Thursday, December 17, 2015

"C is for the candy canes hung on the Christmas tree..."

So begins "The Christmas Alphabet", a song that I learned a gazillion years ago in kindergarten, and have sung every holiday season since. Or at least I thought I had learned it. When I looked it up while writing this post, I read that the first line is, in fact, "C is for the candy trimmed around the Christmas tree...huh?! I've been singing it wrong all of these years?! (It was some consolation that I had remembered the rest of the lyrics correctly.)

Well, accuracy aside, I was inspired to start a series of 5"x5" Christmas alphabet linocuts. There seem to be quite a few artists who enjoy doing an alphabet series; I think that they bring structure and direction on days when inspiration is lacking. For me, an alphabet also appeals to my sense of nostalgia, and my love of letters.

I'm planning on doing just the letters that spell Christmas, not the whole alphabet, at least for now. (At the rate I'm going, it may be a few Christmases before I'm finished!) You got a sneak peak of the second letter ("H") a couple of posts back, but I started with the piece shown above, based upon this drawing that I did a couple of years ago.

I'm working on mounted linoleum blocks, not the softer pink material that I sometimes use. I had been frustrated with lino the first time I tried it, before realizing that it had to have been an old piece. Lino hardens as it ages, making carving a real headache. The red holly berries on this print were added with colored pencil, rather than doing separate printing. Traditionalist printmakers would have my head for taking that shortcut, methinks.

I supposed it's fine that the candy cane lyrics were my own; I'd already taken liberties with the other song lyrics: I'd much rather draw H is for HOLLY, rather than HAPPINESS, so I'll just decide things as I go. Any predictions as to what I'm planning for R?

My blog posts have been a bit sparse this month as I've been busy getting ready for Christmas, but once the holidays pass, I'll be back to a more regular schedule of posting.

Happy holidays to all! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

H is for...

In one of life's amusing little coincidences, I'm working on this linocut block...

...and I'm reading this book.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Let it snow...

I've had the block printing bug again lately, and everything seems to be Christmas-themed. I'll be posting about all of them, but first up is this little snow globe.

There are snow globes of all kinds and price ranges, but I love the little vintage "dimestore" plastic ones.

I drew this one as a tiny 2.5" sketch one day, and couldn't get it out of my head, and it became this 3-color print, starting with this larger sketch to set up the registration marks for the different colored blocks.

I ended up re-carving the red block after a flaw showed up in the printing (as you can see in some of the prints above. ) So, several runs later, I had a number of acceptable ones. But with the amazing accuracy of today's scanners and printers, I can now use the image on cards and other prints, and it is hard to tell the original (bottom) from the inkjet (top):

Here is the progression of the printing...I love seeing the layers build upon one another:

...let it snow!

(Well, here in Northern California, we'd be happy with some rain!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's persimmon season...

Fuyu Persimmons, 8" x 10"Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper

Persimmons are starting to appear at the market! These tomato-shaped Fuyu persimmons are available now, which means the bigger, cone-shaped Hachiyas will be here soon. I found the leaves, or sepals, quite interesting because they appear in arrangements of four, which seems a bit unusual in the fruit world. I've written before about the star shapes and multiples of five that are found in so many fruits and vegetables, but these are definitely a symmetrical, cross-shaped arrangement of four. 

When I draw shiny fruits and vegetables, it's easy for me to overwork the burnishing, so I deliberately held back a bit on these. I wanted to capture some of the frosty "bloom" that appears on the skins, which was quite a challenge; it'd have been easier to have polished them up before I drew them!

Here are some WIP shots; I hope to have some Hachiya persimmons as models before too long!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Shiitake mushrooms

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge Kraft, 5" x 7"

I have such a great time drawing different types of mushrooms on the fabulous Stonehenge Kraft paper. Click on the "mushrooms" label below to see some others.Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Creativity and Parkinson's

The relationship between creativity and Parkinson's disease is a very interesting one. It's a topic that I've heard people discuss, off and on, since my 2009 diagnosis. A recent Israeli study set out to examine this link—theoretical until now—from a clinical standpoint. I invite you to read this fascinating article about the results.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation has embraced this theory for some time. Every year since 2010, they have produced a wall calendar as "part of PDF's Creativity and Parkinson's Project, an initiative that encourages those living with Parkinson's to explore their creativity and its potentially beneficial effects."

