Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sneak Preview... Greene County Christmas Cards!

The Christmas tree in front of the courthouse has been decorated, and every lamp post in town is dressed in evergreens and red ribbons. It's time for the Waynesburg Downtown Holiday Open House! This Friday night, our town will be bustling with street musicians, horse-drawn carriage rides, and choirs of carolers, not to mention shoppers taking advantage of special sales in our great local shops. Even Santa will be stopping by!

What I'm most excited about, though, is the unveiling of the brand-new Greene County Christmas card collection, which features four of my watercolor sketches. Produced by the Greene County Tourist Promotion Agency, they offer a glimpse of how pretty winter can be in our little corner of the world. Here are the four cards I designed for them...

(Click to enlarge)
5-1/2" x 8-1/2", ink & watercolor

Every year, a huge evergreen is erected at the top of the courthouse steps, signaling the start of the holiday season. The beautiful old county courthouse is a landmark and a gathering place - a centerpiece of our community. It was our first choice when we began discussing subject matter for the cards.
Our area has an abundance of covered bridges, and one of the prettiest is this one in the village of Carmichaels. It was a natural choice to include in the collection.

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

For the third card, we decided to feature a small town. This painting of Jefferson was inspired by a small sketch I did of this scene a few years ago. But we wanted to make it more Christmas-y, so I redrew the sketch in a larger size and added a decorated tree, wreaths on the houses, and decorations on the telephone poles.

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

Since most of our county is rural, I felt that we needed a card to honor that fact. Since the tourism board members liked my Snowy Days sketch from 2011, we decided to digitally modify it for the cards. I painted the wreath and hand-lettered the "Greetings from Greene" section, then Photoshopped it in. It worked like a charm!

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

If you're local, I hope to see you at the holiday open house. I'll be at Artbeat gallery, serving up hot cider and my famous Chewy Ginger Cookies. (I'll post the recipe soon - they're yummy!) Artbeat has lots of wonderful one-of-a-kind gift ideas, plus a large selection of prints of my sketches, including the Christmas scenes featured on the cards.

The Greene County Christmas cards sell for $20.00 for a box of 20 and will be available Friday evening at:
Greene County Tourist Promotion Agency
Fort Jackson Building
19 S. Washington Street
Waynesburg, PA 15370

Or contact Elizabeth Menhart 724-627-8687,

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sketchbook Journeys - Arizona: Day 3

As my friend and I drove toward the Santa Rita Mountains on the final day of my mini-vacation, we were looking forward to starting our first sketch of the day. We found a pretty spot on the road to Madera Canyon and began to set up our gear, but high winds forced us to retreat to the car, which ended up being our mobile studio for the day.

 Road to Madera Canyon, 9" x 6", ink & watercolor

Our next stop was an interesting shop in Tumacacori that sells herbs and spices. The palm trees and colorful chile sign just begged to be painted.

9" x 6", ink & watercolor

My final page is filled with growing things: a saguaro that I sketched in the neighborhood where I stayed, and a group of potted plants we spied outside a shop in Tubac.

9" x 6", ink & watercolor

All of the sketches were done on the right-hand pages in my sketchbook, and I wrote about each day's activities on the facing page. Each text page was given a simple painted border in colors that coordinated with the adjacent sketch. It helped to tie it all together and give my travel journal a cohesive look.

I hope to have a chance to go back to the Tucson area again some day. There's so much more I'd like to paint! The wide expanses of desert prairie and the rugged mountains are such a contrast to the gently rolling hills where I live. The three days I spent sketching with my friend Suzie were a peaceful interlude during a time of year that sometimes seems frantic. What a gift!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sketchbook Journeys - Arizona: Day 2

On the second day of my short visit to Arizona, we spent most of our time at the beautiful Mission San Xavier where I did this composite page in my sketchbook.

(Click to enlarge)
9" x 6", ink & watercolor

I enjoy designing gridded pages, because you can include so many facets of a subject in one page. I usually do them in a large 9" x 12" sketchbook, but for this trip, I took a Strathmore 6" x 9"  watercolor sketchbook, and its smaller size made doing a gridded page pretty challenging, especially when attempting to include some of the details on the mission's facade.

For my first sketch of the day, I tackled the full front view of the mission and experimented with making colorful shadows. I like how they turned out. It's so much more interesting than the blue-grey I normally tend to rely on.

Facade detail, 4" x 2-3/4"

As the morning sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature soared, and we began to feel a little scorched, so we found a shady spot for sketch #2 near the cactus garden.

Garden detail, 3-1/2" x 2-1/2"

The cement walls of the mission enclosure stayed remarkably cool in spite of the 90 degree temperatures. It gave me a comfy place to sit and kept people from constantly peering over my shoulder.

That's me working on sketch #3 at Mission San Xavier.

Sketch #3 is a rendering of one of the saint statues on the facade. It was fun working in a color scheme that was close to monochromatic, something a little different for me.

The interior walls of the sanctuary were covered with incredibly ornate decorative painting. I would never attempt to duplicate it in my sketchbook, so I settled on something simpler, the view looking out from the dark, cool interior of the church to the courtyard with its wrought iron gate, and the mission bells beyond.

