Category: From My Sketchbook

tulip sketch

I’m getting back into the swing of art after taking a much needed break.

I’ve recently started reviving from a serious artistic funk in which I haven’t had the inclination or desire to engage in any sort of art at all. I didn’t even want to look at other people’s art, check Instagram, look for “inspiration” online, or anything similar.

I’ve never really experienced anything like this in the past. I wasn’t feeling depressed or anything of the sort, but I do think that I shifted focus to other areas of my life that were more immediately pressing (finances, etc.). I considered pushing on and continuing to work despite feeling very averse to the idea. The advice of many established artists is to “show up and do the work” and so forth. Instead, I truly felt like I just needed to rest my brain and to do nothing.

Now that things have quieted down a bit, I am focusing more on my art again. This time though, I am interested in expanding beyond floral art (not eliminating it entirely, of course). Throughout school and in the months following, I was drawn to florals because they made me happy and it was a subject matter that felt comfortable and easy to me. Now, I’m wanting to branch out and tackle some other subjects (other aspects of botany, rocks, and landscapes). I’m also working on some sewing projects and I’m imagining how I can incorporate sewing and embroidery into my art.

Cathy Johnson recently discussed her recent “dry spell.” I always like to read about how other artists deal with their creative ebbs and flows and it also makes me feel a little less uncomfortable with the whole process.

The following images are some of the pieces I painted in the last several months. Stay tuned for some new work in my next update.

tulip sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Discarded Tulips Sketch (5/13/2018). Pen and ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pansy watercolor
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Pansy. Watercolor and rubberstamping, 5 x 5 inches.

pen and ink watercolor flower sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Greenery (5/21/2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pen and ink succulents
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, US Botanic Garden (Feb 2018). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

pen and ink mountain sketch

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

Although I have taken some memorable trips in the past, I am more of a homebody and prefer the comfort of my familiar environment. I do love to read travelogues and travel vicariously through other people’s photos though.

I recently found the book Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure by husband and wife Huw Lewis-Jones and Kari Hebert. It is a thick book (320 pages) and features photos of artists and sketchbook spreads from 70 different explorers’ sketchbooks, logs, and nature journals.

I haven’t had a chance to read all of the profiles yet, but I’ve been enjoying myself by reading one or two essays at a time in spare moments. I really like how there is a mix or photographs showing the book in its entirety (tattered pages, crumbling spine, etc.) as well as details of individual drawings and photos/drawings of the artists themselves. Another thing I appreciate is that the featured sketchbooks are from modern day explorers as well as those from the more distant past. Although many of the sketchbook pages shown are beautifully illustrated, there are also some utilitarian pages included with lists of figures, diagrams and penciled in comments.

I think my favorite sketchbook so far is from Edward Norton. He had some majestic mountain landscapes featured, as well as closeup studies of plants. His quote below reminds me of something that a modern day plein air sketcher would say.

“I sketched feverishly, my water freezing as fast as I put it on the paper, as also my fingers.” -Edward Norton (1884-1954)

Clearly this book was on my mind when I came across some of my late great uncle’s photographs while organizing through my reference photos on the computer recently. I couldn’t resist making an ink and watercolor interpretation of this mountain scene as if I were on location. Unfortunately, my uncle didn’t label or organize any of his photos so it is a mystery as to where he was when he took the photo.

If you can recognize this scene, or can suggest any similar books featuring the inside of sketchbooks, please leave me a comment below.

pen and ink mountain sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Exploring (4/6/2018). Noodler’s Luxury Blue and Lexington Gray ink and watercolor wash in large moleskine.
gnarly tree ink drawing

Starting Fresh for Spring (plus new pen and ink work)

I took a break from art for a few days to get my studio (i.e., my bedroom) in order. I wasn’t really happy with the lighting in my space, so I made a change and swapped bedrooms with my daughter. I was also struggling with clutter overload, so I took the opportunity to dispose of a lot of excess stuff and completely reorganize. The changing of the seasons seemed like the perfect time to undertake the project.

