Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Artwork Headed to the Daylesford Abbey Art Show

I am pleased to announce that this year I will again be participating in the Daylesford Abbey Art Show.

Last year was my first try at being juried into this exhibit and it turned out to be my favorite show of the year.

Below is a sneak peek of some of the work I will be exhibiting this year.

Put Your Best Face Forward
18" x 22" watercolor on paper

A few years ago I took many reference photos of this yellow Gerber daisy. As I was looking for a reference for a new watercolor painting I saw this photo. The image made me think of how we all have a public face that we present to the world - showing what we think is acceptable - and a private one that we keep hidden - keeping to ourselves the parts that we think will make it harder for us to fit in.

Still in Yesterday's Clothes
8" x 10" watercolor on paper

My family shops at local farmers' markets weekly during the growing season, and I have a habit of painting the produce we bring home. I especially love when I find produce that still has it's leaves and stems attached. This pair of peaches reminded me of a couple getting home very early in the morning after a fabulous party. They may not be as beautiful as they were before the event, their clothes are a little wrinkled and they look a little tired, but you just know they had rockin' good time.

Leaves with Helicopters
8" x 10" watercolor on paper

I love autumn! It may be my favorite season. I love the smells of burning leaves and sweet apple cider. I love the warm, sunny days followed by cool, crisp nights. And I love the riot of color that explodes across the landscape. Yes, especially the colors, because I know they will be replaced by months of winter grey. So when I am out taking my morning walks in the fall, I can't resist collecting a colorful leaf or two... or possibly ten. And when the grey descends I paint the pretty leaves and return to the joy that autumn brings me.

Are You Getting my Good Side?
10" x 8" watercolor on paper

Cardinals are normally skittish birds, flying off at the slightest noise. This guy was hanging out in my pine tree feasting on some bird seed. Instead of flying away, I swear he started posing as soon as I trained the camera lens on him. He seemed a little full of himself, wanting to make sure I was capturing his best side.

Seasons' Reflections
10" x 12" watercolor on paper

I collect glass Christmas ornaments. I love how they catch the tree lights and magnify the shine. Many of the ornaments in my collection were gifts. Others I purchased while on vacation. As I unpack each ornament and hang it on the tree, I dip into those warm memories and linger in their comfort. The good feelings wrapped in those memories are reflected onto me each holiday season much the same way the glass reflects the lights on the tree.

8" x 10" reproduction of graphite drawing

This little house finch comes to my backyard bird feeder. I tried to take his picture a few times but he always seemed to fly off when I went to grab my camera. I think he is shy. Then one day he showed up with his lady friend and I was able to snap a few shots while he was distracted by her attention.

Produce Note Cards

An assortment of 8 blank cards and envelopes featuring a collection of my produce images. Two cards each of the beets, peach, apple and pears.

Related Links:
Daylesford Abbey Art Show

Show Details:
Opening Reception - October 13, 2012
3:00 - 6:00 pm
$30 per person

Free Admission to the show begins on Sunday, October 14, 2012

Show Dates: Sunday, October 14th - Sunday, October 28th
Show Hours: Daily 12 noon - 4:00 pm
             Wednesdays open until 8:00 pm

Address: 220 South Valley Road, Paoli, PA 19301

Call (610) 647-2530 ext. 100 for more information

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Travel Journals

Welcome back to my little home on the internet!

Summer is over and with it my scheduled hiatus. I have not yet determined what my blog posting schedule will be, but I am here for now and I am glad you are too!

Over the summer I was lucky enough to take two vacations with my family.

Whenever we go on vacation, I try to keep a journal of our adventures. It is so much fun to go back and read about the trip, and it is easier to remember the details when you have a framework to start in.

The first time I kept a journal was on a trip to Disney World that we took when my kids were very young. I knew that they were young enough that they probably wouldn't remember the trip on their own, so I wrote a brief summary about each day to capture and preserve the memories.

palm tree sketch from Hawaii
©2010 Stacy L. Rowan

Now that the kids are older, in addition to words, I try and sprinkle in a few sketches. The act of sketching more firmly cements the details in my mind and helps me soak up the vacation mood.

Someday I hope to create enough sketches on trips to be able to accurately refer to my travel journals as travel sketchbooks.

banyan tree sketch from Hawaii
©2010 Stacy L. Rowan

There are many artists in the world who keep wonderful travel sketchbooks. I love looking at the sketches and feeling the essence of a place - especially if it is a location that I may not visit in my lifetime.

