Signed, Sealed, Delivered. . .

Posted by on Apr 30, 2012 in commissions, the business of art | No Comments

. . . it’s yours!

Some artists don’t like to do commission work. Maybe they don’t like to eat, either. Or maybe they aren’t very good at understanding what other people want. Maybe they are rebellious adolescents trapped in the bodies of adults.

I like commissions.

It is a fun challenge to make a visual representation from a person’s verbal description. It is very gratifying to have a happy customer at the end of a job. It is a wonderful thing to have a sale without all the will-she-won’t-she.

During the Three Rivers Artists Studio Tour Ten, several folks asked me to paint specific things for them. As a California artist, naturally I was thrilled to receive confirmation that California poppies and giant Sequoias are always a popular subject.

These poppies were unfinished, sitting on the easel, looking like little butterflies when Amy spotted them. She asked if she could buy it before it was completed. I think I said, “Um, sure!” (Hopefully I was more polished that that.) This was painted from a photograph that my very generous mailman brought to me; he’s just thoughtful like that.

Christine asked me if I thought I could get inspired to paint a Sequoia in the snow. I said, “I’m always inspired if someone wants something.” (Hopefully I was a little more polished than that.) I went through my photos, picked one, and happily dove in, well inspired and eager to do my best for Christine. She now has it and is very happy.

That’s the goal of commissions in my little business.

A California Artist Goes to Washington, Part Five

Posted by on Apr 27, 2012 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | No Comments

While I was in Washington working diligently on the upcoming book The Cabins of Wilsonia, I had the delightful companionship of Penny, a little black dot of a dog, whom I called “Pen Dot”. She took the edge off missing my three cats.

And here is an average view on an average morning on an average walk in Carol’s area. Those are the Olympic Mts. in the distance. (I knew you were just dying to know.)

In addition to slaving away at my upcoming book, The Cabins of Wilsonia”, we went on a yarn crawl. It is sort of like a pub crawl, but it involves yarn shops. (Bet you figured that out on your own.) Have a peek:

This had the most yarn, the most samples, the most customers, and was the friendliest.

And just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be any more new and exciting adventures, Carol pulled this out of her bag of tricks – a scooter! I laughed and laughed until my teeth hurt from the cold wind.

This was my view. The helmet didn’t make my hair nearly as horrid as the ferry. (Thank you for your concern on this matter of extreme importance.) We went off to a place to take in this view.

There might have been a tiny amount of trespassing involved. I’m not sure, and I’m not admitting anything. Just speculating.

When it was time to go home, it got sunny! This is first time I have ever had the thrill of seeing Yosemite from the air. The pilots often point out the various peaks along the way, but no one has ever mentioned Yosemite before. I just happened to look up from my knitting at the right time! Half-Dome and El Capitan show up if you study this photo.

And thus we conclude the five part series about a California artist in Washington. Working, of course. It was a business trip.

The end.

A California Artist Goes to Washington, Part Four

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | 2 Comments

My trip to Washington was to learn Adobe InDesign so I can put together the upcoming book, The Cabins of Wilsonia. It was a business trip, of course. I worked very hard, of course. You’d expect nothing less of me, right?

However, it was necessary to take another ferry ride to another town to visit some of the dearest people on the planet to me. Their names are Ron and Ruth, and they have had a special place in my heart since I was 13 years old. Words fail me when I try to express my respect, love and appreciation for them, so you can just look at this photo and feel the love. Almost makes me go crybaby to see it. (bad hair, but not Ferry-hair yet.)

I was so overcome by getting to spend time with them that I spent the entire ferry ride back just marching around the top deck, around and around and around.  It got sunny again, really brilliantly sunny, freezing cold, but fabulous.

Carol taught me to make little origami stars. She taught me many things in addition to Adobe InDesign, which was the reason I went to Washington. (I have to keep saying this in case you think I was just messing around. Adobe InDesign wasn’t something that makes my blog look attractive so I have to supplement this report.)

A California Artist Goes to Washington, part three

Posted by on Apr 25, 2012 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | 4 Comments

The reason for my visit to my friend Carol in Washington was to get some focused one-on-one help in learning to use Adobe InDesign. The reason for scheduling it in April was because I figured I’d have a decent number of drawings finished for the upcoming book The Cabins of Wilsonia, which is the purpose of learning InDesign.

