08 July 2020

more testing on this grey paper


This grey toned Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook continues to frustrate me. It’s not just the cool grey color that requires a different palette than my usual preference; the paper just isn’t the best choice for watercolor. It can take light, less juicy applications but I’ve been gravitating towards working with wetter washes than I have in the past.

I look at my art journals as a continuous record of my normal life, so completing each journal from beginning to end is important to me. I have considered leaving this one unfinished and moving on but that interrupts 13 years of continuous sketchbook habit.


For these pages I grabbed 2 brush pens, a white water-based Sharpie, and a water-soluble Elegant Writer. I’ve been reading Trevor Waugh’s ebook, “People in Watercolor” — so I copied several examples from the book on these pages. I’m not very comfortable drawing people (and staying at home with Bill working on kitchen cupboards in his shop means no models around); using these pages just for practice drawing people seems like a good idea. It is also a bit “freeing” to not expect to do a “good” sketch but just practice. Even if it’s from books and photos.


06 July 2020

mindless sketch while planning


Our family weekend event is done — two of our children and their families came to the farm, greeted with brushes and rollers to paint the interior walls of the barndominium — and now it’s time to get to work. A friend near Dallas has commissioned me to do a sketch that will be copied on a printer to make cards. I mindlessly drew the above sketch after putting together a selection of watercolors for this project, using a Pentel Pocketbrush.



Printer inks are based on the CMY color palette (cyan - magenta - yellow) so I put together a limited palette centered on these three colors. After choosing the pigments, I mixed up a basic color wheel to see the range of color. Then I chose a few convenience colors that closely matched some of the colors in the wheel.

Now to get busy on that sketch . . .

02 July 2020

pool day


Activity has really picked up at our barn conversion site, after a week of no workers showing up. That combined with the intense humidity leaves little time or energy for sketching but I still find time to swim now and then. I spent the evening in the pool listening to an eclectic mixture of music through my iPhone and this small speaker; our donkey Tater was relaxing on the other side of the fence. She appeared to be listening to the music with me — some songs her ears went up, some songs they went down!


30 June 2020

journal palette do-over


After my previous sketch (the yarn I’m not knitting) in dark gray ink, I realized that I’m really struggling with the gray toned paper of this sketchbook because I’m trying to make it fit my normal tools. My favorite watercolors are cool, subdued, earthy, granulating and neutral pigments — none of which work well on this cool toned paper. It needs bright colors and dramatic ink (crisp black and white) to work well. In other words, CONTRAST!


So I made up a Demi Palette with much brighter watercolors, testing my selections on a back page. And switched to black and white pens: the Kaweco Liliput has the finest nib and the Lamy Safari has a medium nib, which is quite bold. Both hold De Atramentis Document black ink. The Pentel Pocketbrush makes the deepest blacks with its paintbrush tip.

I was amazed that I could add just a bit of transparent red oxide and Jane’s grey to the yellow and match the brass of the Liliput, expecting it to be much harder. And my current favorite limited neutrals palette? It lives in my purse with my much-neglected 2” mini journal. I borrowed a white gouache from this palette to put in the brights palette, replacing it with Jadeite genuine — sometimes ya just need a rich green!


28 June 2020

NOT knitting . . .


I’ve been in the mood to knit something. Or maybe crochet, though it isn’t as relaxing as knitting. I ordered a bit of yarn __I recently found this fun website, Hobbii, that lets you download free patterns of all kinds__ and have some projects in mind.

But I haven’t been sleeping much lately. So instead of beginning something new requiring a bit of thought, I just drew the yarns. The bit of knitting already done is a tea cozy made from old remnants of wool; it now needs to be felted (shrunk and tightened up) in the washing machine. Later . . . when I’m less tired.

26 June 2020

our old windmill


Yesterday I spent most of my time errand running, grocery shopping, and reading. (We went to buy paint but then I realized I had forgotten my chosen paint sample card — couldn’t remember the name — seems like there’s a hundred different “whites”.) 

I wished to draw something but hadn’t much energy left — so I sketched another of Bill’s grandmother’s treasures. This wooden toothpick holder sat on her table for as long as Bill can remember; no one knows who carved it or how old it is.

The waviness of the journal text side shows that when I do add watercolor, I’m still using too much water in my mix. But this is just an illustrated diary so page crinkling doesn’t matter. This Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook does seem to call for text on the left page, sketch on the right. I’m not sure why, it just does. Sketches crossing the center gutter seem awkward due to the book not opening completely flat.

I used a Lamy Safari fountain pen this time, filled with my own “burnt sienna” mix of De Atramentis Document red plus a wee smidgen of black. A few highlights were added at the last minute with a white colored pencil.

BTW, if anyone is interested in the text quotes I jotted down on the left page, this and 2 other books can be downloaded for free from Wayne Jacobsen’s website, HERE.

24 June 2020

let sleeping cats lie


One of Bardie Mac’s favorite sleeping spots is just under the corner of our bed with his hind feet sticking out. He thinks I can’t accidentally step on him here (he little realizes how clumsy I might be coming around that bed post!).

Cats seem to be either “ground dwellers” preferring spaces under furniture, or “tree dwellers” choosing spaces that are above everyone else. Bardie definitely goes to ground while his brother Scottie Dubh can be found in the high places such as the top of the cat tree.

Bardie’s coat is what they call “smoke” — each individual hair is white near the skin and black at the tip. His feet are white except for a couple of black spots on the back of two feet. Smoke is not an easy color to paint!

21 June 2020

the last cactus bloom


This sketch is from a photo of the last bloom on our prickly pear cactus last month. Buds were a deep rose when they began before opening up to a brilliant icy yellow. Then as they began to wilt they once again showed a rosy tinge around the edges.

Never having been around these plants before, we are now wondering when (or if) we can expect the fruit to show up.

20 June 2020

Grandma’s tools


Lately my hands have been itching to do some knitting or crocheting. I found this great online site, Hobbii, that offers free patterns I’ve been browsing through. After selecting a pattern and ordering some yarn, I went to my grandmother’s cedar chest where I store sewing and knitting supplies.

And came across these antique tools that once belonged to Bill’s grandmother. They are old enough, they might have been passed down from her mother or grandmother. Some are carved of bone while others might be ivory; all are very tiny for producing fine doilies and lace.

I used to work this tiny, producing things like beaded necklaces from the Flapper era. My eyes just aren’t happy with such tiny work anymore but I love handling these tools that generations before me have used.

A crocheted beaded necklace, c. 1920

18 June 2020

a very teeny moth


On the flagstone path near the swimming pool, I found a very tiny, very dead moth. So tiny that I almost missed seeing him altogether. I pinched a bloom off the nearby lantana to lay next to him to get some perspective on how truly small he was. The head of one lantana cluster is just over 1” across, making the moth maybe 1/2”.

I was also testing Gansai paints in my journal. I like the bright pop of warm colors against the cool grey toned paper. I may have to use Gansai more often! Because my normal selection of watercolors run to a more cool, subdued color range, maybe a warm beige toned paper would be a better choice for me in the future. Contrasts are a good thing!


The quote on the left side is from artist Favian Ee. I read it last December and it has stayed in my mind — so I looked it up and wrote it down. The main line that caught my attention is “. . . much of life can only be understood in retrospect, but it must be lived forward in faith . . .”
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