Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Christmas Card Tutorial From ImaginaryTrips.com!!

Back in 2011, I did a "Christmas In July" eClass in the hopes that I'd be ready for the holidays before December 23rd…it didn't work. All I can say is that I had my cards ready!

I've decided to share how I painted a cat face for my Christmas card from that class as a thank you to the many wonderful artists that have passed through ImaginaryTrips.com as well as for those of you who may wonder about the class set up and what's included in a trip.

Below is the video demonstration and pdf handout from the class. Obviously, we don't have a private class blog to post our work to, but I think this gives you an idea of what the classes are like.

This could be used any time you wanted to paint a cat face (rather than just during the holidays) and there are ideas at the end of the video on how to make this even more Christmasy.

I hope you will find time during this crazy-busy time of year to add or keep some art in your life. I know for me, art helps to ground me when things get absolutely nutty.

Please enjoy and let me know what you think!

Merry Christmas!

The assignment can be found here. 

*Below, are a few technical details that might not have been covered in the video:

  • I am working on Arches 140 lb. CP paper torn down to 5.5 x 7.5 inches. 
  • The ImaginaryTrips.com supply list can be found here though you do not have to use my palette to create this type of image. 
  • Uniball Signo white pens still remain the best on the market two years later! Google the name to find a supplier. 
  • The tracing paper is generic in brand and any will do. 
  • You can click on the four arrow icon at the bottom of the video, on the right, to enlarge the video to a full screen.
  • The type was added after the image was scanned.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Two Kittens and A Naked Tree

Two Kittens and A Naked Tree
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Journal
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Most of you who read the blog now know that Chris and I have been acquired by two kittens and it has had a definite impact on our lives.

One of things we wondered about was how the kittens and a Christmas tree would get along together.

This past Sunday, we put the tree up, sans ornaments, for a trial run.

As we pulled the various parts out of the box, the kittens came to investigate. Before long Moby was running around jumping in and out of the boxes, attacking anything that moved, nibbling on "branches" and in general, getting under foot and in the way.

Willis was a little more reserved and sat back to observe before deciding it was okay to launch herself into the boxes and give everything the "sniff test of approval."

But Willis couldn't outdone by that young upstart (Moby) and quickly decided she needed to be in the thick of things as well.

This, of course, lead to much chasing and smacking and attacking—in short, they had a blast.

And in case you're wondering about Joey, he was all the way on the other side of the room, tucked up safe and sound in his bed away from the bedlam.

The tree stood unmolested for just over 24 hours before we watched Willis climb up into the tree.

Willis in the tree

We had hoped. (Yes, we were in denial.)

This left a frustrated Moby on the ground going into attack mode. She'd swipe at any part of Willis she could reach and it became quite the game of seek and attack.

With Moby on the attack, Willis climbed higher to get out of her reach. So far, she's reach the middle of the tree, about three feet from the ground.

And that really frustrated Moby!

What's a kitten to do but figure out how to get her furry behind up in the tree?

Moby hanging out in the tree
And so she did.

More sighing.

Before the night was over, I watched Moby run around the end of the love seat and straight at the tree (another six or seven feet) before she launched into the bottom of the tree without ever breaking stride or slowing down. Just like there was nothing to it…


In a little over 48 hours of the tree going up, we went to two kittens in a tree!

Updated Page and Tree
I decided to update the page to reflect the triumph of both kittens and to add the tail at the bottom of the page. 

I used a piece of scrap paper to create the sign and then glued it down. I used a white Uniball Signo pen to add the lettering and "string" to hold the sign on the tree. 

What I don't think we'll be changing is the "naked" part. 

I just don't see the tree being decorated this year. 

All those swing babbles…

I can just see disaster looming...

Yeah…not happening!

And Happy 21st Anniversary to my honey!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Evolution of a Sketch Into A Blog Header

Raw Ideas Scribbled in my Junk Journal
I like to change out the blog header during the holidays and this year is no different. For whatever reason, I seem to have snowmen on the brain and that's where I started looking for ideas for this year's header.

I grabbed my junk journal* with black pen** and started sketching lots of faces, hats and scarves in an attempt to capture what I could see in my head. This last page shows where I switched to pencil as I felt I was getting close to what I wanted.

*A Junk Journal in a journal of inexpensive paper that doesn't hold up to washes or even heavy marker work. The reason for this is so that I can play in complete safety and explore ideas without worrying that I'm going to "ruin" good paper.

**I use pen so that I can just put ideas down and not get caught up in refining the sketch too early. This is a brainstorming session. The refining will come later.

As I looked at the long scarf, I realized it wasn't a long hat I was looking for but a scarf!
Refined Sketch, Junk Journal
You can't tell from looking at the sketch, but there was lots of erasing and redrawing until I came up with what I was looking for.

Rather than work out my color scheme in the junk journal, I scanned the page and worked it out on a page I printed off. This allows me more flexibility if I ever decide to use this particular sketch again.

