24 April 2018

shapes and edges

. . . and here’s my notations and class work for today’s second half, “Sketching Complex Shapes with Edges and Shapes” with Liz Steel. Liz is SO RIGHT — capturing shapes first is so much easier and quicker than beginning with lines!

a tea habit

Today’s first class in Sketchbook Revival was presented by Danny Gregory, a true hero in the sketchbook artist world. It was his book, Everyday Matters, that began this drawing journey so many of us are on. My response was to draw three of my own tea cups (okay, two of them are mugs, not cups — but I like BIG cups of hot tea!) Shown above is the tea I was actually drinking while watching the class video on my phone.

I’m using the simple folded journal I made yesterday using Bristol paper. This Scottie cup, given to me by my dear friend Ginger, looks very wonky but I was not using any pencil guidelines — just straight with ink in Lamy Safari fountain pens.

And this is my only real tea cup and saucer, unless you count some antique doll china that once belonged to Bill’s grandmother.

23 April 2018

a temporary sketchbook cover

After making two of the simple sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Revival class today, one folded and one a single sewn signature, I went ahead and sewed another book block from the leftover sheets of Cotman 200 lb. cold press watercolor paper. The paper is so thick, I used only one folded sheet per signature! But it should work very well for any wetter paint applications I might use.

Originally I had planned to do any class work in my regular current sketchbook journal, but because the first class was on making our own books, I decided to work in these books for the duration. The simple ones seen in my previous post are of Bristol paper, a smooth paper for pencil or pen and ink. This book block above is more for watercolor.

Eventually I will design covers for all three books but I really don’t want to decide on what they might look like today. So I needed a temporary cover to hold them:

This plaid book cover was made to hold paperback novels — I bought it because I love all things plaid but have never used it.

By tucking the front or back page into the inner flaps, my two larger sketchbook page blocks are easily held in place within the cover. The smaller folded book stays in place with the bookmark ribbon.

Seems like a simple temporary solution for some very simple sketchbooks!

some simple handmade journals

The Sketchbook Revival online workshop began today, with the first lesson teaching how to make three simple sketchbooks. I didn’t make the first example, an accordion book, because I had already filled two journals of that style, full of special memories.

The larger one, made by Cathy Johnson, was filled in March and June of 2013 during two of my “Granny Nanny” trips staying with grandkids. Across three pages of one side is Mikala’s gigantic Maine Coon kitten, Oreo — Sadly, he died of a heart attack near the end of that same year, making this sketch poignantly special. (That was also the year my husband Bill had a major heart attack, followed by bypass surgery. I am SO GRATEFUL that he not only survived but is still thriving with a strong heart!)

The smaller accordion book contains random sketches from 2015, including my cataract surgeries. I fill both sides of this style of book, using a couple of rubber bands to hold uncorked pages together as I work. Otherwise the book can easily spill across the floor!

The two books in front are a simple folded version of white Bristol and a single signature sewn book of the same paper, covered with a folded piece of vintage Bristol in a cream color. I think I’ll use both of these for some of the class work.

Two separate parts to today’s class were sent by email today; I’ve only watched the first one due to wimpy internet. Maybe I will be able to view the second half before bedtime.

22 April 2018

new sketchbooks

Even though I have a small stash of papers to bind my own sketchbook journals, I haven’t really been in the mood to get started on it. I also need to find a better quality glue before beginning on that project.

But for now, I am liking every Stillman & Birn sketchbook I’ve tried, especially the softcover versions. My current book is the deep blue Beta lying underneath this light blue Field Notes notebook that stays in my purse. And in the above sketch, two new books recently arrived by mail order: a Zeta landscape softcover and a Nova softcover with gray toned paper.

I still have nearly half of the Beta to fill, so there’s still time before I have to decide . . .

