Inside a Crooked House

There was a crooked artist who every crooked day,

Walked a crooked path to a crooked room to play.

To awake a crooked brain (4 am’s a crooked time)

A crooked cuppa coffee helped these crooked words to rhyme!

Enter, and on your left is a place to spread out and play, look out the window and make art.

The eastern exposure is my favorite. So lovely to sit and daydream, read, or make art.

On the south wall is a place to snack, make a beverage, cut flowers or make art here too.

When you come back, you get start where you left off.  So go out and make art.

If you stand in the middle and spin around.

If you come upon a crooked house…….go on in and play.


There was a Crooked House

This is a crooked house from photo reference of a real playhouse.  I would love one of these in my backyard as a little hangout.  It inspired this little “Donna’s Weird Studio Rhymes”.

There was a crooked house that had a crooked stair,

Upon its crooked porch there sat a crooked chair,

On nearby crooked table a crooked sketchbook lay,

So any crooked artist could escape their crooked day.

Pitt Brush Pens on Moleskine sketchbook paper.

What’s on my Desk

I recently applied for the SCBWI Mentor Program.  Part of my application was to submit a one page Artist Statement.  As I thought back to my first illustrations, I remembered that I illustrated my book report cover for “Rascal” by Sterling North.  It was a pencil drawing on red construction paper of a raccoon in a tire swing.  It wasn’t long before my classmates were hiring me to create their covers too.  The price, one ice cream bar.

I decided to go back to that time and illustrate the cover again.  My plan is to create the cover, three interior spot illustrations and chapter illuminated letters.  I’ve listened to the audio book twice and will go borrow the book from the library to get the chapter breaks correct. 

By the way, it is a charming story of 1918 America during WWI, the war to end all wars.  Even during dark times, kids always seem to find a way to make their lives whole.  Sometimes animals and their connections to us are just the thing that keeps us grounded on our planet.

Thumbnail pencil sketches getting to know the animal characters in "Rascal".

Watercolors on My Lunch Hour

I’ve got a new mini mint tin palette, I’m trying to use up some collected blank sketchbooks and my new confidence to sketch on location from Laure Ferlita’s workshop brings me to this first page.

I love Nevada Fine Arts.  Not for the wide selection (although I seem to always find what I want), not for the convenient location to me (they are downtown), but for a place to go hang out and support a local business.  They’ve been in business since 1969 and this is a fairly new location.  This building used to be a furniture store, a bank, an antique store and now Reno’s only independent art supply store.

I drew the image with a ball point pen from my parked car and added watercolor and ink later.  The paper is Aquabee’s Super Deluxe 6×9 93# Artist Grade and it says “Double sized to accept wet media”, which it does, but not without some minor buckling.  I’ll continue to work in this book for my lunch time escapes.

Watercolor Travel Journal – An Imaginary Trip to Paris

Laure Ferlita is the mastermind behind Imaginary Trips.  If you want to improve your on-location sketching and painting or you just want to paint along on a really fun trip, check out Laure’s workshops.  For many years I’ve taken paper and paint with me on trips and sometimes I’d paint and sometimes not.  I believe in Laure’s workshop I improved my confidence to sketch and paint wherever I’m at.  This workshop uses reference that Laure provides and Google Street View.  I also had fun with Google Translate.  She includes video so you can see her paint too.

I bound my paintings into a book.  Click any image to enlarge.

Decorative paper covers and bound with a Coptic stitch.

 My hand marbled paper.


The cafe on the right was found using Google Street View.  Google allows derivative use of their images.

Painted the boats on the right without drawing, just went right to paint. 




I filled a water brush with Higgins Eternal ink.  This ink is permanent, but not waterproof.  When used with water, this ink makes lovely watercolor black and greys.



 It’s fun to have the work bound and feels like I really went to Paris.  Of course I have a vivid imagination too.

Mint Tin Watercolor Palette

I love my little mint tin watercolor palette.  It’s usually in my car, my back pack or on my art table.  I wanted to make another one and thought I would show the process that I found on-line a long time ago.  I apologize for not remembering where I saw it, or who’s idea this was.  But thank you to whoever dreamed it up.

I obviously used an old Altoid tin prior to the newer embossed lids (I wonder why they did that?).  But any tin you find fun and unique would work.  I’m still always looking for a new unique container for my paints.

Rinse out the remaining mint dust.

A full 2 oz. package of polymer clay works for this size.  I found a cheap off brand for $1.29.  Follow the package directions by kneading the clay and preheating the oven to the recommended temperature.

Push the clay to the edges and get it as even in thickness as possible.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.

Use any water soluable pill that gives you the number and size of your intended paint wells.  I used old expired potasium pills.   Set them on top of the clay for placement and then push methodically and evenly as deep as you can.  I pushed each one a little at a time to prevent the clay from over bulging.  Bake as directed.  I baked for 25 minutes.

Let the tin cool completely.  Then flood with water.  This will melt out the pills and leave uniform paint wells.  This takes awhile.  I let it set over night.

Rinse out the wells to remove the pill remnants.  I scrubbed with a brush to get to the bottom.

Paint wells are complete and the tin is ready for the enamel paint to give the other side a place to mix colors.

I used Testors enamel paint for modeling.  Pour the enamel into the lid and let it find its own level.  I moved it around being careful not to get it on the sides.  My first tin, I painted with a brush and also did the sides.  It was just enough thickness to make the lid hard to open and close.  So pouring and letting it find its own level is the best, I think.  Raise the lid to level and use a support to keep it that way until dry.  Let this dry a really long time.  I let it dry all week (I know it’s hard to wait).


There you go!!  Ready to be filled with paint of your choice.  I got 18 wells and filled with a gouache paint I’ve been wanting to try.  But to be honest, the gouache flakes out where watercolor stays put when dry just waiting to be reconstituted.  And because I can’t leave well enough alone……Altoids “Smalls” tin.


I used half a package of a 2 oz. polymer clay, but should have used a bit less as it bulges and touches the lid when closed and marred up the lid.  I used aspirins and got the 10 wells that is my preferred watercolor palette.  The perfect unassuming pocket palette.  Now I have four sizes of watercolor palettes.

You may be wondering why I’m not painting?  I’m wondering the same thing.

Illustration Friday – Toy

My sister gave me this Troll Doll many years ago and its presence is always in my studio.  I love toys from the past.  When I was a kid the Troll Doll was all the rage.  Big ones, little ones, miniature ones, we all had them.  Now they show up in antique stores….”no way”…

This sketch is a part of the Insomniacs Sketch Society March 2011 project.  All my sketches so far are here.