25 December 2015

Christmas and Enlightenment

In my family, we draw names and really splash out for one person at Christmas This year, my cousin Heidi was "my" person. I had a list of things she would like to have, plus a few ideas of my own, but as Christmas approached, I realized that I had accumulated quite a few little gifts, but nothing that felt truly special.

She collects Buddha statues, and I always keep an eye out for new and unusual ones, but now her collection is big enough that it's hard to find one sufficiently different from those she already has. I looked, but didn't find anything this year that I liked.

I was looking online at photos of various aspects of the Buddha, and was inspired to paint her a picture instead. I found a photo of a rather beautiful stone statue holding a (stone) lotus blossom, but instead of doing that, I thought it would be cool to replace it with a real one while still painting the Buddha as a statue.

I found a photo of a lotus that I liked--it was mostly pink, but with some yellow, gold, and ivory in its petals. I found out on buddhists.org (yes, really) that different lotus blossoms bear different meanings. First of all, the general meaning is that the lotus grows from mud and water, rising above the murk to achieve enlightenment. Then, the colors change the meaning too: White is purity of mind and spirit; red is compassion and love; blue is common sense; purple is spirituality and mysticism; pink is the historical legends of the Buddha; and finally, gold represents achievement of all enlightenment. So (although I chose the colors before I knew the significance) this one is wishing Heidi knowledge of the Buddha, with dawning of all enlightenment!

I think she liked it--I hope she did! I had a good time painting it.

22 November 2015

What I'm reading

I've been so busy that I haven't done much drawing or painting lately, so this morning after breakfast I decided to paint a quickie of the book I'm reading--I like to do that for books I'm planning to review for my teen blog, so I have artwork to go with my post.

This is the third book in the YA "Boy Nobody" series by Allen Zadoff.  Except that it's not called that anymore, now it's the "Unknown Assassin" series. Confused? We who buy books for the library were confused as well!

Zadoff initially released the first book as Boy Nobody, which we bought; but then he realized it would be a series, not a stand-alone. Since the sequel was to be I Am the Mission, his publisher talked him into a re-release of the first book, calling it I Am the Weapon, calling the third book I Am the Traitor, and changing all the covers, so that's what he did. So we have both Boy Nobody and I Am the Weapon on the shelf, and it's the same book.

My suspicion is that the publisher wanted to distance it from another YA book, called Nobody, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which is also about a boy assassin!

I did this one in pencil, instead of the usual pen, before painting, so it has a softer look. The colors blended so nicely on the original that I wanted to try that in my watercolor. I tried to erase all the pencil afterwards, but some erased and some didn't. I ended up going back in with sepia pen in a few places, just to pull out some detail on the lettering. Otherwise, all watercolor.

20 November 2015

The Swoon Society

As I mentioned before, my cousin Kirsten and her best friend Kirsti (we call them K2) recently started a blog called The S.W.O.O.N. (Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice) Society. It's entertaining and informative, and worthy of your notice! (See what I did there?) They comment on a mix of products, recipes for foods and beverages, interesting places, awesome people…whatever strikes their fancy and makes them swoon. They conveniently link you to all of those things, inviting you to participate. It's a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Being the self-promoter that I am, I mentioned to Kirsten that it would be fun to illustrate one of her posts sometime, so she "commissioned" me (i.e., she said Okay, sure, if you want to!) to illustrate a piece about America Heritage Chocolate. Here is the post, and here is my illustration for it:

It's drawn with a micron pen in a sepia color (to give it more of an old-timey feel), and then finished with watercolor. I was pretty pleased with it, but what I'm really hoping for is a little tangible recognition, like a can of this stuff in my Christmas stocking! Thanks, swoony girls, for featuring my art!

