Monday, August 1, 2016

There Will Be Days...

There will be days when the challenges stack up, left and right.

There will be days when it seems easier just to give into the defeat than to keep fighting.

There will be days when nothing makes sense and the fight seems pointless.

And yet...

There will be days when I remember why I do what I do and why I love what I do. Those are the days I live for. The moments that make up those days are the reasons why I continue to overcome the challenges that would see me give up.

I've recently had a bunch of those challenging days gang up on me all at once. Technology is a wonderful, marvelous thing—until it's not working right, a piece of the system changes or has to be replaced. I use an analogy of a spider web. Wherever a spider web is touched, it is felt all over the web. The bigger the touch, the stronger the vibrations.

My camcorder malfunctioned and I was quite annoyed to learn that the maker considered the camera "obsolete" even though it's only six years old. Of course, in the world of technology, that's a dinosaur. When I switched to a new camera, my lighting setup no longer worked well. More changes. Then there was a memory card malfunction. And if these had the only challenges, it wouldn't have been so bad, but life doesn't work that way. There were other challenges, unrelated to work, going on in the background.

A casualty of those "stacked" challenges was my concentration to write and post to the blog.

There are days when I have to scrape pretty close to bottom before I realize it's not a place I want to be, let alone linger in, and the only way for me to realize this seems to be for me to go there.

One of the things that helped to pull me back up and refill my well was a great class at Keeton's. Since it's been so bloody hot here in Florida (and a lot of other places as well), we worked on painting ice cream in our sketchbooks using stencils for the cone and backgrounds.

And, yes, we had a blast! Below are three of the ladies from class with their gorgeous ice cream cones (everyone chose their own flavors) and there wasn't a calorie in sight.
Marilynn, Mary and Gayle
Once again, it was the healing fun of art, the camaraderie of working with others to learn and create art that seemed to restore a sense of balance to my life.

The challenges are inevitable. To some degree, they're even wanted. How boring would life be with no mountains to climb or obstacles to scale?

And I'm sure there will be more weeks when they all happen at once and yet again, decisions will have to be made about whether to fight or give in.

I'm also willing to bet art will be there to save the day!

How is your (hotter than all-get-out) summer going? Are you painting, sketching or pursuing some other artistic pursuit? Please share in the comments!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Come And Play!!

Two quick reminders for this week!



An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival will begin this Thursday! We'll be working with all kinds of bright color both close up and at a distance over a field. We'll also play around with all kinds of greens and how to make them interesting. If this sounds like fun to you, come and join me! Please click here or on the class title to sign up!

P.S. As ImaginaryTrips.com will be celebrating six years of creative fun and learning, I am offering this class at a special celebratory price. Check out the link above to find out more!






Next up, if you're anywhere nearby, plan on joining me for a class at Keeton's Office And Art Supply in Bradenton this Saturday, June 25th! We'll be capturing the jeweled wings of the Monarch Butterfly in our sketchbooks! It seems kind of appropriate since today marks the Summer Solstice!

To sign up for this class, please contact Keeton's directly by following the link above!



Hope to see you there or in the Imaginary Realm!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

(Help Me To) Pay It In Kindness #ForOrlando

Laying awake last night, I found myself asking the same question over and over.

"How do you stop the hate?"

What would make a young man so full of hate by the ripe, old age of 29, that he would take it upon himself to kill 49 people while leaving scores more injured?

I found no answers. Folks far smarter than me don't seem to have the answers either.

I've watched some of the vigils held around the world to mark solidarity and to remember the victims. I've given money to some of the relief efforts, and yet, I feel...frustrated. Like those few token gestures were not quite enough. Perhaps you've felt the same way?

You may have called your congressman or woman to ask for stronger gun laws, or you've sent a letter or joined in a protest or you may have sat quietly and cried tears for the incredible loss of life. I have.

As I chased this question around and around in my mind last night I finally decided there was something more I could do—I could Pay It In Kindness.

Paying It Forward
Here's my idea—I intend to pay kindness forward 49 times for each of the lives lost. Then I'll pay kindness forward 53 more times for each of those injured. That's 102 acts of kindness paid—deliberately—into a world that seems to have tilted ever so slightly off its axis.

If even one other person joins me, we'll be bring 204 acts of kindness into the world. And if ten of you join me, there will be 1,020 acts. If one hundred people act, that's 10,200 and if a thousand people act, that's well over 100,000 acts of kindness.

Kindness Of Every Kind
There are thousands of ways to be kind. Even the poorest among us can spare a smile or a compliment. It makes no difference if the person knows of our acts or not. Because we know and kindness has a way of making us feel good just as it does the recipient. A few suggestions:

Hold the elevator door...share your umbrella...buy a cup of coffee for the next person in line behind you...help someone pick up spilled items...tell someone how much you like their eyes or their smile...speak kindly when aggravated...take a breath to let go of impatience...tip your waitstaff a larger amount then necessary...let someone in when you're sitting in traffic...give a stranger a flower...let someone have your seat on the subway...smile as you pass people on the sidewalk...stop and visit with an elderly person for a few minutes...tell a child how much they inspire you...give blood...pay the toll for the person behind you...curb your impatience for the person driving slow in front of you...

Maybe, just maybe, if we fill the world with kindness, we'll begin to crowd out the hate that drives someone to harm others.

