Friday, December 31, 2010

Bring It On!!

Watercolor in
Handbook Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 8.5 inches
“And let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been before.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Doesn't that sound like marvelous fun?! It does to me! I am more than ready to welcome the new year, but I have also taken the time to say goodbye to 2010......

.....I've reflected on all that happened, the good, the not-so-good, the accomplishments, the things not completed, the hurts and disappointments, the joy of new friends made along the way as well as the sadness of those lost .....

.....and I resolve to take with me into 2011, the lessons learned, the joys of the year and leave the other in the past—where it belongs.

Chris and I wish each of you a year of blessings, of joy and happiness, of challenges to keep you sharp and on your toes as well as balance and sanity to enjoy it all.

Now, if you're ready (I am!!), BRING IT ON!!!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Power of A Word

Have you heard about word-of-the-year idea? Simply put, the idea is to choose a word to guide you through the upcoming year. A lot of folks have adopted this practice over setting resolutions. I find it works well in tandem. The word you choose becomes a touchstone that remains with you throughout the year. (Check out Christine Kane's post for more info.)

Two years ago, I chose the word bold. I knew it was going to require courage, strength and boldness to build the new life I was envisioning for myself. I had no idea just how accurate that statement was when I chose that word! Many, many days, if it hadn't been for the thought "okay, if I were going to take a bold action, what would it be," I don't know if Imaginary Trips would have taken flight. 

In fact, bold has been so important to my life and my thinking that it has become a permanent watchword for me. A watchword is simply a word-of-the-year made permanent so that it stays a part of my thinking. As Goethe said, "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." I would add brilliance to that statement as well. 

This past year, I chose cultivate. I come from a farming family so cultivating was quite familiar. You cultivate the land and you do things to prepare for the next growing season. Sometimes you prune the plants to make them more fruitful in the following year. It's a rather quiet process that goes on in the background but is vitally important to a successful growing season. Cultivate worked much the same way in my life this past year as I built processes and systems, pruned or eliminated steps that weren't working. All of this was/is in preparation for future growth.

To choose my word of the year, I start a file at the beginning of December and throw "possible" words into. Sort of an audition, if you will. From time to time, I'll add a few notes as to the reasons and whys of each word. Then towards the end of the year, I make some quiet time and sit down with myself to find out what my wiser self (SAM) thinks my word of the year should be (and she always knows far better than I ever could!). 

The words in my file included grow, glow, allow, joy and effortless. All good choices, but not destined to be the word for the year simply because I felt some hesitancy towards each of them. 

As I sat chatting with myself, the word move began to appear and come into focus. I asked SAM if she was sure. She smiled gently and turned to walk away. Well. Okay then. Move will be my touchstone for 2011! 

As I sat  pondering the word, I realized there are many, many applications....move forward, move physically, move mentally, move to a new business location, a new home, a new studio, a new country, a new way of thinking, move up, move down, move around, move through, re-move something that's not working, movement, motion.

The next thing I did was scribble out some "word art" using move. I find that by illustrating my chosen word and posting it in areas where I will see it frequently helps me to keep it upmost in my thoughts. Below is the best illustration of the word I've come up with. So far.
Word Art of Move
Scratch Art
Just as I asked you to join me in setting an artistic goal, I'm going to ask you to join me in choosing a word-of-the-year to guide your next year. If you decide to play, please post a comment below about your word or a link to your post on your blog!

I'm sending out kudos to Donna, The Happy PainterLisa of Greenbow, Elva of Elva's Field Notes for stepping up with setting their goals and being vocal about them! Check out this post and the comments to read what they had to say.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Glancing Back, Gazing Forward

I've been working on my end-of-year review and before I started it, I was a bit....disappointed in the year. I had expected fireworks, fanfare, parades, and all manner of festivities. After all, the last half of 2009 had been filled with all of that and more. I'm not sure what made me think it would be more of the same, but I did.

As I did my review I found (to my surprise and amazement) that I had accomplished far more than I realized:

  • Studio overhaul including new floors, closet doors, trim, and total re-org of supplies
  • Six brand new classes
  • New video camera and sound equipment
  • New Recording Studio
  • Re-videoing of three existing classes
  • Three pieces of original art sold
  • Art published in an Artist Journals book by Kate Johnson
  • Imaginary Trips' first tradeshow
  • Business Trip to New Orleans

And these are just some of the accomplishments. There was a lot of un-inspiring, but oh, so, necessary processes and systems being created and finessed in the background to give my life and classes structure. Changes in vendors and products that made things run more smoothly.

Looking at the list, I wondered why I had considered the year a disappointment.....I had failed to do monthly reviews. I used to do weekly reviews and when that got to be a bit much, I switched to monthly. Apparently I switched those off as well because I didn't even realize I'd let those slide. Oops.

As thrilled as I am with what I accomplished, I also recognized some areas where I really dropped the ball. Mainly in painting for competitions and shows. I had allowed Imaginary Trips to eclipse everything. Part of this was the learning curve we go through with any new adventure and part of it was (is) time management. Or lack thereof.

As I said in yesterday's post, I'm going to ask for your help in keeping me on task. Creating a time management system that allows me to teach classes AS WELL AS paint outside of classes is the first goal I will be tackling in 2011. I am also committing to painting a minimum of 4 competition paintings in 2011. Preferably one per quarter. The paintings will be larger than a half sheet of watercolor paper up to a full sheet. I intend to post updates of the paintings in progress on the blog.

How can you help? Ask me how the painting is going. Ask when you're going to get to see an update. In other words, hold me to my goal! My s-t-r-e-t-c-h goal is 6 competition paintings in 2011. I know with all the sketch paintings I do in classes, my speed has improved tremendously. Will I get in six? There's only one way to find out!

