29 December 2015

busy day, quick sketch

It's been a busy day without much time to sketch, but I took a brief break to pick up a pen anyway.

During this morning's walk I happened to look down and saw what looked like an owl staring back at me out of the rocky sand. We dug it up and found it was a rusty bit of chain link.

28 December 2015

Christmas roses

We lost three of our rose shrubs this past year due to extreme flooding followed by extreme drought. Those that survived did so by going dormant (deer whose feeding grounds were under water ate the leaves). But a couple of the hardiest shrubs made an early comeback --- these blooms greeted us on Christmas morning!

27 December 2015

an old Viking system

Recently we went to a local furniture store to check out mattresses. Our old TemperPedic has completely broken down (back aches!!) and we planned on replacing it. But the sales woman told us we need to contact TemperPedic first -- perhaps we could still get a warrantee replacement? We checked and were told we did qualify, but our model was discontinued so we returned to the store to choose a different model.

While there, we explored the old store, since we both love old buildings. In the basement we found a vintage sprinkler system that fascinated me. So of course I drew it, first in pencil then last night I added ink and watercolor. There was also a very old shaft for a hand-operated freight elevator. Later as we left the store, we found the old water hook-up at the street level, shown in the upper left corner. Downtown Brenham once nearly burned down so firefighting is taken very seriously around here.

25 December 2015

on the Christmas road

Texas is now our home but we are still a Kansas State University family, as our truck windshield sticker shows. I started this sketch yesterday as we drove our daughter to the airport to join her family in Kansas and finished it today as we drove to our eldest son's new home in Beasley.

24 December 2015

an early Christmas

Bill and I decided to exchange gifts with each other early . . . just because we can!

Besides, we tend to celebrate Christmas __the birth of our Lord and Savior __ every day, not just on the 25th of December.

(He bought me this ultra-soft turquoise leather wallet --- enough room for pencil, a few pens, brushes, and watercolor palette!)

22 December 2015

granulating watercolor & gouache sets

Several people here and on Facebook have asked me about the granulated watercolor set I put together. Recently I cleaned it out, removing each pan to wipe up the moist gunk that forms under pans with repeated use. At the same time, I was ordering a few more tubes of gouache and would not be able to fit them all in the plastic palette they had been in. So I cleaned out that palette as well and traded it with the square metal Schminke palette the granulated paints had been in. The only concession is switching two of the colors from whole-pans to half-pans in order to fit.

Of my granulating watercolors, Potter's Pink, Cerulean Blue, and Indanthrone Blue are from Winsor & Newton. All others are Daniel Smith. I haven't really found a true red that granulates and the yellows aren't very bright but I like muted colors. Colors in rows from front to back are:

Potter's Pink, Indian Red, Quin. Burnt Scarlet, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Quin. Gold
Serpentine, Green Apatite, Jadeite, Cerulean Blue, Buff Titanium
Indanthrone Blue, Blue Apatite, Goethite, Quin. Burnt Orange, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber

And here is my cleaned up gouache set with four additional colors, moved to the Schmincke box. I also put a magnetic strip down the center of my little travel gouache set, to hold the new colors in tiny metal pans from Expeditionary Art. The brushes in the pocket protector are a mixture of cut-down brushes I use exclusively for gouache. From M. Graham and Schmincke, the colors in the large set are:

Quin. Violet, Quin. Rose, Naphthol Red
Gamboled, Titanium Gold Ochre, Azo Yellow
Sap Green, Phthalo Green, Helio Turquoise 
Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue
Dark Blue Indigo, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber, Van Dyke Brown, Zinc White

Seems like a lot of paints, but many were partially used when given to me. And I would really like to learn how to paint with gouache so I need lots of practice!


. . . as opposed to hand-me-downs. Last year our 12-year-old granddaughter got these adorable boots from a clearance rack at a greatly reduced price. They just happen to be my size. I was told that they were the last pair available. Mikala left them on the stair step one day so I tried them on -- beware of leaving your things about! I teased her that when she outgrows them, I get "first dibbies" on them! (no, I don't know where that expression comes from).

On Sunday we went to Houston to go to see the new Star Wars movie with our daughter's family, and Mikala gave me her boots! Still in great shape but she has outgrown them.

