Frustration Again

Some days when I’m sketching I just can’t seem to nail it. And it’s usually the portraits. It drives me a little nuts.

It is just so frustrating to be able to get it some of the time and not others. Because a portrait just isn’t any good when it’s off.

My subject this session is my oldest grandson, AJ. At age 16 he’s a very thoughtful kid. He spends a lot of time producing electronic music on the computer so he’s a rather “arty” type. He also has a pretty good sense of humor.

As he’s gotten older he has become very accommodating with me… opening doors, carrying things, asking if I need help. One time I commented, “AJ, I’m so proud of you! You are becoming quite the gentleman!” To which he replied, “thanks, Nonna… but don’t tell my mom!” I thought that was hilarious. And smart. We wouldn’t want his mother’s expectations to soar too high, now would we?

I was pleased with the first sketch. And I have to say it looks much better in person. It’s all scribbly and sketchy like I like.


The second one started out ok and then got lost. At one point it was quirky and cute but I just couldn’t leave it alone. I kept messing with it to the point of near ruination. Ugh!


So I figured, why not do it again and try to have a little restraint? Go for the quirky and keep it sketchy and lighter. Same thing happened again. And this time I managed to make him look older than he is. I don’t even know how I did that since it was the same photo. Double ugh!


I don’t think they’re horrible. They’re just not what I was going for. Thus the frustration.

And I realize I have a couple problems here. One, it wasn’t a great photo. I liked it, but sometimes you can’t get a good drawing out of a challenging photo.

Two, I’m working in a bound book. That makes me feel pressure to make every drawing “nice” so there aren’t bad pages in the book. This is dumb. Not every drawing is going to be good or on the mark. I know that. So why am I expecting such a thing?

I think a way around that is to work on single sheets. I’m planning to cut up some of my spiral bound sketch pads into a huge stack of loose pages. Then I can work with more abandon. If I do a bunch of bad drawings, I can simply throw them away. The ones I keep can be bound into a book of their own.

So I guess I’m off to round up supplies and start getting the pages ready. I’m itching to get loose!

Moments to Savor

As I get older, I realize how important it is to store up really good memories.

Not that you want to live in the past. No. You just need to be able to call up better times when harder times come.

I’m not sure if I developed the “mental-savoring” habit because I’m an artist or if I’m just wired that way. But I’ve pretty much always done it.

When I find myself in a moment of bliss – which can be anything from watching my grandkids play to walking on a beach to noticing the first flowers of spring – I try to memorize it. I lock that image in my mind and tell myself… “I’m going to remember this now so I can enjoy it again later!”

And you never know when that will come in handy.

Last year I had to have several tests done by MRI – the giant clanking tube that makes you feel like you’re in a coffin. No wonder people are afraid of that thing! The fear of it alone can do you in.

So here’s what I did.

First, I said yes to the sedation. I love me some legal drugs when they are available.

Then I went through my memory bank and picked out what I would think about while sequestered like a sardine in a can. I chose Italy because I lived there for a few months a couple years ago.

It was scary getting ready. By the time I got earplugs, eye covering, padding all round my head and totally strapped down I was glad for the sedation. And I had decided that once I closed my eyes I wouldn’t open them again until it was over.

I took deep breaths as the table I was laying on slid me inward. I clutched my little panic ball, which they say you can squeeze if you need to get out, but not too tightly. What could be worse than panicking your way out of that machine only to get put back in again? Better to see it through the first time.

IMG_3034Soon I was back in Lucca in my mind’s eye. I walked down the cobbled streets looking in shop windows. I strolled past the butcher where I loved to get parma ham. The open air flower stand at the intersection was bright with all colors of blooms. And just round the corner was my favorite lunch place, Pizza Da Felice. I craved a slice from here almost every other day!

But just as I was about to bite into my imaginary pizza, a voice interrupted.. “Doing OK in there?”

It took me a second to reply, “yes, I’m fine.” And I rather resented the intrusion.

Anyway, I spent my hour in the “tube o’death” enjoying Italy all over again. And when I got back to my room I wasn’t stressed at all. Slept off the sedation like a baby.

