Friday, December 28, 2012

Pumpkins in December?

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol, Vellum

It has been far too long since I posted a new drawing, but rest assured that all is well. I've just been working on some "Do-not-open-before-Christmas" holiday projects that couldn't be posted, or surprises would have spoiled. Now that the holiday crush is behind us, I'm re-charged (I'm hoping it's not just a sugar high) and resolved to get back to more regular drawing —and posting!

This pumpkin drawing was commissioned by a lovely woman, the aunt of one of my close friends. My friend had recently given her a framed print of my artichoke cross-section drawing, chosen because her aunt lives in Half Moon Bay, a coastal town north of here (and south of San Francisco). Half Moon Bay, besides being famous for its pumpkins (it hosts a huge Pumpkin Festival each October) is also known for growing artichokes and other vegetables. I'm tickled that she asked for a pumpkin drawing as well as one of Brussels sprouts on their stalk. (The latter has a short season, and since I almost always draw from real "models", I'd better get that one done soon!)

In case you're wondering, I chose to draw this "bird's-eye-view" since it is a companion piece to this one:

Here are a couple of work-in-progress shots:

I hope that you are enjoying some relaxing post-holiday time as well. Next up for visits! (And maybe one last slice of cranberry bread...)

And one last important note: Thank you for all of the supportive comments, emails, and good ol' positive thoughts that you sent my way after my recent post about Parkinson's Disease. Your kind words mean more than you know.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Anniversaries and anticipation

My little blog is two years old today!  
(Well, technically, it was two years old on Saturday, 
but a few sick days last week threw me off a bit.)

It's a happy accident that my blogging anniversary is December 1, as it's one of my favorite days of the year. You see, I have a passion for advent calendars. Childhood memories of the anticipation of Christmas surely fuel my obsession.  But there's something about finding each little numbered paper door and revealing its surprise underneath that still excites me. Like anyone who's a little obsessive/compulsive about something, I have a few rules regarding what constitutes, for me, the perfect advent calendar:

1. It should  be made out of paper. I'm not a huge fan of the fancy wooden ones, or any that get re-used every year. It just seems more special to be used only once, an ephemeral thing, so that each year holds new surprises.

2. It should have little doors or windows to open. That seems like a given, I know. But there are a plethora of clever, craftsy ones in a clothesline or wall-hanging style that use things like little bags or stockings, but they're not for me.. give me a perforated paper door.

3. You should have to hunt for each door just a bit. Another reason to look askance at the ones I mentioned in #2: No hunting = no fun.

4. The doors should be integrated into the image, not just randomly cut into it it. Villages and houses, that have windows and doors that open, are just right. Or anything where you're opening an object to reveal what's underneath...not just a scene with 24 perforated doors cut into it. Which leads me to a related item:

5. The revealed image should relate to the cover image, but change it slightly. You open a window and see the people inside that room doing holiday things, you open the stable gate to see a pony, you move a knot on a tree to reveal a squirrel inside.

6. The backing paper should let light through. While we often hang ours on a wall, or set it on a table, I like them best hung on a window where the sunlight illuminates the openings...another childhood memory.

7. The door for the 24th should be biggest and reveal a special image. None of this stuff where 24 is the same size as 1. Furthermore, there should be no door for the's all about the anticipation; on the 25th, you're already there.

So, there you have my preferences, but I'll admit that I also enjoy a few non-conforming ones: I love my little Victoran numbers that  I've shown at the top of the post. I also have a real affinity for the Playmobil advent calendars. We bought them almost every year as my kids grew up. But to me, the best part was that the parent got to prepare and fill it ahead of time, folding up the little paper boxes and  putting each piece of the scene inside. They've recently gone to a pre-filled style that you don't get to assemble yourself, and which shows all of the pieces on the back, which ruins the surprise a bit. But they're always quite charming; the one for this year includes a couple of hedgehogs!)