This Is About The Human Condition
This post is NOT about political party lines, gun laws, alternate lifestyles, religious beliefs, or anything else EXCEPT recognizing we're all in this together and it will take all of us to bring about change. I cannot change the world. You can't either. But we can change ourselves. We can all be kinder and share kindness with those we love as well as unsuspecting strangers.

Please SHARE
I don't usually ask for you to share anything from this blog, but this time, I'm asking you to share this idea with others. Share the graphic at the top of the image along with a link to the post or give it your own spin.

Join me in bringing something good out of the horrific events in Orlando this weekend. 

Thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Unexpected Gifts

An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival!
One of the coolest things to happen along my artistic path are the connections I've made along the way. It is odd to me that some of my "closest friends" are people who live thousands of miles from me and I only actually see once in a great while, but then to me, that's the real beauty of the world wide web.

One such connection is Claire McFeely who recently sent me a disk full of gorgeous photos from a trip she took with her family to Skagit Valley, Washington, to the annual Tulip Festival—a place I've always wanted to visit!

Undulating waves of colorful blossoms, kites rising gently over the fields, happy shining faces of the visitors, portraits of delicate tulips lifting towards the sun...and an imaginary visit was born!

I had intended to wait until next April to put the class on the ImaginaryTrips.com class schedule as this when the real festival happens, but I decided I didn't want to wait. This unexpected gift was too bright and colorful and fun to be ignored and we all know artists are hard pressed to ignore any new, bright, colorful, fun thing that comes along!

I invite you to come and visit the tulip festival with me. An Imaginary Visit To A Tulip Festival with start on Thursday, June 23rd! To make this even more of an unexpected gift as Imaginary Trips is celebrating six years of travel sketching, I have included a discount on the pricing of the class. Click here or on the class title to find more information!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Simple Changes That Make A Big Difference

Monarch Butterfly on Globe Thistle
Ink and Watercolor
The drawing for this piece of art has been sitting on my desk for a while. It took me a while to realize I was avoiding painting it. In its former life, it was a full page sketch with the background mostly abstract containing suggested shapes and lots of greens, yellows, blues and violets.

Meh.

It didn't excite me and it was a lot of space to paint. Especially when I wasn't all that excited about it. (I don't know about you, but if I'm not excited about painting something, I tend to do a lousy job at it.)

After realizing I was resistant to tackling the piece, I began the process of sussing out what the problem was and it was mostly the background. It took up a lot of real estate and it didn't really add anything (IMO).

Playing around with ideas, I scratch out some thumbnails looking for a better overall use of the space.  I was looking for a composition that excited me:
While they're not a lot to look at, thumbnails do the job of visualizing possibilities. Starting at the upper left, I started with a smaller version of the full page, limiting the background and adding a title at the bottom.

I then decided to break the border and put titles at the top and the bottom. I then moved on to putting the title along the right side. From there I abandoned the title idea and put in an erratic line for a border, and—eureka!

I decided to break the border AND put the word, monarch, down the right side, as part of the border.

Once I started drawing the page again, I scaled the box back even more so that butterfly's wings would break through on each side.

That made the stems kinda short and I would have lost one of the leaves, but by leaving them outside of the box, I added a little more interest.

After the painting was done, I decided to add splatters (mostly because I need to camouflage some errant drops of paint). Splatters are an easy way to add energy as well fill in "too" much white space (if that's even possible. I've never had too much white space, but I digress...).

In about half the time it would have taken me to create a full page, I had a page that I not only liked but I'm looking forward to sharing with my class at Keeton's Office and Art Supply on Saturday, June 25th. If you can, please come and join the fun!

Please click Keeton's name to find more info on signing up on the class.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Craving Distraction, But Too Distracted To Be Distracted

From the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class*
Have you ever found yourself desperately wanting to distract yourself from something ongoing in your life and at the same time you're too distracted to do anything for long? 

That seems to describe where I've been at for the last few weeks. 

The few times I've been able to focus has been either while preparing class materials like the piece above from the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class or when I am painting in my sketchbook...not sketching, but painting. 

I guess painting takes a lot more concentration and so I find my sketches turning into paintings in my current sketchbook. 

What is it that I need to be distracted from? My mother's worsening dementia. 

We've started exploring options for in-home care to take some of the load off from my father and it's been...rocky. Big-boulder-sized-rocks-kind-of-rocky. 

Painting has always been a balance between meditation and torture for me. The further I've traveled down this path of creativity, the more the balance has shifted towards mediation and away from torture. 

In the past, I've struggled over the smallest things gone wrong in a painting. Now I recognize it as part of the process and not critical (usually). It flavors the painting with nuances of the me, as the artist, as the imperfect being that I am.

From the Imaginary Visit To Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks class*
It is times like these that I am so very thankful for the outlet of creativity in my life. I feel like maybe, just maybe, I might create something beautiful out of the stress and unhappiness that comes from watching my mom fade away. 

The image above is from my Lavender Fest "story" book...it's morphed way past a journal or a sketchbook at this point as it has become my escape when things get a little too intense. 

This situation has been impacted my life in many ways with (or not) sketching being one of the more obvious. It has also had an impact on the time I've spent online and posting to social media and this blog. So if I go missing, know that I'll return. I'm either dealing with a mini-crisis or recovering from one!

