Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pathways Through Summer

I love this time of year, festivals, carnivals, parades, fireworks.  Of course, here in the mid-west we make the absolute most out of summer, especially when it comes to getting out doors.  Last weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa, it was the annual Sturgis Falls Celebration. A wonderful three day feast of color, music, an fun.  My family and I spent three full days enjoying the fruits of this wonderful festival. I took along my sketch book as always, but with two little kids in tow it's sometimes impossible for me to use it. 

Sometimes all I can do is capture color then add doodles or mandalas later that represent the experience for me.  This page in my journal is just one of those pieces.  We were sitting on a blanket under the shade of a beautiful big tree waiting for my hubby to finish the half marathon. I focused on the colors then doodled the mandalas later. 

In this next piece I actually found enough time to do a crude sketch of the oak tree opposite us.  I remember the day as being green, so both of these pieces reflect that. 

It is also the last day of June, which is the last day of the theme 'Pathways' for The Sketchbook Challenge.  I'm looking forward to finding out the July theme tomorrow...stay tuned!

Thanks for checking in. xx

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Following My Own Path

June is almost over and with the heralding in of a new month comes a new theme for The Sketchbook ChallengeSue Bleiweiss wrote a wonderful post today on the blog about following your own path. It resonated with me because finding my path in art has been my greatest challenge.  The most debilitating part of starting an 'artful' life has been overcoming my crippling lack of self-confidence. The Sketchbook Challenge was the first 'group' thing I ever participated in, but more importantly, the first time I've really stuck with something artistic and purposeful.  I usually go through stages of arty energy that waxes and wains due to a lack of self-confidence, a lack of positive feedback, or a lack of purpose.

If there's one dream I've always had it is to be a full-time artist.  I've won awards in school for my art, but it wasn't something that was encouraged. In my world it was considered a hobby, not to be taken seriously, and definitely not to be considered as a career.  I was pushed into business school, graduated college with a Business Degree and eventually made a career as a Corporate Strategist and Management Consultant.  Don't get me wrong, I was good at it and it was a great experience for over 25 years.  However, I was never really happy on that path.

All my life I have secretly kept sketchbooks, journals, and made the occasional attempt at producing a closet masterpiece.  It wasn't until I met my husband and became a mom that I found the idea of becoming an artist a realistic and honorable pursuit.

Even now my family back home don't know about my art-life and that' ok!  To be honest I'm sure they would be thrilled for me if I gave them the chance, but it's not something I'm ready to test.  I'm still very much on my discovery journey, and that means remaining confident and courageous in my exploration. It also means sharing my creativity and learning with a like minded creative community, drawing inspiration and wisdom from those around me, and most importantly being challenged and pushed in a way that is nurturing and not destructive.  The time for me to expand into the big wide world will come, but for now I'm following my own path.

I'm interested to know a little of your path to art if you're willing to share.  By the way, I've finally stepped into the 'real' cyber-world and joined Facebook, so please add me as a friend.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Sketchbook Project 2012

For a number of years now, The Art House Co-Op have been running a program called The Sketchbook Project. This year, I took the plunge and decided to participate.  I'm not sure why, maybe because I wanted the challenge of creating a sketchbook that is devoted to a theme, maybe it's because I wanted to get my art 'out there' more.  I don't know.  But I went ahead and signed up. The theme I've chosen is "A Path Through the Trees". 

I received my custom designed sketchbook in the mail shortly after signing up and have already had a wonderful time playing in the pages. It's only a small sketchbook, 5.25"  Wide x 7.25" High, it's on 100% recycled paper, 70lb text stock, and is 32 pages long.  The cover is a natural brown that lends itself to some very creative approaches. There are very few restrictions on what you can do in the sketchbook, many people remove the pages completely and re-bind the book into something different.  The only stipulation is that the finished book must remain the same size and can not exceed an inch in depth. This is to ensure ease of packing, storing and displaying.  I'm sure there are some very clever creatives out there who are going to turn this sketchbook into works of art.
Inside front cover
The 2012 project is going on a global tour for the first time.  In addition to the USA, it'll take in the UK and Australia.  I'm excited about that because Melbourne is my home town and maybe some of my family will get to see it. Participants need to sign up by October 31st, 2011 and the books need to be back in the hands of The Art House Co-Op in Boston by January 31st, 2012.

I've decided to approach this project using my favorite "materials of the moment".  I've painted all the pages cover-to-cover with black gesso and I've been using my treasured Twinkling H2O's with a splattering of Neocolor II's and a flourish of acrylic.  So far the results are mostly shimmering, but I still have a long way to go.  I'll show you more pages as time goes on.

If you feel so inclined, then I encourage you to sign up and participate.  There will be some amazing sketchbooks by some very talented artists, and you'd be in good company.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sun Worship

After a wonderful weekend outdoors with my family I felt compelled to capture the warmth of the sun in my watercolor journal.

I found this wonderful little quote by Zora Neale Hurston and it was the inspiration to this page:

"The Sun, the hero of every day, that impersonal old man that beams as brightly on death as on birth, comes up every morning...."

I hope you had a great weekend. Thanks for checking in. xx

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Twinkling H20's

Twinkling H20's are one of my favorite mediums. These little pots of spectacular shimmering watercolors are delicious. They're versatile and delightfully unpredictable, and are hugely popular with scrapbookers and stampers, but I use them for painting, sketchbooks, and journals.  There are over 100 colors and once you start playing around with mixing them you can create literally thousands of color hues and shades.

