Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Splatter, Splotches and Fuzzy Brains

Oh, my.

Splattered. Splotchy. Fuzzy thinking. Long periods of staring at nothing.

That about sums up the last two weeks of my life.

I seem to have missed that time of year....that transitional period between ending and beginning, as if time is paused, so I could get my new year off to a great start by laying out plans, goals and dreams.

The ending of 2011 was a tough time and the beginning of 2012 is not off to a stellar start....

We lost our sweet Siberian Husky, Susie, on December 30th.

She had been sick for a while now, and it was touch-and-go during the holidays.

We then took Andi, another of our puppies, to the vet on Monday as she has been feeling poorly.

She has lymphoma.

Andi has a very limited amount of time. It depends on how she responds to the meds we're giving her.

Yesterday, my 15-month-old niece was taken to the hospital after having a seizure.

The baby was moved from ICU to a regular room and we're hoping she'll be released today. So far, no conclusions on what caused the seizure.

As I said, not a great ending nor a recommend way to start off a new year.

What I'm that life, and that mythical thing known as balance, is a very fluid thing.

In my case, most of the fluid of life has shifted towards my pets and family. The blog has been (too) quiet, my work hasn't been getting the normal attention I show it, and daily chores haven't been kept up as normal.

I've decided to give this time to myself, as a gift and that it's okay.

To take the time to grieve, to let the new year take off without me being in a happy, celebratory mood, to put family first.

WITHOUT guilt.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, I'll be back.

Full throttle.

Right now, I need to heal, to be close to family, and to spend time with Andi.

I hope you understand.

I wish you the very best of the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Out......Not!

Let It Snow!
Watercolor in Pineapple Sketchbook
For those of you in much colder, snowier climates, please disregard this post and go about your blog reading elsewhere......because it's in the 80's. As in temperature. Outside.

Yes, this is Florida.

But it's the 22nd. Of December! Come on—it could at least be cooler!

We're not in any danger of getting snow. Or cooler temperatures. Well, not until the day after Christmas.

Then it's suppose to cool off to the 70's.

It makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of snowmen.....when it's 85º out.

I suppose this is a blessing I'm not yet seeing.

BTW, do you see the second face in the image above?!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is It Hope....Or Stupidity.....

....that blooms eternal? Maybe both in my case!
Watercolor and Ink
Pineapple Sketchbook
I noticed late on Saturday night as I was putting up the last of my snowmen, that most of them had on top hats and a good many of them had either a bird, a bird house, or a bird feeder with them or on them. I decided to capture one of them in my sketchbook.

As I sat sketching I realized I had done it again. I had so many ideas and plans to sketch and paint some of my favorite ornaments and teapots, like the one again. I was going to send out my Christmas cards of MY VERY OWN DESIGN this year—early.

I thought the house would be decorated early and I'd have plenty of time to paint. Ha!


Here I am staring down the 19th day of December and I still have a naked Christmas tree standing in my living room.

No cards are going out and that really grieves me. I had a plan to start getting things ready to go in January of 2011 so I wouldn't be in this situation come the 19th of December!

Most of the gifts are bought, but not wrapped. And still I had hoped....

But as I sat sketching at 10:30 on a Saturday night, I started letting go of my hopes for a peaceful, artful, less stressful holiday.

Mind you, family will still be coming over, the house will be decorated, the tree will get dressed, presents wrapped and it will still be a wonderful opportunity to spend time together, see old friends, laugh and have a good time being a kid again for a few hours. And that's what really matters.

But will I ever learn? Will I ever have a peaceful, artful, less stressful holiday?

Maybe if I start in January of 2012..........

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Place To Linger....(NOLA)

Place d'Armes Hotel
Watercolor and Ink
Seldom have I stayed at a hotel where I wanted to linger, but this was the case with the Place d'Armes hotel! It is a property of 8 town homes built back in the 18th and 19th centuries, cobbled together around the most gorgeous courtyards you could ever want to sit in.

