Pinterest Peep #19, & The Painting After

Sketchbook Pinterest Peep Omo Valley Ethiopia Carolina Elena 2015 watercolor


This is "One Of Them"...what do I mean by that? This is one of the hardest paintings to paint...the one you paint after a major flop. I painted a flop the other day. Two in a row, in fact. It was devastating. It nearly killed me. I am not kidding. I have spent the past few days, walking around aimlessly, mindlessly doing what has to get done, while catching glimpses of the sky wondering what the hell made me think I could paint. I debated at least three other options to spend the rest of my life on. I have no idea what possesses me and makes me feel the need to learn how to paint when I was born with other skills. You know the saying of "getting back in the saddle again?" Nothing could be more applicable than in this learning-to-paint adventure. Today, I had the day off from work. We awoke to several new inches of snow. What this means is that everyone went skiing and I got to face my monsters in peace. This little painting was the result.

I present to you Pinterest Peep #19 of a beautiful woman from the southern parts of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

Wish me luck on the next one.





Little Belén

Little Belén 2016 Carolina Elena watercolor on paper 10x7


This is a watercolor painting I did of the daughter of a good friend of mine. As I understand it, Belén borrowed both the sunglasses and an iPhone, and took a most wonderful selfie. Her adorable smile and the strong sunlight falling on her was just begging me to paint this. I painted it on a 7"x10" piece of archival watercolor paper. I would love to paint this image in oils, on a very large canvas. Perhaps now, when I am without a studio, is not a good time to paint it large... so I will save this sketch for when the studio situation has improved! 

Until next time,


My Little Pinterest Peeps

Recently, I made a list of the places I want to visit, or revisit, from around the world. My kids are almost out of the house and I am just downright itchy to travel. The list, though, was difficult to remember... and frankly just plain boring to look at, so I decided to go to Pinterest and pin a few photos of the people from the places I want to go to. Then I took it a step further and used those photos as inspiration to make a few watercolor sketches in my sketchbook. These are just little sketches: I did not take the original photos...but it is a great exercise to get my brush skills going.

This is what I have painted thus far:

Pinterest Peep #1 Litang, Tibet

 Pinterest Peep #1 Litang, Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #2 Burkina Faso, Africa

Pinterest Peep #2 Burkina Faso, Afica Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #3 Bhutan

Pinterest Peep #3 Bhutan Watercolor Sketchbook Carollina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #4 Paris

Pinterest Peep #4 Paris Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #5 Jodhpur, The Blue City, India

Pinterest Peep #5 Jodhpur, The Blue City, India Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest peep #6 Marpha, Nepal

Pinterest Peep #6 Marpha Nepal. Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

Pinterest peep #7 Mexico

Pinterest Peep #7 Mexico Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest peep #8 Tibet

Pinterest Peep #8 Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #9 Kichwa Woman, Ecuador

Pinterest Peep #9 Kichwa Woman, Ecuador Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis

Pinterest Peep #10 Langtang Region, Nepal

Pinterest Peep #10 Langtang Nepal Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest peep #11 Africa

Pinterest Peep #11 Africa Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #12 Alaska

Pinterest Peep #12 Alaska Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #13 Morocco ( Morocco)

Pinterest Peep #13 Morroco (Morocco) Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep # 14 Bunad from Setesdalen, Norway

Pinterest Peep #14 Bunad from Setesdalen, Norway Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest peep #15 Tibet

Pinterest Peep # 15 Tibet Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #16 Madagascar

Pinterest Peep # 16 Madagascar Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest peep # 17 India

Pinterest Peep #17 India Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


Pinterest Peep #18 Norway

Pinterest Peep #18 Norway Watercolor Sketchbook Carolina Ellis


That is what I have done up until now. I don't know if I will do anymore. I hope you like them.





Sally Said Three Months

In June I took my first pastel workshop. It was heaven...then the skies opened and all hell broke loose...I had not painted since. Life can behave that way sometimes - it just dictates your days. The workshop I took was with Sally Strand. Not only can she really paint well (in oils, pastel, watercolor, you name it) but she can also teach very well. That is a rare find. She told us the turning point in her abilities came after spending three months at her kitchen table painting whatever was in the fridge.

That is three whole months, every day, same time of day...without fail. How hard can that be??


Above is what I painted earlier today. It is 9x12 pastel on watercolor paper. I used my watercolor sketchbook (Strathmore Visual Journal, Watercolor 140 lb) for it. In order for the pastel to have a better chance of adhering to the paper, I coated it first with a clear grit "paint" from Art Spectrum called Supertooth Colourfix that I tinted with Yellow Oxide acrylic paint diluted with water. Then I used both pastel pencils (Derwent) and my new pastels from the French company, Girault. For those of you trying pastels, I must add that a few finishing touches were added with my soft pastels by Terry Ludwig.

The composition could use a bit more oomph, but it is is what is for today. in case my drafting skills are throwing you off - you are looking at a pepper, an onion and a lime. I gave myself forty seconds to just grab something and put it in front of me. I can't be dilly dallying on the perfect pic if I am going to get into this three month stint.


Until next time,


A Peek At My Week

I thought you might like to take a peek at my sketchbook from this past week. I have a love/hate relationship with my sketchbook. When I am working in it, I am battling the demons that hover over me and tell me that this artist path is useless. In the past I made mistakes while sketching and would tear the whole page out and all that would remain is "the keepers"... this would result in several unfinished sketchbooks... most filled with pathetic attempts. Lately though, I decided to try something new. Rather than trying to make "great" sketches, my only goal has been to make "finished" sketches. Saying that you are going to "finish" something is way more doable than saying you are going to do something really well.
So what you see below, are my finished sketches from last week, mistakes and all.
First up is a little sketch I made down by the river:


I got some lovely flowers, for our table, at City Market:


This is where the gondola takes off in Vail. We have year long passes to go up on it, and it has been great fun going to the top in this awesome summer weather. I wish I had had more time to work on the sketch. I felt rushed:


I had a great morning one day at the Betty Ford Botanical Garden... it is odd not knowing all the names of the local trees and plants:


I am going back to this spot, along Gore Creek, again:


I went out hiking with a group. BIG MISTAKE. I was the little fat girl that couldn't keep up. At one point, when my lungs felt like they were going to come out of my throat, I had to call it quits. I was near the tree line. I could not catch my breath and told the group to go on ahead without me. I sat down and made this sketch of the beautiful trees around me. I thought- if I am going to die right here, I am going to make a sketch of my death bed. I was beyond 11,000 feet up. Altitude sickness took over and I had to hike down and finish painting the sketch from memory. For your information - it was NO picnic getting altitude sickness:


The last one I made this past week, is of the view from the terrace of the Arabelle Club in Vail. Although a little Disney-esque in it's execution, this part of Vail (Lionshead) manages to transport me to a make believe world of European alpine villages. Nothing like the real thing, I know, but it does the trick:


If you ever feel like your sketches stink, try doing what has worked for me... finish every sketch.


Does Daily Exercise Make A Difference?

Painting Is Easy

This little watercolor I made, above, is of one of my favorite quotes. Edgar Degas said this - and I never would have believed him until now. Now that I am getting deeper and deeper into this painting ride, the more I know, the harder it gets.

My studio is a great space for me to create when I have a big project going on.

Studio 5:30:2013

Sometimes, those big projects take days and weeks to complete. And SOMETIMES THE REST OF MY LIFE TAKES OVER. You know what I mean. I am talking to all the mommies out there who want to do art and those artists that have not yet taken the step to push everything else aside because they now can make a living from of their art.

I have discovered that I am not capable of balance. Nope. I am completely inept at it. However - I am getting a WHOLE lot better at juggling. I have found a little secret that helps me.


Keep a journal.

Journal 5:2013

Keeping a journal is a way of keeping the wheels greased.

So how many times have you been on the web, determined to take up visual journaling again, drooling, as you oggle the mind blowing journals that some artists keep? Or when you are in Barnes & Noble you pick up yet ANOTHER blank journal - promising yourself that this one is going to be different, THIS one you are going to keep at it ... this one (insert sigh) is going to be gorgeous  ... one that will be vibrant, full of juicy colors, wild and freeeee and that if you create it the way you invision it, well then, years after you are gone it might be discovered with the answers that unlock the questions from your greatest finished masterpieces?

There is only one weeeeee little problem nagging you... even as your credit card goes swiftly through the card reader.

You know, deep down inside, that you are BALANCE-CHALLENGED and you have failed, miserably, at keeping an art journal way too many times to admit to another human being.

"Oh no! Carolina has been reading my thoughts!"

Not quite.

I am guessing you and I might not be all that different and unique.

So what to do?


Secret For The Balance-Challenged: 


That is it. The key. Your journal is YOUR journal. You can cherry pick your entries in the distant future and share "the good ones", but if you don't just have at it, yucky goofs and all, you will never really reap the benefits of what is most valuable about keeping a journal - that is that the daily exercise of doing little snippets of creative work in your journal keeps you connected to the creative core of you, it keeps the wheels greased so that when you do finally get your dedicated chunk of longer art time, you are able to zero in and access the creative you instantly. By keeping a journal, you and your creative self have been in dialog, you are comfortable with each other. There is no more looking for The Muse. In case you haven't noticed, there is a change in my banner title and now you can access me at , The Muse of The Day is gone ... for I get it now, I am the muse. My daily entries in my journal prove it to me.

I promise to show you more, but, for now, lets just take a quick peek into one of my journals, yucky goofs and all.

Here is a journal entry showing a corner in my house that has these wooden shelf holders slated to go in my daughters room - these have been in this same location on the floor, next to my hiking backpack for at least 3 months. Embarrasing, but true. At every dinner party I have had, folks ask me what they are. I call it my little corner of guilt. I will get to hanging them. Promise.

Journal 5:2013 1


Want to see a goof page?

