Another experiment

I was inspired by Leslie of to try a new technique of pen and ink with watercolor using a spray bottle to spread the ink a little before it dries and then paint the watercolor over it.

a carved flower pot

I had a few small pieces of watercolor board left over form the larger pastels and I thought this technique was so interesting.  She has two wonderful examples on her blog as well as some instructions that you may want to check out linked on my blogroll.  I did these kind of on the fly today just to see how it might work.  I had photographed some vases and pots around the house a while ago and decided that these two would be sufficiently simple for me to try and not get too intimidated.  I think I like the little vase better.  The reds of the dried flower sprigs seems to go nicely with the brown of the carved vase.

Ivy in a red pot

Back home in Indiana

Well, I must confess I have not made it back into the studio since my last post.  Wednesday I ended up going to the eye doctor with a persistent red eye.  Fortunately, it turned out to be just an irritation of unknown etiology and not an infection or a scratch.  Unfortunately, I had to put in eye drops four times a day and not wear my contacts for at least a 30 minutes afterwards.  I opted out of wearing them altogether until today when I am down to 3 drops a day.  Removing them once a day for half an hour seems much more doable than twice.  I have my glasses but they are for distance only and I don’t have very clear close up vision any more either.  Since my focus point without anything is only about 2 inches from my nose, none of this was very conducive to working at my table.  And then we left Friday to visit our son for the weekend.  We drove back in a hard rain which I really couldn’t mind because we have had so little this summer.  I think we have had more in the last 8 or 9 days than we’ve had total since the beginning of July.  My flowers and shrubs have perked up a good bit but it is probably too little too late in the year to make any big difference.

Blue cedar berries

I’ve been noticing that the fall colors and features have started to appear.  It seems that the berry producing cedars are going to have quite a crop this year.  These berries are tiny – only a few mm in size – but so abundant that I can see them from the house quite easily.  There is another cedar species that grows around here that has very tiny cones instead (on the same scale as the berries) and the way they are differentiated is by the fruit.  We seem to have more of the berried ones.  They really are quite pretty and I have taken lots of pictures of them.

The rains also revived my tomato plants somewhat.   I picked a few this morning and we ate BLTs for lunch.  Yum for fresh garden tomatoes.  And I got a few green peppers too.  They are down to about $2.00 each now.

I’m getting back into the studio today after I this and should be able to  finish the inking very soon.  I think it will be fun to color.  It has a rich, luscious texture to the architectural features which I hope I can recreate.  If only it had more complete landscaping in real life.  I don’t look at drawing plants and foliage as my forte and always am striving to make them look as if they might fit in.

An evening’s worth of inking

Inking almost done

I did most of this last evening. Somehow the day just slipped away, so I decided to put on some background noise (tv) and work at the drawing later in the day.  The post dinner hours drifted along and suddenly it was 11: pm when I looked at the clock.  When things are going well, time passes unnoticed.  I haven’t done the shingles yet, obviously, and I am debating what to do on the right.  There is a window set off of the paper that I elected not to include.  I may just let the texture of the wood show through in the blank white area.  Maybe I’ll add some green undertones to the colors to help balance the foliage on the left.  The house is basically a red brick mix like the last ones, grey limestone accent blocks, and brown trim.  It may be good to punch up that rather lackluster earth tone with some other undertone of yellow and green.  I guess I’ll just play with it and see where my eye leads me.  I’m actually rather pleased so far with this.  If I can balance off the white area properly, I think it should turn out well.

Naked ladies and Russian sage

The white peonies are not the only things I was able to get from my grandmother’s flower beds right before her house was sold. She also had daffodils, some trace of which  must have been still visible when we took the peonies.  When we dug up a few of her daffodils, a pleasant surprise was unknowingly included.  It actually took me over two years to realize what had happened when we transplanted the bulbs.  Naked ladies (aka amaryllis belladonna) are so called because the foliage is only out for a few weeks in the spring, the same time as daffodils.  Then, some 4 months later, long past the demise of the reedy thin, daffodil-like leaves, the flower stem suddenly bursts out of the ground and in the space of only a few days, blooms with a proliferation of flowers from a main stalk.  The stress of a move or replanting will often cause them to skip a blooming cycle even though the foliage has appeared.  It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between the leaves of the ladies and the daffodils unless you are looking for it and I most certainly didn’t notice them that first year.  I thought that the lack of daffodil blooms was just due to the move and hoped for better the next year.  What a wonderful surprise I had the following summer when in August the bare stalks erupted from the earth and flowered profusely.

Naked ladies and Russian sage

As you might have guessed, my naked ladies have just started to bloom.  With the die back of many of my black-eyed susans and cone flowers, I decided to cut a single stalk of flowers and a few branches from the Russian sage.  The sage has lovely small blue flowers coming off of each branch and I thought the combination of the delicate pink ladies and the blue sage might make a lovely arrangement.I painted the ladies first and then the sage.  After two painting sessions, I could not get the pink flowers to separate themselves visually.  I let it rest for a day and decided the only way to salvage the painting would be to delineate with the ink.  I have been very good so far about not resorting to the ink when I get frustrated, but I kind of gave up with this one.  I did not want to over saturate the soft pink color of the flowers and felt that a little bit of ink accents would help the painting as a whole.  I also put it in a mauve mat to see what it did to the color.

