June 29, 2019

Scottie and Judy
Siamese Cats at Home, 5/29/19 (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencils on cold press illustration board)

Do you have a neighborhood cat?

When considering this question it may have crossed your mind that these particular Siamese beauties would probably not be what you would call neighborhood cats because chances are you wouldn’t see such cats just walking around your neighborhood. They are indoor cats and do not go outside unless it’s in a special carrier on the way to and/or from the vet. I would consider a neighborhood cat a very independent feline who roams away from home, and in and out of various neighboring yards with actually surprising regularity. These two kitties are actually house mates of the Siamese cat I posted on June 1st, and their collective neighborhood includes all the various rooms in the house they share with their humans. For my friend’s birthday this year (5/29/2019) I did two paintings of his three cats. The reason for one cat lounging by himself and the others as a pair has no particular meaning and is based solely on photos I was given. As of today, my friend has not seen either piece of art. (I did not tell him that I had already posted the first Siamese.) I hope to have an unveiling of both either later today or tomorrow. In any event, happy birthday again my friend! Because by now you have seen the originals and are reading this post.

There are a couple neighborhood cats that slink through my yard—looking at the birds at the bird feeders. In fact, one of them knocked over the birdbath the other morning—getting a little too close to the birds. I’m not sure which of the three did it, but I have my suspicions. Two of the three are pretty skittish and when they hear me open the door they run away. But the third neighborhood cat is more friendly. According to his tag his name is Rusty. He’s a pretty good-sized white and a rust colored male—hence the name I’m sure. Most times when he sees me, and I can get his attention, he will stop and let me pet him. (Notice how I say, he “lets” me pet him. And yes, he is one of those very self-possessed felines that is just too charming to be ignored.) He has a few marks on his face and ears that suggest he has been in a few “kitty scrapes” over the years. But if he is in the mood we can have a conversation for a minute or two. I guess the verbal part of such communicative events is all from me, but I think he understands when I tell him to leave the wild birds in my yard alone. Of course this one sided conversation is pretty funny when he spies a hummingbird and every muscle in his body tenses to attention. He just doesn’t seem to hear me at all then. I have told him that I don’t really mind if he sprays my yard, and of course I really do mind. But I have assured him that he can mark his territory at will if he just stops hunting the birds in my yard, also staying clear of my birdbath. I suspect either he, or one of the other neighborhood cats, have caught a slow moving dove on occasion, as I have seen so many feathers under the feeder now and again. Lately I have seen Rusty patiently watching a tall patch of flowers in my backyard. I suspect there are some lizards in there that he feels compelled to hunt. When we have our little talks I guess I will now have to warn him to leave the lizards alone as well. We’ll see how that goes.

I hope it’s clear that I really do enjoy having him around because I do enjoy our brief chats. But I think what I like about seeing him around is that he is around, and I know nothing bad has happened to him. When I was a kid, in San Jose, we had a dog, Shadow, who waited daily for a neighborhood cat to appear on the fence by a side gate. That cat jumped into our backyard at the same time every morning, according to my mother. Mom said the cat and Shadow loved to play together. One day she said the cat did not arrive for her playdate. She said that Shadow waited for her friend and whined quite a long time when the kitty did not appear. Later, mom said that she had heard that the cat had been hit by a car. Poor Shadow had lost her friend.

There are definite perils for a neighborhood cat—cars speeding on neighborhood streets are just one of many. I have also alluded to some of the perils Rusty has faced when describing the scars he has on his ears and head from fights with other neighborhood cats. But I still I look forward to seeing him, even if he ignores me as he saunters under my gate or jumps off my front porch on his way to the next door neighbor’s yard. (Oh yes, Rusty gets around.) So, then the question about noticing a neighborhood cat changes. “Is it really safe for a neighborhood to roam outside, or should our feline friends be kept inside exclusively?” I know my birthday friend with the three Siamese says with great certainty that they should always be kept inside. Now, I wouldn’t normally get on my “catbox soapbox” and take sides on this one, but for this post I am taking sides in favor of keeping cats indoors. So, just be warned that the rest of this post will be directed to why I believe that to be the best course of action .

