Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

10.5" x 7.75" watercolor
Stacy L. Rowan

May this holiday season bring you everything you've been wishing for. May you find yourself surrounded by loved ones, enjoying the warmth of their company. And may you find happiness, joy and peace in your celebrations.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Twist and Twirl

tree practice with rigger brush
watercolor 7" x 11"
Stacy L. Rowan
This past Tuesday, the art ladies and I didn’t get a whole lot of painting done. You see, we had a holiday luncheon instead of our normal brown bag lunch. (Does anyone actually use those brown bags for lunch anymore?) Everyone brought something yummy to share, and we took our time chatting and eating.

After a filling lunch, I was more motivated for a nap than for serious painting. So I was happy when one of the ladies offered to show us how to use our new rigger brush to paint realistic tree branches.

The trick is to lightly place the tip of the brush on the paper. Hold the brush loosely between your thumb and index finger near the top of the brush. Now as you move the brush in the direction of the branch, use your finger to gently and slowly twist the brush back and forth. The twisting motion is what gives the branch a realistic shape.

I'm not actually a lefty. I just had to hold the camera with my right hand to take the picture. :)

As you practice and get more skilled with the technique, try to apply more pressure at the beginning of the brush stroke and decrease the pressure toward the end of the stroke. This will make the branch thicker at the start and thinner at the tip.

You can also use different sized rigger brushes to create different line widths. I used a size 6, a size 4 and another smaller brush for this practice (see picture).

This technique was really helpful to me. I am always challenged when I need to recreate the random nature of things like tree branches. My analytical side fights to create order instead. But the twisting motion of the brush made it much easier.

So next time you want to paint a tree, give this method a try. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

You Know You're an Artist If... wander the produce section of your local grocery store looking for something to paint.

3.25" x 3.25" watercolor
Stacy L. Rowan

I painted this little pomegranate last year. I distinctly remember seeing them on sale for $2.50 a piece and thinking that was a bit steep for a fruit that is a lot of work to eat and not very filling. But as I took a closer look, I noticed its not quite round shape and I began to admire its nice red color. Hmm...maybe $2.50 wasn't that much after all. Just think of all the money I'm saving by not painting silver and crystal! A couple of dollars for reference material is a down-right bargain, don't ya think?!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


3" x 2"
watercolor thumbnail
Stacy L. Rowan

If seasons have a personality, autumn is definitely an extrovert. With its clear, golden light and bright colors it shouts, "Look at me!! I'm stunning, don't you agree!"

This arrangement of berries and fall leaves was definitely calling for my attention. It sparkled as it enjoyed the sunny spotlight and invited me to relish its blazing colors. So I accepted the invitation and quickly captured its brilliance on paper. Now I can enjoy a date with fall even as introverted winter comes to town.
(Just to clarify, a thumbnail is a miniature size drawing or painting - in my case mostly 3 inches by 2 inches - which is quickly done to test a concept. I learned to use this tool in my mentorship with Michael Newberry. You can find his excellent tutorial on thumbnails here.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Micron pen on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

On this day of Thanksgiving, I'd like to say thank you to all the readers of this blog. I truly appreciate the time you take to look at my art, read my thoughts and leave comments.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good News!

We had a lovely time at the art reception last night. Turn out was very good, as were the snacks. And the box of food donations was full to the brim.

But the best news of the night was that my painting Seasons' Reflections (shown in the last post) won second place in the watercolor category. What a nice surprise!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paint Box Art Club Member Show

Seasons' Reflections
12" x 10" watercolor on paper
Stacy L. Rowan

This post is for anyone within driving distance to the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. This Tuesday, November 20th is the opening reception for the Paint Box Art Club Member Show. The show is being held in the Nazareth High School Art Gallery in Nazareth, PA. The hours for the reception are 7 - 9pm. Light refreshments will be served. The club will also be collecting non-perishable food donations for the local food pantry.

All visitors are welcome to attend the reception. It is a good time to come to the show, because the artists will be there and the winners of the awards will be announced. So please come join us if you are in town.

Directions to the high school can be found here.

I have two paintings entered in the show. Seasons' Reflections which is shown above, and Sacrifice which can be found in this post with close ups here.

The show runs until December 13th. If you wish to check out the show during school hours, you must enter through the office and sign in on the visitor's log.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Veil

untitled rose value study (WIP)
Stacy L. Rowan

The gray veil of winter has descended on eastern Pennsylvania. October is full of bright, endlessly blue skies, brilliant red and gold leaves and joyful orange pumpkins. November rolls in and replaces this celebration with a low gray ceiling, misty, rainy days and gutters full of leaves past their prime. Is it any wonder that I just ordered five tubes of colorful watercolor paints? Two oranges, a turquoise blue, a deep gold and a bright yellow. The perfect antidote to gray November days.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


3" x 2"
watercolor thumbnail
Stacy L. Rowan
Being a mom of young children, I often receive special gifts which they find for me when they are outside playing. I love these gifts and wanted to encourage the gift giving. So I decided to find appropriate vases to display them. This allows us all to enjoy their finds as long as possible.

The painting above shows some of the mini vases that I use expressly for this purpose. They are the perfect size to hold dandelions or clover flowers or grass that has gone to seed. They have also been known to contain fall leaves, flowers that have already fallen off their plants or other treasures that the uninformed might call weeds.

