Quilt Named and More Sketching

I asked for suggestions for naming the quilt I completed last week and received many ideas. I particularly liked the suggestion of Branching Out from my friend Carol Larson. Capturing the obvious (a tree branch) and the allusion to my trying something new with the quilting hit the spot for me.

The on-line class I’m taking with Jane LaFazio is coming to a close. The final lesson — Collage as a background for your page — was given last week, but we have until August 15 to upload more work and receive feedback from Jane and fellow students. I chose to collage a city map of Portland, one of my favorite cities to play tourist in.

08-07-Lesson-6-collageThe wine glass, rose and camera were sketched, painted inside the black line with absorbent ground, and finally painted with watercolor. The sun glasses were sketched and painted directly on the map. I wanted the lettering for “Portland” and “City of Roses” to be clear and handsome so I browsed my options on the computer, selected fonts, sized them, printed them out and traced them with permanent pen on artist tissue paper. They are applied with soft gel medium.

After reading one of Jane’s tutorials, I was eager to try my hand at using the absorbent ground in a new way. Here is the journal page with absorbent ground applied over a stencil then given a color wash using a one-inch brush. The stencil was a gift from my friend Anne (purchased from The Crafter’s Workshop) because she knows my penchant for ginkgo leaves.

08-04-Absorbant-ground-plus-stencil,-watercolor-overMany layers of painting later, here is the final page.

08-08-Absorbent-ground-and-watercolor-pageI like the texture and ghostly imaging achieved by stenciling the absorbent ground.

Here is another page using a collection of pod stencils, ready for work. I’ve taken this photograph at an angle to better see the absorbent ground on the paper.

08-04-Absorbant-ground-plus-stencilThis is actually the other side of the page I completed above. I’m eager to get started on this one!

You can see what I did for all of the lessons with Jane — this year and last year — by clicking on the Sketch/Watercolor category in the right-hand column.

Another Drawing

I worked parts of several days this week on a page intended to introduce me to collage. Yesterday I was so unhappy with what I had that I tossed it out. I may or may not go back to that lesson and see what I can do with it.

Meanwhile, I sketched and painted another page. There is always something sketch-worthy in the yard and we found a small pine branch on the ground during a walk which supplied great fun. It was interesting to note how gray the wood is, except on the tiny outer branches where they are very pale brown.

07-25 More-drawings

The hosta, even fading and brown on the ends, was a very fun plant to sketch and paint. I achieved the layers of green by letting each color dry and then going back to apply the next color. The particular variety here has the yummy creamy-color edges.

The Gaillardia is a new plant in my garden this year. It is so cheerful! The leaves are so svelte and graceful. I sketched a top view of the Gaillardia with the stabilo pencil. I really like using it. Once the sketch was complete I used a watercolor brush with clear water to ‘shade’ the sketch.

And I could barely believe my eyes when I looked at the new pine cone developing and realized how purple it is. This class continues to be a great lesson in looking closely at things and drawing what is there, not what I think is there.

More to come.

This is shared as an Off The Wall Friday posting. I love being inspired by what other artists are doing!

8 Techniques, Page 2

Skidding to the finish line of this week, I have completed a second page using the 8 techniques of focus in Jane’s Sketching & Watercolor in a Mixed Media Journal class. A week always seems like plenty of time to complete several pages for one lesson. The problem is that I’ve never mastered the art of knowing the difference between understanding the lesson and accurately calculating the amount of time it will take me to master the lesson. Note to self: Just keep doing the best you can.

For this page I chose to use birds as the subject. I gathered a few of my collection

Franki Kohler, a few birds

and got started. For technique 1 I used a pin cushion made of cotton fabrics; for technique 2 I used one made of upholstery fabric — hence the rounded beak. I’ve completed using 7 of the 8 techniques here.

Franki Kohler, Lesson 4, page 2 in progress

For the 7th technique, we draw and ink on a book page, then glue it to the journal page and add watercolor. My eye fell upon Raven’s Wing, a book of short stories by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve read enough of her work to know that I won’t be reading this one again. A page from the title short story was perfect for this page.

The last technique — tissue overlay — took me quite a while. I needed to select the birds to use, determine their size and orientation, decide on the position on the page. So many decisions! Finally it came together.

Franki Kohler, Lesson 4, page 2

Whew, done. The next lesson starts today.

To see the first page using these techniques, click here. You can see what happened in Lesson 1 here, Lesson 2 here and here.

This and That

Where to begin. There are many things in progress here. After all, it’s July — the height of summer.

Our side yard with the succulent plantings is filling in nicely.


Here’s  a close up of one panel


The male oriole and his entire family — 2 chicks this year! — visit our feeder regularly.

07-12-Hooded Oriole-male

He is simply stunning from any view.


And I’m having more fun than I’m sure the law allows with the sketching and watercolor class. This page represents the last 2 weeks which covered 8 techniques.


