Thursday, December 17, 2015

Crumbling Fortresses

Now and again I stumble over a box of things I haven't yet tossed out or sorted that my deceased husband, Neil, had collected, many of which were of paperwork or photos that had been part of his life before we met in 1984.  He was an avid photographer, so there were (maybe literally) tons of prints I have already sorted and recycled or filed.  

Earlier this year I found a box full of photos Neil had shot when he was working as a government contractor in Washington D.C., on one of his many trips to Europe during the '70s. What a treasure trove!  They were in color, and he had shot scenes in a city in Spain (not sure which, it didn't say anything other than "Spain"), some children holding a puppy, and some gorgeous architectural shots in London. I've had them stacked on the corner of my drafting table since I found them, hoping they would spark the Muse. 

A few weeks ago I was looking to play with a little collage, and began staining and tearing bits of thin Japanese paper and deli paper.  I took out a sheet of Stonehenge Kraft toned paper as a background, and sorted through my stack of Neil's photos. There was one he had taken on a beach near ROTA Spain.  Apparently there are (were?) bunkers from WWII scattered here and there along the shoreline, crumbling from the shifting sand, he was fascinated with.  

My heart had been saddened that very evening after reading about the state of military affairs in the world lately, and our role as a country within that arena.  I'd gotten myself pretty depressed.  But interestingly, the beach scene in Neil's photo seemed soothing, calming.  I could see clearly how the struggle of man through history to build fortresses and armaments against others of his kind (and I do use the gender pronoun purposefully) is gradually crumbled and disassembled by Nature gently, over the course of countless tides. Somehow, I felt this was a gentle message from Neil, who'd spent most of his career as a contractor in the Military Industrial Complex. "Don't worry," he seemed to say, "even at the time I photographed this, I knew this war stuff meant nothing, and the sands of time will crumble it away again."

In the photo, the footprints are of a single Human, which turn and come back on themselves (were they Neil's?).  In the painting and collage I created (above), the prints are a pair, and go on toward the horizon. The scraps of Japanese paper and torn deli paper are the bunker, as well as the cliffs that meet the beach.  Painted with gouache and love. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Fave Place To Imbibe

I am appalled at how little I've posted on my blog lately!  I feel so neglectful.  The stories and images are a comfort, as well as providing me a trail of breadcrumbs I can use to trace my way home when I get too far extended in my life.  When I'm lost out on the desert of "normal" reality, and have lost my creative compass coordinates!  

Jim and I spent some time a couple days ago visiting our younger daughter's jewelry display at the show on Bainbridge Island she was participating in.  Speaking of Divine Creativity! We met our other daughter there, who had come over from Seattle.  We left Crystal to her show, and the three of us travelled to Poulsbo to enjoy some Spanish Tapas at Paella Bar.  The atmosphere, food and wine are superb.  I especially recommend the bacon wrapped, goat cheese-filled dates!  Wow. 

It's amazing how much richer the participatory experience is at any location or event when I sketch it! 

(And in answer to the question of many who have seen my sketchbook, no, I do not do the entire sketch while sitting at the location.  I will get the basic rough ink drawing in, do some random patches of color here and there to remind myself, as well as lots of squinting and memorization of shadow angles, items on tables or displays or walls, and finish the sketch at home later)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Treehouse On Masa Paper

As a kid, most of my non-school and non-snow days were spent in trees.  TreeZone seemed a natural place for my sister and I to hang out, and as time went on, I think it was clear to our dad it might be safer if there was an actual supporting floor under us when we were up there. That didn't stop me from tightrope walking on long, swaying branches that bridged My Tree and the garage roof, but at least I had a place to stash my snacks and sleep above the coyotes on summer nights, once he built a treehouse for me. Popular Mechanics magazine had just the blueprints for that little Ponderosa kid fortress, and Papa put his best carpenter's hat on and went to work.  

I should tell you that the above illustration is not my childhood treehouse.  But it is someone's childhood treehouse in Scotland.  Jim and I have a few books on tree houses of the world, and leafing through them a few days ago, I had some nice visions in my head of uses to put my newly minted, crinkled and stained, Masa Printmaking Paper cards to. I don't think the blueprints for this particular treehouse were published in Popular Mechanics.  

In my next lifetime, I will be sure to inherit the estate this tree palace occupies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Giselle Finds The Perfect Leaf

So the pigment spill I thought had been the basis for a wild floral display, the plastic-wrap print in the center lending itself to a cut crystal vase, actually turned out to be a woman gazing at a windblown storm of Autumn leaves swirling around her.  It's a thrill to collaborate with what the patterns tell me after some deep meditation on them.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

What Is This?

