About Me

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San Jose, California, United States
Some paintings far surpass my expectations and some are scary awful, but it's always fun.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

We just returned from a 5 day trip to Colorado, where we visited our long-time friends, Melinda and Erick. One day we drove over to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike and a picnic. I made a quick sketch with sepia pens of varying weights and added watercolor washes when I returned home. Sylvia, one of the Paint Site leaders from SCVWS said that she finds sepia ink to be more pleasing with watercolor than black ink. I was happy with it, too-the contrast isn't so sharp. I bought a new 7"x10" travel sketchbook that has 140 pound paper. While it isn't hot press, it's smoother than the Arches cold press books I had been using and I am MUCH happier with the way the pen goes down on the paper.
I wish there had been more time to draw-it's difficult to fit in when traveling with non-artists!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Travel Journal-the Rialto Market in Venice

I love seeing the outdoor markets. cheese shops, bakeries and even "super mercatos" in Italy. Wandering around the iconic Rialto market in Venice is always a treat. This is my favorite page from the watercolor journal I made of our most recent trip. I have been unhappy with the rough texture of the Arches cold-pressed paper in the books I've been using; medium and fine-tipped pens just don't work on the paper. I bought a new book yesterday that has paper that is heavy enough to stand up to watercolor, but with a much smoother surface, and I will try it out next week on our trip to Colorado. I also bought sepia-toned pens and look forward to trying out my new equipment! I'm not taking any paints along this time-will concentrate on the drawing and add washes, maybe, after I return home. Now that the SCVWS reception and Friday's Art and Chocolate event are over, I can concentrate on painting again. I enjoy being on the board and serving as Hospitality Chairman, but it does take my attention away from making art.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Watercolor journal #2 - Bruges, Belgium

As soon as David saw the film, "In Bruges" with Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleason, he wanted to visit the town. Bruges is touted as the most beautiful medieval town in Europe, and it absolutely is as picturesque as it appears in the film, but from 10 a.m. until about 4:30 p.m. it is overrun with tour groups! Between the cruise ships at nearby Calais and the bus tours out of Brussels, the streets are thronged with people. And, according to locals, we didn't see it at its worst-in summer one can barely move, apparently. In the early morning and the evening, however, it is quiet, peaceful and utterly charming.
We had dinner one night at a tiny restaurant where all of the food is cooked in a small open fireplace. I had perfectly done medium rare lambchops, and marvelled at how the "chef" managed to keep track of the various meats and potatoes cooking on an open fire for 25 people, plus serve wine and deliver checks! No picture of it, alas-I was too mezmerized to get the camera out!

Watercolor Journal #1 Brussels

On our trip to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Venice in May, I kept a watercolor journal again. As usual, I failed to plan ahead-I just jumped in and started drawing. Here are the first few pages. Let's see how the resolution works form scanning them....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Torcello-Santa Fosca

Torcello is the island where the first settlement in the Venetian lagoon was made. While only about 20 people actually live there now, at one time there were 20,000 or more inhabitants on this small island. Many local people go out to Torcello on the waterbus-vaporetto-for the day for picnicking or lunch at one of the restaurants. While there's a 6th century church next to this small Byzantine-style church of Santa Fosca(built in the 11th century) it wasn't as interesting visually to me. It was a partly-cloudy but pleasant day, but I was seated my tiny folding stool, so comfort was elusive. I only got the rooftops-I didn't plan my composition in advance, just sat down and got to work. I used a 9"x 12" Arches block.

