Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Ponderosa

It's time for a "last hurrah" before school starts up again. We called a family camp out to whichever of the kids could make it, threw our bedrolls and hammocks into the truck and left the terrible heat of home behind for a few days. Evening gully-washers with thunder and lightning are just part of camping in the southwest during monsoon season and the cooler air they bring is heavenly. I decided my sketchbook needed a ponderosa tree to commemorate the day, so sat on a rock for a couple of hours of creative work. Sweet day. 

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bright Color Combinations

While painting with a limited palette can be liberating to me, such is not the case with everyone. I love subdued tones, carefully planned color combinations and subtle light effects. That said, I also am drawn to riotous color and patterns and a touch of gold is pure eye candy when used well. I just dont happen to think in that way.

Artist and daughter Katie Kellogg hasn't a subdued bit in her whole, glorious artistic style, and it works beautifully. I visited her recently and this painting reached out and grabbed me as soon as I walked in the door. Miles apart from my style, it nonetheless has a sparkling appeal that I envy. Done with acrylic on panel, this piece sings with joy. And I want one. Of course.

Thanks for stopping by- see you Monday! Alice

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Depicting White With Watetcolor

With grandkids around and family coming and going this week it's been difficult to get much painting done, but this morning I grabbed 30 minutes before anyone else was up and worked out the details of one blossom shape on the current painting.  I've been pondering on how to handle a white flower with watercolor for days and feeling just a bit intimidated by the prospect.  If you've handled watercolor paint much you'll be aware that there is no transparent watercolor white paint.  White is what the paper is for.
Jimson Weed blooms during the night, after dark.  Deciding how to depict a moonlit flower has been a new thought process for me.  
When getting highlights or other white shapes in a painting, one must leave those bits unpainted to achieve a real "white" area, whether with a mask or by painting around the shapes that will be left white.  However, when the whole object is white, like these flower shapes, shadows and other subtle areas still have to be depicted if the white area is to be believable.  The secret to convincing the eye is realizing that the lightest value on the paper will be read by your viewer as white, whether it actually is or not.  In the upper left hand corner of the photo you can see the contrast between the still unpainted bud shape and the flower shape next to it.  (a phone picture today, sorry...) Once the bud is painted, the violet areas will read "white flower" even though they are mostly tinted.  Or at least one can hope that'll be the case!  

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Book Review

The past month or so I've been trying to find time to read my new book, Artist's Sketchbook, Exercises and Techniques for Sketching on the Spot, by Cathy Johnson. Quite a name, isn't it?  I finally read it last week. As you've probably noticed by now, I have a thing for books about using sketch journals. The small drawings and the words that accompany them are an interesting art form of their own.

So- this book is probably my favorite of the genre. Johnson's work has appealed to me for years as she has a light hand and good eye for perspective that I admire. Simplifying a subject doesn't mean you have to sacrifice detail, which I think is Johnson's speciality. If you're looking for a book you'll pull out and use again and again for ideas and inspiration, give this one a go.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, July 25, 2016



While on our trip this summer, we camped in a narrow, red canyon in southern Utah, which was heaven to me.  To make it even better, there were several moonflower plants, also known as deadly nightshade, jimson weed or datura, growing there.  Georgia O’Keeffe painted several fabulous oils of the blossoms and I immediately knew I would be painting some, too.  How could anyone resist?  For a plant so poisonous, it’s certainly a beauty. Hopefully this little painting will be too. 

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Make Your Own Travel Palette

Got a tiny tin?  Make a tiny paint palette.  After looking over the palette I bought last week from Expeditionary Art, my brain started to explode with fun ideas.  Digging through my tool box in the studio I came up with two hinged tins that would make terrific little palettes.  Then I went online to see what other kinds of small boxes I could find and folks- the possibilities are endless.  Business card cases, cigar/cigarette cases, old Sucrets tins, vintage pill boxes or any other fun thing you can dream up. Fun, fun, fun, this is better than ice cream!  

For years I’ve looked at homemade Altoid-box palettes and the problem was always how to get the paint pans to stay in, or how to divide the box for each color.  I’ve seen them done with caulk, hot glue and even metal strips.  This, however, is genius.  

As I looked over the little empty pans in my new travel palette I kept trying to remember where I’d seen some like them before.  Finally it dawned on me that every morning, when I put makeup on, I see those little pans full of eye shadow.  You can buy empty, metal makeup pans bulk online!  Are you starting to get the picture? 

Stick-on magnet sheets are easy to cut to size and adhere to the bottom of your tin.  Once you’ve got that in place your little paint pans will stay put in your palette; easy to get in, easy to take out and re-fill.  A coat of clear lacquer finish to preserve your tin from rust and you are in business. 

Of course, now the problem is- I don’t really need this many watercolor palettes.  This is easy to get carried away with, let me tell you.  Just look at my watch list on Ebay; it’s full of gorgeous tiny tins.  I’m going to go back to working on drawing out my next painting and see if my fertile little mind will stop this madness.

I'll be back on Monday, in the meantime, thanks for stopping by! Alice

It's Absolutely Perfect!

Last weekend we spent wandering around Phoenix, Arizona.  Now and then the errands pile up and we have to bite the bullet and go to a real town.  You know the shopping list is daunting when it takes two days to get it all rounded up.  We love to wander Ikea and get ideas for tiny houses, so we broke up a long day with lunch and a look-through.  And found the treasure of treasures.

From left to right: Water bottle and cup, various tools, the Pocket Palette and teensy spray bottle, pencil sharpener, pens, paper towels and sketchbook.
If you are a regular reader you will know of my seemingly endless quest for the perfect travel watercolor kit.  Well, believe it or not, Ikea had the solution I have been seeking for ages.  Bless their little hearts.  A travel toiletry kit, happily the exact, and I mean exact size I needed.  For $6.00.  HA!  How’s that for a score?

