Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Something old, something new...

You might know that I'm in the process of taking all the paintings that are in my house and storing them off-site. You know, so I have some room to move here. It was getting pretty crowded.

I have about half moved now. The reason it's taking so long is that I'm choosing some to be redone. In addition to me trying to get some new paintings done, PLUS work on novels, PLUS work on yard, PLUS clean/organize the house… Well, it's taking some time. But here's what I've just finished. These two paintings will be hung in the Saratoga Grill in downtown Hillsborough, NC tomorrow.

The original, a style I was trying out because it was something I could do fairly quickly. Fail!
The Old County Courthouse, acrylic, 2009
I decided to try something with this, and unpacked the new batch of alkyd oils (fast-drying!) that I'd bought last November. Here's the result:
The Old Courthouse, 9 AM. Acrylic/oil, 24x18"
I think that's much better!

And here's an entirely new painting. I had thought to do it only in acrylic, but added oils. Didn't do an all-over glaze like I did the one above, but I still think this turned out nicely.
King's Street in Its Glory, acrylic/oil, 18x24"
As I was taking the archival pictures and putting the data into Bento, I noticed that this is the 100th painting I've added to the spreadsheet!

They say that it takes 100 paintings to produce a real style. It's actually been over 100 paintings for me (not all are in my formal records), but I do think I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the process. This year not only will I be getting out more to do plein air painting with my fancy-schmancy new portable easel, but I'll also be just painting more often, and likely in smaller formats. They say ("they" being everyone in the current "Painting a Day" movement) that your style and skills can really take off by doing that.


Whoops, actually no contest this time (despite the landmark #100 up there), but on Feb. 2nd the big Valentine co-op contest for a $200 Amazon gift card should be starting. They're supposed to send me a link to it, but until then I'll just provide a link to my Facebook Pro Page, where the announcement will appear once I receive it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where in the world...?

Last February I attended one of those "free" vacation weekends, where you are required to spend "just two hours" (more like four or six) listening to a sales pitch for a vacation company. I walked away with a Festiva contract under my arm. But I was told I couldn't use the system until January 1, 2015.

(Looks at calendar.)

Hey! I can use it now! I've paid up my maintenance fees and everything, and I have double points this year because it's my first year of use.

Where should I go?

I'm planning on traveling to Portland, OR via Amtrak this year. Maybe. Just to look around for retirement purposes, you know, and to actually be forced to relax for the two days (interrupted with a day's walkabout) of the rail trip. For some reason, all but one of the vacation companies I've checked into have zero places on the West Coast in their network. The one had a place in San Francisco that took about six years' worth of points to earn one night at.

So I'm talking about elsewhere.

In 2016 I want to go Great Britain via Trafalgar, which has a hand-shake deal with Festiva. (Plus I have a coupon from QVC for Trafalgar.) In 2017 I'm thinking either Greece or the Bahamas (Paradise Island!), and 2018 vice versa.

But what about 2015?

Here's the in-plan destinations. Not sure how big this map will go in this blog, so use the link as needed.

I bought the plan at Atlantic Beach, which seems a really nice place and I'd love to take my paint box down there and spend a week checking out the picturesque neighborhood and tasty restaurants. Plus the resort has three pools, a tennis court (want to come along?), beachfront, etc. etc.

When I was a kid, my parents bought some Florida swampland and we drove from North Dakota (you understand the swampland now) down there to check it out. (They got their money back.) On the way, Mom insisted we stop off at Juliet Gordon Low's birthplace in Savannah, since we kids were Girl Scouts and she was a troop leader. I recall bits of that mansion, but nothing else. I've been told that both Savannah and Charleston are great places to visit.

Then there's the option of Orlando. At some point I want to see Harry Potter Land; heck, I've never been to any part of Universal.

Where would you go? And why?


Currently on my Facebook Pro Page I have a contest running until Friday evening. Name that store! Winner gets their choice of one of my ebooks.
ALSO: Stay tuned for a chance to win a $200 Amazon Gift Card! Details will arrive on that same page on or about Feb. 2.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Three Worlds Saga continues!

On Trial for Her Life... And Her Heart!

The exciting THREE WORLDS superhero romance saga continues!