They are sitting on one of the unique side tables Bill has made over the years, this one with drop leaves on both sides. Easy to pull out for playing games on. I used my granulating set of watercolors on this sketch, a collection of paints I put together specifically for the granulation effects. Seems to capture the look of leather with ease.

21 December 2015

progress! for hot tea drinkers

We moved to Texas nearly two years ago in the middle of winter. And I quickly discovered that a good hot cup of tea can be a rare thing in central Texas!

Every restaurant offers iced tea, "sweet or unsweet?" but ask for a hot cup of tea and they look at you as if you sprouted a second head. The popular roadside stop, Buc-ee's, offers maybe 50 types of coffee . . . and not even one decent cup of tea.

When we first visited the Texas Seafood & Steak restaurant in Somerville two years ago, I asked for a cup of tea and was told they don't serve any. I commented that it is hard to be a tea drinker in a coffee-drinking world. We returned there this past week (they have really good food!) and the waitress asked what I would like to drink. Knowing they did not offer hot tea, I spoke anyway "I'd love a hot cup of tea" --- and she brought me one! Only boring Lipton's but it's a start. Now if I can just introduce her to some nice Earl Grey . . .

19 December 2015

virtual sketchcrawl in Somerville, TX

Today was the Artists Journal Workshop's Virtual Sketchcrawl Day --- Once a month a group of us sign up on Facebook to go sketch somewhere on-site, either on our own or with friends, then share our sketches on Facebook. Before moving to Texas, I used to meet in person with Cathy Johnson and others on the 3rd Saturday of each month to sketch; since moving here, I'm on my own, not knowing any sketchers nearby. Urban Sketchers Texas also met today but the Dallas - Ft. Worth area is too far for a day trip.

I decided to go to nearby Somerville, TX to draw the downtown block our church, Jubilee Christian Center, is located in.

Our church owns three of the buildings in this block. Those in the upper sketch are our main meeting area, offices, and the newly renovated building where our discipleship class (aka Sunday school) meets. Then there is that tall building way down at the end of the block --- this used to be the only church building; now it is used for children's church and special events.

Around here, this is known as the "biker church". No, Bill and I don't own motorcycles but they are not required! When we moved here, we were concerned about finding a church fellowship as special as what we had in Kansas. We don't care for traditional religion or "playing church" once or twice a week; we prefer a personal and vital, daily relationship with our Lord Jesus and with like-minded believers. So when we saw this church's sign reading "religion-free and biker friendly", we were intrigued. We had planned on trying several churches in the area but somehow never got past this one --- it was EXACTLY what we were searching for! The members here are more like dearly-loved family and we feel like we have come home.

And the biker-friendly part? It refers to our church's involvement with the international Tribe of Judah biker's ministry. The tribe is doing an awesome work among biker clubs, leading hurting people to the Lord. Amazing things happen even during the road trips on the way to bike rallys -- the Lord regularly sets up "divine appointments" for tribe members to help others.

ink experiment, act II

My first attempt at mixing a smoky-purplish gray ink for interesting shadows required adding the water wash immediately because the blue ink used is waterproof when dry. I loved the color variation of that first mix but I don't always remember to "bleed" the ink before it dries. (I think I will tip these sample cards into the sketchbook with some tape to keep them with the trial sketches.)

So I tried a second mix, this time mixing Noodler's Red-Black with the blue ink in some Lamy cartridges that came with my Lamy pens (water-soluble). I like the color and the fact that it can be "bled" for shadow after drying. As a bonus, I find the ink holds in place when I add watercolor, not bleeding unless I want it to. This is a huge plus over a Noodler's royal purple ink I once had --- It was so water soluble, it bled all over the place whether I wanted it to or not, making for some very dark sketches.

Funny story about those tiny "cutie" oranges: two of our grandsons were here last Sunday and love eating these oranges. I asked if one would like a bag to take an orange home with him . . . and of course that meant the other one needed one too. Next thing I know, they are both filling their bags with the remaining oranges in the bamboo bowl! Good thing I still had some in the refrigerator. I like eating them too, Josiah and Judah!

BTW, those three boxes drawn on the test card? I ordered three new tubes of gouache from Amazon . . . and they sent each small tube in it's own separate box instead of combining them in one box! Good thing I had free shipping!

