Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bye bye summer

ACEO Yellow Butterfly
colored pencil on paper
3.5 x 2.5 inches
©2008 Ann Thompson Nemcosky
Click here to buy

It's already been a busy week here. Looking at my calendar I see that August is almost behind us for another year. The remnants of Fay have been dumping much needed rain on our mountains but making for a string of gray and gloomy days, a foreshadowing of the seasons about to shift.

We have also had a shift in our routine from summer to the start of fall. Fall semester has begun for hubby. Kiddo's dance, art and other activities are beginning again for the academic year. And we began a new grade level with a change in curriculum last week. All of this is much more time consuming, especially for me on the homeschool front. Each jump in grade level places not only more demands on my student but more from me as the teacher as well. More subjects to include, more projects to do. Kiddo is doing great. I'm wiped out by the end of each day! It will take some getting used to, some settling in before I have a rhythm established for my time, as I am taking it in stages. Get the homeschool routine established first, then fill in the cracks of time with making art. Revisit my goals. Evaluate my time and plan a schedule. I am being nudged into autumn whether I like it or not.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

An apple a day

Here is another of my watercolor practice studies. Yesterday Kiddo had an upset tummy so while she was camped out on the couch I set up shop at the kitchen table and spent the day practicing with watercolors. From my spot in the kitchen I could easily keep an eye on her and fetch her ice chips and popsicles. She is much better today.

I had a comment on a previous post about staying focused from Hibbymom. She is also my sister-in-law, a very creative painter and photographer. She asked, "Can you do a whole post on how you stay focused? I find myself struggling at times." So here you go Roe!

Actually, I don't know that I do the best I could be doing at staying focused with my art, but I do keep trying to make it all work. Like most people, I have other activities that severely limit the time I have available for working on my art. However, I do have a few strategies that help keep me on track to make the best use of my valuable art time.

1. Set goals. My goal for my art in 2007 was to make art. That worked up to a point. You know that I wasn't really making any art at all for a very long time, so by just acknowledging that I wanted to make time for art in my life again gave me some motivation to do so. My goals for 2008 for my art were more extensive. I occasionally review that list of goals and revise when necessary. For example, I have moved from doing the Everyday Matters drawing challenges in graphite to using watercolor for some, as I have added the goal of learning to become comfortable with watercolor for journaling. I also realize that even though I may not do one finished colored pencil piece in a given month, there may also come a month when I finish two, or more, so I don't beat myself up over it. These goals are a guide, they aren't written in stone.

2. Which brings me to my next point. I also know that I go through a cycles of productivity. There are times when I only want to work on art and other times when even though I have time for making art I am not so productive. Kind of like Sammie dog needing to circle around several times before settling down, I go through the paces of circling before I can settle in to begin something. I see that as all part of the process, a kind of natural ebb and flow. And even though those less-than-productive times don't result in a finished product there is a mental processing happening that leads me to the next thing.

3. So what do I do while circling and not settling on the next project? I look at art books and magazines. I read artists' blogs. Seeing the work of others, reading about their processes, is one way I keep art in the forefront of my thinking. About a month ago Maggie Stiefvater had a great post on motivation over on her blog, Greywaren Art. Whenever I need a good butt-kicking, Maggie's sure to come through with sound motivational advice!

4. I also belong to a couple of online artist communities. Wet Canvas is a valuable and vast resource for artists and a good place to share art work with others while learning from other artists in any media. And they are all represented there so you can jump around from watercolor to collage to photography and more. It was through the Wet Canvas site that I learned much about techniques with colored pencil. Their monthly challenges gave me projects to work on all the while developing skills and getting feedback from other members. Visiting the websites and blogs of other members opened up for me the potential of sharing art online.

5. Keeping a blog of my artistic journey has been hugely motivating. I have a chronicle of my process over the past year and writing about my work for others to read helps me to stay focused on my intentions with my art work.

