a peek through my sketchbook

I thought I’d give you a little peek at my most recent sketchbook. If you’ve been following me here you know I’ve went off on a bit of a tangent. I got a little obsessed with drafting celtic knots. It’s a lovely way for me to meditate and I can do it wherever I am instead of needing to be in my studio.


You can view my quick video tutorial for drafting celtic knots

You can purchase the result of that tangent – a real live coloring book!!!


a peek through my sketchbook

This is one of the moleskin sketchbooks I’ve been using for drafting celtic knots.



Road Trip Day 1

This month the family is taking what my little guy calls “The Epic Road Trip” and you are invited to follow along.




(I’m having the devil of a time figuring out how to blog on the road – please be patient with formatting issues)
Highlights today include an impromptu trip to the Blenko glass factory. We were enchanted by the colorful piles of shards, all washed and sparkling in the sun after the rain.


Sketchbook: kids at work

I haven’t posted any sketches for ages. Doesn’t mean I haven’t done any although my sketchbook does get pulled out less frequently these days. These are very quick, scribbled drawings of kids who don’t hold still. It’s a great exercise in gesture drawing. Here is a post explaining more about what that is.

IMG_3620I volunteer in my little guy’s classroom once in a while. The kids come through for centers and when they are with me they are supposed to be doing language skills exercises.


My main job is to try to keep these squirrelly little kids on task doing something most of them don’t want to do. IMG_3611So I figured out that if I pull out my sketchbook and draw they get really, really interested. They all want me to draw them so I tell them I’ll draw them only while they are working. It worked. Mostly.

Giveaway: The Sketchbook Project Journal

This book showed up in my mailbox unsolicited a while ago – the publishers probably hoping I’d love it and blog about it.


The Sketchbook Project began as a fantastic art library filled with sketchbooks donated by artists just like you and me. Anyone can go in (Brooklyn) and look at the sketchbooks centered on various themes. Now they also have a traveling library and digital sketchbooks that we can browse at home.

photo 1-2

Guess what? I DO love it and here I am blogging about it.  The Sketchbook Project Journal is a mostly blank book full of pages to be filled, each with an intriguing prompt.

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The prompts make me laugh as all sorts of funny images dance in my head. They make me think and imagine and wonder. 300 prompts on luscious white paper ready for your ink. (Or pencil or crayon or paint… whatever makes your boat float!)

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I love it enough that I wanted to keep it and fill it up myself… but I know myself too well. It will sit neglected in a pile on the floor of my studio just wishing and hoping to be used. I’ll look at it and feel a little guilty.

photo 1

So I want YOU to use it! Do you have a strong sketching practice? Will this be just what you need to get you going? Will it be easier to play with a prompt to get you going?


Tell me about it!

I’ll choose a winner from the comments on this post next week – this is a really fat book so US entrants only again. (And yes it makes me sad when I say that – I love my international readers.)

Congratulations to Betty who is the winner of the Travel Accessories by Craft Tree booklet and to Kath who actually HAS an ipod to go into the ipod case that I’ll send off soon! I really do love it when little lovelies find a happy home.

Doing the Work: Figure Drawing


Remember way back in 2011 when I wanted to work on drawing faces? They were so hard to draw so I had always avoided sketching them. It was time to take my own medicine and just do the work. I did a quick sketch of a face every day.

Some of the results were pretty good, at least better than at the beginning.

About midway through last year I started regularly attending a life drawing session at a local gallery. Models are hired to to pose (nude) and artists come and draw or paint. I’m definitely the beginner in the group but everyone is very friendly and encouraging. I was quite nervous at first – thinking it would feel pretty weird to draw naked people. It totally isn’t.

IMG_2677The first hour or so is filled with one, five, and ten minute poses. These are still my favorites – just warm ups. For some reason I’m able to get proportions down much better when I’m just scribbling away as fast as I can.

IMG_2618The next hour has a few fifteen or twenty minute poses.

IMG_2608Then there is at least one 40-60 minute pose with a break in the middle. I’m still frustrated with these but it’s a good thing. It shows I need to keep practicing. I have a wonderfully long way to go but am enjoying every step of the process. The sketch above is still one of the short poses – the long pose sketches are too naked and detailed. I’m choosing to keep the photos I post very G-rated because my children see the blog all the time. Yes, I know there is nothing wrong with a naked body and teach my children how beautiful our bodies are… but we need to respect them. Personally, I think that means being modest in public. 🙂 Well – off to another afternoon with my sketchbook and pens!

