Sawtooth Peak

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in drawing, Oil Paintings | 6 Comments

Sawtooth is an easy to distinguish peak in Mineral King, visible from Visalia when the wildfire smoke or the pollution from the Bay Area are not obscuring the view. Lots of people like to climb it. I think it is good to look at, but I am scared of climbing it. I am only interested in photographing, drawing and painting it.

My most recent pencil drawing of Sawtooth Peak:

And now I have begun a 24×24″ oil painting. Try not to be scared – it will get better.

Cabin Drawing Flag Adjustment

Posted by on Sep 12, 2017 in commissions, drawing, Mineral King | No Comments

A flag seems like an appropriate topic for today.

The customers were sort of happy with their Mineral King cabin drawing, but not overjoyed. “Sort of happy” is not good enough. After a bit of conversation, they said the flag was too bright and drew too much attention.

My dad liked to quote a Latin phrase De gustibus non est disbutandem, which translates “it is useless to argue over matters of taste”.

I completely understand. A drawing is never finished until the customer is completely happy. While they were present in the studio, I redid the flag. Now they are happy!



Because I did the flag in bright colored pencils before discussing it with them, I used Faber Castell’s Polychromos, an oil-based colored pencil that erases. Although I am very comfortable with the colors of Prismacolor and they are sitting very conveniently on my drawing table, they are wax-based colored pencils that don’t erase, so I resisted the urge to use them.



Drawing Water in Pencil

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in drawing | 2 Comments

Last winter, I got on a roll drawing water in pencil. I decided to make the 2018 calendar all about water, so that meant I needed 13 drawings. The verdict is not in yet – all Tulare County? all rushing water? all new drawings? More will be revealed in the fullness of time. . .

Here is the latest. It is called “Steady Stream”.

Steady Stream, pencil on paper, 9×12″

Second Beginning Drawing Workshop

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in drawing, Events, Lessons | No Comments

Arts Visalia hired me to teach 2 beginning drawing workshops this summer. In June, there were 5 students. The time flew and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. In August, there were 5 new students, and once again, we all had a very good time of learning.

They learned about the basics of drawing, and a little about me. I learned a little about them, and that taking photos with the iPad isn’t a plan if I want to show you the photos on the blog.

After much techie wrangling, I found a way to show you the photos. Tech explained is boring; tech wrangled with is alternately frustrating and exhilarating. I’d rather be drawing, teaching drawing, or blogging.

If it appears that everyone is drawing the same thing, that is because everyone is drawing the same thing. It is much easier to demonstrate once for everyone than have 5 different things happening at the same time.

Cabin Drawing in Pencil

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in commissions, drawing, Mineral King | 4 Comments

My business and website is called Cabin Art or Cabinart. This is because when I began, I lived in a cabin and I drew cabins.

I still live in a cabin (part time) and still draw them.

Here is the latest commissioned pencil drawing of a Mineral King cabin:

After seeing the Hume Lake cabin drawing from 1995 and reworking it, you can bet your boots that I was hyper-careful while working on this drawing. The photos were mine from 2 different photography sessions, there was much conversation about what should and shouldn’t appear, I used multiple photos to be certain of what I was seeing, and I went over the entire drawing with a magnifying glass at the end. In another 22 years, I don’t expect I will be able to repair or improve this one.

Proof That I Draw Better Now

Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in commissions, drawing | 4 Comments

It just occurred to me that perhaps you might disagree with my evaluation of  what “drawing better” actually looks like.

Bummer. Having a blog often means taking a risk, so here goes.

This is the little Hume Lake cabin as I drew it from the customer’s photos in 1995. (I didn’t draw the bug spot, or whatever that is.)

Here it is after reworking it, using photos I took earlier this month.

I feel relieved to have gotten a second chance to make this drawing the best I know how.

I Draw Better Now

Posted by on Aug 24, 2017 in commissions, drawing, the business of art | No Comments

In 1995, I drew a Hume Lake cabin from the customer’s photos.

Last week I had the pleasure of staying in that cabin and seeing it for the first time. The customer’s daughter and I grew up together and have recently reconnected.

She brought the drawing to Hume Lake, and I was dismayed to see it had a bug spot on it. It also was missing the flag, and now I put flags in color into my pencil drawings whenever possible. Besides, I draw better now.

