Friday, July 20, 2018

Rewards of Curiosity

Mi-Teintes paper. Gouache in sky.
Pitt White Marker on building.
I like to sketch and paint on all kinds of paper surfaces. From the very slick to rough, from light to dark, cheap to expensive. Some of the papers are NOT intended for watercolor. So why do I do it?  I love responding to what’s happening on the surface. I don’t like doing the same thing again and again… I’m very curious.

Most tinted/toned surfaces are not intended for watercolor. But I discovered amazing results with pastel paper. For example, I’ve found that the Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper handles watercolor beautifully. The paper has a 65% rag content, 98 lb. weight and is gelatine sized making it sturdy. The paper has two distinct surface textures, one side smooth and the other grainy. I like the grainy side. The paper is highly receptive and easy to work on with a little warping.

Canal Montreal paper, Gouache and ink
Some papers are VERY absorbent and harder to work on. I came across a paper that had a nice texture and a wonderful color. So I bought a pad to try. The paper is made by St Armand and called the CANAL Montreal. My first attempt with the paper wasn’t impressive. It was VERY absorbent. But since I’m stubborn I didn’t give up. My persistence paid off. I had to dig deep and discover what the paper liked. I ended up loving the creative stimulation and a new approach. I’m curious and stubborn. 

A few things to keep in mind when working on a tinted surface…your colors will look different, especially if you are using transparent watercolor. The paint will be influenced by the tint/tone of the paper. 

Mi-Teintes, Sharpie Extra Fine
Since the paper is tinted/toned you won’t have any whites. White isn’t always necessary. But when I want to add a highlight or sparkle I have two techniques. White gouache-I keep gouache a small lip gloss container (screw on lid) in my sketch bag. I don’t keep it on my palette as it dries quickly and becomes useless. White marker/pen. Recently I found the White Pitt by Faber-Castell. It’s a water base marker you don’t have to shake. The tip is chunky and the white really covers well. For fine lines I use the Sharpie, Water Based, Extra Fine.

Canal Montreal Paper
 Pitt Marker in sky and road
 Sharpie Extra Fine for 
I imagine a few folks are raising their brows when they read, white paint! I’ve heard people say,“white is cheating”. If you are entering a transparent watercolor show…it’s cheating. There’s only two transparent societies in America today, Watercolor West and Transparent Watercolor Society of America. All other watercolor shows allow white (along with pastel, acrylic, collage, ink…). Purely transparent painters have a unique skill and their paintings deserve a show of their own. I am a signature member of Watercolor West. I’d say 90% of my paintings and sketches are transparent watercolor. The other 10% I break the rules. If white was good enough for Sargent, Homer, Turner…it’s good enough for me.

I’ve included links to the supplies if I know them. If you don’t see a link you’ll have to do a little research on your own. It's worth noting I take the tinted papers and use them in the sketchbooks I make. Details here

Mi-Teintes, Pitt White Marker

Canson Mi-Teintes Pad with a nice assortment of colors: Buff, Champagne, Light Blue, Moonstone, Steel Grey and white. 

St Armand, CANAL Montreal: I found this paper at the Artisian Art Supply in Santa Fe.

Sharpie, Water Based, Extra Fine

Hope you have a great get out and do something creative!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Part 5 A Friend for Boone

Handsome Boy
I left off at...Come out, come out wherever you are!
I was in Santa Fe teaching a workshop. Everyday I called home. This time I could tell something was going on. Mike said, he was worried about Boone being lonely. So what did he do? He went to our veterinary office (TLC Animal Clinic) and asked if they had a kitten that needed a home. As it turned out they had a young male kitten the same age as Boone. The clinic received this kitten three months ago and…he was feral! While living at the at the clinic he became acquainted with people and being touched. He spent 3 months in a cage. I know that sounds sad but before the clinic stepped in he has going to be euthanized. Now they felt he was tame enough to be placed in a home. 