The old bricks were the perfect backdrop for the fountains and lush greenery. There was a quietness, a peaceful ambiance that slipped up and soothed you whenever you stepped foot into the courtyard. The doors were the old style with the wood mullions, shutters on either side.

I knew if we'd ran into some ugly weather, that the courtyard would provide many days' worth of sketching materials all by itself! In fact, this was one of the places I sat to sketch on my free afternoon. You just wanted to be out there soaking it up!

Others on the trip felt the same tug—you can see Cheryl's beautiful courtyard here and Claire's lovely room here. If you're headed to NOLA anytime soon, I highly recommend this hotel.

Monday, December 5, 2011

19 Years

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary! The photo was taken just before we left the reception. We've been talking a lot lately about what we knew, what we thought we knew and what we had no clue about back then (or today!).

We both realize now that we had no idea what it took to make a marriage work, what it meant to be married, and what it meant to be a half of a whole.

There have some great times. There have been struggles. And as I write those words, it is evident that they don't begin to cover the depth nor the breadth of the experiences we've shared.

During my father's recent illness, my mother commented to me that "You got a good one."

Yep, I did. I didn't really know it at the time, but I know now that I got one of the best.

Sometimes, I think I'd give him away, but in truth, I wouldn't trade him for anyone in the world!

Happy anniversary to my love!

Now, about painting the front door....

Friday, December 2, 2011

So Much To See...and Remember (NOLA)

UPDATED to include text from cemetery page at the bottom of post.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Watercolor and Ink
Drawn on location
Those raindrops I mentioned in the last NOLA post? Well, they were a little more serious come Wednesday morning. We walked to the street trolley and had to open our umbrellas about two books from our stop. By the time we actually reached our stop, it had stopped sprinkling again.

We loaded up onto the trolley and hadn't gone more than 3 blocks when the bottom opened up and it really rained! That, however, was the last of it. We arrived at the cemetery with gray, overcast skies which seemed rather appropriate for the morning's adventure!

There is a lot of information about the "cities of the dead," the above ground crypts and the traditions of New Orleans when it comes to honoring the dead on the page above. Please click to enlarge so that you can read more if you're interested.
MORE Decadent Desserts—Commander Palace Style
Memory Sketch
Click to Enlarge
Next came our three hour lunch at the Commander's Palace with 25¢ Cosmo martinis! Synchronized serving (all the entrees and desserts were sat down on the table in front of each person at the same time), a tour of the kitchens and wine cellars, as well as outstanding food were all order of the day.

Luckily, we had the afternoon free to walk off our meals and more decadent (and delicious) desserts. Some of us moseyed up to the bookstore on the corner while others went back to explore the city via the trolley.
Collection of Memories
Memory Sketch
Watercolor and Ink
Click to Enlarge
If you ever find yourself in NOLA, pause and look, I mean really look around you. Look up, look down, look at the ground, look at the balconies, just look. There is something to see EVERYWHERE you look! The fire hydrant in the image above most have had 500 strings of beads on it. I'm not sure how many times I passed it before I actually saw it!

The other ephemera on the page is from places I wanted to remember and memories I wanted to collect. There was several cigar shops and bars in NOLA that I don't remember from last year. Whereas cigars are not my thing, I do think they have very cool wrappers on some of the cigars.

The green book shop piece is actually a bookmark that I've folded down to fit on the page and attached with a clear tape hinge. That way I can read the info without it sticking outside of the book. The sticker at the bottom right came off from a great cup of coffee.

Simple items, but each evokes a strong memory of where I was, what I was doing and who I was with—pretty cool for just a little piece of paper!
From the Cemetery Page:
Cemetery founded in 1833 by the city of Lafayette. City was later incorporated by New Orleans.
Many early immigrants buried here, especially German.
Many died from the Yellow Fever Epidemic.
Cemetery is non-segregated and non-denomenatinal.
Unlimited internment.
Many society tombs - firemen, orphanages, etc.
Crypts built of many different materials, sometimes painted the same color as [the] family home.
"Property" returns to the city after 150(?) years of inactivity
Crypts could hold two coffins—one on top, one on the bottom.
Mourning time - customary was one year and one day.
(And this final is a note to myself) Look into "4 Gentlemen Crypts" secret society

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time for Thanks and for Sketching

Thanksgiving Sketch
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Click to Enlarge
Our Thanksgiving was wonderfully relaxing this year—near bliss after the crazy weeks leading up to the holiday.