From the Humane Society:

Cats face many dangers outside. And if you let your cat roam around they are exposed to careless drivers in speeding cars, diseases, dogs, poisons, cruel people and coyotes. Some people think it is unnecessarily cruel to keep your cat indoors. The truth is cats who are protected by living indoors will be happier and live longer than those allowed to roam around. And neighborhood wildlife (like my lizards and wild birds) will stay safer and live longer as well. (The Human Society has further guidelines to help you with keeping your cat inside.)

Watch out for CA coyotes! They are everywhere!

I have to say that I always thought it was up to the cat owner to decide to keep their pet cat inside all of the time or not. But as of Tuesday morning, June 25, I decided that your beloved pet cat should be kept inside and you should also keep a close eye on even your pet dog in your own backyard. So, what happened? On that morning I went out my front door around 10. I was looking to see if the mail had been delivered. On the grass next to fire hydrant and the street was someone’s pet dog (with a collar) that had been killed by coyotes. I ran back into my house to get the phone to call animal protection, when I saw their truck come around the corner and stop in front of my house. I then noticed a woman across the street, and she was waving to me. She said that she had already called them. So, yeah, keep your eye on your pets. I don’t know where you live, but I’ve seen coyotes in all kinds of neighborhoods in California—urban as well as country. And I’ve seen them at sunset as well as at noontime. The animal control guy said again that they were everywhere, but were most active in the early morning. Sorry about ending this post on such a downer, but I don’t think I can unsee what I saw on my lawn that morning. I will continue be on the lookout for Rusty, and I will continue to hope that Rusty and my other neighborhood cat friends are safe and live a long and happy life.

Happy Birthday to my baby brother (6/29/2019)


June 22, 2019

Montrose Lamp post
Lamp Post outside Coffee Bean in Montrose, 4/27/2019 (6 by 8 inch Inktense pencils and watercolor pencils on watercolor paper)

On Saturday, April 27th, I decided to walk to Montrose to use my “just add water” technique to paint some of the buildings and expanding garden at Rockhaven. I knew it would need to be a quick sketch as I could only peek through a chain link fence to see any part of it, but I was game. Once I got there I realized there was really no way to access the materials I would need and sketch what I had planned while peeking through the fence. I was disappointed, but I carefully took a couple pictures of the Spanish revival bungalows and surrounding garden, and vowed to paint that at a later time. So, I continued my way down Hermosa, and on to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Honolulu. While sitting outside I was determined to sketch something while I drank my cappuccino. I looked across the street, but nothing caught my eye. But directly in front of me was a tall vintage (1930s or 40s I think) street lamp, so common to many residential areas in Glendale and throughout SoCal. I decided right then that I wanted to paint the street lamp and set about doing a preliminary sketch of the whole lamp and flanking tree. However, I was really drawn to the glass shade and became enchanted with this vignette that focused on the stamped industrial milky blue/white glass orb set against the patchwork of green leaves backlit with patches of bright blue sky. So, I took my materials out of my backpack and went to work.

Vintage Lamp post1
One minute scribbled lamp post, Glendale, 6/13/17 (pen and ink in scribble pad)
Vintage Lamp Post with Telephone Pole
One minute scribbled lamp post with cactus, Glendale, 6/30/17 (pen and ink in scribble pad)

