Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vintage Violettes Shop

There is a very inspirational shop for sketching in historical downtown Marysville, called  "The Vintage Violet".  It's just full of  elegantly displayed collections! The minute I drove up, I was charmed by all the interesting variety in the front. 
Two page spread in progress. Check back for tomorrow's post!
My sketchbook pages are open and today I have a good start on the planters made from pink and green painted chairs. They are just outside by the front door of the early 1900's house which the owner made into this treasure of a shop. I plan to go back for three days in a row to fill the two page sketchbook spread. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wet roads

It's amazing how much more one sees while sketching on location rather than by just trusting the camera and working from photos at home. During the time it took to do the sketch, a deer emerged from the woods and crossed right in front of me. The school bus got away before I had time to get my camera, and quite a few cars came up and down the hill in each direction.
There's something cozy about painting in the rain. In the car , of course!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Face your fears

They say the best way to overcome fear is to learn more about what you fear and familiarity will help you overcome it. I think that if you go a bit further and can find beauty in the object of your aversion, you may just end up wondering why you feared it in the first place.
Botanical, whimsical or impressionistic, which approach will you take?
Do you think this is about bees, bugs and butterflies? Of course not, silly. :) It's about that blank piece of watercolor paper over there. So go get your paints, brushes and your Audobon book on insects and see how beautiful those little jewels can be.
There are some lovely watercolor inspirations by Kate Osborne, who uses watercolor techniques to interpret the subject in her own beautiful way.

Update: If you are in the Phoenix area, there is a section of the Phoenix Convention Center with sculptures of larger than life bugs called "Social Invertebrates". I learned of this because I follow Kirk Hays, #kirkart on Instagram. He did a great sketch of the scorpion today!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Anacortes Marina

I posted the compositional linework and beginning of this sketch yesterday. Moments after closing the sketchbook, I drove over to class #1 for the day, then on to class #2, my night class at Skagit Valley College.
I filled in the color while watching TV last night and here's the result!

Most of the rigging was left as the white of the paper.
This little Pentalic Aqua Journal is only 3"x5" closed, but 3"x10" open.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's so tough about rainy season plein air?

The beginning of a unique outdoor sketching season in the Pacific NW.
  1. Comfy seat, with optional warmer. 
  2. Climate control.
  3. Watercolors and inks stay dry. 
  4. Cup holders for your painting water AND your latte. 
  5. Built in steering wheel/easel.
Car sketching
  1. Viewpoint must have parking. 
  2. Risk of being taken for a stalker in unfamiliar neighborhood. 
  3. Drips and spills have consequences.
  4. Your umbrella may atrophy from disuse.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The little stone church

I was on Saltspring Island teaching a watercolor workshop with this as my morning demonstration one day. We had a great location, where we ate our box lunch on the lawn, then turned facing away from the church to sketch the vintage ferry dock.

Most of the materials were brought to the island by barge.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Pay no attention to the Cheshire Cat or anyone else in Wonderland for that matter. Noooooo!
These absolutely non-edible mushrooms suddenly appeared in our lawn today after a soft, intermittent drizzle of rain. Unless you harvest your own wild edible mushrooms, it's hard to find any in the store with the roots still on them. I think the natural shape is so much better than a chopped off end. 
After adding warm and cool watercolor touches.
I do know that the red striped cloth is there. The question is: Would you paint it into the picture?
Lamy pen with water soluble ink and a touch of watercolor.
I like the way they turned out, even before adding color. The ink in my fountain pen creates the perfect pale shadow as I run the damp watercolor brush next to it. The paper in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook is perfect for this ink and wash approach. It's smooth for great line work and thick (180 lb. white) to hold the watercolor washes without wrinkling.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Flowers in the window

I have three new classes starting this week, so I won't be saying too much about this painting. I'm just happy I got it posted.
My fellow sketchers are at Rosario today, for one more summer/fall afternoon. Since I am prepping lessons at home in the studio, I am posting a plein air piece that I did around this same time of year at a farm in Issaquah. It's a half sheet (15x22") size. I know a similar treatment could be applied to the picnic shelter there at Rosario. (I am there with you in spirit!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Paint your Closet

Right! The last thing you want to do today, eh, Sunday painters? Well, I don't mean the walls, I mean the shoes, bags, hats, etc.
If you love it enough to wear it, you'll love drawing and painting it. 
About now, you're probably ready to shift the summer stuff out and the fall wardrobe in. As long as you are sorting through things, why not take a break and practice your drawing and painting on the things you like best?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fall Watercolor Classes Start Wednesday and Friday

One of the handouts for my new fall classes
If you're looking for a watercolor class that's full of creative inspiration, skill-building lessons, demonstrations and hands on assistance, this is the place to be! It's a fun and productive atmosphere with the goal of helping you reach the next level of your own artistic journey no matter what level you are when you walk in the door.