A small gathering at my brother's home. Nearly perfect weather. We were able to leave the doors open and enjoy the breeze. (It can be hot enough to run the air conditioner on Thanksgiving here in Florida!)

After dinner, I headed outside and sat by the koi pond to sketch.

I think I could have stayed all day.....

I do know I'll be going back.

Care to join me?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Sketched on Location
Click to enlarge
Oak Alley is a (still-working) sugar cane plantation upriver from New Orleans. There are 28 Live Oaks that line the path to the house from the river that were planted by a settler back in the 1700's. They're estimated to be 300 years old.
Front of the Home
Image courtesy of the Oak Alley Plantation
The Roman family later purchased the land and built their home in 1830's, using the 28 oaks to inspire 28 columns that are 8 feet in circumference and walls that are 16 inches thick. They also planted an additional 28 Live Oaks in the back of the plantation. Those are estimated to be around 150 years old and are what show in the journal page at the top of the page.
Back of the Home
Click to enlarge
The large kettle featured in the journal page and the image above is one of the kettles they used to boil the sugar cane juice down into syrup. Today, they are often used as koi ponds and planters as manufacturing has long since surpassed the use of these pots.

As the fates would have it, the weather was being rather fickle this day and it didn't know if it wanted to rain or not. After a few warming sprinkles, the rain finally started to get heavy enough that most of us retreated to the café.

Introducing my latest "coffee passion:"
Memory sketch,
created after returning
Click to enlarge
Praline coffee. YUM! There's not much more that needs to be said about it. It was sooooooo good! I went by two of our local liqueur stores only to find they don't carry it. It's a special order. Needless to say, there is a bottle winging its way here as we speak.

Last but certainly not least, we had dinner at the Napoleon House. It looks like a dive on the outside and it's as dark as a cave on the inside with an old world, European feel. The walls are brick and stucco with an open air courtyard.
Memory Sketch,
crated after returning
Click to enlarge
Several of us had difficulty reading the menu due to the low-lighting (no lighting?) conditions. Our helpful waiter brought us a big yellow and black flashlight so we could read the menu. No kidding! Apparently, they'd had this kind of trouble before.

Napoleon House is also known for their "Pimm's Cup" cocktail and I just had to try one! It is made with Pimm's Liqueur. It is garnished with a cucumber slice and is quite refreshing. (One of those drinks that sneaks up on you if you have too many because they're not hard to drink! And, no, that's not experience talking—I only had one!)

Despite the few showers of the day, it was a fun day with many laughs and some great sketches!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dangerous Combination...

...for me, anyway! I know other artists that do quite well sketching and eating at the same time. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing as this poor sketch proves:
Southwestern Soup
Ink and watercolor
5.5 x 5.5 inches
I would love to tell you it's a contour sketch, but it's not. It's just....sad.

This is what happens to me when I try to divide my attention between two masters—eating and sketching. You can easily tell who won this battle! All the same, I am happy to report that the green is spot on! I just purchased some new soup cups and that's really and truly their color—acid yellow-green!

Love that color!

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in America, I would like to send to each of you a very grateful thanks for being a part of my life, the blogosphere and the Imaginary Realm. I can't imagine a world without you as you've touched my life and my heart in countless ways.

I hope you'll hug those around you that you're thankful for, smile at a stranger today as it may be the only kindness they will know this day, and tell those you love just how much you love them...this day, this hour, this moment, and take time to count the many blessings that fill your life.

