Category Archives: drawing

Circles: Sketchbook Page Inspired by G

Saturday morning, while not-waking-us-up-early, my 5yo drew a page of “Thomas wheels” (as in Thomas the Tank Engine).

5yo's page of circles at

I love them. I love the vibrant color, the repetition of a theme, the way they’re all a little different. I love the way that, because she’s five, she doesn’t stress herself out to the point of paralysis with the idea that the circles should be perfectly circular. When I got a chance, I sat down with my sketchbook and drew some circles to color in, too. I told her she had inspired me.

circle sketchbook page at

These were so much fun to draw and color. I like the equality that goes on, artwise, in my house. Ideas and techniques don’t just flow in one direction, from adult to children. We inspire each other. It’s a fabulous, natural way to nurture confidence and a willingness to try new things.

(I’ve added a few more sketchbook pages to my flickr sketchbook set.)

Making + Listening::9/2014

The Making + Listening series has a new host, Jen at iHappy, and I’m definitely happy to be joining in again this week! It’s been a while. I’ll start off by sharing something 5yo G made.

5yo's 3-D picture at

This was all her idea and completely driven by her. As is usual, she let me know when she needed certain materials or some assistance. I did suggest she glue the paper that she colored onto some mat board before proceeding to glue things onto it, since she started off with printer paper. I love how kids simply don’t care about things like scale, and how their artwork is so much more interesting for it.

Here’s a close-up of the cow (cut from a milk carton) with the flowers (carefully constructed from paper and tissue paper before gluing to the base).

Those flowers tower over that cow. It’s awesome.

Another close-up, of the superhero:

I also helped her figure out how to glue that so it stayed upright. We used a craft stick for support. One more close-up, of the chimney on the building. She told me she needed a cap from a juice carton, brown paint, and black paper so she could cut out smoke.

I super love the things she makes.

In comparison, I’ve been downright slothful. I have a chicken-in-progress to share…

embroidered chicken in progress at

I’m working on some more small embroidered linen pockets–I decided to apply for a proper craft fair being held in July.

As for the listening, I’m really enjoying the birds. The weather has finally cooperated enough that we can have the windows open during the day. I hear far more birds than I see, of course. Titmice and towhees, cardinals and catbirds, phoebes, veerys, wood thrush, and a yellow warbler that I really want to get a glimpse of, but I’ve had no luck so far. Varied birdsong in the summer is one of my favorite parts of where I live.

And while I wish I had a lilac bush right in my yard, on my way home yesterday I noticed cut lilac at the on-your-honor flower stand down my road, so I made a u-turn and bought some. Now my dining room smells perfect.

cut lilacs at


Drawing Dragons

dragon drawings at

Artwork by N. Hood.

Last week, my 9yo picked out a book on drawing dragons, Dragonart Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon, at the craft store. We got home and he began drawing. He’s barely stopped since.

dragon drawings at

His new book and his stack of drawings–and he’s using both sides of the paper.

He began by attempting some of the drawing guidelines from the book, but he’s mainly using it for inspiration.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

Sometimes he focuses on a specific area, such as eyes or texture.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

His drawings have stories attached. Sometimes they contain text.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

If there’s a battle going on, he’s partial to the dragon’s side of the story.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

I asked if I could share some, and he said yes, but he had a hard time narrowing down the choices. In the end, I chose five out of his pile and he slipped in a couple more.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

I promised him we’d document all of them with photographs.

dragon drawings at

artwork by N. Hood

He has said repeatedly that he loves the book. The book was just the starting point. He has drawn dragons before, many of them, but this book, I think, gave him some new things to think about. He’s going deeper, and he has spent hours drawing, every day, utterly absorbed and content–which makes me happy, too.

Sketchbook Skool So Far

in the style of Sendak at

Sketching from Where the Wild Things Are to try on different styles.

We’re in Week Four (already!) of Sketchbook Skool. I signed up with the goal of using my sketchbook more and getting more out of it, and I think I am. My experiences with the instructors have been variable, but that’s to be expected, I think; different people have different styles and philosophies. I’m also at a different place in life than the instructors so far. They talk of how a sketchbook practice is easy to fit into a day, just 45 minutes to an hour! I’ve noticed that none of them are trying to draw while tending to the needs of a few kids. (To be fair, an hour of drawing would have been difficult on days I waitressed 12-hour shifts, too. These challenges aren’t confined to parents and I don’t mean to imply they are.) But as always, I work around my responsibilities and use the parts of the class that I can, as I can.

flowers sketchbook page at

Remembering special days via the sketchbook.

