Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Space Between

sketch of gift
sepia ink in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I always enjoy the days between Christmas and New Year. The kids are off from school and on a break from all activities. My husband typically takes vacation so he can be home with us as well.

Although we often schedule time to visit with family or plan a fun activity or two, life during this week generally moves at a slower pace. It gives time for relaxing after the bustle of the holidays, for reflecting on the blessings of the current year and for planning for the year about to start.

During this time I tend to allow myself time off from studio work, but I do like to plop down with a sketchbook and have some fun.

As part of my review of the year, I counted how many sketches I had scanned into my computer files. Since the start of 2011 I have created and scanned 37 sketches. I have to say I am quite pleased with that number since one of my goals for the year was to sketch more frequently. I have already decided to make it a goal to improve on my number of sketches again in 2012.

My most recent sketch is shown above and is of one of my Christmas presents.

Do you have any presents that you receive every year?

I do. Every year my aunt gives me a glass ornament for my tree. Most of the times it is a glass icicle. And every year I look forward to this gift. It is always one of my favorites!

This year I received a beautiful purplish-pink twisted icicle. I only started adding colored icicles to my collection a few years ago (most of my icicles are made form clear glass) and now I wonder why I didn't do it sooner. They are fabulous!

So is there a gift that you receive every year? Is it something you look forward to or something you can't wait to re-gift to someone else? Or perhaps you give the same gift to someone on your list every year? Either way, I'd love to hear about it!

Happy New Year! I hope you are enjoying the last days of 2011 and looking forward to the start of 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Christmas greens and flowers
approx. 5" x 5" watercolor on paper
©2010 Stacy L. Rowan
sketched on one of the quiet days after Christmas last year

Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with laughter, love and all things joyous!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding Balance

drawing #8 WIP - tap dance series
graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

This week I went with my family to see the documentary "Being Elmo". It is the story of how Kevin Clash became the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's most beloved monster.

It is an excellent film about a man who followed his passion to become one of the most respected professionals in his field. I highly recommend the movie!

Based on the trailer, I expected the feel-good side of this story. But within this uplifting story there was also a little regret.

Mr. Clash spoke about how the demand for Elmo meant he that he traveled a lot and worked many hours. His passion for his work took him away from home and his daughter. You could see his sadness at missing out on some of the moments in her life.

I really appreciated his honesty on that topic. It was good to see that mastery doesn't come without tough choices. Many times that detail is glossed over in Cinderella-like stories of success.

But the truth is, everyone has to find a balance - the combination of working towards mastery of something they love and living the rest of their life - that works for them. It is often a trial and error process of testing different combinations until you find the balance that feels right.

Mastery is not a gift that some lucky people are just born with. It is the result of action, choices, decision and hard work.

I regularly evaluate the choices I am making to see if they support the balance that is important to me. I check to see if my actions support my priorities of family life, taking care of my health and spending time on my passion (art). If I've gotten off track, then it is time to start making different choices.

My balancing act this week included fitting studio time and some exercise in around our Christmas preparations. I tried a new-to-me approach this past Monday.

Monday was a cool, overcast day and as soon as I crawled out of my warm, cozy bed I was chilly. I have learned from experience that when I sit still at my studio table for a few hours I often get cold. I am too "in the zone" when I am working to notice it happening, but once I stop I realize I am quite chilled! (It doesn't take much to get me cold. My husband claims I only have a 5 degree temperature window in which I am actually comfortable.)

I decided to try and avoid the chill by chopping up my exercise into intervals. I started with about 7 minutes of brisk walking on the treadmill. Then I spent an hour drawing. Followed by another 7 to 8 minutes of walking, an hour of drawing, etc.

At the end of my time I had managed about two and a half hours of drawing and two and a half miles of walking! And after my first interval of walking I wasn't cold the rest of the day! This is a balancing tactic that I will definitely use again.

My drawing time was spent working on the above tap piece. I am really happy with how it is coming together.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Tips for Having a Less Busy Holiday Season

Quick 2 minute sketch of holiday decoration
Sketched while out to lunch for hubby's birthday
Sepia Pitt brush pen in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

In my last blog post, I shared how I burned myself while preparing dinner. It was the second burn in as many weeks. And although I could claim the two burns as an impossible-to-correct short coming and use them as an excuse to never cook again... oh wait, now there's a thought!
...But to be honest, the culprit here is distraction and not my lack of cooking skills.

So I promised that in addition to telling you of my kitchen woes, I would share some tips for how to be less busy. I have decided it makes sense to focus on tips for being less busy during the holiday season.

And here they are...

1. Decide to be less busy
This is the first, and I believe most important, step. You need to decide that you are done with the "run around like a chicken with your head cut off" busy-ness. And I don't mean a knee-jerk "Of course I want to be less busy" type decision. I mean a real, clear decision backed by the commitment to make the hard choices necessary to give this decision life.

2. Decide what is most important for your holiday season.
Is it most important for you to spend time with friends? Is the holiday nothing without the family traditions you grew up with? Does the true meaning of the season come to you when you are elbow deep in volunteering opportunities? Or is your main goal to win the neighborhood decorating contest? Whatever the answer, determine the two or three things that make the holiday special to you. Then make sure to get those things on your calendar.

3. Make a list of what needs to be done and what is optional - Be honest!
Okay, so it is probably unlikely that you can go the entire holiday season without grocery shopping - unless you can bribe pay someone to do it for you. And the kids will probably disown you be a little upset if they don't get any presents. But do you really need to string popcorn garland for each of the thirteen evergreen trees in your yard. Will the birds really appreciate it so much more than the feeder full of store bought birdseed? I think not.

4. For the optional list, decide in advance what activities you are not going to participate in.
If you are committed to being less busy, then it only makes sense that you are not going be able to take part in every opportunity that the holidays send your way. Make it easier to turn down the events that don't make the cut by making the decision in advance and determining how to graciously decline. Not only will your schedule be more open, but you will be less stressed if you don't have to come up with a reason to say "no" on the spot.