I then redrew the sketch on a piece of watercolor paper and got busy with my brush…and totally forgot to take photos! Oops!
Lefty the Snowman
I had a near disaster at the very beginning of the painting process: I used a salt that did not absorb the color I used in the background! I've never had this to happen in all the years I've used salt. Instead of robbing color, the pigment settled in around the granules creating dark spots.
Righty the Snowman
Since I really didn't want to start over, I decided to add snow with acrylic paint at the very end of the process. All of the "snow" collecting on the hats and floating around is from a white acrylic Sharpie® Poster Paint marker. Sadly, I don't believe this marker is made any longer.
The heart represents the love we're all entwined in and the tangles we often experience during the holidays (well, really it's all year long, but it seems to amplify during the holidays).

Since I came up with a number of ideas on the other brainstorming pages in my junk journal, I'm hoping to create more than one header this year. We'll see if I can scrape together the time!

I strongly encourage folks in the ImaginaryTrip.com classes to get a junk journal because they're awesome for playing, exploring new ideas and on occasion, failing without having it show up in a regular journal. When we have no fear of failing, we are far more likely to play.

Using a pen keeps us from getting mired down in the need to "make it perfect" when we're exploring ideas.

With the new header up, I can now say my holidays have officially started!

How about you? What starts your holidays?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Slowing Down...

Pieces of Autumn
Watercolor in Handmade Journal
7 x 7 inches
Pausing just a few minutes as we get ready for Thanksgiving (here in America) to post an old sketchbook page that shows some of my very favorite "pieces of Autumn."

I've been sharing over on Facebook some of the things I am most grateful for and I'm posting just a quick list that is by no means exhaustive but is from the heart:

My sweet husband
The (nearly) 21 years we've been married
Our home
The loving, furry critters that make our house a home
The love that fills our days
Food, heating, cooling and roofs that don't leak
Family close by
Friends, scattered near and far
Cars that run
Gas to make them go
The wind singing in the trees
Colorful leaves
Time to sketch and paint
Work that feeds me on so many, many levels
For all the wonderful artists that have passed through the ImaginaryTrips.com eclasses

And you, dear readers! Thanks for stopping by to see what's up, to share your thoughts, encouragement and inspiration.

Whether you're sitting down to a big meal with family to observe the holiday or just going out your daily round, I wish you happiness, love, and joy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Oh No! Another One!?!

Moby Cat
I would love to tell you that I haven't lost my mind, but at this point…I'm not so sure.

I would love to tell you that Chris has lost his either, but again, there is evidence to the contrary...
"You work too much! Pay attention to ME!"
The darling creature you see above is Moby Cat, the latest new Ferlita family member. She is a 3-month-old Maine Coon. She's smart, she's intrepid and she is already leading Willis (our other new baby) around.
"I'm soooo tired. That runt is just too much trouble."
Willis follows the kitten around from the time they get up until the time they crash (literally) and pass out. After much hissing and growling, it seems Willis has decided the new interloper is probably here to stay and it's her job to keep an eye on the insolent child. It's an exhausting job as you can see.

Joey, our oldest cat, was unavailable for this photo shoot as he has taken to permanently hiding out under either the bed or the treadmill. Again, much growling can be heard as he and Moby haven't had a chance to interact much yet. Kind of hard to do when you've wedged yourself into a space only a mouse would normally fit in.
"I said YOU are NOT paying ME enough attention!
I'm much cuter than this dumb old box!"
Meanwhile, Moby and I are trying to come to amicable terms with regard to computer use. She likes it because it's warm and I have to pay attention to her. She doesn't seem too much into the negotiations. Her attitude is more along the lines of "my way or the highway."

Despite the upheaval, she's love personified. Touch her and she purrs and butts her little head up into your hand. She's gentle…she's been in the house for over a week and she hasn't scratched me yet.
"Wow, you throw away the coolest things, human!"
Moby is also a climber, explorer and adventuress. Above, she's checking out the trash can under my desk in the studio.

Which brings me to my latest thought…isn't Christmas gonna be a blast this year with not one, but TWO tiny terrors!?!


If you're wondering what cataclysmic events transpired that we would have not one, but TWO small (and adorable) creatures joining our lives, I'll tell you that it was simply a conversation with a friend.

Kathy, over at Catching Happiness,  decided it was time for some furry love in her life. She didn't have anyone going with her as she looked for her new companion so I volunteered. My sweet husband decided to go along to "keep me from bringing home any more 'damn' cats!" (Tactical error there, my dear husband!)

Here are the happy humans holding their new charges:
Don't they look happy!?!
 And now, all I can say is, "let the adventures begin!"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Middle-Aged Excitement?

Fridge Shopping
Stillman & Brin Bound
Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
ink drawing
We need a new fridge.

We've been looking for a while now, but have yet to agree on a model.

