25 August 2019

Sketch With Me: favorite things

In our log cabin, I found myself spending very little time in my art studio. With its location being in the loft, accessible by a steep ladder-stair, it wasn’t the easiest place to get to for these old legs. 5 1/2 years ago those steep stairs didn’t seem such a big deal but now my legs protest! There is a good amount of mostly-north natural light, but being up against the steep roofline is uncomfortably hot in the summer. So my studio became more of a place to store art tools rather than a place to paint.

At Kristen’s house, where we will be living temporarily while converting the barn into a house, there is a wonderful little office in the northeast corner — lots of light from 2 sides! Now that my art table is set up with tools set out ready to use, I’m spending a lot more time there. Now it’s so much easier to leave and return, taking care of other things while letting ink or paint dry.

This weekend is the Sketch With Me virtual sketch crawl with the prompt “FAVORITE THINGS”. So what better than my favorite art tools? I have two more additional brushes not included that are favorites: my Lowe-Cornell ultra round #8 and #10.

In the Prang box are my most-used watercolor choices:
Quinacridone rose, pyrrol scarlet, quinacridone gold, hansa yellow medium, green apatite, perylene green, cerulean blue chromium, ultramarine blue, transparent red oxide, raw umber, and a mixed gray (ultramarine and burnt sienna, also sold as “Jane’s Grey”).

My new Demi palette holds whatever new combination I’m currently playing with; currently that is José Naranja’s limited palette he uses in his fabulous mostly-ink sketchbooks. I’m not so sure about having both indigo and payne’s gray, both so similar.

My favorite Pocket Palette is the black one, filled with every one of the 28 colors that I keep in my large Schminke studio palette. Most colors are actually from Daniel Smith; I just keep them in a Schminke box.

Choosing favorite brushes is easy — these are the ones I grab most often. Choosing favorite fountain pens is a bit more challenging, but these are the top 3: a Lamy Safari, my new Pilot Namiki Falcon, and a tiny Kaweco Liliput.

Below is a color chart of all the colors of watercolor I keep in my studio.

23 August 2019

our new pool-pet

I laughed when our daughter Kristen bought a Roomba to vacuum, though it does actually keep the pet hair at a minimum and doesn’t seem to bother their three cats.

Now they have bought a similar “creature” to clean the pool. Bill nicknamed it Wall-E and it is now our “pool pet”. Actually does a great job . . . we still have to scoop out the magnolia leaves that float on top of the water though. Wall-E’s work is strictly underwater.

Here he is in action, cleaning up the side of the pool — about to get temporarily stuck on those steps.

21 August 2019

a little garden clean-up

Early in the morning when we’re at our new property, I work a bit on the very overgrown landscaping around the pool. A very short bit — the heat and humidity have been unusually horrid this summer! I’m using these leather gauntlet gloves I once purchased for trimming roses — there are many sago palms on the property and they have razor-sharp edges!

The once small and blooming lantana has grown to 3 foot long branches that intertwine with each other into a huge knot. After trimming several back last week, I found another prickly pear cactus that they had completely hidden!

This is how neatly the place looked in the springtime, just before we bought the place. Apparently lantana thrives on hot, humid days with very little rainfall or watering!

19 August 2019

a new wildflower

On those days when I wake up at our new place, I try to get in an hour of working on the pool’s landscaping before the extreme heat and humidity chase me inside for other jobs. The lantana has become completely overgrown, crowding out other plantings and hiding bits we didn’t even know were there. I’m trimming it back a bit severe to get rid of some powdery mildew and give all the plants some breathing room.

Among today’s trimmings, I found this volunteer wildflower that I hadn’t seen before — I think it is a Dakota Vervain. (see update below) I’m sorry to have pulled it out before noticing how pretty it is. It had become “buried” under some over-long lantana stems. Before it could wilt, I did a quick continuous-line sketch of it — gave me an excuse to come inside and cool down with some iced peach tea!