The other thing I've done is set up an electronic reminder in my calendar to remind me about doing a month end review EACH month so that I have a better grasp on what's being accomplished and what's sliding. Keeping my finger on the pulse of my life is an absolute necessity for me to accomplish all my grand dreams for 2011!

Now, what about you? Did you do a year end review? What about a word-of-the-year review? Any goals set for 2011 yet? Talk to me! Tell me!

P.S. Note the title of this post...I do believe in doing a year-end review, but I'm not going to worry about lost energy, time or opportunities. Instead, I'm putting my focus on the days to come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Are Your Artistic Goals for 2011?

It's that time of year, again...we're gonna get off the couch, lose weight, get organized, see our kids/parents/family/friends more, clean out the garage/basement/bedroom, go to church more, go to the park more, work less, work harder, play more, play harder, enjoy nature more and on and on and on.

If you're like me, you sit down at this time of year and come up with a whole list of things you want to accomplish in the next twelve months. You don't call them resolutions because everyone knows that doesn't work! But do you go any further? Do you break down your goals into achievable steps that you can check off?

And do you include artistic goals? Drawing better, stronger color, incorporating more value, keeping a sketch book? How do you break those goals down? Do you create specific goals and attached a timeframe to each step? Sound too complicated? Read on!

Let's say I want to draw better (and I do!)...I begin by brainstorming all the ways I can think of that might help me to develop my drawing skills, both fun and serious. There's nothing too wild or grandiose at this point, I scribble EVERY idea down at this stage: sketch every day, take a class, get books from the library, apprentice myself to my idol artist, get involved with a sketching/art group, teach a class to children, find a sketching buddy to hold me accountable, draw with a child on a regular basis, join an online sketching group/challenge, buy myself a box of crayons, tell the blogosphere about my goal (eek!) and ask them to hold me accountable.

Once I've exhausted my ideas, I read back through to see what's immediately accessible and what's not possible at this time. Then I break down my chosen ideas into steps. Let's say I want to join a sketching group or find a buddy....I can send out an email to local artists and ask if there's already a group or if anyone would be interested in creating one. I can ask any local artist friends what their goals are and find out if we might have the similar goals. Maybe they want to paint plein air and I want to draw—that could work!

That might take up a good chunk of January because once I've located friend(s), we'll have to decide where to go and when. So maybe it's February before we get out on location...what are my goals for sketching on location? Do I want to focus on landscapes or cityscapes, inside or out? Maybe the weather dictates inside—for now. Do I want to use pencil, charcoal, pastels, keep it black and white or add color? These can all become sub-goals to learning to draw better.

But what if I don't find anyone who shares my goals and interests? Do I stop and go pick another goal? Or do I create a plan to carry on by myself? Maybe I look to the library for some drawing books and then pick a day each month to go to the park/coffee shop/mall/woods to sketch by myself.

Setting goals and (gasp!) resolutions is just the beginning of the process. Without the brainstorming and setting of baby steps for each step of the way with a timeframe attached, most goals will hit the skids in short order. Writing down the steps and attaching timeframes is a huge help in achieving goals. Since life has a way of happening despite our best plans, we have to build in some flexibility as well.

So here's the deal.....I'm going to challenge each of you to set at least one artistic goal for 2011, brainstorm ways to accomplish these goals and then outline a plan—on your blog! Don't have a blog? Post 'em in the comments below! BTW, hang on to that piece of paper with all the ideas on it—if you easily accomplish your goal or hit a road block, some of those other ideas can come in handy.

In addition to setting a goal, I encourage you to make it two part goal with the second part being a s-t-r-e-t-c-h goal....perhaps you're going to paint a minimum of 12 landscapes all year long because you have trouble with landscapes. Challenge yourself to paint at least one landscape painting to submit to a (gulp!) juried art show or to give as a gift or to have framed for your home! And then do it.

Stretch goals are meant to take us out of our comfort zones. Their job is to push us beyond what we normally do so that we find out what we're capable of rather than what we *think* we can do. I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised. I know I often am when I reach for a stretch goal. Even if I don't succeed at the specified task, I've succeeded just because I gave it a shot and I got out of my comfort zone!

I'll be sharing more about my year's accomplishments and what I'm dreaming up for 2011. I'm going to ask for your help in keeping me on task as I've not done so well on some of my goals this past year.

So how about you? Do you want to join me in accomplishing our artistic goals in 2011?! If you're joining in, post a comment so we can find your goals on your blog or post your goals below!

Monday, December 27, 2010

All Dress Up And No Where To Go?

Santa Chickadee in Grey Ink
Scrap Paper Sketchbook
Parties, festivities, out and about shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, celebrating, family and friends dropping by.....and then, done. Over. The week between Christmas and New Year's has always seemed a bit like suspended time to me.  Like we're collectively holding our breath, waiting for something to happen. Like for the new year to begin.

This morning, I felt like our little chickadee, all dressed up, engine idling, and no idea where I was going or what I was suppose to be doing. Out. Of. Sorts. So I do what I always do when I feel this way. I made a to-do list (that's longer than my arm.)

That certainly didn't motivate me. But I didn't/don't want to waste this day or the week....., I chose two things off my list. I gave myself an hour for each. One was simply cleaning up and putting away some of the extras from the party we hosted and the other was time in my studio to do whatever I wanted—create, clean, paint, scheme, dream, putter, read, etc.