I love that my children are so excited to share nature's beauty with me, and I want them to know I appreciate their thoughtfulness. That's why my collection of mini vases will continue to grow. At least until they grow too old to bring me gifts from the yard.

(I'm working on a title for this. Before writing this post I was thinking about "Signs of Appreciation", but now I'm wondering if "Gifts" isn't better. Anyone want to cast their vote? If so, leave me a comment with the title you like best. Or if you have an even better one, I'm open to that too!)

Friday, November 2, 2007


Work in process
colored pencils on Ampersand Pastelbord
Stacy L. Rowan

Working on pencil drawings can produce a very meditative feeling for me. This is true whether I am working with graphite or colored pencils. Since the drawings build rather slowly and changes are only an eraser stroke away, I find it easy to get "in the zone". I can shut down the rather incessant analytical chatter that normally rambles on in my brain and enjoy the process. I have been appreciating these meditative mediums lately because I find they are a good balance to an otherwise busy schedule.

Graphite drawings are great for investigating and focusing on values. They reinforce the importance of working with the full value range.

Colored pencil drawings are obviously good for learning to work comfortably with color. I am using the drawing above to immerse myself in a subject that is yellow. I've drawn and painted yellow objects before, but still feel it is the most challenging hue for me.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What's in a Name

Lately I have been finding myself with short snippets of time to work on my art, instead of hour long blocks. I have been using these snippets to work on several different projects. I'm finding it fun to jump around and work on the piece that speaks to me in the moment, but it doesn't really give me much to share in terms of progress images.

So instead I will share a little of my process for naming this piece.

watercolor 3" x 2"
Stacy L. Rowan

I have been trying to come up with titles for my watercolor thumbnails because the title "Watercolor Thumbnail 8" is neither informative nor inspiring. However, I was struggling a bit to name this piece and didn't know why. After trying a bunch of different titles in my mind and not liking any of them, I decided that, instead of trying to find a good title, I would try to find out why all of the current titles didn't work. Once I looked at the problem from this angle, I realized that my struggle with a title originated from my feeling that the pear and blueberries shouldn't really be together. This summer I started shopping at a local farmers' market and, as a result, have been learning about harvest times for fruits and vegetables. So I now know that blueberries ripen in summer and pears are a fall fruit. Because of that, in my mind, these fruits don't really go together.

Once I figured out what had me stuck, a title came to mind quite easily... "Untimely Companions." They are untimely companions because if I buy fruit according to the local growing season I wouldn't be able to buy them together. The title gives a nod to a topic (buying local produce) that is becoming more important to me. And I like the touch of humor in it too. Their companionship is also untimely because they are going to be made into fruit salad and devoured! YUM!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

If I Weren't a Painter...

...I'd be a tap dancer!!

I love tap - as a spectator or a dancer. It is so much fun! I have taken, all told, about 12 or 13 years of tap lessons since my first class way back in 6th grade. My favorite style of tap is rhythm tap - think Gregory Hines or Savion Glover. It's all about the footwork! I'd really like to start tapping again. I think it would feed my creative side.

In the meantime, I plan to get my fill of tap tonight by going to see a show by the Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers. Here is a fabulous video of one of their performances. WOW! I bet you can't watch the whole thing without some toe tapping of your own.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Partial Plan

untitled rose value study

Here is another update on my value study for the rose painting. As you can see, I completed the initial shading on the main rose and started working on the rose bud. I decided to flesh out the form on both roses, the leaves and the stems on my first pass. Then I will come back and work on my hierarchy of lights and darks.

As I am working on this, I have realized that I think of this drawing as being tall and thin with the roses standing up (like it is posted here). But it needs to be long and thin, as if the roses are laying flat, to fit the space in my mother-in-laws dining room. Hmmmmm... That part of the plan I am still working on. My current thinking is to finish this drawing, because I like it in it's own right, then do some tweaking in Photoshop for the painting. Or I may try some thumbnails to get a feel for the changes. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Preparing to Paint

value sketch for rose WIP
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Tomorrow my art group meets again. In preparation I decided to start a value study for the rose painting. I am using several different references for this painting, so I felt a value study was important. For one thing I need to make sure that the lighting is consistent throughout the piece. Also, I felt it would be easier to work from one reference while painting instead of flipping through a pile of papers to find exactly what I need when I need it. You'd be surprised how quickly a wash can dry when you don't remember if you wanted a soft edge or a hard one!

I could have done a smaller thumbnail sketch to block in basic values, but I chose to make a drawing the same size as my study painting. It can be tricky to get the values correct in the center of a rose where so many petals meet. I find it is easier to work larger when the details are more complicated. The other reason I decided to work larger is that it has been awhile since I did a graphite drawing. I knew I'd enjoy creating a more finished drawing. So I let myself have fun.

I haven't decided yet whether I will work on the background more tomorrow or try to finish up the graphite drawing. Maybe I'll work a little on both.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Art Group Meets Again!

untitled work in progress
watercolor on canvas 5" x 12"
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Last Tuesday was a happy day. The group of ladies I paint with met for only the second time since May. We normally meet once a week year round, but our fearless leader, Dana, had hip replacement surgery in the Spring and needed time off to recover.

Painting can often be a solitary activity, so I really look forward to getting together with this group. We give each other critiques, ask for advice on art and life and share some laughs. I also hear a lot about what I have to look forward to in life in the coming years, since I am the youngest in the group by 15 years or so.

