19 May 2018

color play and a new challenge


I’ve been working on ink-only sketches in a separate sketchbook, but today I just needed color! So out came two Pocket Palettes and my current regular journal (Stillman & Birn Beta softcover). On the left side, I laid down colors wet-on-wet in the order they are placed in my current purse palette, below left, just to see them run together at the edges.

On the right, I’ve put together a palette loosely based on Marc Taro Holmes’ “desert island” absolute minimum colors for landscape and urban sketching. I bought small tubes of three of his color choices to try out, and picked close matches from others I already had. It seems very weird to not have a burnt sienna! I left two empty pans for additional mixing space but I might replace these with one larger empty pan.

Marc is hosting a 30 x 30 watercolor painting event for the month of June, and I’ve decided to try it. Maybe I will stick to this “desert island” palette or maybe I’ll switch back and forth? Instead of completed paintings, I plan to stick with simple sketches . . . but do them in watercolor only! No pencil guidelines, no ink. Scary, huh?


Meanwhile, my loft studio has abandoned the loft for now. With outside temperatures reaching the 90° range and higher, it’s just too hot up there. So a few essentials are kept on my grandmother’s old kitchen work table instead. Someday we hope to replace the cabin’s roof with a tin roof that will reflect the heat better. The “walls” of the loft are the underside of the currently dark shingle roof over log beams. No room to insulate without losing the look of those beams.


17 May 2018

and finally . . . seashells!


For the final spread in this small sketch journal, our visit to the gulf coast and Galveston Island isn’t complete unless I sketch some of the shells I picked up. I strolled along the beach and waded through the surf a bit before stopping to pick some up . . . and Bill still laughed, knowing I couldn’t resist them for long.

In this journal, I recorded planning an unexpected trip to Kansas followed by unsuccessfully trying to find an alternate flight when mine was canceled. I missed the funeral but later wrote this note to myself in the front of this journal.

I believe that a) I wasn’t meant to go to my stepmother’s funeral (I was only going for my dad who I do not have a close relationship with), and b) God wanted me to go through the frustrating day because He knows I learn best through experience.

I have forgiven my dad for the past and have done all I can to try to establish a relationship with him. I realize now that I was trying to get to the funeral to earn his approval — God tells me that I’ve done all I need to do; the rest is up to my dad. I already have God’s approval and that is enough.

16 May 2018

museum bits; a chimney in want of a building


On some of the last pages of this small travel journal I drew some small bits from the museum exhibit at San Jacinto. There were many other artifacts from previous civilizations but most seemed a bit daunting to sketch. And while I was tempted to sketch a life-sized bust of Sam Houston, I ended up drawing a few of his personal belongings instead — somehow, they seem more poignant.


In downtown Galveston, I found this old chimney standing strong, though the building was long gone. Not sure what type of business or factory it was.

discovering another sketching journal keeper



While at the San Jacinto Monument, I discovered a sketching journal keeper . . . and a bit of a rogue! Sam Chamberlain was a soldier during the Mexican-American War that followed soon after Texas won her independence; one outcome of this conflict was America gaining New Mexico, Arizona, and California territories.

Chamberlain kept a sketchbook with him and later did a large number of watercolors from his sketches and memories. Instead of recording them in a bound sketchbook, he often wrote down his memories on the backs of the small paintings.

He later wrote and illustrated his recollections . . . greatly embellished by imagination . . . and eventually his descendants sold the rights to Life magazine. The largest collection of his work can be found at the San Jacinto Monument.









15 May 2018

watching . . .


Sometimes we like to find a relaxing spot to just watch, whether it’s vessels entering and exiting the Houston ship channel or a lone snowy egret perched on piles of concrete waste on Pelican Island.

14 May 2018

messy beach shacks


Sometimes my journal sketches can be quite messy . . . . Especially when using a water-soluble ink (J. Herbin Lie de The) and forgetting to reassemble a waterbrush correctly. Normally I use Pentel Aquash waterbrushes, but this time I was using a Niji waterbrush with that wee black plug thingy that regulates how much water is dispersed. I removed it to refill, then forgot to put it back in.

The aftermath of last year’s devastating hurricane can still be seen on Galveston. The upper floor and roof of “The Spot” are still unrepaired and the palm trees newly planted. While a couple of the old palms next to the Longboard Pool Bar were still standing, the roof showed some new sections.

12 May 2018

61st street fishing pier


This fishing pier was across Seawall Boulevard from our hotel in Galveston, and we visited it after one of my beach strolls. Bill purchased a locally made craft beer which allowed us access to the upper deck. In fact, we had it all to ourselves and the view was lovely! There were many others on the long pier and the rock jetty leading out to the pier, fishing for their dinner. As were the many sea birds around us.