Who knew that there was a graphite pencil that you could sketch with and then use your watercolor brush with just water to shade? Check out number 5 on the page. The tissue overlay exercise (#8) was fun — and a real learning experience. I put the adhesive on the back of the tissue and then struggled to apply it to the page. Naturally, I was supposed to apply the adhesive to the page and then lay the tissue over it. I’m learning. *sigh*

I’ve already begun my second page using these techniques. This time the theme is birds. Stay tuned.

8 Techniques in 2 Weeks

Whew! This is week 3 with Jane and she’s really ramping up our game. The assignment: divide a page into 8 sections and complete assignments using 4 different techniques. Don’t worry about where you start on the page or how you divide the page. . . just get going!

So here I am so far:


#2 is very challenging. I realize how much I depend on the ink line to define my drawings. Without those lines I’m left with color to define the shape. Another great way of learning to really look at things.

Sorry to have you twisting and leaning to see this page. It’s easy for me to move the page around as I work. I think a second page will be in order.

More Everyday Objects

It’s the end of the week with Lesson 2: Everyday objects. I’m always optimistic that I’ll get several pages of sketches done in a week, I certainly intend to. I feel lucky to have completed 2 pages! Here is the first page of objects from the dining room:

Franki Kohler, Everyday objects page 1

And here is the second page with objects from the bathroom. I used the Tombow pen for 4 of the objects, then used the permanent pen and watercolor for the toothbrush. The glove form is a favorite of mine. I have 3 of them and they are displayed on a shallow shelf in the bathroom. I feel like I’m getting a ‘High 5!” when I see them. They were in service for many years at a factory in northern New York before they came to live with me.

Frnaki Kohler, Everyday objects, page 2

I’m not saying that organic objects such as leaves and flowers are easy to master, but there is a forgiveness to them that these man-made, symmetrical objects do not afford. The Tombow pen is very fun to use for shading sketches. As I continue using it I’ll be more adept at shading and incorporating watercolor as well. In the meantime, I have a lot more sketching to do!

I’m taking Sketching & Watercolor in a Mixed Media Journal with Jane Lafazio on-line. You can see what happened in Lesson 1 here ; Lesson 2 here.

Lesson 2: Everyday Objects with a Tombow Pen

This lesson introduced a new tool: a Tombow pen. This nifty pen uses water-soluble acid-free ink and has 2 ends: a brush and a fine tip.

Franki Kohler, Lesson 2

The fine tip is great for drawing the outline of a final sketch. The brush end is handy for getting more ink on the watercolor brush for darker shading.

Our assignment for this week is to sketch everyday objects, then carefully refine the sketch using the fine tip of the Tombow. Once the inking is complete, pencil lines are erased and the watercolor brush comes out. Using just plain water, the object is shaded.

Here are my first attempts at this technique:

Franki Kohler, Lesson 2, page 2

I couldn’t resist adding a bit of color to the 2nd bird. Jane’s advice is to add more shading at the bottom of the bird. I’m guilty of following the actual coloring of the object instead of simply doing this as a sketch with shading — hence the dabs of peach and yellow.

The next object is taken from the bathroom:

Franki Kohler, Lesson 2, page 2

This pen is mighty fun! I have room for another bird on the first page and plenty of other objects in the bathroom. Stay tuned.

Sketch/Watercolor with Jane

I completely enjoyed the class I took with Jane LaFazio in early 2012 — Sketching & Watercolor, Journal Style — and regret that I haven’t made use of my new skills beyond the class. So I decided to get back into a class with Jane and take it to a new level. I’ve never done much in a mixed media style so her class Sketching and Watercolor in a Mixed Media Journal was the answer.

The class is online — so handy for getting things done on your schedule, not the instructor’s. And Jane is a fabulous teacher! She’s so thorough with explanations, illustrations and feedback that even I can make progress.

Lesson 1: Something from Nature. We were instructed to select something relatively complex and interesting to us. We’ll be sketching different parts and different views to fill a page. We’re then encouraged to create some stylized images based on the realistic ones we’ve already done.

Franki Kohler, Something from Nature

I’ve already learned a lot. For instance, the first thing I sketched was the ‘April in Paris’ sweet pea at the top of the page. I love the plant, but as a subject for this class it was a bad choice. By the time I had the sketch done — really just a couple minute’s time — the buds were sagging. I didn’t notice that at first, so erased and sketched again. Jane is steadfast about sketching from life, not photographs. When I reviewed the adjustments again I realized that the buds were in yet another spot — that’s when I realized what was happening. With that, I moved on to the watercolor stage.

Then I went out and found 2 other items that would work for the lesson. I really like the Red Bud with its striking colors, large leaves and the seed pods. I’ve probably attempted too much in this first sketch and will need to go back to selecting smaller portions of the Red Bud for additional work from new angles.

Jane liked the style and tone of my page — she’s always so positive! But I needed to go back and get more pigment in the paint for those green leaves. I also took a close look at one of the pods and added it to the page. It was interesting to see how much yellow-green there was on a pod that initially read as red violet.

Franki Kohler, Lesson 1 page done

I also have a nice piece of eucalyptus that I’m eager to sketch and watercolor.

