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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winding down

One full day remains between me and the return to a level of reality that isn't quite the usual full-blown hectic circus. The kids have more vacation, but I'm back to work Monday after a week off. I'd forgotten how nice it is to take time off and stay home. It made today a day that I could literally just do things I wanted without worrying about obligations. Sweet.
Katy was unhappy that I'd gone into Chagrin Falls last week without her, so we went back today, and wandered the streets and drank a little coffee. She and Lylah explored while I scribbled the view (here) leading down to where the falls rush into the river. In clement weather (as opposed to inclement weather), you can descend those steps you see there, festooned now with lights, greenery and bows, and get up close to all that moving water. Round about this time of year, they keep the gate to the stairs shut to keep the ya-hoos from falling in and their survivors from suing the city (she said cynically).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve

Not much to add here. Having been away from the sketchbook for a few days too many, I went at this one with looseness in mind. Kinda worked.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Make 'em weep

How do you make a 12-year-old girl cry on Christmas morn?

Well, you could be mean to her ...

Or you could surprise her with a coveted object she thought was out of range ...

like tickets to THE JONAS BROTHERS (and, paranthetically, Hannah Montana).
She never saw it coming.
A special thanks to Katy, my co-conspirator, who proved to me - and to herself - that she can keep a reeeeally tough secret for a really long time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Hey, sketchers and sketch fans and blog readers of all kinds-
I've been computer- and scanner-impaired recently while Santa prepares to bring me an upgrade. (Be prepared to send PhotoShop and Illustrator help in the new year, would you?)
I've also been sketch-challenged while attempting to put the finishing touches on the holiday.
But, with apologies to those who received an actual printed Christmas card from the Sandstrom-Wolff household this year (it looked an awful lot like this), please accept my little Christmas owls illo as a holiday love letter from me to you - especially the "yous" I've never met in the real world. I took a picture of my illustration with my camera, which explains the odd crop. I love my camera, but for purposes of reproducing art there's nothing like a real scanner.

Most of us are pretty fortunate, aren't we? I feel that way, and I hope you do, too. I also hope Santa brings you the person, place or thing your heart desires.

See you soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Raindrops on roses ...

How can iPods and crow's feet be on the same list, you ask?
Because I'm taking the "better than advertised" title of my list literally. While it is true that iPods are heavily advertised, I find the experience of them to be even better than promised. Meanwhile, crow's feet, if they're mentioned at all, are usually maligned, yet I find them, too, better than the rap they get.
Get it?
A word about "men wearing too much cologne." There was a guy who used to work at the office, now retired, who practically bathed in whatever it was he wore. I don't know what the cologne was, and I probably wouldn't have wanted to sit right next to him, but I kind of liked it when he'd walk by. He wasn't anyone I thought of in the same sentence as the word "attractive," but there was something civilized and throwback and kind of nice about the trade winds of scent blowing off him when he was in the neighborhood. I've also noticed that men wearing too much cologne are seldom in a so-sweet-it-gives-you-a-headache scent, an offense that their female counterparts so often commit.

To the list here I would add spiders and some television. I find the "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker people tiresome by now.

Whatcha think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sacred cow, anyone?

All right, all right. This list sounds grumpy, I know, but really I don't intend it that way. It's simply a gentle little list of things I think I should like but in fact really don't. Further, I promise to follow it up with its inverse: Things that are better than advertised. But truly I have nothing against that second hole in your right ear, I promise. I even have the vestiges of one myself. It simply proved a less life-changing event than I expected at the time.
Incidentally, the ribbon candy was donated to me by someone I work with. I've always loved looking at it much more than eating it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Food Issues

Who among us, America women, escapes unscathed?
A better question: What else could we be doing with this energy?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Think of red
Think of kindling in the hearth
Think inside a cherry cordial
or knee-deep in berry bogs.

Think of red
Think of lighted lipstick stopsigns
Think of blushing grooms and apples
an embarrassed roundish bunch.

