Inktober Day 8: Precious

Day 8’s prompt was the word “precious.” Since I’m now a day or two behind, I saw a few of the online posts from other artists. Quite a few of them used a Smeagol theme from Lord of the Rings, and I’ll admit that was the first thing that sprung to my mind when I read the prompt too. That said, I went again for something closer to home.

Lessons learned on this drawing are tough. I feel like I am stating the obvious, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Hands and feet are tough to draw. There are a lot of very small things that you need to include for them to look realistic and not cartoonish. I think this ended up looking both a bit cartoon-y and also amateurish.
  2. The reference photo really didn’t have enough detail to be rendered in a line drawing. It would probably have been fine in another media, but the lack of detail in all areas except the hand and feet made it difficult. With line drawing, you can’t just start becoming more fuzzy as you move further away from the focal point. (This would have rocked in graphite or charcoal though, but they are not ink…)
  3. I’m a little tired of using line drawing with hash marks for shading. I had one drawing that came out well, but the last two, not so much. If I’m going to continue to do my Inktober drawings in this style, I need to find some solid examples to learn from so I can figure out where I’m going wrong.

I could go on but I think at this point, I’d just be criticizing my own work, and that’s not the point. The best thing I can say about this drawing is that I finished it, and I am still going at Day 8. (Granted it’s now Day 11 in real life but thanks to evening art classes, I have only missed a single day of art-making since October started.

I will be headed out to the woods tomorrow where there is no cell phone service and sketchy wifi, so I won’t be blogging until I return. That said, I’m hoping to come back caught up on drawings and with a much lighter disposition. Happy early weekend to me! And happy weekend to all of you too.




Inktober Days 4-7

I’ve been drawing pretty much every day, but got a bit behind on my blogging, so here’s a  catch-up post.

Day 4: Spell

The prompt for Day 4 was “spell.” A lot of people online used this prompt to produce spell-casters, witches and so forth. I took a slightly alternative approach and used a reference photo that put me in a bit of a spell. I am fascinated by the culture that produced the sugar skull, and here is the drawing that resulted:

Day 4 - Spell

What I learned from this one:

  1. I need to lose the dark outlines if I want this to look more realistic and less cartoon-like.
  2. The angle of her head was just slightly tipped back in the reference photo. I think I captured the elongation of the lower face, but I didn’t quite get the shape of the head the way I wanted it.
  3. While the hands supporting her neck and head are true to the reference photo, I might have removed them or shaded them differently. I don’t think it’s clear to the viewer what they are. It just looks like I made her neck too narrow.
  4. I should have paid more attention to the lines across her lips. Our brains sometimes see what they want to see, and in this case I saw straight lines. However, when I looked again, I noticed that the lines followed the curve of the face. I tried to fix them but I don’t think it came out as well as it would have if I had paid more attention in the first place.

Overall, I’m very pleased with how this one came out.

Day 5: Chicken

I tried a bunch of alternative meanings for this prompt so I could do something outside the norm, but in the end, I just drew a chicken from a reference photo. In the photo, he was brightly colored, which added to the interest, but I think he came out okay in black and white, if a bit cartoon-like.

Day 5 - Chicken

What I learned from this one is pretty simple. It’s hard to be creative when you’re tired, but I am pleased that I actually completed the drawing despite the fatigue. It had been a long tough day at work.

Day 6: Drooling

Online there were lots of monsters drooling, etc., but I went a bit closer to home with this friendly labrador:

Day 6 - Drooling

The mouth shapes on this were difficult. I think I did a better job of not outlining everything, but still there are more dark outlines than I’d like. It takes some intention not to just automatically start outlining as soon as I switch from pencil to ink. On the next drawing, I made a specific effort not to outline and I like the result much better.

Day 7: Exhausted

This one felt personal, since I have lived with fatigue for decades. While I still manage to be productive, it can be a real battle sometimes.  I can commiserate with this young lady on the train.

Day 7 - Exhausted

This was drawn with a fine-line Micron pen, which gave the drawing the lightness that I wanted. I worked very hard at creating lost and found lines. The only outlines on the page are the pencil lines I put in for reference (and forgot to erase). Everything else was done with shading.