Daughter allowed me to remove it from the frame and bring it home with me. The biggest thing was to discover if the drawing had been spray-fixed, which would not allow me to do any erasing. I can’t put color over pencil and have it look like anything good – it needs to have blank paper beneath the color. 

YEA! I can repair, replace, add, and improve it, because it isn’t spray-fixed!! Stay tuned – I hope to have some studio time next week to do the work of making this drawing something to be proud of.

P.S. Tomorrow’s post will be of a funny walk at Hume Lake.

Drawing in Mineral King

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in drawing, Mineral King | 2 Comments

Back in the olden days when I could see without cheater magnifier glasses or a giant magnifying light, I used to draw at the cabin. I even had a drafting table upstairs underneath a north-west facing window for light.

It has been quite a few years since that was an adequate arrangement. I sold the table and stopped trying to work without electricity.

However, last week I wanted to get some work done and be out of the triple-digit heat. Since a 2018 calendar printing deadline is looming, I decided to give drawing at the cabin another try. The calendar will be all about water in Tulare County, and water doesn’t require a T-square or precise measurements, the way architectural subjects do.

It has been so long since I drew up the hill that my favorite brand of pencils has changed from Turquoise to Mars Staedtler. I had no Mars, so I used a Palomino Blackwing. 

Grandpa’s magnifying glass helped. I took the drawing home, and perfected things under the giant magnifying light before scanning and doing the Photoshop prep for the 2018 calendar.


This was definitely a successful experiment, so we celebrated with a BBQ’d pizza for dinner. No way was I cooking that in the woodstove – it would get as hot in the kitchen as it is down the hill!

Curious about Palomino Blackwing pencils? I got them through Amazon, of course.



Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in drawing, the business of art | 4 Comments

Some people are early adopters of new technology; I am not one of them. I tried Facebook and it was all I feared it would be – 1/4″ deep, 6 miles wide, and a giant thief of time, energy and brains. My sister and her daughter suggested Instagram. There were techie obstacles, such as not owning a smartphone. (Nope, a borrowed Jitterbug doesn’t take photos).

I signed up for a private account to practice and connect with my family. The privacy settings weren’t private, so now my private family account has 2 extra folks. The “extras” are real life friends, not strangers, so I didn’t panic; I learned. 

Against the advice of my most techie friend, I set up an Instagram account for my business. It was against her advice because she believes Facebook is the most useful for people and businesses, and doesn’t think Instagram will work.

My niece thinks hashtags are key. I know nothing. Hashtags are weird, the word itself is weird (“hashtag”? It’s a number sign or a pound sign, for Pete’s sake!), and people who put that word in front of other words when they speak sound weird.

I am willing to learn and to try. It seems like the right place for someone who deals in pictures. People don’t get mean on Instagram, attack others for opposing political views, or show what they had for dinner, at least not as much as on Facebook; perhaps I am delusional and ignorant. (definitely ignorant)

My business Instagram handle (“Handle”? What do you think this is – a CB radio from the ’70s??) is JanaBotkinArt. The account is public. You are welcome to follow. You are welcome to express your opinion and to offer advice.

I’m just learning here. . .

Ten-four, Good Buddy. Over and out.

Pencil drawing, “Mineral King From The Bridge”, 9×12″, one of the posts on my new Instagram account, complete with hashtags.

Drawing Lessons, Tracing

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in drawing, Lessons | 2 Comments

Is it cheating to trace?

Nope. Tracing is a tool, and if you can’t draw, tracing won’t solve the problem.

Yesterday, I said that we often trace the main shapes first, and then draw by looking at the tracing. If you look at the photo, there are many distracting details. If you get the skeleton of the picture on the page first, then you know the details will fit inside.

Rosemary took photos of this giraffe, and then we cropped it down to the essentials. She is now ready to copy the shapes on the tracing.

A tracing is no guarantee of accuracy. I can see that the head-knob (what are those things??) on our right isn’t just like the photo.

The tracing is a starting point. Many corrections happen throughout the entire process. Rosemary will look at this tracing in every direction, evaluating the shapes around the giraffe rather than just the giraffe itself. (In Artspeak, that is called “negative space”, in case you were wondering if I know the real term.)

You can be fast or you can be good. Rosemary is good. This giraffe will be wonderful, because that is how she draws!