08 November 2015

A new sketchbook

I started a new sketchbook, finally, and made a couple of entries:

This is Janie, a character from The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, which we are reading for this month's 6+7 Book Club at the library. Actually, Janie is a girl, but in this book apothecaries are kind of like magicians, and Janie and her friends drink a potion that turns them into birds so they can escape from evil Russian defectors and German operatives. So this is Janie as a robin red-breast.

My other entry is also library-inspired: We did a fun thing yesterday! November is Picture Book Month; we've been wanting to do some kind of readathon; teens at our library branches are always asking us for service hours for school; so we brought all those things together and had a "Teens Read to Tots" three-hour readathon in the Children's Room at the Buena Vista branch of Burbank Public Library.

Seventeen of our teens checked in with the children's librarians to get picture books appropriate for toddlers--some new, some old favorites--then took them home to practice reading them aloud. Friday afternoon we had a practice session at which we librarians gave the teens tips about how best to read to little kids, and then Saturday we had constant reading of picture books by teens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone who showed up.

We didn't draw a huge crowd, it was mostly regulars who were happy to find something extra going on, but we always had at least one kid willing to listen, and sometimes as many as 10 or 12. We discovered some new, fun picture books, the kids were happy, the teens got their service hours (and enjoyed themselves)…it turned out to be a great program! I think we'll do it again!

Here's a drawing I made of three little girls who provided a constant audience through about eight books. If you would like to see the photos of the teens reading to the kids, take a look on Facebook at the Burbank Public Library Teen Page, where I have put up an album of pictures.

20 October 2015

Fall! (?)

Last night, for the first time since April? I turned off the swamp cooler, and then I put on a sweatshirt! Could it be that Fall has finally arrived in Southern California? The weather report says yes…until the weekend, when it will be back up in the 90s. Sigh.

Anyway, here are a couple of Autumn-oriented sketches. The asters always bloom in October (I call them my yearly birthday gift), and as McSweeney's says (much more profanely than I will here), "It's decorative gourd season." Let's celebrate it. But not with pumpkin latte, thanks. (Ick.)

17 October 2015

Last page of a sketchbook

Although I own probably eight or nine sketchbooks, I have never before been persistent about filling one from the first page to the last. Don't ask me why I would go back to the art store to buy another one before the previous one was full; I'm sure I had a good reason at the time, although I can't recall any of them now.

For one thing, before this year I wasn't really committed to the idea of sketching. In my mind, I always needed to be working on something that was a finished piece of artwork--finished meaning that it was frame-able. Don't ask me why I thought that, either--maybe it's because when I was taking art classes, our weekly goal was to bring two large (usually 18x20) finished pieces to the weekly critique, so I never got into a sketching frame of mind. Although our teacher did encourage us to make thumbnails to work out the details of our large paintings beforehand (another habit I have never acquired that I need to revisit), the idea of sketching just for the sake of it was never encouraged. Not to say it was discouraged; it just wasn't the point.

But of late I have been following some amazing urban sketchers on Facebook, and also some amazing "finished" painters who rely heavily on their preliminary studies (most of which I would be happy to call a finished painting), so the idea has finally penetrated my thick head that a sketchbook full of stuff can be equally as satisfying to pursue as a framed painting.

In May, I took the plunge and decided to do the "Every Day in May" challenge. Although I started with a will, I didn't fulfill the daily requirement for 30 days; but instead of deciding to be a failure, I instead joined "Every Day in June" and after that "July," and keep going, haphazardly or not. And after July was over, I continued to put in a sketch every now and then, until this past Monday morning, when I realized I had come to the last page in the sketchbook for the first time. So here is my last sketch--not my favorite, but significant for its position!

In looking back through this sketchbook, I can see some style developments, and some interesting selection of topics that I wouldn't have considered if not for the prompts given by the "Every Day" projects, and the challenge also of finding a fun way of interpreting them. Since I'm looking at this particular body of work, I will share again some of my favorites:




And finally, although that wasn't quite the theme,
here is my selfie, giving a giant "Whew!" for finishing!

Now I get to go to the art store and buy a new sketchbook!

