Never too Old to Learn

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During the middle of the pandemic, back in 2020, I was stuck at home like everyone else. Oddly enough, I didn’t mind too much. Being an introvert, home is my happy place and as long as I had a way to keep busy I was okay. I turned to the thing that has eased my anxiety and cluttered mind since I was a child: ART.

Wet on wet technique, great for making reflections in the water

Drawing had been a passion all my life but adulting, things like raising my children and paying the bills, had pushed this aside for many years. By 2020, my children were out of college and they, along with my husband and myself were hanging out, working from home, so I decided to jump start my creative side. This came in the form of a medium I had always wanted to try but found rather daunting: watercolor.

Portrait for a friend. Learned a lot about mixing watercolor paint with pencil and about shadows and reflections.
Learning to paint more loose.

Bless the internet and, particularly, YouTube because there were endless sources for finding the ins and outs of this beautiful art form. As a teenager and college student, I had learned about painting in acrylics and oils. Some of the ideas there did carry over but others (like the ability to “fix” a mistake by simply painting over it) did not. Needless to say, there were some frustrating moments and lots of disastrous paintings that became lots of scrap paper! Eventually, I began to get comfortable with my results. I was amazed at how much there was to learn just about this one medium. Things I needed to think about and all the exciting techniques that resulted in such different looks and styles. I still struggle with things both related to and not related to watercolor itself like finding a good composition, or the correct balance of lights and darks. I also need to learn when to stop, something very important in this medium because overworking a watercolor painting is just the worst! I’ve come to a point where I’m happy with a good percentage of the finished paintings but, even two years later, I am still finding many new adventures and new skills that I can practice.

The first painting I sold. It was fun to experiment with the pops of color.

After several months of creating and experimenting, the art work began to pile up and I was inspired to open a shop on Etsy in order to sell some of the finished pieces. So far it’s been a modest success. I will never get rich, but I’ve been able to share some pieces and create many commissioned one of a kind watercolors that have, hopefully, brought joy to the people who own them.

Playing with shadows experimenting with water

That said, I know, even as I approach my 60th year, a fact that still sends my head spinning some days, that, no matter how old I am, there is still SO much more I can learn. Possibly, that holds true for life in general, wherever or whenever you find your passion.

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Getting Arty

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Item number six on my Summer Bucket List was to complete one new piece of art per week. I haven’t quite managed one a week but I’m pretty close.  At least I’ve kept my hand in and I’ve enjoyed learning some new techniques. Mostly I’ve been working with watercolor paint and pencils which are a new medium for me. But I have really enjoyed some of watercolors that other bloggers like Jodi at Life In Between has posted so I thought I would give them a try. These are a few of the results.

The first one is a pencil drawing I did from an old photo of Miss Dee. After completing it I went back with a wet brush and blended the water to give it a more reflective look. I am happy with how it came out except that I wish I had made the colors darker. The whole image seems a little washed out…

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This one is just pencil but I’m thinking I should go back and blend the water like I did I the picture above. What do you think?

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These two are images taken from postcards that Kate over at Sincerely Kate  was kind enough to send to me. They were both done with watercolor paint first then I used pencil and ink pen to strengthen some of the lines. I was inspired by my pal Jill Kuhn while working on the tulips at the bottom.  She created some beautiful poppies by using paint first then tracing around the shapes with pen in order to define the flowers. My flowers are smaller but I tried to use the same technique. Thanks for the idea Jill!

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It is really a lot of fun stretching my boundaries art wise. I had always worked in pencil or acrylic paint and the sameness had made art a little boring. Now I find that I am being inspired by all the cool stuff I see on other people’s blogs. It feels more like an adventure!

A Night in a Castle

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 Summer Bucket List item #1. Technically, it was an overnight trip and not a day trip but I think it still qualifies! 😊

Last week Hubby, Miss Dee and I took a road trip up north to The Castle at Skylands Manor in Ringwood NJ. The building itself was built in the 1920’s but was designed to resemble an old Tudor castle. Really cool! Surrounding the castle are the most beautiful botanical gardens. The land and buildings are owned and cared for by the state botanical society and offer year round tours and events. The Castle at Skylands functions as a bed and breakfast and an amazing wedding venue for some very lucky couples. The inn keepers also run the catering business for any of the affairs held there.

Here are some shots of the exterior of the building…

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And the interior…

I kept visualizing Scarlett O’Hara coming down this stairway!

breakfast roomMiss Dee enjoying her breakfast in the sun room.

This is a small peek at the gardens.  The grounds were huge and every corner you turned revealed another statue, fountain or display of plants with a quiet little bench from which to enjoy the view. There were only a few blooms this time of the year so we all decided we needed to make a return trip in the spring.

arborfountainbutteflies in flightlong pool 2bridge fountain 2liliesrear patio 2water lilyvisitors centerThis ivy covered cottage serves as the visitors center and this little hobbit-like house…

pump house.. is where the pumps for the fountains are hidden!  Miss Dee was ready to move in!  All photo credits, by the way, go to the lovely Miss Dee (except of course for the one photo she is in).

The staff at the inn was very helpful and pleasant and the rooms are full of character.  If you are looking for modern conveniences though you will probably be disappointed.  There are no phones in the rooms, no refrigerators, no bar or restaurant on the grounds and breakfast was your typical continental fare, muffins, bagels, juice and coffee.  We drove into the town of Ringwood, about 3 miles away, for dinner.

All in all I would definitely recommend a visit to Skylands Manor, especially if you are interested in history, or botanical gardens or just a really romantic get away. I know we will be going back!

Check out their web site for more information: http://www.frungillo.com/venues/skylands-manor

S is for Sketches

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There was a time when I sketched everyday but then life took over and my free time was used for other things. Recently, since my children are older and I have more time, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit. I find drawing very relaxing. There is something about the scratch of pencil on paper that calms my mind. In order to keep myself motivated I thought I would share some of my work. I hope you enjoy them.

(Technically these are drawings, not sketches but “d” was a long time ago and I really needed something for “s” so work with me! 😊 )

This was from a photo of my daughter when she was about six.

This was from a photo of my daughter when she was about six.

My son when he was young holding his cousin.

My son when he was young holding his cousin.

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Another of my daughter. I love the way her velvet dress reflected the light.

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This was suppose to be Lauren Bacall, but it turned out looking more like a distant cousin!

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This was from a photo of my mother when she was 10, probably around 1940.

This is me and my husband from one of our wedding photos.

This is me and my husband from one of our wedding photos.