Giraffes from the Bronx Zoo

Watercolor and ink across a two-page spread in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook. These were sketched at the Bronx Zoo, with the page borders prepared in advance using acrylic inks.

Giraffes are so graceful and fun to sketch. The Bronx Zoo has a nice habitat for them with a shady spot to sit and enjoy their company. While we were sketching them, a peacock came along from the habitat next to them, and they all started following the peacock in a long line, as if playing Follow the Leader.


Flamingos at the Bronx Zoo

Last week I went to the Bronx Zoo with a group of artists. What a great place for a sketching trip! I even took out a membership so that I can go back for free. There is a cafeteria called the Dancing Crane Cafe, which overlooks a pond with beautiful Flamingos. Here are two that were begging to be sketched.

I knew I'd be sketching on the run for the most part, so I prepared some sketchbook pages in advance. This two page spread was done with acrylic ink. I painted the borders with brown, then sprayed it with water while the ink was still wet, and blotted it with a paper towel to further texturize the surface.

This is a Stillman & Birn 6x8" Delta Series sketchbook. I've done several multi-media pages in it of this type, and it's handled all the abuse spectacularly well. It's very heavy paper with a heavy layer of sizing, and not too much texture, so my fountain pens seem to like it as well.


The Sketchbook Project 2012 --- Peach Lake, Brewster NY

Today I did my second entry for the Brooklyn Art Library's sketchbook collection, through The Sketchbook Project 2012.  This was sketched on location at Peach Lake in Brewster, New York.


The Sketchbook Project 2012

This is my first sketch for the The Sketchbook Project 2012! If you haven't heard about this annual, ongoing venture, you can check it out here.  For $25, artists can register for the project and select one of 40 themes for their book. They each receive a sketchbook in the mail, which must be returned by February 1, 2012 in order to participate. The sketchbooks become part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Museum, and go on a world tour. I really wanted to do it last year, but didn't find out about it in time to have a chance at completing a book. So, I'm jumping on it early this year! My chosen theme is "Travel With Me", and my sketches will depict my travels up and down the Hudson River Valley.

Today I went to Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, New York. It's always hard to start a new sketchbook, but I figured today was as good a time as any! The paper's quite thin for watercolor work. Many artists are changing the paper in the books for something better than what they're sending us, but I'm going to try to work with what they sent. It'll be a bit wrinkly for sure.

The Arrival of FedEx

I figured I'd have a half hour or so to sketch, but my daughter re-emerged from her appointment in just 10-15 minutes! When I got home, I thought it would look much better to throw some color behind the truck, so I added the watercolor afterwards. Here's what it looked like when I brought it home:

Text: I dropped my daughter off for a doctor's appointment this morning and set up in my car to sketch the rainy scene. Just as I took pen to paper, this massive FedEx truck pulled up right in front of the awning that was planned as the focal point of my sketch! This was done with my favorite Kuretake brush pen and a waterbrush of Gris Nuage. Journal writing: Lexington Gray and Lamy F fountain pen

When I added the watercolor, I discovered that the ink that comes with the Kuretake brush pen is very washable. Once that runs out, I'll probably refill it with Noodler's Bulletproof Black, or some other black ink that stays put. The J. Herbin Gris Nuage (lighter color gray) stayed put pretty well.

Speaking of package deliveries, look what UPS delivered to me today, along with some of the new Stonehenge Kraft colored paper:

All this rainy weather is a perfect time to dip into these acrylic inks. Can't wait!


This Is Not the Bronx Zoo --- Rainy Day Sunflower in Watercolor

Today is the day I'd been looking forward to for such a long time. I was planning to sketch at the Bronx Zoo. As you can tell from this still life, it is pouring rain outside, and the zoo trip is postponed. Still, one could do worse than to be painting these gorgeous flowers.

Images can be clicked to enlarge them.

Winser Newton and Holbein Watercolors
Noodler's Lexington Gray in a Lamy Safari fountain pen with "F" nib
Writing: J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune in a Platinum Preppy fountain pen
Fabriano Venezia 6x9" sketchbook

Review of the Nomadic Wise-Walker Messenger Bag

I have been dreaming of getting this Nomadic messenger bag for sketching materials ever since I saw it on the internet. The messenger bag I'd been using for sketching supplies was a bit larger than what I needed, and had a couple of serious drawbacks that the Nomadic bag addressed. My husband got it for me as a Mother's Day gift, and it is just perfect for my needs! I unpacked my old bag last night and loaded up the new one.

Here's the front of the bag. I selected the blue color, and it's a nice dark, neutral navy. It has a zippered pocket right on the front where you can keep identification, money, or anything you might need to get to quickly without having to open up the whole bag. As you can see, it easily stands upright, which is an important factor for me, since I keep lots of fountain pens inside it.

One thing this bag has that my other lacked is this wide, long shoulder pad. Since the strap adjusts from both sides, I finally have a bag that allows me to shorten the strap enough while keeping the shoulder pad centered. This is an excellent feature that more bags and straps should employ.

