Friday, March 31, 2006

First Lesson Homework and Tree Challenge

The alumni from Kate's classes set up a monthly challenge. Last month was windows; this month is trees. My first lesson focused on watercolor washes, so I combined the challenge of homework and the tree challenge to create this watercolor. (Sioux did the same combination!)

I painted the tree twice (though the trees here are the same painting - one darkened by Photoshop to help get the colors on screen closer to real life) -- and I'll probably paint it again while I continue practicing using more watercolor than pencil!

Graded Wash

Although you can't see it in the scan (DRAT the thing!!) I've sketched my redbuds against a pale blue sky. (WN paints on Fabriano #140 coldpress.) This is much softer toned in real life.

Graded and Varigated Washes

I'm finally getting a chance to 'play' with my watercolor assignments. I've done two washes - flat and graded - on Fabriano 140# cold process -- seemed to do very well! The tree was done on a graded wash on hot pressed paper -- MUCH more difficult. (Tree painted with Micron brush). The flowers were created after a few varigated washes. I sketched the flower based on the shape of the wash. FUN!

Two for Tea

I'm continuing my watercolor practice. Last night while I sipped on the tea inside this cup, I sketched two versions of the cup ... one with more intense shadows than the other (my intention was to get the shadows on the saucer since the light came from overhead).

The scan is much brighter than the painting; my scanner really brightens the white of the watercolor paper and thus the subtle shadings don't show in the scan as they do in real life. I've tried fixing this in PhotoShop -- but no luck thusfar.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rebecca's Irises

While my irises at home are barely buds, 80 miles south of me, Rebecca has been filling her vases with these purple beauties for the last week. This week I sketched one of her smaller arrangements (on sketch paper).

EDM #60

This week was consumed with construction and landscaping where I work. Fields were cleared and graded, drainaged was corrected, a new patio was created with awesome looking pavers, and all the while, heavy equipment stirred up dust, dirt and pollen to land in even the smallest of crevices. Instead of sketching my dust-baked car for this challenge, I sketched that fascinating Bobcat that moved soil, stone, pallets, gravel and more. What a nifty piece of heavy-duty machinery in such a compact size!

I sat in the field and sketched this Bobcat from its side as darkness fell. With all the stone and machinery around, I couldn't get a better angle.

Rebecca's flowers

I sketched one of Rebecca's vases of flowers on watercolor paper so I could practice both sketch and watercoloring.


I've signed up for Kate's watercolor class but haven't had a chance to do any homework. To get familiar with watercolor paper (I've been sketching and applying a watercolor wash to my text-weight sketch paper), I played a bit with some paints and Fabriano watercolor paper.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


We're continuing our food-ish weekend. For brunch, Charles made an absolutely scrumptious omelette using Vadalia onion tops and the remaining basil cream sauce from last night's pasta. He added a side of cantaloupe and strawberries, bacon and toasted whole wheat apricot bread, and a steaming cup of coffee. INCREDIBLE!

My diet is shot! I'll need five miles on the treadmill -- but oh my, it was SO worth it!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

'What the World Eats'

The day began with rain and a bit of sleet and a bit of snow. SPRING??? HA! Poor flowers!

I read the New York Times' article on food in Rome as I ate my English muffin and drank my morning coffee. Our plans to begin yardwork being 'rained out,' we decided to see the exhibit 'What the World Eats' at Exploris in Raleigh (

We ate lunch at the Carolina cafe and then drove across town to the Museum. WHAT A NEAT EXHIBIT! Portraits of 30 families from all over the world (including Raleigh!) were displayed with a week's worth of typical groceries (some included Australia, Ecuador, England, Greenland, India, Japan, Kuwait, Mali, rural China, Turkey, Mexico, Greenland, Italy, France, Germany, India, etc. Alongside the portraits was a list of all the foods and their respective costs (including costs of eating out).

From the least amount of money spent on food for a family of four in Bhutan (I think it was $30 US currency) to a family of four or five in Germany ($500 US currency) for a week- not only the cost of the food but the different (as well as similar) foods was eye-opening! One could clearly see the influence of pre-packaged and fast foods. (KFC is the biggest Western fast-food chain in China) and of the 30 families featured in the exhibit, only 11 did not have a Coke or Pepsi product represented in the photo!

We spent a good amount of time reading each feature and grocery list! The exhibit has a book "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats," Material World Books and Ten Speed Press, if you're interested. The exhibit sure gave us a lot to think about!

Afterwards we did a bit of grocery shopping and made it back home in time to cook dinner.

After a day focused on food .... what did WE eat???

Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni with Peas covered with a Basil Cream Sauce!



