There’s more to sight than eyes

I thought I was just being playful with this one, picking up an old class demo of a kind of ink drip creature. And then, no kidding, it started to talk to me about something I needed to hear!


I can see you sitting there, thinking about your eyes, one clear and one struggling to see through spots and threads and the murky patch.

Look me in the eye and repeat after me: I can see just fine. This cage of one eye is translucent and does not a prison make. I have three eyes to take the place of the one

and the world keeps opening.

Drip creatures tend to be a combination of many species and so they exist outside the realm of waking mind where we have convinced ourselves that things are a certain way that we can explain.

Yes, my left eye has a retinal occlusion for which there is treatment. . . of sorts, and yes I must be reminded not to worry, but to notice all the ways my other senses and brain fill in the blanks, giving me for the most part decent sight. I won’t soon forget this colorful and bizarre image, like something right out of a dream, or perhaps a prayer.

Glendi International Food Fair

I used to avoid summer festivals, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the crush of people, the hot sun, loud music, parking challenges, unreliable food offerings etc. But when I tell myself it’s another “sketch venture” somehow it all works.

So I arrive at the Glendi Festival in Santa Rosa thinking I’m there just to sketch and five hours later leave with a handful of sketches and a wealth of experience I won’t soon forget!


Lamy Joy fountain pen and watercolor in 8X8″ w/c sketchbook

My friend Lynn had prepared me to be ready to eat and dance and enjoy the music. The food booths serving Greek, Russian, Eritrean, Middle Eastern, Balkan and Jerusalem taste treats, the tables heaped with baked delicacies from all these places. . .ahhh!


After a while I overcome my shyness just a bit to get out and try the Greek line dancing, faking the steps, which are slow enough but deceptively tricky to a newcomer. So I just hang on to the folks next to me, keep moving and hope no one minds. It’s a friendly family crowd of all ages.


Back to sketching, I’m having trouble tracking the now Eritrean dancers’ constant movement, so I settle on a very quick sketch of a pair sitting next to me engrossed in watching.


in Holbein Multi-Drawing Book, 6 X 7″

Then I head into the church, which is elaborately adorned with colorful iconography, to hear a male choir singing hymns from the Baltic region in a variety of languages.

glendi6And then for yet another treat of the day, the monk who is the resident artist creating the newly frescoed walls depicting the events of the new testament, leads a tour of the church. His discourse encompasses everything from the history of the church, the iconography, the ritual and symbolism, to the chemistry involved in painting frescoes. He shows the ground pigments and the binders and shares the laborious and devotional practice of creation which involves round the clock labor for each section of the fresco.


Small wonder that Fr. Doolan himself bore some resemblance to the traditional iconography he had painted.

Most of these were sketched while standing and painted on site while sitting. The last one of Fr. Doolan was done at home from a picture I took. I’m trying to be accepting of the shaky line which comes with trying to balance the sketchbook in one hand and not being able to anchor the other. Probably just takes practice! But then there’s the energy of the active line which is perhaps lost with greater stability.

What is your solution for sketching while standing? Any ideas?

Drawing with Sticks

The Monday Muse Group started a new session this week with ink play using sticks carved from drift wood I collected on the beach last week.

youarethetruthHiggens Black India and acrylic inks and gesso on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

You are the. . .bomb. the explosion, the fire and the flame

You are the river that quenches, the tide pools and eddies, the cascades and falls

You are the turns and bends, the back and forth.

Quit looking elsewhere. it’s all here.

You are the bearer of the truth in layers folded in one upon another

You burn and in the burning cool.


There is one spot open in the Monday Afternoon Muse Group if you would like to drop in and give it a try! Visit my website for more info and to email me.

The Classics

At the invitation of Richard Sheppard and his monthly sketch group I headed up to Cloverdale for the Annual Car and Motorcycle Show.  It was a bit like how I felt attending a Tattoo festival last year. I mean, out of my element. I wouldn’t really know how to converse with one of these classic car owners with any kind of knowledge. (I drive a 2006 Prius whose computer does all the thinking for me)

carshowLamy Joy fountain pen and w/c in (full spread) 8X8″ sketchbook

It was such a riot of color with these classics taking over the main street of town, spit polished and neon colored in the blinding midday sunshine. I walked until I found a super sleek and classically lined car with a spot in the shade for me to set up my little stool. Simple, all black. Ha!

Two tries and I started to get the shapes down and was feeling proud. . .until I realized that black is the hardest color to paint, especially when time is an element and it is reflecting light off every surface – the green of trees above, the red of cars across.

Meanwhile the owner turned out to be well known and an award winning car show personage so I got to listen to all kinds of car talk as others arrived and as he periodically brushed some infinitesimal dust mote off the surface.

It wasn’t til I got home that I realized that my sketch had robbed his beloved 1940 Ford Deluxe of it smooth luster. He was gracious and forgiving, a kind host to my intrusion.


Next I decided to go for color, which I thought might be easier, once my eyes got used to the bright glare. The music at this spot matched the Cougar in the foreground and I started to feel like perhaps I was in my element after all. I knew all the songs by heart!

Old Courthouse Square

I am embarrassed to admit that I never paid much attention to Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa.  I assumed that the Empire Building, since it is the most stately of buildings in the square, was the courthouse.  But of course the old courthouse came down in the 1960’s and now the lovely Empire Building, formerly a bank, is the home to legal offices. The name however remains.



Lamy Joy fountain pen, Inktense pencils, and watercolor in 8X8″ w/c sketchbook

This is a sketch subject that previously would not have interested me. I mean basically there’s a lot of dirt, fencing, tractors, wire, plastic netting and building with lots of windows. But. . .


I wanted to come back when the workmen were out and the claws of the diggers were moving, and practice sketching a foreground, middleground and background and tell the story of transformation over time.

And now I’m finding tractors and pipes and even piles of dirt to be totally fascinating.  And the orange posts and neon jackets. . .and it’s all so real and engaging! So I’ll definitely be coming back. Next I need to try to get up in one of the buildings to get more of a bird’s eye view.  Any suggestions?

There’s Always a Way

There’s always a way. . .


ink, gesso, watercolor pencils on 10 X 10″ w/c paper

there is always a way around or through or behind

a zig and a zag to sidestep an enemy

pointers to show you the way

but look for their subtle shapes

follow them through narrow spaces

make yourself ever so small and silent and inconspicuous

there are clouds to hide in until the landscape clears enough for a bold new direction.

there is always a way

I am a champion of intuitive thinking and decision making, a Piscean, always willing to float in murky waters, swim in different directions, hanging out until an answer presents itself and feels right.

Sometimes of course this is very frustrating. I admire those who seem to know who they are, make well considered plans and carry them out successfully, especially artists who set a direction for their art and stick to it, at least for a while. I am always a bit surprised at my own successes and reluctant to take any personal credit because they seem too external.

The real delight for me is to see what happened on the paper or canvas when I was just busy trying to get the right color on my brush. Ironic then, that I would find myself in the teacher role. But I am willing to jump into the murky waters with other artists and see what shared revelations may occur. That’s what my Artful Muse courses are about, along with lots of mixed media materials and technique fun.

A new Monday Muse Group starts September 12 and there are a couple spots open at this point if you’re interested in joining. In the October 8 and November 12 mini-workshops we’ll be continuing the exploration of the Japanese esthetic Wabi Sabi.


On October 8 the focus will be finding natural ways to apply inks, graphite and charcoal to paper, making marks with sticks and more.


On November 12 we’ll be exploring natural textures and paper overlays. For more information about all my courses visit my website and contact me with any questions!