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Automatic drawing which turned into a botanical

pencil in an 8×10″ sketch pad

Last week as we walked out of Target to the parking lot, what do we see but a large black bear wandering around.  He clearly had forgotten where he was parked.   We respectfully waited until he found his car and drove off.  🙂 My sister said that bears also want good quality at affordable prices.

Did I mention I’m over bears?  He eventually ran into the woods and we got in our car and drove away.

Two days ago the city installed new stop signs on our corner. To alert drivers of the change they also installed signs leading up to the stop sign. Like this:

If your job is to install traffic and street signs and you don’t see the GLARING TYPO in this sign, perhaps this job is not for you.  Since I am a civic minded person, I wrote to the city to alert them of this issue which, admirably, they fixed the next day.  So shout out to them!

The above drawing was done using a method called automatic drawing.  Automatic drawing was started by the surrealists to free themselves of representational art.  I believe the first person to do it was the artist Andre Masson.

Andre Masson and automatic drawing

We started by taking a pencil or two (one in each hand) and just making lines without looking or thinking. This is different from blind contour drawing, which is drawing while looking at the object but not at the paper. Once we had some lines on the page we went back and this time, since it was a botanical drawing class, we looked for shapes that could be plants, leaves or flowers and drew back into the lines.   It was great fun and I will do it again.




red-bud-leavesRed bud leaves in autumn – watercolor in sketchbook

Where have I been? asked no one.  I haven’t posted since July.

Why?  Two words.

                                     SWING STATE.

Since I’ve previously only lived in NYC, which is decidedly democratic, the experience of living in a swing state with the non-stop barrage of political ads left me in a fetal position and under the covers. And now that the campaign is over I can share an experience or two with you.

As a result of a car accident, The Husband has symptoms of something called meniere’s disease which can cause temporary deafness in one ear.  As I sat on the sofa watching TV one night and he at the dining room table listening to the TV, I noticed him shaking his head and rubbing his ear.  He kept losing his hearing and couldn’t figue out why the meniere’s was so bad that night. Finally he realized that I was was muting the TV every time a political ad came on. He thought his meniere’s was really bad that night and he couldn’t figure out why his hearing kept coming and going!

ppw-and-carroll-street-park-slopeNYC urban sketching  – PPW and Carroll Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

My friend’s husband, John, has lived here for over 20 years but never became a citizen.  He finally became one this year and was so exited to cast his vote for president for the first time.  In an ironic turn of events, he got home that night to discover he got his first Jury Duty notice.

river-oil-sticksRiver landscape – oil sticks

The top watercolor was done in a sketchbook for a class I’m taking called Nature’s Notebook. We hear lectures on plants and then draw and paint everything flora.

The building was done in a sketchbook with the NYC Urban Sketchers in Brooklyn, NY. They are a wonderful group and if you’re in NYC check them out. Anyone can meet up with them and all levels are welcome.

Finally I recently tried oil sticks.  A little different than oil pastels.  They are fun to work with and dry within a few days.  They are made by an artist named Paul DeMarrais.\,

Back to my fetal position for the next 4 years.    Thanks for reading.


Antigua - St. James's Beach 1

Sketch of the view from our room in Antigua at the St. James’s Club

The Husband and I had had enough of the polar vortex, the cold, the snow, the winter!   A trip to the tropical Isle of Antigua helped rid us of our winter blues.  The sketch above was done from the balcony of our room.  Full disclosure, it’s hard to sketch when there were never ending rum punches!

We were lucky enough to get away for a week and had a grand time.  However, before we left my sister had an Easter Egg coloring day with some friends and me. We decided to try these silk dyed eggs which one of us had seen on pinterest.

We’d done decoupaged easter eggs, seen here:  This process was a little more time consuming.  One needs 100% silk ties.  Alice’s husband supplied some and the thrift store supplied more.

Here are the instructions:

  • Cut up the silk ties in squares.  Make sure they are large enough to wrap around the eggs.
  • Wrap the egg with the silk square, making sure the right side is against the egg.
  • Tie tightly using a twist tie
  • Wrap the silk wrapped tie with another square of white cotton cloth.
  •  Tie tightly again using the twist tie.
  • Put the eggs in a pot of water.  Make sure you have enough water to cover the eggs.
  • Add approx 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • Bring water to a boil and then cook the eggs as if to hard-boil.
  • Remove the eggs from the water and let cool.
  • Unwrap the eggs and stare at your beautiful eggs.

