Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Old Hotel

Since I'm going to be away from my studio for several days, I'm trying to spend creative time in my sketchbook each day. There's a freedom in working this way. Instead of a large, gallery-quality painting and the pressure that goes with it, (pressure I love, by the way..) working in the sketchbook gives me a sense of play that makes these little pieces a joy to make.

In my studio I can usually stage the light for good photos, but I'm improvising today. A quick shot with my cell phone camera, uploaded to my tablet and shared here.  I'm learning to blog on the go!  

I brought my basic supplies along. The bag I keep these in is one of the things I keep an eye on, always aware of where it is in the event we head out someplace at the last minute. 

Today I took the time to finish a drawing I started a few weeks ago. Drawn on location, it still needed color added and a few details put in place. It's funny to me how working on this little piece smoothed out the wrinkles in my spirit and relaxed my shoulders. The need to create things is real. 

The abandoned hotel, car dealer and tiled store fronts in Lordsburg, NM caught my eye one evening while waiting to meet my husband for dinner and I just had to sketch it out. 
This sketchbook is becoming more important to me daily, just like the others do as I begin to fill them up. 

Monday, December 29, 2014


Sometimes I feel like I have two lives: the one that involves things like family, home life, eating, bills, shopping or any of the wonderful or mundane activities that life revolves around, and the life that happens in my studio.  Together these two aspects keep my life balanced. Occasionally though, one overtakes the other and I begin to feel stressed.

The creative needs that drive my studio time don't go away just because daily life has crowded them aside any more than bills or life pressures go away when I'm on a deadline in the studio. Both are real and each needs consideration. However, there are times when this is easier said than done. There are days, weeks or even months when no matter how good my plan is, I lose all control of events. Such is life. 

One way I keep myself balanced when reality runs over me is to read. When I absolutely can't squeeze painting time out of a day, I can read about creative pursuits. I am also beginning to explore digital sketching when riding in the car or waiting for appointments. Both help me keep my perspective. 

Another fan of Danny Gregory, Van Stone has written a good resource for the imagination and creative thought.

Knowing I was headed into a crazy few days this week, I purchased the book, Sketch! The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique and Drawing Daily Life, by France Belleville-Van Stone. The thing that "drew" me to this book was the chapter on digital sketching.  

A digital sketch by the author
The author did this on her iPhone.  Blows my mind!  
A sketch done on my iPad in the car this weekend

While I'll probably never fully get control of life, (Actually, who will? Really...) I can find ways to cope with the crazy times and continue to grow and progress.  If you're looking for a quick read, Sketch! is a fun book and has enough good material to give the mind plenty of scope for thought and planning.  The illustrations are fantastic as well; I totally recommend the book!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Small Cactus

Decided to try a small sized work again.  I over painted it.  Again.  Rats.

I need to get better at doing commissions... they stress me out.  It's easy to tell the difference between the paintings that I do for "me" and the ones I do to try to please someone.  All of you artists out there painting commissions and thriving, I take my hat off to you!

Doing okay at this point...

Right here I began to get too heavy with the blossom areas.   

Red Blossoms
Watercolor on paper
12" x 16"

Working Small

I was asked to paint a small cactus for a Christmas gift this past weekend.  "No sweat," I thought!  HA.  I was wrong.  This has been a tough project and I wish I hadn't used such a dark background.  However, it's finished and here's the result.  

Watercolor on paper
12" x 12"  

I realize from this painting that I like working on large paper; that the big cacti paintings are more dramatic and effective.  While I am not thrilled with this piece, it has given me an idea for a large one.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Little Space in the World

I love to peek into other people's studios and see their processes.  How they use their space is fascinating; kind of like driving through a neighborhood at night and looking into the lighted living rooms.  Artistic voyeurism?

Recently, I gave the studio a good going over, throwing out all of the useless debris of the past 4 semesters.  The walls are empty again and the floor is not a danger to any who dare to enter.  What a relief.

For all of you like-minded folks out there, here's a free peek into my painting studio; nothing fancy, but I love my space.

Other than the bathtub, this is the most inspiring place in my world.

Without North facing windows, I have to adjust the light myself.  I've found the blinds give me a good approximation of the steady North light.  

Notice the essentials closest to where I work: shelves with extra paint, tools and, on the top shelf, the emergency bag of chocolates.  You never know when the need will reach a critical point! I'm ready. 

My husband made my table; it can adjust for the angle I need.  This is the perfect angle for drawing and watercolor painting, and painting I am!  This has been a full and productive week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Barrel Cactus Redo

I painted the top view of a barrel cactus in October for the show, but was not entirely happy with how it turned out.  You can see the process here:


And here:


The main problem I had with it was my choice to under-paint the fruit area with a strong yellow.  It made it nearly impossible to get the value ranges I wanted in that area.  The whole painting ended up one value, and that's not my idea of good work.  This is the finished piece:

The first version, Crowning Glory, 30" tall by 41.5" wide
This picture was taken right after I finished it; after a few days of drying time, the colors faded a bit and made the painting a bit bleh.