Lina O'Kelly, psychic and interstellar transporter, is finally reunited with her love, Londo (Valiant) Rand, the galaxy's most powerful parahero. He was forced to leave her on their wedding day, but their reunion is bittersweet. He brings news of a hero's death, and then cannot stop a formal inquiry into the charge of mind control that the Mega-Legion commander has leveled against Lina. She stands to lose her very mind if the judgment goes against her.

Dark secrets revealed

No matter which way the trial goes, they both carry secrets that could tear apart their new relationship. Jae (Neutrino) Rallene, the last of his mysterious kind, holds the key that could seal Lina and Londo's happiness... or keep them separated forever.

Cover illustration by Colleen Doran.
Heat level: Moderate.


Lina got up to leave. “Here, let me show you,” Londo said, quickly swinging his chair around as she went out the back. He put his arm around her and she eased it away from herself. The door to the cubicle closed behind them. The balcony outside was empty.

“Do I have to break through this again?” he asked sharply.

She looked past his cheek, not at him. “Lon, we need to talk. All these interruptions aren’t helping at all. I am trying to put things on hold until we can find some privacy. Please don’t push things until then.”

“Push things?” He pulled her chin up, but her gaze would not come around to his face. 
“Baby, do you remember a few days ago? A little wedding ceremony? And a couple days before that? ‘I’ll love you forever’? Where are they now?”

“Is this private enough to talk?” At last her eyes met his, but hers were blazing green. “Do you want to have our discussion here? In the open? How many cameras are on us?”

“There are no cameras,” Lon said, and somewhere below them a cubicle door opened. They stood still as Boroh stepped out, moved down the hall and through another door. “So we’ll make it—”

His ring buzzed. “Londo, I see neither of you are in your cubicle. Have you both lost your way?” It was Wiley.

“We’re just trying to have a private conversation. Give us a few minutes.”

“Don’t upset her. I don’t want anything to interfere with these readings. Electrolytes must be perfect.”

Londo frowned and his frown became deeper when he saw Lina striding off in the direction of Wiley’s cubicle. She had to look at the door labels. He trotted to catch up. “Damn it, Lina! I’m trying to get all this straightened out, and you’re running away.”

“Let’s just drop the whole thing until later and be professional about it now, okay? Neutral.”

“Neutral?” Londo took her roughly into his arms. “Is this neutral? Is what we’ve been doing, what we’ve been feeling toward each other, neutral?” He pressed his lips on hers, holding her head so she couldn’t get away.

She didn’t kiss back. Instead, she pummeled his shoulders with her fists.

Lina finally freed herself from his mouth but he still gripped her in his arms. “Do I have to slap you again?” she demanded. “Have you go back there with a big red mark on your face? How will you explain that?”

“I don’t need to explain anything.”

“I think you need to explain a helluva lot!”

“I think that you already knew. You’re the big telepath around here. How is it that you don’t know everything?”

Her mouth worked before she could speak. “And you’re the big parahero with the big reputation. How is it that you can’t tell the truth when it really matters? How is it that you like to hurt others just so you… so you can keep them under your control?”

“Says the woman who can read minds.”

“Is that going to be your excuse from now on? Not telling me anything and then saying that I should have known? Am I supposed to scan you every time you tell me something important? Or are you going to lie to me about the little things as well?”

“Some people would be intrigued by this, Lina. I thought you would be. I’m disappointed in you.”

“Disappointed?” The word hit Lina like a knife, echoing her father’s words: Clumsy, stupid girl! You should be ashamed of yourself! She turned her head from him. Break away; run. “I don’t want to talk about it now,” she told him, blinking hard.

“Hide from it, like you do everything else?” He shook her.

“And you just… assume that you can drop these thunderbolts and I won’t say anything about it, that I won’t question it because you’re team leader. The great and powerful Valiant. No one questions Valiant on anything! Lon, how could you lie to me like that? Have me make a vow when you hadn’t told me the truth?”

“This has nothing to do—”

“This has everything to do with that! Can’t you see? This is the very foundation of what we are, and you’re, and you’re—” She choked. “My god, what have we done?”

Jump into the galactic adventure here!