10 October 2015

No Plein Air :-(

Today is the last day of the Los Angeles Plein Air Festival, and the only day on which I was available to participate. I signed up for it and fully intended to attend, but…it's 105 degrees out there! No hat, no umbrella, no bottle of water, no icepack in my bra will counter standing out on baking asphalt for three hours trying to capture a scene in, hello, watercolor? which will dry on the brush before it gets to the page!

Also, my right knee has arbitrarily decided that it doesn't want to be part of my mobility system today. So I stayed home in swamp-coopered bliss, an Arnold Palmer in my fist. There will be no exciting vistas of downtown Los Angeles on view today. Maybe in December when it finally, finally cools off?!

I did, however, paint a picture of this coming week's book club books. Now I need to (re)read them.

Both are, by the way, delightful in their own way. I lost my head for Noggin (heh heh), and The Last Dragonslayer has two sequels, just to prolong the fun!

06 October 2015

Continuing the celebration

On Sunday, my actual birthday, I decided to push myself to do something unfamiliar and a little scary: I went to downtown Los Angeles to go out with a plein air group that meets to paint on city streets the first Sunday of every month.

I have tried going out to paint with other groups that I discovered on Meetup, with variable success. I find that there is too much time talking about painting without actually painting; or someone knows "the perfect spot" to set up but can't quite recall where it is, so we wander for more than half of our allotted time and only get 20 minutes for an unsatisfactory sketch before the venue closes; so I have avoided these groups for a while. But I really want to get myself out of the rut of setting up "tableaux" for myself on my patio table, and instead go paint "in the wild." So when I went to the website of the Los Angeles Plein Air Festival and discovered that a group was going out the Sunday previous, I thought I'd get my feet wet by trying that out before committing to the full-on festival experience.

I think it may have been just a concatenation of circumstances that are unlikely to reoccur, so I will try it one more time before giving up, but as a first urban plein air experience, this one was…disappointing.

The group (as is the Festival) is sponsored by the Main Street art store Raw Materials, and the people there were nice, but uninvolved. I showed up at 1:30 (the stated time), and was the first one on the list to do so. The woman at the cash register checked me off, handed me a little "goodie bag" (nice!) and turned away; I said, "This is my first time, what do I do?" She told me the guy who was leading the group was "around somewhere--that's his stuff, over there," so I went and parked my stuff next to his stuff and waited. After about 15 minutes, two other women showed up, looking as lost as I felt, and confided that it was their first time too. In another 10 minutes, the leader, John, came back from Starbucks and said vaguely, "I guess we should get started." So we went out to the front of the store, and he started unpacking his kit and setting up his easel.

At this point, another woman arrived, and she turned out to be a friend of the regular leader, Alex, who had asked his friend John to fill in for him. The light dawned--this wasn't the person who usually leads the group. Anyway, he showed us his kit to give us an idea of what he brings along when he goes out painting. Then he says, Okay, so you have your kit, now you have to find something to paint! The fourth woman says to him, I have no experience drawing or painting, could I still do this? He responds, Sure! and proceeds to do a demo for her (in oil!) by painting a nearby locked bicycle on a small canvas. After about 10 minutes of this, I got bored (and I couldn't see the canvas because she was hovering at his side), so I drew a picture of the bike myself.

When he finally finished his demo, he says to all of us, Let's saddle up and head out now! and the woman to whom he had been addressing all his remarks says, "Oh, I have an appointment in half an hour, so I'm not coming along today." ! ! !

We walked three blocks over and two blocks down to Broadway. No one but John had an easel, so Broadway was a good place to set up, since there is a series of giant planters on which we could rest ourselves, our palettes, and our canvases or paper. At this point, John starts his own canvas. I ask him a few questions about how to capture perspective, with the ascending and descending lines, and how to simplify the incredibly complex scene into a doable painting; his reply was, Oh just jump in and paint, you'll get the hang of it. Thanks.

