Little Book of Abstractions

I started this sketchbook back in January, and I finished filling it up this week. These are abstract pages I created using water-soluble markers, Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers, a waterbrush, and various pens and pencils. The sketchbook itself is the Travelogue Hand Book 5 x 5 inch. I love those sketchbooks, love the square format.

I’d love to know if any particular page stands out to you. Click to see a larger version.


Botanical Watercolor – Iris

Taking a break from colored pencil, I decided to go back to watercolor for a change. A couple years ago, I was mainly painting watercolor flowers. At some point, I got interested in colored pencils and shifted to mostly working with them. There are some things about colored pencil that are much easier, in a way. Colored pencils are completely controllable and predictable. Watercolor is not. Even the best watercolor artists acknowledge the magic accidents that make watercolor what it is. On the other hand, watercolor is much faster and more forgiving on my hands and shoulders.

I have been following a bunch of botanical artists of various mediums and am inspired by the level of detail they manage in their work. I don’t find myself drawn to the strictly scientific, accurate representation of botanical illustration, though I admire it, but I do like focusing on the details of flowers. I like to include interesting lighting and shadows that isn’t strictly for accuracy. I also like to include backgrounds, though for this I decided to try a white background and I am pleased with it.

Here are some images from the steps I took painting this – the drawing, transferring it to the watercolor paper, painting a shadow/tonal under-painting, and finally adding the color. Overall I like the way it came out, but can also see some room for improvement. I could be better about making neat careful edges. And my greens need work. I found the leaves a lot more challenging than the flower. I enjoyed adding the tiny details most of all. (click for larger images)

Muted Iris
Winsor Newton watercolors on Fabriano Artistico 300 lb hot press
10 x 16 inches



Abstract Photo Project Update

I just finished month 4 of my abstract photography project. The theme for April was “double expose” – meaning I combined two photos each day using various Photoshop blending modes. This was the most fun month so far and I really like a couple of the results. You can check out all the images by visiting my dedicated Instagram @365.abstractsnaps.17 where I post daily, or following #365abstractsnaps17, where you can join in or see what others are doing with the project. Next month’s theme is “blur and motion.”

Here’s a compilation of all of the Month 4 Double Expose images:

Double-Expose Comp-01

Month 3, Texture and Pattern:


Month 2, Color:


And finally, Month 1, Greyscale (which I wrote more about here)



Two Hearts – Colored Pencil

Heart of Gold

Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils
Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper
8.5 x 11 inches


Heart of Glass

Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils
Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper
8 x 10 inches


These are my first two major works of 2017 and my first attempts with Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils (previously I have used Prismacolor Premiere).

My drawings start with my photography. Both of these pieces are faithfully referenced to photos I took in San Mateo Central Park in January. In the park, there is a long flower bed that is currently full of irises. Most of the irises are white, yellow, or light purple. Only one plant is a gorgeous deep wine purple red. I noticed one day that this particular plant receives direct sunlight for about 5 minutes in the afternoon, starting around 4:27. So every day that I thought there might be a possibility of catching this magical time when the low sun hit the wine red flowers, I hung around the park and photographed it.

In Heart of Gold the flower in full bloom with one ray of direct afternoon sun shining upon it. This light enters the flower’s center and creates a fiery golden glow, radiating red through the petals from the inside out. The iris is at its peak, triumphant in all of its shimmering raspberry glory.

Only a few days later, Heart of Glass illustrates the death of the blossom. The petals have closed in on themselves. The once proud tall ruffled flower top is completely enclosed by the bottom petals, curling toward the center. Again, the sunlight hits the blossom but this time it reflects off the upper petal in a golden crown. The shape of the dying blossom suggests a human heart, the veins shimmering in the light, fractured glass.


Camellia – Colored Pencil

I took the reference photo for this drawing with my iPhone. I distinctly remember taking it because it happened to be the day of the U.S. presidential election and I was working as the Inspector at a polling place in Burlingame, CA where I live. It’s funny, I’m utterly tired of hearing and thinking about politics, but I like working at the elections. It’s fun to meet my neighbors and interesting to participate in the local government bureaucracy.