Some notes:

  • It’s not recommended to eat the eggs since we don’t know the safeness of the silk dye.
  • My friend Jean blew the eggs out first and then did the process above so she could save the eggs forever!
  • Silk scarves and blouses might work too.  If you try it let me know.
  • The tighter you wrap the square of silk the better the designs transfer.  We were ok with the marbleized effect rather than having a perfectly transferred pattern.

Here are our results:

Silk dyed easter eggs 4-2014

Silk dyed easter eggs 2   4-2014

Here’s some  info on pinterest:  Have fun!



Beach sketch from PMP Karina Robin

Beach scene from Paint My Photo – photo courtesy of Karina Robin

Winter.  I’m tired of it.  And what is the polar vortex?   I thought it was just called winter?  Since I was too tired and too cold to join the NYC Urban Sketchers today I decided to stay home, watch watercolor videos on you tube and play with my watercolors. Using a watercolor sketchbook given to me by my nephews, I did this beach scene using a limited palette, no more than 2 washes and no drawing first. I’d like to be there right now.

Dog  from pmp ESP

I moved on to this dog, again courtesy of Paint My Photo using ESP’s photo. No drawing first, only using a few colors and a few washes.  He looks a little sad. Why do all my painted dogs look sad?

Pears 1-25-2014

And finally I did every watercolorists’ favorite subject.  Pears.  I did sketch the shape of the pears, but again used a limited palette and not many washes.

I’m off to do some weight lifting. My friend Christine and I were talking about how we can’t remember things anymore and she told me about how weightlifting helps to stave off Alzheimer’s.   And I hear curls keep you warm.

Central Park from Belvedere Castle

I met up with the NYC Urban Sketchers in Central Park at Belvedere Castle. Belvedere, meaning “beautiful view” in Italian was, according to the Central Park website, a “Victorian Folly” built by Calvert Vaux. Belvedere Castle has been equipped with  meteorological equipment since 1919 and records rainfall, wind and other weather information.  But for us it was the first stop of a beautiful day in a beautiful place.

I arrived at Belvedere Castle to discover that a high school art class from Memphis, Tennessee had joined us.   They were adorable and fun and thrilled to be in NYC.  They had seen Kinky Boots and Pippin on Broadway, thought Times Square was “awesome” and after leaving us were going to the Metropolitan Museum.   They also saw that some of us were using water brushes to paint.  Well, you would have thought we had just showed them electricity for the first time.  Water brushes were awesome too.  And they called me and Susan ma’am.  Which is something I think NYC brats kids should start.  I never thought I would like it, but I really didn’t mind being called ma’am.

Belvedere Castle

Urban Sketcher in the park

Tree with sketcher

Some of us stayed at Belvedere Castle while others went to the next stop which was by the Delacorte Theater to sketch the statue of Romeo and Juliet.  Then on the to lawn looking up at Belvedere Castle when a sketcher from Perth, Australia joined us. And then we all realized we were starving.  Off to Carmine’s for lunch where unfortunately I had to take my leave, but the others stayed and ate and sketched.  You can visit the NYC Urban Sketchers’ blog here. and visit some of the other sketchers sites, Joan Tavalott’s blog here.  And Mia’s website here.

Lion in front of the Main Branch of the NYPublic Library – 5th Ave and 42nd Street.  

On Saturday, October 27th the NYC Urban Sketchers met in midtown Manhattan. First stop was at the NY Public Library which was called the Main Branch and is now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman building.  Who is he?  I had no idea so I had to look it up.  He is a zillionaire and CEO of a big financial firm.  He is married to a Hearst.  He is not even dead yet.  Now this annoys me. Why? Because the Main Branch of the NY Public Library says something.  It says what it is and if you’re a New Yorker you know where it is. What does the Stephen A. Schwarzman building say?  It says some really, really, really rich guy who is not even dead yet can get his name on a building. So far the only name I had on a building was a bodega on 5th Ave. and 3rd Street in Brooklyn when Charlie and I were still doing the night dog walk before he upped and moved to Maine.  It was the Carol C. King Bodega.   Ok, not really.  But it COULD HAVE been considering the amount of times Charlie and I stopped in there for a snack whilst walking dogs.   (BTW, if you’re not British, using the word “whilst” sounds really pretentious, but I don’t care.  I like that word.)