My art supplies and personal possessions are much more manageable now, but the whole job took more than two days and it was exhausting. Unlike some of the glamorous studio tours I’ve seen, my room is very plain and simple and nothing special to look at (hence, no pictures!).

One thing I love about my new setup is that my scanner is next to my desk now, so I can use it whenever I want. I didn’t have a place for it before and I had to keep it in my basement, which made scanning a real chore. I also got a new Ottlite with an attached magnifying glass (which has already been coming in handy).

After I got everything set up, I had a massive scan-a-thon and rounded up some of my recent pen and ink work to show you all. Thanks for looking and enjoy!

pen and ink nature drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Ink Medley (1/20/2018). Ink in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook.
pen and ink tree sketch drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Sketch (2/28/2018). Ink and rubber stamps in large moleskine.
gnarly tree ink drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Gnarly Tree. Ink in large moleskine.
pen and ink tree roots
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Roots. Ink in Stillman & Birn Epsilon Sketchbook.
tree drawing sketch

Trees on my mind

I’ve been doing a lot of drawing, painting, thinking, and planning lately (as well as studying). My mind has been drifting to trees lately: the trunks, branches, and leaves that appear in my sketchbooks, but also the deep roots below. Scientists have found that there is much more going on underground than originally thought (Read: Trees communicate via their own fungi-based “internet”).

tree sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Climbing Vines (4/19/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

When I think of trees, I think of wisdom, strength, and stability. I’ve never had successful New Year’s resolutions in the past, but this year (probably because I am starting a new season after graduation) I really feel like I am starting my life over with a fresh start. I have been thinking of my priorities, and the things I really want to get done. I’ve also been focusing on my health, taking control of stress, and finding ways to incorporate minimalism into my life (Read: Go Deeper, Not Wider).

I’ve been enjoying spending time in my sketchbooks more than ever. Instead of being a task to check off my list, artmaking has become much more of a pleasure than it has been in a long time. I know that this feeling will not last forever, but I’m really loving it for the time being!

pine needles drawing
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Winter Debris. Ink and watercolor on a blank note card, 12.4 x 8.9 cm.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. Psalm 92:12-13

tree drawing sketch
©2018 Carolyn A Pappas, Tree Branches (1/15/2018). Platinum Carbon Ink and watercolor in large watercolor moleskine.

For more tree goodness, check out Terri Windling’s blog posts on trees. She writes so poetically, and the photos of her forest are so magical. Be sure to hover over each photo for poetry and quotes.

flower sketchbook drawing

Year End Review and Lost and Found Artwork, Part 3

flower sketchbook drawing
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Exuberant Joy (1/28/2017). Stabilo Point 88 pens, watercolor and rubber stamps in large moleskine.
tulips sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Tulips (5/11/2017). Stabilo Point 88 pens and watercolor in large moleskine.
dichondra argentea garden sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Dichondra argentea (7/14/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

This is my last post of the year where I’ll review 2017 and look ahead to my art goals for next year. This is also the conclusion of my round up of unposted artwork from the past year. The above images were sketchbook pages in my large moleskine done from life. Even though my time was limited, I worked quite a bit from life over the course of 2017, which I am proud of and want to continue into the next year.

My goals for 2017 were to finish my nursing program and to incorporate more art into my life than I did in my first semester. I was successful with both of these goals, although my art activity fluctuated with my school schedule and I often went long stretches with no art making at all. My most productive times were in August and the end of April to mid-May, which coincided with my semester breaks. The least productive times were in September and November, which were also some of the busiest times of my entire nursing program. I posted to my blog 23 times this year, although 4 posts were written and pre-published the year before.

For 2018, I would like to work on making art on a more consistent schedule. I have some longer term projects/series that I am planning, but I need to create a lot of new work on a consistent basis to make my plans a reality. I also want to work more from life when possible. I did a lot of small nature studies this past year and I would like to continue on that theme. I also let my email newsletter fall by the wayside while I was in school and I want to start sending that out again.

