August 9, 2020

PG and E with lupines
PG and E geodesic dome (San Ramon Technology Center), part of the Bishop Ranch Industrial Park in San Ramon with a great hillside of lupines. Photo taken in early 1990s, but watercolor was done 8/1/2020. (Watercolor, Inktense pencil and white acrylic on watercolor paper)

If you have been following my blog you might have seen the botanicals I posted this spring and summer (April 25, 2020, June 7, 2020, June 27, 2020, July 18, 2020 and August 1, 2020). You may remember those posts included flowers from the following plants: monk’s hood, rose, gladiolus, hydrangea, and orchid. And I have just about finished another one—maidenhair fern. I had also planned to focus on cherry blossoms and lupines. Kind of forgot about a cherry blossom botanical until I looked back at my notes. Hmm… And this is clearly not a botanical of a lupine. But I think such a landscape is better than a couple CA lupines as they would seem so lonely and frankly underwhelming. To truly bring out its best California features you need a whole hillside of flowers. I vividly remember taking the series of photos this particular view comes from. I was married at the time and we lived in an apartment not far from there. It was part of a huge planting on a hillside, behind an even huger industrial complex (Bishop Ranch). And the purple lupine enchantment did not end there. At the top of that hill were countless purple Ceanothus in bloom as well. It was such a glorious sight it took my breath away. 

Funny how things work. I had pulled out these photos to do a botanical of a lupine and wound up capturing a wonderful “urban sketching” moment. It’s also funny that if I had not included PG and E’s geodesic dome, and hint of surrounding buildings, it would not have been an urban sketch at all, but rather just a lovely lupine-filled landscape. Not sure it would technically count as an urban sketch anyway as it was done from a photo, not in the moment and plein air. Guess I would have needed a time machine to go back and paint this on the spot, but urban sketching didn’t really exist until 2007. So what’s the point? Besides, I wouldn’t want to waste a time machine trip for that. But this was such a pretty sight and memory that I decided to step into my “mind made” time machine for this landscape. I could almost smell the heady springtime fragrance as I worked.

As it turns out I had quite an art filled weekend as I also participated in an online LA Urban Sketchers event the next day. One of our members gave a wonderful demo of how to use a product called Brusho Crystal Colours to create backgrounds. (Yes, it’s made in England.) If you look it up you may notice that it says it’s for kids. Don’t let that put you off as the colors are so intense and wonderful. Looked like fun and I plan to order some and try it. When she was finished we went around the group and shared our recent art. For me, this is when it really got interesting, and it had nothing to the art I held up to the screen for others to see. One of our members shared that she had recently participated in some “nature journaling” with a group in Northern CA. Before she held up what she had sketched/written, she said it would not count as urban sketching, wondering if it would be OK to share. Thank goodness no one objected. When she held up her journal of plants and animals that she had sketched, I was immediately drawn to her art and intrigued with this idea. (And I don’t think I was the only one in the group who got the same feeling.) Anyway, she talked about someone called John Muir Laws and has books and website that encourages us to sketch and write about what we see in nature. His mission is for everyone to be aware of “Nature Stewardship Through Science, Education and Art.” This may not sound very earth shattering, but there is one more important aspect to his nature sketching stewardship that totally got me. He believes that when you keep a nature journal, you should be prepared to answer three questions about what you see. Those questions are as follows: 1. What do you see? 2. What do you wonder about what you see? 3. What does it remind you of?

Once she listed the importance of answering such nature questions when engaged in a plein air moment I realized I was already hooked. I fact, I had been unconsciously contemplating the answers to those very questions while doing this landscape. No kidding! Here’s what I mean:

What did I see? This actually has a two part answer. First, and foremost, I saw a riot of color and organic shapes that appeared to be hurrying down the sloping hillside. But I realized there was more to see here and it was important to this composition. Of course I had to include the human made horizontal line of implied buildings and the bright white geodesic dome. Now it becomes an urban sketch.

What did I wonder? I have couple “wonders” about this spot. Who planted the lupines, right? I tried to Google it, but no luck. My next “wonder” related to this hillside goes to wondering what it looks like now. I haven’t been back there since the early 90s, so I haven’t checked. My cynical side seems to tell me there are probably buildings at that location, with no more wildflower explosion every spring. But I bet you wonder what goes on inside that dome, right? I think I can answer that question. When my then husband and I lived there he worked for PG and E (Pacific Gas and Electric) in a building right next to the dome. I went on a tour of the place. It seems that experiments are conducted inside that huge dome related to high voltage electricity. They test transformers, power lines and other electrical equipment that might be problematic or malfunctioning. Such experiments are meant to test energy efficiency and safety. I remember an experiment they were conducting back then. They had a huge tree (maybe a redwood) next to some power lines attached to wooden power poles. A controlled storm inside the dome was whipping the lines against the tree. They were looking to see what kind of stress the lines could take before they would fail. OMG, they were simulating an electrical storm in there. I remember my husband saying that some of the experiments they did got pretty loud…do ya think?

What does it remind me of? As it turns out this CA girl was reminded of several other huge hillside explosions of CA lupines. I was reminded of a time I walked behind a friend’s house in Templeton and was treated to a sea of tiny balls of perky purple and white flowers covering a sloping hillside. Then there was a springtime that I was traveling north on the grapevine with my mom. There were masses of lupines on the left and CA poppies on the right. It looked as though someone might have tossed out the seed from an airplane.  I wrote about a hillside of lupines on a road in Atascadero (see December 8, 2018 post). I also remember an amazing display of not only lupines, but poppies, tidy tips and gold fields off another road in Atascadero (March, 24, 2018 post). And I did a huge oil of some hillsides of lupines across from Walmart in Paso Robles. I thought I took a picture of that painting before I sold it, but can’t seem to find it. I do wonder who planted all those seeds. Seems like such a wonder that there had been anything so beautiful on such an unlikely California corner. I’ve been back there and can tell you that there are now buildings on that spot. Guess if I want to see that again I’ll just have to step into my “mind made” time machine for that landscape. I can almost smell the lupines mixed with just a little oil paint, for good measure. 

