March 02, 2018

In New Orleans for Mardi Gras!

It surprises me that I'm the type of person who likes to travel with a lot of people, but here I was on my ninth or tenth trip with a bunch of people. We went to New Orleans for the first weekend of Mardi Gras. Five of us in one house, two in another, and two more in a hotel.

I've really trained these people to just deal with me sketching during a lunch stop or at a bar.

The house we stayed in was so nice. It gave each of us enough privacy, but I could also hear when it was time to get up by the sound of someone else making coffee.

I rediscovered my love of the Lamy Safari right before this trip. I filled it with Noodler's 54th Massachusetts, a lovely waterproof blue-black.

No trip to New Oreans with this group is complete without a visit to Felix's. It's right across the street from Acme Oyster House, and dare I say better, even though I've never been to Acme because the line is always too long? Short if no lines at Felix's.

We went to the Chewbacchus Parade - love this one! We went a couple of years ago, and it's a big hit with this crowd. Several of us got our faces all glittered up, donned tiaras, and grabbed lots of goodies from the paraders. I just sketched, while my buddy Jimmy held an umbrella over me when it started raining.

On Sunday we just watched parades all day (and napped). We stayed off of Napolean and were close enough to walk to St. Charles, an ideal location for parade watching. As I painted this I took breaks to catch beads. I even caught a cup!

Such a great time! (Click images for more detail.)

March 01, 2018

My Devil's Tower

Finally! I have wanted to make this for a year! I post a lot (A. Lot.) of pictures of this building on my Instagram account, and by extension on Facebook and Twitter. And sometimes people ask why. And sometimes it drives people crazy because I can't give a full answer. Well, here is your full answer to the question Why do you love the Clark Tower so much?

My Devil's Tower 2, ink and watercolor on paper (click image for more detail)

February 27, 2018

Sketch Walk Practice and Map Making

Last Saturday I went downtown to do a test run (walk) of a sketch walk that Memphis Urban Sketchers is having this Saturday, March 3, to commemorate MLK50 and the 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike. For more information see the Memphis Urban Sketchers blog.

It was hot and rainy - weird for February 24, but our weather is nothing but weird lately. But I pulled on my rain jacket and hood and kept at it, even though my sketches and notes got quite smudged.

I made a map and a schedule for the day, showing the difference between our route and the original strikers' route. There's now a basketball arena where part of the route was.

Saturday I'll get more time to actually sketch, and I'm really looking forward to it!

February 15, 2018

Mixed Water Media Class at Flicker Street Studio

I am teaching a class at Flicker Street Studio in March and April called Mixed Water Media. This is a three-week class about working with a variety of water-based media and techniques to create a finished painting. It is inspired by what I learned from the late Bonnie Beaver.

I took mixed-media painting from Bonnie Beaver several times when working toward my art degree at the University of Memphis. She was always so full of energy and ideas. What sticks with me the most is the way she would coax art out of a mess of sprays and stencils and shapes.

These two paintings were from a series I made in Ms. Beaver's class some time in the mid 90s. I would put down a base of colors and shapes and then step back and see what the painting wanted next. It was fun to explore the materials and see what I could make happen.

In this class we will use water-based media such as watercolor, liquid watercolor and inks, Neocolor (water-soluble artist crayons), water-soluble graphite, Inktense sticks, maybe a little gouache, maybe a little gesso, and anything else that wants to be mixed with water. We will use stenciling, spraying, salt, and other ways to make texture. We’ll work on big paper (22” x 30”) moving from experiments to a finished piece.

I hope you’ll join me!

Click here to sign up at Flicker Street Studio.
Mixed Water Media with Elizabeth Alley
Thursday Evenings
6:00 - 9:00 pm
March 22nd - April 5th | 3 Sessions
$150 + $25 Materials fee | Beginner and up | Ages 15 +

February 01, 2018

Assignment for Myself: One Week 100 People

Since Sunday of this week I've been trying to sketch 100 people to warm up for sketching at Mardi Gras this weekend. I love this assignment because it gets me looking for people to sketch, and if there aren't any I end up sketching a car or a tree - the point is I end up sketching something.

I only made it up to 59 today... I wonder how many I can sketch in New Orleans over the next few days!

(Stillman & Birn Alpha series sketchbook)
(click images for more detail)

January 25, 2018

Two Stories of Iceland

For the last year I've been working on this project, Two Stories of Iceland, a narrative exploration of Icelandic stories and landscape in small paintings and drawings.

It consists of a series of 16 ink drawings that tell the true story about a young woman who disappeared from Reykjavik last January, called Story of a Girl. I drew the version of the story - the search, investigation, and the impact this event had on the community - that lived in my head as I followed the developments in the Iceland Review.

Another series is of a trip I took to Iceland in 2015 with my best friend, who is Icelandic, and our families. As I tell the story of the trip in small paintings and drawings, I relive the trip obsessively.

I did most of this obsessively, as that is my modus operandi, plus I can't figure out how to do things any other way.

I hope you'll come see the show at Crosstown Arts (in Crosstown Concourse). It'll be up through March 11.

I also hope you'll come back here to see if I post more sketches - I hope I do! I plan to do another #oneweek100people next week, but just on my own and will try to post my sketches :)

October 03, 2017

Caught Sketching!

After I attended the Society for Technical Communication annual Summit in Washington DC in May, the good people at the STC asked me to write an article for their magazine, Intercom. I was honored but nervous. They asked me to write specifically about the sketch notes I was making at the Summit, so writing about sketching made it a bit easier. I have great editors available to me, so that eased my mind as well. I guess I felt so at ease that after I turned it in I sort of lost track of it until I came across it last week!

Here's the article - if you click on it you can see it bigger and read it.

September 10, 2017

Me and My Sketchbook View the Eclipse *

On Eclipse Day I was headed to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens to participate in the viewing from their lawn, but then I saw the Clark Tower and knew that's where I should be. It was like a party - there were food trucks and people milling around outside with their eclipse glasses and yelling "Wooooo!" whenever the clouds moved out of the way of viewing.

(* With apologies to Lee Smith - I could not help myself.)

September 09, 2017

Symposium Day 7 - Bonus Sketching!

After a morning meeting of the Urban Sketchers Advisory Board, I had hours and hours to sketch before my flight! What a treat!

I sketched the Art Institute as though it was a completely flat box.

I got to use some gouache! This is my favorite sketch from the trip.

I love the differences in my sketch and Orling's - I described them as quiet (mine), and expressive (hers), much like our different personalities.

Then it was time to go and all of a sudden it was just me after spending six days with 500 people!

I sketched on the airplane until my last Pigma Graphic ran out of ink!