On Friday, instead of going to an outdoor antique market, in the rain, we opted to do our shopping indoors.

And we found a fridge!


Finally, a model we could both agree on.

It is a Samsung with the freezer on the bottom, but in this model instead of a big drawer in the freezer area, it has lots of small drawers similar to what you get on top.

And the doors are split on the bottom as well.



It's too big.

It's an inch too tall and an inch to deep to go into the space in our kitchen.

Now we have to decide whether to wait to see if Samsung comes out with a smaller model or go with something else.


The sketch above was done from memory and then details added from a photo I took with my cell phone. The verbiage was suppose to be much, much different.

Rather than write down the info on products/appliances we're interested in, I just take a photo with my phone for later. The solutions signage was actually in the store and struck me as humorous when I looked at the photo because we were so sure we had found our fridge.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And the WINNERS are...

In last week's post, I put up a sketch of a witch in honor of Halloween and invited everyone to submit their interpretation of the art. I had two wonderfully fun submissions!

The first witch I received was from Timaree Cheney from Freebird Drawing! I love the bright happy background and the way she created the Halloween title along the side.

The second witch came from Claire McFeely of Claire's Sketchbook! Notice how intense the art is with that vibrant orange background and the darker skin tones. 

I love how each piece of work has such a different feeling to it. 

You have both won a Stillman and Birn sketchbook! I will be in touch with all the details. 

Thanks for playing—I loved seeing what you created!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sweet Treat Or Wicked Trick!?! A GIVEAWAY!

Download the witch file below!
Several years ago I bought a Halloween banner to adorn the outside of my office wall when I was part of the cubicle nation. I felt pretty witchy in those dark days and it suited my mood to a "T!"

I've always admired the work of the art. When I pulled it out of my trick or treat box a few weeks ago and hung it up, I found myself thinking about creating a witch of my own. (Incidentally, mine looks nothing like the original—as usual, I went for the details!)

Sitting down with my Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook, this is what appeared. I googled images of old women and old hands and went to work with a pencil. I used eyes from one woman, a nose from another and the mouth from yet another. I later "inked" it with a Pentel black pigmented ink Color Brush.

Scanning the witch, I decided to offer it to you in two ways

First, you can download the file for your own personal use. Please, no commercial use and no selling the art. The original is here. Please right click to save image to your desktop.

Second, if you print out the art and add color, collage it into other work or use it in some new way, then scan or photo your artwork and send it to me via the email box in the side bar, you'll be entered into
Another GIVEAWAY!! 
(There's a clue up above as to the prize!) 

I will post all images I receive on the blog on Tuesday, November 5th. Please have the art to me no later than midnight EST, Monday, November 4th. I will reveal the giveaway "treat" and the winner* in the post. Please email me the art via the email box on the sidebar.

The original size of the artwork is approximately 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

*Prize will be awarded based on a random draw and not on the artwork. Regardless of number of pieces of art submitted by the artist, the artist's name will only be submitted once for the drawing of a sweet treat.

Wishing everyone a safe and 
Happy Hallow's Eve!

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Quick Sketch of Willis

Willis in the sunshine
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5
Pentel color brush and watercolor
We have a window seat for the cats in the front window of our living room and Willis, our new kitten, likes to climb up there in the late afternoon for a warm, sunny snooze.

Good time for a sketch of her, right?

Only if I'm super quick!

I sketched the line drawing with a Pentel EnerGel pen. This a relatively new pen on the market and is advertised as being unlikely to smear because the ink dries quickly. And it does. The pen tip is an 07 in size and what I like about is that it bleeds giving me lots of fun gray wash effects, but leaves a strong line even after the ink is hit with water.

However, I knew I was going to need a much stronger, larger black pen or paint to capture Willis' likeness quickly. I've been looking for ann opportunity to start sketching with the Pentel Color Brush and this seemed a great time.

I focused on the getting the kitten drawn first because I knew she wasn't going to stay in that position for long. (Animals never stay in the same position for long. They have some kind of radar that lets them know when someone is watching them!)

Before I finished with her entire body, she'd curled up onto her side and gone to sleep. It worked out because I didn't get a chance to get caught up in the details.

I then went back and added the shelf with the fuzzy cover, window details and a few branches from the outside to add a bit of depth to the image.

About the Pentel Color Brush:
The Pentel Color Brush has been around for a while, but I'm just now getting around to mess with it. The ink is not waterproof, giving ample opportunity to create fun washes and effects. It was like a very pigment rich watercolor and played well with the other watercolor I added to the sketch. I put a touch of red to her ears where the sun was lighting up the thinner skin areas.

It was a fun, quick way to get down a sketch of a kitten that is never, ever still.

It was fun to cover a lot of area quickly and created a neat monochromatic effect.

