Scratching The Queen

After recently creating a few paintings of fury and feathered creatures on Scratchbord®, I decided to feature some other favorite subjects in my newest scratchboard painting: wildflowers and weathered barnwood. The black background and the process of scratching down to a white surface favor subjects with light values and strong textures; with this in mind, I've learned that I need to select my subjects and plan my compositions differently than I do when painting on white paper or canvas.

Wild queen anne's lace flowers grow abundantly where I live, along fenceposts, in pastures, beside country roads, and around old barns and buildings. I've amassed a big collection of digital reference photos of these lovely white lacy flowers and I've created (and sold) several paintings which included queen anne's lace:  Rusty Hinge, Queen Anne's Lace, and Red Bug.

The white and light green shades of these flowers and foliage contrast well with a black background, so I chose them as my wildflower subject once again. I wanted to depict the flowers in an appropriate setting, to add interest without distracting from my focal point of one fully opened bloom. Many old nearby barns have broken and missing boards, so I kept my eyes peeled as I travelled until I spotted an ideal reference to photograph… a barn with deeply textured grey vertical boards, with a space of darkness between two boards where an old board was missing. The barn was close to the road, so I hopped out of the car and took several reference photos, at eye-level and holding my camera perfectly parallel with the section of the barn I envisioned would work best in my painting.
My final composite photo, for reference

With the magic of Photoshop, I flopped, simplified, rearranged, combined and cropped my two reference photos to create a new composition, as shown in my photos. The big fully opened flower, my focal point, is silhouetted against the black background, using the design concept of making the most value contrast at your focal point. For more interest, I decided the board on the left would partially shade the bloom, as if the flower was leaning back a bit into the barn. The barnboard on the right has more interesting textures from an old knot hole than the board the left, so I made it wider, which also helped balance the off-centered big flower. Unopened blossoms, stems, and feathery foliage were arranged so some overlapped the barnboards and some fell against the dark background. With my composition complete, I printed it out, 10" x 8" to match my Scratchbord®.

As the step-by-step photos show, I did lots of scratching into the black surface before applying any color. Initially I scratched just with an x-acto knife #11 blade, the tool I use most frequently. You can see that I avoided scratching the barnwood where I planned to have some unopened blossoms overlap. This helps keep the area smooth for later application of paint and for scratching other details in those spots. Then, to uncover these areas of black without scratching into the surface, I used my previously successful technique of carefully dissolving the black india ink surface with rubbing alcohol and wiping away the black India ink coating to reveal clean white areas for the big flower, unopened smaller blossoms and foliage. These white areas were then enhanced and extended with details by scratching with the x-acto blade, as you seen in Step 3.

I used Golden QoR® watercolors to add color to this painting. Over the barnboards, I painted transparently with Payne's Grey. I used Pyrrole Red Light dulled with a bit of its compliment, Viridian Green, to add color touches to the boards, as if the barn had once been painted red. The plant parts were primarily painted with greens created by mixing Phthalo Blue and Hansa Yellow, varying the values.

I struggled with how best to create the numerous tiny white flowers which cluster as the crown of the big blossom. Scratching with the x-acto blade works best to scratch lines vs. round dots. I experimented with my scratching tools and found the best for this step was a curved blade which I bought years ago as part of a scratching tool kit from Ampersand Art, the company which manufactures the Scratchbord panels I use. This scratch nib wipes off a bigger area of black than the point of the x-acto knife, and served as the best way to revealed a round smooth white area to depict the tiny flowers.

Another tool I used for this project was an extra fine fiberglass brush. The Ampersand tool kit mentioned above came with a wide fiberglass brush tool, which I wore out a while back. When I shopped to replace it individually, I found two different fiberglass brush widths on Amazon, each sold as sticks to insert into a pen-type holder. These bundles of fiberglass, when rubbed on the Scratchbord surface, create a soft-edge stroke as opposed to the hard lines of the x-acto blade. I used the fiberglass brush on this painting to soften areas of the barnboard texture. Beware - tiny fiberglass fibers break off as you use this tool, so be careful to clean them away with a soft cloth so they won't irritate your skin.