6. Another online venue that has helped me stay focused is the wonderful community of artists that belong to the Everyday Matters group. Where Wet Canvas excels at support when concentrating in any one media , EDM is a place where artists of all different levels of experience working in a variety of media come together to share ideas and offer support. Doing the weekly drawing challenges has helped me not only expand my drawing skills but also move outside of my comfort zone. Not only with subject matter but also with different media, sometimes trying the very things I would have avoided just a year ago.

So Roe, that's my advice. Set some goals. Make creativity a habit. Accept that you will have very productive and not-so-productive times so be prepared to go with it by using your time to your best advantage. Join an online group or two. Start posting your art and photography on your blog. Visit other artists blogs, websites, and local art galleries. I know you have tons of stunning photographs and I remember when you did beautiful watercolor paintings. Do you have a sketchbook? Get one. Maybe I'll even see you over at the Everyday Matters group!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Lately I have been using the Everyday Matters drawing challenges to practice with watercolors. Colored pencil works will return soon, I promise! The Everyday Matters challenge this week is to draw a cat. I don't have a cat but I used to. Her name was Esther and she was all white with green eyes. I did this sketch from an old photo taken of her sometime between Nov. 1990 and March 1991, while she was playing with a catnip mouse. It is in my small journal.

I got Esther when I was still in college, after I had moved into my first apartment. She endured several moves from one apartment to another, a summer boarding with a friend while I went off to New York, and moving with me to North Carolina for graduate school, back to Cincinnati, and back again to North Carolina. In spite of all that she hated change and was a cat with quite an attitude.

When hubby and I bought our first house it wasn't long before we got a dog. Henry was a brown and white (they are really called 'liver and white') English Springer Spaniel. Esther maintained an attitude of total disdain for Henry. If he so much as looked at her she would hiss and swat his nose. He soon learned not to look at her, even though he developed a strong loyalty towards Esther. He would ease along beside her, all the while not looking directly at her, and manage to settle down right beside her. We often found them together sleeping butt-to-butt on the sofa. When Henry was about two years old we had to have Esther put to sleep due to health problems. I don't think her ever forgot her. Soon after, there was a white cat from the neighborhood that enjoyed sitting on our fence. Henry would cry and whimper whenever he saw that cat.

Henry was the best dog. He had two lives, his life before Kiddo was born, when he was our baby, and his life after her arrival in which he graciously gave over his role as our baby to become Kiddo's protector. He had his eyes poked, ears pulled and was even used as a step stool by a climbing toddler trying to scale the couch, all without one complaint.

When Henry was twelve and beginning to show signs of slowing down we got a new puppy, Sara, a Welsh Corgie. Sara was a spitfire as a puppy. She had had a difficult time at birth, had to be bottle fed, and as a result didn't get her tail docked as they usually do. Well, we weren't going to do that. So she sports a big fluffy tail along with her over-sized ears and ridiculously short legs. She looks like a dog designed by a committee that ran out of funds.
Henry stepped right in and taught Sara the routine of life with us. We believe that having her around gave him a sense of purpose and extended his life by a couple of years. Towards the end, when Henry could barely see and was deaf as a post, it was Sara that looked after him. Henry lived to be 15, quite a long time for a dog that size. The sketch above is Sara napping by the back door, done in my watercolor Moleskine journal.

Now Sara has always been kind of prissy. We believe she thinks of herself as a cat as much as a dog. We call her 'The Princess', deservedly so. When Henry was no longer with us all the spark left Sara. She wouldn't be engaged in play and grumbled, stomping away most times we tried to pet her. We also missed Henry terribly. So we got Sam, another Springer, but black and white this time. Here is one of two pen and ink sketch I did of Sam sleeping the other evening. In addition to watercolor I have been trying to get in practice sketching in ink.
Sara soon perked up after the arrival of Sam, who at first was smaller than she is but soon grew to over twice her size. Sara treated Sam as her own puppy and quickly taught him the ropes. Although she sometimes fusses at him, and he teases her, they are terribly devoted to one another. Sam is big for a Springer, big and goofy and sweet as can be. We took him to obedience school last summer where he was the star pupil. Kiddo took responsibility for much of his care when he was still a puppy and they are now inseparable. Sammie has been very good for our little family.

