The Mountain is Moving


acrylic inks, gesso, collage, white Sharpie Paint pen on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

A strong wind blows, with gale force winds, a hurricane.

Roofs blow off, letting the sky seep in.

Is it disaster. . .or a new brand of freedom?

And have you noticed yet? 

There are no roots, no ground below.

Even the mountain is moving, sliding off into the water.

There is no map, no solid plan from here.

There is no script to follow,

Only the sound of banging shutters and moaning trees.


Toned Paper Sketching


fountain pen, brush pen, Sharpie Paint Pen (white), gouache in Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook

The recent lesson in Sketchbook Skool’s “Stretching” course was with Miguel Herranz, who does the most wonderful sketches on toned paper, so here are some stabs at that lesson.  The paper is meant for dry media but takes a light wash of watercolor or gouache  Gouache is better for this because it’s creamy and sits on top of the paper opaquely, (or at least could if I put enough on!)

This is a usual scene for me, eating breakfast in the car after Jazzercise.  Sitting behind the driver’s wheel however is not the best place to sketch – too cramped, but it was too chilly outside and the comfort of a cushioned seat and warmth won out!


On Saturday three of us lined up on a bench in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square to fill the page with whatever story unfolded before us.  This working on toned paper is challenging in all sorts of new ways.  Maybe by the time I work my way through this new sketchbook I’ll get the hang of it.  I like the way you have to make decisions about value and color based on design and making readable contrast, rather than matching what you see with “realistic” color.


What started out as an overcast morning, with not much happening except cars driving by, became a sunny day with lots of colorful activity, including a march against Monsanto, complete with marching band (which unfortunately was too late in the day to sketch on site). This is another spread which captures just a bit of it.


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

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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!


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!

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By Susan Cornelis


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


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