Yellow Rose sketch

Sketchbook Rose – 7 x 10

While I work on some larger projects to prepare some paintings for shows, here’s a page from a Canson Montval sketchbook with a full blown Descanso rose. I didn’t spend a lot of time working on the subtle turn of each petal and leaf – I just wanted to get the colors of the late afternoon light falling on the blossom and leaves.

In retrospect, I see that I need to push back some of the petals so the bloom doesn’t look quite so separate from the background (even though it did look crisp with hard edges in real life.) I could use some complements to glaze over and do that, but I think I’d just risk overworking it too much. I’ve made a mental note of what I need to do, so this sketch has served its purpose. I used a lot of new gamboge, bright red, prussian blue and mauve for this one, and too many other colors to recall. Look for this in a larger version, coming soon.

Art thought of the day from Frank La Lumia, plein air painter, as interviewed by Molly Siple in American Artist:
The way you see things must be different from the way the average person sees the world. It’s important to be able to mentally break down nature into patters of color and value relationships. Until you can think abstractly, you will be at the mercy of leaves, branches and other details of nature.”

Yup, that’s the rub … where is the sweet spot that’s right for me between abstraction and realism? This is my koan of the moment. If you’re a painter, it yours, too?

Citrus Valley – Daily Painting

“Citrus Valley” – 9 x 12 sketchbook study

Between holidays and business, this week’s paintings may consist of quickie sketches in my sketchbooks. This study, painted in my Raffine book, represents a part of the landscape we visited last Sunday during some high windstorms. The area is near Ojai – inland from Ventura and west of the Interstate 5. Most of the area is agricultural with rolling hills covered with avocado and citrus groves, and many eucalptus windbreaks.

Small watercolor sketches like these (9 x 12) give me some ideas of what I might want to do (or not do) when I translate it into an oil painting.

Something winged this way comes

I am frustrated today because my Yahoo email is bouncing and every reactivation request I’ve put in is not working. I get error messages back that reassure me that Yahoo is working hard to upgrade its sites to serve me better and if I don’t hear anything after 4 hrs to get updates here (and then it shuttles me to a generic FAQ page. Updates? Hah! Nada.) I don’t know what else I can do now but wait. I’ve followed all the steps including trying to reactivate myself from a group I moderate.

So this lack of results has put me in a rather peevish mood, but since it’s Halloween and the time for the thinning of the veils and such, I’ll tell you a story of synchronicity.

Many years ago, oh best beloved, my dh and I were on an expedition in Egypt searching for ancient artifacts using remote viewing. It was tiring and hot but we loved nearly every minute of it, and cherished the moments that we could see other parts of that beautiful and fascinating country. One early evening, our drivers took us out to Saqqara where we watched sunset near the bent pyramid of Zoser. We sat on a hillside covered with loose rocks and rubble. I put my hand down and picked up one rock, turned it over, and there was a hieroglyphic of an ibis, headless. But the body clearly told me what kind of bird it was. That was a rare moment, holding a piece of history in my hand, rescued from what looked like a landfill.

Flash forward ten years or more, to another turbulent time. We were working on a show that had to do with native americans and the settling of the west, and I was looking for some props to use in filming a sequence. A chance visit to a garage sale (unrelated) turned up a bead loom with a bead weaving half completed. There was the ibis-like wading bird, again … but this time, without a tail. It felt like a visitation from an old friend.

Ibises in art seem to speak to me in some way. A benign, good way, even if they are headless. So, today when my dh had a meeting in Beverly Hills and offered the opportunity to ride along and go to the LA county art museum, I jumped at the chance. I had HAD it up to here with bouncing emails, thankfully a rare occurrence. On Halloween the museum was empty. I had the place to myself and I reveled in it. You can imagine my smile rounding the corner into the Egyptian gallery and coming across this beautiful bronze of an ibis which may have once been on a royal standard. I just had to stop and draw it, head, wings, tail and all.

When I got home tonight, I did a little research on the ibis and its symbolism. The bird is sacred to the Egyptian deity Thoth, the civilizer of men, who taught music, medicine, writing and magic and was associated with speech, literature, the arts and learning. And most appropriate today, on all hallows eve, Thoth was the author of the Book of the Dead, and he who helped or punished the departed as they made their trek to the underworld.

On these days when some believe the veil between worlds may thin, who knows what power ancient symbols may still hold – even if only to grant a smile and a moment of relaxing drawing pleasure.

Sycamore Grove

Yesterday I got my first Raffine sketchbook by Lana, recommended by Lin Frye, so I decided to give it a test drive. The 9 x 12″ paper is very thick and slightly absorbent, and I’d say it takes a wet wash pretty well without bleeding through the back side of the paper. There was only slight buckling. I used a 1″ flat brush for this sketch and a thin flexible “rigger” brush. For quick studies (this took about 15-20 minutes) and an economical price tag (12.99 for a 48 page book) this might just be my favorite so far. I even like the slightly rough texture which makes it possible to get some interesting textures.

I haven’t tried a watercolor Moleskine yet, but the large size of this sketchbook appeals in that it allows me to use a bigger brush and to concentrate on large areas of color and value. Watercolor colors used: light red, quin magenta, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, sap green, yellow green.

