Workshops

Lakewold Gardens

pen and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

I finally got to join the Tacoma Urban Sketchers for a meet up at the lovely Lakewold Gardens on Gravelly Lake in Lakewood, a suburb of Tacoma, WA , actually only 35 minutes drive from my home. The grounds are spectacular with giant trees like the Copper Beech that you’d like to live in, formal gardens and meandering trails through the woods with views of the lake below. And more! 

Since I had already begun the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference, I was inspired to find a place to look closely and learn. This “pollinator house” drew me in with its shaded slots for nature materials, like a Home Depot for building supplies for bees and birds and mice and such. One stop shopping! As I sketched the contents I tried to imagine which creature would make a shelter here. 

It was situated under a leafy canopy whose branches partially blocked my view, so my interest was drawn to them. My Leaf Snap app identified the tree from the pink flowers: a Harlequin Glorybower! No wonder I was so attracted to the spot. I was in a Glorybower, entertained by a Harlequin. When I stood up I saw that I’d sat on a white star and then found the last of them, the ones that had not yet blown off, on the same tree. 

By the way, the Wild Wonder Nature Journal Conference is blowing my mind, and if you haven’t joined in, it’s not too late. The classes you missed were recorded and you can catch up at your own rate. Gotta go now. A challenge for today was to listen to the song [nature sounds] of the place where you are, and get that down in your journal. Sign the bird’s song back to it in order to learn it?

Salal

w/c pencils,ink, and watercolor in Etchr sketchbook

My friends at Jubilee retirement community invited me back to lead a nature journaling workshop last week. We met at their shaded pavilion next to the woodland trail that leads to the beach on Puget Sound. It was a welcome opportunity to meet up with other artists who are nature lovers and share the desire to make more art IN nature.

There’s always a barrier to sitting out alone sketching on a trail or anywhere else where you may feel exposed. So no matter how appealing this kind of nature/art making is, it tends to not happen without a group of friends. 

To prepare for this workshop I went back to “the source” of nature journal practice, John Muir Laws, otherwise known as Jack and his website and books for inspiration 

No one speaks more eloquently than Jack about taking a sketchbook out with you in Nature.

“The process of attention is what makes you fall in love with the world. It’s through attention that we create memories. A sketchbook helps you to preserve the integrity of those memories.”

We practiced his three very simple tools in the form of verbal questions:

  1. I notice. . . .(where you observe what interests you, focusing here on sense perception, not label or concept)
  2. I wonder. . .(asking questions out of curiosity with no need to have the answers)
  3. This reminds me of. . .(making connections as memories surface).

And then we took our sketchbooks out on the trail with the instruction to observe and record our interests including at least one of each: a sketch, a word, and number (date, time, measurement, etc). The Salal was abundant on the trail and eye catching in all its variations. In preparation I had brought a small ruler with me, wanting to be a tad more scientific than my usual approach. We were so absorbed that I regrettably forgot to take pictures. The resulting nature journal entries from this group of artists were inspiring! And I definitely felt the wonder factor of our nature-filled afternoon reach a high point.

If any of this sounds intriguing to you, or perhaps serves as a reminder, you might be interested in the upcoming Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference coming up September 14-18. It will be live streamed so it doesn’t matter where you live. I’ll be attending and posting my favorite moments!

How to Hang (your unframed small art)

There were enough blog readers wondering how I hung my gallery wall of Muse art, that I thought I’d devote a brief post to what is actually a do-it-yourselfers dream. Even I could have constructed it, though I lean heavily on Bob for such things and he always comes through with good solutions.

For years I have been doing these expressive art pieces and they tend to pile up! After I’ve done about 20 of them, they go into loose leaf books, like the ones you see stored in boxes on the right. But it really helps my creative courage to give them a bit of air for a while first. (By the way, the writing I do about each piece is on the back). I think it’s too easy to forget we are creators if we can’t see the fruits of our art time. So here’s how to make your own:

First thing is to find the dowel you can use. We purchased these metal ones (3) at a hardware store. They are 6′ long and about 1/4″ diameter.  The dowel must fit through the eye screw which goes into the wall. We used three eye screws for each of the 6′ dowels. The clips fit over the dowel. That’s it.

And the clips we used: (Sorry about the disturbing safety reminder here!) but if you’re like me you want specifics, so you know what you’re looking for on line or locally sourced. 

I’ve never had a problem with putting holes in my walls to hang art. Best not to be squeamish about that. Trust that the art will always upstage the wall surface! And let me know how it goes if you try this.

Humans in Action: Pedro Loureiro on Etchr

More of my student work today, this time from Etchr Studios workshops where a lot of my favorite urban sketchers are offering classes. I met Pedro Loureiro a few years ago during the International Symposium of Urban Sketchers in Portugal. He’s a master of reportage (visual journalism) and capturing people in lively scenes. One of his Etchr courses, which you can watch on demand, is Humans in Action: Figures and Gestures in Ink and Watercolor.

