Urban Sketchers

My studio has been closed down since February — the month that we decided to sell our home and move to Portland. It is still far from up and running and I have been missing the creative surge a lot. I’ve been so busy with all the ‘settling’ activities involved in a major move that I haven’t even done any sketching since July. sigh

I found Urban Sketchers/Portland on line recently and marked my calendar for their sketch crawl scheduled for Saturday, November 28. Eight of us met at Case Study Coffee, had a cuppa and chatted about the plan. The plan was to walk across the street to the main library and sketch; meet about 12:30 to share what you sketched.

The main library in Portland is a huge, beautiful building; however, stepping inside is even more impressive. The architecture and spaciousness of this library is nearly overwhelming. I feel incredibly privileged to have access to the building and the collections. Here’s a Google Earth photo of it:

11-28 Central Library, Portland

I started by walking around the library first. The more I walked, the more intimidated I felt about sketching. Finally, I got my ‘just do it’ attitude tweaked and stopped in front of a window. Here’s part of the view I saw:

11-28-15 view from the window

This tree had large patches of very thick moss and there were ferns growing from the moss. As many times as I’ve walked by these trees on the street, I never noticed that. I took a photo of the tree. Unfortunately, the sunlight created a serious challenge. I think you can get the idea though.

11-28-15 view photo

Next I went down to the second floor and sketched the entry to one of the library rooms:

11-28-15 main library, 2nd floor

The real challenge is deciding how much detail to include. There was a lot more detail in the wood work than I’ve captured here. Still, I’m happy with what I got in the time I had to do it.

There were two things that I wanted to achieve with this outing: First, I wanted to meet some fellow Portland artists — check! — and second, I wanted to do at least one sketch — check! This was an incredibly welcoming and warm group of people. I will be marking my calendar for their next gathering.


Moved to Portland, OR

I haven’t been here on my usual Wednesday and Friday dates sharing what I’ve been up to. Instead, I have been preparing to put our home on the real estate market and move to Portland, Oregon. The plan was put into action in February and we arrived in Portland on June 22nd. We’ve purchased a condo in the Pearl District and anticipate a July 30 closing. Until then, we are exploring our new home town and catching up with friends in the area.

The entire west coast has been experiencing quite a heat wave since the day we arrived. Yesterday we decided to escape the high-90 degree temperature of the city in favor of a trip to Cannon Beach. And what a great decision that was!

We arrived just minutes before the start of the annual July 4th parade down the main street. This small town fairly drips with wholesomeness, Americana, Norman Rockwell. . . you get the picture.

Cannon Beach, July 4th

Click on images for a larger view. Folks in the parade were tossing wrapped candy out to the kids. And here comes the big truck.

Cannon Beach, July 4th, Fire truck

Here are the lifeguards for the beach. This was the place to be! As we savored the fun of the parade I could almost hear Charles Ives’ Holiday Symphony.

Cannon Beach, July 4th, Lifeguards

After our picnic lunch by the band stand — where else? — we drove up into the nearby state park for some great views of the beach.

Cannon Beach, July 4th, waves

The sky was not completely clear, but we were so grateful for the mid-60s temperatures that we didn’t mind. Here’s Haystack Rock.

Cannon Beach, July 4th, Haystack Rock

The only art I’ve created in the last few weeks happened just a few days ago while consuming copious amounts of cold water and wishing for cooler days to come.

Iced Coffee


Spring Chickens

A recent sketching date with a friend produced the first bit of art I’ve done for several weeks. Today is a good day to share what I did. Click on image for a larger view.

Spring Chickens

Happy spring!

Wordless Wednesday

Click on image for larger view.

01-18-15 Pinecone

Pumpkin Sketch

This is the last squash from our weekly box of vegetables. I loved the big bold stem on this small pumpkin. Click on image for a larger view.


I did, in fact, use it in a pumpkin-chicken curry dish. Yum!


It was chilly today, just right for a cup of pumpkin-spice tea. I could tell — painfully — that I had not been sketching since early October when I set about sketching this teacup. Click on image for larger view.


The shape of the cup is not round but isn’t quite as square as my rendition would make you think, and the saucer, while not round, does not mimic the cup. The background color is very white, and just two colors of green decorate the clover with a final touch of gold trim for the lip, handle and saucer edge. You can revisit what the teacup really looks like here. The tea was a nice reward for my efforts.