Lesson 6: Machine Made Objects

Last week was the sixth and final week of my on-line class with Jane LaFazio on Journal Style Sketching and Watercolor.  We turned our attention to objects made by machine. The issue here is symmetry. Jane suggested choosing something that you really like and TAKE YOUR TIME with it. Good advise because getting these drawings took a lot longer than the other drawings I’ve done.

My first choice was a wonderful antique iron by Sunbeam, the Iron Master model. Pure simplicity and grace in a household object.

The cord was especially intimidating for me, so I was thrilled when Jane commented that I had really captured it.

Next up . . . a bottle of wine with a journal entry and a roly-poly wine glass. I didn’t leave much off of the actual label — it’s a rather simple label — but I was pleased to capture the artwork as well as I did and it was fun to put the date of the drawing on the label.

My journal entry says:  A good wine and a few good friends are always an agreeable combination. Keep the reds at room temperature but chill the whites. A cracker and cheese are a natural for keeping a clear head and a steady hand. Cheers!

How is it possible that six weeks have evaporated? I have had so much fun with this class! And, as with every class I’ve ever taken, I’ve learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the instructor — a bonus factor I always take into consideration when evaluating the fee I pay for a class. If you are considering taking a sketching class, I wholeheartedly give my endorsement for signing on with Jane. I will be taking more classes with her in the future.

Back to Sketching

Last week I fell very short of my goals for sketching flowers. The trip to San Diego was worth it, but I will have some making up to do! I managed only two sketches — I look forward to doing many more flowers this summer. I simply adore sunflowers.

And my hellebore in the back yard are blooming like crazy! Don’t you love the purple variety?

So, that’s the short story of lesson #4 on flowers.

This week’s sketches have been all about shoes. And what a kick (you should pardon the expression!) it has been.  My first try was with my brown boot.

Then I pulled out this sassy little thing . . .

I delved into David’s closet.  Though his tan suede shoe looked interesting it lacked appeal until I pulled out the blue paint. There now, just don’t step on ’em.
And then some silver slippers . . . FUN!

But enough of these big shoes. I trotted next door to borrow from my 4-year-old neighbor, Porter. She generously shared a couple of shoes. But, alas! some sad news: This simply adorable polka dot shoe has lost its partner! Porter can’t bare to part with it and I completely understand. So consider this an urgent APB: If anyone sees the partner to this little dazzler, please grab it and get in touch with me. (No questions asked, of course!)

Last, but certainly not least, is this snappy boot. It’s just a little too big yet, but soon Porter will be stylin’ while seeking new adventures!

Now you’re caught up.  Lesson #6 — and the last lesson for this series with Jane — is machine-made objects.  Oh, this is going to be tough. Wish me luck.

Lesson Two: Green

Let’s face it — there are more possibilities for mixing the color green than I can assign a number to. Understanding that means it’s no mystery why Jane devotes an entire lesson to just doing that. For this weeks’ sketching exercise I selected three different green leaves from the yard. After sketching each leaf, I spent a good while mixing blue with yellow, painting dabs on paper and making notes on what I had mixed to come up with that particular green color. My color set is by Prang and contains two greens so I also started with those and experimented by adding yellow, blue, brown, and so on.

The hellebore leaf is actually quite a bit darker than my rendering shows. I have more  work to do to learn about getting that deeper shade. The succulent had many colors of green and the more mature sections have a lovely dab of brownish-red on the very tip; then the stem is a mottled brown. I had hoped to get more sketching done than this but time simply vanished.

If you are new here, click on the sketch/watercolor category and you can read about the origins of this class I’m taking with Jane LaFazio on-line. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

Another sketch

The Buddha Hand may have been a bit ambitious of me. Who am I kidding? It was very ambitious of me.

I’ll have other chances to come back to this fruit. For now, Jane is moving us on to lettuce. This has been a fast week!

Skill Building

Last month I posted a question to the members of Postmark’d Art about which pens they liked the most for writing on fabric. The conversation became quite lively as members shared their experiences with a number of pens.  Sarah Ann Smith said she was quite happy with a set of pens purchased for an on-line course with Jane LaFazio. Then I learned more about the on-line class — Sketching & Watercolor: Journal Style.

I had been thinking about taking some skill-building classes and this sounded like a good starting point for me. I checked out the schedule on line and signed up for the class.

When I received the supply list I realized just how steep the learning curve was going to be. I’ve never taken a sketching or watercolor class. The list of supplies is short but like reading a menu in a foreign language to me: Niji waterbrush, paper: Fabriano Artistico traditional white watercolor block 5″x7″ block, HOT press (is this anything like cold-press olives??). I have a lot to learn.

Jane suggests that you keep all the supplies in one place so they are ready to use at  moment’s notice. This kind of organized approach suits me well. I am putting a tote I received for Christmas to work right away.

Yesterday I downloaded lesson #1: Fruit. I’m off to read through the lesson and experiment with mixing my colors. Wish me luck!