If you are interested in learning about travel sketching or in viewing other artists' travel sketchbooks, the best place to start is with Katherine Tyrrell's Travel Sketching Squidoo lens.

As always, Katherine has compiled a wealth of information on the subject and neatly organized it for our benefit. She has included information on how to sketch and sketching tools, as well as links to artists who share their travel sketches in books or online.

My only warning about this site is not to pop in for a "quick" look. There is so much good and interesting information there, you won't be able to be quick.

shark & barracuda sketches from Florida
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

If you are more interested in viewing images then learning about the craft, here are links to some artists whose travel sketches I enjoy.

Nina Johansson - look for the "Categories" drop down menu in the right hand sidebar of her blog and select "travel" to view her travel sketches. Or click this link.

Lynn Chapman - In December of 2011, Lynn took a trip to Kerala in Southern India. Her descriptions and sketches from that trip are wonderful. Try typing "Kerala" in the search bar at the top left hand side of her blog or click here.

Laura Murphy Frankstone is a prolific traveler and sketcher. You can see a collection of her travel sketches here.

Liz Steel is another prolific sketcher who is also well traveled. To see sketches from some of the places she and her friend Borromini have been, click the location tabs at the top of her blog.

I would love to hear from you if you have a favorite artist who shares sketches from their travels - leave a comment below. Viewing travel journals is a wonderful way to see the world without ever leaving your couch!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Eighth Drawing in my Series of Tap Dancers

Popping in here during my hiatus to post some in process shots of the tap dance drawing I just completed. This is the eighth drawing in the series and the ninth piece overall. (There is also one watercolor in the series.)

In process scan 1
tap dance drawing
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

The image above is the first scan in my series of in process shots. You can see I put in quite a bit of work before thinking to stop and record my progress.

In process scan 2
tap dance drawing
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

I started my work by focusing on the pant legs because I wanted to establish that large area of dark values so I would have both lights (the white of the paper) and darks to compare against when establishing my mid-values.

In process scan 3
tap dance drawing
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

Above I did more work on the pants, but also started the background. The background was the least interesting section of the drawing to work on. However, at times it was a welcome break from the challenge of the other sections.

In process scan 4
tap dance drawing
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

In the image below you can see that I finally working on my favorite parts - the floor reflections and the shoes. Fun!

In process scan 5
tap dance drawing
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

If you want to be one of the first to see the final drawing, go here and sign up for my newsletter. In the July edition you will find a short article about this drawing, including a scan of the finished work. This month I am also sharing photos of my studio space and a few sketches. The newsletter is scheduled to email on Tuesday, July 10th so don't wait!

Now I'm off to continue my hiatus with more fun in the sun. Hope you are having a great July!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Hiatus

carrot sketch
approx 7" x 12" gouache on colored paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

Hot humid days are upon us, school is winding down and the farmers' market is in full swing. That means it must be nearly summer.

Every year I look forward to summer. The pace of our days is slower. We have more time together as a family. Days often start with breakfast on the screen porch. It feels like a special time.

As has been my tradition for the last few years, I am planning on taking a hiatus from my blog over the summer months. This will be my last regular post until the beginning of September.

The good news this year is that I will still be sending out my monthly email newsletter over the summer months. If you want to stay in touch all you need to do is subscribe. You can do that here. If you hurry, you can sign up in time to receive the June edition which is scheduled to be emailed next week.

Besides squeezing in some time to relax on the porch and have fun with the kids, I hope to make progress on a few art projects which I have been contemplating. So when I return to my regular posting schedule in September I should have a lot of new things to share.

In addition to publishing my newsletter, during this recess I will probably also be popping into Facebook with short updates, so you might want to "Like" my art page there if you haven't already.

I hope your summer is filled with all the best that summer can bring. I look forward to coming back together here in the fall and reminiscing about catching fireflies, eating ice cream and jumping waves. In the meantime, I'll see you in your inbox!

About the sketch: I am ridiculously pleased with this sketch of carrots. It is one of those instances where the process just flowed and the outcome matched the image that I started with in my head. I love when that happens! I am hoping that my summer schedule also provides me more time to play with these gouache paints and all my other sketching materials.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Play

iris sketch
approx. 9" x 5"
gouache on colored paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

In last week's post I talked about how I would like to work toward a more painterly style and give up a little bit of control over the paint in order to leave room for some of the watercolor magic to happen.

This week I decided to really throw caution to the wind and give myself permission to just play.