Last week I started working on a small painting that is serving as a study for a much larger commission. My mother-in-law wants a very large watercolor of a rose to go in her dining room. After much discussion, I have decided to try painting on watercolor canvas. This will eliminate the need for glass and make the final painting much lighter.

Since I have not worked on watercolor canvas before, I decided it would be a good idea to do a smaller study painting first. This will also help me trial the composition, which is a bit tricky since the painting is to be long and thin.

My initial reaction to the canvas is that it is similar to working on hot press paper. The paint does not sink into surface and is extremely easy to lift off. So far I have put three layers on the background. I had to use a very light touch when adding layers so as not to disturb what was already there. I think it is good that I am not looking for a perfectly smooth background. It will be interesting to see how it is working on the more detailed areas of the rose.

The background right now is almost a coral color, but I will be adding more layers to make it a bright orange-red. After I've put in more work on this piece, I'll come back and give a more detailed opinion of the watercolor canvas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pitman Craft Show in Review

I thought I'd give a report of last weekend's craft show. If I had to choose one word to describe the show it would be 'average'.

The weather was beautiful aside from one brief storm that blew up right after we finished setting up. It was like something out of a sit-com. After putting up a tarp loaned to us by our booth neighbor Jerry the pop-gun guy (Thanks Jerry!), we quickly moved the tables and racks to the center of the booth and squeezed ourselves into the corners so we could hold onto the canopy legs. The gusty winds felt like they might lift up the canopy and blow it away despite the attached weights. My husband said I looked like a ship captain manning the sails and trying to keep my ship afloat! The few brave people who showed up early to beat the crowds couldn't even get into our booth! We must have been hysterical to watch.

Ten short minutes later it was all over. By noon the clouds were gone and the sun was shining brightly. And once we moved everything back into place our booth looked great! Unfortunately you'll have to take my word on it because I forgot to take a picture.

The crowds were good and remained pretty consistent through the day. Not many people were carrying bags though and the bags I saw contained smaller items. Our sales followed that trend.

On a more positive note, I had a few people stop by who mentioned that they received my postcard mailer about the show. So I am calling the mailer a success and will be working to expand my mailing list. Also, now that these two shows are over, I should have more time for creating new paintings and drawings. YAY!! In fact I've already started, but you'll have to wait for the next post to find out more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pitman Fall Craft Show

original watercolor 18" x 14"
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I am participating in the Pitman Fall Craft Show this Saturday from 9am to 4pm. The show is being held on Broadway in the quaint South Jersey town of Pitman.

I am sharing a booth with my Dad and my sister. Our booth is in front of Joe's Barber Shop. Stop in and say "Hi!" if you are in the area. If you're not going to be in the area, maybe you could help out by saying a little prayer for good weather.

Joe's Barber Shop

In past years the easiest place to park was in a lot on Lamb's Road near the intersection of Elm Avenue. From there you could catch a shuttle into town. I'd recommend this since parking in town is at a premium during the show. Hopefully they will have the shuttle service again this year, but I don't know for sure.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Clymer Art Show Recap

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

So I owe a show summary here. I would have had one earlier, but the kids started back to school this week and I have been up to my eyeballs in Mommy homework. It makes them so happy to bring home homework for someone else.

The show was a bit of a disappointment because it was not very well attended. A surprise since this show normally has a pretty steady crowd. The smaller crowds could have been caused by the change in venue or by the hot, sunny weather following a week and a half of rain.

Overall, I was happy with the new location. It was easier to find and larger than the old place. Also it was air-conditioned which saved us all from melting from the heat and humidity! And despite the smaller turnout, I did about the same as and Dad did slightly better than last year. However, in general, it did seem that people were buying lower cost items and not as many originals.

One thing that I found a little disturbing was my conversations with other participating artists who claimed that many of the local art shows are experiencing drops in turnout (of customers) and sales. Some artists are thinking of cutting back the number of shows they participate in because they don't want to "waste their time".

So my questions to you, dear readers, are you seeing a similar trend at your local shows? If so, are artists choosing to sell their artwork through different channels (ex. at galleries, on the net)? Is this a lull in art sales in general or just a shift in how those sales are made?

I think it would be interesting to get a broader picture of the current art market, so I'd love for you to post your comments here or blog about it and come back and give a link.

Although this year's show might not have been a rousing success, Dad and I will be back next year. The show has a good track record, is in a convenient location for us and is organized and attended by some very nice artists. That is enough to make it worth our while.

The picture above shows part of our set-up. The rack contains a mix of Dad's paintings and my paintings.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Clymer Library Art Show

Burnside Plantation
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

This weekend I will be participating in the Clymer Library Art Show. The show is open Saturday August 25th from 11am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. It is being held at a new venue, but is only minutes from the old location. This year's venue is the Pocono Mountain West Junior High School. The junior high is on the same property as the high school. You can find directions here.

There are many great artists at this show, so I hope if you are in the area you get a chance to stop by. You will find me sharing a booth with my dad, Bob Govett. I wouldn't be an artist if I hadn't watched Dad draw and sketch when I was a kid. Now we share a lot of good times together doing shows, taking workshops, sharing some friendly competition to keep each other motivated. And when he's with me at a show, he's out of Mom's hair for a day. So I earn some bonus points there.

Assateague Lighthouse

copyright 2007 Robert Govett

Thursday, August 16, 2007


copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

My Gerber daisies are blooming and they look beautiful!! I am so excited! These are the same Gerber daisies that I sketched on my windowsill.

