4×4 Project


I am actually planning – yes, PLANNING – my first 4×4 Project painting.

I’m leaving the project name open so I can go in any and all directions my Muse offers.

One of my inspirations for this particular painting is the concept of LOST EDGE.  I love lost edges (or disappearing edge if you prefer).

My other inspiration is a phrase that I found myself writing down as I was watching a series of Red Madonna videos.

Will the final face look anything like this face?  Who knows.  However, drawing the face gives me the opportunity to PRACTICE.

On the facing page are my notes and inspiration.  I will be adding notes about color choices and design elements.

In fact I plan, there’s that word again, to work with color options on a sample to decide on the ones I will use.

A very different approach to my usual just jump in and see what happens – or, worse yet, have an idea and then do absolutely nothing with it.

Creativity takes many forms

studio creativity nov 2015

I added a tiny little Daler-Rowney easel to my new work surface – so I could work upright on my little canvases.

But these table top easels do have a tendency to slide about.  I wanted the ability to weight it down.  So I got creative….

I had a burlap bag that came with some gourmet popcorn – a piece of heavy ribbon once wrapped around a throw – a plastic ziploc bag that I filled with fine white playground sand that we happen to have a bag of in the garage – and voila!

Put all of that together and I have a decorative weight to hold the easel still while working.  And in an neutral color that won’t distract.

How perfect.

Art supplies


I went by Michaels to buy a pen…. and stumbled across a one day sale.  Buy 1 get 3.  I was surprised to find that even these multiple canvas packs were included!  I bought 6 packs of 4×4 gallery canvas (9 per pack) plus 3 packs of 6×6 gallery canvas (4 per pack).  I figured out it comes to about 85% off buying them separately.

I have had a project in mind for this size canvas and only have a few in my own stock room (yes, I have a stock room of canvas and paper and art supplies – sad, really sad).

And the pen I went to buy (with a 50% off coupon) was the Elegant Writer calligraphy pen.  I’d seen a demo of how this pen works with water by Jane Davenport.  OMG!  How cool!

Cool tools

I was thrilled to learn that all the colors react to water – although the black has the most fascinating multiple color reaction.   I’m going to be playing with this particular cool tool!  More to come.

It really is bleed-proof!


Today I received my RENDR journal and it is indeed bleed-proof paper!  It even took a tiny bit of water (which this paper also says it can handle).  I wanted to see if either of the pens I used would react with water – nope.  In fact those large areas of shading are just water and will probably just dry out to white again.  I’m thinking tomorrow I will take a little watercolor to this sketch and see what happens.  I want a disappearing edge to the left – I do love disappearing edges :).

But true bleed-proof paper!  Hurray!  I’ll be buying more – in fact I found out it can be purchased by the roll, okay!

I don’t know if you can call this a true squiggle…. or maybe a squiggle is anytime I just sit down and play about with a pen on paper.

Issues with scribbles


I have ordered some paper that is supposed bleed-proof – we’ll find out won’t we.  This paper is not proof against a Sharpie.  You can see yesterday’s echoed behind today’s (and vice versa).

I can remember Watts warning against squiggle drawing – because you see you get carried away with squiggle lines – always searching for the right line.  I suppose with time, however, that the search for the right line would get easier and easier – yes?

M-yah.  Struggle with noses continues.  And I almost had the head tilt till I did the eyes, they needed to be smaller and further up the forehead.

But it is all about practice – and not perfection.  Learning… learning….



I had a pen sketcher’s pad, made for markers and the like and thought I’d try it.  Still bleeds through a little where I’ve over-squiggled.  This is a semi-squiggle.  Or maybe it is more squiggle then contour, I don’t know what you’d call it.  I think if I’d had some sort of plan it wouldn’t be so all over the place.

Late night squiggle


One should really never draw on the back of a page where you’ve drawn with a Sharpie – you get bleed-through on most papers.  I’ve done my best in Photoshop to remove the bulk of the bleed-through.