August 1, 2020

last glad
Great Grandma’s gladiolus, July 2020 (Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Here is the most recent botanical I have created on my beautiful and wonderful Strathmore cold press illustration board. It was a bit tricky to get the color of the blossoms just right. I have glads in my garden right now, but none were the color I was after. (That probably seems like a weird thing to say, but it will become clear if you keep reading. If not, please enjoy this peach/pink/apricot/salmon colored gladiolus and you are done with the rest of this post. No worries.) Otherwise, please continue. First, I sketched an actual stem from a non-heirloom plant in a pot on my front porch. Then I scoured the internet for photos of old gladioli for just this shade of…what? Pink? Apricot? Peach? Salmon? Yes, I looked high and low. You are probably wondering why I went to so much trouble. Well, it turns out I wanted to capture the color of gladioli that I once had in my garden, but never learned its name and therefore could not look it up. 

gladiola story
Great Grandma’s Glads (Story from Central Coast Parent Magazine, March 2001)

Here is a magazine article that shows the color I was after. (What color would you say that is?) After reading this story you may have realized my son’s great grandma passed away some time back and it never occurred to me to ask her what her particular gladiola were called when she was alive. Back then I also didn’t know there was such a thing as a pass along plant. But when she gave them to us I knew I always wanted to have her flowers in our gardens. (She also grew garlic, but she never offered any of her garlic seeds and I never thought to ask.) So, I dug up the corms in our Paso Robles ground and took them with us when we moved to Grass Valley. However, when we left Grass Valley I forgot to take any. What was I thinking? For this botanical I had to rely on just the tiny bit of art from this old magazine article I wrote and illustrated. And to compound my color struggles I seem to have given away that original art to someone. Why hadn’t I made a photo copy of the original? Again, what was I thinking? 

As I thought about other pass along plants I have received and shared since then, I also got to thinking about other kinds of “pass along” treasures that can slip through our fingers if we are not careful. The first family treasure that comes to mind is a translucent pink vase that had belonged to my mother. It was her “go to” special vase when she was given flowers. I vividly remember that special pink vase. But this treasure was actually so much more than that as it had been a gift my mom had given her mother when she was a child. I remember my mom telling me that she had saved her money to buy it. So, when her mother died, the vase came back to her. And when my mother died it was passed to me. This same grandmother, whom I never met, also had a family bible that passed to my mom and then to me. We were never a particularly religious family, so the bible mostly sat on the shelf. When we were kids I remember there were tin types of my grandmother’s family in the back pages of that bible. Sadly, those have disappeared. But the pink vase was frequently used and I probably value it a little more. In fact, I used it for some red roses just the other day.

Music was very important to my dad, so I have some original LPs that he played countless times in our house when I was growing up. He also had a technical pen set that he had used in high school and that has now been passed to my son, his grandson. Other pass along stuff from my grandpas include a variety of tools. My mom’s dad had a pair of giant pliers and a level that somehow made it into my tool kit. My dad’s dad had an amazing basement of tools. And somehow I wound up with a double headed ax and a giant clamp. I have several hammers, and I think one of them came from one of them—not really sure who. Both grandpas were plumbers, so I’m not sure how such a tool could have been used by them for their livelihood. (Or maybe I want to imagine they were good plumbers and didn’t use a hammer to fix a leaky kitchen faucet.)  

How about you? Are there any treasures that were passed along to you in your family? My mom and ex-mother in law were big tea drinkers. So, I have several old tea cups from them. I also have tea cups from great grandma, my aunt, as well as a good friend’s grandma. I almost never use such tea cups anymore as I usually want more of a mug of tea than a dainty cup and saucer of Earl Grey. I guess that some pass along items can be a little on the weird side. Somehow I inherited my mother’s wooden hamburger press. It’s pretty cute as it has a stencil of two roosters on one side. I may not use fancy tea cups anymore, but I still use that press to make hamburgers. Probably the weirdest pass along treasure I never saw was my mother’s wedding dress. As I was making mine she so wanted to show me the dress she had made when she married my dad. As the story goes, after their big day my mom asked her dad (my grandpa) to store the dress for her at her family home in Mariposa. It seems that my grandpa didn’t really have a good place to keep it and put it in the brooder house (once a place for their chickens). And, as the story goes, the rats that frequented the now neglected brooder house, ate it. Even after all the times my mom told that story, I still can’t quite picture what that looked like. Thankfully, I have one photo of her in her wedding dress and that will have to do for the passing along of that particular treasure. But this CA girl is thankful to have a virtual way to hang onto many missing pass along family treasures and that’s in the telling of my family stories right here. The end.

July 25, 2020

Cars 2
Car in my front yard, 7/16/2020 (assorted gel pens on Mix Media paper)

On the 12th of this month a group of LA urban sketchers and I were treated to an online virtual demo of how to use different colored pens to create an urban scene. Our instructor sat outside on his porch in Long Beach and described how to just draw what you see using random colored ink pens. Right off the bat he told us that he rarely used a pen color that matched what he was drawing, as he ran through about 5 pens that had run out of ink. He just kept talking, trying one pen after another, until he found several that worked for the rest of the demo. At first I kind of wondered about this guy, but soon found myself relaxing and really enjoying the informality of his presentation. Once he had a handful of viable colors he immediately began rendering a car that was parked in front of his house. The front half of the vehicle was obscured by an overgrown tree, but that didn’t stop him—he added it to his drawing as well. After he had sketched in the car and tree another car came along and parked across the street. He seemed truly delighted to have another car to add to his urban landscape and immediately added it to the composition. His commentary was brisk, funny and very informative. But his message was clear, don’t worry about what colors you are using, just use the colors you have to render what you see. He also said that it was important to draw a lot and not worry about the finished product—quantity over quality. (Not sure what I think about that comment…) Anyway, he talked about not necessarily planning what you were going to do and for sure not to worry if you made a mistake. He said if you can capture the essence of objects or people on a page, no one is really going to notice a couple misplaced lines here and there. He suggested using pens with varying thicknesses, cross hatching and using loopy lines and shapes to suggest foliage and plants. Overall, it was great! 

Once he had finished there were lots of comments and questions from various members and it seemed that many were interested in drawing cars specifically. He shared that he didn’t much like drawing plants or trees, but that compositions could be enhanced when matching man-made hard surfaces with organic and natural subjects like trees and shrubs. So, even though he didn’t much like to draw plants he added the tree at the curb to make the cars look more interesting. For me, I am much more interested in plants than cars, but long ago I also learned the wonderful affect you can get when presenting something linear with harsh lines next to something natural and kind of fluffy. I even remember an art teacher saying such a juxtaposition can give a scene a kind of poetry. Really? I remember that teacher also saying that if those lines were presented on a diagonal, you added excitement and action to a rendering. Get the picture?

