Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All Wound Up

As of this writing, I am seven weeks post-foot surgery and a follow-up visit to my surgeon officially informed me of what I already knew: things are not progressing normally and I'm looking at least another six to seven weeks before I will know whether this surgery was a success or a colossal misadventure.  I am not surprised - disheartened to be sure - but not surprised as I've been through complicated, trouble-ridden recoveries with all ten of my previous surgeries.  I just happen to take much, much longer to heal.  Familiarity with the situation does NOT breed patience and I am struggling to keep my spirit intact.  Fortunately, I have a very compassionate and attentive medical team and whenever I break down in tears (which is nearly every visit), they listen and soothe and convince me to just stay the course.  So every day, I try to do a little something fun in between all the miserable moments and all the napping on the couch.  Sometimes that means binge-watching Netflix or reading escapist novels or doodling around in my sketchbook.

I have lots of little collections around the house and I really like documenting them. I get a lot of practice rendering different types of surfaces in watercolor like plastic, metal, glass, and fabric.  Grouping similar objects also makes an interesting page with a completed, composed feel.  In the case of these wind-up toys, I discovered that it was quite a challenge to make these drawings look like studies of the actual toys as opposed to cartoons of imaginary critters.  In the end, I really liked this page and decided that I will draw a second set at some point in the near future (hence the label "Set One.")  What a wonderful coincidence that the pharmacy I have to visit so frequently these days also has an excellent selection of wind-ups in their gift section!         

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gearing Up While Still Recovering Quietly

The new school year starts up in a couple of weeks.  My hours and responsibilities are increasing slightly and among other things, I've been tasked with teaching a semester's worth of nature journaling to accompany the students' unit on sustainability and survival skills.  After several years of teaching middle & high school art, I'm starting to zero in on certain techniques/mediums that I'd like to make my focus.  There's so much that I love to do (and I am given total freedom to teach what I want) but a wide variety of classes also means that I am always swamped with prep work and lesson planning.  Given my questionable energy level and up-in-the-air recovery from this latest surgery, I think it is prudent to concentrate on just a few areas this year.  In my personal work, I've really been focusing on drawing and illustration so it feels right to also make that the focus of my teaching.  I have an art show looming as well so I'll need to get back to the paint somehow but for now, I'm just enjoying drawing.

Given that I'm going to be teaching nature journaling very, very soon, it would be logical and certainly advisable that I be out gathering and documenting some organic objects in my sketchbook but I remain on "house arrest" because the incision has yet to close completely.  ( weeks post-op and still looking at an open wound in the arch of my  I'm allowed to go out for appointments and hobble around the apartment but that's about it.  The pain itself is pretty limiting anyway so wide-ranging outdoor excursions are too miserable to even contemplate.  (I do have some completed nature journals from years ago that I can use as samples so I'm not terribly overwhelmed with the need to have something for students to reference.  Whew!)

Happily, however, I am literally surrounded at home with my very favorite things to draw: art supplies!  Art supplies are right within reach and most are easy enough to pile next to the couch, my de facto studio space for much of the last few weeks.  For the sketchbook page shown in this post, I simply drew and painted the "couch art" supply kit I had assembled prior to surgery.  The challenge with drawing familiar objects is making sure I draw what I actually see and not what I think I know!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014


At first glance, this isn't a sketchbook page of much importance...just some swatching of paint colors and for some reason, a drawing of completely unrelated acrylic craft paints (I guess those bottles happened to be in front of me at the time.)  Swatching, however, serves so many purposes.  It is absolutely critical to have actual painted samples for reference when choosing colors during a project; I actually swatch almost every product in my studio, store those cards in a folder, and pull out the relevant swatch card when working in a specific media.  Swatching is a great way to compose color palettes.  Swatch cards also keep you from duplicating colors when you get the urge to add to your stash or remind you which colors you tend to use the most.  For a lovely, color-soaked ode to paint swatching from a master, check out this post from my dear friend, Tammy at Daisy Yellow!  

