Too Hot for Tomatoes

To a southerner, steamy temperatures above 90 isn’t a heat wave.  Its Summer.  Until it gets too hot for tomatoes.


Tomatoes before Summer got stupid

We continue in our summer routines – cutting grass, washing trucks, fighting off blood-sucking insects. We take little notice of the oppressive heat until the tomatoes stop growing.  When its too hot for pollination its time to check on the elderly, drink plenty of fluids, stay inside air-conditioned buildings and thank God that you have a rickety ceiling fan and not a crystal chandelier in your bedroom.


THE INSPIRATION: With daytime temperatures staying above 86, there are no new tomatoes being produced.  I’m just trying to save the ones that are there.

THE CHALLENGE:  Plein-air work in the garden.  At 8:00 in the morning it’s already hot, humid and humming with biting insects!  Insect repellent is a must.  But it doesn’t keep the flies, gnats off your paper, pastels and paint pallet!

THE SKETCH: I did two sketches.  The 5″x 7″ watercolor postcard mailed to my daughter-in-law in sympathy with her gardening struggles.

Tomatoes Postcard
Watercolor on 5 x 7 postcard

Our plants are not thriving.  Just surviving!


Another sketch was done in pastels. This time I focused on what was still good about the plant – the ripening fruit.  Mmm… the glass is looking half-full!

THE TAKEAWAY: Nice imperfections. The smudges and unfinished lines allows the viewer’s eyes to fill in the gaps and form a completed picture in the mind.
I admire the plump, ripening fruit, despite the unforgiving heat!


Tomatoes Pastels
Pastels on a watercolor-wash background







The Cat

THE INSPIRATION: I recently posted Claire the Cat’s somewhat apologetic letter to a little girl.  If you are new to this blog, you may want to read Claire’s backstory: Claire the Cat .  Want to read more posts about her?  Type “cats” in the search bar.


THE CHALLENGE:  Animals move.  Cats move a lot.   Unless they are taking one of their daily 12 1/2 naps.  So one would think that would be the best time to sketch a cat.  Not for this artist’s model!  Evidently the scratching sound of charcoal on paper was enough to awaken and annoy Claire the Cat.  Who promptly walked away to find respite in her favorite human arms.

I followed.  Tried sketching again.  To no avail.  And had to resort to photography.  Claire the Cat was not pleased – as evident in finished piece.  Oh the paparazzi!

THE SKETCH: A tiny 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ ACEO piece.  Pastels and watercolor wash.

THE TAKEAWAY: The artist’s eye can see sense emotion better than any camera!  I’m going to try again when Claire is in a happier mood – perhaps a more wakeful moment.




Pastel Tips Tutorial

The term “Pastel  Painting” is a popular oxymoron used by the art world.  I often wondered “How can a pastel drawing also painting?”

I got my answer from the video 10 Pastel Tips posted by the Virtual Art Instructor.  The application of the pastels – the process of layering and mixing colors –  is considered painting with pastels.   The painting is in the process not the materials used. Got it!

If you have about 8 minutes, watch this tutorial of 10 helpful tips to improve your “painting” with pastels.


  • CONSIDER THE SURFACE:  I haven’t purchased pastel paper yet.  Using some leftover watercolor paper for a more textured surface.  Love the amount of layers I can apply.

Wilmars picnic_2017 - Card

  • BLEND AND UNBLEND:  OMG! I can be a blending fool – smoothing out every mark. I experimented with this tip in this picnic scene.  I’ve blended sky, flowers and cloth. But left the layered marks on the basket and grass unblended.
  • STAY LOOSE AND WORK QUICKLY:  This tip helped me to start loose at the beginning of the drawing just to get the  the color on the paper.
  • BE PATIENT:  It is OK just not to rush to try to finish in one sitting, just let the art develop.  I can always return to it later.
  • FIXATIVE IS OPTIONAL: I’m now spraying fixative midway in the process before adding details.  Afterwards I don’t feel compelled to spray a final coat.  OK, maybe a spritz or two just to be safe.




Summer 2014: Marigolds and tall stalks of okra.  The rosemary bush is behind the birdbath.

Unbeknownst to my suburban neighbors summer squash, okra, eggplant and bush beans have often been planted in among the dianthus and marigolds filling our front flower bed.  A lovely rosemary bush also calls this garden patch home.

THE INSPIRATION: Georgia’s winter 2017 has been unusually warm.  Its February and the rosemary has become a fragrant work site for impatient bees resulting in an abundance of tiny blue-violet flowers.  On a particularly sunny day, I decided on a bit of plein air work in the garden.

THE CHALLENGE: There is a lot going on in my garden, even in the winter – nuthatches, cardinals and house finches are always busy around the feeder. But to keep the drawing simple, I resisted adding the  birds and other garden elements. ( No bunnies.)  But the stately pines and surrounding hillside were tempting.  After 3 false starts to include these, I decided they were a subject matter for another time.

THE SKETCH: Pastels on medium weight drawing paper.

THE TAKE-AWAY: I like this sketch.  Especially the wispy clouds. The stiffness of the rosemary bush and concrete birdbath make a good foil for the sky’s lightness. But it feels a little too still.  Perhaps a bird or two fluttering nearby would have added movement to this sketch as they do my garden in winter!  One can oversimplify.




My goal in 2017 is to simplify.  Simplify.  Simplify.  This quiet word rolls easily off my tongue.  But putting it into practice – ahhh that’s another story.

The Inspiration: Sandy the Parakeet was purchased from a souvenir shop on Jekyll Island, Georgia.  He is so colorful and life-like.  For years he has perched quietly nearby.  A perfectly still subject for a sketch.

The Challenge: All I wanted to do was to paint this simple green bird.  Simply.  But as I worked, Sandy hard, carved feathers became fluffy layers ready for flight.  This was unintentional.  So I tried again.  Simplifying lines and relaxing ink and paint applications.

The Sketch

  • Cicadas- Rubbing plate.  Watercolor pencils.
  • Complex Sandy- Artist sketch pen. Watercolor paint.
  • Simplified Sandy – Sumi ink applied with Japanese brush. Watercolor paint.

The Take Away: The slow process of making sumi ink allowed me to meditate on how I wanted to make my marks.  Using the Japanese brush helped to place those marks simply.