18 December 2015

ink experimentation

I've been playing around with various ink colors again, deciding to try mixing non-like inks. If it doesn't work, who cares?

Here, I mixed two brands, one water-soluble and one water-proof. I bought the Noodler's red-black years ago specifically for the "bleeding" properties. I decided to see if I could mix it with de Atramentis dark blue to achieve a smoky shadow purple color.

After mixing several drops of each in a small ink sample bottle and giving it a stir, I first tried applying some lines with an antique dip pen (belonged to Bill's grandmother) and sprayed the lines with water to see the "bleed" color mix. Red seemed to dominate so I added more blue.

Next, I put the ink into a Lamy Safari (XF nib) and tried sketching. Still a bit too red in application so I added more blue and gave the pen a shake before drawing.

It seemed to be the right color . . . . but in an actual drawing, it still seems too red. The "bleeding" is much less now, especially if allowed to dry a bit.

Oh, well -- it is still fun to play!

16 December 2015

revisiting two drawing pens

Recently I was playing with three different brand of brush pens -- fountain pens with brush bristles in place of a metal nib. While I was doing so, I cleaned up my regularly used Lamy fountain pens. Then, instead of refilling them, I dug out a couple of other brand pens I hadn't used for quite awhile.

The first one is a Hero M86 Chinese Calligraphy pen with a curious bent nib. Holding it in a normal way gives a bold line; tipping it up gives a much finer, controlled line. I do not know calligraphy but this pen gives a good variety of line width. Takes some getting used to. (I got a bit carried away with lines on the leaves -- wish I had quit earlier.)

The pen on the second page is a Noodler's Konrad Flex fountain pen. Holds more ink than their Creaper model and not as cumbersome as their Ahab pen. I LOVE this pen! Great line variation and much easier to handle than the Hero.

14 December 2015

an ornament

I needed to refill some fountain pens and decided to switch the black Lamy Safari that usually holds black ink for my bent-nib Hero M86 calligraphy pen. I've never quite learned how to best use its unusual nib, though I've watched my dear friend Kate (Cathy Johnson) use hers many times in amazing ways!

After allowing the green underpainting to dry (painted over a grid of drywall tape which was later removed), I drew an ornament from our tree. Then painted it. Everything was going well until I added the lower text . . . Not sure how to write consistent letters with a bent nib!

13 December 2015

return of our personal loch

Our personal lake property has returned. Over 5" since yesterday afternoon --- our gauge only goes that far. Fitting to call it a loch with "Nessie" standing in front of the tree house (you can see her through the right branches of the crepe myrtle). That rock has long been in our family, since being found on Bill's great-grandmother's farm in Kansas nearly 100 years ago.

I took these photos yesterday afternoon; by nightfall, the water covered the farm road seen in the distance. Driving to church this morning, we see that nearly everyone has lake-front property this morning.

09 December 2015

my Wednesday so far

Around 2:00 am I woke up with some sinus pain so I got up and had a cup of tea. Apparently it's a cold, not allergies. So not much is getting accomplished today . . . (However, I __did__ get two loads of laundry washed. Not fully put away yet.)

I read a chapter of a 'real' book, then tried a new free ebook on my Kindle. Ended up deleting the ebook --- sometimes you get what you pay for (or don't pay for in this case).

08 December 2015

another basketball game

Yesterday we attended another basketball at a local middle school where our friends' daughter attends. The opposing team played very aggressively, meaning Macy's team lost. But during the game, I drew this view from the vintage wooden bleachers. I love the old stone and wood!

07 December 2015

a quick cup of tea between services

Before (and during) disciple class and church, we help ourselves to coffee or tea. I really like the Organo Gold green tea or red tea -- they have a natural mushroom that helps with joint pain and inflammation. I think it's called ganoderma lucidum 

06 December 2015

a bit of a cleanup

Over the summer my loft 'studio' was lost under all the clutter. It's a bit too warm up there in summer's heat to work anyway so it just became a place to pile stuff.

But a friend has asked me to do a couple of sketches for him and I thought maybe it would seem more 'professional' to do them in a studio --- so I cleaned the place up, rearranging some things to make it more usable.