I realized that my front yard would be the perfect place to practice what this urban sketcher had shared with us as there are frequently cars parked on the streets all around my house. I found that I could make non-preferred drawings of cars more interesting by adding bits of plant life. And for the 7/16/2020 sketch I made sure to draw a car on the diagonal, hoping to add interest and action to the sketch. You may have noticed the street sign is on a different diagonal. It’s hard to tell what is actually straight up and down here. I think the spiky shrub behind the wonky sign and the fire hydrant in the foreground are the most truly vertical item in this composition. I don’t know, does it look like the car might just roll down the street? Maybe?

Cars 3
Car in my front yard, 7/14/2020 (assorted gel pens, and some graphite, on Mix Media paper)
Cars 1
Cars in my front yard, 7/15/2020 (assorted gel pens on Mix Media paper)

For three straight days I made myself sit on my front porch, drawing the cars parked on my street. For those afternoons I needed only a few supplies—a comfortable camping chair, handful of different colored ink pens, a pad of decent paper and a cloth glove for my drawing hand (helps to reduce ink from smearing). But wait! Until this technique was shared with me I had used only black inks, and only had that color in my supplies. Therefore, I needed to get some ink pens with different colors. I had noticed that our instructor used a couple gel pens and thought an assortment of such colors would be adequate. The day before my first “car sketch” attempt I put on my mask, walked to a nearby big box office supply store and bought a packet of gel pens (13 colors plus black).

None of the sketches really went as planned as there was a problem with the pens. Some of the colors worked for a while, but then seemed to dry up, and I had to sometimes switch pens mid line. Now, I have had quite a bit of experience drawing with ink pens (only black of course), and have a few tricks to get the ink flowing again—no luck! I tried to remember the words of our instructor, going with the flow and using random colors. But I was having trouble going with the flow as some of my brand new pens were not flowing—only making deep grooves in the paper as a pressed down hard. It pissed me off. But eventually, I got over it and finished the three days of sketching cars. 

As I was struggling with the pens, I struggled with the idea that under normal, non-COVID-19, circumstances I would have done more than buy gel pens at the nearby office supply store for this project. I would have gone to Blick’s in Pasadena and purchased some proper pens with different colored cartridges and/or pots of ink. But this would not have been a quick “into the store and then out again” scenario. I would have wanted to linger and look at whatever pens they had, trying them out on the spot on the little pads of paper that are always around the pen and ink section of art stores. I’m sure you’ve read that CA is currently experiencing spikes in coronavirus and that makes me not want to hang out inside any kind of LA business for any length of time right now. Even though I realize I can buy the pen’s online, I would have wanted to try out a few before ordering. (I heard that the hair salon I go to in Pasadena has moved everything outside—sinks with hot and cold running water, chairs, hairdryers, mirrors etc. I can’t imagine me sitting outside for all the world to see me with 50 foils plastered to my head. In the past I have entertained a scenario that as the last foil is folded and tapped with a comb we have a major earthquake and I have to run out the door. Yikes!)

So, now the simple wishes of one CA artist takes on national, if not global, implications. I get that my wishes are not really needs that are particularly relevant or earth shattering right now. But I can hardly support a business, and/or local economy, if I just stop purchasing everything except food. Right? I imagine you have had to make similar decisions related to such “non-essential” purchases as well. But I can’t help thinking that such a change in my buying habits will affect the life and livelihood of the businesses that are deemed “non-essential.” That really isn’t fair, is it? Such business owners/employers have employees who would definitely think their jobs are essential to their livelihoods and families. So, what do I do? I guess I will try out a couple pens online and will consider getting my hair colored outside. I mean, how bad could it be to sit outside in front of God and everybody with 50 foils plastered to my head? If we had an earthquake I wouldn’t have to run outside, I’d already be there. Right? 

July 18, 2020

Blue hydrangea
Memories of hydrangea in my mother’s garden, 7/2020 (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

There are a couple things I want to say about this week’s hydrangea botanical. First, for the composition I chose two stems with foliage and flower. the one in the background is complete and in full bloom, but the second stem is less mature, representing an earlier stage of blossoming. You can clearly see the green/white inner petals that are only beginning to change color, take shape and increase in size. Second, the fact that a hydrangea can be such a shade of blue immediately makes this particular flower interesting to me. I think that’s because there are so few things in nature that are truly blue. And if you look closely you will see that even something that appears to be so true blue actually has some hints of purple. Finally, do you think it’s an “old lady” flower? Would you plant one in your garden? A friend of a friend said they liked the rendering well enough, but that she would never have hydrangeas in her garden as they are just too “old-fashioned.” Hmm… I don’t have any in my garden right now, but would if I had a good spot for one. I like them because it was a favorite of my mother’s and that makes it old-fashioned in all the right ways for me. I have such wonderful memories of a couple magnificently huge blue hydrangeas in her Grass Valley garden. You walked between them as you went through a gate from the back garden to the front, or front to back of course. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible leaves of a hydrangea plant. I very intentionally made them an equal partner to the colorful petals of the hydrangea. If you have viewed any of my recent botanicals posted at One California Girl you may have noticed that the foliage for those renderings play only a supporting role for each flower. But for the hydrangea the large shiny thick and green leaves are definite costars of this showy shrub. Most hydrangeas are deciduous, which means they drop leaves and petals in the fall. I think that’s why the leaves are so lovely, they get to be new and fresh again every year just like the flowers.

