Friday, February 28, 2014

It's Not The Size That Matters

I've always heard size matters.

However, in the case of our studios, I'm not sure it does.

Above is a photo of my desk's current state. The greenish colored cutting mat is 3 feet by 2 feet and it's on top of a desk that is 5 feet by 3.5 feet…and yet, I work in an area that is maybe 14 inches by 10 inches!

The area where the glasses and pen rest are the only clean horizontal area on the desk! (Actually, in the whole studio, but that's a discussion for another day.)

What's odd (to me) is that this desk was "mostly" clean last weekend. I think.

I had a pile in the upper left corner, my palette on the lower right along with my journal.

What happened!?!

Looking at the image, you can begin to get an idea of what I've been "messing" around with this week.

I've been working on learning and practicing pointed-pen lettering, working in my journal with some different ideas that include stamps and various pieces of paper as well as a hodgepodge of stuff that has accumulated on the desk.

For whatever reason, the desk is the landing place for just about any and every item that finds its way into the studio.

I have to say it's getting a bit crowded.

My husband's off to play with his dad and uncle tomorrow and while he's otherwise occupied, I see a big clean up in the very near future!

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of clean up time (you'd never have guessed, right?), but one thing I do like is the discovery of things forgotten.

Those items that have been buried at the bottom of the pile that I had big plans for when they first landed on the table.

And with that mess, who knows what I might discover!

So what's on your desk? If I were to walk into your work area, could I tell what you've been working on lately?

If you have a photo of your desk, please share! I'd love to know that I'm not the only one who suffers from pile-itis!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sketching Foolishness

Okay, let me explain…
I wasn't sketching the woman. I was sketching her scarf. It was gorgeous with colors of blues, turquoise and aquas.
Unfortunately, the scarf happened to be worn by the woman and so I had to sketch her as well. Otherwise, the scarf would look like it was levitating on the page and since I didn't plan well, she didn't turn out so great.
She turned out like some kind of demonic mutant in my first attempt.

When I showed it to my husband, he had the audacity to laugh—can you believe that?!

I can. She's pretty funny looking.

By the way, in case you're wondering…it does not bother me that she turned out like a mutant or that she doesn't look a whole lot like herself in real life. You see, I don't know her from Adam's house cat. It's okay that she doesn't look like anyone I know.

Now, if I knew her…that would be a completely different kettle of fish!

After the sketch bomb on the left, I attempted to redeem myself by re-sketching her face to the right. This one turned out a little better and more proportional to her body.

The lady at the bottom was engrossed in her phone and had no idea anyone else was even in the café.
HINT: Folks who are playing with their phones make great sketching subjects! They seldom look up find you staring at them.

On Sunday, Chris and I went to one of our favorite Greek restaurants and sat out on the patio. The little English Sparrows were busy, busy, busy! The chirping was so loud at times it was a bit distracting.
I waited until we'd finished eating to get out my journal* and start sketching. I only had his** little face sketched when the birds disappeared. I'm can only guess it became too crowded for them. We sat for a little longer before I gave up and we went on about our day.

The odd thing about this is that even though I don't consider either of these pages to be anything to crow about, I really like them!

They were done in the flow of my day rather than a "special trip" just to sketch. My favorite sketches are almost always those that happen in the in-between moments of my day rather than those I create when I make a grand production of going out just to sketch.

How about you? Which are your favorites—the ones you plan out or those that happen organically?

*I've recently had some back issues so I switched to a smaller purse. This forced a change to a smaller journal as my usual Stillman & Birn Zeta would not fit in the smaller bag.

The journal seen above is a no-name watercolor journal from one of the big craft chains. It's 4.24 by 5.5 inches. It's okay, but not my favorite sketchbook by any means.

The palette is a converted lipstick sampler. I cleaned out the leftover makeup and painted the mirror and lid white before adding my paint. It works in a pinch when I want to add just a hint of color to the page.

**I say "his," but in reality this is a composite of several different birds.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Visiting A Past Vacation…And Other Classes

BRAND NEW Journal Cover For My Alaska Trip
taking 17 years ago
Way back in 1997, Chris and I, along with his family (8 of us if you count the nephew who was on the way) took off to Alaska for a week long visit. Upon our return, I had grand plans for all the cool things I was going to do with everything that I had seen on our visit.