When I got home I remembered similar vintage lamp posts I had sketched in my minute “minute” scribble book. What is a minute (my-NOOT) minute scribble book? On the cover of this pocket sketch book is a rather terrifying tiny Picasso paper doll (meant to be a removable bookmark), with his piercing eyes staring out at you. I carry him with me in a small plastic bag with black ink pens of varying point size. I use it to sketch little spontaneous moments as I walk along. And I have decided that whatever I draw in this tiny 3 by 4.5 inch doodle pad, it must be completed in 1 to 2 minutes. I have opened it horizontally to make a number of 3 by 9 inch images. For example, I have drawn a row of symmetrical trees, as well as the sprawling detail of a row of second story windows of a house. I have also opened it vertically to sketch a 3 by 9 inch image of the trunk of a palm tree in Santa Barbara, a bird perched on the seat of a swing hanging from the branch of a large tree and a couple of old neighborhood lamp posts in Glendale. The whole point of this little sketchpad is to help me be more spontaneous by just stopping at random moments to draw something very quickly.  I wrote about quick sketches I did on a Sketchcrawl the other day (April 20, 2019), but this is like the lightning version of those “sloth-like” 20-minute drawings and puts me very much in the moment (augenblick), literally.

When contemplating “sketching” adventures outside my comfort zone, I tried to think of other times I did something spontaneously. All of sudden, it came to me. If you are only interested in my art and/or stories of one CA girl that take place in CA, you may want to stop here. Because the following spontaneous tale does not happen in California, but it does involve a lifetime CA friend. 

In the 70s I was living in Munich. It was getting time for me to come back to the states to go to UC Berkeley when a childhood friend (third generation native California girl) decided to visit me before I returned. We had numerous plans of what were going to do and places we would visit. We started our journey together in Munich, of course, with a proposed final destination of Norway (we made it as far as Copenhagen, but had a great time even without seeing Oslo). We both had “student” train passes and rode the rails for the whole journey. I had given up my room in my flat in Schwabing and was staying with a friend. It didn’t start out well as our first day trip to Fussen, to see Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, ended with my friend getting sick from eating Leberkase mit ei for lunch that day. While she recuperated at my friend’s apartment we formulated our plans. And just to prove I hadn’t tried to poison her, we took another day trip to Salzburg—without too much fuss. And we were off!

We stopped in several lovely German cities/towns on our way to Bruges. I had been there before with my boyfriend and wanted to show her this very enchanting town. If I remember, after Bruges we meant to head for Amsterdam, and then planned to go north to Oslo from there. On our way to see the lovely lace in Bruges we met a couple really cute guys from South Africa, as well as a couple Americans. They were all on their way to Ostend, then Dover with London as their final destination. When we got to our stop in Bruges we said our goodbyes, grabbed our bags and left the train. We got two steps out the door, simultaneously looked at each other and without a word got back on the train. We were on our way to London. It was grand and a memorable spontaneous moment for me. Of course the two South African guys ditched us at the train station in London, but we didn’t care. We found a cheap hotel and stayed there the better part of a week, with no regrets. 

I’m not sure I need to be spontaneous all the time. I think I have experienced more than one frustrating occasion waiting for my spontaneous friends to show up. And now that I am rereading this story I am wondering if I have blurred the idea of being spontaneous with being in the moment. Maybe the difference between the two can be better discussed with another piece of art and a later story. But suffice it to say that I know my little Picasso pocket sketchbook has helped me to be in the moment on more than one occasion, and I am grateful for that. And when my Picasso pocketbook is full, there are many other similar inspirational sketchbooks that I can carry around with me in a plastic bag with black ink pens of varying points—just waiting for that moment to be used to do a very quick sketch. My next minute “minute” sketchbook, with tiny staring person bookmark, might be: a fauvist, a graffiti artist, organic architect (Frank Lloyd Wright), folk artist (Frida Kahlo), the Scream (Munch) or fashion model (Twiggy). Stay tuned.

Happy first day of spring!

And so sorry to hear that your mom passed away Monday, 6/17/2019, my CA friend. You told me that she enjoyed hearing my stories and I know she would have loved hearing this one as well.



