The first time I ever saw a unicorn

The first time I saw a unicorn, I was on Chincoteague Island. I was painting plein air in the woods on Assateague… I was trying to capture the memory of when Paul Beebe saw Misty for the first time…I rubbed my eyes, (ended up with pastel all over my face), but yes, it was still there! A REAL unicorn! It shimmered and it was almost ethereal, like it was a vapor, or maybe it was a mist rolling in. I don’t know but I’ll never forget when I saw that unicorn!

The unicorn

This was a painting that I did several years ago. I came across it recently and thought it would be perfect for an assignment/prompt from Carla Sonheim’s ‘Best of 365.’ I added the unicorn with Procreate.

As far as painting it on location in Assateague, this is true and I actually was trying to capture the feeling Paul Beebe had when seeing Misty for the first time (as described in the story; Misty of Chincoteague.’)

Maybe some day I’ll meet another unicorn on Assateague.

My thoughts on pre filled Watercolor palettes/sets

Sketchbook Skool posted a nice article on pre filled watercolor palettes.

There were lots of goodies on that post and yes, these are nice watercolor palettes. I have been wanting to try to QOR watercolors but I can’t quite justify the purchase to myself except for collecting a watercolor set that I just don’t need or probably won’t use as much. I do have the Pocket Palette that I filled with my own colors and I use it all the time when I am out sketching and I don’t feel like squeezing out paint. (photo below)

I read the article and I know that Sketchbook Skool has a lot of beginner artists and this was my advice to them:

 A suggestion to Beginners would be to hold off on the more expensive, expansive sets and just start with something basic.  Beginners are better off buying a small plastic palette and squeezing on some tube paint on the palette to carry with them.  You can get a lot of painting done with just 3 colors. A cheap Prang set is OK to start with as well, to see if you even like painting with watercolors.  A pet peeve of mine is the colors in the sets aren’t always colors you are going to use and some of these sets are sickeningly expensive. To spend a lot of money on a fancy set with colors that don’t get used is a waste of hard earned money.  Go with a few tubes instead.

 Also, Watercolor isn’t for everyone and with so many other portable water media like gouache and acrylic, and even watercolor pencils and crayons out there, it might be better to limit spending on fancy expensive sets and instead, play around with a limited palette of a couple of colors in different media to see what fits you. Don Colley uses Faber Castell Pitt pens extremely effectively.  Roz Stendahl is a Queen of Gouache.   Rob Sketcherman uses the iPad. James Gurney switches it up with watercolor, gouache, casein and also oils. There are even water soluble oil paints. (Check out Gurney’s videos and you’ll be amazed how he works with a limited palette.)

The point is, start BASIC.  Experiment.  Play with the materials.  Cathy Johnson and Roz Stendahl, for example, teach the way I learned as an artist.  And I had 8 years of learning between an art focused curriculum in High School, then studying art and getting a degree in Art from college.  You need to know how to mix colors.  every new color purchased should be run through your other colors to see how it blends and mixes. Cathy covers this in her books and her blog, so does Roz.  Make color charts.  Terry Ludwig of Terry Ludwig Pastels STILL carries around the oil paint color chart he made on scraps of canvas when he was young.

As you grow (with daily practice), you pick up skills and preferences.  There is no magic palette or magic brush or pencil or pen.  There is ONLY constant daily practice.  ANY practice, just do it.  I painted over 600 (give or take) plein air paintings (not including the over 80 something sketchbooks) and only about 250 plein air paintings don’t make me cringe, and many, I can proudly say, look pretty damn good.  But I didn’t learn that overnight.  It was years of practice.  

I am adding this comment here, it wasn’t in their comments: Some of you have seen me write this before…Anyone learning to draw and paint has to understand that Tom Brady did not jump out of his bed one morning to say, “Hey, I want to be the greatest Quarterback ever” and then walked on the field and won the Super Bowl. No professional athlete does that, unless you are a three year old thoroughbred with the potential to win the Kentucky Derby. Even thoroughbreds have a few races under their saddle. Every single human athlete, EVERY one, practice their sport for many, many years to get where they are. The same thing applies to artists. You don’t get to be good without practice and most are masters in the later years in life. Why? Because of the many many years of practicing their craft.

I’ll leave off with this:

I learned to paint oils and watercolors from Joan Shih.  Most of you probably never heard of her but she was an excellent educator and painter.  She was a purist and “No tricks” were permitted in our watercolors.  I learned from an amazing lady.  Her color palette consisted of a warm and cool red, a warm and cool blue, a warm and cool yellow, two greens and neutrals…..Cadmium Red Deep, Alizarin Crimson*, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Hookers Green Light and Viridian, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Ivory Black. ( I can still hear her accent as she said the names of the colors.)

