Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There's a fountain in my sketchbook!

My body ached from all of the lifting and packing, sorting and sifting at Dad's place. I took a walk with my sketchpad and hoped to ease some of my stress by slowing things down to sketch. Nothing fancy, but the burbling of the water and the splashes and ripples on the surface calmed me. A quick break and then back to work.

We're on our way home now and Dad is in Florida. Life is good!

The hill behind Dad's house

Monday, April 26, 2010

I made Dad cry

Today I gave my father this painting. It is of the foothills in California, like the ones that he has climbed since 1957 when he moved to the Golden State. He was a University of Illinois graduate, an engineer off to seek his fortune. And he made California his home.

I have been working with my brother and husband to pack up Dad's house. Tomorrow he will board a plane with my brother and move to Florida to live closer to my brother and his family.

And so, I told my father that I wanted him to take his beloved hill with him to Florida, where hills are hard to come by. When he saw the painting, he cried. Then he held my hand for a very long time.

Sometimes art gets to say "I love you." Today was a day like that.

Not for the timid

Talk about gestural sketches and using your imagination! These sketches were done from a moving vehicle. Admittedly, I was the passenger, but traveling at 60+mph and sketching is not for the timid. I call these quick gestures with lots of stuff made up. The bottom sketch was done at a five minute stop in a rest area.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Abbey of New Clairvaux

I have never painted a successful vineyard painting. I feel lost among the vines and unsure about how to work a composition to make it interesting. But, after touring the New Clairvaux Abbey and Vineyard, after touching the limestone blocks and admiring the Sacred Stones Gothic structure that is being reconstructed from materials that once made up a 12th century church, after listening to the monks chanting, ... I walked among the orchards and vineyards and thought I might be able to paint something next time.

For now, I am content, oddly content after this quiet day. And I wonder how it is that this 600 acre California monastery feels like France.

Road Trip

Before heading out on a trip, I try to allow time to clean up my studio. Not because I am such a "neat freak," but because I hate to come home to a mess. Okay, maybe because I am a little too neat, too.

The studio is clean and empty, almost sterile! When I return home, I will have a blank slate on which to write my new ideas.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steve Dore

Hi. My name is Katherine and I am clumsy.

Hi Katherine.

No, this is not a 12-step meeting at all, but I feel like that when I admit to you that I am clumsy. Getting on and off boats, in and out of airplanes, playing any sport (my first drive on a par 3 golf course ... I banged the ball into the pro shop!), ... I bumble along. It doesn't stop me from doing things, but I know that I provide comedic relief to those who watch!

Maybe that's what makes me especially curious and attentive to those who are graceful with their bodies. Like this guy on the dock. He moved on the tilting dock as if it were still. Even as I watched and sketched him, I envied him just a bit, too.

Last weekend I got to see Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza" show. Top notch athletes, every one of them! These contortionists were the most amazing of all!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Start the day with sketching

This morning, after our regular breakfast meeting, a few of the group members (Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters) stayed to sketch. The neighborhood is called Multnomah Village and it features a one-way street lined with many old buildings. Their architecture doesn't all match and the surfaces change from wood to brick to metal to raw construction. Light poles and wires clutter the upper visages, sandwich boards and pipes clutter the lower ones. It is an absolute delight!

Too bad it was cool and sprinkling on us. I could only manage one outdoor sketch (at the bottom of this post) and still rushed my way through it.

Our kind-hearted waitress, Cherie, let us sit in the annex next door where we could sketch in comfort. The annex was filled with curiosities, and some surprising bouquets of fresh flowers.

Monday, April 19, 2010



They drop their petals
like withered crones now.

But only last week,
they were modest, closed
simple blooms folded in
like young ladies
legs crossed properly.
Stems trimmed
they drink, thirsty
exuberant in their youth.

Each day they open
relaxing tight hold on
Gentility, deportment.
Growth unbends,
stems curve
seeking to drop down,
reach out.

