Waiting for the Blink

Portraits have been a love/hate relationship for me. When I’m painting them, time just flies by. The brush nudges a cheek into existence and with just a dot and swirl, there is an eye and I almost expect to see a blink. I often say, “Well, hello!” I honestly don’t know if other artists have this response. I don’t wait for it and I don’t expect it, but it almost always happens. That is the love part.

The hate part is that it might not work. This isn’t a problem unless it is a commission. In one commission, I had a parent ask if I could take off some fat and add some hair to her child. What child did she want me to paint? Another commission, the parent gave me a handful of photos and said to paint anything that moved me. I did. They said my painting looked just like the photo, but not like the child. “Can you make her look more like a monkey?” You meet all kinds.

This year I’ve joined some amazing artists from around the world in a special small group on Facebook. We post sketches online and the only obligation is to interact and exchange positively. We can’t just “like” an image. We are encouraged to say what works and what might need some tweaking. Sometimes there will be a challenge to sketch an “assignment” and they are always fun. Last week some of us sketched a portrait based on photos from their Facebook page. I chose Laura. This sketch took a little less than three hours from paper to “hello”.

"Laura" 10.5" x 7" watercolor

“Laura” 10.5″ x 7″ watercolor

Autumn in Alaska

Snow is creeping down the mountains in the North as the earth tips away from the sun. I find myself leaning toward the equator. Mornings are stunning this time of year as the golden aspen leaves sing against the brilliant blue sky.

Anthracite Ridge

Anthracite Ridge, behind our house.

Our greenhouse produced lots of beautiful tomatoes this year. I brought this clump in and sketched them. A red tomato just glows, doesn’t it? I didn’t try to stay in the lines with this one. It sits contentedly in my sketchbook, but I’ll carefully cut it out if you would like it. For sale here, on my Etsy site.

The last tomatoes from our greenhouse.

“How Do You Like Them Tomatoes?” 7″ x 9″ watercolor

Sketching the Change of Season

The Sketch Project was quite an accomplishment and your kind words of encouragement helped so much. Thank you for cheering me on. The sketches will be on display in Cape Town, South Africa during the month of October. They will return to Alaska, then finally land in Kihei, Hawaii where the buyer lives. Amazing how such a piece of art can get around.

Seeing that I was able to sketch every day with such great response, I’ve decided to sell one sketch a week. I haven’t done this before and I will admit I’m a bit nervous. I’m not nervous about sketching, but the commitment of getting the image up for sale on a regular basis. It isn’t really that big of a deal if I look at it one sketch at a time, so with that confession, I’ll show you this week’s sketch. This is an original and I’m not planning on making prints because that is a commitment I don’t even want to look at right now. Here is the link to my Etsy store if you would like to purchase it. I’m going to put it on Facebook tomorrow, but I wanted to give my blog friends first opportunity. I’m going to keep the cost low on these because I want you to have a chance to buy them and it will motivate me to sketch and sketch.

"South Fork Sketch" 5" x 8.5" original watercolor and ink sketch

“South Fork Sketch” 5″ x 8.5″ original watercolor and ink sketch

The leaves are turning and some have blown off the trees. Last week I took this photo.

Sept 20 1 web

Last of the Thirty Sketch Challenge

Finished! All 30 sketches are complete and on their way to Cape Town, South Africa, to be displayed there for the month of October. The booklet of sketches is on Ebay and the winning bidder will receive them when they return in November. Here is a link to see a thumbnail of all the sketches.

Down on the Matanuska River

Down on the Matanuska River

Clouds...because.

Clouds…because.

Day 29 web

Our fireweed signals that summer is over.

Our fireweed signals that summer is over.

Sketchpack

This gives you an idea of the layout and the size of the sketches. There are sketches on both sides. Each sketch is 4 inches wide by 3.5 inches high and they all fold into a small little packet!

Thank you so much for joining me with these sketches. Your comments are so kind and encouraging. Now I’m off on another project. You’ll just have to wait and see!

