Cathy Sketching at Le Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5

The Drunken Boat, Burlesque Convention, International Sketchcrawl Reminder

Cathy Sketching at Le Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5

Cathy Sketching at Bateau Ivre, Sepia pen and watercolor, 8x5"

We had a wonderful Tuesday evening sketching and dining at Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) in Berkeley. The ambiance and food are fantastic. We sat in the dining room with lovely brick walls and a fireplace. When we sketched there last year we sat in the café area which is equally charming.

International Sketchcrawl 35 is Saturday, April 21!

Here is a link to the Sketchcrawl website where you can find out if there is a group sketching near you (or start a location yourself).

San Francisco looks to be a particularly juicy sketchcrawl, starting in North Beach and ending at a free Burlesque Queens sketching marathon at a hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf, hosted by Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The  burlesque performers are in town for the Tease-O-Rama, a “showcase and convention dedicated to the thriving neo-burlesque revival.”

Unfinished sketch of stuff on table with bits of business card

Unfinished sketch of random stuff on table with bits of business card

Monkey Business: New Journal Bound

Monkey Business Journal, covered in flannel, 8x6"

Monkey Business Journal, covered in flannel, 8x6"

When I was a kid I had a sock puppet that looked like this so when I saw this fabric at the store I couldn’t resist. I used a piece of it to cover a cushion on a stool about 5 years ago and then put the rest on the shelf. I needed to bind a new journal right away and was too lazy to go shopping for book cloth or to make my own. Hence off the shelf and onto the book!

Monkey Business Journal inside

Monkey Business Journal inside

For the end papers I used some lovely warm grey paper a friend left at my house from a family history book-making project I was helping her with. This was the first time I could use my case-bound journal making instructions all the way through without needing to revise them and it went really quickly.

Monkey business journal

Monkey business journal

I’ve actually been using this journal already for a couple of weeks and writing this post prompted me to name the journal which I hadn’t yet done. Calling it “Monkey Business” will help me to lighten up as I use it, to get more playful and fool around and let go of “right” and “good” which always trip me up when I get in that judgmental place when I’m drawing, instead of just enjoying the act of looking and sketching what I see.

And since it’s red flannel it’s warm and cozy–perfect for fall sketching.

How to Turn Potato Chips Into a Sketchbook

Foil bag of potato chips, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

Foil bag of potato chips reflecting on red cloth, ink & watercolor, 5x7"

When my friend Mindy sent me a fun little gift box of potato chips (which were invented in her town, Saratoga Springs, in 1853–read funny history here), I was smitten by the cute box (photo below). Then I opened the box, saw the foil inner pouch and had to try to draw it (sketch above, on a red cloth).

Box of Saratoga Springs Chips

Box of Saratoga Springs Chips

The box was charming, a replica of their original packaging from 1853. I remembered seeing  journals created from packaging on the fabulous Make a Book a Day blog where Donna Meyer binds and posts a new book almost every day. In August she did a whole series of recycled packaging books, from KitKats and Snowballs to root beer books.

Saratoga Chips Journal front cover

Saratoga Chips Journal front cover

So I grabbed a sheet of Stonehenge Kraft-brown paper and the excellent Gwen Diehn book Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books to find out how to make a pamphlet book and got started. Read More

The End of Harlequin

Harlequin cover, Sketchbook 2011 A

Harlequin cover, Sketchbook 2011 A

When I finished the journal above I decorated the cover and sketched a self-portrait as I do for the last page of each sketchbook. This journal is called Harlequin (theoretically because of the multi-colored cover–the back is turquoise, the front is lavender with black spine covering). I know the word “harlequin” has nothing to do with patching together leftover bits of bookcloth to make a cover, but I let my sketchbooks name themselves and this one wanted to be called Harlequin.

I used (expensive, oil-based) Sharpie Paint markers for the color on the cover but they didn’t show up at all on the black and required several layers on the lavender. Despite the art store clerk’s recommendation, Sharpie Paint markers are not meant to be used on fabric. Annoyed with the markers, I switched to a gold gel pen for the words and lines.

End of sketchbook self portraits, ink & watercolor

End of sketchbook self portraits, ink & watercolor

These are the two journal-ending self-portraits sketched on the last spread of the book above. I don’t know why I refuse to try for accuracy when I sketch self-portraits. I just draw and see what happens instead. The first one (on the left) feels like me, even though the proportions are wrong. The one on the right is wrong in so many ways I might as well have been drawing a completely different person.

