Musings and Amusings

Six Week Check-Up

Six weeks into 2015, I’m reviewing my list of Envisions:

  1. Music and Keyboard
  2. Mapping and Footprints
  3. Urban Sketching and Watercolors
  4. Word Origins – a self study course
  5. Writing Craft and Practice

If I don’t consciously allocate time and energy, I will stick with what I am already enjoying (Keyboard), and ignore what is more difficult or intimidating. Even as I created my list, I knew which one I’d be least likely to pursue, and why – Urban Sketching and Watercolors.


  • Homebody
  • Linear, sequential thinker
  • Boundaries, deliberate, precise, defined
  • Clarity, balance, predictability
  • Silence, alone, lack of commotion

My impression of Urban Sketching:

  • People, public places, parking, schlepping
  • Vibrant, active, constant movement
  • Sounds, noise, interaction
  • Quick capture, fast strokes, hurry

My impression of Watercolors:

  • Defy boundaries
  • Run, ooze, drip, overflow, blend
  • The paint is in charge
  • Require patience

imageMy incompatibility with these two choices is obvious. Yet taken together as one art form, Urban Sketching and Watercolors seem to rein each other in while simultaneously complementing each other.

I’ve been so stimulated by the art of bloggers who work in this arena, not to mention curious about how they immerse themselves in the very environments they chronicle. Light, shadows, details – I see them now in ways I’ve never noticed.

I don’t fear not doing this well. I fear not doing it at all.

Trying art of any kind is very intimidating. I feel like a kindergartner insisting, “I do it myself”, but I DO have to experiment my own way.

imageMy habit  – until now – with anything ‘artsy’ is to buy umpteen ‘how to’ books; study them ad nauseum while taking copious notes; then never actually begin a project. This time I allowed myself to quickly thumb through two books as long as I promised to pick up a pencil and Do Something!

I read that your first sketch should be a self-portrait. So I stood in front of the mirror and sketched what I saw. Sorry it’s so light – too timid with my strokes – but it’s a good likeness with a vertical wrinkle between my eyebrows and naturally downturned corners of my mouth when I’m not smiling.

By Sammy D

By Sammy D

Next, I sketched a body in motion using a ballet dancer on a postcard as my model. After drawing her likeness, I colored her using watercolor brush pens.


Finally I opened my watercolor tin; wet the colors; dipped the brush; held the brush to white paper. Then what? Paint a stroke on the paper? Then another? That went nowhere.

I like tangling because I define the shape and patterns. I like coloring with gel pens and sharpies because they are predictable.

Not so with watercolors.

Whether my perception is accurate or not, I have to figure out how to bridge the divide between my current comfort zone and watercolors.

imageI decided to start with a tangle form; add pieces of design tape; then color around the tape with sharpies. A collage of sorts, one where colors meet but don’t bleed. I like that result.

Now I’m ready to watch a watercolor demo video.

Then I’ll open a book. Study a chapter or two.

Sketch some more. Paint the sketches.

I might even leave my quiet home sanctuary to visit a café. Draw a hand holding a cup of coffee. Pay attention to shadows and light.

Dip my croissant in watercolors …

Comments on: "Six Week Check-Up" (57)

  1. Absolutely love this post. Even that you have “envisions”; then that you check-up/in to ask yourself how you’re doing and give yourself a nudge; then that you know yourself well enough to understand how to tend to approach things and why this particular undertaking would be so challenging for you (those colors bleeding all over the place!); then that you take the plunge, making sure not to fall prey to your usual modus operandi. And the ending is priceless–you, in a coffee shop, dipping a croissant in the watercolors.
    (You inspire me to make a start with illustrating, something I’ve long wanted to do.}

    • Thank you, Josna. I hope you do take up illustrating. You write so eloquently, I can see that flowing from your drawings in a similar manner. I appreciate your supportive words – i always know I can count on our community to understand our fears and forays to expand creative limitations.

  2. Love Envisions, love your drawings! Looking forward to seeing more x

  3. That was a complete story of progress and breaking down barriers loved it. Your figurine is stunning very liquid in movement and I adore the colours in the bottom piece xx

    • Thank you, Justine. Every time I visit you, I see how beautifully you blossom in your pursuits, seemingly never questioning whether ‘you belong’. It’s an attitude that has helped give me confidence to try new things.

      We sometimes don’t know the ways we impact other people, and I hope you know that you serve as a mentor and model for many of us. Much love coming your way 🎀

  4. I think it’s wonderful you’re trying something new like this. I don’t know the first thing about sketching or drawing, so I find your go-to-it-ness inspiring.

