16 November 2018


I wanted to keep making art but wasn't feeling too motivated yesterday, so I decided to doodle a bunch of the foods that people eat for Thanksgiving. I ended up doing it in a strip so I could use it as a Facebook header.

I used a new fountain pen for the left side (everything west of the pumpkin), and then it got contrary, so I switched out to a uniball pen. Then, when I went back in to watercolor my drawings, I discovered the ink in the fountain pen was water soluble, so some things got muddy (the onion and the slice of bread, especially) before I realized that. I tried using it to my advantage by pulling the ink away from the pictures at the bottom to create shadow, but then of course had to put in some "manual" shadow on everything to the right.

Even in a doodle, you learn things, and run into challenges! As I watercolored, I realized that I hadn't thought about color placement while making the drawings, so that green things ended up next to other green things and orange and yellow ditto, rather than being evenly dispersed. But—it's a doodle, so no regrets. This was fun to do, and makes me want to illustrate some recipes.

12 November 2018

White light

I hope my friend Veronica doesn't mind that I made her today's guinea pig, er, subject. She posted a photo of herself on Facebook that was so intriguing—with half her head washed out by bright white light—that I was immediately drawn to see if I could duplicate it in paint. I am always awed by artists who do their subjects in watercolor essentially by painting the background and leaving the white of the page to shine as bright sunlight, but it's a challenging technique I haven't yet mastered. Here was another opportunity.

It doesn't quite work: I know in my head that there are bangs and a forehead there, and though I tried to leave it clear, it doesn't read as lit up in the same way that the photograph did. I also didn't leave enough untouched paper on the highlighted parts of the face—the cheekbone and bridge of the nose—and since I was using sketchbook paper, which isn't as forgiving of "lifting" as is watercolor paper, I couldn't do anything about that. And finally, I should have made the background as dark as it was in the photo, to show contrast.

But although some of her features turned out a little exaggerated or subtly off (that nose isn't quite straight, is it?) I think I caught something of a likeness, and it was a great exercise. Thanks, Veronica, for the challenge! (And please forgive me.)

11 November 2018

Long time coming

I have never had this long a hiatus since I started this blog, and it will serve me right if no one is listening any longer, but here I am again. It's November, and my last post was in July; although I don't have a good excuse, I do have a variety of excuses, and several of them are quite hefty ones, so here's a brief explanation:

In August, I found out that the class UCLA had invited me to teach in the fall quarter (Readers' Advisory) was actually on the books and filling up with students, and so I had a decision to make. I knew that because of the hiring freeze in the City of Burbank, I would probably not be allowed to take one day off each week to teach at UCLA as I had been two years ago when I taught Young Adult Literature there; but I was reluctant to say no to UCLA, as this was a class that was dear to my heart and that I had actually suggested to the department head that he offer this year! So I took stock of my current standing in my job, thought about my long-term goals, and decided to retire from my teen librarian job in Burbank. I had been there 10 years, and staying for a couple more wasn't going to materially affect the amount of retirement I received; and although I loved working with my teens and ordering the books, I was weary of the administrative duties and details and also of serving on the reference desk (which I was doing in increasing amounts because we were so poorly staffed!). So in the second week of August, I gave a month's notice (which turned into nearly six weeks), and started preparing to leave my latest career and begin with my next, as an adjunct professor at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (the library school).

I spent the next few weeks making lists of everything that I did in my job and parceling out what I could to other people. I brought all my files up to date and copied them for my colleagues to use. I cleaned out my office (a Herculean task after 10 years) and my craft storage closets.

The staff threw me a going-away party on Tuesday, September 28th. I then planned to take three days of vacation that week (Wednesday-Friday) to prepare for my first day of teaching, which was Monday, October 1st at 9 a.m., and then come back to work at Burbank on October 2nd and 3rd to finish dismantling things and taking them home. I did all that, but at a distinct disadvantage; on September 29th, I caught some kind of cold or flu and was terribly sick over the weekend. I managed to teach my class on Monday and to show up for both days after that to finish at the library; but the stress and effort prolonged the illness, so that I ended up teaching "sick" again the following week. After that, I slowly got better, but the cough is still hanging on, six weeks later.

I've been to the doctor for extensive tests, and there's no explanation for it: No pneumonia, no bronchitis, nothing. So I have concluded that it's probably allergies, and the best thing I can do is to get my house truly clean and dust-free for the first time in years, and see what happens!

Meanwhile, class at UCLA is going great; I have a small group of 10 students, but all seem fully invested in the subject, and are learning book-talking and working on final projects with curiosity and enthusiasm. Once this class finishes in December, I will then spend the next three months building my new business as the Book Adept, a library consultant in readers' advisory, book-talking, young adult literature, and more! And in the spring quarter, I will be teaching again at UCLA, offering Young Adult Literature for the second time.

So, enough with the reasons why no art has appeared here in months, and on to the real point: I made no art for all those weeks, but I knew that at the beginning of November, that was all destined to change, because I was signed up for SKETCHKON 2018! Sketchbook Skool is an online "facility" with two founding artists and many instructors, and they decided it was time to have a convention so that all we distance learners could get together and get acquainted. To my delight, they decided to hold the first one at the Westin Hotel in Pasadena, California, only 20 miles from my house! I signed up immediately and then watched in awe as people from all over the country and all over the world stated their intentions to attend. It ended up being about 500 people strong, with visitors from Australia, Singapore, England, and Portugal, as well as from practically every state in the union. It was three days of overwhelming, entertaining, enlightening, engaging fun and learning. I spent so much time taking notes that I didn't do a lot of drawing, but here are some that I can share:



These above were from multiple sessions designated "Pasadena Noir," at which models from Sketchy came dressed in 1920s styles and posed for us in murder mystery tableaux. There were more, but these were my better sketches and the ones I chose to watercolor. The last one seems and is an anomaly; at the end of the murder mystery, the two founders of Sketchbook Skool, Koosje Koene and Danny Gregory, came dashing in and snatched the disputed briefcase, posed for a few brief minutes, and ran out of the room! A fun end.

Here is a sketch I did in paint alone (no pencil or ink lines) of the view of Pasadena City Hall from the Westin Hotel's balcony. My friend Cynthia noted that it looks like the set of a disaster movie right after the big one hit, because all the towers are tilting in every direction, as if a sinkhole had just opened up beneath them. Hey, perspective isn't my strong suit.

And finally, although I took notes in a rather traditional fashion throughout the weekend, decorating a page here and there with a single sketch, other more forward-thinking (and accomplished) of the attendees took "visual notes" in which they drew their notes more than wrote them, and when they posted them later on Facebook, I was so enamored of the style that I decided to memorialize one lecture I particularly enjoyed and appreciated in that style myself:

My favorite part of these notes is the two braids hanging from either side of Roz's name, since that is her signature hairstyle:

Now that I have had an entire weekend of SketchKon to reinspire me, AND now that I am semi-retired, I will have more time to devote to art. I have already signed up for a new "kourse" at Sketchbook Skool, so I'll be sharing the fruit of that with you shortly.