Category Archives: Gardening

FALL-ing into a new studio space . . .

leafpageIt’s that time of year when I don’t want to get rid of the Wild Rose bush that I never planted in the first place, and that fights me all Summer – with thorns being the least of her weapons.

But I came from Michigan a LONG time ago, and Fall leaves had lots of reds (Santa Fe leaves do not), so when this Wild Rose produces such amazing color every Fall, she stays on my “keeper” list. Continue reading

Blanket Flowers and Flip-Flops

gallardiaphoto© Jessica Wesolek 2014

It certainly is time for some catching up, isn’t it?

I thought I would do that, and share a little garden beauty with you.

I love and hate this time of year. Love because the garden is at its peak of glory after a season of pampering, and hate because that season is coming to an end in another month or so. Continue reading

I Want to Make You Jealous . . .

paintflowersBecause I want you to feel this happy.

This was in my lap as I sat on my swing last evening. I am doing new illustrations for my Cre8it Home page (again!)

If I looked down to my right . . .

skysleepMy girl Sky, who is feeling great again after hurting her back last week. She had a bad landing from one of her amazing leaps into the sky (from which she got her name).

Huskies are not normally jumpers. But, since she was a puppy, this one leaps about three feet straight up when she is excited. I would make a video, but I discourage her from doing it. Someday, she might land wrong and pull something.

Well, she did that last Monday, and we babied her all week until she felt normal again. I’m still not taking my eyes off her. which is easy since she is velcro-ed to me, it seems.

And if I looked left . . .

sidetableTwo of the beautiful Begonias from AJ’s Nursery in Durango – and my favorite Chardonnay (Woodbridge by Mondavi). Not expensive, just light and delicious.

And if I looked straight ahead . . .

garden6-9I am so filled with gratitude because who could ask for more?

This little piece of paradise does so many things – it soothes my soul, makes me feel the spirit in Nature, overwhelms me with beauty, and totally inspires my art.

I work myself to pieces reestablishing this space every year, but it occurs to me, when I see and ponder the elements, that anyone could make themselves a little space like this – a tiny piece of heaven.

Here’s a little story.

A few years back, my brother lived in a high rise in Houston called Bayou Bend. It was a pretty ritzy place with doormen and all that (they always got a kick out of me and my flip flops), and very beautiful.

But, each condo had only a postage stamp size balcony. My brother never went out there, but there was a small chair and table set and a dead plant.

As beautiful as the building and the condo were, it lacked something essential to anyone with a soul because there was zero connection to Nature.

I couldn’t stand it and I sat out there with my coffee each morning. Eventually, he joined me. The view was beautiful – overlooking Memorial Park and the green of the bayou.

“We need to do something with this,” we both agreed.

It only took a day, some beautiful plants in two containers, cushions to make the chairs comfy, and a small fountain.

Combined with the beautiful view, we had turned a concrete ledge into a little piece of heaven where he could meditate and soothe the stresses of his high powered executive days.

This soon convinced him to sell the condo, by the way, and move to a beautiful home on the bayou with a BIG yard.

The point of this story is that no matter what your circumstances, there is probably some small spot that you can turn into your sacred nature space.

It does not cost much and you do not have to be a gardener.

Here’s all you need:

A comfy outdoor chair, and a little side table for your wine, tea, or art supplies.

As many containers as you can fit, filled with annuals from the nursery, or from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Your pots do not have to be expensive or large. Plain terra cotta pots are beautiful with greenery and flowers.

Gardening skills needed:

Pour in some potting soil, dampen with water, and set the plants in it.

Pour water from a pitcher or pretty watering can into your containers as often as necessary. This is part of the lovely ritual of being in your Nature sanctuary.

Cut off dead flowers, so your plants will keep on flowering. Use some cute little scissors that you keep right there with your pretty watering can.

Your water feature:

I know of an instant fountain that sounds great and looks great.

All you need is a bowl big enough to hold 1-1/2 inches of water and the pump below. A birdbath works perfectly, but any container will do.

You don;t need to go hunt up the right pump and rocks, because they come all in one, and look like this . . .


This is how it looks out of the box.

Here’s a shot of one of mine with a little patina from use. I have this one in one of those plastic pot saucers.

rockwaterfallThe sound is wonderful and attracts birds.

You do need an electric outlet, but it uses only about 4 watts of electricity. There is a solar version available, but it is three times as expensive. Figure out some extension cord trick instead. I even put one out a window once.

Amazon has this fountain for $38 and change with Prime free shipping.

However, when searching for the best price online, I discovered a Lowes company I had never heard of – which carries *everything* at great prices and with free shipping. Their cost is only $32 and change.

Layered Rock Waterfall at ATG

You could also add a Hummingbird feeder and/or use Hummingbird-friendly flowers. (Remember, never use commercial red dye Hummingbird food – make your own instead – 1 part sugar to 4 parts very warm water. Stir to dissolve and allow to cool.)