I think as an artist it is very important to allow time for play. Playing with your art materials without expectation can really get the creative juices flowing. And I believe it can help keep the dreaded artist slump away.

So for my sketching play time this week I set aside my comfortable favorites and gathered together new paints and new paper. Talk about walking the tightrope without a net!

Last week, for some reason, I found myself thinking about painting on colored paper. It is not something that I have considered before, but I saw some Canson Mi-Teintes paper that I have used with charcoal, and I was curious how it would take watercolors.

Later in the week I received an unexpected gift of a small set of gouache paints.

(An interesting aside... When I first started using watercolors I turned my nose up at gouache because I couldn't imagine liking an opaque paint. But the work of this artist changed my mind. He creates stunning watercolor paintings and charcoal drawings too.)

When I saw the gift, I immediately thought that I couldn't wait to try sketching with these paints. And since gouache is opaque it seemed a good choice for the colored paper.

Feeling brave, I decided to take the leap. I gathered up the Mi-Teintes paper, the set of paints and my trusty water brush and went outside with the goal of sketching an iris or two. I love the shapes of the iris petals with their wavy edges and graceful curves.

My plan was to work from life and try out a few different approaches with my new paints. But the session didn't quite go according to plan.

Before I had even made the first brush stroke I heard the rumble of thunder. Let me tell you, if you want to practice sketching fast and loosening up, let your time limit for sketching be set by an approaching storm!

I made the quick decision to capture the form with white paint and then add color when I was safely inside. A few passes with the water brush and I had this...

iris sketch in process
approx. 9" x 5"
white gouache on colored paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I decided that was good enough and hustled inside to deposit my materials on the kitchen table. I then grabbed my little camera and raced outside to snap a quick photo to use as a color reference.

Back inside once again, and away from the threat of being struck by lightening, I finished the sketch. You can see the results at the very top of this post.

I have to say that this time spent playing was an exhilarating experience. I'm just not sure if the excitement was from the lack of expectations, the new materials or the approaching thunderstorm!

I'd love to hear your best sketching stories. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Evolution of Painting Style

another azalea sketch
approx 4" x 6"
ink and watercolor on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I am having a bit of a style crisis. I think it is a natural part of artistic growth.

In the beginning most artists just want the skills to be able to draw something recognizable. If a new artist draws or paints an apple and people say "Wow! That is a great apple!" they are thrilled. Mainly because the people who commented didn't think it was a plum or a pepper.

However, as their skills improve they start wanting more.

For me, I am finding that I want to paint in a more "painterly" fashion - still realistic, but a little looser.

However, when I sit down with a brush, what comes out is very controlled. The part of my brain that controls the brush just can't help it.

Alright, if I am totally honest, this style crisis effects more than just my painting style. I hold the misguided belief that if I am in control of everything nothing bad will ever happen, life will be made up of rainbows and butterflies and the whole world will be happy.

At least I recognize that it is a misguided belief.

And I am working on being comfortable with relinquishing control - in my paintings and in life.

Typically in my watercolor paintings I have worked a lot on dry paper. When I apply the paint on dry paper it is easier to control where the paint goes.

I also mix my colors on the palette so I make sure I get the exact color and value I want before brushing it on the paper.

While this method of controlled application is very effective for painting realistic and detailed works, there is a trade off. Pre-mixing colors on palette and applying them to the dry paper means I lose some of the magic of watercolor.

One of the things I love most about watercolor is the way the paints mix on wet paper. Beautiful things can happen when an artist "lets the paints do the work for her".

But letting the paints do the work requires that I give up some of the control and take on a certain amount of courage.

Since courage can be harder to come by on large studio pieces, I decided to start with baby steps, also known as sketches.

After completing the azalea sketch last week, I knew I wanted to try it again only this time working more "wet on wet." Working "wet on wet" mean working on wet paper so the pigment can move and spread on its own.

Using last week's sketch as a reference, I started by creating an ink sketch of the outlines of the flowers and leaves.

Once that was complete, I applied yellow to all of the leaves. While it was still wet, I brushed in greens and blues and let the paint do its thing.

Once I was happy with the leaves I moved on to the flowers. Again I started with a light yellow wash and worked in with different yellows, yellow-oranges and oranges while the paper was still wet.

Although the outcome of the sketch might not look all that different, I was happy with the process of how I applied the paint. And I love the places where you can really tell that the watercolor pigments mixed and blended on their own.

Best of all, I gave up a little of my control and nothing horrible happened. In fact, it was fun to try a new technique.

