Saturday, April 13, 2013

5 in a 5-5-5 Around the Yard

Somewhere in my viewing of artist's blogs, I came across a reference to an interesting type of challenge.  It seems to be a challenge to get the artist to sketch anywhere, sketch fast, and to not overwork the color.  Most of us artists cab use such practice, so I went for it one sunny afternoon this week.  The parameters:
walk no more than 5 minutes, stop, sketch for 5 minutes, then add color for 5 minutes, then repeat.  With Spring busting out all over, I had no problem finding subject matter, often walking less than a minutes.  As I went from one to the next, I decided the add that 4th 5, thus 5 mini-sketches in a 5-5-5.  And the results:

Friday, April 5, 2013


 As far back as I can remember, I can see a painting by my grandfather, called "Cherry Blossom Snow" that captured my imagination and wonder.  Snow?  Cherry tree snow?  As I grew up, I actually did experience the "snow" of those cherry blossoms on windy days.  Still, I was fascinated by that idea, and wondered if I would ever really be able to experience such a phenomenon AND possess the skill to depict my own interpretation.  It has become a holy grail for me...a rather elusive goal, something to strive for - over and over and over.  But one can hardly complain about sitting under huge old cherry trees on a warm sunny day, while being gently touched by falling cherry blossom leaves.  Since moving to Seattle, in 1984, I have been able to find those cherry trees, and yes, I have tried often, to sketch them.
This scene was painted in the Washington Park Arboretum.
And yes, I was over in the UW Quad this past Sunday, when it was 69 degrees!! trying yet another sketch.  And I wonder if I will be able to use that sketch in another watercolor.  Time will tell.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Overworking a watercolor is the bane of artists.  Sometimes we add our own limitations, such as a 3-color palette, or allowing only 20 minutes to paint a scene.  So the other day, I did a small telescopic sketch of the house I always see when I look out my studio window.  It's hard to miss, because it's in such disrepair!  As always, I am trying to keep my work fresh, and light-infused.  So here it is.
At the time, I felt like I got parts of this watercolor "right", but another problem we have as artists, is that upon finishing a watercolor, it's almost as if we are too close to it to be able to properly judge it, and that allowing some time to lapse brings a better perspective.  So as I finished this, I immediately turned to another sketchbook, filled with a smooth multi-media paper.  I dashed off another quick sketch, and made myself call it "finished" so as not to create mud on this unforgiving paper.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Captures Us...

Sometimes we go about our day, passing all-too familiar locations,  and then one day, the light shines differently, or we are different, or perhaps the birds are singing!  Something stops us! and we take a second look, or, we take a closer look.  Thus it was with this first sketch.  I live across the street from this view of my neighbor's stairway up to his home, and I have seen it every day for 5 years, often more than once a day.  But the scene captured me, and I compelled to try to show others why.

In trying to sketch more often (every day WOULD be nice, but the resolve only holds so long) I went over to the U-District to sketch after I ran an errand.  I wanted to record Weaving Works, because this establishment, recently announced they would move before 2014.  As I chose my spot to sketch, there was the painted mural wall of another business, Brooklyn Frame.  It's a bit disorienting, so I think this sketch is okay to record for history, but it would need re-working, or a better viewpoint) to stand as a "painting."  So what's the difference?  Juanita keeps asking me that.  We'll chat about it next time.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Watercolor Play and Inner Critics

Seems I've been spending more time with fellow-artists, since Urban Sketchers has become such an integral of my life.  I am going out with the main Seattle group once a month, and with a smaller off-shoot group 2 other times a month, plus there's occasionally an "ad hoc" crawl that's called.  This is a good thing!  Most artists I read about, or chat with, all acknowledge they need to DRAW MORE!  In fact, I would like to be drawing every day.

After we sketch, we usually share our work.  We all admire each other's work, yet when we have individual conversations I pick up a common theme.  Seems we each have an "inner critic" who is alive and well inside us.  Believe me, that kind of critical talk goes on all the time!  Along with it are the thoughts about "trying to be looser," or "struggling to render a car that look like a car!" or trying to change the way we work.  I guess it's just a fact of artistic life.