PleinAir in Brussels

This is the view of the cathedral in Brussels from the garden terrace of the B&B where we stayed. It was a wonderful location, just a block from the cathedral in one direction and the Grand Place in the other. It was cloudy and chilly, maybe 50 degrees, so I made quick work of the painting, and only did one of the two towers!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Letter Z

I was thinking about illuminated manuscripts and wanted to do a lighter take on a letter. In this case,"Z" doesn't stand for anything-it's just an ornamented letter. My drawing was all done freehand out of my head-no reference photos, so some of the critters are a bit distorted. I like the pale aqua bubbles and the sinuous kelp. I experimented by using gum arabic with the paints in place of water. It gave the painting a slightly glossy finish. I have some ideas to do some other letters-but they'll have to wait until I return from Europe!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Irish Doors

I'm nearing the end of the alphabet for my painting class assignments. These 2 are "Killarney Barn Door" (to replace a disastrous leaf print piece the instructor wanted us to try) and "Ulster Manor House Door." Both are small-7" x 10". They were good practice, and I'm happy with the way they turned out. I only have 5 paintings to go and 10 days to get them completed-all will likely be small, as I don't have enough time to tackle anything major.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I did a painting these petunias last week, intending them to look loose and carefree. They didn't, of course, so I tried again. While this rendition is less structured than the first, it still isn't where I had envisioned it going. I'll try it again next month-I'm thinking about how to get started so I don't paint myself in to the same proverbial corner from the get-go. Meanwhile, I'm finishing up the work for my class at Mission and preparing for our May trip-volcano permitting! I have a new art backpack and ordered a new block and a couple of tubes of paint in colors I thought would be helpful in capturing the Dutch landscape. Someone at a SCVWS paint site said that Davy's gray is really good for overcast skies-which we're likely to see in Belgium and the Netherlands. I'm studying Van Ruysdael's and Cuyp's landscapes to get prepared. This painting is 10" x 14".

Friday, April 16, 2010

Coyote Bait & Tackle 2

I was so disappointed with the tortured brushwork on my first painting of this quirky building that I decided to give it another try. This one is lighter, but I think it worked out much better. I made much use of a new color that Laurie Barna, a fellow SCVWS member, recommended to me-Indanthrene Blue. It can go from a deep, dark blue to the palest tint. The picture here is somewhat lighter than the actual painting-I scanned it-will try a photo later to see if I can get a better rendition. Size is 10" x 14"

Friday, April 9, 2010

N- "Not a Place I Would Hang Out!"

David and I went out for a drive one day and we passed the Coyote Bait Shop. It looks as though parts of the building were added at random. There are elements of this painting that worked out really well-the trees and the bait machine at the far right-but I seriously overworked the blue of the building and used more mask than I would have liked, so I've begun doing this one again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Q is for Quilt

I belong to a philanthropic women's organization, PEO, which promotes and funds womens education. Our chapter prints an annual yearbook that is a roster, meeting schedule and reference for members. For the 4th year in a row, I was asked to paint a picture for the cover. The caveat is that it needs to include all or some of the following-daisies, stars, and the colors green, white and gold. The little red rectangles are my way of being a rebel! While it isn't fine art, I think the Sisters in our chapter will be happy with this year's cover.

P is for "Plein Air"

Today I went to Mission Santa Clara on the campus of SC University with the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society's weekly plein air group. There were only 4 of us, likely due to the cold morning-it only went up to the upper 50s-maybe 60 by noon. Quite frigid by Bay Area standards! I ordered a couple of sets of Pitt Pens from Jerry's and they arrived last night. I bought the Terra, Landscape, and Grayscale sets. I took them out today for the first time and feel pretty good about my initial effort. I used no pencil at all-just began to draw in a small 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" sketchbook. There's no purple or violet in the sets I got, so the wisteria (which is just beautiful) is blue, instead! Afterward, I did a watercolor of the same scene. i kept it loose, but probably could have spent another half hour or so on it-I just got too cold! It's 12" x 16"

M-"My son Andy takes beautiful nature photos!"