Sign up for my newsletter (top right of this page) to get a SECRET CODE for a FREE copy (your choice of e-format) of Touch of Danger, vol. 1 of the Three Worlds Saga.
AND come over to my Facebook Pro Page because within the next few days I'll be posting about a CONTEST in which you could win an Amazon gift card!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The most amazing character in superhero-dom!

At one time Superman may have been able to juggle planets on his pinkie. Given enough lead time, Batman claims he can conquer anyone. (He's done so well with Joker so far, right?) Spider-Man can wrap the entire city of New York in webbing if he wants. But who outdoes their feats? And does it on a regular basis?

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Beagle Pennyworth.

Alfred first contacted Bruce Wayne (Batman—But don't tell anyone that!) in Batman #16, waaay back in 1942. After the first Batman movie serial came out, the comics character slimmed down and began sporting lip hair to match his movie counterpart.
William Austin, 1943

Eric Wilton, 1949

Due to different continuities, Alfred has been Bruce's valet since Bruce's childhood, or is the son of Bruce's father's valet, or came to the family later, a veteran of the British intelligence services. Or perhaps he was an actor. He raised Bruce, unless Bruce's Uncle Philip was in the picture, in which case he didn't.

All that aside, he is NOW (in almost every continuity's "now") Bruce Wayne's butler. He's also Batman's butler, as well as that of any Robin who happens to be living at Wayne Manor or another of Bruce's homes.

Think about it: Batman must keep absolute security around his home and caped career. With such operating, he has never been shown (that I recall) to have hired ANY other servants or assistants.

It's ALL left up to Alfred to accomplish.


He's responsible for Bruce: acting as a valet, a chauffeur (sometimes for both identities). Cooking for him, making sure he has clean clothing, attending his many wounds. Keeping him as emotionally stable as is possible for an obsessed vigilante to be.

He's responsible for raising the various Robins, since Bruce rarely has time for fatherly duties. This would involve cooking, washing, checking homework, parent-teacher conferences, heart-to-heart conversations, hugs, ferrying the Robin to soccer practice, etc. He provides the basic familial interaction that Brucie can't.

He does things the otherwise-occupied Bruce can't take time for: responding to social invitations, arranging parties (Brucie is a bon-vivant), addressing Christmas cards, etc. He performs the mundane duties a Batman needs: attending to the maintenance of the Batmobile and other Bat-conveyances, making sure all weaponry is kept in good working order, seeing to the Batcave's computers. He also aids Batman in his investigations. Sometimes he even takes on an undercover role.

For the lack of a housekeeper, he must: clean the estate, do laundry, wash the dishes, take out the garbage, shop for the household, organize personal business, run errands, prepare meals. For the lack of a house cleaner, he must do deep cleaning, keep all appliances in the home (including elevators) running and clean, wash windows, and in general make sure the manor and Batcave are scrubbed spotless from attic to deepest sub-basements.

The Manor (and any other residences. I'm always reminded of that crazy skyscraper Bruce once lived out of. Just who designed and built all those secret elevators and superhero-y places? Did Bats have them killed afterward to ensure their silence?) (Where were we?) The Manor sits on a large plot of land. Alfred must act as gardener, which means he has to make a landscaping plan, maintain the various plantings as well as the machinery to work the landscape. He must water plantings and harvest any fruit trees, garden plants, etc. If indeed Brucie should hire a crew for some project, Alfred must supervise them to make sure they don't stumble across any bat-paraphernalia.

As just a butler, Alfred answers the phone, greets visitors, oversees the household budget, packs for travel, plans events in the home, cares for and inventories the mansion's art, china and silver, sees to the manor's security, manages the family's personal schedule.

In addition, Alfred must take time for his personal needs as a human being, for an insane Alfred would be, well…

According to the International Guild of Professional Butlers, the average butler earns between $50,000 and $120,000 annually. How much would Alfred Pennyworth make? The guild also says that butlers usually receive two to three weeks vacation a year.

But how does Batman function without Alfred, during those vacations or for any other reason?

He doesn't.

I've come to a conclusion: Alfred Pennyworth has a super power that allows him to function 24/7 with no sleep and no rest periods. Either that, or he's actually a native of Cargg, the world that produced the Legion's Triplicate Girl. Alfred Pennyworth can actually split into three people to get the job done.