Journal 5:2013 2

That was where I tested out some new materials. A few days later I went back at this page, you can see it on the right side of the spread, below, you can also see, on the left side, just how much I struggled at properly drawing the tea kettle :

Journal 5:2013 3


One day I knew it was going to be crazy busy and that time in the studio, that day, was not going to be a possibilty. On my way out the door I spotted a bag of corriander seeds, I had purchased at an Asian market, sitting on the kitchen counter. A quick painting sketch with my little Koi travel watercolor kit, a few notes about what I was thinking while I painted it, and out the door I went:

Journal 5:2013 4

I have been teaching an Intro. to Drawing class to some ladies in my town. I don't think I am the greatest artist, but I share, freely, what I know. One day we did an exercise of contour drawing that we colored in after we were done with the drawing part, it is in my journal as well:

Journal 5:2013 5

On the right hand side of this next image, you can see a pink page with some writing in it - I am not showing it, here, because I use my journal to scribble in my private thoughts too. Remember a journal is for you, put it all in there & later on, if you want to share your journal, you can do as I suggest and cherry pick it.

Journal 5:2013 6

This next one only brings one word to mind - YUCK. But I am including it here for reality's sake.

Journal 5:2013 7

This next one was done on Mother's Day, which almost went unnoticed as we had my husband's father go in the hospital that day for an emergency procedure. I managed to do this little quick sketch out in my garden while feeling the warmth of the early morning sun - that was more than enough Mother's Day gratitude for me.

Journal 5:2013 8

I have a few points to make with this blog post that I think are worth repeating.

Don't be so precious and worry if your daily sketch is worthy or not. Put it all in there - goofs, good ones, and thoughts.

Journal 5:2013 9

And that doing this journal keeping with sketches, paintings, testing of materials, and thoughts, will keep your wheels greased for when you have a bigger chunck of time available to you to work on a larger project.

Start your day off with it, if you can make it work that way.

Journal 5:2013 10

At whatever time of day you do it, in whatever kind of journal you have handy, with whatever materials you have, and with a definite checking at the door of all preciousness ... doing this daily exercise will make a difference. A BIG ONE.


Hope you enjoyed the peek in my journal.



I Leave You, Then, With A Tale Of A Mushroom Blue

The girls started school, and I am NOT driving them. Like shells in a shotgun, I have set off in several different creative directions. I am loving it. Amongst the list, I have been painting, drawing, sewing, ... even writing poetry which I haven't done in a gazillion years. Thank me in advance - I won't be putting you through the poetry. There is a lot of pent up creative juice coursing thru my veins.

The air has barely a touch of fall in it. I can tell that the crisp days will be here soon. Shadows on the mountains in front of my living room and a clear view to the mountains in the far off distance, let me know that the chokehold the humidity has had on us for the past few months has been broken.

Shadows on mtn.

I notice the biggest difference in the mornings. The low morning clouds get caught in the valley, below, virtually swallowing everything in it's path except the tippity-tops of the peaks.

Cooler mornings

When I have my coffee with this view, I pretend I live at the edge of the ocean, and those peak tops are mere islands in an enormous sea.

I have been doing my fair share of hiking, as well. If I don't get out in the fresh, early morning coolness, I dodge the mid-morning heat by hiking in the refuge of the trails beneath the thick canopy of hickory, yellow-poplar, and elm, to name just a few that I can actually recognize.

Trail 8:2012

When the canopy above my head gets especially thick, the moisture doesn't evaporate as quickly and the path has a generous coat of vibrant green moss edged in leaf litter that is damp beneath only the very top layer of dried leaf. There, in those fairytale mossy paths is where I go hunting for jewels. Mushroom jewels that is. I see all kinds, all colors. Do you see the one in the lower right of the picture below? It looks like a white mushroom. But it is not.

Trail with mushroom

I have been spotting BLUE mushrooms. Magical blue mushrooms. Some on the edge of the path, some just off the path and peeking out of the leaf litter.

Blue mushroom in leaf litter

Some of them look deadly.

Blue mushroom - top

Their undersides entice my imagination with stories only a child would believe.

Blue mushroom - base

Some are soooo beautiful that I simply can not resist.

Blue mushroom on trail

I gingerly sliced one off with my knife that I keep in my backpack. However retarded I looked, I ran home, panting, water bottle dangling and slapping my side, both hiking poles firmly gripped by one hand, and one hand gingerly holding my blue prize.

The milk that oozed from it's gills tainted my fingers, blue. No worries, I did my homework first, this beauty is edible.

Blue on my finger

I sliced through it with my trusty knife, it's flesh gave in easily. I inspected it with my little loupe left over from my girls' homeschooling days. I was in heaven. Amazed too ... the colors looked just like the wool I have been using.

Blue mushroom con lana

I have my lovely (and awesome) Tía Anita Maria to thank for getting me into this next project - rug hooking. I didn't know anything about it until a few weeks ago when she sent me an email with photos of her masterpieces.

Rug hooking with blue

For future reference, tía, I would appreciate not getting into any new (read costly) endevours.

So, hereI am with this stunning blue mushroom (Lactarius Indigo) - stunned by it's blueness. It reminded me of the lapiz lazuli earrings my husband gave me on our honeymoon spent backpacking the length of Chile.

A little more blue

I just couldn't leave it at that. Out came my watercolor paints and my brushes.

Blue mushroom painting & transfer

I made a transfer of the little mushrooms I painted and put it onto fabric. A quick attempt at quilting it to see if it merits further exploration ...

Blue mushrooms quilted

and this is where I am at. I am not sure when I will return, here, to the blog. A part of me feels like I have just begun the journey. I know that it is not ready for "prime time". I have restled with the concept of blogging what I create vs. creating to blog. I am going to let time and creativity form and shape it's own path. So we will see someday, where, when, how ,... and I hate to say this: if, we meet again. I will leave the blog up until April. If before then I choose to either return to this blog, or appear somewhere else, I will let you know via this blog.

I leave you then, with a view of Wednesday's sunset and a tale of a mushroom blue.


Wednesday's sunset


Memories on Monday: My Little Suitcase

Good morning. How have you been? This post is totally inspired by Elizabeth (West Coast Elizabeth), from the blog Gossamer Wings. Elizabeth has been doing these fantastic posts every week called Retro Friday wherein she shares photographs and stories from her past. Through these posts, she lets us in to her life. Needless to say, since her first Retro Friday post, I was totally "in". I think that you get to see me, on my blog, but perhaps there are gaps in getting to actually know me. I have no idea if I can do this every week, as Elizabeth so faithfully does, but I can at least begin the sharing process. I am going to see if by sharing some of my memories, you might feel like you know me better. Let me know what you think.

Lets get on with it.

This week I flew up to Minnesota to pick up my oldest daughter from her 28 day canoeing adventure. Upon picking her up, I felt I had many things behind me - mainly my garden adventure of practically digging my way to China and fancying myself a carpenter with our pergola performance, but also my youngest daughter had been "retrieved" from her camp, writers camp at Duke University, which BTW she LOVED.

I finally could turn my attention to me. I began to do so no sooner than we had boarded the plane. I took out my sketchbook and coloring pencils once we were airborne. Being up in a plane has always fascinated me - not the actual being in a plane, as I actually have to struggle with a mental tug of war to deal with the claustrophobia I feel when I am in an airplane, but it is the part of looking out the window from way up there that I love - I consider it my reward for actually succumbing to strapping myself into what is akin, to me, of a flying sardine can.

Despite the fact that I am tall, and my body feels trapped in the window seat vs. the isle seat, I perfer to put myself in the window seat just so that I can press my face up against the window and see what is out there. Looking down at the perfectly gridded farm parcels of Minnesota and Wisconsin made me think about life. In some of those farm houses down there there was fighting going on, some of the housewives were fretting over the weight that they had failed to lose, some of the farmer's machinery and equipment was failing and needed to be repaired, and there were foreclosures at the banks I imagined at the places were all the roads seem to converge and the buildings were more closely clustered together. Life is this way. It comes with upheaval and change. Looking out the airplane window is good for me; it makes me feel like I am part of this human race and that all of my worries and problems are an earthly thing that I share in common with the rest of those walking the earth down there. Being up there, though, also makes my imagination soar. I can detach myself from my problems. Easily.

Out the airplane window

Once we got higher up, as the farm houses no longer looked like Legos and became just specks dotting the land, and the long roads mere pencil thin lines, the clouds were billowy and fluffy. I started to think about how when I traveled from Chile to the United States, at age twelve, I saw these same clouds out my airplane window, up close and personal. How I wanted to open the plane door and go sit on one of those clouds.

And so, on this trip home, as my eyes went from one cloud to the next, my mind began to wander and wonder. I thought about that trip, with me barely 12, and the little suitcase that had been handed to me by my mother to fill with all my earthly possessions.

My little suitcase

It was tiny - more of an "overnight-sleepover" kind of suitcase, despite the fact that its' shape was like a traditional travelers' suitcase (it was the 70's and that shape was typical of suitcases of the time.) Regardless of its' size, the little handheld suitcase was the only thing I was allowed to bring when we moved to this country. I don't remember what I put in it. This was the second time I was going to the US. We had come with my father, the first time, on a scholarship, knowing it would not be permanent. Now, however, the stakes were a little higher. We had no idea what the future held. Chile was in political turmoil and my Dad had been offered, in the US, one of the most coveted of things when a home country is in upside down mode - a well paying job.

Memories are difficult - they adjust to our persona as they go through time. I don't have many pictures of the time to quantify everything that is in my head. My parents have a death grip on the few family photos our family does have. Although those photos haven't seen the light of day since I last visited my parents home a few years back, they probably will remain as I last saw them - stashed in a box on one of the upper shelves of my parents' office closet, shutting out the rest of reality. I sometimes think my parents don't want to let go of the photographs from our past, as a way of ensuring that their own past remains intact and that its' magic retains the viability of someday returning to whom they were in their younger years.

I don't know.

I wish I had those photographs to look at though.

My little suitcase, #2

I haven't the faintest memory of what I put in that little suitcase of mine. I know I wasn't able to put in it my favorite story book, Young Years. It was a horrible event, for me, to have to leave my beloved storybook behind. It was given to my younger cousin, Michelle, perhaps they thought that I, at twelve, was getting too old for that book and would have little use for it in my teen years. They couldn't have been more wrong. When, as an adult, I returned to Chile for a short visit and saw it in my aunt's guest bedroom shelves, the tears jumped from my face. I begged my cousin for it, she gladly returned it to me. My book is now home, always with me.