Newly bound journal

Newly bound journal

I’d planned to experiment with dying my own bookcloth for the new journal like Shirley does, but when I went to the store to get the Wonder-Under (iron-on stuff to fuse fabric to paper backing) I fell for this linen fabric and used it instead. My adventure on the previous journal was figuring out how to patch the bookcloth together. This one was figuring out how to fuse the fabric to the Thai Mulberry paper per Shirley’s instructions (the hardest part was figuring out how to peel the almost invisible paper backing off the Wonder-Under). Maybe next time I’ll dye fabric.

I’ve also updated my file How to Bind a Watercolor Journal (as I do each time I bind a journal and learn more) and it’s available to download on the Comments & Resources page of my website,

DUI: Drawing Under the Influence

Hydrangeas; Attempt #2, ink & watercolor

Hydrangeas Attempt #2; Painted directly without drawing and ink lines added after finishing attempt #3

During days of dismay at my disappointingly dismal drawing dexterity I determined to draw ’til I improved. But I was under the influence of migraine medicine which fixed the headache but left me drowsy. I actually fell asleep at the drawing table, dropped my brush on the page which woke me up, and had to go lie down for a spell between drawings.

Hydrangeas Attempt #1, ink & watercolor

Hydrangeas Attempt #1; drawn in ink, painted with ugly dark background which was then sponged off and a bit more paint added

My hydrangeas are bursting with vibrant blooms so I made them my subject. The first attempt got off to a decent start until I painted a nearly black background, probably due to my really dark mood and being too doped up to know when to stop.

I couldn’t stand the way it looked, so before scanning tonight took a soft, wet sponge and washed off the dark background. Then I dropped a little more color into the wet background.

Hydrangeas Attempt #3, ink & watercolor

Hydrangeas Attempt #3, ink & watercolor

I had the most fun with this last attempt, where I drew and painted more loosely, trying to capture the flavor and personality of the flowers.

New Journals Bound, New Problems/Questions

Newly Bound Journals

Newly Bound Journals

On the left is the new journal I bound for International Fake Journal Month and on the right is my next all purpose journal that I bound with Legion Multimedia 140 pound watercolor paper.

Since it had been a few months since my epic journal binding learning experience, I had to replay many of the videos and look at my notes to figure things out. And I made a bunch of new mistakes to learn from.

I have one big, confusing question. (UPDATE: See Comments for answer from Roz and note from Shirley) When I punched sewing holes I followed Roz’s video, along with Shirley’s tip to use a phone book to support the signatures. I punched four holes just like Roz did in her video demo, instead of the five I punched last time. But when it was time to sew the signatures together I couldn’t figure out how an even number of holes could work. When you have an odd number of holes and you start on the outside of the folded signature you always end up on the outside at the end of each row so you can attach each signature to the next. But with four, if you start on the outside you end on the inside. I’m guessing Roz was preparing a different sort of book.

Fortunately I had torn down extra sheets, thinking I’d bind two journals but I put aside the set I’d punched with four holes and punched five holes in the second set. Either I’ll find out how to bind with four holes or I’ll go back and make one more hole in each signature before binding them.

I also used Shirley’s tip to glue up the binding board and then place it down on the book cloth instead of putting glue all over the cloth and that was sooo much easier.

Some new mistakes I’ve learned from this time:

  • MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE! (or in my case measure 3 times just to be sure).
  • After gluing down the board pieces to the book cloth, I should have burnished them with the bone folder to ensure a consistently strong bond (a few small wrinkles showed up in the cover where it didn’t bond 100%).
  • Don’t make the book so thick; use fewer signatures so it is lighter and less tiring to hold when sketching standing up.
  • When you use “self-endpapers” that doesn’t mean adding yet another folded sheet, making the book even thicker. It means just gluing the book block directly to the covers (I think–correct me if I’m wrong). I had picked an ancient map print to use as end papers in the green journal but decided I didn’t like it at the last minute. I liked Shirley’s idea of just using colored drawing paper instead.
  • Make the  sewing thread long enough so you don’t have to join it in the middle (thus having to once again struggle with knot-tying from diagrams that are totally confusing).
  • Don’t use white thread and white headband ribbons on black books.

