A California Artist Gets Inspired by Snowy Scenes

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | 4 Comments

Yesterday, I left you in the snowy woods of a Chicago suburb.

Remember when I told you everything looks better with the right light? It was sunny the day we left, and I was snapping photos like a crazy woman.

Beauty and sunlight inspire me. I want to paint. I want to draw. I might even want to write, dance and sing. Never mind. I’ll do the last 2 in private. Thanks for your concern.

Another really great thing about traveling is the knitting time. Uninterrupted knitting time on the flight is such a treat!

You Thought I Was Kidding?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2013 in Going Places, Sources of inspiration | 6 Comments

Did you read my post from Friday? It was called “What Happens in My Brain“, and I said at the end, “This is hard – maybe I should just go to Chicago for a weekend. . .”

The snow in Three Rivers was so fun that I decided to go to a place of true winter.

I went to Chicago for a weekend. Actually, I visited Cousin Maggie in a suburb for a few days. I’m not making this up. (And Scott D., I emailed you to try and connect, but am wondering if I sent it to an old eddress. . . ?)

This was the view out of the hotel window the first morning.

Running away from home??

 My dear friend, AKA The Captain, went to a suburb of Chicago to bury her aunt. Turns out it was the same burb where my dearest Cousin Maggie lives. That’s not the sort of coincidence one can easily ignore.

She drove me to Cousin Maggie’s house, but we chose not to take the rental car up the unplowed driveway.  Do I get any dorkier than this? Never you mind.

This is the first real live cardinal I’ve ever seen! They resemble our scrub and stellar blue jays, and I was just beside myself with excitement. Is that dorky? (Don’t answer that!)

I went walking in the woods behind Cousin Maggie’s house. It is a deciduous forest preserve, and I would LOVE to see it in the fall. It was cold, but I had my trusty LL Bean boots, and lots of wooly knitted items. It was very satisfying to actually need all those things I’ve been knitting all these years.

Everything looked beautiful to me. I love to see new things, to explore and to discover. . . although I have to admit that while we were sitting in the San Francisco airport ready to take off for Chicago, I told The Captain that I couldn’t wait to get home. My travel muscle is a bit flabby – love to BE there, but oh my, the effort is stupendous.

To be continued tomorrow. . .

What Happens in My Brain While I Draw

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in drawing, the business of art, Thoughts, Wilsonia | 3 Comments

A list is coming. First, please enjoy this drawing of a Wilsonia cabin:

pencil drawing of Wilsonia cabin

Turned out pretty well, especially considering it was another one of those cabins with cedar trees blocking much of its detail.

Here is the sort of thing that runs through my head while I draw.

1. Yea! This is #________. I’m on schedule/running behind/might be getting ahead. (A continual evaluation of my progress)

2. Why are there ALWAYS cedar trees blocking the views?

3. Persistent thoughts on a loop – one day last week I ruminated about whether it is better to have work at a gallery that doesn’t sell very well but pays reliably OR work at a gallery that sells but won’t pay. The answer kept returning to me that the lesser selling gallery was infinitely better. Do you know how awful it is to try to collect from someone for 3 years, someone who sneers at you and says, “Patience is a virtue, you know!” I hope you never have to know that firsthand.

4. I wonder if I am enough on schedule or possibly ahead of schedule in drawing for The Cabins of Wilsonia to take a day off to paint.

5. It would be nice to paint instead of making yet another trip to the sneering, virtue-spouting, non-paying vendor.

6. Maybe she’ll have a check for me this time.

7. I can always visit a yarn store afterward. Wool fumes are soothing. Alpaca is soothing. Lots of color and nice people are soothing. Soothing is good.

8. Now what number am I on in my drawing progress?

9. Hmmm, I think I have an idea for a blog post. I wonder if it belongs on my “real” blog (this one) or my new blog (the Cabins of Wilsonia)?

10. This is hard. Maybe I should just go to Chicago for a few days. . .

Fear and Drawing a Book of Cabins

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in drawing, the business of art, Thoughts | 6 Comments

Fear is a great obstacle to creativity. This post lists common info about fear and a list of my personal worries (an easier word to stomach than fear, as if I’m not a Big Chicken).