So, for very little money and time, you could have a magical outdoor space that calms you, inspires you (draw some of your flowers – and their leaves and buds etc.) and connects you to the nurturing power of Nature.

Try it. It’s the kind of thing that grows on you (so to speak) and you may find yourself expanding your sanctuary as the Summer goes on.

Sorry I can’t figure out how to share my view of the Rockies or my dog. I would if I could.

Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere!

ajsnursery1You know I am a gardening nut.

So I have seen nurseries, and I have seen flowers, but I have never seen a nursery or flowers like this.

It’s a new nursery in Durango called AJ’s and it alone would have been worth the trip.

Val and I found it on Thursday and Betsy and I stopped again as we headed out of town yesterday.

Both times I went to AJ’s, I was in less than a stellar mood because on both Thursday and Saturday mornings, the Inn’s wi-fi signal disappeared and I was unable to do many things that needed doing - including your blog posts.

Both times, when I went to AJ’s, I got happy.

How can you not?!?

All the customers in that place had a smile ear to ear – after they got over the initial jaw-dropping awe.

We told the folks who work there that they should have a recorder at the front door to catch the remarks as people come in.

Evidently, this new place is owned by people who know what they are doing. They owned a local nursery, which they sold 10 years ago, and there was a non-compete clause in the sale contract. The non-compete is now over and they are back with bells on – and absolutely fantastic low prices.

Huge baskets of cascading Illusion Begonia cost $22.95! BIG hanging baskets – $27.95 That was the tipping point for me!

And look at these Fuschia baskets! Yep – $27.95

ajsnursery3 You just have to take pictures. I took pictures of Betsy taking pictures – both with our iPads, of course . . .

ajsnursery2And then came the big challenge. Were all the flowers we bought going to fit in the van for the trip home?

ajsnursery4We opened all the doors and the tailgate.

We “stowed” all the seats in the floor.

We pushed and shoved and stacked and re-stacked . . .

And then slammed the doors and jumped in.

I am happy to report that Betsy and I and all those flowers made it back to Santa Fe unscathed.

Now to introduce them all to the garden!

Painting Orchids . . .

orchid2You may remember my excitement about buying and trying my first Orchids from Trader Joes back in December of 2012 (See this post).

I took good care of them – all five that I ended up buying. I repotted them in Orchid mix fed them, and kept them in the garden room all year.

This Spring, I have been rewarded by three of the five re-blooming.

All this time, I thought they were three different types of orchids even though they all had the same leaf (I can be pretty dense sometimes). The flowers were different colors, so they were different, right?


That is the really great thing about drawing – you really SEE something. So, I finally realized that the structure of the flowers was identical, and these are actually the same type orchid - phalaenopsis orchids – the easiest kind to care for.

Above is the page I painted in my Stillman & Birn Beta journal.

The Orchids posed for me and were stellar models . . . compare this one to the top orchid on the page . . .

orchidmodel0The painting is a little less white than it should be, but that is because I hadn’t figured something out yet. This one is on the right of the middle group . . .

orchidmodel1And it turned out much more true to the actual color, and so did its pal on the left . . .



Because I discovered how the use of white watercolor could help.

This was not a DUH! moment. It was an AHA! moment. Here’s why:

You just don’t use white paint in watercolor. You use the paper color to keep whites. You add small bits of shadow colors to model the white flower or whatever.

But, when you work in a small journal format, it is very difficult to blend your subtle shading with water and keep it from tinting the white paper. It just flows too easily.

HOWEVER . . . if you paint the flower petal first with an opaque white – like Titanium white, the added color around the edges etc. does not flow easily, but rather, blends softly into the still wet white. It’s a wet into wet technique just like the other method, but the Titanium white is thicker and creamier, so it slows everything down and makes blending so easy.

This was a lovely discovery and will really help with my flower painting from now on.

Finally, my third model was a greenish color – which was challenging to match. . .

orchidmodel3I used my newly discovered technique on it as well. The painted version is the bottom one on the page above.

I seem to be attracted to botanical realism lately. I know I won’t give up my goofy art or my surrealism, but there is a lot of pleasure in trying to duplicate shapes and colors as they are.

It’s a beautiful Spring Sunday, and I have promised myself that my garden clean-up will be greatly advanced by the end of it. So, off I go . . .

Have a great Sunday.


Begin Again. . .

beginagainThere is so much to say.

As you know, the change to Daylight Savings Time lights up my life in so many ways.

And the first warmth of Spring causes my Corona clippers (a really good brand) to leap into my hands, which are now protected by Rose gardening gloves, and pushes me (quite literally) into the yard.

Those of you who take my workshops know that I consistently show up in the videos with cuts and bruises EVERY Spring. Well, this Spring, I am going to try to skip the bloody part.

Rose gloves are great and if you don’t know about them, listen up.

