28 December 2014

final pages

A few weeks ago we saw three black vultures competing with another large raptor for road kill on the farm road near our cabin. At first we thought the other bird was a young eagle, but it turned out to be a Crested Caracara. Beautiful in flight! I had neither sketchbook or camera handy at the moment; this was drawn later with the help of a field guide.

And this sketch completes another sketchbook . . . unless the inner back page is counted:

The inside back pages in my journals collect all sorts of random bits. The rough drawing of a lamp is a style Bill would like to find for the porch of his woodshop --- no luck finding them as yet.

27 December 2014

a sycamore leaf & fickle Polar Brown ink

Yesterday we found a few ginormous sycamore leaves blown into our yard --- but we have seen no sycamore trees in the neighborhood. Not sure how far these have traveled.

Noodler's Polar Brown ink is fickle! Most of the time I draw with it using an extra fine nib and it is waterproof when I add watercolor washes. A few days ago, when I drew rocks to test inks, it had just enough "bleed" to get a raw sienna type wash. I wanted that effect on the sycamore leaf . . . and it decided to be waterproof again.

26 December 2014

from another Nativity crèche

We spent Christmas Day at our son Jason's --- these figurines are from daughter-in-law Carrie's nativity set. She bought them in Mexico back when she was a teenager on a high school trip.

25 December 2014


a few of our tree's ornaments . . . Have a blessed Christmas, everyone!

For those interested, the quote on the left page is from a little e-book I just read, "Christmas Stories You've Never Heard" by Sammy Adebiyi:

"I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."  Luke 1:38

"Mary chose to surrender her plans of having a normal life to the unknown, the unfamiliar, the mysterious, the unexplainable and the supernatural, and because she did, she experienced the unknown, the unfamiliar, the mysterious, the unexplainable and the supernatural.

Can you imagine what would happen if we dared to surrender to God like Mary did?

Every day, God calls you and me to trust Him for things that sound, feel and seem impossible from every angle. The Christmas story is a reminder that nothing is impossible when we trust God.

24 December 2014

testing inks

Recently there have been some interesting posts on some artists' blogs (see here and here) comparing fountain pen inks. I would love to try the new De Atramentis colored document (waterproof) inks but can't afford them yet.

So I am playing with the inks I currently have. Actually I've been interested in doing some ink sketches with only washed shading for tones so water-solubility is good for now.

Some of these inks (the Noodler's brand) have been mixed by me. The sepia shade from mixing Polar Black and Polar Brown is a favorite! I tried toning down the purple La Couleur Royale with either Heart of Darkness or Polar Brown but the purple dominates.

Lexington Gray and the Platinum Carbon Black are usually waterproof, but not on this BFK Rives paper. Even after letting it dry overnight. Good thing I actually __want__ it to bleed this time!


So many online sketchers have drawn lovely tea cup & saucers, especially after taking classes with Liz Steel. But I don't own any real tea cups with saucers, preferring to drink my tea from large mugs.

Unless you count the tiny tea set pieces left from Bill's grandmother's childhood set. I have several mismatched pieces that will be passed on to our granddaughters.

For years I have steeped tea leaves with the diffuser drawn on the upper right, balancing the little handle on the edge of my mug. But the handle broke off and tea leaves get loose in the mug. So Bill found this new diffuser for me --- Oversized to allow leaves to expand and it dimly clips onto the side of any mug. An added bonus: the attached handle forms a drip-tray so I can set it down anywhere without making a mess.

23 December 2014

Stonehenge in danger?

Yesterday I read an article online that told of a proposal to build a tunnel under Stonehenge --- to divert traffic away from the ancient monument! Does this make any sense? Wouldn't that compromise the very foundation ground it is built upon? Not to mention destroy the area archiologists have been studying of the earliest residents of Britain.

22 December 2014

Sunday's sketches

I sketched this from a photo on my iPod before church . . . then jotted down a few sermon notes as usual. I found lots of these orange mushrooms / fungi growing in the corner of our lot --- still haven't been able to identify what kind they are.

When I went out to take some photos of them, the local school bus turned into our housing community. Bad timing for me! Even though the speed limit in our community is only 15 mph, a rock was thrown by the bus' tire and hit me hard on the right temple . . . just a few days after surgery in that eye. Scary how close I came to real disaster, but I'm fine. Except for a lovely dark purple shadow over my eye and a painful bump. The eye doctor agreed with me: Someone was definitely watching over me!

Later in the afternoon our church held a "Bowl of Blessings" celebration. Before eating, some kids and I were drawing and coloring with colored pencils. This fooi8l-lined bowl of ornaments was in front of me so that's what I drew. I'm trying to teach the kids to draw what you see.