I transplanted them to a large planter outside after they almost died in their little pots from the garden center. For a few days I wasn't sure if they were going to survive. Then the leaves started looking better and new leaves started growing. For weeks I've had nice, healthy, shiny, green leaves. And now finally FLOWERS! Hooray!

I've been snapping away with my camera. I just can't help myself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I was reading Robert Genn's newsletter today and it said this...
The art of remaining mute is one of the keys to personal
creative evolution. By speaking out and expressing our plans we often diffuse
our need to do. It's as if some of the energy required to produce the creative
product is already used up by the words themselves.
See! That's why I need to do before I tell. Otherwise it might not happen at all. It has nothing to do with being secretive. It's about creative evolution.

So I could tell you what I am planning to do next, but then I might not have enough energy to continue fighting with my printer. It already won Round 1, so I really need to be in top shape tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Artist Slump

watercolor thumbnail
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

I have found in my years of being an artist that two things can push me into an artist slump. One is finishing a breakthrough painting or drawing. By breakthrough I mean a work that is better than any I had created previously. The other cause is realizing that my vision outpaces my skill level. In other words, being able to "see" the fabulous piece of art I want to create, but not having the necessary skills to be successful in creating it.

I think the problem with both of these events is they inspire fear or create (self-imposed) pressure. The breakthrough piece surprises me with how good my work can be. That surprise is followed by the feeling of pressure, created by wanting to repeat the success, and fear that the success was somehow a fluke. When vision outpaces skill, of course, the fear is that the skill will never advance enough to allow me to create what I see in my mind's eye.

What I think is funny is that visible growth can sometimes stop me. (Although truthfully it is more of a pause, because I always come back to creating.) Producing a painting that shows growth in my technical skills or visualizing one that represents growth in my creative skills is more fearful than producing something which shows no growth? How counter-intuitive is that? Stagnation is more comfortable than growth?

Do you think that changing my point of view - celebrating the growth instead of focusing on the fear - would stop a slump in its tracks? It's an interesting theory and definitely worth a try. I'd love to hear opinions on this topic from other artists out there.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Why Simplified

watercolor thumbnail "Marigolds"
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

(A continuation on the theme of my last post...)

I like people to be happy, and I see a lot in the world to be happy about. I like helping people be happy by showing them what I see that brings me happiness. I'd be even happier if my art could do that for me.

Yes, you may now call me Pollyanna...
but only if it makes you happy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The "Why" to Being an Artist

watercolor thumbnail 3" x 2"
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

I was having a discussion with my husband about different jobs that he thinks would be interesting. I have to tell you that I envy him a bit. There are at least 5 different careers that he thinks would work for him. For myself I can only think of one – artist.

There are some benefits to knowing what I want to do. In fact, before I figured out that I wanted to be an artist, I was stressed because I couldn’t think of a career that I was passionate about. I’m thankful to be through that phase!

The downside of knowing what I want to do is the knowledge that being a successful artist is HARD. It requires the obvious creativity and technical skills (drawing, painting, etc.) but also requires skills necessary to run your own business. An artist who is just starting out must wear many hats – artist, salesperson, accountant, purchaser, marketer, PR rep. Being a successful artist requires dedication, persistence, a clear vision, hard work and lots of time. I’m not sure if I know any artist who hasn’t wondered once or twice whether they are cut out for the job.

In Robert Genn’s newsletter from July 24th, he comments on being an “artist for life” and gives some ideas that he thinks will increase a persons odds for success. His newsletter got me thinking.

I’ve thought a lot about why I want to be an artist. I mentioned my main motives in my first post on this blog and recently I expanded my own understanding of this desire.

I do not have a good memory for events and experiential things. One improvement I am trying to make in my life is to live in the moment, appreciate the blessings found in that moment and somehow commit it all to memory. There are many things in my life that I don’t remember clearly. Most of my memories have to do with how I was feeling during an event instead of exactly what happened, who was there or what things looked like.

Should my self improvement plan not work, I have a plan B. That plan is to use my art to record things as they are happening and capture the feeling and the details all at once. For example, someday I want to travel to Italy, visit the museums, taste true Italian food, travel around the countryside, meet and befriend locals, drink in the scenery, experience all of the good things Italy has to offer. I want to capture it all, all of the experiences and sights and feelings. Then I want to pour it all out into sketches and paintings and drawings so I never have to worry about forgetting anything. Through my art I can share my experiences with people who have had similar experiences, or who wish to have them but for some reason can not.

Thinking of this goal makes me feel excited. Thinking of living this goal makes me feel happy. It makes me itch to get back to my drawing table, to improve my skills, to make progress. These feelings are just what I need to transition out of vacation mode and back into being productive.

My husband recently pointed out to me that I have been creating art and pursuing my dream of becoming a successful artist for longer than I was an engineer, longer than I have been a mother, longer than I have taken dance lessons as a hobby, and almost as long as I spent in school. Maybe I am a “lifer” after all.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beach People

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

I’m back from my second and final vacation of the summer - another trip to the shore. Days spent on the beach relaxing in the sun while the kids entertained themselves by digging holes, practicing with their skim boards and riding waves on their boogie boards. It is so nice seeing my own kids enjoy similar pleasures as I did when I was their age. I know we are creating memories that they will have for a lifetime. We are passing along experiences and traditions that I hope they pass along to their own kids when the time comes.

