Watercolors, Sketching, Printmaking and Stitching – an Art Studio Update

watercolor of a cat

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Watercolors, Sketching, Printmaking, and Stitching – an Art Studio Update

As I mentioned in the last post, I have mountains of unfinished art in my studio, and tucked into my meandering artist’s tote bag. I’m working on watercolors, sketching, printmaking, and stitching, all at once. (Insert big-eyed scaredy face here.)

I’d like to share a few adventures here, with an art studio summer update on my boil-over of projects, and a significant sale of all framed art in my Etsy shop over Labor Day weekend. A bit about the artist, as well as the art.

Melanie’s unfinished stitching and crochet projects, tucked safely in my studio

Textile Painting with Colored Threads

There’s a hill I’m climbing called Sashiko, or embroidery and stitching arts. My sorely missed, late stepdaughter was a talented stitcher, quilter, and crochet expert, so I’m staying connected to her by touching All The Things she used to design and handle every day (see above).

I haven’t gotten so bold to try quilting (yet), but I made my first zippered pouch, and I’ve done a deep dive into the “visible mending” movement.

Every battered, well-worn, and much-loved shirt I own is freshly adorned with visibly mended, colorful threads and fabric scraps (see below). It’s an extremely meditative process – especially at the end of the day.

Painting on fabric with colored embroidery floss – visible mending, and sashiko stitching

Drawing with Colored Pencil on Black Paper

Using colored pencils on smooth black paper is like a refined version of drawing with chalk on a blackboard.

Colored chalk on a blackboard has always been appealing to me. As a kid, I loved doodling on blacktop with colored chalk, and I find the same pull still holds with black paper and dry pigments.

Strathmore Artagain is a smooth, black 60lb paper that works beautifully with colored pencils and pastels. I’ve been doodling from vintage family photos that are sepia-toned, so I can imagine the colors in their skin tone and clothes. I’m using a small set of Amazon-branded colored pencils, and a 12×9 sheet of Strathmore black Artagain paper split into four 6×4.5 practice sheets.

Experimenting: Drawing a landscape scene from a scene down my street on smooth black paper

Watercolor Practice in Small Format

I keep a stash of headshots of my friends and family in a folder, and the images go back decades. That makes it easy to grab one or two on the couch for small watercolor studies on a lap desk.

Painting small like this is such excellent practice in the evenings with an audiobook in my ear. I try to stay relaxed about the process. No attempt at resemblance – just a watery pigment play session on a 6×8 watercolor block by Fluid (below).

Working on a 9×6 watercolor portrait study on a lap desk on the couch in the evenings.
This little color-mixing reference book is hard to find, but very helpful on my art table.
watercolor of a cat
Jack, Melanie’s cat, like his mom, was an excellent portrait subject for me. He crossed the rainbow bridge this week, so we hope he’s on Melanie’s lap, near a skein of yarn, purring under a new project.
a floral and apple still life watercolor in process
A process shot of this painting.

Respite on the Water

There’s a lot to be said for getting your creative engines serviced by going on a little vacation. My husband and I recently spent time in a small anchorage called Emerald Bay on Catalina Island, just off the coast of California. It was magical.

Even a few days away from home (though I admit to being a homebody) leads to hundreds of painting images on my phone. I get to scroll through those in the next few weeks as painting, drawing and printmaking fodder.

I can also reflect on interaction with friends, swimming in the sea, and opening one’s mind to meandering thoughts under the influence of mother nature and island environs. A deep breath, for sure.

That little row of humans on the sand in the center of the image above are friends who hiked to this beach on Catalina Island off the coast of California with us to search for shells and sea amethyst.
Also on Catalina Island – a gaggle of friends staying on their boats at Emerald Bay dinghied to shore for a morning of rock painting.
Escorts to Catalina Island, heading towards the boat’s wake to play in the waves.
watercolor sketchbook practice with coastal cliff landscape scenes
A grid of coastal watercolor studies after pondering rocky cliffs and craggy shores from the viewpoint of a boat on the water near an island.