(The artwork posted here is my student work)

Humans Action with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mixed media sketchbook

This is a scene I probably would never have tackled, but Pedro breaks it down into foreground, mid ground and background; simplifying, suggesting rather than detailing, and sticking to more neutral color choices to unify. No pencil here. Students were asked to just pretend we were actually on location with all the movement and visual/kinesthetic/auditory/aromatic inputs and keep the pen moving! Watching his pen move across the paper in flowing motions was ample inspiration to give it a try!

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

In another workshop with Pedro I discovered my achilles heal. My perceptual capabilities break down when I have to switch from foreground figures to tiny people in the distance. (Only part of that can be attributed to my poor distance vision, haha!) Surely it’s a matter of practice. I didn’t recover from the urge to toss this paper in the trash until I added watercolor. Focusing on patterns of light and shade on the figure is the speediest way to render a figure in motion.

Urban Sketching, Painting Crowds with Pedro Loureiro: fountain pen and watercolor

This scene is the sort I love to sketch. With such a clear figure as star of the show the question is how to include figures in the background as supporting actors.  By simplifying them with simple line, no detail and neutral color washes they add interest without distraction. 

Some other watercolor teachers I enjoy on Etchr are Eleanor Doughty from Seattle and Bianca Ryala from Phillipines. But there are so many intriguing short workshops to try!

More Sparks Lit on Spark!

A busy city scene is probably the most challenging subject for an urban sketcher, especially for one like me who has lived in the countryside for the past two decades. But oh, I can’t resist the challenge. It would be marvelous to go out each day and practice in a busy location, but winter temps here in the Pacific Northwest are not amenable to on location sketching, especially in the time of Covid. So what better time to learn some new skills, sketching along on Zoom with people who excel at capturing the lively city! 

(The art shown here is my student work.)

Jedidiah Dore is a New York City artist and passionate urban sketcher/reportager who teaches a series now on Sketchbook Skool’s Spark platform called Creative Urban Sketching

Creative Urban Sketching with Jedidiah Dore: a street scene in New Orleans

One lesson was about editing a complex scene – deciding before putting pen to paper what should be included and what left out. And the scene was one I remembered well and loved from a sketch trip to New Orleans almost two years ago now!

Let’s Figure it Out with Jedidiah Dore

In another class titled: Let’s Figure it Out: Drawing People, we were timed and coached in a way to simulate live action scenes and draw decisively. Continuous line gestural drawing, while looking more at a subject, who will move at any moment, than at the paper. This is from Jedidiah’s photograph, but in the spirit of live action.

We all want to “get it right” and know we can’t possibly succeed at that with a moving scene. So it takes a certain practiced surrender to let go enough to set the hand loose from the thinking mind.  A lifetime of practice surely. Works for me, because it’s such a high to be able stop the mind for a while. Most sketchers would agree.

And I took another fun urban sketch class on Spark with someone whose style many of you will recognize instantly – Ian Fennelly! Lots of patterned pen work and zany watercolor washes which I dutifully tried. It’s not my style, but I wanted to play with different pens and was happy to go wild with it and even get tangled up in all the patterns. Such a fun way to tell a story of a time and place!

In the Home of the Beatles with Ian Fennelly

So much of what I’ve learned about drawing and painting and dancing and playing music has been a process of imagining myself in the body of the master . . . trying to hold a pen or leg or hand in the same way, watching and feeling and listening from the inside. Almost an Alice in Wonderland leap into another perception.

One of my current master teachers is a two year old boy across the street who soaks up everything in his environment, interacts with it, seeks to understand it with all his senses, and never seems to worry about getting it wrong. So I’ll take my cues from him, and above all keep it fun!

Enemy Combatants

When you want to know what a rorschach is trying to tell you, just pick up a pen and take dictation as it begins to talk. It’s usually nonsense at first, but just keep going and you might be surprised! The rorschach painting I demo-ed in a quick video a couple weeks ago (see here ) talked to me and here’s what it said.

fluid acrylics and gesso on w/c paper

Enemy Combatants

They didn’t know how ridiculous they looked

these strutting enemy combatants

nor how much alike they were

. . . twins really

Passionately they cared for their towering headwear

their voluminous feathered capes which

simultaneously raised to reveal

chests with medals won in [internet-only] battles.

Little did they realize (giggle giggle)

that their precious manly parts would

thus spill out for all to see

and measure and compare and

(much worse) to snigger

These combatants, trapped on the paper as they are

pose no threat to readers here

Yet we are reminded of those who

in their manly posturing

do great injury to innocent souls

Remind you of anyone?

Venturing out a bit

I donned my mask last Sunday and ventured out to the Sebastopol Farmers Market, not necessarily to shop, but to enjoy some on location sketching. This setting never has disappointed me!

SebastopolFarmersMkt1

I’ve been sketching from pictures alot lately, but this one was done on location, growing out from the center as things happened.

SebastopolFarmersMkt2

Not only did I have my mask on, but my invisibility cloak as well, which I draw around myself when sketching people in public without their permission (you never want them to pose for you and ruin it). At some point the old woman on the right showed up and started talking to the guy on the grass playing guitar. Not only was she colorfully dressed, but I caught snatches of conversation about vibrations and karma and the third dimension, all of which are probably common discussion topics on this strip of lawn in the shade in the Sebastopol plaza.