Vacation is of course a perfect time to get caught up on reading. I admit that I bought the last Harry Potter book the day we left town and read all 759 pages of it while I was gone. What a great series! I really enjoyed the characters and places that J.K. Rowling created and know I will reread the series at some point.
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

I also took my sketchbook to the beach with the intention of creating many quick sketches. However, I found that I had little interest in buckets and shovels and things that stayed still, so instead challenged myself to sketch beach people. And what a challenge it was! Even people who looked like they were comfortably settled in seemed to start moving as soon as I started sketching. I ended up with many half drawn subjects. But I did manage to finish the two people pictured above. Even though they were also moving targets, they helped me out by frequently returning to a common stance. I have to say that I am pleased with these sketches since I don’t often draw people.

Now we are back from vacation and I am trying to get settled into routine life. One thing that I am learning as I get older is that transitions are not a strength for me. I’m working on that and at least managed to get all of our bags unpacked the day we arrived home.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Interesting Reads

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

My archives list in the right column shows me that my postings for July have been few and far between. What can I say? Summer has a way of pulling me away from both the computer and the studio. I want to be at the pool and the farmers market and enjoying the outdoors. I want to go swimming and get lost in a book and ride bikes and go on walks with my kids. Of course, come the end of next month when my shows start I will be paying for my fun in the sun, but right now it seems like a decent trade.

Although I haven't been writing much, I have read some good blog posts lately. I thought I would share them with you just in case you missed them.

Maggie over at Greywaren Art wrote two posts on the topic of being consistent in style. They can be found here and here. I'll be pondering her words as I soak up the sun. Hopefully the sun's bright rays will help me see clearly what my "cookies" should be.

Katherine on Making a Mark has also been putting up some thought provoking posts. This week she started reviewing Imagekind, an online print on demand service. Her first post was a brief introduction to Imagekind, and in the second post she really starts to delve into the details.

Now, just to prove that I've been doing more than just reading...

Earlier this month, Katherine also posted information on how to make a light box for still life photography. The information originally came from the knowledgeable folks at Strobist. I followed Katherine's link to the original directions and I am happy to say that I now have my very own light box!! It was so easy to make and fun to play with. The picture above of the pepper was the first picture I took in my new light box. (Isn't that a beautiful pepper? I didn't even know purple peppers existed until my trip to the farmer's market last week. It tastes like a regular green bell pepper, but looks so pretty in a salad. I'm planning on buying more, so watch for them to turn up in my salads and my artwork!)

After testing the light box in the set-up that Strobist had described, I decided to play with different colored lighting. I had some sheets of colored translucent paper that I bought in the scrapbooking section of the local craft store. They cost about 80 cents each and worked well for this experiment. For this picture of the teacup, I slipped a light blue sheet between the light source and the box. I also put an orange sheet standing up inside the box on the shadow side of the cup. Can you see the two colors reflected in the cup?

2007 copyright Stacy L. Rowan

I also tried the opposite set up with the orange between the light source and the cup and the blue on the shadow side. Unfortunately the orange is a little dark, so that picture didn't work as well. I plan to go back and buy a yellow sheet and try again.

So you see, I am doing some things. Sure they may seem more like playing than work, but isn't that what summer is all about?

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Game or an Intervention?

watercolor study
2 3/4" x 2"
2007 cpoyright Stacy L. Rowan

Last weekend I sat down with my family to play a game that my kids learned at school. The rules of the game are simple. Every player gets a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. One person is the time keeper for the group. When the timekeeper says go, everyone starts writing a story on their piece of paper. When the timekeeper says stop, everyone stops writing and passes their paper to the left. Typically players are allowed to write for one or two minutes. When you receive your neighbor's paper you add to their story, stopping and starting per the timekeeper. The papers continue to pass around the group until they return to the player who started the story.

Now is where the fun really begins... Everyone takes a turn reading their story out loud. It is interesting to see where your story was taken, especially when it is not at all the direction you intended it to go!

I started a nice story about an artist. This is what my family did to it... (The color changes indicate different writers)

Once upon a time there was an artist who loved to draw. She wanted to draw all day and all night, but after a while she started to get hungry and stinky because she didn't take breaks to eat or take a shower. So she decided to take a break. Her break was two days long. She wasn't stinky or hungry any more, but at the beginning of her break, people threw her in the lake because she made the air stink when she went outside. The End

Do you think they were trying to tell me something??!?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How to Draw Roses

The most common search term that leads people to my blog is “How to Draw Roses”. Whenever I get traffic from that search I feel bad, because I’ve never written instructions for drawing roses. I can imagine their disappointment when they get here. So this post is for them.

Of course my knee-jerk answer to, “How do you draw roses?” is, “The same way I draw anything else.” I know that’s not what these people are looking for, but it’s true. The approach to drawing any subject is basically same.

I think the most important skill required for good drawing is learning how to see. And the second most important skill is drawing what you actually see, and not a picture that is a symbol for what you see. Everyone has seen a child’s drawing of a tree. It looks something like this…

And we all know it is meant to be a tree. It has all the important tree parts - a trunk, branches, the leaf canopy. It’s a tree! Except I’ve never seen a tree that looks exactly like this. In fact I’ve noticed that every tree looks different, even trees of the same species. As a child I learned to draw roses like this...