The actual blossoms for this one are specific to a particularly healthy real life plant in my aunt’s garden in Long Beach. But her hydrangea flowers are pink. I found a stock photo of a blue one (Nikko blue) that reminded me of my mom’s and I tried to recreate the color from my memory with a little help from the picture. You may have heard that you can change the color of hydrangeas by adding something to the soil. Steve Bender (aka The Grumpy Gardener) of Southern Living says you can only change the flower color of Mountain and French hydrangeas. He says their flower color is all about the pH of the soil and if your soil is very acid (pH below 6) the petals will be blue. However, if the soil is more alkaline (pH above 7) the petals will be pink and sometimes red. And if the soil is neutral/slightly acid (pH between 6 and 7) the petals might be purple, or a combination of blue and pink on the same shrub. (I actually saw such a hydrangea on a SoCal neighborhood walk the other day.) Mr. Bender says that to make the soil more acid, add garden sulfur to the soil, then water it. And to make the soil more alkaline, add some lime and then add water. He said that if you are trying to change the color of the flowers you should be patient as it could take months to change and you might need to repeat applications several times for it to take. 

two larva
Monarch larva in my July 2020 garden

Update on the monarchs in my garden (see June 20, 2020)—

I’ve lost count of the number of monarch worms on my two asclepius plants. As you can see they are out there in abundance. But I am on a constant vigil to keep the wasps away from them. I always thought there was nothing that would bother monarchs because they are poisonous. However, I have seen a wasp bite one of my worms and kill it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I Googled my question regarding this phenomenon and it seems wasps will actually hunt the worms, then kill and eat them. Apparently they are not bothered by the toxins in the monarch’s body. When I read this I whipped into action and hung a wasp trap near one of the plants. (It has been out there a couple weeks now and not caught a single wasp.) I also read that only about 5% of monarch caterpillars actually make it to the chrysalis stage. Yikes! I decided to try to bump up their survival percentage in my garden and I now hunt for wasps. How do I do this? I frequently check the plants to either shoo them away with a squirt of water or swat them with my shoe. And believe it or not, I have killed quite a few. 

I recently noticed another wildlife addition to my garden—baby Western fence lizards. This is going on my third summer in this house and I remember noticing baby lizards last summer and the summer before. Western fence lizards are very common in SoCal. They breed in mid to late March and the females lay eggs 2 to 4 weeks after that. And from what I have read, the females can lay up to three clutches of eggs per year. They are so cute and tiny—tiny being the operative word. Summer before last one slipped into my kitchen and I almost stepped on it just as it ran under the oven. Not sure what happened to the little guy—I always hoped he, or she, slipped back outside and is living the high life in my garden right now.

This brings me to yet another recent critter that seems to have joined my summer family—a skunk, or skunks. The smell of skunk has wafted through my bedroom window at night on several occasions. In fact, one night it was so strong it almost made me physically sick, even with the window closed. I have also seen a skunk digging around under the bird feeder at night. She, or he, was probably looking for left over seed and/or night crawling bugs. I read they are omnivores, so such a food variety makes sense. I also read that they eat berries, small rodents and lizards. Did I just say LIZARDS?! So now what? How can I protect my baby lizards from rampaging skunks? I guess I won’t be hunting skunks at night. Don’t think shooing them away with a squirt of water or the swat of a shoe would be the right approach. In fact, I don’t think I will approach them at all. I guess I hope the  baby lizards have good hiding spots at night, I know when I’m licked!

July 11, 2020

early tomatoes
First tomatoes, July 7, 2020 (Inktense pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper)

As you can see, the tomatoes of my 2020 summer garden are beginning to ripen and turn red. It was interesting to find the different stages of tomato ripeness hanging so close together on the same branch of my bonus unknown tomato plant. You might be wondering how I came to have a bonus unknown tomato plant. Well, for starters it’s a volunteer from last year, so that makes it a bonus. And since I didn’t actually plant it, I don’t know the variety. It’s probably the result of an overripe tomato falling off one of last year’s plants and somehow reseeding itself. That’s probably not so unusual for a SoCal garden as we rarely get freezing temperatures in winter, and last spring’s rains helped out I’m sure. Last summer I planted a Better Boy, Early Girl and some kind of cherry tomato that was supposed to be a Beefsteak tomato. (I think what you’re looking at are Better Boy tomatoes). When I spied them on Tuesday I greedily imagined the joy of eating that red one for dinner (which I did) and loved the idea that there would be many more coming on for many 2020 summer evenings to come. I love to imagine an unexpected plant that would bear even more fruit so I could share with others. I think I remember my son’s Great Aunt Ruth saying that you should always put in a garden with sharing in mind. I like that idea a lot and have already started. (I gave away a couple tomatoes on Thursday to a lady who walks her dog past my house.) This isn’t my first post and art of tomatoes from my July garden. I wrote about last year’s tomatoes and garden for my July 6, 2019 post. That story was another kind of tomato bonus as I also included a “tomato” story I wrote for a children’s magazine in July 2001. I say bonus for that post as the article included a pizza sauce recipe using fresh tomatoes and other veggies.

second red urn
Red Urn at Descanso Gardens, July 6, 2020 (Inktense pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper)
red roses
Lamp post at Descanso Gardens, July 6, 2020 (Inktense pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper)

I don’t think the prospect of red ripe tomatoes in my garden had anything to do with my choice to sketch red things at the Descanso Gardens on Monday. When I saw this amazing red urn with greenery I immediately sat down and did the first sketch. (There is an area in front of the train ride station that is planted with all kinds of colorful summer plants, with several large red urns stationed around—it’s very dramatic.) At first it was a little touch and go when I realized I didn’t have my lovely Scarlet Lake or Cadmium Red with me. But somehow I made do with a mixture of Cadmium Red hue and Alzarin Crimson hue from my tiny Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Sketcher’s Pocket box. Actually, I think the bark-colored Inktense pencil I used for the outline and shading helped to warm up the color of the pot. If you have been following my blog you may remember another red urn I recently sketched at the same location—see my June 20, 2020 post. For that one I used what I call my “just add water” technique where I draw something with Inktense pencils, then add light sprays of water, letting the pigment bleed where it will. For today’s sketch I wanted to have more control of how the color spread, so I did the outline/shading of the urn and flowers with the warm colored “bark” Inktense pencil, then I added red and green watercolor pigment only. For the lamp post vignette I used my cool “sea blue” Inktense pencil, then I added the same red and green as before. I’m always amazed the different feelings and affects you can get when using warm colors, like the “bark” brown, compared to the coolness of a color like sea blue. Color certainly can evoke a feeling I think.

