Tag Archives: watercolors

Illustration Friday : Boundaries

When I saw this week’s topic, all that I could think about was the thin line between normalcy and utter destruction. That line was crossed this week as the typically tranquil waters of many rivers and streams breached the boundaries of their banks and became raging torrents, inundating homes, businesses, roads, parks, and a zoo. Lives were lost. Families were displaced. Property was damaged. Trash floated down streets, as brown, murky water mixed with heating oil spilled from flooded homes.

Truly, Mother Nature observes no boundaries – and every now and then she feels the need to remind us.

Please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross to assist in disaster relief around the country.

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Illustration Friday : Swept

Wow, this is the earliest that I have finished an Illustration Friday submission. And, at only 2.5 x 1.25″, it is also my smallest Illustration Friday submission to date.

This was actually one of the two-color swatches that I mentioned earlier. I started doodling on a couple of them and thought that this one looked like the perfect setting for my favorite paper boat. So, here it is, being swept away by the sea. I hope it ends up somewhere better than where it started.

watercolor + alcohol + colored pencil on paper



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I’m Out of Control! (sort of)

Generally speaking, my artistic style is not very loose. I like to work small and controlled. I like to stay inside the lines. And I don’t like messes. In other words, I’m pretty much the exact opposite of what an artist is ‘supposed’ to be. Heh.

Working on a smaller scale helps me keep things neat, tight, and under control. It also satisfies my ever-present need for instant gratification (lest I lose interest in what I am working on and then never finish it). Oh, and then there’s that whole I-work-in-a-teeny-tiny-studio thing.

Lately, I’ve been in kind of a slump, not just in the artistic sense, but in pretty much every aspect of my life. Living with a two-year-old has pushed the limits of my ability to control my environment. Furniture gets moved. Things get spilled. Little handprints appear on my walls. There is sand and mud and mess. All the time.

I never cease to be amazed by moms who don’t even bat an eyelash as juice boxes spill on their floors and pizza sauce smeared hands brush across their furniture. I marvel at their ability to not cringe as entire bins of building blocks spill.

I am the same way with artists. I am so impressed by those with the ability to just try things and see what happens (without worrying about making a mess or wasting materials or screwing up). I long to be one of those artists who lets their work ‘tell’ them what it wants to be, instead of using all of my energy to control the outcome.

This week, I started experimenting with some watercolor techniques that involve a certain lack of control on my part  – a big step for someone who has pretty much dug herself into a rut of only using watercolor pencils (sharpened to a fine point, of course!) in order keep the colors from moving too freely. It has been interesting, if not a bit therapeutic. And, at times, it has been messy (but not too messy, since I have still been working small).

The one technique I keep going back to is creating textures with Isopropyl alcohol. It is actually fairly easy to do and can create some pretty spectacular results. It is also pretty amazing to watch. When the alcohol hits the wash, it repels the paint, which will start to snake its way around the paper, sometimes trying to flow back into the alcohol treated areas. I have actually seen paint quiver along the edges of the alcohol spots for quite a while. It really is quite fascinating.

Today, I did some quick two-color swatches and treated them with alcohol just for some color study practice. Rather than trying to control the paint, I just sort of let it run and flow however it wanted (another big step for me). The results made me very happy. I saw patterns and shapes that were new to me (with regards to my own work, at least).  And I gained an appreciation for my ability to create abstract work (without having a complete nervous breakdown – heh). I also put together some unlikely color combinations that I probably would never have thought to use in my tighter style of work.

A friend has pressed me to explore this more abstract style. I wasn’t so sure about it at first, but I have found that it is a nice break from and much less stressful than my current illustrative work. So, I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.

photo : color study in watercolor + alcohol by yours truly

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Illustration Friday : Shadows

Shadow Tree : watercolor + alcohol + ink on paper

This piece was a total experiment from start to finish. I incorporated some techniques that I’ve never tried with watercolor before and this is what it turned into. Admittedly, I had to tweak the colors a bit in Photoshop since I used some of my cheapy watercolors that I reserve for trying out new things. Plus, I rarely use dark colors and I’m not so good at it (yet).

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Illustration Friday : Soaked

This piece was an experiment. Was it a successful one? Eh, I don’t know. I guess it was in the sense that I learned about what definitely works, what could work, and what absolutely does not work when it comes to watercolor pencils on wood. Read on if you want to be bored out of your mind you’re interested in the process.

I recently invested in some wood panels on which I would really love to use ink and watercolors. Being that I have never really worked with either on a wood surface, I felt a little experimenting was in order, but I didn’t want to waste any of my smooth, lovely panels. So, I dug this out of my stockpile of wood-framed mirrors. It wasn’t the greatest surface to work on, especially since not all four quadrants of the frame had the same texture, but it worked well enough.