I thought I was pretty clever. But this is what a rose actually looks like…

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

So how do you get from a drawing a symbol of a rose to drawing an actual rose? Start by looking closely at a rose. Really look at it. Look at the shapes of the individual petals, how the petals relate to each other, how the petals sometimes fold over, all the details that make a rose a rose. Don’t try to draw anything until you have spent time really looking at it. And when you draw a subject, for heavens sake, make it easy on yourself and have the subject in front of you. Or at least have a reference photo of a subject. (Make sure it is your own photo, or one you have permission to use, so you are not in danger of breaking any copyright laws!) Most artists don’t draw without references.

So how would I draw a rose? I’d start out by drawing a simple shape that the rose can fit inside. By simple shape I mean square, rectangle, oval – you know, those shapes you learned in kindergarten.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Then I start drawing the outside petals because they are easiest to relate to the shape. After the outside petals are drawn I start thinking about simplifying. I don’t try to draw every single petal. I just draw enough petals to get the essence of the rose. There are artists who draw every petal, I am sure. But I tend to lose my place in the complex center portions of the rose. So I fudge it. And I have yet to have anyone say, “Hey, you missed a few petals there.”

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Of course, for anyone starting out with drawing, there are tools you can use until you are comfortable drawing freehand. Some people start out tracing their reference. Or you can use a grid to help you transfer the drawing to your paper. Sighting or using a pencil to measure lines might also help. Ultimately, drawing is like any other skill. It takes lots of practice. If you are interested in seeing more in depth information about learning how to draw, I recommend you check out Katherine Tyrrell's Squidoo lens "Drawing and Sketching - Resources for Artists".

So that is my lesson in “How to Draw Roses”. I hope people searching for that information find this post useful. At least now I can stop feeling like I am letting these searchers down.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm Thinking About a Series

I know a lot of artists work in series, creating a group of paintings that deal with one subject. I've never worked in a series before, but I've been thinking about it this week because there is a series of images I know I want to create.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

I grew up in a small town. My high school graduating class had 150 kids in it. Kids walked to school or had their parents drive them because there were no buses. When the furthest house in town is only two miles from the school buses aren't really necessary.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan
Picture in your mind small town America and that is basically where I grew up. I would like to paint a series of images from my small town. I think a lot of people would identify with these images and, of course, they are special to me because I love where I grew up.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

For sure some of the images will be based on the annual Fourth of July Celebration. Our town has it all, a beauty pageant, a Fun Run, a parade and fireworks. What more could you want? Every year my husband, kids and I go stay with my parents for the Fourth. And every year I take loads of reference pictures. This year I will do it again. Maybe this year will also be the year I actually start painting from them?? I'm thinking of drawing some thumbnails while I wait for the parade to start. Michael will be so proud.

copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

One of the images I am itching to paint is the tradition of the chairs. I couldn't explain it better than my sister did so click the link to see what I am talking about. I only hope someone put out a chair for me! After all, I am bringing my art canopy so the whole family has shade!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Newest Adventure

My family knows that I am good at keeping secrets. If you tell me something and then say, "but don't tell anyone", I really won't tell anyone. I also like to try out new experiences quietly and only talk about it once I see how things are going. This drives my mom a little crazy. Maybe because my sister tells everything right away. When we were teenagers, my friend Trish used to to tell my mom things too. Sometimes things I hadn't told Mom and that I didn't really want her to know. Luckily in addition to being good at keeping secrets I'm also pretty good at forgiving my chatty friends for spilling them.

Recently, I filled my family in on my latest adventure. That means I can
now share it here. (I couldn't let Mom hear my latest secret by reading it on my blog, now could I?)
In May I signed up to be mentored by Michael Newberry. I met Michael when he taught an online class on Wet Canvas. After that class, some of my fellow classmates signed up for mentoring. They spoke so highly of Michael and are producing such wonderful work that I couldn't miss the opportunity of working with Michael too.

So far I am extremely pleased. Michael is a professional artist living in New York City. He is very knowledgeable, a super nice guy and easy to get along with. But don't be fooled, he knows how to make you work. The thumbnail I posted a couple of weeks ago was done for the mentorship. So were the two in this post. My next assignment is to develop a very similar thumbnail into a large charcoal drawing. I will also be working on some thumbnail sketches in watercolor.

So, if you don't see me posting much artwork, have no worries. Michael is cracking the whip and making sure I am working, I may just not be ready to share yet. You know, I like to see how it's going first. I wouldn't say I'm about we use the word patient instead.

thumbnails copyright 2007 Stacy L Rowan

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Did You Miss Me?

Hi all! You may have wondered where I wandered to since things have been so quiet here. Sorry about that. I took off with the family for a week at the shore and was without internet access. Not that it was much of a hardship. Who wants to be working on the computer when you can be lounging on the beach?? I love the beach. There is something reassuring and calming about the sound of the ocean and the feel of sand under your feet. Ahhhhhhh...

The weather was a mixed bag - everything from the perfect beach weather to cloudy, windy and cool. Not that it bothered us too much, since we found plenty of fun things to do. But the windy weather combined with a full moon did cause some troubles. Tides were higher than I have ever seen them and came right up to the sand dunes. As the water ate away the bottom part of the dune, the sand above it would come crashing down and be swept away by the waves. The high tides also caused flooding in the streets as the water backed up the drain pipes. The power of the ocean is pretty amazing. Here is a picture I took of the waves lapping at the dunes.

