Squirrel Acrobatics

watercolor, fountain pen and white gel pen in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Ever since I took away the squirrel and bunny picnic table feeder (it was attracting raccoons) my squirrel friends have become even more adept at bird feeder acrobatics. So I thought I’d try to capture the action. Not easy! but lots of fun to try. Can you imagine going through all that leaping and swinging and eating while hanging upside down, just to get a few seeds? It makes me dizzy to watch.

The bunny action here is ramping up too with lots of cottontails bouncing around the garden. I caught one getting through an opening in the fence around the vegetable garden and chased him around the beds til he stopped and took a nibble while looking me boldly in the eye. I felt as foolish as the Mr McGregor character in the Beatrix Potter books.

Demo at Jubilee

I was invited by some new friends to do a demo at the meeting of the Jubilee Art Club last week. They had a beautiful set up with space for social distancing and an overhead mirror so that everyone could see. I knew they were a group of mostly experienced artists who would appreciate the focus on creative process and expressive painting, so I shared my experience with the Muse Groups.

I brought my inks and gesso and demo-ed that fun way to short circuit the left-brain thinking mind by squirting inks and gesso onto wet shapes and moving them around with a scraper, a roller and fingers. The results always lead to a group hallucination which is a hoot and makes people realize that art making can be fun and profound at the same time!

inks and gesso on w/c paper

You’re invited to the Jubilee you know.

Your presence is requested.

So wear your finest top hat.

Come roaring up in a race car

Or astride a steed with matching hat.

This party requires your presence

Inaugurates your next fifty years (more or less)

So no regrets to the host.

Take a nap, eat a hearty meal

Get yourself tanked up and ready.

Because this ship will be leaving and

You must be on it.

Preparations are arranged.

Destination will be discovered.


Your presence is required.


Saigon in Olympia

Sailor Fude fountain pen, black liner, and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

It was a last minute out-the-door call from Jane OlySketcher to sketch downtown. How could I resist? She has a great eye for sketch angles. And Saigon in Olympia? Well, we have a bit of every cultural accent in town. As you can see we are still dressing for the chill. Not unlike San Francisco actually, where you better have a warm hat and jacket even in the middle of summer.

So here is Jane in her down vest, clutching her hot coffee, with pens erupting from pockets on the sidewalk. I found a spot in the street behind a parked car, and soon we were meeting some young Asian men who happened by. One of them works at the Rendezvous restaurant . Another was a fine artist in his own right who showed us his sketchbook. So it was an hour well spent!  

Birding and sketching: Scatter Creek Wildlife Rec. Area

watercolor, gouache and gel pen in beige toned sketchbook

Memorial Day didn’t look like it was going to be a good barbeque day with rain forecast as it is every day here in the northwest, but it was great for birding! The choruses of birdsong were particularly symphonic in this open prairie land carpeted with wildflowers, grasses and gorgeous invasive Scotch Broom bushes. While the experienced birders identified the birds by their unique songs and often found them with binoculars, sharing them with us all, I also stumbled along the trail with eyes on the wildflowers and ears enjoying the songs in happy ignorance.

Our leader Kathleen bore the high powered scope and tripod on her back and seemed to know when to set it up. So we got to see Cowbirds copulating in a tree some distance away! The Tanager above was so striking in color that we could follow its movements in and out of the foliage, rarely seeing the whole bird at once. But that much was surprisingly satisfying.

So yesterday I returned with sketchers Jane and Ineke to enjoy the walk, the colors, the rapidly changing skies and to plant ourselves among the grasses, now grown about 2 feet in one week’s time, to sketch.

direct watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

Plunging right in with watercolor

I’ve discovered that this new sketchbook (hand.book journal co. 90# w/c paper), a lighter version of the last one I was using (also hand.book with 140# w/c paper) This lighter one handles wet watercolor very poorly, probably not the best for direct watercolor painting. So, I’ll be going back to 140# 100% cotton paper when I want to paint skies like these!

Same problem here resulting in sky, tree and puddle muddle. Blame it on the paper, haha! But while I was painting I was thinking, “I should come out here every day to paint in this place!”

So I’ll end on this note. Just get out and do it, and enjoy the process. Don’t you just love the feeling of paint coming off your brush!?

Tulip Festival!

my favorite tulip! ink and watercolor in Travelogue sketchbook

It was a fierce competition between the sky and tulip drama in Skagit County, WA last week! I’d been watching the weather forecast for a week, hoping the rain would not drown the tulips, or Janet and I, as we finally launched our three day road trip to the north coastal section of Washington. . .

snow capped Cascades in the distance

and arrived at Roozen Gaarde to glorious peak display and no rain! Instantly I knew I would not take the time to sit down to sketch these impossibly color saturated and magnificently designed flower displays, so I joined the throngs of every-man photographers. I’ll share some here, taken with my iPhone (forgive the crooked horizons!) If you’re a painter/designer/illustrator you may appreciate the color combos. And if you’re a figurative artist you’ll enjoy the people sprinkled throughout, some of them dressed for picture posing! And photographers will note that the reds and hot pinks are seriously “out of gamut!”

What garden have you ever seen where all the blooms are standing up straight like so many soldiers and with no gaps between rows?! 

. . .and no yellow leaves or spent blooms?!