I started by lightly sketching the design on the frame in pencil. It went okay. I didn’t want to create any dents in the wood, so I had to be very careful not to use too much pressure. Also, erasing errant pencil marks wasn’t very easy, so I had to focus on getting it right the first time. This is not one of my strong suits.

Next, I used my Prismacolor pens to ink the outlines. I was a little worried about how much the ink would bleed, and, while I definitely didn’t get the crisp, clean lines that I am used to, it turned out better than I expected. There were a couple of spots where I didn’t wait long enough for the ink to dry before erasing stray pencil marks and I smudged the ink. Patience is also not one of my strong suits.

For the water and raindrops, I used my Derwent watercolor pencils. I used varying degrees of pressure when applying the pencils, resulting in the differing degrees of transparency. I found that the white watercolor pencil was too transparent, and so I used gouache on the paper boat and clouds. It definitely helped to make them stand out more.

I really, really debated about how to do the background/sky. As it turned out, that is the part I am most disappointed with. I mixed up and really thinned out some blue/green watercolor, as I didn’t want much color. Unfortunately, it resulted in a much dirtier looking wash than I anticipated. I also feel like the color is too similar to that of the water. But, it was a lesson learned, so I’ll take it.

I have a wood panel triptych in mind that I am kind of excited about. I just need to get the process just right before I attempt it. Good thing I have more mirrors than I know what to do with!

Also, this thing was a real pain in the arse to photograph. I apologize for the lame photographic representation. Heh.

Oh, and if you haven’t entered the GIVEAWAY yet, go do it now!

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Wishy Washy

Last night, I tried something new. And it totally didn’t turn out how I envisioned or expected it to. I’m trying to like it, but, despite being happy with a few elements of it and the fact that it was well-received by some of my critics (heh), I’m still feeling kind of meh.

I used several of my newly acquired Derwent watercolor pencils, which I totally love. What I don’t love is the paper I used. It’s some Strathmore 300 series watercolor paper that I got on the cheap and I hate the texture (for this type of work, at least). The ink bled as soon as it hit the page, making my lines distractingly wonky. I much prefer the 400 series, although I think this paper would work well for 3D/shadow box work. So, it’s not a total loss.

Aside from the technical issues (and a few color choices that I’m not pleased with), it’s not a bad piece. My favorite part is the paper boat, which I think will be making an appearance in some similar pieces I have in mind.

On to the next one!

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Illustration Friday : Beginner

When it comes to illustration, I am very much a beginner. I feel a beginner’s frustration. I make a beginner’s mistakes. I get discouraged. Sometimes I quit. And then I try again. Sometimes I can find no inspiration. And sometimes I find it in unexpected places.

A dear friend of mine recently celebrated a milestone birthday. She and her family took a vacation to mark the occasion. Yesterday, she posted some gorgeous pictures from their trip. Many of them were of her canine kids enjoying the beautiful pastoral setting – sometimes frolicking like puppies and other times just relaxing. There were also photos of the house where they stayed, and one of them – of a gorgeous and colorful stained glass window in a room painted yellow – compelled me to create this piece.

This is actually a small shadow box. The ‘window’ is a separate piece that frames the illustration of my friends’ two dogs (inspired by a photo of the two of them looking off into the distance). It was done in pen & ink and watercolor pencil*.

I truly hope that, despite the fact that it is a beginner’s effort, my friend loves her belated birthday gift. Happy birthday, K! (keep an eye on your mailbox)

* For anyone who has a Michael’s nearby and is in the market for watercolor pencils, you may want to head there ASAP. I got a great deal on open stock Derwent watercolor pencils ($.49 each) and Derwent Aquatone pencils ($.99 each) on Sunday.

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baby godzilla and the Birthday Pact

I don’t think that it’s any big secret that I like to make my life more difficult than it needs to be. I’m constantly pushing myself to do more, be more creative, be more impressive. When I fail at this, things get ugly. But when I succeed, it feels awesome.

Sometime last summer, I made this pact with myself that, whenever Sir’s friend’s had a birthday, I would make their gift (and Sir would make a card). I started off pretty strong, but by the time we got to November, my train went off the track.


The more disappointed I got with the situation, the harder it became to find the inspiration to create anything. Birthdays became a source of stress for me and I felt totally defeated as I dragged myself to the store to buy the latest Leapfrog gadget to pass off as a reasonable alternative to a handmade gift. I did, however, keep up with Sir’s handmade card-making. I have to say, he’s getting pretty good at it too.