Since I'll be putting down the paintbrush tomorrow (so as not to slaughter anymore unsuspecting food items), I will be picking up a pen to write a page of thanks—and you'll be at the top of my list!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Makin' Of Mardi Gras (NOLA)

Click to Enlarge
Page started on location,
finished after the trip
We actually started off at Tujague's for dinner on Sunday night. Because I haven't finished that page yet, I've skipped ahead to Monday morning. We started the day off at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World! We started with a video tour about the Kern family and the history of Mardi Gras. We also has a taste of a tradition King cake and then went out to the work area and warehouse.
Click to enlarge
Note the golf cart in the image above. I took this for scale in this huge warehouse. Everything seemed larger than life! Mardi Gras World makes a variety of props and floats for 40 of the 54 krewes that have a parade during Mardi Gras. They will often repurpose a prop from year to year. The example shared was taking a hobbit's house and restructuring it into Shrek's head the following year.
Click to enlarge
Here we see one of the artisan's creating a pelican's head out of styrofoam. Most of the props and floats are made of styrofoam and paper mâché as the materials are inexpensive and the labor less intense than the fiberglass props they complete.
Click to enlarge
This little jester is made of fiberglass. He only stood about 3 feet tall, but weighs considerable more than the styrofoam pieces as well.
Click to enlarge
This giraffe loomed high above over our heads. He seem to have a benevolent look to his face though so it wasn't so bad to have him looking over our shoulders.
Click to enlarge

This isn't a great photo, but it does give you a sense of scale, and if you click to enlarge the image, you'll see several folks walking around in this kingdom of props and it gives you a better understanding of just how huge this place was! It was so much fun to be in the warehouse and walk around in, let alone sit down and sketch!

We had a great time sketching and painting these larger than life "caricatures!" It was really cool being able to take the tour, spend some time looking around at the "sights" and THEN deciding on what we wanted to sketch and knowing we had time to do so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From The Beginning (NOLA)

I had made plans to go into NOLA early to make sure that everything was in place and to check a couple of logistical matters that I couldn't check out any other way. Boy, am I glad I did!

I arrived tired—emotional, physically and mentally. You see, both of my parents had experienced major health crises the week before I left. Since life is what happens while we're making other plans, I had little choice but to roll with it. Luckily, I have a great family and both parents were beginning to show improvement before I left.

It took a few days to switch from worried caregiver to maven of Imaginary Trips Made Real. Luckily, I had KJ (of Catching Happiness) to keep me from getting lost or worse. One of the other "travelers" arrived late on Friday evening as well. 

Click to enlarge

On Saturday, while the other two roamed the French Quarter, I caught up on a few emails and some other necessary business. Finding a good internet connection turned out to be a sizable challenge this entire trip! I had to sit in the front lobby or breakfast room to get a fairly reliable connection.

After I completed my work, I sat out in the sunny courtyard to sketch one of the doors leading into the Armstrong House as well as the breakfast nook. The others returned and joined me for a wonderful afternoon of sketching.

Click to enlarge
This second page I'm sharing was started at The Decadence Shoppe....which turned out to be a bakery/breakfast joint, but with a name like that in never know!! The umbrellas hung from the ceiling and were just to cute to pass up as a drawing opportunity.

The decadence came in the form of Praline Pancakes and Maple Spice Chai Latte. Oh. My. Goodness! Yummy! Though I have to say, everything we had was excellent. We went there for breakfast twice. The second morning the doors were open and we sat gazing out of Louis Armstrong Park which was just across the street.

After more exploring of the French Quarter, we decided to go back to Bistreaux (having been there on Thursday evening). It was close to our hotel and the food was very good. LSU was in an epic battle to retain their No. 1 ranking against Alabama, ranked No. 2 and the joint was full.

To add to the frivolity of the evening there was a wedding being held in the hotel next door. Once the vows were exchanged, the happy couple, wedding party and everyone who attended as well as a band went around the block, waving handkerchiefs to celebrate. The image below is not of the same wedding party, but you'll get the idea. That's just how you do it in NOLA!
Click to enlarge
 It was a very lively evening and yes, LSU won—in overtime!

