For the love of art supplies

I must admit that new art supplies make my heart go pitter patter. I found out about Nicholson’s Peerless watercolors from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer a while back and I am proud to say that I didn’t go right out and buy them. I actually held off until I ran into them at one of my favorite stores, Castle in the Air and I simply could not resist.

Peerless watercolorsThey are just so intriguing. First published in 1902 they were sold for the purpose of hand tinting black and white photographs. More recently they came with American Girl dolls to be used to add blush, etc. to their faces. But they are also gaining popularity with artists for watercolor painting.

Peerless watercolorsThe intensely concentrated color comes on cards and you just swipe a wet brush on the cards to pick up the paint. I found out that there are lots of tutorials and videos available for various ways to use them. Many suggested creating a travel palette by cutting small strips and gluing them to card stock. So here is my DIY palette with the color strips. Below each color I painted a small wash showing how the color looks in its pure form and as it fades. In addition I have an acetate page in between to keep the colors from contaminating each other. Also, the acetate works well for mixing colors.  Peerless watercolorsOne of the best things about this form of watercolors is that it is so travel friendly. I can take 60 different colors with me in 2 letter sized sheets. Above & below, I’m testing out the colors while at a cafe. As usual I’m outside so Kuma (my constant canine companion) can be with me. And of course, it started to rain lightly. I found it funny because dampness is the only thing that is cautioned against for care of the watercolor cards.Peerless watercolorsSo I packed up and headed home. Here is the paper towel I used to clean my brush. I love how pretty they always are. You can also see the water brush that I use when I am away from the studio. The barrel has water in it so I don’t have to travel with a water container. So clever, a gal can’t help but be creative.Peerless watercolors


Going for a walk and sketching at lunch

One of my favorite things to do is take my dog for a walk in our neighborhood. This summer and fall the weather was so beautiful that we were often able to grab lunch and coffee and sit outside to eat. I usually have some kind of sketching kit with me and though it can feel awkward to work in public, I have been pushing myself to just start. It helps to remember that most people are not interested in what I am up to and they just walk on by.

watercolor sketch of a treeI started this sketch while at lunch a while back. Once I completed the pencil sketch, I began to lose patience and was gently encouraged by my dog to be done so we could keep walking. So I photographed the tree and was able to finish the watercolor painting at home. Turns out this is a good way for me to work as I am more comfortable doing the complex painting in private.

As you can see, I have my trusty fountain pen at the ready as my plan was to add details with ink once the painting was done. But I like it the way it is so am holding off on adding the ink. I can always change my mind. I was also planning on adding a wash in the background but haven’t done that either. It still might happen. But for now the shadow is enough.

watercolor sketch of a treeI’m using these lovely Japanese Kuretake pan watercolors for this painting and I wanted to see what kinds of greens I could mix up. So I did this color chart and found it really helpful for painting the leaves.

watercolor sketch of a treeLastly, here is the snapshot I took of the tree for reference. I used my artistic license to remove the garbage can. It is starting to get cold here so these lunch sketch outings may not happen as often as I’d like. Although some of my favorite cafes have outdoor heaters so I may just brave the cold for my art… that and a lovely mozzarella and basil sandwich.

photo of tree

Wild flowers

Here’s another peek inside my sketchbook. I’m working in my Moleskine journal with the lightweight paper that is better suited to dry media. So I used a black brush pen and a Micro pen to do the initial drawing. Then added color using Neocolor II water based crayons. Once completed, I went over it with a slightly wet brush to blend the color a bit. Oh yeah, the background texture was done by lightly spraying ink through a stencil. I’m really enjoying working in this way on a daily basis, or as close to it as possible. Hope you like seeing what I’m up to.

flower sketch

flower sketch

flower sketch

Lunch time sketching


I started this wineglass while I was waiting for my girlfriends to arrive for lunch. I arrived early and pushed myself to take the sketchbook out and just start. I got the outline done and then the girls showed up and I put my sketchbook away so I could enjoy visiting.


Then when I got home, I pulled a similar glass out of the cupboard and finished the shading. I was so glad that I pushed myself to start while at lunch.

Then a few days later I took myself out to Dopo, one of my favorite Italian cafes. The food is great and they have outdoor tables so Kuma can join me. I was feeling good about my last experience drawing at lunch, so I decided to draw the water bottle which was a recycled wine bottle. I realized I had a theme going with the wine glass, so I decided to add it to the same page.


I used water soluble graphite on this one. After sketching, I gave it a wash of water to blend and give it a more interesting look. I’m very happy with the page as a whole.

Leaf Study

Well, I’m continuing to work on developing a regular sketchbook practice. While in San Diego for vacation this summer, I sketched these leaves on the back deck of the little beach cottage we rented. It was incredibly pleasant to be out there sketching in the morning while I had my coffee. A big plus is that when I look back on these sketches in my sketchbook, I am immediately taken back to that lovely time. I’ve been hearing about this experience from people who sketch while on their vacations but am still surprised at how much more vivid the memory is than when I look at photos of the exact same spot. So that is more encouragement to continue this practice.

sketch of fern


sketch of leaf


Sketchbook delight

I know a while back I said we were blogging on our Luscious Life Studios site but I’ve decided to share a new endeavor with you all here. I’ve decided to start a regular sketchbook practice, drawing as often as possible. I’m hoping it will be daily.


I’m taking an online sketching class taught by the fabulous Alisa Burke. It’s called Sketchbook Delight and it is indeed a delight! Homework for week 1 is learning about the tools. It really appeals to my methodical nature to test out the different mark-makers in this fashion. I’m also making notes about the process. For me, this is mostly review but it has been 20+ years since I got my BA in fine art. Even though I do draw regularly, this is more formal than what I normally do. I’m working on getting my muscle memory & dexterity back. Also, now I have to use my reading glasses which is fine but just different. Another thing to get used to.



Alisa is a great instructor. She is very clear and inspirational & really knows her stuff. I highly recommend her classes. If you are wanting some creative fun this fall she has lots of different classes to offer.