* The two top pieces of art focus on incorporating maps as decorative elements onto the sketchbook page. The diagonal rectangle in the top image is an envelope that will be filled with a treasure from my trip. The cool thing about the envelope that there is another map printed on the inside!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Escaping Through Art

I don't know about you, but every once in a while, life gets obnoxiously tedious with lots of little "events" that I could do without. Things that cause small amounts of stress and worry. By themselves, they're no big deal.
Unfinished Daffs from 2009

But together, it's like being ganged up on and pecked by a bunch of ducks until I'm a bundle of raw nerves. Together, all those events feel huge. Overwhelming.

And that's when I turn to art as an escape.

Back in 2007, when my job was outsourced to another country, I spent 18 months trying to find another. Unfortunately, the economy was in a nosedive and there wasn't much out there. During those months, art became my way of maintaining my sanity.
From 2008

I started sharing my work on this blog and people stopped by to say hello. I found myself with a new community of friends and before I knew it, I was launching Imaginary Trips!

Before I started the trips, I would frequently "run away" to the garden or the kitchen or a coffee shop so I could escape into my sketchbook and away from the worry of trying to find a job in a lousy economy.

What I realized early on, was that I really liked traveling via my imagination! Who knew it would be so much fun. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted and I didn't have to pack a thing!

Imaginary Trips, from the very beginning has been about escape. Sure, the classes are about growing our skills and preparing for a big trip. It's also about going to places we've not been before or are not likely to get to any time soon.

Sometimes, we're not physically able to travel or we can't break from from our obligations and other times, it's not financially feasible.  There are a host of reasons why it makes sense to travel via our imagination rather than in reality.

By going on an imaginary trip, it's possible to control the weather, how long it takes to get somewhere, the circumstances upon which we travel and where we go. We can travel solo or with friends and we don't have to worry about anyone standing around tapping their toe wishing we'd hurry up. There's no rush to get home and we get to sleep in our own beds each night! We don't have to wait for the seasons to change—you can see them all if you want to—on the same trip.

It's also a fabulous way to keep our skills sharp or to continue to grow our skills when we "go on a trip." Especially if I'm preparing for a real trip I have coming up in the future. I find it so much easier to be creative all along rather than to try to get creative right before or during a big trip.

But for me, I think the most important thing about going on an imaginary adventure is that while it lifts me out of my current circumstances, it also allows me control over those circumstances. It allows me to forget about the struggles and worries for those few precious moments I'm in the zone and creating a memory on my sketchbook pages. Stress goes away. Worry melts. Joy comes and infuses the minutes and a sense of balance is restored.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

If you'd like to join in on an imaginary adventure, please join me for "An Imaginary Visit to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Park" starting on May 12th. We'll explore the rugged mountains, hot springs, abundant wildlife and delicate wildflowers without having to camp or sleep on the ground! Click the class title for more info.

If you're not able to join in an interactive class, take a look over at The Imaginary Realm for independent learning classes. They're the same as the interactive classes without the time constraints. You work at your own pace and you have access to the materials for a year. Click on the link for more information.

Detail shot of the front cover
If classes are not for you, strike out on your own. Pick a location and decide when you're going to go, how you'll travel and who will be traveling with you. Look for information on the internet about where you'd like to go along with photos in the public domain to paint from and build an adventure in your sketchbook.

In my "spare" time, I've started a journal to chronicle a trip to the Lavender Festivals. I've only just started it and I work on it in starts and stops, but the time I spend playing in that journal are so very important to my wellbeing. It's a relief to "be away" from the daily grind.


Your imagination is the limit!

Friday, April 1, 2016

National Ball Cap Day


Is it my imagination or has the old-fashioned courtesy of taking your hat off when you're inside gone the way of the unicorn?

We went to dinner with my father-in-law the other night and I was amazed at the number of guys (and a few gals) with hats on. I drew the two gentlemen in the sketch above simply because they were sitting in front of us. It also surprised me to see a guy wearing a purple polo! Go, dude, good for you. 

It started out as sketching practice—and I'm pleased to say I'm improving—before becoming more of an awareness about the hats. You haven't seen the other people sketches because they looked more like aliens. Disfigured aliens. Maybe a few zombie aliens. Definitely not pretty. But highly entertaining.

I started looking around and it seemed over 50% of the male population was wearing hats. I'm sure this is nothing new. It's just one of the many gifts of sketching—it tends to raise your level of awareness about what's going on right in front of you.

Have you had that happen to you? You're sketching a place or a thing and suddenly you're launched down a totally unexpected path of learning because the sketching made you slow down to observe? That's what keeps me sketching. Those unexpected paths that lead me to random, seemingly unrelated learnings...that nearly always comes back into play at a later date.

I especially find travel journaling to be like that. Maybe because my mind is already open to new experiences in a place I've not been before. My left brain becomes a little like a toddler, "Why? Why this? Why that? How come that's green or he's wearing that or she said that?"

The cool thing about my left brain being busy is that it leaves my right brain alone and allows it to do what it does best, draw.
__________________________

If you're interested in learning more about sketching on location, come and join me for An Imaginary Visit To Sweden, starting on April 7th. We'll be explore the country, its people and history. Click here for more info.
__________________________

P.S. And by the way, National Hat Day is in January. As far as I know there's no National Ball Cap Day! Happy April!!

P.S.S. I am one spread away from being finished with this no name watercolor sketchbook that has been my purgatory for the last six months or so. Cannot wait to be finished with it so I can get back to my beloved Stillman and Birn sketchbook.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Knowing When To Give Up...And Take A Break! (Saturday Class)

Knowing when to give up and go to the beach...sounds so simple, doesn't it?! And yet most of us just keep slogging rather than taking that much needed break.