I’m particularly pleased with how this one turned out. I managed a more loose feel because there is less under-drawing. I roughed out the shapes and then switched to the Micron pen for the rest of the drawing. Using pencil plays to my more analytical side, which means that I often produce a more technically correct drawing, but it’s easy to overdo the accuracy and lose the spirit of the work.

While this was the Day 7 prompt, I had a cold and wasn’t feeling well, so this was actually drawn on October 8. I’ll probably catch up later this week, or I may just continue into November to finish all the drawings.

So, there you have it – Days 4-7. I’m enjoying this exercise and considering making daily drawing (or at least daily art) a practice going forward.


Inktober Day 3: Roasted

Today’s theme was “roasted” and while the drawings online were a bit more along the lines of marshmallows or unfortunate critters/ people on a spit, my drawing for today speaks to the pleasures of a nice cup of joe.



Again, apologies for the bad photograph, but I think this drawing came out pretty cool.

Learnings for today:

  • Pitt Artist’s Pen is still my new favorite toy. Such rich color and so easy to work in a nice sketchy fashion.
  • Getting up early in the morning to draw before work is really satisfying. It kick-starts my brain but in a nice relaxing way. (Well, that and about 3 cups of strong black coffee). That was the case even today, when I slept later than planned and could only do the under-drawing before work, and had to finish this up on my lunch break.
  • I did a lot of under-drawing in this one, compared to the two previous days when I did virtually none, just guidelines. While I think that made it a stronger drawing in the end, it also worked towards my tendency to be fussy and over-analytical. Still, getting the perspective and shapes right on that stirrer in the front was a real challenge, so it was good that I had the flexibility to take a couple of shots at it without having to toss the whole drawing and start over.
  • Final learning is that it actually takes a lot of thought to be random / spontaneous when drawing. The brain’s natural tendency (or at least mine’s anyway) is to line things up in nice neat rows, so when adding in the detail of the tumbling coffee beans, I really had to pay attention. I didn’t do that as well as I would like, because it took a bit to notice that a pattern was forming. I might fill this in later with a bit more detail in that area, and could maybe make it look more random then.

So, that’s it for day 3. None of these drawings is going to end up in a museum, but I’m really enjoying this so far.

Inktober Day 2: Tranquil

So for Day 2, the theme was “tranquil.” I found this lovely photo of a woman looking at the sunrise and decided it fit the theme very well.  (Same site, royalty free and unlimited use; ping me if you want the URL).

It didn’t feel like this would render well as a line-drawing (imagine trying to create that shading using hatch marks), so I shifted to the approach of using ink as watercolor.


I’m reasonably happy with how this came out, particularly because I remembered to preserve the lost and found lines along the ground where she is sitting. This one taught me several important things as well:

  1. You can’t just pick reference photos that appeal to you. You have to actually think about how it will render in the media that you are using. It feels like this should be obvious but clearly it was not or this would not have been my choice for a drawing rendered in pen and ink.
  2. Bristol board is a very poor substitute for watercolor paper. I hadn’t planned to do this with “ink as watercolor,” so I started with Bristol board as my working surface. However, as it got wet, the shiny surface became uneven and the board started to warp. It was also difficult to use the ink as a wash since it started to absorb as soon as it touched the paper, instead of blending into the water on the surface the way a watercolor paper does. In the end, I probably should have ditched the Bristol board and started over.
  3. Still loving the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen for the darkest darks.
  4. I really need to improve my photography on these because they are coming out kind of wonky. In this case, it was at least partly due to the board warping but might have also been a lazy cell phone shot while in PJ’s knowing I had only a couple of minutes before getting ready for work.

I think that’s it. Happy day 2 folks!

Inktober Day 1

We’re going to take a dramatic turn from the original theme of this blog and talk about drawing. Specifically, drawing in pen and ink.

As some of you know, I love a good challenge. Thirty days of doing something different than normal. It’s like a reset button on life. Being brutally honest, though, I’m not all that good about actually completing a challenge. For example, I did 29 days of a Whole 30. In my defense, I broke down for wine…because, well….wine.  Last year, I did 3 days of the 30 Days of Thanks. I guess I wasn’t all that grateful. Or more likely I got busy and distracted.