Every year Roozen Gaarde digs up all the gazillion bulbs and replants them in new designs for the next season.

One gets a bit drunk on color after a while and the horizon starts to tip, haha!

Washington Park, Anacortes, across the sound from the San Juan Islands

We cleared our palate the next two days with a visit to nearby La Conner, WA to enjoy the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum and Museum of Northwest Art

I’ve dreamed for a long time of a trip to the San Juan Islands off the coast, and here in Anacortes we got a good glimpse in Washington Park. Some time this summer maybe?

A Cascade of Portraits

fountain pen, watercolor, white gouache in beige toned Nova sketchbook

Time to catch up on posting portraits from the past couple months. It’s my way of archiving and maybe getting ideas for new directions or more practice on old. All of these portrait subjects are from the Sktchy Museum free access archives. Many thanks to the folks who offered these great poses!

Here we go! This fellow above has the kind of face just made for portrait artists! Life experience chiseled into every dip and turn of the physiognomy.

I’m beefing it up here with lots of watercolor texture, splatters, wet crawl-backs and the stuff watercolor loves to do, if you let it.

fountain pen and gouache on w/c paper

As always though, bouncing back and forth between the quick-and-simple to “clear the palette” after getting so detailed.

Started this one with a fine liner pen, adding w/c textures in layers.

fountain pen, w/c, white gouache, white gel pen on beige toned paper

Can you tell that my main interest here became this fellow’s black hair and beard, the texture and color – blues and indigos. I never got back to finishing the rest in similar detail. Best to stop while ahead.

pencil, w/c and white gouache on beige toned paper

It’s really about the hard working hands here. What is she doing with this lapful of herbs? I imagine the simple hard working life of my ancestors. Rising before dawn, in bed by nightfall, and all those hours with no screens to lure the mind away from the tasks of the moment. . .like sorting herbs.

brown and blue de’Atramentis Document Inks and white gouache on beige toned paper

I wanted to try out my the new colored inks I bought for my fountain pen sketching, and ended up using them in dilutions as paint as well, and even mixing them with white gouache for pastels. 

If you got this far, thanks for coming! Questions and comments welcomed.

A Day for the Gals

watercolor and white gouache in beige toned sketchbook

I’ve always been partial to redheads, and this duck lady is particularly stunning! Earlier this month I saw her on Gals Go Birding outing in a local spot. I figured it must be a male of the species because of the striking colors, but these birding gals really know their stuff. The interesting thing about that morning at Black Lake Meadows is that we saw no male ducks. Must have been a girls-only event like ours!

Welcome to My Studio

Yes, I’m moved in. After about five months of garage remodeling, this one bay in the garage has been converted to my art studio, complete with HVAC, sink, back garden-facing windows and door. We moved in all my furniture from the Sebastopol studio, along with birds’ nests and other objects of reverence and inspiration, so it quickly felt like home and that old Muse energy flowed in!

I’m imagining you coming to visit in person and make some art with me!

Now when it’s sunny (which is still not every day or even for many hours any day . . .yet) I think, “oh no! I guess I should get outside, but there’s so much I want to do in the studio!”

The sink is there in the back, and Andrew has offered to build me a counter and cabinet around it some time soon. I think I’ll put a bird feeder right outside the big windows so I can watch while painting.

Looking forward to opening the windows as soon as it’s warm enough!

A “gallery” wall with clips to hang the Muse pages and photograph new work.

A wall to hang paintings. . .and an extra table for when friends join me.

I won’t be teaching classes in the studio any more. It’s not big enough for that. But there’s plenty of space for dreaming up new art endeavors, and maybe even some teaching at community locations I haven’t explored yet. 

It’s so much to be grateful for. Most of all it’s a personal space for dreaming. And being a tried and true Piscean dreamer, there’s nothing better than that!

Meanwhile Bob is enjoying his studio, which is right next door to mine. He’s been busy with printmaking and other creative acts with papers! Check out his latest on Instagram

Dharma on a Boat

For weeks now I’ve had my eye on a colorful boat on dry dock at Swantown in Olympia. It has all the qualities a sketcher goes after – not just red (and every other)color, but shapeliness with all sorts of energetic edges and angles, assorted flags flying merrily in the breeze, and most of all, it literally vibrates with stories spanning many decades. 

I finally got over there last week on a sunny but cold and windy day. I’d heard the owner was himself a raconteur and hoped to meet him. Dorje is his name and he was generous with his stories as I stood in the cold hoping to last long enough for a sketch. The boat’s name is Dharma Kun Dunga (I believe) though there are no boats of its kind in mountainous Tibet. It’s oriental beginnings were sometime in the 1910’s and it had at some point been fished out of a sea where it had sunk.  (I was struggling to catch the fast moving story!) Dorje told me the boat had belonged to him for about 25 years and the murals were his own creation. He had the air of an art lover and swashbuckling seafarer, even while in dry dock. I couldn’t wait to sketch!

watercolor, dip pen and fine liner, posca pens, gouache in Canson Mix Media sketchbook 9 X 12″

Something about this fellow and his independent spirit loosened up my pen and paints and let me throw caution to the wind. The ink drawing happened on site, and the mixed media painting, at home in my studio once my fingers had thawed. The last thing was the black shadow which seems to reach out for more adventure – the boat’s and my own!