Sketching Berries, a Bottle, and a Bus

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking over my shoulder during this sketching challenge. You might wonder how I choose what I’ll sketch. During the day I’m on the lookout for interesting subjects-interesting to me and to you. Sometimes sunlight will land on an object and I’m just drawn to it. Sometimes I want to share a view or something like these luscious blueberries with you.

I nibbled on nearby berries as I sketched these, then I ate them!

I nibbled on nearby berries as I sketched these, then I ate them!

I’m sure the neighbors were wondering why I was staring up at this power pole.

This bottle of olive oil looked so humble in the light.

This bottle of olive oil looked so humble in the light.

This is a bit of a self-portrait.

This is a bit of a self-portrait. I drive my big yellow studio about 200 miles a day. I often stop and sketch after I’ve dropped off the students.

Our living room and the door to my studio inviting me in...

Our living room and the door to my studio inviting me in…

At Eureka Summit I stopped and sketched this in my big yellow studio. The poles are there to mark the road during snow storms.

At Eureka Summit I stopped and sketched this from my big yellow studio. The poles are there to mark the road during snow storms.

On the Glenn Highway, there is a section where the land flattens out and little lakes dot the landscape.

On the Glenn Highway, there is a section where the land flattens out and little lakes dot the landscape. I always feel like yodeling here. It’s a bit Narnian, isn’t it?

Sketching a Harrow, a Hat, and a Few Feathers

I wanted to share the sketches from last week for the Sketchpack Project for Artsource, an art supply store in Cape Town, South Africa. So fun to join other artists around the world in this August project.

Half of a harrow in the sun.

Half of a harrow in the sun.

A few feathers I found recently

A few feathers I found recently

Our neighbor's flowers. How could I resist?

Our neighbor’s flowers. How could I resist?

Oh, we had a lovely, warm summer!

Oh, we had a lovely, warm summer!

As I drove home, I looked over my shoulder and saw this. I turned the car around and sketched this on the side of the road.

As I drove home, I looked over my shoulder and saw this. I turned the car around and sketched this on the side of the road.

This candy is SO good! I don't know why it has a resealable top.

This candy is SO good! I don’t know why it has a resealable top.

My daughter in law's sweet grandmother gave me this spice grinder.

My daughter in law’s sweet grandmother gave me this spice grinder.

This little restaurant is in Palmer, across from the fairgrounds.

This little restaurant is in Palmer, across from the fairgrounds.

Sketching with a Policeman, a Biker, and a Friend

I’ve been asked to take part in a sketching project originating in South Africa. People from around the world are joining me to sketch every day in August in this sketch pack they sent. The owner of an art supply store in Cape Town, called ArtSource, invited me and I had to say yes. At the end of the month, we all will send our little packet back to her and they will be on display and for sale for the month of October. I’m posting my sketches daily on Facebook if you would like to follow me there. I’ll post here every week as I don’t want to overload your inbox.

Day 1 web

Our deck is going crazy with nasturtiums!

Our deck is going crazy with nasturtiums!

My guitar waiting patiently for me to stop sketching and play.

My guitar waiting patiently for me to stop sketching and play.

Palmer with the mountains as a backdrop.

Palmer with the mountains as a backdrop.

Most of the time while I’m sketching people just walk on by, but when I sketched the little scene of Palmer, above, a policeman, a biker, and a friend stopped to visit. The policeman wanted to tell me about his sister who paints, the biker thought I had a flat tire and stopped to help, almost deafening me as he went by (twice) on his motorcycle, and the friend was happy to just visit. The pastoral vibe in the sketch came from somewhere, but not from the atmosphere around me.

Day 5 web

I’m having a hard time not sketching just flowers because they are just amazing this year with our record heat.

I made a wonderful pizza on the grill last week and a peach galette. Maybe I’ll sneak in a post with those recipes for a change of pace. Food is always a good idea and it has been awhile since I’ve let you in my kitchen.