This month, I’m going to try something completely different. I’m participating in Inktober. It’s is a month-long daily drawing challenge. The rules are pretty simple. There are prompts but you don’t have to use them. Draw daily (or every other day or weekly or whatever suits you). Use pen and ink or the digital equivalent thereof. Post what you draw using the hash tags #inktober2018 or #inktober. The goal is simply to improve your drawing skills by doing it consistently every day.

A lot of the participants seem to be cartoonists or draw manga or graphic novels, but it doesn’t say you have to do that type of drawing in order to participate. Also, many have very creative imaginations and use the daily prompt as a jumping off point to some up with something really unusual. None of that is me, though, so I’m going to be myself and use the daily prompt to find good reference photos to draw from. Then I’ll do the drawing and post it here, along with some things I learned. If you’re not arty, you might find that stuff boring, so feel free to skip right over it and just look at the pictures.

The Day 1 prompt was “poisonous.” With the help of a license-free photo site, I came up with this:

It took three tries and I’m not quite satisfied with the final drawing, but I learned a lot and I think that’s the point. To make sure that I remember those lessons later, here are some of the key things that I learned:

  1. The Pitt Artist Pen from Faber-Castell is awesome and now I want them all. Or maybe just a dozen of this black one because I can see it’s going to get a lot of use.
  2. I didn’t do a great job with my shading to create a sense of roundness. That’s something to work on for next time.
  3. One of the earlier drawings was in pen and charcoal. I spent a lot of time on the shading and then kind of ruined it by not spraying it with fixative before handling it. Giant smudgy fingerprints. Sigh. I’m such a noob. 😉
  4. Working on Bristol board takes some practice. For one thing, I’m not used to paper so heavy or so slick. Also, always tape it to your drawing board or it will slide around and be difficult to control.

I think that’s it. Obviously today is October 2, so there’s already another drawing underway but I’ll have to get to work now, so more on that later.

Have a great day, folks and happy Inktober!

30 Days of Thanks – November 3

Hey, I’ve blogged for three days straight! Is that considered a streak?

Today, gratitude seems easier for some reason. Maybe because it’s Friday.

I work from home and my office is in a front bedroom that faces our front porch. My husband has put up bird feeders so I can watch the birds while I work. (I have to say, it really takes the sting out of a bad conference call). It’s a lovely way to bring a little bit of nature into my workday.

This morning as I started up my laptop, there was a line of birds, small and large, sitting on the porch rail looking into the office as if to say “Hey lady, it’s kinda cold out here and we’re hungry.” I refilled the feeders and very quickly, they were filled with hungry birds enjoying their breakfast.

It’s funny, when you spend time this close with wild creatures. (They are literally outside my window, about 5 feet from where I sit). You start to see that individuals have their own personalities, and you start to see the differences between species. For example, the reputation that doves have for being associated with peace seems to be well-deserved. They are the only larger birds that share the feeders with the little birds instead of driving them away. A dove will land on the feeder, it swings a bit due to the weight, and pretty soon all of the birds, large and small, go back to enjoying their communal meal.

I also get the occasional visit from a squirrel, who hangs upside down while he eats, and then comes to sit on the windowsill and watch me work for a few minutes.

Today I am grateful for this little bit of nature that lightens up my work day.

Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir



30 Days of Thanks – November 2

It’s November 2 and already this is requiring some thought! Some days I just don’t feel very grateful, which I guess is what this whole exercise is about – being grateful even when it doesn’t come naturally. Being human, it feels much more natural to dwell on minor annoyances like an argument with my husband about politics, or the challenges I had in pottery class last night.

Today is part of the Dia Des Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday in Mexico, where they celebrate their ancestors. In the Protestant churches, we called it “All Saints Day.” I love that idea, so think I’ll use that as the theme of today’s gratitude.

I am fortunate enough to come from a long line of amazing women – women who were leaders, business owners, teachers, social workers, writers, artists, musicians. In addition to being loving and creative, they were intelligent, resourceful, and supportive of the generation coming after them.  Today I’m grateful for them, for the example they provided for me, and the support and encouragement to be my own kind of woman. I’m also grateful for the generation that comes after me – including my own daughter, who has turned out to be an incredible human being.

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. ~ Unattributed

30 Days of Thanks – November 1

I was reminded by Snoopy’s post on Instagram this morning that today is the first day of November.

(Tried to post the graphic here but it’s not displaying – please click through if you’re as big a Snoopy fan as I am and want him to wish you a Happy November. I suppose that I could copy and paste the graphic but I like to respect people’s copyrighted work).

