Book progress II

I finished drawing number 101! That completes the whole list of textures. I really did it!

There have been quite a few late nights until 2:30, 3:00 and even 4:00 AM, when I knew I had X number of drawings to do in Y days for a deadline and I could finish at most three drawings per day. On weekdays I could only finish one. Over the long 4th of July weekend, I spent the entire four days at my drawing table, and cranked out ten drawings. No picnics, no road trips, no beaches. I did take time out to watch the local fireworks, and then was back at it until 3 AM. A few drawings have taken as little as two hours to finish, while a couple required six. It’s not just drawing, it’s scanning each of four steps, cleaning up the scans in Photoshop, and describing each step. It’s also preparing the drawing paper, finding the right reference photos, cropping them to the right proportions, and printing them.

The minute I finished, I donned my hiking shoes and went for a wonderful two-hour hike, during which I saw mother deer with fawns (including twins), a hen turkey with eight poults, mallard ducks with ducklings, a pair of white-tailed kites, ground squirrels, lizards, dragonflies, hawks, and an ant freeway. This is what I’ve been missing all year. Every day, instead of going for some “nature therapy”, I’ve had to just go home to my drawing board in order to meet my deadlines. This is not to say I haven’t enjoyed working on the drawings! But boy have I missed my favorite trail.


I’m not finished with the book altogether; for my next deadline I still have to write a big introductory chapter, with sections on materials and techniques and illustrations to go with those.

My book, 101 Textures in Colored Pencil, is now scheduled for release December 5, and can be pre-ordered now! The price is going up as the publication date gets closer.


Imbibed erasers

On a colored pencil group that I belong to on Facebook, someone said she had just read about “imbibed erasers” in an older colored pencil book by Gary Greene, and wanted to know why nobody had mentioned these marvelous inventions to her before. I actually had not heard of them before, so I looked it up. An imbibed eraser is impregnated with erasing fluid that is made for erasing ink, particularly the kind from technical pens like Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph, from drafting film and some papers. Then I looked up Greene’s text (the internet knows all!). Greene had said that an imbibed eraser does a great job on colored pencil, and doesn’t damage the paper like most other types of erasers that work by scrubbing.

Intrigued, I decided I should try one of these imbibed erasers. It turns out they aren’t made anymore–they’ve gone the way of the manual typewriter and adding machine rolls. So like anything which has been discontinued, they’re worth more now–when you can find one–than they were originally. But thanks to eBay I found a business in Kansas City that deals in old office machines and accessories for them, and they had Koh-I-Noor imbibed erasers. So I bought one for a whopping $9 plus shipping, and a box of the version made in strips for use in electric erasers for $22 plus shipping, which apparently was a bargain because some were selling for upwards of $70. When they arrived, they were still sealed in their original wrappers in pristine condition.

I scribbled a  fairly heavy patch of Permanent Red on a scrap of Stonehenge paper, and tried erasing it with the imbibed eraser. I was very disappointed. Even with a fair amount of scrubbing, it worked no better than poster putty. It sure made eraser crumbs, though. I also tried with one of the strips.


Just to prove it to myself, after I took this photo, I erased the other half of the patch by dabbing with poster putty. Sure enough, when I stopped, the left side looked the same as the right side. But with far less scrubbing!

Maybe they work better when they’re fresh from the factory (which isn’t happening anymore). Maybe Greene was using pencils other than Prismacolors. I don’t know.

So now I have an imbibed eraser and no use for it. Worse, when I went to toss it in the drawer where I keep my Rapidograph pen set, I discovered that I already had one!

My two-day workshop in St. Augustine, FL

Over a year ago, Hanneke Jevons and Bill Shoemaker, president and vice-president of CPSA DC117 St. Augustine, FL invited me to teach a two-day workshop for their chapter in 2017. I was very flattered! This was going to be my first time teaching a workshop “on the road”, outside the San Francisco bay area. We decided on the theme of “Landscape Textures and Techniques in Colored Pencil”, based on the “winning power” of my trees–three have been in CPSA International Exhibitions, two of those have won significant awards in it, all three have sold (one for $3600), and they seem to be admired far and wide. Probably because my admiration of remarkable trees comes through in my drawings of them….

I was grateful to have plenty of time to work out the details and even “test drive” the workshop in one-day form locally. Grasses, moss, bark, leaves, and rocks each pose challenges for which I’ve figured out solutions.

We agreed to limit registration to 24 students, and wow! It sold out so quickly, they didn’t even get to advertise it.

As the time drew near, I gathered the materials for each student: a class outline, drawing papers, an extra piece of plain paper for a hand shield, reference photos, four luscious Caran d’Ache pencils (two Pablo, two Luminance) and information about them courtesy of Creative Art Materials, colorless blender, value finders, stylus, and poster putty. I wished for a way to take along some interesting bark and moss from my collection, but they are too delicate to survive transport (they don’t even like being moved to dust under them on the shelf).