Hiking and Sketching Near Glaciers

Our windows look out to the Chugach Mountains, where sunlight bounces around, revealing fissures and snow packs . Monument Glacier rests deep in the crags like a jewel in a setting. Surrounded by higher peaks, it glows with reflected light. I sketched it while the sun made lovely shadows on the ice. Monument Glacier  Sketch This has been a busy summer with lots of outdoor activities. We hiked near the Matanuska Glacier, just ten miles from us. There is a knob, known as Lion’s Head with a trail leading to the top where you can see for miles in every direction.

July 14 13 056

Facing east toward Eureka Summit, Glennallen and the border.

July 14 13 063

Looking south into the glacier toward Prince William Sound.

July 14 13 068

Facing west toward Palmer and Anchorage. Our house in the upper right.

Sketching the City, the Flats, and a Race

Sunshine has been abundant in Alaska this summer and I’ve been out sketching like crazy. My sketchbook is with me in the car in case I find interesting scenes to sketch. The image below is near the train station in Anchorage. The metal red salmon swimming up the fence are so cool.

Christensen Drive in Anchorage, Alaska. Notice the metal red salmon on the fence.

Christensen Drive in Anchorage, Alaska.

Between Anchorage and our house I drive past the Palmer Hay Flats where wild iris, also known as Siberian Flag, bloom in profusion. It was one of the hottest days of the year and I sat on my little folding stool in the sunshine sketching in delight.

Iris Sketch

Last week the Fireweed 400 began. It is a bike race beginning at Sheep Mountain Lodge, eighteen miles east of us on the Glenn Highway. This race isn’t for the faint of heart. Contestants in the longest part of the race travel two hundred miles to Valdez at sea level then back to Sheep Mountain Lodge over mountainous roads.  I was sketching in the gravel on the side of the highway while racers zoomed past. One racer yelled, “Suzie, is that you?” It was the owner of the lodge, Anjanette, who has also run the Iditarod- the dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome. She’s one tough lady and only a little over a hundred pounds. This is one of the views the bicyclists see on their route. Fireweed is blooming all over the state right now.

Fireweed sketch

Last year Anjanette commissioned me to paint two images of the racers on the road. These are the paintings.

Sheep Mountain web 1

Glenn Highway heading toward Gunsight Mountain

Glenn Highway just east of Sheep Mountain Lodge. Matanuska Glacier and Lion's Head in the distance.

Glenn Highway just east of Sheep Mountain Lodge. Matanuska Glacier and Lion’s Head in the distance.

Sketching With Twigs and Feathers

I joined an online group of 125 sketchers from around the world. One of the challenges was to look for unique angles so I walked around our house and found this view of our deck and greenhouse.

Deck Sketch

One person in the group made an exquisite sketch using a chop stick and another using a twig. Here is a sketch of King Mountain Lodge near where we live. I used a genuine alder twig dipped in ink. It gives a nice variety of thin and thick lines. Holding an open pot of ink is a little scary and I was sure I would sneeze and have ink everywhere. This was a quick little sketch of about twenty minutes.

King Mountain Lodge

While walking the golf course with my husband, I picked up a Canada goose feather to use as a dip pen too. Because it was Canadian, I thought it would be more cooperative, but it created a scary mixture of blobs and scratches more suitable for an ink blot test than a realistic sketch.

We’ve had record heat in Alaska which makes glaciers melt, causing the rivers to rise. I sat between the Matanuska River and the highway and sketched this tributary flowing from the Chugach Mountains into the river.

Chugach Mts

There are groups who get together to sketch around the world and it looks like so much fun. I’ve been organizing a group called Drawn to Palmer and we are planning to meet every month. It will be exciting to spend time with other sketchers and see different perspectives of other artists. During our last meetup, I sketched the Palmer Visitors Center in Palmer, Alaska. They have such a beautiful garden with Pioneer Peak in the background. I’m envious that they can grow foxgloves with just a bit warmer climate.

Palmer Visitors Center