Thursday, December 31, 2015

Let Us Begin, Again

I suspect I am not alone in saying that I'm very much looking forward to the new year and the 365 chances for new adventures that it brings. I find it odd that I am so hopeful and enthusiastic towards the new year when in truth, not much will change besides the flipping of the calendar page. 

There are no sudden, magical changes that herald the start of 2016. I don't expect to suddenly find myself in Paris or Belfast or Rome. I doubt I'll have millions in my checking account. I seriously doubt I'll be in fighting condition to run a 5K either. My house will still be cluttered, the tree will still be up and my studio will still look like a wreck. (Those darn elves haven't done a thing to clean it up!)

However, I do believe the beginning of the year gives us a mental "restart." And therein, lies magic!  January 1st gives us the opportunity to hit reset and begin again. We get to wipe away cobwebs, throw out the old, worn out year to pull out our dreams and blow the dust off from them. We begin to think about new steps we'll take to move closer to making those dreams a reality. At least, that's what I do. 

This year, my approach will be slightly different though. Instead of just sitting down and writing out a bunch of goals to get me closer to my dream, I'm taking the time to break down the goals into steps, I'm giving them timeframes in which to accomplish them and I'll be working with an "accountability partner" to make sure I stay on track with my tasks. 

As I looked over my 2015 goals, I realized I had about a 50/50 split on what I'd said I wanted to accomplish and what I didn't even think about doing. And I guess that's not bad, but I know I can do a whole lot better. With that in mind, I'm setting out to rock 2016—step-by-step, day-by-day. 

When I'm sitting here writing out my New Year's Eve post in 2016, I want to be able to look back at a year of accomplishments, fun, progress, great memories, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends and lots of good times. I want MORE out of myself. I want a year I can be proud of because I met and exceeded my goals.

Interested in joining me? 

If so, let me know. Together, we can make 2016 a year to remember!

Meanwhile,  I'd like to leave you with the thoughts of Neil Gaiman from I think his graphic sums up my wishes for all of us in the new year:

Wishing each of you, a safe, prosperous, exciting,
challenging, creative, and Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Wish For Each Of You...

Painted in 2011

I hope each of you find yourself with family, friends and love ones for the holidays, no matter what or how you celebrate.

I also wish for you some downtime so that you might savor the season's special moments without stress or worry.

I pray for safety for our troops and first responders scattered about the world, keeping us secure, and for their families as they celebrate alone. 

And I add a special pray for those who have recently suffered the lost of someone close and hope you find peace. 

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Honey, There's A Cat In The Christmas Tree!

Yeah, it's definitely that time of year...there's a cat in the christmas tree!
A tree? For me!?!

Moby went to full alert as soon as the box appeared in the living room and when the first part of the tree came out the box, she was in, on, under, and beside it! She's a tree-climb, limb-chewing, ornament-bopping, play machine.

It's both hysterical and exasperating as there's no slowing her down. She's a blur as she runs around the room and tackles anything that moves including the other two cats. Speaking of Willis and Joey, they retired to the relative safety of being under the bed so as to make sure they were not snatched by evil elves or run over by a manic-Moby. 
It's so shiny!
I kid not when I tell you the tree was not completely assembled for more than 10 SECONDS before she was climbing her way towards the top! It probably wasn't five. And ,of course, she thought it was great fun to try and bop our hands as we were attempting to fluff the branches. 
There's something on my head. It tickles.
She burrows nearly to the top, but can't go any further. She can look me in the eyes from that height, so it's plenty high! And she doesn't have any trouble getting out or climbing down. What is odd (to us) about this whole cat-climbing nonsense is that Chris and I have had cats the whole time we've been married (23 years) and we've never had a climbing cat—until now. First time for everything, I guess. 
Wonder if I can reach the shiny ball swinging down there, hmmmm....
We knew from last year's experience that we would not be putting any glass ornaments on the tree because she thinks they're for target practice and the whole point of them being on the tree is for her to get. them. off. And it's soooooo much fun! Thank goodness someone invented "shatter-proof" ornaments or we'd have a naked tree again this year (well, naked if you don't count the wad of cat in the middle of the tree). They're also wired on so that we don't hear them hitting the floor in the middle of the night.
I'm invisible and the humans can't see me!
Sometimes, she just lays in the tree and watches the world go by (we have a spinning base) and other times, she's busy plotting world domination. When she gets too quiet, I go looking for her to see if she's begun to implement her plans. 

And then there are times when Moby is NOT in the tree and she finds other ways to occupy herself...
Puncture marks on watercolor paper, copper foil and a custom card
Moby's other favorite hobby is chewing...paper, plastic, tape, ANYTHING with adhesive...basically anything she shouldn't have or we don't want her to have. 