I chose those specific items because I knew they would help to motivate me and because I knew both were guaranteed to make me feel better. Less clutter is always a good thing and my studio is my haven. It makes me happy to spend time there no matter what and I haven't made much time to go in the studio in the last 10 days.

Once I have lunch, I'll pick two more things and set a timeframe in which to work on them. I think one of them is going to be a year-end review of 2010. I'm also going to work on my word-of-the-year for 2011. And who knows, I might even throw out the last of those "sugar bombs" so that I can start to regain my energy!

What are you doing in this week of suspended time?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

May Your Stockings Overflow!

Watercolor and Ink
3 x 8 inches
Scrap paper
As Christmas relentlessly marches towards us, the cleaning/decorating fury is at full throttle here at the Ferlita household. With this type of manic activity, there are always a few hysterical, umm, hilarious moments that have the potential to become long-lasting memories. Or blackmail material. Either works.

The stocking sketch was inspired by some of the recent antics of our feline family. Though they have no clue what all the ruckus is about, the cats still think it's pretty cool that suddenly, there's an indoor tree with all kinds of dingly, dangly doodads, and twinkly bobs! And they're all "paw" sized!

So as the fun gears up, I want to take a moment to wish you and your loved ones stocking overflowing with blessings, however you may celebrate the season. I hope you find your stockings filled with delight, fun, happiness, health, hope, ideas, joy, gratitude, creativity, inspiration, kindness, love, a wonderful surprise (or three!), a dream-come-true or the courage to begin the journey towards the dream, and safe travels for those of you on the roads or in the air.

May you be blessed this season with your favorite things!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Make A Joyful....Mark!!!

Remember the fun we had in kindergarten and elementary school learning to make marks on the page (or wall)?! Every piece was a masterpiece. We became quite indignant when someone did not recognize that blob of green and blue as a bear!

Somewhere along the journey, we tend to lose that joy...we adopt an attitude that every piece most "count," most be good enough to show others or it becomes a waste of time. I recently discovered a way to add some of that unbridled joy back to my mark making and it was quite by accident! I had an old (college days' old!) blank sketchbook sitting out to be recycled. After all this time I hadn't used it, I didn't think I was going to and I decided to pitch it.

Thanksgiving night found me exhausted but in need of a creative eyes happened to land on the old sketchbook. Next to my chair was a bright, aqua blue Sharpie marker. With NOLA fresh on my mind, masks flowed from my pen....
Click to enlarge

That was fun! I turned the page, and filled three more that evening. When I started to work through the Clever Christmas eClass assignments I decided to use the same sketchbook. I switched to a Copic® marker in a medium, cool gray that also happened to be waterproof. I decided I wanted to test out some of my ideas with watercolor—on sketchbook paper!
Click to enlarge

And this is where the fun truly began. You see, this paper is maybe 60 lb. paper, at best. It didn't take to watercolor too well. It bled through, the paper wrinkled, I was limited to the number of washes I could do. I couldn't blend. Wherever I put the color down, that's where it stayed for the most part! So I knew before I even started I wasn't going to make a "pretty" drawing that counted—I was free to play and have fun and experiment! I had a ball!

Click to enlarge
These corny characters were a take on "Merry Kiss-Moose" and a few "deers" thrown in for good measure! Are these finished, sketches? No. There's no way they could be because of the paper. Were they fun? You bet! I tried ideas, I made changes mid-stream, and when I got around to adding the color, it was almost like "coloring," as in coloring in a coloring book!

The ideas just flew onto the page, one sketch sparking another idea and so on. (One student called this a "brain dump" of ideas!) One other thing I noticed was it was necessary to use a very heavy pigment load to get a rich, vibrant color. So this encouraged me to use more pigment and less water. Most of my sketches were done in under a minute. Color was added later, but again, it didn't take long. Once I came up with an idea I liked, I redrew it on "good paper" and created a more finished piece.

I used to think life was way too short to use "cheap paper," but I think I've changed my mind. Especially if it means I can have this much fun and it's legal! I encourage you to try your hand at "making a joyful mark" with a waterproof marker and some watercolor on CHEAP paper and rediscovering the fun of just making marks!! There's no pressure as you know before you start the paper is limited and you're just playing. And we can all use a little more fun, joy and playing in our lives, right?!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Blog to Check Out!!!

I am absolutely thrilled to be telling you about a new book, Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures by Cathy (Kate) Johnson. Most of us know her as the (Quicksilver Workaholic and she is!!) Kate's been journaling a long time and realized the importance it has played in her life as an artist and writer. She put together a class last year and received an overwhelmingly positive response.

Kate decided a book was needed and reached out to 28 artists who journal and write as well. Folks like Hannah Hinchman and Danny Gregory, just to name a few! I am so very pleased to say that I was asked to join in and some of my work and thoughts will also be included in the book.

As usual, Kate went above and beyond the call and came up with waaaaaaaaaaay to much material for a 144-page book so she has started a blog—to share the interviews she's done, the material that didn't make it into the book, inspiration to start your own journal and a "go-to" place for those of us who have questions on how someone else has journaled.

I hope you'll join me in congratulating Kate on an awesome book (to be out in June 2011) and check out the new blog!!

See you there!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boomer's Buddy

Here is the second in the Boomer Series. This is Seth, Boomer's best buddy and he's let love get the best of him...
"The Price of Love"
© Laure Ferlita
4.5" x 6" (11.42 cm x 15.24 cm)
Watercolor and gouache on paper
"Seth sat shivering, despite the bright warm starlight. Try as he might, he could not figure out how he came to be dressed up like a reindeer in the village play! The last thing he remembered (clearly) was waiting for Boomer at the edge of Hemlock Hollow when that cutie pie, Clarissa, flew up next to him on the branch. From there, things got kinda fuzzy. It seemed his brain ceased normal functions whenever she was too near.