Now think of white
Think of blue on snowpressed slopes
Think of skies of suns gone missing
waiting, waiting for the red.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I find comfort in the thought of owls of all kinds keeping watch in the seasons of low skies and bare branches. Snow, feathers and wide eyes throw light on the shadows of stories told to me as a child, and while I cannot remember every tale, the owls were there, bearing witness. How else can I explain this?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rock stars

In the world of bibliophilia, novelists Richard Russo and Russell Banks are about as headlining as you get. They're the rock stars, if you will, of the literary set, as long as you don't get caught up in the latest young literary thangs, which some people do.
Me, I like what tends to go along with age and experience, and so it was I felt happy to be in the audience for a presentation of Russo and Banks, moderated by my Plain Dealer colleague, film critic Clint O'Connor. The sketch kind of sucks, actually, but I was sitting some rows back, and it's just not all that easy to get a great sketch in a situation like this. Well, at least for me. I hasten to add that Clint on this page does not begin to resemble the actual person, though Banks (who reminds me of the actor who played Santa in the original "Miracle on 34th Street) and Russo do kind of look right in a gestural way.

The point is not how well can Karen draw the authors on stage 40 feet away, of course, the point is what these two guys had to say as they sat in the Ohio Theater, with the occasional flake of fake snow, left over from recent productions of "A Christmas Carol," descending noticeably in the stage lights.

You'll see some of the more interesting quotes as marginalia here. What most interested me was their discussions about their writing process, and I know Banks (whom, like Russo, I interviewed for the paper) puts a lot of stock in imagining who his characters are talking to when they're telling the parts of their stories they decide to tell. And Russo spoke of the difficulty he had with his new novel, a near-epic called "Bridge of Sighs," which he felt a very intimate connection to while he was writing but which he feared he might not finish because of structural problems. Any young would-be writer would do well to listen to writers like these, because you can't listen to them without coming away thinking, "No getting around it - writing is hard."

Russo also said something I think is probably true, and Banks concurred. It often happens that people become fans of the writer and feel they want to meet the author. He said, only half jokingly, that if you've read the work, in most cases you've seen the best the author has to give, and everything after that is all downhill. I know what he means. For writers, a good sentence or poem or story or novel is the best of his or her mind distilled, with (we hope) all the boring, awkward, slovenly, hateful, petty, and otherwise human characteristics shaken out.

Having said that, they were both pretty darned entertaining, and Banks is as fast on his feet as they come.

Click to read the marginalia. Don't know if Blogger has fixed their glitch yet, but hopefully it won't be too cumbersome.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hostile Chair Hogs

About the time I was done with this, a guy came up (this is at a coffee shop), grabbed this chair, literally, dragged it over to another armchair, planted his butt in his chair and put his feet up on this one. All I can say is it was a good thing I was done.

P.S. Has anyone else noticed that all of a sudden if you click on these images to make them bigger, you end up having to create a file of them? It's not just my blog - I've noticed it on others. What's up with Blogger?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tower City

Not such a hot sketchcrawl day for Yours Truly, but I made a page just the same.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sketch Crawl Tomorrow

Hey, everyone -
It's time for our monthly Cleveland Sketchcrawl.
Meet tomorrow in the marketing office of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance inside the old Arcade at E. 4th and Superior Ave. (across from Cleveland Public Library.)
There's usually street parking to be found in the neighborhood.

We gather at 10 a.m., wait a few minutes for stragglers, then put a sign on the door of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance telling folks where we've gone. Tomorrow we'll hoof it over to Public Square/Tower City for a couple hours of sketching.

Afterward, those who are interested upload their sketches to the website.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just visiting

It's early morning. I'm sleeping but I sense it's time to wake up, when suddenly there's a floppy, furry presence bounding around me. My basset hound Ramona - Momo, as we call her - is jumping around, doing her little happy-dance that she does in the morning when she's trying to wake you up and I reach over and feel my hand on her fur, and ruffle it.

And then I remember: Oh, that's right. She's no longer here. This must be a dream, then.

But I woke up happy for the dream or maybe even the visit, and I wanted to catch the spirit of it on paper.

I drew these across two pages of the WC Moleskine book and as you can see it didn't quite all fit on my scanner. Consequently you're missing part of my favorite image, which is of Momo carrying a branch. Guess she really bought into that adage, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Invisible carbs

You could show me this sketch a year from now and, sadly, what I will remember from the time I sat making it is that I was eating a pumpkin scone in little bits I broke off by reaching inside the paper bag so as not to give the young woman sitting next to me (not pictured) the satisfaction of knowing what I was eating. She was a skinny, scowling, scrutinizer sort.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday afternoon

The hard part is to remember to stop looking for something pretty to draw and just draw.
The other hard part is to remember to stop trying so hard with the drawing. Let the eye see, and let the hand do its job.
The other hard part is to remember that a sketch made in 30 minutes while sitting outside will probably not, and should not, look like a finished illustration, and that the more you try to turn it into one, the more it's likely to look like a bad illustration rather than a cool, freely done sketch made in a few minutes.