The holidays have definitely arrived at our house. How about you? Are you ready or does the grinch have your intentions held hostage?!

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Added Sparkle!

I don't know about you, but I needed a little extra sparkle in my life run your mouse around on the page and watch the faerie dust fall from your mouse!

Sooooo much fun and a totally time drain, but it still brings a smile to my face! Happy day to you!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Saturday's Class and A Festive, New Header!

Come and join me on Saturday, December 12th, from nine until noon, as we catch a little "Wave Action" in our sketchbooks!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to take a break from all the decorating and shopping and head over to the beach.

The class will be held at Keeton's in Bradenton and you can find more info here.  We'll be working from photos and with regular watercolor brushes rather than waterbrushes.

Waves seem like a challenge until you break them down into shapes. Adding the foam and white spray at towards the end of the page are what makes the whole sketch sing!

I hope you can make it!

How do you like the new header?! I wanted something a little more mellow for the season and so I landed on the combination of muted green, blue and purple. 

It was a lot of fun to fill my sketchbook pages with these small vignettes. They started off a little looser than they finished up, but then, I guess I could say that just about every time I paint!

After finishing the pages, I scanned the work and imported it to Photoshop to build the banner. I enjoyed manipulating and arranging the images until I had a design I liked. (I can tell you this was a whole lot easier than decorating my house!)

The other fun thing is that I can take the pieces and print them out to make card tags for any gifts we're giving this year.
From my "Pineapple Journal" I made myself with Canson watercolor paper. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Savoring The Season

Savor The Season
Watercolor with ink (writing)
I'd love to tell you I created this recently, but it was actually last year and I never got around to posting it.

I find myself in the same headspace this year as last—wondering where the last 11 months went and how I'm going to get everything done between now and December 25th.

My plan is to take this advice to heart and
s. l. o. w.    w. a. y.    d. o. w. n.

I may get less done, but my hope is that I'll enjoy the season more instead of suddenly finding myself in January, thinking, "Huh, where did December go?"

The inspiration for the cup came from a very "plain Jane" cup I've had forever. It's totally ivory without any kind of holly border.

It was kinda fun to transform such a simple cup into something festive. With its age showing, it reminds me of an old friendship that is often renewed during the holidays. (Hello, my old friend, I don't see you often, but when I do, I am reminded of all our visits over a cup of tea...)

Regardless of how we got here, we're here—we might as well make the best of it and enjoy the last month of 2015!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Autumn Blessings

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week, I hope you have plenty of family, food and fun!

For those scattered around the world, I wish you Happy Autumnal blessings (even if it's Spring where you live!).

I am so very thankful for the friends and family I have, for our good health, the window on the world provided by the internet that allows me to pursue my artistic passion and for the small, everyday joys that come my way.

Thank you for being a part of my life!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Losing My Way Before Finding It In An Unlikely Way

I have found myself in an odd place here of late and I wasn't really sure how to move forward.

I added a house (based on an ornament I have in my studio) at the lower inside right corner.
I wasn't overly interested in sketching and since I have 973, 974 things on my need-to-do-right-now list, motivation has been scarce. As in, none. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, I hit a wall or plateau and it all seems to come to a screeching halt.
Ollie, hanging out on the back of the card
The thing that usually goes first is my personal sketching. It used to terrify me when that happened. I'd freak out thinking I'd never draw, paint or create again. Time, that most benevolent teacher, has taught me that panicking doesn't help and that eventually, the desire/need/compulsion comes back.

Sometimes, it's a slow dribble that becomes a steady drip before the faucet fully flows. Other times, it's a deluge all at once. I prefer the slow dribble because the deluge has a tendency to be overwhelming and I find myself unable to pick a place to start.

Back of the envelope
What gave me a spark this time was a mother's request. In a group I play with on Facebook, a woman requested for folks to write to her two daughters as they're very, very homesick for the United States.

They are currently in Norway for a year and their journey is only in it's third month!

Are you familiar with Beatrix Potter's picture letters that she sent to her governess' children? The illustrations Beatrix created in those letters would later become the basis for her books. The thought of having received a letter like that as a child stayed with me when I read Ms. Potter's life story.

Front of the card
How could/would my life have been different, if at all, should I have seen someone using art in such a normal, everyday way? I dare say it may not have taken me until my mid-20's to find my path.

So when the mother asked for letters to ease the girls' homesickness, I decided to give Beatrix's approach to art a whirl. I cannot tell you how much fun I had coming up with simple illustrations!

I didn't want to stop. I sprinkled little illustrations along the sides of the letter and in place of a few words. Then I made a list of other possibilities I could doodle if the girls decide to write back to me.