A very disappointing Pigment Spill experiment I tried a couple nights ago almost became "collage fodder" (only fit to be torn or cut up and pasted into other projects), but last night I thought better of it.  With nothing to lose, I stretched it on my board again, spilled pigments here and there, letting them blend.  What had been a bleh sheet of vague beige, tan and mauve, was now a riot of color explosions.  Jim and I both keep seeing things in it, but who knows what I will end up teasing out of the patterns.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Deer Dynasty of Lopez Island

The San Juan Islands of Washington state are each ecosystems unto themselves in some ways, and when Jim and I spent more than a week on the Islands recently, we were reminded of the unique personality of each, as well as the relatively unique land masses and shapes.  The demographics are apparently different, also.  Certain sorts of folk prefer one over the other.  Lopez was new to us this trip, and it seemed more laid back, so to speak, in comparison to the other islands.  Less to offer for those who love to have excitement on their getaway, but more friendliness. The drivers all wave at each other as they pass.  Everyone we talked to seemed to already be our best friends.  Most take the time to chat.  The landscape was breath-taking, and many come there to bicycle around the island or kayak.  It seemed a great place to spend some quiet time writing one's next Great American Novel. The wide variety of family farms supplies the two local grocery markets with organic produce, as well as meats raised sustainably and without the usual crap that are fed to most stock.

The house we rented on Lopez overlooked the village and the salt water beyond.  The property was also occupied by a multi-generational family of deer who each do their part to work the family business of harvesting apples from the trees.  There is fierce competition, apparently, from the yellow jackets.  They would often send the young fauns off with much ear and tail-flicking, and head shaking.  The rabbit population didn't seem to do much but mow the lawn.  They were the greens keepers.  

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Bird Piper of Lewis

My previous husband, deceased close to thirteen years ago, was a McLeod whose ancestry was from  the Isle of Lewis. This last week I've been playing with paint blobs on watercolor paper stained with Noodler's ink (Australian Rose), still damp.  It took me two days to finally "see" the piper, then the fun began! Jim saw the soaring bird near his knees, so I had to make it so.  I saw a different face than he did, though.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Portrait Of An Actress

It's been thirty+ years since I've been a professional portrait painter, and haven't looked back.  That is, until a friend recently asked me to do her portrait for a one-woman performance series next year, an image that may be printed on posters advertising her show.  This is a mixture of her face and that of her character, the great Lillian Carter.  At any rate, it was a pleasure to create it, an interesting challenge, and I'm enjoying the result. 

I chose Stonehenge Kraft paper, watercolor base, and conte crayon sticks for the project.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Castle Garden, A Year Later

It was almost like skipping off to visit a familiar old friend again, that's how energized I was by the thought of snuggling back into one of my favorite gardens. I accompanied Jim again to Port Townsend for his twice-monthly allergy shots last week, and left him at the clinic for Manresa Castle garden across the street. It felt much like the garden gave a sigh as I wandered in and found a stone-topped table under the trees.  It was the opposite side of the garden from last year's sketch I'd done in August, viewing the fountain from the other end.  

It was a sloppy beginning, hard to capture the curves of the pathway with a pen. Tough to gauge how prominently the tree trunks would figure into my composition.  Maybe I could do some pruning?  On paper, of course. What will I leave out, and what will I showcase?  And how do I get the wet colors to run smoothly, when the dry breeze was determined to dry them instantly.

Just as I began inking in the fountain in the center, a large raven landed in it, with much fanfare.  It glanced around from side to side before stepping delicately into the water and indulging in an incredibly messy bath.  I've never seen a raven bathe before.  Much less water conservation than a finch!  It was sopping wet in no time (as were the nearby plants), and hopped out, flapping off into a tree. The whole affair was wonderfully entertaining, and no one witnessed it but me. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"After" Bear

...Otherwise known as "Hibernation Entourage".  As always with these Pigment Spill exercises, I have to keep simplicity in mind, with a measure of restraint and leaving a great deal to the viewer's imagination.  After all, that's where the fun begins.  As my husband says, "That almost looks like a....".

And even with restraint in mind, still, I can't help but think I'd like to have a go at it in Procreate on my iPad.  See what I can do with this digitally.