Then we all watched an old movie together called "The Ultimate Gift" . . . more notes jotted down.

20 December 2014

Blue Bell Creamery

Looking through this journal, I realized that the only page mentioning my mother's visit to Texas was her being in the hospital. But we had lots of good times before that!

The day after she arrived we took a fun tour of the Blue Bell Creamery, followed by a trip to the historic ruins of Baylor University in Independence and a stroll through the gardens of the Rose Emporium. I happened to have some photos from Blue Bell's lobby so I sketched from them. Including them in this journal is a good reminder of a lovely day.

19 December 2014

for Joseph

. . . who likes flamingos. Our daughter-in-law Carrie gave this to me, knowing I like Legos. These are MUCH tinier!

18 December 2014

holly in our neighborhood

Continuing to find bits of Christmas as we walk through our little community --- this time, a form of holly.

17 December 2014

a kissing tree

Beginning our walk a couple of days ago, Bill veered slightly off into a neighbor's yard to grab this twig off a tree. He wondered what kind of tree it was to have greenish white berries. I commented that it reminded me of mistletoe.

Later at home I searched online for Texas trees with white berries without luck. So I clicked on "images" . . . and there it was. It IS mistletoe, apparently a common parasite on central Texas trees! I guess I'd never thought about what mistletoe actually is or where it comes from, having a vague idea that it is from Britain.

16 December 2014


This sketch was begun in the waiting room of St. Joseph Hospital as I was waiting for my second cataract surgery. The tree in the lobby was filled with feathered birds and vintage-style glass ornaments. 

Afterwards, it took a few days rest and recovery time before I could finish with watercolor. But praise God, my eyes now work well together and I can see clearly!

15 December 2014

December roses

We have roses still blooming everywhere here in central Texas, including these enormous deep red roses at our back door. Their old-fashioned fragrance is the best I've ever smelled.

11 December 2014

more random drawings

My young friends came into our church last night seeing me sketch my cat from an iPod photo, and wanted to join in. Kathleen perched a couple of stuffed animals and ask me to draw them. Evie chose to draw her multi-color ink pen inu journal. Then it was time for church to begin so I added color later at home.

Earlier the same day, Bill took me out to lunch, trying another of the hometown restaurants in Somerville. This one actually offers choices in HOT tea! Most places in mid-Texas only ask "sweet or unsweetened?", meaning iced tea.

10 December 2014

learning to see

I still love finding and sketching twigs sculpted with various forms of lichen, but this week I'm not so good at seeing the details.

The new implanted lens in my left eye corrects my vision to be able to see clearly at about 12 to 14" away. When combined with 20/20 to be placed in my right eye, I will be able to see without eyeglasses. 

But I have been used to holding objects much closer when drawing fine details and I keep forgetting to move them further away. This is going to take practice to learn new habits.

09 December 2014

one-lens Nellie?

For this time between surgeries to remove cataracts, only the undone eye needs glasses. So Bill removed the left lens from my eyeglasses. Looks a bit weird! Looking forward to not needing glasses at all.

08 December 2014

slowly progressing

Now that my left eye's swelling is gone, I am better able to focus enough to sketch it. The "white" of the eye was very red, not from the surgery but from the "trauma" of being worked on. Not as scary as it looked!

My left and right eyes are not playing well together, with 2 cataracts still in the right one. But I have surgery on the right one this Thursday, after which I will be able to see without glasses. So worth it!

04 December 2014

sometimes a pocket sketchbook is needed

On my way to Bellville, TX for the first of two cataract surgeries, I knew I'd want to sketch but did not want to carry much with me. Random sketching is wonderful for calming nerves!

So I grabbed this tiny accordian-fold journal made from watercolor paper scraps. I left the first spread blank to fill in later with my current palette and a verse.

This is what I later added to that first page spread after coming home. Actually, a couple of days after coming home. When I could see a bit.

I will later add contact info here in case the sketchbook is ever lost.

My plan to sketch through nervousness was good . . . but it didn't work out. Just as I began sketching this wee lad sleeping in the waiting room, I was called away to take care of admission business. Then I was wisked immediately away to be prepped . . . including a nasty IV inserted in my RIGHT (sketching) hand. IVs and I do not get along so I didn't even try to move my hand.

So I later added the stuff given to me for after-care. The surgery on my left eye went very well; my two eyes just don't happen to be getting along at the moment. Next week the remaining cataracts (yeah, there are two different kinds on this one) on my right eye will be removed, then I hope to be able to get back to sketching and painting . . . this time without glasses.

a couple of new toys

I recently found 2 new toys . . .