The last sketch I did occurred when I was in Ashland, Oregon, attending the Shakespeare Festival. There was a charming house across the street from our hotel having its roof replaced. I couldn’t resist sitting down with my traveling art supplies to record this.

Finish of Ashland Fixer

This is a white house with the exception of the green trim on the windows and the brown of the roof.

I’m looking forward to each successive sketch being easier! What are you hoping will be easier this year?

Wordless Wednesday

Click on image for larger view.

Shari's bird


This sketch was inspired by a notecard that I received which bears Hannah Borger Overbeck’s (United States, 1870-1931) rendition of the blood root (Sanguimaria canadensis), a somewhat rare woodland plant once used by Native Americans to dye their baskets orange-red.

Blood RootMy challenge for this sketch was to be able to match the colors she had used. This meant being patient and experimenting with my blue and yellow selections until I achieved at least the sensibility that she created.  I started with a color wash on the page and then I did the sketch. My wash color is cooler than hers was — that’s another challenge I can take up. I was able to get the tones of green and brown that I was looking for rather quickly. The final job was the white petals. There was simply no way around it, I had to buy some white watercolor paint.

Overbeck created her piece using watercolor and pastel. I used a Faber-Castell PITT artist pen and watercolor.

This posting has been shared with Off the Wall Friday. Go over and check out what’s happening with those artists.

Quick Sketch

The beautiful vegetables and fruit we receive in our weekly box is truly inspirational. I thoroughly enjoy cooking and appreciate the opportunity to try new recipes as the contents of the box change. This week brought our first delicata squashes. What a grand vegetable they are!

delicata squash

They are not only easy to prepare — just wash, cut lengthwise, scoop out seeds, then cut 1/2″ slices (no need to peel!); toss with good olive oil, salt and pepper; bake at 400 degrees — and deliciously sweet, but they are sketch worthy. Their arrival portends the gourds and pumpkins that will grace our tables and porches soon.

First Aide

Last week I was thinking about what I have in my medicine cabinet (perhaps I had a headache?) and what I would like to have there. My mind immediately began racing with possibility. I grabbed a Tombow pen and my watercolors and started sketching. Click on image for larger view.

First Aide

While I was working on this sketch I was thinking about phrases we use with each other that are metaphorical.

Humble PieHow do you cure what ails you?

Christmas in August!

Forget December 25th, Santa dropped down my chimney last week — at least it feels that way! I ordered a Schmincke travel paint tin from Blick Art Materials (none of my local art stores, including Blick, carry Schmincke products) and expected to wait 2 months for its arrival. Sigh. Within a few weeks I got an email saying my order had been shipped. The anticipation began to build and I was soon feeling like a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve listening to the radio report about where Kris Kringle had last been sited.

When the package arrived I ripped it open. There it was — a small black tin — along with a bag of 12 half pans. What is it about something small like this tin, or a lidded ceramic dish or carved wooden box, that is immediately so endearing? I had already read about this useful tin and yet, when I received mine, it was as if I knew nothing about it or its use. At each step of opening the tin, my delight grew. By the time I had filled the 12 half pans with paints I was practically giddy. Click on an image for a larger view.

Schmincke paint tinThe 4-part tin is very smartly designed. The lid has deep bowls for mixing the colors; the inner flap covers the paint pans without touching the paints.

Schmincke paint tin2The section holding the half pans of paint lifts out of the tin, making it easier to fill the pans. I launched right into filling the pans from my tubes of paints.

Schmincke paint tin3The tin also comes with a small chart to record the names of each of the paints. It fits neatly on top of the section which covers the paint pans. Schmincke really thought this completely through.

Schmincke paint tin4And here is my travel bag all ready to grab and go:

Sketch-watercolor Travel bagI’ve packed a few postcards recently made from junk mail, a pad of virgin watercolor postcards, pencil, pen, eraser, Niji waterbrush, a spray bottle and the paint tin — and there is ample room to tuck in a sketch book. All I need are a few postcard stamps and I’m ready for come what may.

And here’s the first sketch completed using the paint tin.

EucalyptusThis eucalyptus is a very different species from the trees near my home. I found this tree near Sulphur Creek Nature Center when I attended their Flight to Freedom event recently. The volunteers at this organization rehabilitate wild creatures and release them back to the wild whenever possible. The night I was there a barn owl was released. It was quite exciting and satisfying to see this majestic bird fly away! If you have such an organization nearby, I hope you are supporting it.

This post has been shared with Off the Wall Friday.