The first two instructors, Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene, both suggested starting off with pen, not pencil. I completely understand that philosophy–pencil can cause you to draw small and tight, over-focused on the perfect line, erasing as you go. But I don’t like starting with pen, and I don’t draw small and tight with pencil. I’m looser, putting down multiple lines, zeroing in on the one I want. I often leave those other lines in the drawing, liking the way they add energy to it. I did my homework using only the pen, but it didn’t change my mind much. However, because of Danny’s class, I’m adding a bit more text to some of my drawings.

sneakers sketchbook page at

Adding text to my drawing.

(An aside: One of his demonstrations was drawing breakfast before eating it. This really highlighted the different-place-in-life thing. I’ve gotten used to eating soggy cereal because morning is such a difficult time of day to sit for ten minutes straight to eat even that much. Imagine taking the time to draw your food before eating it! I’d end up with neither breakfast nor a drawing.)

fruit sketchbook page at

Jane LaFazio’s homework assignment involved using a grid.

This week’s instructor, Jane LaFazio, uses pencil to start with. Hurrah! I really like her style. It resonates quite a bit–she also carves stamps and uses textiles and embroiders and paints. It’s probably no surprise that I enjoy her work.

sea shell study at

I liked the homework so much I did it again with seashells.

I don’t get into the sketchbook every day, but I’m definitely having fun with it. Last night I spent several hours with those seashells, in between other tasks. We have two more weeks of Sketchbook Skool…I’m looking forward to seeing what the last two instructors have to offer.

I’m adding my sketchbook pages to a Flickr set, if you want to see more as I go on.


My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn't get far.

My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn’t get far.

While my husband was in Singapore we got something like five inches of rain in less than 24 hours. I worked to drain the pond in the driveway and keep the water away from the basement. When the French drains were overwhelmed, I set up a siphon with the garden hose to drain the water away from the foundation in that spot under the stairs where it collects. (I feel there should be some sort of merit badge for that.) We had some seepage but nothing more. The next day at school, my 12yo dropped a table on his foot. X-rays at urgent care showed a fracture; off to the orthopedist we all went, where my stomach turned as he pointed out the multiple fracture lines in my kid’s big toe. My husband came home for the weekend, and we were all so happy to see him, and then I came down with the flu, and then he left again, and that’s when everything really ground to a halt here.

Some trips are like that.

I’d meant to get quite a bit done while he was gone this past week. Sewing in the evenings, working on my Sketchbook Skool assignments and blogging about them, working on the next issue of Art Together. I am behind on everything. My world compressed to the couch, with brief forays off of it for the basic minimum, mainly, making sure my kids were fed. Here is what I know: I am glad my kids are older. It makes things much easier. They are all self-sufficient enough to get by when dad is traveling and mom has the flu. The first night, they got their own dinner–bagels mostly, I think, with the oldest making food for the youngest–while I napped on the couch. The next morning, the oldest got his younger sister breakfast before catching the bus. I did manage to slither off the couch and wait for the bus with him, sitting on a chair with a view out the garage door. (I like to see him get on the bus every morning.) The younger two played together with LEGO. The boys took turns reading bedtime stories to their sister. Gradually the bits of wakefulness between naps increased. We got through.

My house is a bit of a wreck (although dishes and laundry were dealt with). My to-do list, well, I can’t look directly at it. It’s more of a side-eye thing. I get winded walking up and down stairs; I’m not quite ready to tackle a to-do list full on. I might need a nap just to recover from writing this blog post. It’s always a bit of a miracle, though, emerging from that stripped-down survivalist mode, blinking into the light of day, newly grateful for lungs and energy and self-sufficient kids.

A Peek into my Sketchbook

I practice drawing in my sketchbook several times a week, although I’d like to make it more of a daily habit. (To that end, I’m signed up to take Sketchbook Skool beginning April 4, which is quickly approaching. Exciting!) Getting a glimpse into someone’s sketchbook is kind of a thrill. I borrowed Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists from the library not too long ago and took my time with every page. People use their sketchbooks in so many ways. I still haven’t managed to keep everything in one place; I have ideas in my journaling notebook and in my project notebook as well, but I don’t seem to integrate words and images. I’d like to; it just doesn’t happen naturally.

At any rate, here are some recent pages from my sketchbook. I’ve been buying flowers at the supermarket every week, and I’m still buying them, because it’s not spring here yet. I try to draw them every week too. Here are a couple:

sketchbook lilies at

sketchbook mum at

I try to bring my sketchbook along when I leave the house, just in case. This one isn’t that big. While waiting for my daughter in gym class recently, I tried to do some gesture drawings.

sketchbook gesture drawings at

This past weekend, I took two of the kids on a nature walk. The associated nature center has dioramas of different habitats. It’s so much easier to draw animals when they’re not moving!

sketchbook snowy egret at

I’m not very good at drawing “from imagination,” for some reason. But I’d like to be better at it. I made a few sketches trying to capture some of what the worst of PTSD felt like to me.