5. Relax your standards.
I tell my kids that it is unreasonable to expect to be the best at everything they do. The same goes for us adults.It is okay to plan to do some, or even many, of the optional items. But if you want to leave time to squeeze in a few hours of sleep or peaceful reflection over the next few weeks, you might want to lower your standards. Try only putting up the decorations that have the most visual impact or the ones that have the most sentimental value. Instead of cooking 27 different varieties of cookies, focus on the two or three you really love. Instead of running around to every store within a 50 mile radius trying to get the best price on that gift, be content with getting a good price at the second store you visit.

6. Ask for help.
This one is especially for the women out there. Yes, I know that no one can do things exactly the way you like them done. And yes I know it would take longer to train them how to do it your way than to just do it yourself. But the kids might love to get out the decorations or bake the cookies or put the stamps on the holiday cards. Yes, it might not be the way you would do it, in which case I would suggest you refer to tip #5 above.

7. Remind yourself to relax, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the holiday.
I think I often feel busier than I am because I tell myself that I am busy. The list of 'things to do' runs around in my head along with the phrase "busy, Busy, BUSY!" said in the voice of the magician from Frosty the Snowman. But when I slow down my mind and take time to enjoy what I am doing, I often find that I still have plenty of time to get everything done. The way I feel is wrapped up in whatever story I am telling myself. So why not make it a story that makes me happy?

And now one bonus tip to help you with next year's holiday season...
This year when the celebrations are over and its time to take the holiday decorations down, instead of putting them all together in one box, pack them away in smaller containers. Label each bag or box with the room where the decorations came from. All of the items from the kitchen go in one box. The stuff from the living room is in another bag. You will be amazed at how much time this saves next year when it is time to decorate again.

I hope you find these tips helpful and are able to enjoy a less busy, more relaxing holiday season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dangers of Multi-Tasking

Vase of flowers - sketch
Pitt brush pen and Inktense pencils in Moleskine watercolor sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Forgive me for any typos you find in this blog post. I am trying to type without using one of the fingers on my left hand.

I burnt my pointer finger tonight while I was making dinner. I accidentally grabbed the handle of the frying pan below the plastic portion. Not smart. Especially since I did the same thing two weeks ago. (Luckily I am right handed so I can still hold a pencil or paint brush.)

You might be tempted to believe I am a slow learner, having made the same mistake twice in one month. But I believe the truth to be more about distraction.

I was in a hurry trying to get dinner on the table before everyone had to be run to their evening activities. I was thinking of all the things I had to do after dinner. And tomorrow. And the next day. And every day between now and Christmas.

I wasn't thinking about how this pan is lighter than my cast iron skillet so I don't need to grab it so far down the handle. I wasn't thinking about how the plastic handle doesn't continue all the way to the bowl of the pan.

Distraction from multi-tasking seems to be a pretty common part of modern life. From applying make-up or talking on the cell phone while driving, to reading the paper while eating breakfast, or taking care of emails while "watching" kids sporting events.

People pride themselves on being able to accomplish multiple things at once.

However, one of the things I have realized that I love about days spent is my studio is the luxury of concentrating on one thing at a time. When I am creating art I have a singular focus. And I love it.

I love not having to juggle multiple tasks. I love getting engrossed in the creative process and not caring, or even noticing, that the hours are sliding by.

The act of creating art quiets my mind. The quiet feels peaceful, relaxing. It allows me to enjoy the activity at hand, and the moment I am living in, without thinking about or worrying about what the next hour or day or month will bring.

I want more of that feeling in my life.

I want less of the busy, multi-tasking, grabbing the hot pan feeling.

Next time I'll tell you some of my ideas on how to have a less busy life. I realize the blister on my finger points to my needing more practice with this concept. After tonight's run in with the frying pan I suddenly have a burning desire to do just that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hoping You Have Much to be Thankful For

sketch of a decorative turkey
created with Pitt brush pen, Inktense pencils and water brush
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

As those of us living in the US celebrate Thanksgiving, my wish for my blog readers is that you each have much to be thankful for.

I am very thankful for all of you that read my blog, both here and on Facebook. I am grateful for every comment, every "like" and every "share". I value your support, both the loyal supporters who have been cheering me on for years and the ones who are seeing my art for the first time today.

I have been blessed with much good fortune in my life - a loving family, great friendships, wonderful experiences, good health - getting to do what I love is the icing on the cake. Thank you for being part of that icing.

No matter where you live, I hope today finds you surrounded by love and blessings and feeling like you have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Portrait Practice

I'm starting off today's post with a confession. My confession is that I would much rather be curled up in a soft chair under a warm blanket than sitting here in this uncomfortable desk chair at 8:49 on a Thursday night.

But I made a commitment to myself that I would post on my blog every Thursday. Given that one of the words I would choose to describe myself is dependable, not posting seems like a bad choice.

As a rule I find it easier to keep my external commitments, the ones I make to other people, than I do to keep the ones I make to myself. I’m wondering if that is typical for most people. Do you find it easier keeping your word when you make a promise to someone else, or when you make one to yourself?

For the case of this current challenge, I am telling myself my commitment is to my readers. That helps keep my butt in this hard chair instead of wimping out.

I can feel your sympathy. Really I can.

But enough about me and my struggles…

During my studio time today I finished a new painting. As much as I would love to share it here, I am going to have to wait and keep it under wraps for another month or so.