And that’s the power of memories to savor. At least for me.

So today’s sketches are the quickie portrait kind. And I think they are typical of moments to savor.

First is the daughter of two of my high school chums. Ashley just had son number two and this delightful scene shows son number one giving his brother a warm welcome.


Second is a quirky version of a couple young friends of mine. Matt and Chelsea recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. It looks to me like they drank a bottle of bubbly with dinner and got the giggles. I’m calling this one a Champagne Selfie. And I think everyone should enjoy their anniversary so much! (Congrats you two!!)

chelsea and Matt2

I know I am going on overlong here, but I want to say one more thing about savoring good moments…

As an artist, I’ve had the privilege of preserving a lot of them for friends, family and clients. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of portrait sketches. Some of kids, some of pets, some of mom or dad after they’re gone. And I can’t tell you the reactions I’ve gotten. Believe me, some of those are memorable for me!

One day, back in the era of answering machines, I came home to a message exclaiming breathily.. “Oh Starr! Oh Starr!” over and over. Yikes! Just as I was thinking it was some sort of obscene call, the caller identified herself. She had just received a gift from her husband – the portrait I did of her family. She was overjoyed and it made my day.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that if their house was burning down, the one thing they would grab on the way out the door was the painting or portrait I did for them. That’s mighty nice validation for me. And wonderful memory preservation for them.

And by the way… I did a pencil portrait of the pizzaola at da Felice as well as a sketch of their front entrance (shown above.) They hung it on the wall and wouldn’t let me pay for a slice again after that! That’s happiness to me!

So be aware of your own fleeting times of bliss. Recognize when they happen. Pay attention. Study them closely and link them to how you feel right then. Because later, when you need a boost, all you have to do is dream. You have precious moments to savor.

Blue and more…

Just posting a few sketches today.

First up, my friend’s dog Blue. Who happens to look a bit blue here!


Then Blue’s mom-pal, my friend Aimee. It’s always great to touch base with Aimee because she is a writer. I enjoy my writer friends because they are generally a curious and well-spoken bunch. And that makes for lively, interesting conversations. Aimee herself is a bit of a firecracker. Under that Marilyn Monroe hair lives a wicked wit… juxtaposed with a tender heart. I got out a different sketchbook to draw her because I wanted a smooth paper that would take crisp, clear color. I like how it turned out because Aimee herself is crisp, clear and colorful.


Another writer friend is a former professional dancer. I’ve seen some of her dance photos and they are ethereal. Even though dancers are incredibly strong athletes, ballerinas seem to be part of a dream world to me. I always have the feeling they will scamper away like fairies and disappear if you try to reach out and touch them. Here’s Jennifer…

J Holmes

This sketch is of someone I don’t know. Jennifer posted it and I was mesmerized. Surely Andrea really is a butterfly…

Butterfly Ballerina

Did you notice in the ballerina sketches they barely even leave shadows on the ground? I’m telling you, they are not of this world!

So that’s the friends for today. And I’m about to switch gears. I recently tried a new shrimp recipe and it was so good I’ve got to go get some more shrimp. I think those ugly bugs are going to make their way into my daily sketchbook next…

My Warrior Nieces

Yesterday I blogged (and sketched) about two of my nieces with new adorable bambinos. I am glad to say they liked my sketches and I am pretty pleased with how my practice sketching is going.

Today, I want to share two more of my nieces in my sketchbook.

But this is a much different story.

These two, Jamie and Julie, have the last name of Wohrer. Pronounced “warrior.” And warriors they are.

Their mother had to leave them way too soon. She died of breast cancer when they were still teens at home. It was a crushing blow.

They had no choice but to live on, albeit with a huge piece of their heart missing.

Then, in the past few years, each has been diagnosed with MS – multiple sclerosis. They have an older sister, Beth, who has been diagnosed with MS as well.

That means that not one, not two, but all three daughters are struggling with MS.

Being the warriors they are, they each do what they can to raise money for the National MS Society. Right now, Jamie and Julie are at a fundraiser in Florida for this cause. Beth is not well enough to be there with them. Soon, Julie will do the Bike Ride for MS just like she did last year.

