Trying different things

I have not been making any “finished” pieces in the last week, but have been trying some different skills.  I am still playing with pen and ink and watercolor, and did my first “travel” sketching with watercolors on a trip to Medininkai, a small castle in Lithuania.  I also have been playing with my dip pen and faces.  And I watched a webinar for a class called “Get Messy” by one of my “art mentors” Amy Maricle and made a couple of backgrounds.

I was trying out the “green gold” paint that I saw someone online recommend.  I do like the color, and the way the white gesso on top came out so fluffy looking and such a range of color from pure white to a pastel of the green gold.  The dots are metallic blue paint (from Target’s kids craft paints) on a background of Indanthrene blue Liquitex, which is one of my current favorite colors because it is so rich.  The photo makes the dots look gold instead of light blue though–I assume it’s the lighting of my iphone picture.

I have been reading a book on making an “artist’s journal” vs. an art journal–so more sketches, influences, remembering things rather than finished “pictures”.  I am thinking my smaller “travel” journal will be more in that style.  I also learned about people doing “virtual” travel journals, where they “travel” online places and make sketches based on what they find that way.  I am wondering if I should start doing that as I will never travel in real life to all the places that fascinate me, so I fired up Google Earth again and started armchair exploring.  It might be a way for me combine my love of maps and travel with art, and maybe even throw some genealogy into it if I “visit” places related to family history…

Also today thinking about micrographs, and how I maybe should have done a science career that involved looking at things in microscopes. I have a lot of micrograph pictures saved on Pinterest, and realized that what I like about them is often the idea of patterns.  I already knew I was in love with color and texture, but texture is related to pattern.  So I think I want to spend some more time with micrographs and patterns and that inspiration.

Good news is that I am feeling slightly more inspired/ energetic than I was.  For a few days I was struggling with not “wanting” or being interested in things.  Today I am feeling a little more interested in a few things, which will hopefully make my brain have more ideas and I will feel mentally more alert and positive.



My great-aunt (by marriage) had a sister…

One of my loves other than making art is genealogy, and one of my big “discoveries” has been that my grandfather Stanley Thomas had parents and siblings in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania that my father never knew about.  Grandpa Stanislaw Tomaszewski came from Poland, but until I started piecing things together, I didn’t know that he came with a sister to join his father in 1899, who was already here with Stan’s brother Leo. From ship records I think Grandpa Stan went back to Poland and returned to the US with his brother John and his mother in 1901.

John and Stan both enlisted in the army in April of 1905 (so 112 years ago!).  John was killed in action in fighting with guerrillas in the Philippines in 1906 during the Spanish-American war, and is buried in a military cemetery in San Francisco.  Leo become a bartender/ owner.  He led a “colorful” life, and showed up in the local paper for various reasons.  One of those reasons was his marriage to Cecilia Paszkiewicz, who was also a Polish emigre from a big family in the neighborhood of Kingston.  From looking at her family records, I feel Celia and her sisters considered having an easier to pronounce name an important gain in marriage. Or maybe it’s that most names are easier to spell and pronounce than “Paszkiewicz,” and Leon changing his name to “Thomas” was certainly less noticeably ethnic.

I recently connected with my second cousin Ruth Thomas Sachs, who is the granddaughter of Leo and Celia, daughter of their son Ralph.  Ruth remembers Celia’s sister Thekla, whom she knew as Aunt Kitty, a glamorous woman with an exciting life who had lived in New York City and was married to a wealthy businessman.  Kitty’s life, which I am still researching, was untraditional, but I will omit all the details for now, and pause with a photo of her that I found on another genealogy site where Paszkiewicz descendants have been sharing information. It’s a professional portrait of young Kitty wearing a turban and strapless dress, posed in side silhouette holding an urn, like a modern Greek Goddess.Written on back of photo: Tekla Paszkievicz. Born 1900, passed on 1974

I love this picture, and I love what I know of the story of Thekla Matilda Kitty Paszkiewicz Reardon Weston.

At this point I will turn back to my own recent work to say that I have been using photos of an angel statue in Vilnius in several pages of my art journal for a “webinar” I am taking called Wanderlust 2017.  Vilnius has become known for its multiple angel statues sprinkled around town, and this angel is fairly well-known.  He shows up in multiple places in the city.  Here is one of my pages spreads using the angel.

Hineini crop square

This angel is both cute and ugly, and I find him quite endearing, but I also feel like I need to have my OWN angel and not use a photo of another artist’s angel all the time.  So I think that Kitty is going to be the genesis of my “art design angel” as my sister described it. Since I did not know her, and only know a partial version of her life, I cannot say Thekla Weston is “my angel” but visually she is definitely the beginning of that symbol for me.  Using her portrait, I created my own initial image of Kitty, my art design angel…


I was feeling stuck, bought some watercolors, and found Katya…

I have been feeling kind of flat and uninspired the last few days, which is not surprising since it has been only a week since my father died.  I have spent some time in my studio, but not been able to “lose myself” in creation, which is when I make things I am pleased with.  Instead I have felt more like I’m pushing a car, trying to jump start it, but it’s not starting.

Two days ago my friend S and I took a walk to the local art supply store.  I am really lucky to have a GOOD art supply store only about 10 minutes walk away, and yet I still find it takes days of thinking about going before I finally GO, so I was glad to have S say she would go with me.  I bought some green-gold Liquitex heavy body paint, because an artist on a video tutorial I watched once raved about that color.  I don’t remember what tutorial or artist, but have been meaning to try that color paint.  I also needed some more india ink.  My “indulgence” was a set of 12 half-pan watercolors from Sennelier, which I am calling a birthday gift from my DH.  I also got a pen you can fill with water, and a small watercolor pad, and a new small art journal.