I used up what little masking fluid I had left to save the white of the waves; most of the bottle (from Daniel Smith) had dried up. I don’t use it much but I always make sure it is shut securely so I was surprised that most of it was wasted. My Molotow pen was also not working. I asked friends on Facebook what brands they recommended, and most say to try Pebeo . . . and to store it upside down.

The gutter down the center of this two page spread is not a clean fold due to the paper really being too heavy to fold into a sketchbook folio (200 lb. Cotman watercolor paper). But it was just some leftover paper I had on hand, and I really don’t mind — this is a journal of memories, not a fine work of art, after all.
Bill being silly on the pier


11 May 2018

breakfast at Miller’s . . .



. . . but still no Elissa.

Ever since our daughter took us to Galveston for the first time 20 years ago, I have wanted to go see the 1877 tall ship Elissa that berths in Galveston. She sailed cargo under the British flag and carried Texas cotton to the mills of England in the 19th century.

But either we didn’t have time to tour her or she was out at sea the various times we’ve been on the island. This time, Bill was determined that I would get to see as much of her as I want, especially since he was dragging me through a battleship, a submarine, and a destroyer escort!

But Elissa just returned from spring sea trials; she was undergoing refit, preparing for recertification. So she was closed to visitors and I still missed exploring her up close.

Bill enjoyed his breakfast of shrimp grits with smoked Gouda cheese though! Miller’s Seawall Grill is very busy serving customers even as they continue hurricane repairs to their building.

The Elissa at a tall ship event in New York

09 May 2018

pelicans and a crippled gull



I loved watching the brown pelicans feeding in the gulf waters near sunset in Galveston. They soar so gracefully in the air . . . then do a belly-flop landing in the surf! And as they take off again, sometimes they make like a motor boat along the surface, leaving a huge wake behind them. But they are very hard to draw! I thought sticking to silhouettes might be easier.

All along the sea wall, newly planted palms are held firm with wires, replacing all those lost n the recent hurricane. Many homes and businesses are still boarded up or undergoing repairs; we saw one business being raised up onto a higher foundation.

In the morning on the beach, we came across this laughing gull with a broken leg, hopping around waiting for the incoming tide to bring his breakfast. Another gull would not leave his side, patiently walking along beside him.


The gulf waters near Galveston usually look gray but as the sun sets in the West, they take on the most magical deep blue hue. Once while camping on Mustang Island further south, we saw the white caps reflecting the pink of the sunset behind us.

08 May 2018

palette gluttony

On Facebook, artist Tim Oliver asked for photos of other artists’ palettes for a project he is putting together.  I can see his thread quickly growing to gigantic proportions! Artists do tend to love seeing the tools used by others.

This is my “studio” palette, holding one of every color I currently own. Many are leftover pans of paints I tried and will not replace when they are gone.

I keep these pans loose, not attached. That way, I can easily pull out the few colors that I want for a specific project without having to hunt them down amongst the mass of pigments.

These are my favorite “go to” palettes. I have many other do-it-yourself travel palettes — they are so much fun to put together! Other palettes not shown hold gouache or specific color combinations for special uses. But these are the ones I love using the most. I used to attach the various pans, filled from tubes, with rubber cement or blue tac. But more often these days, I attach flexible magnet material so they can be removed and switched around easily.

The pocket palettes are extremely portable, slipping into any bag or pocket. Most of the time, I use waterbrushes with them. The vintage Prang box and flat square metal box each have room for travel brushes; sometimes I carry fewer colors in these to make room for more brushes.


This set is made up of granulating pigments — Autumn usually puts me in the mood for lots of granulation, while springtime steers me more towards bright, clean colors.

07 May 2018

tiniest flatiron building ever!


After leaving the San Jacinto State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas, we headed for Galveston Island for a mini-vacation a couple of weeks ago. As we drove along Highway 146 through Seabrook, we were stopped at a red traffic light . . . and saw this ridiculously tiny flatiron building on the corner. I almost didn’t get my phone out quick enough to snap a photo!

The 2-story, 600 square foot building has most recently housed Valentine Law Office. But the Texas Department of Transportation claimed “eminent domain”; the building will be removed to widen the highway. Such a shame to lose such an eye-catcher, with its leafy haircut!


This photo I found online shows the entrance in the back, with its railing of metal dolphins and other assorted decorations. I love it . . . I don’t particularly like pink but it totally fits!

05 May 2018

San Jacinto

Bill and I both love history museums; in fact I once worked in one in Kansas. When our daughter moved to Houston she took us to see several, including the San Jacinto Monument, but it was so long ago we decided to go again.

It was here in 1836 that volunteer Anglo-Americans and Tejanos defeated Santa Anna’s much larger army, gaining independence for Texas. 

