Urban sketching with the hampton roads group this evening

At the beach!! My favorite.



Some beach-goers (and Donna 🙂



It was a beautiful evening, perfect for being outside. Okay, actually, the wind was an inconvenience to the paints and the paper, but felt so lovely that it was worth it!




The Vet… And urban sketching set up.

To be honest, Emmett and Clara like going here. They just don’t like getting weighed (!?)




Travel palette I used:

(although I’ve created one I like even more since this sketch, which I will show you soon)

My colors here are all daniel smith: lemon yellow, perylene red, ultramarine (which I rarely use), cerulean blue chromium, phthalo turquoise, green apatite genuine, and lunar red rock. I really enjoy playing with phthalo turquoise and lunar red rock together! And the case is a pill box I found on ebay for about a dollar, using little empty makeup pans with magnets beneath them, for mixing areas. (Wait till you see my next palette, though! Stay tuned!)

I clipped the journal to a dollar tree clipboard for sketching and painting, and attached a heavy magnetic clip to the board, which held the paint palette and a water cup (also with magnets)

and I used this little bag, made for a mini iPad and its cords etc, to carry everything.


It is $15 right now on Amazon. I love it. I got the next size up, too, which was on sale that day for $9!! I love the color, it holds what I need, and I attached a shoulder strap from another bag to it (it comes with a wrist strap) If it held my clip board too it would be PERFECT. I’m working on that. It has two separate zippered compartments… the front has elastic and pockets, and one larger zippered mesh area. PERFECT for holding my water brushes, pen, ruler, clips, and even a thin palette. The back has a pocket that exactly holds my moleskin or pentalic journal, then two mesh pouches in which I put my two large magnets. Here I show it with the palette and my terry wristband (I use this like a paper towel) but the day I was out painting I actually had those in the front zippered mesh section,  and this bottom pouch held my water cup.

This is NOT a great bag if you want to take a ton of stuff, but it is perfect if you need pen or pencil, eraser, sharpener, travel or water brush, clips, phone or charger, and medium sized journal. The shoulder strap I added from my own collection really makes it convenient.

(Disclosure: I’ve included an Amazon Affiliate link to the bag… if you purchase through the link, it supports this blog, but costs you the same amount.  However always shop around for deals. I generally find my best prices on Amazon and buy many of my supplies through them, however their prices can fluctuate daily.)

(I’m going to add one more link because it is (Currently!) such a good price…this set of 6 Daniel Smith Primatek paints… The primates are made out of minerals ground into paint, and most of those I’ve tried I really love. This set is $23.98 right now… Even at $30+ to me it would be a good deal for 6 -5ml Primatek tubes! It contains Mayan Blue Genuine, Rhodonite Genuine, Hematite Genuine, Jadeite Genuine, Piemontite Genuine, and Amethyst Genuine (which has the sweetest little glittery sparkle to it!) I haven’t tried some of these, but just added Piemontite and Rhodonite to my newest travel palette, I love them so. Good luck, if you try them! Let us know what you think!)

So… what suggestions do you have for an urban sketching kit?

Bee and cherry blossoms

Cherry blossom feast, Chesapeake, VA, (my front yard!) April 5, 2019. Daniel Smith watercolor paints (phthalo turquoise, lunar red rock, piemontite, quinacridone gold, and a bit of bloodstone added to the bee. I also used lunar blue as under-shadows. Sketched and painted (without a pencil, yay me!!) in my handmade journal of Arches cold pressed paper. These colors are sweet together. Play around with piemontite or lunar red rock, phthalo turquoise, and quin gold. Really fun.