My classes usually include brand new students as well as returning students. Each series is based on firm foundational principles of art with all new lessons each time.

Watercolor Painting at Skagit Valley College
Wednesday Evenings 6-9pm
All levels welcome

Intermediate Watercolor 
Kirkland Arts Center
Fridays 10 am - 1 pm

Both these classes have already begun registration with limited seats available. Waiting list taken when full.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lunch Special at Caramel's Kaffe

They even serve it on a blue striped plate!
As I was writing on my sketch page, a customer came over from her table across the room and said, in a British accent, "We just have to ask, "Are you J.A. Jance?"
Evidence of the all-important tasting stage of painting your lunch.
We have a new place in town and it's just what I have been looking for: cozy, friendly, yummy and close! It's Caramel's Kaffe. Although I drive by often, I just haven't been inspired to go in. Now that my USk Seattle painting buddies are only meeting every other week, I am trying to keep up the daily sketching when I'm on my own. I've done it before, but have gotten spoiled this summer. I think I've found the answer!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

First Autumn View

Those who live on Camano Island or Stanwood will know where this is.

After teaching my Stanwood class, I took a little drive to an outlook that I know. There's a tidal estuary with stunning views no matter what the tide or weather. (Another of my goals is to fill this little Pentalic Aqua Sketchbook full of panoramic compositions.)
Sometimes you have to move a tree

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trading sunshine for showers

Rain floods the fields and dramatic skies rule the fall landscape
The kids are back to school, Labor Day Sales are over and the predominant weather has shifted from dry and sunny, to moderate temps during the day and much cooler nights, as well as more cloudy days than sunny ones. Summer is my favorite season here in the Pacific NW and I hate to see it end!

Another thing I will miss is the time to go out sketching on my own and with friends and colleagues. My goal for the summer was to fill an entirely new sketchbook. I can say that my new Stillman & Birn Beta has been there the whole time, as well as my handmade, Sketchbook Project, and a new little Pentalic Aqua. So the accumulated collection has filled more than one sketchbook!

Now I look forward to using all that recharged creative energy to teach my watercolor classes.

PS. Never fear, we have some fantastic weather coming up through the end of October.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Happy Valley Farm with ASk

Yesterday, I met with ASk at the home of a recently departed friend, colleague and student. Marsha was known for her beautiful garden, warm smile and generous personality. The sketchers cherish every opportunity they have had to enjoy the grounds at Happy Valley Farms and record it in their sketchbooks. I know that you will see what I mean when you view the brief record of that marvelous day in my photos below. More about Happy Valley Farm and the day of sketching with Anacortes Sketchers here.

I was charmed by the vibrant colors in the sunlight
The sunny side with the fuchsia door and roses
We wandered through the shade in the orchard or by the pond. Apples are beginning to fall from the old trees. Every once in a while, one of us would pick one up and place it on the bench.
We found a bronze memorial plaque in the seat of the bench.
It was a serene day: end of summer in the quiet countryside, warm sun, warm memories.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Watercolor classes start Thursday in Stanwood

I want to thank A Guilded Gallery for this very nice write-up in their recent newsletter. Hard to believe, but classes in Stanwood start this week already. It feels like summer today, but I guess fall is here!
Watercolors with Michele Cooper

Michele Cooper has been teaching local artists for over 25 years, and leaves a trail of work anyone would be proud of. She is a  signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society, and her paintings are widely recognized

Michele teaches us to see shapes instead of things. Starting with contour drawings and value studies,
she stresses that we should "paint
what we see, not what we think we already know."

5 Thursday classes; Sept 18, 25, October 2, 9, 16th,
and again on
Oct. 23, 30, Nov. 6, 13, and 20th.
Price for 5 class session is $150

To register or for more information, please click the
leaf badge in the right column
For a collection of recent sketches,
visit michelecooperart on Instagram

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Sunday sketch drive on the road to Lake McMurray

Do you remember taking Sunday drives with your parents, like I did? There wasn't necessarily a concrete destination, just a reason to pile the family in the car and go see what was out there. Sometimes we packed a picnic lunch to eat when we found a likely spot. How about doing that with your family today? Take your sketchbook and camera with you and combine two of the nicest things you can do on a day off.