Good night, Bear.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Before Bear

Betcha can't see the bear in there!  Thought I'd scan and post it before I begin working on it.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Quantum Marketplace

I've been struggling with this sketch for a couple days.  The pigment spill exercise is from a Mother's Day visit with my daughter, where we sat outside on the lawn and worked our respective creativity.  She did her magic with silver, and I distractedly dribbled paint on wet paper.  Somehow the colors didn't work as well as I would've liked (perhaps they dried too quickly in the warm air), but that disappointment only gives me permission to play freely with it, then.  After all, it's already messed up, isn't it?  

I had a couple photos from a few years ago, when Jim and I visited Seattle for the day.  We'd wandered around the Pike Place Market and I took a couple shots of a fruit vendor offering slices of perhaps mango to passersby (not sure, I didn't take one).  I've been itching to use the figure in some sketch, so the sumptuous fruit displays made a great perspective lead-in, focusing on him.  I thought I'd just weave the scene around and in between the pigment blooms, eventually creating a Twilight Zone-ish bleed-through between realities.  Though the sketch is busier and more visually confusing than I prefer, I love the way it looks like reality rips and boils away amongst the seemingly normal marketplace activity.  Especially the dissolving of the fruit table on the lower right.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Curbside Horticulture, 5th Avenue

The colors and vibrancy of vegetation this Spring is eye-popping.  How could anyone not be out sketching, painting or photographing? I accompanied Jim to his physical therapy appointment for his vertigo problem, at the clinic in town.  Sitting in the waiting room, I had a clear view out the big windows, my little watercolor palette, a water brush and a little square of watercolor paper nearby in my kit.  They practically crawled out and shoved themselves into my hands.  

Next Winter, along about January, I'll pull this out and remember the glow of sun through the tulips and new leaves.  Purple shadows spilling across pavement.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Little Devotional Humor

Digging through a dusty old box with brochures and old photos from the '90s, I pulled out this snapshot that Neil, my previous husband, had done of three clay monk sculptures I had finished painting.  They were drying outside, getting ready to be shipped to my fave gallery (Trios in Solana Beach, CA), nearly twenty years ago.  I still love the way they seemed to be sharing a quiet joke between them.  I wonder where all those sweet little dudes are now.  Sometimes I really miss them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Doodle Bug

Once upon a time, decades ago, I used to play around in my sketchbook with fantasy bugs.  Last night I was trying out different ways of using my new rubber texture sheets (designed for silver clay impressions [cool tools], but repurposed for printing nicely), using a page from my pigment spill experiments that I wasn't as thrilled with.  I am liking the result, but it wasn't congealing in my mind as a "thing".  So this morning I poured a hot cup of tea, curled up and stared at the page. One of the print patterns began to look like a beetle's back.  Do you see it too?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Port Gamble's Fave Wedding Spot

This was the first sketch of the day on Saturday, Port Gamble Sketchout.  I ended up making it my own, didn't want a greeting card image, so I liberated the clouds.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Proper Sketchout In Port Gamble

A number of us in our Pacific Northwest Sketchers group gathered in Port Gamble yesterday to hang out, enjoy each other's company, eat, and sketch.  This was actually my second sketch of the day.  After lunch I wandered up the hill to the cemetery.  These three stones seemed like a stage setting for a play I arrived 128 years too late to see.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Morning Light, Texture Study

Often when I am seized with an idea, the world needs to clear a path to my materials, fast.  I am Wile E. Coyote, scorching a Light Speed trail to the horizon, in pursuit of those implements that will support that vision the fastest.  Often with disastrous results; chairs tipped over, bruises on shins, cats run for cover, jars of pens and brushes scattered.  I don't even stop to pick up my common sense on the way.

I've been entertaining vague ideas of incorporating stamping and textural stencil work into some of my illustrations and paintings this last week, and this afternoon the "thing" popped clearly into my head.  No purchase necessary, I would go raid the sculpture studio (again) for the rubber texture molds I've created in multiples for my Precious Metal Clay jewelry a few years ago.  Some of the flatter ones will make great stamps!  Leaves, fabric, orange skin, carved cross-hatching, etc.

