Oceanside Days of Art 2011

oceanside california church watercolor painting Oceanside is one of those things that I must confess I did not appreciate enough until I had to leave it. Going back there for two days of art fair was a treat (and getting a break from watching the ball of energy that is our son 24/7 was nice, too ;))! The show itself went ok - with gas and babysitter, we almost broke even. At least 50% of all the visitors at our booth were artists or art students. I was quite glad to explain my techniques and share my knowledge with them, along with receiving some tips back from them.

I met a couple of old friends and was amazed to learn that they follow my work and read my newsletters. It made me feel wonderful :) THANK YOU!

I also made many new contacts, including these fantastic artists:

Igor Koutsenko (who presented us with a poster of his woodcut Victory II, St. George on a motorcycle :))

Annie Aldrich (who lives in Big Bear Lake and makes amazing ceramics pieces that I was really hoping I would have made some money to spend on)

Catherine M.S. Cowles (who makes light fixtures to die for)

- and many more talented Southern Californians. It was worth it just for the opportunity to be there among all those creative people.


The painting above was done using a not-so-popular method of working from a black-and-white sketch made on location. The idea is for you to be there and experience the surroundings while making an abbreviated version of what you see. Your sketch, then, gives you a framework, a recorded idea that you interpret drawing from your memories and intuition rather than reproducing a photograph. This painting could have been much better, of course, but I like it :). Here is the sketch it was based on:


Just for comparison, here is a plein-air painting of the same church that I did in 2009. This one belongs to my "how not to paint in the future" bin.

oceanside church watercolor

And to complete your Oceanside experience, Decemberists :)

Art Impressions from Sacramento

So I am back in the land of hot sun, strong wind, snakes, and non-existent art stores. Regardless of the fact that this place sounds so horrible, it is good to be home :). Sacramento was nice, especially those few precious mornings when I was treated to an hour or two of extra sleep! I also managed to attend the Second Saturday Art Walk. If I had a thousand dollars on me that night, I would have spent it without regrets. I fell in love with dreamy and foggy abstracts by Bernie Weston, a Citrus Heights artist who is, alas, practically absent from the web. He uses a unique process where he builds up multiple layers of plaster and wax colored with dry pigments. I'd love to know more about it and see how it's done... Here are the pieces that I covet:

The 20/20 show at the 20th Street Art Gallery was also rather engaging. The idea was for 62 artists to "create a body of work consisting of 25 small square panels, 20 of which will be displayed at one time. Each 8"x8" panel will incorporate a cohesive theme in the artist's chosen medium." I was pleased to see some good quality art (and even one series on Yupo - although that one, in my humble opinion, would not qualify as good quality art).

I also met with Sandra, a fellow EDM (a sketching/art journaling Yahoo group) artist and a nice person who allowed me to sketch her:


A quick update

We had a lapse in internet availability (following a very unpleasant situation with Sprint who excellently illustrated the expression "hidden charges"), hence my absence from the online world. On the positive side, no internet somehow often means a ton of time for painting and other wonderful things (books!).

Last weekend, we also went out (without the kid!) to celebrate our wedding anniversary (which was yesterday). It was great...We went to the Carlsbad Fair. I got a beautiful "Phoenix Fire" silk scarf. We also stopped at an art store (always a treat!), beach (same!), and the flower fields. I am expecting some paintings ;)

And tonight I'm flying to Sacramento to visit my family - but mostly to bring Elijah to his grandparents. And maybe get some sleep...

The sketch above: some negative watercolor painting in my LamaLi sketchbook. Elijah from the back. Also, EDM 266 - something I cherish :) Or someone!

Tomatoes and watercolor, my love!

I love tomatoes and tomatoes love me back :)

Tried two things here: drawing with a crayon ( I intentionally left gaps in the lines, so that the paint could flow from one area to another) and printing with the back of a corrugated cardboard cup holder. The latter idea I borrowed from the beautiful "Expressive Portraits" by Jean Pederson.

Painted on Yupo, of course (will I ever go back to traditional cotton rag paper? I think I will). 10x13 inches. I listed it on Etsy - but I won't be too disappointed if it doesn't sell. I kind it. A token of my undying love for the juicy, fleshy fruit-vegetable that a humble tomato is. The golden apple.

On a somewhat different note, I forgot to mention earlier that I went to the Fallbrook Art Center, which was hosting the "World of Watercolor" exhibition. It was pretty good in general - and even it weren't, it was worth driving 120 miles to see this in person:

It took the Fallbrook Art Center 2nd Award - though I think it should have been First. So much mystery and beauty, and such a unique technique. I loved the light blue line that appeared here and there, and the glimpses of gold. Here is the picture of it that I took at the center (ouch! Shame on me! But couldn't not take it - I was in love!):

And this one was my son's favorite:



Four Oranges - Yuppppo-po!