Hanneke generously offered to host me at her home.  She picked me up from the Daytona airport at midnight on March 2. The next day, we had a yummy breakfast at the Funky Pelican in Flagler Beach, she gave me a tour of the area, I got to see the chapter’s show on display at the Flagler County Art League‘s gallery in Palm Coast, we assembled the student packets, we set up the workshop room at the Palm Coast Community Center, and we had a great dinner with Bill and a couple of other folks. The weather was perfect, in the 60s with no excessive humidity, and I was delighted to have the opportunity watch an active osprey pair with their nest just a couple of blocks from Hanneke’s house.

Saturday we focused on grasses and bark. Sunday we focused on moss and rock, and then launched into a bigger project of the base of a tree, with the encouragement that by then they knew the tools and techniques they needed to tackle it. I won’t bore you with the details…. I’ll let their photos tell you! I was very pleased with everyone’s progress–they really “got it”, even those who went through a period of frustration first.



I gave everyone an overnight homework assignment between Saturday and Sunday, to find and bring in some natural item with texture. I made a bet with Hanneke that fewer than half would remember to do it, and she wisely took the bet, because I was wrong! We had quite an assortment on display for Sunday, from a dried palm seed stalk, to rocks and even a bird nest. I wish I’d thought to take photos of them…..

Sunday evening, Bill and I had a tasty dinner at Bob Evans, a restaurant we don’t have in California that I miss from my years in the midwest. Unfortunately, our pleasant evening was marred by witnessing a fatal bicycle/SUV collision, which shook us both up.

On Monday morning, Hanneke took me to see the trees at Princess Place Preserve and her little farm and cows, before taking me to the airport for my return trip.



I can’t thank Hanneke and Bill enough for making this workshop trip possible!

I’ll be teaching the one-day version of this workshop again next Saturday (March 25) for CPSA DC 214 Los Angeles. I can’t wait!


The (back) cover of a book!

I’m a couple of months late in tooting my horn about this. I blame my broken collarbone, because the break happened just a day or two after this happy milestone, before I had a chance to sit down and write about it.

In early October I received my advance copy of Strokes of Genius 8: Expressive Texture, a beautiful hard-bound art book from North Light Books edited by Rachel Rubin Wolf.  My Tree of Character was selected for inclusion in it almost a year ago–books take a long time to assemble.  So I hastily opened the package and started browsing through it, marveling at the quality of all the drawings that mine was honored to be among and noting that the color fidelity for mine was quite good.  Then I flipped it over to check out the back cover, and I almost dropped it: my Tree of Character IS the back cover!  This was the best surprise of 2016!


A couple of friends asked me “Did they have your permission to do that?” and “Did they pay you extra for using it that way?”  Yes, you grant publishers pretty liberal permission to use your images when you submit them for possible inclusion in a book.  And no, you receive no payment for being included inside or out, just bragging rights!

A broken bone applies the brakes

I’ve been laying low lately.  On October 12, I tipped over on my motorcycle at a measly one mile per hour in a parking lot and broke my collarbone.  I felt it break as I hit the pavement, and felt the broken ends shifting around inside as I tried to do the simplest thing like remove my helmet.  The x-rays at the ER confirmed an uneven and displaced break that required surgery to fix.   They sent me home with a sling and a supply of strong painkillers.  Eight days later, on October 20, I finally got the surgery to install a steel plate to stabilize the broken pieces together.  I spent the next four days sleeping a lot.


4.5 days post-surgery.  For the record, my shoulder and arm are not this fat! It’s the post-surgery swelling, just like the bruises.

From the time of the break until a few days after surgery, my husband was quite literally my “right hand man”, and waited on me hand and foot.  For example, I had finished a portrait commission the day before the break; he drove me to Lowe’s to select and cut the portrait shipping materials, then carefully assembled it all for shipping under my instruction and drove me to the post office.  He is accustomed to seeing me constantly on the go with a jam-packed to-do list, and told a friend “Nothing like watching her go from 300 miles per hour to 22 miles per hour in one day!”

I also had to cancel a one-day workshop that was scheduled for the 23rd–3 days after surgery–with 11 people registered.  (It’s been rescheduled for January 15, 2017.)

I’m now 11 days past surgery and healing very well according to my surgeon, in fact I start six weeks of physical therapy tomorrow.

I’ve been learning a lot about how one moment in time and one simple broken bone can turn your life upside down.  We take our abilities for granted until one or more of them is taken away.  The simplest activities like combing my hair and applying mascara became difficult, and activities like tying shoelaces and putting on a pullover shirt became impossible.  I was so happy when I was able to feed myself with my right hand for the first time again, 14 days after the break.  Perhaps the biggest surprise has been that for just one little broken bone, I’ve been needing much more sleep and tiring easily; apparently it takes a lot of energy to heal a break.  I’m grateful for modern medicine which will have me doing everything normally again in just 6-8 weeks!

They say “Art Imitates Life.”  Yesterday was Halloween, so I selected a pumpkin with a “shoulder” and made it into a “self portrait”.  Yes, those are real staples, with Neocolor II wax pastel “bruises”.  My coworkers knew whose pumpkin it was without asking!