In the mid 80s it was very popular for women to have their colors done. I’m guessing this wasn’t just a phenomena in CA. (I just Googled “having your colors done” and  it appears to still be out there, and it’s not in CA only.) Colorists, as I think they were called, had stacks and stacks of different colored fabric that they would place just below someone’s chin. As the different colors were brought out the person would be asked how the color made them feel. And the colorist would usually say something about whether or not the color was a cool or warm tone. I never had my colors done because of course this was not a free service, but done for a price as a consultation by a trained colorist. (From Google dictionary: a colorist was an artist or designer who uses color in a special or skillful way.) Once this process was completed you were designated either a “spring,” “summer,” “winter,” or “fall,” and assigned specific colors to wear, with emphasis on the coolness and/or warmth of “your” colors. You were also given fabric samples of your best colors that you were to carry around in your purse. Then when shopping you could confidently go into a department store and use those bits of warm or cool colors to help select your perfect wardrobe. Even back then I remember thinking this seemed an arduous task as that meant you might have to look at every piece of clothing in the store, trying to find that perfect shade of red. I also remember wondering if clothing designers had gotten this memo—presenting clothes that might appeal to the “summer,” “winter,” “spring,” and/or “fall” person.

About this same time I was creating hand painted kimonos (see December 29, 2018). Many of my designs were hanging in a vintage clothing store (Rags to Riches) in Los Gatos and the owner of that shop was adamant about the silliness of “having your colors done.” She would get angry and just say something like, “WTF, just wear what you want!” I agreed with her then and still think you should not look for a full proof way to pick out what you wear.

It’s funny, but there is one more CA girl chapter in this “finding your colors” story. In 2011 I was wandering the aisles of a fabric store in Grass Valley. I was looking for inexpensive fabric for a project I had planned to do with some students at an elementary school I was working at. I had learned how to make rag rugs and wanted to invite some regular ed kids to come to my room at lunchtime to do crafts with my special ed kids. As I was telling this story to the store owner, another woman in the shop came up to me and said she was cleaning out her garage and that she had lots of fabric she would gladly donate to the cause. OMG! Can you guess what she had been doing since the 80s? Yes, she was a “trained” colorist and had all this fabric ready to help people “find their colors.” It seems her husband was trying to clean out the garage and was hoping show could let all of this go. I guess she was ready to let go of the fabric and let people dress themselves without any help from her. We agreed to meet in front of the fabric store the next day and she would bring me the fabric. When she opened the trunk to her car I couldn’t believe the bags and bags of fabric she had. She actually seemed relieved to get all this out of her garage, and I was delighted to have it for my project. As the kids and I went through the bags over the next weeks, it was shocking to see so many shades of red, pink, yellow, black etc. And some of those colors were outright ugly! It made me a little sad to imagine someone carrying around ugly colors of fabric in their purse, waiting for the opportunity to use them. Would you wear a color because someone told you to? Even my mother let me choose my clothes when I was young. I guess my advice on this subject is to be sure not to do that and wear whatever color you like, whether you think you are a summer, winter, spring or fall. However, there are some strange warm and cool shades of brown that should not be worn by anyone. I mean, I like drawing with my “bark” colored Inktense pencil, but wouldn’t want to wear anything that color. Just sayin.’

July 4, 2020

Vernazza final
June 2010 view from our hotel window in Vernazza, June 2020 (water soluble pastel crayons on grey-toned pastel board)

This week I have been on an extremely diverse journey of artistic expression, even for me. It all started with this nicely complicated pastel of a long ago view of Vernazza that I began week before last. It was a reaction to my frustrating attempt to do a quick painting during a virtual trip to Pienza with a sketching group (from last week’s post). I just finished this yesterday. When I create such a piece I kind of like to live with it and in it. I worked on it in sections, adding the non-colors underneath all the way to the final top coats, allowing for the grey tone of the actual board to show through in places. I have learned to be careful to stop each day before I go too far. Once I am done for the day I place it in a conspicuous place and try to walk past it often, scrutinizing it to see if I am happy with each days addition of pigment. And I say I like to live in it as I imagine myself looking out that second floor window of this view on the Visconte Via Roma, or walking up and down that particular street to and from the harbor. It’s no accident this is done on the rough pastel board, as I enjoy how it mimics the very rocks that were carved out to make this 11th century village. I read in Rick Steve’s 2010 Italy book that those buildings were not originally covered with brightly colored stucco, but rather made from indigenous stone. My recent virtual returning to Vernazza was divided with other artistic interests all week. And that all started last Sunday when I participated in a plein air workshop. The focus of that class was to create simple plein air sketches as simple value studies. You begin with an outline and deep shadows using a water soluble ink adding no more than 3 or 4 other colors after that. So, as I said, it was a week of differing focuses and techniques. Believe it or not, it was great fun! I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a virtual trip to a beloved Italian town on the Cinque Terra, and still be able to go to the Descanso Gardens to sit on my handy dandy sheet of bubble wrap and sketch.

blue roof, 7.1.2020
Blue roof in Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens, July 1, 2020 (Inktense pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper)

I went early to the Descanso on Wednesday (nice cool SoCal June gloom morning), hoping to try out the new (simpler) technique I had just learned. I thought I might go to the Japanese Garden to sketch. Before social distancing had become part of my life I almost never went into that part of the garden as there always seemed to be just too many people milling around for my level of pre-COVID comfort. However, I’d noticed recently that there didn’t seem to be too many in that part of the garden the last couple times I had walked past—just fewer people in the garden have helped I think. Also, I noticed they have placed ENTER and EXIT signs directing people along the paths inside. That probably helps people to keep their distance too. Works for me! But as I got closer I heard a skill saw and saw that someone was right where I had planned to sit, and they were repairing the wooden deck area. Hmm… I continued to wander, looking for the perfect spot. I came upon this view just outside that garden and across the trail. I could see the amazing “tea house” blue roof and the sound of the skill saw seemed farther away. Perfect! I laid out my materials and finished this one in no time—loving the simplicity of it. All it took was leaf green Inktense pencil as the outline/shadow pigment and just 3 other colors. As I was finishing up I noticed a mom with a babe in arms and what looked to be a 4-year-old watching me. I could tell that the little girl really wanted to come closer to see what I was doing. But practicing social distancing they stood about 10 feet away from me as the mom and I had a brief mask-muffled conversation about wanting to come closer. You could see in the little girl’s face that she really wanted to see what I was doing. It didn’t take me long to register that the reason I could see the little girl’s face was because she was not wearing a protective mask. Mom and I were each wearing ours, but the baby and little girl were not. I have noticed that such families seem to be all over the garden, but I am surprised to see that mom, or dad, is wearing a face covering, but often the little ones are not. That does make me wonder why they wouldn’t think to protect their young children too. I suspect they might say that the little ones won’t wear the masks. I guess that makes some kind of selfish sense to these parents, but they are still potentially exposing their children to the virus. And as much as I can imagine these parents wanting to get their kids outside to a garden, if they can’t wear a mask I’m not really sure they should be there.