I haven't done any lightfastness tests on either product and so I can't recommend them at this time, but if longevity of your artwork is not of major importance to you in your sketchbooks, I would recommend giving either of these pens a whirl, especially if you like black and white sketching!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How About A Fall Getaway to Greece!

As I'm getting ready for an Imaginary Trip To Greece starting next Tuesday, October 15th, I thought I'd share some of the cool, fun facts about this country. In no particular order:

  1. Greece is about the size of the state of Alabama with approximately 10 million people living there.
  2. Over 16 million people visit the country each year! Tourism is 16% of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
  3. The country has more than 2000 islands with 170 populated. Crete is the largest and beyond gorgeous!
  4. Greece is the world's third largest producer of olives...can you guess the first and second?
  5. When we think of Greece, many of think of the doors, windowsills, and church domes that are painted a beautiful turquoise blue. This paint color is used because of an ancient belief that this shade of blue keeps evil away. The color is called kyanos. “Cyan” and “cyanide” are derived from the word.
  6. The legendary home of Zeus and other Olympian gods and goddesses is Greek’s highest elevation, Mount Olympus at 9,750 feet (2,917 meters). The country's lowest elevation is the Mediterranean Sea.
  7. The Parthenon (from parthenos or “virgin”) was built almost 2,500 years ago and sits on the Acropolis above the city of Athens. It took 15 years to build. At one time, it featured colorful sculptures and a large gold-and-ivory statue of Athena. 
I hope you'll join me on this fall getaway and visit this beautiful country! To learn more, please visit here

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Unorthodox Cat Toys

Cat Toy Masquerading As A Pillow
Ink with Watercolor
Stillman and Birn Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Autumn has already arrived at our house despite temperatures in the mid-90's. (To that end, I've recently bought a few pillows, a wreath and some other things to help usher in the season in the hopes of convincing myself it really isn't 107ยบ! [It's not. It just feels like it.])

So imagine my surprise, annoyance, aggravation, frustration, disappointment when the kitten decided the new pillows made GREAT play toys.


Willis has a blast attacking the wonderful, big balls of soft cushiness. The material is a soft suede and feels good to the touch. However, they're also great to hide things under and then hunt before pouncing on them for the kill. In fact, the pillows spend about as much time on the floor as they do on the furniture.

Since it is doubtful they'll be in great condition by the time fall is over, I figured I'd better commemorate them in my sketchbook so that I could remember them before they're torn to shreds.

About the Sketch:
Because I wanted the pillow to stand out and I was short on time, I chose to paint only the pillow. By adding color in one area only, I can direct the eye to the my Center of Interest (COI).

This works well when you have a sketch that has an area that has a mistake in it or didn't turn out so hot. You may or may not notice that I fudged the lamp shade as well as the line running across the bottom of the couch.

I attempted to fix the line on the couch only to draw it in crooked again.

Still, chances are good you may not have noticed had I not pointed out the mistakes.

That's the cool thing about art—we get to use all kinds of tools and methods to hide the flaws...we just have to know how!

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's Been A Buggy Week!

You may think I'm jesting. Let me assure you that I am not...

One evening this past week, Chris and I were headed out of our neighborhood and were stopped waiting to merge into traffic on a busy street. I glanced out the window to see this Pipevine Swallowtail* sitting in the road. *Mine doesn't look like any of the photos on Wikipedia, but does look like my photo reference in my butterfly identification book. I think there is a possibility this is a female. 

Watercolor of a
Pipevine Swallowtail
Stillman & Birn Beta Bound Journal
5.5 x 8.5 inches 
 Her wings were moving, but he wasn't lifting off. I opened the door and stepped over near her and she still didn't lift off so I carefully coaxed her onto my finger.  Once I was back in the jeep, I handed her off to Chris how placed her on the floorboard.  
Detail of watercolor of a
Pipevine Swallowtail
Stillman & Birn Beta Bound Journal
5.5 x 8.5 inches

My hope was that she was merely stunned, but in short order, it became obvious that her wing had been damaged and she was no longer able to fly. Butterflies typically have a very short lifespan anyway, and with no way to fly as well as the possibility of internal injuries, there wasn't much chance of her surviving.

Nature's unfortunate loss was my gain as it gave me the opportunity to examine this winged jewel up close and at my leisure. She's now making her home in my bug collection. In addition to this beauty, I was also gifted with a Rhino Beetle and a Cicada.

The cicada was found by my 11-year-old nephew. He gave it to my father with instructions to give it me. My whole family "gifts" me with bugs! How cool is that?!

Now I just need to make the time to sketch them all. Could someone "gift" me some time to go with all these bugs?!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life Interruptions

Willis' Ouch!
Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook
They say life is what's happening while you're making other plans. I wasn't aware of making other plans, but life was and is happening.

As it turns out, we've had two family members in the hospital and a sick kitten in and amongst other (not so) fun happenings since my last post.