All these are good reasons to sketch from life every single day - especially when you don't have time to sketch. In fact, not having time to sketch should be a big flashing red sign that says, "No Time to Sketch! Good! Get Out Your Sketchbook!"

This is not really my advice to you, of course. It's my advice to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Click on the pic if you want to read it. Special thanks to Maureen for the Inktense pencils used here.
And hey - thanks to you, too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sketcher's nightmare

Woke up this morning from a dream of tremendous frustration. A friend and I, out with our sketchbooks, had come across this demonstration in which several artists would be creating something very quickly out of giant vats of paint. They were doing this in front of huge, colorful curtains, and when they found out we were there, willing to document it in our sketchbooks, they made a big deal out of it. We were all excited.

But then the action began, and everything was moving so quickly I couldn't get anything down. The artists were moving quickly, they'd bring things on and off the staging area for their art. I was frantic. The place was also very cluttered and at one point I laid my sketchbook down, and then I couldn't find it. I picked up a pad of white paper, thinking to record SOMETHING on SOME kind of paper, but all the paper in the pad had been used on at least one side, and the writing was showing through. Now I was frantically looking for my sketchbook and watching the painting demonstration, and other artists had shown up to do gesture sketches of these very dramatic painters with their giant vats. They were actually using brooms as brushes. It was terrific - but I couldn't capture any of it.

At the end of the dream, the whole performance was done, and all there was for me to do was to try to find my sketchbook. I asked someone who worked there if he'd found a Moleskine lying around and he said, "Oh, yes, here it is." But it was someone's datebook.

The quick sketches on this page were maybe 5 minutes each, done on the fly on a busy weekend that allowed me no time to do a nice leisurely page.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wouldn't it be nice

I'll bet he enjoyed a nice cheese plate with some grapes and a good wine.

On another note, watercolor enthusiasts should visit Jeff's Blog of the Back Run.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Early present

The sketch here speaks for itself. Try the recipe if you are a fan of sweet potatoes. It's a fave in my house.

OK, so before dinner:

I am at Starbucks buying coffee and hot chocolate to take home. I'm fumbling with my change, trying to get my wallet put away so the clerk can help the person behind me.

I look out of the corner of my eye and see the person behind me is a child - a little clean-cut boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old, big eyes, by himself. The clerk looks past me as if to ask for the kid's order, but the kid apologizes. It turns out he doesn't want to order coffee or hot chocolate. He wants to pay for what's in his hands, which he can't do till I'm out of his way.

I look down and see that in his hands are a little red Starbucks teddy bear and a coordinating red travel mug. The boy is wearing this expression of complete self-consciousness, like at any moment he might be arrested. It dawns on me: He's buying a present for a girl.

No - for A Girl.

I go around to gather up my drinks, and he puts the bear and the travel mug on the counter and the clerk rings up the sale, and the kid spills his money onto the counter to pay. He is paying with his own money. He is hoping she likes the gifts. He is hoping they're not stupid. By the time he leaves, he will have convinced himself the gifts are stupid, and he won't feel good again until she gets them, and of course there isn't a sixth-grade girl on the planet who has received a red teddy bear from a boy and not thought it was the best thing she'd ever gotten. You'll just have to trust me on this.

This boy at the Starbucks counter presents an image of almost unbearable sweetness, and I am alone with no one to share it with.

So now it is your moment, too. Feel free to set the image to your favorite holiday music.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


This is almost a good sketch of Lylah reading her celebrity magazines.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

There are several stands of trees around the nearby shopping center - correction, "lifestyle center" - that I've lusted to sketch recently. This morning I went over early and got out my little sketcher's stool and did that. The schmearing on the lower right can be attributed to the fact that after about 5 minutes, my hands were largely numb. The sketch I imagined doing was less sketchy than this, but frankly I just got darned cold. Pretty place, though.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wednesday Night Illustration class

"The assignment was to create a cover illustration for a business magazine. I looked at old issues of Fortune and found an article they did last year on how Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was pushing the company toward better environmental policies, first as a way to counter-act all the anti-Wal-Mart stuff and then because they saw that it made business sense. The headline was something like "Can Wal-Mart Save the Planet?" (not quite that, but close enough).