One of the things that amuses me is the little tidbits of knowledge that seems to get passed from one pet to the next. For example, none of our dogs have ever been feed canned dog food. Esther the cat was at times fed canned cat food. She would come running whenever she heard a can being opened. So Henry dog learned to come running whenever he heard one of us opening a can. Sara scurries into the kitchen at the sound of a can opener, and so now does Sam. So I wonder, what other secrets have been passed down from one pet to the next?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Playing with color

First I would like to thank everyone who so kindly left so many encouraging comments on my last post. You all offer a lot of inspiration and I appreciate hearing from everyone.

I am so inspired by the many artists in the Everyday Matters group that share their beautiful watercolor sketches from their journals. So this summer I resolved to try to get more comfortable using watercolor as a journaling media. With my background experience of painting in oils, I have always struggled with watercolor as it is a completely different painting process. But I keep trying, hoping watercolor will eventually come more easily to me.

Last Friday we went on a short hike up the carriage trail behind Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We found a shady spot and the three of us set up our supplies and did some watercolor sketching. Above is my attempt in my watercolor Moleskine, showing the view we had of Grandfather Mountain from where we were sitting. Some areas are seriously overworked and my favorite part is the area of the painting that goes over into the left hand page, which I pretty much ignored while I was fussing with the rest. Someday, maybe I will learn when to stop!
As we were walking back to our car I snapped a photo of this bench and later sketched it in my small journal for this past week's Everyday Matters challenge #184, draw a park bench. This bench is made from cut logs, in case you can't tell :) And it's surprising just how much abuse the paper in these journals can take from watercolor. Just ask me how I know.

And here is kiddo's watercolor from our outing, posted with her permission. As we sat in our shady spot several groups of horseback riders went by on the trail. She was inspired to paint a horse. Now if I could only learn from her how to be that free and spontaneous with my watercolor sketches!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still at the beach

Edisto Dune
colored pencil on pastel board
8 x 10 inches
©2008 Ann Thompson Nemcosky

if only in my head. Wishful thinking really. This is the latest in my beach series done with an underpainting of washed Inktense watercolor pencils then Coloursofts over top. I'm still trying to let my pastel studies influence these colored pencil pieces, keeping things a little loose and as expressive as I can. I liked the soft morning light of this scene creating that glow on the dune grasses.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


ACEO Peach
colored pencil on paper
3.5 x 2. 5 inches
©2008 Ann Thompson Nemcosky
click here to buy

Things are just peachy here at our house. Hubby's on break from the university, kiddo and I are taking a break from homeschooling, the weather is fine and the dogs even had a bath today. It doesn't get much better.

We are taking a 'stay-cation' this week. I have been able to work on art most every day. I drew this peach the other evening. They were so pretty at the grocery I just had to pick out a couple to draw. Now to go scavenging through the fridge for more drawing subjects. Oh, I should probably cook some dinner too. But hey, I'm on 'stay-cation'.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Morning

Another Morning
colored pencil on pastel board
14 x 11 inches
©2008 Ann Thompson Nemcosky

Here is my latest colored pencil piece. It is from a photo I took while on vacation at Edisto Island last March. We had a ritual of heading out to the beach at first light of day to see what treasures had washed up on shore through the night. Usually the shore birds were the only other treasure hunters on the beach at that time of day. After we filled our pockets with little gems we'd walk back to our rented cottage and cook up a big breakfast.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Something dangerous

EDM 183 Something dangerous - peanut
graphitints in small journal

I have debated for two days whether to post this week's Everyday Matters drawing challenge or not. It's not pretty. I couldn't make it pretty if I tried. I didn't want to make a nice drawing of this subject. If you have read my blog for a while then you know about kiddo's life threatening allergy to peanut. When choosing a subject for this challenge this image was the only one in my head. In our world, peanuts are the most dangerous thing on the planet. As I was working on this drawing I found myself getting more and more angry. It bothered me just looking at the reference photo I had found. I scrubbed the paper so hard that I nearly ripped through it in places.