For the past couple of years, I’ve participated in 30 Days of Thanks, where bloggers post daily about things they are grateful for. My track record isn’t so hot on this – last year I only made it to November 13 – but I’m going to give it a shot again this year.

Gratitude is something that I aspire to, but I’ll be honest that it doesn’t come all that easily to me. That’s even after I’ve read about it, taught Sunday School lessons about it, and thought about it quite a bit as well. I’m coming to realize that for me, it’s a practice rather than a skill or a habit, so for the month of November, I’m going to “practice” and see how I do.

Interestingly, at the same time, I’m also participating in the #SewLongSewHappyChallenge, which is a 21 day sewing “binge” in which participants are committing to sew every day for 21 days. So far, I’ve successfully completed days 1 and 2, so I’m off to a decent start.

Today I’m grateful for Halloween and Trick-or-Treaters. It may seem silly to still be this excited about Halloween at 50, but I love it. For me, it’s not about dressing up and going to parties (although that’s fun too), it’s about seeing all the kids in their costumes. They are so excited about going house-to-house collecting treats. It’s also a chance to say hello to the neighbors, and my dogs love seeing all the kids (and getting the occasional pet from a dog-friendly kid). This year was a little different because my husband was traveling and my kids are grown, so we didn’t do our usual tradition of making a big pot of soup and watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” That said, it was still fun. I’ll catch up and watch The Great Pumpkin this weekend on DVD.

So, there you have it. #Day1. We’ll see how I do – feel free to join me. 🙂

Tech To Be Grateful For

We often talk about how technology both complicates our lives and makes it easier. Entire books have been written on this subject, and presumably by people much wiser or better informed than me.  It seems that most of us have a somewhat conflicted relationship with technology. It’s made so many things possible that we never even considered before. At the same time, it’s brought new threats like identity theft, and new challenges like finding quiet in an increasingly noisy world.

I work in IT so this dichotomy probably seems even more pronounced to me. After spending my days making computer systems work (or as in my current role, breaking them as a tester), all I want at the end of the day is a break from it all. I don’t want my cell phone in my pocket, and I don’t want to spend my time looking at a computer screen. I am, in a word, saturated.

What I want instead seems to be tactile experiences, interaction with the real world, discussions with real people (and not by text message). A contrast, if you will, to how I spend my days. That said, there are many things that technology brings me that I’m grateful for, and that is the topic of today’s post.

I’m grateful for:

  • Craftsy classes that bring talented instructors into my living room to teach me things that I could not or would not go to a classroom for, and at a fraction of what a college course with these instructors would cost.
  • The Fitbit on my wrist that keeps me focused on taking care of myself, by showing me my progress (or lack thereof).
  • The online tools such as Facebook that keep me connected with friends and family across the globe. (And yes, Facebook definitely has its annoyances, but this post is about gratitude). One of my favorite new uses of Facebook is to find photos by local Colorado photographers that I can use as inspiration to draw and paint.
  • Online shopping that puts the very best yarn, art supplies, knitting tools, and other conveniences literally in the palm of my hand.
  • Podcasts that keep me informed and entertained during what can sometimes be very long work days.

So, there’s what I’m grateful for today. How about you?


I had one of those funny moments this morning that I was sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a Westie on my lap, and I was suddenly struck with this feeling of gratitude for how fortunate I am and how much I love my life.

Life has brought so much to me, in terms of the friends and family that I have, the creativity I get to enjoy, and the love of my husband and children. It’s easy to lose sight of that during the little annoyances of life. (Starbucks coffee cup scandal, just saying. These people need some perspective).

I think it’s valuable sometimes to just step back and look at what’s right in your life. Our lizard brains are always so busy finding the negative, looking for the risk, focusing on what could harm us. That may have kept us alive when we were living in the bush, but as modern humans, it’s not necessarily all that helpful because it prevents us from being content with what we have.

So, here’s to all the things to be grateful for. For big things, like friends and family (and friends who end up being family because you love them that much). For little things, like good cups of coffee and a warm dog on your lap. For health. For simply being alive. For the fact that even if I mess up today, tomorrow I get to try again. And today, for central heating (it was 24 degrees out when I got up this morning). And for you, dear readers.