PTSD sketch at

sketchbook moth in jar at

Sometimes ideas from my sketchbook evolve into more finished pieces (such as both the linocuts in this post), and I will often work out a specific design problem within its pages, too. I don’t really art journal, although I have some images that use paint.

If you have a sketchbook, how do you use it?

A wee bit of overwhelm

Lilies from the supermarket.

Lilies from the supermarket.

As we wind down January and head into February, I’m feeling a little…overwhelmed. I agreed to run some printmaking workshops over February school vacation. I want the third issue of Art Together complete by the end of February. I have a guest post due by the end of February, and a column due as well. My husband will be away for another full week. February is only 28 days long. It’s not looking nearly long enough right now. But these are good “problems” to have—many Good Things will be accomplished in February. Yes.

So, a column is exciting! But also a bit pressure-y in a way writing my own blog is not. A magazine that comes out four times a year doesn’t lend to an immediate conversation with the reader, so I’m left trying to anticipate what those readers might want most. I polled my family members: If you were a homeschooler or parent who maybe wasn’t sure about “doing art” with your kids, what would you most want to know? These are the answers I received:

Husband: I don’t know. What do you want to know about [his industry]??

9yo: Give them things to do—art activities.

12yo: Make sure they know it’s easy.

5yo: Tell them what Art is.

I’m not touching “what Art is” with a ten-foot pole, I’ll tell you that much! (But the 5yo definitely thinks big and all-encompassing.) I like my oldest’s response. Inspiring confidence is definitely a goal of mine.

With all this writing ahead of me, I am keenly missing my running time. I didn’t necessarily compose writing while I was running—letting my mind wander in that way resulted in slower running, I noticed—but focusing my mind on breathing and pacing left it open to work on ideas without me beaming a spotlight on the process. Running is active mindfulness for me, clearing the brain. Oh, how I miss it. I get out for one-mile walks when I can, but that’s only 15 minutes and doesn’t have quite the same mind-clearing effect. I have another follow-up with the orthopedist next week and I’m hoping he says I can at least head back to the track (a soft, level surface) for short runs.

Sewing projects in progress.

Sewing projects in progress.

So how did I spend my weekend? Was I working on those deadlines? Um, not so much. I spent it at karate with the kids. Taking my daughter shopping to spend a gift card. She loved the mama-daughter shopping time (the boys went to get haircuts with dad), and I love that she loved it, even though department store shopping isn’t my thing. Doing the weekly grocery shopping, which, until spring arrives, now includes flowers as a line item. Sewing some pouches, none of which are complete yet. Planning another linocut. Spinning the wheels in my head a bit. How about you?

Lily sketch.

Lily sketch.

Making + Listening::3/2014

Sunday at the grocery store, the kids and I bought flowers. Cheerful flowers are one of the small joys of life, no? We finally settled on delphiniums (blue) and tulips (pink). I decided to use the flowers as a drawing practice subject. I found it was easier, at first, to draw the delphiniums. I suspect this is because I have an idea of what tulips look like, but I’m not familiar with delphiniums. My brain couldn’t try to take over with preconceived ideas, in other words. With the delphiniums, all I could do was look at what was there and draw it.

my sketch-delphiniums at

delphinium sketches

Sigh, it’s so hard to photograph pencil sketches. At any rate, of course I asked the kids if they wanted to draw the flowers too. And they did. My 9yo received a nice set of colored pencils for Christmas, and he uses them every chance he gets (I would too!). So his sketch of the tulips in their vase is in color.

N's drawing of tulips at

G, like me, sketched in pencil.

G's drawing 2 at

delphinium sketches by 5yo

G's drawing at

I gave the tulips another go and quite liked the ones on the right, which I went over in Pitt pen.

my sketch-tulips at

tulip sketches

Rather a long time ago, I decided I wanted to figure out linocuts, but it sort of settled to the bottom of the list. However, we’ve been looking at lots of examples of woodcuts and block prints lately, and I’ve been trying to get a handle on what decisions the artists made, and why. I thought I could try to translate the tulip sketch into a linocut. I worked on the carving a bit at a time over several days, and I’m pleased with the result. This is a test print I just pulled today.

linocut of tulips at

Actually, I’m going to rephrase that. I am not just “pleased” with the results. I’m really, really happy. I look at this and I am proud of it. Pfft on the understatement. I am all WOW! I carved this!!

Creating is just so fabulous.

I’m linking up with Dawn again this week for Making + Listening. As for the listening part, I found some Pete Yorn on my computer and enjoyed listening to that. Otherwise, it was a lot more of the 80s station to get through the work trip, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks thanks to cancellations and delays. He finally got home yesterday, two days late, and we were all so happy to see him.