The monument was built during the Great Depression to commemorate the 100 year anniversary, mostly out of fossilized Cordova Cream shellstone — I enjoyed looking at the stone as much as the exhibits!

We happened to arrive just as several school buses of noisy, undisciplined children also arrived. We tried going through the exhibit covering 400 years of Texas history but it was just too loud and hard to see much while dodging kids.
We happened to arrive just as several school buses of noisy, undisciplined children also arrived. We tried going through the exhibit covering 400 years of Texas history but it was just too loud and hard to see much while dodging kids.S

So we left the monument and headed to the nearby USS Texas battleship. Just as we finished going through the ship, the schoolchildren were coming to see the ship . . . leaving a very quiet, peaceful monument to us! We continued viewing exhibits, watched a history movie, and went to the observation deck near the top.










some of the shellstone was polished
The USS Texas from observation deck

view of marsh area from observation deck


04 May 2018

the trip that wasn’t . . .

And now, the rest of the story . . .

Earlier this week my step-mother died. I planned to fly to Kansas for the funeral.

Spent all day Wednesday searching for a round-trip flight that we wouldn’t have to take a loan out for. (Over $1000 Texas to Kansas while advertising $150 trips to New York? Really?)

Finally found flights for just under $400, but had to pay upgrades on only available seating.

Thursday, while driving to Houston’s airport, received a text: flight canceled due to weather in Dallas/Fort Worth. Rebooking me tomorrow morning. Uh, that won’t work, funeral is tomorrow morning.

Spoke with very understanding lady at American Airlines who found me a late night flight, getting me to Wichita at midnight.

Bill drove me to Houston a second time, dropping me off at our daughter’s house — she will drive me to the airport later. While waiting, received another text: first of connecting flights delayed and I will miss my connection in DFW. They will rebook my second flight to Friday (with me spending the night at DFW airport). Again, I phone to explain I would miss the funeral, which is the only reason I’m traveling in the first place. Spoke to another understanding lady who worked very hard at finding me another flight, even with another airline. No more flights available, period.

Never mind. Refunded. Bill drove to Houston third time in one day to pick me up. Had dinner with daughter’s family. Went home. Maybe God didn’t want me to go to Kansas this week?

02 May 2018

Sketchbook Revival journals, covered


Bonnie Christine’s video class on Day 8 of the Sketchbook Revival online class was just the inspiration I needed to add simple covers to my class sketchbooks. Because a large portion of the main one contains sketches from our recent trip to Galveston Island, I covered it with a sand-colored linen. I’m still working on the many travel sketches in this journal made of watercolor paper.

The single-signature book made of Bristol paper is covered in “battleship gray” anchor fabric — I plan on filling this one with ink sketches from photos I took. We toured a battleship, a submarine, and a destroyer escort; this journal will be a memory book for Bill. Having served aboard a sub-tender in the Navy, he was like a little kid, climbing all over each vessel as far as they would let him go!


After returning home I received news of a death in the family, so I will be making an unexpected flight to Kansas this week for the funeral. I may not follow the remaining classes — several of them cover subjects that do not interest me anyway. After a busy search to find last-minute flights I could afford, I couldn’t get to sleep last night . . . so I planned what to pack in my sketchbook.

28 April 2018

a botanical study

Thursday’s second video from the online Sketchbook Revival class was presented by botanical artist Wendy Hollander. I’m a bit behind due to our recent trip to Galveston.

Rather than drawing the same subjects as Wendy did in the video, I drew our first rose of the season which is now wilting and darkening, forming a large rose hip. Most of the leaves of this antique rose variety are bright green but many of them are deep red with a greenish undertone.

I think they are as beautiful at this stage as they are when bright red and freshly opened! And the lovely old fashioned scent is just as lovely.

27 April 2018

Casa del Mar


I will be a bit behind in class work for the Sketchbook Revival online class, as we have come to the coast for a couple of days. This is the view from our hotel balcony — I drew it in the style Liz Steel taught in the “edges & shapes” class on Tuesday, sketching in paint and adding just a few ink lines at the end. I’m liking this technique!

I did use pencil guidelines to get the floor plan nearly right. Our room is more like an apartment; the hallways have ship-lath paneling and “windows” as well as what looks like outer doors, making it feel like beachfront property.

Been trying to catch photos of the pelicans Flying V-formation overhead this morning. They all seem to be headed towards Pelican Island, where we will be going later. Bill wants to tour the Navy Sub on exhibit there.

26 April 2018

sea birds


Today’s Sketchbook Revival class with Val Webb was amazing!

Unfortunately, we are on Galveston Island today and I left the needed art tools at home. So I just drew two of the birds I see here on the sea wall, using the tools I brought with me.

25 April 2018

first pages and warm-up exercise


Today’s first video in the online Sketchbook Revival class covered those “first page fears” as well as the “what should I draw?” quandary and warming up exercises. I chose not to follow along with the examples given — it’s supposed to be about having fun and I don’t enjoy random scribbling.