Mike brought him home. I asked him how it went? Mike said, he cried the entire way and darted under the bed. He hasn’t come out yet. 

Best of Friends!
When I returned home from Santa Fe my first impression of him wasn't the best. I'm accustom to picking up our cats but every time I picked him up I was left with scratches down my arms. He was very skittish and had a wild streak. I had to change my approach with this kitten or I was going to have a problem. I had to remember how far he had come from being feral and give him enough space to feel safe. I spent a lot of time coaxing him with toys and treats…he began to settle in. After a few days I decided to name him. I called him, Lync. Why you ask? The little guy is taunt like in wild lynx cat. And he is part of a bigger chain of cats that have come through our home. So far we have rescued 16.

Watching Boone inner act with Lync was…surprising. At first I thought he was just being a spoiled brat. He wouldn’t share toys, pounced on Lync constantly and even attacked! Poor Lync had no clue what was going on. I was getting worried about leaving them alone…not good. As it turned out, our spending extra time with Lync, to help him adjust had made Boone jealous.  Once we figured it out, peace was restored in our house.

The good news…In time Lync settled down. He fills safe, happy, playful...He still doesn’t like to be picked up. I’m okay with that. Lync has an athletic streak and loves to jump and twist in the air, a sweet personality, like to chase toys, back rubs, play in the sink…and eats like a horse! Boone loves his friend, too! 
A short video of the boys at play. Boone is a couple months older now and less bossy. You can see how he wanted to be the center of attention! Today they are the best of friends!

If you’ve missed earlier parts of this story please read:

Next week I'll be sharing a fun and creative post on sketching!

Happy Sketching!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Watercolor Artist Magazine

Double Page Opener

Forgive me for a shameless plug BUT I'm so excited I have to share. I'm featured in the current issue of Watercolor Artist magazine! A full 8 pages!!! Can you feel the ground shake? No, it's not a earthquake. It's me jumping up and down with joy!

Not only is the artwork mine but I also wrote the article. So it's a double winner. Most of my life I've felt very inadequate when it came to writing. Since I've begun to share my artwork and writing with you (my blog followers) it has helped me to build confidence. I'm far from a fast writer (probably takes me twice as long) but now I can get my thoughts into words. Thank you for being encouraging followers and cheerleaders along the way.

Would you like a copy of  Watercolor Artist magazine August issue? Here's a link: Watercolor Artist

Happy Sketching!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sketching with a Stabilo Pen

I like to use a lot of different drawing tools: pencils, pens, fountain pens, markers, bamboo reed pens and more. Using one tool or technique for too long begins to feel like a creative rut. When I switch out my drawing tools my work feels more spontaneous and fresh. 

So what have I been up to lately? Stabilo Pens! One of the really great things about these pens is the way the ink responds to water. The ink is “soluble” which means it moves with a wet brush. BUT there’s more! Once the ink dries the ink is fixed. What does “fixed” mean? It won’t move any more. So why is this so great? The pen is great for drawing and I can also establish my shadows with a damp brush before I begin to paint. Once I establish the light and shadows the majority of work is done and the painting portion comes easier.

It’s worth noting if you look through my artwork you’ll notice the effects of light and the presence of shadows is really important to me. More often than not it’s the effect of light and shadows pattern that excited me to sketch or paint a subject.

For this demo I used the Stabilo point 88, color 45. The pen comes in a huge range of colors. I made a few samples to show how much the line moves when wet. 

This demo was was done on location at Pasadena City Hall. It's a beautiful location with a variety of views and ample shade. I sat in the court yard. 

(1) Pen drawing
(1) I drew directly on Saunders 140lb watercolor paper with the Stabilo pen. I didn't do any preliminary drawing with a pencil.  You'll notice an "X" in all four corners. This is to remind me not to paint into the corners. Why? Because I was doing a vignette. You can learn more about vignettes by clicking on the highlighted text. I was careful to pay attention to the shadows and the shapes they created on the building. I stated the shadows with additional lines. 

