Ink, Yarn & Beer

my life a bit at a time


June 6, 2018

Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  It’s a heady feeling.  Instead of ending my work day at 6:30, it now ends at 4:30 for the next 2 days, then next week at 3:30, and then after that, 5 weeks off (maybe 4, I haven’t really counted) until I return to work for 2 mornings a week to do a short summer school session of ESL (English as a Second Language) before another 2 off  and then begin my last year of work.  Retirement looms closer and closer, and what is a girl to do?


Yeah, I mean that.  Practicing for retirement means finding a meaning and a purpose and a general “raison d’etre” so that life is not a series of TV and aimlessness.  It doesn’t mean finding a second job or a new vocation, it means simply doing things which have value and meaning to me.  Volunteer work?  Maybe.  What kind?  Where?  Why?

I have all sorts of ideas about what I want to do, and this summer, with my free time, I really want to explore things.  LIke a lot of old folks free from the traces of work, travel sounds really good.  Of course, photography and painting and reading.  Exercise – going to the gym – long walks – hiking – socializing – thinking – making – sewing – painting – egads!  My head is exploding!

It Gets Overwhelming

June 3, 2018

Returning to watercolor is becoming an obsession, and the more I look at the work of various watercolorists, the more I become mentally deluged with images and colors and styles and painters.  It is a seriously crazy-making experience!  Like photography, most of what I do is really not good at all – from downright awful to meh – but it also becomes rather distressing.  That’s when a break is necessary, like making chocolate gelato or going out for a hike or looking for a new pair of shoes.  Just do something different to break out of the ruts of daily life.Focusing on “direct watercolor” – painting without any preliminary drawings or value studies – is sort of what I am trying to do on a daily basis.  This is from a photo, and the study was windows and reds and buildings.  The proportions are off, and that feels like failure big time.  The colors were all the dregs on the palette, so most were muddy and not interesting, but determined not to waste paint, why not?  I also used a water brush, and that can make colors even murkier if you don’t squeeze out excess water.

Another direct watercolor painting, this time limited to a 1/2 inch flat brush for everything.  The colors are cleaner, for sure, but the contrast of light and shadow are off.  The fun part was learning that yes, you can paint with only a flat brush.

I admit, I rather like this one, because I like its brightness.  However, after I finished it, I got a good laugh over my totally unrealistic chimney (or whatever that thing is) on the top of the building in the upper right.  What dimension is that in?!

I think I am going to return to this one again, as it is from a photo I took a couple of years ago along the coast.  The bluffs are really intense.  The problem lies in rendering the ocean and beach below them – lack of depth and overworking.

This is a WIP – from a black and white photo to consider light and dark.  I am going to try to work on this one today, or the one below, which is from a macro photo of a dahlia or similar flower.   I started this one in my Friday afternoon watercolor class.

Lastly, sometimes just a quick interpretation can give a lot of satisfaction.  There is something about light-colored walls on a brilliant day, colorful flowers – here, a rambler rose – and dancing shadows.  I would like to do this one again, too, on a bigger piece of paper and a more formal and finished work.


May 31, 2018

I love mornings!  They are the time of day when everything is new and fresh, and each day is a gift.  Add to that I fall asleep at 9, and you can tell I am a morning person for sure.  Usually I spend my mornings reading the news – but that is becoming less interesting as I change my usual morning habits to spending anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour sketching or doing some form of watercolor, structured, unstructured, from an object, a picture, or my imagination.  Hopeful that I don’t dump my paint brush into my morning coffee (believe me, it has happened more than once!), here are some pieces from the past few weeks.

Doing these paintings and drawings every day is resulting in some good experiences and increased confidence in what I can do.  There are times everything sucks – no perspective, no contrast, whatever – and then there are times when it comes together.  And times when that proverbial “ah ha!” moment hits, and what has been intellectually clear is now clear in the mind-muscle-eye coordination when rendering paint.  Occasionally I use line, other times I don’t and just paint, thinking ahead to figure out what goes where.  Stepping back to critique things is also a worthwhile endeavor – fresh eyes after a few days.

In a couple of weeks – no school!  I’ll be free until I pick up 3 weeks of ESL at the end of July.  Until then, painting, continued cleaning up and unpacking after the flood, and a trip or two here or there.  Summer awaits!

Covered in Paint

May 20, 2018

A workshop all day Saturday, playing with Yupo (a plastic paper) and masking fluid.  What did I accomplish?  A familiarity with two unknown – unfamiliar – items.  I produced not a thing worth talking about, and truth to tell, if a friend at the workshop hadn’t shown up, I would have been down in the dumps – I FORGOT TO BRING MY PALETTE OF PAINTS!

Oh, well.  But, it did get me rolling, and this has been a weekend spent immersed in watercolors and studying techniques by watching videos on YouTube, specifically, those by Rick Surowicz.  I followed two of his, one called “Creek’s Edge” and the other called “The Inn at Brandywine.”  His stuff is great.  The question is, will I carry his lessons into my own paintings, not copies?

So, here is what I did this weekend – the first is the “Creek’s Edge” and the second is my rendition of the “Inn at Brandywine.”

On the Way Out the Door

May 19, 2018

I am heading out this morning at 8 a.m. to a watercolor workshop down toward L.A.  With so many things in boxes, waiting to be placed somewhere in the studio, I’m lucky to have anything to take with me.  It’s amazing how simple the flood was (we had a pipe break, FYI), how long it took to repair all the damage and do the upgrades (why not since the whole house was torn up), and how much longer it seems it will take to put our lives back together.  Like finding a specific brush or some paper or whatever.  I did some unpacking yesterday, and today, no . . . watercolor instead.  We were joking that it will probably take longer to unpack than any other part of this home repair adventure!

It’s been a nutty week.  Crazy end-of-the-school-year stuff.  Testing.  Stressed out kids.  I can hardly wait to be done with it all, and even more so, done with working and having a life during retirement.  To make life productive on a personal level, I’ve tried to draw or paint every morning before heading out to work.  Simple sketches, no lines, using watercolors as the way to do things.  Nothing really exciting is being produced, but what is good is the daily practice.  It does make things work better and it adds to a store of knowledge that comes only with practice.  Here are some of the things I did this week.

As well as putting my art supplies and books back together, my photography stuff is slowly getting straightened out.  I picked up some film I had processed.  I took both my Nikon Df and my Oly OM4-T with me to the botanical gardens down the road.  Film always has a quality to it which digital lacks.  I was excited to see how the auto exposure feature worked on the Oly as I only recently acquired the camera and had a test batch of Kodak Ultramax 400 in it.  I used a 35-70mm zoom, and was really pleased with a number of the photos.  Everything was in bloom – or ready to bloom – so I tried to catch as many colors as possible, from deep reds to pink to yellow and white.   I am really glad to have space now to keep my Pakon 135 set up, and the laptop I use exclusively with it, in its own space, plugged in and ready to roll.

Now, look at my check list and get on with the day!  While I am gone, J is gonna be brewing.  What happy little campers we will be at the end of the day!



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