But is three enough? I don't think so. Just the other day I saw some click bait that said that a huge rap star had 200 people on staff at his manor.

Perhaps Alfred is actually the son of some god in charge of super-efficiency. Certainly, he's the hardest-working character in comics!

Hey, look! My latest book is out!

It's Stalemate, Vol. 3 of the Three Worlds superhero romance saga, and various sites are still in the process of loading it so I'm not going to shout about it until next week. Until then, the Goodreads Contest is still open. I'm giving away 3 FREE COPIES of the book to the lucky winners! And of course, if you sign up for my newsletter (see top right column of this page), you'll receive a SECRET CODE that will get you a FREE e-book version (your choice of format) for Vol. 1 of the Three Worlds Saga, Touch of Danger! Let me just add a few more exclamation points here!!! Now I'll go get busy on volume 4.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Second Thoughts

It's still early in my fine art career, and so often I look at older canvases and say, "Someday I need to redo this."

Is there a better time than a 5-day Christmas vacation to do just that? Subtract hours lost due to an unhealthy dose of procrastination, and you've still got a few hours there to work on these projects.

Recently I'd redone an older plein air (spellcheck hates that phrase!) painting. I tried to make the trees more realistic, add some more neutrals so the spring colors would pop better, place cleaner details. The result is "Riot of Spring," and to my VERY pleasant surprise, it sold! (The previous version is on the top.)

There was just a tiny bit of this one painting that I wanted to change, and of course if you change one thing you need to go in and work just a tad all around the painting so everything fits. This is "Twilight Tide." (If you click on these pictures, you get a popup with larger images.)
Unfortunately when I was cataloguing this, I discovered that I had this down as an oil painting. I was working in acrylics this week. Uh oh. Oils on top of acrylics? Fine. Acrylics on top of oils? Heavy sigh. I'll let this one sit in my storage unit for a year to see if the paint does anything odd. If it does, I'll fix it. If it's beyond fixing—well, I have a great photograph I can make a print from.

Lesson learned.

Here's something that was causing me a headache. Such a little thing. Can you spot it? "Wilmington 242401." (At that point I was naming things the way one of my teachers recommended. It works well for abstracts and a semi-abstract like this. Maybe.) The colors on the bottom (most recent version) are closer to reality, I'm happy to say. Now that I know how to work the lighting settings, I really like my new camera.
And finally we have "Summer Hay," a quickie I did in a workshop. Didn't realize that reworking this would take as long as it did! I noticed the paint going on oddly, but my records didn't specify what medium this had been painted in originally. I'm going to say that I painted the correct medium, but whatever white I was using is the problem. Again, I'll let it sit just to make sure things are okay before I try to get someone to buy it.
Overall I'm pleased with these revisions. I'm displeased that I might have gotten the mediums wrong, which means that from now on I'll make a subtle notation on the back of each picture as to what medium it was done in. That will mean no headaches in the future—at least from that direction!


Just a reminder that the Goodreads Book Giveaway for Stalemate is going on right now! With any luck, the book will be released TOMORROW in e-versions, with print coming in about 2 weeks. There will be three lucky winners! And remember: if you sign up for my newsletter (see the top of this page), you'll get a code with which you can get Touch of Danger (the prequel's prequel for Stalemate) for free in your choice of e-version!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

You CAN Judge a Book by Its Cover

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice, etc. etc! 
Hope the new year will be your best year yet!

We're here to talk the BEST Wonder Woman covers. (You should be able to click on the pictures to see larger versions.) Now, she's had some good crossover, event and team covers, but I'm going to narrow the choices down to just covers from WW comic books.

Unfortunately, All-Star Comics #8, Wondie's first appearance, didn't feature her on the cover. But her Sensation #1 had a spectacular one! These were the days of H.G. Peter art, with all its vibrance. It was also child-friendly, and often showed both boys and girls having adventures with Wondie.

All-Star and Comic Cavalcade also had many iconic and kid-friendly covers, but these were team or anthology titles so we won't include those here. You can Google them if you want and enjoy.

Wonder Woman #1 had another iconic cover, full of life. Again, we were treated to a range of Peter covers that gradually allowed other artists to take over cover chores. Then we come to the post-Wertham era when Andru & Esposito produced covers in a more modern way. I love these covers; these were the issues I was reading when I was a young kid!