The next thing Seth could vaguely recall was nodding his head yes like some wooden toy. He wished she wouldn't look up at him like that when she was so close—sometimes, he even forgot to breathe! Besides, who had ever heard of a reindeer with a red nose, anyway? Besides Clarissa, he wondered.

And oh, how Seth dreaded Boomer showing up...where was he anyway? Seth hadn't let Boomer live down last summer's escapades, and Seth knew full well he was never going to hear the end of this. The words "village idiot" were about to take on a whole new meaning....."

Available for purchase

$45.00 USD
    5.95 Priority Shipping in the US. If you are outside of the US, I'll see how quickly I can get it to you for the same amount of money.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Magic

The attic door swung wide and free,
And box by box, we began to see,
Some lights, some tinsel, maybe even a tree!
Christmas was finally here, weaving its magic all through the house!
Everywhere you looked, creatures were stirring, and not one, a mouse!

We spotted a huge tree free-grazing in the back 40 of the attic—it was so majestic! The Tree Wrangler lassoed the huge beast and it went wild! It bucked! It fought! And at long last, our heroic wrangler subdued and tamed that tree so that he could ride it around the living room floor!
Tucker, The Tree Wrangler
Once the tree had been subdued, Tucker wandered off for a snack, satisfied with a job well done.

Meanwhile, for the Light Master, work had just begun.....
Joey, The Light Master
Lights. They were everywhere in knots and piles. The Light Master looked at us with reproach for allowing the lights to become tangled. We tried to explain to him that they did this on their own. Eleven months in the attic, by themselves, is a long time and they sometimes got bored. He wasn't buying.

Joey knew the key to untangling the lights was to keep calm and breathe deep. To approach the lights with an attitude and knowledge that they wanted to become linear and straight.....

Post Script: A huge thank you to our guest artist, Chris, for sharing his wonderfully quirky artwork with us all last week! Chris assures me that he and Boomer will return from time to time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Boomer's Friends and...Others

In the prior post, we see a disturbing side of Boomer as he makes the squirrel go "boom!," but that may be explained by the images below.

Bob the Squirrel was quite the jokester and Boomer was....well, Boomer just too easy to pick on!
© Chris Ferlita

Boomer tried to ignore Bob, but the squirrel was relentless....and so the games began....
© Chris Ferlita

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Booming" With Possibilities

Now that Chris' imagination is going full throttle, the possibilities are just rolling in! Seems that Boomer doesn't play well with others....
© Chris Ferlita
Then there's always the possibility that there's some kind of vision problem. Or perhaps he's just easily distracted....
© Chris Ferlita
Either way, Chris is having way too much fun with this! And you'll get to meet more of the cast tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More From Our "Guest" Artist!

The conversations in our household often revolve around art as well as the ideas or concepts behind the art. Chris and I differ wildly on our views and thoughts around art as I think you'll see for the art below.

Up for recent discussion and debate was how Boomer came to be nicknamed Boomer (click link for more on Boomer). I chose not to reveal that piece of information, and that left the door wide open for Chris' imagination!

© Chris Ferlita
"How Boomer Got His Name!"
And, before you ask, NO! This is not how Boomer came to be called Boomer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Christmas shopping just got a little easier!
Please click the Daniel Smith logo in the right sidebar to enter the web site. When you're done selecting those fabulous new art supplies, check out and enter the code WRAPPING as the promotional code on the address information screen to receive free shipping!

Now wasn't that easy?!!! Ho-Ho-Happy shopping!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slow Down, Already!!

The insanity of the holidays is already upon the Ferlita household! A couple of years ago, we did a yard sale in December...because of a myriad of crazy happenings, life snowballed and I was putting ornaments on my tree on Christmas Eve—with a party started that evening at 7! It was NUTS!

Last year, we decided to overhaul both December....sheer nuttiness, but I had no one to blame as I went into it willingly. Everything was fine until 4 days before Christmas and we found out that we would be hosting the annual Christmas Eve family party because of an illness in another part of the family! EEEEEEEK!

And well, silly me, I thought this year would be calmer as I thought we had learned our lesson, but no, 'tis not to be. Our neighborhood is doing a community yard sale this coming weekend....and yes, we're going to be joining in. Go ahead. Shake your head. I'm shaking my head, rolling my eyes and sighing, too!

Oh, and the Clever Christmas eClass also started today! Yay!

I'm telling you all this as my way of telling you that I haven't been getting much art done....doesn't look like I'll be getting much done either. But I don't want the blog to go silent! So we're going to have a guest artist this week! I'm going to share with you a card that my sweet hubby and I put together for a friend that moved from Florida to Chicago! Chris did the design, I added the watercolor and writing.

We tried to convince him that moving to Chicago (in November, no less) was crazy, but he went anyway.....

...I hope he's enjoying it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Boomer Finds A Ball...

....a bright, shiny, Christmas ball!
Boomer and the Ball
4.5" x 6" (11.43 cm x 15.24 cm)
Watercolor, gouache and acrylic ink
     Boomer stood looking at the shiny bauble with a quizzical look on his face. He was glad no one was around to see what he had found. What was it, he wondered. He'd pecked at it to see if it was edible. He knew if it was he'd be feasting like a king for a week. Alas, it was not. Still, he didn't seem to be able to look away from it.
     Pondering what to do with the new toy was turning into quite the dilemma. The snow was falling faster and Boomer knew he'd have to make a decision quickly. He wanted to take it back to the tree he'd decided to call home for the winter, but he wasn't sure how heavy it was or if he could even fly with the thing! Still, Boomer wanted to try. 