To be continued.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Would Have Brought You a Praline, But....

....I wasn't sure if you would want chocolate, traditional, creamy, rum, coconut or spicy!

I've just returned from New Orleans and the BEST ever 1st Imaginary Trip Made Real, NOLA Live!!

I'm not sure where to begin to describe the fun we all had, the things we saw, the food we ate, the places we visited and all the cool things we learned about this vibrant and wonderful city!

Without a doubt I'll be talking about this trip for weeks (maybe months) to come and I want to say a few words of thanks to the most wonderfully, intrepid "travelers" a gal like me could hope for—you MADE this trip fabulous and I thank you for your sense of adventure and friendship!

To KJ (of Catching Happiness), for being there, for talking me down off the ledge more than a few times as well as for being a great friend and travelmate!

To Chris for believing in this crazy dream of mine even when I didn't. I could never have done this without your unwavering faith in me.

I am amending this post to add a very special thank you to my family for keeping the home fires burning and allowing me to go to NOLA knowing my parents were being well taken care of!

What I did bring you was a few short videos of some very fun street performances in NOLA! To set the stage for the beginning of our trip, I took a few minutes out of the day to video some of the lively performances you're bound to experience in the French Quarter.

This is one of the things that makes this city soooo great—you never know what you'll find around the next corner!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Drawin' and Paintin' at the OK Corral

The other day, Chris and I went to LongHorn® Steakhouse for dinner. For some reason, the hostess always seems to seat us in one of the booths in the bar area. This was my view and I fell in love with the color on those boots! Of course, I pulled out my sketchbook and started to draw them in pen and after our meal, my plan was to add color.

Chris asked what I was sketching as he couldn't see my sketchbook. When I showed him, he decided he wanted to give it a whirl, too. So I handed him the other sketchbook I had with me. (Yes, I had two sketchbooks in my purse that day. One is good for watercolor and one is good for pen and ink and not much else. I usually use it for notes and lists. Since Chris prefers ink it worked out well.)

Chris' interpretation in Copic Gray ink:
My interpretation in Carbon black ink and watercolor:

And here is the dynamic duo caught in the act!

It's kinda fun being married to an artist! He "gets it" and he even enjoys playing along on occasion!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Life Well Lived

She fought her way to Chris in a torrential downpour because she wanted to live.

She was feisty and she was willing to fight for what she wanted.

She was little, maybe 5 weeks old, soaked to the skin and cold as ice by the time Chris picked her up.

We didn't know if she'd make it home. She did. She was chewing on my metal jacket zipper pull before  long.

We had no idea she was white until we cleaned her up. She looked to be grungy gray at first sight.

It didn't take long before she had us both wrapped around that furry little foot.

You seldom wondered what her opinion was because she was only too happy to share it with you. And she always had an opinion.

She was vocal about what she wanted. She'd put others in their place (vacuum included) if they dared to cross her.

She could be temperamental and if you were going to be around her, it was best to learn the signs and give her wide berth when she was in a mood.

Her love for us was bottomless.

Her spirit was so incredibly strong....over 20 years strong.

However, her body was not. It simply gave out on her.

We have a cat-shaped hole in our hearts, and yes, we grieve.

Still, we're so glad she chose to spend her twenty years with us.

June '92 - October '11
Bye, Boo Girl, you'll be missed for sure......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anyone Care For A Pamplemousse?

BFK Rives Paper
Watercolor with
white and brown-black ink
Click to enlarge
I don't know about you, but I've been around citrus all my life and I'd never heard the word "pamplemousse." Today, when I needed a subject for a quick paper test, I decided to use some grapefruit that were sitting on the kitchen counter.

I was rather surprised to find that pamplemousse is French for grapefruit!

After I did the kitten in the prior post, I decided I wanted to test out the BFK Rives paper a bit more. I really wanted to see what it would do with just watercolor without a lot of ink. Since I had also purchased some new waterbrushes (Pentel Aquash) and some new pens (Uni•Ball), I figured I'd test them all at one time.