I had to look up third dimension and here’s what I learned. . .I mean if you’re interested:

“The third dimension is a theoretical realm of space and time in which the particles and dark matter of this parallel, alternate reality bends light to collide with the electrical charges of the subconscious mind. What is light becomes dark. What is dark becomes light. Some look into the third dimension and see nothingness; others believe they see the very face of God.”

I wish I’d heard the whole conversation to learn which one she saw!

Another day I attended a Sketching Play Lab with urban sketchers Suhita Shirodkar and Paul Wang on Zoom. These guys are so fun to hang out with, and FUN was the operative word. Playing with watercolor. Making colorful wet “caterpillars”, while learning powerful watercolor techniques.

playlab1

And then we tried it out, playfully still! on whatever we’d put on the table in front of us. You’ll have no trouble guessing what I had brought out, from my refrigerator.

playlab2

I think my eggplant was trying to gobble up the lime.! If you want to learn something new while playing, try registering for a Sketching Play Lab.

Welcome to my studio! (video)

We built my art studio when we moved to Sebastopol, California from the SF Bay Area 20 years ago. It’s a simple building where my creative spirit has taken flight and supported me for these many years through the many vicissitudes of modern life. It has been the home for my workshops and the setting for many ongoing friendships with students. And for years I opened it to the public for open studio events twice a year.

Since the pandemic and sheltering-in-place began three months ago, it has become a kind of hermitage. I have had to cancel workshops and rethink the ways I use my studio, as well as find new ways to encourage myself and others to actively pursue art. In that spirit I invite you into my studio to imagine with art with me.

Since the video here has no voice over, let me just orient you. As you enter you will walk counter clockwise around the room, looking out some windows as well. Those of you who have been here for classes will notice the more open floor. I took down one of the tables to make room to move for streaming Jazzercise classes! The comfortable chair is an addition as now I have the space to read. The paintings on the wall are mostly mixed media acrylics. There are tables to do Muse painting/collage, watercolor illustration, a wall section to clip Muse pieces up as they are “born”, a section for portrait stories of homeless women, and of course birds, birds, birds and then the garden where they live outside.

Enjoy watching the video, while I enjoy imagining meeting you here in person!
welcometostudio

To watch, click on the picture or see it here.

Sktchy’s 30 Faces/30 Days, April

Are you doing Sktchy’s 30 faces in 30 days ? I don’t think I’ve ever completed one of these 30 day art challenges, having religiously sketched something every day, but so far this month, four days in, I’m on it!

Of course when you’re sheltering in place it helps to have the motivation of being told what to do every day. And the great thing about this 30 faces/30 days is that you have a teacher’s demo to watch every day. I like to watch while I’m drinking my morning chai.

Day1_30faces1

graphite on toned paper (gray actually, though it doesn’t look so here)

The suggestion on Day 1 by teacher Mike Creighton was to do three quick sketches, 5 min, 10 min and finally 15 minutes to warm up and improve with each try. I just rarely give myself the opportunity of repetition and it really works.

Day1_30faces3

Then I took the 15 min. sketch and added w/c and pastel, inventing the color since there was none in the picture.

Day2_30faces

Pitt artist pen and fountain pen on white paper, direct to pen

Day 2 the suggestion by teacher Dylan Sara was to draw directly in pen, slowly working around from shape to shape, and then use vertical hatching to do the shading. The picture of Jacob Palmer had wonderful shadow shapes to work with. I normally find hatching to be tedious, but actually this was quite fun and I realized that if I slow down enough, I can skip the pencil sketch and go right to pen.

30facesday3

watercolor, fountain pen, and white gel pen on toned paper

Day 3: The teacher Cecile Yadro chose a duel subject and demonstrated different ways of checking the drawing’s accuracy. I just loved that she chose an old woman as a subject rather than some hip young person for a change. I can relate to the veiny hands! There was no need to paint in the stripes on the cat and the woman’s coat. I think the story was already told without. The woman loves her cat and the cat, well, goes along with it.

30facesday4 Day 4 (today) the teacher was Vin Ganapathy, and his lesson was to start with a fast and loose contour drawing (outline without lifting the pen off the paper much) and then work on salvaging the inevitable errors by putting in finer details. The picture was a bit wonky, but that made it more like sketching a caricature, which was fun! I chose paint over hatching for the shadow because it saves so much time! (I can see how the same toned gray paper looks a different color in each picture. I guess due to ambient light in the room.)

 

 

Inks and Gesso: Another Free Lesson

Ready to try another free Muse Group lesson?! I’ve taught this one over and over for at least 12 years now. It’s a foolproof way to get excited about making art and to activate creative fancy. You’ll need watercolor paper, inks (preferably with droppers), gesso, and optional: scrapers, rollers, and rubber stamps.

inks_gesso

Click here to watch the video demo. But don’t stop there. Give it a try!