The taxman cometh.

Many thanks for the comments after the last post–I’m glad you like the drawings! (Lauren, that chair is my favorite as well.) Of course, I didn’t show you the pages and pages of bad sketches that bookended these ones, or the really funny looking woman I drew during lunch. So you can just keep thinking that my sketchbooks are filled with pages and pages of nice stuff.

Gocco’ing a few is a good idea, especially since it allows you to make the original drawings with all the freedom of not needing this one to be final–which is what gets me every time. I was a little disappointed by poor sales of the Portrait of the Artist prints (and the expense of the screens and light bulbs), which put me off of Gocco for a while. But maybe I’ll pull it out again.

Would you believe that we still haven’t done our taxes? Much as I prefer procrastination, I think I’m going to need to spend a few lunchbreaks whipping the books into shape since we don’t have Excel on our home computer. I have a half-finished painting on our dining room table, but I scrubbed off my three hours’ of work from Saturday and didn’t manage to get back to it. So, there might be some painting show + tell in a few days, but until then I should have my nose to the computer. :(

Kinda sketchy.

I started a new gouache painting the other day, and I’m hoping to take into account some very good points from the comments in the last post. Nope, ink over gouache is just not where it’s at.

You might wonder why I even bothered in the first place, expecially now that my first version seems so painfully cartoony. I would just drop the whole pen + ink thing and try to be a painter, except that I happen to really like sketching. More honestly, I like my sketches, and liking my own work is not something that happens automatically.

Chair sketches.

Ever since we started going out (over the phone!), husband has been perplexed by the fact that a self-styled artist/illustrator could hate 75% of her drawings. And I couldn’t deny that he had a point–I mean, why would someone who hates public speaking become a teacher?

Chair sketches.

Most times, when I finally decide that a piece is finished and put down the paintbrush/pen for the last time, my first reaction is to rip the whole thing to shreds. So, I have to put it away for a day or two and try to calm down.

Chair sketches.

There are times when sleep itself does the trick…most things really do look better in the morning. But there are other times when it has taken me months to come to a point of grudging acceptance, and still others when I never like that particular work. At all. And then I wonder why I spent all that time sitting at my table painting instead of talking with friends or reading books or walking the dog.

Cup and pitcher.

Part of it must be the compulsion to paint that Lauren describes very eloquently on her Etsy page. Sometimes, you just gotta draw.


But I don’t think that’s enough to keep me going. Every once in a while, I have to draw something that I like. Something that I think is good, even if it’s not technically perfect. That makes me smile and want to stick my neck out by saying “I did this well,” even if it opens me up to criticism.


I feel this way about my little sketches sometimes, but very rarely about my larger finished pieces. Somehow, my brain and hand seize up as soon as I decide that something is the final version. The one that everyone is going to see, and that one person might want to buy! When I know that the drawings can be safely tucked away in my notebook, the pen moves freely around the page–but not so when I think I might show it to someone else.

So that’s why I keep trying to find a way to take the paint that I like and the ink that I like and make the two live happily together. It might take a while, and I might have to work at it in a roundabout way. But I’m going to make it work someday.

And if you have any suggestions, please please please let me know!

Thank you again for your input this week, and I hope you have a lovely weekend. :)

A little experiment.

(Warning–Big long post about painting ahead!) 

For the past few days, I’ve been working out the wording for a want ad. It goes something like this:

Freelance artist seeking part-time style for a permanent position. Style must have experience with a variety of media (pencil, pen, watercolor, gouache) and be willing to work 4-12 hours per week. Pay dependant upon experience. If interested, please submit resume, references, and portfolio to Paula Gibbs at blah blah blah.

Perhaps it’s not quite that bad, but I’ve been having some problems with consistency lately. As I begin each new piece, I think, This is it! This painting/drawing will finally coalesce everything I’ve done so far into one really awesome style that I can use consistently from here on out! And then the book illustration deals will start pouring in! (*cough*)

I manage to sustain this enthusiasm until I put some paint or ink on the paper and it doesn’t do exactly what I want. And from there on out it’s more about trying to fix what I’ve already done than creating something new with each stroke. The thought process then becomes something like, Wait, did I say I’d finish this by Tuesday? Oh yes, I did. Phooey–I guess there’s not enough time to scrap the whole thing and start over. But maybe if I just make the corner a little brighter and fix the face…And where on earth did that big streak come from? Aaaargh!

Obviously, this leaves a lot to be desired.

Since I think that some (= a lot?) of my frustration comes from technical issues, I decided to do a little experiment last weekend with ink + gouache. I think I’ve talked about gouache before, but in case you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically an opaque form of watercolor. I like watercolor too but am more attracted by the creamy color and matte finish of properly-applied goauche.  

One of the goals of the experiment was to find a way to successfully combine ink and gouache, since I’ve been doing a lot of ink doodles lately and want to find a nice way to put some color into them. So I took the same still life made from some of my little beach treasures and did two versions, one with the ink on top of the gouache and the other with the ink underneath. This tested my patience a bit since I never paint the same piece twice, but in the end the results were worth it because I discovered that…

…I don’t really like either of them!

