31 January 2015

and AJW # 31, just under the wire

Challenge # 31, the final one of this series, is "arches". I immediately thought of these old stone cottages scattered around the Brenham area. The stonemason who built them usually included two distinctive trademarks: one or more arches in the design and the use of petrified wood as part of the mixed stones. I especially love the wood-turned-to-stone --- the grain marks can still be seen clearly!

AJW challenge 29 & 30

Number 29 for the Artist's Journal Workshop January drawing prompts on Facebook is "transport". My husband suggested standing stones, being aquainted with the basic story of Outlander. In the book standing stones are a portal of sorts, transporting the main character Claire, back in time 200 years.

Number 30 is "something ancient " --- in keeping with the Scottishness of the page, an ancient Celtic bronze horse.

28 January 2015

AJW # 26, 27, & 28

My take on the recent drawing challenges are an illustrated quote, a portrait of a favorite artist, and wind chimes.

Many of my favorite quotes are from J. R. Tolkien; in fact, my copy of "Lord of the Rings" has many underlined passages and marginal notes. Many of the words point me to the Bible's truths -- the above quote makes me think of Esther's part in delivering her people.

One of my favorite artists is Karl Bodmer, after seeing his work in "Karl Bodmer's America". He was hired by German explorer Prince Maxmilian to paint illustrations of the Missouri River wilderness in 1832 - 1834. Gorgeous watercolors worked small yet with such detail that they retain their beauty when enlarged. He also recorded much of nature and native peoples that Lewis & Clark found a few years previously.

Some of Bodmer's works can be seen here.

As for wind chimes, I had a musically-tuned one that I loved. But a clematis vine went wild, getting tangled in it and breaking the thread. Bill has declared our new home "wind chime free" --- Turns out he hates them!

25 January 2015

AJW challenges # 23, 24, & 25

Friday's through today's drawing prompts for the Artist's Journal Workshop January challenge: 

23) a mechanical contraption -- my mechanical pencils suggested by a young friend, Kathleen, at church.

24) a barn or shed -- our shed that Josiah calls a barn, as seen from our bedroom window.

25) a busy pattern or design -- an eagle from the Book of Kells, symbol of St. John.

24 January 2015

a random doodle day

Sometimes I have a day of randomness, where my sketchbook becomes a collector of unrelated bits throughout the day. Such was the case last Sunday on this two-page spread . . .

22 January 2015

beachcombing sketches

As I was recently going through old sketchbooks to find work to post for the 5-day art challenge, I also came across these sketches from nearly 5 years ago. We had a lovely day in Galveston with Mikala and I got a lot of sketching done onsite.

And just because it seems to fit a theme on this blog post, here is a random seascape I once painted:

21 January 2015

AJW 19, 20, & 21

The next sequence of prompts for Artist's Journal Workshop's January drawing challenge are a self-portrait, something made with chocolate, and a tool.


I drew myself from a photo daughter-in-law Carrie took of me a few months ago, leaving off the glasses since I no longer need them. Doesn't look much like me, I don't think.

Bill was eager to suggest that I draw one of his tools -- an antique cast iron nail bar used to remove nails. It is HEAVY!

AJW challenge #18 - dusk or sunset

Although I have been keeping up with drawing something every day, I'm a bit behind in posting the results. 

Sunday's prompt in the January challenge on Facebook was to sketch dusk or a sunset. So Bill and I drove west on country roads, getting away from the trees to get a good view. 

Texas has gorgeous sunrises and sunsets; Sunday's was not very spectacular. I would love to learn how to do watercolor landscapes but as usual I niggled this one too much. But it is what it is so I'll post it and move on.

20 January 2015

5-day art challenge, day 5

Today is the final day of the 5-day art challenge on Facebook that I have been participating in. Here are a few of the memory pages from the Stillman & Birn sketchbook as we transitioned from our old life to a new one.

Bill was just recovering from a heart attack and surgery, during which I found it very hard to draw. This journal got me started again, as we said goodbye to the 1920 apartment building we had renovated and made a home.

