29 April 2016

white 'bluebonnets'!

Just behind our tents on the knoll where we made camp, we found white bluebonnets among the regular blue!

28 April 2016

camping at Lake Somerville

Last Friday through Sunday, we had a family gathering at Lake Somerville, camping in this small southeast corner of the lake. I can't remember another time when ALL of our four grown children, three in-law children, and five grandchildren were together in one place at the same time!

Most of the best camping sites are still closed for repair following last year's damaging floods, but we had what we thought would be a lovely spot under large old-growth oak trees. After nightfall, we discovered that a) there is lots of night fishing going on, b) one of the few open boat ramps is right next to our site, and c) there are some very rude boaters who love to blast their ugly rock music at 2:00 am. Thankfully, that was only the first night. On the second night we were forced to listen to one boat's country music for one loud song at sundown, then they turned it down.

The lake is a bit flooded this year as well; it rose several inches over the days we were there. Camping sites across from our tents (shown in the above sketch) are partly underwater, as is the area to the upper left. More rains were in the forecast but thankfully it held off until Sunday after we left.

I've been a bit slow in getting these sketchbook journal pages posted -- lots of clean-up and errands to get done after returning home. But we had a wonderful time with our awesome kids and grandkids, plus Mikala's friend Bree who came to share the fun with her. Bill and I decided we want to adopt Bree as another grandkid!

21 April 2016

some random sketches from today

Due to recent floods in the Houston area, schools have been closed, so our granddaughter Mikala came for a short visit. While she was whipping Bill in a fierce game of Uno, I drew some antique serving spoons with the four brown ink samples I've been playing with.

At the same time, I decided it could fit the next Everyday Matters drawing challenge that I haven't yet finished, "draw something bright". At least they were bright and shiny at one time.

I definitely won't be getting any more of the burnt sienna ink -- it's more orange than brown. Still undecided on the other three.

Later we left for College Station --- we are planning a family camping trip at the lake and needed a new weatherproof tarp to place under our tent. The old one got torn up covering Bill's metal lathe driving home from Arkansas, and the ground will probably be damp and muddy from recent rains. We also needed to return Mikala for a volleyball practice.

Waiting to turn off the local farm road, we saw a 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman like the one pictured in front of us. The new style of brake lights looked like bloodshot eyes glaring back at us! I googled some photos to learn more about this model, and found that the front looks a bit like eyes as well.

a bit of volleyball

Last Saturday, we drove to Houston for one of Mikala's many volleyball tournaments. Unfortunately for her team, several team members were not present. They won the first game but lost the next two. I took a few photos, from which I later sketched these in my journal as a memory of the day.

19 April 2016

a wee green froggy

The next few pages in my sketchbook journal have been totally random and unfocused. Some quotes from books I've recently read, a silhouette of one of the many herons flying overhead recently . . . and then there's this wee green frog who had decided to live inside the chest where we store charcoal next to our smoker-grill outside. He is actually quite shiny but I painted him in gouache and did not quite capture the shine.

It's been a while since I played with gouache, so I tested the colors in this small palette, decided to cut down to 12 colors whenever the current bits of paint are used up. On the left side, I tried different mixes to find out which to keep and which to get rid of. As much as I love dark blue indigo, it can be replicated by mixing ultramarine with a brown. Helio turquoise is similar to phthalo blue in how it mixes, making it a good cool blue, but cerulean seems best for skies. Gamboge seems a bit too garish to me -- I prefer a more subtle warm yellow like the yellow ochre. Another option might be titanium gold ochre, which I did not have in this palette.

The palette came from Wet Paint years ago, no longer available. In the center, I placed four metal paint pans from Expeditionary Art and a half-pan of white. When the colors are used up, I will eliminate the colors I'm weeding out and use this space to hold a bit of a sponge.

18 April 2016

Sunday's pre-church praise time

There was a biker's rally at Somerville Lake this past weekend; our pastor was set to lead a devotional time there before church. But with all the recent rains, a group of visitors came to our church building instead -- this is a sketch of Tim leading a time of worship through song.