First the paper...if you click to enlarge, you'll see some odd marks on the large (whole) grapefruit. I'm guessing that's something to do with sizing. Look at the edge of the fruit...see how the edges bled and feathered? I'm not sure if that happened because the paper wasn't totally dry or if it's a characteristic of the paper. Either way, I'm no liking it overly much.

The pens are both Uni•balls, one in white and one in brown-black. The white was great for reclaiming the lost highlights and section lines in the cut fruit. The brown pen was used for the journaling and border. No problem with bleeds or feathering on this paper.

The Pentel Aquash waterbrushes are fun to work with if you like long pointed brushes! I primarily used the large one and find it very generous with water. A little to generous at times. All the same, I'll probably be taking those to NOLA Live!

I'm going to try testing the paper one more time, but if I had to decide today, I'd have to say it would be staying home!

So what fun new art toys have you played with lately?! Do share!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Testing Paper and Pens

Kitten and Yarn
Watercolor and Carbon Black Ink
BFK Rives 175 g paper
With the upcoming trip to New Orleans getting ever closer, my search for a sketchbook paper that makes me happy is picking up pace. The kitten above was sketched in carbon black ink and then painted with watercolors.

The BFK Rives is a printmaking paper and accepts watercolor well. The paper has a very soft finish to it that allows for wild and varied results from the pens I normally use on location. (It always pays to check how your favorite tools act on a new paper!) I finally used a flex nib fountain pen with the Carbon Black ink to sketch this. My Lamy (with the same ink) bled and feathered to the point of distraction. Not pretty!

I've also found there isn't too much correcting on this paper. If you click to enlarge the kitten, you'll see I had difficulty with his mouth. I like the paper and I think it would work well on location, but I'm still searching!

I also tested out Cartiera Magnani Acquerello watercolor paper and knew as soon as I started out with my color swatches I wouldn't be taking this paper. The paper has a very distinctive pattern to it that become very evident when I put down my washes. Not unpleasant, just not what I'm looking for in my sketchbook!

Next up is a test I did to see how lightfast the ink in the Tombow® brand pens is.....
Tombow Lightfastness Test
The swatch on the left went up on a shelf in my studio for 3 weeks, while the swatch on the right sat in a south-facing window for the same period of time. You can see some fade as well as more pink showing on the righthand side. To be clear, Tombow does not advertise these pens as lightfast nor permanent.

Does this mean you shouldn't use these pens in any artwork? That depends. If you are concerned about longevity of your work or want to display your work, it doesn't seem like the best of ideas. If, on the other hand, you're not displaying and you consider your sketchbook your personal playground and only want it to outlast you, then by all means, play and have fun!

These pens give some great effects when diluted with water and can make some very interesting textures.  

What new adventures in art supplies have you had lately?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooler Temps Plus Outdoors Equals Bliss!

Autumn arrived in Florida on October 1st with much cooler temperatures and lower humidity! I didn't need much more of a reason than that to get outside and get in some sketching.
Osprey Drive Park
Stillman & Birn Sketchbook
Watercolor and Ink
7 x 7 inches
Click to enlarge
I didn't get a particularly early start, but it didn't seem to matter. I went to one of our local "no-name" walking/biking paths and set off with my sketch kit....and the requisite travel mug of coffee!

Lots of people were out with the dogs, getting some fresh air, roller blading, biking, running or just sitting on the benches to enjoy the day. I wasn't hopeful of spotting much wildlife with so much activity and figured I'd working on capturing a landscape.

I wasn't more than an eighth of a mile down the path when I noticed the Anhinga doing his thing up in a tree by the pond. More of a bush really. He bobbled and bounced as he went through his grooming process.

He seemed to have a very itchy neck! He would start scratching right above his chin and then work his way up to to as far as he could go. His neck would get longer and longer with the effort.