Wilsonia cabin pencil drawing

Here is a list of random thoughts about fear:

1. The greatest fear that is most common to people is public speaking.

2. Fear of the unknown is another biggie.

3. “The only thing to fear is fear itself” has always struck me as mysterious, weird and hard to understand.

4. Fear of failure is another common thread running through life.

5. I’ve had friends say to me, “I only knit scarves; aren’t you afraid to knit a sweater?”

6. Seth Godin says that fear is what holds people back from making art – fears of vulnerability, being discovered to be a fraud, or not connecting honestly with people.

Drawing an entire book, The Cabins of Wilsonia, completely self-publishing (not assisted self-publishing like Lulu or CreateSpace), designing using a difficult program (InDesign is NOT intuitive and NOT anything like the Apple stuff I’m used to), marketing – all on a subject with which I am familiar in general but not specifically . . . that is  PILE of unknowns.

Check out this list of worries:

1. While I spend a year on nothing but pencil drawings of cabins (reaching for a total of 230 with the start # of 86 on January 1, 2013), how will I earn a living?

2. What if the books don’t sell?

3. What if the originals don’t sell?

4. What if I don’t find a good printer?

5. What if no one comes to the book signings?

6. What if the economy tanks further and people can’t afford a luxury picture book?

What if, what if, what if?

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

Shut up, negative voices. I have drawing to do!

What Is This?

Posted by on Feb 15, 2013 in Mineral King | 4 Comments

Fridays are still for Mineral King, when  I have Mineral King information for you.

Do you remember reading on my blog back in September when I told you that Trail Guy had a great idea? You can refresh your memory here. Go ahead. I’ll be waiting for you to return.

Thanks for coming back!

Here is where that idea is now. I don’t mean geographically. “Where” means how far along in the development phase. “Phase” sounds so important, don’t you think?


What are we doing???

More will be revealed in the fullness of time. 

Loosiosity, Revisited

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in commissions, the business of art | 3 Comments

“Loosiosity” is a word coined by my customer/student/friend Sara. Because it is one of those self-defining words, I’m guessing that you can figure it out.

fruit bowl oil painting

This painting style is the polar opposite of “loosiosity”.

Sara commissioned me to paint a scene for her based on a piece of art she had seen and loved. I had a little photo of that art, but didn’t want to copy it. I changed several things, and painted it in my style, but following Sara’s request for loosiosity.

I THOUGHT I was painting loosely because it was definitely looser than my normal style.

After living with the piece for a few months, Sara told me it wasn’t as she had envisioned. She is very polite, and we are quite honest and straight-forward with one another. It is the sort of relationship I have with all my drawing students.


The way this California artist conducts business is until a commissioning customer is happy with the work, I don’t consider the piece to be finished.


Sara brought it to my studio, and together with our friend Lou, we reworked it. This time we studied the tiny photo and evaluated with differences. We discussed ways to mess it up, add color, soften edges, add texture, and in general, match the piece she had first seen.

Are you wondering why she didn’t just buy that piece she loved? (Great question, glad you asked. )  Because it was SOLD to someone else, of course!

Here is the before, when I originally thought I was finished:

Here it is after Sara and I and our friend Lou finished reworking it:

 WOW! The differences barely show in these photos! 

We messed up the horizon line, added brighter colors, changed textures and added longer lines (“sticks”?).

Lighting is different everywhere, and IT MATTERS. While we were working in the painting studio on an overcast day, it was tricky to see the correct colors. I finally opened up the doors so we could see it in daylight. Now, she will see it in her home.

I’m curious about what you, The Blog Reader, thinks about all this! I haven’t asked for comments for awhile, but I’d really love to hear your opinions about the process, my way of doing commissioned work, the before and after versions of “Sara’s Redtails”.

More Thoughts About Happiness

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in drawing, Reading, Thoughts | 2 Comments

I’m not done telling you about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Salt & Light, or Reading Rabbit, oil on board, 11×14″

These are thoughts that struck me as I read through her chapter on happiness at work. (You can call me “List Lady” today.)

1. “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability.”

No kidding! My drawing students who are unexperienced but enthusiastic often excel as much as those who come to me already knowing how to draw.

Gretchen says that if you pursue a profession that you love, you will be eager to practice more and thereby earn a competitive advantage.

Well, I DO practice. . .

Anyway. . .

2. “The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.”