Young Years book cover

When I finally came back together with my book, on that fateful trip back to Chile, I was instantly transported to a time when all things were possible. The images, both the fully colored ones and the more simple line drawings with their two toned swaths of color washes upon them, made me  - yes they MADE ME.

Page from Young Years

They made me who I was again. It is almost like as if in my teenage years, in the US, I had been holding my breath and was just going through the motions without really knowing who I was. When this book was finally in my possession, again, was the beginning of me valuing my imagination. Since then I started creating images in my mind and seeing the world differently.

Back to the suitcase.

In my memory, this suitcase, with all its' "wild" seventies shapes and colors of turqouise, acidic yellow, lime green, and blue, was not the suitcase I wanted. I wanted the other one - the one my sister got. It had the same pattern, but it was in different colors. It was red, orange, and purple.

Once I came home the other day, after picking up my daughter in Minnesota, I took out my art supplies again.

My trusty little "grocery store" tin, like a ritual, is always the first thing I open before I begin a new project. 

Little shop holder

It holds my kneaded eraser and my favorite pencil sharpener. I like how I can see the "inside of the store" when I open up the tin.

Inside my little shop holder

It wasn't long before I started thinking about what it would have been like to rewrite this "little suitcase" memory of my past. What could my suitcase have looked like? What would I have liked to be wearing on that trip? Who was I at age 12?

This is what I came up with:

Me with my new suitcase 7:2012

My fingers fumbled, mirroring my brain, as I tried to draw without something to look at and sketch from.

Materials for me and my new suitcase

In a world of make believe you can have things the way you want them. I would have liked to have had a red cape of my own, made out of deep scarlet colored felted wool with pink flowers at the collar,

Collar close up:suitcase 7:2012

an orange ribbon or two, trimming a band of the same pink flowers at the hem. Oh ...

and a suitcase that was TO DIE FOR. If you saw me at the airport, deboarding that plane in Miami on that day, you would have wanted to come in for a closer look.

Close up suitcase 7:2012

Maybe, after all these years, you would have forgotten me, as you did not ever get to know me. But perhaps, just perhaps, you wouldn't have been able to, in all the years, forgotten my little suitcase. I have drawn it here, again, so that you can take your time and get a good look at it again, instead of briefly, in passing, at an airport held by a girl with no name but with an imagination she wanted and wants to share.

My imaginary suitcase

Memories on Monday - maybe this could be a good thing.


Gentlemen, DON'T DO IT


Now a note for the guys out there:

Dear gentlemen,

Don't do it. Don't give your lovely wife a new vacuum cleaner on Mother's Day ...

Mother's Day Vacuum


unless you absolutely know, 100%, that your wife can see the true goodness in your heart and she adores you ...

like I adore my husband.





A House For My Banana Bread

Just a quick post today with a thought I had.

I made our Banana & Oatmeal loaf over the weekend because the temperature had dropped and it just felt like the thing to do. Our recipe has rolled oats in it, making it a bit more dense and a little less "banana-ee". It is a bit drier than what I normally find in bakeries, and we like that about this recipe. Everybody in our house, though, likes it a bit differently. Some like it with walnuts, some without, and I happen to like it with walnuts and a layer of cranberries on top.

3x banana & oatmeal loaf

Either way you like it, all the loaves disappear within a couple of days. My girls take it to school as an after school snack, my husband eats it after dinner while watching TV, and I ... well ... lets just say it is a good thing I have my own loaf.

When I take a piece to the studio, I do it up right and serve it on my favorite tray.

Banana & oatmeal loaf on tea tray

I really like this tray because of the image on it - totally not the way my actual house is but soooo totally easy to imagine myself living in it and eating my banana bread in it, sitting by a cozy fire while looking out at the ocean beyond my window.

Tea tray, Vineyard House

The house is typical of houses on Martha's Vineyard Island, were my folks live. I know these next sentences are going to sound horrible, but I have to share it. Somewhere in my brain there is a place where "what if total doom happened, then I would..." kind of thoughts reside. Well if there was such a day, when reality as I know it ceased, then I would move myself into a place like this - cedar shingled, with a dutch door to open so that the ocean breezes could make the curtains billow, tiny, completely able to be cleaned in a morning, with overflowing flower boxes, electric blue hydrangeas at the front, rambling roses everywhere, good books stacked to the rafters, and a large table, with all my painting, sewing, and knitting supplies, abutting the windows that face the ocean. As I worked on my projects I could watch the ferry taking tourists back and forth to the mainland in summer, and us islanders to "the United States" in winter. The kitchen would be just big enough to make a few scrumptious treats including this banana bread recipe. I would eek out a living on the island with a little store called "Sweater Weather". The sign for the store wood be outlined in gold. Beneath it would be a second sign that would read "a place for wool and a cup of tea". Perhaps the store would be in town, or perhaps it would be adjacent to my little home. I don't know, for sure, but it is nice having a little place in my brain for that dream. I blame having that little space in my brain, where I squirrel away these kind of visions, squarely on my upbringing in the 70s. Back then, you see, we had the Sear's Wishbook, a catalog of Christmas gift ideas put out by Sears. We used to get everything from Sears back then - from our washing machine to my red plaid bell-bottom Toughskin jeans. Even our fake Christmas tree came from Sears. I remember how dog-eared the catalog would be by the time Christmas finally arrived. On Christmas day, we would rush to open our presents, forgetting all those things we had wished for and so very appreciative for whatever we got. Still. Dog-earing the pages with the country styled guitars and the pogo sticks created a pastime for me that I still depend on for relief. Hence the little vision of this house for the banana bread. 

Back to reality and my version of banana bread:

Banana & oatmeal loaf recipe card

Can you see the recipe well enough? The collection of watercolored recipes is growing.

Hope so.


I feel like I may as well right it out for you. I wrote the recipe out on the watercolor paper, the same way as here, with the exact order I do my steps and with the minimum amount of utensils. It erks me when recipe writers tell you you need to spray a pan almost at the end of a recipe, blend dry ingredients first in separate bowls, then get another bowl out like you have the time to wash them all. I know my girls (& myself), if we are going to cook, we are going to do it the easiest way possible and that is why I wrote the recipe in this order. 

Banana & Oatmeal Bread

  • Preheat oven to 350°F  (180°C)
  • Coat 4 small loaf pans (4"x8") with cooking spray
  • In medium size mixing bowl, use fork to:

                -mash 4 large,old bananas

                -mix in 4 eggs

                -add 2/3 cup buttermilk

                -1/2 cup vegetable oil (canola)

                - 2 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Stir well to combine with spoon or spatula then add

              - 3 cups all purpose flour

               -1 cup sugar

               -3 tsp. baking powder

               -1/2 tsp. baking soda

               - 1/2 tsp. salt

  • Combine well, then add:

                -1 1/2 cup regular rolled oats

Divide into loaf pans and bake at 350° for 40 minutes

  • to loaf pans getting walnuts, mix walnuts into batter before filling pans
  • top with frozen cranberries, if desired, after loaf pans are filled then bake the same way :
  • 350°F (180°C) for 40 minutes
  • check for "doneness" with a baking straw

Good luck with it. I think you will like it.



The Thinking Chair House

Watercolor of the thinking chair
I thought I would share with you a little painting I did of my favorite thinking chair from my vacation in Maine. 

Thinking chair living room
It was really difficult to tear myself away from this green chair for the view from it of Rockport Harbor was beautiful.

View from the thinking chair

I didn't want to let it slip from my memory. I just had to paint it.

Painting the thinking chair

We were in Maine for several weeks. each week we rented a different house in a different location along Maine's gorgeous coast. We found all three place through VRBO, Vacation Rental By Owner. We have used that sight many, many times over the years and have never been disappointed when trying to find a vacation spot. If you would like to find out more about this particular gem of a place in Rockport, click here.

Trying to read with a view

This house happened to be just a few steps from Rockport Harbor and also the photo school I told you about that I had attended when I was younger. Walking on the very same surfaces I had walked on before "my life" took over, was a bizarre experience. I could not have imagined, back then, where I would be today.

Sofas & thinking chairs
It makes me think that it is pointless to fret about the future, its course will be run no matter how much I stress out about it today. This house was LOADED with thinking chairs. I have to tell you that the combination of fantastic views, both outside and inside this home, the plethora of places to perch, and the fact that because it wasn't mine and I didn't have to tend to any responsibilities, made this the ideal vacation spot. If I win the lottery, I would like to buy it.

Thinking chair in the bedroom


When Do You Know It Is Time To Jump?

It has been a long time since we got to visit together. I have been on a long thinking break. I am presenting you with an image of the postcard that is going to Eva of Eisblumen and sharing something with you that is very personal. I know that the postcard doesn't seem like much - a few simple earrings. They are representative of what I am trying to work through in my own life.

Earrings postcard for Eva

I painted these earrings because one of these three pairs of earrings is what I wear almost every day of the year despite having another ten or so to choose from. If you haven't met me in person and you see some woman wearing one of these earrings feel free to go up to her and introduce yourself. Chances are it is me. I do the same with my clothing, rotating through a handful of outfits over and over again. In our new home, I gave the bigger half of the closet to my husband. Over the years I have found that I will instinctively grab the same pair of jeans, or the same skirt over and over again. I know what shoes go with them, I know what jewelry to pair it with. It's not like I have been wearing the same set of clothes for the past twenty years, but rather I get hooked on a certain few, wear them for a few years, and then replace some part of my wardrobe with something new. I find myself having 5 outfits or so at a time. If I go somewhere on vacation I pack those very same clothes in my bag. On occasion, I have been successful at kidding myself and I have packed an "extra" outfit, one of the ones that rarely sees the light of day. It never fails though, I come home and stick that one right back into the closet. Other than a few wrinkles that outfit didn't see any action. It never does, and it never will. I know myself. Does this ever happen to you?