These flowers were one of Grandma’s favorites and she certainly called  them the naked ladies with some risqué glee.  For the longest time, I never knew they had any other name.  As with the peonies, I have half a dozen groupings now that I am sharing with family.  I know Grandma would be pleased.

This week I picked a few small apples from an old tree up on the hill top and bought a green pepper.  After I  try painting them I think I’ll be refreshed enough to go back to the architectural work.

Working inside, when the outside is too wet

I’ve been working some on my latest entryway picture. The weather only cleared up today so I have been stuck in the house, unable to plant what I had bought last Friday. This is posted late today because I could finally get out and put the wave petunias in the ground before the rabbits got to them.. Don’t know why, but last year they were eaten in the flats.  I didn’t have a problem once they were planted. Crazy rabbits to go along with the crazy robins, I guess.

Indiana Entryway

In the down time, I have been working on the mini tags.  I punched a few holes and tied a few ribbons today before I took some pictures in the fading light.  There was just enough to give at least the flavor of what they will be like.  They are half the size of the aceo cards and I hope will work well as straight gift tags or artist labels – which someone  had requested of me.  They are just as much fun as making the aceos.  Unfortunately, they take almost as much time.


Mini tags/artist labels I


Mini tags/artist labels II

First butterfly of the season

Guess what?  It is raining.  Again.  Thunderstorms overnight and now a misty haze.  Just enough to make outside unpleasantly damp.  We did get a few days of nice weather.  The trees are all coming out and the undergrowth is flourishing.  I was none the less surprised when I looked out of the kitchen window last week and saw a zebra swallowtail.  Then yesterday I saw another.  I have heard that the zebras are rarer than the tiger swallowtails.  I can say that I normally see a lot fewer of them.  Several times last summer I saw a dozen of the tigers at one time on my butterfly bush. Truth in advertising, I guess.  Unfortunately, the bush died because of the cold weather and I will have to replace it.  I really liked the iridescent quality of the one I had and I hope I can find one to match.

And with all of the rain, weeds that I pulled and threw aside have lived and tried to regrow. Darn dandelions are hard to get rid of. I had a pile and they all just continued to bloom and grow.  I now have mounds of growing weeds.  I picked most of them up and threw them farther into the woods.   It is supposed to dry out on Tuesday.  Perhaps then I can plant the flowers I succumbed to buying yesterday when the sun was out.

Mallard pair

The wildlife is flourishing, too.  The lushness of the spring growth is matched by the numbers of animals we have seen.  There have been mallards on the pond in addition to a few species that I can’t identify.  Last year we had a pair 0f grebes (I think).  Unfortunately the babies were eaten by the snapping turtles.  We hope for better this year.  And you won’t believe it but early one morning last week, I saw a coyote walking next to the lake.  I went to get my camera, and in that time a doe walked into the picture.  She trailed the coyote for a while and then eventually caught up with him.  Each knew that the other was there, but no difficulty ensued while I watched.  I actually got the two into one picture frame, but the shutter speed was so low due to the light that they were both blurry.  I am trying to get the photo cleaned up, just like in the crime shows, but don’t know if it is possible.  If it can, I will post it.  I never knows what will be out there when I look.  I am still waiting to catch the tom turkeys displaying.  The spring fawns should be out soon too.

I have almost finished the inking on my latest drawing.  It is a little smaller entryway from house in an historic Indiana town.  Much less imposing but inviting none the less.

Mini tags

Just a short little post today for fun. When I was first working on the aceo/gift tag idea, I took some that I had made to show to my book group. All were appreciative but a woman who is a fine weaver (she has a very large loom where I would have a studio) asked if I could make some in a smaller size that she could use as a tag on her weavings.  She liked the larger ones but felt they were too large to use as a tag only. 

I said I would try, and the next time I had some down time letting a drawing rest, I cut  a few of the aceo watercolor blanks in half.  I also had a few odd pieces left from the big sheet cut down and recut them a little smaller.  These will have to have some sort of hole punched because they are definitely to be used as tags, but I find that I don’t have as much a problem with it as I did deciding on the aceo sized ones.  I think I will let her pick out some and list the rest as straight gift tags.

Mini gift tags

Onward and upward – into the raised entryway

A lovely entryway

The weather has been so beautiful for a few days in a row that it is hard to pull myself back into the studio and not get out into the gardens.  However, I did manage to finish inking in the latest drawing as I had hoped and have actually pretty much now colored it too.  I was really attracted to this house by the wonderful glass accents on the entryway.  Is that a sun porch in the front or a grand foyer? It makes me want to go inside and see.