The bird was quite busy moving around, but every once and a while he'd just freeze as if he'd seen a bug floating by. Or a ghost. I didn't see him snap at anything so maybe he caught a smell of danger or .....who knows!

Further along the path, I just happened to catch a small movement out in the left field of my peripheral vision—it was the swamp bunny! I totally missed his shape, but this was drawn from mostly memory because as soon as I took an interest in him, he took an interest in leaving—two hops and he was gone!

The little Downy Woodpecker was about 15 feet up a palm tree. Unfortunately, I couldn't see his face in either of the fuzzy snapshots I took of him, so I must assume it was a Downy rather than a Hairy Woodpecker which is similar in plumage but larger in size. The body shape isn't quite most critters, he was busy going about the business of his life and didn't have time to pose for me!

A glorious morning altogether! And I'm off to do it again today!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Service Announcement About Waterbrushes

Imagine my surprise when I happened to glance at my waterbrush the other day and saw all these black floaty things INSIDE the barrel of the brush! Yuck!
Click to enlarge
I usually wear the point off from the brush tip long before I get gunk in the barrel of a waterbrush. This brush has a very small tip that is used for detailing and I don't use it often. That may be the reason why I have the yucky stuff in the barrel.

Besides not wanting to contaminate my paper or paints with mold, this kind of trash will also plug up a waterbrush, rendering it useless because the water can't flow through to the tip.
Click to enlarge
I used a chenille stem, folded in half and twisted, to get down into the barrel and scrub out some of the sticky offending black spots. I didn't use any soap as I didn't need it to remove the gunk. If you choose to use soap, please make sure to use something like dish soap that doesn't have oils and moisturizers in it. (Oil and watercolor don't mix well and the soap could leave a residue!)
Click to enlarge
No more nasties! I'll keep an eye on this brush to make sure that all the gunk has been removed. If it comes back, I'll rinse just the barrel with a very, very weak water and bleach solution, dry it out thoroughly and then refill it. (Don't get bleach on the bristles!)

I'm not so concerned this will ruin the brush, even though it could, as I'm concerned I could contaminate my paper and paints. I'd had to find mold growing in a sketchbook sometime down the road!

Check your brushes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stillman and Birn Sketchbook Review

Stillman & Birn Sketchbooks
Beta Series on the left;
Alpha Series on the right
Click to enlarge any and all photos
There has been a lot of discussion about the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks on several blogs and FB groups that I play with, so I decided to order a couple and see what they were like.

I purchased a 7 x 7 inch (17.8 x 17.8 cm) Beta Series with extra heavy weight paper and a rough surface as well as a 6 x 8 inch (15.2 x 20.3 cm) Alpha Series with heavy weight paper. Both papers are Natural White in color. When compared to Arches, Winsor and Newton, Fabriano and Strathmore, the paper was very close in color to these watercolor papers with some being a little lighter and one being a bit darker.

The paper in both books is alpha cellulose which is a wood pulp that has been processed to remove lignin and other impurities. It is consider to be a very strong paper that is acid and chloride free.

Beta Series
Beta Series
Daisies Test Page
My first test page in the Beta Sketchbook was a sketch of some daisies. The sketch was done with Copic marker and I had no trouble with the pen skipping. The paper surface is very much like you would expect from Arches cold press watercolor paper with slightly less tooth.

Things to note: while you can lift (see daisy shapes in the background) it is nearly impossible to go back to white. If you do, the paper surface is damaged and it becomes difficult to paint over the area without it being obvious.

I found priming the paper with water was necessary to get a good flow to the paint rather than painting a straight wash. The paper tends to grab the paint quickly making it difficult to get a smooth was without hard lines or edges.
Please forgive the crooked scan
Private journaling has been blocked
at the top of the page
The paper is 180 lb. weight so there was no bleed through to the daisy page. Even with the heavy application of paint and water, the paper still dried flat with minimum buckling. The food collection is the backside of the daisy page. I found no noticeable difference in the surface of the paper after the earlier saturation of the front page.