Sketching with a Good, Old Fashioned Pencil

There is a funny saying: You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead (Stan Laurel). It’s cute that the words refer to the material in the pencil, as well as the fact that we have to pick it up and lead it across a page.

Drawing and sketching with a pencil is one of the simplest forms of art practice. Two things: paper and pencil. That’s all you need, and the whole world disappears.

When life feels overwhelming, I grasp a pencil and a sketchpad to cloak the noise with that simplicity.

Practice sketching in pencil from iPhone shots of my family members.
More pencil sketching from boat trips with dear friends.

Printmaking Hoopla

Amidst the stitching, painting, and drawing, I’m on a bit of a tear with printmaking.

After my recent blog series on gel plate monotypes and monoprints, I’m off and running to test a new water-based sealer for mat board collagraph plates, and building a new drypoint and linocut combo (below).

And there’s an old rubbery block of softkut that needs something carved into it. It’s an art studio whirlygig of perpetual starts.

Carving into mat board for a new collagraph print.
Gathering reference materials to lay a drawing on plexiglass for a new drypoint engraving.
I found an ancient 4×6 softkut block while cleaning my studio. I don’t usually like carving this stuff because it’s too soft and flexible, but I can’t throw anything away, so here goes nothing.

Art Festival Retirement Party

During the Pandemic lockdown, many of the art festivals where I exhibited shut down for good. After the world started congregating again, I thought long and hard about the physical and time-related challenges of the art festival circuit and decided to stop.

I have a lovingly built and fully loaded road case from my stepdad TC in my garage. It was assembled over 20 years ago to hoist into and out of my car. It rolled framed art safely across fields, parks, sidewalks, and asphalt and it has traveled hundreds of miles to countless art festivals with me.

At an art festival, painting and talking to patrons – and the view into the back of my car – heading for a weekend art festival, stuffed with display panels and my road case.

Framed Art Labor Day Sale on Etsy

The primary reason I framed my work was for art festivals.

Since I’m no longer doing them, it’s time to empty the road case with a Labor Day Sale. From August 23 to September 4th, all original framed art (watercolors, drawings, printmaking) in my Etsy Shop is 25% off – with free domestic shipping. 🎆

Select the art you’d like to add to your collection, and during checkout, use the code LABORDAY2023 to get the discount.

If you have questions about shipping or the framing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. This is a 9-minute talk by actor Ethan Hawke, filled with encouragement to give yourself permission to be creative. Well worth the time to watch.

Art Quote

Art has to do with the arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.

Saul Bellow

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8 thoughts on “Watercolors, Sketching, Printmaking and Stitching – an Art Studio Update”

  1. Thanks for another post filled with treasures. And, thank you for allowing us to have a glimpse into your life, including the many losses that have touched your life.

    1. Hi Kathleen,
      Thank you for this kind note. I’m grateful for your continued support and encouragement, and I hope the coming year brings you fine opportunities to create, exhibit, and sell your work. XOXO

  2. Judith Herring

    The kitty portrait is beautiful. I can tell by the tender rendering, that this feline was loved. I’m a cat lover too, and they certainly have a way of becoming a part of you.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog. . . your expressiveness in all you do, whether it be painting, printing, or writing, always makes your posts a very special offering.

    1. Awe, Judith, you are so kind. Thanks for the mutual love of cats, and your encouraging words about these missives from my art studio. I really appreciate you and your warm (human) presence out there in the ether of our communications over the internet.

  3. Belinda, so sorry about Jack (big sigh) (sad face). Thank you for sharing. Your watercolors and techniques always make me want to stop worrying about being more loose (because of artistic pressure) and just continue to paint in glazes and layers enjoying the ride because as you know, time is precious and we should enjoy the journey. Thank you for that! -JB

    1. Hi Jennifer, Thanks so much for your kind note. And yes, I completely relate to your self-appointed pressure. Life is too short to worry about the end result of our painting journey. We should just paint, paint, paint, and focus as hard as we can on enjoying those brush-hours.

  4. Shelley Noble

    Beautiful work. Sorry for the loss of loved ones. Thank you for sharing your marvelous techniques with us.

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