I have been using the Faber-Castell pastels on this, instead of watercolors and put in a little detail with colored pencils.  I stopped after I sprayed the workable fixative because I was just fiddling and I really need to let it rest for a day.  I could see some things to work on, especially re-inking in the foliage, but I decided to wait and get a fresh view today.  It is so easy to make a snap decision at this stage and end up overworking it.  I should have it done very soon.  I think for my next few drawings, I am going to find interesting parts of buildings.  I enjoy the intricate details of older architecture when all of these extras were deemed more necessary and I guess were more affordable.

I spent the rest of yesterday making some more aceos.  I am really enjoying filling up the down time in the middle of a picture doing these.  I bought a package of sixty sleeves and am filling them up rather quickly.  I had my team’s baseball game on in the background (hooray for the start of baseball season) and in some ways it felt more like play than work. 

Here is the one I listed today.

ACEO gift tag

Why are we sometimes intimidated by our own work and afraid to ruin something we are creating?

One of the aecoe gift tags

The aceo sleeves arrived shortly after I made my last blog post.  I spent the next two days selecting which aceos I wanted to photograph and then preparing them for listing.  It is quite a project to do all of the photography and edit it for listing online, especially if there are multiple items.  I have to take several shots shots of each one to account for the light and the focusing aspect since sometimes the automatic focus on the macro lens  changes its mind between shots.  I want the pen and ink lines to be as crisp as possible and sometimes the lens is a little finicky.  I don’t want to have to redo a lot of photos  because the pen lines are blurred and I can’t always tell from the digital playback on the camera. 

I decided to prepare 10 cards in an initial run.  First I had to punch the ribbon hole in the sleeve and select an appropriate color ribbon to attach.  Then I took pictures of each one a couple of times in and out of the sleeves and ended up with 55 shots to go through.    All in all it took over a day to get it all done but I am pleased with the results.

This whole project brought to mind other thoughts concerning me and my art and the lurking aspect of the circular file.  Would I just be making something that would end up there?  After I had made the watercolor background and cut up the sheet into aceo sized cards, I felt quite intimidated by them and actually felt like I might “ruin” them by drawing on top.  Some of the cards were rather pretty on their own and I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them to their best advantage.  I actually stared at them for quite a while, working up the courage to start drawing on them.  I had to select the ones that were the least intimidating for me in terms of the color combinations and just start somewhere. 

Perhaps this feeling of intimidation goes back to those teachers that told me that realistic art and what I liked was not worthwhile – that the Old Masters had done it all already so just give it up.  If  it wasn’t abstract, it was passe and irrelevant.  I think that now if I was told those things I could slough it off more easily and move on.  In some ways I guess I am still working them out of my head.  At least now I can actually go ahead and do it, even if it takes a while to get started. 

I have started on my next picture – a lovely entryway that is about 1/3 inked.  I felt like going back to a close up drawing of a pleasing architectural feature .  Sometimes the part is as intertesting as the whole.  If I have finished the inking by Wednesday I’ll post it.  Not too many “mistakes” yet on it.

Spring fever is making studio time a little harder

Spring has sprung here, at least for a little while.  My daffodils had a few buds last Thursday and yesterday I picked some blooms.  I’ve never seen them develop that fast.  Not complaining, mind you, because I wait all year for this.  I love my daffodils.  Yesterday I planted 4 grape vines that I bought at Sams Club.  Two whites and two reds.  I hope they make it but of course I won’t know for a while.  The red and gold raspberries  and the blueberry bushes we planted last fall in the midst of the drought have started to bud out also.  I have been trying to grow the red raspberries for many years after my first sets finally died out without much luck .  This year I am going with some mir-acid in hopes they all make it.  At least the winter didn’t kill them.

More tags I

I did make it back into the studio to work again on the tags the last few days for a little while.  It is funny how, sometimes, it is hard to get going on a project again.  I stared at the blanks for a while before I could start to draw on them.  I felt a little intimidated at drawing over the colored background in fear that I might ruin them.  I finally started on the ones that appealed less to me (although I really liked them all) and by the time I had done a couple, I got into the creative  flow.  I ended up using up all but three.  I really like the blend of colors on those and am not sure that inking over would improve them.  Perhaps I’ll just sell them as they are.

I investigated the aceo sleeves and they appear to have 1/2″ extra in both dimensions.  If that is true I will be able to punch a hole in the holder, keeping the tag intact and useable as an aceo.  I may decide to put in a white backing sheet (unattached) where someone could write a short note to be saved or discarded at a later time. I ordered the sleeves yesterday and will have to wait until they arrive to make a final decision.  In any case I have decided not to punch a hole. 

More tags II

 This has been a lot of fun and I have the next sheet ready for cutting.  I will probably cut it today and then start lay out for my next drawing.  These smaller projects are good for the down time when I am letting a picture rest so I can look at it with new eyes. 

And because I said I would show it, here is the last drawing.  It’s up in my etsy shop already.

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