The assignment also was to work in pen and ink, my favorite. See all that gray in the background? Yes, well astute viewers will recognize that as cross hatching and it took a very long time. But all in all I liked how this came out, and while I was going for a caricature approach, I have to tell you that if Lee Scott himself saw this drawing, he'd think it looked like him.

By the way, the world there is supposed to be in a box - a box being a bit bent under the constraints of its contents. I realize that it reads more like a bag, and if Lee Scott himself were to see this drawing he'd say, "Yeah, the face looks like me, but we don't have paper bags at Wal-Mart."
And I'd say, "Right, but it's a box, not a bag."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Well children

It was what they used to call a "well-child" visit, back when she was someone to whom you'd apply the word "child." Now she's 15. The pediatrician's practice recently moved from a place with a small slide set up in the waiting area to a bigger office with an elaborate, tree-fort slide and fool-the-eye mural paintings and a separate "flu clinic."

And, as I suspected, I was escorted back with her for the initial greetings, then booted out for the checkup. They booted me (nicely, of course) to a little area with a sink and chairs and, as I mention on the page here, magazines all aimed at parents who don't have to leave the room for the doctor's visit because the children are still babies or toddlers or elementary aged.

And of course you know why they have to kick Mom out, right? To give the well-teen a chance to say something to her health-care provider that she doesn't want Mom to hear. Which is, I know, ultimately good and right, since the point is the well-teen's continued wellness, which can be affected by things she doesn't want Mom to know.

But it's still sort of bracing, I have to tell you. It's hard not to think of bringing her to the pediatrician's office in a little plastic baby carrier long before the pediatrician had his "and associates," and before there was a giant elaborate tree fort in his waiting room. It's hard not to be a little breathless at the ways kids pull away, and not to feel diminished when you're shown to a tiny waiting room with nothing but magazines for parents of babies while your kid is back there saying or not saying whatever it is the doc is giving her a chance to say or not say now that you are out of the room.

Fortunately, I had my sketchbook and a better purse than I used to carry when she was little. And after her well-teen visit, we went and had coffee and talked and laughed like we didn't when she was a very small girl. Sometimes you just have to smile and keep breathing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sketching in the theaters

Yesterday's second monthly Cleveland Sketchcrawl was a delight, which might or might not be evident from these pics. I could have stayed another two hours. The theaters of the Playhouse Square district are one of the wonders of our sometimes beleaguered town. It was good to be there at a time when I wasn't seeing a show, and really look around and think about what it took to save and restore these historic houses.

Next month's crawl is 10 a.m. to noon December 1 at Tower City Center, which should be perfectly festooned for Christmas. Join us is you can.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Page One

Familiar to many sketchers is the excitement/anxiety combo platter of having a brand-spanking-new sketchbook, unmarked by the artist's pen. It represents pure potential. Whenever I buy a new sketchbook I have a tremendous urge to get something down on the first page as soon as possible. It's like I've gotta rein in all that potential somehow and make it mine.

Often the closest thing at hand is a car in the driveway, so I probably have several sketchbooks where the first page is a car. Yesterday the most interesting thing was the new Bruce Springsteen CD, with a wonderful chiarascuro photo on it. It proved a fine way to break in a new sketchbook.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Can you tell I'd love you to come to the Cleveland Sketchcrawl tomorrow from 10 to noon? We meet at the marketing office of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, which is in the Arcade off Superior Ave., one or two blocks east of Public Square.

You can't miss us. Tomorrow (Saturday Nov. 3) we will stroll over to the beautiful theaters of Playhouse Square. Such a feast for the eyes. Please: If you're in the neighborhood or can BE in the neighborhood, and you'd like to sketch, join us. We do it on the first Saturday of every month. I would go so far as to say that if you live in Erie, Pittsburgh or places such as that it will be worth your while to make the drive. The weather should be pretty nice and the neighborhood is lovely.

You don't have to be an artist, though last month we sure had some accomplished ones. Draw buildings as boxes. Draw stick figures. Pretend you're a high school sophomore again, expressing yourself on the cover of your ring binder. This kind of sketching is a way to see the world differently, as we see it differently when we walk our neighborhoods versus driving through them.

This page here is legible if you click on the picture.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Come sketch with us Saturday morning from 10 to noon. We get to go inside the theaters of Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.
Email me if you want more information. We had a great time last month.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Portrait of a jock

Sports injuries were not something I worried about when I was 15, and that is just one of the ways my older kid is different from me. Most of the ways she's different from me are improvements, incidentally.

