Category: Sketching and Watercolor

I made two tiny quilts and a little watercolor, and suddenly life is much better

When I wrote a few days ago, I felt quite grim. I’ve had to face the reality that the last few months have been the worst ever in terms of health. I’m constantly looking down at my rock bottom and wondering if the floor will fall farther. How does one cope with that? There isn’t a manual, I’ve checked. I’ve chosen two things to help: to work on my mind-body connection and to make art. I’ll write about the mind-body stuff later. For now, art!

On Monday, my new Bernina arrived. Oh, baby. It’s been a full year since I started sewing. I know because Amazon Prime Day just went by, and it was that day last year that I bought a Singer Heavy Duty machine to make sailboat cushions. I never made cushions, but I did end up falling in love with sewing, and the romance is still going strong. Greg, the best husband in the universe, to my total shock, said yes to a “better sewing machine”. I tried a bunch out and there was no doubt. The Bernina 530 was my girl. I named her Eowyn. We’re going to slay things together.

I thought it would take me days just to learn how to use my new machine. Ha! I was so wrong! Berninas are so beautifully elegant, it took me about fifteen minutes to figure everything out. And then I sat there wondering what to do with her! Normally I have a bunch of projects lined up, but like I said, I’ve been really sick lately, and haven’t been spending much time up here in my sewing room. I specifically avoided getting any big projects ready to go because I didn’t want to feel rushed to learn the machine (and end up frustrated).

When I realized I had this gorgeous machine and “nothing to sew”, I just sat down and started putting scraps together. No rhyme, no reason, just see how she sews!

I had bought some batting and quilting thread, so I decided to piece together a tiny little quilt.

I loved it! I have no idea what to do with it, and it isn’t some great piece of quilting art, but it was a little piece of quilting art, and it could be hanging in a gallery for what it means to me. I was so surprised at this reaction within myself! I have a very healthy inner critic. A little too healthy – if any part of me needed to get chronic fatigue syndrome, it was that part. I’ve avoided artistic pursuits for years specifically because I didn’t think I was good enough, and I’d “just end up embarrassing myself”. Not good enough. What does that even mean? Good enough for what? Because anyone with a sketchbook has to be headed toward their MA in Fine Arts and a career in the international art scene?

Well, screw that. Maybe it’s the release of age. I’m almost 43, I don’t care about making anything into a career anymore, or whether I’d be good at something in comparison to a hundred other people. I just want to make things that make me happy. I could really use some happiness right now. And holy crap, okay? This little square of fabric? This little red-patched purple-trimmed little nuttin has been in my bag all day, just so I can pull it out and smile at it. I did it. I made art, and it made me very happy.

So this morning I got up and thought, “I should make another one!”

I cut out some octopuses and arranged them with some batik circles, and stitched them all up.

Then I put some batting in there and ended up with the piece you see at the top of the post. That funky stitch around the border is one of the new stitches on Eowyn. <happy sigh>

Since I can’t quilt away from home (at least not that easily), I decided to start trying to draw again. I have all these websites bookmarked – and a few actual books bookmarked – on urban sketching and watercolor, but I never do anything with them. Well, a couple weeks ago my friend Rachael was showing me her bag, and I loved it. I’d seen Rickshaw bags before but when I’d checked them out a few years ago, they didn’t have the little loop I need for a support strap for walking (<—-blah blah bag geekery). But Rachael’s had that loop! Apparently, the company had improved the design, woot!

I went to the website and ordered a bag, but not before doing some internet research on reviews of Rickshaw bags. That’s when I found a blog by a local woman who is an artist and also loves her Rickshaw bag. Oh, and she also happens to have a husband named Greg, which made me smile. Those Greg husbands are good people! AND, she happens to love urban sketching, so once I was done reading her thoughts about the bag, I began reading about her sketching. So inspiring! She mentioned a book that I thought looked awfully familiar:

It looked familiar because I’d bought it a couple years ago, started to read it, got intimidated, and put it on the shelf. Well, like I said, I’m done feeling intimidated, it’s time to just enjoy the process, whatever comes out. So I started reading it, and like Tina’s blog, it was also incredibly inspiring! It’s really a great book, I definitely recommend it. Go draw, everyone!

I started carrying my little sketchbook and my tiny watercolor set in my new bag. This afternoon, Greg and I took Miles to a dentist appointment right by Green Lake. While they were hanging out, I walked down to the lake, plopped my feet into the water, and sat down on one of the stone steps. I pulled out my book and started drawing.

Within a few minutes, a family sat down nearby, and two sweet kids, a girl and a boy, siblings, began asking me all kinds of questions. She was six, and he was probably three or so, and they were fascinated by the entire process. I chatted with their dad for a few minutes, and then the kids took over and we had a lovely time.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I love to make art! Isn’t it fun?”

“Yeah! Are you drawing the water now?”

“Yep! It’s not really blue, is it? It’s kind of a grey-green color.”

“Yeah, but the sky is really blue!”

“Yeah, let’s find a bright blue for the sky.”

“How old are you?”

“I’ll be 43 in a few weeks.”

“Wow. I’m six. Do you have kids?”

“I do! My son is almost fifteen.”


“And my daughter is twelve! That’s twice your age. She draws all the time.”

“I like to draw, too. I draw at home.”

