Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Wildflowers Sketch

Something pretty to brighten your day...a hillside covered with wildflowers near Prosperity, PA.

Woodland carpet of wild blue phlox, 5" x 3-1/2", watercolor in a  Moleskine sketchbook

I just couldn't pass them by without stopping to sketch. I always tell my students that sketchbook journaling is all about sketching what makes you say "Wow!", what makes your soul sing. This scene did it for me. Isn't spring the most wonderful time of the year?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring Break Sketches

After a winter of traveling to teach workshops, I finally had a chance to go on a trip just for fun. I traveled to Florida a few weeks ago with a friend to visit my friend Judy, who lives near Bradenton. All of us are sketchers, so we enjoyed having a chance to paint a little while we were there (when we weren't lounging in the pool or strolling on the beach!)

The first morning we were there, I did this sketch, after a certain someone advised me that I needed to learn to "cultivate idleness". It's true; I have a problem sitting and doing nothing.

10" x 7", watercolor, Handbook Paper Co. Field Watercolor Journal

I thought it was great advice, but it's ironic that, instead of taking her advice and just chilling out by the pool, I felt compelled to grab my sketchbook and start drawing. The thing is, painting relaxes me like nothing else can. Does that mean it counts as practicing idleness? Probably not, but I think it's the best I can do.

I started this next sketch while I was "ridin' in the back seat" in Judy's van, stuck in the Sarasota traffic. The scenes of Sarasota Bay and a cute little beach shop were added later in the week during a drive to Anna Maria Island.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Handbook Paper Co. Field Watercolor Journal

I love Anna Maria Island! It reminds me of the Carribean, with its white sugar sand and aquamarine water. The beaches are pristine and the island is filled with cute little cottages and shops painted the prettiest beachy colors. There are endless things to sketch, but I couldn't pass up a day at the beach, so we settled into our beach chairs, and I did this sketch of some nearby sun worshippers...

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Handbook Paper Co. Field Watercolor Journal

The wind and sun can make beach sketching challenging, but I managed to finish most of this page onsite before our tummies started rumbling and we headed off to find some lunch.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Handbook Paper Co. Field Watercolor Journal

After our lunch at a cute, funky little place on the island, we found a shady spot near the water to do one final sketch before heading home.  I thought I'd try something a little different with the page layout, combining an arched frame with overlapping color boxes behind it. The page seems to convey the way I was feeling when I did it, happy, relaxed, and content. Spending time with good friends in a beautiful place, talking, laughing, painting - it's good for the soul.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Meet Maggie the Goldendoodle

Introducing....Maggie! A sweet, lovable Goldendoodle puppy who lives with her family in a cute cottage in Atlanta, the same cottage that I painted last December and shared with you in this post.

"Maggie's Dream",  10" x 12-1/4", ink & watercolor on Saunders Waterford 140 lb. paper

Maggie's "grandma" commissioned me to do a portrait of the 4-month old pup for Maggie's "mom" who simply adores her. After looking at all the photos grandma sent to me of the dog, I saw a pattern emerging. Maggie is one mischievous puppy! She thinks her mom's bed was made just for her to nap on, and she's sure that every chair in the house is really a dog bed. When she's caught being naughty, she hangs her head in shame and won't make eye contact, as if she's thinking "If I can't see them, they can't see me."

So, after seeing all the funny pictures of this adorable dog, I gave my client several options for Maggie's portrait: a full-length portrait with a simple background, a closer 3/4 view, a head and shoulders portrait, or this one, which is kinda crazy, a little bit funky, and lots of fun. You can see which one was the winner! Maggie's dream would finally come true - she'd have a chair of her very own!

I began with a pencil drawing, then I inked the lines. I kept the ink lines very light on Maggie, because I didn't want a lot of black on her fluffy blonde fur. My Platinum Carbon fountain pen's extra fine nib is great for this.

Since I wanted to paint a background wash over the entire piece, I masked out around the edges of the chair and the name banner. That would make it easier to move quickly when painting the wet wash. I could use a large brush without worrying about inadvertently slopping paint where it didn't belong.

I also masked around Maggie using a small round brush, lightly painting on the masking fluid in short irregular strokes to suggest her spiky, fluffy fur.

Then I painted the entire background and let it dry thoroughly.

To make the wallpaper pattern in the background, I used a 6x6-inch craft stencil (Crafter's Workshop brand).

I taped it in place in the center of the painting....

Then I took a stencil brush slightly dampened with water and rubbed it over the stencil openings. After agitating the paint a bit, I blotted with a tissue to lift the paint.

