty years younger. Maybe that's the way I still see him.

On Day 25, I drew a view into the powder room, with its floral wallpaper, beadboard trim, and pedestal sink. I liked the way the framed picture on the opposite wall was reflected in the mirror.

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", drawn with a flex pen and Lexington gray ink

And wasn't that clever of me to position myself so that I didn't have to draw the whole toilet? Somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to put that picture in my sketchbook.

Friday, July 6, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 22-23

I have a collection of pale aqua antique medicine bottles that I've begun filling with sand from the beaches we visit. They sit on a shelf in my studio, reminding me of those sunlit days and crashing waves, and making me long to escape.

5 1/2" x 8 1/2", drawn with a black superfine Pitt pen

I may decide to paint the bottles at some point, but for now, I'm leaving this one as is.

I stopped one Sunday afternoon in Waynesburg to do my challenge sketch for Day 23. During the week, the traffic roars through our little downtown, with a constant stream of big, noisy trucks, due to the recent boom in gas drilling in our area. But on Sunday afternoon there's only an occasional car, and it was kind of peaceful sitting there in the van. I was able to get a clear view of the old brick buildings and our stately Greek Revival courthouse with the flag flying high.

5 1/2" x 8 1/2", watercolor with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink

I did the line drawing with my Noodler's flex pen on location and snapped a picture to paint from later at home. But I was disappointed when I pulled up the photo on my computer. The colors looked so dull and lifeless.  I decided to do something a little different - I painted the entire picture using just three primary colors: a red (permanent rose), a yellow (aureolin), and a blue (pthalo). First I laid down a variegated background wash over the entire page, encouraging the colors to mingle and run. After that had dried, I began painting the light, sunlit colors of the distant building with the awnings, then moved into the middle ground and did the courthouse, including old General Greene doffing his hat on top. Finally, the cars, trees, and foreground buildings were painted in, along with a little more pink in the clouds and below the cars.


I was really happy with the way this turned out, and I learned a good lesson from it - not to be so hung up on painting exactly what I see, but to feel free to play and explore and add a touch of "me" to what I'm painting.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 20-21

I kind of went wild with daisies on Day 20's page. It was one of those summer mornings when I was awakened by the sun at around 5:00 am, so I figured I might as well get up and get to work. But, instead of working, I ended up sitting outside by the flower bed with a cup of coffee, listening to the tinkling of the fountain nearby, and sketching a huge mass of daisies.

Drawn with Noodler's flex pen & Lexington Gray ink, with watercolor added

They only bloom for about two weeks before they shrivel up in the heat of July, so it was nice to have a chance to capture them while they were fresh and pretty. Today they don't look that good. Too many 95 degree days lately.

For Day 21, I drew my breakfast. I'm hooked on Fage nonfat Greek yogurt with lots of fresh fruit and a spoonful of dark brown sugar. It's so rich and creamy, I almost feel guilty. Seems like it must be dessert!

Drawn with a black superfine Pitt pen. Watercolor added.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

75 Day Sketch Challenge: Days 18-19

This sketch challenge is definitely keeping me busy! I'm managing to keep up with the drawing, but have fallen behind in my posting. We've had power outages to contend with after last Friday's damaging thunderstorms, and four days of no phone or internet, but things are back to normal now, and I'll try to catch up this week.

Since I have grandchildren now, we've been pulling out some of the things that have been stashed in the attic for decades, since our kids were little. Among my favorites are the well-worn books that I read so many times to my two little ones that I can still recite them from memory. Now Nicholas, Lilly, and I are enjoying them together. I thought it would be good thing to commemorate memories old and new with a sketch of this basket of books.

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", drawn with Noodler's flex pen and Noodler's non-permanent Walnut ink

Doing this challenge and drawing every day is encouraging me to try new things, like fading off the drawing of the basket at the bottom of the page, and using handwritten text as a background for the sketch. Since the paper in my Stillman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook is only 100 lb., I was able to use a lined piece of paper as a guide for my writing. The paper is thick enough to stand up to lots of water, but translucent enough to see the guidelines through. I made a lined page on the computer in Microsoft Word, selecting the spacing I wanted, and placed it under my sketchbook page. I did the sketch and the lettering without any pre-drawing in pencil. I'm really happy with the way this one turned out. I like how the walnut ink blurs and softens a little when the watercolor is applied over it.

On Day 19, sitting on a low stool out in the side yard around 8:00 in the evening, I drew the leaves and blossoms of the hosta plants that grow at the base of the rose trellis. The slanting sunlight almost made the chartreuse leaves look as if they were lit from within. What gorgeous color!

Drawn with Noodler's flex pen & Lexington Gray ink

This is so much fun!
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