Andy enjoys hiking and biking and taking pictures. He posts many of his pictures on his blog www.rusticfences.blogspot.com Check them out-I think you'll be impressed!
I interpreted one of his photographs in watercolor. As so often happens, I overworked parts of it, but overall, I'm happy with the results. I think I'll try it again-maybe much larger, and use a large brush, which might help me to keep it fresh. After brushing on a light wash of raw sienna in the area of the fence posts, I masked them, then went back in and painted them at the end. The size is 10" x 14".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

L "Lavender Hill Farm"

Mike and Carol, friends of my sister, Ann, have a lavender farm near Lake Stevens, Washington. They have a gift shop that Ann helps out in during the season and they let her sell her crafts there in return. They host an annual Lavender Festival in the summer as well as a Harvest Festival in the fall, and a Holiday Festival in late November. Ann took this photo during the Lavender Festival 2 years ago. They invite lots of vendors, arrange entertainment, and all of their friends pitch in to direct traffic and run the event. Ann often takes pictures for them; one appeared in a local paper-unattributed, alas. I edited out the small tents and canopies from this shot and changed the orientation of her photo. I hope they like it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

H is for "Hydrangeas"

I can actually say that this is a painting I am very happy with. I drew the vase and flowers freehand from my imagination and painted it with no photo reference. I was able to be freer without a picture to follow-maybe this is the secret to the elusive search for "looseness!" I started with a variegated wash of permanent rose, aureolin, burnt umber, and French ultramarine, laying the colors in on wet paper about where I wanted things to be. I didn't use any tube greens, and painted the leaves first, carefully painting around the veins. I added cerulean and smalt to the palette to complete the flowers. "Smalt" is an old, discontinued Winsor & Newton pigment that has a bit more red in it than ultramarine. They reissued it in a limited edition for a big anniversary a couple of years ago, and I was fortunate enough to be given a tube by their local rep. It's a beautiful shade. Along with a touch of burnt sienna, my palette was comprised of 7 colors. I kept the background very simple and suggested some shadows. I did scrub out a few highlights on the vase with a Mr.Clean Magic Eraser. This is a half sheet-15" x 22".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Plein Air Thursday

Yesterday the SCVWS plein air group went to Morgan Hill, a town just south of San Jose. It's a little country town metamorphosing into a sprawling suburb, struggling to hold on to its history and maintain the character of the small "downtown." There's a move to save the Granada, an arte moderne style theater. Local arts groups have been invited to come and paint it. The paintings will be offered for sale at a party with food and music in 2 weeks. I don't plan to enter my painting, as it has several egregious flaws. Sadly, the original stucco of the facade has been covered with an ersatz brick veneer, but the curving aluminum band around the top is still there, as well as several other architectural features that give it more personality than all of the mall multiplexes that have replaced places like the Granada.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

G is for Glass

Each time we're fortunate enough to return to Venice, we go to L'Isola, the Carlo Moretti showroom we discovered on our first visit to the city. The glass is displayed in an elegant, comtemporary gallery-like setting. We can only buy a couple of pieces each time, and we're so excited when they arrive a few days after we return home. They're beautiful, whimsical, and surprisingly tactile.
I took photos of the 3 Champagne flutes here against a sheet of white paper, sitting on the mantel. There were no cast shadows, and I didn't try to add any; it was enough of a challenge to try to capture the transparency of the glass.
The only thing better than looking at the glasses and remembering time spent in my favorite city on earth is drinking Champagne from them! The painting is a half sheet-15" x 22".

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"F" Feather-Ode to Calvin

When my parakeet, Calvin, sheds his feathers, I collect and save them; they're just too beautiful to discard. By now I have enough to make a new bird! Calvin is about 9 years old and such a cheerful little guy whose chirps and songs cheer up dreary winter days. This painting is layer upon layer of masks and washes. I used cerulean, French ultramarine, indigo, phthalo blue, sap green, and permanent rose. The green and rose don't show much after at least 8 washes and 6 or 7 layers of masking and 2 final very dark washes of ultramarine and indigo. Size is 10"x14".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"E" is for Eggs

I jost love the soft colors of birds' eggs. I even always buy brown eggs at the market and admire the subtle differences in their shell colors. This is a small painting (7"x10") that's inspired by the photos in a book, "Birds of America," published in 1936. The book belonged to David's Aunt Julia, and was passed on to us by his mother, Bernette.