So here’s a sketch of my brave nieces… Jules is on the left and Jamie is on the right.


And as far as my sketching… I am thrilled with this one. What I am practicing on is doing QUICK sketches and I was able to knock this one out in about 15-20 minutes. It is rough, yes. But I’m not looking for refinement here. I’m working on expression in a very short time. That is hard for me because I’m so seldom able to achieve it.

Somehow, I think these girls’ dedication inspired me today.

And if you are inspired in any way, please go to Bike MS and make a small donation. You can type in either of the girls names… Julie Worher or Jamie Wohrer Rohr. I know the girls haven’t reached their goals and you really can make a difference for less than the price of one dinner out or a movie and some popcorn.

I’m off to do more sketching now. And sending much love to all three of my warrior nieces.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

I’m a die-hard Beatles fan from way back. And when I see the words, “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da” I recognize them from the chorus of the 1968 song “Life Goes On.”

And oh how it does!

In the song, Molly and Desmond meet and fall in love. Pretty soon he buys her a ring and things take their course…

“In a couple of years they have built

a home, sweet home

with a couple of kids running in the yard…

Of Desmond and Molly Jones

(Ah ha ha ha ha ha)”

I hope you remembered those lyrics and were singing along with me.

But if not, you just aren’t the Beatles fan that I am and that’s fine.

My point today is that life, indeed, does go on.

Only yesterday I was a new bride and a new mama welcoming my babies into the world. Now they have babies of their own. And it won’t be long before those babies are having babies! Oy vey!

Meanwhile, two of my nieces (among others!) have started their families and are enthralled with their own offspring. And that’s what I decided to put in the sketchbook today… my grand-nieces… Meredith and Maggie Jean.

Again, these are “sketches” – not finished or formal portraits, so they may be a bit wonky. No matter. It is how I am practicing to do personal sketches more quickly. And I have to tell you, it hasn’t been as easy as I would have thought.

First, I don’t particularly like doing babies. They have very smooth skin with no lines in it and very big eyes. I find that much harder to work with. Reason being, an older person has a face much more like a road map and it is easier to nail down. I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It is just more fun to be able to capture some character as opposed to the innocent, wide, line-less faces of babes.

Anyway, I’m challenging myself, so here goes. My niece Amanda (who has a new baby on the way) has this toddler, Meredith…

Meredith 2

Another niece, Rachael has new baby Maggie, which I did twice on one page…

Maggie 1

Maggie 2The sketchbook spread looks like this…

Maggie Mere spread

And I do love how the family keeps growing. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da and the babes keep coming.

In fact,one of my sons and his wife are expecting baby number two in July. (Number six grand for me!) We are all very excited because there is no happier event than a new bambino joining our ranks. So I’ll be waiting – and probably NOT drawing that little bundle of joy when she gets here. Just too squishy to portray well!

But there is one other thing I always think about when it comes to burgeoning families…

These young parents – who are gushing over their new little darlings – don’t seem to realize that they themselves were once the most precious babes ever born – to us as their parents. And then they turned into teenagers. Of course, it wasn’t legal to lock them in the garage for five years, so we just all had to live through it until they came out the other side, fell in love like Molly and Desmond, and started the cycle again. Now they think they invented the whole business!

So, yeh, they’ve got their “couple of kids running in the yard” at present. But those of us who’ve been there knows what happens next…

Ob-la-di, ob-li-da… Life Goes On!

(Ah ha ha ha ha ha!)

The Eli Chronicles

The sketching continues.

And I am particularly interested in doing small portrait sketches right now. Not sure why.

So I asked a Facebook friend, a guy from my old hometown, to send me a few photos. He’s a rugged looking guy and I thought it would be fun to practice on him.

Now I don’t know anything about Eli personally, but you can sure get an impression of him from his photos.

Would you say he is a bit casual about authority figures? (Not disrespectful… just casual…)

Eli 3

Or somewhat laid back?

Eli 4

But I have a feeling he is a giant teddy bear on the inside…

Eli 1

Although a teddy bear wearing Harley goggles…

Eli 2

And who knows where he goes when he rides off into the sunset?

