Wednesday, June 27, 2012

sketching from the bow

bright sun and a seat on the bow, perfect for sketching
Sunshine and mild temperatures drove me outside to sketch today. It's a quiet anchorage in Hunter Bay on the east side of Lopez Island. Just a small, private marina, a few houses, and mooring balls and large expanses of water.

Oh, the cormorants enjoyed the mooring balls as a place to rest to dry their wings. Provided me with an hour of entertainment and opportunities to sketch.

Just like a circus act! Cue the calliope!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

indoor workstation

pilothouse table workstation
When the weather is wet and windy, I can still sketch and watercolor at the pilothouse table. Windows surround me 180 degrees and if the wind blows, I just do three sketches at once -- at various points on the boat's swing. Madcap, maybe. But it works for me.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Before they went into an enormous huddle and decided to rain on us, we had a glorious day filled with dynamic cumulus clouds. Set again the cobalt and cerulean sky, the clouds were amazing. Made me think I really don't know clouds at all.

"Both Sides Now" by Sungha Jung on guitar. Read more about this stellar South Korean musician here.

And Joni Mitchell, a classic.


by Christina Rossetti
White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops
You all stand still
When the wind blows
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"How to Grow as an Artist" by Daniel Grant.  This is just one of several art books I brought on this boating adventure.

Although some of the information is dated (the book was published in 2002), I still found many gems inside. It covers a wide variety of subjects that interest most artists, like how to set up a safe working environment, how to present work to a gallery, where to go for art instruction, how to overcome blocks, discussion of materials and suppliers. As I said, some of the particular references to websites and people are no longer valid, the ideas still are.

These websites are new discoveries for me, thanks to the book:

Here is my favorite, a bit of a quote from Wolf Kahn

  "...create art that is personal and meaningful."

Special thanks to Jan Heigh who loaned me this book!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Water is an obvious subject for artistic observation when you are on a boat. It is never still! It moves in and out with the pull and push of the tides. Six hours in, six hours out. In. Out. Up. Down. High. Low.

If the wind blows, the water responds with little ripples or white tipped waves.

Even though the water finds its horizontal place, filling in all of the nooks and crannies of the low landscape, it is constantly on the move. And I am watching it with fierce concentration.

I can see already that these sketches are calling to be painted. I struggle to stop looking now that I have seen the mystery and subtle beauty. How can you resist this?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

two if by sea

sketchbook on day of departure
It seems that just when I have started to hum along in the studio with a new process or idea, I am packing again for another trip. Part of me is frustrated by that interruption, but most of me is excited for new vistas and with them, new ideas.

Boat travel is different from road travel. I am much more careful to bring all of the supplies I think I want on the boat since finding an art supply store is harder to do. First of all, I have to find it on foot. I could call a cab, of course, but it's easier to bring it with me if I can.

Days before we leave home, I create long lists of things I want to bring. Clothes for about 21 days so that laundry isn't a big issue. Food for about 2 weeks (more for the big, bulky stuff). And then there's the art supplies. 

All of this stuff is packed into bins, hauled up to the boat, then hauled down the dock in carts. Next, it's all unloaded and stowed away on the boat. Did I remember everything I wrote on the lists? Don't kid yourself. It's a lot of work!

bins hauled down the ramp to the boat, unload, repeat 100x

If you knew you were going to be away from home for several months, how would you pack your art supplies? What would you take? What would you leave at home?

We'll see if I brought what I need (and want) as time unfolds. Honestly, as soon as we push away from the dock, I don't worry any more.

For now, I'm content with my 9" x 9" Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook and Sakura Gelly Roll pen. I was interested in the shapes of the land as they jutted out into the water along our route. 

looking back at the Capitol building in Olympia, WA
We're "hanging on the hook" as some nautical folks might say. Relaxing and resting from all of the work of getting underway. I hope it's a great adventure!

Last night I dreamed I was explaining to someone what it means to be an artist. "An artist is someone who has BIG IDEAS."

You know what? I think I just might be right!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

rewards of consistency

I didn't think about it before I started, but my almost daily practice of Sumi ink sketching has laid a golden egg! More than 300 ideas for abstract paintings and design! Just 10-20 sketches most days wasn't too big a project, yet repeated again and again, it's become quite a nice stack of ideas.

I have a similar feeling when I start a new sketchbook at the beginning of a trip. I don't know how it will turn out, but I commit to daily drawings, daily comments, daily facing a page and designing something unique. At the end of the trip, I have something amazing. 

If I were to think about the end result when I was just at the beginning of either of these efforts, I think I would get overwhelmed or nervous about doing things perfectly. Grandly. Beautifully. But, by keeping my focus on one day, one set of sketches (really, 10-20 is not too much to tackle), or one page in a sketchbook, I have bite-sized bits that are easily done.

And a sweet reward for consistency. 

Maybe that's why the tortoise wins the race in old Aesop's fable. Slow and steady. Not a bad way to tackle things.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

gouache vessel

Vessel 6, 29 x 22, gouache
Wet brush, loaded with water and pigment, hits the watercolor paper and moves and melds into the paper. What a thrill! I wanted to see if I could mimic with watercolor the feeling I get with Sumi. Nope. It's completely different. Sumi has more body and independence. But, this painting was a lot of fun regardless of any disappointments.

Here's the Sumi painting that inspired the larger painting. 

Not by any plan, the wonderful consequence painting ideas of my regular Sumi sketch paintings is a wealth of  painting ideas and references for further abstract work. If the sketch appeals to me, it just might make a great painting. 

You never know.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

one if by land

30 x 22. mixed media on BFK
This painting started as a small Sumi sketch. I enjoyed the happy shapes, the simple lines, and the composition. It was no hard decision to translate the sketch into a full sized painting.

Rives BFK is a soft but sturdy paper and I love to work on it. It can take rough treatment and handle a variety of techniques and still hold together beautifully. I started with a charcoal sketch, then used gouache to set up my color palette. Once that was dry, I applied Golden's Acrylic Pastel Ground and incised the medium with calligraphic marks to add interest and texture.

Once the APG was dry, I started layering on pastel. The final touch was a gestural application of Sumi to bring back the lines of the original sketch.

These are busy days in the studio for me. Tick tock. Soon I will be back on the boat. There are three plein air spots aboard the boat and I plan to make good use of all of them throughout the summer.  But for now, I'm on land. And enjoying a bit of time in my studio!

At least, when I paint on the boat, I don't have to worry about the bears, like this artist did!  I always think that bears are wonderful, but only FROM A DISTANCE! Sheesh!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Vessel, pastel on Wallis Museum
Since seeing the Chihuly exhibit at the Museum of Glass last week, I have been thinking a lot about containers. What are their shapes and what mysteries do they hold?