31 May 2018

one more from the Cavalla, plus . . .

When Bill was in the navy, he was a machinist on board the submarine tender, U.S.S. Sperry. So when I saw this machinist’s lathe on the submarine Cavalla, I had to draw it! I remember Bill coming home from the ship with wee bits of metal shavings stuck to his uniform — going barefooted was risky! But he enjoyed the creativity involved in making repair parts for submarines, many times succeeding when his chief said it couldn’t be done!

This is the final two-page spread in the single-signature sketchbook I made of smooth Bristol paper. It records memory sketches from Battleship Texas, the Cavalla, and the very last sketch is from the only photo I remembered to take on the U.S.S. Stewart, a destroyer escort. This little book is for Bill . . .

. . . and after so many ink sketches in a row, I am So Ready to get back to watercolor!

30 May 2018

U.S.S. Cavalla, part 3

The junior officer’s berthing on the left was already posted previously, but on the right I have added a very confusing ink sketch of the control room aboard the Cavalla submarine. At least that’s what I’m calling it; not sure what the Navy calls it. I think I only got half of the dials and levers in!

Up the ladder was the bridge, periscopes, and attack center — at least that’s what the sign read — but the way was blocked. Causing a wee grump out of Bill, who wanted to go up there.

29 May 2018

getting ready for the 30 x 30 challenge

After a bit of indecision, I have decided to take part in the upcoming 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor 2018 challenge started by Marc Taro Holmes. The challenge is to paint 30 watercolor paintings in 30 days, one for each of the days in June.

I’m gong to try to do 30 direct-with-watercolor sketches rather than completed frameable paintings. No (or very few) pencil guidelines and no ink, drawing directly with a brush.

I will also try to stick to this new choice of palette colors. The idea came from Marc’s “desert island absolute minimum” palette, put together by Maria Coryell-Martin, designer of the Pocket Palette. I substituted similar colors I already had for some, switched his pyrrol orange to transparent pyrrol orange (I just like it better), and bought a couple of his choices just to try them out.

For the 30 day challenge, I chose the Carnet de Voyage Travel Book from Arches that I bought years ago at Hobby Lobby but never used. (I don’t think it is available anymore.) It has 15 pages of 140 # cold-pressed watercolor paper; if I use both sides, it covers all 30 days of June.

The above testing of my palette was done on the back of the cover which is much lighter paper. So far I like the colors (can’t wait to get back to watercolor after drawing my current book in ink only!), but I’m not sure whether to use phthalo blue GREEN SHADE or phthalo blue RED SHADE? The warmer red shade seems easier to get along with and makes a subtle violet; with the green shade I can mix to a nice indigo but no violet.

Still undecided . . .

28 May 2018

U.S.S. Cavalla, part 2


So how would you like to bunk atop a torpedo? On this World War II submarine, as on most subs, bedding was crammed in every available space. I like the complicated table in the officers’ mess, drawn on the above right page. Apparently it was also used to study maps or charts.

This is one of the junior officers’ quarters. There were two beds n this long, narrow space with a desk at each end. My eyes went immediately to the gorgeous leather-bound journal laying on the pillow!

26 May 2018

U.S.S. Cavalla

Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, next to Galveston, is the permanent home of the U.S.S. Cavalla, a World War II submarine of the Gato class. It is similar in size to the U.S.S. Seawolf, a Sargo class submarine that the park is named for. The Seawolf was lost at sea, probably under friendly fire.

Bill served on a submarine tender in the 1970s, and worked on many WW II subs as well as newer nuclear subs. He had been aboard them many times, machining specially-fit replacement parts, but this is the first time I’ve been on one.

24 May 2018

Battleship Texas, part 3

Just a couple more sketches from the U.S.S. Texas battleship . . .

The bell from the original Battleship Texas is below decks. The second Texas still retains her bell hanging in place above decks. The first Texas was commissioned in 1895; she was renamed San Marcos in 1911 which allowed this second ship to be named Texas.

The first U.S.S. Texas had a reputation of being a jinxed ship after several early mishaps. She served in the Spanish-American War and later became a station ship in Charleston, South Carolina. After being renamed, she became a target ship for gunnery practice.

The bridge sketches were from a badly backlit photo Bill took — sunlight was pouring through those portholes and the brightness even hurt my eyes just looking at the photograph! So details are not absolutely correct, but I wanted to draw the wheel and show what tiny visibility there was looking through the portholes that ran a half-circle around this room. Bill says this tiny space would have been a tight squeeze for the many officers present. There was a table to the left where maps were spread out to study.

23 May 2018

Battleship Texas, part 2

A couple more pages from Bill’s memory book, a bit of everyday life for the sailors.

21 May 2018

Battleship Texas

This single signature sketchbook contains smooth Bristol paper that works best with pen and ink. Following our recent trip to La Porte and Seawolf Park on Pelican Island (next to Galveston), I decided to use this book for memory sketches of the three Navy vessels we explored. A special memory book for Bill who served in the Navy in the early 1970s — he was like a little kid as he climbed up, down, and all around the battleship, submarine, and destroyer escort!

The first pages are of Battleship Texas, formerly known as USS Texas BB-35, which is moored next to the San Jacinto Monument and Battleground in La Porte, Texas. All these sketches are done from photos we both took with our phones; the upper sketch of the ship is as viewed over the ridge from the parking lot. I planned on drawing it at the diner down the road as Bill and his buddies met for coffee . . . then realized that I had forgotten to bring a pencil for the loose undersketch. So I dived in with my Lamy Safari pen, loaded with a dark gray ink. Scary to go pencil-less!

We went up and down LOTS of these steep ladder stairs and our knees complained a bit! I teased Bill about how he used to practically fly down these things on the USS Sperry, sliding down the handrails. But that was over 40 years ago. You would think we’d be used to them — our log cabin stairs to the loft are just as steep.

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.

UPDATE: I’ve slightly tweaked the wee palette on the right, loosely based on Marc Taro Holmes’ absolute minimum selections and set up for the 30 x 30 Direct Watercolor Challenge coming in June.
He has quinacridone deep gold; I used what I had already (quin. gold) but realized that the deep version is closer to an earthy orange. So I’ll either use quin. burnt orange or get some quin. deep gold.
I also like the deeper, more reddish pigment of transparent pyrrol orange over the regular pyrrol orange, so I think I’ll switch to that.

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.
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