Having fun builds courage, so I will definitely be trying more wet-on-wet experiments. I'm looking forward to seeing how these exercises influence my style.

One of the things I love about art is that there are always new things to try and always room for growth. Life in the studio is never boring!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Reward

sketch of yellow azalea flowers
Schminke pan watercolors on Fabriano CP paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

When we hired someone to plant landscaping across the front of our house, one of my requests was for flowering bushes, especially ones with yellow flowers. Yellow flowers are my favorite, perhaps because they remind me of the sun and are a spot of brightness even on a cloudy day.

Our landscaper included four azalea bushes in his plan. Along the edge of the front porch are three that get bright, pink flowers and in the corner by the garage is one that gets yellow flowers.

I remember him telling us that the plant in the corner would "reward us with magnificent yellow blooms in the spring." He made no claims about the pink bushes.

To this day, fourteen springs later, when we see the buds form on the yellow azalea, we talk about how we are soon going to be "rewarded".

Sure the talk is mostly in jest, one of those family jokes that gets carried on year-to-year like a tradition, but in truth, I always look forward to seeing the yellow azalea bloom. For the pink azaleas there is no sense of anticipation. More often I am surprised when I notice they are covered in flowers, because I didn't notice the buds at all.

For the few days that the yellow flowers are at their peak, I take time to stop and appreciate them. And this isn't just because I love yellow flowers. It is also because our family "joke" has programmed me to think of the flowers as a reward. A reward that appears for a short time every spring and then disappears again until the next year.

I have no such programming with the other azaleas. Or with most of the other flowering plants that are in our yard.

The difference in my reaction is the mindset that the landscaper provided back on the day he shared his plans. This bush was special. It would reward me every year. Easy as that.

It kind of makes me wonder about how easy it would be to have a life full of rewards.

Or how simple it would be to change something we anticipate with dread into something less unpleasant.

Food for thought as I enjoy my annual gift of magnificent yellow flowers.

Is there anything in your life that could benefit from a mindset shift?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Changing the Mood of a Painting

Promise of Spring
approx. 4" x 3" watercolor on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

Last week I did a sketch of snowdrops for my newsletter. I love snowdrops because they are the first flower of the new growing season to bloom.

As soon as I notice the winter sun feeling a little warmer, I go out into my yard and see if any snowdrops are peeking up out of the ground.

To me these flowers represent hope. Hope that winter is coming to an end and that the warmer, brighter days of spring are on their way.

Not being a big fan of the cold, gray weather, come the end of February I am normally desperate for some sign that winter is going to retreat and allow the sun to return.

This year we had an uncharacteristically sunny and dry winter. When the snowdrops bloomed we already were enjoying the clear blue skies that I am normally pining for.

As I painted my sketch for the newsletter I was thinking of the type of weather we had this year when I found the first flowers, and I painted the snowdrops on a backdrop of cheerful blue. You can see that sketch (and this months newsletter) here.

As I thought about my painting and how it was representative of this year's winter experience, I had the urge to create something that would be a better representation of the typical winter.

On a typical March day the snowdrops are a bright spot of hope on a landscape of gray. Their white flowers stand out against the bleakness and whisper the promise that soon color will flood the world.

With these feelings held firmly in heart and mind I created a new version of the snowdrops . This time I chose complimentary colors, applied them wet to the background and allowed them to mix to grayish-blue hue which better represents the cloud cover of our winter months.

By changing the colors, I changed the mood and created an image that reflects my feelings of finding these little white blooms after a long, cold winter.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And the Winners Are...

Thank you to everyone who let me borrow their brain cells and suggested titles for my "Name These Paintings" contest.

I can't tell you how much fun it is to read all the entries as they come in! You are all a creative bunch!

So without further ado... here are the winners...

The winning title for painting #1 is

"Pearfection" submitted by Len Murtha. Thank you Len!

The winning title for painting #2 is

"Waiting for the Party" submitted by Kathleen Probst. Thank you Kathleen!

Len and Kathleen, please email me your mailing address and let me know if you would like a pack of note cards or a small sketch as a thank you for your winning title.

Thank you again to everyone who helped me out by entering your suggestions! A great title can make the difference in whether a painting sells or sits in inventory. And in the end I had so many good suggestions it was tough to choose.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Need to Borrow Some Brain Cells

Sometimes titles for my paintings come easily either while I am working on a piece or shortly after I finish it.

Other times the portion of my brain that is responsible for titles locks up tighter than a bank vault.

I seem to be going through one of those bank vault times.