I also did an eraser test on another page to see how easily the paper erased and whether the paper surface changed. I noted no damage from the erasing and the pencil lifted easily.

Alpha Series
Alpha Series
Daisy Test Page
To keep my testing fair, I decided to use the daisies again. This paper has far less tooth and texture than the first. The weight of this paper is 100 lb. and the buckling was much more pronounced (as would be expected of a lighter weight) when I created the background wash. There is little room for correction and even less lifting ability on this paper. I used the same Copic marker to draw the daisies.
Backside of the daisies page
Note the buckling
When I started to draw on the backside of the daisies, I immediately noticed the paper surface had been altered by the heavy background wash. The ink feathered and the buckling was so pronounced that I finally dug out my binder clip to hold the page flat. 
Notice the binder clip on
the left of the book
The "Let Go and Grow" page is a mixed medium page of watercolor, marker, ink and a touch of colored pencil. There was bleed through to the front daisy page, however the scans do not show it well. It wasn't bad, but there was definitely bleed through. I also noticed that when I used pencil and then erased, it left an impression on the page, sometimes making it difficult to lift the graphite. The surface did not seem altered by the erasing.

Final Evaluation: If you use a lot of markers, heavy ink or moderate watercolor, your best bet is to opt for the heavier paper in the Beta Series. If you are looking to do very light washes, pencil work, colored or graphite, I think you'll be fine using the Alpha series. Writing on this paper (when not altered by heavy washes) was a dream no matter which pen I used. 

The paper in both books has a nice feel to it and performs well. I think I'll enjoy using both books, however, I don't see myself purchasing more when these are filled. 

Please note: The paper in each series is the same whether the book is hardbound or wire-bound. The Beta Series with the heavier paper is only available in the wire-bound form. To keep my unscientific tests as similar as possible, I opted for two wire-bound books. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Interrupt Our Normal Program....

Food Sculpture
Chris Ferlita
Click to enlarge
We had a family celebration last night, and of course, there's always lots of hugs, laughter and mischief going on. Chris contributed one of his (in)famous food sculptures. This is made of lemon, zucchini, tomatoes and rib bones.

Don't you want to come and join us for our next dinner?

Oddly enough, the waiters and waitress always seem to remember us.


Our normal programming will return tomorrow......

Sunday, September 18, 2011

There's A Chill In The Air!!


Well, actually, I think maybe the humidity has just dropped as the high for today is suppose to reach 92º! Still, you can see and feel the just really have to be paying attention. Some of you though, have really begun to feel the chill and see the changes.

And all this means it's time to start preparing for An Imaginary Visit to Autumn's Garden! This class is scheduled to begin on November 18th and run through December 16th. There will be one assignment each week.

For more information and to register for the class, please click here. If you're interested in registering, I suggest you not wait as this is one of the really popular classes over at Imaginary Trips!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sam's Got A Brand New Bag!

Front Detail
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Inside Front
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Outside Front
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Pockets Galore!
Click to enlarge 
More Inside Pockets
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Outside Pocket Detail
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Bag Back
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Sam's been a busy gal! We just finished this art bag up last weekend. It's colorful, fun and functions super well—just what the muse wanted (almost)! For new subscriber's to the blog, Sam is my muse. She makes periodic appearances on the blog. Usually when she's gotten me into a mess of trouble!

The overall size of the bag is 10 inches tall and 9 inches wide by 2.5 inches deep. Style-wise it's called a vertical messenger bag. It has a padded pocket so I can easily carry an iPad tablet as well as a 10" x 7" sketchbook with room left over for supplies, keys, iPhone and the like.

The back pocket is handy for an umbrella, maps, and souvenirs. The strap is adjustable so that the bag can be worn cross-body as well as over the shoulder.

And while this bag is close, it's not yet quite right and so the muse has been playing in her fabric stash, putting together some new ideas for a fall colored bag with a few modifications on to this one.

The girl just doesn't know when to quit!!