Nan's Art Adventures

Join me while I explore watercolor and sketching! I'm new to this, having never thought of myself as "artistic"! (I'm having a blast, as I learn!)

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Location: La Crescenta, Ca

30 years in dentistry lead to early retirement, to be my husband's caregiver. He passed away February 10th, 2008. I am thankful I found art then, as it continues to help me now.

April 20, 2008

Pansies for My Friend

Pansies can be a bit of a challenge to paint, at least that is how my friend Barbara and I feel about them. I worked from a few photos when I composed my initial sketch for this design, then carefully dropped in the colors beginning with the lighter yellow tones, working my way up to the greens, then the purples and finally the burgundy-browns.

The paper is the card stock supplied by Strathmore for their 5x6 7/8" blank cards. There is no weight listed on the box but I would guess it to be about 80 pounds as I did have a problem with the paper curling even though I had it taped down. After the project was completed I wet the backside and weighted it down under heavy books, but still could not remove all of the twist. :( I was attracted to the dark green deckle edge on the bottom edge of these cards. (I've cropped that out of this image, by the way.)

I made the veins on the lavender petals, leaves, etc, with a manicure tool, drawing in the lines while the petal was still damp.

January 21, 2007

Santa Rosa Creek

This is my favorite spot on a drive near Cambria that we often take when our English friends come to visit. I chose this scene to for their Christmas painting, and hoped I could do it justice. I was thrilled when Sheila recognized the location within seconds of removing the wrapping paper! That was the ultimate compliment for me! Harvey said it will always take him back to that place in his mind when he looks at the painting. I am thrilled that I was able to put my brush on to a blank white sheet of paper and make this, a person who could only draw a stick figure, with quite a bit of effort! I'm chuffed, as the British say!

January 09, 2007

Pam's Camellia

I enjoyed a day out with my watercolor buddies in October at Descanso Gardens. I sketched this camellia there then added the watercolors later. My plan from the beginning was to make it a Christmas gift for my very dear friend in England, Pam, who does amazing things with flowers in her garden. Pink is her favorite color, so I took the liberty of adding a touch of pink to this flower which was actually all white.

This is the FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER GIVEN MY PAINTINGS AS GIFTS! A trememdous step for me. It is presumptuous to think that someone else might think my painting is good enough to put on their wall! Or even that it would match their home's style! Over the next month I will be posting three more paintings that I gifted this Christmas.

October 16, 2006

Curling Leaf

Our weather is cool now without much sunshine, so I'm in the mood for posting another "Fall Leaf" sketch. I tried to incorporate the same techniques I used in my previous entry--near and far, and curls and points, being accentuated using light and dark. I used graphite and Prismacolor Pencils.

September 30, 2006

Leaf Lesson

This week's sketching class focused on "near and far" and "in and out". I learned tips on how to help my drawings become more three dimensional. Whatever is closer should have a "primary mark" or darker line, while things further away are lighter, fading into "secondary marks". To accentuate a point, or a dip, make it darker. When one line intersects another, it should be darker as well. Light shading can bring out the dips, keeping the bump light. Shading can also connect the object to the ground, or bring out the space beneath the object.
These seemingly simple and small little tips can change a drawing so much! The more I learn, the better my sketching becomes!

September 18, 2006

Dad's Brush Set, Circa 1913

My Father-In-Law's baby brush and comb have managed to survive in excellent condition, for being almost one hundred years old! For the EDM Challenge #20, "Draw something DAD" I thought this would be an interesting subject. Dad went on to a career in law enforcement, so I considered adding his handcuffs to carry his story through, but vetoed that idea. I didn't want something hard and cold to be with something soft and nurturing.
I used 2B and 4B leads in clutch pencils for most of the drawing. I used my dirty chamios, for the shading. Then I used a bit of General's light blue watercolor pencil for a bit of color.

