Saturday, November 10, 2018


Last year, my watercolor instructor and a friend who teaches a creative writing class teamed up for a joint project. The writing class had done several stories about trees. Our watercolor class was asked to read through the stories and each of us paint a tree that was chronicled in one of the stories. Unfortunately, I was away at the time and did not get a chance to participate.

This year we are reversing the precess. The painters are all working on animals, We were told we could choose any animal (or more than one) and offer it to the writing class. The writers will look at the paintings and then each write a story about one of the animals.

Where we live, on Maryland's rural Eastern Shore, there are always paintings of ducks, geese...birds of all kinds. We also see dozens of deer, squirrels, an occasional fox - you get the idea. I didn't want to paint a normal, everyday sighting. I have painted lots of dogs - but they were mostly pastels and this is a watercolor class.

I finally settled on a praying mantis. I googled photos of praying mantis and was amazed by how many different kinds there seemed to be. Perhaps it was just differing views and lighting, but there was a variety of colors and bodies! I decided to make sort of a composite of several rather than try to be anatomically correct. After all, it is my painting, I get to choose!

I began with a simplified ink sketch and a little color. I love his expression!

He is all the same value - that needs work. I added some darks to him and to his tree branch. What a difference. And, he needs antennae and a background...

He's ready to go!

Then I thought it would be fun to do another animal... I haven't painted a pig before (except for a sketch here and there). Back to google to look at photos and begin another painting.

I drew out a pencil sketch and took it to class. By the end of class I had gotten this far. I had limited color choices with me...he is very pink and purple.
I love the idea of a pig emerging from a dark background.

When I got home I defined some of the shapes a little better and added some more color. He's looking a little shapelier.

What I haven't learned how to do with watercolor is make this guy look hairy. I tried adding a little ink suggestion of his scraggly hair. It helped a little, But, I couldn't stand it any longer...

I went over to my pastels... There I could soften the edges between the dark background and the hairy pig. I added a few more colors into the mix and some highlights on his snout. I filled out the shadows under his snout and feet.

I think that's enough - at least for now! Oink...

Saturday, October 27, 2018


A few months ago, my nephew's wife posted an adorable photo on Facebook. The moment I saw it I knew it was a painting waiting to be painted! I asked her permission and she said yes.

The photo was of her youngest child and a friend who were watching their big brothers play baseball. There is a lot of waiting. Apparently, these two were playing a game on a phone. As she said, "If you take the electronics out of the story, it's much more idyllic."

I knew this had to be a pastel so I sketched it out on toned paper and began. (Toned paper beats looking at a blank white sheet any day...and it gave me a mid-tone reference.)

If you look closely, you can see the drawing - including the fence separating them from the ball field.
I worked on his shirt, some more on her hair and tried some 'grass' color and shading...and then got stuck.

I saw two issues. First, the fence. It is on a slight angle. Would it lead the viewer's eye out of the picture? The other the photo, she was wearing her school uniform...a plaid jumper. I have never tried to paint plaid!

So, I thought I would see if I could change the fence and the color of her clothes... I got out some of my acetate and drew/painted on it to try out some options.

Sorry about the reflection, but here is the fence going in another direction and she now has on a very awful color green dress. That does NOT work.

I tried several other colors - including blue, pink, purple, yellow and red...

Then I tried a plaid - sort of...

I stopped there and decided I needed a consultation... I would take it to class.
The next week, I took all the different color jumpers to class. I did not show the original photo until we had looked at everything. Everyone thought the plaid jumper was the way to go. They also said to leave out the fence. It is not needed to tell this story.

The other suggestion was that his arm/hand looked awkward. In the photo, he was leaning back on it and his fingers were pointed backward. They thought the hand should go the other way.

When I got back home, I got out my wooden figure and tried out a few poses.

I kept experimenting - First of all, I left out the fence.
A friend had lent me a book with an article on "How to paint plaid."
And then I worked on the arm/hand.

The plaid got better, but he looks like he is about to fall over!

At this point, the paper I was working on had no more tooth. There was no way to continue to work on it with my pastels. I decided to begin again.

This time I used sanded paper. I did my sketch and then a watercolor wash to give me some color shapes.

I darkened the shadows and did a lot of tweaking of the arm. Who knew arms could be so tricky? Many hours later... I'm calling it done. (at least for now - I put it across the room where I can look at it for a few days)

I think it looks a little more natural, but I also think he looks older! Maybe that's because it took me so long to 'fix' it. We probably both aged during this process.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mini Paintings

The St Michaels Art League (SMAL) was asked to partner with Christmas in St Michaels (CISM) in a new venture this year. CISM is a group that was formed over 30 years ago. They put on a weekend event in December each year and raise money for local non profits. They sponsor a home-town parade, house tour, breakfast with Santa, gala dinner/dance, etc.

For many years, SMAL members have done drawings of the houses on the tour for the event booklet. This year we are also doing mini paintings (3x3, 4x4, 4x6...inches, that is) which will be displayed on small easels and will be for sale.

It's a challenge to paint that small...  I began looking through my photo file and decided I would miniaturize some paintings that I had done on a much larger scale. I warmed up with a few small sketches and this is what I came up with.

These are all 4"x6"

This one was originally a watercolor of three peppers on a window sill. The peppers were farther apart. This small painting is a watercolor & ink sketch.

I was into an ice cream cone phase for quite a while. I liked trying different flavors and drip patterns.

This was originally a watercolor painting that involved more rope twists. I simplified it a bit and it's now a small watercolor & ink sketch. 