This is as far as I got:
I created a journal for some of our panoramic photos with paper I could also draw, paint and write on.

Other than the front cover, it sat empty.


And it was mocking me.

It was mocking me for calling myself a sketchbook artist.

We also have a box of ephemera and collect bags, books, photos and a recipe or two from the trip that's been floating around our household since…you guessed it, 1997.

I finally decided to remedy the situation by creating a class that would "force" me to sit down and start creating a sketchbook worthy of our trip and to get that blasted box out of our house!

That's the background for "An Imaginary Visit To A Past Vacation."

The Bigger Story

It turns out this was one of the most fabulous classes I've hosted! The response was great and the artists that came to play had taken trips all around the world…and all of us were able to live vicariously through the pages and images posted by one another.

It was magical!

I've long believed we can't live long enough to see it all, do it all, make all the mistakes or create all the successes there are in this world and this class turned into a number of different adventures we all got to go on because of the sharing of sketches by these generous "travelers."

To see the world through another's eyes, to experience even a part of what they saw and were touched by made this class experience so much richer for all of us.

Come and Join The Fun

So I'm going to invite each of you to come and join in the fun as this class starts again on March 4th.

It doesn't take a trip to an exotic location or even out of your home country. One individual journaled her honeymoon in and around Crater Lake National Park (it made me want to visit!).

If you have a fabulous family vacation, a trip to the beach or Disney World that you'd like to journal about, consider joining us.

While I found it a bit embarrassing to be journaling about a trip I took 17 years ago, I can't begin to tell you how many old memories have resurfaced by talking about the trip, looking at photos and sharing what we remembered.

Again, the class is "An Imaginary Visit To A Past Vacation." Click here to come and join in the fun!

2014 Class Schedule

I have also posted a partial class schedule for 2014 and you can download it here. More classes will be added as we move through the year.

If you missed the latest i•Trav•e•logue Newsletter from please click here.

As always, I hope to see you in the Imaginary Realm very soon!

Oh, and that mocking journal? It's been silenced. I stuffed it with photos! However, the box has not yet been banished…more to come on that.

Do you have any trips you'd like to revisit? Where'd you go?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Get Yourself Some "Zeta" Love!!

I have recently filled my Stillman and Birn Bound Beta sketchbook and moved over into a new SB Zeta sketchbook…that I absolutely love!

I was warned that I may not like this particular paper as well because it is much smoother than traditional watercolor paper. It is similar to hot press but different. It's almost as if Stillman and Birn have managed to combine the properties of hot press (smoothness) with the responsiveness of cold press (absorbency). I gotta tell you, I love the smoother surface as it works well for pen AND it makes me think differently!

As I've mentioned in the last several posts, I've been working towards working looser. The page above is testament to how changing up our media can bring about changes in our style.

Moby is our youngest kitten and she became quite ill towards the end of January. She curled up into a ball on the couch and quit playing, interacting and basically slept 23 out of 24 hours. This is so not normal for a kitten and it scared us witless.

When the vet starts throwing words around like meningitis and spinal column injury or infection, you tend to freak out.

Two trips to the vet, two rounds of strong antibiotics, and a new, cutting-edge anti-inflammatory drug for cats later and we have a furry, purry, playful kitten again.

When I started the page, I knew I wanted to capture a quick image that showed Moby's stoic withdrawal from us. She felt so bad and it showed on her face even in sleep.

I had captured a moody picture of her with my camera a few days back before she became sick and the left part of her face was in deep shadow. When I went to sketch and paint this image, Moby climbed up into the big chair in my studio and basically sat in the same position as the photo. I was able to sketch from the live model while using the dramatic lighting from the image.

The Zeta paper is easy to paint, draw, and write on. I've found it to be very versatile and easy to use. Because it's different from my usual paper, it also challenges me to be in the moment rather than working "as usual."

I have to think about what I'm doing, how I'm laying down paint, how I'm engaging with the paper to create the image I seek.

The new header at the top of the blog is also painted on the Zeta paper and I'll have a number of other examples to share with you over the coming weeks.

So if you are looking to change up your style, let me suggest to you that you change your media. The Zeta sketchbooks are a great way to accomplish this!

I also want to comment on the overall Stillman and Birn experience. From the time I first started playing around in with the SB sketchbooks several years ago until today, I've been impressed with the overall consistency of the paper and the binding.

