Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Yesterday I realized I needed a new notebook and bought this hot one in San
Juan La Laguna. How we ended up here is a story you will hear in person.  
This is probably the first jeans-themed sketchbook I have ever bought. Let's hope it is not the last.  The paper is incredibly thin, and my friend from Guatemala tells me it's really hard to get decent paper in the country.  

I did a value sketch from Santiago Atitlan this morning. The vehicle in front is a Tuk-Tuk, a three wheeled scooter/taxi we ride around in.  Actually, the reason I ended up with a Jeans Notebook is because we were close to leaving too late to catch the last boat from San Pedro La Laguna to Pana, my friends found a Tuk-Tuk to drive us, there was some confusion at the counter about the price since I apparently sped through the Rosetta Stone lesson on numbers too quickly, my friends called my name to get in the Tuk-Tuk already, and hence no bargaining for a non-jeans-themed book.

Here's the painting, not quite finished, but we head for Antigua tomorrow so I packed my paints up and will finish it maƱana.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Line drawings from Panajachel y San Antonio

Today we spent time sketching.
As I was drawing some shops near Lake Atitlan in Pana, Juan approached and made far more conversation than my Spanish ability could handle, so I drew him. I think he is a waiter; at one point I looked up and half of the restaurant staff were crowded around us.
My friend later told me that Juan said I was going to put the sketch on the Internet and make him famous. Here you go!

We took a pick up truck (my friend who is a local Guatamalan and I weren't on the official tour at this point!) to nearby San Antonio. Once we got out, one of the women from the village invited us to visit her house. Outside her house was a cliff were we could sketch the lake and the churches.
Next we visited the churches and caught the pick up truck back to Pana, after talking with more local people. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Here are some photos from my first day in Guatemala- I drew the bird of paradise arrangement and chandelier in the Westin's opulent lobby for my travel sketchbook.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Voy a Guatemala

Tomorrow I'm flying to Guatemala. I bought some currency before I go, and it is beautiful, so I'm posting it before I drive to the airport hotel.

It's about one dollar for seven something quetzales.  The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, and is on the front of this bill.  The Five and One quetzal notes are made from a plasticy material with a see through window, which is visible on the left.

Since I'll be out of town, this blog may not be updated much for ten days but will be back in full force in March.  Adios!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Alpaca parade

Yes, you read that right.  I won't be posting an alpaca parade per se, since the one time I witnessed an alpaca parade I was too caught up in the moment to sketch, but I will share my sketch of a participant.
I take a ton of reference photos since artists need to be aware of copyright issues - one needs express permission from a photographer to paint from their photos or people get mad and problems.  So, this is an alpaca from the NY Sheep and Wool Festival.  I took its photo in late 2012 but painted it just a month or so ago. 

The parade consisted of a number of llamas and alpacas, led by their owners around the Duchess County Fairgrounds.  At one point, I saw a woman running while leading a llama - they were trying to catch up with the parade and asking random people where the other llamas had gone.  That would have made a great picture, too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Almost spring?

Until then, more flowers.
I wanted to make the background warm to feel more cheerful and, well, warm.  This is watercolor and colored pencil.

When I paint people, I often take a photo of the pencil sketch so I feel free to screw it up.  Not that I'm aiming to wreck a painting, but I normally like my sketches and it's sort of a mental trick to know that I have a nice sketch somewhere no matter what happens.  Here are my flowers again.

The first piece of art I sold was a contour drawing of a lily.  It was on show at the Institute Library last fall.  This isn't a blind contour drawing, but line drawings are so much fun.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Still life

I bought flowers so I'd be inspired to paint tonight.

I drew them with a pen (without a pencil sketch underneath).  This can be intimidating, but not as much as drawing with a brush straight onto paper.  I drew a landscape with many buildings and complicated perspective with a brush in a workshop once.  I'm not sure what possessed me.  The perspective was off, but people like that painting.

Back to flowers, I learned a lot about painting flowers from Charles Reid.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Argentine Tango

According to one of my tango teachers, the Argentine Tango was invented so people could hug and dance in tight spaces.  I think she is on to something!

Today I bought my first pair of tango shoes.  This means I can no longer blame any strange dance moves on my previous shoes, which were from Sears and meant to be disposable (bought for a halloween party).  Here they are.