About a week and a half after Willis came to live with us, she developed a nasty upper respiratory infection and had to go on 10 days worth of antibiotics. The Compounding Shop made them tuna flavored and she thought that was fabulous! She's finally over that nonsense.
Close Up
Last week, the minx managed to hurt herself by damaging her growth plate at the end of her ulna bone on her right hind leg. (That's her ankle if you had no idea what or where the ulna bone is—I had to look it up too!)

Took her to the vet's for sedation and x-rays…they put a split on her and said, "She hasn't messed with it here. We think she'll be fine. Just keep it on her as long as you can."

Yeah, right.
Close Up
Two hours, fifteen minutes and that bad boy was off!

She did not take kindly to the splint pulling the fur on her leg. Getting madder by the minute, she started to bite and growl at it until she pulled it off. Distraction techniques, scolding and food failed at taking her mind off from the situation.

We've been keeping her confined and giving her pain medicine to take the edge off.

Willis goes back to the vet in another two weeks for a follow-up. Hopefully, she'll be on the mind by then.

Meanwhile the two family members have improved and both are now out of the hospital.

Life has a way of moving us forward. Without a journal page, I know I would remember Willis getting hurt and her boo-boo, but I doubt if I'd remember the details because there was so many other situations going on at the same time.

By putting this in my journal, I'll alway remember her hot pink splint and the fact that the little varmint managed to pull the thing off in just a few hours.

Do you journal about your daily life or just when you travel? I'd like to know!

How about sharing the details of what you put in your journals with me?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We've Been Acquired or Life Lessons From A Kitten

Last Saturday, Chris and I found ourselves in the possession of a bow-legged, bat-eared, talon-toed kitten.

Make no mistake as to who was in control of this situation.

Her name is Willis. Mostly. She's also been called Skunk Monkey, Demon, Dammit, and NinjaPuss.
Willis Ferlita
And before you ask, no her name has nothing to do with the TV sit-com from the 80's, but it does have significance to us.

Can you hear that laughter? That's the Universe ROFLIAO. You see, we weren't ready for a new kitten. Or a puppy. We weren't even sure we were going to get another one at all.

Yeah, well, put one lost, hungry and lonely kitten in my parents' garage on the day I have to go over there and poof! We now have a kitten in the house.
Playing with an oversized pipe cleaner
The lessons we've observed so far...

She knows what she wants and she goes and gets it. There is no try. There is do or do not. Or, in her case, attack or do not. Either way, she gets what she wants and she's not afraid to get vocal about it either.

She is nearly fearless and quite fierce. Anything and everything is fair game for those needle-sharp claws. So far she's stood up to the ceiling fan, my coffee mug, and demons only she can see.

She'll try anything once, including jumping up on things (like human legs) best not jumped up on, jumping off things that are a bit too high (tables) to be jumped from, and climbing up things not meant to be climbed (curtains). If she fails, she either tries again or goes and finds something else to do. She doesn't obsess or freak out.

She is respectful. When the older cat came into the room, she sits still and watches him. When he only had hisses and growls for her, she ignored him and went about playing like a maniac. Totally ignored him and his unhappy vibe. She didn't get hung up with his bad attitude nor did she waste any time wondering why he didn't like her.

She plays hard. Then she sleeps. So far she has two speeds—attack and sleep. She lives to eat, sleep, poop and most importantly, have fun and play. We've laughed more in the last 72 hours than we have in the last six months.
Look at those eyes. She's a wild child.
As for the older cat in the house...

Joey staged a hunger strike under the bed for the first 24 hours. When that proved unsuccessful in removing the intruder, he attempted extreme affection and cuteness in the hopes he would prove this new trespasser was completely unnecessary.

I suspect he fears the kitten armageddon that is sure to come as soon as we turn her loose on him. Poor Joey...he may not leave the comfort of his hiding place under our bed from several weeks.

Meanwhile, I think I'm going to see if I can't adopt her approach to life...play hard and often, be fierce, be fearless, try new things with abandon and ignore anyone who doesn't want to play with me!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bears and A Blues Jam (Guest Artist)

Elk Carcass Blues Jam
© Chris Ferlita
Colored Pencil and Ink
Stillman & Birn Alpha Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches 
(If you missed the first post, you might want to read it here before continuing.)

"I don't remember saying that," says my husband after he seeing the last Alaska post. "It sounds like something I could have said though."

"Seriously? Guess I must have just made that up," was my slightly sarcastic response.

"I remember you asking what I think of when I think of Alaska. You were trying to come up with something for the cover," he says, as if clarifying.

"I asked you what your strongest impressions from trip were."

"That was twenty years ago, I don't really remember the details of the trip," he responds.

"Yeah. Got that. That would explain why you thought you saw a bear eating an elk carcass. Because I'm pretty sure we didn't even see any elk in Alaska. We had to go to Tennessee for that," came my reply.

Again, he disappeared.

A little while later, I see him in his studio, bent over his table, smiling...