Now, my next question is why did they rename the Triborough Bridge the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) bridge.  The Triborough Bridge said something!  You hear the name and YOU KNOW it goes to THREE boroughs.  (Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx).  What does the RFK bridge say?   A really rich dead guy’s family got his name on something.

I could go on and on.  In fact, I think I will.

The Interborough Parkway?   YES!  It goes between boroughs.   The Jackie Robinson Parkway?   I got nothing.

The Queensborough bridge?   Goes to Queens!   The Edward I. Koch bridge?   No clue.

The Westside Highway?  Gotcha!  Runs up the West Side.  The Joe DiMaggio highway?  Stop it!

The biggest problem is that New Yorkers still call these places by their old names.  If a tourist asked me where the Stephen A. Schwarzman building was all I would be able to do is stare.

SE corner of 42nd Street and 6th Ave looking towards the  Bank of America skyscraper on the NW corner.

Which brings me back to Urban Sketching.  (Yes, I was getting there.)   The group met between the two lions in front of the library.  They are called Patience and Fortitude.  Names given to them by Mayor LaGuardia during the Great Depression.  He believed New Yorkers needed both of these attributes to survive.  We drew Patience.  (Or was it Fortitude), then moved to Bryant Park which is right behind the Library.  There were already ice skaters gliding on the rink that’s there in the fall and winter.  Then to the Bank of America building on 42nd and 6th Ave.  That’s right.  6th Ave.  NOT Avenue of the Americas.  Tourists, take heed.  If you ask anyone where Avenue of the Americas is we will tell you we don’t know.  But SIXTH Avenue is conveniently located between 5th Ave. and 7th Ave.

The GRACE Building from the Bank of New York public space on the corner of 43rd St. and 6th Ave.

Ok,  I’m done with my rant.   The Urban Sketching was fun, but I had to leave early since I was meeting some friends for a Lower East Side gallery crawl.   Joan T. and her friend Susan can in from Long Island again, so that was fun.  I was a little distracted by all the holiday stalls that spring up in Bryant Park for the holidays.  (Yes, I’m also attracted to shiny objects.)

NYC is getting ready for Hurricane Sandy.  They have shut down the subways and buses.  The show must go on?  Not on Broadway tonight and tomorrow night.  The Husband is already working 12 hour shifts.  Last year Irene had us running in circles and it turned out it wasn’t that bad for us in the City.  I have a feeling this one may be different.  Full moon, high tide, another storm coming from the West to meet Sandy.  Yikes!  Wish us luck.


Saturday,  October 13th was the 37th World Wide Sketch Crawl.  I don’t know where I was for the other 36, but I’m sure glad I made it to the 37th.   I did it with the NYC Urban Sketcher group.   We met at the new Barclay’s Center (Barbra Streisand would be singing there that night) and did some sketches, moved on to the Atlantic Center and then over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music area.

Not being a plein air anything it felt a little odd to be outside sketching, but the NYC Urban Sketchers group were a friendly, welcoming, TALENTED bunch and I felt right at home in no time although a bit intimidated at their sketching ability. I had a small 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 sketch book and every sketch I started was too big! Oh well, that’s why I only have part of a food truck or some of the windows of a building.

In the small world category, I met a “blog friend” who I had never met before. Joan T had come in from Long Island and I recognized her from some pictures she had posted of herself.  Wow!   It was wonderful to meet a blog friend. And BTW, She is a fabulous sketcher.  Click on her name and it will bring you to her blog post about that day.

My sketches were simple compared to many who did amazing city scenes.  But what fun.  They do it each weekend and I have no doubt I’ll be joining them often.

A shout out to Alex Zonis who was the one who suggested I try the NYC Urban Sketcher group and who made the contacts for me.  So thank you Alex!  I will most certainly be going out sketching with them again.