I won't be posting the painting here that I did, because it's a big fat mess; but I did get an idea of what things I may need to learn by practicing them at home before I go back out into the big wide world. They involve a ruler and a viewfinder for sure, and a closer study of some of my idols of urban sketching and/or plein air painting (Nina JohanssonIain Stewart, Thomas SchallerKeiko Tanabe, et al.).

On a happier note, that evening I had a lovely dinner out at the Cheesecake Factory with my cousins Carol Sue and Kirsten, and on Monday, my friend Kirsti cooked dinner for me (and her husband Aaron, and Kirsten), which was scrumptious and finished with a fabulous chocolate pie. The selection of dessert was considerate of her, since my mom, who passed away in 2010, used to make me one every year for my birthday, and I haven't had one since. So this painting is for Kirsti:

The mug in the background is printed with the logo of hers and Kirsten's new blog, The Swoon Society (SWOON = Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice), and the pie definitely lived up to my swoon-worthy criteria. (Check out the blog for all the other worthy Stuff!)

Happy Birthday to me!

04 October 2015

Celebrating a birthday

On Saturday, my cousin Kirsten and I took off at 8:30 a.m. up the coast towards Carpinteria, where the annual Avocado Festival always takes place on my birthday weekend. I've been to it half a dozen times with various people; I always look forward to going, and I always remember it fondly, but there is always a moment in the day when I think, Why, exactly, do I keep coming to this?

One can, after all, only eat so many things laden with avocado in a single day; the "artist" booths are, let's face it, filled with stuff that is for the most part too cheesy for me to want to buy; I dislike crowds, heat, and noise, all of which are the norm for an outdoor festival with food and three bandstands; and it's more than an hour away.

I think part of it is the venue: Carpinteria is as charming a little town as you'd find anywhere along the California coast. I enjoy the nostalgia of memories from childhood: My parents and I spent three or four summer vacations there when I was between 8 and 12 years old, hanging with their military friends, and I, an only child, was delighted to have many children to play with for that one week. I like walking up and down the streets, fantasizing about living in one of the small bungalows a few blocks from the beach, being the town librarian, selling my paintings in the cooperative gallery on Linden Street. I enjoy being near the ocean, appreciating the occasional cool breeze that stirs the heat-laden air of the festival. I get a giant kick out of the avocado dioramas created by the town's school children!


And Saturday, I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with Kirsten at Esau's Coffee Shop, bought a garlic grater cunningly disguised as a ceramic saucer, and stole a moment to rest my feet and draw.

27 September 2015


They have a little carnival set up in the playground at St. Bridget's of Sweden Catholic Church, up the boulevard and around the corner from my house, this weekend. It's not often you get the opportunity to draw and paint something like that without driving a long way to find it. So I got up at 6 a.m. (because it will be 100 degrees by 9 a.m. today), packed up my sketchbook, watercolor paper, brushes, and paints, and went up there to do a little en plein air painting.

My intention was to do some preliminary pencil sketches to get a layout, and then do a "real" painting (i.e., large and on watercolor paper), but that's not exactly what happened.

First of all, it was hard to find a good place from which to paint. There was no convenient low wall to sit on, and because the church's playground borders on a main boulevard with lots of traffic, I didn't really want to sit on the dirty sidewalk across the street and inhale fumes from the passing cars. Closer up, though, I couldn't see the bottom half of things for the vine-covered fence that borders three-quarters of the lot. I actually went inside the "fairgrounds" for a bit, but then the carnival people came out of their trailers and started setting up for the day, giving me looks that, had we shared a language, would have translated into "Get out of here now, weird lady, you're in the way," so I did.