He’s a reluctant artist, that boy of mine. But we’ll find his muse, I’m sure of it.

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to design an invitation for her son’s first birthday party. The theme? Baby Godzilla. Yes!

I drew the invitation digitally, colored it by hand, and then (per my friend’s request) used a photo of the birthday boy as baby godzilla’s face. It was so much fun! It also inspired me to finally get back up on the horse and make good on my birthday gift pact.

In true Ruth style, I waited until the night before the birthday party to get to work. It took me several hours of sketching, planning, painting, cutting (made far more difficult by the fact that I lost my X-acto knife handle and had to cut using only the blade and my bare hand), and gluing, but I did it!

Each element was cut out and glued in separately. The cars, the buildings, baby godzilla, and the clouds hanging in the sky are all individual pieces that I drew on watercolor paper with pen & ink and then painted using watercolors. Each piece was then cut out and placed inside the shadow box.

I have to say, this was the most fun I have had on a piece in quite awhile. There is something about taking a bunch of small elements and putting them together to make something bigger that is very satisfying. I really should do it more often.

Today, Sir had another birthday party. I realized at about 5 o’ clock yesterday that I really should start thinking about a gift, because you know, why not wait until the night before the party to think about making a gift?

After dinner, I frantically calmly dashed sauntered into my studio and sat down with absolutely no idea what I was going to do.

Okay, I have one white shadow box. Oooookaaaaayyy….hmm. Here’s a mat to put it in. It’s white. I don’t like that. Let’s paint it blue. But, you have no idea what you’re going to put in it. A mere triviality! Blue it is! Okay, a blue mat. Now what? Flowers! Okay…draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, paint. Flowers, voila! Hmm…needs something more. Let’s look at some pictures of the birthday girl, shall we? Wow, that kid is adorable! I should draw her. Ugh, I can’t draw people…too bad she’s not a dog. Eh, what the hell, let’s give it a go!

And that, dear friends, is (mostly) how I ended up with this sweet little flower girl shadow box. Okay, there was a little more to it than that – like several little girl sketches (some of them quite bizarre-looking) and even more hand-cutting without the assistance of my X-acto knife handle (where in the hell is that thing?).

The flowers I drew, painted, and cut the same way that I did for the pieces in the baby godzilla shadow box. I added some glass beads to give them a little depth and sparkle. The illustration was done in pen & ink then painted with watercolors.

I came in just under the buzzer on this project, finishing it half an hour before Sir and his daddy had to leave for the party. I hope the birthday girl loves it!

photos : baby godzilla shadow box and little flower girl shadow box by yours truly

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The Great Izzy Giveaway!

No, no, no, I’m not giving away Izzy. After all, we just got her back and no one in this family is willing to give her up!

You can, however, win your very own limited edition Izzy the Dog art print. Sweet!

I’m feeling extra generous with this giveaway. So, I am giving away not one, but THREE prints – one of each from my current Izzy the Dog series. Here they are:

izzy the dog picks a flower
izzy the dog picks a flower


izzy the dog sings a duet
izzy the dog sings a duet
izzy the dog in the rain
izzy the dog in the rain

Each print is signed and numbered and ready for matting/framing.

I will be choosing three winners at random (using the random number generator at random.org as usual). The print you get will correspond to the order in which your number was chosen (i.e. the first person chosen gets ‘izzy the dog picks a flower’ and so on…).

So, how do you enter? It’s super easy. Just leave a comment on THIS POST. You can leave well-wishes for Izzy or just say ‘hello’. Leave only ONE comment please. You can leave your comment any time between now and next Friday, April 22 when I will close comments and choose the winners.

Good luck! And, if you just can’t wait, you can always buy the first two prints in this series from my Etsy shop – proceeds to benefit Dogs Finding Dogs.


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Illustration Friday : Duet

Two years before Izzy became a part of our family, we brought home a fuzzy little black and white ball of fur and named her Yofi. Among her littermates, she was known as Crybaby and, after 10 years, she has yet to show any signs of shedding that moniker. From the moment we brought her home, it was ‘Wee. Wee! WEE!’. Despite her propensity for near-constant crying, Yofi is probably the happiest dog you’ll ever meet. She has a chronic case of Happy Tail and constant goofy dog-grin on her face.

When Izzy came to live with us, the two became fast friends (much to the chagrin of our other dog and leader of the pack, Millie). As Izzy grew, her puppy yip quickly turned into a deep, booming ‘RAH-rooooooo!’, typical of Basset Hounds. We had always been able to tell our dogs apart by the way they ‘speak’ – Millie is a woofer, Yofi is a wee-er, and Izzy is a roo-er. Then, one day, we heard a new sound coming from the backyard. It was definitely a roo, but it wasn’t coming from Izzy.