He's up to something.

I step closer to see what he's working on.

It's a bear jamboree.

Sort of.

He looks at me and says, "I know it's not real."

"Oh? And what was your first clue?" I inquire.

"Bears don't wear sunglasses."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

For The Greater Good...

Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birn Beta Bound Sketchbook
11 x 8.5 inches
Back in May, I went off for an evening of music and entertainment with some friends and to support a very worthy cause. We went to see Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band in downtown Tampa. They were playing to raise money for retired Marine Sergeant Mike Nicholson. Mike lost 3 limbs back in July 2011 and the proceeds of the concert and auction were going towards building him a specially equipped home.

The evening was fairly cool (for Florida). There was a nice breeze and despite sitting right next to the river, the bugs (mosquitos) were not bad. The crowd was a mix of young and old with many, many military personnel, retired and enlisted, present in support of the cause.

It is not often that you see a Hollywood star step up to the plate as Gary Sinise has done. He has taken his role as Lt. Dan from the Forrest Gump movie and uses it as a way to help those who have given their all to keep the United States free.

The band travels around the world raising funds and awareness of the needs of the wounded vets through the Gary Sinise Foundation. I encourage you to take a look and consider helping out.

I would love to tell you that the image above was painted on location, but I would have to lie to do that and I cannot tell a lie...
This was what was accomplished on location. It was fun attempting to get down the elements that spoke most to our location. The stage, the minarets of the University of Tampa and the palm trees swaying in the breeze.

Because it took f...o...r...e...v...e...r at the food trucks (not their fault—they were slammed as there were only two), it was nearly dark by the time I finished the sketch. Rather than attempt to paint in the dark, I  opted to wait until I was home.

When I finally got around to looking at my photos, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. They  didn't come close to show the light, the colors, the emotions swirling around in the air that evening.

Taking considerable creative license with the photo, I painted the colors I saw that night rather than worry about reality. Reality is overrated anyway. You'll note I moved the minarets and made them larger. I removed a lot of folks in the foreground and I deleted the guys running the lights and camera on top of the platform on the left. And probably most noticeable were the colors I added that do not show in the image.

I would like to call out a special thanks to Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band as well as to our Armed Forces for all that you do.

Each day. Every day.

For the greater good.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Birthdays and Bears (Guest Artist)

Suggested Alaskan Sketchbook Cover Idea
© Chris Ferlita
Colored Pencil and Ink
Printer Paper
During the Imaginary Visit to A Past Vacation class, I asked my husband what his strongest impression of Alaska was as this was the vacation I used to create the class demos.

He replied it was a bear eating an elk carcass.

Pausing, I turned to stare at him and said, "But we didn't see any bears eating an elk carcass. In fact, I don't think we saw any elk at all."

He shrugged and said, "We saw bears. They have to eat, right?"

"Yes, but I'm trying to come up with the cover of our sketchbook for the trip. You think a bear eating an elk carcass is appropriate?"

"You asked me what I remembered. You asked me what my strongest memories of Alaska are. There you go," he finished and off he went.

He was apparently in an alternate universe on our trip because his Alaska memories and my Alaska memories are definitely not the same, but I digress...

Now I gotta tell you, I wasn't about to put a bear eating an elk carcass on the front of the sketchbook.

Wasn't happening.

Chris stopped by my studio a little while later to see what I had come up with. Looking over my shoulder, he asked me for the dimensions of the sketchbook and then disappeared.

(You know what they say about when it gets too quiet you should be worried? Yeah well...)

What was interesting, is that he asked for none of our photos. No information whatsoever. In a little over two hours, he was back with a sketch in hand.

The image above was Chris' take on what the front cover of the sketchbook should look like!

I don't know of too many other pieces of art that express my husband's sense of humor quite so well. It also displays his belief that life should be fun, and if it's not, he'll either make it fun or he just won't play. He has a knack for finding the funny in nearly any situation and making us laugh.

Today also happens to be Chris' birthday and this is my shout out to the a very funny guy that keeps me laughing. (Most of the time.)

Happy, happy, happy birthday, Chris!
Doesn't he look happy?!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Classes at ImaginaryTrips.com!

Tuscan Gold
7.5 x 5.5 inches on Arches Cold Press 140 lb. paper

It's summertime and the travel is easy—just take an Imaginary Trip to a wonderful location and never leave home! No packing, no fatigue, no hassles with luggage or security lines.

Come take a look!

Imaginary Trip to Italy 2012 - Six weeks to visit the wonderful country of Italy. This class starts tomorrow, so hurry! More information can be seen here.

Imaginary Trip to Australia - This ALL NEW class starts this Thursday, July 11th. We'll take six weeks to travel around "down under!" You can sign up for the class here.

Imaginary Trip to New Zealand - Another ALL NEW class, we'll be headed to this fabulous country starting August 29th. Come and join the fun here.