I'l leave you with a photo of my kitchen wall from a few years ago when I decided to display some of my calendars from years past (I keep them all):

How about you? Are you an advent calendar person? Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude: A personal story

"I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have taken up drawing again.
I had been thinking about it for a long time, but always considered it
 impossible and beyond my abilities."
—Vincent van Gogh

In addition to being a milestone—my 100th post!—this is an especially personal post for me. I recently created this drawing for a Thanksgiving card that is sent out by The Parkinson's Institute, a renowned clinic and research center in my area. I feel a strong sense of gratitude for the wonderful people at the PI, because I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the spring of 2009.

There are a lot of reasons that I've chosen not to share this on my blog until now. First, I feel that my condition isn't really relevant to my artwork. I'm very fortunate that my symptoms have been mild so far, and have affected only my left side. Since I'm right-handed, my drawing has been unaffected for now. (By the way, it's purely random as to which side is more affected, so I know that I'm one lucky woman.) But more importantly, I simply want people to respond to my drawings for the drawings, not because they were drawn by someone with PD. (And I promise you, after this post I will be back to the serious business of drawing nuts and marshmallow Peeps.)

But lately, I feel the need to celebrate the fact that I'm still drawing away, Parkinson's and all, and I want to express my thankfulness for the Parkinson's community:

I'm thankful for the amazing doctors and researchers at the Institute, who may someday soon be instrumental in finding a cure for Parkinson's.

I'm thankful for two other blogging artists with Parkinson's (now that's an elite group). The first is Cindy DeLuz, a wonderful woman that I met at the Institute. She just exudes happiness when you talk to her, and you can see it in her artwork. The other is Amanda Bates, a friend that I met online. (Yes, I consider a number of my blogging buddies to be friends, even though we've never met...isn't technology wonderful?) Somehow, I happened upon Amanda's beautiful painting blog and her informative Parkinson's blog separately, and it was only later that I realized they were written by the same woman!

I'm thankful for my inspirational fellow Institute patients, including one that still entertains his friends with his lively banjo-playing, and another that plays golf three times a week!

I'm thankful for Michael J. Fox and the work he's done through his Foundation. In the first months after I was diagnosed, I had no idea as to how fast my symptoms would progress—it's different for everyone— which was pretty frightening. But, thanks to MJF, I saw a person close to my own age, that I could relate to. I kept telling myself that if he can still lead a full, generous, vibrant life, then I could too.

In his book, Always Looking Up, Michael J. Fox states, "For everything this disease has taken, something with greater value has been given—sometimes just a marker that points me in a new direction that I might not otherwise have traveled." That couldn't be truer than it is for me. Would I have taken the time to rediscover my passion for drawing, and would I have started my blog, had I not been faced with the fact that I didn't know if, or when, my manual dexterity would deteriorate?  So, while I stated above that Parkinson's disease isn't really relevant to the artwork itself, it may very well have been the marker that pointed me  "in a direction I might not otherwise have traveled." And for that, I am truly grateful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Aw, Nuts!

Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore charcoal paper, "Golden Brown"

I love drawing nuts. They're such interesting shapes and textures, inside and out. I also love samplers and swatch charts, color charts, botanical charts, it doesn't matter what the subject is, really—I like their visual organization. The illustrations that the John Burgoyne does for the back covers of Cooks Illustrated magazine make me swoon. So, this is my nut "sampler", but it's a work-in-progress. There will eventually be at least 2 more rows, a walnut and a Brazil nut. I may add some hand-lettered labels, but that remains to be seen.  I'm also using it to illustrate this week's Illustration Friday topic, "zoom", as I really had to get out my magnifying glass to zoom in on these. (Okay, that may be a stretch, but I've missed participating in IF lately, and just had to enter something this week!)

Drawing on toned, textured paper seemed to help capture the colors and feel of the almond and hazelnut. The only drawback is that it's not as easy to digitally clean up stray background smudges and pencil dust, so that hasn't been done yet on this piece.

