Posts Tagged 'watercolor'

Taking a mental holiday

Any plans I had for a vacation or holiday trip are on hold. Even traveling to see family seems risky: crossing state lines, wondering where safe bathrooms are in transit. Travelogues are now my jam. I’m watching programs in English or German. Some of the programs on Y**tube from WDR can show English subtitles if I set my preferences, which helps. I’m looking for scenery other than my home’s four walls. I’m also writing down which EU location would be a good trip, once that’s possible again.

As part of this weekly 3-hour holiday break, I’m experimenting with watercolors based on photos from past travels. San Diego was amazing, and I have some good photos for paintings. Here’s one I painted based on a photo of boats in the harbor.

It’s a great mental exercise, putting you back into a different time, when you were having fun. So what do you do that allows you to feel less stressed and less stuck? I have friends who are on a strict book reading program, and others who are streaming cable shows. There is no right answer.

Painting seasonal emotions

Several people I know, who live in the far north, talk about darkness, and how gloomy things are. I’m currently enjoying early evenings, taking time to play with paint.


Much of the time, that’s with electronic help (photos I took while on a walk, earlier in the day), because a location is either too crowded with people or the weather is uncooperative [rainy, or very cold] for perching on a park bench and sketching. I’m exploring new media (water-soluble wax crayons), and not worrying too much about how loose the images are. I’m going for the mood.

Washington, DC can be beautiful, with blue skies that make up for the crowds. I was in a shopping street filled with Louis Vuitton and other products I can’t afford, gawping at the windows displays….  watching college students pose in front of a backdrop of whimsical umbrellas. How tempting to snap a photo, then play with my tools.

So, how do you save yourself from the bad mood monsters? Is it art, or crafts? Making music, or going to a concert? Coding a new website or reading a great, cozy book? If you’re in Australia or somewhere in a heat wave, do you find yourself struggling with seasonal moods? For me, right now, I’m letting watercolors break up the gloom, playing with shadows, collecting leaves for practice painting, and trying not to dip my brush in the mint tea.


Traveling by Memory


Nebraska in watercolor pencil, and supposedly waterproof ink…

Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about trips I’ve taken around North America. Trips up to Connecticut, daytrips to regional parks in Pennsylvania, the long trek down coast to the bottom tip of North Carolina, and family journeys up to Stratford, Ontario, Canada so we could see Shakespeare in the round. The trips to Canada always had a special day when we tried to buy whatever we could with our last remaining currency before coming back to the States. Lovely times spent in parks eating the apples or plums we had bought, prior to crossing the border where they would become contraband.

One year, I drove solo across Nebraska to Colorado for a conference. I kicked myself for not scheduling more time; once I found a park where there were sightings of wildlife, I wanted to do an early morning vigil, looking for the Prairie Chicken. The drive was dreamlike: long stretches of road, with 2 stops for museums, meals, and to sleep in a clean hotel. I managed to avoid the traffic near Lincoln (big football game), had one of the best steak dinners ever in Kearney, and drove up into the foothills near Denver as the sun was setting. While I drove over the flat earth, with the mountains off in the distance, I could see movement out of the corner of my eye. And I thought, what the heck is that… ants on my window?

The ants continued to grow, and I thought, maybe those are a line of cars on a road…. But they were too even, with too little light between them.

And the road grew larger, until I could see that parallel to my road, but looking like they were going to cross on the horizon, was a line of rail cars following a line of tracks that was hidden partially by the optics of the dirt and scrub. Maybe 30? Maybe more. They seemed to shimmer in the heat.

The other day I drew what I saw in my memory, imperfectly. I’m beginning to feel like I need to sketch some of the places I’ve been, to relive how wonderful they were. So, if you were going to memorialize a trip…. what trips have you taken that you daydream about months or years later?

I wandered lonely as a cloud

daffdilsketchThere have been gusts of golden daffodils at the back door. I sat and sketched one at the back door on Saturday, before the snow came and crumpled their petals. And still, they bloom on.



I’ve been thinking a lot about paper — sketching, writing, painting, writing letters.

I have friends who use their computers for everything, but I’m using pen and ink, watercolors, and pencil.

For quick sketches and writing ideas down, I have a tiny square notebook called “hand book” which comes from Global Art Materials. It’s a bit too small for the sort of sketches I normally do, and ink just drags badly over the page. The spiral bound notebook I got from a local, independent art store is wonderful, though. I’ve taken it on vacations, business trips, and just around town to local museums. It’s from a company called Bee Paper, and it’s their Super Deluxe grade of book (heavyweight drawing paper that can be used with wet and dry media). I’ve found the 6-inch by 12-inch size to be good value for my money. This picture shows a portion of a quick watercolor.

North Carolina coastline, August 2013, (c) R

North Carolina coastline, August 2013, (c) R

It’s good for pencil sketches as well (this shows the dimensions — perfect for scenery work).

A quick sketch for Project Spectrum in a park

A quick sketch for Project Spectrum in a park

So, if you have favorite paper —

  • What brand?
  • Why?
  • What for? (Which medium are you using?)

If you’ve switched over entirely to electronic media, or are doing a mix of both, feel free to leave a note too.


Summer hummingbirds

I dash outdoors to get a couple of hosta leaves and spray them with water. Within seconds, Bela is down and rolling like a miniature green mallard in the puddles on the quilted leaves. …. It’s a hummingbird bathing orgy. I chortle in delight at the bizarre poses the birds strike as they revel in their first real bath. Who would imagine that hummingbirds would lie down on their breasts and scoot along like penguins, roll on their sides, or close their eyes and rub their faces on the damp leaves like luxuriating cats?” – Julie Zickefoose, The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon bonds with common birds. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2012.

Wonderful, with beautiful watercolor illustrations. (If you want a preview of her style, you can look at her pictures for sale.)

Posted, because the hummingbirds have been sighted by the Gardener in our yard — one female seen inspecting the butterfly bush and the red sage. Today, it’s raining, so I won’t sit outside in wait of spying one with camera in hand. All I have to show are the flowers.

Experiment with Pearl watercolors

Since today is the first of many days with weak sunlight, this is the best my camera will be able to do.So, what do you think? Try the Yasutomo watercolors out on darker watercolor paper? Or try using them to accent things where I want a bit of shine, even if the background is white?