Or, was the purpose of going in April THE TULIPS!??

North of Seattle is a wonderful agricultural area called the Skagit Valley. (Not pronounced “skag – it” but “skaj -it”) I used to visit my uncle and aunt in that area and always felt at home because of the agriculture and because the mountains are in the east, just like Tulare County. (minus the heat, foul air, high unemployment and maybe even with fewer fat people – sure, go ahead and move there, I don’t mind! May I visit in April?)

Flower bulbs are grown commercially there. Bulbs have to flower before they can be harvested.  Of course, you have to pay to get in. There are no shoulders of the road for pulling over, and all the fields are located away from the roads anyway so even if you wanted to break the rules, there is no point. I believe Roozengaarde is the 2nd best amusement park I’ve ever visited. (The first best was in Gilroy, California, and I have forgotten the name. Again. Natalie, you listening??)

There I go with my primary color obsession again. Perhaps this is the floral interpretation of A River Runs Through It.

There were tons of people, mid-day, mid-week. I overheard one woman say, “Being cold and muddy isn’t my idea of a good time. Besides, I’d like a real toilet.” And I heard the father of a young boy say, “Stay out of the mud because we only brought one pair of pants and we paid $15 to get in here so we are NOT leaving after 2 minutes.” This California artist understands that cold and muddy are a temporary condition, well worth braving for scenes such as these. (Inspired by beauty, nay, DRIVEN by it, as you may recall from this post.)

There were still fields of daffodils that hadn’t yet faded. Those are the Cascade Mts. in the distance. (I knew you were dying to know, because I would have been.)

A good thing about all those people is that you can hand your camera to anyone without first threatening to hitchhike. (Read April 23 to understand that remark.) Most everyone hunkers down in the mud so they are surrounded by blooms.  (You’ll be happy to note that my hair has recovered somewhat from that ferry ride and my face looks better than yesterday, although you had far too much class to mention it. I had to show you the bad photo so that you’d appreciate my regular flat hair and smile.)

This is my favorite shot. I was lucky to get it just before a large purple coat entered the scene. Happy to take those cold muddy risks so you all can vicariously experience the joys of the Tulip Season.

A California Artist Goes to Washington, part two

In Washington, this California artist took her first yoga class. Being a get-‘er-dun sort of chick, I think we could have skipped the nap at the end, and possibly some of the soothing talk about erasing our minds at the beginning. (And how in the world is one supposed to “breathe with your spine”? I like using my nose to breathe, but thanks for the {useless} suggestion anyway.) On one of the poses I looked over at Carol and we were both shaking with laughter. I mouthed to her, “I can’t believe we are doing this in public!” Had to stop looking at each other to continue the moves.

I also learned how to use something on my computer called Photobooth. On Carol’s computer actually. I haven’t looked for it on mine because it causes me to laugh so much that I can’t type.

That’s some seriously bad Ferry-hair. (bit of a problem with my face too – try to be polite.)

And, of course I worked on the book The Cabins of Wilsonia, very diligent  in learning to use Adobe InDesign. (Oh be quiet!!)

A California Artist goes to Washington

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | One Comment

Washington is a fantastically beautiful state. I’ve been there in many seasons and loved every one. The rain doesn’t bother me because I get to go home. The gray sometimes feels like a relief from relentless sunshine. Grape hyacinth become naturalized. There are trails in neighborhoods for walking. Churches offer coffee in their lobbies and they recycle their bulletins.

In summary, the grass is greener on the other side of the border. (2 borders, actually)

Here is what I experienced while visiting Carol in Washington. (Carol and I have been friends for 35 years – isn’t that a rare and wonderful thing?)

  1. I began the design of The Cabins of Wilsonia with Carol’s expert help on Adobe InDesign.
  2. We took a ferry to Whidbey Island on the only day that had sunshine.


Okay, that’s all for today’s list, because I want to tell you our Whidbey Island story. We had hoped to ride the free bus on the island to visit a town called Langley, about 6 miles from the ferry. Then we learned that the buses don’t run on Sundays.