It's hard to step away even though we may not be at our best and on top of our game. We keep pushing and pushing.

Giving ourselves a break is often much easier to do than we think it is. We may not be able to get to the beach, but what about playing with the dog or sitting in the sunshine?

When I saw the original quote that gave me the idea for this, it was about having a drink and while that works too, I think getting outdoors and enjoying the springtime is a much better choice—especially if you happen to be close to the beach!

With that in mind, I set out to create a quick page in my sketchbook and that blossomed into a class!

I'll be teaching this at Keeton's Office and Art Supply, this Saturday, March 26th. They're located in Bradenton.

I hope you can come and enjoy the fun. You do not know how to do lettering to create the page!

I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Gateway To Creativity: Mistakes


There are those days...when it seems that despite the very best of efforts, mistakes happen.

And let's face it, mistakes are going to happen. They can no more be separated from the creative process than breathing can be separated from living.

We're stuck with them...and I dare say that's a good thing!

When Mistakes Happen
During the last class at Keeton's, I heard the telltale "gasp!" quickly followed by, "Oh no!!" from the artist sitting at the front table.

When I glanced up from helping another artist, Faith* was staring down at her work with a horrified look on her face.

"I painted the strawberry juice on the table instead of on the plate!" she said.

Sure enough, it looked as though someone had been very messy ladling out the strawberries for her shortcake. Of course, they hadn't gotten a drop on the plate!

And here's why I say mistakes are the gateway to creativity—because at this point, we have three options:

  1. Start over. Give up, tear the page out, gesso over it, glue another piece of paper down, use acrylic paint to cover the offending gaff, or turn the page and ignore it like it never happened. Optional behaviors: wring hands, gnash teeth, wail inconsolably.
  2. Quit. Quit painting, quit sketching, quit trying, quit being creative. Swear off all creative endeavors. Optional behaviors: Sulking, stewing, anger, temper tantrums. 
  3. Play. Recognizing the opportunity that's just fallen into your lap and playing! That's right, play. After all, if your other two choices are either to hide or destroy the work and the other is to quit, why not play and see what happens. You will not have lost anything if you still cover up or tear the page out. Optional behaviors: laughing, learning, thinking, smiling, embracing, experimenting, shrugging, moving on.

Starting over can be creative, but what I'm talking about is embracing the mistake and finding a way to incorporate it without giving up and beginning anew. This takes Intelligent Creativity. It requires stepping back, taking an objective look at the work, consider the tools at hands and how best to create something new or different from the detour we took from our expected outcome.

This usually requires a bit of ingenuity and letting go of expectations as to how the page was suppose to turn out.

Are Mistakes Bad?
The foregone conclusion most of us operate under is that mistakes are bad...but are they?

It's worth our time to examine that statement to see if it's true. Have you ever gotten lost on the way to a destination only to discovered a newfound place you'd never have stumbled upon if you had not gotten lost?

When I looked over Faith's page, I saw a "fix" immediately to do away with the messy strawberry juice that marred her creative effort. I suggested painting the "table top" red as if there was a table cloth. And it worked. In fact, it gave her work a strong "pop" of color and a bold, graphic look.

I made a big mistake that day as well. Take a look at the page at the top of this post and you'll see three layers of white whip cream...there were only suppose to be two! This is the page I did for class.

What would have happened if I'd thrown up my hands and quit or gnashed my teeth and threw a temper tantrum because I had too much whip cream? (Is that even possible?!) They probably would have thought I needed some kind of intervention.

Realizing I had too many layers, I decided to incorporate the area to look like an extra layer of whip cream and no one, except for the folks in the class would ever know, unless I told them.

Stop To Think
When we make mistakes, we panic and it seems our default position is usually to start over.

Instead, why not take a deep breath, calm down and figure out a way to make the unexpected change work for us by using our gift of intelligent creativity? By making a conscious decision to let go of our expectations and fear so we can embrace the opportunity to play, we increase our chances of going somewhere new, maybe even better, exponentially.

This is the gateway to creativity and the key usually comes gift-wrapped as a mistake.

What will you do with your next "gift?"

*Faith gave her approval and blessing for me to share her story on the blog. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Painting Strawberries!!

Can you go wrong with strawberries...and shortcake and whipped cream? Or dipped in chocolate for some decadent yummy? Or just plain berries, fresh from the field?!

Strawberries are in season in Florida and our Strawberry Festival starts next Thursday so it's seems the perfect time to add some strawberry-awesomeness to our journal.  Berries are a favorite subject of mine because they're easy and because of all that delicious color!

We're going to be painting strawberries AND strawberry shortcake at Keeton's Office and Art Supplies in Bradenton.

Come and join the fun this Saturday, February 27th from 9 am to noon! Please contact Keeton's to register.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

When To Sketch...And When Not To

Alternate Title: Feeding The Fish
A fanciful interpretation of a Sheephead
Got a few minutes? Let me tell you about our fishing trip last Friday. Our family gave my father-in-law (FIL) a voucher for a fishing trip for his birthday back in September and you know how it goes, we assled (southern word) around and time got away from us.
White Egret looking for an early breakfast
Fast forward to the first of the year and my FIL was in a panic thinking he was going to lose the trip because the voucher was about to expire, so plans were made. And fell through because the weather is kinda iffy out on the water at this time of year with all weather fronts moving through. (Apologies to my Northern friends, I know this is nothing compared to what you're dealing with!)
Gulfport Marina
Finally, the date was set—February 12th and...the weather holds! It's kinda cool and there's a front scheduled to move in, but we're going. Now there is some kind of a law that says you have to go early if you're going to do anything outside (in Florida) and if you're with my FIL, you'll be there even earlier than early.