This is the same space from another angle --- I even straightened up the books! A friend at church gave me the two easels but I have no art to put on them. So they hold some color charts and some painted postcards others have sent me. Actually, the card on the small easel is from the amazing Brenda Swenson!

04 December 2015

a tree burl . . . and a lovely quote

Walking the circle road we live on, we pass an oak tree with a large "nose" . . . at least that's what the burl looks like. Burls are common in this area --- there's a tree in one of the lake's camping grounds with five or ten of these growths, some on top of others.

I've been taking these photos with either an iPod or an iPad and the photos are good. But I've learned that when you click on the image to enlarge it, the photo does not enlarge. Meaning, anyone who might wish to read the text, can't. My Canon ELPH camera works better for this; unfortunately the battery needs replaced and it seems they are hard to find.

The text on the left is a quote from Tim Gagnon found on a newsletter from Rosemary & Co.:

"There is a beautiful Hebrew tradition called, "Hiddar Mitzvah". This ancient practice, dating back to the Babylonian captivity, interprets a passage from the book of Exodus to mean that believers should glorify God, "in a beautiful way". In other words, art can and should be, an intimate act of worship. This profound concept inspires me daily. My faith and my art intertwine for a single purpose, and an audience of One."

03 December 2015

testing inks (& wash) on toned paper

I'm really not used to sketching on this darker toned paper (Canson Mi-teintes in a handbound journal). Watercolor tends to dull quite a bit. Gouache works . . . but I'd really like to get better at pen & ink sketches, using the toned paper as the middle tone and black and white for darks and lights. So I tested my current pens on this journal page.

My new Kuretake brush pen is filled with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink -- I'm liking the possibilities of using this as a lighter tone in black and white work. It may be useful in light shadows for colored sketches as well since the ink won't smear when watercolor is added.

I need to learn to use a lighter hand and more variable lines with brush pens, so I've included three total in what I carry with me currently. From the top, the pens shown are:

white gelly roll pen
Kuretake brush pen with Lexington Gray ink
Pentel Aquash brush pen with light black ink
Lamy Safari pen with Platinum carbon black ink
Pentel Pocketbrush pen
Sharpie white water based marker with extra fine point
Platinum desk fountain pen with very fine nib
M. Graham gouache, zinc white
a mixed-in-the-pan gray watercolor (ultramarine blue & burnt umber) --- there is also a brown watercolor in this tiny set for when I draw with brown ink. I can't remember if it is burnt sienna or burnt umber.

Only two more double-page spreads left of this gray paper in my journal with which to practice . . .

02 December 2015

is it Christmas already?

Yesterday, as I placed some paid bills in our mailbox to be picked up, I found a package in the box . . . apparently left there sometime the day before. I had ordered a Kuretake brush pen along with a converter for using it with alternate inks -- excited that it arrived! I was surprised to find that it came with not one but three cartridges, though I've read that this ink is not water-soluble.

Then when the mailman came later, he brought a package from Rosemary & Co. in England. Several weeks ago I ordered a travel dagger brush from them to carry in my bag. Daggers work as both a flat and a round brush -- and even make a good "rigger brush" line! And surprise! Rosemary even stuck in a couple of chocolates with a Merry Christmas greeting!

Later I found a box at our front door -- a copy of Richard Sheppard's new book, "Impressions of Wine Country". Our Christmas shopping was finished before Thanksgiving but I did take advantage of Amazon's "Black Friday" 30% off any book coupon to buy this gorgeous book! (Maybe it's now a good time to thankfully play with my new toys and hide the credit card for a while!)

On Monday afternoon, we went to watch Macy, the daughter of friends at church, as she played  basketball at her middle school. Her little brother, Blake, borrowed my sketchbook and entertained us all with his fun sketches and stories. (I added the referee and large basketball to his pages.)

BTW, I did a very silly thing . . . I drew the things I received in the mail late last night while catching up on some recorded Dr. Who shows. Then discovered this morning that the book was upside down as I was sketching. Oops!

For those interested, the upper left quote is from Victorian artist and missionary Lilias Trotter:

"The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. May it not be that the human impossibility is just the very thing that sets His Hand free? ---& that it is the things which are possible for us to do that He is in a measure to let alone?"
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