Now you may ask yourself whether her legs are really as long as they look here. My answer is: almost. There's a bit of shortening going on with the body and head, and everything's a bit exaggerated. She's also tall. All in all this was pretty close.
Oh, and she's feeling better. This was done a few days ago.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pigs and transit

This is a nearby rapid-train station that I drew while I was waiting for Lylah to be done from a meeting. The pink blotches around the margins are quick sketches of pigs, which were on the page from a day earlier, when I was visiting the farm park. I didn't want to forfeit the entire page of my sketchbook for those quick piggie sketches, so I decided to add some color and pretend it all made sense. But truthfully I saw no pigs get off the rapid. However, I now think it would be fun to draw a train car full of pigs suited up for business.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sound of a Throat Clearing

OK, I'm over it.

This drawing is the fireplace mantle in my house. The red horse is a painting by an artist named Seth Chwast. Seth is 24 and autistic, and when he paints his giant canvases in brilliant color, often depicting horses but also many other things, Seth is a vision of joy. He hums. He laughs. He stops occasionally to do yoga stretches with glee. The joy shows up in his work.

So I had drawn something else today (I'll probably post it later in the week), and I was talking to Lylah and telling her that I'm kind of unhappy with my art and its lack of progress. And she says, with the wisdom of her 12-year-old self, "I think you have gotten better. But you have a style. When people see your drawings they say, 'That's Mom.' Well, not everybody says THAT. But they know it's you. So maybe when you say you want to get better, you mean you want to do a different style."

Then I explained to her that she was partly right, but that I also just wanted to be better at seeing how objects were located in space, relative to one another, and get that on the page. It is a source of frustration.

She said she understood this, and allowed as how she gets frustrated with her own artwork sometimes. Then she turned the page and looked at the drawing of the mantle, with Seth's painting above it, and she said, "We just need to be more like Seth."

That sounds like the kind of story a mother tells to boast about her kid, and I suppose I am guilty.
But it is also true. And it helped.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking a break

Pen in Hand is discouraged and on sabbatical.
Keep sketching, sketchers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Elevated skyscape

Whew! Had to get away from that scorpion picture, didn't we!
This one's a quick little drawing from the parking lot of a new shopping center in what was the industrial heart of Cleveland. I liked the spot because you can see the elevated highway and city buildings in the background.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sin Dolor

T. C. Boyle, one of the great short-story writers writing today (yes, I know, he writes novels, too), has a story called "Sin Dolor" - Spanish for "without pain" - in the Oct. 16 edition of the New Yorker. The story is told from the viewpoint of a physician who treats and comes to look after, in a way, a boy who doesn't suffer physical pain. There are scenes involving scorpions and further scenes involving self-inflicted wounds, and I won't go into it all, but it's Boyle at his sharpest. Not upbeat, but it leaves you wide-eyed with wonder.

I did this illustration for my Wednesday night illo class. The assignment was simply to choose a magazine piece to illustrate. When I read "Sin Dolor," I could see it was rich with possibilities. I should mention that there is no scene in the actual story that depicts the image I've drawn here. The idea, at least for me, was to work a little more metaphorically. My husband looked at the picture four times before he noticed the skewer going through the lip. My older daughter looked at the picture and made this comic fear-noise she reserves for things that gross her out. I took the former as a useful though unintended criticism, and the latter as a compliment.

Note that there's a little more air around the image than you see here. (This is what fit on my scanner.)
Should you have any reason to look more closely, you may click on this disturbing little drawing and examine my Prismacolor marks. I won't be hanging it in the living room, but it sort of does the job.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Did it again

Connoisseurs of my portraits (uh, yes - I'm employing irony here) will notice that I keep making faces a bit too short. Perhaps this is overcompensation for what used to be my problem, which was making them too long.
Anyway, Joan Crawford looks practically pixie-ish here, doesn't she? Had I stopped after sketching in the shape of her head with a pencil, backed up and looked at it or held it up in a mirror, I'd have seen that I was on my way to making the mistake I've been making now for a couple of weeks.

Click on the pic if yoiu want to see my thoughts on the latest entry in my mean people series. And don't worry, it won't be a long series.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Always a kind word to say

Perhaps I'll dabble in portraits of mean people. Yesterday's scary clown counts, doesn't it?
Now add to that the (self)esteemed litr'ry critic Harold Bloom, who makes the Roster of Bad Karma with this quote about newly named Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing:

"This is pure political correctness. Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction."