    • That’s what was bugging me – not knowing the first thing!! What an eye opener to read that I should practice making circles and hatchmarks, and let my fingers, hand and arm get into the action. It’s like tangling was a logical first step without me kniwing at the time!

      Lean in (as they say). Have a great week, Carrie.

  5. I love that you’re taking up new hobbies! I dabble in art now and again, likely because my mother is an incredibly talented artist and I emulated her/ it came through the genes/ or is a learned behavior — hard to know for sure. (I enjoy dabbling even though I am not incredibly talented.)
    I find the ballerina quite good, and I would say you definitely have the “sight” required of an artist. The front leg muscle and the arch of the back are perfectly captured in proportion.
    Those zentangle things amaze me. The Sharpie bits on that one remind me of stained glass!
    Types of paper are essential to understanding watercolors. I love watercolors. This post makes me want to paint today! I will assume you’ve got the right paper, and I can’t wait to see some watercolors from you!
    *waits for watercolor croissant*

    • Thank you, Joey for all your encouraging comments and the tip about the watercolor paper. I have ‘vintage’ watercolor paper from years ago – one of several times I thought I’d try it then psyched myself out 😋

      I do hope you emulate your Mom and pick up some paint brushes. I’d love your company and will share my croissant!

  6. My thoughts echo all the comments made above! 🙂

  7. I like that you’re sticking with these new things. I absolutely love the line “I don’t fear not doing this well. I fear not doing it at all.” Your effort is inspiring. I am looking forward to seeing the results.

    • yes. that was the great line I was going to mention!

      • Thanks, Katie. You know I owe so much of my interest and willingness to try to you. It’s been your own shift to watercolors, along with your honest commentary on your efforts, that encouraged me. And such a ‘woo woo sign’ that you began discussing Urban Sketching’ shortly after I’d started reading about it and seeing some artists’ work.

        I am really enjoying your scenes as you and Mitchell are out and about.

    • Thanks, Dan. Fear can paralyze and motivate simultaneously – I try not to give in to it this late in life since ‘some day’ isn’t as lengthy as it used to be.

      I vacillate on this type of ‘show ‘ n tell’ post because it feels like I’m begging for compliments (or at least validation). But in this case, it’s part of my process to unstick myself from the getting-started paralysis. I think it helped because I’m choosing to make today a ‘paint day’, and am actually not dreading it 😆

      • I had to laugh. When my daughter was in art school, she had what seemed like an endless stream of self-portrait assignments. Personally, I would hate to start with that.

        I give yo ua lot of credit for taking up or picking up where you left off with things at this point. It’s hard. You’re right about “someday” not being as long a time, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I hope you do show some stuff. Tell the story, put it in context and help motivate us laggards to take up our own challenges some day.

      • Will do. I have a whip I can crack if you need tough love motivation 😋

        Yeah, that self-portrait might be a one-time thing – it’s not like I’m going to cut off my ear just to make it interesting !!

  8. I share your reluctance about watercolors. The colors are so unpredictable and they run all over the place! But I think once you find your groove you’ll love what you get.
    I can’t wait to see the results! 🙂

    • That’s what I need, Kirsten – a watercolor groove ! I don’t normally listen to background music because it short circuits my thinking, but music might be a good complement to turn that unpredictable flow into rhythm rivulets and rivers 😋

      Hope you’re doing ok!! I’ve missed your writing. Are you doing A to Z this year? I decided not to (will still do lots of reading).

      • Nope, no A to Z for me this year. But I will definitely support my blog mates who are giving it their shot. I know from personal experience how much that kind of support means!
        As for my writing … I’m doing lots, but not blogging right now. I’ll be back, no worries. 🙂
        (Muse has sought out the witness protection program, and is phoning in from an undisclosed location. Ack! 😉 )

  9. Well, I went to check out your Envisions post and, the comments are closed – again? So I will comment here! (Besides, I didn’t “know” you then.) I love that word. Envisions. Hmm… May have to steal it should I ever want to make non-resolutions myself!

    Kudos to you for putting yourself out there! I’ve only gotten as far as purchasing an “Art Therapy” (call it an adult colouring book) so I can let my colours flow. Too chicken to even try to paint or draw as I totally suck at it, no matter how much water colours draw me in. I like your “collage of sorts”!