Mesa Verde – Cliff Palace Sketch

Our road trip brought the Husband and me out of Utah and into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde where we visited some of the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi who are now called Ancestral Puebloans because Anasazi is now politically incorrect.

This park was different than the others because our hikes were primarily to see the cliff dwellings where the Ancestral Puebloans lived and petroglyphs.   Of course there were great mountains with deep canyons and trails where one wrong step will send you into the abyss.  And of course it was beautiful.  But the focus at this park was the archaeological sites.  From the Mesa Verde website:  Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park. It has 150 rooms, plus an additional 75 open areas.  The number of Ancestral Puebloans living in Cliff Palace at any one time was 100 to 120.

We also visited Balcony House, another cliff dwelling.   Both of these cliff dwellings require you to go on a tour with a Park Ranger and each tour costs the exorbitant amount of $3.00 per person.   The day we wanted to visit both Balcony House and Cliff Palace we got to the Visitors’ Center just as it opened to purchase tickets.  As the Husband was purchasing our tickets I looked around and commented at how empty the place was.  The ranger looked me in the eye and said “It’s Sunday morning.  Everyone is in church except the heathens.”  I looked right back at him and said, “well that would be us.”   I’m still not sure if he was serious or joking.  Either way, we got to see both cliff dwellings and had I a religious experience while climbing the 32 foot ladder to get up to the Balcony House.  So there.

Balcony House is another amazing cliff dwelling.   Before we got to visit we had to listen to the Ranger tell us about the above mentioned 32 foot ladder and the three “tunnels” we had to go through, the last one on our hands and knees.  If you’re claustrophobic (guilty) or afraid of heights (also guilty) this may not be the cliff dwelling for you.  But I was determined to do it and glad I did.   It was wonderful until the last tunnel (they aren’t really tunnels because they aren’t underground) where I had to crawl through on my hands and knees knowing my husband was taking a picture of me from behind.  I was not amused.

The Husband and I took a trip out West to visit 5 national parks, 4 in Utah and one in Colorado.   This was the first time for me in that part of the country and boy is it beautiful.  And vast.  And way less populated than where I live.  One day we drove for miles and miles and miles and there was nothing around.   Nothing!   No rest stops, no stores, no towns and worst of all, no cell service.   It gave me the creeps a little bit.

Our first (and my favorite) National Park was Bryce Canyon in Utah.   The erosion of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone rock into bizarre shapes, including slot canyons, windows, fins, and spires called “hoodoos”.

But the native peoples have a better story.  The evil people of their time were frozen and made into hoodoos.  I like that story better.    You can sorta see people frozen in the hoodoos, looking at you.   Watching you.   Making sure you stay on the paths and don’t fall to your deaths when you accidentally take a wrong step and fall off a cliff into the abyss below.

We did a lot of hikes while on vacation (we hiked, but we did not camp) and our first hike was the Navajo Trail which begins at Sunset Point and travels down into the main amphitheater. This is one of the more popular trails and extra caution was advised due to the fact that more rocks fall on this trail than any other trail in the park! A major rock slide occurred in 2006, and subsequent rockslides occurred in 2010 and 2011. YIKES.  The total distance is 1.3 miles which doesn’t seem bad if you’re walking on flat sidewalks and at sea-level.  Both of which we were not doing.   Add in an elevation change of 550 feet both down into the canyon and then back up and you’ve got yourself a pretty good workout. But it was amazing and beautiful and breathtaking and most interesting of all…there were more French and German tourists here (and the other 4 National Parks) than I’ve ever seen in my life.   They sure like hiking the outdoors.  When they’re not smoking. (The French, that is.)   What’s up with that?

Next stop:  Zion National Park and Kolob Canyons!

June 25, 2011 – UPDATE:  Unfortunately, the book is all out of order.  I’ve notified the sketchbook people, and hopefully they will fix it.  

It’s finally here.  My sketchbook project from last year has been digitized for all the world to see.  Lucky you.  If you want to take a gander, please click on this link:   Ignore the HORRID photo of me and click on the ARTWORK TAB

You will be able to see my sketchbook along with some paintings I had uploaded to the sketchbook site.   For all of you who also worked on the sketchbook project and signed up to get your book digitized, please let me know by commenting and adding your sketchbook link to the comment.   Thanks.

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