18 April 2018

time to re-ink

Some of my fountain pens were skipping a bit and some were nearly dry, so it was time to re-ink. I seldom completely clean a pen; inserting the nib and feed into the ink, then emptying and re-filling the converter a couple of times seems to lubricate everything. My pens then write like new again.

This old wooden box that holds my ink bottles (De Atramentis Document, Noodler’s, and J. Herbin brands) and a few pre-filled cartridges is from my grandfather’s print shop, and once held odd type, blocks, and bits for the monstrously big printing presses he kept in his garage. I can remember the smell of the ink he used a large roller to apply. His fingers were always ink-stained. As are mine after refilling my pens!

13 April 2018


Our daughter-in-law Carrie recently had a birthday . . . and she woke up to find that her yard had been taken over by plastic flamingos!

(Flamingo pink is a very hard color to mix!)

11 April 2018

which green?

I have tweeked the limited palette that I recently put together, replacing the raw umber with burnt sienna — I can always mix a near-match to the raw umber with ultramarine. Then I wondered whether to keep the one single-pigment green as perylene green, or replace it with phthalo green BS?

So I mixed it with my other colors. If what I’m after is “bright”, the phthalo is a better choice; for subtle, realistic color, the perylene works better. . . . . Still undecided. What do you think?

The other choices in this limited palette are quinacridone rose, quinacridone gold, Hansa yellow medium, phthalo blue GS, ultramarine, burnt sienna, Payne’s gray, and a dab of white gouache. Plus a  Loew-Cornell #8 round and a 3/4 flat for my brushes. The flat’s handle has been shortened to fit the box and pointed for scratching effects.

09 April 2018

a cleaning day

I store tubes and sticks of watercolor in a deep drawer of an antique wooden toolbox, with paints already squeezed into pans and allowed to dry stored in a shallow drawer just above the paint drawer. Over time, it gets vary messy, though I dotry to keep the paints in roughly the same order as I place them in palettes. There were several colors that I’ve stopped using or some I tried due to other sketchers’ experiences — I decided to clean these out and settle on just the ones actually used.

Some of those on the right hand side are only used once in a great while, or only in a special granulated palette. So my “core” palette is usually made up with 10 to 14 of these. I will miss the old quinacridone gold (no longer available). I still have some squeezed and dried in pans. But it has been removed from the overall stash.

08 April 2018

my REAL Etsy shop

While I was at church this morning, another one of my prints sold in my Etsy shop. (Woo-Hoo!)

For those not “in the know”, this is what my real Etsy shop actually looks like! A large paper bag with handles, full of plastic-sleeved pre-matted prints, originals, sets of note cards, padded mailers, and the binder where I record inventory, expenses, and sales. Not so exciting, is it?

My Etsy shop online can be found here.

06 April 2018

just for fun . . .

Once again, I am on the road as “granny nanny”, helping get three grandkids to and from school while their daddy drives the Needville Welding Team to a competition in Corpus Christi. (Welding team? Who knew schools had such a thing!?!)

Earlier this week, their mother celebrated another birthday; last night everyone tried to hit and break a piñata in her honor. Tons of candy and confetti fell out, along with this rubber ducky. So I tried sketching it, using watercolor as gouache by adding white gouache to regular watercolor. Seems to act just like regular gouache paints. 

I’m also running LOTS of updates on my lap top. I no longer have WiFi at home so whenever I am at our kids’ homes, I borrow their WiFi to update. Any offered internet where our cabin is located has terrible reception due to hills, valleys, and tons of trees. And being 12 miles from town, the larger companies aren’t that interested in providing to such a small population.

05 April 2018


Normally I feel a bit too intimidated to sketch people at church. Besides, we sit up front where I only see one family plus the pastor — and he changes expressions too fast to capture!

But last night I was jotting down notes and between that, I just started drawing Macy, our pastor’s beautiful granddaughter. She has the most gorgeous face, classically beautiful like Audrey Hepburn. And she’s tall (15 years old and over 6’) yet moves with such grace! Very athletic too.