I drew it with one of the water-soluble brown inks I've been playing with, wanting a monotone effect after some of the ink is bled out with a waterbrush. However, in this particular sketch, I wish I had not added the water -- I liked it better before, with simple ink lines.

The new samples of other water-soluble brown inks arrived so I loaded up three more pens yesterday. All have a very subtle 'bleed' effect when watercolor is added (the Lie de The didn't seem to bleed at all!) so it's just a matter of choosing the color I like the best.

Though I want something similar to burnt sienna watercolor (mine is from Daniel Smith), the ink by that name is too red. I'll be playing around with the other three inks for awhile before deciding which one to purchase in a full-sized bottle.

14 April 2016

yesterday's sketches in the country

Yesterday I went with Bill as he continued working on a small remodel project for our pastor and his wife. They live in an RV on some land out in the country; they are building an "outhouse" that will be a full-sized bathroom and a separate laundry room -- much roomier than the cubbyholes in the RV!

At one time, Pastor Gary and Ms. B.J. were known as B.J. and the Bear; This wooden bear carved from a tree stump sits in front of the patio. And the tiny bear sign hangs on the new outhouse.

I wandered around the area a bit, sketching wildflowers. Last time I was here, the large field east of their land was filled with an ocean of yellow -- the wildflowers that are either Butterweed or Texas Ragwort, I'm not sure which it is. But heavy rains Tuesday night beat down much of the foliage. Even the tiny flower of the Texas Bull-nettle was beaten up, though it still looked pretty against the deep green leaves. Extremely prickly though! I looked but did not touch. Early morning moisture still beaded up on the Woolly Plantain stalks -- looked like beads of glass, which I could not capture in a sketch.

13 April 2016

more ink testing

I was having trouble filling a Lamy pen cartridge with the sample of Platinum Earth Brown I have --- seems to be too thin maybe? So I switched it to a Noodler's Creaper pen and was able to fill the whole thing.

Of course, switching inks to different pens means I forget which is which, so I jotted down the current pens' ink colors. 

Then I compared two water-soluble inks (Platinum Earth Brown and Noodler's Red-black) for color and 'bleed'; the subtle melting of the brown ink is much more what I'm after.

An online friend recommended two other brands of brown inks to try, J. Herbin and  Diamine --- good thing that Goulet Pens sells ink samples at a low cost! I just ordered 3 more to compare.

11 April 2016

prickly poppy

As we drive to the nearby town of Somerville, Texas, we are beginning to see lots of these brilliant white flowers appear. They stand tall above other wildflowers and last through late summer -- Gorgeous against the green grasses!

10 April 2016

socks are not an option!

Yesterday I was helping Bill stack some firewood and carry the smaller bits to our burn pit when I was bitten by an ant or two. I had leather shoes on, but no socks (too warm to wear them). I thought at the time that at least it wasn't a fire ant (not experiencing the usual fiery sting). I took an antihistamine and propped my foot up a bit . . . the swelling started, so of course I sketched my foot! (I didn't get the color right on the larger area but I then messed with it so much trying to correct it that the paper began to break down.)

Today I learned that yes, it was fire ants -- 7 bites in all, now forming white blisters. Two of our sons and one daughter-in-law say that you always should prick the blister with a sterile needle to drain; most sources online say to never pop it. So who is right? Meanwhile I am keeping it elevated with ice on it and it feels fine.

The first time I had a reaction to fire ants, it was serious enough to require steroids (and it gave me an extremely fat lip!) but I don't seem to react like that any more, for which I am grateful. And perhaps I will remember next time to put on socks as well as shoes.

09 April 2016

brush repair & testing inks

While at our son's as "granny nanny" last month, I laid my smaller travel squirrel mop brush on the counter . . . where it promptly rolled off onto the floor and broke. I thought at the time that it seemed odd that the break was so even.

Then this past week I was gently squeezing excess water from my larger brush of the same style and it broke off as well, in the same way. Now I realize that this is a weak spot in how the bristles are attached --- I am hoping that super glue will fix both of them. I did a search online but could not find either brush in a travel form so I would really like to save these.