I'm still experimenting with the Fabriano watercolor paper. I sketched this poppy from a book and tried to focus on the highlights and manipulating my paint. OH MY! There's a lot to learn!
This looks more like pencil than watercolor! SIGH!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Flowering Almond

Behind the house, tucked in a semi-protected area, is a gorgeous flowing almond -- the most peachy-pink-orange that I've seen. I sketched a flower cluster, again on 140# WC cold press Fabriano paper. The sketch in real life matches the color beautifully -- but I'll be darned if I can't get my scanner (and all my adjustments) to cooperate! SIGH!

My Jonquils

After spending a week among Rebecca's flowers, I dashed outdoors to see just flowers were abloom on my own property. DRATS! We are still weeks behind those further south of us (even 90 miles!), and so, besides my trees, the only flowers I could find blooming were a patch of jaunty jonquils -- and here - only THREE!

Sketching this was a new experience for me. I've been sketching on 60 pound sketch paper and adding light watercolor washes. To prepare for the class I'll take online with Kate Johnson, I'm trying out Fabriano 140 pound watercolor paper. MERCY! How very different the paint behaves! I wound up adding paint, removing paint, scanning and rescanning (since my scanner turns the colors into something very weird!), and have settled on this version.

All I can say is I'm eager to learn more about watercolors--from their properties to papers to brushes! But for now, all I can say is -- THE PAPER REALLY DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

FINALLY - A Redbud I like

I got to Rebecca's earlier than normal last night, and I used the opportunity to sketch one of her beautifully shaped redbuds. I like this a lot and HOPE that I've finally captured its delicacy and beauty.

Those Redbuds

When the sun finally came out this week, I sat in my car and sketched the very young redbud near the former greenhouse of my students. I wanted to TRY to capture the fragile look of it and the bright, pink blossoms. Though I've come pretty close to the actual structure of the tree, it so reminds me of something Walt Disney would animate that it makes me laugh!

Rainy Day Boredom

We've had several rainy days this week with a return to cooler temperatures. Unable to get out to sketch the blooming plants (or walk!!), I wound up sketching my CD player and a copyright free image of Tuscany. I liked the way both came out -- and after struggling with so many angles and placements with the Tuscany image, I will have to do more of these to ready myself for the Oxford sketch crawl in April!

Rebeccas Vases

I told Rebecca (owner of the B&B I frequent) how much ya'll were enjoying my sketches of her flower arrangements. She was so delighted, that she made sure I had something different to sketch each night! AND, she wants me to make more notecards from them!! WOW!! Here are the three from this week.


Before I left for the week, my dh and I had dinner at a lovely, quiet Italian restaurant. While we waited for the food, I sketched the Chianti bottle/vase.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


My weekend was sort of disorganized. Typically chores are done on Friday so that we have Friday and Saturday for doing those kinds of things we'd prefer to do. THIS weekend though found us replacing cell phones, shopping for odds and ends, visiting grandchildren, and taking care of arrangements and attending one of my husband's cousin's funerals. Seems like the weekend flew by without much awareness or much groundedness.

As we ate lunch, I sketched my overnight bag, packed again for a week out of town. BIG SIGH!

EDM #59

This week's challenge is to sketch signs of spring. Though we've been having warm temperatures up until now, THIS week, the first week of spring, our temperatures are dipping into the 50s ... BRRR!

However, my property and the plants on it, is about two weeks behind those where I work since I'm about 80 miles north. So for this challenge, though I've sketched similar plants at work, I've included three plants from my property: forsythia, crab apple and flowering almond.

Red Mustard Top

Sketching the reverse side of the red mustard leaf was fun -- but the TOP of it was particuarly challenging. I sketched it in pencil and found that by using my eraser, I could achieve a softer value contrast I really liked. I then ran the scanned image through my printer onto watercolor paper (thanks, Karen, for the idea!). But since I only have an inkjet printer, I had to work through and swipe off as much of the ink as I could. I added watercolors to attempt that deep purple-magenta of the leaf. I scanned the image again -- then decided to add some ink for veins. I like each of these sketches for various reasons ... do YOU have a preference?

BTW, I had some questions about this vegetable, so I'm including a link to our state university for additional information. It really is delicious, and YES, ya'll are invited to dinner!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Red Leaf Mustard

While browsing the property for some fresh sage for tonight's butter and sage pasta dish, I noticed that the red mustard I planted this fall was still looking pretty perky. I picked several leaves (quite a bite, it has!) for the salad, and decided to sketch it too for St. Patrick's Day greenery (with a nod to purple).

Note to Penny - I couldn't help but be influenced by your swiss chard sketch!