Making + Listening::1/2014

Check out that shorthand up there! This is the first Making + Listening post of 2014, and we’ll see if I can remember I did that next week. Lots of making went on here over the holiday break, including two pairs of flannel jammie pants and two new skirts for the girl. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, one half of our dining room table was given over to sewing and the other to cookie decoration…not a bad way to spend the day before Christmas. But all that is practically ancient history by now. I have pictures of the more recently created stuff for you instead.

thank you RAK mail art at

Karen at Mail Me Some Art suggested that January be Random Act of Kindness mail art month, and that sounded like a great idea to me. I have some previously made background-only postcards on hand, so I added the elephant and the text and a note to the librarians at our local library and sent it along. If you want to join in, Karen has all the details here.

Right before Christmas, we received a box of nature goodies from Dawn. Sadly, our nature swap partner disappeared after receiving our box, so Dawn and her kids stepped in to make sure my kiddos got a box in return. It included this great sea urchin test, something we’ve never found on our beaches (although they do live in our waters).

sea urchin test at

It’s sitting in the center of our dining room table, which is where all our best nature finds eventually end up, so it was in sight and on hand when I was looking for something to draw. Look at that texture! I had to give it a try.

sea urchin sketch at

Remember the socks I began for my oldest a month ago, and then put aside for some Christmas knitting? They were lingering, and I was feeling guilty, and maybe a little unmotivated. Well, I finished the first one and began the next one right away, as you do. I knit on it steadily while watching playoff football, and this was the progress after one day’s knitting: half a sock.

sock in progress at

The next day, I finished it while watching the BCS Championship Game. It’s extremely convenient that two of my hobbies–watching sports and knitting–are so complementary.

finished socks at

These aren’t everyday socks. He wants warm handknit socks to wear to bed. I told him Tuesday morning that they were done, but I needed to take a picture before he could have them. (He didn’t bat an eyelash. He knows this by now.) They were on his bed when he got home from school. He bounded upstairs to tell me, “Those socks are AMAZING!” I will always knit for him, obviously.

Also this week, I tried out a new zippered pocket size. I have a bunch of 4″ zippers and I wanted to try a vertically oriented pencil pouch. This is the result.

vertical pencil pouch at

It’s a little longer than most pencils and pens, but it’s the perfect size for double-pointed knitting needles still in their original packaging.

DPN pouch at

I often need more than one set of DPNs, for instance, when I’m knitting mittens. I like to keep them in their pouches so I don’t lose any, but then I have them rattling around in my bag. The pouch I use to hold my knitting tools–a purchased one, long ago, in my Early Years of knitting–isn’t long enough to hold DPNs in their pouches. I think this might be a little deep for pens and pencils. I need to actually use it for a while to decide. I think it’s just right for DPNs, however.

I think I’m mostly caught up now, except for letting you know that I’m pleased to be amongst the contributors for the upcoming issue of Kindred: Nest, available for pre-order here. That list looks so impressive, and I can’t wait to hold the magazine in hand.

As for the listening part of this post, I could use suggestions of new music. I seem to be listening to the same five or so albums, interspersed with much older stuff. What’s your favorite, sort-of-recent album or band?

(Linking up with Dawn again this week!)

In Support of LINE

Issue Two button

The Winter 2013 issue of Art Together is all about LINE, so I thought I’d round up some older posts that feature line in one way or another and can extend or add to the activities presented in the zine.


tape resistTape Resist uses painter’s tape and paint to create an abstract design. After painting, the tape is peeled off, revealing white lines underneath. This is fun for all ages, and we go back to resist methods again and again here.



DSCN1629Sunflower Study is one of the first posts on this blog. We used permanent markers as our drawing tool, which eliminates the possibility of erasing. That forces us to deal with the lines we’ve made and keep going, rather than get bogged down in perfection.




In Shadow Drawings, we traced the shadows of interesting objects onto our paper to create an abstract design.




DSCN2056Yarn Art was the inspiration for the magazine’s line adventure of using string as line. My then-toddler glued yarn onto sturdy paper to create a design.



DSC01433You don’t need to limit your line exploration to typical media or surfaces, either. In Drawing in Snow, my kids did just that, to amuse themselves while waiting for the bus. Anything that will take a mark can become a drawing surface, even if just temporary. Sand, dirt, snow, the condensation on a window…we’ve all doodled in these places, and it’s fun. Speaking of doodling, I’m including Doodle Rocks in this roundup. We used both paint and permanent markers to decorate rocks, exploring with both color and line.

Finally, a few posts from the {Art Together} series that apply: Scribbling, Doodling, and Exploring Charcoal + Conte Crayon, which is about exploring different drawing media which, of course, can make very different sorts of lines.

Happy line exploration!