I wished to remember the details we worked through as we took what had been a torn-up rat-trap and slowly demolished then rebuilt it, retaining the style of the building's history from the 1920 oil boom days. The two upstairs apartments were finished first, to allow rental income to help pay for the downstairs remodel. Here, we joined 2 one-bedroom apartments into 1 large 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartment for ourselves --- remodeling as we were living in it! I can verify that plastic sheeting does NOT keep out all plaster & lath dust!

Where we could not find doors of the same style, Bill built them himself, including those seen in the above sketch as viewed from our from our bedroom.The large cast-iron sink was there when we bought the building; I persuaded Bill to keep it in the pantry for planting herbs and washing dogs.

I love vintage tile in bathrooms and kitchen; Bill came to hate the stuff as he applied it --- it seems the tile I chose was molded after original tiles which were not uniform in shape. Very authentic looking though!

With Bill's retirement, we went ahead and put the building on the market, thinking it would take time to sell such an unusual property. It sold in SIX DAYS. Thankfully, the new owners gave us 3 months rent-free to go house-hunting in Texas. We were moving there to be closer to our four grown children, all of whom were raised in Kansas but settled in Texas. The above sketch on the right side is the first I did in our new home while sitting on the patio --- a cabin in the country between the various locations of our kids.

19 January 2015

5-day art challenge, day 4

Day 5 of the Facebook 5-day art challenge: some travel sketching from our 40th wedding anniversary trip to San Antonio, Texas. We had a lovely room with a terrace right on the Riverwalk and I was able to do LOTS of sketching over several days. Often when traveling, I am with non-sketchers and have limited time to sketch onsite, but this time I was able to sketch as much as I wished.

As a bonus, here are some sketches from the last Kansas State Fair we attended before moving to Texas. Bill was working a booth for the company he worked for, allowing me a full morning to wander and sketch.

18 January 2015

5-day art challenge, day 3

Cathy Johnson & Christiana Farabee on the grounds of The Elms historic hotel
I attended my first sketchcrawl in November 2007, driving 200 miles to meet Cathy Johnson and others in the Kansas City area. I knew artists closer to home; I just couldn't get any of them interested in going out to sketch "on site" together. But I formed many lasting friendships going to these sketchcrawls in Kansas City and Excelsior Springs, MO. That's what I miss most after moving to Texas.

One of our frequent spots is the historic Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs. And my favorite subject to draw there is this lion fountain located at the end of the water bar.

Below are some tiles and gauges from the Hall of Waters. The golden lion is from an elevator door. At one time this was a very high-end spa and there is still a treatment room full of old spa equipment, as well as a swimming pool.

I tend to be slow at sketching; on that very first sketchcrawl, I only managed to do this drawing in pencil:
Then I went home and painted this from the sketch:

virtual sketchcrawl . . . and AJW # 22

Yesterday was set as "virtual sketchcrawl" day, with sketchers all over the globe participating by going on their own sketchcrawl and posting their work on the Facebook group. My friend, Suzanne Bearnth, joined me at the Old Baylor's college site in Independence, Texas -- We both drew these old columns, all that remains of the women's classroom building. A very peaceful day, though a bit nippy in the cool breezes. We expected sunshine but it was mostly cloudy.

Jumping ahead a bit in the order, I am also counting this as day #22 of the Artist Journal Workshop January challenge: draw a historic building. Or in this case, part of a building.

17 January 2015

5-day art challenge, day 2

I have been nominated to participate in Facebook's five-day art challenge, posting three art works per day for 5 days. So here goes with day number two:

In 2007, I began reading books on drawing and finding artists online, longing to get involved in sketchbook art. Seeing many artists posting from the Everyday Matters group challenge list (and reading Danny Gregory's excellent book), I decided that this was the best way to jump in.

Feeling intimidated, I first began in pencil --- this is my very first sketch in my first sketchbook. Fighting my fear of actually posting it online, I jumped in, at first on Flickr but eventually moving to Facebook and Blogspot.

