Like 2022 and 2020, I went to Portland, Maine, in January. It turns out I love hiking and sketching in the cold!
It was fun to be traveling again - I love the traveling part of traveling. On the plane, I read, or I crochet while listening to a podcast. I people-watch in the airport and sketch and try to eat something decent with a cup of coffee.
I don't just go to Maine to hike and sketch, I go there to visit my friend Andrea! We've been friends for about 35 years and try to see each other at least twice a year. I like to sit in her kitchen and sketch while she cooks.
We went on two hikes on Saturday. One was both icy and muddy, and we turned back before reaching our destination. The other, Mackworth Island, was muddy but more manageable. But both were very cold and windy, so I made a sketch from a photo that I took.
While Andrea made breakfast on Sunday morning (French toast!), I sketched her dining room.
As we started a hike later that day, Andrea got a call so I did a quick sketch of trees and rocks and leaves - just a lot of fun mark-making in a short amount of time.
We reached the summit of Bradbury Mountain and I was excited to find a picnic table where I could sit and sketch while Andrea and I continued to talk (it's like one long four-day conversation when we visit!). I was so excited to be in a place and to have the time where I could make this kind of sketch - full page, from life, of nature.
This took about 20 to 25 minutes and I used ink and colored pencil - the blue/gray of the sky is a Rohrer & Klingner ink called Thea in a Kuretake water brush that I love having it on hand. I sketched it out with that ink and added some diluted sumi ink that I have in another Kuretake water brush, and layered on the colored pencil. It was very cold and that's all I could do!
I guess it's "fall" so i am going to wrap up these Summer Sketchbook posts. I went into summer wondering what summer really is when it's always hot where you live and no one in the house goes to school. But I forgot! I forgot that there's a moment in September when the light changes, the sun is lower in the sky and it starts getting dark earlier. I forgot that the heat breaks and there's a hint in the air that we're not actually hurtling into the sun. So here's the rest of my summer!
These bright, sunny, summery sketches are all from my birthday - I got lots of plants and flowers!
Waiting for food
This is from the taco truck at Summer Ave and Perkins - it's super good! I was just making a list of their meats while waiting, and decided to make a sketch out of it.
More protests. This one was at Poplar and Highland - first time I've ever joined a protest there. I felt like we got more supportive honks than middle fingers.
I ended my Summer Sketchbook with a trip to New Jersey and New York. I had to go to New Jersey for work, so of course I snuck off to Manhattan for some good art time.
I didn't do much sketching there, but I enjoyed it immensely. I usually run through The Met and just see a few things, but this time I wandered around for hours. It was just what I needed.
We had trees trimmed this summer and, while I just could not watch them actually doing the work (because yikes), I did watch a huge pile of limbs just sit there for days. When they finally came to pick them up, I sketched it. Then I cleaned out the fatsia bushes and the view from my studio window changed a bit.
We had a drought in the middle of the summer. My poor fatsia were not only getting more sun due to the tree trimming, they were just super hot and dry, so I researched what to do to help them. Everything I read said that I can trim them between late winter and "late summer," and again I am wondering what that means for us here in this hot hot place. As I am writing this, the 10-day forecast is still in the 80s and 90s, so I will consider late September to be late summer.
The fatsia bushes are so big and old that they all grow together and it's hard to tell where one ends and another begins. To help me with watering them, I made quick sketches of where each individual plant starts.
I love using my sketchbook like this, as a place to explore and keep information. It enables me to capture not just what I am seeing but what I am doing.
When I started my summer sketchbook, I predicted that I would sketch a lot of coffee cups and other everyday things, and I was right! I ended up with 20 coffee cup sketches in this sketchbook. I like to see how many I can sketch - it encourages me to sketch everyday things.
But not just coffee cups! I sketch a lot around my house since I work from home now, so my summer sketchbook is also full of sketches of plants, yarn, books, and cooking.
We watched all of the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World movies and I tried sketching the dinosaurs.
I'm slowly working on a "stash buster" granny square afghan.
My boudin was not good. I will leave that to the professionals.
This is the kind of prep I have to do just to buy a lamp shade.
Fourth of July weekend I went to my sister's house in Gulf Breeze, FL. Isn't it cute? I drew this one nearly in the dark as we stood in the streets with some neighbor kids and went through our remaining fireworks, mostly sparklers but also maybe a bottle rocket or two.
I sketched this very Florida scene - Highway 98 in pink ink - when we stopped for gas one day. When I think of Florida, I think of Highway 98.