Then they are wanton,
innermost parts fully exposed
pollen dripping, passion staining
petals yellow, sticky, wet
nothing hidden
open, flat.

Now parched, wrinkled,
dropping petals
color faded
a somber death.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My sons no longer live at home. They are married and lead their own busy lives in the Seattle area. Whenever they come home for a visit (with their lovely wives), it is very special for me. I love the noise, excitement, laughter, conversations, and fun. And I love how my house feels full of them when they are here.

But, when they leave, I always feel sad. And the house feels emptier than it did before they came.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Son time

My son came into town today! Hooray! And, after I fed him, he even agreed to sit for me in the studio. Life is good!

Of course, now I'm out of milk and need to bake more brownies before tomorrow when my other kids arrive. I am a happy mom. And, I remember why I felt like locusts had descended on the kitchen when my kids were at home. I am happy and smiling and whistling my happy tune. Yay!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hourglasses of light

watercolor on Arches 140#
26 x 40

Here you can see my first efforts of translating my graphite sketches to watercolor sketches. I like the idea of exploring a theme and variations on the theme. Sounds like music!

If the top row were numbered (left to right) #1-5 and the bottom row (left to right) were #6-10, which do you think are the best? Which attracts your eye, if any, and why?

My favorites are #3 and #7.

#3 because it captures the surprise I felt at the dark current of water that broke the shape of light.

#7 for the variety of edges and interesting white shape.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Today began with a full rush of hurry. Maybe you know the feeling of charging through chores to get to the fun of the day: painting.

Once I was in the studio, I knew just what I wanted to do. I wanted to play! Out came my sketchbook with the light-on-water sketches. Out came the watercolor (what better way to play when the subject is water than watercolor?). Big brushes. Happy music.

Pike palette, color not too mixed

isolating the sketch

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Do you frame your own artwork?

Not all artists feel as I do, but I made a decision when I first started painting that I would not frame my own paintings. I found a great framer and she helps me select frames that complement the artwork. Today I picked up these three new pieces. I'm very happy with them!

Do you frame your own artwork?
Late this afternoon I made it over to my favorite wildlife refuge and studied the way the light described and illuminated the cattails. I think that the best painting I've ever seen of cattails is this one by Marc Hanson. He painted it last year as a part of his Spring plein air marathon. For a month, he painted FOUR plein air paintings per day. What stamina!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not crazy!

I'm sure my sketchbook makes me look like I'm a little crazy. I assure you, I am no crazier today than I was last week.

I was looking for sketching subjects when I noticed the light on the water. At first I thought, "the sun looks like an hourglass on the water." I sketched that shape. Once, twice. Six times. The water was moving as the tide pulled and the current shifted it. The dark shape in the middle kept changing. Deep water that pulled and pushed. I kept sketching. More than an hour. Observing. Sketching. Again and again. I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but something that pulled me to notice and sketch it will probably end up in a painting. We'll see.

All day yesterday I wondered about the seals. Where were they? Usually the area near Eagle Island is filled with the sounds of their snorting, their curious dark eyes on me as they paddle around the boat, the early morning splashing and frolicking. When I looked to the island this morning, I saw what looked like logs on the beach.

Not logs! Seals! Must have been nap time. Except for this guy. I think he was waving to me!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eagle Island

It's been a while since I've been boating and I can tell that I am rusty at it. I couldn't seem to grab the ring on the mooring buoy, and it took several attempts (maybe 7 or 8!) before I inserted the boat hook into the ring and got a line attached. The folks in the sailboat nearby had some unexpected but jolly slapstick comedy to watch! By the 5th time, I was laughing so hard, I could barely speak! Another go round for moderate embarrassment! And again, for total humiliation! To be fair, the wind and current were against us, but no matter. Laughter is good for the soul!

Once we were secured, I made a big cup of coffee and pulled out my sketching gear.