In the coming days I’ll also try it out with ink, colored pencil, charcoal, pencil and acrylic, if you’d like to check back to see the results of my experiments …

P.S. My first eBay watercolor painting auction concludes Sunday night …
Click to see auction


Well, this is a multipurpose painting.

First, it’s for Illustration Friday’s theme of “Clean” – I think I cleaned out that melon pretty well.
Secondly, it’s for Wet Canvas’s 4th “Art From Life” scavenger hunt. This item is “my breakfast.”
It’s a ‘draw a fruit’ for Everyday Matters, too. Mostly it was an excuse to have some watercolor fun.

For those regular readers, I used a very limited palette here – some chrome yellow and vermillion, yellow green and ultramarine blue.
Canson Montval watercolor sketchbook – 7 x 10 size.

Bless me father, for I have snacked

Presented for your consideration, a portrait of my all time favorite snack. Yes, I am a pretzel addict. I like chips but could pass them up. Candy? I have only a vague interest. I can even pass up chocolate. But I absolutely adore pretzels, a taste acquired, I’m sure, from my Pennsylvania Dutch forbears.

Here are a few interesting tidbits I’ve heard about pretzels. They were supposedly first made by a medieval monk who twisted the dough to resemble the arms crossed across the breast in prayer (that was a typical posture at the time, and you will occasionally see that gesture on old paintings.) These twisted dough snacks were given as a reward to good children who learned their prayers. The word origin variously is “pretiola” (little prayer) preziola (little present) or “brachiola” (little arm). Perhaps the word emerged from a synthesis of the three ideas. The three holes formed in the twist refers to the three parts of the Christian trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit.)

One legend says that a pretzel was used during marriage ceremonies, and was broken and consumed by bride and groom to symbolize their union.

My personal favorite is the Rold Gold brand, but they changed the formula 15 or so years ago and it’s never been quite the same. It’s still better than others to my taste, though.

This picture was painted in my Canson Montval wc journal with tube paints. Actual size of the pretzel itself is about 4.5 in. x 2.5″

Rosarium Two

This watercolor sketch of the Descanso Gardens Rosarium was actually painted about a month ago, at the same time that I was primarily posting daily sketches of Cat Mandu. I knew that we were on borrowed time with her, and I wanted to share her drawings while she was still alive. The flowers will always be there, and so I am posting them now.

This was painted on location at Descanso Gardens at about 10 in the morning. The light is similar to that in Vista del Arroyo a few days ago and Rosarium Haze, only the sky was a bit clearer, so it’s not quite so hazy.

The page is 9 x 12, painted with tube watercolors, a dixie cup and a sable brush. If things go according to plan, I’ll also be making an oil painting from this sketch.

Not Batman’s House

Well this will teach me to repeat something I’ve heard before vetting it through Google. I was told that this shell of a house was the house featured as the Bruce Wayne manor on the late 60s TV series Batman. However, a little searching reveals that Batman’s house was actually down the block and was, in fact, purchased a little while ago by Sir Paul McCartney (and is perfectly intact, thank you very much.) This house was owned by another unfortunate family and it was undergoing renovation when the blaze occurred. Thankfully they were not home, nor had they moved their possessions into it. I do hope they will continue renovating it and will have many happy years there.

I painted this view yesterday, looking across the arroyo in a different direction 90 degrees to the previous view. Although it was done within an hour or so of the other sketch, the color of the sky is decidedly different. The hillside was a jumble of chapparal natives and dry grass, making an interesting patchwork pattern. This sketch, like yesterday’s, is approx 4.5″ x 6″ and painted with a Niji waterbrush and tube paints.

Vista del Arroyo One

It was another hot one today, but under the oaks on the edge of the arroyo it was downright tolerable. Three of us set up our gear facing this sweeping view – the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is on the right, and the Colorado Street Bridge (Arroyo Seco Bridge) is to the left. The Courthouse has an interesting history, having been originally the site of a boarding house, then a grand hotel which was converted to a veteran’s hospital in the 40s before its present incarnation. It’s a wonderful piece of architecture, and I’d like to paint it again, closer up. Maybe on a cooler day.

In the distance you can see the San Gabriel Mountains. Now, you may not know them by name, but I’m guessing that if you ever watch the Rose Parade on TV, when the camera pans up to those craggy peaks towering over Pasadena, that’s what you see. Today, with incredibly high humidity from a Mexican monsoon (so we’re told) the air was thick with haze which cast the whole scene in a yellowish-pink light and turned the mountains to a bluish mauve. Kind of interesting, really.

This was a half page in my journal sketchbook. Tomorrow I’ll be posting another watercolor sketch, of the famous “Batman house” (Bruce Wayne manor) which burned last year. It’s now a roofless ruin and looks somewhat less than eerie in midsummer midday light. Still, it’s a bit of history and close by. See you tomorrow, same bat blog, same bat site.


It’s stiflingly hot here – today is supposed to be the hottest day of the season so far – and according to today’s radio report it could be 112F. This rockrose, being a native, doesn’t seem to care about the climate. I’m a native, too, but I like air conditioning and copious amounts of cool drinks or I wilt.

Rockroses have crinkly tissue paper thin petals, similar to matilija poppies in the way they look. Those matilijas are also a drought-tolerant native, so I’m guessing that the very thin petals have something to do with water conservation.