     He just didn't want a repeat performance of the situation that had earned him the nickname of Boomer in the first place.....

It would seem I have "cute" on the brain with this adorable little bird just demanding to be painted! The idea came to me just before I drifted off to sleep Monday evening. It was one of the first things to hit my consciousness on Tuesday morning. Boomer was quite insistent about becoming a painting. And he brought some friends. There's at least two more chickadee paintings waiting in the wings (no pun intended).

It would also seem that the obsessive, compulsive, detail-loving side of my painting personality has returned:
Detail of Boomer's cap
I had hoped I had finally overcome this need to worship at the alter of detail. Apparently not!

I'm putting this cute little guy up for sale as I will the others once they're complete. He can be yours for $45.00 plus $5.95 shipping. He'll come to you Priority Mail in the US. If you live outside of the U.S., I'll see how quickly I can get him to you for the same amount of money. If you decide to purchase Boomer, you'll also have the right of first refusal on the other two paintings.


Thank you!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making a Holiday Card

Jacqueline of Art in My Heart asked how I created the snow effect in the new blog header. Here are my steps:

1. As this piece of art was created for the purpose of using it as a greeting card and I may change the greeting on the front, I opted to use Photoshop® to create the greeting rather than paint it in as I normally do:
Click to enlarge
To answer your specific question, Jacqueline, at this point the snow is either the paper left white or a Uniball Signo White Gel Pen—these things are pure magic! Available from and You can try other white gel pens, but there's NO others on the market (that I've found) that are as good as these pens!

2. Once I have it scanned and in Photoshop, I add my blog name rather than a holiday greeting:
Click to enlarge
3. Then I add "snow" to the top of the letters using the copy and paste feature in Photoshop. A long process to be sure. By the time I was done, I had over 100 layers in this document:
Click to enlarge
4. Once I was happy with the letters, I added an overall layer of snow. Again, this was done by copying and pasting various pieces of snow from the log, the top of the birds heads, etc. I would twist it in different directions or flip it upside down so that it didn't look the same:

Click to enlarge
And that's how I've created the new header! Because the art is untouched, I can add various sayings, ornaments or whatever my heart fancies rather than recreating each piece from scratch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Festive Changes!

Time to spruce up the blog for the festive, holiday season! And who better to help than a few of my feathered friends?!

Oh, and now it's snowing! I hope your holiday season is off to a fabulous start. We had a wonderful 4 day weekend with family, food and lots of fun!

We're getting ready to pull our decorations down from the attic to adorn inside the house and out for the next 5 weeks. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe because it's a change from the usual or maybe because it's another opportunity to focus on the "good stuff", friends, food, frivolity, and the usual nuttiness that goes hand-in-hand with this time of year.

As you celebrate the season, I hope you find time to treat yourself to a few quiet moments with a warm beverage to reflect on the season, what it means to you, to count your blessings and to give thanks.

I know that I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, and chief among them, is all the friendships I've made out here in the blogosphere and through the classes. Thanks to each of you for that precious gift!

'Tis the season! Let's get the celebratin' started!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Too Much Information (TMI)

Be warned! This may be far more information than you ever wanted to know about me....

I am not a housekeeper. Never have been, and I dare say, never will be. Despite a strong desire for a sparkling, pristine, clean house, I have little to no enthusiasm for housecleaning. I have far better things to do and can ignore housework like nobody's business. In fact, the house does a far better job of keeping me than I do it.

I also live with cats. Cats that drop fur everywhere they go like they're leaving a breadcrumb trail in case they need to find their way back to the bedroom again. As if they couldn't find it any other way. Sheesh.

And then there's the litter. We have two litter "trapping" mats; however, the cats are amazingly adept at stepping over or around them as they don't like how they feel on their little paws. And litter "decorates" the floor like seashells on the beach but with far less appeal.

So, now I have cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies the size of chihuahuas hanging out under furniture and in the corners. Sometimes they brazenly sit out there in the middle of the room. Like they owned the place. I'm pretty sure I heard one growl at me when I attempted to get at it and its kin with the vacuum hose. The nerve! Oh, and they routinely hijack the vacuum cleaner and hold it hostage. They render it useless by wrapping themselves around the roller brush.

I think they must have gotten that idea from watching the "save-our-planet" channel and seeing tree huggers trying to save an endangered animal/tree's life by chaining themselves to the tree. It does the cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies about as much good as the tree huggers.

It just slows down the inevitable.

The other reason I hate to the cats. They are terrified of the vacuum cleaner. You'd think, after 18 years with no harm befalling any cat in the household, they would figure it out. But every time the beast rolls out of the closet and roars to life, it is cause for instantaneous and complete panic! Fur flies, claws skittle and scrape across the hardwood floors as they try to find purchase so quivering, feline bodies can be propelled to safety in the nearest hidey hole.

And let's not forget the heart failure the cats give me when they burst forth from their hiding places like a startled covey of quail because the beast was getting too close! Paws and claws justaflyin' as they streak past me and the beast, me forgetting to breathe for a few seconds until I can sort out the racket and commotion.

Such fun, these creatures. Not.

After the beast has quieted and been escorted back to its "hole in the wall," one by one, they slink into the living room to see first hand the desecration of their homes.

Only....there is none.

So then they start looking sideways at me as if to say "Are you okay?" Tucker begins to hang close, giving me occasional, worried looks with a patina of pitying annoyance. He also feels it is necessary to escort me everywhere I go in the house lest I fall under the spell of the beast yet again as simpletons are wont to do.

