Monthly Archives: July 2013

Welcome to the Ghost Garden


2013 has been my most challenging year in the garden – ever.

We started the year with a prolonged drought, and then, a month ago, the monsoon season started with a vengeance. We have not had such a heavy monsoon season in several years and everyone is glad for the rain. But, as I mentioned a few posts ago, every rain this year has ice cubes.

Most of the hail storms barely miss us, passing to one side or the other, but one that hit early in the season did a lot of damage and made me start thinking about how I could protect my precious plants.

Someone suggested shade cloth and I bought many yards and made covers for some of the plant stands . . . and it was protective, but I couldn’t see the plants at all, and the garden looked like a ghost party. What’s the point of having a garden that you can’t see? Or ghosts that you can see, for that matter.

Since these storms have been coming through daily, I needed a solution that would not be quite so extreme.

I don’t know why, but I thought of nylon net. I didn’t want the garden to look like a wedding party either, but they make nylon net in a dark forest green and a taupe-y dark brown.

I bought 36 yards and a couple of packs of wooden clothes pins. This worked great.

I could see the plants, they could get light and air and water, and hopefully not get hurt by hail.

The garden certainly does not look normal like this, but there is a surreal beauty that I never expected.

ghostgarden1 ghostgarden gardenghost6 ghostgarden4

This last photo shows you what the shade cloth looked like too. And it shows all the Hibiscus wrapped with the pillars of our portal.


The nylon net folds out to a 72″ width and cuts very easily with scissors so it was easy to make a cover to fit all the different beds and planting arrangements. I attach the net with clothes pins to trellises, the edges of pots, tree and shrub branches, and everything else that is handy. I put plant stakes or something in the containers to hold the top of the net off the plants.

I take the net off for as long as I can for the Bees and Hummingbirds etc. and put it back on whenever the radar tells me I must. It is a ridiculous amount of work.

I have been doing this since late June.

A week ago last Friday, there were no storms in the forecast. I took the netting off.

Mark called me over to watch the gallery while he came home to meet a plumber we had fixing a leak in the water line to the new refrigerator.

While I was at the gallery, it started to rain – big drops – which means trouble.

I called home to tell Mark to get the dogs in and cover the plants as fast as he could.

It just so happens he was on a run to get parts for the plumber.

We got flooding rain and very bad hail. Wet dogs, flooded yard, lots of damage to plants.

Almost a month I had religiously protected every vulnerable planting – and there they all were left undefended when the hail hit the fan. They were very mad at me.

There is great irony in this tale, and probably some lesson about control issues, but I did a lot of wailing and weeping and could not tell what the lesson might be. I also didn’t feel like controlling all the wailing and weeping.

Then I dried the tears and started the clean-up and first aid. And promised every injured plant that I would not let this happen again!

The silver lining in this event is that I had left the netting on two trellises and those plants did not get a bruise. And that was BIG BAD hail.

So my system works!!

If you live in an area that is threatened by hail this Summer, you might want to try this on your most precious plantings.

The garden has valiantly recovered in the last week and a half. Nature is an amazing thing. As new leaves grow, I remove the torn ones.

For two days now, there have been no storms on the radar, and the Bees and Birds have been having a great time. However, I am going out right now to put the protection back on because we have more T-Storms in the forecast.

This is anything but relaxing, but there is a weird beauty to a garden draped in veils.

Watercolor Marker News


I have been doing some searching.

The Triplus Marker Set I have with the 1.0 tips can be found at this website for a VERY good price.

and here

And here

AND . . . I saw three packs at my local Staples store – in the children’s art section where the Crayola stuff is.

So, everyone who wants one of these sets can still get one.

I was also searching my art supply drawers and found an old set of Pentel markers.

I tested them and they work great for the marker painting too.


Morning Walk with Teddy . . .


You may remember that my mornings start with this face . . .


And we go for a walk.

All of my three Huskies love the garden, but this one likes to smell flowers.

So, I thought it would be a good idea to sketch the wildflowers we see on our walk – and let Teddy do the choosing.

I took my good camera for photos so I could get close-ups, but the breeze and morning sun are not conducive to good, sharp photos, so I also picked a sample of each and put them in a vase when we got back.


And I added a Yucca pod because Teddy chose one of those too.