Japanese Garden, Descanso, 7.3.2020
Colorful bridge in the Japanese Garden, Descanso Gardens, July 3, 2020 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Not only did I finish the pastel yesterday, but I also went back to the Descanso Gardens, where I actually sketched this colorful bridge in their Japanese Garden. And the palette for this one was only birch colored Inktense pencil and two other colors. Woo hoo!

Next, I need to get some water soluble ink, a proper fountain pen, and do these again with proper ink and a couple watercolor colors. Such are the lofty plans for this one CA girl on July 4th, 2020. Don’t know about you, but it’s really hard to imagine making plans or mapping out future projects. I did start the sketch for a hydrangea botanical. But I’m taking it one day, or piece of art, at a time. Seems like the best non-plan for now. What about you?

Happy 4th of July!

June 27, 2020

orchid botanical
Orchid, 6/23/2020 (Prismacolor colored pencil and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Last Saturday I joined an online sketching group and we did a virtual sketching trip to Italy. Our group leader chose a couple lovely and colorful photos to render—one in Tuscany and the other from the island of Sardinia. She set the stage for the first sketch, in Pienza, with a little intro from Rick Steves. She added to the theme by playing some Italian music and off we went—sketching/painting a lovely scene for the next half an hour. With that lovely introduction you might be wondering why I posted my latest botanical and not anything from that virtual visit to Italy. 

Here’s what happened. It started out OK, but I soon found myself struggling with the watercolor paper I was using. It’s cheap, but I thought I was such a master of watercolor I could bend it to my watercolor whim, making a “sink purse from a sow’s ear.” Before I knew it I was actually scrubbing off the top layer of paper and even the jaunty Italian music did not lighten my “pig’s ear” mood. Once the time was up and we were supposed to share I didn’t want anyone to see the definite bald spots right in the middle of some shrubbery. But I did anyway. It’s such a nice group and they were all very supportive—even those of us who were frustrated with the experience. It was funny that another sketcher shared how she had also been struggling with her cheap paper. It seems that we had a similar idea that as we were at home doing such art, nice paper was not required. Our leader shamed us, in a nice way of course, and we finished our critique. Our next stop was Bosa, Sardinia. Well by now, I was done and didn’t want to go to Bosa with cheap paper. Actually, about a third of the group seemed to beg off at this point, but I hung in there because that’s what I do. As we only had 15 to 20 minutes left I thought I would just go for it, with lots of color and big, wet, loose brushstrokes—no scrubbing. In 15 minutes I was more than done, but the group decided they would take another 10 minutes or so to finish up. Really? But as I said, I was done and there was really nothing left for me to do, but wait. That’s when I made a plan to order some good Italian watercolor paper and vowed to create something beautiful with the beautiful Strathmore cold press illustration board I had ordered recently. 

The next day I ordered five 20 by 30 inch sheets of Fabriano Artistico 140 pound weight watercolor paper, soft press (wondered why the Italian paper was cut into inches and not cms…) I picked it up as a curbside delivery in Pasadena on Tuesday and now can’t wait to take it for a test drive! And as promised, here is a botanical I created on the cold press illustration board. Actually, I have already done a sketch/post of this particular orchid, look at October 6, 2019 if you’d like to see it. For this one I did not rush, but instead did a complete and finished pencil sketch. And as I had recently repotted this particular orchid, I took a studied look at the roots and have included them here. Then I luxuriated in the planning of the colors I would use. I had recently purchased a tiny tube of Winsor Newton’s permanent magenta and that seemed an appropriate start for the petals. To that I added my beautiful quinacridone opera and the promise of the petal color was assured. Once I’d transferred the sketch to the paper/board I began to layer the pigment. The paper was a dream, taking the pigment exactly as I had expected. Having cut many sheets of this board over the years I have assorted thin leftover strips that I use to try out combinations of colors. To add to this familiar painting process I listened to some Andre Previn (After Hours, with Joe Pass and Ray Brown) and Miles Davis’s “Kinda Blue.” And the picture was complete.

Vernazza, 6:27:2010
View from our room in Vernazza, 6/27/2010 (unfinished–water soluble crayons on pastel board)

But I didn’t leave Italy completely. Around Wednesday or so I looked back at an album of photographs and other bits of memorabilia I put together after a trip there. Here I found a photo of Vernazza I took exactly 10 years ago to the day. (Well, not exactly to the day as Italy is ahead of CA time wise, so this was actually taken 6/26/2010 Pacific Coast time.) I have been enjoying my recent revisit to the Cinque Terre for several days now, but am not in a hurry to leave. I first did a small finished sketch, then a larger one. I imagined how Vernazza’s stucco buildings attached and carved into the rocks would look on the grey pastel board articulated with water soluble pastel crayons. It is my hope that it will be finished by my next post. No more cheap paper for me and no more hurrying. If I’ve learned nothing else from being at home so much over the past three plus months, there is no need to hurry, right? (Of course, if a kitchen towel suddenly catches fire, I will hurry to extinguish that.) Stay tuned for more of Vernazza… 

June 20, 2020

urn with succulents
Urn and succulents at Descanso Gardens, 6/16/2020 (Inktense pencils, with sprayed water on watercolor paper)

As today is the first day of summer I am excited to begin a new season—exploring the new and numerous things related to my changing art and garden, as well as numerous thoughts about other changes in my day to day work life as a result of the coronavirus. To start with, my last day working with children online was Monday, the 15th. My therapy sessions for the last three months have been mostly successful even though I often felt like just a talking head—only able to use two of my five senses. However, there were a couple students left alone with limited adult supervision that indeed provided me some funny moments, gifting me the reminder that they need us and to not take myself too seriously. One third grader, in particular, seemed to be more creative than most. Several times he pressed a half full bottle of water against the computer screen, sloshing it back and forth much like underwater ocean waves. I guess he thought it more entertaining to imagine we were at the bottom of the sea having a conversation. But his final session with me was the most creative of all. He frequently liked to mute the sound and turn off the video camera at the beginning of our time together, as well as at other times throughout the session. Ok, I’d seen that trick before. This time, when he finally unmuted himself and turned on the camera, he was quietly looking at me through a pair of binoculars. I noticed the strap of the binoculars was in an odd place and soon realized he was looking at me through the wrong end. I seem to remember giving a loud snort of almost laughter, dutifully asking him to put the binoculars away. But of course he didn’t do that as he sensed my weakened condition. Instead he moved in closer, pressing one of the lenses against the screen. All I could see was one tiny blinking eye, way off in the distance. I lost it of course and once you start laughing, that’s the end of anything substantive. We ended with him not wanting to say goodbye, but knowing I needed a break from this process so I could begin again in earnest in the middle of August, when school starts up again.