I settled on a view from out in the alley, sitting on a handy electric box, and got out my pencil and sketchbook. I tried sketching one of the two Ferris wheels twice, but I simply couldn't pull it off. This is when I find out how bad my drawing skills really are: When it comes to a couple of items sitting on a table, no problem; I can look at the contours and get them right. But a large scene, in perspective, with lots of detail? Hopeless. First the wheel was too small in proportion to the "cars," and then I had the opposite problem. And as much as I would like to be an artist like Milford Zornes, who I once watched capture the profile of a Ferris wheel with about 20 quick strokes of a brush filled with a beautiful mix of burnt sienna and ultramarine, I am not that free. Being painstaking as I am, however, isn't getting me very far!

I finally gave up on those pesky Ferris wheels. I walked all around the grounds, crossed the boulevard to the other side for a different perspective, and also walked down the side street, photographing the scene from all angles so I'd have reference photos for later.

Then I got out my pen and did a contour drawing of the relatively simple Kamikaze ride in my sketchbook. I watercolored it, then packed up and headed for home! There may be a carnival scene in my future, but it will take some measuring and a lot of practice sketching before I get there.

26 September 2015


Can it really be two months today since I posted anything? That's shocking. Have I really been in an art slump for that long? And I don't have much to post today, just an incidental that took me about 10 minutes.

I have done one other piece of artwork in the past week, but it was for someone else's blog and she hasn't posted it yet, so I don't feel like I can put it up here until after she has. In a while. In the meantime…

The little boy across the street (he's two) decided this morning that he wanted to give me a flower, but then when it came to handing it over, he was so reluctant to let go of it that his grandmother took it from him and handed it to me. He looked a little forlorn, so I came home and painted him one he could keep, before I had my breakfast.

26 July 2015

Inspired by Singapore

I have never been an on-location (en plein air) painter. Most of my work is done on the table inside my screened-in back patio, and on the rare occasion I have drawn something on location, I always bring the drawing back to the house and paint it afterwards. But all the fabulous pictures being posted by everyone who went to the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Singapore this past week inspired me. So this morning, I decided to take minimum gear--my 8x8-inch sketchbook, my Altoids watercolor palette, a pill bottle filled with water, my telegraphing brush, a Micron pen, and a couple of paper towels--and hit the road at 8 a.m. (I also took a fake bacon sandwich and an iced coffee--must have sustenance!)

The San Fernando Valley doesn't have that much in the way of elaborate architecture--it's mostly boxy little houses built post-war in the 1950s, with latter-day McMansions jammed between them. But there are a few buildings that are fancy, and one of them that I have driven past and thought, That would be fun to paint! is the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on the corner of Moorpark and Lankershim.

My results were disappointing to me, for a few reasons detailed below, but the experience was satisfying.

First of all, I apparently have zero sense of proportion (and very little sense of perspective)! My intention was to do a Nina Johansson-style panorama of the entire church plus the street scene--small olive trees, people, and cars at the curb included. But all I came home with was some large up-close details of very small portions of the building, because I was taught to draw big, and now I can't draw small!

Second, there are only five colors in this palette, and while in theory one can mix any color from red-blue-yellow, the truth is, it matters if it's a warm or a cool yellow, if it's a red that leans towards orange or pink, if the blue is dark or bright. So some of my color mixing was really wonky until I got the hang of it.

Third, my telegraphing brush is pretty tiny, so the wash for the background blue sky was a splotchy effort. It didn't help that it was more than 90 degrees, very dry, and slightly windy. The trials of watercolor in Southern California, where everything dries instantly.

I took some panoramic photos of the building, and perhaps when it is all contained within the borders of a piece of paper, I will be able to look at it and draw the whole thing. I'm going to give it a shot. But I'm also going to be persistent about going out regularly and trying it the spontaneous and in-person way! It was fun.

I do, however, need to invest in one of those little folding stools that I saw so many of the Singapore sketchers parked on--sitting on the sidewalk means dusty trousers and legs that go to sleep if not shifted regularly! Or even better, one of these…people seeking ideas for birthday gifts, take note!