Eli back

A lean, mean mystery man. Surely he’s an Easy Rider who loves the road…

Thanks for the pics, Eli. That was fun!

And by the way – here’s the spreads in my sketchbooks. I got a couple nice pages chalked up.

Eli group 1

Eli group2P.S. I added a “follow” button to my blog here. Find it on the lower part of the right side of the page. So if you click on it to “follow” me you’ll get a notice when a new post goes up. That way you can look at it or not, or at least catch up when you have time. I also welcome comments, so feel free to chat. And don’t worry if I disappear from time to time – I can be pretty sporadic. But I do hope you’ll stay tuned!

Creatively Fickle

I am so fickle!

I will spend months making vintage-style handkerchiefs and then suddenly I switch to knitting socks. (Yes, I knit socks!) And before you know it, I’m back into the sketching… which I am now doing as though on a mission. Mission for what? Creativity, I guess. Because that’s the one thing that makes me happy any time, any day.

That’s why I’ll have 25 sketch blog posts in a row and then drop it for months.

But all that means is that I’m off on another mission. Maybe cooking… maybe gardening… maybe making cotton dishcloths for everyone I know…

So I’m fickle. About sticking to any particular thing, that is.

The one thing you can be sure of is that I do something creative every day. I’m more than a bit obsessed with that. I will write a story, draw my lunch, salivate over colors of yarn or oil paint… But the one thing that makes me feel alive and passionate is something creative.

Meanwhile, I’ve done some un-related drawings the past couple days. But they do reflect what is going on in my world. (All be it, not a terribly exciting world!)

Lisa2First is a new sketch of my friend Lisa. This one actually turned out to look like her. Score!

Then I took a break and made some split pea soup. I LOVE split pea soup. And I was so thrilled to have all the ingredients on hand (which means I don’t have to interrupt my drawing and go to the store) that I did a sketchbook page about it.

Honestly, anything can be the subject of a sketchbook page. split pea soup

Then, I totally switched gears to sketch a new purchase I recently made… JACKS

I’m talking about the children’s game of times past with the metal jacks and red rubber ball that you bounce while you challenge yourself through a series of picking up the jacks off the floor. I loved this game as a child! Would sit on the back porch and play for hours all by myself.

I wouldn’t have recalled this game at all but one of my high school era friends on facebook posted a picture of a set of jacks with the caption… “does anyone remember these?” Yeh, I do! And I remember them being so much fun that I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a set for my “grandkid shelf” – the games and books I keep just for them when they visit. Jacks

Of course, when the jacks arrived at my door, I opened them up and sat down to play. Which meant sitting on the floor. Which is very awkward now with my two titanium knees. Which meant I couldn’t bounce the ball too high because if it got away from me, I would have a hard time chasing it.

Still, it was enjoyable. Even though it took me at least 20 tries to complete the first stage of the game… “onesies.” But I did it. And it was fun and made me smile. Now I’m drawing the jacks and putting them on the shelf for the grands.

At least when I teach them to play, they can chase the blasted runaway ball and bring it back!

But it won’t cure me of being fickle…

Sketching Today

Hmmm… I’m wearing myself out sketching of late.

It turns out that even though I haven’t forgotten totally how to draw, my so-called “quickie portrait sketches” are neither quick or all that accurate. I’m a bit bummed about it, but I guess you always have to earn your stripes and I haven’t done any portrait work in quite a while. So now I have to get back in practice. Hrumph!

Today I decided to practice on myself. And since it is much too painful (and depressing) to look in the mirror for long, I pulled up a few photos from the last couple years and worked from those. I have one sitting with a glass on wine in Italy… another at the beach in Florida… and a third being a goofball. There was limited choice because I don’t much like my picture taken. I always look at such photos and wonder who that’s supposed to be. Me? Really? Surely that can’t be me looking like that! Who is that gray-haired lady with the double chin? Not me… starr sketches

But drawing myself was rather easy. I thought all 3 sketches went fairly quick and actually did look like me…

So then, one of my Facebook friends, Lisa, posted a new profile photo today. We’ve never actually met in person but have been online friends for years. And her new photo was stunning. She is looking great and has the world’s cutest haircut! So I messaged her and asked if I could use her new photo to practice on.