But oh boy, then came the Mod years! You all know that this is my favorite era. Not only did we get op art (it was the Sixties), but that marvelous artist and WW fan, Jeffrey [not yet Catherine] Jones, did two covers (middle, below) that knocked my socks off. They were so unlike anything that had been on a DC superhero cover before, and they were magnificent! Sekowsky's work is on the left in the group below (the issue appeared in the bus scene in the movie Midnight Cowboy), with Dick Giordano on the right. Those were days of great, POSITIVE changes at DC Comics. Pardon me while I heave a nostalgic sigh.

The Mod era ended and once again Wondie was a super hero. Her covers became a modern superhero type, very clean and eye-catching. Nick Cardy drew this one on the left below, and I love it dearly. Bob Oksner did the next, which I think is one of the best depictions of the Wonder costume ever. Then comes Miller/Giordano with a cover that was mentioned on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! After that is the final cover for Volume 1, a very powerful pose (though I think the anatomy's a little off) by Garcia-López and doesn't showcase Superman, unlike the final cover for Volume 2. (Bleah!)

Volume 2 dawned with a jaw-dropping cover by George Perez. You could always rely on George for clear and exciting covers, like issue 3 down there. But there came a time when Wondie's book was graced with a long series of covers by the magnificent Brian Bolland. Oh my! They were FABULOUS. It was difficult for me to pare the list down to a few. I might have left #64 down there off, but that innocent little girl saying, "Bang!" as the gun was firing shocked me to death when I first saw it. Still does.

The second one below, #72, is one of the all-times, isn't it? It even made a good couple of statues from DC Direct. Next to it is a cover that always makes me chuckle, when Diana dared to take on the Boston mafia, eye-to-eye. She scared them spitless! The final cover there, #82, shows the threat of Ares magnificently, doesn't it?

More faboo covers by Bolland appeared on the book, but eventually he left. Garcia-López drew the marvelous the "face month" cover for #128. (All DC's titles had big faces on them. It was an experience visiting the comics store.) Then came AH!, Adam Hughes, a superb artist who unfortunately often has no idea of appropriateness, especially when dealing with a feminist icon like Wondie. Still, look at these last two covers, especially the Diana-talks-to-Lois one (WW #170), and marvel.

I'm going to stick Hiketeia in here because I have other covers grouped. Yes, it's not a comic book, but it is a graphic novel, and that is one eye-catching cover, isn't it? It's by J.G. Jones. It's been utilized for a number of LOL memes.
Now we're finishing up Volume 2 with two AH! covers. After issue #172 down there, is a very funny one that plays off the story of Diana going back in time. We see the modern WW as well as the original Golden Age version.

Then Volume 3 began, tipping us over to a new slant of Wonder Woman that wasn't THAT far off from what had gone before. Terry Dodson did the cover for #16, which held a great little story, and Aaron Lopresti, one of my all-time favorite WW artists, did the cover for #25, which has a bit of a Golden Age feel in that it reaches out to children.

Finally we come to the last issue of WW that DC published. (I don't recognize newer issues. Well, maybe one. Or two. For all intents, DC laid Diana to rest in June of 2010.) Adam Hughes returned to do a variant cover that saluted Sensation #1. So nice.

So what are your favorite covers? Your favorite cover artists?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Report: Art of the Carolinas 2014

I've been going to Art of the Carolinas since it first started. Get this straight: I NEVER just drive around, but one day way back when, I was "just driving around" Durham because it was a nice day and I had gas in the car and the radio began to do a location report from this artsy something going on out in Research Triangle Park.

They talked about a trade show that had the latest art supplies, and of workshops being put on. I said what the hey, it's only 10 minutes away, and cruised over.

What I found kind of blew me away. It was the very first AotC, and from that point on I was hooked.

AotC is put on by Jerry's Artarama, which is like Heaven for artists. Well, artists who have money and who aren't bothered that the brand selection isn't as wide as it once was. Jerry's makes deals with certain brands and as a result, stops carrying other ones. Even so, whenever I go through Jerry's doors, I have to pause and let my heart pound for a few moments. Cue that heavenly choir!