As you'll see, on my sketch page here I got it wrong. I thought he'd credited her with being a writer of THIRD-rate sci fi.
Well, I stand corrected. I probably made that error because I am, after all, a woman. Really, only men are to be counted on to say anything worthwhile.

But hey. Instead of vilifying Bloom for being pompous and sexist and for appear in frighteningly numerous photos looking as if he hadn't bathed in a week - no! we dont' approve of such things here at Pen in Hand - I call on myself and you to send thoughts of lovingkindness his way, because after all, that's what mean people need. We must break the chain of bad karma set off by that quote (and why do I suspect that Bloom thinks there's no such thing as first-rate science fiction ...? oops! there I go, thinking again!), we must put positive things out into the world. So close your eyes now and send a good thought Harold's way. I'm sure he had a poor childhood. Then do something nice for your neighbor, family member, coworker or the lady at the checkout counter today. Just do something small and nice.

I will if you will. And I will even if you won't.
Oh, and by the way. Congratulations to Doris Lessing for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Monday, October 15, 2007

One Face, Part II

With apologies to the clown-a-phobes (I emphathize, truly), here's my Blanchett-as-Elizabeth-as-Clown portrait.
This looks nothing like Blanchett, which is fine, since the assignment was "clown," and she was merely a reference.
My only pride is that this represents the very first time I laid hands on pastels. The closest I've come before that is scribbling with sidewalk chalk, making hopscotch squares.

This is a pretty big piece and I couldn't fit the whole thing on my scanner, which is why it seems at an odd angle. I have only myself to blame for the fact that my scary clown has an usually large and slightly oddly shaped forehead.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

One face

The New York Times recently published a great close-up of Cate Blanchett in her role as Elizabeth. Well, it was great for me, anyway, because I had an assignment for my illustration class and needed just such a face. You'll see what I did with that tomorrow. Here is an ink-and-watercolor rendering that I did after I finished the assignment.

I burned up five pages in my little Moleskine watercolor sketchbook trying to get the shape of her face true. This one was fairly on. I know there are devices one can use that allow one to outline whatever one wants to outline in order to get the proportions right, but I really. Really. Really. Really. REALLY want to get better at doing portraits by way of my actual eyes. I don't care what anyone says, drawing portraits really IS harder than drawing anything else. (If anyone who's good at this has hints, I'm all ears.)

This drawing reminds of me of a certain style of rock and roll album cover from the 70s. Had fun with the washes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007


I'm not very granola, but these Birkenstocks killed me. Even as I wondered how I would deal with the extra length that pants manufacturers suddenly started adding to virtually every pair of women's pants, forcing even us not-too-short gals to wear heels all the time or drag six inches of fabric behind us, I could not help myself in the face of these shoes. Even as I wondered whether I would look like a child in felt clogs with felt flowers on them, I could not stop myself.

And now it is finally cool enough to wear wool felt shoes.
Sometimes everything just works out perfectly.
By the way, if you read the text on this page, you'll see I make reference to exquisite felt dolls made in Germany. I looked them up and it's actually Lenci dolls, which are Italian, not German. I used to pay attention to these things, but not in a long time.

...and here's the failure

I say "failure" with a certain amount of gentleness toward myself.
I liked the concept (you all remembered, I'm sure, that the wolf in Red Riding Hood swallowed the grandmother whole).
The technique is another matter. I ended up deciding that colored pencils alone might not be the best medium for this kind of an illustration. Another possibility is that I need more practice. :-)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Illustration class

I'm taking an illustration class at the art institute on Wednesday nights. This week's assignment was to draw something Little Red Riding Hood, and to use colored pencils. As you can see, I cheated and used ink first, but I think I did OK with the pencils. This is a rather sincere, children's book version of the assignment. Perhaps tomorrow I will post my less-sincere version, where I resisted the strong urge to use pen again and found out how hopeless I am with colored pencils by themselves.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cleveland Sketchcrawl

Yesterday was the first Cleveland Sketchcrawl, which takes place in the city on the first Saturday of the month. It was a small but enthusiastic group who turned up to explore the incredibly summerlike day outdoors on the East 4th Street and in the reading garden of the Cleveland Public Library. One of the highlights for me was that I got to meet sketch blogger Karen Blados, whose gorgeous journal pages got people oohing and aahhing.

My own meager efforts (color added at home, by the way) really demonstrate what happens when you get away from the habit of daily on-site drawing. Didn't matter, though, I had such a good time.