My books tumble around in my bag, get dropped, shipped, and drug through airports—without incident. The binding has never given way on me. The sizing on the paper is consistent and I know what I'm getting every time I pull the plastic off a new book. I can't say that about any other paper line I've ever worked with!

So do yourself a favor and get a Stillman and Birn sketchbook—you'll be glad you did!
Have you already purchased one? What was your experience?

Please Note: Painted Thoughts Blog, nor I, Laure Ferlita, are affiliated with Stillman and Birn.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Iced Rose—Maybe

Iced Rose
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Be honest…if I had not said this was an iced rose, could you have guessed?

Perhaps you would have said snow?

Either way, it's okay.

I wouldn't have guessed that was ice if I'd seen this out on the internet somewhere.

Simply put, this was a miscalculation on my part.

When I saw the image, I thought, "Oh, I can do that with no problem."


While it does look like a rose, it looks like it's lying in the snow.

It wasn't suppose to!

Nor do I think that looks like a blob of ice.

A blob of something, but not ice.

Still, it was fun. It was a learning experience and I'm not totally dissatisfied with the end piece.

This to me is what art is all about.

Doing. Experimenting. Learning.

Going again until your reach a level of satisfaction you're happy with.

What is your definition?

No matter if you observe the holiday or not, I wish you happiness, friendship and love 
on this Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More On Changing Styles and A Guest Artist

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

                                                                                        Henry David Thoreau

In our last discussion about Changing Styles, some of you mentioned "how you saw" something determined how it went down on the page. 

Last December, my husband and I went to Bok Tower and Gardens to celebrate our anniversary. One of our favorite places to visit at Bok Tower is the Window By The Pond. 

There is a small building that will seat a dozen or so people with a large glass window that looks out onto the pond you see in the image below. 
Window By The Pond
at Bok Tower and Gardens
The day Chris and I were there, the day was sunny and bright, but there was not a bird, squirrel or bug in site. The photo you see above was taken on a cold, rainy day when I went back with Kathy at Catching Happiness to visit Pinewood Estate

Knowing I always take my sketchbook with me everywhere, brought his as well and we spent a very fun half hour sketching at the pond.

And this is where what we see and how we see it becomes fascinating... 

Here's what Chris saw: 
"Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting"
by Chris Ferlita
Now remember, the day we were there, there were no birds, no squirrels, no nothing, but this was what Chris saw. (Each time I look at his sketch, I hear the song, "…and everybody was Kung Fu fighting…" but that's just me!)

If you know my husband well, you would take a quick look at his sketch and think, "Yep, that's definitely Chris' sense of humor." 

When I asked him what his catalyst was, he said, "You mean besides that fact that there were no birds or squirrels anywhere? It's just what popped into my head. The birds and squirrels are always fighting over the food so this is what it would have been like if they had showed up."

And this was my take:
Window By The Pond
Bok Tower
Much different! 

My focus was on capturing the bright, sunny day as well as the peaceful feeling I always get when I visit the pond. 

Is one more accurate than the other? No, not really.

Is one better than the other? I don't think so. Not when you take into consideration the artist's approach and what they sought to capture on the page. 
Stop and think about how you look at things, places, life, when you sketch. 

Are you attempting to capture the actual place, a feeling you have when you sketch that place, the colors, the light, the reflections or something else? 

Our approach to the page starts long before we ever put down the first mark.

If we change our approach, how we see things, can we change our style or is style embedded in our skills and technical proficiency?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Changing Styles - Can It Be Done?

Watercolor and White Ink
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches (Image Cropped)
With four straight days of rain last week, I found myself in need of something bright and cheerful.

Snapdragon blossoms to the rescue!

It's actually been a mild winter for us so far. (Stop throwing snowballs!! It's not my fault you're having a wicked winter!) And we've been getting a lot of grey days whether we get rain or not.

The image above is a slight departure from my usual work as it's really just suggested shapes. I did a very simplistic pencil sketch to get down the shape of the bottle and placement of stems.

After that, I just let the paint fly without too much concern about bleeds, actual petals or any details.

Of course, being me, I just had to go back in with white pen on the white stem to bring back some of the white highlights I lost.

Then, being me again, I had to futz around with the bottle.

I can't say that I'm satisfied though.


Because one of the things I'm working on this year with my work is being looser. And when you're driven by and addicted to details, it's damn difficult to let. them. go.