The details are so fun to add when using Scratchbord! This wildflower's stems are covered with tiny hair-like white fibers, which are readily reproduced on this painting surface with scratches by an x-acto blade. I also scratched fine lines within the big flowerhead and around the unfurling new blossoms. I added more watercolors, using transparent Payne's Grey on parts of the tiny flowers to give dimension to their white petals and to shade the left end of the big blossom (Payne's Grey is a bluish tone). I've read that the queen anne’s lace flower got its this name from a story about England's Queen Anne pricking her finger and a drop of blood fell on white lace she was holding. Some blooms have a tiny section of purple flowerets in the center, as in the bloom in my painting, which must represent the "blood" from the tale. I mixed this purple tone with Quinacridone Magenta and a bit of Ultramarine Blue. The final touch on the blossoms was to add some small black marks with a fine point Pigma Micron permanent pen, especially within the center section of the big flower where I had cleaned the surface down to white. This makes the flowers look more lacy, as if the black background is visible between the clusters of flowerets. I also painted bright blue (Phthalo Blue) to the background in the top area, as if the sky was shining through broken barnboards on the other side of the building. After declaring this painting done, I let it dry thoroughly for 24 hours, cleaned the surface of residue with a dry soft cloth, and sealed it with two coats of matte finish Krylon "Gallery Series" UV Archival Varnish spray.

Thanks to all who purchased my original paintings, prints, calendars and notecards in 2018, making it my best art year ever! I have more new paintings in my brain than I have time to paint, and I hope to be as prolific in 2019 as last year, so stay tuned.

14 Great Things I've Learned While Painting

I started doing art as a kid and never stopped! As a fine art painter, my learning curve has often been accelerated by tips and hints I've learned from other artists. Sometimes ideas come from workshops or demos, not only from the instructor but from other attendees. Other times they come from creative friends in art groups or other gallery exhibitors. Blogs, newsletters, social media groups and old-fashioned magazines are loaded with good art info. Often a fellow artist simply mentions something they're doing and I add it to my bag of tricks!

Here are a few art tips, techniques, materials, and ideas I've adopted, which I hope you might find helpful in your work:

- I paint from reference photos and 95% of my paintings have been from my own photos. Exceptions for me have primarily been in commissioned paintings, where my customer provides their photos. In recent times, it's become so easy to pull images from the internet that many art competitions now require any reference for your paintings can only come from your own photos. This avoids copyright infringements too, and it's a wise practice in general.
     If show rules are not an issue for you, and if you paint animals or birds, sometimes it's just not possible for you to take your own good reference photos. Those squirrels in my woods just don't stay still for me, and the cardinals fly off too fast. For fabulous reference photos of nature, I have found a great source specifically for artists' use. The photos are of exceptional quality, there are hundreds to choose from, and it is very inexpensive. Usage is royalty-free, which means once you purchase a digital photo you can use it as an art reference as many times as you like without any additional fee. "Wildlife Reference Photos For Artists" has photos of wildlife, domestic animals, flowers, land and seascapes, skies, butterflies, aquatic life and still life. If your use fits their "terms of use," (which seem very straightforward) you pay $10 to download 5 high resolution photos during a 31 day period. NOTE: Paypal is the only payment accepted. The family-based company is located in the UK, with photographers contributing from all over the world.

- To keep my frames from getting damaged when moving, storing, or shipping, I find the cardboard and bubble-wrap corners don't always fit and usually fall off. Instead, I use foam pipe insulators to slide over the sides of the frame for protection. They are inexpensive, readily available wherever plumbing supplies are sold, fit a variety of frame shapes, stay put, and are easy to use. For big frame profiles, pool noodles give similar protection (split lengthwise with scissors).
- A porcelain "butcher's tray" is my favorite palette when I'm mixing Golden Fluid Acrylics. This type of acrylic paints are very pigment-rich, so I only need to use a small amount at a time. When I'm switching colors or done a session of painting, the paints wipe off easily from the glossy hard surface of the tray. If paints have dried before clean-up time, I just set the tray in the sink and fill with water. After it soaks for a while I can easily wipe away all the paint residue.

- A Mr. Clean "Magic Eraser" (the ones with no added solvents or cleaners) can lift watercolor off paper easily, to make corrections or lighten painted areas. I cut the sponge into smaller pieces for good control on small areas. If you used lots of these sponges (for both art and cleaning), you might want to buy generic melamine sponges online. You can buy 20 generics for about the cost of 3 Magic Erasers; they might be a different size but they work comparably.

PRESERVE GOOD BRUSHES - At the end of a painting session, after cleaning paints from my brushes, I use "The Masters" Brush Cleaner, which cleans, conditions and restores the fibers.  Swirl brushes in the cleaner, rinse and repeat until the lather stays white. After the final rinse, smooth the fibers back into their original shape. Alternately, you can leave the Brush Cleaner lather on the shaped fibers to dry, then shake it off as a powder when you next use the brush. This brush cleaner is also good for cleaning make-up brushes!