Instead I am sharing my latest round of portrait practice. I did these sketches over the weekend. I used magazine photos for my references.
practice sketch 10
graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan
practice sketch 11
graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan
Now a summary of what I learned from this round…
  • I think I am going to need to stick to a sketching style that combines line with value. When I try to draw without values I can’t get over the feeling that something is missing.
  • The smaller sketches were easier because there were fewer details in the features. This made it simpler for me to concentrate on the shapes of the shadows without getting hung up in all the different parts of the eye, for example.
  • Practice builds confidence. Even with as few as four sketches, I could feel a difference between the first and the last. By the last sketch my speed had improved marginally and I was more pleased with the quality of the result.
  • I am enjoying this portrait practice much more than I expected. I hope you are enjoying it too, as I plan to keep sharing my progress.
Okay, now I'm off to find that comfy seat and warm blanket. See you next week!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning to Sketch Portraits - Part II

Today I listened to the Artists Helping Artists interview with Carol and David Marine. In one portion of the interview Carol was speaking about branching out into painting silly faces and how important it is for her to keep experimenting and trying new things in order to keep fresh and enthused about her art.

It was inspiring to hear her thoughts. They felt like support being sent in my direction to encourage this section of my latest journey. If you haven't listened to the interview yet, I highly recommend it!

So in Part I of this post I spoke about my desire to sketch more of my life moments and, how in the past, I have been stopped by my discomfort in sketching people.

My solution for this discomfort was to jump from the frying pan into the fire. A simultaneously exciting and frightening jump!

After trying my hand at sketching from other artists' sketches - both more linear sketches and value based sketches - I decided the next logical step was to try a sketch from a photo. You could say I was being thorough, or you could say I was avoiding the scary prospect of sketching from life. I think both statements are true!

My intention was to create a linear sketch because I am wanting a quicker sketching style. I also tried not to be concerned with likeness - as the saying goes that was easier said than done.

I chose to work from a rather small image thinking that a smaller image would have less detail. Detail often entices me to get fiddly, which I was trying to avoid. In hindsight I think working from a larger reference would have been easier.

Below is my sketch from a photo of my hubby. Handsome guy isn't he?

practice sketch 6
graphite on newsprint
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Reviewing the sketch above I can see I was more hesitant in this sketch than the sketches I posted in Part I. I'm not sure if I was intimidated by the challenge of capturing his likeness, if I was hampered by the size of my reference or if I was reacting to having to edit the detail I saw in the reference. (In the sketches I copied, obviously the artist who did the initial sketch had already been through the editing process and the subjects of the sketches were strangers to me.)

I can also see the style sliding toward more precise line work instead of using expressive lines. I am very interested as I continue this experiment to see where my natural style falls on the continuum from detailed and precise to loose and expressive. I secretly hope I can move along the spectrum towards the expressive, loose end. Time will tell if that is actually possible.

All of the sketches posted in Part I and the sketch above were completed in one afternoon. Feeling encouraged by my results I decided to finally take the brave step to sketch from life.

Several days later I was visiting my kids at school. I always carry a pocket Moleskine and pencil in my purse. Making use of these tools I made several quick sketches of my girls during the times when they were reading or working quietly at their desk. I limited my sketching to the times they were doing desk work because I didn't want to draw the teacher's attention and get sent to the Principal's office. That wouldn't have set a very good example!

The main challenge I experienced during this "sketching from life" session was that my models were not at all still! Honestly they moved every two seconds and rarely returned to the same position. They even knew I was sketching them (I had asked their permission first) and they still weren't still. Below are the results of sketching these moving targets.

practice sketch 7
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
© 2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 8
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

practice sketch 9
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Practice sketch 9 is my favorite because the lack of facial features made for stress-free sketching! I was pleased that in all three sketches I stuck with line and did not resort to value. I was also happy that I remembered to leave some breaks in the line work. I did not have as many "suggested" areas as in the copied sketches but, because of the constant movement, I wasn't able to get to finicky.

The middle sketch was the most challenging because of the angle and because of the size of the sketch with respect to the page. Apparently I wasn't quite up for the challenge because the sketch makes my daughter look much older than she actually is!

For those of you who know my kids, sketches 7 and 9 are of the same child and sketch 8 is the other one. I'll leave it up to you to determine who is who.

In summary, I learned a lot from these two sketching session. In some ways sketching from life was easier than sketching from a photo. The built in time constraint made it almost impossible to get hung up on details and forced me to make quick decisions and live with the lines I put down.

I need a lot more practice to build fluency of line and expressiveness. I think that will come as I get more comfortable. Practice will hopefully also make it easier to capture a likeness.

I am excited for my next practice session. I already have a few magazine photos set aside and several personal photos in mind. I am also trying to identify times or activities which require my family members to sit still so I can make use of those times as live sketching sessions. Wish me luck as I think I live in a house of Energizer bunnies!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Autumn Flowers and a Quick Reminder

First the reminder... This Sunday, November 6th, I will be exhibiting my work at Moravian College as part of the Tap Ties' Day of Dance & Friendship. My art will be on display from 2pm through 6:30pm. You can find more information here or on the Tap Ties site. Hope to see you there!

This flower sketch was completed a few weeks ago. It was one of those beautiful, sunny, warm fall days when winter seems too far away to worry about. (Little did we know that snow was just around the corner!)

Most Tuesdays find me attending my painting group. Anywhere from three to ten ladies gather and set up shop in one woman's basement. We all work on our own projects. Sometimes we solicit artistic advice from each other, sometimes we discuss what is going on in everyone's life and sometimes we paint in a companionable silence. It is a wonderful group to belong to.

On this particular Tuesday, we were finally seeing some sun after days and days of rain and I was feeling sun starved. So after delivering most of my materials to the basement, I took my watercolor sketchbook, my Inktense pencils and a graphite pencil back outside.

Once outside I plopped down on the warm driveway and sketched this small clump of flowers. They were part of a much larger group that was gathered at the base of a lamp post.

