A Single Tree


acrylics and collage on gesso textured w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Years ago I bought some Golden brand Micaceous Iron Oxide fluid acrylic because I loved how it imitated the effect of a rock surface with its gritty gray mica surface.  But recently I was shown Chris Cozen’s book Acrylic Solutions where she gives recipes for mixing acrylics to make “patina” colors.

Patina.  The metallic look, the subtle light catching sparkle, the appearance of aged, worn shiny surfaces.  I learned that if you have a gold acrylic and micaceous iron oxide you have the ingredients to make all your acrylics do the patina thing by mixing them with these paints.  Silver and copper also make great mixtures with the other acrylic colors.

In my workshops we’ve had exciting results with patina experiments.  We made color charts to keep track of the mixtures.  I’m going to share a couple of them here, (even though they weren’t made for the purpose of sharing online) just to help you get the idea.  Hopefully if you like this, you can discover your own patina mixtures!



I particularly like the warm “neutrals” like Micaceous Iron Oxide, Iridescent Gold Deep and Transparent Red Iron Oxide.


A Tribal Sketch-capade


Fountain pen and watercolor on hot press w/c sketchbook 8″ X 10″ (full spread)

(The above sketch was done after the event at home from some of my pictures.)

Once a year our local Sebastopol Community Center takes on the appearance of a Turkish Bazaar with tents and exotic costumed dancers for six days of non stop performance and tribal dance workshops.  We spent a day, mouths agape, sketching dancers in motion. By motion I am referring to the often independent movement of body parts and muscle groupings which we know as belly dancing. Add on a helping of Goth and Heavy Metal and exotic dancer and around-the-world native touches and you have jaw dropping entertainment.

As each act came on stage I madly took pictures with my cell phone for a minute, then sketched like crazy during the remaining 10 minutes allowed for each act on stage. To sketch this kind of constant motion it’s necessary to take “memory” snapshots of the movements you want to capture and then hope the dancer repeats the same movement A LOT!


Fountain pen with Noodlers Golden Brown ink on soft sketch paper

I had filled (used up) all my sketchbooks and was in a bit of a pickle as I loaded up supplies for the day.  Pulling a sheet of what I thought was HP watercolor paper out of the drawer, I made some signature packs, thinking later to make them into a sketchbook.  As soon as the pen hit the paper though, I realized it was some un-sized, blotter-like paper where the ink settles in quickly!

Belly dancers are all about that liquid undulation which I was going for here.  Good thing I left the dancer’s head off here, since there was no time for it!


This dancer from Brazil carried the exotic fragrance of the rainforest in her dance.


There’s something paradoxical about trying to sketch movement, of going from the 4 dimensional world of 3-D space plus time, to a 2-dimensional flat surface.  But one has to try.


 Finally, such a relief to be able to sketch a (more stationary) musician and a male person at that!


Going for pure undulation here, without the details of the gorgeous, tinkly costumes.


pencil, fountain pen, w/c in Arches Travel Book 6X10″

I had brought along an old, partially full sketchbook of the sort I used to like with CP (textured) watercolor paper.  The pen doesn’t flow as well on this surface, which is why I have now switched to smoother paper.  But this paper does LOVE the watercolor paint!  These last three images were sketched during the 10 minute performance, starting with a 60 second pencil drawing, moving to pen, and then later painted at home, using the pictures taken as reference.  The above dancer was one of my favorites.  She was not young or beautiful or endowed with a trim and muscular body, but she expressed herself through her dance with an irresistible blend of fierceness and originality,




Workshop Update

Screen shot 2015-05-13 at 3.33.46 PM

For more information and to register visit my website.


Some of the paper textures we’ll be using in the June 6th workshop.


Big Head Selfie


fountain pen with Noodlers Golden Brown ink and watercolor in Strathmore sketchbook, 8 X 5″

Something about the whole Selfie craze rubs me the wrong way, but I was really wanting to try another of Lapin’s Big Head (little body) portraits as assigned in the latest Sketchbook Skool Kourse.  And I’d already asked my husband to pose for me, and he’s the only one at home now, so . . .it was Selfie time.  This is why you see so many artist self portraits.  They do it out of desperation when there’s no one else around to draw!