UPDATE: after help from others on Facebook, this flower has been identified as Plumbago auriculata.

15 August 2019

pool rocks

This is what one of the larger landscaping rocks near the swimming pool looked like a couple of weeks ago. Now we have had a long, dry period of excessive heat and the moss has all disappeared.

11 August 2019

this morning’s church sketch

Tea and bag drawn during morning Bible study; text added during church sermon. Paint added later at new house, where my studio set has been moved. Ink blotch added from water drop — forgot I wrote text in water-soluble ink.

The larger cups are all used up at church so I took my ceramic cup from the car in. It would actually be smarter to reuse my own tea mug every week rather than use disposables.

Kyra Kitty


When the sheep farmers sold our daughter and son-in-law their new home, they came back to load up the remaining sheep, their horse, the border collies . . . and 2 barn cats, sisters from the same litter who had been adopted to take care of the mice in the barn. Unfortunately, they could only find one cat, Lyla. Her sister, Kyra, remained hidden and they needed to head on out.

We have been watching for Kyra for several weeks, and made sure there was food and fresh water available for her. Once in a while we would catch a glimpse of her but could never get close.

Then we spent several days in a row at the new house. On Friday morning, Kyra was near the pool and I slipped outside to the porch. She sat on a rock, looked directly at me, and chatted up a storm! I don’t speak “cat” but I’m sure she was telling me all about her people and familiar animals disappearing. She wouldn’t let me come near her.

Early Saturday morning I again came out to the porch and sat down. Kyra began talking to me again (complaining?) and came up to me, letting me pet her. So early this morning we attempted to catch her. She approached, purring and allowed petting. . . . . Then Bill grabbed her, put her in a kennel, and carried her to a tack room in the barn while she complained loudly and told him off! We closed her in the tack room with food and water, then texted her owners that she was contained. Their daughter will come from College Station this morning to collect her and return her to her sister kitty and family.

In the same way, we can feel lost and confused in the midst of our present concerns. We may attempt to hide or complain to whoever shows up to listen. Just when we begin to feel settled and begin to trust in the new situation, we are contained and put in a small space in confusion! But we don’t yet know that rescue is on the way — the Lord always provides a way out, a hope and a future.

09 August 2019

a sadder butterfly

I was able to sketch this butterfly because it was not moving. Actually it was dead, damaged, with its color fading quickly. Most of the butterflies feeding on our lantana and other flowering shrubs move too quickly for sketching or even a blurred photo.

I’ve been slowly trimming the lantana back from the jungle it’s become around the pool. Hopefully this will encourage a new blooming — currently the only ones left with flowers are these in the sketch, growing in front of the barn.

Due to extreme heat and humidity, I only get a few plants trimmed each day that I’m at the new house. But eventually I’ll catch up . . .

08 August 2019

lost feather

Just a quick sketch after hanging out in the pool this evening . . . If I could find a way to sketch while lazily floating in the water, I would! Observing the various birds, dragonflies, and bumble bees; listening to an owl, a crow, unknown songbirds, and a neighbor’s rooster; watching jets fly so very high overhead — apparently our new property is in the flight path for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. I’ve also watched a mother bird (I think it may be a type of vireo) feeding her young in a nearby birdhouse attached to one of the fence lines, and a crested cara cara (aka Mexican eagle) soar above me. It is totally peaceful here!

(Photo is a bit yellowed because it is now nighttime here, and I don’t have my studio lighting set up.)

Earlier today was busier than normal. Bill woke to find his cell phone too hot to touch and unable to turn on. After meeting his buddies for coffee, we loaded up the car with more stuff to move to our new place. Then headed to College Station for a bit of necessary shopping, an unexpected stop to check on his phone (by now cooler, charged, and working again), lunch at a deli, and a follow-up periodontist appointment for me.

