15 August 2015

afternoon watercolors

I made some sketches earlier this summer from a trip to Japan. Now I'm playing with them - adding watercolor, mostly. These were statues on the steps leading to a temple in Kyoto. They're still just in pencil, but I'd like to ink them in. 

I liked this statue of Izumo no Okuni that stands near the Kamogawa River in Kyoto. The plaque nearby said she used to perform a "Kabuki Dance" in 1603 there on the riverbank. Later, only men played parts in kabuki theater (to protect social morals) so I suppose she didn't get to dance anymore? I haven't yet captured how cute her face is. Will have to work on that. 

I added colored pencil in blues and greens and we'll see where we go from here...

There was a huge, beautiful tree. I sketched its branches and added watercolor today. Still need to paint in all the tiny leaves and sunlight.

Adding watercolor and colored pencil to the beer mugs. Now to figure out how to make them more frosty.

Not really working on finishing anything. Just jumping between pages in my sketchbook. Relaxing Saturday!

11 August 2015

Sketchbook Project Tour 2015

In San Francisco, with Seattle, Chicago, Oakville and Toronto to go!

The Sketchbook Project is touring the U.S. and Canada now ~ and they say it's the final tour. So sad! After this, all the sketchbooks will stay permanently in the Brooklyn Art Library apart from a few small excursions in the local Brooklyn neighborhood.

This past weekend, the mobile library came to the Bay Area, so I dashed up to The Yard at Mission Rock to reunite one more time with my 2014 book, 23 Haiku, and to check out some new books too. I decided to send 23 Haiku on tour again, in honor of my dad. We are coming up on the second anniversary of his passing, so revisiting our artistic 'collaboration' left me thoughtful but happy.

I really like the sketchbooks that have art on the covers. About half of the ones I received were elaborately designed and the other half just had blank cardboard covers. I was surprised! I think the cover tells a lot about what might be awaiting in the interior pages and pulls the reader in, making them want to open the book.

This one by Anita Stewart was interesting because she also attached a fine net onto the cover and then (probably) applied modpodge or other glue so that it became firmly a part of the cardboard and art.

Another cool cover on a sketchbook titled Astronaut. This one is by Jeannine Ortiz, who digitized her book so you can see the entire sketchbook here. The story inside was very much like the cover, with ink, Sharpie, bold lines and fluorescent colors.

Inside cover was nice, too!

Loved this book by Marta Selusi, Winter Dreams, about two friends who live in different dimensions who can only meet briefly each winter. The stitching of felt and paper on the cover added a softness and texture to the book, and the story inside was beautifully done.

I don't think she digitized her book, so I really want to share some of her interior illustrations.

Some elements of the story reminded me of my first sketchbook, Lights in the Distance, but Marta's drawings and the flow of her book are more sophisticated than mine. Still, the story of another world, friends crossing and connecting between them, a little animal companion... there were some similarities.

Another book with a comic strip theme was this one by Danny Ryba. The Penguin Bros. was funny and cute, but I had camera issues ~ mainly fighting the strong breeze that began to blow all the pages ~ and I didn't get a clear shot of his artwork. He does have some other sketchbooks digitized, however, such as this one here.  I liked his explanation of the origins of the Penguin Brothers.

Susan da Sie is an artist from Montreal and she made some beautiful pencil drawings. See her full book here.

And finally, we looked at this book, which I enjoyed for its spicy peanut sauce recipe and the stream-of-consciousness musings about the environment.

Only problem is that I could not find the artist's name in my notes, which is very disappointing. If anyone recognizes this book, please let me know ~ thank you! That will conclude our tour today...

10 August 2015

handmade ceramics summer sale

Yukie and Akio are having a summer clearance sale! It's true. Usually they have a spring sale and a winter sale, but this year is special. They want to clear a lot of inventory and they're adding in some not-entirely-perfect "seconds" and giving a surprise summer discount.

I popped in early to get a sneak peek and picked up a beautiful tray, a cute vase and even a big, covered casserole that will be perfect for bringing a hot dish to a potluck. There was a really gorgeous, dark, subtly textured black vase that I strongly considered getting... but I had to leave it for another lucky person because I am running out of storage for all these useful works of art.

Come by and find something wonderful!

05 March 2014

work in progress

I took out an acrylic painting I'd begun awhile ago ~ two years or so ~ and decided to try something new with it. I tested out an application of liquid masking and rather liked the effect after washing over it with darker colors. Above you can see the result on the right and the newly applied masking dots on the left (not painted over or rubbed off yet). These pictures are just a corner of the whole piece.

The entire canvas is fairly large, which I'll show you next. The original painting was rather exuberant and somehow I felt in the mood to carry that forward, but hoped to connect some of the elements that were previously only sketched in or contained only washes of color. The only problem was that I wasn't sure what I wanted.

So, I tried something new and cut out shapes in painters tape to see the outlines of what I might try. 