Either way, creating this letter did the trick of opening me back up to the joys of creating. I think because it was something so outside of my normal round, it helped to remind me of why I love to create.

Now, if it will help to alleviate some young ladies' homesickness, it will be even better!

When you lose your way, how do you get back on track when you've misplaced your desire to create?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seasonally Inspired Sketching!

Left: This was as far as I got on location. Right: The finished spread.
Watercolor and Ink
Kathy, from Catching Happiness, and I went sketching the other morning to take advantage of the um, cooler* weather, here in Florida and the fact that it's pumpkin time! It was 79º instead of 89º at 10:30 in the morning. Woohoo.

Sometimes, you gotta go when you gotta go and it doesn't matter what the thermometer is reading.

Still, it was fun and when a breeze came by, it's was sweet. We don't have too many of the large pumpkin farms in Florida like they have further north and we don't have the huge change in temperatures either. Obviously.
This was as far as I went while on location—it was taking too long and there were too many other things to draw and paint!
Finished at home, in the studio!
They had all kinds of pumpkins and gourds in all shapes, colors and sizes along with harvest corn, cornstalks, hay bales and some croton plants on display.
A purple pumpkin?! Actually, a happy accident! I meant to pick up the gray watercolor brush pen and accidentally picked up a violet instead. I was a little shocked, but then decided to go with it as the color wouldn't lift anyway.
The image above was originally going to be just gray watercolor along with pen and line but things went a good way! Sometimes, we find ourselves in new places because of "mistakes." After I got past my shock of the violet, I decided I kinda liked the look and continued. Now, I'm planning on exploring this style with other colors as well.

It was worth it to put up with less than autumn-like temperatures...well, scratch that...that was autumn-like temperatures for Florida! I think this may turn into an annual pilgrimage, perhaps as a way to shepherd in the change of the...calendar...even if it does still feel like summer outside.

How does the changing of the season effect your sketching? Do you do more or less? Change styles?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Easy-Peasy White Lettering On Dark Backgrounds!

Three examples of white lettering with a fourth using metallic ink instead
In the video below, I demonstrate using Faber-Castell's Big White Pen to create letters on dark backgrounds and then using PITT Artist pens to do a bit of embellishing—so much fun!

This technique will work on envelopes, scrapbook pages and paper, kraft paper tags and just about any other dark paper. I'm going to try this on fabric next!

The "joe & alice" envelope is the same technique but using a metallic marker instead of white.

Just think of the possibilities!

Happy lettering, y'all. Let me know if you use this technique! I love to see what you come up with.

Just a heads up...I am not associated with Faber-Castell or their products in anyway. I just really like 'em!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When The Paper In Your Sketchbook...Sucks

The small sketchbook I am currently working in is about 3.5 x 5.5 inches and was suppose to be a watercolor sketchbook. There are no identifying marks as to who the maker might be or what type of paper is in the sketchbook, but make no's a PITA (Pain-In-The-Art!).

To say this sketchbook has been a challenge would be to a vast understatement. Years ago, I would have chunked it back on the shelf and forgotten ignored it. However, I'm attempting to finish up some of the PITA sketchbooks I have so I could move on. It dawned on me others may have made some questionable sketchbook purchases that are currently sitting, languishing on a shelf. I thought I'd share some of the ways I've managed to fill the pages without giving up on this journal.

The sketch above was done after wedding vows were exchanged on a dock on a small, private lake. I spotted the tree and knew I had to sketch it. The view below is of the area at the bottom of the page where the sizing(?) is uneven. When I washed over the area with water and pigment, the wash beaded up and was repelled away from the paper. This has happened in random places throughout this journal. And while I like the texture, I would have preferred not to have it.

Luckily, the page turned out okay and it looks intentional even though it was not. Had this lovely spot been somewhere higher up the page, it would have looked bad. Really bad. If you enlarge the image, you can see that the sizing issue goes higher up into the water and into the dead tree.
What do you do if you're a beginner and stuck with this type of paper? It can be frustrating and not a lot of fun to try and get a decent page created only to have something invisible fell your efforts. In the case above, I chose to ignore the "added texture" and just let it stand. Had it been further up the page? I'd have had to pull out the creative license.

Here are some of the ways and things I've done to help get the pages filled:
1) Add pieces of ephemera, receipts, business cards, cut-up brochures and stickers. I cut apart a brochure from my trip to Chocolate Kingdom in Kissimmee and glued it down over a good portion of the page. I also took notes (another idea to fill the page). I doubt if it will show even if you enlarge the page, but the ink bleeds like crazy on this paper and it looks fuzzy.