But I didn’t wait until Tuesday to kick off some pre-summer art, I started it last Sunday. And how did I celebrate this momentous day? I went to the Descanso Gardens, of course. In fact, as of yesterday I have been there 3 times, sketching garden vignettes like the one you see here. I am so thankful they have once again opened their doors. But my sketching/painting routine in the garden has changed. Oh, I still head for the rose garden first, but for now I am just going early in the morning, when they first open and there are few people. And instead of my bringing watercolors, brushes several kinds of paper and water, I am just bringing small sheets of watercolor paper, Inktense pencils, a small collapsible chair and a sheet or two of bubble wrap. I have made this change, for now, as I want to do only small, quick sketches that I later spritz with water when I get home. This way I can do a couple sketches and also spend a fair amount of time hiking around as well. In the past, when I did full on watercolors I would leave the garden once the majority of wet had dried. It was always a little cumbersome to carry around a wet piece of art, plus all the supplies. Now, I feel like I not only need to sketch something beautiful, but it seems just as important to move around in the garden, wandering the trails and filling my lungs with fresh outside air. So, now I am content to do little vignette garden sketches, as you seen here.

monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed in SoCal garden (Fude fountain pen, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

What’s new in my garden? Thank you for asking. As you can see I have monarch butterflies hanging around my newly planted milkweed. It is quite exciting, for me, to go outside and watch a monarch butterfly flit from plant to plant, leaf to leaf and flower to flower. That event is lovely, but quite brief compared to the anticipation of the hatching of the teeny tiny eggs they lay. Yes, I have actually seen a couple, but you definitely need a magnifying glass to appreciate their pearlescent quality. But oh my, the real show comes when the wildly striped caterpillars miraculously pop from the eggs. And OMG, those creatures can eat—quickly chomping stems, leaves and seed pods down to nothing or a nub.

new cucumbers
New cucumbers in a SoCal garden, 6/2020

What else is new under my SoCal girl’s sun? Veggies! My tomatoes are coming along nicely. And as you can see, so are the cucumbers. Not really sure about the garlic, the early Italian seem to be laying down, but the CA select appear to be on track. The basil is healthy, but the dill is weird. The plant I bought in April appears to be going to seed, which usually means it’s about to finish its life cycle and die. And the dill seed I planted around that same time are pretty tiny and look as though a slight breeze could break them to pieces. We’ll see, I guess. 

As you can probably tell, summer has arrived again in all our neighborhoods. Now we can go outside and walk the perimeter and area of our gardens—looking for new life and hope that the tomatoes will be wonderful again this year. I hope you have something new to look for outside in your garden or in your city. I don’t think going back to the old is an option anymore. It’s time, once again, to carefully step outside to see what is new and somehow make it good.

June 13, 2020

Oakdale 2
Vineyard/out buildings on Oakdale Road, behind Linne Calodo Winery, early 2000 (oil on birch panel)

I haven’t shared a Paso Robles vineyard in a while and thought it time I did. It was only by chance that I came upon this wonderful “wine grape” view almost 20 years ago. I was going to another vineyard/tasting room that was just across the road. I probably wouldn’t have found it today as the vineyard I was headed for then has their entrance on Vineyard Road, and I’m not even sure there is an entrance to anything back there now. Maybe it goes to the vineyard owners house on the hill? But no matter, I’m glad I captured this amazing CA sight with oil on birch. (Actually there is another that goes on the left. I will share it on another post—keeping you in suspense!)

I’ve posted other landscapes I’ve done with oil on birch panels. (If you are interested  to see more of this technique you might look for April, 4, 2020, August 31, 2019, January 19, 2019 and August 12, 2017.) I guess the only other thing I can say about this art is that this image is way darker than the actual piece and there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s because I sold this one a long time ago and this is just a color copy of it. There was a great photographer that lived in my neighborhood in Paso and when I wasn’t in some kind of hurry, I would call him and have him take photos of my originals. But I hung it in a coffee shop in Auburn and it soon sold. Don’t you hate those kind of tiny regrets? It’s not like that individual lack of judgment truly means anything, but add up all the tiny regrets and somehow it seems to loom larger than it should. Is that true for you too?

I have been doing art more recently. In fact this week I did a couple “start with a wash” watercolors that was set as an Urban Sketchers challenge. This entailed starting with what I assumed as a random wash of color—keeping the tones warm or cool. Then you were to sketch on top of that. For the first one I made a warmish green wash and sketched a scene from across my street using my Fude fountain pen filled with black ink. The next day I did the same with a cool sky blue color and black ink—sketching a similar view across the street and down 20 feet or so. Both images looked kind of flat to me and I had a flat feeling upon finishing each one. By the third day, I created a sunny cadmium yellow wash, but waited till the next day to sketch yet another view just outside my front door on my side of the street. That day I used an Inktense pencil (bark) to add the sketch. It took me yet another day to spray some water on that one, hoping to bring some interest and life to yet another sketch that left me flat. I was done and none of them were worthy of a One CA Girl post. Some of my urban sketcher friends said it was very freeing to do this challenge. As for me, there was nothing very freeing about creating flat urban landscapes that didn’t even inspire me to use them as a preliminary sketch for something else. But something good did come from this frustrating week of art and maybe you have already guessed what I am referring to. It seems that my mind wandered to a “rural” landscape that I had remembered doing some 20 years ago. My mind needed a rest from this challenge and the other challenges facing us today. I found it by remembering the warm rolling greens and yellows of the Paso Robles hills, capped with a cool blue sky that was so bright it hurt your eyes to look at it for too long. I hope that looking at this long ago California landscape can bring you a bit a peace right now.

