Work in progress

I don't normally do extensive demos in my watercolor classes; this is an exception and I'm having a lot of fun doing it! Tempus fugit!

Bad Hair Day

I know where I get my unmanageable hair from!

Lorenzo Roath was my 4th-great-grandfather. Orphaned at age six in 1817, he went on to become, first, a postal worker, delivering mail on horseback between Lexington and Salem, Ohio; he then studied law, passed the bar, and defended those with even worse hairstyles than his. He fathered twelve children before kicking the bucket in 1897.


I'm just finishing Hope Mirrlees's Lud-in-the-Mist, and I'm entirely enchanted by it! It's full of wisdom and humor. And I wonder how I got to be in my 50s without ever having heard of it, much less read it.

This is another pen-and-ink sketch, about 4 x 8".  

Willard and Sue • 1928

I recently inherited a boxful of old family photos, most of which I have never seen. This pen-and-ink sketch is based on a shot of my dad with his cousin on Christmas in Lansing, MI, in 1928. I cannot get over my dad's outfit, especially the boots (who needs that many eyelets?) and the hat!

Quaker Polly Felts

Polly Felts was my 4x great-grandaunt. In 1804, she and her husband Shadrack moved from their tobacco plantation in Virginia to Ohio. They, like many Quakers in their part of the tidewater, freed their slaves and could no longer maintain their agricultural endeavors without them; the result was a Quaker exodus into Stark, Columbiana and Mahoning Counties, Ohio.

I did this little sketch (5 x 8") using a #2 Ticonderoga pencil.

Fluid Enough?

I ran into Blick this weekend to pick up a brush pen. Once again, I was sucked down the watercolor isle (against my will — I don't know how this keeps happening)! This time I found a product I hadn't seen before: a Fluid 6 x 6 watercolor pad. It's fixed on two of its four sides, so not quite a block, though it works pretty much like one.

At just four bucks (it was on sale, and I get a discount), I had to give this a try.

And it worked pretty well! For four dollars, how could you go wrong? 

I tend to brutalize my watercolor paper because of the amount of glazing I do; the layering process breaks down the paper surface really quickly. I keep trying various papers, and I always return to Arches. But this Fluid paper is really nice. While the paper did start breaking down after about the fourth layer of wash, it held up pretty well.

When I was removing the tape from the edges of the paper, the adhesive tore up the surface of the paper. This would never happen with Arches. 

So while I will continue using this Fluid brand for easy, quick, no-risk pieces, I will return to Arches as my default paper.

Here's the piece I did:

Early Bo Peep

A few years ago I was doing a school talk in my hometown of Fremont, when a familiar face appeared in the back of the school library — Mrs. Tinkowitz's eyes still sparkled the way they did when I was a kid. She waved to me like any of the second graders she was seated behind.

After my talk, she came up to me and gave me this drawing of Little Bo Peep.

"You drew this at your kitchen table with a ball-point pen while I was having coffee with your mom," she recalled. I must have been five years old at the time. "You gave it to me, and I've kept it all these years. I thought you would like to have it."

I was tickled (and still am)! The instant I saw this, I remembered drawing it! Rather than giving Bo Peep a shepherdess's staff, I thought it would be more fun to give her a hobby horse. It's not well drawn, but -- hey -- I was only five!

This is the earliest of my drawings I have.

Thanks, Mrs. Tinkowitz, for hanging onto this for so many years!

Savannah Hammock

I went out hiking and sketching along the Savannah River. The bare trees make for wonderful patterns against the bright winter sky. The hammocks in the marshes are particularly interesting, the way their unexpected symmetry breaks the vast expanse of the spartina and cattails. I was lucky to glimpse a bobcat hunting at the edge of the marsh.

Fernandina Beach, FL

We just returned from a weekend on Amelia Island. The sunset over the docks at Fernandina Beach was super. I especially enjoyed the factory in the background.

Buh Tukrey Buzzud an de Rain

Buh Tukrey Buzzud, him yent hab no sense no how.

You watch um. Wen de rain duh po down, eh set on de fench an eh squinch up isself. Eh draw in he neck, an eh try fur hide he head, an he look dat pittyful you rale sorry for um. Eh duh half cry, an eh say to isself, “Nummine, wen dis rain ober me guine buil house right off. Me yent guine leh dis rain lick me dis way no mo.”

Wen de rain done gone, an de win blow, an de sun shine, wuh Buh Tukrey Buzzud do? Eh set on de top er de dead pine tree way de sun kin wam um, an eh tretch out eh wing, an eh tun roun an roun so de win kin dry eh fedder, an eh laugh to isself, an eh say, “Dis rain done ober. Eh yent guine rain no mo. No use fur me fuh buil house now.”           

Caless man dis like Buh Tukrey Buzzud.

(Joel Chandler Harris transliterated dozens of Gullah tales from the Georgia coast in the late 1800s, among them this witty fable involving — what else? — vultures. If you have a hard time reading the Gullah text, this might help:
Bro' Turkey Buzzard, he has no sense, nohow!
You watch him. When the rain pours down, he sits on the fence and squishes himself up. He draws in his neck, and he tries to hide his head, and he looks so pitiful you're really sorry for him. He nearly cries, and he says to himself, "Never mind — when this rain is over I'm gonna build a house right away. I'm not gonna let this rain lick me like this any more."
When the rain is gone and the wind blows and the sun shines, what's Bro' Turkey Buzzard do? He sits on the top of the dead pine tree where the sun can warm him, and he stretches out his wings, and he turns 'round and 'round so the wind can dry his feathers, and he laughs and says to himself, "This rain is over. It's not gonna rain any more. No use in me building a house now."
'Tis a careless man like Bro' Turkey Buzzard.)

Playing with Vultures

My sister sent me a sketchbook for Christmas she picked up on a recent trip to China. It's a wonderful little book -- just the right size to carry in my computer bag -- and it's beautiful the way it's decorated and bound. Its cover will challenge me to fill it with jewels as lovely as the cover itself.

When I moved to coastal Georgia, I was amazed at the number of black vultures here. They have such great silhouettes! I'm fascinated with them. Naturally, this is the first thing I put in my new sketchbook:

When sketching though, I couldn't help but think that the shape of the vulture resembles a hunch-backed woman with a huge bustled skirt:

I began wondering what she might look like if she were fleshed out a bit more, so played around a bit with my watercolors:

One of the tricks for me when illustrating is making sure my work stays fresh, and I think my watercolor is a little overworked -- it lacks the spontaneous quality of the sketch that I like so much. I'll have to revisit this, and will keep posting.

It's great getting such wonderful Christmas presents. You never know where they'll take you, or who they'll introduce you to!