It seemed to give a general idea and a sort of jungle began to grow. The only problem was that I could not easily see the areas I'd already done in masking fluid so some of it was guesswork. I also wasn't sure if the masking would work out. I've painted with very little water using regular masking tape to create straight lines, but have never tried a fairly watery wash with painters tape.

Here's another part of the canvas with masking fluid dots painted on. The larger green and blue circles are painted rice paper that I'd applied earlier with matte medium. I plan to put blues and purples on top to let these lighter colors show through. Hopefully it will suggest a night sky or the surface of some rock formations or something interesting and imaginative.

The fun of digital editing ~ when I changed the photo to black and white, it reminded me of a lunar surface.

Next steps are to go wild, throw a lot of paint on top and see what happens! But before I go, here are a couple more parts of the original painting before they go.

14 February 2014

spirograph for saint valentine

I realize that in other parts of the world, Valentine's Day is only celebrated with your romantic partner, but where I work (at a K-8th grade school in California), the day is taken more in the spirit of: Hooray! Cards, Candy and Trinkets for All!

So I decided to make valentines for my colleagues and my students, and this year I decided to use my childhood Spirograph kit. I loved playing with this when I was in grade school myself. Watching the patterns appear as your pen goes around the spiral is a little bit like magic.

They don't always work out quite right. Every once in a while the pen slips. But overall, the patterns are really beautiful and fascinating.

If you've never used a Spirograph set before, it works like this:

After choosing one of the large rings and one of the small discs, the large ring is secured with tacks on top of the drawing paper (there's a base of thick cardboard underneath). The disc of choice can go either inside or outside the ring, and there are many small holes to choose from where you put your pen. After that, just roll around the ring until the design meets up with itself again.

You can also change pen color and new designs can be created by shifting to a different hole in the disc. All the holes on the rings and discs are numbered so if you make something really cool you can duplicate it again later.

After I doodled a whole bunch of different designs, I cut them out and glued them on to red paper, added a little greeting with a heart sticker, and voila' ~ fun, mathematical valentines were ready for delivery.

A few of the designs...
Since no two were exactly alike, the kids enjoyed comparing the cards. A few wanted to learn how to do it, so I'll have to bring my Spirograph set in one day. I have quite a vintage set; some of the new versions for sale look pretty sweet.

My childhood Spirograph ~ so fun to use it again.

Wishing everyone a happy day of Saint Valentine!

02 February 2014


The Super Bowl is on. But as I mentioned a few years ago, I kind of prefer Superb Owl.

SF MOMA has been tweeting #superbowl images of superb owl artworks in their collection, so I thought I'd add the questioning owls from my recent Sketchbook Project to the celebration of the day.

This was one of my dad's haiku poems that made me smile. I hope you'll check the sketchbook out if you're ever at the Art House Library in Brooklyn since this isn't the greatest photo and the owls actually have a bit more color and detail. (You might find them to be more superb).

The game goes on, and here I'll give a little cheer for the underdogs in this game ~ Go Broncos! :)

26 January 2014

Sketchbook Project 2014

Just in time, I completed my book for the Sketchbook Project 2014 and mailed it off. Alas, in my rush  to the post office to make the deadline there was no time to scan all my pages properly. I had to make do with some quick iPhone shots and I've finally posted them on flickr

This year I chose the theme, "This is not about me." On one of the first pages, I wrote this little explanation of the book's contents:

This is not about me.
This book is in remembrance of my father, A.W.S., who passed away in the last days of summer, 2013. We were lucky to enjoy one very intense, stressful, hopeful and sad year together ~ my dad, my sister and me united in the fight to extend his time with us. We all became closer than ever before, and one surprise he revealed shortly before he left was that he wrote haiku poetry. To me, they reflect his childhood in the Midwest and his time as a young man in Japan. I decided to preserve them here.

I selected 23 of his poems and arranged them by type: winter, life & love, summer and autumn. I'm very happy that some of my father's poems will be shared and preserved this way. We never collaborated on anything artistic while he was alive, but I think he would be happy with this little book with my drawings and his poems living together.

My book will be going on the California tour. I look forward to seeing it again this summer!

02 January 2014

a new year!

Hello and Happy 2014!

I've been away so long it's almost hard to know where to start. The past year was sad and terrible. My father lost his battle with cancer and we said good bye in September. These holidays were hard without him, even though I had the love and support of all my family around me. I know I am very blessed to have many wonderful people in my life, and I count all the lovely people I've met through this blog too. 

The new year is here and I have arrived to a place where my mind and heart are a little freer and happily, I found the space to create some art again. 

My first painting for the new year is this watercolor of a quilt my grandmother made. I've always loved it, and I found it again recently when I was cleaning my dad's house. Family has been such an important part of the past year that I decided to make a painting of it since seeing it always makes me happy.