I did this sketch while we were en route. The area is called "Devil's Passage." I could barely see the Cascade Mountains in the distance.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Budd Inlet, Olympia

During a nice sunbreak, I was able to get out for a sketch walk today in Olympia, Washington. My cleaning duties on the boat were nearly done (frankly, I don't think that they are ever completely done). I found a park bench situated with a view of some of Budd Inlet, so I sat down and did this sketch.

If you like water and sky and boat reflections, the painting/sketching subject matter is limitless here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Weeping Sky

In the midst of sadness and sorrow, music soothes and touches the places that words cannot.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monotype 1

Monotype 2

Yesterday was a red-letter day for me! I got to pick up my monotypes from Jef Gunn at Tiger's Cave Studio. Yay! It's been about 10 days since the workshop and it was a thrill to look at my pieces again and to visit with Jef. He told me that of the people who had been to his studio and had seen these, the consensus is that Monotype 2 is the strongest of the four I made at the workshop. What do you think?

Monotype 3

Monotype 4

Lucky for me, Celeste Bergin was home when I was driving by and I was able to drop in on her to show her the monotypes. It's great to do art, but it's great to share art, too. I count myself lucky to have her as a friend.

I am not kidding when I tell you that I've been looking at presses on Craigslist and Ebay and at the various art resources in town and on line. But, first I will need more experience. More workshops and classes on monotype for me. I'm hooked!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Intentional authenticity

K.Kollwitz, self portrait

I had to really coach myself before going in to the museum. Four hours. I gave myself FOUR HOURS. And I determined to not impose any order on my visit. None at all. No listening to the organizing part of my brain that would take me through every exhibit, down every hall, past every painting.

That kind of museum visit may be thorough, but it leaves me dull-eyed.

No. This time would be different! This time I would follow only what interested me. I would get lost. I would be completely inefficient and loop over my steps many times if that is what it took.

If that is what it took to just follow things to the parts I NEEDED to see. The parts that reached out and grabbed me by my guts.

And that is how I ended up standing in front of the Kollwitz self-portrait.

The honesty and blatant emotion grabbed me, by my guts if you will allow, and made me stop. And look. And consider all of things I considered. About life having raveled edges. About how I do not need to be orderly or even neaten things up. About just being. Being my genuine ragged-edged self.

I'm sure that there are times when I do not notice the subtle pressures to conform to something that may be comfortable but not genuine. It is difficult to put this into words.

I think I am on to something. I can hardly wait to go back to the museum and try it again with this mindset.

This clip from the movie "Dead Poets Society" illustrates this very idea.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010


11 x 14, Bristol

From the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River is only visible in small bits, like a cut ribbon. Now docile and dammed, this river once cut and carved and raged its way through the sandstone to form what is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Maybe it is possible that something wondrous can come from what looks now to be devastation. To consider this is to entertain hope.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Filled with sorrow.
We are all filled with sorrow.
A son is gone.
His death a shock that extinguishes thoughts and hope and breath.
A mother grieves.
And her friends grieve
and wish the uselessness of their sadness could fill this
flat, dull void of death.

For KK with love.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Plein air painting and sketching

9 x 12, Bristol Vellum

Yesterday I got out for the quick plein air study you see above. That dynamic sky opened up with hail just as I finished packing up and putting the top up on the car. Timing is everything on some days!

Today I had the fun of sketching with the Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters. After our meeting, seven of us stepped outside the door to the Bread and Ink Cafe and sketched the storefront across the street. Red Light Clothing Exchange always has interesting displays. Today it was all about red! I loved the red dress with the feather boa neckline and red velvet coat in the window! You can see the sketches from our group on our new blog "Behind the Scenes." I hope you pop over there and look!

I also got to try out some new sketching supplies! I used pen, Faber Castell watercolor pencils, and my new-fangled water brush. The brush (with the purple toned body in the photo below) has a water reservoir and by gently squeezing it, water comes to the brush and allows me to add water to the pencils marks to make them wash and flow.

sketching supplies

watercolor pencil and ink