So I've decided to turn to the creativity of the masses. Many brains are better than one, right?!

I have a couple of pieces that are languishing in no-name land. I've tried to give them titles that would at least move them up to lame-name land, but they turn their backs and refuse to answer when I call.

This is where you come in! You can save my paintings from the agony of going through life with a lame title!

The paintings below both need cool titles. If you would like to help out them (and me), just shout out your title suggestions in the comments or in an email. Be sure to include the painting number so the title gets assigned to the proper piece. It would be a shame if Frank went through life known as Sue. ;)

As a token of my thanks for your help, whoever comes up with the winning title will receive your choice of either a pack of 8 note cards or a small sketch*. The winner will be announced here on my blog in next Thursday's post.

Now it's time to put on those thinking caps and let the fun begin!!

No-name painting #1

watercolor pears
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

No-name painting #2

watercolor cupcakes
©2011 Stacy L. Rowan

The small print...
* The titling contest will run until Wednesday, April 25th at 5pm EST. If the winner chooses the sketch as their prize, the size and subject matter will be determined by me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Visitors

This year we had a couple of special visitors arrive for Easter. We picked them up on Saturday and they will be staying with us for two weeks. My kids could not be more excited.

sleeping chicks sketch 01
graphite in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
approx. 3" x 4"

Our "guests" are actually two chicks which we "rented" from a local farm. The farm provides bedding, food and a box along with the two chicks and instructions for their care.

Our chicks have been named Ginger and Momo - short for Mozart, because she started singing as soon as she was put into my daughter's hands. They are very cute chickies, all fluffy and round.

Not only are the chicks cute, but they provide me with a unique sketching opportunity, of which I plan to take full advantage. You can see my first three sketches in this post.

sleeping chicks sketch 02
graphite in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
approx. 3" x 4"

I started with some sketches of the chicks sleeping in order to familiarize myself with their forms. When asleep they are relatively still so long as I don't make any noise. Ginger is a curious one and the slightest noise will have her opening her eyes and turning around to see what is happening.

With two sleeping sketches under my belt I tried one of Ginger eating - another activity which keeps her still for at least a few seconds.

sketch of chick eating
graphite in Moleskine cahier sketchbook
approx. 5" x 2"

During my next sketching session I will try for a sketch of Momo. She is a little more shy but seems to be getting braver.
On a different note, I am super happy to report that the first edition of my email newsletter was very well received. I am currently working on the May edition. If you are interested, you can sign up to receive it here. It will be arriving in inboxes around the world during the first week of May.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sketching Eggs

sketch of eggs
approx. 8" x 7"
water soluble graphite on paper

Working some more with the water soluble graphite pencil, last night I decided to sketch some eggs. Well, actually it was one egg sketched from three different angles.

What better sketching subject than an egg on a beautiful spring night the week before Easter?

I really liked how the dry sketches looked, so in the end I only wet the one at the top. In fact, so far that is the only negative thing I have to say about this pencil. I enjoy the look of the dry sketches so much that it is difficult to decide if I want to finish them with the water brush or not.

(The lines emanating from the top egg aren't really there. The scanner picked up the shadows from the slightly wrinkled paper.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Art Captured my Imagination

sketch of art cabinet*
approx 9" x 8" graphite on paper

People often ask me how I got started in art. I was first introduced to the world of art as a kid.

My father graduated from The Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). In our basement was a large storage cabinet from his college days. I remember looking through the drawers and finding all kinds of treasures – charcoal and graphite pencils, old sketchbooks, pastels - it was a wonderland!

Occasionally my dad would take out his sketchbook and draw.  I was amazed at how he could make the object he was looking at appear on the page. And I wished I could do that too.

But I didn’t spend much time drawing as a kid. I do remember coloring a lot. But I also liked to do other kid stuff like ride my bike and play outside and watch TV and read.
After graduating from college and starting my job as a chemical engineer, I wanted to try a new hobby, and I wanted it to be something that was very different from what I did all day at work.

A creative hobby seemed to fit that bill. Remembering the cabinet from my parent’s basement, I decided to sign up for a drawing class at a local community college.

I loved the class from the very first night. Although I didn’t know then that I would someday sell my work, I did know that creating art was something I hoped to do for a very long time.