I’m looking forward to an exciting year ahead. I hope everyone reading this joins me in having a productive, prosperous, and fulfilling 2018!
landscape sketch

Lost and Found Artwork, Part 1

My three week summer vacation went by way too fast and now I am back to school and pushing through my last semester. Although I did a lot of drawing on my vacation, I have gotten out of practice and don’t have a lot of work to show for it. I did find some artwork from 2016 that I never posted before. Here they are and thanks for visiting.

landscape sketch
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, Windy Day (5/14/2016). Pen, watercolor and rubber stamping in large moleskine.
weeping katsuratree
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, Under the Weeping Katsuratree. Pen and ink and watercolor wash on 5 x 7 inch greeting card.
watercolor garden sketch
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, Watercolor Garden Sketch (December 2016). Watercolor in large moleskine.
mixed flower sketch

Small Travel Break

mixed flower sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Medley of Flowers at the Party (8/20/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.
mixed flower sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Evening Sketching at the End of the Party (8/20/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

I had a chance to travel to Pennsylvania for my childhood friend Gwenn’s engagement party (watch a cute video of her engagement story here). I haven’t been to visit for 10 years, so it was really nice to see a lot of people and places that I remember. I sketched a selection of flowers from the arrangements at the party in ink and added watercolor at home.

I read Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist on the drive down to Pennsylvania and the followup Show Your Work! on the drive back to Massachusetts. I highly recommend both as they were quick, yet power-packed reads. There was more information in Steal Like an Artist that was new to me. I found myself using the highlight feature on my Kindle often as I was reading. Since I have gotten back home, various concepts from these books have often come to mind.

leaves marker sketch

Free Fun Friday at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

green leaves sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Green Leaves (7/28/2017). Waterproof ink and Inktense colored pencils in large moleskine.
leaves marker sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Under the Meyer Lemon Tree (7/28/2017). Stabilo Point 88 pens in large moleskine.

At the end of July, I took a day off from my studies to go out sketching at Tower Hill’s Free Fun Friday event (free admission for the public). As a member, I had never attended this event in the past before because I can attend anytime, but this time I was supposed to meet someone from the CPSA for a day of sketching. Unfortunately, I did not realize that there would be so many people that that facility would have to close the gates because there was no more parking.

In the end, the meeting never took place, but I did get to do some sketching on my own. Many people (at least 50) can up to me and either watched over my shoulder or struck up a conversation about my art. Many people would find this kind of attention anxiety provoking, but I didn’t mind it. I actually found it rewarding to talk to the kids about keeping a sketchbook and I think many of them were really inspired. I did find that I didn’t get as much sketching done as I would like because of the interruptions. I also made some pretty mundane sketches. I tried out my new Derwent Inktense colored pencils and did some experimenting with Stabilo Point 88 markers, which are both fairly new to me.

While this was not the ideal situation for nature sketching, I think showing up at an event like this to sketch and hand out business cards would be a great marketing opportunity to try in the future.

new guinea impatiens drawing

One Year Ago Today: New Guinea Impatiens

new guinea impatiens drawing
©2016 Carolyn A Pappas, New Guinea Impatiens (8/4/2016). Colored pens, watercolor and rubber stamping in large moleskine.
This was a disjointed sketchbook page, as life got in the way as it often does. I remember going out into the back garden to sketch after a rough day at work due to short staffing. Midway through my drawing, the day caught up with me and I became so fatigued that I had to go inside to sleep. Two days later, I remembered my unfinished page and went out into the garden early in the morning to finish it off.

solstice sketch

Sketchy Sketches

solstice sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Solstice Garden Medley (6/21/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.
fountain sketch
©2017 Carolyn A Pappas, Pliny’s Fountain (7/1/2017). Ink and watercolor in large moleskine.

Dismiss thoughts of ‘good, bad, right, wrong, success, failure’ – be spontaneous. -Josh Goldberg

Even in my sketchbook, I tend to be very precise and make slow-going, detailed drawings. These two pages were exactly the opposite for a change. I drew the flowers while sitting on my front stoop and the fountain while sitting on a bench in the woods (getting bitten by mosquitoes).