She said yes, but that meant I had to do something respectable. Again… hmmm. It turned out just OK – but is a bit wonky. And that isn’t all so unusual.

You see, when I try to do likenesses, I don’t always nail them the first time. What usually happens is that I work on them to the point that I can no longer see my mistakes. And then I have to quit because it is useless to keep going. That’s where I’m at with Lisa. (and with the one of my Dad yesterday.) But if I put it away for a day or two, I can go back and see it with fresh eyes.

Then, all of a sudden, the nose that is the wrong shape – or the eyes that are not the right distance apart – jump right off the page at me. And I’m always so surprised that I ask myself, “what were you thinking?” Look at that mess you made! Now fix it! And I do if I can.

lisaAnyway… here’s Lisa. I may have to go back and adjust it later since I can’t quite tell right now.

I guess what I need to do is not post for a couple days so I can let things sit and rest before I try to post them here. That way you don’t see the original screwy version that needs edited. And I don’t insult someone by making them look like an alien version of themselves…

Also, I was talking to my daughter Ellyn today. She is Josey’s mother – and you know I’ve been trying to draw Josey correctly for a couple days now. Ellyn, of course is my best – and worst – critic. She has a good eye and is always honest with me. Very honest. And while I usually agree with her, sometimes it is a bit brutal.

I didn’t know if Ellyn had seen the Josey sketches because we hadn’t talked about it. Turns out she had.

And she didn’t think they looked like Josey either.

Well, I knew that…

Then, with her usual forthright insight, she asked, “Why aren’t you working from a better photo?”

I can’t tell you how that hit  me!

Yes, an ideal photo will give the best results, but I liked that photo of Josey. I did think the angle of the face was difficult to deal with because it made her nose look out of proportion to begin with. But I want to be able to work from all angles! And that can be a challenge in a small sketch because just the width of a pencil line can make a nose or mouth look all wrong. I know that and I want to do it anyway. And it can drive me crazy.

Maybe some artists pick up a pencil or a brush and beautiful things just flow out the other end, but not me. I struggle with it. Some days are better than others. And right now I’m like a rusty old nail that is long out of practice.

I don’t need perfection. I just want to do lively drawings full of character. Maybe they don’t look right on, but I want them to be spontaneous and charming and somehow perfectly imperfect. And that seems to be easier said than done. So until I run completely out of steam, I’ll fill up my little books and practice, practice, practice.

Back to the Drawing Board

OK… back to the drawing board today.

Yesterday was a bust… art-wise.

Josey5I tried to draw Josey numerous times and not a single one looked anything like her!


So I tried again today. It turned out a bit better. But not all that much. Not sure why, but I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, here’s today’s effort.

Then, since I am realizing I am a very “rusty” artist and need to practice a whole lot more, I decided to do a sketch of my dad.

First let me say this…

I am 63 years old. And I still have my dad. He is 83. And he is in pretty good health! He lives in his own home, washes his car more times than I would ever dream of, and mows his yard umpteen times a year. In fact, he records his yard-mowing on his calendar. Has for years.

Now he’s a funny guy (which is where I get my own “funni-ness!”) so he writes “mode” on the calendar every time he cuts the grass. And believe me, he is thorough about it. One year he said he “mode” every month but February… in Ohio! I’m tellin’ ya, when you pull up to his house, it looks like he clipped the lawn with scissors.

But my daddy is not just a grass-cutting ninja in his golden years… he is a serious ninja from times past…

Take a look at this sketch I did of him today. DadSee those blue eyes?

Ha! I have those eyes. (And so do my sons and one of my grand daughters.) But we do not know how to use those eyes like he did!

Nope… his eyes were WEAPONS!

In my growin’ up years, he would turn those eyes on me and I would melt under his gaze. Had I done something I shouldn’t? Had I even thought about it?

If so, I would run screaming from the room and confess to all manner of sins committed or briefly considered.

Please, God, forgive me for even having such thoughts!