Ostrich Mail Art on Swap-bot, April 2, 2019

Swap-bot.com is a site I’ve been active on for years and years… I swap art and handmade items (and other random fun packages) with people around the world. This is a swap for random ostrich mail art, basically anything we feel like making. I purchased an ostrich sticker and tucked it inside the envelope I painted (the paper was too thin for painting, but I did it anyway), then decided it wasn’t enough and painted a strathmore watercolor card (yeah… if I’d realized I was going to do that I could have used the envelope that went with the card, which would have actually handled the watercolor a little better! This is my level of organization and planning…) Then I enclosed the whole thing in a vellum envelope, so everything can be seen through its sheer sides, and my partner can re-use the ostrich envelope herself… and finally I added two artsy bird themed postcard stamps. I didn’t get a photo of the completed project because I had already added the addressed, which is too bad, because the whole thing looked great! It looked much better in the very slightly hazy envelope than out of it. I hope my partner enjoys it. I certainly enjoyed making it.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Swap-bot over the years is the challenge. Without swap-bot I don’t think I’d be doing art now. I wasn’t really doing anything when I started, and didn’t know what I COULD do, or what it would mean to me, although I enjoyed drawing and crafting. I often joined swaps that were outside my comfort zone, trying artistic creative things I’d never tried before, some that I’d never even heard of, and wouldn’t have  dared to try on my own. It’s also been a great place for a little inspiration if I get stuck, because I can find a swap with a theme (paint a cat on a postcard… create a zentangled page of animals… collage a journal page with a bird theme… sew (yes sew!!) a bottle cap pincushion… write a poem about the leaves…send a package based of only pink items… and on and on) The swaps don’t have to be at all artsy or creative, but those are generally the ones I prefer.

If you enjoy creating, and mailing things out, you might enjoy swap-bot. It takes a lot of time, and planning (regardless of how poorly I planned my card and envelope combo this time), but I’ve met some really lovely people throughout the years. It is a free site, but you really have to be someone who is happy spending a lot of time on details, and also not irritated if you send something nice out but get nothing back yourself (or get something someone put no effort into). I almost NEVER get “flaked” on, but I swap pretty exclusively with people I’m familiar with now, who have developed great reputations on the site. It takes a while to make those connections.



By the way, an ostrich isn’t as simple as you’d think!!

Poppies! and other pretty watercolor stuff 3/29/19

I keep coming back to this “type” of sketch… obviously my favorite, what I think I do best, and most comfortable to me. I will be taking a watercolor class in April to try to strengthen my ability to do looser paintings, without ink or pencil, but I imagine this type is actually “me”.


A. Gallo watercolor, Fabriano 100% cotton paper 140 lb, uniball deluxe micro pen

I love these poppies! I’d frame them, but this is actually for a watercolor swap, so I’ll have to do another for myself! My partner is new to watercolor, and I wanted to show her several different ways of painting. So I also did this leaf on a notecard for her, painted directly:


and this little notecard (I used some stickers for inspiration!):


None of these required pencil sketches first, they are all pretty basic.

Which do you like the best?

Spring Tulip 3/20/19, and da Vinci Quill Brushes

This is direct watercolor using A. Gallo watercolor paint on Arches 100% cotton cold press paper (in the book I made in a previous post), using one of my new favorite brushes, the da Vinci Casaneo Quill Brush, size 2. (This is an Amazon affiliate link, and I get rewarded (a little!) if you purchase through this link, without it costing you more… but shop around! I haven’t checked prices on these elsewhere recently. It is $29 right now, but I only paid $21 a few weeks ago… maybe try to wait out a price decrease?)


Quill brushes are sized differently than round brushes (though both are round!) and a 2 quill is maybe like a 6 or 7 round brush. A pretty convenient size. The brush is soft, keeps a beautiful thin tip, holds a ton of water, and this one snaps back nicely. It is actually made from synthetic fibers, and I was surprised by the water it holds. … the brush head itself isn’t as long as I thought it would be. I wonder if that explains the snap back that it has? So far i have enjoyed it immensely, and love the size 0 I got just as much.

