I loved my class with the incredible Este MacLeod and decided to take another one. I’m so inspired by the new techniques she introduced me to. This time, it was acrylic inks with the dip pen. I love the line that it makes and the bright colors.
In this exercise, I took my lower case letters and turned them into imaginary flowers. I tried to push myself to use new shapes.
As an illustrator, I know that I should choose one style and be consistent with it so people can easily associate my work with me. But not all styles fit all functions.
I was recently asked to design a set of posters for San Francisco Strong (#sfstrong-posters) to illustrate the ways we can protect and support ourselves and others during our current pandemic. The small posters would go in people’s windows so I needed to have the work be bold, graphic and easily read from the street.
My sketch style has evolved over the years to what you see on the rest of my site, but back in my Kaua’i days, my work looked very different.
In my first major entrepreneurial venture, Red Ginger, I designed and sold T-shirts, which I printed in my garage. At the time, my technique was to cut the drawing and lettering through a thin layer of laquer film that was stuck to acetate. After peeling off the positive areas, I adhered the laquer (with a nasty chemical) to the screen, removed the acetate and then squeegeed the ink through to the fabric. I had to use an x-acto knife as my primary tool (not quite as bad as using your finger as a stylus, but you get the idea).
Additionally, I employed a homemade system of two screens on hinges so I could make two color designs. It was a crude system that could not handle tight registration.
Due to these technical limitations, my style developed to include white lines between large color blocks.
Fast forward to today (you knew I’d get here at some point). I instinctively conceived of the #SFStrong.posters in this graphic style.
So that’s why they’re so different from my sketches. But actually, I think that most, if not all illustrators have many styles but they choose to put only one forward for the reason I mention above.
Do they wish they could mix it up more? Do they do that? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
While working a project of posters for Covid prevention in San Francisco (soon to be posted here), I went down a cockamamie rabbit hole. I thought that I’d use different shoes for the 6 foot recommended distancing but that didn’t work in my design at all. Instead, I reworked (and renamed) them. Gossamer comes from my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon of all time Hair Raising Hare.
I went to Lassen last Summer with my friends Liz and Jenna (sisters) and about 80 Oregonians, as part of a group called the Chemeketans. I was leery of vacationing with such a large number of people but Liz assured me that it was a great way to go. At a very reasonable price, with communal participation in setting up and breaking down camp, kitchen, meal and shower tents, the group provided the food, drink and facilities for an easy camping experience.
A cook and some helpers are paid and the rest of the jobs are done by campers. I was required to sign up for a few tasks during the week—I requested dish washing.
Liz was right—it was a luxury to wake up to a hot meal and return from a long day of hiking to find dinner all ready and waiting! Yowzah!
Lassen is the least visited of the US National Parks. It’s an active volcano with “steaming fumaroles,” bubbling mud and sulfur pools. Hot stuff! As you can see from my paintings, in many areas, there are gorgeous creeks, lakes and meadows. I was struck by the beauty of the place.
Mount Lassen is 10,457 feet and in late July we had to pick our way over snow-covered trails at one of the trailheads. Luckily, we were an alert group of hikers and found markers on the trees. Trail crews were at work, a ways down, for the first time that season. We passed three pristine lakes and gorgeous wildflowers as we reached lower levels.
The elevation was tough for us lowlanders. So we continued down the mountain and hitchhiked back to our car. We had no problem getting a ride—nobody was worried about picking up middle aged women with backpacks!
I’d heard, through friends, that monarch butterflies were numerous at Lassen peak at that time of year and I really wanted to see them. We got lucky at another lake where tortoiseshell butterflies virtually covered the path. They differ from monarchs in that the underside of their wings is a dull brown and yellow but the tops are bright orange with black, much like the monarchs.
At the end of each day, all the Chemeketans would bring their folding chairs into a circle (around what would have been a fire if it weren’t Summer in California) and talk about the day’s hikes.
Mitch said to me, “My left eye is cloudy—as if my glasses are dirty but I’m not wearing glasses.”
We were boarding a flight to San Juan, P.R., our destination alternative to a Hurricane soaked Big Island. Thus began a four-month ophthalmic odyssey involving around a dozen eye and retina appointments, two nasty procedures, two surgeries and the terror of temporary blindness. It’s been a tough year for my sweetie.
We got to know most of the doctors at the UCSF Ophthalmology department. With nothing to do but worry, I kept myself busy during the appointments by sketching.
Recovering from retina surgery is an ordeal. The patient has to keep his face down/parallel to the floor 90% of the time for four days. We rented a massage chair thing and apparatus for sleeping as well.
The planets were aligned against us, as two weeks following the left eye surgery, the right eye retina tore as well. What are the odds? This took us…
The ordeal—two torn retinas at the same time: blind man’s bluff for 4 months. The sketches are all from eye #2. And it doesn’t include the appointments in Puerto Rico.