One final note about this typical Paso Robles vineyard landscape 

I have often written about these amazing Paso views that I was lucky enough to live near, but I have never spoken about their wine. I’m not a huge fan of white wine, so I don’t really have much of a repertoire of tasting them with the next thought of making a white wine purchase. (I guess I’ve tasted some pretty nice chardonnays in a couple wineries in Napa, but that’s another story…) I am a fan of the big reds, wine with legs. And you know, there are really too many Paso vintners with great reds to name here. If you ever get the chance to go wine tasting in Paso Robles, I highly recommend it. It’s pretty fun to spend an afternoon going from winery to winery. Be sure to designate a driver, as tasting too many lovely reds on a warm summer CA day can make your head swim, literally. It used to be that you could taste for free, but no more. It will cost you to be presented with little tastes. And just between you and me, I almost never buy wine at the actual source—the prices per bottle are sometimes staggering at these little winery boutiques. Of course if you join their wine club and purchase a case of wine, the price per bottle goes down. But that still seems like a racket to me. Actually, for a nice Paso red, you don’t need to go wine tasting at all. You can find a lot of good red wine in the grocery store, or Trader Joe’s. If you see a moderately priced Paso Zinfandel or not too young Cabernet, try it. I had a lovely red wine from Modesto with my frozen cheese enchilada at dinner last night. Of course the dollop of sour cream and sliced SoCal avocado helped to elevate the meal to make it pretty special. Until next time…

June 7, 2020

Just Joey botanical
Just Joey rose, May 2020 (Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been talking about doing a series of botanicals. Here is the latest one. If you have no idea what I’m referring to, I would tell you that this technique/style of art is a kind of botanical. And in a way, that’s all I have to say about this piece. The rest of this post is actually another side of an artist’s story. If you want to find out what I am referring to, read on. If not, please enjoy the subtle colors and lushness of this enchanting rose. It’s called “Just Joey.”  The rose breeder of this heavenly scented apricot beauty, Roger Pawsey, named it after his wife, Joey. According to Wikipedia, it was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1972. I guess there is something called the Rose Hall of Fame in the UK and this hybrid tea rose was inducted into that Famous Hall as the “World’s Favourite Rose” in 1994.

If you are still curious about my other tale, here we go. It’s actually a kind of shaggy dog story that started when I participated in an Urban Sketchers (USk) online event last Sunday. I have often written about sketching groups I belong to, but never actually talked about any one in particular. I belong to the Los Angeles Chapter of Urban Sketchers. Urban Sketchers is a nonprofit organization that describes itself as a “global community of artists that practice drawing on location in cities, towns, and villages they live in or travel to.” It was started in 2007 by Gabriel Campanario, a journalist for the Seattle Times, as a way for artists to share their artwork. In 2008 he started a blog that soon became very popular world wide. In 2009 he established Urban Sketchers as a nonprofit organization. The whole purpose of this group is not to only create fine art (or botanicals for that matter), but more of a kind of “street” art with a definite story and point of view. And they have quite a complete, and very specific, manifesto. Here it is:

  1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation.
  2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel
  3. Our drawings are a record of time and place.
  4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness.
  5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles.
  6. We support each other and draw together.
  7. We share our drawings online. (I tend to not do this…mostly because such postings are on Facebook and I have really stopped engaging with anything Facebook…)
  8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.

The group is very active and regularly invites members to engage in events and/or challenges. They are also interested in educating artists and regularly present workshops and/or tutorials to help artists explore new and different techniques and materials. There are now lots of local chapters, like the one I belong to in LA. And once a year, they host a huge symposium, inviting all members from all over the world to attend not only workshops, but panel discussions, lectures and of course numerous opportunities to meet other artists so you can get together and draw on location. The first symposium was held in Portland in 2010. But they have been held in: Singapore, Chicago, Amsterdam, Manchester England, Portugal, Brazil and Barcelona. The 2020 symposium was supposed to take place this summer in Hong Kong, but was unfortunately cancelled. It was announced last November that there would be no USk Hong Kong Symposium the summer of 2020 due to unrest in the city. The Urban Sketchers Executive Board and Urban Sketchers Hong Kong were concerned for visitor safety, and fun, but hope to reinvite sketchers to their beloved city when it is back to being stable and able to ensure a great experience for everyone.

Still with me? So, back to the USk LA Sunday meeting. Most of the participants were from LA, but a few from San Diego had also joined us. But we were also joined by a lovely man, and talented artist, from Hong Kong. (I have a couple postcards of his art that he handed out to us the last time he was in SoCal.) His name is Alvin Wong. He co-founded Urban Sketchers Hong Kong in 2013 and is the founder of USk China. Mr. Wong also participated in the “Umbrella Movement” in Hong Kong in 2014, where he and over 30 sketchers recorded the event with their sketches. If you are interested in seeing that artwork of unrest, he also coordinated and published a book with their sketches called “Sketches under the Umbrellas, Hong Kong 2014.” It’s amazing. Of course we talked about world events in light of our first night of curfew in LA (that actual day). It was so interesting to hear his perspective on the world, as he sees everyday a view of the world through his Hong Kong lens. 

We went around and said what we had been doing and what art we had been working on. I had just finished this botanical, but knew I wouldn’t actually be sharing it as it does not really count as Urban Sketching. That was fine. I did mention this piece, nonetheless. And I wasn’t the only who shared that the art they had been creating was just personal stuff and meant to help us from going insane because of all the insanity around us. It wasn’t long before the moderators stopped and reminded us that art is art and whatever we were doing just now was wonderful, valued and had a place, just don’t post it on the Urban Sketchers website. (Ha! Artists are a funny bunch…don’t think they meant to be funny in that instance though.) All funniness aside, it seems one of our members has been going out to sketch the Black Lives Matter protests around town. After learning about the Hong Kong sketchers doing the same thing in Hong Kong in 2014, I might be coaxed back to see what gets posted on the Urban Sketchers Facebook page. In fact, I am doing a USk Instructor challenge this afternoon. Maybe you would like to try it too? Here it is:

Start with a Wash

  1. Start your sketch with a watercolor wash.
  2. Choose either warm or cool colors.
  3. Make a line drawing of a place on top.

One last thing.

Here is a book that EVERYONE should read: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (she also wrote another fav of mine, The Secret Life of Bees)

Good luck, stay sane and stay tuned.