Now I’m coming to the end of my journal bound with 90 lb Arches cold press paper. I will be sad to put “The Mutt” as I named it, on the shelf, as it has become a trusted friend and companion. And I really came to enjoy the paper, once I started using my Lamy Safari fountain pen to draw with.

Soon I’ll be getting to know a new journal, with new paper and new possibilities. I think I shall name it Froggie, given its green color, warts, and all. Someday maybe I’ll make a journal that is elegant and give it a posh name but for now, mutts and toads R Us.

Mechanical FrogAnd I’ll write more about the black/brown journal in April when I start using it for International Fake Journal Month.

Dignity, in New Fabriano Sketchbook

Dignity, ink, 9x10" in Fabriano sketchbook

Dignity, ink, 9x10" in Fabriano sketchbook

When I saw this woman reading on BART I had to draw her. She seemed to express the essence of dignity to me. She was carefully dressed and groomed, all in white,  grey and black, with her hair covered in a white crocheted net and that wrapped with a perfectly ironed bandana, tied in a tiny bow in front.

This was my first drawing in my new Fabriano Venezia sketchbook that Roz had tested and praised and that I bought in a couple of sizes from Wet Paint. This is in the 9×6″ size. I left the first page blank to serve as a title page/table of contents later and did this drawing on the next page. I was totally in love with the sketchbook, writing a little rave review on the page of this first sketch about how wonderfully smooth and thick the paper was, and how nicely it worked with the Micron Pigma .01.

I was a little concerned about how much larger and heavier to carry around it is than the Moleskine watercolor notebooks I’ve been using, but thought it would be worth it. BUT when I tried to scan my drawing and the book didn’t quite fit on the scanner, cropping off part of the image, and the middle seam caused half the image to blur and have a dark shadow, no matter what I tried.

Then tonight I tried adding a watered down ink wash to her jacket, which had been black. The paper acted very strangely, not at all like I’d expected. I knew it wasn’t watercolor paper, and thus wasn’t sized, but now I’m now worried how these books will react with watercolor. I guess I’ll find out soon.

Here’s the same image with the ink wash that went all splotchy.

Less Dignity with ink wash

Less Dignity with ink wash

She was so carefully groomed, with everything perfectly ironed and smooth and now she looks much less dignified with her splotchy jacket.  I don’t think the ink wash added anything positive to the drawing, do you? And I don’t think adding more ink to try to make it smoother or darker would be a good thing either.

Experimenting with Gouache & Rotring Art Pen

Last roses, ink and gouache

Last roses, ink and gouache

I  saved two rose buds to paint when I pruned my roses last week (in case winter ever comes to the San Francisco Bay Area—it’s been ridiculously hot and sunny). By the time I could get back in the studio, one bud had opened and my order of M. Graham and Schmincke gouache arrived. Although I planned to test the new gouache by making color charts first, I knew the roses wouldn’t hold up much longer. Also included in my art supply order was a new Rotring Art Pen.

I tried out the gouache and pen in the sketch above. I also wrote a quickie review of the Rotring Art Pen and offer some technical information about gouache by experts on the subject. If you’d like to know more about gouache or the pen, please click the “Continue reading” link below.
Read More

Found on a Walk

Found on a walk #1, Ink & watercolor

Found on a walk #1, Ink & watercolor in large Moleskine watercolor book

One of the advantages of a semi-urban neighborhood is the wealth of detritus that can be found on a walk to bring home and draw. Near the end of my daily walk is the “cat house”: a mossy, old cottage on the edge of small “urban park” (empty lot with grass). The homeowner is a kind soul who feeds the cats who live in the “park”. She also puts out bags of unwanted “free” stuff.

My first find of the day was one of those “free” bags—full of books in great condition. I selected the above, a 1963 edition of “You Can Draw” with dust jacket intact, Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” which I’ve been wanting to read, and a funky old edition of “Everything that Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor. I appreciated the title’s nod to perspective drawing and a quick browse of the book intrigued me to read more.

The little symbols around the edge of the sketchbook page above were my experiments to create a little signature/date symbol after seeing the marks that some of the artists in “An Illustrated Life” used in their sketchbooks.