I am not sure exactly what kind of flowers they are. They look like daisies but might be some kind of mum. I will have to ask the ladies next Tuesday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Learning to Sketch Portraits - Part I

For many years I have drooled over the sketchbook journals I see in other artists' blogs. I dream of someday documenting my life in such a journal, complete with fabulous drawings and witty and insightful writings. I will record all of the little magical details that make my life what it is. When my children are grown we will spend quality time reading the journals, reminiscing and sharing our memories with their children. Can you hear the swell of the violins playing in the background?

Then I wake up and know that it was just a dream, much like the dreams I have of living in the exquisitely decorated and perfectly clean designer homes they show on HGTV. Does anyone really live like that? If so, can you send them to my place and ask them to neaten it up a bit?

But even as I put the dream of perfection aside, I know I would still like to do more sketching of my life and family moments than I do. One thing that holds me back is that I am not comfortable sketching people and typically family moments have, well... family in them. And family means people.

The way I see it, the only way to ever become comfortable sketching people is to start practicing.

Sketching from a real, moving person seemed like a daunting place to start. So instead I went to the source of all knowledge -- the Internet!

There are quite a few artists whose sketches of people I admire. Going back to one of the practices of old, I decided to find a couple of their sketches and copy them.  Many art students learn their craft by copying master works in museums.

One of the good things about starting with this method of learning is that the artist who created the original sketch already did the hard work of translating the 3D figure into a 2D drawing. I was particularly interested in studying what kind of lines and shapes are used to quickly portray the facial features.

To get started I picked two artists whose sketches of faces I much admire.

First - Laura Frankstone
Laura publishes her incredible sketches on her blog Laurelines. Her sketches are wonderfully expressive and I love her use of line. Her sketches look like they are passionately constructed without any sign of fear or hesitancy. I knew there was a lot I could learn from her work.

Here are my three practice sketches in the order I completed them.

practice sketch 1
approx. 5" x 4" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 2
approx. 7" x 6" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 3
approx. 7" x 5" graphite on newsprint

I tried to get a sense of her mark making, where she drew the edges and where she let the mind's eye fill them in. I tried not to noodle around with my marks and instead tried to make them meaningful and get them down the first time.

If you look close you can see from the shadow of incomplete erasure where I wasn't very successful with that. Laura definitely makes it look easier than it is!

The second portrait sketching master that I chose to learn from is James Gurney.

James Gurney's blog Gurney Journey contains a wealth of information and I firmly believe that every artist should make time to check it out. Interspersed with all of the technical information you will find posts containing wonderful sketches of the people that James crosses paths with.

I chose to work from James's sketches because they are more about value and less about line. I wanted to try and translate those sketches into line work using marks similar to the ones I was experimenting with above. It seemed like a good intermediate challenge.

Here are the two practice sketches from this round.

practice sketch 4
approx. 4" x 5" graphite on newsprint

practice sketch 5
approx. 10" x 7" graphite on newsprint

It was definitely challenging to remember to think about and work with lines instead of value. Value is my comfort zone. Also on the first sketch I found myself getting fidgety and erasing and restating lines. I tried to break away from that in the second sketch by standing up and working larger, both of which I enjoyed. 

Coming up in Part II -- The challenges mount: Working from a photograph and from life!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Upcoming Local Exhibit and Work in Process Update

drawing #8 WIP - tap dance series
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I have some good news to share! There is going to be another opportunity this year to view my artwork in my local community of Bethlehem, PA.

I know quite a few people lamented the fact that they were not able to attend my Open Studio in September. If you were one of those people, please read on. (Even if you weren't, please read on anyway. There are other details that might interest you.)

On Sunday November 6th I am thrilled to be exhibiting my artwork at the Tap Ties' Day of Dance and Friendship!

The wonderful Tap Ties ladies are hosting a fun filled afternoon of tap master classes followed by an informal performance and reception. The classes are open to intermediate and advanced tap dancers ages 12 and over. The reception and performance is open both to dancers and non-dancers. See their website for more information.

The Tap Ties directors have graciously invited me to exhibit my artwork during the event. My art will be on display outside of the dance room during all the classes and the reception. I will be showing a variety of pieces including (but not limited to) drawings and related products from my tap dance series. It is the perfect time to start holiday shopping for the tap dance lover or art lover in your life!
Click here for directions and a map.

The details...
Tap Ties Day of Dance and Friendship
Sunday, November 6, 2011
2pm - 6:30pm
Moravian College Dance Studio
Johnston Hall, Elizabeth Avenue
Bethlehem, PA

About the art...
The image above is a work in progress shot for what will become the next drawing in my tap dance series. I absolutely love my reference photo - another one snapped at a Tap Ties choreography session. I chose to use graphite for this image because of the subtle tones in the background and floor. Since I am using graphite, this drawing is moving a bit slower than my last two charcoal pieces did, but I think it is going to be worth it in the end.

And for the sake of complete disclosure, I will say that shortly after snapping this photo, I saw some things that I wanted to change so I spent a little quality time with an eraser. That certainly didn't speed up my progress any, but I'm happy with the changes which is all that really matters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Fine Art of Savoring Life

"Autumn by the Creek" sketch
Inktense pencils in Moleskin watercolor sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

When I was younger I didn't think much about savoring life. I had lots of free time to spend however I wanted. If a day ended up feeling kind of "blah" or unmemorable, it was no big deal. There was always tomorrow.

Now that I'm older I think a lot more about whether I savored any part of my day. Part of that may be contributed to getting older, and hopefully wiser, but I think a bigger factor is the busy schedule that comes from living with a husband who is never still and two fun-loving pre-teens.

Many of our days are jam-packed with activities, commitments, obligations. The free times are fewer and farther apart, making it all more important to me to savor both the free times and the fuller parts of my life.

Here is a list of some of the ways I savor my days...
- talk with my husband about travel, going after our dreams, successes we are striving for, how our kids crack us up, anything and everything;
- take "Family Fun" outings to amusements parks, the beach, mini-golf, the woods, creeks and streams, the ice cream store, historic homes, any place interesting, beautiful or fun;
- relax on the screened porch;
- spend time with family and friends;
- eat really good food;
- spend time in nature;
- hug the ones I love;
- laugh, dance, act silly;
- create art.