I've got another couple of pieces (one with a very personal story attached to it) that are almost ready to share; I hope you'll check back on Thursday for a special Thanksgiving post!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Notecards II

Yikes... it's been a month since I've posted! I've been busy with a couple of projects that I'll share with you shortly, but in the meantime, I thought I'd show you a set of cards that I put together for a friend's birthday. (Apologies for the uneven lighting in this shot; I was rushing around, as usual. But not a bad shot for an iPhone...) I made a different set a while back (you can see that post, with details about the supplies that I used, here). However, instead of spray mount, I used a wonderful little Tombow adhesive this easy! And for this set, I used Paper Source's "Cement" for the A7 notecards and envelopes and "Lake" for the box.

Here's the label that is on the box bottom...I completely forgot to photograph the finished box from the top, but it also had a vellum band like the first set. This time I used one of the flowers from the "Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow" card as the sticker.

I keep thinking that I might someday get organized enough to put cards and prints in an Etsy shop, but I'm not sure that it'd be worth the time and effort. I'd love to hear from those of you that are Etsy sellers...has your experience been positive?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Love Autumn

I've been wanting to draw some of the Indian corn that I use to decorate this time of year, but drawing the whole ear (or several) seemed kind of daunting. So, I decided to re-visit my little series of Botanical Hearts. I like doing these little pieces because, as I mentioned in the earlier posts, I can play around with rendering techniques without committing to a huge project. I don't know how some colored pencil artists work on intricate, detailed pieces for days on end; I just don't have that kind of patience!

I hope you are enjoying your fall season so far. Here in Northern California, it's still quite warm this time of year; everything starts to look a little parched from our rain-less summers. But by Thanksgiving, our leaves will be changing colors and the rain will be here...I can't wait!

Here are the others in the series, so far:
(You can click on "hearts" in the labels below to see the original posts for these.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Illustration Friday: Crooked

a Couple of Cuddling Crooknecks 

Hmmm...maybe I should do an alphabet series...

I've been trying to think of a good subject for the topic, "crooked", while repeatedly walking past a huge pile of these squash on my kitchen counter. Obviously, it finally dawned on me that crookneck squash fit the bill. The plants are getting scraggly and overgrown, but they're still producing like crazy. 

I'm annoyed with myself because I rushed a bit while working on these shadows and made them too dark; it's tricky when you have a yellow subject on a white background. Then I tried to soften them by adding a little crosshatching, which wasn't all that successful either. Ah well, live and learn: Slow down. And plant fewer squash next year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summer's End

I'm going to be out of town for a few days, so I thought I'd wish you a happy Labor Day weekend with this little sketch from a post last June. When I was growing up, Labor Day officially closed the door on our summer. It meant the closing of the public swimming pools, and, unlike today, was immediately followed by the first day of school. 
Have a relaxing end-of-the-summer weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2012


Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. 

A while back, I wrote a post about how Google Image Search can be used to find out whether any of your artwork has been "borrowed" for use by others. Occasionally, when I'm sitting at the computer, I run searches for a few of my images. Last week, I found my humble little pinecone drawing (a personal favorite, mind you) all tarted up and masquerading as someone else's art—right in their banner! And the most offensive part is that the company is a design firm that offers graphic design, branding, and other creative services! Frankly, judging from the quality of their website and their other images, it's not a very successful company. But if they don't understand artwork copyright infringement, who does?

I decided to play nice to begin with, and sent the company this email:

"As a design firm, I would think that you would understand that it is illegal to use an artist's work without permission. The pinecone drawing being used in your banner and elsewhere on your website is my artwork, and was taken from my website,, where it is protected by copyright. If you are interested in purchasing rights to use it, I will be happy to send you a quote. Otherwise, please remove it immediately. I will look forward to your reply letting me know which option you choose."

I received this reply yesterday:

"Thanks for informing, it will be rectified soon.  Designer has been asked to remove it."

No apology, no explanation. And as of this writing, the drawing has not been removed. Grrr. I'll keep you posted.