I squiggled away until my smoker emerged.  No plan.  What absolute fun it is to just squiggle and work with whatever emerges.  Amazing what happens.

From Overwhelm to Expedition


I struggle with recurring overwhelm.  Fascinating creative possibilities abound, as does worry about having time enough to get to everything.  And how to decide where to begin or what to do next, oy!  All too often this overwhelm leaves me standing like a deer in the headlights in the center of my studio or else has me spinning in dizzying circles.

In my own inimitable style, demonstrated throughout my lifetime, I find myself jumping in with both feet to hit the ground running.  Luckily I am nothing if not flexible and fairly practiced at picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting all over again.  While it may be frustrating to dash around the artistic field of endless possibilities – it has also been enlightening. 

I have to say that the biggest revelation to date for me from this artistic Voyage of Discovery that I have chosen – there see I have made at least one choice – is how this is a lifetime journey.   I’ve discovered I will never be done (gasp!).   There will always be more to learn, more to create.  Art is a lifetime exploration.  That said, I have without a doubt grown as an artist in the last seven years.  

And this led me to designing and sharing my ART EXPEDITION 2016,  just click on the item in the menu above (or click here).  I’m excited about this next stage in the journey!

And I hope you’ll share it with me (at the bottom of the page is a “follow” widget).

psss:  Here is a really good article on how we can’t do it all that arrived today, how perfect.



I’m going to have to create a Squiggle Book, this is so much fun, so… freeing.  Just squiggle and see what happens, maybe with a model, maybe not.  No telling who is going to emerge.  These guys are the results of today’s squiggle fest.

I’m loving working with a pen.  Amazing really.  Perhaps because I know I can erase pencil I worry more about perfection.  I can’t erase pen, I can just squiggle more, so there is no worrying about perfection.  Sometimes that results in keepers, like above – and sometimes in just a mess of squiggles, which I threw out.

Such a great way to experiment and play.  A daily squiggle keeps the creative doldrums away.

Training the eye…


I think I’ve found something I can use to practice and train my eye.  And anything, but anything, from a book cover to a real person, even an imaginary person, can act as inspiration.

Capturing form.  Capturing shadow.  Capturing an abstract likeness.  Mapping (as Watts calls it).  And just having fun, running with a dot – rather like running with scissors :).

I’ve been looking for a practice I could do daily – and I’ve found it!

I love how in my drawing it appears as if she has relaxed from the pose just a bit.

Another drawing exercise

I began taking journaling classes from Jenafer Joy in 2013.  She led me to Shiloh Sophia.  I have sporadically continued to take classes from Jenafer.  I must say that I’m missing working with her – this when I get a free exercise in my inbox every week, which, as you probably have guessed I don’t do.

I intend to change that.  And return to classes with Jenafer in the new year.

Meanwhile, I thought I would share a contour drawing exercise she, serendipically (is that a word?), sent this week.  Enjoy.  Perhaps you might like to sign up for one of Jenafer’s classes.

Meanwhile, let me share Jenafer’s recent blessing, just three weeks old.  I swear in every single photograph of this sweetness she is always, always, smiling :), like mother like daughter I suspect.


Contour practice 2

Taking a dot for a walk


Oh yeah, this is fun!  Even when creating an imaginary face – just letting the dot create the lines and see what happens.  Not a continuous line by the way, just continuous pieces.

I’m going to experiment with this.  And you know what – it isn’t meant to be perfect – no pressure drawing, nice.

Contour practice 1

This is FUN!


One single continuous line takes time, careful thought and planning.  I didn’t manage one single line in either of these.

But these are such FUN!

You get this abstract likeness that is rather cool.

I’m going to have to do more of these.  Pure play and experiment!

Especially good to do on days like today when I’m feeling rather peaked and not artsy.

Will be fun to fill in with watercolors too.

