Month: November 2018

Salon Ultimo

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A salon at holiday time is a sight to behold! Everywhere things glitter and glow. As my daughter disappeared to get her hair cut, I was offered a drink and I sat down at a table with a bowl of chocolates. My eyes wandered to find sketch-worthy subjects and they were endless. Hmmmm… should I sketch the huge white and gold gleaming ornaments hanging down, or the lights, or the ribbons, or the Christmas trees festooned with gold and white ornaments and gold ribbons cascading down? My eyes caught the makeup counter with cool leather chairs, a funky mirror, rows of makeup, and a large Christmas tree, right in front of the spa rooms. I started with the chairs, as they had the most challenging shapes. Little by little, I got them on my paper, then worked on the cabinet behind them. I listened to the chatter at the front desk by the receptionists and observed a women with foil in her hair. As the minutes ticked by, the sketch slowly came together. I went home debating what to do with the background. I decided to just let it be. A few splashes of paint, and then it was done. Sometimes less is more, the sketch can stand on its own!

Keg and Case Market

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Yesterday our urban sketching group met at Keg and Case Market off 7th St. in St. Paul. A large warehouse-converted trendy foodie/art market across from Schmidt’s Brewery was a wonderful place to sketch! After floating around past the Worker B honey store, In Bloom restaurant, a vegan cake company, pottery company, and much more, I went with my friend to the second level seating area where people munched on sandwiches and other treats. Overlooking the entire floor, we watched people and vendors and crowds moving around, tasting, drinking, laughing, and having a good time. The place buzzed with energy! I decided to sketch the Evla pottery area as there was a woman in a bright green dress with bright green glasses frames. The pottery was cool too. But what caught my attention most was the Forest to Fork Mushroom vendor. A two-story rectangular glass case housed shelf upon shelf of substrates of some type with mushrooms growing off of them. A large hose system blew steamy air into this huge glass area, and I was mesmerized as an employee, wearing a white face mask, used scissors to snip off mushrooms at eye level and above and put them into a cardboard box on the floor. These were then sold with the other merchandise on the other side of the case. It was interesting to watch, as I have never seen a mushroom vendor of any type, much less one in a giant glass case. I used watercolor pencils to sketch Forest to Fork and also a statue of a king holding a beer cup across the way. This was a great place to sketch and I hope to go back soon!

Sketching the Painters

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My pastel group did a “Paint Around” last week. We had 6 of our member artists each do a painting in the span of 80 minutes. They each got 10 minutes at their easel to start their painting, then passed the painting on to the next artist in line every 10 minutes (rotating in a clock-wise direction). This meant they worked on 6 different paintings. The final 10 minutes they finished up their original painting that they had started. As they worked, I did some sketches of them working busily at their easel. We were delighted and awed at the work they produced, and as you can see from above, it was amazing work!

paint around

Toy Sketches

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It’s fun to sketch toys of all shapes and sizes….

This summer, I sketched the remote-controlled car of the little girl next door. I never had one of these as a kid, but I’ve seen several of them around—getting kids ready for driving early, it seems. I once watched another neighbor pushing one of these toys up the hill after it lost battery power. I liked the bright pink color and all the shapes and textures of this subject, especially the wheels.


This was a grouping of toys in a waiting room. I used watercolor pencils on this sketch. I colored only the barn and left the other baskets colorless. It kind of accentuates it this way!


Finally….a Bobafett alarm clock, in my daughter’s room! I liked all the shapes and colors of this messy nightstand, including the money sticking out to the left. Plastic shiny toys are fun to sketch and force you to slow down and observe details that you might miss. All of these toy sketches were great subjects!

Sketching at Target

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starbucks target

I had the opportunity last week to sketch at two different Starbucks, one in a regular Target, and one in a Super-Target. See my sketches above. I captured a man who was in the coffee area eating a Lunchable, I think he worked with the barista from the conversation I heard. The second picture was of an elderly woman, and her fuzzy white hat and bright red coat caught my eye. I got a quick glimpse of her slowly pushing her cart, then she disappeared around some merchandise. I tried to sketch the carts in the cart corral and was doing OK until someone came and wheeled a cart away and there went my subject! I settled on some Target baskets in a stack, thinking those wouldn’t move too much and the lady with the red coat came and sat down nearby, obviously waiting for someone. I sketched her body and head as fast as I could! Soon, someone came for her and she left. It’s fun to sketch people in the coffee shop, you never know what or who you will see!


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Cossetta’s Alimentari is an amazing fixture in St. Paul. It opened in 1911 by Michael Cossetta, from Calabria Italy, as a small Italian market, and eventually expanded from there. Whether you go to the Italian eatery, Pasticceria, or Italian Market, it’s a great place to sample delicious food or buy ingredients for your next Italian meal. After a delicious antipasti lunch, I chose to sit in the Pasticceria (pastry and gelato shop) while my mom perused the market. I decided to draw the large marble countertop and pastry display case. Everywhere were wonderful goodies, in little packages, paper cups, or cellophane packaging. Taste buds watered. I first sketched in this guy at the counter. He was there for a very short time and moved a lot as he completed his purchase, but I got his main profile in. Next, I concentrated on the counter—the moulding, the glass, the fixtures on it, and finally the delicacies inside it. Here was my basic sketch (above with just a light wash for the countertop and a little watercolor). After I finished with the pen, I began adding light watercolor washes layer upon layer, eventually deepening the values more and more. Finally at home I added the final layer and the sketch was completed (below). The shop was full of people and smelled divine! I can’t wait to go back and sketch again!


Sketching My Kit

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I am taking an online urban sketching class and I drew the items in my sketch kit. My first sketch is of my pens, pencils, pens. As I did this, I thought about what I use and what I bring but don’t often use and why. The items I use the most are my black Faber-Castell Pitt pen (F) and my water brush. If I was on a deserted island and only had those things plus my watercolors and a sketchbook, I’d be fine.

pens blog

Next, I drew my painting kit. I have three watercolor sets— the Koi one, the Schminke one, and one with tube watercolors in an old blue Grumbacher palette. I mostly use the Koi kit although the colors aren’t as intense.

paints blog

Finally, I drew a new set of watercolor pencils I received from one of my students. I have not used watercolor pencils much, so they were a delight to try! Inktense, they are called, and the colors are really cool! I then drew an antique tea cup my mom had given me because I loved the fuchsia pink color and used a sable brush to add water. It was fun to try a new product! I can see myself using them in some sketches I try. This was a great exercise to learn more about what I like about my kit, as well as the things that cause hang-ups. I want to keep trying new things and see what I like! What are your fav tools?

pencils blog