Thanks to the incredible Ophthalmology staff at UCSF for restoring Mitch’s sight! Now for a new prescription…
I’ve been consistently active since January 2016. We’re all tired from all the hard work of GOTV but there’s more work to do in Georgia to take a Senate majority. I decided to do a piece to motivate myself and my fellow citizens.
We’re here for our 18th Anniversary. Got here Thursday at dinner time. It’s beautiful and it’s different. We usually come to camp in late May or mid-September. Since it’s late in the season, we’re staying at the Lodge, right across from Yosemite Falls, which is completely dry. It’s only a teeny bit smoky. Many of the concessions are closed and those that are open require masks and are only doing takeout meals, to be eaten inside or out.
The mornings are really chilly (40’s). Friday, we ride our bikes to Mirror lake in the hand-freezing morning. I’m wearing gloves but Mitch has to suffer through it, so we switch to ride on the sunny side of the valley, which makes a big difference. Mirror Lake is a bed of dry sand. Many years ago, they used that to sand the roads in the Winter.
After Mirror Lake, we ride to our favorite spot, the stone bridge with the deep swimming hole. Mitch goes in for a dip, polar bear that he is.
It’s Halloween and we see several people wearing costumes. I wonder if there was a party somewhere but am told that people just want to dress up for the holiday—there isn’t anything “going on.”
Sunday, we leave the lodge at 9:30 and park at Curry Village to hike up Vernal Falls. I forgot that it’s the same loop we did eight years ago. I think it’s the most popular trail in Yosemite and is usually wet from the intense waterfall. This time of year, it’s not wet nor crowded.
It’s still a groaner getting up that steep flight of stairs. For the hike down, we opt to take the John Muir Trail, which is sublime in its own way. Some time, I’d like to go all the way to the top of Nevada Falls and check out Little Yosemite Valley which leads to the backside of Half Dome, where the final climb up that incredible rock begins. We meet some backpackers who came down from there. It sounds lovely and there’s a campsite. I am probably kidding myself that I’ll go but it’s nice to dream. 🙂
And being here in Yosemite has been overshadowed by the anxiety of the election. I put my phone on DND because I’ve been receiving a multitude of texts, emails and calls exhorting me to make calls and give more money. It’s a messed up time out there in the World. We are all nervous about the election and Covid seems to be here for the foreseeable future.
So we try to stay present and be with the serenity of the park. It is enough.
Through the fires of this year, we’ve occasionally considered moving from the Golden State. However, our trip to the coast reminded me how incredibly beautiful it is here in California.
The weather was glorious and clear. We saw whale spouts out in the water, shooting stars in the clear night sky and ate fabulous food.
We were treated to a tour of the Mendocino Stone Zone, a place where host Peter Mullins brings in stonemasons from Scotland, Ireland, France and New England to create art within his property in the hills. Peter is a font of knowledge about stone and informed us of a seam of basalt in Windsor, not far from where we live.
We stayed at Roseman Creek Ranch, which provided a fantastic, huge kitchen. We paid a little extra for the big wood oven to be fired up so we could make pizza and other yummies. What a treat it all was!
Here are some more pieces that I created during April of Covid time—May 2020. I was obsessed with watercolor stamping with cut potato pieces and carrots which I was taught in the #explorecolour class. So much fun!
I posted other pieces that were either assignments from the course here or inspired by them here. Thank you, Este Macleod!
I’ve been captivated by a neighbor’s garden where king protea are blooming. Whenever I pass by, I am drawn to the flowers like a bee to honey and I just gape at them. This has brought me to paint them, of course. Here’s the series I completed.
Most of these were created with potato and carrots to stamp shapes in watercolor, with brush embellishments. I got really into the stamping technique.
When I can’t go out, I go in. And usually, that means making art.
I discovered the fabulous Esté MacLeod on Instagram and she quickly became my favorite artist on the platform. She starts with letters or numbers and turns them into beautiful paintings. When I saw that she was offering a free course on playing with shape and color, I was all over it.
The first part was to draw numbers 1 – 9 and turn those digits into leaves, real or imagined.
When I tried to think of ways to do this, I got stuck. But when I just let my pen move and got my head out of it, I ended up with some interesting patterns and shapes.
The next step was to put them into more plant-like formations and paint them with watercolor. She encouraged the class to use a dip pen with the watercolor applied by using a brush as well as brush painting. I’d never used this method before and was delighted by the effect.
The next step was to employ potato, carrot, toilet paper roll and other items found in the house, to create flower shapes and then embellish them. Once again, I had trouble because at first they all turned out looking the same and I kept thinking about how I could do it. But when I tried not to think and just moved my hand to draw and paint lines, curves and shapes, the results surprised and delighted me.