24 July 2015

Sporadic EDiJuly

I'm consumed by the last week of Teen Summer Reading (Book Cafe was Wednesday, and tonight is Open Mic Night and Karaoke!), so I haven't much to show lately. But one product of that was a "six-word memoir" for which I did a visual in my sketchbook, hoping the kids who took the writing workshop for these would go home and make them visual, too. So far, no results except for mine:

This isn't strictly true--I do MAKE time to read, but the clock face is significant, because it usually ends up being around 2 a.m. I read a lot more before I was a librarian, but that's also because it's a full-time job and before that I was self-employed, which gave me more opportunity to indulge. Still, it is ironic to work in an environment in which you are constantly surrounded by books and arrive home on Friday night only to realize you have nothing to read for the weekend! This was my entry for "wacky."

I cheated and combined two other July prompts: "en plein air," and "plants." This is my lone (but prolific) banana pepper plant in the back garden. I drew it while sitting on the grass (the plein air part), but my legs went to sleep, so I moved and painted it from inside the patio, which would account for my forgetting to leave highlights anywhere on those shiny peppers. Oh well…live and learn. I did enjoy the muted color scheme dictated by the atypical gray July day.

I'm always amazed, when I attempt to draw a botanical piece, by the infinite variety of leaf shapes on one plant. The plant, from a distance, has a distinguishable type of leaf, and yet when you start to draw the individual leaves, every one has character--rounded edge, jagged edge, color variation. It can make you kind of crazy if you're attempting an accurate rendering!

13 July 2015

13 July: Stones

Every Day in July's challenge today was "stones." My mind immediately went to stepping stones, so I went looking for a photo that was as close as I could get to what I was picturing in my head; I have trouble drawing just from imagination, and need something concrete to step off from, pun intended.

I documented this one in three stages: drawing, partial painting, finished painting. Here is the drawing:

And here is the partial painting:

One of the reasons for the pause between steps two and three (pun not intended) was that I was working on this on my lovely shaded back patio, and the gardener arrived with his noisy tools and created a wind full of grass clippings. Not good for watercolor!

The other reason is that I am terrified of painting water, so I thought if I could document this before I inevitably messed up the water, at least I'd have part of a satisfying piece of art!

I did not, however, mess up the water. I am actually really happy with this water! I feel like I found the perfect balance between hard strokes that show ripples with soft blending that shows calm water and depths. I like the shadows around the stones, and I like the reflections. I left enough blue to echo the sky. The yellow reflection is of something that is outside my picture (in the original, larger photo, there was a big yellow tree), so I suppose it's a little anomalous, but I like that too. Altogether, a happy experiment!

12 July 2015

One simple, one fussy

Teen summer reading club is taking it out of me. It's great fun, but oh so tiring. So I haven't been painting much. But I did manage a quick one on Friday morning before I had to go to work, to fulfill Every Day in July's prompt for "horsing around." I had saved a photo of a girl and her horse sharing a quiet moment, so I grabbed a sepia-colored Tombow marker off the desk and did a sketch. Since Tombows are not waterproof, I was then able to take a small wet brush and just pull out some color for both tint and shadow. Not the best drawing, but…practice.

Sunday's prompt was "fall." People interpreted it in various ways--everything from sky-diving out of a plane to autumn foliage, and even the "fall" of Adam and Eve. (!) I wasn't sure what to choose, but I haven't drawn any book illustrations lately, so I searched Goodreads for books with the word "fall" in the title and was reminded of this new one from Ally Carter, the first of a new series set on "Embassy Row" in London. I liked her book Heist Society a lot (and of course the Gallagher Girls series), so I figure I'll read this one in the near future. So in the interest of multi-tasking, here's an illustration of that book with a background of buildings from Embassy Row. Once I read the book, I can review it for the teen blog, and use this as the illustration to go with the review! "Fall." Done.

It became a little more elaborate than I planned--I was just going to do a silhouette of the buildings, sort of a vague washy thing, but I started drawing those little cornices and it got busy.