AotC has settled to be housed at the Raleigh North Hilton, which is about three blocks north of Jerry's Raleigh superstore. There's always a van or stretch limo that runs between the two during the run of the show. Some of the workshops are now held at Jerry's, since the Hilton tends to run out of workshop space.

A schedule of workshops runs four days and the trade show runs the final three of those days. Big-name artists run a lot of the workshops, and others you see there year after year. Some big-name artists are there year after year as well.

I recall one of the first workshops I took, taught by the fabulous Tom Lynch. In it we learned how to paint windows and doors that had some soul to them: the top of the door didn't look like the bottom did. The window wasn't uniform. That kind of thing. It taught us to be aware of varying even the minor parts of our painting, to make the entire thing as entertaining as possible. Wow!

The second Tom Lynch workshop I took turned me off him. This was the kind where he had the entire class take their paper, mix up some yellowish-green, and then make a brushstroke across it. Whereupon he'd check that everyone had made that brushstroke. Then you'd put a square of blue wash underneath it. And so on, paint by numbers without the numbers and without learning anything.

So the quality of the workshops vary a lot, even with the same teacher presiding.

I once told my dad that I learned more at two years' of AotC—6-ish days total—than I had from four years in UNC's art department.

But AotC has changed through the years. There are fewer different vendors, though still quite a few, and familiar Jerry's inventory has taken over the majority of the trade floor, albeit with extremely good sale prices. One makes a shopping list before hitting the trade floor, and one checks one's bank balance before doing same, as well as confirming the cubic footage inside one's car. A few times I've come awful close to buying more than what my Civic will hold! This is the Big Art Shopping Trip of the Year with the best bargains as well.

Starting last year (or was it the year before?) I stopped taking so many of the workshops. This year I only took one: travel sketching in watercolor. I figure I'm traveling a lot more these days, and I'd love to do some sketching. In grabbing a sketchbook for the class, I was surprised to discover in it some work I'd done during my second trip to Montreal back in '05 or so. Not bad stuff, either.

It was odd not having to use my regular rolly-cart to bring in all my supplies; they fit in a single cloth bag, and even then I'd overpacked for the class. I claimed a section of work table. Even though Jerry's knew how many people had signed up, they still didn't have enough tables set up, and we had to wait a few minutes for two more to be brought in, with enough chairs.

AGES ago I'd taken a course in psychic/holistic healing in Durham. One of the students who also lasted through all three years was a woman I'll call Sandi (because I can't remember what her real name is). She can stick her hand in fire and have it remain unscathed. No, really. I've seen her do it. She has problems when someone screams (ahem), but otherwise, she's quite friendly with the fire element.

I've seen her at almost every AotC event. We'd never been in the same class until now (she's into more crafty stuff than I am), and we just happened (right, universe, I get it) to sit down opposite each other at the table before we both looked up and realized what we'd done! We had a lovely catch-up chat that likely confused our neighbors.

The older gentleman to my left had arrived without reference photos, as had MANY others in the class. I will never understand why people do this. AotC gives materials lists for every class, but there's always a huge amount of people who arrive lacking something important. Once I sat next to a woman who'd brought NOTHING, and wound up giving her an extra canvas, letting her use my paint, brushes, extra easel, etc, etc. Good golly! And of course, I've been in two classes where the instructor gave out completely incorrect equipment lists. Helloo?

The class began and our instructor showed us what kind of sketching she does, how she doesn't use store-bought sketchbooks but makes her own, etc. She showed examples of others' sketchbooks and how they used them not only to sketch in but to write or make notes, or gather little items that reminded them of—

"Excuse me!" a woman in the back protested loudly. "This class is only three hours long. Can we please get to the workshop part?" Her buddy added a similar complaint.

Our instructor assured them that we would begin immediately (even though what she was showing us WAS an important part of the workshop). Luckily for us, she has ADD or something and went on passing out samples that we all (except for the two biddies) studied.

The biddies went back to their tables and began to paint in their sketchbooks. The rest of us finished looking at everything, watched a couple demos, and then returned to try doing quick but bold sketches.

The teacher kept lecturing as we worked, and then she brought up using a pen. Good, I thought, we're going to incorporate pen-and-ink sketching as part of the watercolor, maybe learn what's best to note about a scene.