I used Pearlex in bronze for the iridescent brown/dark gold shoes.  Photo doesn't quite do it justice, but the shoes are more subtle than some tango shoes.  Thanks to Sue and Hugh for buying them for me!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spotted goatfish

Yes, that's actually a name for a fish.  It's the center fish, with liberties taken with its colors.  This is another painting I started over a month ago and decided to finish tonight so I could have something to post!

You may notice the bottom fish looks like it might have swam out from a Lisa Frank album (80s children represent).  I actually saw a fish this color in Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.  It was cobalt violet with a cobalt turquoise lattice pattern on it--even bolder than how I've painted it here.  If you have ever bought watercolor paint, you know this is the most expensive fish to paint!

One of the best tips my teachers have given me is to make objects of interest run off the page.  That is why the purple fish seems to be bailing on the scene.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Since I don't feel like painting tonight, I thought I'd let you take a look at my newest sketchbook.

I made the sketchbook cover from a pretty soapbox set I received at Christmas.  I learned how to use stab stitch to make it into a book from Esther K. Smith's marvelous How to Make Books.
My local membership library bought it after I requested it.  I made back my membership fees for that year!  She describes lots of ways to create your own books.  Next up for me will be a coptic sketchbook using chipboard I bought at Jerry's and some paper I marbled myself years ago.

Here's a look inside the front cover.
This could be called from my lips to God's ears.  It's actually some small exercises I did during a figure drawing class last week while the model took a break.  They are from Charles Reid's early figure painting book.  As is this eye.
Here's looking at you!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Still life

Just a quick study, with a discernible part that is still drying, tonight.  I wanted to paint something fast since I'm not feeling the best, and I saw a bowl I picked up in Toledo, Spain with some oranges and limes. 
I'm a big fan of Cathy Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop.  She also has a blog here, which is wonderful, and there is a Facebook group where everyone posts pages from their journals.  There is a great variety among the artists - some people fill the page, some use borders, and others paint very simply. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Art calendar

Since I'm under the weather and the weather will soon be all around us, just a short post for tonight. 
Here's a page from a desk calendar I bought which has a painting every few days.  Someone else did the sketch, and you paint it, so if you dislike the result you can blame the sketch.  Handy.  It has an interesting mix of representational and more abstract pieces, including some figure paintings. The calendar paper is bit thicker than what you normally find in these types of calendars so you can actually paint on it.  Just be sure to chuck the cheap paints that come with the set.  Good luck in the snow tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weird crafts

When Railroad Salvage was still around, I bought this bizarre cross stitch kit, mainly because I couldn't figure out what the hell it was.

Seriously, what is this supposed to be? I vote for moldy dough with roses, or lop-sided pock-marked heart.  In any case, it probably cost about a dollar and was one of the many treasures I picked up at Railroad Salvage.  These included a "Please keep your ass off my desk" sign, which I leave at home, Jiving Jean Jackets, one of the most exciting sewing books a girl can own, and hipster sunglasses that may or may not have left a stain on my face the one time I wore them.

One night, I was almost locked into Railroad Salvage when the staff didn't realize my boyfriend at the time and I were still in there at closing time.  I have walked through unlit streets in Havana.  I still have never been more scared than the night I almost had to spend in RR Salvage.

Even though Railroad Salvage is gone, I still have plenty of very cheap and cheerful fabric, inappropriate craft books, and inexpensive zippers (yes they had a good sewing department) to remember them by.  And this dough heart/hatbox craft.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pelican sketch

Since I'm trying to mentally live in a warmer climate, I'll be posting more tropical scenes.  I took photos of pelicans who were dive bombing and flying around near snorklers in Magen's Bay, USVI.  Now I've painted it for your viewing pleasure.

I've used watercolor and colored pencil, a combination Judi Betts (my favorite painter) uses in her sketches quite often. 

You can also see the hole punches at the top of the page, where this study will fit into my artist's journal.  In less than a week I have gotten over having random hole punches in my work (and digital representations of my work).  Hey, it's all part of the history of the object--just makes it more interesting.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow scene

In honor of yet more snow, here is a sketch from a photo I took in Vermont.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Quick Study

I caught sight of this silhouette during the afternoon.  The light only lasted for a moment, but I thought the shadow of my old coffeepot was beautiful.  I use it in still life paintings, normally not just in shadow.  Thankfully I had a sketchbook handy.  I used walnut ink for the medium.