- I use a Speedball standard pen nib (in a pen holder) when I want to make fine lines, giving me better control than with a brush. Dilute the paint and drop some onto the curved back of the pen nib. Test on a scrap of paper or canvas (whatever your painting surface is) to check the flow and get adjusted to using it without any blobs. I find this is my best tool for making narrow lines with a consistent width. I've used a pen nib for white whiskers, fur textures, and rusty barbed wire. I sometimes use it also for signing my paintings. Used with diluted gesso, you can glaze over the dry white lines repeatedly and build up wonderful textures for hair, fur, tall grasses and more.

- When using white acrylic paints, there are various whites to select from. Zinc white is somewhat transparent; titanium white has good opacity and tints colors well. Most often I don't use either... I use white gesso to give the most opaque coverage and great tints.

- To paint grassy areas or long fur, I sometimes use old bristle brushes (the type sold in hardware stores) and worn-out artist brushes, which I've cut into with scissors to create jagged irregular edges. These help create textures which are random and uneven.

- In traditional watercolor technique, the whites of the paper are the whites of the painting (no white paint applied). Sometimes I want to apply a dark background and go back later to paint lighter values. So when I want to preserve the white paper from other colors, I apply "liquid frisket" to mask the area. Frisket is a latex art product, liquid out of the bottle but solid when dry. When you use it, don't leave the cap off the bottle or the air will reduce its shelf-life. I pour out a small amount into a cup. My preferred brand is Pebeo Drawing Gum - it goes on smoothly and easily, doesn't seem to discolor with age, and it's grey so I can tell where I've applied it.
     Never use a good brush to paint masking frisket, or it can be ruined. Use an old brush and coat it with liquid soap before dipping into the frisket to make clean-up easier. You can also apply frisket with the opposite end of your brush handle, or use a twig, a wood skewer, or other disposable. You can spatter it on with an old toothbrush too. Some frisket makers also sell squeeze bottles with needle-tip applicators. Easily remove frisket from your painting surface by rubbing an edge and pulling or by catching it with a piece of masking tape. It comes off the paper like an elastic band, leaving no residue. Voila, your white paper has been protected from the paint!

- Sometimes it's difficult to objectively analyze your own paintings while in process. Take a break and set you painting in a place away from your painting area. Let it catch your attention randomly as you are doing other tasks, and you'll notice things you didn't previously. It also helps to hold your artwork in front of a mirror or look at it upside down to help see problems with composition such as balance or values. You are less attached to the subject matter and more objective to the technical elements this way.

- Create a distinctive piece of art by starting with a square format, then rotating it 45° to hang as a diamond. Not every subject works out this way, but I've done it several times with florals for a great effect. Sometimes when I see a nice ready-made frame for sale, I can't resist buying it and then creating a painting to fit, as I did with these sunflowers.

- When I want to begin a limited-palette watermedia painting with random mixes of primary colors, I don't brush on the paints. I apply my diluted paints by (1) dribbling from loaded brushes, (2) squeezing from plastic bottles with pointed ends, (3) pouring from small cups, or, (4) for small areas, dripping from eye-droppers. Applied this way, the colors blend beautifully in uncontrolled ways you couldn't possibly duplicate by brushing them on. You can move paint around with your fingers too! See my painting Bloodroot as an example.

- Millenials don't really know the meaning of "cc:" as those of us who used carbon for multiple copies on typed pages and forms. For artists, carbon paper comes in 'graphite' (easy to erase) rolls or sheets, in black, white, and a few colors. I often use the black graphite to transfer my drawings to watercolor paper or canvas, and the white graphite on black scratchboard surfaces. The photo shows white carbon paper and the black Scratchbord® I transferred my drawing onto in my recent painting of a red-tailed hawk, Scarlett.

- Diluted paint in spray bottles has come to the rescue for me at times. For example, see my award-winning painting In The Spotlight. I used a light mist of transparent cool blue watercolor over a portion of a painting in order to make that section less prominent and move it visually to the background. I must admit, I held my breath in the process, hoping I wouldn't ruin my painting. It worked just as I wanted… phew!

I hope you'll find an idea here which helps you with your creative endeavors, even if you don't paint or if your painting style is totally different from mine. Let me know your favorite hints and we'll both continue to grow.