(2) Dissolved line with water
(2) I used a brush dipped in clean water to dissolve the ink and define the shadows. You'll noticed how much darker the ink became when wet. The reddish-brown really came through!

(3) I made sure let the dissolved Stabilo ink was completely dry and the ink was fixed. Now I was ready to paint. This step of went rather quickly. All the preliminary work was done and now I got to have fun putting paint down.

(3) Painted
The Stabilo 88 pens are readily available. Take a look on line and you'll find lots of places that sell them. Pick up a few colors and start playing. 

I like to start with something simple when exploring  a new technique or tool. Below is a pen and bottle of ink using the same technique but this time I used the green color 63. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

~Happy Sketching!

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Boone Part 4, There's No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home!

The journey that began 8 days earlier and covered 2400 miles was finally over…we
were home!  It was time to get Boone acquainted with his new home. There was one problem though (actually two). We had two other kitties at home and they were not eager to welcome a new family member. Our concern was magnified by his lack of fear and limited vision. We decided to keep him upstairs and separated from Joy & Zion. He had come a long ways in 8 days but he still had a respiratory infection, ear problems…

Once we got settled it was time for him to get a check-up with our veterinarian at TLC Animal Clinic and Hospital. We were eager to hear how he was recovering. To our relief no more respiratory infection, dehydration, ear mites and his foot had healed and good weight gain. He was still struggling with a yeast infection in both ears that required more medications! 

He was becoming a healthy young male kitten (7 months old) and needed to be neutered. The vet recommended we have his blind eye removed at the same time. We had become accustom to Boone’s blind eye…but remove it?! The surgery would bring additional pain and trauma to his young life. When we first found Boone the eye was partially closed, weeping and irritated. We thought it looked pretty good now. She seemed to think it cause him irritation and asked us to give it some serious thought. 

We returned to the clinic with Boone two weeks later. Mike and I remained firm in our decision DO NOT remove the eye!  While he was under anesthesia to be neutered they found an abscess on his chin that required a drain. He came home that evening groggy, confused, sore, with a drain in his chin…and two eyes.

All the while life was moving forward. I was going to my STUDIO each day, Mike was working in the yard or the garage. Boone loved to be around people. He was acting more and more like a healthy young kitten, full of energy and eager to play. His favorite game was fetch. We would toss paper balls and he would carry them back to us again and again and again. Every chance we got we’d go upstairs to visit, play, brush, feed…just to keep him company. He just wanted to be near us.

A couple weeks later I had a workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mike was going to join me for a few days so I got a sitter to watch over our home, water the yard, care for our kitties and wild birds in our backyard. Mike loves to feed birds of every kind: finches, sparrows, mourning doves, hummingbirds… We enjoyed a few days in Santa Fe checking out Canyon Road, restaurants and galleries… before long it was time for him to fly home and for me to get ready for my workshops. 

Waiting at the top of the stairs
During my two weeks in Santa Fe we would talk on the phone at the end of each day. I would tell him about my students, where we painted and sights. He would tell be about home, family and kitties. About a week into my trip Mike says to me, “At 2am it came to me…Boone needs a friend”.  I said, what?  I come to find out Mike woke up in the middle of the night thinking about Boone. So far, our hopes of getting the downstairs kitties and Boone together hadn’t materialized and now Mike was worried about Boone being lonely. So what did he do? He went to the TLC Animal Clinic and asked about the kittens that needed to be adopted. As it turned out they had a young male kitten the same age as Boone and in need of a home. Before the vet intervened he was slated to be euthanized. When they took him in he was 3 months old and feral. After living at the vets office for 4 months and being around people he was tame enough to be placed in a home. I asked, did you bring him home? Mike said, yes. I asked how’s it going? Mike said, he hasn’t come out from under the bed yet. 