Then back to the cabin to load up the cats and a bit of food before heading to our new place. A few fix-it jobs, continuing with landscape trimming and treating a cactus bug infestation, checking on how what we think is a young pecan tree is faring after treating it for bagworms. We’re also hanging out here while yet another realtor shows the cabin to potential buyers.

I love simply being here in the country, surrounded by birds, the neighbor’s goats and horses, trees, and such a lovely quiet!

06 August 2019

traveling cats

Our cabin has been on the market for 40 days now and only a few scheduled to look in person, though thousands have looked at the online listings. Frustrating for us. Even more frustrating for our wee Scottish Fold kitties as we continue to pack what is not needed for “staging” at the cabin and travel back and forth between properties. We are doing some work at Kristen’s new house, meeting with workmen about the barn-to-house conversion, and keeping both mowed. We can’t actually begin on our barndominium until we sell the cabin.

When people schedule to look at the cabin, we load up the cats and go for a ride — or take more stuff to the new place. And when we go to spend the night at the alternate place, they balk — whether they are at the cabin or the house. They seem to like both places just fine; they just don’t care to leave wherever they happen to be at the moment.

03 August 2019

not busy enough . . .

What with packing boxes and moving stuff one load at a time to our new place, maintaining yard and landscaping at both residences, showing cabin to potential buyers, trying to keep up with sketching . . . I decided that I wasn’t busy enough, so I took on a bit of knitting.
Our sweet neighbors’ baby #2 will be arriving any day and I wanted to make something for him. These bibs are knit of the same 100% cotton yarn that washcloths are made of. After use, simply dampen it and use it to wash the baby’s face and hands. And head, if he learns to eat like our son Jason did, who loved rubbing food into his hair while laughing.

02 August 2019

magnolia seed pod

I’ve seen magnolias in bloom before and smelled the wonderful scent — but I had never seen one go to seed until now. The magnolia tree near our daughter’s swimming pool is heavy with seed pods.

(And just who’s bright idea was it to place a magnolia near a swimming pool anyway? Lots of shed leaves blow into the water!)

28 July 2019

an emerging cicada

As we were leaving one day to drive to our other property Bill noticed this cicada emerging from its old skin, which was attached to our rear tire. We needed to get going so I snapped a quick photo and we left. Not sure if the cicada was able to fly away or not. Why does that bother me?

27 July 2019

Sketch With Me — memories

Today is the Sketch With Me virtual sketch crawl, with the prompt of “memories “. I had planned on packing up more items for the move today, including these little-used things in our kitchen.

Years ago, I used this Indian pitcher (with a very wonky shadow!) to water plants . . . . until I saw one just like it on Antique Roadshow. From the Monmouth Pottery company c. 1910, it’s called “Old Sleepy Eye” and is worth a bit more than I had imagined! It came from Bill’s Grandma Cobb, who was mostly Swedish but also had a smidgen of American Indian in her..

The Fiestaware serving pieces are from my mom. I don’t know where she got them or any fun stories to go with them; I just think of her when I see them.

25 July 2019

another pool day

We are spending a couple of days at the new property while grandson Quen visits us. I spent a bit of time outside beginning my newest purse-size sketchbook, a 4” square Field Artist watercolor journal found online. When I painted in the colors of my new Demi Palette, the sun was still so hot that the paint dried a bit streaky. Then I swam and played a bit with Quen in the pool.

By the time I came back to finish and snap some photos, the tall oaks and pines along the west property line cast everything in shade, making these photos a bit blue.

BTW, my earlier post about the Demi Palette included undersea green and green apatite as my two greens. I’ve tweaked that a bit — Mixing a bit of red into green apatite gives a color similar to undersea green, so I switched the undersea green out for the cooler perylene green. Also, instead of my mini waterbrush, I used a travel dagger brush from Rosemary & Co.

24 July 2019

an unknown wildflower

While I was playing with the five goat visitors on Monday, I found a new wildflower growing along the base of one of the many fence lines. At first glance, this low growing plant reminded me of portulaca, but the flowers are simple and flat rather than a complex “rose like” form and the leaves grow in a star shape close to each blossom. Among the stems and leaves trailing on the ground were tiny white “stars” — not sure if they were the same plant or not, as all had the same type of leaves.