9x9, LePen and watercolor.

05 July 2015

July continues

I managed two prompts from the "Every Day in July" list this weekend:

"SUMMERTIME," which initially presented too many choices, but resolved itself after I got back from the produce stand and realized that all I had bought was stone fruit!

I wanted this one to be quick and "juicy," but it crossed the line into messy because I didn't have any patience to wait before moving to the next area/color. Can't do that, especially on sketchbook paper. Watercolor paper is a little more forgiving because the paint doesn't sit on the surface of the sheet.

"YUCK! (something that icks you out)" was the next day's prompt. I am squeamish about very few things--bugs don't "bug" me much, snakes are fine as long as we keep our distance from one another, and although the sight, sound, and smell of someone losing their lunch is probably the ultimate gross-out for me, who wants to paint that?! (or look at it)

But finally, in the observation of my little world, I realized the one thing to which I have a positive aversion: CLEANING. (Isn't English strange? that a negative association is a positive aversion?)

My mother and my ex-husband were both clean freaks, which may be part of the reason why I dislike doing dishes, I don't like to dust or vacuum or sweep, and I absolutely loathe cleaning the bathroom. (There are so many better things to occupy my time: painting, for instance! Reading. Sleeping.) So I did this nice picture of cleaning tools and materials, which mostly remain pristine in the cupboard. (I need a cleaning lady. Any offers?)

Those of you who think I'm crazy, the ones who feel an effervescent joy overtake you when you smell furniture polish, or who can't think of anything better than the pleasure of giving something a good scrubbing, can feel free to use your Photoshop tool to erase the word "Yuck!" and revel in this sketch for a different reason!

03 July 2015

Every day in July

It's Day 3 already, and I missed doing days one and two. The prompt today was "desert life," so I decided to do a drawing of a desert hare, otherwise known as a black-tailed jackrabbit.

I usually draw a minimalist, contour drawing with pen and then supply the details with paint, but this time I decided to concentrate on making the drawing more complete. I was going to post that; but then I just couldn't resist painting those gigantic, translucent, apricot-colored ears because they're so spectacular. So here is my drawing...

and my painting:

For this subject (something with fur), I probably should have done my drawing in pale pencil so that there would be no hard edges when I went to paint fur, but…hindsight. I am in awe of people who have both the skill and the patience to draw wildlife and reproduce with pen or pencil each individual hair. That's not me! But I still admire them greatly.

01 July 2015

Reading is my religion

The last prompt for Every Day in June, for June 30th, was "religious icons, imagery." That one stumped me for a while, because those of you who know me will know that I am not religious, and that even if I were, iconography is a foreign concept, since I was raised in a Fundamentalist Christian church to believe that making images of religious figures was blasphemy! But I'm never one to shy away from blasphemy these days, so I started thinking about the concept: If I had a religion, what would it be? The conclusion I drew was that READING is my religion. So if reading is my religion, who are the religious figures who represent that faith to me? Authors!

But which one to pick? In the end, I went with a YA author with lots of iconography. One of the reasons I chose to portray "Saint Mags," or Maggie Stiefvater as she is known to everyone else, is that she is a person who lives large, and who is easily represented by the things in her life. I didn't include a few of them in the picture, for sheer lack of room and time, but in addition to being a fine writer of young adult fiction, she is also an artist (she just drew and is issuing a line of tarot cards based on her Raven Boys series), a musician (she plays multiple instruments and writes music), a wife and a parent to two children (Thing One and Thing Two, as she refers to them on Facebook), a one-time race car driver, and a keeper of many furry friends.

It also didn't hurt that her most recent YA book is called Sinner--I loved the juxtaposition of that book cover with the portrayal of her as Saint Mags.

So here is my post for June 30th--I didn't manage to do more than half the prompts this month, but I feel like at least I'm going out with a bang!