Faces – a morning well spent

So. If you happen to get a speeding ticket …. spending a day in traffic court can be time well spent.

Sigh. We took the waaaaay back country roads on a way from a vacation and even though I was actually trying to stay within the speed limit (52 in a 55mph zone) I somehow missed the sign in front of the one mile stretch that was 35mph.

So I had my sketchbook with me and while waiting my turn I pulled out my pencil. I sat in front so all I had to draw was the lawyers and the officers.

Of course – one’s hand is always there to draw. I was trying to be circumspect but one of the officers (I think it might even have been the one who pulled me over) saw me and leaned over when he walked by and told me he wanted to see it when I was done.

We weren’t allowed phones so I couldn’t take a picture which is too bad – the two pictures I tore out and gave to the officer and the bailiff were much better than these. I had plenty of time to work on those two and they held still the longest. The officer knew I was drawing him so I think he held still on purpose. After I gave him the drawing he told me he had told the judge to be nice to me. (He was.)

The Sketchbook Challenge: Urban Sketching

The theme this month over at The Sketchbook Challenge is Urban Sketching.
I love nothing more than urban sketching. Cities enthrall me.
Hidden corners invite exploration and the wonderful energy of being in a place where people converge is something I thrive on.

Unfortunately this theme came right as my passel of kids came home from school for the summer. We’ve been into our lovely little city (Raleigh is definitely worth a visit!) but the most I had time to do was catch a kids hand before he ran out into the street. We passed by lovely old churches and engaging alleyways. We were on the move with no time for me to sketch.

So instead of urban sketches from me you get a little dose of life in sub-urbia.
A visit to the doctors office.

No excuses – there is always SOMETHING to draw!

At an outdoor concert – gotta be quick before people realize you are sketching them.

It’s not a precious book – it’s my “paper brain.”
I let the little ones borrow it when they ask.

Faces on Friday

 My four year old still doesn’t want to hold still or stop making faces.
No surprise there – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 Friends at the park
 Car mirror while waiting to pick up a kid
 At the symphony
From a book of James Christensen’s work
This week has been mostly in my sketchbook rather than on the 3×5 cards.
Looking back – I’m learning that all my chins are too short. hmmmm.

Artist Spotlight part 3: Melanie Testa – process

The past two weeks I’ve enjoyed introducing you to a favorite artist of mine, Melanie Testa. Today I’d like to introduce you to her artwork. Together we’ll learn a little more about her process.

Lyric: I’ve seen just a bit of your visual journaling and it is just as lovely as your artwork. How do sketching and drawing help you in your textile work? Why did you choose textiles rather than a more traditional media?
Melanie: My journals are so import to me that I can’t imagine not keeping them. I draw inspiration for stamps, marks, actual artwork, they help me to remain focused creatively. Just today, I met up with a friend and we went to the Met to draw, I feel so alive when I am looking at and evaluating what I see. When the line looks like what I am trying to draw, it is such a thrill. I can’t take that for granted! But even though I utilize my journals and sometimes even share them when I write articles, the journals are private, they feel intensely personal to me.
As for why I work in cloth? I could not have it any other way. I just tried to imagine myself as an oil painter. I need the ragged edge, the dye, the stamps, the sewing machine.

L: I am fascinated by your juxtaposition of symbols and words with imagery from nature. How do you go about choosing which images to combine? How did you come upon the process of layering images with sheers?

M: Working with sheers came about as a result of journaling. I came to a place where I found my journals held more artistic focus and intention than my quilt art, but my quilt art was more important to me! So I evaluated the difference in approach and technique. I had been using tracing paper in my journals, I would trace a drawing from one page onto tracing paper, paint around and over the tracing, then glue that onto another painted page. The transparency is what held sway. So I figured out cloth equivalents to my favorite techniques. Silk organza became tracing paper and could be dyed with Procion MX dyes.
I started using words in my art because I was working with a man who used words in his paintings but I could not stand how he did it! I started using text and symbols because I knew there had to be a better approach. The words ought to merge with and become one with the piece almost as though in pentimento. As for using nature in my work, I find great solace in all things natural. 
L: Do you work from a plan or do you improvise as you go?
M: I like to plan loosely. Right now I just started a series if 20 Common Birds in Decline. I am working on an image of an Evening Grosbeak. the drawing of the bird needs to be perfected before I begin because the artwork is only as good as your original drawing. But the background and the collaged elements are not in the original drawing. I like to leave as much as possible to chance.
L: What is it about birds that draws you to use them so much in your artwork?