Look east of the covered porch and you will see another great Sunday drive, the road to Lake McMurray.
If you take Exit 221 off I-5, you'll find beautiful country views, and a great place to stop for lunch and for fresh meat, fish and produce to take home for dinner tonight. Skagit River Produce is family run by some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Skagit River Farm sketches

On Thursday, I mentioned that I would soon post the finished sketches from my two recent visits to the Skagit River Farm Barn. One of the co-owners, Gary, was sorting corn on the flatbed outside the big barn and told me that he ran the gas station across the street for 35 years. I remember stopping there many times on my way to the tulip fields for gas and a bloom map.

My finished two page spread of sketches from SRF.
3 years ago, Gary and his son built a brand new, yet beautifully reminiscent barn across the street from the gas station. They have filled it with fresh local produce and a kitchen that makes homemade soup every day. There is even an old fashioned pie safe, stocked full of fresh baked pies. You have got to stop in! It's right off Exit 221 on I-5 at the Lake McMurray exit.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fishermen's Memorial, Ballard

Both Plein Air Painters of Washington and Urban Sketchers Seattle were at the Fishermen's Terminal in Ballard this morning. There were visitors joining us from Michigan as well as familiar faces, returned from their travels.

My sketches of the Memorial Sculpture and jar of flowers.
There was quite a lot of visiting and catching up to do, so I only got these two sketches done today. I chose the figure at the top of the memorial. The elongated column combined with the raised arm of the fisherman tops out at an overall height of thirty feet. In the pavement, eleven feet south of the base of the sculpture, you will find the engraved memorial tiles.
For more information about the Memorial Sculpture and the Fishermen's Terminal please follow links.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Speaking of Corn

My husband and I, unbeknownst to each other, each bought fresh corn yesterday. He was out working  on Whidbey Island and I was at the Skagit River Produce barn. I was sketching about three feet away from the flatbed heaped with just-picked piles of fat, fresh ears of corn. Who could resist?

Added to yesterday's sketchbook page
Needless to say, we had too much corn to eat for one meal. I know we're going to finish it off tonight, so I sat at the patio table this sunny afternoon and added these to my sketchbook. Now the right side page is pretty much done. I have something in mind to finish off the blank spots in the two page spread. Check back on Saturday to see the results!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kids and Animals

Once I finished sketching in the sun, I retired to the shady porch for homemade soup.
You know what they say about working with, or sketching, kids and animals...... not the easiest thing in the world!! Today, at Skagit River Produce barn, it was a battle between kids and animals. These two guys invented PVC extensions to herd the last few renegade chickens back into the pen. I helped a little bit by triangulating with them and gracefully waving my sketchbook back-and-forth.

People and chickens like picking through the corn.
I stayed there in the back of the barn for a while, trying to figure out why the rooster was trying to sabotage my sketching session. He knew I needed contrast, so insisted on calling the hens into the shade. Once they were out of the sun, he promptly tucked his head under his wing and took a nap. No rooster portrait for you! Apparently, free range encourages lack of art appreciation. Never mind, I got three of them anyway.

Next, I turned my back on the chickens and did a sketch of Gary, one of the owners, and a friend, while they sorted out the flatbed full of fresh, ripe corn. 5 for $1 and we are having some for dinner tonight!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Long Red Radishes

It's fun to alternate between a Micron Pen and a nice pointy brush and watercolor.
I picked up these long red radishes at the Skagit River Produce barn on my way home from Rosario yesterday. No one seemed to know the official name for them. I will report later on how they taste, because I won't let anyone eat them until they are painted.

Update: Pat F. thinks the variety might be "Dragon". 

Monday, September 8, 2014


My sketch in progress on location 9/8/14
Anacortes Sketchers roamed all over the Rosario beach section of the Deception Pass park system today. Rosario Beach is a small cove on the southwestern corner of Fidalgo Island where you’ll find sandy beaches, centuries old trees that provide perches for bald eagles, and a meadowy bluff that comes to life with wildflowers in the spring.

I've been enjoying the paper texture and proportions of my new tiny Pentalic Aqua pocket journal. It's easy to carry, but presents a bit of awkward maneuvering while working on the bottom edge.
Finished sketch--Rosario, Looking Eastward (zoom to see larger)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's in your cup?

 Sunday usually involves taking a little time out to slow down, reflect, enjoy a cup of --------(fill in the blank). And then enjoy an art break. Whether it's the contents or the cup itself, why not make a sketch of your favorite?
Art in a cup! Make it, paint it, drink it!
 Coffee or tea? Cappuccino or Darjeeling? A cozy white mug or a delicate heirloom china cup?