We hung out at home a lot - I worked there for a few days - so a lot of my sketches look like what I would sketch at home. We drank a lot of coffee and tea while I was there, and discussed and traded and read books.
I was there for part of Blue Angles weekend - my first time to experience it. We took the golf cart to the neighborhood boat ramp and watched the show over Pensacola Beach across Santa Rosa Sound.
It was such a lovely, relaxed, fun trip and I can't wait to go back!
A couple of Saturdays ago my summer sketchbook and I joined the Memphis Urban Sketchers at Greenbelt Park. I love going to the river and sketching it, even though I don't do that often enough. When I first got there, I sketched a cottonwood to get myself warmed up.
Then I meant to do a thumbnail sketch, but ended up doing a two-page spread light & dark study for a larger sketch. One of the things I look for when I do a big sketch is rhythm, like the dark marks on the left side.
After all of that, I had less time to work on my big sketch, but I still got it done and am happy with it. Painting the river is always a challenge, and I like the way I did it this time - I used a mix of some colors I had already used. This one is in my 8x10 Stillman & Birn alpha that I like to use for painting out in the world.
It was a fun morning! Everyone pretty much sketched this same scene, except for one sketcher who sketched the sketchers!
When I started a new sketchbook on June 1, I decided to make it special by naming it my Summer Sketchbook. As a person who doesn't work in a school or have school-aged children but does live in a place where it is hot from April through October, "summer" doesn't have much of a special meaning unless I make it special for myself. Hence the Summer Sketchbook.
For my first sketch I was looking around thinking, "Okay, what around here is summery." And that's the thing about my summers, they are much like the rest of my year, so I drew fizzy water and desk flowers and coffee cups.
I will probably end up sketching a lot of books, maybe my patio and backyard, and some farmers market veggies. I'll be thinking of summery things to fill this sketchbook with, but also coffee cups and other everyday things.
Materials: Laloran sketchbook, Pigma Graphic 1, Pigma Micron 01, watercolor, sumi ink
In my last post, I mentioned going to New Orleans and posted a few sketches. I was able to take some time for myself while we were there and go to a museum and see the city and, of course, sketch so I thought I'd give some of these sketches a post of their own.
These first two sketches are from the New Orleans Museum of Art, which was quite a treat! The museum is huge and full of great installations, including work by local artists. They also have an amazing sculpture garden - the perfect place to sit and sketch.
Can't not do food/drink related sketches in New Orleans! These are from a great restaurant called Seaworthy, where we had delicious oysters and drinks and chatted with the friendly bartenders.
I took the ferry to Algiers, just to see it and sketch it. In Algiers, I only had time for this very quick sketch of some cottonwoods and the Mississippi River industry behind them, because there was zero shade to be had. But this was a fun quick sketch!
The amazing part about taking the ferry is getting to see Jackson Square from the water. I struggle a bit with how to show the Mississippi River - is it a color? a shape? Here I opted for almost a shape, with marks to show the current.
I blinked and it was June 1st! Here are a few things I've been up to since you last heard from me in February.
Actually since January - I went to Maine at the end of January to visit a friend and we took many walks and ate lots of good food. It was weird/fun to be in an airport again, but I certainly stayed masked up.
Like many others in Memphis, in February my power was out for an extended period of time due to an ice storm. I ended up working from my mother-in-law's house for a couple of days.
In the same month that an ice storm knocked power out for half of the city for over a week, we also had some lovely warm-ish days. My friends Martha Kelly and Christina Huntington and I took advantage of one for some sketching and catching-up time at the Dixon Gardens.
March found me traveling again! We took our 14-year-old niece to New York and had the best time. We went to museums, a show, did some shopping, and ate some good food. As we do with every niece and nephew, we took the Staten Island Ferry, as it's their only chance to see the Statue of Liberty (because Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Toby aren't standing in that line.)
Had more quality sketching/catching up time with Christina during the April meeting of Memphis Urban Sketchers at Elmwood Cemetery. This is right outside of Elmwood's gates.
While I am getting out more and even traveling, I'm still working from home and sketching my surroundings here, mostly at my desk and in my studio. When I started a new sketchbook in April, I decided to start counting coffee cup sketches again, sort of to trick myself into sketching more. I ended up with 23 sketches of coffee cups!
Here are some more sketches of everyday things, including desk flowers. I started buying myself flowers to keep on my desk to cheer the place up a bit. And maybe to have something else to draw.
More travel?! That's right - went to New Orleans for a week.