What are some of the ways you savor life?

About the sketch: I created this quick sketch on Monday. School was closed in observance of Columbus Day, and my hubby took a vacation day from work so we could all have a three day weekend. We went for a short hike and ended up on the bank of a creek. While the kids splashed around in the very cold water and skipped stones with hubby, I perched on a fallen tree and made an attempt to capture the sunlight, the color of the changing leaves and the way they reflected in the stream. A good time was had by all and I savored both the moment and now the memory of it.

The grey area at the top of the sketch is a shadow created during the scanning. Adjusting the colors of the scan was a challenge. The white of the paper was reflecting too much light causing me to lose the yellows in the sketch. This one looks better in real life than on the screen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Newest Cupcake Painting

watercolor on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Fresh off my painting board is my newest painting of cupcakes.

These little lovelies were baked by my neighbor, who has forever ruined me for store bought frosting. Her frosting is so good that I even enjoy the vanilla. This from a chocolate lovin' girl!

I am considering the image below as an alternate crop. What do you think?

alternate crop
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Virtual Open Studio 2011

I tried something different for my Virtual Open Studio this year. Instead of using still photography, I decided to create a video.

Now I will warn you, no one is going to be banging down my door predicting my astronomical success as a TV personality. But I do think it gives a good sense of how I set up our home for the Open Studio.

And I think it gives a good sense of the proportions of the artwork on display.

Worse case, you can always turn down the audio. Or close your eyes if you start to feel a little motion sickness.

(Now you are really looking forward to it, right?!)


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Relax with a Cup of Coffee

Coffee Break
©2007 Stacy L. Rowan
watercolor on paper

Hi all! Last weekend was my Open Studio and I am pleased to report it went very well.

A nice number of guests stopped by and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with everyone. Some came to buy, some to look and some just to offer their support. I felt blessed by the presence of every one of them.

I am working on a little something different this year in terms of sharing the Open Studio with my blog readers. But it's not quite ready yet.

While you wait I thought I would share my little mug of coffee and a couple of cookies with you. Our weather here has been of the rainy and cool variety. If it doesn't improve soon I will need a nice warm drink to fill in for the warmth of the sunshine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Open Studio This Saturday!

Zipping in and out quick today without even any new art to share. My schedule is full of things to do that I want to complete before my Open Studio this weekend.

The paintings are hung along with their labels, prints are out in their print racks and note cards* are restocked.

Food is planned and ingredients purchased, waiting to be mixed up fresh.

So how is it that my "To Do" list seems to keep getting longer?!?

No matter how long the list grows, at noon on this Saturday (the 17th), the work stops and the fun begins! I am really looking forward it!

*Speaking of note cards, this week I created a new set using an assortment of my produce images, which you can see below. This set will be available at the Open Studio. If you are interested in purchasing some cards and can't make it on Saturday, just drop me an email. My email address is in the right hand side-bar.
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stacy and the Giant Peach

sketch of "giant" peach
Inktense pencils in Moleskine watercolor sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Yesterday I stopped at a farm stand in our area that I hadn't been to before. I knew it was there and had driven by it on numerous occasions, but it was just one of those places I was going to stop "someday".

Since I wasn't able to make it to our normal farmers' market last weekend and was nearly out of fresh produce, I decided to give this "new to me" place a try. And am I glad I did!

I was pleasantly surprised by their selection. Everything looked so fresh and delicious. But what stood out most were the containers of peaches.

They are some of the largest peaches I have ever seen!

Honestly the largest ones are at least 3.5 inches in diameter. I kid you not. That is a BIG peach.

I wanted to sketch the peach next to some other object that, by comparison, would give you an indication of the peach's size, but I couldn't think of anything that didn't seem totally random. So instead I sketched the giant peach by itself. Which doesn't make for as good a story, but it's all I got.

Not only are these the biggest peaches I've ever seen, they are also the best tasting peaches I've ever eaten.

This good news has me looking up peach containing recipes for something I can serve to my guests at the Open Studio. I found some contenders which I'll be trying out over the next couple of days. Nothing too fancy (because fancy can mean difficult). Just good, delicious peachy-ness.

Man I really hope this "new to me" farm stand still has peaches next week. (Keeping my fingers crossed.)

About the sketch: This sketch was done in my Moleskine watercolor sketchbook using a small set of Inktense pencils. I really like how vibrant the colors are, especially after wetting them with a waterbrush. I added dry pencil on top to give the sketch some texture. I think I like these pencils better than watercolor pencils, but they do take a little bit more care when wetting them, because once they dry there is no moving that color!

About the Open Studio: You can find out more about my upcoming Open Studio here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Watercolor - Pears

untitled pears
watercolor on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

My children went back to school this week, and as soon as the house was empty and quiet I made a beeline up to my studio.

I loved the slower pace of summer and really enjoyed having fun with the family, but I also missed my regular studio schedule. I didn't realize how much until I was sitting back at my table surrounded by my paints and brushes.

The above watercolor painting of pears is fresh off the board. I finished it yesterday.

I started it a few weeks ago after buying our first batch of pears from the farmers' market. I grabbed three pears when we got home and took them right upstairs for a painting session.

The pears were long since gone by the time I got back to this painting on Tuesday, but luckily I thought to take a picture of the arrangement on day one.

I hope to have this painting matted in time to have it available at my 3rd Annual Open Studio on Saturday, September 17th.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sketching on Vacation

Clock tower of Carbon County Courthouse
graphite in Moleskine pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Last weekend I went away with my family for some end-of-summer family fun. We spent three days enjoying nature and touring the small town of Jim Thorpe, PA.