Beachy Treasures Still Life (version 1)

I’ve heard a number of scientists describe how the process of discovering that every answer is wrong is actually quite productive. While I’m sure this is true, I have a lot of sympathy for the poor grad student who had to run the same tests over and over again without good results. (Hear that, Tim?)

Okay, this wasn’t a total flop–there are things about both paintings that are kinda fun. The colors don’t look that great in the scans, but the paint in the image above looks about like I wanted it to. It looked good enough that I had this long moment of hesitation when I brought out the ink pen and hovered the nib over the paper, waiting to make the first stroke. Don’t mess this up, I thought.  

And then I made a line, and it looked really funny. Somehow I always forget that ink pens really don’t like drawing on top of gouache–the tips get clogged, big blobs come out, it’s impossible to get a thin line…I think I’ve made this “discovery” about three times now, so I guess I need to write it down on my pen case or something.

Ink over gouache = technical failure.

Beachy Treasures Still Life (version 2)

The second piece is more painterly and three-dimensional (although a real 3-D representation wasn’t what I was going for), but I had a lot of trouble figuring out the ink vs. paint ratio. Should I do a complicated ink drawing with a light wash on top? Or just a few lines with more paint?

In the end I settled for about a 30/70 mix and then found that the gouache significantly greys out or covers the nice black lines of the ink, so it doesn’t really matter.  Oh yah, that’s why people usually use watercolor on top of ink. Duh.

Gouache over ink = technical failure.

I’m out of time (thanks for reading this gigantic post!), but I don’t want to end on a down note. In the end, it really is nice to know that two options really are knocked off the list so I can move on to others. I have a goal of finishing four beach-themed paintings in the next two weeks and plan to keep trying until I find something that works…though at the moment, I think that ink + watercolor or just gouache are my best options, rather than ink + gouache.  

I almost titled this post “Dear Lauren” since I’m hoping that she might have some helpful tips, but if anyone else wants to chime in about technique I am definitely interested to hear what you have to say. :)

Sea + weed.

Time got away from me on Friday, so I didn’t get to put up these last few photos (because I know you were dying to see them, right?) and wish you a happy weekend.

Green + translucent 2.

I think the name “seaweed” makes much more sense than “starfish,” especially since these do look quite unkempt when they’re lying on the beach. So I try image them floating underwater instead, and then they’re a great deal more attractive.

Green + translucent 1.

Husband was still a little under-the-weather last weekend because of his teeth, but he rallied long enough to watch some Season 3 Battlestar Galactica with me and use our gift certificate to a really fabulous local restaurant. This being the 2nd (and probably last) time that we have been to West of Paris, let me just say that, if you are local, it is as good as you think it is. That man is a genius with sauces.

I finished two paintings and some drawings over the weekend, but I’m going to string them out a bit since I’ve got what I think is a really good blog idea in the works and want to put the drawings/paintings in the context of some other thoughts that I’ve had recently. If I can get my act together, Jupiterbuttons might be taking a turn toward the literary for a while. Husband is usually the most prolific author in the family, but every once in a while I find that I have something (or lots of things) to say.

Finally, many thanks to Holly from decor8 for including my Alphabirdybet Poster in her roundup of affordable art for kids on the Real Simple blog, Simply Stated. The print is temporarily sold out since UPS cleverly left my last order sitting on our doorstep and — as you might guess — someone helped themselves to a bunch of prints. But if you’re interested in a print while I’m engaged in an online tussle to get reimbursed, let me know and I can have one shipped to you directly from my printer.

Seeing stars.

I stayed home today with poor husband, who had all four wisdom teeth taken out this morning. Yuck. I guess there’s a reason why I barely remember my own tooth-removal experience. (For the record, he looks really amusing with a fat lip and has a very good sense of humor while under duress.)

A starfish!

Back to the beach, though. A starfish is always one of the most fun creatures to find because because of his lovely, lovely orange color.

The perfect size.

It’s amazing that something in nature can be this bright.

So orange.

But while I totally understand the “star” part of the name, I have to wonder who came up with the “fish.” What at all seems fish-like about this little guy?

Dollars and sense.

Maybe one of you far-off readers can help me…are sand-dollars a Pacific Northwest kind of species, or do you find them everywhere?

The usual way you find them (dead).

Common or not, I was very please to find a number of sand-dollar shells on the beach. And then one of the girls found something that was (to me) more rare: a bed of living sand-dollars, covered in short grey hairs.

A living sand dollar.

I have no idea whether the hairs help them to move or catch food or what, but they look a little bizarre when compared with the smooth white forms that I’m used to seeing.

Covered in fuzz.

Oh, and speaking of dollars (nice segue, hmm?), I just received a very happy and long-awaited bit of news from husband. He has a definite job offer from this school, so we will be moving to Florida in August!


(Apologies to parents, et al. for announcing it this way, but it’s hard to keep the good new in.)

Barnacular spectacular.

The beach at grandpa’s house is full of barnacles of all shapes and sizes.

White + rusty orange.

