Tuesday, September 2, 2014


August went zooooOOOM!  September will be no different.  Headed to Cali for a wedding tomorrow.  Within days of arriving home, we are headed across the state to a concert.  And there's more brouhaha planned after that.

In the midst of the madness, I worked on a page from the last semester of Sketchbook Skool.  The assignment: Gather items to create a collection.  Trace around them one by one and then add as much or little detail as you like.  Use only ballpoint pen.  I chose our refrigerator magnets.  This page has grown in the quiet moments when my husband crashed in his recliner at the end of a long day.  I draw while he dozes.

I like detail and I'm slow and we have a lot of magnets.  It may take me another month.  Here's the progress so far.

Yawning Milo is not impressed.

YOU could try this with any old ballpoint.  I used my absolute favorite ballpoint pen - the Zebra F-301.  It creates nice thin lines and doesn't smear.  The tip needs occasional blob removal (see the squiggles in the left margin), but that's true with most ballpoints.  Layering with this baby creates a lovely range of pencil-like grays.  The only thing that could make this pen better might be a fatter grip.  That and dispensing chocolate as you draw.  Wouldn't that be perfect?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stop... Go... Pennzoil

My son and I have done this routine since he was a kid.  "Stop" will be said or overheard for whatever reason.  He or I will then say "go" and the other one "Pennzoil."  I could text "stop" to him today & the shtick would continue.  If you remember past Pennzoil commercials, you'll understand.  If not, you're totally perplexed right now.  Sadly, I can't find any links/videos of this to share.  Is this relevant to the subject matter of today's post?  Kinda' sorta' maybe.  It's stuck in my head, so there it is.

Anyhoo... Every so often I have to fess up to slacking off.  I am drawing more, but in spurts.  I gain & lose momentum like a wimpy car on a mountain road.  My rolling stone gleefully flies down the hill and then settles in a nice little rut in the valley.  Start, stop, start, stop... You get the idea.  Two years of progress & it's still a struggle.  I kind of think most creatives deal with this.

What distracts me?

The dog, the cat, the husband, Facebook, chocolate, email, laundry, snail mail, housework, IMing my sister, the weather, the blogosphere, the kids, paperwork, books, chocolate, bills, blog posting, YouTube, errands, cooking, the newspaper, TV, chocolate, the internet, the sunset, the fly on my knee.. it goes on pretty much endlessly.

Of course some of this is necessary, but many times it's just the inner critic pulling my sleeve, pointing out what I could be doing that is less challenging.  The Voice nags, nags, nags - "You have more important things to do.  You're ignoring the cat/dog/husband.  Stop being selfish.  Art doesn't really matter.  Don't start - it will suck anyway.  It's more fun to BUY art supplies."  

The ONLY way to shut it up is to hit mute and sit my butt down and start.  There really isn't a shortcut.  There is no easy button - just do, do, do!  That makes you want to sing doesn't it?  Okay, now I'm humming.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Me, Myself & Selfies

Sketchbook Skool week two was selfies and, with time to do homework every day and getting to use pencils (YAY!), it was a great week.

The last week of semester 2 is nearly done.  I need to get busy, but first...

Selfie numero uno - from the mirror.  I tried, without success, to avoid the usual stern/sad/concentrating self-portrait.

Left side = friendly me.  Right side = going back to bed.

A couple days later - from photos.  I do not have deep, dark eyes - otherwise, not so bad.


Then came quick contours.  The first one is blind - no peeking at the paper allowed.   The second is one line (no lifting of the pen) in one minute.  These expressive faces are the fun meter favorite.

And lastly - cycle-riding me hanging out behind the hubby on the Harley.
(Yes, drawn from my comfy seat while zipping down the highway.)

Enough about me.  YOU should grab a pen and piece of paper. . . . Really, right now, pick up a pen & notepad - or maybe an envelope you're about to throw out.  Take them in the bathroom or bedroom, look in the mirror for a minute.  Select a spot on your face and touch your pen to the paper.  Now, without looking down, draw the lines of your face - hair, eyes, nose, lips, chin (not necessarily in that order).  Don't over think and don't dawdle - just scoot that pen around.

Now look down.  There - that's your laugh for the day.  Repeat as needed - with your face or a loved one.  Better yet, make them try it too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Scene Three

On a recent Friday evening my phone dinged at me - "Hey, do you have plans for tomorrow or Sunday?"  Hmmm, what will I be getting myself into?  Isn't that what we all think when an ambiguous question pops up?  Or... is that just me?  Oops.

Anyway, we had a Saturday cycle trip planned, but I was free Sunday and replied as such.  I soon discovered my friend Kristi had volunteered to paint 3 small background panels for the community theatre.  She was requesting my "artistic talents."  My initial reaction was, well, YIKES!  Me?!  Can I really be that much help?  The only large art I'd done was the whimsical sidewalk chalking last fall.  However, one of the themes here is to try new creative ventures, so I agreed.
a fireplace palette.

We met on a Sunday afternoon to begin what would take three additional evenings to complete.  The "small" backgrounds were 8 foot panels.  Small in theatre world I suppose, but not to this gal.  The musical was Into the Woods and we were charged with creating Cinderella's house/fireplace, a baker's shop/oven, and Jack's house/shack.  Thankfully, Kristi had a few ideas to get us started and we planned our attack with pencil & brush.

I painted Cinderella's fireplace.. stone by stone by stone.

Kristi tackled the baker's shop... layer by layer by layer.


Working on the baker's oven.

We teamed up for the third panel - Jack's shack.  I roughed out the sketch and laid down the initial wood grain of the boards.  The next night  Kristi added detail to the wall and floor while I painted the window boards.  I think this panel had the best end result.  The team effort was a blast and there was plenty of chit chat.  Kristi was an art major as well and we tossed around mutual artist issues - like how intimidating it is to start something totally new on the page or canvas.  Those discussions were punctuated with comments on the project at hand - "Hmm, should I use another color?"  "What are you thinking?"  "How about I add a shadow here?"  That kind of stuff - bouncing back and forth as we worked.   
This project was time consuming and I was exhausted when we left each evening, but it was a fun experience.  The occasional complimentary cast member was a nice bonus - a nice confidence booster.  (And NO, I do not want to be a regular set painter.  Seriously, not.  Well, maybe I would help a waaaaays down the road.  Now, it's back to paper and small canvas - which are small in reality, not just in theatre terms.)

The first two panels on stage.  This was the last night we painted, so didn't get to see all three together.

All "finished."  For an artist - it's really never finished.  You just run out of time.

Now wasn't that a productive way to procrastinate my Sketchbook Skool homework?

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.
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