While on the ferry, a nice lady named Jackie took a photograph of us together. (My hair was all wacky in the wind and I looked fat, so I deleted it. Thought I’d spare you the visual assault.) We got to visiting, and when I suggested to Carol that we hitchhike to Langley, Jackie laughed and then offered to take us there.

We could tell Jackie was a great Mom because of her daughter’s reaction. When we got in the car with her and her 2 daughters, her 13-year old was HORRIFED! “Mom, do you KNOW them from high school or something?? What are you doing?? Are you serious??” The look on her face was priceless!


 If I paint tulips, my followers might think I’ve just messed up my poppies.

Langley was beautiful. I could not stop taking photos of tulips in the sunshine, which were in everywhere. The water was visible from many places, and the town was fun even without a yarn store.

Why does everything next to the ocean look more appealing? In Tulare County, the supreme compliment a business can receive is “Oh! This looks like something at the coast!” The buildings have more style, the shops are well-maintained with interesting names, the gardens are lush, and even the fences and gates are creatively built. (And I’m sure the children are all above average, too.)

Can’t remember what the shop was about, but loved the name.

Just your average coastal type fence, I guess.

No big deal – just toss a few bulbs in the ground. Maybe there are no squirrels there? No gophers? No deer?

Did you know that Washington State Ferries are push-me-pull-yous? The captain just moves to the cockpit pilot house on the other end instead of flipping a U or using reverse. (Is it a cockpit? Is there a reverse? Life’s full of questions.) (Thank you, Gus, for teaching me the correct terminology.)

Jackie and Carol texted one another while we poked around town, and then she picked us up to take us back to the ferry! We figured we could walk the 6 miles if necessary (or hitchhike?), but sweet Jackie was there again! Her daughters were really quite lovely – polite, interesting, and adventuresome. Carol and I decided to walk the last 1/2 mile or so to the ferry instead of waiting in the car line, and then we had to RUN to get on board! (Did 52 year olds run in the olden days? I don’t remember seeing it happen when I was a kid, but of course I didn’t know anyone that ancient other than my grandmothers, and they certainly didn’t run.They had to have been waaaaay older than 52.)

Four Benefits of Learning to Draw Before Learning to Paint

Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in drawing, Lessons | 2 Comments

As a self-confessed color junkie, I’ve pondered the question of why pencil? Was I just a chicken? That’s all water under the bridge, and now I am just accepting the fact of 13 years of drawing with a late start to oil and mural painting.

It ain’t all bad!

Drawing in pencil helped me develop several areas of skill. The subject has been covered very thoroughly here and here. Since I like lists, here is a list of the benefits of learning to draw well before learning to paint.

  1. Drawing teaches perspective. That is how things look distant or close.
  2. Drawing teaches proportion. That is how one size relates to another.
  3. Drawing forces an understanding of values. That is the darks and lights.
  4. Drawing teaches composition. That is the way things are arranged on a page or canvas

If I hadn’t learned to draw first, it would have taken me much longer to learn how to paint. Not saying I know how to paint well, just saying that I’m grateful to have had all those years of drawing first!

If you would like to learn about drawing lessons, you can read this blog post or check the lessons page on my website. Or both.

Meanwhile, have a look at this California artist’s pencil and oil renderings of oranges. You can see that the pencil picture has more precision and detail – needs it, because there is no color. Someone said recently “Values do all the work, but color gets all the credit!” True, but I think detail does a ton of work too.

Washington Navels, graphite, sold

One of the 100+ oil paintings of oranges so far, sold

Eight Reasons this California Artist Chose Pencil

Posted by on Apr 19, 2012 in drawing, Wilsonia | 3 Comments

My last post ended with this question: if I am so taken with color, a “color junkie”, then why did I choose graphite as my medium?

Simple – I love to draw. Oh come on, there must be more to it than that! Okay, yes there is.

1. It is easy to find pencil and paper and draw any time. The back of the bulletin in church, a piece of paper from your printer, an envelope from the trash. . .

2. Pencil drawing doesn’t make a mess. No paint brushes to wash, palettes to scrape, clothing to change.

3. Pencil drawing sets up and gets put away easily. How many boring office jobs did I have where I finished my work, and then pulled a drawing out from under my typewriter to fill up the rest of the day with? Lost count!