Jim Thorpe is an interesting town for a number of reasons. At one point it was the number two tourist destination behind Niagara Falls. It is located in the coal region of eastern Pennsylvania along the southwestern edge of the Pocono Mountains. The Lehigh River runs through town and the combination of coal, canal boats and railroads made the town prosperous in the 1800s. At one point 19 of the countries 26 millionaires owned property in Jim Thorpe!

For us the town provided the perfect setting for a long weekend get-away. It's combination of natural and historical attractions gave us plenty to see and do.

During the first two days we went hiking and white water rafting. Day three was spent in town touring the Asa Packer mansion and the old jail. These tours gave the family members over the age of twenty (I won't mention any names) a chance to recover from the more strenuous outdoor activities of the previous two days.

In between the two tours my family allowed me a few minutes for sketching. There were many worth subjects, however, in the end I chose to sketch the clock tower on the county courthouse. Mainly because there was a comfy bench strategically located across the street.

You can see the resulting sketch above.
Related Links
Jim Thorpe, PA
Asa Packer Mansion
Old Jail Museum

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sculpture Doesn't Have to be Stuffy

Glumpy (left) and Oliveia (right)
watercolor sketch ©2011 Stacy Rowan
sculptures ©2011 IG & DG

With the relaxed schedule of summer the kids have more time for the occasional sleep over. And what is better than staying awake til the wee hours of the night having fun and laughing with friends?

Okay, so maybe as the parent in charge of these late night soirees, I could name one or two things that I would like better, but that's alright. Sleep overs are a part of childhood that all kids must experience and all parents must endure.

One of the fun activities the kids did during their last sleep over was craft some colorful creatures using a Presto Dots kit. I love their creativity and the great details and expressions they gave the creatures so I decided to immortalize them in a sketch.

Meet Glumpy, created by my Inventor Girl, and Oliveia, created by my Dancer Girl.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moment of Silence

Today and tomorrow the town I grew up in is holding services for an Army Ranger who lost his life in Afghanistan. He served three tours in Iraq prior to the three he served in Afghanistan.

So today, instead of my normal post, I want to say thank you to all the men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our country. Freedom is never free and without these brave people life could look very different for us all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can't Beat Beets

sketch - bunch of beets
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Beets get a bad wrap as a vegetable. I think it is because most people have only tried the red canned version, which I will admit don't appeal to me at all.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that beets come in a variety of colors from deep purple to the traditional red to a cheery golden color.

I found this bunch at my local farmers' market (of course). Before cooking them I plopped them on my studio table and had some fun with my watercolor pencils. The above sketch is the result.

If you want to try some tasty beets, grab a fresh bunch and give the recipe below a try. You will end up with a side dish that is colorful and a little sweet.

Roasted Beets with Feta
beets, greens trimmed off with 1 inch of stems attached
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Rub each beet with a little olive oil and wrap individually in aluminum foil.
3. Bake beets in preheated oven until you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife. Approximately 45-60 minutes depending on size.
4. Remove beets from oven and allow them to cool enough to handle them. Unwrap beets and use a paper towel to rub off skin. The hotter they are, the easier this is. (Warning: This is the most difficult step in the recipe and you may end up with red stained fingers.)
5. Slice beets and place them on a plate.
6. Sprinkle with feta cheese and serve.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

13 Things I Love Best About Summer

Quick ink sketches of day lilies
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Here are some of the things I love best about summer...
- the slower pace
- vacations at the beach
- riding in the convertible at night with the top down
- starting my morning on the screen porch with a bowl of cereal or a cup of coffee
- ice cream
- seeing my kids enjoy their free time
- locally grown, fresh and delicious produce (especially tomatoes, blueberries and peaches!)
- blue skies and bright sunshine
- hydrangeas, day lilies, marigolds and all the other flowers
- not having to do the dishes (because we passed that chore on to the above mentioned kids after noticing how much free time they had - insert evil laugh here)
- not having to wear shoes, socks or a coat
- small summer purses (how come I carry so much more in my purse the rest of the year?)
- frequent trips to the library

I am doing my best to savor every minute of summer. I'd love to hear what you love about it too. Let's turn the comments section into a big list of summer love!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sketching the Blue Summer Sky

watercolor sketch
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

This summer I have started many of my days sitting out on my screen porch. On this particular day in June I couldn't help but notice the beautiful bright blue sky framed by our trees and the roof of our neighbors house.

I decided to make use of the slower pace of summer and enjoy a quick watercolor sketch. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Art Feels Good

While I'm busy enjoying some summer fun, I thought you might like to watch this short video on James Gurney's awesome blog that talks about changes in brain chemistry when people view art.

I know that I feel good and am happy when I am creating art. It's great to know that viewing my art can also make other people feel good.

Feeling down, make time to view some art!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winning Title From "Name That Painting" Contest

First a big thank you to all the peope who sent me their title suggestions for the contest! I loved reading them all and they have started a percolation of ideas through my mind that I will be able to play with and use as I create new paintings.

The title I chose as the winner is "Worth the Wait" sent in by Marie C. As Marie explained the title has a two fold meaning since "we wait patiently for the peonies to bloom and you finally finished the painting!" And I do hope those of you who enjoy my art feel like this painting was worth the wait while I finished it!

I will be sending Marie a pack of note cards created from this image. Thanks Marie!!

"Worth the Wait"
20" x 16" watercolor on Aquabord
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I also have to give a shout out to my friend Jackie for coming up with the most humorous titles! Jackie and I paint together on Tuesdays with about half a dozen other women.

This group of women made sure I kept coming back to this painting by asking me every week if I had completed it yet or not. Their gentle nudging reminder made sure I didn't pack it in on the days that it felt like the number of petals still needing to be painted were multiplying before my eyes! I firmly believe that every artist should have a painting group that gives them both a social outlet and measure of accountability.