On each side, there is a mesh compartment for a water bottle. This particular bottle is oversized at 20 oz, yet still fits in there. A regular 16 oz. bottle would fit better. Not having to carry the water inside the bag is a great feature. It makes it much easier to take a sip while walking without having to open up the bag, or to pour extra water into a palette cup for painting. My old bag didn't have these water holders on the sides.

The bag is divided into two main sides. I set up one for sketching materials, and one for painting. Usually I do one and then the other, so it helps to have my materials organized this way. Here's a peek at the sketching side:

As you can see, there's room straight across the bag for loads of pens, pencils, waterbrushes and markers. A pocket in the front of that compartment can hold my sketchbook. There is another large pocket behind the pens that runs the length of the bag. I keep some tissues, erasers, a ruler, viewfinder, and other sketching supplies in there.

One really neat feature is these mesh pockets because they are translucent. I label all my pens so I can tell what ink is in which pen. I used to have to remove them from the pockets of my old messenger bag to read the labels and find the pen I needed, but now I can store them with the labels facing outward, and I can see what every color is! This is a huge advantage for me and a timesaver.

Turning the bag around and lifting the big flap, you can see into the main compartment of the bag:

If you carry a 9x12" spiral sketchbook, this is where you'll probably be keeping it, and it will fit easily. In front of that large, open area there is a zippered compartment where I keep my watercolor sets:

There are also pockets in front for brushes, waterbrushes, pens, and other supplies. You wouldn't believe how much this side of the bag can hold, even though the bag is not that large. I emptied out this  side to show you (below).

  • Viewfinder
  • Sunglasses
  • Reading glasses
  • Extra clips
  • Palette cup
  • Lots of waterbrushes and travel brushes
  • Correction fluid
  • Two watercolor sets
  • Hand wipes
  • Small sketchbook
  • Insect repellent
  • Sponges
  • Date stamp
  • Masking tape
  • 7x10 watercolor block
  • Drawing board
  • Tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Viewfinder
  • Small water bottle
  • Garbage bag
There's actually plenty of room left for my camera, binoculars, and sun visor. I don't necessarily carry this much when I go out sketching, but it's nice to know that it will all fit when I go off on a trip; then I can leave whatever I won't be needing in the car, or wherever I'm staying if I'm traveling. There are a few more compartments in this bag that I haven't detailed in this post because I'm not even using them yet! I'm sure that as I get out there and start painting and sketching with it, I'll reorganize it a bit and shift some of these items into those other pockets.

If you think you'd like a Nomadic Wise-Walker too, you can find them at Jetpens in black, blue or gray. You can see lots more photos of the bag there as well.


Sketching Karen's Waterfalls

I've been painting and sketching the waterfalls on my own property lately, so when my friend Karen invited me to come and paint hers for a change, I jumped at the opportunity. My friend Gretchen came along too, and the three of us set up to paint beside this waterfall.

There's a reason why our town was nicknamed The Land of Falling Waters by the Indians. There's nowhere you can go in that town and not hear the sound of rushing water from a nearby waterfall, especially in spring. Much of the water that comes down from the Catskill Mountains passes through our town of rocky ledges, spilling over into waterfalls on its journey to the Hudson River.

As I often do when checking out a new location, I just packed some sketching materials. I didn't know how far we'd have to trek to the falls, or what spots would yield the most interesting compositions, or if there would be somewhere to set up an easel. I brought some ink pens and watercolors, and my Fabriano Venezia Journal that I'm working through. After doing the sketch above mostly in watercolor, I moved further upstream to take on a larger waterfall.

I did the one above with Private Reserve Black Velvet ink, then worked my lights and darks with a waterbrush, taking the wash color from the washable ink lines. After that, I added some watercolor.

I moved back near where I'd done the first sketch, and this time did a composition that included more of the foreground, with the waterfall peeking through between the trees below me.

I think I like this last composition best. I'd like to return to do an oil painting, as well as additional sketches of other waterfalls on the property.


Five Minute Portraits on a Prepared Background

You can click the image above to enlarge it.

Well, I have to say, this was really fun! I prepared a background using diluted Golden Fluid Acrylics. I wasn't sure how a fountain pen would respond to the prepared surface, but it worked quite well! In fact, the pen skipped less over the surface than it did before, and it washed with the waterbrush just fine. This is Noodler's Sequoia ink, sketched with a Platinum Preppy pen. I'm still setting the timer for five minutes.....


Five Minute Portraits

In an effort to step up my ability to quickly capture portraits when I'm out sketching on location, I'm doing five minute portraits in ink from photo references in the evenings. That way, there's no correcting and no turning back! This 11x17", two-page spread is 40 minutes of sketching time, using Private Reserve Chocolat mixed with a bit of Private Reserve Velvet Black in a Platinum Preppy fountain pen, and a waterbrush for the washes.