As I was making the painting of the earrings it occurred to me that we are all creatures of habit, some good habits, some bad. As I worked at trying to get the shadows right, I had thoughts regarding this topic swirling about my head. My thoughts jumped back and forth between the task at hand and the voice of that "other Carolina" - the "Miss-Know-It-All", the one I can't hide from - the one who stares back at me in the mirror with a pensive gaze making time hang until I succumb to admitting that she is right- the one who takes no excuses ... ever.

The question that the "other Carolina" wouldn't let go of is how do my daily habits affect my life, or rather : are something as minuscule as my daily habits responsible for my life, for the actual outcome of my life and how happy I feel?

Most days I find myself oscillating between exhilaration and depression. I don't know if the "D" word, depression, is the right word for it, but it is definitely a funk - a funk that has been lurking about for a good twenty years or so. The exhilaration part comes from all the creative pursuits I have been doing and you have been privy to, here, on this blog. The funk part comes from the fact that there is a part of me that is being pushed aside, and has been pushed aside for what seems like forever. I don't know if having this blog has peeled back a layer or two exposing what I needed to see, but I have come to see it plain as day.

I want more.

There. I said it. I want more. Yes, I want more from life, plain and simple. I don't want "more" as in more jewelry, more clothes, more stuff - that is all so 1990's and the Lord knows I don't need more stuff to take care of. I want more from life. It seems that my days automatically flip over, from one to the next, as if they are on a rolodex. Before I know it my week is up. When it is time to tally-up my week I am left with a slight "I-don't-know" - my answer to what I would say if you asked me what is wrong. Could my daily habits be responsible?

I want more adventure. Could my daily habits be keeping me from living a more adventurous life? Can I swap out my daily habits for adventure? Can adventure become a habit?

So when do you know it is time to jump, time to change what you have been doing? I believe that the signs to jump and go for the change are there for everyone to see, but we remain unable to see them ourselves until much later. It is like having your glasses fog up on you, you can wipe all you want, but the real way to get to the point where you can see clearly is to just let time do it's thing. In time, everything becomes clear. When I started this blog I wasn't sure if I was ready. Now that a year or so has gone by and I can look at it with an accurate perspective, I realize it was absolutely the right time to start the blog - I can see all the signs clearly now, but at the beginning I was mired in self doubt. I have taken a month off to really find out if now is the time to jump.

I have been doing an awful lot of thinking. I think that at the root of my funk are, indeed, my habits. If I try, real hard, and look at my life objectively, I can clearly see that my life, or the way it has been playing itself out lately, is an expression of my daily habits. My habits produce my life. In order to change my life I am going to run a two year experiment.

I have gone back and forth on wether or not to do this for quite some time now. And I have definitely debated back and forth a million PLUS times wether or not I should actually do all this on the internet. My experiment, although not strange, is not common. My experiment for changing my life is risky, tremendously risky because it is putting everything, life as I know it, on the line. It involves you, too, that is if you are game and have found the same "I-don't-know-what-is-wrong" type of thoughts squirming about your brain . You don't have to be game; you can watch from the sidelines and cheer me on or watch me go "Poof!" up in flames, failing miserably. If I do fail with my two year experiment ... well ... I'll just walk back here with my tail between my legs and hang around until it feels like wagging again.

I have come to realize that some of my habits are actually keeping me from the life I want to have. I ask you, though, if we are creatures of habit, then what? What do we do with that bit of knowledge? Do we not do anything about it? Do we just flip through another day on the rolodex week and watch life go by while somewhere inside we know there must be more?  I ask you, then, what is risk? Really, what is risk? Not stupidity ... risk?

What is risk other than a path to great reward without knowing the details of the path?

My wanting more is directly related to the fact that I have taken the same road over and over again and it is getting me to none other than the same place I have seen before. My experiment will attempt to answer the fundamental questions - Can I change my life by changing my habits? Can a woman reinvent herself, really reinvent herself, without swapping out her family, home, or responsibilities? And even more importantly - Is there more to life that something as simple and mundane as daily habits can keep me from? Can a woman exchange her habits for a more adventurous life? - and more over - Can a woman do it on her own?

In other words - I AM JUMPING. In order for me to share with you my experiment you must click on the words below:


                                     TO GET MORE ADVENTURE ...


The Muse of The Day will remain, as is, a place to share my path to a creativity filled life.

I hope you clicked.







If you had peeked into my living room last week you would have thought a bomb had gone off. I have spent the better part of the last few days getting my kids to camp. Last week we laid out all their gear and made copious lists which we checked and rechecked to make sure that they wouldn't be missing anything. There were sleeping bags, bowls & sporks (fork & spoon in one utensil), dental floss and travel toothbrushes, riding helmets, boots, Teva's, PBA-free water bottles, sun hats & woolen caps, pocket knives, head lamps, stuff sacks, wet gear bags, flashlights, environment friendly shampoo, bath soap, and laundry soap, polar-fleece tops, hiking boots, ground covers, sun block, journals, cameras, waterproof this and waterproof that. The list goes on and on. You name it they had it.

This is the first time either of my girls is going to camp. I feel a bit like a fish out of water with the whole topic. Although I have known for years that many, many parents in the United States send their kids to camp during the summer, I feel like I am letting go of my babies. It seems like only yesterday they were just as little as Alex, the little boy I have painted. I titled it "Sharpshooter" because when he was barely 24 inches tall or so, I remember him looking at me with a sheepish little grin as I said my goodbyes to his mom. He stood there with his hands in his pockets with the same posture of a grown man waiting around at a church for a wedding to begin. He was barely older than a baby and yet, at the same time, also a little man. Just as I was getting ready to leave he drew his hand out of one of his pockets as if he were about to enter a duel with a pistol. I stood there in a trance as barely a second past by and he brought his little hand, formed like a pistol, to his lips, kissed the "barrel" end of his finger,  pointed it at me, and blew a forceful blow of air in my direction. That was it - I had been shot through the heart and I was now his forever. Just like that, in a matter of seconds, he had won me over for life. Funny how guys can do that to us, no matter what their age. From that point on I have always referred to Alex as the Sharpshooter.

This is my first attempt at painting a face, it is a postcard going to Danielle, or Daniela as I have called her for the past fifteen years. I tried my best, Daniela, to capture your littlest one. I found it nearly impossible to convey the softness of his skin. Alex is much too beautiful a child to suffer from the inadequacies of my brush skills, but it will have to do for today. People aren't going to believe that Alex could have such huge, beautiful brown eyes, but I painted them adding no more and attempting to not take anything away. There will be many, many women in the future who will succumb to those eyes and Lord help them if he is still using his sharpshooter tactics.

I could have eaten him alive when he did that. Enjoy him to the max, because as I am discovering this week, before you know it, it is time to let them go.



Alicia Needs New Scissors

Scissors for Alicia

As most of you know, I am more than a bit envious of Alicia's newest addition. I have thought about it often enough, in the past few days, for my envy to be turning to borderline jealousy. I understand, though, that I already run around crazy, like a chicken with her head cut off, and that I don't "need" more chickens to add to the already "nutso" state of affairs up here. It just kills me to know that Rosie is providing an egg a day - that is one beautiful, exquisitely fresh egg every single day! I wondered if Alicia might be getting to the point where eggs, and more specifically the way they have always eaten them, are getting boring.

My favorite way to eat eggs is "Huevos-a-la-Copa". Doesn't that sound so much more flavorful and emotionally charged than "a 3 minute egg"? Three minutes in boiling water and you are done. How simple is that? Of course then you have to remove the top part of the eggshell- when we were little we just used to tap around the top of the egg with a spoon. Our teaspoons were somewhat large, inevitably I would end up with a few egg shell "chips" in my egg. I remember getting scolded a time or two whenever my spitting eggshell chips got a little out of hand. These special little egg topper scissors eliminate any chance of that happening. A little salt & pepper and you are in heaven. Three minutes? That is the fastest meal I know, and that is why I love it so much.

I am hoping Alicia will like getting a bit of lavender color in her mail, as this is her postcard. I should have put a limit on that post. I have made it through the first round (remember the shout out?) and since then others have asked for a postcard. Who am I to deny them a little happier looking mail? I have actually finished Eva's postcard, but it is coming with a VERY BIG post, maybe not so long, but really important. At the moment I simply don't have enough skin to write it all, but it is coming.

In an effort to send out a bit of nice mail to those of you who have been so ridiculously patient, here is the first "family portrait" of the ones I will be mailing tomorrow.

Group shot postcards 6:2011

I will be taking a bit of a break. I need one. I finished homeschooling my kids (HOORAY!!!!) and feel like I haven't had a chance to catch my breath as the summer activities have begun before the ink was even dry on the final exams. Daniela, Eva, Amy, Grace, and Brenda, please forgive me. I finished my 5 week sketchbook class on day three and have been painting ever since. I will continue to work on your cards but I am going to take a few days off and get reacquainted with that guy people refer to as my "husband". I also will be taking some time to work out my thoughts (as well as I am capable of doing) so that my thoughts are clear on the post that is going along with Eva's postcard. I have been thinking of that post for a long time now, and it came to me, again, as I painted Eva's postcard. Daniela - I know you are in line before Eva, I am not bumping you in line (yet).

So there. I will be off for a bit. Maybe I will have a chance to eat many three minute eggs. Better yet, I think I will eat many Huevos a la Copa.


Nine Dragons and a Wish

Chopsticks or Fork watercolor

Did you ever just want to know the answer to something so badly that you actually had visions of just dropping everything and going to find the answer? I have toyed with the idea of just canceling the TV service, the internet service, draining the pipes so that they won't freeze and burst in my house while I am gone in the winter, cleaning out the refrigerator and actually unplugging it, packing my must have items, and simply locking the door behind me, all so that I could find out the answer to one very small question:

Why do most of the people, that live along the Mekong River, eat with a fork, yet as the river breaks off into the tributaries called the Nine Dragons, people eat with chopsticks?

