Saturday, April 28, 2012


You may be wondering about the point of all these little horse paintings in my journal lately. The reason is two-fold. The first is that I am bothered by my sketches being too sketchy! I wanted to work towards a more painterly and finished approach in my sketching. 

My current sketch kit - although I have now added two more pencils to it -
Turquoise and Indian Red Cretacolor woodless watercolor pencils.
The second is that I am working with a fairly limited palette in this sketch kit and am trying to get to know it better. I actually love this little kit. It’s small and handy and yet has all the colors I need. My sketchbook in this case is a Stillman and Birn Gamma. I am finding the Gamma quite delightful to use. Although it’s mainly for dry media it can take a light wash and, although the paper will cockle when wet, the page will flatten out again when dry. It can even tolerate a moderate amount of scrubbing.

Yesterday I sketched “Rudy,” a Palomino pony at Brenda Jacroux’s farm. Rudy is currently a hairball and is going through a massive shedding cycle. Although in Summer he will be a bright golden color, right now he is a mixture of yellow, roany-pink, and muddy hair.

"Rudy" aka (affectionately) - "That Yellow Thing."
I wanted to try and capture his strange mixture of colors in this little watercolor painting. Although the scan didn’t pick it up, I laid in a light blue background behind Rudy to highlight the yellow in his coat.

"Rudy" sketch - watercolor pencils and Neocolor II
in a Stillman and Birn Gamma sketchbook.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oscar (not his racing name)

Despite what most people may think about Thoroughbreds on the track, most are incredibly well-mannered and are handled with great care. They are curious babies who know their environment and jobs quite well.  

“Oscar” is one of the horses I massage at the racetrack. I work at the track one day a week and massage a variety of horses, whomsoever the trainer picks out for that particular week. I love working there. I grew up with racing Thoroughbreds and I find the environment quite soothing.

“Oscar,” his trainer admits, “is his own worst enemy.” His flighty habits have gotten him into some physical trouble lately that I am there to help. Yesterday was his second massage and during his first one I was warned to look out for his hind feet and teeth. Sure enough, he tried to cow-kick once or twice and strike. (Fortunately not only I was knowingly out of reach, but since my own horse Percy was once a much more accurate cow-kicker, I have developed some high-level dodging skills!) The biting was forestalled by his trainer who put on a lip chain. But this week Oscar seemed very glad to see me and though he still wore a lip chain, the beastie stood quietly and didn’t raise a foot. (Well, he did paw once but what I was doing surely was painful.) I was proud of his good behavior and decided to sketch him for my journal when I got home last night. Here he is, sketched in watercolor pencil and Neocolor II in a Stillman and Birn Gamma 5.5" x 8.5" sketchbook. Well done Oscar!

From my journal...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Delay in Horse Life leads to doodling

"It's been a long week!"

For the past week I having been working hard to finish up some commissioned illustrations. Of course, this required me to put all non-paid art on temporary hold. Hence the lack of appearance of Horse Life this week. It will be back, and soon, but not for a few more days.

Last night, in a late night stupor of being awake but not able to do any more “official” artwork,” I started doodling notes for future Horse Life comics. Truly, it’s a case of too much information! I have anecdotes that could keep me busy for years! *chuckle* I am also working on finding my stride as far as the characterizations for the comic. Studying established and popular cartoonists like Norman Thelwell and Charles M. Schulz, (creator of “Peanuts”) is both enlightening and helpful. As I sketch, I learn and process. Eventually, I will find my own stride, just as they did.

In that spirit, here are three of my pony sketches from last night when everything seemed “up in the air!.” ;-)
"Reaching new heights"
"The Star Player"
"Putting on Airs"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sketching in Seattle Thursday

I love the fact that Seattle has so many lovely old Art Deco theaters. The Guild 45th II is conveniently located right outside a convenient Tully’s Coffee – which was very beneficial yesterday as it was raining and I could see the theater right through the window. The original Guild 45th Theater was built in 1919 and is two doors down from this facade which is technically the “Guild 45th II.” Although the Guild II was built in 1983 it was designed to look similar to the original building.

The original fa├žade is painted pink/salmon and the new one is painted teal. Although both theaters look a little worn, both still have great neon.

