Another Milestone

His legs and feet have been quite swollen due to the surgery.  He couldn’t wear his shoes, so I went out and bought him a size larger pair of Crocs.

As of Tuesday (24 May) he could finally get into his usual shoes.  The surgical leg is still swollen, but not as badly.

2015 0526 Crocs

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Sigh.  On top of everything else, Himself has a tooth infection.  It needed urgent care as it could spread to infect the new heart valve!  So he had a root canal today.   He still can’t drive, so I drove him to the appointment and waited.  Part of my waiting time was spent sketching the reception desk.

2016 0523 office waiting

I used my small booklet with watercolor paper.  It is about the size of a Field Notes book.

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Travel Sketching Essentials

Stephanie Bower is one of the Urban Sketchers I most admire.  She presented her “Travel Sketching Essentials” demo at Daniel Smith yesterday.

This is the demo I wish I could have attended when I first got involved with Urban Sketchers about 4 years ago!  She described all the bits of kit needed to start location sketching.  We had the benefit of her having “bought everything” and trying it all.  She gave her recommendations for the best items to choose based on her experience.  Her emphasis is quality, size and weight.

Stephanie only takes one bag on her sketching travels, even overseas.  It is just right to hold her stool, tripod, clothes and other essentials.  She also takes a backpack when traveling by air.

She uses an easel to sketch on location.  It is an En Pein Air Pro, though she cut it down to fit in her backpack.  Sony VCT-R100 Lightweight compact tripod with 3 way tilt head

Here is an example of her set up.  She’s sketching at Swanson’s Nursery, December 2015.

These are two examples of stools.  Her preferred one is the one on the left, the Tribe Provisions Ultralight compact portable adventure field stool ($30).  It IS very light.  I use a 1 pound REI stool and Stephanie’s is even lighter.

One of her preferred papers is this long block by Fluid (8″x16″).  Her preferred sketchbook is the Pentalic Aqua Journal (5″x8″).  I use the latter and it is an excellent hardbound sketchbook with 140# 100% cotton watercolor paper. The only place I’ve found it locally and consistently is the University of Washington bookstores.  You can see it online at   It also comes in a pocket size.  Both are the same size as the Moleskine but much better paper!

She uses Coroplast (corrugated plastic; often used to make yard signs) to make a palette holder.  She clips on the small plastic Windsor Newton Pocket box and inserts a small pill bottle for water into a hole cut for it.  She uses the plastic palette because it is lighter than metal ones.

Here is my current set up.  I use a larger Coroplast sheet on which I tape my 5″x8″ paper, clip my palette and also insert a pill bottle for water.  Binder clips hold the palette and can also be used to hold brushes!  I use a blue shop towel for wiping.  It can be rinsed and reused many times before throwing out so is more economical and ecological than paper towels.

Brushes:  Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Sable travel brush, size 10 and 12 round (Daniel Smith stores have it).  Pictured here is the 1 inch angled brush.  Below are the narrow and wide marks she can make with it.

She finished the presentation with a painting demo.

All photos here

More places to find Stephanie: 




Craftsy class “Perspective for Sketchers” which is on sale right now.

She is also the author of the upcoming 4th book in the Urban Sketching Handbook series:
Understanding Perspective.  It will be released on June 15.  I have actually previewed a draft.  Even if you can attend one of her in-person “Good Bones” workshops or take her Craftsy class, this book will be an essential companion to which I think you will refer again and again!  I can’t wait to get the published version.

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Drawing HIS Swords

Two things inspired this sketch.  First, I saw a blog post by Pete Scully titled “Draw Your Swords

Then I realized, from posts on Facebook, that the SCA Kingdoms of Caid and An Tir are holding their Crown Tourneys. Crown Tourney is a big deal and we almost always attended.    **

These are my husband’s swords.  In the distant past, he fought in Principality Coronet Tourney and Kingdom Crown Tourney.  Also visible is the edge of one of his shields with his Arms (Coat of Arms, you might say; we say “Arms”).   The swords are made of rattan covered in duct tape.  They are made to be less likely to injure but still have the weight and handling of a real, steel, medieval sword.  SCA Newcomer portal on armored combat  for more info.  Since we haven’t been participating in this group, his equipment is stored in the rafters of the garage.

2016 0621 Draw Your Swords
**I could write pages explaining the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and our involvement.  My husband and I were very involved when when lived in Germany (then the Principality of and now the Kingdom of Drachenwald) and SoCal (Caid). Our closest friends are still people we met in the group. Since moving to Washington (An Tir), we have hardly participated at all.  Thus, his swords and shields are stored in the rafters of the garage.