The sketchbook is not big - only 6 x 6 inches, but I wanted to capture something neat I saw on my wall today.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Not my self portrait

But one I did in class today.

Jerry's Artarama is having a self-portrait contest, but I've got a few more weeks to work on mine.  There will probably be more clothing involved as well.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Go fish

Here is a painting of some fish I started while I was in the Caribbean (yes, cruel sentence to write while we are "enjoying" this weather).  The one in the middle is a Queen Triggerfish, I think, with many liberties taken with color.  At first I thought I was overdoing it, and then I went snorkeling and realized some of my fish were rather tame!  Judi Betts taught aboard the ship and had us paint 6 x 9 in. paintings of fish.

I finished this one aboard the ship:
The fish here are a squirrelfish (punked out in different colors) and Rock Beauty.   I tried to make them smile where possible.  Unfortunately the one at the bottom left looks a bit lost.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter scene

Snow today, duh.  Here's a sketch from my journal.  Its composition is inspired from an exercise in Gordon MacKenzie's The Watercolor Artist's Essential Notebook for landscapes.  If it's snowing, may as well make it beautiful.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quilting is the New Painting

After finding numerous beautiful things to paint today, I came home from work and decided to get obsessed with a quilt commission I'm working on for a friend.  So tonight, your daily painting is a daily quilt project.  Readers may also place bets on whether I retitle this blog "Before Sunrise" after a week of trying to post every day.

One of my oldest friends - probably my oldest friend actually - commissioned me to make a quilt from heirloom embroidered tablecloths.  They are gorgeous.   She will give it to her mother as a present (hopefully her mother is not following my blog quite yet).

Unfortunately some are torn in places, so I've decided to applique the bits of embroidery into a Baltimore Album quilt. 
 Here's an example of one of the tablecloths and what I'll do with it.

I have enough flowers to start a small florists shop, and I'll probably make 20 blocks, six of which will be flowers in these vases.  On the back of the quilt, I'll use a whole tablecloth that's in beautiful shape, with interfacing.

I especially love these hand embroidered towels. 

These are my other favorite patterns.  One good thing about the snow - I'll have a lot of time for applique!

You can find examples of Baltimore quilts by clicking on the links here:
Album Quilt from the collection of the St. Louis Art Museum
Explanation of what a Baltimore Album Quilt is

Monday, February 3, 2014

Step off, winter

Last week I bought a hyacinth on a whim at Trader Joe's.  I stuck it in my kitchen window, and when I woke up this morning I was surprised to see not less than one inch of snow, but about three, and that my hyacinth was starting to bloom.  Perhaps we were both not expecting quite so much snow.  Tonight I used my handy dandy new paint set to capture its first day blooming in front of the snowy sky.

You may see some writing in the bottom right of the image.  I also keep a physical artist's journal for each day.   I normally punch holes in the side of whatever I paint for it, since they are typically quick and dirty paintings or sketches, and after working in museums it's fun to be able to beat up on your art, but out of deference to the electronic media I tipped it into the journal instead using masking tape.  I figure future conservators will thank me for providing work for thirty people when I am older.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Little steps, little paintings

This week I've decided to post something beautiful or something fun daily for the next year.  As such, I want to paint something new every day.  Like most artists, I enjoy owning art supplies, buying art supplies, and talking about supplies, and actually making art is fine, but no where near as fun as new toys.  When I found a tutorial (actually 60) about making a travel painting kit out of an Altoids tin, I realized this would be the best incentive to actually bring my toys with me and get painting done while I'm out and about.  Thank you to my colleague who a) didn't think it was weird when I jumped him in the break room asking for an Altoids tin I saw with him during a meeting and b) handing over said tin, after giving me my choice of three.

Eh voila, a painting tin!  Complete painting forthcoming...

For the nerds, the paint is Carmine, Rose Madder, Cad Red Light, Cad Yellow light, Aurelion; next row: Cerulean, Pthalo blue, Cobalt blue, Yellow ochre and Burnt Sienna.  Wanted to be able to paint portraits (cads and cerulean) and use the transparent triad (rose, aurelion, cobalt).  Handmade sketchbook and travel size brushes are looming behind the tin.