With trauma of housekeeping being what it is, I have found only one way to truly get the house cleaned up, and I do mean clean, on an annual basis.

Invite people over for a holiday party.

Three days before said party I panic and turn into a manic cleaner, tossing things, hiding stuff that can't be tossed and cleaning anything I can reach. And wonder, the whole time I'm engaged in this cleaning marathon, why I do it. I'm not fooling anybody. These people are usually family. They know me. And they know I did not suddenly sprout a halo and turn into Miss Susie Homemaker.


I don't seem to be able to help myself nor stop the insanity. It's a compulsion. Am I afraid of being reported to the sanitation/health department for substandard conditions? That someone's going to run their white-gloved finger over the edge of the baseboard and give me a raised eyebrow? The only person likely to do that is my mother and she wouldn't bother as she already knows the sordid truth.

And did you know that no matter how well you've cleaned, dusted, vacuumed mopped and otherwise beat the house into submission that the cat-hair-dust-bunny-thingies are required to come casually rolling across the floor and gently land at the tip of a guests' shoe? It's a union contract thing. They have to do it or they could get kicked out of the union and lose their bennies.

Of course, they seem to be enjoy it just a little too much. It's as if they're taunting me as the saunter gleefully across the floor, pausing and pirouetting in oh, so, slow motion to make sure everyone will notice them. And I can tell you that when this happens, it will cause my mother to raise an eyebrow. As if to say, "Didn't I raise you better than that?"

To which I can say nothing and only hope that the stars and planets will align and transport me into some space vortex/black hole at that very second.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have things to hide, a cat or three to terrorize and a house to beat into submission before guests start arriving.

Whether you are in America and celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope your table is overflowing with good eats, good laughs and plenty of love!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Near Miss

NOLA Sketchbook
Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches CP
3.5 x 8.5 Inches
Click to enlarge
Though this says Garden District on it, in truth, Kathy and I spent very little time in the "proper" Garden District. It is amazingly easy to get turned around in NOLA. After comparing notes, we realized that we had passed through the Garden District but did not actually tour or spend time looking at the old mansions in the area. This is a fairly easy mistake to make considering the number of mansions in the area!

On a side note...we were warned about directions before we went from the various tour guide books we read. The Mississippi curls around the city in a smile or crescent shape. The majority of the crescent runs east to west, but most folks (like me) get it in their heads that it runs north to south. The mouth of the river, where it meets the Gulf is 5 hours away from the city via river travel. North, south, east and west swapped positions at various times during the day and were seldom at their appointed stations when I bothered to try and get my bearings!

I'm coming to the conclusion that despite being on the go for 5 days from daylight (or before) to dark (or after), we did not cover nearly as much of the city and its delights as I thought we did! That said, there's a LOT to see in NOLA! How we missed the Garden District, I have no idea!
Water Lily
NOLA Sketchbook
Watercolor on 140 lb. Arches CP
3.5 x 8.5 Inches
Click to enlarge
As to the sketch, this was a water garden outside of a home in the Uptown area (I think). We stumbled across these lovely blooms and buds on the first afternoon. They were in a large metal "kettle." I'm not sure if it was an old antique salt kettle, sugar boiler (that they use to make cane syrup in) or something similar, and no one was around to ask.

Let me first clarify that this is is a studio sketch, or maybe more aptly named, study. I spent about twice as long on this as I would have if I'd been on location and I did not time myself as I worked on it. The majority of the time went into the fléur-de-lis and lettering. The rest of it went fairly quickly.

Seeing this blossom and the way it seem to glow from within reinforced the thoughts that this was going to be a fabulous trip and that I needed to be paying attention to what was right in front of me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Here's Your Sign...

...sometimes, I get overwhelmed and disoriented as I blaze a trail for this new life of mine. It seems the Universe knows and understands this about me. Quite often I receive directional clues. They come in a variety of forms, including fortune cookie fortunes, quotes from friends and on occasion, an actual sign. They help me get back on track, find my way and affirm that yes, I'm headed in the right direction. Sometimes they even illuminate the future!
Church sign in NOLA
Within 10 minutes of getting out and starting to explore New Orleans, Kathy pointed this sign out to me, and I have to admit it felt as though it were meant specifically for me. Along with the usual baggage, I had brought with me some heavy thoughts about decisions that would be facing me on my return back to Tampa.

I was in danger of missing the present opportunity because I was mired in worry about those decisions.

We walked past that sign every morning and most evenings. The reminder was powerful and effective. And since I didn't sleep all that well I took some of that time to ponder the meaning behind the words.

"Imagine" is such a key action in my life that I have the word displayed prominently in my studio. It reminds me to imagine what can be rather than get caught up in what is.

"Bold" was my "word of the year" last year, and I have found that it's still very much with me this year. It serves me well. When I want to play small or not step up and out of my comfort zone, "bold" is there to remind me that I can do it and to get it done!

Possibilities....oh, the magic of that word! Substitute words like beginnings, dreams or opportunities if possibilities doesn't excite you. Doors begin to open, stars align, birds sing, and all kinds of wonderful things begin to happen in support of those imagined possibilities!

However, the part that really gave me pause was "unleash your faith." This challenged me to think about what I had faith in....the Universe, God, other people, the economy, the government, the weather, or.....myself. Did I have faith? What did I believe?

Did I believe in a universe of abundance? Or one of lack? Did I have faith in myself? My abilities, intelligence, skills, and talents or not? I've been wrestling with this 700 lb. demon for a long while now. I'd like to tell you that I've won the day, but in truth, I've only won the occasional skirmish.