4. Pencil drawing isn’t very expensive to reproduce as prints or cards. This makes them affordable for you! (I am sorry my shopping cart isn’t working. You may email me via the contact page if you’d like to purchase something.)

5. Pencil used to be a little complicated to reproduce well, so people couldn’t reproduce my work without my help and permission.

6. Pencil erases.

7. Pencil is easy to frame. There aren’t very many mat colors or frame styles to use that won’t just overwhelm it, so it keeps your choices down.

8. I liked to draw so I drew a lot so I got better so I drew more because it was easy and fun because I had practiced so much. Or as my now retired husband likes to say, “Success breeds success”.

Drawing for upcoming book, The Cabins of Wilsonia

Next post will cover the benefits of working in pencil for so many years.

Sources of Inspiration

Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in Sources of inspiration | 2 Comments

Because I just began year #5 of blogging, I’m reposting some of my older articles for my newer readers.

Hidden Garden 5, oil on canvas, 8×10, $90

Sometimes people ask what my sources of inspiration are. Most are probably asking about what gives me ideas for drawing or painting. It is an easy question to answer.

My life experiences give me ideas. When I was a kid, a teen and even a young adult, it was a challenge to decide what to draw. As I aged, the number of choices grew. Now, by the time I have sorted through all my ideas, there is hardly any time left to draw or paint!!

So often I have read biographies and artist’s statements that say “I have always been fascinated by light and shadow” or perhaps by “reflection” or “movement” or “textures” or “shapes”. (My inner cynic responds with “Duh, what artist isn’t?” It is a continual challenge to keep her from talking too much.)

My main source of inspiration is BEAUTY! Sometimes it is natural and other times man-made, sometimes it is rustic simplicity, the way colors look together or the patina of age. Most often it is the way sunlight makes a normal object look beautiful. Once I had a job in a kitchen at a summer camp, and my coworkers would laugh at me when I would notice the beautiful color of iced tea, or the way the colors in the salad complimented one another. (But I am not scarred by the ridicule. Thanks for your concern.)

Now I think back to how I noticed colors, and wonder why I chose graphite pencil as my medium? My very wise Dad used to say (often!), “Life is full of surprises”. Well Dad, my life is full of questions. Perhaps I’ll tackle that graphite question in another blog post.

Why Artists Choose Three Rivers, a rerun

Because I just began year 5 of blogging, I decided to repost some of my earlier blogs for my newer readers.

When my art studio was in Exeter and I lived in Lemon Cove, people assumed I lived in Three Rivers. I’m guessing this was because of my occupation of pencil artist. (Given the choices of of towns in Tulare County, this is a reasonable assumption.) Now that I actually do live here and have become a painter, I recognize a multitude of reasons that any artist would want to reside in Three Rivers.

We are surrounded by beauty that takes no effort to see. There are incomparable views from my yard, studio, mailbox, and even from in my neighbor’s pool. The beauty continues as we go to the post office, the Memorial Building, the golf course, or maybe even from the dentist’s office!

Then there is the beauty that might require a little more effort to take in: the North Fork, the South Fork, Kaweah River Drive, and the Salt Creek area of BLM land come to mind. If you are able to walk, there is so much more that becomes visible.

Another great enticement to living in Three Rivers is the shorter drive to Sequoia and to Mineral King. In less than an hour you can be among the big trees and in a little longer than an hour, you can be in a valley that I have heard resembles the Swiss Alps.

Everywhere I look there are subjects to paint. The wildflowers could keep my brush flying for several seasons. The gates alone could occupy my pencils for a year. I could produce an entire series of drawings and paintings simply of loading chutes. Curves in the road, bends in the river, the autumn leaves, light on the rocks, Moro Rock from every possible angle, Alta Peak from every attainable viewpoint, sycamores all around town, the grand oak trees of every variety, the assortment of fence styles – every one of these subjects could be depicted in pencil or paint.

It is true that there is beauty in almost any location if one learns to recognize it. I certainly had plenty of subjects available in my former locations.  Now, the accessibility of paintable scenes is almost overwhelming!

The Kaweah Post Office V, oil on wrapped canvas, sold