L’invisible Atelier: Line

A line is a dot that went for a walk.  Paul Klee

I discovered this wonderful educational video series – they talk portraits and line, how perfect is that.

LINE – without taking that dot for a walk you’d have nothing.  There is no art without line, whether intentionally placed or not.

The line can be straight or curved, horizontal or vertical or diagonal.

It can be made with a pen or pencil or brush or a wide variety of tools, as wide as imagination.

It can be smooth or jagged, thick or thin, or a combination.

Amazingly a line can express emotion or an idea.  Yep, just a simple, or not so simple, line.

A line can be a simple outline.

Or it can follow a contour turning something from one-dimensional to two-dimensional to three-dimensional.

A line can be a gesture that expresses movement.

Personally in my own drawing, I have been totally amazed to discover over and over again what a difference a single teeny tiny line can make in a portrait or drawing.

I first discovered the taking a dot for a walk way back in my first year as an artist – here is something I created at the time:


Reminded me of braille and the importance, that still exists, to support braille literacy!

L’invisible Atelier: Elements of Art

Attending an invisible school is challenging. It is up to the student to discover the curriculum, intuit assignments, and chart one’s own progress. Most of the professors are imaginary, yet stricter than you’d expect.  One of the biggest challenges for me was to keep remembering that I was an ISAWIT student. Finding my classrooms was also hard…   Theo Ellsworth, artist

Several years ago I ran across this description of the struggle in being a self-taught artist.  It is so accurate!  I thought of this invisible school when I had my recent idea….

I’m going to be doing some studying, learning, writing, designing a class for myself really, about the elements of art.

I have been working as an artist in total ignorance.

I began as an artist knowing absolutely nothings, nada, about the elements of art.  I rather jumped into the deep end of the pool and learned to swim.  No one taught me.  Luckily I had a knack or aptitude and thus didn’t drown, aka: quit.

But I feel the lack.  And I think this is holding me back.  I’m finding that when I take art classes, like Watts Atelier, they rather assume you at least have a grasp of the basics.  Uhm, not me.  I have taken a don’t confuse me with the (what I was sure were inessential) details attitude.

I thought it would be very good for me to at least review these basic elements of art.  So maybe I can grasp what other artists (yes, “real” artists) are talking about.

Just how many elements of art are there?  Most agree there are 7, and all agree on those 7.  A few list 8 elements of art, but they don’t agree on what that 8th one is.

In the video above the first 7 are the ones all agree on:

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Form
  4. Space
  5. Color
  6. Value
  7. Texture

I lean towards 8 elements, but I’m not sure I agree on ‘type’ as the 8th element (as in the video above), or on ‘pattern’ as the 8th which I’ve seen, or with ‘tone’ as the 8th either.

I feel the 8th element is:   Light

After all light is how we see – and art is all about the visual.  Perhaps many include light in the color category or in the tone category – but I believe that both color and tone come from light – even pattern sometimes when you think about it.

And I’m going to share it all here – because this is how I learn – in sharing.  I’m calling it L’Invisible Atelier.

Coming Next:  LINE

I have this idea…


Suddenly I had this idea….

I love how her upper lip has ended up looking like she is perhaps blowing a bubble….

And I wondered….

Can I incorporate bubbles somehow into this painting?

Or would it be best to save for another painting – one of a mermaid perhaps, underwater, hair waving about her head like a mantle….

just an idea….

I’m also loving the colors of this painting – absolutely loving the colors!

Considering an element


I love my discovery of using plain old chalk to draw with when I’m considering if I like something.  It can so easily be wiped off if I don’t like it or want to change it.

I’m considering a scroll to represent the element of ‘choice’ – knowledge, self-knowledge, enlightenment and veils of illusion.

So hard to think about covering so much up, even with a transparent veil.  But turns out this painting is all about being bold enough to do just that – to let go of attachment.