This afternoon, I was reading this blog post by a friend of mine, Chandra, from Swap-bot, … She takes beautiful photographs, and always has such thoughtful things to share. I was inspired to try painting one of her tulips tonight. Ok, it turned into something very different, but it’s all good practice! If it looks unfinished to you… that’s because I don’t really know what I’m doing yet. I’m more comfortable sketching in ink, and filling in.

Happy first day of Spring! Go paint a tulip or something anyway!



Handmade watercolor journal (made by ME!!) 3/15/19

(this post includes Amazon affiliate links where applicable)

I watched some youtube videos by Nik the Booksmith (here is a link) about making handmade journals. (I had also watched one by Following the White Rabbit, (link to watercolor journal tutorial here)  which is what actually inspired me to think about it!) Between the two artists, I started to think, Hey, maybe I can do this, too! I will readily admit, I sometimes rush, or cut corners, so have been hesitant to try what seems like a tedious and precise job.

My final result is gorgeous!! It isn’t quite RIGHT… but I love it. And maybe that’s what counts, right? Plus, as I make more, I’ll learn how to make them more “right”. 🙂

So, I’ll try to explain what I did. However… watching the two videos I’ve linked (and Nik the Booksmith’s is actually a five part series) will definitely make it clear to you. (Plus… well, mine isn’t quite RIGHT, so going to the original sources may make yours RIGHTER.)

Step one: I had a very old, but damaged, copy of Robert Burns poetry. VERY old. Beautiful. BUT DAMAGED. Please remember that. (I know some of you don’t like people tearing up books for art, which I frequently do.) So, following “Nik”‘s directions, using an exact knife, I removed the pages from the book, being careful to keep the cover completely intact. (You don’t have to use a book cover. You can use heavyweight paper, cardstock, and Following the White Rabbit shows how to make it without a cover at all!)


I’m not left handed. But, my right hand was holding the camera. I need a camera stand. 🙂

Next, I took an old, yellowed piece of sheet music I had, and cut it to fit as a lining, being sure it would be able to go down inside the spine as well. This will offer a bit of strength to the aged spine. I think, looking back, I could have used two layers for this, or maybe even fabric, for extra security. I covered the inside of the book covers and spine in tacky glue, and began in the center, covering the spine first, and using my finger and my bone folder to make sure the paper touched every bend of the cover. It needs to be very close fitting to allow freedom of movement without damage. Then pressing the paper down right to each edge (I also used a clean, flat paint brayer to help me smooth it out)


I also added a few interesting bits of vintage foreign pages I had, and one of Burns’ poems. AND a little title reading To Mr Mitchell. Sort of dedicating the book to my husband. 🙂



As it dried, I measured a large piece (22’x30″) of 140 lb Arches watercolor paper, (five sheet set found here on Amazon),  and tore it the sizes I thought I’d need (watch Following the White Rabbit for this part) I couldn’t remember how many pages she said to use in each signature. I thought she had said 4, I used 3. Two would have been better. Try two. I scored and folded each, using a scoring tool I have for card making. I’m linking the tool on Amazon here. They have cheaper brands, this just happens to be the one I have, and I love it. The others may be just as nice. I tried to score the pages in such a way that I’d have front sides and back sides together, so the open book would have the same surface, left and right sides. I’m not sure I was entirely successful? I recommend you lightly mark the front of  EACH piece you cut or tear BEFORE you cut or tear it, to avoid the confusion I suffered. I regretted not doing that.

You don’t have to use watercolor paper. You can use any paper you have! I specifically want a watercolor journal.

(I ended up using a sheet and a half for this book. You can definitely make a book using only one sheet. At less than $10 a sheet, that’s a decent deal. Looking around, you may find better prices on large watercolor sheets. If you want to shop around, try Cheap Joes, Jerry’s Artarama, Wet Paint Art… you could also use sheets you already have there in a pad, just remember it will be folded, so half the size in one direction.)

