Sketching and Purring

Last year I took a break from “producing” paintings and picked up my sketchbook to record life around me. This decision was in response to an online class I took from Cathy Johnson.  I painted a few watercolor paintings, but I spent most of the year capturing pieces of my life and surroundings in my sketchbooks. It was like taking a vacation not to  frame pieces or consider their “sale-ability”.  After spending time away from creating larger paintings, I’ve decided what I really like is painting smaller watercolors and large collage and large fabric paintings. I’ll post images of them on this blog and sell them at my online store.

Heather's cat

Heather’s cat/Strathmore Aquarius II paper/watercolor/white watercolor pencil and Sakuru white gel pen for the whiskers

During the summer I visited my friend, Heather, and I tried to photograph one of her beautiful cats while we visited in her garden. He was behaving like a cat and wouldn’t sit still for a minute or would only give me his backside or tail to look at.

A few weeks ago Heather posted a photo of one of the cats and I couldn’t resist those eyes and whiskers. I thoroughly enjoyed painting on this for several hours. This would be considered more of a study than a sketch, I guess, because I consider a sketch as taking less than an hour. That is only my definition so don’t quote me.

I wonder if you have stepped back from something to refocus or regroup this year? Please share in the comments.

What Color is Alaska in the Winter? Sketches From a Warm Car

Although it has been cold and windy here, I was determined to get out and paint the soft colors of winter in Alaska last week. I gathered my sketch bag and tootled off in our car with the heater on high.

The sun has long ago abandoned us and only touches the mountain peaks during the middle of the day.  I stopped to sketch the Matanuska River from the Glenn Highway. Most of the river is full of ice and the reflections are from ice polished by snow as it blows down the frozen river. Water is flowing under and around the ice, being fed by ground water and springs. No glacier melt adds to the flow when the thermometer hovers below minus ten degrees day after day.

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WInter-Sketch-4

Mount Wickersham glows in the sunlight, causing colorful shadows.

Spruce trees are almost navy blue against the glow of the deciduous tree bark being lit by the weak sunshine. The sky is pale and silvery.

Alaska Winter Sketch 5

Winter-Sketch-3

I wasn’t sketching very long before the sun set at three in the afternoon. The weak blue in the sky gave way to a warm peachy glow as I sat snuggled up in my car, happy as a cat as I sketched with the heat on.

What color is winter where you are?

Winter-Sketch-1

Golfing and Sketching Make A Great Marriage

I’ll never be a good golfer. I just don’t care enough. My husband, however, is all about making good shots and is much more serious about the whole process of getting that little white ball in the hole eighteen times in a row. Sometimes I will ride on the cart or walk the course with him and sketch. The only down side to this is I’m usually sketching when he makes a good drive. When he says, “How’d you like that?” I dumbly say, “What?” or “Oh, that was great!” whether I saw the shot or not.

While we were vacationing in Arizona earlier in November, we drove the “back nine” at Haven Golf Course together. Arizona has beautiful golf courses. Here are a few sketches. I sketched in pen then added watercolor later.

Haven-1

Haven-2Haven-3Haven-4

During our stay in Arizona, a sketching friend, Leslie, came to visit and we sketched for three days and had a wonderful time. You may see her sketches here on her fun blog.

Arizona Ranch Sketches

Today I get to tell you who is the winner in the drawing for the gift cards. I’ll tell you at the end of this post.

I promised more sketches from my sketchbook of our time in Arizona. We had such a grand time there. So warm and sunny. Here you go!

Inside this building is the wonderful smell of leather, horse sweat and dust.

Lovely views on the drive up Box Canyon Road…

I took two sketchbooks with me to Arizona. One is a sweet little 5″ x 5″ hardbound one made by Hand Book. I like it because it is small and there is the option of painting on one page in a square format or horizontal in 5″ x 10″.  This is two pages. I might fill in the blank space with something like a harness or a bit…who knows?

Little sketches from the ranch in the “Hand Book”.

Crimson Bottle Brush bloom. I really like to paint across the page.

And the winner of the box of gift cards is…..Peggy Saunders!  I love random.com !  Peggy, you may email me at suziepaints at Yahoo dot com and send me your address and I’ll pop them right in the mail.