Moon Six: Fine tuning…


Went in and made adjustments.  Just some fine details.  The philtrum and the line of the jaw.  DONE

I think her head is slightly tilted now…

Amazing what happens with just a slim sliver of line.


Here’s the black and white version.

Moon Six: Go Bold


That fiddly little wing was really bugging me.  She was telling me I was working far too hard to preserve an area I liked, had grown attached to.  I did really like those amoeba shapes.  I was also working far too hard to “make do” with the squiggly lines – that worked fine with the amoebas but not for a wing.

So I got BOLD and loaded a brush with paint and…. boldly brushed in a wing.  And then wiped a little area out to recapture a little of the amoeba shapes (grin).

Then I began working on her face.  A little of this…  A little of that…  A touch here…  Another there.  Experimenting.  I’m still not happy with the philtrum – ha!  Watts anatomy I now know what that is!  And the shape of her jaw line is still not right – I think I’m not being bold enough there either.

I’m ready to move on the Moon Seven tomorrow.  I’m finding that it isn’t necessary to complete one moon before going on to the next.  They ebb and flow together.

Moon Six – Symbol for Guidance


I decided that a wing would best represent guidance, Divine guidance.  I thought I could turn an existing mark into a wing.  It’s not there yet.  Yes that wiggley bit to your left is a wing, or will be (I hope).  I might should have just a simpler stylized wing.

I played around with my empty bowl symbol – adding a bit of decoration.  I don’t know why I bothered, I already know it will be covered up.  But I did want the darkness, the emptiness, within the bowl to be evident.

My symbol for personal choice, the logical side, is next.

And the face needs a little shaping around the chin – and some further dancing with lights and darks.

Actually I’ll be ready to move on to Moon Seven next week.

Moon Five (Part 2): the dreaded glaze


I had to photograph sideways in order to capture the indigo blue of the glaze.

Yes, the integration glaze is scary.  You often feel like you’re covering up things you’ve grown attached to.  I mean you like it and now you’re going to mess it up!  But that doesn’t happen.

I did wipe away the glaze from some bits – and applied it more heavily in others.

I didn’t use a whole lot of water but enough that the color ran in areas – and I like what happened.

I must say that I’m loving the depth that a glaze gives.  And I’m finding out that you can really play about with layering with a glaze for different effects.

So I’m ready to move on to Moon Six.  And just might be on “schedule”.

Moon Five (Part 1): Warrior Marks


I finally dived into, and completed, Moon Five.

My warrior marks are very subtle.  Dots, I just love dots, beside the eye and the mouth, on the ear.  And hash marks at the corner of her eyes and on her neck.  Such marks don’t need to be large or obvious to carry weight.

She wears them proudly for everyday.

Oh my, a class after my own heart!

Ah-hum.  Did I say something, anything, about no other classes except Watts?

You knew it was so much bunkum, didn’t you?

Today I stumbled “accidentally” over this class.

Oh my!

I can’t resist – simply can’t.

Let’s face it, I have a new class to explore for 2016.

Ready (or not) to return to Watts Atelier

All through October I didn’t draw one single line of Watts Heads Phase II.  Not one!

I worked only on the Red Madonna painting.  A distraction?

Probably.  I’m really really good at distractions – that I don’t think are distractions.  Fear – that I don’t recognize as fear?

I had withdrawn TEMPORARILY from Watts at the beginning of October so I could concentrate on the exercises.  Then I stopped doing anything at all.  Sigh.

So the end of this month I’m going to return to Watts at the painting level (which also includes the drawing classes).

Gouache Phase I is scheduled on the curriculum after Heads Phase II.

But nothing says I have to wait till I’m finished with Heads Phase II to begin the Gouache class!!  Just my linear brain!  If I want to begin painting already I can.

I need to get back on track.  Perhaps diving into something new will renew my focus.   And by new I don’t mean some other class.

I don’t know why I stalled really.  Any clues for me?