I contribute to the PDF's online gallery, and have been fortunate enough to have been selected to be included in the calendar for the last two years. You can view the gallery, get more information and order a free calendar on their website.

Personally, it's hard to say whether I've become more creative since being diagnosed with PD. As an empty-nester who is no longer part of the working world, I've certainly had more time for my art, and have found it to be very therapeutic. For the past 6 years, just my left side has been affected by PD, but that may be changing. However, I have no plans to abandon my art just because my right hand starts to move a bit unpredictably—who knows, it may add a spontaneous flair to my work!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A pomegranate's progress

I think that perhaps I should have stopped soon after I scanned this one (above), as the final (below) looks a bit overworked to me.

And since I may not get around to drawing a companion cross-section view, I decided to add a shadow this time, and call it a day:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Repeat after me: "Change is good..."

Some of you may have been surprised to visit my blog and land on this page (above) instead. Well, if you're reading this post, you've already figured out that my blog was just a click (or two, if you're on a  mobile device) away.

So, to clarify, lands you on this new home page, with easy links to drawing galleries, my blog, my Etsy shop, etc.

If you want to skip that step in the future, just bookmark me once you've arrived at this blog at

I'd love to have your feedback on the new format; comment away!

Multi-tasking: A commute chat sketch

In our golden age of the smartphone, many of us use an otherwise-boring commute for telephone chats with family and friends. The other day, as I chatted with my daughter on her commute, I figured I might as well be multi-tasking on my end as well. It was interesting to draw when my focus was divided; I think it helped to not overthink things. Not a perfect drawing by any means, but I rather like it all the same.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Small Victories

For the past couple of years, I've been attending a Life Drawing meet-up every Thursday morning; it's one of the highlights of my week. Over the weekend I was sorting through the drawings I've kept and it was a bit humbling. Some weeks have produced more than one "keeper", while others had none. I'm not sure I'm even getting better—my Parkinson's may be starting to affect the looser strokes that I've been trying to attain. I also saw that the hands and feet in my earlier drawings are better than the more recent ones.  Of course, heads, hands and feet are notoriously hard to draw; many art schools have entire courses devoted to them. And there's no "faking it" as you can sometimes do with other subjects: unless they're really accurate, they stand out like, well, like a sore thumb.

Most of the time, part of a drawing works while other parts don't. So, rather than dwelling on the parts of this drawing that hadn't been completely successful, I decided to scan it and crop it to highlight this area—I think it stands alone as a nice little intimate portrait. Small victories.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Green is my favorite color. Last week I was looking for inspiration in the produce department of my grocery store when I was taken in by the beautiful way that white transitions to green in these vegetables, a head of bok choy and a leek.  I intentionally kept the white area very light; in fact I actually started with even less work in those areas than you see here. 

Prismacolor makes a pretty good range of greens (as you can see in my trusty old swatch chart) but, as is also true of their other colors, the lighter shades are much waxier (less pigment = more wax I assume) and are more difficult to blend. 

I did the bok choy first, and I was really fighting with the texture of my Stonehenge paper which is unusual. Then it dawned on me: it has a smooth side and a very slightly textured side. How had I forgotten this? So, I was careful to use the smoother side for the leek. Look at the difference (click to enlarge):

(Hey, that's the first time Blogger allowed me to place images side-by-side! 
New feature?!)

By the way, I also bought a third veggie that may round out this trio. Any guesses?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Paper Bag Family?

18" x 24"
Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge Kraft

As I explained in this recent post about my drawing of two envelopes, I have a habit of imagining inanimate objects as people. Well, I was sifting through a stash of paper bags, looking for my next subject (after drawing this one back in April), when a little grouping caught my eye: it looked just like a couple with a baby to me. Go ahead and laugh, but just look at them!

Interestingly, this week's topic on Illustration Friday is people. I'm guessing that no one else drew paper bags for this one!

I feel a paper bag series coming on, but I think I need to lay off the Stonehenge Kraft for a while; it's addictive stuff.