Then a couple of sample inks arrived from Goulet Pens. I have been wanting to try De Atramentis Document white ink for fountain pens ever since learning of it from Liz Steel's blog. Currently I use a Uniball Signo Gel Pen for white lines but really want a fountain pen white ink -- it would especially be cool to fill my white Lamy Safari pen! Unfortunately, it just doesn't write as consistent of a white line as the Uniball Signo pen. Ink goes on smoothly enough but it dries much lighter than when wet. In one spot, where I may have gotten some skin oil on the dark paper, it would not write at all even after repeated tries.

I also tried a sample of Platinum Mix-Free (whatever that means?) Earth Brown. Here, I was looking for a water-soluble burnt sienna colored ink that I could 'bleed' with a bit of water added. I have used Platinum Carbon Black ink and loved it, so I thought their brand might be good. I love the color, with just the right amount of 'bleed', but it is so thin that I cannot fill my pen's converter. It took 5 or 6 tries to even get it half-filled. Maybe I could fill an empty cartridge with the ink, using a syringe. Or perhaps it would work better in a Noodler's Creeper pen? Not sure . . .

07 April 2016

random drawing . . .

. . . while waiting to go to church. Just my purse and a couple of magazines laying on the ottoman in front of me. The Artist's Magazine is one of a huge box full of art magazines from 2004 and earlier that I found at a friends of the library book sale for only $6.

05 April 2016

Sunday's sketches

While listening at church Sunday morning, I sketched a rose from our garden (from a photo on my iPod).

After church we loaded up the truck with a bunk bed Bill has been building for our grandsons Josiah and Judah, then we headed south to Beasley. The guys had unloaded most of the bed pieces when Bill realized we had forgotten the bolts that hold it together. So off he drove, returning to Brenham for them, as we went out to eat -- celebrating both Carrie's birthday and Jason's new job.

Jayna and I shared a fountain pen and my sketchbook as we waited to place our orders. She drew this flower in the glow of a very fat sun but did not have time to color it.

Bill made it back with the bolts and the guys put the bunk bed together (to the boys' delight), just in time for cupcakes.

04 April 2016

this time, a real etegami card

. . . a birthday card for one of our daughters-in-law, who's birthday is today. Recently I've played around with the etegami style of art in sketchbooks, but to be true etegami it must be a postcard that is mailed to someone. 

I found some washi postcards at JetPens but the variety I chose doesn't have much "bleed". I also used a brush pen and watercolor rather than a line-drawing brush with sumi ink and gansai paints, not having any of the traditional supplies. I also haven't yet made a real signature 'chop' yet so I just drew it in with a watercolor pencil . . . which bleeds badly if moistened.

I glued the postcard to another card so it could be sent in an envelope -- not strictly a postcard now but I didn't think it would really matter. The rose pictured is one that is blooming next to our patio right now.

01 April 2016

coming back after last year's flood

Almost a year ago we experienced serious flooding in this part of Texas. So flooded that many lakes, including the nearby Lake Somerville, were closed to camping and fishing for the whole summer. Most grasses and many trees died after being submerged for so long. But I recently saw a few trees beginning to come out of their long dormancy, though still under some water.

We are planning a family camp out at the lake later this month. Sadly, some of the best camping areas are still closed to the public. Water levels receded long ago but they lack the funds to repair the bath houses and electric hook-ups. (Electric hook-ups? Who needs electricity for camping?) 

Meanwhile, I finally drew out a rough plan of what I have planted in the existing rose bed next to our patio. Earlier this year, we removed the herb bed that ran along the walk to the front door -- area flooding had destroyed it and had washed out the sandy soil. Every time it rained, we had sand dunes across the patio! So we are letting grass root along the walk for soil retention, Bill and our son Jeff are repairing the French drain (it was not installed correctly by previous owners) for improved drainage, and I planted some culinary herbs in the rose bed. Just a few for now to see if they do well there. I wish I could find some Mexican oregano to add -- it's flavor is wonderful in chili!
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