Ah, Yupo...I love you.

Some areas in this particular painting remind me of fused colored glass. The key to making the paint flow as it wishes on Yupo seems to be a lot of (but not too much - or the color is lost!) - surprise - water.  Even the very process of painting on Yupo is kind of exciting. Should I make a video or something? I would probably have to have two cameras: one for the painting and one for my facial expressions, stuck out tongue, and crazy blissful smile.

By the way, I tried a heavier sheet of Yupo (144lb). It feels solid and serious when handling, but I did not yet notice any difference between a 74 and a 144 lb when painting.

And some less exciting sketches:

(EDM 93, egg carton) - drew this one on a paint chip. After hours spent picking out paint for our walls, I have a ton of them in all kinds of colors. I think they're great for little sketches like this.

This one is another result of experimenting in my Moleskine :)


New sketches, and thoughts about "The Creative License"

Hello world! I had no internet for a couple of weeks and it wasn't that bad, actually. Refreshing, I'd say. Suddenly, you have time.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I immediately became productive and accomplishing...But I did some work on my in-progress paintings, sketched some, and played with Yupo. And I finally found the time to read.

Just today, I finished "The Creative License" - another book that I "heard" a lot of positive comments about in the online world. Some people swear by its powers to unlock their creative potential. Well, there are good thoughts in it.

I struggled through the first two or three chapters and considered putting the book away, so uninteresting I found the beginning. I also did not appreciate the occasional bullying tone (or maybe I'm too touchy, and it was supposed to be friendly encouragement?). There is a liiiiitle too much about Danny Gregory in this book. I mean, in some cases, a little personal touch is good (like in "Everyday Matters", it was perfect), but it feels wrong in a book titled "The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are." What is the purpose of the 3 pages devoted to how Gregory learned guitar with his son, for example?

I also thought it was very fragmented. It seems like a collection of little bits of random thoughts, rather than a coherent work written from start to finish. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's different. Could make a nice calendar. Or a "daily devotional" type book.

95% of what Gregory presents as discoveries, I have already discovered by myself or with the help of somebody else. Like seeing beyond local colors or thinking in the shower. Seriously, I even have a waterproof notebook with a waterproof pen. I still can't decide if it's me knowing more than I thought I did or if Gregory's stuff is too basic.

But like I said, there are good things about this book. I loved the quotes from different "creatives" and little facts about them. I copied down the movie list. Some deeper musings beyond the first couple of chapters I could relate to.

I think Gregory is successful at making a doubting artist (and aren't we always doubting?) feel better about what they do. Would he convince me to start an illustrated journal if I didn't have one already? I'm not sure.

And - too bad, I already was on an "electron fast" - since we don't watch TV and we didn't have internet!

So, that was my critical and skeptical 2 cents. Most people think the book is great, and it's probably a good reason for you to read it :) As a matter of fact, I recommended it to my husband, since he confessed to me that he wants to learn to paint (big secret, by the way, and I'm kind of excited about it!).

And here are some recent sketches:

More latex paint, as you can see! :)

EDM 24 - a piece of fruit.

EDM 124 - something yellow. My son's alternative to a rubber duck. The drawing was quite a fiasco, actually. I drew it with pen, which turned out to be not at all waterproof when I tried putting watercolor on top. Watercolor didn't want to stay on latex, either...It kind of did on the second try, and I even got an interesting effect where the paint sank into the little holes in the latex that I poked with the pen when shading...Overall though, it sucks. That day sucked, too :(

EDM 13 - telephone and 4 - cup:

And there's also EDM 137 - something you can turn on or off (unfortunately, only one of the items in this sketch are on/off-able ;)


For Valentine's day, I got a house

For Valentine's day, I got a house. Well, of course, it wasn't my Valentine's day present, it's just that we finally closed on the house last week. So my husband, not being a very celebration-inclined person in general, skipped the flowers and chocolate and declared that the house was my present. As for me, I obviously lack similar grandeur, not to mention finances, so I went with a good old valentine:

:) He likes medicine.

And then I was painting. The walls in my new house, all 3-day weekend! Pretty exciting and fulfilling, I think, especially since my whole family came over to help. My mom was watching the baby so I could finally do something with a visible result (versus baby-watching, which is hard work but is not immediately gratifying).  And oh, after years of living within walls of all shades of white and taupe and beige, it is wonderful to have heavy orange, and beautiful blue, and saturated green, and tasty yellow around me!

Also, I had some quiet time today to sketch EDM 22 (a piece of clothing):

I used a non-waterproof pen and really enjoyed it this time. I was ready for it to run and smudge, so I used these properties to my advantage. I think I need to get some color ink...


EDM 241 and some more Yupo paintings

I really liked the idea of EDM 241 - "draw what you see from your kitchen window." It makes me want to become socially active and do a series based on views from other people's kitchen windows. This one is actually NOT my kitchen window. The only thing that's ours in this sketch is the hammock.

And I am not done with Yupo! I painted a fruit bowl to thank Lisa Thayer for "guest squeezing" me a couple of weeks ago:

Juicy colors, once again.. Here's a detail:

I'm very tempted to crop it and get rid of all the background and most of the fruit in the upper right. What do you think?

Another Yupo, inspired by a glimpse of mountaintops as I was driving through the San Bernardino mountains overpass:

With this one, I tried some Kleenex tissue texture and also blowing on the wet paint through a straw (along the bottom). The blowing did make the paint run upwards in a slightly interesting pattern...But maybe it's not all that effective here. I'm still wondering if I should add some detail in the bottom part of the painting. Some bushes or ferns or something.. On one hand, it could make the painting more interesting, on the other, it could kill the fluidity and fogginess of it.


What do you want from your art?

I've heard that it's normal for artists to not feel happy about their art. That it's just a part of their nature to always wish they were better. I often find myself thinking that the art I like is not the art I make and vice versa. I keep wishing for more complexity and sophistication in a world of watercolor where "less is more." I want hidden meanings and multiple readings - because that is what I like about other people's art! I want to be able to imply things instead of spelling them out (Jean Haines is great at it). On the other hand, I've learned a lot since I started painting, and sometimes I even surprise myself ("Did I do that?"). My criticism of my own work has never made me want to quit, but to be better. So I guess it's a good thing?

Meanwhile, here's EDM 258 "Draw the inside of your closet." I had to work around this one...We are currently living in a friend's house, so technically, I don't even have a closet. There's one in the bedroom we are occupying but you can only see one half of it at a time and it's quite boring anyway. So...I saw a clothes rack in the garage, with a bunch of leather motorcycle suits on it and that's when it hit me :)

Our friend has a motorcycle gear and accessories business and a motorcycle school, sort of.

Oh, and here's EDM 23, "Draw your foot." Did this one while watching "Kill Bill" :)

Working my way through " An Illustrated Life" - great book, by the way (I gave it to my little brother for Christmas and ended up liking it a lot myself and checking it out at the local library (my brother lives on the other end of California or I would have borrowed it from him)) - one thing I learned, or rather, been reminded of, is the need to slow down when I am sketching. Somewhere in my last two years of university I developed this speed drawing habit, together with straight lines (great for architecture but not for anything else) and now I need to break it. So I've been trying to draw slower. However, here's a counterexample: I only had several seconds to sketch my husband holding our suddenly hyperactive son when we were at a restaurant:

My husband says that it's a horrible drawing. Well. I think it's ok for 7 seconds :)

How to fail gracefully

There is a little mountain around here that I keep looking at and keep being amazed at how quickly the shadows and the colors of it change throughout the day. In real life, it is a regular brown piece of earth and stone. Once in a while, though, it takes on a fantastic orange color with deep purple shadows. Now, my landscapes are not...very good. I just get lost in all the subtle variations of light and shade and get frustrated when the painting doesn't communicate the awe I feel when I look at nature. But sometimes I fall into the trap of trying landscapes again and again. We are currently staying at our friend's house, which has a nice second-floor balcony with an unobstructed view at the above mentioned mountain. A perfect spot for painting (until about 3 pm when it starts getting cold). So I did it. I tried painting the orange mountain, even though it's not particularly orange today.

Obviously, this is a good example of how much I suck at landscapes. I got excited about the colors, jumped into it without waiting for the paint to dry, and messed up the values. So much for that.

So...I decided to slow down and do a study. Of course, you usually do a study before the big painting but this time I was just so excited about the colors I plunged right into it. Anyway, here is the study, done slowly and methodically:

The color is much more subdued but the layered washes look cleaner, in my opinion. It captures the form and nature of the mountain much more accurately. First one still seems to be a better expression of the idea of this mountain that I had in my head, where the orange color dominates and the shadows are incredibly blue but I like the second, slower study more.

Bonus: another mountain that i sketched sometime last month:

An evening of music illustrated

My husband has a beautiful voice and a thousand times more music ability than me. He also plays guitar. Last week, he played and sang some songs via video chat for a friend of his and I used this opportunity to sketch him. Here are the results. I think the sketches get progressively better. I added color on the two last ones because they were just asking for it :)