M: When I was a girl, I wanted to be a bird, to be able to flit, watch and leave by taking flight! I began bonding with birds when I was a teenager, my father had bought a bird feeder and a Roger Torey Peterson identification book and we began putting names to shapes and colorings. As an adult, I started keeping my own feeder, then bought binoculars, and now study and read all I can. Right now, I am an armchair bird watcher! Simply? The shiny sparkle of light in a birds eye bowls me over, I can’t resist it. 
L: Your use of stitching is so well integrated into the composition of your work. Do you begin with your stitched lines in mind or do those ideas come afterwards.
M: I do loosely plan the images used in my work. As I print, paint and stamp, ideas will float past and reveal themselves, but it is only when I get to the sewing machine that I can listen to and enact a plan for the stitch.
L: If you went to a desert island for a week and could only take a shoebox of art supplies, what would it contain?
My backpack is about the size of a shoebox and often contains, scrap, batting, needles, thread, embroidery floss and beads, a journal and a small box of paints, one pencil, two pens (Pilot t500 and a Pentel Pocketbrush) and a niji water brush. My wallet can be left behind to accommodate more cloth, perferably hand dyed dupioni, my current cloth crush. 🙂
So dear readers, are you as in love with Melly’s work as I am? Her process fascinates me and I’ve enjoyed studying it and sharing with with you.
I’ve finished the 5×7 piece from the ginkgo fabric that Melanie sent to me. Next week I’ll tally up all of the comments on the four posts featuring her. Yes, you can leave a comment on each post and be counted four times!

I’ll throw the lot into a random number generator (or have one of the kidlets shout out a number between so and so) and the lucky winner will be sent this lovely little piece of art. It is 5×7 and made with the beautiful piece of organza printed by Melanie. I do believe that she is posting the piece she made with the fabric I sent her on her blog this week as well.

It’s All About the Attitude

Whistling while you work. Making lemonade from lemons. I’ll bet there are a ton of similar metaphors. (I’d love to hear your favorite!)
After a late night of dancing – and what a wonderful night it was – I had to arise in the wee hours of the morning to catch a shuttle to the airport. I had packed the day before so all I really needed to do was to was hop out of bed, brush my teeth and go. It could have been a rotten day.
A little aside on packing. Us traveling quilt teachers do an awful lot of schlepping stuff. I had two maxed out checked bags, a carry-on, and my “small personal item” which is a rolling briefcase that just barely fits under most airline seats. I wear black and wear my black little back-pack purse – hoping they won’t count it as a third carry-on. We also end up shipping boxes to venues as well. The baggage fees have raised the costs for guilds to bring us in but the real struggle is being able to get all the lovely quilts and supplies there for you the students. I teach a lot of surface design classes – paint and foil and screen printing and such – to quilters. I like to spare them the time and cost of running around trying to find supplies that aren’t readily available or already in their stash. That means I bring a LOT of stuff for my students. In fact – I even prepare kits so that in many of my classes all you have to show up with is a pair of scissors and a notebook! I use this kit for both “Bead It Like You Mean It” and “Surface Design Sampler Platter.”

OK – back to the story. So I’m at the gate of the airport by 5am – people trickle in and plunk down and immediately fall asleep. I’m a morning person and a light sleeper so I didn’t even try. I had Melanie Testa’s book, “Inspired to Quilt” to read and it is an amazingly lovely book! And hey – with as many kids at home as I have, any quiet “alone” time I have is savored – even in an airport at 5am.

It gets better. Two young men and their mother walk in with instrument cases and one of them, instead of falling asleep, pulls out his guitar, and with a lovely soft voice begins to sing and play. I love acoustic music. I can’t really read while it’s playing because I get caught up in listening. So I pulled out my sketchbook, shifted to a better seat, and began to doodle, and sketch.
This is my rough sketch. I actually pulled out a pencil and worked harder to make a really nice sketch while he played. When I do this I often tear out the sketch and give it to the subject if it turns out decently. It did so I did. (The other sketch is a copy of an amazing drawing from “Inspired To Quilt”.)
So check out the Malpass Brothers. Christopher, the young man on the right is the one that sang to all the morning sleepers. The music on their site has much more of an old-time vintage country sound than the airport that morning. It was lovely.
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