Thanks again to all who participated in the naming fun! I am sure I will be holding more naming contests in the future when I am stumped for a good title. You are a creative and generous bunch!

An administratvie note: Over the next month or so I am planning on focusing on having some summer fun with the family. While I am busy enjoying activities like eating ice cream and swimming, lounging with a good book and hiking, I may neglect some (or all) of my regular Thursday posts. But rest assured I will return to my normal blogging schedule relaxed and re-charged the first week of August. If you miss me while I am gone, feel free to browse the archives (organized by post date) in the right hand column of this blog.

Thank you for your loyal readership! I'll catch up with you again soon!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Name This Painting Contest!

So I have the good news. My watercolor painting of the white peonies is complete! After starting it, stopping it, setting it aside, starting it, stopping it, setting it aside, etc. it finally made its way to the top of the list.

20" x 16" watercolor on Aquabord
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

The even better news is that you have a chance to help me.

I've thought of this painting for so long as "Peonies" that I seem unable to come up with a title that does it justice. That's where I hope you will come in. I'm looking for your best title suggestions and I'm giving a prize in exchange for it! The prize for the best title is a pack of note cards featuring this painting.

So if you are good with titles, please email me your suggestions - my email is in the right hand side bar. If I pick your title as the name for the painting, I will mail you a pack of note cards. It's that simple!

I will be taking entries through midnight (EST) on Wednesday June 15th.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

When Someone Else's Words Speak to Your Heart

"Sunny Susans"
© Stacy L. Rowan

When someone else's words speak to your heart it tends to make you sit up and notice. Or at least it did for me.

These words...
"where do they all go? all the seemingly forgettable everyday moments? the thought of losing them all terrified... me. ... I wanted them. I wanted them all. I still want them all."
...are an excerpt of a post written by Andrea over on her blog Hula Seventy.

To me her words speak to why I paint and draw and sketch. What compels me to capture subjects which you might see on any given day of your life.

When I see my subjects shining in a moment of beauty, I want to capture that moment so it's not forgotten. I want to remind people that beauty is found in the details of the "seemingly forgettable everyday moments" because when I am presented with that unexpected beauty it makes me catch my breath, it lets me know there is still so much good in the world and it makes me happy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In the Studio - May 25, 2011

Since yesterday was National Tap Dance Day, I thought I would post another update of the tap drawing I am working on.

drawing #8 WIP2 - Tap Dance Series
approx 8.25" x 11.5" graphite on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

National Tap Dance Day is a celebration of  tap dancing as an American art form. May 25th was chosen for this day of celebration because it is the anniversary of tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's birthday.

The image above shows approximately 4 to 4 1/2 hours of additional work since the image posted on May 19th. People often ask me how long a drawing takes, so I thought these two shots would give an indictation of my pace for graphite work.

I worked on this drawing some more today and spent about 3 hours darkening the pant leg on the right hand side of the drawing. (I'm not sure the values above are exactly right. I didn't adjust my scan until after I had already put in the additional work so I was relying on memory!) I'm hoping that the right hand pant leg is now finally dark enough.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In the Studio - May 18, 2011

This is what I worked on in the studio today.

drawing #8 WIP - Tap Dance Series
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Actually this was today's starting point. After taking this scan, I put in about 3 hours working mostly on darkening the pant leg on the left and toning down some of the highlights on the right pant leg.

It has been a while since I did a graphite drawing. Graphite work takes me to an interesting place. On one hand adding the layers of graphite to build up the values is an almost meditative practice. On the other hand I sometimes get frustrated because building the darker values is such a slow process. So I flip back and forth between feeling very peaceful and zen-like, and feeling impatient and anxious to make progress.

Knowing this I normally start with the darkest areas because once I have them in the rest of the drawing goes pretty quickly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Farmers' Market Opens!

Last Sunday was a day that I have been waiting for since November. I have been waiting for it with the eagerness of a child waiting for Christmas. On Sunday our local farmers' market opened for the 2011 season. Hallelujah!

I love the farmers' market. (I felt I had to say that in case it wasn't obvious.)

Not only does it supply me with super fresh, super delicious local produce, meats, cheeses and breads, but it also provides a wealth of painting ideas and models that are known to sit very still. Well..., unless someone comes along and decides to steal the model for a snack before I am done my painting.

Farmers' Market Spring Bounty
photo ©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

We've had a very wet and cool spring so I wasn't sure what would be available at this first market of the season. I was pleasantly surprised!

We came home with several different types of greens (arugula, pea shoots and leaf lettuce) as well as asparagus and mushrooms! We also picked up a scrumptious focaccia and some locally made salsa. We bought the mild salsa and were happy to find that it was very tasty and had a slight kick which built the more you ate.

Sunday Lunch!
photo ©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

We also stocked up on some locally raised chicken and bison since our freezer was empty!

I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be back to eating locally grown produce. The stuff shipped into the grocery stores over the winter just can't compare. This is our third or fourth year shopping at the market and I wonder now what took me so long to give it a try.


In other news, for those of you who live close to Bethlehem, PA, this Saturday is the Tap Ties National Tap Dance Day Celebration.

I will be selling my tap dance series of note cards, prints and posters (new this year!) both at the Banana Factory during the daytime workshops and in the evening at Foy Concert Hall before the performance. If you are in the area, please stop by and say hello!

I will also be performing with other members of my advanced tap class. Tickets are available in the lobby prior to the show if anyone wants to see why I am a professional artist and not an professional dancer. Click the link above for more information and directions.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Studio Work

Stopping in for a quick post today since I am focusing on maximizing studio time this week. Thought I would share a work-in-progress of one of the paintings I am working on.

Peonies WIP
20" x 16" watercolor on Aquabord
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I have been working on this painting on and off for over a year! It keeps getting pushed aside for works that have a deadline. But I am always anxious to get back to it.