 Art is a constant learning process for me. I painted "Scarlett - Red-Tailed Hawk" in a similar manner as I painted "Hair of the Dog," using transparent fluid acrylic paints on a small 6"x6" black scratchboard panel, but this time depicting feathers vs. fur. The photos of my work in process highlight some of the steps in capturing this majestic bird. The technical info in the second half of this post may be of particular interest to other artists who use Scratchbord® and want to benefit from my mistakes!

Photo of Scarlett - great feet!
Scarlett is a magnificent bird and I was grateful for the opportunity to photograph her closely. Her misfortune was my good luck; Scarlett was injured while in the wild and ended up in a captive raptor program with Tennessee State Parks. Scarlett now has a fine home at Harrison Bay State Park and joins rangers for demonstrations and other educational programs. Scarlett was starring in a birds of prey demo at an outdoor fall fair where I met her and her handler and took fabulous reference photos.

This is my second painting on Ampersand Scratchbord® and I encountered some new challenges this time. Fortunately, I was able to overcome the surprises and finish the painting as I had envisioned it. Some of my techniques may be unconventional; I haven't been part of the scratchboard community long enough to know if there are "purists" as with watercolors. The suggestions I've listed below might be second-nature to an experienced scratchboard artist, but I thought they might be helpful for newbies like me. (NOTE: Click on any images in this blog to enlarge them.)

1) Don't scratch to uncover big areas (like over 1/8") which you want to stay pure white until you are finished scratching black away elsewhere. The scratches in such areas can collect fine black dust and this can be tough to remove. In my anxious attempt to depict the highlight on the yellow part of Scarlett's beak at the start of my painting, I faced this problem. After the scratches filled with black, I tried to scratch deeper to get back to pure white and was unsuccessful. I was afraid to scratch any deeper. I tried wiping away the black residue with isopropyl alcohol, but that didn't work. Ultimately, I painted the small area over with gesso as one of my final steps to resolve this problem to recreate a pure white area.

2) It is possible to remove the black finish from an area on Scratchbord® without scratching or other abrasive methods… you can dissolve and wipe it off using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, as I did on Scarlett's eyes and places  I intended to paint bright yellow. Start by setting your panel on a flat surface, so the alcohol won't drip out of your targeted white area as it could if on a slant. The black india ink surface needs a little massaging with the alcohol to soften it. Since alcohol evaporates quickly, it is best to keep blotting off the blackened liquid as you work, with tissues or Q-tips, working small areas at a time. Dissolve, blot, dissolve, blot.
     I've used various ways to remove the black surface, working from a little cup of rubbing alcohol and rinsing off my tools frequently to wash away the black residue:
(A) The alcohol can be painted on carefully with a stiff brush. I use old brushes or a small "Fritch Scrubber", used by watercolor artists (available in different sizes). Small circular motions, using a soft touch to avoid disturbing the white clay surface, dissolve the alcohol fast.
(B) For a large area, individually foil-packaged pads of isopropyl alcohol are handy. Some are more saturated and thicker than others; I like the "Dukal" brand since it is a small thin pad and just slightly damp. As an alternative, fold a little square of tissue and dab it in alcohol to wipe with.
(C) You can mask off the area you want to be white. On a new scratchboard painting currently in the works, I used blue painter's masking tape on each side of a flower stem, pressed the edges down well, and uncovered the white layer quickly.

3) After doing a lot of scratching and abrasion of the black surface, fine particles of black can remain on your Scratchbord panel. After Step 6 as shown in my work-in-process photos above, I planned to start painting with transparent acrylics, so I wanted to be sure the surface had no fine black residue first. (BEWARE: don't do this if you have painted any areas with watercolors, since it re-wetting will disturb them.) I began wiping my Scratchbord surface with a dampened soft cloth (a sponge works too) and was surprised at all the black dust it picked up. I repeated the process several times, rinsing the cloth between. Black kept showing as I wiped, even though my work was a small 6" square panel. I finally decided to hold the board under the faucet and gently flow water across the face. One final wipe showed no more residue, and I placed the panel horizontally on a baking rack so all sides could dry thoroughly.

4) Small areas you wish were still black can be retouched, either with permanent black pens (I use Pigma Micron pens) or permanent black india ink brushed on.

5) When you are ready to sign your work, don't sign it where you've done lots of scratching… whether you scratch or use paint or a pen, your signature can become distorted on the irregular surface.