04 April 2018

window view

As I sit inside our cabin watching the carpenter’s crew struggle to place an overhead beam for our new carport, this is the view out a different window. Sketched in De Atramentis dark blue ink with Daniel Smith’s lunar blue and a touch of other watercolors.

The hummingbird feeders are filled and ready; so far we have only seen one this year but the levels are dropping so they must be feeding when we aren’t watching for them.

(Anyone notice something missing in the sketch? I didn't until after posting this here and on Facebook: the sky peeking through the oak trees was brilliant cobalt blue . . . and I forgot to paint it!)

02 April 2018

a minimal kit

Although I am still working in my larger (5 1/2 x 8 1/2”) Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, there are times when a smaller one comes in handy. Sometimes I might wish to carry a smaller bag, or maybe just stick stuff in a pocket and carry no bag.

I had one more Field Notes notebook from the set of three I purchased over a year ago, and the robin-egg blue just feels like spring, so I decided to start working in it as well.

To be truly minimal, I can just carry the wee notebook and a couple of pens: a Pentel Pocketbrush pen and a Sigma white gel pen. Color, if desired, can always be added later at home.

Having purchased a sample of QOR “earth color” watercolors years ago which I put together in an Ice Chips tin, I decided these might work well on this toned paper as the QOR paints seem a bit more opaque that my normal Daniel Smith watercolors.

A second lid friction-fits on the bottom to provide more mixing space. A bit of folded paper towel fits inside here as well.

I've added small pans of white and lunar blue watercolors to the set. Also fitting inside the box are my tiny Kaweco Lilliput fountain pen, 2 shortened pencils (one a white Prismacolor), a pencil sharpener, a two-piece water brush, and a bit of sponge.

A tiny card showing the QOR colors also fits inside the friction-fit lid on the bottom.

The whole thing can be held together using a terry-knit wrist band, which can also be used for wiping the brush on.

31 March 2018

early morning tea

Yesterday morning we drove to Lyons, Texas to meet a friend for an early breakfast. Micky, the waitress, always brings me a cup of hot water, knowing that I carry my own tea bags with me. She also always brings me a spoon . . . which I never use.

Just playing with a fude-nib pen and a bit of Daniel Smith lunar blue watercolor here; I even drew this without my usual pencil guidelines!

30 March 2018

two more homes in our neighborhood

When we decided to move to Texas, our 1920 apartment building in Kansas unexpectedly sold in only 6 days. So we made a mad dash to Texas over Thanksgiving to find and buy a new home. We had been looking online for a couple of months; there were 4 homes for sale in this country community we ended up in.

These 2 homes are the ones that sold before we could make it here to look in person. As much as I liked this log cabin with that huge garage Bill could have used for his woodshop, I’m actually glad it sold early so we ended up with a different log cabin that had a loft. Grandkid Zone as well as my art space are up there!

23 March 2018

past sketchbooks

Years ago, Bill made this wall shelf to hold my sketchbook journals. At the time, I thought it would take forever to fill it . . .

. . . but now I have an overflow. I haven’t quite made up my mind about a new storage option.

My “studio” and sketchbooks live in the loft.

21 March 2018

blanketflower . . . and friends

The first explosion of native wildflowers has begun, the first I found up close being the blanket flowers growing on a street corner in Somerville, Texas. Yesterday I stopped to get a closer look at the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and tickseed blooming near highway 36 and FM 1948. Washington county will soon be covered in glorious color — this year, the peak bloom time is expected on Easter weekend, though they will continue through next month. And summer varieties will soon follow . . .

20 March 2018

springtime arrives in Washington county

Actually, we’re been having spring-like temperatures for a couple of weeks — a very welcome change from the very cold and overcast winter this year. Much more “winter” than is normal around here! These bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes are just beginning to open up the road from our cabin.

12 March 2018

what . . . another bag?