Yofi, our constant kvetcher, had developed a new Basset Hound-ish bark!

She has also picked up a little of Millie’s distinct woof over the years. I blame it on Middle Child Syndrome. Heh.

Poor Yofi, she is so confused and devastated by Izzy’s absence. I think I’ve only heard her roo once since Izzy disappeared.

I tried something different with the background of this illustration and I’m really disappointed. I am hoping to redo this piece and add it to my collection of Izzy the Dog prints.

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Painting Under the Influence

Oy, I am so disappointed that I wasn’t able to participate in Illustration Friday this week. I had every intention of submitting something, but the days just kept flying by in a mess of fevered delirium, missing dog searches, and…well, more fevered delirium.

And then there was the Tylenol PM incident.

When I finally decided on an idea for my illustration, I started writing a little story to go along with it. And, it was actually a pretty good story. Unfortunately, my writing was interrupted by the onset of a near-deafening crackling sound in my right ear. It seems that the plague I have recently contracted has decided to manifest itself as my first-ever ear infection. And so, I grudgingly dragged my pathetic self to the doctor in hopes of quieting the fiery demon who has taken up residence in my middle ear.

Two hours and a prescription for Amoxicillin later, I was back home and settling in to my studio all ready to get to work on my illustration. The pain in my ear still plaguing me and my bedtime only an hour away, I decided to pop a couple of Tylenol PMs before getting to work.

Yeah, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I look back on this week, most of it is a blur – mostly because I have spent a good portion of it in a fever-induced haze. There are several things that I know I must have done, but I absolutely cannot remember doing. Last night’s foray into art is one of them. I started out okay – sketching a few ideas, playing around with watercolor pencils, etc. Then, I started getting sleepy and things took a bad turn. At one point, I thought it would be a good idea to try mixing some gouache and ended up with something that was strikingly similar to Pepto Bismol both in color and consistency. I then spilled some funky old paint water all over. I also  may or may not have fallen asleep with my head on a still-wet watercolor blob…I really don’t know for sure. I can’t remember.

Eventually, I must have realized that creating anything even remotely recognizable was far outside of my realm of capability and I lurched my way to bed like a semi-conscious zombie. And so, for this week, I’ve got nothing. Bah.

Also, my Friday Favorites post will probably be late, as I haven’t even made it through all of this week’s submissions, let alone narrowed my favorites down to fifteen and the monster in my ear seems to be stirring again.

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Remodeling the Blog

Yesterday, I finally came to the conclusion that checking the lost & found section of craigslist every 5 minutes was not only obsessive, but also unhealthy. I needed a distraction, so I decided to bite the bullet and get to work on changing up the blog.

Despite my reluctance and aversion to change (and the stress of trying to get the new layout to not only look good, but also function well), the new template is starting to grow on me. I can do more with this layout and the plug-ins that wouldn’t work before are installed and working beautifully on this template. There are certainly more tweaks to be made, but they are minor and I’m probably the only one neurotic enough to even notice.

I decided to create a watercolor version of my logo. The other version is more representative of my mixed-media collage work, and honestly, I have kind of gotten away from that lately. I feel like the watercolor version works better with the new layout and the current direction that my work is taking. Any thoughts/opinions on the new look would be greatly appreciated.

This new layout has also made it easier to add more links. I want to be able to share more great art sites/blogs and the old layout was making it sort of difficult to do that. I have been working on a list of sites, but I still have a lot more to add.

As I mentioned, there is more work to be done. I would love any input that anyone might have on how things are arranged now and whether or not there are any issues with the new design. Feel free to leave a comment…

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It’s Rainy. And Cold.

More calls. Less answers. Endless disappointment.

Tomorrow I am doing what I have been dreading since this whole thing started – going to the shelters. They all say they don’t have her, but mistakes are easy to make. I cannot handle walking through those places. Seeing all of the animals that have no homes and no families and are confined to miserable cages just makes me sad and ill.

I don’t know how much more sadness I can take…but it looks like I’m going to find out.

Fortunately, we have amazing friends who keep going out of their way to help us. I’m pretty sure that is the only thing keeping me sane right now.

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Illustration Friday : Cultivate

izzy the dog ♥

Our Izzy is still missing. Another round of calls has yet again turned up nothing. I did this illustration last night and now I can’t even look at it without crying. I guess that’s all I have to say this week.


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Illustration Friday : Warning

always look before you sit

Just a little warning that, when heeded, can save you from some unpleasant situations. And save a bird from getting squished.

This illustration was a total rush job and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. More on that later, perhaps.

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