If you really want to know more, visit the SCA’s Newcomers portal.

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Why I’ve been absent here

The reason for my absence is  my husband had a planned major surgery on 21 April.  Then his hospital stay was extended by a complication.  The surgery was successful and the complication resolved.  He was happily discharged home on 2 May.  However, due to the expected limitations caused by the surgery, he needs my intermittent help at home.  I’ll not be able to join my fellow sketchers on our outings for a few weeks.

I was in my husband’s room from 0600 to 2000 or 2100 every day of the 12 days he was there… except the night after his surgery, when I slept in his room.  I sketched him 24 hours post surgery but I’m not sharing that sketch.  However, here is a portion of the sketch depicting his RN, Vita.  She got us through those first very difficult days just post surgery.

On each ward, they have these standees of real Overlake RN’s, encouraging people to be quiet.  On intensive care, it is Mac.  So when Himself took his first walk outside the room with Physical Therapy, he went “to Mac and back”!

Many sketchers have written about the calming effects of drawing on location.  I experienced this first hand during the hospitalization. At times, I was very anxious for his well being.  One afternoon when he was finally resting comfortably, I went out to a sunny patio to sketch for an hour or so.  I really did forget what was going on, focusing only on drawing the scene in front of me. It was very relaxing.

Once he was moved from intensive care to the ward , we had a view across the freeway to downtown Bellevue, WA.  I’ve sketched these buildings from the patio of the clinic across the street.  From this view, I was amused by what looked like a pregnant building.

I am very grateful to the fantastic surgeons, their Physician’s Assistants, the nurses and the team of other health professions who helped my husband have a good outcome.  I was very impressed by Overlake Hospital.

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No Otters

Again.  The last time I visited the Point Defiance Aquarium the sea otters weren’t in their exhibit.  Today, again, I was disappointed.  They are my favorite wild animal and Pt. Defiance has the 2nd best exhibit of the ones I’ve seen on the West Coast (I like Vancouver BC best).

Edit [see my comment below]

I visited the Zoo & Aquarium free using my reciprocal entry from Museum of Flight for National Volunteer Week.  There is a long list of places that are letting each others’ volunteers in for free this week.  Many of them I’m already a member or have reciprocal admission from a membership.

I didn’t wander very far as it looked like it might rain.  I did a quick sketch of the red wolves.


A few more photos here.

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Trailer Park Mall

After meeting Daniel Smith, four of us from Urban Sketchers Tacoma had a brief sketch outing in Georgetown.

This is a very funk, artsy neighborhood, south of Seattle.  I’ve heard it described as the oldest neighborhood of Seattle.  It’s my go-to place for urban sketching.

I chose the Trailer Park Mall as my subject.  I’ve sketched there before but never on a Saturday when they were open.  The weather was summer-like so many people were out and about and hanging out.

I was pleased to discover The Conservatory is finally open.  I’ve walked by it for years, wondering if it ever was.  The man in the cafe said they’d been open for 7 months.  And I was delighted to learn they host a Drink and Draw!  It is every other Sunday afternoon, 3-6pm, $10, long and short poses. Models are in costume.

the stage, viewed from one of the tables.

Their website is nearly useless.  The guy told me the Drink and Draws are posted to their Facebook page’s “Events” section.  Click the “More” button to find the”Events” page.

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Meeting THE Daniel

Daniel Smith is a well know name in artists’ paints.  But it’s also the name of the founder, whom we were invited to meet yesterday – Saturday, 9 April – at the Seattle mothership store.  I took some notes on his talk.  There may be errors but I was writing as fast as I could……

Store manager Joe greets people arriving.  He gave out DS watercolor dot cards, samples of their watercolor sticks, a DS pin, and lost of handouts.   I really liked having the pin!

Daniel and a display of Primatec paint-outs and the minerals from which they are made.

Dan moved from Michigan to Washington in 1970 after graduating from Olivet College.  He worked as a printer but also had a studio.  After some years, he thought he might try making his own printing inks and paints.  It was a real shoestring operation…. he sold a motorcycle to have money for equipment.  He lived in a storefront on Capitol Hill  and later bought a house in another neighborhood.

The first year, he made $1300.  The second year $16,000 and the third year $160,000.  That’s when he quit his job as a printer.  His home had increased in value, he refinanced and with the equity bought a gas station into which to expand the business.  He also started to carry some paper.

As the business grew, he moved it to 1111 W. Nickerson for a 5000 sq foot space and opened a retail store.   [I looked it up on the map… it’s near the Fremont Cut.  He didn’t think the building was still there.  Looking at Street View, there is something there.]