SBS with Liz Steel

This week has simply vanished into thin air. I haven’t completed viewing all the lessons that Liz Steel has in store for me in Sketchbook Skool but I am plugging away. The process of watching the videos, contemplating the lesson and doing my best to get into a new mindset are fun but also a bit daunting at times. Liz is a teacher today but her education and career were in architecture. The analysis that she brings to creating a sketch is very organized and thorough — I like it a lot!

In our first lesson — Seeing patterns in complex objects — Liz drew her favorite subject, a tea-cup. Before getting to the cup, however, there is much thought and analysis that goes into knowing the cup and saucer well enough that you can overcome what may look daunting and then draw what is really there, not what you have in your head. I used her technique to break down the elements of my favorite cup and saucer by drawing a few thumbnail sketches of particular elements. Click on image for a larger view.

SBS with Liz SteelThe first thumbnail captures the overall configuration of the saucer including placement of the floral pattern. #2 attempts the floral pattern, or at least a good likeness. #3 shows the essence of the cup. Once all this prep work is done, Liz’s style is to do a sketch very quickly. This was quite a surprise to me, actually, considering the exacting nature of her career life and the preparation that goes into the sketch. However, now that I’ve done just one sketch using her techniques, I can see where the preparation work allows for more confidence once pencil is in hand. I also like her view that ‘circles are wonky in sketches, so just get over it and keep moving on.’ What a relief that is for someone who tends to try to be exact. Note to self: This is supposed to be Fun.

I still have more to learn from Liz. The next lesson is about drawing a building. I can’t wait.



SBS with Andrea Joseph

This week Andrea Joseph is leading the charge for Sketchbook Skool. If you’re not familiar with her work, your eyes will soon be wide open! Her style of teaching is relaxed and calming. At the same time she’s packing in the tips and techniques. Andrea’s forte is drawing with ballpoint pens. This was a real push for me. I was tempted to stick with the Faber-Castell PITT artist pen I’ve grown comfortable with. But darnit, I’m taking a class to learn new things — so I combed the house for every color I could find in ballpoint pens. I came up with black, blue, red and purple. The only interloper in our house is the purple one — a Papermate medium, a gift from a friend and fellow artist (thanks, Heather!).

Andrea thinks of individual drawings in a larger context. She likes to work in themes so designates sketchbooks to one and sticks to it, hence a book completely sketched in blue ink, or brown, or about travel or, well, you get the idea. Her first assignment was to take up a pen and draw items in the house that are the color of the ink. I chose the blue pen — a Bic medium point with Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town printed on the side. After reminiscing about the last time I was there I placed several items on the dining table and began drawing. Here’s my BLUE page. Click on the image for a larger view.

Blue sketchesI had to be true to the blue tea pot — it has a black handle and spout cover — so I switched to a black pen.

The focus then shifted to hand lettering. Andrea does a lot of it on her sketches and she has experimented with styles for many years. I would like to gain skills in hand lettering so I was eager to do the first assignment: Choose any color ballpoint pen and write your name or a quote without lifting the pen from paper. I dove right in using the quote that she had used to demonstrate.

Handlettering with Andrea JosephThe idea was simple and the method meant slowing down quite a bit. Just slowing down meant I did a fair job of the assignment. A second time through the writing emphasized the letters of each word and completed the letters. An unwanted blob on the question mark was turned into a flower.

Pleased with this outcome I as emboldened to go back to the blackbird sketch I did last week. I actually wanted to do some hand writing on it when I sketched it, but I decided it would probably take away from the image I was pleased with. Here is the sketch updated with the wording I wanted.

Blackbird updateI’m really jazzed about the final assignment: Draw a collection. Here is what I came up with in my studio

Button collection for sketchThe shapes! The sizes! The designs! Oh my! I can’t wait. Stay tuned for the fun.


Saturday Sketch

Sketchbook Skool instructor Cathy Johnson had us sketching birds this past week. I tried my hand at a cedar waxwing sketch with watercolor but was disappointed in the outcome. I’m pretty happy with this sketch of a raven though. Click on image for a larger view.

Raven sketchI am also taking a class focused on sketching dogs and cats. Two classes at one time is one class too many for me. So, I’m off to practice sketching fur and wet noses — wish me luck!

Embracing Junk Mail

No matter how I fine tune the flow of mail that comes to my letterbox, there is a daily abundance of junk mail. This year I’ve finally embraced the inevitable with new vision. It started with Carla Sonheim’s on-line class here.

