Dead Skunk on the Side of the Road

Years ago, I was riding my bike.  My eye was on a new white stripe painted on the side of the road. My feet spinning, my hands on the handle bars, my eyes on the road, I followed the white stripe. Suddenly I came across a dead skunk. The person who had painted the stripe, had painted right over the dead skunk. Nothing interrupted his job. He just kept painting down the road.

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The Skunk

The skunk lay under the line for a long time. I don’t know if the winter did him in or a hungry fox drug him off. The skunk is gone but there is a spot on the road where you can still see where the skunk lay.

The Spot

They’ve repainted the line but the remnants remain.

It reminds me to do my best work. To go for excellence instead of speed. Sometimes you have to stop and get the skunk off the road and then paint. I try to remember this when I’m trying to get a character just right. You keep trying until your character feels right to you.
Here are some characters I’ve spent some time on.

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Here are the characters. I would probably add a few more in the foreground on the finished painting.

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Close up of Characters

 

 

 

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Plein Air Painting at the Timpanogos Story Telling Festival

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Caricature of Story Teller Donald Davis

I plopped up my easel between two tents at the Timpanogos Story Telling Festival. Becky Hartvigsen and I had been invited to paint plein air. There I was painting in the shade of a big tree, a slight breeze blowing through. I could hear snippets of stories from both tents and watch the people as they listened and moved to the next area. One of the nice things about plein air is you get to talk to individuals.

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The perfect spot

There was the photographer who talked about filming the story tellers without being obtrusive. A woman walking by and yelling back, keep painting. I love paintings. Sharon who took time out of her busy schedule to buy us lunch. The woman who drove one of the golf carts and picked up me and Becky and all our supplies and drove us right back to the car. It would have been a long walk. While she drove she told a harrowing experience she had in March. Wow, a snippet of life shared in a golf cart ride.

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Working on the details

I spent some time drawing some caricatures of some of the story tellers and when one walked into the tent I was in, I grabbed a copy of my painting and gave it to him and his wife.

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No time to finish. Checking out the progress.

The feelings of the day and the people that you talk to, become part of your painting.

Plein air watercolor by children's book illustrator and watercolor painter Sherry Meidell

What there was time for.

 

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Of Crocodiles and Bygone Mansions

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The Mansion

Your art can take you many places. One moment you can be painting a home from the past, a home where you want to get the details right. The next moment you are painting from pure imagination, a cover for your next sketch book. Right before your eyes appears the seafaring crocodile.

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The sketch book cover

The variety is part of the joy of art but you have to be careful not to be distracted by the squirrels all around you. You must have some idea of the paintings you want to do, how long they will take you. Do you have any looming deadlines that are coming up quickly and what are the long term details that you have to be working on now in order to be ready for them when they arrive. It can be a bit of a juggling act.
It helps me to make lists of the long term goals and pin them up on my board so I can see them from time to time and know what direction I’m heading. Then I decide which things have to be worked on today. The lists give me some direction and help to keep the things that are important at the front of my brain.

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The Details

Then you have to work. You have to sit down and get the work done. Something that looks so complicated, like a picture book can look quite simple after the story board, book dummy and illustrations are finished. Everything seems to fall into place. So it is in working out the details that you arrive at the finished product. The details add story to your paintings. There is tension and story created in the sketch of the crocodile by adding the baby mice in the bag slung over his back. You immediately want to know what happens next.

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A Visit From the Queen

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The Queen

“I’ve got to get ready. The Queen is coming.” She was walking down the hall towards me. Her face had a look of determination, her lips drawn tight not exactly in a smile. After stating her work for the day she hurried on past me.
You had to push one button to get in. The trick was you had to push four buttons to get out and they had to be in the right sequence. You had to remember the code and if the Queen was coming, who had time to memorize the code.
Mom didn’t remember the code and neither did Nelda. Every super hero needs a nemesis and that is what Mom had. Nelda would go in people’s rooms and shop. After all she had to shop, the Queen was coming. A nice sweater here, an interesting book over there. Just the right blouse in this room and a useful walker in the corner that had to be moved to the hall. Mom couldn’t remember a lot of things but she remembered she had to lock her door to keep Nelda out. Nelda took things.
Mom became the Nelda police. “Nelda, you can’t go in that man’s room.” “Nelda put that back. It doesn’t belong to you.” One day it led to a hand grab by Mom and a shove by Nelda.
“I can’t stand Nelda.”
“Well Mom, you don’t need to tell Nelda what to do.”
“Oh yes I do. Someone has to.”
From day to day I would walk down the hall to mom’s room and Nelda would walk past me.
“Hi Nelda.”

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Detail of watercolor by Sherry Meidell. This is not Nelda.

Some days a brusk “Hello” other days a contemptible sideward glance. On a rare day you would get a nice smile and a pleasant word or two. As the months went on you had to be careful as you approached the door with the code. You didn’t want Nelda to follow you out. She had to be side tracked by one of the young girls, come over here Nelda and help me fold napkins.
I’m not sure when it happened in the months that followed. Maybe it was the day after day after day of saying hello. Or maybe it was the suspense of never knowing what you would get when you passed her in the hall or as you waved hello to her as she sat at the dinner table eating her poached fish with mashed potatoes and scattered peas. A little warm spot started to grow in my heart for Nelda.
Somewhere as summer turned to winter Nelda lost her words but I would say “Hello” to Nelda. She had become in someway a friend. She had lost her words but you could tell her mood by the press of her lips. Some days you got a smile, somedays you got a look of distain but more and more you got a smile.
Mom went up to the hospital for two weeks and when we came back the light in Nelda’s eyes had grown dim. Her head started to slump to the side. Mom was unsteady on her feet. We tried to show her how to use the walker and all of a sudden she would be on her knees her hands still gripping the black handles. We had trouble lifting mom up and setting her in a chair. Someone was tugging on my back pocket. I turned. It was Nelda. She had a look of concern in her eyes. I patted her on the arm and turned back to help mom.