2) Gesso the paper and paint over it. Using clear gesso* over the paper has several advantages. (*You can use white as well.) Chief among them is being able to paint without fear of uneven sizing showing up midway through the painting process. You can go right over the page or you can use clear gesso as glue to add another piece of paper to the page and then paint over the added paper. I used a deli sheet from Logan's Roadhouse (I dig that quote!), and I let the diluted, white gesso brush strokes show. I then added a little watercolor over the top of that.

3) Paint on another piece of paper and glue it to the sketchbook page. I had some left over Stonehenge "kraft" paper and wanted to use it up. The pumpkin started out a little differently but I messed up the top of the paper with a smear of ink. Rather than tossing the artwork, I cut it out and glued it down. I thought about doing the lettering on the page behind it, but ultimately decided to do the lettering on another piece of the brown paper and glue that in as well. By hitting the edges with a stamp pad, it gives it a more finished look of a border.  You could do the same thing with another piece of white watercolor paper and glue it in the same as a colored paper.

4) Take a break from the challenging sketchbook and work in a different one once in a while. It can slow you down and seriously mess with your mojo if you are working to fill a PITA sketchbook and the pages don't turn out like you want. Rather than wait for that to happen or if you realize you're not sketching as much as you normally would and it's because your resistance to working in that PITA sketchbook, pick up a different sketchbook and "treat" yourself to a couple of nice pages. If you don't have another sketchbook lying around, cut up some paper and sketch on them with the intention of gluing it into the sketchbook later. Never let a hateful sketchbook kill your fun!

5) Try different mediums. Play, experiment and have fun! Maybe the paper is not so good for watercolor...try a different medium. Get out your markers, gouache, colored pencils, graphite and other fun supplies and see what happens. Practice lettering or improve your drawing skills. Play around to see what else might work. Make fun backgrounds and add quotes with markers. Use watercolor pencils and only a little water to see if you can get around a sizing issue.

6) Turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." Every once in a while, the paper in a sketchbook is just...too lame to be saved. Rather than struggle with it, turn the sketchbook into a "Junk Journal." What is a junk journal, you ask? A junk journal is a journal where you draw, practice, try out new ideas, scribble, fail, try again, write notes, brain dump and all manner of crazy things you never intend to share with someone else. And make no mistake, just because it's called junk, it's NOT!

The reason it's called a junk journal is because the idea of a junk journal works best when the paper is cheap so that you don't have any monetary concerns about junking up the paper. And no matter how much you may have spent on that PITA sketchbook that has crummy paper in it, don't be afraid to turn it into a junk journal. You'll still be getting your money's worth, just not in the manner you expected to!

Life is really too short to sketch and paint on crappy, crummy pages on a regular basis, but once in a while, we get caught with a less than desirable paper. If you're just starting out, go ahead and splurge on the nicer sketchbook that's suitable for your preferred medium rather than fight your way through one that fights you every step of the way.

Once you've put in your time, try one of these less than desirable, PITA's amazing what you'll learn and what you just might create!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's Fall, Y'all!

It's here, it's here! Finally! I've been itching to hang out my fall wreaths and put up so autumn art. Tis my favorite of seasons!

We're not really feeling it yet here in Florida, but they say hope blooms was 73º this morning, so yay, weather!

To celebrate the changing seasons...somewhere else...we're going to be having some fun with sunflowers, lettering, border treatments, splatters and complementary colors at Keeton's this coming Saturday, September 26th, in Bradenton.

Did you know that the sunflower is Russia's national flower and they produce more sunflowers than any other country?

Me either! Oddly enough, sunflowers originally came from the United States.

Do you know the difference between a wild sunflower and a domesticated sunflower (and no, this is not a joke!)?

Wild sunflowers have lots of branches and small flowerheads while the domesticated sunflowers tend to be single-stemed with one large flowerhead.

Of course, that one flowerhead thing is a little misleading as the flowerhead actually consists of up to 2000 individual flowers that are attached to a receptacle base.

And last, but not least, there are over 60 different types of sunflowers and the flowers are grown in the United States, Japan, Russia, and Europe.

I hope you'll come and join us! There's something to be said for pretending it's a pleasant 70º degrees outside with a brilliant cerulean blue skies so bright you almost have to wear shades.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Please don't forget to check out the new Independent Learning Classes over at The Imaginary Realm!

Monday, September 21, 2015

From (Paper) Scraps To Treasures - Leaf Mobile Tutorial

This past week, I worked on a card design and found myself with a lot of paper scraps left over. Rather than toss them, I set them over to the side of my art board because I already had a project in the back of my mind. And I might as well confess now...I hoard my paper scraps in a little green container over on the window sill near my table.

