Saturday, April 14, 2018

Back to Basics

You know how when you watch an old black and white movie, after a minute or two you don't even notice it's black and white anymore? The light and shadows, forms and contrast take the place of color, keeping you a captive audience.

But people do love color, especially aspiring artists. It's hard to explain to them that learning about color takes time and effort just as learning to draw does. Yet every beginning field sketching class I teach has my students pulling out their markers, watercolor pencils, crayons and pastels. I have to be the bad guy and ask that we take a little time with just a pencil first and learn some basics.

Once they have gotten the hang of it, then they can take out their color and begin the long, learning process, working their way down the yellow brick road by looking, experimenting and always learning. But I want to instill the simplicity and beauty that can be achieved with just a pencil and paper, especially in the field when things move quickly and the light changes rapidly.

Even after 30 plus years of keeping sketchbooks, I still love to work with just a pencil, sometimes a blue one or sepia one. It reminds me to really see my subject and make it as interesting as possible instead of pondering the muted shade of green on an alligator's back or the golden tone of the creek water.
My favorite pencil is a General's Sketch and Wash pencil. It produces intense darks, and by using a brush and water, you can spread that graphite. You can also dip the pencil into water and draw with it or go back into wet areas and draw. The beauty of this tool is that once dried, it is permanent, no smudging.

I always give my students one of these pencils which most of them have nicknamed the "magic pencil." I've yet to hear someone say they didn't like it.

So all that being said, here's a few more black and white sketches ending with a finished painting and a drawing from the sketches you see here, in color.

Welcome to Oz.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A New Vision

I've had the opportunity to take a hiatus from writing a blog so I could adjust it to the changes I have made in my life. I find I am now concentrating almost entirely on my field sketching, working on location and creating my finished paintings from these sketches as well as teaching workshops on sketching in the field. People are fascinated by my sketchbooks, notes and the process I use when working. This has led me to this new direction for my blog. I hope it will be informative for artists as well as anyone who loves nature and would like to keep a sketch diary. My books contain my whole life; the wetlands that I adore, the animals I see, as well as drawings of sounds I hear in the wild and written thoughts on a wide variety of things. For me, sketching relieves stress, producing a meditative quality, encourages me to learn new things, and helps me document areas before they disappear. It also preserves memories for my children.

So here's my personal statement on why I prefer to work on location rather than rely on photographs.

By working directly with my subject, I form an emotional bond leading to a conversation, letting it tell me its story in its own time. When I focus on something I am more apt to remember the details. This makes me appreciate and care about what I'm sketching which results in my wanting to protect it. Everyone and everything benefits.

I find my sketches are my best work, full of life and movement. Some of my work is good, some is not, but I respect the effort I have put into each one. My finished work can never recapture that fresh, first impression. When I look back at a page in a sketchbook and read the notes, I recall the sun on my back, the wind brushing my cheek and the sound of frogs plopping into the pond.

I believe a plein air sketch holds every bit as much value as any finished piece of art, perhaps more so since it is filled with the air itself.

So I'll begin this first post with a look at my own field kit.

My field bag which I found at a thrift store along with a broad brimmed hat and Walkstool.
My sketchbooks are all spiral bound so they lay flat when working.
I use a hairband when it's windy to keep the pages from flipping, and the old file folders
are great for inserting between pages when working with a wet medium.
My favorite markers, Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens, in a sealable plastic bag. 

Assorted pencils. A favorite is my General Sketch and Wash pencil.

Crayola Twistables in a sealable plastic bag, fabulous tools.

Small tin with bits of Nupastels

Old tin filled with tube colors, Daniel Smith, my favorite brand.

Collapsible Water Container with a wide base so it doesn't tip over.

And it all fits into this bag along with some paper towels!

See you next week!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Break

I find myself at the point of needing to carve out more time for my work. I also find that most of you readers also follow me on Facebook where I tend to post the same content. So for awhile, I will just be posting daily on Facebook until I feel I can do this blog justice again.

So please, click on over to :  and like my page. Thank you for following me, and I look forward to sharing all my news with you there.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Look of Cotton

I find I go off on tangents, quite often actually. I don't know if it's the way my brain operates or maybe I just find too many interesting things to explore. Lately, it's been cotton fields.

pencil and watercolor
I relocated to the Outer Banks from Massachusetts, land of the cranberry bogs. I found the bogs enticing with their rich colors and earthy feel plus the fact they only captured my attention during their brief harvesting season. After moving to the South, I found the cotton fields that lined the road to my island drew me in like the bogs used to. But time changes things. And now those former cotton fields have been replaced by vineyards, soybeans and rapeseed. They are beautiful in their own way. I took great pleasure in painting the bright yellow rapeseed this spring, but I miss the cotton. 

Fortunately, there are still lots of cotton fields further over on the mainland, and this year I am sated. I began researching the life of cotton and now know about bolls, bur and locks. I've been lucky that some of the fields still hold their bounty and harvesting is not yet finished, giving me a few more days to work.
One of my original sketches.

My favorite cotton field painting sold two days ago. It was a hard one to let go. But this coming Tuesday, I'm set to go sketch a family's soybean field in honor of a gentleman's passing. I know I'll find earthly beauty in that field too. It will offer its own set of greens and earth tones along with rows of promise. I love being asked to sketch someone's fields or gardens; to be able to preserve those moments for a family.

As far as my tangents, my daughter-in-law got me a book I wanted on space and my mind is whirling madly.

This was my favorite that just sold.

gesso, watercolor, pastel and acrylic

pencil and watercolor

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Governors Project

People wonder why I continue to work on this project, and just today, as I was setting up my show, someone asked that very question. I do it because even though most people have "moved on" from the Las Vegas shootings, I have not. 

Sadly each week, think about that for a minute, each week and sometime twice a week, 
another horror takes place in this country. 
So I will continue to spread my words and art with hope 
they will touch a few hearts.

This first painting is a Guam Rail and yes, it is headed to Governor Calvo of Guam.

This painting of the Nene is off to Governor Ige of Hawaii.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Governors Project

Pardon my lack of posting but I am in the middle of show season. In light of the latest horrors, I decided this might be a good time to catch you up on The Governors Project. I have received letters from two governors which have given me hope. Perhaps the words on these paintings will offer hope to you too.

The captions will tell you what each bird is and who it has been sent to.

Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado - Lark Bunting

Governor Malloy of Connecticut - Robin

Governor Carney of Delaware - Delaware Blue Hen

Governor Deal of Georgia - Brown Thrasher

Governor Scott of Florida - Mockingbird

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Coquina Dunes Morning

I'm always surprised at how excited I get when I know I will have time to sketch on location. I forget the rush of working in the fresh air, capturing the color, sounds and movements. Yes, I said sounds because sometimes I draw what I hear. But that's a topic for another day.

Sometimes though, the weather doesn't cooperate. This day the wind was so strong that sand was blowing everywhere. But I finally found the right size baking pan to sit level on the car seat so when necessary, I just push my seat back, prop up my book and set my tools and water on the tray.

Last week I spent a couple of hours at Coquina Beach on Bodie Island, a 15 minute ride away. I was really pleased with what I caught between the pages of my sketchbook. And it turned out to be a treasure chest to work from later in the studio. I'd like to share with you all the work that came out of that short trip.

Sketch 1

Sketch 2

Sketch 3

Sketch 4