I do love surprises. Not many surprises for me in pencil drawing anymore, particularly in drawing cabins. Lots and lots of practice there. My Very Wise Dad often said, “Life’s full of surprises”. Maybe there will be some as I work on The Cabins of Wilsonia.

3. “We tend to overestimate how much we can accomplish in an hour or a week and underestimate how much we can accomplish in a month or a year”.

Since one of “my galleries” sold a few paintings last month, I will need to take some time off the book to paint. This may cause me to be overestimating the number of drawings for February. (It is embarrassing to say “my galleries” – sounds so pretentious!)

4. “Research shows that the more elements make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threatened.”

DON’T TAKE MY PENCILS AWAY!! Just sayin’. . .

5. “. . . doing what you love is itself the reward.”

Covered that one on Tuesday.

Somebody Went to Mineral King

Posted by on Feb 8, 2013 in Mineral King, Sources of inspiration | 3 Comments

But it wasn’t me because I was drawing The Cabins of Wilsonia. (I know not to begin a sentence with the word “but”. Thanks for your concern about my writing skills.)

Farewell Gap in Mineral King

And the weird spot on my camera is not there this time!! (Sometimes things do fix themselves, contrary to what my auto mechanic says.) I think this would make a wonderful painting, should I ever finish drawing The Cabins of Wilsonia.

Trail Guy in Mineral King

No, this is not a weird spot. It is Trail Guy, happy to be retired, happy to be in Mineral King, happy to be eating lunch.

Pisten Bully

This is not the Trackster. It is a Pisten Bully. (I am not making this name up.) It is how Trail Guy and Ted got to Mineral King. Ted is in uniform. He is not retired. He gets paid to do the heavy lifting. Trail Guy is just an unpaid volunteer who happens to have tremendous equipment operating skills and experience. Please Ted, don’t run over Trail Guy’s lunch box. (It has happened, but it wasn’t Ted. He might not have been born yet.)

Happiness and Drawing a Book

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in drawing, Reading, Thoughts, Wilsonia | 4 Comments

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
has captivated me. She is a writer who had a flash of insight: “The days are long but the years are short”. She realized that she wasn’t enjoying her life and appreciating her blessings as she ought to, so she set out to study happiness and learn if a person can boost one’s own happiness.

Wilsonia cabin porch

Don’t you just want to sit on this porch and read “The Happiness Project”?

Normally I borrow books from the library and this was no exception. However, I wanted to underline and scribble notes in the margins, so I actually bought my own copy! (Gasp of shock, but it IS a used copy!!) You can buy one too. I am now an Amazon Associate*, so that is my recommendation of a place to get yours.

Why am I telling you this on a blog about being a California Artist?

In her month of working on more happiness at work, Gretchen lists “Enjoy Now” as one of her resolutions.

I have set a goal of drawing an entire book. It occurred to me that as someone who is motivated by completion, I am in danger of just gritting my teeth and plowing through 230 drawings with the “wake me up when it is over” mindset.

NO NO NO!! I love to draw! Sure, it gets lonely in the studio. To say “Yes” to completing this goal, I am saying “No” to every interruption, diversion and spontaneous opportunity for a year. Wah.

So? This is a self-imposed deadline. It is a well-thought out plan. Drawing is a privilege. I get to work in my home studio without commuting. I love to draw. I plan to enjoy it every step of the way.

Thank you, Gretchen Rubin!

*This means that if  you click “The Happiness Project” under “Books I Love” on the left side of my blog, and then actually buy after clicking the link, I will earn a little bit of money from Amazon.

Everyone Loves a Rainbow

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Sources of inspiration | 2 Comments

We enjoyed a fabulous rainbow last week. It was the full deal, complete with an echo or a reflection or whatever the right term is.

I love rainbows. Who doesn’t love a rainbow? They are a gift from God. Just are. There is a verse in James (in the New Testament of the Bible) that says “every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights”. This rainbow was definitely in that category.

I know. I’ve probably lost half my readers with my God-talk. I’m sorry. Here. Let me make it up to you with some fantastic photos of the rainbow. How can someone not feel inspired by this? (especially someone who draws every day in shades of gray instead of painting with lots of colors!)

What passes for winter in Three Rivers would make my friends in Northern climates just moan in envy.