It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. On one of my breaks, I walked past the camellia growing on a large bush in someone’s front yard. This particular blossom caught my eye because of the interplay of red and purple in the markings on the petals.

Allow me to get a bit philosophical about my little drawing. I know a lot of people are quite unhappy with the results of aforementioned election. I know that world events are important. But also, we have our own lives that only happen once (unless you’re one of those people who reincarnates I suppose) and most of us, my friends, Americans, have a lot of good in our lives. Maybe just a nice day and a pretty flower, but something worth feeling happy about. Sometimes it seems like a lot of people I know have forgotten about that, or spend so much time focused on all that ails the world as to forget to see the beauty that’s right there, in our neighbors’ yards.

That’s what I was thinking about when I worked on this flower.

Prismacolor Premier on Canson Mi Tientes pastel paper in dark blue
8 x 8 inches
reference photo my own



November Sketchbook

This month I took on the challenge of filling an entire sketchbook in one month. The idea of this came from an awesome Facebook group called NaSkeFiMo (National Sketchbook Filling Month). We’re continuing in December if anyone wants to join in.

The only rule was to fill a sketchbook. Any size, any length, any materials. There’s some awesome work in the group. I love sharing and being inspired by other artists. Probably the number one positive thing about social media, come to think of it.

I chose a small Moleskine sketchbook that had been sitting on my table waiting for an idea. To start out with, I cut up some black and grey paper and a watercolor painting and glued in pieces to use as collage elements in my sketches. I really enjoyed coming upon these as I went through my pages. I used various pens and colored pencils for the rest.

I read a book called Cartooning by Ivan Brunetti a little while ago and the quote on my 6th spread was the main idea I had while creating my pages.

“Style is the difference between a circle and the way you draw it.”

With that in mind, my idea was to draw quickly, loosely, and without much planning or fiddling to find the essence of My Style. What is Kate’s style? Sometimes I don’t know. I bounce around between all different kinds of art so it seems a little mixed up. But looking at my pages all together now, I see it. I cannot describe it, but there is a Kate-ness to all my sketches that has been there for as long as I have been drawing. It definitely comes out most clearly in this kind of quick work. But it’s easy to bury it under desires to Be Better. Yes, I can draw very realistically, and I like to do that. But somehow such art becomes more generic and less Me. It is intriguing to try to identify one’s own style without trying to fix it or make perfect the circles. I like what I see and often think about doing more cartooning type work in the future.

Well, enough words, here are my 39 spreads created in the month of November all together:


And here is a slideshow if you’d like a closer look. I rather enjoy how this came out like some kind of abstract avant garde graphic novel about my life interior and exterior. A lot of things happened in November and I see them in my drawings. I worked at the US election. I went on an amazing vacation in Mendocino. I will remember these things when I look back at my sketchbook. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. Can you describe “Kate Style” with words?

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Opalescent Hydrangea

As promised, I will be posting my artwork as well as my photography. I recently finished this colored pencil piece and it is off at the framer. This is a drawing that really benefited from my new photography skills. I’ve always been a stickler about only drawing or painting using my own photos as reference, otherwise it doesn’t feel like my own. In this case, I decided to use a photo I took with my macro lens. Not only did I have a reference photo with wonderful detail and color, but I also got to try my hand at drawing the depth of field blur, and I’m pleased with the result of that most of all.

Opalescent Hydrangea, colored pencil on pastel paper

I used a nice amber shade for my paper (Canson Mi Tientes Pastel Paper) which completely changed the character of the image from what was in my original photo. It’s like a photo filter, but created using paper instead of software. I love that idea and plan to explore it in my next drawings. Here is the reference photo so you can see what I mean:


This was a rather time consuming project. I estimate the drawing took me close to 100 hours. That is much longer than I have ever spent on one piece of art. I’m not sure where it came from, but suddenly I find I have stamina and dedication to finish something like this. In fact, I wished I could work on it more than I did. Colored pencil is hard on my back, but mentally I could have worked on it a lot longer. That’s exciting because it means I can finish big projects which has always been a struggle.