Imaginary Trip to New Orleans - This city ROCKS! Come and join the fun starting September 3rd. For more information, click here.

I hope you'll join me on one of these fun adventures. The classes are very flexible and allow you to work on the assignments at your leisure so you can still get in plenty of playtime outside.

As always, we laugh, we learn and we come home with a great sketchbook full of the places we've seen, the things we've done and the experiences we've shared.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This Just In: Husbands Are Funny Creatures

Double blue peanut M&M candy
Stillman & Birn Beta Journal
Yes, husbands are funny (odd) creatures.

This may not be a newsflash to you.

Actually, it isn't one for me either and before I get a bunch of "hate mail" just let me go ahead and acknowledge that the same could be said of wives.

Why do I feel compelled to share this non-newsflash with you?


The other evening my husband walked in and placed this double, blue peanut M&M candy on my desk and said "I heart you."
Click to enlarge (it's easier to see)
Full page, watercolor in
Stillman and Birn Beta Journal
Wasn't that sweet?

We all get busy—too busy—in life and forget that it only takes a minute to remember someone in such a way that makes them feel special.

Chris knows I love peanut M&Ms.

He knows that I love unusual heart-shapes.

And look at that…he remembered me during his day and then gave me the reminder that let me know that he was thinking about me when I wasn't around.

It's the little things that count.

Because little things get lost in the day-to-day of daily life, I created a journal page.

And then I ate the candy!

Has your honey-bunny, baby cakes done anything (big or small) for you lately?!

Wishing everyone in the US a fabulous, safe, patriotic Fourth of July!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Extraordinarily Ordinary OR "I can't find anything to paint"

© Sangria Cork by Laure Ferlita
Watercolor and Ink (Title)
5.5 x 8.5 Stillman and Birn
Beta Sketchbook
I have recently discovered a "Sparkling Sangria" on the market. I didn't go looking for it, so for all I know, there may be dozens, but for me this was a fun discovery. When I purchased the bottle, I fully expected the cap to be the screw-on type.

I was delighted to find out that not only did the bottle have a cork, it also had one of those "little-wirey-cage-thingies" so the cork wouldn't go flying until it was suppose to. It also made a big "pop!" when I opened the bottle—kind of like champagne but without the "ouch" in the wallet.

I left the cork and little-wirey-cage-thingie on the counter for several days because I just knew I was going to have to put it in my sketchbook. Which brings me to the point of this post...

No matter where you are, no matter how skilled, talented, creative you are, there is always something to sketch and paint!

It always amazes me when I hear another artist say "I can't find anything to paint" or "Nothing appeals to me. I can't find anything I want to sketch."



Okay, okay, okay. Enough of you have mentioned struggling with this that I'll take it seriously for as long as I can stand it.

First off, let's ask some questions.

  • It's a sketch in your sketchbook, right? We're not talking about something we're going to put on display, in a museum or a show, right? 
  • It's your sketchbook, right? You didn't borrow your brother's, your kid's or your Aunt Susie's sketchbook, right? If you did, put it back and get your own. Then meet me back here.
  • There's no test, right? Because if there is, I'm going home. (Kidding.)

If you answered, "Yes, Laure, it's just a sketch in my sketchbook and I'm not going to judged, tested, quizzed or otherwise measured," then there's plenty of stuff to sketch! Just look around!

We often get caught up thinking we have to "be inspired." While inspiration is nice, I find that I generate far more inspiration when I'm doing (taking action) rather than sitting on my duff thinking about what I could, might, maybe oughta be doing.

Sometimes, not being able to "find anything to paint" is code for "I'm intimidated to try because I don't draw/sketch/paint well." And how do we get better? Um, by doing the very thing we're not good at.

And let me say this...there are no shortcuts. You can read, you can buy art supplies, you can think about it, dream about it, talk about it till the cows come home, but until you start putting pen, pencil and/or brush to paper, you aren't going to get a bit better! (Sorry, that's just the way it is.)

Now, here's the bottom line...I have never NOT learned something (even if it's how not to do something) every single time I put pen, pencil or brush to paper. So, in the end, it doesn't really matter what I paint so long as I paint. If I'm painting, I'm learning. And so are you.

Once we're past the big obstacle of what to sketch and paint (oh, for goodness sake, go into the kitchen and grab a spice bottle if all else fails!), comes the opportunity to challenge ourselves. Maybe you want to get better at shapes, pick a vase, cup, bottle or anything else that strikes you as oddly shaped and get busy.

If you want to do shiny surfaces, pick something with a shiny surface, (a hair clip, a SOLO® cup, a ceramic vase, a tea cup, a pair of reading glasses) and go to it.

Don't make this harder than it has to be! And if at first you don't succeed, turn the page and try again!

Find something ordinary and turn it extraordinary. Now, get busy!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Near Perfect Spring Days, In May, In Florida...