Perhaps most importantly, swatching is a tremendously meditative activity.  When my brain and/or body are too overwhelmed to attempt anything complicated in the studio, I can always dip my brush in a pan or pool of color and make a mark on paper...and then another...and then another.  More often than not, that mark-making session gains momentum and soon my creative drive overruns my sadness, boredom, or lack of inspiration.  Just a dab of color at a time chases the blues away...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Wherein the Storm Passes & Art Remains that I've hit the hornet's nest that is Pinterest and some are buzzing about all angry and defensive...let's just dive back into the love and light and laughter of art-making...shall we??  In terms of reblogging, reposting, and/or pinning my work here at Lost Coast a famous (and no doubt copyrighted) cricket once said so wisely: "Let your conscience be your guide."  For my part, I've said my bit, stashed away my soap box, and turned back to my paint box. That's where I find my joy these days; I'll keep sharing what I do and hopefully, my images will alight a spark of inspiration in your own studios.  That's why I'm here in the first place.  

So...onward we go!  To forks.  A rather mundane piece of kitchenware unless you are staring at some from a few inches away and trying to replicate all that intricate etching.  OK...forget the etching...just rendering them as straight objects can be a challenge.  My fork drawings are pretty damn crooked.  Eventually, I figured out that it was easier to draw one side and then the other if I wanted the fork to look like...well...a fork.  I actually had to borrow silverware from a friend because my own flatware is modern, very uniform, and lacking in any interesting detail.  My request to borrow forks to draw was first met with an awkward silence but quickly dissolved into an enthusiastic evaluation of all the little differences between forks from different sets and time periods.  That's the great thing about this entire process: it isn't about the drawing but rather the seeing.  And the more we learn to quiet our chatter and see beyond our own bubbles, the more our capacity to feel and appreciate others expands.   At least, that's the way I hope it works... 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Regarding Pinterest (Again)

I have a "No Pinning Please" statement clearly posted near the top of my sidebar as well as "no pin" code embedded in the blog template itself to prevent direct pinning.  Not unexpectedly, people here & there continue to pin from my blog.  This post is for those who manage to workaround or choose to ignore (or honestly didn't know) my wishes:  I am truly happy that you visit and even happier that you found something in all my ramblings that inspired you...really I am.  I do follow some boards on Pinterest but I do not pin myself since I decided that I didn't want my own work pinned.  (I have eliminated all of my boards except one so I can maintain my membership.)   I try not to patronize boards predominately filled with repins or those consistently without links back to the original source (or at the minimum, a simple notation of the artist's name.)  I think Pinterest is a great tool in concept but its execution often shortchanges copyright owners.  I periodically stop to reconsider my "no pinning" stance and maybe someday I'll just say "Ah, What the hell!  Have at it pinners!"  Indeed, I often wish I could relax about all this because I see how Pinterest could be really useful and then I again find something of mine pinned without a hint of credit or *shudder* even credited to someone else.)  So, for now, I really wish you wouldn't pin from Lost Coast Post.

That said, if you feel absolutely compelled to pin from this blog despite my is fairly obvious that I can't stop you.  I can't/won't waste time chasing down rogue pinners;  I check in every so often and sometimes comment on things that were pinned after I put my policy in place, just to give a heads-up on how I feel about pins of my work.  In my experience, most pinners are actually just enthusiastically and innocently repinning from a minority of people who knew my policy and pinned anyway.  (That's the inherent problem with Pinterest: accurate attribution can be frustratingly elusive as an original pin ripples outward on the site as repins.)  In addition, I also realize that some pins come from "curated" sites that have blatently ripped off my content without permission.   People are honestly inspired and pin from those sites without ever knowing about (or visiting) my blog.