It’s been frustrating that with all this “time off”, I haven’t been able to do anything fun.  I couldn’t read because I couldn’t hold a magazine or book open, I couldn’t draw or write because it’s my right shoulder and I’m right-handed, I couldn’t drive somewhere because of the painkillers, I couldn’t go for hikes or walks because of the constant shoulder movement, and of course I couldn’t ride my motorcycle.  All I could really do was watch TV, and one can stand only so much of that.

Now my shoulder is feeling and working better, I can type two-handed, and I’m starting to eye the drawing board again.  I’m expecting to start that next commission later this week, and I can’t wait.


Trees that make me say “Wow!”

As you may have figured out by now, I have a thing for trees.  Not just any trees, but ones that stand out from others of their kind.  Someday I’d love to sit and talk with Beth Moon, author/photographer of Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time and have her sign my copy.  She embarked on a 14-year quest to photograph some of the most remarkable trees on the planet.  As amazing as those that she included in the book are, I’m sure there were many more that she’d like to have included but couldn’t, and I’d like to know about those, too.

I’m fortunate to live in a part of the US that’s home to a variety of remarkable tree species.  Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada mountains, valley oaks inland, bays in the Santa Cruz mountains, coast live oaks and cypresses on the coast, peppers, olives and jacarandas in the San Francisco bay area, eucalyptuses everywhere.  My computer now holds about a thousand reference photos of trees, bark and leaves, and this number grows almost monthly.

Some people look at trees and say “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a tree!”  In my youth in rural Missouri, I mostly thought that about the trees there; there just didn’t seem to be much variety in shape or size.  Here, the shapes, sizes and branching patterns are so complex, they get the attention of even casual passersby.  I know, because some of my friends on Facebook who don’t normally pay attention to trees have posted photos.  And sometimes those have prompted me to go find those trees to take my own photos.

The entire individual identity and history of a tree can be read from its shape, size, bark, branches, and roots.  For example, a cypress clinging to a rock above the surf along the Pacific coast gets battered by salt spray, wind, fog, hot sun and winter storms.  This shows in how its branches are sparser and smaller on one side, and how its roots wedge as deeply as they can into the crevices between boulders.  Mosses and lichens might find a grip on its bark, if it’s a little more sheltered.  A great place to see this scenario is at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just south of Carmel.  Check out these photos I took there just last weekend!

A sale, an award, a fantastic critique, a reunion!

Last week I traveled to Tacoma, WA to attend the Colored Pencil Society of America annual convention.  The convention and International Exhibition is held in a different city each year and is always a highlight of my year–the opportunities to reconnect with artist friends, make new artist friends, see fantastic artwork in person, talk art, win door prizes and raffle prizes, take home a bag of free art goodies, learn new things, network, and explore a new locale is well worth the trip no matter where it is. This time it even offered a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier from my hotel room!

I was the moderator for the District Chapters Forum–a gathering of chapter presidents–all day Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Thursday I took a one-day workshop to learn how Chicago artist Tracy Frein creates his moody portraits on drafting film, and came away totally inspired.

That evening in the silent auction I bid on an original drawing by Cecile Baird on behalf of Arlene Steinberg (she won!) and won some useful door prizes.

Then Friday happened!  I had most of the day free, so I walked the two blocks to The American Art Company to examine the CPSA International Exhibition at my own pace.  A small group of people happened to be looking at my Tree of Kintsugi so I tried to discreetly eavesdrop.  But someone recognized me and asked about the title.  I explained that kintsugi is a Japanese philosophy that regards things that have been broken and repaired as more beautiful because of it, not less, and I felt that this tree embodied it–it had lost half of itself, but the wound had healed, mosses decorated the scars, and the other half of the tree continued to grow very well.  Right away, one of the ladies in the group said “That’s it, I’m going to buy it!”  She was serious!  She bought it from the gallery right then and there, and the red dot went onto its tag.  I’m pleased that it’s going to a new home in the Chicago area with someone who appreciates it, although I’m also a little sad to let “my baby” go so soon after its completion just a few months ago.

That evening at the awards banquet, I was overjoyed to learn that my Tree of Kintsugi won one of only two $800 Awards for Outstanding Achievement!  Of course that made my buyer happy, too, since it validated her feeling about its artistic merit.  The CPSA live-posted each award winner to their Facebook page as it was announced.


As if that wasn’t enough, it got even better on Saturday.  The juror for the show, Michael W. Monroe, Director Emeritus of the Bellevue Art Museum in Bellevue, WA and a former curator at the Renwick Gallery of Art in Washington, DC,  gave a talk/critique at the gallery.  He commented on 20 or so of the 120 pieces, some of them award winners, some of them not, some of them he said he almost didn’t include at all and explained why; it was well-attended and very educational.

To my astonishment, he stopped at my Tree of Kintsugi and praised it extensively for two and a half minutes!  Fortunately I was ready with my iPhone and captured all but the first couple of seconds.  Here it is.

After the talk, my cousin Anita whom I hadn’t seen since we were both small children (at least 45 years ago!) made the trip from Renton, we spent the entire afternoon getting reacquainted and she attended the reception with me.

What a week!  I’ve been floating since.