* The sketch above was created mostly from memory. I did find an image of a cabinet online that seemed similar in style to the cabinet my dad has but the one in the picture was much smaller. Looking at my sketch now, I'm not sure dad's cabinet is this deep or that it has legs. I will say that as a child this cabinet seemed HUGE to me.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Water Soluble Graphite

Last week, after surviving long enough to complete my daffodil sketch, I moved to a different spot on the patio and created this sketch of a metal chicken that likes to hang out under one of the bushes.

sketch of metal chicken - dry
watersoluble graphite on paper
approx 7" x 6"

I used a "medium wash" Derwent Watersoluble Sketching pencil for the sketch.

I've had the pencil for a while, and even though it has a permanent spot in my sketching pencil case, I have only used it once or twice before. My avoidance has nothing to do with the pencil. It is more out of habit and the comfort level I have with my typical sketching materials than anything else.

I'm not quite sure what made me grab it last week, but I'm happy I tried it out again.  I like the thicker point and the feel of the pencil on the paper. It was a perfectly nice pencil to sketch with.

And then it got better.

After scanning the sketch in its original version, I used my water brush to wet the lines. You can see the results below.
same sketch of metal chicken after wetting
watersoluble graphite on paper
approx 7" x 6"

I love how the use of the water brush turned a rather scribbly sketch into something more refined. The range of values is great. And since it takes very little water to dissolve the marks, the pencil can be used in a regular sketchbook, which is how I used it here.

I will definitely be using this pencil again! Between the Inktense pencils and now the Watersoluble Graphite pencil, it seems that Derwent products currently make up a rather large part of my sketching kit.

(The opinion expressed here is not a paid endorsement. It is an unsolicited review of my experience. Derwent has no idea who I am.)


One final reminder, you are down to the last few days to sign up for my email newsletter if you want to receive the premier edition. The April newsletter will be sent out to subscribers next week. I'm very excited! Go to this page if you would like to sign up. Thank you for your interest!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hazards of Sketching

daffodil sketch
graphite on paper

We have been having absolutely beautiful weather the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I finally made time to go outside and sketch some of the Spring flowers, trees and the random garden ornament.

Since I was headed outside anyway, I decided to refill my empty bird feeder before I settled in. Perhaps this wasn't the best idea.

What I didn't realize was that there is apparently some sort of "Bat-Signal" in our neighborhood which calls birds to refilled feeders.

sketch of metal garden ornament
graphite on paper

For my first sketch I sat on a small cushion on the patio right in front of a large bunch of daffodils. The daffodils are growing up right next to the hook that holds the bird feeder.

Within minutes a little bird showed up - drawn by the Bat-Signal that is invisible to the human eye - and landed in the dogwood tree behind the daffodils. He was happily hopping around until he spotted me. When he saw me, he froze for a split second, then started wildly flapping his little wings and flew away in what I can only assume was panic.

This scene repeated itself multiple times, including with a pair of woodpeckers. The way they frantically flew away and the sounds of their beating wings started to freak me out a bit. I mean what if in their confusion they flew at me instead of away from me? Or what if they flew at me on purpose with the intent to attack?!

... What? It could happen. It could.

rhododendron sketch
(I know it says azalea buds, but they are rhododendron buds. Honest.)
ink on paper

But I decided that I would not let the savage attack birdies chase me out of my own yard. After all they don't pay the mortgage. They don't even pay for the birdseed! And I should be allowed to sketch freely in my own backyard.

So I stood my ground.

And sketched as quickly as possible!

Then I moved on to other sections of the yard. Ones that were further away from the freshly filled bird feeder!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing for Spring

ink sketch of swing supplies

Perhaps the title should be "Preparing for Swing" instead...

Last Christmas my daughter received a swing as one of her gifts. She has always loved to swing. As a toddler she would swing until my arms were so tired I couldn't push her even one more time.

We used to have a swing set in the yard, but after years of solid service it became significantly less solid. We were forced to take it down before it fell down on its own!

Now there is a new swing. With the warm weather we are having it seemed like time to hang it up, so my hubby went to the store to buy the necessary hardware - chain to hang over the tree limb and two clips to connect the swing to the chain.

After he got home, I sketched his purchase. The chain links are so large I felt I had to include the quarter for size comparison. The 37 links of chain must weigh over 5 pounds! And each clip is rated to hold roughly 250 pounds!

I'm not sure how many kids my hubby thinks are going to sit on the swing at one time - I'm thinking the one at a time rule should apply here - but I'd say he's prepared for just about any number. I guess it is better to over-engineer and be safe than to under-engineer and have a pile of kids heaped under the tree! I wonder if he has considered reinforcing the tree limb...