So I followed my own long-standing practices instead:

For years, I have drawn my art tools on the first page. This can be simply what colors I am currently using, as shown above, or a sketch of my palette, fountain pens or pencils. Usually there is a wonky line or smudge of ink or paint — the sketchbook is now no longer pristine and I can move on past that first page! (I also record personal contact info on the inside front cover, in case the book is lost.)

As to “what should I draw?”, I began the sketchbook habit in 2007 by following Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters drawing challenges. This list really got me moving forward!

My favorite warm-up exercise is a simple continuous line drawing. I did so many of these back in high school art classes, some “blind” and some timed — they are really quite relaxing! I don’t do them every time I draw, but if I feel “stuck” they help. This drawing of two more of my tea cups finished up the small folded sketchbook I made for the first day of class — my own wee boring book filled with tea cups like Danny Gregory’s!

24 April 2018

shapes and edges


. . . and here’s my notations and class work for today’s second half, “Sketching Complex Shapes with Edges and Shapes” with Liz Steel. Liz is SO RIGHT — capturing shapes first is so much easier and quicker than beginning with lines!

a tea habit


Today’s first class in Sketchbook Revival was presented by Danny Gregory, a true hero in the sketchbook artist world. It was his book, Everyday Matters, that began this drawing journey so many of us are on. My response was to draw three of my own tea cups (okay, two of them are mugs, not cups — but I like BIG cups of hot tea!) Shown above is the tea I was actually drinking while watching the class video on my phone.


I’m using the simple folded journal I made yesterday using Bristol paper. This Scottie cup, given to me by my dear friend Ginger, looks very wonky but I was not using any pencil guidelines — just straight with ink in Lamy Safari fountain pens.


And this is my only real tea cup and saucer, unless you count some antique doll china that once belonged to Bill’s grandmother.

23 April 2018

a temporary sketchbook cover


After making two of the simple sketchbooks for the Sketchbook Revival class today, one folded and one a single sewn signature, I went ahead and sewed another book block from the leftover sheets of Cotman 200 lb. cold press watercolor paper. The paper is so thick, I used only one folded sheet per signature! But it should work very well for any wetter paint applications I might use.

Originally I had planned to do any class work in my regular current sketchbook journal, but because the first class was on making our own books, I decided to work in these books for the duration. The simple ones seen in my previous post are of Bristol paper, a smooth paper for pencil or pen and ink. This book block above is more for watercolor.

Eventually I will design covers for all three books but I really don’t want to decide on what they might look like today. So I needed a temporary cover to hold them:

This plaid book cover was made to hold paperback novels — I bought it because I love all things plaid but have never used it.

By tucking the front or back page into the inner flaps, my two larger sketchbook page blocks are easily held in place within the cover. The smaller folded book stays in place with the bookmark ribbon.

Seems like a simple temporary solution for some very simple sketchbooks!









some simple handmade journals


The Sketchbook Revival online workshop began today, with the first lesson teaching how to make three simple sketchbooks. I didn’t make the first example, an accordion book, because I had already filled two journals of that style, full of special memories.

The larger one, made by Cathy Johnson, was filled in March and June of 2013 during two of my “Granny Nanny” trips staying with grandkids. Across three pages of one side is Mikala’s gigantic Maine Coon kitten, Oreo — Sadly, he died of a heart attack near the end of that same year, making this sketch poignantly special. (That was also the year my husband Bill had a major heart attack, followed by bypass surgery. I am SO GRATEFUL that he not only survived but is still thriving with a strong heart!)

The smaller accordion book contains random sketches from 2015, including my cataract surgeries. I fill both sides of this style of book, using a couple of rubber bands to hold uncorked pages together as I work. Otherwise the book can easily spill across the floor!

The two books in front are a simple folded version of white Bristol and a single signature sewn book of the same paper, covered with a folded piece of vintage Bristol in a cream color. I think I’ll use both of these for some of the class work.

Two separate parts to today’s class were sent by email today; I’ve only watched the first one due to wimpy internet. Maybe I will be able to view the second half before bedtime.

22 April 2018

new sketchbooks


Even though I have a small stash of papers to bind my own sketchbook journals, I haven’t really been in the mood to get started on it. I also need to find a better quality glue before beginning on that project.

But for now, I am liking every Stillman & Birn sketchbook I’ve tried, especially the softcover versions. My current book is the deep blue Beta lying underneath this light blue Field Notes notebook that stays in my purse. And in the above sketch, two new books recently arrived by mail order: a Zeta landscape softcover and a Nova softcover with gray toned paper.

I still have nearly half of the Beta to fill, so there’s still time before I have to decide . . .
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