They reach all the way to your elbows. This means total protection from cuts and scratches unless you are prone to wearing sleeveless shirts or your Russian Sage is a lot taller than mine.

Anyway, here is a link where you can see these gloves, and even get you some.

Rose Gardening Gloves

Sketchbook Skool

Huh? How did I make THAT segue?

(I love that word because who would think it would be pronounced “seg-way”? It’s like, if somebody doesn’t clue you in, you are certainly going to make a fool of yourself by saying it. But more than that, I love that it means to jump to another subject without interruption, because I do that all the time. You are supposed to do it with some finesse, however. I haven’t caught on to that part yet.)

Anyway, I am taking the Sketchbook Skool workshop.

If you haven’t heard of it, you need to come up for s breath.

Danny Gregory (Everyday Matters), has hooked up with Koosje Koene (a sketchbook artist from the Netherlands) and some other hyper-famous sketchbookers to offer an online workshop on sketchbooking.

At our recent art journaling retreat in Tubac, I was asked whether I had heard of Sketchbook Skool.

I had, but I took a closer look. To be honest, since I have kept sketchbooks throughout my career (since I was 12 actually), I did not think I would find much of interest.

But then, I thought three thoughts . . .

Thought 1: I LOVE to look at other peoples’ sketchbook or art journal pages. Where would I ever find more of those?

Thought 2: I LOVE to get a peak at other artists’ processes. How do they do what they do, why do they do it, and what are they thinking when they are doing it?

There is hardly a more fascinating topic on earth to me, unless it would be how they make Aquafresh toothpaste come out of the tube with perfect, colored stripes. Don’t get me started on that one.

Thought 3: I would LOVE to see some new ways of running an online workshop and they were using a venue I had never heard of. I wanted to see how it worked.

So, I paid my $99 and signed up with about 1200 other people. (Hyper fame is a good thing financially, I guess.)

One week later, I have had the pleasure of seeing bijillions of art journal pages posted to Facebook, gained some wonderful insight into what makes people shy about sketching. learned about Bower Birds (worth the $99 right there), enjoyed Danny Gregory’s sense of humor, registered a visual protest about the idea of not using a pencil and eraser, actually done my homework, and even an extra credit page.

The page at the beginning of this post is one that I would have done anyway, but the assignment was to sketch about our week – once each day – and post one of the sketches.

The day I “begin again” with the garden each year is a sacred day for me – and well worth a journal page.

And the other page I will share is my extra credit page – paint your breakfast – which turned out to be a less than relaxing experience for me.

We were not supposed to use pencil – and we ALL know how I feel about that. I just didn’t know how strongly my 3H pencils felt about that.

They rebelled. They stabbed my eggs. punctured my toast, poisoned my coffee, and kidnapped my fork . . .


I had to give in!

The Last Tomatoes . . .

One of the blogs I read regularly is the Susan Branch blog – not because I aspire to be as sweet as she is, or to become a domestic goddess, but because I love her watercolor illustration.

And, there is something about living in someone else’s shoes for just a few minutes, that is refreshing. I don’t wear shoes, of course, but you know what I mean.

This lady publishes books and calendars, designs products, and works her butt off – so I identify with that last part.

And she appreciates the small things in life – like cats and squirrels. I identify with that too.

The weather has been terrible on Martha’s Vineyard, and Susan said this:

“This is when the little things in life are really all there are . . .”


We got our first snow in months this week, and really have to celebrate it, even though it came with bitter cold, and wind. With Susan’s thought echoing in my head, I spent some time in my garden room appreciating the small things – like I still had three tomatoes on the vine and it was February 5! Yes, we ate them and they tasted like Summer.

We didn’t eat these, but I was thrilled to have bright red Impatiens to gaze at in February . . .

redimpatiensfebAnd this little bird is still nestled in purple Bacopa blossoms . . .

claybirdAll while it looks like this outside . . .

winteragainSo, I appreciated the heck out of all of this, and then left for Tucson where it is much warmer.

Also, where I am exploring the Gem & Mineral Show.

Then, to Tubac for their Festival of arts, and to strategize my Art Journaling Retreat which will happen there at the end of March.

Sorry I never made that one public, but it sold out to former students before I had a chance, and became a “graduates” retreat. It will be a great creative “reunion”.

And, speaking of workshops, by popular request, I am leaving the reduced price on the Sketch Journal Workshops until Sketch Journal 2 begins on February 15.

These workshops are the BEST and easiest way to learn to draw and use watercolor in your art journal, and that’s the truth.

To clarify because I have had so many former students ask, these Sketch Journal Workshops are brand new. You may have heard some of the principles before, but this is ALL NEW content. Even if you have taken ALL my other workshops (and many people have!), you have not had any of this.

Sketch Journal Workshops 1 & 2

I’ll let you know the best things that happen here in Arizona!


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