Oddball projects

Here are some projects from recent Sketchbook Skool courses. What I am being exposed to, and find myself more and more drawn to, is illustration. Illustration used to be considered inferior to fine art and maybe it still is considered that, but I find illustration more difficult, demanding, and creative than some of what I see in fine art. There is the discipline that comes from actually trying to communicate, for one thing. You can’t have the attitude of “I’m the artist, you figure it out.” You have agreed to be understood and you have the obligation to try to speak to your audience. I suspect the really brilliant artists of our time are illustrators. Illustration makes some fine art seem empty, pretentious and boring to me. While illustration seems more of our time, of our culture, of our everyday life. Not that I think I am one of the brilliant illustrators of my day. Let me put in a humility disclaimer, please.

My projects: 1) A cartoonish portrait of my grandmother with a saying of hers she used when she had an idea, 2) A poem of mine in mixed hand lettering, 3) An infographic about my grade school years,  4) Some art journaling added over a couple previous sketchbook pages, 5) Illustrating my dinner, 6) Flower faces, 7) The Silverware Family cartoon characters


I have stayed away from drawing people and portraits. You can’t fake it, just the slightest misstep shows. But if I stop thinking of drawing portraits and think of drawing cartoons, a whole new world opens up. I can just relax and see what happens and what happens very often is very expressive. And I can work from photos.

One day


Just started a new Sketchbook Skool online class, Polishing, which promises to get me doing things I don’t usually do. This assignment was to keep a kind of comic strip record of your day, mundane or whatever. Though the example Danny Gregory gave set things up in a grid, I decided to draw as I went, breaking the strict grid. This page turned out to be about the highlights of my day, not a complete document of it. Two things. I discovered how pretty my average day is, with roses from my garden to greet me on my kitchen table in the morning, to my homemade clothes (still into Tina Givens), to what is blooming in my garden, to my everyday hobbies. Also, just the act of sketching my day changed my day. I doubt I would have baked bread, started a sewing project and sketched in the same day, but I was feeling so full of enthusiasm it just bubbled over into extra activities.

. . . but not always

I’m going to make good on my subhead and post what I have been doing instead of sketching. Sewing! I am a new Tina Givens enthusiast. Her clothes are fascinating, pretty, comfortable, odd. Here are my recent outfits. And here are some sketches of my sewing projects, including a repeat from an October post.

I wore the blue linen dress at Thanksgiving and no one gave me funny looks. I had dinner with all men, so they probably didn’t notice. I wore the yellow dress on my birthday to a nice restaurant and don’t think I got any funny looks there either, but it was an upscale place and the dress at first glance does not look odd. The oddness is in the details. How brave I am going to be in my day-to-day life wearing these clothes remains to be seen. For now, they are at-home clothes and just what I want to wear at the end of the day: something loose-fitting and pretty.









Morning pages




I love these notebooks (National Brand, Narrow Ruled Eye-Ease Paper, 1 Subject Notebook, 80 sheets, 8-1/4″ by 6-7/8″). They are perfect for my morning pages, the journal writing I do every morning, with cappuccino, usually three pages or more. This is a Julia Cameron “The Artist’s Way” thing that I have become totally addicted to. I account for my day before and often brainstorm creative projects for the coming day. Or if issues come up, I write about them. Political rants, obsessive analysis of relationships, whatever. I even sometimes sketch flowers, design clothes, make lists. I fill them up pretty fast. These three notebooks are from July to November this year.

I have been doing this for maybe 20 years, I would have to check, and usually do something on the covers. The last three have been collages. I used to agonize over making a collage, but I have discovered it goes best if you don’t think about it too much. Just whatever appeals to you, a little bit of adjustment so the colors go well together, a little bit of fiddling with the layout. Done. I like these and like to have them sitting about to look at. That’s all I want to say about them.

Oh, one more thing. Two of them have art I tore out of my sketchbooks. Why I was critical of the teacup and tore it out I can’t explain, but I am glad I didn’t throw it away. The smudged up rose didn’t look right on the sketchbook page (see the October 25 post) but it is fine here.

Last #inktobers



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The last of the #inktobers, of cyclamen. The first is pen and ink and watercolor. The second is all ink, J. Herbin Larmes De Cassis ink, dip pen and brush. I like my drawings better when I don’t try to draw the whole thing. The shapes of cyclamen petals are so interesting. I want to do a huge abstraction of just the petal shapes.

Inktober has been fun and I put together a nice collection of botanical drawings I would not have otherwise done. And got more comfortable with ink.

#inktobers week 4



The last week of October, makes me sad. To cheer me up a few roses have bloomed in my garden, grateful for the cooler weather. This morning I did some line drawings of roses, and added a few delicate watercolor washes to some. I am learning restraint and self-acceptance. I let the lines just flow along, not trying for perfection, but hoping I captured the character of the roses.





I wanted my trip to Yosemite to be all about sketching. I took an acrylic painting class from Sparkle Taylor and found myself doing plein air landscape painting, something I thought I would not do for a very long time. The painting is probably my best plein air painting ever. Go figure. Art will always surprise you. I had a few moments, standing on the Swinging Bridge which was full of tour groups. People feel they must compliment you and it is nice to hear, I will admit. I was with a good group of people and a good teacher, a stark contrast with my last plein air painting workshop experience. (The very worst experience I have ever had in an art workshop; it ended with a snake crawling by me and that was not the worst part.) I got lots of encouragement and maybe it was the positive environment that brought out the best in me as an artist. But it was probably the stunning Yosemite landscape.

Even traveling alone, it is hard to make enough time to sketch. There are all the logistics of getting there, getting orientated, eating, napping, etc. Travel takes up a lot of time. Getting through the day takes up a lot of time. I am thinking the ideal sketching trip would be to go where you could just walk out your door and be in the middle of a beautiful place and you could just sit there and sketch all day. There would be a bed close by where you could take a brief nap, and you would be well supplied with good food you wouldn’t need to cook. You would not waste time with logistics.

I had to switch gears sketching and painting landscapes. Very different from the urban and object sketching I have been doing. I think landscapes were my first art love, but it has been good to get away from it for a while.


More #inktobers

OctoberRoses OctoberZinnias

I wanted to get sketches of the last flowers in my garden before they are gone. Although I am not working with color, and really that is the main interest for these flowers in the garden, I love their forms. I have to say I am pleased with these sketches, which took very little time. I am blurring some edges, and leaving a lot of white areas and I think that is why I like them. Also, just the shapes. These are done with water-soluble inks, the zinnias with J. Herbin scented ink and dip pen and brush; the roses with a clear plastic small J. Herbin rollerball pen and Terre de Feu ink.