Instead the instructor outlined every change in color and/or value on her sketch. I asked Sandi why we were doing this. It had nothing to do with the scene we were sketching.

"It makes it look prettier," Sandi assured me.

But I didn't want 'prettier,' I wanted to make the best study I could so I could take it home and use it in conjunction with photographs I'd take on location.

This is the kind of thing you run into with these workshops, that the instructor's intentions are different from what you expected, but I was determined to learn what I could. Yes, the lines did make it look more finished, and people in the class assured everyone that they made the sketches more saleable. (But I didn't want saleable; I wanted reference.)

I managed two partially-finished sketches for the class. The first one we made a pencil sketch first (that's the Grand Tetons one), and the second we just dove in with paint first.

I like to think that these will help make more dynamic paintings when it comes to putting images on canvas. Certainly from the Gibbon Waterfall picture (below), I learned that the actual waterfall needs to be depicted much larger than I've done here.

The workshop ended, we packed up and left, and I strolled next door to enjoy my annual Bahama Breeze luncheon (mmm!) before returning for the trade show. I had my shopping list in hand and managed to find most of the stuff rather quickly.

But the show's checkout line looped clear around the three ballrooms that had been designated the trade floor. "Oh, the line's moving fast," one of the Jerry's employees assured me after I'd heard someone say they'd taken an hour to get through it. "You'll be finished in twenty minutes."

After 20 minutes I'd progressed ten feet. The massive line kept people from really perusing the stock in the crowded room, and it impeded traffic flow so that all the artists who were on the trade floor demonstrating various stock or techniques, weren't able to get a group to watch them because there was no place for the group to stand. I did have nice conversations with two of them as I stood waiting.

And the second-to-final stretch of the line did go by Jerry's "bits n pieces" displays. For example, I tossed a new kneaded eraser and gray scale into my cart. When we rounded the final corner, a woman a few people in front of me left the line to grab some paints. I told her that the Ultramarine she'd picked up was a very weak variety. I had the same jar, but only use it when it's pure, because the instant you mix it with something, it goes invisible. She frostily thanked me for the information but assured me that it was just fine with her, but about five minutes later I noticed her slipping out of line again to return it.

We stalled next to a table where a guy was demonstrating a new kind of organic brush cleaner made from lavender. Impressive! He'd gob up a brush with oil paint, scrub it around on a surface so the paint really dug into the brush, then dipped it quickly into the cleaner. When he brought the brush out, it was clean. Tried it out on a clean sheet of paper: no residue. "I don't care how much it is," I told him, "just give me a bottle."

It wasn't on sale yet; wouldn't be available for another two months. I got a little advertising card for it, as did just about everyone else in line, and eagerly look forward to trying it out in my own studio.

All in all, I was in line for an hour-plus. There were about eight? cash registers going as hard as they could, but even so, there were just so many people... They assigned a guy to help me load my car and after he'd gone, I wondered: should I have tipped him?

The folks at the show acted surprised when I asked if they'd do things differently next year so this kind of thing didn't happen again.

From there I toodled down the street to Jerry's. Jerry's doesn't ever put its alkyds on the trade floor and only stocks it in the store, so I grabbed new alkyds there. I asked one clerk where the acrylic gouache was, and she said it was all at the trade show. I assured her that I wasn't going back THERE again! I have an unopened tube of the stuff somewhere from a year or two ago; it's just a matter of finding it.

At the store there are three cash registers, but they only had two going. The line took about 25 minutes to go through, and people at the back were complaining loudly. The store manager was doing his best to keep people happy, cracking jokes about standing in line. Employees walked up and down the line asking us if we'd found everything we needed. They had a guy on steel drum playing stuff that got to be (sorry) annoying after a while.

All in all I was a good girl, spending-wise. Sure, the total was more than I'd estimated, but I got a lot of good stuff. (It helps that I know to stay away from the crap that's disguised by nice packaging.) I'd checked over the DVDs I'd bought last year but hadn't watched yet (good golly miss molly, how time passes quickly!) so I didn't buy any new ones.

With the new year I'll be painting again on a regular basis. Good to know I've got the supplies and know-how to do it!