Once the book cover was dry, I arranged my signatures (the groups of pages which would be together.) I started with three signatures, each having 3 sheets (folded. So six pages) I later added two more signatures of two pages each between them, because I had left too much empty space between them. I made a paper template so I’d make holes in the same places on both pages and cover,


and I used an old phone book beneath my cover to poke holes. No awl in sight, so I used a push pin. Worked fine!



I started making my marks inside, but then realized it was so busy inside I couldn’t really see if I was lining things up straight, so I switched to making marks outside. I totally followed Nik the Booksmith for this part, and the rest, although I plan to use Following the White Rabbit’s process another time. Both were so easy to understand.

I made the marks in my first signature, then slid it down into the crack between the pages of the phone book to make the hole:


I used bakers twine to sew, and a needle. I started with a smaller-impossible-to-thread version for the first set, and ended up with a darning needle eventually.


To sew a signature in, I had made three holes in each signature, and corresponding holes in the book spine. I started in the center hole, and went down through the spine, leaving a nice long tail (several inches). Then brought it up through the bottom hole of the spine, into the bottom hole on the signature. Still leaving that long tail inside! I then went up to the top hole, down through it and through the top hole of the spine. Then BACK in through the center hole of the spine and center hole of the signature. I tightened everything, being careful not to pull too tight and break my string. (This is a lie. I did break my string. It only happened once, though, and I fixed it. Don’t pull it too tight) Once it felt nice and taught, the long string going up the center of the signature should feel almost like a guitar string, I tied the two ends. I cut the string but left both ends hanging. She suggests in the video gluing some little paper punches or something to the strings, and I may do that, or may shorten them later.

Now I repeated for all the signatures, exactly the same way.


This went much more quickly than I had anticipated. The whole book was made in a day.

Now I took a piece of fabric, cut it to fit the outside spine of the book, and glued it on. Too be honest, I almost left it. It was a pretty spine, and I didn’t mind the strings much. If I had used dark thread that matched the cover I really wouldn’t have minded. But I decided the fabric might offer strength and protection. The color fabric I had (I didn’t purchase ANYTHING for this project, I used supplies I had on hand) nearly coordinated with the book, but was a little bright. I inked it up with Ranger black Distress Ink, and couldn’t believe how well it now matched! I glued it on with Tacky Glue.



Now my only problem… kind of a funny one. My book didn’t have too many pages, but my signatures did! So… it wouldn’t stay closed!!


I watched another of Nik’s ideas where she use her Cop-a-dile to attach grommets… I realized I have that same tool!!!  So… I attached grommets and tied ribbon on, tied the book shut, and voila!! Oh! It’s gorgeous. I love that the torn edges aren’t even. This would have looked awful if I had cut them straight, but knowing I would have accuracy issues, I tore.





Soon I’ll show you the title page I’m working on!! I haven’t decided if this is a themed book, or if I just add anything I feel like at the time, or if it is my next daily journal.

I’m so glad I tried, even though it is imperfect, and obviously a first attempt. Give it a shot!! Link a photo if you can. I’d love to see!!


“Urban sketching” in the mall…


Norfolk, Virginia has mermaids everywhere. They all have the same silhouette, are (more or less) ‘life-size’, and are decorated individually. This one inside MacArthur Center has always fascinated me. It has “bites” carved out of its tail, and is wrapped in silver foil, to look like a foil covered chocolate mermaid. There used to be a Godiva store in the mall, (Heaven on earth, imo) and this mermaid is titled Go Diva, with a little poem beneath it.


I brought shiny silver paint for the foil, but then wasn’t sure about shading on top of it. I want to try it again, though, so maybe next time I’ll try the shiny. (Although I was pretty satisfied with the way the Daniel Smith Bloodstone worked)

Saturday, March 9, 2019… pretzel dog!! yum.

I went to MacArthur Center in Norfolk today for a little indoor urban sketching… which I’ll post tomorrow. But for today, finally another journal entry. 🙂 Auntie Anne’s pretzel dog. A much tastier indulgence than I expected it to be.