...Stay tuned for Part 5: A Friend for Boone

If you missed any of Boone's story you can read more here:
Part 1: Becoming Boone
Part 2: Bring Him Home 
Part 3: The Long Road Home

A video of Boone playing fetch. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I possess something that’s priceless. Not everybody has it and it can’t be found in books or downloaded from the web…it’s IMAGINATION. Knowing that I have it isn’t enough. Imagination can be a fickle thing. If I don’t take care of it, it will wither. I must nurture it, feed it, stimulate and exercised it or like any muscle it becomes weak. I also know technology robs me of it (cell phones, computer, T.V…). During Lent I abstained from technology during the day (12pm-5pm). I am amazed how much my artwork has flourished during these weeks!

I wasn’t much of a student when I was in school. In fact I would have rather been anywhere else besides a classroom. Why? School was hard for me. My sisters did great in school. They did their homework, took tests and got good grades. They made it look so easy! I did my homework, freaked out during tests and got dismal grades. I was trying! Some nights I’d spend hours upon hours studying, memorizing…with no improved results. Eventually I came to the conclusion I lacked intelligence which made me feel ashamed. 

I wish I knew then, what I know now. I’m not dumb (far from it). But I do learn differently. I’ve made allowances for my way of learning. I am a visual learner which means I need to see things repeatedly, read aloud and write things down. The very thing that was my downfall in school is my strength today. I’m a visual person. I see things that most people miss and I also see how they could be different. 

1. White pen on gray paper...
In my studio I live in the world of what ifs? I like to imagine different ways of sketching and painting light. I am always pushing the boundaries of what I know. My experiments may fail but they may also succeed. The excitement of pursuing what I don’t fully understand is stimulating! The presence of light is the most elusive and exciting subject I know. I’m always looking for ways to interpret it. 

1. continued by painting on the gray paper.
Example 1:  
I used a gray pastel paper by Canson called Mi-Teintes. Working on a toned paper I have no whites so I used a white marker for the whites. The marker is a Faber-Castell, Pitt White 101. Now don’t go getting all purest on me here and say white is a NO, NO! I’m exploring here…NO RULES. I am not worrying about a transparent watercolor show.

The next step I used watercolor. The marker was watercolor proof so it didn't bleed when paint touched the edges. 

Example 2: Negative Painting
Example 2:
Here is a painting I did using the technique of negative painting. I painted
around the lights without using any kind of resist, masking fluid or tapes to save the lights. You can read earlier posts on negative painting here. I used a limited palette of  Quinacridone Burnt Orange, French Ultramarine, Raw Sienna Light and Lunar Black, by Daniel Smith Watercolors.

A few years after Mike and I we’re married he made a comment about how smart I was. At first I thought he was joking…but he meant it. He was the smartest person I knew and I trusted him. It took me a while to fully understand the depth of what he meant. I possess imagination.  

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”. ~Albert Einstein

Happy Painting!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Boone Part #3, The Long Road Home

I am a native Californian born and raised. I have traveled a lot teaching workshops in the U.S. and overseas but I have never driven across America! On the other hand my husband Mike has seen much of America on a motorcycle. The journey that started in Boone North Carolina would now take us to Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and bring us home to California. We would be traveling 2,400+ miles is 5 days.

We traded in our compact car for something more comfortable. Next stop? Pick up supplies for the trip. Water and snacks for us.  Boone’s shopping list was longer: 
Ice chest (Boone’s 3 medications: antibiotics, eye ointment, pills)
Cat food (wet & dry)
Kitty litter (plastic bag for waste)
Towel (to cover back seat)
Wet cloths (for messes)
Kitty bed
Cat Carrier (to carry Boone in hotels)
Hair brush
…and more toys!

I would be riding shotgun with Boone on my lap (or he’d be napping in the backseat). Mike would be at the wheel pointing us towards home.