Oh, and apologies for the less-than-perfect photo quality. This was too big for my scanner, so I just shot it with my iPhone.)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hillbillies, squirrels, and the drought

"Hillbilly" heirloom tomato
Prismacolor colored pencils on Stonehenge paper

Between the drought and a pair of brazen black squirrels, it's been a tough summer for my vegetable garden. Everyone's tomatoes are late this year, and I think the vines are finally producing more tomatoes than the squirrels want. This is an heirloom variety called "Hillbilly". They are deeply lobed, and are gorgeous colors. This first one that I picked—before the squirrels got it—weighed in at around a pound:

The one I used for the model for my drawing seemed to ripen and change colors before my eyes:

There are loads of green tomatoes out there, just waiting to ripen; the fact that it's supposed to be 100 degrees here today should hasten that process!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When in doubt, draw a pear.

We have been having some work done in our house (this is week 7, I think) and my little drawing nook and our office were both off-limits for a while, which is why there's been such a dry spell between posts. Oh, I know, I should be able to draw anywhere, and I could blog from my laptop pretty much anywhere, but I find it hard to get into the right state of mind when there's so much noise and dust and chaos, and my house is overrun with strangers.

Now that my little nook is back together, I can think about drawing again, but I feel rusty and out of shape. (It didn't help matters that my weekly life-drawing meet-up was on a 3-week hiatus as well.)

So, last night, I drew a pear.

Feeling rusty? Draw a pear. Uninspired? Draw a pear. Maybe it's their elegant proportions, but pears have been an artist's favorite subject for centuries. My little Bosc pear won't win any prizes, but it loosened things up in both my brain and my drawing hand.

So, check back soon; I should be posting regularly now. And if you have a few minutes, go draw a pear.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day

7" x 7", Prismacolor colored pencils 
on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper, Light Blue
(click to enlarge)

It's Flag Day today, so I'm re-posting this piece from last summer.  When I was growing up, everyone put their flags out on Flag Day but it doesn't seem to be widely celebrated today. I hang my flag out from Memorial Day until Labor Day—it just looks like Summer to me. 

(You can read last summer's post about this piece here.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Flavor-of-the-Month: Stonehenge "Kraft"

I'm infatuated with Stonehenge "Kraft" paper at the moment. You've seen it in my paper bag drawing, and this portobello mushroom.Yesterday I drew some plain ol' white button mushrooms to go with the portobello. (I love them, but did I overdo the outline?) Stonehenge paper is nice and heavy, and "Kraft" is a perfect tone for drawing light-colored things. Like all of the Stonehenge paper, its surface takes colored pencil beautifully—it almost felt like I was painting on it.

One challenge with using any toned paper is getting an accurate scan. Drawings on white-ish paper are easier to color correct using the paper as the whitest point. You'll notice that it looks slightly different in my three drawings; I'm going to have to play around to see if I can find a good group of Photoshop/scanner settings for it. (If anyone has any tips, please share!)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Happy Almost-Summer!

S'more, Deconstructed
(click to enlarge)

I know that the calendar says that we have a month or so until summer officially starts, but in my mind, Memorial Day starts summer rolling. And since the Illustration Friday topic is melt, I thought I'd share this drawing from almost exactly one year ago. (See the original post here.) Have a relaxing holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pencils, Paper...and Pastels?

I love working with colored pencil, but sometimes I want to work more quickly. Of course, there are always watercolors and other paints, but the closest relative to colored pencil might just be...pastels.

I just found this box among some old art supplies, but instead of drawing with them, I drew them. In colored pencil. Go figure.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Two Envelopes

(Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge paper)
click to enlarge

It's sometimes hard to explain why we draw what we do. I suppose that many people will wonder why I drew these two envelopes. But I can only explain that I love paper and things made from paper, and when I saw this black envelope lying next to the white one, it looked rather beautiful to my eye. 

The black envelope became more of a grey one in the final drawing. I might have used graphite but chose to use colored pencil and I liked the cross-hatched grey tone I was getting. I think that the white envelope might have been more successful in graphite, though. Next time.

I tend to anthropomorphize things while I'm drawing them: a group of tomatoes becomes a family; some ground cherries are proud parents; even an eggplant becomes a Jane Austen heroine. I see something here as well—do you

A couple of WIP shots. (I think I like the second one as well as the finished product.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Paper bag camouflage

Prismacolor colored pencil on Stonehenge Kraft
click to enlarge

Stonehenge Kraft drawing paper is such a classic "paper bag" color that I couldn't resist doing the obvious. I could have gone with bolder highlights, but I like the way this bag is just lying there, trying to blend in...