Now I am back home and settling back into normal life. Hopefully that normal life includes lots of art and regular blog posts. Although, you never can tell when the ocean will call me for a visit again.

Friday, June 8, 2007


I don't have time for a proper post today, but I will put up a recent thumbnail sketch that I did. It is of a pot of Gerber daisies on my window sill. I had moved them there to make room on the counter when I was preparing dinner. The next day the sun came streaming in that window and illuminated the daisies. I'm a sucker for dramatic lighting and couldn't help trying to capture a quick sketch of this. My favorite part came near the end of the sketch when I noticed the reflection of the daisies in the window. More inspiration for the someday file!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

An Experiement

Hi all! I know I haven't been posting much, but that doesn't mean I'm not hard at work creating. It just means I'm not ready to share yet. Unfair, I know.

But I thought I would share this work in process which has been on the back burner for a few weeks. I am interested in learning how to do watercolor and colored pencil works on supports that don't require glass when they are framed. This is my first experiment and it is with colored pencil.

The support I am using is Ampersand Pastel Board. It is a rough support that feels a bit like sandpaper to me. Prior to this I have only worked on smooth paper. This surface has a very different feel, making it an experiment on several levels! I also have some Ampersand Clayboard to try out with my watercolors, but I'm still decided on a subject for that. In case you can't tell yet with this, I am drawing one of the daffodil pictures I took earlier this spring. Don't worry if parts of it look a little strange. I promise it will all work out in the end. You can find the value study for this drawing here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Memorial Day

I second my sister's sentiments.

Thank you for everyone who fights to keep us safe and free. I will always appreciate your sacrifices and the sacrifices of your families.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

We're Back on Track (I think)

Well, the new computer is up and running...sort of. Not everything is compatible. But don't worry, only the unimportant stuff like SCANNERS and PRINTERS!!! Who would ever think to release an operating system that isn't compatible with scanners. Geniuses that's who.

But I won't bore you with any further tirades. I'll save them for my poor husband who is stuck playing IT guy. He kindly set up a "scanning station" for me so I could add images to my blog without resorting to using the digital camera. He's a nice guy and only laughs at my anguish when I don't look like I am going to throw something at him.

So to celebrate this milestone I actually have an image to share. I did this little drawing the other night. I felt the pull to do some graphite work after a string of watercolors. I decided to get my feet wet by drawing a fortune cookie that was sitting on the counter. I don't really enjoy eating them, so I might as well draw it instead, right?! Anita Davies's work inspired me to add the lettering. Her lettering adds such a nice touch to her sketches.

So here's my fortune cookie. I hope it's fortune predicts a friendly existence between me and my new computer. Only time will tell.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Say a Little Prayer

Hubby is working on setting up the new computer. Please say a prayer that it goes well and quickly. I miss my scanner and my photo editing software and real email and... well you get the picture.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

You Can Never Have Too Many Books

...especially art books.

I know I have been remiss in posting lately. I wish I had a good excuse, but truthfully I just haven't felt like dealing with the lame imaging software on the laptop. I'm also wishing for my scanner back. Hopefully all of this will be rectified soon.

In the meantime I thought I would tell you about some of my favorite art books. These are just my current favorites. I have a whole shelf full of books and I find I fall back in love with different books at different times.

My latest favorites, in no particular order, are...
Incredible Light & Texture in Watercolor by James Toogood. My faithful blog readers may remember that I took a workshop with Mr. Toogood back in January. I really enjoyed the workshop and learned a lot from it and the book. One of the best parts about the book is the section in the front that deals with "Color, Paint and Pigment". This section gives details about specific pigments. It was very eye opening for me and appealed to my engineering side. But even artists without an engineering side would benefit.

Dramatic Light by Patrick Howe. I love this book because I love paintings with dramatic light and strong contrasts. When I look at other artists works, I am attracted to paintings that have a lot of darks, a lot of lights and just a few mid-tones. This is also the first book that I've seen that talks about the wetness of paper, describes how to recognize the different degrees of wetness and shows an example of paint applied at each of the different degrees. Controlling and understanding the amount of water in your paper, your paint mix and your brush is critical for painting successful watercolors. And it's tricky too! This demonstration helps speed artists along the path of understanding.

Drawing from Line to Life by Mike Sibley. Mike Sibley is one of those great artists who is not afraid to share what he knows with other artists and this book is 287 pages of sharing! Now I have to admit that I haven't read this book yet. I've looked at it, skimmed it and drooled over the pretty pictures, but read every word - no, not yet. However, I did take an online course with Mr. Sibley on Wet Canvas. I read every word of that class and it was fantastic! This book is an extremely thorough discussion of graphite techniques with an abundance of images.

So these currently are my three favorite art books and the reasons I love them. Maybe I'll lose myself in them over the next few days while I wait to be fully functional.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


This is a graphite drawing of my Grandfather, Ernest.

graphite 9" x 12"
in private collection
copyright 2006 Stacy L. Rowan

He passed away eight years ago. It is hard to believe it has been that long. He was a bit of a grumpy fellow, but those who loved him knew it was mostly an act. He would give you the shirt off his back or the fresh bread he had just finished baking. His homemade applesauce was delicious. So were his pies.

I did this portrait as part of a drawing class on Wet Canvas. While I was working on it I felt like I was spending time with my grandfather again. That was really nice. Except for when I left him propped up on my drawing table and he stared at my husband and I when we slept. That was strange. Once I had the eyes done my husband requested that I leave the drawing laying flat on the table overnight. I'm a nice person so I complied with his request.