    • Thanks, Dale 😋 i have a couple of those ‘adult’ coloring books – today’s sharpie and gel pens are SO much easier and pretty than the crayons we had as kids. It was a combination of coloring and tangling that got me ‘off the dime’ because neither was as intimidating as drawing or

      We have to stop thinking/saying we suck; we just haven’t yet learned or practiced. I used to call people ‘talented’ – and Some DO have an element of innate ability – but now I see that is an almost insulting description because it doesn’t give credit to the enormous amount of time and study that individuals invest in their work. We can’t all be perfect or the best, but we can all ‘not suck’ if we apply ourselves.

      • Aren’t they just? And that is exactly why I was doing it… not as intimidating.

        You are absolutely right. I usually chastise people for saying what I wrote! You are right. I don’t suck; I just didn’t inherit the same genes from my father as my nieces did! And yet, when it comes to cakes, I can “draw” with icing so… maybe I’m not as bad as I thought! You’ve inspired me to try and have fun with it…

      • That is true.

        We ‘don’t suck’ at anything and we all excel at something !!

        That should be on a toe tag for every newborn 😋

      • Brilliant idea! It should be mandatory in all hospitals!

  10. Croissant? I’m sure you meant croissants…as in two.
    One for you.
    One for me.
    Sketching while eating
    Was meant to be.

  11. I love the post — how could I NOT love this post. As I sit to do a Garuda that is in the colors Mitchell sees, I tell myself I won’t do a good job. We are all very sick, you know? If you play an instrument then you know how much practice it takes! I love these efforts, and am so happy you posted!

    I’m sending you off to nose around one of the original “Urban Sketchers” — as in founding mother — and she is incredibly shy. This means she speaks often of how to go into public places and not be seen/noticed. She sketches often in her environment — which is nature — and I think they bent the rules for Kate and made “urban sketching” about “whereever you are sketching.” Did I tell you she is a homebody? She is also an amazing watercolorist, wrote a book about keeping an art journal, and is a good friend. She has lots of videos on youtube too, and 90% are for beginners.

    The blog that goes with the book, which is shared by many:
    Her blog:
    Her youtube channel:

  12. cardamone5 said:

    You are so talented, and brave in your pursuits. I am grateful to count you as a friend.


    • Thank you, dear! Determination and curiosity don’t equal talent, but they matter just as much if not more for a life lived fully 💕

  13. Finally I opened my watercolor tin; wet the colors; dipped the brush; held the brush to white paper. Then what? Paint a stroke on the paper? Then another? That went nowhere.

    My brother is an artist. He has the natural flair that makes every brush stroke perfect. Me, not so much. I wrote about it here. You might get a kick out of it. The Wrong End of the Pencil

    • Thanks! Good lessons in that post, both for sibling co-existence and writing practice. My 11-month-older-than-I sister was a ‘rock star’ compared to me. Until I finally learned to stop comparing us .

      I will use your image of not using ‘back keys’ which I do all too often in my still-novice writerly life.

  14. Life is a never-ending learning process. Congrats on putting yourself out there, and taking on new things. As long as you enjoy doing it, and I can see that you do, what a wonderful process this could be. Beautiful colors, wow. I appreciate the beauty and dedication. Keep going, Sammy, and keep sharing. Love this post.

  15. Seems to me like you’ve got it ‘sussed’, Sammy. I never get past the think about it stage. You make me feel that there is so much more I could/should do with my life. But I couldn’t draw me, wrinkles and all. That would be TOO depressing, so well done! 🙂

    • 😋 Drop that “should” right now!!

      I’m doing this because I’ve bought books/supplies so many times (and that’s way past the ‘think about it’ stage) and then kept myself from moving forward. I’m simply getting out of my own way … finally.

      One good thing about the self portrait – it strips any remaining false ego about aging looks. Kind of cathartic and freeing, actually. 💕

  16. Hi Sammy, thank you for this post and the reminder that the fear of NOT doing it is greater than the fear of actually doing it. This Saturday at once monthly art circle we’re doing self portraits and we’re supposed to have something done on art paper already by the time we get there. It’s ridiculous how this ‘thought’ plagues me … I’ll give it a go (on my list of things to do today) – I guess the best to do is put pencil in hand and free sketch and improve later.

    • Give it a go, Susan. As with all things difficult or intimidating, the self-portrait was a lesson in self-acceptance – of both the way I look and the way I am able to draw. I can improve my drawing and appreciate that I can still see myself in the mirror!!

  17. I think you’re very brave and very talented! ❤

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