Unfortunately, the guy with the boat did not get the "early memo" and was not there early. This left us plenty of time to explore the marina. This took about 10 minutes. After that, we started bird watching...osprey, sparrows, egrets and a big blue heron (which I missed getting a photo of). It sounded a little like Jurassic Park with all the bird cries.
He was dissuade from going fishing with us
after being shooed away from the boat
Boat guy shows up, gets the boat in the water, gets bait and we're on our way.

The next three and half hours include watching the dolphin, catching fish (and throwing the little ones back), motor issues, being towed, more fishing and finally, coming back in. As they* say, "a bad** day fishing beats the best day in the office."
Engine trouble on the water. This is the tow
boat taking us back to shore.

*They as in expert fisherpeople.
**This was in no way a bad day!

Blue skies, sunshine, and biting fish—the recipe for a most excellent day on the water!
Keepers of the day
As for the title of this post, there are times to sketch and there are times not to. I found between the movement of the boat, the boat wakes, the cold and the general environment (wet), I was not inclined to attempt to sketch. even though I had my sketching stuff. The boat was a tight fit for five people with each of us constantly casting, reeling in fish, getting hung on the rocks below and baiting hooks.
The Fishin' Ferlitas!
Could it have been done? Yes. However, after weighing the odds of dropping my sketchbook (probably overboard, knowing me) and/or being in the way of the others, it didn't seem worth the attempt. I waited until I was home and the floor had quit moving before sitting down to sketch.

Up above you see my take on a colorful Sheephead rather than with its normal coloring. An excellent reminder of a super fun day with family doing something we all love. And we still have the fish fry to look forward to! Yum!!

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Don't forget—classes start soon at ImaginaryTrips.com! Come and join us in Norway!

If you don't have time for an interactive class, consider taking a class at The Imaginary Realm!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Is Your Mindset To Creating Art?

An Imaginary Visit To Norway starts March 3rd!
Examining My Approach
Have you ever given any thought to what your "default" mindset as you get ready to create a piece of art?

I didn't when I first started attempted to sketch on location.  Prior to these "attempts," I had always been a studio painter.

One of two things happened each time I went out: I either came home with an empty page or I came home with a page that looked like it had been attacked by a toddler on a manic sugar high. It looked like I'd tried to cram everything I'd seen onto one page, and, well, that's because that's exactly what I was doing. 

Frustration ruled the day. 

I finally started to work out the process of what I was doing and where the breakdown was occurring.  

It took several more attempts (and spectacular fails) before I began to get an inkling as to where and what I was doing "wrong.*"

*It wasn't necessarily wrong so much as it wasn't the best approach for what I wanted to accomplish. Kinda like trying to peel a potato with a butter knife—it could be done, but it would be a slow, laborious process.

“The mindset I used when approaching sketching on location was remarkable similar to the one I used when I approached a full-sized painting in the studio.”

When I worked in the studio, I had control of the temperature, the lights, interruptions, my physical comforts (food, clothing type, etc.) and if I wanted, I could stop and come back later to pick up where I left off.

This allowed me the luxury of capturing every detail, every nuance of shadow, making sure my proportions were spot on and studying the colors leisurely as I made my mind up how to recreate something on paper.

When I approached working on location, I no longer had control of anything! The light changed, there were constant interruptions (bugs, people, rain, wind, not having my stuff organized, etc.). Sometimes I was too hot while I was too cold at other times. And usually, I had a very finite amount of time to capture what was in front of me. Argh!!

No wonder I was not getting the results I wanted.

After discovering my approach wasn't working, I started developing the 5 E's—Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Embellish and Exaggerate. But I still needed to work on my mindset.

Why was I sketching on location? What did I want to accomplish given the limitations of working on location? What would satisfy me as a productive, enjoyable outing?

With these questions in mind, I started to grasp that within the limitations imposed by working on location and my weak to nonexistent sketching skills, I was going to have to seriously curtail my expectations of what I could expect to create on the page. I knew, as my skills strengthened, I could hope to capture more on the page, but that was down the road.

I also realized that all those details (that I worship) were seldom necessary, that painting on location wasn't about the details. It was about the whole experience.

“When I went back and re-evaluated those pages from this newly developing approach, I realized that even the lousy, half-finished (as well as the truly awful) attempts were portals back to the day, where I was, what I was feeling, who I was with and the events of the day.

Huh.

So good OR bad, the sketch was a portal back to a moment in time. A moment that would otherwise have been lost if I didn't make the attempt to memorialize it in my sketchbook!

And that was one of my biggest eureka! moments that has helped me to move forward on my artistic journey.

By recognizing the need for a different mindset when I needed/wanted to work quickly and simply to create a portal back to that specific moment of time, I freed myself from being slave to expecting perfection, capturing every detail and feeling like a failure when I didn't recreate a page worthy of a spot on the gallery wall!

What's Your Mindset?
When you approach working in your sketchbook or sketching, whether you're on location or sitting at the kitchen table, what is your mindset? Are you looking to recreate in miniature the place or photo before you with every detail OR are you wanting to memorialize the moment with a likeness so that you can revisit at a later date?

If you're frustrated with your attempts, lack of progress or the end results, going through your process and approach to creating art can be very illuminating!