All stowed away and ready to close up
Offered in red or black, the bag measures 9.5 x 7.5 inches.  My Pentalic travel sketchbook is 8.25 x 5 inches.  It’s serendipitous.  The stars aligned, the angels sang and my ideal travel kit was born.  The other customers may have looked at me strangely as I clutched it and danced around the bin, but I didn’t care.  It was my day and Ikea is my current favorite store.  We even had an ice cream cone to celebrate.  My husband was probably celebrating that I’ll now stop looking at, measuring and scheming over bags.  Funny how innocent he is. 
The bag is not fancy, it's utilitarian.  Just right for dragging along on adventures.
 Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Rental

Yesterday I passed this house on my way into town and was captured by the arches on the front porch.  I stopped and sketched it out in about 10 minutes, took a photo and drove on.  Today I sat down to finish it and decided to try laying in gouache into each shape just for the heck of it.  

I titled this "The Rental" because it just looked lived in but unloved.  
While it's not as muddy as the past few times I've tried it, I still don't love it.  So, using an old palette knife, I dug all the gouache out of the palette and threw it all in the trash.  Usually I doggedly stick to something I'm not good at for ages but not this time.  My life doesn't have the luxury of the extra time I used to have for my own ideas.  Right now, if I'm going to paint, it's going to be with a medium I love.  How liberating! I don't have to be good at everything. Whew, glad that's settled.

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Sky

Today I had to run to town, which living at the very edge of nowhere makes no small matter.  I got my business finished, grabbed some groceries and headed home.  All the way here I was thrilled watching the summer monsoon clouds and finally had to pull off of the highway and get a sketch.  It didn't take me very long to do, mostly because it's around 105 degrees out there this afternoon.  Nothing like the feeling you might melt and run right off of the seat of your car to hurry one along.    
The southern N.M. summer sky, painted in my little travel sketchbook

These distant and growing cloud shapes never fail to amaze me.  Even though this summer's crop of clouds aren't bringing a lot of moisture, they do make for dramatic and ever changing scenery.  When there is lightning flashing behind them, there is no more lovely show to watch.  At least not to me.  I feel at peace after taking time to add a new sketch to my book.  The old saying "Music soothes the savage beast" is almost right!  It should read "painting," don't you think?  

Thanks for stopping by! Alice

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Pocket Palette by Expeditionary Art

Today the mail guy brought me a very cool package- the Pocket Palette from Expeditionary Art.  I’ve been waffling back and forth for weeks trying to decide if something so tiny was worth the asking price.  Finally, I decided I just had to order it and see for myself. 

The order as it came out of the package, set next to my cell phone for perspective
I’ve been kicking myself since I did because I own plenty of palettes, including travel-sized ones that work just fine.  However, when I opened the little bag it came in I decided that yes, I actually DO need this.  In fact, I keep wondering who else might need this.  I am showing it to you just in case you need one, too.  I’m just that nice!

Closed, the palette looks more like a business card holder

It comes with 14 little paint pans, held in place by a magnet that is strong enough to do the job.  The lid is the mixing area when one uses all 14 tiny pans
Have I painted much this summer?  No.  Did I want to paint much this summer?  Why, yes I did.  And it’s a sore subject.  In response, I am putting together a tiny travel kit in part to comfort my heart and partly in hopes that I might get a little time to use it before August 4.  (back to school day)

I also ordered a package of jumbo pans for more paint or to mix different colors in. They are totally interchangeable and modular.
If you want to take a look at Expeditionary Art, you can find it here.  Be sure to check out developer Maria Coryell-Martin’s blog while you’re at it.  Inspiring and fun, it’s a blog I’ll be following.  I hope you are getting some good creative time in... and I hope I do too. Till next time!

So, how cute is that?  I'm anxious to try it out!
Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Contrast of Water-based Media

After I published yesterday's post I remembered the little sketch of Lone Rock I did last fall and had to get it out and compare. Done in transparent watercolors, it has the glow I love so much. 

It is clear that there's something about gouache that I am not getting. (Please forgive the photograph, I'm away from home) There are painters who are making great art with the blasted stuff and here I am, feeling like I might need painting special-ed. 

Here's the real question, though. Why figure out gouache when I love traditional watercolor so much? Why do I put myself through this sort of nonsense? One of life's great mysteries. But I do think it's time to put away the mud for now.....   Thank goodness. 

Thanks for stopping by!  Alice

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lake Powell Rocks

Although I managed to get the outline of a sketch at Lake Powell, only tonight did I get a chance to add color. My summer was going to be relaxing and full of time to paint, right?  RIGHT?? Guys? 

This piece is done with gouache and I have to admit I still don't love it.  I'm trying to give it a fair chance but may chuck the whole kit and caboodle soon.  To me, they are just muddy.  Getting a clear passage with light in it is eluding me, as you can see.  

Lake Powell Rocks
Gouache 5" x 8.5"
Well, dreams are what keep us going. I'm sure that next week will be all mine. That's what is keeping me afloat this week! 

Thanks for stopping by- Alice

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Evening at the Grand Canyon

We are out wandering this week. The first place to go- the Grand Canyon- I can't resist the pull of the place. The first evening, as the sun was getting closer to the horizon the color and textures that had been so dominant all day became bluer and less distinct. The outlines of the bluffs were the only parts visible, making us more aware of the incredible layers. My camera just couldn't capture it. I grabbed a pen and sketchbook and sat down to get the shapes before the sun fully set. This sketch is the result.