Found on a Walk #2, Ink & watercolor

Found on a Walk #2, Ink & watercolor in large Moleskine watercolor book

When I’m walking I’m attracted to shiny things and remants of life I find on the ground. These bits include the seemingly racist “Pancho Lopez” wrapper for a pre-paid phone card, a losing lotto ticket, a claim check for “Latham Square” and a piece of a dog-walker ad.

Found on a Walk #3, Ink & Watercolor

Found on a Walk #3, Ink & Watercolor in large Moleskine watercolor book

Lastly, some holiday remains: a bit of an already abandoned Christmas tree, a piece of fluff from a Santa hat or stocking (?), fall foliage and some little seed pods.

It was a great walk; a bit blustery and it started to sprinkle as I reached home, ready for a hot cup of coffee and the drawing table.

Coffee With White Socks and Sales Lessons

Coffee & White Socks, 8x6", graphite

Coffee & White Socks, 8x6", pencil sketch in sketchbook

Trying to recover from a caffeine hangover headache this morning, and completely out of coffee at home, I walked (slowly) to Peet’s for a latte and a bag of beans to replenish my supply. While I was sipping and sketching this lady, two clerks from the nearby Trader Joes sat at the table next to me and held a training session that provided an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the grocery business for the always curious (and eavesdropping) me.

They took turns reading aloud from a document contained in a bright blue cardboard folder. I learned that the average checker completes about 200 sales per day and that that number is used to compare the productivity of workers. I learned about when and why they have to declare goods unsellable and that they then donate them to food banks, including flowers.

They pondered that one for a while, trying to figure out who would actually want unsellable flowers and what they would do with them. They concluded that food banks probably don’t need flowers so they must go elsewhere. But I was thinking the flowers would be nice to brighten the homes of the needy people getting the food.

Don’t Get Old and Confused — Get a Clue

Get a Clue Necklace (detail); click images to enlarge

Get a Clue Necklace (detail); click to enlarge

Memories! Everyone I know is losing theirs including me. Ater repeatedly walking into a room and then forgetting why I’d gone in there, it occurred to me that if I carried clues with me, I’d save lots of time and extra steps.

So I invented the “Get a Clue Necklace” complete with a key ring, a tiny flashlight, sticky notes to jot down reminders, an attractive small pen to write them with, a magnifying glass for small print, an optional “My name is…” tag with a reverse side note “If found return to…” should I ever get REALLY forgetful, and a little pill box for those vitamins I always forget to take.

Below is the full page which you can click to see bigger to read some of the funny quotes about aging, as well as my list of the pros and cons of aging back when I made this.

Get a Clue Necklace; 12x9", mixed media

Get a Clue Necklace; Mixed Media, 12x9" (click to enlarge)

Here are a few of the choice quotes from the piece:

Gloria Steinem:

I’m at the age when remembering something right away is as good as an orgasm.

Whenever I meet a woman over 55 who’s just fallen in love, I always ask, “Are you taking hormones?” I tell her, “If it turns out you’re in love in a way that’s not good for you, stop taking them.”
[Addendum: Gloria Steinem, the feminist icon who once dismissed marriage as an institution that destroys relationships, became a first-time bride at the age of 66, a few years after that quote was printed.]

Peg Bracken, 81 at the time this quote was printed, said:

“These are your declining years and you can jolly well decline to do what you don’t feel like doing!”

Right on Peg, wherever you are now!

P.S. When I saw Illustration Friday’s prompt this week was “Memories” I had to share this, even though it’s from my journal several years ago.

And one more Pro to add to the Pros and Cons of aging is that when your memory goes, everything old becomes new again. Stories and jokes you’ve heard (or told) before sound vaguely familiar but since you can’t remember the punchlines, they’re good for a whole new round of laughter.

Painting popcorn ball flowers (hydrangeas) instead…

Hydrangeas (popcorn ball flowers)

Have you ever been so sleepy you’re just slap-happy silly? That’s how I was yesterday. I’ve been trying to change my schedule to get up early and go to bed early but after a few days of doing the former but not the latter, I was so sleep-deprived yesterday afternoon that I just stopped making sense, even to myself.