For St. Patrick's - The Greens

It's rather overcast today with a chill wind - but I still wanted to go outdoors and sketch. I remembered it was St. Patrick's Day, and though I'm all Italian-American (not a lick of the Irish in me, I'm afraid) I thought I'd sketch something green.

A quick look around the property and I spied the greens of my herb bed -- all in various hues of the color! From the rosemary (in bloom!) to newly flowered violets, to the crinolined agastache (that'll have purple blooms this summer) and the bright green of chives ... here is my bit of Irish for good Ol' St. Pat!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More of Rebecca's Flowers

With sping cascading with such flurry, Rebecca's B&B is chockfull of gorgeous flower arrangements! In my room, she placed this tiny arrangements ... so thoughtful ... so pretty!

My First Mini-Sketch Crawl

After learning that Laura lived nearby (YEAH!!) we arranged to meet at the JC Raulston Arboretum today for a mini-sketch crawl (MY VERY FIRST!). What a DELIGHT to finally meet the beautiful woman behind the artwork I drool over!

We found a quiet spot and sketched while we chatted. Laura's painting of the area is INCREDIBLE! The sketch I did of ONE of the twisted wisterias looks as though it were on a diet! The tree I sketched (hackberry with partial vine covering a bit of branching) is the large one toward the background of Laura's row of wisterias.

I don't remember spending a more enjoyable afternoon! THANK YOU, Laura!

The Woodlands

Though it's still cool outside, the trees have begun blooming in earnest in a glorious display of color -- from pinks to ochre to orange, their minute flowers offering an awesome array of varying hues after the somber grays of winter.

I have in my mind's eye this image of gray tree trunks, branches, and twigs, all in a haziness that is dolloped with splashes of magenta, orange, red, emerald -- not in the panorama of fall, but rather in the delicate emergent quiet that is spring.

I've made three attempts to take what's in my eye and put it on the page ... none of them EXACTLY what I SEE or FEEL ... DRATS!


As spring continues to unfold, I am ALWAYS jaw-dropping when I drive past a woodland and come upon the bright magenta/pink of the redbuds peeking out from a thatch of gray tree trunks. They seem to dot the woodland edges and remind me of one of my favorite photographs by Eliot Porter "Redbud Trees in Bottomland, Near Red Gorge, Kentucky, 1968."

I've been marginally successful at rendering what I SEE of this bright, pink-blooming tree, but when I got to Rebecca's this week, she had gathered a few branches of the Redbud and added it to her floral arrangements. I sketched a quick close-up of the flowers.

EDM #58 Sketch a Hat

It's pretty pathetic when you can't find a hat in your entire household! But my husband and I are "hair to the wind" kind of folks. I did manage to find an old straw hat of his that was bedecking his corner of the bedroom. Had to dust it off before I sketeched it since it has seen little use in the years he's owned it!

However, when I got to the B&B, Rebecca's husband, Ken, had several hats he ADORES and proudly shows me whenever he can. So I sketched one of these in two views as well as the straw hat.

Monday, March 13, 2006

My Forsythia

When I returned home from running errands today, the bright lemon-butter yellow of my forsythia just about blinded me. It's in full bloom and just getting its green leaves.

A Day of Rest

Schizophrenic weather is not uncommon this time of year, and yesterday and today are no exceptions. When I returned home from my daughter's, the weather was glorious and HOT! In the 80sF, sun bright, a slight breeze, I opened every window in my house and let the fan move the new air in and the stale air out! I left the windows open all night and awoke to a chorus of birdsong and the sweet smell of spring! Well, a day of spring anyway.

I had car repairs to have done today so I was home instead of work ... and a much appreciated day of rest, even with dozens of errands to get behind me before jury duty tomorrow.

Still, with the sun bright and waiting ahead of me, I walked around my property to be continually amazed at the blossoming going on! This time of year, to me, when the world awakes from it's gray, winter slumber, my eyes can't take in all the bright colors of spring! WOW!! The orange/brown of the blooming oaks, the darkening magenta of the maples, the bunny pink of the saucer magnolias, the white of the Bradford pears, the butter-lemon yellow of the forsythia, and that indescribable orange/pink of the flowering quince. MAN, it was heady!

What a gift today! My car's repaired, washed and cleaned, I sketched and sketched, rested and walked, and the bird's are still singing.

To Spring! My humble scratchings.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

More in Bloom

The Bradford Pear on my daughter's property was in full bloom when I arrived there this weekend.

And whenI returned home today, our young peach tree was in bright, pink bloom.

With temperatures in the 80s, spring is truly on its way!

EDM #57

This unusual picture frame, given to her by her brother and sister-in-law, belongs to my dear daughter. The photos are of her ultrasound (baby due in May) and her two nieces.