I wonder if the food is different in different areas and so dictates the utensil used. I wonder if the history of French colonial occupation in Vietnam had anything to do with it. I want to see, dish by dish, for myself, if they can be eaten with either set of utensils, or does the food change ingredients or consistency to alleviate any difficulty of using the chosen utensil. I just want to know.

I found out about this quirky little culinary tidbit in the cookbook, Hot Sour Salty Sweet (to find out more about the cookbook click on the link and go to the "In The Kitchen" section, it is a fantastic cookbook/travel journal). You must know that I have been to Asia twice, both times to adopt my daughters. I have spent only a total of a few months there, but that is enough to know I would love to go back. I spent time in Vietnam and also Thailand, both culinary dream places to live for an extended period of time.

I would like to take an extended trip down the Mekong River, a river that begins in the Tibetan Plateau and runs it's course through the Yunan Province in China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The name, Mekong, means Mother of Water. Once it reaches Vietnam, it starts dividing, first in two, then finally, as it slows to a crawl, it separates into nine different channels, hence the name, Nine Dragons.

There are companies that will cruise you down the Mekong in utter style. The colonial era M.S. La Marguerite, will do it, for a pretty penny, so that you can watch the villages go by as you sit watching the sunrise on your private balcony coddled in the fluffy bathrobe and slippers that are provided. In the evenings you can sip on exotic cocktails made with litchis or mangosteens in the Saigon lounge before dining on exquisite fare prepared delicately with the freshest of ingredients laced with the intoxicating flavors of galangallemongrass, and kafir lime.

I don't want to take just any trip, down a river, though. I want to raft the Mekong. I want to experience it as a snail's pace. I want to experience it, not from a deck in my bathrobe, or in heels and slinky dress with a martini glass in hand , but rather in a full sweat, with my shirt sticking to my back, in all it's uncomfortableness, with all of it's heavenly scents, and not so heavenly odorous surprises, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Mekong. I want to come home, not just having seen the Mekong, but instead knowing the Mekong, on a visceral level, having had responded to the curiosity behind my question.

Paul Theroux, one of the "greats" in the travel writing world and an author whom I have read since I was a teenager, said it best when describing why choosing a luxurious mode of travel is not the way to go when you want to be on a voyage of discovery. He said, "... luxury, ... is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing."

So there it is, one of my wishes, one of the things on my bucket list, if you will. I tried my best to put this wish in the form of a painting, on a postcard, for Elizabeth , of the blog Gossamer Wings. Elizabeth is one of the few people on this earth that I would tell to go ahead and pick a restaurant for me. That is not something I would offer up lightly as I have become quite the food snob. I thought, for her, I would make this postcard related to food and one of my deepest wishes. Do you ever have any deep wishes that would require such a complete overhaul of your life that it just remains in what seems will forever be permanent wish-mode? I would love to know.


Mark Making and Mistakes

Mark Making Tears

Postcard #5 is going to Denise, an artist and a blogger, who told me that she was a big "believer in imperfection". Good thing, I think I am in luck in that department. I think Denise is new to my blog, so unlike some of you, I haven't had a chance to grow on her. I am sending her a postcard with my attempts at mark making, mistakes and all.

Melissa P. wrote me an email saying that her postcard was MIA. I told her that it had not gone missing, but rather was here, safely, with me. I have been doing them in the order they came in on the comments section . My plan is to post as I go, but have one last "family portrait" of them all together before I send them. Elizabeth, you are next. Now that we have that little bit of business taken care of, let's go on. Where was I? Oh yes, mark making.

I honestly feel that at it's core, art is nothing more than mark making. Seriously, here, think about it. What more could art be? My best work comes when I have deliberately made marks that actually turn out the way I intended. My problem is not in doing a piece well enough or fast enough, I realize I am doing the best that I can for today, it is actually in slowing down enough. Most of these postcards I have been doing have taken over an hour to do. As I complete them I wonder how could such a small painting, no more than 4"X6" in size, and a complete brain squeeze at that, have taken me that long? As I am actually laying down the paint or making a mark, though, I find myself saying "ooh, that was too fast, darn it, I should have gone slower ... I would have controlled that line, or that shading, better." I think, I may be off, but real art comes when the mark you have made had a purpose with an emotional intention and somehow or another it is successfully communicated to the viewer. The viewer  "completes the piece" when their reaction is on par with the reason behind creating the artwork in the first place. Speed, or time in completion, in comparison to how another artist would have done it, is totally irrelevant. If I ONLY put down the mark I wanted to have there, I have succeeded. Here in lies a beginner's conundrum. It blows me away how many marks my hands make without consulting me first. It's almost like they are on autopilot and I am asleep at the helm.

I know that these postcards, as well as my sketchbook project, are only exercises so that I can have a starting point in the mark making world while I get my feet wet and familiarize myself with the materials I have available to me. As I go along, though, I think I will make a sign for my workspace. Maybe it can be a sign that I can carry with me wherever I end up doing my artwork. The sign needs to say "What brought you to this subject?" or perhaps "Why must this be painted?" Then at every point during the process when I have a decision to make (which color, how thick a line, what gets more emphasis, value, and so on) I need to bring the question and the decision in question to a meeting-of-the-minds, if you will. If they are in agreement, or rather if the mark supports the answer to the question on the sign then the mark should be made. Wow. This is a bit cerebral for me.

Perhaps I will end it here and go see if any of my kids have any chocolate they are willing to forgo. Yeah, that's a good idea.



A Spoonful of Sugar Helps The Medicine Go Down

Sugar Spoon on crochet

This one is going to Carole, a quilter who lives far, far away from me, has never met me, and has no idea how touched I am that she reads my blog and actually left a comment. I love it when you folks leave me a note. Today, my friends, before your eyes you see post #100. It took me about a year and a month to create those 100 snippets of who I am or what I am going through and I have to say I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.

There have been good days and bad days in this past year. Having you along with me has been like having a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. (Please, please, please click on that link). Nothing is ever perfect in life, but I have found that having you along has made it better and more fun.

A huge thank you to each and every one of you for all the fun.


PS - Carole, I am hoping you will feel encouraged to whip out those supplies you have and have a go. In fact a note to ALL of you: I hope you all feel encouraged and have a go at it. I would love to see your results. Do like I did when I started this blog - just JUMP!

The Best Place To Grow Up

 Marburg inspired watercolor

Sheri said she would love to show her two little boys a postcard, so this is the one going out to their family. What is it of, you might ask. It is a painting inspired by a building in the beautiful university town of Marburg, Germany. I first learned about it here on Eva's blog, Eisblumen. I was so totally smitten by the structure that I went on to Wikipedia, Google Maps, and other historical references for about an hour( OK, two). The building captured my imagination and I started creating stories in my mind of whom might have lived in such a dwelling.

What you must know about Sheri, now a grown woman and mother of two ridiculously cute little boys, is that she was a student of mine way back when I was a high school teacher. I loved my students as if they were my very own offspring, so I feel a bit entitled to give them advice every now and then. They, out of kindness towards me, usually sit through and listen to it. Here is my advice for Sheri.

Dearest Sheri, I strongly believe that you already know this advice I am about to share because I remember just how special a person you are, but it is worth sharing nonetheless. I believe that in order for a child to grow into a healthy adult they have to grow up with their feet FIRMLY planted in the land of imagination. By fostering that imagination you, as a parent, are insuring that future generations will think out-of-the-box and work towards progress. All of our most valuable lessons can be learned at this young age and engaged in through the never ending imagination seeds that can be planted at this time.

I went digging through my "stuff" to find these, below. When we lived on the boat, resources of space and materials were limited. What we did have plenty of, though, was the most golden of resources - time. My children loved this simple book, Lentil by Robert McCloskey, the same author of Make Way For Ducklings. You can see them both under Books for Children, under "My favorite books" at right. With it's simple black and white drawings, and it's universal message of "being unique is good", my children were hooked.


To wile away the endless hours out on the open ocean I redrew the most important faces of the story on large bristol board sheets and taped wooden paint stir sticks to the backs of them.

Lentil on a stick

My girls, with their faces hidden behind the "masks", would then feel completely comfortable acting out all the parts in the story. It didn't matter how many characters there were, they just put one mask down and picked up the next. I used pencil to draw them in before committing the drawings to a Sharpie pen. Of course I used my eraser - a lot, but that is OK, after the dark black marker went on you didn't really notice the erasure marks.

Lentil %22masks%22

For hours on end they would play "Lentil", or other stories that we made "masks" for. When ever we got into port, those on the dock, or those who would come to meet up with us at different locations, would be treated to impromptu "plays".

To this day, my youngest one - the one who wants to be a writer, still plays out all the parts to different stories and shows. We have had many a lunch with Gilligan from Gilligan's Island instead of Laela. It makes for never-a-dull-moment kind of living around here.

I hope you and your boys will look at this little postcard and come up with stories of your own. Maybe, when they are older they will visit Marburg themselves. I hope they like it.

Carolina a.k.a. "Mrs. Ellis"

Laela's Leftovers

Laela's Leftovers

Hello, again. I am here with postcard #2, for Penny. It is a watercolor sketch of all that was left over of the pencils my daughter used to write a story with. Laela wrote that story under cover - literally- when she was around eight. She was supposed to be asleep, tucked in her cozy little bed, but no, she went under the sheets with a flashlight every night to write a story that, according to her, just HAD to be written. I kept all those little nubs, and they remain in my studio in a little bowl.

I thought a lot about Penny while I painted this. Her blog, Hands Sew Full, a play on the word "sew", is unbelievably appropriate for her. In fact it is appropriate for all mothers. It is seems, at times, like our lives are running on one of those people movers you see in big airports, and it's set to it's maximum speed. If we jump off for any reason, even for a nanosecond of me-time, we can't catch up enough to hop back on.

Left and right, I hear the same thing from everybody ... "You have to make time for yourself."

Get ready. I am about to make more than a few enemies out there. I think that is the BIGGEST load of *%#$ that I ever heard. What do they mean make time for myself? What is "my-self" if it is not me giving time to those I love and cherish the very most- those I can not live without? What is me-time if it is not doing the daily tasks and chores that allow me to live the life I do live?