Which brings me around to the question I posed in the title of this post—can we change our style?

At first blush, I would say no. It's hard to escape ourselves.

My husband and I have had this discussion numerous times. He say's no. I used to agree. I think I still do, but...

Now, I believe styles evolve.

Think back to when you first started sketching or painting…do you see a difference in your work today?

Probably. That's evolution. The more we know, the stronger our skills, the more it reflects in our work.

I also think it depends on the direction we push our work as it begins to develops.

However, underneath all the work, all the determination, all the struggle, is my inherent style of being a careful, tight, detail-oriented artist. As I mentioned, it's hard to escape ourselves.

When I was in art school, the instructor believed there were two types of artists—those who could copy another's work exactly and those who could not. I fell into the second category and I've only ever met one person who truly fell into the first—they're rare.

The woman, who had no style of her own, showed me her catalog of work and regardless of the instructor, her work looked exactly like the instructor's! She had taken a lot of classes, too. When I asked what happened when she worked on her own, she said her work was all over the place—it depended on the subject matter and her mood.

But what about those of us who do have styles that were not crazy about? If we don't like our style or we're bored and we want to change it, what can we do? Our we stuck with it no matter what?

Well, I'm going to be exploring those questions in the next few months and I'd love to know your thoughts on styles, whether they can be changed and if you like yours or not. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Heart-Held Cottage

The Heart-Held Cottage
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman and Birn Bound Beta Sketchbook
5.5 x 8.5 inches
I recently saw a very sad statistic about how many folks lost their momentum by the end of January when it came to their resolutions for the new year. It was staggering.

While I don't set resolutions, I am all too aware of how easy it is to lose forward motion and the last two weeks were brutally long as I struggled to get past the flu. In January.

I'm sure you can imagine what that did to my forward motion. Gah!

I could feel my frustration and stress levels jacking up higher and higher as I thought of my "to-do" list languishing at my desk. Nothing was getting done!

Since stress is not conducive to healing and I wanted to be over that flu YESTERDAY, maybe even the week before, I knew I needed to offset the rising aggravation.

Welcome to my escape mechanism—the Heart-Held Cottage.

This cottage only exists in my heart, my imagination and my sketchbook. It's based on a number of small houses I've seen over the years—part playhouse, part Hobbit hole, part Elven home, all fun.

And while I'd love to claim the idea as my own, it's actually a take from Cathy (Kate) Johnson's fantasy journal. (If you have a Flickr account, you can see her fantasy journal set here.)

Over the course of the last two weeks, I sketched out the little cottage and then decided to add the floor plans.

Note: I am not an architect nor am I all that interested in reality in the form of physics and such. I was interested in escaping! Below is the first and second floors:
After getting in most of the furniture, I decided to add cats to the couch and bed upstairs. Unfortunately, the cat on the couch looked a lot more like a dead ferret than a cat and so I added a throw over the couch to cover up the dead blob.
Because I had space left over at the bottom of the right page, I decided to throw in a suggestion of what the built-in bookcases and fireplace would look like.

If you enlarge the images, you'll see little splatters of turquoise and scarlet on the pages. This is because these are the last pages in my bound Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook and well, color happens in the most unexpected places.

One of the fun things about creating a place to escape to is that I get to:

  • Decorate it the way I want. No need to take anyone else's opinion or tastes into consideration—unless I want to!
  • Use color schemes that I wouldn't normally use in my home.
  • There is no clutter, no dust bunnies, no messiness—again, unless you want it!
  • Problems go away. They don't/can't exist in a place like this. When I'm at the cottage, life is wonderful and just the way I want it!
  • I can add my favorite possessions or things I'd like to own. Tired of something? I simply change it!
  • I never have to clean or put anything away. It happens magically! 
  • I'm never rushed here. I have all the time in the world to paint, sketch, read, garden, cook, visit with a few friends, observe nature and pause to enjoy life. 
I'm thinking this won't be my last foray into creating an escape as I thoroughly enjoyed creating the pages over the last two weeks. When I got tired or fell into a coughing fit, I set aside my journal and then continued as the spirit moved me. 

And, yes, it really did help to lower my stress levels!

I agree with Virginia Woolf that it's important to have "a room of one's one." I just decided a whole cottage was even better!

How about you? Ever need to escape life's pressures? Do you ever run away in your sketchbook?