In truth, I have no reason to save paper scraps. I could start an art supply store with all the paper I have, but I find scraps handy for testing out ideas, paint colors, ink samples and the like. And I never know when I may want to make a tag or cover up a line that went on an unauthorized walkabout!

Sunday morning found me with some time to kill while waiting for Chris to get back from his errands. Because I am hearing (but not feeling) Autumn's siren call, I decided to use some of those scraps to indulge my leaf passion. (If you search the blog you'll find dozens of leaves in different styles.) 

In fact, it's getting to the time of year where it's dangerous for me to go outside...I've already collected a half-dozen acorns and several leaves. I don't seem to be able to go outside without picking up some small treasure!

The leaf below is the first one I painted and in the spur of the moment, I decided to cut it out. Because I wanted to emphasize the edges, I used a craft knife to mimic the edges I had drawn on the leaf itself.

I used Indian Yellow, Transparent Pyrrol Orange and Sap Green to create the colors of the changing season. 

The ink is from a brown Uniball Signo pen that I love for the softer impact it has than black. Black, sepia or gray would have worked fine as would pencil.

I then added a message on the back thinking I would add it into a card for a friend. I went back to my scrap and drew out two more leaves, added paint and then cut them out as well. As I played with my leaves and arranged them on the table, I suddenly had a new project idea to play with!
If you've been in a class with me lately, you know I've been obsessing over little painted banners and flags. They're popping up everywhere! In the image above, you can see the outline of one I used when I created the card I had been working on previously. Using a similar design, I made a larger one. I used the same colors to paint the banner that I used in the leaves.
After the banner dried, I cut it out and used an awl to punch holes in the banner and the leaves. I then added my text using the same pen I used to draw the leaves.
And viola! Adding brown thread, I had a very simple leaf mobile to entertain me with fall's fabulous colors.
It is currently hanging from the hutch above computer and the leaves flutter and turn when the fan comes on. Since it is still very much S.U.M.M.E.R. here in Florida, that's about every 15 minutes. However, I can pretend it's a cool autumn breeze whenever I look over at my leaf mobile and it makes me smile every time I do!

If you were inclined to make a leaf mobile, it could be infinitely scalable in size and the number of items you add. (Remember, odd numbers usually work best.) Apples, acorns, pumpkins, ears of corn, gourds, and more leaves could all be added either to a larger top banner or another hole could be added to the bottom of each item and another item added on. 

If you've painted your leaves on a sketchbook page but still want to try this idea, either scan or photograph them and then print them out on a thicker piece of cardstock. (Regular printer paper will likely curl.) Cut them out and string them up to a banner you've painted on a separate piece of paper. 

Save those scraps and make yourself a mobile. Hang it in a place where you'll see it often and enjoy Autumn's Delights!

Happy Fall, Y'all!!

140 lb. cold press watercolor paper • Uniball Signo Brown pen • watercolors • craft knife • cutting surface • brown thread • acid-free glue

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Independent Learning Classes Are Now Live!!

The Imaginary Realm is live!! The Independent Learning Classes are ready and waiting and I could not be more excited to share this milestone with you! It has been a dream of mine for years  and it's happening now!

Independent Learning Classes are just what they sound like, you learn independently, on your own schedule when it's convenient for you and at your own pace. The classes have the same class materials of the interactive, online classes over at The only that's changed is the format (so you can go at your own pace) and the price! You'll have access to all of the course materials for 365 days!

The classes also have different participation options. If want just the class, you're good to go, but if you're looking for input on your developing your skills and would like to have feedback directly from Laure to help, there is an option for that. If you would like to be able to discuss that feedback in a live situation with Laure, there's an option for that as well.

So far, there are four classes available with more on their way!

Artful Journaling: Foundations
This class helps the beginning journalist to get started and start building the skills needed to successfully create journal pages that are fun and playful.

The class has over 12 assignments and covers everything from tearing paper to building your watercolor skills! Please click on the class title for more information.

Artful Journaling: Explorations
The Explorations class continues to build your skills as we explore various design elements and principles as well as creating word art and textures in on our pages.

Twelve more assignments along with lots of video demonstrations! For more information, please click on the class title.

An Imaginary Trip To New Orleans has to be one of my most favorite trips I've created because NOLA is a super fun place to visit! There's so much to see and do...and eat!

By the time you've explored all six seven(!) assignments, you'll be anxious to stroll through the French Quarter yourself! For now, you can click on the title for more info on the class.

And last but certainly not least, a brand new class, Artful Journaling: Watercolor Beginnings, will be launching on October 30th, and is currently available at a special prelaunch price (50% OFF!).
I am so excited about this class! I've had requests for a class like this for years and I finally the place to host it and the time to pull it together. It's gonna be a blast!