Sooooo....long rant short....if you really, really have to workaround or ignore my wishes, please at least add a link back to my blog in your pin description.  It is as simple as copying and pasting the link in the search bar.  The home link is as follows:

If you've repinned something after my policy went into worries...just edit that pin to include a link.  I attach a watermark to every single photo so if all else fails, my name is at least attached to the pinned image.  (Let's not talk about those despicable few who actually Photoshop out the copyright info from a photo...grrrrrrr.)  

And for those of you who visit, look, and not pin (and perhaps "favorite" or "bookmark" instead)...all my love and thanks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Postal People

I'm slowly working on a few informational posts regarding watercolors and the supplies I use but I am spending a lot of time prone on the couch, especially since I've started physical therapy.  Therapy right now simply consists of painful wound care (specifically debridement) and trying to keep the non-healing part open and clean so it can get through the slow healing process without further complications.  It may be a few weeks yet before I actually get to start weight bearing and gait training.  A new school year starts in about a month so I'm getting anxious about the snail's pace of my post-op healing but there's not much I can do to hurry along the process.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work in my sketchbook that I began in the wake of taking Sketchbookery from Mary Ann Moss.  I especially loved creating these pages of "Postal People" to practice modified contour drawings of people.  For the first page, I used old yearbook photos as a reference.  For the second set of doodled people, I used a handy book full of photographed facial expressions titled - appropriately - Facial Expressions by Mark Simon.  This book has more than 3000 expressions created by 50 male and female models representing a wide range of ages and ethnicities.  These photos can be used to develop realistic drawings or funny caricatures.  It just gives you something to look at when developing a face that goes beyond the overused blank expression.  (I've written about that topic before: here and here.)  Anyway, these were super fun to do and I have no doubt I'll create a few more before this journal is finished.  

PS...Thank you to everyone who has voiced their well wishes since my surgery and of course, thank you to one and all who continue to visit this little blog of mine despite my inconsistent posting schedule.  Whether you comment or not, I feel your supportive presence and that inspires me to keep this space alive. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Trying to Roll Forward through a Setback

I'm just about five weeks post-foot surgery and now my incision is infected, a major and dangerous setback to say the least.  I had been doing a bit of weight-bearing (hobbling to & fro about the house) and spending some time with my foot down while I worked at my studio table.  My doctor has forbidden all that for now so I am trapped on the couch again going more than a little stir crazy.  To top it off, I'm ordered to spend the majority of my day with my foot elevated above my heart which isn't the best position for drawing.  It is hard not to cheat with these severe restrictions but I'm doing my best impression of a compliant patient.  I figure that my doctors would rather not deal with a complete emotional and mental breakdown on top of everything else and that (hopefully) they'll look the other way a little when it comes to letting me have upright time to doodle in bed.

For the times when I must get up, this neat little piece of equipment has been my foot's chariot for the last few weeks.  After several hand surgeries and recurrent shoulder issues, I can't use crutches so this knee scooter was the solution presented by the surgeon.  It really zips along on open, smooth surfaces but is a bit more of a hassle in tight, carpeted spaces (like my apartment.)  Still, it keeps my foot off the floor while rolling me from point A to B.

I showed you a photo of the actual scooter so you could compare it with the drawing I did in my journal.  Whew!  This was really, really hard to draw and my rendering is waaay off in many places.  The proportions are all wrong, the wheels aren't round, and the scooter's frame isn't anywhere close to correctly depicted.  However, none of that matters to me in the least.  Long after this ordeal has resolved itself, I'll look back on this journal entry and remember exactly where I was, what I going through, and how I got through it.  The photo of the scooter presents a perfect representation without any context or emotion - a snapshot without sentiment. On the other hand, my drawing is an imperfect rendering rich with memories, a doodle with depth.  That's exactly why I'm going to keep my pen moving, no matter how wobbly my lines.  The antibiotics and doctors will save my foot but my art will save my spirit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

De La Cocina

Here's another page from my Sketchbookery journal.  I hope you all won't get tired of this type of art because, by desire and design, it's all I'm doing in the studio nowadays.  I can't wait to be able to get out and find some organic objects to draw but in the meantime, I am observing and doodling various gadgets and gizmos gathered from my home.