Funny thing, though.  Often the engineering side of my brain forgot to email the creative side that we'd be meeting at the drafting table with paints and inks.  I showed up with tools, but no mental image.  All I saw in my mind was a series of wedges, green and gold, that stretched to the horizon.  So I invented, quickly, a sketch that could incorporate it.  After I stamped textures on the paper impatiently.  Maybe in my next lifetime, all those parts and pieces of creativity will play nicely together.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Joyful Dancer

Another day, another paint blob.  Last night I tried out my new No. 16 Squirrel Mop from Rosemary and Company in the UK.  Each brush hand made.  It's fantastic, and holds a huge amount of wet in it's belly.  This one right away begged to be a dancer.  With a vibrant blue scarf.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Animal Cuddler

This was a recent exercise in random paint blots and bleeds that I "found" an image in and went with it.  Very enjoyable.  I do love this technique.  Relaxing, playful, surprising!  And now that I have my new, large, handmade Squirrel mop brush from Rosemary and Company, it will be easier and more effective to work this sort of thing.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Oracle

As many of you know, the Pigment Spill experiments I've been working with for weeks have given way to serious study, exploring the various ways of utilizing them.  I started with sketching over them with colored pencil, allowing the blooms to be nothing more than back drop.  That was okay.  Not wonderful.  I played with the textures, bringing faces out of the salt blooms, and that was fun. 

 Lately I've allowed myself to "see" things emerge from the random colors and patterns, as they often do take on a 3 dimensional appearance.  I have a long history of late night staring at linoleum floor patterns and seeing creatures and scenes in them, while half-dozing on the john.  Don't we all?  Well, strangely I have known some folks who have no idea what I'm talking about with that particular experience.  

Now some of these Pigment Spill pages reveal little to me other than cool patterns.  Maybe I will just frame them the way they are.  But others, like the one pictured above, only take a little patience before I can tease out a scene.  Usually, like the above example, I make a start with a face I see (as I did with the little, furry-hatted man profiled in the middle of the sketch), then more appears, then more.  Sometimes I'm stumped halfway through.  Then something clicks in my head, and I "see" the rest.  I've never sketched like this before, it's sort of like a treasure hunt, or piecing together artifacts in an archeological dig.  What I end up with is a scene I would never have imagined, with stories that emerge along with the images.  

As of this afternoon, I had been calling this sketch "The Wager". But after Jim studied it for a moment or two, he thought the characters had maybe come to the large man in goggles, looking for fortunes to be told or insight into their lives and work, putting their hard-earned coins down.  The man was a blind Seer.  Perhaps the bird companion on his shoulder speaks to him, I'm not sure.  At any rate, this exercise has had me more spell-bound than I've been with any other art form in years.

As usual, please respect the artist's copyrighted material.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Fave Coffee Joint

I guess the text says it all.  I was anticipating a really pleasant day with my sketching buddy from Seattle yesterday, and couldn't resist sketching while waiting.  It was a really inspiring day, and the weather was perfect!

 I'm loving my new sketchbook from  The paper is really nice for water media.  It's a little off white, to make it easier to see what you're sketching and painting when you're out urban sketching.  The sun doesn't blind you off the pages when doing street scenes, skewing the accuracy of the colors you're trying to lay down.  I'm pleased that I didn't screw up the proportions (too much) of the people, and the table perspectives aren't too bad.  I still need more work on that, but I'm really happy with the food cases and their respective goodies!  Can you just smell that fresh-roasted coffee?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Orb Of Genius

This was another small study that will be a gift to a new friend, when we finally get a chance to get together.  I am enjoying these so much! Perhaps the pleasure I feel is rather akin to the memory of a good dream I just woke up from.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Competing Winds

Flipping through my notebook of pigment spill pages, this one caught my eye this afternoon.  I love that sensation when the scene begins to emerge the longer I meditate on the patterns. This one looked pretty stormy.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Water Woman On Buffalo

More play with color and texture.  This time within the boundaries of the subject. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hawk's Conference

As time goes on and I find my own unique way of organizing and creating with watercolor, personal innovations emerge serendipitously.  The Franklin Planner, which I can't take credit for using this way (Maria Coryell-Martin sells these kits for Watercolor artists, I make my own), has been a great way to organize exactly the papers I want to carry with me.  And from there, I discovered cutting up and punching Franklin Planner-sized, Pigment Spilled watercolor papers that I could eventually finish with details done in water-soluble colored pencil or ink.  

And of course, more recently, I've cut loose and begun playing with the actual patterns on the Spills, mostly that were created by the rock salt in contact with the wet paper.  My historic portrait and fantasy critter experience jumps right in at that point, as I see faces screaming to be brought out!  

Not long ago, a number of the other students on Sketchbook Skool had gotten into swapping trading Artist Trading Cards through the mail (even overseas).  I enjoyed that a great deal, also.  It's interesting how one's personal style and medium often draws (no pun intended...or maybe just a little one) upon a range of past experiences.  It didn't take much thinking for me to decide that the small (2.5" x 3.5") watercolor cards cut from that same Spilled Pigment paper could be carried around in the Franklin Planner's credit card slots, and when riding in the car or sitting, waiting for food at a cafe, I can pull one out and stare at it until something emerges.  This allows me to play with ideas on a small scale before working large.  

