Something else I can’t paint: feathers

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It’s been raining for three days straight, and I’m ready to get back outside with my journal for urban sketching.  Feathers are too complicated.  Nothing I did, including working with colors, trying different brushes, triple loading, dry brushing and working wet-on-wet seemed to give me the look – the urban sketching look – I wanted.

I can’t grasp the concept of getting a goose to look like a goose without those distinctively-shaped goose feathers.  Painting each one separately is not the “fast and loose” I’m looking for.  But neither are these.

These are practice sheets.


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Won’t Number This

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This watercolor was done a couple of weeks ago from a photo of a homecoming game at Virginia Tech.  It’s not the greatest of likeness, and his forehead is way out of proportion, but it had me working on facial structure and colors.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and our class painted outside.  Unfortunately, there were little red dots everywhere under the tree I was sitting, and as you may have guessed they started to bite.  That was that. I took photos instead and will work on my outdoor scene today.

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It is raining and the sky is dark and ominous – just like the news, and the world in general. I can’t be the only one wondering about the state of the planet, the future for mankind, and how this holy war is going to play out.  Bob Schieffer, a CBS correspondent, said in last night’s newscast, and I am paraphrasing, that in all his years reporting the news, he can not remember a time in history when it has been more dangerous.  What exactly he meant by that statement, I don’t know.  But I am supremely thankful I have my art, my books, and my friends to provide at least a semblance of beauty and happiness in my own little world.

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Watercolor #2 in Sketch Journal

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When I say I spent 10 minutes, OK…maybe 11 or 12, on the watercolor and 5 minutes on the sketch of the restaurant, you will believe me if you enlarge the photo.  That’s the drill. I’m to sketch and paint as fast as I can with a time limit.  These are on small pages in the journal, and the writing was put on after completion of both.

What did I learn:  Too much detail on the sculpture, which is hard for me not to do.  Also, clean the paper before applying paint.  I have a soft brush and didn’t use it, so I literally felt the graphite dust on the page.  Wonder if there is something to keep the graphite from bleeding like it did?  Also, down the line I’ll be using waterproof ink – but need more practice before I throw my erasure away.

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Watercolor #1 in Sketch Journal.

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Class today was incredibly interesting. We watched a documentary of David Hockney, A Bigger Picture (which can be seen in its entirety HERE).  I was mesmerized not just by his art, but by his intelligence.  After this we set about displaying our paintings on the bulletin board.  While I’ve actually sold paintings in the past, they’ve been my choice, not the instructor’s.  So it was a bit unnerving to have it all “hang out,” like that, but perhaps no less than posting here every day.  What was most interesting was the differences in style.  No one’s paintings looked like anyone else’s.

After class a friend and I went out to lunch and discussed starting a plein air group for urban sketching.  She is a very accomplished artist, but new to this genre and liked the idea.  I took a few photos of the restaurant across the street for a start, and as usual I over-worked it and may, or may not, try it again tomorrow.  Drawing people is going to be difficult, I can already tell.  It’s hard for me to identify the three people in this piece (it’s easier if you enlarge), and I’m the one who painted it!!!

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This will never work.

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There are a few books out whose format is simple: paint every day.  “One Watercolor a Day,” “One Painting a Day – A 6-Week ….whatever.”  Even WordPress has someone with Watercolor who says she’s a hobbyist painter but from my vantage point she is pretty darn good.  I’m sure there are hundreds of similar sites in the blogosphere.  So what’s one more?

Actually this probably will last about as long as most of my ideas – which won’t be long.  But I am trying to paint every day.  If posting the painting helps keep me on track, then it’s worth it.  After all, no one really has to pull this post up, and if my subscribers start yelling “OMG!  There she goes with ANOTHER watercolor!!!” and unsubscribes, well then so be it. On the other hand, perhaps someone will notice some improvement – maybe even me.

Leaving the mess in place on the dining room table with a stack of paper just waiting to be used up, gives me even more motivation.   I say to myself I’ll just do one more painting, and then clean up.  But I’ll do the painting and leave the mess.  Technically I should be motivated to finish the basement studio, and I am motivated, but, and this is a big “but,” I need help moving some of the tables around and can’t do much until then.

I had lunch in town today and walked a picturesque area and took some photos.  The above watercolor is one of those.  My printer is running out of ink so I sketched this right off the monitor.  I think I got a better perspective of the scene than I would have had I printed it; that’s how bad my printer is.