Now that school has started back here where we are I am going to take the opportunity of this post to ask you for a favor. If you have a child, chances are they will be in a class or some other activity with a child that has a serious food allergy. The parent of that child will probably be asking for special considerations concerning their child's exposure to food. Some food allergic individuals cannot be in the presence of the allergin, or can have a reaction by touch. Sometimes parents find it annoying, are resentful that they must accommodate another child's special needs. It is not easy for these parents of food allergic kids to ask for these considerations. Believe me, they would rather not have to. But we are talking about snack food, people. So if you can try to approach that parent with understanding, help them however they ask, be on their side. It's really not so hard.

Here is the Peanut Allergy Do Not Eat list we have, provided by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. It includes information on tree nuts as well. Bet you find a few surprises.

Avoid foods that contain peanuts or any of these ingredients:

artificial nuts
beer nuts
cold pressed, expelled, or extruded peanut oil
ground nuts
mixed nuts
monkey nuts
Nu-Nuts flavored nuts
nut pieces
peanut butter
peanut flour

May indicate the presence of peanut protein:
African, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes
baked goods (pastries, cookies, etc...)
candy (including chocolate candy)
egg rolls
enchilada sauce
flavoring (including natural and artificial)

Studies show most allergic individuals can safely eat peanut oil (NOT cold pressed, expelled, or extruded peanut oil).

Arachis oil is peanut oil.

Experts advise peanut allergic patients to avoid tree nuts as well.

A study showed that unlike other legumes, there is a strong possibility of cross reaction between peanuts and lupine.

Sunflower seeds are often produced on equipment shared with peanuts

In soaps, hair care, toothpaste, sunscreen etc. - almond oil may also be referred to as prunus dulcis, amygdalae oleum dulcium or CAS NUMBER:8007-69-0. Peanut may be referred to as arachis hypogaea. Also shay butter, soybean oil, hydrolyzed vegetable protein Almonds, crushed almonds, almond paste, walnuts, walnut oil, pecan oil, hazelnuts flavoring and sesame oil.


Okay, I'm done now. Going back to my drawing table now to finish up something that is hopefully much more pleasant to look at.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's my birthday!

ACEO Strawberry
3.5 x 2.5 inches
colored pencil on paper

© 2008 Ann Thompson Nemcosky
click here to buy

Not *my* birthday but my blog's birthday! It was one year ago today that I started this blog. I thought it would be fun to have a blog for my art endeavors but I had no idea just how much fun it would be to keep a blog. And rewarding. And motivating. I have so enjoyed keeping up with the artists' blogging community. I know that having the 'self-imposed' responsibility to post new work has been extremely motivating for me to keep going, making new works, trying new ways of working, and keeping a critical eye on my progress. Another benefit, of course, is the positive and encouraging feedback you all so graciously leave on my posts and there is nothing more motivating than that!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


A little over a week ago , Rachel from The Jacobite Rose, awarded me this lovely Arte Y Pico. It is a lovely honor, and thank you Rachel!There are so many blogs that I enjoy reading, (just see my list at right) plus new blogs I discover almost daily and have yet to add to the list, that it is a difficult task to choose just a few to pass along. So here is a list of blogs, that among others, I find thought provoking and inspirational.

1. Rose Welty
2. Kasie Sallee
3. Jennifer Phillip
4. Nancy Hoover
5. Micah Liesenfeld

Now participation is entirely optional. If you choose to accept the Arte Y Pico award the rules for this award are:
1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for creativity, design, interesting material and a contribution to the blogging world.
2. List the name of each person awarded and a link to their blog.
3. Show the award and the name and blog link of the person who presented you with the award.
4. Show the link to the Arte Y Pico blog.
5. Show the rules.

And yesterday while out visiting blogs I noticed that Casey Klahn of The Colorist had named me for this award as well. An honor as I am a great fan of Casey's beautiful pastel paintings. Thank you Casey!


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