23 July 2019

a wee Demi Palette

My purse-sized sketching kit just shrunk a bit more.

Maria Coryell-Martin at Expeditionary Art has just introduced a Demi Palette and, since my birthday was just a week ago, one just arrived in the mail! At half the size of regular Pocket Palettes, this wee palette fits just about anywhere! Add a mini waterbrush and a favorite fountain pen (another birthday gift, a Pilot Namiki Falcon, extra fine nib) to a pocket-sized sketchbook (my current one is a Stillman & Birn Delta softcover, 3.5 x 5.5”) — now all I need is more time to sketch!

22 July 2019

my new job as goatherd?

 We were coming to the new property today to do a bit of work and to meet with a potential carpenter to get bids on the barndominium. At the country intersection, there were 5 goats standing in a huddle, appearing to be sharing the daily gossip.

We carefully drove around them and on to our long drive. Next thing we know, the goats have followed our truck down the drive. They quickly came running to me in particular, expecting me to “fix it!” Not knowing for sure where they come from, I’m not sure how to help. (The funny thing is that when Bill tried to approach them, they ran away from him!)

 This billy goat in particular is very affectionate and appears to want me as his new BFF.

I opened the gate to the back pasture and filled a small water tank the former owners had left with fresh water. And they came running into the enclosure with expressions like “Finally! What took you so long?”

Before we leave, I’ll check with the nearby property owners who have goats to see if they are theirs. If so, these rascals went on a long square walk-about with several turns to end up here!

21 July 2019

a very red bag

I like to switch what bag I’m using on a regular basis. Maybe that’s because every Christmas, my grandma gave me some kind of new purse. Today I went from an oversized canvas bag that could hold my largest sketchbook (plus a bit of knitting) to this old red leather bag. It was sold as a bag to carry your Bible to church, found at The Celtic Ranch in our favorite Irish town of Weston, MO. But I like using it as a purse. Lots of art supplies and several sketchbooks can fit inside, each one easily accessible. It’s nice when stuff can just be grabbed without unzipping or opening a side pocket.

20 July 2019

my new normal?

Is it an urban sketch if it’s in the middle of the countryside? I’ve always been confused about that.

This morning, as our realtor showed our cabin to potential buyers, we took the kitties to our new place. (They are being anti-social and choosing to stay in the laundry room mostly). Before our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter arrived for a pool party, I sat at the edge of the pool (with my feet dangling in the water) and drew the pump house and table set — the umbrella is broken but a replacement is on the way.

Later, all of us nibbled snacks and hit the pool. Kristen showed me several techniques she learned in water aerobics — both of us want to use the pool to get in better shape. But mostly we just hung out and enjoyed the peace and quiet and sunshine!

So far, we have seen purple martins, cardinals, wrens, the ever-present mockingbirds, possibly a crested cara cara (Mexican eagle),  hummingbirds, and tons of large butterflies. We are eager to get our bird feeders moved onsite to see just how many birds we can attract. I’ve heard there are plenty of deer and an occasional bobcat in the area.

Not as heavy with live oaks as we have north of Brenham, though there are some. Lots of other types of oaks and the very tall loblolly and yellow pines, plus many trees we haven’t yet identified.

18 July 2019

sampler memories

During the 33 years that I totally ignored art, after high school graduation and getting married, creativity kept breaking out in other ways. Sewing, knitting, decoupage, or cross stitch — I was always searching for the right mode of expression. Since coming back to sketching, I no longer feel the urge to try other things, though I still occasionally knit.

In 1983 we moved into what I always think of as our family home, the Tudor Revival style Craftsman bungalow depicted in the larger sampler piece above. It was actually the third house we bought, after 3 or 4 years of renting during and directly following Bill’s years in the Navy. I made these two sampler bits to fit into clear switch-plate covers in our family room, complete with each of our children’s initials. Jeff was not born until later — the large sampler’s date is the year we moved into this house but they were actually stitched in 1990.