Eventually I switched to working in ink (over pencil lines which I then erased). This is a sketch of the front of the 1920 apartment building my husband and I renovated in El Dorado, Kansas.

And eventually I switched to watercolor, though I had not yet taken the plunge to use watercolor paper --- that's why there are ripples on this drawing of our eldest granddaughter, Mikala.

From there, I began experimenting with toned papers, colored pencils, watercolor pencils and crayons, colored inks, and various brands of sketchbooks. I also learned how to bind my own sketchbooks, using my own choices of paper, shape, and size.

AJW # 16 & 17

Number 16 in the drawing challenge is "black and white". Having recently taken my wheaten Scottish terrier to the groomer, who had never seen one this color, I immediately thought of these old Scottie magnets from Bill's grandmother. Although black and white Scotties were at one time popular in toys, postcards, and whisky ads, there is actually no such thing as a white Scottie. Wheaten yes, white no. Maxwell, who lives with three of our grandchildren, is a lovely creamy gold color. True white terriers are west highland whites, a totally different breed with a different looking face.

Number 17 was to draw a recipe. I chose the recipe card that was used at Thanksgiving and Christmas --- we are trying to avoid most grains but this recipe is a much-loved family tradition from Bill's other grandma. We only get 24 rolls though, not 30. 

16 January 2015

5-day art challenge, day one

I have been nominated to participate in a Five-Day Art Challenge on Facebook, where artists are invited to share 3 pictures of their work per day for five days.

John Lokke
For my first day's post, I'm revisiting the Riverside Watercolor Society. I was first introduced to watercolor in 2007 by John Lokke who led this informal group meeting weekly in a church in the Riverside area of Wichita, KS. We usually painted a chosen weekly subject in our different styles, and gave ourselves the name just for fun.

The above painting of sunflowers was a "happy accident" on a practice page. It now hangs framed in our Texas cabin to remind us of Kansas.

Another of the things we did is to study famous watercolorists like Karl Bodmer, Winslow Homer, and  Charles Burchfield. This sketch was from a Winslow Homer painting.

The church we met in requested that we present a small show of our work. We were studying Charles Burchfield at the time, so we each chose one or two of his paintings to replicate in whatever way we wish. The above painting is after Burchfield's work, "Abandoned Farmhouse". The painting below is my interpretation of Burchfield's "The Three Trees".

Nessie, a train depot, & a nature walk

The 13th through the 15th prompts for the Artist Journal Workshop's January drawing challenge on Facebook are: draw a mythological character, a station, and something found on a nature walk.

I'm not entirely sure the Loch Ness Monster qualifies as a myth . . . . I believe that there was some kind of creature in the loch at one time, though it's unknown if it remains today. The first recorded siting was by Saint Columba in the year 565. While seeking to bring Christ to the Picts of Scotland, he came upon some of them burying a man killed by a great water beast. Asking one of his men to swim across the loch to retrieve a small boat, the creature appeared, trying to attack the swimmer. Columba made the sign of the cross, invoked the name of God, and commanded the beast to come no further and not touch the man. The beast fled as if terrified.

This train depot is in Burton, just down the road from us. Many small-town train depots still exist in this area, in many sizes and shapes, yet all are painted with the same color scheme.

The sun finally returned and we took a walk . . . this time, finding what looks like wild grapes growing in a wooded area. I added a rock I picked up just for fun, I like purple and green together.

12 January 2015

yesterday's lunch and a gift

Continuing the Artist's Journal Workshop challenge, #11 was to draw my lunch ___we took granddaughter Mikala to Los Cucos___ and #12, the last gift I received. I ate a stuffed avocado filled with chicken and cheese, with a bowl of soup and a hot cup of tea. Afterwards, we introduced Mikala to fried ice cream!

The last gift I received was homemade strawberry jam, a small platter, and a loaf of cranberry nut bread. The bread was eaten rather quickly . . . 