A few questions to ask yourself include:
Why am I creating? What is my intent for creating this [place, thing, person]?
Is it to remember the day/event/moment, to improve my skills or for another reason?
How important is it to me to get this "right" and why is it that important? (Watch out for fear of failure when answering this question!)
Am I considering the limitations in this situation (time invested, my current skill level, physical environment, etc.) or am I approaching this without taking those limitations into consideration?
What can I do differently that will increase my level of satisfaction with my art?

After answering these questions honestly, attempt creating art with your new found observations. (Please note that it took me several tries before my new approach began to really show up on the page.) I hope you'll let me know if it makes as big a difference to your approach as it did to mine!
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If you'd like to delve further into this process, consider joining me for a class over at ImaginaryTrips.com! We leave for Norway on March 3rd!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quick Lettering Guide Tutorial And NEW Classes!!

First Up: Quick Lettering Guide Tutorial

There are times when I'm out in the field and I don't want to take the time to carefully draw out lines to get a title of type just right. With this in mind, I came up with a quick way to do lettering without having to invest a lot of time.

Once your art is complete and you're ready to add your title, grab a piece of paper. In my example, I'm using tracing paper as I usually have a piece tucked into the back of my journal. Plain white paper works just as well. (The art is from the Keeton's class demo I did this past Saturday.)

The art is fine the way it is, but I really wanted to add the word, Seaside, at the top of the art.  I probably should have used "gulfside" as this is the Gulf of Mexico. You can click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Size the tracing paper to the width of the area where you want the type to appear. In my case, I wanted my type to stretch all the way across the top of the art. Please click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Once you have the size, fold the paper in half, then into quarters and then down to eighths. This step really depends on how many letters you'll be using. Fold down as much as you want, but the more folds you have the smaller the lettering will be. It may be necessary to space the words rather than the letters. Please click on the photos to see the steps more clearly.

Once I have my folds, I usually mark the folds as it makes them easier to see. I also mark my center fold with a "c." Based on how many letters and the lettering style I want, I then write out my word(s).

If you already know what lettering style you want, you can use the edge of the paper as your straight line. If you're going to play around with a few different styles, draw out several straight lines to practice different styles.

Knowing I really wanted the long, stretchy lettering, I flipped my paper and wrote out my letters in between the folds rather than on the folds themselves as I did in the first example.

Position the word so that it is centered in the space where you want the title to appear and then recreate the lettering using the guide as a visual map for placement. Depending on how complicated your title is, it may be necessary to pencil in a few lines. 

And when you're done, hopefully this is something like what you will have when you're done! 

Next Up: NEW Classes Over At ImaginaryTrips.com!!
Okay, I'll admit I jumped the gun a little bit as the poll is still open, but Norway got out in front and never looked back! It's a pretty safe bet we'll be heading there first! To learn more about An Imaginary Visit To Norway, please click HERE! Class will get started on Thursday, March 3rd. Come and join the fun! Did you know they have a knighted penguin?! (I didn't either!)

After Norway, we'll head over to Sweden as Norway and Sweden share a border of over 1,000 miles. The history they share is also quite complex and intertwined. We'll head out for An Imaginary Visit To Sweden on Thursday, April 7th. Wanna come along? Click HERE to learn more! Sweden is home to the largest reindeer herd in the world and I'm pretty sure they've a huge moose population as well.

There's still time to vote on the poll and help decide where we go after we leave Sweden! Click HERE to go to the poll. It's open until February 1st!

I look forward to traveling with you this year!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Catching Some Wave Action (Tutorial)

Have you ever wondered how to sketch a waves, whether on location or in person?

If you're local, please come and join me at Keeton's in Bradenton where we'll be painting waves on Saturday, January 23rd, from 9 am to 12:30 pm. It will be loads of fun! Click here for more info!

Below are some observations on my approach to sketching waves from a photo. After sketching from waves, I highly recommend tackling a few in your sketchbook while you're on location.

Even if you were the speediest sketcher ever, it's doubtful you'd be able to sketch just one wave while you at the beach. Instead, you'd be sketching parts of different waves as they rolled into shore. With a photograph, that's one thing you don't have to worry about as the wave is stopped for you.

Before you start sketching, there's a very important first step you need to do and that's to study the waves to see their shapelight and dark parts of them, where the sun is hitting and what reflections are showing up in the water in front of the wave as well as behind it. All of these things are necessary to sketch a realistic looking wave.

It's up to the artist whether or not to sketch waves in pen or pencil. I've done both and I've found that I prefer just pencil.

When you're ready to sketch, take note of where you place the horizon line. Try to avoid placing it in the middle of the sketch. As humans, we like things divided in thirds rather than halves.

Once you have the horizon line in place, decide if you will add any sand or if your sketch will be all water.  If you're going to add sand, indicate the sand line (bottom of the sketch) AND the water line. I always try to make my water line uneven as water seldom rolls into the shore in an even, straight line.

Study the waves to find out how close to shore they're breaking. You can adjust the waves closer or farther from shore to make a more pleasing composition as well as how many waves are breaking...remember the photo is just for reference!

Sketch the general shape of a wave, clearly defining the white splash of the wave as it breaks. Notice it is not even on the bottom or the top. Include lines to indicate the reflections in front of it. Be sure to draw the edges where the water can be seen curling over on either side. Pencil in the small wave as well. I do not mark the areas of white foam before and behind the smaller wave that can be see in the image above as I know it's there. If you're concerned you'll forget it, lightly mark it in pencil.