Last December I entered this drawing in the member show for my local art club. It won first place in the category for drawings (pencil, charcoal, colored pencil and pen & ink). I think Grandpop would be proud.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

By Request

I have had several requests in the last few days. A couple of people wanted to see close-ups of my latest painting, I was asked about how I acheived the color for the statue and I was "tagged" by my Wet Canvas friend Robyn who blogs at Have Dogs, Will Travel.

First the close-ups and color combinations...I am providing two detail shots, one of the statue's face and one of the lower part of the painting that shows the flowers. The color still looks awful to me because I am still working on my laptop, but I hope it gives some more information than the original picture did. To get the statue color I used various mixes of Terre Verte, Sepia, Raw Sienna and Raw Umber. Some spots were underpainted with cerulean blue (for instance, the bottom right hand side of the skirt) and some of the darkest shadow areas have a top layer of ultramarine blue.

Detail of "Birdbath Statue'
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Detail of 'Birdbath Statue'
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

Now to fulfill my other request. Robyn, who lives in and creates her art in Tuscany (she has been posting some beautiful botanical paintings and drawings from her garden lately) tagged me to spill 7 things about myself that people don't know. I did a version of this a few months ago when my sister tagged me. That time I only had to share six things. Also, according to my sister, I cheated because one of the things was actually about my husband. So, since I don't want Robyn to rescind her offer to let me come visit her someday, I am going to play again. I've added two new items at the top of the list and recapped the five from before.

  1. I may be an artist now, but I got my degree in a completely different field - chemical engineering. I worked as an engineer for 8 years before my kids were born.

  2. From the time I entered college I said I would never marry another engineer. (After all, engineers are a bit nerdy!) I also said I wouldn't marry someone who didn't like to dance because I love to dance. Guess what kind of guy I got it, a chemical engineer who didn't like to dance!! Luckily he learned to like dancing, or at least like it enough that he will dance with me. We are still working on the engineer bit, but I don't think I'll ever break him of being a little bit nerdy. For the record, I also said I would never have an amniocentesis during pregnancy and I ended up needing to have one. So now I try never to say never.

  3. I am a chocolate purist.

  4. I hate being told that I am unable to do something.

  5. I don't like the number 4.

  6. I want to save an old stone house.

  7. I have weird toes.

Now I am supposed to tag more people, but all of the people I was thinking of tagging are already taken. I was going to choose Robin N, Mary, Billie, Judy, Dave and Jeanette, so feel free to go read their blogs.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

As Promised

I've been having a bit of a rough week. One of those 'everything that can go wrong' types. But I believe in honoring my commitments, so I wanted to make sure to post my latest watercolor. Unfortunately, the coloring may be way off in this image as compared to the original since I have no real photo editing software to speak of on my laptop.

watercolor 5" x 13"
copyright 2007 Stacy L. Rowan

This is a statue that can be found on the property of Green Hill Farms in Bucks County, PA. The farm was once the home of Pearl S. Buck and now is used to teach people about her work. I took my family members to the farm to tour the Buck house as part of Girls' Weekend. Every GW hostess gives a souvenir to the people who attend her weekend. For my souvenir, I gave each attendee a book by Pearl S. Buck or James Michener (we also visited the James A. Michener museum in Bucks County) and a bookmark. The bookmark was a laminated copy of this painting. (Of course, I reduced the painting when I copied it so it would actually fit inside the book.)

I painted this using my own photo reference which I took in the late afternoon of a beautiful fall day. Unfortunately, I didn't see any sign indicating who made this sculpture so I can't give them credit. If I find out who the sculptor is I will definitely let you know.

The most challenging part of the painting was the group of flowers at the base of the sculpture. Since the stems where the lightest part, I had to employ a technique called negative painting to render this area. Negative painting is painting the areas around an object. In this case, I envisioned where I wanted the stems and leaves to be and then painted the dark background around them. Luckily I had some practice using this technique in graphite when I took a class on Wet Canvas. The class was taught by Mike Sibley who is a pro at negative drawing and all things graphite.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Working Again

Thanks to my dear hubby I now have access to my backup files through our laptop. We did lose some updates when our computer went bust (it seems the last scheduled automatic backup didn't happen), but most of our files are safely on the external hard drive where they should be. And now we copied the contents of that hard drive over to our laptop so the files are easily accessed. What a relief!

So here is the painting I was planning to share before all of this nonsense happened.

original watercolor 16" x 12"
copyright 2005 Stacy L. Rowan
It is a watercolor painting titled "Uncle John's Peppers". My uncle grows a huge garden every year. Just last week he and my aunt planted 125 tomato plants for this year's harvest!! My uncle is very generous with the vegetables that he grows and people are always stopping by to take home whatever is ripe. One year when we were visiting he gave me "a few" red peppers to take home. His definition of a few was around eight!

Now if you know me, you know that I am a thrifty person. So I just couldn't stand the thought of these peppers going to waste. What was I to do?!? Invite family over for a dinner of homemade stuffed peppers? Have my husband take the "extra" peppers to work to give to his colleagues? Get real people! I'm an artist! So of course I used them in a still life set up and took lots and lots of reference photos. Then we ate them! (The peppers, not the pictures.)

I think that was a pretty good plan of attack. After all, this painting won me first place in the watercolor category of my local art club's member show. Thanks Uncle John!!