Some women love shopping for clothes (I prefer “old and comfortable”) and some love shoes (I’d rather go barefoot) . . . But I’m always searching for just the right bag! For times when I wish to carry  a larger selection of sketching tools, my iPad, and several books, a larger bag is needed. I ordered one a couple of years ago from Amazon that seemed functional and had great ratings, but it was sewn of a canvas material that was just too awkward and heavy for me.

I saw a Baggallini at a local hardware store (yes, Ace Hardware in Brenham has a boutique in it!) but it was well over $100 — not my kind of money! So I looked on eBay. And found this extremely lightweight, gently used hobo bag for a mere pittance.

My paternal grandmother may be to blame for my shopping for purses. It seems that she gave me a new one every Christmas! But as I find new ones, I’ll usually give another one or two away; I really don’t need that many choices.

The Lamy Joy fountain pen I used here is fitted with a regular XF nib and filled with a custom sepia ink I made from combining the remains of Noodler’s polar black with Noodler’s polar brown. The redder ink in the coral colored Lamy Safari is my try at a burnt sienna ink, mixing De Atramentis document red with some document black. The ink in both pens is waterproof, allowing watercolor washes over them with no bleeding. The bag is a solid brown with red stitching and red lining, but the burnt sienna ink didn’t show up like I had hoped.

10 March 2018

a mockingbird . . . car?

Yesterday, on two separate occasions, Bill and I heard the dual sound of a car alarm going off. The kind that shrilly sounds if you happen to get too close to the car parked next to yours, that is possibly designed to wake the dead.

But the sound was not coming from any of the neighborhood cars; it was coming from the trees in the woods around us! It was a mockingbird, perfectly imitating the siren of a disturbed car.

07 March 2018

Etsy shop now open!

I finally stopped procrastinating and opened an Etsy shop today. My shop’s officially name is “VickyWilliamsonArt” — not very original, is it? For now, as I learn how this works and if there’s even any interest out there, I am limiting sales to the United States.

06 March 2018

rearranging my Pocket Palette

Confession: I am a thief. On a regular basis I have been known to steal ideas from other online artists. Seriously, there are so many great ideas shared in the online art community!

Though I love using my current palette set up in a slightly larger metal box, sometimes there is only room to carry a Pocket Palette with me. At first, I thought I would only use these new teeny-tiny pans for highly pigmented colors such as phthalo blue (a wee bit of the paint goes a long way!). But after reading a recent blog post on Citizen Sketcher, I agreed with Marc Taro Holmes that they work well as an everyday-carry and are perfect for when you only wish to add a dab of color to a sketch.

I also love the way Marc places related colors together in his palette, applying them side-by-side on the paper to allow the wet paint to mingle together. The way colors interact with each other is part of the magic of playing with watercolor — you’re never sure of exactly how it will turn out! I tend to try to control things too much in my own sketches and would love to do more of this “letting go and let the paint do its thing”.

So I reconfigured my Pocket Palette to hold more colors and added 2 larger pans for mixing. Copying Marc’s idea . . .

05 March 2018


I really should pay more attention to what I’m doing . . .

We were at Lowe’s where Bill was needing to pick up some supplies for an additional storage unit built onto his woodshop. And, as is common, one of their wheeled ladders was blocking his way. So we each grabbed an end to move it out of his way.

Unfortunately I did not see that the ladder was slightly turned toward the display shelves and that there was a fixture return box jutted out behind me. So my hand was pinched between the ladder and box. First reaction, “OUCH!” Second reaction, “I should sketch that.”

(It is fine now, swelling down, and no pain. Just a funny bruise . . . and a silly husband with a tale about me supposedly backhanding him! 🤪)

03 March 2018

a random purchase

While Bill was gathering various supplies at Brenham’s Ace Hardware, I wondered in the “boutique” section of the store. This third of the store has many (most of them very high priced) items of clothing, jewelry, shoes, kitchen and decorator items.