The result was a subtle effect that looks just like wallpaper. I moved the stencil to other sections of the paper to complete the pattern over the entire background.

I had originally thought I would use the turquoise color as the base color of a rug on the floor, but I changed my mind and decided on a different design for the flooring. I lifted most of the turquoise paint from the floor area using a damp sponge and brushes, then painted a sepia wash over the wooden floor area. After that dried, I painted the wood grain lines with a small round brush.

For the dog bone pattern on the rug, I masked out the bones, painted the background, removed the masking, then painted the bones, along with the red and striped borders.

The floral fabric on the chair took several steps:
  • Mask out the leaf shapes.
  • Paint a pink wash over the entire area. Let it dry.
  • Mask out the pink rose shapes.
  • Paint a dark burgundy wash over the entire area. Let it dry thoroughly.
  • Remove all of the masking fluid.
  • Paint the darker values on the roses.
  • Paint the lighter values on the leaves.
  • Paint the darker values on the leaves.
After I painted the front of the chair arms a nice deep green, I decided they could use some pattern, too. I pencilled in some vertical guidelines and painted the short diagonal strokes with a small round brush, giving me a subtle herringbone pattern.

After painting the rest of the Mackenzie-Childs style chair, it was finally time to tackle Maggie herself. Some of the more subtle tones on her fur don't show up well in this scan - images always look better in person - but I think you can see how much layering I did to indicate the fluffy but clumpy texture of her fur. Titanium Buff was the primary color I used to paint the fur, modifying it by adding Yellow Ochre or Burnt Umber for the darker values.

The masking fluid worked perfectly to preserve the texture of the fur against the dark chair.

Maggie's eyes were very small in the painting, making it challenging to get them right. The tiniest stroke of paint could easily wipe out a highlight or change the expression on her face.

The finished painting is like no dog portrait I've ever seen before. I think I was able to inject a little humor into what could have been a traditional, stuffy portrait, and Maggie's mom was delighted with her birthday surprise.

There's just one problem, Grandma is so enamoured of Maggie's dream chair that she asked me if I could make her a real one just like it! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let's go to Provence!

I have awesome news to share ----- I'm going to be teaching in Provence in 2017! When the lavender is in bloom! Can you imagine anything prettier?

I've been working with the folks at French Escapade, who have years of experience organizing artist tours, to plan our trip. Jackie Grandchamps is the owner of French Escapade, and I met her last year in Tuscany in a serendipitous chain of events. She was leading a group of artists on a visit to the medieval village of Certaldo, and I happened to be there with my students that day. She noticed some of my group sketching and stopped to talk to them. When they showed her their travel journals and the substantial lesson book that I had given them, she was so intrigued that she walked up the street to find me. She introduced herself, we talked, and voilà! Here I am planning a trip to Provence!

I'm so excited to have a chance to explore this beautiful part of the world and walk in the footsteps of some of history's greatest artists. And I get to bring my painting buddies along!

The dates for the workshop are June 25 - July 2, 2017. I know it's a whole year away, but I wanted to let you know now, so you can begin to make your plans.

Anyone who registers before November 30, 2016, will receive a discount off the workshop fee. Class size is limited to only 12 people, so I'll be able to give each person plenty of one-on-one attention. I know this workshop will fill up fast, so hop on over to my France Workshop page today to read more about it, and find complete information on the French Escapade website.

Au revoir! I hope to see you in Provence. :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sketching at Summerhill

Yesterday I hosted the April "Sketching at Summerhill" event here at my house in Ruff Creek, PA. When I began these sketching get-togethers two years ago, the idea was to offer a way for like-minded artists to gather for a time of learning, drawing, and painting together in a relaxed environment. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable socializing and sharing what they've been working on lately.

It's been successful beyond my wildest dreams! It's become so popular that I've had to limit the number of participants due to space limitations, and I usually have a waiting list each month.

I've made so many new friends through these monthly sessions, and I've watched many of the beginners grow and blossom into confident artists over the course of the past two years. Sketchbook journaling has offered a way for them to enjoy being creative without any pressure or expectations.

There are people who just don't get sketchbook journaling. They wonder why anyone would waste so much time painting a picture that might never see the light of day. They think that if it's not going into a frame, there's not much point in painting.

But my sketching buddies do get it. They understand the delight and joy that I feel when a sketch turns out better than I dared hope it would. They get excited over new border styles, and they ooh and aah over a colorful sketch of my breakfast or my dog. They laugh at the funny sketches and get choked up over the touching ones. They're the kind of sketching friends everyone longs for.