Update! They removed it today, August 28!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ten-Lined June Beetle

Prismacolor colored pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper

Some husbands bring their wives flowers, mine knows I'd rather have a cool-looking beetle. He found this little beauty in our pool last week, and knew that I would want it.

I decided to draw it on this paper, because the color and texture of the paper looked exactly like its shell. It's drawn at about 4x actual size, which is about an inch long.

It's been a while since I've drawn insects (see my last one here); I wish I had more specimens available—they're so fascinating to examine under a magnifying glass!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Miss Rosa Bianca Aubergine

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol, vellum

Here I go, personifying my produce again. I can't help myself—from the moment this beautiful little "Rosa Bianca" eggplant appeared in my garden, it looked just like a little face to me. It even has a human-sounding name, for heaven's sake! (By the way, isn't the French name aubergine far superior to the word eggplant?) This little gem gets its name from the fact that it's basically white, but gets streaked with red-violet as it develops in the sun. 
Maybe I've been watching too much "Masterpiece Theater", but I can't look at the way the green cap curls on the sides without thinking of those Jane Austen heroines' hairstyles:
I was tempted to draw a little face on my eggplant when I sketched it, but my portrait-drawing skills are woefully rusty—besides, I think it's more fun to imagine it, don't you?

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Tomato Family

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum, 5" x 8"

When I was setting up this still life, it occurred to me that it looked like a little family portrait. So, the whole time I was drawing these tomatoes, I envisioned them as such: Mom, Dad, the baby next to its mother, and the two older children by the father—one refusing to sit up straight.

These folks were all born and raised in my garden: the "parents" are a wonderful heirloom variety called "Kellogg's Breakfast". They're a beautiful yellow-orange, and are fleshy, very sweet, and have few seeds. You'd almost think you're eating a nectarine—so delicious. The "kids" are "Sugar Sun" cherry tomatoes, also really yummy.

There's nothing quite like a beautiful still life. Here are two of my favorite still life painters:

Janet Rickus paints gorgeous, often whimsical, pieces. (I think that perhaps her sense of humor led me to create a tomato "family" with my own drawing.) Her work is hard to describe in've got to take a peek here.

Abby Ryan creates a daily oil painting, usually an elegantly simple still life, and they're gorgeous. Each painting is then auctioned off on eBay. She collaborates with a potter, Jury Smith, who creates beautiful pieces specifically for use in still life paintings. Isn't that fascinating? And you can even watch videos of Abby painting on her blog and her website. It's a joy to watch.

I hope you'll check them out!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Illustration Friday: Lonely

It's impossible to be lonely when you have a good book—and a chicken or two.

This is May, my Buff Orpington hen, atop one of my latest yard sale finds. My husband spotted these beautiful Adirondack chairs when we stopped at a yard sale on our Saturday morning walk home from the coffee shop.

Both chairs and both footstools for $22—such a steal! I may refinish them down the road, but I kind of like their weathered look. But best of all, they're really comfortable for reading on a summer afternoon; May and Charlotte think so too. 

Are you reading anything wonderful this summer? (I keep my current picks on my sidebar over to the right, if you're interested.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Illustration Friday: Suspend II

Prismacolor colored pencil (White and 90% Warm Grey) on Strathmore Charcoal Paper

I know, two posts in two days is a tad unusual for me—okay, highly unusual for me—but when I noticed these rocks, they just had to be in a sketch for "suspend". (I hope that the wonderful people at Illustration Friday won't mind me bending the rules and posting two entries.)

Lately, I've been picking up rocks with holes in them when I see them at the beach, or on a walk. Strung up and hanging in my little studio area, they're little travel mementos. (I should have been writing dates and places on them; I think I'll do that from now on!)

Will I make it "three posts in three days"? Tune in tomorrow...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Illustration Friday: Suspend

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol Vellum

In my garden, ripening blackberries are suspended from their stems, 
waiting for the birds—or me—to pluck them off. 

My blackberry plants are out of control—in a good way. They have razor-sharp thorns, and they grow like weeds, but I love them anyway. Maybe it's because I can never pick them without thinking of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, in which Peter's sisters obediently pick blackberries during his misadventure in Mr. McGregor's garden. 