If you know this street, you will notice that I have omitted certain details including the power lines and the tree that is growing right in front of the facade. On a nice day perhaps I'll paint the companion theater, "The Guild 45th" to complete the set. :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Country Scene in Pen & Ink

"Rustic Scene"
(Pen & ink with colored pencil in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook)
Just completed! Another new pen and ink drawing. It was fun to add a little bit of color to it just because I could. ;-)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Point of the Exercise

Inspired by James Gurney, I’ve decided to get down to business and make my field sketches more painterly. Sharpening my skills in this way is going to require both better observational skills and sketching memory. My fast sketching skills are pretty good but my observational skills in the field are a bit rough and I am ready to work on that.

Chili sketch
Today was my first day exploring this new style of sketching. After exercising my horse and turning him out, I sat down to sketch one of the other horses at the barn. I took my time (what a concept!) and that proved absolutely delightful. For my subject I chose “Chili,” a chestnut Thoroughbred hunter. He was sleepy in the mid-afternoon sun and so was the perfect model. I started out by getting the shapes and color masses right. After that I added color slowly, remembering the details as I went. Although Chili had wandered off  before I was finished with his sketch, he was a gentleman and came back over for more modeling when I asked him to.

Here’s Chili and I posing with his sketch.
Many thanks to Brenda for taking the picture
and to Kristi for letting me borrow her horse.
I was using a new sketch kit today. It’s a limited palette of watercolor pencils and Neocolor II crayons. I am using it in a Stillman and Birn Gamma series sketchbook. This is a very light kit and perfectly suited to sketching animals in the field. Thus far the S&B Gamma sketchbook has been a dream. The paper is sensitive but did not buckle from washing. It’s fairly smooth but did well with pencil and also with the ink sketch that I doodled (not shown) while waiting for my page to dry.

My new sketch kit
What a delightful day! I feel good about my progress today and look forward to more careful sketching adventures later in the week.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Noodling around today (no pun intended)

I am really enjoying my new Diamine Sepia ink. I love the color and I especially love using it in my Peewee Banditapple Carnet notebook. Somehow, because it's such a little notebook (3.5" x 5.5"), it encourages me to freely sketch unimportant and yet fun things. Here's what I came up with today. Silly, but fun! ;-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not all Noodler’s Flex Pens…

..are created alike, apparently. I have recently discovered this fact. I was aware that the original feeds for the Noodler’s Flex Pens were all handmade, which is why the originals came out in such small batches. The newest pens have machined feeds and so are available in much larger batches.

The two Flex Pens from my original purchase remain the best of the six I now own. I assume that both of these pens have the handmade feeds. The ones I have bought since have all been spotty in their quality. Two have them have been good, one iffy, and one not good at all. In a recent post I complained about getting my flex pen in the "Arizona" color to work well with my new Diamine Sepia ink. This pen has never performed well for me, it’s too hard to flex and the ink just doesn’t flow quite “right” through it.

Yesterday, when I saw a black Noodler’s Flex Pen at the University Bookstore in Seattle, I tried it out, hoping that it had a good feed. It felt quite good and I bought it immediately. Although many people were very excited when these new black versions which came out recently, I hadn’t really thought about getting a black Flex Pen. Frankly, I prefer the colors (see this post). But the feel of the pen is the more important thing, as it’s the smoothness of the line that makes ink work really enjoyable for me. It’s hard to find these pens in physical stores to try out. They are most easy to find online, but then you can't try them before you buy. I felt lucky to get my chance to try one out yesterday.

I gave my new Noodler's black Flex Pen a proper test run when I got home..
When I got it home I immediately filled it with Diamine Sepia ink and gave it a proper test run. Here is the result. I feel pretty good about this new pen. I think it’s going to be a good drawing pen for me (even though it doesn’t match the ink that’s in it!) Full steam ahead now for more drawings in Sepia ink!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Musings of the morning...

I think a Banditapple Carnet Peewee notebook in Manuka Honey and a Noodler's Flex pen in Carniolan Honey would make a perfecty matched set. Especially with Diamine Sepia ink in the pen. All would be in similar shades of honey-brown.

Banditapple Carnet Peewee Notebook (blank) with Manuka Honey cover.
(Photo from

Noodler's Flex pen in Carniolan Honey color.
(Photo from

Diamine Sepia fountain pen ink color sample.
(Photo from
Wouldn't that be harmonious?
I already have a Banditapple Carnet Peewee blank notebook with a black cover and I really like it. The paper seems pretty bulletproof for ink.

Here's a picture I did in my own Peewee with Diamine ink. The ink doesn't feather on the page at all and there's no bleed through to the pages behind. Pretty amazing for notebook costing $3.50!
"Angry Pony" - in Diamine Sepia ink with Pitt brush pen in Banditapple notebook.