This class is directed towards those of you who wants to get into watercolor and have no idea where to begin! We'll learn about pigments, paper and brushes, how to set up a palette, the differences between mixing color on the palette and the paper as well as working in layers...and that's just getting started!

There will be more than a dozen videos with pages upon pages of information to help get you started on your very own watercolor journey! To learn more, please click on the class title.

Come on over and check out the classes—you can see a the full curriculum of the things we'll cover and or the places we'll visit in each class. I'd love to hear what you think!

All future classes will be announced through the newsletter. To find out about them as soon as they launch, I hope you'll consider joining up here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inspiration Of A Different Kind (Artist Appreciation Month)

I was recently made aware of Artist Appreciation Month. Have you heard of it? No/ Me either. After doing a little research, I found that the idea had been around for a few years but had not really taken off. Still, the idea had merit and felt like something worthwhile.

The idea is basically to discuss an artist that inspired you in your creative journey. It can be someone famous, someone local, a friend or a family member.

My Story
When I looked back at my own journey, I realized my catalyst to undertake an artistic life began with a visit to a craft fair when I was either 15 or 16 years old. Mind you, my sole reason for attending the event was because my mother told me I could drive if I went and since that was uppermost on mind in those days, you can bet I went! I liked crafts as well as the next female, but I mainly went because I was able to drive. (The priorities of a teenager!)

After arriving at the event, I quickly became bored and wandered off by myself rather than trailing around behind my mother. (Teenage angst showing.) In my wanderings, I came across an artist painting a macaw parrot with watercolors. The parrot was mostly finished as I recall, but what held me spellbound was watching her use green paint to "carve" a leaf out of a white background.

The artist was quite skilled at creating form and shape in one wash. (I learned this much later.) As I watched, she added lights and darks, lifted a bit of paint and suddenly, it looked like I could have reached over and picked that leaf up. It seemed so effortless!

I was instantly, completely captivated, a willing hostage to the magic she was creating.

After watching for several minutes, she engaged me in conversation and explained a little about what she was doing. I have no idea what paints she was using, what her palette looked like, how many pigments were on the palette, the type of brushes she used, the type of paper she was using or whether she had two buckets of water or just one.

All I knew was that I had been witness to something incredible and I wanted to create magic too!

She told me about some classes on the other side of town from me, but I was never able to locate them. I searched for again after I moved to that area, but I had no luck in finding her. I'm sad to say I had no clue what her name was nor did I ever locate her.

I wish I could.

When I walked out of that craft fair, I knew with unshakeable conviction that one day I'd be able to paint with watercolors. I can still see that leaf coming to life before my eyes when I look back at that memory over 30 years later!

The artist engaged me with her humor and willingness to share. She encouraged me to pursue my interest by telling me about the classes. But maybe best of all, she made it seem possible that I too could one day create art.

There were no discussions about how hard watercolor is to learn or how long it takes or anything negative. She didn't put up any obstacles nor did she set herself on a pedestal to be admired by the little people. Instead, she showed me her joy in a simple pleasure.

It took another decade and a few more cataclysmic events before I became serious about the pursuit of my art. I'd always dabbled in crafts, but I believe the idea that I could actually making a living with art, be an artist (gasp!), was planted that day.

If I could sit down and talk with her today, I would thank her for sharing her joy, for demonstrating the simple pleasure of painting without apology for how good or how bad the work was. I would thank her for encouragement to take classes and for planting the seeds that have brought me to where I am today.

There's plenty of negativity out on the web these days. The political arena is heating up with all kinds all balderdash, so how about joining me in sharing your story about an artist or artists that inspired you on your creative journey? If you do, please leave a link in the comments as I would love to read your inspiration.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Unicorns, Mice, and FlipFlops!!!

Now that's a headline I never thought I'd write, but you just never know, do you?!

Actually, all of those items have to do with upcoming classes at and Keeton's Art Supply in Bradenton. Whether online or in person, I hope you can join me for some sketching fun!