What works best for me is to stay focused. When I am teaching Algebra - I ONLY do Algebra. When I cook I ONLY cook. When I paint I ONLY paint. You see if I am doing dishes and I am thinking ..."I should be doing X,Y, or Z", then how on earth am I ever going to not hate everything about doing dishes? Try it. The next time you are faced with a chore, or something that you feel is taking you away from what you really want to be doing, focus only on the chore. If possible, in due time, think about the positive things that there are to that chore. Simply say to yourself when it is time to do "what you want", for example, paint in my case, lately, that you will ONLY do that, when you are doing that activity you love, and enjoy it to it's fullest because you gave the attention necessary to all the other things that made up your life on that day.

I can hear some of you saying to yourselves ... "If I did that, I would never get any me-time." Really? Perhaps you would still get the same amount , you just may not be so bitter about it. I have to push myself DAILY to stay focused. I don't want you to think for a minute my life on top of this mountain is a utopia, zen sort of existence. It's not. If I don't stay focused and just live my life, day to day, I find the bitterness seeping in and destroying everything I have and leaving me with nothing but a toxic mess , and it's mantra is "you have to make time for yourself". Bologna.

If the universe blinks, I lived my life. Nobody else can, or will, enjoy what ever is in it for enjoying, but me. Nobody. Every one of those little pencils wrote words filled with creativity. I want my days, the days I have left, to have a purpose equal to those pencils - I want every day to be filled with creativity. I can be creative whether I am painting, sewing, washing the dishes, or teaching my least favorite subject, math. How can I say that? Because I am absolutely clear on what it is that I am creating... me. When the universe has blinked, I hope my bowl is full.


Laela's Leftovers painting with pencil

I included another image of the painting on the 4x6 inch postcard with one of the pencils next to it so that you could see just how tiny they were. She didn't waste one pencil. I don't want to waste one day.

Make Mine Extra Bold, Melissa

Starbucks X-BOLD

Here is postcard #1, and it is going to Melissa P., a die hard coffee fanatic - just like me. Now if you are a regular on Melissa P.'s blog, you probably already know why she loves coffee so much. You see, she can quilt and sew like nobody's business. She regularly has these long quilting marathons that would make all my hair fall out if I was up against the same deadlines. I can imagine that the "Off" button on her cappuccino machine doesn't get much action. Someday I will get to meet her in person. I can bet $100 it will be over coffee, extra bold at that.

I am looking forward to it, fingers crossed that it won't be too long before that day arrives.


I Am Hooked On Those Postcards

Blue crochet hook

Today's sketch is of my beautiful blue crochet hook. It is not my favorite to actually work with, but because it is like looking at a Jolly Rancher candy in the form of a crochet hook, I keep it around, together with it's sisters & brothers all in vibrant, sweet, juicy colors as well. Here is what it looks like in real life:

Blue crochet hook & painting supplies

If you looked at the final sketch closely, then you will have seen a drawing (or semblance thereof) of the typical patterns used in crochet. I find them fascinating objects in their own right. Although I like to see the crocheted piece all done up in yarn, somehow it never captures my imagination like the pattern schematics do.

Other crochet work

I have been working with the new Rowan yarn called Denim. It is a very soft cotton that supposedly should shrink and the color wear off just like a pair of Levi's 501 jeans. If it does work, I will be swooning.

Blue crochet hook & Denim yarn

Before I go, I want to do a shout-out to Melissa P., Penny, Sheri, Carole, Denise, Elizabeth, and of course, Alicia. I am working on your postcards. I am totally hooked on them. It is too bad one couldn't make a career out of sending handmade postcards to people. If you could, that would be a great job to have. In the comment section of my last post, Alicia came up with the awesome idea of starting a postcard circle. I am going to give that some serious thought as I believe the whole thing could be really cool. I will be thinking of it while working on the postcards. Give me a few days (at least) to make your postcards, as this is the last week of homeschooling (Hooray!). I am having a blast working on them. I wonder if I should show them here, on the blog, before mailing them, or show them after I am sure you all have received them. Either way, what is most important is that I am "on it".

One last thing, I have to share with you that I am GREEN with envy about. You HAVE to go to Alicia's blog and see what she got today. Stop reading and go look. The blood coursing through my veins turned green - totally green- when her blog popped up on my screen. If you have an "in" with Santa, let him know I want one.


Check The Mail

I have been learning that making purple is not as easy as just mixing red and blue together, as I first heard. Different reds mixed with different blues can make colors that vary from pink, to lavender, blue, purple, violet, brick, and a whole bunch of greys. I am attempting to keep it all straight on these watercolor sheets for future reference.

Mixing red & blue
The other thing I have started, really has me hooked - I am making postcards. For my birthday, Darling Alicia (note the capital "D"), sent me a pack of watercolor postcards. The idea is that we can paint them and send them to each other. I totally L-O-V-E that idea. Below is the first one Alicia is getting. (BTW Alicia, I hope you read the title, "Check The Mail" first before seeing your postcard here. You should have it by now.) Below, you can see a photo of the little postcard she is getting.

Postcard #1 to Alicia

I don't know about all of you, but I love getting REAL mail, the kind that you have to sit down to read, the kind that you keep. Other than when the second love-of-my-life, the UPS man, delivers art supplies to my house, the only mail I like getting is the handmade personal ones. I have been the beneficiary of awesome handmade mail from Alicia several times now.

While Laela was gone, she sent me postcards from all the places she visited, taking extra care to handpick the stamps that went on them.


She knows I have been doing that lecture series on Beethoven, so this stamp, below, stamped with the symbols used in the Chinese language, is extra special to me. It was hard to imagine that while I listened to Beethoven, here at home, my babies feet were walking on the Great Wall of China.

Beethoven stamp

My awesome sister-in-law is great with remembering ALL special occasions AND remembering to send a note or a card in time for the event. I happen to be from the more forgetful part of the family - OK, so I lead that camp. It doesn't mean, though, that I am inconsiderate or that everyone is not in my thoughts. My timing is just always off.

Anyways, what I am trying to get at is that if you are in dire need of getting something more special in the mail than your typical postman delivery blues, I would like to send you a card. When you comment, as most of you know, you have to fill out your email. No one will see it but me. Just leave your comment and I will "whip" out my brushes, or my scissors and glue, and begin working on your postcard. I can contact you via email so we can get all the address issues done right without sharing that info with the rest of the world. And just so you know, this is a personal thing .. it is not about selling anything, or getting the word out there about me or anything of the sort. I just thought you might like to see a little handmade colorful postcard in and amongst all the regular mail you get.

Let me know,


Copic ink pens & postcard 


Getting Some Work Done

Ink pen drawing of dental tools

I have been getting some work done. My girls are progressing towards the finish line in Math and I have been playing the part of schoolmarm. I have also been sharing my bank account with my dentist lately so I thought a drawing of his tools would be an appropriate entry for the sketchbook. I have considered doing an entire series of drawings called "Tools I Hate, Results I Love". I have many drawings that I can think of that would fit the bill.

I am keeping this post short and sweet. I have had a long day and trying to get actual words out is tough when I have spent the better part of the day doing Algebra and Geometry. Tomorrow, bright & early my bottom will once again be in the dentist's hot seat. There is not a single cell in my body that is looking forward to it.

Before I go, though, I want to say an ENORMOUS thank you to all of you that read my last post. I had visions of your eyes rolling about when you got your first peek at the length of it. I also want to say that I am touched that I could use this space, here, on the blog, to throw something out entirely different from what I normally do and you still read it. To all the folks from the seventeen countries that read the last post, thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.


P.S. If I happen to meet any of you tomorrow and I come off as being over the top grumpy, please forgive me. In advance,  I would like to blame it on the dentist.

Yes, A Little Lemon Ice Would Be Nice

Open your mind for a bit. Close your eyes for a few seconds and clear it, when the slate is blank, read on. 


    We are lucky to get a seat at the café, even if it is outside on the sidewalk that is busy with people walking to and fro in not much more than their damp bathing suits and simple cover-ups. For a beach day, there has been no relief from the oppressive heat. There is no sea breeze today to make us stop, close our eyes, and appreciate the day. After making our way to the minuscule little table in the corner by the large pot with the wilting flowers and the parched, cracked dirt, we take a seat on the flimsy metal café chairs. As I do I adjust my short cotton dress so that the edge of it gets pulled tight under my thighs, covering them completely. The last thing I want is to feel the burn of the narrow metal seat planks as I sit down. Later on I will be grateful to not have the pattern of the seat imprinted in red relief on the backs of my thighs. My friend, who is as overcome by the sweltering heat  as I am, pushes her sunglasses up a bit on the bridge of her nose to no avail, it seems that the beading perspiration collecting on her face acts like a slide for her glasses. It only takes a moment, but we are finally adjusted and begin to notice the rest of the cast of characters sharing this blisteringly hot afternoon along with us. We watch them in silence, exhausted from the draining heat. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand as I begin to watch the people walking by us on the sidewalk - the mother, casually cocking her head back to tell her oldest child to keep up with the rest of the family, catches my eye just barely, but just enough for her to feel the discomfort of my opinionated gaze. The young couple awkwardly walking hand in hand, shoots a glance at my friend as they sense she is watching them. Despite the heat their sweaty hands remain interlocked. There are the others around us, also in a drained state. We keep staring at them as well, even if it does make them shift a bit in their seats. It is hot. Very hot. Even though my friend has her coolest dress on, a gauzy white shift, I can still see the sweat trickle from the nape of her neck down leaving a moist stain at the edge of the neckline of her dress.

    It has been hot all day. Where is the waiter? Why is it that nobody has anything but a napkin and cutlery on their tables? No food, no tall glasses perspiring in this heat. Voices are muffled, the searing heat seems to dominate, making it all but impossible to focus on anything else but the suffocating heat. I look down at my hands, my wedding band seems to be choking my ring finger as my hands have become swollen in the sweltering heat.