They're easy to use, can be lightly diluted for a subtle shimmer of color, or heavily saturated as a thick, pasty, sparkly medium perfect for dramatic effects.  I probably use these more than any other paints because I just love the way they shimmer and dance around the page, plus the results are always breathtaking.
My favorite approach is to use them on black paper or black gesso.  I love the effects of the sparkly paint against the dark background.  In fact, the painting I used for the banner to this blog (shown above) is done in Twinkling H2O's with a flourish of metallic acrylic paint sponged lightly over the top.  But they work just as well on white paper.

The only drawbacks are that they are very hard to photograph and you have to wait a few minutes for the pots to hydrate before using them, unlike standard watercolors where you just dip the brush in water and rub it into the paint.  The longer you leave them wet, the better the consistency and color of paint. 

I recently did a series of nature influenced mandalas using Twinkling H2O's on white paper.  I'll show you the complete series throughout future posts, the one above was one of my first attempts at exploring these beautiful paints.

Have you used 'Twinks' as they are affectionately known?  Let me know what you think of them. Thanks for checking in. xx

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sketching with Oil Pastel

Years ago my father gave me a beautiful set of Holbein Oil Pastels.  Oil pastel is a medium I've never been able to manipulate very well.  Although I do admire those artists who can produce spectacular results with oil pastel. 

Today, I was tidying up my work area when I noticed my box standing faithfully in the corner.  I guess it called to me, so out they came and I tried my hand at this city scene that was inspired by the front cover of the latest Herrschners catalog.  

My Holbeins have sat faithfully in their box for many many years, accommodating only a few attempts at using them.  I love the colors, but most of all I love the creaminess of them. What's amazing is the pastels themselves are made with pure pigment, suspended in mineral oil which is inert, and therefore will never dry.  They're soft and responsive, but controlling a line or depth can sometimes be a challenge.  

 Storage of a finished work can be difficult because Holbein recommend you don't fix the surface once complete.  I think most artists display an oil pastel painting behind glass as a way to maintain and protect the finish. I used these in my sketchbook so I'm going to have to fix them in order to close the book.

I sometimes use a latex glove when working with them because I get called away often by one child or another and cleaning the oil pastel off my hands can take some time. This downhill bicycle scene was inspired by a photo I found somewhere on the internet (I can't remember where).  I think I need quite a bit more practice and would love to do more in this medium when I have a proper studio space (one day). Right now I work out of a box at the quiet end of our dining room table.
Have you used oil pastels? Do you have any tips? I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Sketchbook Challenge

"Pathways Through the Desert" 

The Sketchbook Challenge  was the single biggest inspiration in getting me kick-started with my art this year.  I'd never participated in anything like this and once I got started I was hooked. I've been inspired by all the other participants and their courage to try new things.  I would never have discovered some of these materials and techniques if it wasn't for this challenge.

Right now, I'm happily working on the June theme "Pathways".  This theme was a serendipity for me because it's close to the theme I've chosen for The Art House Co-Op "Sketchbook Project 2012" which is "Pathways Through the Trees" (more on that later).

"Pathways to Identity"

The Sketchbook Challenge is the brain-child of Sue Bleiweiss and she has managed to gather some of the most talented and inspirational artists around to host the monthly themes throughout the year.  Here they are, and I HIGHLY recommend you check out their blogs:
"Pathways Through Iowa"

You can see more of my quirky attempts on my Flickr page here, or The Sketchbook Challenge Flickr group here

Thanks for checking in. xx

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Glorious Day

I love this time of year.  Early sunrise, beautiful warm mornings (my favorite time of day), lots of interesting nature to watch as I sat quietly on my front porch, gently rocking back and forth on the rocking-chair.  But most of all I love the bird song, a pure symphony of riotous joy as the birds hailed in a new day. Glorious!

Of course today was extra special...Father's Day, and I waited with quiet anticipation for the rest of the household to rouse. We had quite the day planned.  A pancake breakfast, followed by a picnic and hike at Backbone State Park in Eastern Iowa. It was a terrific day, lots of fun, laughter, and some interesting trees, plants, and insects to examine.
It was quite the day, one to remember.  I hope all the dads out there had a great day too.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Watercolor Sketchbook

Knowing where to start, or for that matter where to finish, has never been been strong suit.  So rather than give you a long monologue on who, what, were, when, and how about this blog, I'll just start with some visuals from one of my many sketchbooks.  I like to play around with lots of different media and materials, and I keep several sketchbooks going at one time.
I picked up this wonderful little travel set of "Van Gogh" watercolors when I was in Australia some time ago and I just love them. The sketchbook is a Strathmore Watercolor Journal. I'm very much a watercolor novice, so I'm in a constant state of learning and experimenting.
 When I feel stuck I start by doodling a mandala and then I try to bring it to life with some color.  This often gets my creative juices flowing.
I love to draw flowers.  I planted a few impatient seedlings under the big trees in my backyard this spring.  They're all pink and mauve and I can't wait until they come into their glory.

Spring saw the blooming of the lavender bushes we have along the fence line. I love these flowers so much and fill my kitchen with them when they are in full bloom.
My friend Amy gave me a pot of Gerber Daisies. They've bloomed beautifully over the past month and now have about 5 large blooms on the bush.

I'll show you more from this sketchbook later, along with other sketchbooks. and some of my travel journals.

Thanks for checking in. xx