I hope that each of you have a wonderful new year surrounded by people and things that make you happy. Let's have a beautiful 2014!

17 July 2013

watercolor bunny

After receiving Apolonia's gorgeous package of art cards she so generously sent from France I was very charmed by the rabbit she drew and painted on the envelope. Gazing at its large, expressive eyes and perfect, round proportions made me remember my own bunny pet and I was inspired to make a small portrait of my late little friend and companion, Tama-chan. (She made us all so happy but passed away unexpectedly one night in her sleep earlier this year. We were devastated for weeks.) 

I realized that finally, enough time had passed that I felt I could create a little portrait of her to see every day and recall her sweet and spunky nature. It had been a while since I had painted with watercolors but everything returned very naturally and I'm happy with the result.

So I have to thank Apolonia, her giveaway contest and her kind emails for getting me back to painting again. Life has been throwing so many things in the way of my creative time that I feel quite buoyed to have started and finished this little work. This was an unexpected 'extra' gift to the giveaway ~ thank you!

14 July 2013

mailbox: from apolonia of st~ainolopa

Lucky, lucky me! I entered Apolonia's card giveaway and... I won! As soon as I opened the envelope I was utterly in love with the rabbit she drew for me. Its shape is so adorable and its big, thoughtful eye pulled me in right away. Love at first sight! And her signature bright colors look so good.

The little card to the right of the bunny is her business card. Such a nice one! The image is the same as on her blog header and on the other side there are several links that I'll share with you here because I think you may enjoy her art as much as I do:

blog. st-ainolopa.com
twitter. twitter.com/stainolopa
etsy. etsy.com/shop/stainolopa

Do visit all three!

Just look what she sent to me. They are printed so nicely and the quality of the card paper is very nice ~ a good, heavy weight.

On her etsy shop she sells these very greeting cards with her unique, colorful animals on them, plus many more designs. And right now she is offering free shipping, so it's a good chance to stop by!

Her characters are so quirky and imaginative, I keep admiring these cards she set me again and again. Each has a very distinct personality, so I've been thinking about what friend should receive what card and on what occasion. (Of course, I'm thinking of far-off occasions now as I don't want to part with them yet!).

Thank you, Apolonia, for this generous and uplifting giveaway prize! I'm really inspired by your work. It has made me very happy!

19 May 2013

ink & pouring medium experiment

I've had this pouring medium sitting on my shelf for quite a while and finally decided to try it out and see what it does. I used an Ampersand watercolor panel but later realized that it was kind of a waste since the pouring medium doesn't really need the panel's special properties of absorbency and such. However, it was nice to have a clean, white and sturdy surface.

I had a selection of inks to use and decided to dropper the ink straight in; in the future I think I'd like a more subtle look so will try pre-blending the color with the medium before putting it on a canvas.

I had the idea that the medium might dry in a thick layer of I blocked it from coming off the edges, so I got some clear packing tape and made a rim around the edge of the panel. Then I poured a little medium down and put some drops of ink in it.

When I tilted the panel, the ink ran and started to blend in some interesting rivulets, but I could see that I'd need more pouring medium to fill the surface.

So I tried a few more drops of color and added a little more pouring medium. The tape on the edges seemed to be working.

I liked it at this stage, but I had to keep tilting the panel in various directions to cover the whole surface.

By the time the entire surface was covered, the ink had spread quite a bit more and it looked like this. I figured that for a first experiment, this was a good place to stop even though it would be interesting to add more layers. I thought it best that this one dry first.

And I was right because gravity was at work and the pouring medium was seeping out from under the tape in one corner. I lifted the panel on blocks to dry so that the drips wouldn't cause the panel to stick to the paper underneath. I was also curious about painting with these excess drips, but as you can see, when I put a brush through the drops and spread them around they became quite transparent. Also, some of the residue remained in the shape of the drop of the brush itself, which was interesting. It was too sticky for me to feel very comfortable with it as a paint.

Since it was dripping anyway, and since I had the panel raised, I decided to cut the tape edge off and let the medium flow off the edge.

Somehow, in the process of removing the tape, I got bubbles in the pouring medium. I tried to pop one but it only flattened a little. I decided they were an interesting texture and left the rest alone.

As it was drying, I decided to check what would happen if I added some paper to the surface. I cut some yellow tissue paper in tiny leaf shapes (tissue paper because I hoped for some transparency) and laid them on the sticky surface. As it dried, they stuck fast. Also, the surface became increasingly shiny and hard.

I ended the experiment there but plan to try putting on another layer with color already mixed into the medium so I have more control over it. I also want to try perhaps drawing on this layer with a Sharpie and/or putting a collage image down before pouring the new medium on top. I think it could be pretty interesting to create a couple layers that are each sealed in by a new pouring. The transparent nature of each layer could make some neat effects.

I don't care for the glossy surface, but maybe some matte medium as the final layer will handle that? Future experiments await!