6) If you are sealing your work with a clear spray, be very sure to clean the surface of any residue, lint, or dust, particularly if big areas of solid black remain. I used a cloth made for cleaning eye glasses and hold the panel at different angles in front of a light source for final inspection. Also be sure that you do your spraying in a dust-free zone!

7) When using a protective spray coating, hold the can at a very slight angle, not directly over your work. This way, if a drip comes out along with the fine spray (which happened to me several times) there's less chance that the drip will fall on your artwork.

8) If you didn't do number 7 above and you get a big drip on the otherwise lovely surface, don't fret! I got a big fat drip in the bottom left corner of Scarlett, and thought I had ruined my work. I had used Krylon "Gallery Series" UV Archival Varnish aerosol spray in a satin finish. I knew that as an archival finish, the coating should be removable without harming the art. Info online said it could be removed with mineral spirits. WARNING: I also saw a comment by someone who removed it successfully with rubbing alcohol; the india ink surface on Scratchbord® will dissolve with rubbing alcohol (see #2 above), so that would be disastrous! I let my panel dry for 24 hours after I had sprayed on the Krylon finish, then used mineral spirits on a clean cotton rag and started to rub gently on the blob on my artwork. It slowly began to dissolve and I felt confident this was going to fix my problem spot. I had intended to just eliminate the lump and ignore the rest of the surface, but I goofed and got some little drops of mineral spirits on my black background. They might have dried and disappeared, but I ended up carefully rubbing off the clear coating from my entire panel. Now I can confirm to everyone that this Krylon UV spray is removable! Once my panel was thoroughly dry and clean, I very carefully resealed the surface with two fine coats. As described in #7 above, another big drip came out while I was doing the final coat, but it landed on the big piece of cardboard I had my panel resting on, so I was safe!

I hope these hints help my fellow Scratchbord artists.

I've Got Sunshine... and New Watercolors!

Continuing my current MO of experimenting with new art materials and methods in my paintings, I've completed another scratchboard, this time with a new set of watercolors. I've Got Sunshine is my first painting with QoR® (pronounced 'core') watercolors from Golden Artist Colors (read more about the paints at the end of this post). As with my painting "Jasper," I've painted this on Aquabord®, a white-surfaced scratchboard panel.
When seed drops from our bird feeders into the gravel below the porch, I allow the germinated sunflowers to grow. The lovely blossom in this painting was inspired by my own photo, taken with side-lighting from the morning sun. The close detail in my photo revealed the fine hairs on the stem and leaves, which I had never noticed before. I decided scratchboard would be the perfect surface for me to create these thin white lines. My goal with the watercolor paints was to keep the petals and leaves very transparent and luminous, while creating a dark mottled background for dramatic contrast. It would be a good test of the new watercolors.

After sketching the flower in pencil on a small 7"x5" panel of Aquabord, I dove right into painting. It was fun to depict the variety of shapes in the delicate yellow petals and the greenery on the underside of the flower. Sunflower petals are basically yellow, but you can see all the orange and green tones I used to make these look three dimensional. The leaf on the right was pale green from the sunlight, while the lower leaf was deeply hued with its veins backlit to appear yellow from the glow. The only tube of "green" in my QoR watercolor set was Viridian Green which is too blue to use as a leaf color, so I mixed my greens with Hansa Yellow and Ultramarine. You can see my test swatches below, showing the difference in greens blended from the two different shades of blue in my box, shown in the bottom row of swatches. Ultramarine combines with Hansa Yellow to create a natural green, where the Phthalo Blue mixed a green I can best describe as "high value" - too intense for this flower. Adding a bit of Alizarin Crimson to either green tones down the vibrance, since this red hue is the complement to green (opposites on a color wheel). The tiny swatches above the greens show this effect. Around the background, I dabbed random spots of mixed greens and Phthalo Blue, planning to create the appearance of distant shadows, with greenery and blue sky poking through the darkness.

The dark background color was created by mixing Alizarin Crimson, Viridian Green, and Payne's Gray - red and green, being complements, mix to create gray, and the Payne's Gray made the intensity deeper while adding a slight blue tone. Aquabord has a smooth surface which can make for hard edges when color is applied. I used a pointed small brush to carefully paint the dark background colors around the flower, leaves and stem. Working in one small section at a time so the painted dark outlines were still wet, I used a blotting motion to apply the background colors on the open areas, blending with a dry soft brush. You can see how a dark background makes the blossom appear more vibrant than a white background when you compare photo 1 with photo 3.