We have been staying with Mikala in Houston while her parents took an anniversary trip. The only watercolor I had with me is this small Expeditionary palette. The colors have not been updated for quite some time and I forgot what was in it, though I write initials of each pigment on the bottom of the pans. I did a quick sketch to remind me what the colors are.

11 January 2015

AJW challenge 7, 8, 9, & 10

Still trying to keep up with the January drawing prompts in Facebook's Artist Journal Workshop group . . . 

My favorite painting hangs in our home, a gift I gave Bill. Painted by Cathy Johnson (here), it's Vassmer dairy's farmhouse where she used to visit. I think this is the last painting she was able to do of the old home; vandals burned it to the ground soon after this was painted.

The original is watercolor; I did my copy in ink & wash. I tried to spatter bits of the ground but my brush would not work --- I see now that it did spatter the hen & chicks sketch!

Hen & chicks can be a medicinal plant: pluck a leaf and squeeze the sap on mosquito bites to reduce swelling and itch. It has to be applied soon after the bite to be effective.

06 January 2015

an animal, a bridge, & seed pods

AJW Challenge # 4, 5, and 6 . . .

I love having Texas longhorns for neighbors -- such noble-looking beasts! No two are alike but all are beautiful.

This railroad bridge on FM 390 in Gay Hill, Texas is clearly marked with a sign warning that its clearance height is 9'10". Yet some truckers insist on trying to drive through. The most recent driver rammed an 18-wheeler measuring over 12' under it, getting stuck tight and tearing up his trailer. Claims his GPS said this was the way to Brenham (it is not).

The seed pods are from one of our crepe myrtles. Lots of seeds scattered everywhere as I carried the snipped-off branch inside.

03 January 2015

something industrial

For day 3 of the AJW challenge __draw something industrial__ I immediately thought of this abandoned building on Market St. In Brenham. Set next to the railroad tracks, it may have been a forge or a foundry at one time.

02 January 2015

AJW challenge

To "jumpstart" a new determination to sketch / paint on a more regular basis, I'm taking part in a drawing challenge on Facebook. Palma Rea, a fellow member of the Artists' Journal Workshop group, posted a list of 31 prompts for the month of January on her blog. 

Day # 1 is to draw an item I can't bear to throw away but should --- I drew my first Scottie's flannel coat. Fiona loved jumping into deep snow but didn't care for walking in the below-zero temperatures we often had in Kansas. My current Scottie, Ceilidh, doesn't need it here in central Texas.

Day # 2 is to draw my favorite book. After the Bible, it's a tie between Lord of the Rings and the Outlander series --- Yes, I love BIG, complicated epic tales!

new book, new palette page

This time, I grabbed a Fabriano Venezia sketchbook off of the shelf. Wonderful 90# paper leaning towards a hot press finish --- I love this paper so much more than the BKF Rives paper used in my last sketchbook!

I've updated a few of my core watercolor choices too, as old tubes ran out and needed replacing. Jadeite genuine is much more lovely than phthalo green, while still a single pigment. A bit pricey but I don't use it all the time, just as a quick convenient cool green. Other times I mix permanent orange or quinacridone gold with a blue for various greens.

The quinacridone burnt orange I've used for years tends to be a bit greenish in some mixes so I went back to burnt sienna. After trying a sample pack from Cheap Joe's, I've found several of their American Journey line equals Daniel Smith quality but costs less.

My favorite indanthrone blue is Schmincke's deep blue indigo but that brand is harder to find and expensive --- I'm trying some from Winsor & Newton and a sample from Daniel Smith instead.

The "mixed gray" is just that: my favorite paints used to make gray or black (ultramarine & burnt umber) squeezed into an empty pan in roughly equal amounts (maybe a bit more blue), then stirred well with a toothpick. Convenient and can be used like Payne's gray but much livelier in color.

This metal travel palette from Kremer Pigments came with a third fold-out mixing area but I removed it by pulling out the long pin holding it in place. Much lighter in weight now and easier to hold when sketching standing up.
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