June 16, 2019

hip bone
Human hipbone, summer 1990 (airbrush and some colored pencil on crescent board)
brochure for airbrush
GNSI (Guild of Natural Science Illustrators) description of summer 1990 natural science workshop, Philadelphia

Monday, June 10, was the last day of school for me. When working at a school you spend a lot of time in the weeks before summer vacation talking about looking forward to summer vacation. You do this with the kids as well as the other adults. Such conversations usually also always come round to discussions of plans for the summer. Adults seem to be obsessed with trips, spending time with his or her own children and sleeping in. My summer list includes sleeping in (of course), but reading is also an important part of my summer plans. I am always for sleeping in, whether it’s summer vacation or the weekend, as I am a night person in a day person’s world. And I can easily stay in bed dozing and reading until 10 on days with no imminent or important plans. I often ask my students what they plan to do, trying to suggest they read of course. The kids don’t usually ask me about my plans because it is all about them, of course. But if I can slip in something about me, I say that I plan to read a book whenever possible and draw or paint, of course.

What I have posted today is what I did one summer vacation almost 30 summers ago. The airbrush of a now 130 year old human hip bone from a Smithsonian collection, was done as part of an amazing 2-week scientific illustration workshop in Philadelphia at the the University of the Arts Philadelphia. It was sponsored by GNSI and we took inspirational illustration classes with some of the best scientific illustrators working at that time, many from the Smithsonian. I have also included a brochure created by one of the artists I met then and there, not to show something amazing that I had created (out of at least 100 or so possible pieces), but to show some of the other art that my fellow scientific illustrators produced. If I think back on that time, there were a couple illustrators working with various software programs to produce such art. I think we all had an inkling of future computer programs that would take over what we were doing by hand. But we kept protesting that real scientific illustration (e.g. ink wash, silver point, carbon dust/pastel dust, scratchboard, pen and ink etc) could only be done by hand. Nothing like having that kind of monastic attitude of “wearing a hair” shirt for bonding some geeky artists. I posted some pen and inks I later did at the CA Academy of Sciences (October 7, 2017, May 19, 2018) that I am sure could today be generated with the aid of a couple drawing programs. 

I suspect the domain of airbrush then as now is part of car detailing. But today, it seems that some use an airbrush to apply make up, or to spray on a tan. Sounds like a bigger event than I would like to engage in because whatever you are spraying there is still a problem of getting the pigment to the right consistency to go through the fine sprayer. If it’s too watery, it will be drippy and run. If it’s too thick or lumpy, the nozzle will clog. Oh yes, it doesn’t matter what kind of pigment you are spraying as it is drying out as you work. Not to mention you really need to have a cursory knowledge of how a compressor works. There is probably one advantage to an airbrush spray tan and make up as you are probably only mixing one color. But if you have cut a bunch of friskets for car detailing or art of tiny swimming fish, you will need countless color changes as you go. And oh yeah, do you know about friskets? That’s the sticky film that needs to be applied to the surface you are painting on to mask the spots you don’t want covered in paint. For the hip bone, I had to cut and apply a frisket to the crescent board to mark the clean edge around it, as well as the opening below the socket for the femur and above the ischium. When exploring this technique with a gifted illustrator at the workshop, she told us that when she had a big job to finish, she actually hired someone to help her cut the friskets. She also reminded us to be sure to wear some kind of protective mask over your face, as you don’t want to breathe in any of the airborne particles that are actually the magic of airbrush. And some people actually spray airborne pigment towards his or her nose and/or eyes? I wasn’t a complete novice for this technique as I had learned to use it the summer before at the CA Academy of Sciences. At the time I was a volunteer plant fabricator for an exhibit that was called Life Through Time. We were hand painting gingko leaves and using the airbrush to spray redwood branches that had turned brown when preserved and needed “life-like” green needles. We did those branches outside and that helped greatly with the ventilation you should have with such a medium.

So, what else do I plan to do this summer? Glad you asked. I haven’t had many opportunities to do any volunteering recently, so I hope to work in the garden at Heritage Square Museum. I also hope to do some sketching out there as well. 

As I have already written I hope to try my hand at making some YouTube presentations based on my One CA Girl theme of presenting a piece of my art and responding to it. As always I plan to talk about the materials and technique used for each piece, and when and where the CA image came from—northern CA through the central Coast and then on down to SoCal. The third part of my blog has also included stories of my CA family. Not really sure how that would translate to a moving picture of me creating art and talking about it. Not really sure how interesting that would be to anyone unless you knew me or my family. So, I think I will focus on the art and the places in CA I have seen, past and present, in and out of different mediums, techniques and inspirations.