First up, how about immortalizing our favorite, summertime shoes, the ever-present FlipFlops? (Well, they're ever-present in Florida anyway!) Any time I work on capturing two similar items or sides, like FlipFlops or a vase, I employ tracing paper to make sure I'm getting like shapes and sizes. Come on down to Keeton's on Saturday, July 25th to learn more!
The thistle is the national flower of Scotland (and we'll be seeing plenty of those!)
If you're nowhere near Florida, hop online and join me for some fun on An Imaginary Trip To Scotland! Did you know that the national animal of Scotland is the unicorn?! (I kid you not! Google it if you'd like.) While I can't promise we'll see any of those on our trip, I have no doubt we'll be in for a visual treat of castles, ruins, serene lochs and beautiful, rugged mountains. For more information, please click HERE. I do hope you'll come and join me! Class begins on Thursday, August 13th!
The Mamam sculpture outside of the Guggenheim • Bilbao
Did you know that Spain is means "land of the rabbits" or that they do not have a tooth fairy? Instead, they have a mouse called "Ratoncito Pérez" that leaves behind small surprises! Spain's culture is rich and varied. The landscapes range from high mountainous areas to vineyards to vast cities. They say you'll come for a visit and want to stay a life time—let's go find out, shall we?

The Imaginary Trip To Spain will begin on Thursday, September 17th. You can learn more about the class by clicking this LINK. It's gonna be fun!

I hope to see you soon!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Did You Forget Your Sketchbook?! (And What To Do When You Do)

Cutlery Bag I Drew On
Ink and Watercolor
Chris and I went to St. Petersburg a few weekends ago to visit a favorite bookstore, Haslam's, eat lunch at one of Florida's fun and kitschy restaurants, Fourth Street Shrimp Store and to look for a new freezer to replace the one that died a month ago.

It wasn't too long after we sat down at the Shrimp Store that I realized I had left my sketchbook on the table next to the couch where I'd been working in it the night before.

Fourth Street Shrimp Store is full of fun wall art, license plates, and lots of old antiques. LOTS of Florida kitsch! There's even some ancient taxidermy sprinkled here and there. It's not a good place to go without a sketchbook in hand.

I immediately started looking for another piece of paper to sketch on—in my purse and on the table. I was even eyeing the waitress' order book.

My eye happened to land on the little bag the restaurant used for the cutlery and I pounced on it. My concern was that it might be covered with a waxy coating, but it wasn't. I was back in business!

Spotting an old paddle that seemed to be the perfect subject matter for my long, narrow bag, I got down to sketching. However, lunch came before I put down very much info, so I put the little bag away to finish it later.

Turns out later was several days later and the paper bag had gotten quite beat up and folded tumbling around in my purse.

I added the logo and shrimp before I added watercolor to the paper. I really wasn't sure how it would take paint, but it worked great. If it had not, I would have used color pencils or left it as black ink.

One I was done with the artwork, I glued the end of the bag into my sketchbook and then folded the rest of the bag in an accordion fold so it would fit in the book. By seizing the bag, I was able to seize the opportunity to sketch!

What To Do When You Don't Have Access To Your Sketchbook
Don't be discouraged by the fact that you left the darn sketchbook at home or you're stuck in some long-winded meeting—where there's a will, there's a way!

Instead, look around for another piece of paper to scribble on. Don't hesitate to ask if you don't have anything useable.

In a restaurant: don't overlook placemats! They're often paper and there is seldom printing on the back. I do recommend staying away from menus unless you ask as the restaurants usually have a limited number on hand. Ask if they have a carryout menu instead.

In a meeting: scribble and draw in the margins or over any part that is irrelevant to you and what you need to know. You can always go prepared to the meeting with extra paper than can be glued into your sketchbook later. I do suggest keeping it out of sight as it can be disconcerting to others when they see you drawing over your handouts or in your day planner. I had to explain more than once that I wasn't goofing off, but actually paying attention. (I always retained more and listened better when I drew!)

Try to use permanent ink as paper that does not qualify as "sketchbook paper." Menus and receipts are usually printed on very, inexpensive paper and will not hold up under a lot of erasing or water. If the ink feathers, try using a ball point pen instead. If the paper doesn't like water at all, use colored pencils if you want to add a touch of color.
The same little bag glued down to the page in an accordion fold.
No Name/Brand Sketchbook
Consider whether or not you want to add the new piece to your sketchbook. Chances are excellent the paper is not 100% cotton rag and will begin to yellow and oxidate over time. In other words, it's not going to be archival. This may or may not affect your other pages and or sketches. It's for you to decide based on what your sketchbook's purpose is.

Sketching on unexpected and untried surfaces can be a lot of fun and lead to results you would never expect. You may decide it's more fun to sketch on "found" ephemera than in an actual sketchbook. If an experiment doesn't turn out, what have you lost? Probably not as much as you gained!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Somebody's Having A Special Day!

Wishing my guy, Chris Ferlita, a super happy birthday as he begins a new decade today! Hope the day is as brilliant as you are.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quick Sketching

Pen and Water Wash with stamped letters
Crummy watercolor journal
3.5" x 5.5"
I would love to tell you I've been traveling or sketching up a storm or on some delectable adventure, but the truth is I'm not really sure where the last two weeks have disappeared to! I haven't any sketches to show for my absence either. Well, with the exception of the one to the left and it's just a quickie.