I believe to change this type of thought pattern takes near constant awareness and a willingness to challenge those pervasive thoughts whenever they arise. Evolution, not revolution.
NOLA Sketchbook
8.5 x 3.5 inches
Watercolor and Gold Ink
Because I found those words to be so powerful, I put them on the first page of my NOLA sketchbook with a slight change in the wording. To serve as a reminder to continue imagining as well as to have myself.

What BOLD possibilities are you imagining?!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another View of New Orleans

There was So Much More to New Orleans than either I or Kathy were expecting to see/find. If you're interested in reading about Kathy's take on New Orleans, hop over to Catching Happiness, where she talks about our recent trip!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Thought I Knew....

Sketchbook from New Orleans Trip
Watercolor and Ink
8.5 x 3.5 inches
I thought I "knew" New Orleans. After all, we've all heard stories of drunken stupidity on Bourbon Street, right? And Mardi Gras is just another excuse for more drunken stupidity, right? I couldn't have been more wrong!

Kathy, of Catching Happiness, and I have just returned from the Crescent City and boy, did we have a ball!  This was a working trip for both of us though it almost seems an insult to call it work because it was so much fun! We were on our feet walking, seeing the sights and just taking it all in 10 to 12 hours each day we were there. And we just barely managed to scratch the surface of this complex, multi-layered gem.

Bourbon Street is just street. Walking just one block in either direction and we were in a totally different city. It was as if Bourbon Street didn't even exist. There is a genteel feel to the city mixed with a healthy dose of grit and moxie. In fact, we heard a complaint from a taxi driver about the city becoming too gentrified. However, I saw plenty of examples of the Bohemian streak that made New Orleans [im]famous to know that streak is still alive and well.

New Orleans has definitely changed since Katrina and there's no doubt the storm left a scar on the soul of the city. In fact, parts of the city still look more like the ravaged areas of a war-torn, third world country than a city in the US, but she's coming back and she's coming back stronger, wiser, and lovelier than before.

If you've read the blog very long, you know of my love/hate relationship with most commercially-made sketchbooks, and that I've started to make my own.....
Close up of Sketchbook Cover
Watercolor and Ink
8.5 x 3.5 inches
Click to Enlarge
....and the one above is the latest. I love, love, love the long format of the Handbook Watercolor Journal that I've been working in but not the paper. I decided to make my own for the trip. This book has 12 pages of 140 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper with front and back covers made from mat board. I used eyelets on the front and back covers so they would be more durable and I chose the mat board so the inside pages would have more protection. It did reasonably well considering it tumbled around in my shoulder bag with camera lenses and other necessary paraphernalia.
Oversized jump rings can be used to "lock" the sketchbook
open or the elastic band works just as well.
A happy (accidental) finding was that the oversized jump rings (above left image) could be turned back towards the sketchbook and used as a locking system when I was sketching on the inside pages. To keep the pages securely shut when the book was in my bag, I used an elastic band (above image, right) with the watch face. The band runs through two eyelets in the back cover so it is permanently attached (and I don't have to worry about losing it!). In fact, this has worked so well that this style of sketchbook may become my favorite!

Because this was a working trip, there was little time to sketch and paint on location. The cover sketch was done in the early hours one morning when I could not sleep. I started adding paint on the plane ride home and finished it this morning. It is a collage of some of the stronger impressions of the trip. With over 800 photos to use for inspiration, I'm sure the 12 pages will be filled in no time. Who knows, I may even have to make another sketchbook!

An enchanting city to be sure, and it has definitely cast a spell over me. I admire the determination of the residents and natives of the city to not only come back stronger than ever but to come back better than ever. That kind of strength I greatly admire and I'll be going back....wanna come?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Modifying A Palette

In my post about being a palette junkie, I mentioned that I modified my palettes and a number of folks inquired as to how I did that. As I started to write the post about modifying palettes, I came across a piece of info about the glue I use that gave me pause. I wrote to the company to get clarification. I'm going to go ahead with the post, but find it necessary to put in a caveat or two....

Modifying A Palette

Gather Your Tools
Click to enlarge
Gather all your tools before beginning: washed and (bone-dry) empty palette, a black fine tip marker or pencil, scissors (not your best pair) glue (I use Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive*); tweezers, ruler, and white plastic lid** of a Cool Whip® tub. I would add to this list (not in the photo) a couple of toothpicks, a wet paper towel and a dry paper towel. Be sure to protect your work surface. 

Filling the Gaps
Anywhere you see light shining into
the wells is an area for potential leaks
of the various pigments into
neighboring wells. 
Before I begin to modify the palette, I check for any areas where the light is shining underneath the walls and into the wells. This is a potential leak waiting to happen. Using the glue, I coat the areas with a bead of glue and allow to dry thoroughly. I also use it to "plug" any holes due to the way the palette is manufactured. Check your palette over carefully for any potential holes that need to be plugged. 

Before adding the walls, think about how you want to configure your palette...perhaps you have a few favorite colors and you'd like bigger wells for them or you may be like me and want as many pigments as possible. Build the palette to suit your painting style. 

Measure Twice, Cut Once
Measure depth of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure width of channel
Click to enlarge
Measure the depth of the area where you want to create extra wells. Measure the width as well. Note that the channel is seldom the same width at both ends if the palette is metal. If it is plastic it's usually  standardized. 

