Drawn to the Coast

It’s thrilling to see my artwork in print this week in an article I wrote and illustrated for Passagemaker Magazine (a magazine for boaters). Drawn to the Coast is an illustrated essay about being inspired by the Maine Coast. Going from concept sketches to full size watercolors to seeing how the magazine’s designer put it all together was one of the most exciting aspects of this assignment.

Let me take you behind the scenes to share some of that process. Click on the artwork to see the sequence full size.

An assignment like this stretches you as an artist and working through challenges definitely advances your skills. Some of you may remember my struggle a few months ago to paint clouds for the title spread, which was perhaps my greatest challenge. I drew upon years of journal sketches to do this piece, but painted everything in my studio over the course of about a month. Now, I can’t wait to get back to the real thing!

Garlic Scapes

I planted garlic for the first time last fall and it took me a while this spring to figure out where I had interspersed it among other bulbs and perennials. Then this! ….this fabulous showing of curling greenery in the garden! And although I am moving next week and will never see the harvest, at least I have this journal page – and the promise of next year in another garden.

Tomato Deluge

Tomatoes are the new zucchini! One neighbor dropped off a dozen; another went away and left a garden full, ripe for picking. That leaves me eating and painting and looking up new recipes.

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I did the first sketch in my Stillman & Birn journal with Zeta paper, which is a smooth, heavyweight 270 gsm paper. The recipe page is in a homemade journal with Fabriano soft press watercolor paper, which is a dream to work on. I wrote the main text in watercolor using a dip pen with a drawing nib. If you want to try it, simply load the nib using a watercolor brush. You’ll have to reload frequently, but that will give you a chance to alter the color and get varied tones in the letters.

Sea and Sky

“There is magic in the distance where the sea-line meets the sky.”  Alfred Noyes
While in Maine recently, I had several opportunities to observe that magical place described by Noyes. When the light is just right, sea and sky merge. I’ve been playing with how to capture that on paper ever since.

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Though I typically work in watercolor, I swapped my paints for pastels to try to get a more ethereal effect.


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Gone Coastal

A week on an island in Maine means only one thing: I’ve gone coastal. I shut off e-mail and social media, tune out news, turn off work, and I cram as much hiking, cycling, exploring, and, of course, painting as I can into seven highly cherished days. I live by the tides, stay up too late painting, wake up early to see the first light on the water, poke in tide pools, scour mudflats and rocky ledges for shorebirds, seek out new trails and vistas, dodge mosquitoes, and manage to come away both rejuvenated and exhausted. Here’s a peek inside my sketchbook…I’ll share a few more pieces in the coming days.

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Poetry of Onions

…Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…” – Mary Oliver, Messenger

I spent a recent rainy morning with two artist friends at Walker Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. The sunflowers and peaches, carrots and tomatoes, and a riot of bright-colored petunias in the greenhouse were a painter’s dream. But somehow I found myself drawn to an old shed, where several bushels of onions caught the dim light. If you haven’t read Mary Oliver’s poem, Messenger, I recommend it in its entirety. This part about “mostly standing still and learning to be astonished” struck me as especially fitting for this particular moment — where something as ordinary as an onion becomes strikingly beautiful when we really look at it. What better work is there for an artist?

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Season of Abundance

It is the season of abundance. Farm stands and farmer’s markets overflow with luscious color and variety. Gardens are ripening toward their fullest beauty. I am utterly drawn in.

Red Cabbage

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Forgive me if you are a lover of cabbage. Aside from when it is disguised in coleslaw or egg rolls, I find cabbage hard to enjoy…except when painting it. Then the lovely blending of purples and greens and blues, of leaf shapes and of the spaces between them reveal the cabbage’s true beauty.

Pumpkin Vine

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I got down on the ground for this perspective of pumpkin vines. So much happening at that level!

I painted these in my Stillman & Birn “Zeta” sketchbook and I really put it put the paper to the test. Zeta has 270 gsm smooth, white paper that is great for ink but sometimes tricky for very wet watercolor. The paint doesn’t merge in the paper, as it does with most cold press papers, but rather on the paper. I find that there is very little reworking that you can do while the paper is wet, but the paper holds up to lot’s of layers of washes. These were worked very wet to increasingly dry, light to dark.