So in keeping with that idea, I am sharing this recent watercolor, in which I was consciously trying to paint looser, i.e not so tight.  Sometimes I tell myself, it's just "play," or practice, or drawing daily.  Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Challenge Completion...and what I Learned

Yes, I have decided my specific challenge of sketching the view out my back window is now complete.  I have 20 drawings from that series.  What about the other 10?  Well, I decided that when I was out Urban Sketching, it "counted" for the day's assignment.  I get to make the rules, after all!

I realized the last few days were becoming tedious because the challenge had been going on for 28-30 days.  I found myself looking for a slightly different viewpoint, or zeroing in on my subject.  And I also discovered as I painted the last one that certain w/c papers cause me to paint differently!  I guess that's a logical conclusion, but it became REALLY obvious to me.  So obvious that I set out to prove it, maybe!  I sketched the same scene on my favorite paper, Arches CP 140 wt.  It sure was easier to paint.  And the comparison:

The sketch below, on the left side, was done first on some "Magnani" paper.  To me, it seems flat, and it occurred because the paper was too absorbent.  The sketch on the right was done on the Arches paper.  Better, don't you think?

Soooo what's next?  I have some Urban Sketching trips coming up, both Friday and Saturday.  I am looking forward to both of them.  Friday I will be in the Burke Museum on the campus of the UW.  And Saturday, I will be in  and around St. James Cathedral on Capital Hill with the full group of Seattle Urban Sketchers.

Now I have another comparison for you all to see.  Last week, on the Seattle Urban Sketcher site, I posted a couple sketches from a session in historic "old Ballard."  Sometimes, what I see does not translate to what I sketch.  Sometimes? - more like most times!!  Anyway, I felt I had to use words to describe one sketch, because what I painted wasn't quite clear.  So I did another sketch  Now, you can judge these two sketches:

These 2 sketches are more challenging, especially as they appear here - quite miniaturized.  What I was disappointed with in the sketch on the right, is that the ivy didn't look like ivy!  And the large brick wall appears confusing.
In my redo, well, you can be the judge.

So, stay tuned here, and I will share my next set of sketches, with less analysis, and more simply living with the joie de vivre I feel!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Having Fun with my Challenge

Seems I've been out sketching a LOT!!  It was three times this week because I built in time to sketch as I went about some other activities.  Now I must clarify one caveat I allow in my 30-day challenge, which is that I can skip my daily sketch if I happen to be out sketching somewhere else.  Thus, I have 16 sketches so far, of which I will share a few in here.  Someone asked me if I thought it helped to do this challenge, and I said yes, because 1) I sketch every day, and 2) I can try out different techniques, and styles, as well as mediums, and 3) it pushes me to be more creative, as I look at the same scene each day and contemplate different ways I can sketch it, or different parts to emphasize.
During the past two weeks, we've had fog several times.  Yes, I have painted scenes in the past, where wonderful pockets of fog create some mystery, but this fog was not like that.  Still, I thoughtI was be able to show that it WAS foggy.  However, in the 3 times I've sketched early in the morning while it's still quite foggy, I end up putting in too much color.  Still,  I will probably have some more days to "practice" fog!

This next sketch is an example of where I was a bit "bored" with the scene, so I "played" and ended up with something that strangely seems to "work!"

I want to show you one more from the series because it's quite different.  You see, I have always LOVED sketching!  I love even the feel of a pencil on good sketch paper.  And since I've started using both a Noodler's and a Lamy fountain pen, I want to sketch and sketch - anything, just to sketch!  Again, it's the joy in drawing, as well as how it feels to hold the pen and "make marks!"  So one day I set out to do some pen and ink before the usual addition of watercolor, however I just kept drawing and drawing, and soon I had a completed drawing.  I decided not to add color, except for those red berries on the holly tree!  But I'm still trying to decide whether to add some green leaves to that holly tree.  What do you think?  The jury is still out - stay tuned!