Next post will be more Arizona sketches. I’m remembering the sunshine during these cold, dark Alaska winter days.

Sketching a Ranch in Arizona

“Arizona Ranch” 4×6 watercolor sketch

We were vacationing in Arizona for the last two weeks. It was so sunny and warm. Such a nice break from the cold in Alaska. I rode my bicycle and sketched cactus from the sidewalk. I sketched the Santa Rita mountains from the valley. I saw coyotes and birds and smelled the incredible smell of the desert after rain.

Driving our funny little car up Box Canyon Road into the mountains, I would stop and sketch cows and the valley below. There was a driveway with “no trespassing” signs leading to a ranch and I longingly looked at the buildings, cows, and horses in the distance. As a teenager, I had spent several weeks on a ranch in eastern Oregon and my fingers twitched to sketch the familiar things from my past.

It took a little searching, but online I found a contact number and called the ranch. The owner was very pleasant but cautious about having me on his property. He said to come up so I went the next day. He very graciously gave me a tour for over an hour, then he told me to make myself at home and sketch wherever I wanted. I agreed not to post the name of his ranch to respect his privacy.

The ranch was everything I could have hoped for; beautifully stout red Angus cattle roamed among the rocks, trees, and grass in the warm sun as I sketched. And no snakes slithered about which made me very happy.  This ranch has been there for over a hundred years and I could feel the years of sun and wind on the structures and the land. There was a pleasing sense of new and old on the property.  I felt right at home as I breathed in the smell of leather and horse sweat in the tack room.

I’ll post more of my sketches in the next post, but because this is Thanksgiving week, I want to show how thankful I am to all of you who read these posts and take the time to comment. Thank you! I’m having a drawing for a box of my 5″ x 7″ gift cards. All you have to do is comment before Sunday, November 25th and you will be in the drawing.  And yes, I will mail them anywhere in the world.  Here are some images of the eight cards in the package:

Late Autumn or Early Winter?- A Sketch

Caribou Creek Hill

Yesterday the sun was blazing over the tops of the mountains. As it sinks lower and lower into the southern sky, it will soon be skipping between peaks and we will count the few minutes of sunshine.  I make feeble attempts at gratefulness for any sunshine we get, but it is so harsh and lacks any real warmth. It is similar to glaring into high beam headlights. It isn’t really winter until we shovel snow and so far there is just a dusting on the ground that will most likely remain until April. This is late Autumn or early Winter. Ice but no snow.

The robins and songbirds have all left and the swans and geese have packed their tiny bags for their vacation in the relative warmth of the lower forty-eight states. Deserters. Chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers flit around the bird feeder and the sun sparkles on their puffed out feathers. Perhaps I’ll sketch them next.

Making Watercolor Pigment from Mud

I’ve been wondering if pigment could be made from clay and I learned that it can from a book called, “The Complete Decorated Journal” by Gwen Diehn. First I used clay from the Matanuska River flowing near us. It is a glacier-fed river with lots of silty clay along the shore.  There is also a stream a few miles away near Sheep Mountain with golden-yellow mud along the bank. Perfect for pigment!

I started by mixing the silty clay with water, then strained it through a fine mesh sieve. That got rid of the sand. Using several layers of cheesecloth, I strained it again. Finally, I strained it through a terry cloth. I tried to use a tee-shirt as suggested in the book, but I couldn’t get anything but clean water to go through it. After allowing the muddy water to settle, I poured the clear water from the top and allowed the remainder to dry to a pudding-like mud, then mixed in several drops of gum arabic.

I used the silty river pigment to paint this scene of the Matanuska River below. I was so disappointed with the deadness of the color.

Matanuska River painted with glacier silt pigment and a little bit of Sheep Mountain mud.

Painting with the river pigment is like painting with…well, mud. Watercolor pigment should be responsive by moving across the paper, not turning to sludge. I repeated the process with the Sheep Mountain mud. This was entirely different! This pigment was rich and moved across the paper beautifully.

The grass in the foreground is Sheep Mountain mud.

This sketch below is looking over the Matanuska River, very near our home. I used some of the Sheep Mountain mud and none of the silt from the river.

Chugach Mountains and the Matanuska River

The sketch below is of a neighbor’s house.

The leaves have been gone for a while, but it was fun to paint them when they were golden.