Spring Crocus

Since coming back from Mexico, I’ve had bit of color withdrawal. This one little spot yellow has been waiting to greet me each morning when I walk out the front door – tiny yellow crocus just beginning to peep through the pine needles in the garden.

I did this quick sketch for @wardomatic ‘s “I need to sketch more” creative group on Flickr, and am trying to post this from my phone. Here goes…

(a bit later)

Couldn’t get the iPhone app to work, so now I’m trying this on the iPad. I know I could do this easily from a computer, but I’m trying to learn some new skills.

Sketching Lunch at Paco’s

I’ve had The Tao of Sketching for a couple of years, but packing it along on a recent trip to Mexico was a great opportunity to truly study the book. Chinese artist Qu Lei Lei covers using a wide of variety of media and subject matter. Here’s a good review of the book by artist and writer Katherine Tyrrell on Making a Mark blog. I especially like this quote she highlights:

Successful sketching depends on two distinct elements to be combined: the understanding of how each medium works and the ability to measure the amount of time you have available against the scene you want to record.
Qu Lei Lei – techniques

The samples of his own sketches drawn in many countries around the world are a delight to study, and the included demonstrations are not meant to copied, but to illustrate how the reader might approach their own subject matter and draw from the heart.

As I read his “Beijing Breakfast” chapter about drawing groups of people who are constantly in motion, it all seemed simple enough. Just draw one person, then another and another…then finally the background and furniture because that doesn’t move. But it really is a great challenge to do in real life.

Here are couple of my attempts during our trip. In “Lunch at Paco’s” I tried to capture the feeling of a group of people gathered around a table, listening to songs, and the colorful ceramic plates on the wall of Paco’s house. I sketched first in pencil, then watercolor washes, and last added the ink pen details. It probably took about 45 minutes.

I had less time for “Quinta Patio Evening” and so used pen first, then only suggested a few colors with watercolor wash. As Qu Lei Lei suggested, I wrote a few notes about the scene at the bottom of the page to remind myself of colors and mood at the bottom of the sketch.

Hearts for Arts painting

This is a painting called “Love is a  Circus” that I did for the Hearts for the Arts silent auction for educational arts programs at the Creamery Arts Center. Over 70 small paintings and other original art were donated by regional artists, and you can bid on those online until the end of Friday, February 4th.

It’s acrylic on canvas, 11″ x 14″ and the page to bid is here.

All the artwork is on display in the Creamery Exhibition Hall, and the closing reception where you will have a chance to make your final bids is during the First Friday Art Walk on Friday, February 4th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m

“Love is a….” sketch drawn by candlelight

My friend Stephanie inspired me to create a painting to donate to Hearts for the Arts — a silent gallery and on-line auction to raise money for arts education programs at the Creamery Arts Center.

The auction will end February 4th, so winners will have time to give a piece of original art to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. Which means of course, hearts are the theme.

Here’s some sketches I started doing by candlelight, not to get into the mood although I must admit it helped. Sometimes late at night or early in the morning, I try to sketch by low level light so my thinking brain isn’t too alert and my subconscious is more free to go rambling.

These drawings don’t really make much sense, I just started with the phrase “Love is a….” and went from there. I finished the final painting for the auction this week and dropped it off at the gallery. You can see “Love is a Circus” and all the other auction art on the Hearts for the Arts auction page. Click on a thumbnail below to see the sketches and titles.

Looking out the window on a Snowy Morning

It started snowing last night about five and accumulated to only a couple of inches over night. This morning it was 8 degrees outside and too cold to draw. So I went to several windows to find a scene I could draw from inside the house.

I’ve been trying to look at scenes and reduce them in my mind into a few simple lines, leaving some chunk of white space for room to scribble a few words about that moment.

As I looked at the snow covering the monkey grass that lines our driveway, I thought it looked like a fluffy white fur collar, so perfect for a few minutes before I back the car out the driveway and mess it all up.

Inspirational animated films – Secret of Kells and My Neighbor Totoro

We had a lot of kids visiting over the holidays, but that’s never the excuse around our house to watch animated films. Here’s a couple that really knocked me over.

“Secret of Kells” is the story of Ireland’s sacred artifact, the Book of Kells. The film by artist/animator/director Tomm Moore is filled with screen after screen of gorgeous stylized characters, plants and landscapes filled with textures and patterns.

The lines are elegant and the composition, always a delight. I just want to buy the dvd, freeze every frame and soak in it.

“My Neighbor Totoro” is an older film by Hayao Miyazaki creator of many wonderful films including “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away.” This film is especially good for younger kids, since one of the main characters is a small girl taking care of her even younger sister while their mother is away. (video clips here)

As for the fantasy that Miyazaki so well blends with every day life, Totoro is a mysterious and funny – with his great big mouth, strange staring eyes, and bizarre howls. He’s also good at twirling and flying into the sky. But my all-time favorite has to be the amazing Cat-Bus that has upteen legs, runs across Japanese landscapes, and jumps into the sky.

Simplify for the New Year

For the last few weeks, when I wake early I make a cup of hot tea and light a candle. Then sit curled up in a quilt on a old comfy chair and watch the flame dance in the early morning darkness. Sometimes draw on white sheets of paper.

I’ve been thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and have narrowed it down to one word.


I guess it wouldn’t really work to have that resolution and then a long list of other stuff too?

Simplify is a good ambition for me, because I always tend to over-complicate, thinking I’m going to just add one more thing until I end up breaking the camel’s back. In my art, I’m always having to force myself to stop or take stuff out and try to leave some white space.

In my house, there’s clutter everywhere that needs to be eliminated. In my office there’s baskets of papers, newspapers, photos, and notes that need to be filed. And don’t even mention computer files and email boxes!

Simplify – sounds good right now, but it will take me all year… probably my whole life.

Wishing you Peace, Love, and Joy for the Holidays and New Year

I had a lot of fun doing this drawing – Yoga 101: The Mistletoe Pose, with the crazy tree, the lunar eclipse, and Russ meditating on a peace rug between two extension cords. I think it’s more fun to draw trees than to decorate them in real life:)

Merry Christmas to everyone, or whatever special day you celebrate. I hope you get to share time with your family, friends, and furry family members!

Winter Solstice

Last night we got up at 2 am to watch the lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. It was a crisp night and the moon was positioned perfectly for watch everything right from our back deck – nice of the universe to put on such a spectacular show with front row seats, no charge. Lots of tea and hot chocolate made it better. Mochi was crazy about getting up in the middle of the night and running around the yard.

As the earth passed between the sun and the moon, the moon turned a strange color of orange. Russ got some amazing photos with his camera and tripod, but I can’t really take good moon photos with my camera.

So I took a different kind of photo towards the end of the event of moonlight through winter branches. There’s something about cold winter air, leafless branches, and moonlight that gives me a sense of stillness and clarity of thought.