    I force a hard swallow. I need water, a cool...  a cool... my eyelids  close as if in slow motion as I sense a wrinkling of the flesh in the space between my eyes. Where is that waiter? I struggle to lift my heavy eyelids, my friend turns away from me, craning her neck to see something. In the moment I closed my eyes, something happened, something changed. Looking around me, I begin to notice that everyone is aware of the change. The people in the street have stopped walking, mid-pace, as if to silence the noises their bodies were making as they walked. My eyes fix on the dying plants in the pot at my side, I strain to hear what the people are listening for. Wait.

    I hear it. An ever so slight tinkling of tiny bells in the distance coming closer to where we are. I look up. People are checking their thoughts by looking at the others around them, hoping to lock a glance in affirmation, they realize that everybody else also hears the sounds of the little bells.

    The sounds of tinkling bells become louder. I stretch my neck over the table to see where the sound of the bells is coming from. The people on the street seem to be crowding around in a tight mass. Like a pouring of molten sugar on a marble slab, they move towards the front of the café, as they solidify to a stop, I  begin to make out what they are all staring at. It is a girl on a bicycle, more like a cyclo, the kind I saw during my time in Vietnam. Her diminutive size propels her cyclo without effort as the people in the street part, like cupped hands opening to embrace her, to give her space. The bells' tinkling comes to a stop as her feet stop pushing forward on the petals. Instinctively, her feet seem to move half a revolution backwards as the cyclo settles into a dip in the street.

    As my eyes scan her cyclo I forget about the crowd in the street, the people sitting around me, the dying flowers, my friend. I forget about everything. I get up, side step the dead flowers and move closer to the girl and her cyclo. The ice blue colored cyclo has me mesmerized. I notice that the sounds of the twinkling bells came from a row of round silver balls hanging from the sun shade of her cyclo, each ball intricately carved in patterns so delicate that they bely the heaviness of the silver they are carved from. As the girl slips off her little seat, she walks to the front of her cyclo. In the passenger seat she has a wooden box, with carvings that match the silver bells. The entire box is affixed to the cyclo seat with a long leather strap that she has strategically knotted around the box to ensure it's placement firmly in the cyclo seat. I can not take my eyes off the box as her nimble fingers seem to undo all the knots without effort.

    As she lifts the lid of the box, I notice the interior is lined in metal, and inside their is an icy waft of air that is encircling a smaller silver box within. Her hands gently pick up the silver box. I can see that it, too, is carved. She slides one end of the little silver box back and seems to lock it into place. With one hand she holds the silver box, with the other she dislodges from the lid of the wooden box what looks like an ornately carved silver grater. She turns and faces the crowd gathered around. Her eyes seem to be smiling. She brings the silver box up against her midriff and flips the open end of it onto the the grater. She looks up once more, her eyes wide open, she catches my stare. There is a moment, there, where she seemed to know my thoughts. Without taking her eyes off of mine, she draws in a deep breath and then bringing her full lips into position as if to whistle, she lets her breath out, slowly as if letting out a memory and a dream all at once, in the direction of the little silver bells. They begin, again, to make their tinkling sounds.

    As the bells' sweet sounds continue to ring in almost a song, they dominate the moment she begins to use her grater. She seems to be shaving ice into round slivers the size of large half dollar coins. As the slivers come through the grater they begin to fall to the ground. Before they reach the hot pavement she blows one more breath towards her silver bells and it is as if her breath intermingles with the sounds of the bells and lifts the slices of ice so as to make them waft up. The people, as I am, are in a trance. As the slices move up to eye level, we can see that they are a light lemon yellow in color, cut like doilies. As I study them closer, I notice that their patterns mimic the designs on the silver bells and on the handle of the grater. The girl begins to dance around the crowd, grating as she goes, the ethereal fabric from her shirt seems to be floating in the air behind her. I look around and we are in a sea of glistening lemon colored slices floating in the air.

    A child reaches out to one of the slices. With his little fingers he holds on to it, looks at it with an intense gaze and then without any further question pops it into his mouth. His eyes close, as his head drops back, his lips form into a wide smile. His mother follows suit. Before long it seems everybody is reaching out to grasp a ice slice of their own. I can not resist.

    As I reach for one, I notice the sharp coldness on my finger tips. Before I let it melt, I, too, pop it into my mouth. The ice, cool, lemon sensation fills me. My eyelids close as if in slow motion as I sense a wrinkling of the flesh in the space between my eyes. I can no longer feel the exhausting heat. I am no longer feeling the searing sun, my perspiration has stopped. I feel a coolness about me, a breeze filled with relief. All the discomfort I was feeling before is gone.

    I open my eyes. My friend is looking at me from across the table, her hand is pushing her sunglasses on up to the top of her head, pulling back her hair.  She has an inquisitive look in her eyes. I am, once again in my seat. The sounds come back to the surface, I hear laughter and conversations. I can tell that the people around me are enjoying their afternoon at this sidewalk café as they drink their cold drinks and nibble on their food. The waiters flit about. Where? Where is she? I wonder. The crowds in the street seemed to have dispersed. I look around me. What just happened?

    A waiter interrupts my thoughts by asking "Can I get you ladies a nice cool lemonade to drink? It is the specialty of the house. We call it Lemon Ice." I find myself responding to him as my eyes still search the street for the girl with her carved silver grater and her cyclo. I am taken aback by the vibrancy of the beautiful, colorful flowers in the pot near our table, just as this is happening, something catches my attention ...  I focus in on somebody waving to me from across the street. I briefly look back up at the waiter,  "Yes, Yes," I say to him, as soon as he acknowledges what I have said, I turn to look back at the street. I find myself scanning the street for her, but I cannot find her. Without looking back at him again I say, "Yes a little Lemon Ice would be nice."

Girl & her cyclo


A Color Addiction

 lemon microplane #2

It has taken me a bit to put up this post; I actually started it yesterday. As I was finishing this little painting sketch of my new lemon zester, my brain started traveling to the land of make believe. I made two posts, you are getting this one today. If I decide, tomorrow, to post the one from the land of make believe, you will know it without a doubt.

I am posting this one for today, it is about my addiction to color. I think that my addiction to color is the reason behind the incredible desire to create, whether I am working with the plethora of incredible fabrics being created today, or if I am working with more "traditional" artist materials like my paints. I am so addicted to color that I had to buy this yellow Microplane lemon zester just so I could feel more "lemony" while I am zesting. I know it sounds crazy, but that is the way I am. Like most people, I am extremely attracted to color and I have a difficult time understanding the people who roam the earth with an indifference to it. How do they get through their day? I have no idea. When choosing a color for anything whether it be a yarn, a napkin, an ice cream, or a car, the color of the object has to sing to me.  The song has to lure me in. If it is a grey sweater I am looking for, I want the song to envelope me in the mood I am seeking. All greys are not made the same. One can be ethereal, like the color of the daylight that fills a room on a somewhat bright, but yet still grey day as it comes through the white lace of a curtain hanging in the window, another grey can make me feel like I am walking the moors in a thick fog with my head hanging low after having broken up with the love of my life. The only question I have to ask myself when choosing a color is what do I want the song to say?, or rather what is the mood of the song?

As I have been coming along with my drawings and paintings, color questions are beginning to appear. How do I paint the exact color that I "hear in the song"? Although I am trying hard to reproduce colors, I find myself completely inept, wasting paint as if my pockets were stuffed with gold coins. In an attempt to have any money left over to eat with, I am embarking on figuring out this whole color business. I am using the book, Blue And Yellow Don't Make Green. Below you can see the drawing I made of my new palette with the colors I am using to paint.

Color book, color wheel, & palette

The author of the book, Michael Wilcox, also created this lovely palette to make all the theory in his book more "fun" to follow along with. Note I used the word "fun", in no way is it absolutely necessary to have the palette in order to follow his theory. The main wells in the inner circle are actually shaped in the form of arrows to direct you as to which way to go when mixing your colors. The hope is that you will be able to consistently reproduce color mixes and avoid the dreaded mud that can result when you just heap colors together without rhyme or reason.

Wilcox palette

I hope the book will unveil some of the color mysteries I am facing, and I feel like the purchase of the palette is somehow justified now that for the first time in my life I have actually filled an entire sketchbook.

Completed sketchbook #1

This little sketchbook is proof positive that anything can happen when you make up your mind to do something. I am just in love with the fact that the "something" I have chosen to do is feeding my color addiction. 

With you in my thoughts,




To Bee or Not To Bee

Iphone and The Honey Bee


Please, please, please, tell me it isn't so. This morning, like most Sunday mornings, I had my cup of coffee while reading all of my favorite blogs. I love all the art blogs, the sewing blogs, and the creative blogs; it is a great way to start my Sunday. If you look at my "Blogs For Creative Inspiration" list (to the right) you will also see a listing for my favorite "green" blog, Inhabitat. I read it often as it keeps me up-to-date on all kinds of great innovations - all of them very green. This morning they had an article on the effects our cell phones have on bees . I nearly died. According to the article there is research being done in Switzerland that has proved that bees are being negatively affected by the signals our phones are sending out when we use them. They believe cell phones could be directly responsible for the drastic decline in the bee population. Say it isn't so.

I can still remember the day when my husband got his car phone. He had the center console between the two front seats of his car removed to make space for the bulky new gizmo. It was embarrassing to be in the car with him. He looked like Mawell Smart talking on his shoe phone while he zoomed down the highway.


The thing was massive and it had one of those curly old-fashioned telephone cords attaching it to the newly installed box between us. I clearly recall my answer to him when he asked if I wanted one in my car as well. I said "When am I EVER going to talk and drive at the same time?" That seems like centuries ago, but in actuality it was less than two decades ago. Haven't we all arrived at the point where we never leave the house without our cell phones? What would I do if I didn't have my phone? What would you do?

I am willing to give it up - albeit a seemingly impossible and a humongous pill to swallow- if it means our crops will be saved. I have lived most of my years without one yet you can understand my state of shock when I read the article. I didn't want to forget this dilemma, so I made my little daily sketch today to remind me of it. The foreshortening on the fingers of my hand was difficult - it didn't help that my good friend, Lee, called me twice while I was in the middle of the drawing. There I was trying hard not to move while I was drawing and the phone starts going off and "buzzing like a bee". I drew the bee image off the internet, it was way beyond anything I could imagine. I always wonder when people paint birds and insects (and any other animal for that matter) if they do it from real life or from a photograph. Melissa P.? How did you get that hummingbird you once showed me? Or Alicia, what about all those awesome birds you paint, can you do that from life? I just can't seem to do it well enough so that you could recognize the animal. I didn't even try with the bee.

