Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happiness is...

My husband called me yesterday while I was helping a friend paint sets for the community theatre.  It's been a fun, but time-consuming challenge.  More on that later.
Me - Hello.
Hubby - Hello!!
M - Hello?!
H - Helloooo!!! .... Who is this? (our conversations tend to start out goofy)
M - Your wife.
H - You must be painting.
M - Why? Can you hear the noise here?
H - You sound happy.  You sound happiest when you're painting.
It's an exaggeration since I don't paint often, but I love that he said it.  Later in the evening we were out on the cycle.  At one point, while increasing speed, he leaned in with great gusto and swiftly switched gears several times.  When we got to cruising speed, he briefly put his hands up and did a slow ninja chop in the air.  I chuckled.  Yeah, cycle-riding makes him happy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Week 2 of semester 2 of Sketchbook Skool was all about self-portraits - or drawn selfies.  It's been both fun & frustrating.  I'll soon post a bit of the homework.  

In the meantime, the whole idea of this class is to get in the habit of daily drawing - of illustrating life as it happens.  It might be sinking in.  I sat down for a short nap one afternoon and instead wound up drawing the cat napping.  A simple moment of my day recorded in a few minutes of ink.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Drawn to the Kitchen

Draw your kitchen!  That was the final assignment for semester one of Sketchbook Skool.  Doesn't sound terribly exciting does it?  I mean, really, how exciting are appliances and cabinets and such?  Well, it turned out to be a kettle of fun.  (heh heh)

I've mentioned the sixth SBS teacher was Tommy Kane.  His method is to slow down, see the details and spends hours on a sketchbook page instead of minutes.  I gravitate towards the slow and detailed versus the mostly quicker methods of the earlier SBS instructors.  This particular lesson was calling my name so I skipped a couple assignments (for now).

After much procrastinating and the inner critic trying to talk me out of it, I sat down on a rainy afternoon when there was no harvest crew to cook for.  As usual, my persnickety brain was immediately annoyed that the lines weren't instantly perfecto.  I wanted the fridge along the right edge, so started there... without thinking about my hand being in the way as I moved from right to left.  Urgh.  Then, the stove went all wonky.  It doesn't really lean out like that.  "Tommy said to just keep going!"  That was on repeat in my brain.  So, I did - even though the back counter line was angling down & actually the whole drawing was leaning to the left.  I kept going.

I posted this first photo to the SBS Facebook group.  I reasoned, if I get this out there, I will actually finish it.

Over the next week more lines were added, then cross-hatching, then more lines, then more cross-hatching.  (Click on any photo to see it larger.)

Watercolor was next and it made me nervous.  Those wonky kitchen lines had grown on me.  Did I really want to risk messing it all up.  "Oh come on, it's just paper!  Get to it!"  So I did.  First some greens, then the cabinets, walls, and floor.

I started having fun.  Adding color here and there.  Going back into dry areas and enhancing the color or texture.  I thought I was done and posted the photo above.  Oops, missed the middle of the window and a few small white spaces and a few magnets.

Ask any artist - we always see something to change or correct or add to.  I see several areas I could enhance, but this one is done.  This final photo was posted about an hour before semester two started.  I'm so last minute it isn't even funny.  My daughter wants to frame this, but I won't be tearing it out.  Guess I'll have to properly scan and print it for her.

Semester two of Sketchbook Skool started Friday.  We've been celebrating July 4th and finishing up harvest, so I've only watched a few class videos.  Time to crack open the sketchbook!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sketchbook Dreams

It's been nearly two years since starting this trek and since my silly art class dream.  I had another goofy dream last night - kind of a sad nightmare really.  Much of the vivid story faded quickly.  What I do remember:

I'm at an elaborate exhibit of student work with a mishmash of classmates - high school friends, college pals, and Sketchbook Skool artists.  Our work is oddly shaped pottery.  Observers file by and I am obviously proud of my creative pots.  Then it's time to pack up and Danny Gregory instructs us, one by one, to collect our pieces.  Oh dear, the order is determined by ability, from fantastic to not-so-good.  I wait...  then chat with my SBS classmate Lynn.  Why, yes, she would indeed like to invite me to join her group of artists, but alas, there is no room right now.  "Keep me in mind, I'd really love that!"  

Turning back to the tables of pottery, I realize three of us are left... the bottom of the class.  I am bummed and suddenly realize how juvenile my pots are.  "Now, do you see why you need to spend more time on this?" Danny stands next to me like a stern principal.  "Yeah... I thought this was good."  A totem pole of tiny pots falls apart as I pick it up.  Sigh. I begin gathering my sad pots.  Then the alarm interrupted my distress.

I've deduced this was a combo of my tumultuous first semester as well as the inner critic voice (aka The Monkey) telling me I'm not talented enough or something.  WHAT-EV-ER.  Back off buddy.  I'm just happy Mr. Gregory was the instructor of whatever pottery class that was.  I bet I had fun in class!  . . . .  Oh, wait!  I just thought of the new exercise program at work ... I'm nearly in last place.  Hey!  Maybe the dream is also about my sucky exercise habits!  Yay!... er... I mean, I need to get going on that.  (And sketching.)