“Home is a great place to draw! Do you paint, too?”

“Sometimes. Hey, are you going to paint that dock? You should paint it black.”

“Do you think it’s black? Or does it look browner?”

“Oh! It’s dark brown.”

On and on, I loved it! Two little helpers, all three of us enjoying the process.

I spent about ten minutes just throwing stuff on the page, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have. I came up with this:

Nothing special, and yet it’s so so special. I love that. I love how you can make a little piece of art that isn’t anything to anyone else, but means the world to you, you know? As long as I have this little watercolor, I’ll remember those two kids, and the warmth of the sun hitting my shoulders, and the gratefulness I felt at being able to steal away for a few minutes to dip my feet in a cool lake. I’ll remember them arguing with their dad about how they should really be allowed to take off all their clothes and swim, and it didn’t matter if they were wet in the car later or if they forgot to bring towels. And it didn’t matter that two days ago I was so weak I had trouble walking around the house. Today, I walked four thousand steps. And for a little while, I felt normal.

On the walk back to the dentist’s office, I spotted this guy, doing some beautiful work:

He looked so happy and peaceful, it was so calming to watch him. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for coming out, Mr. Painting Guy. Maybe when I’m as old as he is, I’ll be painting that well, if I keep practicing!

World Watercolor Month is officially my favorite month

July is World Watercolor Month! BRILLIANT! It also happens to by my birthday month – and notably, this is the first month I thought of my upcoming birthday and cringed. Normally I love my birthday. This year I’m turning 42, and I’m grumpy at recent weight gain, and still being a couple years away from my degree. I want to extend 41 a little longer to get my crap together. Don’t we all.

Instead, I’m painting! Watercolor is sort of like ukulele – no matter what you do with it, it’s kinda pretty. I’m past comparing my work to others. One gift of the 40’s is that I’ve discharged most of that. Not all of it, but most, and it’s a beautiful thing. I look at other artwork online now and I think, “How beautiful! That’s lovely!”, and then I look at my little chicken scratch paintings and I think, “How beautiful! That’s lovely!” It isn’t that I can’t see the difference, I do see it. I definitely do.

But I finally see the point of painting: it’s to make me happy. It isn’t to compare myself to anyone else, and it isn’t to be an art major or to hang anything in a gallery. It’s just to make me happy. And even my little scratchy bits make me very happy. I suggest everyone go get a little painting set, and a couple of brushes, and lay down some color and see how it feels. Do you feel free, and kind of giddy, and like life just got loads better? Me too. Keep going.

Color is fascinating – I’m continually amazed at how much I see everyday, without actually seeing it. I can walk down a street and report what colors are around me, but when I try to actually color in a doodle, I often get it wrong.

wc-painting-facesWe went to the Ballard Market today, and I ran into my friend and her wife. We hugged and talked and laughed, it was great, I missed her so much. I love running into people! Seattle can be a surprisingly small town that way. When I got home, I went out to the hammock and whipped out my new-for-July watercolor notebook, where I’m making a visual journal. First I painted JULY THIRD all fancy, and then I tried to paint my friend and her wife.

Both women are caucasian. In my paint set there aren’t pans helpfully marked “Caucasian skin tones” (neither are there any marked “Brindle Corgi” or “Hollie’s Husband”, for that matter), so I was stuck trying to figure this out on my own (should have checked the internet). My friend came out kind of a freaky dark pink, and her wife looks sunburned.

This is why I keep practicing.

On the boat, it seems like it would be easier. What’s around? Treelines! Water! That’s green and blue. How hard can that be? But no, it isn’t just green and blue. You start to greys and blacks and yellows and even dots of red, and as for blues – I counted seven blues in one small wave. Don’t even get me started on the sky.


I was sitting on the bow of Elska, trying to paint her bowsprit. It wasn’t my finest hour. In my defense, I was moving.


Those spikes at the top are the masts sticking up inside Shilshole Bay Marina. Oh and this one isn’t done, I didn’t finish painting. I had a lot of trouble with the paper, the paint wasn’t soaking into it. I’m using good paints (Sennelier), so I know that isn’t the problem. Maybe this paper isn’t great? It’s a Travelogue from Global Art Materials Inc. Anyway, despite being under sail and sucking at drawing, I’m impressed that you can actually sort of tell what it is. Well, most sailors could tell you. Non-sailors might be really confused. But then, non-sailors are probably confused most of the time. Some deep, subconscious restlessness must pervade their every moment. A thread of dissatisfaction, feeling unsettled, that hints they should really be doing something other than what they’re doing. IT’S SAILING. You should be sailing. You’re welcome.


That’s me! When I’m not painting. Greg and his brother Eric are at Elska’s helm, a rare moment where I give up control of the boat. Usually I tell everyone what to do and then stay at the helm. I waited so long to give up that damn wheel, I like to sit with my tiller.


I’m much better at photography.



Golden Gardens

On the last day of school last Friday, the kids from my daughter’s school went to Golden Gardens Park to play at the beach. I brought my watercolors and my little pack of watercolor postcards, and tried to paint a wee little landscape.

It isn’t great art, but it was so fun! Relaxing, too. I don’t know anything about watercolors, no technique or anything. I’ve signed up for a couple of Craftsy classes about pen and ink drawing to see if I can get better.