September 16, 2006

EDM Challenge #78, Draw a Souvenir

This is my first Every Day Matters Challenge Drawing. I have been admiring so many other EDM entries. I thought it was time for me to get busy and do one myself! I've found EDM by being a member of the yahoo group, The group has provided me with plenty of art tips and instruction. Also I have made new friends, both in person, and all over the world via cyberspace. EDM offers encouragement to all artists, whether just beginning, or well accomplished!
This sketch is of the sealing wax and stamp that we purchased in York, England on a trip about fifteen years ago. It was in a wonderful store called Past Times ( that was oh so very British!
York was so memorable to us! The old and charming buildings on such narrow cobbled roads, an amazingly huge cathedral, and walls that surround the town that we walked upon! Michael loved the enormous train museum! (Well, it would have to be big, to fit so many real train engines inside!)

August 31, 2006

LOTUS in Echo Park

I finished this watercolor yesterday of the lotus in Echo Park Lake, near Los Angeles. I never dreamed it would be so difficult for me to capture the way the leaves fold over! This painting is my second attempt. The first was done plein air in a sketch book. This one is much better. I view the first one as the study of the flower, as I got to know it, intimately! By the time I sat down with my "good paper" (Bockingford 140 lb, the most forgiving paper by the way), the results were "blog-worthy"!

August 28, 2006

Cool View for Hot Days

I began this painting last summer, and finally finished it last week! I did it on Masa paper. This was my first experience with it. For those of you who are not familiar with Masa, it is a thin paper. You begin by crumbling it up, as if it were trash. You then soak it in a tub of water for a few moments. This counterintuitive process creates an interesting texture! Then apply the background watercolors onto the saturated Masa which has been spread out onto a smooth surface. When completely dry, apply to the mounting board a watered down, light coating of Elmer's type glue. Affix your painting to the board. Weight it down, then leave it to dry again. Then you paint your picture onto your background. I'm a flower painter, so this subject matter was quite a switch for me! It's good to expand your horizons, right!?

August 20, 2006

Magnolia 2006

This is my most recently completed watercolor. Quite a change from the magnolia I painted two summers ago. Practice, practice, practice, is good advice! I have struggled with the scanning of this painting and probably should have just posted a digital photo instead! I had to stitch the image together and did not get it quite right; in fact I lost the shadow of the stamen! The petals looked yellow on the scan at first, and the blues lost their brilliance! Everything is a learning experience! My sketching class enabled me capture shadows and folds on white petals! (This feels like a bit of a miracle actually!) An added bonus to painting flowers up-close is that it sure acquaints one with its parts; the flowers, leaves, and branches! Our classroom sure was fragrant that day!

August 19, 2006

Two Years Ago

I recently completed a painting of a magnolia (which I will be posting soon). It caused me to look back into my collection of paintings from when I first embarked upon my "art adventures"! This magnolia was the first watercolor painting I did in a class I took in the summer of 2004. I am flabbergasted to see the drastic change in my abilities! I've been taking a watercolor class once a week fairly consistently since then. I also added a sketching classes which has helped tremendously. I've never had art training, and I was not even a good doodler! The sketch class is teaching me some basic techniques that I crucially need! I am eager for you to see my new magnolia painting, so you can see the difference!

July 30, 2006


We went to Lotusland in Santa Barbara with my watercolor class. (It was even hot and very humid by the beach!) Lotusland is a 37 acre botanical garden with an amazing collection of unique plantings. The home and gardens were created in the 1920's by it's owner, Madame Ganna Walska. The acreage is divided into peaceful garden rooms with anything from the lotus flowers, to cactus, bromeliads, ferns, succulents, aloes, cycads (The sego palm is a cycad, who knew!), and even a grass covered ampitheater were she would perform her opera singing. Japanese and European staturary accents are found throughout the property. After Madame death, in 1984 the property became a nonprofit educational institution and opened to the public in 1993. This was our first visit. I'm told the cactus gardens are splendid in Feburary. will take you to their web site.

July 23, 2006

Dahlias in the Heat!