Semester 2 of Sketchbook Skool starts Friday.  Woohoo!  I'm off to finish a bit of leftover homework from semester 1... (and of course, go for a walk).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lemon Dogs

Last week was machinery prep for harvest - waxing, cleaning, greasing, oil-changing, fixing, etc.  We started cutting wheat Saturday.  Actual drawing or painting exercises just can't happen these busy weeks and moments to sketch illustrated journal-style are rare and brief.  What gets on the page is wonky at best, but it's all about capturing the moment, so I'm good with these (both in my pocket-size sketchbook).

About 20 minutes snatched between finishing up for the night and heading home.

I'm the cook for our little harvest crew.  I stole a few minutes to sketch ingredients and then, while the meal was cooking, added bits of color.  I asked my sister if she could tell what this sketch is of and she identified the whisk & eggs, but then "... and a spoon of, um, a tiny dog?"  Hahaha!

It is raining today.  Frustrating the farmers, but it gives me a break to catch up on housework and sketching and maybe napping, though probably not in that order.

(PS - It's lemon zest.  No tiny dogs were harmed in the making of my lemon bars.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Can Sketch 65 (mph)

Intro:  Bought a Harley last year.  (back story here)  Trips planned.  Short-ish rides happen.  And, well... old butts need comfier seats and better suspension.  Traded for touring cycle.  Wider backrest (couch) for me.  Backrest and better seat for him.  Suspension is smooooth!

The past few months were too worrisome and busy to ride much.  On Sunday, my husband's first fatherless Father's Day, he said "Let's get on the Harley."  It was time for some two-wheel therapy.  

I've pondered sketching while riding, especially with the new comfier set up.  Too windy?  Too bumpy?  Would I feel secure?  Only one way to find out.  I stuffed a Moleskine Cahier and a pen in my jacket.

Cruising along in the open air behind my steady hubby is nice relaxing good for the soul.  The countryside rolls by and random thoughts float through my brain.  Fifty miles into the ride, out came the pen & sketchbook.  Wiggly lines, but not too bad.  The road got a little rough while drawing my driver's right arm.  (Okay, the suspension has it's limits.)  The lines went all kinds of wonky and then I laughed - hysterically.  With a grin, I put the pen away.  I will most certainly be cycle sketching again.

I shared this adventure with Sketchbook Skool classmates.  They think I'm brave or trusting or crazy - maybe all three.  That makes me laugh too.  In real life I'm kind boring - introverted and all about safety (hence the helmet).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Moving On - or - Sketching Tommy

Life is slowly, slowly resuming some sense of normalcy.  I recall when my Dad passed away five years ago, it was weeks before happy people no longer annoyed me.  The days got better, but we had to experience a year of events without him to adjust to the new us.  We'll get there.

As mentioned previously, Sketchbook Skool mostly fell by the wayside after the first week's lesson.  Fellow participants joined the SBS Facebook group during class and continued on together after the lessons were complete.  I sometimes hung out in the periphery - enjoying the camaraderie and briefly joining in during moments of improvement.

Last week I stepped back into Skool and homework assignments.  Six inspiring artists instructed us and the last week was presented by Tommy Kane.  Afterwards, he wrote a moving letter about what teaching us had meant to him and how we should love our own artwork.  He noticed when posting work, we were overly critical of our own abilities.  I've noticed it too and am guilty.  We must stop.  He instructed us to practice every day, keep going no matter what and, of course, love our work!  My interpretation is mistakes are learning experiences, but also what you did well, even if it's one line, causes growth and helps with the next page.  Always start the next page.

Part of healing is returning to my sketchbook.  After reading that letter and noticing many classmates sketching Tommy Kane, I decided to do so as well.  One pose in this comical video grabbed me.  I draw my feet often, so there's that.  It also makes me want to actually try sketching something with my long toes just for giggles.

Roz Stendahl (5th SBS teacher) recommends warming up with gesture sketches, so I did.  On the third page I used more of her advice to line up landmarks - eye to elbow, chin to knee, etc.  I tend to do this without really thinking.  Focusing more closely was a good thing.

Next, moving from the little Moleskine to a bigger multimedia Strathmore book for the "real" page.  Jane LaFazio (4th SBS teacher) begins her pages with pencil, then pen.  I followed her lead and was pleasantly surprised how the initial sketches helped - less erasing.  Last was watercolor and journaling.  The quote (author unknown) fits both the comical page and my tumultuous life.  I'm kinda' happy with it.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Good Man

In recent posts I've mentioned my pop-in-law's medical crisis.  It has now come to an end and I feel compelled to share.  Bear with me.  This is an art blog and I'll include how my artist was affected, though it seems a small thing compared to his struggle.