If you enjoy my sketches, please consider signing up for my new monthly email newsletter. Every newsletter will include a sketch, news of events, details of what is happening in my studio and more! The first edition will be published in a few weeks. To learn more or to sign up click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Winter is 65% Over Day

This winter my husband has been sending me emails with a winter countdown of sorts. Each email is titled similar to the title of this post.

crocus sketch
watercolor on paper

Most years, as soon as we get through the shortest day of the year he starts saying "Winter is on the run!" Mind you, the shortest day of the year occurs in December, and where we live winter pretty reliably lasts through March, but that doesn't phase him.

This year he has taken it a step further. Using a calculation method known only to him, he has been having a count down and informing me of each milestone we hit. According to him "Happy Winter is 65% Over Day" was actually on Monday. Today might actually be 67.3% Over Day, but I decided a little rounding couldn't hurt.

My system for tracking the progress of Spring's arrival is a little more straight forward. I watch for nature's cues.

snowdrop sketch
graphite on paper

My snowdrops and winter aconites are up and blooming. The daffodil leaves are several inches tall. And the tips of the other Spring bulbs are starting to appear above ground.

We have had a mild winter, so I am finding hubby's emails entertaining. Last year I might have felt differently. You may recall that I was soliciting photos of Spring's arrival in other places because I wasn't sure if it would ever show up here and stay.

This week, to celebrate Spring's approach, I completed the sketch at the top of this post using the photo below for inspiration.

photo ©2011 M. J. Muir

I received this photo last year from Mary Jane who lives in Vancouver, Canada. The original sketch is now waiting to be mailed. This taste of Spring will be arriving in MJ's mailbox any day.

I hope that Spring is arriving as quickly as a sketch sent through the mail to those of you who are waiting patiently for it.

For those folks in the southern hemisphere, I hope winter takes her time arriving.

Happy Winter is 65% Over Day to everyone!!

In case you missed last week's announcement, I am starting a monthly email newsletter the first week in April. The newsletter will feature more of my original sketches, photos of and information about works in progress, and news from my studio. To receive the newsletter simply click on the "Newsletter Signup" tab at the top of my blog, fill in the required fields on the subscriber form found there, and click the "Subscribe" button. You will receive an email asking you to click a link to confirm your subscription. Click the link and your sign up will be complete!

As always, I thank you for your interest in my art and I hope you enjoy the new newsletter!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Announcing "Sketchy Details" Newsletter

I believe all artists share a common goal for their art of wanting it to be able to inspire feelings in the hearts of viewers.

Some artists use their art to make social statements because they want the viewers to experience social injustice and be motivated to action.

Some artists paint images of sadness, loss or despair so that viewers know they are not alone in these feelings.

My desire is for my art to inspire feelings of gratefulness for the beauty and blessings that surround us, because I believe that the seeds of happiness grow best when planted in a bed of gratitude.

There are also other feelings that my paintings embody. Things like love, fun, joy, and connectedness. I think the world needs more of these feelings, and I believe that they are all around us if we just look for them.

I not only look for them, but find them and share them through my art.

If you know anyone who would like more of these good feelings in their life, please direct them here to my blog.

And if you, or they, would like to receive my version of happy once a month right in your inbox, I am pleased to announce that is now possible with the start of my monthly email newsletter!

The newsletter will be delivered the first week of every month starting in April. In it I will share new sketches along with details of life inside and outside of the studio. Which is why I named it "Sketchy Details"!

To sign up please fill in the boxes at the right under the heading "Subscribe to my Monthly Email Newsletter" and click the subscribe button, or head over to this page and complete the form there.

I love sending my art out into the world. I am excited that I am going to get to share it in this new way. And I am so very grateful for all of you who take time to experience my art and read my words. Thank you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Flexible Schedule

Sometimes, much as we might like to be, we are not in control of our own schedules. Take my schedule for instance. Yesterday I found myself here...

sketch of airplane interior

That wasn't really a bad thing, but according to my schedule I was supposed to be on that plane on Wednesday, not Thursday. Which would have meant I was home on Thursday. If I was home on Thursday I would have posted this then.

shark & barracuda sketch

However, since I was not in control of my schedule, it fell victim to mechanical issues which required the cancellation of said Wednesday flight. With no other flights available, my family and I were forced to stay an extra day in a sunny, warm vacation place. Truth be told, I wasn't complaining. And the kids not only weren't complaining, but took it a step further, and were doing a very energetic happy dance.
palm tree sketch

So the Wednesday flight became a Thursday flight and the Thursday blog post became a Friday one. A worthy trade for a few additional hours of sun and a safe flight.

ottoman sketch - random I know but found in our vacation accommodations

I hope you enjoy my vacation sketches as much as I enjoyed the vacation.