I know they would say that I give them a lot during these Sketching at Summerhill events - a substantial step-by-step lesson, individual painting assistance, and wonderful food - but they may not realize how much I get back.

They inspire me with their varied styles and approaches. They make me feel good about my teaching and my cooking. But best of all, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I've helped them grow artistically and that, for a few hours, I've given them a welcoming place where they can escape their commitments and daily troubles and just have fun. Seeing them happy makes me happy.

Anyway...........I started out wanting to show you some photos from Thursday's session, and I'm afraid I got a little sidetracked. Back to the subject at hand.

Our lesson this week was on three different ways to paint reflections in water...

Afterward, we had a yummy lunch of Calcutta Salad, three different kinds of quiche, and warm yeast rolls....

My mother is my indispensable kitchen helper.

The dessert made everyone swoon!

Then it was sharing time. Almost everyone had a sketch or two to share. Aileen showed us a painting she's been working on...

and Carol shared her awesome travel journal from a recent trip to Germany. Love those borders!

Click to enlarge

My friend Franny even brought some of her "snow-dyed" fabric to show us....

Then it was time to say goodbye until next month when we're hoping it will be warm enough to get out of the classroom and do some outdoor sketching.

I wish you could all share the fun times with us (and the good food), but since that's impossible, I thought you might enjoy having some of the recipes that I make for the Summerhill events. Here are a few to start you off...

Spinach Quiche
1 9” or 10” pie crust, unbaked
½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
6 slices bacon, chopped (or ¾ cup chopped ham)
8 eggs
½ cup dairy sour cream
½ cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Dash ground  nutmeg
3 cups lightly packed chopped fresh spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Line the pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450° oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4-5 minutes more or till pastry is set and dry. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook onion and bacon until onion is tender and bacon is crisp. Drain on paper towels. (If using ham, there’s no need to cook it.)

In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs slightly with a fork. Stir in sour cream, half-and-half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in onion, bacon or ham, spinach and cheeses.

Pour egg mixture into the hot baked pastry shell. Bake in the 325° oven about 45-60 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover the edge of crust with foil to prevent overbrowning.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Quiche
1 9”or 10" pie crust, unbaked
¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
¾ cup cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup sliced green onions
¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
½ can of artichoke hearts, chopped
2 T. flour
4 slightly beaten eggs
1 ½ cups half-and-half
¼ - ½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Line the unpricked pastry shell with a double thickness of foil. Bake in a 450° oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 4-5 minutes more or until pastry is set and dry. Remove from oven. Reduce over temperature to 325°.

Toss together Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, vegetables and flour. Sprinnkle mixture over the bottom of the pastry shell. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together eggs, hal-and-half, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Pour egg mixture into the hot baked pastry shell. Bake in the 325° oven for 40-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edge of crust with foil to prevent overbrowning. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Calcutta Salad
4 oz. fresh spinach, torn (3 cups)
½ head romaine, torn (3 cups)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T. cashews
1 small red apple. cored and thinly sliced

3 T. apple juice
2 T. oil
2 T. low-fat plain or pineapple yogurt
1 T. white wine vinegar or white vinegar
1 T. chutney
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ of a small apple, cored, peeled, and finely grated

In a large salad bowl, combine salad ingredients.
Separately, combine dressing ingredients.
Pour half the dressing over the salad; toss to coat. Cover and chill remaining dressing for up to 4 days.

Chocolate Pavlova
Meringue crust:
6 egg whites
1 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa powder
1 tsp balsamic or red wine vinegar (I use balsamic)
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I like Ghiradelli bittersweet baking chocolate – buy a 4 oz bar so you’ll have some to shave chocolate on top)

1 – 2 c. heavy cream, whipped (add about 3 T. sugar and 1 tsp vanilla to give
it flavor)
Raspberries or strawberries, washed and dried
2-3 T. coarsely grated chocolate curls or chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, or use a reusable silicone sheet.

Beat egg whites until satiny peaks form. Beat in sugar gradually until stiff and shiny. Do not underbeat. Gently fold in next 3 ingredients.

Mound on baking sheet in fat circle about 9” in diameter. (It will expand quite a bit as it bakes.) Smooth sides and top. 

Place in oven and immediately decrease oven temperature to 300º. Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours. It may require less time, depending on your oven. It is ready when it looks crisp around the edges and top and sides are dry. 

When done, turn off oven and open door slightly and allow to cool in oven. Invert onto plate when ready to serve. (Or leave it right side up - I like seeing the crackly top.)

Top with whipped cream, berries, and chocolate curls or chocolate syrup.

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