There is such a fine line between “loose” and “sloppy,” and I think some artists purposefully try for both.   Urban watercolor sketching has grabbed my attention, and I’m looking for my own style:  something between “very loose,” and “I had my eyes open while I painted.”

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When it’s too hot out…

IMGP4406It has been too hot to play outside the last couple of days, so I’ve taken advantage of this guilt-free indoor time to paint.  I bought a new book off the Internet, Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Scheinberger.  I love this book and had fun with my first “very messy” sketch of this green house.  My feeling is that everything is not messy enough and a bit too straight.  I will try to skew things more in my next attempt.

Another instructional book I have lying around is  “Step by Step Watercolor Painting,” by The Alexander Brothers.  While I get what they are trying to achieve, there were too many steps, and my attention span is not that great.  I took off at about step three, but got the gist of the main points:  washes and masking fluid.  Next time I’ll draw my masking areas more carefully.

Watercolor painting requires serious patience.  Whatever made me think I’m suited to this?  I’m not.  I think that’s why things like rug hooking and knitting and hand quilting are so appealing to me – I can go as fast as I want.  Watercolor - not so much.

Even though I’ve been painting with watercolors for several years, progress is slow.  Part of this is because there are so many opinions, so many techniques, and so many different styles to try to master.  What I do know is that I like loose.  In fact, the looser, the better.  And color as bright as can be, though this beach scene, when Photoshopped, looked silly with brighter colors.  So I left it natural, including the dullness of that “natural” Arches paper.  I can’t wait until all that paper is gone so I can start using the “bright white” paper that is so popular now.


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The Halfway Mark

no bloggingIt has been a little over 70 days since I’ve written much of anything (except for the rant about car taxes), and yet it doesn’t feel that long.  As I age, time accelerates at a quickening pace.  Fridays appear every couple of days or so, and while I’m no physicist, I’m pretty sure that’s not right.

What have I been doing in lieu of writing? Well,

I haven’t written that summer short story, nor have I kept any kind of journal.  And I haven’t taken as many photos as I had planned, but I’ve completed several, maybe 20, watercolors, though I can attribute much of my painting to being in a class.  I’ve been diligent about my pickleball, but not so with my eating habits, so one negates the other. I’ve done nothing about my rotator cuff, or that pesky ACL in my right knee, and have yet to find a doctor (the #1 entry on my list of things to do this summer).  I have had four trips to the dentist in as many weeks, and got that problem solved. I’ve managed three door installations, several new tree and shrub plantings, and finally bought a tankless water heater (something I’ve wanted since I first saw one in Europe fifty years ago) to replace the twenty-year-old behemoth that made funny noises in my basement.  I’ve wandered several new towns and villages and found many more gardens and wineries.  I’ve read a couple of books, the last of which was visually stunning about hummingbirds.   And one of my dear friends sold her house and is moving quite close by which should significantly change my social activities in the future.

Yard sales and Goodwill Hunting have added a few new things to my yard and studio, though I have not given up on my intent to scale back on “stuff.”  One of my finds is an old patio set with four rocking chairs, a double glider, and a humongous table, items I will find both useful and comforting until the day I die.  My interest in soccer exploded because of the World Cup which had a positive impact since my Red Sox are in last place in their division.  Thoughts of the gridiron are ratcheting up, and I can’t wait for the first pre-season game.

I’ve kept up with the news and paid a hefty emotional price in the process.  Every day I mumble “things can’t get worse,” and the next day I am proven wrong.  It’s good that I am not writing about these things.  You wouldn’t want to know my opinion as I am not in the political mainstream of North Carolina, a state which finds itself inextricably a well as inexplicably stuck in the 1950′s.

But most significantly, and as a direct result of my writing less and living more, I have made more friends.  Pickleball keeps growing, my art class is full of kindred spirits, and my Meetup group out of Charlotte keeps cycling new people through my life.   Getting to know them is the best reason I can find for walking past this keyboard.

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If you subscribe you are probably surprised to hear from me so soon.  But alas, this is merely a break in my break.  However, something so astonishing happened today that I needed the catharsis that only posting can provide.

After getting my car inspected with the intention of paying my registration online, I carefully read my bill and noticed I was being charged $100 extra because I drive a Prius. Apparently the insatiable State of North Carolina is going to assume that all Priuses are all-electric, which they are not, and now I have to go down to the DMV and duke it out with some civil servant while I explain that my Prius is a hybrid (like most Priuses) and should only be charged $50 extra dollars.  And I will mention that I find it incendiary that the bill posts this fee in a smaller font and lighter ink than the majority of the other text, which I believe is a craven, unscrupulous way to dupe me into overlooking it.