Recent inspiration from my friend and fellow artist Priscilla Read followed this week! She created postcards using junk mail. And I received one of them in the mail. Click on image for a larger view.

Postcard from Priscilla ReadThe postcard made its journey and arrived in fine shape. Thank you, Priscilla, for the postcard and the inspiration!

I’ve been creating and mailing fabric postcards since 2004. I’ve shared that experience and my affiliation with Postmark’d Art here many times. But until now, I haven’t created my own paper postcards. After reading Priscilla’s how-to description, I couldn’t wait to get started.

I recently went on an art walk with a friend and picked up quite a few postcards. Some of my junk mail postcards were too large so I trimmed them to 4″ x 6″. Using a hard rubber brayer, I applied gesso to one side and let it dry. Next I used the brayer to apply acrylic paint mixed with matt medium.

junk mail in progressThen I added more junk mail. Click on image for a larger view.

A few of the postcards received some sketching

07-25-PC-0107-25-PC-0707-25-PC-12One also needed some watercolor.

07-25-PC-15I’m viewing junk mail with fresh eyes!


Sketching Cats and Dogs

My first lesson with Val Webb on sketching cats and dogs was Monday. The first lesson is called Pencil Language. We started with a primer on how we were going to be using our 4B graphite pencils including warm-up exercises to become more familiar with how to create hatching, cross-hatching, scumbling and stippling. I love the word ‘scumbling’! The dictionary defines it as

softening the color or tone of a painted area by overlaying opaque or semi-opaque color applied thinly and lightly with almost dry brush.

In sketching, one draws random, meandering lines to create texture or shading. I can’t help but see that fiber artists are using a similar technique using needle and thread. We apply several terms to this practice: meander quilting, thread sketching and free-motion embroidery come to mind. But I digress.

Val explained that we would begin our journey by sketching cats. She says that their face is more similar to a human face than the dog’s face, so her students seem to have a higher comfort level starting with cats. I watched Val do what she calls a ‘rough sketch’ of a cat while she explained the 4 steps that go into the process. Then she turned us loose with 4 images of cats and said: Look for the differences in each face — a cat is not just a cat, but also a distinctive individual. Don’t worry about creating a finished drawing. Just practice looking deeply and drawing mindfully, to make an accurate informal sketch. Above all, enjoy yourself. I like her style and attitude!

I’ve completed two sketches so far. I must admit that this kitty looks a bit worried. Perhaps it’s because there were 2 dogs in the room while I sketched! Click on image for a larger view.

Cat Sketch This big, fluffy cat has some serious attitude in my sketch which didn’t show in the photo image I used. Pencils can be so sensitive!

Fluffy cat sketchI’ll be sketching with Val for 8 weeks. This is so fun!


Sketchbook Skool: Self Portrait

If I had known that Koosje Koene was going to ask me to sketch a self-portrait, I probably would not have signed up for this semester with Sketchbook Skool. I have never attempted any kind of portrait sketching. But I’m in the klass now — and I’ve trusted her before and been pleasantly surprised with my product, so I dove in.

The first attempt was done while sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a mirror with a spot light on the left side of my face. The sketch is clearly of a person, just not one that resembles me much. But onward!

The next assignment was to do a self-portrait — Koosje calls them ‘selfies’ — using a photograph. This was a bit easier for a couple of reasons: 1. I had the experience of the first sketch and could see where I went astray. 2. I wear glasses for close work so I was putting them on and taking them off constantly for the first round, not so for this one. Whew! Click on image for a larger view.



It’s not perfect but it does come a lot closer to resembling me. And I’m not looking for perfection, just skill building. If I want a true likeness I’ll use my camera. As Koosje says

Have no fear of perfection. You will never reach it.

Now that takes the heat off!

Junk Mail Artist Book Done

I’ve completed the final lesson of Carla Sonheim‘s Junk Mail Artist Book series. There was more painting, more drawing. . .then changing of the mind involving more painting and more drawing. At some point one has to say it’s time to stop. Done and done. And here it is. Be sure to click on an image for a larger view and clearer understanding of the page overlap.

CoverPages 2-3

Pages 4-5

Pages 6-7

Pages 8-9

Pages 10-11

Book BackThis brain-teaser was a lot of fun. Who doesn’t have a near-endless supply of junk mail? And I had all the other art supplies in my studio.
See the progress of this project here and here.