I’m not sure of the time line, but some time later he moved the business to the building next door to the current location on 1st St.  He was 10 years there and then moved into the current building.   [According to John, they also now have a 20,000 sq ft distribution center in Tukwila, where product and ingredients are stored].

He grew the business from 1975 to 1992.  He described himself as obsessed with it.  In 1992 he turned the management over to Bill (didn’t hear his last name) as CEO.  Dan  moved away to Eastern Washington and later to South Dakota, where he and his wife Nancy live now.

Nancy and Daniel

Bill got sick and later died.  Meanwhile, the IT manager, John Cogley, had become more involved in the overall management while Bill was sick.  After he died, Daniel named John as CEO.  John later bought the business, so is now owner and CEO.

John Cogley

John started with the Daniel Smith company 30 years ago as a computer programmer.  He interacted with every part of the company in order to integrate all the IT systems.  He said he loved the manufacturing.

These days, as owner and CEO, he interacts with suppliers and other companies.  He’ll be at Fabriano, in Italy, next week!

The Daniel Smith company (DS) has a geologist/mineralogist who sources the minerals used in the Primatek pigments.  His name is Bruce.

DS also employs two chemists to maintain absolute consistency of the paint they manufacture.  John described one as a PhD chemist and the other as a research chemist.  “They ain’t cheap”.   Every single batch is approved by a chemist at every step of the manufacturing process.

John went on to describe in detail how the paints are made.  It may be that DS is the only company that rigorously tests light-fastness with a Xenon Fadeometer.  So when the information on a paint says it is light fast for 200 years (or more), it has been proven to be so in this very high tech machine.

Then he took us on a factory tour!  This is the second one I’ve had the privilege to take.  They shop was quiet with no one working today as it is a Saturday.  During the previous one, they were working and we saw everything in action!  No photos allowed, though.

The Hobart mixers are like your Kitchen-Aide (which they make) on lots of steroids!  They are huge machines that are decades old.  “They last for-ev-er!” John said.  Their newest was bought from the CostCo bakery department!  One of them is 43 y/o and sometimes runs 24/7 for days on end.

A couple gems from John:  “If technique is important, always use distilled water” (with watercolor paint).   “Making paint is like making cake”.

Thank you to Joe, Daniel, John and everyone else involved.  This was an excellent presentation.


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Sketching Rainbows

As we normally do during winter and shoulder seasons, we planned an indoor venue for today’s Urban Sketchers Seattle ad hoc outing.  However, we had a taste of summer…. bright sun and over 70 degrees.  We planned to meet inside Elliot Bay Books on Capitol Hill.  But nearly everyone decided to sketch outside.

I had my eye on the rainbows.  These weren’t the rainbows in the sky after rain.  These are rainbow crosswalks.  They were painted in June 2015 in celebration of Gay Pride week.  “The city picked locations by working with community members to pinpoint heavily used streets and spots that have been sites of assault based on sexual orientation, Murray [Seattle Mayor] said.”

The first one is on the walk to Blick’s art store.  I also liked their paint tube & palette sign!   I plopped myself down on the sidewalk.  I was nearly done with the ink sketch when some workers asked me to move so they could spray away the dog poo on the curb!  Gladly!

Thanks, guys!

The second location I spotted while doing a walk around after having arrived early.  It’s near the Comet Tavern.

Once back in the bookstore, I noticed Steve Reddy’s books on a shelf.

middle shelf, two books on the right

We shared sketches at a table in the Oddfellows cafe inside  Elliot Bay books to share  A few of us stayed for lunch there.

More photos, including some of nearby Cal Anderson park.

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Watson’s Nursery

Urban Sketchers Tacoma met at Watson’s Nursery in Puyallup for the first Saturday sketch outing.  A lot of people came… I think the finally tally was about 30!  Several new people enjoyed themselves.

I arrived early enough to scope the place for preferred sketch subjects and make a few photos.  Those are all here, along with photos of sketchers taken later.

As it was still a little chilly outside, I started inside.  These are glass mushrooms.

My kit:
I’ve been using the coroplast support more.  It has a hole cut in it just the size of my large pill bottle water container.  That way, I don’t spill the water!  It’s big enough to hold the size paper I usually use and my small palette.  Binder clips both hold the palette and rag but also brush and pen.

Once it warmed up a bit, I went outside to sketch the charming little cottage.  Alison sat down after I did, so I added her to the sketch.

We did not do our usual sharing of sketches and group photo.  We had reservations in the small cafe, which was filling up so we thought we should claim our tables.  We shared sketches there but didn’t have a group photo.  These are just a couple tables.  I think we had 5 in all!

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