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Detail from Emma Jo’s Song illustrated by Sherry Meidell and written by Faye Gibbons

Christmas Eve, my husband and I came with guitar in hand. We passed out bells to people sitting in the big room. “Nelda do you want to ring this bell while we sing?”
Nelda’s head rested on the side of her shoulder. One of the young girls said, “Here Nelda, I will help you.” My husband and I sang. Shirley was taking great care to move the bell from well to the left and then back well to the right. I placed a bell on the chair by June. She couldn’t lift it or move it but her eyes looked down at it intently.
I plucked at the guitar strings and the sound of Silent Night rang through the big room. I looked up from the music at Nelda. The light was back in her eyes. She was listening to the music. There was a slight smile on her lips. “Merry Christmas Nelda.”
A few weeks later I wondered where Nelda was. Then I heard. There would be no more hellos as she sat at the table. She had gone off to see the Queen.

(Names have been changed in this post except for Mom)

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ITeRaTions – ITeRATioNS – ITeRATioNs

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I met a man hiking in Capitol Reef during the Utah Watercolor Society Plein air competition. He was the perfect subject for my iterations.

Here is a quote from “Art and Fear” by David Bayles & Ted Orland: “Between the initial idea and the finished piece lies a gulf we can see across, but never fully chart.” That is the exciting thing about art, going into the uncharted. You’re not really sure where you will end up.

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Trying new colors and a new cropping and some stamping.

I took a work shop from Sue Martin entitled “Iterations”. We took one subject matter and painted it different ways. It stretched our creativity, challenged our thought process and got us thinking about just exactly how do we want to create our art. She told us to be will ing to try something else. “What if…..?”

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Then trying a quick watercolor sketch.

It is the same way with illustration. The first idea that pops into your mind might not be the best so if we spend a bit of time playing in our sketch book and really putting ourselves into the illustration we are creating, walk around in it, and think about the participants, we can come up with a more exciting illustration, an illustration that really says what we want it to say.

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Pencil Sketch

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Pencil Sketch by the seven year old. She has a great way of showing the fuzziness of the cubs.

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Pencil sketch by three year old

Here are three drawings of the same subject by two of my grandkids and myself. It is so fun to see how all three of us looked at the same picture and came up with entirely different drawing. So take joy in your ability no matter where it is at. Take a little play time with our pencil, pens and sketch books. Start thinking like that second grader buried deep inside you and take joy in the creating.

Sue Martin

Capitol Reef

 

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Holiday Shows

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Highway 89 9.5″x20″ watercolor $600.00

If anyone is looking for some original art to give this Christmas, I will have some paintings at a couple of Galleries. “Highway 89” and a couple of other water colors will be at Art Access 230 South 500 West #125, Salt Lake City from November 17th until Christmas.

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“Shepherd holding a Lamb” Oil on wood by Sherry Meidell $75.00

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“Mice Cooking” Oil on wood by Sherry Meidell $75.00

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“Mice Reading” Oil on Wood $75.00

Bountiful Davis Art Center’s Holiday Show , 90 North Main Street, Bountiful, starts November 18th through December 23rd. I have three wood paintings and a Santa watercolor at the BDAC. You can take the art with you when you buy.

www.bdac.org

www.accessart.org

 

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Trying to Catch the Essence

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Sketch of Brent Laycock

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Brent Laycock presenting at the Utah Watercolor Society.

I had my sketch book open, my pen was flying over the paper sketching Brent Laycock. He was demonstrating at the Utah Watercolor Society. My friend Manelle Oliphant was sketching next to me. Up the row from us I could hear a camera clicking. Manelle leaned over and said I think your friend is taking pictures of us. (Rule number one when sketching someone: Don’t draw attention to yourself.) When you are watching a demo or listening to someone speak, you have a model standing right in front of you or seated around you. It’s a great opportunity to do some sketching. Here are a few things I think about when I’m sketching people.

It’s nice to watch the person you are sketching so you can catch some of his or her mannerisms, personality and how they move. You are trying to capture the personality as much as the shapes of the face.

You have to forget yourself completely or you’ll pull yourself out of the moment.

You don’t want the person you are sketching to know you are drawing him. It will make him self conscious and you’ll lose the natural poses.

What feature stands out the most or where do you want to start the sketch. It’s kind of like psyching yourself up for a sport.competition. You look and you let your pen fly on the gesture or angle that captures your attention.

Sometimes the first try doesn’t make it. So now that you’ve warmed up, you try again.

People move so the view you are looking at might change. I wait until the person turns back into the same pose and add a few details or where the shadows lie.

When do you stop? With the drawing of Brent Laycock, I stopped when I drew the line between his eyebrows. With that final touch, I was done.

Just like with other things practice – practice – practice makes you quicker and less self conscious.. If you practice enough you can have someone walk by you and you can sketch them from your memory.

 

Www.utahwatercolor.org

www.brentlaycock.com

 

 

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#Inktober Day 32 (Bonus)

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#Inktober Day 32 (Bonus)

Thanks to all of you who have joined me on this Inktober journey. I got to know Jumbo and Matthew Scott as I drew them this month. If you would like to know more of this true story, you can read Candace Flemings story “A Jumbo Story” in the book Guys Read: True Stories by Jon Scieszka. I got to know my pen better this month and how to put some pen and ink to paper. It became something I looked forward to. Thanks for your comments and sharing this month with me.

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#Inktober Day 31

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#Inktober Day 31

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#Inktober Day 30

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#Inktober Day 30 Sherry Meidell

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