"D" Drips & Dribbles: Morris Louis Meets Jackson Pollock

I have always enjoyed the work of the Abstract Expressionists-Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Morris Louis, who is one of my favorites, and the best known of them all-Jackson Pollock. I thought I would do a quick take-off on the last 2 and make rapid progress on my alphabetical assignment. Little did I know how much time it would take to work so recklessly! This is a full sheet-22" x 30".

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plein air last Thursday

I went out to Overfelt Gardens in East San Jose with the SCVWS on Thursday. There were 8 of us this time around. There's a lovely Chinese Cultural Garden with a huge gate, a pagoda and several smaller gazebos in the area. The trees haven't begun to leaf out yet, but the purple leaf plums are in bloom. I forgot my pencils in the car and didn't want to walk back and get them so I just started putting paint on the paper. It isn't my best effort, but it's always fun to get out with the group.

"C" is for Crab

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was in Seattle last month and went to the Daniel Smith store. I bought some of their PrimaTek pigments and haven't really used them much up to now. I decided to enlarge my crab from last month and try him with those pigments. I used 4 colors: Sodalite, Blue Azurite, Green Apatite, and Sugilite. I took geology in college, and I must say that I have never heard of the last 2 minerals! The paints have very unusual properties and were challenging to even get down on the paper, as they fall out of solution and separate from the binder very quickly. Some of them are quite gummy. The sugilite is a light violet and has a beautiful iridescence. The painting is 14" X 17".
I was not trying to produce an acurate shadow pattern; my aim was more toward pulling the composition together. I also wanted to use negative painting-I managed some, but not as much as I originally planned.

"B" is for "Barn"

When we visited Red Lodge, Montana last summer, My mother's first cousin, Ed Kahila, took us for a drive out to see the original homestead built by his and Mother's grandfather, a Finnish immigrant. His last name was Matson. The house is gone, but the barn is still in good shape. The smaller building is newer. The cemetery nearby is full of tombstones with Finn names-there are lots of As Ks, Ls and Vs. Some of the names sound Hawaiian!

"A" is for "Alberobello"

Once again I'm taking a painting class at Mission College. This semester the instructor, Mark Engel, came up with a new scheme for the class: we are to create 26 paintings-one for each letter of the alphabet. For my first, I used a reference photo I took when we were in Italy 2 1/2 years ago. We visited the town of Alberobello in the region of Puglia. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to the hundreds of trulli-little dome-shaped stone and stucco houses with stacked stone roofs. We even stayed in a trullo for 2 nights! The living room was large with a wonderful soaring ceiling of exposed stone but the bedrooms and bathrooms were teensy and oddly shaped. There's even a church in the town made up of several trulli.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thursday Plein Air

Last Thursday was the first sunny day in the past week and a half, and the Plein Air group from the SCVWS went to Guadalupe Oak Grove Park in Almaden Valley. It's a beautiful park and well-used; we saw hikers, runners, dog walkers and a workout group. Someone asked if we were birdwatchers-I'm not sure that's a compliment! There's a wonderful rocky cliff face, but I didn't see it soon enough and rather ambitiously decided to paint the view across the valley. The deciduous trees have a warm glow about them right now, as their buds are beginning to swell. I was surprised by how many columns of Italian cypresses there were in the landscape.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The rest of the Dale Laitinen workshop

The workshop lasted 3 days and the price was unbelievably low! Of course the 55 mile drive to Salinas 3 days in a row was tiresome, and I used most of a tank of gas, so that kind of balances out the cost, I guess.
The palette I used is his suggested one: Fr. ultramarine, cobalt, quin gold, quin red, burnt sienna, new gamboge, phthalo green, yellow ochre, and alizarin. He uses the yellow ochre primarily in very thin, uneven washes for underpainting. I haven't used phthalo green much before-it does mix well for greens, but needs dulling down. Also-all 3 pieces are half sheets. (15" x 22")
On day 2 we painted waterfalls and rocks. I used a picture I had taken myself several years ago in the Trinity Lake area, and that I have painted twice before. The rocks turned out interesting-the water not so much.
Day3 we all painted Dale's barn photo. I overworked this poor barn and the eucalyptus trees behind it so abysmally that it's shameful. I enjoyed seeing his demos and will try to put some of his techniques into practice.