It is hard to render metallic finishes with watercolors.  I use a lot of Neutral Tint (from M. Graham) to simulate silver surfaces.  Watered down Payne's Gray and Ivory Black are useful as well.  For golden or brassy surfaces (such as the vintage keys I painted earlier), I often use Daniel Smith's Buff Titanium mixed with a bit of Quinacridone Gold.  As the color goes from brighter yellow values to duller, timeworn hues, I add in Neutral Tint to darken my paint mixture.  In fact, I use Neutral Tint (instead of black) all the time to create darker values of my paints.  Next Wednesday, I'll post a color chart of pure colors versus those colors with Neutral Tint added so you can see how the colors change and how it can expand your palette.  I'll also try to remember to write up a post about the particular supplies I use because I know many people, myself included, are often curious about what other artists use in their work.

Last post, Carol commented and asked about the brands behind two colors in my palette.  The pale orange is from Koi (by Sakura).  It is considered a student grade paint but I find it useful for rendering fleshtones.  As student grade paints go, the Koi set (in tubes not pans) is probably my favorite.  The lovely phthalo turquoise is from Daniel Smith.

PS...Please note that I am an Amazon affiliate so whenever you purchase something at Amazon via a link you click on here at Lost Coast Post, Amazon sends a few cents my way.  I only post links for products I personally use and love. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Learning to Let Go

I have this compulsive tendency to compartmentalize my journals:  I like to keep techniques, themes, and sometimes even color palettes consistent throughout a single journal.  This is why I have more than a dozen journals in progress.  So when I started this sketching journal, my first impulse was to fill it only with sketches - no playing around, no experimenting, no sampling - this was going to be my "good" journal.  I planned on putting all that other stuff in a less important, less precious book.

Luckily, being confined to the couch made it impractical to have stacks of journals next to me so I had to set aside my discomfort and just make use of the journal I had in front of me.  Does it bother me to have these artistic digressions alongside my "pretty," completed pages?  Well, admittedly, it is hard to loosen my iron grip on the content and "look" of my journals.  However, I am continually striving to relax, to let go of that drive towards perfection.   In all aspects of my life, I absolutely need to reduce the amount of pressure I put on myself; my health circumstances alone demand it.  I think my journals are a great place to begin working towards that goal.

This kind of sketching also lends itself to less-than-perfect pages.  I have thrown out the notion of pencil "predrawing" and draw only in pen.  If I bobble a line, I either ignore my "mistake" and proceed blindly onward or I add the "correct" line right alongside the oopsy one.   And let me just say, that credit for this change in approach goes directly to Mary Ann Moss, headmistress of Sketchbookery and many other fabulous classes.  I've never been very good at fearlessness in art but Miss Moss has taught myself and many others to just begin, to stumble along joyfully, and to trust that all will be well in the end.  I am hoping this mindset will spill over into other areas of my life as I doodle my world in my journal. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sketchbookery: Keys & Tubes

I'm on the "no walking" restriction for at least another week (and perhaps more if the incision continues to balk at staying closed) so I am still tucked in at home, drawing on the couch, art supplies covering every available surface within arm's length.  I've been unsuccessful at convincing my son to gather stuff from outside for me to draw so as of now, my Sketchbookery sketchbook is filling up with renderings of inorganic objects.  Luckily, my studio has yielded a treasure trove of odds & ends for drawing practice.

I've realized that I particularly like to draw collections of similar objects.  This page of vintage and modern keys took three days to complete and more than a few curse words slipped from my mouth as I worked on rendering the varying shades of metal, from shiny silver to tarnished brass.  All the work was worth it in the end as this is probably one of my favorite drawings ever.  I did give myself a bit of a scare at the end though because when the page was finished, I impulsively decided to splatter the page with a paintbrush and a drippy watercolor crayon.  Literally, the second the paint began flying towards all my hard work, I regretted my impulse.  However, by some miracle, nothing got obscured by a rogue blob of color and my neighbors were spared the cries of rage and sorrow that surely would've resulted.