So while still in my pajamas i went out to my studio and took a picture in Photo Booth and did a quick sketch with color from the monitor.

I think it looks like me (when I’m smiling without my teeth showing, which is rarely and only because I don’t want to have to draw teeth!) When I showed it to my husband, he said, “Interesting, but it doesn’t look anything like you.”  which is something to ponder.  The me that he sees apparently bears no resemblance to the one I see.  But hopefully it is more beautiful?!


Festival of Feathers


fountain pen with Noodler’s Golden Brown ink, watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, (9.5×7.5″)

We joined the crowds at the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center’s annual Festival of Feathers on Saturday to practice more standing and sketching  (in a jostling crowd).  Most of the birds were relatively good posers (except for the raven) and there’s just nothing like coming up eyeball to eyeball with these elegant wild creatures. We lasted about an hour and a half and then were so exhausted we had to stop.  The sketches were done on site, the painting afterwards.


Japanese bush pen with water soluble ink.

The raven was completely black, but that felt like it would be too much.  After “melting” the ink line to create volume I added just a touch or two of color.


Wowl is the poster child of the bird sanctuary and my absolute  favorite!



Searching for a Story to Sketch


nib pen and ink, Japanese brush pen, watercolor on 140 HP paper in handmade sketchbook 8X10″(spread)

On a recent sunny afternoon I went looking for some sketch stories in the park.  It wasn’t hard to capture individual people, but more difficult to get the family groups that were more active.


Sketching the line of people ordering at the bakery (while sipping coffee and eating butterscotch yum! pudding)


And then moving to the bench out front.


This older gentleman had a very heavy lumbering gait which I wanted to capture


Finally a story to record!  There was something in the posturing and weight shifting of the man and the way the woman was clutching the ice cream cup to her heart which suggested flirtation.  They seemed to be enjoying it enough that I actually had at least 5 min. to sketch it!


Noodlers Golden Brown ink with nib pen, sketched from a photo I took

Another day, visiting my mother in law at the nursing home.  I had picked her a rose in the garden and she was enjoying the warmth of the sun.  Later I sketched from the picture I took with my iPhone.




acrylic inks, image transfers on w/c paper, 10 X 11″


She’s downloading a map.  She’d hoped for a simpler one.  And then she got distracted and had to start over again. That has happened so many times in her life!  With all the detours along the way, it’s a wonder she’s found herself even this far along.


She may be here a while, lips pursed in concentration.  Hopefully she’ll discover there’s fun to be had where all pretense of solving life’s thorny questions has been abandoned.

I have tried a great many image transfer methods over the past few years, but I really love the “instant” transfer method using matte medium, which I learned from the Golden website.

I have a toner copy machine in my studio, so in my group we can copy any black and white image, either from a printed photograph, book, or printed off a free internet site.  For this piece I used a picture of myself mugging for the camera in Photo Booth (built into my computer) with the comic strip filter applied.  I cut out what I wanted from the picture, then printed out a children’s game board image from a free internet site for parents (found by Googling “Mazes”) and transferred both images together onto the painted surface.

It’s wasn’t a surprise to find that this piece seemed to illustrate some of the issues in the book I’m currently reading The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  Our brains are getting worked by our addiction to the Internet in new ways, both exciting and disturbing. As with most confusing life issues, my answer is Make Art of it.

In conversations with the Muse I mix paint with vision, collage with story, word with meditation and prayer. And out of the mixture comes a release of energy and healing and a lightening of the load of everyday living. You'll find most of it here, where I've been showing up for the past few years, along with collectible paintings, travel sketchbooks, figure studies and an invitation to join me in art play and discovery!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

My Website and Workshops

Check out my book!

The Art Journal As ...
By Susan Cornelis


All images and text are the original copyrighted work of Susan Cornelis unless otherwise attributed.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 258 other followers