The final step, after the watercolors were thoroughly dry, was to use an x-acto knife and scratch through the thin layers of paint to create the downy fibers on the greenery. It was fun to see how alive such a tiny addition made the sunflower look!

I enjoyed working with the new QoR watercolors. Like Golden acrylic colors, these are pigment-rich, meaning I don't have to use much paint mixed with water to get rich colors. They painted on nicely and stayed transparent where I wanted that effect. On Aquabord, re-wetting watercolors lifts them easily off the surface, which is not always so easy when using watercolor paper, but with my own test on watercolor paper I found the colors lifted easily, which is a good characteristic since watercolor can be unforgiving sometimes! Because Golden's watercolors differ chemically from those of other manufacturers, I'm not sure about mixing them with other brands. I look forward to using QoR watercolors again.

Typically I use professional (artist) grade - vs. beginner or student grade - watercolors from companies such as Winsor & Newton, Holbein, Da Vinci, and American Journey. For years, my preference when painting with acrylic paints has been Fluid Acrylics made by Golden Artist Colors. Founder Sam Golden is credited with developing the first artist acrylic paint and many other art products. Not only are Golden products of superb quality, but this employee-owned US company is committed to excellence, innovative, supportive of artists, and socially responsible. Golden introduced their line of "QoR® Modern Watercolors" in 2014, but I only recently became aware of QoR. I assumed Golden's watercolors would give me the same fine qualities as I have enjoyed with their acrylics, so I decided to give them a try.

My left brain kicks in with a love of the technical aspects of artist paints. In researching QoR® I learned that Golden had developed them with their own patented binder (the foundation of the paint in which the colored pigment is carried) instead of using traditional gum arabic. While retaining the qualities of traditional watercolor, Golden describes QoR colors as more vibrant, luminous and lively, with more density than traditional watercolors. Their composition allows QoR watercolors to be rewet easily, even after a year dried on a palette… good for me since I often ignore my watercolor paints for long periods while I concentrate on painting with acrylics. The colors are described as staying brilliant even when they dry, where most watercolors fade a bit when going from wet to dry.

Golden created 83 QoR colors, including three iridescent colors. The QoR colors can be purchased in various sets (of 6, 12 or 24, in 5ml tubes) or in individual tubes. I decided to buy the QoR Introductory 12 Set, which included the colors shown in the top two rows on my swatch chart. It gave me a good basic color selection, to use the paints right out of the tube or for my own blends. Golden also offer sets of Earth Colors and High Chroma Colors. Bottom line - I like working with QoR watercolors.

It's Calendar Time Again

My new 2019 calendar is printed and here's a sneak preview. With one exception, the paintings I've chosen were created within the past year (not counting an inset of artwork I did at age 7). That's more painting than I've done in recent history, hoorah! Most of my newest paintings have been horizontal so they fit my calendar format perfectly. For the past few years  my calendars have found a great following, so now I have a challenge to fill twelve months with new artwork each year. It's a tough job, but I love it!

This calendar illustrates a variety of artwork, including watercolors, acrylics, and scratchboard paintings. Some are very realistic, others are representational but with vibrant colors. I even managed to get my newest cow painting into the layout just before sending it off for printing. Off course, my "star" painting this year - Eat Chicken - graces the cover. My calendars make great gifts - treat yourself, family and friends.

Each calendar retails for $15. I can ship orders in a rip-proof tyvec envelope via first class USPS, with $4 added for shipping one or two calendars, and $5.50 to ship three. Sorry, I am not set up to take credit cards, just cash or checks.

Painting has always been my "moonlighting" job, and this year I've managed to free up more time to devote to this passion. I've abandoned several other interests that normally occupy my discretionary non-work hours - at least temporarily. I didn't plant a vegetable garden this year, although I still get my hands dirty with my many gardens of perennial flowers and veggies (like asparagus), herbs, berries, and wildflowers. The Farm Stand at our nearby Mennonite Community sells a huge variety of gorgeous produce and they are just 5 miles from me, so that's satisfying my fresh veggie needs very well. I've ignored my fiddle and banjo, with no local fund-raiser performances, no jamming, and not even any practice time. My food blog has been put on the back burner (sorry followers), although I'm constantly cooking, baking, and developing my own recipes. Last but not least, my husband Rick has been doing his own extra-curricular activities, devoting time to our local Sheriff's Office. So more painting time for me.

I'll start working on the 2020 calendar now!