There are times when I want to sketch and there are times when I want to sit back and absorb what's going on around me or to focus on the person I'm spending time with.

I can fall into my sketchbook like some people fall into their smartphones and it can damn annoying to someone who doesn't sketch. Or so I've been told.

For me, often the point of sketching is to create a portal, or return ticket, back to a moment I want to remember. In this instance, I wanted to remember the "pity pot" and a quick sketch was all that was necessary.

As we sat together, it took a few minutes for me to grasp the idea that the pity pot was a toilet and when my friend was done with her pity party, she simply hit the handle to wash all the negativity away!

It amused me and it delighted me that she had found a way to deal with some of the ongoing, life challenges she's facing. Like most of us, she's dealing with her fair share of "stuff."

She also puts a timer on her pity parties and sets a firm deadline, say 4 o'clock in the afternoon before her family comes home from their day, by which to end her party. That way she doesn't fall into the trap of lingering too long.

At the end of her party, she ceremoniously flushes the toilet and watches the water swirl the pity away and out of her world. Clever, huh?!

And that's what I have to show for the last two weeks.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Do You Give Up Too Easily?

Assignment from An Imaginary Trip To Canada
There are days when I get up and it seems I have completely lost the ability to draw accurately. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, drawing is often an exercise of frustration.

But not futility.

What I've learned is that sometimes it pays to keep going even when all the lines are wonky, proportions are off and well, it looks like a toddler got busy on the page with their crayons.

Because it turns out okay in the end.

If you're on location in some beautiful local and you woke up not knowing which end of the pencil to use, would put your sketchbook away and just take photos while telling yourself you'll draw it all out when you get home (knowing you probably won't)?

There's a quote I recently discovered by Mark Twain:
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.
Huh. That says it about as well as it can be said. 

And that explains my approach to the page above and to sketching in general. The page above is part of the Imaginary Trip To Canada class currently going on and the page above is on the back of the first page I did for the class. I didn't want to skip it.

The very first mark I put down on the page was incorrect. But I figured if I just kept going, I'd work out the kinks and hit my stride. 

My stride was no where to be found that day. 

The clock tower is probably the worst of the drawing, but the sailboat's mast looks drunk, the box around the lighthouse is way off and the lighthouse itself looks a little bizarre. 

When I finished with my sketch, this is where I was:

Some folks think that adding color will "hide" incorrect proportions or perspectives. 

They're only half wrong. Color alone won't hide anything:
You can see from the comparison above that the clock still looks pretty wonky even with the color added. 

However, when you use some other strategic techniques along with some that use color, you can help to direct the eye so that the wonky becomes more of "the hand of the artist" and less of the "I forgot how to draw."

In this case, I used the following techniques to both disguise my challenged drawing and to re-direct the viewer's eyes:
  • I created layers of "stuff" to look at. By adding the map in the background, it pushed the other items on the page forward. By placing the boxes over the map but behind the boat, clock and foghorn, I built a back, middle and foreground. This creates a push and pull of items to entertain the viewer.
  • By placing the blue wash around the land mass, I also created a unifying wash that creates one overall element with lots of smaller components. Kind of like a map of the United States is one land mass with the various borders creating the states within. If I had stopped with just the clock, it would have been front and center and quite obvious that I had trouble drawing that day. By adding the other elements, I took the pressure off the clock drawing.
  • I also used a color trifecta to lead the eye around the page. Did you notice the red foghorn first? Then the lighthouse and the lettering? That's because I've used the red to move the eye around the page rather than letting the viewer just "read" the page. By using a strong color ( and it doesn't have to be red,) in three or more distinct places, it moves the viewer's eye around. You'll note that it doesn't direct the viewer's eye to the clock or drunken mast. 
  • The sailboat and the clock serve as "brackets." All the information held within them is about Prince Edward Island and it gives the viewer a visual clue about the page. Because the sailboat and clock are visually balanced as long verticals, it again takes the eye away from the wonkiness. 
As you may have guessed, I work directly in permanent pen, especially when I'm on location because it saves time and it keeps me out of the "Oops Loop." I'm sure you've dealt with're working in pencil and you realize your lines aren't working so you erase and redraw. Then you do it again, and again and again, and finally something that should have taken five minutes ends up taking thirty. Not to mention the paper is now messed up.

Working on location is often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'd rather take Mark Twain's advice and work on continuous improvement rather than delay until I get home and hope for perfection. 

What about you—do you give up on a wonky drawing too soon or do you push through?