When I get over-tired, instead of thinking, “sleep,” I think I’m hungry and crave carbs (and now research is showing that sleep deprivation causes weight gain and other health risks…see here and here).  So instead of eating popcorn (or going to bed at 7:00), I decided to paint these “popcorn ball flowers” (as my sister and I used to call hydrangeas when we were kids…and I thought everybody did until I Googled “popcorn ball flowers because I can never remember their real name, and discovered only recipes for making flowers out of popcorn and no references to hydrangeas!).

First I had to refill my watercolor palette because a couple weeks ago I’d washed out all the funky old paint that had been in there for too long. Some of it was getting moldy and all of it was dirty.  Before refilling my palette, I did color tests of all my paints to decide which pigments I wanted to use now. I love organizing things, so this was a perfectly soothing task for a tired mind.

Finally I was ready to paint, and grabbed my homemade 6×8″ sketchbook filled with hot pressed Fabriano Artistico paper, and this bouquet of hydrangeas from my yard that I’d plopped into a drinking glass the day before. Instead of starting with my usual ink drawing, I used pencil and then painted using more of an oil painting technique, starting with the darkest darks instead of the lights.

Maybe it was because I was so tired, but I had so much fun, just being playful as I painted and not worrying about the outcome. As usual I wished I’d stopped about 10 minutes sooner and someday I’ll learn that “when you’re 75% finished you ARE finished!”  Some day….

If you’d like to know which pigments I settled on, click “Continue Reading for the details…. Read More

Better than Plastic: Blue Glass Water Bottle

Blue Bottles

While eating dinner, reading an art book and drinking water from this bottle I became fascinated by the bottle and had to immediately go paint it. The bottle came from from Trader Joes filled with sparkling water. It makes a great reusable water bottle. I washed off the label and just refill it with filtered tap water and a squirt of lemon from my lemon tree and then refrigerate it.

To avoid buying and throwing away tons of plastic water bottles (you’re not supposed to reuse them because they can’t be cleaned properly) I’ve tried a variety of lexan, Nalgene, and stainless steel water bottles. I like to use this glass bottle at home (it’s too heavy and breakable to be portable) and a Kleen Kanteen stainless steel bottle with a sport cap when I go out.

What did we do for water before water bottles and car cup holders? I guess there were thermoses but those weren’t for water. I remember carrying a large purse to middle school in order to carry my big can of hairspray, but I know I never carried water.

When I was a kid, doctors didn’t recommend drinking 8 glasses of water a day like they do now, but they did recommend cigarettes. One cigarette brand ran ads in medical journals with the claim that its cigarettes were “Just as pure as the water you drink.” One of the most infamous cigarette advertising slogans was associated with Camels:”More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” That ad appeared in medical journals and the popular media for eight years.

About the painting: 6×8″ on Arches cold-press 140 pound watercolor paper in my handmade sketchbook. Mostly Winsor Newton paint plus the bright turquoise on the right side of the big bottle from Kremer Pigments. The funny shadow on the right actually looked like that but it made me happy because it reminded me of the amazing pot and shadow studies, which I adore on Alison’s blog, Scribbles Adagio.

Life: NOT as Seen on TV

NOT as seen on TV

Ink & watercolor (Larger)

“Life is what passes you by while you’re watching TV.” I used to have a little sign on my TV with those words, but back then it was a reminder to my kids, not to me. Now I need it for me.

I was chatting with my friend Lin [View from the Oak] about our struggles to find time for everything. Lin manages to paint or sketch every day, post it on her illustrious blog AND leave wonderfully encouraging comments on countless other blogs, all while working a grueling schedule and making time for her husband, offspring and grandbabies.

It occurred to me later that day: I bet Lin doesn’t watch TV! It turns out I was right. Other than the art videos she watches while on her treadmill, she rarely watches TV. She said that sketching IS her TV, her way to relax.

I used to be like that too but somehow, over time, TV has insidiously infiltrated my life. I turned to it as a way to relax when my brain was tired from thinking hard all day at work. But it puts me in a stupor so I just watch another show instead of doing something more satisfying (or just going to bed when what I really need is sleep).

Now it’s time to pull the plug! I may even cancel my cable and TiVo subscriptions and go cold turkey for a while. I bet that not only will I gain time and save money (on cable and TiVo bills), I might even lose a couple extra pounds, since watching TV often leads to snacking on empty calories while burning none!

Have you successfully quit TV? If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,091 other followers

%d bloggers like this: