To Paint a Perfect Pear

Yesterday I took part in Palmer, Alaska’s third annual Who Let the Girls Out event. I taught two watercolor classes. Twenty enthusiastic ladies showed up and we had so much fun. The first class was painting geraniums and the second was painting pears. Here are some photos.

April 28 2013_2247

April 28 2013_2249


We had a wonderful time and all the pears turned out so beautifully. Even though we got squeezed out of our reserved class space and into a littler space, these ladies went with it and made the class a great success. Well done!

What’s In My Sketchbag

So many people have asked what I use to sketch and what I took on my trip to Italy. It just seems best to show you and I’ll try to list everything below. This is what works for me. It is sort of like trying to choose your wardrobe, though. You might want different things and that is fine. Go with what works for you. Here is what I like:


The bag is a Franklin Covey organizer bag. I bought it to get organized and found a better use for it. I took a larger bag to Italy, but this one would have been a better choice. Some people like backpacks, but I don’t like to stop and take off the backpack to begin sketching.

Two palettes, but I mostly use the little one. It is a tin that came with water-soluble wax pastels. I filled empty plastic pans with watercolor paint from tubes and let them dry, then used double-sided tape to stick them in. I painted the inside of the lid with gesso then acrylic white paint. Spray paint would have been better, but I didn’t have any at the time. The nicest thing about this little guy is that it sits happily on one page while I paint on the other. The larger palette is a Heritage Palette. It has a rubber gasket to keep it from leaking. I use it if I’m planning on larger sketches.  I use the sponge to dab water out of the brush. Lots of time I use only the blue Ninji, large water brush. It isn’t great for details, but works really good for quick, small studies.

Sketchbooks. Well, this is interesting. I loved using the Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook for the trip to Italy. Excellent paper and the pages lie flat when it is open. The one below it is my favorite square format, made by HandBook. The paper buckles more than I would like and it is only five inches square. I’m planning on making a seven-inch square book using Strathmore’s Aquarius 2 paper. I just love that paper! I’ve taken some sheets and cut them to 6×9 , then had the UPS Store in the Valley spiral bind them for less than $5. I’m just not too fond of spiral bindings.

The blue blob is blue tack for hanging posters. I put a little water container on it and it keeps it from tipping over.

The little folding stool is 17″ high and I love it! It went to Italy. When I sketch in the wilderness I usually just take a piece of packing foam and sit on it. Not the kind with the bubbles. The pops would scare off all the wildlife. I use the kind that is about 1/4 inch thick and has tiny bubbles running through it.

The gray square is a viewfinder and the gray blob is a kneaded eraser. My go-to pen is the .01 or .02 Pigma Micron pen in black. They have a nice sepia, too. My favorite pen is the Carbon with Carbon Black ink. The nib just sings on paper. I use a cheap mechanical pencil, the kind that comes in sets of about eight. .5mm or .7mm. Just don’t use the eraser. I take an 8″ ruler my kind husband cut from a 12″ ruler. There is a rubber band around it holding my paint brushes. They are Escoda #10 Perla and the #2 with short handles. The long handles are for oil, I think. They aren’t very expensive, but they don’t keep a point for very long. That way I don’t mind if I lose one or allow someone to use it and they use it to scrub paint. I do have a little scrub brush that I forgot to put in the photo. It is just an old #2 flat oil or acrylic brush cut down to about six inches long. The hairs are stiff and splayed like the hair on a mad cat. Works great for splatters too.  The short, red brush is fairly new to me, but I really like it. It is a daVinci series 5080 #20. I get both brands of brushes from Dick Blick.

The miscellaneous stuff is a little spray bottle, Viva paper towels, a Neocolor 2 water-soluble wax pastel in white, pencil sharpener (if I happen to take a blue or sepia watercolor pencil with me)

The camera is a Canon PowerShot SX260 HS.  It has a 20X zoom. Very nice.

In the summer I add a can of pepper spray for bears. A harmonica might be more useful.

I’ll do a post on the why and how I sketch too, but this will answer some of the questions in the comments.

Sketching in Italy


Italy 2

I was in Italy last week. Can’t believe I just typed that! I ate lots of gelato, ate real Italian pasta, learned to order coffee speaking Italian and sketched and sketched. It was delightful. I won’t bore you to death with all the details, but I will share some of the sketches.

Italy 5

Tuscany was just beginning to turn green.

Italy 3

A little stream with an old bridge.

Italy 4

On a cold, cloudy day we sat in the car and I sketched three little views. I pretended the sun was shining!

Italy 1

Everything is so old in Italy. The colors are warm, rich and softened with age.

Italy 6

This is a little piece of the town, Manarola, in Cinque Terre. So many buildings clinging to the rocks, stacked upon each other.

On another note, I finished the collage and I’ll varnish it tomorrow and send if off to Fairbanks Pioneer Home on Friday. Next post will have a picture of the finished piece.