Once you're satisfied with your sketch, pull out your paints and paint in your sky. I used a tissue to blot up some of the cloud shapes. While this is drying, I switched to the other end of the paper and painted in my sand and I make sure to go past my waterline as the sand would show through the shallow water.

Once I went far enough, I feathered out the edge so that it faded back to the white of the paper. After the paper was dry, I went back with a dark blue and started at the horizon line and painted down towards the big wave. Along the way, I added some green to the blue to indicate we were closer to shore and the water was not as deep.

Picking up more dark blue, I continued painting around the whites of the wave and towards the foamy area of the water. To indicate the foam, I leave lots of skips allowing the white of he paper to show through. At this point, I stop and check out the reflection in front of my wave. If it needs to be lighter, I can either lift with my brush or use a tissue.

Picking up more of the blue-green paint, I start below the foamy area and begin to paint around the smaller wave line. I then repeat the foamy area and paint up onto the sand area.

I make sure everything is dry and then go back with a damp brush and tickle the edges of the foamy area to soften some of the edges. I pull some of the paint into the white areas so they're not all the same value.

Next, I make adjustments to the wave areas. If you look at the base of the wave where the white water meets the blue, you'll see lots of very dark shadows in a dark blue. These shadows help to give form to the wave. I also take a very small amount of the blue mixed with water and begin to paint all kinds of random marks and squiggles to indicate the water frothing in the white of the wave. If needed, I add more dark areas along either side of the wave to give it more definition. I repeat with the smaller wave.

Last, using the same blue-green paint I used for the water, I paint a section of the sand to indicate where the sand got wet from a prior wave rolling up onto the shore.

After everything is good and dry, I take my white Uni-Ball Signo® pen and put in the white splashes around the waves and along the edges of the water line closest to the sand. If needed, I may add some of the white ink to the foamy areas.

Painting waves is lots of fun and very rewarding. I hope this helps you get started painting waves and I highly recommend going to the beach and sketching live! Meanwhile, I hope to see you at Keeton's!
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And don't forget to vote on your favorite location for the 2016 ImaginaryTrips.com classes! Click here to access the poll.

If you're not able to participate in interactive classes, check out the self-paced classes over at The Imaginary Realm. You set the pace and you have access to the materials for a year from the date of purchase! Go here to learn more!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Where Would You Like To Go This Year?

Where would you go if you didn't have to worry about jet lag, expenses, danger, your health, obligations at home, work obstacles, child- or care-giver responsibilities or anything else?!

It's a big place out there and there's so many incredible places to go!

Below, I have added a list of locations that I am considering for the ImaginaryTrips.com Interactive class schedule for 2016. I'd love to know what your TOP 3 choices would be! Feel free to share in the comments why you've chosen your three locations.

If you don't see a destination you'd like to go to, please add it in the comments. I can't promise we'll get there, but I will put it on the list for consideration. Voting is open for 14 days. Three votes per person per day, please!


Friday, January 15, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Willis doing her gargoyle impression in the dark of night
Why are you looking at cute cat photos on an art blog? 

Because even the best laid plans go awry and my carefully planned week did just that with a phone call early Monday morning from my dad. He needed my help with several pressing issues and just like that, all my plans went out the window. 

It took 9 phone calls and a visit to my parents' home on Monday.

On Tuesday, he and I had to run some errands, including stopping by my mother's doctor's office. That took the better part of the day. Wednesday was more phone calls and another visit to their home. Make no mistake, I'm glad to help out and I'm thankful he called so we could get matters taken care of, but I also have to acknowledge it shot a huge, gaping hole into my plans. 

Oddly, this article came up in one of my feeds on Monday afternoon. It talks about only scheduling yourself to 80% capacity so you have room for the unexpected and for creative, unscheduled pursuits. Who doesn't have the unexpected coming up in their lives on occasion and who doesn't want time to pursue those unexpected glimpses of creativity? 

Joey on the "traveling tree skirt" back during the holidays
Since I know this isn't going to be the last time I'll get a call that will take my day (or week) in an unexpected direction, I'm going to try leaving room for the unexpected so that I don't panic when I see my plans going off the rail and to give me more of a chance to pursue my muse when she dances off in a completed new direction. 

Another article that Kathy from Catching Happiness shared with me is about learning to stop doubting ourselves, giving in/up and looking for quick-fix solutions. It resonated with me as I recognized myself and this is an article I'll need to revisit more than once as the year and my plans go in directions I never anticipated. 

One of the things that helped me get back into the swing of my week was having clearly defined goals for the week. I may or may not get everything done. I'll make note of the things that came up that kept me from meeting my goals, but the week won't be a total waste because I was able to get back on track fairly easily. Without a written plan that said go here, do this, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have been the case. 

Moby lounging in the shipping supply box
So what does this have to do with cute cat photos? I have a log of posts to develop for the blog, but my research time is one of the things that went out the window on Monday after the phone call came. 

I could have stayed up on Monday night trying to do the research. I could have posted the article in its half-baked state. I could have not posted at all. Or I could choose to give you a glimpse into the a life that's doesn't always go as planned...kinda like yours...and not stress over the article I had originally planned to post. 

Someone had commented back during the holidays they'd like to see my other cats and here they are. Willis likes to hang out on top of the file cabinet in our office and to me, she looks like she's one with the shadows. 