I haven’t had much time for sketching lately as we box things up to move. I came across these while packing family photos and old albums. Some boxes are packed for long-term, not to be opened until the barn is converted into our new home. Others are simply boxed up to move to our daughter’s new house where we will live temporarily.

Now if I can only keep the two straight in my mind!

16 July 2019

Scottie’s new favorite hidey-hole

Scottie, one of our two Scottish Fold Straights, loves his cat carrier (as well as his favorite mouse toy — that bedraggled bit of white fuzz). I’ve left the carriers out in case interested parties wish to look at the cabin and we need to leave. We’re taking the cats with us rather than chance an unknown realtor letting them outside. Our own realtor is crazy-in-love with our two cats and would protect them.

Anyway, Scottie used to nap on the bed but now he prefers his carrier. 

former residents say goodbye

 Yesterday our daughter and son-in-law closed on our new property in the country, then we met at the house to get an idea of what needs done now that the sellers’ furnishings are gone.

I wandered over to the barn that will one day be my new home and was greeted by some of the former residents. In fact, this horse practically ran up to greet me at the fence! Her face was covered — probably to calm her for the upcoming travel.

She might have thought at first that I was someone else, but once she sniffed my hands, she decided to be friends. I wish I had a better photo of her, but she also wanted to play with my phone!

The sheep that remained also came up to me, now that their protective sheepdogs were gone. The owners had already moved half the flock to their new home west of hill country, and would be returning later in the day for these. Four Great Pyrenees usually live among the sheep for protection (area bobcats love mutton!), and the owners also have three border collies that work the sheep.

It began to thunder with a heavy downpour, so we all ducked under the barn and lean-to for shelter.

After loading the sheep and horse in their trailer, the owners looked for their two barn cats — only one could be found. After they left, we spotted the other one but she ran from us. Hopefully we will eventually catch her and return her to their daughter who lives in College Station.

15 July 2019

lawn sculptures

It seems many former HOA board members in our little lake community are choosing to sell and move away. Not surprising given what they know about the community well situation and the present board’s refusal to proactively plan for taking care of the problem.

Our friend Kim had TONS of garden stuff, so much that she left quite a lot of it with another neighbor after her house sold. Among the garden art, these 2 birds were my favorite. Last week she came after the last of it . . . and brought us lots of boxes to pack up our own stuff.

13 July 2019

antiquing . . . or not

We found ourselves with nothing scheduled Thursday, so we decided to head to nearby Round Top for a bit of antiquing. It’s become kind of a tradition when we are buying a new home.

On my birthday in 1983, we moved into “the parsonage” where we mostly raised our four kids, a 1913 Craftsman Tudor Revival bungalow. It had been our church’s parsonage before we bought it. After a busy day of toting boxes and furniture, we took a break and went to a local estate auction. There, we bought a beautiful set of 5 nesting bowls made of depression glass for our new home.

So we headed for Round Top where we have often found treasures. Once Bill found matching railroad lamps with their colored filters intact that he used for porch lights on his woodshop (and yes, we are taking them with us!). But this time, every single antique shop was closed — even those that said they were open! Perhaps the dealers make so much money during the 2 yearly antique sales events that they no longer need to open on a daily business? Or maybe they open only weekends now — we don’t like to battle the crowds for weekend shopping.

Anyway, the only shop open was the Junk Gypsies — and they are just silly frou-frou and not antiques at all. But their building was fun to sketch, especially the old cistern with a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien painted on its side: “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”.

We left Round Top and drove on to Giddings, where we had fun at an expanding antique shop. Bill bought an old milk can with tight-fitting lid to set outside our barndaminium. It will hold birdseed to refill bird feeders. I was looking for one of those old kitchen stools with fold-out steps for our new kitchen, but instead I chose a vintage enameled kitchen cart on wheels. Haven’t sketched either, as we left them in the back of the car ready to take to the new place in a few days.