We are in the high desert, remember, and deal with drought and monsoon conditions, so our wildflowers never know what to expect. If they manage to come up at all, they are pretty small and usually pretty beat-up.

So, I thought it would nice to give them some attention for once. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, I had the power to glorify them by giving them some size.


These sketches are done with the marker technique I talked about last time.


Notice how the top one is pasted over?

Lots of folks would say that you should just live with your mistakes in your journal.

I’m not one of them. That’s why I love erasers so much!.

I had first sketched the purple flower from a photo instead of looking more carefully at the blossom itself, and although the painting turned out very nice looking, it didn’t look at all like the real thing.

So. I redid it. Let the art journal police come after me if they want. I’M the one who has to look at this page all the time.

I made some interesting discoveries since last time.

My favorite marker set is no longer out there in the 1.0 nib size, but only as a fine liner. I have had these a long time and had no idea.

I tried some Tombow markers, but they did not work as well – wanted to bead up on the Sheer Heaven.

Try any water-soluble marker you have around.

Does Marvy still make markers? I found some of those – but dried out after 20+ years.

Did I ever mention how much I LOVE drawing in boxes? Or grids? Or frames of any kind?

My former Love This Journal students know that, dontcha?

I especially LOVE having things escape the frame – or go from one frame into another.

I have no idea if these wildflowers have names or what they might be. But, I am going to do some research because these sketches would make a nice Notecard set for the gallery.

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REALLY Easy Art Journal Color . . .

coneflower1 Been trying to loosen and lighten up in my art journal/sketchbook because I have run into a problem.

Since switching to the Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook with the wonderful cold press watercolor paper, and getting my magnetic watercolor kits set up, I find that I am not journaling – I am PAINTING.

This is not a bad thing, but it is very time consuming, and gets in the way of the idea of recording my little life moments.

I found my water soluble markers. They can be used as a “palette” for watercolor sketching.

I had never considered that possibility for several reasons. I used them for rough sketches in the graphic design business, but never liked their lack of blendability when applied to a page.

In my fine art, I never even thought of them because they are not lightfast. I only had them around for that huffing thing rubber stampers do, and I’ve got more important things to get huffy about. (My server was down all day yesterday. That was a huff. Hail hit my garden Friday – during the only two hours I had the protective netting off the plants in the last THREE weeks. That was a huff and a half!)

I have to have control of my looseness, of course (yes, I know that is very peculiar) but I could do something with this idea.

And I work in books now, so lightfast is not an issue, because the pages get very little light.

I got out a small piece of Sheer Heaven to use as a palette – as I do with watercolor pencils.

But, so much of the marker color sunk into the Sheer Heaven that not enough color could be picked back up with the water brush. The colored pencils sit on top of the tooth, which is why they work so much better this way.

So, I turned the Sheer Heaven over, scribbled with the marker on the slick “wrong” side, and picked the color up with the water brush.

It worked GREAT and the best part is that this is a way to re-use your Sheer Heaven pieces left over from transfers, because you are using the backside. AND, when you are done painting, you wash the Sheer Heaven off under a running faucet, dry it with a paper towel, and it is fresh and clean for the next round. I LOVED this. Now, could I make a decent illustration this way? coneflowerpage I first sketched a fantasy Cone Flower from memory – and did not remember the petals are pointed. Oh well.

Then I got out the beautiful pink Cone Flower I bought at Lowes the day before and sketched it – a blossom and a leaf and bud. Love the name of this hybrid – “Butterfly Kisses”.pink-coneflower2 Isn’t this beautiful? Lowes had red ones too. I might have to get one.

The markers don’t have to be expensive. I have a set of 50 made by Crayola, that cost me $6.99 after coupon at Hobby Lobby. Sargent is another cheapo brand.

Expensive is not necessarily better in this case. LePlume, and Tombow, have much more pigment, but they don’t flow so well with this technique.

I have a set of 100 Fibracolor markers I like best that cost only $22. watermarkers I used a combo on my Cone Flower page.

Triplus markers by Staedtler are great and I wish they came in more than 20 colors – but you can mix extra colors right on the Sheer Heaven.  They also don’t seem to be available anymore.

All you need for this journaling experience is a pencil (and eraser), Pitt Pen, Water Brush, a piece of used Sheer Heaven, and a few markers. Plus your journal, of course.