France Belleville-Van Stone has a delightful little book out on sketching -- "Sketch!: The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life". Not wanting to wait, I bought the Kindle version but I later saw a print copy in a chain bookstore. It's fabulous!

Later, while goofing around on eBay, I found a very inexpensive watercolor kit from Daler-Rowney (sold way below retail price) to add to my little collection. The student-grade paints will be saved for grandchildren's use and I will fill this with my own choices from tubes.

30 November 2014

waiting . . .

Not a good way to treat a visiting mother. But we do what we can.

My mother flew here from Kansas for Thanksgiving --- the first Bill and I cooked for many years. We've been having a wonderful visit up till early Saturday am. Toured the BlueBell factory, walked the gardens of the Rose Emporium, and even visited Stephen F. Austin University in Nacagdoches. 

But fluids were slowly building up in her lungs, which are compromised by chronic asthma. So she's now in the local hospital for breathing treatments and an iv drip to get rid of the fluid.

Of course, sleeping in the presence of a sketcher can be dangerous --- but I think it's safe to just draw her hand.

28 November 2014

Galadriel, a royal elf

Still trying my new fountain pen out on various papers, this time in an Earthbound recycled sketchbook from Cachet. I'm using an ink cartridge that came with the pen, containing a water-soluble black ink, and a white colored pencil.

This book contains Everyday Matters challenge list drawings. I first began keeping sketchbooks in 2007 with this prompt list but never finished it. This is #280 -- Draw Something You Don't See Everyday. It is rare to see our granddaughter smile at a camera; even more rare wearing elf ears. She was Galadriel from Lord of the Rings for Halloween.

25 November 2014

a little help from my friends

On Sunday between Sunday school and church three of my new friends drew pictures with me in my sketchbook. Thank you Kathleen, Evie, and Blake! I had fun with you.

When I was little, my great-aunt Lucille gave me the gift of her time. She spent moments with me that made me feel special. I think of her now when I get to interact with children. Hopefully passing it on.

24 November 2014

breaking in a new toy

I found an unexpected treasure in Bellville, TX last week. We arrived in town too early (as per usual) for my appointment at the local hospital. I was pre-registering for cataract surgery the first week of December.

Anyway, we wandered around the old historic downtown buildings ___too bad the charm is ruined by the UGLY courthouse___ and found a small leather shop by the lovely smell.

Among the interesting items for sale were a large number of handmade items with cow horn or exotic wood handles. And among these was this fountain pen with a flexible split nib! Bill told me to buy it . . . and it didn't take me long to say yes. 

Suzi, the leatherworker, generously gave me a pack of refills along with the converter. They also sell antiques & collectables, furniture, and gifts as well as the leather goods. We will definitely be back!

20 November 2014

random bits this week

Sketching whatever presents itself, from Sunday through Wednesday. Bill loved the inclusion of the pine cone he picked up on our walk and hung on our tree.

Our family is celebrating Christmas early since some of our kids will be at their in-laws on the actual day. So I need to decorate a bit . . .

16 November 2014

Native American Championship PowWow, Houston

Yesterday I met up with some of the Urban Sketchers Texas group at Trader's Village in Houston, where the Native American Championship PowWow was taking place.

It was great meeting Judith, Anita, and Brian; I've been missing sketch-time with others since moving here.

The first 2-page spread was done on sight, though it was VERY damp and chilly! I had lightly drawn a bit of the second page with a blue-gray pencil but didn't finish it up until later at home.

The upper left butterfly was from the day before, a dead Gulf Fritillary found on our walk. Didn't survive this unusual cold snap.

15 November 2014

a visit to Nacogdoches

On our drive home from Arkansas last week, we stopped in Nacogdoches to visit our youngest son. He is currently a student at Stephen F. Austin University, studying geology.

I especially love the old stone fort, built around the same era as the one in Fort Scott, KS that I played in as a child. 

Jeff walked our Scottie, Ceilidh, all over as he showed us where his classes are. He asked if he could keep her; he's been missing having a pet.

He showed us this sculpture of a crow atop a pump jack; the crow is made of old tires. He and a friend first came upon it walking in the dark --- quite startling!

13 November 2014

found on our walk

I miss the brilliant hues of our Kansas maple leaves but those falling around our new home have interesting forms. And the ball moss is sprouting!