It's great to be participating in Illustration's been a little while! I'm reserving judgement on the new format—maybe it'll just take some getting used to. (I'm not so good with change.) I hope to visit some old favorites as well as some new faces this week! (Update: After actually posting my first time in the new IF  format, I have to admit that it's nice to not have to make a thumbnail—even though I miss the "surprise" element of clicking on them—and the "sharing" capabilities are amazing!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I'd really planned on participating in Illustration Friday this week, but I just had to draw these gorgeous cherries that I bought on Sunday at our local farmers' market. They were next to the usual Bing and Rainier varieties, in a bin labeled "Big Reds"—and they're delicious.

Since I'm enjoying a lazy summer day, I thought it might be fun to share a bit more of my set-up process, since it can make or break a simple still life, at least for me.

I like to draw sitting with a drawing board in my lap, propped against my desk. I like the flexibility of being able to move it and turn it around while I'm drawing. So, I usually set my "models" up on the desk itself. (You can see by the pits on the paper towel that I ate one of my prospective models.)

I chose some cherries that I thought were interesting, and moved them around until I liked the arrangement.

When I'm arranging multiple objects, I take a little viewing frame that I made from a picture mat and thread and look at my subject through it. The frame is divided into thirds both directions, so that I can use the "Rule of Thirds" in making the final composition. (Wouldn't my high school art teachers be proud?) This gives me a framework in which to draw a rough sketch (really rough in this case):

(Sometimes after the sketch is done, I'll scan it and enlarge or reduce it as desired before tracing it onto my final paper on my lightbox.) Then, the little viewer's work is done, and I just draw, looking at the subject; I don't use reference photos except when drawing something that moves around my chickens!

Here are a couple of work-in-progress shots:

I'm often tempted to forgo the shadows, and just leave objects floating in the white space, but I went ahead and added shadows. Do you have a preference?

Off to try and think of something "secret" to draw for Illustration Friday—and to snack on some more cherries.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Illustration Friday: Faded

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore charcoal paper, 4.5" x 5.75"

"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

We all have our favorite pair of faded blue jeans. As summer begins, I'm ecstatic to be trading in my school-year work clothes (which, for me, only means casual pants and "nice" jeans) for my really casual gear.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I'm going to work on photographing my work this summer, rather than scanning everything. I haven't jumped into the process yet, so this one was just taken with my iPhone, and you can see some problems with the uneven color of the lighting. But I think I prefer its texture to the image I got when I scanned it. (Maybe my scanning abilities need some tweaking this summer, too!)

I thought you might like to see my ultra-sophisticated set-up for this drawing: I tossed my jeans onto the floor by my drawing table, isolated a composition that I liked with a mat, and started drawing. 

I tried to keep the colors I used to a minimum: Indigo Blue (one of my faves) and White, along with a couple of warm tones for the stitching as well as Tuscan Red over the Indigo Blue (one of my favorite layering combinations) for the dark corner.

I hope to connect with many of you this week; I'm planning on making lots of overdue blog visits...hooray for summer!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Illustration Friday: Kernel

I hope you'll forgive me for posting an oldie this week. These chestnuts were one of the first drawings that I ever posted on my blog, back before I started doing Illustration Friday. (You can read the original post here.) I've been too busy with the humdrum practicalities of life and haven't participated in IF in way too long, and just needed to get something out there this week. That will change soon, though: School is out soon, so I'll be off for a few months, and have lots of drawing to catch up on. And I can't wait to have time to visit blogs regularly again. So, if I haven't stopped by in a bit, fear not, I'll be by soon.
Happy Almost-Summer!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Botanical Heart No. 4

I decided to do another little piece for the Botanical Hearts series I started back in February. I'm not all that happy with the center part, but I like how the rind edges turned out. But that's what's fun about doing these little hearts—they're kind of like swatches or samples, experimenting with new textures, etc. I might give this one another try.