While in New Orleans, the news hit that the Supreme Court is probably overturning Roe v Wade this summer, so I went to a rally and sketched all of the people and signs, and yelled and chanted with everyone gathered there.
And I went to another rally/march in Memphis when I got home and again sketched, and yelled and chanted and marched and donated to Planned Parenthood.
You're not going to believe this, but then I went out of town again! This time to Chicago for work. But I also got to go to the Art Institute and see the Cezanne show, and took an architectural boat tour.
During the conference, I sketched many many pages like this. Much coffee and fizzy water was consumed.
Then I went out of town again! This time I drove to Florida with my big brother to see my sister and my Mom. I sketched my sister's very Florida yard.
Thank you for sticking around this long! I am promising you, reader who made it to the end, to post more regularly!
Traveling is weird right now, right? Over Christmas, as we did last fall, my husband and I took a big road trip, where we camped and generally tried to stay away from other people as we saw new sites and put new information and experiences in our tired brains.
I always have big expectations of travel sketching because, in theory, I have more time to sketch. So I had time to document Robertson's Ham, a place we tried to stop during a roadtrip in 2008 - we were able to stop there and get ham sandwiches this time, finally! And I generally have time to sketch the places we stop and stay at, such as Villanueva State Park, NM, but only a quick sketch in the dark after setting up our tent.
The type of materials you bring with you for travel sketching are so important! I like to bring a small variety - a small watercolor set, some colored pencils, and favorite pens. This time I brought some fountain pens, but after this early sketch (still at Villanueva State Park) I wrapped them in a zipper bag and put them back in my backpack to stay, because fountain pens don't always do well with changing altitudes - we were at 8,000 feet! - and one of the fountain pens made a mess that I covered up with washi tape. Also, I know that I just tell a better story when I use my Sakura Pigma Graphic 1 pen, in combination with a Sakura Pigma Micron 01.
I also brought a brand new Stillman & Birn Alpha 8.5 x 5.5 as my Trip Sketchbook, as well as the same in 8x10 as an extra sketchbook. In the larger book, I made this big watercolor sketch at Villanueva, then never got it out again. Once again, I know I tell a better story in my "everyday" sketchbook.
Sketching outside can also be a tricky part of travel sketching. We camped in several places, so that's all outside in the cold, and only sketched after getting the tent set up, which means another sketch at dusk. The next morning I was able to take a little more time with some color, but the water in my waterbrush pen froze! That was a new experience for me. These sketches are from Bluewater Lake State Park in New Mexico, where we didn't realize until the next day that the overnight low was FIVE DEGREES. Brrr.
We also got to go into a few restaurants, aiming for when they weren't too crowded. Sketching in restaurants and sketching food are important parts of travel sketching - it adds so much life and character and memory to your travel sketches. Lil's Diner in Thoreau, NM, was small but not crowded and we had some delicious hot food there after our very cold night and morning of camping.
Another thing I like to do is sketch my coffee and whatever else I can at the beginning of my day as a warm-up for sketching for the day.
I love doing quick sketches as we make quick stops along the way, like the one above at the Painted Desert. I had to look at the scene first just long enough to take it all in and make some quick decisions about what types of marks I would make for each feature. It's such a workout for your brain and it's so fun!
Manzanita Campground, Coconino National Forest, AZ
After a few days of camping, we got to the Grand Canyon. It took me a while of looking at it to even attempt a sketch. I was so fascinated by all of the different textures, so I tried that first.
Then I tried color! I just kept layering colored pencil until I couldn't anymore - it was cold here, too!
We went again on Christmas day, and I had time for a couple of quick sketches and a couple of longer sketches. The watercolor sketch felt very fussy, but it was still fun. By the time I did the colored pencil sketch, I was totally relaxed, comfortable on my little sketching stool, and just had the best time getting to know these shapes.
I'm glad that I bring a bit of variety - watercolor and colored pencils - since watercolor just didn't come to me as easily on this trip. It's like that sometimes, and what I have success with varies.
Next up was Monument Valley! And more camping - I sketches this quickly as the sun was starting to set, hoping to catch some of the light. In order to quickly sketch a lot, I squished the landscape together.
Monument Valley was so fun to draw - there are pull-offs all along the highway, so we kept stopping and I would just sketch everything as quickly as I could. At this point there was no more thinking, just sketching.
The rest of the trip was mostly driving, but I managed a few more sketches while we were on the road and before returning to the real world.
I need these occasional breaks from everyday life to recharge my imagination. Looking at new things, putting new images and experiences in your brain and heart is good way to reconnect with yourself.
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