But the vacation has only begun and I am just trying to keep up with what I have been doing for over two years now. Oh, and I am assiduously working on the sleeping in and reading part. Not sure why I started with Catch 22…

Henry, so glad I saw you graduate from UCSC on Friday, 6/14. I love you!

June 9, 2019

coral tree
Coral Tree, Marina Vista Park, 4/17/19 (6 by 8 inch, watercolor colored pencils and Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

The other day I was in Long Beach, visiting my aunt and uncle. As I drove around Marina Vista Park (English/Spanish translation=“marine” distant view) I noticed there were a number of coral trees (Erythrina) in bloom. The park is actually just an expanse of grass, dotted with these trees, and of course the marina. In summers past I have actually sat on a lawn chair on the grass, with hundreds of other people, to listen to live music. Pretty nice actually. Such events are generally in the evening and whoever is playing sets up right next to the water, so you look out over a narrow strip of very calm break water while enjoying the music. But I don’t remember seeing any of these amazing bright flowers on the trees in summer, so they must be done blooming before then. On the 17th it was just me, a few dogs on leashes with their owners and gardeners riding around on large lawn mowers, cutting the grass. 

I have driven through the park countless times and hadn’t planned to stop this time either. But I had just come from Starbuck’s and decided I would sit at a picnic table under one of the trees and drink my cappuccino. As luck would have it I also had my little “just add water” sketching bag in the car. So, I sat down, set up and began sketching with my watercolor and Inktense pencils. When I had finished I took the cup of water I got from Starbucks and poured some in my squirt bottle. Then I gave the sketch a light spray of water, tipped the paper from side to side, top to bottom—moving the color around. I also scrubbed some of the pigment with a wet brush, then I added just a bit more of the pencil to brighten up some of the color. And there you have it!

As spring is here in sunny southern CA, I have been on the lookout for blossoms on plant material that looks like it should have some kind of flower—roses, wildflowers, irises, gardenias… There are quite a number of flowering trees in the various neighborhoods and parks all around. The coral tree is very exotic looking, even without the blooms and I had a feeling that it is not native to CA. So once I got home I looked up “coral tree” on the Internet. Sure enough, it is not only not from California, but it is also not native to North America. It is actually supposed to be growing in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. I also learned that the seeds, flowers and leaves of most species are poisonous. It was actually very shocking to learn that as it is quite a gathering place for lots of people and animals throughout the year. Not to mention, I was there, and so was a crew of gardeners mowing the lawn under the trees where I sat drinking my coffee. Good thing that cup had a cover on it. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been good if anything from a coral tree dropped into my coffee.

If you have been reading my blog you may remember the art and story I did the other week about another non-native brightly blooming beauty called the jacaranda. As I just said, Southern CA is loaded with exotic looking non-native flowering trees, as well as flowering shrubs (e.g. geraniums, bird of paradise, hibiscus). Our winters are so mild that tropic plants grow very well here. All you need to do is water them regularly. (Not really a great idea to have tropical plants in this desert climate. Did I mention that there are also lots of palm trees here?)