Interior and gate detail, 3-3/4" x 2-1/2"

We packed up and headed for home before I had a chance to fill the upper right section on my sketchbook page, but I had planned early on to paint the mission bells as they looked when we first arrived that morning. I liked the strong cast shadows on the bright white of the bell tower. (I ended up doing this sketch in the airport on the way home while waiting for a flight.)

Detail of mission bells, 3-1/2" x 2-1/2"

At the end of the day I only had one page to show for several hours of work, but it was fun experimenting with a different layout format and capturing a variety of views of that gorgeous old mission church. And just having the luxury of hours to spend painting was reward enough for me.

Just look at the blue of that sky!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sketchbook Journeys - Arizona: Day 1

You all know I love to travel, and when my friend, Suzie, invited me to join her in Arizona for a few days of sketching, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. I've been to the southwest before but not since I took up sketching and never to the Tucson area. I was really looking forward to painting scenes that were entirely different from what I see at home in Pennsylvania.

6" x 9", Lexington gray ink, brown Pitt pen, & watercolor

The first day, we visited the historic town of Tubac, just south of Tucson. One of the earliest settlements in Arizona, it's a quaint little town filled with galleries and shops, along with an old fort and museum. We settled ourselves on our folding stools on one of the side streets to sketch this tiny house, with its porch posts made from curvy mesquite branches.

6" x 9", ink & watercolor

It felt so good to be sitting in the warm sunshine without a care in the world, and nothing to think about except "Hmmm, now which blue should I use to paint the sky?"

Engrossed as I was in my painting, I barely noticed when my friend suddenly blurted out, "Horses!"  I looked up and saw a man walking two miniature horses up the road in front of us, pausing to let them sniff and munch along the way, just as if he were walking a dog.

Miniature horses and the house I sketched in Tubac.

When they came back by us on their way home, we had a chance to pet them and talk to their caretaker. He said they're therapy horses, and he takes them to visit children in a local hospital. They were sweet, friendly and well-behaved - and just as cute as can be. You just never know what you might see when you go out sketching!

Later, we had a leisurely lunch outdoors, overlooking a golf course, pond, grazing cattle, and the Santa Rita mountains.We pulled out our sketch kits and kept busy while we waited for lunch to arrive. I continued to add watercolor to my page between bites of Cobb salad, and while savoring spoonfuls of creamy flan flavored with a hint of lavender. Obsessive? Well, maybe just a smidgen... but we were having so much fun!

6" x 9", ink & watercolor

A bit of drama was introduced into the bucolic scene I was sketching when a lone steer (or bull?) somehow wandered onto the golf course, right smack in the middle of the fairway.

He hung around for awhile, watching the golf carts go by, seeming unimpressed by all the goings on. Then the herd of cows (on the far right in my sketch) wandered over to see what was happening. They never did make it over to the patio where we were sitting. Good thing, because my salad was delicious and I really didn't want to share!

We ended my first day in Arizona with a yummy Mexican dinner and a spectacular sunset.

Be sure to check out my friend Suzie's blog, Creating in Alaska, and stop back here tomorrow for more sketches from Tucson.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Step-by-Step Watercolor Painting: "Autumn Glow"

It was one of those absolutely perfect fall days when I grabbed my sketch kit and headed out across the fields. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the trees in the woods fairly glowed in the sunshine. Fall was almost over, and I was determined to hold onto it the only way I knew, by capturing some of those gorgeous autumn colors in my sketchbook

Walking along the edge of the woods, kicking at the piles of crunchy leaves, I moseyed along searching for just the right spot to park myself and sketch. When I glanced downhill and saw the scene below, a brilliantly colored beech tree framed by oaks and maples, I pulled out my sketchbook and started drawing. Just for kicks, I took photos as I worked, to show you the progression of this little sketch.

With a Noodler's flex pen and Lexington grey ink, I quickly drew the scene in my everyday sketchbook, an Aquabee Super Deluxe 9" x 12". Then I splashed on a rich layer of cadmium yellow to give the woods their glow.

Feeling almost giddy with happiness to be painting outdoors on a perfect fall day, I flooded a flamboyant orange into the yellow and flung spatters of the same across the page. Whether the picture turned out well or not, I was having fun!

Then I got so engrossed in my painting that I totally forgot to take photos! That whole right-side-of-the-brain thing really took over as I added the muted background colors, the foreground trees, and more glazes to the beech tree foliage.

When I "woke up" from my watercolor dream, it was time to head home. I'd made a good start - the finishing touches could be added later in my studio.

I realized later that my tree shape had gotten all out of whack when I was painting in the woods, so I tried to tone down the upper left of my huge orange blob of a tree to make the shape more pyramidal. I added a bit more variation in the leaf tones, too, and darkened the shady side of the trunk. The blue I used in this sketch was Pthalo, instead of my standard ultramarine blue.

I worked on the tree trunks a bit more and added a few dark touches in the background.

The fallen log was finally painted, along with the small sapling in the foreground. The carpet of dried leaves were indicated with a brush and a sponge.

Spattering suggested more forest debris and leaves.

Here's the completed sketch...

(Click to enlarge)
8" x 5-1/2", watercolor and ink on 93 lb. paper

There are things I would do differently if I painted it again, but I like it. Can't you tell how happy I was sitting out there under the trees, just me and the chipmunks, and the big, blue sky, and the whole forest aglow around me?
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