Section of my sketches from last Friday. See full two page spread here.

Tip: Make two: one to use as your model and one to sip while you paint. Otherwise, trying to wait for your treat while you paint is just too much to ask on a Sunday!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Forget Me Not

Forget-me-not flowers
I'm thinking of two of my favorite gardeners today, my grandmother, whose favorite flowers these were, and Marsha. May you both rest in peace.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tea with WIsk at One Spirit Garden

I added more sketches as the dishes kept coming

It was the perfect late summer day, between 11am and 1:30pm at One Spirit Garden on Whidbey Island. I am grateful to Whidbey Island sketchers for allowing me to join them for sketching, chatting, laughing and tea. There were 18 or 19 of us. Some found a spot in the garden or at a table on the covered deck, while Glo, the owner and her assistant treated us to a fabulous afternoon of pampering. You two outdid yourselves! Thank you!

Two page spread in my Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook-Micron Pen and Watercolor

I chose Glo's homemade crust-less cheesecake for dessert. Hard choice from the other delicacies offered, like hummingbird cake, rich chocolate bundt cake, another one with carrots, pecans and a lemon drizzle, I think!!!!!! By this time, I had to decide between finishing my cheesecake or my sketch of it. I opted for half of  each.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My new tiny Pentalic Sketchbook

The University Book Store in Seattle has always been one of my favorite places. When our children were small, I took them upstairs for story time in the childrens' section. It was timed perfectly so that lunchtime was right afterwards. Imagine the swift run through I usually had to do downstairs in the art store!

No such problem while shopping with fellow sketchers last Friday! We ogled the beautiful fountain pens laid out in covered cases like rare jewels, found new supplies that we really didn't need (now on the wish list), and shared the reasons why we were buying our favorites.
3x5" Aqua Journal with my Micron Pen in the elastic holder

A friend told me about these tiny 3x5" Pentalic Aqua Journals, so I got one that day. An elastic brush holder is positioned at the top of the book and is designed to hold a travel brush or pen. The Aqua Journal is fitted with a ribbon marker, elastic band closure and storage pocket in the back of the book.

I have seen fellow artists using the 5x8" Aqua Journals, which will give you a nice sized 5x16" panoramic spread using both sides when open. So far, no results online for these really small 3x5" ones. I have already mentioned the Nature Sketch books (illus.) and recommended them to help my students work on daily sketching. In every instance, I really like the quality, weight and finish of their 130 lb paper. All these sketchbooks open out flat. It suits my direct style of line and wash sketching.

Why, you may ask, am I excited about the smaller size? I want to get over the idea of making a finished painting every time I'm out "sketching". Maybe if it's almost too small to see, I might think of it as merely a sketchbook and simplify my composition. It seems the more room I have on the paper, the more "finished" it appears to want to be. Don't hold your breath, though, I think it's my attitude that needs changing rather than the size of my sketchbook.

Hmmm. Maybe I should only paint things that are 30 miles away. Wait, isn't that a zoom feature on my iPhone camera? I have a pair of binoculars somewhere, don't I?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Paraty Colonial Church

From the Pacific NW to the coast of Brazil
So this is what was under the map in a recent post about our Paraty Pity Party. I had seen so many pictures, I couldn't help myself. I just had to see if I could sketch the beautiful colonial church. That arched part is mighty tricky and I can't imagine the challenge it would be from another viewpoint.

We have traveled to Madeira, Lisbon, and the Mediterranean coast of Portugal. Those memories added to a combined overview of several photos led to this interpretation of the scene.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fidalgo Bay

Still at Seafarers' Memorial Park, but sitting in the cool shade of the sculpture, Lady of the Sea, I found this panorama for my new sketchbook. (More about the new sketchbook on Sunday.)

Getting started with line and establishing the distance

Finished Sketch

Monday, September 1, 2014

Refinery Skyline

Sketched at Seafarer's Memorial Park with ASk

One of the so-called "necessary evils" of living in the beautiful coastal town of Anacortes is the ever present refinery. Too many times to count, however, I have heard people say that they hate to admit it, but it is actually rather beautiful at night. I agree, but I also appreciate the "big city" feel of all the stacks and towers--right there in the middle of a rural scene.

Recently, I saw a sketchers' challenge online. It was entitled "So ugly it's beautiful." To me, as an artist, there is beauty to be found in just about everything. So I sat on the seawall and sketched this from Seafarer's Memorial Park on Memorial Day.