The lids to my salt and pepper set on our stove was rusting; I was using small glass canning jars with nail holes pounded into the flat part of the lids. So when I saw these stainless steel covered glass spice jars, I decided to get them. A bit smaller but we don’t use much anyway, and the lid turns to reveal three different sizes of holes.

I had to laugh when the sales clerk placed them in their own wee paper bag, not in the bag holding Bill’s purchases, and handed the bag to me with a grin.

01 March 2018

the purse Bardie replaced

This is the currently used purse normally stowed in that basket Bardie pilfered. I drew it while listening to the message at church last night. (I follow along on that iPad Mini laying next to the bag.)

That’s my favorite fountain pen, a wee Kaweco Liliput with an extra fine nib. At the moment, it is filled with a mixture of Noodler’s polar black and Noodler’s polar brown — leftover bits that I combined to make a dark gray sketching ink.

28 February 2018

a new Bardie hidey-hole

On the peninsula separating our little kitchen from the main room, there are these odd cubbies near the front door. Too deep and narrow to be of much practical use, I found three narrow baskets at Hobby Lobby that fit — easy to toss my purse or sunglasses into.

Bardie just discovered the middle one when my purse was not put away. He seemed to think we could not see him as he spied on us. So I cleaned out the lowest one for his toys and blankie. I think he will still steal the middle one when my purse is not there.

23 February 2018

another neighborhood home

When we were looking to buy a house in Texas, this home just down the lane from our log cabin was one of those we considered buying. The price was very low and the existing garage would have made a great wood shop for Bill. I LOVED the stone fireplace!

But the roof needed replacing, the kitchen needed to be torn out and redone, the ugly linoleum floor needed to be removed and wood or stone floor installed, the bedroom wallpaper needed to be stripped off and painted, there was a moldy smell in the bathrooms and they needed to be redesigned . . .

All said, it was just too much to take on so we passed on it. I wonder if the new owner likes chocolate mint ice cream?

This limited palette is loosely based on one I found on artist Iain Stewart’s blog from a few years ago. I substituted colors I already had for some of his choices.

17 February 2018

like living in The Birds movie

Lately it has been sounding like we are living in Alfred Hitchcock’s scary movie, “The Birds”. All day long, they can be heard calling from the tree tops and filling up our neighborhood yards.

Last week, it was yards-full of black birds — and I’m talking total carpeting the grass with black! At one time, they were on three sides of our cabin at once.

For several weeks, we have had more than the usual number of very fat, very bright red cardinals (Love them!)

And the past few mornings, I’ve counted well over 30 robins congregating in our yard at one time.

By the way, that movie totally terrified me as a child. Imagine my surprise when I recently learned that the book was written by a favorite childhood author, Daphne Du Maurier!

16 February 2018

a quick breakfast sketch

Before getting started with chores and miscellaneous stuff I need to do today, I mixed up some Greek yoghurt, sweet dark cherries, and sliced almonds for breakfast . . . . and then I did a quick sketch with a Duke 209 bent nib (fude) fountain pen.

15 February 2018

tea, either hot or iced

During my recent viral / respiratory thingy, I found that I could not drink a full mug of hot tea. Even though I regularly enjoy several cups of hot brewed tea daily, usually loose leaf teas — which are impossible to find locally so I order online.

Even though I knew I needed to drink lots of fluids, my throat hurt too much to swallow hot liquids (even chicken soup, but I forced it). I tried the old standby from childhood tonsillitis of ginger ale poured over orange sherbet but after a day or two that didn’t taste good. In fact, nothing tasted ‘right’.

So, even though I detest sweeteners in my tea, I tried brewing a combination of peach tea, lemon ginger tea, and a bit of stevia or real sugar, then poured it over LOTS of ice. Perfect! It tasted great and the ice killed the pain.

I am completely well now but am still enjoying my iced tea concoction once in a while, though with this unusually cold weather I’m also back to enjoying several cups of good old hot tea again.