If you don’t have these markers around, your kids or grandkids do. And I know you’ve got some used Sheer Heaven to recycle. Give this a try. I think you’ll like it.


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Magnetic Watercolor Box


I have been a watercolorist for 40+ years.

For many of those years, I used nothing but tube watercolors, painted only in my studio, and only on 300 lb Arches watercolor paper.

Seven years ago, I began painting in art journals and everything changed. Moleskine sketchbook pages were smaller – and did not handle moisture that well. Portability became a big thing  - whether I was painting in the garden or sitting on a knee wall on Canyon Road, or on a rock in some National Park.

So, I switched to half pans.

As is my wont and weakness, I collected and tested every pan watercolor known to woman, and began the quest for the perfect portable paintbox.

If you have followed this blog for a long time, you have been privy to some of that.

Like HERE:

and HERE:

Never satisfied!

So one day, while reading the Artist Journal Workshop blog (where I am a contributor), I came across a post about a wonderful little magnetic paintbox in a business card case, created by expeditionary artist, Maria Coryell-Martin . . .

magnetic palette

These are wonderful, they cost $28 and you can buy them from Maria here:

Maria Coryell-Martin

The bottom of the case is magnetic and the pans can be rtearranged. The inside of the cover serves as a palette of sorts, and you fill the pans yourself from tubes.

I bought two and I love them for carrying along some very esoteric colors that are not part of my everyday palette.

But they are tiny (business card size), and I also have many already filled half pans that are way too expensive to abandon. There just had to be a way to apply this idea to my bigger palette.

I bought a package of those business card size adhesive magnetic sheets at an office supply store, and I cut a piece to fit the bottom of all my half pans. You can see how that looks here . . .


Winsor & Newton and some other pre-filled half pans come with the color name printed on the sides or bottom of the pan. My favorite brand, Schmincke, does not, so I wrote the color on the outside of each pan with permanent marker. Of course, any pans you fill yourself will have to be labeled as well.

Empty half pans are sold at a reasonable price at Daniel Smith.

Half pans in a metal paintbox are usually held in place with metal tabs which are a pain, in my opinion. But that insert lifted right out of the Schmincke box I was using, so I just put the half pans, now magnetic, back in the plain metal bottom of the box.

And, I did a journal page about it . . .


I was able to add more pans than the box had been holding with its tabs, and this worked fine for awhile.

Two things were bothering me, however. The colors were so crowded in the box that I kept slopping some of one onto the next, and I could rearrange the colors, but it was hard to get hold of the edge of the pans – especially when the paint was wet.

Well, three things, actually. I also wanted more room because I wanted to add more colors! There it is again – that color oinky syndrome. We all gotta have a syndrome of some kind, right?

I wanted a metal box that was not aluminum (magnets won’t stick), AND that was very thin so it would slip in my journaling bag (show you later) with my journal and iPad.

Just thick enough for the height of the half pans, but no thicker.

Off to the art supply store I went to look at colored pencil sets that come in tins.

You can get them for about $6 and the 12 pencil set is just the right size.

However, I found that if the bottom of the box had any indents, which many of them do, you can’t move the pans around as easily, nor fit as many.

This Prismacolor box was perfect . . .


It was not inexpensive (about $25), but I used a coupon, and I will put the pencils in a pencil case and sell them in my gallery as a set. So, not as wasteful as it might at first seem. If you don’t have a store and don’t need the colored pencils, they would make a great gift for an artist friend in a decorated pencil cup!

This box is the perfect size and the bottom is absolutely flat.

Here are the same pans that were jammed into that Schmincke box . . .


I can slide them around and group them into any set I might be working with at the moment.

I can get hold of them easily to lift them and read the color if need be, and I can put space between them so I don’t slop one into the other.

AND there’s lots of room to add more colors – as long as I leave plenty of sliding room.

The cover also serves as an easily washable mixing palette.

And, an extra benefit – the palette can sit in its own cover, making a neat little unit. Those hinged covers flopping around drive me nuts. (It’s not a long drive.)

I have been using this for about two weeks now, and I can’t imagine a more perfect solution.

But, who knows. There could be something better to imagine out there some day.

For the moment – I am very happy.

Have a great Sunday.


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