I also think that my scanning is not showing the paper texture very well, so for fun, I took a quick shot with my iPhone. Obviously, it's unevenly lit, but I like it better. I've got to practice shooting my work with a camera. I have a cool copystand and everything...sounds like a summer project!

Here are the other ones I have so far:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Baby Chickadees...again!

It's been a busy week, and I haven't had much time for drawing—I'm hoping to remedy that tomorrow—but I just had to re-post my little sketch of my chickadee nesting box's brimming with babies again! 

We hadn't see much action all spring, but suddenly there was a flurry of nest-building activity. Then, I found two tiny chickadee eggs, broken on my porch. I thought that perhaps the nest had been destroyed by another bird or something. (The eggs looked exactly like Jelly Belly "Toasted Marshmallow" jellybeans, cream-colored with brown speckles.)

But, about a week ago, we noticed both parents noisily standing guard in the magnolia trees next to the porch, and constantly flying in and out of the box, which made me think: they have babies! And two days ago, the cheeping started, and goes pretty much non-stop in the daylight hours. Just a few minutes ago, the parents started chirping loudly enough to get my attention at my desk just inside the window. Sure enough, Trixie, the neighbor's cat, was paying a visit. Happily, the box is completely unreachable by a cat, but I shooed her home, all the same. (She's the same one that we've twice caught sitting on the eggs in our chicken coop, so heaven only knows what she had in mind.)

My nesting box was originally a gift from my son (see the original post about him and this sketch here.). You can purchase the exact same one from Wild Birds Unlimited if you're interested.

I've gone online and looked at photos of what is probably taking place in there. This blog has some photos that are exceptionally good. It makes me want to install a little camera of some kind for next year!
Nesting box (at top of photo) as seen from my desk

Friday, April 20, 2012


I recently made a little set of notecards for a special girlfriend's birthday. She's a loyal blog visitor, and a writer of lovely notes, so I knew she'd appreciate them. I decided to focus on drawings of edibles, as she's also a wonderful cook.

It was such fun selecting the blank cards and box at my local Paper Source—I could spend hours in that shop! I printed the drawings on my inkjet printer on Canon Matte Photo Paper. (It's a great heavyweight paper, and is reasonably priced, too.) Then, I trimmed them and spray-mounted them onto 5 x 7 notecards (color: "paper bag") and they fit beautifully in a little mailer box (color: "chartreuse"). To make them look more "store-bought", I made a contents label for the back of the box in Adobe Illustrator.

Finally, I cut a vellum band to go around the box, and added a little sticker  that I made by printing one of my drawings onto Avery Clear Sticker Paper that I had lying around. (Being a former graphic designer, I love playing with the packaging details.)

While I'm not quite ready to venture into Etsy territory, I definitely had a great time putting this little package together!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Illustration Friday: Puzzled

You know me...when I learn the topic for Illustration Friday each week, I usually start thinking in botanical terms. This week, "puzzled" reminded me of the strange characteristics of the bark of a Ponderosa pine tree in California's gorgeous Sierra Nevada. When you walk through an area with lots of Ponderosa pines, the ground is scattered with what look like jigsaw puzzle pieces. At certain times in its lifecycle, the trees develop furrows in their trunks that display this amazingly unique texture. I only illustrated a single piece in my drawing above, but this is what it looks like on the tree:

This drawing is a collection of some treasures that I collected last summer while visiting my son, a field biologist, who was studying Spotted Owls near Dinkey Creek in the Sierra. (Don't worry, I'm careful not to pick up bits of nature in protected areas.) The small pinecone is from the huge Lodgepole pine, and the moss is sort of a reindeer-type of moss.
My son has since moved on to another of California's natural wonders, Pinnacles National Monument, where he is part of the California Condor study group. He's a lucky young man: here are his "workplace" shots. (The second shot includes my daughter, who turns 23 today—Happy Birthday, E!)

Dinkey Creek, CA     July 2011
Pinnacles National Monument, CA    April 2012