...are about as rare as hen's teeth. We've had days and days of wet weather for the last week or more. We finally had a reprieve yesterday and was it ever fabulous! The temperature dropped and even better the humidity dropped to make it a fantastic day.

Breezy, cool and low humidity is a Floridian's idea of a perfect day. Chris and I decided to have lunch at one our favorite places to eat, a little Greek taverna so we could sit outside and enjoy the weather.

Huge cypress trees in big, big olive-style pots sit around the area as a privacy screen and wind break.
Acropolis Greek Taverna Cypress
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x  8.5 inches
The cypress in the sketch above sat close to the front door and made for the perfect opportunity to sketch as I love the mellow colors of the bricks behind it. I sketched a bird nest from the same place in this post.

Have you ever seen a green brick before that wasn't painted? Probably not. But if you look at the bricks above, I have a few. This is called embellishing, it's one of the "5 E's System" I teach in the Imaginary Trip classes to help artists learn to sketch on location.

Embellish means just that—to embellish what you see with colors that may not be there or may not be very obvious. Embellishing can be subtle or quite obvious depending on what the art calls for.

When we rely on photos for the majority of our sketching references, we sometimes forget that a camera is limited in the colors it can "see," versus what our eyes and more importantly, our imaginations, can see.

Try adding some "extra" pop to your work by embellishing with some unexpected color and see what you think. Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Painting Quickly - Why Would I Want To do That?

Wild Yard Birds, Ybor City
Stillman & Birn Beta Journal
11 x 8.5 inches, Full Spread
Watercolor and Ink
 I would love to tell you that I sketched these wily critters out in the wilds of Ybor City, a historic area just outside of downtown Tampa, but I didn't. I sketched and then painted them in my studio. First off, we were in a busy parking lot and second, it was lunchtime.
Detail, Wild Yard Birds, Ybor City
Stillman & Birn Beta Journal
11 x 8.5 inches, Full Spread
Watercolor and Ink
Sketching anything live is like hitting a moving target. Looks easy…until you try it. Besides, it was lunchtime. Instead, I gave myself a time limit of one hour.* Now you may wonder why I chose to sketch this so quickly…how about I share my reasons? (*And that one hour included drawing, painting and lettering).

The main reason I sketch quickly is because it guarantees that the sketch won't become too precious. (Insert Gollum's voice here.) You know what I'm talking about…things are going so good you become afraid of putting down the next mark for fear that will be the ruination of your sketch, your day and quite possibly your life.
Detail, Wild Yard Birds, Ybor City
Stillman & Birn Beta Journal
11 x 8.5 inches, Full Spread
Watercolor and Ink
Next, it's almost always guarantees I'll make mistakes. Why in the world would you want to make mistakes, Laure? Glad you asked. Because mistakes happen when we're out in the field. They happen when we're in the studio, too. Mistakes are going to happen, so why not go ahead and push the envelope? The sooner we get comfortable making mistakes and learning to either recover from them or move on, the happier we will be in our sketchbooks.

There's also a thing called time. Maybe you've heard of it? If I asked most of you to sketch something quickly, you would, but you would take as much time as you needed.

Now I ask you, how often do you have all the time you need? If your life is anything like mine the answer is seldom. So it pays to learn to sketch in an allotted amount of time rather than taking all the time we want.
Wild Yard Birds, Ybor City
Stillman & Birn Beta Journal
11 x 8.5 inches, Full Spread
Watercolor and Ink
Challenge yourself to paint something in an insane amount of time. If it would normally take you an hour, give yourself twenty minutes and see what you can get done in that timeframe. I can almost guarantee you'll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes, to be sloppy, to sling paint with abandon, to have fun, to play, to fail and to have lunch. Did I mention lunchtime? Make sure you get some lunch. Ybor City is one of our favorite places to go for lunch as there are a number of quirky restaurants.

You might also want to consider kicking your partner, fear, to the curb. I challenge you to ask yourself exactly what it is you are afraid of…failure? Not creating a pretty page? Not looking like what you think it should? Worried about what others think of you? 

Okay from the top—

Failure: we all fail. It's how we learn, folks. Embrace those mistakes! 

Not creating a pretty page: As the old saying goes you have to kiss a lot toads before you get a pretty one or something like that. If you do make an ugly page, so what? Turn the page and go again, but I bet you learned something valuable creating that ugly page!

Not looking like you think it should: If you ever get a piece of art, a sketch or anything else to look like what's in your mind's eye, count yourself blessed and keep on creating. It's as rare as hen's teeth so don't expect it to happen often. 

Worried about what others think of you: Oh, my, there's so many things I could say to this one, but let me keep it polite…if someone criticizes your work, hand them a pen, some paint and a piece of paper and ask them to show you how it's done. Then sit back and watch. They'll either back pedal and remember an appointment they have or they'll sit down and show you how it's done. Pay attention if they do. You might just learn something.