11 November 2014

visiting friends, part 2

We took the long way driving home from Kansas to Texas. We had returned to Kansas in order to pick up a rack for Bill's woodshop that had not fit in the moving van last January . . . and visit a few friends and family in El Dorado.

On the return trip we went by way of Arkansas to check on our dear friends, George and Shirley. When Bill and I were still in high school and in need of someone who would simply care and listen, this dear couple was always there for us. In fact, I met Bill through their son Steve who I was dating at the time --- the best thing Steve ever did for me was to introduce me to his best friend, Bill. Except for when Steve took me to church, where I first met the Lord Jesus.

Anyway, George and Shirley remain our adoptive parents to this day. Spending time with them was very special. They live in a heavily wooded area near Norfolk Lake. I wanted to paint some of the view from their back yard but failed to capture its beauty . . . so I used the pages as background to some journaling.

The sketch on the right side is their current dog, Maggie. There were always dogs at their home, each with memorable personalities. Maggie and our Scottie, Ceilidh, had lots of fun romping in the yard and fighting over toys.

On the left, a huge pine cone that fell from a tree right as Ceilidh and I were walking under it, with such force it seemed to be thrown right at us. We had stopped at a roadside park to let the dog run a bit. No other pine cones fell and none others were on the ground.

03 November 2014

visiting friends

When Bill and I were teens (a long time ago) and in need of a listening and caring ear, our friends George & Shirley were there for us. They were parents to Bill's high school buddy Steve, who introduced me to Bill.

They retired to the Arkansas Ozarks many years ago.  After a quick drive back to Kansas last week to pick up some shop equipment that missed the moving van, we took the long way home to visit them. Good thing we were in the truck . . . George, a fellow wood craftsman, gave Bill a bunch of cedar and a band saw. Two pieces of the cedar are rough-cut with the bark still on the edges --- hopefully one will be made into a bench to sit in front of our cabin.

02 November 2014

replacement palette

The lid of my old Bijou box won't shut tightly anymore, so I replaced it with this Whiskey Palette. I miss having 4 mixing areas in the lid.

To have room for permanent orange and buff titanium, I left out my usual warm red. But I can get nearly the same by warming the permanent rose with a bit of the orange or some quinacridone gold.

I can also get close to a phthalo blue by mixing the cerulean blue chromium with a bit of ultramarine --- with less powerful staining.

For mixed gray, I add equal amounts of ultramarine and burnt umber in the pan, stirring together with a toothpick. Much more interesting than payne's gray or black watercolor and convenient!

01 November 2014

some Autumn oaks

We took a quick trip back to Kansas this past week to get a wood rack that missed getting on the moving van last February, then drove on to Arkansas to see some dear friends there before returning to Texas. 

At a roadside park south of Mansfield, Missouri we let the dog get some walk-time in __she's always glad to get out of the truck__ and I gathered some of the leaves and acorns to sketch.

There was very little color in the parts of the Ozarks we drove through --- most trees were losing leaves without much color-change. The only bright was red sumac. But I did find at least one reddishe leaf . . . and exaggerated the color a bit in the sketch.

Not many acorns found but lots of empty caps.

24 October 2014

the sadder side of a bird sanctuary

Final pages in my small Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook --- and the sadder part of living in a "bird sanctuary". This bird must have flown into our front window, as they sometimes do, a bit too hard. I found the skeleton hidden behind a plant stand on our patio.

While taking this photo, I stumbled on an easy way to hold down a page that wants to fly up: just twist a rubber band around the two corners! I keep a rubber band around the sketchbook when it's in my bag, also using it when drawing in the wind.

The lyrics on the right side were jotted down several months ago --- it's my favorite song we sing in church and I wanted to remember the words.

23 October 2014

Austin's Celtic Festival

We went with son Matt and his family to the Celtic festival in Austin last Saturday. Very sunny and hot, but the music was awesome! 

17 October 2014

tiny houses of Independence, TX

I love visiting the tiny community of Independence, TX, once the center of the Republic of Texas and original home of Baylor University. Not much there anymore except some old homes, historic sites, and the beautiful Rose Emporium, but a lovely day-trip destination just the same.

These are a few of the very tiny houses in the town. These make our small cabin seem huge! The one in the upper left was known as the Adobe house and now houses the information center. The old stone structure once stored cotton after harvest.

15 October 2014

late summer / early autumn wildflowers

In the spring I began filling this wee sketchbook (under 3" square) with Texas wildflowers found near our new home. Then throughout the hot, humid summer, I sort of ignored it . . . . There weren't as many wildflowers seen then anyway.

But now lots of new ones have filled the local pastures, mostly yellow. So I added them this past week.

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