14 February 2018

beginning a new journal

As with all of my journals, I added my current palette to the first page of my new journal, a Stillman and Birn Beta softcover. The heavier Beta paper is my favorite of this brand’s excellent product line, with its brighter white cold press surface.The watercolors on the right-hand page are my up-dated choices, along with my favorite fountain pen, a Kaweco Liliput XF.

I read the quote from Cathy Johnson recently on her Facebook page and it stuck with me. Beware what you write on blogs and social media — it might find its way into some sketchbook artist’s journal!

The tube watercolors are squeezed into various sizes of metal pans borrowed from my Pocket Palette, from Expeditionary Art. Two business card sized magnets were attached to the bottom of this flat metal Daler Rowney palette box I once found at a Target store in the scrapbooking section. I can play around with the paint arrangement, and there is space at the bottom for both a travel squirrel mop brush and my Liliput pen.

But another arrangement I can switch to, especially if I find myself using toned papers, is to add a row of gouache along the upper edge. Just a basic triad plus white; I can mix just about any color from these, or mix them with the watercolors. I added the gouache colors to the upper left of the first page spread, after deciding to have this option.

I carry a waterbrush that can be used with the gouache, as I think the pigments might be hard on the squirrel or sable travel brushes I carry with me.

09 February 2018

Fude Friday; Frankenpen failure

Since today is “Fude Friday” among online sketchers, and my recently made Frankenpen was filled and ready to go, I decided to end this sketchbook journal with an Fude nib drawing of my next journal and tools.

But try as I might, the Frankenpen would NOT write! Full of ink, pen nib freshly flushed, and yet nothing I did could coax the ink to come out to draw or write. Plenty of ink came out when I dipped it in a bit of water, and again when I held it up to a paper towel. But nothing to write or draw . . .

So I had to grab a Sailor Fude de Mannen pen to finish the sketch. A bit more clumsy than the Hero fude nib, but at least it responds. I removed the Frankenpen from the pocket protector after finishing the drawing; I’ll stick to my wee Liliput fountain pen and perhaps a Lamy Safari instead!

07 February 2018

pull up a Chevy and sit a spell . . .

For last year’s bathroom remodel, we found a source of reclaimed antique barn wood in Brenham. Along with piles and piles of unused planks of reclaimed wood, the owner had a couple of warehouses full of interesting treasures, such as this couch he modeled from an antique Chevrolet pickup. Not having time to sketch it on the spot, I took a photo of it . . . and then forgot all about it. Until now.

03 February 2018

bills wait for no man

Actually, I am beginning to feel much better — I have decided that I will actually survive this stupid head & chest cold. Not that there was any doubt, but then I have never before felt like my face was screaming. This has been a very strange cold.

Still lacking in energy; yesterday I managed to reconcile charge receipts and pay some bills . . . and then I was done. The checkbook balancing can wait until tomorrow. Rather than go searching for something to draw, I just drew what was in front of me.

01 February 2018

my own Frankenpen, finally

Just about every good idea I’ve had regarding sketching tools has been learned from someone else. That’s one of the great things about the online sketching community. My dear friend Kate (aka Cathy Johnson) has been the source for so many wonderful ideas! This is an old one of hers — I’ve been meaning to copy her for years but never got around to doing so. Her blog entries describing the process are here, part one and part two.

We both had one of these Hero M-86 Chinese bent-nib calligraphy pens that were elegant to look at but very awkward to use due to the weight and odd round shape. (I always thought the rounded pen looks like a wee Chinaman.) Kate discovered that the nib fits perfectly in a Noodler’s Creaper, a much lighter streamlined pen. So she called this new combination her Frankenpen.

There’s not much to occupy my brain while I rest and wait for this wicked cold to run its course. So I started thinking about fountain pens . . . and decided it was time for my own Frankenpen.
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