This second page is my version of a color wheel.  Ever since art school and its seemingly endless string of "Create-A-Color-Wheel" commandments, I involuntarily groan aloud when a color wheel assignment crosses my path.  Color wheels (and knowledge of color relationships) are valuable tools and in fact, I reference one almost every time I work but I am deeply tired of making them in the classic format.  This page is my way of adding some challenge and variety to the standard color wheel project.  And again, I like drawing different versions of the same object.  Some of those paint tubes ended up waaay out of proportion but Miss Mary Ann Moss has done a great job of teaching me to keep drawing no matter what the evil critic voices are screaming in my ear. 

PS...Under that scrap of ledger paper on the "keys" page is a HUGE lettering error.  I tried some kind of crazy, triple-shadowed, boxed-in Roman capitals and it wasn't even remotely readable.  The ledger paper cover-up solution worked better for the page overall anyway.  So, don't give up if something goes sideways!  Just adjust your direction accordingly and keep on sailing!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Couch Art Days

As of today - Sunday, July 20 - I am just a couple days shy of three weeks since I had my foot surgery.  It has been a painful, bumpy road to say the least.  Before the surgery, I surrounded my couch/bed with good books and good movies as well as a small art kit.  I had all sorts of plans to spend my recovery days blissfully entertaining myself whilst everything healed.  Unfortunately, I severely underestimated post-surgery pain and the all-consuming difficulties associated with being completely unable to bear weight on one leg.  Forget walking: for the most part, I couldn't even move my foot out of a horizontal position, much less put it down on the floor.  I'm just now starting to let my foot hang down and even that is frowned upon by the doctors.

Anyway, my world is confined to the upper floor of my apartment (and yes...the stairs have presented quite the challenge when I have to come & go for appointments!)  More specifically, I am restricted to my couch/bed, foot propped up on pillows while I battle the worst case of cabin fever ever.  Luckily, I had the foresight before surgery to sign up for Sketchbookery, a fabulous new class from Mary Ann Moss.  I wasn't sure I'd even be interested in following along with all the lessons but it turns out that it's about the only thing that actually distracts me from the misery and worry.

I stack my supplies next to me, leaving room for the kitties to snooze, and balance my sketchbook in my lap.  Between the awkward drawing position, pain meds, and Parkinson's, my lines are extra wobbly but I find that just helps me loosen up (literally and mentally.)  Adding watercolor is a bit tricky but I'm managing.  It takes me all day (or even two) to complete a page but I've got all the time in the world right now.  I'm trying concentrate on just keeping the pen moving while sending positive vibes to my wounded foot that is refusing to heal on schedule.  Narrowing my focus to a simple, everyday object keeps my mind from wandering towards more gloomy, unproductive territory.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quickie Update from the One-Footed Wonder

Just a quick pop-in to let everyone know I'm still here after my foot surgery on July 1st.  Things are not progressing smoothly and I've been dealing with one complication after another.  My doctors tell me though that all the problems I've experienced are pretty much par for the course given the site & size of the incision and complexity of the surgery.  So I'm on the couch, watching Netflix, reading, napping, and drawing as inspired by Sketchbookery, a new class from the wonderful Mary Ann Moss.  I'll post again in the next couple of days once I manage to get to the camera and snap some well-lit shots of my work. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Show Me Your Brave

Now before the Internet grammar police descend upon me like a pack of rabid wolves, let me begin by saying that the choice of "your" vs "you're" in this sketchbook drawing is deliberate.  As I prepare for my 11th and most serious surgery to date, I've had the Sara Bareilles tune "Brave" on my mind and one line in particular: "Show me how big your brave is."  I love the concept of bravery as a tangible thing.  Courage isn't just some ethereal character trait we possess but also something that has a look, a feel, an identity.  Courage has substance and its weight can squash fear flat.  Perhaps for this little achromatic creature, his brave is manifested through his choice of rainbow-splashed, propeller-adorned headgear.