When I got home I tried out the watercolors.  I had read some reviews online that were complimentary about the transparency and brightness of Sennelier colors, and I was pleased with my test page.

IMG_0444The biggest surprise for me was how strong the purple is–I was trying to fade to very pale as I went down the page and still had quite a bit of purple color at the bottom.  So I will have to be careful mixing it because it will dominate anything I mix it with.  I was very happy with how clear and transparent the colors are though.

Yesterday I got an inexpensive fountain pen and some black ink cartridges from Faber Castell that say they are permanent, because I want to be able to sketch and use watercolor over the sketched lines.  I love my dip pen when I’m in the studio, but I wanted something I could take with me when traveling and use when out in the city.  I am hoping to try some “urban sketching” and other ink and watercolor wash sketches.

I also have been attracted to trying some faces.  Last year I did multiple studies of faces using my dip pen and india ink when I first got it, but I have not used faces on any of my art journal pages.  Since I have been feeling stuck at times trying to think of what I want to make be the point of interest on a page, getting more comfortable with creating faces seems like a good addition to my range of choices.  I started reading a book on creating characters/ faces on my Kindle, and decided to try my hand at making some in pencil.  Then I tried using my fountain pen on a few of those, and finally started adding some watercolor to those.

I’m not entirely sure my “permanent” ink is waterproof, but it’s not as watersoluble as other fountain pen ink I’ve used.  I will have to see if letting sketches sit a while before makes them more resistant to watercolor wash.  The most complete sketch I did was on small watercolor paper, maybe A-5 European size.  I used one of the smaller face studies for a model, and painted a cat-woman person.  I’m not sure what to call her, because Catwoman is already a well-known character.  Maybe I will name her Katya, which is a nickname for the Russian form of Catherine “Ekaterina.”  I think I will work on her some more and maybe use her character in some art journal pages.  I’d like to get more “furriness” in her coat, and perhaps narrow her eyes a bit, and adjust her mouth.  But overall I am still pleased with the paints.  I do think the black ink was spreading a little, but it wasn’t washing away, and I don’t mind the lines widening a bit with the watercolor wash.  But for her initial portrait, I’m satisfied.IMG_0445

Red Door journal page and the Wanderlust Week 12 challenge.

This week I have been less productive than I’d like, partly because I have been wrestling with logistical issues about upcoming travel.  My father has been having health struggles, so I have been debating going back to the US, but because of my own health issues with multiple sclerosis I was reluctant to travel again when I feel run down from traveling recently so much already.  I had some issues with prescription refills taking a while to get to me, and have been feeling MS fatigue and muscle pain due to stress and cold weather.  I had finally settled on going to the US again next week after a Passover seder DH and I are hosting, but sadly my father passed away two days ago.  I am grateful to my sisters who live near him, who had found a comfortable nursing facility for him to go to after his last hospitalization, and glad that his passing was peaceful, but of course will be grieving his loss indefinitely.  I am still grieving for my mother, gone almost 18 years now.  The siblings have settled on having a memorial gathering for Dad at the end of May, when DH and I were already planning on traveling to the US for younger daughter’s graduation.  Hopefully I will be feeling better myself with spring weather and sunshine by the time of that journey, and I will spend the summer in Michigan with my younger daughter before she heads off to art school.

One of the treats I bought myself at an art supply store in London last month was a cartridge ink pen with a brush.  I have been doodling and experimenting with it so much I used up one entire ink cartridge already!  I am hoping it will be secure enough (as regards leaking) to travel with.  I have not used it for more than doodling yet, but once I feel more sure of the marks I can make with it, I will.

I have been continuing to work on journal pages–trying to make many of my page starts into more finished pieces.  I used matte medium to add some torn paper and deli paper that was gelatin printed on top of the gelatin print base (I believe the teal connected circles is part of the base layer).  I also used a few hexagons from another gelatin print to add some contrast in line and color.  I am calling this one “Red Door” because the red shape reminded me of a door, and I’ve used white acrylic and india ink to create highlights and shadows.  I may still need to add some, because when looking at it on the screen version it does not have as much “door on the side of a hill” feeling as I want it to have.  I am not sure who lives behind that little red door, but some whimsical creature, I am sure.

Red DoorAnother page I did is for a “challenge” task on the Wanderlust 2017 e-workshop on art journaling that a UK couple is running in the Everything Art community they founded (  There are weekly video classes three weeks a month, and one week has prompts/ ideas/ challenges.  This challenge is to use four different mediums/ substances, keeping track of the order, then use the same four in the same order again, finishing after eight layers.  On this page I used white gesso through a stencil, then sprinkled the gesso with Pearl-Ex powder while still wet.  Pearl-Ex is almost like micr-glitter, much finer than glitter but with sheen and sparkle.  After drying it with a heat gun, I used dots of Splash acrylic inks in cyan, magenta and yellow, misting with a water bottle and letting it run by tipping the page in different directions.  I finished by using black India ink with a brush to add some line and contrast.  After my first four layers, my page looked like this.

13 week challenge, after first round

At this point, I decided I would use the stencil again with the gesso, but save the bright area in the upper left toward the center, which I particularly liked.  After using the Pearl-Ex powder, acrylic inks, and india ink again I ended up with this.


I don’t think it’s “finished” but I’m not sure what to do with it from here, and I suspect it will need to wait until I have a better concept of where I want to go with it next.

These are the media I used.  The Pearl Ex powder type is called Macropearl, and the Pebeo India Ink is almost out of the photo on the right.