How did I get from taxes to Sisyphean?  Well, if you think about it, it’s hardly a stretch. Taxes are the most insidious of all Sisyphean tasks.  The current Rolling Stone has an Al Gore article that addresses a movement to tax those who aren’t using enough electricity because they have incurred the time and expense of adding solar panels to their homes. Several states are adding an extra tax to car registrations for those who pay a premium to drive hybrids and electrics.  Those that aren’t are thinking about it.  So I’m being penalized for being environmentally responsible?  Why isn’t the state paying me to drive my Prius? In a more just and reasonable world they would be.

While I get the concept of taxing what I have, I don’t get the concept of taxing what I don’t have, or don’t use, or don’t want.  How did we jump from taxing the polluters to taxing those who DON’T pollute?  This makes no freaking sense to me.

Look.  Everyone knows I’m a Democrat.  My blogs are dripping with my politics, both blatant and obscured.  But enough is enough. Like plucking chin hairs, a task I once considered the most Sisyphean of my existence (even more than laundry), taxes are never going to stop growing, and unless I die, both will multiply and get more intrusive and unreasonable.  Will this ever stop?

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Time Out

Another busy day in the life of an older woman. So busy in fact that instead of sitting in front of this computer anxious to relieve myself of all my thoughts and feelings, I am almost too tired to type. I want to watch the Red Sox beat Tampa instead. I want to drink a very large glass of ice tea and then take a hot shower. Then I just want to go to sleep.

It’s not that I don’t have things to say, because I do. But looking over the volumes of written but unpublished posts languishing in my holding tank, I see that I have “work” to do to get them in a readable form. (Some of you may be chuckling now since I am not the best of writers, nor the most grammatically correct – so you’re thinking, “What’s my problem? Just click that publish button!”)

I have a friend in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who took a long break, and now I think I know why. There comes a time, and for me it was hitting that 30,000 click mark and a subscriber base of 133, that I feel I can and should take a break. I deserve it. I’m busy now. It’s that old, “If you’re not busy, you have time to write but little to write about. Conversely, if you are busy you have much to write about, but you’ll have little time to do so.” And right now I’m very busy.

So I will say goodbye for the time being. I’m thinking that I might keep a private journal this summer, something that will require no editing, and maybe this fall take these notes and head in a new writing direction.   I have an interest in writing short stories.  Or maybe something political since some of these mid-term elections are going to get my panties in a knot.  Or I might even go with something comic. Whatever I do, I will let my subscribers know the new blog and hopefully some of you will follow me.

Many of you around the world have my email and home address. To my Australia, Romania, England, Canada, and American friends expect a Christmas card, and let’s stay in touch through email. To everyone else, have a wonderful summer (or winter) and thank you for all your visits.  I hope you’ll miss me as much as I’ll miss you.

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The Problem of Good Credit

I’ve spent my entire life getting and keeping a good credit rating.  It is as important to me as my health.  Well almost.  But in being judicious with both my spending habits and the fact that I zero out my one credit card each and every month, the “other” credit companies believe that I am a good risk, and they are willing to spend enormous sums just to woo me into getting their specific cards.  Barclays (MasterCard) is the most egregious of these when it comes to mailing me a fat wad of glossy paper in a fancy envelope on an almost DAILY basis.  Do they think they will brow-beat me into getting their card?  Is it possible I will wake up one day and open my mailbox, see the same old envelope and think:  “Wow, a Barclay’s credit offer!  What a wonderful idea!!!!!  Why haven’t I applied for this before? I’ll run inside, grab a pen and fill this out right now!”

I think it’s unconscionable the amount of paper wasted in this effort.  For God’s sake, if I haven’t gotten their card(s) in all these years, chances are fairly strong I won’t be getting one in the future.  I’ve tried sending them back.  I’ve gone to websites looking for ways to end this intrusive mail, but someone just recently warned me not to as they will inundate my email with the same marketing materials.

If anyone knows of a way to stop this, I’d surely like to know about it.  I’m one of those people who pays attention to obnoxious advertising.  There’s a laundry list of places in my area that I would never patronize because of their incessant ads on TV.  A car company we’ll call Mandy Rarion whose wife and daughters cackle they will “Save You Money” is at the top of that list.  Their ads come at you in salvos.

Oh, I’m such a fuddy duddy, aren’t I.

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