With all this blooming going on around me, and probably in your neighborhood as well, I am acutely aware of the exposed pollen each and every flower presents each and every time another flower opens. For some this time of year is not only the spring season, but also the allergy season—with sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. I usually only get seasonal allergies (hay fever) during spring and it usually isn’t the pollen from flowers that gets me—it’s grass. In fact, ragweed seems to be the biggest blooming bad boy for me. (I just sneezed thinking about it.) Several years ago I worked on a book about ornamental grasses for Sunset (Landscaping with Ornamental Grasses, copyright 2002). For that book I interviewed Tom Ogren, an expert on the subject of allergies and how it relates to all manner of plants that produce pollen. He lives in San Luis Obispo and wrote a book called “Allergy-Free Gardening.” In the book he has a kind of handy list of plants that he has rated for allergy—with an allergy index scale from best (1) to worst (10). It’s pretty extensive and I found it very interesting reading. I found out that the coral tree has a ranking of 6 on that scale. So, it isn’t really bad for allergies, but it isn’t great. I remember him saying that allergies have been on the rise in recent years because people just want to landscape with ornamental flowering trees that produce only flowers (male) and not fruit (female). So, there is a problem here. People don’t want fruit dropping on the ground, but I don’t think they want extra pollen blowing around that might kick up some allergies either. BTW, he said that you can’t really blame your neighbor for having a flowering tree that’s blowing pollen your way. That’s much too far away for one or two trees to make you sneeze. It is more likely that the pollen offender(s) is in your own backyard. As you would probably guess, grass is a big allergy producer too. Mr. Ogren said that most grasses produce pollen in the morning. So, he said to be sure to keep grasses short, but not to mow during early morning hours when the pollen is most likely to be at its peak. And isn’t that when the garden guys come around to mow and blow? Hmmmm…

But what if there are thousands of pollen producing trees nearby?  This might be a problem if you live close by them and have allergies. And if you live near California’s Central Valley, you would definitely be subject to large amounts of pollen in spring. It is here that mile after mile of fruit and veg have been planted and grow in abundance. I looked up the allergy index for some of the fruit trees we have in huge numbers here. Prunus is the genus that includes over 400 species of deciduous shrubs and trees. I was most interested to read about our garden variety “Prunus” fruit trees such as plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. Mr. Ogren has rated all of these trees for possible allergies. It seems that the different kinds of cherries ranged from 5, 6 or 7—so not bad, but not good either (similar to the coral tree). Plums and peaches were pretty good for allergies at a ranking of 3 or 4. What was most surprising, however, was the ranking for almonds. It is the biggest offender for allergies with an index value of 10, the worst. I wasn’t surprised that apricots are the lowest at 2. This is because it is not really that easy to grow and have it bare fruit, as it needs very mild winters. I have had a couple of these trees drop every blossom after a couple cool evenings in a row. He mentioned that plums and pears are pretty good, with a ranking of 3 or 4, but that pears are susceptible to fire blight. I thought it interesting that he said some people thought the blossoms of pear trees had a bad odor. Who wants a beautiful blossom that stinks? And I have had a tricky time with pears because of the blight and worms that love the fruit as much as we do.

So, what to do? Should you take a chance and plant a tree that produces flowers? This is what I suggest. Go to the farmer’s market and enjoy the fruit that others grow. And, if you want to look at beautiful blossoms, just keep looking here at One CA Girl and I will brave the pollen and poison for you. Until next time (A-choo)!  

June 1, 2019

Siamese Cat at home, 5/29/19 (6 by 8 inches, Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Several months ago I went looking for the one and only egg tempera I ever completed. As I rifled through every portfolio and possible drawer of art I should have also looked for some unused pieces of my beloved Strathmore cold press illustration board. That illustration board used to be the staple of many of my watercolor landscapes. In fact, when you look at the homepage of One CA Girl, you see myself and my son (when he was little) looking out at the J Lohr vineyards on the east side of 101 in Paso Robles. That was done on this same illustration board. The heavy paper has just a bit of texture, compared to a smoother hot press paper surface, and that open texture allows for the paint to nestle in very nicely, while the colored pencil scoots on the surface, leaving behind tiny bits of white. As it is a board it doesn’t warp when you get it wet. Even good watercolor paper can warp a bit if you don’t wet it all over and stretch it before painting on it. Back in the late 80s I learned of this wonderful board and technique (Prismacolor colored pencil and watercolor) from a scientific illustrator at the CA Academy of Sciences. She did wonderful and richly colored pieces of “space” art for the Morrison Planetarium.

