19 March 2017


Well, I almost let the rest of the weekend go by without painting anything but...along about 5:00 today, I thought to myself, Hey, spring flowers! Paint some! The problem is, except for some pink heather and a few tiny white rosebuds, the only spring flowers showing their faces in my yard right now are...nasturtiums? What? Not exactly what you think of as representative of spring—that would be more along the lines of daffodils or sweet peas, or maybe some ranunculus. But no. All that rain last month triggered some scattered and partially buried seeds from last year's summer crop of nasties, and they all came up and bloomed. So here is my painting for spring: Nasturtiums.

I was going to put them in a nice vase, but nasturtiums are such homely flowers (not in the sense of ugly, more like common, regular, down to earth) that I decided a spare jar from TJ's would be just the thing. When I started the drawing at 5:15, I had some lovely cast shadows, but by the time I got done with it and was ready to paint, most of those had gone away. So I settled for a bit of reflection off the glass, which was stil barely there in the waning sunlight. Maybe next week I can start a little earlier!

Micron pen, watercolors, 75 minutes.

18 March 2017

Drawing my surroundings

On the first week of January, I took on a new task: I started teaching a 10-week course at UCLA, for the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (i.e., the library school), a Young Adult Literature class for the students getting their masters degrees to become a librarian--hopefully a teen librarian, like me! That class met for the last time this past Wednesday, which explains the long hiatus from posting on this blog; I worked 40 hours a week at the library, and spent every Saturday and Sunday writing a lecture, creating a powerpoint, and preparing myself for each week's class.

It was extremely intensive work, since I had never taught the class before and had to make it up from scratch as I went along. I had some help from some mentors in the field--Michael Cart, who wrote Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, and who was one of my own teachers at UCLA when I attended; Roger Kelly, the head of the Children's Department at Santa Monica Public Library, who taught children's services at UCLA last quarter and who, when he found out I had taken on this challenge, immediately reached out to me and offered help; and the now-retired but still completely involved Dr. Virginia Walter, UCLA professor and children's librarian and author of diverse works of fiction and nonfiction. So I had support and encouragement and even some outline syllabi, but ultimately I still had to go it alone.

Although it was stressful, it was also fun and satisfying and inspiring for my own library career all over again; I learned some things myself while doing research to present all the facts and theories to my 13 graduate students, and I hope they found it inspiring as well. All that's left to do is to grade their final papers and projects, and I'm not allowed to do that until after today, because they had a time period following the last class meeting to go online and evaluate me as their professor, and no grades are turned in until that process is done. So today is a time-out-of-time day as far as work is concerned.

Because of all of this, I have made almost no art during the past 10 weeks. I thought about it, I planned some things, I yearned to break out the paint palette, but there was simply no time. So the only real pause I had in my schedule was, ironically, every Wednesday morning when I arrived at UCLA. I live 12 miles away, but those 12 miles are on the dreaded 405 freeway over the impassable Sepulveda Pass, so to make it to a 9:00 a.m. class, I found myself leaving at 6:30 a.m. and still struggling with traffic for 45 minutes to an hour to go those 12 miles.

Once I arrived, however, I then had between 60 and 90 minutes before my class was due to start. So every Wednesday morning, my ritual was to buy a big tub of oatmeal with brown sugar and walnuts and a super-size coffee with cream, park myself at a table in the commons, and read whatever book I was working on. (My leisure reading suffered too; for more than three months, I read nothing but young adult literature, in preparation for both my class and my three teen book clubs.) But a few times, I brought my sketchbook along, and if there was sufficient time, I tried my hand at sketching others having their breakfast while waiting for their first class of the day.

First of all, I'm not great at people. Part of that reason is lack of practice; but part of it is that people, for the most part, do NOT like to be looked at that intently, in my experience. Every time I would start drawing someone, they would feel my eyes upon them, become uncomfortable, and either glare at me until I pretended to draw something else, hoping they would become distracted again by the contents of their cell phone, or they would get up and leave before my drawing was complete. I now understand why so many artists who draw people either do super-quick studies or draw from photographs!

Anyway, long story to say: Here are some quick and dirty drawings that I made at UCLA and then watercolored in a hurry later that same day (or week). I hope that, now my class is finished and the weather has warmed up, I will be able to spend more time every weekend out in my patio room, drawing and painting all sorts of things.

This was breakfast: Oatmeal, coffee, my banana snack for later, my book (Jackaby, by William Ritter, for 8+9 Book Club), and my specs.