Dale Laitinen Workshop

I've spent the past 3 days at a workshop in Salinas. Dale Laitinen has an almost geometric approach to his subjects. He says that he paints shapes-triangles, rectangles and circles, not things. I need to put in lots of practice time, as I've neglected my work since Thanksgiving, but I will try to apply his underpainting technique and work on making each brushstroke count. The paintings I'm attaching here are all overworked to greater or lesser extents.
The first day we painted mountains-I used one of his photos. The mountains were very dark in the photo, covered with sagebrush.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Jetty-Everett, Washington

This day was warmer and dry so I sat on a bench at the waterfront with sister Ann. The earthen jetty has a trail on it and is a wildlife refuge. The houses at right are on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. At one point, there was a great blue heron perched on nearly every piling. Then a bald eagle flew over and they all scattered. The eagle eats fish, not birds, but I guess they weren't taking any chances!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rainbow Bridge, La Conner

Same day as last painting-we drove back across the Rainbow Bridge and found a place to park where we could see the whole bridge (still sitting in the truck, as the rain had stopped, but it was getting really cold as the sun went down.) This small painting (7"x9") was done wet-in-wet, then I went back in with black ink. The vibrant dark red orange of the bridge contrasts so beautifully with the very dark green evergreens- someone had a real eye for color when they selected the color for the bridge! I used brown madder-it was the perfect color right out of the tube. The sun was setting so quickly that I had to work quickly. Painting en plein air in that climate is very different than in San Jose. Here, the paper dries so quickly sometimes that it's difficult to get colors to mix. On the wet Washington coast, it took forever for the paper to dry. My sister, not a watercolorist, was becoming alarmed as the paint kept running, but I'm happy with the way everything blended.

La Conner, Washington

La Conner used to be a little fishing village, but its cute quotient has been upped considerably lately as it has become a tourist mecca of galleries and antique and gift shops. My sister and I drove across the Rainbow Bridge to look back at the waterfront. The sky was mostly gray with a few blue patches coming through to the south. Can you still call it plein air if you're sitting inside a pickup truck in the rain?

Back Home from Washington!

We just returned from a week-long trip to visit family in Washington. My sister Ann and I, along with her friend Carol drove to Seattle to visit the Seattle Art Museum. We saw an exhibit on Michelangelo's Judgement Day fresco-the painting on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. There were a few of his small drawings among the pieces displayed; it was very interesting and informative. Also saw a Calder show-fun. We had a terrific lunch at the Dahlia Lounge, visited a couple of fabric stores (for them) and made a pilgrimage to the Daniel Smith store (for me.) In addition to his own line of watercolors, the shop sells many other lines and has pretty much anything an artist working in any medium could want. I bought 14 tubes of his Prima-Tek pigments. They're ground from pure minerals and have remarkable characteristics. Several are quite iridescent, some sparkle, and some granulate so actively that you almost see the pigment drop out before your eyes! I painted samples of 12 of them-don't know how well they'll show. Click on the picture so you can see an enlarged view and get a better sense of how these pigments behave. There were sets that combined several tubes for a price break and my sister had a 20% off coupon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Feeling Crabby....

I bought a block of watercolor paper made in Amalfi when I was there 2 years ago. When I pulled it out to use for the first time a few weeks ago, disaster struck. After painting the crab, I masked it out with white "Easy Mask" tape so I could work on the background. When I pulled off the tape, a layer of paper came along with it, leaving white splotches on my crab. After whining about it for 2 weeks, I went in with pen and ink. Not a prize winner, but I saved it from the recycle bin!
The image is from a photo I took when I visited my cousin Candy, near Baltimore. She and her husband, Wayne took me out for an authentic Maryland crab feast. After 31 years in California, we still miss those spicy blue crabs thrown out on a brown paper-covered table!