The raven is for Raven Boys; the 1973 Camaro is one of her beloved collection of muscle cars; the landscape reflects Virginia, where she lives; she cohabits with a herd of miniature silky fainting goats; this is her typical mode of dress (except for the halo); and Sinner is her latest novel. And this is a proper painting size, at 12x16. It took me about two hours to draw, and about six hours to paint (with breaks for drying…and reading, of course).

I'm not entirely happy with the coloration on the face and hands…but she IS an exceedingly pale person! I'm not sure her friends would recognize her from this portrait, but I hope so. That's what the iconography was for in all the old paintings--if you saw arrows in the chest, you knew it was St. Sebastian, even it it wasn't a good likeness. Personally, I prefer miniature fainting goats.

All hail READING.

27 June 2015

Recent miscellany

Anarda and I and the teens went on our Sketchcrawl around Burbank on Tuesday morning, so here are a few of my drawings…not the best I've ever done, and not quite finished in some instances, but considering I was simultaneously in charge of 22 teenagers and THEIR sketching experience…

This was a hard one--Anarda commented later that it probably wasn't the best place to start our sketch crawl, but it was first on the route.

I started doing a color demo for the teens with my teeny tiny Altoids tin palette of colors, but we got moved on by some electrical workers who needed to open up a panel in the sidewalk right under where we were sitting, so I had to finish this one later.

Didn't quite get the scale of this right--wanted to fit the entire marquee into my page. Oh well…

This one wasn't a great likeness, but I was so intrigued by the morning light reproducing the giant shadow of the palm tree on the white wall that I did a (rare for me) pencil sketch. I'd like to paint this sometime and do it justice. I took a reference photo just in case.

Later that same week...

I had lunch yesterday afternoon at LEMONADE in Studio City, and came away with a drawing of…Granville. Well, I was on the patio at Lemonade and Granville was directly across the street. Doesn't seem fair that there's no drawing of the place I actually lunched. I guess I'll have to lunch at Granville next time and draw Lemonade!

The tower is kind of tipsy, because I was so focused on the lettering that I drew the tower in segments around it afterwards, but since I was a bit tipsy myself the last time I was at Granville, it seems only fitting.

The color palette on the restaurant was kind of boring to paint--all browns, grays, and blacks. Lemonade will be more fun!

And now…back to Every Day in June, before it becomes July! I'll post something later…

If you would like to see some of the kids' drawings from the sketchcrawl, you can go to the library's Facebook page for teens: Burbank Public Library Teen Page.

21 June 2015

EDiJ: "Wash"

For EDiJ "Wash," I found a photograph of some laundry hung out on one of those circular washing lines. I've always wanted to have one of those. I don't know why they are so much more alluring than the two poles with lines strung between them that I have in my own back yard--maybe it's because they spin, and the clothes seem like they can enjoy a carousel ride while drying.

Anyway, I was going to do the usual for the Every Day in June challenge, which was to draw the scene as accurately as possible with my pen, and then watercolor it. But I have lately found myself becoming bored by that routine. I'm not a big fan of drawing, first of all--I'm all about the painting--so I get impatient sometimes and short-change the drawing in order to jump into the COLOR. So this time I decided I'd go backwards and do the exact opposite. Some Facebook artist friends work that way, and I have thought of trying it myself.

I went to the art store yesterday to pick up some supplies for an event at work, and indulged myself with some Micron pens in colors--blue, red, sepia. So I decided to paint this "freehand" first, in basic blocks of color, and then go back in with the pens to define the details and have a little fun.

Painting without drawing first made me have to pay more attention to the negative space, particularly the whites. Since the clotheslines are white, I had to paint around them with the green background or the colors of the clothes. I wasn't too successful in some instances, but I figured the pen would save all, afterwards.

So here is the rough painting…

And here it is after the addition of the pen detailing.

Conclusion? I don't think I have the knack of this yet--some parts are overworked while others aren't detailed enough--but it could be something fun to play with until I do!