I used to have no trouble finding this paper as I had a hefty package of what seemed like countless 30 by 40 inch sheets that I cut to whatever size I wanted as needed. The all over dark blue package it came in was easy to spot and it seemed that every time I looked into it there was always more. Until one day there wasn’t, and sadly that large blue package disappeared. I thought maybe I had used it all up, but was almost certain I still had a few smaller pieces tucked away into random places. Yeah, yeah, I guess I could buy some more. But, ever the optimist, I went looking for some because I wanted to do this piece for a friend for his birthday and didn’t want to wait for a paper delivery. 

I was delighted to find several pieces—none very large, but all would do well for what I call my smaller “jewel” pieces. For this one I grabbed some colored pencils that I thought would make a lovely backdrop of the two paintings that flanked the kitty—nothing too dark, but just enough color and ambience to make the dark and luxurious colors of the cat come alive and jump off the page. Then I brought in the darks/shadows of the cat. I have my all time favorite colored pencils that I use to get that color. And the final shade I get is dependent on the order I use them. I usually see a kind of final “glow” color and that will be what goes on last. Those “go to” colors include blue indigo, Tuscan red and dark brown. Sometimes, if I think green is needed I will add to this deep mix of loveliness forest green or even grass green. But for this one, the top pencil color is Tuscan red.

As far as the watercolor goes I use that to help with the shadows and sometimes the texture of the whole piece—background as well as focal point. So, I mixed a pale grey that I used to tone down the two paintings as well as shading for the kitty. It becomes a kind of layering of pencil, then watercolor, then pencil, and then watercolor. I did the same thing with his eyes—giving depth to that amazing blue with a light touch of blue indigo and then a water color wash of cobalt blue and cerulean, layer upon layer.

There is only one problem you really have to worry about with this kind of technique and that is you need to be careful with adding too much “waxy” colored pencil. Over time you can get what’s called wax bloom. That’s where the paper gets a kind of filmy white coating in the parts you’ve scrubbed in the color too much. So, don’t press too hard. I will say, that I actually kind of like having some of the areas get kind of smooth and shiny, it adds a nice texture to certain areas of interest. I think the kitty’s face and some of the background pieces, like the poppies on the left and the eucalyptus on the right, are enhanced some with a more smooth and silky surface.

Here’s what else I found while digging around…

Now, I am not a pack rat for most things. But when it comes to my art I have kept a lot of the work I have done over the years, including a mountain of sketches—some very rough, but many very finished and complete. In fact, I did a complete and detailed sketch to scale for this one. And I used it as a template for the finished piece, transferring the drawing directly to the illustration board. So this takes me to something else I found myself looking for—the transfer paper I made in the late 80s and have used countless times to do such a transfer. Luckily I found that paper in an old sketchbook from that time. Looking through the sketch pad it took me back to not only the landscapes I just described, but to some close up botanicals I did at that time as well—some of my other small “jewel” paintings of mostly flowers. And it was funny, but the minute I looked at the outside of the pad, I knew the transfer paper I was looking for would be inside.

Finally, as I was digging around, I found about a zillion fashion sketches/paintings I had done. Most of them had been created in the mid 80s when I was making clothing for sale and thinking about becoming a costumer for movies or theater or television. Some were very complete as large watercolors on lovely watercolor paper I remember soaking in my bathtub in Long Beach. Some still had traces of the brown paper tape I used to attach the paper to the hollow board used for this medium. Some were done with colored markers.

Oh yes, there are more people than you might imagine who come to SoCal to be in the movies. I know of a pool guy who wrote screen plays and a waitress who wanted to sing. Then there was my grandma. She had come to California from Canada in the 1920s, and she and her sister wanted to be in the movies too. I was a special education teacher working for Long Beach Unified School and I had thought about it too—seemed way more glamorous than teaching. I’m not sure if I was really that serious about costume design, but that’s probably what we all say when it doesn’t happen and your life takes a different turn. It is fun to have the art that has somehow recorded a California time and place for me. The best part is that now when I look at this recent piece it reminds me all over again of that art and those times. And I don’t have go digging for it. It’s right here!!

Happy Birthday Kelly, 5/29