Variety is the Spice

Variety of people, variety of paper, pen, color, technique. Just keep changing it up and it never gets the least bit boring! We artists are constantly sharing ideas on social media and my work table in the guest bedroom (for now) is groaning with sketchbooks, pens, brushes and paints. But I’m still voracious about art materials and have put them on my Christmas wish list. Is there really anything I don’t already have?

Oh yes, how about Posca Markers!

w/c in 7 X 10″ Field Watercolor Journal

I’ve discovered that I enjoy listening to other artists talk about their art and demo-ing while I “doodle” my own. It’s a kind of left brain-right brain dance which lowers the volume of the inner critic. So here I’m listening to Danny Gregory talk about why we artists love to do self portraits, and I’m making this face into my cell phone to do my own. He goes on for a while (very inspiring) so I have time to doodle to a completion of sorts. Not flattering, but an announcement about the liberation of age from the need to be more than presentable!

And that goes for the art as well.

So I watched another of his coaching sessions – this one about drawing emotion and objects of attachment – and sketched him in his serious mode while listening. 

fineliner pen

I had planned to do a bright colored watercolor of this fine subject, Marie McLeod on the Sktchy Museum app but thought the line work would be upstaged. So for variety here. . . naked pen line!

This one of Beatriz Futigami from the Sktchy Museum app began with a gulp and plunge in with direct to fineliner pen.  Trying to trust my senses more and look less critically at the outcome. It doesn’t have to look like the model, just express something real.

If you draw and paint fast enough, and don’t worry about making a mess, then the result is more expressive. This one got so messy that the only thing I could do was to keep going. The jaggedy-lined background and scribble-hair worked to reflect the raggedy intensity of her thoughts (or rather my thoughts, haha!) 

pencil drawing, inks and white gouache on beige toned paper

Gouache seems happiest to me when painted over watercolor and/or toned paper. When I finally gave up on trying to smooth the transitions, I was happy.

I bought this Noodlers Golden Ink years ago when I did an art residency in Assissi, Italy. (Ahhh! those were the golden days to move around less encumbered in this world! ) It lends that antique glow to a drawing. I had meant to work my way through all my old ink bottles doing portraits, but lost the thread and moved onto other challenges.

Hopefully you will find some idea from this smorgasbord of styles today that you would like to try. All my ideas have an element of stealing to them. Art is actually the most open source activity you can engage in. So steal liberally! And let me know what you’d like to try next and I’ll probably join you.


Women’s March Santa Rosa


Pens, colored pencils, watercolor in 9 X 12″ Multi Media Canson spiral Sketchbook

The 2019 Women’s March Santa Rosa rally yesterday was a march in support of women’s rights, human rights for all, equality for LGBTQi+, freedom of religion & press, education, gun control, the environment, science, democracy and civil rights. Have I left anything out? All the good things we want for our community, country and world. So it felt really good to be sharing those ideals with like-minded people. . .and really quite sad to hear the speakers remind us of the brutality in our world today and the fight that is still ahead of us.

I was there doing my best to draw the stories I saw unfolding, and to highlight the presence there of The Living Room, a day shelter for women and children where I have been volunteering, because I’m struck by how powerfully they are addressing the injustices of our rich land where so many people do not even have the basics of shelter and food.


I brought along a pink gel pen and a fine point pen and did my best to capture vignettes, some interesting signage and inspiring words, and later tried to knit them together. It started to rain at one point, actually when these powerful speakers came up to the podium. I couldn’t tell whether it was rain drops or tears dripping on the page as I listened to their moving stories of rising above insurmountable difficulties to fight for the rights of all people. The rain seemed to soften our hearts, blurring some of the lines of the sketch, as perhaps it was blurring our sense of the perceived differences that have caused all these human problems we get stuck with.


Master Quilters

With the colder weather I’ve been enjoying more studio time and practicing my quick capture people drawing skills. When I watched a video about The Master Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama I couldn’t wait to try sketching the faces of these women, who embody for me a serene wisdom and powerful heritage that I think most of us in this frenetic modern life have missed.


I hope you can slow down enough to watch the 14 minute video, and breathe deep and then you’ll know what I mean. But I lead a distractible life, and so I got this far and was called away. When I got back I was glad I had stopped! The imagination is always grateful to be left to fill in the rest.


I really wished I could set a spell on the porch with these ladies, happy to swat flies and keep stitchin.


If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll watch the video and get to see them talking and making their lovely quilts, a tradition passed down from mother to daughter.

Latino Community Event

Last night I attended an event for the Latino Community to share experiences of the firestorms last October. KRCB in conjunction with KBBF were the hosts and there was dinner and entertainment. It was a great opportunity to listen to and sketch “Fire Stories”.


Trio Orion was a perfect way to warm up the crowd. I learned that KBBF radio provided the only translation of fire disaster information to the Spanish speaking community that was experiencing the same terror and uncertainty as the rest of Santa Rosa.


Patty Ginochio, of Ginochio’s Kitchen in Bodega Bay talked about the throngs of fire evacuees that filled the roads and later the beaches in the wake of the fires. Many of them were Spanish speakers who were afraid to go to the shelters closer to Santa Rosa because they feared deportation. But she also spoke of the overwhelming support provided them by the community in the days that followed.


Irma Garcia spoke eloquently about the need for government and other agencies to be better prepared to understand and respond to the needs of the Latino community that works so hard and makes such a large contribution to our county.


Some middle school girls read their poems about the fire. And then individuals shared their anxiety the night of the fires and their difficulty coming to terms with their post-fire lives.

My pen and brush were moving like mad to try to record all this while my heart filled with compassion for these folks. I hope we all do a better job of watching out for all the people in our community whenever the next disaster appears, regardless of citizenship, language or economic status.

If you think you’d like to sketch fire stories like these please join us on Saturday Oct 6 at the Shiloh Park Wildfire Anniversary Event: Community Healing Together. And please sign up at the Meet Up site where there’s more information, and so we know you’re coming.