All sketches were created with graphite in a Moleskine cahier sketchbook.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Finished Cardinal Painting

Some paintings flow off the end of the brush as if by magic. After they are finished it almost feels like I painted them in a dream.

Whatcha Lookin' At?
cardinal painting
6" x 4" watercolor on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

Other paintings need a little more help and hand-holding to get them safely through their adolescent stage. It doesn't make me love them any less. However, it does take a little longer to evaluate those paintings and see if my work is done.

This guy was a bit of a hand-holder.

Several years ago I took a bunch of references as this cardinal snacked on some birdseed outside my kitchen window. The photos have been patiently been waiting in my files until it was time for their turn under the brush.

What I loved about this reference is the quirky turn of his head. I feel like he is eyeing me with curiosity and just a touch of an attitude.

Of course the part I loved was also the part that proved to be most challenging. Why is that so often the case?

We don't often view a cardinal from this angle so I had to make sure I didn't lose the parts that would identify him as a cardinal while I was focused on capturing his attitude.

I think I managed that goal. However, I am going to set him aside for a few weeks and then re-evaluate the painting just to make sure it doesn't need any last little tweaks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Step Back for the Big Picture

With regards to my artwork, I am typically better known for detailed pieces than for sweeping views. But I have found that sometimes taking a step back and getting the bigger picture is necessary.

Take today for instance. I went to a portrait drawing session offered by a local art group. I chose to set up at the back of the group. One of the other artists expressed concern that I might be too far from the model. But I saw the situation differently.

portrait sketch
charcoal on Mi-Teintes paper
approx. 12" x 10"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

Being further from the model keeps me from getting tied up in and distracted by the details. The position makes it easier for me to focus on the shapes of highlights and shadows.

When I sit close to the model I tend to label the parts as I draw. My mental chatter focuses on "What shape are the eyes? What are the lips like?" Labelling the features as I work makes it more challenging to ignore the mental symbols of those features and draw what I see.

When I sit further back I can't really see the details of the features. With a little squinting I can focus on the big shapes. And by drawing the big shapes the features sort of magically appear.

Definitely a situation where stepping back and seeing the big picture works better for me than getting up close and focusing on the details.

Our model today was the sister of one of the artists. She was very good both at getting back in to position after a break and at consistently holding the position. Not an easy task with 20 artists staring intently at you!

My sketch was completed in three approximately 20 minute sessions.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Moment to Relax

sketch of mug
markers on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I made myself hot chocolate tonight. Which is kind of ironic since the 60 degree, sunny weather we had today felt more like spring than winter. But there is something about a warm drink that gives me permission to sit and relax while I slowly sip my treat. And tonight I felt the need to relax.

I suppose I could, and maybe should, give myself that permission without the crutch of a warm, sweet concoction, but I never do.

Do you have a special treat that you indulge in when you want to relax? Or a ritual you follow that signals the start of your relaxation time? Feel free to share the details in the comments section.
While I was relaxing I decided to play with some markers I found recently while cleaning my studio.

The mug was drawn using a set of cool gray markers. There are 12 dual tipped markers in the set. I really enjoyed the wide range of values. The sketch below is a marker from this set, but was drawn with a markers from a different set.

sketch of a marker
markers on paper
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

The second set of markers is made up of six brush tipped markers - 3 cool grays and 3 warm grays. I like the brush tips, but found myself wishing I had more intermediate values.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sketching the Past

I tried my hand at more people sketches today. I am not sure why I feel drawn to do this or where I am going with it, but it feels right so I am following my intuition.

This time I used two old family photos as references. The references are about three inches tall and two inches wide. The dimensions that I posted under each sketch show that I am working quite a bit larger than my reference material.

practice sketch 12
approx 7" x 5"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I stopped during the second sketch for a work in progress scan. Here you can see that I sketched in the outlines of the head and body before adding the facial features.

practice sketch 13 WIP
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

I still need more practice in order to get a quick and accurate likeness. I am working up to sketching from life. These sketches today required a little longer than I think I can expect in social situations.

practice sketch 13
approx. 7" x 5"
©2012 Stacy L. Rowan

But, the most important thing for now is that I thoroughly enjoyed myself while working on these. I am following my muse to see where she is leading me. So far it has been a fun journey.

I will definitely be finding additional old photos to use as references for this project.