12 July 2019

a new lake?

Yesterday we went for a drive — Farm Road 1948 is finally open again — and found a new lake where it isn’t supposed to be. Four out of the five years we’ve lived here, Lake Somerville has seen a springtime flood. And the local corps of engineers must hold the excess waters to prevent major flooding further south along the Brazos River.

10 July 2019

comparing cool greens

In limited palettes, I like to include a convenience green for quick mixes. Usually this would be phthalo green — horribly garish on its own but a good mixer for other colors. Daniel Smith’s old version of sap green was quinacridone gold and phthalo green, a really lovely mix!

But I don’t really like phthalo green so I tried a few other options. Prussian green is such a beautiful color on its own but when mixed with other basic pigments seems a bit dark and dull. My favorite is Daniel Smith’s jadeite, but it is very expensive. So after making a page full of mixes, I did one more using perylene green — which will probably be the one that makes it in my limited palette.

The other pigments in my limited palette are quinacridone red (or quin. rose), quin. gold (until it runs out), Hansa yellow medium, phthalo blue, ultramarine, and burnt sienna.

07 July 2019

we have figs!

Every year that we have lived here in the Brenham countryside, the fig tree on our property has shown the promise of abundance. And every year the hungry deer have beaten us to them!

Earlier this year the deer ate all my antique roses (and most of the leaves) — they are just coming back with 2 tiny roses blooming today. Yet this year, they have left the figs alone. In the past 5 years the fig tree has doubled in size and it is absolutely filled with ripening fruit!

06 July 2019

only in Texas!

Our car needed a refill on gasoline so we pulled into a station in Somerville. An extended-cab pick-up truck parked near the store and the family piled out, heading for snacks and cold drinks inside.

Except the driver — he reached into the back seat; we assumed he was unbuckling a small child from a child safety seat.

Uh, no . . . . He took out a small filly and proceeded to walk her about on a leash!

UPDATE: After comments exchanged with others, I’m thinking this is probably a miniature horse, possibly being trained as a therapy companion horse.

30 June 2019

some church sketching

Just a bit of sketching from church this morning . . . . I really should sit somewhere other than near the front of the church so I could actually sketch some people. At least they sit longer than people in the dentist’s waiting room!

29 June 2019

I’m not the only one drawing . . .

Bill must have drawn at least 10 different versions of converting a sheep barn into a cottage plus woodshop — but I think he has finally settled on one. The main open living space will be down the center of the barn where the roof peaks (we’ll have exposed trusses), partially divided by a counter-height eating bar. Because it’s the middle of the barn, there will be huge windows at the front door and the back to let in as much natural light as possible. He drew this upper drawing of the north-facing kitchen windows and back door, the kitchen sink and lower cabinets. Then he drew the second one showing the east kitchen cabinets with stove and microwave. There will be additional storage next to the refrigerator on the west wall.

I love watching Bill’s thought processes as he designs our new home and the new woodshop. He has such great ideas, such as a wall of built-in storage in the woodshop on the common wall dividing house from shop — creating an affective noise buffer! Also the perfect place for things like camping gear and Christmas decorations.

28 June 2019

waiting . . .

So how long is “normal” in selling one’s home? It’s been a couple of weeks and no one has asked to view our property in person yet.

When we sold the Craftsman Tudor Revival bungalow we raised our family in, we put our own sign in the yard — and we had a buyer in about a week. The 1920 apartment building we renovated was on the market only 6 days before being sold.

I realize that both of these previous experiences were unusual, but we really thought we’d have some activity by now. Our realtor says there’s been daily “hits” on the online sites and one interested caller in particular, but no showings yet. But it’s currently a “buyer’s market” in this part of Texas.

With our two previous experiences, I guess we’re just impatient.
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