Sometimes the creature that lives inside the shell has already died, leaving a little white mountain with a gaping hole in the middle.

White + green + grey.

The shell usually sticks firmly to the rock for some time afterward, but if it is broken off it leaves a beautiful ghost ring behind.

White + grey.

I found one unattached shell that is large enough to wear as a ring around my finger.

White + umber + dark purple + green.

There are other barnacles (those closer to the water) that are still alive and closed up tightly against the air. If you go to an aquarium, you can watch through the glass as the shell opens and the barnacle waves its lacy tongue through the water to catch plankton.

We always leave the rocks with live barnacles behind.

Mostly white.

I kept this one as a paperweight since all the shells are empty, and I plan to draw it soon. Aren’t the shapes just begging to be turned into lines?

Beachy keen.

So, we’re back from vacation! I add the exclamation point because we’re actually glad to be back — it really was a lovely week, but both husband and I felt quite content to walk into to our little apartment on Saturday night. I’m going to save details regarding the job interview until we know for sure, but it’s definitely looking good at the moment. :)

It's alive!

As always, vacation turned out to go a little differently than I had planned. I spent a lot less time drawing/painting and a lot more time hanging out with the two high school girls that came with us, which was definitely a fair trade. (Aren’t they cute?) Highlights included going downtown Seattle, lots of shopping, looking for treasures at the beach, and watching old episodes of Lost every evening. Mmm, doesn’t that sound nice?

A pinchy little fellow.

I didn’t pack my camera downtown but I did take it to the beach. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a white sand and blue waves, it might surprise you to see what the Puget Sound beaches look like. No swimming here! Lots of rocks + barnacles + pinchy crabs + cold water means that everyone keeps their shoes on and walks gingerly along, trying to look for pretty shells while not slipping on seaweed. (I almost lost a shoe in some sticky sand when when tide was low, so the rocks looked pretty good afterward.)

What's this?

So, in honor of the fact that I took lots and lots of photos of the beach and not much else, I’m going to go ahead and say that this is Beach Week here on Jupiterbuttons.

Finding crabs.

Got any photos you want to share? Leave a comment with a link, and we’ll hop over to see what your beach looks like!

Bean at her most stoic.

(We can’t go on vacation without The Beans, of course….

After a little swim.

…even if she wishes that she never had to see cousin Pip again.) 

Pip + Bean.

Dish week, day 5.

I wish I could say that this week has sped by, but that hasn’t really been the case. Dragged or plodded, maybe?

Next week will be entirely different, though. Husband got a long-awaited phone call yesterday telling him that he’s been invited to Florida for an interview. Hooray!! Unfortunately I don’t get to go, but he will get to meet a lot of people and bring back the scoop (and *hopefully* an offer letter). Instead, I get to spend the time here with mum & grandpa, which is always something to be looked forward to.

Since I can’t guarantee computer access and all that jazz, I’m going to be taking a little blog break next week. I feel like I’ve been doing an awful lot of that, haven’t I? It seems better to go ahead and decide that in advance, though, then to put up one little post and a few bad photos.

Plus, I think I just need to step away from the internet for a while. Am I the only one who sometimes thinks that life would be simpler if I had never discovered the world of blogs? Not better, perhaps, but definitely simpler. Imagine what it would be like to not know that there are a thousand art + craft blogs out there, daily beckoning you to visit them for new ideas and content. To not be influenced by the hundreds of other styles and subjects that seem better or more marketable than yours. To not worry about how to make your house, photographs, yard, cooking, etc. look as nice as hers

So next week, I’m going to settle down with a sketchbook and a couple of picture books to do a little exploration and re-evaluation — but no blog-hopping. Will let you know how it turns out. :)

The dishes I saved for last are a couple of pieces that most of my friends own because they’re just so darn cute.

Cheerfully red.

I mean, how can you resist that chipper little sugar & creamer set? (Alisha couldn’t…see her flickr page for another really lovely photo of this set.)

Peacefully white.

And then there are these lovely Japanese bowls, which can be found at thriftstores everywhere for about 50 cents apiece. They’re so delicate and have the best shape…who says that pretty dishes have to be expensive?

Thanks for showing your dishes and admiring mine this week. And don’t forget that we are hopefully moving next summer, so a lot of these may appear at the Gibbs Mega Moving Sale sometime in May…and I’d so much rather that they go to someone I know!

Have a good weekend + week, all.

Dish week, day 4.

I’m going to be quick because I decided that a little lunchtime trip to the library would do me some good. So today, I present my little demitasse cup collection.

An attractive, if impractical, set of demitasse cups.

The bright blue set is from a housewares store in Freiburg, Germany. Germans make nice dishes.

Pretty blue cups from Germany.

The dark blue + gold set is Russian, picked up at a bazaar in the north of Azerbaijan.

Russian cups, purchased at a bazaar in Azerbaijan.

I love small cups, but they happen to be wildly impractical. I have had coffee in a demitasse cup maybe three times in my whole life, but they are so hard NOT to buy when you find them.

If you like dishes and you’ve got a minute, you should check out the Vintage Ceramics & Tableware group on Flickr. So many pretty pieces!