Joey's hanging out on the "traveling tree skirt" in our living room back during the holidays. We never knew where the skirt would be when we awoke each morning. (Well, we knew it wouldn't be beneath the tree.) The cats, mostly Moby, decided it was too much fun to leave it beneath the tree. 

The last photo is of Moby hanging out in a box where we keep bubble wrap and air bags for things we need to ship out. Maybe she thinks she's going somewhere?

What about you? What do you do when your plans go off the rails? I hope you'll share your methods for salvaging your day or week as it may be a great help to the rest of us still looking for ways to cope.

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Be sure to check out the classes over at The Imaginary Realm for self-paced, independent learning!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beginning

Practicing my lettering in the No Name Sketchbook (that I'm almost through with!)

As I mentioned in the last post, I am way too excited by the reset mentality that comes wrapped up in the 1st of the year. I find myself wondering where the year will take me and what I will accomplish, what new adventures will I find for myself and what, if anything, will be different NEXT January 1st.

Only time will tell!

To BEGIN. There is magic in those words! Do you feel it? To begin a fresh new year, a way of life, a new approach to life, or maybe just a new day. All new beginnings and filled with promise.

Underneath my sketchbook you can see my planner and the notes and scribbles already beginning to populate the page—heady stuff! Well, for me anyway, as it is a new beginning for how I will approach the new year.

I used planners in my old corporate life when my day was filled with scheduled meetings and phone calls, deadlines and projects. When I started working for myself, I didn't have a need for that type of planner and so I gave it up.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone to keep a planner nor am I advocating creating goals, tasks, steps and such. You know what your life needs far better than I.

I can only tell you that my life needs a planner filled with goals broken down into steps and tasks. Desperately. My realization that my life needed this happened when I looked back over last year. My first thought was that the year sucke...wasn't great.

Now, I am not a big one for looking back at where I've been, but I learned a rather surprising lesson this past December and I thought I'd share it with you...I had the unfortunate luck of picking up some sick person's germs and came down with the flu the week before Christmas. Stayed home for two weeks as I did NOT want to share the crud with anyone else.

Here's the lesson I learned: I was judging the entire year on the last few weeks—and those weeks were memorable only for how truly horrible they were!

But the year wasn't horrible. Far from it! When I looked back over the blog and through Facebook, I saw the fun things I did, people I met, and the goals I accomplished. It was a good year!

IF I had kept a planner where I was tracking my goals and accomplishments as well as the challenges and obstacles I encountered along the way, I would have had a much more complete, balanced picture...and who knows, I might well save myself from having to repeat history if I'd kept better track of what I did and didn't do.

Regardless, I'll be keeping a planner this year as a place to work out the next steps for what I want to accomplish in 2016. It will also be a written record of those darn obstacles that seem to crop up from time to time.

I hope it will help me to fill in those unexpected free hours with something more meaningful than wandering around lost, wondering what I'd like to do. (I'm keeping a project list of current and future projects in the planner.)

And last but not least, I'm hoping to break myself of the very annoying habit of scribbling down notes, info, thoughts and ideas on the back of any handy piece of paper. If I put it all in one place, you'd think I'd be able to access it later, right?

With no more backs of envelopes, sticky notes or scraps of paper lying around and cluttering up my desk, perhaps next January the first thing on my to-do list won't be to clean my desk!

So what about you? Will you be keeping a planner or using some other system for tracking goals and accomplishments?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Let Us Begin, Again

I suspect I am not alone in saying that I'm very much looking forward to the new year and the 365 chances for new adventures that it brings. I find it odd that I am so hopeful and enthusiastic towards the new year when in truth, not much will change besides the flipping of the calendar page. 

There are no sudden, magical changes that herald the start of 2016. I don't expect to suddenly find myself in Paris or Belfast or Rome. I doubt I'll have millions in my checking account. I seriously doubt I'll be in fighting condition to run a 5K either. My house will still be cluttered, the tree will still be up and my studio will still look like a wreck. (Those darn elves haven't done a thing to clean it up!)

However, I do believe the beginning of the year gives us a mental "restart." And therein, lies magic!  January 1st gives us the opportunity to hit reset and begin again. We get to wipe away cobwebs, throw out the old, worn out year to pull out our dreams and blow the dust off from them. We begin to think about new steps we'll take to move closer to making those dreams a reality. At least, that's what I do. 

This year, my approach will be slightly different though. Instead of just sitting down and writing out a bunch of goals to get me closer to my dream, I'm taking the time to break down the goals into steps, I'm giving them timeframes in which to accomplish them and I'll be working with an "accountability partner" to make sure I stay on track with my tasks. 

As I looked over my 2015 goals, I realized I had about a 50/50 split on what I'd said I wanted to accomplish and what I didn't even think about doing. And I guess that's not bad, but I know I can do a whole lot better. With that in mind, I'm setting out to rock 2016—step-by-step, day-by-day. 

When I'm sitting here writing out my New Year's Eve post in 2016, I want to be able to look back at a year of accomplishments, fun, progress, great memories, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends and lots of good times. I want MORE out of myself. I want a year I can be proud of because I met and exceeded my goals.

Interested in joining me? 

If so, let me know. Together, we can make 2016 a year to remember!

Meanwhile,  I'd like to leave you with the thoughts of Neil Gaiman from sweatpantsandcoffee.com. I think his graphic sums up my wishes for all of us in the new year:


Wishing each of you, a safe, prosperous, exciting,
challenging, creative, and Happy New Year!!