But that was the power of a good daddy in those days. He knew how to use his strength and I knew how to respect it. It made me a good girl. No matter what the temptation. (So for all those juicy boys I knew in high school… now you know why I was able to resist you! I was skeered to death of my papa! And now you know how to train your own daughters and grand daughters!)

Anyway… my daddy was also one heck of a musician. He played the mandolin. He taught my brother to play the guitar when he was a wee bit of a thing. And when we were young adults, my family had a band… The Pleasant Mountain Boys, from Lancaster Ohio. The core group of the band was my grand dad, Lawrence Featheroff, my dad, Ralph Tipton, and my brother, Larry Tipton. And over the years and various incarnations of the band, others joined them to play the most wonderful bluegrass, down-home music you ever heard in your life. They made a number of recordings and all of those who knew them at the time spent every weekend “following the band” to wherever they played.

My dad was known as “the Roadhog” – not sure why now. And all the guys had nicknames I can no longer recall. Isn’t that crazy? It really wasn’t all that long ago…

Meanwhile, I’m sketching my father today and recalling his talent and wishing him a very, very, very long life. His talent will always live on… and I hope mine does, too.

May you all have fond memories of your own families today of both times past and future!

Bad Day at the Drawing Board (but That’s Life!)

Remember that old Sinatra song, “That’s Life”??? It goes like this…

That’s life (that’s life), that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

Well, it isn’t May, yet, but I sure got shot down today.

At the drawing board, that is.

You see, I was wanting to do some sketches of my grand daughter Josey today. She is 14. She is beautiful. She is a love of my life. And I wanted to get her down in my sketch book again.

Because I have in the past…

Here’s a sketch from 2006 when she was about 5 or 6. It is in my very first everyday sketchbook when I started doing little drawings on a regular basis.

Josey 2006

Isn’t she the cutest?

Then a couple years ago, she fell off her bike and broke both her wrists! And yes, my gorgeous grand daughter is a monumental clutz. Always has been. From the time she could walk, she fell down as much as she went forward…

Josey arms

But oh how I love her! And what a delight it is to see her grow up – and mature – and torture her mother to death like her mother once tortured me! hahaha!

BUT… today has been a disastrous drawing day. I was able to make a couple quickie sketches of the Jo-bear that I liked. Here she is sitting in a booth at one of my brother’s restaurants… and by the pool when we went for an overnight adventure last December…

Josey sketches 2015

Then I tried to do a serious drawing to showcase her special look. It turned out terrible. Looked nothing like her. And I actually cut the first one right out of the book and threw it away. Surely I could do better the second time around….

Nope… second attempt was another disaster.

What? Did I really forget how to draw? I’ve been doing portraits for nigh on 30 years… what happened?

I don’t know, but I got out a pad of drawing paper and started going rogue freehand. Surely I can get a glimpse of my precious Josey that way. So here’s attempt #1…


And attempt #2


And attempt #3


And attempt #4


Now don’t even tell me what’s wrong with these drawings… some have fat cheeks, some have a too-big nose (her nose is long, but not BIG) and I don’t even know why I can’t get it to look like her!!!

Well call the squad because I’ve done lost my cotton-pickin’ mind. And I can’t remember how to draw.

So I cut out the photo I was working from and pasted it right in the dadgum sketchbook.

Josey failure

So there.


I’m quitting drawing for the day and going to play Facebook games. How ’bout a little Farm Heroes or Pepper Panic or Candy Crush? How much skill does that take? Probably more than I have right now, but don’t call and check… I’ll be yelling BINGO!! when the blitz hits… I’m a failure at the drawing board today.

Hopefully I recover tomorrow.

Hey, I know – why don’t I just paint apples or petunias – nobody knows if those look like they really should!

Yeh, that’s it. I’ll go do fruit bowls and y’all will think I’m wonderful and won’t realize what a putz I am.

Ugh… back to the drawing board in a day or two.

Sorry Josey. You are so beautiful and I couldn’t do you justice. But I will soon… Love you bunches my precious one!

Everybody else, stay tuned. I’m just having a bad day – but why shouldn’t I post that as well?

As Frank Sinatra so eloquently serenaded… That’s Life…

And hopefully I’ll be back on top in June….

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