*Alizarin Crimson is a fugitive (fading) color that many artists have replaced or use a synthetic permanent version now.

What do I use today?  I use all of those colors or have them handy in each media I use except Hooker’s Green Light.  (Titanium White gets added to opaque media) but here is my disclaimer:

As I have grown as an artist, I developed my OWN preferences, 

Quinacridone Gold is my yellow ochre, Raw umber was replaced with Burnt Umber, I rarely use Cobalt or Cerulean Blue anymore,  I use Cascade Green and Sap Green now and only use Viridian for really green grass or trees, and I love Quinacridone Coral as my red.  I like purples and oranges from a tube. I love Indigo Blue.

 In my Pocket Palette that goes everywhere with me, I have Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Blue, Sap Green, Cascade Green, Quin Gold, Imperial Purple, Indigo, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Organic Vermilion, Carmine, Quin Violet, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.  Each and every color was carefully selected for maximum use for all scenarios.  I had to leave out the Corals or the Moonglows to go with colors I used most of the time or that I know I will need the out sketching or doing small paintings on location.

You color palette is as individual as you are.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works for you.

Mapping this moment

I haven’t done a map in a while. I decided to post one for the call for artists for the ‘They Draw and Travel’ Blog. They requested that artists submit a map that records this moment in time. Art in the time of COVID-19.

I decided to map our morning walk. We are fortunate to live in Florida in a less densely populated area. Lock down meant not being able to go the beach but we could take neighborhood walks.

Our morning started out in our circle which looped a little over a mile. We lapped it three times before we started to get bored so we started to leave the circle and we love our walks and all the creatures we see. We’re always exited when we see something new. Currently, plumerias are blooming and there are these umbrella shaped trees with the most gorgeous flowers.

We see many of the same people, some are recorded on the map.

And if you look carefully, there is an aquatic ‘map monster’ in the neighborhood who has grown since last year.

A word of caution for non Floridians; ALWAYS assume a body of water has a gator.

A little video….

I took Carla Sonheim’s class on animation called “Make it Move” and it was fun and really helpful. I enjoyed it a lot and it gave me ideas how to handle animating my art in the future. My head is popping with ideas.

One assignment was to animate some collage pieces…..this is a very short video where I used a homemade background and three collage pieces to make a small scene. The kitty and the “rod” where pulled out of my paper stash. I don’t know where kitty found the bikini top.😎

Remember, this isn’t Disney, just a little fun playing with paper…..

Kitty goes fishing

Paisley project

I am taking a portfolio building class that I actually signed up for the end of last year… it runs from March to June…May’s assignment was to create a square shaped paisley design.

I started this project in several steps and I approached using Zentangle patterns. I really enjoy doing Zentangle shapes. They are very relaxing.

Then I tried a Carla Sonheim technique to come up with a design for the square (those bits and pieces of color are actually collage pieces:

And I added color.

Then I pulled it into Procreate and played with it some more. I spent a lot of time in the Procreate phase. I added more paisleys and tweaked the color and this is my final piece.

This week’s sketches

Happy Mother’s Day to the mom’s out there…It’s another week during Corona Virus World. I have been spending my time creating art, which is business as usual for me.

We’ve been watching Ozark in the evenings and finished the first season and are in the second season. That series shows how lies just make people dig bigger and bigger holes for themselves.

Here is last week’s dailies….

I took Carla Sonheim’s 10th Year Anniversary class and one of the lessons was “Cheater Blind Contour” drawings which I love and I have been doing some every day.

Here are some:

And here are some combined with my brush pen 5 min timed drawings….. Enjoy!

April Dailies

Here are the daily doodles for the past four weeks. I just that I have three more weeks worth of pages in this sketchbook and I need to decide if I am

1) continuing these dailies (I like them so I probably will),

2) spend money on another 500 series Strathmore mixed media sketchbook (the dailies don’t need mixed media paper)

3) try one of the toned Strathmore paper sketchbooks of the same size which I have on hand (do I really want to do these on toned paper?) or

4) Make a sketchbook like the one I used when I first started doing these

So I have three weeks to figure out what I will be doing with these… the meantime here are the ones from the past four weeks….

My West Side Story project

I signed up for a bundled group of workshops back in November, before John was laid off, that were running this year. They are for building my on line portfolio.

April’s assignment was West Side Story. I actually found this assignment to be a lot of fun, however, a lot of work. It was done using multiple media and many, many phases and changes to reach the final result here.

I still could do a lot to it but it was due by 3PM today so it is what it is….