Boone Riding Shotgun on my Lap
The 1st Day, we covered a lot of miles from Tennessee to Arkansas. Boone was a great traveling companion. He didn't get excited at all, in fact he slept most of the day.  During our rest stops he’d get his medication and eat. He was beginning to feel more energetic which created its own problem. At night he wanted to jump and play with us. He had a laceration on his back foot in one of the soft pads. The paw kept bleeding. We had to clean the wound every time he got in the litter box.

Waiting Out the Storm
Day 2, was more exciting. Our destination was Oklahoma. Our plan was to get to the North-West corner of the state before a big storm hit. The last couple hours the sky changed drastically. We arrived at the hotel just before the storm hit. We carried in our suitcases, Boone and his litter box. Mike and I decided to eat dinner at a tiny café across the street. As we were eating the winds we're blowing so hard the windows were shaking and it was raining hard. I said something to the waitress and she said you haven't
seen anything yet…the worst of the storm will be here in about 10 minutes. Since we had finished dinner and had a long wait before we could leave we ordered dessert. The storm provided quite a show. The wind was carrying the rain sideways beating against the windows, you could feel the air pressure building, lightening lit up the sky, the wind blew construction signs down the street, people were running into the building to get out of the storm and the road was flooded. I could barely see our hotel through the rain. I had a frightening thought…it this a tornado?!  All I could think about was our safety and the kitten we left across the street. Did we come this far for this? Thankfully the storm never built enough strength to become a tornado! 

Tired Little Traveler
Day 3, Destination Santa Fe, New Mexico! Up to this point we didn't have any problem finding a pet friendly hotel. But today was different. I spent hours on my phone looking for a hotel that would except Boone and still be a place I would stay in. I was starting to feel disheartened and ready to give up hopes of staying the night in my favorite town. To my delight I found the perfect place…The Inn on Alameda. They were pet friendly, beautifully decorated, clean, perfectly located, wonderful breakfast buffet and they even had pet food bowls in the room. Once we got Boone settled we went for a walk to stretch our legs. We headed over to the plaza, looked inside a couple galleries and found out it was the biggest art week of the year! All the galleries were open late, many of the artists’ represented were at the galleries and lots of art receptions going on. I spent the night in artist’s heaven! 
Day 4, Today is my birthday! What could be more wonderful than waking up with a soft kitten, a hot cup of coffee and a relaxing breakfast with Mike? We strolled up Canyon Road and I sketched before it was time to hit the road…again. We left Santa Fe and headed for Flagstaff, Arizona. After 8 hours of driving we checked into another hotel, carried in Boone and all his paraphernalia (food, litter box, cat bed, ice chest…). My sister and husband live in Flagstaff so I had the joy of having dinner and birthday cake with family.

Day 5, California here we come!
”If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans”. Just over a week ago I had different plans. Little did I know that a tiny kitten with a heart as big as Texas and a purr as loud as thunder would create a detour in my life. 

By night fall we were home. No more gas stations, rest stops, restaurants, hotels or driving. Tonight Boone would rest and tomorrow he would explore his first home.

What have I learned?
It all came down to choices. Boone made the first choice to seek help. It was risky for a fragile, partially blind, sick kitten to leave his shelter. But he crawled out from under the trailer in the parking lot and ran to Mike and poured out affection and purrs on Mike’s ankle in a desperate attempt. He begged to be touched, for someone to care…to be wanted.  We made the choice not to turn away. We sought help for him locally and when they turned us away the choice rested with us. 

The decision to take on this kitten was filled with unknowns.  Little did we know how much it would require of us! Was he a burden or hardship? Past experiences has taught me a lot... hardship isn’t a bad thing…quite the opposite. Something happened in my heart as we drove across the country. For the first time in a couple years Mike and I were working together for something or someone else. Boone gave us a common purpose…to love without expectation, to care without a return, to love without knowing an outcome…to be still and quiet together. Mike and I needed this time together. Boone wasn't a burden, he was the gift!


If you missed earlier posts you can read the story here:
Part #1 Becoming Boone
Part #2 Bring Him Home
Part #3 The Long Road Home (this post)
Part #4...more to come!