2014 will always be the year without spring.  Flowers bloomed, leaves appeared, and nests were filled.  We scarcely noticed.  Early tulips held no joy.  Recent irises are melancholy.  I couldn't draw spring.  I managed a few other pages.  Some held concerning objects like prescription bottles and hospital masks.  Others, though not medical, will forever be markers of the ordeal, such as the day we took my pop-in-law back to the hospital or the moment of hope at the nursing facility.

Days and weeks passed.  Improvements were fleeting.  Father and son are close, having farmed together since forever.  The growing concern weighed on my husband.  My sisters-in-law came often, but between visits relied on us for information - worrying at times from afar.  I had no desire to sketch or even cook.  We existed on a drive thru diet to and from the hospital.  We watched my pop-in-law's health sink beyond hope.  There was little comfort in food or nature or art.  I've seen other bloggers draw their loved ones in the hospital.  I couldn't.  The man in the bed was not the spirited, jovial man I had known for 30 years.  To draw him now seemed a betrayal.

Al lived a long, good life and was a man of faith.  He was a husband, father, grandpa, farmer, veteran, dancer, welder, crooner, poker player, bowler, galushki maker, and favorite uncle.  Extended family was precious to him.  He was quick-witted and had an amazing knack with one-liners.  He was ready to lend a hand or give advice.  When he offered praise, it was honest and true.  He was grateful for harvest field meals, but it took years to earn a firm compliment of my cooking.  What a day of victory that was!  I will miss our banter.

We are in process of digitizing old faculty files in my office and last week I came across a lovely comment regarding the 1941 death of the university president.  The sentiment expressed suits my pop-in-law...

My son aptly stated yesterday - It's still sad and weird, but we will be alright.  Healing will be found in each other and, to some extent for me, in sketching life continuing around us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our Day of Color

My pop-in-law entered the rehab facility yesterday.  He responded quite well and showed obvious relief to be out of the hospital.  Optimism was rampant.  Last night I felt ready to dive back into Sketchbook Skool and tackled a colored pencil assignment.

Early this morning it was back to ICU with a not so great prognosis.  Whatever happens, I thank the good Lord for our one day of color.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Crisis and Recovery

My pop-in-law has been hospitalized for nearly a month now.  It's been a very tough ride for him and difficult to watch.  However, within a week he will be released to a nursing facility for continued recovery and rehab.  This is wonderful news!

The tractor sketch in the previous post was done hours before we took him back to the hospital in April.  Since that time, my heart hasn't been in a creative place.  While my sisters-in-law were in town & on hospital duty one evening, I rode along to help my husband with farming tasks.  A little time sitting in the pickup resulted in the first pages in 3 weeks.  My fingers felt heavy and the voice in my head was awfully loud about how not-so-great it was, but whatever.  In the end, it was a bit of needed therapy.

These are both in my little Moleskine - first pen & watercolor of a houseless farm in the distance.  Those little brown things are box cars, which are often used for storage.  This paper doesn't like watercolor washes.  The second page was fairly quick - recording what I could see in the side mirror as my husband finished up the field.  Didn't have time to add the bottom half.

There is hope again.  We look forward to some sense of normalcy and a little bit of boredom.  As I told my sister today, considering the past two months, boring is awesome!  Maybe we can get back to the house updating soon and I can move into the studio room and my pop-in-law can sit in his living room again and cuss about the wheat price.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tractor vs Roller Coaster

Momentary break to post a quick sketch of my hubby in the field.  This was drawn shortly before the roller coaster plummeted and we took my pop-in-law back to the hospital last week.  Lots of little ups and big downs since then.  Coasting right now and that's not so bad.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Oxygen Mask

Rollercoaster medical stuff.  Ongoing home renovation.  Sketchbook Skool.  Everyday life.  In all honesty, it can be a bit much.  I whined in Skool that it's been difficult finding time for daily journaling and when I did have time, my mind was in "No" mode.  "How do I fight this?"  My query was answered by Danny Gregory - our main Skool instructor.  He kindly responded that journaling during critical times can be the best times:  "Making art may be the best way to slow down, take a breath, and unwind. It's not selfish if it makes you feel in balance. 
Failing that, give yourself a break. If it's not a welcome distraction or a way of getting insight, then maybe you are seeing trying to draw as yet one more burden, one challenge too many."

I read that and my first response was "Hey, I don't want to give up!"  Then, "Well, maybe I should back off."  Then, "No, I need to rediscover the zen in sketching."  So, I picked up my small Moleskine and a pen, walked into the garage, and sat on the floor.  My husband likes home repair and carpentry, but I find it mostly tedious.  He's seriously crazy busy with work and worry about his Dad.  The baseboards must be done before the carpet guys come on Monday.  So, I'm sanding baseboards.  I needed to sketch the blasted sander.  As usual, I started out tense and annoyed.  However, each mark was less forced and a certain calm settled in.  Adding the bits of watercolor balanced the scales and I was ready to return to reality.  Sketching with pen is a little wonky, but I honestly don't care. 

In case of emergency -
Put your oxygen mask on first so you can then help those around you.
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