new print : : crowdspotting

Crowdspotting is now available as an art print on paper or canvas in my Society6 shop. Yay! And if you order something using my Artist Promo link, Society6 will ship the items anywhere in the world* for FREE.

You can also click on the framed print, above, or the promo poster, below, to avail of the free shipping offer.

UntitledAnd here’s a large image of the design, so you can scrutinize each little character (35 of them) that I managed to coax from blobs of watercolour paint, using this simple exercise in imagination:

crowdspotting print

An exercise in imagination : : cloudspotting

In this quick exercise of imagination, I put blobs of masking fluid in a grid on the paper with my fingertip…cloudspotting…then a quick dash of watercolour in random swipes or strokes over each one (when the masking fluid had dried!)

cloudspottingSometimes I bled a different colour into damp spots…no rules, no real plans for what each blob would become (sometimes, yes, pointy ears or a ball at the top for a head, but nothing careful or overly thought about). cloudspotting
After rubbing off the masking fluid, I drew a little face into each white dot…
cloudspottingThis is where my imagination came in to play: staring at each one, I tried to see the rest of “the character” hiding in the washes and subtle edges of dry paint. It was a lot like looking for images in clouds—”cloudspotting”—except that I pinned the images down with more watercolour, an ink pen, and touches of coloured pencil.


No one is more surprised than I am at some of the figures I managed to coax from these random blobs of colour…
cloudspottingLooking at them now, it’s hard to believe they weren’t planned from the start, some of them fit their blobs and their ink faces so well.

Making money in my spare time

Ciento treinta Bolívares

Kris says I have grossly understated the economic situation in Venezuela in my first post. “Come on, it’s not ‘very, very affordable‘ here…Venezuela is currently recognised as The Cheapest Country in the World, for crissake!”

He’s right, of course. So there you are, it’s even better than I made out. The black market dollar rate is a hundred times the ‘official rate’ artificially set by the government, and the value of paper money here is next to nothing. To pay for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant, you hand over a wad of 100s about a centimeter thick…Bs1,800.00 or thereabouts. And, for all that, it amounts to something like 3 bucks. Petrol is 7 litres a dollar. Need I say more?

So this is one country where I can afford to keep a sample of each denomination as a keepsake in my journal…a whopping 21 US cents are attached to the page above.

The reason I WANT to keep these bills is that Venezuelan money is beautiful. I love the vertical format, the bright colours, the modern graphic layout, the metallic inks and holographic strip that runs through each bill…they’re gorgeous. I’ve been painting them on postcards and in my sketchbooks…challenging, absorbing, and fun to do. Makes me wish I’d thought to make painted versions of the money we came across in the different countries we’ve been to since the start of this trip.
Veinte y dos BolívaresKris jokes that I should be painting US $100 bills instead of Bolívares…says they, at least, would be worth all the effort. Especially here, if we can find a money changer who will take watercolour dollars. ;)


The Artist as Deus Ex Machina by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Deus Ex Machina by Chati Coronel 2014

“This series started out as an attempt to do self-portraits. I wanted to find the most honest way of depicting myself and because I see myself most often from the inside, it became a depiction of inner landscapes….

The Artist as Spirit Animal by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Spirit Animal by Chati Coronel 2014

“For a number of years, I have been doing a technique of painting in layers. It is a most effective way for me to convey inner histories, building from the deepest level up until I reach the surface.”

The Artist as Disassembled Chandelier by Chati Coronel 2014
The Artist as Disassembled Chandelier by Chati Coronel 2014

“It has always been a journey from the core, from the most essential part of being. From the universal to the very personal image that shows up on the surface.”

Chati’s been re-working her blog, and I just had to post a few images, and some of the beautiful thoughts and feelings that go with them, again (other posts about Chati here & here). I met Chati Coronel nearly 20 years ago, at a very special little secondhand bookshop and café, owned by a literature professor, across from the university, and I have had a girl crush on her ever since. She is one of the most beautiful, radiant women I know…a punk rock Björkshire princess (hey! I like the sound of that :) ) enlightened mother, lover, and Buddhist saint, rolled into one tall, willowy, enigmatic and consummate artist. It has been a while. I miss my friends, my ‘tribe’, my creative space back home, my life with plants and cats in the mangroves. Saudade. Brazilian songs are full of it (though where they’d rather be, I have no idea.) Chatishine.

sketchbook pages

20 OCtober 2014As departure draws nigh, I am making more of an effort to do something in my various sketchbooks, every free day of the week. These ink bottles, done this morning, taught me two important things:
1) That it’s a good idea to do some warm-up drawingsI The bottle of Burmese Amber ink was the first attempt. Meh. I used the actual ink to colour it in, and it bled into the cheap graph paper, went all dull, mixed with the black drawing ink and turned dirty. It’s a lovely ink to write with, though…the writing above it is an example of this J. Herbin ink.
20 OCtober 2014 detailThen I did the bottle of J. Herbin’s 1670 Rouge Hematite ink. Better. I used masking fluid to block out the highlights, and used watercolours instead of the ink, itself. Glad I did, because although Rouge Hematite is a beautiful ink, it has one very serious flaw…it never really ‘fixes’ into the paper. I made the mistake of using the ink to write its name under the drawing. Long after it had dried, as I was pencilling-in the bottle of W&N ink, I realised that my hand was smudging and spreading the red ink over the drawing. Eek! 1670 Rouge Hematite, I love you, but I can’t live with you.20 OCtober 2014 detailFinally, I painted the bottle of Winsor & Newton waterproof black ink. Used the masking fluid more boldly, here…and I’ve learned that, when painting glossy surfaces like glass, there has to be a really bold contrast between the highlights and the darkest areas, and that they are adjacent to each other.