Since I don't have another sheet of paper that large, I am doing the next one on a full sheet of Arches, 22" x 30."  Painting on white paper with no under-layer, I'm finding it easier to get the value ranges I want.  

I got so involved painting that I forgot to get photos of the beginning stages.  I love to lay the colors down beside each other and watch them blend on their own and got carried away!   

The colors I am mixing for this are more vivid, although when I'm closer to the end I'll be able to see if I need to grey them down a bit.  

Beginning to add the ripe fruit colors in the upper right corner

The value ranges are stronger since I'm laying the color down on white paper.  I am already happier with this.  

Progress, so far...

It will be exciting to see what shadows do to make the different areas pop out more.  However, I have a small commission to get done in the next couple of days so this one will have to wait till next week to get finished.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Digital Sketching is Fun

Today I downloaded a drawing app and played with it for a couple of hours. The one I got is Sketchbook Express. I love my iPad mini anyway, but now it's even more fun. It is probably a good thing I didn't have an art app while in school; I'd have been in the back row drawing everything instead of taking notes. Here are some of my digital masterpieces:

My paint box..

With quite a few brush tools and color mixing ability, I can get all kinds of effects. Particularly fun is the ability to lay down both translucent and opaque color together. 

Sugar jar..
I love gesture drawings. Looking at the object while drawing- not the paper- gives the sketches a wonky immediacy that a carefully drafted drawing rarely has. Finishing them with realistic color and shading just gives them more charm, at least to me. 

Living room..
There's a sense when using digital sketching that the drawing is disposable, which somehow makes it easier to let myself explore the possibilities. However, if I want to keep the sketch, the program saves it for me. The best bit?  Many apps for drawing/painting are free. It's a win/win thing!  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twilight on the Inside Passage

This was fun to paint.  Inspired by a series of photos I took while in Alaska, this is a representation of evenings on the ferry boat and how I felt there.  Now that this one is out of my system, I am in the mood for more.  I just hope the stars all align to keep my life interruption-free for a day or two!

Twilight on the Inside Passage
Watercolor on paper
18" x 24"

Warming Up

Sometimes, when it's been awhile since I painted, I need a warm-up exercise.  Yesterday and today I'm playing with blue hues to capture a memory of the trip we took up the Inside Passage of Alaska this past summer. Hopefully, this'll get me in the groove and ready to get out the big sheets of paper.

Watercolor painting lends itself to getting other jobs done while the washes dry; so yesterday was baking day, too.

I decided to give the paper a light wash of Yellow Ochre to help me capture the twilight mood I wanted.

Getting the clouds in; some soft and some hard edges.  Not sure if I like some of the hard edges, but that's easily fixed when I get close to the end.

I'm using Cerulean, Pthalo and Indigo blues with a tiny touch of Alizarin for the clouds. This is where I left off last night.

This is a no-pressure piece, fun, light and simple- the perfect combination to get me in the swing of being in the studio again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again!

It's been since the middle of October since I have had time to paint.  I've been saying all along that I've been too busy getting an art degree to create much art and it's the truth!   Today I can paint for the joy of it.  I've spent a few days getting the studio excavated and now I'm ready to go again.  

I wanted pictures of the show with people in them to give the scale of the work for my portfolio.  One of these days I'll have time to submit it to galleries! That's my mom, can you tell?

It has taken some days of rest from the push to get papers turned in and finals done to even generate the creative energy to want to paint, but I can feel it creeping into my bones this morning.  This is an exciting time!

Going to hang this in my studio to remind me to keep setting goals

The hardest part of today will be to decide what idea to start with; I have so many ideas jumbled up in my head wanting to find expression.  What a problem to have, huh?  If anybody needs me, I'll be in the studio, practicing my craft.  Happily.  

Me, free as a bird

Monday, December 1, 2014


There is one paper left to write and it is standing between me and a degree!  I have this week to wrap it up and get it submitted, but seem to be having difficulties getting the job done.  You know the drill, most likely.  You know you have a job to do, but end up looking at Facebook, checking email, researching some idea you've been wondering about; sigh…  You'd think I was 8 instead of someone's grandmother.

Trying to find creative inspiration through a sketch or simple painting often helps me begin to work up enthusiasm for a project
Avoidance seems to be my speciality this week.  I'm creatively constipated.  (sorry about the little metaphor here, but it does seem appropriate)  Sometimes I do the same thing when I haven't worked out all of the details of a painting.  I can find so many things to do instead of getting to work!

We are planning a tiny house to build.  This is my way of thinking through the process and of course this morning I had more ideas to add.
So far today I've gone for a nice, brisk walk.  I've worked on an organizational project in my sketchbook (so much more fun than doing it in real life) and had a nice, hot bowl of posole.  Even though I was already full.  Now here I am, posting on my blog.  However, there is a method to my madness here.  If I don't put anything up for a few days, don't worry, I have not been kidnapped.  Neither have I gotten lost amongst the cacti.  I've just run out of excuses, rolled up my sleeves and gotten to work on this dang paper. I will be back.  I will be back with a painting if I have anything to say in the matter.  Have a great week!

Cleaning out closets is way more fun on paper than in the actual closet!  This killed a good hour of my morning.