 This guy caught me looking and got up just as I had finished his head, which is why his body came out so lame and so out of proportion, because I had to make it up and did a poor job of it. This is a great spot in the commons, because there's a fireplace, and the week I drew this, it was in the low 50s outside, so a fire was a welcome sight. I never got around to painting this one.

This girl spotted me too, but eventually, after I looked fixedly to her right and drew all the background stuff, she went back to whatever she was doing on her Mac, and I was able to get a better likeness of her, though still not good--I doubt she'd recognize herself, which is what people should realize when they see you sketching them! Their own mother wouldn't know them. I haven't yet mastered the down-glance, where they are looking down at a book or a computer--she looks like her eyes are closed. Oh well--practice, practice.

Hopefully better is to come!

06 January 2017

At it again—Shelf-talkers

We're having another shelf-talker craft at the library, but this time it's for Valentine's Day, and it's open to children, teens, and adults. We're calling it "The Book I Love," and the object is for everyone to pick a book and do a shelf-talker to put up in the library so that on February 14th, the shelves are papered with love notes to books!

In order to do this, of course, we need a flyer, so I made a few shelf-talkers to use on the flyer as examples of what we have in mind. Of course, they can be a lot less elaborate than this—just text and a few tiny hearts would do—but I tend to like to include something that evokes the book visually. So here are my shelf-talkers—one from an adult, one from a teen, one for a picture book.

02 January 2017

Hiatus, new start

It's hard for me to believe that I didn't draw or paint anything for more than a month...but I didn't. I thought about it, I doodled a little, but I never made time. So on New Year's Day, I decided I'd better do something to set the precedent for the rest of the year. Since it's the Year of the Rooster, I found a reference photo and did one of those; but I wasn't terribly satisfied with it, so the next day I did another. There is such infinite variety in roosters, this could go on for a while if I decided to do that--we'll see! So here are Rooster 1 and Rooster 2, and Happy New Year.

25 November 2016


I'm not a huge fan of cranberries--the twice-a-year experience on the Thanksgiving and Christmas buffet is fine with me, and cranberry-flavored things always seem too tart, even when modified by raspberry or lemonade. But I do love how they look--the small nuances in color from pink to coral to, well, cranberry! to dark purple. So on impulse, I bought a small bag of them at the market while shopping for green beans and mushrooms and pearl onions for Thanksgiving, and this morning I threw a handful on the table on my patio so that I would have not just the cranberries but some dramatic shadows to paint. I had some happy accidents with the bleeding into some of the shadows, while others of them got away from me, but for a 30-minute endeavor, start to finish, I was fairly satisfied with my result.

Pencil, watercolor.

22 November 2016

A recipe for stuffing

I saw today's prompt from World Watercolor Group ("Stuffing") and thought, Oh, how boring, a 13x9 pan full of breadcrumbs, who wants to draw that? So I decided not to paint today. Then, when I turned off Netflix at 11:00, I suddenly thought, Oooh, but the ingredients!

So, I went on Google images (since I had none of these in the house) and found a picture of an onion and an apple and a sage leaf, and then decided to add in the piece of celery, which made for a lopsided composition but a better recipe for stuffing, and I drew and I painted and I scanned, and here is today's prompt, pre-chop and without the breadcrumbs.

It's not my best painting--but at least I didn't go another day without putting pen and paint to paper.

19 November 2016

Soda Pop

They say you can tell what region of the country you come from by what you call your carbonated beverage or soft drink. Is it a soda, a pop, or a Coke? (Or do you go old-school and call it a tonic?) There was actually a survey conducted on this at one point, and then two guys from East Central University in Oklahoma made a map, which I found interesting to look at in comparison to the political maps of the country we've been staring at for the past couple of months:

So why am I telling you all this? Well, for two reasons: The first is that it's National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day (yes, really), and the second is that the World Watercolor Group prompt for today was "soda pop," which made me think about my relatives in Virginia, whose variation was "You wanna sody?"

I was an enthusiastic consumer of soft drinks in my youth (I started every early morning in college by popping the top on a TAB and taking a swig), but the caffeine and sugar or, worse yet, the artificial sweeteners made me ban them from my life decades ago. Now, I enjoy an occasional root beer, or even more rarely go out of my way to buy a new-fangled soda with natural ingredients and flavors  more pleasing to the palette than Coke. Since root beer isn't as fun to paint, I chose an IZZE Sparking Blackberry as my subject matter. And no, there is no alcoholic content, even though the bottle is the tiniest bit tipsy! Just for comparison, here's a continuous line blind contour that I did of a similar bottle back a few years ago in Brenda Swenson's workshop.

LePen .03, and watercolor, in my Aquabee sketchbook.