I wish I could give you some background on story behind this particular impulsive piece. Maybe you've got a story that springs to mind!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jim's Birthday

A quick painting I did, 4" x 6", for the front of Jim's birthday card. Of course that's me, stroking the beard of my handsome groundhog.  More like a fox, if you ask me.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where Do The Children Go When They Sleep, Mommy?

Someone on Sketchbook Skool had asked if I was going to put faces on any of my Pigment Spill papers.  The grains of course salt had sucked up the pigment around them and they had created odd, fuzzy gaps that looked like furry creatures looming.  I stared at this particular page for quite awhile this evening and when an image started to emerge in my mind, I ran to get my (what else?) Inktense Watersoluble pencils.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Soup Pot Selfie

We had a new homework assignment in Sketchbook Skool Bootkamp today.  This was SO up my alley.  No, not because my ego can't get enough of my face appearing on Facebook, but because I love portraits.  And portraits that use a little imagination...all the better! And who am I going to get to stand still as a model?  Well, me.  

There were two Selfies we were to do.  One I haven't yet posted here, in which I sprouted feathers. A fanciful selfie from memory.  But this one was to be from a mirror (which in my case was the side of a stainless steel dutch oven), with distortion or props or glamor or whatever.  How easy could it be?  My reflection on the pot was already distorted.  I just copied it.  The challenge was using some of my Pigment Spill paper and my Derwent Inkense pencils to follow the colors already on the paper. Not so glamorous, but oh, well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Wisdom of Eve

Staining wet water color paper has become my favorite pastime.  It's soothing, exciting, serendipitous, and feeds my color-starved soul struggling with Winter's comatose foliage. This will be included, I think, in my novel, "Drawing On The River".  I often sculpted fish imagery in the past, from the Koi Boys to the Piscean Dance Series (See 11-26-11 Post: Metanoia II).  A great deal of perplexing, symbolic, figurative entities passed through my hands and found appreciative audiences in the world.  What these meant to the buying public I have rarely been privileged to know, but they are out there somewhere, radiating intention.  This woman is the first painting I've done with that Piscean imagery.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Danny's Dollar

One of our online class assignments suggested by Danny Gregory was an exercise in textures and contours, heavy on the details.  He had us taking a crumpled paper currency (dollar, euro, whatever) and sketch it, being mindful of the outline, the details, the shadows and facets.  The students posted a wonderful array of offerings, many of foreign currencies to the U.S. dollar, and many were beautifully detailed and colored.  I was struck again at how beautiful foreign currency was compared to ours.  One student wondered why the U.S. paper money always looked like it had been designed and issued by the Army.  She was right.  Compared to other country's bills, ours looks stern, official and drab.  Warlike. Institutional.  That of other countries are arrayed in iridescent colors, festooned with symbols and engravings of beauty, cultural pride and heritage.  Often with women as honored heads of state, past or present.  

I dug through boxes I knew contained old coins and foreign bills from my previous husband's travels abroad, and could not find those pretty monies I thought I'd seen there once. But there was a 1928 issue One Silver Dollar, a genuine Silver Certificate.  In remarkable condition!  It wasn't any prettier than what we have today, but it was different.  A little museum artifact.  I wasn't about to crumple it and do it harm, but I put a slight, chevron crease in it, so there'd be contrasting shadow.  And in  honor of our teacher, I slipped Danny's face under old George's powdered wig.  This current Sketchbook Skool Kourse (their term) is referred to as BootKamp.  It was certainly an interesting exercise.  As we are all finding out, you never really see anything truly until you stop to sketch it.  It then imprints in your mind in a way it hadn't ever before.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pensive Pepper

I've been experimenting again with my favorite paper treatment, the Spilled Pigment wash technique, and as the colors came out a little more saturated this time, I wondered if sketching over it would work well.  And also what medium would pop on top of that base.  Apparently I needn't worry.  I've cut up the half sheets of watercolor paper (Arches 140# hot press), once stretched and stained, into pages that would fit a Franklin Planner, punched them and with what was left over, I cut into Artist Trading Card format... 2 1/2" by 3 1/2" (or like baseball trading cards). Those became my little test sketches.  This is one of them.  Watercolor, Noodler's Ink and dip pen, Acrylic ink and Derwent Inktense water-soluble pencils.  Wow, does that perk up the foggy winter blahs! Yowza!