Mark the plastic with a black fine-tip marker. Pencil works too but can be hard to see.
Click to enlarge
Cut a long piece the depth of the palette first. You can also use a cutting mat and a knife.
Click to enlarge
Cut the smaller width piece and place it into the palette for size BEFORE putting glue on the piece!
It is often necessary to shave the edge
for the piece to fit.
Click to enlarge
After adjustments are made and the piece has been tested (again) for accurate fit, add glue to three sides of the plastic.
Click to enlarge
Using tweezers, place the new wall into place. I use tweezers for this because I find that no matter how careful I am, my fingers will knock another glued piece sideways. Sometimes I even manage to do it with the tweezers. Because you have a "window" of time before the glue sets, you can make adjustments as needed. Use toothpicks and a wet paper towel to clean up any glue messes that may occur or if you get glue in the wrong area.
Carefully place new "wall" in palette.
Click to enlarge
It doesn't really matter if you start on the end or in the middle. I tend to start where the newly cut piece fits best without being too loose or too tight. Continue adding walls until the palette is complete. Once the glue has set, check for any gaps and add more glue as necessary. Do not attempt to do this until after the glue has set or you'll likely wind up with a lot of crooked walls and glue everywhere.

Set the palette aside to dry thoroughly. I usually wait at least 24 hours or longer. Once the palette is dry, add the pigments of your choice and let the painting begin! 
Modified palette with pigments
Click to enlarge
*Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive and **white plastic lid of a Cool Whip® tub: The material used to make most plastic food containers is polystyrene. It is a slick plastic with little tooth to the surface so that the food does not stick to it. Well, if food won't stick to it, it is reasonable to question if glue will. According to 3M, the glue manufacturer, for this reason only, the glue is not recommended to be used with polystyrene.  

Now, with that said, because of the way I use the glue (on a cut edge which has sawtooth marks from the scissors—abrasions the glue can adhere too), I've not had any issues in the three years I've used the glue. If a wall were to come loose (and none have as of yet), I would simply re-glue it as I accept this as a non-permanent solution. 

I use this glue for three is acid-free, quick drying (but not as quick drying as super glue) and it is white when wet but dries clear. Because it is white it is easier to see where I've put it and if I have sufficiently closed any gaps. 

If you choose to use this method of modification for your palette but are hesitant about the glue, you can also use super glue. Check to see if it is acid-free and works with polystyrene. 

**If you choose to use a polystyrene food container make sure that it does NOT have any printing on the plastic you use. The inks are not acid-free nor permanent and could easily discolor the watercolor pigments. The plastic should also be flat rather than curved (like the wall of a bowl).

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mixed Media, Mixed Results

Watercolor on Tissue paper with Ink
Handbook Watercolor Journal
3.5" x 8.5"
I recently saw an article on using spray adhesive to attach a piece of tissue paper to the page, over a sketched subject, where you then watercolored on top of the tissue paper. In the example I saw, the color diffused and the wrinkles in the paper added texture to the page.....

I didn't get that! If you enlarge the image above you can see there's not much in the way of wrinkles and the texture is mostly from the blotchy application of the watercolor on the tissue. The wall beside these two windows was heavily textured and it seemed this would be a great way to introduce some of that texture. Not.

If I try this again, I would definitely crumple up my paper for more texture, I would probably try it on a larger area as well as heavier paper so the water and color could disperse a bit more and I'd probably swap the pen for graphite. If I were to try this again......

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Things I Love About Autumn

Handbook Watercolor Journal
8.5" x 3.5"
I love the Autumn season for the gifts it brings in the way of "fallen" treasures (leaves), glorious color and the cooler temperatures. I also love the way soup tastes once the weather cools off. My mom is the champion soup maker of all time (in my book)!!

One of my very favorite things is herbal teas. I get rather tired of drinking coffee all the time so I start mixing it up with various teas during the fall and winter. (Oddly, I don't care for tea in the spring and summer unless it's cool.) I don't particularly like strong coffee or tea. I think it's mostly for the warmth. And now it's also for the sketching possibilities!

I was looking around for something to put in my loooooong format sketchbook when my mother called to tell me she had some soup....if I wanted it. While on the phone with her, I started sketching the tea bag that I'd set aside. It proved to be rather fun and challenging. When I started sketching the bag, it was to kill time while on the phone. I didn't really intend to put it into the sketchbook, let alone paint it.

Since I'm sure I'll have plenty of "specimens" in the coming months, I see more of these on the pages to come!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time For A Fire!!

in Handbook Watercolor Journal
8.5" x 3.5"
And cool enough to enjoy it as well! This is our copper fire bowl that we use when the weather cooperates with cool temps and there's not a lot of wind. I sketched and painted this with the help of my 3 canine friends, one of which managed to get a good amount of pigment on her tongue. She decided the mixing area of the palette needed cleaning. Yuck!

It was dark by the time I finally got around to adding paint and I had no idea what it was going to look like when I finally brought into the light to see. I was quite surprised with the colors on the bowl itself. One dark pigment looks like another in low light! The night sky could be a little darker as could the ground, but it works. Instead, I think I'll just call it "dusk." It's was such a fun evening spent with my honey and this is the [im]perfect memory!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fabulous Here!!

Ink and Watercolor in
Handbook Watercolor Journal
3.5 x 8.5 inches
We've had rain (yay!!!! much needed!) for the last few days. Today, we awoke to gloriously blue skies, much cooler temperatures and wind! The leaves are coming down fast and furious. Don't think we're going to have much color this year. The piece above was done in about 30 minutes, start to finish.

It captures some of the joy and energy I feel with the sunshine and cooler temperatures (read that as low humidity too)!!! Now, I just need to harness that energy to get some work done and then I can go play—outside!!

Hope you're having a fabulous Fall and taking a moment to savor the season!!