I leave you then with my sketch for the day and the dreaded dilemma we might have to face. I am sure, you too, are hoping it isn't so.


She's A Slow Reader

Porch chairs and painting

Before my husband arrived back from his trip, I was supposed to have finished making the porch cushions (to sit on). As you can see, that didn't happen. It seems like I always believe I can get more accomplished than I actually do. Everything just takes more time than I plan for. I should plan something, double my time estimate and then be thrilled, and shocked, if it gets done any sooner.

As you know I have been totally enthralled with that drawing book, Drawing From Observation. I swear I don't know the author, Brian Curtis, and I don't work for his publisher. The book, though, has blown me away. I own a ton of other drawing books: Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain, How To Draw What You See, Keys To Drawing, So You Thought You Couldn't Draw, The Joy of Drawing, The Natural Way to Draw - you get the picture. My point, here, is none of the 20 or so books I have, have sliced through right to my issue of the break in the conversation between my eyes, brain, and hand, like Drawing From Observation does.


Book-watercolor on trunk slice

It took me a whole hour to read the chapter on Intuitive Perspective, which was just twelve pages long. I would read a paragraph or two, verify it's words by checking and rechecking the concepts presented. This guy was dead on. I now know why I gave up on drawing so quickly so many times before.  No body has been so clear in their explanation as this guy is. The level of frustration I experienced in the past whenever I attempted to draw anything that was not completely parallel to me and my picture plane was so bad that I simply gave up in disgust.

As a child, reading took me for-e-v-e-r. I remember a parent/teacher conference where some well intentioned teacher told my mother that I was "a slow reader" adding that it was "probably because English was my second language."  A slow-reader. There it was, a label, slapped on me like a prank on a piece of paper taped to the back of my shirt as I walked the halls of my school. I could feel that teacher's eyes on me, her face read "oh, poor thing, she struggles so", her body language was something else entirely, it read "Oh, well, nothing I can do for her." ... and so it was. I went through the whole school system thinking I was inept. As I got older, though, I realized the empty nothingness of her words. Why wasn't anybody asking - "if she is a slow reader, does that mean she is a BAD reader?" I mean, really, "she's a slow reader", what the heck does that mean? The problem with what that teacher said was twofold. One problem is that the teacher didn't realize that I was a thinker. I didn't just read it, answer the questions, and get it over with. I pondered, I savored, and absorbed it into my very being just as I do with every book I read now, no matter the subject, whether it be about history, cooking, art, or anything else. The other problem with what that teacher said was that I believed her. Yes, I believed her, just like I have been believing for decades that drawing was a skill I had not been born with and that no matter how hard I wanted to gain that skill, it just wasn't in me, it was in "other" people, but not me. I could not have been more wrong, or more stupid, to believe that. I feel like all the labels have been finally peeled off my shirt. I am anything I want to be. I am free.

My painting, below, of books that had some ends coming towards me and others moving away, is beginning to change what I believe about myself and what I can learn to do. It still is a bit off on some aspects, but "I get it". I feel like learning to draw and paint has been an elusive, beautiful butterfly. The only difference is that now, armed with my newly learned tools, I have a golden butterfly net. I can spend the rest of my life catching my own butterflies, no matter how long it takes me to catch them, just like reading, they belong to me, every word, every brush stroke, every mark I make. I have one less label on my back.

That, my dear friend, is a wonderful thing.

I will be back in the studio tomorrow.



Coming Clean

%22Coming Clean%22 watercolor 5:12::2011
"Coming clean" - the term refers to confession. In this post I am, as they say in these parts, "fessing up". I have been keeping something from you. It is nothing drastic, but I have wanted to share it with you for so long. Keeping my mouth shut has been a daily challenge.

From reading my posts, some of you might think that my husband was inconsiderate. After all, not only have I been taking care of the lawn, but, as I shared here, the only immediate family member I received a birthday gift from was one of my daughters. Where was my husband's gift, or birthday kiss? What about Mother's day? Why didn't I celebrate that? Why was my family separated at Easter? To find the answers you would have had to be living in my house for the past few months.

Let's begin at the beginning. Several years back, my husband and I sold everything we had and took our girls boating, on our boat Discovery Girl, for a couple of years.

Discovery Girl

The plan was to take 3 years and go around the world. Neither my husband nor I came from boating backgrounds, we just had a dream. We learned everything there was to learn about boating. We both became licenced Master Captains, my husband also became a licensed radar operator and a certified diesel mechanic. It took us more than one whole year just to prepare for the trip.

Inspecting the hull

The girls, who were still quite little were going to require schooling on board, so that is how we got into the whole homeschooling thing.

Girls on swing:Discovery Girl

After two years of traveling, we had only managed to cover the east coast of the United States and the northern tier of islands in the Caribbean Sea. We realized that going AROUND the world is really the kind of trip that takes a decade to complete. A ten year trip simply was not in the budget. We sold Discovery Girl and moved back on land.

Gulf of Mexico

Fast forward to now. My youngest, for her thirteenth birthday, completed two things. First she completed most of her school year, math is still not finished. It was tough getting it all done a little over a month ago, a few months in advance of the expected finish date. There were many moments that she simply hated me. It was all necessary to accomplish because for her birthday 


Laela's cake 13

she has gone on a trip and completed her circumnavigation of this earth. My oldest did it a few years ago, this year was Laela's turn. My husband took Laela from our mountain in the middle of nowhere around the world. They started here, In Tennessee, and went on to California, China, India, Africa, Greece, Italy, Austria, France, England, New York, and home again.

Postcards from Laela's world trip

They have had the time of their lives. I am grateful to have them back, in my arms, safely. I want to thank all of you who knew that I was here by myself for all the thoughtful calls and emails when I found myself in the midst of tornado alley. I also want to thank those of you on Facebook who kept my Wall private and free of comments regarding my husband's absence, I appreciate that level of consideration from all of you since my Facebook also carries my blog postings to the world. The same goes for here, on my comment area of the blog.

The several weeks I have had to myself were spent not only drawing and painting, but also getting my oldest (high school) daughter to finish with her year. Mission accomplished there. As you know, this month I have started this sketchbook project. I am glad to have my whole family together once more, but I want to continue on this sketchbook path that I am on so I need your best wishes and prayers. I believe I have planted the seed. I need to simply water it and tend to it daily.

So I remain, "fessed" up.


Don't Sweat The Details

Goodness gracious, it has been a day. I am posting late because this is the soonest I could get to this today. I won't list it all here so that I can make it to the end of this post. I started off early by tending to a chore. My husband hasn't been able to mow the lawn, so I did it today. Things were beginning to have that "house abandoned" look. The grass was so high, the deer could hide out in it. I wanted to beat the heat so I started off early on the lawn instead of doing my sketch. Not a good plan. I was cursing the hills as I pushed the mower over the bumpy terrain. By the time I was done, I was in a full sweat. I hadn't done such a great job either. When I jumped in the shower, I was wondering if I was going to get to the sketch at all.

I made up my mind to do it as soon as I was dressed. What to draw? What to draw? The only thing on my mind was that D%@* mower, so the mower it was.

I set up my easel down under the one of the back decks were we store the mower (and I didn't bother to mow). I was precariously close to plants that I couldn't differentiate from baby raspberry bushes or poison oak. Setting up that easel is complicated, I flip mine upside down to extend the legs. Is there an easier way?

Easel set up

I am still working on that book, Drawing From Observation. The chapter I read yesterday discussed gesture drawing, a quick 5 minute pencil-to-paper session before the "real drawing" begins. The whole purpose of doing a gesture drawing, as I understand it, is so that you can get a feel for the general placement of things and their size in relation to everything else in the picture. The idea is to let your pencil (I used charcoal) flit about trying to "position lines, corners, and edges" without actually drawing something that your brain could put a name to. You can see in my gesture drawing (below) that I was having second thoughts on the placement of the mower's handle. I didn't know I was off until I started in on the pillar to the right of it.

Gesture drawing mower

Once your gesture drawing is starting to have parts that you can name, then you actually are in regular drawing mode, at which point you have to start asking yourself the big questions - like : does the edge of the wheel (see, I named it) end here or a little more to the left, or does the angle of the wheel seem the same in my drawing, is it in shadow or not, and so on.

The completed drawing, below, is all I had time for today. I was attempting to draw a sense of place, rather than a mower floating in nothingness. Getting the floor joists from the deck above looking right was a spot that required intense brain squeezing, but it all was made a bit easier by the preliminary gesture drawing. In fact, the entire placement of the mower itself would have required serious eraser duty had I not spent the 5 minutes on the gesture drawing. I tried not to get bogged down in the little itty bitty details in the beginning and leave those for later.

Mower & drawing 5:9:11

The whole point is to not sweat the details - kind of like my lawn mowing. The lawn IS mowed, just not every blade. OK, more than a few blades are there, clumps, and entire swaths were left neglected, but the lawn has a "mowed" presence about it now that let's the deer, fox, and coyote know this place is mine, not theirs.

The lesson for the day is obvious. Had I waited for all the details of the perfect lighting, the perfect studio set up, the perfect object, and even the perfect mood to be in place, there probably would be no post today. The lawn is mowed enough, the gesture drawing lesson is locked in my brain, and I am happy.

I leave you with a quote from Howard S. Hoffman that Brian Curtis (Drawing From Observation) wrote in his book.

"The only occasion when the eye moves steadily and smoothly is when it is following a moving target."

The way your eye moves is the way your pencil should move during the 5 minute gesture drawing. Try it. Look at a chair and notice, as you look at it, just how many times your eyes flit about, from one spot to the next, taking it all in. In a gesture drawing, your pencil should do the same.

Good luck with it,