It was a fun challenge!

Christmas in St Michaels weekend is the second weekend in December. Mark your calendars and come join the fun!

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Other October Show

While I was deciding what to put in the photography show at the St Michaels Library, I was also working on another show that will be at the Easton Library.

The Easton show is called "Celebrate the Arts" and is being jointly sponsored by the St Michaels Art League and the Talbot County Arts Council (TCAC). This show is celebrating 50 years of the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) and 40 years of TCAC. Our local council gets its funding from the state and in the past 40 years has received millions of dollars for local art programs.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say, I am on the committee...and have been working for several months to get artists registered for the show. We invited anyone who lives, works, shows or sells art in Talbot County to participate.

We had a cut off number of 70 artists and, by the registration deadline, we had a wait list of 9! For the past several days one of our committee members has been trying to secure extra hangers and hooks so we can display everyone's art. Fingers crossed that we really will be able to hang all the artwork.

Next Monday is October 1st. We will be welcoming the 79 registered artists at the library and begin to hang the show that day. On Friday, the 5th we are having a reception for the entire community to celebrate with us. The show will hang for the month of October.

The range of artistic talent and wealth of imagination in our area is amazing. We anticipate an incredible show!

Oh, forgot to say, I am entering my latest ropes painting. "Knots on the Dock." Come see it in person!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Many years ago - just after the turn of the century - (doesn't that sound strange? it was probably 15 years ago), I challenged myself by 'promising' that whenever the art league had an exhibition/show I would enter at least one thing.

That pledge has been a good incentive for me. Most of our shows have been specific themes - which are always fun challenges - or art that I have been working on already. There was a time a few years ago when we had an Oil and Acrylic Only (OAAO) show - I do neither of these things. But, I made myself try some acrylic and it turned out OK.

Now we come to this fall. For the first time, the art league is promoting a Photography Only show. Everyone takes pictures. Most of us use them as references for our paintings. True confession time...of the more than 30,000 photos on my computer, most of them are of my grandchildren! Many of them I have painted, but they are not fine art photography.

I began looking through other files and discovered one that I had labeled 'Veggies.' My son, an organic farmer, has had beautiful displays of veggies at the farmer's market during the summers. I picked out a few of old pictures to play with.

Here is a box of tomatoes - ready for market. I am calling it "One turned over"

I also found a wonderful bunch of carrots.

That's a lot of carrots, but the photo wasn't very sharp. I don't know much about Photoshop, but I thought I would see if I could make it clearer. Well, that didn't work (I need to take a class), so I started to play with filters or something... I decided to go for texture and ended up with this. 

I'm definitely not going for 'fine art' photography, but I did have fun... and besides, the folks who do really great photography don't have to worry about me taking any prize money away from them! 

It was fun and a good challenge!

The show will be hanging at the St Michaels Library during the month of October.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Rope series...

A few years ago I got excited about painting ropes - I can't remember why exactly, but I found myself fascinated with them. A week or so ago I was going through old sketches and found the beginning of another rope painting that was only the initial pencil sketch.

Why not? or rather Why knot?... It might be fun to just take a little time out and paint a rope.

I had recently painted a 'class assignment' using the wooden matchstick and ink technique. I had a fun time with it. So, I thought I would use that for this rope painting. Instead of using an ink pen, I broke the heads off several wooden matches and sharpened them into sort of a pen tip. I inserted the matchsticks into holders, got out my ink, and was ready to go.

The rope was a series of knots and loops. I scratched out the ink outline and quickly added some watercolor washes.

Eh? Kind of fun, but no punch. The rope needed a reason for being on the paper. Maybe it was hanging on a barn wall...I lightly sketched in some barn siding and a few pegs.

Another eh... I'll sleep on it...

The next day, I was to be gallery sitting for a few hours and decided to take the art with me. I threw the matchsticks and ink into the bag...along with an eraser!

Then it hit me - not barn siding, but a dock!

Pencil is still pretty light here, but the pegs are gone. I started inking in the dock boards. What fun!

Fun and obsessively busy!  The next step would be to use a watercolor wash on the dock boards...

The rope pops! I probably could have stopped there, but I was compulsively playing with the matchstick... I added more shadow/texture to the rope and then added more shadow on the dock.

I was all ready with artwork for the upcoming Labor Day Show and Sale this coming weekend. Now I am rethinking  - maybe I will add some rope paintings to my display!

Drop by the show: Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 12:30-5!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fun with color

It was summer and so hot and humid...I really didn't feel like doing any painting. But, I knew I needed to stop staring at a blank sheet of paper. In class that morning a classmate and I just decided to start playing with color.

We did some wet on wet, dropped color, splashed paint...blowing paint around with a straw. Barbara, our teacher suggested that we try some small paintings. I don't think she was too excited about what we were up to. Camille and I were having fun and loosening up!

When I got home, I continued to 'play.' Everything looks better with a mat, so I matted some of these little experiments and found that I really liked them!

 It's fun for me to experiment with some abstract art. One problem I encountered, however, was that some of these could be viewed from different directions! So, where do I sign them?

I made up some screwy titles... and signed them in pencil. If someone wants them upside down, that's OK!

"That's the point"
"Reach out and touch someone"

"Surprise package"

"Blue and Green Sparklers"
"Drips from 4 sides"

We have our annual Labor Day Show and Sale coming up in a couple of weeks. I'll have these and more for sale. Drop by St. Luke's Church in St. Michaels on Saturday, September 1 from 10-5 and Sunday, September 2 from 12:30-5.