Nothing like a one-hundred plus degree day to get the creative juices flowing! I met up with some SoCal EDM "crawl" members at the Getty Center yesterday. (Karen, Robin and Wendee!) We started out in the garden, but quickly became overheated! Later we strolled through some air-conditioned galleries. I took a tour with Karen and her husband learning about the paintings of Rubens (and his collaborators)! I watercolored my sketch today, and thinking about the heat, (which is still ever present), certainly influenced my color choices! That warm background will always remind me about the record breaking day of heat in LA! This was the christening of my first watercolor Moleskine. I like the way it opens long-ways, rather than book-style. I'm off to Santa Barbara soon and hoping I'll be able to add to this journal there.

July 21, 2006

Poppies by Me!

My watercolor class has been focusing on "negative painting" lately. This means that I have been painting a lot of white objects! My teacher can just paint in the background, leaving the space for the flower, stem, or whatever, white. I had to cheat by lightly sketching in the shapes of the petals in pencil! These Matilija Poppies grow quite tall in Southern California, and I've seen them growing wild in the countryside! The have quite a crepe paper look to them. I think I could fiddle with the shading on the petals a bit more, but you know how it is when you just need to be done with something!

July 19, 2006

Georgia O'Keeffe

In my sketching class we are learning about "fog", which is different from light and shade. It is used to help give your picture some depth and perspective. Georgia O'Keeffe used a lot of "fog" in her many masterpieces. This is my rendering of her magnificent Red Poppy, painted in 1927. She used watercolor, but I used graphite, a "dirty" chamois and a kneaded eraser.
P.S. I am thrilled to welcome my new blog viewers! A lot of you from the EDM group! Sharing my art has brought a new dimension to my newly found passion. Thank you for your comments everyone!

July 07, 2006

4th of July

This is the front of the card I made for my brother in law and his wife, two very special people in our life! Their anniversary is on the Fourth of July so I thought it appropriate to use the flag for their card, substituting 26 hearts for the stars, to mark their 26th anniversary! We were at their wedding, and it sure does not feel like 26 years have gone by since then!

June 29, 2006

Class Menagerie

I've been working on this painting for months! It began in a class lesson on painting glass with watercolor. During the lesson about negative painting, I added the white daisies! Yesterday's class focused on painting the folds in cloth, hence the painting of my tea-towel to give the bottles something to sit on! I wish the scanned picture could reproduce the colors more true to life! I therefore have not posted the computer scan, but a digital photo instead. The result is more representative of my actual watercolor!

June 25, 2006


This is Maxine. She found us at the perfect time. Our cat Kerry was old, and ailing. One day Maxine literally popped out of our rose garden and chatted me up. She clearly wanted affection and company! She was a stray that I later learned one of our neighbors was trying to find a home for. Well, Maxine took matters into her own hands (or paws!) and found us herself! My husband thought we'd never be able to get another cat, for fear it would chew on all the tubing he uses, for oxygen etc. But Maxine has never touched it! For a while we had an indoor cat (Kerry) and an outdoor cat..... Then Kerry's organs were failing, so we had to say goodbye to her. Now Maxine rules the roost here, both inside and out. She is a great companion and makes us laugh every single day with her antics! If you believe in miracles, she is ours.

June 16, 2006

Day Lily

This day lily certainly brightens my day! I love the color, and the contrast. Too bad it blooms for only one day, but the plant is filled with buds and some days I have several flowers to admire. Now my challenge is to paint this lily, and try to capture its depth and vivid intensity.

June 14, 2006

Portraiture is difficult!

My sketching class teacher has been helping us learn to do portraits. She starts out giving us all potatoes to draw so that we just focus on the "lumps and bumps". First we tone our paper with charcoal dust and a chamois. We then sketch our potato (or the shape of the person's head), and use our kneaded eraser to make soft white areas to show the lumps. She had given us the tips about where things go. For example, I never knew that the corners of the mouth are always even with the center of the eye, no matter what expression we make! Given all of this knowledge, my attempts still seem feeble, but it is fun to keep trying! Now, if only this call looked at all like Barbara (the person I was trying to render onto to my paper!), but it looks nothing like her, except for her hair perhaps!