At first I was a little daunted by the complexity of it, but once I figured out how to handle all those petals I really began enjoying the process. It is nearing completion now and I am excited to see how it looks all put together. (Unfortunately the colors seem a bit off on my screen. I took the photo on a cloudy day and I think that proved too much for my meager Photoshop skills.)

I am also hoping that once it is finished a title for it will appear. I have been calling it "Peonies" but that doesn't quite have the ring I am looking for. Anyone have any ideas? Maybe I should try a naming contest of some sort. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jumping Off Point - Tap Dance Series Charcoal Drawing

"Jumping Off Point"
18" x 24" charcoal on paper
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

This is my newest charcoal drawing. I finished it earlier this month and then had to wait for a bright day to snap a photograph of it. (And I might try again since I'm not 100% happy with this shot.)

I had so much fun working on this drawing. As with the rest of the series, my "jumping off point" for this drawing was the motion. I love how everything is moving in the drawing except that front foot, and I love the contrast between the sharp detail of that foot and the softer lines and edges in the legs.

This drawing is bigger than my other charcoal pieces in the series. I wanted to create a sense of space for all of this motion to take place in without feeling cramped. I also worked to create a feeling of distance between the front foot and the back foot. It is a big movement and I wanted to convey that to the viewer.

My model for this drawing is my friend and tap teacher Rochelle Haynes. I met her when I began taking the Tap Ties advanced tap class and I was blown away by her talent. She has a style of dance that is very intricate and that squeezes so many sounds into a single eight count. But somehow her dancing never looks hurried and she manages such clarity in each of the sounds. She makes it look and sound easy, but I can tell you from experience that it is not!

In addition to choreographing some wonderfully complex and intricate pieces she occasionally also pulls out some mad tricks to challenge the class. The reference for this drawing is a shot of her landing after one of those special moves. It might have been some kind of wing, but I was watching through the camera lens so I'm not really sure.

Rochelle was an awesome muse and I have many references from our photo shoot. I am sure you will be seeing the product of some of those references again in this series.

Thank you Rochelle! When I grow up I would be thrilled to be half as good at tap as you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Decorah Eagles

I am sure if you spend any time on the internet or if you watch the news you have already heard about the Decorah eagles webcam that was set up by the Raptor Resource Project. If you don't know what I am talking about, you can read about the project here.

Earlier today I decided to check in on the eagles and see how their cute little eaglets are doing. When I clicked over to the live feed there was the mama bird sitting on the nest keeping her babies warm. Or maybe it was daddy? I have no idea how to tell them apart.

Anyway, I was watching the adult eagle sitting on the nest and quickly found myself getting impatient, waiting for a glimpse of those cute, fuzzy eaglets. Yes, I realize this is a sad commentary on our society and how we constantly need to be entertained. What can I say... I was supposed to be in my studio and I might have been procrastinating and I might have been feeling guilt. Guilt doesn't feel so good so I shifted it to impatience instead and felt better about myself.

But I digress.

As I watched the streaming video, I realized how incredible it was to be viewing nature up close from the safety of my desk chair. And I realized that I shouldn't be impatient because the whole thing is really pretty amazing.

So I started thinking about how I could pass the time while I waited for mama bird to move. And that's when I decided to sketch while I was watching. (Good-bye guilt. Please don't come back anytime soon.)

sketch of eagle on nest
marker on paper
©2011 Stacy Rowan

But all kidding aside, when else in life am I going to have the opportunity to be this "close" to an eagle? Why not take the opportunity to sketch it from "life".

I couldn't find a pencil anywhere in the desk, so I went with the materials I had at hand, which happened to be a fine line brown Crayola marker and printer paper.  It was a challenging sketch because mama eagle is very serious about her job and is constantly moving her head to keep an eye on everything going on around her.

Just a few minutes into my sketch the adult eagle shifted and two little grey, fluffy heads peeked out from under her. One quickly turned it's face back out of the wind, but the other was more curious and checked out the surroundings a bit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Concert Sketching

I have been busy working in the studio but am not ready to share my progress there just yet, so I thought I would post a couple of quick sketches I did this evening.

My husband and I attended our kids' band concert. I often listen to music in the studio so I decided to try a few sketches while we enjoyed their performance. I haven't been sketching much at all this year, and after my daily habit the first half of last year, I am finding I really miss it.

sketch of band conductor
graphite in Moleskine pocket cahier sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I chose the conductor for my first sketch which, of course, was a challenge since she was constantly moving. You think I would have realized that before I started, don't you?

For the second sketch I decided to take it easy on myself. I chose an audience member thinking a spectator would be more still than any of the band members. And I did feel more confident with the second sketch.

sketch of audience member
graphite in Moleskine cahier pocket sketchbook
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

It was nice to be sketching again. I would love to find a system for fitting in more sketching without taking time away from my studio work. Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This is Spring

Voting ends tonight at 11:59pm EST for the Morning Call Best of Blogs contest. Thanks to everyone who has voted! I have moved up from 7th to 3rd!

I thought today I would share some pictures of Spring in my neighborhood just so you could see why I am still looking for pictures of Spring in other places.
Ten days ago Spring looked like this...

©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Buds were getting ready to burst open.

©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

The early blooming flowers were spreading.The day was warm and sunny and the temperature hit a high of 70F. It was warm enough that I was able to ride around in the convertible with the top down and the heated seats off! I was loving it!

Three days later I woke up to this. It took me totally by surprise.

©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Two mornings after that I looked outside to find even more! Yikes!

©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

At least snow in March is a temporary thing. And it is mostly all gone (again). Our temperatures are still hanging out about five to ten degrees below normal and are predicted to stay there for the next few days. Hopefully once we get through that Spring will be here to stay.

By the way, my mom says we should have expected this since March came in like a lamb, which means it will go out like a lion. That has me thinking - Bring on April! ......On the other hand, I'm a sunshine girl so I'm not real fond of April showers...