In about a week, I am having a subtotal plantar fasciectomy on my left foot along with a bunionectomy.  For lovers of Latiin roots, "-ectomy" means "removal" as in the surgeon will be removing all of the plantar fascia from the arch of my foot in the hopes of permanently removing a large fibroma that currently makes walking awkward and agonizing.  The incision will wrap in a lazy "S" from my heel to up around my little toe, where the surgeon will also correct a bunion that has developed after years of walking on the side of my foot to avoid the lump in my arch.  Ouch!

Post-operatively, I am looking at four to six weeks of non-weight bearing recovery.  This translates to lots of Netflix viewing and hopefully, a concurrent application of decent pain meds so I can actually focus on what I'm watching.  After that, it's off to physical therapy to learn to walk on my "new" foot.  The reoccurance rate for fibromas tackled this way sits at about 25% so I am going into this procedure hoping to be part of the 75% who get lucky and find a solution to their plantar fibromatosis.  I have this condition in both feet and just for kicks, I have the hand version bilaterally as well.  (Nothing's ever simple.)

Anyway, long story short, I've been doing a lot of looking for my brave lately.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finishing Up the Scraps Journal

This post technically covers weeks 11 through 17 of my sabbatical.  I considered continuing the weekly round-up of my sabbatical adventures but not too long from now, I'll be having surgery and I can guarantee that in the rare chance I make it to the computer during my recovery, the content of my posts will be simply "!#$@! This hurts!"  So I'll drop the requisite post headline and merely tag the posts "sabbatical" so you'll be able to find all such posts together should you get a wild hair to read my accounts in order and in their entirety.

After about 7 to 8 months away from the practice, I am slowly returning to journaling.  It is such a soothing process and I'm in serious need of soothing right now.  Ironically, I began my reintroduction to journaling by concluding a journal.  My Scraps journal had just a few unfinished pages remaining so I played for a day or so and was able to add another completed journal to the shelf.

I originally started this journal as a sort of background playground but towards the end, I felt like taking the pages a bit closer to fully composed pieces.  These efforts triggered some ideas for future projects so I am glad I didn't abandon this book after so long away.  After the initial week or so of post-op recovery, I hope I'll feel well enough to make it to my studio table and see my new projects fulfilled.  Luckily, journaling doesn't require the ability to walk (especially if one's studio is organized accordingly.)  If I am really forced to keep my foot constantly elevated for four weeks, I'll just journal on the couch with a greatly simplified toolkit.   


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Interrupt this Regularly Scheduled Sabbatical...

Hello there dear readers...

An long overdue update is coming...probably this coming Thursday when I have a moment to gather my thoughts and shoot some pictures.  Although this space has been quiet, I was proceeding along behind the scenes, making art with renewed vigor as the school year drew to a close.  This space was silent because my days were full.  And then, in the space of a 20-minute doctor's visit, my entire summer has spun in an unexpected and unwanted direction.

At first, I was devastated.  In about a month, I'm going under the surgeon's knife for the 11th time (my 9th surgery in 13 years.)  Rehab will be a bitch...there's no sugarcoating that fact.  My ability to walk normally (or at least pain-free) for the rest of my life is on the line.  And yet, after the initial despair and frustration, a quiet feeling of determination bloomed in my heart like a flower that senses the barest glimmer of sunrise and opens to catch the warmth.  I squared my shoulders and began again.  10 surgeries have provided plenty of practice in logistical planning.  I am rallying a support team and - most importantly - I am in the studio, surrounded by stacks of pretty papers and baskets brimming with paint tubes.  Inevitably, life foils best laid plans.  We are compelled to make new plans and then we go on.  That is all any of us can do.  It is what I will do.

More details forthcoming as well as glimpses of my recent work...if you are still there, I am grateful.  I hope all of your days have been filled with art and joy...

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