2) It pays to draw from life, and without gimmicks. Before I start drawing/painting anything, I’m overcome with laziness. The task always seems too hard, the subject too complicated for my skill level, and I am tempted to pass on drawing, altogether. Or I am tempted to resort to dirty tricks, like taking a photograph of the subject, printing it out, and then tracing/transferring the basic lines to the paper as a light pencil sketch.

This means putting off the drawing for some other day, because I don’t have a printer at home. It means losing the motivation and the feeling of the moment. It also means that I would never have learned to draw things.

It’s a real blessing that I can’t print things out on the boat! Every drawing I push myself to do is a small step forward, I feel. Even three little bottle drawings, spaced an hour apart, show massive improvement. I’m no Dürer or Da Vinci (probably because I don’t draw enough…those guys drew several dozens of little sketches, every single day, for decades!) but I have come a long way from the stick figures I used to draw in my twenties (and before then, no drawing at all)!

When improvement is so apparent in each small attempt, doesn’t it stand to reason that a small drawing or two each day will, at the end of a year—at the end of five years of traveling and sketching—take my skills to a whole new level? If it’s that easy, what on earth have I been waiting for all this time? A fairy godmother? Deus ex machina? Good grief, Nat.

19 October 2014
Last night’s drawing, in poor light, using graphite pencils, a bit of charcoal pencil, and something called Progresso by Koh-i-Noor, an aquarelle graphite pencil which is really lovely, makes a silvery-grey wash that is still quite erasable when dry.

7 October 2014I suck at monochromatic drawings because I almost never do them…but I would like to get better at using graphite and charcoal, because when done well, these drawings are so beautiful, achieve so much with so little! So even though I don’t like the grey drawings I’ve done recently, I will keep going with pencils and charcoal. A better understanding of greyscale values will help with my coloured work, too.

W&G sketchbook pages

Inspired to the point of nail biting by Jennifer Orkin Lewis’s painting a day, and hoping to get into the habit of doing a small painting regularly (once a week is all I’ve managed)…before I set off on my big adventure ‘out there’, I picked up where I left off in this palm-sized honey of a handbound watercolor book, and tried to do a little something on free days. Even if it was just a color chart, or a copy of some bizarre character by Bosch.

Watercolours and gouache.

15 Sept 2014

Oct 6 2014

Oct 6 2014

Oct 5 2014

16 Sept 2014

Jennifer Orkin Lewis, via Lisa Congdon

7.1 & 2 by Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Jennifer Orkin Lewis’s Daily Sketchbook Paintings…oh, to do something like this on my travels! Or even just to do something like this, at home, every single day, without losing the plot or getting distracted, or letting laziness take over!

What a fabulous journal she’s got! I drool over every page. In an interview with Lisa Congdon of Today is Going to be Awesome,  Jennifer says that she spends just thirty minutes on each page. Thirty minutes! I look at any one of her journal pages, and I know I would struggle to do it within two hours. But maybe that’s because I don’t paint a journal page every single day. Duh.

These 365-day projects, though I admire them like crazy in others, have just never worked out for me…my good intentions and initial enthusiasm about a project are built on such weak foundations. Oh, well, that’s not quite accurate, I have managed to make a pot of coffee every morning for the past 16 years of my life, or something like that. (Now that’s something to think about…perspective shift! Convince self that art is coffee, and that I will kill someone if I don’t do it! LOL)

*sigh* You know I only posted this to satisfy a preposterous inner need, right now, to be Jennifer Orkin Lewis…as though sharing someone’s amazing work will allow a little bit of the achievement to rub off on me…vicarious blogging. It’s lame. :)

Daily Sketchbook Paintings 7.1-20 | August Wren.

Pinkland + Spirographs in acrylic

caramel caravel2

Day Two of this painting. Still very much a Work In Progress. And yes, it is very pink, isn’t it? Maybe it should be called “Portuguese Arriving to Sack Electric Ladyland”. I had a lot of fun when I started, which is why so much got done in just two days. But I sort of hit a wall this afternoon, and now I don’t know what to do with it.

As usual, I like parts of what I’ve done…but not the painting as a whole. Not sure what’s bugging me about it, but I suspect the whole painting should be flipped to its mirror image, so that the boat is entering the scene from the left (forget about it, easier to paint a new painting!) Also, I think the sea should be a reddish purple (I thought of Homer’s “wine-dark sea”) and the ship should be something really goofy…not just some dwarf version of a real caravel…

…but god, I am so tired of wrestling with it—it measures 2′ x 3′ and I have been standing in front of it all day—and I don’t know if I will ever get around to making such big changes. Right now, I can’t LOOK at it any longer, I am so tired of staring at it that it all dissolves into puddles of colorful mud when I try. I think I’ll just turn it to face the wall for a while, and see what I think of it in a week or two.

caramel caravel1

I did learn something new, exciting and funky on this painting: A fine-tipped Posca paint marker (1-MR) will fit in the holes of a Spirograph! This means a lot to me. At last, I can use my Spirograph with more than black drawing pens or ballpoints! I am besotted with Posca pens, anyway, because they are water-based acrylic paint pens, and they draw a rich, opaque line, and they glide over any surface like an oil slick; knowing I can use them to draw Spirographs just means that I love them more than ever.

Lace on the skin

A Night in MoroccoInspired by North African henna deigns, I put paint in a fine-tipped squeeze bottle and applied it to a painting of hands in exactly the same way that one would apply real henna. then I stamped the dark blue background in gold acrylics with a small hand-carved wooden printing block from India, and picked out the petal shapes in a lighter perriwinkle blue. So simple and quick, but very satisfying. I love intricate ornamental patterns. Very happy with this finished painting: romantic, feminine and it looks like lace from across the room.

All in all, a good way to have spent the day! :)